Good Fats Chewey Granola Bars (kid-approved, gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

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Getting good brain foods into kids diets (Hello, Omega-3;s) does not have to be complicated! I made these delicious chewey granola bars on a whim and they took less than 10 minutes to throw together.

These bad boys are packed with protein and healthy fats and contain a ton of essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc  and iron.  As a benefit to mom, these ingredients are all supportive of healthy hormonal balancing and adrenal gland health (coconuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds).

They are delicious by themselves to throw in your bag for soccer practice.  They are even better for a quick no-fuss toddler breakfast!  You can crunch them up to make your own cereal or throw them atop of some yogurt for a parfait.  

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**affiliate links contained below

Ingredients:

5-6 dates (pre-soaked overnight)
1/2 cup coconut shreds
3/4 cup almond butter (I use this brand by MaraNatha)
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup chia seeds
3/4 cup sliced almonds (pre-soaked overnight)
1/4 cup agave or honey

Instructions:

  1. Set oven for 350 degrees.

  2. Place soaked dates in a blender or emulsifier (alternatively, you can hand smash them with a fork)

  3. In a large bowl, combine almond butter, honey and dates well.

  4. Add all the other ingredients and combine well.

  5. Place the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and smash it flat using your hands (warning, you are going to get very sticky!) Flatten until it’s abkut 1/2 inch thick or less if you want it to be more crispy.

  6. Drizzle with honey (optional)

  7. Bake for about 7-8 minutes (you don't want them to get too crispy at the bottom so keep an eye so they don't burn!)

  8. Let them cool for 10 minutes and then cut them into squares.


 

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Enjoy!

-Ashley

Decorating Telescopes for Fine Motor Skill Building

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(18 months and up)

I love stickers for 3 reasons:

  1. They keep kiddos entertained F O R E V E R
  2. Taking stickers off of the pad encourages a three-digit grasp (tripod grasp) and strengthens the thumb 👍muscles which are an important building block for all aspects of prehension (grasp)
  3. Taking stickers off of a pad encourages higher level bilateral coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated way) I’m always looking for smaller items that encourage one hand to stabilize while the other hands manipulates (places stickers) and these toilet paper rolls are 👌

✍️Why am I always talking about the importance of thumb strength and the development of proper grasp?

Because if encouraged early on through simple play like this, kids can avoid awkward grasp patterns down the road.

I treat so many kids in the clinic who don’t have a functional grasp due to weak arches of the hands and poor thumb strength improper grasp patterns on a writing utensil cause quick fatigue of the hand during writing tasks and can (not always) lead to an overall negative association with all things handwriting related.

Get some stickers from the dollar store and some toilet paper rolls and you’re good to go! Also my son for some reason believes he can spy things more easily through his “telescope” 

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Cauliflower Rice + Quinoa Chicken Friend Rice

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My husband is always begging me to make chicken fried rice.  I wanted to try to make a healthier version, without all the extra post-meal guilt and calories and I also wanted to boost the nutritional value a bit.  

I decided to swap out the white rice for a mixture of cauliflower rice and quinoa and let me tell you, this turned out SO good.  In fact, I have made it three times since and it’s been polished off completely by the family each time.

While I like the taste of frozen veggie mixtures in fried rice, they aren’t exactly through the roof on the nutritional charts, you guys.  So adding cauliflower and broccoli made it a complete meal for us and truthfully, I didn’t really miss the “real deal” one bit.

While the adults in the house enjoy casseroles and other mixtures such as this, my little guy sometimes has a hard time with them. That doesn’t mean I just stop offering them completely.

Here are a few tips when offering a meal such as this to your kiddos:

  • If you’re offering a casserole or something like this dish with lots of different foods and textures mixed together, try offering a “no thank you” plate where they can remove the items they have tried and don’t like. This helps them feel more in control of what’s going into their bodies and helps not feel threaten or afraid to try. (My son basically removed all the mushrooms before he was even willing to try a bite)
  • You can also deconstruct the meal a bit by placing veggies in one tray, chicken and eggs in another.  OR you can place the child’s preferred foods on top so that it’s the first thing they 👀 see. (I arranged the chicken on the top, since my son loves chicken)
  • REMEMBER, between the ages of 2 1/2 - 4 years old (but ESPECIALLY at the age of 3) ALL kids go through a “picky eating phase” and this is considered C O M P L E T E L Y N O R M A L.
  • Try to talk them THROUGH the meal instead of talking them INTO the meal. Talk about all the sensory components of the foods like textures, colors and shapes of different veggies (how they look, feel and taste).
  • Allow THEM to decide what kinds of foods they like and don’t like but never stop offering a certain foods just because your child initially rejected it (it can take around 15 exposures before a new food is accepted, yes 15!)
  • It’s hard, you’re doing a great job, way better than you think!!

So if you’re like me and craving take-out style chicken fried rice but also trying to offer a nutritional family meal, give it a try and let me know what you think you guys!

