Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Baby on the way!

Regular readers will not be shocked to hear that we are expecting another little one! :) This makes Baby #10 on earth - double digits! 

 Nine week ultrasound - yes, there's only one!


I am currently 12 weeks pregnant, with a due date of mid-January 2018. That will make five babies in my 20s, and five babies in my 30s. Who knows what my 40s will bring?!?

Anna's 'family'


Now for the million-dollar question: How am I feeling? In a word: fantastic! This has been my best pregnancy by far. It has only taken me almost two decades to figure out how to overcome hyperemesis! I will do a detailed blog post on what new improvements I have discovered this time around.




And now for a fun little fact that was entirely unique about this pregnancy: I did not know I was pregnant until I was almost 8 weeks along! (TMI coming, so stop reading now if you don't want to know) When I was 4 weeks pregnant, for the first time ever in 15 pregnancies (five of which ended in miscarriage), I had a cycle after becoming pregnant, at the exact time that cycle would normally have been due. It was a little lighter and a day shorter than a normal cycle, but I thought nothing of that because the difference was so minor and I was still nursing Chloe every few hours. Just before my next cycle was due, I had a few days of nausea that felt an awful lot like morning sickness. I took a cheap little Dollar Tree test in the middle of the afternoon a few days shy of 'being late'. Normally, only the super sensitive early pregnancy tests show up for me, if taken first thing in the morning, after I am a couple of days or more late. The fact that this cheap test, taken in the afternoon, days early, came back BRIGHT and BOLD positive was a first for me. Plus, my morning sickness does not start quite that early. I knew this could only mean that 1. there was more than one baby in there, or 2. I was farther along than I thought. It was at this point that I remembered my previous, lighter than usual cycle and the penny dropped. I did go for an ultrasound the following week just to make sure of dates and rule out multiplicity, both of which it did. 



In spite of having done it so many times, pregnancy is still not my cup of tea. Being four weeks further along than I usually am when I found out was a huge bonus, because I find every day of being pregnant a chore. Babies are a blessing, no doubt about that, but I think pregnancy and birth are part of the curse. It's definitely not the wonderful, magical time my romantic brain imagined it to be as a child. With this pregnancy being so much better in regards to nausea, I actually did for the first time ever almost enjoy the first trimester. I only felt despondent for one day, when nausea and fatigue coincided with a day that my little people were all sick and throwing up. In bed. In the middle of the night. Yeah, that was rough... Thankfully, my big boys volunteered to do all the cleanup and laundry the next morning.

I was able to stay active and go bike riding with my husband many evenings. I was able to eat sensibly and healthy and only gained a couple of lbs during this time, compared to the typical 15 lbs in the first trimester alone as the only way to stave off nausea in previous pregnancies was to munch on something non-stop. I was down to being within 6 lbs of my Weight Watchers free lifetime weight when I found out I was pregnant, and no longer allowed to go to the meetings (they do not allow pregnant members). Needless to say, I didn't want to undo much of my hard-earned progress in a matter of weeks. 

Size M maternity clothes for the first time since my first pregnancy? - Yes please!


The other kids are excited. They could hardly keep from spilling the beans to their friends before we were ready to announce it. 


Cute little Boaz in church

Enjoying some cereal on the sofa with me on a particularly tired day. 



I'm hoping for a little sister for Chloe. It would also settle the score of five boys and girls each. Plus little girls are just the sweetest!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Whole grains, phytic acid, and cavities

Ever since our oldest, Solomon, was born and then started eating solids about 15 years ago, I have been on a quest to learn about natural health and about how to feed our family the healthiest way possible.

I say 'quest' because sifting through all the information, much of it contradictory, is nothing short of a search for the Holy Grail.

Thankfully, with the Bible as our guide, many healthy eating fads can be dismissed out-of-hand, such as (but not limited to):

- being a vegetarian, vegan, or fruitarian
- vilifying butter, salt, natural sweeteners, and/or dairy products,
- eating only 'raw
- eating low-carb ('paleo' or Atkins)

etc.


