Thursday, July 30, 2015

beach trip...

“I walked far down the beach, soothed by the rhythm of the waves, 
the sun on my bare back and legs, the wind and mist from the spray on my hair.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea 

The beach is my happy place.  I can always feel myself relax and my body sigh when I get to the beach.  Mark and I dream of living at the beach and every time I visit the beach I never want to leave.  Last week we went to the beach with Mark's family and this annual trip was one of the best so far! 

Thanks to my amazing mother in law, we stayed in a house that was right on the beach.  Literally, right on the beach.  Her wish for her 80th birthday was to go to the beach with all her kids, their spouses and children.  So, she rented the house and invited us all to join her for the week.  It was so fun to all be together and celebrate her birthday together.


This last picture of Grace is one of my favorite ever. Grace does not love the beach.  Every time we go, she has to get used to it all over again.  I never realized just how overwhelming the beach could be until I took a child with sensory issues.  The ocean is loud, the is sand hot and hard on your feet, the sun bright, the sea gulls noisy and they swoop down overhead, and then there are the voices and radios of the other beach goers.  While I always feel soothed by it, I have found it can all be a bit much for someone who gets overwhelmed easily.

This year Grace warmed up pretty quickly and spent a lot of time on the beach.  We took daily walks with her and every time she avoided getting her feet wet.  One day, we took a walk with Grace and then stopped to talk to Mark's sister Melanie and her husband Mike.  We were all talking at the waters edge and watching the boys jump waves and catch fish in a net. 

After a little while, Grace started walking into the water all by herself.  She would walk in as the waves went out and then walk back out when she heard the waves coming towards her.  It was so amazing to watch, we were all kept saying 'did you see that?'.  Mark's mom, sister Melissa and our nephew Mitchell were on the balcony of the house and saw her walking into the water.  They kept saying to each other, they are not close enough to her, she's going to get taken out by a wave.  We were closer than it looked to them and could easily have gotten to her before she got taken out by a wave. But we wanted to see her explore and see how far out she would go.  She was smiling and happy the whole time.

I love watching Grace experience new things and grow and stretch outside of her comfort zone.  It is always such a great teaching moment for me to remember that personal growth and change happens when we take risks and challenge ourselves to try / do new things.

We had such a great week, we are already talking about going next year!  I shared many of these pictures on my instagram account.  Check it out here if you're not following me already.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

so long june...

June may be one of my favorite months.  I love the fact that school lets out.  I love the warmer weather and the longer days.  I love the promise of so many things to do without a strict schedule.

In past years, the kids and I have created a summer fun list (you can see last year's list here).  This year, for some reason, we didn't create out list.  We talked about it for months but never sat down and compiled a list.  We have a mental list of things that we do each year as a family and enjoy.  So, we've been doing some of those but I find that I'm missing the list and the outline for our summer.  I'm thinking that we will sit down this weekend and write one...

So far, we've done a good job of mixing active days with days at home and lazy days at the pool.  We've had fun busy days when we were all exhausted and days when the kids stayed up past the sun and fell into bed with smiles on their faces from the day.

June allowed us to ease our way into summer and gave us days with no schedule.  However, July is packed out.  The boys each have a camp, Grace has her summer school program and we are going to the beach (yay!).  So we will be on a stricter schedule for some of the month.  But that's okay.  It's all a balance and it's what works for our family.  I'm loving summer and so happy that I'm more focused and intentional with the kids.  Summer vacation truly is a magical time for all of us.  I hope you're enjoying your summer!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

roasted shrimp over sauteed cabbage (paleo and gluten free recipe)...

We are in the thick of summer here.  We are having hot and humid days and the only good place to be is in the pool.  However, this week we have had to remain close to home because Grace has been sick since Sunday.  We had a super busy weekend full of graduation parties, play off football games and picnics.  Somewhere between church, a football game in the hot sun and a graduation party, Grace spiked a fever of 102.  She may also have a sore throat but being non-verbal and non-communicative, it's pretty hard to tell. 

So needless to say, this week has not gone as planned for our family.  The boys are being good sports about having to stick close to home but there has been a lot of down time for them.  We have continued with our daily worksheets from the summer bridge activities workbooks and daily reading program.  Basically, I'm paying them in ice cream to read books this summer.  It's not what I thought I'd be doing as a parent but it's what is working to motivate my boys who don't love to read. 

