Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the Diet: how it's going

Because I know it's keeping you all awake at night, here's a little update on how the diet is going.

Here's the truth: it's not very fun.  I miss a pretty much everything I am now allowed to eat, but I try hard not to complain about it.   In spite of the challenges, I haven't cheated.  Here I am, 23 days in.  I am not sure what the next few months look like, but I'm feeling good about how it's going.

There have been some "die-off" symptoms.   Basically that means that things get worse before they get better.  It's expected and normal when following this kind of regimen.  Mine haven't been terribly severe, though, and I am very thankful.  From what I've heard, they could be a lot worse.

Basically, I'm focusing on eating plenty of vegetables, fermented vegetables, and protein.   That last one, being pregnant, is a huge one.  As for beverages, I'm only drinking water and stevia-sweetened drinks.  

Here is an example of what I might eat in a day's time.  These photos are from yesterday. Keep in mind that the red plates are huge!

Breakfast: two scrambled eggs with basil, fermented garlic-carrot sticks, cucumber slices, and water. 

Lunch:  turkey slices (from Applegate Farms), a hard-boiled egg, red pepper slices, fermented zucchini-ginger relish, several tablespoons of sunbutter (to dip my vegetable in), and stevia-sweetened limeade. 
(I usually have a large green salad for lunch, topped with protein foods and such, but there are some days when I feel I just can't face another salad.  This was one such day.)

Snack: If I'm hungry, I'll usually have some sprouted sunflower seeds.  I haven't been very hungry lately, least not in the afternoon.

Dinner:  Quinoa hash (red potatoes and soaked, cooked quinoa are the star ingredients here), green beans,  fermented turnips/beets) and water.

Sometimes I have a little stove-popped popcorn in the evening, but grains, grain-like seeds, and starchy vegetables must be eaten at least 4-5 hours after a "protein meal" (eggs, meat, etc.).  So I have to be careful about timing such indulgences.  Recently I bought myself some blue corn chips (allowed on the diet if you can tolerate them), and really enjoyed them.  Eating those chips felt so...normal!

In short, although I'm doing alright, I find myself feeling very self-conscious about the whole thing.  As in, "Oh my goodness, I'm a freak!"  But I know that many others have walked this road, and as I'd said before, I believe that it's for the best.  So here I am, doing the best I know how...and trying not to think too much about those juicy, ripe summer peaches.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

20 weeks

Today I am 20 weeks along in my pregnancy!  Which, of course, is not truly halfway for me - on account of the fact that my babies are always, always "late."

In terms of my pregnancy, I am feeling great.  No aches and pains, almost zero heartburn (this is huge for me!).  I'm feeling the baby flutter and twirl more and more these past few weeks, which is always delightful.  In fact, s/he is bopping around right now, as I type.  What a miracle new life is!  I am so happy to be carrying another precious soul.

So here we are...20 weeks.  In a few short months I will be holding this child in my arms.  I'm already dreaming about that day - and so is my family.  We love this tiny person dearly!

Monday, July 29, 2013

book time (from a week ago)

I absolutely love that this happens...

...whenever I announce, "Book time!"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Things are about to get weird.

A few days ago my brave and amazing in-laws made a proposal.  They were taking a road trip to Canada (my mother-in-law grew up in Alberta), and they wanted to take their four oldest grandchildren along.

Those would be my kids.  

Oh, and guess what?  Said trip would be for a week and a half.  That's right, 10 days.  And they were leaving on Sunday.  

It took a while for my brain to stop reeling, but once it did my husband and I talked it over and decided to grant our permission.  This was an incredible opportunity, and adventure in the could we deny them the chance?  So we made lists.  We did laundry, we went to the store, and we packed and packed and packed.  

And then, this morning, they left.  Four big chunks of my heart climbed into a Honda and headed for the border.  

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit wrenching.  I trust Jeff's parents completely, but this is a long distance and a long time.  I drove home feeling rather bereft.  

But then I started to clean.  

I vacuumed the downstairs.  I mopped the kitchen and dining room floor, loving the shine.  I cleaned one bathroom and tidied another.  I picked up Dora accessories off of my daughter's bedroom floor.  

You should know, cleaning is not a natural reaction for me.  It is by no means a default.  But with the four oldest of my brood away, I jumped at the chance to clean and...well, and to have my home stay clean for a while.  At least for it to have a fighting chance.

