Friday, March 27, 2015

Move Over American Girl, Jesus Sees Us Doll Teaches More Important Lessons

Kids love dolls. So, I can't believe it took this long for someone to come up with a doll for Jesus but two mothers of preschool- aged children, have produced the new Jesus Sees Us doll and book for families who want to start or continue the conversation about Jesus and Faith with their little ones.  

With Easter Sunday just a week away, Jesus Sees Us could be a great Easter basket surprise. Just as American Girl dolls set out to teach girls about how girls lived in different periods of history, the Jesus Sees Us doll is a way for children to connect to Jesus in a most engaging and relatable way. The doll serves as a reminder for children that Jesus is always with them, comforting them when they are struggling and celebrating their victories!

I have been searching for tools to assist us in teaching our two youngest children about Jesus on their level.  My youngest certainly does not have the attention span for verbal lessons or books alone and animated and visual options come up short when communicating the true message of Christ’s presence in our lives.

I'm hoping that having the Jesus Sees Us doll around to play with will help them interact with our Savior in a more personal way.
The creators encourage Jesus Sees Us to sit with us at dinner, say evening prayers with us and even be a sleeping companion. Kids can even re-enact the Biblical stories with their Jesus Sees Us doll.  

The doll has a soft body Doll with a hard molded head, a warm and loving face and inviting, open arms. It is accompanied by a hard cover lesson book, appropriate for kids ages 2-6 that includes illustrated Biblical stories of Jesus with Scripture reference and correlating lesson on how we can model our behavior like Jesus today.

Jesus Sees Us Website
Available through website and with link:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stories that Bring Home True Meaning of Easter

I admit that I struggle with keeping the focus on Christ with all the fuss about the Easter Bunny. The kids are looking for baskets of candy while I try to direct them to the gift we will receive at the Resurrection. This season of Lent has flown by me. Literally every week so far this year, at least one of my family members has been ill. Dealing with that added chaos amidst our typical chaos of two working parents, three kids, therapy, activities, and school, I haven't done the Lenten journey I had hoped. That is why I am glad I have the book Easter stories to help bring the messages of Easter and the Resurrection home through nightly bedtime stories.

Easter Stories is a compilation of short stories written by multiple authors including C.S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde and Anton Checkhov.  This group of classic tales illuminates the true meaning of the season in easily digestible bites. With both spiritual value and literary quality, these stories are ones you will read over and over, season to season.

The stories would make great post dinner time reading followed by discussion of the meaning each story holds. You might also enjoy reading them at bedtime. There are stories within the anthology that are appropriate for all ages and they can be told year-round. This is one book to keep on the family bookshelf and enjoy throughout the years.

So, while I have not done a Jesse tree or Lenten calendar filled with daily crafts and Bible lessons for the kids, and I haven’t even done the best job with my Lenten sacrifice, I am thankful for this tool to share classic, scripture-based messages with my family.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Clean Eating Made Delicious

I have been trying some new recipes from the cook book Dashing Dish by Katie Farrell. It includes 100 recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and desserts featuring fresh, whole ingredients.

Most of the recipes are kid-friendly, with fresh twists on old classics such as mac and cheese, waffles, and cookies. There are also great protein-based recipes for every meal and snack, including Italian-style stuffed red peppers and slow cooker honey sesame pork.

Portion sizes are always a difficulty for me, so I really like the fact that many recipes are portioned in muffin cup sizes and mini cups. These cute entree's make them more appealing to the kids as well.

Frankly, I want to try every recipe. 

So far, I have tried the Cinnamon Bun for One and Peanut Butter Protein Breakfast Bars-yummy! The kids agree! The breakfast bars are so much more economical than store bough protein bars, chemical free too.

There are no white sugar, white flour, white pasta, butter or processed food ingredients included in the recipes. Instead, recipes include oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour, honey, greek yogurt, quinoa, unsweetened applesauce, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, almonds, chick peas, vegetables and fruits. Most of the recipes are gluten free and sugar free too.

The book also includes a guide to clean eating, a grocery list, list of pantry staples, and tips for eating whole foods while dining out on a budget.

The only thing I would caution is if you have troubles with a sweet tooth, you may be too tempted by all the whole food alternatives to sweeter breakfast foods, snacks and desserts (note my first recipe choices). You still need to be careful that those choices only reflect a small portion of your diet and the rest of your meal plan is made up of high quality protein and fruits and veggies.

You can get Dashing Dish on Amazon for around $19 hard back and $15 on Kindle. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Equal Rights for Persons with Developmental Disabilities No Walk in the Park

Only a short walk from my home is Brook Run Park , a beautiful green space that is a highlight of the city of Dunwoody. Kids play in the park. Teens defy gravity in the skate park. Families gather eagerly for Food Truck Thursdays where they break bread with their neighbors. It is a place my family enjoys. 

But, when I take a walk with my son, the irony does not escape me that we are treading the same grounds where people who share his same genetic disorder where once institutionalized (the park is the site of the former Georgia Retardation Center). 

On March 21, we mark World Down Syndrome Day. March is also Disability Awareness Month. In the past 60 years, we have made great strides to achieve equal rights for individuals with developmental disabilities. Because of early intervention programs, medical innovation, the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, my son will travel a much different journey than he would if he had been born 25 - 30 years ago. But the journey will not be without its struggles. We still have far to go. 

We haven't traveled very far from the mindset that sent thousands of individuals to institutions to live out their lives.

When it comes to persons with disabilities, we still see separation rather than inclusion, we still hear language that is hurtful and demeans and we still label individuals with disabilities as “less than” or “other."

We need to educate people with developmental disabilities based on their individual abilities, and not on stereotypical perceptions of a diagnosis or assumptions on what they “can’t" do.

We need medical schools to incorporate curriculum on disabilities, providing doctors and nurses with updated information so they can properly inform patients on all aspects of a disability diagnosis and allow expectant parents to make informed choices.

And we need our legislators to increase funding for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities budget to provide more supports so these individuals can lead more independent and meaningful lives in their communities. For example, we should be funding employment support programs that help them find meaningful work. Georgia sadly ranks last in the 50 states in this area.

The good news is that this is a movement in which we can all make a difference. We can support businesses who hire persons with disabilities. We can join together across the state and country to advocate for change in our communities, schools, medical institutions, and government. We can give to organizations that are leading the way in these endeavors. And most importantly, we can notice the families in our own neighborhoods who need our understanding, support and friendship. 

Our walk with Joey will, in many ways, be uncharted. We will have to work diligently to get the supports he will need to live an independent life. A life that includes the things everyone wants for their own children— a job, relationships, a home and hobbies. But as we walk in the shadow of Brook Run, we are reminded it is a journey worth undertaking. Will you join us? 

View of the Georgia Retardation Center the original site of Brook Run

Today it is a community green space called Brook Run Park

Master plan for the park which includes playgrounds, skate park, dog park, walking trails and community garden.

Joey having fun at the Brook Run playground

Friday, March 6, 2015

Reflections on 15 Years

This week, my husband and I marked 15 years of marriage, which I consider an accomplishment in today's society but is a drop in the bucket compared to the 50 years both of our parents have shared.

The years we have shared have not been easy, some have flown by and some seemed to never end. Some years we were fortunate, and others it seemed we could not catch a break! We have faced nearly all the major stressors of a marriage and so far have come out together. It has not been easy.

Why has it worked so far? Our upbringing, our nature, our faith.

My husband and I are complete opposites in many ways.

I am a planner. He cannot plan beyond the current week. I love to make holidays special and feel loved by gifts. He doesn't like any attention on himself, has very few needs for "stuff" and thinks its silly to celebrate birthdays and such. I'm the nurturer. He is the disciplinarian. I love to read. His idea of reading is The Daily Racing Forum.  

Sometimes these differences make life interesting, sometimes exasperating and sometimes they provide just the right balance. 

One quality we both have in common is tenacity. We are both hard working and committed. When things go wrong, we don't let them get us down. We "suck it up" and make a new plan. Maybe it's the Irish in us or the Midwestern heritage in me and the New Englander in him but it works. 

We also have an innate attitude that you do what you need to do to get the job done. We understand sacrifice, as modeled by our parents. 

Life has dealt us its share of struggles, but we always seem to land in our feet (by the grace of God).

We share a same faith and belief that our vows mean something. We take the whole "for better, for worse, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, in good times and bad, until death do us part" seriously. We know it won't all be as exhilarating as our dating period was. We know marriage takes work and we are learning what that means every day. Sometimes we are doing well, and sometimes we struggle. Through all this we hold onto our love, our faith, the belief that we are each other's "person" and we are in this life together, wherever it may lead.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cauliflower Goulash Mashup

In my efforts to eat more whole foods, I am always looking for ways to still have the recipes I love without the refined carbs. I have found that vegetables can be used in replace of bread, rice and pasta in many dishes such as: spaghetti squash in replace of spaghetti noodles, zucchini sliced longways to substitute for lasagna noodles, zucchini sliced in half lengthwise and covered in sauce, cheese and toppings in replace of a french bread pizza, cauliflower riced and used in cabbage rolls, cauliflower mashed to replace potatoes and cauliflower "potato" salad.

So, when my husband asked for one of our favorite family recipes - Hungarian Goulash, I decided to try to find a way to replace the macaroni noodles.

