Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Healthier Holiday

A couple good friends and I are putting on a Facebook event tonight for tips, recipes, and ideas on how to have A Healthier Holiday season.

Just click on the link and join in through Facebook tonight at 7:30 PM CST.  Would love to have you join us!  I always love hearing what others share what they do to de-stress, or what recipes they love.  I get such inspiration from other people's good habits ;)

I will be sharing quite a bit about allergen-friendly holiday tips too!

And to kick us off, here are three of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes:
Cranberry Carrot Slaw
No-Bake Black-bottom Peanut Butter Pie
Lemon Oil Chess Pie

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pineapple Marshmallow Walnut Salad

This was one of my most favorite treats to have growing up (although, to be fair it was often served and eaten as a "side" here in the South :).  With the recent upgrades in the non-dairy world, I was super pumped to find this dairy-free Coconut Cool-whip alternative!

I will be bringing this to Thanksgiving this year as a side dish, in true Southern fashion ;).  It's also great to take to potlucks so there is an allergy-friendly treat there.
It's nothing fancy, but super yum :P

Pineapple Marshmallow Walnut Salad

dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, can be nut free if you leave out walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tub Coconut whipped topping
  • 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 small, 6 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained of juice
  • 1/2 cup marshmallows of choice
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Method: 

  • Stir all ingredients together in bowl.
  • Let sit in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to re-set. 
  • Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Post Adoption

Our First Family Photo
Yesterday was World Adoption Day.  Inspired by all my adoptive mama friends who were posting pictures, I went back and looked through my first pictures of my children.  

These are our first pictures taken as a family, and while you may notice that our kids are super cute, I can't help but remember the feelings of that woman in this picture!  Overwhelmed, excited, nervous, inadequate, fearful, unsure about what the next hour would hold.  We had only been a family for a week in this photo and I was exhausted by the adjustment!  

I loved seeing all the excitement about adoption yesterday!  It's a great time of year to increase awareness about what can be done for children around the world.
This post, though, is for those moms and dads who have already brought their children home.  Post-Adoption Day/ week/ month/ year is where we need each other the most.

Maybe you feel like this woman in this picture, like I did.  Maybe you feel scared and afraid to hope for much.  Let me say, "It gets SO much better!  You don't have to risk hoping if you can't do that right now- call someone who will step in and hope for you!"

Maybe you feel exhausted, let me validate that feeling for you!  The beginning is nothing short of a marathon run, bringing two or three families together at one time, meeting so many needs in such a short time while trying to remember to eat and sleep is overwhelming.  If you feel this way, you are not alone!

Or maybe you feel numb.  You have taken on a huge responsibility and this child is having such a hard time!  Your love for your child grew and grew in your heart until you took them home, and then all of a sudden your expectations of how it would feel were shattered.  All that you have tried doesn't seem to help much and you are feeling the beginnings of some darkness you didn't know was there before all of this.

I have not talked with an adoptive mother yet, and I have talked with many, who has not gone through at least one of these things.  Here is where many would say, "reach out to people" or give you a list of things to do to "make it through".  I'm less about the doing these days and more about the being.  Be vulnerable with friends and family.  If you know reaching out is hard, let them know.  There are trustworthy people out there that know what you are going through and want to reach out to you!  

To your friends and family, those who know and love you and know you have recently adopted:  You are the ones who are called to support.   It doesn't have to be complicated, and in fact, it's better if it is simple; more begin with and less trying to do the exact best thing.  If you know someone who you haven't seen for a while and who has recently adopted:

  • call them or send them a note without expectation
  • encourage them with just listening and not trying to fix but sitting with them in their struggle
  • bring them food unannounced
  • you may not be able to stay and chat, but you can give to them in their time of need
  • do their laundry without permission
  • set up times to pray for them throughout the day and let them know your heart for them
  • invite them for some mindless time outside of the house.  
These are the things that got us through and the things I now do for my newer adoptive-parent friends.  People who just sat with us in our pain and struggle were miracles in our worst times.

All the post-adoption feelings, even the ones you are surprised by, are NORMAL feelings.  This is the hard that comes with adoption.  This is also the beauty that grows a work in you that deepens your faith, removes the scales from your eyes to see how God is different from what you thought He was.  How He is much more giving, less micromanaging.  How He has more faith in you, less disappointment.  How He grieves with you, not asks you to do more.  You may not be here yet, but I pray you have someone pouring into you who gives to you in these ways that God does.  And then you can give to others out of being poured into!

These children who I love now with a fierceness came into my home and changed my world.  At the time, and still sometimes, I did not feel the overwhelming calling and goosebumps I did when I knew we were called to adopt.  I also know that it shouldn't have to be this way- adoption is not God's first plan, Wholeness is.  I'm living out a Restorative Story that came about through grieving, struggle, and trauma, but is guiding me toward more wholeness than I thought was possible.  I pray that I give to my children more and more out of my whole-heartedness.  And I pray for you new adoptive parents- that you may have people in your life that give to you out of their whole-heartedness too.

And because they are insanely precious and I can't stand how tiny they are here, I'm posting a few other pictures of our first two weeks together as a new family:






Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Semi-Homemade Strawberry Frosting

There once was a time when I made everything for our family from scratch.  Lately, I have been more in a semi-homemade mode.  Or, to be honest, a lets go get something out and supplement with green smoothies afterwards mode!!

So I will be posting more recipes for those of us who are just plain busy, tired, or simply need some inspiration in the kitchen!  Did I used to bake professionally?  That feels like another person in another life!

Every now and then a product comes along that I get super-duper excited about!  These pre-made frostings from Miss Jones are one of those products!  They are dairy and egg FREE!!!
And BONUS: They are made in a nut-free facility so you can send them to school for cupcakes or cookie decorating parties.  This is huge since most schools will only allow pre-packaged goods in classrooms!

This frosting recipe also uses organic freeze-dried strawberries.  Freeze-dried fruit is a great way to add color to a frosting without any artificial dyes.  I'm beginning to feel great about not making this from scratch ;)

Semi-Homemade Strawberry Frosting

(gluten and dairy-free, dye-free, and vegan-friendly)
Makes enough to abundantly frost 14 cupcakes 

Ingredients

  • 1 jar of Miss Jones Organic Vanilla Frosting
  • 1 bag of Organic Freeze-dried Strawberries (I usually find these at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Trader Joe's)

Method

  • TIP:  If your jar of Miss Jones Frosting has separated a bit, it might be because it got too hot in shipping or in your car home from the store :)  Don't worry- it doesn't have any unnatural preservatives or stabilizers so that can happen.   Just beat it in a bowl with a hand-held mixer for 1-2 minutes.  
  • Blend the bag of freeze-dried strawberries in a high-powered blender until they are a fine powder.  I use my Vitamix.  Be sure to remove anything from the bag that is not strawberries!  The TJ's brand sometimes comes with a pouch in it!!
  • Add the powder mixture to the frosting in a bowl and mix with a hand-mixer for 1-2 minutes.
  • Fill a piping bag and pipe, or just frost with a knife.
  • I refrigerate in an air-tight container if there are leftovers.
Enjoy with some dairy-free coffee.  Check out my Instagram for the recipe :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vegan Cucumber Dip

Today is Treat Yoself Day in our home :)  I love my grandmothers cucumber dip with a passion!  I often want it for a treat.  However, for me, her version is no longer a possibility because it is made with real cream cheese.  We are a no-dairy home.  Up until recently, I have not found a great cheese- anything sub that I just really, really love!  Especially in the cream cheese department!

Enter: Kite Hill Cheese.  This stuff is made only for Whole Foods, I believe.  I found it a couple weeks ago and now it is a staple.  It is the. best. cream. cheese.  I'm serious.  And it's vegan, made from almond milk and cultures.  Go get some.  (no, they are not paying me :) it's just that good!)

This is my Grandmother's Cucumber Dip recipe made with Kite Hill vegan cream cheese.  It will make a great vegan-friendly party dip or for your chips and dip on your own "Treat Yoself Day".  You're welcome ;)


Vegan Cucumber Dip

Gluten-free , Makes 8 oz.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tub Kite Hill Chive Cream Cheese Style Spread (can also use plain and add salt to taste)
  • 3" of an organic cucumber, peeled
  • 1 small piece of raw onion, about a quarter sized amount

Method:

  • Empty the tub of cream cheese into a bowl.
  • Using a Microplane or a zester,, shave the peeled cucumber into the bowl of cream cheese.  Do the same with the onion.  You can also scrape it into tiny pieces (smaller than minced) with a knife, but only if you are awesome like my Grandma :)
  • Stir all ingredients together and enjoy.
  • Save the tub and store the leftover dip in it.
  • Serve with chips or raw veggies.  It's also great with the rest of the cucumber from the recipe!



