All posts by Pamela Simon

Grilled Vegetables with Miso Dressing

Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free & Dairy-Free

HB 6_24_15 B

 

Want to escape the heat of the kitchen? Bring your veggies outside and fire up the grill. Grilled vegetables can be served as the main course or as a side. Best of all you can mix it up and add some of your favorite veggies!

Pair your grilled veggies with the miso dressing recommended below and you’ll have a complete meal.

Here’s an added bonus… Dice up the leftovers (if there are any!) and add to your favorite rice for a second meal!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:


2 Portabella Mushrooms

1 Eggplant

1 Green Pepper

1 Yellow Pepper

1 Red Pepper

1 Yellow Onion

½ Pineapple

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

Prep Vegetables:

Eggplant: Trim and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices. (Leaving the skin on or removing it, is a personal preference) Place slices in a 9×13 glass or stone pan, add 1 teaspoon sea salt and enough water to cover the eggplant. Place a plate on top of the eggplant to keep it immersed in the water. Soak the eggplant for 30 minutes.

Mushrooms: Wash and remove stems

Peppers and Onion: Wash, remove stems and seeds (peppers), slice lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices.

Pineapple: Slice lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices

Prepare grill: Make sure slates are clean of brushed

Method:

 

Brush all vegetables and pineapple with Extra Virgin Olive Oil on one side, salt and pepper to taste, place on grill for 2-3 minutes, turn and brush other side of vegetables and pineapple with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Continue to turn and cook vegetables and pineapple until each side is lightly grilled.

Miso Dressing:

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon Chickpea Miso

1 tablespoon Coconut Liquid Aminos

3 tablespoons Fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender, mix until well blended and smooth.

Drizzle over grilled vegetables and pineapple. Serve extra on the side for dipping.

ENJOY!

 

 

Nutritional Benefits:

Portobello mushrooms:

The benefits of mushrooms dates back thousands of years. Today it’s been discovered they are an excellent source of many minerals, including selenium, copper, potassium and zinc. They also provide beneficial B vitamins such as: thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.

Eggplant:

Eggplant is an excellent source of dietary fiber, and a good source of vitamins B1, B6 and potassium. It’s also a good source of copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, niacin and folic acid.

Bell Peppers:

Bell peppers come in a variety of colors also ranging in bitterness and sweetness. I enjoy cooking with a combination to enhance the flavors of so many foods. They are a very good source of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K and vitamin B6. They’re also a good source of thiamine and folic acid.

Onions:

There are a variety of onions to choose from. They differ in size, color and taste. Each offers a slightly different flavor. For this recipe I chose red onions for their full, robust flavor. Onions are a good source of Vitamins C and B6, are a good source of folic acid and dietary fiber.

Pineapple:

I love pineapple and after learning how beneficial they are, I now eat pineapples on a regular basis. They are so versatile: can be used in smoothies, stir-fry, pizza… You get the idea! Many people today face digestive issues and Pineapples contain the digestive enzyme bromelain, which aides in digestion. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and a good source of vitamin B6, copper, magnesium and dietary fiber.

Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo beans):

They are a very good source of fiber folic acid, and manganese. They are also a good source of protein and the following minerals: iron, magnesium, copper and zinc.

Chickpea Miso is fermented chickpeas. The benefits of fermented foods are numerous: they contain beneficial probiotics (good for the belly) and digestive enzymes.

Chickpea Miso is a nice alternative to soy-based miso if you are allergic to soy or simply want to avoid soy products.

Coconut Liquid Aminos:

This is an excellent alternative to soy sauce if there is an allergy to soy in your home or you are trying to avoid soy products.

Pam

 

With Death, There Is No Escaping Grief.

 6_17_15

 

Dear Friend,

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my husband, Larry, and I waited quite a while to settle down and have a family. He was 43 years old when our first son, Henry, was born and just a month shy of turning 46 when the twins, George and Charlie, were born.

Despite being what some would call an “older” dad, he was a very active and fantastic dad! His purpose in life changed from the moment he held Henry in his arms. And he was just as thrilled when George and Charlie were born, telling everyone he had his own foursome for golf!

Taking care of three kids under 3 years of age was tough. But Larry worked from home and would “pop” in and talk, play, eat lunch and lend a hand with the boys throughout the day.

As the boys got older he enjoyed introducing them to the world of sports. He helped coach little league baseball, he took them to the driving range to teach them how to swing a golf club (and promptly told me to get them lessons!) and he loved to share stories about his favorite Chicago teams: he was a HUGE Cubs, Bears and Hawks fan!

In addition to team sports, Larry loved the outdoors and enjoyed golfing, bike riding, hiking and fishing, which he wanted to pass on to the boys. We spent many lazy weekend afternoons riding the beautiful bike trail by our house that parallels a golf course and a city park.

This same park has a small lake that’s stocked with fish at certain times of the year. On days that Larry wanted to take the boys fishing he would first spend some time organizing the tackle box and fixing the reels on all the fishing poles, then run to the store to get fresh worms for bait.

I was invited along mostly to help keep tabs on the boys!

No matter how many times we went fishing, the scenario was the same.

