It’s okay to not respond.

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One of the most frustrating things in the world is “being left on read.” It’s been meme’d, joked about, and always vented about. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end, but it IS okay to read a volatile message and not respond… After all if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.

 

I was once told that an argument is not started by the first person to speak, but the second. The first person is addressing a feeling, a situation. The second person decides how that translates going forward. Do you respond negatively? Do you engage in a disagreement? Do you fight back? That’s how an argument is started. Do you apologize? Do you validate their feelings? Do you diffuse their anger? That’s how avoiding an argument is attempted.

 

There’s a third option: do not engage at all.

 

When tempers and emotions run high people don’t always hear words, they hear tone. It doesn’t matter what you say to make things right if someone is hurt badly enough. It’s okay to use your judgement and determine that there needs to be a ‘cooling off’ period before you can work things out. Striking when the kettle is hot induces burns. It’s okay to let the kettle blow off some steam and cool down before you try to pour your tea.

 

Unfortunately, I’m living this today. Someone I care very much about it upset with me. I feel strongly she has misdirected anger, but she clearly feels differently. When I opened her very angry facebook message last night, I simply bid her goodnight and turned my phone off. I’ve been unplugged since. I’ve focused on resting, spending time with my children and getting work done for Kate and the Kids. It’s not only the angry party who needs to calm down. It’s the second person to speak. In this situation, that will be me. I decide if this is going to be an argument. My reaction sets the tone for our road of fixing our issue. I need the time to cool off as much as she does. I like to take this time to walk away from the issue and come back to it with fresh eyes. When I return, I can tackle the problem more objectively.

 

I’m not sure yet how this will play out, and I doubt I’ll ever post the resolution. The specifics are private and irrelevant. The best I can do is work on myself, and try to respond in a way that will make things better and not worse.

 

No matter how things go, I will not waver on my belief that it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to say nothing, to take a break without explanation. In the moment it’s absolutely frustrating, but I’d rather have my mind race with terrible words until they turn not so terrible. Once those terrible words are actually spoken, they can’t be taken back. It’s better to let them diffuse in your brain than say something you’ll regret later.

 

Of course I’m wondering what kind of hell is waiting in my inbox. Who knows what I’ll walk into when I do turn my phone back on. I’m seriously considering just clearing the conversation without reading any of it and starting fresh. Right now, I just have the image of Spongebob and Flatts during their fight- Flatts swinging and punching, wearing himself out while the sponge just painlessly absorbs the blows. I’d rather have my inbox absorb the blows than my spirit.

 

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It’s okay to not engage. It’s okay to let people tucker themselves out with their own anger before you work on resolving an issue. You have to make yourself a priority. You can’t control other people or what they say. You can only control your own words and actions. You have to decide what environment will bring out the best you, even if that environment isn’t the one you’re currently in.

 

I pray that your arguments are few and far between, but if you do encounter an issue that you put your own mental health first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t fix a problem if you’re still broken. Take time to get yourself together first.

 

Fingers crossed that this issue is left in 2018, either way I’m holding my head high and going into 2019 with my best, most positive self.

 

Happy New Year, may this year find you healthier than ever- mind, body and soul.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Why I didn’t wait until January 1st to start making changes

Every year we all hear the same things. “I’m going to start going to the gym more.” “I’m going to quit smoking.” “I’m going to manage my finances better.”

 

Those are all GREAT things! You absolutely should create goals, and start taking steps to reach them. But why wait until the New Year? I promise I’m not being a hypocrite- this is actually something I believe in! Like in 2015 when I made the decision to eat healthier even through the holidays, continuing on after.

 

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There’s no better time to make a change than right now. It doesn’t have to be a new year, or a Monday, or even first thing in the morning. This moment, the very moment that you’re living in is a perfect time to  start making changes.

 

The problem with waiting until a certain date on the calendar is the adoption of the “last meal” mentality. It’s smoking the rest of the pack, gorging on all the food you’ll miss, insane spending. Why start the New Year in the negative? It makes the change even harder, and it’s easier to feel like your goals are unattainable and quit sooner.

 

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Today is a great day to make a change. Even if you’ve eaten an unhealthy breakfast, or had a cigarette. You can stop. Right now, right this second. YOU can make the decision that enough is enough.. And trust me, your body has no idea what day it is on the calendar.

 

Combine mindfulness and your goals, and you’re on the road to success! Just know, I’m rooting for you. We all are.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Days of rest are the best kind of productive.

I’ll keep today’s post short and sweet, today we had a lazy day.

I caught up on e-mails and bird box memes.

We snacked and snuggled.