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Imperfect People Going Forward


Oh, world of Parenting Strategies!  How you love to intimidate and imply that there are ways to be perfect....or better yet, that there are ways to get our children to be perfect!

Oh, wait!  You don't love to do that?  That isn't a thing?

Then WHY do we all feel so much shame and guilt after reading a book, hearing another parent's success story on Facebook, or after a parenting strategy goes wrong (read: it didn't fix it!).  From tips to getting your baby to sleep to our Facebook news feed to the parenting paradigm that I train parents in, Trust-Based Relational Interventions, there are ways to hear strategies, others' stories, and information through the lens of our own insecurities.  There are ways that shame will creep in...

And there isn't really any blame to be given to the person who wrote that book, gave that parenting lesson, or who encouraged you to try ____.

The culprit is Shame itself. 
Can we all join together and fight it as one united front?  Embracing our Not-Rightness and choosing to be with one another in Love?

Very often, I am wrestling with the fact that I train other parents but also very much mess up with my own children a TON.  I sometimes cry out, "How has someone allowed me to be in this role???"  David, my ever-wise husband, usually responds to me with this mantra he made up:  "We are not here to model how to be perfect or how to do this perfectly; we are here to model how to be on the Journey as an Imperfect Person!"

Imperfection Going Forward!

It's a thing.  I promise.
 
Notice I didn't say Imperfection staying Stuck!  Imperfection does NOT equal "Stuck".  I think Shame has succeeded in keeping so many of us parents stuck as well.

Do you feel yourself going round and round in your head ending up back where you started with a certain problem?  Do you feel like there is so much that you "lack" that you don't even know where to begin?  Do you feel like you are fine one minute and then the next time something hard comes along, whether it be your children screaming or another outside circumstance, you feel like a fog has descended and you cannot remember how you were fine before?  These are all examples of feeling Stuck.  Stuck-ness is not moving forward.  Sometimes there are paths that we need to face and step forward in so that we may continue on our journey, not a journey toward perfection, but simply a Journey Forward towards healing and Hope.

I have decided that Imperfection Going Forward will be my new motto!  This is the way I will lead my children through the Journey by going first myself! 

So often I find myself wanting my children to take a journey that I haven't even begun yet.  For example, I want my 8 year old to be "OK" when she is stressed out by my 5 year old who yell-sings about 60% of the day, BUT I'm not OK when he does that!  I'm not even a little OK!  I have auditory sensitivities to that; I get triggered by it; he cannot hear me and it feels like my voice isn't important; I am tempted to lash out and control his little voice at all costs so It. Will. Stop!  I have to journey forward in this area before I have expectations of her.  I cannot expect her to go further along than I have in an area we both struggle in.  When I learn how to give him grace when he struggles, then she will be able to do that too.  When I learn how to hold tight to who I am when I am triggered, she will see how to do that too.  When I hold tight to Hope in the midst of struggle so that I can move forward, she will learn how to do that too!

And Hope going Forward, even with all my mistakes and mishaps I have made and will make, is indeed Possible.
I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when it is painful!  Sometimes that looks like remembering the Truth about myself when my outside circumstances seem to descend on my brain with a fog of lies.  Sometimes it looks like talking to someone when I feel stuck.  Sometimes it looks like giving myself Grace.

No matter what it looks like, each day, I will try to model being an Imperfect person, but one who continues on the Journey and is moving Forward!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Raspberry Frozen Yogurt


Here is a quick recipe for an afternoon frozen treat because: school!  Mom is jazzing up afternoons because it's been one of those weeks!  Three kids adjusting to school, trying to make new friends, and being just plain exhausted is, well, exhausting!  So quick and easy Frozen Raspberry Yogurt it is, with only 3 ingredients (Dairy, egg, and soy-free of course over here;).  This stuff can save homework time!

