Top 5 unprocessed kid’s snack ideas

20151124_063714 (excuse the bed head, but yummy parfait, eh? )

1. Plain Yogurt parfaits, plain yogurt, frozen fruit (blueberries and raspberries are our favs), if you have homemade granola add it, if not whatever nuts or seeds you have, and a smiley face of honey on the top… a dash of vanilla if you’re fancy.

2. Veggie sticks, (carrots, celery, cucumber, grape tomatoes) with either hummus, or chickpeas (toddlers love them straight out of the organic, bpa-free can).  Or, for an even easier treat, try frozen corn (please please please make sure it’s organic) … little kids LOVE it!

3. Homemade popsicles!  We normally make green smoothies once a week, and I try to double what we drink, and freeze the rest as popsicles.

4. Banana bread, I do my best to do at least 2 breads at a time, quadrupling the recipe is best.  Slice it when cool, and freeze in a freezer bag.

5. This granola bar recipe is another family favourite.  I also make at least a double batch of these gems.  I let them cool, slice them, and freeze them on the cookie sheet.  Once the bars are solidly frozen, I toss them into freezer bags, and have easy, healthy, fantastic treats.

With all the time you just saved making snacks, enjoy a fun show.  My new favourite is UnReal, a lifetime network show, now available on Shomi.

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Survival mode is ok

We all have periods where things out of our control make daily existence overwhelming.  Has it been two days since you’ve showered?  Laundry piled as high as your ears?  Kitchen look like a bomb went off?

Welcome to being in survival mode!  We have all been there.  Whether you are on bedrest, just brought home your first baby, or are sleep training your third baby by night, and with a whole bunch of hyper toddlers by day (me, right now)…

Here are a few ideas to make your survival mode a little more survivable (I hope).

First, I think, attitude really helps.  Don’t let “judge-y” people make you feel bad, NO ONE always has it all together… and if they did, they’d be pretty boring people to know, right??!  Although sometimes you must lower your expectations, there are also days when you need to just put your big girl panties on and get it done.

Try to remember this is temporary.  Be thankful for the good stuff, there’s always a silver lining.  Celebrate every success.  Finally doing that load of towels, is totally worthy of a kitchen dance party!

Secondly, as a mom there’s a few key areas that are musts (unless you’re on bedrest, in that case, they’re still musts, but get other people to do these things)

Food, Floors, Kitchen, Laundry, and Bathrooms.

Food, move to a very simple food rotation, plan every meal and snack for a week and repeat.  (I have one, if you e mail me, I can send it to you).  Also, no one ever died having pb and jelly, carrot sticks and a banana for dessert for lunch for 2 months straight….. just saying….  2nd tip, if you have some available time to cook, cook double or triple batches – you have already pulled out the ingredients and the dishes are already dirty.  When doing this, focus on making healthy meals that freeze well (chili, shepherd’s pie, or whole wheat pasta dishes).  Drink loads of water.  Don’t overdo coffee, avoid sugar all together, you don’t need that afternoon slump.

To keep floors reasonable, plan to pick up everything off the floor twice a day.  Put things in baskets, things always seem neater when they’re in baskets.  If it takes more than 10 minutes… you have too much stuff.  Box some stuff, and get rid of it!!  (or save it for less stressful times)  Then, give the toddlers some cloths and play “wipe the floors”… drag out the vacuum and leave the vacuum in an accessible place.  Trying to sweep after each meal is a good goal to keep the kitchen reasonable.  If you’ve got a larger sized home, block off areas if they’re hard to keep clean from little people.

To get the kitchen back into reasonable shape, set a timer for 5 mins, and do as much as you can in that time.  Do this as many times as it takes.  You’d be surprised how fast it goes.  This also counts as your workout for the day!  It also really helps to get everything off the kitchen table after each meal, and be diligent with filling and emptying the dishwasher… this machine is truly a blessing.

Laundry can pile up fast with kids… especially if you’re in the zone of potty training and spit up.  If you’re really behind, get all your little helpers to help you collect it all early early early in the morning.  Set LOUD timers to stay on top of switching loads immediately when they’re done.  Take each basket into the playroom, sit down and teach your 2 year olds (and older) to fold, while you fold the load.  Put your last load in by 3pm and aim to put it away by 4pm.  To stay on top of it, put a load in first thing every morning, or a few more, depending on your family size.  If you’re on bedrest, or just beyond overwhelmed, don’t fold.  Sort the clean clothes into baskets for each member of your family, and they can rummage.  If you’re struggling in this area, I would put away any excess clothing… the more you have, the more you have to manage.

Bathrooms can be done in little bits.  Every time you “go”, clean something (mirror, sink, top of tub, inside of tub, floor, toilet tank, empty trash, etc).  It will take you 1 minute, and it will at least remain a dull roar of a mess.  I also teach my littles to wipe the sink after they wash their hands, this is a huge help.

My last tip is to practice a morning routine, I get up, do contacts, floss, brush teeth, deodorant, get dressed and extras as time allows.  But I at least do the basics, so that if I have to leave or if someone comes over I am not freaking out.  I have at times also picked out 3 outfits that work for me.  I made the outfits my uniform, rotate and repeat.

FYI These tips are not coming from someone who knows it all, they’re coming from someone who’s learning what as she goes…. and making lots of mistakes too.

: )

And a bunch of these ideas have come from one the most useful books ever, Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman, unfortunately the book is out of print though.

Butter Tarts. I dare you to just eat 1!