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup organic frozen vegetable mixture
1 1/2 cup organic cauliflower rice
1/2 cup quinoa (cooked) 
4-5 chicken thighs
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp coconut aminos
1 1/2 tsp grassfed butter or ghee
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 pack sliced mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tsp onion powder
sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
coconut oil or EVOO

Instructions: 

  1. First, cook the chicken.  I boiled some water and added the thighs, lowered the heat a bit and cooked them for about 15 or until cooked through.
  2.  Next dice the onion, garlic and roughly chop the mushrooms.
  3. Add butter or ghee to pan on medium high heat and sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms (add onions and garlic first, once they’re soft add the mushrooms)
  4. Next, add mixed veggies and stir for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add additional coconut oil or ghee to pan.
  6. Add the cauliflower rice, quinoa, sesame oil and coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  7. Make an open spot in the pan to scramble the eggs and mix into the mixture. 
  8. Fork shred the chicken and add to pan. 
  9. Add onion powder and s + p to taste. 
  10. Serve with broccoli and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
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 -Ashley 

A Mom’s Guide to Letting Go of Perfect

Being a perfectionist has just naturally been part of who I was since as long as I can remember.  I could blame living in the continental US, where perfectionism is highly esteemed, or the family dynamics that come with growing up in a household of five women. 

Deep down, though, I think it all really stems from a deep and instinctual longing to be loved, accepted and approved.

Whatever the rhyme or reason, it has never really been a part of me that I considered a problem.  That is, until, I became a mom. 

However, even when I had my first child, I did the best I could to keep it all together, to prevent people from seeing how my perfection was being pulled apart at the seams. 

Nap time schedule was, of course, essential.  My son was easy going and slept through the night like an angel baby.  My house was still spotless and I managed to somehow work part time and keep healthy meals on the table every night.   I did struggle (tremendously) with breastfeeding.  Since I took this failure as a great assault at my abilities to properly nurture my child, I let mom-guilt run rampant over the issue.  I decided I would just step up my perfect-parenting game, in another way, by pumping breast-milk around the clock until my son was around 18 months old.  

For anyone who has ever exclusively pumped, you know it is total madness and sucks the joy out of life.

Managing a toddler was definitely W I L D, but with my background in pediatrics, I knew how to keep him busy while I kept things "under control."  In other words, with just one child, I could still play the part of being perfect.

All was fine until I became a mom of two children.  It wasn't long after my daughter was born that I realized I needed to start letting go of perfect

I was living alone in a new city with no help and my husband worked long hours.  Managing a 2 year-old and a newborn, all while trying to keep a perfectly clean house and healthy dinners on the table every night, was, to my surprise, impossible in every way.  My body was a wreck, not "bouncing back" like it did with my first.  My daughter never slept for more than 3 hours until she was over a year old.  She cried for hours on end most nights, as I tried relentlessly to calm her.  I remember bouncing her in her carrier for hours trying to get her to calm down and settle in for sleep.  Meanwhile, I was a non-slept zombie and my son tore every square inch of the house into pieces.  Keeping a naptime schedule was nearly impossible with another child to consider.  Dinner was often takeout. There were days when I didn't look in the mirror or have proper clothing on until 5 pm.

The demands of motherhood laughed at my ideas of picture perfect motherhood. 

Every night I went to bed feeling like I had failed my children. I cried.  Oh man, did I cry.

It wasn't long until I came to the realization that if I wanted to be a good mom, that is, to focus on things that are actually important, I had to stop sweating all the small stuff

Even though I didn't really know how, I was relieved that I didn't have to keep up with myself anymore.  I had grown so weary of the high standards I had set for myself and those around me.  I wanted a way out of the perfectionist trap and to loosen the reigns. 

I knew my children needed me to look at them and not the 3-day old stain on the dining room floor.

I realized that the most beautiful encounters with my children had been when I decided to say, "Oh, screw it!" (i.e. the house, dinner, naptime schedules, etc)  Love and joyful encounters with my children was incomparable to the latter.

The beauty in the moments, when I intentionally chose stillness and gratitude over productivity, was the reason I decided it was time to lay down a life-long pattern of perfectionism and control.  

The problem was, I didn't really know where to start.  I had been living this was for over 30 years, after all.  But I did know that I needed to start somewhere.  So I started practicing being imperfect.  Just like I had been teaching my four-year old son.  "The only way to get better at something is by practicing," I would tell him.

So, I did.  And so I still am, practicing being imperfect. 

I feel strongly that perfectionism and control are battles faced by most mothers today.  I also feel strongly that motherhood is the ultimate challenger of that mentality.  I believe that it is by strategic design that our Creator pleads with us through motherhood to lay down control, rely on His strength and grace and to walk in his plans for our lives and not our own.

So without further ado, here are my tips for how a mom like myself might start practicing being impefect:

  1. Get up every day + CHOOSE to lay down perfection and control: 
    It doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out discussion or prayer (most moms of young children don't have the luxury of early morning time).  It can be as simple as saying, "Lord, give me this day my daily bread." In other words; God, provide me with the things I need for just today.  "Help me not to think above and beyond what is expected of me in just this one day.  I lay down control over how my day will turn out.  I will try my best, give me strength and peace through the trials that lay may or may not lay ahead.  I am not perfect, nor do I need to be.  This season is hard but it is beautiful.  Thank you God that You are in control and You are the only one that is perfect."

