Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

When Creativity gets Squashed by Survival Mode

When dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression and then adrenal fatigue and chronic exhaustion, I was stuck in survival mode.  Survival mode is not a great place for creativity to thrive in, or even show up.  A handful of days are that way now, occasionally, when I get insomnia or something else incredibly stressful comes up.  But for the most part, things have improved so much that I marvel at the contrast.  Maybe the following sound familiar to you, and I just want to give you hope that it doesn’t have to stay that way!

Some people have lofty aspirations, but at my lowest point, I just wanted to be at a place where I could be able to wake up easily not feeling exhausted and look forward to what lay ahead.  Where I wasn’t wishing each day was over because I barely felt like I could make it through.   I longed to know what being motivated and enthusiastic felt like again.  I didn’t want to be so overwhelmed that I might have a panic attack, and look like a fool when asking somebody to come just be with me and my kids because I couldn’t deal with life.  I wanted to enjoy food and not feel awful no matter what healthy thing I tried to eat.  I ached to see a light at the end of the dark tunnel within my health journey.

(I am going to pause a moment and acknowledge that some health journeys are a continuous tunnel without much light.  Although keeping hope alive is important, I know some issues are chronic, unrelenting, and desperately painful without any probability of reversal.

If you’re in that place, know your pain and your story matter.  I truly believe many of life’s most valuable lessons come from the most painful things, and you may unknowingly be the one teaching others what perseverance looks like and giving others in a hard situation the courage to go on, too.  Reach out if you feel like you need someone to help hold you up, pray for, and encourage you–you don’t have to go it alone! We were made to connect!)

I grieved for the vibrant, creative and energetic girl and woman I had once been.  I was LOW.  So I did what I normally do to cope with challenges: I read (which is hard to find time to do as a mom, right?! But I made it happen).  I was reading some inspirational mom book and it said something about having a passion or dream apart from the daily grind of parenting.

I had this numb sort of reaction, like, “That’s nice for some moms, but I can’t even imagine being in a place where my mind be able to fathom having a dream.  And besides, I don’t know what my dream would be.”  (But I do now.  More on that later.)  Have you been there?  Don’t be there alone.  Feel free to comment and share if you are in survival mode, or if you’ve discovered your dream.  What got you from survival mode to creativity again?

Posted in Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

Goals, Gluten-Free Living and My first YouTube Video

I recently posted about productivity and goals.  I set an achievable goal for myself for January, but I was a little doubtful of my ability. I feel mostly confident in the creative world…except when it comes to technology. I challenged myself to learn some basic video-editing on Shotcut. Well, my geek hubby keeps elbowing me happily about joining the dark side (I don’t know about that–computers frustrate me still. Oh, and since filming this portrait-layout instead of landscape, I have learned a thing or two about how YouTube works, and my next videos will definitely be more professional.)

Anyhow, as a recovering perfectionist who knows both I and my work are not perfect, I’m going out of my comfort zone and sharing the results of my effort although I cringe at the idea of possible critical viewers. This is a video I made sharing what I wish I knew when I first started the gluten-free lifestyle. I made it because some friends have been wanting to go gluten-free but find it really overwhelming, so I tried to cover the basics, from what types of GF flours to start with for baking, other meal options (including pre-made), best shopping options, and how to thicken sauces. (See show notes for more details.)

Feel free to share with friends you hear of who find out they have a gluten sensitivity and are feeling overwhelmed. If I can help someone on their journey, I feel like a little bit of my health trials are being redeemed for good.

YOUTUBE.COM
Skip trial and error as you enter the world of Gluten Free living! Here I share with you the best GF flour blend…

 

Posted in DIY, Edible Awesome, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

Amy’s Favorite GF, Egg-Free Waffles Recipe

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This recipe was inspired by an Allrecipes Pumpkin Waffle recipe; however I have an intolerance to egg and found the original recipe’s batter way too dry, so I customized it to my diet and tastes.  I like to make a double batch of this and use 3/4 of the waffles to prep some of my sons’ school lunches, using the waffles as a bread replacement since GF loaf bread is so expensive! (Otherwise he gets leftovers from the week, which he doesn’t mind.)  Have you ever noticed the frozen PBJs in the freezer aisle of the grocery store? Well, that’s what I make, except I can’t have peanuts either, and the school is a nut-free zone, so we use sunbutter instead.  (Sunflower seeds, btw, are hormone friendly…heard of seed cycling?)  I mix it all up in a blender to make it easier for pouring into my Belgian Waffle Maker.  I bet this recipe would work for pizelles if you have a pizzelle press and add a dash of anise extract to the batter and leave out the baking powder.  Speaking of baking powder, I can’t have corn, and corn starch is usually in baking powder.  So I made my own replacement to refill my old baking powder container using 2 TBSP baking soda plus 1/4 cup cream of tartar (while cream of tartar usually comes in tiny spice containers, I bought mine in a big bulk container because it’s handy for cleaning powder as well). Anyhow, on to the best GF, egg-free waffle recipe ever!

