Our First Jesse Tree: Advent 2015

At 7.5 months old, Little Miss is quite the mover and shaker. She is always, always on the go, unless she is sleeping, and naps taken anywhere not on Mommy are a luxury these days. Having a crawling, pulling up, getting into everything, putting everything into her mouth baby means that I do not have time for a whole lot of extra activities beyond what it really necessary on a daily basis. (You know, things like keeping everyone fed, in clean clothes and diapers, and just generally making sure everyone is healthy and relatively happy.) Homeschooling Little J has also taken some extra time, of course. Even though we usually spend less than 2 hours total actually sitting down to his lessons each day, it is still time that I might otherwise be doing something else.

All that is to say that planning and decorating for Christmas has been put sort of on the back burner this year. To be honest, Thanksgiving and the end of November rather took me by surprise! Suddenly, on November 30th, I realized that it was time for Advent, and I had nothing planned. I also failed to order the next set of Bible lessons that J needs to continue in our ABeka Bible curriculum, so I needed something to supplement with in the meantime, ASAP!

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Enter, the Jesse Tree! If you have never heard of this Advent tradition before, it is basically a way of following the story of the Bible from Creation to Jesus’ birth. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 which refers to a branch coming from the “root of Jesse” (father of King David) as a prophetic announcement of the coming Messiah, Jesus! During each day of advent, you read a new Scripture passage and hang a new ornament on the tree, each one symbolizing the reading for that day. There are many ways to make ornaments for a Jesse Tree, some very simple and some quite elaborate! You can even purchase ornaments if you are not inclined to makeyour own.

I, of course, chose one of the simpler variations for us this year! Little J loves coloring right now, so I used a free printable from Life Your Way for the ornaments and printed them out on card stock for him to color. I need to get some red and green card stock to mount them, and then we will hang them on our miniature tree with ribbon. I found a lovely set of short Jesse Tree devotionals at My Favorite Kind of Crazy, so I read these while Little J colors. He is excited to see what the new picture will be for each day, and I like that it is something easy enough that we can do it while I feed the baby!

I have to say thanks to Kristi at Raising Clovers for inspiring me with her post about their own Jesse Tree party. Maybe some other year we will get all fancy and make some neat ornaments like they did with their friends!

How are you celebrating Advent this year? Have you used a Jesse Tree in your Christmas celebrations before? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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Whole30-ish Wrap-up: a Successful Failure

Well, it is August, so it is obvious our July Whole30 is over by now. But I have to be honest and tell you that we did not end up completing a full 30 days on the program after all. It was a decision I hated making, but it had to be done. So technically, we failed at doing the Whole30 plan, but I still feel it was a success in many ways because of the things we learned and accomplished during the time we were on it! Let me explain why we had to quit ahead of schedule, and then talk about our successes!

Our Failure

First off, I knew at the beginning of the month that eating this way might not work out on our grocery budget. We have been trying to pay down our debts a la Dave Ramsey’s methods, so we have cut back our spending across the board over the last several months. Trying to feed three hungry people healthy, whole foods while excluding less expensive options like grains and legumes is very tricky on a shoestring budget. So, when we still had a whole week left, and I had only $4 left for food, I knew something would have to give. We decided the most cost-effective, sensible thing to do was add gluten-free grains back into our diet so that we could stretch our meals more with baked goods, rice, gluten-free pasta and the like.

Second, we all felt like we were starving! As I mentioned before, we did not start the Whole30 with the intention to lose weight. But we all did anyway, including our 4 year old (as I explained in my last post)! I really did not have enough food in the house for us to do as many full template meals as we all needed, so we were all feeling hungry all the time. It was draining me and my husband. We both started feeling really weak and tired and run down by the end of the third week, when we knew we should be feeling great! So, after discussing it, we decided that at this time, we needed to add in more foods so that we could regain our strength. That first bowl of peanut butter oatmeal I had tasted anazing and instantly helped me feel so much better.

