A Growing Wise Kids Column
Being a parent is the most fulfilling, rewarding and sometimes frustrating job on the planet. While the smiles, giggles, cuddles and outrageous quips can far outweigh the more challenging moments of child rearing, adding on daily traditional food prep can be downright mind blowing!
The decision to expand your family is a daunting one, but what I can tell you is that for my family, it has been our best decision. Many of you with busy families may be asking, what are some ways to streamline? Is there any advice for those considering a larger family? Can I maintain my high food standards with more children? What follows are some lessons that I have learned from my short journey.
The Transition from One to Two
My husband, son Tate, and I were a happy family of three, going with the flow in our daily routine of enjoying whole food meals, outdoor adventures and being with each other. While my husband and I always knew we wanted a family, we never defined the exact size, and since we are blessed by growing our family through adoption, a little more thought goes into the “growing” process. But the time had come to take the plunge.
The first thing I did was to seek counsel from friends with multiple children. I asked, “How in the world am I going to have time for another baby? One takes up so much energy already!” My friend Donna, mother of six and a follower of Weston A. Price principles, said something that made all my questions fade away. She said, “The more children you have the more you grow!” She reminded me that having more children chips away at our selfish tendencies and everything just all falls into place.
So in January of 2008, we welcomed home our second son, Chase, the cutest doll-face we ever laid eyes on. Now looking back, I think, “What in the world was I worried about?” These two beautiful treasures bless myself and my husband daily. Now I can see that having children is a surefire way to help us as parents become our best possible selves. Children teach us to loosen up, view the world with awe, give of ourselves in ways we never thought possible and to practice patience. . . over and over and over again.
As did our first son, Chase is also growing healthy and strong on the milk-based formula detailed in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. The preparation and additions I made to the formula changed a smidge since my description found in the FAQs on Homemade Baby Formula article (westonaprice.org/children/formula-faqs. html) published close to four years ago. See my new process on page 66 for those of you making this “miracle milk” for your little ones.
Streamlining Myself for Number Two
One of the best things I discovered about the second time around is that I am much more relaxed. With our first, everything was new. Looking back, I find I was anxious about almost every detail with raising our first baby. But with number two, it has been like riding a bike after a long hiatus. It comes back quickly and it feels as though I can fully embrace the preciousness of cuddling my new baby who smells like heaven, without this little voice in the back of my mind wondering whether I should be doing something differently.
Also, things don’t bother me as much. Big deal if the dog licks the baby’s face or he is on a floor that hasn’t had its daily sweep—keeping things too clean is not good for their immune strength anyway (see sidebar Go Easy on the Cleaning).
The bottom line is: children are small for such a short time and pretty resilient and forgiving. I am reminded of this daily as my fouryear-old becomes more of a little boy and less of a preschooler. Savor each moment; it truly will be over before you know it!
Streamlining in the Kitchen
Home life becomes a little more hectic with more children, and kitchen time is definitely reduced. Yet, every bite of food is still an investment in our family’s health. So once I knew Chase was coming, the first step I took to help prepare myself for less kitchen time was to create a binder of our favorite quick meals.
There are four sections—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks/treats. Each section has ten or fewer recipes: my no-fail, everyone-loves, large batch, quick recipes (well…as quick as cooking from scratch can be).
Then I set my sights on filling my freezer with as many pre-made goods as possible—properly prepared cereals, breads and soups. I also stocked up on the non-perishable supplies for our favorite dinners so I would not have to travel to the store for more than fresh produce for a while. I made extra items, like ketchup, and actually purchased a few products that I decided to take off my homemade list for a few months, such as mayo (Wilderness Family Naturals, www.wildernessfamilynaturals.com, has a wonderful soy-free, coconut oil-based product) and sauerkraut (Rejuvenative Foods has a yummy line of raw fermented products).
I kept up with the traditional food basics. For example, I continued to serve a raw animal food at each meal. The easiest and most nourishing of these is raw milk (cultured is terrific) from pasture-raised cows or goats. We remained faithful to our daily dose of cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil, which keeps the family’s nutritional baseline in check and offers stellar infection protection.