Isn't my floor pretty?

For the record, I still have this fellow to keep me company.  So there is good reason to doubt that the house will stay tidy for long, really.  Remember THIS POST?

But his sparkling personality, blossoming verbal skills, and toddler tendencies are certain to keep my life interesting for the next 10 days.  It'll be like 2004 all over again, just me and my 19-month-old.  We'll go on walks, attend story time at the library, and have our own kind of adventures together.  It'll be different - it'll definitely be weird (for both of us, I'd wager), but it will be fun.

Still, four huge pieces of my heart are far, far away tonight...dreaming of adventure.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

so what *can* I eat?

Last week I shared a bit about the new eating plan I'm adopting, in hopes of improving my health.   I'm now several days into this new lifestyle (today is Day 5, if you're interested), and honestly it's going better than I expected.  It seems the anticipation and dread leading up to it were far worse than the actual diet itself.  Who knew?

I do desperately miss fruit.  I processed three flats of summer berries this week, and it was very difficult to not eat a few.  Plus, I'm harvesting them regularly from my own backyard, as well as serving them to my family.  We were invited to pick plums from a friend's tree also, which the kids have been enjoying hugely.  I'm glad, but I can honestly say that I miss fruit far more than I miss sweets, bread, or even cheese.

But the point of this post is to share not about what I can't eat, but what I can.  So in a nutshell (so to speak), here are the nuts and bolts of it.

1)   Raw and Cooked Vegetables.  Lots and lots of vegetables.  I can eat essentially any true vegetable (not tomatoes, much to my deep regret), even starchy ones.  But the only potatoes I am allowed are red potatoes.  And I understand that I should not be eating those very often.   There are some strict rules about what I can combine starchy vegetables with (they must not be eaten with animal protein or grains, for example), but they are allowed under certain circumstances.    The book instructs those following this diet to fill our plates 80% with vegetables, and 20% with either protein or a diet-approved grain dish.  While pregnant, I am not comfortable with that ratio, so I'm just doing my best to eat lots of protein and lots of vegetables.  I've never been one to eat much veg at the breakfast table, but I'm learning!

garlic carrot sticks

2)  Fermented/Cultured Foods.   This eating plan focuses heavily on fermented foods, primarily vegetables.  Thankfully, I've been learning to culture vegetables at home during this past year, so this is not a difficult step for me.  I love Garlic Carrot Sticks (you can find the recipe and many more in this delightful books: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.) and I'm coming around to dill pickles.  I've fermented beets, green beans, and made garlic sauerkraut, among other things.  At this very moment I have five jars in my "fermenting corner," nearly ready to roll.  I'm to eat fermented vegetables at every. single. meal., which is a bit of a stretch for me...but again, I'm learning.

Two fermented items I cannot have at this time are kombucha (*sob*) and milk kefir.  Pretty much all dairy is off-limits (more on that in a minute), although the plan does highly, highly encourage coconut water kefir.  I am planning to try that soon, hopefully my taste buds won't rebel at the sour beverage too much!

3)  Butter.  Okay, so I've been saying "no dairy, no dairy, woe is me!" but actually I can have butter.  That's the one exception, and I'll admit that it is a huge one.  Cultured, pastured butter is preferred (thankfully that's what I already buy!), raw is ideal.  I do not have a way to purchase raw butter at this time, and I would rather not make it if I can avoid it.   It's not a hard process, but I find it tedious...and besides, I hate pouring all that precious cream off of my family's milk!  So for now I'm comfortable with that compromise.

4)  Unrefined, organic oils.  Coconut oil, olive oil, and a few others.  Thankfully I haven't had to change that part of my routine.  These oils are huge in my house!

5)  Raw Apple Cider Vinegar.  This is the only vinegar allowed on the diet, which means I need to be very careful about label-reading (no yellow mustard for me!).  Thankfully, ACV was already a staple in my kitchen, and the salad dressing I use most often is comprised mainly of olive oil and ACV, which is a very happy thing.

6)  Organic meats and Eggs.  Clean animal proteins seem to be pretty much allowed across the board, although as I've said, there are rules about not coming them with grains or starchy foods.  I very much enjoy eggs, and they are a major part of our family's diet. So although I need to be careful about how I dress these foods, I can still enjoy our grass-fed beef, the pastured chickens we just acquired, pastured eggs and other meaty goodness.  Not ketchup on my burger, though!

7)  Grain-like Seeds. Quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat.  I am fairly familiar with quinoa and millet, not so much the others.  So I'll figure it out.  Again, no grains with meat or starches, but I can mix them with vegetables and dress them up with an approved sauce, or even fry up a slab of leftover millet in butter!  The flours made from these seeds should be used very sparingly, and probably not until a few months down the road, but still I'm very grateful for my options.

8)  Seeds.  Certain seeds are allowed, and the main one I'll be eating is sunflower seeds.  This is particularly wonderful because of this sunbutter recipe, which I believe may just save my sanity.  I like to lick it off of a spoon, dip my carrot sticks in it, and I'm sure there will be much more as time goes on.  Instead of sugar/honey, I add a few drops of alcohol-free stevia for a little sweetness. It is delicious!

9)  Lemons and limes.   As I've mentioned before, fruits are extremely limited on this diet.  However, the happy fact is that I can have lemons and limes (cranberries too, but I dislike cranberries, so they don't count, do they?) galore.  I do love lemons and limes, and one of my favorite summer beverages is The Nourishing Gourrmet's Lemonade.  And this brings me to my last happy "It's allowed, wheeee!"...

10) Stevia.   Yep, I can have stevia to sweeten my foods.  Only alcohol-free stevia, mind you.  As it happens I've had a love/hate relationship with stevia for years.  I love how it's been used for hundreds of years, how you only have to use a bit, how it's completely and totally sugar-free.  But it can be tricky to use, especially for baked items.  Just before I started this thing, I tried substituting a bit of stevia for honey in a gluten-free waffle recipe.  We love the recipe in its original state, but with stevia it was definitely lacking, on several levels.  Plus, my gluten-free toddler isn't interested in the leftovers.  Not good!   So once again, I'm learning.  And I see stevia, for all its challenges, as something of a gift.  A way to add a little sweetness to certain foods (like coconut kefir) without feeding the condition I'm battling?  Wonderful.

Bonus!  I came across these Virgin Mojitos a month or two ago.  After enjoying them at a party, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that the recipe calls for liquid stevia, and not sugar!  I did a little digging and found that club soda seems to be allowed on my eating plan.  And so, there was much rejoicing!  It's incredibly nice to be able to have a little treat now and then...especially a summery one!

lacto-fermented beets
So there you have it: basic list of the things I can eat.  I may have left a few things out here and there, but that's the gist of it.  Feel free to ask any questions!  I'm still learning, but I'm happy to share what little I do know.

I'm hopeful that in a few months I'll be able to start incorporating a few more things into my diet.  Blueberries and kiwi.  Raw milk kefir. I may even be able to have corn (and blue corn chips!) before that time.  It's my prayer that my situation will be much improved by the time my baby arrives.  Will you join me in praying for this?  It would be such an incredible blessing.

P.S. For more detailed information on this subject, click HERE.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

a sweet routine

It's that time of year.  The time of year when the blueberry bushes out back are coming into their own, and they need attention.

Not a lot, mind you.  But some regular attention.  And so, on most evenings I slip outside after dinner.  The air is cooler then, calm.  For a few minutes I quietly pick blueberries.  It's taking me little longer these days, as there are more berries ready every single time.

I've come to love these quiet moments: harvesting goodness, tending my sweet bushes.  They're a chance to catch my breath, breathe the fresh air, and have a moment of quiet.

Of course, there are times when the family ends up following me outdoors as well.  Those evenings are delightful too, but in a different way.  The kids frolic together, the happiest I've seen them all day - while my husband and I sit on the patio, hold hands, and talk.

Either way, I'm relishing these times of delicious summer evenings and blueberries.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

going deeper

A while back I told you about some changes I was making, relating to some health issues I'm dealing with.  These changes helped somewhat for a while.  But I'm afraid the time has come for me to go even deeper in these dietary changes.

It will be fairly drastic, a regimen sharply focused on gut-healing and careful food choices/combining.  It's not going to be easy, for sure.  In fact, I am pretty sure it's going to be the hardest thing I've ever done, and that's considering natural childbirth and homeschooling.

Can I be honest here?  Completely honest?  I am so bummed about this.  It's going to have a huge impact on my life...on my summer...on how I participate in social gatherings.  My food choices will be extremely restricted (the only fruit allowed is lemons, limes, and cranberries...I hate cranberries).  There are a lot of seasonal goodies I won't get to enjoy this year.  No beans (which means no hummus), no grains, no dairy products.  Ah...cheese!

But you know what? I have reason to hope that this exercise will make a difference.  And so, I have to try.  Because I can't live this way.

My skin is a mess; half the time I just want to rip it off.  I can't sleep...or rather, I can't stay asleep.  I'm too uncomfortable.  I am self-conscious about the way I look, and I generally don't want anyone to touch me - unless they're offering to rub my back...

People ask me how I'm feeling, and I know they mean in terms of my pregnancy.  Honestly, pregnancy-wise I feel awesome.  Stellar.   Couldn't be better.  But this other stuff...that's something different altogether.

I think the symptoms I'm experiencing are evidence of something that has been awry for a long time.  It's time to do something about all this.

What I'm hoping - praying - is that things will have improved dramatically by the time my baby arrives in December.  It could be very difficult to take care of a newborn under these conditions.

So...if you think about it, pray for me.  I'm about to take the plunge.  It's going to be difficult, no doubt about it - it'll mean extra work in the kitchen, changing my (healthy!) habits, and watching those around me eat my favorite foods without me.  It'll mean difficulty in social settings; I've already found myself shying away from certain events which I know will focus heavily on food I can't eat.  So yeah, it's going to be a challenge.  But I hope - I pray - it'll be worth it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

summertime goals

Hey, there.  I know, it's been a little while.  Nonetheless I'm here.

We began our summer break a week and a half ago.  It's been really good so far.  A great mix of relaxation and industry.  (I love me some industry!)   Then our family got sick, and not long after that our oldest child was gone for a week to church camp, so this week really marks the start of what our vacation feels like.   And I've gotta say, it feels gooooood.  And it finally got warm and sunny a few days yes, I think summer has both officially and unofficially arrived!

I've been (lazily) mulling over my goals for this time of rest/break/change of pace, and I thought I'd mark them here.  Just so, you know, I can go back at the end of summertime and mark how I've failed - or not.  In light of that, I'm going to keep them pretty modest...

1)  Guide the kids to finishing the summer reading program before the t-shirts are all gone.
We have this problem year after year.  Oh, we finish...but not until the supply of t-shirts is severely depleted, and we're lucky to get one or two children home with t-shirts in tow.  So this year, we're pushing to get done earlier.  I think we're on track, if we can just keep up our momentum.  This brings me to number 2...

2)  Have regular reading time each day. 
Unlike some families I know, we're not doing any structured educated projects this summer.   Therefore, and  also because I adore books and want to foster a love of them in my children, we're planning to have some regular, daily (or almost) book time each day.  Whether it be individual reading, group reading, or just looking at pictures (toddlers, anyone?), we're going to sit down and have some quiet reading time.  So far it's been lovely!

3)  Organize the study.
This one is boring, and I apologize for that.  Still, it is a definite goal of mine and therefore I must state it.  The study is the room where we keep our school books, "school activities" for the littles, and two desks for a quiet place to work, among other things.  I have to go through and do semi-regular re-organizations of this room, sorting books and old papers, making the room better suit our needs.  Those needs shall continue to morph as next school year starts.  I'll have my two older students, but also a newly-minted kindergartner as well as a preschooler and, well, a very active toddler.  Not to mention that a few months in I'll have my hands just a little bit more full.  This room must be ready to roll!  It is a shame I'm such a packrat, though.

4)  Have people over.
Dinner, playdates, dessert.  I want to take advantage of this time to grow in hospitality and social graces.  It's so easy to bunk down and focus on our own family - and while that's not a bad thing to focus on, it's good to widen our gaze and open our home to others.  And it's good for this introvert as well.

5)  Process summer produce.
This is something I've been doing the past few summers, and I'm always trying to do a little bit better at "putting by" for the colder winter months.  I'm thinking this year I'm going to have to figure out how to use a dehydrator.  And of course, there's always my jam habit.

Believe it or not, that may be it.  All, it, the end.  I told you they were pretty modest goals!  Do you think I can do it?