Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Betting on Bento Boxes

Sometimes I spend way too much time thinking about the next best thing. That can be either good or bad. Sometimes it does keep your mind on the lookout for ideas though. And just sometimes, it pays off.

I have been agonizing over ways to make healthy food options just a little bit more appealing to the younger set in the family. Even though I'm down to only just one little person who needs direction in this department, she needs it the most. I stumbled across Primal Kitchen where they do a wonderful job of blogging about the paleo/primal/whole foods approach they take to kids lunches. There are some great ideas there. And the most inspiring I think is the fact that they are using bento boxes to package up the offerings and make them unnumerably more interesting to little diners.

Further research led me to find Laptop Lunch's Bento Buddies which are very cool modular, lidded bento boxes. As well I tracked down Lunch Bots stainless bento lunch containers. Without a budget to stick to, I'd take either one of those for H-Bob in a heart beat. But until I make such a purchase, I decided to do the next best thing and use some silicone cupcake liners that I had which fit perfectly into a lidded container. This doesn't make a very packable option as nothing is lidded, but it did provide a low cost introduction to breakfast and lunch presented in a more fun manner.


Just for fun I decided to see what the library had to offer in this realm and found The Just Bento Cookbook - Everyday Lunches To Go by Makiko Itoh who also blogs at Just Bento which provided a lot of visual inspiration as to what I could adapt to our whole foods/primal food approach. And as usual, another great source for bento lunch ideas I found was on Pinterest. More visuals there to delight the eye and inspire for sure.

Perhaps packing a lunch for a stay-at-home child would become just as bothersome as doing the same for my high schooler who has chosen to take lunches in order to have enough healthy foods to fuel his athletic needs. But on the other hand, I could set aside portions for her just as easily while tackling his lunch demands.

So my final take is that I plan on keeping my eyes open when school lunch boxes start to show up on the retail shelves this summer to look for something that might work, and most importantly, is BPA free. I tend to worry about some of the cheap, imported plastics that find our way into the food supply. Until then, we will experiment with my make-do bento box and see where that takes us. Based on today's enthusiastic response to breakfast that we needed to take on the go, we just might be on the right track.

Do you have healthy, whole food lunch dilemmas for either children at home or on the go? What's your favorite and most successful way to deal with them?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fortunately, It Was Mother's Day. Unfortunately...

Today broke bright and shiny. Unusual for a Northwest spring morning.

But... was Mother's Day. Nothing like some sun to put a spring in your step.

Unfortunately...that meant needing to remember to water my little seedlings in the greenhouse after opening it. A little too toasty for them.

Fortunately...I decided to wear my contacts so that I could bring along my sunglasses for the drive into town. of our daughters decided to ride to church a little later with her older sister, but never managed to pry herself out of bed to let said older sister know, and therefore got left at home.

Fortunately...Big Country's girlfriend brought me lilies for Mother's Day. How sweet is that.

Unfortunately...I still ended up cooking dinner for the family and my mom. But that's okay, because...

Fortunately...there's nothing like having your beef brisket slow-cooked on the Traeger the day before to make dinner a breeze.

Unfortunately...while I was visiting with my mom, H-Bob thought my remaining piece of fabric for Goat Princess' Snow White evil queen costume collar, was a scrap...and turned it into a hand sewing project. 

Fortunately...the fabric store still had the same material on hand to replace it with.

Unfortunately...while attending to all that, the horses stayed out in the very green, lush bottom field for a little longer than they should have. They had some pretty full bellies. was Mother's Day after all, and I garnered a few little gifts from DH...a Teavana mug AND one from Starbucks. I'm set for drinks now.

Unfortunately...we ran out of ice to make a great iced coffee to use one of those new mugs for.

Fortunately....I could enjoy another gift. H-Bob had convinced DH to make her/me a wonderful, rolling chicken coop for a few of her pullets that she wants to keep tame.


It came complete with an ingenious little sign, designed by H-Bob herself.

Unfortunately...those same wonderful hens generate flies which made their way into the house in great numbers while DH was putting some finishing touches on the new door he replaced our broken sliding door with.

Fortunately...the house cools down at night, and those buggers are sitting ducks.

Unfortunately...I didn't remember to open enough windows to really cool it down.

Fortunately...Big Country gave me the most heart-felt card ever. He rather poured his heart out in this one. A real keeper.

