There Are a Lot of Green Things Growing Over Here!

We are almost three weeks into growing our first family vegetable garden, and we are having good results so far. All of the plants that we started over two weeks ago have now sprouted (the green peppers were the last to pop up from that group; just as I was starting to worry about them, they started peaking through the soil!).

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Last Sunday, we started our second group of plants which includes two kinds of tomatoes and some lavender. None of those have sprouted yet, so they are still under their plastic “greenhouse” cover. Once they begin sprouting, the cover will be removed, and they will find a sunshiny spot in a windowsill too.

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I’ve been researching natural remedies, and I have found that dried lavender is potentially useful for things from digestion/anti-bloating, to keeping  your dresser drawers smelling fresh and keeping the moths away (which is a problem I’ve never actually experienced… Does that really even happen?), to a calming aide for better sleep. These uses are all supposedly due to the relaxing properties in the lavender. Of course, be sure you do your own research before you go munching on a bunch of lavender flowers. (I do have a Lavender Butter Cookie recipe from a friend that I can’t wait to use! They are YUM.) This is all knowledge that I’m just beginning to acquire, and by no means am I an expert, but it’s very interesting!

One of the most pressing reasons that we wanted to start a vegetable garden this year is to get back to eating more “real” foods. There are so many digestive issues out there that really can be solved or soothed by simply getting back to the foods that God and his natural creation has provided us. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When humans get ahold of something, we try to alter it, process it, to fit it for our own agenda or convenience, and doing so takes away some of the natural, perfect properties of the food. The more wholesome foods we can get our hands on, the better off our bodies will be. Simple. And what a rewarding experience it will be to get to eat the “fruits” of our labor. 😉

Stay tuned: the next step is to plant these babies (and more) into the GROUND!

Have you started a garden this year? How is it going for you so far? Please share your tips and tricks with us below! I love learning from YOU.

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The Thoughts of a New Runner (Who Is Usually Quite Sane, I Promise)

As I pulled on my tennis shoes, I had lovely thoughts like, “I feel great today. The weather is perfect for a nice 3-mile run.” Or “I’m going to glide like a gazelle across the pavement.”

I gave my husband and the boys a quick wave, put on the headphones, and left. I started a fast walk as I fiddled with my iPhone: music on Pandora; tracking the workout with MapMyRun. And I ran.

As I began, my steps fell in sync with the music. “I could run forever,” I thought.

.25 mile later, my breathing started to get ragged. “Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. I can do this.”

Breathing under control, I turned onto a gravel road and faced nothing but fields and a farmhouse. My legs became heavy, tired. I focused on my arms, imagining they were parts of a machine, pumping and pulling me forward.

The farmhouse was on my right, a small house with several out-buildings. “Probably for storing equipment,” I thought. But I read a book recently about a family of country boys that were buying women and killing them, storing them in buildings just like those. I moved to the other side of the road.

Halfway up a small hill, my calves were on fire. “What happens if they burn right off my body?”

Then I heard, “Distance. One. Mile. Time. Ten. Minutes. And. Forty-Three. Seconds.”

“It’s only been a mile?” I tried to pick up the pace, but my legs didn’t seem willing. “I’ll just do 2.5 miles instead of three,”I thought. And then, “No. Three miles this time. I’m doin’ it.”

Finally, I reached the turn-around point. I paused the app, stretching my calves and catching my breath. A truck rolled slowly over the top of the hill. “Oh great, they’re going to stop and ask if I need help. I probably look like I’m dying.” The truck passed without pause. “Well I guess they’ve never heard of small town kindness. What if I were dying?”

I tapped the Resume button and started running again. “Halfway done. I can do this.”

My thoughts wandered until I heard, “Distance. Two. Miles. Time. Twenty-one. Minutes. And. Fifty-eight. Seconds.”

My calves started to burn again. I felt the back of my ankles tightening. “I can’t do this anymore,” I thought.