Vegan Raspberry Fro-Yo

Ingredients

1 bag organic frozen raspberries (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp lemon juice or 2 drops lemon essential oil (brings out flavor of raspberries)
1 container of Co-yo coconut milk yogurt or other plain yogurt of choice
Optional: sweetener of choice

Method

Blend all together in a high powered blender and eat!  Top with fresh raspberries or Enjoy Life

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Real Life Parenting


"How do you do it?"
"How does she manage to do it so well?"
"I don't know how (insert name of mom who looks like she does it well on social media) does it so much better than everyone else."

"If I could only just______ then I know my child will get better."
"Is it really OK to not get it right, to mess up a lot?  Is it more important to say you are sorry than to get it right?"
"What if I damage them permanently?"
"What if they grow up and hate me?"
"What if they grow up and never forgive me for ____"
"What if it's always gonna be like this?"
"I had no idea things would be this hard..."

This is in no way an exhaustive list, but it is a list of things I have heard so many time from either myself, or other loving, dear parents who only want to be good at parenting and love on their kids well.

I have had something brewing in my brain over the past couple years.  We did not become parents in the conventional way; however, we have learned that there are common themes of struggle that all parents share and common misconceptions that keep parents isolated, where fear seems to win out and shame can reign unchecked.

This is what I want to fight against.

So in my small attempt to combat shame, fear, and isolation, I have started Periscope-ing!  What is Periscope?  It's like Instagram with videos...at least that is how I think of it as an old-fogie!  You can find me @pumpkinspantry with the search feature if you have the app.  You don't have to have a log-in, you can watch them from anywhere if you know the link.  However, if you do create a log-in, it will notify you when people you follow are broadcasting live. 

I will be interviewing people.  Our first one is here, but will expire at the end of today.  I'm working on creating a Vimeo channel in order to keep them online for longer than the 24 hour periscope period.  Also, they will be done with a pod-cast like feel so you can listen to them while folding laundry, washing dishes, headphones in the car so you can't hear your kids type settings :)

Looking forward to highlighting the real, the hope, and the grace with these interviews!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mocha Grasshopper Cookie Pie


Yesterday was my 33 birthday.  I always make my own birthday treat.  It's the one day out of the year where I let myself ignore all my responsibilities and do what I want to do, which is usually bake something chocolatey :).  My older recipe for grasshopper pie is a favorite and very paleo-friendly.

I wanted to make another one with some gluten-free sprouted grains so I came up with a new version.  And to make it extra yummy, I added some espresso powder in the mix.  This is one of my favorite desserts, thus why I chose it for my Happy Birthday to Me treat :).


This recipe uses sprouted flour.  We eat less nuts these days because of food allergies, and thus the limited paleo-friendly options for deserts :).  I try to buy sprouted flours when I can.  I can now find brands like One Degree and To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. in a couple different places in Memphis!  Woot!  This must translate into these kinds of healthy products becoming more available to the world if I can find them here :).

Both of these companies have excellent standards for their food; however, if you want a larger selection of gluten-free sprouted grains then To Your Health is the company to look for or request in your local grocery store.  Sprouted flours are your friends, easier for our tummies to digest.  I don't always eat grains, but when I do, I prefer sprouted (said in the voice of the Dos X man;)


Mocha Grasshopper Cookie Pie 

vegan/gluten-free friendly, nut-free 
makes a 10 inch pie and serves 10-12

Ingredients

For the crust:
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/3 cup sprouted oat flour or sprouted brown rice flour (can substitute 1 cup regular oat or brown rice flour if not sprouted) 
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar or coconut sugar for more of a caramel-like, brown sugar flavor
  • 1/4 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil  [can substitute 1/2 tsp peppermint extract]
  • 1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips, I use the Dark Chocolate kind 
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 6-8 dates (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil [can substitute 1/2 tsp peppermint extract]
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 tsp instant espresso powder 
For the top layer:
  • a 3 oz or 4 oz chocolate bar, I use Endangered Species Dark 72%
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk from a can, full fat
  • 2 drops peppermint essential oil 

