Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What on Earth do you EAT?!

Yes I am still on my diet and I survived Thanksgiving! I even made a primal pumpkin pie which tasted a lot like curry but was still delicious. Whenever someone I haven't talked to for a while hears about my diet the question of what I can eat invariably comes up. Basically I eat the same thing most people do, just modified. For example, instead of eating a starch at dinner I will eat a double portion of veggies. My husband and daughter might have a starch or fruit as a side with their meal, but for me meals must solely consist of protein, lots of fat and a vegetable. So here is an example of what I eat in a week:

Breakfast is almost always eggs so I don't really need to go into that too much. Lately I have been enjoying them sunny side up with a sliced avocado but I have also been known to eat them scrambled, hard boiled, poached, you name it. Lunch is usually leftovers so let's get right into dinners shall we?

Sunday: Polish sausages, sweet and sour red cabbage
Monday: Guacamole Beef over cauliflower rice
Tuesday: Spaghetti squash with marinara (Boves makes a great low-carb sauce) and meatballs, nutritional yeast, steamed broccoli
Wednesday: Roasted chicken with fennel and green salad
Thursday: Swiss chard and tomato frittata, green salad
Friday: Buchons au thon (modified to be primal w/nutritional yeast and 1 extra egg), buttered sauteed green beans
Saturday: Primal chicken "noodle" soup with cabbage noodles and primal crackers

Some of the things that are really helping me on my diet right now are Pau d'arco tea, which helps with die off and is also an anti fungal and stevia sweetened coconut macaroons which make a great snack. While I can't say that I am that creative in the kitchen I am always finding new recipes to try out. For example this coconut macadamia bark is calling my name and if you happen to know of a good chicken liver pate recipe that doesn't include booze or dairy please pass it on!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Primalness

 Soy-free, low(er) Carb Chocolate!

Two weeks on the full on Candida control diet are over! I gave up the dark chocolate two days before Halloween and I wanted to die. Seriously. October 30th will stand forever as the day of infamy in our marriage where I blew a gasket so large that if it was a physical object it would have blown the roof off along with my head. Candida die off/withdrawls are REAL and they are scary, just ask my husband. Overall things are going pretty well. There was the one day that I ate half a pound of bacon but given that bacon is only 45 calories a strip I don't think it did much damage.

One of my friends expressed worry that I am starving myself on this diet but I assure you (and her), that I am far from starving. I am eating like Grok of Primal/Paleo lore. That is right, I am eating like a cave woman. Since I already try to eat seasonally I feel much more primal than most people on the primal diet. At this time of year greens and plants from the cabbage family are abundant, as are root vegetables by the way though I am not allowed to eat them. Swiss chard has found a permanent place in my kitchen. Roasted fennel is lovely. Bok choi entered yet again sauteed in butter with a little bit of garlic. I am really enjoying the fresh veggie variety in our diet!  

Mostly, I eat a lot of eggs. As a family we go through about 3-4 dozen eggs a week. This wouldn't be a big hit on our budget if it weren't for the fact that the pastured eggs we buy are somewhat more expensive. Happily, they are quite a bit healthier though. Speaking of eggs, because I am not allowed to have soy or any other processed oil, I have to make my own mayonnaise and I did it on my second try! Here is a tutorial of the method I used but I won't share a recipe until I perfect my own.

The most difficult thing about this diet has been eating out and with extended family. My mother-in-law has made a valiant effort to try to make food that I can eat. Otherwise I end up not going to family gatherings or eating out. Seafood and Steak House's tend to be pretty safe for me to eat at but they are also more expensive. At fast food I can usually get a garden salad if I pick out the cheese and carrots and bring my own salad dressing. It is REALLY annoying to go somewhere and have to pay full price for a menu item that you are not able to eat half the stuff off of!