The next song started playing: “Die Young” by Ke$ha. I thought about my son. Cystic Fibrosis. Stories from adults with CF, swearing that running is what keeps them healthy. Ke$ha sang, “We’re gonna die young.” I fought back the tears. Pounded fear into the pavement. With each stride I thought, “Not if I can help it.”

When I crossed our driveway, I heard, “Distance. Three. Miles.” I shut it off.

I was finished. I did it. I will do it again. For myself. For my son.

Image Credit: Google Images

Image Credit: Google Images

**Happy Birthday to Yeah Write! Come join the celebration and maybe even win a lovely prize!**


Munchkin Meals: 10 Months Old

**Linking up today with Brittany from A Healthy Slice of Life for this month’s edition of Munchkin Meals! Check it out!**

My little guy is now 10 1/2 months old, and looking and acting more like a toddler everyday. He is standing for a few seconds on his own, walking while holding on to furniture, and climbing on everything his short little legs can pull up on. He can crawl across the living room and be halfway up the stairs in less than ten seconds!

His meals are also becoming much more toddler-like, in that we are avoiding purees as much as we can (sometimes those handy pouches like the Sprout or Happy Baby brands are convenient for on-the-go snacks!) and focusing on “real” foods. With this change, I have to repeat to myself almost daily, “I am not a short-order cook. I am not a short-order cook.” Sometimes it can be hard not to let his CF (cystic fibrosis for new readers) get the better of me. With CF, growth and maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult, but it is an important factor for good lung health. Also, once I give him his dose of enzymes (which he has to take before he eats, every time he eats or his body can not process the fat and protein), he only has an hour time frame to eat, and there is a limited amount of enzymes he can take in a day, so if he doesn’t eat well, then I have to wait at least a couple of hours before I can give him more enzymes to eat again. So for that reason, I struggle with the feeding choices. The part of me that is always concerned for his health wants to keep offering him things until I find something that he’s willing to eat. However as his dietician pointed out,  doing that is teaching him to be in control of the food, which can lead to unhealthy habits. I know that this is true from experience: my now six-year-old only ate cereal, chicken, meatballs, corn, grapes, and snacks for the first four years of his life. Why? Because I would give in to his pickiness. If he wouldn’t eat the spaghetti and broccoli that we had for supper, I would make him his own separate meal of one of those things that I knew he would eat. Today, he’s a much healthier eater, but I wish I would have been persistent when he was younger about encouraging a variety of healthier foods for him. And so with my 10 month old, I am being persistent. I will give him a couple of options at snacks and 3-4  different foods for meals, and he eats what he eats. If it’s all or most of it, I feel good. If he barely touches it, I worry a bit about him gaining weight, but I don’t give in go through the fridge or pantry, shelling out food after food until I find something that he will eat. I does help me to know that I still nurse him or give some some formula after each meal, but the amount of that is slowly decreasing, and starting next month, we will begin transitioning him to whole milk! Stay tuned for next Munchkin Meals to see how that goes!

So, what does a day like this look like? I’ve taken a lot of pics to show you! (All from my phone, so I apologize about the poor quality. I’m definitely not a professional photographer!)

Breakfast: Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and a banana. He ate about 1/4 of a large bagel and several bites of the banana, and then I nursed him.

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Mid-Morning Snack: Chobani greek yogurt. He has one of these almost every day, because it’s so healthy for him and high in protein. He almost always eats the whole thing like he did with this one!

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Lunch: Grilled cheese and avocado (such a yummy combination!) with strawberry slices and a few yogurt drops. He ate about a 1/4 of a full sandwich (and I finished the rest of it!) but barely tried the strawberry or yogurt drops. A pretty light lunch. Then I nursed him again.

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Lunch

Afternoon Snack: Honeydew melon, string cheese, and Annie’s Organic Bunnies cheddar crackers. This was his first time with the melon, but he usually likes the cheese and crackers. However, this particular time he was completely uninterested. I did give him a bottle, for his vitamins and salt intake, but only 4oz, because I do not want him to fill up on formula alone. After the bottle, he ate a couple of crackers, but most of this snack went untouched. (PS-I also realized after taking these pictures how messy our highchair cover was that day! Just keeping it real.)

