There I Said It

Well hello! It’s been well over a year since I’ve written a single word on my blog.

I could site the usual excuses: Life is SO busy!, My three uber-successful and brilliantly-parented kids take up all my free time; I’m a super accomplished full-time writer now; I was tied up making homemade organic almond milk and fermented nut cheese; and my husband and I were busy planning romantic getaways to reaffirm our perfect love.

But I won’t bore you with the details. Sufficed to say, aside from the rigours of keeping myself afloat, the truth is that I simply got sick of my own writing.

I recently re-read the “About Me” page on my blog and seriously had to stifle a gag. My proudest accomplishment is getting my three kids to drink their green smoothies. Barf! How smug is this Lori Leigh Wilson character? And you people followed me…..what were you thinking?!

Ok, so if you’ll give me another chance then I’d like to start anew. Thanks to Jaclyn Desforge and her wonderful Nest & Story writing workshop, I feel reinvigorated and inspired – and I’ve decided that I want to use this space for truth telling, story sharing and vulnerability.

“I don’t even want to know someone who isn’t barely hanging on by a thread.” Amy Schumer, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

So let’s get this party started! Here’s the real authentic me as of today: First of all, I’ve totally lost my mojo for cooking. To be honest, my association with the “whole food” movement began to make me feel uncomfortable and preachy. And it probably works both ways since I’ve added frozen veggie meatballs and taco kits into my weekly meal rotation. 

My youngest child had a wicked bout of separation anxiety at back-to-school time that pretty much brought me to my knees. I think I might have cried more than he did and I’m pretty sure it took four years off my life.

My daughter is in full blown puberty which means mood swings from hell, and my oldest son frequently responds to my brilliant pearls of wisdom with the words “the cringe is real.” 

My husband and I mostly sleep separately because the 6-year-old stealthily inserts himself into our bed. And although I love my husband – I think we both secretly like the arrangement. I get to snuggle with my little buddy and he gets to watch Netflix on his phone without me badgering him to turn it off because it’s bad for his eyesight.

I deeply enjoy junky reality tv (Kardashians included). Most days I write in my pyjamas until I have to finally face the public when I pick up my kids from school. We have mice in our kitchen. I’ve turned worrying into an Olympic sport (I’m going for the gold!). My kids fight. My jeans are tight (perhaps because I’m eating Halloween candy by the fistful). My dogs bark a LOT….and the littlest one poops on the floor at least a couple of times every week just to keep me on my toes.

On a more somber note, there have been two shocking deaths in my family that have really shaken the ground beneath my feet. A vibrant adolescent boy was gone in an instant, and a loving and feisty grandmother took her last breath after a painful health struggle. Sometimes the brutal randomness of life makes me want to grab my family and hide in a cave ..you know what I mean?

What about any good stuff you ask? Well, after my worry reached a scary peak, I signed up for a mediation class and I’m learning to breathe and find space between what happens and how I respond. It’s amazing and I’ll talk more about it in another post.

I’ve read some incredible books including Lindy West’s life-changing memoir Shrill and Glennon Doyle-Melton’s raw and brave biography Love Warrior.  I can honestly say that they fundamentally changed the way I look at myself, others and the world. I mean it – read those damn books!!

And I’ve been writing my butt off, actually pulling in a paycheque and contributing to our family finances in a meaningful way for the first time in many years. That feels good.

Phew! There I said it. And I’ll keep on saying it if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me. And I promise no more smug posts or crappy recipes – unless you want me to guide you through the process of thawing and heating some mouth-watering veggie meatballs…..: )

Thanks for your support and I’d love to hear from you. How are things going in your life? Feel free to comment below.

P.S. I am working on rejigging my site so please bear with me as I make some changes.

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Plant Powered Kids & A Delicious Square Recipe

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a workshop to an awesome group of parents and children. It was called Plant-Powered Kids and I transformed my living room and kitchen into 5 different food-making stations so that I could get the gang busy chopping, grating, stirring, wrapping, blending and baking.

What a fun afternoon! I gave a quick chat when everyone first arrived and appealed to their athletic lifestyles to introduce foods that would power up their activities. I encouraged the kids to become detectives when it comes to the food they eat and asked them to think about 3 things: How do particular foods make them feel when they eat them? What the heck is actually in the foods we eat? And are the glitzy food advertisements in the media telling us the truth?

