Monday, September 22, 2014

Changing the Record, Changing Me

I've had this post in the back of my mind for a few weeks now, as I've started to notice some changes taking place in me.

For the longest time I've been telling myself certain stories, replaying old records over and over again. You might recognise some of them (they might be stories you tell yourself too).

"This is too hard for me..."
"I could never do that..."
"I don't enjoy that..."
"I'm no good at that..."
"My kids would never go for that..."

Those old "I can't" records have been playing in my head for so long, I thought they were "me".

I truly believed that "I'm no good at confrontation; if I have to speak up I freeze and lose what I wanted to say." This meant that I let my husband do the speaking for me and asked him to fight way too many of my battles. I let my voice be swallowed up by fear of what others would think, and a desire to not rock the boat or be seen as pushy.

I accepted as fact the line that went "I don't enjoy baking and only do I when I have to" along with "making dinner for my family every night is such a chore." This saw me trotting out the same round of tired old dinners every week.

I struggled with so many aspects of having school-age kids, mainly because I believed the record that said, "I'm hopeless at helping the kids do their homework; I don't know where to begin." The whole homework saga was an endless battle on three fronts and as the children got older I experienced more and more anxiety (and guilt).

[Another sugar free baking experiment - banana, date and walnut loaf: I am ENJOYING BAKING!] 

I also fell for the story that went, "Healthy eating is so hard. My kids will never go for it. They're so picky and it would be a nightmare with battles at every mealtime. Plus It would mean I'd have to bake." As a result I took the easy option when it came to the kids' diet, being too scared of their reactions to try and make them eat healthier.

Above everything else, I believed the record that said, "I am crap at follow-through. I have great ideas but I don't stick at things."

And as these records played their negative stories over and over in my head, they became so deeply embedded that they became part of me. I believed deep down that I couldn't change these things about myself.

I believed nothing would change. I believed some things were too hard for me. Consequently NOTHING CHANGED and some things WERE too hard for me.

I lived my life restricted by those negative records playing in my brain, telling me stories I thought were true.

But lately I've noticed that some of the records have started to change.

Some have changed rapidly and dramatically, like the way my world was rocked by Nigel Latta's sugar expose which has transformed the way we are eating.
Others have changed so slowly and incrementally that it's only by looking back that I see how far I've come.

Instead of "I'm crap at confrontation" and letting my husband speak for me, I've begun to say to myself, "What's the worst that can happen? They can only say no..."
I've rocked up to school, asked for meetings, dealt with issues, and had conversations that have made a difference for my kids.
Another new story is, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil..." If I don't speak up for my kids, who will? Nobody, that's who.

I am now a squeaky wheel, a mum who advocates for her children. I've met with deputy principals, guidance counsellors and teachers - and boy did it feel good! I didn't even freeze.
I've changed the record to "I can do this."

[Dash's English project: a book report Conflict Chart that we worked on together: I am ENJOYING helping with homework]

Since I've begun working again, the old record has been silenced that used to say, "What could I do as a job? I can't go back to my old career and I'm not trained for anything..."
Instead I play the joyful tune, "This job is perfect for me! All the skills I've learned as a mother are being used in this job!"
My new job as a teacher aide has also given me the skills and confidence to help my kids with their homework.
I'm not scared of homework any more. I'm a homework-capable mum.

There are so many little ways the records are changing.
Ditching the "I don't enjoy baking" script and changing it to "It's a fun challenge to find recipes that are yummy AND healthy..."
Switching out "making meals every night is a chore" and changing it to "let's try something new".
Rejecting "I'm crap at follow through" and changing it to "I HAVE to do this, I CAN do this, it's important..."

As all these little changes begin to add up, that heinous old record "I'm a useless mother; I'm not doing a very good job" is getting fainter and fainter. I hardly ever hear it any more. It's being drowned out by "I'm making progress, I love my kids, I'm doing my best for them".

It's actually shocking how much has changed in me in the last while.
I speak up, I do things that used to scare me and I've stopped telling myself "I can't".
Changing the record is changing my life by changing me.
Bit by bit.

(Now I just need to find a way to stop the record that says, "Exercise is so boring... and so sweaty! I hate the way it makes me feel." Then we'll really be getting somewhere.)


What about you? Are any of these "records" familiar to you? What are the stories you tell yourself? (tell me I'm not alone!)
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Super-Moist & Delish Spiced Carrot Muffins (sugar free)

Sorry to overload you with my sugar-free excitement, but I just had to share this delicious recipe for spiced carrot muffins with y'all.
This recipe is a winner on all counts: The muffins are easy to make, they are full of goodness and have no nasties, they are moist and delicious -  even the next day - and were gobbled up and raved about by those fussiest of food critics - my kids.

These muffins are refined sugar free (sweetened with honey) and even have an optional delicious cream cheese topping with no sugar.

I adapted the recipe from one for healthy carrot cake on Sugar and Cinnamon Blog, which was shared with me by a reader. I didn't have a few of the ingredients and I'm trying to make my baking gluten free where possible, so I substituted a few ingredients and these babies are the result.

