Ending the 2020 school year with nine weeks of distance learning taught me one thing:
Ending the 2020 school year with nine weeks of distance learning taught me one thing:
Megan King lives in Gilbert, AZ with her loving husband and the dorkiest dog you'll ever meet. You can typically find her watching Friends on Netflix (again) or hanging out with the youth group girls from her church, where she's served in leadership for the past seven years. She works as a communications director for a non-profit that spreads the gospel in SouthEast Asia and she loves every minute of it. (Okay, not every minute but she can't complain.)
Here's a question I struggle with sometimes, and the following is really a letter to myself.
How much control do you really have in your household?
Sure, you can control what you cook for dinner and how clean you keep your house... at least to a certain point. But can you make your children obey you? Can you make them eat all their veggies, clean their room, or do their homework? Without having to ask or bribe? Can you make your husband help you out around the house or make him choose what to do with his time?
Short answer: No
You may have heard Kristina Kuzmic say "mind your own motherhood" in some of her humorous parenting videos on YouTube. If you haven't, when you've finished reading this you should go and check her out.
What does it mean to "mind your own motherhood?"
Basically this: Don't judge other moms for momming differently than you!
Focus more on your parenting styles, and less on everyone else's.
Just because you have strong feelings and convictions regarding certain decisions concerning your children, doesn't mean you have the exclusive rights to train other moms. They might also have strong feelings and convictions to raise their children completely different from you. That doesn't make them a bad mom, it just means they have a different style. Good kids come from many different parenting styles, and that's OK. That's what we want in our diverse culture!
Mom on mom shaming is when moms judge each other and offer unsolicited advice on parenting issues such as breastfeeding, vaccinations, screen time, nap/bedtime routines, meal times, clothes, and the list goes on and on. Parenting is no easy task, but when we constantly wear each other down with our nagging opinions and judgmental stares it only gets harder! It is truly no one else's business how you decide to parent, except of course your husband - with whom you should be co-parenting. And it is none of your business how your friend, sister, or cousin parents, either.
If a child is being abused or having their basic needs left unmet, that's a whole 'nother issue. This is not usually the case, though. It is not neglect to allow a child to wear mismatched or hand-me-down clothes to school. It is not abuse to feed your child processed store bought snacks instead of gluten free, vegan, organic kale bites. Brains won't melt out of a child's head if they play a video game for 3 hours straight (although I'm guilty of telling my boys this). A child will not drop dead if they don't get breast milk or if they are vaccinated - in fact, many vaccinated formula fed babies have grown into perfectly healthy adults. And frankly, mom cards don't get revoked for wearing pajamas in the drop-off line at school.
Of course, I have opinions on what good parenting is. I know where I stand on all of the issues I mentioned above, and I'll even write a blog post or two explaining my opinion and why I choose to do what I do. And I'm sure you have opinions as well. But that doesn't give either of us the right to judge or criticize each other for it. If you are asked what your stance is on certain topics or how you handle specific parenting issues, offer it up! Discussion is good, sharing opinions and thoughts is good, even debate is good, too. But mom shaming (gossiping, fighting, criticizing, judging) is not. I'm talking to myself here, too - more often than not, unsolicited advice is unwanted advice, offensive advice, demeaning advice, self-righteous advice, etc.
There is no such thing as perfect parenting. There is nothing that can be done to become a perfect mom, but there are many different ways to be a good mom. Focus less on what you think other parents are doing wrong, and focus more on what you think is right for your family.
Just because you are married doesn't mean you should stop dating. In fact, you should date more now that you are married!
Marriage is hard. And once kids enter the equation, finding time to be with one another and grow in intimacy gets complicated. Unfortunately for many, dating stops once parenting begins. This is sad and potentially dangerous. If you do not keep the intimacy and passion in your relationship alive and thriving, your marriage could die. So many people are stuck in a stagnant marriage with no passion and are together for the kids and convenience, coasting through life on autopilot. It's fairly common, but shouldn't be considered normal.
So be intentional. Go on dates regularly. Make plans for once a week, once a month at the longest. Keep a routine and make it a priority. Schedule regular date nights and don't cancel them. In your home, the most important relationship is you and your spouse (second only to God, of course). Your kids come third. If you and your spouse are not a team, working together with a like mind, communicating and connected to the core, how can you expect to co-parent effectively? Children need the input of both parents - that's how it was designed - a mom and dad together. It's very confusing for a child to live in a house where the parents' marriage isn't the priority. They will learn that it is normal to be unhappy in marriage and to not be in love with your spouse; and will most likely end up in a similar situation when they grow up. Don't let this happen.
Work with your spouse and decide what day or times works best for you both. Consider your work schedules and family time. For example, the best time for my husband and I to get in our date is during the weekdays while our boys are in school. We both work from home and that's just what works for us. It will be different for everyone. If you have friends or family members in a similar season of life, consider making a kid swap schedule where you take their kids for a few hours once a month, and they'll take yours on a different day. That way, you get your date night and childcare is covered. Plus you get to help out another couple as well. Or perhaps your church's youth group has a few responsible high-schoolers looking for a side gig? Either way, you will figure it out if you really want to.
Date Night doesn't have to be super fancy or expensive. But it could be, if that's your style and it fits in your budget. Don't be afraid to invest now in the long term stability of your marriage. That is always a good investment. Put your whole heart into it and don't hold back. Never feel guilty about taking time away from the kids to focus just on each other. Trust me, this is the best benefit a child can get from there parents.
Maybe your budget is strict and you don't live near family and don't really have a sitter option? That's no excuse. You still need date night. In fact, you may need it more than anyone. It just may look a little different. Stay in and rent a movie or binge watch Netflix after the kids go to sleep. Go for a family walk and let the kids play at a park while you sit together on a bench and talk. Cook dinner together and experiment with a unique new recipe. Play cards or a board game as a family and choose to be on each others teams. Steal away small windows of time to focus on each other and don't be afraid to flirt in front of the kids. All the while, keeping it in mind that eventually you will find a sitter and you will go out together.
Don't let the most precious human relationship you have be placed onto the back burner. Show your children what a healthy, loving, and Godly marriage relationship looks like. Show your spouse how important they are to you by making and keeping them your priority.
If you are anything like me, you've probably tried to force or even bribe your child to eat their dinner on many, many occasions. It just doesn't work. Not only that, you can end up damaging their relationship with food in the long run. Years ago, I came across this handy little flyer for the division of responsibility in feeding and I have kept it and loosely referred to it on occasion. If only I had truly emphasized it's importance and actually followed it earlier!
The Division of Responsibility in Feeding is simply this: at mealtime, the parents have specific jobs only they should do, and the child has specific jobs only they could do. Notice the difference in should and could. You cannot force your child to do anything, let alone eat their food - let that be their job. Don't allow these responsibilities to sway back and forth between parent and child, that could make for a nasty power struggle. Only you should be the one to do your job as the parent, and only your child could do their job:
I am not comfortable calling myself a "vegan."
I intentionally stay away from eating meat, eggs, and dairy as a basic rule. So, I eat like a vegan, and when I'm out to eat at restaurants I ask for "vegan options." Which, depending on the place, means I just have a side or two of steamed broccoli.
When I first went plant based it was so much easier to just tell people I was vegan. I didn't really know what that meant except that I didn't eat animal products anymore. But the more research I have done the more I have found that eating plant based and going vegan are two very different things. (more on that here)
I do so many things that aren't considered "vegan." For example,
Most moms know the struggle of being constantly interrupted by their children. Whether you're in the middle of a conversation with a friend, on an important phone call, or maybe working on the computer, it's only a matter of time until your child wants your attention. I don't know of any mom who enjoys being interrupted every few minutes by their child. It's hard to concentrate on your own thoughts or listen to others while your little one is incessantly tugging on you saying "mom, mom, mom." Even if you appease them for a moment, they will only come back a few minutes later for more.
