Having children a selfish act?

Boy at beach

On
Saturday, when my blog was down, my husband and I read this incredibly
sad and disturbing article, and I’ve been mulling over a post about it
ever since. Here are some of the “highlights”:

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she
would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to
have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love,
to feel a little hand slipping into hers – and a voice calling her
Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.


Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet…

While some might think it strange to celebrate the reversal of
nature and denial of motherhood, Toni relishes her decision with an
almost religious zeal.

“Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” says Toni, 35.

 

“Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land,
more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more
pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of
over-population.”

To read the whole article, click here.

I read this article with my mouth hanging open, unable to believe
the deception that these women and their partners have bought into. To
believe that saving the world at any cost is an honorable and worthy
pursuit, even at the cost of killing your own child, is deception
indeed.

If we are not re-evaluating our current lifestyles and seeking to be
more ecologically friendly for the hope of a future generation, then
why do it at all? What good are clean and pure ocean waters without
someone to swim, fish or sail in them? Of what value is it to renew the
soil we have stripped through poor farming practices and begin to once
again grow nutrient-dense and pesticide free produce, if there is no
one to eat it?

I saw a dark vein running through the article, perhaps somewhat
subtle, but it stood out to me so obviously. These women claim that
having children and “over-populating” the earth is the ultimate selfish
act (please, don’t go there with me about the myth of over population).
And yet, as I read about their decisions and their lifestyles
(particularly Toni), I detect a selfishness far greater.

Our culture has bought the lie that we ought to have comfortable,
even luxurious lives, full of the pleasures we believe we deserve. It
has also taught us that children are an affront to this indulgent
lifestyle that we are owed. It begins with choosing to have only one or
two, or even no children, because they come at too great of a cost (but
how will we buy a 4000 sq ft home, and travel the world, and eat out 3
nights a week, and own a plasma tv?). And now this selfishness is being
cloaked in self-righteousness. It’s not because I am selfish- it’s because I am so altruistic that I couldn’t possibly burden this planet with another child.

In defense of our children, I see a much longer lasting legacy than
preventing the use of more water, land and oil. I see the legacy of
children being raised to care for and take dominion over the earth in a
responsible, God-honoring way. Children who will learn from their
parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents mistakes, and be the
leaders who will make the necessary transformation to a society that
treads too heavily upon the earth. Children who will value the creation
that has been given to us, value clean air, pure water, and healthy
bodies, and lead revolutionary lives.

I look into my sweet baby’s eyes, and I do not see cost, burden or
destruction- I see the future, and I believe that if we are diligent in
raising the next generation, that future is bright.

Originally published November 2007

The Walk of a Weary Woman

This refreshing guest post from Stephanie spoke deeply to me, as I know that it will to you, too. It needs no other introduction, so just read on…

Monet parasol woman
 For many years I have struggled under my own expectations, or a list of what I “thought” I was to do to flourish as a wife, mother and homemaker in a way that would bring glory to God. This list of expectations included lots of ideals that on the outside seemed good, but had slowly become a heavy yoke for me as I tried to carry it. 

This list includes being a perfectly submissive wife who loves and  honors her husband, have loving and obedient children,  keep a spotless home that is clutter free and well decorated, home schooling my children with the best curriculum, finding the best deals on our family needs, baking my own bread, juicing my own juice, feeding my family the most healthful foods, growing my own garden, canning my own food and the list goes on and on. While none of these are “bad” in and of themselves, the expectation of myself that I can do all these things and do them consistently and perfectly was causing me to feel weary and overwhelmed. I have never lived up to the expectation I had of myself of a perfect wife, mother, homemaker and woman of God. Rather, I often felt loaded down and was tired, stressed, discontent, and unpleasant. In fact, I was more often accomplishing the opposite of what I felt was noble and good, and reaping a harvest that was not fruitful for myself, my family, or those around me.

Many times I would start my day out asking the Lord to equip me and show me how to do it all. Many times I thought He didn’t hear me, because I would go through my days with my goals and to do list and I would end it with much of it being left unchecked.  I was tired of being tired, and began to really cry out to God for help. It was during this time that He began to speak to my heart and reveal such wonderful and freeing truths to me.