Our well rested bodies are looking forward to making tomorrow perfect. Mental health days are necessary and beneficial. Just because you didn’t leave the house doesn’t mean you weren’t productive. Our lazy day gave us the opportunity to bond and recharge. We’re feeling healthier than ever.

Enjoy your weekend, and get some rest.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Sometimes the family we make for ourselves is more important than the family we were given through blood.

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Recently I was bragging about my beautiful sister, and how excited I am that she is about to be a mother. Someone overheard my conversation, and stopped us to specify that she wasn’t my actual sister. Today I stood next to that same beautiful woman during her ultrasound, and I’ll be damned if that baby on the screen isn’t my actual niece.

 

Let’s switch gears temporarily. When I met my husband, we each had a child of our own. That means Arielle is my stepdaughter, and Jacen is his stepson. It also means that Anna is a half sibling to both kids. (Lost yet? Modern family trees get a little crazy.) Jacen and Arielle share no blood, nor do Arielle and I, nor Mike and Jacen. Does this mean we are not actually family? Of course it doesn’t, and it would never be socially acceptable for someone to publicly announce otherwise.

 

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So why is there a need to specify that she is not my actual sister? We share no blood, but we are certainly family. There are people who share my blood who never met my children. My sister has attended every birthday party, soccer game, talent show, Disney World trip and fundraiser right by my side. She remembers their birth weights, appointment dates and favorite characters better than I do. Jacen has never spent one second of life with his birth father, and yet she can’t imagine one second of her life without Jacen.

 

She is my sister, not by blood but by heart. Most of the people my children call family are not biologically related. At last count, Arielle had six women she called her grandmother. Explain that to a geneticist.

 

I’m not here to argue, I’m not here to shame. I’m not here to vent or defend our relationship. I’m here to brag.

 

That one little interruption in my conversation didn’t knock me off the rails- it didn’t even slow me down. My love and pride for my family outshines any outsider’s speculation. It always will.

 

I consider myself extremely lucky, for I’ve been able to hand select the members of my family. I’m not obligated to keep them in my life due to genes, I choose to keep them in my life because they deserve to be there. We’ve already mentioned my amazing sister, so let’s keep going with her. She’s been in my life since we were 10 years old. I’ve bounced every major life decision off her because I truly value her insight. We know everything about each other. We’ve supported each other through all of life’s changes, and have included each other in every single milestone. She’s seen my best and my worst. She’s told me the truth when she’s disagreed with me, but loved me even if I didn’t listen. Even when I’ve pushed her away she’s fought her way back. We won’t ever give up on each other, and we’ll never lose each other.

 

I’ve known her husband for almost as long. Years before he married my sister (years before they were even dating) my children called him their uncle. My son was just under a year old when I needed a sitter during a Taylor Swift concert. Nik was 19, and I don’t think he’d ever been alone with  a baby before. That didn’t stop him from volunteering to stay home with my kid. Not only did he tackle diapers and bottles, he even drove us to the concert AND braved horrifying stadium traffic to pick us up after. He stepped out of his comfort zone so I could have a good time. He didn’t ask to be an uncle at 19. He could have easily spent the night with his friends, free of responsibility. He didn’t. He chose us, he gave that night up for me. That’s the kind of person I recruit to be a member of my family.

 

In two days Arielle will have her 10th birthday party. There will be three people in attendance who share her DNA. Over 70% of her guests are family by heart. I am her family by heart. We do not feel the need to specify step, half, adopted or “actual” – we are just family. We are a happy, loving, very fortunate family. We care for each other without obligation. We make conscious decisions to stay together. We can’t take each other for granted because there’s no biological net to fall back on. To me, that’s the truest love there is. Love that’s created and not assigned. Love that bonds very different hearts under one family. Love that blends.

 

With happy hearts,

Kate and the kids.

… and every member of our FAMILY.

 

My sneaky chef, 2 ingredient cake recipe (semi-homemade)

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Ready for the easiest cake ever? This recipe used only 2 ingredients and is under 160 calories a slice (depending on the boxed cake mix you choose.) The best part? It cost me less than $5 to make!

 

1 box cake mix + 2 cups unsweetened applesauce.

bake as directed on box.

done.

 

Is your mind blown yet? It should be. I typically make this recipe with the sugar free Pillsbury mix. I use the golden cake, unsweetened sauce, fresh berries and sugar free cool whip. I like to add a chocolate drizzle or shavings just for decoration. It’s an amazingly moist, refreshing, light dessert.

 

This weekend is Arielle’s birthday party, and she’s chosen to make her cupcakes with applesauce and chocolate cake mix. The plan is to fill the cupcakes with oreo pudding mousse (instant Oreo pudding mix + 2 cups heavy whipping cream instead of milk.) We’ll top with cool whip and crushed Oreo cookies. This recipe is not low sugar, but is lower in fat & cholesterol and has added fiber from the applesauce.

