By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
One of my favorite things to do while growing up was to visit my grandmother’s homes on both sides of my family. I think everyone enjoyed it! I have to mention that while some people have “cookie” Grandmas, I had TWO "ice cream Grandmas!” My Grandma Durrant always had her freezer stocked with a favorite flavor at a moment’s notice. And my Grandma Tenney would let us sit on her back porch and grind the handle of the old-fashioned ice cream maker with a fresh cream mixture until the ice cream was nice and thick! YUM! So, was it the ice cream factor that made my Grandmas' homes such special places to visit? Being the ice cream lover that I am, I confess my answer to that question: “YES!”
But, of course, there was more -- much more!
In fact, everything in my grandmothers' homes spoke in a special way to my heart:
Don’t we all want that kind of a home? A home filled with warmth and love! Happily, it is something we can all achieve with work, creativity, time, and a whole lot of help from above! One song that describes this loving ambiance we want in our homes is called, “Home,” written by Caroline Eyring Miner:
Home is where the heart is
Where warmth and love abound
Home is where encircling arms
Go all the way around.
--by Caroline Eyring Miner
A home, as we all know, is more than just the furniture and the stuff we own. It is made up of the people who live there – our family! Therefore, in order for a home to have that ambiance of love that we desire, one of the most important things we can do is to prioritize our time to strengthen our relationships with our families.
In families, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
Time spent with our families is a true investment that pays long term dividends. When we spend time with our family, we increase our family’s capacity to feel loved and secure in our home. What we are really saying is, “I have time for you. You are important to me.” Time spent with family doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but both quantity as well as quality are important and consistency is key.
How do YOU spell love with your family? What message are you sending with the events on your calendar? Here are a few ways that strong families send their families a little love note to pump up the love-meter in their homes:
1. Set aside a weekly family night – What could be better than a time reserved just for your family each week where you all have a blast together?! Start out with one and build up to planning out a few at a time. Keep it simple or spruce it up. Just make it a night that the whole family looks forward to! It’s a great time to teach your family values as well as life skills. Play games and activities or go on outings! Maybe even work on a project together once in a while! And always – I mean ALWAYS - include a special treat!
2. Set aside a weekly family planning meeting – This is a great time to calendar events, share goals and dreams, and express ideas that will strengthen your family and leave everyone feeling calm and reassured. What can you do to assist them? How can they in turn help the family run more smoothly? You can do this as part of your weekly family night or at dinner. Just find whatever time works best for your family.
3. Individual Attention – One-on-one time with your children can be an effective way to connect with them even if it’s only a few minutes a day. Maybe you do this as you prepare dinner together, go on a short outing, run an errand together, or enjoy a special bedtime routine. Letting them talk about whatever is on their mind and really listening to them without judgment or criticism will help them to feel important and loved.
4. Unplug – In a world that is running at breakneck speed, we don’t want our families to get lost in the shuffle. So be sure to take a little time each day AWAY from phones, computers, television, and so on, not only to benefit yourself, but so that the whole family can really connect. This electronic free time becomes your chance to look each other in the eyes, talk together, laugh together and learn from one another, so don’t let it pass you by!
5. Eat meals together - Even if you can’t do it for every meal of every single day, do what you can to regularly schedule this important time together. Making it a priority to eat together blesses our families tremendously! Children whose families eat together not only develop healthier eating patterns and have better health, but they have a better vocabulary and academic performance, a higher self-esteem, a greater sense of reliance, and a lower risk of depression, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.
6. Make and keep family traditions – Silly or special, extensive or simple, taking time to infuse family traditions lights a spark of joy and love in families. Some families have a song or a cheer. Some gather for a family prayer and group hug before heading out the door each morning. Some explore a special place each year. It really doesn’t matter what the tradition is, only that you do it and remember to keep doing it. Whether it’s as simple as having green eggs and ham on St. Patrick’s Day, strawberry pancake stacks on Valentine’s, or a treasure hunt on birthdays to find the presents, traditions not only give children something fun to look forward to, but help them to feel emotionally supported.
My grandmothers always had time for their family. They could have done a million other things, but instead they chose us. They turned on the love-meter in their homes by including us in their lives - teaching us how to do ceramics, raking the leaves together, playing a game of cards, going for a walk together to the post office. The ambiance in their homes was more than just physical surroundings, although that was certainly part of it. By opening up their calendars, what they were doing in essence was allowing us the time to open up our hearts to them, time with which they could then use to share their powerful influence for good. Now that’s what I call time well spent!
Ericka Moore, Momivate's Energy CouncilMom, provided this recipe! (Note: my twelve-year old son will eat kale like this!)
