Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Family's Winter Diet

I wanted to share a snapshot of what my family's diet looks like these days.  We've been following a Weston Price-inspired diet for over 10 years now, including about 18 months strictly following the GAPS Diet in 2010-2012.  I was very strict with our diets for many years, but over time I have found that approach to be unbalanced, anxious, and stressful. Being very strict with our diets also did not improve our health over the long-term (homeopathy has worked much better for that).

Over the last few years, rather than continuing to exert extreme dietary control, I have shifted to a place of finding balance. My emphasis has been to find a healthy diet that we can sustain and enjoy for many years to come. We are still eating a primarily nutrient-dense diet, but rather than aiming for perfection, I am aiming for an unstressed, maintainable diet.

Because we eat somewhat seasonally, this will be the first in a series, with more dietary snapshots to come in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Here is a snapshot of our Winter diet.


    • My second breakfast is most often sprouted whole wheat or white sourdough toast with eggs and frozen veggie mix sauteed in butter, usually with a glass of raw milk. I have a dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with my second breakfast about twice a week (as determined by when I feel a craving for it).
  • My husband eats homemade custard cake for breakfast 6 days of the week every week. (He likes eating the same thing over and over; I can't stand doing that!) In the winter, I most often make one of the following custard cakes for him to have for breakfast each week:  
  • My nearly-6-year old son often eats sprouted whole wheat or white sourdough toast for breakfast, always buttered, sometimes with honey or jam, sometimes with an egg, and always with a glass of raw milk. On days when he doesn't want toast, he often eats a homemade muffin with a glass of raw milk for breakfast. He chooses to have a dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with his breakfast about 2-3 times per week.
  • My 8&1/2-year-old daughter often has one of the following for breakfast, alongside a glass of raw milk. She also chooses to have a small dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with her breakfast about once or twice a week.



  • The only snacks my kids are allowed between breakfast and lunch is fruits or veggies, which they have to get for themselves. That makes it where they are certain to be hungry at lunch (whereas previously when they were allowed more-filling snack options, they often didn't eat well at lunch). In the winter, their fruit and veggie snack options are:
  • Perhaps 40-50% of the time, the kids will have a small snack after our afternoon Quiet Time, usually consisting of nuts, fruit, or cookies (such as butter shortbread). I am always ravenous when I wake from my daily nap, so I always have an afternoon snack such as butter shortbread, plain whole milk yogurt with maple brown sugar granola, apple and cheese, etc.
  • The kids have a snack before bed every night; usually fruit, yogurt, or applesauce. About twice per week they will have dessert such as ice cream or cookies. 



The drinks we consume the vast majority of the time are:



  • I make a from-scratch dinner meal about 2-3 times per week (and I always make a large portion so there will be enough to freeze for my husband's lunches, or for us to have as leftovers). I can't stand eating the same thing two days in a row, so I plan to eat leftovers a few days later, or freeze them for a future use. In the winter months, the dinners I make most-often are:
  • Side dishes I commonly make in the winter months are:
  • On days when I don't make a from-scratch dinner, we have leftovers or dinners which include some already-prepared ingredients (which I consider to be compromise dinners). The ingredients in our compromise dinners aren't absolutely perfect, but they are pretty good, and incorporating these items into our diets allows for busy days when I don't have hours to spend in the kitchen. Our most commonly-consumed compromise dinners in the Winter are:
    • Pizza made with Against the Grain crust, quick-and-easy homemade pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sauteed mushrooms, scallions, and nitrate-free pepperoni, kielbasa, or ham
    • Nitrate-free sausages such as kielbasa, hot dogs, or mild italian sausage, served with hash browns or frozen sweet potato fries, and fermented pickles
    • Spaghetti marinara sauce with added ground beef and veggies (onions, carrots, celery, and/or mushrooms), served over white rice noodles or bean thread noodles
    • Tuna salad or chicken salad sandwiches, made with canned tuna or chicken, served with kettle chips and fermented pickles
  • We eat out at a restaurant about 2-3 times per month. We also often eat Sunday dinner at my mom's house, and are often blessed with leftovers to often bring home which will make for an easy meal some other day of the week.

Do you find it helpful or interesting to see what we're eating?  What are your favorite Winter meals?

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Maple Brown Sugar Granola (gluten-free)

There is a cozy little bed-and-breakfast nestled in the New Mexico mountains that is one of my favorite places to stay on our seldom away-from-home adventures. The breakfast is from-scratch and amazing, and always includes a side of the house-made granola served with plain yogurt. The granola is so yummy that I had to re-create some for our home. Maple Brown Sugar Granola is crispy, sweet, and delicious.

Ideally, all of the whole grains we eat would be soaked to reduce anti-nutrients such as phytic acid (which are present in all whole grains, and block absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium). However, rather than aiming for dietary perfection as I was for years (and ending up stressed and overworked), I am at the place in our real food journey where we are finding balance and a diet that we can maintain for the long-term. This granola is not soaked, so I consider it to be a compromise food, which means that we enjoy it, but don't overdo it.