It started with the initial excitement with regards to how many fish would be caught. Everyone’s high hopes would fade quickly as one by one the boys would get their lines tangled or their fishing reels jammed. I’d have to hide my smirk as Larry’s frustration grew. It seemed just as he finished getting one fishing pole ready to be cast, another’s needed to be fixed.

Needless to say, we never caught very many fish! But I gave him credit: no matter how trying the excursion may have been, he’d start planning another trip shortly thereafter.

These memories are priceless. To this day the boys reminisce about the fishing they did with their dad.

It’s those memories and countless others that keep Larry alive in our hearts and minds. Still, we miss him every day and regardless of how long he’s been gone it’s still difficult facing special days without him. Father’s Day is one of them.

In fact, the first Father’s Day without Larry was absolutely heartbreaking.

That year my own father was thousands of miles away. This was before he moved to Arizona, so spending the day with him was not an option. I look back on that as a mixed blessing. I love my father very much and certainly called to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, but that year I didn’t feel much like celebrating.

It wasn’t my father I was mourning- it was my children’s dad. So I knew I had to ask my children what they wanted to do that first Father’s Day without their dad.

After discussing a few options they voted on seeing a newly released movie, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” which featured the actor Jim Carrey. (Remember: there is no right or wrong way to spend your day.)

I felt a little relieved. Selfishly I thought, “Great, I can go watch a funny movie and forget what day it is.” Then the movie started.

Basically Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) inherits a bunch of penguins after his father dies while on an expedition and ships the penguins to his residence in New York City. There were plenty of funny antics throughout the movie, but intertwined with the story was the lead character trying to reconcile a strained relationship with his dad, especially since he was no longer alive.

“Are you kidding me??!” I wanted to scream in the theater.

I came here to avoid all thoughts of death, particularly grief for fathers who died, and this is what I get.

And that’s when I realized, when it comes to death, there is no escaping grief. You can run, you can hide, you can even pretend for a brief moment the unthinkable didn’t happen… But the reality is: it did.

This Sunday I know there will be many of us wondering how we’re going to spend the day. What do you do on Father’s Day if your own father is no longer alive?

And the unthinkable: how do you cope if you’re a father who has lost a child?

I wrote the following tips in an earlier post for Mother’s Day, but I found they are just as valuable today as they were then.

For children who have lost a father:

* Involve the children, let them help you plan the day.

* They can write a letter or draw a picture for their dad.

* Is there a place of remembrance they would like to visit?

* Are there any other male figures they would like to recognize on this day? A grandfather, uncle or close friend?

For fathers who have lost a child:

* Consider ahead of time how you want to spend the day.

* Communicate your thoughts to others.

* Is there something special you would like to do to on this day to commemorate your child?

* Can you think of a way to recognize your other children, if you have any?

For grandfathers who have lost a grandchild:

You’re enduring the pain of watching your adult son grieve for your grandchild while you yourself are also grieving. Because you love your child (who is no longer a child), you will do what most fathers do and give the biggest gift of all: your love, understanding and patience.

Please be patient and understand that your grieving son may not want to recognize this day, or may choose to do so alone with his own children. Understand that your grieving son may “forget” to say “Happy Father’s Day” or even “I love you, dad.”

The biggest gift you give – your unconditional love – will be returned to you tenfold because of your patience and understanding.

As for me and the boys… I’m very thankful that my father is living close by. I won’t take a Father’s Day for granted ever again. The boys and I will spend some time honoring their dad and our continued love for him and we will also spend time with my dad, their grandfather, and let him know how happy we are he is still with us.

I pray all the dads find peace in their hearts this Father’s Day.

Pam

P.S. To all the dads out there, I wish you a very happy Father’s Day!

 

Phytonutrients and a plant based diet

  MB 6_3_15

Hello,

The weather is warming up across the United States (especially in Arizona, yikes!) and it tends to bring farmers out into the community to offer their fresh local produce for patrons to purchase. The higher temps and (hopefully) sunny days also entice many individuals to start their own home vegetable gardens.

Even the pickiest or most adverse “anti-vegetables” individuals will soften when they get their hands on a home-grown tomato, cucumber or bell pepper. Nothing tastes better than vegetables picked fresh from the garden and brought to the table that same day – or that same hour!

I can’t think of a better time of year to discuss the benefits of eating a diet rich in plants. Now, don’t get nervous… I’ve stated before: I’m not trying to “convert” anyone to only following a plant-based diet! I AM trying to get you to eat more plants, though, and hopefully after reading today’s post you’ll understand that all I want is for you and me to be the healthiest we can be.

We all know that we need to eat a diet that consists of protein, fat and carbohydrates along with essential vitamins and minerals in order for our bodies to survive. But, have you ever heard of phytochemicals?

I find it fascinating that it wasn’t until the 19th century when scientists even discovered the essential components that make up our food. I mean, how did the human race exist without carefully measuring how much protein, fat or carbs they ate each day? Of course, I’m kidding around!

But what’s not funny is today we live in a society that is spending billions (yes, BILLIONS) of dollars a year trying to figure out how to lose weight or be healthy by subscribing to every fad diet and buying products that promise everything under the sun to change your life… if only you buy their product!

Ironically, as a nation, we are getting heavier and our health is declining faster.

