Keeping Your Kids’ Minds Active During Coronavirus Quarantine

All the events in our area have been closed due to coronavirus, along with the schools. Kids are at home, and working parents have made adjustments to ensure someone (or they) are at home with them.

Many parents are enjoying this break as basically an extended spring break. However, many schools have urged parents to educate their kids at home to keep their child’s minds active while they’re at home, ensuring that they don’t fall behind when they return back to school.

Whichever you choose, it’ll be fun! Because we’re a homeschool family, school closures haven’t affected our daily routine.

Here is a list of free, online educational resources (each hyperlinked) to keep kids’ minds active during coronavirus quarantine. I’ll be adding to it as other moms contribute! So check back for any updates.

For a Bible Podcast for Kids, subscribe to The Simple Word on your favorite podcast app, or click here to listen. If you like what you hear, it would mean the world to me if you left a 5-star review!

For younger ones, such as Pre-K or K:

Planes and Balloons

Scratch Garden YouTube Videos

Seussville

Mama’s Learning Corner

Teachers Pay Teachers

K5 Learning

Spelling Words Well (there’s even a COVID-19 Crossword Puzzle!!)

Kindergarden Worksheets

For Kindergarden – Junior High:

Khan Academy – Common Core Math with videos. GREAT resource for continuing public school education!

Brain Pop – educational videos about history, holdays, and current events. Offering a free month for those impacted by coronavirus.

Teach Your Monster to Read – oh my goodness, both my boys love this. It’s a fun and effective way to reinforce/teach reading skills.

Cool Math 4 Kids

Scholastic Learn at Home

Primary Games

Spelling Words Well (there’s even a COVID-19 Crossword Puzzle!!)

Teachers Pay Teachers

ABC Mouse (we have a paid subscription, but a free trial is likely offered)

ABCYa

Cool Math Games

Math Playground

Multiplication.com

Education.com

XtraMath (my 3rd grader HATES this one, but hey … it’s good practice)

Vooks (an online book reading website with a free month! Also, it’s currently offering a free 1-year subscription to home-educators and teachers using this link!)

For High School:

Teachers Pay Teachers

Learn 4 Good

For All Grades:

Explore.org – livecams of animals!

For PE:

Zumba with Dovydas (plenty for both kids and high schoolers. My kids love these!)

Fitness Blender – Free workouts for High Schoolers and adults

Bear Hunt Song (preschool and lower elementary)

For Science videos on YouTube, CLICK HERE for a massive list of channels!

For Sketch Art videos on YouTube, CLICK HERE! (my kids are obsessed with these!)

Let me know if there are any more you’d like me to add!

When Your Favorites Aren’t Your Favorites Anymore

Anyone who knows me knows my affinity for coffee. Oh, just give me a good, strong cup of coffee sweetened just right, and I’ll be your best friend! It’s such a warm, comforting drink, and the extra pep of caffeine is exactly what I need sometimes to keep me going.

Slowly, over the course of the last year, I’ve begun to lose my taste for coffee. It’s strange. I’ve bought the expensive gourmet stuff … I’ve brewed the old fashioned Folgers. It’s just not the same. Even more strange … it would taste amazing every now and then, but only when I used a big spoonful of sugar. Unfortunately, if I do that everyday, I end up with blood sugar drops a couple of hours later that have me gobbling up something to compensate, so that my hands will stop trembling and I won’t hit the floor with dizziness. If I don’t have sugar in the mornings, I don’t have blood-sugar drops.

I’ve tried creamers. I’ve used dairy and non-dairy. I got used to stevia to cut back on sugar. I’ve sometimes even dumped enough sugar in there to count it as a dessert. Still, slowly, my love for it progressed into tolerating it out of the sake of habit.

Recently I went through a 10-day detox as part of The Daniel Plan, and it required cutting out all sugars and sweeteners. My first cup of coffee following the detox was tasty (thanks to the added sugar), but the next day I started using stevia again. I just couldn’t handle the bitterness. I cut the decaf/caf measurements to 3/4 decaf and 1/4 caf, and still had outrageous heart reactions.

Today I tried something different. I love tea every now and then, but I have to be in the mood for it. Considering I couldn’t seem to get my coffee “right” anymore (and coffee drinkers will all agree that their cup needs to be “right” to be enjoyable). So I took advantage of the super-fun gift a friend gave me recently. It’s called … wait for it … TEAZE. (No, it’s not the ’80’s Canadian Rock Band).

It diffuses the tea, and then you set the thing over your mug, and it releases the perfect cup of tea from the bottom. It’s SO. MUCH. FUN.

I don’t usually like tea in the mornings because the flavor just isn’t strong enough. Today was totally different. It tasted PERFECT. I added a little almond milk and a dusting of stevia. Oddly, I couldn’t taste the bitterness of the stevia in the tea, and it was absolutely perfect. My heart didn’t go nuts from the caffeine, and honestly, I felt so fancy.

An actual sketch of me enjoying my fancy cuppa tea, in my fancy teacup, with my fantastically messy-but-lookin-fancy hair, my fancy smirk, made by my fancy personal sketch artist.

The “favorites” shift doesn’t just extend to coffee, though. It goes to my clothes, too. The stuff that used to be my favorite all of a sudden I’m like, “Why did I ever wear this? I don’t even like it!” Then I started searching online, getting ideas for what I DO like. A devastating reality hit me … I don’ t even KNOW WHAT I LIKE.