  2. Love yourself! 
    Motherhood has a way of bringing to the surface all of our hidden issues and flaws that we've managed to somehow keep under wraps, pre-motherhood.  It’s the ultimate refiner, if you will.  It forces us to deal with our personal anxieties, fears and failures in a way that seeks to overcome so that our children can experience a joyful childhood. 

    Accept your "flaws" and embrace and lean on your strengths in motherhood.  It may be helpful to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as a mother.  And learn to wholeheartedly L O V E that person, flaws and all. You will probably find you have way more strengths than you do weaknesses.

    Again, you weren't made to be perfect and nobody actually is perfect, no matter how much they might appear to be on social media. Learn from your weaknesses and walk proudly in your strengths.  Let areas and moments of struggle become opportunities to learn and not to beat yourself up over.  Give yourself a ton of grace and forgiveness.  Motherhood is hard.

     
  3. Set aside designated times to clean so it doesn't interfere with being present
    One of my biggest challenges has been to enjoy the moment with my children by playing with them and having fun instead of focusing on the mess that they are currently making.  I used to (and still do, occasionally) clean all day long and it is foolish and exhausting.  It has helped me to get into a routine of trying to only clean or pick up the mess during two times a day (after breakfast and at night when the kids are going to bed).  When the entire house is messy and things are out of place, it helps me to envision how it it will look when the night is over and the kids are in bed.
     
  4. Get rid of stuff:
    When you have kids, clutter and useless things build up very easily.  Birthdays and Christmas alone feed into this madness, not to mention your addiction to Targets' $1 section.  It is stressful having to constantly keep track of and put away millions of tiny (often worthless) items all day long.  Try to go through one room a day and get rid of one or more items.  Keep a box in each room for Goodwill.  The less "stuff" cluttering your mind and your home, the less amount of things you have to keep track of in your weary mom brain.
     
  5. Focus on people and not things:
    I know this is sort-of a broad generalization but it has really helped me in times of indecision of what I should focus on.  Should I mop the floors or spend extra time talking with my son before bed? Should I go to park with my daughter or should I stay home and clean?  Is anyone coming over to see your endless piles of laundry or messy dining room floor? If the answer is clearly a no, spend your time nurturing your children's heart instead.  
     
  6. Create your own mothering style: 

    You don’t have to be someone else, you just have to be who you are. I believe that motherhood is an opportunity to step into who you were really meant to be.  Sadly, too many moms are focused on what they think they should be and instead of who they are.  Social media exasperates this problem since we forever looking at another person's idea of motherhood and thinking that's the way we should be a mom too.  

    You are the way you are for a reason.  And it is okay to have different ideas about motherhood than your mom, your sister or your best friend.

  7. Accepting others as imperfect too
    Now that you have let go of the idea that you're suppose to be perfect, its time you let others around you off the hook, too.  Sorry, mama, but your husband is not perfect.  Nor will he ever be.  And this whole parenting thing is hard for him as well.  

    And those children of yours, they aren't perfect either.  They are so far from perfect its not even funny, actually.  But you know what?  Even though they aren't perfect and won't share their toys with all the kids at the park, at the heart of a child is pure 100% goodness.  They just need someone to stand by them and hold their hand as they learn things about life.
     
  8. Breath through the tough times
    Somewhere between the 98th time you told your son to put his shoes on and the 42 minutes it took for you to buckle everyone into their carseats, its easy to lose your cool. 

    Just B R E A T H E when things get stressful or seem out of control. 

    If breathing doesn't do it for you, try to say something like "this isn't a big deal" or "I'm okay, I can handle this"   This too, shall pass.  And being 10 minutes late to school isn't going to be the end of the world, either.  
     
  9. Get OUT of the MOM CAVE:
    I don't care if you live in Canada and its currently below zero, get yourself outside.  There is something freeing and peaceful about being outside, even if it's for a brief walk or taking your kids to play out in the neighborhood playground.  Go where the people are.  It helps to let go of the messy house or unfinished laundry when you're outside enjoying some fresh air with your kids.  It's a little bit like avoiding the subject but it also is the most helpful way of getting out of any mom rut day.  
     
  10. Allow good enough to be okay:
    For the longest time I (subconsciously) thought that things had to be perfect in order for me to be a good mom.  It turns out that couldn't be further from the truth.  Kids don't care if their hair is messy, their rooms are clean or the dinner is perfection.  All the really want is a happy mom.  It took me a long time to finally allow good enough to be okay with me. 

    Maybe some nights I don't wash everyone's hair, but it's good enough.
    Maybe some nights I leave the playroom a complete disaster, but its good enough. 
    Maybe my daughter takes her nap in her car-seat because I have errands to run today, but its good enough. 

    Practice saying "its not perfect but its good enough."
     
  11. Make a list of your priorities:
    This is SO important.  Take time to write down a list of your top 5-10 priorities.  If being a nice mom is to your children is at the top of the list but you're more focused on scrubbing the bathroom floors, then move things around in your life.  Make a plan for how you're going to change to make room for the important stuff.  
     