Here's how the interrupt rule works:
-If your child needs to get your attention while you are busy, they are to quietly approach you and lay a hand on your shoulder or arm.
-You should immediately acknowledge them, with eye contact or your hand on top of theirs. That way, they know that you know that they need you. But they don't say a word, yet.
-Then they wait. Once there is a natural break in your conversation or you are done with what you are doing, you can turn to them and give them your undivided attention.
It's that simple!
My boys have applied the interrupt rule to all the adults in their lives whom they ever may need to interrupt, completely unprompted. They just like it, I guess. They even use it on each other which is so stinkin' sweet. It is quite fun explaining to unsuspecting family members or friends why my child is just standing next to them with their hand on their shoulder. Usually the adult is surprised and impressed at how mature they are acting and want to implement it in their own homes with their kids.
In training kids up this way, they learn self control, patience, and respect for their elders time and space.
And I don't have to be interrupted anymore! Parenting tip for the win.
I am a homemaker, or as some say, a stay at home mom.
My job is one I don't get paid for, in a financial sense.
My payment comes in the form of hugs, smiles, cuddles, messes, and stress.
I love my job, but sometimes I get tired of it. This is just me being completely honest and transparent.
I realize now that I am not the only one. This homemaker thing is not easy, I don't know if it ever has been.
But over time, it seems to get harder - I believe it is because I put taking care of everyone and everything above taking care of myself.
I used to think that taking care of myself first was the selfish thing to do.
I don't have time to take care of myself, my family needs me.
After many hours in desperate prayer for peace and patience, God has opened my eyes.
I cannot effectively care for my family unless I am first cared for.
It's the same mentality behind the oxygen mask in an airplane, place your mask first and then help those around you.
I won't be much help to my loved ones if I pass out on the floor.
So... now I am learning the difference between knowing and doing.
I know I need to take care of myself, but how do I do that?
I've been asked before, "What do you like to do?"
It's depressing that I don't really have a good answer.
I like to watch TV (lame), I like to go on long walks (a little less lame), I like to ...
I got nothin'...
So this year, I am going to try out a few new things.
I will relax!
I plan to do a lot more blogging, with that comes research (which I guess I also like to do).
I am going to read. And not just to gain knowledge or for research. I want to read fiction.
I want to try meditation or maybe even yoga.
I will start a prayer journal.
And I am not going to be ashamed to tell my family that I need me time.
Even if that just means a 20 minute bath while the dirty dishes wait in the sink - and I will choose not to let that bother me.
I will learn how to care for my family without wearing myself out, one day at a time.
There is so much debate and controversy over screen times for children out there that it's almost enough to just give up caring.
My family and I have been living a whole food plant based lifestyle since July 2017 and one of my biggest takeaways is what I've learned about dairy.
The first thing I had noticed after switching to a whole food plant based diet was this: dairy and I did not get along.
We didn't have the beautiful relationship I thought we had. Dairy did not love me like I loved it. I never knew that I was lactose intolerant (as was my oldest son) and that dairy was causing my horrible cystic acne.
I don't think I had gone an entire day without cow's milk my whole life. So I just grew up thinking it was normal to have a full face of acne and regular stomach cramps.
After doing more research on the link between the effects cutting out dairy has on stomach/bowel issues and acne - it all became clear (pun intended). Dairy was causing (or at least aggravating) these issues I tried so hard to remedy with medicines and prescription face washes. After only three days without any dairy, my digestive health was much better and I had no new cystic acne breakouts. I remember telling my husband three days after cutting out animal products from our diet that I will never go back to dairy. I loved milk, cheese, and ice cream as much as anyone else, but I did not love having painful cystic acne or the discomfort of being constipated all the time.
When we cut out dairy we realized how much it was shamelessly added into so many packaged foods unnecessarily. Packaged convenience food that doesn't require dairy "contains milk." Why? Well, the dairy industry knows that it's addictive and they want you addicted to their product. Not only is dairy addictive, it is also one of the top allergens among Americans. Not to mention that it is linked to causing and aggravating many health issues and diseases.
This made us angry, and sad. Just like any loving parent, we fed our kids milk and cheese because we were told that they needed it, it's nature's perfect food after all, or so we thought. Cow's milk, even in its most natural form - organic, from grass fed cows, added hormone free, raw, completely unadulterated - is still an unhealthy and possibly harmful addition to anyone's diet. Unless you are a baby cow. But I am assuming if you are reading this, you are in fact not a baby cow, therefore there is no reason you should consume cow's milk.
Nutrition and Health
Let's talk nutrition. Vitamin D, potassium, iodine, calcium etc. Our "not baby cow" bodies certainly do need these things, and yes, if you read a nutrition label on the gallon of cow's milk, it will show that these nutrients are in there. What you won't see is all of the bad stuff - naturally present bovine pregnancy hormones, toxins, protein quality not fit for human consumption, and no warning of the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol.
But "milk builds strong bones," right? Well, science can't back that statement up. There is no scientific or medical evidence that milk actually builds or protects bones. Actually, it's just the opposite. Hip fracture risks are highest where there is greatest milk consumption. Populations where dairy consumption is extremely low or non-existent have no instances of osteoporosis. But here in America, where dairy is our number one source of calcium, we have 54 million people with osteoporosis or low bone density - over half of people over age 50 in America are at risk of breaking a bone due to poor bone health. If milk was really protective, shouldn't Americans have stronger bones?
Bone health is so much more than just calcium intake. There are so many vital nutrients in beans, fruits, and vegetables that are associated with better bone mineral density and overall better bone health than milk. In fact, studies show that antioxidant rich fruit reduces bone loss and therefore lessens risk for osteoporosis.
Dairy products may be the number one source in America for calcium, but it isn't all its hyped up to be. Dairy comes as a packaged deal, and it is quite a gross and scary package. Sure, just three servings of dairy per day provides your daily calcium requirement but you're also getting too much saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention pus, manure, antibiotics, pesticides, and all the naturally occurring bovine pregnancy hormones. In America you can expect over 300 million pus cells in each glass of milk - the highest allowable concentration in the world. The Dairy Industry argues that the infection and inflammation of the udders in factory farmed dairy cows is irrelevant because of pasteurization protocols - cooked pus poses no food safety risks. Still, ew. There are better ways to get your calcium.
What about some other components of dairy?
Since Christmas of 2015, my husband and I have decided to rethink the way we celebrate Christmas. As Christians, Christmas is a very special holiday in which we get to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The best gift of all is the gift God gave to us through His Son, but if you ask any child what Christmas is all about, they may say: presents.
In the months preceding Christmas, in an attempt to modify a child's behavior, it may be tempting to bribe them with presents or say that Santa sees everything. I have even fallen into the trap of suggesting that my sons write up their own Christmas Wish Lists, only to pretty much completely ignore it later because (1) we have already decided what we want to buy them and (2) we can't afford the whole Lego Store.
I remember, as a child, my mother and father let me in on the secret that there is no Santa. This may have been because I was always skeptical anyway and they wanted to keep the magic alive for my younger siblings. If I knew it was a secret, I could play along and not ruin it for them. Smart thinking, mom.
Anyway, at some point in my early years I came to the conclusion that believing in Santa isn't always beneficial for a child's emotional state. Sure, the parents who buy their kids gifts, label most of them as "from Santa", and tell them that he came in the night and left the presents under the tree while the children were sleeping, may have good intentions. But what are they teaching their kids? That they deserve multiple materialistic items to clutter up their rooms and minds? That they've earned it? That there is a man who sneaks into the house once a year and leaves toys? That reindeer actually can fly? Where does it end!?
Yes, I understand the difference between having a colorful imagination and telling lies, but where is the line? Believing in Santa, for the children who come from a poor family, can be heartbreaking. Especially when they go back to school, happy about the new pair of socks that Santa brought them, and a classmate is coming excited to share about the many new and expensive clothes, toys, and high tech gadgets Santa brought them. How is the poor child supposed to feel? If Santa is the one deciding which child gets what, what is that child going to think? Somehow they weren't good enough? They aren't loved as much as the other, richer child? I know that parents aren't intentionally teaching their children this, but it's just how the mind of a child works. They can't help but compare.
It is possible to teach your children the truth about Santa, and keep the Christmas Spirit alive. Take the focus off of the jolly fat man in red, and put it onto the one Man who bled and died for them. Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus was born as a human baby and we celebrate His birth as an act of worship. To use this holiday as an excuse to spoil our children and focus on Christmas gifts they will get perverts the true reason for the season.
In our home, we are trying to move away from the worldly Christmas traditions and move toward a more authentic Christian way of celebrating Christmas. So instead of focusing on what my kids will get for Christmas, we try and teach them to focus on what they can do for someone else during the Christmas season. And this doesn't always mean buying someone a toy or a gift. You don't have to spend money to bless someone. This could be helping someone around the house, writing letters to people in the military or in a nursing home, or picking up trash at a park.
This doesn't mean we do not buy fun things for us as a family. We do. But we do not wrap it, put it under a tree, or glorify the mystery gifts piling up. The anticipation for opening piled up gifts is exciting, yes, but we need to be careful about what mindset we are fostering in our children. They are fairly simple minded, but they also are smarter than we give them credit for.
We have taught our children that there is no Santa Clause from a very young age, so it was never something that was a shock to them. This came up in a preschool setting once, and the preschool teacher told me all about it - didn't go well. A friend of my younger son was excited for Santa to come to his house on Christmas, and my son had told him that Santa wasn't real. This ended up in a big emotional argument. It's really is a tricky thing. But you have to decide what is right and good for your family. So after school that day, I took him home to talk about it. My son was angry because his friend was believing a lie, but his friend was sad because he felt like my son was being mean to him. I told him that some kids believe in Santa, and even though he's not a real person in the way they believe, it is impolite to intentionally call out a Santa-believing friend. I have a "the truth doesn't care how you feel" mindset and that's how I raise my kids, but we also need to be aware of and compassionate towards others who may parent differently.
Teaching my boys that Santa isn't real was easy. But when we told them we were no longer going to participate in the worldly tradition of opening a ton of presents on Christmas morning, they weren't happy. Of course they weren't. They were raised to expect the presents, making a list and getting what they want. It came with the territory. Fall comes, along with all the Christmas shopping ads and store decorations, neighbors putting up lights, teachers bringing candy canes to share with the class, the hype starts early. The heart of a child is selfish. It just is. We are all born selfish and sinful. You don't have to teach a child to be selfish - they just are. So when you mess with their personal happiness, you'll be met with strife and tantrums. But the fruit that comes later on is worth it. When a child is being intentionally raised with love, truth, and structure (and help from the Holy Spirit), only good things will come.
So instead of doing the traditional Christmas morning in front of the tree opening gifts for hours and letting your kids quantifying your love for them in their mind in the amount of cool new toys they got, why not try a bible story and hymn time morning instead? Depending on how old your kids are, maybe they can read it aloud. Come up with meaningful family traditions that they will love and bring with them when they start their own family.
My favorite new tradition is our Christmas Cross with the 25 days of the names of Jesus. For each of the 25 days leading up to Christmas, we put an ornament on the Cross with a name of Jesus. Then we read a scripture passage where that specific name is mentioned. And finally, we worship Jesus through prayer and song together. It took some time for my boys to warm up to this tradition, but now they really love it and look forward to it.
Every year, at least twice a year - Birthdays and Christmas, there was an opportunity for my boys to receive toys as gifts. And since we weren't necessarily getting rid of old ones to make room for the new ones, they really started stacking up. They had all the Avengers costumes and accessories, multiple super hero action figures and the bad guys to go with them, Lego's, Hot Wheels, Beyblades, trinket toys from Peter Piper Pizza, claw machine stuffed animals and so on. It would take my boys forever to clean their room, and when they would finally start making progress, it would be bed time! Or they would just pass out of sheer boredom on the floor atop a pile of toys.
It came to my attention that my children had too many toys, too much stuff. I decided we would spend a Saturday going through them together and make a keep pile, a trash pile, and a donate pile. My boys were very cooperative, but when we actually got to it, they were putting way too much stuff in the keep pile. The sad thing is, it was like every toy that was on the hot spot (or chopping block) was being rediscovered for the first time in years! The toy was never gone, it was just hidden underneath all of the other stuff. Some toys had sentimental meaning or very good reasons to keep in a special box, but most of them were just "filler" toys from birthday parties or Christmas.
Anyway, the materialistic attachment I saw in my boys' eyes and the sporadic fits whilst trying to convince them to donate some toys was, in a way, angering. I wasn't angry with them, but with myself. Obviously I know that children are naturally selfish, they are human beings with human nature after all. I shouldn't expect anything different. But how could I let it get this bad?
It's our culture - your child is one year older and they're all the sudden supposed to have all of their friends and family come over with presents and toys galore? Why?
I understand that some people genuinely love to give gifts, it is a love language. There is a difference between giving a gift out of love, and giving a gift out of obligation. I do not think it is loving to unintentionally encourage and foster a selfish and materialistic mindset. The "me, me, me, mine, mine, mine" attitude is ugly on everyone, young and old. So I made the bold decision to include on every birthday party invitation here on out a note: Please NO Gifts. I also told my family and close friends that we were no longer going to take part in Christmas present exchanges and to please refrain from purchasing toys or "junk things" (trinkets, etc) as gifts for my boys' birthdays or for Christmas. The materialistic mindset was becoming a distraction to the reason for the celebration. I know this sounds extreme, harsh even, but sometimes it takes drastic measures to undo all of the unhealthy learned behaviors and thought processes.
Some family members and friends still bring a gift to my boys' birthday parties or give them presents for Christmas. And that's OK. A gift from the heart is one thing, but I am not fond of that part of the birthday or Christmas party where everyone stands around and watches as a child frantically opens all of their gifts. Call me cynical if you want, but I can't help but think of the mindset and the heart condition being fostered in that child. Sure, it's cute watching a little kid get all excited opening a present, but it's not cute watching an adult freak out because they didn't get what they thought they deserved. See, I think spoiling children with gifts of a plethora of toys on their birthday or Christmas is contributing to the rise in spoiled and entitled teens and adults. If your child needs anything, it ain't "stuff". They need love, relationships and togetherness, structure, boundaries, and discipline.
We do occasionally buy fun things for our boys, but we usually try and get things we can all do together, like board games, and keep it to a minimum. If they want something specific, like Lego's, video games, Pokemon cards, etc. we have that good old conversation about earning and saving up money so they can buy it themselves. We aren't an anti-fun house, we are just trying to be a family who values people more than things.
An issue that comes up a lot in my house is the idea that "it's not fair that he gets to (fill in the blank) and I don't."
This usually comes up when one boy is "grounded" while the other one is not.
Should I not allow the ungrounded son to play video games or have friends over because it might hurt the grounded son's feelings?
I teach my boys that treating everyone equally is extremely unfair.
It may sound strange, but really think about that.
I am not saying that people are not equals, they are - created equal in God's image - deserving of dignity and kindness. I am saying that to treat everyone the same and give them all equal treatment (consequences and rewards) is unfair.
Let me explain.
Say you have two children, and you ask them both to clean their room. One child immediately obeys and starts to clean, while the other throws himself on the floor whining and crying about how he doesn't want to clean.
If I were to treat them equally, how unfair would that be?
Would they both be reprimanded for disobedience and fit throwing? Or perhaps they should both be rewarded and praised for being quick to obey and responsible?
Both children still deserve love and kindness and dignity, but they don't deserve the same reward or consequence.This applies to adults as well.
Again, both the hard worker and the slacker deserve dignity and kindness, but they don't both deserve a promotion or Employee of the Month.
Because their actions and attitudes are different, they deserve different but fair treatment. Not equal.
I am not just taking care of kids here, I am raising men. They will one day be adults and they need to know that they should not expect equal treatment. They need to be responsible for their actions and take the consequences that come with those actions. Good or bad. Regardless of what happens to someone else.
My sons are best friends, but they act like mortal enemies sometimes.
It's usually not long before a playful wrestling match goes from laughing so hard they can barely breathe to screaming at each other and crying because "he hurt me!" This is almost a daily occurrence at my house. I mean come on, you're wrestling, haven't you learned by now that when you wrestle you might get hurt?
Or sometimes during a game of Minecraft they'll be laughing, having fun, building together, and then next thing you know they're screaming at each other and hitting or throwing things because "he burned down my house and killed all my dogs!"
It's times like these that make my blood boil. I am not a naturally patient mom, but I am working on it.
I am trying this new thing (new for me, at least) - waiting quietly and listening. I used to jump in yelling right at the start, I would separate them and start dishing out punishments immediately. But often times I didn't have the whole story and ended up looking more like a rage monster than a critical thinking mom who was raising problem solving men.
When my boys fight, it brings out the worst in me. It's not their fault, it's mine, and I'll own that. But it is my job and responsibility as their mother to point them in the right direction, show them the way to act, so that when they grow up they won't be lost (Proverbs 22:6). This isn't an easy task though. It takes intention and consistency. (read my article Intentional Parenting)
I started with a conversation. During a time of peace and not strife, I told my boys that I want them to figure things out on their own; to solve their own problems and work on making peace together rather than making war. I also told them not to act in a way that resembles a toddlers temper tantrum when their brother doesn't do what they want him to do. My boys are old enough to understand that tantrums are embarrassing and inappropriate. And they agreed that they didn't want to act that way and they would try and be better.
But when the moment comes, they are sure quick to scream, and kick, and throw that tantrum.
And that moment seems to always come.
In that moment, if it starts while I am not in the room, I just wait and listen. Sometimes it's just screaming, other times it's crying. I just wait. I have learned to discern the different cries and screams of my boys. There's the frustrated cry, the hurt cry, the sad cry. And the rage scream, the hurt scream, and the control scream. If I hear slapping, punching, or banging, I always jump in and intervene right away. I want them to know how serious that violence and physical aggression is and that it's never tolerated in our home.
Sometimes, while I wait and listen, I can hear them talking it out. They get over it and the offense is quickly forgotten.
But not always.
Sometimes it only escalates. I wait and listen close, but out of view. I don't want their words or actions to be influenced by my presence. I want to see how they handle it when they are on their own. This gives me the fuel I need to properly correct, teach, and guide them later on, during our follow up conversation about the situation (read my article Redemptive Discipline). If it continues to escalate with no sign of appropriate resolution, I step in.
"Hey guys, I noticed you're having a hard time communicating. What's going on?"
I get both sides of the story, each boy gets to tell me what happened without their brother interrupting. This is the best way to get the whole story told from two different perspectives (plus I was listening in without their knowledge and have a more broad understanding). Usually they are both to blame for the escalation, but it always starts with one ill-willed comment or action.
Once we get down to the bottom of it, to where it all started, we start the apologies. The offender goes first, then the offended apologizes for their inappropriate reactions as well.
I'm hoping that once they learn how to determine when and how a fight gets started, they will be better at either stopping it from escalating, or preventing it all together. I want them to be motivated by love and respect for each other, not selfishness and pride.
I will help them word their apology if they need help (I am teaching them after all).
"I am sorry that I (insert offense here). You are my brother and I love you. I don't want to hurt you or make you feel unloved."
Sometimes, if there was a name calling involved - "I know that you aren't (stupid, annoying, dumb), I said that because (I was mad, you cheated on the game, you kicked me, etc). I am sorry."
During an apology, I have my boys stand face to face and use a sincere tone of voice. I want them to learn to mean it and take it seriously.
I have trained my boys not to just say "it's OK" in response to an apology, because sometimes it's not OK.
If someone hits you or calls you a name, but then apologizes, that doesn't make "it" "OK" to name call or hit. "It" referring to the offense and "OK" meaning acceptable or reasonable. To forgive someone is right, but you don't have to say "it's OK." That's sort of like saying "your offense against me was reasonable."
Instead of saying "it's OK," I have trained them to respond with something like "I forgive you, but it's not OK, please don't ever do that again. I don't like being treated like that."
That way, they are standing up for themselves, letting the people around them know how they want to be treated, and being kind at the same time.
They need to learn how to resolve conflict on their own. As parents, we won't be there to solve all of their arguments and disputes in the real world. It's our job as parents to make the here and now a safe learning environment.
The family friendly children's version of Halloween where we embrace trick or treating, playful imagination, and make believe is thought to be fun and innocent. The darker truth behind Halloween is full of unintentional (and sometimes intentional) pagan demon worship and the glorification and celebration of death, gore, torture, sexual immorality, and all things evil. I know this sounds harsh, but it's the truth. Modern Halloween in America is a mix of secular and religious elements and traditions.
The Origin and Evolution of Halloween and its Traditions
Modern day Halloween has evolved from a collection of traditions from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced Saou Win) and the Catholic holiday All Saints Day, along with many others. Samhain and All Saints Day are strictly religious holidays, observed intentionally for religious purposes, while Halloween is known as a widely and publicly celebrated secular holiday.
Celebrated by BC Celtic Ireland on November 1, Samhain (Celtic for summer's moon or the end of summer) marked the beginning of winter. The night before Samhain was thought to be a time when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was thinnest. The Celtic Priests, called Druids, taught that the spirits of the dead, demons, and gods would rise from the grave and roam amongst the living on October 31, and either wreak havoc or bring blessing. Since not all spirits were thought to be kind, in order to appease the unkind spirits, they would leave food and gifts on their doorsteps and wear masks if they left the house. They would also light bonfires and disguise themselves as ghosts and ghouls to repel and confuse the spirits. The eve of Samhain was The Festival of the Dead led by a band of ruthless Druids who ruled Northern Ireland for centuries through occult terror and human sacrifices.
In the 8th century, Pope Gregory the third established All Hallows Day to discourage pagan practice of Samhain. November 1st became a Catholic holiday, All Hallow's Day (or All Saints Day), and its purpose was to honor all Christian saints and martyrs, known and unknown. This new holiday was accepted by the Celts, but they still insisted on carrying their own rituals and tradition of celebrating Samhain. The day before Samhain soon came to be known as All Hallow's Eve (later shortened to Halloween).
Old Celtic traditions were revived in 19th century America by Irish and Scottish immigrants. During a potato famine, over a million hungry Irish people and their folklore came to America. Their traditions began to change even more.
Halloween costumes are thought to have evolved from the Celts demonic or "harmful spirit" disguises during Samhain.
Jack-O-Lanterns began as an Irish tradition of bringing home an ember from the Samhain bonfire in a carved out turnip, using it as a lantern. This evolved over time and they started carving faces on the lanterns to honor their deceased ancestors and an Irish folk hero named Stingy Jack. After the move to America, when they saw that the pumpkin was more abundant, they used them instead.
Bobbing for apples was a Celtic vestigial divination ritual. The apple was associated with the female goddess of love. Young single people would try to bite the apple hanging from a string. This is similar to a bouquet toss at a wedding. The first person to bite the apple would be the next to marry. It was their way of attempting to see into the future through demonic help.
Trick or Treating is thought to have evolved from souling and guising (which originated in medieval Britain). Souling is where people would go door to door and offer prayer for dead relatives in exchange for treats. Guising is where young people would wear costumes and sing, recite poetry, tell jokes, or perform another trick in order to collect a treat, usually money or food. Trick or treating may have also started as the ancient Celtic tradition of leaving food on doorsteps to keep the wandering ghosts at bay. During 1930's America, trick or treating was more about the tricks than about the treats. People would play pranks on unsuspecting victims, usually vandalism or violence, unless they provided them with a treat. I will "trick" you if you don't give me a "treat." So basically, extortion. In the 1950's trick or treating became more family friendly and less violent.
Before Halloween was the family friendly, child/candy/costume centered secular holiday we know today, it was a strange combination of Pagan religious rituals, a Catholic attempt to prevent the Pagan worship, and other foreign traditions more focused on playing tricks on people, trying to tell the future through invoking the devil's help, and honoring and communicating to the dead.
Is Halloween a Satanists Holiday? Halloween has been celebrated long before Anton LaVey founded "the church of Satan" in 1966. Satanists only recently adopted Halloween as one of their holidays. So Halloween isn't Satanic in origin, but it is considered a Satanic holiday when referencing it being celebrated by Satanists for obvious reasons, being a day when demons, witches, and devils are glorified. LaVey has even said "I'm glad Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one night out of the year. Welcome to Halloween."
Should Christians celebrate the modern, family friendly, Americanized version of Halloween?
God makes it very clear how He feels about certain Pagan practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-14. In this passage He lists detestable actions and rituals and commands His people to never imitate them. This passage is a pretty inclusive list of activities and beliefs that Halloween was originally founded on. In fact, it was for these beliefs, activities, and rituals that the Pagans were driven out of the Promised Land God gave to His people. As a Christian, in light of this passage, Halloween now repulses me.
We as Christians are to live IN the world, not be OF the world. We are Christians every day of the year, we shouldn't compromise our morals just because everyone else is. We should allow God's word to guide us. On Halloween, death and torture and gore are glorified. God has overcome the grave, we should celebrate God, not the grave. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says "for you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not children of the night or of darkness." We are called to reject the darkness and represent Jesus well. Especially when everyone else is not. Prayerfully consider treating Halloween like an evangelism opportunity. Like opposite door to door missionaries. People come to YOUR door. Be friendly, represent Christ, preach the Gospel, hand out bible tracts, etc.
Death in and of itself is not "evil" by human definition. It is a natural part of the circle of life. Everyone experiences it, no one is immune to it. Some definitions of "evil" are: profoundly immoral and malevolent, embodying or associated with the forces of the devil, harmful or tending to harm, something extremely unpleasant, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force, a manifestation of this especially in people's actions, something that is harmful or undesirable. Some antonyms of "evil" are: good, beneficial, pleasant, virtuous.
So death is not evil, it is normal. But celebrating and glorifying death, torture, gore, horror, and the paranormal through costume, decor, and other choices that normalize these things can cause spiritual harm and are definitely not considered good, beneficial, pleasant, or virtuous.
Is it truly innocent to allow your children to dress up and go door to door asking for candy from strangers? I believe it is not. Even if you are present and keeping them safe physically, you are teaching them it is OK to celebrate and cooperate in a holiday that was originally founded on someone else's religious beliefs; Beliefs that directly contradict the Gospel and go against a direct command from God in Deuteronomy 18:9-14.
All that being said, I do not judge or look down on my brothers and sisters in Christ who choose to celebrate Halloween with their children. Not everyone is convicted by the Holy Spirit in the same way, and we all have our own walk with Christ. I do not believe it is an inherent sin to let your kiddo dress up and take them trick or treating. I do believe, however, it would be sin if the Holy Spirit places it on your heart not to, and you disobey.
But as for me and my household... we will not celebrate Halloween.
See my article on Intentional Parenting.
Whole food refers to the state of the food. Food in its most natural form, unrefined and unprocessed (or very minimally processed considering washing, chopping, and steaming veggies can be considered a form of "processing"). The dictionary definition of "process" is "to perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on something in order to change or preserve it." Unprocessed food has nothing bad added and nothing good taken away. Processed food is easy to spot because it will come in a box or package and have a long list of complicated ingredients with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and a bunch of other added unnecessary ingredients. Whole foods include grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds all in their whole and most natural form. This would also include milk fresh from a healthy cow, a free range chicken egg, a wild caught fish, etc.
Plant based refers to the food itself. Food comes either from the ground or from an animal. All food items can be traced back to their plant or animal origin. Plant food excludes all animal based foods, sounds simple enough, right? Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans are all plant foods. Corn syrup, cane sugar, Oreos, and even some cakes and donuts are technically plant based (if they contain no milk, eggs, or other animal byproducts). Other animal byproducts which may not be obvious would include gelatin (made from animal bones), lard (animal fat), lactic acid (from animal muscles and blood - but is also found in beets), casein (a dairy milk protein), rennet (from calf stomach mucus), and many more.
"Vegan" and "whole food plant based" are not the same, although they can be seen as pretty similar. A vegan eats entirely plant based, but not necessarily whole food. Plant based does not always mean whole food, just like whole food does not always equal plant based. The terms vegetarian and vegan primarily refer to what somebody doesn't eat: any food product that is derived from animal origin. While the term whole food plant based refers to what somebody does eat: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes in their most whole and natural forms, unprocessed and unrefined.
Veganism is a lifestyle choice where animal rights activism is the motivation. This goes farther than food: wool, leather, fur coats, and even zoos aren't vegan. Any product (like chocolate, coffee, or gold) that was obtained via child labor or slave labor is not vegan. Products that have been tested on animals are also not vegan. Some people choose veganism for the planet's health, to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. This would include any environmentally friendly alternative that saves water, power, or protects nature. So plastic bags, gas guzzling SUVs, and littering are not vegan. Then there are the people, like me and my family, who chose to adopt a whole food plant based "vegan" diet purely for the health benefits to our own bodies (at least that's where it started). So adopting a vegan lifestyle could be motivated by the love of animals, the love of the planet, or the love of your own body (or all of the above!).
If more people treated their body with this kind of love and care, there would be far less instances of obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, and other preventable food related illnesses. Unfortunately, too many people don't know how to love or care for their bodies.
Animal foods and highly processed foods are more calorically dense, while whole plant food is more nutritionally dense.
When choosing foods, I often ask myself these two questions: Did this come from a plant? Is it in its most whole or natural form?
If the answer is yes to both then I am good to go! I know that the calories I am consuming aren't empty or harmful, but filled with all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients my body needs. And if I feel like compromising (I love Oreos) I try and make sure that it isn't a regular thing. But I don't compromise to the point of eating processed meat or dairy products. I may have let gelatin as an ingredient slide every once in a while in the beginning of my journey, and I had a couple tiny chunks of egg in some fried rice a few months ago. And for the record, we do still consume honey.
My goal is whole food AND plant based, not junk food veganism.
I believe that the best way to love your kids is to be an intentional parent.
There is no such thing as perfect parenting.
In fact, the only perfect Father is our Heavenly Father, and the only perfect Son is Jesus Christ. They share a perfect Father and Son relationship.
As human parents, we make mistakes and that's ok.
