Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reviving the Tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas

Since my children have been born Christmas has taken on a whole new level of chaos and stress. I spend most of the month running around trying to check off the million and one boxes on my To-Do List, buying way more than we need and praying that I don't once again forget do to our Advent devotional at dinner. This year I opened my own small home business and added a whole new layer of stress and chaos to my world. However, this required me to stop and prioritize a little more that I have him the past few years. I have had to really think about what parts of the Christmas chaos are really important to me and to my family.

This morning while gulping down a cup of coffee I felt the need to rattle off my To-Do List to my husband as he was running out the door to work. He is taking vacation starting tomorrow and in my mind this equals help with completing my list... Daddy Frankenstein is a very patient and wise man. He smiled at me and said "You know there are the 12 Days of Christmas?!" You don't have to get it all done by the 25th. You have the season of Christmas Tide."

Well, that had me thinking all day and led me on a bit of a quest. It turns out that the 12 days of Christmas was in fact a real thing and it has real meaning. It seems to me that this very important part of the Christian experience has been left behind, (maybe like no longer ringing the bell in mass at communion- I am bitter, I miss the bell- moving on). When reading up and researching the 12 Days of Christmas I came across a few people who have tried to revive the tradition. One of them is a priest. I have listed links below so that you can check them out. I have decided though to kinda do my own thing and I am going to share it here with all of you.

It seems the 12 Days of Christmas is connected to 12 key truths about Christ. The "True Love" in the song is God and these are the 12 gifts God has given us. Each gift has significance and are important parts of understanding the Bible and our relationship with Christ. While there doesn't seem to be much historical evidence to support the song being created to teach hidden messages, it doesn't ever hurt anyone to find a way to learn more about and come closer to God.

I think for me the bigger question is, what would it be like if we really did make Christmas a 12 day experience? How did we come to stuff Christmas into a one day celebration? Would we just make Christmas into a crazy 12 day experience or would we not feel so much pressure if we spread things out? I know for me there was some relief in the idea that I could sprinkle Christmas over an extended time frame rather that cram it all into one day. I am also aware that as Christians we are called to have the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all the time, but what if the celebration of the birth of God's son was important enough to us to take the time to make it a multi-day celebration and worship?

Here are a couple links to historical explanations of the 12 Days of Christmas:

Christian History: The Real Twelve Days of Christmas

Catholic News Agency: The History of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas'

Living the 12 Days of Christmas

The Voice: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Just for fun, here is my favorite version of The Twelve Days of Christmas




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cinnamon Bun Muffins {using almond & coconut flour}

This is a great recipe using Almond & Coconut Flours which is great as low carbohydrate option but as the recipe is written it is not sugar free.

When I would make these I would use Splenda Brown Sugar and Sugar Free Syrup.

Also, make sure you use a cupcake liner...These cook a little differently because they are not made with traditional flour.

This is a favorite breakfast in my house.

Cinnamon Bun Muffins {using almond & coconut flour

Gestational Diabetes: Diabetic Friendly Brownies

In this pregnancy I have been craving chocolate like no other. Having gestational diabetes and a massive chocolate craving has been torture! While on my hunt for diabetic friendly baking I also branched into sweets. I found several  Paleo baking recipes for cookies and brownies but not very many that were low carbohydrate or sugar free and didn't have bananas, avocado, or some interesting ingredient in them. I wanted brownies not a science experiment.

I came across this recipe for brownies: The Perfect Fudge Brownies at Recreating Happiness.com .This recipe was a great base (not perfect) for the brownies I made but they were not sugar free. So here is how I changed the recipe to keep my blood sugar from sky rocketing!

Note: Keep in mind that the texture on baked goods using coconut and almond flour is different than that of baked goods using flour. It is like eating coconut. Also, keep in mind that my body is different from yours- check your blood sugar regularly and watch portion size to ensure sugar success.