Thankfully, Grace's fever was gone when she woke up today.  So she'll be going to school tomorrow, she only has 1 and 1/2 days left before summer vacation.  That means the boys and I can hit the pool!  Yay!

Like everyone else, when the temps climb the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  But I still want healthy, delicious food.  So, one meal I have been turning to for years (even before my recent bent toward gluten free / paleo-ish eating) is roasted shrimp over sauteed cabbage. 

It's so good. 
It's so easy. 
It only uses 3 ingredients, plus oil and spices.
And best of all only takes 10-12 minutes to prepare. 

Roasted Shrimp with Sauteed Cabbage

1 head of organic green cabbage
1 pound of shrimp (I buy the easy peel fresh shrimp or high quality frozen)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Peel and devein shrimp, if necessary.  Wash and pat dry. 
3. Place shrimp on baking sheet, coat with oil (I use avocado oil), sea salt and pepper. Put in oven for 8-10 minutes.  Until the shrimp is a nice pink color.  Roasting them like this give the shrimp a nice carmelized flavor, plus it's Ina's recipe so it has to be good...
4. While the shrimp is in the oven; quarter the cabbage, remove the stem part and cut into thin strips.  I'm sure you could use your food processor to shred the cabbage but I find it just as easy to do by hand.
5. Heat avocado oil in pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic to the oil, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning it.
6. Add cabbage to pan.  Season with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes (to taste).
7. Continue to stir the cabbage until it is all coated with oil and spices.  I cook mine for about 10 minutes.  I like it softened but still with a bit of a crunch.  Taste it at this point and add more spices if necessary.
8. Put sauteed cabbage on plate and arrange roasted shrimp on top.

I love how easy and simple this meal is!  I never have left overs, but I'm sure they would be great heated up the next day for a fast lunch.  Enjoy...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

this transformed our mornings...

I love having other mothers as friends, don't you?  They have typically been the source of the best parenting information I have ever received.  They were the ones that spoke the truth when the books and bloggers made it seem like my child was the only one who wouldn't do something.  They are also the ones who have given me the best product tips. 

So, I wasn't surprised that a comment made in passing turned out to transform our mornings.  I was at my friend Jocelyn's house to pick up a baby gate for our puppies and for some reason, she mentioned how amazing a new brush was.  As soon as she said that there were no more tears in the morning and it made brushing Lily's hair so much easier, I was sold. 

Grace hates having her hair brushed.  She would fight and try and grab the brush or cry because of the knots.  So something that could take away those behaviors and make brushing easier was something I was totally interested in. 

It's called the wet brush, but it can be used on either wet or dry hair.

I love having Grace's hair long but it can be a challenge to brush it.  Not only because of her special needs but because it looks like two cats fought in it every morning.  I mean really, how does her hair get like that?  What is she doing in her sleep?

Here is a picture of her hair after using the wet brush.  I do tend to spray her hair with water or a leave in conditioner in the morning.  But I have used this brush on her dry hair with the same great results.  You can tell by the photo below that she is close to needing her annual hair cut, look how uneven her ends are.

As soon as I posted about this brush and our results on instagram, I heard from other moms who love this brush and how easy their mornings are now.

This is not a paid endorsement or a sponsored post.  The Wet Brush company has no idea who I am or that this little blog exists.  But I just had to share with you because it has totally transformed our mornings and I know it will make brushing your daughter's hair easier.


Friday, June 12, 2015

end of school...

June means the end of the school year, which our family eagerly anticipates.  We love summer!  We welcome the lazy days of not having to get up and out the door and relish the nights when the sun stays up later than we do.

John and Luke have already been out of school for a week.  The private school they go to is super committed to getting them out of school in early June.  While, most of our friends are either just finishing or still have a few more days.  However, they all got a spring break and we didn't, so it all evens out in the end.

I like to end the school year with something special, so we usually go out to lunch or out for ice cream or have ice cream and cake for dinner.  This year, the boys wanted to have lunch with their cousins (Joe and Will) who were also finished school for the year.

