Getting Through Hard Times {Finding Raisins in Your Cookies Instead of Chocolate Chips}

How to Handle the Hard Times (and some chuckles to brighten your day)

Photo Credit (Alterations mine)

Life is amazing and it totally stinks all at the same time. It gives and it robs. It promises and it fails to deliver and sometimes it hands over so much pain we can’t breathe and so much joy we’re bursting. It’s full of summits and valleys, days when your cookies have chocolate chips in them and days when the “chocolate” in your cookies turns out to be raisins.

How do we get through the valleys? How do we handle raisin days when we really need chocolate?

First, a glimpse:

Six weeks ago today, our eighth child was born. He was healthy. Everyone wants a healthy child, but when you’ve had unhealthy children in the past, your gratitude level for a healthy child skyrockets…like rockets…to the sky. We were and still are overjoyed–seriously overjoyed people. There’s joy, and then there’s us–overjoyed.

Five weeks ago I was sitting on the couch nursing my baby and chatting with my grandmother.

Four weeks ago we were standing by my grandmother’s hospital bed as she danced into heaven.

Three weeks ago we buried her.

Two weeks ago Judah and I joined the rest of the family who were already back on tour. Totally wonderful, but I need to go back to kindergarten so I can have a nap.

This past week our daughter with Crohn’s disease had a flare-up, and our son Judah presented blood in his diapers–we’ve been down that road too often.

Six weeks ago–summit. Three weeks ago–valley. Five weeks ago–chocolate chips. This week–raisins.

Here are some of the ways we choke down raisins while waiting for chocolate chips:


15 Tips for Handling Hard Times

1. Cry. Yes, cry. Science is amazing, don’t you think? By science I mean the incredible body and world designed by God–provider of summits and chocolate chips and sustainer through valleys and raisins. When we cry tears of sadness, the tears streaking mascara down the face contain stress hormones. In other words, by crying your tear ducts are removing stress hormones from the body. Isn’t that amazing?! (Yes, Christy. Yes, it is.) So don’t hold back–bawl your eyes out.

2. Just tackle today. I don’t particularly find the words “today has enough trouble” comforting, but this verse does offer good advice: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:34. Don’t worry; don’t regret; don’t think about tomorrow without Grandma; don’t think about where Hannah’s flare might take her; just live this moment. You can handle this moment.

3. Rest. According to this State Universityy of New Jersey Pub-Med report summary, “Effects of stress accompanying social disruption and psychological depression, when demonstrated, have been consistently adverse.” Say, wha’?! Because I am an English major, not a science student, I will translate: stress weakens the immune system, and many personalities cannot adapt to the higher stress levels over time. Therefore, you must baby your body a bit (say that ten times fast) to counter the negative health effects of the raisins in your life. Do what you can to incorporate downtime into your day, even if that means jamming to some 80s tunes on the way to the next doctor’s appointment. To quote my doctor, “You. must. rest! Ask. for. help!” (Yeah, he scolds me…but he’s right.)

4. Hug. I’ve learned that hugging random strangers can get you punched, so I don’t do that anymore. Hugging willing huggers, however, is a great stress-release and a mood booster, because it releases endorphins (happy chemicals) into your body. A 20-second hug is ideal, but sometimes that’s awkward…especially when the hugger hears you counting. I prescribed 20-second hugs to all my children, and they count out loud, which serves double duty in teaching the preschooler her basic math skills and easing my homeschool load a bit.

Twenty seconds of hugging releases endorphins into your body and lifts your mood...unless you hug a random stranger who punches your lights out.

5. Don’t listen to the downers. When my daughter has a flare and people tell me Crohn’s horror stories, it doesn’t help. It’s horrible, actually. Total strangers learn about our daughter’s condition and, because they know someone with a similar disease, that somehow opens the mystical door of permission to destroy this mama’s joy. “I know a boy who had Crohn’s–he died.” Oh? Thank you. I haven’t panicked in, like, 17 seconds. I was almost feeling like a normal person. Thank you for removing that possibility for me. “My neighbor’s uncle’s llama’s previous owner’s niece has Crohn’s and was on the same medication as your daughter, but it stopped working and now she can’t get out of bed and her life is miserable.” Whoa, thank you! I was feeling almost optimistic, but you narrowly saved me from the inevitable fate of a positive outlook. Whew. That would have stunk.

There are times when you can listen and empathize and handle the horrors, and there are times when you simply cannot take it. Just say so. Say, “I’m sorry, but I’m really panicked about my daughter’s future right now, and I can’t handle any more bad news.” Some people have no tact and will ignore your request and keep talking about horrors and doom, so give them this WikiHow link: How to Be Tactful–15 Steps (With Pictures). You could even have business cards made up.