As far as symptoms are going, I feel happier and my moods seem more stable. Things stress me out less, especially making meals. My candida infection symptoms are easing though not quite gone. I am still in the detox stage so I am not sure what is going to be my new normal. My skin looks great! My husband says that I have been more loving this week, which after the yeast die-off week of hell, I am not sure that is saying much.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thoughts on Conversion

This afternoon as I was ripping staples out of some chairs I am trying to reupholster, for some reason the idea of a cheeseburger from Burger King popped into my mind. It could be that my Candida control diet makes me think of forbidden foods when I am bored but I don't want to ponder on that too much because it will only give me processed food cravings. Alas...

Any who, after the cheeseburger at Burger King thought, a memory emerged from the brain fog of my best friend in 5th and 6th grade. Shira was Jewish and an only child which made her exotic in my eyes. Plus, since her mom was single, she was also alone a lot which meant free wandering all over our neighborhood and lots of 7/11 Slurpees paid for with change absconded from our parent's dressers. Occasionally I got to go to synagogue with Shira and her mom on Friday nights which was THE COOLEST THING EVER! I enjoyed the ritual and the songs and "reading" a book backwards, the numerous celebrations, but best of all...they had food! After the service was over there was a social hour where they served a potluck feast, which in my opinion, was vastly superior to the LDS services I attended each week.

Here began my religious crisis. In my 10 year-old estimation, Judaism was way cooler than Mormonism and I determined that as soon as I was able to, I would convert. Shira certainly doubted my sincerity and explained to me exactly how difficult it was to become a Jew. I am not sure she was correct in all her statements but it sounded pretty painful. Either way, I was still somewhat determined to follow that path until the Burger King incident.

Often my family would take Shira with us when we went out to eat and treated her to dinner, and the same was true for Shira's mom. Up until that point while I recognized and respected my friends religious traditions, I certainly wasn't expecting them to be applied to me. Back at Burger King I hungrily ordered my cheeseburger only to have, indignity of indignities, my order stricken from the receipt because, I was informed later, Shira's mom didn't feel comfortable paying for a meal that was not Kosher. I was shaken to my core and as I sullenly ate my tasteless, plain hamburger that seemed ever so dry that day, I decided that I was happy being LDS; at least I could eat cheeseburgers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Start of A New Journey

So long, farewell! Photo credit

This last year has been one of learning and preparation for me. As I gently waded into the world of Real/Traditionally prepared foods I knew that I was barely touching the surface of my journey to health. Initially I started being drawn to traditional foods because of my daughters difficulty in digesting food and then as I began to learn and research, the pieces of the puzzle came together for me as well. All the years I struggled with feeling weak and useless could be traced back to one source: Candida albicans.

When I learned about the havoc that Candida can do to a weakened immune system it was made clear to me that all the symptoms I had been experiencing were related. Test after test with no result over the course of years were so frustrating! My Dr.'s said that I was in great health, but I could not understand how it could normal to feel achy, fatigued and irritable ALL the time. I played with many different diets: vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, grain free and now I think I have finally figured out what I need to do.

Enter, Bee's Candida Diet. I tried a different Candida cleanse earlier in the year and failed miserably. It was awful and had a colon cleansing element that I could, very literally, not stomach. Bee's diet is the most intense I have ever seen, but it is also the most comprehensive. The diet is on board with traditional foods preparation so I don't have to change anything and Bee's website has helpful tools to manage what you are eating. The diet can be broken down into a few key elements:
  • The Diet: NO grains, dairy (except butter or ghee), fruit (except lemons and limes), sugar or sugar substitutes (except Stevia), legumes, nuts or seeds, vinegar (except raw/unfiltered ACV), starchy vegetables. LOTS of good fats! LOTS of protein! Eating a strict diet will keep the Candida from growing. I will modify by allowing some low carb. nuts and seeds in moderation and some berries as well unless my body tells me not to.
  • Supplements: This element of the program along with eating lots of good fats is intended to repair your immune system. In addition to the Cod Liver Oil I am already taking I will need to add: Nutritional Yeast flakes for B vitamins and Niacin, Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Vit. C and Vit. E.
  • Time: People suffering from Candidiasis are often born with it if their parents also had it so Bee recommends that you stay on the diet for 1 month for every year of your life. For me that means twenty six and a half months.
  • A Healing Balance: The website gives you information to help individualize your diet plan, which is one of the reasons I think this will work for me. According to my calculations I need to be eating 80 grams of protein, 200-280 grams of fat, and ONLY 64 grams of carbohydrate a day. I use FitDay to keep me on track.
One of the things I especially love about this diet are that there are NO awful anti-fungals (Oregano oil, ick!) and NO colon cleanses. Bee says that you can do at home colonics if you want but they are not required for the diet. Phew! I also love that this program is provided at no charge; that is a rare occurrence these days.

