Clean Eating Made Yummy: Apple Banana Breakfast Muffins Recipe

So, when stuff feels heavy, when life is stressful, when I’m grumpy, when I’m overwhelmed, when I feel out of control, I cook.  More specifically I throw myself into my kitchen and I “recipe test kitchen” for hours.  

If you’ve read the past few posts, or if you know us in “real life” then you’ll understand that I have got SO MANY new recipes to share!  (read: Life at the moment makes a tornado look like $.25 pony ride)

Don’t get me wrong, I have other habits in place to deal with all of the everything going on.  My time with Jesus & my workouts – aka: the source of the “Happy Mommy” endorphines are key players in my sanity.  In fact, they are in general non-negotiables for me, but when things are rough, they become essential to breathing.

Anyways, I’ve been in the kitchen a ton lately and of course, that means I’m taking pictures and sharing the beauty that is good food.  It also means that I’m being bombarded with recipe requests!

And if you know me even a tiny bit then you’ll know I LOVE TO SHARE WHAT I KNOW! 

It makes me excited to share knowledge, to see someone use one of my recipes or make it their own.  It fills a spot for me to be able to create good food and to teach people that healthy eating, that gluten free eating (if you need it) is YUMMY! 

Making wise choices, allowing yourself treats, eating clean and finding balance are all key players in living a healthy life.  Actually, they’re foundational parts of ENJOYING the life you’re living and thriving!

So, here I am, at the beginning of sharing 4 (maybe 7) new recipes I’ve been working on. 

These guys came on a morning I was up a little extra early – like 4:30am and I wanted the house to smell like love for the girls to wake up to.  I had “lunch box bananas” – you know the ones.  They’ve been put into a kid’s lunch box and returned home so many times, they have bruises like they’d been the pad-less player in a football game.  And I had applesauce.  

I wanted something that would be filling for the tummies, but not sugar overload (there IS sugar in my recipes.  A little is OK guys, as long as it’s real sugar).  I needed something that would pair well with Greek yogurt or with eggs and so, these guys were born.

I threw stuff in the bowl, I mixed ’em up by hand because at 4:30am you can bet I did NOT want to wake up the kids and voila here they are.  ps. It’s peaceful at that time of day.  I like peaceful.  I recommend just once you get up then and bake.  You’ll like peaceful too!

Apple Banana Breakfast Muffins
Serves 12
A yummy, hearty part of a good breakfast. These muffins pair really well with some Greek Yogurt or scrambled eggs to make for a well rounded breakfast.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 Cup of Oat Flour (you can easily make your own by putting oats into a blender or coffee grinder)
  2. 1/2 Cup Quick Oats
  3. 1/3 Cup Rolled Oats
  4. 1 tsp Baking Powder
  5. 1/4 tsp Salt
  6. 1/2 tsp heaping Cinnamon, ground
  7. 1 Cup of Mashed, ripe bananas (approx 3 medium bananas)
  8. 1/2 Cup of Applesauce
  9. 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
  10. 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  11. 2 Large Eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line 12 Muffin tins with muffin liners
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together, banana, applesauce, both sugars & eggs
  4. Sift flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon into wet mixture. Stir to blend
  5. Add in quick & rolled oats
  6. Stir to combine. Evenly divide mixture between muffin tins
  7. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until muffins appear cooked and spring back when you lightly press the top
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack or eat!
Notes
  1. If you require this to be a Gluten Free recipe please be sure to use gluten free oats & oat flour.
  2. This recipe will also bake quite well as a loaf and would require between 45 - 60 minutes to bake. Follow the above noted rules to be certain it's done.
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/

You’re Hurting my child & you NEED to stop!

“What’s on her/your face?”, “Ohhhh, do you have the chicken pox?”, “Am I going to catch something from her?”, “Why isn’t she participating like the normal kids?”, “Well if you     (fill in the blank – ate better, didn’t pick, slept more, were a pink elephant with yellow stripes and pooped rainbows)    it would be better”, “What’s wrong with her?”

These are all things that we’ve heard, that Audrey has heard in the last 6 months, predominantly in the last 6 weeks.  Well, almost all of them…nobody has said she needs to have yellow stripes…. 

The rest of them though, and a lot more, are questions that adults and children alike are asking.  

The worst part, is she’s NOT the only kid out there hearing these questions.  Any child who’s facing a health challenge, one that has visible symptoms or who’s behaviour is a reflection of said condition, has heard some variation of these before.  It’s an abhorable, disgusting lack of respect and I’m bloody, freaking, SICK OF IT!

Let’s start with questions #1…

 “What’s on her/your face?”

What do you think is on her face genius, Skittles?  They’re sores.  They’re uncomfortable, marks that cause her great discomfort and now thanks to you, she’s painfully aware that others see them too.  

 “Ohhh, do you have chicken pox?”

No, do you have idiot pox?  Would she be in public if she were carrying a highly contagious infection?  No her mother, unlike you has a brain.  And a conscience.  And a heart.   Not chicken pox bud, nor are they scabies, mosquito bites or unicorn kisses.   

Not that our 8 year old should have to answer or explain any of that, to you.

 “Am I going to catch something from her?”

Unfortunately not.  Unfortunately, her grace.  Her poise.  Her MANNERS are NOT contagious and you are stuck with your ill-mannered questions, and lack of compassion.

