Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Importance of Playing in the Dirt...

Both of our kids were sick this week, but between my son and my daughter, there is an interesting difference:

  Whenever our daughter gets sick, if it gets into her chest, it becomes a real problem.  She has had pneumonia three times.  Whenever she starts to sniffle, I go on mommy high-alert.  She is also a natually clean child.  She would sit down with projects even at the age of one and draw and color contentedly.  She has a tentative nature, and is less likely to run full steam through anything physically or socially.

   Our son immerses himself in whatever he's doing, especially if it involves dirt.  He's jumping in mud puddles, sitting down in mud, making mud creations while digging in his nose like there's gold dubloons up there; and his immune system is hardier.  Things hit him more mildly.

Part of my homeschooling recess this week was to make sure our daughter got dirty.  I sacrified my springform pan and some other kitchenware, and sent the kids out to make mud pies.  I encouraged and poked and prodded our daughter to get her hands into the mud, while our son made mudballs that ended up outside (and inside :-/) my car.

I'm going to make sure she gets her hands dirty every day.  La Princessa is mortified at first, but she enjoys it once she gets into it.

Three cheers for dirt!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why I Am So Confident That my Daughter's Teeth Can Heal...

I believe very much that our diets make a difference in how our bodies feel and function.I have lived my life according to my belief to keep my body in good working order throughout my adult life, with various regimens of cleansing and tonifying to give myself tune-ups now and then.

The spring, summer, and fall of 2011 brought a perfect storm of personal disasters into my life.  I frankly, am still amazed in 2013 every time I look in the mirror that large patches of my head hair haven't fallen out, or that I haven't gone gray overnight from stress.  It was (horrible, horrible, horrible) squared!

I have been told by dentists that I am a tooth grinder.  I must've been grinding overtime in my sleep, because while I was driving to work and eating carrots, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my right upper jaw.  At first I was startled, because I'm not used to feeling any kind of tooth pain (I'm 39 and have never had dental caries).  I took a swig of water, and immediately felt horrible, radiating pain.  I figured I must've cracked a tooth, but it was so far in the back that I couldn't see it, and my life circumstances demanded that I keep going.  I didn't have the time or the resources to get myself to a dentist.  I called a number for a community care dentist, but the wait was more than a month away, and would require missing work.

The next few days were filled with throbbing headaches and jaw pain.  Eating or drinking anything was painful, even if done on the other side of my jaw.  Breathing air in through my mouth hurt.  I loaded myself up with turmeric and black pepper, Yunnan Baiyao and tienchi tablets.  I don't have my Masters of Science (yet-- I'll finish it someday), but I went to school for Acupuncture and herbs, so I usually have a stash of trauma herbs, and Yunnan Baiyao is really amazing stuff!

Thinking of my teeth as an extension of my bones, I considered myself healing a bone break.  I avoided cold food and drink, and kept my circulation moving with herbs.  After the throbbing of the first few days subsided, I loaded myself up with as much oily fish as I could afford.  I ate cans of sardines (I like the King Oscar ones in olive oil).  When I got a tip at work, I went around the corner for some miso soup and a spicy double tuna roll.  I ate as much fatty fish and greens as possible.

Within a few weeks, I only felt an occasional twinge if I chewed something hard on that side in a less-than-careful way.  By this time I was home with the kids, and had the time and resources to order some kefir grains, and make the drive out to get raw, grassfed milk from the Mennonite farms.  I cultured the milk and drank it with my family.  I made bone soup.

Within several months, my tooth was so healed that I had forgotten all about it. 

I had forgotten about it so completely that when I took us all for our checkups and cleaning in December, 2012, I was surprised when the dentist had said that I had a cracked tooth.  It was pretty funny actually, because by the time the dentist came around to look at my x-rays and talk to me about them, our son had put the stationery stamp from his goodie bag all over his face, and was hopping up and down.  The dentist said something like, "You've cracked a tooth from tooth grinding. (turns to my son) You need to stop stressing mommy out."