I promise you will love them. xx

Sugar Free Spiced Carrot Muffins (with cream cheese topping)
adapted from recipe found here

1/2 cup of runny honey
3/4 cup yoghurt
2 eggs
the zest of an orange
1/2 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of oats
1+1/2 cups of grated carrot
half a teaspoon each of: cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of mixed spice

  • Beat the eggs until they are pale and fluffy, then mix in the wet ingredients (honey and yoghurt)
  • Stir in orange zest, spices, carrot, flour and oats until just combined
  • Place spoonfuls of mixture into muffin tins lined with cupcake papers or silicon baking cups
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180oC  or until firm and golden.
  • Makes approximately 18 muffins

TOPPING (optional)
250g pottle of cream cheese
juice of half an orange
2 teaspoons of runny honey to sweeten

Whizz together the ingredients then spoon onto muffins once they have completely cooled. (This mixture is a little bit runny due to the addition of the orange juice, so you may prefer to use zest instead for a stiffer, thicker topping.)

Store muffins in an airtight container and pop them into lunchboxes for a healthy delicious treat that your fussy kids will not turn their noses up at. (They are still yummy without the topping and are less messy, so you might want to keep a few muffins plain for this purpose).


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On a Mission to Reduce Sugar (and wall bouncing)

MISSION LOG STAR DATE 0914: Our mission to reduce sugar in the inmates' diet has been under way for twelve days. This is a delicate operation requiring tact, determination and NASA-quality earplugs (in the inevitable event of whining and complaining). Phase One of our enterprise is almost complete ("Mission Reduce-the-Crap"). Phase Two ("Mission Replace-the-Crap-with-Goodness" is being met with some resistance, but we will persevere in our quest for reduced sugar, hopefully leading to reduced chaos. 
-----End of Transmission----

Hello earthlings and fellow sugar-reducers.
I was kind of blown away by the response to my Nigel Latta/Sugar Free story the other week - it would seem that a lot of you saw that show and had the same reaction that I did: A feeling of horror (at the amount of sugar in EVERYTHING) and a new determination to change things up and reduce the sugar.

I had so many messages from friends and readers who are passionate about healthy eating, as well as from those of you who are more like me (just horrified and anxious) and loads of people shared links to awesome sugar-free recipes; it was inspiring.

I did have to be careful not to be overwhelmed by all the information, and all the recommendations. My super-healthy friends (and those who had read the "I Ditched Sugar" website) recommended ditching ALL sugar, not replacing refined sugar with "better sugar" (e.g. honey). According to the website ALL sugar is bad. Get rid of it all.

But I know what I'm like.
I might lose the will to live if I eliminated ALL TREATS OVERNIGHT!
It has to be baby steps. Bit by bit. Layer upon layer. Phase by phase.

[In case you missed it the first time, here's my sugar-content graphic. Eek, right?]

Phase One is Reduce the Crap.
Instantly I stopped buying all the packeted stuff that gave me the heebie jeebies once I knew their sugar content. Goodbye Nutrigrain, Up'n'Go, and Uncle Toby's flavoured instant oats.
We're back to plain oats, Weetbix, rice bubbles and cornflakes for breakfast.
Knowing what my kids are like, I told them, "This is the last of the Nutrigrain/Up'n'go/flavoured oats; make the most of it cos when it's gone it's gone and I won't be buying any more."

See how I did that? My sugar-crazed brood would riot if I just ripped these things away. I gave them warning. Time to absorb the new regime. Time to savour that last bowl of sugar cereal, knowing it was goodbye.

Baby steps.
I know some of you braver souls would have tipped that evil Nutrigrain down the insinkerator as the sobbing natives looked on. You would have been able to stand your ground when the rioting started and pushed through to victory... but me (coward that I am) I choose a slower path with less resistance. We all get there in the end.

See I know my kids. They're a quirky bunch, emotional, volatile, stubborn. Sometimes parenting them requires all the delicate skill of a bomb defuser, and all the protective protocols of working on a nuclear reactor.
As I've mentioned briefly (so briefly you might have missed it) we have various spectrum issues complicating life round here, which leads me to believe that reducing the sugar can only help the level of emotional volatility. Energy and emotions often run high and reactions to small upsets can be truly nuclear.

I am so very curious to see whether having less sugar in the kids' diet will, in fact, lead to a calmer, less emotionally-volatile home. And oh boy, am I so very hopeful that it will.

So far, since we are doing things so slowly and the sugar is gradually reducing as the packaged crap runs out (never to be replaced) it's hard to know whether it's making a difference or not. Time will tell.

[Super healthy Oat & banana cookies with dark choc chips were rejected by my offspring]

Meantime, I am hard at work on...

Phase Two: Replace the Crap with Good Stuff.
This is where I have hit a few roadblocks, as I've tested recipes which held so much promise but were roundly rejected by most of the inhabitants.

