Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever After

Do you watch Once Upon a Time? My eldest daughter introduces me to it when she asked me if she could watch it because all her friends were watching.   So, we both watched one episode.  I loved it.  She hated it.   Now I'm hooked and she doesn't watch. I'm on Season 4 on Netflix.  Not sure what I'll do when I finish that and Season 5 isn't available yet? That will be a sad, sad day. 

I love Once Upon a Time because it's so realistic.  Well..not the fireballs or magic beans or portals between worlds or ripping people's hearts out and storing them in your magic vault. But the rest of it. The way that people feel and act and behave.  The characters are always looking for a happily ever after....and they never find it. 

There is always one new plot twist, one new discovery, one new villain, one new hardship. Of course...that's how they keep the series alive, but that is also how real life is.

And the characters are so real.  No one is all good or all bad.  People change and grow just like they do in real life.  There are heroes and there are villains but they aren't always the same people.  Sometimes the villains do something heroic and the heroes does something villainous. 

Which is how life is.  There is no happily ever after, because crosses are always popping up.  Just when one thing gets settled, something else comes along.  Sure, our crosses are not quite the same as evil queens incinerating people or losing our loved ones when they fall in a portal to another world.  But we have our crosses just the same.  Sometimes we behave in a heroic manner and sometimes we are villainous.  

Kinda like marriage.  Everyone thinks marriage is happily ever after, but it's actually more like happily ever two days and then the next thing comes up.   

Today, Ben and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Fifteen years seems like a really long time.  And it is. I remember when I was younger and I would hear about friends celebrating their 15th anniversary and I was all "wow, that's a long time".  Now, we are there. 

A few years ago, when we were only at 13 years, I dreamed of taking a romantic getaway for our 15th anniversary.  Unfortunately a getaway of any sort....romantic or not, is absolutely not in our budget.  So, we're just staying home...or maybe we'll go out for dinner. The good thing about making it to 15 years, and having had a baby within the first 2 years of marriage, is that we now have a built in babysitter who works for room and board. 

Every year at this time, I like to blog about marriage.  And even though the blog has been quieter as of late, this year is no different.   So here are my rambling thoughts on how to go from once upon a time to sorta happily ever after.  Because, after all, there will always be life's little and big crosses to bear. 

Always Try to Do the Right Thing.  That seems sorta obvious and not at the same time.   This world would be a much better place if people always tried to the right thing.   This world needs more heroes and less villains.  While most of us will probably never go on a quest to find the one ingredient in the potion to save some one's life, there are millions of other opportunities to do the right thing.  To be kind and considerate and not lazy or demanding. To put someone else first, instead of ourselves.  Anyone can be a don't have to pull someone from a burning building or jump in front of a moving train.  Even just putting someone else first and yourself last is heroic...just on a smaller scale. 

Don't Expect Your Spouse to Provide Happiness.  This is where my advice differs from the fairy tales.  Happily ever after doesn't come from anyone else.  You can't look to someone else to provide your happiness and joy.  They will fail you again and again and again, in both big ways and little.  The fairy tales and the movies would have us believe that happiness only comes from true love.  Not true.  The happiest people realize that they don't need someone else to be happy.  Happiness comes from within and above.   But mostly above.   So, don't look to someone else to provide always fails.

Enjoy Each Other's Company. This is probably the biggest thing.  A marriage where both spouses enjoy each other's company is a happy marriage. 

What about you?  Do you have any good marriage advice?  Do you like Once Upon a Time? Talk to me. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Greetings with a few Puzzles

Merry Christmas to all our beloved friends and family members.  It is time for your annual Bentrup Christmas letter.

Like all years, this year saw the good and the not-so-good, but all days were a gift.  

Some of the highlights of this year. 

Ben started his own law firm.  Unfortunately, business has been a bit slow so things are still not great financially.  In addition to his law firm, he is still job searching and substitute teaching.  Most of the bad moments of the year relate to the frustration surrounding issues of job searching and underemployment.  In many ways the past couple of years have felt like a perpetual Advent of waiting, waiting, waiting.  However, unlike the real Advent, we don't have an end date in sight . . . so we wait.

Meanwhile, other stuff has happened. 

In January, after months of tests and MRIs and even a biopsy....Heidi was diagnosed with a bone infection in her back.  Thankfully, 2 months of antibiotics cleared it up.  Not-thankfully, however, she seems to have developed new allergies from the antibiotics and figuring those out has been a challenge.

On a positive note, however, Heidi is in 8th grade and getting all A's in school.   She's been first in her class since the 1st grade (not that being homeschooled has anything to do with being 1st in the class or anything).  

She's also been exploring the arts, and in August acted a part in the play Cheaper by the Dozen.  She also continues to do well with the piano. Still, her favorite activity is social time with friends.  

Greta is well....Greta.  

She has personality and a flair for the dramatic.  She also played a role in Cheaper by the Dozen, has written pages and pages and pages of stories and even started writing her own songs on the piano.  In October, she made her debut as a public storyteller and told stories at my mom's Franciscian Fest.  She's thinking about hiring herself out for birthday parties. 

Greta also continues to play chess and has even won a few trophies. 

However, her latest aspiration is to write test questions for the LSAT and she has been having great fun writing logic puzzles for us all to solve.  She even wrote some just for YOU.  Have fun solving them. 

John's year can be summed up in one word: chess. In May, we traveled down to Nashville and John tied for 3rd place (12th in tie-breaks) in the National Elementary Chess Championships in the K1 section.

In January, he got third place in the Indiana K-3 State Championships.

In November, he got first place in the Indiana 2nd Grade Chess Championship.

At the tender age of 7, his chess rating is now 1380 - not too shabby!  That puts him at around #22 in the nation for kids under age 8. He's done almost all his own training.  This year John also became a fluent reader and ardent disliker of schoolwork. the age of 3, has started rivaling Greta for most words said in a day.   For example, she just now gave me a rather long, drawn out explanation about "When you go to the bathroom, first you lift up your dress like this, then you go to the bathroom.  That's how you do it, you lift up your dress FIRST so you don't get it wet."   I figured I would share, just in case anyone wasn't aware of this very important tidbit of information. 

Here she is, taking her rightful place as Queen of the World.

Elsa loves dolls, dress-up, playing with friends and playing with babies. 

Here she is tandem baby-wearing her two babies..appropriately named "Big Head" and "Little Head". 

In other kid news.....the older ones all joined 4-H this year and had a somewhat successful first year. 

In May, we bought a house....a somewhat bigger, older house near the heart of town.  This was a good thing, because it meant we could move out of our old, haunted, way too small house. 

Haunted by an orthographically-challenged ghost.
In September our beloved cat, William, died. 

In October, we got George (apparently we have a thing for Bristish royalty).  George is a Corgidor, which just means he's part Lab and part Corgi...but obviously mostly Lab. 

With the exception of his not-so-infrequent thievery of food, he is a wonderful dog and we couldn't be happier with him. Together, we've put lots of miles on my sneakers pounding the pavement of the lovely older neighborhood we live in.

Yesterday, Ben said he thought he heard mice.  There are only two possible solutions to this problem: the first is to move, the second is to get a cat.  We decided to go with the cat route.

Meet Zorro!  He's four months old.  He looks brown in this picture, but he's actually all black. 

He's brand new to the household but is doing really well so far.  Thankfully he and George seem to get along just fine.

This summer, Amelia decided that homeschooling wasn't hard enough, so she started working at home with Leapforce.  And, then that wasn't enough of a challenge, so she decided to make things even more complicated in the fall and  babysit a sweet infant 4-days a week, all day.  That has now ended, so there may be more time for blogging in the future. Don't drop this blog from your reader just yet. 

We hope all our family and friends have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and New Year's.  We'll leave you with the cliffhanger that is 2016.  What will that year bring for the Bentrups?  Stay tuned to find out.  And keep reading for Greta's logic puzzles.

Greta's logic puzzles:

Easy Puzzle:

Katy, Jim,  Nancy and Nate are all children.  Their mom's names are Anna, Belle, Cassidy and Claire.  Use the clues below to match each child with his or her mom. 

Anna's daughter is friends with Nancy
Belle's son is Nate's friend.
Claire hates N names. 

Hard Puzzle: 

From the clues, match each child with their Christmas gift.  The children are Gloria, Cassidy, Jack, Ellie, Danny and Billy.  The gifts are a doll, train, legos, DVD movie, skateboard, and soccer ball.  Each child recieved a toy that they liked.

Billy thinks that anything used outdoors is dumb. 
The girl with the soccer ball is friends with the boy with the skateboard.
Danny's gift does not require any effort and is not used outdoors.
Gloria and Ellie hate sports.
None of the girls are lazy enough to watch movies.
Danny hates trains and dolls and doesn't have a DVD player. 
Ellie thinks trains are for boys and doesn't like them

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nutritional Help for Anxiety and Depression

I'm not a doctor or a medical professional.  I do have a scientific background, but no medical training. I'm just a mom, who like lots of other moms has struggled at times with anxiety and depression. 

I stated in my other post about why I think anxiety and depression are so common among mothers.   I'd like to add something to that.   Not only our our daily lives stressful and we frequently don't eat enough, but pregnancy and breastfeeding take a huge nutritional toll on our bodies.  This is especially true if a mother has closely spaced children.  It takes time for a woman to recover her nutritional stores after pregnancy and breastfeeding and a mother's body will nourish the baby first.  So, if you have had closely spaced children (and by closely spaced, I really mean closer than 18-24 months between pregnancies which translates to a child spacing around 2.5 years or more), and struggle with anxiety and depression or just plain irritability and impatience, you may want to pay special attention to nutritional cures as your body may be depleted of vital nutrients. 

Why nutritional cures?  I'm a fan of nutritional cures for mood disorders because I believe that in may cases, these disorders are caused by a lack of nutrition and a nutritional cure addresses the root cause.

Forgive me for getting too science-y, but our moods are regulated by these things called neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters are formed from amino acids and vitamins.  If we don't have enough amino acids and vitamins, then our bodies can't make the neurotransmitters we need and we suffer from mood disorders. This is especially true during pregnancy or breastfeeding, because our bodies are shunting those amino acids and vitamins into either the developing baby or breastmilk, so these is less left over for the mother.

The only way to really know if a nutritional cure is going to work for you, is to try it.  And, it does work, it likely means that you were deficient in that nutrient in the first place.

That is not to say that I believe pharmaceuticals are bad, I don't.  I would never judge anyone for taking them.  However, I do believe that good nutrition is vital and that if we do have a nutritional deficiency that is affecting our moods, well the smart thing to do is to correct it. It certainly can't hurt to eat well. 

Is anyone really nutrient-deficient? 

I think a lot of people tend to have a hard time believing that in our society of plentiful food and overweight people that anyone is really nutrient deficient.  Yes, many of us eat plenty of food, but not plenty of the right kinds of food.  We eat junk food, nutrient-deficient food and calorically-empty foods.  In our society, food has more become more about pleasure and fun than nourishing our bodies.  

What Can We Do?

I found the following three books to be extremely helpful.  I suggest you either buy them through my Amazon link <wink, wink> or check them out from your local library.  Unless you live in my city.  Then you can't, because I have them checked out and if you put a hold them, I will have to return them, instead of renewing them the 4 times I had planned.  Just kidding....I will happily return them, so you can check them out.


Product Details

I can't tell you everything in these'll have to read them yourself...but I will tell you some of the highlights.

Eat lots of healthy fats.  Fat is an essential part of brain health and development.   Most people think they are eating enough fat but they really aren't or they are eating the wrong type of fat.   We basically consume 3 differents fats in our house....butter, olive oil and coconut oil.  We stay away from things like vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil...none of those are healthy. 

Omega-3 fatty acids. Lots of studies have shown that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids help with anxiety and depression.

Lysine and Arginine. Studies have shown that these two amino acids help lower cotisol levels and decrease anxiety. 

There is a reason you crave chocolate: Chocolate is high in magnesium and fat....both of which are an important part of mood regulation. I like to make my own healthy chocolate....mix coconut oil with dark cocoa powder and then a bit of honey or maple syrup.  Much healthier than typical chocolate and still satisfies that chocolate craving and gets you all the healthy fat in coconut oil and magnesium and anti-oxidants in dark chocolate. 

Lots of protein.   I have read suggestions to eat 25-30 grams of protein with each meal.  Especially in the morning.  That's a lot of protein. A lot!  Most of us get nowhere near this.  All this protein serves two regular blood sugar.  Low blood sugar and blood sugar spikes is a common cause of feeling anxious, irritable, depressed or moody.  Plus, protein is composed of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters which regulate mood. 

To get that much protein you pretty much have to go back to a traditional meat and potatoes, eggs and sausage way of eating.  Our society has taught us that raisin bran is a healthy breakfast, that a salad makes a great lunch and that meat should be a small part of dinner.  We're told to get vegetarian sources of protein like nuts and beans.  Which is fine...but really you need to get 15 oz. of black beans to get as much protein as in 3 oz. of chicken. 

Whether it's because of budget concerns or diet concerns, our society has gotten away from eating lots of meat. And I think our health is suffering....because it really is quite hard to get enough protein without eating meat. And without enough protein we don't have enough amino acids to make the neurotransmitters we need.

Lots of vegetable and fruits.   Amino acids don't just form neurotransmitters all on their own.  They need vitamins, especially B vitamins and vitamin C.   Hence...the need for eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Some carbs too.  Yes....carbs can be healthly and we do need some.  They are an efficient energy source and a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Consider supplements.  You can read more in the books, but some supplements that are are especially helpful are L-theanine (an amino acid), inositol, other amino acids, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Stay away from bad stuff.  Limit sugar and consider an elimination diet to discover if  you have any hidden food allergies.  Gluten and dairy are the most common hidden food allergies or intolerances,  Some people find that their mood improves just by eliminating those foods.  Others find that they can tolerate them in small amounts, but not on a daily basis.  I have learned that I am sensitive to gluten  I can eat small amounts (maybe 1 serving once a week) and be fine, but if I start eating gluten-containing foods more often than that, I start to notice a reaction. 

Pay attention to your moods. Try to think when you feel the most irritable or anxious or depressed or not yourself.  Pay attention to what you ate or didn't eat before those times.  I've realized that for me, I tend to feel more anxious and irritable in the mornings.  I tend to feel much better after lunch and even better after dinner.  I think that's because I tend to eat a small breakfast, mid-sized lunch and big dinner.  Even something as simple as reversing that....eating a big breakfast and smaller dinner makes a difference in my moods.  There's something to be said for the hearty breakfast idea. 

Consult a doctor.  I have to tell you that.  Of course, it's a good idea, especially if you can find someone who will help you find nutritional cures.
Naturally non-nutritional things like exercise and prayer are also helpful.  It may take some experimentation to figure out what works for YOU.  I've listed some things that work for me, but you might find other solutions that work for you.   If so, please share them with me!  I'd love to hear your experiences. 

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