Method

Cookie Crust:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • Grease a large glass pie dish with coconut oil.
  • Blend coconut oil and bananas for crust together in blender.
  • Add all other crust ingredients to a bowl and whisk.
  • Stir in banana mixture into dry ingredients.
  • Press the cookie crust into the prepared pie pan by layering parchment over so you can press up the sides of pan.  This will help since the dough will be sticky and wet.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes until the edges begin to brown slightly.
  • Let cool for a while before filling.  When I'm in a hurry- I put the pie pan in the fridge for 15 minutes while I make the filling and the ganache topping.
Filling:
  • While the crust bakes and cools, blend all filling ingredients in a high-powered blender or food-processor. 
  • Pour into your cookie pie crust and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until set before pouring on the ganache (you can also freeze for 15 min if in a hurry :).
Ganache:
  • While the filling sets, heat water for a double boiler or in a small pot.  
  • Use double boiler or a stainless steel bowl over a small pot of simmering water to gently melt the chocolate and coconut milll together.  Stir until completely dissolved.
  • Stir in peppermint oil after this is liquid and pour over pie and tap the whole pie gently to knock out air bubbles from the ganache.
  • Set in refrigerator for 1 hr or freezer 20-30 minutes before pulling out to serve and enjoy! 





Wednesday, August 19, 2015

3 things to read or watch: Connection and Vulnerability

One of my favorite things to do here at Pumpkin's Pantry is provide resources.  I read and watch a lot of things:).  Here is what has been speaking to me or helping me lately in the area of Connection and Vulnerability {and check out my Resources page for more stuff to read or watch}:


Brene Brown's TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability.  It takes vulnerability to be a secure person.  Or maybe it's that Secure People are ok with vulnerability and it's messiness.  Or maybe not really OK, they just do it anyways!  This talk by storyteller/researcher Brown is excellent.  She has spend several years researching vulnerability and shame and her work is so needed in our society!

Jen Hatmaker's new release book, For The Love.  I have been reading it and am halfway through because I pre-ordered it and got some freebies.  Once of which was the pdf of the book a couple months ago!  This book is excellent and contains an anti-comparison undercurrent which is a foe of connection, especially amongst women!

Bonnie Gray's post on being you, learning who you really are, and being at rest with you and your value.  Four Movements to Be Yourself and Be at Rest.  Read her stuff folks.  Her book is in my Resources list too because it is a healing, validating book for those searching through their pasts to understand their present.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Myth of Feeling Settled


A couple months ago I posted this on Instagram: 

Thinking about a lot as I re-nest and settle into a new space...I often have these lofty ideas about feeling "settled". I had actually thought that we could move across the country and in just 2 weeks everything would be in place, the house finished and decorated. Check. This, at least for me!, was an unattainable goal, yet I'm constantly striving for unreachable expectations. I thought about what other areas, what people (read my children!) that I fuss over thinking I can get them to some elusive "settled" place of being. How much do I strive to get the kids all tidied up, have this behavior problem solved, have that issue resolved and grieved over? Check. Moving on so we can focus on bigger, better things (whatever that means!). I'm possibly late to the game on this, but I feel as though I'm finally understanding the beauty of The Journey; and the freedom that comes when that journey, The Process, is all that there really is!



Hello, my name is Eryn, and I am an Expectation Junkie.

How often do we let our expectations of some unattainable goal, some lofty ideal for our children's behavior, or some burden we have placed on ourselves to rule our days and weeks?  Do we ever get to where we want to be?

How much disappointment do we live with under the weight of our unmet expectations of ourselves and our children and how much of that disappointment turns to shame?

I'm thinking of myself, my own children, and the many parents I have worked with. having the privilege to walk beside in their own journeys with their families.  We all so very much want to have our homes in order, our lives in order; everything in a place, every kid's strange behaviors in a box, carefully tucked away.  I was listening to a TED Talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability where she said that the field of social work/ helping others is messy.  She claimed that she was more of a "Life is Messy, Clean it up, Organize it and put it into a Bento Box" kind of person ;) We can all relate to that right?

That bento box life, though, is not real life!  And here is the trouble with the burden of expecting to be able to carry out a bento box life-  your expectations will inevitably lead you to shame.  And shame is not our birthright, friends!  It definitely loves to lurk arougnd like it is, but it isn't!

///

Two months ago, I began an experiment to not have expectations of my children.  I tried letting go of expectations of them for a whole day, having a low bar with just simple respect and not hurting anyone as the baseline :).  I think I lasted until we got into the car!  This experiment quickly showed me how many expectations I have for myself as a parent!  Then I tried not having any expectations for myself and that only lasted about 10 minutes!

I began to notice how many times I said, "I need to...." and "I should..." and "If only I could just...."  All sneaky ways that lofty expectations creep in.  Then I began trying to eliminate these types of phrases from my vocabulary; and by "vocabulary" I mean my talks with myself in my head :)

Over the summer I got the hang of this more and more.  Now, school is in full swing and there are actual expectations of me and my children imposed by others!  With this I am beginning to again feel the tugging in by the myth that I can somehow get to a "settled" place if I just (fill in the blank).

I am learning the balance between structure and just giving my children space to let it all hang out after a day of trying their sweet little best to live up to what is expected of them in the classroom.  I'm re-learning how to have grace with myself for things like not sending in every last school supply on time.

This is hard!  But totally worth it in our journey together as a family.

So join me today, fellow parents and friends, in throwing off expectations- of ourselves and our children!  Maybe it's not all about being settled, arriving at the destination you are hoping for, or achieving some sort of status quo.  Perhaps it is about being settled in the process, the journey of loving, being messy, and living well with others.


I leave you with a quote from a book that comes out today that is a great reminder for me that I am ordinary, even when I'm not "where" I want to be:


Friday, August 14, 2015

Now That the First Week is Behind Us


The first week of school came and went.  This is a solidarity post for all of us who made it through.  They (whoever "they" are) say that three weeks is a magic number for how long it takes children to settle in at school and get in a good rhythm.  That means I'm a third of the way out of the back-to-school adjustment zone!

A Superhero, A Giraffe, and A Honeybee
If you, like me, are a parent of a kindergartener- twelfth grader you might be sleeping in this morning!  You have been handling a lot!

All week long you have:

  • Filled out paperwork
  • Handled melt-downs after school
  • Tried to feed the ravenous beings that get in the car when school lets out so that they don't eat their own arm because they last ate at 10:27 AM!
  • Forgotten about your third child's Kindergarten Parent Night (true story)
  • Cried when you realized a day later that you forgot your last baby's only first Kindergarten Parent Night and there will never be another one of those!
  • Filled out even more paperwork
  • Made a last-minute store run to pick up a bag of candy that your oldest, very responsible child reminded you approximately 997 times that she needed by Friday and you kept responding to those reminders with "I know, it will happen!" and then you realized that there were no more days until "it will happen!" so you sent Dad right to the store after school drop-off with a list only to realize that she still needed colored socks?!? (which you are told serve the purpose of erasers for dry-erase boards, naturally :)
  • Prayed none of your kids would catch the thing that is already going around after one of your kids happily reports that three kids went home from class with a high fever
  • Fixed lunches, snacks, extra water for the one who has to be all the way out in a portable far away from any known source of hydration
  • More paperwork, this time not from the school but from the PTA
  • Forgot someones lunch
  • Forgot to send the right amount of lunch money
  • Tried to find very good hiding places for those bags of candy that your child's sweet teacher gave them on the first day of school when everything was full of promise and hope!
  • Carefully, and stealthily thrown away some of that candy because it contained things your children were allergic to but they were so excited about they just thought one tiny piece would be ok..."just please, please, please, this once- I promise everything will be OK, Mom, please?!"
  • Started fund-raising!  seriously?!  Already, hustling CitySaver Coupon Books so that your middle child can get the beloved Fox Prize (a small light-up fox) all the while thinking she also still gets to keep the coupon books and cried when you told her she had to actually sell them and hand them to the purchasing person, not just get money and get to keep the product ;)
And after all that you are probably just plain tired!

This week on Instagram, I have been sharing some of my tips on how to ease the transition from the hustle and bustle of school back to home.  Helpful things to do to empower our kids for a better evening at home after their little minds are on high alert all day getting used to a thousand new things.  
Today's final tip, though, is just for Parents.  Here it is: 
Take good care of yourself.  Give yourself Grace and Freedom this weekend.  Enjoy having a messy home and less tired feet because you are soaking them in a sea-salt bath instead of cleaning the bathroom that really is past due for a cleaning; take a leisurely stroll around your yard and revel in ALL that you accomplished this week- ALL that your kids accomplished; be tired if you need to be; be a little cranky if you need to vent and commiserate!

Other people teaching our children, how school is much looked forward to throughout the last couple weeks of summer- this is a gift!  We can settle in and be OK with the gift and the hard of going back to school!  So relax, take turns sleeping in!, and validate all that you did for your family this week!  And don't think too much about Monday ;)












Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rock The Lunchbox Vegan Version!


Have you heard of Rock The Lunchbox yet?

I'm all about finding resources for parents- we need all the help we can get sometimes!  Yesterday, I told you about my favorite store-bought snacks for lunches or after school and today I'm coming at you a recent find online: Rock The Lunchbox!  There are hundreds of pictures of home-made kid-approved lunches for inspiration.  The four main companies that are behind Rock The Lunchbox just happen to be regular parts of our lunches too :)  There are coupons on the site for their products.  Go check it out for some ideas, you can even check "gluten-free" and other specific diets!

Today's lunch is very vegan-friendly.  Every now and then we take a break from meat (dairy and eggs we usually don't eat) in our lunches.  Giving up meat isn't a huge deal because protein doesn't have to be much of a concern.  We keep Peas Please from Peeled and fun nut butters around to experiment with.  I love Wild Friend's nut butters because my kids will eat them without any honey or jelly!  Today's main course for lunch is a Sesame Cranberry Peanutbutter Roll-up with a GF tortilla and toothpicks.  Roll it up, place about 6 toothpicks 1"-2" apart, and cut with a serrated knife.

Wild Friend's and Peeled Snacks peas please for some protein 

Another trick I use is to pre-cut an apple into easy to eat slices.  I have a third grader with 5 missing teeth! and loves apples, but right now her few remaining teeth have some challenges with apples :)

TIP: Cut the apple with a peering knife, but not all the way down- stopping a half inch from completing the cut and then wrap a rubber band around the apple.  This way the apple stays whole and doesn't get brown during school!

Finally, I try to always make sure there is a raw crunchy veggie in the mix.  For some reason, when you cut it up into smaller parts, kids seem to like eating their veggies more ;)  My kids even will do raw okra.  (I know- I couldn't believe it myself!  They tried it accidentally one day and then started requesting it?!  So try it with your kids- you never know!)  Top off the lunchbox with a healthy juice-sweetened drink like Honest Kid's and Annie's Organic gummy bunnies (vegan too!) for a treat. 

Now go check out Rock The Lunchbox for more inspiring kid-friendly lunch ideas!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Favorite Snacks On-The-Go


School is here!  So many of you have been dropping off your kids this week or beginning your homeschool curriculums.

Summer Mom is fun isn't she?  She has time for all sorts of pies, and treats, and home-made watermelon desserts, doesn't she?

But school-year Mom is different.  School Year mom needs extra time: more time for loving in the evenings, more time in the morning when someone just cannot find their shoes for the ever-loving 900th time ;), and more time to help ease the big transition back to school.  This is why I choose to cut some time in the kitchen.

The last several years I have researched which pre-packaged snacks I am comfortable with.  They are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.  Some are nut products, some are raw, and some are low glycemic treats and won't break the bank on sugar!

Here is a list of my Go-To Snacks for the School Year:

(And be sure to follow along on Pumpkin's Pantry Instagram for Ideas for the big After-School Transition Time!  And find out more about my family's After-School Routine here)