Diabetic Friendly Brownies

Bowl #1- Creating your Chocolate:
2 oz Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Bowl #2- Stand mixer or largest bowl
1/2 Cup Splenda Brown Sugar- lightly packed
2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Coconut Almond Milk- compensates for the coconut flour
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Large Eggs- slightly beaten

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Bake Soda
2/3 Cup Almond Flour
1/4 Cup Coconut Flour

Optional Add-ins:
1/2 Cup Sugar Free Chocolate Chips- (some sugar free chocolate chips can have a laxative affect- use with caution!)
1/2 Cup Nuts (your choice- I like walnuts)- ups the protein content on the brownie too!

Directions:
You are going to use 3 different bowls for your mixing at first.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bowl #1:  Melt 2 oz. Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate in 2 Tablespoons of Coconut oil. I melted mine in the microwave. Make sure you watch the heat. Coconut oil gets very hot and burns at a lower temperature. You may need to let this mixture cool before adding it to the liquid (Bowl #2) or you can cook your eggs with it..!

Bowl #2: In a different bowl slightly beat 2 eggs, add the Unsweetened Coconut Almond Milk, Vanilla, and Splenda Brown Sugar. *This is my largest bowl or stand mixer- all of the ingredients will meet in this bowl.

Bowl #3: Combine your dry ingredients: Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, Salt, and Baking Soda. I find that with coconut and almond flours I need to break up the clumps before adding liquids to it. This makes things mix better and become smoother.


Combining the Parts:

Combine Bowl #1 and #2 and mix well. Make sure the coconut oil is not too hot or it will cook your eggs!

Add Bowl #3 to liquid mixture and stir well.

Fold in Nuts or Sugar Free Chocolate Chips

Pour into 8 x 8 Brownie Pan. *The consistency is a little thicker because of the alternative flours. You may need to spread the mixture with a spatula or spoon to get it even. Don't worry it works out in the end!

Bake for 20-25 minutes depending of how crunchy you like your brownies.

I topped mine with Cool Whip Lite and it was awesome! It was also a hit with my husband and two year old.

I hope your chocolate craving was satisfied!  

Coping with Gestational Diabetes

Hello, my name is Mama Frankenstein and I have Gestational Diabetes- again!

This is my second pregnancy and my second go round with Gestational Diabetes. I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that I have to deal with blood sugar related health issues since I grew up with a mother and grandmother who both have had to watch their sugar. My Grandmother became a full diabetic after her third child was born and my mother has been pre-diabetic or insulin resistant since I was a teenager.

It still came a a shock to learn that I was gestational diabetic and the fear and frustration that accompanied these diagnoses are unwelcome and stressful in pregnancy. They also mean that diabetes could be a long term or future problem for me.

In my first pregnancy I didn't really know anyone who had gestational diabetes. At least not anyone that I could lean on as a support or turn to for questions. This time around I know a couple people who have had it or are currently dealing with it. It really does help to know that you are not alone. So if you are reading this and you are currently dealing with gestational diabetes or you know someone battling it, here are some of my thoughts and personal reflections on the illness and how I am coping with things.

Feelings of Denial, Anger, Betrayal, & Shame

I personally have never had a problem with my weight. I have been petite and skinny all of my life. Even in my pregnancies, despite gestational diabetes, my doctors have told me to gain more weight. So when I got my first diagnosis of gestational diabetes I didn't believe the results. My train of thinking went something like this: It wasn't possible for me to have diabetes, I clearly didn't eat enough to begin with and now the doctors are going to restrict my diet. I can't tell anyone I have this, they will think I eat nothing but junk food. Wait- they are going to make me diet!?! Now they are going to torture me with vegetables.  I can't even have cake at my baby shower!!!

I now know that denial is very common, so is anger, and so is shame. No one should feel guilty for having these emotions but you do need to be aware of what you do with these emotions. At some point you have to move beyond denial because you cannot continue to live and eat the way you were before. You have to make a change in you life style and habits. You have to make this change so your little baby is healthy at birth. If you stay in denial you are hurting yourself and your baby.

I have and do challenge my sugar and my diagnosis. In my first pregnancy, at the beginning I didn't really change my eating habits. I did order diet soda and I bought Splenda but I didn't change my portions or the type of food I was eating. My blood sugar readings after meals were fine for a while but quickly started to prove the test correct. There was a problem with my blood sugar, it was running too high, and I couldn't deny the results any longer.

