Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ice Cream & Letterboxing

It was a GORGEOUS day today. So naturally we needed to fill the afternoon with ice cream treats and letterboxing.

I picked up a good friend and her two kids, and we went to a dairy farm to try their deliciously creamy ice cream.

We needed some adventure after our dairy treat, so we went letterboxing. Not surprisingly, our hunt took us to a cemetery.

And to a reservoir.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon!

Monday, March 12, 2012


Due to the prohibitively high cost of maple syrup, I have kept my children on a strict Mrs. Buttersworth syrup diet since their first bite of pancake. Since then, of course, I have discovered that sometimes cheapest isn't always best. Not that any type of syrup is healthy, but when choosing the lesser of the two evils, maple syrup certainly beats high fructose syrup on pancakes and waffles.

Unfortunately, once conditioned always conditioned...the last time I purchased the liquid gold, the children declared they did not like the taste at all. So imagine my surprise when they all but drank some maple syrup during our last field trip to see the process.

We began our tour in the barn so we could have a chance to visit with the animals.

Sheep & Michael


Sheep with Audrey & Ella


Duck black

After the barn, we kind of headed in a backwards fashion through the tour. Since there were three other groups doing the tour with other leaders, our next station was the pancake station to sample maple syrup. And that is where the kids decided they do indeed enjoy real maple syrup. Unfortunately, this was not syrup from the farm as this is a 4H teaching farm and therefore does not produce enough syrup to sell. They loved it nonetheless and may have even licked their plates.

3 girls

After sampling the syrup, we learned about how to identify a maple tree in the dead of winter and then how to tap it. We followed our indoor instruction with an outdoor trek to check out the sap that was draining into the buckets of some tapped maple trees.

Following that, we went to the sugar house to see how the sap is boiled in the evaporator until it becomes thicker and develops that beautiful amber color. We learned that it takes 40 gallons of sap just to make 1 gallon of syrup! No wonder it's so expensive!
Sugar House

I probably don't have to tell you that I stopped by a farm on my way home to purchase some real maple syrup!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's a pain in my...everywhere!

Before I was ever diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I was very skeptical. We had a few friends who claimed they had Fibromyalgia, and I always told them, "It's all in your head. Just get over your whoa-is-me attitude, and you'll be fine." OK, so I never actually spoke those words to any of my friends, but I thought them. It's got to be God's sense of humor that I now suffer from the chronic syndrome I used to make fun of. I have to admit, though, that even as I have endured the many symptoms of Fibromyalgia, I have often wondered if these things aren't all in my head, a figment of my hypochondriac imagination.

That is until I read FibroWHYalgia by Susan E. Ingebretson. I'm thrilled to have come across this book because I finally feel validated. I am almost relieved to know that the things I have felt have not just been my overactive imagination, that I'm not, in fact, going crazy.

Not only do I feel validated, but I feel almost a comraderie with Ms. Ingebretson...she's someone who understands what it feels like to wake up almost every morning feeling like you've been pavement for a dozen mac trucks during the night; she knows about missing out on getting down on the floor to play with the kids because you know that when you try to get up again, you will feel like your body is going to break in a million pieces; how carrying a purse or camera slung over your shoulder for an hour can give you neck, back, and shoulder pain for weeks after; she knows what it's like to try to open those blasted save-the-planet smaller caps that top water bottles; she would probably even understand how a haircut can help alleviate headaches because just the weight of hair can cause pain; she understands why I'm cold all the time and why I have to change seats in church if anyone around me is wearing perfume.

These are all things I experience from day-to-day, usually with no rhyme or reason. I joke that I have a Pain of the Week - some joint or area of my body that hurts for no apparent reason, and the pain comes and then leaves very abruptly, also for no apparent reason. I truly, honestly thought I was somehow conjuring these pains up from my mind. It's good to know there are other people out there like me!

Ms. Ingebretson offers some great tips for fibrofolk, as she calls us, to work toward wellness. Of course, the two main areas she focuses on are nutrition and exercise. I'm grateful that I am already well down the road toward good nutrition and exercise: after all of my previous reading and documentary viewing, I have been eating a lot more healthfully, and I have been faithfully achieving my 10,000 steps per day. So hopefully I begin to see some positive changes in my health.

In the meantime, I desperately want my children to be healthier. They don't know this yet, but we are about to embark on a study of nutrition for science! I'm going to use Michael Pollan's kid version of The Omnivore's Dilemma and throw in lots of other fun science things like studies of food chains, cows, plants, dirt, and anatomy. Maybe I'll at least plant a seed (pun intended)!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hippy Chick

Today after church, I took the kids to a restaurant called Flatbread. As its name suggests, it serves flatbread pizzas. The menu is by no means extensive, but what I love about it is that it serves all-natural food: organic produce, freshly milled flour for its pizza crusts, nitrate-free pepperoni tops its pizzas, and free-range chicken stars in some of its dishes. The best thing? The kids love it!

While the kids have enjoyed take-out from Flatbread, they had never been inside before today. They were very impressed with the interior...the eclectic seating arrangements composed of tables, booths, picnic tables, and couches; the wood-burning oven; the tin cans turned lighting fixtures; and even the outhouse-like restrooms (outhouse by decor only!), which each of them checked out in turn. As Alex looked thoughtfully around, she noted, "This place is kind of hippy." Her comment was not critical in any way, just her observation.

I chuckled inside because that hippy label is a bit reflective of me at this moment. You see, I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks educating myself about food, especially the food here in America. I watched Food Inc. and Fresh, two documentaries about how food is handled in the US. As you can imagine, the focus is on the fact that food is so very processed here. In addition, I have been reading Michael Pollan who wrote both The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

I have not finished the latter title, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Omnivore's Dilemma. The only way I can describe this book is by calling it grippingly informative. And more than that, it gave me a greater appreciation for nature. Mr. Pollan clearly does not share my views on creation, but even so, all of the information in this book put me in absolute awe of God..His creation, its intricacies, and how everything works together so very perfectly! Additionally, this book lowered my ignorance about food so I can make much better decisions about feeding my family.

I have heard many people say they decided to stop eating meat after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. Totally not the point of the book! The point is that we need to make wiser choices in the meat we do choose to eat. Knowledge is power as they say. I think most of America is completely ignorant about the food they eat. Not ignorance by anyone's fault, really. The true information out there is hard to find. This book spells it out definitely, thoroughly, and in an interesting way.

Although I'm still processing all of this information as well as picking up additional information, one of the biggest things I have taken away so far is the importance of ensuring that the beef I buy for my family is from grass-fed cows. God created cows to eat grass, not the grain diet they are fed by big beef producers. If they are permitted to eat grass as God designed them to do, they will not get sick and thus they will not need the antibiotics the big meat producers must pump into them. And if they are permitted to eat grass as God designed them to do, their bodies will produce the nutrients that sustain them when they are alive and that are passed on to us when we enjoy a burger or a steak.

Now I won't go on and on about a cow. I have already been chastised by my oldest who rolled her eyes and asked me why I am suddenly so obsessed with the cow and its diet. I did convince her to go with me to a local store today which carries grass-fed beef. I'm thankful I live in a state where there are so many local farms and other outlets where I can pick up fresh and more healthful food.

Getting the food is only half the battle of course. If you know me, you know I am not on great terms with my kitchen. However, over the last few days the kitchen and I have become much more intimate. This takes a lot of time and is not easy! When the kids want a snack, instead of turning to that big red box of Cheez-Its, I have to make something for them (homemade Cheez-Its are actually very delicious!).

It's definitely an adjustment and one I'm trying to make slowly...for my own sanity and for the sake of the children. Although I do not regret never forcing them to eat something, I do regret not providing better choices for them. It's hard for them to see some of those processed choices disappear to be replaced by one of Mom's kitchen experiments. Naturally, their suspicions have decidedly risen as they wonder what healthy thing I have hidden in those crackers or where exactly that package of processed Oreos has disappeared to.

I hope eventually I am able to educate them about health. In the meantime, one big reason I want to head my family toward more healthful eating is to address my fibromyalgia. I have been experiencing a lot of aggravating pain, and I hope that a healthier diet and lifestyle will help alleviate some of that. I do not want to turn to any of the marketed drugs at the risk of any of those side effects (possible side effects include thoughts of suicide? No thank you!). More importantly, I want to protect my family from the myriad of ugly diseases out there, most of which can at least in part be traced back to a poor diet.

I want to get back to eating a little more like God intended us to eat (and thankfully, my personal chef loves to cook from scratch!), and if that makes me a granola girl or a hippy, I'm OK with that!