Today I’m going to go against the grain and offer some advice; “Don’t waste your money!”

All you have to do is eat more plant-based foods- and lots of them! Can it be that simple? Yes and no. Yes, that in adding more plant-based foods to your diet can only add to the health of your body. No, because it takes time sampling menus and creating healthy recipes (that’s where I can help!)

Plant foods can have a dramatic impact on your health because of the phytochemicals (also known as phytonutrients) that they contain.

These phytonutrients are bioactive compounds found in plants we eat.

They are said to be the plants’ protective mechanism for fighting off pests and predators, free radicals, pollution, toxins and ultraviolet rays (imagine what they can do for your body!) Plants are truly amazing and have existed on this planet for millions of years WITHOUT the need of pesticides to ward off bugs. Mother Nature created plants to be resilient and beneficial to the animal kingdom- and that includes us humans!

The phytonutrients in the plants are also responsible for the color, smell and taste of the fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds we eat.

So why don’t we hear about phytonutrients as much as we do proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals?

There are a couple of reasons.

First, science has just recently begun to understand the benefits phytonutrients can have on our health- discoveries as recent as the 1980’s have unveiled the benefits of phytonutrients. Second, since phytonutrients are not essential nutrients that our bodies need to survive like protein, fat and carbs, in my opinion, they don’t get the respect they deserve.

Yet, scholars from centuries ago already knew what our scientists are discovering now. The main difference is the historians didn’t have names for phytonutrients like we do today. Scientists from around the world are finally discovering and naming individual phytonutrients (more than 25,000 so far) and providing studies that connect specific health benefits to each one.

In fact, phytonutrients and their benefits date back to Chinese medicine which has used plants for medicinal purposes for 5,000 years.

Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, understood the high value plant food had for our bodies. I’m sure most of you know he was the originator of the Hippocratic Oath our medical doctors recite today before they start to practice medicine.

But what you may not know is that Hippocrates was a staunch advocate for eating a mostly plant-based diet. He even went so far as to insinuate food could be the best medicine we have available to us. His quote- “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – has been repeated on almost every website and social media forum that discusses health.

So while phytonutrients may not be essential for our bodies to survive, I think it’s fair to suggest they are essential to the healthy state our bodies should maintain.

What do phytonutrients do?

 

The list of phytonutrients and their benefits is long, but I’m sure there are a few you may already be familiar with.

Have you heard of flavonoids? Flavonoids have been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.

What foods have flavonoids? A few examples would be parsley, blueberries, black tea, citrus, wine (yippee!), cocoa and legumes.

There’s so much information about phytonutrients and their health benefits I could write a book (lightbulb moment!) but in this post I’m just going to highlight a few that have caught my attention.

Examples of phytonutrients:

Being a single mom and facing grief in my life has put quite a bit of stress on my body and I’m convinced I have some free radical damage to my cells (also because I suffer from chronic inflammation, an indicator of free radical damage). So I was particularly happy to see the phytonutrient carotenoids is good at removing free radicals from the cells. I was even happier when I realized I already eat a great deal of the foods listed as containing carotenoids such as carrots, dark leafy greens and tomatoes.

Being a woman isoflavones caught my attention with their ability to modulate estrogen levels, thus reducing the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Isoflavones are abundantly found in soy. I know all you soy skeptics are groaning right about now, mostly because there has been so much negative publicity about soy. This issue warrants a separate post!

With a few members in my family suffering from high cholesterol (how about you?) I’m happy to share the benefits of eating foods high in saponins, such as legumes and alfalfa.

In my house we love and eat lots of tomatoes, raw and cooked, which supplies us with the phytonutrient lycopene, which has been linked to fighting heart disease and prostate cancer.

I’ve been cooking with onions and garlic for years, all the while having no idea I was getting the phytonutrient allicin, which is known for eliminating toxins from the body.

With so many phytonutrients which plants are the best ones to eat?

 

If you recall from earlier in the post, the phytochemicals found in plants are responsible for the color of the plant, each one offering a different health benefit.

This is why it’s recommended to… Eat a RAINBOW of plant foods!

If you eat a variety of plant foods daily you can only increase your health.

As I said earlier, I’m not trying to convert you into following a plant-based diet, I simply want to give you information so you can be as healthy as possible.

True health in body, mind and spirit!

I pray you have access to an abundance of fresh vegetables daily.

Pam

P.S. Be sure to look for some yummy recipes next week that will represent the rainbow! If you’re interested in learning more about phytonutrients and the food they’re in, check out this website, http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals.php.

 

Counting My Blessings

MB 5_27_15 B

 Hi There,

Once again I’m overcome with gratitude.

In last weeks post, “A New Wave of Grief,” I shared with you the struggle I face watching my children grow up and reach milestones without the presence of their dad, Larry.

After the newsletter was released last Wednesday many of you sent a note offering congratulations and support.

It’s your comments and feedback that I receive each week that encourage me to continue to share my journey. I started this blog thinking I would be the one providing support, but, truth be told, I get as much benefit, if not more, than my original intentions of helping others.

Living my life after the death of my husband, Larry, has been one of the most difficult challenges I continue to face. Rivaled only by raising three boys on my own and encountering challenges that continue to arise for Charlie, my son with special needs.