Maybe watch her for a few minutes and try to absorb some of the awesome that is floating out of this girl!  It’s even MORE incredible than a pot of gold, covered in fairy dust, flying on the wings of a Pegasus pony.

 “Why isn’t she participating like the normal kids?”

“Normal kids”?  What the heck is a “normal kid”?  Have you ever met kids?  Where you ever a kid?  

The last time I checked, kids are ALL abnormal.  Look to your left, there’s one picking his nose and using whatever he found in there to draw Garfield faces on the park bench.  Just behind him is one who’s hand is down his pants.  Not sure what he’s fishing for in there, but apparently it’s hard to catch.  To your right?  A little girl blowing a head gasket because her Mom just sat on her “friend”.  The invisible one who was, lounging at that picnic table, of course.

Get it, they’re weird.  They’re quirky.  They are anything but normal.  Heck, most adults have missed the normal boat too.  Take you for example…

 “Well if you     (fill in the blank – ate better, didn’t pick, slept more, were a pink elephant with yellow stripes and pooped rainbows)    it would be better”

Really?  You want to go  there right now?  You want to give condescending, generally Facebook sourced “information” (read: you read some article title, from some un-reputable, tabloid website, didn’t even bother to click it open and now think your Dr. FREAKING Oz?) to a little girl who’s struggling?  As if you’re going to magically fix something that 8 teams of specialized doctors are working on?

What’s worse – blaming the parents of kids with diagnosed diseases, like cancer for making their child develop Leukemia because they let them eat Kraft Dinner, with a hot dog, one time while drinking juice?  

Don’t think it happens?  It does.  Not always to their faces but again, you say it behind their back or share some dumb accusatory social media article trying to “help”.

I’m ALL for clean eating and avoiding chemicals and taking care of our bodies.  But never once, not ever have I thought that a parent has “caused” their child’s illness because of poor food choices.  Unless they are starving their kids, or chain smoking over them at night – this it NOT THEIR FAULT!

 “What’s wrong with her?”

What’s wrong with her?  What’s WRONG with her?  What’s WRONG WITH YOU?

Who asks that question?  I mean, I get it you care.  In general with most of these questions you’re well meaning but are you kidding me.  Are you abso-freakin’-lutely kidding me?

“What’s wrong with her?” implies that she’s damaged goods.   That she’s undesirable.  Broken.

There’s not something “wrong” with any sick or struggling kid.  They’re facing a challenge.

 In general, they’ve face more in their little time on earth than you’ve faced in your entire life.  They’ve been poked and prodded by dozens of doctors.  They’ve given what probably amounts to litres of blood.  They’ve been scanned, examined, & biopsied.  

They’ve endured more than you can imagine and thanks to you, they’re now feeling that pain all over again.

I realize I’ve come at this rather harshly.  I’d apologize but in truth I’m not sorry.  

I have held Audrey many, many nights as she cries tears of pain over questions just like these.  We’re working on building her confidence to answer them with respect but firmness.  She does not have to give out her information, nor does she have to accept them.  She can explain it’s none of your business and should set her boundaries clear.

She’s learning to do that, but right now she’s 8.  She’s too young to have to do that, so I’m going to do it for her.

If you’ve ever asked a child any one of these questions, even if you were well meaning, shame on you!

Would you EVER walk into a bank and ask the teller who has adult acne – “Ewwww what’s on your face?”  Probably not.  Unless you were angling to have your bank account mysteriously miss $500.

What about a biker?  Would you ever ask him, “Am I going to catch something from you?” Not if you value the location of your nose on your face.

How about the elderly lady in the wheelchair – did you ask her, “What’s wrong with you?”  Don’t answer that, we know you wouldn’t.

Do you get what I’m saying?  You would never in a million years ask these questions of an adult because your manners tell you not to.  That or you’re just smart enough to realize there are painful consequences waiting on the other side of them.

Saying them to child however, is completely acceptable.  I mean they are tender little spirits, with feelings but they can handle it, right?  They’re not entitled to your respect because they’re too short to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl?  Their privacy is a non-issue because you want to know?!

Sounds pretty stupid right? 

I thought so.

My friends, if you’ve ever asked these questions please know I don’t hate you for it.  Some of them, have probably even come from a place of good intention, but they’re damaging & hurtful.  They’re rude and you need to know, they need to stop.

If you love our kids enough to ask, then love them enough to respect them.  To tell them they’re beautiful.  To ask about the picture their clutching in their hand, rather than the marks on their cheeks.  To hug them close when a child, too young to know better asks one of those questions – and then correct the child.  

It’s not Ok for you to ask, and it’s NOT ok for your kid to ask either.  They will, because kids are curious.  This is where it’s your job to teach the better than you were taught.  Educate them to empower them.

To those who are not my friends (eg. the people who seriously don’t see any problem in any of the above questions) shame on you.  I want to preserve my witness, to shine Jesus to each of you, but know this, Jesus is saying SHAME on you too!  

So, please, use your head & your heart and stop hurting my child – she’s already hurting enough.

And then we prayed – Audrey Update

Last night, there was a little knock on my shower door.  It was bedtime and I assumed it was one of my munchkins trying to find a reason not to be brushing their teeth.  That’s a normal occurrence around here you know, the avoidance of bedtime.  I’m entirely certain why, as I’m counting down from the moment my alarm goes off at 4:45am to the minute my eyes close.