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Supper: I made Creamy Cauliflower Soup (a recipe shared by Allyson at Domestic Superhero, except we used “real” foods instead of the low-fat versions. We need the higher calories and fat for my little CFer!) and BLTs. He was hungry and crabby before the bacon was finished baking (Anyone else cook bacon in the oven?? So much easier!), so instead of the BLT, I made a slice of whole grain toast and spread some avocado on it. He ate his whole bowl of soup (probably 1/2 cup) plus several bites of the toast. I nursed him afterward, and then he was ready for bed! Being so active (and down to only two naps a day) wears him out!

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Some days are better. Some days are worse. But I refuse to let the fears of CF run our kitchen. Nutrition with CF-specific supplements will run it instead. And starting while he is young is the key.

Thanks for reading today! Be sure to check out the other Munchkin Meals link-ups for more healthy meal and snack ideas for babies and toddlers!


Creative Play: With Hot Wheels Cars

My son used to love Hot Wheels cars. He wanted a new one every time we went to the store (and for only $1, I have to admit that I sometimes used them as a bribe reward for good behavior!). But as he has gotten a little older, he has found new toys like Beyblades and Legos and any sort of sports equipment he can get his hands on that have taken over his interest. His huge bin of Hot Wheels cars have fallen by the wayside and been slightly forgotten. He will still get them out for a race down his ramp occasionally, but nothing like he used to. I suppose this is just the natural effect of a little boy growing up and forgetting his first fascination with cars. I’m sure that fascination will come around again by the time he’s 15 or so…

Until then, I wanted to try giving our Hot Wheels collection a new life. For a more creative play experience, I added some unexpected materials to go along with the cars. It really makes their little minds stretch… And parents’ minds too, for coming up with the ideas! 😉

Create Your Own Hot Wheels Dirt Track

Materials:

-Empty egg carton filled with “dirt” materials (I used coffee grounds, unsweetened cocoa, and flour)

-Spoon

-Empty shoebox lid

-Spray bottle with water

-Washcloth

-Hot Wheels cars

I set out all the materials, and when my son (6YO) came home from school, he asked (somewhat skeptically), “What’s this?”

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So I said, “It’s a Create-Your-Own Dirt Track and Car Wash for your Hot Wheels cars! You can play with it however you like.”

“Oh. Okay!” he said, and he got right down to playing. Since there was mostly snow on the ground at the time, he wanted his track to have a lot of flour in it for some snow. Once he had his dirt track made, he raced and crashed his cars, demolition derby style.

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I think he enjoyed getting them dirty just so he could wash them off in the “car wash.”

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Build Your Own Hot Wheels Town

Materials:

-Large piece of butcher paper (you could also use the white inside of wrapping paper)

-Hot Wheels

-Markers, crayons, or colored pencils

-Blocks

First, I drew a road, making sure that the lanes were large enough to fit the Hot Wheels cars. Then I made a couple of buildings and labeled them. I also made a couple of trees out of the blocks and drew a few flowers for decoration on the town map, to encourage my son to add more.

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However, he was much less interested in this activity. He barely played with these materials, only wanting to build a few more buildings out of the blocks and then move on to something else! The baby boy, however, really enjoyed it! He colored on the roads with the colored pencils and pushed the cars along the streets with me. Never underestimate the little ones!

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Even though my older son was much more excited about the dirt track than the town building, I wanted to share both ideas with you in case your child is the opposite of mine! What I love about these play “invitations” are that they are a simple way to encourage creative play, without demanding it and without too much adult structure or intervention. You can simply set out the materials and let them create (or not create!) as they like. If you’ve never tried something like this with your children, I encourage you to give it a go! You can find many more awesome ideas on Instagram using the hashtag #invitationtoplay or #invitationtocreate. You can also follow me on IG @closefamilies. 🙂

Happy playing!
Domestic Superhero


Seeking Relationship Advice

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Photo Credit: freerangestock.com

When we fight with our spouse or significant other, we want to vent about the problem to someone. We want to get our feelings off our chest, and if we’re mad at the one person we usually turn to, where do we go? Our parents? Siblings? Friends?

