What I Learned From Grandma

This post is a little different because it’s not really about food and nutrition (but it is a little bit). I promised when I started this blog that I would be as transparent in my real life (nutrition journey and education) as possible. So as I type this with tears streaming down my face I am thankful that I have this opportunity to share about Grandma Mae.

My gorgeous, wonderful, hard-working, tough-loving, courageous Grandma went to be with Jesus just a few short weeks ago on September 9, 2017, relatively unexpectedly. Although she was 92 and her heart was failing, her mind and the rest of her body were in pretty good shape considering her 92 years of life. Our family, myself included are deeply saddened…but hopeful that we will see her again in heaven someday.

I learned so much from her. I learned from her life, her example, her stories, and her convictions. She was a family woman but not the lovey-dovey type grandma that gave you hugs, kisses, and “I love yous”. But she’d drop anything to help you, cook you your favorite dish for Sunday dinner, and tell you when she thought you were doing something wrong…because she loved us. I learned about true strength and courage from her. I learned a lot about Biblical/moral right from wrong from her. I learned that love comes in all shapes and sizes, not just through words. I also learned, through her passing, that even though she didn’t say “I love you” she appreciated when we did. I found notes that I had written her telling of how much I appreciated her and loved her. I got my Grandma for 34 years and my children got a Great-Grandma for 5 and almost 2 years and not too many kiddos have that blessing. So we are blessed and we are so much better off for having Grandma.

She loved these little boys

Earlier in the week before she passed, I sat and looked through her Bible sitting beside her chair in the living room. Note after note she had carfully written verses about courage, bravery, and strength. I spent the day before she passed with her in the afternoon talking about her old nursing school friends, her nursing career, and praying over her as she slept. I wrote in my prayer journal a scripture that she had marked down in her own Bible. It says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 30:14. My Grandmother was the strongest person I have ever met. Seriously…I’m not just saying it…she reeeeeally was.

Grandma was a disciplinarian and set the rules pretty clearly. You know, a black and white kind of lady. She never minced words and you always knew where she stood on things. Grandma wasn’t afraid of her opinion. Just ask my mom about the hot slaw incident or my sister about the burrito bowl dinner :). She liked what she liked and you knew it! She also had standards that should be met or she would tell you about it…unapologetically. But you never had to guess with her and you always knew where you stood. She had the courage enough to speak her mind without fear of what people may think. Her courage came in other forms too. My Grandpa passed when Grandma was in her early 60’s and she stepped up and cared for their home, the acres of land, and her family. She was the picture of courage. As a woman in her 60’s she could have easily said: “woe is me” (and who would blame her) but she didn’t. She was strong and courageous. She wasn’t afraid because she knew that God was with her. She poured her heart and soul into taking care of our family, her home, and those she loved. Even in her last days when the chest pain was strong, she powered through better than most people would have

Grandma was also a super hard-worker. Anyone who knew her will tell you she never stopped cleaning, cooking, caring, mending, ironing, hemming, gardening, weed-pulling, shoveling snow, or planning her next “job”. Even though “courage” was a theme I saw running through her Bible, I’m pretty sure she lived by the Proverb 16:27 verse that says “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” So she kept her hands busy! I’m not kidding, a few months ago (after she was told not to get on ladders anymore) she was washing her windows while standing on a step stool. My father caught her and told her she shouldn’t be up on the step stool. Without missing a beat she said, “they said no ladders, this is a step stool.” I mean, how can you argue that?!? She even had a garden this year, albeit small, it was something she would talk about. Although she never thought her green beans would amount to anything this year, my Aunt just picked a good helping from her garden…she would have had a good laugh about that! Just in the week of her passing she cleaned and cut green beans for my Mom and ironed two shirts for my Dad. This woman was no joke.

I know my blog is about nutrition so here’s the food/nutrition part of the story: Grandma was an old farm girl. She could cook anything from scratch. The tales of her growing up on the farm were my absolute favorite stories Grandma told. No refrigerator, no electricity, no fancy kitchen equipment but everything was scratch made. Incredible! One day I’ll get into those stories more because I think we can learn a thing or two about food and nutrition from the way they cook/ate back then but for now, this isn’t my point. My Grandma could cook and bake well but if you asked her, she’d tell you she wasn’t a good cook because she needed a recipe. This always made me laugh because I don’t know of any dish she made that I didn’t like. My brother will tell you her pumpkin pies were out-of-this-world and my sister would say that her Texas sheet cake was good enough to eat the entire sheet. Every single one of her 12 grandchildren had a favorite Grandma dessert or food that we are all going to miss so dearly. She poured out her heart and soul and love into everything she made for us. My brother wrote a wonderful eulogy for her funeral that talked about Grandma’s love and boy did he hit the nail on the head especially when it came to her loving us through the food she prepared.

Last summer I had the honor and privilege to go over to Grandma’s house and make her infamous potato salad by her side. She taught me the ropes. She showed me what made it so good and I’m pretty sure it was the amount of times she licked her finger to clean the rim of the bowl so it was presentable for the picnic, just saying. We cooked together, chatted about life, she showed me her techniques, and we just enjoyed each other. Grandma taught me that making food for your family was much more than just the food prepared. It’s about the process, the journey, the love, and the memories. I wrote her a letter after that day…because that day meant so much to me. I put it in her car (yes she was still driving last summer). Grandma never mentioned anything about that letter but I just found it this week. She saved it and dated it. That day meant just as much to her as it did to me.

