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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.