4.22.2014

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a ... CONCUSSION

I should preface a few things before diving into this post.

For starters, I'm not exactly squeamish. I've had my fair share of bloody lips, stitches, scraped knees, massive strawberries from sliding in softball, in addition to a collection of bruises, sprained ankles, bruised tailbones and even a broken arm. 

I should also note that I am usually a pro in tough or emergency situations. My senior year of college I came back to my dorm from a late shift at work to find a freshman guy who lived on the same floor as me standing in broken glass with a super bloody hand, cut so far deep you could actually see some muscle or tendon. While he and my friend were freaking out I grabbed him a towel, got him to my car and drove him to the emergency room. I sat there and held his other hand (slightly less bloody) at 3 a.m. while they stitched him back up, all while the doctor showed me the different things that make up your hand muscles. 

And I am seriously excellent when dealing with vomit. While I don't prefer to hang around it, I can handle it and be the galpal holding your hair back while you toss your cookies. 

You'd think all of these things would qualify me for a mother-of-the-year award when it came to scary situations involving my kids. Unfortunately, something completely different happens. 

When something less than sugar and spice and everything nice impacts my kiddos, I turn into freakazoid, leaky-eye mom. Take for example Pearyn's salmonella outbreak of 2012. When she started Exorcist-style throwing up we had her over to an ER faster than you can say Linda Blair. And for the weeks following that incident, I don't think I slept more than 45 minutes at a time because I had to make sure she wasn't throwing up and she wasn't choking on said imaginary throw up. 

So it's safe to say I'm great in a snafu, as long as I didn't birth you from my body. 

Case and point last week. In a stroke of timing, coincidence and luck, my college roomie was in my very own town meeting with a client. Naturally, we decided to meet up for a bite to eat and I brought my kids in tow. The meal was going smoothly, we were ordering a cupcake and signing the bill when Braeburn stood up and took a tumble from his high chair. On the way down he hit the back of his head on a table. (Before you ask he WAS strapped in his seat, however, he did apparently find a way to wiggle himself out of it). He started crying instantly and got up to try and walk to me. I picked him up and consoled him for the next five minutes, until he was finally calmed down as I placed him in his car seat. He was a bit fuzzy and tired, but it was his nap time. Besides, he was smiling, so he had to be OK, right? 

So I called his doctor and asked if I should bring him in to be safe. They told me I could monitor him for the next day and if he started to go limp, act listless or throw up to run him straight to the ER. I felt a little more at ease and started the commute back home. 

Two minutes into said car ride and my poor baby boy started vomiting everywhere. And not like, "Oh I've been crying a bunch and am gagging myself" vomiting, but all-out, emptying the contents of his stomach, vomiting. 

Thankfully I was less than a half a mile from an emergency room, but it didn't make the drive much easier. I debated the entire three-minute drive over whether I should pull over and help him vomit, if he could choke on it or if I did pull over and help him vomit would his brain like implode or bleed or blow up? 

Somehow I made it with my daughter and dazed son in tow, covered in the vegan pancakes my little man had just thrown up, trying to check him into the ER. They kept asking me all these pesky things and I remember thinking "I'm the worst mom in the world" because I can't recall his social security number all while trying to keep my daughter calm, get my son checked in and not completely fall apart myself. 

The check-in nurses were a Godsend. They were both mommas themselves and understood exactly where I was coming from. They reassured me time and time again that it wasn't my fault, things happened and I was still a good mom to my baby boy. 

Three hours, an exam and a set of x-rays later and Braeburn was awarded his first mild concussion ever. 

He's doing fine now, he was actually on the mend as we were checking out of the hospital, but it doesn't ease my worried mommy mind or make me feel any better. All I keep telling my husband is that I'll probably lose it he ever wants to play football. 

What amazed me most, however, is how freely life went on while all of this was happening. There were people going through emergencies all around me and I couldn't begin to tell you what it was or why they were there. 

I'd like to say it was at least a valuable lesson learned by Brae, but judging by the number of times he tried to climb his lawn chair this weekend I'm starting to think he didn't. 

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4.15.2014

6 things this vegan mom wants you to know

I keep coming across all these different blog posts, things like "36 things your server wants you to know" or "7 things your bartender wants you to know." Not only are most of these posts kind of funny, they're also the perfect outlet to get some things off your chest and hash out some of the nitty gritty details of your life.