Unfortunately...we had such a full day that the planned early bedtime for everyone really did not happen. was a great day to spend with family and friends. And it's those moments that make everything worth it!

Hoping you all had a blessed time with your friends or family this Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

J - O - Y Prayer Journal

Several months back I was thoroughly inspired by a link I discovered that featured a tutorial on how to put together a personal prayer journal. It spoke to my heart as this is something that I had wanted to put together for myself. So I bookmarked it.

But unfortunately there it sat. Enter a book I picked up at the library recently entitled Eat That Frog! which I had originally reserved for some ideas on dealing with procrastination in my children. But at this point the most value came for myself. Did I have any goals set? Were those goals able to direct my day-to-day activities and priorities? Well, no, to be honest. So there I came full circle again to my desire to have a more structured prayer life.

So back I went to my bookmark and some searching through Pinterest. And yes, I came up with something even more inspiring for me. A simple composition notebook, decked out in scrapbooking papers and personalized tabs. So off I went to pick up these simple supplies. I decided that this would also be a great opportunity to introduce this concept to my ten-year-old, so she selected her themed papers as well. The original post does a fantastic job of outlining the steps to put together this personalized journal...hers was a Christmas planner...but here are the basic steps that I followed:

basic supplies...composition notebook, scrapbook paper, ribbon to tie journal with, glue, and scissors


although hard to see here, ribbon is glued to outside of book so that it will wrap around it and be able to tie. front and backs are covered with a piece of patterned paper cut to fit.


more embellishments are added to the front and back covers to conceal the remaining surfaces. 

The journal was finished up by glueing another sheet to the inside and back covers to conceal the printed information. And lastly, I doubled over small scraps of patterned paper and glued them to the outside edge of individual sheets to divide the book into roughly thirds in order to have some tabbed dividers. I know, hard to visualize but the link to the original post is very clear if you check it out.

So the big to use this beautiful little journal? And then it came to me. The Sunday School song "J - O - Y" whose chorus lyrics are:

Jesus first,
Yourself last,
And Others in between.

How perfect.

The tabs would be labeled J - Jesus...a place for praise and thankfulness for what Jesus has done.

The second tab would be O - Others...listing of ongoing prayer requests.

And the last tab would be Y - would you like Jesus to work in your own personal life.

So simple that even a child could understand which is exactly what I wanted for H-Bob. We decided to start a new page for each time the month changed and then review her entries weekly and add happy faces or hearts to those items that were answered prayers. Best idea in a long time.

If you've wanted something structured for yourself that you can use to track answered prayers and to keep others' requests in the forefront of your thoughts, this just might work for you. Plus it's a chance to be just a tiny bit crafty and creative even if you think you aren't. Have you put together anything similar? Has it helped? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part Six

So where have we come since October of 2011 in our diet and dyslexia adventure? An extremely long way since January of that same year upon diagnosing her vision difficulties, and an amazing journey since going gluten-free in August and finding the key to her joint pains, attention issues, processing skills, and reading ability. H-Bob will be coming up on almost nine months of eating gluten-free here soon. So here's where we are...

May 2012

H-Bob has completed all necessary vision therapy. Her therapist has helped her complete all physical changes that were needed as well as activate those vision processing areas that had been on vacation for so long. This is in itself is remarkable in taking her reading level from a kindergarten level to reading books in the 850 Lexile range which is almost on track for grade level for her within that one year period. Although her therapist did not official endorse dietary changes as part of her protocol, she could only acknowledge that massive gains were made once H-Bob dropped the gluten and sugar. By the end of her sessions, she noticed things that I had not specifically picked up on as much...much more eye contact, confidence, the willingness to stick to a task, ambition, and general happiness. I couldn't agree more.

As far as her charter school studies are concerned, she was required to take our state reading and math testing this past spring as usual. The previous year she was quite a ways off from meeting state standards in third grade and had to complete her reading assessment in four or five sessions. This year she came closer to meeting those standards but had closed the gap considerably. I fully expect that by her fifth grade testing, she will be able to meet those standards. The fact that she did her testing in those subject areas in one or two sessions was a major accomplishment from last year. Again, diet definitely played a part in allowing her attention and determination to see her through those tests in larger chunks of concentrated time.

