Monday, June 13, 2011

Baby Liam's Birth Story

I had been getting Braxton-Hicks contractions for about a week or so - with some of them so intense that I thought 'tonight's the night'...until I wake up still preggers. ;) So when I started getting some contractions around 10pm on 4/28/11, I didn't even bother timing them and went on with my night, staying up til midnight, as usual. However, this time, I couldn't fall asleep and the contractions were getting more and more regular as time went on. Around 1am, I decided to stop trying to fall asleep and start timing the contractions. Long story short, this went on for a while until the contractions got so intense that I felt like I'd rather be soaking in a nice, warm bath. I hung out there for a while but by 4am, I decided it was time to wake the sleeping hubby and ask him to call his mom, who was on call to babysit the kids when we went to the hospital to have the baby. She lives an hour away but I thought I had plenty of time...but I was wrong. I got dressed between contractions, finished packing my hospital bag and was trying to watch the Royal Wedding on the internet but couldn't concentrate at all. Not even all those funny hats could distract me for very long. ;) Finally, my mother-in-law got here around 5:20am. At this point, I was already feeling like I needed to push and was getting really shaky! We ran out the house and Kev put the pedal to the medal! We called the midwife on the way there but I could barely talk. Finally, we arrive at the hospital around 5:45 (there was no traffic, PTL!!) and we enter via the emergency entrance. As soon as I arrive and the ER staff saw my face, they start running around frantic, looking for the doctor on call. I was so ready to have the baby there but they told me no pushing until we get up to the maternity ward. Boo! They rush me upstairs (though it felt like it took forever, esp since they got lost once!) and right after they got me in the bed, my midwife rushed in and they gave me the go-ahead to push. Yay! So, I got to push still dressed in my hoodie and had baby Liam at 6:05am!
This time around, I finally got the birth I've always wanted - no interventions and waiting around at the hospital...though almost having the baby in the car was a bit crazy! But praise the Lord for a great delivery and a healthy baby! :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is a REAL Christian?

This is a question that I've been pondering on and off in my life, especially when someone really visible in the Christian community made the news headlines for something not so fun. Plus, it's so easy to spot hypocrisy in so many people who call themselves Christians, including myself. So yeah, it's been bothering me for a while. Then recently, I heard some sermons that helped to clear up this issue a bit and thought I'd share a summary (and semi-rant) of what I've been processing through.

Basically, being a Christian means to be a mini-Christ. That means, not only do you have to believe in God (which so many people say they do) but you have to do what He says. I think it's this second part that trips us up so much. A lot of my Christian life was spent thinking the main crux of Christianity is believing and it is. You obviously can't be a Christian if you don't even believe in God. But just because you believe He exists doesn't mean you're a Christian. I mean, even the devil believes that God exist and he's definitely not a Christian. Also, this belief is not just in the existence of God, it has to be a total belief that He is who He is and that He can do what He says He can do (ie healing, changing people's lives, etc). And this belief has to change your life and the way you act. For example, say you've never seen a chair but someone tells you about how great it is and how it can support your weight and give you a break from having to stand up all the time. Now if you really believe them, you'll sit in it. So the belief prompts an action. But if you don't want to sit in it, it's very likely that you don't believe that the chair will support you. Not a perfect example, but you get the idea. :)

Throughout my Christian life, I've heard arguments about works vs. faith re: salvation and it's still not very clear to me but I like the stance that my church takes, which is they really just work hand in hand. If you have the faith (and the belief) you will just do what God has called you to do. And if you do what God asks of you, it's pretty obvious you have the faith. (James 2) I still remember being shocked when I heard John Bevere say that he believes many in the church are currently not saved because they have no works and by that, their faith is dead. (James 2:17) But the more I think about it, the more I feel that's true....because the more I look at the church in America, the more I feel that it's so lifeless. Jesus has called us to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow and to bring justice to the oppressed, among other things. But yet, I feel the church is sorely lacking in that department. It's not merely a Sunday thing, a Wednesday night thing or something entertaining during Holidays. Christianity is supposed to be a way of life. And none of that 20% of the church does 80% of the work thing....the whole body needs to be working together. :) And the faith sustains the works - otherwise you can get burnt out quickly. That's another reason why I love the church I go to now - they are heavily vested in their community, serving them, helping them and meeting their needs. [They also preach the true gospel - none of that prosperity gospel or comfort gospel but the real thing! People need to know that Jesus died for them not to make them rich or's nothing about that. :P] And if all the churches were doing that, we would not need all these government programs that are mostly wasteful and ineffective. And truly, people need more healing than intervention, anyhow. For me, faith is such an intangible, hard-to-understand/grasp thing, that I can only look at if I'm doing what God calls me to do to know whether I'm growing in my faith. And I realize that as I really, truly believe who God is, who God tells me I am and what He can do, the more I obey and do. :)