6. Pray. ‘Nuf said.

7. Exercise. It releases happy hormones into your body. If you exercise while crying, you are putting happy hormones in while taking sad hormones out. It’s pretty cool, unless you jog into an oncoming school bus because you can’t see through the tears–that right there is why I don’t jog, people, in case I start crying and hurl myself in front of a school bus and scar the passengers for life and leave my children motherless and get the bus driver fired. I don’t jog because I’m concerned for the job stability of bus drivers. Plus there are bears in the best jogging places, and no chocolate.

8. Laugh. When my father-in-law was dying, it felt wrong to laugh. The first time we laughed during his illness, it was a confusing release of pent-up emotion which actually made me cry, and it felt like we were betraying him, but at the same time it felt good to finally laugh again…while crying–I’m emotionally unstable like that. Why are you taking advice from me?

Laughter can help you through the hard times.

9. Distract yourself. I am certainly not one to hide from the realities of a situation, but dwelling on them does nobody any good at all. I know, because I’m a dweller. Turn the dwelling over to God and do something enjoyable–read a book, take a walk, plant a garden, hang out on for half an hour, play spider solitaire on your phone, call your bestie and make plans for world domination. Whatever you do, don’t dwell!

10. Embrace normal. Sure, your normal is different in the valleys than on the summits. After all, raisins are kinda squishy while chocolate is smooth and divine. Whatever you can do for yourself and your family that resembles your normal (movie night, family dinners, bed-time routines) will help remind you all that life is still livable.

11.Throw away normal. Ah, woman, you’re nothing if not contradictory and confusing! I know. Sorry. Seriously, though, if you homeschool your kids and you just lost your grandma, forget about math. Sit and read books and hug your kids and build a fire in the fireplace and roast popcorn over it in one of those tin popcorn thingies that clearly states, “Do not use over an open fire,” because having firetrucks parked outside your home is totally not normal and it’s a great distraction.

12. Find an ear. Not your own. Find someone you can talk to. Don’t find a fixer or an accuser. Fixers tell you what you need to do to make everything better; they have their very important place, but it isn’t here and now. Accusers like to tell you how everything is your fault. If only you would have… I’m not sure they have a place, except maybe on Perry Mason or Columbo. Find someone with an empathetic ear who will just let you vent and who will hug you and pray for you right then and there and for that short time will make it all about you and your problem until you have soul-dumped and cried and laughed and eaten chocolate and can get back to living. Talk your emotions out with your spouse as well, and with your children at their levels, since tough times often bring out the worst in a body when families need to really be sticking together.

Finding something to be grateful for.

13. Understand that this is a season. When Hannah was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, I thought our lives would forever be a mass of emotions, confusions, regret, guilt, and anguish as we watched her struggle. It has gotten much, much better. Trust me when I say that you will not always feel this way. Sure, I will always miss Grandma and my daughter will always have Crohn’s, but we adjust…like velcro shoes, and things get better…and then worse again, but that’s where this next point comes in.

14. Keep it in perspective. By perspective I mean eternal perspective. What are today’s troubles compared to the glories of heaven. Also, keep it in worldly perspective. Face it–most of the things we complain about don’t matter. Really, I mean…really! Okay, the chocolate versus raisin thing–that matters, but most of the other stuff–non-issues! The sooner we can accept that, the better. Some things really do matter, like cancer and Crohn’s, but heaven has none of those things, and it is very real for those who trust in Jesus. The sooner we can look at life through heaven’s eyes, the best.

15. Find joy. Find something to be grateful for. There’s always something. Trust me. Better yet, trust God.

What are your best tactics for handling life’s valleys and raisins?

My apologies to anyone who loves raisins. I’m not usually so hard on dried fruit.


15 Ways to Burn 500 Calories Without Technically Exercising

15 Ways to Burn 500 Calories Without Technically Exercising

(Random bit of entirely unrelated knowledge before continuing this post: a piece of homemade cherry pie is around 400 calories. Moving on.)

So you want to lose weight, but exercise isn’t your thing. I get that. Or maybe exercise is your thing, but right now your bigger thing is nursing a newborn or homeschooling what feels like half the community but is really your own children. I get that, too. Or maybe, just maybe, you think exercise is mind-numbingly monotonous unless it can be done in a national park or an ocean. I get that, too.

I know some studies say that weight loss is more than a simple calories in/calories out equation, but for now let’s ignore those scientific studies and stick to remedial math. Burning 500 extra calories a day will result in losing a pound a week. After a year, you will be 52 pounds lighter…if life were as easy as basic math, which it isn’t.

To make burning those 500 calories more fun, I found this article about ways to burn 500 calories. Unfortunately, many of them are basically “Exercise until you almost die.” Check them out. As for me, I’m not into near-death fitness, so I garnered the least intense, most fun, or most practical methods of burning 500 calories. In other words, I gathered the ideas that looked the least like actual exercise.

Here are fifteen fun (or at least practical) out-of-the-gym ways to burn 500 calories.