Taking Every Thought Captive

The first area that God brought to my heart was that I was not taking every thought captive to Him; rather I was impulsively going about things that I thought were honorable. These good things were slowly crowding out and taking over the best things. The good things were causing me to try reach for a standard and create a lifestyle that I thought was noble, virtuous and holy. Notice the “I” in these statements!  I was trying to do the things that I thought were good and forgetting to ask Him what He wanted me to be and do.

Many of these things that I thought of to do stemmed from comparing my life with others. This is such an easy trap to fall into.  We see Sally grinding her own grain and baking her own bread, and we feel we don’t measure up unless we do it too. We see Jane decorating her home beautifully, and we look around at our home and see all the things we want to change. We then begin to create a standard based on others lives instead of God’s will for us. We then add these things to our list and begin to carry a much larger load then God intended. By taking our thoughts captive, we will bring all things before him and seek His guidance in our lives. Jesus did nothing apart from His Father, and we should learn from that example. He cares about all things, big and small!  It is great to be inspired and motivated by others, but to feel condemned and inferior is a trick of the enemy used to tear us down and defeat us. I continue to struggle in this area, but have tried to make a more concerted effort to simply say “Lord, this is what I want to do. Would you have me do this?”  Then I must make the effort to be still and not do anything until I hear from Him. That is the hardest part sometimes!

Seeking His Kingdom First

When Jesus tells to seek first His kingdom, He is warning us not to place value on things to the extent that we seek those things first and not Him, or that we concern ourselves so much with the basics that we overlook the important. I learned that I was often running ahead of the Lord, starting where He meant for me to end. I was placing value on things that He would take care of once I put my priorities in order. Instead of patiently seeking Him and waiting for Him to add where He saw fit, I began laboring and building a kingdom on my own. By seeking first His kingdom and focusing on the things that He guides me to do, it will create an overflow in my life that will result in achieving many of the honorable and noble things I was striving for. By stopping and asking “Will this matter in eternity?” I have been able to gain so much perspective in my life on what I should do instead of what I could do.

 Truly Seeking His Glory

This is a difficult one! As much as my mouth would say I was seeking His glory, He showed me that I was doing many things for my own glory. I would say it was for Him, but if I was to be truthful with myself, much of my expectations were in pleasing others and gaining their approval instead of God’s. This was quite humbling to me. Why did I want a spotless and well decorated home? Why did I want obedient and loving children? Was it really for God’s glory? When I took a long hard look at my list of expectations, I had to admit that most of them were for myself and not for Him. I have since learned to allow God to search my heart daily: Is this for me, or for Him? When I get off track in an area, I can quickly repent and ask Him to create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.

Simple, But Powerful

These things may sound rather simple, but for me they have been powerful truths. If I am living my day going about my own duties, concerned with list of things to accomplish, and seeking my own glory,  I will eventually have a load that I cannot carry. I try to stop and ask myself “Am I building a life based on what I think I should be doing, or am I truly living a life that He has called me to live?  Is the list I have assigned myself one that will bring glory to me or to Him? If you are burdened, weary or frustrated it may be that you are walking in your own strength and leaving God out of your best laid plans.

As I have journeyed through these truths, I am amazed at how free and content I feel. I am now purposing each day to take my thoughts captive to Him, seek first His kingdom, walking in His strength and not my own, and seeking the things that will truly give Him the glory He deserves. I pray that I build a life and home upon Him and not on my own meager efforts. My hearts desire is that I become so in tune to His calling on my life that I can be all He has called me to be. I know that as I walk out these things He will equip me each and everyday with meaningful, kingdom minded tasks that ultimately bring Him the glory He deserves. That is a to do list I am more than happy to complete!

Stephanie is a home schooling mother of 3
beautiful children and a blessed help meet of 15 years to her husband
Scott. She blogs at
www.ahighandnoblecalling.com,
a blog that exists to encourage, equip and inspire women in their roles as
wives, mothers and homemakers for God's glory.
 

Image from allposters.com

Why Should Christians Support Sustainable Agriculture?

I’m excited to bring you this first guest post, from Kimberly, who is a Weston Price chapter leader, as well as publicist for Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions (a much referenced book on this blog!). This is a excellent look at another element of Christian stewardship, and she says it so much better than I ever could have, so enjoy and be challenged and inspired!

Guest Post by Kimberly

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into
the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. —Genesis 2:15

Blue Roof
In the beginning, God
set man as ruler over every living thing, the fish, the birds, and
the animals. In addition, God gave man stewardship of the land, and
the responsibility to cultivate it. From the earliest biblical
writings, the relationship of man and beast was characterized by love
and gentle care of the animal kingdom by man. The writings in
Deuteronomy tell us man was instructed by God to care even for his
neighbor’s flock, “You shall not see your countryman’s
donkey, or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to
them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up.”—Deuteronomy
22:4

Many of us today, have
abandoned our cultivator role and now live in cities and suburbs. We
have lost sight of the plant and animal kingdom of God and our
relationship to it. Middlemen, Food Processors, Supermarkets and
fast food restaurants now stand between us, and the farm.
Consequently, we no longer know where our food comes from, and how
our livestock are raised, our produce grown.

And to every beast of the earth …I have given
every green plant for food…Genesis 1:30

Jesus used the
illustration of a tenderhearted shepherd to describe God’s love for
us. A loving shepherd guides his sheep to green pastures to eat, he
makes sure they find fresh water, and protects them from danger.

In contrast, our
industrial food system has no personal relationship to the animals.
It operates without a conscience. It forbids livestock access to
pastures; force feeds inappropriate feed, and corrals them in tight
quarters, indoors, where they don’t ever see green grass or
sunshine. These Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s)
subject our animal friends to unnatural horrors, such as chains,
filth, tasers, drugs, artificial growth hormones. Cows, for instance
are meant to feed on grass and hay (dried grass). CAFO’s chain
them to a rail, feed them corn, animal by products, waste products
from factories such as distillery waste, citrus cake, chocolate
waste, even M&M’s (see WSJ video on my blog).

Because we are many
steps removed from all this, consumers have been blindly supporting a
system that pollutes the environment, degrades the nutritional
quality of our food, and devastates the small farm economy. We are
going to our squeaky clean grocery stores, picking up our
hermetically sealed products, and going home to prepare dinner with
no clue of what is going on behind the scenes.

Fellowship (2)
When I learned from the
Weston A. Price Foundation about the superior nutritional content of
grass fed meats, I switched our buying habits to buying directly from
a local rancher. I heard a woman at a party speak about this
rancher, who calls his cattle from pasture to pasture in a gentle
voice. This rancher personally accompanies his livestock to the
slaughterhouse and makes sure they are relaxed and not stressed in
any way. He is like the good shepherd of whom Jesus spoke. I
realize now, that when we take care of other creatures with
tenderness and love, they in return, produce for us a high quality,
nutrient dense food. When mankind mistreats our animal friends, it
results in our human communities experiencing deadly food borne
illness outbreaks (a natural result of abusive animal husbandry
practices), and suffering poor health, obesity, and degenerative
disease. We have unwittingly been supporting an inhumane and unsafe
food system, by purchasing the products of the industrial food chain.

Christians are also
charged with the responsibility of caring for our bodies, as our body
is described in Holy Scripture as, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1
Corinth 6:19)
. For this reason alone, we need to seek out the
highest quality foodstuffs to grace our family table. Homemakers are
traditionally the ones with the key to the pantry, the ones in
authority over what goes on the breakfast, lunch and dinner table.
When women take this responsibility to heart, our role grows into a
beautiful expression of love for our families.

Have you ever noticed
that bread from the store or even made in a bread machine just
doesn’t compare to a hand kneaded loaf? It’s the love that flows
into the bread through the preparer’s hands that makes the
difference.