Cauliflower - Goulash Mash up

  • I began by making cooking up about 1 cup diced onion and 1 cup diced green peppers in a stock pot with some coconut oil. 
  • Once the onions were translucent, I added in about 1-1/2 lbs ground turkey. 
  • Once the turkey was cooked through, I drained the excess fat and then separate the mixture into two pots - one for the traditional recipe and one for my mashup. 
  • I added to both pots a 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes and two 16 ounce cans of tomato sauce with about a 1/2 can of water. 
  • I added into each pot salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Next, I added about 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil and 1/4 cup Parmesan-Romano cheese to each pot.
  • Meanwhile, I boiled two pots of water and added the macaroni noodles to one pot and chopped, fresh cauliflower in a steamer basket to the other. 
  • When the noodles were soft, I added them to one pot.
  • When the cauliflower was tender, I drained the basket and added it to the second pot.
  • After letting each pot cook for 10 minutes on medium, dinner was served!

The verdict? 

A perfect mashup. I got all the yummy flavor of the goulash without the refined carbs.

What are your go to mash ups?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

7 Tools to Help Keep Your Diet Resolution

We are at that point in the New year when 50 percent of people have, by now, ditched their resolution. 

How are you doing? 

Did you have a diet or exercise related resolution that you may need some help sticking too?

Well, if you have fallen off the wagon it really is not too late. Making an investment in your health is a lifelong journey. And for those who particularly struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, the journey is often one of two steps forward, three steps back. The key is getting back on the trail no matter how long  or how far the detour.

This year, my health related resolution is consistency. Consistency is my downfall. Having been on a diet of some sort or the other since I was NINE, I really do know what to eat and what not to eat. I know 80 percent of success is in nutrition. I know my specific health issues require me to eat a protein based diet and to stay away from sugar, soy, gluten and non-food ingredients like caramel color and HFCS. It really is just a matter of me consistently putting my knowledge in to practice.

I have fallen to the "all or nothing" trap so many times. I have gone deprivation or glutton and every step in between. All this yoyo dieting the past four years has resulted in my scale going up and down the same 20 pounds, with each cycle netting a softer, more squishy physique.  I am now dedicated to a sensible, primarily clean eating, protein-based, sugar-free lifestyle. I have a food formula that I know works. I will allow myself planned treats and not go off the deep end, throwing all my progress down the drain, when I have them. I know the 20 percent part of the equation is still important and am committing to consistent exercise with a HIIT program to help blast the fat and replace it with muscle. I will take daily, small positive steps toward change and keep my eye on my goal of losing 30-40lbs by summer. The number is variable because muscle weighs more than fat, and I am more interested in how my body looks and feels and my clothes fit than a certain number on the scale.

Below are 7 Tools to Help You Stick to a Diet Resolution:

The Why Bracelet

I wanted to have a visual reminder that will keep my reasons for getting to a healthy weight and shape in front of me at all times to help me resist temptation and get over the deprivation I feel sometimes when faced with foods I love but know are toxic for me. I decided to create my own bracelet using the popular snake chain and beads. I chose beads that had personal meaning to my health goals:

  • a bead with the faces of children
  • two beads that say family
  • a red dress to remind me of the great clothes awaiting me in my closet when I trim down
  • a bead that says "live, love, laugh" to know I will do that longer when healthy
  • a red heart to remind me that I need to reduce my risk for heart disease
  • a bathing suit to inspire me to feel better on Spring Break and at the pool
  • "Best Mom" bead because I am a better mom when I am a healthy mom
  • a sneaker to remember what it feels to be an athlete
  • a heart that says "wife" because I want to be a sexy one

The bracelet costs me approximately $55.

Bikini Body Mommy 3.0 Challenge

Bikini Body Mommy is an online workout program developed by a mom who lost 100 pounds. She films her challenge workout videos in her home with her child beside her getting in the way just like mine and my dog do. She is relatable, open, and real and thousands are following her challenges. On Jan. 5, I joined her 3.0 Challenge. The workouts are about 20 minutes a day and I am committed to getting them in every day for 90-days. I joined a Facebook group of others going through the challenge and have an online accountability partner to stay encouraged.

Purpose and Pause Planner

The Purpose and Pause Planner is a planner I designed because I wanted one place to go to set my yearly, monthly and weekly goals, track progress, plan my month/week/day, journal and track my food. While I do use My Fitness Pal, I cannot always log it immediately on the phone app. I like to have a place to write it down first.

4 Key Apps

My favorite fitness apps are My Fitness Pal to track my overall goal (weight, nutrition, exercise, etc), Pacer to track my daily steps (and it syncs with My Fitness Pal), Move to remind me hourly to get up and move with suggested activity prompts and Workouts for a quick video-led workout I can do on the go with whatever time I have.

Sunday Prep Day

Fail to plan and plan to fail. Sunday is my day to plan the week's menu and prep food from breakfast and dinners to snacks. Consistently setting this prep time ensures I can make good choices when busy, tired and stressed during the work/school week.

What tools for success do you use to keep you on track?