March 26, 2012

Our best sleeper is suddenly our worst (and other horror stories of toddler room sharing)

For a long time, my hubby and I have said we would love having a tiny house like these. Our only request would be a small, almost closet sized room for each kid with a loft style bed and dresser/desk combo underneath. Last Summer we rented a cabin in the Outer Banks, NC and it was tiny. And functional. And lovely. Less mess, more forced togetherness. I can dig it.

Now, the house we owned in PA was gorgeous, 2400 square feet and had four bedrooms (and a pool and a two car garage and…I’ll stop now so I don’t feel a tiny bit sad for my old self). At the time, we had my husband’s niece living with us and my daughter (yay!), and Champ wasn’t born yet, so we had three kids sharing two bedrooms. The boys shared brilliantly. Never a problem. At all.

Our NY rental house is smaller than our PA house, but in a less functional way than the tiny houses and certainly without a small space for each child. When we rented it, I thought “Hey! This brings us one step closer to our small-house-love, and who cares if there is one less bedroom…the boys share beautifully already.”

Enter premature baby brother and night terrors for the oldest boy. Even though my daughter moved to live with her Father around the time Champ was born, two bedrooms to share between three boys under four (and sometimes an eight year old girl), has proven to be a problem. We have had long stretches where everyone slept pretty well.

Then this winter happened, and my kids got sick left and right. Champ decided that he should wake up every night at least once; even if he felt well it was a habit now. Against all of my better judgement, every night, I swooped in and moved him to a portacrib downstairs. Our middle guy, Jude, was the best sleeper (and probably the one that needs it the most) and if Champ’s screaming woke him up, that would be a real problem.

So, besides having my sleep interrupted every night (which yes, probably contributed to this), I thought we found a good temporary solution while we waited for Champ to sleep through the night again.

I thought it was a brilliant idea…until Saturday morning around 5:30am when we heard a loud thud downstairs. Champ figured out how to climb out of the portacrib. I’ve never even seen him try this…not even when he’s playing “babies” in it with his brothers. Had. No. Idea. It. Was. Coming. I hate it when I’m unprepared!

Saturday night, when Champ started crying, we moved Jude to Carl’s room. It was around 4am. Jude never went back to sleep and consequently, neither did Carl. They played “quietly” (as quietly as four year old and three year old boys can), and BH and I nodded off but a few times during the next three hours. We were all exhausted Sunday.

Sunday night, we tried a new plan. Before Mommy and Daddy went to bed, we moved Jude to Carl’s room. The thought was that if we moved him after sleeping only a few short hours, he would stay asleep. We figured our mistake was waiting until almost 4am the night before (since Jude had been asleep for more than 9 hours at that point and probably felt rested enough to play at the time). The move went well…not a peep from anyone (not even Champ)…until four o’clock in the morning again! Jude was awake and ready to play. WTH?

This has happened every time we have tried to put Jude in Carl’s room. My only guess is that Carl’s room isn’t quite as dark and there are things within reach (like lamps), that make it obvious he could play if he wants to. Ironically, Champ slept all night. Not a peep. First time in a month. What gives? Maybe Jude makes small noises in his sleep that were waking up Champ before? Maybe Champ woke up, discovered he was alone, and decided it wasn’t worth yelling if no one was there? I don’t know!

For now, I’ve decided to keep Champ and Jude in their room together tonight. I figure if Champ yells and wakes up Jude, maybe Jude will realize how crappy it is when someone wakes you up and they will both grow out of this? ;)

Well, internets…I have 24 hours until Lizzy comes home for Spring Break (yay!!). If you have any nuggets of wisdom please share.

March 22, 2012

How Quickly We (read: I) Forget Food {Quality} Matters

It’s been a long while since I’ve been in the blogging mood. I tried to post a bit last month, and if you read those posts you would know I’ve been working through some personal *ish.

Truth is, I’m pretty sure it was only going to be a matter of time before some tough blows added up and I would need some professional help. The thing I was wondering is why now? Why eighteen months after my preemie was born and my daughter moved in with her Father? Why almost two years into gainful employment after a painful stretch of unemployment?