Maple Brown Sugar Granola (inspired by Bear Mountain Lodge Granola)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, salt, maple syrup, and sucanat. Mix to combine.  
  3. Add the butter and mix until well-combined.
  4. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. (I love to use my Exopat silicone mats for this recipe.)
  5. Divide and spread the granola evenly on the two sheet pans.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes, then turn/stir the granola.
  7. Reduce the heat to 275 degrees F.  Bake for another 15 minutes and turn/stir the granola. The granola will be done when it is lightly golden brown.  If necessary, cook for an additional 15 minutes at 275 degrees F.
  8. Remove from oven and cool. 
  9. Store in airtight containers. I like to store it in the fridge so there is no rush to consume it quickly, but it will easily store for a couple weeks at room temperature.
  10. This granola is great as a breakfast cereal or, my favorite, sprinkled over plain whole milk yogurt and topped with dried blueberries. Yum!

What are your favorite compromise foods?


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Monday, January 4, 2016

What's Working and What's New? Our Homeschool Mid-Year Review for 2015-2016

I plan the bulk of our home schooling curriculum once a year in July, but each January it is time for our mid-year review.   The intent of our mid-year review is to look at the following with regards to our home school:

  • What has been working well?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What needs to be removed from our curriculum?
  • Is there anything new to focus on? 
  • What specific needs does each child have over the next few months?
I write out my own reflections on the previous semester, and then think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests. Then I meet up with each child for individual mentoring conversations to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants.  Through the process of mentoring conversations, I am able to give my children the opportunity to take part in the direction of their educations. There are more details about how we do our Homeschool Mid-Year Review in this post

2015-16 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well

Bedtime Math
This little book has been a great addition to our math curriculum for the year.  Each page includes some fun facts and then three math problems (ranging from easy to difficult) that give my children a chance to put math concepts into practice. My children absolutely LOVE Bedtime Math, and they are always begging for one more page.

We always let my youngest try to solve the first problem, if it is appropriate for his skill level, then my daughter typically solves the second problem, and I solve the last one. To increase the learning that occurs while I am reading Bedtime Math, I like to use a lap-size dry erase board to write down the answers to the problems and show different ways to solve the problems. My children often choose to write down their own answers and show their work, as well.     
Having penpals has led to a large increase in the amount of writing my children choose to do. They write letters to grandparents, aunts, and, more recently, to some homeschooling peers whom they've never met in-person.

Typically, my children will dictate their letters to me, which I type on the computer using Print-Clearly font in a pale color. They choose coloring pictures to add to their letters, and then I print them out.  My children then  trace over the letters; they love to work on their letters while I am reading aloud. All of this writing practice with tracing has made them much more confident in writing on their own, too.   

Once the heat of summer faded last semester, my children and I started regularly going for hikes with my mother.  Hiking has been a great way for my children to learn to persevere even when things feel too hard, to have exposure to the many beautiful landscapes nearby, and to bond with their grandmother.  It has been amazing to see how much hiking can be a self-confidence booster for both of my kids, in being able to accomplish something that seems difficult and enjoy the "view from the top" after their strenuous efforts. I intend to continue making hiking a regular part of our homeschool curriculum during the cooler months of the year here. 

"Child of the Week"
Each week, one of my children is the "child of the week" who chooses which curriculum resources we will use for the week. My children relish this opportunity.  The "child of the week" gets to choose:
  • which math games we will play, 
  • which history and math books we will read, 
  • whether we will do a science experiment, nature study, or microscope exploration, 
  • whether we will go for bike rides or walks, and where to, 
  • which composer we will listen to during music appreciation time, and
  • which poems I will read during Circle Time

2015-16 Midyear Review: New Curriculum for the Coming Semester

Snap Circuits is a new addition to our curriculum for the coming semester.  This year, our science studies are focusing on physics and machines. Snap Circuits will be a great compliment to these areas since it is a set of 100 experiments in electrical circuits, designed for elementary-aged children.  We  have already started diving into this fantastic resource, and my kids are loving it.

2015-16 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations

Both of my children had some good insights and surprises for me during our mentoring conversations. 
8 & 1/2 year old daughter Alina 
Alina's interest in animals and all-things-equine has been growing lately, and she envisions herself someday having a job working with animals.  She wants help in learning more about taking care of pets, as she would like to buy herself a pet fish and perhaps a bird eventually.  She also decided that she wants to start saving more money (from her egg business) to someday buy a horse.

Alina also tearfully told me that she feels like my rule of keeping only two unfinished projects during our monthly cleaning day is too difficult.  (With her personality type, she loves starting new projects but often does not finish them, so I have tried to find ways to manage the clutter over the last couple years.)  We came to a compromise, where Alina may keep two unfinished projects on our craft table on cleaning day, just as before, but that she may also have a small drawer for any other unfinished projects that she can fit in there. 

Nearly-6-year-old son Ian
Ian's current interests include machines of all kinds, and especially transportation machines. He expressed that he wants to be able to use the steam mop and vacuum more often (I'm not making this up!), so we agreed that his morning chores could include those activities instead of just scrubbing sinks and toilets. 

