Monthly Archives: February 2007

The Myth of Doing it All

Very often, people ask me how ‘I do it all’. And I tell them, I don’t do it all, no one does. People make comments to me like, “You’re superwoman” or other nonsense, which I really dislike. Why? Because there is no such thing as superwoman, and any time someone says that, it means they aren’t seeing who you really are. The reason I think that people say things like that is they see something that a person does, and they then superimpose their life onto that person, so they imagine that another mom not only does everything they themselves need to do in their own lives, but all of the other things that they see her accomplishing as well. The danger in seeing things from a distance is it isn’t accurate or realistic.

But that doesn’t mean you need to give up your dream of what you want to accomplish or who you want to be. Not at all. What it does mean is that you need to clarify for yourself what it is that you really want. I accomplish many things in the course of a week that are meaningful to me, which leaves me with a great sense of accomplishment. If I were trying to do what I thought I was “supposed” to do, instead of what really mattered to me, I’d probably feel I was always running behind, feeling I’d never be able to keep up or be good enough.

You can’t do everything, but you can do all of the things that are important to you, and do them well, if you are honest about what you really want, and then prioritize your time accordingly. For example, my main priorities are homeschooling my children, parenting them well, making my home a nurturing place for us all, having a great relationship with my husband, and running my business. These are all things that I block out time for, because they are priorities to me.

Here are a couple of examples of how these things play out for me. Homeschooling my children means putting time into my schedule first thing in the day, time to work with them on academics. If I didn’t prioritize this, I could easily end up often not getting around to it, since there are so many other things that need to be done. I don’t take or make phone calls until early afternoon, my time before then is just for my kids. It doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time together during the later part of the day, but we can all relax later in the day, knowing we’ve accomplished our academic goals and they aren’t being compromised by anything else. Later in the day is the time for other activities, errands, work on the house, or trips.

Making my home a nurturing place means that I take the time to think about what a nurturing home means to me, and then plan the steps to accomplish that. For me, that means that things are basically orderly most of the time, there are tasty meals on a regular schedule, and there is a relaxed atmosphere in the home. So I make sure I have a weekly menu plan, have regular chores assigned to my children, and we work together when it’s time for chores. In this way, everything gets done without it all falling on one person, and there isn’t a feeling of one person having to work while everyone else does what they want. I keep this goal in mind when I spend all day out of the home on a trip, and try to plan accordingly. For example, tomorrow I will be going to a neighboring state for my big shopping day. So today I will think about how to be sure that we have appropriate food to take for lunch, and how to have a hot meal ready (or quickly readied) when I get home. Otherwise, a day like that would be a big stress for us all and affect my primary goals.

When you think you see someone who is just amazing as to how she does everything, she may in fact be really good about organizing her time. And it would be a good idea to ask her how she does it, and see if the principles she uses are ones you can effectively adapt for yourself. I love hearing the tips effective people use in their lives. But don’t make the mistake of putting her on a pedestal. We can (and should) respect others who are living the kind of lives they want to live, but never let it affect how you view yourself. What other people do doesn’t make you more or less than the person you are. There’s no benefit in comparing yourself to anyone.

Remember – doing it all is simply a myth.

Avivah

Link for more info on healthy fats

Some of you are wondering about what I wrote about coconut oil – how can it be so healthy if it’s a saturated fat? Well, we’ve been fed a line about the role of fats in our diet, and what constitutes a healthy fat. I’m not going to write about it, since there is so much written that documents this very important point. Instead, I’ll share with you a site that is the most helpful site I’ve found about nutrition.

Here’s a link for a bunch of articles about fats – http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/index.html. Warning – many of these articles are scientific in nature, and don’t make quick and easy reading. But they are really worth the time; they weren’t written to do a quick sell on some ideas, but to put forth scientifically documented facts.

