It’s my favorite time of the year! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – I love the opportunity to get together as a family, share a meal together and just be thankful. It’s a beautiful time. However, if you’re trying to eat healthy or manage a chronic illness, it can be difficult to navigate a holiday that revolves (almost) solely around food. So, how do you find balance this holiday season?
Luckily, I have some tips for us from my friend and dietitian, Betsy Britt of GroWell Nutrition! She has three recommendations for us:
Start the day with fitness: consider getting the family outside for a touch football game or even a 5k walk or run.
Eat a good breakfast: don’t skip breakfast to ‘save room’ for the afternoon feast. This may lead to binge eating less healthy foods later in the day.
Skip the seconds: enjoy your first plate of food and wait 20 minutes before deciding whether you are still hungry for more.
Personally, I’m choosing to be intentional about what to eat – and where to splurge – for Thanksgiving. I’m swapping out the typical green bean casserole for this delicious, and much healthier, roasted honey garlic green bean dish. I’m also looking forward to sharing my favorite kale salad with everyone!
I plan to splurge on my mom’s sweet potato casserole (the kind with the roasted mini marshmallows on top – yum!). I’m allergic to apples, but every year I have a slice of my mother-in-law’s award winning apple pie.
If you’re looking for anti-inflammatory-approved side dishes to ‘upgrade’ your typical Thanksgiving fare, here are some excellent options:
I’ve made this recipe a few times – Tyler and the kids LOVE it so I plan to make it for Thanksgiving as well. Instead of sautéing the green beans, I throw all of the ingredients together on a pan and roast the green beans at 425* for about 15 minutes. I like to throw some sliced almonds on there, too!
If you’ve followed the blog at all, you know just how obsessed my 4 year old son, Finn, is with outer space. He wears his astronaut costume ALL. THE. TIME. In fact, when we were trick-or-treating this year for Halloween, we overheard a neighbor we didn’t know point to Finn and say, “I see that astronaut in the neighborhood all the time!” Yep, that’s my son. So, if you have a similarly space-loving kid, here’s some fun outer space activities and experiments to do with them!
Find a constellation you want to re-create. Here’s a link with 15 simple constellations.
For younger children, you may want to trace the constellation first
The marshmallows are each a star in the constellation and the toothpicks are the invisible lines that connect the stars to create the constellation
Space Activity #2: Toilet paper roll solar system
Construction paper in various colors
Trace and cut out planets
Allow your child to color/decorate their planets and the asteroid belt
Find a long area to set up your solar system. Tape the beginning of the toilet paper roll to the floor. Place the sun here. Roll out the toilet paper roll a bit. Then, following the chart below, place each planet in order onto the rolled out toilet paper.
This shows just how large our solar system is (especially the outer solar system!) as well as informs your child about the planets in our solar system. We were unable to fit Neptune into the right spot because we ran out of space!
Space Activity #3: Solar Eclipse Re-enactment
Sharp pencil or pen
Desk lamp with a round bulb (or flashlight)
Paint the styrofoam ball black (or another dark color). Once it dries, poke your pencil through the styrofoam ball.
Set up a lamp or flashlight in a dark room. You’ll want the light to be approximately at eye level (i.e. – you don’t want it to be overhead).
The light represents the sun and the ball on the stick represents the moon. You (or whoever is holding the painted ball) represent the Earth.
To replicate the eclipse, you’ll need to find a distance from the flashlight/lamp where the ball will completely block out the light of the bulb.
Take turns with your child holding the “moon” and recreating an eclipse on the “earth” (your face!). Show your child how the moon creates a shadow on your face when it is aligned with the “sun” (lamp).
Ask questions: what happens when we move the moon closer/farther away? Why don’t we have more frequent eclipses? (Answer: because of the tilt of the earth/moon respective orbits – they’re not perfectly aligned each month – otherwise we’d have eclipses every month!)
Space Activity #4: Meteorite Drop
Shallow pan or box
Rocks of various sizes
Fill the pan with flour until it is 1-2 inches deep.
Sprinkle a layer of cocoa powder on top of the flour. The cocoa powder allows you to see the “meteorite” ejecta more clearly.