5 minutes prep time, plus cook time.  Makes 4 huge Belgian waffles (or 8 thin waffles, depending on your waffle iron.)

Amy’s Favorite GF, Egg-Free Waffles Recipe

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Directions

 

  1. Start by measuring psyllium husk and flaxseed into a blender (or bowl…I just like to make things easier for myself) and adding the warm water to create the flax eggs.
  2. Pour in melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and give a pulse with the lid on before adding the cold almond milk. 
  3. Preheat your waffle iron.
  4. Add gluten-free flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to the blender (if you want to play it safe, you could mix these in a different bowl before adding, but I’ve never had an issue with distasteful baking powder or salt clumps) and blend until the batter looks like cake batter with no dry spots left.
  5. Pour about 1/2 to 2/3 cup batter (depending on what your waffle iron normally holds) onto the preheated iron and spread to the edges. Close iron and cook until iron stops steaming or the light comes on, plus another minute or so.  Repeat with remaining batter.
  6. Swat impatient hands away until everybody can sit down and eat together.  Try not to let them see you swiping some secretly.
Posted in DIY, Edible Awesome, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

My Favorite Gluten-Free Flour Blend Recipe

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time paying $8 for a GF cup-for-cup flour blend.  In fact, I’ve never bought even a bag of that stuff, on principle.  Doesn’t seem right to capitalize that much on others’ health-related need for GF flours.  But enough of my rant–let me tell you what I do instead!  I went online to Vitacost (which frequently has sales going– the GF flours of several varieties were anywhere from 15-47% off, last I checked, which was yesterday) and during a buy-one-get-one sale I bought 4 boxes each of sweet sorghum flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. The sale happens regularly, and I’ve restocked twice this way.

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Then, I mix them in this ratio:

1 1/2 cup sorghum flour

1 1/2 cup potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

Buuuut I don’t like to measure.  So instead I just dump these amounts into a container and shake it up.  Easy peasy.

2 lb bag sorghum flour

2 lb bag potato starch

2/3 of 2lb bag tapioca flour

Keep reading!  In regular wheat flour, gluten acts as a binder that allows baked goods to stretch, and the GF mix needs a binder too…so for each cup of the mix, I add 1 tsp of psyllium husk to whatever liquid is in whatever recipe I use.

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In my research for digestion-friendly replacement for xantham gum (which is a product of the bacterial fermentation of the sugars in either corn, soy, wheat or dairy) or guar gum (which is derived from the guar bean–not bacteria–but can still cause digestion issues), I settled on psyllium husk.

P.S.  You can use that leftover tapioca to thicken your GF soups and gravies!  Use 1-2 TBSP with your butter, ghee, or coconut oil (I would use the latter) to make a slurry, then slowly add your broth or other liquid.

 

Posted in Edible Awesome, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, Uncategorized

Gluten-free Sugar-Free Blueberry Crumble Recipe

This is a no-fuss treat that both non-GF friends and GF folks all can enjoy together, and it’s great both warm or cold, as dessert or breakfast!  I tend to serve this when we have company, since it’s quick and no-fail and makes the house smell great! (I use Wyman’s of Maine frozen wild blueberries, since Ibotta has an offer for a few dollars back on up to 5 bags sometimes, which I deep freeze.  This recipe takes about 1/2 bag.)

Prep time 10 minutes, bake time 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serves 8.screen shot 2019-01-19 at 7.38.23 pm

  1.  Pour blueberries into the bottom of a 9×13 glass casserole dish filling it about 1 inch deep (about 1.5 lb/half the bag of Wyman’s frozen blueberries).
  2. Stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice (optional) or 1 tsp zest.
  3. Mix in 3 Tbsp maple syrup (optional).
  4. Stir 1/4 cup brown rice flour into the berry mix (or other GF, but I like the brown rice flour to give it a sugary texture).
  5. For the crumble topping, mix two cups of old fashioned oats with 1-2 tsp. cinnamon and another 1/4 cup brown rice flour.
  6. Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil in a pyrex bowl, and stir into oats.
  7. Mix in 3 TBSP maple syrup.
  8. Spread oat topping evenly, and bake for 30-40 minutes.
  9. Refrigerate leftovers if you have any.  The coconut oil makes it retain its crunchy topping texture–my favorite part!

