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Monday, August 5, 2013

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nutrition Days: Easing into GAPS, plus Ground Beef Stew

Since my last post I have continued to search the Internet for information about the GAPS diet and how to go about doing it for the family, excluding myself. I am most interested in knowing when to move to a new stage, as well as what foods I can and cannot permit during which stages. I think I have the basics down, so now it is just planning enough to be prepared for the food switches. I think it will be another week or two before I run the introduction with the family, so that I can get into the groove of making broth and stage-friendly foods before diving in headlong. So far, though, I have eliminated all grains and starches, for the most part, from both my and Zachary's diet, and he is doing great! I can already see a difference in his balance and coordination...much better than 2 days ago. I personally feel fine overall, though occasionally have some tiredness, but I suppose this is common in the first trimester :). I also just started giving the family some of the juice from the fermented vegetables I made last year and have kept in the fridge. They still taste delicious! Zack LOVES the juice, but I think the others will take some prompting....


I have had to get creative with Zack's breakfasts, since eggs and dairy are a no-go so far for him, and now grains are out, which eliminates oatmeal (the old standby). This morning was a successful endeavor though! I gave him half a diced apple, half a sliced banana, a few soaked almonds, a tablespoon or so worth of pumpkin seeds, a tablespoon of almond flour, about a tablespoon of ground flax and the sprinkled desiccated coconut on top. I then poured maybe a quarter cup of homemade almond milk over it. It was a hit! He enjoyed it plenty! VICTORY!!!!


Tonight's dinner is blog-worthy as it was a hit all around! Even Taliya went nuts for it! It is a medley of a soup I have made plenty which is usually a lentil vegetable stew, but tonight it became Ground Beef and Vegetable Stew. Technically it is not GAPS, because it has corn, peas, and sweet potato, but I had to work with what we had in the house right now, and this was it. Delicious and nutritious!


Ground Beef and Vegetable Stew

1 package ground beef (1 - 1 1/2 lbs)

14 oz can diced tomatoes

2-3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (Organic is best for corn containing ones)

1 extra large sweet potato, diced

6 cups homemade chicken stock, plus 2 cups water if needed

2 tbsp dried onion

2 tbsp dried basil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste


1. Heat large saucepan on the stove on med-high heat. Add a tbsp of oil of choice, and brown ground beef.


2. Add tomatoes, vegetables, sweet potato, stock, spices, and water if needed to cover effectively. Bring soup to a boil and then let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Top with a sprinkle of cheese or a dollop of yogurt and Enjoy!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Healthy Days: Diet Changes in the House

As I mentioned in a previous post, our son, Zachary, has a rare auto-immune disorder that has compromised his balance and coordination.  The disorder is called Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Syndrome (or Ataxia).  We have been fighting this thing for about 11 months now with a few supplements and homeopathic remedies for detoxification.  A few weeks ago, though, I gave our son some gluten a few times and then he began a G.I. detox, and we quickly saw the ramifications of these things on his system.  He regressed quickly and we had him crawling for a little over a week to protect him from falls and hard-knocks, even though he still fell on his face multiple times while crawling resulting in several split lips and cut gums...the joys of OMS.

But, I digress, after this whole episode, it really became apparent to me that this little dude has absolutely got some gut issues going on.  Several months ago I became aware of a detox/healing program called Gut And Psychology Syndrome (or GAPS).  The agenda of the diet is to reset the gut, eliminating the overgrown negative bacteria, or other unwanted gut visitors, and jamming it full with the beneficial bacteria of which I am sure most of us have heard: probiotics, lactobacteria, etc.  These are the ones found in yogurt, kefir, fermented foods, etc.  They are super awesome at fighting off illness, and keeping a sufficient supply of them in the gut is critical to protect it from ugly visitors taking up residence and taking over the place.  Some common symptoms often related to bad bacteria overgrowth (and therefore a gut imbalance) are yeast infections, adrenal fatigue, Crohn's disease, ADD, autism, colic, allergies (all kinds), and others.  After several months to several years on the diet, depending on how compromised the gut is, the person should be able to eat all previously problematic foods without issue, since the gut is being healed through the program, not just temporarily achieving a lack of foods that cause problems.