Anyways, I was done, so I shut the water off, grabbed my towel and opened the door.  There was Audrey, eyes red rimmed with tears, “I tired of it.  I’m really tired of it” she said, looking up at me.  I didn’t have to ask what she was tired of, I knew.  I know, me too. 

So I knelt down, wrapped my still water covered arms around her and let her cry, fighting back my own tears.  And as I did I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency that we needed to pray.  Not just me, not just Corey or my Mom but we needed to ask everyone we knew to pray for and over our Audrey last night. So I kissed her forehead, wiped her tears and sent her to ready for bed.

Then I called Corey in and told him what I’d felt and within minutes we were sending messages, updating social media and doing something I rarely ever do – sharing our struggles & asking for prayer.

Once the girls were ready for sleep, we sat on Audrey’s bed together, laid our hands on our girl and prayed.  Each of us taking the time to thank God for His incredible grace in our lives, for her strength, for Bethany’s love of her sister, for the tests that weren’t bad and for the future she has.  And can I tell you something?  As a parent there is little else that will shake you to your emotional core harder than hearing one of your children pray over her little sister.  Oh, how sweet the hearts of the children God has given us.

We kissed our babies goodnight and then came downstairs to pray, plan and talk some more.  

I hesitate often on sharing our health journey and struggles on social media.  I never want to seem dramatic or attention seeking.  In fact, I desperately need to be the polar opposite to those things and so I do my best to keep the majority of it private.  We all have those friends who overshare, who complain all the time, who us their challenges or the challenges of their kids to collect unnecessary attention, and I don’t want to be that.  

I want, no I NEED to put my trust, our trust in Jesus and not in social media & the attentions of others.  I truly believe it’s so easy to let Google, Facebook, Instagram and everything in between that the cool kids do that I don’t know about because I’m “old” now, become our God.  That attention can feel good in the moment, it gives physical response rather than waiting to see/hear what God will do, it can be satisfying if we let it and I’m determined not to go there.

However, last night I believe I was being called by my God to use those platforms to ask for help.  To share with the people who do truly love us and to ask for prayer.  We need help, we are struggling so much deeper than I’ve shared with nearly anyone, especially last night and we needed to ask for the prayer.  There are times people I love share their struggles and ask for prayer and I’m so thankful they did.  As family in Christ we can’t fulfill our responsibility to love one another and pray for each other if we aren’t given the opportunity.  That was being pressed on my heart last night, and so I listened.

If you saw that message or received our text and prayed – thank you.  From the bottom of my heart and soul thank you for loving our girl, our family and praying.  It means so very much more than you’ll ever know.

Audrey’s body isn’t doing well.  In fact, it hasn’t been doing very well the past few months. Her fatigue has begun taking over again, in a way we haven’t seen in years.  It is making getting through school difficult and some of her favourite activities nearly impossible.  The fevers are trying to sneak back in, thankfully they’ve remained low and none have over taken her little body or landed us in the hospital.

A few years ago she also started to develop “spots” or little lesions on her skin.  We’ve watched them on and off, they’re a type of petechia and we’re seeing Dermatology at BCCH for them, but again nobody has a clue what they are.  In early March they did a biopsy of one of them from her hand in an attempt to figure them out.  We also received the funding for her 4th level of genetic testing.  Those blood tests have been taken and shipped out of country, in search of answers.

Up until recently those lesions were a few at a time, but right now they are exploding all over her little face and arms.  They end up like open sores, and are leaving her face red and scarred.  She “worries” at them too, picking because she wants them to go, but even the ones she can’t reach are open sores and leave scars.  We’re covering her in every cream, both prescribed and natural that we can in a desperate attempt to stop them.

We’ve watched the food she eats, changed soaps and are trying, but nothing is working.

The hardest part though, the part that lead me to that request for prayer yesterday was the joint swelling.  Since December Audrey has had 4 boughts of different joints in her hands and feet swelling.  They cause pain, sometimes lump and immobility.  Sometimes they last a few days, other times, a few weeks.

Right now, we’re in the middle of the worst episode of swelling we’ve seen.  This time it’s attacking the joints in her right (dominant) hand.  She’s unable to properly hold things, including a pencil, cup or jump rope and Audrey is hurting the majority of the time.  This weekend she just carried around an ice pack or a heating pack, switching between the 2 trying to find relief.

It’s hard.  Actually it’s horrible and we have no idea what to do.  Last night after having to try hard to get through her school day and then through the gymnastics class she refused to miss, she couldn’t take any more and the tears fell.

They were justified.  

I’ve been on the phone and placing emails, contacting a few of the “big guns” we see at BCCH trying to line up some help.  We have to find out what’s happening in her body.  I need someone to tell me how to fix this, how to offer her relief, how to make it better.

If you see our Audrey on a daily basis, chances are, other than seeing the sores on her skin you’d never know she’s struggling.  You may notice how pale she gets or how sunken her eyes are, but you’ll generally see a light from her.  She’s got spunk and sass, and sweet and cheeky spirit and a beautiful helper’s heart.

She’s a fighter and I’m so glad that she is, God’s going to do something great with who she’s becoming through all of this, I just know it.

Again, if you prayed for our girl last night or you’re praying now, thank you.  Your thoughts, prayers and compassion are so greatly appreciated and we love you all so very much for them!

