Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jude's Zoo Party

We had such a wonderful time at Jude's first birthday party at the zoo!  Here are a bunch of pictures from our day!

He loved this monkey from Pops and MiMi.
 I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling and peanut butter frosting.

MiMi made these fun favors (peanuts in their shells).

Family pictures...












Remember this bunting banner?  I used it at Vera's first birthday party, as well as our "county fair night" last year at the beach!
As usual, we had lots of great food!  Pulled pork, salad, slaw, chips, fruit, baked beans, watermelon, pickles, and more.
 
I've already shared the smash cake pictures.




Jude was pretty excited about opening presents!  Of course he had lots of help!
It was raining for much of the afternoon, but it did clear up when we started to go see the animals.
 Feeding the giraffes is always fun!
 But goats are, apparently, hilarious!




If we hadn't seen this goat standing on top of a sheep, we probably wouldn't have believed it.
It was too funny!
We got to see the penguins being fed!  They waited so patiently!
One of the highlights of Vera's day was getting to splash in all the mud puddles!
What a blessing to be able to celebrate our sweet Jude's first birthday at the zoo!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Smash Cake

On Saturday we celebrated Jude's first birthday with a zoo party!  I have tons of pictures to share, but I thought pictures of Jude eating his smash cake deserved a whole post!
As you can see, Jude had one thing on his mind!
He went to town on that cupcake!
 We realized soon that he was making a big mess and needed to be back in his high chair!
He was so fast he almost ate the wrapper too!
I've never seen a one-year-old eat a cupcake so fast!


"You guys, this is the best thing I have ever tasted!"

"This is the best birthday ever!"
More pictures to come soon from the rest of his zoo birthday party!

Monday, September 15, 2014

12 Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy this Season

As I talk to other women and even scroll through social media feeds, I realize that keeping one's family healthy is a HUGE priority.  When facing colds, allergies, the flu, ear infections, viruses, and recurrent illnesses, we all want to find solutions that will work - not just to heal the illness at hand, but to provide greater overall health (and strong immune systems) for our family.

We have been so blessed with great health personally and with healthy children.  I am thankful that major or recurrent illness is not one of the trials that our family has had to face (though we've certainly experienced other trials).

A friend recently asked me to write a post about what things we do to keep our family healthy.

I do believe that many of the things I'm about to share have helped keep our immune systems strong and enabled us to stay healthy during flu/cold seasons, but I know many people who do all these things too and their kids face illnesses as well.

My hope is that there will be a few new things you can try in order to guard your family's health this fall and winter (and into the future)!


1. Eat Real Food
This is #1 on the list because I believe it is the #1 reason our family stays healthy.  By real food, I mean lots of vegetables and fruit, dairy, meat, whole grains, and other non-processed foods.  We rarely eat junk food and processed food, and I make most things from scratch.  I shop at Aldi, which helps keep our grocery bill down, and I buy other "specialty" ingredients online or at a bulk foods store a couple times a year.  I think it's actually cheaper to eat food made from scratch than to buy convenience foods (frozen pizzas, skillet dinner kits, canned soups, frozen stir fry kits, etc.), but I will agree that it does take more time.  I really love the blog 100 Days of Real Food, if you're looking for how to get started on the real food journey!

2. Use Sugar Sparingly
This one can be so hard to "enforce" if your kids are being bombarded with sugar at school, church, sports events, and birthday parties, but it's so important.  Sugar inhibits your body's immune system (source) and can make you more susceptible to disease up to five hours after consumption.  I use natural sweeteners as much as possible (honey, maple syrup, and sucanat), which are better than white sugar, but they still are not good to have frequently!  Have you ever wondered why everyone gets sick around the holidays?  Could it be that all those Christmas cookies are lowering our immune system?

3. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants
For us, the food we eat the most that contains antioxidants would be beans (source)!  You'd be surprised how healthy beans are for you.  (I have a post detailing many of the ways we eat beans.)