To give an overall idea of the plan, essentially all grains are removed, most beans and legumes, some cheese, starchy vegetables, and all sugars, excluding fruits.  But, to begin eating these foods the person detoxing will go through several stages, starting with broth and easily assimilated foods and gradually increasing other foods, always looking for reactions in the gut and body to show a sensitivity to that food.  More on this diet can be found at www.gaps.me, and www.gapsdiet.com.  I am still getting accustomed to the plan itself, but I will be taking steps I can right now with eliminating grains, starches, sugars, and dairy from his diet until I get a better grasp on things.  Then we will really get serious about this thing!

On a side note, other diets similar to GAPS, though not purposed for digestive healing to the same degree, and not put together under scientific guidelines or for medicinal purposes, include ones like PALEO and Whole30.  Many people begin these types of diets and find they begin to feel great, have more energy, etc, sadly, though often connecting some negative concept of grains, as though they are the devil...I have regularly seen this kind of generalization in the Paleo community.  The likely reason so many people do so well with these programs is that their gut is compromised, so removing the foods that feed bacteria (i.e. starchy, sugary, polysaccharide rich foods) allows some of the detoxing to occur, thereby providing some level of initial healing.  But, these programs are incomplete in getting to the root of the problem.  I cannot at all get on board with Paleo because its ideology is so completely anathema to my beliefs as a Christian...I do not relate to some "cave man", and I do not abide by the belief that the foods that God has specified to be for our consumption are somehow bad for us because of "evolution."  Whole30, thankfully, does not give any ideology behind their program except to say that many people lose weight and feel great on their program.  Yes, with all three programs, the meals look very similar are the foods allowed are almost identical (slight tweaks with each), but the reasons and motivations behind each are different.  I am using all, though, for meal ideas as we begin this grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free journey.

Have you ever followed a GAPS program, or something similar, like Paleo or Whole30?  How did you feel on the program?  Have you considered why you felt that way?  Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homeschooling Fail: The Lord's Success

I have a short temper.  It's the darndest thing, because I always thought I was a patient person, and then I really started to get stretched.  I got married after knowing my husband for "only" 8 months...not too difficult there.  We became pregnant with our first child right around our first anniversary...fun and exciting.  I had to go back to work after having my child...not so easy.  We became pregnant with our second child when our first was "only" 6 months old...exciting and somewhat scary.  I got out of the Navy to become a stay-at-home mommy...relief and anticipation of the new season.  We had our third baby when the first turned 3 and the second was almost 2...still fun, doable, and not too stressful majority of the time.  We had our fourth child (our first boy) when our others were 4 1/2, 3, and almost 2...stretching really beginning as oldest hit a very argumentative and strong-willed stage that required LOTS of discipline and direction from me; still lots of fun, a bit of juggling going on, and overall fun and enjoyable.  We began homeschooling our oldest; this is when things definitely started to get interesting...oldest was a reluctant learner for anything that required effort, and my short temper really started to rear its ugly head when faced with opposition: EPIC FAIL.  "The Lord provides...."  Okay, picking self up, dusting off, back at it...decided to take a 6 month break from "learning to read" and allowed her to naturally grow in that area, which she readily did, and eventually was successful as I took unconventional methods to have her read her math directions (because she loved math) to get her confident in her abilities to read: SUCCESS!  Okay, I can teach a child to read...awesome.  Next...we had our fifth child when our others were 6, 5, 3, and almost 2...still lots of fun, moving along in life.

CRASH: Our son is diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder that affects his physical control, so our walking, running, talking little boy is reduced to a babbling, drooling, crawling, shaking little boy within 2 weeks time...took the wind right out of our sails.  I cannot even imagine walking this one without the Lord and His ever-presence.  We go through our trial by fire, tripping and stumbling all the way, allowing for "school" to slide along as needed, but nothing too rigorous or scheduled.  I begin to feel a bit more secure in our situation, begin to desire a little more structure, and again try to get the kids back onto a "better" schedule for us to follow.  This is where my downward spiral really began.

