Ode to cheese pizza

The journey of food allergies is one that is infused with fear, exclusion and abstinence. For the mother it means she can never let down her guard. She can never drop her child with anyone without a long list of instructions (in writing) and a handful of emergency medicines. This may include her own mother or husband as they may not be as militantly protective as she. They may not remember to ask all the questions or read the labels as thoroughly. They may ask the chef only once, politely, instead of the three times required to get the true ingredients. She can never let go of the worry that is there around the clock and invades her dreams. She can never be too tired to cook and stop in a café to feed her child. She can never go to a restaurant without first cooking and packing all the food necessary to feed her child or calling the restaurant ahead of time to ask all the necessary ingredient questions. She must suffer the chatter of other mothers who may not understand the severity and believe she is neurotic and magnifying a situation that is probably fictitious.  

For the child it means sacrifice. Never having what the other kids are having. A child that is curious about what that highly decorated confection might taste like. A child that often can’t participate in routine school activities and events. A school that doesn’t completely yet understand how to manage. A child that is singled out and isolated even though she may not even realize she is. Often times the allergic child may have brought her own cupcake that might even look more alluring than what is being served creating a child that will hold off and hide her tasty cupcake and wolf it down in the car rather than eat it in front of the other children that might feel bad that they didn’t get it.  For the child it means frequent accidents, frequent doses of Benadryl. Frequent school days feeling tired because of Benadryl after a bit of egg white that was still in the yolk her mother washes for her so that she may eat  (almost)  an egg. For the child it could mean taunting by inquisitive children that are confused that may say accidentally or on purpose terrible threatening things making the child forever know that her life is in danger simply by ingesting the wrong bite of food. For the child it means less independence and a tighter bond with the person that knows all the questions to ask to keep her safe and the person that will have to fight to make sure she’s safe. The allergic child will not ever have a passive parent.

For eleven years, we’ve been on this journey. Her first birthday cake was made of millet and garbanzo bean flour, held together with carrots and applesauce. For, it could have no butter, eggs or milk and I wasn’t about to feed her sugar. It was the most beautiful cake in the world and was decorated with handmade sugared rabbits in mothers attempt to make up in beauty for what was lacking in substance. When served, the cake collapsed into a delicious pudding and was everything it needed to be and more.

The first three years of the journey meant no wheat, eggs, fish, soy, dairy, nuts, beans, oatmeal, lentils and I can’t even remember the rest.

From year three to eleven: no eggs, dairy, nuts, fish, sesame, kiwi or cat.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I’ve been secretly delighted because we have an unfailing excuse to eat a pure, organic diet. We've had a lifelong doctor's note to avoid anything processed. My girls have never had a Coke or any kind of pop. My 9 and 11 year old think McDonald’s is a clean bathroom on a road trip. Your hair will smell like french fries for hours but other than that, their bathroom is better than Exxon's. 

This is a blessing. My child chose me. I’ve been reading ingredient panels since I could read. I’ve been wondering what all those long words were on the Suave Strawberry shampoo bottle since I was old enough to shower by myself. In high school, I started reading nutrition almanacs. In college, I began a vegan and raw diet that was gluten free before the term was coined. I just knew that I didn’t feel well if I ate soy or wheat. I grew up with parents that juiced and read books about intestinal health because my father had liver cancer.

I was told three years ago that she would probably not outgrow her allergies so we’d accepted that to be the case and we’ve kept calm and carried on.  She's never known anything else so we were ok with that.  We happened to test again (because of our kitty) and she has started to outgrow dairy and eggs. We were given a green light to try cooked cheese. In a careful setting we attempted cheese pizza. I’d always told her that I create a substitute for everything she can’t have that is just as good as everything everyone else is eating…. with the exception of cheese. There is no substitute for cheese. Sorry, Daiya, we love you and you are the best but there is nothing like cheese pizza when you’ve never had it in your life and you are an 11 year old. This thanksgiving weekend we celebrated with tears because she actually ate cheese pizza and a real pumpkin pie. For her, it’s about being included and the taste of the food, and for me it means I can chip away ever so slightly at the nagging fear that grips my heart. The truth is I’m not even sure I can let go, or that we’ll change much about the way we eat, but I think this means we are on the journey out of this. We’ve learned what it means to be grateful for food and for life. 

Godzilla's gone broody!

Ahhhhh it's Spring! I love watching all the creatures building their nests and getting ready for Spring. We leave bits of wool roving for them in the trees as it must excite them to find colored decorating material. The humans start washing their windows, cleaning out closets, planting flowers and (to my utter dismay) spraying their  Round-Up instead of leaving the clover for the bees and the birds. (Deep breath, Diana.  I'm not going to get onto this topic of pesticides again.)

I've always heard people using the term 'gone broody' but I apparently never *really* knew what that meant. It's a very drastic event in the life of a hen.

We have chickens that we've had for almost a year and I find them fascinating. A week or so ago Godzilla (the dark ball of fluff on the left) stayed in her coop all day. She didn't come to me when I fed the others and she didn't come out to eat or drink at all. This is unusual as they are free range and are not even locked up at night. I thought she was sick and started worrying about the eggs we'd been eating. I checked on her the next day and her face was planted in the ground, her body flattened and her breathing so shallow it was undetectable. Sadly, I told my girls that Godzilla wasn't going to make it. I was sure she was just about completely dead.

The next day, I decided to get her up and see if she would eat. I wrapped my hands around her. She was very hot, and she growled at me. I lifted her up and she had 8 eggs under her- half which weren't even hers! You see, she's a Silkie and their eggs are half the size of regular eggs. They are like little fairy eggs. She was now sitting on everyone's eggs and hoping that she could hatch a baby chick. I tossed her out and she plopped on the ground as though half dead and didn't move. Her body was fiercely hot and she'd plucked half of the feathers off her chest. For a few seconds she didn't move. Then, to my surprise,  she ran off to eat!  It's like they are in a coma and have to be knocked out of it. As soon as she ate, she went back in the coop and crashed out. She's depressed and half dead.