I also chatted briefly about some foods to avoid like refined sugar (did you know a bottle of Gatorade has a whopping 9 tsp of sugar!), nasty trans fats and toxic MSG and touted the benefits of plant-based protein, healthy fats and fiber. After about 15 minutes I noticed the kids staring at the floor and dreamily looking around the room so I knew it was time to stop talking and get them up and cooking.

kaden kale chips

And I’ve gotta say – they really rose to the challenge! Not only did they do a bang up job of preparing the foods I had planned for them but they were brave about sampling pretty much everything they made. In addition to an All-Natural Hydrating Sports Drink and some Kale Chips that I whipped up myself – they prepared Raw Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce, Fresh Veggie Salad with Zucchini Noodles, Homemade Hummus Dip, Granola Bar Squares and a Protein Rich Chocolate Shake. It was a feast!

I wandered around the stations with my husband and daughter to make sure everyone was on track and comfortable with the equipment. It made me smile to see the kids and parents talking and working together to make incredible healthy food. And I was able to overhear some of the funny things the kids said as they cooked- here are a few of my favourite quotes from the afternoon:

“I don’t know how to cook but I want to learn. It’s a life skill.” Liam age 10

“So is this like food? Are we going to eat it?” Lucas age 11

“Remember if you eat the beets your poop is going to be bright red tomorrow.” Izzy age 11

It was the first time I tried out this particular workshop and I think everyone had a good time. I was very impressed with the way the kids jumped right in and were willing to try new things. And I feel so fortunate that I had such an adventurous bunch for my first attempt…..I will definitely do it again!

And now for a recipe: of all of the things we whipped up together – the granola bar squares were by far the biggest hit. And I have to admit they are delicious. Super easy to make and the kids and parents alike gobbled them up. So here is the recipe in case you’d like to give them a whirl:

Granola Bar Squares

granola bar

1 cup almonds (or nut of choice), chopped
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 ½ cups crispy rice cereal
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup raw honey
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line a square pan with parchment paper.

Place nuts and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice to avoid burning.

Combine oats, cereal, salt and cranberries in a large bowl. Add toasted nuts and coconut.

In a saucepan, heat honey, syrup and almond butter on medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour over dry mixture and stir to combine.

Press firmly into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool. Once cooled completely, place squares in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight before cutting. (they are very soft and will fall apart if you try to cut them before they set in the fridge – although the kids didn’t mind at all and ate the warm crumbles straight from the pan : )

Enjoy!

P.S. Intrigued by this workshop? Wondering what other awesome classes I offer? Wanna come to my kitchen?  Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll hook you up!

 

6 Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat More Healthy Foods

I grew up eating a lot of junk food. I mean A LOT. There were a couple of convenience stores close to our house and my sister and I spent a considerable amount of time walking or biking to these treasure troves of candy for our beloved treats- potato chips, jujubes, chocolate bars, chewy big feet, ring pops, garbage pail candies, ice cream bars, hamburger shaped gum, freezies and much, much more. In fact, aside from Archie comic books and stickers, most of our money went directly to candy.

candy 1

And I mean – we are still alive and thriving. We lived to tell the tale. And I’m happy to report that we have both adopted much healthier eating habits. But I will tell you this from my perspective: making that transition was and continues to be really freakin’ hard. Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with almost every single day (if you want to test that theory just put a bag of Doritos in front of me and see how long it takes for them to disappear ; )

So what’s wrong with treating our children with junk food? As parents, we love our kids and we want them to be happy and nothing makes them happier than a gooey caramel chocolate bar right? Well, here’s the rub – the occasional treat might be okay but routinely plying our kids with goodies actually makes it much more difficult to convince them to taste and enjoy healthier foods.

When young children routinely indulge on sugar-laden foods,their taste buds become conditioned to crave sugar, creating unhealthy habits that follow them into adulthood.

Dr. David Sack

It has taken a considerable amount of effort and will-power on my part to reprogram my taste buds to embrace healthy whole foods. And because it has been such an uphill battle for me, I am passionate about instilling healthier eating habits into my own children. Yes they certainly enjoy their treats but I want to make sure that they eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains and nuts. And it’s not simply to establish healthier eating habits but also to safeguard them from the fallout of excessive junk food consumption including; obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and tooth decay. Not to mention the research that suggests sugar may be as addictive as cocaine and other drugs.

