Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can I Get a Coke With That?

Yeah, that's about how I felt...
Okay, I don't know why I did it, but I had a Coke with lunch today. And sure enough, now I can't stop eating. Why is that a cheese sandwich on homemade bread with water keeps me satisfied all afternoon, but a cheese sandwich on homemade bread with Coke leaves me a ravenous beast until dinner?!

Seriously, since lunch I have eaten, another sandwich (but on one of those yummy Turano French rolls), a cinnamon bagel, a box of raisins, and a glass of milk. STOP the insanity!! I am going to go have a glass of water and some carrot sticks.

(Update: I found some leftover minestrone in the fridge and finally got a grip.)

Short Answer to "Why Are We Broken?"

An interesting question was posed this morning on my favorite discussion forum:

I'm wondering something here after reading so many responses with [stepkids] that are SOOOOOO overweight. WHY? [....]

Do you think being the child of divorce made this happen or having two separate homes?
My Answer:
We are living in a society with a broken food supply. We feed ourselves and our kids nutritionally devoid foods, we develop a dependence on those foods, and we lose the ability to listen to our bodies and self-regulate. It is NOT about will-power or self control. It is about eating "edible food-like substances" at mealtime instead of real food.

The obesity epidemic among kids is not confined to children of divorce. If you watch any of those documentaries (King Corn, Fast Food Nation, etc.) you will start to see the big picture. I am so concerned about this issue (for myself and my family) that I started a blog about it.

I think my stepson is a good example of this phenomenon. He is a "husky" boy but spends 8 weeks in the summer with us and every summer he slowly loses the extra pounds. I give all the children in the house unlimited access to food, but I do NOT keep any "non-food" (i.e. junk) in the house. And it's not diet food... it's stuff like fruit, veggies, whole milk, full-fat cheese, full-fat yogurt, whole wheat crackers and homemade bread with real butter. We even have take-out once a week as a treat. My boys are thin as rails, my husband is normal weight and I have been slowly losing weight since we started changing habits. And like I said, my stepson slims down when he is with us.

My stepson's main source of food at home is his school lunches and convenience foods (Kraft dinners, Tyson nuggets, Betty Crocker pot-pies, Lean Cuisines etc.). The problem with those foods is not so much that you CAN'T make a meal plan of them that fit the dietary guidelines because you most definitely could. The problem is that those foods do not satisfy. They are practically pre-digested then reconstituted to resemble real food. The fiber and nutrients that make you feel satisfied are lost. This information is not making it out to the world because of marketing and lobbyists. The government considers pizza sauce and french fries to be vegetables.

Kids can't make these choices for themselves so they CANNOT be blamed for not having access to real food. It's sad... but all we can do is teach them when they are with us so they can learn how to shop and cook for themselves when they are old enough.
Let me just add that I really don't blame my stepson's mother for any of his weight issues. She is doing the best she can with the information she has. This blog is intended to help people like her. People who do their very best, follow the rules, and still struggle with weight loss, hunger, and health issues.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beginner's Guide to Real Food part 1: Prep Work

...or as Heather would say "clean eating"

My mom had her a-ha moment with regards to how her eating habits affect her health and well-being. Then she asked a question that can deflate anyone who has had that moment..."What am I going to make for dinner?"

So I'm making her a shopping list. Also, a mental preparation list.

Part of the battle is mental. First one must realize that all of the foods in our cabinets that are quick and easy to make are the ones that got us to the unhealthy state we are in, and easy is not going to get us out. If we learn the idea that meal planning takes a little effort, it will certainly be less than the consequences of eating processed "quick food".

That said, I'd like to share what my staple foods are, and the shortcuts and strategies that I use. 

Strategy #1: Keep your fridge stocked and prepped.
Did you notice that I said fridge and not cabinets? Healthy, real food will rot. So as you transition from fake food to real food, you will notice a shift in your food storage areas. Prepped simply means that having a beautiful, fresh pineapple means nothing if you don't cut it up and put it in handy containers for snacks or bringing to work. Half of the snacking battle is "what's easy to grab?" make those carrot sticks ready to dip into that hummus (hummus is delicious and filling btw...i know you just turned your nose up). 
Strategy #2: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
Thanks to daytime television, this phrase is becoming more commonly heard. I love it. Many years ago I discovered the concept for myself. Produce, meats, eggs, dairy. Oreos are in the middle of the store.  Be careful though...Velveeta bought reserved space by the cheese as a ploy to make you think it's really food. Be not fooled...that stuff can live quite happily for some time in the center of the store right across from the Oreos. The hardest part of this strategy is that you actually have to find recipes on what to do with this stuff once you buy it! Which leads us to...
Strategy #3: Finding healthy recipes is your new hobby.
But it's easier than it sounds. If you are reading this, that means you are on the internet, and so many good people post their secrets! Start a pinterest page and collect recipes with photos there. You can even share and steal from your facebook friends! In a blog to come I'll share a few of my favorite places.
Strategy #4: Get ready to try some new foods.
Quinoa? Lentils? Yep. These delicious critters can (and must) replace those evil dinner staples like boxed mac-n-cheese, rice-a-roni, and powdered mashed potatoes. With a good recipe, they can be just as easy to prepare. 
Strategy #5: Planning is critical.
As I mentioned before, we will grab things that are easy. Dinner nights can be crazy, and it often takes some mental rehearsing and some pre-cooked items to be able to get out of frozen pizza land. I hate to say it but the once every 3 week shopping day has to go. Fresh, real food, simply won't keep that long. I've heard this trick from many people, and it works for me as well: shop and prep your meals on your day off. Pre-cook chicken breasts, chop your veggies, cut up your fruits, pre-pack your salads and lunches. I use my crock pot at least 3 times a week. This allows me to actually "make dinner" the night before, and just throw it in the crock pot before going to work. Coming home from work to a home filled with the smells of a roast or soup can't be beat. 
The Strategy to End All Strategies: DON'T BUY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Sorry, I'm not yelling at you in particular, but I'd like to shout this one from the rooftops. It is easier to resist crappy food when it's on the shelf in it's packaging at the store than it is to resist it in your pantry. If you've ever attended a Weight Watchers meeting, you know that's where I stole this idea from. That said...please don't shop hungry. This is a saying that I'm repeating as well, but it's also legit. On another note, we need to send a message to food producers that we don't want the crap they're selling, and every item we scan at the register is our vote.

Hope this helps a little. It is hard work and a giant mental shift! But you have friends out here, and you're gonna need them. It's us against them. 

Next up...a list of staples to keep on hand for healthy eating.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kicking Habits

I always imagined myself as being somewhat resistant to addiction. I never much liked getting drunk, and have never even tried any type of drugs. I smoked a few times in the service, but it didn't get a hold of me like it did my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

When I was younger though, I used to bite my nails. For as long as I can remember I struggled with that habit. I remember vividly trying to quit. The deals I would make with myself, the tricks I would try. Nothing ever worked.