1. Play guitar standing up for 130 minutes. That’s intense, but think how good you’ll get!

2. Shop for two hours and 15 minutes. Some of us might think this is more torturous than a treadmill.

3. Give a two-hour massage. I volunteer if you need a subject.

4. Work in the garden for 90 minutes. Pretty flowers; yummy veggies.

5. Clean the house for 2 hours. You have to do it anyway.

6. Mow the lawn for 75 minutes. Ahem–that’s a push mower.

7. If you’re a gearhead, work on a car for 80 minutes. Vrooom.

8. Shovel snow for 50 minutes. Throw in a snowball fight and you’ve got extra burn. Wheeee!

9. Play with kids for an hour and a half. This ties apron strings and gets you all fitter…or more fit.

10. Ride a bike for one hour. That’s not exercise if you ride a real bike someplace fun, or ride a stationary bike while watching, I dunno, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with your kids who share your off-beat sense of humor.

11. Smooch your hubby for six hours. Yes, that says six hours.

12. Eating for five hours will burn 500 calories. Let’s not address the logic of this weight loss recommendation.

13. Go bowling for two hours. That could almost negate the nachos you eat while you’re bowling. Woo hoo!

14. Ride horses for one hour and 45 minutes and you’re good to go. The horse is even “gooder to go.”

15. Lie still for 7 hours and 15 minutes. Hey, I do that every night. Check!

Before you call the cookie cops on me for sounding like a lazy mama who lies around eating pie in an effort to burn calories, I do exercise and don’t eat much pie or cookies–I only talk about eating pie and cookies. I walk regularly with the dog, hike mountains and canyons with a three-year-old on my back, and do basic muscle exercises with the family.

I do not go to the gym or run, unless I’m being chased by a bear that didn’t read the “Don’t run from a bear” pamphlets. And, yes, I was an A student who flunked gym in college, thank you. I just can’t do gyms. I can do trails, horses, and lying still for 7.25 hours.

I’m not sure I even want to ask for your thoughts on this post. Okay, fine–thoughts?




Cure Anemia Naturally With These Top Foods Rich in Iron

Cure anemia naturally with these top foods rich in iron. No more sleepy mama!


My daughter with Crohn’s often has to battle anemia, and I occasionally have the same problem, like right now. My daughters were excited to jump on the natural healing train when they heard my recent anemia diagnosis, and they immediately began filling my tired self with molasses and homemade chocolate, because that’s what we do–heal ourselves with food.

For those of you interested in battling the debilitating exhaustion of anemia with food, I’ve got a reasonable list of fairly normal foods rich in iron.

Iron is present in both animal and plant foods, and it does make a difference which you consume. We’ll break them up into those two categories, because categories are fun. Whee!

Top Animal-Based Foods Rich in Iron

Animal sources contain heme iron which is highly absorbable at a rate of around 30%. You do not need to eat these foods in combination with anything else to improve absorption, although you may consider not simultaneously eating the iron absorption inhibitors conveniently listed at the end of this article.

  • Organ meats
  • Beef (your best bet)
  • Lamb and pork
  • Poultry
  • Seafood (shellfish is significantly higher than fin fish)
  • Eggs (chicken are the highest, but others rank well)
  • Dairy does have some level of iron in it, but calcium is an inhibitor, so…there ya go.

I’m totally aware that I just listed all the normal available animal foods in the stores.

Top Plant-Based Foods Rich in Iron

Plant sources contain non-heme iron, which absorbs at a rate of about 5%. Not very impressive, is it? You can improve the absorption by eating these products in conjunction with a meat source (especially beef), vitamin C, and citric acid.1

  • lentils
  • beans
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes (leave the skin on)
  • spinach
  • pumpkin
  • sesame seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chickpeas (check out my favorite hummus recipe)
  • dried fruit
  • nuts
  • coconut
  • rice
  • wheat flour
  • oats
  • these other grains
  • molasses
  • cocoa, especially dark

Iron-Absorption Inhibitors

The following foods often prevent or decrease the absorption of iron. Ironically, some of them are excellent sources of iron. Confusing, isn’t it? Kinda like wondering whether you should wash that red and white striped shirt with the whites or the darks. The best advice this non-medically-trained mama can give you is to avoid these foods during a high-iron meal, but not in general, since a well-rounded diet is your best friend (and you thought it was your dog).

  • protein from the yolk and white of eggs (strangely, some people cure anemia by upping their yolk intake)
  • cocoa (do not tell my girls–I’m enjoying the indulgence)
  • phytic acid–this is a common mineral stripper found in the bran of grains, legumes, and other plants that can be reduced by soaking or fermenting.
  • dairy because of the calcium
  • magnesium, zinc, copper
  • tannic acid found in tea
  • peppermint or chamomile
  • coffee–so don’t have a coffee with your porterhouse steak, ‘kay?

Why Not Just Take a Supplement?

While Hannah was prescribed a supplement and took it religiously while anemic so as not to further incite the wrath of her doctor who was not 100% on board with our dietary approach to healing, I do not. Here’s why:

  • I already have to eat. Why not eat smarter!
  • Iron supplements are notorious for causing constipation, which is something Crohnsies and pregnant women battle anyway–why make it worse?
  • Supplements cost money–again, I’m already buying food.
  • Many supplements are not very absorbable.
  • Some of them are stinky–blech. (Okay, that doesn’t really stop me, but it might stop, say, your three-year-old.)

