It’s about to snow…get out and garden!

This afternoon’s sun lit up my hopes for the summer garden. Despite the warm weather, there is still snow in the forecast. My dad taught me to go green by St. Patrick’s Day so today I rushed outside to get my early spring seeds planted.

Early spring plants must be planted early enough to harvest before the summer heat. They can be planted before the last frost and can handle a little snow. 60 degrees is optimal for growing but a few of these weird snow days won’t stop their progress.

With the help of Andrew I planted peas, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, bok Chou, spinach, Swiss chard, and kale right into the garden (direct sow).

Inside we started tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cauliflower, and ground cherries.

In three weeks I will do another planting of greens. In May I will plant my squash, melons, cucumbers, and beans into the garden and transplant the seedlings that will be growing inside.



A 1st Birthday Cake for Baby

You have probably seen the photo meme of the baby boy eating the blue cake with the words “bring me another smurf.” I admit that I laughed when I saw it on Facebook. The joke about the smurfs was funny. And first birthdays are so special, particularly to the parents. Everyone has the classic baby-in-the-highchair-with-cake-on-the-face photo; it is like a rite of passage.


I wanted to make a special 1st birthday cake for my baby boy too, but set out to do so without the artificial dye. Artificial colors, like the blue dye used to make the cake in this meme, are derivative of coal tar and linked to health concerns. Some studies found there are short term effects like migraines, anxiety, and hyperactivity. Other studies found links to food dye and cancer. Some artificial food dye, such as yellow #5, are banned in Europe but found throughout the grocery store in the United States.

The parameters for my cake were 1) have nothing bad 2) have some redeeming nutritional value and 3) taste so good everyone will eat it. We ended up making a Parsnip and Carrot Cake. This is a wheat free and dairy free recipe. It was hugely successful. Why Parsnip? Like carrots, they are tuber vegetables rich in fiber, Vitamin B, and Folic Acid. They also have a natural sweetness that allows for less sugar added to the cake.


I encourage you to try your own Parsnip and Carrot Cake.



  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp palm oil or coconut oil
  • 1 ½ cups grated parsnip
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrot
  • 1 ½ cups  almond flour
  • 1 Tbsp coconut flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

1.    Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a cake pan. I used three little ones. I wanted Joe to have his own cake, and I had to make a special allergen free version for Andrew (the frosting I made had dairy so I made a special dark chocolate frosting for him).
2.    Grate parsnip and carrot finely.  Sophie helped with this part on a plastic grater.


3.    Combine eggs, parsnip, carrot, oil, syrup and vanilla in a large bowl.  Stir to form a batter.


4.    Combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and spices in a small bowl.

5.    Mix the dry and wet together into a very thick batter.

6.    Pour into your cake pan (s) and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.



I used a homemade cream cheese frosting. I had to throw out some of my rules for this part.

1 stick butter (softened)

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

2-3 cups of confectionery sugar (stir in until you have the right consistency)

Sprinkles are naturally colored sprinkles by India Tree.


Don’t forget to share.


She dresses herself with a style all her own

7 Things You Should Learn From Children

  1. Ask for help- I thought of this at the pool while I heard my daughter ask a random mom to open her juice for her. The lady was happy to help. We all try so hard to show how strong and independent we are, but we can all use a little help too. It feels good to help others so why not ask for help.
  2. You need to say sorry- The pain goes away, the toy gets returned, but the matter is not settled until the solemn words are spoken. It is important to say sorry when making amends, even for grownups. Saying “I’m sorry” is not just assuming liability, but showing considerations of another’s feelings.
  3. It is okay to not share- The kids have a rule in our house: special toys can be left in their bedrooms and not shared with siblings and friends. It is okay to have boundaries.  This should apply to grownups too with family time. The blackberry gets left in the car during soccer games…I am not sharing this special moment.
  4. Do things that scare you- The higher the slide, the more fun at the landing. For grownups this might be starting a new job, joining a new club, or enrolling in a class. The scarier it is the bigger the reward.
  5. Don’t worry about what you look like just be you- Sometimes I cringe at the outfits my daughter picks out. She has such nice clothes but she likes to wear the wackiest outfits. This is how she is most comfortable. Embrace who you are and work it.
  6. Use that time out to think about what went wrong- We ask our kids to sit quietly and think about whatever misconduct led to the time out. Then we ask them what they could have done differently. Grownups should also take time to reflect when things went wrong and decide how they will react when the opportunity presents again.
  7. Love with all your heart- Children love their families, their friends, their toys, the shiny random objects they find in the parking lot…They love with all their hearts and it makes them happy. Don’t be afraid grownups to do the same. There is always more love, you can never use it up.
Run mama run

Run Mama Run, Training for a Race with a Family

This morning my husband woke the kids up early, got them dressed, and walked them down to the sidelines to see me run by our hotel during the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon. I asked him to do this because I knew seeing  the kids would recharge me for the rest of the race, and also because we all were part of the training for this race.

