This guest post is from our favorite ladies, Natalie and Holly, over at The Modern Proper. Their mission is to reinvent proper for the modern homemaker, one delicious meal at a time. Check out more of their delicious recipes here.

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The idea of taking care of myself is something I struggle with. Is it a worthy endeavor? Absolutely. But how? I already feel like I have way too much on my plate as it is. I have a 6 (going on 16) year old girl, a 2.5 year old little boy who only knows one volume and its LOUD, and a sweet, tiny, make-me-forget-all-my-troubles 5 month old baby girl. Things are busy. Understatement. Things are crazy. At any given moment I feel like all those balls I’m juggling could easily come crashing down and disturb whatever semblance of balance we currently have.

So adding a whole other category of to-do’s (i.e. SELF CARE)? Forget it. Can anyone relate? This all worked okay (not great, but okay) until I had my third baby several months ago and hit a major wall. It’s not the baby’s fault. She is a complete angel, but she’s still a third human. Another bottom to wipe, mouth to feed, body to bathe, keep safe and alive human. On top of my other two little ones, plus me. Are you doing the math here? That’s FOUR humans that I am responsible for from the hours of 7 AM to 7 PM. And, because not feeding, or bathing, or napping my kids is not an option, I neglected the only person in good conscience that I could…me.

 

 

I’m sure you can guess where this is going. I got burnt out, fast. I was keeping it all together, but not keeping me together. My nutrition was terrible. I’d run on sugar and coffee until lunch time and then find scraps to eat, or a large piece of cheese, and it wasn’t doing me any favors. Come 3 PM I would feel the need for more coffee or sugar or both. I’m not sure when it clicked for me, but I decided something needed to change. Maybe I couldn’t shower every day, or have quiet self-reflective journaling time, but lunch…I could at least have lunch. If not for myself then for my kids (funny how that works). I want my kids to see a mom who cares for and values herself, because someday I want them to be parents who do the same (not run themselves ragged the way I had).

I started doing some prep after bedtimes and on the weekends. Roasting vegetables, boiling grains, chopping things ahead of time and having them all neatly stacked in containers in the fridge. I couldn’t trust myself to do that in the stress of the day, but in the quiet of the evening I found it a fairly simple adjustment to make. I’d make a large batch of homemade vinaigrette to get me through the week and two or three types of leafy greens to keep on hand. And then I just started doing it. Every day I’d take the time, tired and busy as I was, to make myself a real meal. And you know what? My kids lived. They survived while I took the extra 15 minutes to prepare myself something that I found delicious. And it’s amazing how that little act not only feeds me physically, but also mentally and emotionally, making me stronger for whatever the day throws at me.

 

 

My go-to for lunch these days is a great, nutrition packed salad. I’m not getting as much sleep as I’d like and I’m nursing constantly, so any favors I can do myself in the nutrition department are a big bonus. This spring barley salad is one of my current favs. Lots of great fiber and antioxidants in the barley and vitamin C, potassium and magnesium in the dark, leafy greens. The cranberries and candied ginger are so bright and punchy, and balance beautifully with the chive vinaigrette. Do my kids like it? Nope. I make it just for me, and I’m okay with that. Taking care of myself, I’ve come to accept, is not just some lofty philosophical concept. It starts with practical steps that communicate my value to myself and those around me, and for me it starts with lunch.

 

 

Spring Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 6

Dressing:
2 lemons
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tbs finely chopped chives

Salad:
12 cups mixed greens
½ cup candied ginger, chopped
½ dried cranberries
1 cup dried pearl barley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
½ cup sunflower seeds

Method:
For the dressing, juice the lemons equally 5 tablespoons. In a small bowl mix the lemon juice, mustard, sugar and salt into a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil whisking constantly. Stir in chives cover and store in refrigerator.

In a medium stock pot bring three cups of water, dry barley, salt and bay leaves to a rapid boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until barley is done. Start checking at about 25 minutes. Barley should triple in volume and be tender and chewing in texture. Using a fork, fluff the barley and set aside to cool.

To assemble, toss greens in the dressing and divide into six bowls. Equally divide the barley, ginger, cranberries and sunflower seeds and layer on top of greens. Garnish with any extra chives.

 

 

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