1. Source

Check here for a more thorough list of iron-rich foods that takes considerably longer to read; optionally, go eat a steak.

What are your best tips for fighting anemia? A strong upper left hook?

That lame joke reminds me of a quote from one of my children: “Mommy, would you like some crackers to go with your jokes?” I do get pretty cheesy.

Photo credit (without text)


Mostly Measurable, Manageable March Goals

Mostly Measurable, Manageable March Goals--Do you set goals? They help you stay focused and get things accomplished. Try it!

How did you do on your February goals?

Personally, I mastered omelettes, celebrated National Pizza Day, and made peach pie, so I consider last month a success!

Time for March.

Remember the ridiculously obvious rules for our mostly measurable, manageable monthly goals:

  1. They should be mostly measurable.
  2. It’s manageable.
  3. It’s a monthly goal.

You have to write your own goals, but here are my mostly measurable manageable monthly goals for March:

Family Habits

  • Breakfast Bible: read Luke aloud.
  • Monthly family manner: eye contact. It’s definitely improving, but I’m taking one more month to practice. What’s the rush?
  • Monthly family home care habit: the entry way. Keeping the entry clean makes the whole house seem clean…for a few seconds.
  • Monthly character trait: practice finding the positives. You can never get too much practice!
  • Prayer: we’re good with bedtime prayers; time to strengthen our meal-time prayer habit.

Family Fun

  • Have one game night focused on the older group.
  • Have one game night focused on the younger group.
  • Celebrate National Lumpia Day on March 16.
  • Bake two pies. We let Emily decide because it’s her birthday month, so for March’s Year of the Pie selections we are having both a chocolate and a vanilla pie, both of which we found in my grandma’s pie cookbook.
  • Have a Filipino feast!  Lumpia, adobo, pancit. We missed this last month.
  • Cut movie night back to once a week and make it a special affair like it used to be.
  • Watch the Passion of the Christ. (affiliate link)
  • Make resurrection cookies.
  • Read the Passion in the Bible.
  • Do Sense of the Resurrection with the kids–it’s like an Advent study, but for Lent. Check it out here.


  • Write two letters each…including mama!
  • Continue reading aloud The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.
  • Teach omelet skills.
  • Hannah: Continue weekly goal sessions.
  • Marissa: schedule one college exam this month; order books for two tests next month.
  • Start upper level art class with Marissa, Elisabeth, and Emily (and Hannah, if interested).
  • Test the Apologia writing program with Emily (and Elisabeth if interested).
  • Continue Here to Help Teaching’s writing lessons with Elijah (10) and Rebecca (7).
  • Test Times Tales and Talking Fingers with Rebecca.
  • Study birds from Schoolhouse Teacher’s Charlotte Mason preschool with Eliana (4).
  • Continue Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready with Judah (7 months).
  • Find a new history program–maybe Beautiful Feet?

Music Mission

  • Write April 2016 newsletter.
  • Continue 2016 thank you notes.
  • Update subscriber list.


  • Work dog and self up to 30 minute walks by the end of the month. (If that looks strangely familiar, it’s because we only got up to 20 minutes last month. But that’s okay!
  • Continue the two-a-week treat limit in churches.
  • Continue to expand my food options on the total elimination diet.
  • Research and purchase a digestive or pancreatic enzyme.
  • Make two family dessert night treats that Hannah can eat. (No dairy, grains, sugar, processed anything.)
  • Continue food/symptom journal.
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Notice the procrastination from last month–I just can’t conquer this irrational phobia.


  • Write four non-sponsored, non-review posts here…for you lovely people! This counts as one. Hooray!
  • Write three posts at The Travel Bags.
  • Submit my article assignment for Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
  • Mock out our June feature for The Old Schoolhouse magazine.
  • Begin research for “Old Mamas” article due in June.
  • Send one pitch. Done! 
  • Edit one chapter in my book.


What are your goals for March?

Our Journey With the Total Elimination Diet

I love pie. In fact, I have deemed 2016 the year of the pie, and we are choosing a pie each month to bake; there’s a homemade peach pie waiting for us for breakfast.

I should say that it’s waiting for my family, not for me. I’m not eating pie. And this is why:

One mom's experience on the Total Elimination Diet for her nursing babies.

I’m on the Total Elimination Diet, which heretofore shall be affectionately termed TED. TED and I are old pals. This is my third time hanging with TED at every meal. It isn’t that TED and I are particularly fond of each other. I think TED likes me better than I like TED. Still, we hang out; it’s a relationship of necessity.

Why hang with TED?