With my second pregnancy I started watching my diet and monitoring my blood sugar right away. I was good and I was vigilant. When my glucose challenge results came back and they were once again suggestive of gestational diabetes I was really and truly upset. I thought I had done everything right this time around.

After i was done crying in the doctors office I walked right up to angers door and knocked loudly! I was beyond angry that my body was betraying me. To be honest, I still get a little angry when a blood sugar reading is too high. I have spent most of my life being good to my body. Here was my line of thinking: I have always watched what I put into it, I have never abused it with drugs or hard labor, and I have treated it the way I was supposed to. I have kept it in good condition with exercise and I have taken it to the doctor when it needed help. I even changed my eating habits after the first pregnancy! What was my body's problem? Why was it doing this to me now? Wasn't pregnancy and the symptoms of pregnancy enough to deal with? Why wouldn't my body cooperate with me?!

In the end it does feel like a betrayal of your body. Even when you eat the diet, plan the meal, do the research, go for the walk, and poke your finger to check your sugar regularly; you will still have bad sugar days and then you feel betrayed by your body and angry over something you can't completely control. On these days I often also feel shame. I feel ashamed that I can't control it and if I broke my diet and cheated on myself I feel guilt on top of all that.  These are the days I feel ashamed to even admit that I have gestational diabetes.

In our country for some reason we seem to attach shame to medical diagnosis'. If you have a medical illness, if you have a disease of any kind, you better go hide it in a closet because you are not perfect. I don't really understand where this came from because many diseases and illnesses have nothing to do with controllable factors. They are genetic. If you are a woman I think the world is a lot harder on you for not being perfect and doubly so if you are not perfect during pregnancy. Of all the emotions I felt after this diagnosis shame is the hardest for me to rationalize but it still rears its ugly head every now and then.

In my first pregnancy I only told my closest friends and family that I was gestational diabetic. I told one person at church but that is only because she was a nutritionist and I needed her help. When I had my baby shower I intentionally provided the majority of the food and ate all protein and veggies at the party so that I would have room for cake. Then found reasons to run around the house after I finished eating the cake to "work off the sugar". I was starving most of the day but I was determined not to admit that I couldn't eat cake and likewise determined to have the cake!

In my first pregnancy my gestational diabetes was a shameful secret. The second time around I am far more willing to tell people. I know what I have to do this time to control my sugar and I know what choices I have to make. It was far more stressful to hide and conceal it than it was to just be honest and up front about it. Now that I am more open about it I find I have a lot more support. There are some people who give me pity but the vast majority of people are kind and understanding about it. I also find that I am able to be far more compassionate to people who are struggling with illness because I have walked a mile in my own diabetic shoes.

Becoming Proactive

Diabetes, gestational or otherwise, is not an illness that you can be complacent about. You have to become proactive and you have to educate yourself. You also have to make changes and follow through with those changes.

My personal ability to cope with gestational diabetes has been to learn as much about food and how food interacts with the body as I possibly can. In my first pregnancy I was overwhelmed with the changes and I don't think I understood all of my options very well. I hired a dietitian, paid her an arm and a leg, and ended up with a meal plan I hated and that included food I told her I didn't like to eat. My first go round was a struggle but my second time around has been much easier. I have started to experiment more with food and alternative baking options. Even though I don't like everything I produce in my kitchen (I have really gotten in touch with my Frankenstein persona in the kitchen) I know that I am trying. When I know I am trying I can tell shame to take a hike. I have found and created some recipes that taste good and leave me feeling satisfied rather than deprived (see Gestation Diabetes Recipes). *Please note that not every one's body reacts the same way to the same things.What works for me may not work for you. 

I know that the best way to have a successful day with my blood sugar is to plan ahead. I have to think about breakfast the day before. I have to plan out what my lunches and dinners are going to be and shop at the store accordingly. Since I do the majority of the shopping this gives me the control. It means I have to think things through and spend time planning but this isn't really any different than what I did before. It just means I have to think a little bit more about all of the components of the meal rather than just buy the staples I normally get. I also don't take any complaints or excuses when eating out. Some foods are just bad for my sugar and I am going to admit that and say "No".