What will this mean for my family? Not a whole lot. Since I have been mostly grain free for about a month now I have learned to make substitutions/snacks for myself and when it comes to family meals, I just make sure to either make meals primal/paleo OR I put grains on the side so I can abstain if I wish. How about dining out? Today when I went to lunch with my father-in-law I ordered egg-drop soup and shrimp with bean sprouts, no rice. Last week at a different restaurant I just got a salad with chicken (I will need to bring my own salad dressings however).

Bee recommends keeping a journal to keep track of your progress and I think I will do that here now that I have my own personal blog space. I hope that you won't mind. The first step is list all of the "Symptoms, diseases, and malfunctions you have before starting the program." I am afraid to list all of these for all the world to see, but here goes:
  • Chronic vaginal yeast infections. This is probably my most annoying symptom in that it is hard to ignore. Before I got pregnant this spring I could get an infection and cure it with topical cream or other natural cures, which I was doing every month; now, however, I cannot cure them with anything. It is very depressing.
  • Chronic and extreme fatigue no matter how much sleep I get
  • IBS symptoms: gas, bloating, occasional constipation/diarrhea with no known cause
  • Abdominal cramps after eating
  • Tinnitus, or ringing of the ears that never goes away
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Sugar cravings
  • Insulin Resistance/Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Extreme irritability
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Itchy skin
  • Acne
  • Foul body odor
  • Hot flashes
  • Numbness/tingling in hands and feet
Yeah, this is a long list and most will probably be skeptical that they can come from a simple yeast overgrowth. Remember, though, I have been tested over and over to determine the medical cause of these numerous symptoms and aside from being diagnosed as insulin resistant there is no known cause. Doing this strict of a diet is daunting but I feel like God is leading me in this direction and has been for a while. I desperately want to be healthy for my family and my own sake. Starting next week, I go into full on Candida diet. Wish me luck! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pondering Helping Hands on October 15th

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and the 15th is set aside as a day of remembrance. A friend of mine who helped me through my miscarriage started a non-profit called The Amethyst Network to provide physical and emotional support for women and families during and after a miscarriage. I asked her if there was anything that I could write about that would help the cause and she said to write about what people said or did that was helpful for me during my miscarriage experience.

When I start to think about it I don't remember things that people said so much as things that people did, or didn't do. Pregnancy loss is a difficult thing for many people who haven't experienced it which, in my experience, led people to say or do nothing rather than risk offending. I think a loss like this really shows you who your real friends are. A father writing about his wife's pregnancy loss and the emotional turmoil he went through with that experience made a very true statement: "Compassion breeds an amazing amount of tolerance." If you truly care for someone experiencing a loss, seek to find compassion in your heart and it will mold you into what that person needs you to be.

