Welcome! Come on in! Make yourself at home and stay awhile. But beware of the odd flying toy, fighting child, dirty sock, or even a mad Mama. If you are looking to read about about a perfect family, this is NOT it. But if you want a real snapshot of day to day life in the deRegt household, you might just find that here. My desire through this blog is to keep in "real" touch with family and friends, beyond the picture-perfect Christmas form letter (hey, what can I say? I believe in wearing your heart on your sleeve). We consider ourselves blessed that there are so many wonderful people in our lives that we can't even keep in touch with everyone. Please leave a comment now and then, we'd love to hear from you, too. Except if you are perfect, then we want you to go away!!

Friday, 30 December 2011

2011's Best Parenting Idea Ever

Tonight, as I was getting ready for bed, my heart skipped a beat to see that not just one of my kids, but BOTH of my older children had placed their Mommy & Me journals on my pillow. This means they have written an entry and now it's my turn. Honestly, it's almost more exciting than the little love letters and cards that I used to get so giddy about pre-marriage (and yes, I got them. Don't hate me!).

For Christmas this year, I ordered these special, customized, beautiful, journals from a cool little site called Paper Coterie. My friend Kristie tipped me off 3 hours before the deadline that if I signed up to a different blog, I could get $30 of free credit with this site, and that was enough to order 2 journals. A few clicks later, and they were personalized with a picture of me and each child, and the custom text read "Aiden's Mommy & Me Journal" (and "Janae's..." you get the picture...).

Well, who could've known that these last-minute, afterthought, FREE gifts they received this year would turn into some of the most special and fun times we've had all year. We've been writing back and forth for almost a month now, and I cannot get over what a blessing it has been to our relationship.

Without divulging too much of their inmost thoughts, I just have to share some comments:

From Aiden:
-"I love yous kisis" (I love your kisses)

-"Thank you fru coming on a bate wif mee" (a date with me--we went on a date together this week)

-He also drew a picture of a dog he wants to get, complete with a tail and a fart (labelled "frt") and a little boy laughing at the fart.

From Janae:
-Ever the detail-queen, her journal comes with notes taped onto it saying "the pen is in the box, please give it back" and then the next time "repeet this note pleese". Tonight there was a new note saying "be careful when you open it" because she squished into the journal part of a leftover chocolate bar that she has been saving for a month. "A treat for you. I hope you enjoy it."

-"I did fantastick at the piano recital because you helped me! (so thank you) Will you rub my back tomorrow night?"

"Is it fun and hard to be a mommy, mommy?"

"Did you always want three kids, mommy, or did you want more (I bet you wanted a hundred thousand girls, and not too many boys!!)"

"I love you to the moon and back and around the world too!"

Every time I open one of the journals to read what they have written, I end up laughing and welling up with tears and feeling like my heart is overflowing with love. It is such a beautiful way to end the day, especially some days that were far from beautiful to begin with. It's a fun way to communicate with the kids about things that might not normally get communicated, it is an easy way to make them each feel very special, and some day it will be the most amazing keepsake!

Not to re-iterate, but I would highly recommend this!!

 And now I need suggestions for how to respond to the picture of the farting dog...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Confessions of a Sugar Mama

I have a confession to make. My kids sometimes eat white sugar on butter on white toast. Before you die of diabetic shock, let me tell you more. I can't remember the last time Reuben ate an actual vegetable. If he will eat half a container of yogurt (sweetened of course) and a Bear Paw cookie, I consider that a healthy lunch and might even give myself a pat on the back. I send juice boxes to school in my kids' lunches, not water in re-usable containers. Aiden has a gumball machine...in his room. Shall I go on?

Before you send me hate mail or even worse, lecture mail, or even worse--lecture Facebook posts, let me assure you, I KNOW!! I have read all the nutrition books, I had gestational diabetes with two of pregnancies and have been thoroughly educated on the subject, I can list the Top 10 healthy, immune-boosting, fat-busting, age-fighting, disease-suppressing superfoods out there. I can create a healthy meal plan to rival that of the granoliest of granola people. It's not for lack of knowledge, or lack of belief.

I'm not here to explain it (heck, if I could psychoanalyze myself to the point of understanding this, we wouldn't be in this blog together right now, would we?). But in the realization that the quantities of sugar consumed by our family might just be worth buying shares in sugarcane, I am considering a new year's resolution....can we really give up all (most) sugar for a month? Could you?