Ian also expressed that he wants help in making sure he does not have "atrocious table manners," specifically stuffing his mouth and talking with his mouth full. (This was a surprise to me, but I think it was inspired by an audio we listened to last year about a brilliant composer who happened to have atrocious table manners.) Ian also wants to teach our new dog how to play fetch, and asked for my assistance with that task.

Not Just for Home Schoolers

Our mid-year review gives us a renewed sense of vision for the coming months of home schooling.  However, mid-year reviews are not just for home schoolers. Any parents who are fostering a love of learning could benefit from periodic planning and mentoring sessions. These are wonderful tools for focusing our efforts on the things that our children need and desire in order to find their own personal missions.

Do you have a mid-year educational review? Do you like the idea of being a mentor to children rather than a teacher?

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Slow-Cooked Beef and Veggie Soup (nutrient-dense : grain-free)

When filling our freezer with meals for my husband to take to work for lunch, I like to make large batches so there are plenty of lunches to last awhile.  My husband's favorite freezer lunches include Beef & Beans, Double Cheese Burgers with fermented pickles and chips, Ham, Bean, & Bacon Soup, meatloaf & mashed potatoes and, now, this new Beef and Veggie Soup recipe.

In this recipe, a relatively tough piece of meat is transformed into tender goodness through the magic of slow-cooking.  This soup gets a flavor boost from plenty of spices, and it is loaded with veggies.  What a great way to stock up the freezer!

Please note: this recipe makes a very large amount of soup which literally fills up my 6-quart slow cooker. If you have a smaller slow cooker, you will need to reduce the ingredient amounts.

Slow Cooked Beef and Veggie Soup
Serves 10-12

  • 2 large yellow or white onions, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup of vermouth* or dry white wine (or substitute more water)
  • 3 cups of filtered water
  • 3-4 pound beef roast, preferably grassfed (such as chuck or rump roast)
  • 1 Tb plus 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp plus 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tb celtic sea salt, divided in half
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided in half
  • one 18-ounce jar of diced tomatoes (I prefer Jovial brand diced tomatoes, which are in a glass jar) 
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped (I leave the skin on the potatoes)
  • 2 cups of green beans (I use organic frozen green beans for easy prep)
  • 1&1/2 cups of frozen green peas
  1. About 10 hours before dinner, put the onions, celery, garlic, and bay leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour in the vermouth and water. Place the beef roast on top of the veggies. Sprinkle with 1 Tb dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1&1/2 Tb salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Pour the jar of tomatoes over the top. Cook on LOW.**
  2. About 5 hours before dinner, add the carrots, potatoes, and green beans to the pot. Nestle them down into the sauce. Sprinkle with another 1&1/2 Tb salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  3. About 30-60 minutes before dinner, pull the beef out onto a cutting board. Allow to cool a bit, and then carefully trim away and discard any gristle or chewy bits.  Shred the meat with a fork, or chop it into small pieces.
  4. Return the meat to the pot. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the green peas and remaining spices (1/2 tsp each of dried basil and oregano). Turn the heat to WARM  and let it sit for ~30 minutes. (If your slow cooker doesn't have this setting, just turn it off and let it sit 30 minutes with the lid on.) Don't skip this step as it allows the meat to soak up the juices and become super moist. 
  5. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! Grain-free cheesy bread makes a fantastic accompaniment to this soup. 

*I love to cook with vermouth, as it doesn't go bad like unused wine. Vermouth is shelf stable, can be used in place of dry white wine in cooking, and can be stored at room temperature indefinitely.

**Adaptations for if you'll be away from home all-day: Cut the carrots and potatoes into large pieces (~2-inches) so they don't get overcooked.  Go ahead and put all of the ingredients (except for the peas and 1/2 tsp each of dried basil and oregano) into the slow cooker in the morning.  Leave it on LOW all day (8-10 hours).  As soon as you get home, pull the meat out onto a cutting board, remove any gristle, and either shred the meat with a fork or chop into small pieces.  Return the meat to the pot, add the remaining spices and frozen peas, and put a lid on it for about 20-30 minutes on "WARM" (if your slow cooker doesn't have this setting, just turn it off and let it sit 20-30 minutes with the lid on).

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Carrot, Coconut, and Ginger Muffins (nutrient-dense)

My newest muffin recipe combines three great flavors: carrots, coconut, and ginger. The base of this muffin recipe is my current favorite flour combination: coconut flour, ground crispy nuts, and Einkorn (an ancient variety of wheat that is naturally lower in gluten and higher in protein than modern wheat). These muffins are nutritious, moist and delicious. Paired with a glass of raw milk, these make a great breakfast or snack.

Carrot, Coconut, and Ginger Muffins
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  (I prefer If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups because the muffins do not stick to the sides of the cups.) 
  2. Zest the lemon using a microplane rasp or other zester. 
  3. Combine the Einkorn, coconut flour, ground nuts, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  5. Peel and shred the carrots. I like to use a box grater to shred the carrots.
  6. Combine the butter and sucanat in a large bowl (a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer works great for this recipe). Cream together for a couple minutes until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color.
  7. In the meantime, combine the eggs and vanilla extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the eggs at this point.
  8. Once the butter and sucanat have become well-mixed, mix in the eggs one-at-a-time.  With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in each egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well. (It is okay if the mixture looks a bit curdled during this step.)
  9. Add the sour cream to the wet mixture and mix it all well.
  10. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just-combined.  Because the Einkorn flour does contain gluten, make sure not to overmix or the muffins will be tough.  The batter will become rather thick, but don't worry about it.
  11. Stir or mix in the shredded coconut and chopped crystallized ginger.
  12. Use a 3-Tb scoop or large spoon to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  13. Bake the muffins at 350 degrees F for 27-33 minutes, until a they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out dry.
  14. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
  15. Enjoy! 


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Friday, November 27, 2015

My First Nutrition and Health Conference: Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation

Although I've been a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation for about 10 years (and a chapter leader for 4 years), I've never been able to attend any of the yearly WAPF conferences because of finances and having very young children. About a month ago, though, the folks from my affiliate partner Corganic invited me to attend the First Annual Conference of the Paleo-Primal-Price  Foundation, with free airfare and accommodations. Their offer took me by surprise, and I was excited to accept this invitation.

The Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation is a new organization being started by Dr. Ron Schmid, Dr. Kaayla Daniel, and David Gumpert. This new organization has the intent of bringing together the many perspectives of the real food community, including those who follow Weston Price, Primal, and Paleo diets.  One thing I found particularly exciting about this new organization is the fact that its inception is based on democratic principles, wherein the members elect the board and have a valued voice in the organization.

The People

Attending this conference was a fantastic opportunity for me to finally meet many whom I previously only "knew" through email and phone conversations, including Archie Welch and Kaayla Daniel. I also met many new people, including David Gumpert, Dr. Ron, Steve Tallent, and quite a few WAPF chapter leaders. It was amazing to see how quickly I could feel right at home with all of these new friends because of our common interests in real food and health. There were great conversations and ideas being shared about everything ranging from feeding our families to raw milk to the recent fermented cod liver oil controversy. With all of the people I met at the conference, there was a common thread of sincerity and dedication to truth which shined through and illuminated our conversations.    


The Food

Attendees at the conference were afforded three fantastic meals. My favorite dishes were:
  • pastured chicken braised in coconut oil
  • butternut squash soup made with pastured chicken broth
  • king salmon, which was the best salmon I have ever had
  • roasted parsnips and beets
  • flourless chocolate cake

Day 1

The first day of the conference was filled with interesting presentations about a variety of real food and health topics.  Given my background in implementing a Weston Price-based diet in my own family for many years and having previsouly strictly followed the GAPS Diet (which is very similar to Primal/Paleo) for over 18 months, there was not a lot of "new" information for me regarding nutrition. Nonetheless the presentations served as a nice review of information for me.

Two of the presentations, in particular, gave me some new perspectives to consider. Joan Grinzi, Executive Director of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, presented "Gleanings: What Weston Price Really Said". It was interesting to dive deep into how Weston Price actually used cod liver oil in his nutritional therapies, and to know what he really said about cod liver oil.  Price did find that cod liver oil had superb health effects, but he also acknowledged that caution needed to be taken to ensure that too much cod liver oil was not being taken.  During Price's day, cod liver oils were generally rancid, and so Price new that taking it in large quantities could actually have negative health consequences. (I am so glad that now, because of modern technologies including natural antioxidants and nitrogen-flushing of bottles to prevent oxidation, my family can take cod liver oil that is actually fresh, raw, and not rancid.) Price also recommended that cod liver oil not be forced upon children, as their own instincts were a good guide as to how much to give them. Some more of the information Joan presented is included in this article.

I was also very interested to hear Randy Hartnell's presentation about "Seafood in Paleo/Primal/Weston Price Diets". Randy, the founder of Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics, presented very interesting information about how the consumption of abundant omega 3's (from ocean animals and plants) may have been an important factor in the evolution of the human brain. Randy also presented an excellent video about omega 3's and health, including the importance of proper omega 3/omega 6 balance. It was heartening to see the data Randy presented showing that many fisheries are becoming more sustainable; how we spend our food dollars really does make a difference!

Day 2

The first day of the conference was valuable, however I thought the second day was truly amazing. The democratic principles of the Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation were put into practice through small-group discussions whose intent was to crystallize the ideas and wisdom of all of the conference attendees. We worked diligently to review, critique, and brainstorm on the following:
  • the Mission Statement and overall purpose for the organization
  • membership rights and responsibilities, which include voting privileges and communications with the Board
  • by-laws for the new organization, which include democratic governance and transparency  
Following the small-group work, there were elections for the Board of the new foundation. I was moved by all of this, with the realization that the new Foundation really does value the input of its members and is stepping out with true dedication to democratic principles. I was gratified to be able to work so closely with such an intelligent, genuine, and passionate group of people.