And after four years as a vegan mom (five if you count the 41 weeks of my first pregnancy, which if you've been pregnant, you do), there are a few things I feel like the rest of the world should probably wrap its big ole' judgmental brain around when it comes to cruelty-free parenting.

In fact, there are SIX things.

I'm not going to ease into this, so I'll just come right out and say the number one thing you should know about vegan mums. We ARE NOT trying to kill our children. Wait, let me say that one more time, just in case the cheap seats missed it: we ARE NOT trying to kill our children. And in fact, 99.9% of us are not, at all. Every few years we responsible vegan parents get our titles tossed to the trash as some news outlet or blogger picks up a story about how a "vegan diet killed a child."

The funny thing about these headlines is the bajillion of them that are out there are usually referring to the same two or three children, whom, VEGANISM did not kill, but STUPID PARENTING did. These children were deprived of vitamins and minerals, and that's not simply because they were vegan (although many would like it to be), but because their parents didn't pay attention to what they were giving their children.

Both of my kids were fed from my body and that's through all the grueling months of pregnancy and the breastfeeding after. We took our kids to pediatric dietitians when they were one and onward to ensure they were getting the right combination of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats. And they've received gold stars for the foods they're eating, not because it's vegan or not, but because it's GOOD food.

So to rehash the events of that first point there, the large, large, large majority of us are in fact, not, killing our children.

And while we're on the topic, this might seem like a loaded statement, which, it kind of is, but please quit worrying about the well-being of my children. Just because we choose to follow a lifestyle that's not on the mainstream band wagon, doesn't make it fair game for public scrutiny and check-ins. For the first few years of Pearyn's life I felt like I was constantly trying to justify our lifestyle and the food we were putting on the dinner table, and why? Not because I had doubts, but because everyone else did.

It's different, I get that, so people will talk. I'm cool with talk. I'm cool with questions. But I'm not cool with people accusing me of "neglecting" my children because I'm not feeding them frozen chicken nuggets with a tall glass of chocolate cow's milk. Seriously? I have people sending me emails and links about how soy is going to make my son "too feminine," but half of them aren't coming from concerned parents, they're coming from parents who want to point a finger. And if we want to start pointing fingers, I've got more than enough ammo to turn it around on them.

So how about I'll worry about how much soy I'm putting into my children's bodies and any one who has a problem with that can start researching the impact of hormones and antibiotics in dairy and meat on THEIR kids' health and get back to me.

While we're on the topic of what everyone else thinks I'm doing wrong, as a vegan mom I'd like you to know that I'm actually NOT imposing my beliefs on my children anymore than any other parent is doing. Wait, wait, I know what you're going to say "but you are, Chubby Vegan Mom, you're making your kids be vegan and they're not even old enough to decide if they want to!" Yep, you're right, I AM choosing to have my children live a vegan lifestyle, just like trillions of parents decide to have their family NOT be vegan every day. What makes that decision different from mine? Nothing. We're all trying to do the best for our kids and our families, that doesn't mean what's best for your family is best for ours and vice versa.

And since you're now probably picturing us sitting around the table munching on raw carrots and drinking shots of wheat grass, let me go ahead and burst that bubble too. As a vegan mom, I think it's incredibly important that you realize we DO eat junk food. A huge perk of veganism is the health benefits, but that's not the only thing. When we decided to raise a vegan family, I decided our kids would not miss out on stuff. And it's a rule I'm adament about. So that means every class party, every birthday, bonfire and every holiday our kids have had their fair share of Christmas cookies, Cadbury "cream" eggs, smores and smash cakes - simply veganized.

You should also probably know we take our veganism seriously, actually, a lot of you do probably know that, because I've seen tons of vegan memes that say things like "how do you know if someone's vegan?" Followed up with "Don't worry, they'll tell you." If you think we take ourselves so seriously, maybe you should too. I had a friend once tell me that if my kid had attended a birthday party at his house for his child, he probably would have fed her a hot dog, cheeseburger, whatever she wanted - simply because he thought all vegans were just fruity hippie jerks. On the same hand, if someone were say, Kosher, he would have strictly adhered to their beliefs, because they were "real."