I made the oat and banana cookies with high hopes (I'd added peanut butter and dark choc chips for flavour). They all made puking sounds and refused to touch them, apart from Dash, who put one in his lunch box (out of sympathy for my efforts, I think?). I might try tweaking that recipe, add some date honey for sweetness, try again. They are just too healthy (and EASY) to give up so easily.

I made my famous sugar free blueberry-honey muffins one morning before school. Yes you heard me. I got up early and BAKED. It was some kind of miracle, but it proved to be all for nowt. Two out of three muffins came back home, with complaints that "they were cold by the time it was morning tea". Well, DUH!
Dash though, he said, "Bake them for me mum! I love them!"
Bless. (He's been so receptive to this whole sugar-free thing which is amazing, given that he's always been such a fussy eater).

I made a loaf of Leonie's bread. Not in the breadmaker, by hand. It was easy to make, and it smelled amazing. I broke off a bit of the crust and it tasted divine. I had high hopes and thought "I could do this every day!"
But I took it out of the oven too soon. It was still doughy and gluggy in the middle. The kids tried it and made faces. "Your bread tastes funny mum," they said. I haven't tried making it again.

And then there were the cocoa & peanut butter cookies which looked so good, smelt so good baking... and then burnt on the bottom. The recipe DID say "keep a close eye on them cos they burn easily." Yep, they do. So When they'd cooled I scraped the burnt bottoms off and handed them round... "Yuck mum, they taste like peanut butter!" "They're not sweet enough, they need some sugar!" ("That's the whole point! I'm trying to reduce sugar!") "Well I like them, mum..."


["Date honey": a packet of dates + a cinnamon stick in a pot, cover with water and simmer
until liquid reduces then blend & keep in the fridge]

I will persevere, keep trying recipes, keep looking for healthier low sugar treats I can serve my family.
In the meantime we have made great strides on the lunchbox front in spite of my mixed results with the baking. I keep a box each of carrot sticks and celery sticks in water in the fridge, it can be easily accessed and grabbed as a snack. The level of fruit-eating has increased. They've started putting better ingredients in their sandwiches (ham, grated cheese, spinach).

As the crap options run out they're being forced to add healthier snack options, like crackers, popcorn, nuts. Smoothies are now made with plain yogurt and frozen fruit; plain cartons of unflavoured milk are replacing the sugary Up'n'Go and - get this - they have actually dished themselves up SPINACH SALAD at dinner time. And eaten (some of) it. Uh-May-ZING.

This morning as I checked their lunch boxes I felt a little glow of satisfaction. They are a world away from what was in them two weeks ago. We will get there. We are making lasting changes, bit by bit.
And if this Lazy Mother can do it so can you, my friend. So can you.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Big Girls (and boys) Just Wanna Have Fun too

Our school's Quiz Nite is legendary round these parts and I've always wanted to go. Ever since I heard stories (and saw photos) of my friend Meg's team outfits, I've wanted to be on their team.
They go ALL OUT on the costuming and props. Last year they won Best Dressed. My kinda team.

So when Meg said one of their regulars was unavailable I saw our chance and took it. We were in!
This year the theme was "Battle of the Bands" and our team decided to go as 80's Rock/Pop Stars.
I knew we had to make this good if we have any chance of being invited back, so I started googling for inspiration and up popped a picture of Cyndi Lauper.
I can do that! I thought, and dived into our dress-up box.

My initial attempt was posted on Instagram - and apparently I reminded a few people of "Jem - truly outrageous". Haha, not quite what I was going for.

Our wardrobe seriously needed augmenting after Mr G refused to go as "that perv" George Michael (a costume I could have put together for him with my eyes closed). Hubby decided to go as his childhood pop idol, Adam Ant - much more complicated but I reckoned we could nail that one with a bit of help from Save Mart.

I think we managed it, don't you?

I found Cyndi's tutu for $6.99, a silver leopard print top for $5 and the red wig for $4.99. Corset, belt and beads all from my dress-up box. Adam's wig was originally all braids (which I cut off leaving just a few strategically placed ones); his jacket was plain black but I added the gold ribbon (double sided tape) and the cape was $2.99 - all from Save Mart. Add a bit of white face-paint and voila, Adam Ant.

 We had a great laugh, and true to their rep, our team went all out...

Left to Right: Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Adam Ant, Joan Jett, Willie Nelson, Siouxie Sioux and Madonna.

The very creative Joan Jett went all out with our table props, which included a gold lame tablecloth, flamingo and pineapple (Miami) paper staws, a (fake) box of Miami Wine Cooler and a diamond studded mirror with some icing sugar... (you know what that was meant to be right?)

We were finalists in the best team costume. (A Mariachi band won the prize, though some totally unbiased byanders said we were "robbed").
Boy George won best Male costume.
Cyndi Lauper got an honourable mention (finalist) which kinda made my day.

As for the actual Quiz? Weeeeellll.... we DID get a prize - for coming second to last. Ha!

But winning doesn't matter (as I tell my kids) the main thing is that the big girls and boys
all had LOTS OF FUN!

(and looked amazing too)