Wonderfully immersed in the teen years of complete immortality, my girl does not always see the value of nutrient dense foods.
It's funny to me because you'd think if you build those habits when they're young...
Well, when Emily was a young girl she would do just about anything to avoid a "bellyache." This meant I could usually steer her away from bellyache inducing foods such as sugar and other junky snacks. Even common kid foods such as pizza, with its lack of dense nutrition, she understood should be kept to a minimum. She's never loved fruits and veggies the way I did as a kid, but was mostly a good sport about it. (And I am an expert micro-chopper.)
I've never put intense food restrictions on our family's diet, but I have always maintained my role as ring leader and worked hard to create a food culture in our home that promotes health and builds strong immunity. It also helps to keep mealtimes fun and enjoyable, and the food we eat exciting and delicious.
But this nutrition thing can be a bit of a hard sell when for the most part (food intolerance or allergies aside), teens feel pretty amazing and untouchable regardless of their diet. I know a lot of teens who basically live on bagels with cream cheese and they have more energy than I do!
Ahh... youth. It's a beautiful thing.
Of course, as the mama I know these things actually do matter. Disease prevention is a lifelong process. Immunity is stronger and moods are improved when nutrient dense foods fill the diet. So, I'm still willing to be creative, just as I was when she was younger, but I also realize that at fifteen she's beginning her own adult journey and it may not involve putting chia seeds in her smoothie (at least right now).
On Sunday I had my camera near the kitchen all day and snapped away as I prepared our meals and snacks. Being a lazy Sunday, it wasn't a three meal kind of day, but it still shows a good example of how the teen in my house is eating these days. It was a cooking day pretty much geared toward her likes.
Adam and I may prefer coconut flour to wheat in our pancakes, and we'd rather start our day with a green smoothie versus fruit smoothies (though that fruit smoothie was made with homemade almond milk, chia and hemp seeds... forever a sneaky mom), and sure, the six minute chocolate cake (with a few substitutions - wheat flour, coconut oil, and sucanat) was totally unnecessary but remains one of Emily's favorite dessert recipes, so I was happy to indulge.
It's not all green smoothies and beet juice over here. We are a family made up of different people with different likes and interests. I try to look at the big picture and create a food story that makes everyone happy and healthy.
By the way, Adam made a great sauce for the cake by pureeing a bag of thawed raspberries with a drizzle of maple syrup and straining out the seeds. Delish.
Sometimes people see the foods I post here and on Instagram and wonder if my teen eats exactly as the adults in this house do. She doesn't. While I've never been a short order cook, I do believe each person travels their own path and try to give space for that.
When feeding teens (and children in general) I've found it is important to take note of what does work, and celebrate that. For instance, if I offer Emily a snack of nuts and seeds she'll usually decline. Instead, I just serve them up in a cute bowl and place them near her during the school day. When I do it that way, they always get eaten.
My daughter would never eat a bowl of kale, a bowl of beans, or a bowl of quinoa. But if I micro-chop that kale and mix it into a chili with black beans, quinoa, and a bit of venison sausage - she'll gobble the whole bowl. Maybe even two bowls.
Some of my teen's favorite foods may include homemade hot cocoa and chocolate cake, but if prepared and presented in the right way, she will also enjoy whole grains, fresh berries, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, legumes, and many other whole foods.
Healthy is part of the goal.
Happy and healthy is the true goal. That is when my mama heart feels most content.
Since we last spoke about it, there's been a little time to sit with the thoughts we all shared about smartphone usage and their place in our lives.
I was blown away by your sentiments! Not just your willingness to comment with, "Yes, I feel that way too!" but the details of your stories, you shared so much of your personal struggle with this type of technology.
It was definitely a kindred moment. We are so in this together.
A few of you championed your smartphone's value with no feeling of overuse or distraction - you are so lucky! For me, I wasn't in a place of harmony, hence my desire to write all those words about it.
So where do things stand now? Am I getting rid of it?
It turns out that I'm committed to my contract for the remainder of its term (almost a year to go). With two other people on the contract, even if I did pay the exit fee or was released due to zero service at our home, it would still mess up what my other family members have going on and neither of them feel quite the same level of disdain for their phones.
So, I'm keeping it for now, but I have implemented a few changes. Which low and behold... have resulted in improvements to my overall life. Love how that works.
What has been working for me:
1. Don't take the phone to bed.
This is actually something I wasn't in the habit of doing. There is always the exception to the rule, but for the most part (at least 85% of the time), I don't take my phone upstairs at night. This is intentional as I don't want my phone to be the last thing I see each day, or the first thing I reach for in the morning. Two things that can easily happen if the phone is by the bed. Some people use their phone as their alarm clock, but maybe just going back to a regular alarm clock is a better idea.
2. Let the darn thing die.
The main reason for me to have a cell phone is for when I'm out of the house. Over the last few weeks when my phone battery dies at home (which seems to happen quickly with an iPhone), I just let it sit, uncharged. When I know I'm leaving the house again, I'll charge it up for an hour or so before I head out. I don't leave the house every day, so this has provided quite a bit of hibernation time for my little phone.