He later admitted now knowing our family he wouldn't do that, because we aren't just following a "diet," but a lifestyle; however, he opened our eyes to a battle I had no idea I was up against. Look, you might think we're mean for not letting our kids have "real" hot dogs (is there such a thing!?), but from one parent to another I sincerely hope you will respect our wishes when it comes to what goes into our kids' bodies. Not only is it NOT for you to decide, it could seriously make our children sick, something you probably didn't consider.

The last thing I want you to know as a vegan mom is really, really important, so listen up! Contrary to very popular opinion, I'm not judging you. I'm not judging your family, your dinner table or your grocery store purchases. If you catch me staring at you a second too long, I'm probably admiring your hair, lipstick color or your nails, because I like that stuff. Or maybe I'm admiring your abillity to remain sane, look completely put together, all while toting around 5 unruly children. But the truth is, I'm not tabulating in my head how much sugar is in those popsicles, how many bags of potato chips you're buying or whether or not you're going to consume those 12 cases of soda. In fact, you might find some of those same items in my cart as well.

So the next time you see me posting a recipe for some elaborate dinner I've made or cupcake I've baked, all while you just finished feeding your brigade some frozen pizza and hot dogs, please, please, please know, that I'm not judging you. In fact, I'm probably planning the same dinner for my kids - tomorrow night.

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4.04.2014

Go "Green" (BEAN) without even leaving the house

Organic. 

It's good for you, it's kind of awesome, but it's also super expensive, right?

Well, not exactly. 

I'm not going to tell you that eating organic costs the same as non-organic food, because that's just not the truth. But the claim that everything organic is going to make you go broke is also just not correct. 

Case and point, Green BEAN Delivery. 

Haven't heard of it? Well, if you live in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or Missouri you should probably hop onto the Green BEAN Delivery website and see if they deliver in your area today! This service is something that is sorely needed all across the nation. 

Not familiar with it? It's pretty simple.

Green BEAN delivers organic produce and natural groceries to your door, weekly or bi-weekly,  year round! Even better? There's no crazy delivery fee!

We've taken part in local food co-ops and area farm delivery services before, and honestly they were great.

But we ran into some snafus with them, things like trying to customize orders for certain fruits made it more expensive, the off season made it difficult, all we had at our disposal was produce (meat or dairy, which we don't do, obviously). And I'm happy to report, what they were missing, Green BEAN delivers! 

It all starts with a produce bin. You've got lots of options, ranging from a small one for $28 that you add groceries to, a $35 "small" bin for 2-3 people, a medium fruit and veggie bin for $42, a fruit-only bin for $42 and a large fruit and veggie bin for $49 suitable for four or more! 

The best part? You can customize these to fit your family needs! Take for example the small produce bin, for $35, might start out something like this: one head of romaine lettuce, one cucumber, one lemon, one bunch bananas (three), four apples, four mandarin oranges, one bunch of carrots, one pound berries, one pint peppers, one bunch of broccoli, one bunch of radishes. Yeah, that's a GOOD amount of produce! 

But our kids aren't crazy about some of that stuff, so we were able to change things up. Instead of radishes we got an extra bunch of bananas. We got another head of broccoli instead of carrots. 

And there's no need to worry about "what if I pick a piece of produce that's too expensive for my swap?" When you choose to subtract an item there will be a little message telling you "hey, you need to add something else, try the stuff with a symbol for an even exchange." And then, sure enough, when you click on the list to select a different piece of produce, you'll see them clearly labeled! 

And it doesn't stop there! In addition to produce, there's also a whole hoard of natural groceries you can add on. I was pleasantly surprised at how many different vegan items appeared on there! Things like Dr. McDougal's soups, bulk energy bites, LUNA burgers (!!!), hummus and cookies! Yeah, it was seriously refreshing to see this kind of selection. And not only are they fairly-priced, some of them are even better than store deals!

I'm also super happy to report the customer service team is seriously on the ball when it comes to helping you figure things out. I was a little confused about when my order would start arriving, so I sent them a quick email and they responded within a few hours! 

The only thing I saw during the entire system that made me a touch uneasy was when I first signed up. After filling out your information you'll see a message that says you'll receive a confirmation email about your sign-up withing three business days. 