With three kids, training for a race is not as easy as it used to be.  Gone are the days of putting them in the jogger stroller. Giving up running isn’t an option now though, in fact,  it is more important them ever. Parents are children’s first role model. I want my kids to value fitness. For me, exercise is a way to stay healthy, to have energy now and live long to see them grow.

That being said, once I committed to running the race, training for it had to be built into the “family” calendar. I trained with three runs a week- a steady 5k, speed work (hills and sprints), and one long run that increased by one mile each week up to 10 miles (the plan was 13 but I had to cancel it a few times for bad weather). Plus weight training two times a week and two days of rest.

With work and school, appointments and activities, the time to train had to come out of hide, so I had to minimize the time it took me away from the kids. Sometimes it meant running early in the morning, late at night, or during my lunch break at work. I started saving the last half mile of my runs to take the older kids with me, one at a time, for a quarter mile each. They were also great partners for speed work. My husband planned special time during my long runs, which ran over 90 minutes by the end.

No matter how you exercise, whether it is running or swimming or yoga, keep it up for you and your family.


home birth CPM

Midwives help people out

Dear Maryland Legislators,

My children were born at home (on purpose!) with the help of skilled and compassionate midwives. Unfortunately not every family in Maryland has this option because there are too few homebirth midwives. There is a bill this year to license Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) which will allow families that choose homebirth to use these birth experts to deliver their babies. CPMs are certified by The North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). Currently in Maryland, only Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are licensed to attend women in their homes or birth centers. CNMs routinely turn clients away due to full practices. Maryland has only one freestanding birth center.

Homebirth is a safe option for mothers, in fact, for low risk deliveries it is safer than a hospital birth. Comparisons between hospital and homebirth data demonstrates that homebirths have fewer intervention. The average Cesarean rate in Maryland hospitals is almost 30%. Less than 1% of homebirths end in transport to a hospital and C/S. And lets not even talk about the rate of infections at hospitals. Licensing CPMs will make it even safer by enabling CPMs to transfer care to other providers and the hospital when needed, without fear of prosecution. Licensing will ensure that CPMs have access to lifesaving medications so that they can immediately respond to rare but serious complications.

By passing this legislation, Maryland will join 26 other states that allow CPMs to practice legally. This is a smart move for the state. Licensing CPMs will reduce health care costs for Maryland families. A homebirth with a CPM is approximately one-third that of a planned vaginal hospital birth. Homebirth mothers have higher breastfeeding rates, which reduces cost for both Medicaid and families.

I may (or may not) be done having my babies, but this piece of legislation is very important to me. I think every Maryland family should have access to a midwife.


If you want to tell your elected officials to support midwives, call or write them today. Go to and put in your address to learn who your representatives are.



Joseph’s birth story

I know that every pregnancy and birth is different; still it was hard not to look for patterns with my third.

Andrew came three weeks early, when my water broke during the bar exam. After finishing the exam and driving to the hospital he was making his arrival before I knew what was going on. Unfortunately the wrong end was arriving and due to hospital policy had to be delivered via c/s.

Sophie went past her due date, which messed with my head because I expected her early too. My midwife understood and agreed to break my water. She was born less than two hours later. The very first contraction turned into the last with no breaks.

So with Joseph I tried to have no expectations and just enjoy whatever happened. I gave myself a window of Christmas to Valentine’s Day to go into labor. This is our last baby so I really want to experience a labor where my waters didn’t break first. The good thing about having your water break before labor is you “know” you are in labor. If it didn’t break I was going to have to figure it out.

As my due date approached I was so anxious mentally to have baby Joseph. Physically I was still feeling good, but I was living each day like it was going to be “the day.” Once his due date came and went though I found that I was totally okay with him being post date. I was picking up enough clues to know that things were progressing. I knew the more my body did to prepare, the less work during labor.