Here are some guidelines based on my experience that might help others:
  • Validate the loss: A man in my church who had lost his one year-old son last year approached me and with tears in his eyes he told me how sorry he was. I will forever be grateful to that man for crying with me and letting me know that my pain was as valid as his own.
  • Make your words tangible: I received many emails, but only two sympathy cards and one letter containing an article on miscarriage.While the emails were kind, the mail was so comforting. Being able to hold someones kind thoughts in my hands was so gratifying.
  • Be physical: I am not a hugger but I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have someone genuinely embrace me when I could barely speak. One evening I had four women, whom I barely knew, embrace me one after the other because they were so sorry for my loss and wanted to comfort me in some small way. I could feel that in their hugs.
  • Feed them: Don't make a family who has suffered a loss ask first. Food is SO very comforting. After I lost the baby I struggled so much just trying to read a recipe and everything I made tasted bad. I have since learned that this is normal when grieving but at the time not being able to cook made me feel like a failure. Having people bring my family meals eased a burden.
  • Judge Not: Need I even say this? Everyone grieves on their own time line and just because someone doesn't look like they are grieving does not mean that they are totally fine. The best way to tell if someone needs help is to ask them, in person, how they are healing.
  • Be Peaceful: When you are around someone whose life is in turmoil I don't recommend you dish to them about how horrible your life is or discuss the injustices heaped on you by mankind. #1 The person you are venting to probably won't be able to validate you and #2 All your doom and gloom is probably going to make them feel worse.
  • Keep In Touch: When something awful happens people are often blessed by an outpouring of support from their community but after a few weeks pass by there is an assumption that it is time to move on. As I said before grieving can be a long and drawn out process and knowing you are still thought of even months after the event, is very comforting. I have a friend who contacted me every few days or at least once a week to see how I was doing, and I love her for that.
The following is an excerpt from a card that was written to me and Andrew that I read often for comfort:
 May you gain wisdom as you pass through this difficult time. You already had that baby visualized in your arms. I am so sorry. Let the waves pass over you. Sometimes it may hit you when you least expect it. Always know that there are those who are aware and who will listen to your sorrow and try to bear you up.
The Lord loves you and is mindful of your grief. May you be comforted by His love. May the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ help you to see His hand in your lives.
 The woman who gave this card to me didn't know me extremely well, but knowing the pain of pregnancy loss herself, she was inspired to write these words to me. Every time I see her she has asked me about my healing in such a kind and gentle way. She is a perfect example of that compassion that breeds tolerance. I pray that we can all learn to be so.

The Amethyst Network is "a nationwide network of doulas working together to support parents during and after miscarriages." If you would like to support them in this worthy cause please donate on their web page.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Controversial Monday: Save your drippings!

Warning: Chronic dieters and nutrition gurus, I am about to break your brain. 

When I was growing up my mom would always use empty vegetable tin cans to collect fat drippings, and then they would just sit there, for days, weeks...inevitably they would eventually be thrown out but I always wondered: "It sure seems a waste. Can you do anything with it?" Now that I know about traditional food preparation the answer is a very enthusiastic "YES! And it is delicious!"


Back in the day just about everyone used to cook with the leftover drippings from cooking meat. It was almost a sin to throw it out! To have a dairy cow or access to butter was a luxury. Processed vegetable spreads were nonexistent. So what happened? A brief history lesson...

Answer: The Lipid Hypothesis. In the mid-nineteenth century the term was coined to explain that the cause of blood lipid accumulation on the walls of arteries. I am sure we can all remember seeing the commercials for Lipitor and their lovely illustrations of this effect. The idea is that eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat will raise blood cholesterol and cause the plaque accumulations leading to high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. The only problem with this is that there were never any double-blind studies done to test this theory; it was accepted as fact in the 1980's by consensus of the medical community without the support of properly conducted scientific experiments to prove or disprove the theory.

In the early twentieth century people starting switching from cooking with traditional animal fats to factory hydrogenated vegetable fats like shortening and vegetable oil because they were cheaper and they had the added benefit of a neutral flavor and a seemingly longer shelf life.* Until the 1970's most people that used shortening and vegetable oils used them because they were cheaper. The acceptance of the lipid hypothesis changed all that and animals fats were labeled as "bad" while vegetable fats were labeled as "good." While there were always critics of the lipid hypothesis, until the late 1990's and what I call the "Oreo Controversy" when hydrogenated or trans fats were proven to contribute greatly to atherosclerosis by raising the bad Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and lowering the good High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.** 