Instead of getting overwhelmed or trying to overhaul your whole diet, I recommend making a few simple changes to encourage children to eat more nutritious foods. Here are 6 suggestions:

1. One Chug or One Bite – in our house we have a “one chug” or “one bite” policy on all new foods and drinks. It can take quite a few tries for children’s’ taste buds to adapt to a new veggie, smoothie or tofu stir fry so as long as everyone at least samples something new I don’t force the issue.

2. Be a Supermodel – Do you make negative comments about your own body or eating habits? Are you open and willing to try new foods? Our children are like little sponges and they are much more likely to pay attention to our actions than our words. Instead of lecturing kids about their eating habits, model healthy eating yourself by limiting sugary desserts and processed foods in favour of more nutrient dense choices.

3. Get Cooking – my children are much more likely to try something if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. I encourage them to pick their favourite recipes from my collection of cookbooks and I get them in the kitchen to help with chopping, stirring, blending and simmering.

4. Healthify Your Favs– there are tons of great blogs and websites featuring healthier versions of classic kid-friendly dishes. Think about some of your kids favourites and do a search for equally delicious but more nutritious recipes. Here are a few goodies for Mac and Cheese, Nachos, French Fries, Veggie Burgers and Lasagna.

5. Make It Fun – depending on the age of your children, new foods can become much more appealing if they are cut into fun shapes or given interesting names (“Green Monster Smoothie” or “Power Athlete Chocolate Almond Milk”). I’ve also had good luck with these funky straws and food games like “vote for your favourite colour of grape” or “blindfolded taste tests”.

6. Eat Together – Although our busy schedules do not allow for us to eat together as a family every night of the week, we do try to sit down together for dinner as much as possible. This gives me an opportunity to try out new dishes and to model healthier eating habits for my kiddos. And I try to refrain from making separate “child-friendly” meals because studies have also shown that children who eat the same foods as their parents actually have much healthier diets.

Most importantly of all – don’t get stressed out! There is enough stress in our lives that we don’t need the added burden of monitoring every bite that goes into our children’s mouths. Stock up your fridge and pantry with lots of healthy choices, offer up a variety of nutritious foods at meal times and do your best to embrace healthy eating habits for your children to model.

I keep reminding myself that if I do my best to encourage nutritious foods then perhaps my own children won’t suffer from the same internal strife every time they pass by the chocolate bar display at the drug store or walk through the chip aisle at the grocery store. It’s an uphill battle but I’m winning goddamit! (Curse you all-dressed chips!)

Resolution 2015 – Letting The Lessons In

When I was about 16 years old, my dad took my sister and I for a ski holiday in Whistler, BC. Although I was happy to be on vacation, I was also a self-absorbed little shit who was overly critical of pretty much everyone and everything. And as ashamed as I am to admit this – my dad more often than not took the brunt of my criticism. I didn’t like the way he snored, the way he clinked his spoon on the bowl when he ate his cereal, the way he breathed so darn loudly and on and on and on.

One morning as he and I rode the chair lift alone together I shot yet another barb his way (probably about the way he obnoxiously knocked the snow off of his skis for heaven’s sake!) he had had enough. He turned to me and said “Lori, you really have to stop being so critical. It seems like you are constantly annoyed with me and it really upsets me. I know I have flaws but so do you. There are always going to be people and circumstances in your life that are challenging for you to deal with and you can’t control that. You can only control yourself and how you react – and you definitely need some work in that department! No one is perfect Lori and if you wait around for your friends and family to BE perfect… then you are going to end up a very lonely person.”

chairlift

Needless to say the rest of the ride up the hill was very quiet. I think I stammered out a sheepish apology and silently vowed to keep my opinions to myself for the rest of the trip.

My point in sharing this story is not to offer insight into my angsty teenage years or to expound on my dad’s pearls of wisdom- but rather to share what I did after that chair lift ride and how it changed my life from that day forward. I listened. I really listened. I heard what he said and I let the lesson sink in. And although I certainly haven’t nailed it, becoming a less-critical, less-judgemental and more compassionate person was something I intentionally began to work towards starting on that crisp winter morning.

My sister and I were chatting recently about the most important things we have learned over the years and how they have impacted the people we are today. I shared the story from our Whistler trip (she had no idea it happened at the time) and she said she believes this is the key to life. At every age and at every stage there are lessons to be learned, new ideas to be shared, insights to be uncovered and wisdom to be gleaned- and if we can temper the “critical/all-knowing/judgmental/negative/too-busy” response that automatically pops up- we can continue to learn and grow and change and evolve for the rest of our lives.

Yes I have an opinion on that subject – but might there be another way to think about it?

