Friday, December 30, 2011

Stop Giving Kids Juice!

Note:  This is a dual post to Bright Weight Loss and Bright Love

Back in the 90's, when I first became "Mama," we all gave our kids juice.  We watered it down, of course.  Pepper didn't have full-strength juice until she got her first juice-box at a party when she was 3.  Kids got their 3 cups of milk and the rest of their beverages were juice.  It was an improvement over Kool-Aid or Soda, right?

Things have changed.  Now we realize that although juice has lots of vitamins and good stuff, it's also mostly sugar, even if it has "no added sugar."  Kids also need the fiber and chewing action of real fruit -- so that's the way to go.

The Littles consider juice a real treat.  We give them juice on the rare occasions others would give kids soda; birthday parties, holidays, etc.  They get so excited about it!  I almost feel guilty.  Almost.

It turns out that kids who don't know better don't miss it.  Who'd have thought?  The Littles drink lots of water.  Lots.  It's inspirational.

Now I have one more reason to be the mean-juice-withholding-mama.  Turns out most of our apple juice -- my personal favorite in the 90s --  is imported from China.  Their laws regarding pesticide and safe food practices are far less stringent than ours.   It just seems like a bad idea. 

Please stop giving your kids juice.  They don't need it.  In 3 weeks, they'll stop asking.  Just, water, people, please.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Blitz Fine - Mama Breathing Easy

The Blitz had an endoscopy and partial colonoscopy today, under general.  I was worried but did not let on to him and he was a perfect angel.  The surgery nurses are all in love.  He never even cried!

They are looking for celiac disease.  They did biopsies, the results of which will be in next week.  We love our Pedi GI - Dr. Barrad at Scott&White in Round Rock.  We'll let you know what we find out. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Creative Christmas

Pepper spends most of her Christmas break each year creating.  Here is an early creation;  I did not think to date it at the time, but I'm pretty sure she was 5 or 6 years old when she built it.  I'm thinking 5 actually; that was the year of the Popsicle Viking ship and the Popsicle stick Noah's ark, so that would make age 5 about right. (The mushroom bird was added later.)

For the last several years, she's been in Sculpey mode at Christmas.  Last year she made a lovely kneeling Virgin Mary and a creche with baby Jesus.  The creche suffered an unfortunate collapse this year, though nothing compared to the gingerbread baby-crushing creche from Table for Nine.  Still, Mary is moving, so we posed her by the big nativity after the accident.

This year, Pepper has been on a mission to raise money for her school's art program.  She came up with the idea to make handmade cards and offer them for a donation (a dozen for suggested $10-15 donation).  She's raised $60 so far and had a load of fun.

It's two days before Christmas.  Mom-o-5 has a million things to do but went with Dear Hubby to the gym for a little exercise/stress relief session.  Of course a quick trip to the grocery store was needed on the way home.  We walked in 2 hours later to find she had made dinner.  And what a dinner it was: Chicken Parmesan (all homemade), salad, and fried mozarella for the Littles.  She even made the marinara sauce.  It was fantastic.  I'm so glad she has inherited my love of creating in the kitchen!  Sorry - did not think to take photos.

Oh -- and she made homemade bagels for tomorrow's breakfast (Christmas Eve); she knew I'd be busy.  Merry Christmas to me!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sweet Christmas

I did a lot of baking on Monday, the official start to the holiday around here although Pepper and Dear Hubby were still at their usual tasks.

I started with an old fashioned treat, Washboard Cookies.  The unusual combination of fresh nutmeg and coconut makes them so yummy.
Then in honor of Papa who is celebrating Christmas 2400 miles away this year, Molasses Cookies.  We make them each and every year.  Miss you Mamaw and Papa!
I always make at least one new cookie;  this year's recipe from All You is chocolate sandwich cookies with peppermint filling.  Oh, my goodness, they are good!  The filling has marshmallow fluff so it has a lovely texture.
What is Christmas without Spritz?  I use Betty Crocker's recipe for mine.  I also make pink poinsettias with green veins but they all got eaten before I remembered to take the photo!
Finally I rounded out the day with super-simple haystacks.  Mamaw and I have been honing the recipe.  I loved this formula best so I will stick with it for a bit.  You just melt the chips in a double boiler and pour them over everything else and then drop them on buttered wax paper.

11 oz butterscotch chips, melted with
2 Tbls.. peanut butter

1 cup peanuts
1 cup marshmallows
2-1/2 cups chow mein noodles.
I made chex mix too, of course, the classic recipe off the box.  I just substitute some Cajun spices for the seasoned salt to which I'm allergic.  It's yummy. 

Pepper will make her trademark Brown Sugar Cookies tomorrow; I'll make another batch of haystacks, spritz, and Chex mix.  We'll make gingerbread snowflakes and let the kids decorate them.  Then, I think I'll call it a wrap!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cute Christmas

Pepper has been busy planning teacher and friend gifts.  Last night we put it all together and it turned out so cute!  I picked up some little "tea" spoons at IKEA and she dipped them in chocolate and then crushed peppermint to make a great "stir in" for hot chocolate. 

Once the chocolate melts off, you still have this cute little spoon.

In the bottom of the cup is a packet of peppermint marshmallows and a packet of Ghiradelli chocolate chips. 

To finish the package she added two packets of hot chocolate and a couple of peppermint sticks.  

Most of her teachers are getting bento boxes this year.  I hope they will enjoy them!

In other news, I just finished a great book which I think will be helpful to all my kiddos and not just The Captain.  It's a book by Heather Forbes:  Beyond consequences, logic and control: a love based approach to helping children with severe behaviors. 

If you are interested in learning more, check out my review for [Sorry about the italics -- can't get them to go away!]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adorable Letter Mix-Up

So.  Benny was playing his favorite game with the alphabet magnets called, "What letter is this?"  He said, "Dat a 'u'.  Dat me!"

We all laughed. Then Maggie, says, "Wait, that's me? "

"No," says Bennie patiently, "Dat 'u'!"

Gabe picks up the letter "p".  "P U!"  He shouts.

They all laugh.

"Pee me?"  says Maggie.

Oh my goodness.  In case you haven't had enough of this madness, here's a little video of Bennie who is definitely the letter king in our house.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pulse of Life

On occasion, I will post a single photo for the joy of it!  Here is The Blitz at our "children's tree" where touching and redecorating is encouraged.  Doesn't he look thrilled?

Training Kids to Eat

People frequently comment on how well my children eat.  They love healthy foods.  I am convinced that almost any child can be trained to eat well.

I know there are plenty of naysayers out there.  You don't have to defend yourself to me!  This is for those who are unhappy with what their kids will eat.  I can tell you that not only has this worked on my 5 kids who don't have my genetic preferences-- including one child with sensory integration disorder and two kids trained in early eating by others-- but also with  two little boys I babysat and two originally picky foster kids.

I once read that a child  has to see a food 20 times to eat it.  I followed this advice with our oldest and every child who has crossed my threshold since.  I don't have to threaten or cajole them into eating it;  a dozen or 20 times after it shows up on their plate, they do eat it!  It's miraculous. The key is, don't say anything at all about it unless they ask you a direct question.  In that case, answer the question in a straightforward, non-emotional way:  "Those are peas, darling."  "Spinach is green because of photosynthesis."

Here are few things that have worked in our household:
  • The real trick is to plate small portions.  I don't make them eat new foods and I don't make them eat everything.  If I've done a good job, they are asking for more;  otherwise, plate less next time.
  • I let my kids stop eating when they're full.  A little of each thing is enough for dessert.  New foods have to be touched.  That said, if it's a food I know they eat -- like green beans -- they have to eat it to get dessert. 
  • Consult a chart of "proper" serving sizes for kids of various ages and only put that much on their plate.  For example, a serving of brown rice for a two-year-old is 1/4 cup, so that's all I plate.  If they want more later, they can certainly have it!
  • With a new or disliked food, plate only a tiny bit, like three peas or a teaspoon of spinach.
  • That new food needs to show up every day or even twice a day in order to get them used to seeing it.
  • Consistency is key;  if you want them to eat whole grains, you must stop buying and preparing "white" foods. Whole grains have a nutty flavor and their palates have to become accustomed to it.
  • Try replacing 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour in any recipe with whole wheat flour.  At first, you may want to replace only 1/8th until your family stops noticing; then work your way up.
  • The Thank You Bite.  This brilliant idea came from my niece, Lisa.  Even if you don't like something, you take a thank you bite.  A single bite.  I don't use this at home unless we have company, but my kids know it is the rule in restaurants and other people's homes.
  • Check for food allergies; very young children often eschew foods that they cannot tolerate or to which they are allergic.
  • Sometimes you can trick kids into trying foods by not plating them.  When the child questions why they didn't get it, we say mysteriously, "Oh, this is grown up food.  We're pretty sure you're not old enough to eat it yet."  This is how cherry tomatoes became a 3-year-old foster child's favorite food.  You can't overuse this ploy, of course, but it is very tempting to kids of most ages!
  • Make sure to introduce new or disliked foods with other familiar (but not favorite) foods.  If the new food is a main dish (like veggie lasagna) make sure the next meal has a familiar, accepted main dish.
  • Take the sweets out of snack time.   A litany of sweet snacks just encourages kids to eat lightly at meals and hold out for the next snack.  Yogurt,  fruit, a boiled egg or cheese and crackers all make fine and filling snacks.
  • Take them shopping.  Let them pick out a fruit and a vegetable and serve them both as soon as possible.  It's irresistible.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


This was my first Thanksgiving in many without my parents and my sister.  I missed them fiercely!  But I think the pain was definitely dulled by not cooking and by being extremely full both in body and spirit. 

We are spending Thanksgiving weekend with Paul's folks in Plano.  Our Thanksgiving feast was fit for a king and it is wonderful spending some time with this side of the family.   My in-laws are the connsumate hosts and boy, can they cook!  The "horn of plenty" was filled to overflowing this year!