I have become vocal at restaurants as well. I recently asked to speak to the manager at a restaurant I frequent. I told the manager that I loved eating at his restaurant because they offered healthier alternatives like a grilled veggie plate instead of fries, however, I noticed that they didn't have many low carb. (aka sugar free options) and caffeine free options. I also noticed that they charged $2.50 for a regular lemonade and thought it was a shame I had to order water, which is free, over ordering a diet lemonade which I would pay $2.50. I told him I was sorry his business was losing this opportunity for income and to provide a better option for his patrons.

He told me he had never thought about it before and didn't realize his drink options were limited. He also said he hadn't considered the lack of decaffeinated options his establishment offered and that as a franchise owner he hadn't considered the loss of income potential either...this led into how the topic of the number of patrons he had who were on diets and came for the diet friendly food. This restaurant is also across the way from a very large and busy yoga studio. It took me a little extra time and a touch of bravery but the restaurant now offers diet lemonade and diet Sprite. It was a win for gestational diabetes as well as a win for healthier living!

I also write comment cards at grocery stores when they do not have the sugar free option of a product. Sugar free chocolate chips shouldn't be so hard to find...and Ocean Spray Diet Cranberry Juice is a great alternative to water. In a nation of rising obesity diabetics are not the only ones who are looking for low carb/sugar free options!!!  

Vigilance is the Key to Success and Self Discipline is the Key to Vigilance.

If we are lucky as  gestational diabetics we will only have to deal with diabetes for this short time in our lives. We are worth the effort and so are the little babies we are growing.

Do I cheat and eat a cookie? Yes, but I pay attention to the size and quantity of the cookie.

Do I have blood sugar spikes? Yes, but make a note about what I ate so that I avoid that food/ food combination or I make sure to increase my exercise afterward.

Do I get frustrated? Yes, all the time. We live in a fast food nation that doesn't really offer many healthy options. I find that even when shopping at the grocery store I have to search for the healthy option. Forget being frustrated with myself I am frustrated with society for not even making good options available.

We can only do our best with what we have been given. At the end of the day we are human and that means we make mistakes and we cave in. Don't be too hard on yourself when you cheat or have a bad sugar day. Keep in mind that there are many factors involved in controlling your sugar like: stress level, heat, hormones,  and emotional state. Stay vigilant but don't beat yourself up. If you end up having to take insulin or Glucophage it isn't the end of the world. Western medicine gets a bad rap for all of it's interventions and interference but in the end it has done amazing things to improve the quality of our lives and in many cases it saves our lives. Having to take medication to help you control your blood sugar so that both you and your baby are healthy is not a curse. There is a tremendous blessing in the resource and gift of medication.

Closing Thoughts

Be kind to yourself, love yourself, be patient with yourself, and find a support system.

Having Gestational Diabetes isn't the end of the world. Making the changes to your life style aren't just good for you and the baby they are good for your family too. Doing the right thing is not always easy but once your do the right thing long enough it become a habit. Once they are habits we don't have to think about them as much or as often and everyone wants to have good habits!

A Little Boost for the American Housewife

I was listening to an old favorite girl band of mine this evening and I came across this song. I remember hearing it before when I was younger but it didn't have the same meaning to me. I thought I would share it with all of you. It made me smile and I hope it makes you smile too!


God Bless the American Housewife
by Shedaisy

Friday, May 2, 2014

Home School Resources Round- Up

Home Schooling is a topic we talk about rather frequently in my house. Since I am formerly a public school English Teacher I have mixed emotions about Home School. I personally don't like the Common Core changes that I am seeing in public schools but I do find the classroom environment beneficial for children. At this point I would say we are leaning more toward sending our children to private Christian schools but we have not completely ruled out home school as an option for our family.

Even though I plan on sending my son to preschool (especially with the new baby on the way) I have still been on the hunt for Home School curriculum I can do at home with my children. There are so many hours in the day, we can and should spend a little time on learning.  I believe we can make learning fun and entertaining at home I just need some ideas and a place to start. I know a few moms in my devotional group have also been interested in doing educational activities with their kiddos at home as well. I hope this is helpful.

