Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts

Monday, December 09, 2013

my pursuit of nursing: back to the books



I used to believe my life needed to be balanced. But for as long as I can recall, this goal has been difficult if not impossible to achieve. I remember days in graduate school where I would leave the house at 6am and not return until 10pm, and in that time I would have studied while I rode the train to the city, crammed down a quick breakfast at my pre-dawn desk, worked a full time job, raced to crew practice to coach nine lively 14-year-old girls, and attended night school. I laugh when I consider the load I had to tote with me--books, a change of clothes, and three meals!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

we are the FDA

Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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FDA Quotes

I steer clear of giving too much advice to new parents; what I know, they either won't understand or aren't ready to hear yet. Besides, being a mom for five years doesn't make me a parenting expert, and I am far too aware of the foibles I've made along the way to feel I would be any good at telling others what to do. There is an exception to this no-advice rule, and it's concerning the food and drug choices we make as parents. Here is the sum total of that advice: as a parent, you are the funnel by which all materials will reach your children. You are the screen, the poison detector, the regulation. In essence, YOU are the FDA.

One difficult truth I learned in public health graduate school is that the FDA is an agency under extreme political pressure to make profit-based rather than evidence-based decisions. The integrity of their decision-making process has come under scrutiny in recent years for good reasons. The FDA has repeatedly been accused of or directly confessed to succumbing to pressure by Congress, whose members are funded by big companies peddling myriad faulty products.

Note that this pressure isn't exerted by one political party or another; it is a problem that crosses the aisle. Even easier to demonstrate than the political pressure is the whacky organizational make-up of the agency where food is concerned. Let's take frozen pizza as an example; if you want inspection information about a frozen pepperoni pizza, you should seek out the USDA, but if you want the same information about a cheese pizza, go to the FDA. The same could be said about egg regulation, which this article cutely and aptly calls "scrambled."

The problems in FDA regulation aren't limited to processed food but rather extend to sunscreen (see EWG's July 2013 letter to the FDA here), cleaning products, produce, seafood, vitamins*--which the FDA doesn't currently regulate at all (see footnote about vitamins below)--etc. Problems aren't limited to the FDA either. There's bad news for other regulatory agencies as well. Take the FTC (please!), which regulates all advertising, including for children's and infant products, but chooses to provide less regulation and more frustrating "guidance."

A particularly frustrating example of this lack of adequate FTC regulation concerns infant formula. Back in the late 1980's, pediatricians were outraged at a change in formula advertising to direct-to consumer-as opposed to doctors; some pediatricians even went so far as to boycott formula companies. The AAP then and now recommends against direct-to-consumer advertising, but they wield no regulatory power, and even though other countries have banned the practice, the US (via the FTC) continues to allow it.

Why were pediatricians so up in arms? They knew what could (and did) happen; formula companies now manage the information you receive and lead women to believe failure to succeed at breastfeeding is normal and expected. The hazard boils down to this likelihood: if you don't do your own research to become educated, you know only what they want you to know. Perhaps more importantly, you don't know what they don't want you to know.

What all this evidence means, unfortunately, is that parents can't rely on the federal agencies** to protect us; we need to do our own research when making decisions about purchases, particularly when they are for our children. If you're looking for a place to do such parenting research, Environmental Working Group is a good place to start.

*Should you take a multivitamin? This Harvard School of Public Health website discusses the evidence both for and against synthetic supplemental vitamins.

**It's not all bad news at the federal agencies of health protection. The CDC does a fantastic job of relaying transparent and evidenced-based data to the public. I highly recommend checking out their website for child-related health and safety information.

Author's Note: This post was shared with Works for Me Wednesday.

