Happy Thanksgiving!

Since I’m sitting here waiting for the all-day cookathon to begin, why don’t we talk a little bit about food? I’ve taken some pride over the years in being a pretty good cook, and an extremely flexible eater. There was a time not that long ago when I would put pretty nearly any edible item in my mouth, and defy the gods of health to do anything about it. I loved making messes in the kitchen, and the more complicated the dish, the happier I was. I made very tasty food, no denying it! And thanks to my belief in the food pyramid, which I’ve come to understand was invented by Satan himself, I actually thought that I was doing something good for my family. Four hours a day in the kitchen, cranking out high-carb, low protein junk. What a great mom!

Sigh. It was a mistake made from a place of love, so I’m not beating myself up over past food follies. But I do hope I can forewarn some other moms who may be headed down the same path of spoiling their children–spoiling their health and their palate for truly good food, at least.

Nowadays, my cooking amounts to throwing a big hunk of meat in the oven and roasting some vegetables at the same time. I’ve become, honestly, a lazy cook. And you know what? The kids are more satisfied and healthier than they ever were when I was putting all that fuss into feeding them. Ain’t that a kick in the pants? Truly healthful food turns out to be easier to cook and consume, not harder.

Toward the end of my last pregnancy, even though I had passed the glucose challenge test, I started having symptoms of gestational diabetes. I’d never done that in the previous seven pregnancies, and I’d “passed” the test, so I was shocked a few weeks later at the doctor’s office when they found I was spilling sugar in my urine. I had been feeling profoundly tired, especially after meals, but I didn’t make any connection between my health and my sugar intake. Why should I? I’ve always followed a good diet! I had put my illness down to being an old mom, even though I was only 37. Thankfully, I had just begun spending my enforced time on the couch reading a book that now has a place of honor right next to my Bible, Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes. So I had a problem, but I also had a solution!

What’s amazing to me is that, as fat as I was (160 lbs on a five-foot frame), I never thought that this was unhealthy. I would always come back down to about 135 or so after a pregnancy, and nobody even seemed to think of me as fat, so I wasn’t concerned. I ate what the Food Pyramid guidelines said to, and didn’t have any diagnosable eating disorders, so I thought I was doing ok.

I felt awful, my thyroid disease kept getting worse, and I couldn’t lose that last thirty pounds, but the culture around me, the doctors I saw, and the mainstream nutritional advice all said I was doing everything right, and this is just the way I have to be. Must be genetic. Everyone who has been healed by a ketogenic way of eating will surely join me in saying “Thank God for Gary Taubes!” His work started me off on a journey to health by turning my food-view–and my food pyramid–upside down.

Our Thanksgiving meal today will be fairly traditional. I will certainly include some whole food carbohydrates. I’m even going to put some little marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole. Since the kids never get to eat that stuff, it will be a treat. There will be no industrial seed oils. The “potatoes” will be made of cauliflower, and you almost wouldn’t know it. The cranberry sauce and desserts will be sugar-free.

A friend asked me yesterday if I wouldn’t have some of my favorite foods, like stuffing, just for the holiday. In my current state of health, I could certainly “get away” with eating any amount of carbs I want for just this one day, or for several days, honestly. On the rare occasion that I do eat carbs, my body clears the glucose very quickly and comfortably. My Hashimodos probably won’t flare up as long as I avoid gluten and dairy. Still, I probably won’t eat anything but meat today. Cranberry sauce and my safer version of pumpkin pie are a distinct possibility. Habit is, as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers know, a very powerful thing, so I will probably behave myself very well, even in the presence of all that temptation. The longer I go without carbs, the less drawn to them I am.

And that brings me to my real point here. A holiday meal is supposed to be a special, once-or-twice a year blowout. It’s not supposed to be just a bigger meal of all the kinds of foods you eat pretty much anytime you want to anyway. I’m going to make sure my family enjoys some crazy-delicious food. We’re going to have dessert with whipped cream and wine. We’re going to thank God for the bounty of the year, and pray His mercy on the next one. We’re going to do all of that with no guilt whatsoever!

But then we’re going to go right back to our daily, boring (to the average palate) low-carb, satiating, whole foods.

How about you, Reader? Have you found a way of eating that’s different from the SAD diet? Maybe you were raised already knowing this stuff. What’s eating like on a regular day for your family?

Permission to Be Ordinary

This is a repost from May 21, 2014. With the growth of homeschooling, and virtual schooling, and whatever else families have had to do to adapt during this ridiculous upheaval, I thought it might be a good time to remind ourselves that homeschooling isn’t really all that special. 

Homeschooling is going mainstream, and we’re about to lose one of our favorite arguments for it. 

Homeschooling is kind of an extraordinary thing to do, isn’t it? Even with the rapidly rising numbers of homeschooling families each year, we’re still in the minority (for now). Nearly every weekday outing I take with my kids requires me to explain to someone why my older children aren’t in school. People still don’t think of children staying with their mothers all day as a very normal thing. Parents just aren’t qualified to raise kids, you know.

When we think of homeschooling, we still think of violin-playing spelling bee champions with 140 IQ’s who were just too smart for normal school. And you know what? There really are a lot of home educated kids like that! It isn’t at all surprising that homeschoolers like to promote as much good press as we can for ourselves.

Stories in the news like this family with seven kids in college, all by the time they were twelve years old, and blog posts asserting that homeschooled kids are 120% more smarter than public schooled kids are constantly circulating the web, not because those are our best reasons for homeschooling, but because associating ourselves with such an outstanding group of people easily, if fallaciously, counters the arguments of which we grow so weary.

“You’re not qualified.”
“They’ll never get into college.”
“Homeschoolers are bad at math.”

