How Do You Raise Healthy Kids?

How Do You Raise Healthy Kids?

It’s a question I ask myself on a daily basis. Every time I make lunches, prepare snacks, plan dinner. Are my kids eating enough of the healthy stuff? Every time I say no to video games and yes to rollerblading. Are my kids active enough? Every time I encourage my kids to create, to make music, to play with play dough or paint. Are they inspired to reach for their dreams? Every time we pray together, read God’s Word, sing a worship song. Are they falling in love with Jesus?

Rock Beach

Raising healthy kids is not an exact science. Sometimes I wish it was! Do this and they’ll turn out as healthy adults.

Raising healthy kids is an art and in my better moments, I remember that it’s a process. It’s a journey and for some reason, God chose me and their Daddy to be the tour guides. Which means that raising healthy kids looks like their parents seeking to be healthy as well.

My tendency is to focus on one thing and forget that health is not relegated to the physical or the spiritual or the emotional. Health involves the whole person. Some days, I feel like I am playing Whack-a-Mole. I have one area covered and another issue pops up.

Raising healthy kids doesn’t just happen by hoping that it will. It takes work (all the good things do!).

So what do we do about it?


In our family, we have decided to stop waiting for perfect and start by taking small steps in the right direction. In regards to food, I am working at planning meals, so that we eat more home cooked meals and less fast food/delivery. I try to make lunches every day, but don’t stress if we run out of time and the kids have to buy lunch at school. I am also working at offering healthy snack options to the kids and having “sweets” be a treat rather than a norm.

Tree 1

Our kids love to play outside, but it has been a hard winter. Setting a healthy example for them looks like their Daddy joining a gym and their Mommy running laps around the house. It looks like playing Just Dance on the Kinect and doing family stretches. We can’t wait for bike rides to start again!!!

sandy beach

Creativity abounds in our house. Discipline does not. And so, we have to work on this. This means that we have instituted chores and regular homework time, so that our kids are learning that living inspired lives is not just doing whatever you want. It is understanding that the practice and the mundane parts of life set the foundation for the excitement that comes from pursuing dreams. This looks like Daddy doing administrative work, so that he can fulfill his dreams of preaching and teaching. This looks like Mommy doing dishes and laundry before I write or create.

shore line

Spiritual health might be the most difficult aspect of health to measure. Spiritual growth depends on so many factors. Maturity. Experiences. Response to difficulties. Deeper trust in God. We can’t manufacture situations to help our children grow, but we can be faithful in growing ourselves. For us, this looks like personal devotion time. It involves listening to Christian music in the car. It includes scripture memorization. We talk about how our love for God should impact every area of our lives. Just as a day doesn’t go by without seeking to be healthy physically, a day doesn’t go by without seeking to be healthy spiritually. It is as normal to us as breathing. And this isn’t just because we are a pastor’s family. It is because we are a Christian family.

sky and beach

In sharing all of this, I want to be clear about something. I firmly believe that raising healthy kids will look different for every family. Too often we can feel the pressure to look like another family instead of seeking to be the family that God has made us to be. We are working on eating more fruits and vegetables, but our family will never be vegetarian. We have workout plans, but I don’t see any marathons in our future (not ruling out the kiddos though!). We have passions and dreams, but they are ministry driven, not financially driven. And though our relationships with God are our highest priority, we all have a lot of growing to do in this area.

Daddy Ainsley

Raising healthy kids is a journey, but I am thankful for the one we are on. I’m grateful for grace along the way and the reality that seeking health isn’t about perfection, but about pursuing it.



A Big Hero 6 Party

Our sweet Gibson was turning 6 (hard to believe!), so a Big Hero 6 party seemed like the obvious choice. As luck would have it, the movie was released on DVD the week of his party.

And so the  planning began.

Gibson has as many “girl”friends as boys, which simply meant that this had the potential to be a large party. As a result, we decided to host the party in our church gym. We planned to have a bounce house, but those plans were thwarted due to obscene amounts of snow throughout the entire month of February (which meant our friends did not have access to the bounce house in their barn).

This didn’t stop us. I started drawing Baymax’s eyes on EVERYTHING! I searched everywhere for red lollipops. I printed out coloring sheets from my Big Hero 6 Pinterest board. The day of the party finally came.