I go to bed some nights thinking, “I don’t think I can be more tired than I am right now.” Only to feel more tired on many subsequent nights.

Over the years I’ve had to be the sole champion for all my children. But when it comes to parenting a child with special needs, advocating for him can be a full-time job unto itself.

Along with the fatigue I face at night I’m also greeted by doubts and fears: “Am I giving my children the guidance they need?” “Are there more therapy programs out there that will help Charlie?” “Am I too hard on my kids… too lenient… too much of ANYTHING?”

There always seems to be more doubts and fears than positives…

So, that’s one reason (among others) that I cherish every response and feedback that I receive.

That’s also why I practice stating affirmations and listing my gratitude’s on a daily basis. If I don’t intentionally focus on positive aspects of my life, the negative thoughts will rule me. And I shudder to think what my life would be like today if I made decisions based on fear instead of love.

I know I’ve listed them before, but, in my opinion, there’s no such thing as too many positive thoughts. Every morning as I walk my dogs I count my blessings:

I am grateful for my children. Many people believe I brought life to my children when in reality, they gave me my life after Larry died.

I am grateful for my dogs. They came to me during a time in my life when I never thought I would be able to feel true love again. I only hope I can give them as much love as they give me.

I am grateful for my parents. They moved to Arizona to be closer to me and the boys after Larry died and to offer their assistance to me as the need arose. When I left my home childhood home after I graduated college, I thought I was leaving behind the need to lean on my parents and accept their help when offered. I’m learning you’re never too old to lean on anyone, especially your parents.

I am grateful to all my extended family and friends who over the years have offered love, support and friendship in so many ways. Too numerous to list.

I am grateful to this community of support that is a true circle of life. We all have a journey; whether it’s grief, raising children or coping with the many challenges life has to offer, regardless of your circumstance, you don’t have to walk alone.

In the spirit of feeling continuous support from this community I know you will all understand that since school has ended for the summer, my children need me.

Not in the way they did when they were babies or toddlers, they can fend for themselves for the most part. No, they need me in a different way now that they are adolescents. They need my time, my undivided attention and my guidance as they maneuver through summer school, sport camps, therapies, etc.

And I need them.

Our school year is so hectic with activities I look forward to summer and a vacation away from daily life. It’s important to me (and the health of our family) that we take some time away, unplug and reconnect.

I’m not sure what that means for the weekly newsletter, just yet, but I’ll keep you in the loop. My posts may be shorter or I may skip a week. Rest assured, I WILL have some more yummy recipes to offer and a giveaway in June!

Aside from that I will need to take a week or two off. But you can always send me a note via the website, Facebook or twitter. I’m not going that far!

I pray you find the time you need for yourself and your family this summer.

Many blessings,

Pam

P.S. The photo was taken during our vacation last summer to a beach in San Diego. I had a blast watching the my boys and the dogs frolic in the water. Those are memories I know my kids will take with them as they turn into adults.

P.P.S. If you missed last weeks post, A New Wave of Grief,” you can read it here.

 

A New Wave of Grief

MB 5_20_15 c

Dear Friend,

One of the most eye-opening and disheartening characteristics of grief that I’ve learned to come to terms with over the last four years is that it truly never goes away.

As I’ve healed over the years I’ve learned to experience joy and love all over again, each time naively thinking: “Finally, I’ve gotten over the hump!” Only to be slammed without warning by a new wave of grief at any given time.

This grief can be triggered by special occasions, including birthday’s, holidays, anniversaries… or it can stem from a totally unexpected encounter, such as running into someone who didn’t know my husband, Larry, had passed away.

It’s the unexpected moments that catch me off guard the most, taking my breath away, bringing me to my knees. As much as I like to believe these moments are more rare than not, I know I’ll face them for the rest of my life. There is no foresight or planning that allows for them, which is one reason why I suspect they’re more difficult to cope with.

This isn’t to say I don’t face grief during birthdays, anniversaries, etc. I’ve simply learned over the years to expect these will be difficult days and I take as many steps as I possibly can to brace myself before the new wave of grief washes over me.

It’s precisely what I’m trying to do to prepare for tomorrow night.

Thursday, May 21st, will mark an occasion I’ve been anticipating for months, one that has me wrestling with my emotions on a daily (or hourly) basis. It’s an occasion that many will face this year. But fortunately for them, not many will have to face it with grief overshadowing their every move.

This week my oldest son, Henry, is graduating from eighth grade and moving on to the next level of academics: high school.

My children attend a small Montessori school and there are 17 graduates this year. The benefit of a small class is the ceremony is very personal and very touching. Each graduate will take the stage, accept their diploma and have the opportunity to say a few words. I wish so badly Larry could witness the poised young adult our little boy has grown into.

It’s moments like these that make moms and dads sit a little higher in their chairs and glance knowingly at each other, understanding the joint effort- by student, teacher and parents- that it took for their child to get to this moment.

The atmosphere will be filled with excitement, proud parents and yes, even a little relief! I’m sure there will be the typical exchanges: “Where did the time go?” “It seems like yesterday my son/daughter entered kindergarten!”

It’s a night when parents will relish in their role as parents, thinking: “Yes! We had something to do with this!”