Kris has a beautiful coworker with a golden heart who sent some clothes to me through him. At first, I didn’t even allow myself to try them on, then I took a couple out of the bag, fell madly in love with them, then put them back, because they were JUST. SO. PRETTY. and I thought she was interested in selling them. I didn’t feel good about spending money on myself, and plus, I was in a tough place emotionally, and I was so frustrated with my own body. To prevent self-inflicted salt rubbed into an already aching wound, I just sent them back.

Oh, she wouldn’t have that. She sent them right back to me through Kris (poor Kris, he’s such a good sport!) and said I could just HAVE them. My eyes welled up with tears … could she really be serious?? They were all so beautiful, and made my own clothes I’d had for years look like rags! My “favorites shift” was so drastic, walking into my closet almost felt like I’d walked into the closet of a stranger … but it was all MY stuff! It made me feel confused, like I didn’t even know myself. It made me wonder if something were wrong with me! I finally allowed myself to try on the clothes she sent, and everything FIT PERFECTLY. I couldn’t believe it. They made me feel so pretty, and I hadn’t felt pretty like that in quite a while. Then … I couldn’t help it … I cried. I was so overwhelmed by her kindness, and was deeply blessed by her generosity. She had no idea the struggle I’d been having, my clothes, and my personal sense of style. It was such a well-timed gift, from God through her, and I was both humbled and grateful. My favorites now come from the bag she gave to me, and it helped me get an idea of what I DO like.

Here’s another “favorites” shift … I used to thing nonfiction books, particularly religious or self-help ones, were SOOOOO BOOOOOOOORING. I’d open one up, needing to give it a try, because the content seemed to really be something I needed to hear. Then I’d become aware that I’d just read the same paragraph eight times because I was mentally drifting while reading. A good fiction book was something I could finish in just a couple of days. Fiction audiobooks were LIFE. Welp, now I can’t get enough of podcasts, (hello, Crime Junkies!) and nonfiction books are all I want to read! I’m zooming through them by the stacks each week. Christian books by authors such as Nabeel Qureshi, Francis Chan, and John Piper are incredibly energizing and exciting to read.

I guess as the years go by, our tastes change. I just never expected it to be so sudden and drastic.

So what do you do when your favorites suddenly aren’t your favorites anymore?

You roll with it, explore, find your new favorites, and move on! It’s all part of personal growth, and honestly, it’s a super-fun adventure!

Freedom Day! Stepping On the Scale, Coffee and Treats, and My Daniel Plan Moving Forward

We made it! We made it!

Today is the first day following the conclusion of the 10-Day Daniel Detox. All in all, it was a huge success! I was super-nervous when I stepped on the scale because I was so afraid that there wouldn’t be any change, or *gasp* I could have possibly even gained! I was THRILLED with what I saw.

There was a total of 5 pounds lost!! My goal for the whole month of January was 5 pounds. This goal was achieved after just 10 days of the detox. I am SOLD on this plan!

The first thing I did this morning was get up early, and brew a pot of coffee (half decaf and half regular, as I used to do, due to a heart condition aggravated by too much caffeine). I got my spot on the couch settled with my Bible and a library-rented commentary (one of these days I’m going to buy one for myself). I got out my immersion blender and prepared to froth almond milk for my coffee. Y’all, I researched milk frothing for an hour the other night, preparing for this day. I was so excited.

I put the milk in a tall cup, and hoped like crazy it wouldn’t be too loud for the sleeping members of my family. I put the blender in, turned it on, and … immediately unplugged it and took it into the laundry room, shutting the door behind me. It was so loud in the silent house! But I was determined to have my frothed milk. Crouching on the floor, I plugged in the blender and got to work. When the milk was about double its size, the coffee was done, and ready for the perfect cup. I added stevia, instead of sugar, and thought it would compensate well for the Almond Joy I had prepared.

I didn’t really see these treats as “undoing” what I had accomplished during the detox. I had already decided to allow two sweet treats per week – Mondays and Fridays. This would be my Monday treat. That first sip of coffee was pretty glorious. I’d made it a little too strong (maybe a little over-zealous in the preparation), and the Almond Joy was great. Not magical … just, mediocre. Meh. I was very strongly tasting the bitterness of the stevia, however, so I added a half-teaspoon of sugar to my coffee (again, it’s part of the treat for the day), and that made it better.

When my husband woke up thirty minutes later, he asked me how I felt about the Reese’s Cups. I told him I’d only had the Almond Joy, so he asked me to try one of the mini cups. So I did. Again … mediocre. I tried a Reese’s Christmas Tree. It was good, but just generally unimpressive. I was caught between bored with my treats, and kind of astounded. Normally, I’d gobble up all three Christmas Trees without hesitation and would savor every bite. I told Kris I could just have easily gone without it.

And then, I was wishing pretty badly I’d gone without it. Deep nausea suddenly hit me. It felt like my stomach had pitched upside down. I quickly reheated the leftover baby potatoes from the night before, hoping a “proper” breakfast would help settle the yuck. It did help, but the a second problem began after another thirty minutes.

My heart began racing out of my chest, pumping so hard I could hear my own pulse in my ears, and my hands began to tremble. I mean, this is the amount of coffee that I’d previously determined was fine, and didn’t seem bothersome to my heart. Today, however, it had an adverse effect. I t made me feel extremely dizzy, and I did’t like it at all. Every few minutes, I felt equivalent to an adrenaline rush, followed by an uncomfortably racing, pounding heart.

Nope, I’m done. And to top it off, I’d gotten a brand new bag of coffee yesterday at Aldi, and had opened it fresh today. Looks like I’ll be giving it to a neighbor or tossing it.

Now, over three hours later, my heart is still racing, I’m still shaky, still dizzy, and my stomach is still feeling very nasty.