  12. Try to focus on only one thing at a time:
    There is something that drives me crazy about not being able to accomplish everything on my to-do list.  But I know I get frazzled trying to do a million things at once and I end up not really accomplishing the most important thing.  Focus on one thing at a time, and try to do a good job at that thing before you try tackling 700 other less-important things.  

    My theory is that it isn't necessarily the amount of things I accomplished that given day that actually matters but rather that I accomplished one thing that matters, thoroughly.  
     
  13. Practice being still
    This may sound a lot easier than it actually is for a mother whose prone to striving for perfection.  Just CHOOSE to be still in moments with your children. 

    Forget about the mess.  Forget about the schedule.  Focus on their giggles, and live a little.  You might even try PLAYING and laughing a little too.  

    After all, if you can't have joy in raising your little ones, than what is it all worth anyways? 
     
  14. Allow people to help you:
    This can be as small as letting a friend watch your child while you go to a dentist appointment, or letting someone help you with your laundry or cleaning the bathrooms once a month.  It is absolutely OKAY to admit that you can't do everything yourself.   

    The sooner you allow someone in from the outside to hold your hand by helping out with something small, the sooner you'll realize you were never meant to do motherhood alone.
     
  15. Practice letting others see you in a less than perfect situation:
    This is the one that  has been the most challenging for me and also the most freeing.  It is actually lovely in a strange way to let someone else in on your imperfections and challenges. 

    Practice having a friend over for a play date when you haven't cleaned your house.  Practice dropping your kids off to school in your shameless mom sweats and bun.  Practice letting others see your children eating chicken nuggets for dinner.  Practice letting an outsider watch you struggle with your toddler, who is having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery aisle, and try not to die of embarrassment.

    Also practice letting other moms in on your imperfections by talking about your fears, anxieties and challenges in motherhood.  I was talking to another mom just the other day at the park about how I struggle with not sweeping the floors after EVERY MEAL and it just so turns out that she is struggling with the same thing too!  It made us both feel a little more sane and laugh a little that we were both trying to lay down the same striving for perfection in this crazy season.  We are all cut from the same mold.  Nobody is perfect and if they appear to be perfect, they're 100% putting on a show.  They struggle with the same things you do, just in lesser than or greater degrees. 

    Letting someone in on your secrets helps you move past them.  It helps you realize that no one really has this whole parenting thing figured out, after all.  


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-Ashley

 

2 Corinthians 1:3,4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Isaiah 40:11: "He gently leads those that have young."

5-Ingredient Super-food Sunflower Seed Butter Cups (Nut-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free)

 **affiliate links contained below

**affiliate links contained below

I am not sure if you all out there have tried sunflower seed butter as an alternative to peanut butter but if you haven't, you need to ASAP.  This stuff is addicting as heck and tastes like a dream.  Not only is it delicious but it's also A LOT healthier compared to conventional peanut butter.  Sunflower seeds are naturally high in vitamin E, vitamin Bs, selenium, thiamine, magnesium and copper and phosphorus.  They are great for cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and and they also have been given credit for having antioxidant powers.

I came up with these E A S Y, no bake, Reese's peanut butter cup copy cats using 5 healthy ingredients and they are the best.  Now I can run to them when I’m having a sweets craving and not feel guilty.  The kids love them too!

The other ingredients are bone broth protein powder (click here to learn more about the benefits of bone broth), chia seeds (high in omega-3 fatty acids), dark chocolate and agave nectar for sweetening.

You have to try them! They're so easy and so so good.

E N J O Y!

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Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients (minus the chocolate) in a large bowl until well combined.
  2. Put cupcake liners in a muffin tin + pour batter into each cup (1 heaping teaspoon or more if you want them to be thicker)
  3. Smooth the batter flat with the back of a spoon (you can add oil so it wont stick)
  4. Melt your dark chocolate bar by adding some coconut oil over medium heat and then slowly stirring chocolate in until smooth.
  5. Pour the chocolate a top the batter.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
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-Ashley

Best Steak Marinade + DIY Buddha Bowls

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You guys, I have been SO excited to share my household favorite, DIY Buddha Bowls + my favorite recipe for marinating steak. It is so so good!

I can’t even describe the level of deliciousness going on here.  To give you an idea as to how delicious, I will say, I would rather eat these steak bowls at home while my kids fling food all over the walls than go out to eat at a fancy restaurant. That’s how good!! 

So marinating does takes a little prep work,  but it is worth it in the end.  You can do it on a Sunday afternoon or if you have a few minutes during nap time and it makes cooking dinner a breeze! 

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone eats healthy without a little meal prepping.  Whether it’s marinating steaks, putting foil over some sweet potatoes and popping them in the oven or pre- chopping some veggies, on any given day it’s the only way I get a healthy, quick family dinner on the table.

Anyways, I digress. 

The awesome thing about buddah bowls is you can add any combination of veggies you like.  I almost always use broccoli, steak and avocado but this time I decided to try sweet potatoes crisps instead.  My husband and I love mushrooms but my son hates them so I let him pick what veggie combination he wants in his own bowl. 

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So here’s the deal.  