He showed me the piece that was missing, and I agreed that it would be best to have it filled in order for food to not stick there in the missing piece area.  As I'm a big chicken and scared of needles, he put some gel on it, but said we could wait on the Novacaine and try to fill it without.  The filing of the broken tooth felt like an uncomfortable tickle, but not even in the ball park of how painful it was when I cracked the tooth in Fall 2011! 

I can't rewind time and produce an exact copy of myself and conduct an experiment with control group to prove it on paper, but I know my tooth healed.  I felt it and experienced it, and I'm certain that if I had had the time and resources to have my cracked tooth attended to at the time it had cracked, the dentist would have insisted on a much more serious intervention than just having a piece filled in (with no Novacaine to boot).

This experience was a real blessing in the end.  It gave me the courage to stand alone against convention to do what is right in my heart for my kids' health and futures, and withdraw us from common food society.

I'm not operating under a delusion that missing pieces will reappear, or that she'll grow a new row of teeth like a shark... but I know that given time and proper nutrition, her teeth will remineralize into the dentin, and she will have a foundation of good habits that will serve her well for a healthy future.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Taking Care of Me, so I Can Take Care of Them...

I had a rough week this week.  We did some good work on review/learning about the 7 continents (found some cute mnemonic aids in the form of songs to help remember them, which the kids would not embrace   :-/)and how to locate them on the globe, practicing fluency in reading, learning numbers and letters, counting, making some awesome pictures, but I am learning that I need practice in going with the flow.

Thursday morning was like pulling teeth.  The weather was yucky, the kids wouldn't focus, I was frazzled from having my own class Wednesday night from 7 to 10pm.  So we made it a short day and I took a hot bath right before lunchtime and had a good cry to myself and some colorful daydreams about enrolling the little rascals in a charming boarding school in Switzerland.

Although part of my homeschool aspirations is to keep them engaged in projects and activities and moving and shaking, I may try out a website called as a back-up plan for when the kids are wearing me down.

It seems to me that when the barometric pressure drops, our kids are extra nutty and hard to focus.  Anybody else notice this??  Does this happen to anybody else?

Anyhoo, I have ordered some herbs and supplements to help keep up my strength (SAMe and He Shou Wu), and stocked my freezer with lamb shanks and cow feet to make soup (the feet are full of gelatin, very nourishing).  Lamb always makes me feel replenished.  I also plan on making a big beet salad with ginger and carrot and apple, and eating beets every day this week.  I aim to love beets this week, it's my mission!

I have always been blessed with wonderful friends, and one of my buddies generously offered to have the kids over on Fri, so I could get a bunch of errands done.  It was like a shopping vacation, I grinned like an idiot the whole time.  This was like gold, because my husband is gone for 5 or 6 days at a stretch, and I have zero time to myself to walk across the room or the road as fast as I please without precious little people hanging on me.  I love them dearly, but I need a few minutes to myself now and then!

The lowpoints of the week were my son taking off all his clothes and throwing his shoes and my daughter's head, and him peeing in the freshly cleaned litterbox (which was a lot funnier for me after I had walked him through cleaning up the litterbox he had peed in, so he could see what a joy that is). 

The highpoint of the week was my daughter electing to sleep in her bed in her bedroom so I could have some space, after my son hit me in the face with his head when we were sleeping... she's growing up to be compassionate, aw!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Beginning of Our First Aquaponics Adventure...

Today has been a very low key day.  My husband is home, and since he is an OTR trucker, it is a relief to have the flexibility to let the kids relax with him on a Monday. 

Since Daddy is a good fixer/ builder, I enlisted his help in getting us started with our aquaponics experiment!

Aquaponics is an arrangement where the ammonia from the fish in a tank feed the plants, and the plants relieve the ammonia load in the water for the fish.  I had read about an aquaponics farm in Michigan or Wisconsin, that was providing organic veggies and trout and tilapia to restaurants in the area.  I thought it was a brilliant idea for sustainable farming, and I'd like that kind of sustainable living to be part of our household, and our kids education. 

At first I was bummed out, because we don't have the disposable income to buy a greenhouse kit, or pond set-up stuff, or any of the stuff I had envisioned us setting up in our yard.

