Wednesday, October 24, 2012

HallNOween: Five Fun Alternatives to Halloween

Before I start this post, I just want to say that I am not writing it to judge anyone.  If you do or do not celebrate this holiday or that holiday, that is between you, your family and God.  If you disagree with our decision, that's ok, but we ask that you respect it, just as we respect yours.  Thank you. :)
As you may have guessed from the post title, my family does not celebrate Halloween.  We used to; I even went trick-or-treating as a girl and my hubby went as a boy, but we no longer do.  Why?  Well, there are 3 reasons really.
  1. We do not like the origin of the holiday.  As a family, we agreed that we should not celebrate something with the traditions that Halloween has, even if all it is now (for most people, anyway) is an excuse to get dressed up in costumes and get candy.  If our kids wanted to dress-up and have candy, they could do that at any time, so this was no reason to keep taking our kids out trick-or-treating in our opinion.
  2. The decor scares my kids...and sometimes us.  The last few times we actually took our kids trick-or-treating, they were terrified of some of the ways people chose to decorate.  They had nightmares about some of it (Seriously!).  To us, that makes participating in this holiday not worth it.
  3. Walking around in the cold (and either snowy or damp, considering where we live) weather for hours is horrible for my Fibromyalgia.  I couldn't take them even if I wanted to.
You may be the type that either is on the fence about whether to take your kids out or not, you may already have decided not to participate in Halloween or you may indeed celebrate the holiday but are looking for other types of fall activities to do just for fun.  This is the post for you! :)
Here is a list of five things you can do in lieu of Halloween, either before, during or after October 31st:
  1. A Harvest Party.  This is very common and a great alternative.  You don't get dressed up in costumes, but you celebrate the season of Autumn and the time of Harvest.  You can decorate with fall colors, leaves, pumpkins, apples, Indian corn, etc.  You can play games and have a piƱata with candy and toys in it.  You can have all the fun without the ghosts and goblins.
  2. Have Family Time.  You can just spend time with family, immediate or extended.  You can jump in the leaves, go on a color tour, make indoor s'mores, drink hot apple cider...You can do anything that screams "fall" to you.
  3. Have A Non-Halloween Dress-Up Party.  We don't do this, but we know people who do.  If you still want your kids to be able to dress-up, but don't like all the ghosts and goblins, have a party that has a theme like "animals" or "farmers" or "historical figures" and have the attendees dress-up accordingly.
  4. Get Away For The Night.  Over the years, we have gone from feeling like we should pass out candy if we're home to feeling like we really shouldn't support the holiday in even that capacity, so we've had to go away for the night (at least for a few hours, anyway) because we live in town and feel that (if we're not going to participate) we should not be home.  Instead, we make arrangement to go to a friend or family member's house who lives out of town (i.e. where there is no trick-or-treating because it is too rural) and stay there for the afternoon and evening until trick-or-treating is done.  We normally have pizza or some other kid-friendly meal and some kind of sugar-loaded dessert (and sometimes we've even had bags of candy/trinkets for the kiddos from the grandparents/us that they got to take home with them) so the kids feel like they haven't missed anything.  We've even played games or watched a movie and ate popcorn, too.  It's always a lot of fun, and my kids always come away from it feeling like they haven't missed a thing. :)
  5. Game Night With Candy Rewards.  This could be a party or a family thing.  What you do is get age-appropriate games together and make up a reward system.  Now, you could go very educational-based, and have them go through X amount of math or spelling/reading flashcards in a minute to earn some candy, or you could do games like Tick-Tac-Toe or Go Fish! and reward the winner of each game with a miniature candy bar or something.  You could even have candy bar eating contests or apple eating contests.  You could do any number of things.  The point is, if you feel that your kid will miss out if they aren't getting candy, then find a way for them to get the candy without the Halloween twist.  You don't really need a reason to give your kids sugar, but sometimes it's nice to give them fun ways to earn it. :)  What you use for rewards is totally up to you.
I hope you try some of these alternatives out, even if you do celebrate Halloween. You might find a new tradition to add to your yearly schedule. :)
Take care, and may you have an amazing day!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Why did I choose to share this picture?
Because I want to be like this leaf; a bright spot amidst the grey and bleak.