Our Success

Even though we didn’t finish a full 30 days, we did notice differences from eating a healthier diet, and we do plan to keep some of these new habits going. First, we did lose weight, as I said before. I lost 5 lbs. in 22 days, which is pretty quick for me. Of course, since I am breastfeeding, I was burning lots of extra calories, which is a big part of why I was hungry all the time. Second, I was able to beat back my sugar dragon significantly. I no longer feel strong cravings for sweet snacks all the time, and when I do want something a bit sweet, fruit usually satisfies me quite well! My son has also stopped asking for sweet treats after dinner and will happily down an extra helping of vegetables instead–WIN! Third, my husband’s skin is clearing up at last! Yay! After doing some added research, we think that sugar and dairy may both be triggers for him, so he plans to continue avoiding both. He has a new skin care routine that seems to be working well in addition to the dietary changes, so we hope to see even more improvement as he sticks with it.

Since we did already try adding grains back into our diet, I should add our experience with that. Yes, we were able to feel more satisfied after meals that included some grains. We did, however, also notice some negative side effects, both in slowed digestion and bowel movements and in looking bloated (even though we did not feel it.) My belly had really gotten fairly flat for having not been faithfully working on restoring my post-baby tummy muscles like I should be, but after just a few servings of grains, my stomach started pooching out again. Soooooo, we have decided to cut the grains out again for as long as we can and are adding legumes back into our diet instead. We will see if those have the same effect or if we tolerate them better. I hope so! I have tried really hard to make an affordable menu for the month in which we will repeat each meal once, so I was able to calculate approximately how much we would spend on groceries ahead of time. It might work, if we are very careful! Wish us luck!

How about you? I know some new folks have started following my blog since I posted about our Whole30 journey, so if you have just completed your as well, or if you are just getting started, I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Whole30-ish: Week 4

No, you didn’t miss a post. Yes, I failed to post anything about our Whole30 journey last week. My husband was out of town, and I had my hands pretty full with the two kids all on my own. Plus, since he was on his own for food, and it was just Little J and me eating here at home, our menu was on the small side. So, here we are on Day 21, and I finally have a new update for you!

So, how is it going now that we are in the home stretch? Well, I guess it is going pretty well. We are getting to that point of food boredom, which is not helped by the fact that my grocery budget for the month is just about spent. No going out and buying new and exciting ingredients that cost a bunch extra now. We have to stick to basics if we are going to stay in budget. I will also say that we have not had any of those big heavens opening, angels singing, amazing changes that many people talk about when doing the Whole20. Maybe it is because we have not been super doper strict, or maybe it is because we were already eating ok to begin with, or maybe we just have more healing to do. I don’t know. I do know that I generally am feeling good, and I do think I have lost a bit of weight and maybe some inches, too. Hubby is feeling ok, although he has seemed to have a rougher time of it than I have. He does have a pretty high stress job and probably needs more time to heal. His acne seems like it might finally be improving just a tad, after a horrible breakout over the last couple of week, presumably from detoxing. He has also been feeling the weight loss, though, which counts for something. I think if I weren’t breastfeeding and up frequently at night, perhaps I would be feeling even better. But I am happy to say that most days my cravings are at a minimum (as long as I don’t see lots of pizza and ice cream posts on Facebook!) and I am loving my veggies more than I ever have in my entire life!

We have also noticed that J seems to be eating better and being a little less picky, not that he is a very picky eater anyway. But he has been commenting on how good things are that I am making, which is always nice, coming from a 4 year old! He did happen to step on the scale in our bathroom yesterday, though, and I noticed that he has lost some weight since last month. So I decided right away that he is going off the Whole30. He is not chubby in the least and should not be losing weight at his age, so I am going to let him go back to eating more normally, which for him means bringing back dairy, gluten-free grains and some legumes. I am looking forward to bringing back these things, too, in the near future! Just no sugar for this mama, ok? 🙂

I would honestly be interested in doing a Whole45 if we could, but we just can’t afford to do it any longer than we have. I am already trying to decide what food group to bring back first. I am thinking of doing gluten-free grains first simply because that frees us up to have rice, GF pasta, and oatmeal again. But I have also thought maybe bringing back legumes first would be good because then we can stretch our proteins a little more with beans and also see if peanuts and/or soy may be a problem for hubby’s skin as we suspect it may be. Oh well, I still have 9 days to decide!

