Vulnerability: Why it’s a big deal to Me

This blog is usually all about the latest foodie creation, natural remedy, nutritional discovery or about parenting related topics.

Tonight it’s about me.

31 Year Old Me

31 Year Old Me

31 one year old me.

WifeMom. Homeschooling Parent. Business Owner. Nutritionist. Doula. Wanna-be-photographer. Wanna-be-author. Wanna-be-midwife. Foodie. Researcher. Reader. Wanna-be-Cafe-Owner. Easily bored. Easily Distracted. Wanna-be-Herbalist. Coffee snob. Mama to angel-babies.

These are all true things about me, yet, they really don’t tell you much about me at all.

Vulnerability is tough for me. For most of my life vulnerability meant weakness. Weakness meant someone could hurt and exploit you. Therefore it was worth me bending over backwards, jumping through hoops and avoiding and obfuscating to be anything BUT vulnerable. Vulnerability means I allow something, anything be known that someone could judge you for. And by judge, I mean say judgmental things, pronouncements of negativity over the why and where and how of who and what one is. At some point, in the past couple of years there was a series of moments came together to equal an epiphany of sorts for me.

Judgmental people judge. Mean people say mean things. Opinionated people will tell you their opinions, sometimes loudly and carelessly and in a hurtful manner. And somebody somewhere will have issues with who and what you are no matter how real or fabricated their perception of you is. This should go without saying but for me it was a total ah-hah moment that led to the following realizations.

I cannot prevent people from disliking me. Getting angry with me. I cannot protect people from who they are or who I am. 

Through the years most of us start to figure out who is safe to tell what. Who can be trusted with the real stuff. The nuts and bolts things. All the various quirks, foibles, fears and loves that powerfully drive, define and motivate who we are. I’ve been extraordinarily blessed with dear friends all through my life who have come along beside me and been a safe place for me to share parts of who I am. No judgment zone friends have been an incredibly healing experience for me. They may laugh and look aghast as I delightedly blabber about placenta encapsulation but they understand and love me despite the fact that I randomly find miscellaneous mostly gross and health related things fascinating and share worthy.

And a few, I can contact crying. When I’m at my darkest. When life has me at a new, all time low.

When that pregnancy test is positive and the feeling of doom instantly settles on my shoulders, anticipating the game of wondering if this baby will survive the dangerous obstacle course that constitutes being grown in my body.

When it’s one of those times in a marriage when I’m not sure we will come out on the other side stronger. When I don’t know if there will even be another side to come out on.

When the mirror reflects back my puffy, exhausted face and dark circled eyes and my clothes tell me that my body is in stockpile/auto immune crisis mode again.

When I can’t get off the couch due to yet another health issue or pregnancy or post partum that has rendered me literally incapacitated past the pull yerself up by the bootstraps will power I used to be known for.

When I’m so stressed with business, life, kids and personal challenges I want to crawl into a deep hole and never come back out.

Sometimes it isn’t just listening. It’s the jumping in the car to come help. The dropping off a meal. The praying for me and sending me messages of encouragement. The showing up and herding children outside to play. The every day, ordinary extraordinary things real people do to help others out and make the world a better place.

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Yet despite the love and even more than love, acceptance I’ve been so beyond blessed to receive…

I still second guess leaving the house looking like a slob and wonder who will think mean things about me with my unwashed hair pulled back above my makeup-less face, wrinkled two day old clothes and slip on-shoes.

I still won’t invite people over way too often because the house is a wreck. No, I mean it. A WRECK. I live with a human wrecking ball in the form of a giant, furniture moving toddler and I hate cleaning house. It’s a terrible combination.

I don’t like anybody to know how much of my parenting life is spent saying “Not now…” “Later after I get xyz done…”Mama doesn’t have time…” 

I don’t like talking about the times when the kitchen projects don’t get done and there is store-bought Kombucha in the fridge instead of homemade or ::gasp:: No Kombucha or anything else trademarked healthy or crunchy at all.

And I definitely don’t like talking about the times when supper isn’t made, there isn’t much to eat in the house and my man goes out and brings food home. Fake food. Fast food. Sometimes fried food replete with trans fats and MSG seasonings. It doesn’t happen often but every time it does a little part of me cringes and wants to hide every time it does.

But all that self consciousness, fear and hiding isn’t vulnerable.

Not even a little bit. 

I’m afraid of talking about those things. Of showing my inner slob. My poor household organizational skills. Or having a rip roaring conversation in which my opinions and beliefs about doctrine or any other potentially deep and divisive subject comes up. Because, along with the amazing friends and family who have shown me unconditional love through the years there have been those who cut me off. Sometimes with explanation. Sometimes without. Those who have stabbed me in the back. Spread reputation ruining lies about me and those I love. Taken a small truth and turned it into a large and harmful gossip point of deception. Friendships and family relationships have been destroyed. Gone up in flames. And it’s hurt. A lot. The after effects of these various life pain points are still evident in my every day life even though most of the main events happened years ago.