There's also a difference between conversion and having a genuine relationship with God (being a Christian). It's more than just praying a one time prayer to believe in God and all that He has done so we can be saved from our sins. The 'sinner's prayer' (conversion) is really just the start of the relationship. My current pastor feels that, from that day forward, we have to wake up and choose Christ everyday, every moment, every decision, because it's usually not easy to make the right choice every day of our lives. Basically, 'working out our salvation' everyday by submitting to God. (Phil 2:12) And that reminder of how it's a daily thing made me finally realize what 'taking up your cross DAILY and following Me' meant. (Luke 9:23) And that kinda helped answer my question of how these great men of faith who were so close to God and did so many great things for him can fall - it might be that one day that they didn't submit to God and decided to do what they wanted to do that got them to the place where they are now. It was a reminder for me to do a good job submitting daily because I'm not even as close to God as they were. And just like any relationship, you have to do things to keep it going. The Bible likens our relationship with God to marriage, which is one of the hardest relationship to keep flourishing. There are sacrifices to be made, compromises to be made and decisions to be made. You can't just start it and expect it to grow on its own based on similar personalities, interests, attractions, you have to invest in it and fight for it...and that's what a relationship with God is like, too. Not easy but so worth it! :)

Still more to process through but I think I've already said a mouthful. :) Any thoughts?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Miracles, Part II: Kevin & Jackie's Stories

Yay, I'm back and I have 3 more stories to tell. And they're both good stories, I tell ya. ;) Anyhow, here we go.

Kev has had some good intolerance issues since med school. It started with milk intolerance, which we chalked up to being Asian. I mean, really, I think I know more yellow people that can't drink milk than can drink milk. :) Anyhow, then it was certain green veggies.....and other green veggies, to the point where he was barely eating any green veggies. Which to me, a registered dietitian, was really sad because I love green veggies and all their health benefits. :( Plus, I worry about the kids saying they can't eat them just because Kev doesn't. Well, then it was other foods and things were getting bad. The discomfort would keep him up at night and make him wary about all kinds of foods. All this while, we had been praying and praying and trying different kinds of supplements: enzymes, probiotics, lactase, smoothies, keeping a food dairy, you name it. But nothing was really helping. So we kept persevering with prayer and learned new ways of praying re: healing and being careful of what we say and agree with. [More on that later.] But just since the Spring of this year, his symptoms mostly disappeared!! He can even eat moderate amounts of ice cream without problem, which is such an awesome gift. :) And it was funny that we didn't even really notice Kev being healed until one night we were praying together before drifting off to sleep [we try to do that every night] and was going to pray about Kev's symptoms but realized that it had been a few days where we even talked or thought about it because he hadn't been bothered by it. And he hasn't been bothered by a bout since. Yay! What an awesome thing is it to be able to enjoy all the good food God has created...because man, we love food! :)

I have 2 stories to share about myself: Ever since I was little, I got sick a lot and had quite sensitive skin. One kinda random thing was that I couldn't even eat any seafood that wasn't freshly caught that day. If I did, I would break out in hives right away. I think I started getting a reputation at the restaurants we used to frequent when I was little....they made sure they had fresh seafood for me...haha! Anyhow, I had struggled with unexplainable hives/rashes at several different times in my life, for sometimes years at a time. Even during track season and all these very healthy times in my life I would experience bouts of it. It also puzzled every doctor I went to - I tried western medicine and chinese medicine, both of which did well to suppress the symptoms but it would inevitably come back. I also had gotten prayer for it from family and friends, which was helpful. So, when we went to the healing rooms I had mentioned this history and the fact that I was suffering from a bout of it and got prayer for it, as well. And,  yay, no more itchies for me, either. :)

I remember getting migraines starting from my teenage years. Those annoying swirls that would come, which foretold of a pounding headache and the nausea that would follow. Anyone who has gotten them can tell you they are no fun. Pain medication would only take the edge off and the only thing that would really help was a good nap and lots of fluids. Thank goodness I wouldn't get them very often in the beginning, maybe 5-6 times a year, though they showed up really frequently during the first trimester of almost every pregnancy....sometimes even 2-3 times a week. And sure, they were annoying before I had kids but after I had kids, it was really frustrating since it put me out of commission for 2-3 hours at a time and which toddler can understand why Mommy can't play with them or barely hold them for hours at a time? And, ugh, having to cook while having one was the worst. Anyhow, I knew a bunch of people that get them and had resigned myself to the fact that I was just one of those people that got them. But lately, my thinking changed. Why do I have to be the one to get them? I don't think God wants people to have them! And I don't think I have to have them, either! So I emailed the prayer team from the John G. Lake Ministries [they are the ones that trained the healing teams at my church] and asked them to pray for me about it. They emailed me back a prayer, along with some helpful videos to watch re: healing. And I haven't gotten one since...and just before that email, I was getting them more regularly, which was such a pain! This is such an awesome miracle for me, I can't tell ya! Though truthfully, I am still amazed that I don't get them, esp when I'm dehydrated or super tired - both of which I was this past week. God is so good!

All this to say that all these healings have gotten Kev and I very interested in the healing ministry and to learn how to pray for other people so that they can get healed, [and saved] too. We've been watching some teaching videos straight from John G. Ministries and it's been really mind-blowing! [The guy in charge of the ministry, Curry Blake, goes into debunking lots of doctrine that I've learned about healing and how they're not true nor biblical.] Check them out if you're interested!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Miracles, Part I: Jana & Cara's Story

Wow, it's been a LONG while but I'm still here. Just been losing my blogging oomph a bit. Thought about posting a bunch of times but wanted something worth saying on here. :) Anyhow, our family has been learning so much about God lately and it's been sooo good! I hope to share most, if not all, that we've learned but wanted to start with some of the miracles that we've experienced here and give testimony to our awesome God!

