Learning to Say No

It seems children today are offered candy or junk food during or after every activity in which they participate.  Where do you draw the line?  This is the story of how I’m learning to say no.   

Meghan had her first day of school yesterday. (She’s repeating kindergarten at a new school.) I picked her up and she chatted happily the entire ride home, telling me all the details of her day. It was such a relief to have her be happy, such a relief to know she had a good experience.

As mothers, I think it’s our instinct to want to hold on to our little ones, to not let go.  Having Meghan start school this year feels like I’m having to let go a little.

It’s a hard line to walk. I want her to go out into the world and be independent, yet I want to protect her and keep her safe.  The world is a scary place. There are so many things out there that can hurt her.  How can I keep all the bad things away? What do I let her experience on her own and what do I shelter her from?

I’m learning that there are times when I need to let go more and times when I need to hold on tighter.

This summer, Meghan did three activities.  She took swimming lessons, tennis lessons, and did a golf camp.  Every single one of those activities ended with a sweet treat.  Swimming and tennis were ongoing activities and after every lesson the kids were presented with a Dum Dum sucker.  The golf camp was only a 3 day event and at the end of each day the kids were given a full-sized candy bar.

Through the years I’ve settled on the philosophy that I will control what foods I buy, but won’t make my kids refuse treats at special occasions like birthday parties.  The older Meghan gets, however, the more I realize that those special occasions are not so special. Candy and junk foods are being handed out to my kids for everything they do.

And why do kids need candy after a sport lesson or camp, anyway?  What, exactly, is the purpose?  To reward the kids?  Why do they need a reward for taking a lesson?  Isn’t the lesson the reward?  It’s a privilege to be able to take a lesson.  The kids who are able to take lessons are lucky.  Why on earth would they need a piece of candy? It certainly seems to contradict the message of active, healthy living, which I would think any sport lesson should be trying to convey.

The breaking point for me came near the end of the summer.  I was sitting with Luke, watching Meghan get her tennis lesson.  There was a group of moms, none of whom I know that well. Luke, as a typical two-year-old, was not sitting still and he fell and started crying.  The head tennis coach went right for the sucker tub, declaring, “Oh, he needs a sucker!” Don’t get me wrong.  His heart was in the right place.  But my kid did not need a sucker because he was crying.  If I gave him a sucker every time he cried…well let’s just say he’d be eating suckers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  He’s two.

The tennis coach went on to say how popular the suckers had been that summer. They’d gone through 1,500 suckers. I wanted to say, “No, shit. Artificially colored sugar’s been a big hit among kids?! You don’t say?!” Instead I just smiled and nodded my head while my two-year-old got a blue mouth from the Blue #2 he was licking frantically.

After that day, I realized I’d had enough. I didn’t understand why I didn’t have it in me to speak up.  Why I couldn’t say the things I wanted to say to the people handing these candies that are potentially damaging to their developing brains?  Nobody wants to be the overbearing, crazy mom, right?  But I knew something was going to change.

I started by buying an organic bag of lollipops.  Still a ton of sugar in those things, but at least there wasn’t the artificial food dyes. I put it in my purse and was armed with an alternative to the suckers they were handing out.  I felt like at least I was doing something.

Meghan, of course, wanted to know what the difference was.  5-year-olds ask questions like this.  So I told her.  Those Dum Dums she’d been given were full of food dyes that were proven to be bad for our health and they could hurt her brain.  I liked giving her candies that were naturally colored better.

After that, she didn’t look twice at the Dum Dum bin after a swimming or tennis lesson. Tim brought her to her swimming lesson one day and came home shocked:  ”What did you tell her about the suckers?  She said she didn’t want one because they weren’t healthy for her.” And he didn’t even have an alternative to give her.  She basically forgot about wanting a sucker at all and since then doesn’t ask for the organic lollipops.