Then I walked by my fish tank and thought, hmmm... we could start small and build on it!  Why not start with what we already have, which is an aquarium with three goldfish and one kooi fish.

I had saved some screen from when my husband repaired the screen in one of our doors, ordered some heirloom lettuce seeds, and bought aquarium gravel and a plastic bin to affix into the top of the aquarium, and support the weight of the gravel. 

Handy hubs drilled holes into the plastic bin, which we lined with screen and filled with aquarium gravel, and we planted the lettuce seeds on top. 

Cross fingers!  If this works, it'll be really neat :o)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

You know your kid is ready for more advanced math when...

You know your kid is ready for the next grade level of math when she's holding the workbook upside down, working out all the problems and getting them right...

Our daughter has always had a penchant for math challenges.  We had gotten some dice to help her practice adding multiple numbers together, and make it a 'game' (which turned out to be a fabulous tool-- our son loves to throw the dice and count the numbers on it, and I've used them to introduce the idea of multiplication and division with our daughter with the dice.  With the dice being tangible, it made those concepts easier for her to grasp, so exciting to see the light bulb go off and her get it!)

*I wish I had payed attention to the dudes playing cee-lo in my neighborhood when I lived in Brooklyn, that's another life skill-- never know where life will take you, after all...

I had thought through public school that I wasn't a 'math person'.  I never knew that I loved math until I took chemistry in college and loved using Avogadro's number to calculate moles of molecules and atoms in reaction formulas.  All of the sudden it became not only relevant, but like the key to a great secret that had practical applications in the real world.  Like spying to things too small to be seen with naked eyes...

Math is like a language that unites all humanity shares, because we're all bound by the same physical laws.  Math is the bones of music and visual art.  Whether we're developing technology for space exploration (can't wait for the Mars One mission, 2023!!!), political insurgents calculating injustices and counting munitions, child care specialists keeping head count, or doctors administering medication, we ALL use math.

Check out Mars One

Yaay, math :0))

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Woe to Our Culture of Sugar Laden Rewards...

Okay, first I want to say that this is not about fashion, this is about health. 

Not to say I don't like fashion, I do... but if it comes between buying new clothes that hide my thunder and make me feel fancy or an hour-long car trip to a health food store to stock up on miso paste and bentonite, I'm choosing the latter.

I believe all people have their charms and beauty comes in all sizes and shapes.  I'm not perfect, either.  Without my wonderbra and makeup I look (to myself) like a 10 year old boy.  I have giant feet.  I have been thin with some cellulite since grade school.

That being said, I walk into my daughter's extracurricular activity last night and there is a box of hard candy on the table next to the teacher. 

I like this teacher, she's great with the kids, I admire her skill-- but she can't be more than 25, and is obese and balding.  She is not an I-can-wrestle-you-down, thick person.  She is not a picture of health.  I asked what it is for, and she said it's for her reward system. 

Now, I am a tall person, but I don't think of myself as a naturally imposing person.  I'm sillier than most, and most people regard me as being younger than my age-- but I think she could see the fire in my eyes (I tried to temper it with a smile) as I explained through my teeth that I pulled my child out of school because of tooth issues, and she is NOT to have any candy.  She explained that the kids would have to wait for the candy, that it wouldn't be every day-- to which I explained that I don't want my child associating candy with reward, either.

I said I would bring in some dollar store prizes for the kids like pencils and erasers, she said that would be okay... and then turned an obese parent and made some snarky comment about not wanting to send some kids into diabetic shock.

Statistics for 2011 in my area say that about 25% of people are obese in my area, but looking around at the other parents in that group, it's more like 70%.  By obese, I mean likely can't see your own feet when you look down. 

Americans have more obesity and chronic health issues than all other first world nation.  Why is it that people in schools and children's activities think it's okay to give ANY sugar??  It's an anti-nutrient, and it's setting them up for a life of sickness.  If parents want to pass on bad habits to children, that's their business, but it shouldn't be in their view in school or activities... it should be at the family's discretion as to whether or not sugar is offered; at home.