Baked Kale Chips
1-2 bunches of kale
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
Sprinkle of salt
Set oven to 350 degrees
Wash and dry kale. Cut into bite sized pieces
Toss with olive oil, nutritional yeast and salt
Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Place into oven for 10 minutes
If kale is not as crispy as you like, place back into the oven for 2-5 minute increments until crispy. Kale may appear brown when crispy.
By Momivate's "Atmosphere" CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
Mom must have been magic!
Really! Everything she touched in the kitchen tasted like gold in your mouth! (well, except for liver and onions – but hey, I’ll forgive her for that!) But seriously - melt-in-your-mouth rolls, warm creamy soups, comforting casseroles, tantalizing roast beef dinner, savory shepherd’s pie…I could go on and on!
Just what is it that made Mom’s cooking so great?! Was it the splendor of eating in a palatial hall on bona fide China? Was it that she served a 7- course meal made purely from scratch? Or was it that she spent the entire day slaving away in the kitchen?
Hardly! Mom was -- and still is -- a fantastic cook and hard worker to boot, but practicality has always been a quality that was surely at the forefront of her mind. You and I both know the real reason for that mouth-watering taste of home: Mom served every meal with a heaping spoonful of her secret ingredient . . . LOVE.
Yep! I knew that she loved me when I ate it. I’m quite sure that I didn’t fully recognize it then -- in fact, I probably underappreciated her efforts. Regardless, her secret was there - sort of an underlying message that would waft through the kitchen and down the hall, whispering for us to keep coming back – back to the kitchen, back to the table, back to the warmth of her influence – sign, sealed, and delivered with a kiss.
So how do WE do that, Moms? How do we, with limited time and means, and sometimes limited skills in the kitchen, infuse as much love into the process so that even if it’s not their favorite dish, our families KNOW that we love them when they eat it?
Here are a few ideas to add to a list of your own fabulous ideas:
Plan ahead – Nothing says “stress” in the kitchen quicker than not having a meal ready when hungry tummies come calling. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the “hangries” and that doesn’t even come close to that warm feeling we are trying to create. So, what can we do to avoid this? Mom took a few minutes each day to prepare the meal – taking the meat from the freezer to the fridge the night before or squeezing in a few minutes in the morning to start the crockpot going. Many moms also plan out meals a week or so in advance so they can add items to the grocery list for a one-stop trip. Let’s see, anything special this week? Andrea’s birthday cake on Friday and the potluck social on Saturday. And of course, we’re really busy on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we need a quick and easy option for those nights. Some families choose to make it simple by assigning a theme to every day – something like: Mondays – Italian, Tuesdays – Taco Tuesdays, Wednesdays – soup or salad, Thursdays – crockpot dinner, Friday – pizza night, Saturday – leftovers, Sunday – sweet and simple. What kind of plan would work best for your family?
Bring along a helper or two – If you’re like just about every mom on the planet, you don’t have a lot of time to spare, so why not engage your mini chefs? That seemed to be the way it was with Mom. We not only felt her love with the delivery of the meal, but she infused an extra sprinkle of love into the meal by including us in the very process. There we were, side by side, where she gave one-on-one instruction on peeling the carrots, shredding the cheese, chopping the bananas, and browning the hamburger, all the while sharing stories and building trust. When my children were small, I tweaked this a little bit. I found it to be more than a little chaotic and unsafe with everyone “helping” in the kitchen all at once. So, I capitalized on their interest and willingness to help at a young age by assigning one child per day to help me with meal prep. With only one child to focus on, I found it was a lot of fun. And if my children made it, they usually ate it too! After a few years, I put them in charge of making one dish for the meal and eventually the entire meal with me there to supervise if there were questions. When time came for them to walk out the door to go to college, they had become great cooks and could really fend for themselves! Now that’s love in your pocket!
Eat together as much as possible – Thinking back to those growing up years with Mom, I realize that it wasn’t so much WHAT we were eating as that we were eating together. Mom not only took time to make it just for us, but then she ate WITH us. That fact helped us feel that we were the most special people in her life. She had time for us. Dinner became a time to linger longer and talk it out. What was funny? What was hard? What did we do when we were little? What did we learn in school? What was important to us now? She learned from us and we in turn learned from her – manners, values, attitudes, beliefs, her life lessons, how to laugh at life, how to get along with each other, and how to tackle the hard stuff that life threw at you.
These are just a few of the little things that strong families are made of and can create a bit of heaven in our homes. In fact, that idea reminds me that one time in her late teens, my youngest sister said, “Do you know what heaven is going to be like? It’s going to be just like this – all of us sitting around a table and visiting and laughing while we enjoy good meals.” Well, I’m all for that – especially if it includes a little homemade pie with ice cream! So, whether it’s a fancy night of chicken cordon bleu or a simple PB&J sandwich, trust that you’ve got that special ingredient right up your sleeve, ready to make any meal a magical memory.
