Sunday, May 27, 2007

In Vain

I grew up in Montana, and my family was very active in a Four Square church. Our church, which interpreted the Bible very literally, was very big on the Ten Commandments, and we were taught never to take the Lord’s name in vain. I grew up surrounded by people who were offended by the popular phrase, “Oh my God.”

20+ years later I live a very secular life in Seattle, stronghold of secular culture. I no longer flinch when I hear adults take the Lord’s name in vain, but part of me still cringes when I hear children doing it, especially little ones. Partly because much of my family still live in Montana and Wyoming and are very conservative, I’m mindful of the vocabulary I model for my children. I would hate to have our annual visit to the beloved grands and great-grands marred by a few deeply offensive words by my darling children. So I “Crumb it!”, “Darn”, “Dang”, “Fudge”, and “Heck-o-rama” with the best of them. It entertains me to try to be creative with my expressions of happiness and joy, too.

Now with that background information: everyday, twice a day, the kids and I spend an hour and a half doing the physical part of Theo’s brain growth programs. To organize them, we have each task (creeping, crawling, hopping, etc) on a page in a 3-ring binder. The children take turns flipping the pages to find out what we do next. Somehow Friday’s programs seemed to stretch deep into the late afternoon. As Theo turned the last page of the programs, onto the clean up page that indicates we are done, he declared loudly, “Glory Hallelujah!”

My immediate internal reactions:
“I have the funniest kid on earth!”
“Oh no, would praise to God from an atheist/agnostic kid be offensive in Wyoming?”
“I gotta watch what I say every minute with these kids.”
“Wow, these brain growth programs really work!”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nutritional Integrity

Here is a letter I've just sent to the Director of the amazing 20/20 Nutrition and Fitness program at our beloved ProSports Club.

Dear Dr. Dedomenico,

Next week as part of your 20/20 Lecture series, several of the nutritionists on your staff will be speaking about toddler nutrition. As an alumnus of the 20/20 program and the mother of 2 small children, I am pretty sure I understand the bulk of what they will present in the class. In that hour, your nutritionists will share information about how we as parents would do best to offer a proper balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates with a careful emphasis on the quality of carbs being offered: lots of veggies, fruits and a moderate amount of whole grains. “Treats” should have 9 grams or less sugar per serving.

However, as we check in and pass through the foyer on our way to drop our kids off at Discovery Bay you will have offered them: refined wheat bagels, fruit leathers, frosting covered cookies and muffins.

You have a huge case of institutional psychosis on your hands.

I love sugar. It is a yummy treat my family and I enjoy from time to time. But you do us a disservice by putting right at the eye-level (and reach) of our small children.

Don’t take the sugar and refined grained foods away – certainly let adults choose to indulge in them. But please, take them out of the reach and plain view of kids, sending the right message and relieving us of the power struggle. My suggestion is to only place at kid level (both inside the cases and out) foods that earn your 20/20 sticker of approval.

Will you support families in making the nutritional choices you advocate?

Sara Cole
ProClub member, 20/20 Alumnus, Mom

Monday, May 7, 2007

Some information about cancer and nutrition

One of my college buddies who still remains very dear to my heart was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago. At 37 weeks pregnant. Truly the stuff of nightmares. Her labor was induced a few days later, she delivered a healthy little girl and her family began the quest for appropriate cancer care, caring specialist and something like a peaceful, balance life for their two small children while in the midst of this terror.

E is from Viking stock. And Viking women are fierce. I am always awed to see her, her mother and her sister together. They know what matters in life and they make a mighty team. Finishing up her first phase of chemo treatment she is positive, humorous and seems to be handling things like hair loss with aplomb. I hold her and her family in my heart every day and hope this dreadful and surreal year will someday have the soft fuzz of an old dream for them.

Information is one of the few things I really have to offer at this time. Below is most of an email I sent to her recently after she asked me to find out what I could about breast cancer and nutrition. I’d just like to emphasis that I am while I have learned a ton about nutrition over the years, I am not any kind of specialist. If you have cancer or a serious malady, make sure to find a highly trained, information-driven specialist to work with who can truly hear your concerns and work with where you are at today.


At long last, here are all the nutrition ideas my brain has been storing to share with you. Of course, you know I’m just Sara and not an MD or ND or any sort of nutritionist, though I’ve had it out with most of the good ones lately! I hope some of these ideas help. If anything is unclear or if there are specific areas you need more information in, let me know and I’ll research more for you.