  1. Buy some grass fed skirt steak (I buy about 1 lb to 1 + 1/2 lbs)
  2. Cut the strips into four.  
  3. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  4. Use a knife to make some small inscisions down each side (to help Marinade penetrate more deeply) Run along with the striations in the Steak.
  5. Marinate these in a zip-lock bag overnight or for a full day or two.

 For marinade:

3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp something acidic (vinegar or a red wine)
1 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt & pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp honey or agave
salt + pepper   

 

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 For the Buddha Bowls 

  • 1 to 1 + 1/2 lb grass-fed skirt steak
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 bunch organic broccoli
  • avocados, mushrooms, sweet potatoes (depending on preference of veggies)
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp organic butter (optional)
  • organic mayo + sriracha (optional)

Instructions: 

  1. Prepare rice.  (Boil 2 cups water.  Add 1 cup rice.  Cover on low heat for 20 minutes.)
  2. Boil some water in another pot and add broccoli.  Lower heat to a medium high setting and  cook for about 5-6 minutes.  
  3. Prepare and cut any other veggies you would like.  Slice avocados, brown some mushrooms, boil some eggs, etc. I put sliced sweet potatoes in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes each side to make these sweet potato crisps. 
  4. While rice is still cooking on low, make the steak.
  5. Add EVOO to pan over medium high heat.  Add strips of steak and lower heat down to a 3 and cook on each side for about 7-8 minutes.  You'll know its ready when it is just a tiny bit pink inside.
  6. Cut steak into strips or cubes (matter of preference)
  7. Place them in individual bowls over rice.  
  8. When broccoli is finished, you can add a little butter and salt for seasoning.
  9. Assemble all your veggies
  10. Sprinkle sesame seeds + sriracha mayo if you like it spicy!** I mix organic mayo + sriracha to make it.
  11. Enjoy!

-Ashley

 

Weekend Detox Broccoli Caulifower Soup (Dairy-free)

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I know I can’t be alone about feeling the need to detox after a long weekend.  Broccoli soup just seems like the perfect remedy for negating weekend eats.

My mom used to make the best broccoli soup when I was growing up.  I remember devouring it and always wanting seconds.  There is something about the broccoli combined with the onions and garlic and the creamy texture of the heavy cream that really makes the perfect flavor combination.

I wanted to make something resembling my mom's broccoli soup but without the dairy and some added cauliflower for a more creamy texture.  I was surprised it turned out so delicious!  

To be honest, I made mine a little on the spicy side (I added a LOT of garlic) so my kids didn't really like it.  Next time, I'll try to tame down the garlic and see what happens.

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Here’s how to make it.. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads organic broccoli, roughly chopped and stems removed
  • 1 head organic cauliflower, roughly chopped and stems removed
  • 1 + 1/2 yellow onions
  • 3-5 garlic cloves (depending on the amount of spice you want)
  • 1 carton organic chicken or vegetable broth (for vegan option)
  • 1 can organic full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, stems removed and chopped
  • EVOO
  • 1 sardine (optional)
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
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Instructions:

  1. Add a few swirls of EVOO to pan over medium heat.  Add chopped onions and stir until soft.  Add sardine (adds flavor) and garlic and mix together.  
  2. Once onions have softened a bit, add broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, broth and the creamy top of the coconut milk can (save the rest of the milk for another time.) Add spices and salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a soft boil, then cover and turn to low heat and let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  
  4. Once soup is soft and ready, use a hand blender to blend it into a creamy blended texture.
  5. Serve hot and enjoy!

Easter Egg Rocks + Chalks

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Okay so we have quite a ways until Easter but don’t judge me.  I am oddly obsessed with all games and toys that are related to eggs.  Opening/closing egg toys are my favorite for babies because they teach them how to use both hands together in a coordinated way AND they usually have some sort of visual matching component too.  

Anyways, I digress. 

You guys, this activity was SO easy to set up, or should I say there was really no set up, and the kids LOVED IT. I am not kidding when I say they have been playing it non-stop all weekend.  So if you’re feeling the weekend toddler crazies and trying to prevent your house from being turned upside down before nap time, run to Easter Eggs Rocks + Chalks quick! 

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All you need is 4 things:

  • Chalk of any kind
  • Old egg carton
  • Rocks
  • Easter baskets (optional) 

This activity is definitely chalk full of skill building but honestly, we were just trying to have a little fun and kill time before dinner. 

Heres how to play: 

  1. Color the rocks all your favorite colors
  2. Put them in the carton
  3. Have the kids count the rocks
  4. Talk about your favorite colors together
  5. Hide the rocks all over your house or backyard
  6. Take turns hiding the eggs (the kids especially loved getting to hide them for me and watching me try to find them) 
  7. Practice math skills when trying to determine how many eggs are still missing
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Here’s a few skills we worked on: 

  • Bilateral integration skills (Using one hand to stabilize the rock while the other dominant hand colors)
  • Tripod grasping skills (using three fingers to hold the chalk with an open web space in the web space)
  • Counting
  • Simple subtraction
  • Parent interaction
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-Ashley

Totally Doable Household Chores for Toddlers (by age range)

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As an OT, building skills for functional independence is basically my thing.