My Take-Aways From the Conference

I came away from the conference with a few new goals and insights:
  • Eat more seafood: My son and I both love seafood, but since my husband and daughter are not very keen on it, I only cook seafood about once every few weeks. After hearing Randy's presentation on the importance of proper omega 3/omega 6 balance, I have the intention to incorporate more seafood into our diets. This will likely happen primarily at lunchtime, when I can try to positively influence my daughter's palate without her seeing that her father isn't wild about seafood. I'm looking forward to trying some new seafood recipes.
  • Attend more conferences: I am immensely thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend this conference. I returned home with fresh ideas and perspectives, and having made many new friends. This was the first time I have ever been away from my children for more than a few hours, and it ended up being a wonderful bonding time for my husband and children while I was gone. With all of these benefits, we will be budgeting in the future to allow me to attend more conferences such as this one.
  • Keep spreading the word about real food: Although my passion about health was sparked by learning about nutrition over 10 years ago, in the last few years my focus has shifted more towards homeopathy (which has worked better than dietary changes for healing chronic health issues in my family). Nonetheless, my family does eat a nutrient-dense diet, and I know that nutrition is a vital aspect of health. This conference has rekindled some of my old flame for sharing information about nutrient-dense diets.  

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Children's Chores and Family Work

Chores are an integral part of my homeschooling and parenting philosophy.  Over the last couple years, I have endeavored to teach my children to do more chores and make them a part of our daily lives. Through chores, my children learn:
  • that there is meaningful work for them to do which benefits our whole family,
  • the values of working hard and doing a good job in the work they do,
  • life skills which will be valuable when they have their own households as adults, and
  • that through working together as a family, we can make our home a place that we love to spend our lives in.
The process of teaching my children to do daily chores and family work also benefits me, in that:
  • I am no longer feeling overworked with the responsibility to clean the whole house on top of my other responsibilities of homeschooling, being a homeopath, cooking, writing, etc,
  • I've learned to let go of perfectionism and impatience, instead feeling gratified with the work that my children do,
  • our home is cleaner, and
  • I have more time to pursue my own interests, which keeps me balanced and happy.

How I Teach My Children Chores

Whenever it is time to teach my children a new chore, I teach them one-on-one.  I make sure to keep my own mood positive throughout the process, so that it is not a stressful experience for the child. I first demonstrate how to do the chore, then ask them to do the same. I stay with the child the first few times they do that particular chore, and give them pointers only when necessary. Staying with the child the first few times they do a specific chore allows me to make sure that I have done a good job of explaining the chore, and that I am not assigning a chore that is beyond the skill level of the child.

Once a child has reached competency on any chore, they are expected to be able to complete the chore on their own, and then they call me to check their work. If the chore has not been completed well enough, I respectfully point out the flaws and the child corrects them. If I consistently find that a specific chore is not being completed properly, I start over again with training the child how to do that particular chore.

Encouraging Positive Attitudes About Chores

With the stereotype of complaining-child-and-nagging-mom in the back of my mind, I set out to make sure that our chore experience is positive and rewarding.  I have set the following rules and guidelines to achieve this goal:
  1. No complaining about doing chores is allowed. Any complaints result in the child earning another chore.
  2. I adjust my standards for each particular chore depending on the skill level of the child, and I do not take-over or re-do the chore when they are done. This teaches the children that their work is meaningful and that their best work is good enough for Mom.
  3. After the initial training sessions for a particular chore, I do not insist that the child complete the chore my way; they are free to find a different way to do the chore if they choose to. 
  4. When possible, I make sure to choose chores for the children that would naturally be the most enjoyable for them to do. For my daughter this includes straightening and organizing, whereas for my son it includes using power tools (such as the vacuum) or dusting.
  5. When a chore is completed satisfactorily, I praise the child for their hard work and contribution to our household. This is a very important part of the process!

Why I Don't Pay My Children To Do Chores

Years ago, when my eldest was a toddler, I tried using incentives and rewards to get my daughter to do simple chores. While this seemed to work well at first, over time I found that she started expecting to be rewarded anytime she did a chore or was helpful, and that she was not learning the intrinsic value of doing chores to help our household. That experience led me to the conclusion that I would not pay or reward my children for doing chores. Instead, I teach them that doing work is part of being in our household, and that we all have responsibilities.

I do give my children ways to earn money, though. They know that anytime they want to earn money, they can pull weeds outside and earn one cent for each weed that is pulled with the root attached. They can also request to do additional household chores specifically to earn money. And, ridiculously enough, there is a bounty on killing flies and ants in the house: ten cents for a dead fly and one cent per dead ant.  


Family Work

Some of my children's chores are to be completed independently, but many of them are completed as "Family Work", where we work side-by-side. Family work is especially important when encouraging young children to do chores, but it is great with older children, too. Working together as a family helps our family feel close and connected, and allows us to share a sense of accomplishment. When approached with a positive attitude, family work can also be an excellent time to have fun together, share stories, and enjoy each other's company.

