10 Simple & Purposeful (No fuss!) Advent Ideas For Families

We are 4 days into advent now. Wow how did that happen? Often at this time of the year I get the feeling of being “behind”. (Gotta catch up on my Jesse tree readings, gotta read our daily advent book, gotta do that craft, do our daily prayers and so on and so on.) but…

NOT THIS YEAR. Not. This. Year. 

I decided that THIS Advent will not be my time for stress or anxiety. This Advent I will intentionally focus on what is truly meaningful. Our family came up with a simple prayer to say this season:

 “Dear Lord, I love you with all my heart, please help me remember what this season is all about.”

I want to remember that Jesus “became little” for us all, that it’s not about who does the best and the most but instead about allowing God to do the work in our lives. It is more about our YES to Him than any Advent practice we could come up with. I want to remember to mirror Jesus’ “little-ness” we see in the nativity with humility so that my soul can be a vessel for Gods grace. 

But what about “all the things”? 

A friend of mine compared all the good that we can do in our Liturgical year to a buffet…

When we go to a buffet we see many delicious foods and curate a dish of our favorites until there is no longer anymore room on our plates. Like a buffet with many options, The Catholic Church is abundant in all the things offered for us to enhance our spiritual lives. There’s the First we put on our plates the essentials (big T Tradition) then we get to add the extras. Once our plate is full, we go sit down and enjoy it. 

BUT, on the way to the table we see OTHER PEOPLES’ plates, we see things we may have overlooked and things that look really delicious. Suddenly we can get this sense of missing out or being behind if our plate doesn’t look like our neighbor’s. This makes it more difficult to eat the food in front of us in gratitude and joy. 

This Advent, I have decided to focus less on what I’m piling on my plate and more on enjoying what is actually on it. I’m also focusing on being mindful that I don’t put too much on it. I’m keeping it SIMPLE. Watch the video below for some of my ideas.

Dirt Cheap Eats

and healthy too!

We live on a very strict budget during the summers. Every year for the past seven years we live on savings and seasonal jobs during the hot months.  Therefore, I am always on a quest to find dirt cheap recipes. This can be challenging for the health obsessed foodie in me, as I value quality ingredients and usually, you get what you pay for.

Thankfully, I have come upon a method of preparing meals that has made a huge impact on our budget while only slightly inconveniencing our health goals.

Eat what you have on hand

Get creative!

Only shop the sales

Eat what you have on hand

This by far has made the largest difference in our budget. At the beginning of the week I pretend that I am living in a world where I have no access to a supermarket. Then I ask myself, what would you prepare your family if the ingredients on hand are all you had access to? Often times, there are many items that can be made with what you have or with a few items from the store. For example, I’ll run through my pantry with a head dialogue similar to this:

Oh look black beans and a few dried red beans

wonder if I have some chili powder…

yep, how about beef?

yep= chili

Oh look cornmeal…

do I have flour? yes.

salt? yes.

how bout eggs? no.

Get creative!

Could I make an egg substitute? yes! Flax seed meal+water

Cornbread with flax seed egg or 

Eggs go on the grocery list

It is essential that I make my grocery list with the foods in mind that I am preparing.

Also, I have to get out of my head the chili requires bell pepper, onion, and fresh garlic. If I don’t have it I do without!

Only shop the sales

My husband is great at this. He literally will buy the store out of a product that is at dirt cheap prices. I get embarrassed to do that much personally (One time he bought 60 lbs of grass fed beef from the supermarket) but shopping in this manner blesses your future self.

Remember only shop the staples that are essential to your diet and that you can store. But again be creative. For example, you can even make egg dishes that you can freeze. Expand your thinking beyond the things that are obvious. (frozen, cans, etc)

My Dirt Cheap Dinner

I had rice and beef made up for lunchtime. By dinner time there were enough leftovers for 2 people, but we needed to feed four! I searched the fridge and found zucchini and cheese. I chopped the zucchini into tiny pieces and melted cheese into the mixture. I also found an avocado which I mixed with some mayonnaise. Alas, we had a cabbage in the fridge. I threw all it together into a cabbage leaf and topped it with cilantro and jalapenos that were hiding in my veggie drawer. YUMMMMMM!

I don’t know what to call this but it was amazing.