But despite the fear, uncertainty and risk, I’ve come to respect vulnerability a great deal. Some quotes from one of my favorite ladies will define why I view vulnerability as being terribly, powerfully crucial to my life and why it has gone from being something that probably should be cultivated to an actively defined priority in my day in and day out life.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
― Brené BrownDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
― Brené BrownDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

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I don’t really fully grasp what vulnerability is supposed to look like in a fully implemented sort of way in every day life. Hoping to learn by doing over the next few weeks and months.

How do you feel about vulnerability?

Ideally Realistic Holiday Review

With three children now, still working somewhat, attempting to recover good health, attempting to somewhat keep up with a healthy diet while combating serious nursing difficulties over the past few weeks my real life has been in pretty stark contrast to my ideal life. Looking back over the Holidays makes me giggle a little. Cuz laughing at myself is a healthy, sanity saving skill I learned a while back.

Our ideal tree, the one that we created hand made ornaments for out of natural and or reusable supplies while having fun with the kids making memories as we made the ornaments was supposed to look something like the one pictured below.

PerfectChristmasTree

In real life, aka as reality our tree looked like a hobo’s collection of ornaments exploded upon it, barely snagging the branches in places and hanging in grouped clusters in others. It’s what happens when kids decorate a tree. Not to mention the bottom half the tree was adorned with everything deemed unbreakable while anything remotely breakable was assigned to the upper half. That is what happens when reality includes a tall toddler man cub loose on the premises. Reality tree also had both white lights and colored lights…mixed…which seemed like it must be breaking some cardinal tree decorating rule somewhere.  In my sleep deprived state state at the time I ended up comforting myself by making it a life metaphor for how beautiful messy, mixed up, rule breaking, lives can be. After all some of my favorite photos by favorite photographers are ones in which all the ‘rules’ are broken. Never-mind they are tastefully and strategically broken…not strung together in tangled chaos because 2/3rds of the strings of lights mysteriously refused to work this year.

Oh and what about the tree topper you may be wondering? What tree topper? That’s right. Our tree had no topper this year. Was going to get one and then never got my act together to buy one or make one.

Ourtree2013

Our kids thought it was the most beautiful tree ever. And made so many happy memories working on it. My theory is that charlie brown homely trees make kids happier than beautifully and artistically themed for optimal aesthetic pleasure trees do.

In an ideal world, we were going to make 7 different kinds of gourmet cookies in large batches, from scratch with all natural ingredients spread out over several days. Once they were all completed they would be divided up into beautifully arranged cookie gift platters and given to relatives, neighbors and friends. It was going to look something like what is pictured below.

christmascookieplatter

Reality was that one single type of cookie was made in one large batch. It took all evening with my little helpers fully engaged to bake sheets and sheets of cookies while the little ones took turns helping with the decorating icing bags and naturally dyed sugar sprinkles. That single solitary type of cookie ended up looking like this after they were decorated and left for the icing to firm up on cooling wracks…Picture taken just prior to the previously mentioned bear cub toddler helping himself to them by shoving a chair over to the area to gain access.

christmascookies2013

Returned to the kitchen to find the icing scraped off of half of them and about a third of them crumbled into a pile of crumbs. Yup. That was memory making reality. Our cookie gift baskets were stocked with Trader Joe’s cookies instead. Bless them for both having a wonderful holiday variety along with lots of gluten free options as well and fairly wholesome ingredient listings. It hurt my perfectionistic, bakers heart to the core but it got the job done.

Ideally we were going to spend the days leading up to Christmas doing all sorts of fun, Advent themed projects while carefully packing gifts for the many family members we planned to see on our long anticipated trip down to my home state of GA. It was going to be organized, neat and tidy, personalized and done on time because I had a plan.

Reality was our wee baby boy got sick. Very sick. The trip was cancelled while we waited hour by hour to see if we would have to take him to the ER. He took a drastic turn for the better the day after we were supposed to leave and we decided to go after all. We packed in a mad, slapdash manner. All order out the window. Barely grabbing enough supplies to throw together basic gifts for the family without all the personalized notes and special touches that were planned.

Almost all of the ‘ideals’ and plans my over achieving self could come up with went up in flames this year. Reality came along and tore them to bits, trompled all over them and ground them into oblivion for good measure. While nothing that came out of my holiday was Pinterest worthy…it was perfect. Beautifully sweet. Peaceful. Surrounded by loving people. My sweet little immediate family and lots of extended family from all sides. Overwhelmed by generosity to us and our kids. Delicious food. And an older generation that we may not see again earth-side meeting our youngest. Tears of happiness were shed more than once.