Anyway, in case anyone is interested, here are some of our meals for the week!

Breakfasts:
Sauteed Kale and Scrambled Eggs, Sweet Potato Hash, Fruit Smoothie
Turkey Sausage and Kale, Fried Eggs, Fresh Fruit
Baked Sweet Potato and Turkey Sausage, Fresh Fruit
Veggie Frittata, Green Smoothie
Breakfast Skillet (Potatoes, onions, green peppers, assorted veggies, sausage, eggs)

Dinners:
Roast Chicken Thighs, Sauteed Zucchini, Cooked Carrots, Salad
Slow Cooker Chili Verde (via A Girl Worth Saving), Cauli-rice, Salad
Broiled Chicken Quarters, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans
Grilled Pork Chops, Baked Winter Squash, Salad,
Turkey Sausage with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, Salad
Slow Cooker Chicken Breasts with tomatoes and mushrooms, Roasted Red Potatoes, Sauteed Zucchini
Grilled Chicken Thighs, Paleo Coleslaw, Roasted Zucchini Spears

My next post will probably be on our final day of the Whole30, discussing what changes we have seen and what our next step will be going forward. See you then!

Homeschooling at Lemon Lane: Preparation and Planning

It may be hard to believe, but Little J (who is getting less and less “little” all the time!) is now 4 1/2 years old! He is at that wonderful age of curiosity, creativity and craving to learn about everything. In the spring he started to show signs of being ready to begin learning to read, asking what certain words were when looking through picture books or asking how to spell things when practicing writing his letters, etc. At the time, I was a little preoccupied with the arrival of Miss A, so we just did a little work with letters and some sounding things out here and there, willy-nilly.

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Around the same time, we learned about a local group of homeschoolers doing something called Classical Conversations and decided to look into it as an option for J in the fall. (I don’t intend to go in depth with a post about Classical Conversations today, but I may sometime in the future once we have a bit more experience with it under our belts!) We also knew we would need a basic curriculum for phonics and reading, along with some math. As Christians, we also wanted a solid Bible curriculum to add to what J has already learned at church and through our casual Bible reading at home. For these core subjects, we settled on ABeka Book for this year. All these things may change in the coming years, but for this year we are combining a classical approach with some traditional curricula and will see how it goes!

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I have to say that at first I was very uncertain about my ability to be my child’s teacher. I will admit that I am not very organized or disciplined with my time management, and I also struggle at times with being patient and gracious. I did not originally even intend to start formal instruction with Little J until he was a bit older since he has a fall birthday. But his eagerness to learn combined with the opportunity to combine homeschooling with a community atmosphere convinced me that now is the time to begin. I still felt inadequate and intimidated by the responsibility of teaching Little J the basic skills that he will need the rest of his life. There is always that fear of failure, of not being enough, lurking somewhere in my mind and heart. I’m sure many of you can relate! As I started planning and preparing, though, my passion for learning and teaching resurfaced and bolstered me up. After a year long break from any kind of teaching or children’s ministry at church, I suddenly found a renewed sense of purpose while planning for this school year. I had forgotten how much I enjoy preparing lessons and teaching young children. It really does feel like an area in which God has gifted me, and now I am full of excitement for the coming year. I can hardly wait to see how God uses homeschooling to change our family and draw us closer to each other and to Him!

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I won’t make any promises, but I do hope to write more about our homeschooling journey as we go along. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to post in the comments, and I will try to answer as best I can!

Links for more info:
Classical Conversations
ABeka Book Homeschool
Galatians 5:22-23 printable

Whole30-ish: Week Two

Well, we made it through seven days of our Whole30(ish) diet, and we haven’t died or killed anyone yet! Apparently, it is pretty common in the first week to feel rather miserable, having a couple of days of headaches and general malaise, a day or two of irritability and crankiness and a couple of days of extreme tiredness. Hubby and I have not fallen exactly into that typical pattern, however.