Here is one simple, but extremely important, rule for seeking relationship advice: talk to someone who is in the kind of relationship you wantIt’s like that saying, you dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you are wanting to get a promotion in your career, you wouldn’t seek advice from someone who is working at the level you’re at or someone who is working under you. Likely, they don’t have the experience or best knowledge that you need to move up in your career path. That knowledge and experience comes from seeking advice from those who have already been promoted.

That doesn’t mean that just because you’re married that you can’t have single friends anymore. But when we’re in a fight, my husband isn’t going to take advice from his bachelor friends who have never been married and don’t have children, and I’m not going to ask my girlfriends who are divorced what they think I should do. We still respect all of our friends and their relationship decisions and statuses. But if they aren’t on the same relationship path, they aren’t going to have the best knowledge and experience for us. Instead, we look to our parents who have been married for decades or other friends who are married with young children. Those are the ones who understand where we are at and how to overcome whatever our disagreement may be.

What I’ve also noticed throughout the years is this: when I seek relationship advice from my single friends, I’m more likely to get sympathy and comments like, “I can’t believe he would do that! He shouldn’t say things like that! You’re so right to be angry about that!” But when I explain the situation to my married friends, I’m more like to get empathy and comments like, “Yes, I can understand how that might have made you feel. What if you tried approaching the situation like this? What can you do that might make the situation better?” When we are angry and emotional, we want justification. We want someone like our single friends to say, “Yes, you are right to be mad.” But that’s not always what our relationship needs, and it’s usually my friends who are in a generally happy and caring relationship that can give me the constructive advice that I need, rather than the emotional acceptance that I want.

My husband and I do not have a perfect relationship, but I know that by continually striving to understand each other, learn what we can do to defuse a situation rather than set it on fire, and seeking advice from others who have endured the same types of disagreements, we are growing a healthy and lasting marriage.

Whether it’s your relationship, your career, or just life in general, don’t seek advice from where you’ve been or where you are, but where you want to be.

Thanks for reading today!


Cultivating a Green Thumb

Happy Feel Good Friday, y’all!

This gorgeous spring weather is bringing me out of the funk that I was in. I’ve learned since my last post (with the help of your comments, thank you!) that even if I seem to be going no where right now, I’m making small steps in many directions. I’m planting the seeds in many areas of my life, and sometimes I just need some patience to allow them to grow and bloom.

Speaking of seeds and growing, we have started growing our vegetable garden this week! Yes, it’s adding one more thing to my sometimes overflowing plate of commitments, but it’s another step in the direction of healthy living for my family, so it is worth it. Not only is growing a garden as a family fun, but it’s educational and gives us some quality bonding time. There are so many benefits in the process of growing a garden that the end result of being able to eat homegrown fruit and veggies is just a big bonus!

This is our second year of attempting to grow a full garden. Though I’ve grown tomatoes and flowers before, our first attempt at a vegetable garden as a family was last year. Although it started out well, May was hot and dry. When it came time to start transferring the three inch tall sprouts outside, we were supposed to leave the plants out during the day and bring them in at night. We had their spot in the yard tilled up and ready for them to be planted in the yard, once they had completed their transition period. However, one Monday morning we left them outside when went to work, but we didn’t come home until three days later! That was when my little one was unexpectedly born! By the time we came home from the hospital, the little green sprouts were dried up and brown. It was a huge bummer, but in hindsight, having to take care of a newborn and learn about the complex disease of cystic fibrosis that he was born with, it would have been stressful to take care of the plants on top of it all last summer anyway.

This year, we are excited to start fresh, and I want to share our gardening experience with you all. I have a feeling that many of you will give me many more helpful tips than I can give you, but that’s one of the best things about blogging for me is not what I can teach you, but what you can teach me. So if you see something we should or shouldn’t be doing along the way in my garden updates, please don’t skimp out on the advice! And if you’ve never grown a garden before, then we are technically in the same boat, and we can float along together!