At home she is still the ever creative right-brained child excelling at sculpture and creative pursuits. She's so amazing at having a vision of something she would like to produce but is sometimes stymied by her abilities and supplies. However, we're excited to see that her frustration levels have evened out. It's hard to be a little person trying to accomplish great things. We're still working on getting her reading level up a little. She's got great comprehension for things heard orally but are working on this skill for that which she reads silently. She seems to have a flair for writing cursive...probably the artistic value of it...and her printed writing is so much more legible than it was. She is definitely more able to produce a written paragraph compared to the agony of her previously eking out a sentence or two. Her mathematical abilities took a great jump with her diet change, but anticipating struggles with Saxon when long division was introduced, we opted for Math-U-See for this year. But we still found out that this still became a stumbling block. It wasn't until discovering double division that we jumped this hurdle. I have a feeling that spelling will always be a bugger for her, but we are making progress there as well.

Overall, there is no doubt that our diet change and supplements for H-Bob are here to stay. Especially, as there have been secondary results there too.  About three months after eating gluten-free with H-Bob, I noticed that I was feeling more and more light headed. Just before Thanksgiving it became particularly bad, and I decided to check my blood pressure as I had been on two medications for the past year after a dentist discovered that my pressure was through the roof. Low and behold, my blood pressure was in the 115/60 range...way too low...apparently due to the fact that dietary changes I had embraced along with H-Bob combined with my medication were keeping the levels too low. My doctor told me to drop my dose to half, and then finally had to admit that it needed to be completely taken away. He had to eat his previous words that blood pressure never comes down in an older person. Surprise...surprise...I say. 

Realizing that H-Bob cannot go back to her old ways of eating for the remainder of her life and that it was currently my job to figure out how she was to accomplish that, I begin to investigate more thoroughly the gluten-free diet.  I didn't like the idea of pumping sugar-laden, processed, refined-flour products, although gluten-free, into our diets on a long-term basis. Leads here and there took me to recommendations to go vegan, vegetarian, raw, or paleo/primal. I dabbled in the raw food diet for about thirty days but saw that H-Bob lost too much weight. I had more energy and woke up feeling incredible every morning but developed insomnia...later learning that I was probably became deficient in the amino acids from animal protein that promote sleep. Since that eliminated vegan, vegetarian and raw, I decided to see what paleo/primal was all about. 

So since that time, we as a family began a 30-day paleo/primal food challenge in which our food choices included animal protein, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats which included olive oil and coconut oil and other coconut products, along with avocados and some nuts. Sounds pretty good, right? Oh and did I mention what wasn't on the menu? All dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, seed oils and not a drop of sugar or artifical sweeteners. That was a pretty tough sale to the entire family I admit. But you know what? By the end of those 30 days, all of us realized that our abdominal fat just melted away...literally. DH lost 15 pounds or so without even batting an eye. No one ever went hungry. We embraced the idea that healthy fat is not bad nor is plenty of animal products. We filled up to the brim on veggies and fruit smoothies and ate enough protein and fat to feel satiated at every meal and just watched our health change before our eyes. Co-workers mentioned how great DH looked and noticed how much more energy he had. Our teen son's acne cleared. I could wake in the morning without feeling as if I'd run a marathon during the night. And H-Bob began to put some meat on her bones. I begin to notice that Goat Princess no longer had trouble falling asleep at night and did not drop off to sleep randomly during the day. Once everyone was over their carb-cravings, constant need to feel the need to eat every few hours, and sugar addiction so-to-speak, eating in a paleo manner was definitely a win-win situation.

Today Goat Princess still eats a pretty strict primal diet although she's beginning to allow herself a couple of cheat meals a week. She'll notice right away the carb crash that happens following those meals.  I too follow a primal diet, allowing myself some dairy products such as butter and buttermilk and the occasional cheese garnish. But milk in the latte is a thing so the past...welcome my new friend, coconut milk.  H-Bob still struggles with sugar and wanting the occasional gluten item. She'll have her treat but always pays the price of mood, attention, and leg pains. She's gradually learning that it isn't always worth it. DH eats out so much at work that he really tries to stay primal, but once going back to way too many cheat meals, he finds he doesn't have the resolve to stick with it. Looks like he needs another thirty-day challenge to clear him out again. Our teen athlete eats a pretty primal diet although he has no trouble dining out with friends on the weekend. You can tell when he's really overdone it as his acne will flare up and gets that total way-too-tired couch-potato syndrome again. But overall, it is a pretty win-win situation.