I am not saying it is sinful to eat in any of the aforementioned ways. In fact, some medical conditions could be bettered by temporarily switching to a radically different and restricted way of eating. For instance, an obese person would do well to cut back on their fat and dairy consumption for a season for the benefit of losing weight. Cancer cells and gall/kidney stones can be reduced or sometimes even eliminated through a radical juice fast that is all raw and vegetarian.

However, this blog post deals with everyday eating for healthy people, not temporary restrictive diets that address an acute illness.

So let's talk about a sustainable, long-term diet that the average person living today can follow and be healthy, because let's face it - nobody wants you to come to the family holiday gathering and bring your special 'kale and kelp brownies sweetened with nothing but love'.

One of the big things that has been pushed for the last 30 years or so is whole grains and the critical part they supposedly play in a healthy, balanced diet. We're talking whole wheat bread products as opposed to 'white', rolled or steel-cut oats vs. quick, brown rice vs. white, etc.



In America, well over 90% of all bread products are made from wheat. When I say 'wheat', I mean the grain called wheat. Some people refer to all whole wheat products as 'wheat', and to all bread products made from all-purpose white flour as 'white' - as in, "Do you want that on wheat bread or white?' Since both whole wheat flour as well as all-purpose flour are made from wheat, saying 'wheat vs. white' is a confusing and silly distinction.

The difference between the two is that whole wheat flour is made from the entire wheat kernel and contains the hull and endosperm, whereas white flour has been stripped of anything but the starchy part of the wheat kernel.

The health benefits to using the whole kernel are:

1. added fiber: Whole wheat retains all the fiber that is found in the hull. Fiber is important to help buffer the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar, keeps us fuller longer, and helps keep us regular and in good gut health because this roughage both retains water, as well as 'scrubs' the GI tract from the inside.

2. vitamins and minerals: Whole wheat contains 23 vitamins and minerals that are no longer present when only the white starchy part is made into all-purpose flour. This is why all purpose flour is often 'enriched' with various B vitamins.

However, one fact that is virtually never mentioned is that whole wheat and in fact all whole grains (like oats, barley, rye, rice, etc.) also contain high levels of phytic acid.


These are listed in alphabetical order, not by greatest to least amount. Notice how high the % amounts of phytic acid are for the bran (whole grain) parts of wheat and rice, staples in most American diets.


Phytic acid, while naturally occurring, is an anti-nutrient, which means it robs our bodies of nutrients. It has rather devastating effects on bone health. In order for our bodies to rid themselves of phytic acid, it must bind to other minerals, most notably calcium and magnesium. Often, for lack of these nutrients in our diet, our bodies will draw these minerals from our teeth and bones.

This is very similar to the way phosphoric acid in sodas leech minerals from our bones and cause osteoporosis, a well-accepted and long-known fact. Phytic acid basically does the same.

There are ways to drastically reduce the amount of phytic acid in grains, nuts, and legumes. They are what I call the '3 S's':

- soaking
- sprouting
- souring



In this blog post, I am predominantly talking about whole grains, because they contain far higher levels of phytic acid than legumes and nuts. I do soak legumes overnight before cooking or use canned (which are soaked), and we don't eat a lot of nuts, so those are non-issues for us. The human body is designed to withstand a certain amount of junk coming in. Problems arise when junk is coming in faster than the 'funnel' of the human body can handle. 

The cooking methods of centuries past reflect the need for these traditional practices. Grains were often soaked repeatedly and for extended periods of time, not just in plain water but whey or vinegar (both of which are fermented as thus also address the 'souring' aspect). After the grains were soaked, dried, and made into flour, they were leavened by being made into sourdough, as modern leavening agents like quick yeast and baking powder had not been invented yet, which likewise breaks down phytic acid.

In spite of all these efforts, all throughout history, cultures who depended heavily on grains for nutrition have had poor bone health, whereas cultures that lived predominantly on meats and fats (like the Inuit and Mongolians) had excellent teeth and bones.