Chore Lists For My 5-Year-Old and 8-Year-Old

Currently, both children are expected to do the following chores:
  • Daily:
    • Make their own beds.
    • Take their dirty dishes to the sink.
    • Put away their own clean laundry.
    • Any chores they earn through misbehavior or poor choices.
    • Clean up their toys and any messes they make.
    • Anything else mom asks them to do such as putting dirty clothes in the washing machine, helping with cooking, sweeping under the table, taking out the trash, getting drinks for meals, etc.
  • Weekly or Bi-Weekly:
    • Help bring groceries, library books, and other items from the car.
    • Help in putting away groceries.
    • Take their bikes to the car anytime they want to bring bikes along to the park.
    • Help in packing lunches on days when we will have lunch away from home.
    • Pack their own backpacks if they want to bring books, coloring supplies, etc on an outing from the house. Also, put all of those away upon returning home.  
    • Help with trimming the grass in the summer, pulling weeds during our rainy season, and weeding our family vegetable garden.
    • Help with kombucha brewing and bottling.
Additionally, my 5-year-old son is expected to do the following chores. My son is a particularly responsible and detail-oriented young child, so he is doing more at his age than other 5-year-olds may be capable of doing.
  • Daily:
    • Put away the clean silverware from the dishwasher.
    • Work with his sister to set the table for dinner.
  • Every-Other-Day
    • Wash breakfast dishes. He is not required to do any hand-washing of plastics or to wash any more difficult items (such as pots/pans). Mom loads the dishes he washes into the dishwasher.
    • Do one of the following (whichever is in most need of cleaning): dust the entertainment stand in the living room, clean a bathroom sink, or scrub a bathroom toilet.
  • Monthly:
    • Help in Once-A-Month Cleaning Day. He is free to choose which chores to do during this time so long as he keeps working hard, and most often he chooses to be responsible for vacuuming all of the carpets and rugs in the house, cleaning windows, and cleaning toilets.
Additionally, my 8-year-old daughter is expected to do the following chores. Because she is older and more capable than her younger brother, my daughter's chores tend to be a little more difficult. 
  • Daily:
    • Put away all children's dishes from the dishwasher.
    • Work with her brother to set the table for dinner.
    • Feed and water the chickens. Collect and label eggs. (She actually does earn some money from this since she has her own egg business, but she has been responsible for taking care of our chickens since before she started her business.)
  • Every-Other-Day
    • Wash breakfast dishes and load them into the dishwasher.This includes hand-washing any plastic items and scrubbing any pots/baking dishes that need washing.
    • Clean and organize the craft/project table.
  • Monthly:
    • Help in Once-A-Month Cleaning Day. She is free to choose which chores to do during this time so long as she keeps working hard, and most often she chooses to be responsible for sweeping the front porch, cleaning bathroom sinks, and dusting/organizing the children's room, desk, and craft table.

More Resources For Teaching Chores

Want to read more about children and chores?  I have found the following resources to be helpful.

Mother Helpers: 10 Reasons Not to Step In
Practical Suggestions for Responsibilities You Can Expect Your Child to Begin at Specific Ages
A House United: Teaching Children Self-Government
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning

Are chores an important part of your household culture? Do you have any tips to share about kids and chores?

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fundamental Differences Between Homeopathy and Conventional Medicine

Many people don't realize that homeopathy is a complete system of medicine for treating acute and chronic illnesses.  Although homeopathy is well-known in Europe and India in particular, it is generally misunderstood by most people in this country, who confuse it with herbal remedies and other natural healing modalities.  In reality, homeopathy is very different from other natural healing methods.

At its fundamental level, homeopathy is also very different from conventional medicine. It works in a completely different way, and, as anyone who has fully experienced constitutional (chronic) homeopathic treatment can attest, homeopathy has very different effects than conventional medicine does.  Rather than effecting one specific symptom as conventional medicines do, homeopathic remedies can have positive effects on many different symptoms (including mental, emotional, and physical) all at the same time. What makes homeopathy and conventional medicine so different?

Law-of-Similars vs. Law-of-Opposites

Conventional medicine operates through the Law of Opposites.  With the Law of Opposites, symptoms are treated by using medicines that have opposite qualities.  For instance, if someone is having a hard time sleeping, conventional medical treatment would be to prescribe a medicine that produces the opposite effect, which would be something that induces sleepiness. If someone is congested with too much mucous, conventional medicine would prescribe a substance that reduces mucous. This method of using opposites was originally begun by Galen, who lived from 130-200AD.

image from
On the other hand, homeopathy works through the Law of Similars, also known as Like-Cures-Like. This is "the principle that a substance which produces certain symptoms in healthy people can cure the same symptoms in the sick" [1].  The Law of Similars was originally described by Hippocrates, who lived from 460-370 BC. Samuel Hahnemann, who lived from 1755-1843, verified the Law of Similars and went on to develop the homeopathic system of medicine over the course of his lifetime. Hahnemann "clearly pointed out that material eliminations of a disease such as pus, mucus, blood, phlegm, bile, and the like, are the products of a disease and not the disease itself" [2].