Giving kids (no matter their age) chores that are within their functional abilities will:

  • give them a sense of accomplishment + pride
  • empower them to become a contributing family team player
  • build functional skills that can be built upon in other areas (such as categorizing, reaching, balance skills, problem solving, etc)
  • teach them life skills for the future
  • help you out with your endless parenting to-do list

Having little ones rummage through and tear apart the house while you're trying keep it in order can drive anyone a little crazy, myself included.  I have found it most helpful to get the kids involved when I am in the cleaning spirit.  

When you keep their little hands and minds busy working alongside you, they (hopefully) won't un-do all that you're trying to accomplish.  

It is SO important with toddlers to find just the right task.  By that, I mean, the activity must have just the right balance of challenge and feasibility.  You want them to be challenged but you also don't want them to become so frustrated that they give up.  

I thought it might be helpful, to other parents out there, to make a list of age-appropriate house hold chores (listed by age range).  So here it is, I hope you find it useful!

Remember: the idea isn't necessarily for them to be thorough but to learn and feel as though they're helping.

14 months - 2 years

 Meal time:

  • Help prepare veggies/fruit for snack: watch and helping to place pre-cut food items onto plates, closer to age 2 they can peel bananas and oranges (adult starts the peel, child finishes)
  • Help set table: bring utensils to the table while the older children can place them properly
  • Help set table: bring everyone’s drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Wipe the table down after dinner with help

Laundry:

  • Place sorted laundry into basket (to keep hands busy i.e. not pulling sorted items out)
  • Help take out items from dryer and place into basket with you
  • With help, can transfer clothes from washer to dryer
  • Place sorted clothes into washer with you + pour pre-measured laundry detergent in
  • Help push button to turn on washer/dryer

Misc:

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away into bin
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed) 
  • Can pull a small sized garbage bag to the outside garbage (with an adult)
  • Take out the plastic cups and silverware from the dishwasher and hand them to you as you sort + put away
  • Starting around 18 months, they can start sorting the silverware into forks, knives and spoons drawers.  If they can’t sort types, start with only forks and spoons (they will only have to divide their attention by 2 vs 3)
  • Clean the cabinets  - give them a wipie or wet cloth and have them get busy
  • Clean up spills with a towel
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Clean up and put away one singular toy set at a time with adult encouragement (I.e LEGO’s, blocks, one puzzle) learning to clean up is easiest when an adult models desired action (I.e putting blocks into container)
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2-3 Years 

Meal Time 

  • Help prep snacks and veggies - peel and cut bananas and other soft fruits with butter knife, break broccoli stems off, peel oranges, sprinkle seeds, toppings or spices (salt, chia seeds, nuts, etc)
  • Help plate pre-cut food items
  • Sort knives, forks, spoons into appropriate drawers from dishwasher
  • Set table by bringing fork, knife and spoon and placing properly in desired location (adult will model desired place setting first)
  • Help set table- bring everyone’s drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher or sink and can begin to learn how to put plates into dishwasher and silverware, etc
  • Wipe the table down after dinner
  • Can use a small hand broom to clean up spilled food, will need some help

Laundry

  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer 
  • Help sort clothes into baskets (lights, darks, whites)
  • Put laundry into washer and pour pre-measured detergent
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage)
  • Match socks: first find the matches, then lay the match atop each other (may be able to roll them as well)
  • Help each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Help washcloths with adult modeling
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold towels
  • Put away individual folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, one clothing item at a time (I.e. “put away this stack of shirts, hold them like this”)

 Misc

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed)
  • Take out items from dishwasher and hand them to you while you put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets  - give them a wipie and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Clean up 2-3 toy sets at a time with adult encouragement (I.e “you clean up the blocks and LEGO’s, I’ll clean up the dolls”)
  • Clean up book shelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing

4-5 Years

Dinner Time 

  • Prep snacks and veggies - cut bananas, break broccoli stems, peel oranges, use a butter knife to spread peanut butter/jelly/butter etc on toast or crackers, add toppings/spices/salt and pepper. 
  • Help to taste and add spices/salt + pepper to dishes (also helps to decrease sensitivity to certain spices and warm-up their palate for mealtime)
  • Help plating food items
  • Tear napkins and fold into squares, set them on table
  • Set table with silverware in correct position atop folded square napkins
  • Pour waters for everyone having dinner (pre measured water, from a pitcher or water dispenser)
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher, can learn to place plates and silverware in proper locations
  • Wipe table down after dinner, use a squirt bottle to spray first
  • Begin to learn how to sweep items into a pile (still may need assistance)

Laundry 

  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer (the fun part!)
  • Help sort laundry into baskets I.e lights, darks and whites
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage) 
  • Match and fold socks: first find the matches, then lay the match atop each other, then roll them together
  • Put each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Fold washcloths in halves or folded squares (folded in half twice)
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold the larger item, towels
  • Put away folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, learning how to hold the folded piles with two hands without dropping them
  • Help put hangers into shirts and hand them to you while you hang them in the closet

