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Breakfast can be a carb-laden meal in most homes. Toast, cereal, waffles, bagels; basically, a gluten-fest. It’s often easier, healthier, and more affordable to eat naturally gluten-free alternatives- for example, eggs, turkey bacon, yogurt, fruit, or homemade options. Almost always, gluten-foods are made with refined flours, loaded with sugar (a consolation prize for the omission of gluten?), and at least twice as expensive as the original. Check out the unit prices of some gluten-free foods– crackers can cost more than caviar!

That said, sometimes it’s nice to be able to pour a quick bowl of cereal. We enjoy Chex cereal, as well as some nice options made by Nature’s Path, but that’s about it. A few months back, I read that five varieties of Cheerios (regular, Honey Nut, Apple Cinnamon, Multigrain, and Frosted) would soon be gluten-free and hit shelves around July. Oats, the main ingredient in Cheerios, are already gluten-free, but typically contaminated with other grains during transportation and processing. General Mills (who also make Chex) decided to go the extra mile and make sure their oats are safe.

Beginning at the start of July, my little people have been hopefully checking the cereal aisle each time we went to the store. Finally, this week, jackpot! Our local Shoprite had Cheerios with the special “Simply Made Gluten Free” logo on the box. We haven’t seen any of the other varieties yet, but will continue to wait patiently. In the meantime, I was tickled to watch my girls tear into the box with glee, trying Cheerios for the first time in over four years. It may sound silly; it’s just a cereal after all. But when you think about the average cereal aisle with hundreds of varieties, only about six of which are safe for gluten-free families, this is a big deal. Feeling included is an important.

Cheerios

If you’re a family who will now be partaking in this new breakfast option, I encourage you to let General Mills know how happy you are to be included. We couldn’t wait to send in a letter. It’s only through the voices of the food allergy community that companies will know how important this is to us, and how many families out there are happily awaiting the day when each new, healthy, affordable choice becomes available.

Thank you, General Mills!

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Frozen Dino Dig (1)

Wow Hudson Valley is it hot enough for ya? Phwew!! I knew we were having a hot spell when I broke into a sweat getting out of bed. OK, that may be partly due to being out of shape. But, still it has been hot!

So, after play dates at the pool, eating our ice cream, visiting the library and watching movies inside we were still in need of some cool ideas. My go to idea to chill on a hot day is ice cubes. What can we do with ice cubes? Well, last year we froze mini dinosaurs in ice cube trays for our bath. It was a great way for the kids to cool off and settle down after all of our summer activity. The kids LOVED it! We also enjoyed adding different ice shapes to our water play.

This year… we froze our dinosaurs in a big bowl of water. How else do you get dinosaurs out of the ice? You smash them with a hammer! What kid doesn’t love smashing things?

If you have dinos, a big container and running water this is one easy and fun project!

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We literally added our favorite dinosaurs to the bowl and filled with water. Then we placed in the freezer. As you can see by the bubble inside we did not freeze these over night as we should have.

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But, the results were still pretty cool!

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We gave the girls a rubber mallet and let them take turns breaking the dinosaurs out of the ice! It’s a little scary just how much kids enjoy getting to smash things.

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I sent the kids and hubby outside with the dinosaurs while I stayed inside (with the cool air conditioning) to make dinner. It was a win-win for all! The kids had fun and I had a few moments of peace. Ahhh.. We already refilled our bowl for tomorrows smash fest. I think it will be neat to fill up a few bowls and cube trays to add to our kiddie pool. Not only does it keep the kids cool, but it adds to their creative play.

How are you all keeping cool this summer?

It seems like you hit your twenties, get married and then people start asking you when you’re going to start a family. Then you have your first child and people lavish you with attention. In fact, the parade of people coming to visit your first-born in the hospital seems endless and overwhelming. By your second you get a few visitors and after that you’re lucky if anyone comes at all.

Whether you have one child or ten, I believe each one is a blessing.