I kick myself for waiting so long to just say no.  I’m not sure what I was afraid of.  My kids throwing a fit?  (Wouldn’t be the first time.) Being judged by other moms?  (I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time for that, either.)  My kids feeling deprived? (Doesn’t every kid need a healthy dose of that once in a while?)

Slowly, I’m learning to say no.  It’s okay to stand up for what I think is important in real life, not just hidden behind this blog.  Why is it so much easier to publish it on the Internet than say it out loud? I don’t have to pressure anyone to make the same decisions for their kids that I do.  I won’t judge you if you aren’t as afraid of artificial food dyes as I am.  But I’m done being quiet about my kids getting candy or junk food that I don’t want them to have day after day.  Sometimes, it’s my job to say no.

What do you think?  Am I crazy or is the amount of candy offered to our kids outrageous?  How do you handle it?  







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Posted in General Nutrition, Parenting | Tagged | 17 Comments  

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

Can you feel that?  Summer is fleeting.  She’s trying to sneak out the back door while we aren’t looking.  I don’t know about you, but I’m holding on for dear life.  Strawberry lemonade.  Long live summer.

Meghan starts school tomorrow. Like full-fledged all-day-everyday school. Tomorrow. I won’t even talk about the emotions going on with sending my oldest to school all day everyday for the first time.  Let’s just say she’s more ready for this than I am.

Instead let’s talk about how the start of school=fall.  But wait! It’s still summer.  Where I come from, school didn’t start until after Labor Day.  So this mid-August start has me all off kilter.

I’m not ready to send Meghan off to school and I’m not ready to say good-bye to summer.

Way back in June when the whole summer lay out before us like a promise, Meghan asked if she could have a lemonade stand.  I told her of course she could have a lemonade stand during the summer, sometime before she went back to school.  Then, last week, we were talking about school starting and she stopped in her tracks:  ”Wait! School’s starting and I didn’t have my lemonade stand!”  In case you didn’t know, five year olds don’t forget.

So on her last weekend before school starts, Meghan got her lemonade stand.  The weather was cool and cloudy, but that wasn’t going to deter her.

With my supervision and just a little help, she made homemade strawberry lemonade. She cut the strawberries and juiced the lemons.

Then, the lemonade stand became a lemonade wagon, and we walked through the neighborhood, seeking customers.

One pitcher of strawberry lemonade and $3.25 later, and my budding entrepreneur bid a final farewell to summer.  But I’m not ready yet.  I’m having another glass of strawberry lemonade.  Join me?



Have you entered to win the awesome Ball Canning Prize Pack yet?  If not, check out this post and get entered!

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Posted in Lunch Recipes | Tagged | 11 Comments  

How to Freeze Fresh Herbs & Ball Canning Prize Pack Giveaway

Fresh herbs make nearly everything taste better.  Not only do they add incredible flavor, but fresh herbs offer a myriad of health benefits, too.  Fresh oregano, for example, has antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory.

Fresh herbs don’t last long, though, which makes them less than convenient. Have you ever frozen your fresh herbs?  It’s so easy and saves you valuable minutes at dinner time. #winning

You don’t need any special equipment to freeze your fresh herbs.  A knife and an ice cube tray and you’ll be good to go.  Ball Canning sent me a few fun tools to make the job even easier and more fun, though. (Don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to win them, too! Wait until the end of this post to learn more.)

The first tool sent by Ball Canning that I tried was the cool 5 blade herb scissors you see above. With one swift movement your herbs can be cut into perfect strips!  They are awesome.  I also used the special silicone trays they sent, which worked beautifully.

So freezing fresh herbs couldn’t be easier.  Here are the only steps you need:


Easy, right? You totally need to freeze those herbs next time you have a whole bunch of extra and nothing to do with them. No more throwing them out when they turn brown and wilted in the back of your crisper drawer!

Ball Canning Company is all about preserving.  They are having their annual Can-It Forward Day this Saturday and will have live demonstrations and seminars on their website.  Whether you are a canning pro or a total newbie, you should check it out!