***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)
  • Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of "strangers" and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
  • We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids' best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
  • You Can't Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
  • Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
  • Watersustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
  • Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
  • Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure AttatchmentGentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
  • Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
  • Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it's not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
  • Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she'll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
  • Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
  • Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child's safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
  • Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
  • Don't Touch That Baby!Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
  • Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
  • Letting Go of "No" and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
  • Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
  • Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
  • A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
  • Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she's not around.
  • Catchy PhrasingMomma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
  • Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
  • Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
  • I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase "be careful!"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?


French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):


Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?


Respect each other...and the food! 


Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.


No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.


No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.


Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.


I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?


the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

how babies are born: a conversation with my daughter

The worried look, caught on camera

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

Update (10/22/13): We've added a new favorite book to the library of sex education called It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends. It has illustrations of a bird and bee talking to each other on each page, which were cute and provided some comic relief for the material to keep the conversation light.

I was planning to write about preschool gender roles today. In fact, I had the post all ready to go on the submission deadline. That morning, my almost-five-year-old daughter actually began our first tough conversation. How's that for timing? Apropos to nothing, Genevieve turned to me with a furrowed brow at the breakfast table and said "I don't want to grow up! I want to stay a kid forever because William said that Mommies have their tummies cut open for the baby to come out. Is that how babies come out, Mommy?"

Before I get to my response, let's break down her announcement. My first reaction is "Oh, sad!" because at that time of the day, I hope for my child to ponder the best way to get more cereal on her spoon, not worry about the fate of her uterus in a few decades. My second reaction is "Thank goodness!" because I'm so happy she feels comfortable to bring up these subjects to me.

Without even a sip of coffee, I managed somehow to keep head firmly attached to shoulders. I calmly explained that first of all, having babies was not something she needed to worry about now because only grown-ups have babies. Then I told her that although some babies are cut out of their mother's womb (as I've discussed in the past, we use anatomically correct language), it's not how most babies are born. I told her that babies are usually born from a mother's vagina, and it's usually a wonderful and happy day when it happens.

She looked a tiny bit less frightened. Then I asked her if she had any more questions. Boy, did she ever.

"Yes," she replied firmly. "Sometimes I feel a rumbling in my tummy. Is that a baby floating around?"

Oh, sad! No, I reminded her, only grown-ups have babies in their wombs. Clearly we needed to go over digestion again, so I began telling her all about how food is broken down for nutrients in the stomach, and waste travels through the intestines to become poop. Her eyes widened and her expression softened to one of curiosity and wonder. Mommy was talking about poop! She had lots of questions about how poop is made and the reason we sometimes have gas (admittedly we call gas a "toot").

From this experience, I take away the importance of follow-up questions and making sure I understand why she wants to know the information and that she understood my responses. My daughter is almost five, and next year she'll be in kindergarten, so I know there are more talks to come before that first day of school. I want her to know she can always come to me when she has questions about how her body works or if kids at school tell her information she doesn't think is correct or feels needs clarification.

Later that day, I went to the library and picked up a few books that have started and continued quite a few discussions about the human body this week. To my surprise, she will sit through an entire lengthy book on the subject! This proud mama looks forward to the many more conversations to come.

In case you'd like to pick up some books, here are the ones we've read so far and liked:


Above all, I want Vivi to be excited about how amazing her body really is and hopefully never rarely embarrassed by her bodily functions. Her question was a good reminder to me that once is not enough for a discussion about her body. We're never going to sit down and have THE TALK because I plan to have many age-appropriate talks over her childhood. I consider this conversation a doorway to a new beginning for us.

Have you had "the talk" with your preschooler? What can you share about the experience?


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on making our own lard

{Secondary/Alternate Title: Yes, We are Those People}

My plan was to publish a post today about pocket meat pies. That post will need to wait a day because to make a meat pie, you need a sturdy savory crust. I believe that crust should start with one surprising but important ingredient: lard. I've gotten on my lard soap box before, so rather than beat it to death, I'll simplify the conversation today and boil it down--so to speak (hardy har)--to a few quick paragraphs.

Why lard?

In the middle of the last century, well-meaning scientists told us saturated-fat-containing ingredients like lard caused heart disease, and law-abiding citizens ran fleeing from it. Since then, we've learned that the replacements for lard--like vegetable shortening--contain trans fats, which are much worse for you than saturated fat. Not only that, but lard also contains monounsaturated fat that is necessary for brain function. Even leaving health out of the discussion for a moment, I am sold on the idea of lard because I am a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking. Hence, we actually eat tail from time to time.

In a nutshell, lard is not your enemy, and the people who want you to go on believing it is have ulterior motives.  Set aside what you think you know, do your research, and make your own decision.

Where can you buy lard? 

To make lard, you need to get your hands on pork kidney fat called leaf lard. The reason you want leaf lard is that you can render it into a neutral fat that doesn't taste of pork, assuming you cooked it low and slow enough. I'll get to that part in a minute. We get our leaf lard for a $1/pound from a cooler at our monthly meat CSA. If you don't have a CSA, I bet you can strike up a deal with any pork seller at your local farmer's market if you're friendly. Heck, you might even be able to get it already rendered from your butcher if you're lucky.

Remember how I said I was going to start saying yes to ideas, even if they sounded scary or impossible? Ahem. To be frank, the rendering process is not as pleasant as I'd like it to be. But then, with a process called "rendering fat," did you expect it to be pleasant? For one thing, it's messy, in that "fat gets on things and won't come off things" way. For another thing, it doesn't look good. Mine wasn't even photographable. For a third thing, it's smelly. Not "I'm frying up some bacon" good smelly, but "I've been working in the kitchen of a 24-hour diner" bad smelly. I advise you to make a giant batch in one day, then hang on to it in your freezer for the next six months. Let it be a warm enough day that you can crack a window--for us, that's around 40 degF, but our standards are influenced by the chilly Beantown climate.


Nourished Kitchen
Image credit: Nourished Kitchen

How do you render lard?

Now that we've gotten the purchasing and caveats out of the way, let's get down to cooking. The actual directions couldn't be much simpler, so rather than reinvent the wheel I'm connecting to blogs that have already written them. If you are making a batch of savory lard and you don't mind a slight porky flavor--in fact, you might even be going for that--you can make it in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. If you want it for sweet pie crust and don't want it to taste like pork at all, then you should probably make it in a slow cooker. For either method, you'll want to start by chopping the fat into small pieces (Note: if you're getting it from the butcher, you can ask to have it ground, or you can do the grinding yourself if you have one of those sausage attachments on your stand mixer).

Here again are links to the two methods:

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the fruits of our labor and discuss delectable meat pies. I promise it will all be worth the stinky effort.


Author's Note: This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Tasty Traditions, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

rebuilding your gut & immune system after antibiotics

IMPORTANT: Please do not put your children on Miralax to prevent or treat constipation. PEG (Polyethylene Glycol), the active ingredient in it, has been reported by FDA to cause neuropsychiatric episodes. Read this article for more information.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or nutrition expert, so please use your own judgment when making decisions about your health.

When the girls were prescribed antibiotics last month for complications from upper respiratory infections (Charlie also had conjunctivitis. They were a mess!), our pediatrician was surprised at the lack of antibiotics (or medical chart at all) in their history. To be honest, at the time I was disappointed they needed antibiotics; note this article in the journal Pediatrics that discusses over-prescription of antibiotics for upper respiratory infections. I was hoping it would be asthmatic bronchitis (viral) that we could treat with rest, NSAIDs, and/or steroid inhalers.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

on street children and how we CAN help

God bless them for still being able to smile. I wish I could hug them now, those men
they have become, and tell them how proud I am that they made it to the other side.
I can only pray they did make it. (circa 2002)

Today I'm sharing a topic near to my heart. There are orphaned children all over the world, so you could say this post centers upon the plight of all parentless children. I'm focusing particularly on African countries and the organizations that assist their children because I feel a special connection to them. It all began when I was in my early twenties and traveled to Kenya twice; the trips changed the direction of my life and my career goals. Stick with my lengthy introduction, as I will eventually arrive at the point.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

a loaded tootsie: on kids and food bribes

Vivi marched in the door of her school yesterday proudly holding in two hands a sheet of homework--her very first, a page full of scribbled As--and gave it to her teacher, announcing "I get a prize now!" The prize would come at the end of class. I spent the three hours away from her occasionally pondering what the treat could be, and I found myself saying "Please let it not be candy." Upon picking her up I learned the prize was, of course, a tootsie pop. Greaaaat.

Monday, September 17, 2012

first week of pre-k done!

prek3
Yup, this was as good as it got that day. Some days aren't picture days.

Genevieve LOVES pre-k. I knew she would, we all did, but she enjoys herself even more than I could have imagined. The girl likes to keep on a schedule. Me thinks my little type-A go-getter was getting more than slightly antsy staying home with my "I dunno, what do you want to do today?" summer mommy routine. Even though I figured her attention-seeking behavior was partly to blame on our schedule-less summer, I couldn't have predicted how quickly she would bounce back into normal behavior when offered a bit of structure. Duly noted for future school breaks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

who's afraid of the big bad germs?

Image credit: Prevention article about air freshener

Newsflash: Antibacterial soaps are bad, and public toilet seats are cleaner than your kitchen sponge!!

I'll never forget the first time I heard that antibacterial soap might not be the wonder cleaning cure it's touted to be. I was a freshman in college, and my new boyfriend was learning about the subject in his microbiology class. It occurs to me college freshmen must be the primary target group for changing beliefs and attitudes because I only vaguely remember feeling momentarily taken aback about the news, and then I quickly accepted it and moved on.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

{guest post}: four ideas for vocabulary-building projects and games


I am thrilled to have a guest post today by a talented language educator. The hubster and I both love language--vocabulary, foreign languages, etymology, you name it--and it is important to us that our children study language arts. Because we firmly believe language teaching begins at home, I've been looking for creative ways to add vocabulary-building to our daily activities. Enter Lily and her fabulous post! Be sure to read to the bottom so you can see her bio and website.

p.s. I must add that the "dictionary game" Lily describes below (known to some as Balderdash) is our favorite adult game at my mom's famous Christmas Eve party. The rivalry and ribbing are second to none, so only serious competitors need apply. 
***


vocabulary


Friday, July 20, 2012

guest post at {carrots are orange}: fingerpainting in the tub!

I hope you'll join me over at Marnie's fabulous blog, Carrots are Orange, for my post about a Montessori-inspired sensory play activity you can do with your young kids. It's great for a rainy day...or any day really. It's the best way I know to get my kids to agree to take a bath, next to bubbles. We paint, and then we bathe and wash it away.

DSC_0007-2

p.s. Please disregard the ugly bathroom tile. It's a rental!

Monday, July 16, 2012

parenting tip: simple self-esteem building tricks

3 Ways to Build Self Esteem

When it comes to teaching my kids about reading, real food/healthy eating, and the joys of playing in their natural environment, I am like a duck to water. I am supremely confident in my ability to convey my love of these subjects in a way that will instill a lasting passion in my kids too. However, when I was asked to write about how I let my children's confidence shine, I struggled at first about how to put my actions into words. Building my kids' self-esteem has been a tougher parenting task for me. Click here to read more!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

jewel weed: natural poison ivy treatment




I have been using jewel weed to treat poison ivy since I was a child. I learned about the plant at summer camp as a Native American folk remedy, and it quickly became one of my favorite plants to identify because of its tell-tale leaves that look silver when placed in water.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

back to basics

Welcome to the June 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Green Living
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we find ways to be more natural parents and stewards of the environment. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
***

A few months ago I wrote about my switch to the "no poo" method of washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. In case you didn't read it or my updates, I still love it and have never looked back. My hair is shiny, less greasy, and never has tangles. I also wash the girls' hair in baking soda, and when combined with Vivi's pixie hair cut, I basically never need to brush her hair. It's like magic!

Using more natural personal care products has motivated me to find other green and natural uses for these magical kitchen items that previously took a back seat on the shelf. Prior to having kids, my method of being "green" was to buy Seventh Generation and leave it at that. But once I started delving deeper into the types of products I use, I realized you can go so much further toward sustainable, earth-friendly methods of cleaning without even needing to purchase new items. A little know-how goes a long way.

Just in time for my desire to learn, I stayed with my grandmother for a week, and she gave me some great tips. My great grandmother used to work at a professional laundry service, and as a result, she passed along some wonderful cleaning advice. For instance, did you know the "treat animal with animal" stain trick? If you soak blood stains overnight in milk, they come right out!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

summer camp part two: animal care with kids


Thank you to LeapFrog for sponsoring my post about LeapFrog Summer Camp. To sign up for LeapFrog Summer Camp, please click here. #CleverLFCamp #spon 

Hello from Dixie! We are enjoying our long summer vacation so far. Our southerly trip is action-packed, but with lots of traveling in cars from different locations mixed in, there is plenty of downtime in which I need some form of entertainment for the girls. Click here to read more about my summer camp activities with Leap Frog!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

planning for big-kid school: the good, bad, and ugly

Hello friends!
It is so refreshing to be with family on a trip. Now that school's out, we are officially in summer mode, with lots of flip flops and sundresses and sticky peaches. But soon enough, we'll be back in school mode, and I'll have a big kid in pre-K. Know what that means? This time next year I'll have a rising kindergartner! Oh my goodness, y'all. I swear it was just yesterday that I was years away from having to think about all this stuff. Public or private? Montessori, Waldorf, or traditional? Pack lunch or buy it? Walk or drive?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

getting our learn on this summer


 Thank you to LeapFrog for sponsoring my post about LeapFrog Summer Camp. To sign up for LeapFrog Summer Camp, please click here. #CleverLFCamp #spon

Remember back at the start of the year when I told y'all about Vivi's computer game (aka. that time I figured out a way to have a few minutes of night cheesing while Vivi is still awake)? Well, Vivi still loves her computer, but I'm also looking for ways to entertain her this summer that are educational but don't necessarily require a computer screen. That's where LeapFrog comes in! Read more about their summer camp here!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

word nerd alert

Sometimes I read Wikipedia for fun. Even if I know the meaning of a word like haiku, I'll look at what Wikipedia has to say on the subject and end up trolling the sub-links until I inevitably learn something somewhere.

Yes, I am a word nerd.

When people ask me how I can manage not to watch TV, I consider telling them I'm a Wikipedia troll, but then I reconsider and say "I read lots of books and magazines." I do that too, but often instead of reading my stack, I'm learning about synecdoche*, which incidentally has a great Wikipedia entry with somewhat hilarious examples (e.g. "Prominently used in slang and vulgar speech, where a person's home is referred to as his 'crib' or the entire person is referred to by his/her genitalia").

Monday, April 16, 2012

Earth Day resist painting

I invited some fabulous bloggers--and fellow home rangers--to write guest posts on The Lone Home Ranger for this entire week during Vivi's Spring Break (called "April Vacation" in Beantown). These lovely ladies will be bringing you features focused on healthy, natural, and simple living. Enjoy!


Today's post comes from Marnie Craycroft. Be sure to read through to the bottom of the post to see her bio and link to her blog, Carrots are Orange.
***

We fell in love with resist painting this past fall working on Letters then again for Valentine's Day. The best part about resist painting is that your kids get a great sensory experience and get to be messy! In the end, the result always seems to be beautiful.

 Here is how we created an Earth resist painting.

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