Four Affordable Gluten-Free Favorites from Trader Joe’s

Since May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I am sharing some of my favorite recipes and pantry staples with you.  I call our city the Grocery Store Mecca of Northern California.  Within a 7 mile radius lies a plethora of organic grocery stores, bulk grocery stores, specialty grocery shops and rumors of more to come! I specifically shop at 5 of these stores weekly  in order to get our favorite picks at the best prices.

When we began shopping gluten-free 6 years ago, I had to order it online. I believe the shipping alone on my first order cost us $45! Thankfully, gluten-free items are becoming mainstream, and we can find many local good bargains. Since I find pleasure in grocery shopping and love the hunt for a bargain, I am passing along some of my favorite affordable gluten-free items.

Shop at Trader Joe’s First

If you are fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, make it your first stop for gluten-free items. Their fresh produce and flash-frozen vegetables and organic fruits are a great buy. Organic cage free eggs, Greek yogurt and 100% corn tortilla chips are also fabulous buys for your healthy, gluten-free kitchen. I hit up our local Trader Joe’s first when fulfilling my weekly grocery list.

When I compare prices to local grocery stores, these are my top four affordable gluten-free picks from Trader Joe’s:

 

Thai Noodles. My kids always beg for a certain cup of noodles from the grocery store that is packed with MSG. I could go on and on why MSG is banned from our home! This Rice Noodle Soup Bowl is gluten-free, vegan friendly, and only 99 Cents! A competing brand of Thai Noodles costs upwards of $3.

My son who has Celiac Disease often requests a hot lunch like his classmates have at school. I make these in the morning, add chicken or extra vegetables and put them in a hot thermos for his school lunch. The only thing I don’t like about these noodles is the high sodium content! I only use half the enclosed seasoning package or use low-sodium Tamari sauce in its place.

 

Chicken Broth. Chicken Broth is a year round staple in my pantry.  Trader Joe’s Chicken Broth is available organic, free range, and low sodium. Best of all, it is free of MSG and gluten!  Thank you, Trader Joe’s!  You can’t beat the $1.99 sticker price.  Check out their other broths and gluten-free Red Pepper Soup, too.

 

 

Oats. Rolled Oats become an issue for the gluten-intolerant when they are manufactured and packaged in an environment where other glutenous items are present. Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats are manufactured in a gluten-free environment. They are a great healthy staple for baking, breakfast and other creative gluten-free cooking. The size of this package at $3.99 makes it a great buy!

 

Hot Dogs.  The price for gluten-free, preservative free, nitrate free, hot dogs in your mainstream grocery store can be absolutely outrageous!  My kid is like many other American kids who loves to eat hot dogs.  Trader Joe’s supplies their customers with chicken or beef hot dogs that are free of all the nasty stuff.

Not only is it a great product which all my kids enjoy, it only costs $3.99.  Even when other grocery stores have their gluten-free hot dogs on sale, I have never found them at such a great price.

I haven’t mentioned the rice pasta assortments, rice varieties, or nature bars, or Udi’s bread T.J.’s carries. You can look up your local Trader Joe’s online and read up on their gluten-free offerings.  Do you have a favorite gluten-free Trader Joe item? Please tell us about it in the comment box!

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I plan to ignore you

We had a snotty kid last night. He didn’t get his way and tried to make enemies out of all of us. The more we engaged him, the sharper his tongue became.

So, we disengage.

We call it “Planned Ignoring”: I plan to ignore you when you are unreasonable.

I know, this goes against our grain when a kid is disrespectful. We feel the need to stop them in their tracks. But, have you been in a  power play with a teen (or a toddler) who wants to be in control of everything? It is a lose-lose situation.

The mouthy attitude is an attempt to derail us; if we engage the word choices we are distracted from the initial issue at hand. So we plan to ignore the words –for now.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly,lest you be like him yourself,” Proverbs 26:4. I’m not saying my kid is a fool, but he definitely has his foolish moments—as do I.