When the Law of Opposites is used, as in conventional medicine, there may be "quick palliation of the symptoms for a short period but eventually the underlying disease will return after the medicine becomes less active. This return of symptoms calls for the need to use stronger doses and more frequent repetitions of the same medicine to control the disease. [2] " This is why, with conventional medicine, prescriptions for chronic diseases are often needed for extended periods of time, and sometimes even for the rest of the life of the patient, to continually suppress the symptoms of the disease.  Taking such medicines for extended periods often leads to undesirable side effects, and the underlying disease is not actually cured, but rather the symptoms are just being suppressed.

On the other hand, when the Law of Similars is used, as in homeopathy, the remedy actually stimulates the body to cure itself.  The correct remedy is the one that has been proven to produce the same symptoms from which the person suffers when given to a healthy person. So when the body responds to the stimulus of the correct remedy, the body also corrects its own imbalance. This is why, with homeopathic treatment, the amount of remedy needed is actually lessened over time, and the dosing becomes less and less frequent, until eventually no more remedy is needed at all yet the improvements remain.

Body-and-Mind-as-a-Whole vs. Body-and-Mind-as-Separate-Entities

Another fundamental difference between homeopathy and conventional medicine is in how the body and mind are viewed. In conventional medicine, the body and mind are seen as separate entities. This is based on Rene Descartes' (1596-1650) conclusion that "there is nothing included in the body that belongs to the mind, and that there is nothing related to the mind that belongs to the body... Building on the mechanistic philosophy [the followers of Descartes] began to separate the body into various parts to explain each system as a mechanical agent. The bones and muscles were explained as mechanical levers that allowed the body to move like a machine. The inner organs and various systems were seen as chemical mechanisms that digested food and eliminated waste..." [2]. Only recently has conventional medicine started to question this, but these ideas of each body part being separate and unrelated to the other parts of the body are still very firmly entrenched in our culture. This leads to the idea that, if a person has asthma, for instance, then the asthma needs to be treated (suppressed) with an asthma medication. If the same person has depression, that is seen as a completely separate symptom from the asthma, and it is treated separately from the asthma. 

In homeopathy, the mind and body are viewed as one, and the selection of the correct remedy involves evaluating each person as an individual, including the totality of their mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. Hippocrates was the first to view people from this viewpoint. "As he observed his patients he noticed that different body types reacted to the same stimuli in a different manner... He recorded a definite linkage between the physical makeup of the body and the mental temperament as well as reactions to the environment" [2]. Descartes' conclusion that the mind and body were separate entities was in direct contradiction to what Hippocrates had learned, and with the rise of the Cartesian view, the Hippocratic view was excluded and suppressed. The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, picked back up where Hippocrates had left off.  By viewing the mind and body as a whole, the homeopath is able to select a remedy that can positively effect all areas of health in the mind and body. For instance, in a person who has asthma, migraines, social anxieties, and depression, the correct homeopathic remedy would actually stimulate the body to improve all of those.


Nano-Doses vs. Large Doses

In terms of dosing, here again homeopathy and conventional medicine are fundamentally different.  Conventional medicine "[assails] the body with large, often protracted and rapidly repeated doses of strong medicine... The long continued employment of such formulas inflicts new and, in part, ineradicable medicinal diseases [side effects] on the sick body" [3]. Samuel Hahnemann actually started his career in healing as a conventional medical doctor, but gave it up because he felt that he was often inflicting more harm than good upon his patients. To Hahnemann, the side effects and continually degenerating long-term health of his patients indicated that using strong doses of medicine was not the way to heal the sick.

After years spent as a chemist and translating medical texts, Hahnemann later went on to discover the use of very, very small doses, "so small that they exactly suffice to lift the natural malady without causing pain or debilitation. The result is that, without in the least weakening, tormenting, or torturing the patient, the natural disease is extinguished and the patient, while improving, soon grows stronger and thus is cured" [3]. The extremely small doses used in homeopathy are often pointed out by critics who insist that, with doses so small, no healing could possibly result from their usage. In reality, the small doses are one of the cornerstones of homeopathy's success. "How can we understand the action of a remedy which does not contain even one molecule of the original substance? Modern physics is just beginning to catch up with Hahnemann's vision of two centuries ago: that matter is essentially energy, that remedies based on evergy can be more powerful than those limited to mere matter, and that remedies are essentially information which can be conveyed to the body's own healing energy by their vibrational pattern imprinted onto the inert carrier substance" [1].

Hahnemann did not stumble blindly into using such small doses. He experimented in a very logical manner, using his results to guide his progression. Eventually he found that, indeed, such small doses actually had great curative powers without the negative effects that strong doses of medicines can have (such as side effects and the progressive worsening of the disease over time). Homeopathy's small doses which are so often criticized are actually an essential part of what makes homeopathy work so well.


Different Philosophies and Different Outcomes

Conventional medicine and homeopathy are fundamentally different, and their outcomes are fundamentally different as well.  When conventional medicines are used, there is temporary relief of specific localized symptoms, and often the relief is followed by a recurrence of symptoms which require even more medicine to be suppressed. This leads to a cycle of chronically degenerating health, as the body manifests the illness at progressively deeper levels of the body.  