So I have a few updates to share with you all.
  1. My blog, Natural and Free, did not make it into the Top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs on Circle of Moms, nor did I make it into the Most Influential or the Blogs To Watch categories. I did, however, make it into the upper half (52nd out of 109) of the Food Allergy Mom Blogs that were competing, and that, my friends, is awesome (especially on my first go-round) and makes me feel like a million bucks. :) I couldn't have done it without you. Your support has been absolutely amazing, and I feel like a winner - no matter what the score sheet says. :)

    I would encourage you to take a moment, though, to go visit Circle of Moms and check out all the Top 25 lists, not just the Food Allergy Mom's one. I'm telling you, there are some amazing sites there! I am so blessed to even be on one of those lists along side them, even if it's not in the top 25.  You won't regret taking a moment to check them out! :)
  2. I am making good progress with my weight loss goals!  As of Saturday, October 13th, 2012, I am down 25 lbs. since my heaviest this year, 15 lbs. of that since August 5th, 2012 (just days before my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia), and I've lost a total of 10.75 inches since August 11th, 2012.  I am a happy gal! :)  I've still got a long way to go - 65 lbs. to reach my ultimate goal of 155, but I'm ok if I can at least make it to 175, so anything over 45 lbs. more lost is a bonus - but I'm thrilled with my progress. 
  3. I am doing better with my October Unprocessed pledge.  I'm still not 100%, but better than I was a week ago, so I'm happy.  I'm learning more about how food truly effects me through it, learning to be a little more diligent in label reading and becoming more empathetic to people who have food sensitivities, special dietary needs, etc.  That is invaluable, and I'm glad for it - even if the process hasn't been the most fun!
  4. My body is adjusting to autumn!  Really!  I'm not joking!  I still get aches and pains some days for random reasons, I still get stiff and there are days I just want to cut off certain body parts, but I'm learning how to cope, what to do and not do, and that if I do what I'm supposed to do food and exercise-wise, the weather effects can be greatly reduced.  I even went for a 15 minute walk today with my the rain...and the get some groceries...and I'm doing pretty good pain-wise!  Yay! :) 

    I've also found some amazing groups on Facebook that are so very supportive that help TONS!  It's so nice to be surrounded by people, thousands in fact, that know, not just try to understand.  Don't get me wrong; my friends and family have been GREAT and more than supportive, but not everyone has that, and there are just certain parts of Fibromyalgia that you will never understand unless you have it - that's just a fact.  Groups like these are a life saver for so many - sometimes quite literally.  To all of you that visit me from those groups - You're amazing! :)  To all my friends and family that aren't from those groups but support me, anyway - I love you and you're the best! :)
  5. I am learning how to be the bright spot.  This condition has its very dark moments.  It can take you darker places than you ever thought you'd go.  It is a shock, and an eye opening experience.  It is in those moments that you have a choice.  Do you let the darkness consume you, or do you look for that bright spot?  Do you scour the globe looking for that one good thing, no matter how tiny, to get you through or not?  It's not always easy; some days it's down right torment to look for the positive.  Some days there is no positive about your physical you have to look beyond it.  You look to God, to friends, to family - and you find that lifeline.  I want to be that lifeline.  I want to be the light in the dark.  I will pray, I will support, I will give that ear and that shoulder to cry on, and I will offer that joke and that smile.  This condition - in all it's awfulness - has given me that: the desire to overcome and rise above and be a blessing and a help.  That is my bright spot...the part that I am so grateful for despite it all.

To all of you visiting my personal blog for the first time, I welcome you with open arms.  If I can help you in any way, please don't hesitate to comment or send me an email.  I'll respond as promptly as I can.

To those of you who have been here before and are returning, bless you!  You make my day! :)  I'm here for you, too!  Comment or email me - I'd love to know you were here!

Thank you for stopping by!  I hope you have an amazing day, and may you find a bright spot to make your day just that much more wonderful! :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thought For The Day...