Take turns dropping the rocks (AKA meteorites) into the flour mixture. Pro mom tip: it’s extra fun to film this in slow motion to watch later with your kiddo – they’ll love watching the rock hit the flour and all the flour spraying into the air!
Compare and contrast the outcome of each rock hitting the flour. Ask questions: what will happen if the meteorite hits at a different angle? Does a larger rock always produce more ejecta? What happens if we throw the rocks more forcefully?
Space Activity #5: Balloon Rocket Launch
Long piece of string
Sturdy surfaces to tie string to (ex: a doorknob and a sturdy chair)
Find a clear area where you can do your rocket launch. A long hallway is a good choice.
Thread your string through the straw. Tie one end of the string to a stable surface (ex: a doorknob of a closed door) and stretch it down your hallway to tie the other end to another stable surface (ex: the leg of a sturdy chair). You want the string to be taut.
Blow up your balloon and hold it closed with your fingers without tying it shut. Using tape, attach the balloon to the straw while keeping the balloon inflated.
The straw is the spacecraft and the balloon is your fuel tank. Your breath is the “fuel” inside the balloon.
Once you’re ready to launch (cue the countdown!) release your balloon and watch it blast off.
Ask questions and experiment with the trajectory of the straw by raising/lowering the placement of the string. What factors contribute to the spacecraft reaching its destination? (Fuel, gravity, if you’re outside – the weather!)
Many of you know how much my son, Finn, loves outer space. Most days we spend A LOT of time learning about space, talking about space, pretending we’re in space or about to be in space. We read about space, watch videos about space, and when we sleep, we dream about space. Because of his obsession, I’ve inadvertently learned a ton about outer space. This has made me reflect on God, and myself, as I’ve considered His creation. I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about God from studying outer space.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made.”
God is big, and I am small.
The Universe is gigantic in a way that is impossible to measure and grasp. Most scientists seem to agree that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old, and that space is constantly expanding. The only thing we know for sure, according to NASA is that the universe is “much larger than the volume we can directly observe.”
Some believe that the universe is currently 93 billion light years wide. Here’s what this means: light travels approximately 5.88 trillion miles in one year. So 93 billion light years is 5.88 trillion miles 93 billion times. That’s, like, a lot.
Our galaxy is approximately 100,000 light years wide (although a recent number put it at 200,000 light years wide). This means that if we were in a spacecraft traveling at 186,282 miles per second, it would take us 100,000 years to get from one end to the other. Or, it could take us 200,000 years!
And, our galaxy isn’t even the biggest. Our closest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, is twice the size of our Milky Way home.
We used to think that Earth was unique in the universe – but it turns out there could be as many as tens of billions of other earth like planets in the universe.
Even if you’re like me and those numbers just get jumbled in your head and make no sense, this is the bottom line: our universe is massively gigantic. And the God who made each galaxy, each nebula, each supermassive black hole – He is capable. He is larger than anything we can fathom. And He is Our God.
God is powerful, and I am powerless.
“If he commands it, the sun won’t rise and the stars won’t shine. He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. He made all the stars—the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles.”
There are so many ways that things can go wrong in our universe. A comet, large asteroid, or even a rogue planet could obliterate us. Our sun could supernova and envelope the entire earth. We could get pulled into a wandering black hole. Our galaxy could collide with another galaxy (helllloooo, Andromeda!) or our moon could drift away, slowing our rotation and creating chaos in our ecosystem resulting in a slow, painful starvation for our planet. There are a hundred million ways that our universe could devolve into chaos and death.
And yet, God controls all of this.
If He wanted the sun to stop shining, it would happen. He put the planets and stars in their place – it’s not an accident the Earth is where it is.
He could re-route a massive asteroid in the tiniest millisecond without lifting a finger. This is our God.
As powerless as we are to change any of the things in our solar system, God is infinitely in control.
This should increase our faith and our trust in Him. This should inspire us to cast our anxiety on Him – and truly let it go.
We actually know very little.