  • Flavored Nut Butter and Peanut Butter pouches- most of these are around 1 oz. so it's a good size for smaller tummies and also goes great if I remember to grab an apple for them too ;).  My favorite brands are Justin's (peanut butter ones for my kids since a couple of them have almond allergies), Artisana Organics (raw and come in several different nut flavors like walnut and pecan), and Wild Friends (very creative combos of flavors and Non-GMO!  They even have sunflower butter pouches for nut-free.  I usually will keep the Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter for myself as a quick afternoon pick me up with plenty of protein and a tiny bit of caffeine)
  • Dried Fruit Leathers.  When they are on sale I try to get Stretch Island Fruit Co., which are Non-GMO and tasty!  The more affordable option is Target's Simply Balanced fruit strips which my kids love too.
  • Hail Merry's Macaroons (many flavors: strawberry, lemon, caramel, chocolate, vanilla!) are a great treat and one or two is a great snack size for us!  These are Vegan, Raw, Organic, and Non-GMO- nothing to worry about!  They also have individual desserts for the occasional treat.
  • Annie's Homegrown Snacks has two gluten-free and dairy-free (but do contain soy) bunny-graham items in chocolate/vanilla and snicker doodle.  My kids really, really love their gummy bunnies too!
  • Peeled Snacks is this mom's fav-favs!  I fell in love with them several years ago and would order them to my door when I couldn't find them in stores!  They have a variety of no sugar, nothing added dried fruit snacks.  They now have new salty snacks too.  You know those pea crisps that your kids love?  Well Peeled's Peas Please are Non-GMO and Organic (and my kids like their brand better too :).
  • Honesttea's Honest Kid's juice boxes have great low-sugar content, are only sweetened with fruit juice and are Organic to boot.  Our kids also need to be hydrated after school and these help!
  • Finally, I will sometimes buy the dairy-free Kind Bar flavors.  My favorite is Madagascar Vanilla Almond.
This Post is Linked Up to Allergy Free Wednesdays (check out these link-ups to find more allergen-freindly snack ideas!)


These are my opinions.  I was not approached by any of the previous brands and have not been paid to give my opinion.  Just a Mom of three providing resources for other mamas!








Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Play with your food!


I recently got the chance to hear a Speech & Language Pathologist who works with children who have feeding issues.  My kiddos have not had the challenges that come from being picky eaters, with the occasional exception; however, I realize that many parents out there deal with this on a daily basis so I thought about some things that might help.

Many children struggle with sensory issues and food is a big part of that (tactile avoidance can often show up by children wanting to avoid certain textures in their mouth).  Others might be behind a bit in the sensory-motor skills that involve chewing and swallowing food.  There are also 80 other reasons for food to be something that causes some parents to cringe.  Perhaps your child was not fed well at an early age, has a medical issue, sees food as a battle for control when they are afraid.  Many of these things can get better with help and time, but for the parent who struggles every night at the dinner table, this post if for you!

One of the main things I learned about helping children who are extremely picky and will not eat a variety of foods is that playing with food is actually encouraged and supported by the research!  I can totally get behind that concept ;).  Especially since playing with your food is both a sensory activity and can encourage exploration of new sights and smells without the fear of having to eat foods that may seem scary because of texture or past experience.

What if kids had a chance to play with their food without the pressure of eating it?  Then they can get used to the smells and textures at their own pace and the tactile experience in a less threatening way without having to put anything in their mouths!  Also, play is extremely disarming to the fight/ flight response and fear.  So playing with food might be a way to get the accidental blueberry or cauliflower past little lips ;).

Mom's very literal interpretation of flowers and a sun...My kids were much more creative, see below!

She calls it, "Dinosaur Footprints"!  Cannot get over how creative my kids are sometimes (obviously more so than their mama!)
Abstract Masterpieces ;)


The Best Part!  Stuffing those sweet cheeks with works of art:) 
Although my kids gobbled up their masterpieces right after making them, this post is not about trying to get your kids to eat right away.  Your child may just play with it for a while and that's OK.  If you have a troubled eater, incorporating playing with food each day can help them on the road to trying new things, getting used to foods with textures they might not currently like, and overcoming fear with food!

Ideas for playing with food

Have a variety of textures (mushy, crunchy, dry, wet), sizes (can cut in different sizes or use different sized foods), and colors of foods.

Here are some ideas for different foods that might be fun.

  • berries, raspberry, blueberries, strawberries, halved
  • carrots
  • pineapple
  • pears, apples, larger hard fruits
  • leafy greens like spinach or kale
  • avocados cut in long and short slices
  • cauliflower comes in white, orange, green, and purple at some markets, or broccoli
  • larger nuts like almonds, pistachios, macadamias, cashews
  • smaller seeds or nuts like hemp hearts or chia seeds
  • carrots
  • pickles
  • cucumbers 
  • dried fruit
  • grapes
  • sauces like hummus, guacamole, dips
  • TOOTHPICKS!  (this made it much more fun, especially with building structures with the grapes!)
Happy Playing With Food!






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