3. Put the phone down.
I love the comment Emily left on my last iPhone post. She said, "...one of my new year's resolutions was to 'put the phone down' - as in, leave it near the door, don't use it in the house, stop feeling like I need to look at it all of the time."
Oh my goodness, Emily, these words have been with me since you wrote them. A simple mantra to come back to over and over. Put the phone down.
Sometimes when I'm out and about now, and my hand slips into my coat pocket reaching for my phone, the words "put the phone down" come to mind. A silent check-in, allowing me to pause for a moment. Do I really need/want to do this with my time right now?
4. Be mindful when I'm a passenger in the car.
This was a place of weakness/overuse for me. I'm still working on it. Cars can be a place of anxiety for me, I always feel like there are too many cars on the road and they are all moving too fast. Connecticut is the fourth most densely populated state in the country (739.1 inhabitants per square mile), and to me, it feels like it! When I'm a passenger with Adam, I find that I'll gaze down at my phone as a distraction from this anxiety (I can't read a book without feeling queasy). I recently discovered that I can knit in the car so that has been coming with me as a distraction. (Also, sometimes I distract myself with nothing and try to just be with that little ol' anxiety of mine...)
5. Do keep it on the table at restaurants (if Emily is not with us).
Many of you expressed sadness at watching people stare at screens instead of each other when in public, I know what you mean. When I'm out and about these days, and find myself reaching for my phone - I do stop and think about my actions. And now more than ever my phone stays tucked away, deemed not really needed or wanted in that moment. Realizing I was just bored and looking for a distraction.
The exception is when Emily is not with me. This is one of the main reasons for me to have a cell phone in the first place. For instance, each Friday night Emily goes to debate club and Adam and I often go out to dinner. One of us will always keep our phone on the table, just in case she needs to text us for any reason. I think the very best thing about this type of technology is how it allows us to stay in easy contact with our children. So if you see me in a restaurant with my phone on the table... I just need to be available for my kiddo. I won't be checking email though. ;)
6. Allow questions to linger.
I loved that so many of you thought it was okay to let go of the urgency to google every little question or curiosity throughout the day. Or better yet, engage a friend with your questions! So easily if anything pops into our head we reach for our smartphones to "look something up." But really, must we have every bit of information at our fingertips or would it be okay to contemplate something on our own before confirming (or denying) our ideas through through the internet?
7. Set the example.
What am I modeling to my daughter? It's really as simple as that.
8. Keep it out of sight.
Out of site, out of mind, yes? What about an intentional barrier between me and my phone? Something that says, "Hey, hold on there girl... is this really what you want to be doing right now?"
All of these seemingly unrelated photos in today's post actually have everything to do with my phone. Well, they also have to do with calico being 40% off at Joann's recently, but I had this crafty idea to help keep my phone in its place.
Because these sort of healthy life changes should also be cute.
Except even though you have literally sewn hundreds of zipper pouches over the years, it's been ages since your last pouch was sewn... so you will forget how to do it and one will surely be too small while the other will have its zipper sewn on inside out. Hmph...
But you will make a third pouch this afternoon that will hopefully be just right... because that one extra step before picking up the phone to "check one thing" will most definitely add up to extra minutes of living and less minutes of phone checking. So worth it.
These steps have significantly reduced my cell phone use in recent weeks. Really, for me, it comes down to mindfulness. I was becoming aware of something in my life that was growing into a habit instead of its intended use as a tool. I needed to make a choice. I felt kind of isolated in my thoughts about the whole thing, but then I put it out there and you all got it too. And that really solidified my resolve for change.
So thank you, if I could sew cozy little zipper pouches for all of you, I would. (And I'd make sure the zippers were right side out, too.)
I was talking to a friend the other day who's family is eating Paleo these days and they were having Vegetarian friends for dinner the next night. Those two can be a tricky combination!
People who follow a Paleo way of eating typically do not eat beans, grains, or dairy. This sure does leave one grasping for the "meat" of a meal when Paleo and Vegetarian friends come together.
I suggested to my friend a warming Carrot Ginger Soup for dinner with some type of savory (high protein) Paleo muffin or biscuit to go with it (I wouldn't use earth balance... perhaps coconut oil). And of course, a bountiful green salad, plus something yummy for dessert like berry smoothie treats, made so thick they should be eaten with a spoon.
It turns out my friend's daughter can't eat eggs (typically eaten in abundance by Paleos), so the biscuits would not be an option for them. She did however have the great idea of making tacos, two ways! Meat tacos for her family, bean tacos for their friends - with all the fixin's shared between them. Perfect!
For today, I wanted to share with you the recipes that came to mind during that chat. Both are pulled from the Whole Food Kitchen archives, I hope you enjoy them!