Aha! So, all cholesterol isn't bad for you! Now, back to lard, schmaltz, tallow, ghee, butter and all the other lovely traditionally used fats... Let's look at the chemical composition of Lard (rendered pig fat), shall we?
...lard is 40 percent saturated, 50 percent monounsaturated, and contains 10 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is also one of our richest dietary sources of vitamin D.***
 Lard is mostly an unsaturated fat which is GOOD, but that saturated fat also has benefits:
Saturated fatty acids, particularly medium chain fatty acids such as lauric and capric acids, have been found to play an important role in supporting the immune system. Studies of the effects of specific fatty acids on serum cholesterol levels have shown that of the three most common saturated fatty acids in tallow and lard, only myristic acid increases the level of cholesterol in the blood substantially, whereas stearic acid has no effect, and the polyunsaturated linoleic acid decreases it. ****
To put it mildly, animals fats aren't BAD for you nor will they make you fat. In fact, they may even help you lose weight. Animal fats are also fantastic for cooking! If you haven't tried zucchini fried in lard, you haven't lived. Bacon drippings are a great substitute for butter in any savory recipe, especially corn bread! If you have chicken drippings or rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) you can use it to enhance the flavor of anything poultry based; beef tallow is supposed to also have the same effect on beef products. Indians swear by Ghee (clarified butter) as their oil of choice.

If you read this and just can't wait to find yourself some lard and make a pie crust to die for, be aware that many commercially available lards are hydrogenated and have added fillers to make them more stable. Check the labels and a good rule of thumb is that if it isn't refrigerated, don't buy it. Also, be aware that while fat is where all the vitamins are stored, it is also where most of the toxins are stored. If you want to get the most benefit out of eating animal fats, buy pastured, or at least organic, meats and fats.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ahhhh Autumn!

I just love the beginning of Fall! My sweet pepper and tomato plants are finally producing in full force, the weather is cooler, and canning is in full swing! I loves me some canning. Here are some other things I am enjoying:
  • At the Nourished Kitchen, learn about 10 cultured dairy foods that you can make yourself, most without any special equipment other than a ball jar, bacterial culture, and some milk. I am having a hankering for some kefir. Probiotics are awesome! 
  • Speaking of MUST try out this recipe for lacto-fermented salsa! It is super tasty, easy and a great introduction to making your own probiotic foods.
  • Sharifa Oppenheimer's Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parent of Young Children. This book rocks my socks! Lisa, my Waldorf homeschooling friend, recommended this book to help me make my home and parenting more conducive to learning. This book is great for parents of children 2-7.
  • These beginning knitting tutorials. I finally understand how knitting works!
I can knit!

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Organic Gardening: Tomato Horn Worms

    My garden is infested with tomato worms and they are gross. I found three today that were each FOUR inches long! Friday I was out inspecting the plants and saw no signs of the worms and then today I find 3 huge ones and 2 small ones devouring one plant! They grow fast and huge and what really sucks is that they are nibblers. They won't eat the seeds of the tomatoes so they will chew around the outside and then just leave the rest hanging on the stems...wasters.

    How to get rid of the pests? Mostly I just put on my trusting gardening gloves and pull them off by hand dropping them into a bucket with a lid where they will die eventually. They are difficult to spot but the mangled branches, half eat tomatoes and little black turds everywhere are a good sign that one is nearby. But here is a little tip, if you see one that looks like the picture below, DON'T PULL IT OFF!

    Those white things all over the back of the worm are the cocoon of the parasitic Braconid wasp and they are wonderful! The female wasp will lay her eggs into the tomato horn worm (it will also use flies, beetles, aphids and other wasps as hosts) and the larvae will eat the worms from the inside out and then spin their cocoon on the surface of the worm. The worm is alive during this whole process and will die soon after the adult wasps emerge leaving the worm dead, obviously, but most importantly unable to spin its own cocoon and then lay eggs as a moth.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Controversial Monday: Extended Breastfeeding

    For 26 months I breastfed my daughter and loved it. I didn't at first but over the months and years that I breastfed my daughter I grew to treasure that time that we had together; all the happy oxytocin flowing, the snuggling, plus the knowledge that even after the first year of breastfeeding I was still providing my child with nourishment and antibodies, and helping to prevent allergies and even diabetes.