I’m 100% positive that even a little caffeine contributes to a sense of anxiety, so … as I stated in my last post, I’m being conscious of what contributes to anxiety. It looks like I’ll be avoiding caffeine. I can’t wait to see how much that will help anxiety. Thank you, God, for showing me all of this!

Ultimately, here’s what I attribute to success for this plan:

  • God. I mean, this on is obvious. Taking care of the vessel God gave me is my primary motive, and I prayed over this endeavor throughout the whole thing. Jesus is the answer to everything.
  • “Secret Sauce”. This is something I’ve always underestimated when it came to weight loss. The Daniel Plan says that doing this with friends is the “secret sauce” of success. It’s totally true. I thought maybe it required gathering a group of women to do this with me … and where would I find that? All my friends have their own lives, their own plans, their own goals and ways of doing things. How would I convince anyone to do this with me? So … I asked my husband. Without hesitation, he jumped right on board with me (likely regretting it by day 3). He stuck with it, we encouraged each other, and I’m pretty sure we both would have quit by day 8, declaring that we “get the picture” and there was no reason to continue on such a stringent plan for two more days. We stuck it out, and we’re both so proud.
  • Staying on-plan. We didn’t cheat. We went all the way, completely through. It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve followed through with any kind of eating plan (for reasons I’ve stated before). This one just plain worked. Which brings me to my last attribution …
  • It was the best fit. The Daniel Plan is, without a doubt, the plan that just plain works for us. The Detox-stage of the plan challenged my thinking about cooking and about food in general. It challenged my attitude about cooking and food, as well. It also challenged me spiritually, all in good ways. Every diet claims to be a “lifestyle” change sustainable for life, but I’ve found not a single one of them to be true. For me, anyway. The Daniel Plan, however, is most certainly one I can sustain for life. Now that the Detox is over, we can incorporate the foods we abstained from back into our diet, but with HUGE changes. Believe me, it will be definitely be within moderation. Also, the foods added back in will be on a “trial” basis … if it has negative effects, I’ll stay away from it completely.

Now, it’s time to begin the Daniel Plan, which is the plan that continues for life. The majority of the time, we will simply eat wholesome, fresh foods the way we’ve done on the Detox. I haven’t even been tracking calories. The plan calls for the “Daniel Plate” for each meal, a smartly-portioned method for viewing each meal:

Now, I’ll be honest … I really don’t see how this could be feasible for every single meal. I can be very black-and-white with this kind of thing. I wanted to shake the book and say, “So what exactly are the rules? Tell me the exact plan!” Maybe that’s the beauty of this plan, though … its flexibility. I mean, if I want an omelet for breakfast, I don’t see how vegetables can make up half of that meal. It makes sense, however, if you think about it in terms of how your food looks for the entire day. It especially makes sense when I’m making a dinner plate.

The book has a great 40-day meal plan that allows you to adhere to this perfectly. Following a pre-made meal plan is too complicated for me. However, reading over it did give me a good idea for how to plan my own days, however. It helped me “get it”.

The Daniel Plan is definitely my plan going forward … not as a temporary diet, but as a positive habit.

Daniel Detox – Day 10 of 10. We made it! Did Taste Buds Change?

The 10-Day Daniel Plan Detox was a huge success! I can’t believe it went so well, and I can’t thank my husband enough for going through this with me. I weighed and took measurements before the detox, and I’ll be doing the same thing in the morning. I thought it might be fun to see if there would be any physical changes in 10 days.

We went to church this morning, and again I held my breath as I walked by the deliciously-smelling coffee machine. When we walked into our classroom, I was hit with a dozen mouth-watering scents of various breakfast items. I’d completely forgotten it was Breakfast Sunday for our class. There were egg sausage casseroles, sweet croissants, and delectable other things that I couldn’t bear to observe as I took my seat. I whispered to my husband, “You can call it if you want to. Go fix a plate. You deserve it.”

He shook his head. “I’m holding out.”

I was so grateful. When church was over, we came home to cook our lunch instead of grabbing lunch out like we usually do. We made herb chicken with rosemary baby potatoes, and I had a side-salad. Immediately after lunch, I went to our room to change clothes so that I could go grocery shopping for the coming week. Kris followed me into the bedroom.

“I think I’m going to call it now,” he said. “I’d really like to have some of those Reese’s Cups.”

I gave him a dramatic gasp. “But it isn’t even night time yet! I thought you were at least going to wait until tonight!” He gave me a smirk and a glare, and left the room. He had made it this far … he could make it until tonight.

I left for my grocery trip and came back tired and happy. The alone time was lovely, and I listened to my favorite true crime podcasts in the car. Kris and the boys helped me carry the grocery bags into the kitchen.

“Dad had like ten Reese’s Cups!” Wesley said. “There were candy wrappers everywhere!”

I burst out laughing. Kris argued that it was only a few. “How was it?” I said. “Was it magical?”

He shrugged. “It actually wasn’t that good.”

I stopped and turned to him. “What?”

“I don’t know. They just didn’t taste as good as they used to. It was weird. It was just kind of … meh.”

I couldn’t believe it. The Daniel Plan book said that your taste buds reset after ten days, which is why they chose ten days to be the length of time to detox and refrain from sugar. When I explained that to Kris, his eyebrows lifted. “I believe it. It just wasn’t as good as it usually is.”