I’ve decided three things made my crazy start when it did:

1. Making the switch to Paleo in January 2011 saved me from my own sort of emotional crazy only temporarily until I slacked off (in addition to healing some real physical health stuff).

2. Eating lower quality food when I started to reevaluate our budget (not grassfed, etc) made me care less about what I was eating (and made it less palatable in some ways).

3. Getting lax on eating Paleo over the Holidays because I cared less about the quality of my food (see #2) and because I felt like the weirdo that couldn’t “relax” and “live a little!” at family functions resulted in hormonal imbalances and strong (bad) food cravings to combat them.

Based only on what I’ve read on the interwebs, I’m pretty confident that I’m hormone sensitive. Eating conventionally raised meats messes with me. It just does. And once I start feeling off, I make bad food decisions. I was probably still 80%+ Paleo from December to February, but that 20% was filled in with some nasty stuff. No bueno.

I’m on the road to feeling better thanks to a few smart decisions, including seeking professional help via a therapist and babysitter, and laying off the coffee (which I’m pretty sure was making me bitchy)! After putting my gym clothes on for the first time in a month and seeing my less-svelte self, I had a realization: my food has got to get back to the good stuff. Not just eating “paleo,” but high quality food. My health is worth it*.

The other day I downloaded the 21 Day Sugar Detox from Balanced Bites. Kinda like these Paleo Gods, I like the idea of following a program. Diane’s Sugar detox is well laid out and has really simple recipes. I’m gearing up for it now, but I’m going to “officially” get started with a new group at the beginning of April so I can experience the whole group effort and motivation thing. I’m excited!

So yes, this post was written with one foot in my mouth. I realized I said “Paleo on a budget is possible” and I’m kinda back tracking. For anyone wondering, we did manage
to save a fair amount of money when I was being super strict about our food budget. I don’t plan to go crazy and have no food budget, but when I’ve done some additional math to determine a smart budget that allows us higher quality food, I will post on that. In the meantime, our first order from US Wellness Meats arrived yesterday, and I’m jazzed to make lunch soon!

Thanks for being patient these last couple of months… Mojo coming back slowly but surely! :)

February 12, 2012

because help is a wonderful thing

Wow. All I can say is what a difference a week makes! I’m suddenly feeling like I’m getting my chaos-fighting mojo back and I. Love. It!

I totally get that this is a process and I won’t just bounce back from what I can only describe as the closest I have ever come to a nervous breakdown. I have had only one session with a fantastic and amazing therapist, who recommended I see her at least twice a week (truth hurts! lol).

Something perhaps more critical than the professional help piece has happened…I forced myself to be honest with my husband and asked for help! I like being super mom. I want my husband (and everyone else) to see me thriving. Unfortunately, in order to keep pushing through in the day-to-day mom and wife stuff, I didn’t do a great job addressing some kinda big emotional stuff. So I’m addressing it now. I’m lucky to have a very understanding and supportive husband. I’m glad he encouraged me to get a babysitter once a week (even though I have been very focused on saving money), reminding me that our number one goal right now is to have healthy and happy kids…and if Mommy isn’t
healthy and happy, neither are they.

Hopefully, I will be back to some semi-regular posting about regular minimalist paleo mommying things. I will also share with you any tips or insights I am learning about combatting depression and overwhelmed mommyhood.

Up next in the queue: The most fantastic way to make my hubby’s lunches for work OAMC style! Look for it this week!

Thanks for sticking with me and for the words of support and encouragement!

February 6, 2012

Untitled Mess

I have a very long post in which I explain why I am a chaotic mess right now. That post, however, may be better kept as my own private diary considering the kind of crazy I have been over the last month or so. Suffice it to say that in my most recent battles versus chaos, my opponent has won almost every time.

I’m here to say that despite some of the lists/schedules/plans I have put in place to keep me from losing my mind, my mind has been (effectively) lost. Perhaps it was the disgusting food choices over the holidays coupled with exhaustion from travel and my hair suddenly turning way more gray than it should be at barely thirty years old. Perhaps it was realizing it is a new year and I have spent the last few trying to keep my head above water and I. Just. Couldn’t. Tread. Alone. Anymore. Lemme define alone for anyone wondering, cause yes, I am married and my hubby has been treading as well. MomvsChaos definition of alone: living in a state where you have no family with a ton of small kids at ages that mostly prevent you from attending any mommy and me type functions because one is too old or one is too young. Having a husband working ALL the time probably trying to get over his own issues from a couple of really tough years. No babysitters. No date nights. No vacations. Period.