Granny Roberts and Doodles IMG_5791 IMG_5808 IMG_5821 IMG_5741

I wouldn’t trade one minute of what the Reality of our Christmas Holiday was for any of what my ideal plans were. Ok, I take that back. Maybe for the cookies. Those were going to be some incredible cookies. Ah well. There is always next year! =D

Hope the Holiday Reality you experienced was every bit as wonderful as the one we were blessed to have.

Sick Baby? Five Things Any Parent Can Do

Sad Squish makes for sad Daddy

Sad Squish makes for sad Daddy

Our wee Squish-boy is sick. Not quite six months old and a respiratory virus of some sort came to call. Over the years we’ve assembled quite the arsenal of products to deal with viral based issues.  Unfortunately, *Most* of them are for bigger people than very young babies. Through some trial and error though we figured out a few things that have helped to make the wee boy comfortable despite the severity of illness.

1) Hydration: Stuffy nosed babies have a difficult time nursing and may not be very interested in swallowing much of anything. With inadequate hydration plus the extra drooling, extra mucous production and the general strain the body is under as the immune system fights the invader hydration needs escalate. Warm sea salt and magnesium baths with just a drop or two of beneficial essential oils can make a world of difference. Not only is the warmth soothing, the steamy air beneficial for inflamed airways while the essential oils work their beneficial magic. Three favorites of mine for sick infants is Lavender Essential OilChamomile Essential Oil and Frankincense Essential oil. All three are anti inflammatory, soothing and calming to the airways. The pores of the skin are able to absorb moisture and it helps to rehydrate, especially via the feet!

The warm steamy air is also fantastic for loosening up stuffy noses enough that they can be gently suctioned or wiped. For babes old enough to understand blowing their nose or ones that require frequent wiping, I suggest keeping their delicate skin slathered in a layer of Miracle to help prevent chaffing. Miracle can also serve as soothing and healing carrier oil/base for essential oils as needed on other parts of the body.

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2) Massage: We have become big fans of massage for our babies and children on a regular basis. But it is especially helpful when they are sick. A light dab of Winter Breeze on their little footsies and gently rubbed in, focusing on helpful pressure point areas is a great thing to do.

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3) Probiotics. Infants have immature immune systems with limited capabilities. Most of the immune system is housed in the gut. Probiotics are one of the most gentle and safe supplements one can give an infant. It works well in addition to breastmilk or formula. I personally use Tummy Tune Up capsules. For 0-3 months 1/4 a capsule worth of the mild and slightly milky tasting powder on the tongue before nursing. 3 to 9 months 1/2 a capsule at a time and 9+ months one full capsule at a time. Another favorite for us to use is Bovine Colostrum. Beeyoutiful’s is sourced from grass-fed cow’s and is freeze dried to maintain optimal nutritional benefits.

SweetSquish

SweetSquish

4) Sleeping Positions: Our babies have not been good sleepers under the best of circumstances. Actually, pretty sure they are in the running for some of the worst baby sleepers out there. But, what good sleeping we do manage to make happen on a normal basis goes straight out the window as soon as snuffles and congestion arrive on the scene. We have found that our babies do much better when sleeping on an incline. When breathing issues are really acute it’s best to have baby skin on skin with mama, sleeping on her chest (especially if she’s lactating!) A recliner, or propped up safely in a bed is safest. Arranged in such a way that if Mama’s arms go limp in sleep baby is still safe from rolling off and getting into a smothering situation or hitting the floor. We have also put a fully swaddled baby on their back on a pillow set at an incline to help with breathing. The swaddling prevents them from rolling over or flipping themselves into a position where they could smother or have restricted air access from the pillow (firm pillows are best for this purpose). We also sleep right next to our sick babies. SIDS is a worry that is never too far from my mind but always rises to the forefront whenever there is sickness that affected their airways. With my Mama spidey senses in full gear I am pretty tuned into their every breath or lack of one sleeping near them.

Room sharing may mean parent(s) get less sleep but it can make for more attuned care to the little ones. Especially if it means getting to them before they are able to work up into a cry when they wake up. Crying = more mucous production and distress so preemptively doing as much care as it is possible to do without them having to cry is ideal. Also, and possibly most importantly there is some research to suggest that babies are triggered and “reminded” to breath by the bio feedback. Hearing the deep, even rhythms of breath from especially the people their little bodies are best attuned to is one of the best regulating things you can give them access to when breathing is at all a struggle.

SquishSleeping

5) Rest: With the 24/7 attentive care that babies need when they are sick, rest is of top priority. Even for Mama’s that have other little ones running around that need care. There is too much at stake with a sick babe for mama to run herself into the ground and get super sick herself (preaching to the choir here as I hack and cough from having succumbed to what the wee man had over a week ago). Rest as much as it is possible to. We all have these lofty parenting goals of what our kids are allowed to do and not do on a normal basis. This is one of those times where it’s Ok to call a truce with the electronics and declare a documentary marathon if it means Mama can snag a nap when baby naps. Rest is that oh so vital and yet oh so undervalued and under prioritized component of healing we so easily overlook. Take shifts with a spouse. Swallow that pride and ask for some help. It’s very worth it.

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Our little Squish is, thankfully on the mend from his first illness. I started this blog post when he first got sick and am just now able to finish it up over a week later. Did I mention how overwhelming life gets when dealing with a sick baby??? Yeah. He has been the youngest I’ve had get this sick and it was scary. Was so thankful for each and every tool we’ve learned over the years and been able to practice with on less severe illnesses in his siblings. Our focus going forward for the rest of this winter is prevention!

Next post will be about our new and improved method of doing garlic poultices around here! Stay tuned.

Learning What Not to Be

Seems like everything related to the world of being a Mom is complex, complicated, fraught with controversy at every turn and chock full of freely expressed personal opinions. Not to mention the black and white “this is universally wrong” and “these things are universally good” camps.

It can be exhausting. As if just the straight up survival of pregnancy, kids, work and life wasn’t tiring enough. It’s important though so we keep slogging through information, keep digging down to the next layer of reserves and keep searching for any small improvements over where we are.

Lately I’ve been trying to come to grips with what being a Good Mom means to me. And, subsequently, to my kids. I grew up in and run around in a lot of homeschool circles. Along with a lot of very conservative Christian crowds where the definitions and teachings of what constitutes the high and holy calling of being a wife and mother can get pretty close to 100% martyrdom with calls to lay down your life, your sleep, your right to self, and any number of other ‘selfish’ things. Conversely I’ve seen a lot of women who just flat out don’t “get” why their life priorities, bodies or anything else should have to change to accomodate children. Children should simply arrive into their lives with as little discomfort as possible, be scheduled into submission as soon as possible and life inconveniences caused by said children is to be resented to the fullest.

Either end of this spectrum has me squirming in discomfort. It seems increasingly difficult to choose my own path of what constitutes me being a good Mom to our kids. Sometimes my priorities shift on a day to day basis and other times I feel comfortable making a plan and holding the course for weeks to months at a time with only the most minor of tweaks. I am still a very long way from figuring out what I should be…but, I do feel as though I’ve gotten a lot closer to what I should not be.

Our kids need a Mom who is their Mom. As unique as they are. And, if you’ve met my kids you know that is preeeeety far down the scale from normal or average. I should not be like any other Mom who is following a life plan that reads more like a personality profile dictated by a Preacher, Teacher, Politician, Psychologist or the opinionated neighbor down the street.

I should not be guilted into a deferential facade when socializing around parents who’s parenting philosophies differ sharply from my own. Even if they freely express disparaging comments about the very parenting techniques I am choosing to use.

I should never ever be ashamed or embarrassed by our children. Motivated to work harder on problem areas? Sure. Pray they don’t catch some awful disease from the bugger they just consumed out of their nose? Absolutely. But that is a whole lot different than smarting under the shame of a child who has failed behavioral expectations by being ::shock:: a child. Even a precociously brilliant social un conformist of a child.

I should not let my world revolve around our children to the point of my entire being and identity is swallowed up by who and what they are. Or what they are eating. Or pooping. Or saying. Or wearing. Mommyhood may be what takes up the vast majority of my mental, physical reserves and time these days but it should not be what primarily defines me as a human being. My husband married a woman who was not a living incubator, doubling as a milk cow or a drill sergeant attempting to structure a daily routine and work around offspring. He deserves to see a glimpse of the pre-child woman he married every so often and amazingly enough, kids deserve to see that Mom is a whole lot more than *just* Mom. Keeping that woman with interests and conversational abilities beyond what the 2 yo managed to flush down the toilet today alive may mean cutting corners off the idealistic self imposed perfect Mom profile we all keep in the back of our minds to flog ourselves with occasionally. We all know we can’t live up to the Perfect Mom Profile and it’s very existence is merely a tool by which to torture ourselves with yet we hang onto some customized version of it anyway. I should not model self torture to our children.

I should never ever pretend to be perfect. Our kids are gonna fail. Are going to make mistakes. I’m definitely going to fail them and fail myself. A harder lesson than achieving life success is learning how to accept that life is hard. Life is messy. Life contains mistakes. Sometimes a lot of them. Personal responsibility, learning how to apologize and work to make wrongs right are far more valuable lessons than learning how to build a good image.

I should not rescue them from life. Every instinct of my mother-bear nature wants to help them up the ladder at the playground. Wants to intervene when the bully kid walks up and fires off an insult while evaluating if my kid is their next favorite target. Wants to hide them away from the ugliness that rears it’s head in even the most innocent places of the world around us. Wants to pretend that childhood is all lemondrops, rainbows, unicorns, magic and marshmallows (hfcs free of course). There is a time and place for appropriate parental involvement and presence to be made known. But our kids deserve the chance to see if they can figure out how to balance on their own before being swooped down on by RescueMom. If they can come up with a way to deal with the bully and turn them into a friend. To identify and express outrage against the injustices of this world as only the mind of a child can.

And perhaps most important of all? I should not be afraid. Of being different. Of being the same. Of failing. Of getting old. Of being tired. Of not getting enough done. Of doing too much. Of pushing too hard. Of being too lenient. Of being a Mom. Even if childrearing is by far the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s Ok though. One day I’ll actually go skydiving and then childrearing won’t seem scary at all.

I’m off to kiss our sleeping kids. Sweet rosy cheeks tucked away in bed with unruly blonde hair spilling all over the place. I should not allow my heart to actually burst with love and adoration as I gaze at them. On second thought, maybe I can just let that one slide. Just this once.

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First Aid for Colds

We are all familiar with the necessity and just good ol’ common sense of keeping around a First Aid kit in our homes and cars. It isn’t that we plan for accidents or injuries to happen just makes sense to be prepared for that “just incase” possibility. These days our injury oriented first aid kit is stocked with items like Miracle, OwEase, Bee’s Aid and various essential oils. The homeopathic form of Arnica and activated charcoal have also become permanent fixtures.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should keep an illness first aid kit stocked. Not that I am planning on illness but if preparedness with a scraped knee or bee sting is common sense why wouldn’t the same rule apply for colds, sniffles or allergies? If we get sick there are certain items I need and often times don’t have on hand. Some of them are easy to replace and others not so much. Especially for the items that require a lot of effort to find or might be difficult to find at all it is especially important to deliberately keep those items on hand.

So, what would a First Aid Kit for Colds look like in our house? I made a list. Cuz I love lists. Lists are my friend. They help me out a lot in life. You should make friends with lists too if you haven’t already. 😉

  • Raw local Honey. Indefinite shelf life. Can be difficult to locate so always keep a supply on hand.
  • Real from healthy bones and joints from scratch Chicken or bone Broth to the tune of 1/2 a gallon minimum standing by in the freezer. I wrote about how to make bone broth and about some of it’s incredible healing properties here.
  • Jars of rich bone broth

    Jars of rich bone broth

  • Herbal Teas from Traditional Medicinals My personal favorites are the Throat Coat for Kids, Throat Coat for Adults, Breath Easy and Gypsy Cold Care. These Teas are shelf stable for a good long while and are wonderfully soothing and beneficial. Especially for those prone to asthmatic complications of various illnesses.

    Breath Easy

    Breath Easy

  • Fresh Garlic, preferably organic. Whole Heads of garlic last me anywhere from 1 to 3 months depending on the average temp in my kitchen. I re-stock as soon as I’m down to 1 head. Poultices use up garlic pretty fast and for an average cold for 4 people doing poultices several times a day you can easily use up 5 to 6 heads worth. So, when I re-stock that is the amount I shoot for. We also eat a lot of fresh garlic. If I see it starting to sprout or shrivel I make a point of using fresh garlic for the next couple of meals and replenish the supply my next shopping trip. Need to learn how to do a garlic poultice? I made this video a while back and it covers the how-to in all it’s simplicity. 🙂 Just click Garlic Poultice Tutorial
  • Winter Breeze. This is one of the best products ever. It’s a necessity in our house. You know about Vick’s Vapor Rub? This is like that only waaaay better. Better FOR you because it doesn’t have icky petroleum based ingredients and WORKS better due to the high powered ingredients it’s made from. It is super effective and actually helps to kick whatever the problem is much faster because the oils in it are antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti viral not to mention lung and sinus soothing and nasal passage opening. Massaged over chest and back if there is a tight cough, on the soles of feet for pretty much everything and around the nose for sinus pressure and stuffy noses. Child safe and (after testing for sensitivity) safe for use on infants feet.
  • BerryWell. This is a one stop shopping spot for convenient yet incredibly effective cold and allergy superhero. It’s expensive and sometimes goes out of stock but it has a VERY long shelf life so there is no reason to wait till the last minute to get it and risk having to wait a week or more to get it in your hands. It works best the earlier into a situation you take it so having it on the shelf ready to go is by far the best policy. I try to keep 2 to 4 bottles on my back shelf for that *just incase* scenario.
  • Probiotics. I’m fairly flexible on which one, but infusions of broad spectrum good bacterial are crucial for helping the gut get a handle on whatever war is being waged in the body. The vast majority of our immune system is regulated in our yards of GI track so dumping some reinforcements down there when dealing with an illness, even if it isn’t a stomach oriented problem is a good policy.
  • Essential Oils. These multi faceted tools are useful for everything really and First Aid for sicknesses is no exception. Not only can they be used in a myriad of remedies to directly fight the illness and symptoms in the body they can also be used in cleaners around the house to keep the sickness from spreading.

Those comprise my Sickness First Aid Essentials. All of these items are multi faceted. You’ll probably find yourself reaching for various ones for totally different reasons than an illness. The trick in my experience is to keep them on hand because illnesses don’t come with a 1 week advance notice so you can have time to scramble and assemble some last minute troops to fight it with. Wish I had a dollar for every time a desperate Mom called me when I was taking customer service calls with Beeyoutiful begging for a next day shipping option and willing to pay a ridiculous amount to have it shipped fast because her family had been struck down by an illness of some sort and she was out of Berrywell or some other crucial immune boosting supplement.

Doodlebug curled up in her chair on a cold winter day

Doodlebug curled up in her chair on a cold winter day

Be prepared! Get prepared! Go take stock and make sure you have enough resources on hand to fight something from day one.  And while you are checking your families sickness inventory let me know what you consider to be crucial. What is the one thing you never ever want to be without no matter what?

Better than Nothing

Waaaay back when I first started blogging about traditional foods and healthier lifestyles I wrote what has been one of my most popular posts. Good, Better and Best options with our food choices. In hindsight I think it’s one of the most popular posts not because it’s well written but because people desperately need options. Compromise has become a necessity.

We are asked on a frequent basis “But if I can’t find or access xyz food what do I do?” or “If I can’t afford this or that supplement or food item?What then? What then indeed.

I don’t know about you but I prefer a world with black and white. Nice simple and easy choices. You know, like whole foods are best. Always buy whole foods. Ahhh. That seems simple! I can do that! Only buy whole foods. But then you learn about soil depletion and the effects of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and think oh no, whole foods aren’t good enough. They need to be all natural or ORGANIC whole foods. Taking the hit to the budget is worth it. You just tighten up elsewhere. Then you learn about the varieties of whole foods chosen and (gasp) genetically modified to withstand transportation  and decide that locally produced, heirloom variety whole foods are the way to go. As you dive deeper and deeper into the world of nutrition the lists of Thou Shalt Not Eat and Thou Shalt Not Source becomes ever longer.

Along with the Eat Nots and Source Nots there also pop up the Prepare Nots with all the different ways whole foods will actually deplete nutrient reserves when prepared improperly. It’s enough to make one want to give up on the whole thing and go get a full meal off the McDonalds Dollar Menu. Except you do vaguely remember how it sits like a rock for hours afterwards and you’d have to resort to downing one of those expensive digestive enzyme pills just to feel human again. Not to mention that article you saw float by your newsfeed a few days about about the McDonalds recall of their apple slices. And if they have to recall apples who can risk a hamburger there?? So instead you sneak a bar of chocolate and try not to think about the fact that it has sugar in it and that Fair Trade is a meaningless term so the poor people you thought were being treated fairly actually are still getting paid a pittance and the whole world of packaging and labels is just one big scam. Then you remember that according to that one MLM company nobody actually sells TRULY raw chocolate but them, everybody else is just lying.

Speaking of scams. Those darn free range eggs you scrounged up the extra money to buy?? Turns out they have soy. Oh yes. GMO Soy. Which means all the hormone free meat you go out of your way to buy might as well have had hormones because you now know how bad GMO soy feed is and how much estrogen gets dumped in the eggs. Those beautiful gorgeous orange yolked eggs. You gaze at the package feeling a little sick but most of all disappointed.

Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win for losing in the nutritious and safe food battle.

Doodlebug helping to pinch traditional Czech homemade cookies with jam for Christmas treats

Doodlebug helping to pinch traditional Czech homemade cookies with jam for Christmas treats

It would be one thing if all of this was for us. Us as in adults. But it isn’t. We are slogging through the information wars for our kids. We are sourcing for their health. For their nutrition. In my experience only as our health directly affects our children (ie nutrition in the womb) or our ability to have children do we REALLY get dead serious about the whole nutrition thing. That or a life threatening illness. That tends to do the trick too. It is impossible not to care or to walk away from what is learned and to let go of “ideals” when it involves the next generation. And the parent guilt sets in. Especially if you know now what could have saved your first or second borns a lot of health grief and you see the difference in your next child. Or if you are a parent looking back at your kids lives wishing you had known then what you know now about nutrition.