 

I only recently switched to the applesauce method. Previously I had used the weight watchers soda cake recipe, which consists of the box cake mix + 12 oz diet soda. When I first started weight watchers I absolutely loved this recipe. I’d used diet sprite, diet orange, and even root beer. For a long time this was my go-to, until after 2 years of clean eating I started to detect a bitter, artificial taste. I still have friends and family who enjoy this style cake without detecting the artificial sweeteners. It’s definitely a personal preference.

 

In between the two methods, I used the soda cake recipe with seltzer water. I did find this was less artificial tasting, but can be dry. So far the apple method is my favorite.

 

My first go with the applesauce  was actually a box mix for coffee cake. I added peeled, chopped apple to the mix and topped with sliced almonds. I served muffin-style with no frosting, and it was a huge hit at our party! My grandmother now begs me to bring this cake to every family gathering.

 

There are infinite ways to dress up this simple cake. For a simple, quick, and healthy alternative you definitely can’t beat this recipe!

(cost of ingredients at Walmart – cake mix $1.29, unsweetened applesauce $1.98, sugar free cool whip $1.69 = total of $4.96)

 

If you try this recipe, please let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your semi-homemade shortcuts in the comments.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

My sneaky chef tip!

Two out of three of my children will eat just about anything- including their veggies, but we are always looking to increase our fiber intake.

There is an epidemic where many families today rely on prepackaged or fast food. These products are high in sodium and preservatives that have dehydrating properties. It can take a toll on a GI tract.

Everyone knows the importance of eating your veggies. Our minds immediately go for the essential vitamins and minerals they provide, but don’t forget about fiber content!

A few months ago we touched base with a pediatric nutritionist. We were hoping for advice on managing Jacen’s Ehlers-Danlos symptoms. After the visit, we started using cafeteria style plates to provide Jacen with a visual on the appropriate portions of a balanced meal. We make a point of including a fruit, veggie, protein and whole grain into each meal.

Even after following the nutritionist’s advice, Jacen struggles with his terrible GI issues. I like to hide extra fiber into sauces by popping some cooked produce into my ninja blender. I think the key to success is making sure the produce is cooked to a soft state, almost over cooked and soggy.

Last night I blended mushrooms, cauliflower and onion into spaghetti sauce. It went unnoticed by any of the kids! It’s also great for the adults in the family since the addition of produce reduces fat and calories per portion.

We have even done this is in cheese sauces. Arielle is extremely picky and requests macaroni and cheese almost every night. It was easy to incorporate the blended produce into the sauce while making baked Mac and cheese. When topped with breadcrumbs, it’s impossible to detect.

I love sneaky chef tips! If you have any of your own I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

How EMDR saved my Christmas.

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I was first introduced to EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) about a year ago by a new therapist. It took me about 3 months of talk therapy before I felt ready to try EMDR.

 

At first, some think the therapy sounds similar to hypnosis. It isn’t. It uses lateral eye movement to get the two sides of your brain working at once. You can go back to a memory, replay it, and desensitize yourself from it. ** It is NOT changing the memory ** It’s only reprocessing, similar to exposure therapy. When you replay it a few times you can spend more time on bringing closure to your feelings, and hopefully be able to let go of the trauma.

 

Christmas for me always brings on tremendous stress and frequent breakdowns. I take on too much, force happiness and get upset when things fail to meet my expectations. Most years I max out our calendar and our budget. We are exhausted and cranky, and end up taking it out on eachother.. And by WE i mean the whole family- kids included. Reprocessing Christmas took many, many sessions. I started months ago in hopes of having a better holiday season.

 

My issues with Christmas are widespread, and have gone on for many years. For the purpose of this post I’ll zero in on one specific thing we processed- the one thing I believe saved my Christmas most.

 

All year the one thing I worry about most is spending Christmas Eve with my husband’s family. Seven years ago when I met my husband I was extremely overweight, unemployed, and a young unwed mother. My self confidence was at a zero. My husband on the other hand was a god in my eyes. He is so smart, so caring, so responsible and absolutely the greatest man I’d ever met. Before I was even introduced to any part of his family I felt like a disappointment. I imagined they’d spent Michael’s entire life witnessing how amazing he was and picturing a perfect wife as a match for him. I wholeheartedly believed I would be a let down.