Just a few weeks ago I had to listen to my neighbor explain to me that I can’t possibly teach my children math in the higher grades, so I’d better be ready to send them to school by eighth grade. (I’ve learned to just nod my head and pretend that I’m going to take that brand-new, brilliant idea into consideration. I really don’t care what the neighbors think.)

We homeschoolers love this kind of evidence that homeschooling “works” because pointing to other people’s results is a lot easier than explaining our core reasons for keeping our children at home. Our motives are good and wholesome and altogether defensible, but because we live in a society that scarcely even understands what education is for, those points also take longer to explain and upset people more often than the academic argument.

I have to wonder, though, if we’re not accidentally making the task of defending our choice harder by using these kinds of things to bolster our case. You see, our stellar statistics and outliers like the “Brainy Bunch” family set some unrealistic expectations for normal kids. The first generation of homeschoolers was almost certainly an unusual group of people. It seems to me that they required a unique set of characteristics–qualities that usually go hand-in-hand with high intelligence and academic achievement–to be able to boost the homeschooling movement from the gravitational pull  of traditional education. That first generation had, at the very least, enough imagination to dream it up, confidence to follow through, ingenuity to figure out how, resourcefulness to keep it going under pressure, and courage to fight the courts and social stigma.

As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, though, we are going to see some regression to the mean (though I doubt that we could ever regress to the abysmal performance of public schools). Because homeschooling really is a viable and superior alternative, and for reasons that have little to do with math, more and more parents who would never have considered such a thing before are going to jump on the bandwagon.

Those stellar statistics are going to level out, homeschoolers.  At some point, our neighbors are probably going to notice that some of us are pretty awful at math and science, and most of our children are going to trade schools or straight to the workforce instead of to Harvard. For that reason, it would be good if we kept our debating skills sharp, so that we can explain why homeschooling is well within our rights, regardless of our outcomes. If our best defense of home education is that other homeschoolers are really smart, we are sunk, because most of us are going to be graduating children who become ordinary people.

And that’s OK. Cashiers and plumbers, homemakers and factory workers are every bit as necessary to the functioning of society as engineers and political leaders. Homeschoolers, as much as we cheer for greatness and excellence, and hope to see our children attain the absolute pinnacle of their personal capabilities, we need to give ourselves permission to be  ordinary. The rightness of our choice to raise our own children isn’t predicated on our academic results or our children’s future earnings. It is based solely in our right and responsibility to raise our own children for the Glory of God. (Yes, I am aware that many people homeschool without any religious purpose, but they still have that right and responsibility, whether they know it or not.)

If we don’t keep our focus on that first principle, we’re going to make life mighty hard for our kids who are better at bricklaying than calculus. Not only that, but we might find our right to raise our own children, so hard won by the first generation of homeschoolers, diminished by our own focus on the wrong point. We need to speak the language of liberty when we defend our choices, rather than flashing the gaudy plumage of worldly success.

Test scores may temporarily dazzle our opponents into silence, but they will not stand the test of time like the simple truths of God-given rights and individual responsibility.

The Crow Caws

My last post was on January 4, 2016, so it has been nearly five years since I put fingertips to keyboard and spilled my thoughts all over the place. Here goes nothin’!

First of all, I want to thank those of you who are already here!  I got a little choked up when comments came in so quickly from readers I recognize. That was completely unexpected. I thought I’d be all alone in here. Welcome back! I hope you can still find something useful, interesting, or uplifting here. 

I read once that Tolstoy called his most marvelous work “wordy trash”. I know exactly how he felt after reading over my old posts to see which ones I want to rescue from the ash-heap. You think you’re doing something so very special at the time you write it, but when the fire isn’t in your belly for that particular work anymore, it is, indeed, wordy trash, no matter how much of a genius* you are. It just doesn’t sparkle anymore. 

Blogging is really an ephemeral thing, anyway. You say it, and it’s said, and it’s really not resayable. I do have a few perennials that I may republish, but probably not too many. After five years, my aptitudes and interests have moved on, and no doubt yours have, too, Dear Reader. So if you find we’re not a good fit anymore after a while, that will be perfectly understandable. I am immensely gratified, though, to see your comments rolling in already. I missed you people! 

Secondly, a word about what to expect from this blog:

Jesus, and how He saves. I will always strive to honor and remember Christ in what I say. Some posts will be overtly religious in nature, but I hope that I will always sprinkle a little salt on the many that are not. I’m likely to be about as graceful and tactful as ever, which is to say not very much, but I promise I will try. Readers have always been very kind to point it out when I fail at that, so I’m sure I’ll never have to wonder how I’m doing in that regard. 

Health and beauty. I’ve lost about fifty pounds, first on a ketogenic, and now a zero-carb diet. I love weight training, high intensity exercise, and running, which is definitely not something I ever expected to say about myself. I feel better than I’ve felt since my early twenties, so I will be talking about that. There may be some one-on-one coaching available in the future, if anyone is interested. I feel pretty confident that what I’ve done can work for absolutely anybody, with some tweaks for individual differences. 

Large family stuff. This topic is pretty well unavoidable, ain’t it? There are eight children in this family now. I thought I was getting the hang of this mothering thing a few years ago. I’m much less certain of that now, but I do have a few more years of experience upon which to draw. 

Homeschooling. Obviously. 

Current events, politics. Probably. Certainly I have some thoughts. I don’t really like the kinds of trolls that show up for that, but they’ll probably turn up no matter what I write about. We’ll see. 

So, that’s where I am today. What’s changed for you in the last several years? I’m so ready to hear from you!

*Please note that I am saying Tolstoy was a genius. I actually am cranking out wordy trash, and I’m fully aware of it. But I have no doubt the crow enjoys his caw every bit as much as the songbird does her warbles. We all do what we can with whatever meager gifts we’re given, right?