Real Fruit Popsicles

Last weekend I took Carli to pick strawberries for the first time this season. Unfortunately, most of the berries were either not ripe enough or very close to being too ripe. It’s early in the picking season so hopefully later this spring there will be a better selection. Carli loves to fill up her bucket, so we had a pretty good quantity of strawberries to bring home that were only edible for a few days. 

I decided to freeze most of them to put into smoothies later on. I recently purchased Popsicle molds from Amazon and had promised Carli we would make our own popsicles soon. I thought it may be fun to try and make popsicles out of some of the fresh strawberries that were starting to become over-ripe. It was something my two year-old could easily help me with, and it was pretty cool to teach her how to make something with one of the freshest ingredients possible- fresh fruit that she picked from the ground herself!

First, I sliced the strawberries into small pieces. Then I let Carli fill each mold to the top with the berries.

After the molds were full with strawberries, I added lemonade to the top of the molds to fill the spaces between the berries. I froze them overnight, but they only took about 4 hours to set.

They were definitely a hit! I felt good about letting her eat them for a treat the next afternoon- much lower in added sugars than the popsicles you would find at the grocery store. Another option would be to add yogurt instead of lemonade to hold the berries together- we are going to try that next time! Maybe I can trick Carli into thinking it’s ice-cream.

 

 

Here’s some other combinations that may be worth trying:

Kiwi, peaches and strawberries with fruit juice of choice (dilute the juice for less sugar)

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with vanilla yogurt or grape juice (this would be perfect for a Memorial Day or 4th of July treat!)

Blueberries and Greek yogurt

Oranges, pineapple and grapefruit with orange or pineapple juice

Chicken Salad Obsessed

The weather is getting warmer, and there’s nothing I love more for a spring/summer lunch (or in my case these days, even a snack) than chicken salad. Lately it’s been one of my biggest cravings and I’ve made several trips to Zoe’s, Chicken Salad Chick and Sprouts to grab a container to have in my fridge at all times. Zoe’s chicken salad was one of Carli’s first foods, and she’s loved it ever since (although there’s not many foods that child doesn’t love). I’ve been wanting to make my own for awhile now to control the ingredients that are going into it, especially since I’m pregnant and also because my two year old will eat so much of it. Only the best for my growing girls! I’ve seen recipes for homemade mayonnaise, and I always intended to use a homemade mayo to put into my chicken salad. At the last minute I decided against the homemade mayo and opted for a mayonnaise that was store bought. I’m all about quick and easy!

After some trial and error, here are my 3 favorite chicken salad recipes that I will be sure to make over and over again this summer. The mayo I used in these recipes can be found here. The only ingredients are avocado oil, organic cage-free eggs and yolks, organic vinegar, organic rosemary and sea salt. It’s sold at our local Publix, and I’m sure you can find it at most large grocery stores or health food stores (such as Sprouts or Whole Foods). It’s a little more expensive than Hellmann’s or Kraft, but the ingredients are definitely higher in quality. If you want to make your own mayo (less expensive but a little more time consuming), here is a good recipe.

Greek Chicken Salad

This is super easy to make, and most closely resembles your typical chicken salad. We had friends come to visit over the weekend, and they loved it!

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cooked chicken breasts (shredded) or you can use chicken from about 1/2 a rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1.5 cups sliced red grapes
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Greek seasoning (see recipe below)

Directions: 

Mix the mayo and Greek seasoning together. Blend with remaining ingredients. Serve with crackers or on top a bed of salad greens.

 

Greek Seasoning Recipe

Mix the following herbs together. Store in an airtight container- you can use this later for a Greek chicken recipe! Yum!

  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tsp onion powder
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion flakes
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

 

Avocado Chicken Salad

If you love avocado, I promise you will love this. The avocado replaces the mayo in the chicken salad and it’s delicious.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (again you can also use about 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 avocado (ripe enough to mash)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash the avocado and mix with all other ingredients. This tastes really good on top of toasted bread or pita chips.

 

Herb Chicken Salad

This resembles a type of chicken salad I love from Publix. It has a light taste and is delicious. I was able to sneak some veggies into it too, which was a bonus!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (again you can also use about 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

Stir together the mayo, mustard, dill, parsley, and garlic until smooth. Add the chicken, green onion and carrots. Enjoy!

 

Goodbye 20’s

I’ve officially reached the last week of my 20’s. For years I thought I would dread this moment- I thought the end of my 20’s would mean the end of having fun and the beginning of getting old. I only saw getting older as going to bed early, getting bad knees and dreading the month of March (my birthday month) for the rest of my life. I’m starting to see it’s so much more than that. I actually can’t wait to turn my back on my 20’s- it was fun, I’ve learned some life lessons, by the grace of God I’m still alive (I made some stupid decisions in my early 20’s), and my experiences have shaped me into the adult I am today. I’m ready for a new chapter, one that I hope will be filled more with grace, rest, and deep connections rather than the hustle, selfishness and surface-level relationships I was drawn to a decade ago.

My 21st birthday- this night did not end well.

I look back, and the experiences I’ve had over the past 10 years feels more like a lifetime. I graduated college, grew to be completely independent from my parents, met my husband- got engaged to my husband- and married my husband, overcame the challenges of struggling with an eating disorder, lived in four different states, became a registered dietitian, worked for two different companies, traveled all over North America, ran 6 marathons, and became a mother. I’ve gained some very meaningful relationships, but I’ve also lost some. I’ve gained a boatload of wisdom, and I’m a much stronger person than I was in my early 20’s. I’ve learned that I can’t let people walk all over me. I’ve found my voice- I’m not at timid as I once was.