Misc 

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Take our recycling: find a handy-sized bag they can fill and carry out to the bin
  • Take out trash
  • Help find ripe fruits and veggies at the grocery store: give them a baggie to fill and teach how to tell if a fruit/veggie is ready to eat
  • Take out items from dishwasher and help put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets - give them a wipie or wet wash cloth and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Clean up a small room with encouragement but break the tasks down into steps for them (i.e “first clean up the LEGO’s, then the books”)
  • Clean up book shelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl, filling up water bowl
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing
  • Help put clean pillow cases onto pillow while you put clean sheets on the bed
  • Around age 4, they can manage pushing a small vacuum 

 

Baby's First Year - Age Appropriate Milestones for 10-12 Months

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You are (hopefully) fully baby proofed and getting used to this baby on the move situation.  Your baby should be crawling and pulling to stand, and most babies typically take their first steps sometime within a month or so of their first birthdays.  Your baby is now learning to respond to simple verbal cues and loves to look at pictures in a book.   They are also able use their hands to manipulate (and get into) EVERYTHING in sight. 

Life is really flying by for you and your baby in their first year of life. 

It seems like this 10-12 month age bracket is such a huge growth time frame and as I remember, teething situations can make babies sleeping and moods a little tricky.  My best piece of advice is to bring yourself and baby outside for some fresh air and a new, fun environment to learn in (and distract from the teething pain.)

  • This guideline has been developed through clinical experience and in combination with references Peabody Developmental Motor Scales 2 + The Beery VMI.  
  • Reminder: Focus on your child’s strengths, not weaknesses.  Focus on if your child is making an overall forward progression instead of making sure your child makes EVERY milestone according to plan (you can easily drive yourself and your baby crazy.). Relax and enjoy these fleeting moments!

Gross Motor Skills

Crawling Milestones

  • 9-11 months: independent crawling
  • 10-12 months: crawls on feet and hands (bear crawl)

Standing/Walking/Cruising

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  • 9-10 months: pulls to stand + steps sideways when supported
  • 9-10 months: lowers to sit without falling (from a supported standing position)
  • 10-12 months: walks with both hands held
  • 11-13 months: walks with one hand held
  • 11-13 months: stands independently for 1-3 seconds
  • 11-14 months: begins to walk independently (2-3 steps)
  • 11-14 months: stands independently while playing (hands free) 
  • 13-15 months: walks independently (without support)
  • 13-15 months:  squats down and back up again (controlled)
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Visual Motor + Visual Perceptual Skills

  • 0-10 months: looks closely at tiny object
  • 10-11 months: pushes and rolls a ball
  • 0-11 months: throws things just to see what will happen
  • 0-12 months: enjoys looking at pictures in a book
  • 10-12 months: imitating of an adult is established (i.e. will tap spoon, clap hands, put things in, scribble with a crayon etc after an adult demos)

Fine Motor + Grasp Development

  • 0-9 months: claps hands/brings objects together at midline to bang
  • 0-10 months: points at objects with index finger
  • 10-11 months: crawls while holding 1 object in hand (helps to strengthen arches of the hand
  • 10-12 months: begins to grasp objects with thumb opposed to first 2 fingers with visible open space in the palm and arm off table (emerging tripod grasp/3 jaw chuck)
  • 0-11 months: plays with musical instruments with hands such as banging drums or shaking rattles
  • 0-11 months: tears paper
  • 9-11 months: with intentional release established, baby can put 3-7 cubes into a cup or container
  • 0-12 months: places and releases objects into another's hand upon request (i.e. "can I have the cup?")
  • 0-12 months: opens and begins to turn pages of a book with hard pages
  • 0-12 months: holds thick crayon with fisted grasp/cylindrical grasp, attempts to make a mark on paper

Self Help Skills

  • 9-11 months: removes socks and shoes
  • 12 months: helps to remove simple clothing items/holds out arms legs to help
  • 12 months: can follow simple directions from an adult (sit down, come here, put in, give me the, etc) 
  • 12 months: can hold cup and drink with some spillage
  • 12 months: can bite through a soft texture (soft toast, cookie, etc)

Red Flags
Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns with the following:

  • Noticeable flat spot on posterior (back) head or on either side
  • Pelvis asymmetry in sitting and crawling (i.e. uneven sitting posture)
  • Baby seems floppy or weak
  • Baby seems tight or stiff
  • Baby continues to scoot or use alternative locomotive pattern (such as hips rotated to one side or dragging one leg)
  • Baby doesn't make eye contact
  • Difficulty pulling to stand or standing independently by 12 months
  • Not weight bearing evenly when walking (I.e shifting weight onto one leg and dragging the other)
  • Difficulty grasping smaller items
  • Babies hands or one hand has a weak grasp
  • Baby always stands on tippy toes
  • Baby never mimics or imitates actions of adult (clapping, etc)
  • Baby doesn’t play appropriately with toys (Ie rake puzzle pieces out, push buttons, shake rattles, drop items into containers, etc)
  • Coughing throughout a meal or when drinking
  • Limited diet (prefers the same foods at every meal)
  • Frequent gag response to new foods or non-preferred foods
  • Excessive fluid intake but minimal food intake

**Dont worry if your baby shows signs of anything above ONE or even a few times! Only if a consistent pattern is noticed in a certain area should you feel the need to be concerned.  What I’m trying to say again here is, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill!