So, now, what do I do? She could die because she will not get up to eat or drink without being forced. Do I let nature be and leave her alone? I've thought of this, but the fact they we don't have a rooster is unnatural. You can't have a rooster in the city here and I do not want a full chicken production going on. Broodiness begets broodiness and now Baby Silkie is also brooding right next to Godzilla (although she is up in the picture because I made her). This also means they stop laying eggs. Since they aren't eating, I now have the best fed certified organic squirrels in town.

My other option is that I could buy fertilized eggs and let her experience the greatest joy in the world of hatching a baby chick. I've read that you simply sneak a fertilized egg under her at night and when it hatches she will be so proud of herself! I have to tell you that I LOVE my chickens. I love them almost as much as our dog, in fact. Maybe as much as our cat and definitely more than our rabbits. They are so quirky and they talk to me and want to be carried around. I had no idea I could love a chicken. If you are considering chickens, please get a couple Silkies. They are like smart bunnies with a beak. Fluffy. I have a feeling I'm going with option 2. Anyway, happy Spring xoxoxo

hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers 

That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune--without the words, 
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea; 
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

—Emily Dickinson

Pesticides linked to food allergies and asthma

This article resonates deep with me as I have had two pregnancies with nothing but organic food and both were natural water births. Both my children have food allergies. The oldest was conceived and born in London where 2 out of 3 people have allergies and asthma. The second child was also conceived there but born in the USA. I LOVE London and am not blaming London or anything else, but pesticides make me crazy. It's a very simple, highly carcinogenic toxin that we could just stop using unnecessarily or choose organic alternatives. I have a neighbor (a pregnant one!) who professionally treats her lawn and my daughter gets asthma within hours of every application.

From rodale.com:
No one knows what causes food allergies—they're one of the great mysteries that science has yet to solve. But it's doubtful that any allergist had suspected that your lawn, or your tap water, could be the cause.

That could change, based on the findings of a new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The authors found that a breakdown by-product of a pesticide used on genetically modified crops, lawns and golf courses, and of chlorine-treated drinking water, was associated with higher rates of food allergies.

Food Allergy Costs Top $500 Million Annually

The authors used data collected from 2,548 people who had been tested for specific environmental and food allergies and for levels of these breakdown by-products, called dichlorophenols. Based on their analysis, the higher the levels of dichlorophenols in a person's urine, the more likely that person was to have an allergy to milk, eggs, peanuts, or shrimp. They didn't find the same relationship to environmental allergens, such as dogs, cats, ragweed, or grass.
Because the study simply found a relationship between the chemicals and food allergies, she says, it's difficult to say if one causes the other. But she says her results play into the "hygiene hypothesis" that we're scrubbing ourselves clean of good bacteria and, in doing so, are weakening our immune systems' ability to protect us against foreign substances.
Dichlorophenols have been found to kill bacteria, says lead author Elina Jerschow, MD, MSc, assistant professor in clinical research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, "and it's been found that anything that decreases the bacterial load in our environment is associated with more allergies."
Dichlorophenols are breakdown by-products of chemicals that contain chlorine. One of the biggest sources of those chlorinated chemicals in our environment is the herbicide 2,4-D, the second most widely used herbicide in the U.S., which degrades into 2,4-dichlorophenol in soil and water. It's one of the most commonly used lawn weed killers on the market today, but it's also used as an herbicide on wheat and it's frequently sprayed on farms between rows of asparagus, apples, peaches, almonds, pears, strawberries, cherries, cranberries and potatoes.
Dichlorophenols are also breakdown by-products of the chlorine compounds used to disinfect tap water, which is currently one of your major exposure sources. They can infiltrate your home's indoor air through mothballs and room deodorizers as well, both of which contain a compound called dichlorobenzene, and through chlorine bleach or other cleaning products that contain chlorine. "As long as you have chlorine in your environment, you might get exposure to these chemicals," says Dr. Jerschow.
What's more concerning is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the verge of making a decision that could expose Americans to extremely high levels of dichlorophenols in our food supply. The agency is expected to approve a new variety of genetically modified corn bred specifically to resist 2,4-D within the next few months and a 2,4-D-resistant soy not long after that. Those crops directly convert 2,4-D into 2,4-dichlorophenol, one of the dichlorophenols associated with food allergies in this study, and that would increase the public's exposure to the chemicals through food, says Bill Frees of the nonprofit Center for Food Safety. That group estimates that the approvals of both crops would increase the use of this potent herbicide from 27 million pounds a year to more than 100 million pounds.

The Biggest Food System Threat of 2012

What You Can Do
It might be difficult to eliminate all exposures to chlorine breakdown products in your home, but here are a few ways you can cut down on what's getting into your system:
• Demand organic. Not only will you be limiting your exposure to chlorinated pesticide residues, but you'll also be supporting farmers who don't plant genetically modified crops, which are banned under organic standards.
• Ban the bottle. It's hard to say whether typical household water filters will remove dichlorophenols from tap water, says Dr. Jerschow, because they dissolve so well in water. But don't assume that bottled water is any safer, she cautions. Roughly 50 percent of bottled waters on the market are simply filtered tap, so they too could contain dichlorophenols. A standard household filter will remove chlorine, and that will prevent chlorine breakdown products in your indoor air.
• Make your own cleaners. Rather than resorting to chlorinated commercial cleaners, make your own with white vinegar, which Consumer Reports recently declared was The Best Cleaner Ever. Need some ideas? Check out theseHomemade Cleaners that Really Work.

Chicken in the Waldorf Classroom

We brought our Polish Crested Top Hat Special to 2nd grade today for Show n Tell. Her name is Whoppi and she is hilarious. We have four chickens; two silkies named Godzilla and Baby Silky, an americana named Jemima and Whoppi.

Happy Birthday, Little Bird

Tonight, after reading The Enchanted Oranges from the Yellow Book of Fairy Tales to my little girls, I kissed them goodnight and said goodbye to nine years old (at least for one kid). Tomorrow, my firstborn child will turn 10.

Her story began in London where my husband was finishing his MFA. We lived two doors down from Abbey Road Studios and around the corner from St. John & Lizzie’s where I learned everything I was going to learn about birth. It is a tiny hospital for the elderly on the bottom floor and a few midwives in a birth centre on the top floor.  Should any complications arise you would have to be transported across town to a proper hospital. They had two pools for waterbirth that were built in, with one being much more grand than the other. I was due at the same time as the supermodel Kate Moss so spent much time worrying that she might get priority over little-nobody-me for the best birthing tub. Fortunately, she went a week or two before me and I got the pool, and the whole centre for that matter, all to myself.

I’d had a gorgeous pregnancy and felt like a goddess for the first time in my life. I had divine purpose. I am one of those women who adores being pregnant and wish I could bottle all of those glowy good feelings for my melancholic non-pregnant self. Most days I walked across town to Primrose Hill to do yoga and did prenatal classes that were more intense than any type of yoga I’ve ever done in my 20 years of yoga in the US. Hanging upside down by ropes at nearly full term, for example. God, that feels good. The UK has a beautiful view on birth and that is that it is presumably natural and the woman’s choice unless something goes awry. It is not an emergency medical event. Lucky for me, it didn't cross my mind that it would go any other way.

On a sad note, I found out my sweet father had liver cancer three days after I found out I was pregnant and his last chapter paralleled that of my growing belly. He held on long enough to hold her in his arms and to allow me to care for him for the last two months of his life. Partly because of this immense sadness and the fear of being unable to fly if I needed to come home, I began having Braxton Hicks at about 22 weeks and the midwife asked me to slow down. I remember her asking me how much walking I was doing during the day and I quickly calculated my answer: about 10 hours? Come on, I was delighted to be living in London and was exploring every inch of the city, every day. The only time I’ve had a super hard ass in my life was when I was pregnant walking all over the place and living on the fourth floor with a  lift that was inevitably always broken. The doctor-should-I-need-to-wake-him -up later recommended that I drink two glasses of organic red wine every night and I had to laugh as I am a one drink girl on a good day. The British pregnancy books recommend diluting your alcohol as they quite frankly know not many ladies are going to quit full stop. ; )

When I was three days overdue, we went on the prowl for spicy food. We stopped at our favorite thai restaurant and I made some hand signals to my belly and was delivered the magic dish: green papaya salad. The papaya contains enzymes that can trigger uterine contractions.  

 I labored at home for 20+ hours before walking to the birth centre around the corner. I had four contractions on the way and two of them were in the middle of the road on the famous Beatles Abbey Road crossing walk. I simply stopped traffic and clung onto my husband and breathed through two full contractions. In retrospect, had she been my second kid and I, a tad bit more bold,  would’ve squatted on the crosswalk and popped her out right there. “Baby born on the Abbey Road album cover!” Instead, we carried on into John  & Lizzie’s where I was told I was handling it too well and I should go back home to sleep! At this point, I almost cried and said I had not the strength to go home so she checked me and I was almost fully dilated! I don’t remember because they don’t get all hung up on things like checking you every minute, ultrasounds, weight etc. She said I was at 9 and I better get in. No one even took the time to change out the Carpenter's record that was on repeat.  I jumped in the warm pool where the labor intensified greatly. I’m now at 22 hours labor with zero food or drink because the labor would blow me away if I took a sip of water. But, by golly,  I’m in England, so the whole labor ladies are bringing me tea with toast and jam on silver serving trays and insisting politely that I eat!

No one believes me that I didn’t push out my babies, but they pushed ME. The best way I can describe it is that I felt as though I was on a wild ride, as though I was spiraling down the rabbit hole and struggling to keep my life. I felt as though if I let go, I would pass away. I have very intense mind control and concentration.  No one was allowed to poke or prod me or talk to me or they would break my focus. I am like a cat hiding in a dark corner and not to be messed with when I am in labor. Just rub my back, keep the lights off and keep quiet, please.  I was on my knees in the pool and had my forehead pressed against the rim of the pool on top of my hands, face hidden, absolutely intensely focused. 

My birth was not painful, as I don't think waterbirth typically is, but was the most exhausting experience I’ve ever known, no question.  I remember looking down to see the top of her head as she crowned and she had dark hair that was billowing softly in the water like seaweed in the ocean. She was born at 3 am on the dot on Guy Fawkes Day which is the British version of 4th of July in honor of a bloke that made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up Parliament. All the while I thought all of those fireworks were for my baby on the way! With much fanfare, Little Bird emerged smiling, I kid you not, and she peacefully turned her gaze to the one candle that was burning in the dark room. The bit of light in the room was the only awareness to her that she'd left the comfort of her warm womb.

I held her in my arms and nursed her in the water for the first time feeling utter exhaustion. My husband petted her between the eyes like a kitty and said he loved her and I remember feeling like what is he talking about? I just did the biggest marathon of my life and am almost dead. It will be another minute before I feel love. No mother ever verbalizes this, but it’s true. I mean, whew. It’s all you can do to just get that baby out.

Just when I think the deed is done, the midwife puts her book down, stands up from the corner of the room and starts telling me something about a placenta and taunting me with her Aussie accent that she will pull the plug in the pool if I don’t start pushing it out. I was too tired to move and I ignored her. The bitch pulled the plug! She actually started draining the pool to incentivize me to get that placenta out. She was brilliant, it worked and that was that. They filled it up again with warm water and allowed some family time in the pool before checking the baby out.   