Four of my eight children have had digestive issues as nursing babies. With my firstborn, I did not have the support, knowledge, or confidence to know what to do, nor was the internet a resource at the time. With my fourth, seventh, and eighth, however, I had long given up on support and opted to take matters into my own hands. We do have a pediatrician and pediatric allergist on our team with our current baby, but TED is in my hands.

What digestive issues did they have?

It varied–colic, bloody stools, mucous in the diapers, diarrhea, extreme fussiness, abnormal behavioral issues, neon green leprechaun poo–you know, the usual.

What is TED?

TED is a diet that helps pinpoint potential allergens or irritants in the mother’s diet that may be affecting the baby by eliminating almost everything from the diet and gradually adding foods back in one at a time.

Why TED?

Most doctor recommend giving up dairy and soy, but I had given up far more than and not seen much improvement, if any. I didn’t want to wait weeks testing this and that while his little system continued to be inflamed. So I buddied up with TED. (TED’s a bully, just FYI.)

How does TED work?

Step 1. Take everything out of the diet except for the least allergenic foods. Those are (in America) turkey, lamb, summer squash, zucchini, pears, rice, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and salt and pepper. (I could not do lamb, pepper, or white potatoes.) After 2-3 weeks all other foods should be clear of Mama’s system and mostly clear of baby’s system as well. I give everything more time.

Step 2. Add something back in. For me it was carrots. Then I got all googly-eyed over green beans. Adding squash was like a party in my mouth.

Step 3. Wait 3-4 days (I also go long) to see if there is a reaction in baby (or Mom).

Step 4. If there is a reaction, take that food back out and bump it back down the list a ways to try again in the future. If there is no reaction, add it to the food rotation and return to step 2.

Step 5. Record everything. I write down what and when I eat, my baby’s reactions and reaction times, and how I’m feeling. For my baby, I include on a scale of 0-10 his diaper color, mucus levels, blood, smell, rashes, and other info. I also record his skin reactions on his face, his mood, and his spit-up and drool levels. It’s work, but I want to know what keeps that plump little tummy happy and those rotund thighs getting rotunder…if that’s a word.

One mom's experience on the Total Elimination Diet for her nursing babies.

What are the results so far?

I’ve been hanging with TED since my baby was 7 weeks, so five months at this point. While the diapers are still not perfect, I have noticed the following:

  • less frequent bloody diapers–almost none, in fact
  • better consistency of stool
  • fewer facial rashes
  • fewer foul stools (although we’re currently in a bout of them, so I have to check my records and see what the trigger is…although I think I know)
  • less gas
  • less drool
  • less throwing up…although he did throw up on his sister’s head and in her shoes today–again, something is amiss and I think I know what it is
  • far less mucus
  • fewer diarrhea diapers–almost none, actually

I didn’t see an overnight change in behavior like with our seventh baby who was colicky. Baby number 8 never had behavioral issues–he’s just plain happy. What a blessing! But the lack of a sudden change does make it harder to know what’s bothering his round little tummy. If you’re considering TED for colic, you will most likely see much faster results and reactions. 

Also, my joints, which are generally achy, feel much better…even good some days. Now that’s an interesting side effect.

This is a slow, tedious process, but it is the fastest way to lose baby fat I’ve ever experienced! Also, it isn’t completely accurate, but many doctors say it’s the best approach we have. Many other say to put him on formula.

What about supplements?

I am not taking supplements right now, because they caused reactions in my previous baby. I will, however, be taking pancreatic enzymes soon, since they have been known to help break down improperly digested proteins that may be getting into my milk. First I would like to find a doctor willing to test my pancreatic enzyme levels to see if it’s my system that’s on the fritz.

Isn’t TED lonely?

Yes and no. We have a daughter with Crohn’s who is on a healing diet herself, so we’re accustomed to the lonely life…and we’re lonely together. Occasionally we both miss something that everyone else enjoys, like a special treat at a church or local fare on our travels, but it’s for healing, so it’s okay. It’s okay.

In all honesty, we have a very social lifestyle as traveling music missionaries, and that involves a lot of food. We are often invited to events or dinner at someone’s home. Some people are very, very kind and intentionally prepare something we can eat. Most people don’t, which is completely fine, as we can always bring along our own food or stay home. If we do go along, however, and end up staying extra long (like at family visits), we get very hungry if the food we brought runs out. That’s not fun.

And in all honesty, when the rare special someone goes that extra mile for these two smiling faces below, it feels amazing!

Our experience on the Total Elimination Diet

Why not opt for formula?

Gut health is very important in our family. Crohn’s disease is an incurable auto-immune disorder that attacks the intestines, and a balanced gut is important in keeping that in check. It’s got a genetic link (my grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis, which is related to Crohn’s), and is showing up in children more often and at younger ages, especially in our modernized society. I breastfeed my babies as long as I can partly because we love the bonding and partly to give them the best possible chance at strong intestinal health.

Also, if I learn now which foods bother him, I’ll have a better idea which foods to introduce as he starts solids.