Whether you have one child or ten, I believe each one is a blessing.

All The Hype Is Reserved For The First Baby

There is so much expectation and excitement for your first baby. Yet after your second you might start to hear this question, “So, you’re done now right?” I had a daughter and then a son, so of course people assumed the only reason to want another, namely having a child of a different gender, was a moot point for me. I’ll admit that I thought that too. After Jayden was born I thought, “I’m done now.” So much so that I sold all the baby gear with the exception of the crib. Perhaps that was a sign I wasn’t ready to put the closed sign on the old uterus just yet.

Are You Done Now?

After a year and half of convincing my husband, we should have a third he FINALLY agreed. Today, I’m celebrating my little Sydney’s first birthday. I still get asked, “So, you’re done now right?” Ironically, I also get asked, “Are you going to have another and round it out?” I’ll be honest. I have no idea what the future holds, only that I’m open to whatever comes my way. If we never have another child, I will be ok with the three gifts I have. If we decide to have another, I know I will love him or her every bit as much as I love my other children. The only thing I’m sure of is that I no longer believe in talking in absolutes. Even my husband who tells me he is “sure” we’re done will not let me sell the baby gear just yet. I think after having to repurchase a lot of things after we were “sure” last time we said we were done he has learned not to speak in absolutes either.

Fascination With Family Size

I have no clue why people seem so invested in other people’s family size. I do know that TLC and other TV stations have made a lot of money exploiting that fascination. I’ll admit that I get caught up in it too. I wrote a post about my friend Stephani because I’m fascinated with how she not only survives taking care of six kids every day, but how she thrives doing it. Big families that were once the norm are not anymore. Now it’s two kids, and three is quickly becoming the new two. Anything beyond that and you probably get the aforementioned question all the time, as if it’s anyone’s business anyway. So how do we go from welcoming a child as a blessing to seeing adding another child as a burden?

Some people thought there was no reason to have a third child since I already had a girl and a boy, but we just celebrated Sydney's first birthday and I couldn't be happier that we decided to have her.

Some people thought there was no reason to have a third child since I already had a girl and a boy, but we just celebrated Sydney’s first birthday and I couldn’t be happier that we decided to have her.

A Loaded Question

The truth is I don’t know, but if you do please fill me in. The only thing I know for certain is that what one person may see as a burden, another might see as a blessing. I was surprised when my friend Stephani said that she had a lady at the supermarket tell her she was blessed with all six of her children. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I would have expected for her to hear a rude comment instead. What I would LOVE is if everyone just stopped asking. They don’t understand that it’s a loaded question, fraught with emotional pitfalls. For some, asking if a person is going to have more hurts because of a fertility issue or miscarriages or a hundred other reasons that may be private. For others, the implication that having more children would be a burden hurts because they celebrate each child like the first one.

Only Time Will Tell

Before I got pregnant with my third, my step dad used to tell me all the time “Oh you don’t want any more.” I would tell him that, “as a matter of fact I do.” Well here I am celebrating my little blessing today. Sydney is so loved. Her presence in our lives seems so precious and just like my other kids, I truly could not picture my life, our lives, without her. So if you really want to know if a person is going to have more kids, you’ll just have to stay tuned. Maybe you’ll get a pregnancy announcement and maybe you won’t. As for me, all I know is that adding to your family may divide your attention, but it also multiplies your love.

Did you know you were done having kids or did you just run out the clock on your fertile years?

On hot summer day, it’s often too hot to justify doing much baking.  I tend to make an exception when oodles of zucchini or berries are upon us and waiting to be baked into muffins, breads, and pies, but we’ve been eating our produce too quickly to have any left over for baking.  One other fun exception is popovers.  We discovered them a few years ago and were delighted with their versatility.. soft and puffy for breakfast, welcomed as a side dish for dinner… popovers!  Although not my recipe, I share it with you here as another gluten-free alternative that I have successfully made and recommend.