I half expected to start labor on Thursday because I had a busy day at work and I had a flat tire on the way there. Later at work I got a call saying the mechanic had crashed my truck. But, Friday morning I woke up still pregnant and had too busy of a day to have to have a baby. There was dance, teacher conference, volunteering at school, a midwife appointment, and gymnastics. I called my midwife to confirm our appointment, because I felt like I was really progressing and wanted to make sure I saw her.

At 10:10 am Sophie and I were dressed for the gym; she in her ballet outfit and me in my running clothes. As I was walking down the stairs I had a cramp that made me sit down. I asked Steve to take her to dance so I could lie down and see if this progressed or fizzled out. Just in case, I started picking up the house. I made the beds and scrubbed the bath tub while trying to time contractions. They seemed irregular because it was hard to tell when they were starting and stopping. I called the midwife and said “I think I’m in labor, but it is still early.” She asked why I thought it was early and I said, “because it just started.” She replied, “yeah but you have fast labors. I am in the shower but I will be right over.” I texted Steve and asked him to come home from ballet. I wrote “not sure if this is it but I need morale support.”

It was about 11:00 when Steve and Sophie got back. Steve suggested I get in the tub. Sophie brought in toys and we were playing ‘my little pony.’ The midwife arrived and I told her I had been trying to time contractions but couldn’t see a pattern. I was really worried I was wasting her time and that this wasn’t labor. She touched my lower back and said “your sacrum is way out. You are totally in labor.” I asked if I still had to time them and she said no. Aunt Liz arrived to take Sophie in the other room to play as the midwife and her assistant began unpacking. The contractions were totally manageable and I was resting in between them. The more they set-up it became real to me that I was in fact in labor. This was about noon. The contractions picked up and became more difficult but I could still handle it. The midwife suggested I get out and try another position to help things progress. As I walked into the bedroom a big contraction hit me and I had work through it there on the floor. When it was over I climbed in bed on my side. Steve laid down too and put his forehead against mine and held my hand. He told me he was happy I was allowing this baby to come into the world this way. This was my favorite moment of labor. The contractions were coming stronger and I wanted to get back in the tub.

I got up and walked back to the tub. We added hot water which felt good, but the contractions were getting closer. I wanted a break so bad. I thought to myself if I were in a hospital this is when I would ask for drugs. Steve was outside the tub but I could tell he wanted to come in. I really wanted him to come in but I couldn’t speak. The midwife suggested he climb in and I was so happy. I started to get nauseous and the midwife assistant waved some peppermint oil under my nose which seemed to clear my mind. My toes were going numb from squatting but I could not move. I told Steve and he turned me around. I was cognizant that I had regained the ability to communicate as I was making these complaints. My back was against Steve’s chest and I had one hand on each side of the tub. With each contraction I was able to open my eyes and look out the window and imagine Joseph in this world. I was getting a break now and knew I was nearing the end. I didn’t feel like pushing but I felt the baby getting lower and started breathing down through contractions. At one point during a contraction I told the midwife, “I can’t do this…I mean I will do this…but I want you to know right now I feel like I can’t.”

At this point I was resting well, almost sleeping, between contractions. The midwife suggested I get out again and I told her I could push. It took me a couple contractions but I climbed out and onto the birthing stool. Without the water the pain hit me and I said I couldn’t do it “for real.” The midwife checked me and I was fully dilated. She asked to break my water. I said, “go for it.” Another contraction later I was getting ready to complain again but the midwife took my hand and put it on the baby’s head. This next part amazes me because I was able to tune everyone and everything out and visualize the baby’s descent. I wanted it be slow. Steve was holding me up as I pushed. The head was out but the shoulders needed another push. I said I needed to wait for the next contraction. I put my hands on my belly and I could still feel the baby’s feet getting ready to jump off. Steve said, “hold on, my legs are going to sleep.” I said, “suck it up” and started pushing the shoulders out. He was out a second later and cradled in my arms. It was 2:58 p.m.

I called for Sophia who rushed in so happy with Aunt Liz. The look on Sophie’s face was priceless. I also called my neighbors Angel and Diane from my cell phone. Joseph’s eyes were open and he was looking around. I kissed his head and told him how much I loved him.  I was just so joyful I could have stayed like that forever. My midwife wanted me to lie down to deliver the placenta so I carried Joseph to my bed. Diane helped me change into a dry top. Sophia stayed by me watching the baby. He immediately started eating.