I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t think I ever will! That’s the beautiful thing about getting older- you are continuously learning from experiences. Looking back, oh how I would have done things so much differently if I knew then what I  know now! I catch myself saying all the time- “If I only knew.” Even though there are so many things I could change about my past that would have made my life then (and even today) a little bit easier, I wouldn’t do it. Constantly falling and getting back up is what has made me a stronger person. It’s given me confidence and I’ve learned from my mistakes. The best part is, I can take those mistakes and help other young people who are struggling with the same thing. God never wastes a hurt. I believe that firmly now.

There are areas that I’m working on to make my 30’s more grace-filled, restful, and deeply connected than my 20’s. The past 10 years have worn me out, both physically and emotionally. I’m starting to learn- it’s just not worth it.

People-pleasing: NO MORE

If there was an award for pleasing other people and not ever letting others down, I would win it. It doesn’t matter who it is, it could be someone I met 30 minutes ago or someone I’ve known my whole life, I want to make people happy. Most would say this is a good quality. It can be, but not if you’re letting down the people who are closest to you in order to win over the approval from others. It’s good to be dependable and a hard-worker. Those are qualities I’ll always want to possess, but no longer at the expense of my own well-being and certainly not at the expense of my family. I’m tired of constantly letting my husband or daughter down just so others will praise me for being a good and dependable person. I’m learning to find balance here, and it’s been difficult to navigate. Not only because I feel guilty for saying the word “no,” but also because I feel that some of the value I place on myself comes from making other people happy, no matter what the cost. But I’m looking at my own family, and they want me to be present more. Not for other people, but for them. My husband and two girls will always come first, followed by my closest friends and the rest of my family, followed by everyone else.

Not everyone is going to like me

I want everyone to be my best friend. I don’t ever want to offend anyone, I don’t want to make people mad because my opinion is different from theirs, and I certainly want everyone to approve of me. I know this is all normal, especially for women. My husband could care less what other people think of him- I envy him for that! I also get envious of women, usually who are much older than I am (like my mom or some of my older friends), who say that they just don’t care what people think of them anymore. They are going to be their own person and not let people’s opinions get in the way of that. Gosh, what a burden would be lifted off of my shoulders if I felt that way! This is hard for me, but definitely a goal of mine. It’s difficult to form deep relationships with people if you are always at the surface level, just because you are worried about what they are going to think of you. The more I’ve come out of my shell and allowed myself to open up and just be me, the deeper some of my friendships have grown. And some have grown to be more distant. As hard as it is for me to be okay with that, I’m accepting it. I would much rather have close connections that allow me to be comfortable being myself, than just having surface-level relationships.

More rest

I spent my 20’s focused on being exhausted and shrinking. This is where I found most of my value. I think that’s part of the reason why I loved marathon training so much. After a 20 mile run my body would feel drained and small. This tired and thin body was everything to me, and if I didn’t feel as light as a I wanted to or if I didn’t wake up the next morning still feeling tired, I felt worthless. I hate that my mind has become so addicted to that feeling, and it’s been hard to erase. It’s different from getting a high after a good workout at the gym or feeling proud of yourself because you ate healthy that day. I was a slave to it. And now? My almost 30-year old body feels like it’s 60 sometimes. Everything still works well and my knees are still holding up great (thank you Jesus), but sometimes I feel as if the abuse I put my body through for so long has taken its toll. I know I can’t treat my body like this forever, I only have one! Gone are the 2-3 workouts a day, exercising even when I feel exhausted (I’m no longer afraid of lying on the couch if I need it), and 15 mile runs in the heat of the day. I want to take care of my body and give it some grace. I stay active as much as I can and do an actual workout 5 days per week. I rest when I need it, and am no longer finding value in how tired or small I feel.

I miss racing as much as a used to, but am definitely enjoying the quality time I get to spend with friends and family as a result of not training for such long hours!

More play

I want everything to be perfect and look perfect all the time. I am always looking for something to do- sweep the floors, fold laundry, load the dishwasher- it just stresses me out if these things pile up. I about have a panic attack if my kitchen floors are dirty! I promise you, I hate being late to anything, but cleaning up dirty floors always takes priority to getting out the door. This drives my husband (and even more recently Carli) absolutely crazy. I’m not sure what made me to be wired this way, but the past 10 years I have always felt as if I have to earn rest and playtime. Work hard, play hard is my motto. If everything is done, if the house looks perfect, if I got my workout in….then we can have fun. I don’t want my kids to look back and just remember a mom who was there, but not really there. Instead of rushing around making sure everything is in place all the time, I want to be certain that I am fully present in their lives. No, it won’t ever get it the point where I’m okay with living in a filthy house, and I want my kids to know that there is a time for doing chores and cleaning up our messes. But I no longer want to be a slave to a to-do list. Instead, I want to enjoy impromptu play with Carli more often, and fully allow myself to be a part of her little world.

My typical play 6 years ago. My motto for most of my 20’s was YOLO

More grace

I’m hard on myself, and this has gotten much worse after becoming a mom. I am quick to put blame on myself, especially if Carli is acting out. I compare myself to other moms and judge myself for things that are sometimes out of my control. I’ll call myself a pushover mom, fault myself for not being confident enough in my ability to raise her well, and make myself believe that I’m a bad parent because my own parenting and discipline style is different from someone else. I’m always questioning myself- am I doing this right? Maybe that mom is doing it better.   

I’ve had to step back from this and really look at the big picture. All kids are different and there are lots of different parenting styles. I’m doing what I believe is best for my two-year old. She is a lot like me and we both have very strong personalities- and are both very strong-willed! It’s going to be a challenge to raise her with her headstrong personality (now I truly believe in karma- sorry mom), but if I can help her channel all that energy and determination she has toward a positive direction, I have no doubt she’ll grow into a strong young woman. I just have to give both myself (and her- especially when she is a teenager) a lot more grace.

Nights used to always end like this…

 

….And now they end like this

Finding hope in our future generation- there can be a world without eating disorders

I’m raising one little girl with another one on the way, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. The moment I looked at my firstborn’s face for the first time, I wanted so desperately to protect her from anything that would cause her to feel like she wasn’t good enough, that her body wasn’t good enough, and that she needed to change herself to fit into what her peers and society want her to be. I wanted to preserve her all her newness and naïveté, and wanted so badly to do whatever I could to make sure that she never went down the same road I did.

I often look back and ask myself- “was it worth it being thin?”

It wasn’t. Fighting an eating disorder for ten years left me lifeless. I was there but I wasn’t there. I was a different person- not myself, but who my eating disorder wanted me to be. It caused failed relationships. It stripped me of my passions, my dreams. It was a dark place that I never want my girls to be.

Now I’m here, and I’m healthy. I’ve overcome one obstacle, but now I’m faced with another one, almost more scary than the first.

“How do I protect my girls from all this? Is there hope? Is there something I can be doing for them as their mother?”

One of my best friends has always told me that when it comes to kids “God gives you what you need.” That couldn’t be more true. To be honest, it if weren’t for my girls I’m not sure I would have ever come forward with the struggles I faced having an eating disorder. I’m not sure if I would have the same passion I do now to spread awareness and advocate for prevention. Every time I see my two year old daughter with her sweet friends it breaks my heart knowing that someday they will be exposed to the reality of our culture today: full of dieting, body dissatisfaction and airbrushed models on magazine covers.

There is hope, and we can help our girls learn to love themselves for who they are. We can raise strong and confident girls who understand that it’s not their bodies that give them value.

First, we have to talk about it. Expose them to the reality of eating disorders and distorted body image. Ask them how they feel about that. Guide them to make their own healthy decision about how they feel the way bodies are portrayed in the media. Sheltering them from these issues doesn’t always work, generally it backfires. Girls need a safe place to discuss feelings about their bodies- if that’s lacking then it’s easier to fall into the lies that their bodies aren’t pretty enough, thin enough, fit enough, tall enough- the list goes on!

Next, being a positive role model is so important. Don’t discuss diets around them. Don’t trash-talk your own body. Don’t trash-talk other people’s bodies. They’re watching you.

Always talk function over looks. We use our bodies to play, work, give hugs, perform tasks- not to look good in a bathing suit. This is important when discussing fitness as well. Exercise is good for our bodies because it makes our heart healthy and gives us energy. It lowers our risk of chronic diseases and creates good mood-enhancing endorphins. Exercise is not for achieving a certain number on the scale.

Help them to believe they are beautiful just the way they are. Don’t criticize their looks or tell them what needs to be changed. Celebrate them in their uniqueness every day. Tell them they are beautiful and praise them for their strengths often. Build them up daily and provide constant encouragement. Be confident yourself! Confident mothers raise confident daughters.

LET THEM BE AWKWARD. They will all go through it. Every single one of them. Sometime between the ages of 9-14 they are going to be amazingly awkward and you are probably going to cringe and want to do whatever you can to get them out of it. Don’t do it- let them be. I can’t tell you how many times during this stage of my life I was torn down because of the way I dressed and the way I  acted. The constant criticism- mostly from people in my life who were supposed to be safe- destroyed me. They won’t be awkward forever, I promise. It’s all part of growing up.

Encourage healthy eating, but don’t discuss calories and “bad foods.” Never tell a child that a food will make them fat. Don’t talk about carbs and fat grams- talk about nutrients and health. Be an example of a healthy eater. Kids do by example.

Know that eating disorders do not stereotype, and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to eating disorders. A person does not have to have a low BMI to have an eating disorder- in fact this is probably one of the biggest myths around eating disorders out there. Look for the signs: change in personality, food rituals, sneaking away after meals, hoarding food, lack of interest in usual activities, unhealthy exercise habits and extreme dieting (this can include elimination of multiple types of food, an obsession with eating “clean” and an calorie counting). Weight loss is the not the only sign of an eating disorder. In fact, in many cases, it’s not a symptom at all.

The statistics are out there, body dissatisfaction starts at such a young age it’s disturbing. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 70% of 6-12 year-old girls want to be thinner and according to a study conducted by Duke University, 40% of all 9-10 year-old girls have already been on a diet. Implications of poor body image and dieting at such a young age include increased likelihood of developing an eating disorder, lower self-esteem, and depression. In my experience, I started comparing my body to my friends at the young age of 8 years-old. By age 9 I started experimenting with diets. By the time I was 12, I was so dissatisfied with my body that I was depressed, and placed all my self-worth in what size my jeans were and the number on the scale. Sadly, my body confidence only started to rise after people started noticing that I had lost weight, and complimented me on how good I looked. It fueled my desire to keep going. Before I knew it, I couldn’t stop.

My hope for my girls and our future generation of women is that they help each other to rise above the body type standard. I hope they don’t encourage each other to diet or make their bodies look a certain way. I hope they don’t praise each other based on what they eat or what the scale says or encourage one another to go through unhealthy measures to obtain a certain body type. My hope is that their focus for life is far away from looking like a bikini or fitness model. My hope is that they build each other up in their strengths and that they focus on the beauty of their hearts, not outside beauty. I  hope they don’t bully others to make themselves feel better. I hope they grow into confident young women who place value above their looks. I hope that even though they will one day be subjected to the reality of pressure that will be around them to look and act a certain way, that instead they are able to preserve that sweet sense of innocence that they posses now. I hope they don’t lose their sweet personalities and dreams to reach an unobtainable standard in looks.