The little peach tree in the back yard where we buried our tiny Kaitlyn Anne

The little peach tree in the back yard where we buried our tiny Kaitlyn Anne

It’s a guilt laden world. And there are those on all sides who like to add to the guilt because it helps to pad their bottom line and profit margins. There are even the ones who are not guilt-mongers for baser reasons like profits but actually are deeply concerned and well meaning. I typically fall into the later category. It can be incredibly difficult to take good and life changing information about food and use it to live a freer, healthier lifestyle vs. a life of bondage to food legalities. You can’t unlearn what you know. And with knowledge comes responsibility. And with responsibility the weight of an extra burden in our already crazy lives.

There is an art to negotiation. Successful negotiations are all about knowing what is truly important to both parties and what things are optional. As you learn the list of what is crucial may rapidly change. My list looks very different today than it looked 3 years ago. In the process of negotiating the terms of life between current knowledge base, current resources, and currently available options it is important to have narrowed down what is MOST important. What things do you feel comfortable compromising on? How big of a compromise? Below is a sample of my current list. I have mine divided up into Required (the items I don’t want to compromise on) and Allow (the items I’m willing to compromise on due to budget restrictions and or availability)

  • Eggs: Free Range Required, Non GMO Soy Required. Humane Treatment required. Allow GMO Free grain. Allow non organic.
  • Beef: Grassfed Required. Antibiotic and Hormone Free Required. Humane Treatment Required. Allow to be finished on grains for up to a week before processing. Locally sourced and processed required (Locally = same state) Allow grains used to be GMO/non organic.
  • Fruit: Organic/All natural/Sustainably farmed preferred. In season preferred. Transitional crops allowed. Minimally sprayed allowed.

It has been really helpful for me to actually get what the most important things are to me written out in a systematic way. The list can be as detailed as you wish it to be. I would recommend updating it every couple of months if you are on a fast track of learning and trying to make changes for your family. At a minimum the list should be updated about once a year. It can be as basic and simple as the following.

  • No Margarine or veggie oil spreads. Only butter. No Butter with flavorings or colors added.
  • Read all labels of everything before purchasing. No MSG or HFCS.

Start somewhere. Anywhere. Despite all the nutritional information conflicts it is worth it to make your move somewhere. The worst thing you can possibly do is throw up your hands in despair over not ever being able to get it all done, it all bought and prepared “right” and just decide to do nothing at all. SOMETHING is always better than nothing. A trick I learned a while back that seems to work wonders for me is to always “one up” whatever the convenient temptation is at the moment. If it’s the difference between running to the store to buy them out of Snickers or making a homemade batch of brownies with nutritious ingredients by all means make the brownies. Then you can congratulate yourself on how healthy it is that you used raw sugar and avoided all the horrible ingredients in the average candy bar. It’s the better choice. Maybe one day life will work out to where we can all always have the best. But until then it would save a world of frustration if we could just give ourselves the freedom to do the next best thing. The freedom to compromise.

Food prepared with love, care and attention to details is the best food. Always. Even if it is GMO Sweet corn on the grill. If we lose sight of the purpose of our pursuit of good food, lose sight of our relationship with our children and the generation of kids we want to help then it renders the food battles pointless. Keep the joy in the process. Keep the kids involved. Teach them to enjoy the process of food in all it’s complexities. That it’s about ever so much more than learning how to use the presets on the microwave.

Doodlebug helping to make bread at 2 years old

Doodlebug helping to make bread at 2 years old

Some of us have, and continue to deal with serious health issues. Our luxury and margins that we can compromise with is not nearly as extensive as those who do not have very specific health issues they are treating with what I like to call “Food Therapy” or nutritional healing. When food is being used as medicine it’s a much more strict and less enjoyable proposition. But even with the strict nutritional healing protocols joy can be found in the process. Food can still be made to taste good.

My kids and I had eggs for lunch today with gorgeous deep orange yolks from free range chickens. Chickens fed Soy feed. We enjoyed every last bite. We also ate raw cheese melted on those eggs from cows fed organic feed. Soy again. We ate every late bite of that raw cheese. And we were grateful for it. Grateful to be able to have and afford raw cheese. Grateful to be able to have and afford egg yolks so obviously full of rich nutrients from chickens that had the freedom to run around and eat bugs all day. We are so grateful for our less than ideal, less than perfect lunch. It was amazing. It was a lunch rich in compromise and nutritional value.