Every now and again I would manage to grow my nails for a week or so. Then I would look down and notice a snag. I would give myself permission to work on just that one nail. Then bam… it was all over with and I had war torn hands again. Once I started I just could not stop.

I am finding that true with food. If I wake up in the morning and have my oatmeal and coffee, I am usually good to go until lunch. If I think of snacking, a cheese stick or cup of yogurt will do it. Then comes my daily nutritional black hole... lunch.

Like I mentioned before, I really don't have lunch figured out. I am, however, starting to notice something important: my body knows when I feed it crap. I have just been misinterpreting that information for years. Today, for example, I had a hotdog on a store brand bun. I wanted to eat again within five minutes. Literally, 5 minutes. I then had a bowl of rice pudding. Whilst it was homemade, I used white rice, so that didn't fill me up either.

At this point in my journey, I know where this sort of thing is headed--an out of control binge-a-thon that only ends once I have polished off the chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows I keep on hand for hot cocoa. I opened the fridge and searched desperately for something to stop the madness. I spied some leftover vegetable and beef soup and finally, that did the trick.

Ever experience anything like that? Ever have a bowl of cereal at a time when you weren't rushing out the door? Like on a lazy Saturday afternoon? How long is it before you want to eat again? Immediately? Does that bowl of cereal ever make you want to put off dinner? Have you ever found yourself mindlessly pouring another (or four)? If you haven't felt that you are probably at a healthy weight. You already know that food should not be like that. But for so many of us it is. Some of us can eat and eat and eat and nothing triggers us to stop. 

The cereal thing used to happen to me all the time. I won't lie, it would still happen if I kept it in the house. Once I figured out it was the nature of powdered, transmogrified corn products to practically dissolve in your system without filling you up, I stopped buying breakfast cereal. But what about hot dogs? Why do they do they same thing? My only conclusion is that they must not really be food. Food should fill you up and leave you satisfied.

So that is my new litmus test for real food. I have to listen to my body and make different choices. In the past the message I heard was "You are not full, eat more of that!" Now the message I hear is "You are not full, that was not real food!" So my new criteria is food must nourish me in order to be considered food. And I have to start over every day. 

Yeah… like duh, eh?

But seriously… if you don't know what I am talking about then be thankful. But also please stop judging. You can't know what we go through and what brought us to this place. People used to look down on alcoholics, but now we recognize that they have a disease. I think we need to get to this point with food. It takes more time and it is not as obvious, but bad food is destroying lives. 

We are a sick nation. We have corrupted our food supply and this is the legacy we are passing to our children. You cannot judge an unhealthy eight year old. There is no way they did that to themselves. So please stop judging the overweight 22 year old or 35 year old. At some point her body lost the battle against the barrage of crap being shoved in her face. She lost control and will power won't restore the balance. Food will. Real food.

That's where I am at. I was fat and then I started eating right. I haven't lost it all, but for the first year, I was just happy to stop gaining. And as I take steps, the weight has been coming off. It's slow, but for the first time in my life, I don't care. This isn't about the weight loss anymore. It's about feeling good. It's about liking myself and feeling alive.

So I didn't mean to turn this into a rant. But I finally understand. Stop telling us to just watch what we eat and have certain foods in moderation.  It's not working. We need to learn to eat real food. Oh and it wouldn't hurt to stop shoving the crap in our faces.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Progress Can Be Demoralizing

Do you ever find yourself moving slowly but surely towards a goal then all of sudden you get demoralized? I was feeling that way last week.

I have been reading on Food Renegade about how grains should be prepared in order for our bodies to make the most of them. I was just getting used to baking my own bread from whole wheat flour, and eating oatmeal for breakfast everyday. Now it turns out I should be soaking that oatmeal in yogurt overnight, and only using freshly milled sprouted grains in my bread.

I might could deal with the yogurt idea. We all love yogurt around here and the thin consistency of homemade yogurt  would lend itself nicely to our morning oatmeal. But you can't just buy sprouted flour at Meijer. Or even Trader Joe's. You have to frickin' order it off the Internet and it is expensive!

This stuff can be overwhelming if you discover all these new ideas and try to implement them all at once. When I read that "sprouted, soaked, or fermented" thing I dutifully soaked some steel cut oats that very night. It wasn't that hard and it was pretty tasty the next day. I sat there staring at my tangy bowl of oat-gurt trying to convince myself that this change was no big deal. But really I just felt defeated. My thoughts quickly changed from "I can do this" to "I am baking my own frickin' bread and I am still doing it wrong?!"

I didn't bake any bread for a week after that and that's when I knew it wasn't time to make this change. I get the grain thing and the stuff about the phytic acid... I really do. I just don’t think I can go that route right now. If a change is too overwhelming it ends up being demoralizing. I would rather go slow, then go backward. 

So let's just forget about the sprouting and the yogurt and save the fermenting for beer. I am much more excited about trying raw milk.... One thing at a time.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Son's First Rejection


I don't know why I keep coming back to this issue. Maybe because when I was deciding to homeschool, that was the biggest objection that came up. I now know that I was mistaken in my belief that the main purpose of school is to educate. I mostly dismissed the "socialization" caveat as misplaced priorities. But I think if it's going to be a priority for parents and educators, then we should at least make an attempt to do it right.

Last Thursday I attended a music recital at our local Elementary School. Our district allows homeschooled children to take part in extra-curricular activities and "special" classes like Art, Computers, & Gym. Nathan takes Art & Music with the other 1st graders 3 times a week.

During this event, my middle son, Brandon, was rejected by a group of boys who were all bent over a brand new Kindle Fire. At first they mostly ignored his inquiries and friendly gestures. But as he persisted in talking to them, they started to say mean things to him. I watched his attempts to befriend these boys and their rejection of him warily. I was curious to see how Brandon would react. Brandon doesn't see new children as outsiders, he sees them as potential playmates. But he also gets that electronic "toys" are way cool and other kids don't usually give them up or share them readily. I don't think Brandon was traumatized, but it made me sad to see him pushed aside.

As I told this story later, most people dismissed my concern. "Boys will be boys" or "They didn't know him, so why would they accept him?" But I want to question those assumptions. We actually are not used to this behavior at all. Parents of toddlers and pre-K children will often sit at the park and marvel over how their kids will just buddy up and play together without ever having been introduced. We assume they grow out of this, but I think they are schooled out of this.

I am part of a rather large homeschooling group and those kids don't seem to lose this ability. Because of these classes at the school, we can only fit in homeschool Meetups about once a month. Every time we go, I feel like we are the new people. I have yet to notice my boys playing with the same kids twice. What I have not noticed is any of my boys ever being rejected. Nathan loves to play with older boys. I have seen 11, 12, and 13yr old boys assimilate him into their woodland adventures without a second thought. Brandon will play with anybody and tends to bounce from group to group. It wasn't until he tried to play with a group of boys from the public school that he faced his first rejection.

For some reason I haven't been able to shake the unpleasant "taste" this experience has left with me. Naturally, whenever something lingers in the subconscious, the topic seems to pop up everywhere thereafter. My mentor posted an article on his blog today that discourages liberals from homeschooling because it doesn't embody good, liberal "social values" (social on a societal scale, not necessarily childhood friendships). The comments led me to some interesting links, and I came across the following research:
I hope to elaborate more on these articles in future posts, but the bottom line is that I just don't think schools are doing this "socialization" thing right. We don't have to tolerate bratty kids, pre-teen angst, and teenage rebellion. We are teaching these things to our children. We can do better.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fast Food Cravings (or lack thereof)

Okay so I started this blog to record this journey, but so far I have mainly been preaching. I just have been shocked by so many of things that I never knew. And it's February, so it's not like I'm growing or preserving anything at the moment.

But I really want to share my progress as well. My victories and setbacks. I want to remember what was hard and what was easy. What worked and what didn't. I want to be able to look back and see how my attitude, desires, and cravings changed, not just when I learned that junk food is addictive and even cows are being fed candy.

So here's a new one... I might be over McDonald's.

We went last night to grab Happy Meals before my son's recital. Jeff pulled up to the drive-through, ordered for the boys, turned to me with that questioning gaze... and nothing. I didn't want a single thing. I suppose I could have gone for a salad, but I was actually in the mood for chicken. Just not that chicken.

For the record, my husband and I have always love(d) McDonald's. I never had a twice a day habit or anything, but we were solid 2-3 times a week customers before we had kids. We ate McDonald's the first time we made it back to civilization after we met. We ate McDonald's while touring Germany, France, London, Scotland, and Wales. We included McDonald's on our first major date after having kids. (Rock n' Roll McD's and Wicked baby!) It was our thing. Our place.

My confession was a big blow, but my husband took it well.

Oh and in the interest of full disclosure... I did snag some of his fries.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

School Reform Part II

Okay, so we covered how we can make sure our kids once again rise to the level of literacy that we had in the 1800s and once again become competitive on a global scale in math.  What about all the other skills that round out an education?

Well here is where I ask for a leap of faith.  After much reading (especially John Taylor Gatto), conferring with other parents, and observing my own children, I am fully convinced that you don't have to force kids to learn. They are born with that desire. They can't help but discover new skills. You have to make a concerted, long-term effort to kill their hunger for knowledge.

And we have succeeded in doing just that.

To get it back, maybe we need to give the reigns to the kids themselves.  All that stuff I talked about in Part I? That can be finished by lunchtime. And an early lunch at that. What if after the basics, we gave them unfettered access to the music and art rooms, library, gym, playground, science and computer labs for the rest of the day?

As this concept grows, we can add kitchens, garden centers, design studios, and workshops.  Instructors would be on hand to teach safety and proper use of equipment. Since kids new to this approach may flounder at first with no direction, parents and teachers can collaborate on project kits, experiments, or unit studies unique to each child. As long as we don't try to fill every minute of every day and go back to fooling ourselves into believing that physical presence equals learning. We have to recognize that boredom, day-dreaming, and play have a place in childhood and self-discovery. We are trying to ignite a spark. Let the child fan the flame.

If a child is interested in fashion, let her design and make a dress. A plethora of videos and tutorials can be found online. Not only are you empowering children to pursue their passions, you are liberating them from the belief that they can only gain knowledge from a professional in the confines of a classroom. 

You could also allow extra-curricular clubs to meet during this time. As it stands now, we force kids to choose between activities and sports. A child who runs track in the Fall and plays softball in the Spring is hard-pressed to make time for debate.

Are you worried your kid will play basketball all afternoon and never crack a book? Well… is that so bad? At the very least they are going to graduate highly literate, very competent in math, and physically fit. Or what if they sit in the corner and doodle in a sketch pad? I hate to break it to you, but if that's what interests a kid… they are doing it anyway. They are just getting in constant trouble with their teachers over it and learning that they have to rebel in order to pursue their interests.

Do we really think that just because a child sits through a class called Geography that he is learning what countries are where? That because she took a class called Constitution that she knows we are a republic? (Clearly very few people in our country today are aware of how our government works and government classes have been required since I was a child.)

I can't cite studies that will guarantee that this will work. I can point to the success of private and charter schools, but plenty of critics argue that the ability of these schools to handpick students skews their numbers. I can only cite the growing number of unschoolers that swear by this approach.  Check out the Sudbury Valley School to see this concept in action.

If an experimental program were started tomorrow that embraced these concepts, I would send my kids to that school. If the administration were inclined to let me, I would even volunteer to start the program. I wouldn't even ask to try it on the "best and brightest". I would gladly take the two worst performers from every grade to demonstrate my concept.

In case you're wondering what makes me qualified to decide how children should be educated, I will tell you. I'm a parent who deserves a voice. I get to homeschool because I am able to stay at home. But my tax dollars are still being used to pay for a school that I don't want. Plus most American families can't make that choice. I'm a relic. I'm the past. I want to be out in the world, but I can afford the time and resources to put my kids' education first so I do. That's just not an option for most.

I don't think it matters that I graduated number one in my high school class, or summa cum laude from University. All that should matter is that I want better for my kids and that I am willing to do the work to make it happen.  Politicians send their kids to private schools in much greater numbers than us regular sheeples. Why do we let them get away with that? Why do we accept restricted choices and no voice?

My point is made; my proposal is done. So let's take a moment to listen to the kids.

Here are some complaints and suggestions that were entered into a "School I'd Like" competition in the UK:
Even in the 21st century in schools pupils still sit in rows like the Victorians. You can only talk to the person next to you? this means that in discussion work, which is extremely important in today's society, ideas and suggestions don't come as quickly.
Joanna Brown, lower secondary

We will no longer be treated as herds of an identical animal waiting to be civilised before we are let loose on the world. We will cease to be thought of as useless vessels waiting in disciplined conditions to be filled with our quota of information. We will be thought of as individual people.
Miriam Grossfeld, upper secondary

There would be no grading, praise only for working hard not for your mental capability. We would not be concerned about whether we did the best in the class, but only about whether everyone was happy with what he or she was doing and how he or she was progressing.
Joanna Brown, lower secondary

A lot of pupils don't get cups even when they try their best. Somehow it always seems to be the best pupils in the school who always win cups. It's only the pupils who are good at sports and are in the top group - like me - who get awards for sport. It's the same for history, geography, maths, science, IT and VR. Why can't people in the bottom group get a cup for trying to improve? At my dream school I'd give out more awards and give out emerald rosettes for the runner ups.
Guy Warman, year 5

If you read the whole article, it is sad, funny, and inspiring all at the same time. Let's start listening. These kids know that they are currently being treated unfairly. What kind of citizens do we expect this will produce? What problems might this new system solve? Illiteracy? Bullying? Rate of Drop-outs? Despondency? Over-medication? The only problem I foresee is that we might have a shortage of people who have been conditioned to believe they will only be good enough to clean toilets.

Let's stop pretending that all these subjects we force-feed our children are being learned. Let's stop being proud that of that fact that children can graduate in the top 10% without ever having read a serious novel or knowing their state capitals. Let's stop sending kids to college that have to take remedial English and Math classes. Let's topple the system that has produced kids who think it's okay to cheat and self-medicate to stay on top. Let's wake up and accept the fact that unless a person, child or otherwise, wants to learn, then we are just wasting all of our time.

Just give me one classroom and a handful of kids. Let's change the world. Let's at least try!

Cloth Diapers

A facebook friend of mine just posted "We are officially cloth diaper people". When my little guy was 5 months, I started wondering about cloth diapering. I have a few friends in my new mom's group who were doing it, and what i saw looked kind of easy and cute!

Before making the change, I had posted my thoughts on facebook, as i often do, to get reactions from other clothies, and hopefully some advice or recommendations. One just doesn't go to the local grocery and pick a few up. At the specialty kid's store where I found them, the girl even explained that these are an investment, meaning if you take care of them, they can last you until your baby graduates from diapers. 

Not your mother's cloth diaper.
That basically meant buying some fancy detergent, and accessories like wet bags and liners. I'm not going to downplay the fact that starting up on a system like this was pricey. But many parents commented on how much it saves over the long run. I have to admit, I REALLY like walking past the diaper aisle on my weekly grocery runs.

The one that I chose to go with is typical of an All in 2 system. There is an outer shell which you can use until it gets wet (3-4 times), and an inner liner that holds a surprising amount of liquid. What about poop you ask? For real. For some reason, I can see my mother swishing a diaper around in the toilet...that's how they used to deal with it. (Not sure how I remember that. I'm pretty sure my mom gave up on cloth by the time my sister came around). The They're kind of like a really soft dryer sheet that you lay over the surface of the insert. Just pull off and flush! We find that we can wash them over and over till they wear out.

A shout out to the very helpful people at Peapods. Going over there and getting some guidance really helped me make the transition. They are cloth diaper specialists and they ship everywhere.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

School Reform Part I

Well here's my answer to school reform that allows us to use the current infrastructure, employees, and materials. This plan could be  launched immediately or implemented gradually. Let's bring back the Little Red School House to every classroom.

First you take 2-3 kids from every current grade level (1st - 12th) and put them together in one classroom. Then you abolish those grade levels, grades, and homework. From that point on, children will not be assigned labels based on age or test scores. The teacher's job will now be to assist the students at the highest level of instruction and to maintain order. Learning will be largely self-directed so children cannot join this classroom until they can read.

Children will no longer sit through lectures or lessons. They will be presented with a syllabus for each subject and all coursework and instructional materials in written or digital form. Young children will be presented their expected tasks everyday; older children by week or month, and teens and pre-teens will receive more and more autonomy until they are in complete control of their schedule. Core subjects, or the 3 R's, will be the focus of the first part of the day (and the rest of this post).

Let's use one subject, math, to demonstrate how this concept will work. Depending on how a child best learns, a basic curriculum will be chosen by the parent and teacher. For example, my son uses a computer based program called IXL with much success. I know another child who is working independently through the Kumon books. Other homeschoolers swear by Saxon.

With all methods, the child starts with basic skills and moves on only once they are mastered. Occasionally my oldest child, Nathan, struggles with a problem or new concept in IXL. He does not hesitate to ask me for assistance. But I have noticed my younger child, Brandon, always asks his older brother for help first. Nathan is only 6, but 4 year old Brandon looks up to him as the source of all knowledge. Not only does that make Nathan feel smart, it makes him feel needed and useful. So in the Ultra Retro Reformed Classroom (URRC), a child needing help will first ask his peers. If they are unable to assist, then the child will then ask a student who has mastered that level.

Students will be carefully instructed that teaching is just as much a part of their day as learning. Children new to this style of learning will need to be coached on how to intereact this way, but veteran homeschoolers with large families can tell you that this happens naturally if the children know no other way.

The power in this program lies in the idea that no child moves forward until they have mastered their current level. Since they are not assigned grade levels, they will have no reason to feel bad if they are "held back." They will not waste time repeating a grade because they failed only certain subjects. It would actually be impossible to fail a subject because a child will not move forward until they have achieved an "A" level understanding at the task at hand.

Back to math, specifically IXL, each subject is be broken into a number of skills. Each skill is presented through a series of problems. A child must achieve 100 points to complete the skill. If a question is missed, they lose points. They must correctly answer a similar question eventually to get to 100 points. Several skills can be completed in one sitting if a child is proficient in that subject, or one skill can be worked on each day if the child needs to work at a slower place.

Using Kumon or Saxon, a child will complete a lesson and set of problems each day. Each problem gets progressively harder, so if a child is able to finish, they have demonstrated mastery. no test is needed. They cannot skip problems and they can and should ask for help when they are struggling, so they can never be left behind.

My 4 year is happily working his way through the Pre-K IXL lessons one each day. I don't require him to do this work since he is only 4, but he wants to because he sees his older brother doing it. My first grade aged son is about half way through second grade level math. If he were in public school, he would not be able to work at his own pace as he does now. Why in the world do we separate kids from each other by age and expect it to be a useful indicator as to what level of work they should be completing! 

Each child is unique. A "gifted" reader may struggle to master long division. Let him fly through his reading lessons and take his time working out his math! Free him from bells and jostling down hallways, bouncing from one subject to another. Let him work in peace until he has mastered his lesson!

If you think it is somehow unfair to make children teach each other, or that it will take away from the time they need to learn themselves, then please take a look at some large homeschooling families with an open mind. Or talk to a teacher. Ask her how much she learned about geography in her college courses? Or if she just remembered it from high school? Ask her when she learned her subject? I'll bet you it was on the job. She learned it by teaching it. I got A's in Algebra in school, but mastered the subject once I began to tutor others. My son has no problem pausing his own lesson to look over and answer his brother's questions. I watch a 6 year old and a 4 year old do this happily every day. Just imagine for a second what it would feel like to go to school and be part of something. Imagine feeling needed. Imagine what it would do for a child's self-esteem to be able to impart their knowledge to another? And we aren't just turning one or two kids into teacher's pets. Every child can offer something to someone if they are not always behind. That would be a gift we are giving our children, not an imposition.

This method will easily work just as well for reading and writing as math. We don't need to invent a whole new curriculum. The workbooks and textbooks in use now are probably fine. Again, the key is to disregard the child's age or grade and empower her to work through the material at her own pace.

If the experience of about a million homeschoolers is any indication, most children will progress much faster than they are currently working in school. Tests indicate that homeschooled children are one grade level above their peers in elementary school, and by the end of 8th grade are four years ahead of public-schooled kids. It's because we are free. Free to let them grow. Let's give that freedom to all kids.

It Really Isn't Your Fault

Dear fellow overweight/obese two-thirds of the population American, sometimes when I pass you at the store or see you in the gym, i'm not judging you. Actually, I'd like to give you a hug and tell you it's not your fault. You don't deserve that guilt.

I know...this is not a weight loss blog, this is the Living Ultra Retro blog. But the reason I'm telling you it's not your fault is because the food deck is stacked against you in every way, and the only way to win is to opt out and eat like great-grandma did, and she did not eat processed food.

Being fat is like doing time for a crime you didn't necessarily commit. Please understand that I am not trying to encourage a victim mentality here, because in order to fix this problem, we do have to take responsibility and do the time. We have to change our diets and get active. Period. The only one who can fix this is you (and me). 

If you were a "fat kid", then my heart really breaks for you, because there was NOTHING you could do about your food...but you bore all the punishment. Someone might have told you it was your fault for overeating and you believed them. You didn't know that massive companies had you branded your little developing brain since were old enough to look at a television. You didn't know that foods are engineered to have addictive properties, causing you to never be satisfied. If you didn't get fat until you became an adult, it's likely due to the fact that you have always had the same eating habits, only you were lucky as a kid...but when your metabolism changed, all bets were off!

Okay, so parents should know better? Well...during the eighties, there was a phenomenon that became known as latch-key kids. I was one of them. This was the beginning of the new American normal. Up until this point TV dinners were a rarity at our house, and thought of as a treat. My mom did the best she could to keep us fed healthily; she bought low-sugar cereals and cooked often. When the demonization of sugar happened, we switched from Kool-Aid to Crystal Light, and Diet Pepsi. When she began working the 3-11 shift in the emergency room, she bought frozen foods that were easy for a couple of pre-teens to prepare on their own. She was doing her best with the knowledge she had.

It wasn't long after that I developed PCOS (a female condition related to insulin resistance), but my sister remained the same. She ate fruit like ALL the time. I gained a massive 40lbs over the winter of my freshman year of high school. The convenience foods we both were eating were frozen pizzas, bagel dogs, taquitos, powdered mashed potatoes, pastas, and frozen turkey and gravy entrees. These habits stayed with me until I turned 30 and learned better. At that time I remember thinking "how am I only just now learning to pay attention and read labels??"

It's all about the bottom line. Food companies saw a need in the marketplace and filled it. I honestly have to ask myself though...when did it become okay with us collectively to eat ingredients that we couldn't pronounce? I remember reading labels as a child and wondering what Polysorbate 80 was. But these foods were too convenient and tasty to puzzle on that detail for too long. I actually have facts to back up the title of this blog. I was going to write about them here, but that would make for an entry that is way too long. Since you can't tell fat people it isn't their fault and not say why, in the next few days the following shall become links where I will support my statements: 
3. Fat Cows
4. Sugar, Sugar Everywhere
5. Pesticides and Estrogen

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

If You Give a Kid a Sucker

Why is it that if we pick up a bag of suckers I do not hear the end of it until every last one is gone?!

So kids, in case you are wondering why you only see yogurt, granola, and apples in the fridge, it's all your fault! We would happily keep a bag of suckers around to dole out on a sunny afternoon walk. But nooooo.... If you so much as sense those suckers are stashed in the closet, you turn into grasping, clawing, sneaking, little whiners, and I am not listening to that each and every day.

So that's why we don't have suckers. Or those giant boxes of fruit snacks we used to buy. Or the occasional sugar cereal. It's not worth it. Have a carrot stick.

And Happy Valentine's Day.

A Pitch for School Reform

I have been reading (and watching) speeches, articles, and documentaries critiquing the current educational and political system. I can't help but agree. With everybody… liberals, conservatives, activists, non-partisan think tanks.... Pretty much anyone with a brain can give some very compelling reasons for why everything we know is wrong.

And even if I don't agree with the logic motivating our most popular protesters, I am glad they are taking to the streets and questioning this nightmare. But what I am not hearing are solutions. No one is even trying to present ideas we can all agree on. They are only trying to drum up enough support to topple their opponents. Those in power do not want to preserve and promote our freedoms. They want to squash exactly one-half of us. Because that is how divided we are right now. Are we really satisfied to live in a country that wants to marginalize exactly half of its constituents?

This is one of the reasons I have decided to champion the causes of clean-eating and homeschooling. These are probably the two most non-partisan topics on the agenda. In the U.S. Ultra-liberal hippies have been eating raw, organic, and free-range for years and Christian conservatives are snatching up small farms and starting CSAs. Let's not forget that article we discussed a couple weeks ago about the growing appeal of homeschooling. Not to mention these lifestyles were practiced by human beings for millenia... before we had political agendas.

So now I am going to try throwing out some solutions. I would love feedback. Usually I sit in my home depressed that I can't do anything to help the growing crises our country faces. But one of the speeches I heard yesterday said that big change never comes from a big movement. It comes from a small determined group. I want to be in that group. So what the heck... let's put a workable idea on the table and maybe we can run with it.

So here it is (or will be in the next two days):

Ultra Retro School Reform:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Amish Farms Under Fire

I find this sort of thing demoralizing:

How in the world are we supposed to turn back the clock on our horrible dietary patterns if the government wages war against us? I don't even drink raw milk (yet) but I am sick at the idea that people who want to are being controlled like this. 

Fascinating Animated Speech on Schooling

This is the first thing I ever saw that made me stop in my tracks and rethink the status quo concerning education.

For some reason it ends rather abruptly. If anyone has a link to the rest of the speech (with or without animation, I would love to add it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

CSA Blues

Did I ever tell you that it kind've sucked at first? With my CSA, you have to commit to a minimum of three months when you join up. That's probably a good thing, since I had very high expectations and that first bag fell short.

When I read on my farm's website that a share included 20lbs of chicken, beef and pork per month, I sat down and wrote up a menu. We average 1lb of meat per day for our family of 5. So I figured the meat would last 20 days. Add in take-out once a week, a stew or two made from leftovers, and an occasional fish meal from the supermarket and we were set for the month!

WRONG! Each share does indeed weigh 20lbs. But there is a big difference between the number of portions in a pound of ground beef, and a pound of country style ribs!