I believe that there is hope in this generation of girls. They can be the beginning of a world without negative body image and eating disorders. I hope they grow up knowing that they are perfect just the way they are, and their bodies are beautiful- just as God created them to be. If you have any influence in a young girl’s life, think about her own personal attributes and what makes her special. What can  you do to help her believe those special qualities give her value?

Here’s to celebrating this generation, what makes them unique in their own way, and how beautiful that is. These girls know now that there is nothing more beautiful than being yourself- I hope they still believe this 10 years from now!

Our sweet Carli- she is special in so many ways! She is as hard-headed and independent as her mama, but those qualities will take her far in life! Even though she is full of determination and will do whatever it takes to get her way, she has the most tender and loving heart. She will stop whatever she’s doing to make sure that someone she knows is sad feels better, and will always offer the best hugs. She may be a little firecracker that has nonstop energy, but she is the best snuggler! I hope she never loses her sweet and caring spirit and the joy she has in her heart. I hope she grows up putting Jesus first in her life, and is as loving toward others as she is now.  -Jennie

Willow turned 5 in October. She has the nickname in our family of “joy” because she is never seen without a smile on her face. She is so in love with life and can find happiness and fun in everything! She has a wonderful sense of humor, and loves dancing around in costumes pretty much all day long, if she could.  She has one of the kindest hearts I have ever seen and can make friends with anyone.  One thing I admire about her is how she does not give up on things. When she decides she wants to do something, she will find a way to learn how to do it! My husband and I could not be prouder to be the parents of this amazing little girl. -Emily

Kynlee is 5 and a half (the half is very important!). She is the easiest child and probably the sweetest little girl I have ever known, though I’m quite partial. She loves unicorns and could color for days on end. She’s also my movie-goer girl, though she is a homebody and just loves being around our house. She absolutely loves the beach and finding treasures and shells there, and cries every time we have to leave. She loves animals, especially her horse Buzz and wants to “work in an animal hospital” when she grows up. Kynlee is shy in the beginning, but has such a bubbly and loving personality once you get to know her. She’s smart, loves school, loves making crafts and creating, loves reading, and loves “learning about God and Jesus”. She is my soft, tender-hearted little lady, who loves wearing dresses and being cute! -Jeanine

Charlotte Elizabeth Bowen is a 5 year old girl that loves all sorts of things. She is just as comfortable in a dress as she is in a pair of tennis shoes and athletic pants. One side of her loves twirling around pretending she is a Disney princess and another side of her loves exploring in the woods. Some call her shy but I just say that she is very selective in who she speaks with. Strangers don’t impress her but you better believe that she is taking everything in. Charlotte is very caring and loves being a big sister to her 3 year old brother, Samuel. She always watches out for him and others. Charlotte always tries to do the right thing; she tells the truth even it it means she may get in trouble. Charlotte is naturally athletic; she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. She might need a little boost of confidence because she is cautious about new experiences but she doesn’t give up. Charlotte can “snuggle” so tightly that her hugs will make anyone’s day better. Love pours out from her daily and I hope that never changes.  -Jamie

Chloe just turned 6 in January and is loving being “older.” Chloe has a sweet spirit and is very tender-hearted, smart, silly and sometimes a little bossy. We’ll say, assertive. She is named after generations of strong women dating back to the 1700s and has proven to live up to her name. She loves pink…and white, for some reason. She is stereotypically a girly girl and into princesses, but isn’t afraid to pick up a bug or a frog. She’s pretty obsessed with lizards, in fact. She likes to make new friends and is affectionate toward them. She loves to laugh and we see Jesus shine straight through her spirit. She knows who her Savior is and we think that’s most important. She is beautiful on the outside but her beauty on the inside far outweighs her flesh. -Holli

Robyn just turned two and and she is a little firecracker!  We love her spunky, outgoing personality. She loves splashing in puddles, jumping on the trampoline, coloring, twirling in her princess dresses and riding her bike.  Despite her age, she speaks more than and just as well as her four year old brother!  She definitely has some of the family engineering genes too, as she loves to ask what things are called and how they work.  It’s fun to have full conversations with her as she discovers more about her world.  Two is a hard age full of big emotions, but we hope to raise Robyn to be a strong woman (being sandwiched between two brothers sure will help), and to know that she can be whatever God calls her to be.  We can’t wait to watch her grow and see the plans God has for her.  -Andrea

Bailey Grace- This 3 year old crazy child broke our little mold when she came into this world. She’s everything we never knew we wanted, and we love her for it! She is definitely the one that keeps us on our toes. She’s outgoing, though slightly shy at first. She is hilarious, and is the one teachers tell me is the one that makes them laugh more than the rest. There’s never a dull (or still) moment with Bailey, which is probably why her current love is gymnastics. She loves SO big, needs her daily snuggles, is passionate and determined about what she wants, loves being active and doing “a workout”, and loves being outdoors. She loves her big sister like crazy, as well as gets a thrill from driving her crazy. She’s too smart for her own (mischievous) good. Of all things she loves, her blanky and lovey take the cake! -Jeanine