How I Do It At Home
There a couple of ways I have approached learning at home. There are websites/blogs I frequent to get ideas for fun and entertaining activities. You can also follow many of these sites on Facebook and Pinterest. Sometimes a fun idea will pop-up in my news feed and we will do the activity latter that day. Sometimes, I just store the idea away in my brain for future use.

One nap-time a week or so is my "prep" time for activities. I will gather a bunch of ideas and a bunch of dollar store supplies and create what I call "learning kits". I will put all the materials for a single session in a large Ziploc bag. I will then make one for each day of the week (5-7 activities) and then just pull a baggie when I needed an activity. We often do ours after lunch before nap time or after nap time while I cooked dinner. My Learning Kits are also helpful to take along to doctors appointments or places we might have to wait and to have for the babysitter. Some of the Learning Kits are easy to reuse or I have modified over time to increase skill level or regenerate interest.

In March, my son seemed ready and able to start a little more structured learning so we spent the month on colors. He was over 2 years old and had more of an attention span. This is when I actually started planning the direction our learning at home would go. My husband, a stock-holder in my sons education, got involved as well and we made the month about colors. At dinner we talked about colors when they played blocks or cars they talked colors. We just enjoyed colors for the month I dyed the scrambled eggs one morning and we coordinated our shirt colors- easy and fun things like that. During the day I try to play at least one directed activity toward colors.

I find most of the time I already have the materials in my house for these activities but if I don't a quick trip to The Dollar Store remedies any deficiencies. I make a trip to the dollar store at least once every month or so for church needs anyway, so while I am there I keep a look out for items I can use in my learning kits. You don't have to spend a lot of money but for me if I am going to put flour in a tray for tracing shapes and letters I would rather use dollar store flour than my bread maker baking flour. I hope these sites are helpful and provide many hours of fun and learning!

Blogs and Websites- mainly Toddler & Preschool
These are helpful when I need ideas for an activity. I follow most of these sites on Facebook/Pinterest so I don't "search" them very often but I get great stuff from them all the time. These sites are also regular posters on social media with seasonal ideas. Social media makes learning at home very easy in some senses. Example: The season is changing to Fall, what kind of fun Fall activities can we do with leaves and fall colors? 

Curriculum Sites- Preschool & Pre-K
  • ABC Jesus Loves Me- This site actually gives you a 36 week Bible based plan. Everything is free online for individual family use but you can also buy a printed version. I truly love this site and plan on using it with consistency this fall with my son.
  • ABCMouse.com- You have to pay for a subscription to this site. I do not use this site as a regular education site but started it more because my son was so interested in the computer. He does really engage in the activities for about 20 minutes at a time. We use this more as fun supplement or distraction when we need him to be still for a moment. We have the Apps on our phones so when we are out he can "play" but he still gets to learn at the same time. I bought my membership on special to save money. You can try a free 30 day trial as well. I find it works best on a tablet device because my son can use his fingers to manipulate the games rather than navigate with a house or cursor. 

Curriculum Sites- Elementary and High School
I recommend these sites without having spent much time on them. I just don't have a need to use them yet. The first site listed is the best I have come across.
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool - This site gives you a 180 day plan (which is the number of days children are mandated to attend school). It starts with Pre-K and goes through high school. I haven't spent much time on this site because I don't have a need to at this time but what I have explored I like. 
  • Free Home School Deals- This site includes more than just lessons and resources. It has coupons, frugal living tips, and tutorials as well. 
  • Home School Freebie of the Day- Sends you free lessons and resources you must enter your email to subscribe. The website has some lesson ideas but it really is more of a regular email notification of lessons and freebies. 
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators free Downloadable Curriculum
  • The Cinnamon Bear based on an old time Radio Show. It is available for a minimal cost.
Home School Curriculum Catalogs
In some cases you have to pay for the catalog but this is often a way to preview the curriculum and pick the one that best fits your family's needs and interests. I do suggest that you make sure the curriculum you choose aligns with the standards and expectations for the state you live in. If your child has to enter/re-enter public school you don't want them to be behind the other students. The best advice I can offer as a former public school teacher is to make sure you align yourself with what they are doing in your state and what they doing in your school district. You are free to explore topics and teach the material the way that works best for your child but the state does provide a baseline for you and others to follow. 

