Things have been pretty busy lately with all the Jewish holidays, and then trying to get into a routine with the kids and school. Leah is nearly 18 and pretty much does her own thing; I simply need to keep the house well stocked with healthy foods for her to prepare for herself. 12th grade is turning out to be far less stressful than 11th grade was. Meanwhile, Hannah is in 11th grade this year, is taking 2 AP classes and has a part-time job. Jack, my 10 year old, is having a hard time adjusting to the increased workload of middle school. Both of the younger two are having trouble with time management. I’m trying to keep everybody well fed and get them to bed on time, but I’m not always successful.
I also want to encourage everybody to exercise, but I’m having the most trouble with that one. If I let my son ride his bike before homework, will the homework be finished early enough to get him to bed on time? If he does his homework first, will it be too dark outside when he’s done? The middle school is only 1/3 mile from our house, and I wish he’d walk to and from school daily. He won’t walk there on purpose, but I don’t stress if he dawdles a bit in the morning and misses the bus.
Hannah seems to be finding ways to be more active. Her high school is a large building, and she probably walks a mile every day through those halls. Occasionally she’ll walk the 1.5 miles home. More often she’ll walk to or from a friend’s house after school. About once a week she’ll do some yard work- cutting down branches, weeding, and bagging up the cuttings. She always wants company outside, and it’s usually my job to hold open the bags while she fills them. In the past 2 months or so, she’s definitely firmed up and started to slim down. I’m not sure if the scale yet reflects these changes, but she’s dropped about one dress size since the summer- and without a formal exercise routine.
Getting myself to exercise is often my biggest struggle. The one time I went for a 20 minute walk during the school day, I felt great! I just have to find the time and energy to actually do it regularly. It’s just far too easy to find excuses not to: I just showered and I don’t want to go for a walk with wet hair. I have something cooking that might burn if I leave the house. It’s too hot/cold/rainy outside. I’m feeling too tired. Never mind that I own a few exercise videos and a treadmill, which can be used in my pajamas, in any weather, and I can hear the kitchen timer while using them. I need to actually clear away the clutter before using either one, and it just hasn't happened yet.
There is one thing I've managed to be consistent about for the past month or so. I was having HORRIBLE lower back pain in one specific area. Somebody suggested Active-Isolated-Stretching, and I took out a book from the library about it. After doing all the exercises a few times, I selected the 6 that seemed to target the muscles causing me the most trouble. Besides stretching the tight muscles causing the pain, these also provide a gentle workout for other muscles in my legs and torso. I’ve been doing the recommended 10 reps each morning, plus 5-10 reps each night. It only takes about 5 minutes each time.
My lower back pain has improved, but it’s not yet completely gone. I’ve been fairly consistent with the exercises; I’ve skipped it a handful of times, only to have the pain get worse. The pain is keeping me honest- without it, I’m sure I would have abandoned this exercise routine.
So, I’ve been doing this simple routine for about 10 minutes a day for the past month, even during the crazy busy holidays. The other day, I noticed that my thighs and buttocks are much firmer than they used to be. I think my abdominal muscles may have firmed up as well, but it’s hard to tell under the layer of fat. I forgot to wear bike shorts under my skirt when I took that 20 minute walk on Monday, and I did NOT have the expected problems with my thighs rubbing together and irritating the skin. All this firmness from 10 minutes a day? Wow!
This is incredibly encouraging. I can easily imagine the benefits I’d get from a regular walking routine.
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is almost upon us. This holiday is celebrated with special prayers and the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn) in the synagogue. Equally important are the observances that take place at home, around the dinner table. Blessings are made over wine and bread, like we do on Shabbos. But we also eat a number of symbolic foods.
Apples are dipped into honey to represent our wish for a sweet new year. Pomegranate, with its many small seeds, symbolizes the numerous blessings we hope to receive in the coming year, along with the good deeds we hope to perform. Carrots are cut into circles to represent coins, to show our hope for prosperity in the coming year. Many other symbolic foods are used, many of them puns in Hebrew or Yiddish. The foods used vary, as some add in new symbols that are puns in English, while others use puns from other languages. A new one we started a few years ago is to eat raisins with celery for “a raise in salary.”
We’re supposed to eat lots of sweet foods and no bitter ones. Many traditional Rosh Hashana recipes use lots of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Over the past few years, I’ve developed healthier, more compliant versions of these foods. I make a honey cake that uses only honey for sweetness, not a mixture of honey and white sugar, and it uses rice flour instead of wheat. My daughters may or may not also make one with spelt flour.
As an O nonnie, many of my “sweet” food choices are limited. I’m fine with the sweeter vegetables, but I’m not supposed to have apples or honey. I’m sure I could make a “honey cake” using just molasses and agave, and dip pears in agave to symbolize a sweet new year, but I don’t plan to do either one. I’ll have one or two apple slices each night of Rosh Hashana, and eat the honey cake made with real honey. I will serve pomegranates to my type B son, even though they’re an avoid for him. The holiday symbols are important to me, and we only have a few bites of each one.
Over the summer, I didn’t worry too much about my 10 year old son’s diet. I let him go to sleep away camp and eat whatever they served at camp, even though I know it means non-compliant foods and way too much sugar. I also didn’t send him with elderberry or cod liver oil, two supplements that have helped him stay healthy, and because I thought it would be too much of an inconvenience for him. I regret that now, and plan to send him to camp with elderberry and cod liver oil capsules next year.