The popovers pictured above came from this recipe.  Be sure to use a good gluten-free flour blend, with xanthan gum, so that they “pop” nicely.  While a special popover pan is probably fun to use, they were made in a good, old-fashioned 12-cup muffin tin.  They went wonderfully with breakfast on this particular day, but they’ve accompanied dinner, soup, even a picnic on occasion.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Peruse past blogs and keep current with new blogs at Stephanie.hvparent.com.

HVP Bio picBy Jacqui Nash

Redefining your yoga practice now that you’re a parent

Not too long ago, this was my morning routine: Wake up around 5:30am. Practice yoga for 60-90 minutes. Walk the dog. Then head off to work. I loved starting my day with time to myself when distractions from my sacred yoga practice were almost non-existent.

Now things are a little different. With a two-year old, a baby on the way and a growing business, my yoga practice is often squeezed in here and there. And a 90-minute practice on my own is almost a laughable concept. When I first had my daughter, I tried to designate her nap time, my only “free time,” for my yoga practice. I wanted nothing more than uninterrupted time to myself to get into my meditative zone, but nap time does not always equate to free time. Distractions were everywhere and I was often left feeling unresolved and frustrated.

Now a mother veteran (does 2+ years make you a veteran?), I’ve had to redefine my yoga practice. While, yes, this is still considered a sacred time and there are some occasions when I can get into a very deep practice without interruption, parenthood has brought to a place that I can honestly say feels more “yogic” and balanced than the strong, maybe even unhealthy, attachment to my practice that I previously had before my daughter. To get to this balanced state, here are some things I discovered while redefining what a yoga practice means to me.

Your practice can be shared

Sure, we love to practice on our own, and when we have a developed home practice, there’s nothing like escaping from the madness that can be parenthood. But if you have to roll out your mat in the living room while the kid(s) are watching TV or playing, do it! It might inspire them to join along or just be curious about this amazing thing that mom/dad is doing.

Jacq & Sienna Practice

Don’t get frustrated about interruptions

Yes, it’s going to happen. Your husband or wife needs to talk to you about dinner NOW because they are at the grocery store. Or your little one is finally napping, but 10 minutes later he is wailing because of a dirty diaper. It’s going to happen and the breath work that we practice during our yoga class isn’t just to center us during our practice. It’s a tool that can help transition us calmly from the yoga mat to the diaper explosion.

15 minutes on the mat is a yoga practice

Trust me. Your day will feel better if you’ve done a some sun salutations and maybe even a few other stretches and conscious breathing than if you’ve done nothing at all.

Remove the guilt of wanting time to yourself

There are mornings when your partner is home and everyone is relaxing and you feel required to be there with the family, but all you’re thinking about is going to a yoga class. If your partner can stay with the kids, then GO! If you come home feeling better than you did before you left, your entire family will benefit from you taking a little time for yourself.

Bring an instructor to you

Don’t have time to ever make it to a class or don’t know how to practice yoga without the guidance of an instructor? This Hudson Valley is flooded with amazing yoga instructors who would be happy to come to you and work around your schedule to help you develop a home practice. It might seem costly, but if you work with a private instructor once or twice a month, it could be the monetary equivalent (and more valuable) than going to a group class once or twice weekly. You could also find online classes (if you’ve never practiced yoga before, I highly recommend working with a teacher in a class or privately at least once to familiarize yourself with postures to avoid injury).

Let go

This is a basic concept of yoga philosophy that is beyond applicable here. Had an idea of what your perfect yoga practice should look like? Let it go. Think you need 90, even 60 minutes every time you come to the mat? Let it go. In yoga there are the balancing concepts of aparigraha and vairagyaAparigraha is a dedicated practice, such as a regular yoga practice, and vairagya means detachment or not getting so attached to your practice that you become obsessed and miserable if it doesn’t live up to your expectations. The balance, while conceptually simple to grasp, can be incredibly challenging to apply to your life, especially as a parent. And your everyday life is where the true yoga practice takes place; not necessarily on the mat, but applying the concepts and ideas of contentment and love to your ever day living.