In the morning, I have a cup of coffee with almond milk creamer and an Almond Joy all planned out. Now I wonder … will they taste as good as they used to?

photo by Jessica Lewis

On the Daniel Plan, there are five “essentials” that the book encourages to focus on, and set goals by:

  • Faith – Time spent with God
  • Food – What you eat
  • Focus – Mental health
  • Fitness – Physical activity
  • Friends – Community to go through the plan with

For the Faith essential, I set a goal of one hour each morning in quiet time with God. Normally I get up at 5:30 a.m. and listen to a sermon audio, or watch a sermon video, because I’ve had a hard time reading the Bible without falling asleep on the pages. Sounds terrible, but hey … I’m just being real. The last few months have been radically different though. I’ve had an insatiable thirst to study the scripture deep and raw, discovering for myself the wonder and the beauty of the Word. I can’t describe to you the transformations in my own faith that have taken place just studying, chapter by chapter. When I took on the book of Daniel, I was so fascinated by his pure obedience and discipline that led to his 10-day vegetable and water fast. That’s what ultimately led me to the Daniel Plan in the first place.

For the Food essential, I set the goal of continuing to eat the way I am now, but allowing sweet treats twice per week. I think if I know that the treats are part of the plan, it will cut back on temptations to binge on sweets, or will cut back on the volume in general. Cooking with milk and butter will be fine, but I’ll definitely use healthy oils the vast majority of the time. Plus, I have a brand new air fryer, and it’s going to be a whole new element of fun for cooking. My mother-in-law gave me an air fryer recipe book for Christmas, and I can’t wait to try some of those recipes.

For the Focus essential, I drew a blank. Anxiety is a monster, and I’m taking measures to reduce it however possible. Daily Bible study goes a long way, as well as daily exercise. An increase in faith habits is the best anti-anxiety out there, because anxiety, for me, is both a habit and a lack of faith. Think about it … anxiety is the opposite of faith, and where there’s an abundance of anxiety, there’s not near enough faith. Besides a Sunday afternoon nap, I really don’t have specific plans regarding mental health.

Fitness is a fun essential … I’ll start a 5K running program. Oh, I can’t WAIT to get back to running. After a month of running I’ll incorporate some strength training, and I’d love to set a goal of twice-per-month hiking trips.

The Friends essential is a big deal to me. My husband helped me through these 10 days just by simply joining me. I plan to invest more time in my relationships, have family and friends over for dinner more often (why not invite them over on Sundays after church?) and be an example to our boys for how to nurture relationships.

That’s it for today!! Tomorrow I’ll weigh, and post stats! EEK!

Daniel Detox – Day 9 of 10. Increased Self Control!

There have been some pleasantly surprising things that have happened these last few days. Today, the one that really got me was the increase in self control.

Now, yesterday I blogged about the temptation to binge. It had me in a serious vice until I distracted myself with trying to tackle the mountain of clean laundry that needed to be folded, hung, and put away. But I’m still not having a preoccupation with food, necessarily … I guess because there’s been a plan for each day, I haven’t had to think about it much. It also helps that it’s been really delicious stuff, so I haven’t had an unsatisfying breakfast or lunch that had me reaching for something more pleasant once the meal was over.

It struck me particularly today as I grabbed leftover stir fry to heat for lunch. I noticed that the amount in the bowl was enough for a very large portion, or for two small portions. Normally, I would just go for the large portion so that I can clear that space in the fridge and clean the bowl. This time, I opted for one of the two smaller portions, and added a scrambled egg into it. It was the perfect amount. I wasn’t full, but wasn’t left hungry. Just … satisfied.

One major thing I hoped to accomplish through these 10 days is better self-control regarding food, particularly over the anxiety binge-urges. Yesterday, I defeated that with no problem. It wasn’t has hard as I thought it would be once I got effectively distracted. I ended up with a pretty severe headache yesterday and today, but that could easily be blamed on the heavy, bad, crazy weather that’s been looming.

I wondered if the increased self-control is due to being just plain satisfied. I haven’t gotten hungry between meals very much. I also know that a good meal is planned just ahead, so I haven’t had any desire to seek out instant-gratification unhealthy snacks.

I also haven’t had the strong sugar-cravings (despite how I’ve been joking about the sweets). In all seriousness, it’s been not only manageable … it’s been practically non-existent. I struggled with craving snacks on day 3, but that’s also the day that I decided it would be a good idea to allow myself two good sweet treats per week, likely on Mondays and Fridays. May as well bracket that weekend. 😁 Friday nights are usually movie nights for Kris and me after the boys go to bed, so we usually grab a treat while watching a movie. As far as Monday … who wouldn’t need a good treat at night after Monday? It’s … well … Monday.

My next plan I’d like to set up is a fitness plan. I’ve already made a sweet-treat plan, weight loss plan, and food plan (Daniel Plan!). Now I need to get serious about fitness goals. But … that’s for another post.

We’re one more day closer to weigh-in day.

HALP.

Daniel Detox – Day 8 of 10. The Temptation to Binge

I’ll be honest … today I struggled worse than the first couple of days. Today, I was struck with a powerful urge to binge, and was so difficult to resist.

It helped me learn what drives me to the kitchen. I’ve found myself returning to the kitchen over and over, opening the cabinets, then closing them and walking away, because nothing in the pantry is on-plan. It’s been an irritating battle, that I wish would just get out of my head.

Due to a bit of anxiety today, I’ve had that overwhelming urge to chew or bite something. Gum doesn’t help for some reason. I want something to crunch, or something sweet. I’ve had something on my mind that I really, really hope works out … but I’ll have to wait until next week to know if it will work out. That has made my anxious/impatient thoughts point straight into the kitchen.

It’s weird. I wish eating something wasn’t a form of comfort for me. When I was younger, I would judge harshly people who said that. Food isn’t comfort, I thought. Food is food. Why would you turn to food for comfort? Well, I get it now.