A craniosacral treatment for mom and baby was first on the list. It’s just par for the course. She had an apgar of 10, a job well done when a mother is left to do what her body does best. Happy Birthday, Little Bird, I’m so glad you’re here!

The value of stillness

Stillness. I took a trip last summer that changed my life. The very next day after school got out, I took my two girls off the grid to live in a 100 year old tobacco barn on a biodynamic farm 2 hours from my house. We were so remote that my phone reception failed 30 minutes before reaching the farm and I was unplugged for three beautiful weeks. The barn was romantic and dilapidated and airy, with wide gaps in the boards and critters large and small roaming its crevices during the night. The barn is used for storage and we slept on the floor on an old mattress, with our sleeping bags and a mosquito net to ward off spiders. I brought with us a solar powered globe that I would charge in the sun and bring into our ‘room’ at night, to do tick checks and find our way to the ‘bathroom’ during the night. The first night we arrived late, and I didn’t have the opportunity to charge the globe and wasn’t yet familiar with which rooms of the barn had no walls. We were sleeping on the second floor and there were many areas of the barn that were wide open and you could step off the edge if you weren’t paying attention. That first night was restless and wild with screaming owls and the night was so black that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I had to pee and I’ll tell you that I made it as far as I could to where I imagined the drop-off to be, and then just had to squat right there and pee on the floorboards. This was only the first layer of inhibition that was to be shed on this journey. Peeing like a toddler was liberating but I was certain to make charging my light a priority the next day. To be fair, the ‘bathroom’ was merely a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat and compost so it’s not like peeing on the floor was that crazy.

We slept in a barn, pooped in a bucket and went to bed with the moon (that means 8pm!) and woke with the sun. The resident little boy was delighted with the new barn occupants and would race to the boards under which we were sleeping and would pretend he was a rooster or a wolf and howl out a wake up call luring his little ladies to come and gather duck eggs and begin their chores. My girls would literally fly out of bed in their pajamas like bats out of hell at 4:30 in the morning, grab their coats and race at full speed down the barn steps to run after Ira and let out the chickens and ducks and gather their eggs.

My intentions for the trip were many but to name a few: to give my children an experience they would never forget and to expound on the gardening block offered in the 3rd grade Waldorf curriculum, to take a hiatus from the internet and all things electronic, to help the farm family with their three children so they could focus on the garden and each other and to see how long my armpit hair could grow.

 My days were spent mostly in the kitchen, but standing barefoot in an outdoor kitchen pavilion cooking freshly picked organic vegetables for a mass of children is pretty much my idea of bliss. The baby hung out with me in the kitchen most of the time. She is two years old and was the most content child I have ever experienced. A duckling died and she wrapped it in a bit of purple cloth and played with it as though it were a doll. Nobody told her to wash her hands, nobody said put that down it’s yucky. It was so beautiful in that purple cloth and her complete immersion in self play that I felt pangs of guilt for every moment that I interrupted my girls’ play to do what I wanted to do when they were little. In the kitchen, I would shoo the hens that would stand on the table and chase after the ducks that would eat every scrap I happened to drop. In the afternoons I would do yoga in the grass for so long that the ducks would form a circle around my body watching me curiously. Every night, we would walk to the top of the gardens and pick blackberries and blueberries. I would marvel at how symbolic a blackberry is to just about everything in life. You absolutely would not find a ripe juicy one until you reached through wasps and thorns and your hand was bleeding. The kids would then grind wheat and corn with a hand grinder and I would make pies with the fresh berries. My girls would spend their days doing whatever they wished. They would take journals and a camera and disappear for 4 hours at a time looking for fox dens and baby deer and catching fish. I allowed them to roam freely with the exception of the creek and to stay with Ira at all times. I had to let go of the hovering mother and embrace their journeys of excursion and discovery. If I had any questions about safety I would just ask Ira. Ira never wears shoes and can run on shards of stones as though it is velvet and Ira knows everything.

The shocking bit of truth and I had a lot of time to think about this, is that this little boy, at age 8, has MORE SURVIVAL SKILLS THAN ANY adult that I know. He can grow any kind of plant from seed. The seed he knows to save that is not genetically-modified. He can grow vegetables, he can identify every tree in the forest, every snake, every bug and bird. He would laugh when I would mistake a box elm for poison ivy. He can kill a fish with a slingshot and a stone. He can build a fire and he can find his way in the total darkness through 250 acres of forest. If he had to forage his food, he knows what nuts and plants and berries he could eat and which would kill him.

He is the Bird Boy and though only 8 years old has $900 in a cigar box that he sleeps with. He’s earned every penny by selling eggs at the farmer’s market and knows everything there is to know about chickens and ducks. His companions are two little ducklings; one with only one leg called ‘one-legged’ that followed us everywhere we went. We took our baths with the ducklings in the crystal clear creek and cooled off every afternoon with a swim. I had hours on end to sit on the creek bed and stare at the rocks below. After hours had passed, the rocks would take the shape of crayfish and I would begin to notice life tucked within the rocks that I would not have noticed in the first hour or two. I started realizing that I had been missing many of the details of life and that I was beginning to truly see myself. I was beginning to experience stillness for what was probably the first time in my life since I was a child. I’ve always been on the fast track and was never one to waste time.

 My husband stayed behind to work but visited on the weekends. Upon arrival, he walked past a field of cosmos flowers and stopped and commented on the brightness of these flowers. He must’ve stood there for 15 solid minutes soaking in the neon orange of these flowers and I realized in that moment that he is my perfect match. I learned to be grateful for him when he used to drive me crazy that he didn’t multitask the way that I did.