Do I judge anyone who chooses the formula route over TED? Absolutely not!  I wonder almost daily if I should go the (expensive hypoallergenic elemental) formula route, if it would be easier to know what was bothering my baby’s tummy, if I’m just being a stubborn ol’ cuss because I’m too lazy to get up at night to make a bottle…which I am, if he’s allergic to me to the extent that I’m doing more harm than good by nursing him. I don’t know. I can’t know.

I’m not saying I’m doing the right thing. I’m saying I don’t know. I do know that I’m doing the best I know how.

I also know that I will once again be going a couple years without cookies and pie while nursing my current little cutie pie…but that’s okay, because cutie pie really is the best kind of pie. Don’t you think so?

The Total Elimination Diet for Nursing Mothers

If you are considering an elimination diet, if your baby is colicky or has mama-heart-wrenching diapers, or if you are just curious, please ask your questions in the comment section below. I will answer them as soon as I see them…which is soon. I am not a doctor…just a mama and a boo-boo kisser, but I’ve been there. Have I ever been there!

UPDATE (6/21/16): Judah is now 10 months old. He still hasn’t grown out of his issues, although he has improved. He is eating some solids, but very few, and only those which I eat. He mostly eats green beans, avocado, and carrots, although he has sampled many more foods than that…some accidentally. Ahem. He will be doing fine for a while, and then backslide. At that point, I backtrack, and he improves. It’s not always easy; it’s rarely fun; it’s always worth it to see his smiling face and clear skin. The allergist says he should grow out of it. We’ll see!




Guest Post: Make 2016 Your Healthiest Year Yet

Today’s guest writer is Leanne. I first met Leanne at a church in Florida where she was vacationing with her family. We then re-met in Wisconsin at her home church. To understand why she is posting here, you have to know that Leanne is fit and gorgeous. When she casually mentioned that she was 40, I said, Give me your business card!” She did better than that. She shared her story for all of you.

Here is Leanne’s story:


Make 2016 Your Healthiest Year Yet!

Happy 2016 to all of you! At the start of a new year most people have New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve never been a person to have resolutions…I like to think of them more as intentions and goals. As a health and wellness coach, it warms my heart when I hear people say they want to eat healthier, exercise more, lose weight, quit smoking, etc.

My resolution (intention/goal) for 2016 is to help all of you make 2016 your healthiest year yet! Let me share a little bit about what I did to change my health just over two years ago.

For the past 14 years our family has tried to eat more organic/natural foods. By all means we are not perfect, but we certainly try our best. I still enjoy a night out for pizza, birthday cake to celebrate another year, and a dish of ice cream just because. For the first 12 of these 14 years I would typically put on around 10 or so pounds each summer, indulging in the “not so healthy choices” while watching my boys play ball. When school would start in the fall, I went into weight loss mode to lose those unwanted pounds before our Spring Break vacation in March. It would take me about 6 months of literally starving myself (even with healthy food choices) to lose that weight.

Fast forward to September 1, 2013…the day my health changed forever! My dear friend Kim introduced me to some amazing nutrition products that have changed my health in so many ways, and this was the day I started! Because our family stays away from foods with artificial sweeteners, soy protein, stimulants, MSG, just to name a few, I do my research on what I allow into our home. I did my homework on these products, and knew I needed to jump in with both feet!

Besides wanting to lose about 10 pounds, I also had a lot of digestion issues going on. I was beginning to think I had a gluten or dairy allergy. I also felt tired all the time and really didn’t have a lot of energy. Several times a week I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep for a couple hours. I was not the happy, healthy, energetic wife and mom that I needed to be for my family. Exercise–I wasn’t doing much of that either because I didn’t have the energy to do it! I was looking for a convenient and cost effective way to feel better.

Nutritional Cleansing is what has allowed me to release 16 pounds of fat in those first months without exercising, gain more energy than I could have ever imagined, sleep like a rock EVERY night, get rid of the digestion issues I once had (no gluten or dairy allergies for me), and feel so much healthier at 38 than I did back in my 20’s. Over the past two years I started exercising and have put on about 8 pounds of lean muscle. I’ll be 41 in a couple weeks, and I am in better shape now than when I was 20!

You might be wondering what nutritional cleansing is….and NO it isn’t a colon cleanse! Nutritional cleansing is a cellular cleanse (whole body) by putting the perfect nutrition into our bodies. Unfortunately, most of the foods we eat (even organic) are nutrient deficient. Our bodies need 90 nutrients (building blocks) on a daily basis, with 60 of them being minerals. Most people are deficient in many of these nutrients…mostly minerals. One of the reasons we are deficient in minerals is because of the introduction of pesticides in our soils. The pesticides not only kill the bad bugs on the plants, but also the ecosystem in the soils that the plants are grown in. If the ecosystem is killed off in the soil, then the minerals are no longer in the soils for the plants to uptake. If the plants are not able to uptake the minerals, then we aren’t getting the minerals when we eat the plants.