    In addition to the benefits for the child, extended breastfeeding also benefits the mother. Numerous studies have indicated that by breastfeeding past the first year women can help decrease their risk of contracting breast, uterine, ovarian and endometrial cancers. Not to mention it also protects against osteoporosis and decreases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

    My daughter weaned herself during the first few months of my last pregnancy because according to her my pregnancy breast milk tasted "yucky." There is a reason that it is called "weaning milk." After I lost the pregnancy I missed being able to breastfeed my daughter. I am grateful for the time we did have nursing when I remember all the struggles that I had with breastfeeding her. Ravenna was born with a weak suck which required weeks of pumping and "suck" training and a half-dozen visits with lactation consultants BUT after three weeks we got it! Then at 6 months, my milk dried up due to my insulin resistance. Thanks to the Leche League I was able to reestablish my supply using fenugreek, pumping, and switching breasts constantly during feedings. There were numerous other small challenges along the way including biting, but I was able to persevere because I knew where to find good information, had knowledgeable support, and I think most importantly, I had made a goal while I was pregnant that I would breastfeed for at least 18 months.

    People were often surprised to see me breastfeeding a toddler, but most of the time Ravenna only nursed 1-2 times a day. Some days she wanted to nurse more, for comfort mainly, and that was fine by me. I will admit that it is hard, having experienced so many hardships in my own breastfeeding experience, to see mom's who never breastfeed or who give up whenever a challenge arises. It isn't hard because I feel like they are harming their babies irrevocably or being selfish; it is hard because I do not feel that our society is supportive enough of women who breastfeed. It is difficult for many women to get good information and formula is often advertised as being equal to breast milk when it clearly is not.

    I have heard numerous examples of women, including myself, being told by their pediatricians that their milk isn't good enough because their baby isn't gaining weight according to the charts. This problem, if indeed it is a problem, is rare and easily corrected through the mother's diet. Information on how to solve nearly all breastfeeding issues is readily available online on such websites as Kellymom and La Leche League. I think that a lot of these misconceptions could be cleared up if pediatricians were more thoroughly educated in lactation; mothers trust their advice, even if it is incorrect.

    My advice during a breastfeeding crisis? Persevere. Keep trying to breastfeed, search for information, and use formula only as a last resort. A wise woman once suggested that if you are wanting to give up on breastfeeding, as most women are at some point, keep trying for another week and try to solve the problem. If it still isn't working after a week and you don't feel like you can continue, then, and only then, think about weaning.

    Monday, September 20, 2010


    In the early hours of August 12th I had a horrible dream: I dreamed that I woke up in a pool of blood and gave birth to a dead baby. Not twenty-four hours later I was in the E.R. learning that my baby had died and that soon my dream would become a reality. On the 14th of August, just over five weeks ago, my nightmare came true and my life will never be the same.

    Since the loss of my pregnancy I have struggled with sleeping. A friend pointed out that this is a sign of post-partum depression, which I know I am struggling with at times, but I think it goes deeper than that. Nightmares continue to plague my sleeping hours. A week ago I dreamed that I was in a building that was about to explode and my mission was to save a baby. I fought and struggled and even killed to get that baby out of that building only to find that the baby I was trying so desperately to save was dead; I had killed it.

    I wake feeling exhausted and drained but I must get on with life; there is no time to process the unspeakable horror that left me gasping for air as I woke. My daughter needs to be taken care of, laundry needs to be washed, meals need to be cooked, ants need to be battled with and produce needs to be preserved. While on the outside life seems normal for our family, death continues to linger with me in my dreams, never letting me forget. 

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Why Grazing is Good For You!

    For the past year we have been trying to switch to pastured meats and thankfully, living in Amish country we have plenty of farmers to chose from. We love getting our food directly from the farmer who raised it. Talking with LeRoy as we picked up our meat yesterday was so assuring. We could see how he runs his farm, where and how the animals were kept and also his passion for making sure that we get the best quality product. I would have loved to take pictures of the Miller farm but since LeRoy is Amish, I decided to err on the side of caution; I wouldn't want to damage our relationship.