Our family now buys
80-90% of our food directly from local farmers. We know their
philosophies, their animal husbandry standards, and their cultivating
practices. While we don’t raise the food ourselves, in this way,
we’ve reconnected with the land. We now embrace our duty to
support the good stewards of the land in our community. By design,
we are fostering the growth of our local farm economy, an alternative
to the industrial system. We are voting with our dollars for humane
treatment of animals, soil rich in nutrients, a clean environment.

The other morning, as
we had breakfast, my husband said to me, “I feel like I am sitting
down to a farm fresh feast.” Indeed, he was!

Kimberly Hartke is the
publicist for Sally Fallon-Morell (Author of Nourishing Traditions
and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation). Kimberly is also a
volunteer Chapter Leader for WAPF in Reston, VA, and Asst. Organizer
of the Northern Virginia Whole Foods Nutrition Meetup group. She is
a homemaker and partner with her husband in
http://www.incrediblebeachvacations.com/.
Her blog is
Hartke is Online.

The artwork
illustrating this blog post is by cut paper artist, Deborah Claxton.
Every artwork is made using thousands of pieces of paper, designed
and cut by hand. Because of the painstaking process, Deborah
completes only 3 new originals per year. Prints are also available.
She can be reached at http://www.cutpaperonly.com/.

Life without a microwave

Microwave2
When faced with a serious illness. it's amazing how much easier it becomes to give up certain things. Our microwave was one of those things.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer last spring, it was one of the first things to go. We had already been in the process of changing a lot of things (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) but the microwave was one that we had been procrastinating on.

I have never read any absolutely firm evidence (i.e. truly scientific, extremely reputable studies) that microwaves are harmful to our health or that they are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). I imagine that even if such a study was performed, it's results would be kept very much under wraps by those who have money to be made. I have read many very educated opinions, as well as much intelligent speculation, that microwaves may possibly be very dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible. Even before getting rid of ours, I kept my daughter away from it when it was on, and I always tried to stand a few feet away as well.

Here are just a couple of articles I found online, discussing the dangers and studies done on the use of microwaves :

Proven Dangers of Microwaves
The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking
Microwave Cooking is Killing You

I am not going to try to convince you that you should all immediately go and throw your microwaves in the dumpster. However, I do think that it is worth reading about, and worth considering how you could learn to go without!

Here are a few tips that I have learned as I have gone back to the good old days of not being able to just nuke my food:

  • If you forget to take your meat out to thaw it, put it in a sink full of cool water. It's not as fast, but it definitely thaws faster (and safer) than just sitting on the counter. Sometimes I just adjust my cooking time to the fact that my meat isn't perfectly thawed.
  • Ground meat can be cooked frozen- simply flip it from side to side over medium heat, and each time scrape off the portion that has thawed.
  • Use a toaster oven to re-heat leftovers, instead of heating the whole oven. Ours came with a small tray that works great for a meal sized amount of food.
  • A pot or pan on the stove is such a fast way to re-heat soups, stews, stir-fries, etc.
  • Infant's milk and food should never be microwaved (it decreases nutrients, as well as heats unevenly and creates pockets where heat and steam are trapped). I try to remember to take out frozen baby food in the morning and leave it on the counter to thaw by lunch or dinner (unless it's meat or dairy). Lately I've been using a ceramic bowl in the toaster oven to heat it slightly. Running a glass jar under hot running water works well, as does boiling a small pot or pan with water and putting the bowl of food inside (note- this only works if your child is not feeding themselves out of the bowl- if they are, make sure to transfer the warmed food to a cool bowl before serving it).
  • For hot beverages, use a kettle for hot water or else heat the beverage in a pot on the stove. I make amazing frothy milk for lattes by heating it on the stove, and then pumping it up and down in a french press.
  • Please, don't use microwave popcorn (if not for any other reason than that the oils that make it taste buttery are terrible for you)! Get an old fashioned corn popper from a thrift store or garage sale, or just use an old camping pot on the stove top. Melt your butter on the stove, or in the nifty little compartment on top of the popper.

Not owning a microwave helps me to think ahead about my meal planning and thawing food from the freezer. I've gotten so used to preparing our food on the stove and in the oven, and in fact, I wouldn't really even want to eat soggy, nuked food anymore!

Has anyone else given up their microwave? Please share your tips for thawing, heating and re-heating foods!

Originally published December 2007

Living Simply Saturday: Stop and Savour

Lss-graphic-small

This week I found my life hectic and busy, and seemingly not very simple! Preparing everything for us to go on this trip, while leaving my garden during a late-arriving harvest time and committing to leave my blog for two full weeks, made for a very full schedule.

For my children’s sake, I made a special effort to purposefully take snippets of time over the course of the past few days to just enjoy being with them. I would put away my to-do list, my canning and baking, my blog work, etc. and just curl up on the couch to read them a chapter from Little House in the Big Woods (our current read-aloud). Or we’d spend 20 minutes outside before naptime, so that Abbie could ride her bike and I could help Caden practice walking on the lawn. Or we’d sit down at the computer and take 10 minutes to watch a few clips from Everyday News. Or just snuggle for a few moments in bed, before they took their naps.

It didn’t matter what we did. The point was to just stop and savour the moment, the here and now of being with my children, regardless of how many things I had to do. It’s so easy to put off something as important as enjoying my children because my day is too full and rushed. How often have I let a day or two go by without making a point of simply cherishing them and the fact that I am with them?

Life gets busy sometimes. It’s inevitable, no matter how simply we endeavor to live. I want to learn to reclaim simple pleasures, to be fully present in the moment I am in and to cultivate a heart of thankfulness to God for whatever He has given me.

On this note, I would thoroughly recommend two posts from Crystal this week in her series Embrace Today. They were such an encouragement to me in this area, and a reminder to choose contentment and joy, no matter what season of life we are in.

__________________________________________________________________________

Living Simply Saturdays are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back here and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the specific post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that you include in your post a link back to this post. Thanks so much!

If you don’t have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

And we’re off…

I'm so excited to finally be leaving for our two week family vacation!

We'll start with 4 1/2 days in Seattle, visiting with my husband's family, reading, going to the zoo, and just relaxing. Then next Wednesday morning, we'll be catching a plane bright and early to fly down to Phoenix, Arizona. The first day we'll be driving right up to Flagstaff, where we will stay for 6 nights, and take day trips out to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Painted Desert, Montezuma's Castle, etc. For the last two days, we'll head back down to Phoenix, enjoy dinner with the lovely Lylah and her hubby (such fun!), sightsee a little, then back up to Seattle on the Thursday, and home again to BC on the Friday.

In the meantime, though I will be absent, my blog will still go on. In fact, I've got a busy blog schedule all set to go, starting this Saturday with the Living Simply Saturdays Carnival. Then next Monday, for two weeks, there will be an incredible array of guest posts, and a few replays of some oldie but goodies of my own, with something new up every day.

I'll be checking in from time to time, but mostly I will be relishing every moment I have to just unwind and connect with my family, and enjoy this amazing trip that we are so blessed to be going on. In fact, I will be doing my best to forget I even have a blog! :)

Don't worry, though. I expect to return refreshed and excited for all the plans and ideas that are running through my head!  See you in two weeks!

Living with PCOS: Why nutrition really matters

If you've missed the first posts in this series, you can read them here: The beginning of my story and then Taking a step back.

Roasted root veggies
When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I was lightyears from the place of health and nutrition consciousness that I am now. In fact, it was my diagnosis that spurred me on to learning and beginning to adapt my lifestyle. There's nothing like a serious diagnosis to wake you up a bit to the reality of where your body is at and how you should be taking care of it.

The first steps for me were to learn about nutrition. Quite honestly, I knew nothing and I look back on it now and wonder how I could not have known any more than I did. It's a tragedy that children and teens these days are being taught next to nothing about true nutrition or what it takes to care for a healthy body. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest to say that I didn't actually know that my body required certain amounts of different nutrients to function well, that it needed minimum amounts of fiber and water, or that sugar was actually harmful in a way that went beyond giving me cavities.