Jacqui Nash is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through the Yoga Alliance and is the co-founder of The Yoga House in Uptown Kingston, where she teaches yoga and co-leads the Yoga Teacher Training program. As a mother, wife, yogi, foodie, student, teacher, and outdoor adventurer, Jacqui shares her thoughts on how yoga influences all aspects of her life on her website and blog, The Babbling Lotus.

Last week I talked about my hatred of parenting articles that are intent on pointing out the many ways our parenting skills fall short. Nobody is perfect and caring for one or more children doesn’t change that. But I’m here to tell you that perfection is not necessary to be a good parent. Here are another four of the many ways you’re already doing it right and why you’re kids love you more than anyone else in the world.

5. You Get Silly Like Nobody Is Watching (except your kids) – I recall shopping with my oldest daughter as a baby and being so wrapped up in singing to her as I pushed my cart along the aisles that I almost forgot I was in public. That is, until I caught a glimpse of someone giving me the “what’s up with her” look as she passed me by. At that moment I knew I would never feel weird about getting silly with my kids. My baby girl was happy and so was I and no amount of stares from strangers would change that. From the time they were babies, my kids not only had nicknames, but their own theme songs as well. Titles include, “Who’s Mommy’s Little Peanut” in both the original and remix formats and “She’s Syd-erific.” You’ll never hear them on the radio, but if you ever see me out in public you just might get to hear one.

Having kids has made my husband and I more adventurous. We took a 3 1/2 mile round trip hike to Mullet Falls with the kids recently.

Having kids has made my husband and I more adventurous. We took a 3 1/2 mile round trip hike to Mullet Falls with the kids recently.

6. Childhood Is NOT For The Sidelines – Childhood is a contact sport and that means playing and exploring the world with your kids. I made a comment to my husband’s co-worker on our day trip to Jellystone Campground a few weeks ago that “my husband is such a kid at heart.” I was watching him go down water slides both with and without the kids. She must have heard me wrong and said, “Yeah, you were really having fun on that jumping pillow.” I knew she was right about that fact so I didn’t correct her. I had just as much fun bouncing with my kids as they did. I love that my husband and I both get in there and play with our kids instead of just watching them. We started taking the kids on hikes. Whether it’s a river or a waterfall we find on our adventure, my husband plays in the water with them and we always have a good time.

Willie was brave enough to splash through the waterfall with Hannah and Jay. Exploring, playing and being hands gives is what we strive for as parents.

Willie was brave enough to splash through the waterfall with Hannah and Jay. Exploring, playing and being hands brings us even closer as a family.

7. Their Needs Come First – No matter what our money situation is, our kids needs come first. Sure, some people  might think we’re struggling because we have to turn down invitations to dinner or outings sometimes, but our necessities are ALWAYS taken care of. My heart breaks for parents that really do struggle to meet their kids basic needs. I simply can’t imagine having to tell my child that there is no food to eat. I’ll go hungry before they ever do. I’m sure you feel the same way.

8. Teaching Them To Do Things Themselves – When they’re babies, I’m happy to obey their every command. When they’re old enough to acquire basic living skills, I am more than happy to teach my kids to do things themselves. Not only does it give us parents a much needed break from the near constant work that is parenting, but it makes them feel proud of themselves to be able to do things on their own.

When Hannah decided she was ready to take the training wheels off her bike and she fell the first few times her instinct was to blame me. She wanted it to be my fault for letting her take this step. I told her, “You’re going to fall. Falling is part of the process. You can decide to try anyway until you get it or you can put the training wheels back on, but you will not blame anyone, not even yourself for falling. It’s normal. It’s how we learn.” We can try to save them from the big mistakes, but the only way they gain confidence in themselves is if we give them the freedom to do things on their own.