 

This manifested in so many negative ways for me. First, I felt my physical appearance was a huge turn off, so I’d go over the top trying to make myself look better. I’d cake on the makeup and eyelashes, pull my shapewear so tight I couldn’t breathe and spend hours on my hair. I’d often make us late by trying on a thousand outfits that I hated until I eventually broke down to tears. This was always followed by refusal to go with him, a giant fight, and finally him dragging me out of the house against my will. I always felt so ugly, so low, so inadequate.

 

When I got to the party, I’d be ashamed of myself. Most of the time I felt out of place and over done from all of my over the top preparations. I’d feel dirty and messy from crying in the car and making a mess of my makeup. I couldn’t maintain eye contact or a conversation. I was so awkward I could barely muster a full sentence. My inability to speak made me feel even worse about myself because I was worried I’d come off stupid, or maybe snobby.

The worst of all was what my therapist calls “dissociative body movement.” Basically, I had extreme vertigo. I was so anxious that hallways appeared warped. I had a hard time with depth perception. Stairs were terrifying and I was overly cautious about my footing. I wasn’t able to eat or drink because I could not control my hands properly. If I reached for a cracker my hand would end up way off to the right, not anywhere close to food. If someone handed me a drink I’d practically slap the cup with my inability to judge how far the cup was from me, and immediately panic that I would spill or drop the entire thing. For years I did not, could not eat or drink with his family.

 

I would spend the entire night so consumed with my own anxieties that their conversations would turn to white noise, and my own thoughts took the forefront. This meant if someone did speak to me, I had no idea what they’d said. There’s no way to recover from that, except with deathly awkwardness. I’d cling tight to my husband and hope for the best.

 

How did EMDR change any of this for me?

 

The first step is identifying the negative cognition. For me it was simply “I am not good enough, I’m not worthy of love.”  The goal would be “I am worthy of their love, my true self IS good enough.”

 

We first started with my low self confidence about my appearance. 25 years of being obese gave me plenty of ammunition to deal with. I had to go back and reprocess bullying, like when my “friends” shoved pillows up their shirts and pretended to be me. Before processing it made me feel that the people close to me did not accept me, for at the time I believed they were close friends. I had to go back to the wedding where I broke a chair in front of a table full of my co-workers. That was feelings of embarrassment and shame in front of people I cared about. I went back to holidays as a child where family members would comment about the amount of food on my plate, days where I felt the floor shaking when I walked, and the times the stairs would loudly creak under my massive body.

 

One of the strongest sensations that came up during reprocessing was my hyper body awareness, specifically how large I always felt in comparison to the room. I took up too much space, I told myself it was wasted space. I would feel vast distance between my shoulders, like my back was a giant billboard blocking everyone’s view from across the room. I would feel my neck and chin tingle, like when I was thinking about my double chin as someone tried to have a conversation with me.

 

The emotions that came up were shame, embarrassment and guilt. We replayed these memories over and over. It sucked. It sucked at first, when I cried again. When my face was hot and red, just like the first time they’d happened. My forehead would sweat and I’d be out of breath EXACTLY like the original memory.. But then we’d replay it, and it was slightly less awful. We’d talk about it, and replay it again. It was even less awful. Replay. Talk. Replay. Talk.

 

In the end, the past started to seem extremely distant and insignificant. It was almost like a movie I’d seen long ago. I could remember the general theme but the specifics didn’t punch me in the gut anymore.

 

At their worst, these memories weighed on me so heavily that I once described it as walking through water in cement shoes. They slowed me down and kept me in the past when I really wanted to be in the present. After I found closure, the weight was lifted. I could hold my head a little higher and felt it easier to move forward.

 

We reintroduced my new feelings into talk therapy, where we set goals for the coming holiday season. I took on less, scheduled less, and tried to go with the flow. I had specific goals for Christmas Eve.

 

  1. No eyelashes, light makeup.
  2. No more than 20 minutes on my hair.
  3. Clothing I was comfortable in.
  4. Flat shoes.
  5. Initiate a conversation.
  6. Eat one thing discreetly. If I’m able to control my hand, eat one thing during a conversation when someone else can see me.

 

Even weeks leading up to the party, I talked about these goals with my husband, sister and therapist. I had so much support, and being able to verbalize my goals reinforced how important they were to me.

 

I’m proud to say I pulled it off.

 

Christmas Eve morning I got up and showered. I put on a sweater, comfortable leggings and flat boots. I blew out my hair in less than 10 minutes, and ran a curling iron just for texture. About 13 minutes in total. I put on mascara only. We went to our morning obligations, and when we got home I fought the urge to shower again or change my clothes. I even took a nap without stressing out about how it affected my appearance. 12 hours and several stops later, we got to his family’s party. Right off the bat I felt better. The stairs were strait instead of something out of a Tim Burton movie. I had two things left on my checklist- speak and eat.

 

I jumped the gun a bit on the speaking when I awkwardly blurted out a compliment on a cousin’s sweater but I somehow managed to recover. That one compliment ended up breaking the dam, and I was able to speak freely all night with his entire family. I felt happy, and like I was part of the family instead of an outsider. When the living room died down a bit I reached for a cracker and ended up grazing the one next to it. “Fuck. Get it together, Catherine.” I took both and gave one to Anna. I moved from a chair to the couch, and realized my vertigo had come back. “Noooo, you were doing so well! What happened?” What happened. The thought of food over the cracker triggered my fat awareness. I was off kilter again. What would my therapist tell me to do? I put my feet firmly on the floor, side by side. I squared my body off and tried to ground myself.

 

At that moment my nephew tried on his Aunt’s high heeled boots and walked around. He was silly, and funny. It made me smile. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Anna reaching for the chips, I blocked her drooly hand and got one for her.

 

Wait, I picked up a chip? I picked up the chip  I was ACTUALLY reaching for? Whoa.

 

I had done it, I had touched food and not fallen apart. I got brave. I actually made a plate for the first time ever.. Mostly grapes and crackers in case I dropped it. Later in the night I gave myself a pep talk and headed over to the dessert table. I tried a new cookie (Hermits, OMG, hermits. My new addiction.) At first bite I was in love. I consciously did not take a second bite. I walked over to my mother in law and held out the cookie. “What are these? They’re amazing!” She looked up and started telling me about hermit cookies. As she spoke I was internally cheering myself on, and took a second bite as the conversation continued.

 

There was a firework show in my chest. I did it! I did it! I DID IT!!!!!

 

I had such an amazing time that I was sad when the night drew to an end. I heard myself tell people (too many times) that I was excited to see them the following day, and that I was looking forward to spending the entire holiday with them instead of rushing out early.

 

At the end of the night it did not feel like I had spent the night with my husband’s family. I had spent the night with MY family. It was the first Christmas in seven years where I did not cry or have a break down. It was the first one ever that I was happy and confident. (Christmas day I was even brave enough to ask to hold his cousin’s baby. Let that sink in for a second. The night before I couldn’t reach for a cracker, the next day I asked to hold an infant.)

 

EMDR saved my holiday. It bettered my relationship with my family, and even kicked off this morning on a positive note. I feel great, and I’m looking forward to telling my therapist all about it at our session on Friday.

 

It took many years for me to discover EMDR. I wasted so much time on talk therapy that I felt counseling was ineffective. I changed therapist time and time again without finding the right fit. I can not say this enough- you do not have to suffer. If you feel therapy is ineffective, you have not found the right therapy. There are infinite options out there- even more than just EMDR. Keep going, keep trying. KEEP GETTING HELP. You are worthy of receiving care. You are worthy of memorable holidays. You are worthy of being part of a family. You are worthy of love.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Your presence is a present. Be in the moment, and enjoy your holiday.

This was my first holiday in seven years that did not include tears or a mental break down. Battling mental health is so much work, but enjoying a holiday with my family for the first time makes every second worth it. We had the merriest of Christmases. I hope yours was blessed as well. 💕🎄

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Moms don’t sleep, they worry with their eyes closed. – Maintaining mental health in a blended family during the holidays.

Today is only Christmas Eve, but we have been Christmasing for days and we’ll continue for days after the 25th. Christmas in a blended family home is celebrated many times, in many places, with many different people.

Last night my husband and I prepared for Santa’s first visit. We had already spent the day cooking, then hosting a Christmas with our mothers and my sister. We came home, put three over excited children to bed, lugged two carloads of gifts into the house and buckled down to make some holiday magic happen.

Mike had to build three toy chests. I stuffed the stockings and wrapped what wouldn’t fit. As the clock ticked later and later into the night, exhaustion, frustration and irritability kicked in. I had to dig deep, and pull out some of those therapy skills to hold it together. When I finally got into bed I was overcome with the dread of doing this all over agin the next night.

Then I woke up this morning. I first opened my eyes in a silent house. I was afraid to get out of bed and wake the kids, so I just laid there and thought about our day. My heart melted when I realized that there was a reason for the craziness. At first glance, I see multiple trips, lots of time in the car, and a whole lot of stress- then it dawned on me that the reason we go through all of this is because so many people love us! How lucky are we?

How lucky are we that Santa comes twice? That Mike and I get two mornings of gift opening. Two nights of eves, snuggling up and watching Christmas movies. Two mornings of thankful hugs and kisses. Having to make a trillion stops and visits just means that we are loved by many- an absolute blessing.

Christmas is stressful. It’s even more stressful trying to coordinate the craziness with sliding custody agreements, but it’s totally worth it. There’s a reason they call step children “bonus” kids.

Lucky for us, the bitter years are (for the most part) behind us. We are in a holiday routine that reduces the stress on both the kids AND us parents. Extended family members don’t always understand. They want us to push to have Arielle on Christmas Day, but it just isn’t for us. This is. This works.

So now that things run mostly smooth, here’s my advice for blended families-

1. Be patient. Two households and two sets of parents can be quite a lot on a kid. The last thing we want is for a child to feel like they’re in the middle of a tug of war game.

2. Be flexible. As in everything, there is a give and take. Everyone has holiday traditions that are important. Having a rigid schedule may mean that your shared child will miss an important tradition in the other home. Think about the child’s best interest, and their entitlement to cherished memories. This is where I’d like throw some of my favorite words from Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Don’t take your child just because you can. Stop and think about their wants and needs, and what you SHOULD do.

3. Make new traditions. For us, Santa comes on the 23rd and the 24th. It’s different. It makes my kids feel special that they get a trip from Santa on night most don’t. That night of the 23rd has a different energy. It’s magical, it’s personalized. They don’t take it for granted, but it makes them feel so special. For me, it completely makes up for not having her on Christmas Day. I may even think it’s better!

4. Remember the reason for the season. Spending time with your loved ones is most important, and it really doesn’t matter what the number on the calendar is. Make everyday special, memorable, and loving.

If you’re a member of a blended family, I’d love to hear what traditions make your season special! Let me know in the comments.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

In a panic over holiday desserts? Trying bringing this easy, 2 ingredient, sugar free treat!

ingredients:

box sugar free chocolate instant pudding mix

Heavy whipping cream.

Directions:

Make pudding as directed on box, substituting the heavy cream for the milk. Pudding will be thick, like a mousse.

I’m a separate container, whip cream as directed on carton. Add sugar substitute if desired (I prefer mine unsweetened.)

Bam! Sugar free dessert ready in minutes. Since the whipping cream replaces the usual milk, dessert will be much thicker and should stand on its own. This looks absolutely beautiful layered in a parfait glass, and is delicious with added fruit or nuts. There’s so much you can do, without guilt!

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Put down the cinnamon rolls and back away slowly!

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Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

Is there anything better than waking up to the smell of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning? For those of us susceptible to keto-flu, yes. Get the aroma and that warm, fuzzy, comforting feeling without refined sugar! Try my amazing apple cinnamon oatmeal recipe!

Ingredients:

2 Apples
1 cup Steel-cut oats
2 packets stevia
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tbsp Butter
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 1/2 cups Water


Directions:


Peel, core and cut the apples
Overnight, Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal. Delicious, nutritious, and ready
Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray.- Or better yet use a disposable crockpot liner (i never use my crockpot without one!)

Pile everything in the crockpot and give it a stir.

Set it to cook on low for 7 hours


Go to bed, and wake up to the sweet smell of cinnamon and apples on christmas morning!
We like to top ours with lite cool whip, granola, sugar free maple syrup and nuts. The longer I do keto, the less I like sweet things so I’ve been mixing my oatmeal with plain greek yogurt. Added protein and it cuts the sweetness.
Enjoy your breakfast, and if you do indulge in cinnamon rolls make sure you savor a bite for me! Remember that health is about balance, and you are allowed to enjoy yourself- especially on holidays! Wishing you and yours happiness, health, and a very Merry Christmas.
With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

You are beautiful, and that’s the least interesting thing about you.

Two nights ago I took Jacen for a haircut. It was a two hour wait, and the stylist looked absolutely burned out. As she cut Jacen’s hair, she thanked me for calling ahead and making an appointment. She practically had tears in her eyes when she told us how busy they had been, and how she hadn’t had a chance to eat or even sit down. My heart went out to her.

Then last night I walked my children through Target so they could pick out a gift for their dad. In the health and beauty section a woman stood in front of the hair color, on her phone, sobbing. She ran her fingers through her hair, and crying into the phone she explained that she could not get an appointment for her hair and she would not be seen on Christmas with her roots showing. She was overwhelmed by all of the choices, and asking her friend what color and brand she should buy. My heart went out to her.

My husband and I have not celebrated one single holiday in the last seven years that didn’t include a major meltdown. I’m always weighed down with my own anxieties and low self worth. I wake up earlier and earlier each year, planning to fix my roots and slather on elaborate makeup. I’ll wear fancy shoes that kill my feet, and change a million times before settling on an uncomfortable, over the top outfit. Once we get to our holiday destination, I’ll feel overdressed and out of place, not to mention uncomfortable.

This is exactly what came to mind as I watched the poor woman sob, and the hairdresser hold back tears.

Truth be told, I’ve been working on this topic in therapy for the last 6 weeks. I have an undying, almost obsessive desire for my in-laws to love me. It ends up that I go over the top trying to look my best and dazzle them. Working through my issues I’ve come to terms with the fact that I want them to love me for me, and dressing up crazy isn’t going to help. If anything, it makes me look ridiculous.

My own goal for this Christmas is to keep the makeup in the closet, and get some use out of my favorite Christmas sweaters and leggings. I am a great mother. I am smart, I am fun, and if you listen closely I can be quite funny.

I’m not trying to dazzle anyone. I’m trying to be myself. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had my therapist this time of year, to put my appearance into perspective and take some of that holiday stress off. I wish so badly that I could bestow this insight on my sobbing friend in the hair color aisle.

I just want to remind my readers- you are beautiful. More importantly, you are beautiful on the inside. Christmas is not about the way you look. It’s about the love you shower your family with. It’s about being present in the moment, the laughs, the memories.

Christmas will pass before you know it. Resolutions will kick in, and all my ladies will be trying to change their bodies. Please, please, please know: I respect any health journey. I support it, but you are so much more than a body. You are a soul, you are a mind. You are a family member, a friend, a coworker, a friendly face.

I hope you’re able to relax this holiday season, and enjoy being yourself. You are beautiful, and that’s the least important thing about you.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

My recipe for smoothie bowls!

IMG_6129I am absolutely in love with smoothie bowls, but definitely not in love with paying $10 at juice bars. I haven’t been able to tolerate heavy lunches anymore, so these bowls have been a real lifesaver to get in my protein, fiber and antioxidants.


There’s the traditional acai recipe that includes acai powder. It’s a great ingredient for the antioxidants but still pretty pricey. 4oz will run you about $12 on Amazon. We go through smoothie bowls way too fast to keep up with that, especially since two of my children are as addicted as I am.

Below are two recipes. The first for the acai bowl, and the second is my own recipe for an affordable smoothie bowl fit for the whole family. Let me know in the comments section if you have a favorite smoothie bowl recipe- I’m always looking for a way to twist in some variety!

Acai Bowl:
Ingredients
1/2 Banana, frozen
1/2 Banana
1 Handful Berries
1/2 Heaping cup Fruit, fresh
1/4 cup Granola
1/3 cup Coconut milk
1 tbsp Protein powder
1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Hemp seeds
1 pack acai powder


Blend acai powder, frozen banana,vinegar, berries, coconut milk and protein power. Top with leftover fruit, granola and seeds.


Kate’s super-saver smoothie bowl:
Ingredients:
Frozen mixed berries
Frozen blueberries
Fresh berries and fruit
Almond milk
Peanut butter
Protein powder
Granola
Nuts

Blend all frozen berries, a whole scoop of vanilla protein powder, and almond milk. Top with fresh fruit, granola, nuts and a scoop of peanut butter.

My version is lower cost, and higher protein. The exclusion of blended banana is totally a personal choice. I do enjoy them as a topping, but not as part of the smoothie. Addition of a banana will thicken up the smoothie, but also add carbohydrates.

These bowls give me a ton of energy without weighing me down, and always lift my mood! I hope you enjoy!

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.

Letting go is hard. It’s much easier to hold grudges, be negative and complain about the woes that you’ve been dealt. It’s a cycle, and it’s so hard to break.

I’ve had my own struggle with this concept. I’d be consumed with guilt about being obese, then binge to drowned my sorrows, then feel guilty about over eating, then binge. Even now, there are days when I don’t want to get out of bed so I blame the universe for bestowing such a hard life on me. Or, how about when I do something insanely awkward and I beat myself up for days thinking “this is what you should have done,” and “what’s wrong with you?”

Starting fresh is a new routine for me, and I really see a difference. I gain more positivity each day. There isn’t anything we can do about yesterday, so move on and have a better today.

I feel strongly that this concept can be applied to just about everyone during the holiday season (if not everyday!) Are you beating yourself up about indulging in the Christmas cookies yesterday? Stop. There’s nothing you can do. Eat better today, and move on. Did you have a moment of stress, and snap at your spouse or children? Don’t be consumed by guilt. Outshine that one second of negativity by making today memorable and positive. Today is a new day, a clean slate.

It is currently 9am as I write this, and I’m dead set on making today a good day. I’ve taken time for myself to blog, organized my plans for the day, and let go of yesterday.

What are you doing for yourself today? How are you letting go of yesterday? Let me know in the comments!