Grandma made Sunday dinner every.single.Sunday for the entire family for years. My parents took over a while back when they built a big garage to house the growing number of our family but Grandma was the center of these after-church meetings. It was critically important that we all gathered as often as possible to share in our week and eat the potluck food that was prepared with love. She built our family (4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 12+ great-grandchildren) with these Sunday dinners. All of us cousins are more like siblings and even the second-cousins are becoming so very close all because of Grandma. Some have moved away but there’s a bond and a love that goes deeper than distance and time.

This is what love looks like

Food and fellowship, love and discipline, hard work and courage…that was my Grandma. I will miss her so dearly and my heart aches thinking of all the voids that will be left because of her absence on this earth but I am so grateful for her life. I’m so blessed to have had her for 34 years of mine. I’m beyond blessed that we moved back hometown and we were able to spend this last year visiting with her. I cannot begin to tell you how valuable her life was to me and how much I have learned from that old farm girl turned nurse, turned mother, turned grandmother, turned great-grandmother, turned hero.

She never told me she loved me…ever. Over the past couple months, it became a joke! “Just say it!” I thought. But she never vocalized it. What I realize now is that she said it in more ways than just those simple words “I love you.” She said it through showing her courage. She said it by spending countless hours working on one thing or another for us. She said it by cooking potato or macaroni salad for me. She said it by letting me into her kitchen on that beautiful day to watch as she made potato salad. She said it by telling me the stories of the farm or nursing school or her nursing days. She said it by inviting my children into her house and letting my daughter drink chocolate milk or hot chocolate and letting the twins run amuck through her living room. She told me she loved me by giving me advice and lately she would say to me “Amanda, life may seem hard now but raising my children was the best time of my life.” She said it by letting me tell her I loved her because she knew I needed to say it.

Death is sad for the living but as a Christian, it is bitter-sweet. You see, she is with Jesus and some sweet day I will be too. Until then Grandma has given a great example of how to be courageous, how to work hard, how to cook with love, and that family is so deeply important. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Grandma Mae. She will be deeply missed by those who love her but we will continue her legacy the best we can.

Grandma enjoyed visits from her namesake (my daughter) Emma Mae

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is GOD! He is a faithful God, keeping His promises of love to a thousand generations of those who love and keep His commandments.” – Deuteronomy 7:9

Give them Breakfast!

Look…kids (and everyone else) need breakfast. Research shows that kiddos who eat breakfast do better in school, behave better, and have more energy for play/sports later in the day.

I’m a huge advocate of the school breakfast program. Use this resource!!!! But if you are feeding breakfast to your child at home, here are some tips for a smooth morning and some ideas to feed your kiddo!

Breakfast Tips:

  1. Wake up earlier. Mom’s, I know you are already strapped for time and tired. I’m there, in the trenches with you but waking up just 15 minutes earlier to get your kiddos breakfast can keep your kiddos healthy and doing well in school.
  2. Get things ready the night before. Have lunches packed, school bags ready to go, and clothes picked out. This reduces stress in the morning and allows more time to eat a nice calm breakfast.
  3. Let your children help pick out breakfast. If they are involved and invested in what they are eating they’ll be willing to eat a more balanced breakfast.
  4. Have a few grab-and-go breakfasts available. Come on, we all know that some mornings are just hot messes. Even if we don’t plan on these types of mornings, they happen and it’s so important to have a plan B.

Before getting breakfast ideas here are a few breakfast guidelines:

  1. Stay full with PROTEIN (pick one)
    • Animal: eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, string cheese, turkey sausage
    • Plant: peanut butter, other nut butter, nuts, soy sausage
  2. Get some ENERGY with Carbohydrates (pick one and/or a fruit)
    • Whole grains: cereal (Cheerios, Mini Wheats, look for at least 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams or less of sugar), oat meal, hot quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, buckwheat pancakes
    • Fruits: fresh, frozen, canned in light syrup
  3. Extras for FLAVOR (pick one and/or a veggie)
    • Heart healthy fats: nuts, avocado, oils, peanut butter, nut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds
    • Vegetables: onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, salsa, tomatoes, fresh, frozen, canned
Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