God's design for us as parents was never to be perfect or to have all the right answers all the time. We aren't supposed to know exactly what we're doing or even why we're doing it all the time. But we are meant to lean on and trust God for all of the unknowns.
I believe that God uses our children as tools to teach us lessons and grow our faith and trust in Him. My boys are hard to handle sometimes, and God uses these tough situations as a tool to sharpen me and make me look and act more like Christ. He does this for all of us because He loves us.
As parents, we are supposed to train our children to love God and love others.
Parenting is not easy.
If you think being a parent is easy you are most likely doing it wrong. It is not easy raising good and productive members of society. Parenting is so much more than just taking care of your children and making sure they survive each day. Yes, that is a part of it, but that's not where it ends.
Parenting, at least intentional parenting, is about raising your children to walk with Jesus. To become thoughtful, compassionate, kind, forgiving, productive, and respectable adults who love fully and selflessly.
You cannot raise a child like this if you are your child's "friend." You should be their authority figure, their parent.
If your child likes you 100% of the time, you're most likely raising a spoiled brat. If they always get what they want and know how to push all the right buttons to get it, you're failing as a parent.
This doesn't mean you can't have fun together or be friendly, it just means that you should be a parent first, friend second.
Your child should know that you are in charge - this doesn't mean they will never challenge you, it just means that they know you will stand your ground in battle.
They should know that you are there to love them, take care of them, teach them, and protect them, not to just clean up after them, buy things for them, and make sure they're always "happy."
There is so much more to parenting than just getting your kids to obey you or respect you.
Intentional parenting is all about teaching and training your children how to be Godly adults.
Lead by example.
I have not mastered intentional parenting, but here are a few practical tips I have found along the way:
- Redemptive Discipline teaches children that they are sinners in need of a savior. It teaches them that they are loved no matter what they do, by God and by mom and dad. But sometimes, our attitudes and actions need to be checked and changed. Children disobey and need discipline, not punishment, discipline. (see my article on redemptive discipline).
- The tone of voice you use when you communicate with your children is crucial. We teach our kids so much without knowing it. Too often I hear my children speaking to each other with a nasty tone that's all too familiar - my own. Before you're tempted to raise your voice and shoot off a malicious tone, remember - your children were created in the image of God, truly cherished and deserving of love and respect. You can be stern AND kind.
- Practicing patience is new to me. I am not a naturally patient person and I tend to assume my young children should just automatically know better. But sometimes they don't - they need to be taught. I learned the hard way that I wound them deeply when I react out of frustration and impatience, rather than respond with wisdom and love. Take a Holy Pause - take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and say a quick prayer before responding to tough behavioral situations.
Redemptive discipline, patience, and tone of voice all need to work together when dealing with disciplinary issues.
Tough situations are guaranteed to come up, they're a normal part of life. But always remember the God you serve and His plans for you and your children.
God gives us children so we can teach and guide them. That's our role - to teach and guide, and of course, to love.
An essential amino acid is one our bodies need but cannot make on its own, therefore we must consume and absorb them through our food.
Non-essential amino acids are ones our bodies need, but make enough on their own. We don't need worry about consuming these in order to fulfill our bodies need for them.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The protein in our food and body are composed of 20 amino acids - 11 of these we can create in our own bodies using nitrogen, the other 9 need to be consumed from food since we cannot make them.
The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
The 11 non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutemic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
Our skeletal muscles keep a sizable storehouse in the intracellular spaces of free amino acids to regulate our protein levels. Every day, about 90g of protein is dumped into our intestines to be broken down and reassembled to whatever proportion of amino acids we need. We do not need to be concerned with the amount of protein we are consuming, or if we are getting all of the essential amino acids. Our bodies were designed to prevent this type of deficiency by storing and recombining the amino acids to be used as our body requires.
So don't worry about if you're getting enough protein, just eat enough calories with a variety of plant foods including whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, etc. and you will have what your body needs.
I attend a Bible Study Fellowship group and have recently learned about redemptive discipline. This is an amazing Christian tool all parents should have in their back pocket. It is all about reaching into your child's heart.
When they misbehave, sure it's easy to lose patience, yell and throw out punishments, but what are you teaching them? That mommy is mean? At any point in the day mommy could just blow up? Nothing they do or say will be safe. They will begin to think that mom's love and happiness with them is dependent on their behavior (first of all, if that is true - mommy needs more of Jesus).
In order to understand redemptive discipline and appropriately apply it, you must first accept that your child is a sinner, no matter their age. Straight out of the womb, a born sinner. We all are. Your job as a parent is to guide your child into adulthood. To teach them how to live, to lead them by example. God has provided an instruction manual, we call it the Holy Bible. It is always relevant. All scripture is useful for correction and teaching.
When using redemptive discipline, you are addressing the heart of the behavior issue: your child's sinful human nature. For example, if they have toys all over the floor and refuse to obey your request to clean it up, what sin are they committing? Being disobedient to your parents is a sin. It is not wrong to tell your child that they are sinning. Too often parents sugar coat things for their kids, and therefore unintentionally turn their children into adults who aren't able to cope with failure, rejection, constructive criticism and who feel like everyone else is the problem. Don't be those parents. Don't be afraid to parent your child in a way that produces fruit in the future.
To continue the above example, say your child is disobeying your request to clean up their toys. You should only have to ask once. Consistency is key. Once, no more. As soon as they make the choice to disobey, send out a quick prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words. Then you should immediately pull them aside and have a conversation with them. Get onto their level, never stand over and look down on them and never do this from across the room with a loud voice. You should be face to face, at eye level, preferably close enough to touch, using a gentle but stern voice. Ask them if they know what they did wrong.
"Honey, do you know what you did wrong?"
Let them answer. Sometimes they'll know exactly what they did wrong, sometimes they won't, but that's ok because they are learning. If they know, and they tell you, praise God. If they don't know, tell them.
"You disobeyed mommy. When I asked you to clean up your toys, you said no."
Then teach them about sin.
"Do you know that God commands us to obey our parents? It is a sin to disobey your parents. A sin is when we do what we want to do, and not what God wants us to do."
Right now would be a great opportunity to open your bible and show them Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-3, even if they can't read (this will teach them that their mommy treats God's Word with respect and takes it seriously). Allow them to respond, if they want. Then continue.
"When you disobey mommy, you are sinning against God. God does not like sin, but He loves you so much. Everyone sins, even mommy and daddy. But God still loves us, too. That's why He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. You have been freed from the power of sin, that means you don't have to sin! You have a choice. You can choose to obey! Isn't that cool?"
Give them a chance to offer a response but don't expect one. Remember, learning is a process.
Ask them to pray with you. It is never too early or too late to start praying out loud with your child. If they want to say the prayer, let them! And then praise God for it. If they will let you, pray out loud with them afterwards, if they don't let you, do NOT force them. We don't want to make any of this feel like a punishment. Prayer is a gift from the Holy Spirit and He will never push himself onto us if we are unwilling, so offer that same courtesy to your child. After you pray together, give them a big hug and a kiss. Let them know you love them and that you expect them to be obedient. And then (good luck) ask them to clean up their toys again (everyone deserves a second chance ;)
This example is assuming that your child is a believer and will sit still for this conversation. But what if they aren't, and what if they don't? Redemptive discipline is still the best route. You can modify this technique to fit your specific family dynamic, but don't stray too much from the main goal: winning your child's heart to God. Relay facts that you can back up biblically. Share the gospel with them, teach them that they are a sinner in need of a savior. Let them know how much their Creator and Heavenly Father loves them.
This technique won't be effective for behavior modification without heart change, that is not our main goal anyway. Do not try to scare them into obedience. That is not God's way, there's no gospel in that message.
Never imply that when they disobey, you or God doesn't love them. We don't want them to come away from the conversation with the idea that they need to work for your love or for God's love. The love of God is unconditional, He wants our hearts first, not our behavior. A child can understand this, they just need to be taught.
Read Romans 8 and thank God.
Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:5-10, 1 John 2:1-2 are about sin.
Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 29:17, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 are verses about raising children.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church he himself being the savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
This passage is talking to believers. Verse 32 makes clear that this is a comparison of marriage between a man and a woman and the relationship between the Church and Jesus.
As wives, we need to appreciate how the mind of our husband works (obviously we will never fully understand him, and we're aren't meant to). Every man is different, but in a lot of ways they are the same. Either way, scripture makes very clear that wives should respect their husbands. There are extenuating circumstances, of course. If you are being abused, you need to seek help and protection, if necessary. But there are no conditions listed here. It doesn't say, "wives respect your husband IF he loves you first" or "IF you feel like he deserves it" or fill in your own blank.
Find out how your husband feels respect. This may sound silly, but just ask him. "When do you feel the most respected?" "What can I do better or differently to best respect you?"
For me, I learned that my husband doesn't always want my advice. This was hard for me to swallow because I am what you would call a control freak and unsolicited adviser. When I offer my advice, sometimes it comes across to him in a demeaning or manipulative way. When that happens, I am disrespecting him hardcore. The sad thing is, if I didn't ask, he wouldn't have told me. I would never have known and I would have continued to unknowingly disrespect him.
Husbands also are responsible to find out how they can best love their wives. He also should simply ask, or even pick up on context clues. My husband shows me he loves me by spending time with me, standing in the kitchen with me while I cook, or lounging on the couch with me watching a show in a dark room. Sure I can do these things on my own, but when he's there, I feel loved. There is no one size fits all when it comes to applying this scripture to our marriages. But we are commanded by God to submit to our husbands and love our wives.
In our current culture, there is a lot of emphasis on women's rights and equality among men and women. This scripture, calling women to submit to their husbands, is not a gender inequality issue. It is an obedient heart toward God issue.
God is not now nor has He ever claimed that He created men as greater than women. Nor is He saying that man is or should be in control over woman. He is simply saying that in a Godly marriage relationship He has appointed the man, the husband, as the head of the household and the wife. The husband is responsible to God for taking care of her and loving her as his own body.
As the wife, we are our husband's helper, his friend, and support system. There is nothing wrong with being a strong and independent woman, but a marriage is not the best place for that kind of independence.
When you marry, you commit to your spouse and to God that you are joining together as a team, dependent on God and each other, to work together towards common goals. That is best done when the wife submits to and respects her husband, and the husband loves his wife and cares for her as himself.
If those things are taken care of, everything else becomes a non-issue.
In the Fall of 2014, I came across a website called 100 Days of Real Food. After browsing some of Lisa Leake's recipes and reading into her 14 day challenge to cut out processed food, I bought her book. This changed my life. As a wife and mom of two boys, I wanted to be fully aware and educated about everything going into my families bodies. I had a unique challenge, my husband is overweight and my oldest son is underweight. I had fed them thus far, junk. I didn't know it was junk at the time and I didn't really think about it. Freezer lasagna, easy Mac, ramen, etc. I was working full time before my youngest son was born in early 2013 and I didn't really have the time or desire to prepare home cooked meals that required thought and prep. Opening a package and tossing it in the microwave was just easier. Unfortunately, easier isn't better.
So I read 100 Days of Real Food and made changes. I completed the 14 day challenge (as did my family, because mommy buys the food and plans the meals) and I was shocked at how easy it was! The feedback I got from my family was good. We learned so much. What is real food? What is whole food? What does processed really mean? Oh, that's an ingredients list? What are all of those hard to understand ingredients we used to just put into our mouths without question? I truly became an ingredients list master. Shopping took a lot longer, as I would practically sit down in the isle with packaged foods and Google each individual ingredient, most of the time out of sheer curiosity of what my family and I used to consume daily. Often times just doing that research on site made me despise that product all together and just put it back on the shelf, unfortunately for the next unsuspecting consumer.
This new knowledge and way of preparing, shopping, cooking, and eating was so exciting! I felt rejuvenated as a wife and mom, I felt so good about the decisions we were making and the way our bodies were feeling, I just had to share. I told my friend and bought her the book for her birthday and she loved it, too. She made the same change with her family and we became each other's support system. We would share recipes, make large meals to enjoy together, get each other's feedback on new things we would try, and even go peach picking or to the local farmers market together.
Fast forward a few years. June 28th 2017. My friend sends me a text about an interesting documentary with a vegan message that she wants me to watch, and that her and her husband are going to try out a vegan diet for 30 days and see what they think. I shared this with my husband and we both laughed. We said we wouldn't watch it because there is no way we would ever go vegan. We love what we eat: ribs, steak, burgers, cheese, whole milk, eggs and bacon. All organic and cruelty free, grass fed beef and free range eggs, no added hormones whole milk and expensive cheese. I made specific purchasing choices to make sure the animal products I was feeding my family were as healthy as possible, and I felt good about it. After all, we need them in our diet, don't we?
So my husband and I completely disregarded it as a phase, they'll realize how much they want and need animal products and then life will go back to the way it was. Well, a few days later, we hosted a brunch party and I had prepared a beautiful spread. Bacon wrapped cream cheese filled jalapenos, egg casserole, mini sausages, homemade Crock-pot apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, avocado toast and mimosas. My friend and her husband were there, talking about what they're learning and avoiding all the delicious food I have prepared, except the avocado toast. After the party, once everyone else had gone home, she pulls up Netflix on my TV and in a very loving, friendly way, forces my husband and I to watch this documentary, haha. Let me just say, I am so glad that she loves my family enough to drill past my hesitant and stubborn ways to make sure that I had an opportunity to gain this knowledge, so I can make an educated decision about food and health. I did this for her years earlier, and now she's upping the ante. We watched What The Health.
We sat through this documentary, to appease her, with no real intention of making any further changes. But once they started talking about the politics and money being paid out to confuse the public and advertise these animal products as health promoting or necessary or even SAFE, that was it. The science, studies, and expert opinions presented were all the evidence we needed that more research had to be done, we cannot disregard these claims. In fact, my husband was convinced enough at that point to get up right then and there and start throwing stuff away! Two packages of $8/lb grass fed ground beef, at least $10 worth of cheese, two gallons of milk, a carton and a half of eggs, all the bacon! I was very surprised. And if you knew my husband, you would be, too. I pleaded with him to let us go through what we had first, and then start this 30 day trial period my friend and her husband were doing, but he was convinced, we were starting now.
After What The Health ended, we went on a rabbit trail of documentaries and online research. We were hooked. It's like a whole new world was opened up to us that we never knew about. We've heard about veganism, but what's this whole food, plant based thing all about? Looking back, I am very grateful that we didn't go from the traditional American diet high in processed food and junk straight to a whole food plant based lifestyle. I believe that making the change to real food using Lisa Leake's resources, challenges, and books over the course of a couple years first was like a stepping stone for us to make the bigger and better change to whole food plant based nutrition. But this all happened so fast, within a day (so now came the fun part) telling the kids.
My boys were easy. They had a routine. Every day there were a few staples they could rely on. Milk, scrambled or hard boiled eggs, yogurt, string cheese, etc. Mom and Dad are about to change everything. My husband and I prepared ourselves for the conversation. We pulled up a few videos on YouTube, particularly Bite Size Vegan's videos for kids (just say no to milk and 5 reasons why we don't eat meat) and called the boys into the room. We told them, flat out, we won't be eating animals anymore. They didn't seem to care, so we moved on. We also won't be eating anything that comes from animals. This confused them. They didn't understand the concept. So we let them watch the videos (Bite Size Vegan does a really good job explaining, so we let her do it).