You know the silver lining they talk about? Well H-Bob's dyslexia has been that for us. Not only have we learned how to support her needs, but as a family our health and well-being have been affected in such positive ways that we can only be truly grateful.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part Five

Cliche as it is, it's hard to believe that this is the fifth post in this series. But bear with me as I try to lay out the results of our diet change with H-Bob in our attempt to clean up her diet and experience positive changes in her learning abilities. You can catch up by reading parts onetwothree, and four.

September 2011 

By the time school rolled around, H-Bob was eating a gluten-free diet with very little amounts of sugar and dairy. Interestingly enough, once she lost her carb-craving associated with the gluten, she no longer felt the need to guzzle glass after glass of milk, and that empty space in her stomach could be filled with the fresh vegetables and fruit that had been missing from her diet. She was talking a multi-vitamin, an omega 3 supplement with DHA and EPA along with a probiotic. The last piece of the puzzle that I threw in was a supplement provided by Jarrow called Neuro Optimizer. This provided extra amino acids to support healthy brain function in an attempt to help her fill up any void that might exist nutritionally. But poor H-Bob. She had a cupful of pills every morning to deal with. We had our share of struggles over this, but when you can see such improvement, it sure helps to keep up your resolve.

During August when we saw that her ability to ‘see’ correctly had drastically improved, we started to think about finding a intervention reading program to help her get from her kindergarten reading level to something closer to her grade level which would be fourth grade this school year. We settled on Saxon Phonics Intervention Program as it skipped a lot of the fluff that you would expose a younger beginning reader to. It just hammered in the basics with lots of repetition and practice across all the different learning styles in a manner that would not be demeaning to an older student. Wanting to achieve success, I followed it to the last letter not skimming or skipping anything. Information I had read indicated that dyslexics benefit from intense phonics instruction to completely reinforce the application of phonics. It was amazing to see that by the end of September, H-Bob’s reading was phenomenally better. You have no idea how encouraging this was. H-Bob’s charter school classes were beginning the end of September, and I was a bit nervous about her entering Orchestra I with her violin as she had the ability to play well but could not for the life of anything read music. Her great musical ear had bolstered her along all through last year. But to my surprise, there was vast improvement over last year. All of this was definitely paying off.

October 2011

By this time, H-Bob had settled into a pretty predictable routine of eating clean, whole foods without gluten. But if she were exposed to gluten accidentally, it was so obvious She would experience her leg pains again, but even more intense as it took only a little exposure now to affect her. Her attitude would flip a switch and she would become very emotional...whether angry or sad..and it would be intense. Her attention would wander and there would be zero focus. There's nothing like a glimpse back into the past to remind you that whole-food nutrition without gluten will be paramount to her life...and permanent.

I’ll never forget the morning H-Bob yelled from her bed upon waking that morning. “Mom, mom! You’ll never believe it! I actually had a dream last night! And there was this music. I could hear all of it. All of the parts. And there was color everywhere!” I suppose that shouldn't sound like too unusual of a dream, but for her it was.  Due to her monotone diet and resulting lack of nutrition, it had appeared that there were neural connections that weren't being made just simply because she did not have the raw materials to support her neurological system. This tended to be expressed as her inability to envision things on an internal blackboard so to speak, difficulty recalling things, plus her various learning disabilities...all things that were frustrating for her. She was ecstatic over what her mind was now able to do. It’s hard to explain how significant this felt. All of those nagging questions whether things were not quite right with her processing skills were now ironing themselves out. It was all becoming too clear that the typical SAD diet we had been eating, although healthy by many means, still did not provide her picky palate with what she needed. That combined with her supplements to support catching up her deficiencies seemed to help complete the whole pictures. The saying, you are what you eat, was really hitting home.

Her vision therapist had explained that now she had the physical ability to take in printed material, she needed to achieve proficiency in the seven visual processing skills needed to process information. Because she had lacked those many, many years of taking in and processing information, she was simply behind in those skills. The physical ability formed the base of a pyramid and the various skills would build upon the top of them. She was so great at coming up with exercises that kept H-Bob's motivation up when they could have been very repetitious. She built activities around her interest in art and animals, and it seemed that once those activities were introduced, she flew through the exercises and made huge leaps and bounds of progress.  These activities helped all across the board with her reading that was progressing nicely as well as her handwriting skills, her focus, her mathematical abilities, and  her reasoning. Pretty much everything in her life was positively affected. Here, finally, was the positive and ambitious girl that we knew existed.

I think I will be able to wrap things up with my final post as we move into where we are today. Stay tuned!

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