Friday, March 28, 2014

"Just" a Stay at Home Mom

The other day I was at a school board meeting sitting in the audience with other parents and friends as several parents stepped up to the podium to voice their opinions about the topic of the day, which happened to be the creation of an advanced science class at the middle school. As each of these parents stepped up to the mic they stated their name and often followed that with a title or pedigree or other qualification that they believed would give their statements  more weight or clout. Several had Doctor in front of their names and one was even a neuroscientist. I hadn't really planned to make a statement and had attended the meeting simply to add more faces to the 'pro' side of the argument, but as I listened to these parents I mentally rehearsed what I would say if I were to stand in front of the crowd and list off my title or pedigree or qualifications. What makes me an important person? What gives my opinions and statements weight? What benchmarks of success have I achieved? Do I really have any qualifications now, or have my years of being 'just' a mom robbed me of what once made me a powerful person with opinions that should be listened to and respected?

Once upon a time I had a very impressive resume. I'm an MIT graduate with a bachelors degree in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science. For my thesis project I worked alongside the man who discovered the rings of Uranus. After college I worked as a Software Consultant in the Boston area then moved to Seattle to be a software developer for a small startup in downtown. The work I did in that startup led me to become a co-founder in another startup based around code I wrote. The entire company was based on code I wrote! I was a VP at age 23 in my own dot-com startup for goodness sake! Yes, I know, in the late '90s dot-com startups were a dime a dozen, but looking back on it, I still feel that was a pretty impressive feat. As often happened in those days, one thing led to another, and over the course of a few years the Venture Capitol vultures had gained control of the company. The work wasn't really any fun anymore. So when my first child was born pre-mature, I took that as a sign that my dot-com-founder days should be put behind me, and I jumped head first into the world of mommy-dom.

Let me just pause here and say that I LOVE being a stay at home mom. I love that I was there for all of the incredible moments that make up a child's first years. I saw every smile, every step, every accomplishment and I wouldn't give those up for anything. I was the primary person who got to shape my children, mold them into the tiny humans they are today. I am proud of my kids and how they are empathetic, caring, hard working and shockingly witty, and I'm ecstatic that I get to take credit for some of that. A great woman I know once said to me "I became a parent because I wanted to parent.". I'm with her 100% there. I wanted to be the person to raise my kids. I didn't want to turn them over to another person for most of the waking hours of the day. I selfishly didn't want to miss all of it. I wanted to be a part of the show and have the memories of it to reflect on when I'm old and have that inevitable empty nest.

On top of all of that, I'm lucky enough to have a husband and co-parent who is compensated enough for his work outside the home to pay all of our bills. In my eyes, he's made the greater sacrifice in agreeing to miss all of those precious childhood moments in exchange for money. I try to record as much of our kids' life as possible in photos and videos for him to relive, but if it were me in his shoes I'd spend a good deal of my workday in tears knowing I was missing the show. He is a stronger person than I in that regard.

Over the course of my kids' childhood, in addition to the household management, scheduling and maintenance, I've had various part time jobs that have allowed me to work from home on mommy time. I've done consulting work writing code, started a cottage food business baking paleo treats with a friend, and most recently writing cookbooks and children's books with my kids. These have all given me a sense of professional accomplishment, but none feel very resume worthy when compared to what I did pre-kids.

So, when someone asks me what I do, I'm never sure how to answer. When I was in the working world, I had an answer. If I was a full-time working mom now I'd answer with the title I held at my paying job, but saying I'm a stay at home mom doesn't seem to have the weight that the actual job of stay at home mom entails. I've seen various internet jokes where a mom is required to list her occupation and she writes something like 'CEO of child development and education, head chef, grounds keeper, chief sanitation engineer, head nurse and chauffeur'. Those are all true, but when you list out all of the duties, it sounds like your trying too hard to say how important your job really is. Saying you're CEO of a company or putting an MD or PhD after your name automatically gives you clout regardless of really how important your job is or how vital you are at your workplace.

If I ask my 'employees' if they could survive without me, the answer is no. For many years of my job as a SAHM I literally held the lives of my 'employees' in the palm of my hand. So, how vital was my role? In my heart I know that being a SAHM is just as important a job as any doctor's, lawyer's, or CEO's, but when someone asks 'What do you do?' it often doesn't feel that way. I sometimes feel like I have to follow up my answer that I'm a stay at home mom with what I used to do before kids, just to prove I am smart and capable and worthwhile. In my head I think if they know that I graduated from MIT and started my own dot-com and wrote code, then they'll treat me like the smart person I am rather than someone who wipes noses for a living. Sometimes if I'm talking to a person with an out of the home career they do seem to treat me differently if they know I used to have a 'real' job. Why is that? Is the fact that I care for my home and family full time proof that I can't do something more 'important'? No, no it's not.