It’s one of those milestone moments that parents talk about when their child is born. I still remember holding Henry and being so giddy that Larry and I were parents. We’d both get way ahead of ourselves and say things like:

“Can you believe one day this little boy will… graduate eighth grade, learn to drive, graduate high school, hopefully go to college, get married and have children of his own?”

We certainly didn’t want to rush his growing up but I think we were so enamored with the life we had created we couldn’t help but dream about all the wonderful moments we hoped to share with him.

That Larry’s not here to see these dreams turn into reality just adds to my grief.

So while I’ll share many of the same feelings that most parents have, I’ll definitely have a few they won’t. This will be a night when I’ll walk a fine line between being happy and proud of my son and being incredibly sad that his dad is not here to see him reach this milestone.

What makes this more difficult for me is knowing how much Larry would’ve wanted to be here. He waited 44 years to have a family and once the boys were born I swear I never saw him happier.

So as my heart breaks knowing Larry won’t be here, feelings that I don’t typically have are surfacing.

I struggle with feeling cheated that I won’t have my husband’s hand to hold or his smiling face to glance at, that I won’t see him smile back with an unspoken message that says: “That’s our boy!”

I’m struggling with feelings of injustice that every special occasion I know I’ll face with my children is marred by bittersweet sadness… that there will always be someone missing.

Even though I’m facing these tough feelings, one thing is certain: I don’t want to miss one second of celebration! So, the real question is…

How do I ride these new waves of grief?

First, I allow myself some time to wallow. I say all the things that 95% of the time I don’t allow myself to say: “It’s unfair!” “I feel cheated!” “My son didn’t deserve this!”

When big moments in my life occur I need to let these feelings come out. To feel the unjustness of it all. I HAVE to. To ignore these feelings is almost as though I’m ignoring the fact that Larry died.

By letting the feelings surface, regardless of how unpopular and unpolitically correct they are, I’m giving them their own momentum and hope the acknowledging them will make them dissipate quickly instead of festering like an open wound.

And only then I can stand up again and see the brightness all around me.

What else will I do to cope with these feelings?

I will write in my personal journal to help process all the feelings that I’m facing.

I will take extra care of myself and make sure I build time in just for me.

I will engage in activities that I know will bring me peace, like walking my dogs in the morning and giving thanks for EVERYTHING I still have: my boys, my dogs, my extended family and friends, to name a few.

I will appreciate my son’s success in reaching this milestone, because I’ve felt his struggles along with my own for over four years.

I will smile wide and hard because I’ve known many days when I didn’t think I would ever smile again.

I will take notice of every detail- none too small- so I can be sure to tell Larry all about it when I see him again.

And… I will be careful not to let my melancholy affect Henry. I know he wishes his dad was here, we’ve already discussed it. But I’ll have a special present– a personal item of Larry’s- which he can have with him that evening.

After Larry died I purposefully saved some of his personal items with the intention of giving them to the boys on special occasions so they can have a little piece of their dad with them.

Is it enough? Most definitely NOT… but it’s all we have. And we’ve learned over the years to treasure what we do have.

I know you, too, will face moments that are sure to be a mixture of joy and sadness. I pray you’ll find what brings you the most peace during these times.

Pam

 

Teens and Stress

MB 5_13_15

Hi there,

If you’re like me and have children still living under your roof and attending school, then I can imagine you’re also experiencing all the stress that comes with the end of the school year: final projects, final exams, end-of-year recitals, celebrations and, possibly even a graduation or two…

Phew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

To make matters worse, if your kids are anything like mine, they’ve procrastinated and now have to cram months of work into two weeks. Oh yeah, that’s on top of any extra-curricular activities they’re involved in!

As business manager, activities director, psychologist and leader in all things relating to health and wellness for our household, I’ve had to dry a few tears (not just my own), talk through some anxious feelings (“you’ll get through this”), help my kids make better food choices (fact: more social activities means more soda, candy and junk food) rearrange schedules (and not because of my basically non-existent social life) and stress the importance of getting a good night’s rest.

With so much to do in such a short amount of time it’s no wonder we’re all stressed out!

You may recall the post I wrote about anxiety back in November 2014, titled “Living with Anxiety”. In that post I shared how I cope with the levels of anxiety that surfaced after my husband, Larry, passed away. While the purpose of that post was to help adults cope with anxiety in their lives, I briefly mentioned how it affects children, as well.

It’s a topic that’s gaining more recognition every day, and from what I see in my home and what I hear from other parents with adolescent children there’s no doubt about it: our children are stressed out.

I know… You’re probably thinking we all have to face stress in our lives.

But while that’s true, as a parent I want to know what I can do to help my kids cope with every day stress before it turns into an anxiety disorder.

Having lived with anxiety myself, I know the lingering effects it can have on my overall mental and physical health. As a parent I’m always looking for tools and information to guide me in helping my children cope with daily stressors.

Let’s face it: my children have already faced one of life’s biggest challenges when their father died. I’m fully aware that this life-changing event places them at a higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder.

In addition, some children with special needs are also at a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, so my son, Charlie, has to face an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder not just once, but twice. Poor guy was dealt a double whammy at the tender age of seven.