So far in our quest for information about our universe, we’ve produced more questions than answers. With each mystery that we “solve,” we introduce a new array of mysteries.
Not to mention that we’re constantly disproving ourselves. With each major scientific discovery, we’re proving wrong a former scientific belief. Think about the fact that we “discovered” that we aren’t the only solar system in our universe – by this discovery, we were undoing hundreds of years of scientific understanding.
This is happening every day in the scientific community.
Finn and I recently watched a special on comets (How the Universe Works. Season 2, ep. 6 “Frozen Wanderers,” filmed in 2012. All of the scientists who were interviewed on this episode were very excited about the spacecraft Rosetta and its comet lander, Philae. Rosetta would pull up next to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and drop off Philae, a comet lander who would explore the comet and answer some of our deepest questions. The scientists were convinced that Rosetta and Philae would “solve” the question of how liquid water got to earth – they believed that comets must have collided with earth in the early days of its formation. Since comets are made of ice, this would have delivered water to our surface.
After Finn and I watched the show, I went online and looked up what happened with Rosetta and Philae. Here’s the short version: Philae got lost on the comet and never accomplished really its purpose. Rosetta was able to get some samples from the comet’s tail, but it was determined that the water that could come from this comet was too “heavy.” So, not the water that we have here on earth.
From this experience, scientists now think that water on earth didn’t come from comets – but maybe they came from asteroids! NASA recently collected samples from a large asteroid called Bennu – and I’m sure the mystery will be solved.
Or, will it?
All of this reminds me of our humble place – that we actually know so little about our earth, about the solar system we live in, and the universe at large.
But, there is a Being who does know everything. He stitched together every fragment of this universe and He controls its every movement.
God is creative.
Why is Uranus tipped on its side? Why do the stars align to make patterns and shapes? Why is every planet, every star, every comet and asteroid so amazingly unique, so insanely fascinating?
It’s because our God is a creative Creator. It seems like He simply enjoys creating things for the sake of art and beauty.
That is amazing to me.
And God is so holistic in His creation.
There are things about our universe that are terrifying, there are things that are hilarious and weird, there are things that are tear-jerkingly beautiful, and things that make us hold our breath in wonder. All created by the same God.
This should make us in awe of Him.
Life does not revolve around us.
In 1543, Nicholaus Copernicus detailed his “radical” theory that everything in the Universe does NOT revolve around the Earth. His theory wasn’t even immediately accepted! That was less than 500 years ago – which, in the span of history, is a short time.
Since then, we’ve learned that our solar system is NOT the center of our galaxy, and that we are in an orbital rotation with AT LEAST 500 other solar systems in our Milky Way galaxy.
It’s only been 100 years since we accepted that our galaxy is not the only galaxy in the Universe. And, not only does the Universe NOT revolve around us, there are far more galaxies than we ever could have imagined. One prediction is that there are 100 billion galaxies in our universe, but this number will likely double as our technology increases.
So, the universe and life as we know it do not revolve around us.
But all of this knowledge doesn’t fix the fact that as humans we’re prone to self-absorption. We may KNOW that life doesn’t revolve around us, but we sure act like it does.
How do we do this?
By often thinking only of ourselves.
By taking the little things personally.
By frequently failing to consider what others may be experiencing.
By consistently obsessing over our image.
How do we remedy this?
By keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2, Colossians 3:1-3).
Despite the fact that the Universe was created by Him and it really does revolve around Him, He never acted that way. Which leads to my next point…
We are special to God.
Somehow, for some reason, though we are an insignificant speck in the vastness that is the universe, God does not treat us that way.
Jesus gave up all the riches and glory of Heaven in order to reach down and rescue us – even though we would not recognize Him as our Creator and would reject and murder Him.
Yet He still pursues us.
Think of the parable of the lost sheep. It doesn’t matter if He had a trillion other sheep in the pen, if you were lost, He’d be searching for you in the darkness.
When I consider how spectacularly huge our universe is – with at least 100 billion trillion stars in it, each one as bright and powerful as our own sun (if not more!), many with their own solar systems revolving around them – and God is the one sustaining all of them. How does He even have time to hear us?
And yet, He does.
Not only does He hear us, He cares for us deeply. In a way we cannot fathom.
Remember, even the hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:30). By Him.
Consider who knows you that well and who loves you that deeply to possess such random, inconsequential and frivolous information about you. I love my husband and children as much as anybody has ever loved anyone, and I would not ever consider spending the time to count the individual hairs on their heads.
And yet God, who sustains our vast universe, knows us and loves us in that way.
I have this notion that God is just so impossible to fathom that I don’t even try. But this is robbing me of the opportunity to be in awe of God. And it’s keeping me from realizing my humble position – and God’s amazing love.
So take some time to think about the vastness of our universe, the power of our God, and how insignificant we really are. Then, turn your thoughts to the fact that despite our smallness, God cares deeply for us and sacrificed Himself in order to be close to us.
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It’s that time of the year when we’re starting to plan for Christmas! If you have a space-obsessed little one like me, I have TONS of gift ideas for you to save you time and energy so you don’t have to do all the searching and researching that I’ve already done. Here is this astro-mom’s gift guide to buying the best gifts for your future astronaut or budding astronomer!
What’s an astronaut without his/her suit?! This is a staple item in Finn’s wardrobe. There are weeks when I’ve had to wait for Finn to go to swim class to wash it because he wouldn’t take it off!
Recently, Finn learned that astronauts wear their orange suits for launches and landings – apparently, this makes them easier to spot if they have to make an emergency crash landing (yikes!). He’s informed me that he “needs” an orange astronaut suit in his wardrobe.
So, what does an astronaut wear when they’re just hanging out in the space station? Or when they’re back on earth, doing regular earthling things like eating breakfast or playing with their monster trucks? They gotta have their official NASA shirts, obviously.
Finn has several astronaut t-shirts, but his favorite is an Old Navy NASA tank top that was handed down to us by a friend. But here’s some super sweet tees for your space obsessed kiddos. I’m partial to the retro NASA t-shirt – if I had a daughter, I’d totally get the “Forget princess, I want to be an astronaut” shirt!
These are some of Finn’s favorites. If your kid loves space AND LEGOs, there are tons of options here. Finn loves his Mars Rover and Space Shuttle LEGO sets. If we had unlimited patience (and an unlimited budget) we would get the International Space Station and Saturn V rocket sets as well.
I’m very excited to share this guest post about clean living with you from my friend Leslie at Faithful Motherhood. For me, living with chronic pain made me desperate for solutions. One thing that has made a difference is watching what products come into my home and my body. After years of figuring out what works for me and my family, my food, cleaning products and skin care routine is simpler, cleaner and greener. However, this process can be overwhelming and paralyzing if you don’t know where to start. I’m thankful for Leslie walking us through some simple steps to take for a cleaner life! Leslie blogs at Faithful Motherhood, where she writes about faith, motherhood and clean living.
If you’re a mom in the year 2020, chances are you’ve heard the term “clean.” As awareness grows, it seems like there are “clean” options all over the place — making us feel like the world is full of toxic chemicals and imploring us to buy a million extra over-priced products to ensure the health and safety of our families.
We spiral down the rabbit hole and find ourselves with overwhelming choices, spending more money than we have, and being fearful of even washing our hands in public bathrooms… And then, because we are rational people with real lives, this usually lands us in a spot where we question whether all the extra effort is worth it and usually end up exclaiming, “My mom used all the toxic chemicals and we turned out OK, so what’s the big deal?!”
Here’s the thing. As a granola-ish mama, I’ll be the first to tell you that “clean living,” is, in fact, important.
Since the chemical boom of the 1960’s, more than 80,000 new chemicals have entered the industry with very little testing for safety. In the personal care industry alone, the US bans a mere 30 harmful ingredients while the EU bans 1500 and Canada bans 600. These chemicals have proven impacts on our hormonal health, fertility, risk of cancer, and more.
However, as a mother of two young babes, operating on a *very* limited income, I can also relate to the paralyzing feelings we get when the noise of the “clean” industry starts to crowd our anxiety and stretch our wallets.