Here are the few things I’ve learned for sure:
· Glucose feeds cancer cells – so maintaining a balanced blood sugar level is very important. How do you do that?
· Eat protein at every meal/snack. Probably around 4-5 oz at meals and 2 oz at snacks is appropriate for you. Focus on lean meats like chicken, fish, certain cuts of beef and pork.
· Eat your carbohydrates WITH your protein. Nutritionally carbs should be tons of fruits and veggies, maybe a small amount of whole grain cereal items (bread, cereal, crackers), sprouted or sourdough will do your body best. Watch serving sizes on these so you get enough veggies and not too much grains.
· Make sure to get plenty of healthy fats with each meal. They are blood sugar neutral and help you body absorb nutrients. If you’re eating extra lean meats (think skinless chicken breast and some fish), make sure to add healthy fats to your meal. Keep an eye on your saturated fat intake – not because they’re bad, but because they’re good. Research is rapidly showing that saturated fats are antimicrobial to help keep our bodies clean, they also help our systems manufacture vitamin D. Good sources are avocados, coconut oil, palm oil, grass fed beef.
· Dairy is bad for glucose levels. Avoid it. I’ll be darned if I can find my article that supports this, but essentially dairy sends glucose off the charts for a fairly long time period. Looking for the convincing info….
· No sugar. Really, no sugar. Or maple syrup or agave nectar or honey or fruit juices. Or any of the things that essentially turn to sugar in our bodies: refined grains, potatoes, etc. For a while, you would even do best to avoid natural sweeteners like stevia. While stevia does not directly impact blood sugar, the sweetness on our tongues signals our bodies sugar is coming which in turn signals an insulin response.
· Exercise. Not so much cardio work, but muscle building work. If don’t know how you are feeling these days. This sort of thing may just be out of the question for you. If not, any gym will have weight lifting classes, or I have the world’s most hip, most information-driven, most mom-friendly personal trainer out there. (Um, yes, I am a little self conscious that I have a personal trainer, but she makes my whole world a better place.). Her blog is at Check out for more ideas.
· Dairy stimulates production of the “EFG receptor” which increases tumor formation. For a digestible discussion of this, check out my wonderful and nutritionally freaky personal trainer’s blog:
· Now that we’ve established that dairy is bad, culturally this is a really hard thing to give up. If you are going to have some, stick with cultured, fermented or raw. Think yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, sour cream or true raw cheeses (not heated over 105 degrees). Turns out brand matters in this, Nancy’s is a great brand for true cultured products. But really, for all the world it sounds like you are much better off without it.
· Soy is bad. Not the popular point of view right now, but it is. It is full of estrogen, which is something you just don’t need extra doses of now, or probably ever. Most of the popular literature out there recommends several servings of soy every day. Here is a complete and well researched article about the politics and dangers of soy
· If you really feel compelled to consume some soy because the institutions are promoting it, stick with the types of soy that Asian women from the positive soy result studies are really eating, in the quantities they consume: 1-2 TBSP/day of fermented soy: Natto, miso, tempah, shoyu/tamari.
· The food pyramid is a beautiful, political creation that represents various food industries well, but it doesn’t serve our nutritional needs well. Research doesn’t support the call for 6 servings of grains/day or 3 servings/day of dairy products. Bodies fighting cancer need great vitamins, minerals, antioxidants: fruits and veggies. Lots of them. According to several sources, at least 9 servings a day. Whew!
· Here is a great site, written by a nutritionist who was diagnosed twice with breast cancer. There is tons of great ideas and information on her fairly short site. She recognizes that there is not research to point to what the right “breast cancer diet” should be, but she’s made some great educated guesses. Her name is Diana Grant Dyer. I like her balanced approach to the confusion about soy, and dairy. I would substitute the below shake for the one she recommends on page 3.,,jdgd,00.html

Groovy information, right? But what can you actually EAT?

Here’s what we’re eating these days:

Breakfast shake (or anytime you’re starving need good nutrition and can’t hold it together to make something more complicated)
Throw all the ingredients in the blend and run until uniform. The longer you blend the more whipped the coconut milk will be.
2/3 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup oj (or an additional ½ cup berries)
1 scoop egg protein or whey powders (21g) – avoid any “isolate” powders
2 TBSP flax meal
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
1 cup frozen berries or fruit

Snacks – trying to balance protein and carbs and be nutritionally rich
Salami (nitrate free) and 1 piece of fruit
¼ nuts and 1 piece of fruit
Hummus and veggies
Duck breast w/ crackers or bread (they sell smoke duck breast by the pound at the Whole Foods deli)
1 apple and 1 TBSP nut butter
Left over breakfast sausages and a piece of fruit
Sourdough pretzels with apple butter, nut butter or some other dipping sauce
Celery with 1 TBSP nut butter
Chicken soup
Olive and a few slices of deli chicken (again nitrate free)
Blender ice cream

For dinners right now, I’m letting Leanne Ely be in charge. I bought her book, Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way. It is a year’s worth of recipes by season, arranged by weeks. Each week has a menu and prepared shopping list, which makes things so much easier. Since it is low-carb, the recipes are mostly protein and veggies. Much to my relief and surprise most of the recipes are really, really good. A few are okay. Haven’t come across one yet that we just can’t eat.