In celebrating of National Can-It Forward Day, Ball Canning is offering an awesome prize pack for one reader of Happy Healthy Mama.  This is one great prize pack!  Check out what one winner will receive:

  • Quart-Sized Case of Spring Green Heritage Jars
  • Pint-Sized Case of Spring Green Heritage Jars
  • Fresh Herb Keeper
  • Dry Herb Jars
  • Frozen Herb Starter Trays
  • 5 Blade Herb Scissors
  • Ball Blue Book of Canning
There are multiple ways to enter below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Posted in Reviews | Tagged | 54 Comments  

Restaurant Style Salsa with Fresh Tomatoes

When Tim and I were in our dating years, his apartment was stocked with two main foods:  Hamburger Helper and Ramen Noodles. We’re talking Ramen Noodles by the case.  The man didn’t buy fresh vegetables. Ever.

When we were first married we went to one of his childhood friend’s weddings.  Word was out that I was one of those weird healthy eaters, and the friend asked me how that was working out with Tim since he’d never seen him eat any vegetables the entire duration of their friendship.

He was shocked when I said he did, in fact, eat the vegetable-centric things I cooked. Maybe it was love for me, or a newfound discovery that vegetables are really not as bad as he thought, but Tim has come so far from those Hamburger Helper days.

He tries things I’m sure he never thought he’d try and eats more vegan meals than most carnivorous men I know. My love for vegetables has translated into his at least a tolerance for them.  He tries every single thing I make, even if it looks like something he will hate. That’s love.

So many of the foods I make are in an attempt to get him to like the things I like.

This salsa is a different story.

I’m a chunky salsa girl.  I wanted to take these local, organic tomatoes and turn them into my favorite kind of salsa with lots of big chunks.

Instead, I turned them into Tim’s favorite kind of salsa.  For all the dishes I’ve made him with the list of vegetables he dislikes, and he’s eaten anyway, it’s the least I could do.  Tim despises salsa with chunks.  He wants his salsa restaurant-style, so made this batch especially for him.

Turns out, even though I’m still a chunky salsa girl, when you are using fresh tomatoes, even thin, restaurant-style salsa tastes amazing.  I’m quite certain, actually, that homemade salsa with fresh summer tomatoes, when paired with crunchy tortilla chips, is one of the most perfect foods on the planet.

If you think that homemade salsa is too much work, think again.  Homemade salsa takes just minutes to prepare.  You are just minutes away from having one of the most perfect foods on the planet in front of you.  What are you waiting for?!


Although this recipe isn’t made for canning, I stored mine in my favorite mason jars from Ball. If you love Ball products, too, come back tomorrow for a great giveaway!


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Posted in Snack Recipes, Vegan Recipes | Tagged , , | 13 Comments  

5-ingredient Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Ice Cream Bars

Have you ever found a recipe on Pinterest that boasts it is a “2-ingredient” or “3-ingredient” recipe only to click over and find that it uses a box cake mix?  Seriously, people, box cake mix is not one ingredient.  Last time I checked a box of cake mix had at least 15 ingredients.

This recipe is really, truly a 5-ingredient recipe.  5 real-food, healthy ingredients that make up a delicious summer dessert.  Sound too good to be true?  You’ll have to take my word for it–it’s not too good to be true!

With every bite she took, Meghan exclaimed:  ”It’s so good! This is sooooo good!”  Who knew a treat with bananas+peanut butter as the main ingredients could be so tasty?!

The first time I made these I tried to make them into ice cream bars, Klondike-style.  The result was really messy and not easy to eat.  After some brainstorming, I turned them into ice-cube sized bars on a stick.  This was the perfect solution! The bars became a manageable, portion-controlled size and easy to eat.

They are also super easy to make. I used this stainless steel ice cube tray to freeze my banana+peanut butter “ice cream” and then all that needed to be done was a little dipping.  Mixing the chocolate mixture in a liquid measuring cup made this simple and mess-free.





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Posted in Dessert recipes, Vegan Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments