I Hadn’t Considered…A Pandemic

A few weeks ago I drafted a post about the massive amount of paper that flows into my home each day and how overwhelming it can be. Well, that topic swiftly became obsolete!

In a matter of days, we’ve entered a Brave New World of sorts on the homefront. We’re learning new terminology (social distancing, shelter-in-place, flattening the curve) as this narrative unfolds. All of us are having to adapt to a new reality at a somewhat maddening pace. It is no joke!

This is a sacrifice that is well worth the lives it is saving. But, it is still a sacrifice. Here are just a few of the changes that we’re experiencing at the dietitian’s home:

-E-learning for 4 kids (high school down to kindergarten, with a 3 yr-old running around for entertainment)

-Dad working full-time mostly from home, while mom works part-time from home

-Seven people in one home every day, all day!

-Each meal at home–That’s at least 21 meals in a day!

Gym Class to Start the Morning Off Right

It is a lesson in adaptation that can leave us feeling quite discombobulated. I alternate between moments of joy, when helping my kids in their learning or playing a game with the family, to moments of insanity, when trying to read all of the emails for e-learning or trying to figure out what day it is!

Yet, through all of this, I continue to see the silver lining. It has been so nice to not have to run 5 children to their numerous activities. While managing e-learning has not been easy, it has been really nice to be more intimately involved in what my children are learning. I have gained an even greater appreciation for the teachers in our district. They have done a phenomenal job putting out meaningful remote curriculum in a very short amount of time. We have been playing more games together as a family, as we’re trying to minimize the amount of TV time. We have cleaned out a lot of neglected spaces in our home out of both necessity (home school space!) and boredom. The kids are collaborating on jam sessions with the violin, cello, flute, and piano. I’m seeing that creativity can stem from boredom.

I know that others are in more stressful situations, as they are losing income and worried about what the future holds. We are trying to support those who need help if we are able. We will lose some income, but we are blessed with my husband’s work continuing pretty much as usual.

I am looking to this time as a reset. Perhaps we unnecessarily overload our schedules, making ourselves crazy in the process? We may need to reel in our commitments after this quarantine is over. Simplify. We should look at how we treat and support our most vulnerable at all times, but especially now. More and more opportunities will undoubtedly arise to help those in need, and it is up to us to rise to it. Pulling back further, we need to vote for those who support the experts and scientists. We should vote against those who lack an ability to be humble and admit when they are not an expert at everything and/or they put money above life.

With less time doing my regular job, I hope to blog more and plan to give you more tips on staying healthy and sane during these times. In the meantime, how are you adapting? What is driving you crazy? What silver linings are you finding?

Weeknight Meal Idea: Stir Fry

While I post a lot about cooking ahead and freezing meals, I do not use pre-frozen meals every night of the week. When we’re meal planning, I look at our schedule and determine which nights will afford me some (emphasis on some!) time to cook. I do have quite a few meals that I can efficiently pull together on those nights. One of my favorites is stir fry. Patch is vegetarian, so we do eat a good amount of plant-based meals. I speak with a lot of clients who are looking to eat a more plant-based diet, and I find that stir fry and other Asian meals are an easy way to integrate more plant-based dishes into their lives.

For one, many Asian dishes are naturally vegetarian. Secondly, they tend to include a lot of vegetables. And, finally, Asian cuisine integrates many fresh and delectable flavors. This can help those who are reluctant to eating vegetarian get over “missing” the meat.

In order to regularly make stir fry, I keep a few key ingredients on hand–these include: sesame oil, canola oil, soy sauce, garlic, corn starch (it will make sense later), and brown rice. These are all ingredients that will not perish quickly. Most can be purchased in bulk, if you plan to regularly make stir fry. From there you can include the fresh ingredients, such as tofu (or “tofood” as Elliot refers to it), veggies (bell peppers, peapods, green onions, mushrooms), lime, etc., in your weekly grocery list. It is also a great way to use up some veggies that need to be eaten from your fridge.

Check out this beautiful stir fry that I pulled together last week for dinner.

So pretty!

All of these veggies were sitting in the fridge and would have gone south had I not used them soon. This wok has been so useful! I bought it on a whim about 6 years ago, and we use it multiple times a week. It is also a great place to make oil-popped popcorn!

The veggies with some of the cooked tofu. (I forgot to take a pic of the rice.)

In addition to the veggies, I made the tofu using this recipe from thekitchn.com (one of my favorite sites for recipes). I then served it with a side of our favorite brown rice. So, this meal hits all of my “nutritious” check boxes. It has lean protein, a variety of veggies, and whole grain. And, everyone devours it! What are some of your go-to weeknight meals?

I Hadn’t Considered…Socks

I often think about situations I hadn’t considered prior to having 5 children.  This is not to say I would reconsider having them–they are my everything!  But, goodness, sometimes it’s a lot!

My first consideration in this theme are socks.  Yes, socks!  The socks are everywhere!  They are in the couch, they are under the chairs, in the kitchen, on the stairs, tucked in cubbies in the mudroom, in sheets, the bathroom, you name it!  I’d like to do a calculation on the number of potential places my dear family puts their socks: 7^x.  I believe it would come out to infinity!

And, despite the socks being everywhere, when it comes time to wash and match these socks, their partner is nowhere to be found.  What?!  So many socks and so few matches.  My mother periodically tries to help us with with our sock problem.  She will sort all of the socks, pulling aside the multitude of single socks.  She then coordinates them by color (blues, blacks, whites, pinks and reds).  There is hope that these long lost socks will find their match.  But, often the story ends in heartbreak.  The single socks never find their long lost partners.

I must consider how long to hold on to them.  Should I wait another month in hopes that it’s long lost partner with miraculously reveal itself?  Or should I cut my losses and let it go?  And, what if I get rid of it, and the match appears–devastating!  The baby socks got me the most.  I still have some that I hope will find their buddy.

In the meantime, we are swimming in socks!

Let me know if you see any matches!

And, a warning to my children’s friends: Don’t leave your socks at our house!  They might get caught in the vortex.

What aspect of parenting caught you off guard?  I’ll be sharing more of mine!

Batch cooking…reboot

You have all likely read about our family’s Cook-a-palooza weekends.  While we love these endeavors, and reaping the benefits of a freezer full of home cooked meals, we have taken a slightly different approach to our freezer meal prep.  We had planned on a big cook weekend several months back.  Sadly, my mother-in-law became very ill.  We decided to postpone for some time, as we wanted to focus our time and energy on spending time with her.  Nonetheless, the demands of a large family do not stop.  And, this fall was no exception.  We were stretched very thin.  And, not having at least some pre-prepped meals made things trickier.  Patch suggested that instead of a huge cook weekend, we do a few hours of batch cooking every other weekend.  I said, “Sign me up!”

We opted to have just one of us prep the meal, leaving the other to handle other duties–shuffling children around, laundry, homework, breaking up fights, etc.  You know, all the exciting tasks of that go along with parenting five children.  It made the task less overwhelming, as we only needed to scale up and purchase ingredients for one recipe, instead of many.  Additionally, it is easier to carve out a few hours every few weeks, than a whole weekend every few months.

So far we’ve made soup, meatloaf, lasagna (vegetarian and meat), and lemon/caper/butter/onion sauce (goes on fish, chicken, tofu, and more).  Some upcoming meals we’re planning to make are whole wheat waffles/pancakes, crock pot ready enchiladas, and power bites.  We’re trying to cover various meals and snacks.  Each time, we make at least 10 meals worth of that item.  This method should help us to save money (we’ll need to shop less each week), save time (I’ll have a few meals ready-to-go each week), and stress less.  We’ll keep you posted on this ongoing project.

What does this photo have to do with our batch cooking day?  Envision this: I’ve just completed making 12 full size lasagnas.  With our large Peapod order came a large amount of dry ice.  Patch felt compelled to utilize said dry ice.  He decided to make dry ice ice cream.  I agreed, assuming it would be a neat learning opportunity for the kids.  Well, as soon as he dropped the dry ice into the cream/sugar/fruit concoction, it “exploded” into this.  There’s never a dull moment here!

Balance

The idea that much of what is good for us lies in the middle has been resonating with me lately.  Much of what ails us is caused by too much or too little of a good or bad thing.  A few that come to mind:

  • Too much sunlight can cause cancer, but too little can lead to not enough Vitamin D conversion.
  • Too much exercise can lead to overuse injuries, but too little can lead to lots of negative effects (cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, etc.)
  • Being too strict with your kids can lead them to rebel (some claim), while being too lax can cause them to be spoiled.
  • Too much work can cause stress, while too little work leads to boredom.

I think about these ideas when I am health coaching people.  A lot of times, someone is doing too much or too little of something, and I am trying to lead them towards the middle.  It’s safest in the middle.  It’s not terribly exciting, but it’s safe.

I find myself in a daily struggle to maintain that balance.  I know that I do best when I spend a good amount of time with my kids: teaching them, feeding them nourishing food, guiding them, playing with them, begging them to clean up their rooms.  But, after an entire day with them, I’m done!  I need balance.  I need time alone with a book or show that is not for kids.  I need to re-balance that scale.

I take the same approach with food.  I love dark chocolate, rich desserts, and gyros.  And, every once in awhile, a big plate of ribs hits the spot. But, after a day or evening of indulging, I’m all for some high fiber cereal with fruit–or as Patch refers to them: “horkin’ fiber chunks”.  It’s why I have no problem with you seeing me eat those deliciously greasy chupaquesos (an egg filled quesadilla with a cheese shell).

I find the same balance with my love of our great city (Chicago), while maintaining a yearning for a simpler country life.  I often wonder if I moved to the country would I get used to not having a TJ Maxx or Trader Joes only a few minutes away.  I’m not sure!  I get excited to check out a new restaurant in the city, but after two hours one way in traffic, I’m ready to head north to the green and open spaces in Wisconsin.  As soon as I cross the border, I breath easier.

When I think back to times in my life when I was not as happy.  A lot of the unhappiness stemmed from a lack of balance.  When I was working too much and not seeing my kids enough, having more money didn’t make up for the lack of balance.  I may not make as much money now, but the balance has brought happiness.

I guess the ancient Taoists knew what they were talking about when they came up with the concept of Yin and Yang.  This principle attests that there are two halves to every whole, and when one side dominates, the other works to bring the two back into balance.  This concept can be applied to many aspects of health and life, even if it is simple small steps in the direction of balance.

Are there areas in your life that you find are unbalanced?  What could you do to begin to restore that balance?  It might be as simple as going to a walk and enjoying some fresh air after a long day at work.

Watching these two sweet boys help out in the yard helps me feel balanced.

New Year’s Contemplations

As we wind down from the chaos that was Christmas 2017, my thoughts have begun to turn to the new year.  What would I like to accomplish in 2018?  How can I simplify things and try to savor the time I have with my kids (instead of flipping out about the tornado that hit our great room–for the fourth time this week)?  What can we do to budget better in order to enable our family to do more of the things we dream of doing together?  How can we give more and take less?  How can I be better at managing paper?  (I never imagined the mass quantity of paper that would enter my house on a daily basis–help!)  How can we meal plan and prep in order to eat healthy, while not spending too much time in the kitchen on weeknights?  I am positive and hopeful about what this year will hold.  What are your hopes and resolutions for 2018?