Around the second week, I started feeling hungry. The family drinks a lot of raw milk for protein but I have been off dairy for a few years. We have always used raw dairy at home (for the child that doesn’t have a dairy allergy) but I felt the preciousness of food and didn’t feel it right to take too much. Before leaving home, I told myself that I would not bring my usual stashes of food that I travel with everywhere being the mother of two children with food allergies. I told myself we would only eat what we pulled from the ground that day. What a detox this trip was! We were there prior to the peak of summer so dinner often consisted of sweet potatoes stored from last fall and perhaps breakfast was leftover rice or oats. I normally eat a ton of protein so quickly found myself almost fixated on food and I started to sneak nuts out of the jars reserved for the farm interns. When the food was put on the table it was devoured in minutes with not a scrap left over. The two year old’s leftovers were the dog’s ONLY source of food. I had to teach my girls to elbow their way in and get something to eat or it was all gone before they realized it was their turn to grab a scoop. They are used to chatting and dancing around the table recounting every detail of the day and only eat when prompted. They learned to be grateful and to finish their food on this trip.

My hunger turned into an obsession and it was to KILL. (Note: I was very strictly vegan my whole adult life until I became pregnant. For 15 years I did not eat anything animal) The first time I was aware of the desire to kill, I was walking along the path to the creek and saw a toad and thought to myself that I could fry it in coconut oil. During the next few days I started thinking that if I am going to eat chicken, for example, I should earn the right to eat it, not only by observing the death of a chicken, but by actually doing it with my own hands. I started asking questions about how to do it, how brutal it is, could I handle it but most of all WHEN would they let me kill a chicken? Oh my god, I was hungry. I have Jamie Oliver’s fantastic roasted chicken recipe committed to my memory, access to fields of sage and raw cow’s butter that I could slide up under that skin and salt it and roast it to perfection if only I could get my hands on a chicken! Surely, they will let me sacrifice just ONE on this visit! They have hundreds up on the top of the hill. I was not only ready to do it but insisting like a kid in the backseat of the car asking ‘are we there yet?’ every five minutes.

Sigh… I didn’t get to do it because Calfy Calf was having a calf and the calf was stuck so she was in labor for days with the farmer looking after her. Sadly, she delivered stillborn and I never got to kill my chicken. Gratefully, I no longer feel hungry enough to remember wanting so badly to kill a chicken and I’m sorry to all the vegetarians out there for writing this (our products are cruelty-free!). But, I learned to be truly grateful for what I have, the food and family that I have and that material possessions not only do not matter but are a burden. I would joyfully sacrifice my phone and go back and live there forever if my city husband would have it. It is the most beautiful life one can ever live…. And I am forever changed for the better because of it.

Feed Yourself Fertile

Bearing a baby in the belly requires a fertile inner landscape, yet beyond the baby-bearing process, fertility is the sensation of being ripe on the inside so that creative juices are flowing; openness, grace and beauty are matriculating. A lack of fertility may be for many reasons -- nutrition is a healthy place to start to identify what may be not fully fueling your fertility factor. From your current practices of feeding your body, are there ways you could make your food more appealing to you? Think about sexifying your plate. In Geneen Roth's terms, this is eat with gusto. In terms of essential dietary wisdom: eat with your eyes, feel the food going into your body, make your food insanely delicious. You are discerning with whom you have relationships, why not be discerning about your food?

Fertilizing your body through food involves simplifying your diet, yet becoming aware of your dietary blueprint. When you eat, who are you also you are feeding? How you feed yourself impacts others because it is a ritual you perform every day of your life, a few times per day or more, in which you acknowledge: I am alive, I am well. I feed myself and create more life. I choose to eat foods that nourish my body and mind. If fertility and longevity is a priority in your life, the most efficient way to healthy hormones and harmonized brain chemistry, is through balancing the amino acid content of your food and the next best way is to choose foods which naturally stimulate your beauty response as well as fertilize your reproductive system.

Prioritizing protein in your diet helps the body to survive and thrive, grow and develop, ground and shine. A lack of protein leads to a myriad of problems including sugar cravings and a lack of energy, and most importantly, your fertility. It is suggested to increase your protein intake to up to 90 grams to support a desire to become pregnant. Otherwise, less is not better, but balance and consistency with protein intake is key to maintaining vibrant health. It's like a seatbelt protecting you from overcompensation or depression. Beyond the how to balance your amino acids, deciding what to eat can stimulate your glands to align with your most fertile body and radiant beauty.

Five Foods for Feeding You Fertile

1. Avocado
Healthy fats are highly devoted to helping balance and nourish your hormones. For sexification purposes, fats are what lubricate your system and get things moving in a harmonious way. Without fat, there would be no pleasure content to your food. One avocado a week is said to improve hormones, help you shed baby weight and can prevent cervical cancer. And the avocado's fertility cycle mimics that of your own - it takes exactly nine month for an avocado to blossom into a ripened fruit - the time it takes you to nourish a baby in your belly to become a whole person. An avocado is a lovely way to digest nature's gift of gestation and fertility.

2. Plant-Based Protein
Plant-based protein in more relaxing to the body than chicken or beef, as well it helps to detoxify excessive stress and hydrate the system. Beans have fiber in them to balance your digestion and keep things moving. A diet heavy in meat may cause constipation, and despite having a nearly perfect amino acid profile, meat can also cause heaviness in the system which is hard on the adrenal glands and thereby the reproductive system. Plant[based proteins include legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu tempeh and are healthy additions to your diet when trying to conceive a baby or create radiant health.

3. Figs
Figs are a symbol of fertility for their pattern of partnering up on the tree and bursty with seeds just beneath the thick, yet sensitive and juicy skin. Figs may help to overcome male infertility by mobilizing and increasing the count of sperm. All of the fertile qualities of figs make them an aphrodisiac because of their deliciously sweet and juicy quality and how reflective they are of nature's rhythms in the birth and mating cycle.

4. Walnuts
Walnuts resemble tiny brains and so are known to supercharge brain functioning. As well, Chinese medicine considers walnuts to build your body, thereby preparing and strengthening your core to sustain the demands of pregnancy.

