Tuesday, February 26, 2013


So often I forget to take time to myself. And when I do, I don't know what to fill that time with. Most of my friends have kids too, and so when Jeremy suggests I leave on a Friday night for a couple of hours, I usually turn him down. What am I going to do, go to Barnes and Noble and read magazines? By myself? No, thanks.

My friend Barbara sent me a message this week, encouraging me to take care of myself, that I'm not all Mommy, all the time. To nourish myself too. Can I be honest and say I've forgotten how? How is it that my oldest kid is only 2 1/2, and I can't think of anything I'd like to do on the off chance I get some free time? I see how women get lost in their families.

I do enjoy solitude. I am, most positively, an introvert, and being around others all day long without a break is a miserable prospect for me. So when naptime is disrupted or doesn't go to plan, I can get pretty angry, like I'm entitled to it, or something. Oh, but I feel like I need it. And there, right there, is the problem. Reconciling the need for solitude, for rest, for my own nourishment, with the reality of having two young children. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't.

I've often heard of the advice to wake up before your kids to get some time to meditate and prepare for the day. I really, really wish that could work for me, but Elias was up at 5:30 this morning. I was up with Josiah from ten till midnight, and then again at three to nurse him. Obviously, that's not going to work.

So self-nourishment for me, for right now, is this, I guess: taking an opportunity to sleep when I can (without feeling any guilt). Turning off my phone and the television when they go down for naptime so that I can feel the solitude. Revel in it. Meditate and pray in that time. Be quiet. Make a bracing cup of tea so that I don't nod off and miss all that alone time ;-)

What about you? What do you do to nourish yourself? Give me some ideas!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


How I wish I was one of those people who didn't complain so much. This week has been a hard one. Both boys have been sick, and needy, and barf-y, and mean. There's been a lot less sleep for Jeremy and I, and the evenings lately have found us parked on the couch, too tired to move, much less make [amicable] conversation with one another.

How quickly I forget the peace of knowing that our heat will come on during these cold nights. That we have some pretty great food in the refrigerator. That although the kids are sick, they are healthy and strong. We have blankets and cars and toys and each other. That's more than enough to be grateful for.

I'm reading a book called Loving the Little Years, Motherhood in the Trenches. It's pretty great, and in it she says that for fussy kids, "the antidote is gratitude". That goes for this mommy, too-- today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whole30 -- recap and update

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. I knew it would be a long one so I put it off. For like, 3 months. Oops.

We decided to do the Whole30 for a couple of reasons. The most important one, for me, was that Josiah was having lots of tummy problems. Constipation, gas-- both of which kept him up at night. Other than that, it was wanting to take some weight off. I had the excess baby weight still, and Jeremy was wanting to shed some pounds as well. I normally wouldn't try any new diet (or attempt to lose weight) while breastfeeding, especially with a young baby (J was around 4 months), but I was eager to see if what I was eating was causing his upset stomach. I was nervous though, and for good reason, as I will go into in a little bit.

I'm a planner, so I planned out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week. Yes, Elias did  change his diet with us in good measure. He still ate dairy (he drinks his weight in raw milk daily), but I wanted to see if getting him off refined sugars and gluten (or grain) would help his moodiness and sleep problems (neither of these were huge problems with him, but there were some issues). I tried to stay away from the paleo replacements for what we usually would have had, but I did make some concessions for E. He ate almond flour or coconut flour muffins for breakfast, along with eggs and bacon, if we were having it. Jeremy and I mostly abstained from those things.

It was hard at first-- Jeremy struggled with giving up soda, and I was missing sweets to bolster my flagging late afternoon energy. It felt to me like I was walking in deep sand; I had no energy. And that's when my breastmilk supplies dropped to about half what they used to be. Looking back, I think I didn't have enough carbs included for a nursing mom, I should have been eating a lot more winter squash, since it's so prevalent right now. I didn't do anything wrong, but as my body was making the move to using protein stores for energy instead of carbs, I went into a little bit of shock physically. It took about 3-4 days for my milk to come back. Lots of nursing, lots of fenugreek, lots of praying in those few days, and I am still so thankful that it came back like it did. I haven't had any problems since. However, I did add a few things back into my diet to stop my body's rapid weight loss. I drank a little raw milk (which I didn't really enjoy anymore-- crazy), and I continued to eat soba noodles a couple of times a week with E. (He and I actually just stopped eating those; I noticed that both of us would have an upset stomach after lunch, after being grain-free in every other part of our lives.)

And Elias? He acted like a drug addict in a recovery center. I was pretty shocked: I thought he ate pretty healthily. And he does, compared to how a lot of other kids eat. But still, he cried for cookies, threw fits one after the other, and seemed almost ill for several days. It was embarassing that I let him get that way. It's my job to create a healthy environment for him, and I failed in that. I thought that because I made everything from scratch that his body was healthy, but sugar is sugar.

It got a lot better after the first two weeks. Our bodies stabilized, and some of the cravings stopped. We did eat some of that banana "ice cream" that the low carbers love, and we still do, actually. We both dropped almost 15 pounds. My skin cleared up (it wasn't bad to begin with, but all those little bumps that only we can see disappeared). A skin condition on my scalp that I've had my entire life just vanished. I couldn't believe it. That was worth the entire experience right there. Josiah's gas also was completely gone.

The fall-out:  it went so well that we decided to eat "paleo" at home, exclusively, from now on (Whole30 all the time just felt too boring). And when we stray from that outside the house, well, we have to deal with the (gastrointestinal) consequences. That's good-- it means our body has healed to the point that it can "protest" when given something less than nourishing. But it's hard too, and definitely is something to consider when approaching doing the Whole30 yourself. This is a permanent change, hopefully, not just a quick weight fix.

Ultimately, as hard as it is to have to stick to this diet longer than I had originally wanted to, it really is good for me. And isn't that the point? We all want to be "healthier", whatever that is, but we don't want the work involved. Well, too bad. This is what it takes: a complete overhaul of the way we approach food. And if I really want to feel better, look better, live better, I have to say no to the "puppy chow" that's so prevalent around here at Christmas parties. No to the fluorescent colored cupcakes at get-togethers. No to frozen yogurt on date night. No to soda, you guys. It's not worth it, although it's hard to believe that in the middle of a sugar craving.

My favorite thing that the Whole30 has done for me? It's given me a true plumb line on what is the best food for my body. No more wondering what is best. No more whole grains and heart healthy oils and, and, and, that the nutritionists push as healthy. It's meat, vegetables, some fruit, and a few oils tested by time and tradition, not manufactured in a plant. So, I don't have an excuse any more. I know what is good for me, and if I don't stick to it, I know what is coming my way: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mood swings, bad skin, achy joints, you know the rest.

The verdict? Yes, I would encourage you to do the Whole30 program. But you have to be prepared to do it the right way, and it's going to be hard. Get the book It Starts With Food so that you're armed with information when others ask you about your diet, or if you're tempted to by some Doritos at a backyard party.

So where are Jeremy and I now with our diet? At home we eat mostly paleo: vegetables, meat, and fruits, hopefully in that order. We do eat some vegetables that are typically off-limits, like white potatoes and peas. Every once in a while I make a chicken or turkey pot pie, with a white flour, all butter crust.  I put raw cream in my coffee in the mornings. He and I had a date night the other night and went to Chili's for burgers. I ate the bun but ordered it without cheese. I'm willing to feel kind of bloated for the night because of the bun, but not willing to deal with the backlash from soft cheese. Thanks to the diet, I now know how foods affect me.

I make a meal plan every week, so I have the plans from the approximately five weeks of the Whole30. Let me know if you'd like to see them. Below, I'm going to post the websites and links that helped me with recipes and information about the Whole30, along with my Pinterest page. You can also make your favorite recipes but with approved ingredients. For example, I made a butternut squash and apple soup but replaced the dairy with coconut milk and nixed the maple syrup, and I paired it with hamburgers wrapped in lettuce leaves. 30 days is a long time; you'll have to get creative! I started using coconut flour and almond flour, like I said, and they're both really good. More expensive than wheat flour, but you'll use much less of it, especially in the case of coconut flour.

Websites and articles:

My paleo Pinterest board (remember, paleo does not mean Whole30, so some of these will need to be adapted or omitted for your 30 days.)

Roost (so much eye candy here...)

Multiply Delicious (this is where I got many of our Whole30 recipes when we were just starting out)

The Clothes Make the Girl (make her paleo pad thai w/ sunshine sauce. Do it!)

Nom Nom Paleo (she did a Whole30 series for January, not even a month ago, which could be really helpful)

Elena's Pantry (many of her things are baked goods, made with alternative flours, but she has one or two that use bananas or dates as the sweetener, up to you to decide whether or not something you want to do on your Whole30 or afterwards)

The official Whole30's take on grocery shopping on a budget (very helpful!)