You see, as a middle child, I learned firsthand the value of "keeping the peace," but the ugly side of this role is learning to be a "people pleaser."  There, I've said it...I am a people pleaser.  I am addicted to it, and it is something that the Lord is working to chip away in me each passing day.  I have these little voices in my head critiquing everything I say or do with my children, for my children, etc. no matter where my heart is in its intention.  It is such a curse, but I know that I will overcome its hold on me, little by little.  Today was another stone of remembrance on that chipping away of my flesh.  But, I digress...I began to try to schedule our days a bit more, because, as a good homeschooler, we are supposed to have order, and routine, and a planned out day, and something to do at every point of the day, and it is all supposed to be constructive for learning in the conventional sense, and therefore whenever anyone finds out that we homeschool I can rest in the pride that our ship is running top-notch and we are a shining example of how to do this "right"...WOW, yeah right.  I "know" this is a load of crap, even as I write it, but there is this little person inside of me, the perfectionist, the flesh, that really believes these lies.  That if I have all these ducks in a row, with every child ahead academically, able to memorize poetry and musical instruments, play soccer like an Olympian, and sing beautiful music, that I will not be at risk for any negative criticism from someone else.  Again, though, what a load of crap.  As much as I want our family to fall into this little ideal picture I supposedly think we should look like, the reality is much more complex and beautiful and unique than that.

Today, this morning, blatantly defined in me the reason why this little idolatrous vision in my head could not be maintained.  We are not perfect, we are not ideal, and we live in a fallen world.  I have one child who is very strong in academics, but struggles with pride and worldly idolatry...wow, she has come such a long way since accepting the Lord into her life.  I have another child who is considered ADD and sometimes gets lost in a sentence because her little brain cannot hold all the words together...she is the most graceful little dancer I have ever seen, and she has a beautiful voice too.  Little child number 3 is a lightbulb, but is still young and silly...thankfully she has such a carefree spirit that I don't think much can hold her down, thank You Lord!  Then, our son has his good days and bad...today was not so good (I failed in my planning and gave him gluten several times, which has apparently messed with his stomach and balance again, this on top of a likely little cold, and change in his homeopathic remedies), so he required far more personal attention from me.  This is not easy when the little one year old thinks she has exclusive lap ownership.  But, trudge along!  The schedule demands it.  School time, now!

Mostly things went well, until I attempted to help teach what I consider a simple concept to child number 2 who has focus issues, and about pulled out my hair in frustration.  The deer in headlights look when trying to explain something simple can do that to me.  How can I explain it better?  What words can I use, or would a manipulative help?  After speaking too harshly, and with too little patience, I simply threw in the towel.  I gave up.  I landed on my bottom in the kitchen crying out to the Lord.  "Is this whole homeschool thing for me, Lord?  I feel like I am just jacking these kids up one after the other!  Is Zack's illness my fault?  The house is a mess, so that must be my fault.  What about Nadya's focus issues?  Did I feed her the wrong foods, expose her to too much pesticide?  I don't have the energy to workout all the dang time and keep the form I want to keep, but I am otherwise happy with my body...should I be "healthier"?  I don't even have a plan for dinner yet!  I feel like such a failure."

And, this is when the day began to take a turn.  I heard my sweet little girl upstairs crying and knew that the only way I could really fail them is to ruin our relationship with my expectations...I had to let them go and seek the Lord for His.  What did He expect from me?  "A quiet, gentle spirit..."  Yeah, haven't had much of that lately.  I called my daughter down and we cried arm in arm for a few minutes, then I asked if she wanted to read me a book.  She was overjoyed...though she only read a few pages before asking me to finish.  Then she and our 4 year old played with Legos joyfully on the living room floor.  The 7 year old followed quickly once she finished her written work.  They played until bickering ended the specific interaction and soon were back together upstairs having a "party" in their room.  I danced in the living room with my son and daughter.  I forgot about expectations, or getting behind in some stupid math curriculum, and focused on enjoying my sweet blessings from God!  I watched as the kids prepared to play outside and helped with folding laundry, a newly assigned chore for the 7 year old.  I made butter with my wide-eyed 4 year old watching and laughed when she ran away with the spatula and licked it clean.  I sang in the kitchen with my two oldest, teaching them a tune to try to work on a duet.  The day was redeemed.