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

2 ingredient eggplant parm

For a family of 5 on one income, healthy eating can get quite expensive. My local grocery store often has a rack of clearance produce that needs to be used or frozen right away. I’m telling you, it can be a real life saver. Today I ended up with 4 large eggplants for $1! The total cost for this 16 serving dish was $3.34- eggplant and shake and bake.

Eggplant parm is always a hit in my family. If I remove the skin, my kids assume it’s a chicken nugget and eat their veggies with no issue!

Tonight I needed a quick and easy recipe to fit into our schedule- and this worked out perfectly!

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants

1 packet of Parmesan shake and bake

Directions:

Clean and slice your eggplant.

Place the eggplant slices into water.

Transfer wet slices into shake and bake bag a few at a time.

Lightly shake bag, coating the eggplant.

Arrange on cookie sheet so all pieces lay flat.

Broil on high for 2-4 minutes until golden.

Flip and repeat on other side.

Continue baking at 350 until cooked thoroughly. (About 15 minutes.)

Serve as desired with sauce and cheese.

Easy peasy!

Nutrition break down:

Servings: 16 (about 2/3 cup depending on size of eggplant.)

Calories: 59

Fat: 0

Protein: 2

Sugar: 3

Fiber: 2

I bake my eggplant to avoid the oil and fat, but this recipe works well with oil frying and air frying!

I hope you enjoy! Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe, and how you like it!

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Morning Mindfulness

It seems like overnight my daughter discovered how to speak, and the words flood in by the dozens every day. Every few minutes she’s asking, “and dis? What dis?”

This morning the baby monitor didn’t wake me with the typical cries and whines. Instead, I heard my sweet little Anna talking to the elephants on the wall. “Dada, Momma, Anna.. Dada, Momma, Anna.” I rounded the corner to her bedroom slowly, and she didn’t see me standing there. She continued to chant, and she ran her fingers over the vinyl elephants. “Dada, Momma, Anna.”

When the floor creaked and gave my hiding place away, Anna looked up and met my gaze with the sweetest little smile. Excited, she said, “mama!” and ran her hand over the wall, resting over the heart, “what dis?”

I felt tears sting my eyes, so proud of my little lady. This moment snuck up so unexpectedly, and would pass so quickly. I just had to make it last a little bit longer.

We stood and talked about the elephants for a few minutes before I scooped her up for hugs and kisses, ready to start our day. I couldn’t believe just moments ago I was begging the Lord for 5 more minutes of sleep. I was wondering how I would leave the security of my weighted blanket or heated mattress, and thoroughly believed nothing could be as good as that bed felt.

I’ve spent too many days hiding in bed with my depression. When the mom-guilt sinks in, I sit and wonder how many of these beautiful moments I’ve missed while I isolated myself with my own sadness. Anna doesn’t seem to notice. She’s babbling and kissing my cheek like this is the only way it’s ever been. Her reaction is the most sincere motivation to try for moments like this, to wake up and embrace the day instead of hiding from it. To get out of bed.

I’m always working on mindfulness but it’s easier said than done. Moms have it rough. We beat ourselves up over the past, and overwhelm ourselves being anxious about the future. It’s easy to end up going through the motions without being completely present. Most of the time I’m so sucked into my thoughts that I feel like a bad mother. What have I missed? What have THEY missed out on because of me? Why am I not good enough? Am I making THEIR lives good enough?

..But then a moment like this morning happens. A moment where you have no choice but to stop and take it all in. It got me out of bed. Hell, it got me in the shower, out of the house and got my errands completed. I’ve had a really great day- there might be something to this mindfulness thing.

Learn from my mistakes, and benefit from my retrospect: Slow it down today. Be mindful. Take it in. Beauty just mind find you when you’re least expecting it, so make sure your eyes are open when it comes!

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

New Year, New Blog!

Christmas is right around the corner, and that means the new year will be here before we know it! I’ve made some changes to celebrate a new beginning- starting with our blog content. I will still share all of the fun, free events I come across but our main focus will now be family health. Personally, I find events and outings to be extremely important to the social health of a family.

As most of you know, I’ve been on a fitness journey for the last 2 years. Losing over 150 pounds, and strengthening my mom-muscles. Jacen has also been on a physical health journey, taking control of his Ehler’s- Danlos syndrome.

As a whole, our family has had a rocky road with mental health. I’m finally diagnosed and under treatment for bipolar disorder, OCD, depression, anxiety, and a previous eating disorder. There’s a ripple effect where my mental health impacts my family. We are working together on helping each other, and being a support web.

Lastly is our social health. We are always trying to get better about being active in our community. This definitely means our typical events and adventures will continue!

I hope you’ll join us on this new venture. I’m looking forward to sharing our journey, recipes, tips, tricks, events and so much more!

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids18001600