I think that step one in proactively dealing with PCOS is recognizing that what we eat plays a huge role in minimizing this disorder and it's effects on our body

1) Too little of a particular nutrient can prevent an aspect of our hormonal system from functioning optimally.

Lack of specific nutrients greatly impairs our endocrine (hormonal) system from working the way it is supposed to- these important nutrients include B vitamins (especially B6 and B12), essential fatty acids, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and a myriad of others. When our nutrition is lacking, our endocrine system stops working smoothly as it was created to. Hormones are delicate little things, and even slight imbalances can make a large difference. Simply put, hormones are messengers in our body that tell it what to do and when, and when there are too many or not enough of a particular messenger, our body's systems and organs do not work together as they should.

2) What we eat impacts our blood sugar and insulin levels.

This is particularly important for those with PCOS, because over and over again researchers are noting a strong insulin connection to this disorder. This is a major contributing factor for those who struggle greatly with maintaining a healthy weight. Their bodies cannot regulate a correct blood sugar level, and as a result, they often store their calories as fat. It should also be noted the insulin is, in fact, a hormone, and as I said before, slight imbalances make big differences. When high or erratic blood sugar levels push your insulin out of whack, there is a domino effect with your other hormones.

3) Some foods can either seriously aggravate or benefit a hormonal condition.

Soy has long been promoted as a revolutionary health food, a panacea of sorts. It has even been recommended for those with hormonal imbalance, because it mimics estrogen in our bodies (referred to as a phytoestrogen). It's presence actually confuses our body into thinking that more estrogen is present than there actually is, and this again leads to a domino effect. Aside from the fact that soy is not a wise choice nutritionally speaking, this estrogenic effect in our bodies is a very negative thing for most women, as estrogen dominance is extrememly common these days and contributes to many conditions.

On the other end of the spectrum, foods in the cruciferous family (such as broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage), can actually help to reduce excess estrogen in the body because of a nutrient they contain called indole-3-carbinol. For many women with an excess of estrogen, this can be a huge benefit! So you can see how particular foods can both help and hinder our bodies (this is not to cause you anxiety as you wonder which foods to eat or avoid, but only to help you see the effects that food can really have, and I will make more specific suggestions later on).

4) A smoothly running system is more likely to be in balance.

Several years ago, I went to an excellent seminar put on by a woman (either a nutritionist or naturopath- I can't remember), who gave a 9 point system for regaining hormonal balance. I was surprised to hear her include fiber and water as 2 of her 9 points, as she made an impressive case for the positive effects that good elimination (ie. bowels that work well and consistently) and a well hydrated system have on hormonal balance. This attests to the fact that the overall picture of what and how we eat can make a real difference in our health.

5) Carrying excess weight has negative effects on our hormones.

I think it is pretty well accepted that how we eat affects our weight. Being overweight has a huge chain of negative impacts for our health, such as increasing your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems, exacerbating joint problems like arthritis, and definitely impacting our hormonal balance and reproductive systems. For example, did you know that women with anorexia often lose their menstrual cycle because they have too little body fat? Did you know that those who are overweight often have excessively high estrogen levels because estrogen is stored in fat cells?

These are just a few of the reasons why nutrition matters when it comes to living with PCOS.

My goal for this week is to set the stage for discussing some of the changes that I have made in my life since my diagnosis. Some of them may seem simplistic in many ways, and some are a bit more complex. My passion for nutrition has developed over the years, because I have experienced the rewards that better nutrition brings. It works. It will make a difference.

For those of us who have spent our lives esteeming the medical community, and doing whatever we were told by doctors, it can be difficult to shift gears and believe that something like nutrition can impact our health so greatly. Perhaps even more difficult to believe that things like nutrition and our overall lifestyle can benefit a diagnosis like PCOS, getting to some of it's root issues, far more effectively than any pill ever could. Suspend your disbelief. Go there with me, and walk with me as I share about the road to health that I have been traveling.

simplicity in a busy season

There are days, weeks, even months and years in life, where I think that it may feel next to impossible to achieve what we might think of as "simple living". Seasons when life is one hectic blur of busyness and responsibility.