Today is another rough day, and honestly, I am having a world of trouble just typing this, but I made myself make the effort.  I had a hard time getting out of bed, I'm extremely stiff and achy and it's been a highly emotional morning for me.  I wanted to go to church, I wanted to help with getting the kids ready, I wanted to help get breakfast ready, I wanted to be the wife and mommy I think I should be....But the trouble is that today, I can't be what I think I should be.  I am in a body that mocks me.  I am simply unable to do much more than read or type, and I'm not so sure about the typing.  So what is a girl to do?
In the midst of the worst of the tears, in the midst of the shower in the dark because light is not something that is my friend right now (I have the monitor adjusted to where it is very dim and it still is not so pleasant to look at, so I'm closing my eyes and thanking my 6th grade typing teacher for the skill to type without looking :) ), in the midst of feeling worthless, I heard God whisper, "Be still, and know that I am God:" (Psalm 46:10a, KJV)  Be still - pause and take a breath, because that's what a comma means - and know that I am God.
All the sudden it didn't matter what I could and couldn't do.  I was to be still and know that God was in control.  It will all be ok...somehow.  I just need to rest in Him.  Trust Him.  And that's what I'm going to do.
In the moment I decided to trust, that I decided to rest in God, peace came and I was flooded with what I could do.  I could pray.  I am going to pray for my cousin who is 30 weeks pregnant and having preterm labor issues.  I am going to pray for my brother and his family in Ghana where they are missionaries.  I am going to pray for the other Fibro moms I know, and anyone else who has a chronic condition.  I am going to pray for those struggling.  I am going to pray for you.  Suddenly, life isn't so bleak, I can still do something oh so very important.  I can be a prayer warrior when I can do nothing else.  That, my friend, is what gives me strength today; the realization that when I can't, God can...and He's using me today to pray...and I feel blessed beyond words because of it.
To close this post, because honestly, I can't type much longer and I really need to lay down, I am going to post some pictures of the beauty of God's creation.  When you look at them, think of these words, "Be still, and know that I am God:"  How is God showing you Himself today?


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Fibro Days of Autumn...