I actually hadn’t thought of it that way before. How interesting!

I would love to read that book/watch that documentary/attend that class/go to that event with you. Thanks so much for introducing me to new things.

Wow! I didn’t realize that about myself. Thank you for sharing.

Perhaps I was completely wrong. I need to do more research.

I didn’t know about that. Can you tell me more?

2014 was a year of many powerful lessons for me – some of them I was more open to than others if I’m being completely honest. It takes quite a large dose of bravery and vulnerability to be truly open-hearted and I can use some work in those departments too.

But here we are in a shiny new year and I’ve decided to opt out of the typical resolutions and instead to focus on what I can learn in 2015. In fact, I was ruminating on this idea at the grocery store recently when an older man tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me are you ok?” he asked. “You have the most worried look on your face!” Ah yes, the patented “Lori-Wilson-I’m-Currently-Carrying-The-Weight-Of-The-World-On-My-Shoulders” look. Relax Lori, smile, breath and release those crinkles from your forehead. Thank you kind stranger for the lesson- I’m working on that one too!

Happy New Year to all of my family, friends and followers! Let’s all open up and let the lessons in this year. Who’s with me?

 

Stress and Sacrifice in Competitive Sports

Just the other evening as I was kissing my oldest son goodnight he asked if I would sit with him for a minute. “I’m feeling really stressed out mom and I want to talk to you about it” he said.

Of course immediately my brain started racing with worst possible scenarios. I was certain something terrible had happened to him…..bullying, drugs, alcohol, girl problems…..what the heck was he going to say?? Despite my internal freak out, I managed to calmly settle down beside him. “What’s on your mind honey?” I asked a little too casually.

He took a deep breath and confided that he was mostly stressed about sports…. Sports?! Seriously?! I thought. But he went on to confide that his friends had been encouraging him to choose between 2 sports that he loves – soccer which he plays at a competitive level and hockey which he plays in house league. “They say I should choose because I’ve got to think about my future and scholarships and start really focusing on one over the other. And that I should be pushing myself to go to the next level. But I love playing both mom and I don’t really want to give up on one. And I’m not even sure I what I want to do in the future. Plus I still want to have some free time. What should I do?”

And he’s just 13-years-old. All of that pressure and expectation and stress over something that is supposed to be fun!

I’ve thought about writing a post on the pressure of competitive sports on children (and parents) about a million times but I have never figured out how to do it without pissing off the majority of the people I know. Because it seems that everyone in our social circle and beyond is passionate about (and fairly defensive) of competitive endeavours. And just to be clear – I’d include myself in that mix too since my son plays competitive soccer and my daughter does competitive dance.

Thankfully I don’t have to write that article because another author has done it brilliantly. A girlfriend recently forwarded along the compelling piece “The Race To Nowhere in Youth Sports” written by John Sullivan on the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog. It is thoughtfully written and well worth the read.

One thing I would add to John’s article however is that I think we as parents need to be very aware of how much our children long to make us happy and proud. Our kids are acutely aware of how invested we are in their success on the ice or on the field or on the court or on the stage. They observe how keenly we follow their successes and failures and they hear our conversations about the “best” teams and the “best” coaches and the “best” choreography. So instead of pursuing athletics for the sheer joy of it – they start to mold themselves into the athletes they think we want them to become.

Case in point- I overheard a friend of my son’s tell him this past summer “yah well our top-tier soccer team didn’t do too well this season but the important thing is that I’m being seen by the right people.” Seriously?! What 13-year-old generates that little gem? I’m 100% sure that came directly from his well-intentioned parents. But this quest for approval just adds to the overwhelming pressure our children are feeling and robs them of the chance to become their own person with their own ideas and interests and passions.

Not to mention the incredible sacrifices that have to be made by children, parents and other family members for comp sports. Family dinners, family vacations, extracurricular activities and free time hanging out with friends are all prioritized well below practices, rehearsals and extra shooting clinics. Heck, I even had to spend last Family Day weekend in an over-priced hotel with my daughter for some “mandatory” dance workshop when we should have been enjoying the time relaxing with our whole clan. And other teams require participation over Christmas holidays and spring break. It’s madness!

Listen, I certainly don’t have all the answers and I haven’t figured out the best solution. We all want what is best for our children and I know that kids are unique and experience things differently. And I am sure many of you will disagree with John’s article. But at the very least, I think we need to start an open conversation about the current climate of youth competitive sport. If we are honest with ourselves, we know it is stressing us out. And at the end of the day – it’s our children who are paying the price with their childhood.