Emily is a sweet yet sassy 3 1/2 year old. She may be tiny, yet she knows how to stand up for herself. One of her favorite activities includes wrestling with her big brother. When brother is not around, Emily can be found playing with baby dolls, painting, reading books, or snuggling up to mommy and daddy. Emily is also in love with gymnastics! She will climb, hang, and flip any chance she gets. Sweetest moments with Emily include morning cuddles and bedtime routines. Emily loves to “read” the Bible to the rest of the family at night and pray: “Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross because You love us.” While those are precious words out of a babes mouth, our prayer is that Emily will find her value in the love that Jesus has for her, and this is a beautiful start. -Amy

What makes Ryleigh special is that she marches to the beat of her own drum. I also lover her confidence. Whenever someone says she can’t do something, her response is “I can do anything.” And anytime someone tells her she is pretty she says “thank you, I’m smart too!” She loves her curls and isn’t afraid to tell me that she is perfect! She is strong and determined. She doesn’t tend to let anything get in the way of what she wants. I pray she continues to be this way for the rest of her life. -Jennifer

Caroline is special because she has such a tender caring heart! –Heather

Reese is special because she never gives up! She will take over the world one day! -Heather

 

My husband and I make a conscious effort to tell our girls daily how beautiful the are (multiple times a day), and both of them truly believe they are real-life princesses (their mommy and daddy’s princesses and God’s sweet  princesses of course)! Man I would have loved to have “known”that growing up. I struggled with an eating disorder (starting at the age of 14) throughout high school and college; and when we found out we were pregnant with girls both times, I truly panicked. The questions/doubts that ran through my head were: how am I going to raise girls with a healthy self-image? will they have eating disorders too? will they know that they are beautiful no matter what? What God has taught me over the past 4 yrs (and that I often have to remind myself of) is that He called me to raise these girls, and He can equip me daily to give them exactly what they need.

My oldest daughter, Marylee, 4, has the most sensitive and kind heart I’ve ever seen. I fear this trait is going to cause her to get hurt and find myself being overly protective of her at times. She was my 2lb 8 oz 29 week preemie after all! She loves to sing, dance, and twirl. She also loves all the Disney princesses! She is quite the expert! She loves to read and watch movies too (just like her mama). She likes to change her outfit 6 times a day and wants to be told how beautiful each and every wardrobe change is. She is always looking out for her younger sister and always splits her oreo cookie with her that she gets on the way out of dance class. We love this about her.

My youngest daughter, Joanna, is the funniest person I know. She makes her dad and me laugh out loud daily. We have no idea where she comes up with the stuff she says! She loves to bake (she is all in I’m when helping me bake cookies-especially chocolate chip) and helps me cook dinner nightly. She also loves to sing, dance, and twirl; and her favorite time of the week is dance class! She calls herself “the baby” and I’m totally good with that! We recently learned that she loves to kick a soccer ball around and is actually good at it (we don’t know where she got that from)! -Jill

Here’s a video highlighting my journey, the hope that was lost and then regained through recovery. The ending shows the start of our future generation of young women, and my hope for them is that their journey is much different than mine. I pray they are fighters, they can handle whatever comes their way, and that they choose to rise above the pressures our world places on them.

Breakfast for Dinner!

Monday’s have been crazy lately, so I’ve missed quite a few of our Monday meals. I battled rough morning (all day) sickness earlier this winter, and now that I’m almost to the halfway point in my pregnancy the nausea is (thank goodness) completely gone. Even though I no longer feel sick, my second trimester hasn’t been as easy with this pregnancy as it was the last. I’ve been struggling with a really poor appetite in the evening along with a lot of fatigue late in the day, which has made it difficult for me to have the motivation to cook an evening meal. Family meals are important to me, so I’m trying to start planning meals again and get back in the kitchen.

There’s a few pancake recipes I’ve been wanting to try, and have never gotten around to making them for breakfast. Carli doesn’t eat as well in the evening as she used to, but always wakes up ravenous. Usually she’s not interested in waiting around for me to cook her something for breakfast- she wants something quick! So I thought- why not try the pancakes for dinner? I love breakfast for dinner, it’s just not something we do often. The recipes are easy, so it was the perfect meal to make with my two-year old.

I got the inspiration to do this tonight after I noticed the four bananas on my counter that were extremely ripe. Both pancake recipes are made with ripe bananas along with a few other simple ingredients and don’t require a lot of prep or cooking time. Perfect for a simple meal!

The first pancakes I made were with bananas, oats and blueberries. Carli loved to help with the measuring and pouring into the blender. She also helped me break up the bananas into pieces to add to the batter.

Blueberry Banana Pancakes:

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • handful of blueberries

Put all ingredients except the blueberries into a blender. Blend until smooth. Fold in the blueberries and pour batter straight from the blender onto a skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped with blueberries and banana slices. You don’t even need syrup for these! I put some on mine but next time I think I’ll do without- the bananas blended into the pancakes add plenty of sweetness.

Next, I tried a peanut butter and banana pancake recipe. My daughter has adapted my love for all things peanut butter, so I knew these would be a hit. This recipe makes really thin pancakes, but they are delicious. My husband thought there was too much banana in the mixture, and although I liked the taste I agreed that some may like it with less banana. I altered the recipe below depending on how much you like banana-tasting pancakes 🙂

Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes:

  • 1-2 ripe bananas (depending on how much banana taste you want)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a blender. Pour batter straight from the blender onto a skillet and cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped these with banana slices- it would also be good with melted peanut butter drizzled over the top.