4. Consume Probiotic Foods
We love to eat yogurt (I often make it) and drink kombucha (a fermented tea beverage).  When I feel like I might be "coming down with something" I will try and drink more kombucha!  Even the girls like it.  You should serve plain yogurt or kefir, as most flavored yogurts sold at the store have exorbitant amounts of sugar.  You can flavor it yourself at home with fresh fruit!

5. Drink Bone Broth
Homemade bone broth (also called stock) is one of the healthiest things you can make!  After eating a whole chicken, we make stock in the crockpot (see this post for full directions).  I use stock in soups (obviously) but I also cook rice in it and toss it in certain recipes where water is called for.  My mother in law cooks her green beans in chicken stock and they are SO good!  I also drink stock in a mug when I'm a bit under the weather or starting with a cold/sore throat.  It's a great food to give children who have upset stomachs.
6. Grind Wheat and Bake Bread
We love the taste of homemade whole wheat bread, but more than that, we value the high nutritional quality of a made-from-scratch loaf.  Store-bought bread and flour are nutritionally depleted (source), so we have chosen to grind our own wheat (and other grains) into flour to bake our own bread.  Having wheat germ in your diet can help your body absorb vitamin C (source), which can help you fight off colds and illnesses.

7. Use Saline
I use saline nasal spray daily all throughout cold and flu season, especially if I'm going to be out and around other people.  I often use saline spray with the kids too (they make "baby" saline spray that is a bit easier to use in their little noses).  Gargling with salt water can also help with sore throats or colds.  We also (Tad and I) use a Neti Pot (which you can buy pretty much anywhere that sells medicine) to help with upper respiratory problems or even sore throats caused by drainage.  You pour warm bottled water and salt through your nasal cavity using a little blue pot.  It takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy to do.

8. Rest
We put our kids to bed pretty early (7:00 for all three of them), and I think that helps keep them healthy.  Young children need 12-14 hours of sleep each day (source), and some need more than that.  It's especially important for kids to get lots of rest when they are fighting off sickness.

9. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been proven to help fight off illnesses quicker (source), and its antibacterial and antiviral qualities really give your immune system a boost!  We take it by the spoonful (even the girls!), but you can also put it in other things (spread some on bread like butter, toss some in a smoothie, etc.).

10. Steam
Hot showers can help open up nasal passages, and if your child is young, you can just keep them in the bathroom with you while you run the shower so they can receive the benefit of the steam.  Humidifiers are also a great option for helping clear up congestion and coughs.

11. Garlic
Consuming raw garlic can be extremely helpful in fighting off a sickness.  I think it helped me kick mastitis one of the times I had it!  It's tough to swallow by itself, but you can put it (raw) in hummus and eat that, or you can make a piece of whole wheat toast, and spread it with lots of butter and 1-2 cloves of pressed or sliced raw garlic!  Still not real fun, but it works!

12. Essential Oils
I'm mentioning these last, because I'm still pretty new to using most of them (we started in February). If you begin using essential oils, you should definitely do a lot of research beforehand to make sure you understand all of the safety "rules" as well as making sure that the brand you use is reputable.  I've found that melaleuca is a great one to have on hand for fighting illness, but there are many you may want to try.  (More on that in a second.)

So, you may be wondering...

What are some helpful resources for applying all of these tips for my family?

If you'd like to start cooking real food for your family, I recommend:
If you're curious about how to make treats for your family that don't contain lots of processed sugar, I recommend:
If you want to start using more beans in your menu plan, I recommend:
If you want to learn more about probiotics and making homemade bone broth, I recommend:
If you want to learn how to get kids to eat healthy food, I recommend:
If you want to learn more about natural remedies that you can make yourself, I recommend:
If you want to learn more about essential oils, but don't know where to begin, I HIGHLY recommend:
Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post.  If you purchase ebooks through these links, it will help support our family and this blog! (Thank you!) Also, I am not a doctor or health professional, so please do not take anything in this post as medical advice. Always consult your health professional before attempting anything you read about on a blog. 
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