My twin daughters are in a kickboxing class at the local community college and this video was assigned to them as homework. It struck me as so simple that it is well worth the couple of minutes to review information we likely are already aware of but need continual reminders about. Moms, this is what we do -- we are the reminders, the repeaters, the consistent, kind, and friendly reviewers and encouragers!
From the YouTube Description:
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery. This short animated video explores the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and helps people understand the practical strategies and ways they can begin developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. To learn more about SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative, click here.
In each passing mortal hour
All around me there is need,
There are hearts that yearn and tears that fall
And hungry souls to feed.
I must seek the Spirit's wisdom,
Learn compassion's gentle art,
For I cannot give with empty hands
Nor love with barren heart.
If I would bear my brother's burden,
If I would share my sister's grief,
Extend the hand of sweet compassion,
Offer the weary ones relief,
If I would ease the thirst of strangers,
And serve His children heart and hand,
I must drink of Heaven's wells o'erflowing,
I must learn to fill the well within.
I will serve my Savior gladly,
Seek his little lambs who stray;
But if I would lead them safely home,
I must know the way.
I must seek for understanding
That I may teach His children well,
If I seek to fill the soul athirst,
I must first be filled.
That I may bear my brother's burden,
That I may share my sister's grief,
Extend the hand of sweet compassion,
Offer the weary ones relief,
That I may ease the thirst of strangers,
And serve His children heart and hand,
I must drink of Heaven's wells o'erflowing,
I must learn to fill the well within.
By Sally DeFord
By Ericka Moore, Momivate's Director of Energy (Eating, Exercise, and Sleep)
It’s not a coincidence that this blog is addressing the importance of breast milk during the month of March. March 8th is International Women’s Day and March 3 is IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Day. Both days commemorate women’s achievements—and why not spend a moment discussing breast milk? It is a wonderful accomplishment for a mother to be able to provide this gift for her baby. Granted, it is easier for some mothers than others. There is also a social, political, economic undercurrent to the very act of providing breast milk—which is a discussion for another day. I just want to go back to basics and focus on the awesomeness of breast milk.
Why is breast milk important?
I know there is a ton of information on breastfeeding from a variety of sources. Which positions are best? What pump to use? Should I use a pump? How do you know baby is getting enough milk? It can be overwhelming at times to figure out who or what to listen to.
Why is there an emphasis on feeding your child breast milk? What’s so great about it? When I nursed my first child, I didn’t have this information. I didn’t participate in a breastfeeding class because I thought I could wing it and ask for help when needed. Knowing what I know now, I highly suggest taking a breastfeeding class and speaking to an experienced Mom who has nursed her own child.
Simply put, breast milk is made specifically for humans. It’s your baby’s first food. It contains the perfect blend of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and antibodies. Breast milk is easily digestible and is specifically made for the needs of your baby; it is a living item. In other words, breastmilk operates like an attendant at your local drive-through restaurant. When a baby latches to a breast, messages from his/her saliva are transmitted to the mother and the mother’s body adjusts the components of the breast milk for that session. In fact, the composition of breast milk varies throughout the day, depending on the needs of the baby. If a baby needs more carbs during the morning and more fat during the afternoon, no problem! Mom is able to produce the right combination for her child.
This process is also used when making antibodies to combat illnesses. A baby can communicate his/her needs for specific antibodies through saliva. Mom also participates in this process. When a mother encounters various pathogens in her environment, she immediately begins producing antibodies and other immune factors to protect the baby from illness. This is the reason babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and other illnesses.
Another plus to providing breast milk for your child is early exposure to Mom’s diet. When breastfeeding, mother’s milk carries traces of food flavor which introduces and trains her child to appreciate variety. So, in essence, you are already training your child to appreciate fruits and veggies. That sounds fantastic to me. Breast milk is a glorious gift.
Mothers—and those who support them in giving this gift—should be thanked. Not just on their days of celebration, but every day!
By Alana Hutchins, Momivate Director of Energy
Have you ever wondered to yourself, What should I eat to be healthy? High-protein or low-protein? Low-fat dairy or whole milk or paleo? Whole grains or gluten free? Fruit or no fruit? High-fat or low fat? There are innumerable voices out there claiming different and even opposite messages, but the good news is, a lot of the basic diets have some common sense similarities. Michael Pollan claims, “the authority of tradition and common sense” to help us navigate this strange new eating world that has made a once simple activity into an entire field of scientific study and a multibillion dollar industry.