5. Fruits
Fruit has a juicy content beyond any other food. As mentioned above with figs, the seeds in fruit naturally mimic the bodies gestation process, and the miracle within the body to grow a seed into a human being. Fruits are in essence, vegetables with seeds, and those which stand apart to enhance your fertility factor are fruits rich in folic acid, such as citrus and strawberries. As well, by eating pomegranates and apples, men can raise their sperm count, while tomatoes, avocado, grapefruit and watermelon will get the sperm moving.

Waller McInnes is a women's health guru, founder of create radiance: supporting women on the path to success to find inner balance and beauty, and she is a passionate creator of food and life recipes to enhance a woman's beauty, essential energy and awaken sensuality, femininity and grace. Waller is available for health and life coaching for women and teaches yoga classes focused on deeply nourishing the female reproductive system, balancing hormones and creating radiant health.
For more information about her visit www.createradiance.com

raw chakra salad

from a reader's entry on mynewroots blog. i'm in loooove with her...

Ode to a white egg....

Starting from the age of 19 and for the next 15 years, I was very strictly vegan and mostly raw, without paying attention to my nutritional levels to the point that I was a chronic insomniac deprived of vitamin B. I would sit at dinner with friends and stubbornly refuse to eat because the Tom Kha was made with chicken broth and there were no options. It didn't matter if I had been traveling for days and was starving. I was a purist and an extremist on what I put in my body. Now as a mother of two, I can barely remember any time to be so concerned with myself. I happily lap up the crusts of sandwiches left behind and delight in a missed berry or two. Whatever a kid doesn't eat is called 'lunch for mama'. I'm sure many mothers can relate to this.

I didn't eat eggs and I still tend to get squeamish sometimes with eggs. When winter hits hard and the farms have no eggs, I can't buy them from a store. I'm not usually particular, but a store egg truly makes me gag. If the yolk isn't dark dark orange, there is no way I can eat it. I've become a bit of a snob and can eat from only 3 local biodynamic and organic farms. There are many others in TN but I'm serious about my eggs.

Our family eats a minimum of 12 DOZEN eggs a week. We get them from various biodynamic and organic farms and I honestly believe my daughter no longer has asthma because I began feeding her large amounts of natural vitamin D in the form of egg yolks. She is highly allergic to egg whites and I have a routine down of washing the whites from the yolk and feeding her four eggs for breakfast that are almost raw. If I cook it too much, she will not eat it. I think your body tells you what it needs. She begs me for eggs in the morning and after school and has not had asthma since I started saturating her with Vitamin D.

Eco Tone Farm is so wonderful that they will deliver to my door whenever I send them an email. The eggs are a stunning array from white to brown to BLUE. I am so happy to eat a blue egg that I can't stand it.

My then 8 year old daughter, on the other hand, was not impressed with anything except the WHITE egg:

"Oh, mommy! Look! A WHITE EGG!"
"mmm hmmm"
Later that day, she says "Mom, did you eat that white egg yet?"
I said "No, I don't think so."
The next day she says" You didn't eat that white egg, did you? Can I have it???"
Finally, I said 'What is your deal with the white egg? You act like you have never seen a white egg before."
She says, " I haven't!!! Why, have YOU????"

I love this story because we live in the city and the kid has never seen a white egg!

just another day on the farm

gratefulness for a bit of light

a little something from the bakery

no, i didn't make these. someone sent me this photo and i thought it may be inappropriate to post, but why would it be inappropriate?

heart wrenching project on eating disorders, young people + media

My friend Mark sent me this today and I'm posting it because I have girls, girls with restricted diets due to food allergies, food is always on my mind and 'to do' list for the day.

Like many women, I have never been satisfied with my body. I'm a curvy girl and have always wanted to be bone thin. I remember the times in my life that I was very very thin; when I "nursed" my father through cancer to his passing, while simultaneously nursing my newborn. It seemed that I was most content with my appearance when it was gaunt and my clothes were hanging from my body.

Pregnancy was the only true and healthy time in my life that I embraced my shape and felt like a goddess. We must learn to accept the shape we are given and not be influenced by media. The hardest lesson for a mother with girls, is to project a healthy body image when you truly are struggling yourself, on the inside.

Click here for the full project.


Round Up Causes Birth Defects

WASHINGTON -- The chemical at the heart of the planet’s most widely used herbicide -- Roundup weedkiller, used in farms and gardens across the U.S. -- is coming under more intense scrutiny following the release of a new report calling for a heightened regulatory response around its use.

Critics have argued for decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides used around the globe, poses a serious threat to public health. Industry regulators, however, appear to have consistently overlooked their concerns.

A comprehensive review of existing data released this month by Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open-source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, suggests that industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto in 1976, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.

Founded in 2009, Earth Open Source is a non-profit organisation incorporated in the U.K. but international in scope. Its three directors, specializing in business, technology and genetic engineering, work pro-bono along with a handful of young volunteers. Partnering with half a dozen international scientists and researchers, the group drew its conclusions in part from studies conducted in a number of locations, including Argentina, Brazil, France and the United States.

Earth Open Source’s study is only the latest report to question the safety of glyphosate, which is the top-ranked herbicide used in the United States. Exact figures are hard to come by because the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped updating its pesticide use database in 2008. The EPA estimates that the agricultural market used 180 to 185 million pounds of glyphosate between 2006 and 2007, while the non-agricultural market used 8 to 11 million pounds between 2005 and 2007, according to its Pesticide Industry Sales & Usage Report for 2006-2007 published in February, 2011.

The Earth Open Source study also reports that by 1993 the herbicide industry, including Monsanto, knew that visceral anomalies such as dilation of the heart could occur in rabbits at low and medium-sized doses. The report further suggests that since 2002, regulators with the European Commission have known that glyphosate causes developmental malformations in lab animals.