I love Autumn, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't love me.  So far, this year's autumn has been full of weather that screams "I want to be winter, not fall!" with all the wintry mix precipitation, wind and icy temperatures.  To say the least, my body is screaming for sunshine to no avail.  It is just going to be one of those days seasons.
Today has been one of my worst days yet.  I know it is in part due to my rush-rush-rush, go-go-go lately.  My body wants a break, and is forcing one upon me, but I can't but hope it passes by tonight without the need for me to take my Meloxicam and/or go to bed really early, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will lose that battle. *sigh*  At least the coffee is helping with the brain fog a little, though the migraine that has been lurking at the door all day is still trying to sneak in.  Big meanie. :(
I am laughing as I type, ironically, at the amount of effort it is taking to type each sentence.  My fingers are stiff (I keep taking breaks to hold onto my nice and toasty coffee mug to warm them up since that helps the issue) and my mind cannot seem to remember how to spell anythng, anyting, aynthng...ACK! ANYTHING!  There, got it. :)  Sneaky bugger, words.
Anyway, you'd laugh if you saw me.  Really.  It's ok.  I'm giggling.  I have 2 sweatshirts on, a pair of thick, warm leggings under my long, jean skirt and not 1, but 2 thick, heavy blankets wrapped around my waist.  Oh, yes - Paris runway, here I come!  Seriously, it should be a trend. :)  *using best announcer voice* "Fibro Fashions...When you need more warmth than a parka can offer to help get rid of the pain."  Yah...I'd buy that...or not.  Function over fashion today, for sure!  I haven't resorted to gloves or a knit cap yet, but I've thought about it!
If you're wondering why I haven't turned up the heat - I have.  It's plenty warm enough in here for the average bear...My body just needs more than that today.  Gotta love it!
I feel like I'm being attacked on all sides.  I've overdone it physically, it's cold and icky out and my October Unprocessed (click on my neat little badge to the right to read more on that) pledge is not going according to plan (i.e. way more than my normal amount of next-to-no processed food has entered my body lately - bad Julie!).  So what's a gal to do?
Well, I can do nothing about the weather, so let's just skip that.  It doesn't bother me too much in general as long as I am good in other areas...something I know, but pushed to the back of my wee little mind.  That needs to stop or I'll be in trouble more often than not.  Next!
Ok, so I can do something about the physical stuff.  I need to rest more (or at least take more breaks) and ask for help more.  I can do that...but it's not easy for me.  Why?  Because I struggle with pride, just like the next "I can do it better" person out there.  It's a very bad habit...a NASTY habit.  I'm working on it, really I am, but habits can be so hard to break.  God is using this pain that I'm feeling right now to remind me just how "not worth it" pride is.  It's rough, but I'm grateful for it in that sense.
The food issue...Yah, this is the one that I'm most embarrassed about.  I KNOW better.  I advise people about this daily!  What is my problem!?!?!  Selfishness.  Really, that's what it boils down to.  I'd rather sulk about my pain and whimper in the corner and throw in an easy, ready-made, preservative and who knows what all else packed meal than whip up something easy that's good for me (like spaghetti or salad or macaroni soup or any one of the more simple recipes from my other blog).  I can even do "planned overs" when I am feeling good, but I don't.  I'd rather have more "me" time than prepare for a rainy Fibro day.  Shame on me!  Today is a painful reminder of what selfishness can do.  I'm thinking, selfishness is just as "not worth it" as pride.  Eventually I'll learn those lessons, I hope!
Today as I look around a house that I'm helpless to make spotless, as I painfully try to make a meal I know I need to make instead of falling into the "processed food" rut, as I long to play with my kids more than I can, I will remember what got me here.  We can't control all of our circumstances, but we do have choices to make within them.
Life, like weather, hits all of us with a mix of things we cannot control.  We can choose to wear the proper attire for it (i.e. a smile where it can be given and a prayerful, loving heart) or we can go out in it without a jacket on and complain because it's not summer time (i.e. be a grump and feel like the world's against you).  You can enjoy the storms so much better if you choose to see the beauty of the rain than focusing on the loudness of the thunder.
Life also consists of things we can control, just like the food we eat or the physical activity we do.  We can choose to eat right and be healthy (i.e. keep our attitude right and do those good things we're able to do) or eat the junk and pay for it later (i.e. sin is only sweet for a little while - the consequences always come...and often a whole lot worse than you bargained for or expected).  We can choose to go on the walk or run that race (i.e. help others out, take care of our families) or we can sit on our heinies and grump that we have no energy (i.e. live like a hermit and wonder why we're all alone).
Perspective changes everything.  I'm grateful for these Fibro Days of Autumn, even though they are rough.  Why?  Because they remind me that, even when I cannot, God can and that it's not about me.  I cannot be prideful or selfish and live a long, full, happy life.  Those things cripple and hurt, very literally.  If I want to have the best life, I have to let go of a little bit of "me" time to plan ahead, I have to ask for help when I need it and I need to always pray for wisdom to know just what the right balance is.  I cannot do this alone.  I need my family, my friends and most of all, my God.
I hope you have an amazing day despite the weather or station you find yourself in today!  You are in my prayers, dear readers, and feel free to contact me or comment below at any time.  I'd love to hear from you, and I'm here for you! :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I'm Now The Mother Of A 10 Year Old!