While I know I can’t protect my children 100% from any health issues, I can do the next best thing and give them tools so they can help themselves.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8% of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder (daily stress is not measured, but I can imagine it’s high). More disturbing is that symptoms commonly emerge around age 6 and, sadly, only 18% of the teens living with anxiety seek treatment.

These are some scary statistics. That’s why this post is dedicated to empowering parents to help their children cope with every-day stress in order to help prevent it from turning into an anxiety disorder.

For me, the first step is identifying possible sources of stress.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry list the following as possible sources of stress:

*   School demands and frustrations.

*   Negative thoughts and feelings about themselves. (Very common amongst teenagers.)

*   Changes in their bodies (hello puberty!)

*   Problems with friends and/or peers at school.

*   Unsafe living environment/neighborhood.

*   Separation or divorce of parents.

*   Chronic illness or severe problems in the family.

*   Death of a loved one.

*   Moving or changing schools.

*   Taking on too many activities or having too high expectations.

*   Family financial problems.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can certainly identify with half of the sources listed as possible stressors not only for my kids, but also for myself! Yikes!

Personally, I don’t recall having a lot of stress in my childhood.

So… Why are our children more stressed than we were at their age?

Some studies suggest increased expectations from school, increased use of electronics and decreased physical activity can play a role in our children having more stress than kids from previous generations.

Once I’m armed with the knowledge of possible stressors I feel more capable in moving on to the next step: helping my boys to identify possible symptoms of stress. Helping your child isolate symptoms can help them understand their origin, that is, whether they’re from an illness or from stress. This is a wonderful tool that can be carried into adulthood.

What are the symptoms of a stressed child?

The American Psychological Association recommends parents be aware of the following symptoms that may indicate your child is stressed:

*   Changes in behavior, such as being more irritable or moody.

*   Withdrawal from activities that used to give them pleasure.

*   Routinely expressing worry.

*   Complaining more than usual about school.

*   Crying more than usual.

*   Sleeping too much or too little.

*   Abandoning friendships and/or isolating completely from parents.

*   Physical ailments not related to an illness, such as chronic headaches or stomach-aches.

*   Unexplained rashes.

After Larry died, my son, George, complained almost every morning of a stomachache or headache. I told him that I believed his stomach or head hurt (mine did, too) but it was because of his grief and not a virus. He still had to attend school. His physical ailments lessened in time and with the benefit of grief therapy.

Now George and I know that when he’s facing stress his common symptoms are headaches and stomach-aches. So when he feels these physical ailments and he isn’t sick, we know stress is probably a factor and this knowledge allows us to explore what may be causing it and practice some stress reducing techniques.

My other children have their own set of recurring symptoms: when we recognize them we can pause and reflect on what the underlying issue may be and again, take action to eliminate the stress or find techniques to cope.

What can a parent do to help their child decrease stress?

*   Feed them a well-balanced nutrient rich diet.

*   Help your teen avoid excess caffeine intake, which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.

*   Talk to your son or daughter about the impact alcohol, drugs and tobacco can have with regards to increasing levels of stress.

*   The CDC states that sleep is essential for reducing stress and recommends teens get a minimum of nine hours.

*   Ensure they exercise on a regular basis.

*   Create chunks of designated “tech-free” time.

*   Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation.

*   Help your child create some affirmations that he or she may refer to each morning. For example, “I am smart,” “I am a kind person,” etc. (Below is a link to a prior post, “Affirming my Life!” which details how to create an affirmation.)

*   Encourage your children to take a “break” from what may be causing stress. If it’s schoolwork, urge them to close the books or turn off the computer and step away for a little while. If it’s relationship issues, persuade your child to stop texting or engaging in social media for a while.

*   If necessary, encourage your child to talk with a qualified adult, for example, a counselor at school, church, social worker, or professional therapist.

As a parent, I want my child to talk to me, but I understand there may be times he may not want to. Therefore, I feel it’s more important that he knows there are other avenues available as opposed to shutting down and bottling up the stress.

In addition to helping my children cope with stress as the school year wraps up over the next few weeks, I also need to maintain my practice of wellness techniques, which I’ve referred to in prior posts. I hope you do, too.

I pray daily to have the guidance and tools to give to my children so they can be healthy in mind and body. And I pray ALL our kids can truly grasp that peace and happiness comes from within.

Here’s to all of us finding happiness in our lives!

Pam

P.S. You can read the post “Living with Anxiety” here and to get tips on creating affirmations read the post. “Affirming my Life!” here.

 

Once a Mother, Always a Mother

 MB 5_6_15

Dear Friend,

I discovered I was pregnant with my first child the Friday before Mother’s day in 2000. Larry and I were elated but cautious in wanting to share the news too soon. So that year as we gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and the rest of the family, I secretly relished the fact that I was going to be a mom.

Being a mother changes your life forever. Your life is no longer just your own. You now have another person’s well-being, happiness, growth and love intertwined with yours. Your child laughs, you laugh. If your child cries, you cry. If your child succeeds, a part of you succeeds with them. If there are failures along the way, you want to reach out and help.

The bond I have with each of my children is unique and like no other I have ever felt.

As much as I love being a mom, I’ll admit it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had! There’s no time clock to punch, no time off when you’re sick and there’s no such thing as over-time pay (or any pay for that matter!) It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job!

Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

And when Mother’s Day rolls around each year, I stand tall and proud: I’m a mom! It’s a day for reflection and celebration.

But what happens to that day if you’ve experienced the tragic loss of a child?

How do you acknowledge the occasion?

While I’ve shared my grief over the loss of my husband, the anguish that ensues when a parent has lost a child is beyond my comprehension.

No matter the age your son or daughter may have been when he or she passed away, he or she will forever be your child.

Over the years I have been humbled to know and meet parents who faced this most tragic event of their life.

As I write this post I won’t even try to imagine the pain that a parent suffers with this loss. To do so would be presumptuous on my part.

But I can address healing from the point of view of someone who has experienced profound grief. And part of healing entails learning how to live each day without your loved one, even on the “special” days.

When I attended New Song Center for Grieving Children, sadly there were many parents present who had lost a child. They were there to support their living children/grandchildren who had lost a sibling/parent and also to get support for themselves. Even in my own grief, I had nothing but the upmost respect for the courage and strength I saw in each mother and father as they shared their grief with the group.

As you know, every day can be a struggle. But some days will be more difficult than others, like the holidays. When such days approached, each of us in our group shared our plans for the day, and what I took most from this exercise is that there is no right or wrong way to get through a difficult day.

So what do you do on Mother’s Day if your child is no longer with you?

Frankly, whatever you darn well feel like!

There are no rules!

Mother’s Day is Sunday. If you are a mother or grandmother who has lost a child or grandchild, or you have children whose mother passed away, you may be having mixed feelings about how you want to spend the day. So while there are no rules, I will share some options I know others have followed.

For children who have lost a mother:

* Involve the children, let them help you plan the day.

* They can write a letter or draw a picture for their mom.

* Is there a place of remembrance they would like to visit?

* Are there any other female figures they would like to recognize on this day? A grandmother, aunt or close friend?

For mothers who have lost a child:

* Consider ahead of time how you want to spend the day.

* Communicate your thoughts to others.

* Is there something special you would like to do to on this day to commemorate your child?

* Can you think of a way to recognize your other children, if you have any?

For grandmothers who have lost a grandchild:

You’re enduring the pain of watching your adult daughter grieve for your grandchild while you yourself are also grieving. Because you love your child (who is no longer a child), you will do what most mothers do and give the biggest gift of all: your love, understanding and patience.

Please be patient and understand that your grieving daughter may not want to recognize this day, or may choose to do so alone with her own children. Understand that your grieving daughter may “forget” to say “Happy Mother’s Day” or even “I love you, mom.”

The biggest gift you give– your unconditional love– will be returned to you tenfold because of your patience and understanding.

Mother’s Day may never be the same, but I truly believe…

Once a mother, always a mother.

However you decide to spend Mother’s Day this year, it’s completely up to you.

I also want to take a moment to recognize that if you’re a mother whose child has passed away, your feelings of grief the days prior to Mother’s Day may very well escalate to levels you may or may not have experienced, regardless of how long it’s been.

While I’ve mentioned New Song in this post and previous posts, I want to offer another means of support.

The Compassionate Friends provides support to families experiencing the death of a son or daughter. They have local chapters and provide online support. Below is their website and I encourage you to have a look to see if there’s something they have that will support you not only on Mother’s Day, but on every day.

http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx

I pray this Mother’s Day you find some peace in your heart and remember to take some time for yourself.

Many Blessings,

Pam

P.S. To all the moms out there, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. I am grateful every day that I have my three boys. I hope they never get too old for big hugs!

 

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

Nothing tastes better than fresh, homemade Pico de Gallo. This can be enjoyed as an appetizer or added to your favorite dish of tacos, enchiladas, rice… Again, the possibilities are endless!

Chef Walt says, “Yum!”

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

6 Organic Roma Tomatoes Diced

1/2 Organic Red Onion Diced

1 Organic Jalapeño Diced

Juice of 1 Organic Lime

1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro

1Tsp. Coarse Salt

Adjust seasoning to taste

Method:

Add all the ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well.

Grab your favorite Organic Tortilla chips and…

ENJOY!

 

Nutritional Benefits:

Tomatoes:

Tomatoes are a low calorie food, packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and K. They are full of anti-cancer phytochemicals such as carotene (especially lycopene).

Onions:

There are a variety of onions to choose from. They differ in size, color and taste. Each offers a slightly different flavor. For this recipe I chose red onions for their full, robust flavor. Onions are a good source of Vitamins C and B6, are a good source of folic acid and dietary fiber.

Cilantro:

Cilantro, also known as Coriander, is an herb and a spice. In Europe and Asia cilantro has a long history of use to aide in digestion, combat inflammation and help to lower cholesterol.

 

Zesty Guacamole

Zesty Guacamole

Guacamole

One of my favorite foods to eat is guacamole. It’s versatile: it can be served with chips and/or vegetables. It’s a delicious accompaniment to numerous dishes, the possibilities are endless. I’ve been perfecting this recipe for years. And I do say, this is my favorite!

My eldest son made this guacamole recently for a science experiment. His hypothesis- the rate of childhood obesity would decrease if kids had healthier options to choose from. He made the guacamole and put it next to some store-brand, not so healthy snacks and monitored the choice each child made. The results: more kids chose the guacamole!