Close Families Garden 2013: The Beginning
We began with a plan. We decided what we wanted to grow (what we like to eat), bought the supplies, and researched when and how to plant each type of plant. Some required starting them indoors eight weeks before planting them outdoors, some at six weeks, some at four weeks, and some directly outdoors. So I made a list of what and when to plant.

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Next we planted the first group of plants. My six-year-old helped a lot with this, and although getting the soil moist enough and using a pencil to make a little hole for each seed was time consuming and messy, we had fun! I let him use a spoon to dump the soil in, help pour the water on the soil, use a pencil to mix the soil with the water and make the hole, and then dropped two seeds in each section. Then we covered the seeds lightly with more soil and sprayed it thoroughly. This first group is broccoli, green peppers, onions, banana peppers, and jalapeño peppers. I used blue painter’s tape and permanent marker in front of each row so that I know which row has which type of plant.

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All that’s left to do after the planting (besides cleaning up a big mess!) is to keep the soil moist. We use a spray bottle of room temperature water to spray them lightly once or twice a day as needed. If they get too dry, the seeds won’t start growing so remember to water them!

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Just five days after planting, we have tiny little broccoli sprouts popping through the soil! Beautiful!

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I also sing and talk to the plants, which my husband thinks is strange, but he plays along anyway. God love him. 😉

After we plant the second group in another week, I will give you another garden update and hopefully we will have a lot more green things growing!

Happy Friday!


A Single Step

While I feel the time is near that a post with this title could be talking about my ten-month-old (can you believe it?) taking his first steps, this particular post is a little more self-centered than child-centered. We all deserve to take a good, long look at ourselves from time to time, and this post is the result of my own recent self-reflection.

We’ve all heard a phrase similar to this one:

Every journey begins with a single step.

While this is true, what I’ve found about myself is this. More often than not, I take a lot of single steps. I take a step into writing. I take a step into educational enrichments for my children. I take a step into healthy living. I take a step into more efficient home organization. And so forth. Here is an illustration, however poorly drawn, to show you where all of those single steps have taken me so far:

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I’m right smack dab where I began. It’s like trying to clean the house by washing a bathroom sink, folding a load of laundry, neatly stacking the books on the bookshelves, and taking out the kitchen trash. Sure you’ve accomplished some things, but the house still looks messy because the beds still aren’t made, the kitchen sink is full of dishes, and the stack of paperwork on the desk hasn’t been filed.

So while a journey starts with a single step, to really gain the benefits by reaching the end of that journey, your next step needs to be in the same direction as the first.

If you’re like me, and you have so many different interests in your life, it’s sometimes hard to get a clear picture of where you want your journey to take you. I often ask myself: which is most important? Maintaining a clean, organized home? Giving my children opportunities for learning? Volunteering my time to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis? Living a healthy lifestyle focused on exercise and a balanced diet? Finding a deep, spiritual connection with God? Writing a brilliant, insightful blog? 😉 And of course, I would never have started a blog about “Close Families” if creating memories of love and closeness with my husband and children wasn’t a top priority.

I still don’t have the clearest picture of where I want my journey to take me, but I know that all of the above have to be a part of it, eventually. I think the key to success–to finishing a journey–is to choose one direction, and stay focused. For instance, if I choose to focus on my relationships with my family, family time should come before anything else. I would read books and articles about building stronger parent-child or marriage relationships. We would schedule more family time. Take a vacation together. Play together. Eat together. And then, when we feel as if we’ve never been closer, that we’ve reached our goal of establishing those healthy, lasting bonds, then I could move on to the next journey. Only this time, I would have the benefit of a strong family unit to support me. The same goes for any path I chose. A deeper spiritual connection will help in all other aspects of my life. Establishing more organized home will free up more time for family and writing and volunteering.

Of course life will always throw us a few bumps and detours, no matter which direction we choose. But if I can just stay focused on where I’m placing every single step, I know that I can achieve any goal I have for my life. And then make room for more.

How do you stay focused?