These are the bonds that I work hard to cultivate with my kids.  I want them to grow up knowing that family matters.  That you make time to spend with family and you choose family over friends.  I want them to look forward to seeing their cousins and to enjoy the time together.  These cousins live close so we are in danger of taking that for granted and need to be intentional about getting together with them.

After lunch Joe and Will came back to our house to hang out and play with the puppies.  Later that night the boys asked if we could have them over again to play.  So, now we have play with Joe and Will at our house on our summer fun list.

It's going to be a great summer!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

where did may go...

This is the final week of school for my boys.  They have a half days today and tomorrow and that's it.  I can't believe another year is in the books.

The month of May flew by me.  We had a busy, full schedule and I blinked and it was gone.  We spent May at sports practice and games, doing homework and studying for tests, playing with and trying to potty train the puppies and it seemed like our schedule was full every weekend.  We have also been discussing some decisions that our family is facing.  None of them are big but some of them are life changing and life giving.

With that said, I'm really looking forward to the slower days of summer.  We have been working on our backyard and are going to create an 'outdoor living space'.  I'd love a screened in porch and have been asking for one since we bought the house over 8 years ago.  Some days, I take my coffee (or wine) and say I'm going to sit in the screened in porch.  My family just rolls their eyes at me.  But truthfully, it's not in the budget right now, so we are adding little elements to create a 'room' like atmosphere out their.  I can't wait to show it to you and have you come hang out...

Here are some pictures of our May

 The boys had field day and both did really well individually and on their relays.  It is such a fun day for the whole school.

 Grace loves to swing :)

 Luke in jedi training

 The puppies play in our sandbox more than the kids do
 We were giving the puppies a bath and after the pups were out the boys got in the tub.  So I told them that was their pool for the summer.  Of course, being boys, they played in the tub for hours.
We've been playing a lot of basket ball, which is so not my sport but it's something the whole family can do.  However, Luke frequently uses the net for more jedi training.

The pups have quickly learned to sit at Grace's feet when she eats because she sometimes drops food.  The other day they worked together to get onto her chair.  It was hilarious.

Hope you had a great month of May and are looking forward to school being out for the summer.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

homemade blender salsa (paleo and gluten free)...

It's Cinco de Mayo!  So in honor of the holiday, I'm making homemade blender salsa.  It is so good and easy.  It goes perfect with chips and all Mexican food really.  It is the perfect thing to make for your Cinco de Mayo party or for a regular weekday meal. 

I actually had no idea what Cinco de Mayo celebrated so I had to look it up.  As you may have already known, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1962. 

I'm sorry to say that I just use it as a reason to make mexican food and eat lots of guacamole and salsa.  Actually, I don't need a reason for that and we typically eat some version of mexican food at least once a week.  And I think adding salsa and guacamole to any meal makes it better...

Here is my version of homemade blender salsa.  I know, I know, there are so many good salsas in the stores you can buy but try making your own.  It's easy.  It's fast.  And best of all, you control the ingredients.  So you know exactly what and how much is going into your food.  I love that about making my own food.

Homemade Blender Salsa (paleo and gluten free)

3 Cups fresh, local and/or organic tomatoes (if you can't find good quality fresh tomatoes, use 2 14.5 oz cans of high quality canned organic)
1 bunch of Cilantro, with the stems removed
1/2 sweet pepper, use red, orange or yellow or whatever you have on hand
1/2 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno pepper (you can adjust the heat by removing the stems and seeds)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients into your blender and blend until you reach the desired consistency.  My family doesn't like a real chunky salsa so I blend mine a little more so it is smoother.


You can adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes.  For example if you don't like cilantro (which I can't imagine but I've heard such people are out there), you can omit it all together.  For hotter salsa add more jalapeno.  You get the idea.

For a sweeter salsa, add up to 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen pineapple.  If you want a really sweet salsa I would omit the jalapeno and just add the pineapple.

This salsa keeps in the fridge up to 7 days in an air tight container.

I like to put this salsa on pretty much everything I eat - on my scrambled eggs, on my salads instead of dressing, on my tacos or other mexican foods and of course chips.  Right now I'm not eating processed foods so I am using plantain chips instead of corn or tortilla chips.

Obviously, this picture has nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo or salsa but it sure is cute.  John is holding Kenzie our 10 week old border collie mix puppy.  The puppies are a lot of work, but we love them.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!