They were on board! They didn't realize that their favorite snacks and foods were actually causing harm to animals AND their own bodies. Before this, we never really explained (or even understood) the concept that when we consume dairy, we are in fact stealing from a baby calf, and even more sad, that baby calf (if male) would be killed just so we can consume his mommies milk and eat his body! And if it's a female calf, she will be forced into a life of repeated rape and having her babies kidnapped and milk stolen as well. I do not believe any child would choose to consume dead animal flesh or food retrieved in this way if given a choice, but they aren't given a choice, are they? In a way, parents brainwash their children into believing they need meat, dairy, and eggs without educating them on the facts first, mostly because parents don't actually have the facts in the first place!
My husband and I were learning that the food industry is a scary place. They want us to be confused enough about health and nutrition and diet that we just eat what we want, and we usually want what isn't always best for us. Many food producers have people on staff for the specific purpose of making a food product to be crave-able and addicting. This infuriated us. We made the switch overnight, cold turkey. I went shopping that next day, and we pretty much decided to wing it the first few days. The next few months would be jam packed with research, YouTube videos, more documentaries and an understanding that we may never fully understand it all. But that's ok, because what we do know is enough to make the changes we need.
If you are considering adopting a whole food plant based lifestyle, you have some questions to ask yourself.
What are your goals? What's your motivation? What do you care about? What changes do you want to make?
I have learned that it's not really about what you do, it's your motive and purpose behind doing it that makes for long lasting change. For example, if you go on a diet to lose a few pounds, when the pounds have been lost and the diet ends, you will gain that weight back eventually. But let's say you adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle with the intention of preventing disease, managing chronic issues, becoming a healthier you etc., sure weight loss may be a side effect of eating clean, but the motivation and purpose is to live a healthy and wholesome life.
There are many different reasons people decide to switch to and remain on a whole food plant based lifestyle.
Personally, I have chosen to adopt this lifestyle because of the health benefits, both for now and the future.
The World Health Organization's website states that over 17 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease (that's 31% of all deaths worldwide). According to the Center for Disease Control, over 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, that's more than 9% of our population. They project that one in three people will be diabetic by year 2050. The CDC's website states that in 2015-2016 almost 40% of U.S. adults were considered obese, that's over 93 million people nationwide.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and a group of researchers led a whole plant nutrition intervention study in participants with heart disease. They found they were able to drastically reduce the amount of major cardiac events and even reverse heart disease. There are also studies that show a balanced whole plant food diet can reverse morbid obesity. Even people with diabetes are able to drastically reduce their need to take insulin or medications after just a few weeks of a whole plant food diet intervention.
A whole plant food diet can be better than modern medicine in the way of actually preventing and reversing the disease. Medications treat the symptoms, but rarely the root cause. Our bodies were made to heal themselves, we just need to give them a chance. Start replacing foods that are detrimental to our health with beneficial whole plant foods that allow our bodies to heal.
Some would say that making this kind of change is extreme, but I personally believe open heart surgery is extreme; being on blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of your life is extreme. The amount of suffering animals go through just to provide us with unhealthful food products is extreme. The damage the agricultural industry is doing on our planets soil and air is extreme. But it's your choice. Make an educated decision.
So whatever your goals or motivation - for the health and wellbeing of your body, of the animals, or the planet - a whole food plant based lifestyle is a personal choice that each individual should make for themselves. You cannot make this choice for someone else, whether to please them or to change them - the obvious exception is parents, you feed your children based on your best educated choices.
I think the world would be a better and healthier place if everyone switched to a whole food plant based diet (or at least mostly), but I am obviously biased. I have an opinion, so do you, and that's OK.
So, are you curious about going "whole food plant based?" If so, how do you do it?
Well, don't eat animal products or junk food.
Ah if only it were that easy.
If you are coming from an already whole / real food lifestyle, then this should be pretty simple.
If you are coming from the typical Western diet, high in processed meat, dairy, and packaged foods, then this will be hard. But it is possible! You just have to want it.
First, I want to clarify the difference in the term "lifestyle" and the word "diet" as most of us know it.
"Diet" as a noun is simply a word used to describe the kinds of food a person habitually eats. It is not always referring to "diet" as a verb, a special course of food a person restricts oneself to for a limited amount of time in order to achieve weight loss.
A "lifestyle" is a way of life, your diet (the foods you eat) is a part of your lifestyle.
Many people transition to a whole food plant based lifestyle over a certain period of time, which could be days or weeks. Others, like me and my family, do it overnight cold turkey - pun intended ;)
At first, it may be overwhelming. Especially if you eat meat, eggs, dairy, or junk / highly processed food regularly.
The idea of cutting out all of those foods may be daunting, but think about it, what is your motivation?
In order to make this change stick you need to know why you are doing it. Is it for your health? That's why my family did it.
While it may be possible to eat junk food and animal products every day and still be considered "generally healthy," these foods are not clean eating foods, even if they are organic and ethically raised.
Animal products or highly processed foods will not promote health or help you meet significant health goals.
Besides, "generally healthy" compared to who? The heart disease ridden, obese population with diabetes on multiple different prescription medications?
Extreme exercising and restricting calories will most likely help you lose weight, but how healthy is your heart? What about your endocrine system? Are you at risk for developing cancer or diabetes? Are you deficient in any essential nutrients?
Your body needs food, we all know this, but just like a car that needs gasoline to run, our bodies need the right type of fuel to run properly. A whole food plant based diet is evidence based nutrition, proven to prevent and reverse diseases and other ailments.
A well planned diet revolving around whole plant foods is the perfect way to properly fuel your body.
In our culture, it is socially acceptable to eat junk food and animal products every meal.
It is also socially acceptable to be overweight, diabetic, have blood pressure or cholesterol issues, and be on any number of prescription medications. I am not saying that all medications are bad, but some medications are just being used to treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle.
It is easier to pop a pill for your heart every day than it is to eliminate dietary cholesterol, drastically reduce saturated fat intake, and increase your consumption of whole plant foods.
It is easier to follow a fad diet for a few weeks to lose weight than it is to dramatically change your diet and engage in a regular workout routine.
If you want to live a life independent of drugs, free from the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, then you have to get up and do something about it.
That choice and responsibility is yours.
So once you know that switching to a whole food plant based diet is the right choice for you to make for your health, you're almost there. This is more of a mental change than a physical one.
You'll need to unlearn all of the untruths you've been taught about food since you were a child. It's shocking to see who really benefits from the ads pushing our "need" for dairy or animal protein. Anyway, that's a whole other topic right there. But go and do your research. As I do more research, I plan to share what I learn on this blog.
But let's get back to how to make that switch.
If you are not confident that going cold turkey is sustainable for you, then go slow. Take it one meal at a time.
Go through the food you already have in your fridge and pantry, but don't continue to buy the foods you are working to cut out.
Try switching to vegan convenience foods while you transition. Meat and dairy alternatives like vegan hot dogs, burgers, and vegan cheeses, can help to make the transition smoother and more tolerable. The goal is to eventually cut these out too since they are highly processed and contain a number of artificial ingredients that are definitely not health promoting.
Remember, you chose to make this change for you. So go easy on yourself, and don't feel guilty for not succeeding perfectly on day one, or day twelve.
Making the Switch
Decide whether you are switching overnight, or transitioning slowly. To switch overnight was easy for my family because we already had a good understanding of what whole food was. But if you want to make the switch slowly over a few days or weeks, consider the following six steps to make it an easier transition.