Jana had perfect skin as a baby and had no allergies symptoms...until she was two. After we got back from our Taiwan trip, she started getting these funny bumps on her palms and in between her fingers. Sometimes it would pus, sometimes it would get raw and red and bleeding. :( And it would itch her to no end, which caused her to scratch it and create open wounds on her poor little hand. Sometimes it would get so raw that we would have to bandage her whole hand...and can you imagine being 2 not being able to use both of your hands. It was a sad state of affairs. So we tried out best to manage this situation. We tried aquaphor, neosporin, heavy duty moisturizers, cortizone creams, chinese stuff, and a host of other things topcially but nothing really helped. We were praying over it and had lots of people praying, as well. Then we tried the elimination diet but even that had no pattern to it. And we also found out she started having itchy patches on the back of her legs and arms and that one of her fingernails started getting all warped due to the rash. :(

So, we decided to take her to the dermatologist and the allergist. The dermatologist, predictably, told us it was ezcema and started her on a regimen of cortizone creams for flare-ups and a new antihistamine that worked well for skin issues. The allergist simply found dust mites as the only culprit for her skin condition. I thought, great, dust mites, sometimes you can't even really avoid. Ugh. Anyhow, we were hesitant to start the cortizone esp of the side effects, esp with long term use but we did a bit only during flare-ups to give her skin a break. We also cut the dose of the antihistamine to 1/3 [esp after reading the insert...scary!] to also give her skin a break. We were hoping that maybe her skin just needed a break to start healing itself since antihistamines/cortizones only suppress the symptoms. We also started washing her sheet more often, putting those dust mite containing covers on all her bedding, and vacuuming with this UV vacuum that we got. Yeah, we got hard-core...haha! Anyhow, after all that, her symptoms would only go away if she continued with the antihistamine and she would still get flare-ups now and then. So we knew that we had to do something else.

We had heard about this renown Chinese medicine doctor who specialized in skin issues and kids with eczema did great when seen by him, so he was our next hope. She was put on a regimen of chinese herbal medicine AM/PM and then topical chinese ointments for flareups. This was supposed to treat the root of the problem, so the doctor assured us that this regimen would not be forever. Jana was a real trooper and ate that really yucky tasting chinese medicine mixed in applesauce for a few months. She would even remind me about it, if I happened to get too busy and forgot. ;) Anyhow, this routine helped a bit but then there would be those big flare-ups and then no more improvement. I was getting so upset because she would wake up in the middle of the night because she was itchy and ask for medicine or crying from pain because she had scratched her hands til they were bleeding. Plus, she wasn't getting a good night's rest, which made her even crankier. She was also starting to use the itchiness as a stalling tactic at night. Sigh.

Now, Cara had no skin issues til she was 6 months. It was around that time, that she started getting itchy, dry patchs on her wrists and ankles. Then these spots started travelling up her leg. She would also start getting hives on her torso for no apparent reason. Thank goodness she was a good sleeper and didn't let those things bother her but while she was awake, she would try to scratch them, even through her clothes. Poor thing. :( We also tried a bunch of the same things on her and even cut out most of the dairy and started giving her coconut milk, which cut down on the severity of it all. She was also on the chinese medicine and responded to it somewhat but the itchiness would never really go away. So, now we have 2 itchy girls on our hands.

Then we heard about the healing rooms at church. Every Monday night at The Church of Grace & Peace, where we now go, there is a few hours set aside for people who are seeking healing to get prayer for it. There were teams training in how to pray and I heard they were getting great results. Plus, it was free!! :) So I thought, what do I have to lose? Kev and I took the kids and waited in line. Then we were ushered into a room where a healing team heard our story and prayed for us in the way they saw fit. It was nothing dramatic and very simple. The kids all did very well waiting around and getting prayed for. :) And then we went home.

But within a week, Jana's hand got about 90% better! We took her off the Chinese medicine [the antihistamine regimen was stopped a long time ago] and all the topical stuff and it still looks great! Her funny fingernail is back to normal and she sleeps well through the night. We even stopped vacuuming so often and zapping everything with the UV wand! Cara is 100% better and has not had a bout since. Praise the Lord!

It is really so freeing to be healed and not have to deal with just managing the symptoms and hoping that it would just go away when they are older. We've just been learning so much about healing lately - that even if it is something that's bee plaguing someone for a long time, they don't just have to accept it as a part of themselves. They don't always have to have that condition. For me, I was starting to think that Jana is just someone with sensitive skin who is affected by ezcema...but now I think she is a healthy child that had some symptoms that God wanted to heal her from. I remember praying but always thinking, would God heal her? And in the back of my mind, can God heal her? But now I know I have made God so small and He is not small. And because He is a good God, He always wants to heal. Slowly, my mind is being taught to rethink some old ways of thinking and I feel like I'm understanding God more. And it's a good thing. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I've been learning lately, Part I - What Grace Really Is

We've been doing this excellent, excellent series at our life group these past 12+ weeks and it's been life-changing! It's called "A Heart Ablaze" by John Bevere. I had no idea who he is before I started the series but have since heard he's quite the popular preacher. And I now know why: he really has the words for our generation, in my opinion. He doesn't mince words but cuts to the chase and, man, it really goes right to my spirit. I really feel like God is really using him to wake up the Church, which is something we so desperately need. Anyhow, I've learned so much and would like to share a few things that God has put on my heart. :) This post is on grace.