So, I called back and added an extra share for next time. I won't lie... it hurt. I thought for sure I would be cancelling at the end of our three months. But instead it was the turning point. The start of it all. Check my previous post, and you'll see that even the budget worked out in the end.

CSA Today


Today was our monthly CSA pick-up. Here's what we got in each bag:
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 2 chickens (1 whole, 1 cut up into parts)
  • 1 package ground beef patties (x4)
  • 2 sirloin steaks
  • 2 thick bone-in pork chops
  • 1 package stew meat
  • 1 package bacon
  • 2 lbs ground beef
I don't generally like getting ground beef and beef patties. But whatcha gonna' do?

Yikes, I just did the math and this much meat makes about 18 dinners in our house. If you subtract a fair price for the bacon and eggs, we are averaging $8 per meal just on meat. That is a bit much considering I used to buy chicken, pork, or ground beef on sale for about $2/lb and splurged on more expensive cuts of beef only once a month or so.

Nevertheless I am not going back. I just know this is worth it. Not to mention the only way to get prices down is to increase availability, which requires demand. Plus we are saving money in other areas (buying less pop, seasoning mixes, and boxed foods) so our actual grocery spending probably hasn't changed much from last year. But just for fun, let's check and be sure....

Okay, I pulled up Quicken and ran a couple reports. The year before we joined the CSA, we averaged $831/mos on groceries. In the ten months since we joined the CSA, we averaged $834 on groceries. Weird. So I guess this adventure isn't hurting our bottom line so much after all. I think it's because the CSA created a snowball effect. If you are going to go through the effort of brining and roasting a whole chicken, it doesn't feel quite right to cook up a box of Betty Crocker Au Gratin potatoes to go with it. Or is that just me?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Do You Homeschool?

Yesterday my dad asked me to answer the following question in one sentence or less:
"Why do you home school?"
Why is it the only person in my life that asks me serious
questions is in no position to listen to my answers?
He was asked this question while under the ministrations of our longtime dental hygienist. She is actually pretty good at holding a conversation while jabbing you with a dental pick. Even still, Dad wasn't prepared to answer her in the time allotted.

I can see why he would like to have a ready reply for just such occurrences. Heck, even if someone isn't sticking you with metal implements while asking a question, her eyes will glaze over if your reply takes more than 45 seconds. So a good sound bite is always nice to have locked and loaded.

Problem is, I haven't been able to figure out how to sum up my reasons into one or two catchy phrases. I don't know if I want to.

So I tend to go back and forth between two answers:
  1. I'm so glad you asked! But my reasons are so many and varied that it's hard to quickly answer that question. If you'd like to go and grab some lunch or a cup of coffee with me, I would love to discuss them with you.
  2. My son entered Kindergarten able to read, but terribly inept at fine motor skills. He could never finish a craft, but would be bored during "sight word" lessons. I think learning should happen at an individual's own pace. Students should be able to sit down to a project and complete it uninterrupted, and they should not be required to sit through a subject that they've already mastered. 
And while that last reason is pretty compelling, it actually barely scratches the surface of why I choose to homeschool.

Here's some more reasons (in no particular order)
  • Kids can learn the 3 R's in just 2 or 3 hours of study per day. They should not be herded from room to room and lesson to lesson for 6 hours a day.
  • Kids need more time to play. The importance of free, unstructured play is being demonstrated in study after study.
  • Kids should not have homework. They have plenty of time to finish their lesson during the day if they were allowed to manage their time wisely. That precious and dwindling family time should not be infringed upon.
  • Children are being poorly socialized. If school is supposed to prepare them for life, then why are they confined to a room with 30 other children of the exact same age? They should be around not only children of all ages, but adults of all ages as well.
  • Children should not be assigned grades and racked and stacked against their peers.
  • Children should be allowed to perform meaningful work that matters. Not busy work that keeps them out of the way.
  • Children should be required to give back. They could easily perform valuable community service that would build up their own self esteem while strengthening community.
  • Children should be exposed to amazing things while they actually interested in them. Billy should be allowed to pursue his fascination with bugs and Sally her interest in firefighting as it develops. Not as it is arbitrarily introduced in a lesson plan.
  • Children should learn useful life skills in the appropriate settings. They should be learning to cook, garden, and perform basic household or automotive repairs. If one day they can afford to hire someone to do these things, they will at least appreciate the efforts involved and understand enough not to be taken advantage of.
Many of these things can be dismissed as hobbies or the responsibilty of the parent. But it's not happening. When are they supposed to fit that in? After soccer practice and before piano lessons?

Even if a parent wants to get more involved, she might find herself under scrutiny. Last week a friend posted on Facebook that her school was going to require a doctor's note if her child missed another day of school. Her child gets good grades and is not behind in any classes. What if she wanted to take her child out of school to visit a museum? Or see family? Why can't she have the final say in how her child spends his day?

I have so many plans for my boys. Did you know there is a foreign exchange program for kids as young as 10 that allows them to spend up to six months in Europe living with a host family and learning French, Spanish, or German through total immersion? There's also an Insititute in Maine that teaches anyone 16 or older how to build a house?

I could go on and on. But I will stop. For now.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

We Like Big Breasts and We Cannot Lie

Last week I saw a pack of bone-in chicken breasts on sale at Meijer. We didn't get that many chickens in our CSA share this month, so I caved and bought them. Although I felt a little guilty, I was looking forward to having enough white meat for 3-4 meals.

Whilst I don't believe our only option is to go vegan,
this blog does encourage me to choose chickens from sustainable, humane farms.

When I stopped buying store bought meat and switched to my CSA, I didn't notice a huge change in quality. I didn't cook it up that first night and think, "Whoa! Have we been missing out!"

I was really thinking, "I can't believe I have to cook a whole chicken every time I want some diced meat in a casserole."

Don't get me wrong; I always felt good about my choice to switch and I have never regretted it. But I was expecting to have my world rocked… and... well, that never happened. 

But last night, my world twitched to say the least. The difference in switching back is rather striking. For one… I forgot how ginormous these breasts can be.  These are like the Pamela Anderson of chickens.

(If a clip from The Onion can triple my hit count, let's see what this picture does)

Check out this blog for more information on the Cornish X chickens that give us these plump, delicious, unnatural breasts. (No, I am not being sarcastic.... Franken-chickens really have that scary name).

I don't think we will be getting those big breasts from the grocery store again anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fat Is Not The Enemy

A few years ago, a filmmaker friend of mine approached me to host a sample webisode with him and enter it into a competition. He didn't so much care about the company, but he actually makes a living winning these contests. The objective was to film a twelve-week weight loss journey and Atkins would post the winner on their website. He figured a female entry would have a better chance, and at the time I was a perfect candidate at 220 lbs. Oh...did i mention he offered to split the $14,000 prize with me? (Sadly, our entry did not win, but we both stayed on the plan long enough to lose about 15 lbs each).

I will admit that though i had my hesitations about possibly ruining my heart and my liver, it didn't take long to say yes, since my freelance work was in an epic slump and my savings were dithering away. not to mention, the weight loss that these people boasted was amazing. what's 12 weeks, right?

Listen to Grandma...this is good for you.
After accepting, i decided that i should do some research. In retrospect, it was the second biggest nutritional wake-up call that I have received in my weight loss journey, The first being how Weight Watchers taught me to read labels and pay attention to the crap i was putting in my mouth. I found that the two-week Atkins induction period was crazy (no carbs), but after it leveled off, it really resonated with me.
First, can i just ask why aren't Atkins people out there screaming "WE TOLD YOU SO!" Now we have the Mediterranean diet, the Paleo diet, not to mention South Beach and some others who capitalize on protein and fats. If one selects non-processed and even better, organic meats, the health scares associated with Atkins are just not true.

Fat is not what is killing us. Furthermore, fat substitutes contribute to the problem. Why? because if you read the labels, you will find that they are made of sugars and starches which cause blood sugar spikes. As if it wasn't enough that the overtly sugary products were hitting us hard, add in the "fat-free" and it's chaos.

Remember how your 85 year old grandmother would shake her head when someone mentioned dieting, and remind you about how they ate bacon and eggs every day? (fresh from the farm, i might add). Grandma was onto something. Which is why we call this blog living Ultra Retro...we want to live like great-grandma did.

Fats are important to humans. We have heard already that unsaturated fats like the omega 3's found in olive oil, nuts, and fish are good. However, after scratching the surface a bit, i found that saturated fats (the bacon kind) are beneficial as well!
"The demonization of saturated fat began in 1953, when Dr. Ancel Keys published a paper comparing saturated fat intake and heart disease mortality. His theory turned out to be flimsy, to say the least, but the misguided ousting of saturated fat has continued unabated ever since. Fortunately, the truth is finally starting to come out, as medical scientists have begun to seriously question Keys' findings.

Time to Put Ancel Keys' Theory to Rest

Keys based his theory on a study of six countries, in which higher saturated fat intake equated to higher rates of heart disease. However, he conveniently ignored data from 16 other countries that did not fit his theory. Had he chosen a different set of countries, the data would have shown that increasing the percent of calories from fat reduces the number of deaths from coronary heart disease.
And, as illustrated in the featured article, when you include all 22 countries for which data was available at the time of his study, you find that those who consume the highest percentage of saturated fat have the lowest risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, many have now realized that it's the trans fat found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that is the true villain, causing far more significant health problems than saturated fat ever could!
Still, despite the scientific evidence, the low-fat dogma remains a favorite among most government health authorities. Case in point: the most recent food chart issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December of last year, recommends reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere seven percent of caloric intake—down from its previously recommended 10 percent…"
As for me, I am learning how incredibly important fat is for the development of my little guy. When learning how to breast feed, it was stressed to me how important duration was in order to get the highest concentration of fats into the baby. It scares me a little that there might be a lot of parents who are trying to do right by their children and avoiding good fats right along with the bad.

Now that meat is back on the table, I need to find where one can buy bacon made from happy, healthy pigs. God knows it won't be from Hormel.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Start of a Journey

Part of the reason I am writing this blog is to capture the journey. When I read other blogs like Food Renegade or the Nourished Kitchen I feel so inadequate. While I have made the decision to give up processed foods and seek out a local, sustainable food supply, my biggest steps so far have been to toss the Trix and stop buying pop. But those people have arrived. They are living the dream. They are fermenting kombucha, simmering beef bone stock, and stuffing their kids with legumes and brussel sprouts. And while I am envious... I am not always inspired. A lot of that food doesn't even look very good.

Will I ever prefer this...
So while I am 100% convinced that our food supply is corrupted beyond hope and I no longer want any part of it, that's about as far as I have gotten. Oh sure, I switched to the CSA. That was actually pretty easy. I made a phone call, gave my credit card number, and now I get my meat from the back of a bus rather than Meijer. Okay, so that's not typical for your average American. But it's not that different from going to Butera, picking up 20 lbs of whatever is on sale and then going home and writing up a meal plan based on my finds.

Now that I am getting into the traditional food recommendations of Weston A. Price, however, I am realizing this is going to get hard. And I am a little at a loss. this?

It was actually pretty easy to open up the pantry and toss all the cereal, crackers, and chips. Pitch the flour, pasta, rice, and sugar and what does that leave you when hear this: "Mom, I'm hungry!" It's 3pm and even though they ate sliced chicken, cheese, and apples for lunch and followed it up with a fruit smoothie, they still want more.

Yesterday afternoon I gave each of my kids two cups of homemade yogurt (that takes a full 17 hours to "brew" mind you), a pile of carrots and a mound of grapes and they still weren't satisifed. So I filled them up with good ol' fashioned Quaker Oats. I am super mom, right? No. I found out last week that you should only eat "sprouted, soaked, or fermented grains".  You can't buy sprouted grains at Meijer. I can soak steel cut oats in yogurt, but I already have a hard time keeping up with the yogurt demand. I could order sprouted grains off the Internet, but that does not fall into the "local, sustainable" thing I am trying to cultivate. And I don't even know what it means to "ferment" a grain unless it's to make beer. I probably shouldn't give the kids beer.

So now what? I need to buy a field and plant my own wheat?! All this change is not going to be so easy after all.

And that's where I'm at. I am on the brink of planting, growing, and canning my own fruits and veggies, buying raw milk, and raising some chickens. Maybe a goat. In the backyard of my .25 acre Chicago suburb home. Any second now.

So as I figure this out which square inches of my backyard get the most sun, maybe I will inspire someone else to take a step forward in their journey as well. Maybe you? That's all I want. For us to start figuring this out. Signing up for that CSA isn't looking like such a chore now is it?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Was It Always This Way?

I started reading Weston A. Price's book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  In the 1930s, Price, a dentist, travelled around the world studying groups of "primitive" people who still lived on their traditional diets. In many cases, he found groups untouched by outside influence, and was able to compare them to groups who had established trade with "white" people. His discoveries blew my mind.

Ever see Dances with Wolves? Yes, that was my favorite movie in high school... Remember his first meeting with the Lakota Indians? They come in peace, he makes them coffee, gives them gifts, and we sit at home and wish every white man would have acted that way. How different would our country be? Well... probably not much. It turns out Lt John Dunbar would have happily poisoned every last Indian and left their culture ravaged and decaying just the same. Wait... what?! Was this the ending in an alternate universe?

Seminole Indians on Native Diet
Let's get back to Price. In 1931 he found a group of Swiss living in the Loetschental Valley in the Alps relatively unexposed to outside trade. They lived on a diet of dairy, whole grain rye bread, a few summer vegetables, and meat about once a week. The remarkable thing about these people was that they had almost no incidences of tooth decay, tooth crowding, tuberculosis, arthritis, or joint pain.

He compared this community to several villages that had begun trading with "plains" peoples and had added white flour, sugared fruit, and chocolate to their diets. The degeneration was remarkable. The more outside products that were incorporated into their diet, the higher incidence of tooth decay and disease. This was the case in every "untainted" primitive culture he was able to locate and study (Eskimos, American Indians, African tribes, Aborigines, etc.).

Seminole Indians after being exposed to a Western Diet

What did Kevin Costner give those Indians?


Yeah, I know, that one bag of sugar wouldn't have brought down the entire Lakota tribe. But what if all our ancestors had settled here peaceably instead. What if they had come bearing bags of sugar instead of muskets and smallpox blankets?

Would we have slowly moved our way West through trade instead? Would the Indians still be living free on the plains, healthy and robust as we had found them? Not likely.

I guess this is what I mean by wanting to live Ultra Retro. I want to live in the optimal conditions for the development of my body and mind. I don't want to abuse my body with the foods that I eat and then try and fix it with pills and fad diets. Clean-eating for the body and self-directed education for the mind.

And yet I still made Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies this weekend.

And they were yum….

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It Begins...

Basically I'm taking steps that will remove fake and introduce real into my family's life.

I could get very negative, writing about all of the bad products and approach my journey as a rejection of the chemically laden, environmentally irresponsible, and socio-economically harmful products that we all buy every day. But I rather like the positive and more pro-active term my sister "ultra-retro". As Michael Pollan would say
"eating things my great-grandmother would recognize as food."

This means that in order to eat real food, i probably have to cook it. and to trust said food, i probably have to source it locally, or even grow it and can/preserve it. this is a lot of work, and a revolution in thinking that has been in the works since beginning a weight loss journey in 2005. Some documentaries such as Food Inc., King Corn, and books like Fast Food Nation really kicked this into high gear for me.

I thought it would be fun to blog my journey, which is now fueled by my desire to do right by my baby boy.

About Me
I am 37 years old, recently married and also a first-time mom of 9 month old Trace. We live in the west burbs of MPLS (Minneapolis, MN). Before all of this I was a freelance graphic designer living in Chicago. I'd like to say I'm still a freelancer, but that would be a lie. Babies are WORK. So for now I am at home with the little man.

Having lived with PCOS and a weight problem from my teenage years on, I am hell-bent on making sure that it is not a problem my children have to deal with. In blogs to follow I will speak to how processed food contributed to my struggle, how I've had to take responsibility for my life and various attempts to remove bad products (and still trying!).

Saturday, February 4, 2012


My sister, Gretch!

Although Erika introduced me to the phrase "clean eating", my sister, Gretchen, planted the seeds of healthy eating long ago. We have had long discussions on weight loss/gain, the problems with processed foods, and deciphering long, unintelligable labels.

But for some reason, gaining and sharing knowledge was just not enough to motivate a change in behavior. For me, the motivation to really change came in the form of an untainted, perfect, little infant. When it came time to put that first bite of pureed squash into his mouth, I was all of a sudden reading the back of that jar with suspicion.

And my journey only built momentum since then. Now my sister has a beautiful nine month old and she is reading the backs of baby food jars with the same determination. (Or should I say that back of those little organic squeeze packets because she is already ahead of me in that department.)

Anway, we thought it would be interesting to have her relate what it is like for a new mom beginning her journey down the road to clean eating.

Maybe while we're at it, I'll even convince her to homeschool! I've got a few years to work on her....

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Funny - The Onion

My husband just called my attention to today's "American Voices" segment on The Onion. Then we had a conversation something like this:
The Onion
Me: Hey, send me that link for my blog.
Husband: But it's The Onion.
Me: What, I can't put funny things on my blog to poke fun at myself? Can't I be something more than a hyper-zealous, over-sensitive, food Nazi?
Husband: I just thought that came with the territory.


Baby Formula

Last night I called my best friend. We have been friends since we were 12 and stuck together through moves, military, marriages, divorces, and babies. No matter how well I hit it off with someone new, the history I share with this friend gives us a special bond that I have never been able to replicate.

And that's a good thing for our friendship considering we have almost nothing in common!

S is a school teacher and thinks healthy eating is a salad with low-fat dressing and a diet coke. Considering this blog... could we be more opposite?! But she is good for me. I think if you don't have friends that hold opposing viewpoints then you tend to get close-minded. You start to see the world in black and white. Anyone who thinks differently than you must be ignorant and small-minded.

But my friend is none of those things. She is one of the most loyal and generous people that I know. She became a teacher because she loves kids. She is a good friend and wonderful mom.

And she formula feeds.

S is about to have another baby. Since I have three young kids and am also a new aunt, it is easy for us to talk about baby things. We were remembering the joys of the newborn and I told her that Gretch's nine month old son is still not sleeping through the night. S advised me to tell Gretch to start giving him a bottle of formula during the night to help him sleep.

It took me a few seconds to compose my thoughts. I wanted to reply tactfully and without judgement.  "Ummmm I don't think you realize how committed Gretch and I have become to clean eating. And as far as the baby is concerned, Gretch is even more committed than me. She is shopping organic, throwing away all 'white' foods, and switching to raw milk."

Let me just tell you this is a very hard conversation to have with a mom who does not breastfeed. I do not want to criticize my friend! But have you looked at the ingredient list on a can of formula?

Similac Baby Formula
I just... I can't... I don't even know what to say. I couldn't buy this. I wouldn't eat it. I sure as heck couldn't feed it to my baby! It actually makes me want to cry. It was the thought of putting chemicals and HFCS into my perfect little babies that made me switch to clean eating in the first place. The thought of starting my baby's life with a diet of 42.6% corn syrup is abhorrent to me.

So I am sorry my dear friend that I didn't have the nerve to tell you last night what I truly believe. I don't yet know how to share my views without giving offense. I don't want to damage our friendship by cautioning you against formula. Especially since I know how you struggled to breastfeed with your first child.

But I promise, I don't think less of you for using formula. I get to sit here at my kitchen table and research these new ideas to my heart's content. But you are out there in the world making a difference and just like me, making the best choices you can with the information you have.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fresh Bread!

My very first loaf
It is my one month bread-making anniversary!! I put off learning to bake bread because it seemed so daunting. And we eat a lot of bread. And who has time for all that kneading.

Well thanks to my husband's dear, departed grandmother, I now have a mixer. We have been on fresh, homemade bread for one whole month! Thanks, Grandma, this mixer changed my life!

Oh and this recipe. And good yeast. But mostly Grandma's mixer.