As I rebelled against the drama of my own making, the Lord reminded me that all of my kids are not the same.  They each have their own special talents, purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, and that if I try to put them all into the same bubble with the same expectations, same routine, same academic goals, etc. I will miss the whole point of homeschooling.  I am not looking to turn out little automatons who sit in a desk nicely, learn the same exact way, and regurgitate information, which is not even successful in the school room, but I am working to develop unique individuals with something God-ordained to contribute to the World, because God has chosen me to do so.  My goal must always be to help nurture these little children, prod when necessary and with a force determined by their unique needs and personality that only my husband and I can really know, and work to develop their character with every passing moment that they may learn to bring glory to the Lord in this life.  When I think about it in those terms, falling "behind" in math does not seem so important.  But, dancing with my kids and enjoying our days does.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tales from the Garden: Season Prep!

After last year's groundhog escapade, I must admit I was not actually too thrilled to be nearing garden prep again.  Watching that little critter demolish months of work and effort, planning and excitement, in a matter of days was such an emotional event for me.  It was incredibly frustrating and, honestly, totally stole the wind from my sail.  Even though my awesome husband took the critter out with a through-and-through arrow shot, we came to find another one had learned of our "secret" stash of goodies and followed in to fill the gap.  I think he only ended up killing two of them (maybe three), but not knowing whether or not more would continue to come, I found little enticement to go care for my previously thriving garden after that point.  The tomatoes had been stripped and pulled, the sunflowers had been bent and torn, the lettuces were completely gone in one bite, and on it went.  :::humph:::  That was a rough summer's end.

So, I have been wrestling with this issue for weeks.  "Lord, should I really devote all this time and energy into something that could be swept away in a moment's notice?"  Eventually, I heard the reply..."yes."  Lol, sometimes it is that simple.  The truth is I already know the value of the garden.  He has been teaching me that for years.  Parable after parable uses His creation to teach lifelong lessons, and what better place than to learn it in the backyard while experiencing the fruits of our labor?  I knew I must persevere.  Those groundhogs will not get the better of us!  I was, though, extremely grateful when we stumbled upon a critter protecting plan for the garden beds (basically a wood, boxed frame with chicken wire over it).  At least I knew we had a defense plan that did not include the hubs having to sit post on a perch watching over the seeds each day =0)  I know it will not deal with any under ground development, but it is better than nothing.  I will take it!

I have been trying to get myself together enough to sit down and work out the planting plans for the garden beds this year, and finally yesterday I was successful.  I plopped down at the kitchen table and for the next hour or more plotted out carefully what will go where and be followed by what.  Here's the overview of our plan for the garden:

Goal:  Everyone has their own purpose for gardening (some pleasure, some experience, some production, etc.)  This garden is purposed for production, as best as we can get, though we are still learning.  I want to be able to curb our grocery bills, store some up for the winter, and have a bit left to bless others.

Strategy:  This year I am using a combination of several different books, websites, etc. that I have been studying to plan the garden.  I will be using one area of the beds for a Spring/Fall garden, while using the other for Summer/Late Fall planting.  I will be using the Square Foot Garden (SFG) method for optimal production, as best as I can figure.  I will be also doing a form of crop rotation, but by crop families.  I hope this will simplify things significantly.  I have no idea if my plants are paired well, or not, but I sure hope so!

Layout:  The garden on the side of the house will be the Spring/Fall garden this year (I have not yet done the seasonal type of planning, so this will be interesting), which will have lots of carrots, potatoes, kale, cabbage, broccoli, peas, beans and lettuces sprinkled here and there.  The Summer/Late Fall garden will contain the asparagus bed, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, peas, beans, onions, potatoes, garlic, shallots, etc.  Obviously these are not in any particular order.

Resources:  The two books that I have gleaned from the most and will be returning to throughout the year are The Square Foot Garden and The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.  These are awesome books and chock full of information.  I just hope I can keep myself together enough to keep it all spinning.

Seeds/Transplants:  I have not yet been successful at planting seeds in the home and getting them thriving once moved to the garden, but hopefully this year will be a bit better.  I will be purchasing any needed seeds from Burgess, an inexpensive but extensive supplier of all things garden.  I also need to give more attention to our two apple trees this year with a better watering system and plenty of mulch.  Last year they kind of were neglected (oops).  I am pleased to say, though, that I am finally getting my seeds better organized which is awesome since the whole "throw them into bags haphazardly" idea was not working out so well.  More on that in another post.

Well, that is the plan in a nutshell.  This will only be our third year in the garden, and we continue to learn more and more about ourselves and God's Creation each year as we go along.  What are your gardening plans this year?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Guess who is writing a novel!

Welome 2013!  The Mayans were wrong!  Woohoo.  Have you ever thought about why the Mayan calendar kind of just ended?  I wonder if some guy was determined to just keep going and going and going and finally his buddy said, "Hey, dude, give it up.  No one's going to care in two thousand years," and the guy just stopped, suddenly, abruptly, and without any significant reason....

Anyway, everyone in the Filter home is moving right along.  Zack is continuing to benefit from the homeopathy and other vitamins we have him on for his OMS.  The other kids are all doing well.  Taliya is almost one year old, WOW!  It really is amazing how time flies.  I am excited, too, because it appears that I am writing a novel; an unexpected twist to our already busy days.  A week or so ago Lily asked me to write her little love notes (she loves that kind of thing and writes them to me and Mark all the time), and when I sat down to write her one, a novel started!  It's the craziest thing.  I am going to post it here, a chapter at a time as they come, so I hope you will be so inclined to read through it and share your thoughts.  I am hoping to be on here a bit more frequently again too.  I do love to share my thoughts and what is going on in the house.  Hope it blesses you today!

Our Story is HIStory: Our Real-life Fiction Story
By Julie Filter

Chapter One

As the long Christmas Day drew to a close, Lily gazed out the damp window of her bedroom at the twinkling stars above. The day had been acceptable, but still her heart yearned for more.  Mama had spent most of the day baking up a storm; from pancakes to cookies to a dinner of chili Mac.  Everything was delicious.  She and her sisters had watched a few parent-approved Christmas films, and they too were pleasant and enjoyable.  And, still, she felt a hole inside of her.

   "God," she said.  "I feel this tugging in my heart, that there's more for me than this.  Help me to know what that is.  I feel as though I was made for something special.  Guide me, Lord.  Amen."

The next morning started the same as any other.  Lily, a 7 year old, very capable, intelligent, and God-loving girl, was the oldest of her four siblings.  As much as she loved holding her baby sister, tickling her little brother, and helping her younger sisters, a lot was expected of her throughout the day and it was sometimes overwhelming.  This morning was no different.  After awaking to the alarm, she drowsily toddled down the stairs to begin emptying the dishwasher, her morning chore.  While she dried and stacked the dishes, she hummed a lingering tune from the music that filled her head from the radio while they slept. 
   "Hmm hmm hm hmmmmm, the stars we brightly shiiiiiiiiiiining...."     "Try to remember to keep your voice down, sweetie."  Mama was shuffling down the stairs after an apparent long night with the baby.   "Good morning, honey," she said with a yawn.  "Sleep well?"  Mama  reached out her arms to offer a hug.  Lily happily accepted.   "Yes, ma'am."  Her courtesy reply of respect to her mother.   "I'm going to go take a shower and get the day moving.  Would you please take care of your brother if he begins to cry?  Please, do not take him out of his crib, but just help keep him happy.  And, keep moving with your chores.  Okay?"    "Yes ma'am," Lily replied with enthusiasm.  Her parents had been teaching her and her siblings that an enthusiastic response was a key ingredient to obedience, and today she was really focused on practicing being good.  