That made me a little nervous that the team wouldn't be as responsive as might be needed, but it ended up taking only a day for me to get the email and as I said above, they were always ready and willing to help a sister out! 

I can't rave about this service enough. It's less time in the grocery store and it's high-quality products, what more could you ask for!?

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3.31.2014

Do you matcha your muffins?

It's not any big secret that I have a ridiculously sweet tooth. In fact, my love of all things sweet is probably the only thing that rivals my passion for carbs.

I know, talk about some healthy habits, right?

Anywho, I've been on a serious muffin kick. I've been cranking out muffins for our new neighbors, mini-muffins for my kiddos, you name it, I've been baking it.

From blueberry cheesecake muffins to wild berry, we have been consuming these for breakfast and light snacks for the last few weeks.

And then I was offered the opportunity to review Kiss Me Organics' Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder. At first I was a little hesitant, because I've never been much of a tea fan. Every once and a while when it's super hot outside I'll get a monster craving for super sweet iced tea (go figure), but other than that, it's not usually something I go out of my way to consume.

But I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone. Besides, my husband loves all things green tea and the folks from Kiss Me Organics were kind enough to include a small recipe booklet with the product.

I had NO idea you could do so much awesome stuff with green tea.

You may not have any idea what matcha is, because I sure didn't. Matcha basically means it's super-finely ground up, so it makes it easy to add to practically anything you want.

I bet you can't guess what we added it to?

Yep, you got it, muffins.

I decided the best way to give green tea a real shot was to put it in a muffin. And boy am I glad. These mocha matcha muffins were the perfect amount of sweet, earthy and rich. I added some chocolate chips to some of them, while I decided to top some with almonds. They were a sweet surprise!

There is a ton of other cool things you can do with the matcha green tea powder, including: putting in in lattes, smoothes and more baked goods! Green tea boasts tons of awesome  perks, like increased focus, energy, a metabolism boost, antioxidants and skin health!

A 4 oz bag of this matcha green tea powder retails at around $25, but trust me when I say a little bit goes a very long way. We've had our bag for almost a month now and it's still going strong!

My husband was already a believer, but after trying this product, even I've started incorporating it into my morning meals!



Matcha mocha muffins
(makes one dozen muffins)
Ingredients: 
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1/8 cup cocoa
1/8 cup water
1 TBS matcha green tea powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coffee extract
1/2 sliced almonds or vegan chocolate chips (plus a few more to toss on top!)

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, cocoa, matcha green tea powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in vanilla almond milk, applesauce, water and vanilla extract. Mix together until well blended. Stir in vegan chocolate chips or nuts of your choice.

Grease a 12-cup muffin pan and then fill each individual cup 2/3 full with muffin mix. Sprinkle more nuts or vegan chocolate chips on the top (this will allow them to appear on the top of the muffin after it bakes and gives it a more "full" appearance).

Serve with a class of milk or devour with your morning coffee!

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3.27.2014

Reclaiming the word 'perfect'

You might remember a few posts back I declared my love to the "f" word -- feminism.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a feminist, get on board already.

You might also remember this other post I wrote, about my battle with body shaming.

I'd like to say that since fully embracing my woman-power ways that I'd shaken all of those body shaming thoughts, but the truth is, it's still a battle.

And planning our family trip to the beach this summer, hasn't done a lot to help with my body confidence. Some days are better than others. I'm struggling with the realization that being 28 (almost 29) makes it harder to lose weight. Harder to tone things. And honestly, I'm not even sure I want to.

I've got friends who workout on a regular basis, devoting days to well-tallied meal plans and focusing on one body part at a time, and they've seen amazing progress, and I'm happy for them. But honestly, I'm tired of feeling like I'm a project that needs to be fixed. I'm tired of looking at myself that way and overall, it's a completely unhealthy way to think.

So I complain about it being difficult to lose weight, but in reality, I'm just not wanting to put my time into those things. I enjoy carbs (A LOT), I like desserts and I still have an occasional soda here and there. But you know what else I do? I run. I run 5Ks, I run on my treadmill at home, I run around our block for the three months it's nice in Ohio. And I'm not saying I'm the fastest, but I'm healthy enough to run three continuous miles; I'm healthy enough to roll around on the floor with my kids; I'm healthy enough to lift my daughter with my legs and let her soar; I'm healthy enough to carry in piles of groceries, on top of my children, my purse and whatever else I have to get through the doorway.