Steve cut the cord. Sophia said it was gross. The midwives were busy with this and that. There was a party going on in the living room. I kept watching the clock and yelling someone go get Andrew, his bus is coming. Steve and Sophie went to greet him and he ran straight upstairs. He took one look at the baby, then spotted the placenta in the bowl next to me. “That’s cool…is that blood?” he asked. I had to pass the baby over for his newborn exam and used the time to get dressed. I was shocked to learn he was 8lbs 9 oz and 20 inches long, my biggest baby yet. The baby wanted to eat again so as I fed him the midwife assistant fed me leftover spaghetti and mushrooms. Then everything was packed up and cleaned up and the midwives said goodbye. They gave instructions to Steve to not let me go downstairs for three days. Steve looked at me smirking knowing how hard that rule would be (I went down for a midnight snack). Aunt Liz took Andrew and Sophia to gymnastics. Angel and Niki came over to see the baby. I felt so good, not at all like I just had a baby.

Joseph slept through the night. I was up staring at him all night. The second night he was up all night and I was tired. By the third night we had a nice routine. He gets up once or twice a night, eats, and goes back to sleep. He is like Steve in that he likes to be warm, which is a great excuse to snuggle.

His birth was completely different from his siblings. Andrew’s birth was an adventure. Sophia’s birth was  healing. Joseph’s birth was powerful. He completes our family perfectly.

dining out

How Devices Saved Dining Out

Hey older generation, I know what you are thinking when you see my kids staring at a device, but you’re wrong. If you knew, you’d probably be jealous.

I was thinking about this tonight at a grown up dinner party in a crowded restaurant. The boys were playing 3DS and the girls were watching a movie on my iPhone. Dinner was no where in sight but we were all have a great time catching up on family news. I knew there were probably people in the restaurant judging me for giving the kids “devices” rather than engaging them. Here is the thing… without devices I probably would not have dared to take my crew out to eat. They can only do so many tic tac toe games after all. The toys and puzzles we bring are always more interesting once they are in their sibling’s hands. The alternative is to leave them home with a sitter, where they’d probably watch tv anyway. Because of devices I was able to take them with me.  They were out in the world and believe me, interacting with new people and experiencing new things. 

The other thing you might not know is what the kids are watching or playing is pretty cool. They tap bubbles that add up to a certain number, or stack blocks to form a sight word. They aren’t playing that “grand theft auto” game you’ve read about.

Another thing I’d like to point out to the older generation is that I spend a tremendous amount of time interacting with my children. Thanks to the invention of the dishwasher and microwave I can spend more time in the living room playing princess and pirates. I even have a little robot that vacuums the floors, which is a good thing because the floors are often covered with glitter and sequins from our art projects or sand from our visit to the neighborhood beach.

So when the family goes out together for a meal, I can enjoy the evening as an opportunity to take a break from everything and I can savor decadent food, try a new drink, make googly eyes at my husband, and relax in the silence coming from the kids side of the booth. So keep judging older generation. I’ll keep my devices charged up for when we dine out.


How to eat a cactus

While shopping yesterday the kids talked me into buying a cactus leaf. Actually I said “no way,” so they asked Mike our family friend who claimed he knew how to cook a cactus. On the car ride home he admitted he had no idea but thought google would know.

cactus recipe

While I put the groceries away the kids enjoyed chasing each other around the kitchen with the cactus. I decided to bite the bullet and cook this thing sooner rather than later. While I do not have much experiences with South American cuisine, I believe that chopping a veggie up and sauteing it with oil and salt is fail safe.

peeling cactus

I started by removing the thorns (and nubs where the thorns used to be) with a vegetable peeler. I then washed it in cold water until most of the slime was off. Andrew helped me chop it up into little pieces.

slicing a cactus

I put it in the pan on medium with a teaspoon of palm oil (any oil would work) and a sprinkle of salt. I covered it and left it for 20 minutes. When I came back it had shrunk a lot.

cooked cactus

Everyone tasted it and it got mixed reviews. Mostly it was neutral, kind of like a mushroom. I put them on top of tacos like a garnish.

cactus tacos


Considering how little food the cactus leaf made, and how bland it tasted, it was not a time efficient ingredient. I also ended up with a few thorns in my fingers. Overall I still count the meal as a success. The cool thing is that my kids tried this totally weird plant.

chemical name

Ingredients you can eat, even if you can’t pronounce

On this Blog I often write about foods you should avoid and why. For a change I want to assure you of some ingredients that may sound scary but actually just fine to eat. Lately I have noticed more and more people switching to a whole foods diet and the mantra “don’t eat what you can’t pronounce.” This is generally good advice, but here is a list of ingredients that you need not pronounce. The FDA label laws requires scientific names be used on several ingredients. Manufacturers are allowed to put the common name in parenthesis after the scientific one, but there isn’t always room on the label.