The good news is that I have found a way to be an informed consumer, make healthier choices for my family, and feel confident about the safety of the world I’m cultivating in my home without my husband coming home to find me hiding in the pantry rocking in the fetal position.
I’m here to share some insights I’ve learned in my journey to clean living so you don’t have to jump through all the hoops I did. I hope you’ll walk away empowered to make healthier choices without getting wrapped up in the overwhelming noise of the clean living world.
I have learned that despite the noise imploring you to complicate your life, one of the best things you can do on your journey to “clean” is actually to simplify.
Our church is going through a Bible reading plan together this year and right now we are reading the book of James. A passage in James 1 resonated with me and challenged me to my core about finding joy in trials. It led me to this Bible study on more verses about trials and hardships.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
When I read this verse, one question kept coming to my mind:
Why on earth would I consider it joy to go through hardships?!
One of the first things I did was look up exactly what this word ‘joy‘ means. In this verse, joy is the Greek word charan which can be translated joy, gladness, a source of joy. My favorite definition was “a calm delight.”
Again, I wondered, why would I be delightfully calm during hardships?! And…how?
It’s officially fall! And here in Florida, it’s starting to feel like it, too. The mornings are a breezy 70 degrees, which means here in Tampa we’ve got our boots and scarves on!
Sort of. 😉
For most of us, fall means all things pumpkin, maple and apple! I’m excited to share this delicious pumpkin steel cut oats recipe with you. Not only does it fulfill the need for pumpkin spice, it’s got a lot of inflammation fighting power, it’s filling and it’s super flavorful.
Today I want to share with you what helps me get through extra difficult days with my chronic pain. If you’re suffering from chronic pain – whether physical, mental or emotional pain that is ongoing – this should be helpful for enduring those days when you just have to survive the day.
1. Accept help.
If you’re battling with chronic pain, you need to find a tribe of supportive people to surround you. Whether that’s your physical family, your church small group, or some friends and neighbors – find your tribe. Have your go-to people that you can text or call if you’re having a bad day. People who can pray with and for you, or who can come over to help distract your kiddos if you need a break.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Of course, if you want this type of friendship, you have to be this friend to others as well. Be intentional about your relationships. It’s not realistic to have 15 super close BFFs – but you can have 2-3 friends whom you would do anything for – and who also will understand if you have to change your night-on-the-town plans to a movie night in bed because you’re in pain.
2. Communicate your pain.
“A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.”
If your friends and family members don’t know you’re in pain, it’s going to be impossible for them to know how to help you. So even if it’s hard, you have to share your pain. You don’t have to tell everyone – but be intentional with what you share. Don’t just say “I’m fine” when you know that’s not true. Be specific. Be real.
Have one or two people that you know you can shoot a text to on painful days. For me, I typically reach out to my sisters-in-law, Amanda and Andrea. Just a simple, “pray for me, I’m in a lot of pain today,” text can help take some of the burden off of me.
A note on getting help & communicating your chronic pain:
One question that I get a lot from friends or family members is: how can I help? This is a difficult one for me because I genuinely need help, but I don’t want to inconvenience people and I certainly don’t want to ask for something that’s more than they were willing to give. However, I think if someone is asking this question, they most likely really want to do something for you! My mom often reminds me that God can use my pain as an avenue for others to answer His calling to serve. I shouldn’t hinder that call by being too proud to ask for help. So, communicate specific ways that a friend can help. Perhaps they can bring a meal, watch your kids for an hour while you rest, pick up groceries or medicine for you, or just bring you a coffee.
Please don’t be hurt if people don’t “get it” when you’re in pain.
If you’ve never had a migraine before, it’s hard to grasp how debilitating one is. Oftentimes we feel like we’re falling apart on the inside, but to others we look just fine! This can make it much more difficult for them to connect with how we’re feeling. I’m always surprised after a group hangout if I mention that I was in pain and people reply, “I had no idea!” Don’t assume people know how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to explain in detail what you’re experiencing. However, make sure to offer lots of grace when a friend or family member inevitably doesn’t quite understand. That’s OK!