So no, I'm not calorie counting or planning out meals of low-fat, low-carb, low whatever fad diet is going around now, but I'm strong enough and healthy enough to live the life I live well, and I think that's pretty damn good.

So I decided I'm going to wear a bikini for the first time in well, 10 years? Don't worry, I don't mean a "real" bikini. I'm going to get one of those high-waisted gettups that show like an inch or two of skin, tops. And I'm going to find a top that actually supports my gals, not a mute one piece that shoves them together into one giant uni-boob. So what if some people think I shouldn't be wearing a bathing suit, I'm OK with it and they're just going to have to get over themselves.

We have this problem in society where we "try" to pass off our judgment as worry. "Oh, that chunky girl shouldn't be wearing that bathing suit, shouldn't be happy with her body, doesn't she know she's unhealthy and shouldn't be proud of that?" Or "that skinny girl should go eat a cheeseburger, I bet she has an eating disorder, nobody is that skinny naturally." What if that chunky girl is healthy? What if she, like me, can run three miles and lift her kids? And what if, Heaven forbid, that skinny girl, really is just skinny? Maybe she eats cheeseburger after cheeseburger and doesn't gain a pound, so what. We need to quit pointing the finger at others to make ourselves feel better.

As a thicker gal, I'm guilty of skinny-sharming, I'm guilty of the catty comments about a girl with pointy bones jutting out. But do you know why I really made those statements? Because my hip bones weren't sticking out enough and that's MY insecurity. I shouldn't take it upon myself to make it hers too.

Instead of it being thick vs thin or skinny vs curvy, it needs to be us against the real machine churning all this garbage out. Our society. Our media. Our marketing. Somewhere, someone in the big seat decided that being pretty in this millenium meant being skinny. And don't mistake me, I'm not saying skinny isn't pretty, I have many svelte friends that are knockouts. I'm saying it's not fair to define beauty as one damn thing. It's like saying the only people who are smart are those who understand astrophysics.

It's unreal, unbelievable and it's un-fucking-acceptable.

And when you think about it, it's really NOT little vs big.

Sure, us thicker gals, we've basically got rail-thin models shoved down our throats every.single.day. Take for example the problem I keep running into when looking on websites for swimsuits. This bikini top on the right appears in the "special sizes" swimsuit section. The swimwear is described as a "D-cup, ruched, french top." Yeah, because if that model is sporting a D-cup then I'm a 38ZZZ. I mean for real? If you're going to go to the trouble of making a "special sizes" section in the first place, maybe you could get a real representation of whatever "special size" you're catering to.

I'm not just saying this from a ranty, chubby girl standpoint, I'm saying this from a seriously annoyed shopper who has a hard enough time finding a damn swimsuit to fit my boobs, how am I supposed to get a realistic picture of how that would fit me with Ms. A-cup all tucked in there?

And it doesn't stop there, oh no, practically every body type is subjected to some type of this garbage. Take for example the results I get when I google "sexy tops." Guess what pops up? Boobs, boobs and more boobs. Big boobs, large boobs, extra large boobs, boobs. No little boobs. Very few medium boobs. Here us thick girls are being told that we have to be skinny to be beautiful, but just to really fuck with women's heads, we're ALSO going to tell the skinny girls that they're not sexy unless they've got big ole' knockers.

Oh, and lets not forget the long hair. You're not sexy if you don't have long hair ladies.

Fires you up a little bit, doesn't it? Well, if it doesn't it should.

The truth is, I wish I could just blame it on today's marketing. I wish I could point my finger and shame all the big wigs up in no-mans land deciding what THEY think WE should view as beautiful. But it's not just them. Because sadly, women like me are buying into this bullshit. It's been going on since the world had advertising, had media forms, had press. Back in 1912 the New York Times declared "the perfect woman" to be Elsie Scheel. She was 5'7" and 171 pounds. The newspaper described her as "the most nearly perfect physical specimen of womanhood."

I'm not using Elsie to shut today's thinner women, nor am I using her to excuse an unhealthy lifestyle. I'm using her as an example to prove that we've allowed an outside source, a source fueled by money and many, many voices, to tell US what perfect is for more than 100 years now.

How insane is that?

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