For some families it’s chocolate cake, or chili, or lasagna, for us, butter tarts are the main attraction for the holidays.  Butter tarts are especially my dad’s absolute favourite treat.  This weekend, my parents came by for a little visit.  So I thought I’d invite the kids to make a mess in the kitchen and give my dad’s favourite a try.  I found this recipe, and it worked out fabulously.  In the end, it really ended up being easy enough for my 3 year old to do most of the baking!

You’ll need:

  • pie pastry (16 tarts, your own or tenderflake – I used tenderflake)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1. Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small bowl, place raisins and cover with hot tap water; let stand on the counter for 30 minutes.
    2. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the soft butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup; stir well until sugar is dissolved and butter is creamed.  (Caleb and I just used the paddle attachment on the good old Kitchen aid)IMG_5338
    3. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
    4. Drain raisins
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    5. Retrieve tart shells and divide raisins equally into all shells; then divide butter mixture into all tarts
    6. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes; filling will be lightly browned but still bubbling.  (We cooked them for 17 minutes, and they turned out a bit more consistent than we were looking for, we like them running down your chin.  Next time, we will cook them for 15 minutes on the dot.
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    7. Let cooked butter tarts cool in pans for 10 minutes after removing from oven; then remove and place on racks until completely cool.IMG_5379                                                                      ….and miracle of miracles.  I was able to stick to just having 1 tart!!  But I’m getting awfully close to my first post partum weight loss goal… and no butter tart can get in the way!!

Business trip, the good, the bad and the ugly

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Daddy was away a couple of days this week, and I am thrilled this business trip was short… we all miss daddy when he’s away.  Let’s just not think about the trips to come….

The good: Daddy is a super hero *love* and suggested we get a cleaning lady …actually, we needed a cleaning crew, to be exact.  So, I daringly thought, while the crew cleans our house, I’ll take the 3 kids to Tim Hortons (mmm donut). I had absolutely no idea how taking all the kids to a very very busy cafe would play out… I was afraid… very afraid… would they all start screaming? … would Caleb have to go pee?  What would I do with the other two?  (bathrooms are not designed for double strollers).  Would we annoy people so much that we get thrown out??  On the way, we went over and over what good manners I expected over lunch, and I may have threatened the kids that they wouldn’t get a timbit donut if they didn’t follow the rules.  20141016_11522620141016_115213

And miracle of miracles, they were unbelievably well behaved.  The two “big” kids sat in their seat, and quietly chatted, and ate all their food, without throwing anything on the floor (well, not on purpose).  Caleb even said grace for us.  Of course, I got about 10, “you sure have your hands full” comments… We got one, (I swear I’m not making it up) “you should get a mother of the year award to have such nicely behaved kids”.  … I’d be concerned about getting prideful … but read on.

The bad and the ugly:  Later that day, as I was patting myself on the back for being the world’s best mother, with perfectly behaved children… (guess where this is going).  I started nursing Belle, and Caleb decided it would be a fun idea to open a new bag of diapers and dump out every single diaper. …Well it was a blissful 8 minutes when the house was sparkling clean.  I looked on absolutely helpless as this mess was going on.  ….the only thing I could do was snap a picture.

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… my face as this was happening, is the “ugly”, if you were wondering.

The joyous ones

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When I had my first baby, I had no idea the challenges awaiting me.  One particular time, I just wanted my baby boy to stop crying so I could get a load of laundry into the wash. I tried everything in the little booklet the hospital gave me, to quiet him down. Nothing worked.  I remember feeling my pulse race, my skin getting red and hot, and this new and unexpected anger coming up as my baby cried and cried.

I gently put the screaming baby down.  Walked over to the garbage can.  Kicked it clear across the room. … did it solve anything? …. no. Did I feel better?  A little…. but not much.

I’ve since gotten a lot more comfortable with the unpredictability of newborns. I have also since read about how when you react with anger (or any emotion) consistently, you train your brain to continue to react with anger to similar stimuli.  This is called neuroplasticity.  So the more I practice reacting gracefully to the dumped cup of juice, pulled hair, interrupted nap time, the more naturally a graceful reaction will come.

Around this time, it so happened that in a mother’s group I was attending, we did a book study on the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. My chapter was “Keeping a contented heart”.  There were 2 parts that impacted me profoundly.  The first, was when the writer tried to play the “glad game”, where she tried to be glad about everything for a whole week.   I love the glad game, because everyone has their moments where they want to kick a trash can across the room.  But, I’ve noticed the kids are much more cheerful when mom is glad.  Since reading this book, I have actually woken the kids up to my singing… (feel free to call children’s services).  Moms really do have an amazing power to make a moment good or bad.  Yesterday, Elise was trying to help me by collecting the cups that are often left everywhere on the main floor.  She unknowingly grabbed my jumbo sized full coffee cup and spilled it everywhere.  She looked up at me, about to burst into tears.  I gave her a big goofy grin and scooped her up.  We grabbed the paper towels and cleaned it all up together.  I thanked her a bunch of times for helping, and now she begs for paper towels to help clean everything (even imaginary messes).

The second part I loved was a prayer to “shield the joyous ones”.  I loved the prayer to shield the joyous, because although you want to treasure every moment with your little circus, there are moments that can potentially take away that pure joy.  For example, when you go to the grocery store, if you have more than one or two little kids following you, people are staring… (and apparently feel strong urges to score your parenting abilities).  It can be a little tough keeping your sunny disposition when one of your kids decides it would be a good time to have a huge fit.  *Cough Caleb *.  But I’ll keep praying that these little bumps along the road don’t change that feeling of amazement that the hospital let me take these little bundles home with me… for keeps!

This post is best read while listening to, Keep on the sunny side by the Whites.