Before I beat myself up too badly about our habits, I feel the need to share some of the neat little tricks I've been learning and doing to "healthify" our eating. It was shortly after we had my daughter's friend over for dinner and she looked at the white minute rice on the table and said "what's that?" that I realized maybe we need to catch up to this healthy bandwagon and jump on.

So, after many failed attempts, I have learned what works and what doesn't. One of Reuben's first words was "disgussing", learned from his dear siblings who would expressively and unreservedly tell me what they think of my new approach to cooking.

What works vs. what doesn't (in my family):

1. Basmati Rice (still better for you than long grain white or Minute brand) vs. Brown Rice (a.k.a.,cardboard shavings)

2. Smoothies!! At least three mornings a week I make smoothies with Greek 0% yogurt, frozen fruit, flax, and spinach. As long as there are blueberries in the mix, they can't see the green fleks. YAY!! This works so much better than putting fat-free yogurt in front of them, topped with whole blueberries.

3. Flax. A super food. I put it in everything because it's so easy to do that! I grind it in my coffee grinder, and put it in smoothies (see point 2), cookies, oatmeal, granola, hamburgers, soup, bread and pizza dough. It adds fiber and protein. I've even begun to wonder if one can consume too much flax? Much better alternative to trying to make the kids eat bran flakes.

3. Breadmaker!! This has been a fabulous investment. Not only are we eating way yummier bread that costs less than storebought, we can also be sure there are no preservatives in it, AND I can sneak flax and hemp into it. And, little do they know I am slowly replacing the white flour with whole wheat flour and unbleached flour. Again, this is more successful than buying "bread with nuts in it" that my family spits out.

4. Pasta sauces. This is something I've been doing for years--finely diced veggies of all sorts thrown into the pot to blend into the tomatoey red oblivion. Zucchini, peppers, grated carrots, celery, spinach, etc, etc. What I've just recently learned is that I can do this for white sauces too!! Last time we had chicken fettucine alfredo, I cooked half a head of cauliflower until it was mush. Then I mushed it some more in my Magic Bullet, stirred it into the noodles with the alfredo sauce and voila! More veggies!! And again, more successful than the stir fry that congealed on their plates.

5. Beans, beans, beans. Good for the heart. Tacos? Nachos? Quesadillas? Burritos? Anything Mexican-ish that requires fried ground beef gets a healthy dose of smashed beans mixed into it. The kids think it's just extra saucy. This goes over much better than serving them, say, just beans. My mother used to try that. It still turns my stomach.

6. Whole grain noodles. Lately I've noticed the grocery stores are offering the healthy noodles at the same price as the white ones. Marcel says it has something to do with abolishing racism. I am just happy that I don't have to choose between healthy and affordable in at least one food category! And it is more welcomed than the zucchini noodles I attempted to serve last summer and the spaghetti squash that got laughed at.

7. The after school snack has had a makeover. I have chased away visions of the good mother taking freshly baked cookies out of the oven as her children arrive home from school. Air popped popcorn is a great one, apple slices with melted peanut butter to dip them in, fruit skewers with yogurt dip, cheese and crackers...yes, yes, yes. No to the carrot sticks and red pepper slices.

8. Sneaking veggies into baking. Ok, so aside from point 7, I do still bake for my family, believing it makes me a good mother. But I've been trying to make things that have a healthy component--carrot muffins, zucchini bread, banana bread, pumpkin muffins, blueberry bran muffins. These are great school snacks instead of the sugarized granola bars that used to (ok they still do sometimes) get thrown in there! They didn't like the cranberry health cookies I made.

9. More activity, less couch! Our family gift this year, which we opened on Dec. 5 to celebrate Sinterklaas, was a Kinect video game system. It doesn't use controllers. Your body is the controller. So as we are river rafting, playing beach volleyball, raquetball and many other things, I am feeling less and less guilty about the "screen time". This has completely replaced our tv time. So while my kids' are still tuned in to a screen, they are also raising their heart rate and sweating. And so am I. Because, honestly, it's such a rush to kick Marcel's butt at boxing. KO!! And this is so much more fun than dragging them outside for a walk in the rain.

10. And lastly, I just ordered a brand new product from Epicure that is coming out January 2012, called the Chipster. I attended a demo and it's the most amazing little thing. You take a potato, peel on, use the slicer tool thingy to slice it into very thin slices. Place them on this silicone tray thingy. Put the tray in the microwave for 4 minutes. Out comes perfectly crispy potato chips. Season with a little Herbed Garlic sea salt and hello! Move over, Lays! No oil, no additives. Nothing but pure potato. This will now be replacing our potato chip addiction!