With homeopathy, the remedies are selected based on the totality of a person's mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Such remedies are then applied with very small doses which stimulate the body to heal itself. Over time, the level of health is increased and the body is able to reach a point at which the homeopathic remedy is no longer necessary for the improvements to remain.

Have you had any experience with healing illness and chronic disease in yourself or your family? Have you tried homeopathy?

[1] De Schepper, L. (2001) Hahnemann Revisited: A Textbook of Classical Homeopathy for the Professional, Santa Fe, NM, Full of Life Publications.  
[2] Little, D. (2014) The Homeopathic Compendium Volume 1: History and Philosophy, District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India, Omnibus Global.
[3] Hahnemann, S. (1842, 1996) Organon of the Medical Art, as translated by Wenda O'Reilly, Palo Alto, CA, Birdcage Press.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Daily Nap

I am an early riser. Although I never set an alarm, I generally awaken every morning between 5:30 and 6:30am. I stay busy most of the day, and indeed I am a person who thrives on staying busy. But every afternoon: I take a nap!

Daily napping started as a survival mechanism about 5 years ago in the midst of mothering an infant who slept very poorly, but now both of my kids sleep well and I usually sleep 7-8 hours per night.  Yet, I still take a nap every day. And I don't plan to ever stop. 


Benefits of Napping

Numerous studies have shown that naps have significant benefits, including increased productivity, motor skills, and mood. One study showed that "a nap improves mental performance, even after a full night's sleep" [1].

For me, taking a daily nap provides a brief respite for my busy, always-on-the-go self. As a homeschooling mother who is also working part-time from home, my time and attention are being pulled in many different directions for much of the day.  My daily nap allows me to recharge and be refreshed for the evening ahead. It gives me a calm, temporary stopping place. It is a lovely, cherished part of every day.

If I don't take a daily nap, I am more likely to be grumpy or burned-out in the evening.  Without a nap, I am less engaged with my family in the evening, and may feel like I want to be left alone. And if I my mood is poor, the mood in our whole household is negatively affected. So my daily nap actually provides a tangible benefit to my family and our home.

My Nap Routine

My nap is generally around 2:30 or 3pm each day. On rare occasions, I will shift my nap an hour or two earlier to accommodate some afternoon commitment, but for the most part I plan my napping time as a scheduled event that happens every day. Excepting the few times a year when we are away from home, I could count on one hand the number of times I have missed my daily nap in the last year.  

My nap has been such a regular part of our lives for so long now that my children just expect it every day as part of our daily Quiet Time (which I will blog about soon). My brain tends to be thinking fast all the time I am awake, so I need to do some calming activity before napping. Reading, yoga, or meditation work well for this.

Then I close the curtains partway (never all the way, or I awake feeling groggy), change into comfy clothes, and snuggle down. Most of the time I naturally wake after 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I sleep for an hour (and usually do feel a little groggy on those days). I only set an alarm if I have some commitment or appointment for after the nap, and I usually wake before the alarm anyways.

Naps Are Part of Many Cultures

Many cultures include daily napping. For instance, a siesta (or short nap in the early afternoon) is "historically common throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe" [2].  In "many parts of the world—including Greece, the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Nigeria—naps are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of everyday life" [3].  Naps are often frowned upon for adults in our culture, but I think this needs to change.  Short naps are beneficial, and in my own experience, they make life run more smoothly.

Do you nap? Have you tried Power Napping?

[1] The effects of a 20-min nap before post-lunch dip, Mitsuo Hayashi PhD and Tadao, Hori PhD, 
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, Volume 52, Issue 2, pages 203–204, April 1998

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Egg-In-a-Nest: A Favorite Breakfast!

One of our favorite breakfasts is Egg-In-a-Nest.  I rediscovered this wonderful food a few months ago
thanks to a visit from my father-in-law. Egg-In-a-Nest combines eggs and toast into one scrumptious combination.

If I serve my children fried eggs for breakfast, my daughter is likely to leave most of the yolk untouched and my son is likely to leave much of the egg white uneaten. I love that, when I make Egg-In-a-Nest for breakfast, my kids will both easily eat a whole egg.

Serves 2
  1. Carefully cut a hole in the middle of each slice of bread. This can be accomplished with a sharp knife or biscuit cutter.  Don't stress if the bread rips a bit; the egg will "glue" it back together for you later on.
  2. Butter both sides of the bread and the round pieces that were cut from the bread. 
  3. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  4. Place the two slices of bread and the two round pieces into the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Flip them all over and cook until lightly browned. Remove the round pieces from the skillet, but leave the bread-with-holes in the skillet.
  5. Add a little pat of butter into each hole in the bread.  Once it is melted, crack an egg into each hole.
  6. Allow the eggs to cook until the whites are set. It will take longer than it usually does when frying an egg, because of the bread.
  7. Once the egg whites are set, flip each piece of bread over to cook the other side of the egg. I like to melt a little more butter for each one, to make sure the eggs don't stick to the pan.
  8. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the egg white is fully cooked.
  9. Serve each Egg-In-a-Nest alongside with the round pieces. I like to add jam to the round pieces, which my children then dip in their egg yolks. Yum!

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