As Gibson’s friends arrived, we invited them into a room to watch the movie and color their favorite Big Hero 6 character. Once everyone was there, we headed to the gym for an obstacle course.

Big Hero obstacle course

It was a huge success. Each obstacle represented one of the characters from the movie. As Honey Lemon, the kids had to throw a ball into a tube. The next obstacle was sliding on a scooter, like Go-Go. Next they had to take two Nerf swords and slash their way through some blocks, reminiscent of Wasabi. We decorated a hula hoop with red crepe paper, so that it would look like fire when they twirled it- much like the “fire breathing” Fred. We set up a bunch of tubes and play huts to represent the city of San Fransokyo and the kids were able to explore it like Hiro (without the flying on Baymax part, which would have been really cool!). The last obstacle was to shoot balloons with a toy Baymax fist.

Obstacle Course

After everyone had a chance to go through the course, they just kept going and going. It was pretty cute!

But what’s a birthday party without cake, right?!!

Big Hero cake

I came up with this idea after searching for Baymax cake ideas. I wanted the cake to say “Our Big Hero is 6″ from the very beginning, but the Baymax face was a fun addition. The cake itself is a brownie. The Baymax helmet is a sugar cookie, cut to look like the helmet. Three weeks later and my fingers are still numb from piping the icing, but it was worth it!

Big Hero Gibson

In addition to the cake, I made red velvet cupcakes and had twizzlers and marshmallows. After drawing over 100 Baymax eyes, I refrained from piping eyes onto the marshmallows per my original plan!

Big Hero dessert table

Big Hero Desserts

Red Velvet


After dessert and opening presents, it was time for the pinata. To be honest with you, I do not like pinatas. Especially with little ones, but it was the one thing Gibson requested. Instead of whacking it with a stick, my husband made up a plot line- the cupcake pinata was an evil villain that needed to be destroyed. Each child had the opportunity to shoot the villain with the Baymax fist toy. It didn’t work to actually break open the pinata, but no one was hurt during this process, so we consider it a success! And everyone enjoyed the candy and little toys, so happiness all around!


Pinata attempts

Pinata scrambling

After all of this crazy fun, there was more playing and more movie watching. Our Big Hero enjoyed turning 6!

Mommy, Daddy, Gibson


We love our sweet 6 year old! Happy birthday, Gibson!!!

As all of Gibson’s friends left, they were given a travel sized first aid kit (The Dollar Store) with Baymax’s eyes, of course! I taped a red lollipop onto each case. Now all of Gibson’s friends have their very own personal health care assistant.

Big Hero First Aid


Whether you plan a Big Hero 6 party or if this simply gives you ideas for a fun movie viewing, I hope you are inspired. Our whole family loves this movie. It is one that we will watch over and over again.

And we will forever associate Big Hero 6 with Gibson’s 6th birthday!


Pancake Daye Favorite

Most Saturdays (at least the best ones) have a slow beginning. When we finally roll out of bed, we are cheered by the reminder that it is Pancake Daye! My husband makes coffee while I find the pancake recipe for the day. I am constantly on a search for the best ever pancake recipe.

I think I found it today. Actually, my daughter found it which is even better. I want to encourage all of my children to at least be comfortable in the kitchen, so I encouraged Lindsay to find the recipe for today. Her excitement thrilled me. We didn’t actually have all of the ingredients in the original recipe, so we created our own not-as-healthy version of a Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes recipe (I’m sure it is really good too and probably much better for you!).

My husband declared this recipe a winner. He also asked that I keep track of the recipe, because he would prefer that I don’t make a different recipe every week. So to honor my daughter’s brilliant find and my husband’s humble request, I am going to share the recipe here in order to pin it. I will now have the recipe forever and ever.

Disclaimer: I did not intend to write a blog post on this, but part way through eating my last pancake, I realized that I probably should. This is why the only picture is a half eaten pancake!

Pancake Daye

Lindsay’s Pancakes


1 (or 2) ripe bananas

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons peanut butter (we use chunky!)