Looking forward to starting January 3rd with our kick-the-sugar month. I'll blog about it if I don't pass out from hypoglycemia!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

Ok, ok, I know I haven't written for a while now. I've gone through a phase of feeling like my life is really not that exciting to write about. Or, alternatively, my thoughts are sometimes a little too wild to put out there for the whole world to see!

Either way, we now have a half-decorated Christmas Tree in our living room and I must blog about it.

You see, it's the second year in a row we have screeched into Home Depot with crying kids right before closing time, in the rain, to get one. While I am muttering pathetic criticisms at each and every family member about the trees they want to pick and Marcel is pointing out that my hands are firmly ensconced in my pockets, I am struck by how utterly and completely OPPOSITE this picture is of what was in my mind last week as I envisioned our family's outing to get our tree.

Did I plan for us to go to an idyllic Christmas Tree farm? YES! Did I have visions of us merrily tromping into the woods to pick the perfect tree? YES! Did I picture Marcel-the-lumberjack with his axe and saw cheerily conquering the pine-scented beast? YES!! I even, admittedly, heard the Christmas carols that should've been playing on the radio and expected my children's exuberant faces to be smiling cherubic-ly while we drank apple cider afterwards. The ride home was to be full of anticipation of hanging the treasured ornaments on the tree while I whipped up some shortbread cookies.

Seriously!?!? You might be asking. YES!! Two years in a row? YES! What did I get instead?

First of all, it rained and poured. And we left later than planned. The check-engine light on the van made hubby nervous to drive to a Christmas Tree farm so far out, so we didn't bother looking up directions to the farm, planning to go to Canadian Tire instead. When said light miraculously disappears, we decide to just wing it and find said farm. Drive, drive, drive. Children get hungry. No farms in sight. It's too dark to keep looking, so we head back. Tears and anger start brewing in the back seat. Mom starts yelling from the front seat (yes, that's me!): SUCK IT UP! Yup, not my best parenting moment. We see Home Depot, the lights are still on...and in we go.

At home, one son stomps on the lights as we try to find the not broken ones. The other son screams at son one for doing this. Daughter decides to take the nicely untangled beads that Dad spent 45 minutes detangling and wrap them around her arm where they promptly get tangled again. Boys decide to play tag and roll into the base of the tree. Girl cries because we don't let her decorate the couch with the Christmas bows. Do I need to go on? All the while the cats circle the tree precariously. I'm fully prepared to wake up tonight to the sound of it crashing to the ground.

So if this is reality, why do I expect the unattainable? I like to think of myself as a little smarter than that. Yet, here we are in year two with the same miserable experience. Somewhere along the way I have been duped into believing those warm fuzzy moments can happen. And I am willing to drag my family through hell or high water to find those warm fuzzies.

Is it worth it? We did manage to put the Young Handel's Messiah in the laptop for some background music (some child broke our iPod docking station recently). I made tacos for supper which prompted Aiden to spontaneously thank God that I finally made tacos which are his favorite. Reuben kept saying "lookit Mommy!" "come see Mommy!" and when he pointed and said "beeeyoootiful!" I couldn't help but agree. Janae ignored the wind and the rain (and her mother's advice and example) and climbed up on the van roof to help Daddy tie the tree down, after dragging it out of the Home Depot warehouse with him. And all that after shedding some pretty dramatic tears about it not being a Christmas Tree farm. Resilience? Determination? I found it inspiring.

One of the reasons I had such unrealistic expectations is because we did have a few Christmases that actually worked out exactly how I wanted them to, a few years ago when we stumbled upon a quaint Christmas Tree farm in Chilliwack that did actually serve hot apple cider in a pinesy smelling room that you could retreat to after cutting your own tree down in the softly falling snow. But those moments weren't planned. And we can't recreate them. Sometimes, in a family, it's the unplanned moments that end up being the warmest, fuzziest, and most memorable. And even in the craziest of times, I wouldn't trade my warm fuzzy family for any perfect one, any day!

Monday, 13 June 2011

The "Mini-size Me" generation??

So I discovered the cutest little sesame seed hamburger buns today--miniature ones. Created for "sliders"--those new mini-burgers that are such a hot food craze right now. I couldn't resist. I bought them, because of my fetish for all things miniature. 
 I am fascinated by, and thoroughly enjoying, this newest trend in food production. I mean, sure, we've had baby carrots and two-bite brownies around for probably a decade or longer by now, but it seems every time I go to the grocery store lately I'm seeing a new "mini" calling out to me. Mini cans of coke, mini tubs of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, baby watermelons, mini pita rounds and bagels, baby bell peppers, and the list goes on (seriously--add to my list by commenting below, I'm really curious to know what's all out there!).

I love it--whether this is just an extension of Hollywood's Babymania, or a healthy response to my generation's sickening "Supersize Me" era, in my opinion it's a fabulous idea on all sides. It really is healthier to eat smaller portions, and if I can still feel like I've finished off a tub of Ben and Jerry's without inhaling a whole litre of ice cream, well hey, sign me up! It's also great for getting just a taste of something, and allowing room to try different flavours--I'd love to try guacamole on my burger, but have never dared cover a whole burger in the green stuff. With a plate of 3 sliders, I can try all the combos I want. From a marketing viewpoint it's pretty bright too. I mean, really, I spent the same amount on those mini-buns as I would on full-size ones. I'm sure it didn't cost as much to make them.

I'm also thrilled that Epicure Selections has joined in this trend with our "verrines"--miniature glass dishes for serving layered appetizers or desserts. I've been having so much fun with these--breakfast fruit and yogurt parfaits, perfectly portioned chips and dip, almost calorie-less desserts. They really are so fun, and we're eating less because of it.

Hmmm, what will be next--miniature eggs?? Now THAT would be interesting...look out, Robins!

Here are some pictures of the verrines we've been enjoying!

Janae with her blueberry yogurt parfait!
Mmmm, chocolate pudding and whipping cream desserts!

Friday, 3 June 2011

"Do as I say, not as I do!"

Below are some pictures from Janae's and Aiden's field days last week. Janae is none too modest about her 5 ribbons, as you can see! Aiden's Kindergarten field day wasn't about ribbons, it was about having fun. So he has no ribbons--fun, hey?

Although I am a proud parent, it came as a surprise to me that Janae did so well in several sporting events. She obviously doesn't take after her mother! Nonetheless, on the way to school this week I was reminded (or maybe kicked in the butt!) about how much influence I really do have.

I'm ashamed to admit that some days I drive my children to school even though you can almost see their school from our house. But that is another story. It usually involves a lot of dawdling and a little bit of yelling and hollering. I won't say who does what. And nothing irritates me more on those mornings than slow drivers who take their time slowly meandering down the road in front of me.

This particular morning as I missed my 4th chance to turn left off a busy street into the school parking lot, I might've muttered something along the lines of "why on earth does that truck have to take for-fricken-ever?!?!" Apparently I didn't mutter it softly enough, because as I was helping Janae out of the van and putting her backpack on she turns to me and says, "Why does this backpack have to be so fricken heavy all the time??" Oh dear. I quickly apologized for saying it and told her that it isn't ok for her to say it either. Unfortunately that doesn't erase it.

I know, it's kind of cute in a demented way. And you might be laughing. But it sure was a lesson learned for me to keep on eye on myself, because there are 6 little eyes watching and copying every move I make. It reminds me of the story of the carrot, the egg, and the coffee (http://www.gardenplum.com/columnvine/carroteggcoffee.html). We all have a choice when placed in hot water--become hardened like an egg, turn to mush like a carrot, or be a coffee bean and bring a pleasing taste and aroma wherever you go--especially in hot water! I'd like to think of myself as a full-bodied bold blend...

Why the M&M Jar???!

So I've been thinking of starting a blog for some time now, and believe it or not, the thing that kept stopping me was a name. Considering I wanted to write about everything that goes on in my life from recipes to kids' quotes to rants about life's little annoyances--the good, the bad, the ugly (and cute) and more...what could encompass all of this??

Well, being a bit of a word-geek, I've been aware for a while already that the initials of our family's first names spell out MMJAR--Marcel, Monica, Janae, Aiden, Reuben. I've been waiting for the perfect thing to do with that cool acronym, and it hit me tonight--voila! A blog!

As some of you know, I've always loved writing. I am currently a news correspondent for The Banner--a magazine from our church denomination. While I love it, I miss creative and expressive writing. So welcome to my mixed "jar" of writings about the goings on in our household and life.