And, of course, the book: It Starts With Food


sweet potato pancakes (the only one I've found that uses all whole ingredients)

banana pancakes (we made these a lot; there are many paleo recipes for banana pancakes)

savory coconut flour pancakes (great for when you could've used a tortilla; up to you to decide whether or not to use coconut flour on your Whole30. We did, sparingly.)

"anytime" cookies (these are a treat... I kept them in the freezer, mostly for Elias)

banana "ice cream" (we waited till we were closer to being done with our Whole30 before partaking, but this is a recipe we still make weekly)

sweet potato hash (you may have to sub some ingredients in this particular recipe)

orange sweet and sour chicken (with a veggie stir fry on the side. This recipe is really good)

apple cider braised brisket (apple cider is hard to find here now, but we loved this recipe)

We ate lots of sweet potato: hashed, "fries", baked chips. A sweet potato will be your best friend. As will frozen bananas (see above). And coconut milk (great with some frozen banana and berries alongside your, I imagine, meat and egg breakfast.) When in doubt: replace whatever you used to eat with vegetables. Fill your plate up with them.

I'm sure there are recipes and websites that I'm forgetting to put here, but if I do think of some, I'll update.

Hope this helps you guys!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Baking with Mama-- grain-free brownies

Yes, these were awesome. Obviously. Here's the recipe.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

on my skin

Sometimes my memories of California come upon me so suddenly, with such vividness, I feel like I'm wearing them. I can almost feel them on my skin.

Today I'm remembering the hot air buffeting my head through my open car window, driving down Fullerton. The sound of dried magnolia leaves as I park my car on the street by our old apartment. The sun bearing down on my shoulders as I walk to class. The smell of hot sand, everywhere. The feeling of driving to a friends house, on the back roads between Brea and Rowland Heights, the crest of the hill on Brea Canyon Cut Off, on my way to my old church. The sound of sprinklers, of car alarms. Always having my left arm out the window in the breeze. Sitting in traffic in Placentia on a Friday afternoon. Sitting under a shade tree and still being so uncomfortably hot. The thrill of an afternoon off to go to the beach. Old friends and family. The old me.

These memories rise up and choke me sometimes, the way that the smell of hot desert sand did then.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Nap time. It will end soon, and the continuation of a haywire week full of teething and green snot and coughing and crying and screaming and puking and cuddling and needing, and, and, and will commence.

Right now: it's quiet. So quiet I can hear an airplane overhead, the hum of the computer as I make next week's menu plan, even Josiah's restless movement on his sheets through the monitor.

Oh, it's been a crazy morning. So hard. Letting this brief, quiet moment feed my soul. Maybe I can carry back some of this peace to my hurting boys.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

sleep time

Elias has been sleeping in his "big boy" bed for about two months now. The process in getting there was chaotic-- two whole weeks of very little sleep for anyone. It's been pretty peaceful since he settled down into it; I knew he would enjoy the freedom as soon as he could handle us giving him more. This week he's started to pull the blankets up on himself, which is nice, since we've had to dress him like he was going to play outside in the snow because he would just collapse on top of his blanket after getting up and running around after we left his room for the night.

We spent about half an hour reading books and having quiet time in his bed today, after lunch and before his nap. We read Blueberries for Sal, twice, all snuggled up on his bed with his flannel sheets, his quilt from his Oma, his blankie ("night-night"), and his "boon" (teddy-bear). He's always been a good sleeper, but he likes his space, so I've enjoyed his inviting me to cuddle with him before he falls asleep. He asks me to lie next to him, but I'm not allowed to touch him. :) If I try to caress his head or pat his back, he tells me "no." So I just lie there quietly next to him. Today was the first day since he was about 9 months old that he's fallen asleep next to me. It was sweet, and I soaked it up. He's such a beautiful little boy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

lots of television, and I'm okay with it

I know I just wrote a few days ago that I was trying to limit E's screen time... but oh my goodness, I'm giving thanks for tv right now. Josiah got a stomach virus from the church nursery last Sunday, which he then gave me. It's been a brutal couple of days. I didn't bounce back like he did, probably because I'm nursing a huge baby while trying to not become dehydrated. So it's been a lot of screen time for all of us the last couple of days; taking care of Elias has been a struggle. Jeremy stayed home yesterday (and then worked through the night--he's still there now: what a guy), but I've got the boys today. Lots of PBS Kids going on here in the Oster household.