He got pneumonia while at camp, and ended up on antibiotics. Had he started getting sick at home, I would have increased his supplements, made sure he was compliant and completely sugar-free, and emphasized fruits and vegetables in his diet. This is only the third time in his life he’s ever been on antibiotics- normally I’m able to treat him naturally before it reaches this point.
When he came home, I vowed to make him eat healthy and get his little body back on track. That proved to be much more challenging than I’d anticipated, in part because our refrigerator broke, and in part because I was out of practice. All summer I’d had only one or two of the kids home, and I even had some days completely to myself. Getting back into the routine of cooking for all 3 of them was much harder than I’d expected.
So now he’s been home from camp for 3 weeks, and back to school for half a week. I’m not doing so well on getting him to eat fruits, veggies, and meats; he’d be quite happy to live on grains (preferably refined) and dairy products. He still has that cough and his endurance is much lower than it should be. He’s still carrying around extra fat on his body, as confirmed by the pediatrician. He gained much more weight this past year than he should have; based on how many inches he grew. It’s hard to get him to exercise when he’s not feeling well, and I’m afraid to push him too far. He got out of the habit of being active when he broke his arm in June, and I’m not sure how to get him back on track.
I’d like to be able to say that I put my kids on the BTD and they’re glowing examples of health. The reality is much more complex than that. I know what I’m supposed to do: offer lots of fruits, veggies, and compliant protein sources, and let him fill up on grains only after he’s eaten reasonable amounts of other foods, and encourage physical activity. But actually implementing this plan hasn’t been so easy.
Yesterday we went to visit some relatives. An aunt from Baltimore came to visit another aunt in NYC. Her decision to come up was made at the last minute, leaving us very little time to work out the details before the visit itself. It’s a 50 minute drive to the NYC aunt’s home, and it’s been a hectic week already with school coming up.
Sunday morning, we had breakfast then got on the road. When we arrived, we started to discuss lunch plans. There are several kosher restaurants in the area, but it’s hard to find safe foods for me in restaurants. My kids are healthy enough to have the occasional “cheat meal” but I can get very sick from even trace amounts of wheat, corn, or potato. I didn’t relish the thought of being run down and out of sorts for the next several weeks from one meal out.
We finally decided to go to her co-op and do some grocery shopping instead. Going shopping with 7 people was rather chaotic, but we put together a nice meal. We bought two HUGE heads of lettuce, scallions, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, avocado, baby carrots, hummus, avocado, canned tuna, lemons, cottage cheese, and rice cakes. We came home and started making a salad, with hummus and baby carrots put out for an appetizer. Salad dressing was made with fresh lemon juice plus olive oil and salt that she already had in the house. We made a tuna salad with the canned tuna plus lemon juice and mayonnaise she already had. She sliced the avocado and put it out on its own plate.
Unlike many other social meals I’ve experienced in the past few years, I walked away from the table completely satisfied. I didn’t get sick from the meal because there wasn’t anything in the meal that was bad for me, except for the cherry tomatoes that I easily avoided. All in all, it was a very pleasant family get-together. Not only did I enjoy time with my relatives, but I didn’t even have to worry about getting sick from the food I ate or getting sick from not eating enough.
Before leaving, I told my hostess that we need to do this more often, and that next time, we should prepare the exact same meal- only she should do the food shopping before we get there!
My 40th birthday was this weekend, and my teenaged daughters made me a special birthday surprise. I was expecting a cake, as that’s the traditional thing to bake people for their birthdays. I’ve been having birthday cakes since my first birthday- my Mom has a photo somewhere of 12 month old me, in the high chair, covered in chocolate frosting.
I don’t do so well on sweets these days. While I’ve continued to bake cakes for my children’s birthdays, I haven’t been indulging myself. I don’t even feel well if I eat too much fruit; it messes with my blood sugar. There are a few sweeteners that are compliant for me, and we do have them stocked in the house. But I can only have about a teaspoonful a day without ill effects, and you need way more than that per serving in a cake, A gluten-free, agave-sweetened birthday cake would be compliant, but I wouldn’t be able to have more than half a slice without feeling sick, and the taste and texture would have been “off” compared to the sugar and spelt cakes we normally bake for everybody else. So nobody would have much enjoyed the cake, and I would have eaten at least a whole slice and then not felt so good afterwards. I haven’t eaten dessert in months and I don’t miss it.
Fortunately, I have a couple of amazing daughters who know how to “think outside the box.” Instead of a cake, or even a dessert, they made a birthday side dish. They started out with some zucchini and yellow squash, cut into rings and hollowed out into “cups.” Then they made a sweet potato filling, and used a plastic bag with the end cut off to fill the zucchini cups in a decorative fashion.
I tried to stay out of the kitchen while they were preparing my birthday surprise, but I wasn’t completely successful. I saw them doing something with boiled sweet potatoes and guessed they were baking a pie. Then, during the mad dash to get everything ready before Shabbos, I was the one who put the sweet potato dish into the oven to warm up. But they still managed to surprise me.
The reason nobody was in the kitchen right before Shabbos is because they were busy working on other parts of the birthday celebration. They put up a hand-made birthday banner in the kitchen, minutes before Shabbos began. When it was time to serve the food, Leah put “candles” into the dish of sweet potato/zucchini cups. Since we can neither light nor blow out candles on Shabbos, she used toothpicks with little “flags” of paper taped to them. One said “40!” with the dot from the exclamation point becoming one eye of a smiley face. That one was in back. In the middle, in a row, were three toothpick flags reading “Happy” “Old-“ “ness!”
This was just as much fun as a real birthday cake; the kids enjoyed the preparation and decorating, and it was just as wonderful in the presentation at the table.
Who needs cake?