When you find yourself expecting (which I had the delightful privilege of experiencing 3 times), especially when it's your first, there's a mixture of emotions and thoughts....
When I was 19 weeks pregnant
Will I be a good mother?
Will I raise him right?
How will I know what to do?
My life will never be the same.
I'm scared.
I'm sooooooooo very happy!
On and on the thoughts come and go, the whole while a wonderful, new life is growing inside you, and you do the "Mommy Count Down", the nesting...each and every experience burned in your memory for keeps.
Then the day finally arrives, and the baby is born!  Nothing prepares you for the pain of child birth, but what shocks you more is that the pleasure of his arrival knocks out the full memory of that pain.  That first moment, that first touch, that first kiss, that first cry...It's all so life altering.
His first day home from the hospital, 2002
Before you know it, a year has passed!  Where did the time go!?!  He is 1...and you don't believe it's possible that he's turned a day old, or even a month old, let alone a whole year old!
You blink again, and he's 2!  Toddler years!  He's walking well now and he isn't as dependent on you as he used to be...You want to slow it down, but you're powerless to do so, and if you really thought about it, you wouldn't want to.
Another year, and he's 3.  He's brushing his teeth and potty training is nearly done!  You're cheering that he's out of diapers, but miss some of the dependency on you, but you smile at what a "little man" he's becoming.


Four years old.  Pre-school!  He's trying to write his name, he's naming his colors and shapes, he's longing to read and now the tears really come when you're alone.  It's too soon for him to go off to school, but's time, too.

Five years old and now he's in "big kid school".  Kindergarten is here in all its glittered, backpacked, take-lunch-to-school, learning-to-cut-and-paste, making-new-friends glory.  You send him off with mixed emotions of pride, hope and sadness.  You want him to succeed more than anything in the world, you hope he makes good, life-long buddies and yet you will miss him more than anything throughout the day.

Another year, another grade!  You're baby boy is now 6 and in 1st grade!  He's reading, writing, doing math.  You can hardly believe how smart he is!  You cheer him on and encourage him, though you still miss his smiling face during those seemingly endless school days.

Second grade and 7 years old!  Look out world!  Field trips, friends, class parties...The fun never stops...nor the learning.  He's developed quite the personality over the years, and you find that he's got more "why"s and "how"s to ask than ever before!  He amazes you, and you don't tell him enough because you don't want it to go to his head. :)

8 years old and in 3rd grade.  He's talking about how he has a best friend or 2, how he wants to be this or that when he grows up (it changes every few months) and he shows himself to be more and more responsible every day.  He no longer wants to play with "baby" toys, and is on to cooler things...Like Legos.  He looks up to his daddy and still loves his mommy...and you're so very grateful!
Can it be?  Your little man is now 9 and in the 4th grade!  Who fast-forwarded time?  How can it be possible?  Surely it was only yesterday he was born...But no.  It's been 9 years since that day.  He's such a wonderful young man, plays so nicely with his siblings, helps out around the house.  Yes, he's growing up way too fast, but you couldn't be more thrilled with the man he's becoming!

And then there's today.  Today your son turns 10 years old.  He's in 5th grade now and wants to be with his friends more, but will still give you hugs in front of his friends and tell you that he loves you.  He also teases you about the facial hair he thinks he's getting (and you have to begrudgingly admit he may be right).  You pray for him daily (like you always have), thankful that he's on the right path today and begging God to let him still be on it tomorrow.  You want the world for him just as much today as you did the day you found out you were carrying him.  Maybe not so much has changed after all...
Happy Birthday, Stephen!  Your mommy loves you more than you'll ever know!  You may not be my baby anymore, but you'll always be my little man!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Circle of Moms Blogger SoundOff

Image provided by
Circle of Moms is starting a Blogger SoundOff this month.  Basically, each month they will be announcing a theme and then gathering and featuring posts related to that theme in a special section on Circle of Moms.  Very cool, and I'm happy to be a part of it!
This month's theme, if you hadn't guessed already, is breast cancer awareness.  This theme is very near and dear to my heart because breast cancer runs very heavily in my family.  In fact, my breast cancer risk is well over 50%, and those are not odds I particularly care for.
I have an aunt who has a very rare form of breast cancer called Paget's.  My mom has had at least 3 non-cancerous masses removed/drained (at least one of which was pre-cancerous, AKA there were "suspicious cells" that warranted keeping an eye on, and they still keep a close eye on her) from her breasts in the last few years.  I have other aunts and female relatives who have had breast cancer as well.  As you can see, breast cancer is not something I can brush aside as someone else's problem to worry about.  I have to be aware, I have to do my breast exams at home and through my doctor's office and in a year's time I have to have my first ever mammogram.  Fun times, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. :)
For those of you who want more information on how to do a proper self-exam and more information on what breast cancer looks like, check out Worldwide Breast Cancer.  It's got some fantastic information on it!  Well worth the visit!
If you're looking for a free badge to help promote awareness, check out  There are a lot of wonderful options there!
If you want even more information, check out  There's lots of websites listed where you can go for more information or make a donation, and there's information on where to get low cost screenings.
I encourage you, all of you, be you male or female, to help raise the awareness of breast cancer.  It is a silent killer, but if you know what to look for, we can find it early and save lives.  Let's help kick breast cancer to the curb by getting those exams and finding those masses early!  Early detection saves lives.  I know because it's already saved my mother's life.  Who knows how things would've gone with any of those masses had she ignored them.  I'm so very glad she didn't!  And, who knows?  Maybe one day early detection will save my life or the life of my daughter.  That, in and of itself, makes me want to wear pink every day of the year!