Notes: My dessert recipe calls for the decadent addition of dark chocolate shavings, the particular chocolate I used is not considered strictly Paleo, but a little googling and you will find some that are if that is what you'd like. Also, my Carrot Ginger Soup calls for orange juice, something that Paleo enthusiasts would like to see fresh squeezed (yum!) and kept to a minimum at that. Just wanted to point those two things out.
Carrot Ginger Soup
Frozen Raspberries and Dark Chocolate
It might not seem easy or obvious, but with a little creativity there's always a way to break bread with friends, all the while keeping the whole table healthy, happy, and nourished.
When we decided to homeschool during the summer Emily was entering seventh grade, it wasn't because we thought all schools were bad. Sometimes people assume we feel this way, that's not true. Our decision to homeschool was born from making a list of pros and cons as we looked at our options - public, private, homeschool - and choosing the one that appeared to be the best (not perfect) of all three. And so, we homeschooled.
For us, the public school options seemed to be lacking more than they were providing. When we looked at private schools, with their hefty tuition, we began to think "what could we accomplish if we used even half that amount as our homeschool budget for the year?" (Turns out quite a lot.)
As far as homeschooling goes, we did have one concern, and it might come as a surprise. We weren't worried about being "smart enough" to "teach" Emily (that's not really how homeschooling works), we weren't worried about socialization (oh, when are we ever going to be done asking homeschoolers about that). We were, however, a bit concerned about Emily finding opportunities to be a leader. That is who she is.
It's a little complicated, because Emily is a highly sensitive young lady who really doesn't like a whole lot of attention placed on her (she has not wanted a birthday party since she was five years old). But given the opportunity to demonstrate real leadership - speaking in front of a crowd, coordinating a project with her classmates, speaking to a person of authority on behalf of her peers - she's a natural.
Even with homeschool co-op and regularly hanging out with plenty of people - as homeschoolers, when would she have the chance to regularly cultivate this part of herself, in a peer based setting? This was the one thing we felt could happen more easily in a typical school setting. But "one thing" wasn't enough reason to attend.
We weren't overly worried about how to fulfill this, but opportunities for leadership have been on our radar from day one of this homeschool journey. Because I truly believe in the limitless abundance of homeschooling (one of the top reasons we chose this path), I had faith the right opportunity would present itself. Our job was to stay active with plenty of feelers out there. In other words, I knew we had to do out part. Opportunity wasn't going to come knocking unless we were actively looking to receive it.
In October a friend contacted me about an opening on her daughter's debate team and she thought Emily would be a good fit. She wanted to recommend her to the coach if we were interested. She told us about the level of competitions they participate in, and the success (and fun!) they have in doing so.
I should add, this is considered more than just a "debate team." It is a Debate and Public Speaking Academy, how perfect for Emily!
This could be the very thing we were looking for.
After meeting the coach (who happens to be the perfect match, energetically, for Emily), and having a trial run, Emily joined the team.
You go through life trying not to be too prideful. Humility is good. We love that, yes?
But sometimes as a parent you find yourself bursting with so much love, admiration, and pride - you can barely contain yourself!
When these moments are born from incredibly hard work, preparation, dedication, and leadership... well, it feels only right to be present with it all and take in the glow of such a powerful moment.
Emily had her very first debate competition yesterday.
Her debate team is made up of mostly homeschoolers, but also has a few kids from two private schools in the area. They compete against teams from the best schools in the region, and also some of the best in the nation.
When Adam and I pulled onto the beautiful campus of Loomis Chaffee yesterday morning, and saw the buses for the schools she would be competing against, it kind of took our breath away. Written on the sides of these buses - Choate, Roxbury Latin School, Andover, Kingswood Oxford, and our host for the competition, Loomis Chaffee.
A quick check on any of those links and you will see these are some of the best schools in our region, some of them among the best in the country.
Wow. And here we come with my twelve year old car pushing 200,000 miles and rusting out on the bottom.
But you know what? My girl is smart and driven and just as prepared as anyone else here... so let the games begin.
Even though we feel there are many ways to achieve an education, we do stand in awe of academic excellence and the schools that have a history of graduating truly educated and capable young adults. Being among these schools for her first competitive experience was an honor.
And she did incredibly well!!
I'm still learning the debate vernacular, but I have deciphered that she:
What an exciting first experience filled with great minds and new friendships formed. I loved hearing stories of how the competitive barriers released during social times (brunch and dinner), as they talked about fashion, life as a boarding student, homeschooling, and other teen goodness.
Photo by Emily
"They have wooden lockers, Mom! With brass locks and hardware! And a brass statue of Athena!"
For Adam and I, Emily's successful outcome was the icing on the cake. We were proud the moment we pulled onto campus in the morning and felt the significance of the day. We were proud as we watched her research topics and prepare her arguments. We were proud when she dug deep and worked through the nervousness of new and unknown experiences. We were proud and humbled that she had the opportunity to do something she loved, all the while standing in her place of grace.
Yesterday was quite a milestone for our family in many ways, I just wanted to share a little bit of that experience here today. Thank you.