Mom Life

Mom Life

Ten Tips For Living A Gluten Free Life

Growing up, my mom cooked one meal for the entire family, and if we didn’t want to eat it, we could make ourselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was rare to know of a family with a food allergy.

Those days are gone. My kids go to schools that ban peanuts, and in my own family we have allergies to gluten, milk protein, fructose and almonds…a combination that makes cooking a challenge.

I gave up gluten about three years ago. After having my last baby at 40, my body began to revolt with auto-immune issues. I was unable to wear my contact lenses because my corneas swelled; I had spots of psoriasis appearing on my arms; and I had chronic migraines. My daughter was also experiencing food allergies, so I went though an elimination diet with her. The improvement from not eating gluten was so pronounced, I decided to stop eating it altogether.

For those of you who are thinking about going gluten free, or who have someone with a gluten-free diet in your life, here are some thoughts about living and cooking without wheat:

1. Think from the perspective of ingredients, instead of recipes.
What ingredients CAN you eat? If you can eat chicken, think of ways to dress up chicken that still fall within your diet. Think of vegetables you can eat, and then look for creative ways to use those vegetables.

2. Don’t overlook simplicity.
A simple grilled chicken breast with steamed veggies and some butter is delicious and filling. So is pot roast with potatoes and carrots; or meatloaf made with oatmeal instead of bread crumbs; or chili with some tortilla chips; or a taco or baked potato bar, where each family member can put whatever ingredients they like on their plates.

3. Soups can be a great choice…but watch out for sauces!
Broth-based soups are your friend if you are gluten free, as long as they don’t have pasta in them. Cream of anything, and any type of bisque will probably have flour and milk. Also, watch out for flour and wheat in sauces, including soy sauce. Use corn starch instead of flour to thicken gravies and sauces.

4. Salads make a good lunch.
You can put all kinds of things on top of a salad…grilled chicken, shrimp, veggies, nuts, seeds, olives, dressings (just watch the ingredients in salad dressings).

5. Use your spices!
Pre-packaged spice mixes contain a lot of preservatives and random ingredients. Taco seasoning, for example, has flour in it. You can make great spice mixes from spices in your cabinet. Here is a yummy taco seasoning that does not have flour, and our family likes even better than the premade packages.

6. Think of alternative starches to eat.
Even if you are gluten free, you can still eat all kinds of potatoes (chips, fries, mashed, baked, fried); all kinds of rices (a rice cooker is VERY handy); oats (Cheerios and oatmeal); and corn (including corn tortillas and tortilla chips). As with all food intolerances, you can go to varying levels to avoid the culprit food. If you are looking to go ABSOLUTELY gluten free, then look for the “Certified Gluten Free” label to ensure the grain in your food did not mix with wheat gluten while growing in the fields, or in the food processing equipment.

7. Watch out for sneaky ingredients.
Ingredients are easily hidden in restaurant food and your friend’s cooking. Battered fried food; sauces; soups; meatballs are likely gluten culprits…some candies also have flour on them to prevent them from sticking to other candies. If your friend has Celiac Disease, then be mindful to disclose any and all flour you used in their meal…it can make them seriously ill.

8. Be strategic with your desserts.
You get used to the texture of gluten free baked goods after awhile. But baked goods that don’t require flour are better. Desserts like chocolate mousse, or chocolate tortes, no bake cookies,or those little peanut butter buckeyes…are awesome.

9. Good places to learn more:
Paleo websites are great places to find recipes and cooking ideas. The book The Paleo Approach is also an excellent and educational book and talks about using food to heal auto-immune issues.

10. Tell restaurants about your allergy!
If you have a true allergy, then always tell the restaurant when you order. Good restaurants will change their gloves/cutting boards/etc. to avoid cross-contaminating your food with other foods in their kitchen.

What happens if I eat gluten? I don’t have a Celiac diagnosis, so my symptoms are more annoying than debilitating: fuzzy thoughts, my hands hurt and I get migraines. Yesterday I went off my gluten free diet because I had high tea with my sisters, AND my sister made my mom’s brownie sheet cake (I really could not resist it!). Today I have a low-grade migraine and feel super sluggish…so…back to gluten free I go.

Faith, Mom Life, Work

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

After 19 years of business ownership, homeschooling two kids, and completely rewriting my life over the past year, I am intimately familiar with being overwhelmed. I know what it’s like to see a full slate of work ahead of me, and realize the only way to get it done, is for me to physically do it. Since I find myself in this situation frequently, I have a great question to pose for my next blog post…and that is:

How do you eat an elephant?

An elephant is an overwhelming circumstance or situation. It’s a series of fires that have begun in your life and orchestrated themselves to simultaneously scorch multiples aspects, often at the same time. It’s when you find yourself completely overwhelmed at your life situation, and at the realization that there is no easy way out…and no matter what path you find to walk along, it’s going to be a long haul.

It’s when my husband was diagnosed with cancer at age 37, when we thought he just had a hernia.

It’s when my son was unexpectedly born with cleft lip and palate…a birth defect that is very fixable, but requires a childhood of surgeries and interventions.

It’s when I found myself driving down our mountain road, knowing that the end of our business was near, with no clear path how to sell it.

It’s when I realized that the only things standing between our life in California and the new life God was calling us to in Tennessee was selling two houses, closing down a business, packing up the contents of the houses, finding a new house in Tennessee, loading our moving trailer, and then actually physically moving our family across the nation…Any one of those things should take several months to accomplish, and they all had to happened at the exact same time.

In the last year or two of our business, I had the same disturbing dream, over and over again. Initially, it caused me great anxiety each time it emerged in my sleep…but by the tenth or eleventh time I had the dream, I had grown so used to it, I’d think, “Oh it’s my stupid anxiety dream again,” even while I slept. The dream had lost its power.

I think there is something similar to navigating the elephants in life. At a certain point, you stop thinking “OH NO! AN ELEPHANT!!!” and instead think, “Ok…there’s the next elephant…here we go, God…”

I’m several elephants into my adult life, and have come up with this step-by-step elephant-eating plan for anyone who finds themselves in similar overwhelming circumstances:

Step One: Size up the elephant. Take a good look at the circumstances and the complete and utter chaos you have found yourself in. It’s nuts, isn’t it? I mean really…who could do well navigating a challenge like THIS one? Allow yourself the freak out moments, because it will lead you to the next step:

Step Two: Acknowledge you can’t eat the elephant alone. It’s going to take other people to help you…and most importantly, it’s going to take God’s help and direction. Other people may tell you to eat the tail first; or the ears…but then you will find God putting your heart into conquering another aspect. Listen to God’s leading. When we moved to Tennessee, I had competing voices in my head (and in my life) telling me to prepare our house to move; do the final paperwork for our business; make sure our children were faring as well as possible, given the chaos; look for a house in Tennessee…the only way I was able to successfully move from point A (California) to point B (Tennessee) was to follow God’s steady voice, one step at a time. This leads me to the next concept:

Step Three: Take one step at a time, and one day at a time. Most of my days are written for me before I even wake up. I know when my kids need to go to school, when I need to go to work; what waits for me at work, and I also know the overwhelming number of things that must fit in alongside these daily realities. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I ask myself, “What is the very next step I need to take?” And then I do that step. It’s amazing how doing this one thing, over and over again each day, truly does move life’s mountains.

Step Four: Don’t look too far ahead. When you are in an overwhelming circumstance, what you MOST want to know is when it will be over…when you will have some semblance of control over your life again, and can go back to worrying about what you’ll make for dinner, instead of how to pay for the food. When I find myself worrying about the future, or wanting the five or ten-year plan, I take stock of my life at that exact moment: If I am fed, in a warm house, and have clothing on…and so do my children…honestly, everything else is a bonus. The Lord’s prayer doesn’t say, “Give us this day our next ten years’ worth of bread,” but simply “daily bread.” And sometimes remembering His faithfulness with daily bread makes it easier to trust He will continue to provide it as we live out the years ahead.