The bird was roasted in a new-fangled infrared cooker and it was so delicious.   I really, really love turkey and have resolved to be eating it more often in the future.  I didn't bring my camera so you will have to try to imagine what the cooker looks like;  it kind of looks like a stock-pot sized space capsule with a propane tank attached.

Yesterday was my black Friday shopping day. Boy, howdy.  For various reasons, I couldn't sleep Thursday night.  I went to bed at 10:00 because I was tired - triptophan dontcha know -- and I went right to sleep, but by midnight I was sleeping fitfully and after 1:00, I gave up.  I wound up doing the very thing I swore I wouldn't  -- shopping in the middle of the night.  At least I waited until Thanksgiving was over.  I shopped until about 6:00 then declared myself finished.  Since I was  little behind the crowds for most stores, I only encountered long lines and crazed shoppers twice.  I sure did miss my shopping companions though!  I think Mom was sleeping in at home in Idaho and sister hit the Idaho pavement early with her new beau.  I bet she missed shopping in Texas where I was able to leave my jacket in the car!

Littles and Bigs alike have been good guests so far.  If we can just keep 'em out of "mist - chef" (as Tink says) one more day, we'll call the weekend a success.  Then we'll get home and back to diet and exercise.  Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader!

PS - being the most disorganized Mom ever means I left my camera at home. Sorry.  Please enjoy this lovely stock photo instead.

Friday, November 18, 2011

7th Inning Stretch

Well, fall ball is over and Nitro emerged victorious. [This is slightly old news.] Sunshine is elated and she has a hysterical bobble-head trophy to display.  Their championship was hard fought and we were all so proud.  Looking at the scoreboard you can see their final game was a shut-out!

Last week her tournament team, The Lady Outlaws, had their "breaking up" tournament and lost in the middle rounds.  She won't get to play with this team again as she has aged out of their bracket.  But they played great. 

Lady Outlaws sizing up competition
Fierce Shortstop
That girl loves ball.  She LOVES it.  And what is even more shocking to me is that I love it too.  When Pepper started playing about 5 years ago I learned what every mother knows -- nothing is better than watching your kid play sports.  It doesn't matter if they win or lose; it doesn't matter if they are a big star or a big klutz -- it's thrilling.  [Okay -- well neither of the Bigs are klutzes so I don't really know it that last sentence is true but I suspect it is!]

It's really only the 7th Inning Stretch though, because that girl has gone and got herself onto a Select Team.  We probably won't see any tournament play until January because of our previous family commitments, but practice started for her yesterday.   She came home excited and upbeat.  Her coach is "great," the girls are "great," and the team is "great."   She already knew four of the girls on the team and two of her new friends are African American so she is really excited.

Did I mention she was the undisputed home-run queen on both teams?
Baseline hit
Heading home

She's safe!

Pepper thinks she may return to the fields next fall if her schedule won't work for track at school.  The Captain hopes to have his inaugural season in the spring.   If either Tinker or the Blitz have some crazy notion of playing soccer or taking dance, I have only one thing to say:

Play ball!

Daddy and The Blitz (not watching the game)

Cute but cold baby

Rambo costumes for the Monster Mash

With her buddy Nicole

Future Pinch Hitter



Coach Tammy

Maggie Rose - yes, it was COLD!

Photo credits go to Annette Ramirez and Tami Roberts.  Thanks a million, ladies!

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Premature Christmas

Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to Target with all the kids.  As we entered, Sunshine said, "Ah, Christmas is here!"

"No it's not," I replied with a bit too much force.  "It's a whole month almost to Thanksgiving and then it will be Advent and then Christmas."

She wasn't buying it.  "It looks like Christmas!  Let's go look at the electronics," she said to Pepper, and off they went.

The Littles, however, are blissfully unaware of anything.  The decorations mean nothing to them, they barely remember hearing the name, "Santa" once.  Maybe I can have a good Advent with them.  But still, we are skipping ahead.

I love Thanksgiving.   I'm not cooking this year but when I do, it's turkey and stuffing every year.  If you are one of those snooty people who says you don't like turkey because you are tired of having it once a year, every year, you are welcome to my home but you might leave hungry.  The tradition of Thanksgiving is the food and in my family, it's turkey, stuffing,  mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls, and pumpkin pie.  Anything else we may serve is just fluff.  And if I do not have some lovely breast of turkey to eat on buttered white bread with a bit of good mayonnaise for supper, I am going to be a little sad!

Did I mention I love Thanksgiving?  I love the cooler weather and the turkey and the stuffing.  But most importantly, I love the holiday that has somehow remained virtually noncommercial and free of gift-giving.  It's a truly fantastic idea:  take the time to thank God for his magnificent benevolence with us, to thank him for providing a bounty; to give thanks that on this day I am not hungry. I can provide food for my family.  In fact, I can provide a feast.

I am grateful.  I am grateful for each hungry little mouth and for my husband who somehow, miraculously, feeds us all.  I am grateful for a roof over our heads and that each of us is alive and well.  I can truly say that on Thanksgiving, "It is well with my soul!"

Go away Christmas!  You'll get your turn!