It didn’t help that my kids’ play of choice after school included food. LOTS of food.

Maybe it’s because it’s back-to-school week, but my energy level is at a -25. And my head hurts. So, I’m keeping this short and sweet.

Sweet. Did I really just say sweet? Geez.

Daniel Detox – Day 7 of 10. Pucker Dressing

Day 7 down! All is well.

This morning around 4:30 a.m. my oldest came to my bedside and bumped the side of the mattress. He told me once that calling my name or grabbing me might startle me, so he just bumps the side of the bed until I notice. It’s the sweetest thing. When I rolled over and asked what was wrong, he said he’d had a nightmare that really freaked him out. I followed him to his room and laid with him for a few minutes so that he would feel secure enough to fall asleep.

This is the third night this week that one of my sons had a nightmare, and that’s unusual … the other night my youngest called me into his room from a bad dream. He said he dreamed he looked in the mirror, and his eyes were gone, and there were gray scratches for eye sockets. He looked at me and everyone else, and we all had gray scratches for eye sockets. I asked him if he’d seen that anywhere, in a book or on TV or anything … he said no. He’d never seen anything like that before. Creepy.

I’ve had weird dreams all week, but that’s not unusual. My dreams are usually pretty crazy. I don’t know what’s going on though, but I’ve felt unusually fatigued in the last two days, and I can’t seem to get warm. Even the boys have commented on how freezing my hands are. I’ve been anemic a few times before, and it feels similar, but I doubt there could be any anemia going on with as much greens as we’ve been eating for the last 7 days.

Can I be honest with you? I had decided to weigh the morning after the 10 days … but I’m anxious about it. I want a positive change so bad, I’m actually afraid there won’t be any improvements. With the new habits and cooking discoveries in the last week, there have been plenty of positive changes that we’ve gained from all this. However, my initial motive to do this was to kick-start a healthier eating habit, with the hopes of losing these stubborn pounds. What if I’ve gained? What if I’ve lost nothing? Just being real here … This has crossed my mind many times since day 3 or so.

For a change of scenery in our routine, we packed up and decided to head to the library for our school work. The kids love it, and oh my goodness, libraries are my #1 most favorite place to be. When my husband tells me to go somewhere and just take some time to myself, the only problem I have is deciding which library I’d like to go to. It’s so peaceful, and lovely, and all those shelves and rows of glorious books … I sigh just thinking about it. We brought our lunch, and I had a salad with dressing I whipped up from Google. My husband and I had eaten at this amazing, tiny, hole-in-the-wall BBQ place in Mississippi over a year ago, and they served me a salad with finger-licking dressing that apparently was their house specialty. It was a lemon-oil kind of dressing that was light and absolutely wonderful. I’ve been wanting to try to duplicate it, but it’s been so long now, I don’t know where to start. So I Googled “lemon salad dressing” and found an olive oil, garlic, lemon, and dijon mustard recipe that looked pretty interesting.

photo by Sarah Gualtieri

I dumped a couple tablespoons over my salad and took a bite.

My first thought was, Wow! This is really good! My second thought was, How the heck am I going to dig my lips out of my face now. Apparently with this dressing, less is more, and I added way too much. I puckered so hard, my lips practically inverted into my face. It was all I had to eat, however, so I just had to take a bite, chew, guzzle water, and pucker. Then repeat.

Tonight I cooked a chicken stir-fry that was different from the one the other night. This one had a thick sauce with broccoli and a ton of other vegetables. It only called for one piece of chicken breast, which surprised me because I had to feed four people with this recipe. But once all the other vegetables were added, the wok was full. It cooked up nicely and turned out delicious. Once again, my kids had no complaints with the meal and ate it happily. There were enough leftovers for Kris and I both to have for lunch tomorrow!

I gotta take a minute here and talk about chicken … Out of curiosity and for the sake of the detox, I decided to buy free-range chicken. I read in another health book about using grass-fed beef and free-range chicken and cage-free eggs. Could we really tell a difference in the chicken itself? Even though it cost double what I usually spent on chicken, it was worth a try.

In many ways, I wish I’d never done this, because now I don’t think I can ever go back. The free range chicken was so tender, and didn’t have that stringy, tough texture that regular chicken can sometimes. My cousin advised to just buy the smaller breasts, which is better. But when the smaller breasts aren’t available, I grab whatever is there. It just doesn’t taste good, y’all. I even told my husband that I was considering going vegetarian, because chicken in the last couple of years makes me want to gag.

This free-range chicken is no joke. It isn’t tough at all, and somehow tastes better. I swear it’s not just from the deliciousness of the recipes that we’ve been doing. It really makes a huge difference. Because I’m conscious of the cost, I don’t let any of it go to waste. Before, I had no problem throwing out leftover chicken dinner because the reheated version was usually much worse than the original. Not this time … free-range is the way to go. I haven’t tried cage-free eggs yet, but in all honesty, I’m kind of stuck on the mentality that eggs are eggs. I’d love for a cage-free committer to tell me the pros and cons.

I’ve been tracking everything in my super cute Wellness Planner, and I’ll be honest, this whole thing has been just plain fun.

Daniel Detox – Day 6 of 10. Candyland, Of Course

We’re on the second half of our journey, and I’m feeling so, so great! If anything, these last few days have shown me what I’m capable of in terms of self-control, discipline, and taking care of myself. I always made up excuses such as, “I don’t have time.” Or “I’m not sure where to start.” I can’t tell you how many diets and changes I’ve tried over the years, and I would get down to my last ten pounds, and still not be able to reach my goal. Every single effort has been torture, and I looked desperately for some kind of “ending” to it so that my life could go back to normal.