Before cutting out whole grains, I was not just making everything from whole wheat, I was even grinding my own wheat fresh right before baking. Grinding wheat fresh maintains all its nutrients, many of which lose their potency after being milled. I am guessing that the phytic acid in freshly milled flour is likewise more potent than that in 'stale' flour.  On the other hand, I had switched to using all sourdough leavened products for years. While this was great for gut health, it did not stop the cavities. It seems souring alone was not enough to break down the harmful levels of phytic acid. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If I lived in a time and day when the availability of foods is severely limited, fresh produce was hard to come by due to climate, and all that was consistently available for me to feed my family on is grain, then yes, I would need to learn to process it in a way that I could access those vitamins and minerals they contain while eliminating their anti-nutrients.

But - I live in 21st century America. I have easy and affordable access year-round to a wide range of foods from around the world with all their vitamins, minerals, and fiber through the abundance of produce and other nutrient-dense foods at my fingertips.

So while I theoretically could keep my own pasture-fed cow, whom I milk bright and early every day and then make cheese so I can have whey to soak my homegrown ancient grains in, which I then also sprout in my clean spring-water and then dry in the sun, before hand-milling them on a low-impact, low-heat grain mill, turning them into loaves of bread with my wild-fermented sourdough starter, all so I can tap into the aforementioned benefits of whole grains...

... I cold also just use plain all-purpose flour, and rest assured that I am getting those same nutrients from the rest of my diet.

More importantly yet, I will NOT be dealing with the incessant cavities that come from eating whole grains with their phytic acid. There is a good book on tooth decay (here) that suggests cutting out grains to get around the phytic acid. That is one possibility. Personally, I don't want to go the rest of my life without eating pizza, croissants, pies, and all the other wonderful bread products we get from grains. Their grain-free alternatives are never as good.

The other possibility, the one I have chosen for the last couple of years, is to only use grain products that have been stripped of all but their white starchy part: all-purpose flour, white rice, quick oats, etc. Obviously, these should not be consumed in such copious amounts that they lead to obesity, type II diabetes, or replace other nutrient-dense foods in the diet.

I made this switch right around the same time as I stopped using all modern wheat and have instead gone to using only einkorn, an ancient form of wheat that is genetically very different from post-1800's wheat).




I have noticed several very exciting changes since cutting out whole grains. The one I want to focus on today is cavities. Or rather, NO MORE CAVITIES!

All kids went to the dentist in March for checkups and cleanings. For years, we had been taking them every six months. For years, in spite of diligent home care (flossing, brushing twice daily), daily fermented cod liver oil and a whole-foods-based multivitamin, little to no candy and very limited sugar consumption, homemade bone broths, daily raw dairy with its bone-building butterfat, and a near-100% organic diet, all kids would have new cavities at every checkup. It was expensive and frustrating, most of all because I knew there must be some underlying cause.

The dentist we first used was good, but she was an hour's drive away. Her hygienist also kept telling me the cavities were a result of not giving the kids fluoride, which I found annoying. As our family grew, the drive out there not just for checkups but the inevitable fillings got to be too much.

I then switched to a 'naturopathic' dentist that was closer. Our dental insurance did not cover her, so the cost was exorbitant. She did not push fluoride, but pushed xylitol instead, which destroys the GI tract instead of teeth. She also did absolutely shoddy work. Many of the fillings she did fell out. They were warrantied for two years, but it's a bit much to ask kids to get fillings redone because her work was so poor.

After seeing her for a couple of years, I stopped going there, intending to find a new dentist. Six months turned into a year, I got busy, and next thing I knew almost three years had passed since some of the kids had been seen last. The dentist who did the kids' tongue tie revisions did such an outstanding job that I switched their dental care to her, too.




The outcome: in spite of zero checkups and cleanings for about 3 years, in spite of the kids having more sugar than ever before because the big kids buy their own candy and sodas now, and in spite of them being much more hit and miss with taking their vitamins and fish oil, there were ZERO new cavities in any of the eight oldest kids. For the three oldest, who had all their fillings in their baby teeth which they have since lost, this meant zero remaining fillings in their mouths. Same for the two youngest boys, who never developed any cavities in their baby teeth. The three middle girls have only old cavities and fillings, which will eventually fall out when they lose their baby teeth. Compare this with 2-3 new cavities each every six months before this, both with the conventional as well as the naturopathic dentist.

When I myself went to a new dentist in April, I likewise had ZERO new cavities, and only two old ones that I had been keeping an eye on. I typically get 2-4 new cavities with every pregnancy just from all the throwing up alone. Between my morning sickness having been much better the last two pregnancies, plus the lack of whole grains for the last two years, I believe this had made all the difference. I do not anticipate new cavities in the future.

I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is due to cutting out whole grains and their anti-nutrients. THAT is the only thing that has changed in the kids' diet. I explained my theory to the dentist and she thought it was very likely that I was right. I don't know how much of a part using einkorn vs. wheat plays - I think the effect of that is mostly just gut health because the gluten in einkorn does not damage the gut like modern wheat does.



I realize this is not party line. I believe just as the low-fat fad has proven destructive to health, we were likewise sold a bill of goods in whole grains. For what it's worth, I am sharing my anecdotal experience here for others who are left scratching their heads at why their otherwise perfectly healthy child(ren) are having cavities in spite of perfect diet and home care.

As a side note, the kids have suffered zero ill health effects from eating these 'simple' white grains. Isaac and Becca no longer have seasonal asthma since cutting out wheat, none of them have gotten 'fat', their behavior has not gone haywire from white flour converting into sugar too quickly, etc. And let's face it - white flour products just taste so much better! I continue to make many leavened products like waffles, pizza, and bread with sourdough starter. You can see my video for our 'daily bread' here

I have one other huge benefit that has come from cutting out whole grains that I will share in an upcoming blog post. How's that for a cliff hanger? ;)



Summer "break"

I apologize for the long blogging absence. Summer 'break' has gotten the best of me. So much to do, so little time! 

As I do every year, I have logged off all social media (buh-bye Facebook) for the time being. Once the new school year is well under way sometime in September, I will get back on. For now, my full attention is on the kids that keep me busy from sun-up until long after sun-down.


 Stephen and Boaz fresh out of bed, reading a book together.


Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. This time of year, that means the sun is up around 5 a.m. I love it! I have been getting up around that time each day without ever needing an alarm. Unfortunately - or fortunately - the kids are also early risers and get up not long after me, giving me only a little time alone each day. They know to be silent until the last of them is up, which is good. The big kids read their Bibles and then go about their day. The little kids have picked up on this habit and grab a book the minute they get up. Stephen is sitting next to me right now looking at a book. He is 4 and just starting to learn to read.


Having older kids with (summer) jobs is a whole new animal! Solomon is the oldest at 15; a senior this coming school year with only a half load to finish out his diploma with tons of extra credit hours. He goes to work 4 days a week for Paul Wittenberger, the documentary maker in our church. Isaac and John put in a few hours each week for a plumber in our church, putting fliers on doors in local neighborhoods. They have loved the independence and experience. With summer temps being unbearable, they typically start very early on the days they are working so they can get a couple of hours in before mid-morning. All three boys have bus passes and often take themselves out to eat in the evenings. It's an interesting experience having older kids. Different, but not easier. It's like I have taken on three additional husbands, all of which are more demanding of my time than my actual husband. "Did you send my schedule? I can't find my clothes. I'm running late - can you take me? I need xyz for my lunches. Did you deposit my paycheck?" and on and on.


We call these two, "the turkeys." I don't know where that came from, but it stuck. It's hard to imagine they will be teens in just ten more years. I'm enjoying the hugs, kisses, and marriage proposals while they last.


My husband and I have been sharing 'my' laptop after Stephen accidentally belly-flopped onto his Mac Book on the guest bed in the office and destroyed its screen. It can be repaired, but it's a hefty price tag, so we are holding off. I would have had a heart attack had I been the one witnessing it, but my husband never even raised his voice. "It's just stuff." Yes, expensive stuff - but he's right. Anyhow, not having a laptop means I can only use the desktop computer which is in the office while my husband is at work. Which means my back is to the whole rest of the house while I'm on there. With nine kids, that's just a recipe for disaster. Who knows what else they might belly-flop onto (or set on fire or accidentally saw in half). I'm hoping to finish off two dozen partial blog posts in quick succession once we are no longer sharing one device.



Aren't they the cutest?

Well, it's time to get breakfast underway. I am making baked apples in puff pastry. Rough life! :)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Boaz' 3rd Birthday

Boaz turned three last Saturday. He is the sweetest little boy - always happy and good natured, with a huge big tender heart. He has brought our entire family so much joy in his short life so far.



The day before his birthday, as we usually do, we went to put flowers on his twin brother's grave site in memory of their birthday. This is the only time every year we go there. Afterward, we always go peach picking at a local u-pick orchard that has been a family favorite of ours for many years. They also have a playground, train, petting zoo, and many other wonderful activities that give an upbeat ending to the outing. I am hoping it is the right amount of keeping the memory alive rather than making it seem like a taboo subject, without forcing him to think about something he might never feel strongly about.


This was the first year that Boaz grasped the concept of having had a twin brother, death, and heaven. He is starting to ask questions but is usually very upbeat as he does so.

I let him pick the flowers and three balloons. A lady at the store thought he was so cute she bought him another one and wished him Happy Birthday :)

Boaz got more somber once we got to the cemetery, but he was thrilled to discover that there is a little teddy bear on the headstone. He really likes bears these days since hearing the book "The Bears on Hemlock Mountain" about a dozen or more times. He likes to call us 'Mother Bear' and 'Father Bear' often, which is our cue to refer to him only as 'Little Bear'. It's very cute.





He kept saying, "I feel so bad for Jachin. I feel so bad for Jachin." I told him Heaven was a far better place, and that Jachin was much happier to be there watching over him. I am comforted to know Boaz thinks life in our family is so much fun that he doesn't want his brother missing out on it. 



Maybe you have wondered what it is like to only have one surviving twin. I can only speak to my own experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is what I imagine it would be like to lose one eye. I can still see with one eye, it is not near as bad as losing both eyes, not even half as bad - but I am always, always aware that I only have one left. I am thankful the boys are identical so I never have to wonder what Jachin would have looked like at any given age. Most of all, I am thankful not only for the promise of Heaven and one day seeing them both side by side, alive and well, but also for the peace of God in this life. I have seen other moms in twin loss groups online, and have had to leave them because it was too sad to see them struggle so. It is easy to guess which of the grieving moms know the Saviour, and which ones don't. Those who don't are consumed more and more by their grief and the eternal question, "Why?" I am plagued by neither. I have my precious Boaz, and the knowledge that this life will pass in the blink of an eye and we shall meet again.



Boaz had fun releasing the balloons and 'sending them to heaven for Jachin.' In all, it was a happy and memorable morning.






The next day was Boaz' actual birthday. He slept in, and was still a little too tired for pictures when he first got up.



Pretty soon, he was his chipper self and ready to open presents. I took a picture of him with each sibling and the gift they gave him. He is a very loved little boy!













For breakfast, Boaz had asked for birthday cake, and even though I had balked at the thought I of course obliged. You can find the recipe here.



The little kids had fun playing with the tent that was one of his gifts from us parents.



This past week, we have been blessed with incredibly beautiful, cool, and even rainy weather that is unheard of in our area this time of year. The kids have had many hours of playing outdoors in their tent pretending to be anything from Indians to Egyptian pharaohs.  

The next birthday is Chloe's first birthday less than a week away, next Thursday. She is accompanying us parents on a trip to Maine for a soulwinning marathon that Friday. Miriam is coming along for an extra set of helping hands, and because with a family our size, we like to single out one or two each time to bring on out-of-town trips. The kids are hurrying up to finish their school books early (I once again offered a $5 bonus for each week they finish up earlier than planned) so we are just about to move on to summer with its relaxed schedule, extra activities, and ice cream. I am so thankful for God's countless blessings in our lives.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Recipe for German Lemonade Cake

This cake has been a family favorite for at least four generations. It was the traditional birthday cake we had growing up, and it is what I make for my own kids now.

When I say 'Lemonade Cake' it really should more accurately be called 'Orangeade Cake,' but that just doesn't have the same nice ring to it. 

You see, in German, 'Limonade' means any type of soda. Most sodas are made from fruit juice plus carbonated water, and orange juice is the most common choice among those. The closest thing I can compare it to is Pellegrino orange or blood orange soda. In fact, both are great choices for this cake. 




Then there is the chocolate frosting. There is no way to accurately describe this frosting without doing it injustice. It is, at its core, the most delectable frosting in the universe. Period. The magic in transforming its simple ingredients into perfection is to follow the directions exactly, or it will not whip up smooth and creamy but clumpy and flat. Easy directions, but they must be followed to a T. 

Also, to warn American sensibilities, the frosting contains an egg. A raw egg. You may think it is only by the grace of God and many miracles that after hundreds of instances of my grandma, her six kids and all their descendants, and now myself and my family eating this cake we have not ever fallen ill or died from eating it, but it's true. I lived to tell about it! Raw eggs are not inherently dangerous! Chickens that live in squalid unnatural conditions might fall sick with E. coli, which could end up on the outside of the egg, which could end up in your frosting and go downhill from there, but rather than rejecting the raw egg, just buy from a reputable source of pasture-fed chickens. Or choose a pasteurized egg (only in America, lol!). Or take your life into your own hands and use a regular ol' cheap egg. The chances of getting sick from it are near zero because all eggs in stores are washed, washed, and washed again. You could even give it one more rinse yourself before using it. 

Who knew a recipe could get this political just in the intro??!? Without further ado, here is the recipe:




German Lemonade Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sunflower oil or melted butter
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup (blood) orange soda or orange juice mixed 50:50 with carbonated water

For the frosting: 
2 sticks + 2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs


Directions

For the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10x13 baking dish.

2. Mix together eggs and sugar. While the mixer is running, add the oil/melted butter and vanilla. Turn the mixer off, dump the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and slowly start mixing again while pouring the soda into the cake batter. Turn mixer off as soon as the batter is well combined. 

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Completely cool cake in the pan before frosting.

For the frosting: 

1. Melt the butter completely and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool down to room temperature or a little warmer. This is critical! The recipe will not work with just softened butter - the butter has to be melted and warm, but not hot (that would make the egg curdle).

2. Add powdered sugar and cocoa to the bowl, and beat with electric egg beaters or an immersion (stick) blender until well combined. 

3. Add eggs to frosting and continue to beat. You will see the frosting become smooth and creamy immediately. 

To finish:

1. Frost the cooled cake while the frosting is still soft. 

2. Add colored sprinkles (we love these).

3. Enjoy! The cake tastes best at room temperature. If you have to store it for an extended period of time, do so tightly covered in the fridge, but allow the cake to come to room temperature again before serving.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Mama Bear bragging

I know other moms think their babies are cute, and that's ok. The difference with me is that my kids really are the cutest...  ;)



 


I sure struck a winning combo between my husband's gene pool and mine!


 Miriam staged and took this artsy shot of Becca. I think she has a talent for photography.



Please don't mind my shameless picture overload of my beautiful baby girl, sweet little Chloe Pearl.



She finally sprouted her first two teeth!






What's that old saying? "There is only one cute baby in the world, and every mother has it." True dat!



Chloe looks like my grandma is this one 





See what I mean? That right there is the cutest baby ever - right up there with my eight other babies!