I didn’t intend to step back from my blog, but after my grandfather died last month, I just didn’t have much to say. I wasn’t close to him as an adult. It had been years since I’ve spent any time with him, actually. When I got married, I moved a state away. My hometown isn’t a place I visit much since my parents moved nearby over 11 years ago. But, I loved him and I love my memories of fishing and boating in the Kankakee River with him. Good times. Good times.
So, what have I been up to? Well, we’ve celebrate a couple of family birthdays, including our oldest’s 13th birthday. Yep, we’re parents of a teenager. And we just enjoyed a lovely Easter service and dinner. We’re juggling kids who are home from school on Spring Break.
On top of all of that (in my spare time, right?), I am clocking a lot of time reading articles and blogs and even text book excerpts on how our food is grown, harvested, prepped and sold. I read recipes. It’s all about learning and conversations and I’ve only ramped up my efforts since Simon’s update with his specialist (a little over a week ago). She gave us fantastic news about improvements in his health, even going as so far as to say that if she didn’t know better, she wouldn’t believe the test results were of the same boy! What a relief to hear that all of this lifestyle change is working…well, that and a ton of prayers for healing and wisdom in feeding him and all of us.
Armed with that encouragement that my novice changes are moving us in the healthy direction, I’ve taken a curiosity to a ravenous appetite for information. I’ve been reading everything I can get my little hands and eyes on when it comes to whole eating and real foods.
I’m having an almost out-of-body experience listening to myself talk about food and health. This small-town girl who grew up on whatever my mama could afford to serve us is starting to sound positively crunchy! I’m signing petitions against petroleum-based dyes in macaroni and cheese and conversing about emulsified fillers and the evils of Big Agriculture and the USDA. I take three-hour trips to the grocery store to read labels and shop bargains. I spent a month researching locally-raised beef and pork. I interviewed a distributor/butcher and worked with a finance company to purchase a freezer-full of grass and clean grain-fed meat, that’s free of preservatives and antibiotics. I actually buy organics now!
And you know what? I can actually taste the difference! I think I’ve lost my mind. Really! Not only did I put Annie’s Organic Chocolate Chipper Granola Bars in my son’s Easter basket, but I brought one to work today with MY lunch! And then I realized that it tasted funny, in a good way, so I compared it to a Quaker Chocolate Chip Granola Bar in my desk. And here’s the weird part – I can actually TASTE the plastic-y flavor of the Quaker bar. There’s a nutty, deeper flavor to the Annie’s bar. No kidding. See? I’m practically a hippie now!
If you choose to eat Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese, you can (although I wouldn’t recommend it.). We’re going to eat from-scratch or Annie’s Homegrown, thanks. We have our choices for everything from pasta to granola bars and I can choose to buy the granola bar with literally 39 ingredients or I can buy the one with 12 – all of which are organic and real and not a chemical in the midst. I can eat things like soy (that is about 85% likely to come from a genetically modified frankenseed) or I can eat organic chocolate chips – both the third ingredient on the lists.
Thing is, my body, our KIDS’ BODIES, can’t digest processed, chemically-laced foods. And I wish our government had our citizens’ best interests at heart and wouldn’t sign bills that include provisions that protect agricultural giants from any consumer backlash when people really, truly realize that those companies use chemicals that cause us harm. I wish companies like Kraft would choose to just distribute the safe versions of their products that they already sell oversees and that they would abandon the unsafe, unhealthy versions we Americans get on our grocery shelves. I wish our farmers would not be penalized with taxes and fees for choosing to grow crops without genetically-modified seeds. And sometimes I just wish I could unlearn this stuff and carry on in my happily oblivious life.
But I can’t unlearn these truths. I can’t pretend it’s all scare tactics or activist tales. I became a believer on January 18, 2013.
For me, it took standing in a cold surgical procedure room at 6am on a snowy Midwestern morning, seeing the insides of my own kid on a screen. He was a sick boy, friends. His digestive system was cobblestoned with corrosion from the acids that had been working overtime trying to break down all of the chemicals and plastics and non-foods I’d been ignorantly feeding him. The damage had been done, but it’s reversible. In just two months’ time, with some medication and a total shift in thinking about food, we’re seeing results. His symptoms are fading and he’s feeling better. Without going crazy, I took processed, pre-prepared foods out of our diets. I started by swapping ingredients – whole wheat for bleached all-purpose flour, honey for sugar, butter for margarine. If I didn’t know what an ingredient was, I didn’t use it. Baby steps.
This has not been easy, but it’s been worth it. Kids don’t like to give up even the occasional Little Debbie in their lunches and fruit snacks and cereals. They weren’t thrilled to see strange vegetables in the fridge, knowing that mama wasn’t okay to count it a serving of vegetables when they ate their Chef Boyardee ravioli. Heck, I didn’t like the idea of giving up my Diet Coke, but I did.
I work full-time, outside the home and then I go home to all of the wife and mom duties plus I have become a full-on baker and whole foods chef. We can’t use cheats like sauces and dressings. We can’t pop open a can of biscuits or dip heated-up frozen chicken nuggets in bottled honey mustard any more.
But, my family isn’t missing it as much as they thought they would. My kids are eager to try new food – as long as I promise it won’t taste weird. The microwave beeps have been replaced by the KitchenAid mixer and Pampered Chef food chopper. We’re using less trash bags because I’m not throwing away as many boxes and cans.
So, instead of popping the top of my Diet Coke, I raise my bottle of water to the men and women like me who are sacrificing a little time and energy to educate themselves and their families. Here’s to my fellow travelers who are pinching pennies to afford organic milk and veggies. I don’t know where this information, this cause, will take me, but I’m willing and eager to go.