20 Super Awesome Balanced Breakfasts Before School

  1. Cheerios with milk, banana, and peanut butter
  2. Whole grain English muffin, with an egg, slice of cheese, and a tomato
  3. Scrambled eggs with whole wheat bread and salsa
  4. Super Awesome Smoothie (frozen fruit, handful of spinach, chia seeds, milk, Greek yogurt)
  5. Banana burrito (whole grain tortilla, peanut butter, banana)
  6. Yogurt parfait (Greek yogurt, fruit, chia seeds, sprinkle of granola)
  7. Breakfast burrito (whole grain tortilla, egg, peppers/onion/black olives)
  8. Fruit salad wrap (whole grain tortilla, ricotta cheese, fresh berries, slivered almonds, drizzle of honey)
  9. Oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries
  10. Overnight oats with apples, cinnamon, and almonds (oatmeal, Greek yogurt, milk, chopped apples, cinnamon, and almond in a glass jar overnight in the refrigerator and microwaved in the morning)
  11. Whole grain waffles with peanut butter and jelly
  12. Buckwheat pancakes with turkey sausage
  13. English muffin with Canadian bacon, tomatoes, and green peppers
  14. Hard-boiled egg with whole grain toast
  15. Cottage cheese and fruit
  16. Breakfast sweet potato with vanilla Greek yogurt and cinnamon
  17. Breakfast pizza (whole grain English muffin, tomato, and shredded mozzarella cheese)
  18. Whole grain mini bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and veggies
  19. Mini quiches (scrambled eggs, veggies, Canadian bacon or turkey sausage, shredded cheese – make ahead and freeze)
  20. Apple sandwiches (core apples, slice so they are in circles, put peanut butter inside, and eat!)

You don’t have to make them hard. These are relatively easy with little prep work.

What are your favorite go-to breakfasts?

Let Them Play

I am an adult dietitian. I’m not an expert in child nutrition…at all. So far I have one semi-picky child and two boys who eat just about anything you set in front of them. Like these dudes genuinely enjoy eating. I have pictures to prove the joy they get out of eating/playing. Is it a fluke? Maybe. Maybe not. Just last month I went to a conference and heard a speaker talk about eating behaviors in children. Letting children play with food can actually make them less picky. Seriously, no one wants a picky eater. So maybe letting them play can actually encourage them to eat better, healthier.

Because I have 2 kids who eat just about everything and one who eats fair (there are many frustrating meals and also some good ones thrown in there), I’ve learned that the oldest child is definitely the experimental one (I was the oldest too). Kids following the first may have a significant advantage! HAH! All kidding aside here’s what I see between my kiddos in how I fed them/allow them to eat. This may be the key to lessen picky eating…or it could just be a coincidence? Eh either way it’s worth a shot to try!

With my daughter I was going to do everything “perfect”. First-time parent syndrome. I was going to be the perfect dietitian-mom. All organic, low sugar, homemade everything, no fast food, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Yep I was one of those. I made all of her food for the first 2 years of her life. Seriously. Day care provided lunch but I packed hers. I spoon fed her (obviously) when she was a baby. She never got very messy when she ate…at all. Despite my best efforts I made the same few foods over and over and over and over again because, as a working mom, I could only do so much.

The boys are a different story all together. They are rainbow babies and after a high risk pregnancy my outlook on raising children changed a little…and they aren’t my first AND there are 2 of them. I ain’t got time to be perfect! 😉 Besides watching their dairy intake, (they have an allergy) those dudes eat whatever.  I let them eat with their hands mainly because I can’t feed them fast enough before they go ballistic so I let them have-at-it. They are 17 months old and have eaten everything from sauerkraut to Thai food to salads and even spicy chili.

This is a Thai cabbage salad the boys devoured!

Meals are messy and, although clean up isn’t awesome, they enjoy eating. Surprisingly more goes into their belly than their highchairs or the floor. They feel their food, squish it, pick it up, pinch it, scoop it, lick it, taste it, and enjoy it. Would I have let my daughter do this? No. Should I have? Maybe.

Recently I started inviting my daughter to help me cook and it has worked wonders! She has tried everything she makes and is excited about new recipes, baking, and helping me prepare the food. It’s awesome! She’s playing, learning, trying, tasting, and expanding her palate!

So my conclusion is: let kids play with their food. No matter the age! There are researched benefits to allowing babies, children, and teens play and cook with food…it’s not just me 🙂

  1. Let babies explore food. Feel it, squish, mold, pinch, pick up, lick it, and smear it all up.
  2. Give toddlers a spoon and even if they have a difficult time, let them try to hit their mouth!
  3. Let pre-schoolers start to help in the kitchen.
  4. Kids can begin to help meal planning (and continue to help cook).
  5. Older kids can meal plan and cook simple meals.
  6. Teens can take over in the kitchen! Let them plan, try new cooking techniques, and find recipes.

Check out this great website for kids cooking by ages.

Other great tips:

  1. There is no such thing as “kid foods”. They can eat whatever adults eat…seriously.
  2. You are not a short order cook. What you make for dinner, the family should eat (outside of a food allergy).
  3. Kids do not need to clean their plates but they should taste everything on their plate.
  4. Even if they don’t want to eat everything, taking a “thank you bite” gives your child the opportunity to try the food without the pressure of eating it all. Thank you bites are shown as gratitude for the cook.
  5. Let your kids have foods they like too! Make your kids a meal they truly enjoy once in a while shows them you do know what they like. For instance, macaroni and cheese as their starch or having pizza night (with a veggie of course)!


Parenting isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing your best and knowing what’s best for your children. My daughter probably won’t be picky for the rest of her life (many times it is a power struggle not necessarily the food itself). There are many picky eating “fixes” out there. Try them but don’t make yourself crazy. I hope this helps for some of you out there.