For me, a really challenging example of a season like that was last summer, while my husband was going through chemotherapy, and I was caring for him, a 2 year old and a newborn. Life felt anything but simple most days.

Yet, there was a sort of simplicity when I stop to really consider it. We pared down our activities and responsibilities to next to nothing. Our social life was much more minimal. We went to church and came back home, with no extra involvement. Our main priorities were to get through chemo and get better (him), and be with my husband, take care of my children and their basic needs, put adequate food on the table, and keep the house in some semblance of order (me). That was it. In all actuality, there was much about it that was simple.

In the midst of it, we found great delight in small pleasures. In savoring each new development, smile and coo from our new baby boy. In relishing extra time spent just snuggling with our little girl. In really appreciating a lovely summer day when we could sit outside, or the rare occasions when Ry felt well enough for us to be a bit more social and have a really fun evening with friends. In a road trip we made to a wedding, that was leisurely and full of beautiful conversation. Though much of the summer was a blur to me, I well remember those moments.

Natural solutions for cleaning tough stuff

B&w bathtub
Just in time for my massive house cleaning day tomorrow (before I go on vacation, I always like to try to leave my house spic and span, because it's just so much more restful to come home to!), the perfect Green Guide newsletter dropped into my inbox.

Their article on Furry Foes offered a natural solution for cleaning mold and mildew, which I find to be one of the more challenging aspects of green cleaning. I've found that baking soda isn't too bad, and my Bac-Out enzyme cleaner is somewhat better, but neither do the job as well as I would like. While I use white vinegar for many of my other cleaning needs, I've never tried it full strength on mold, but I am eager to give it a shot tomorrow. I also liked their suggestion to add tea tree oil for really tough jobs. Has anyone tried this? Did it work?

On a similar note, I have a question for you all:

What do you use to get rid of stains on clothing, without resorting to toxic or conventional products?

Since ditching Shout almost two years ago, I have been hard pressed to find any alternatives that I am truly satisfied with. Kids food stains (and art stains, etc.) are so challenging, and I have lost a few of Abbie's really nice shirts due to stains that set in and just never came out, no matter how hard I tried. It just kills me to throw out clothes that were otherwise in great shape, especially if they're her (or my) favorites.

So please, share all of your natural mold and stain removal wisdom with me! I'm all ears!

Nutritional Foundations- Making the best of the regular grocery store, Part 3

Let's continue on with our tour of the conventional grocery store, and how to do the best we can with what's available to us…

Dairy

This is a tough one. The dairy at our local grocery store has unfortunately been dealt with rather poorly. First off, it has been pasteurized:

Pasteurization destroys enzymes,
diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys
vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens
and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants,
growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and
cancer.
(From Realmilk.com)

Not to mention, also being homogenized, which breaks up fat globules and may be a major contributing factor to heart disease and high cholesterol, in addition to the fact that it adds unnecessary processing to what is otherwise a whole, natural food.

So, what types of dairy are worth purchasing as we seek out a whole foods diet?

Raw-milk-jug
Ideally, raw milk is one of the ultimate "health foods" out there (along with other dairy products made from it- raw cheeses, cultured dairy such as kefir, yogurt and buttermilk, and beautiful yellow butter). I am all about creamy, unadulterated raw milk, straight from the farm. To find out if there are any sources of this liquid gold near you, you can check for it's availability by location.

What if raw milk isn't available to me?

If your only shopping options are conventional grocery stores (or even health food stores, depending where you live), chances are good that buying raw milk just isn't an option. Here are my suggestions for some of the healthier compromises:

Don't drink conventional milk

Now this is a difficult statement for many people. There are many foods that I would still encourage people to consume, whether they can get organic or the best quality or not. Unfortunately, milk is not one of them. If you cannot find unpasteurized milk (even if it's organic), I would suggest removing it from your diet in it's standard form (ie. straight from the jug).

What about alternatives? I know of only two alternatives that I feel good about. Soy milk is definitely NOT one of them (read this to find out why). Rice milk is also not such a great option, because it doesn't offer anything more than rice and water mixed together (and most of us eat plenty of grains as it is).