It didn't take long for Lily to empty the dishwasher and put away the dishes.  She left out a few items she did not quite know where they belonged, but overall was happy with a job well done.  She headed upstairs to get dressed and prepared for the day when she began to hear her brother cry for mama.  She hurried over to him with a smile.    "It's okay, buddy.  You want Mama?  I know.  You can have Mama soon.  Want a few books?"  His smile reassured her that she was on the right track, so she handed him a few cardboard baby books that would be safe with him in the crib.  "Here you go, buddy."   Lily's younger sisters were busy getting themselves dressed and ready for the day too.  They made their beds, straightened the room, and got themselves dressed.  Mama still insisted on brushing four year old Anaya's hair, but Lily and Nadya had proven themselves capable of that responsibility.    "Ouch, Nadya.  You're stepping on me.  Get off!"  Anaya had recently been struggling with speaking rudely to her siblings, and this morning was no exception.    "Remember, Anaya, we need to speak nicely to our sisters."  Lily worked hard to encourage her sisters in behaving rightly, although sometimes she herself even struggled with it.  She remembered often the scripture that Mama had taught her; "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."      "Thanks, Lily."  Nadya was bothered by her younger sister's sharp tongue, but was working hard to practice forgiving her as often as was necessary, which right now seemed to mean a whole lot.    "Let's finish getting this room straightened up so we can get downstairs quickly.  I would love to be able to make eggs this morning," said Lily.
    "But I can't have eggs.  They upset my belly."  Anaya had to follow a gluten-free diet and also seemed to have stomach issues from eggs, which was very saddening for her since she loved eggs as much as her sisters.    "What if I make something special for just you, Anaya!  Would that make you feel better?"  Anaya's eager "yesth" was all Lily needed to put a smile on her face.     The girls all skipped down the stairs one after the other and began getting their breakfast items together.  Bowls out, spoons out, electric water pot on, eggs cracking.  They were efficient and well-trained in the kitchen, even for being so young.  Anaya stood by to be the go-fer should anyone need something.  Mama was grinding beans to put into the machine to begin brewing her coffee.  She loved enjoying a hot mug of coffee while they went through their school day.  Sadly it seemed that it was enjoyed lukewarm or cold more often than she would like.    "Remember girls, you have until 9 o'clock to get everything done and be ready for schoolwork.  If you're late you lose your promptness point.  Nadya, please give the dog water when you feed him.  He's a living creature and needs water just the same as you and me."    "Yes, ma'am," came Nadya's reply, who had nearly forgotten to feed the dog and was pleased by the subtle reminder from her mother.

Half an hour later everyone was ready for schoolwork.  While books were opened and lessons begun, mama got the little ones finished up with their breakfast.  The baby played happily on a blanket with some toys, but mama still was training young Zack to remain on a blanket during his "blanket time."  After cleaning him up, she brought him over to the living room floor where his blanket lay and said, "it's blanket time now, so I want you to sit down and play with your trucks until the alarm goes off."  Little Zack gave a fuss, but soon decided otherwise when he saw his trucks.  He began to play quietly, zooming the trucks around in little circles.  

Mama returned her attention to the older children.  Lily was continuing to do very well with her math assignments.  She was a natural at learning most things, but they were beginning multiplication now, so mama knew it was important to be patient and calm during this initial learning phase for a new topic.  Nadya, who was now 6, was practicing penmanship, cursive this year, and was coming along very nicely in her hand control.  Mama was pleased to see that her p's all faced the right direction this morning.  Anaya was coloring in a page of circles and squares; red for squares, and blue for circles.  She did not, though, seem to be giving much care for the instructions on the page.  She was coloring the open space purple and had green and pink standing by.      "Oh, well," mama thought.  "A little here, a little there.  She'll get it eventually."    And so went the morning.