If success is measured in happiness rather than titles and money, then I think I'm currently a great success at my job and life. I'm much happier now being CEO of my home, volunteering at my kids' school, being a co-leader of my daughter's girl scout troop and writing books with my kids than I ever was being VP at a software company. I know in my heart that someone else can write that code or lead that company just as well as I can, but no one else can raise my kids the way I do. So, this is where I'm needed right now, and this is where I plan to stay. I just need to work on a better job title; maybe I should say I'm retired from the office world and am now spending my days doing what I choose to do...who wouldn't want to have that job?

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

LEGO Stop Motion Movie

The family went to see the LEGO Movie the other day and though it was one of the best we'd seen in a while. To celebrate, The Boy decided to make his own stop motion LEGO movie starring 2 ninjas who stab and decapitate each other. :) He's a boy...what can I say.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Southern Pecan Pie Revisited

I've made several versions of Pecan Pie over the last several years. Before I ate paleo, I made my Mama's Pecan Pie. Her version had a crispy layer of pecans on top with a thick gooey layer of syrupy goodness in the middle and a flaky crust on the bottom. That was my favorite pie for years and I was sad to give it up when I gave up grains and refined sugars.

A couple years ago I did some research and created a new version of pecan pie with a  nut crust and a center made from pecans, eggs and dried plums. This version was very tasty but not enough like Mama's traditional pecan pie to make me feel like I was back in her kitchen.

So this year I decided to take another stab at remaking Mama's Traditional Southern Pecan Pie without the grains and refined sugars. In this version, I went back to the original recipe and worked on substituting healthy ingredients for the not-so-good ones. I'm pretty happy with my usual nut crust, so I didn't change that. The main bad ingredients were the sugar and corn syrup that make up the gooey layer in the middle. I decided to use maple syrup and molasses for the sweetener and then used some unflavored gelatin along with my eggs to give the middle layer some strength and help it become more gooey rather than runny. I'm pretty happy with the result, and the rest of the family agreed that it was pretty close to a traditional southern pecan pie.

You may be wondering if molasses is paleo. Here's what has to say about it.

Molasses comes from the sugarcane plant. It is made by boiling cane syrup a second time, and for the more common blackstrap molasses, by boiling this syrup a third time. That’s it. The problem with common table sugar lies in the refining process, which molasses doesn’t suffer from. Today’s regular white table sugar (pure sucrose) is completely void of natural nutrients and minerals, and concentrated to be much sweeter than anything cavemen would have found while gathering. So, fortunately for us, pure molasses contains all of those nutritive compounds lacking in table sugar, making it a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. It’s just about as close to the source as possible, with a deeper and less concentrated flavor than cane syrup. The sources are right; molasses is the optimal primal sweetener!

Southern Pecan Pie Revisited
1 C Walnuts
1 1/4 C Pecans
1/4 C Coconut oil or melted butter

1 1/4 C Pecans - chopped
3/4 C Maple Syrup
3/4 C Unsulfured Molasses
1 T Vanilla
2 T Coconut oil - melted
4 Eggs
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 T Unflavored Gelatin
1/4 C Warm water

In a food processor pulse all crust ingredients until well incorporated. Press mixture into a pie tin and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl mix gelatin and warm water until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix chopped pecans, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon and eggs. While stirring syrup mixture, drizzle in coconut oil. Keep stirring then drizzle in the water with gelatin. Pour combined mixture into crust and bake for about 30 minutes or until mixture doesn't jiggle when you move the pan.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lemon Muffins

I've made a few different lemon muffins over the years. One of my favorite was the Coconut Flour Lemon muffin that was nut free and very lemony. But today, I was looking for a fluffier version of that muffin. Strictly coconut flour muffins tend to be a little denser than an almond flour one because you need to use so much liquid to balance out the thirstiness of the coconut flour. I wasn't really looking to make this one nut free in particular so I played around with it a bit until I found a combo that I really liked. This Lemon Muffin is a coconut - almond flour combo that is just what I was looking for. You can add poppy seeds to it if you like them; I didn't add them because I didn't have any and they're not my family's favorite. Feel free to customize your own until you find your perfect Lemon Muffin!

Lemon Muffin
1/2 C almond flour
3/4 C coconut flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 eggs
3/4 C applesauce
1/2 C honey
2 T lemon zest (about 1.5 lemon's worth of zest)
1 tsp. lemon extract
2 T poppy seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl. Add applesauce, honey, lemon zest and lemon extract. In another bowl beat eggs until they are foamy or fluffy. Gently mix eggs into flour mixture. Spoon batter into lined muffin tin. Bake for about 25 minutes or until tops are firm for regular sized muffins and 40 minutes for jumbos. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bell Pepper Egg Cups

I've made several versions of the baked egg cups. Some had bacon, some had sausage, some had veggies. The other day I decided to make the baked eggs in a half of a bell pepper. I wasn't sure how this might work and if the liquid from the cooking pepper might make the eggs runny or keep them from setting, but they turned out beautifully! I added cheese to mine, so these are primal rather than paleo, but you could omit the cheese if you don't do dairy. You can add any mix-ins that suit you: veggies, meat, cheese, etc. I used mushrooms, onions, broccoli and cheese in mine. Now I'm thinking of other foods that may be cup-like...can I make a baked omelet in a giant mushroom or in a tomato? May have to give those a try!