This is a definite thumbs up from Chef Walt!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

4 Organic Avocados

1 Organic Roma Tomato diced

1/2 Organic Red Onion diced

Juice from 1 Organic Lime

1/4 Cup Organic Cilantro

2 Tsp. Coarse salt

1 Organic Jalapeño Diced

1 Tsp. Black Pepper

1 Tsp. Garlic Granules

1 Tsp. Onion Granules

4-6 Drops of Favorite Hot Sauce

Adjust seasoning to taste

Method:

Seed and dice avocados in a large bowl. Mash to the consistency you prefer- I like some chunks of avocado.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Grab your favorite Organic Tortilla chips or veggies and…

ENJOY!

Nutritional Benefits:

Avocados:

Avocados are a staple in my home and they are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of potassium and have an assortment of vitamins such as: B-vitamins, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E. One of the key benefits the avocado provides is it contains the essential fatty acids necessary for brain function, as well as growth and development. Our body can’t make essential fatty acids so it’s imperative we get these good fats by making healthy food choices!

Tomatoes:

Tomatoes are a low calorie food, packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and K. They are full of anti-cancer phytochemicals such as carotene (especially lycopene).

Onions:

There are a variety of onions to choose from. They differ in size, color and taste. Each offers a slightly different flavor. For this recipe I chose red onions for their full, robust flavor. Onions are a good source of Vitamins C and B6, are a good source of folic acid and dietary fiber.

Cilantro:

Cilantro, also known as Coriander, is an herb and a spice. In Europe and Asia cilantro has a long history of use to aide in digestion, combat inflammation and help to lower cholesterol.

Garlic:

Garlic is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, good source of Vitamin C and contains numerous minerals such as: manganese, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, iron and copper.

 

Bean and Guacamole Tostadas

Bean and Guacamole Tostadas

 Bean & Guac Tostada

My kids go crazy for these homemade tostadas! The only thing they can’t agree on is which beans they like better- creamy black beans or oil-free refried pinto beans. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you, each item is quite simple to make and can be prepared ahead of time to ease putting together the tostados.

This gets two thumbs up from Chef Walt!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients to assemble the tostadas:

1 package Organic corn tortillas – 10 -12 tortillas
(I prefer sprouted corn.)

Creamy Black beans (see recipe below)

Oil-free refried Pinto beans (see recipe below)

Zesty Guacamole (get recipe here)

Pico de Gallo (get recipe here)

2 cups shredded Organic Romaine lettuce

Black olives, diced (optional)

Have some fun with this, add any other ingredients you can think of!


Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is heating up begin to make the beans, Guacamole and Pico de Gallo.

Tip: I make the guacamole and pico de gallo the night before or earlier in the day and store in the refrigerator.

Place each corn tortilla on a sheet pan (I have small pizza stones always in my oven) and bake for 7 minutes, turn and bake for another 7 minutes. You may need to do this in batches.

To Assemble the Tostadas:

Layer as follow:

Corn tortilla
Creamy black beans or Oil-free refried pinto beans.
Guacamole
Pico de Gallo
Shredded Lettuce
Black olives

Both bean recipes listed below are used in this tostada recipe. But I also make these recipes as an appetizer or to use with tacos and enchiladas. I love that these recipes are versatile!

Oil-free Refried beans:

2 cans Organic Pinto Beans

1 ½ cups Low Sodium vegetable broth

1 teaspoon Onion granules

1 teaspoon Garlic granules

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

½ teaspoon Black pepper

Method:

Rinse beans well and add all the ingredients into a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more broth if it’s eliminated in the boiling process.

Pour beans and liquid into a food processor and mix until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Taste and add more spices as desired.

Creamy Black beans:

2 cans Organic Black Beans

1 ½ cups Low Sodium vegetable broth

1 teaspoon Onion granules

1 teaspoon Garlic granules

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

½ teaspoon Black pepper

Method:

Rinse beans well and add all the ingredients into a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir and mash some beans every few minutes. Add more broth if it’s eliminated in the boiling process.

Taste and add more spices as desired.

ENJOY!

Nutritional Benefits:

Avocado:
Avocados are a staple in my home and they are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of potassium and have an assortment of vitamins such as: B-vitamins, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E. One of the key benefits the avocado provides is it contains the essential fatty acids necessary for brain function, as well as growth and development. Our body can’t make essential fatty acids so it’s imperative we get these good fats by making healthy food choices!

Beans:
Beans offer the benefits of an array of vitamins and minerals, but they are mostly known as an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein.

Tomatoes:
Tomatoes are a low calorie food, packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and K. They are full of anti-cancer phytochemicals such as carotene (especially lycopene).

Onions:
There are a variety of onions to choose from. They differ in size, color and taste. Each offers a slightly different flavor. For this recipe I chose red onions for their full, robust flavor. Onions are a good source of Vitamins C and B6, are a good source of folic acid and dietary fiber.

Cilantro:
Cilantro, also known as Coriander, is an herb and a spice. In Europe and Asia cilantro has a long history of use to aide in digestion, combat inflammation and help to lower cholesterol.