To view Circle of Moms' Blogger SoundOff "Moms on Breast Cancer" which includes this post, please click here.

October Unprocessed 2012

October Unprocessed 2012
I am beyond thrilled to share this challenge with you!  This is a challenge to eat nothing buy unprocessed food for the month (or a day, a week - whatever you feel you can do) of October.  This challenged was designed by Andrew of, and I think it's amazing and have showed my support by signing the pledge.
You all know how I feel about eating unprocessed food.  It's what is keeping my Fibromyalgia at bay and what I firmly believe will heal my body in a large degree.  It's already working!  I think this challenge is an amazing way to encourage others to try this way of life out for themselves to see that it really can help!  Gotta love that. :)
So, here's the key to this whole thing: the definition of unprocessed.  According to Andrew, the definition is: "Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients."  I like this definition.  Now, I have my rules within that.  There are foods out there that I cannot eat or won't eat because of how they make me feel that people could consider whole-food, like soy.  You may choose to add "must be organic" to your definition of unprocessed, and that's ok.  Whatever your definition, stick to it.  That's the key to success. :)
Andrew, if you read this, you are amazing!  Thank you so much for the challenge to do what I know I should.  It's extra incentive for me!  Gotta love that accountability factor!
To all the rest of you: I encourage you to do this!  Try it out.  Test what I've been telling you in a real way.  See for yourself that cutting out the processed food will benefit you in ways you could never imagine!  And let me know how you're doing along the way.  I'm more than happy to encourage, help and support in anyway that I can. :)
Happy October to all of you!  May it be a fabulously unprocessed month for all of you! :)

P.S. I decided to add this after thinking about it for a bit.  If you want to know what food rules I'll be following, I will basically follow my Food "Do"s and "Don't"s, except I will be extra careful about my selections (aiming at less sugar, less caffiene, more whole grain, etc.), especially when not at home.  Wish me well! :)  I'll be blogging about it all here, so feel free to follow along.

Oh, before you go...I need your help, pretty, pretty please!
My recipe/information blog for those with or those caring for those with the top 8 food allergens, Natural and Free, is up for Top 25 Food Allergy Moms - 2012 on Circle of Moms! If you want to support me in this, if you have been to Natural and Free and feel it worthy of the title, I'd be honored if you would click on the icon above and vote on my blog or follow this link: Once you get to the page, find my blog (it's currently at 34, but that could change - you'll see my picture and Natural and Free) unless you use the link which is a direct link to my blogger profile and takes the searching out for you :), and click on the little thumbs up button next to the word "vote".
Voting ends October 17th. You can vote once every 24 hours if you wish (so if you vote at 3pm today, you can't vote again until 3pm tomorrow). You don't have to be a member of Circle of Moms to vote (or even a mom or woman for that matter), either, so if you really want me in the top 25, encourage those you know to vote, too. :) Thank you so much!
Oh, and while you're there, check out the other nominees. You can vote for more than just me if you wish, just only one vote per blog per 24 hours. I know I personally have voted for a few of my blogger buddies who are more than deserving of the title. :)
Thanks for the support, and have an amazing day! :)