Have you learned the art of negotiation in the food info wars? What is the compromise that bothers you most?

Got Vision?

I married a really wise man. Before we got married we talked. A lot. Long distance relationships are good like that. You are forced to fill the air time with words that would otherwise be taken up in silence or giddy chit chat just soaking in each others presence in person. Not to say those in person local relationships are inferior on the communication front (to be honest I still feel a twinge of jealousy over how easy the whole in person romantic experience must be) but I know for us the states separating us were instrumental in us having good premarital communication.

Steve and I

Steve and I

So this wise guy I was gonna marry asked a lot of questions. He wanted to know if our visions, or our goals for a future life together were compatible. If I even had a vision for the future. We made a lot of plans and outlined a lot of goals together.

7 years down the line the details of those plans and goals have changed a LOT. The core of our “vision” has remained the same however. This past week someone asked me about this crazy dream we have of developing a natural themed community-neighborhood. We have a lot of unorthodox plans and dreams. But it’s fueled by the overreaching vision and goals we had all those years ago.

We wanted to raise a healthy family in both body, minds and emotions.

We want to teach our children to be strong, to be leaders and how to serve others and the world at large with kindness.

We want to leave whatever patches of this earth that come into our possession better than we found it.

We want to encourage and help others as we are able to.

Out of these simple heart desires the driving force behind a supplement company was born. The two homes we have lived in in our marriage have housed a lot of folks at all different stages in life. We put a lot of time and effort into learning about health and how to live our lives more sustainably and responsibly. We spent a lot of time with our children. We adapt almost every area of our lives to incorporate our children.

Steve and the Doodlebug: A tiny Bee Keeper in Training

Steve and the Doodlebug: A tiny Bee Keeper in Training

We love to dream. We’ve learned that it’s Ok to dream big. We’ve learned it’s Ok to make mistakes along the way trying to learn how to make those dreams a reality. We’ve made big mistakes along the way. We’ve learned, we’ve adapted, we’ve tweaked. We’ve had to pay and are still paying for some of those mistakes. The whole process of mistakes = learning new and important lessons is something we’ve come to embrace as a part of life. The College of Life has been expensive for us and the certifications not as respected as Harvards but we are grateful for them anyway.

One of the dream-goals we are working towards right now is the purchase of a piece of property large enough that it can be subdivided and a community developed. It’s a logistical nightmare and there are probably a 100 ways we can think of right off the bat for it to easily go wrong. But we’ve learned that some of the best things in life come with a very high probability for failure. We were told when we partnered in the launch of www.beeyoutiful.com that it was a foolish idea. It was destined to fail. There were a thousand reasons NOT to start that business. We counted the cost and decided to do it anyway. It’s been a headache, it’s dominated the majority of our married lives but for every frustrated  and even tearful moment it’s taken from our lives it’s given that and more back. It’s allowed us to work together as a couple in our own home. It’s allowed our children to be more active parts of our lives. It’s been the vehicle to allow us to become physically healthier. It’s been the source and means of good to what now number in the hundreds of peoples lives. We would never have done it, never have stepped out and taken the risk of a brand new business if we had not been willing to dream, hope big and act on the vision we wanted for our family.

One thing we have learned that a dream is just a dream if it is never brought into the realm and responsibility of real life. We are working to bring our current big dreams into the realm of our reality in a lot of small ways. The first and most obvious are financial. It just makes sense to gain financial freedom so that is the front receiving the bulk of our efforts right now. The other is trying to learn as much as we can about how to properly and effectively manage a property. How one goes about doing sustainable and natural animal care and raising. How to garden efficiently and effectively. About 98% of this knowledge is purely head knowledge and hypothetical at this point in our lives. So, we are hacking away at that percentage ratio to get it much lower by the time a financial breakthrough can be obtained. We are going to get a small chicken tractor and start raising some chicks. This year if we are still on this property we are going to build a key hole garden to test it against more traditional raised beds and some of Ruth Stout’s gardening techniques. We plan on identifying and learning about the types of trees on our wooded hill. Steve is managing his bee-hive organically without the use of antibiotics and chemicals that most bee keepers use and is learning what it would take to manage multiple hives. All of this real life practical small scale knowledge will help lower our real life experience ignorance for a bigger property with bigger logistics if that ever comes to fruition. In the meantime our lives are the better for the knowledge and experience we are gaining.

Steve teaching a friend how to work the bees with the hive in our backyard

Steve teaching a friend how to work the bees with the hive in our backyard

So what is the vision for your family?  Do you have big dreams? What are you doing to make those dreams and goals a reality? Do you include your kids in the dreaming big process?