Reading all of this research meant that I had to totally redefine my idea of what was healthy – we now use butter, coconut oil, and animal fat for most of our cooking. These used to be things I stayed as far away from as I could! I now use as few vegetable oils as possible, the exception being virgin olive oil in salads. Most of the vegetable oils that you buy in the supermarket (sunflower, canola, safflower, soy, vegetable) are all processed and inherently bad for your health. That’s not to say I don’t use them at all – I do still use them when I bake yeast breads (for quick breads I use coconut oil) – but I don’t fool myself that they are good for us. They are just cheaper and sometimes easier than alternatives that are actually beneficial for you.

Happy reading!

Avivah

DIY renovations progressing

We’re busy with some remodeling now. We want to finish our attic and put in a bathroom, and make the remaining space into two small rooms. We decided to be our own contractors and just hire out the plumbing and electric work, and do everything else ourselves so we could stay within a very modest budget and still do a major upgrade to the house. We’ve done some preparatory work, primarily demolishing a wall, creating a new doorway, and building a new wall through the master bedroom in order to create a separate entrance to the attic. I didn’t want people going through one of the bedrooms that is being used by our family every time they came in to do work, which is why I wanted to do this first.

(In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t know how to do all of this stuff before I started. But the library has great books, and I checked out a bunch of them and read and read until I started to understand some of the things I was reading. I started by putting in a kitchenette in the basement for my mom, with my ds13 as my working buddy. That turned out well, so we were empowered to go onto the above described new attic entrance. And so it continues…)

Finally, we are up to the bathroom itself. Dh framed most of the bathroom so the plumber could do the rough-in, and the plumber spent the last couple of days here doing that. He’ll be back on Sunday to finish putting in the water lines. He is a terrific plumber, and I have a lot of confidence in him. Unfortunately, with all the noise in the house, my baby has not been able to nap at all. So the last couple of days have been hard on him, and everyone else, too, since he spends most of the day needing to be held and very out of sorts.

Ds13 has been a huge help to dh in doing the framing, and was a big help to me yesterday. Dh didn’t totally complete the framing, though most of it is done. He left some things undone that he felt could wait until after the rough ins. Well, ds was watching the plumber, and came down to tell me it was going to be a problem to complete the framing after the pipes were in, and took me upstairs to show me what he meant. He was right – the pipes were being put in differently than dh had expected, so there was going to be a major problem if it weren’t addressed right away. I asked him if he thought he could complete the necessary framing, since dh wouldn’t be home in time; it needed to be done right away. I felt very fortunate that ds knew what to do, though I quite honestly get very nervous about him using a power saw – even though I sat there and watched him cut every board. Something about the sound of it, or just the thought of it, I don’t know, but I get really nervous about power saws.

Today the electricians came to do the electrical rough-in. Let me tell you, I’m much less thrilled with the electricians than I am with the plumber. When the electrician first came to give an estimate, I was quite impressed by him. The problem is that he sends out plumbers he hires to do the work, but they have nowhere near his experience. It never occurred to me to ask about that when we spoke about all the things I wanted done. After clearing my schedule for the morning, they arrived three hours late (and when I clear my schedule, it’s not just a manner of speaking – I literally had to postpone a bunch of things). Then they didn’t know what work they were supposed to do. Then they told me they would need to reopen the ceilings, after I already repaired the holes from the prior work they did – “Oh, we didn’t realize we would need those holes to stay open.” Then after less than 2 hours, they decided to leave for the day because they had a question and I had gone out for ten minutes to drop off my son at his tutor. They said it will take at least three days (and based on their past work, which was all part of this same contract, I’m wondering how many days more it will take them to actually get it done right). They plan to be here 7:30 in the morning to get started again. The only good thing I could say about the day was that thanks to their delay, I was able to put the baby in for two naps before they arrived, and because they left so soon, he was able to sleep right after they left. And that’s no small thing to be grateful for. We all really appreciated the difference between him today and yesterday – everyone had fun with him again! He really is a very happy natured baby, and I hate seeing him so miserable.