    Pastured meat is fantastic! We buy our chickens directly from a Mennonite farmer on the same day they were butchered; talk about fresh! We also get pastured eggs and milk. The eggs have rich orange yolks which indicate the presence of high amounts of beta-carotene and Omega-3's. The milk we get from grass-fed Jersey cows is raw, fresh, and a beautiful creamy yellow color. I can't drink the milk (darn genetics) but Andrew and Ravenna love it!

    Why do we eat pastured products? According to Eat Wild,
    Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals are ideal for your health. Compared with commercial products, they offer you more "good" fats, and fewer "bad" fats. They are richer in antioxidants; including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.*  
    Also, I might add, that when animals are raised on pasture they are living the way they lived for thousands of years. Feedlots and enclosed hen houses are not the way animals were created to live. It is inhumane for one thing, and for another thing it compromises food safety. When you have thousands of animals packed together, covered in their feces, eating food that they would not naturally eat in an environment where the air is so toxic human's have to wear gas masks for their own safety, what kind of product do you expect to get? You get a cheap, inferior product with the potential of bringing with it dangerous resistant bacteria.

    Switching to pastured meat was a conscious decision and one that required planning and searching. Luckily, the internet, with such sites as Eat Wild and Local Harvest, make it easier to find and purchase pastured meats. Co-ops and buying clubs help decrease the large upfront cost of buying in bulk. We bought a half of a steer with a family friend and our quarter** will last us for much of a year. If you buy in bulk, which is the only way we could afford to eat pastured meat, you will also need to buy a freezer to store your meat. Buying pastured eggs and dairy is a bit trickier since they are fresh and often people have to travel long distances to get their dairy and eggs weekly. I am lucky in that the farms that I frequent are only a few miles away.

    It took us years after we learned the benefit of pastured meats to switch, mainly because of cost and storage issues, but we are glad that we did and we will continue to do so as long as we can.  

    *The link for Eat Wild contains lots of information and studies on the benefits of pastured food products to back up these claims..
    **Want to see what is in a quarter of beef? Check out my family blog.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Controversial Monday: The Dreaded "S" Word

    Hands Are For Loving (source)

    FYI: I don't expect everyone to agree with me but I do expect people to be respectful of my beliefs and feel free to challenge them in an intelligent and peaceful way. Any disrespectful comments will not be posted

    This is such a controversial topic that I generally avoid getting into it with people, but as this is my space I am going to jump right in. The other day my neighbor Jake was getting fired up about spanking as a form of discipline. He is struggling with his 7-year old daughter's difficult adjustment to school this year and her attitude that she brings home. He is understandably frustrated and, while he has never resorted to spanking his daughter in the past, he is seriously considering it. Having been raised by parents who occasionally used spanking as a punishment, and having not been damaged by it himself, he sees no problem in occasionally using this form of discipline when nothing else seems to work. Sound familiar?

    I don't profess to be an expert in parenting but I do have very strong beliefs about certain things, such as discipline. I also have an easy child and obviously don't understand the struggles of other parents who have children that have sensory, communication, and other emotional issues that make parenting more difficult. Nor do I believe that parents who spank their children love them less than I love my own daughter. I know that most parents are doing the best they know how. 

    In my last post I shared some of my views on respect and gentle parenting which comes down to this statement: We chose to treat our daughter as we would like to be treated ourselves, but with understanding that due to her age and lack of experience we must necessarily step in to gently guide her. I do not like to be spanked, hit, yelled at, lectured, or put in a corner to "think about what I have done wrong" so I certainly wouldn't do it to my daughter. At Ravenna's age of two none of those things are developmentally appropriate anyway, since she cannot understand logical consequences. All she can understand from those forms of discipline is that she is having love/parental presence removed which will either create fear or greater resistance in the future. I want my child to obey me because she respects me and feels validated. When she is having a hard time because of something I have done such as keeping her out during her nap time, I should not be surprised when she tantrums in the grocery store and certainly not punish her for my bad timing.