Bell Pepper Egg Cups
3 Bell Peppers cut in half, and seeded
6-8 eggs (depends on size of your pepper and size of your eggs)
1/2 onion diced
2-3 button mushrooms diced
small hand full of shredded cheese if desired
Any other mix-ins you like!
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Half and seed bell peppers. Place them in a baking dish with sides to catch any egg that leaks out. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs with a fork and add salt and pepper. Pour about 1/3 of a cup of egg into each bell pepper half. Add any mix ins you like then top up with remaining egg. Bake for about 20 minutes or until eggs are set. If you are using more watery veggies it may take a little more time to cook. Enjoy warm!

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Healthy Immune Boosting Gummies

I saw a post a while back about making your own gummies. My kids love gummy fruit and such, but I don't usually buy them because of the sugar content. Then I saw where the Real Food RN posted a recipe for gummies that would fight colds and flu. Why not make gummies that have a purpose as well as taste good? So I looked over her recipe and then altered it to fit what my kids and I like and what I had on hand. So far, I'm having to hide them to keep the kids from eating them all in one sitting. So I think that's a hit!

I made my gummies using Elderberry Syrup, Gelatin, Pomegranate juice, honey and cinnamon. I bought my Elderberry Syrup from Vitacost ready made rather than making it myself, but I may make my own in the future. I purchased my gelatin from Amazon.

Elderberries have a number of health benefits:
Used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

My only issue with the gummies is they didn't want to release from the molds very well. When I make them again I may spray the molds with coconut oil or I may make them in a tray lined with parchment. Have fun making your own Immune boosting gummies!

Immune Boosting Elderberry and Pomegranate Gummies
  • 1 1/4 cup Pomegranate Juice
  • 4 Tbsp. gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Elderberry syrup (use pre-made or make your own)
  • 1/4 honey
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • In a small saucepan, heat the Pomegranate juice until just bubbly. Place gelatin in a mixing bowl then pour hot juice onto it. Stir until dissolved. Add all other ingredients to the hot mixture and stir until well combined. Carefully place mixture into candy molds then refrigerate for at least an hour. (You may want to spray molds with coconut oil...I didn't try this, but I think it might help them release better.)
    More info from the SavoryLotus on why you should add gelatin to your diet:
    1. Gelatin is loaded with protein  ~ With 6 grams of protein per tablespoon, it’s a great way to add more protein to your diet.  Even though it is not a complete protein, it helps the body fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in.
    2. Gelatin improves digestion ~   It naturally binds to water and helps food move through the digestive tract more easily.
    3. Gelatin can help heal food allergies and intolerances ~  Adding gelatin to your diet can heal the lining of your stomach and digestive tract.  And since food allergies/intolerances are thought to come from a “leaky gut,” the idea is that when you heal your digestive tract, you no longer have proteins and toxins that create health issues “leaching” into your body.
    4. Gelatin is good for bone and joint health ~ Gelatin contains lots of amino acids important in helping to prevent the weakness and degeneration of cartilage in joints.  Gelatin, with it’s anti-inflammatory properties, has  also been shown to reduce  the pain and inflammation of arthritis.
    5. Gelatin helps your body release toxins ~ Glycine, an amino acid found in gelatin, assists the liver to efficiently remove toxins from our system.
    6. Gelatin gives you better hair, nails, and teeth ~ Gelatin contains keratin, which is a very strong protein found in your hair, nails, teeth and skin.
    7. Gelatin improves the elasticity of your skin ~ Gelatin is essentially cooked down collagen.  Consuming it will help improve the look and feel of your skin much more effectively then hard- to- absorb collagen facial creams.  Gelatin actually stimulates your body to produce more collagen.
    8. Gelatin helps speed up wound healing ~ One of the amino acids found in gelatin is glycine, which is highly anti-inflammatory.
    9. Gelatin can improve your quality of sleepClinical studies have shown that not only do people sleep better when consuming the amino acid glycine, they report less daytime drowsiness and better cognitive function.
    10. Gelatin can help with weight loss ~ Gelatin is thought to increase the production of Human Growth Hormone and to boost metabolism.  And with it’s nutrient-dense content, it also helps with satiety (keeps you full.)
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