When I was a child, we got stickers in school, and star stickers if we were really good... that's why the phrase in exists, "well, don't you get a gold star".  Why does sugar have such a significant presence now?  I thought there was too much sugar in my daughter's class when she was in school up North, but it's 100 times more pronounced here in the Southeast.

Childhood obesity and diabetes are already big problems. Wouldn't it be nice if we, as a society, only supported old-school healthy nutrition, and made a conscious effort to teach the coming generations better habits-- instead of loading them with sugar, then marveling at all the chronic health issues and behavior issues they have-- like it's some great mystery. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we, as a nation, did the sensible thing and just removed sugar from the equation?  It sure would be nice, but I would settle for other people to just stop offering sugar to my kids!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Serious Soup

Bone soup is one of the most nourishing things for your health.  I had made it on occasion, but during my second pregnancy, I really realized it's benefit.  Very early in that pregnancy, I was hit with urinary urgency, and I thought, "oh no, I'm going to be one of those women like my grandmother, with urinary issues from childbearing" (she was such a fancy pretty lady, and she refused to wear her un-fancy diapers, so there were occasional embarrassing pee accidents when we went out as a family).

I was in school for Oriental Medicine at the time, and my channels and points teacher told me to make 'bone soup'.  I immediately did, and within a week my urinary issues had cleared up and never returned, even though I had gained 67 pounds during the rest of the pregnancy!

Bone soup seems to come out better for me when I include a cow foot.  This one I got at the butcher and asked him to cut it into smaller pieces.  You can see the delineation between the bones and the connective tissue when cut in cross section...
I put the foot in my roasting pan into a cold oven, and roast at 350 degress for an hour and a half.  Using a spoon, I transfer the foot to my stock pot, add chicken or turkey carcass, and onions and celery (and sometimes carrots, if I have really sweet carrots on hand).  Sometimes I save the beef tallow from roasting the cow foot, sometimes not.
Then I cover with water (the turkey was still frozen, so I had to wrestle it into the pot as it thawed-- like the titanic going down into the North Atlantic).  I add about 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, and this time I added a splash of red wine.  The acids in the vinegar and wine help leach out the minerals from the bones and dissolve the connective tissue.
I let the stock stand for about an hour, then I put it on medium heat and skim off any foam that arises.  Then I lower heat to low simmer and cook it pretty much for three days.
Reduction stock reducing...

Strained, finished product!  I give myself a pat on the back if it gels, if it doesn't, I take it as a sign I used too much water and didn't reduce it enough.  If it doesn't gel, I'll add some knox gelatin when I'm heating it up to serve.  It makes good gravy, crock pot foods, etc.; but to serve to the children and get the most mileage out of it, I put an inch of filtered water in a mug, stir in a tablespoon of miso paste (our kids love mello white miso the most), heat up two ladles-full of bone soup in a pot until warm (not hot) and stir together.  I've also been putting a spoonful of coconut oil into it (anti-inflammatory, super-healing).  I make sure the soup isn't too hot, because the miso is probiotic, so you don't want to kill off the friendly bacteria (they like you!).  I hold the mug, while we all take sips until it's gone.  I make it first thing in the morning, before and after each meal, for snacks... I try to get as much of this soup into us as I can.  I give us a vitamin C with the soup, figuring that the soup gives them the constituents to grow and repair anything necessary (teeth!) and the vitamin C aids healing and helps their bodies use the soup to heal.

These are some of the bones from the cow foot.  You can tell that the collagen and connective tissue holding the bones together has dissolved, along with the marrow in the center of the bones.
I wish I could say that I used all bones from only grassfed animals, I know that's the ideal and I do when I can.  When I can't, I don't want perfect to ruin good, so I use what I can get my hands on and afford.

I started picking at this batch on day 2, as our daughter started coughing.  She has had pneumonia a few times, so when I hear her cough, I get nervous.  The soup is more of a help than the Mucinex I have on hand at the Doctor's suggestion, or Albuterol or saline breathing treatment.  Yaay soup!