We wanted to get away from him. But, the truth is, he needed to get away from the rest of us. So, he was sent to his room.

Calmly I said, “Go to your room now”.

Off he went while the rest of the family was able to continue on with dinner and homework and conversation.

The son who was silenced took out his phone weapon and began texting his attitude. The words were unkind for a usually kind boy. The words hurt.

But, we planned to ignore, “Answer not a fool according to his folly”. We had to give each other pep talks, “Don’t engage, wait until tomorrow”.

Engaging in the folly increases the fight and the need for both to win.

Waiting is difficult. We second guess ourselves in the recesses of our mind. But tomorrow, he will wake up calm. Tomorrow he will no longer be in fight-mode.

Early in the morning, I walked into his room and sat beside him in bed as I usually do. I played with his hair and spoke in a loving voice, “Are you up, son?” I rubbed his back. Love is unconditional.

When a child hurts a parent, a parent must love unconditionally. Besides, kindness is received unexpectedly when we know we deserve the opposite. Kindness heaps hot coals on our heads.

“I am taking your phone away for a few days”.

“Why?”

“You were disrespectful to your parents last night. You used your phone to send abusive messages.”

“I did?”

“You know what you did. You may have thought you could get away with talking like that last night, but you did not. There are consequences. You will receive your phone in a few days.”

Peacefully, I walked out of the room.

It was the right moment to address his folly, “lest he becomes wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:5).

Planned ignoring is difficult. Finding the right consequences to fit the crime is not always easy. But probably the hardest thing for me as a parent, is not reacting in anger or hurt feelings in the heat of the moment.

Someone has to remain in control of the situation, and it is good to have a plan—a team-parent plan—to remain calm, steady and focused.

I spent  the next 24 hours in prayer. I’m praying for wisdom in our interactions, praying our boy will have a repentant heart so he can grow forward.

I’m praying for the prime moments to instruct a child about responding with respect next time he is in the heat of the moment.

Are you interested in knowing more about “Planned Ignoring” or would you benefit from support in your parenting choices? These resources may help you:

“The Secrets to Modern Day Parenting” linking modern solutions to everyday problems. Series information: http://www.womangonewise.com/2012/01/12/bible-and-family-life-speaker/

Exceptional Families Coaching: Practical and personal coaching to support you and give you tools for a flourishing family life: www.exceptionalfamiliescoaching.com

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Every little girl needs her daddy’s love

This is a post by guest author, Christie Lee Rayburn.

She twirls like a ballerina in her new holiday dress and shiny shoes, “Daddy, don’t I look pretty?”

She jumps into his arms of safety after he encourages, “Come on sweetheart – you can do it – daddy will catch you!”

She loves holding her father’s big, strong hand as they walk places and she adores hearing his voice call her his “little princess”.

“She” is every little girl – yearning for her daddy’s love as she grows up.

The power of his attention

Not only would I testify to this in my personal life as a daughter, but I have had a front row seat observing the relationship between our only daughter and her daddy. I’ve been taken aback as I watch the yearning in my daughter’s eyes for her daddy’s belief in her capability. I see the incredible difference her father’s reactions make in her perception of her talents or skills. His words determine the outcome of her self-assurance and potential. One encouraging word literally boosts her confidence to dream and take risks, while one critical word can send her straight to the land of insecurity and doubt.

Fathers affirm competence and set the path for a woman to believe “I don’t have to prove myself. I can do anything.”

It’s amazing how my husband has become her personal mirror to our girl. The truth is that so much of her self-image is reflected in the way her father sees her, the way he interacts with her, and the way he talks about her to others. When he compliments her and assures her of her beauty, she feels like the most lovely young lady in the land. However, a simple throw-away comment or too much teasing can confirm her inner thoughts of ugliness; ugliness that no amount of make-up can cover. Most dads don’t realize the power they hold in establishing their daughter’s self-worth.

Fathers set the stage for future relationships

Fathers are very important role models for their daughters, especially in the puberty and teen years. A father is the first male that a girl comes to intimately know. He sets the stage for his daughter’s future interpersonal interactions; especially with men.