Grace is something we hear so often as Christians. And even people who don't do the Christian thing throw the word around sometimes. As I've progressed in my faith, I've almost come to dismiss it as something that's not really integral in how I live my Christian life. Sure, I ask for it when I'm repenting but it almost seemed such a "weak" (for lack of a better word" thing and that we (including myself) use it almost as fallback and pursue our own self-seeking lifestyle again. Even people who aren't Christians say, "At least I can ask God for forgiveness right before I die and He'll extend His grace to me and cover all my sins, right?" Basically, grace = a big cover-up in my mind. So, I was always a bit bothered by grace. But that all changed but I found out what it really was.

I'm sure there are lots of definition for grace but Bevere's definition says that it's 'God's power for you to obey all that He asks you to do'. In Bevere's book of the same title, it states that " Grace is depicted as the ability to live free of ungodliness and worldly desires"(p.100). And we need this grace because there is no way we can obey God fully by ourselves. Now that is a powerful thing! Because I know sometimes that I don't want to listen to God and sometimes I don't even ask God for his opinion about things. But more and more, I'm learning to ask God even about the decisions I've already made in my life and to see if that's what He wants and if it's not (and it's not too late to change it), I will change it. For example, during premarital counseling, we discussed the number of kids to have and we actually both wanted 4! So, that was easy - we'll have four kids. We've been blessed to have been able to conceive quickly (though I've had a miscarriage at an early stage) but now we're asking God is 4 is what HE wants for us or is it less or more. Because we now know (through many experiences) that when He wants something for us and we obey, he will always provide whatever we need to do what He asks of us. He has always come through. And even with the housing situation - we're renting this yr but when our rent is up, we're thinking about buying, possibly. We were pretty sure of that til recently, when we were convicted to ask Him: Should we move? When? Where? Should we rent or buy? And we're not moving anywhere until He lets us know. Because there are so many factors involved with a move and a possible purchase, asking Him is really the easiest way to go. :) Anyhow, moving on..

The part about grace and obedience was also a big part for me. Grace is always there for me, will I use it? It's really my choice. It would be so sad to let it go to waste - almost like a gift card you never use. There is a factor of my responsibility in it, you know? I now see how important it is to have grace when you obey because sometimes He asks us to do the hard things (ie forgive, confess, etc) and we really can't do that on our own. And as I've gotten older, I realize more and more that even the hard things he's call me to do are really for my own good - to set me free from the things that hold me back from healing from all kinds of hurts in my life. And as he chastises like all good fathers do, I'll definitely need the grace to get through.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

We've decided on Homeschool this year and how that's played out...

Sandpaper Letters/Numbers

After lots of prayer and asking around for advice, we've decided on homeschooling for this year. There are many reasons why we chose this:
1) We're most likely in a transition year, meaning we might move again soon. If this job turns out to be a good fit, we will probably start looking for a home to buy. It's definitely time for us to be more permanent as the kiddies are getting older and more attached to their friends. If we do buy, we're going to look in an area
with more ethnic-diversity (probably further north) b/c that is the kind of environment we'd like the kids to grow up in. So we figure, if they are not in school this yr, they won't have to miss moving up with their school friends but start afresh next year at a, hopefully, more permanant place.
2) Pre-K and K are easier grades to ho
meschool than the upper grades, so I thought it was a good year to try. I've always done a little something educational with Aidan before he even went to Pre-K last year (kumon workbooks, counting, etc) and during the period he went to school, so this is an easy transition. Plus, I totally understand phonics, numbers, etc vs trigonometry and calculus, so I thought I'd give it a try being a teacher NOW where the learning curve is not so high. :)
3) In all honesty, we are still undecided about which way we want to go and it might be different with each kid. Since we were thinking about sending Aidan to K at age 6 (next yr) if he were to go to school, we technically h
ave one extra year to decide. Plus, I was told that if you've never enrolled your child in school, you don't necessarily have to let the school know your child is not we're going to hold off til we know a bit better.

I think it will be a constant evaluation and re-evaluation as to which type of schooling is the best for each of our kids. We met some local homeschoolers at a park this past Wednesday and it was nice to see that, within one family, some went to school and some were homeschooled and it worked out great. Each kid was happy in the decision once they all figured out what was best. Anyhow, we're going to keep praying about it and as we know more about each child and how they are faring with homeschool, we can go from there. Doing school at home has been pretty fun so far. This year has been more formal than any year before and the kids actually like it more. I mean, there are still parts of it that are more challenging but the kids are learning to persevere. I think it's also neat to figure out their learning style and what areas they excel in and what kind of encouragement speaks to them. For example, Aidan is challenged by handwriting but he is really motivated by verbal you'll often hear me chant "Go, Aidan, Go! Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!" :) For Jana, her challenge has been shapes but she's really motivated by stickers and hugs, so that's the way we go with her. Plus, we can even help the teacher if they do end up going to school by letting them know our kids' learning styles and what motivates them.

A lot of moms that I've asked have put together their own 'curriculum' for their kids. So, after some researching, we ended up with this:

-Brain Quest workbooks (that's what looked the
most fun to me at Costco that day), an additional handwriting workbook for Aidan that goes from easier letters to harder letters, some Kumon workbooks (mainly for Jana)
-Puzzle Puzz from High
lights for fun games
-some Montessori stuff thrown in - sandpaper letters, Practical Life stuff, etc
-biweekly library trips (finally got signed up for Preschool Storytime!)