Even so, the commission’s health and consumer division published a final review report of glyphosate in 2002 that approved its use in Europe for the next 10 years.

Sun Kissed Community

Summer vacation brings many lazy road trips amidst the endless days of unstructured play. Our recent adventure was prompted by my husband who had researched a nearby Mennonite community for a film project a few years ago. He wanted to bring our girls to visit their community, to open their eyes to a lifestyle quite different than our own. As it turns out, we were surprised to discover that we had more in common with the few Mennonites we spoke to, than we do with our own next door neighbor.

The community is spread out like any other residences you would find out in the country. There was no gate with opening hours or any tours or merchandise available from vendors. Each family had their own house, built collectively, on their own property with their own garden, and their own horse and buggy. As we drew closer to the community, my husband stopped at a self service table that had beets for sale for 50c a quart. You were supposed to put your quarters in a little 'honest' box. He stopped the car and asked me to get some, but I hesitated saying that I don't know the source and whether or not they are sprayed. His response was that Mennonites are organic and natural and everybody knows that. This spawned a discussion whereas he grows tired that I question everything. Fortunately, I had a little bit of signal left and was able to google this information before going in. As usual, I was right. ; )

We stopped at the first market to buy tomato juice. I asked the shopkeeper if she knew the farm that made it and she said she did. I asked if it was an organic farm and she said it was not. We didn't buy the juice. She gave us directions to the one farmer that she believed was the only organic farmer in the community.

We pulled up to Andrew's house. It was well over 100 degrees. He came out in his socks and buttoned up to his chin in wool clothes and suspenders. He sat on a stump and explained (without giving me eye contact as I'm not only a woman, but a woman who foolishly chose a dress with bare shoulders that day) that they are offered an 8th grade education in the 'plain circle' that is their community. This is a vast and beautiful, very green region with no electricity, no wifi, no air pollution, no modern day materials that make people sick. The only thing they are using and using plentifully, is pesticides. And genetically-modified seeds. We had a discussion about Monsanto being the devil and that all we can do is pray.

He explained that he learned farming practices from the generations that came before him. They all used pesticides. He said that when his great grandfather, his grandfather, his father and his sister ALL died of colon cancer in their early forties, it made him question why.

Next, we stopped at another small grocer. Paul was very very old, with piercing blue eyes and a snow white beard to his belly. As soon as we entered, he looked deep into my eyes and asked me where I've been. He insisted he'd met me before. I'm enthralled with his face and desperately want to photograph him. He says 'no dear'. I later find out he is dying of bone cancer. He is the father to Thomas, the other organic farmer on the land, and one of 11 of Paul's offspring. I was delighted to find a case of antique blue mason jars with oxidized tin lids for $2 ea. I bought a handmade chickweed and comfrey ouchie salve for $2.75. This salve led us to Thomas' house.

Thomas was younger than me and already had 9 beautiful children and another on the way. Two of them at a time came out to smile at us. They had sun-kissed faces, were barefoot, wearing bonnets, and were as beautiful as the sun. Such beautiful and peaceful children. The nine- year old was carrying around the two- year old and I felt like I was in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. My girls stared at their girls and they stared back. Each pleasantly curious about the dress and actions of the other. His girls were in tailored cotton clothes, covered to their chins, and handmade muslin bonnets. My girls had wild, messy hair, mismatched clothes, Whole Foods tattoos on their bare arms and were eating dandelions.

Thomas was very curious to hear my story, about alternative health and my daughter's allergies and how I started my company. However, he could not look at me or speak to me directly. He engaged the visiting chiropractor and asked the chiropractor to listen to my concerns. He listened intently and we talked for well over an hour via the 3rd party that was the chiropractor. I have never communicated in this way. He is commissioned to work with local hospitals in the burn units as they are discovering that his way of healing with plants is more effective than their way of skin grafts and antibiotics. We discussed midwifery and vaccinations and herbs.

As we left, a woman in a field of okra called out to me and asked me who I was. She asked why I haven't been there in so long. Again, I told them this was my first visit. They were consistently mistaking me for someone else.

She looked youthful from a distance and told us how she transferred from a community in Wisconsin. I asked if she was Thomas' wife. She said no and looked at the ground. We asked if she had come to find a husband. She bent down to pick okra and would not look up. I saw her wipe her eyes. I was sickened to realize that I'd hurt her feelings. I apologized and asked her if I had offended her. She would not look up. I said again, 'I'm so sorry' and still she would not look up. I turned, not knowing what to do. I saw a beautiful stone on the path. It was a highly polished, flat and circular stone. I walked up to her to give her the stone and to tell her how sorry I was and that the stone was a gift, left on the path for her and I wanted her to have it.

When I got closer, she was beyond middle age, with crumbling teeth and a great big smile. She said I probably thought she was crying, but she had just put banana peels in her eyes to help with her poison sumac. Banana peels? Now, I'm thinking that I am in a movie. None of this is real. Nancy was her name. I don't know her story but something about it is painful. We shared a sweet moment and I wanted to hug her, but I regretfully did not.

My youngest daughter said she was a ghost and did I notice that her feet weren't touching the ground? The whole day was very touching and quite surreal and maybe I have been there before. I know for sure, I will be back.

hot hot hot

mama's day

The morning began with my space at the table decorated like that of a Queen. There were silks on the chairs, flowers foraged from the yard, candles lit and little presents on the table. There was a tiny, cold cup of espresso in a hand-painted cup. Bananas and apples were cut into torn pieces scattered with sprinkles of dark chocolate shavings. Gifts of paintings, felted soaps and a poem. My oldest says somberly and hungrily that there is no breakfast because nobody knows how to make breakfast, but that is another story.

Next, I did 712 loads of laundry and then we went to the Dog Park to celebrate Sophie's 2nd birthday. If this weren't enough, our diamond doves gave birth to an unexpected squab. Squab. I had to look up what to call a baby doveling.

Here is how I got into this predicament. I needed to find a bird to use in this photo for my website after my husband found this beautiful Ethiopian girl in a restaurant. So, I tried very hard to borrow a bird given that we already have a predatory household that includes a whippet, a gerbil, an indoor cat and an outdoor cat. My friends offered chickens, roosters, snakes (!), goats (done that), but no tame little bird.

How silly was I to take my girls to Petsmart 'just to look' and ask questions about what kind of bird I could rent. I was secretly planning to return the bird after the shoot if I held on to my receipt, but noooo.... I have kids! So, I hold this little dove and it sits in my hand, coos a zen-like coo, and is just as beautiful as it can be. Just as I say I'll take the bird, the little man says that they are attached creatures and must be in pairs. In fact, they mate for life. That's beautiful, I say, but 'what do you mean MATE?' . The man looks at me and then down at my kids and cocks his head to the side as if to say surely I know about the Birds and the Bees.

Ok, well, I might as well get two, now that I have to get a cage and all the accessories, but is this one a girl or a boy? Oh!, the little man says. You can't really tell what you're getting unless you have a minor surgery done to determine the gender. I'm now thinking this isn't a good idea and I'll take the chickens or even the snake, but my KIDS are standing there and there is no way I'm getting out of this. One of them is now bending over as if she might pee on the floor she's so excited.

He says, the environment has to be absolutely perfect for them to lay an egg and then to actually HATCH the egg is next to impossible. He says people that breed these have a very difficult time hatching a bird and so I really shouldn't worry. He also tells me the lifespan is five years and we know that five years goes quickly. The handbook he sold me, I later found out, states that Diamond Doves live 25 years.

I buy the birds, my awesome photographer takes the photograph and within a month we have AN EGG! It's so tiny. It's about half an inch big. So soo sweet. They discard that egg as they obviously don't know they are supposed to sit on it. A few weeks later another egg! This time they incubate it. For the next few months, they are always sitting on an egg. Or two. But, nothing comes from any of them and we've long forgotten to expect a baby. We've named them Violet and Sabine, and I presume they are lesbians.

We were out of town this weekend, celebrating our 12th anniversary (with kids in tow) in a cabin in the woods and when we returned the first thing I did was check the birds who stayed home alone with the Cat. I gasped when I saw a fuzzy little being about the size of my thumbnail! It was just sitting there alone on a piece of felted wool and I feared it was dead. I watched for a long time and finally saw a hint of a breath. The parents then scooted over and sat on its head! They left its butt sticking out but sat on his head and this did not seem right to me and I had to look it up. It's ok, they have no other way to keep them warm. So, I have a dove factory now if you want one. Seems I'll have more. I may add them as an option to add to the shopping cart on babybearshop.com.

To all mothers, I wish you a beautiful day. Be strong, be patient, cherish every wonderful, magical and insane moment. It's the most important job in the world! "Be where you are; otherwise you will miss your life." - Buddha

Earth Day

Come visit BABYBEARSHOP in Chicago for Earth Day at the GREEN METROPOLIS FAIR, April 16.
And MAKE YOUR MOTHER PROUD in Nashville, TN on April 23.

We've added Earth Day backpacks that we will be selling for $5 and giving away free with $50 purchase.

tree hugger

This is my forest. I escape to it daily. My schedule doesn't allow me two free hours so I have to steal them; usually before sunrise. I've hiked it in the total darkness, having to almost feel my way through, while my heart races in almost sheer panic. I've hiked so close to the deer that I can almost touch them. I've tiptoed through flocks of wild turkeys and I've had barred owls speak to me from the trees. I'm very aware of the trees. I've been coming here for fifteen years, but only recently have I felt such a strong connection to the trees.

Lately, every now and then, a tree has asked me for a hug. I'm serious. I'm going along thinking about all of the things I have to do that day, and a tree has stopped me cold and asked for a hug. The first time this happened, I sheepishly looked around to be sure no one else was watching. And I did it. I hugged a tree. Its energy filled my spirit completely. The Cherokee Indians hugged trees. They did it with their back to the tree and wrapped their arms around behind them so the energy of the tree and its wisdom could fill them.

There is a special tree on this trail and you'll only see it if you're the kind of person that sees things. In fact, when I think about it, I never noticed this tree until I started hugging them. So, maybe you have to be the kind of person that would not only hug a tree, but would humble themselves enough to write about it.

This tree is guarding dozens of heart-shaped rocks at its base roped off by a tiny little fairy-sized twig fence. The fence keeps the love from overflowing onto the path which would divulge its secret.

Someone has been leaving the rocks, tucked within a nook on the backside of the tree that you won't see when you are looking ahead of you. Someone, somewhere is leaving a gift at this tree, either for the tree or for someone they love. I've been secretly adding to the collection when I find a heart-shaped rock and the love keeps growing. What a beautiful world we live in.

Which wolf?

An old Cherokee Indian chief was teaching his grandson about life…
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, s...elf-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The old chief replied,”The one you feed.”

Fall Creek Falls

Escape to Fall Creek Falls.... spent the weekend hiking and picnicking on the rocks, overlooking the waterfalls. I love moss covered rocks and the damp, cool air that fills your lungs. I think I would shrivel and die without entering the forest at least every few days.

We built fairy houses, and uncovered unicorn fossils. So magical...

the silent evolution

Beautiful imagery of an underwater sculpture garden by jason de caires of cancun. These images reflect my mood today. Kind of a quiet, introspection with more than a bit of sadness...my dreams look like this...


This little 3 year old Ethiopian girl is gracing our pages for now, and the doves used in the shoot have become our new pets. We now have Violet & Sabine living peacefully with our whippet, siamese cat and albino gerbil.