Just the other day our daughter declared to her dad “you ruined me!”

My husband reacted, “What? That sounds horrible! What on earth do you mean that I ruined you?” She went on to explain when it came to dating and marriage, he set the character bar very high. She admires that her dad loves God so openly and has such a giving heart. She respects that he is a strong man with a tender heart. But, mostly, she never doubts that he loves his wife completely, creatively, and faithfully. She has watched it all firsthand. How could she settle for anything less in a young man?

So, from a mother’s perspective, let me encourage every daddy out there to invest big in his little girl’s life.

Be deliberate dads

Support your daughters interests and ask questions about what she is involved in. Build her up every chance you get. Be there for her games or performances. There is no substitute for your presence.

Compliment your girl. Hug her. Tell her how much you love her and how beautiful she is a million times while she grows up. Realize the powerful mirror you are in her life.

Go ahead and “ruin her” and set the bar high by the way you treat your wife. Make your daughter feel like you want to be close to her. Take her on a date. Show her how she should be treated.

Dads, no one replaces the unique spot you hold in your daughter’s heart.

Every little girl and every big girl wants her daddy’s love.
Share with us how your dad made you feel loved or how your husband shows special love to your daughter.

P.S. – Send this to a dad of a daughter.

CHRISTIE LEE RAYBURN
Mirror Mirror: Confetti Café.
ChristieLeeRayburn.com

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Planning for the (Un)expected


Shopping, educating, and cooking are some of my favorite things.  So, when I received the offer to go on a “Mom Shop Along” at one of our favorite grocery stores, I jumped at the chance.   This was an opportunity to communicate my grocery shopping preferences as well as our special dietary needs to the Raley’s personnel.  (Raley’s writes about our family and my gluten free tips here:  June Mom of the Month.)

The day of our Mom Shop Along, I began to get cold feet.  Raley’s management was going to follow my boys and I as we shuffled through coupons, reached for products and read labels through every aisle of the store.  What was I thinking?  I agreed to come at 4:00 in the afternoon; not only a down time for my kids, but a crowded time for the grocery store.   As I pondered the (un)expected things that could potentially happen, I considered cancelling.

Living in the community with a special needs child-or even juggling multiple children, calls for a certain state of mind.  I can opt out of life and isolate myself and children because day trips are too stressful, or I can choose a “can do” mindset.  I told myself the words I often use to motivate my boy, “I can do it”.

Then I began to think through the effective tools I use to help our special needs family be successful in the community.

Communicate with significant others before the event

In the event our shopping trip became too stressful for my son, and honestly, in order to manage my own anticipated stress, I needed a plan.  I contacted the Raley’s personnel to inform them I needed to assess how my child was doing before and during the shop along.   They were agreeable.

Ahh, step one of operation de-stress was taken care of before we arrived.

Have a back-up plan for your child

As always with special needs, you need a back-up plan.  It serves as an escape and survival plan if the event becomes too stressful or overloaded with stimuli.

The back-up plan may include the following:

  • an early exit
  • spouses bring both cars if family members want to remain in the event uninterrupted
  • discuss pacing the child’s activity level with a quiet time and quiet place
  • bring necessary items in a specified bag to soothe the child (lotion, paper, book, textured ball)
  • bring behavior chart, and don’t forget the frequent verbal praise and rewards
  • inform your host about your plan and make any gracious requests as needed

Today my back-up plan included frequent verbal praise for making good choices, as well as the reminder of his favorite smoothie he would receive at the end of the event.  If he became too grumpy (which is often the case given  a stressful situation in the late afternoon), I would be sending him to hang out in the van with his brother.  (Safety note:  It was not hot outside, windows are cracked, both boys are legal age to be in the car alone, and we often come equipped with paper, pen, or dvd player to help him pass the time).

Educate those who will be with you

I am always learning, when I let others know our special needs, they become team players with us.  Educating others in the mission of helping your child and the event be successful, gets others on board.  When they understand why you are bringing a chart, gummy rewards, or addressing behaviors a certain way, they will often become an emotional and physical support person for you.