I hope I’ve given you a little encouragement Moms and Dads because Lord knows parenting is hard enough without articles or people telling us all the things we’re doing wrong.

My daughters and I were sitting in a waiting room, and on television was a woman sharing her recipe for lemon bars and feeding them to a crew of construction workers. The next morning, Pioneer Woman scrolls across my Facebook newsfeed with the status, “Here are the lemon bars I made on television yesterday.” I looked at the description of the episode, and it was the same one we’d seen. Coincidence? I don’t know, but you don’t have to say “lemon bar” twice. It was Father’s Day, and I was prowling for a dessert idea. Caveat, the recipe was not gluten free. I looked around online to find a similar, but gluten and dairy free recipe, but didn’t find one I liked quite as much. I decided to wing it, simply substituting ingredients, seeing how the dough seemed, and fiddle as necessary.

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

Using this recipe, I substituted a gluten-free flour blend in the crust (one that includes xanthan gum), and for the butter I used half coconut-oil, half non-hydrogenated dairy-free butter. The crust came together perfectly. The lemon filling required no substitutions. I noticed the filling was a very thin layer compared to the crust, but according to the recipe, that’s how Pioneer Woman likes her lemon bars. By the time they were out of the oven, the kitchen smelled so good that we couldn’t want to try them. After letting them cool, we sliced them up and bit in. YUM. They didn’t even need powdered sugar on top. The only thing I recommend? Make them when you’re about to see friends or family, because you’ll want to eat all of these yourself. They lemon was just right, not overpowering or tart, and the thick, cookie-like crust was just sweet enough. This is definitely one we’ll be making again! Perfectly portable for your summer excursion.

Share your family’s favorite summer desserts below. To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Peruse past blogs and keep current with new blogs at Stephanie.hvparent.com.

Creating an outdoor

When I was a preschooler you could find me playing in the mud. I drove my mom crazy with cleaning me up after a mud session, only to find me wandering back outside to find more mud. Sorry mom, it’s just good clean, messy fun!

Is it any wonder my own children love playing in the mud? I actually encourage them by helping them create their own mud kitchen. You can find some pretty fancy mud kitchens complete with a sink, tables and chairs, etc. Just check Pinterest! We just happened to have an unused planter box filled with clean dirt. My kids started digging in the box around age two- a naturally curious age. It remains one of their most favorite places to play!

Mud kitchen 003

As soon as I realized my girls were not giving up their time in the dirt, I purchased aprons and small shovels. I rummaged through my kitchen for some spare spoons and plastic bowls to  donate to the cause.

Mud kitchen 001

We continually add to our kitchen supplies. We use things like cups, bowls, muffin tins, wire whisks and more. I snagged a bakers rack someone was giving away to use as storage for our kitchen items when not in use.

Mud kitchen 002

My girls work together to perfect their soup recipes and mud pie recipes. They are always so proud to show off their latest creations. Whenever they find a new bug, or worm we have to study it and learn more about it. My girls learn to balance and build and make up their own stories. They play for hours in the box just digging and imagining. They are not the only ones! It is a real hot spot for play dates with our friends.

Tips for creating your own mud kitchen:

You don’t have to get fancy. Look around and use what you already have! An abandoned garden box, an old kids kitchen set, or even a plastic tote with dirt in the bottom works too.

Locate your kitchen near a water source. You can’t make mud without water. We also use the hose wash our kitchen utensils before putting them away.

Find cheap kitchen supplies at garage sales, or the dollar store. Clean out your kitchen and get rid of old items you would normally toss anyway.

Participate with your kids, but let them run the show. This is their time to be creative and take charge. Parents don’t need to dictate a story line, or how a kid uses a toy. Just follow their lead!

You may be thinking that I have gone too far with my Whatever philosophy, or that I have gone completely over board with letting my kids get creative. But, playing in the mud allows kids to use their imaginations, build motor skills and problem solving skills! You won’t find any “app” that will give your kids the same experience as playing in the mud!