I’m a planner. Literally. My undergraduate degree was in Recreation, Parks & Tourism with a concentration in Event Planning. I enjoy planning things. In fact, one of my “hobbies” is planning vacations that I’ll (probably) never go on.
The older I get, the more I bump up against this problem with planning: oftentimes, my plans don’t coincide with God’s plan. And it’s frustrating, and, at times, painful.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
When God Had Different Plans for Me
At the beginning of 2013, I started to have debilitating pain in my joints. At the time, I was a riding instructor at a local horse farm. I would get home from teaching lessons at the end of the day and literally crawl up the stairs to our apartment because I was in so much pain. I started to see an orthopedic doctor and then a sports medicine doctor, and when neither helped, I went to a rheumatologist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist… the list goes on. I got a knee brace, shoe insoles, a plethora of medications and side effects, and a myriad of injections in my joints. Instead of getting better, the pain only got worse.
With every new doctor, I would hope that this would be THE ONE. This would be the doctor who would know what was wrong with me. This would be the therapy to finally “fix” me. This medication would make it all go away. But it didn’t. I found the truth in this verse: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
Three years into my journey with pain, I was consistently walking with a cane and taking several medications daily just to function. The pain kept me up at night—I spent a lot of nights crying on the bathroom floor, praying to God, feeling so alone and defeated. I was unable to work, barely able to go to church. There were days when I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help from my husband. This obviously wasn’t part of my plans.
This week’s theme is all about prayer. Sometimes I can get caught up in the thought that I don’t have time to pray. But that’s just not true – sure, I don’t have time to pray like I used to, before I had kids, when I could go for long prayer walks at the beach or park, but I have time to pray. And I’ll prove it with this list.
One of the hardest things for me to deal with on a regular basis is interruption. As in: I have a plan for the day, and it’s going to look a certain way, but then something (or someone) comes along and interrupts that plan. And I have to either let go of my plans and pivot or I have to fight hard against the interruption in order to return to my original plans (and usually fail). I typically end up frustrated and flustered.
What would Jesus do?
This made me think about how Jesus would handle interruptions. I love how God works because literally the day after I was wondering about this, I happened to read this story in Matthew 14. It’s right after John the Baptist (Jesus’ cousin) gets beheaded, and Jesus is attempting to go away to a solitary place (presumably) to mourn. And, He gets interrupted…
Read along with me to see how Jesus handled his plans of solitude going up in smoke.
If you’re looking for a go-to anti-inflammatory meal, this is mine. This simple stir fry is chock full of inflammation fighting foods, it’s easily customized and very versatile depending on what veggies you love in your stir fry. Also, it’s dairy-free, gluten free, sugar free and yet, it’s NOT taste-free!! 😉
There’s so many different ways to make this dish – and that’s what makes it my go-to weeknight meal that we don’t get tired of. You can swap out rice for rice noodles or even spaghetti squash as the base. You can utilize in-season vegetables along with tried-and-true veggies your family loves. I’ll also occasionally include chunks of pineapple or mango for a sweet surprise!
For today’s blog post, I’ll be sharing a letter from my dear friend, Mrs. Richardson. Mrs. Richardson is a second grade teacher in Cary, North Carolina. She has written an insightful and encouraging letter to parents about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the 2019-2020 school year, what challenges teachers faced and how schools are fighting to overcome those challenges for the 2020-2021 school year. So, if you are sending your children back to school this year – whether virtually or in-person – I hope you’ll read this letter.
How COVID affected the 2019-2020 school year – and what will be different this year
During March of this year, teachers and students left school for Spring Break, not knowing we wouldn’t return for the rest of the school year. I have the last day in my classroom ingrained in my memory. I tried to make it fun for the kids. We did St. Patrick’s day activities, creative writings about what they would do if they found a pot of gold, Read and Feed, and watched the Bee Movie since we had been learning about flowers, pollination, and the plant life cycle.
These are the last images I have of my classroom. Everything frozen in time. Student work left on the walls, supply baskets strewn about as they had left them, countdowns on my board of things we would never get to. A time capsule of March 13, 2020.