Praying for your health and wellbeing!

Lauren

3 Rules for Cleaning When You Get Distracted Easily

1. Work Quickly

I have found when I work quickly I am more likely to get my task done. This may seem obvious but it is worth mentioning. A sink full of dishes doesn’t have to take an hour to do.

2. Focus on ONE thing at a time

If I focus on  ONLY ONE STEP AT A TIME, for example, washing dishes (no wiping counters, gather dishes, etc.), I can wash a sink full in 10 minutes. Being focused does not mean that I do not step away when the children need me. It is all the better because if I am only doing one thing, I am more likely to remember exactly what I was working on when I return to my work when I am through attending to the children’s needs. So what if its an hour later? (I wish I was kidding sometimes)

3. Work your hardest, but let go of perfectionism

I find that when my goal is perfection, I set myself up for failure. Spoiler alert, nobody is perfect!! I can get so overwhelmed with the endless possibilities of things that can get done that I hardly make a dent in one project.  To combat this, I try to work extremely hard (on one task of course) for a certain amount of time. If I put in high intensity to whatever I am doing, I tend to find the end result extremely satisfying. It is better to focus on what you did do, instead of what you didn’t do.

Hope someone finds this helpful!

Praying for your health and wellbeing!

-Lauren

What I’ve Learned: Weight Loss after 4 Babies

Misconceptions-

When I was younger someone told me that after you have a baby, your belly never returns to it’s pre pregnancy size. Years later, after my second child was born I met a mom of three with six pack abs so I knew it just wasn’t true. Why do women feel as if they are stuck with large bellies after pregnancy?

The answer lies in the female hormones.

After my second birth, I began exercising and eating healthy. However, I didn’t see results until about 1.5 years postpartum. Also, when I began to see results, they came all of a sudden. It was as if overnight I went from having a belly and love handles to being trim and muscular.

What the heck happened to me?! Why was it like a switch went off?

HORMONES?

Let’s take a step back, to pregnancy. During pregnancy your placenta produces a variety of hormones such as high levels of progesterone (about 250 mg a day),  and some estrogen. (There are others but we will save those for another day)

You are like a walking femme hormone.

After delivery, progesterone levels TANK (to facilitate lactation) and honestly may not return to “normal” levels until you are ovulating again. Estrogen levels also decrease but not at the same rate as her sister hormone progesterone.

For some women this postpartum drop in progesterone levels may lead to Estrogen Dominance 

Why should we care? 

When the body is “unbalanced” it affects your sleep, energy, metabolism, motivation mood, and belly bloat

Some signs of Estrogen dominance are weight gain (especially in the lower body), fluid retention, depression, and anxiety

Lets break this down further. 

Estrogen triggers alpha-adrenoceptor production which is a type of receptor used in the fight or flight response.

(Receptors are items in our cells, that respond to SPECIFIC hormones, neurotransmiters, antigens or other substances.)

Postpartum, The alpha adrenoceptors are working with the adrenal system to send a messages to the brain about bonding and attachment

This is an adaptive system because it helps mothers with nurturing their babies.

BUT BAD NEWS IF WE ARE TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT!

Because as it turns out, alpha-adrenoceptors, SHUT OFF FAT BURN.

In sum, all the extra estrogen in the body is triggering new alpha-adrenoceptors which is in turn telling your brain to store fat! Yikes!

But do not fear there is another player in the game…

 

Enter BETA-ADRENOCEPTORS!

Beta-Adrenoceptors tell our bodies to burn that fat!

How do we unlock the Beta-Adrenoceptors? Some theorize progesterone may play a role. This is what we DO know…

The key is balance.

As your hormones balance over time the estrogen will level off and Alpha-adrenoceptor production should taper off. When coupled with diet and exercise, the Beta-Adrenoceptors will take over.

Your body has intuitive knowledge and it will balance itself out over time, so be patient with this process.

That being said, do you want to know the shortcuts I’ve used to make it go faster?