What special needs family couldn’t use another team player in their corner?  I am finding when I am open about our needs and plans, I am less likely to feel the stress of sticking out like a sore thumb.

Stick to your plan

Under the pressure of being watched, stared at, or misunderstood, do not shrink back my friend.  Stick to your behavior plan or your operation de-stress plan.   Be there for your child.  Remain consistent, confident and even-tempered in order to carry out whatever your child and your family needs.

I believe in being respectful and courteous of others around us, but my mission is first and foremost to my own family.  If I bend and change to the pressure of how others perceive us, I will not be the strength and consistent parent my special needs child requires.

Enlist buddies

Thankfully, my son has brothers who are attentive and compassionate buddies to him.  I communicate the plan with them and they are team players.  The brothers have been talked with and have the information they need to know in order to help the afternoon go smoothly for all of us.

Sometimes my youngest son doesn’t understand it all and he doesn’t really need to.  I am always trying to strike the balance between expecting the siblings to be vital family members, but not burden them with responsibilities which do not belong to them.

Mommy-helpers are always a great assistance to any Mom who is juggling multiple kids.  I was given the great advice years ago to enlist a young girl, not quite babysitting age, to hang out with us when we run errands.  Now that my son is a teenager, we have a peer-helper; another teenage boy who comes to hang out with our son.  Together they play Wii, walk the dog, and swim.

Express your gratitude

I don’t know if those in our lives will ever comprehend how vital they are to our day-to-day survival sometimes.  Having the opportunity to be active in the community with people who are willing to be flexible and understanding of our special needs family is a true gift.  It may even be a rare gift.

I want these people, including my own children, to know how grateful we are for them.  Whenever we have the opportunity, we write thank you cards, provide financial support, and try to express actions and words of gratitude for helping us make life more enjoyable and successful.

Thanks to Raley’s, by the way, for taking the time with us on the Mom’s Shop Along!  They were generous with their time, questions and note-taking, in order to provide even better customer service to the community.

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I’m Letting My Kid Struggle

Recently a pivotal sport season came to an end for my high school son.  He shared a coveted position with another boy who boasted he will always have a place on this team because he and his dad know all the important people who make team decisions.  Politics, parents and sports, it gets ugly. But it doesn’t only occur in sports.  Allowing our kids to rise and fall on their own merit is something parents are not very good at in this culture.

Our latest struggle involves our 7th grader who is not a detail oriented student.  He works tirelessly on his homework, racking his brain to comprehend literature, and carefully working on his shaky handwriting skills.  With all the time and effort he pours into his homework, he often overlooks the finer details of the assignments.  This does not go over well with some of his teachers who hold high expectations to follow every detail. Sometimes I think their expectations are tedious and the grading system serves only to be a kick in the teeth for a hard-working kid like mine.

So, what is a parent to do?  I could complain to the teacher, or better yet, the principal.  I could demand that they be easier on my kid.  Or I could let my son struggle and figure it out.

I’ve decided to let him struggle.  Anxiety provoking, I know.  But I’m holding to the belief that struggling through a difficult situation, facing failure and discomfort, will actually serve him well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not leaving him hanging out there alone.  I’m trying to equip him with new study skills, working on ways to pay attention to details, and teaching him to listen closely to his teacher’s instructions.  If I were to do more, I would be robbing him of learning how to cope with life’s demands. He is learning to take responsibility for his own work and deal with the expectations of his teachers.

The fact of the matter is, I want our kids to have teachers and coaches who expect great things from them.  Kids need a standard to live up to, learning how to work through hurdles and reach goals they never thought they could.  I don’t want to interfere with a teacher’s vision to create such greatness in my kid!

I’m not saying it’s an easy choice, and I know it’s not the popular choice, but I trust it’s one of the best things I can do.