I served the pancakes with turkey bacon and fruit. I had some batter left over, which I kept in the fridge to whip up some quick pancakes in the morning. This was definitely a meal we’ll do again- it was delicious, easy, and something Carli could help out a lot with. Baby girl even enjoyed it- I’ve been feeling her sweet kicks all evening 🙂

What I feed my family

Usually when people find out that I’m a dietitian, they immediately think that my family’s meals consist of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, all organic foods. Then the excuses pour in covering their own eating habits- as if I’m judging them because they happen to be holding a slice of pizza.

I’m not judging you, I promise. I eat pizza too! I also don’t eliminate any type of food from my family’s meals (yes, we even eat gluten) and have always been an advocate for balance. I work in a facility for kids with special needs, and ever since feeding my own child and working with kids professionally, I’ve developed a pretty big interest in child nutrition. I’ve changed the way my family eats because of it, but also try to be careful to not be too restrictive with food. I want my kids to have a healthy attitude around food, not label foods “good” or “bad” and to be able to make their own choices about healthy food as they get older. Having recovered from an eating disorder and having body image issues growing up, it’s also important for me to protect my own girls from thinking the only way they can eat healthy is by dieting or eliminating food groups. My goal for feeding my family is to create a positive environment around food, one that doesn’t cause my kids to feel guilty or deprived in any way.

We don’t have any food allergies in our family, which I consider to be a blessing. I know families with kids who have multiple food allergies and have to completely eliminate allergen-containing foods, which can make preparing and cooking meals quite difficult. Obviously in these situations, families have no choice but to follow diet restrictions. Typically this works best if the whole family is involved, instead of just making the child with the food allergy eliminate what is causing the flare-up. So for example, if a child has a gluten intolerance then it would be best for the whole family to be gluten-free. This would avoid issues with cross-contamination as well. Other than for food allergies and intolerances, I don’t recommend for families to follow diets that are highly restrictive. It’s just not necessary and it’s much easier for kids to get the nutrition they need by allowing them to eat a variety of (nutrient dense) foods. Not a variety of junk food though!

So here are the simple guidelines I follow when feeding my family. We stick with them 90% of the time.

Fruits and vegetables are big at every meal. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling with this lately, especially with the vegetables. My first trimester this time around has been much worse than my last pregnancy- and still seems to be lingering! Vegetables have been tough for me to stomach lately, but thankfully as my symptoms are starting to fade I’m slowly starting to crave those veggies again. It’s interesting though, I’ve noticed that it was much harder to get my family to eat vegetables when I was doing a horrible job of eating them myself. Eating healthy really is a family effort! Kids do by example and I’ve seen this play out over the past few months.

Lean proteins are in every meal, but in smaller portions than the fruits and vegetables- unless my husband is making his own plate. I make a lot of salmon- I’ve been craving it lately, so sometimes  make it as often as 3-4 times per week! At least once a week I try to do a vegetable protein instead of an animal protein. When seasoning foods, I use as little salt as possible. Typically I find herbs and spices to season my meat so that my family’s salt intake is limited. It’s very easy to consume an adequate amount of salt without adding it to food, and most Americans get a lot more than is recommended. I want to train my kids’ palates while they are young to appreciate the natural flavor of foods- without doctoring it up with all the sugar, salt and fat that the food industry does.

 

I don’t leave anything out when it comes to carbohydrates. We eat bread, potatoes, rice, pasta- if it’s a carb, we aren’t afraid to eat it! I buy whole grains as much as possible for the added fiber (and less processing) and avoid foods that are “instant” (such as instant potatoes, etc). I read the ingredients carefully to avoid buying foods that are loaded with MSG, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. As long as the carbohydrates we are eating aren’t heavily processed (and have an exorbitant amount of salt, sugar and fat), they are healthy for our bodies. We are an active family and our cells need the energy that only carbs can provide!

 

When it comes to dairy, my husband is the only one who will drink cow’s milk. I prefer almond milk, and so does Carli, so that is what we typically drink. She gets most of her calcium intake from organic yogurt and cheeses. Dairy is one food group that I will almost always buy organic- along with fruits and vegetables we eat the skin off of.

I don’t buy sugary drinks. No juice, no soda, no sweet tea. I’m a recovering diet coke addict (I still have slip-ups every now and then) and my husband is working on his diet soda intake and trying to replace with unsweetened tea. All Carli drinks is water because it’s all we’ve ever offered to her. If she is at a birthday party or a holiday party at school and juice is being served, I let her drink it there. I don’t want her to feel excluded and this doesn’t happen often. At home, it’s always water and it’s what she asks for. I grew up drinking kool-aid and it took me a long time to appreciate the taste of water. I’m glad my two year old already loves it!

I rarely serve dessert. At the end of a meal if we want something sweet, I always have some fruit cut up. If we are having friends over for dinner or it’s a special occasion like a birthday, I’ll have some sort of dessert available to serve. I try to limit our sugar intake like I do salt. The more sugar we eat, the more our brain craves to get the same sugar fix it did before- it’s literally like a drug! You can read more about that in an older blog post I’ve written here. I used to be super strict on my daughter’s sugar intake when she was younger, but then felt as if I should lighten up and let her enjoy more sweets like other kids do. I’ve seen the outcome- she’s a sugar monster now! Even though I let her enjoy treats at her preschool parties and when grandparents visit (I’ve learned it’s their love language, and no matter how hard I try I will never win that battle), I keep sugar out of our house as much as possible to limit her intake at home. It’s the one thing I guess I would say I “restrict” but I don’t label sugar as being “bad.” It’s just something we limit.

Generally speaking, limiting processed foods and consuming high quality “whole” foods is the best way to feed your family. Taking the focus off of calories and fat grams and putting it on the quality of food you are eating is best for feeding your body. From what research shows and what I’ve seen in my own professional practice, families who are active on an everyday basis are going to be healthier than those who follow crazy diets and are inactive. By active, I don’t mean going to the gym 5 days per week. That’s great to do, but you have to be continuously active. Get the family off the couch and go for a bike ride. Get your kids outside to play. Limit screen time for the entire family. If you are continuously moving your body, I guarantee it will be much easier to stay at a healthy weight and have a healthier body and mind.

Now enjoy that slice of pizza and get that body moving! 😉

 

 

Baby #2 arriving this summer!

We are so excited for the arrival of our second baby girl, due late July! As Carli puts it, she is going to be a “BIG BIG sister!!” This pregnancy has already been much different than my first, and I’m learning that I can’t compare the two. I’m also learning to give myself more grace, rest when I need it, and ask for help when I need it. Being pregnant with a very active two year old isn’t easy! I plan on doing some futures posts about what I eat while pregnant to keep myself and my baby healthy, and what I do for exercise while pregnant. Also will have updates on Stay tuned!

 

Our favorite easy meal

The last few weeks I’ve made some meals on Mondays that involve quite a few steps and lots of ingredients. I’ve enjoyed spending the time in the kitchen with Carli and she has LOVED getting to help me. But this week I wanted a little break from the amount of prep work and cleanup that I was having to do. We have had this meal several times and I’ve tweaked the recipe just a little bit. It’s easy, healthy, and most importantly delicious.

You can alter this recipe quite a few ways to meet your dietary goals. I’ll give you the recipe we typically use first and then give the altered versions at the end.

 

Oven roasted chicken sausage, peppers and potatoes


  • 1 package of chicken sausage (These come in many different flavors, I usually buy the spinach and red pepper for this recipe), sliced into small pieces
  • 2 medium potatoes (any kind you like will work), cut into small pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • olive oil
  • rosemary
  • garlic powder

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and peppers together. Add olive oil, rosemary and garlic powder. I honestly don’t ever measure these out- I would say about 2 tbsp olive oil, and a tablespoon each of rosemary and garlic powder. I let Carli pour the olive oil in this week so our meal was a little more oily this week than usual. Mix together and spread out evenly on a baking pan. Place in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 15 minutes.

Pouring is her favorite part

I let her cut up soft foods with a butter knife- don’t worry she has learned how to control the knife and is always supervised. She has loved the independence!

Once 15 minutes is up, add the sausage and cook an additional 25-35 minutes. Time will vary depending on how big your potato chunks are, the smaller the faster it will take to cook.

Enjoy!!

Altered versions: Sometimes I like to add about 1/2 sliced onion to the mixture. It adds flavor and more veggies- I just didn’t have on hand this week. If you want to omit the potatoes and just have sausage and veggies, you can do so by omitting the first 15 minutes of your cooking time. Just mix everything together and bake for 35 minutes. If I make it this way I like to serve it over brown rice (our family cannot survive without carbs).

Everything you need in a balanced meal is in this one pan dish, just add a side of fruit for dessert and you’re good to go!

Have a great week!

Choosing Today

I have been rushing through life for the past 12 years, ever since I graduated from high school.

Rushing to get through each semester of college. Rushing to get that cap and gown. Rushing to be done with school. Rushing through my internship so I could finally sit to take my dietitian board exam. Rushing to my wedding day. Rushing to get a job.

And finally, rushing to buy a house, get pets, get pregnant and to get to a stage a life where I felt content. No matter what, there was always something bigger and better I was rushing to get to. And once I got there, I always had a mourning period. Mourning the stage that I rushed to get through, without realizing how the busyness has distracted me from moments I will never get back.

I can barely even remember the events of the night my now-husband proposed to me, I was too busy thinking ahead to the wedding. College is a blur of a never-ending to-do list that I was a slave to. Our first year of marriage left me constantly distracted, wondering when and where we would finally settle down and buy and house, and if and when I would be able to get pregnant. When I did become pregnant, I couldn’t even enjoy my pregnancy. I let it fly by without stopping to enjoy the little amount of time I had left with just my husband and I. And as wonderful as it is to have her here, oh how I wish I would have savored those moments when I could feel her moving around inside of me!

Although for years my mentality has been “tomorrow will be better,” that has changed since becoming a mom. Time is a double-edged sword, both my friend and my enemy. It’s my friend when 7PM comes- when it’s finally time to start bath and getting ready for bed. Some days, 7PM cannot come soon enough. It’s my enemy when I’m constantly reminded how fast my baby is growing. She’s not a baby anymore. She’s become independent and is growing into a little person with her own opinion. I’ve heard the saying so many times- The days are long but the years are short. It’s so true.

Even though I desperately want time to stop, each day feels like a marathon that I’m just trying to get through.

The first mile is getting breakfast ready- it’s slow and steady because it’s the one time of the day that we can take it nice and easy- although my mind has the whole race planned out in my head and my entire day has already been strategized. Miles 2-8 are quick- get dressed, teeth brushed, bags packed, in the car, then out the door as quickly as possible to wherever we’re going- preschool drop-off, music class, the gym, grocery store. Miles 8-13- these are painful to get through but I know once I’m through them I’m halfway there to one of the best parts of the day: naptime. Lunch, cleanup, laundry, planning dinner and doing a couple phone consults with patients is something I try to get through quickly because I want at least one mile of rest, where I can take it nice and easy before she wakes up. Miles 14-22 are always the toughest mentally- that time between nap and dinner. By miles 22-26 I’m tired but encouraged because (most days) I have my cheerleader with me (my husband) who can help me to the finish line. Bedtime- after about 60 minutes of reading, singing the same song over and over and saying a prayer for everyone we know plus anything stuffed that’s in her room- the marathon is finally over.