Step Five: Don’t be afraid of hard work. There was a point in time when I would shy away from a project because it seemed too overwhelming. After years of business ownership, and especially after navigating my past year, I know the power of diligently accomplishing one thing at a time, one day at a time…you can do impossible things by simply rolling up your sleeves, and actually doing the work. Stop thinking about how overwhelming it is…and just DO THE WORK.

Step Six: Don’t fear exhaustion. Exhaustion comes from hard work and intense living. At some point, you will have time to sleep again. If you become too focused on how tired you are, it robs the energy you need to actually navigate through your situation. Accept that exhaustion is a part of life sometimes…and you will survive it.

Still, even with all of this advice, sometimes you just get sick of the elephant. You want it to go away, or disappear, or be replaced by something delicious and decadent and not have to eat more of the STUPID STINKY ELEPHANT…MAKE THE ELEPHANT GO AWAY!!!

That’s when you do the most important thing:

Take a bit of time to take care of yourself. Sleep in. Do something fun, just for the sake of having fun. Go for a walk. Look at the stars. Eat a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Allow yourself time to dream…sometimes the best way to eat an elephant is to allow yourself time to stop looking at it for awhile, and focus on things that give you joy. It reminds you that eventually the elephant will go away…this too shall pass..and all of that elephant wrestling will leave you stronger, wiser and able to enjoy the sweet things of life even more.

Married Life, Mom Life, Work

What’s Harder? Homeschooling or Working Full Time?

So, it turns out that when you work a full time job AND have a family AND have a 40 minute commute each way, you end up with a lot less time for things like blog writing…

Despite the busyness and the packed schedule, my ideas keep flowing…so I will continue to write this blog, even though a brand new season of The Bachelorette (my guilty pleasure) is calling my name.

Yes, I will write… And I will tell you about this new chapter of life called “Life As a Full-Time Working Mom”. This chapter was written into my story following many other chapters of motherhood including:

Life as a mostly stay-at-home mom
Life as a business owner mom
Life as a mom of little tiny kids
Life as a mom of school aged kids
Life as a mom with a very sick spouse
Life as a mom who GETS PREGNANT AGAIN AT 40!
Life as a homeschooling, working mom with a newborn…

So, at this point, I figure that God wants me to have the perspective of what it is like to be many types of American moms, so I can fully relate to any mother I meet. Therefore, for this chapter of my life, I am working full time.

I am beginning a series where I answer various questions, and the first one is: Is it easier to be a full-time working mom, or a homeschooling mom?

That’s quite a question to start out with, isn’t it?

I am six months into being a full-time working mom, and it is both harder AND easier.

This morning as I drove off to work in my quiet car and listened to a podcast that had nothing to do with parenthood, while sipping my hot coffee ALL BY MYSELF, it felt like being a working mom was VERY EASY and VERY QUIET. Hot coffee and quiet have been nearly impossible to come by for the past 14+ years, and now, for 40 minutes to AND from work, I have both.

Over the past several months I’ve had a very heavy workload at work, learning the nuances of nonprofit bookkeeping, the culture of a new workplace, the names and personalities of dozens of wonderful people I’d never seen before, but who now fill my daily life…it has been very, very intense.

But it’s not anywhere near as intense as homeschooling two kids while running a small business. Or closing down a business and moving across the country with three kids, two cats and two fish…

At work, I am able to complete a task from beginning to end, several times each day. If someone interrupts me, they are extremely polite as they ask for my attention. I am able to delve deeply into troubleshooting many issues, and actually come to conclusions…unlike most of parenthood, which changes just as soon as you feel like you’re getting the hang of it…

So, the day to day life…it’s easier in many ways as a full-time working mom.

Here’s what’s hard:

  • Trying figure out a clothing style that doesn’t look completely like mom fashion, when you’ve been living in yoga pants for the past decade…or mountain fashion, when you’ve been living in the mountains for 20+ years.
  • When to get to the dry cleaner, and the doctor and the dentist…why does everyone keep 9 to 5 hours, when the rest of the world needs to work, too?
  • Sleep is also hard…if I stay up too late watching the rose ceremony on The Bachelorette, I still have to wake up to get to work on time the next morning, instead of letting me and the kids sleep in until we are ready to rise and greet the day.

But you know what is hardest? Missing my kids. Missing being there when they get home from school. Missing seeing my four year old make the day-to-day discoveries of that magical age. Having to catch up my kids’ days at the end of the day, instead of while they are going through it…that’s hard for me. My kids are my favorite people in the world, and it’s hard to have time with them limited by work…though I truly feel God has called me to this exact job and this exact point in time…

So I am thankful. Thankful for the contrast, and that I have spent nearly all of the past 14 years deep in the trenches of motherhood, living every single day alongside my children.

Thankful that Rich gets to be with our kids in a new way, spending loads of time with them as he lives out life being the official daily parent-on-duty.

Thankful for God’s palpable presence and direction in this chapter, just as He gave it in the last one.

And thankful for this new perspective on what it’s like to live life as a working mom.

Seeing all of the full-time working moms who now fill my life has convinced me of two things:

  1. They love their kids fiercely and well; and
  2. They are mentally strong, organized and admirable as they try to live out God’s call to steward their life at home AND in the workplace.

No one works as hard as working moms…except every other kind of mom. Motherhood is a lot of work, no matter how you live it out. And whether I’m home full time, or at work…being a mom is the best job I’ll ever have.

Faith, Married Life, Mom Life, Work

Searching For The Perfect Plan

After trying many planners, this is my favorite daily planner for homeschooling…and they also make a regular daily planner, as well.

Today I was supposed to go to work. I navigated the morning obstacle course of making lunch; feeding my little boy; getting dressed; and finally settled into the car with a fresh podcast loaded onto my phone…only to discover that work was cancelled for the day.

My plans changed.

Again.

No matter how much this last year has taught me, it still unsettles me when plans change. Especially when most days include unexpected diversions and disruptions.

The concept of “planning my day” became part of my daily vernacular in college, when I was introduced to my first “daily planner.” Ohio University issued official spiral-bound planners, which could be purchased at College Bookstore for a few dollars. Tests, quizzes, homework assignments and club meetings quickly filled in the pages of my life, and within a few months, I found myself living by this book. If something was written down in it, it happened…if not, it would be forgotten.

College was marvelously and fantastically predictable. Syllabuses were issued; books were studied; tests were taken…and I eventually received my diploma.

This standard protocol did absolutely nothing to prepare me for the realities of my adult life.

Immediately after I finished college, Rich and I took a six week road trip, with no plans other than to “go explore out west.” We loaded up his 1999 Nissan Sentra with food, a tent and clothing…space was so tight, I didn’t even pack a hair dryer. We spent four of those weeks in New Mexico and Utah, exploring the national parks, drinking Snapple and searching for any type of music on the radio…we were in the middle of nowhere…there were no iPods or Smart Phones in the 1990s…

I went from a completely planned life in college, where I could fully manage my time as I saw fit…to sleeping in a tent with absolutely nothing to do other than follow our whims.

It was tremendously unsettling, and a great introduction to the unpredictable life that was to come…

– First, business ownership (always working, even if we weren’t always at work).

– Then, having children (always a parent, even if you should be sleeping but someone randomly throws up / has a bad dream / heard a noise).

– Then, homeschooling (making plans, but having to be ever-flexible to your child’s needs for that day…times three, when you have three children).

– And now…becoming a working mom. Full time. As in…I am leaving the house every morning at the same time, and coming home and feeding my family…packing lunches, and doing it all over again the next day, five days in a row.

I find myself wanting to plan my life, much like when I was in college…making plans for meals, lunches, outings and dates with my spouse and kids…

But last week, I planned to go out on a date with Rich, only to be texted that my son threw up, just as we sat down for dinner. With so many disrupted plans, I am finding myself resentful of planning. I can’t live my life by my plans, because plans change. People get sick. Appointments are missed. Life is tiring, and sometimes I just want to sleep, sleep, sleep and forget ALL OF THE PLANS.

The past year has taught me that planning is a luxury. To meal plan for the week or month, you need to have money to buy all of your groceries ahead of time. To make plans for coffee with a friend, you must be able to predict that you will be able to leave your family at the allotted time, and actually meet her. To plan for outings or trips, you must be able to reasonably predict that you will have the time, money and energy to actually deliver on the plans.

So, when people say they live by their plans or their calendar, I think…you are so lucky. You are so blessed that your life is predictable, and has a steady rhythm. Sometimes people don’t live by plans because they can’t catch a break to actually make them. There are chapters in life like that, it seems…and sometimes it inadvertantly becomes a way of life…

Still, I try…

Because planning gives me the illusion of control over my life. A well-laid plan makes me feel like all the stuff of life will eventually be accomplished, and this gives me peace.

So, I will continue to plan our meals, search for good routines, look for slots of time when I can connect with each family member…and all the while, try to figure out how to have peace when the plans fall apart. I’ll try to live life working towards a plan (not berating myself if the plans are broken…again…)

I’m also realizing that it’s okay for the plan to be having NO PLANS…some chapters call for full immersion in the moment…afterall: “The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

You can plan your day, your month, your life, and in the end…it’s really up to God how it all works out.

Work was cancelled today, for example, but I had the time to write this post…

His plan was better than mine. It always is.

Living With School, Mom Life

My Official Excuse For Walking Around In Yoga Pants

To the other moms in the school drop off line:

I know I look like I just rolled out of bed. Because I did.

Last night, I went to bed with my hair wet, which is why my pony tail has this interesting geometric pattern right above the rubber band. Make up? Not yet…it’s too early for my eyes to focus that closely on my eyes…I’m in my 40s now, you know…

And this ratty tshirt? I wore it to train for two half marathons, and it’s my psych-up gear to lose weight again, after baby #3…even though baby #3 is now almost four years old. Having a baby in your 40s is most assuredly NOT good for the waistline. But still…there is history in these old clothes…inspiration beneath the ugly perspiration stains that I forgot about when I put on my t-shirt this morning…stains are so unfortunately apparent in the daylight…

After I drop my kids off at school, I will sip from my giant travel cup of coffee, drive my Camry home, boot up my Jillian Michaels workout video, and actually move my body.

Because here’s the truth:

Unlike fat, you can wash dirt and sweat away in the shower. So, I’ve purposely decided to stay dirty until after my workout each morning, because my shower is my reward…a reward for sweating, for making time to take care of me, for successfully launching my kids into another day at middle school…

But here’s another not-so-glamourous truth:

Sometimes, the workout doesn’t happen. Then the three year old keeps me busy, the big kids come home, and suddenly it’s 10PM at night, and as I put my pajamas on, I realize I FORGOT TO TAKE A SHOWER!!! I’m still in my yoga pants. (Which means I’ll have crazy geometric shaped hair again in the morning, because I’ll shower and go to bed with my hair wet, once again).

Which brings me to the overriding, universal truth that the other moms in yoga pants (or their pajamas) will agree with:

Motherhood is fantastically detrimental to personal hygiene. Some days, showering feels like a miracle, let alone putting on makeup or cute boots.

So, if you see me in the drop off line…or at the grocery store later today, and I’m STILL IN MY YOGA PANTS and funky t-shirt, please know that I KNOW I look a little crazy. And I realize that sometimes a temporary look becomes an unintentional fashion statement: The 2017 “Disheveled Mom” Look. It’s a look I rock far too often, but it’s one I’m willing to embrace because it’s a happenstance of the most wonderful job I’ve ever had: Being my kids’ mom.

(And at least the yoga pants look is better than the sweatsuits of the 1980s…don’t you agree?)

Living With School, Mom Life

Hail To the Crossing Guards

I just moved to a suburb south of Nashville, and I feel like I’ve found myself in a Richard Scarry “Busy Town” book. Traffic lights dangle from the power lines, bobbing in the wind; lawns are perfectly manicured; firetrucks are tucked neatly into garages every few miles apart; there is a big library, as well as bakeries and parks with playgrounds…it’s all so different from the small mountain town where I spent the last 20 years of my life. It’s all so…busy…so many things to do…so much traffic to take in…

That traffic is why they need the school crossing guards.

Every morning, truer than the clock, the guards take their positions in front of the elementary school we drive by, and then the middle school my kids attend. The guards stand boldly, smack dab in the middle of the intersection, systematically creating one traffic jam while relieving the others.

The first guard on our route is the thin black woman I’ve lovingly nicknamed Flo. She looks to be about 65, and has the look of a grandma you wouldn’t want to cross. This is the lady who blew her whistle with a severe look of disdain the first day I drove my kids to school…I didn’t realize the school zone started quite so soon. Being me, I gave her a big broad smile as she frantically waved at me…I thought she was saying hello…My, these Tennesseans are friendly!!!

Then I heard the whistle…and her face came into focus. My face dropped. Yes, Ma’am..I will slow down…way, way down, every single time I come up to your corner, from now on…they put Flo on the first corner for a reason. She means business, and isn’t afraid to make you know it. The sound of her whistle can overpower my crying toddler in the back…

Next is the older white man who is at least 65. I call him Ned. He has the easy corner, guarding an intersection into a neighboring subdivision. Flo already slowed down the traffic for him…all he needs to do is nod and wave, every once in awhile when a car or child decides to come out of the neighborhood. I like to wave to Ned because he often smiles and waves back at me…which is kind of confusing, because then I wonder if he’s actually signaling me to stop…or slow down…

I should probably stop waving at Ned…

Bravely standing watch over the next major intersection is Belle. Of course, I don’t really know her name, but she is a bigger black woman, a bit younger than the others, but certainly old enough to stop us. I study her black outfit every day as I wait for her to wave me on…marveling at her gloves. They are called “Glo Glovs“…all black, with orange caution triangles on the palms, and I think they come with superpowers. Unfortunately, Belle has the version with the triangles on her palms, not the stop signs. Her hand motion says stop, but her gloves say caution…and I think I look at her with a confused, knitted brow as I drive past her, every single morning.

After we get by Belle, it’s smooth sailing for a few miles until we come up to the middle school. There is only one crossing guard there, but she is the grand crescendo of the morning…I call her “Crazy Arm Lady.” Crazy Arm Lady is in her 30s, blond and thin with a very tidy, no nonsense appearance. She stands at the corner, rolling her arms in a spectacular fashion that make her look like she’s doing some kind of aerobic move…yet with such a serious face and deliberateness, that you KNOW she learned that move from some kind of traffic training program. Man, she is fun to watch, that Crazy Arm Lady…arm roll, arm roll, arm roll…stop!

Every morning, I think about how I’d like to buy each of them a cup of coffee. I want to say thank you for being out in the rain and braving the miles-long parade of minivans with children spilling out of it…but their hands are so busy, I’d have nowhere to put the cup. It would just result in an awkward dance of arm gesturing, and a sad Starbucks cup left on the cold sidewalk, waiting for the commute to be over. So I’ll just continue to drink my coffee from the confines of my Toyota. I will drive by quietly, heeding their passionate arm signals, and saying a prayer for their safety as they take on another early morning commute.

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