    One of the biggest reasons I feel so turned off by spanking is about me, though. I do not want, for any reason, to cause intentional pain to my child because I could not control myself. I have often heard parents defending spanking say "Spanking is O.K. if you do it while you are in control." Every time I can remember being spanked as a child I very vividly recall my father biting his tongue, which he only ever did when he was angry. I have seen parents in public spanking that are furious, scared, or just plain irritated, but never calm. If I am not in control when it comes to my daughter I remove myself from the situation when it is safe to walk away, and when it is not safe, such as in a public location I get out of the situation as quickly as possible. This is one way that we practice positive discipline.

    One of the eight principles of the attachment parenting philosophy, Positive Discipline:
    "...helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone's dignity intact."
    Teaching by example and with respect is how I try to parent and I believe that will lead to respect and obedience from my child. In Unconditional Parenting, by educator Alfie Kohn, the author asserts that in his many years of research, 
    “…the kids who do what they’re told are likely to be those whose parents don’t rely on power and instead have developed a warm and secure relationship with them. They have parents who treat them with respect, minimize the use of control, and make a point of offering reasons and explanation for what they ask.”
    So, dear reader, with all that said you may still completely disagree with me, and that is fine by me. You may also be feeling overwhelmed by the thought of changing the way you parent. If you want to change, it may seem impossible given that your current style of parenting is so deeply entrenched in how you were raised, how others may have counseled you to discipline as a young parent, and the very basic fact that change is hard, particularly where children are concerned. As parents strive to do their best, to be better than their parents were, and for those of us who are Christians, try to model our parenting after our Savior's example, we can overcome many of the barriers that keep us from living peacefully with our children. It takes research, effort, making mistakes and time, but you can do it!

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    On Being Gentle and Making Mistakes

    If I could choose one word to describe my parenting style I think I would chose "relaxed." As anyone who knows me well realizes, I am not a relaxed person by nature, but when I was pregnant with my daughter I read about the philosophy of attached and gentle parenting and it really struck a chord with me. Attachment parenting means a lot of different things to many people but to me and my husband it comes down to one simple idea: respect. We chose to treat our daughter as we would like to be treated ourselves, but with understanding that due to her age and lack of experience we must necessarily step in to gently guide her.

    Yesterday evening my daughter wanted to run across a crowded parking lot in her excitement to see our mutual friend, Christie. I insisted that she hold my hand and we could both run but, two year old that she is, she pulled her hand from my grasp and horror of horrors, face-planted into the pavement. As the blood gushed out of her mouth I could see little white pieces of tooth and I thought "Oh no, I am one of those mom's." However, with a hysterical child in my arms we rushed over to Christie's truck and amazingly, my daughter stopped crying.  I was totally puzzled as I knew she was in a lot of pain, but then it dawned on me as I watched her desperate attempts to hold it together, "Ravenna is trying to be brave for Christie."
    The Damage (She is trying to smile)

    Wow, until that moment I had not realized that my daughter had that capacity. Where had she even seen that? There is so much that one learns in parenting but I am daily amazed at how much I am missing of my child's character.

    After getting my daughter tucked into bed that evening I felt such guilt for not being able to save my daughter from the pain of a bloodied and swollen lip and chipped tooth, and also for my selfish worrying what other people would think of me when they saw my daughter's face and smile, now very much changed. I kept coming back to images of my daughter's brave little face that collapsed into hysteria once again as soon as Christie left. At that moment while still feeling a great deal of guilt, I also felt gratitude for the realization that the child in my care is made of stronger stuff than I had thought and that I needed to be gentle with myself.

    Occasionally I need to be reminded that the principles I have espoused to guide my parenting decisions should also be applied to myself. I need to be gentle and non-judgmental with myself when I make mistakes and when I am not wholly the person I strive to be. Perhaps from now on every time I look at my daughters changed smile I will recall this lesson and show my daughter, and myself a little more respect.

    In the Beginning...

    At the start of every blog there always must be a first blog post. So it is thus:

     Backyard Bliss