 

 

Posted in DIY, Gluten Free, recipe, saving money, Uncategorized

Recipe for DIY Corn-Free Baking Powder

If you have intolerances or food allergies, you know it can get tiring trying to read all the ingredients and look for “safe” consumable goods!  When I started my hormone recovery journey, I went gluten-free and soy-free.  That was a lot of effort, and I guess I was well-prepared for eliminating an even longer list.  When I had some IGG blood testing to find out what else my body couldn’t handle, though, I was in disbelief.  Actually, I laughed when the lady read me the results because the first thing she said was chocolate.  Are you kidding me? *Sigh.* My morning treat had been frothy hot chocolate (cacao, maple syrup or honey, and milk).

Then there was dairy. (Oh cheese, how I miss you.) And yeast. (Well…I guess no GF pizza for me at MOD anymore…but what’s pizza without cheese anyhow?).  Coffee (well, I’d already ditched that a few years ago, though occasionally I would swipe a sample at Trader Joe’s).  Eggs (I’d been having one each morning with salad.  Ugh).  Peanuts. Tomatoes. Some other stuff I probably have forgotten and need to look up.  And corn.  Which is in a rather lot of gluten-free things–have you noticed? So my already limited fare got even more narrow of a selection.  (On the bright side, my symptoms of chronic tiredness and achiness in the morning have improved! So I guess it’s all worth it.)

While I generally read food labels for ingredients, as someone who is constantly baking, I actually had never noticed that BAKING POWDER contained corn! I would never have thought to check because I just sort of figured it was its own ingredient, like baking soda.

Thankfully, a friend mentioned her nephews have corn allergy and can’t even having baking powder in things.  Enlightened, I was on a hunt for corn-free baking powder.  Almost impossible to find and very expensive, I decided to make my own replacement to refill my old baking powder container using 2 TBSP baking soda plus 1/4 cup cream of tartar (while cream of tartar usually comes in tiny spice containers, I bought mine in a big bulk container because it’s handy for cleaning powder as well).  It works!  I do smash each teaspoon it in my palm before adding it to recipes because it can clump a bit.  (FYI, If you are not corn free and do not have cream of tartar, you can still make your own baking powder if you need some in a pinch with the same ratio of baking soda to corn starch.)

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

Stay-at-home-mom Productivity and Progress

DSC06032Last year I got into a rut a bit more deeply than years previous.  As a SAHM, one thing that often has discouraged me is knowing my work is never really done, and doesn’t look more done because piles of laundry and cooking and dishes (etc. etc.) need to be re-done each day/weekly.  I have felt so unproductive each day even though I’m working around the house all day long.  Yet this SAHM gig is what I want to do, and I don’t have a desire for a financial career.  Something had to change.

I was kind of depressed over it and was cranky all the time, so I talked to a counselor about it.  She was encouraging, saying that as a parent (of only one kid) who worked, she felt like it would possibly be harder to manage kids and a house all day long, and recommended I lower my expectations for myself, and expect to do only about an hour a week “side-projects” (like organizing the basement) beyond main household responsibilities–cooking, cleaning, and childcare.  Thanks…I appreciate the idea, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that, because that didn’t seem like it would improve my situation any.  I was still surrounded by disorder.

 So when school started, I began listening to Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever podcast, which I recommend.  A main takeaway for me that I’m going to continue, hopefully with more regularity, was his productivity journal idea.  He quoted a study that saying productivity is increased 40% by writing goals down because it gives clarity, overcomes resistance/analysis of desires, provides motivation, filters other opportunities (prioritizes), enables clarity and allows you to see progress.  

 Since I started doing my own productivity journal, I definitely notice when I nightly make a page of the top 3 goals and subset goals for the next day, that I have more focus and get more done, then feel better about my day in general (and that makes me a better mom). 

 It’s somehow not the same as a to-do list, which to me feels like a drag on my energy.  It’s just clearer intentionality, instead of drudgery, I guess.  Not necessarily doing more, but doing what matters more efficiently, to feel like I have time for margin and reduce feelings of overwhelm. 

Beyond daily goals, he encourages setting achievable yet challenging yearly goals to promote growth and feed a dream.  Looking at those monthly or whenever helps me have vision for my future.  Looking back on the goals I set for the beginning of the school year (because when my kids are in school is when I feel I have some time —even if it’s just 3 days a week for 3 hours at a time—to accomplish things without being distracted), I can see some things weren’t as important to me as I thought they should be, but I hit my main 3: exercising regularly for health, reading 7 books, and improve time management. (I set alarms/timers to be more punctual most of the time.  As Noni from A Slob Comes Clean podcast says, there’s such a thing as Time Passage Awareness Disorder, and I have it. The last one I’m still working on…but it definitely improved.)  