-games (Orchard, Games for Math, etc)

-some trips offered by a local Homeschooling yahoo group (A Pumpkin picking trip is next!)

-some not-so-messy crafts (I get a bit nervous doing messy crafts in a rental when it's not so warm outside anymore...)
-still looking for a great book on the basics on Christianity for kids, so reading "The Jesus Storybook Bible" (thanks for the suggestion, Lauren & LT!) and the "Veggietales Storybook Bible" to them so far. Also also want to help the kiddies to practice listening to God and laying hands on ppl and praying for stuff! :)
-still looking for a good one for telling time and teaching about money - anyone?!

Kids playing Orchard

It's been fun MOST days (we still have those days where one or both of them would rather not do any 'school' - doh!) but also a whole lot of work. After the kids go to bed each night, I've been trying to plan the next day, prep supplies, and figure out what we should do. Also, we're busy trying to meet friends and plan the play dates to get to know ppl better. So, we end up doing school 3-4 times a week and that's worked out well for us. To help them meet people, we've started Peanut Soccer with them. It's pretty funny watching the 3-5 y.o. try to figure out soccer and not get distracted, though some kids are really coordinated and into the game!! Aidan has also start
ed going to Royal Rangers at church everyday Wednesday night from 7-8:30pm. It's kinda like a Christian Boy Scout group - they have commanders (teachers), learn practical skills and even go on trips! While Aidan is at Royal Rangers, Jana goes to her Rainbows class and learns more about God. We've also instituted Family Time once a week, though some weeks we forget! LOL! But we think it's important for them to learn about how we worship and also teach them a bit about Him through prayer times, a game and sometimes dessert - just to spend time as a family. :) We'll see how it goes as they get older. Right now, Cara just crawls around while we sing, learn and play...haha! So, it's a good kind of busy but it's making me realize I need to cut back on some other things in my life if I want to get any sleep. (But that's another post. :))

Kiddies hard at work during school :)

So, we'd love to see how someone else does homeschooling and what you've found that works for your family! :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Almond Milk And Raw Cacao Nibbles recipes

Hi all: I've been tweaking some of these recipes for myself, so here they are - to my family's taste. :)

Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk
Based off of Renee Loux Underkoffler's Cookbook: Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods
Makes 4 cups

1 cup soaked raw almonds (soaked 8 hours)
4 cups filtered water
Pinch of salt
1 T non-alcohol vanilla extract (very important if you don't want that alcohol taste!)
1 T raw honey (or to taste)

Blend all ingredients together til the almonds are a fine pulp and the pour through a strainer or into a nut bag and squeeze out the liquid. Enjoy! [It works so much better if we had a nut bag but still doable with a fine strainer.] I use some of the almond meal for the next recipe sometimes.

Raw Cacao Nibbles

(I like this name better than Raw Cacao Balls! ;) )
I really prefer the taste of the raw cacao, even over the dutch-processed chocolate powder. Plus, the raw cacao has more antioxidants in it - even more than some red wines! What's not to love? :)

8-10 oz of dates, pitted and soaked for a few hours
A few handfuls of raw almonds, soaked for a few hours (drain water)
A few handfuls of organic, unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c. raw cacao powder (or to taste)
A few tbsp of the organic, unsweetened coconut flakes, in a bowl

First, food process the dates until it forms a paste, then toss in the rest of the ingredients and food process until it forms a ball and all ingredients are incorporated. Then take a rounded Tbsp of the ball and form smaller balls (or whatever shape you like). Optional: roll in unsweetened coconut flakes to coat. Super yummers!! You can store the nibbles in the fridge for a few days. Enjoy!

As with anything, enjoy in moderation! ;)

Yummy green smoothies!

It's been so great ever since we discovered these green smoothies - not only are they healthy for ya, they're easy and they help you use up your fruits and veggies! Anyhow, we've only been doing green smoothies for about a month and a half but I've learned a lot, so here's a bit of how WE do smoothies. :)

What's in our smoothies?
The simple answer is: whatever we have on hand. Really. :) So the smoothie is a bit different everyday. The kids usually take a sip and ask me 'What's in it today?' - haha! Oh, and we usually prefer organic fruits and vegetables, if possible and if we can afford it. But typically we have:

- fresh fruit (apples, pears, grapes, etc),
- greens (kale, baby spinach, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, etc),
- frozen fruit (mixed fruit, blueberries [esp if your kids don't like the green color! and for the antioxidants], berries, mangoes, etc),
- some kind of liquid (OJ, almond milk, coconut milk, etc)
- and sometimes, some extras (chia seeds, lucuma powder, agave nectar, etc).

And there is no special prep except to peel when necessary (citrus, non-organic fruits) and core. We also cut the fruit into smaller pieces, so it's easier for the blender to handle.

What blender do we have?
We have a Cuisinart SmartPower 7-speed that has a special 'Ice Crush' button. It's been doing a great job, though I do have to run it a while to get the smoothie a bit smoothier and less chunky. However, since we've been using it at least once a day, I think the motor is slowly dying. The Vitamix is on our wishlist! :) Anyone have a used one they want to sell? ;)

How much of the greens to add?
I think it all depends on your (and your families) taste bud. Typically, we use a handful or two of whatever greens I buy. [I have pretty small hands, though. :)] Now, the swiss chard seemed a bit bitter to me (but not to my family for some reason) so when I use that, I use less than a handful. It's always good to start with a little and then 'step it up a notch' when you think it still tastes good enough to drink a lot of it.

What about the 'extras'? Tell me more about those.
I like to put chia seeds in my smoothie for a protein boost and for a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (mainly ALAs). Plus, the way they plump up when you put them in water is so neat - a good 'experiment' to do with the kids. :) Agave is simply a sweetener derived from the cactus plant. It has a low-gylcemic index and has no other taste except sweet. [Baking with it and cooking with it has been great.] I use it when there are a lot of citrus fruits in the smoothie and none of them are sweet. :) I've try to use just a bit to cut the tartness and the kids are pretty good with it, though my main point is to get the kids to drink it, so I make it just sweet enough for them. Lucuma is another sweetener and it's derived from the lucuma fruit. Some say it has a maple syrupy flavor but I haven't put enough in to tell. It does thicken the smoothie a bit if you put enough. I've tried honey in the past and have used raw honey when I could but I found that when it hits the cold smoothie, it is really hard to get it dispersed evenly to sweeten the entire smoothie and then I end up with honey globs on the side of the container. Maybe diluting it with some water first? I'm thinking about some green powders next but we'll see. :)

Any tips?
Here's what has worked great for us, esp if you don't have a high powdered blender. Put the fresh fruit, greens and liquid in first and blend them together. Then add the frozen fruit and the extras. It should blend a bit easier than putting it all in there or putting the frozen stuff on the bottom. Trust me on this one. :) Also, this order helps you put more frozen fruit in there because the volume is reduced after the fruits and greens are blended up. Actually, when you start putting more greens in, you can leave out the greens and just blend up the fresh fruits with the liquid before putting the greens in. Then blend up the greens and lastly, the frozen fruit. Hope that made sense. :)

After you finish divvying up the smoothie, rinse the blender before the smoothie dries on it. After it dries, it's much harder to clean off. The same goes for the cups and straws. Right after we're finished, we rinse everything off.

For the kiddies, I try to give them a fun straw to make it more fun to drink. I also try to put more of the fruits they like or ask them for their input once in a while. "Would you like blueberries or mangoes today?" We also play the 'Guess what's in the smoothie' game. :) We also alternate with the chocolate shake. [See below.]

Sometimes, when I blend the hydrated chia seed in there, it tastes a bit bitter to me (again, only to me). So I end up just mixing it in gently with a spoon after I finish making the smoothie and before I serve it.

If you find that your smoothie separates pretty quickly after making it (and you don't like that), try putting in more frozen fruit or more hydrated chia seeds.

Regarding prices for things, I would call around to see what your local health food store charges for the extras and then factor in gas (if it's far, taxes, shipping, etc) and figure out what's best for you. Or purchase a greater quantity with a green smoothie friend! :)

Any favorite non-green smoothie recipes?
I'll share one for now. This is a recipe based on the Chocolate Shake by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney.

Chocolate Shake
3 frozen bananas (mine are in chunks)
2 cups almond milk
3 T raw cacao powder (we're thinking maybe 4 next time)
1 t non-alcohol vanilla extract (or else it'll taste a bit like alcohol)
pinch of salt
small squirt of agave
cinnamon, to taste (option)

Blend everything together. Enjoy! It is soooo good! :)

Do I feel any different after drinking these almost daily for over a month?
I would definitely say that I've been feeling more energetic and have been wanting to eat healthier. Kev actually feels the same! :) Oh, and we've been more regular. Haha! Now, some might say that's all psychological but even if it is, I'm all for it. ;)

Hope this helps! And some of you reading this might have been drinking these smoothies longer than I have and have more tips to share. Please do! And feel free to post any questions or email me at :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our NYC mini-vacation

We took a mini-vacation to NYC last Wednesday to Friday and it was such a blast! Even though we were unsure how it would go with all 5 of us sleeping in the same space, how to 'do' subways with 3 little ones in tow, how to find parking in the city, etc - it worked out well. :) Thanks to Auntie Celine for allowing us to stay in her gorgeous apartment in Gramercy Park! Anyhow, here's what we did:

We decided to drive into the city instead of doing a bus or train because of all the stuff we had to take with us to make the trip possible (pack-n-play, clothes, double stroller, snacks, toys [in case we got stuck in traffic], etc). Our first stop was the American Museum of Natural History for our Aidan, our dino-lover. Finding street parking was impossible and some of the street signs were so ambiguous that we ended up doing garage parking. Kev had found some coupons online for Central Parking, which made it more affordable. So definitely check for parking garage coupons if you're going to drive in. We also had a great map of the city and a new GPS, which didn't get us lost like the old one did and spoke the walking directions in a fun British accent! :) The kids lasted almost 3 hours before they were clamoring for food - I was really impressed! The museum's gem section is always fun and the hall of Ocean Life was really stunning! Cara got tired of being in the Ergo after her nap, so I let her roam a bit. There's something about her that makes random people come up and want to play with her - haha! I think in the span of 15 minutes, 5 groups stopped to say hi - she was like another exhibit! :D Anyhow, a great place to nurse is the section between all the dinosaurs exhibits where they show a short film. It's dark and you get to watch a short film while nursing. :) Anyhow, after the museum, we hit the famous Shake Shack, which was super close to the museum. By 3:30, there was no line, so we were able to enjoy burgers, hotdogs, fries and shakes pretty quickly after we ordered. It's true - it was all pretty tasty. I would say it's on par with In and Out and the like. After our tummies were happy, we decided to get settled into the apartment in Gramercy Park. It took a while just to get our car, which was ok except the kiddies were getting tired. Then, we had to fight a bit of traffic and all the pedestrians to get to the apt. When we finally got there, we tried to find some street parking so we can unload without getting towed but couldn't find a space. Finally, we ended up parking in half a spot and put on our hazards so Kev could go back and forth with our stuff while I watched the kids and the car. Then, while I settled into the apt with the kiddies, Kev drove to the nearest parking garage that we had coupons for. Phew! The kids had fun exploring the apt and playing with some old toys I dug up from their collection. Then our friends, Sarah and Darren came over for a dinner of delicious Bravo Pizza. Truly, NYC pizza can't be beat! And their fresh mozzarella pie was really well done! :) We also had a great time chatting it up. :) And because the kids were really tired out from little to no naps, they went to bed without too much trouble. We also brought along our new Sleepmate for Cara since she goes to bed earlier than the rest of us and it really helped her to sleep through all the noise. Praise Jesus!
Dinos galore!

Getting to touch some real fossils

Yay, no line at Shake Shack!

We started off the day slow because that's the only way to start any day when you're on vacation. :) We first went to Central Park and played at the Heckscher Playground. That playground is really well planned out. There was lots of do and we all had fun. :) The kiddies also made some friends, which made it more fun. Aidan even met a little boy named Jake who loved Transformers as much as he did and Aidan is still talking about inviting Jake over! Because he was with his nanny, we didn't get a chance to say thanks to his parents for teaching Jake how to share so well - so if you're reading this, thanks for doing such a great job! :) Anyhow, it was also very interesting to see the nanny culture in NYC. I saw more nannies with kids than I saw parents with their kids - I wondering if it's the culture or if it's how you can afford to live in NYC. No judgements, though. We even made friends with a few nannies that we got to talk to. :) We then met up with Naoko and Gregory (and their little Sakura) - our friends from PA that just moved to NYC. We walked to Joe's Shanghai for lunch and man, gotta love their xiao long bao! :) Then, we walked to the big ToysRus in Times Square. Jana got to ride on that big ferris wheel and Aidan got to peruse the Transformers. :) After that, we were on the hunt for some bubble tea. On the way to K-town for some, we had some Red Mango ( I had their regular with mochi, blueberries and mango and Kev had their Wildberry Hibiscus tea which was really good), some Jamba Juice, and finally some Korean bubble tea with yummy pastry. Deeeelish! Then we parted ways and we went back home to have a relaxing evening....

Atop a rock at the park

We are Chinese, you know...;)

Cara sat here to catch all the action

Ready, steady, go!

ToyRus - debating the ferris wheel
Finally got some bubble tea

But, wait, there's more! :) While Kev hung out with the kiddies back at the apt, I grabbed some takeout for us from Pure Food & Wine - this raw food restaurant that is supposed to be the best in NYC. Instead of getting food from the restaurant, I headed around the corner to their takeout section. [I also got to meet this guy who told me he was a raw food guru who gave me recommendations on what to order.] We got the Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps, Falafel with Tabhouli, their Zucchini and Tomato Lasagna and a pint of the Almond Buttercup raw ice cream. Wow! We didn't really know what to expect because we just got into raw food but almost all the entrees were surprisingly good. It was especially interesting to taste the 'cheese' sauces that were made of nut purees and the cream base of the ice cream that was a mixture of coconut meat and nut puree. [Sorry no pic of the ice cream - we ate it too fast! Ha!] Even though we were full from this meal, it was this light kind of full but not the 'lead in your stomach' kind of full. All in all, a great experience!

Lettuce Wraps

Falafel w/ Tabhouli

Zucchini Tomato Lasagna

We slept in a bit and woke up around 9am and called my cousin Jeff to see where he wanted to meet up. We had to exchange something at the ToyRus, so we ended up meeting there. [Side note: schlepping a double up and down the stairs for the subway is NOT fun but doable, esp if you have a hubby in tow. Now, if your child falls asleep in the stroller and you need to take the subway, I hope you meet some nice people to help you get the thing up and down the subway stairs!] Then we walked around and ended up at Pigalle for lunch. The food was great - we had juicy burgers and crab salad w/avocadoes - the service was very good and I loved the open air seating (their entire wall had doors that opened up so you were inside but could still enjoy the beautiful weather that day!). After that, Jeff went to run errands and we got ready to head back to NJ. We stopped by the Union Square Farmers market and had a little look around. We picked up some purple heirloom peppers and white heirloom peppers and some super yummy juice from Red Jacket Orchards as presents. [The Black currant apple is a favorite!] We had one more stop before we went home: Edgewater, NJ - to meet up with our old friends: Yulin & Win and Erica (and their new baby, Madeline). We went to Mitsuwa for some yummy udon, rolls and mochi. They also lived along the Hudson, so we got to take a really relaxing stroll along the river to and from the store (this was before that sad accident).

Jana sleeping in

Aidan sleeping in...haha Lunch with Jeff

Union Square Famer's Market

A stroll along the Hudson
Japanese yummies

Anyhow, I'm sure we could have done more but what we really wanted was a relaxing vacation where the kids could have fun and explore and the adults could catch up with old friends - so we were really happy. :) We wouldn't mind going back again sometime...anyone wanna join us?