We live in a bleak landscape of SAD- the Standard American Diet. The SAD is generally characterized by high intakes of red meat, processed meat, pre-packaged foods, butter, candy and sweets, fried foods, refined grains, high-fructose corn syrup, high-sugar drinks, and low intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed animal products, fish, nuts, and seeds.
If you want to live your best and most healthful life, start to look at what God has already given you- whole plant foods. The more a food is broken down into different components and reconstructed for taste and shelf life, the less of a food it becomes and the more of a food approximation or an “edible food-like substance.” Forget the lotions and potions, powders and shakes- that’s not food, those are simply food products. If it has more than five ingredients or you don’t recognize the words in the ingredient list, then chances are, it was developed by a food scientist and not a farmer. Most of what we are consuming today is not food, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone — is not really eating. Many of these food facsimiles come packaged with health claims which should be our first clue they are anything but healthy.
In the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by single nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The professionalism of nutrition, or “nutritionism”, for the past fifty years has made America anything but healthier, quite the opposite. Americans are sicker and fatter than ever. This belief system assumes that the key to understanding food is the single nutrient, disregarding the fact that natural foods are a symphony of complex compounds and chemicals that science has yet to all discover, never mind understand how they act in concert with one another. Layer on top of that the complexities of a traditional diet, and trying to sell health as a single macronutrient (think “High-Protein) is laughable.
The real food, the food your great grandmother would recognize as food, sits quietly on the perimeter of the grocery stores, with its naturally bright coloring and unassuming packaging. I can hear you saying now, but what about protein shakes and power bars- those are healthy right? “Good” for you food is a spectrum and a power bar might be better than a bag of chips, but your safest bet is nuts and a piece of whole fruit as a healthy go-to snack.
In other words, try to eat a Whole Foods, Plant based diet. Think beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Potatoes with the skins on, lentil curry, fresh salads with olive oil and vinegar, hummus with crudités. No more counting calories, or grams, or desperately trying to remember the difference between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Vitamin supplements just turn into expensive urine and they are in NO WAY a substitute for fruits and vegetables. Consuming a diet rich in whole plant foods is the best way to avoid chronic diseases in the future including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and even autoimmune diseases. Eating does not have to be complicated, simple is usually best, but it will take more time to plan ahead and prepare than just grabbing a Cliff bar or downing an energy shake. A landmark study known as the China Project, combined with laboratory findings—conclusively demonstrated the dangers of a diet high in animal protein and the amazing health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. You say, yeah I’d like to be healthy but I’m not going vegan, that’s just too hard! Life can get crazy, so if you are hitting your whole-foods plant-based diet 80-90% of the time, you are doing awesome and keep up the good work! You will receive 80-90% of the benefits.
You might also say, yeah but I still have baby weight I want to lose and all the sources I read say to eat a diet low in “carbs” and high in protein. Isn’t losing weight healthy? This approach to weight loss, based on the ketogenic effect, or keto diets for short, involves cutting way back on carbohydrates, to 50 grams a day or less, to help the body achieve a state of ketosis, in which it has to burn fat (rather than sugar) for energy. This diet, like most diets, does work to help control weight gain and even induce weight loss in the short term, but it is hard to stick with long term. Most people will regain a lot of the weight they lost as soon as they go back on carbs. It is an issue with any fad diet, but it seems to be extra common with ketosis. Stop looking at short term effects rather than your long term goals of remaining healthy over a life span and look twenty years down the road to a life free of heart-disease and cancer. There are other dangerous side effects that can come from approaching the keto diet the wrong way including fatigue, decreased performance, head-aches, diarrhea, and even halitosis (bad breath.) Think of meat as a side dish or garnish, rather than the principal component of the meal.
When you are in the supermarket try to avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or include high-fructose corn syrup. For that matter, all diets out there pretty much agree that sugars, including corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, are unnecessary foods and should be reduced as much as possible or eliminated completely.
Unfortunately there is one fairly obvious problem with all this advice: Americans don’t primarily eat food that comes in a box with a long list of “health claims” because we actually think it is healthier than a home-cooked meal. We do so because it is convenient, often cheaper, and we are addicted to high-fructose corn syrup, salt, and saturated fat laced in almost every food product. There is no silver bullet for changing our lifestyles and improving our health. It takes commitment, a dedication of monetary resources, hard work, and a certain amount of self-denial. On the upside though, measure that against reclaiming the pleasures of eating real foods, becoming your healthiest and most energetic self, and taking control of your own table.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, 2008
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II, 2004
PHOTO CREDITS: Alana Hutchins
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