Back in 1997 UCLA did a study on women who reported being anemic, yet ate a salad each day primarily from spinach. We all know that spinach is high in iron, and therefore these women should not have been anemic. UCLA compared a sample of spinach they had from 1953 to a sample from 1997. The findings were astounding! A whopping 43 bowls of spinach in 1997 = 1 bowl of spinach in 1953. That 43:1 ratio is the same for ALL the other 59 minerals we need on a daily basis. And…when you don’t have your minerals, even your vitamins can’t be used by the body! All this information made me realize that I wasn’t getting all the nutrients I needed on a daily basis.

The other part to this perfect nutrition is that it helps rid the body of the junk that builds up in our cells. Our bodies are exposed to so many toxins on a daily basis…from the air we breathe, personal care products we use, and so much more. These toxins build up in our cells and basically junk up our body. Our bodies actually put on fat to protect us from the toxins we are exposed to. When we get rid of the impurities in our cells, our body no longer has a need for the fat.

The amazing benefits to nutritional cleansing--it's not a diet, but you'll look great!

Other “side effects” of nutritional cleansing (getting rid of the junk) besides weight loss are:

  • Lose Nasty Cravings
  • Improved Sleep
  • Increased Lean Muscle
  • Healthy Aging
  • Improved Digestion
  • Better Athletic Performance
  • And so much more!

By incorporating nutritional cleansing into my lifestyle, my body is now getting all 90 nutrients it needs on a daily basis. This also goes for the rest of the family because these products are great for them also! Our family also has saved so much money on our overall grocery bill!

Was I skeptical in the beginning? Absolutely I was skeptical, but these products come with a 30-day money back guarantee. I had nothing to lose but those unwanted pounds and my intense carbohydrate cravings! Of course I didn’t need to use that money back offer, because I truly felt amazing after my first 30 days and will never be without these products in my home!

If you are ready to feel the best you have ever felt, now is the perfect time to get started. The company is offering free shipping up to $25 for new customers (on qualifying orders) through January 17, and it would be my honor to coach you to better health! I’m here to help you succeed and reach your health goals with recipes, a private Facebook support group, accountability, and much more! Take a peek at this 6 minute Video called “Are You Toxic?” Find me on Facebook at Leanne Selle; private message me, and I can add you to our private Facebook group for you to do some more homework for yourself! We have 2 different 30-day health challenges starting this month. The first one started January 4 and the second one starts January 18. Join me for both of them! Let’s make 2016 our healthiest year together!

God’s blessings on your 2016!


Leanne Selle
Health & Wellness Coach

Let’s Set Some Mostly Measurable, Manageable Goals for January

This post contains affiliate links and goals. Thought you ought to know.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, because, for example, let’s say you resolve to fit into that size smaller jeans and find out two weeks later that you’re pregnant–celebratory fail! Let’s say it’s super important to you to quit watching television, but then your grandfather invites you to spend every Saturday, Sunday, Monday and sometimes Thursday of football season watching games with him. Are you really going to say no? And why are there so many game days anyway? You just don’t know what the day is going to bring, much less the year.

I’ve tried resolutions. I’ve tried no resolutions. At the end of the year, there’s no difference. This year, I’m trying a new tactic. I’m setting mostly measurable, manageable monthly goals. Care to join me?

Since year-long resolutions to work for me (or most mere mortals), I'm setting mostly measurable, manageable monthly goals. Join me!

Here are the ridiculously obvious rules for my mostly measurable, manageable monthly goals:

  1. They should be mostly measurable, so “smile more” really doesn’t follow this rule…although I’m putting it on there anyway. Walk three times a week is measurable. See? Make more pie–not measurable; make a pie–totally measurable…and edible…hopefully.
  2. It’s manageable. No stressing…which would be a goal in and of itself if it were more measurable.
  3. It’s a monthly goal.

Don’t freak out when you see the length of this list. Most of the items are small things that I need to be more consistent about. Others are general areas of my life that need a little refocusing now that we’re heading back out on the road. Some are bigger tasks. None are radical. They are all written down or else, bam, I forget.

Here are my mostly measurable manageable monthly goals for January:

Family Habits

  • Breakfast Bible: finish reading Matthew aloud and begin Mark.
  • Monthly family manner: eye contact. There’s a post coming about this.
  • Monthly family home care habit: keeping our trailer entry clear–that means shoes must be put away and the hot spot on the coffee bar constantly extinguished or preferably never ignited.
  • Monthly character trait: practice finding the positives–something we began last year casually, but it needs to be a front-and-center practice. I’ll post on it, so ya get it, ‘kay?
  • Aim for two days a week that Hannah can eat every meal we eat with no changes. (Hannah has Crohn’s and is on a doctor-assisted healing diet. She loves days when she doesn’t have to cook a single meal for herself.)
  • Bedtime: Reinstate my beloved brush, Bible, books, blessings, and bed routine.
  • Continue annoying the world by starting everything in a list with the same letter–personally, this is my favorite goal. In fact, I almost made these mostly measurable manageable monthly milestones instead of goals, but I thought that was annoying the universe instead of just the world, so I backed off.
  • Prayer: somehow while stationary we got out of the habit of praying before meals, bed, and trips.