Well, this just feels normal. Because the main focus is health and not weight loss, I’m realizing why past diets and efforts have been so difficult … my goal was too weight-focused. It was a recipe for burnout. It happened every single time.

The irony continues however … today during our homeschool hours, my 3rd grader was taking a test. So I sat on the floor with my kindergardener and told him to pick a game to play off the game shelf. He went over to the shelf and scanned the boxes carefully, selected one, then came back and joined me on the floor. He placed between us Candyland.

photo by John Morgan

“Really??” I said, and the boys laughed. “Daddy and I are on a special diet, and you pick Candyland??” Oh he was so very pleased with himself.

In all seriousness, despite the fact that sweet treats keep being presented right in front of me in such an enticing way, I haven’t been tempted to cave. It’s been an eye-opener.

We took an extended lunch break as I cooked an Asparagus Creme Soup recipe. Let me just tell ya, I am in loooooove with creamy soups. It’s one of my favorite things about fall and winter. Some girls can’t wait to get out their cute boots at the first sign of fall. I can’t wait to have a good, creamy soup. So I had my heart set on this recipe. The picture looked so tasty … it was a pretty bowl of seafoam colored goodness. I noticed right away that it seemed to call for a lot more split peas than asparagus, but whatever. I’m not a chef … I’m just a mom.

I chopped and simmered that thing, running up and down the stairs from the school room to the kitchen to stir it every six minutes, like a good little rule follower. I used my immersion blender, and even though it still looked pretty chunky, I was too excited to wait any longer. I put a couple of scoops into a bowl and sat down to enjoy it.

It was a little disappointing at first … it doesn’t taste like asparagus at all. It was just the strong flavor of split peas. I like split pea soup, don’t get me wrong … it just wasn’t at all the asparagus creme I was expecting. It was still delicious, though, and filling. I had apparently undercooked it because some of the peas were still a little chewy. But overall, it was very satisfying. I’ll probably make it again.

When Kris came home from work, he reported a successful day, as well! He’d gone to a nearby store within walking distance from his building looking for healthy snacks. He had the goal of unsweetened raisins, but they were completely out. Poor guy just can’t catch a break! He looked cute though in his new clothes he got with Christmas money … anyways, it made me feel so happy when a coworker complimented him on how delicious his lunch smelled. It was the leftover stir fry from two nights ago!

We’ll be headed to church tonight so we’ll be having an early dinner of Mongolian Beef. You read that right … It’s a Daniel Plan recipe with all healthy ingredients! This time, my husband is cooking, and as I type this, I can hear him downstairs in the kitchen with the boys. Apparently they’re helping him cook, and he’s showing them how to measure the ingredients, and teaching them about how to follow a recipe.

Gosh I love that guy.

On the Daniel Plan, there are five “essentials” that the book encourages to focus on: Faith, Food, Focus, Fitness and Friends. Now that we’re halfway through our detox, I took some time to fill them out today, mindful of what comes next. I haven’t been exercising, possibly because I’ve been so focused on getting the food part of things right. I’ll share my five essentials in another post after the 10 days are compete.

Anyway, see you tomorrow on Day 7! Thanks for reading!

Daniel Detox – Day 5 of 10. Halfway Mark!

We made it through Day 5! Woo Hoo!!!

I didn’t get a chance to blog last night, so I’ll double up today … Halfway-Mark-Day was not an uneventful day, however. It was a combination of fun, fascinating, and hysterical.

We started out the day with normal homeschool work … tackling math at the top of the day. After my 3rd grader met his multiplication flash-card goal, we whooped and did a victory lap around the room. Then we headed to a local park behind my favorite library for story time/snack/craft. It was windy and chilly but so much fun, and I loved seeing the other homeschool moms and kids there.

Afterward we went to Chick Fil-A for lunch, where we placed our order with one of my new favorite people … a sweet teen named Becca who I met at church last Sunday. The boys ordered their favorites and I ordered … WATER.

That’s right folks. I went to Chick Fil-A and didn’t order ANYTHING. I’m not sure if that’s an accomplishment, or if I should question my life choices. Regardless, I’m counting it a WIN! I brought with me a kale salad that I’d made in advance, and it was quite delicious. I ate another one of those fun blueberry muffins, and watched the boys as they climbed in the indoor playground.

When my husband came home from work, he could count on both hands how many times he was faced with temptation to nibble something off-plan (dang those Reese’s Christmas Trees and Dr. Pepper!). But he held strong! He’d had a Granny Smith apple for breakfast, and had taken leftovers from the night before for lunch. He came home ravenous and ready for dinner, so I cooked early. When he asked what was on the menu, I told him spicy black bean soup.

He wrinkled up his nose.

Over the next ten minutes he asked twice, “So … tell me again what’s for dinner?”

As if I’d change my mind. HA! I’d meticulously planned and shopped for these ten days … I’m sticking to plan!

The recipe called for a jalapeno pepper and lots of garlic and tomato. My kids aren’t going to touch this, I thought. But I stayed tough. They were going to eat it, and like it!!

I remembered how well they ate the accidentally-chopped-too-fine veggies the night before, and used an immersion blender to make the chunky soup nice and creamy, incorporating all the seasonings and vegetables. It looked aaaaaamaaaaaazing. I poured it over rice (which the recipe didn’t call for, but when my husband suggested it, I couldn’t turn it down). I sprinkled cilantro on top and hoped for the best.

We sat down, everyone took their first bite, and … they liked it! They really liked it!! My heart was soaring. While eating dinner, my husband began considering his usual nightly snack. Every night, while sitting in front of the TV, he eats somekind of goodie. I doubt that’s a habit that will ever break, as he is a creature of devout habit. But he was getting tired of peanuts and apples.

“Popcorn!” He said. “I could have that, right?”

“Not on plan,” I told him. “It has oils and butter and stuff that we can’t have right now.”

He decided to drive to Dollar General and check for some kernels to make some in a pot himself with healthy oils that were on plan. He couldn’t get out the door fast enough. I gave the boys a quick bath while he was gone. He came back looking torn. “They were completely out of kernels. But they did have THIS.” He emptied the bag. He’d bought M&M’s for the boys, a HUGE bag of Reese’s Cups, and an entire sleeve of mini Almond Joys for me.

“What … what?? What is this? We can’t have this.”

“It’s for when the detox is over!” He said brightly. “Oh, and the M&M’s are for the boys.”

They’d already had sweets that day, so we covered them up and decided to save them for tomorrow. He put the Reese’s Cups and Almond Joy in the pantry, where I can clearly see them every time I open the pantry doors. I secretly think he’s trying to tempt me as much as he’s been temped with his sweets at work. I had already decided that after this Detox, my sugar will be severely limited to two treats per week … Mondays and Fridays. The fun thing, too, is that I actually haven’t really craved sweets yesterday and today. I haven’t even thought about it.

But there was still one problem … my husband still didn’t have his popcorn. I suggested he cut open a bag of microwave popcorn and clean the gunk off to pop it on the stove.

“Isn’t that a lot of work, though?” He must have been really tired, because my love-to-cook husband just wasn’t feeling it in the kitchen. He cut open a bag, anyway, and I was a little shocked.

There was more sticky, oily gunk than there were kernels. I looked at the chunk of orange slime and thought, “Every bit of that goes straight into our bodies. Wow.” It was a shocker in the moment, but knowing future me, if my husband ever asks if I’d like him to pop a bag of popcorn for me, I would likely say yes. I definitely need to re-think this.

I heated up two more muffins (I know … excessive … but at least it’s on plan), and ate those while the movie got started. Kris was still clinking and clanging around in the kitchen getting his kernels ready to pop. Suddenly I heard what sounded like sprinkles showering the floor. I looked through the window into the kitchen and saw him standing, shoulders drooped, eyes turned up to the ceiling in frustration.

“What just happened?” I asked.

He had apparently washed his hands and went to grab a hand towel to dry them. It just so happened to be the same hand towel where the freshly cleaned kernels were resting to dry. The kernels sprayed everywhere.

Bless his heart. He just wanted some dang popcorn. We laughed as we gathered up the precious golden nuggets and rinsed them off once again. He successfully popped them using grapeseed oil, and just seasoned them with salt and pepper. The result was slightly tougher popcorn than usual, but it at least satisfied the craving. When I gave it a taste, I thought it was great! It was delicious with just salt and pepper … I’ll have to start popping raw kernels when I’m wanting some popcorn, myself.

We enjoyed a fun movie together, the boys, Kris and I. Then suddenly, right toward the end, we heard a loud, sploosh! come from our master bathroom.

“What in the world?” I said, sitting up on the couch. “Was that the bathtub?”

Kris started looking around the room taking inventory of everyone. “Wait … was it the cat?” That’s when I noticed she was the only one absent. The boys must not have drained the tub when they got out, and my head suddenly filled with visions of a soggy cat struggling to keep her head above water. I jumped off the couch and ran into the bathroom to find the tub full of water, sloshing back and forth wildly. But it was empty of animals. That’s when I noticed tiny wet footprints leading out of the bathroom.

“Where did she go?” My husband asked as he appeared in the doorway. The boys were right on his heels.

“I don’t know! Follow the footprints!”

The trail of splatters and footprints led through our bedroom, through the kitchen, where my husband found her under the breakfast nook table, soaked on the bottom half of her body. She looked like a black mushroom with the top half of her body fluffy, and the bottom half like shriveled little sticks. She kicked our back feet with every step, and I couldn’t get control of my laughter. Y’all, I almost couldn’t stand up, I was laughing so hard.

My husband, obviously the softie, ran and got a towel, and despite her razor claws being out and her threatening growls, he gathered her up and dried her off.

She wasn’t even grateful for the help.

Not in the least bit.

It was an altogether successful day, and I’m SOLD on this way of eating.

Here’s the thing I find fascinating: all the chopping and cooking and planning isn’t actually that much more effort than usual. I mean, I’m a stay-at-home-mom, so I have the luxury of flexing my time around priorities, so I am able to chop and cook for lunch if I choose. But in the amount of time it takes to drive to a store and pick up a frozen pizza, then cook it, I could have chopped and cooked a fresh meal. It just takes planning in advance. Note to self: plan and shop more often, instead of in large amounts like I did … the shelf life of the produce isn’t as long as I’d anticipated, and I hate to see those beautiful peppers growing bad spots on them.

Another fascinating thing: Even too much of healthy foods are too much. With all those almond-flour muffins I’ve been consuming, I feel satisfied, but heavy and just … excessive. I can TELL it’s too much, and I should have had more moderation there. I’m still having a hard time fitting into my workout pants. I had hoped my clothes would start loosening up a tad by now. I’ve started having anxious thoughts about stepping on the scale once these 10 days are over … will there be a change at all?

Regardless, the one thing I can say that I’ve gained is knowledge and health. And that definitely grants me experience points in the great game of life. πŸ˜‰

Daniel Detox – Day 4 of 10. More Reese’s Christmas Trees! AGH!

We made it to the end of day 4! We had leftovers from the weekend so my husband had plenty to take to work for lunch.

Once he got there, the problems began. I received this text not long after he got to work:

A long week, indeed. πŸ˜† I swear the little peanut butter goodies are haunting us.

It was the first day back to school for us homeschoolers. The boys were actually excited. My youngest, who is five, woke up around 7 am. He drifted to the couch in the living room where he snuggled his stuffed animals and stared into space. When he asked to play a game on my phone, I told him no, because it was a school day (a rule we established many moons ago). I enthusiastically reminded him that it was the first day back to school! Then whisked off to the kitchen to make a muffin recipe.

Noticing that he didn’t react, I watched him from the kitchen window that opens into the living room. He looked … concerned. This rarely-quiet-child was silent, and he fidgeted with the zipper on his Minecraft pj’s.

“What’s the matter, buddy?” I asked him.

“Mom,” he said, his voice crackling from sleep. “Can we keep going to homeschool?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like daddy goes to work away from our home. Do we have to go to school away from our home?” He pivoted his little head and looked at me with giant blue eyes. “Why can’t we keep going to homeschool, instead?”

“We are going to homeschool, buddy. I don’t know what you mean.”

He burst out in a grin. “Oh! When you said it was the first day back to school, I thought you meant we were going to start going to school away from our home!”

I assured him that homeschooling was still the plan. He looked relieved, and his joyful glow returned. That’s when my heart filled up to overflowing.

They love it,I thought. I had wondered, really wondered, how much they loved it. I mean, I know every day isn’t going to be blissful fun, but I don’t want them to hate it. The whole point of homeschooling them is to create an environment that encourages a love for learning. At the very thought of no longer homeschooling, Caleb looked pretty devastated.

Thank you, God.

I came back into the living room and kissed his dimpled cheeks about a dozen times before I went back to the kitchen and tackled a Daniel Plan blueberry muffin recipe. It used applesauce, no sweetener, a handful of eggs, and REAL blueberries among other interesting ingredients. No dairy (because DF means dairy free, not “Daniel Fast”, right? geez … ). No gluten. I was so excited.

When my oldest son got up, I was in the living room being silly with Caleb, who had asked about six times already when his brother would be getting up. The moment Wesley walked into the room, with glorious bedhead, narrow eyes, and a little smile, Caleb and I shouted at the same time, “YAY!!” He thought it was pretty funny that we’d practically celebrate his awakening.

While they retreated upstairs to the schoolroom to play Lego’s, I took out the muffins, and waited about ten seconds for them to cool. I was so excited about trying one, I knew I would just have to hasafashafsas till I could chew it.

I had high hopes, after all the other recipes that came out so delicious. My hopes were immediately dashed. HARD. First of all, the thing wasn’t even sweet. That applesauce did nothing. The almond flour gave it the texture of cornbread. The best part was the gooey blueberries, and I didn’t have to bake up a muffin to eat those!

Regardless, I was hungry. So I grabbed another one. I crumbled it out into a bowl and grabbed the applesauce, dumping out a generous amount on top. May as well. I jabbed a forkful into my mouth and … oh … my … goodness. It was delicious. It suddenly turned into a fresh, warm cobbler in my bowl.

I proceeded to eat three more throughout the day. (… and yet I have the audacity to wonder how I packed on ten pounds in two months in the first place).

In my last post I’d mentioned that I wondered if I would get the typical 2:00 pm homeschool droop in energy, considering the odd abundance of energy I’d had in the last couple of days. I actually didn’t get the 2 pm droop! I got the 3 pm droop, instead.

Oh well.

When Kris came home from work, he said, “Do you understand how difficult it is to sit with a box of Dr. Peppers at your feet, and spotting those dang Christmas Trees every time you opened your desk drawer??” I laughed and turned away. A few seconds later, I caught a massive whiff of chocolate. I turned, ready to bite into wherever it was coming from.

Kris stood next to me clutching a Hershey’s chocolate syrup bottle, the cap flipped open, and was blowing the scent into my face.

“You … yooouuu!” I said, slamming my fists onto my hips as all decent words left my vocabulary.

Kris trotted away, laughing, and said, “Now you know what it’s like!”

“Evil,” I said, trying to hide my smile. “Pure evil.”

Day 4 is done, and a success. Tomorrow will be the halfway mark. YAY!!

I learned another unexpected thing today:

My kids will eat vegetables as long as they are chopped finely enough.

Tonight for dinner we had a Daniel Plan recipe for Thai-inspired stir-fry. As I sauteed the veggies and chicken in a wok, I told Kris that I was expecting to be disappointed with this recipe. The only seasoning was soy sauce. No other flavors added.

He came into the kitchen and inspected the wok, stirring the contents. “It doesn’t need any seasoning when it has all this! Look at all the color. With a mixture of these vegetables, you won’t need any seasoning.”

I was worried how it would turn out, because I went a little overboard with my little chopper … it’s a small, enclosed plastic jar-like thing with three *very* sharp blades on the inside. You drop the vegetables in, close the lid, and pull a string much like a lawn mower to chop the stuff into bits. I had too much fun cranking the veggie mower, and nearly pulverized to a liquid all the vegetables. It turned out to be a good thing.

I tossed it over rice and served it to the kids, just knowing they would complain (they hate every vegetable except broccoli, and they only tolerate very little). To my shock, they loved it! They ate up their little bowl fulls, gave me a thumbs up, and GET THIS … ASKED ME TO COOK IT MORE OFTEN.

Gimme a second while I wipe my tears … I have … sudden allergies or something …