2 Tablespoons canola oil

6 Tablespoons of milk (3/8 of a cup)

1 cup of oats

1/2 cup of flour

4 Tablespoons of semisweet chocolate chips



1. Preheat a griddle to  350 degrees.

2. Mash the banana with the baking powder.

3. Add eggs, oil, salt, vanilla, peanut butter and milk. Stir.

4. Stir in oats and flour until combined.

5. Fold in the chocolate chips.

6. The batter will be thick. Scoop a large spoonful of the batter onto the griddle forming 2 1/2 inch diameter pancakes. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side until they are a nice golden brown.

Makes 12 hearty pancakes, perfect for our family of 6. Serve with butter and maple syrup.


One day I hope you will be able to look back and remember this day as the one where you learned that you love to create in the kitchen. In case you forget, I will remember for you.

All my love,




Run Your Own Race

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:13,14

Yesterday I ran in our church gym with some friends of mine while my baby girl played with some balls, occasionally running with us.

When we first started running, I wondered how it would go. I usually run by myself, so I’m not used to keeping pace with someone else. As we began to run, I discovered that we all had a different pace and we all ran in different directions. One of my friends had an iPod and was singing with her songs, unaware that we had a radio station playing. Another friend has been running in the gym for the past several weeks so she had a plan. She did laps interspersed with diagonal sprints and she changed it up rather frequently. And me? I’m more of a steady pace kind of runner. I prefer to run outside with a change of scenery, but necessity (i.e. living through the winter in Upstate New York with a toddler’s schedule to consider) has demanded that I run indoor laps. Mundane. Boring. But effective.

Our different strategies in running are teaching me something valuable about life. The one thing that was the same for all of us is that we all showed up. A year ago, this would not have been true for me. I am NOT a runner and I will NEVER be a runner was pretty much my attitude for 39 years. But yesterday, I came prepared to prove that my attitude has changed. I showed up with a water bottle, workout clothes on, sneakers ready, hair pulled back.

It’s funny how I can want certain things from life and then not do the work to show up and be prepared. One of my dreams is to have a book published, but if I never actually write, I can be pretty confident that there is zero chance of this happening. I want to earn some money for our family while still being a stay-at-home mom. This won’t happen if I don’t seize the opportunities that come my way.

As I run my race, I have noticed my tendency to compare my pace to others. I see women that I admire way off in the distance and I am tempted to feel like a failure. I see others who won’t even join the race and I feel an ache for them, a desire to pull them off the couches and encourage them to run. And then there are those that I want to run with, but for some reason, they are going in a different direction.

How do I reconcile all of these things and be faithful to running the race that is laid before ME?

I think it starts with being intentional, understanding that I need to show up and be prepared. But it continues with a focus on the goal set before me. I have discovered that I need to have a predetermined length in mind before I start to run. I also need to have a race that I am “training” for. Without a goal, running seems pointless to me. But with a goal? It makes it purposeful, it provides satisfaction, and I feel strong. As I think about my goal in life, what it boils down to is that I want to live with a heavenward focus. The things that I do- are they pointing others to Jesus? Are they pointing ME to Jesus? Do I seek His glory or my own?

As I seek to live out the purposes and the goals I have set for my life with the overarching goal of bringing glory to God firmly in place, I must remember that I need to run MY race and that there is nothing inherently selfish in this. When I see others who are further ahead, I need to celebrate their successes rather than bemoaning my own inadequacies. When I see friends who are struggling to live out their purpose, I need to remember that my role is not to pull them along. Rather it is to show by example that following where God leads is life giving and worth pursuing. The is legacy leaving living (how’s that for a tongue twister?!!).

I find that I struggle the most when I discover that friends are running in a different direction that excludes me. It is one thing to have different passions, but when I can tell that there is a break in a friendship, I struggle. I’m learning something about this. It is really okay. Sometimes God allows my path to cross with another, for our pace to match for a time, but it is just that. For a time. We might not be best friends forever after and that is perfectly okay.

Our individual race should encourage others to run the race that is set before them. My faithfulness in running will spur others on, just as the faithfulness of others keeps me heading in the right direction.

This morning, a friend of mine showed up on my doorstep ready to work out. In the busyness of a week filled with sickness, I had forgotten our plan. Ten minutes later, I was ready to exercise. Oh, how I need those friends- the ones who keep me accountable, who pursue me, who help me to be faithful to my journey. And I want to be that kind of friend too.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:1-3

Let’s run our own races, but let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!

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