The first 5 days I felt fine, no physical symptoms to complain about other than being extra hungry. Yesterday, I did feel extra tired, in spite of having the best night’s sleep I have had since Little Miss was born. I also started having some significant sugar cravings for things like ice cream, chocolate cake, etc. (It probably didn’t help that Little J was pretending to run an ice cream stand and had drawn and cut out several “flavors” of ice cream, complete with waffle cones, that he kept “selling” me!) This morning I still felt a little weary and also had a bit of a short fuse. Both feelings were pretty mild, though, not as bad as I expected.

Hubby had a few days of body aches and tiredness at the beginning. He seems to be feeling better now, but he has had a sudden breakout in one area on his face. I am not sure but have a theory that this is just another symptom of his detox process. I hope it doesn’t get any worse before it gets better.

Little J has seemed pretty much his normal self. I have been a little more relaxed with his diet, letting him have maybe one non-Whole30 food per day, although we do not have that much in the house right now anyway. But I do think he was having a bit of a sugar withdrawal today himself because this morning he asked for hot cocoa with his breakfast (I didn’t let him have any) and then was saying how he wished he could eat donuts later in the morning. He never asks for these sorts of things, so I can’t help but think it has to do with our change in eating.

So, here we are with 23 days to go! It doesn’t sound too bad, although I do worry that I am going to be very tired of potatoes when we get done! I am also concerned that our grocery budget may not be enough to keep up this sort of diet through the end of the month, but I hope we can make it. I spent much less this week than I did last week because I didn’t need to buy as much meat and still had a lot of dinner ingredients left. So maybe next week I will be able to spend even less. We shall see! Anyway, here are some of the meals I have planned for the next several days. (I am not including lunches or snacks this time as they will mostly be repeats from last week or leftovers from dinners.)

Breakfasts:

Turkey Sausage (homemade), eggs, cottage fried potatoes
Baked avocado egg cups, cinnamon baked apples
Sausage and sweet potato hash, leftover baked apples
Vegetable frittata, fried bananas
Nitrate-free bacon, eggs, acorn squash

Dinners:

Broiled Chicken Thighs and Wings, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Wilted Spinach
Garlic Sautéed Shrimp, Sweet Potatoes, Garden Salad, Watermelon
Venison Pot Roast with Carrots, Onions and Red Potatoes, Broccoli, Salad
Fajita-style Chicken with cauli-rice, Roasted cabbage wedges, salad or fruit
Salmon patties, baked potatoes, broccoli, spinach apple salad
Grilled turkey burgers, steamed veggies, acorn squash, grilled peaches
Roast Chicken, green beans, roasted cubed potatoes, salad

And there you have it! Another 3 weeks plus a few days to go. I think we can do it! It isn’t easy, but I am hoping it will be well worth our effort in the end. And I am proud of myself for sticking to it for a whole week!

 

Whole30-ish: Week One

As promised earlier, here is my first post about our little Whole30 journey. If you have never heard of this eating plan before, you can check out the Whole30 website and learn more. Essentially, though, it is very similar to the Paleo diet: no dairy, no grains, no legumes and no sweeteners. I am not an expert on either diet, but I see Whole30 as being a short term way to “reboot” the digestive system while also breaking unhealthy cravings and thoughts about food. The focus is not really on losing weight but on detoxing from processed foods and sweeteners and changing the way you think about food, so things like making substitute baked goods using Whole30 approved ingredients is strongly discouraged. The creators encourage anyone wanting to do a Whole30 to focus on their goals and reasons for doing the program, especially when the cravings seem overwhelming or food choices seem boring.

Goals:

My personal goals/reasons for doing a Whole30 are: break my sugar addiction, give my gut some time to heal (after a recent bout with something that seemed a lot like IBS), and increase my nutrient intake for healthier breast milk production and postpartum mood. Because I am breastfeeding, I will be eating closer to 4 meals a day, or snacking more frequently. (Snacking is generally discouraged, but there are exceptions for BFing mothers since we need to keep our calorie intake high.) I am actually not trying to lose weight at this point, and I have never been able to eat very big meals, so I will be eating as much as I can at meals but still snack whenever I am hungry.