Every morning I served a hardy breakfast, but I simplified things a bit. I soaked a double batch of oatmeal that I re-heated for several days. Not that soaking oatmeal at night is difficult, but the point was to eliminate a few things from my to-do list that might just make my brain less full of “stuff,” which is especially useful when I am running on sleep-fumes. On egg-veggie scramble day, I tripled the amount and we ate it reheated for two or three days wrapped up in a tortilla with a few slices of cheese tossed in.
When you have two minutes of “spare” time in the kitchen, use it to get things started for the next meal. This might mean taking out the pot you need to warm the leftover soup or chopping a few onions and carrots for the next meal. Knocking off even just a few steps to an evening meal can sometimes mean the difference between a relaxed kitchen experience and hair-raising craziness.
What is your family’s favorite fermented or cultured food? Is it ginger carrots or apple butter? Maybe water kefir? Whatever it is, make a large amount before baby arrives or make it a priority to maintain just that one process during these busy days so you can include it with at least one meal a day.
Organ meats were still on my menu and below you will find one of my fast favorites— Carrot Hash—which makes a decent amount to last a few meals.
Finally, if you are going to have Dad stop off to pick up dinner on his way home, make it somewhere that uses fresh ingredients, such as Chipotle or the deli at the local health food shop. And if on one of your more frazzled days you end up throwing together almond butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, do it with a guilt-free conscience; just try your best to get something raw and fermented into everyone’s mouth before the meal is over and let it go!
Streamlining Family Life
Cooking nourishing meals, making formula every day, and keeping up with the bare minimum of house maintenance is trying at times. But the best piece of advice I can give moms and dads is to be present! Find a way to have one parent stay home with your little ones. Of course, there are circumstances that make this impossible for some, who, I am sure are doing their best by their children. But if there is a way, it is worth every second. Not only will your kids benefit from hanging out more with their totally hip mom or dad, but living a traditional food lifestyle, I believe, ideally requires more time than can be allotted with both parents working or staying too busy outside the home.
To me, living a traditional food lifestyle goes beyond buying the right foods or having the best cookware; it also involves a way of life, an attitude about connection, family identity and community. By no means am I a philosopher, but I would venture to say that when Weston A. Price said, “. . . man’s place is most exalted when he obeys Mother Nature’s laws,” he was speaking about more than dietary choices.
When I get too busy with commitments and out-of-the-house responsibilities, it has a negative impact on our family togetherness and meal quality. I am more frazzled and worn-out if I am gone all day and driving all over town doing this or that, so I have streamlined. For me, keeping life simple means very few activities outside the home. This allows me enough time to have the brain power to think about the next meal, scan some interesting articles about cooking and parenting after we have pored through the boys’ top-ten read-aloud picture books, or take a spin around the train track. I have also become quite the savvy Internet shopper to reduce my travel time and get some extra girl-time in through bulk purchasing with friends.
Living the traditional food lifestyle also includes growing and raising our own food, not only to save money and trips to the store, but also to bring our family closer to the source. It allows children to water the ground that will grow an eagerly anticipated vine-ripened tomato or experience the excitement of finding a freshly laid egg in a nesting box. We have eight backyard chickens (see my article titled Eat Your Eggs and Have Your Chickens, Too! from the Summer 2008 Wise Traditions) and just started our first raised garden bed (gardening at just shy of 8,000 feet above sea level has been intimidating). These grounding, life-sustaining home projects take time, but it is time well spent.
Are there some non-food areas you can streamline? Let’s say you are a nut about keeping a clean house. Perhaps as a baby gift to yourself (or a collection taken from those wanting to give gifts), hire house cleaning help once a month for the first year after you bring baby home, or ask parents to chip in for the cost as their gift to the baby.
Is ironing your husband’s work shirts not on your list of most favorite activities? Maybe take a friend up on her offer to help and send over some shirts to be ironed, or make a trade with someone with a casserole you can easily double up in the oven or perhaps with eggs from your backyard flock. Find those small things that you might be able to let go for a while, just until you find your groove with food preparation and your new time budget.
I leave you with a story I came across a while back. A grandmother on a farm prepared the meals for her family. Just before the food was ready to be cooked or baked, Grandma would take a container out of the cupboard, open the lid and put a pinch of what was in the container into every dish she made. When she died, her family went through the cupboard. And when they found the container, they looked inside. It was empty—except for the word love, which they found written on a piece of paper.1
Chills run down my spine every time I read that story because I am reminded of the kind of mom I want to be. Putting love, purposefulness and conscious attention into my family life and meal preparations will truly make a difference, but having the time and brain power to do it is often the trickiest part. Believe me, it can be done…some days are easier than others, but it is possible.
So for all of you readers out there contemplating the possibility of increasing the size of your family, I highly recommend it! What better family than one such as yours that is striving to live this authentic, enriching life! As for me and mine, is there another sweet blessing from above in our future? Definitely!
2 cups sausage meat
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups small pieces liver (milder-tasting chicken livers work well)
1 1/2 cups finely diced carrots
1 cup chopped potatoes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cook sausage meat in heavy skillet. Remove from pan and cook onions in same fat until golden. Strain fat, return 2 tablespoons to the pan and add butter. With cover on skillet, slowly cook liver and carrots together, along with optional potatoes. When the carrots are soft, return the sausage and onions to the pan and add the seasonings. Cook until brown and crusty. Serve with a big spoonful of homemade sauerkraut and hot sauce (for those who can take it). Recipe found in The Best Shaker Cooking by Amy Bess Miller and Persis Fuller. Note: leftovers are tasty mixed into egg scramble.
My Baby-Formula-Making Process
When making the formula for baby number one, I had different resources available to me (see my process for baby number one on the Homemade Baby Formula Testimonials Page). This time around I changed things a bit with the formula; here is what I did:
- Added colostrum (approximately 2 tablespoons liquid or 1/2 teaspoon powder) up to about 6 months of age (length of time is arbitrary, it really is up to you).
- Added about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon butter oil.
- Replaced approximately 1/2 cup milk with dairy kefir to give it a bit of a probiotic-boost and introduce the tart taste to baby.
- Replaced barley water for some of the water in the formula during teething time—I froze it into ice cubes and added it to the water/lactose/gelatin mixture while it was cooling. (See the article titled Questions and Answers on Kids and Traditional Foods from Wise Traditions Fall 2008 for more on barley water and teething.)
I didn’t freeze the whey or cream this go-around. I made my own whey from kefir, which stays fresh in the fridge for up to six months, and my new farmer consistently has cream. Below is my general process that has worked wonderfully for me and Chase.
Fill a measuring cup with 2 cups water and scoop out 2 tablespoons (which leaves 1 7/8 cups). Pour half the water in a pot on the stove top on medium low heat and add the gelatin and lactose. Stir until dissolved. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a large mixing glass container (8-cup glass Pyrex works well) or right into a blender with measuring markers and add the remaining ingredients (oils, whey, powders, etc) except the coconut oil. Once the water/lactose/gelatin mixture is dissolved, pour in the rest of the water to cool it off a bit (and barley water cubes if using). Then add the coconut oil and allow it to melt completely. Pour the dissolved water/lactose/gelatin/coconut oil mixture into the glass container or blender with milk. Blend everything for about 3 seconds. I find that if I do not blend the formula the oils do not distribute evenly.
Then I pour the formula either into glass bottles (cap off) or a large canning jar and place them in the fridge. Once I take a bottle out of the fridge or pour a new bottle from my well-shaken jar of formula, I use a bottle steamer unit to take the chill off and melt the coconut oil enough so that it blends back in thoroughly.
Raw Milk Formula at Nighttime and for Traveling
For those first few months of nighttime feedings, here is a way to make it quick, easy and quiet. Keep all your nighttime bottles in a lunch-style cooler with some freezer blocks to keep them nice and cold. Before hitting the hay, plug in a small crock pot with water that will stay on all night. Before feeding baby, pop a bottle into the hot water for just a minute to take the chill off and melt the oils before feeding baby those middle-of-the-night bottles. This method has the additional advantage of eliminating the annoying beep of a bottle warmer.
As for traveling, while it is ideal to make the formula fresh daily and use it straight from the fridge, there are times when that isn’t possible. I travel with the formula out of the house and in the diaper bag for hours without worry. I just take the chill off to melt the oils in my bottle warmer and put it in an insulated carrier to keep the temperature as constant as possible. Remember, raw milk doesn’t go “bad” it just becomes sour, so the formula will be safe for baby to drink even if has been out for a while. When traveling overnight, I make a double batch, stock up a cooler with lots of ice and make sure I am going to a location with refrigeration. For longer vacations, I would make the choice to drive and bring the needed ingredients and either bring extra milk (freezing some on arrival to keep it fresh for later batches) or seek out raw milk at my destination by searching on www.realmilk.org or contacting the local WAPF chapter leader.
Go Easy on the Cleaning
Not that I am a horrible housekeeper, but given the choice, I will gladly forgo dusting when there are things to do in the kitchen. And there is proof that my preference is healthier for my children, too! Compared to a generation ago, allergic symptoms in general are much more commonplace today. We are seeing more environmental allergies, food allergies and conditions such as asthma, eczema and hay fever.2 But why?
The “hygiene hypothesis” is the best idea to date and has to do with a child’s exposures during his first few years of life. The immune system is designed to identify and handle invading germs; however, if things are “too clean,” the immune system in effect “re-sets” itself so that it is more likely to react abnormally to otherwise innocent substances in the environment and diet.3 What this means is that when a baby’s immune system is not properly trained to become resistant, some immune cells are more likely to misbehave and turn their attention to harmless proteins and common substances in the environment.
The dangers of being overly clean are confirmed with children and pets. Children living on farms and exposed to animal germs have a lower prevalence of allergies compared to those in the city.4 Similarly, many children exposed to dogs and cats early in life tend to have fewer allergic conditions than those without pets in the home.5
One last “germ” theory has to do with the good bacteria called probiotics that reside in our intestinal tract. A recent study published in The Archives of Disease in Children saw significant improvements in a group of 18-month-old, eczemaaffected babies given probiotics.6 Eczema is closely connected with allergies. The researchers believe the improvement was due, at least in part, to the probiotics “re-training” the children’s immune systems. Not only do people tend to consume too few probiotic-rich foods—yogurt, kefir, raw cultured vegetables—but many common lifestyle habits destroy our vital intestinal bacterial ecosystem, such as the consumption of sugars and refined foods, use of oral antibiotics or ingesting them second-hand through animal products, and the intake of pesticides and other chemicals found in our foods and water supply.
- Kesten, Deborah. Feeding the Body Nourishing the Soul: Essentials of Eating for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being. Conari Press, 1997.
- Sicherer, Scott, M.D. The Complete Peanut Allergy Handbook. Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Child from the Most Deadly Food Allergy. Berkley Books, New York. 2005. p. 8.
- Young, Michael, M.D. The Peanut Allergy Answer Book. 2nd. edition. Fair Winds Press, Gloucester, Mass. 2006. p. 46.
- Von Ehrenstein OS, Von Mutius E, Illi S, Baumann L, Bohm O, von Kries R. Reduced risk of hay fever and asthma among children of farmers. (Germany) Clin Exp Allergy 2000;30:187-93.
- Ownby DR, Johnson CC, Peterson EL. Exposure to dogs and cats in the first year of life and risk of allergic sensitization at 6 to 7 years of age. JAMA. 2002 Aug 28;288(8):963-72.
- Weston S et al. Effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child 2005;90:892- 897.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2008.