It’s February. I owe a blog update on my Paleo on a Budget progress for January, but it may take a little while to get back into the grove. In other news, we’ve hired a little bit of help. One day a week, for a handful of precious hours, the littles go to a babysitter. This started last week, and I filled those hours with OAMC and other mommying tasks. It felt good to try to get ahead. Tomorrow when they’re at the sitter’s, I’m going to talk to a professional before this beast gets out of control. And then I will do mommying things until they come home so I can at least feel slightly less chaotic on the outside.

So now, internets, you know. Even this Mom vs. Chaos doesn’t win every battle. But I’m planning to get my groove back…stat.

January 26, 2012

Recipe: Paleo Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients:
– 1 6oz can tomato paste
– 1 to 1.5 cups of beef stock
– 3 Cloves Garlic
– .5 of an onion or 2/3 cup frozen diced onion
– 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
– 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
– 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
– 1 teaspoon sea salt
– 2 tablespoons chili powder
– 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– 2 tablespoons honey (optional- only add if you want a sweeter sauce)

Method:
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker or saucepan (I recommend a small slow cooker or THIS so it can simmer a while away from the stovetop). Simmer on low setting for a couple of hours (or at least 30 minutes if you are in a hurry). Enjoy!

I usually make triple batches of this and freeze some. I especially like this sauce for BBQ Pork in the Crockpot.

This recipe is based in part or in whole on this fantastic recipe .

January 24, 2012

Recipe: Primal Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/4 cup grade b maple syrup
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water and mix with fork. Let stand a couple of minutes to soften. Add boiling water and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Allow to gelatin to cool while stirring together maple syrup and cocoa; add whipping cream and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer until mixture is stiff. Pour in gelatin mixture and beat until well blended. Refrigerate in large bowl or spoon into serving dishes, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. I can never wait more than 15, and it’s still mousse-like! Enjoy!

This recipe is based in part or in whole on this recipe by Hershey’s.

January 18, 2012

Recipe: Paleo Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry

Ingredients:
1 pound meatballs or ground beef, browned
1 can pineapple chunks, juice reserved
1/2 bag frozen onion and bell pepper blend (or roughly 1/2 fresh onion diced and one bell pepper diced)

Sauce:
1/3 C cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
1/4 C Honey, Grade B Maple Syrup or Palm Sugar
2 Tablespoons Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoons Gelatin (optional, but will make the sauce thicker. I don’t mind the sauce thin though!)

Method:
Brown meatballs or ground beef. Remove meat from pan. Sauté onion and pepper. Add pineapple and sauce ingredients. Heat to boiling then reduce heat to thicken. Add meat back to skillet for 5-10 minutes to let flavors blend. Serve over Super Simple Cauliflower Rice. Enjoy!

January 18, 2012

A Menu for Non-Paleo Houseguests

Last week my in-laws came in town for a couple of days. Any time we have company, I struggle over what to feed them. I always want to make people feel comfortable and welcome in our home, which means I tend to ask beforehand what they like to eat for breakfast, if there is anything special they want, etc. Unfortunately, most of our guests say bagels and fake fat-free non-dairy coffee creamer. Talk about internal struggle! I used to buy the bagels and whatever people wanted, but it really felt like feeing them something I know to be destructive was wrong on a lot of different levels. This time I didn’t buy the bagels and junk food (I did buy the coffee creamer, but baby steps, right?)!

I tried to select paleo(ish) meals that would go over well with my junk-food addicted father-in-law (who has terminal cancer, by the way, and it kills me watching him feed himself so poorly. He says it’s a quality of life thing for him and he just enjoys the junk too much to stop…ugh. But I digress). Anyway, he seemed to enjoy the meals below. Either that or he was too polite to tell me he didn’t like it. This didn’t prevent him from going to buy donuts one day and bringing soda to drink while he was awake watching movies until 2-3am, but at least I did my part!