I finally got to the end of the day (after coming home with all of the kids very late from a lovely family party we were invited to), and thought I would post something here. But Blogger has updated something and I couldn’t get into my account. I kept at it until finally I was able to log in, and honestly, I just felt lucky that it finally happened. I really dislike these system wide upgrades that mean everyone has to re-register, nothing works the way it’s supposed to, etc. Have you ever noticed how these things never happen when you are feeling energetic and eager to face some challenges? LOL . Life on life’s terms, as the saying goes. :)

Avivah

Candida die off

Hope you haven’t thought I disappeared! As you may remember, I alluded to an anti-candida diet I was considering committing myself to a few weeks ago, and I actually stuck with it for three weeks. Three weeks is nowhere near long enough to kill off candida – it takes about a month for every year you’ve had candida, so it’s a long term process.

I was feeling pretty good about doing it, since it was a big change from my usual way of eating, and wasn’t prepared at all for what’s known as Herxheimer’s reaction, or die off, when it hit. I knew about die off, but didn’t expect I would be hit by it, since I already wasn’t eating sugars and flours, plus I had taken out all starches for a couple of weeks a short while earlier and not had any die off reactions. I thought it was for people making very radical changes to their diets, and I didn’t put myself in that category.

Well, let me tell you, die off is seriously no fun. I was feeling increasingly tired, and by the third week, was really dragging. By the last weekend, I was so exhausted I was sleeping 18 hours a day, and severely nauseous every single minute. My husband was worried when he looked at me; he said he had never see me look like that – I looked really ill. I felt too sick to drag myself to the computer and research if it was normal, and after the second day of feeling this terrible, I had a potato (the only things I could think of eating were things that weren’t on the diet).

Amazingly, that ended the die off.  The reason is with die off, what your body reacts to is the candida dying off, and as they die, numerous toxins are thrown into your system (most of which are alcoholic byproducts, which results in massive hangover like symptoms). It’s an important cleansing reaction, but can be very hard, as I found out for myself. As soon as you feed the candida, even something seemingly healthy like a baked potato, they stop dying and start growing again, and you feel better.

So the following day I did the research and it turns out that it was all very normal and healthy because the body was cleaning out toxins and to be expected – but I hadn’t been ready for it. It took a week of eating my usual way to feel back to myself, which leaves me discouraged that after all my effort, I undid all my gains. Since I really still believe that the candida issue needs to be addressed, I see this as just a short term approach to relieving the unpleasantness. With something like this, things have to get worse before they get better. Knowing that , I don’t emotionally feel good about not getting back on the candida diet. I know I should go back on the anti candida plan, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was totally non functional when I was going through die off, and even though now I’ve read about how to do it more gradually so the reaction doesn’t hit so hard, I’m really afraid to put myself in that position again.

I’ll share some links sometime over the weekend about nutrition that may interest some of you, and then get back to sharing some more thoughts on parenting and navigating through the wonderful opportunity we are given every day, called life!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Avivah

Making cloth diapers

Remember how I told you we recovered our dining room chairs using the fabric from a set of drapes we were given? The drapes were a super quality, and were flannel lined, so there were actually three layers of fabric. After finishing the reupholstering, we were left with a bunch of white flannel, and I started thinking about what I could use the material for. It just seemed like such a waste to throw it away.

Around this time, I found that I needed more cloth diapers. I had given about four dozen prefolds away before this baby was using them, and kept just two dozen of the best ones. When I started using cloth for him, I kept feeling I should have a bunch more diapers than I did, when I finally remembered my decluttering and the earlier decision to get rid of two thirds of my stash.

So I thought I could take advantage of my surplus of free white flannel, and turn them into cloth diapers for him instead of buying more. I was considering making fitteds (which means they have elastic around the legs and back, and Velcro straps that close around the front), but didn’t feel the extra bit of effort was worth it – after all, I would have to use wraps over them (which have the elastic and Velcro) to keep them waterproof. So I decided instead to make contours, which are shaped diapers that fit into a wrap.

It’s really amazing what a wonderful source of information the web can be, and I easily found sewing instructions for what I needed. Well, maybe not exactly what I needed, but close enough that I got the idea and just adapted it. I cut the flannel in an hourglass shape (using the wrap as a sizing guide so it would fit inside it), with one layer for the outside and one for the inside, and then made a soaker pad to run down the middle of it for absorbency. For the soaker pad, I used layers of flannel scraps and pieces from one old towel I decided to donate to the cause. I sewed the soaker pad together, then sewed in onto the inside of one layer, then put the second layer on so the soaker was sandwiched between them. If it sounds complicated, it’s really not. The first contour took a bit of time to figure out how it should all go together, but the subsequent ones were much faster. Things also went faster after that since my two older dds saw what I was doing and thought it looked like fun. So one sewed all the soaker pads together, and the other sewed the soaker pads in – I cut more flannel shapes out while they worked, and then did the final layer.

All in all, I’m really satisfied with how they turned out. Dh said how professional they look (though I think that was generous of him). The flannel is a softer material for the baby to have next to his skin than the cotton of the prefold, and they are much, much less bulky, so I think he’s more comfortable (not that he was complaining before, but I know I would be!). They are also simpler to use, since you just stick them in the wrap as they are, with no folding necessary. (That’s nice since five of my kids change the baby and if it’s easier for them, then they don’t mind doing it as much.) Even though they are less bulky, they are much more absorbent. The baby used to get soaked through if I wouldn’t be careful about changing him after a couple of hours went by – it was one of the things I thought was just normal about having a baby wearing cloth diapers. And after the entire night, forget about it – even with a double prefold, he was always soaked. We haven’t had that problem since a week and a half ago, when we started using the new contours – so that has meant I’ve had less laundry to do, which I certainly am not complaining about!

We made about a dozen so far, with enough flannel to do lots more when I’m in the mood. It was fun finding a way to use our available resources to get what we wanted. And it is so great for the kids to see, once again, that there’s a way to create by yourself the things that you want to have – it’s really empowering. Before I sew any more, though, I have a couple of other sewing projects that my kids have asked me to make for them, so I won’t be making more cloth dipes until those things are done. I started one of those projects last week and spent some more time on it tonight, and will update you on that sometime soon!

Avivah

More on grocery savings

What place does processed food have in my budget?

When I do buy processed food, it’s only when it’s much cheaper to buy it than it would be to make it. An example would be the tacos I buy at a salvage store I stop by from time to time – I stock up when I see them priced at 8 boxes for a dollar (12.5 cents each). I certainly wouldn’t consider buying them on sale at the supermarket for $1.89 a box. It’s little things like this, here and there, that add up and sink a budget. It’s hard for me to think of many other processed foods that I regularly buy, except for canned veggies (lots of tomatoes and canned pumpkin).

Buying in Bulk
I also buy lots of foods in bulk, like grains (wheat, oats, dried corn, millet, rice, buckwheat) and coconut oil (as you saw in my recent post!). I buy 50 lb of potatoes for under $6; since the place I buy them is an hour and a half from my home, I buy 150 lb at a time (since it’s cool now, I don’t have a problem with them staying fresh – I don’t buy this many when it’s hot, only 50-100 lb at a time then). Most people don’t feel buying in bulk is practical do to for a smaller family, but if you get together with another friend or two and split it up, it means big savings for all of you! (And if you can find some extra storage places in your house – under the beds, even – you don’t need to split it up with friends to enjoy the bargains.)

I buy family packs of ground beef when they are on sale; the sale prices I have found locally aren’t very impressive, so I stock up at $2 a lb. I use the meat more as a condiment than a main dish, as a stir fry, in a stew, casserole, etc. It gives everything a great flavor, but I don’t need to use more than 1 – 2 pounds a meal.

I don’t buy beans in bulk – surprisingly, they cost more at all of the bulk sources I’ve priced out than they do at the supermarket. Several weeks ago a bunch of kinds of beans went on sale at a local supermarket for .51 a pound, so I bought 50 lb, five – ten pounds of each kind. That will keep my pantry stocked for a while.

Stock up on loss leaders
I keep my eyes on the specials the stores are running; I check the flyers and don’t make a trip there unless they have something I want. There are a number of items that the stores will offer at great prices, at an actual loss to themselves, to lure you in. Since most people don’t buy just the loss leaders, it’s a profitable strategy for the stores. But I just stock up on what’s on sale – for example, I just noticed that salmon is on sale this week for $1 a can. That’s the price I’ve been waiting for, and I will probably buy about 30 cans (I know I don’t need to buy more than that because the sales are cyclical and this price will come around again). This means even at the regular overpriced supermarket, I regularly have huge savings.

Don’t tell yourself, “We don’t have prices like that where I live.” I’ve given you some examples of how and what I buy, but it’s taken me time to find these deals. Remember that every locale has it’s own bargains; some things will be more expensive, some things will be less. Some people live in rural areas where farm produce is very cheap, but they need to drive a lot further to a large store than someone living in the heart of a city. Almost 5 years I lived in a city in a totally different part of the country – there I found a source for ground meat at 99 cents a pound, as well as salmon steaks for 99 cents a pound. Amazing, right? Right – those are things that cost a lot more where I am now. But there are plenty of bargains in my area, too – it just takes persistence in finding them. For example, I found a bakery outlet where I can get 3 loaves of bread for 99 cents, the same loaves that are $2 – $3 in the grocery stores. (Though I don’t like to buy bread often anymore because bakery bread is much lower quality than what I can make, even the whole grain loaves.)

Remember that it takes effort and persistence to find cheap food sources. Don’t worry about doing it all at once; pick one area to work on at a time. Ask other people who seem to be budget conscious for their best tips for shopping, and their favorite stores to frequent. Over time, you will find that you can significantly realize big savings in your food bill.

Avivah

Saving money on groceries

Since so many moms are trying to cut costs in order to live on one income and stay home with their kids, I felt it would be appropriate to share some tips for how to cut your grocery bill. This is an area where most people can realize huge savings without compromising the quality of their lives.

Your budget will probably be very different from mine, unless you also have a big family, but the principles behind saving on your grocery bill are the same. I shop and cook for a family of 9, plus guests and my mother on most weekends. Our monthly food bill is about $450, and has been about that for the last year. This is less than half of what most families our size spend. (Before I started buying farm fresh milk and eggs, it was reliably $400 monthly, but adding these into our diets has pushed up the costs.) So you won’t need to spend that much since you won’t need as much food as us. :)

I’ve heard the complaint that to be healthy, you need to spend a lot of money. And sometimes, it does seem like that. Yes, there are lots of costly options, but there are also lots of affordable options. And affordable options don’t mean that we have to limit ourselves to oatmeal everyday for breakfast, and beans and rice for all other meals to stay within a budget.

Since there are so many things to share, I’m going to spread out my points into separate posts to keep this easy to read for you! Firstly, as I said in my post about menu planning, I make almost everything from scratch. Not only is it cheaper, it’s lots tastier and healthier to boot. Many moms will insist that it takes them time they don’t have and they are willing to pay for the convenience. I think we too often underestimate how much we spend for conveniences to save ourselves time, and overestimate how much time it would take to make something from scratch.

Today I took a son out for pizza (he redeemed one of his coupons from the holidays) and he commented how much money people waste on eating out. I explained to him that there’s a benefit to eating out, and the more someone else does to your food, the more expensive it gets. The example I gave him was pizza: we make our own pizza, which means we make the dough, the sauce, and then we sprinkle the cheese on. That’s the cheapest option (and my kids think it’s also the yummiest – and they like that they can eat much more than I would let them buy if we went out!). The next option would be to buy a ready made pizza crust and pizza sauce, slightly more expensive still would be the frozen prepared pizza, and most expensive is fresh pizza at the pizza shop. Is there a huge qualitative difference in what you are eating? Not usually. So what accounts for the cost difference? How much work someone else has done to get the food in edible form to you! The more you are willing to do, the more you can enjoy wholesome and tasty meals at a fraction of the cost it would be to purchase them, and it doesn’t take nearly as long as most people would assume.

Tonight a neighbor stopped by to borrow a can of chickpeas. I’m really glad I could help her out, since this is something that I happened to buy at a really excellent price, but generally, I don’t have things like this in my pantry. Why not? I don’t need to pay someone else to soak a handful of beans and then cook them for me. How much time does making your own chick peas or beans take? It takes about a minute to fill a pot with water, throw in the peas/beans, and let them soak. After a few hours, rinse them, fill the pot with fresh water, and let them cook on low for a few hours while you’re doing other things at home. Total hands on prep time? Maybe 3 minutes. But you’ve easily saved 50% or more on your expenses.

Multiply the above technique a number of times in a week, and you are starting to save some serious money. Take an honest look at all the things you buy ready made: sauces, pie crusts, cookies and cakes, granola, etc. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy anything ready made, but look at what the price of convenience is for you. Don’t forget to factor in the time you spend going to and from the store to buy all of this stuff, because that adds up, too. Cut out bakery goods as much as possible. It’s cheaper to buy a cake mix, and cheaper still to bake from scratch. But if you like the convenience of a cake mix and would like to enjoy the savings advantage of cooking from scratch, consider spending 15 – 20 minutes making up a number of batches of your own mixes and store them in separate labelled ziploc bags until you’re ready to bake.

To get you started, here’s a recipe for Dark Rick Chocolate Cake Mix (makes one 9×13 pan):
1 c. white flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
2/3 c. whole wheat flour  (again, I prefer white whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 c. sugar (I use sucanat)
3/4 c. cocoa
1/4 c. dry milk powder/rice milk powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. instant coffee

Measure all the above ingredients directly into a gallon sized ziploc bag.

When you’re ready to prepare it, mix together:
one pkg of your mix
2 c. water
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs

Put it in a greased 9 x 13 pan, and bake at 35 – 40 minutes.

Avivah

Menu planning

Since I wrote a couple of days ago about creating structure in your days, I thought it might be helpful to share what I do about meals. Since mealtimes come around with almost frightening regularity, being prepared for them makes all the difference between relaxed family meals and a tense mom rushing around trying to find something to fill everyone up at the last minute. (I’ve been on both sides of dinner time, and really strongly advocate being ready!)

I make three meals a day, and almost everything is cooked from scratch. I don’t do anything too fancy, but just knowing ahead of time what is planned makes cooking from scratch much easier. For eg, I can soak and sprout the beans a day before I need to cook them (which maximizes the nutritional value as well as making them more digestible), without needing to spend extra time on it because I see it coming up on the menu. If I’m making turkey pot pie, I will whip up a double recipe of biscuit dough and use half for a breakfast, and the other half to top the pot pie.

As each week progresses, I often make some changes to my written menu, depending on what leftovers I have, maybe to take advantage of a great sale on something this week, etc. But I still have the basic structure there, I don’t have to plan every meal an hour before dinner. Like this, we have a nice variety, we have meals everyone usually enjoys, and I don’t have the pressure of trying to think about it more than once every three weeks.

It’s really nice to all sit down together for a cooked meal. It’s just a totally different feeling than everyone scrounging for something of their own. I try to sit down as a family for all three meals every day, though lunch tends to be the weakest – sometimes only half the family is there at a time and others are busy playing outside, or something like that, but I’m okay with it. Soups, casseroles, and one pot dishes are great in terms of ease and limited time.

Here’s what this week’s menu looks like (many that look vegetarian actually have meat stock or gravy added for flavoring and nutritional value):

Sunday – b: pancakes (made of freshly ground millet, buckwheat, and rice); l – can’t remember, leftovers, I think; d – chili with cornbread
Monday – b: farmers casserole (shredded potatoes with eggs, ricotta cheese, and yogurt); l – freshly baked Cuban bread, split pea soup; d – buckwheat with ground beef and veggies
Tuesday: b – baked oatmeal; l – fresh bread, chickpeas, fried potatoes (my kids asked if they could make this today so I agreed and changed the original plan); d- baked beans and hot dogs
Wednesday: b- cranberry muffins; l – turkey pot pie; d – pizza
Thursday: b – pumpkin bread; l – baked potatoes w/ leftover stew ; d – spaghetti squash with meat sauce

Having meals planned out ahead of time also helps keep the food budget in check, something I will write more about in the future since there seems to be more interest in this aspect of things than I initially expected!

Avivah

My humongous coconut oil order

For the last year and a half, I’ve been using organic, non hydrogenated coconut oil in place of oil, margarine, shortening – it’s wonderful to make fun foods that are actually good for the kids now! Things like biscuits, cookies, and other things I used to put solidly in the ‘pure junk’ category are now in the ‘pretty healthy’ group.

When I started using coconut oil about a year and a half ago, I decided I needed to buy it in a big enough amount that it would be reasonably cost effective (since we have so many people to feed!). So I contacted a bunch of coconut oil companies until I found one that sold what I wanted at a price that was somewhat affordable. They didn’t know what to do with an individual who wanted to buy amounts of the oil that only restaurants purchased, and it took a few phone calls for them to figure out where in the computer system my order should go. But we got it worked out and I bought a 5 gallon pail of coconut oil (40 lb), which we go through increasingly fast as time goes on. It took me nine months to go through the first pail; now we are at the bottom of the second pail and it’s been only five months. It does get costly! But I really feel it’s worth it.

Today I decided to find out if the same company would sell me the virgin organic (has a coconut flavor and smell that the regular organic doesn’t have) in a large amount. For almost two weeks, I have been sticking to my anti-candida diet, and surprisingly, really haven’t been finding it so difficult. The hardest thing has been getting in enough fats; it is really taking a very conscious effort. I was thinking about how to make it easier, and it occurred to me that if I got the higher grade of coconut oil, I could use it as a food instead of just as an ingredient to cook with. When I first called, they of course told me that the largest size is 1 lb containers (which has often been the standard first response of companies), but they passed me on to someone who assured me that I could get this stuff in the 5 gallon size, too (after I told her I was already buying 5 gallon pails of the other stuff).

So I ordered a bucket of each, which is 80 lb of coconut oil, half the regular for cooking, the other half the expensive stuff. I hope this will get us through at least the next six months without needing to place another order. As expensive as it is, it is still a third of the price that the retail buyer pays in the health food store. I tend to keep a pretty tight food budget, and this would seem to be outside the limits that I’ve established, but I look at it like this: I am careful with what I spend on food so we can eat plenty (quantity), and eat well (quality). I save in lots of other areas, which helps create enough financial room to make large orders like this.

After I made my order, I learned something interesting. The representative said that the oil will be processed specifically for my order – I assumed that they just had buckets of this oil sitting around, but actually, this is considered a custom order, so I will be getting very freshly processed coconut oil. That was a nice thought!

I am really, really looking forward to getting the virgin organic coconut oil. If you don’t know about the many fantastic benefits of coconut oil, do some quick searching on Google. I was amazed at what I learned about something I had always assumed was bad (because it was a saturated fat). It is really great stuff – and unlike lots of things that entail major changes to improve our nutrition, this is really easy. Just use coconut oil to replace all the bad fats in your diet (and it is even good for frying with, since unlike other oils, it remains stable at high temps).

Avivah

Creating structure in the home

Tonight I was thinking about a recent conversation I had with a woman who is also a mother of 7 kids. She mentioned that her oldest son, 14 years old, didn’t enjoy being at home. I asked her why, and she said that he feels it’s too loud and chaotic, that there’s always someone yelling or screaming, and that things are always a mess. Then she kind of laughed, assuming that as a mother of a family of the same size and virtually the same age kids I shared her experience, and said, “Well, when he gets older he’ll appreciate it and love it.”

My response (she is a good friend or I would have kept my thoughts to myself) was that it was possible he would look back at it all with a warm feeling, but it was more likely he would become determined not to duplicate that environment for his children later on, and would probably want a small family. I told her that I thought it was reasonable for him to want some peace and quiet, and that being part of a big family didn’t mean that he should forgo his need for some space. (I also told her that kids shouldn’t be screaming and yelling all the time, but that’s a topic for another post. :)

This person felt that chaos was a natural part of having a large family. She is an extremely loving mother, but organization is a very weak point for her. Does having a family of any size mean chaos is inevitable? Are only born neatniks able to create a pleasant home environment with young children around, who are constantly undoing our work? It’s true that there can be lots of action, especially in a larger family, and often lots of noise, but a parent has to be able to channel it and keep it within a healthy limit for their family. I felt it was crucial for this mother to recognize that she needed to make an effort to learn new skills that would help her make her home a special place for all of her children, including this son. I told her it was very reasonable for her son to want some quiet space and privacy, and I thought it would be an important deposit of love to try to give him that.

Now I know that some of you who aren’t naturally organized are starting to feel defensive about all of this. I don’t doubt that you are loving mothers and I’m not implying that they are going to suffer long term damage if you don’t get your home together. Don’t think that I live in a house that is pristine and sparkling at any given moment – actually, if I ever achieve pristine and sparkling, it lasts about two minutes. I’m not talking about becoming insistent that your home looks like children don’t live there. I don’t think that’s healthy or realistic. But it is beneficial to everyone to have a basic structure to your lives – regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and a home that is functionally neat (how you define that is up to you!). It is so much more pleasant for all of us to live in a home that is cared for. Most people enjoy the security of a predictable and reliable daily routine – eg, meals at basically the same time each day. Having a routine makes a lot of daily decision making unnecessary, or at the very least, not urgent. Piles of things everywhere you look, and clutter and mess all around lead most people to feel stressed and like they want to escape.

But what do you do if you just aren’t a naturally organized person? Don’t feel this means that you are doomed, and you don’t need to bother trying to improve in this area. I think lots of us like to excuse ourselves for not making the effort to improve by telling ourselves, “I can’t, this is just the way I am.” Recognize that a person can learn new strategies if they are motivated to invest the time and effort. I have a very close friend who was a disaster organizationally, when she was first married; she was a free spirit by nature. Someone entering her home now would never guess that she struggled with this for years, since it always looks lovely when you drop in, and the home environment is calm and loving. I recently asked her what her incentive was to overcome the way she had been doing things all her life, because obviously, change that goes against how you’ve grown up is really hard. She told me that her husband was so unhappy with the mess that she committed to learning how to keep her home neat, because she wanted him to be happy in his home. Because she loved her husband so deeply, his happiness was a huge incentive to her.

The first step to making a change is recognizing that what we are doing isn’t working, and being honest with ourselves about it, however hard it is to do. Don’t give away your power by telling yourself there’s nothing you can do that will make a difference. That will hold you back and keep you where you are right now. There are lots of strategies out there for developing home maintenance skills; many books on home organization have been written by reformed slobs who feel a sense of mission to help others who have struggled the way they did. Next time you are at the library, check out some books on the topic – I find that I often learn new and better ways to do things. Each thing may only be a small detail or tiny improvement (or it might not!), but every little step enhances the home environment, as well as our internal environment.

Avivah