My husband agreed to do the Whole30 in hopes of healing, or at least drastically reducing, his adult acne. I think he also may have some adrenal fatigue due to his high stress job and working 6 days a week for a number of years, and I am hoping this month of clean eating will help with that.

Disclaimer:

All that being said, we are not going to be as strict with our Whole30 as the creators recommend, thus the “ish” attached in my title. First, we are not making our son eat totally Whole30 with us. At home we will all eat the same, but if we are at a friend’s house or at church, I am fine with him having dairy or his gluten free crackers, etc., just no sugary snacks. I will, however, be sending him fresh fruit on Sunday’s to substitute for the typical fruit snacks that he is usually given for snack during Sunday School. Also, we will still be using butter for a fat, and my husband may still snack on cheese sometimes. Our budget is such that even for just one month, Paleo style eating is going to be tricky for us, and I am ok with bending the rules ever so slightly so as not to break the bank. For example, I cannot find any nut or seed butters locally that do not have added sweeteners, and my food processor is just not cut out for making my own nut butters. So I made an exception and went with sunflower seed butter that does contain some evaporate cane juice. With those things in mind here are the meals and snacks I have planned and shopped for so far. This should last us through Week 1 and hopefully a good chunk of Week 2 also, since I spent a good portion of my July grocery budget already!

Whole30-ish Meals:

Breakfast
Vegetable Frittata
Bacon, eggs, smoothie w/ coconut milk
Turkey sausage, apples w/ nut butter, sweet potato hash
Potato vegetable fritters, scrambled eggs
Pumpkin coconut smoothie, turkey sausage, celery w/ nut butter

Lunches
Avocado Tuna salad on romaine lettuce, apples with nut butter, baked sweet potato
Turkey sliders in lettuce wrap, pickles/olives, zucchini “fries,” fruit
Dinner leftovers

Dinners
Grilled chicken thighs, baked potatoes, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, garden salad
Pan seared salmon, almond-crusted baked zucchini spears, boiled potatoes, garden salad
Venison pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions, green beans almondine, garden salad
Pork roast with sauerkraut, roast potato wedges, sautéed zucchini and onion, apple spinach salad
Bratwurst, potato salad, coleslaw, watermelon
Oven-fried chicken wings (almond flour coating), mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, watermelon

Extra meals/snacks:
Sardines, salmon or tuna with lettuce
Olives and fresh cut veggies
Nuts, dried fruit and shredded coconut
Nori rolls (seaweed, cooked shrimp, avocado, cucumber, shredded carrot)
Fruit and coconut milk/kefir smoothie
Fresh cut veggies with mayo-mustard dip
Apples/celery/banana with nut butter
Boiled eggs
Avocado
Spinach salad

Blogging? What’s that?

Hi! Bet you thought I forgot I even had a blog, huh? Six months is an awfully long time between posts, I know. But I thought about blogging many times in there…it just didn’t happen! So I suppose a little update is in order.

I do believe I had posted about being expectant of a new baby joining our little family? Well, she made her grand entrance into the world on April 14th in the wee hours of the morning. Everything went very smoothly, and my recovery time was pretty short. She is a healthy, growing baby girl, happy most of the time, but certainly not shy about letting us know when she isn’t! She was a bit small at birth, weighing 6 lbs., 13 oz. and measuring 20.5 inches long. But she has gained well and was a healthy 10 lbs., 11 oz and 23.25 inches long at her last check up! Here is a little photo I took of Little Miss A when she was just a few days old.

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I have literally had my hands full, in a good way, since her arrival, but things are gradually getting back to normal…a new normal, actually! I have reopened Lemon Lane Organics and I am getting items restocked as I have time. It will be a while before I bring back custom and made to order items since I just don’t have much time for handwork right now. But it is a start anyway.

Hubby and I have also decided to try getting a handle on our eating and gut health this summer, so we are doing the Whole30 program during July. I decided blogging about our daily eating would be a good form of accountability, so you can expect to see some posts about that coming up. It is a switch from what I normally blog about, but you all know I care about organic, natural living…so it fits in there!

That is all for now. Gotta get my munchkins ready for the day! I will be back with my first post about our Whole30 journey later today or tomorrow! Until then, blessings!