Sometimes it’s all Random and Stuff

So, I’ve been a little (a lot) MIA as of late.  Life is happening.  A lot of life is happening and if I’m being honest, getting to my blog just hasn’t happened.  Oh the things I have to say…they abound.  However, taking the time to stop and write a post has just fallen to the wayside.  

My brain is full of posts I’d like to write, maybe I’ll get to them one day, maybe I should start a YouTube channel, or experiment with Snap Chat and then I can just put them out there when they happen.  hmmm….

Life happening has revolved a lot around my health and the fact that it’s not exactly awesome at the moment.  Well, it’s not that my health isn’t awesome, my body is being an A-Hole with a capital A and Hole (apparently).  I’ll go in to detail, probably, later but in short it’s taking a large amount of my energy to function.

I’m seeing different modalities of physical therapy each week.  Being stuck with needles.  Shipped to Vancouver (3x in a week) to specialists and for testing.  I’m still working out (because it’s my sanity, my love & my “happy drug”) and caring for my body, but I’ve definitely had to modify things.  I’m so thankful I know how to do that.

It’s good, it’s Ok, we’re making progress though we have yet to figure out the root cause of my problem.  I’m learning to cope with it.  I’m learning that some of this might be my new normal, and that change happens whether we want it to or not.

On top of that we’re dealing with Audrey’s little body and it’s continued problems.  Again, not something I’m doing to delve into at the moment but what I will say is that this kid is an inspiration and an example of how to keep going.

With life, and therapies and work and kids and all of the everything – you can see how this has slipped a little.  I’m sorry everyone.  I needed to focus inward a little, so I did.  So I am.

Coaching is coming a long.  Have I mentioned I LOVE health & fitness?  Have I mentioned that THIS was my purpose?  Not just helping people with programs, in fact that’s the smallest part of my purpose.  

It’s the helping them find HAPPY inside of healthy, working on creating meal plans for them.  Getting into the nitty gritty of their health struggles, seeing them lose tons of weight and find that they CAN do it and it WILL last because we’re working on new habits.

Man, if you were sitting here the sound of my fingers flying over the keys those last few paragraphs would probably annoy you.  (Anyone else find typing an annoying sound?)  I’m excited about it, passionate, and in love with it!

The trouble?!

I want to help more people.  I NEED to help more people and I’m struggling on 2 levels.  

Sometimes reaching out feels hard.  Not because I don’t want to help, but because I don’t want to offer help to someone who didn’t want it and then offend them.  I’m working on it, and a lot of people don’t even know that I’m coaching.  They have NO idea what I can do to help them.  I need to put myself out there more.

The other problem?  

Well, when you want to change the world.  Help families (not just one member of them) get healthy, it’s a big job.  I need help!  I need other people who want to learn about getting healthy.  People who are works in progress who want to help others they love become works in progress.  

I need a team.  An army.  A FAMILY! of people who want to coach along side me.

Is that you?!!  If it is please, please, please let me know!  Reach out if you want help getting healthy, if you want to learn about coaching, if you just wanna chat about the fact that sometimes watching YouTube videos about bacon cheeseburgers feels good.  Whatever, I wanna chat! 

Wow, this post is disjointed and has gone in 100 different directions.  But if I’m being honest, that’s kind of how my life feels.  No, not kinda, it IS how my life feels.

As God and I are working through all that is happening.  All that is changing I need to learn balance. I need to learn to be still (I suck at sitting) and I need to learn to put myself out there more.

So, my friends I am here.  I’ll always be here.  Sometimes I’ll be quiet but I’m here whenever you need me.  I’m here!

What do you think should I start a YouTube channel and spew forth all that’s in my brain?  What would you like to hear more from me about?  Life? Fitness? Nutrition? Healthy families? Recipes?

Help a girl out and let me know what you’d like to hear/see and I’ll do my best to oblige!

 

Gluten Free Gingersnap Cookie Recipe (aka. You’re Welcome)

gingersnaps-recipe

Nothing says Christmas to me quite like the smell of cookies baking.  Very specific cookies in fact – Gingersnap cookies & Shortbread.

I remember being a little girl sneaking into the freezer and sneaking out the frozen shortbread cookies and just letting them melt in my mouth.  Looking back, my Mom knew they were being taken (she’s not dumb, despite what I thought when I was 14) but gave me grace and didn’t comment on it.  

As I grew older, I developed my own love for being in the kitchen and my passion for baking began.  Gingersnaps quickly became my favourite Christmas cookie to bake and over the years, as the recipe has evolved, they’ve become the most requested Christmas cookie I bake.

They’re Audrey’s favourite cookie this time of year and I knew, when Celiac disease arrived that I was going to need to find a way to continue making her gingersnaps.

2 years and a lot of experiments later I have finally arrived at a recipe that I think is near perfect.  In fact, the way my girls ate them and the comments (or rather noises) coming from them have christened these cookies, near to cookie heaven.

Rich & molasses-y, sweet, crisp edges and soft centers, these are lovely.  They are also standing up quite well to time.  They’re not drying out nor are they getting moldy – which if you’re living the gluten free life you’ll know is a HUGE win!  They also freeze super well.

So, in true recipe success fashion, here we are to share!  Please note that at the BOTTOM of the recipe, I will have the adjustments you can make to turn this recipe into a wheat version for your family & friends.  