So essentially, since starting that last summer, I feel like I’ve had a trial run for improvement this new year. Consequently, I have done a tune-up on my goals and areas of learning and growth, rather than coming up with an official New Years’ Resolution.  It may not be my best year ever (I am still dealing with many health challenges), but if it’s progress, I’m pleased with that. What kinds of things helped you make progress last year?    

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s the little things…

As a SAHM, sometimes I need a little motivation for monotonous work like folding laundry, doing dishes, or…peeling potatoes.  Today, I had a happy little discovery that my new stackable wire storage bin, which I bought for holding potatoes or apples in, also doubles as a laptop holder.  Woohoo!  Now I can watch some youtube organization videos and fix potato soup!  And when I’m needing a recipe online while I cook in the kitchen, I’ve got a handy upraised (read: spill-safe) spot for the computer! Now I’m “peelin’ perdy thmart!”  It’s the little things that make me smile! What’s adding a bit of bliss to your day today?fullsizeoutput_1f2e

Posted in minimalism, saving money, Uncategorized

The No-Spend Month Conlcusion

Well, my husband and I found out a lot about ourselves and our spending habits by being extra intentional with our spending.  We started out strong, using no credit at all, finishing up gift cards and paying cash (including change I found in the car and piggy bank) or going without.  Then, after week one, I found out my hubby had used the credit card.  Bum-bum-bummmmm! He bought a computer cord replacement.  That kinda irked me.  I didn’t see it as a necessity.  We have two laptops, one “his” and one “mine.” We could have been ok using only one for a few more weeks.  I’m all or nothing, right? If we’re doing a no credit challenge, let’s do this thing!!  So my bubble popped a little there. However, something positive did occur in that we had to communicate about our expectations of the month a little better, and then hubs had a few “wait lists” for the upcoming months put on Amazon for things we’d like to get, and wanted to plan ahead for, instead of instantaneously ordering.

Yep, we discovered he and I define necessary spending quite differently. We could have kept up the beans and rice dealio…but my hubby requested that we use credit for “necessities” like food.  He meant the particular food he wanted, which I saw as not really a necessity.  But I value him more than a personal goal, so I got what he wanted, and we used the credit card.

Aaaand, since we had caved and used the credit card, and there was meat on sale, I went ahead and stocked up a little bit to put in our deep freeze.  So that was also not just buying the bare minimum.  But in the long run, I guess we do save money, because I got $5 off each on a few hams.  So we’ll have that for Easter.  And there was a fundraising opportunity for an adoption and something else I really believed in so we gave some money for those things as well.  We did turn down a birthday party invite (but managed to find a gift to give later on super sale and bought with gift card money) because the venue costed. (And also, my kids don’t yet know how to swim, as the party was for an older kid at a YMCA; I was worn out anyways and didn’t feel like trying to keep two kids 5 and under above water on my own).

Anyhow, my conclusion is that if you know you actually have money to pay for stuff, it’s rather easy to not be uber frugal.  I was a little disappointed in how the thing went, but it was good to use up those gift cards and loose change and in general spend a lot less, putting savings towards kids’ school and other important things.  We’re not as hardcore as I’d hoped.  Oh well.  Do you have an awesome no-spend success story to share?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, minimalism, saving money, sensory processing disorder

What everyday SPD looks like for my 3 and 5 yr olds…

My 5 yr. old son asked for another piece of pizza, a rare treat at our place since I am gluten-free and don’t usually have the energy to make it myself and avoid certain ingredients for my healthy eating standards.  He was so happy when I said sure…but when I gave it to him, he kind of stared at the piece and started to zone out as his face fell a little.

I asked him, “What’s wrong, hon?”  But I could have guessed.  You see, the pizza crust was not big enough for him to hold without getting sauce on his fingers.  The sauce went too far up.  And as much as he loves pizza, his desire to avoid that messy feeling is greater.  He knows he can wipe his hands on a napkin or wash his hands later, but he can’t do it.

I found myself thinking, Wow. He didn’t throw a fit!  He didn’t meltdown over it today! He didn’t cry or get angry!  That looks like progress to me!  And it is.  We’ve been working with him a lot about his responses.  To be frank, a lot has to do with me not getting upset with his particularities, which was hard at first because I grew up in a family where you weren’t allowed to be “picky.”  Then I married a “picky” person…but I see it’s not always about pickiness.  It can be about texture.  It can be about how tastes hit a person’s brain.  My son got a lot of the way his brain works from his dad.  They can’t deal with some fabrics (my husband won’t wear “scratchy” wool sweaters, or cotton sweaters that aren’t soft enough).  Not only are some things like that a turn-off or irritating, it can just plain overwhelm them, because of how their brains magnify, misinterpret, or translate a sensation.  I can see now they’re not “spoiled” or “bratty” because they choose not to flood their brains with highly unpleasant feedback.