Blender ice cream
1 pound frozen berries
1 cup liquid (cream, yogurt, kefir, young coconut water, coconut milk, a little cabbage juice)
¼ c sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 scoops protein powder (42g) – avoid any “isolate” powders
Put in blender, start at slow and increase speed. The ice cream will form 4 mounds around the blades when finished and will have the consistency of soft serve. Not all blenders can manage this recipe.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A day in the life

Occasionally, all the stars align just perfectly so that there are a million really cool things to do in Seattle all in one short 24 hour period. This always sends me into existential crisis. Can I do them all? Can I justify dragging the kids to all of them? How many of them have true education opportunity? What about my commitment to create a peaceful world for my children and respect their needs for quiet space and puttering time?

Yesterday was one of those days. The lineup was huge: Seattle Tilth edible plant sale, a co-housing clothing swap, Open Day for boating season complete with boat parade just blocks from our house, free comic book day, a friend’s birthday party. Besides, of course, our normal Saturday routine of Aikido class, the grocery store and naps.

The kids and I quickly jettisoned aikido and the grocery store (who needs food?). The Tilth sale ranks high on my priority list – the master gardeners tell me which plants to use in what parts of my gardens and provide me with healthy little specimens I’m not too likely to kill. Plus there are crafts and Mighty-O-doughnuts!

Since free comic book day fell out of our heads, that left Opening Day, the clothing swap and the birthday. Turns out the birthday was a ride on the amphibious Duck boats and Theo was the only child his friend had invited. The special honor and the favored event closed that deal for us, the only trick being that Theo needed one of his parents along to feel safe. And if Theo and a parent went, Rosie NEEDED to go, too. Oh, and my brother had my car for the day to attend a hockey tournament in Everett.

Friday night Bill and I realized we needed a plan. A few minutes at the dining room table and several calls to the birthday family gelled everything for us.

Here is how it went:
Phase 1: Bill worked while the kids and I enjoyed the Tilth sale. We got a wagon full of plants, visited with a few friends, made pipe-cleaner arts galore and ate donuts until the line wait dwindled from 1 1/2 hours to a quick 15 minutes. We paid for our plants, did a little swinging at the playground, then Rosie dropped off for a nap on the way home.
Phase 2: While Rosie slept in her carseat and I made a car-edible lunch, Bill finished up working and Theo had some quiet time reading in the kid bedroom. After she woke up, Bill and the kids gathered up a few more clothes for the swap, and we headed out.
Phase 3: We met our birthday friends at the clothing swap, and after a couple of minutes at the swap (just enough for Theo to decide it was boring), they headed off for the Duck ride. Rosie had a mild crisis over the pack splitting up – she wanted to be with Mommy and she really wanted to ride the boats. In the end, the Ducks beat out mama and they were off.
Phase 4: I spent a fun half an hour trying on clothes with a dozen other women, claimed my treasures, and went home with Leah and Sophie, mom and sister of birthday boy. I enjoyed our quiet time of chatting over trimming rhubarb, cleaning strawberries and threading fruit kabobs.
Phase 5: The boat riders called to annouce the ride was over and suggested bringing home Thai food rather than meeting at the restaurant. They soon arrived, the kids made straight for the digging area, and we adults made up plates for everyone. The food was great, the adult conversation was engaging and the kids even managed to eat a few bites between stages of play. Ahhh.

24 hours after coming up with our Saturday master plan, we were back at the dining room table feeding our kids rice porridge and doing a clothing-swap fasion show. We marveled at how fun and peaceful our action packed day turned out to be.

Not every big day out works so wonderfully for our family, here are some important points about what worked well for us this time:
- Bill and I made a plan. We considered most of the options at hand and chose the ones we though would meet everyone's needs the best, yet at the same time being aware of our family as a whole.
- Every "event" in our day respected our children's needs to be kids: doing crafts at the Tilth sale, meeting up with friends at the clothing swap, playing baseball after eating take out rather than sitting quietly in a restaurant for dinner
- Our plans were flexible. Originally, I was going to accompany both kids on the boat ride, but Bill really wanted to be included, so we swapped. This gave him a fun adventure with the kids and face time with a dad with whom he shares parenting values. It gave me focused non-kid time at the swap and let me off the hook for the Duck ride, about which I was mildly enthusiastic. We choose to have take out instead of eat in the restaurant, this gave the kids freedom to play together without us getting after them to sit still and use medium voices. Both my kids need puttering time everyday, and they got to share it with their friends.
- Our kids got to make choices. Because they value costumes and exciting wardrobes so much, the clothing swap excited them. And as soon as it got boring they had an out. Rosie, though stressed by the choice, got to pick what was most meaningful to her.
- We had some quiet time at home in the middle of the day. Turns out that even the short 45 minutes we were home recharged everyone's batteries. The peace of our own food, our own beds and the comfort of our own home power us to go back out into the world.

As a record, Bill took a picture of me in all my clothing swap glory, making the rice porridge!