Don’t get me wrong, I love every part of it. But I am so guilty of being stuck in the “just finish the race” mentality. Haven’t I learned?! I have. But I can’t seem to stop myself from wishing away today and longing for tomorrow.

I have a lot to look forward to, just like I always have. I look forward to watching my daughter grow up to be an independent young woman. I can’t wait to see what her interests and hobbies will be, and where her passions will lead her to. I’m excited to take her shopping for new school clothes, her prom dress, her wedding dress. I can’t wait to see her start a family and have babies of her own. But I don’t want to rush to get there. I don’t want to miss out anymore.

This stage of life- it’s hard. I’m okay with admitting that. Even though it’s hard, I wouldn’t trade it for any other season right now. It’s exactly where I want to be.

Today, Carli wanted me to play blocks with her before she napped. I had an afternoon planned with things we needed to do, so I wanted her down for a nap at a certain time. Instead of fighting it, I sat with her and helped her build a tower. We built the same tower over and over again. It fell down, we picked it back up and started over. Even though this is an activity that would typically so easily lose my attention, I couldn’t help but notice how fascinated she was with it all. I can’t even explain the joy it brought to her eyes- to have my full and undivided attention. It’s hard for me to just sit and play without a thousand things going through my head, or picking up things around me, or running upstairs for “just a minute” to throw in some laundry. She had my full presence. That’s what she needed and we both soaked up every minute.

 

 

Tomorrow is full of new adventures and milestones. I look forward to that. But today’s opportunities will be gone if I continue racing through them. Today I’m going to choose to be present and soak up each moment slowly and with intention. Because tomorrow, those blocks will be replaced with a completely new interest. Tomorrow, bedtime will be shorter and she won’t want me to read her the same book 20 times.  Tomorrow, she’ll be one day closer to fixing breakfast on her own. Tomorrow, while it may be easier, isn’t always better. So today, I’m here.

 

 

Monday Meals with Carli- Chipotle Burrito Bowls

There is only one problem with the area we live in. No Chipotle. For miles. Nick and I are pretty much obsessed, and sorry but Moe’s just doesn’t quite cut it for us. I decided to try and recreate their burrito bowls for our Monday night dinner, and I am so happy with how they turned out. Even Nick was impressed, and he’s pretty critical when it comes to Mexican food. This is most definitely one of our new family favorites.

I had a lot of little jobs for Carli to do, but there was also a lot of prep work beforehand (cutting vegetables, getting spices ready) so I did all of that while she napped. It can be tedious to make everything from scratch, and honestly I don’t usually have the time to do this often. I really want Carli to learn about all the ingredients that go into the foods we typically eat, so I’m trying to take the time to walk her through that on the nights we cook together. This might sound like a lot of work, but I promise it’s really not bad. And so worth it in the end.

For our burrito bowls we had the following parts to prepare:

  • Cilantro lime brown rice
  • Mixed veggies
  • Black beans
  • Chipotle chicken
  • Pico
  • Guacamole

These bowls are dairy-free and gluten-free, and can be made vegan if you omit the chicken. If you follow a Paleo plan, omit the beans and you are good to go.

First we started with the rice, it takes the longest. To make enough for our family of 2 and a toddler I cooked 1 cup of brown rice. We had plenty leftover, which is what I was hoping for (easy Tuesday lunch!) To cook 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water and steam until all the water is absorbed. While the rice is cooking, go on to the chicken.

She takes her jobs very seriously

For the chipotle chicken:

It’s all about the spices. If you don’t like spicy, I would recommend cutting the chili powders in 1/2. If you love spicy, you may want to add a little more. The rub is really easy to make. Just mix the following ingredients together:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

I cut two chicken breasts into small chunks and marinated in the chipotle rub for about 30 minutes. While this is marinating, go on to the pico and guac.

Admiring her work

When I was ready to prepare this meal, I already had the tomatoes, red onion and cilantro chopped and ready to go. This made it really easy to just mix everything together- especially since I was cooking with a two year old. If you don’t have the time to prepare these from scratch, they are easy to find in the grocery store. Even though it requires a little more work, it’s cheaper to prepare fresh, and I prefer the taste better as well.

Pico:

  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion (I used about 1/4 onion)
  • 1/4 jalepeno, seeded and diced
  • 5 stems cilantro, finely cut
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • salt to taste

Taste testing- kid approved!

Just mix everything together- YUM!! The guacamole is easy too. Just mash the following ingredients together:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cilantro
  • 1/4 red onion, diced

Carli had the most fun preparing the guacamole. I’ve started to let her cut soft vegetables with a butter knife and she loved cutting the tomato (with my help). I let her use her hands to mash it all together- she was so proud of the part she did “all by myself!!”

By this time your rice should be about done cooking. You’ll want to let it cool for 20-25 minutes. While it’s cooling, begin to cook the mixed veggies, black beans and chicken. I had the veggies cut up beforehand as well to save some time.

For the mixed veggies: 

  • 1/2 green pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thin
  • handful of mushrooms

Throw these in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and saute to your desired tenderness. While these are cooking you can work on the chicken as well. Just placed the marinated chicken you prepared earlier in a frying pan and cook until heated through, stirring frequently. During this time I also had the beans cooking in a small saucepan.

 

Finally the last step is finishing the rice. Once the rice has cooled, mix in 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped), 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp salt and 3 Tbsp lime juice.

Mix everything together and be prepared to be amazed. Healthy AND delicious!!