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

I’ve had this post in my heart for some time now. I, like you, probably ready a lot of parenting articles online. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty darn sick of articles like 10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Kids. I read things like this and I think, what a joke. A parenting magazine trying to convince parents that telling your kids things like, “Good job” is going to harm them. REALLY? First of all, let’s forget for a second that their target audience is comprised of people who want to be good parents. I highly doubt neglectful or abusive parents are concerning themselves with the emotional damaged caused by telling their kids, “Good job.” What I really wonder is why make it a goal to make parents feel lousy about their parenting skills?

Kissing Sydney

Don’t we have enough guilt every single day? Don’t we second-guess most of our decisions and actions already? What’s the point here? If they make readers feel completely incompetent then they will come back to read some more? For me, this doesn’t fly. If an article is trying to make you feel bad, which you can usually tell by the title, then just skip it. Why add more stress, frustration and second-guessing to your day? I want to do what those articles will not. Here are the top 8 things you are already doing right.

1. Say It Loud And Proud – “I Love You” – If you’re like me, you probably tell your kids you love them all the time, before drop off at school or camp, before bed and many times just because it strikes you how amazingly lucky you are that these little people call you Mom or Dad. We say it so often because we’re good parents and we want those words to penetrate their very souls. We want them to carry that love around whether they are with us or not. We want them to use it to build their self-confidence when a friend decides they don’t want to play with them. We want them to use it to filter out anyone in the world who doesn’t see all the amazing things we see when we look at them.

2. Hugs, Kisses, and Cuddles – I came from a very affectionate family and it didn’t even occur to me till I met my husband’s family that there were families who were reserved in their physical affection. It’s so important that all people, especially our kids feel our physical affection for them. A hug when we’re feeling bad is sometimes the best medicine for us, so why wouldn’t it be for them? Sometimes I have to make a point to cuddle my oldest, because even though she’s growing up before my eyes I know she needs it. Even as a woman in my 30s there’s still nothing I wouldn’t trade to have one last hug from my parents.

I'm not a perfect parent, but I strive every day it is my privilege to do everything in my power to protect and care for these little people. It is an honor to be their Mom.

I’m not a perfect parent, but I remind myself every day that it is my privilege to do everything in my power to protect and care for these little people. It is an honor to be their Mom.

3. Setting Boundaries – While we want our kids to be happy, we know that can’t happen at the expense of setting boundaries. My kids would love to eat candy for breakfast, but it wouldn’t be good for them. You’ll read tons of articles on how to sugar coat the word “No” so it doesn’t harm their fragile little egos, but children are born to test limits and if we don’t give them any they will quickly find themselves in trouble and ill prepared to live in the world. Ultimately we would do our kids a great disservice if we didn’t teach them what our parents taught us – “No, means, no, end of story.”

4. Apologize To Them – I make it a point to apologize to my kids if I snap at them out of frustration or punish them a little too harshly even if punishment is warranted. The idea of trying to prevent yourself from EVER yelling or overreacting is ridiculous to me. I can’t will myself to be perfect and they can’t either. What I can teach them however is how to apologize when emotions get the best of us and we do not act with grace. I do this by example. I also tell them constantly that even if mommy is upset with their behavior, I still love them and there is NOTHING they could do that would change that. After my son’s very long tantrum the other day, just before bed he said to me, “you know Mommy, even when I’m mad and say I hate you, I still love you.” I knew in that moment that my words had gotten through.

Oh there are tons more you’re already doing right moms and dads. Stay tuned for the rest of my list and in the mean time, just skip those headlines intended to make you feel bad. There is no point. Like my husband likes to remind me, “Worrying doesn’t solve tomorrow’s problems. It just ruins today’s happiness.” So just get out there and keep being great parents and stop sweating “expert” advice. Guess what? On the subject of your kids, YOU are the expert. Period. End of story.

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