I give you my recipe for postpartum weight loss and balance

  1. Sleep
    1. 7-8 hours a night, this is when you detox on a cellular level!
  2. Cruciferous vegetables
    (cabbage, kale, broccoli…)
    1. helps in liver detoxification and breaking down estrogen in the body
    2. Try fermented over raw and cooked if your breastfed baby seems to be getting gassy with these veggies
  3. Water
    1. very important in any detox plus you’ll need it to replace the sweat from #4
  4. Weight Training (after you’ve healed and been cleared to do so of course)
    1. 3-5x/week
    2. the heavier the better but listen to your body and don’t hurt yourself
    3. Weight Training produces Human Growth Hormone. HGH and Estrogen can work together to burn fat!! (A post for another day perhaps?)
  5. Relaxation
    1. Remember how I said the Alpha-Adrenoceptors are related to the fight flight response? Well, if you are relaxed and you subconsciously tell your body that you don’t need to fight or fly, then your body wont be so concerned with equipping you with the receptors to do so.
  6. Decrease, dairy, grain, and pesticides/herbicides GO CLEAN AND ORGANIC
    1. These have substances in them that mimic estrogen

Above all, be patient with the process. This does not happen overnight and happens differently for every woman!

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. If you feel like you are more worked up than normal and have a higher body fat percentage than you are comfortable with, you are probably doing just fine! God designed our bodies for a reason. It is all part of the postpartum labyrinth and only you can walk it. Enjoy it, as the journey is your reward.

What is God’s [UNLIMITED] plan for your life?

I stood there in line, nervous and shaking from the inside out. As I got closer and closer to the confessional my heart pounded a little louder, my feet feeling heavier and heavier. “What is going on?” I thought to myself. I’m usually never nervous to go to confession. Perhaps it was because my typical confessor was not there, and I was going to a new priest. Perhaps. I couldn’t quite reconcile why I felt so bad, nervous, and shaky.

The line seemed to take forever. The longer I sat and waited for my turn in the confessional, the more sins I remembered. By the time I was next up, I had been waiting in line over one hour and I had an entire paper filled with sins front and back. (Yes, I’m one of those who writes my confession down then rips it to shreds immediately afterward-its cathartic and I recommend trying it) With my paper in hand, as I was ready to enter the confessional, a little voice in my head told me to “RUN AWAY” and I almost considered doing so, but instead I walked into the little box.

I call it a box because the confessional at our parish is small and traditional. There is a kneeler against a wall with a small screen on the lay person’s side and I imagine the priest’s side isn’t much larger. I begin, “Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been six weeks since my last confession “Six weeks?” I think to myself because I am fairly certain my priest had asked me to go monthly. Did I really forget to go to confession in April? Great, add it to the list.. ” I list off my sins one by one but before I do, I make a plea for understanding as I “don’t feel myself today”. I don’t know why I do this but it just comes out. After spewing on, what seems like an eternity, and feeling like I’ve just made the dumbest confession ever, the priest stops and smiles. (At least that’s what it sounds like through the screen)

He says, “What a wonderful confession, I can tell by your thorough examination that you have a beautiful relationship with God!”

“Hmm” I think, “Do I? I’m not sure”

He continued on, and what he said shook me to my toes, so this is why I write it here today.

Among many other beautiful things, that perhaps one day I will endeavor to share, he finally said:

“Remember You have only to say YES if you want to step into God’s UNLIMITED plan for your life. That’s all it takes, a simple yes. Say yes to God and you will begin to UNFOLD this UNLIMITED plan. Remember, even the Angel Gabriel waited for Mary’s Fiat, her yes, before he disappeared”

At this my heart skipped a beat. I felt the hairs on my neck stand up and it was as if my spirit vibrated within me. In a mere moment, I felt my life flash before my eyes, past, present, and future. I saw but a tiny speck of this plan and the fruits of it. I saw the beauty that could be and also the despair if I choose to say no.

At times I have felt this call to be more, do more, and have more. I often brush it off as superficial materialism but my priest’s words reminded me of the source of my longing. The source is GOD! He designed all men to long for Him. To long to be filled up and carry out our unlimited plan he has called and created for a our life. What is my unlimited plan? How will I know? What if I miss the mark?

This morning I write this, because I know sharing this is part of my plan. I don’t know why I’m supposed to share this aspect of my life but I know I must. I know I must say yes to this. At least today, at least right now. Now is all I have.

I must say yes right now, today, and always. What could God possibly have in store for me today?

What about you? What is YOUR unlimited plan?

Praying for your health and wellbeing,

-Lauren