See also

Baby's First Year - Age Appropriate Milestones for 7-9 Months

Baby's First Year - Age Appropriate Milestones for 4-6 months

Baby's First Year - Age Appropriate Milestones for 0-3 Months

Sweet Potato Cilantro Tacos - Gluten Free

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Taco night happens on the regular in our house and I love enjoying a real deal tortilla-style taco just as much as anyone.  In fact, I think tortillas might be one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.  Not exactly low-carb, new year diet friendly though.  For the most part, I try to avoid gluten and processed grains like bread, pasta and tortillas but my kids enjoy them more frequently than I'd like to admit.

So I decided on a whim to bake up some sweet potatoes, scoop out the centers, and make my taco with one of these guys and call it a day.  

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I'm so glad I did too, because it was so delicious and satisfying (and guilt free) that I don't think I'll be going back to the norm anytime soon. 

I used a scoop of sugar free plain organic yogurt, some cilantro and all the yummy taco toppings to make it even better.  They would be great with a huge scoop of guacamole or some melted cheese too!

Sweet potatoes are so versatile!  You can add them in as a substitute for any meal in my book, really!  Sweet potato pizzas are one of my favorite gluten-free dinners.  

Not only are they versatile, they are just the right amount of sweet for kicking sugar cravings to the curb AND they are full of vitamins and nutrients!  If I am really craving carbs and sugar, I like to bake a sweet potato and serve it with grass-fed butter and agave.  It really does work like a charm.

Here are some reasons why sweet potatoes are awesome:

  • they are packed with vitamin A, C, manganese and several other vitamins and minerals
  • good substitute for breads + processed grains
  • great for kicking a sugar craving to the curb
  • high in fiber
  • high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant
  • help stabilize blood sugar + low glycemic index
  • high vitamin A levels help to boost immunity and strengthen the eyes
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So, try it out!  Swap out bread for a sweet potato in any of your favorite dishes and see what happens! Disclaimer: I haven't tried these with the kids yet, but maybe in the future!  Since they aren't really trying to cut back on the calories (hello daily growth spurts!) I don't really have an issue with giving them an occasional organic grain.

Here's how I made these Sweet Potato Cilantro Tacos: 

Time: 45-60 mins
Serves: Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 2 organic sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb organic grass-fed ground beef
  • trader joe's taco seasoning (I use half the packet to cut down on sodium)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup full fat organic greek yogurt (optional for dairy free)
  • 1 can diced olives
  • 1/2 cup sliced tomatoes for topping

Instructions:

  1. Bake sweet potatoes by wrapping them in foil and placing them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out centers. Place them on a baking sheet for later.
  3. Begin taco meat.  Add olive oil in pan over medium high heat and add finely diced onion for 5-6 minutes or until they soften.
  4. Add ground beef and mix with onion, stirring and chopping as it cooks. 
  5. Add 1/2 packet of taco seasoning and combine well until meat is cooked.
  6. When ready, mix sweet potato (that had been scooped out) with taco meat and add a generous portion of the mixture to the center of the sweet potatoes.  Place back in the oven on 350 degrees to heat up for 5-10 minutes.

Wall Stickers - Color Match

Here is an effortlessly simple fine motor toddler activity for a rainy afternoon!  It will keep those little hands and brains busy like they should be so hopefully you can get something accomplished for the day.  My son and daughter were both SO excited about this game. 

Being an occupational therapist and mother to two little ones, its always important to be able to grade an activity up or down to make it harder or easier for both age levels. 

For my daughter (who is 21 months), we worked on color recognition, bilateral hand skills and tripod grasp to take off the stickers.  And for my son, I graded it up a bit  and turned it into a connect the dot number puzzle afterwards.

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Supplies Needed:

 

 

 

color code dot stickers, markers, paper roll, tape

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Here are all the skills this activity addresses + promotes:

  • bilateral coordination hand skills *the ability to cross midline and use the hands together in a coordinated way
  • tripod grasp strengthening - taking off the stickers
  • upper extremity reaching skills
  • upper extremity strengthening of the shoulder girdle or proximal stability
  • color recognition + matching skills
  • visual scanning and visual sequencing - for connect the number game
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I talk a lot about how writing + coloring on a vertical surface such as a wall, window, easel is great for strengthening all the muscles in back and shoulder girdle.  "Why is this so important?" You might ask. 

The reason is that the shoulder girdle and back muscles are the basis of support for the entire upper extremity.  The stability of the upper extremities depend completely on the shoulder and scapula strength.  Essentially, fine motor control cannot be established without adequate stability at the shoulder.   We call this proximal stability, quite literally meaning strength near the spine.

There are so many children that I work with in the clinic who have poor proximal stability at the shoulder girdle, and, therefore, have poor fine motor strength and control.  Instead of immediately addressing their grasp strength and fine motor control, I usually have to first take a step back and strengthen the shoulder girdle before we move on to the next.  

 

 

-Ashley