Almond or other nut milks (hazlenut, brazilnut, etc.) are one decent option. They offer some good protein, fat (yes, we need good fats!) and calcium, along with other nutrients contained in nuts. The only problem is that commercial nut milks are not made correctly. Nuts should be soaked or sprouted before being consumed, or they are much more difficult to digest, and contain phytates which inhibit mineral absorption. Making your own nut milks is a good possibility, as I have done and had good results with.

Another option I had not heard of until recently is Coconut Milk Tonic. Though I haven't tried this, it seems to be a great alternative, and has much to offer nutritionally. 

Focus on cultured dairy

Organic-discount-milk
If milk is out of the question, then make room for more cultured dairy in your diet. This would include yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and even sour cream. The reason these products are more acceptable is that they have added bacteria cultures, which promote good digestion and a healthy intestinal tract, and are not associated with the same problems as drinking regular cow's milk.

Back in the days before I found raw milk, we ate a good variety of cheeses and sour cream, had plenty of yogurt in smoothies and for snacks, and I used buttermilk to replace milk in my cooking (sometimes yogurt makes a good substitute as well, if you water it down a bit).

Since the cost of my raw milk is rather insane, I still buy organic pasteurized milk (when it goes on clearance due to it's expiry date) and use that to make all of my yogurt and kefir (because culturing the milk adds back in many of the benefits that the pasteurization removed). I can even stock up on it and make huge batches (both keep well in the fridge) or freeze the milk to have on hand for later.

When buying cheeses…

Cheeses
I prefer to stick to white cheese, to avoid the food coloring that goes into orange cheese. It's just totally unnecessary, and most good cheeses come un-dyed (you can get incredible white cheddars).

I tend to avoid standard cream cheese, as it's rather fake and not a very close cousin to the real, traditional cream cheese. I do buy cottage cheese sometimes. I never, ever (and recommend that you don't ever, ever!) buy processed cheese slices or spread, any Velveeta or Cheese Whiz or anything like that. They are, quite simply, very processed and no longer offer the nutrition of regular cheese (but they do offer a host of other things your body doesn't need or want!).

Say no thanks to margarine

Butter in package
Along with it's hydrogenated fats and trans fats, margarine is made up of rancid vegetable oils, as well as soy protein and other additives and coloring that are completely unnatural. There is nothing redeeming about margarine.

Butter, though it has been made out to be a villain, is full of healthful nutrients (Vitamins A, D and E), plus anti-oxidants, good cholesterol, beneficial fatty acids, iodine (for healthy thyroid glands), and more. If you're not convinced yet that butter is, in fact, not the enemy but rather a healthful food to be embraced, read this article, Why Butter is Better. Another good read is Kimi's post on butter and good sources of the best butter.

What if you can't get organic

Naturally, organic is ideal and many grocery stores are jumping on that bandwagon these days. Dairy that is not organic most likely contains hormones and/or antibiotics that have been given to the cows who often get sick, have infections and are expected to produce much higher quantities of milk than they can naturally produce. In addition, it does not contain the same spectrum of nutrients due to the inferior diets of conventionally raised cows (who receive very little, if any, pasture time where they are able to eat fresh, green grass).

If yours store doesn't carry organic dairy you can still enjoy these products, knowing that the items I have mentioned above are a reasonable compromise. Personally, I would encourage you to limit your dairy somewhat if you are not buying organic, and find other ways to get more of your protein, calcium, good fats, etc. Nuts and seeds (especially almonds and sesame seeds), dark leafy greens (including cruciferous greens like broccoli), and free-range eggs (no calcium, but great protein and fats) are excellent ways to boost your diet without dairy. (Edit: I should have added Cod Liver Oil to this list, for it's amazing Vit A and D content, as well as essential fatty acids!)

This series will take a short hiatus while I'm on vacation, and will pick up in a few weeks as I continue to work my way through the conventional grocery store… I'll be tackling meat and poultry and eggs, the bakery, and those pesky inner aisles, so stay tuned!