You can find state standards online and most school districts also publish their standards. Chances are you will do more learning and go deeper in your study than they will do in school but this also means you have to stay on top of their learning and continue to find ways to challenge them and help them grow. 
Personal Note:

Even if you don't home school you can still use these resources to enrich your summers and school breaks. The best advice I can give parents as a teacher is to always continue learning at home. If your child has a special interest or is gifted in an area- foster it! If you go on vacation think about how you can make it educational (journal each night about your adventures, have them look up the dinosaur that was their favorite at the museum, explore together how a roller coaster is made). Allowing your child's brain to go stagnate over the summer is the worst thing you can do for their development and sets them back when school resumes. Breaks and fun are important but reading, writing, math, and science are all skills. As skills they require practice and refreshment otherwise they are lost to us. 

While teachers work very hard to include as much learning in the year as possible they have 20 or more students in the room. Sadly, teachers also have to meet expectations for student performance on state tests which does prevent going deeper on somethings because they have to ensure they teach all the topics that will be covered on the state exam. While I staunchly defend public school teachers I also have the unique perspective from my tutoring business. The sad truth is there are bad teachers and not all schools or districts are created equally. You cannot expect school to teach your student everything they need to know to be prepared for college or a successful career. I strongly believe it is the parents job, my job and my husband's job, to ensure that our children are prepared and have the skills they need to succeed in life and academically. Regardless of whether or not we choose public, private, or home school we will be home schooling at all times to some degree.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Children Make Us Better People

Today was one of those rough days. I am entering my third trimester of pregnancy with our second child, I am sick with a cold, I am trying to juggle my tutoring business with my home responsibilities, and I am nesting big time. Today I had to navigate several errands with my two year old.

After getting delayed at the pharmacy  I then had to wait in a long line with my son who was already done with shopping. When a new checkout line opened I was cut off by two old ladies. I wanted to get very ugly with them but my son was right there in my shopping chart watching and listening to everything I do. His sweet little face reminded me that each moment no matter how frustrating are teaching moments. No positive lessons would be taught by my verbally shredding two old ladies in the middle of Target. I clinched my jaw and kept my mouth shut. It was hard but I did it.

Immediately follow this I found myself at the grocery store attempting to pick up lunch. I was so hungry and so was my son. When we got to the sandwich counter to order lunch we were cut off my a police officer who flashed his badge and stated he couldn't wait. Really, he was using his authority to cut in front of a pregnant woman and a little boy. I was irritated but I have respect for law enforcement and of course let him put his sandwich order in ahead of mine. It wasn't until I left the store with my now screaming toddler and noticed him sitting in his police car, needlessly blocking traffic I might add, eating his sandwich leisurely while talking on his cell phone. I wanted to ask him for his badge number and inform him that I was reporting his abuse of power to his superiors. However, I let it go; mainly because if he was willing to abuse his power to get a sandwich I wasn't going to test the waters to see how far he would take it.

While driving home I reflected on my morning. My son was quieted by a corn dog and my hunger pains were appeased with veggie chips and I had a moment to think. I had some selfish moments: why did they think they were more important than me, does no one respect pregnant women anymore, am I invisible and ignorable? The question that changed my line of thought was: what did I just teach my son with these interactions? 

I want my son to be able to stand up for himself. I don't want him to let people walk all over him and take advantage of him. However, I don't want him to be a bully or to be a hot head who flies off the handle. I want him to learn to walk humbly with the Lord in this life.

No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8)

At home, later I thought about my interactions over the day and realized that my son is making me a better person and a stronger Christian. Being a parent has strengthened me and made the practice of my faith a daily discipline.  A few years ago I would have spoken my mind to those two old ladies, I would have confronted the cop but today I chose to behave differently. I chose to humble myself and show love and to give respect where I did not feel I was getting respect. I know I have and will stumble but at least I know I can do better if I try. There will be plenty of opportunities to teach my son how to stand up for himself but today the Spirit was with me in the face of my son.