Family Fun

  • Have two game nights focused on the older group.
  • Have one game night focused on the younger group.
  • Have a party on my Grandpa’s birthday, January 29. Grandpa and I always celebrated our birthdays together. I loved having him for a birthday buddy. (Miss you, Grandpa!)
  • Take Judah’s five-month picture before he’s five months and 30 days old. Ahem.
  • Bake a lemon meringue pie. What?! Don’t judge.


  • Learn 15 Spanish verbs. What?! Only 15? Yes, but learning means using, and by using 15 extra verbs regularly over the next month, we’ll be quite fluent…in 15 verbs.
  • Learn 15 new signs.
  • Write two letters each…including mama!
  • Read aloud The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.
  • Teach two core cooking techniques. Blue checkmark
  • Begin one embroidery project with all interested double-digit kiddos–finish in February.
  • Work on one sewing project with Rebecca.
  • Reinstate weekly goal sessions and reviews with Hannah (19)–I love these one-on-one sessions and watching her grow as a writer in her writing business!
  • Find a testing center for Marissa’s CLEP on the road–I think we’ll be in Kansas when she’s ready for her next test. She’s aiming to have her bachelor’s shortly after turning 19; she is currently 17 and has 15 credits. More on that later.
  • Start new math levels with Elisabeth (15), Emily (12), and Elijah (10). (Like, hand them the new book–no biggie here.)
  • Focus daily on math for five minutes with Rebecca (7).
  • Select a fun course from to enjoy with my four middles–Elisabeth, Emily, Elijah, and Rebecca. (See my review.)
  • Focus twice weekly on Schoolhouse Teacher’s Charlotte Mason preschool with Eliana (4)…just so I remember to focus on her.
  • Begin Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready with Judah (5 months) twice weekly…again, so I remember to focus on him.

Music Mission

  • Write January 2016 newsletter.
  • Finish 2015 thank you notes.
  • Hit the open road again on January 7–we were partially stationary to have our babyBlue checkmark
  • Update subscriber list.


  • Walk dog and self 15-20 minutes 3 days per week–not enough, you say? Better than nothing, I reply!
  • Start doing push-ups again as a family–I do them against the van instead of the ground to protect my sensitive joints, but hey, it’s better than nothing! I will do between one and three after walking. I know that’s not much, but I have joint issues and need my wrists to carry an 18-pound five-month old tub o’ love.
  • Reinstate the two-a-week treat limit in churches–church people love to spoil my kids, but they aren’t aware that the next church and the next and the next will do the same thing. Sometimes we hit four or five churches/special events a week, and it’s literally “spoiling” my kids’ and my hubby’s health and waistlines. Not mine, however, because I don’t eat them, thanks to being perpetually pregnant or nursing sensitive babies–ha ha! Blue checkmark
  • Add seven foods back into my diet. I’m on a total elimination diet for my nursing baby, and I’m currently up to five foods I can eat.
  • Find a supplement that works for my baby.
  • Make two family dessert night treats that Hannah can eat. (No dairy, grains, sugar, processed anything.) Blue checkmark
  • Continue food/symptom journal–ugh. Blue checkmark


  • Write four non-sponsored, non-review posts here…for you lovely people! This counts as one. Hooray!
  • Write three posts at The Travel Bags since our temporary stint as The Stationary Bags ends this week.
  • Find interview sources and rough out my article assignment for Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
  • Send one pitch–to really rock the writing world I need to send out about one or two a day…but I’m good with one this month. Oh, look. I already sent it. Check!
  • Edit one chapter in my book–this is the biggie, since I have to delete a lot, and I’m not good at deleting…thus the length of this list. Wink wink.


  • Read Proverbs again.
  • Journal weekly. It’s a good start–nothing epic…just the little things.
  • Smile more. Totally measurable, right?
  • Practice finding the positives. (More about this later.)
  • Master three core cooking techniques from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook.
  • Scrap social media as often as possible. (I know, that’s blogger suicide, but it’s better for my family, thumb, brain, and eyes.)
  • Listen to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and see if she’s got anything on the Flylady, who rocks, by the way! Blue checkmark
  • Read Silas Marner by George Eliot. It’s one of my mom’s favorites, and, even though I was an English major back in the day, I’ve never read it.
  • Keep my computer and phone off from 9 to 9, unless it’s for school or people are sleeping or studying…or my sister-in-law or mom text me–hey, I’m human, and those gals are fun-to-me!
  • Check email daily, delete all new “unimportant” emails (after reading), and unsubscribe from all no-longer-valuable-to-me subscriptions that come in that day.
  • Take fewer pictures. Yup, fewer. This is, unfortunately, measurable, and I do have an accountability partner on this one. Hi, Honey! Nice dimples!

What are some of your goals for January?