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Sibling Comradery

Are you about to go nuts listening to sibling squabbles?  Why not turn that sibling squabble into sibling comradery?   Sometimes our kids are irritated with one another because they are stuck hanging out with each other day after day.  But sometimes the squabble is to get Mom and Dad’s attention.

When you give them attention for this behavior, it reproduces more misbehavior.   After all, they got your valuable attention, didn’t they?  It is time to turn the tables.  Try this different take on the marble jar to help kids learn how to cooperate with one another.

Set up a jar in the middle of the table or counter.  Show your kids a package of shiny marbles you have put aside.  Explain to them whenever you “catch them” getting along, they each get to put a marble in the jar.  Discuss together what they can earn when they have filled the marble jar to the brim.  Try these tips for success:

Catch siblings getting along

They aren’t allowed to tell you.    You get to observe the peaceful cooperation and draw positive attention to it.

Tell your kids something like this, “Wow, look at the way you are playing together”, or “Are you having fun together?”.

Try to make statements that cause them to get in touch with their own positive feelings about getting along.  When you say, “That makes me happy”, you are promoting the motivation to get along only to please you.

Direct them each to put a marble in the jar.

Celebrate the growing pile of marbles.                              

Make a plan

Discuss together what they would like to earn when the jar is full.

The plan should include an activity or item that is meant to be shared.

Younger kids may earn a fun afternoon at a favorite pizza place, Nerf guns or a board game they want to share.

Older kids may earn a special excursion during a family vacation, a manicure day with Mom, an adventure with Dad.

The same plan is a weak plan

Don’t  use the marble jar year round.  It will get old and ineffective.

Be strategic in your timing.  Set out the marble jar during long summers, vacations, or other times when sibling rivalry gets stirred up.

Use the teachable moments

Help your kids learn how to make good relationship choices for themselves.  They still need your guidance to develop these skills.

Take the time to reinforce their positive behavior.  Talk to them briefly about the benefits of getting along with one another.

Let them know how proud you are of their efforts.   When you “catch them” getting along, you are directing your attention to their sibling comradery, and the overall energy in your household has the potential to change.

Do you have an effective tool for promoting sibling comradery?  Please share it with us!


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Don’t Try to Force Growth-Stimulate It!

 

Parents, we can nag and remind our kids to death.  Because we desire and sometimes panic about our child’s spiritual and emotional growth, we may have the tendency to talk too much in hopes our words will change them.  Our kids in turn will get irritated and eventually turn us off.  So why not stimulate them to growth?  Stimulate ideas for godliness and greatness to come from within them-with your skilled guidance, of course!

This week’s idea:  Give your kids a dry erase marker.  Encourage them to come up with a personal goal for the week.  Then they get to write their goal across the bathroom or bedroom mirror.  What fun to have permission to write on the mirror! (It comes right off, by the way).  This means they get to see it every day, and be stimulated by their own words.

Helpful Hints to begin Stimulating Change

  • Have a casual conversation about your first goal making and how it has helped you.
  • In His youth, Jesus grew in all four areas of life: stature, knowledge, favor with God and man.  Your child can choose any of these areas to make a goal:  physical academic, spiritual, social.
  • Encourage your child to make the goal small and reachable for one week at a time.
  • Resist the desire to give them the goal!  Let them take full ownership of it.  They may need only vague ideas from you to get started.
  • Celebrate when the goal is reached,  then make a new one!

Here are some goals and personal successes my boys have enjoyed since we began stimulating their growth:  work out 3 times a week, become the best soccer player I can be, stop biting my nails, don’t watch television and computer for a week.  These have been great points of growth for our kids, and I am so thrilled to see some maturity happening from within.

 

hands in air

10 long fingernails bring personal success!

Can I tell you how huge it is that our 12 year old who has been biting his nails his entire life (I had not cut his nails since he was two!), is now growing his nails?  We have cut them a glorious 3 times since he decided to accomplish this on his own!!

soccer goal

Cade's personal goal paid off when he made goalie for his school

I look forward to hearing about the great strides your beloved children will make as they learn to take responsibility for their own growth and enrichment!  Please let me know how it is going…

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