Monday, August 3, 2009

What's new with us...

So, another update for y'all...:)

Our boxes corner
1. We are finally NJ resident once again. We just can't stay away...haha! Anyhow, the move went well (used Wade Odeall Wade again!) and we are nearly all unpacked. There are still pictures yet to be hung but I'm actually not sure if I'll hang them all up. Because most of the walls are painted, it actually looks pretty good already (no white, empty spaces). Plus, we're likely moving again in a year (we're looking to buy this time around) so I'm less motivated. So, maybe no pics of our home this time...we'll see. ;) And I'm again flabbergasted at how different the DMVs are from state to state. In both FL and PA, the process was rather quick and painless...but not so here in NJ. But at least it's done. Phew! We even got our old license numbers back - cool, eh?

2. Remember our stint with Aidan and Jana sharing a room? Welp, after almost a week of really poor sleep due to the kids fighting and not listening (ok, it was mainly Jana causing issues), we decided to keep them separate and work on Jana staying in her own bed. So, we'll let you know how that goes. She's a bit more persistent, if you know what I mean. Even with the Supernanny method, she's still trying to get out of her bed, even during naps. Sigh. I know it'll get better.

3. Speaking of sleep, Cara has been waking up earlier these days (ok, it's only 7:30am but I'm used to her waking us up around 8am) and it's no fun b/c we've been putting the kids down later at night since we're still on vacation mode (Kev doesn't start work wil the last week of Aug) and want the other kids to sleep in more. So, we're working on helping her sleep longer - curtains, white noise, etc. We'll see what happens. She's cut 2 teeth since we've moved and still drooling up a storm, so maybe it's that? Or maybe that she started crawling and sitting up by herself and feeding herself all within the last 2 weeks, so maybe it's that? But seeing her get more mobile and active is so fun! :)

4. Ever since we saw this show on how there is high levels of pharmaceuticals in our water from ppl flushing meds down the toilet and factory waste, I've been kinda concerned about the quality of our water. In that TV segment, you see frogs (which are really susceptible to changes in the water supply since they're soaked in water for most of their lives and breathe through their skin) born with missing legs, extra legs, male frogs with eggs, etc - it's really disturbing. And they are not yet testing for those meds because they had no idea it would build up in the water to this level. At the same time, I read this post about how Berkey Water filters filter out a lot of undesirable things (microbes, pathogens, heavy metals, etc) but leave in good things (calcium, etc), I was really intrigued. I've always had a Brita but I know they really don't do much. So, we went and got ourselves the Royal Berkey and I am IN LOVE! :) Even Kev really likes it! We even did the food coloring test and poured in purple water and out came clear, delicious water! Anyhow, if you're interested, you can find it here - Royal Berkey
. Now I feel really good drinking the water, esp since the kids and I drink so much of it everyday! Plus, it tastes great! :) [I love this filter so much, I even became an affiliate for them! Hehe!]

The green smoothie before being smoothified
The dessert green smoothie
5. We've also been trying to eat healthier lately and started to drink a glass of green smoothie everyday and eat more greens. When, Aidan [who has never had an allergy in his life and is rarely sick, even when school is in session] got an allergic reaction to some peppers and apples, I started thinking I might need to do something different. So, I tried the organic version of certain fruits and vegetables and he hasn't had one since! I used to not "believe" in organic fruits and vegetables bacause the alternative pesticides that are being used on them are not tested, but because of what happened to Aidan, I'm starting to think there might be something to it. Anyhow, back to smoothies. So, besides from fresh fruits and frozen fruits, I add kale or swiss chard (and sometimes some dairy if I want to make it more of a dessert) and voila! a yummy drink that is good for you! Plus, the hubby and kids will drink it no problem, which is a must! And since drinking it, I think Jana's ezcema-like symptoms is getting better!! :) It also makes me fuller, which is helpful in losing some weight. :) So, any thoughts on Vita-mix or Blend-tec blender? I've been using my Cuisinart from my wedding registry and I think it's dying from all this use. I'm definitely leaning towards Vita-mix because of the better warranty but just curious if anyone had any thoughts.

Aidan's cool bike
Jana's Princess trike
6. The kids finally got bikes/trikes! We've been holding off getting them because we've been moving so much but since Aidan is now 5, we thought it was time. They got riding right away and Aidan is already talking about getting the training wheels off! :) They're also using chopsticks! Our good friend, Lois, recommended these awesome training chopsticks that really work! I think the brand is Edison or something like that...

7. Lately, I've also gotten into some raw foods and have some on the way to try. Let's see, we have: chia seeds (smoothies and maybe breakfast), raw cacao powder (gonna whip up some chocolate shakes and making some more raw fudge balls!), brewer's yeast (for cara's yogurt) and lucuma powder (super nutritious, natural sweetener - different from agave, another fave). Will let you know when we get it and try it out. Can't wait! :)

A scene from Aidan's party
8. Aidan celebrated his 5th birthday with some friends and family this past Saturday! We had a little get together of subs and wings and the kiddies played water games in the backyard. Praise God for beautiful weather and for the gift of friends. We had a great time! Some pics here.

Alrighty, I should get to bed...g'night!

Jackie, Aidan, Cara, Jana and Kevin :)