The fact that my son got a little sad about not feeling like he could enjoy the pizza he was anticipating so much makes me want to figure out ways to help him cope with his SPD more.  Because sometimes, you can’t change the way things are.  But in this case, it was an easy fix because the pizza was thin crust, and I just folded it over onto itself so the back of the pizza could be more of a crust, and that worked for him.  No messy fingers.  I guess another solution could have been cutting it up and eating it with a fork, which he has done in the past, but whatever the issue, the triumph was that he remained calm and went on to enjoy his pizza.

Another instance of SPD showing occurred when he needed new shoes.  I got him some cute ones that only needed to be zipped (because he is also kind of OCD and if the shoes have velcro, he takes forever aligning the velcro just right…more than one strap? You’ll be waiting a while) and was thrilled when he put them on, ran and hopped around, and wore them to school the next day.

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After a day of school, however, with all the movements an active 5 yr. old does, he informed me they felt bumpy at the top when he knelt.  So brand new shoes that I can’t return now?  Tah-tah.  And today, I can be okay with that.  (And also thankful I mostly only buy things on sale or second-hand).  Previously, I would have gotten mad that I went through the trouble to find the shoes, spent the money, and he didn’t like them after all.  Life is better when I accept his issues and treat him with dignity instead of trying to fit him into my idea of the way things should be.  I would want somebody to do the same for me.  My husband does not get mad or rant or resent me (though it may exhaust him) when I get stuck in anxious mode and he has to hear all about my fears knowing he can’t fix me.  He makes life better for me by hearing me, understanding it’s hard for me, and loving me unconditionally.  I want to do that for my son.  

I sometimes see my son trying to mask his SPD reactions.  When we were looking for shoes another occasion, he tried to use logic to reason his way into a new pair of Paw Patrol light-up shoes.  They looked perfect!  But the first thing he said when he tried them on before I asked or anything was, “hmm, I feel a bump on the bottom.” Then seeing my face, and knowing I would not get them if he had a complaint, he immediately tried to reason it away, saying, “BUT I think they’ll be fine after I wear them a little while and get used to them!”  Experience has taught me that if it’s annoying initially, that’ll always be the case.  There were tears shed over those Paw Patrol shoes, but I wouldn’t budge.

Similarly, his little sister got some brand new PINK tennis shoes after searching many stores.   They were NIKE!  (We were given a gift card to the store).  She LOVES pink!  She tried them on.  She danced around!  She was so happy.  She WANTED them to work! But when it came down to it, she couldn’t stand them for longer than a minute every time we tried them on after that.  She’d put them on, then get stuck like glue with her bottom on the floor, not being able to get up and walk in them. It’s like her brain just shut down with them on her feet.

I am not very patient when we’re getting ready to go and people don’t have their shoes on when I asked 15 minutes earlier.  A 20 minute delay really irks me.  One day she tried on 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of shoes, and we were so late.  I definitely returned the pink shoes.  I was disappointed because of the amount of effort searching, and feeling exhausted and dreading that now another kid is manifesting some real SPD stuff.  (It’s SO draining for me to figure out how to do life with SPD!  And not just one kid’s particularities!  But two…If you add in their dad’s preferences, three sensory processing packages! I guess it is draining to HAVE the SPD oneself, though, eh?!)  But I was SO GLAD I know it’s just not worth it to try to MAKE something work that just isn’t going to work.  

Like the pretty dress I’d bought when she was a baby, waiting for her to fit into it.  It was a perfect Easter dress!

scratchy
too “scratchy” for threenager

She would not wear it.  She wanted to!  She put it on, excited to dance and spin in it…But it was “too scratchy,” and she freaked out and cried until she got it off.   Just like when she put on the brand new shirt with a seam across the chest (which I also had bought in advance.  I think I have learned my lesson. “Saving money” buying things when they’re a good deal doesn’t always save money.  I am also glad I can let things go by embracing minimalism and saying if it doesn’t work for me, we can pass it on, no problem.  Why waste my emotional energy on it, looking at it and feeling bothered it was supposed to work but didn’t?!)

Anyhow, that’s just a glimpse of some examples of everyday issues that crop up with family members with SPD.  There are more, believe me…there are more.  But I can say that with a smile.  Life is not over; it is just more interesting.