What to Feed a Non-Paleo House Guest:

Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry with Super Simple Cauliflower Rice
•BBQ Pork Roast with Side Salad
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Banana Bread
Primal Chocolate Mousse

What do you feed your sugar and grain addicted guests? Any tips on preventing things from getting awkward when you ask family and friends to stop bringing your kids candy and junk as “love treats?”

January 13, 2012

Paleo Family on a Budget: One Month Down

Last month was our first official month trying to stick to a $600 food budget. As it turns out, it wasn’t the best month to start with! We ended up traveling (kind of last minute) 3 straight weekends, which meant more eating on the run and/or buying different food that works better for road trips. So, the good news is: We came in under budget for grocery shopping! The bad news is that we spent more money on dining out than we had budgeted (we budget less than $40/month for dining out- no joke). Did we break even on our dining out and grocery budgets? Not really :(. As it turns out, we ended up spending an extra $100 on food in the month of December due to travel.

That said, when I did buy groceries, I was able to stick to my rules no problem. This is an evolving budget, and there are a few things I am thinking about as we go that could change some numbers for us. For example, my husband and I strongly prefer grassfed beef to poultry. I have some great chicken nugget recipes for my kids, which is nice since they don’t like red meat very much yet.

I can always get a good deal on chicken or pork, for $1.99 a pound or less, but grassfed beef is at least three times that price. I plan to do the math on the difference between buying cheaper conventional cuts of poultry or pork and then having to add in healthy fat by way of coconut oil or grassfed butter, but I haven’t yet. I guess I haven’t because there is a huge element that I’m not sure how to quantify: I’m calling it the feel-good element! See, grassfed beef isn’t just delicious. It feels good buying grassfed beef because I know it is better for the environment and my body. I hate to admit this, but there have been nights we have considered going out to dinner instead of eating it at home simply because (although I’ve done the best I can dressing it up for deliciousness) chicken just isn’t as tasty as grassfed beef, IMHO. And, going out to dinner, my friends, doesn’t do anything good for our budget!

Anyway, that is my struggle at the moment…I will keep doing the math and considering changes. For anyone who is curious, we are right on track for January, and have spent just shy of $300 so far!

Are you eating real food on a budget? Paleo? Primal? Gluten-Free? If you have any tips, please share!

January 12, 2012

One Small Victory: Conquering Vegan to Paleo Texture Issues

I’ve written several posts about my children having texture issues after being raised primarily vegan.  Before we switched to a Paleo/Primal diet last year, we ate tons of whole grain pasta and breads and of course some “schmeat” – our word for the fake soy based meat. Carl has been the easiest to transition, I’m sure based more on his age than anything else. Jude is at a really rough age (almost three) and is extremely strong willed; he would rather not eat than try something new half the time.  So, I have been working pretty hard on getting my kids to be able to tolerate (and enjoy) the texture of real meat.  Red meat is still a struggle for the kids, although Carl devours Everyday Paleo Meatloaf with my Meatloaf Topping! We are starting slowly with chicken, and have progressed through a variety of different ways to prepare it.

I have shared two different chicken nugget recipes (here and here), one using cooked, shredded chicken to form patties, and one using ground chicken. About a month ago (in preparation for one of our many road trips), I cubed some chicken breast into teeny pieces (think Chick-Fil-A sized nuggets) and started to experiment. The result is my best chicken nugget recipe yet!

So, in the past thirty days, Jude has taken a liking to super simple cauliflower rice, chicken breast nuggets, and even pineapple! Of course, there are a lot of days where he won’t touch any of the above. Even with all of the travel we have been doing and the unfortunate availability of awful food choices, once we are back on home turf, my kids get back on track with food fairly well. They may ask for the same junk food they saw at our relatives houses, but we don’t have it and no one else is eating it, so they stop asking pretty quickly. Thank goodness! I had to try really hard to follow my own advice and keep my stress level low while on vacation last month. I can actually see my kids behavior start to spiral downhill after a day or two of eating SAD. So, yeah, lets just say I’m actually looking forward to the inclement New York winter weather so we can stay close to home for a while!