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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Accidental Sugar Experiment

Abby ate 3 cupcakes and two brownies on Saturday.  Oy.

From the day my daughter tasted solid food for the very first time, she was a mother's dream.  As a toddler she would choose an apple over candy, water over juice,  every day of the week.  She would gobble up grape tomatoes and baby carrots and cucumber slices with a fervor I can only describe as freakish.  She didn't seem to enjoy the few treats she was offered (cake at a birthday party, for example).

Until school.

Our day Saturday was planned to the gills and we had not time nor patience for a kid with an attitude.  (Mistake on our part, #1).  Abby's a good kid who generally abides by the rules, even though she is every bit an almost- seven year old girl.  And the morning was fine.  She slept until 8:15 after being allowed to stay up late the night before, played until late morning, when it was time to leave for a softball game.  She played the game well and was even focused enough on the coach's instructions to get a hit and score and run (she isn't exactly the best batter yet).  When the game ended, her coach busted out the after-game snack which was a big tray of cupcakes to be shared between the two teams.  Jack was in a bit of a needing-a-nap meltdown, so I left the field with him,  leaving Abby there with her father and the team.(Mistake #2; keep reading)

Abigail's father is a self-described junk food addict.  He loves to see the faces of both kids when they taste their first [marshmallow; jelly bean; french fry; gumdrop; chocolate; cheese doodle; insert any other kind of junk you can think of here].  A little bit, in moderation....fine.  Abby & Chris arrived home from the field and a majorly jacked up Abby screamed about how she has eaten not one, but TWO cupcakes.  Before lunch.  Which was on the table waiting for her.  Oy.

And so the behavior began.  She ate her lunch, and then we went upstairs to get her ready for her cousin's birthday party.  It was little things:  not paying attention to me so that I had to repeat myself, not following directions  about very simple things like putting the laundry in the hamper or being quiet because her brother was sleeping.  When we came downstairs, and as we were packing everyone & everything up to leave, it continued for her father.

Fast-forward to a couple of hours later, after a party and carbohydrate overload (bread, pretzels and chips, and macaroni salad) as well as the requisite birthday cake & ice cream (Mistakes 3-9), and she was a a royal holy freaking bat-terror.  Like I kid I had never met before.

As the party emptied out, I went outside to ask her to please stop playing in the water sprinklers, so she could start drying off to go home. I ran back inside the house to get her a towel, got caught up in a conversation with someone for a few minutes and when I got outside, there she was....running through the sprinklers again.  Blatant defiance. 

Now I don't consider myself to be a parenting hard-ass, but there are two things we do not tolerate.  Blatant defiance is one of them.  When I confronted her, she told me that "she forgot" I asked not to play in the water anymore.  This is the same kid who can tell me what I made for dinner the second Thursday in January, 2006.  Forgetting is not in her repertoire.  I was already mad, and now she was going to add lying to the mix. (Remember the TWO things we don't tolerate?  Lying is the other thing).

It was a long, quiet ride home that night.  Chris & I were furious, but mostly puzzled, about who this awful misbehaving child was.

The kids went to bed and Chris & I got a few minutes to reflect on it all, when it hit me.

Sunday was slow, quiet, restful, nourishing, and most importantly, sugar and fake-food free.  Guess who came home?  Our sweet almost seven year old.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Evolving Into a Soccer, er, Softball Mom

We have a ridiculously full weekend planned.  "Why are we doing this to ourelves?" kind of full.

Saturday holds promise of a new farmers' market  (the market isn't new, but it is one I have never been to before) in the morning, and a birthday party-slash barbecue-slash-Flyers playoff game party in the afternoon.  Sunday we are going to dip oursleves in sunscreen and have a day full of mowing and digging and  and vegetable garden planting and mulching and and pool opening and general outdoory-ness.  Abby (and coach daddy) have softball events: games, team pictures and practices on 5 of the next 6 days, inlcuding this evening and tomorrow midday.  On top of all this, we somehow need to find time to prepare nourishing meals and plan meals for the work-week, get some rest, pay the bills, grocery shop for next week and do laundry/clean up the house.

Sunday is also the LOST series finale.  Basically 6 hours straight of the best.  show.  ever.  Translation:  6 straight hours of Chris & I saying "shhhh" a lot and not getting much else done.  Think the kids can put themsleves to bed that night?

Anyhoo...I am a little stressed about it all.  I need to keep my focus.  If I don't incinerate the list, next week will be 100% hell for us, and we will (sadly) spend all of Memorial Day Weekend making up for it instead of enjying the 3 days off.

Oh, and Abby woke up with a sore throat this morning, so enter the (ever present when you have kids) possibility that the plan will ENTIRELY change at least a few times until it all shakes out.

What does this all mean?  That I need to find a way to stay motivated without letting "the flow" that I am supposed to go with derail me.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Besides listing yourself to death,  what time management tips can you share?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mmmmm Mmmmmm REAL - Tomato Soup

Yesterday was one of those drab, cold & rainy days that befall us a couple of times each spring.  The kind that makes you crave something delicious, warm, creamy & soothing.  Not exactly a good vehicle for the "new & improved" Beth plan.  Having invested well at the farmers market over the weekend, I decended into my basement to grab a couple of jars of the fresh NJ plum tomatoes I canned last summer and whipped up some amazingly yummy, 100% real food, or as I like to call it,  "a nice simmering pan of cozy": Tomato Soup.

After slurping down a hot mug of comfort, I hopped online to see just what is in a good ole' can (with the red & white label) of  condensed tomato soup to find this:

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste)Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Salt, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Cottonseed, Canola and/or Soybean)Flavoring, Ascorbic Acid, and Citric Acid.

High fructose corn syrup.  Bleh.  Translation:  sweeter than hell concoction derived by super heating/processing what is probably genetically engineered (um, FAKE) corn. 

Wheat flour.  Hmm...I thought we were making soup, not bread.  Incidentally, this makes the popular brand NOT gluten-free for those of you with sensitivities.

No less than 4 types of oils.  I will save my rant about these oils for another time.  Notice that one of them is corn oil, probably from the same type sort of fake, uber-engineered robo-corn as the corn syrup.

Flavoring.  What the hell does that mean? 

Ascorbic Acid, and Citric Acid  Have these people never heard of a lemon?  (shhh...don't tell anyone, but lemons actually contain both of these "acids".  I know, it's a big secret.)

So...the ingredients in my tomato soup?  Tomatoes (grown and canned fresh at home during the summer of 2009), red bell pepper, onion, garlic, water, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, salt & pepper.

If you are saying to yourself right now. "Hey, I know those things!!!", you are right, you do.  BECAUSE THEY ARE REAL FOOD.  And they, or rather, the sum of their parts - the soup - was amazingly delicious. 

As a side note to this, I have been attempting to eat mostly "real" unprocessed food for about 4 weeks now, give or take.  I have not been perfect, and I will tell you that the hardest thing for me to quit is the one thing that is the absolute WORST for me - artifical sweeteners (does anyone one know of a 12 step program for these?).  But I am trying.  I do my best to forgo anything from a box, bag, can, jar or freezer, with reasonable exceptions (natural peanut butter, for example).  In that four weeks, without changing much of anything else, I have lost a little over 8 lbs.  I really do believe that fake ingredients, hidden uneccessary fats & starches, and poor basic health related to a diet full of garbage was keeping me fat.  In addition to losing some weight I am feeling so much better.  I have energy I have never had before, and the result is I am moving more. Not necessarily "working out" but definitely more active. 

If you think that cooking this way is just too daunting, think again,  First, this batch of soup will be at least a couple of meals for my family, and cost next to nothing to make.  Even if you don't have any desire to grow tomatoes or hoof-it to a farmstand, your grocery store has everything you need.  I wholeheartedly recommend organic produce if you are going to store-buy,  but truthfully, I think even just committing to eating home-prepared food is better than canned every day of the week. Secondly, I mostly dumped food in a pan, put it in the oven, took it out, pureed it and stirred now and then.  Seriously.  I spent most of the time it was cooking doing other things.

Try it.  It'll make you feeeeeeel gooooood.

To make the soup:
Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice, toss everything except the basil into a shallow pan with a little bit of olive oil, roast at 425 untill it is all nice and soft and a little browned on the edges. Puree it in a food processor (I let mine cool a bit so as to not have the contents exploding on my ceiling).  Mix the reserved tomato juice and some water to loosen the caramelly brown bits from the bottom of the roasting pan, and pour that, the fresh basil (slivered) and the pureed veggies into a pan to simmer for a bit, until you like the thickness of it.  Taste for salt & pepper, and adjust.  Thats's it!

For more real food ideas, resources and recipes, go to Real Food Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Ick factor

Saturday was my favorite day in a long, long (cold, awful, snowy, miserable, H1N1-havin', broken foot-havin') time.  I drove through my neighboring town to see that the farmer's market is back!  Yippee!  Fresh/sweet/crunchy delicious things, that were grown right here in NJ/PA!

I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about locally produced, sustainable food.  Ever since watching Food, Inc. (ick!).  It was enough to make me consider going vegan.  Surprisingly, thanks to our friend, The Internet, there is A LOT of information out there about how to shop & eat local, safe, humanely raised food.  Food that is actually more nutrient dense and better for us! 

I have also been using this personal food revolution as another motivator in my "getting well" project.  It really is simple:  I am resolved to:
  • Eat less meat.  There are plenty of yummy ways to fill the belly with nutritious vegetable sources of protein
  • Buy local produce in season
  • Preserve local, in season produce for use off season (freezing, canning)
  • Bake my own, less preservative filled, bread (which is remarkably easy by the way!)
  • Drink less of everything that isn't water (coffee, soda, alcohol)
  • GET RID OF artifical sweeteners in my diet.  This will, by far, be my biggest challenge.
  • Move more (now that the broken peg is pretty mucn mended)
  • Prepare meals and snacks myself at home using real honest-to-goodness food ingredients instead of fake this, artifical that or things that are over processed & refined.
Simple, right?  Remind me of that as I drive by chick-fil-a on my way home.  We have a deal?