  1. Beta carotene: Is a group of chemicals found in colorful fruits and vegetables like carrots and pumpkins. It is converted in the body to vitamin A and is an antioxidant.
  2. Steviol glycosides: This is an alternative to sugar from the Stevia Plant. I grow it in my garden.
  3. Xanthan gum: Is a thickener made from a bacteria mixed with sugar. It is often used in gluten free baking and is considered harmless.
  4. Sodium stearoyl lactylate: is a chemical derived from lactic acid and used to mix water and oil in baked goods. Lactic Acid, another scary name, is made from fermentation of a plant such as corn or beets.
  5. Alpha-linolenic acid: is an Omega 3 Fatty Acid found in some nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils and has a ton of health benefits.
  6. Vitamins: Many vitamins have a crazy scientific name.
  • Ascorbic acid — Vitamin C
  • Retinol—Vitamin A
  • Gamma tocopherol—Vitamin E
  • Thiamine mononitrate— Vitamin B1
  • Cyanocobalamin— Vitamin B12
  • Pyridoxine hydrochloride—- Vitamin B6
  • Calcium pantothenate—Vitamin B5
leaky gut

Freaky Deaky Leaky Gut

Have you heard of Leaky Gut? Chances are your doctor hasn’t, or if he has, it wasn’t during medical school. It is a relatively new diagnosis, yet to be accepted by all medical practitioners.  It covers a range of symptoms such as bloating, cramping, brain-fog, migraines, and aches and pains. The cause is not always clear, but could be food intolerances, parasites, high sugar diet, drugs, an underlying condition like celiac, even stress.

Another term for Leaky Gut is intestinal permeability. When many people think of the intestines, they think of a garden house. The intestine is over 25 feet long, and it does process food from start to finish through digestion, but the walls are not solid. Instead it is made of millions of cells held together with microscopic spaces in between. When everything is healthy, these spaces selectively allow nutrients to pass from the intestine to be absorbed into the blood stream, while pushing the toxins and waste out of the body. When something goes wrong, these little spaces become bigger, and allow undigested particles, waste, and toxins into your body. Your immune system attacks them as foreign invaders causing an auto immune response. They also end up in your joints, nerves, and brain, causing further damage to your system.

If you suspect you could have leaky gut, you should discuss your concerns with a provider. There is no test for Leaky Gut, but he or she will probably recommend blood and urine tests to look at your nutrient absorption and food tolerances. If you aren’t sure, try taking this quiz below.

This quiz isn’t intended to diagnose your problems nor does it provide a comprehensive health analysis. Only your Doctor can do that.


After eating do you experience abdominal pain or bloating?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


How often are you stuck in the bathroom dealing with either constipation or diarrhea?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


Have you ever noticed mucous or blood in your stool?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


Do you ever feel extremely tired for no reason, confused, or suffer from poor memory or mood swings?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


Do you have any known food allergies, sensitivities or intolerance ?

A. Yes, there is a long list of foods I need to avoid

B. Yes, I need to avoid the big triggers like wheat and dairy

C. I suspect I may have food allergies or sensitivities

D. None


Are you troubled by sinus or nasal congestion, asthma, hay fever, or airborne allergies?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


Do you have eczema or notice frequent skin rashes or hives?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


How often do you notice joint pain or swelling, or arthritic like pain?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never


Do you take NSAIDS anti inflammatory medicines such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin?

A. Almost daily

B. Once a week

C. Every now and then

D. Rarely to never


RESULTS: If you answered A to the above Leaky Gut could definitely be the culprit to your health issues. If you answered B you should still consider discussing Leaky Gut with your doctor. If you answered C or D you probably have good digestive health.


In most cases, a Leaky Gut can be healed over time with a healthy, tailored diet free of GMOs, processed foods, refined sugars, and full of nutrients and probiotics. Considering how large of an organ the intestine is, and how it works with virtually every system in your body, it is clear how good nutrition whether or not you have Leaky Gut will improve your well being.