Give these guys a try and then comment to let me know what you think!  And don’t forget if you decide to take a photo and post them in social media to tag me & to use the hashtag #ofsbakes

Gluten Free Gingersnap Recipe
Gingersnaps perfect for Christmas (or any time!). Crispy edges with warm, chewy centers.
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 Cup of Butter, room temperature!
  2. 1 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  3. 2 Eggs
  4. 1/2 Cup of Molasses
  5. 2 1/2 Cups of Gluten Free Flour (see note)
  6. 2 tsp of Baking Soda
  7. 2 tsp of Ground Ginger
  8. 1 HEAPING tsp of Cinnamon (don't skimp on cinnamon)
  9. 1 tsp of Salt
  10. Additional Granulated Sugar for rolling
Instructions
  1. Pre-Heat Oven to 350°F & line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
  2. Cream together butter & first granulated sugar
  3. Whip in both eggs and cream until light & fluffy
  4. Add molasses, mix well
  5. SIFT together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon & salt in a separate bowl (a MUST do)
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture to your wet ingredients and blend well
  7. Cookie dough will be sticky - that's OK! Gluten free flour is thirsty flour, it will thicken as it stands
  8. Place the entire bowl in the fridge for 1/2 an hour or the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up dough
  9. Place additional sugar on a large dinner plate (start with 2 tbsp add more if needed)
  10. Wet hands SLIGHTLY, scoop 1 tbsp of dough into hands, roll into a ball & roll that in sugar
  11. Place sugared dough onto cookie sheet leaving space for them to expand
  12. Gently press a SMALL finger imprint into the top of each dough ball & sprinkle on additional pinch of sugar
  13. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cookies have crackled & edges appear firm.
  14. These cookies sometimes appear a little "damp" even when they're done. The crackles are your sign they're ready to come out (or nearly ready)
  15. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack
Notes
  1. We love the President's Choice gluten free all purpose flour or Better Batter GF Flour for these cookies. OR we whip up the Mock Better Batter flour from Gluten Free on a Shoestring (http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-flour-blends-what-you-need-to-know/)
  2. If your flour blend does not contain xanthan gum, make sure to add in 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to this recipe. You NEED the binder
  3. WHEAT VERSION: Reduce to 1 Large egg or 1 medium egg + 1 egg white & increase flour to 2 1/2 Cups plus 2 TBSP of flour
  4. Save left over sugar from rolling cookies to add to oatmeal. It makes a yummy gingery, holiday topping to a bowl of hot cereal.
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/

Stretching our definition of Beautiful

stretch-marks

With great nervousness and trepidation I shared this photo on social media the other day after a conversation I had with one of our girls.  It took all the courage I could muster to take it, to look at it and then to click “post”.

Here’s the story I wrote to go with it:

“Last week one of the girls walked into the bathroom while I was getting ready for the day.

As I stood there putting on my make up, in my underwear she was quiet. I could see her studying me in the mirror and her “wheels turning”.

After a few minutes had past she stood up and traced her fingers over my hips “Are those veins Mama? The ones that shine a little?”

“No lovie. Those are my grow marks from when I was younger. Some people call them stretch marks but they just tell the story that I once was small and then grew up” Taking a breath, I waited for the critique that can come from an outspoken, honest child.

She was quiet again for a moment and then said softly, “You know what Mama? I think they’re beautiful!”

Then she jumped up, kissed my arm and ran off to play while I just simply stood there – stunned

As I looked in the mirror at a part of my body I’ve hated for 20 years I realized something… She’s right. They are.

They are a beautiful, shiny reminder that I grew up. That I’m alive, that I work hard, that I exercise, that I once was unhealthy and now I am not.

This photo wasn’t easy to take and it certainly wasn’t easy to share but now that it’s out there it’s my accountability. My reminder for me and for you to look at our grow marks, through the eyes of a child & see them for what they are. A beautiful story of who we are, where we were and where we’re going.”

It’s a sweet story right?  Something endearing and encouraging from the heart of one of my little loves.  So why?  Why on earth was it so hard to share?

Because I had to be vulnerable.  Because I have spent the better part of 20 years trying to hide those stretch marks.  Because the world says that “beautiful” is perfection.  She’s got long lean legs, perky “pecs covers” (aka boobs), shiny hair and blemish free, smooth skin.  There are no stretch marks or bruises, you can’t see her veins and she doesn’t have freckles.  Then, when you meet that criteria and only then, the world looks you straight in the eye and says, “Hang on.  Let me grab my airbrush and I’ll fix you.  Just a little here, and some there.  Ahhhh yes, now.  Now you are beautiful…”

And my friends, I am none of those things.  While my legs are long, lean they are not (strong they are!), I’ve got some perky pecs but sadly they have no covers and my hair is only shiny when I forget to wash it for 4 days.  And even then, the shine kinda smells a little.

I’ve had acne since I was 11, stretch marks since I was 13 and the fact that ALL the furniture in the universe jumps out and smacks me, means that bruises are kind of like my “thing”.  Freckles litter my nose, arms and chest and I’m pretty sure if I had an airbrush I’d end up accidentally removing one of my limbs or something.

In the eyes of the world I lack beauty, which translates to unworthy and with that comes the belief that I shouldn’t share my story.  Posting that photo shows the world my “ugly” and that was scary.

Except – I’m not who the world keeps trying to tell my I am and I’m not who it keeps trying to tell me I should be.   Instead, I’m flawed, I’m faulted, at times I’m even broken and you know, I’m OK with that.

It’s taken me years to get to the place where I can say that but I am because I am exactly who God created me to be.  He placed the freckles on my nose, gave me life to grow & stretch marks to prove it and for whatever reason turned the furniture against me.  He also filled this body with a heart that loves people, that desires deeply to serve Him and that would sacrifice all that I have for the children who are mine.

In the eyes of those beautiful babes, I am beautiful – flaws and all.  And if that doesn’t make you feel worthy, I don’t know what will.

So, I took the photo.  I wrote the story and I clicked “post” because I need to do more than tell myself I am worthy – I need to tell you that YOU are worthy too.

Look at the thing you try hardest to hide and see what He sees, what my girl saw.  A beautiful woman, living inside a strong body – worth being thankful for, worth taking care of and worth being loved.

Chia Honey Oat Granola Bars Recipe (Gluten Free)

You know what isn’t my favourite?  Buying things I can make.  You know what else isn’t my favourite?  Trying to buy things for my family and discovering that all the things I’m trying to buy contain crap.  You know crap right?  It’s Chemical. Riddled. Alarming. Products (acronyms make me happy).  And finally, when I do find something that is safe (ish) I then don’t love the $4 million dollar price tag that’s attached to a box of 4. 

I mean really – does it cost you that much to eliminate all the garbage?!  I mean, how many people do you have to pay to NOT put CRAP into our food?!

Anyways *sigh*, with it being back to school season and the continuation of packing lunches I’ve been on the hunt for new things to add for the girls.  We pack lunches year round because in the summer the girls come with me to work, but something about the back to school season makes me want to kick up my game a notch.

Chia Honey Oat Granola Bar (Gluten Free)

Today, after a really long trip to the grocery store I came home with bags of ingredients and a mission.  If they can’t provide it, I’m gonna make it – it’s how I generally roll.  

With all that’s going on right now, the convenience of just buying it done would be nice but I just can’t put garbage into my kids, not without feeling like a failure anyways.

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So, out came the mixing bowls, the ingredients and a recipe.  Which I read, rolled my eyes at and put away.  I’d just make it up as I went along, like I usually do.  I have a base idea of what to put in it, so…here we go.

Audrey decided to help and within minutes we had food all over my clean floor** some delicious granola bars hitting the oven and a Banana Apple Oat Bread waiting its turn (Leave a COMMENT if you want that recipe too!).

The result was a beautiful pan of Chia Honey Oat Granola bars that smell delicious.  They’re crunchy and reminiscent of the Nature’s Path Granola bars I loved as a kid.

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I even put a very thin (we’re talking a nearly see through smear) of melted dark/milk chocolate on top of some of the bars.  This instantly turns them into a “treat” for the girls.

School lunch conundrum solved for another week.  Now, to start thinking about next week…this planners gotta plan!

What healthy/treat type snacks do YOU put in your kids lunches?

Chia Honey Oat Granola Bar (Gluten Free)
Yields 12
A delicious homemade granola bar for school lunches or snacks. Can be topped with a TINY bit of chocolate to up the yummy anti!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Cup Rolled Oats, gluten free (if needed)
  2. 1/2 Cup Quick Oats, gluten free (if needed)
  3. 1/2 Cup Brown rice Crisps Cereal, gluten free (if needed)
  4. 3 TBSP Ground Golden Flax seed (can sub regular ground flax)
  5. 3 tsp of Chia Seeds
  6. 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  7. 1/8 tsp Salt
  8. 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  9. 1/4 Cup of Honey
  10. 2 TBSP Coconut Oil (can sub butter or Rice Bran Oil but these do NOT hold together as well with other oils)
  11. 1/4 Cup of chocolate chips
  12. 3 tsp of Brown Sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line an 8x8 cake pan with parchment paper
  3. In a medium bowl combine oats, rice krispies, ground flax, chia seeds, baking soda and salt
  4. In a microwave safe bowl combine honey, brown sugar and coconut oil, microwave for 1 minute or until mixture bubbles
  5. Add vanilla to hot liquid mixture & combine with dry ingredients
  6. Pour mixture into baking sheet and press down firmly!!! I place a piece of wax paper on top and use a heavy mug to press these down
  7. Bake for 15-22 minutes or until dark golden brown on top
  8. Remove from oven and immediately press down again - BE CAREFUL IT'S HOT (use same method as above
  9. Let cool 20 minutes then remove from pan and cut into 12 pieces
CHOCOLATE OPTION
  1. Once completely cool, melt chocolate in microwave and spread thinly on top of your bars.
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/
** It is not wise to invite a child into the kitchen to help you bake AFTER you’ve just cleaned your floors. Within 2 minutes my floor was covered with ground nuts and coconut because her container went flying. It was an accident but oh man…the mess!**

Audrey & Bethany NEED your help meeting a need!

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Every year at Christmas, one of the company I work for (my parent’s company) has a “Food for Friends” drive that pivots around our company open house. Suppliers, trades, customers, friends and even, at times strangers make donations to our local food bank and each year blow our minds with their generosity. It’s overwhelming to stand, at the back of my Mom’s Honda Pilot, looking at the mass amounts of food, diapers and supplies given out of the goodness of people’s hearts.

For Bethany & Audrey, it’s one of their favourite parts of the Christmas season. They love having the privilege of helping us deliver the food to the local Salvation Army and eagerly help load food hampers with us for families in need in out community.

When we had kids, Corey and I set out to raise women who have “Jesus’ heart”, who are kind, generous and loving. Little did we know that HE gave us girls with so much more than we could ever teach them. Their love for helping – whether it’s me in the kitchen or kid who’s sad is such a beautiful thing. They were born with the desire to serve and we try, as often as we can to give them avenues in which they can do it.

Recently, a need in our community came to our attention and its direct connection to our lives & our hearts resulted in all of us feeling like we HAD to do something…and so we are! (secret: We’re inviting YOU to help too!)
Most of you know that a year and a half ago Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The means that for the safety of her body she can’t eat anything that contains gluten! It will harm her, both in immediate physical symptoms and long term permanent damage to her little body. It was a hard diagnosis to swallow, but one we have grown to appreciate and embrace. It changed her life and it has made us so much more aware of a different kind of need.

Someone with Celiac disease needs to eat “Gluten Free” foods (certified) for their body to function properly and be safe. That means it can’t contain wheat, rye, barley or triticale (among other things), nothing that contains gluten. In general, we have found this to be not so difficult. Fresh fruits, vegetables & meats are all naturally gluten free, as are non-gluten grains (rice, millet, sorghum) etc. Where you run into the cost, and potential problem in this diet is when it comes to bread, dairy products, pasta, cured meats, crackers and canned goods. Many things, MANY of them that you would think are gluten free – like a can of mushroom soup, are not. They are filled with gluten – and there for seriously dangerous to a Celiac.

The items that are gluten free are significantly more expensive than their wheat counterparts and this diagnosis can take a real toll on your grocery bill. For those living on meager means, or needing assistance, this can feel or even be nearly impossible.

See where I’m going with this?

Last week we learned that our local food bank and food banks around Canada have very little in regards to gluten free foods. In fact, the lady I spoke to said there are times they have almost no gluten free foods to offer to a family in need who are facing Celiac disease, or wheat allergy. She said there are times they come and look through the canned foods available and can’t find almost anything safe for them. Unfortunately, the majority of what gets donated to a food bank, the things they are able to keep in stock for families in need are things that are packaged & canned. These are the very things that people like our Audrey can’t have.

When we learned this our hearts broke and the girls were filled with questions – “How did we not know this was happening?”, “WHY is it happening?” and more importantly “How can we fix it?”

The answers are simple – we didn’t know it was happening because we didn’t think to ask. The reason it’s happening is because NOBODY else knows there’s a need either, and what we can do about it why I’m writing this blog post!

Audrey & bethany's

From August 15 – 18 2016 Audrey and Bethany are holding their first ever GLUTEN FREE FOOD DRIVE! And as an added bonus they’re raffling off 2 Chilliwack Chiefs Kids Jerseys (you earn an entry when you donate)
We will be collecting Gluten Free donations for our local food bank, doing our best to not only fill their shelves with foods safe for everyone but also to create awareness in our community, and communities around Canada about a need that needs meeting! This is a problem we CAN fix – if you’re willing to help us.
Here’s how you can help:

  1. If you live in the Chilliwack/Fraser Valley area purchase some gluten free food and contact me. We will have a collection location for you to drop off your food
  2. Tell your friends about Audrey & Bethany’s Gluten Free Food Drive and invite them to participate
  3. If you live ANYWHERE else in Canada purchase a few gluten free items & donate them to your local food bank.
  4. Consider running your own Gluten Free Food drive and help your local food banks
  5. Share this blog post/Facebook event and help spread awareness to a growing need
  6. Leave a comment and share with us how YOU would like to help

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Helping someone else isn’t a chore friends, it’s a choice. Today we care daring you to make a choice to acknowledge a need and do what you can to meet it!

When it all comes Crashing In

-So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.-Isaiah 41-10
This past month has been one of the hardest months I have faced in my life. Not because of my family, or my friends or my job but because of me. The water I’ve been treading has felt dark & deep, and I’ve barely been keeping my head above water.
 
June was an intense month for us. 3 trips to Children’s hospital for Audrey, end of school & some other emotionally heavy pieces weighed life down. I kept going, smiling, telling myself I was good, we were good – it was FINE because I felt I had no choice. If I wasn’t fine, then someone else might see the hard or my girls might feel it.
 
Then July 2nd came, the final appointment had passed, school was over and all of a sudden it all came CRASH in on me. My body literally had a complete spaz attack and I began to feel pain and discomfort like I’ve never felt. I couldn’t exercise how I’m used to, I couldn’t move how I like to and it was a chore getting through each day.
 
But it wasn’t just the pain, it was the flood of emotions, uncontrollable emotions that took me over. I cried, sobbed for days. My parents were gone on holidays, I hid from my friends terrified if they saw me they’d see through my smile. I wasn’t even sure I could smile, and I was afraid they’d see me crumbling, they’d think I was weak – they’d know I was failing.
 
I couldn’t breathe, I could barely move and for the first time in my adult life I actually thought maybe I was dying. That this was the end.
 
Never in my life have I been so afraid, so desperate for the love and comfort of the Holy Spirit, so completely and utterly helpless.
 
The good news is that some of that has passed. Some of the emotions that overwhelmed are being worked through. Though I’m pretty sure a hormone imbalance is adding to the problem.
 
The physical pain has lessened too. It’s not nearly as bad as it was, but there have been ultrasounds, there are specialists appointments and plans for some IV therapy treatments.
 
I even saw a Chiropractor with plans to also see physio & massage. You guys – I was SO at the point of desperation that I actually let someone TOUCH ME. I HATE to be touched so this step blew the minds of my family.
 
And slowly I am working on talking to and seeing the women I love so very much.
 
When I climbed that mountain the other day – I stared into the eyes of all that hurt, all the fear, and all that I believed would destroy me. We didn’t plan to finish, I wasn’t sure my body would let me, but my beautiful friends were patient. They stopped, they waited, we laughed and around each (steep) switch back, I’d look up and think “It still so far” then I’d turn around and look back and think “But look how far I’ve come, I can go a little more”.
 
And then all of a sudden we were there. Looking out at God’s great creation, the overwhelm hit my soul – I did it. I made it through the hard and now, NOW I had my reward.
 
I wish I could say it’s over and I’m 100% fine but I’m not. I’m far from “normal” again, but at least I see that light. I have hope, I have a plan and the tears have dried.
 
The part of this story I love the most?  It’s that in the moments when I thought all was lost.  When I was scared, hiding, alone – Jesus met me.  Verses from Sunday school days past poured over my heart, worship songs soothe my soul and His gentle whisper of love lifted me up and has carried me through.
 
My struggles haven’t made me weak, they made me humble and inside that humility I found the thing I long for in this life the most – a closer relationship with my heavenly father and for that I can’t possibly be anything but thankful.  

He likes Big Butts and He Should have Lied…

Corey and Ashley Sept 2005This is us, with in a day or two of the story below.

We’d been together about 2 months, when Corey looked at me with love in his eyes, sighed and said “This song reminds me of you…”  his face full of dopey, dreamy new love.

 I couldn’t see my face at that moment, but I could feel it and based on the fire beginning to burn inside of me I’m going to hazard a guess in saying it wasn’t exactly pretty.

Before you start thinking I’m a calloused, cold hearted woman who didn’t appreciate the fact that her fiance was being so romantic, let’s just discuss the song that reminded Corey of me…

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” (the link takes you to the video.  I really don’t want it embedded here)

Now, let’s just talk about the lyrics to that song:

“They only talk to her, because, she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean— gross. Look!
She’s just so… black!

[Sir Mix-a-Lot]
I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she’s wearing
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring
Oh baby, I wanna get with you
And take your picture
My homeboys tried to warn me
But that butt you got makes me so…”

Let’s just stop right there.  This IS a family site after all.

I stood there in disbelief, my brain spinning a mile a minute, as the song played and the lyrics painted a picture in my head of what I looked like to my future husband – 

a prostitute who has to stuff her “round thing” into her jeans, that all his friends warned him about.  Oh and did I forget to mention her BUTT IS BIG?! 

Horrified doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling.  Mortified might be a better word, devastated that the bum I knew wasn’t small (hello I had to find jeans to house it dontcha know) was actually considered BIG!  All my insecurities poured themselves right into that moment and I stood there feeling defeated, wondering why he wanted to marry me?  I mean, why on earth would he want someone with a butt capable of knocking over an entire china display or taking out a small village with one grand sway of the hips?!

Corey on the other hand stood there bewildered and confused.  Had he said something wrong?  Was I not completely impressed by his romantic abilities?  Why wasn’t I falling all over him with desire?

I’ll tell you why – I was afraid of causing him physical harm that’s why.  I mean, one wrong move and I might give him a black eye with that BIG BUTT of mine.

And then I spoke.  It’s one of the shortest sentences I’ve ever uttered and its simplicity told of the dangerous waters he was in:

“Really? This song?”

Still slightly confused but feeling the pressure & temperature of the room begin to rise he began to speak, in rapid fire.

“Yes this song.  It makes me think of you.  I love you.  This song is one of my favourites and when I used to think about who I wanted to marry it was this girl and now I found her.  And, well, so, umm….you’re pretty?”

That’s not a typo friends – that last part was said as a question.  As though, the questionable complement would maybe, sort of fix the look of hurt and fury on my face.

“So, you think my butt is big?”

“Well, ya.  I mean, you know it’s not BIG, big, but it’s not small.  And that’s a good thing because….”

Honestly I can’t tell you what words came after that because I was focusing on “it’s not small” and wondering how much pain I could inflict with the running shoe sitting on the shelf beside me.

Needless to say, that evening didn’t turn out to be one of our better evenings.  Though we did talk it out, I did a lot of crying, he did a lot of ice cream eating, tea drinking and head nodding (when I’m upset I talk.  A lot.  When Corey is, well, when Corey is breathing he eats ice cream).  

We discussed my insecurities for the first and certainly not the last time.  We discussed his ability to use tact and to think ahead of my reaction, again not for the last time.  We discussed and we discussed and we discussed (because “beating a dead horse” is my strong suit).

Ultimately we came to 2 conclusions: I shouldn’t take everything Corey says literally and when a song reminds Corey of me, he should probably keep that information to himself.  

(ps. Corey knows I shared this story tonight.  It’s something we both laugh about – now)