Basketball on Vacant Basketball Court

http://stevenashyb.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/the-race-to-nowhere-in-youth-sports/

Mexican Quinoa Salad (with Bonus Wrap)

It’s not easy when a member of your family announces that they are radically changing the way they eat. I was in my mid-30’s when I embarked on a plant-based diet and this threw a real curveball at my meat-and-potato loving parents. Although I had long since moved away from home and started my own family – it still meant that every holiday and visit became a head-scratcher when trying to prepare a menu that would appeal to everyone. Thanksgiving and Christmas with no turkey?! Easter with no ham?! A BBQ with no burgers?! Holy crap!

veggie cartoon 2

I must admit that we’ve had more than a few heated “discussions” over the years about being flexible and open to trying new things. And there was also the inevitable questioning of the health benefits of a diet with no animal products. “You mean you aren’t giving your kids milk? How will they get strong bones?” “How will your family get enough protein?” “What the hell is quinoa?” and “Why do you have to be such a pain in the ass Lori?” All valid questions.

In the beginning I stood up on my soapbox and was overly eager to share all of the wonderful information I was learning about my new diet. I told them about the fact that there is actually more digestible protein in leafy greens and legumes than in meat (not to mention the animal cruelty associated with the meat industry). And that chickpeas and sesame seeds are much richer sources of protein than dairy. And that milk has been definitively linked to cancer. AND I made my entire family watch Forks Over Knives over one Christmas holiday (yes I was insufferable).

Nowadays, I’ve learned to shut my mouth more often and to be appreciative of how far we’ve come in incorporating more plant-based foods into all of our diets. But I’ve gotta give credit especially to my mom for really giving vegetarian cooking a college try. My family recently spent a few days at my parent’s home and I was totally delighted when she announced that she would be making Zesty Quinoa and Black Bean Wraps for dinner. She’s come a very long way from the woman who once told me she would never eat a vegetarian diet because there just wasn’t enough variety.

This recipe evolved from that wrap – which was delicious by the way (my son even turned down cheese pizza to gobble up a second helping). It’s simple to prepare and packed with protein, fresh veggies, herbs and spices. It just might be the best salad I’ve ever made! And as a special bonus, I turned the leftovers into a grilled wrap the next day that rivals the gourmet quinoa wrap sold by a very well-known coffee chain.

So if someone in your life announces that they are suddenly going to eat a different way – be it gluten-free or paleo or vegan or flexitarian…..be patient with them. When they come down off of their high horse – they just might make you something yummy to eat.

Mexican Quinoa Salad (with Bonus Wrap)

mexican quinoa 1

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pepper (any colour) diced
2 ears of corn- cooked, cooled and cut off of the cob
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, corn, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado. Squeeze the lime juice over top. Pour on the olive oil and toss to coat. Add red pepper flakes, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper and toss again. Enjoy!

*Bonus Wrap*

mexican quinoa 2

2 whole wheat or gluten-free wraps of choice
1/2 cup grated regular or vegan cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups Mexican Quinoa Salad (above)

Heat a frying pan with olive oil over medium heat. Lay wraps on a flat surface and put a line of quinoa salad down the middle of each. Top with cheese. Fold in both ends of the wraps and roll together. Place the wrap in the frying pan and grill on both sides. Remove from heat after both sides are gold brown (approx. 3 minutes per side) and let cool for a few minutes. Slice and serve. (You could also use a Panini maker in place of the frying pan to make life easier).

The Real Truth About Parenthood

I have learned so about myself much from becoming a parent. I’ve learned that I can be very patient until my 3-year-old starts swearing like a truck driver and then I completely lose my marbles. I’ve learned to be less self-involved and less concerned with my appearance- likely shortly after my daughter asked me why my boobs were so floppy and saggy. And I’ve learned that all of the years I considered myself fairly socially adept can be erased in a second when your pre-teen says you are “just so uncool!”

Of course there are tons of amazing and wonderful things about having children -but sometimes we can find more connection and understanding in our mess-ups and our common struggles. And maybe the very best thing we can do to support each other as parents and non-parents alike is just to share a good laugh.

I love comedian Michael McIntyre’s routine called “People With No Kids Don’t Know”. Check out this link or click on the video below to get some insight into the truth about parenthood.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/michael-mcintyre-people-with-no-kids-dont-know_n_4295847.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular