Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Food is Annoying but Chocolate is Good

We went. We ate. We mmmmmm'd.

Hershey is wonderful. Wonderful and bad for us, but still wonderful. Why is all the truly yummy stuff that is relatively cheap and already prepackaged for me, ready to enjoy, always so bad?

We just hit Chocolate World, not the amusement park. We've been more than amused already this year with Disney and Silver Dollar City. Not much new to see in rides.

The Chocolate World ride that takes you on a fake tour of the factory was cheesy, and the rest of Chocolate world revolved around finding ways to stuff candy into you, which we obliged. What can I say? We're an easy target.

I had thought ahead to have us eat lunch first, and had dinner in the crock pot for when we returned, trying desperately to minimize possible allergy reactions from Mary. Didn't really work. She was still a bit sick, but nothing dramatic, thankfully. I suspect it was from the cheese she put on her dinner though, with the annatto and corn starch, not the chocolate, which does have some soy lecithin. I cannot find any cheddar cheese at any of the nearby towns that does not have annatto coloring, which I suspect is on her list of sensitivities. So, we had a slightly sick little girl after all the fun. Since she consumed left over chocolate today (after much pleading) and was not sick tonight, I am doubly suspicious of orange cheddar cheese shreds. I really need to figure out how to find some of this specialty food when we are bouncing around all of the time.

"Specialty food." Cheese. Because we MUST put artificial color into our cheese. We're so food stoooopid in this country it makes me nuts. We've messed up our basic food staples and now I have to jump through hoops to feed my daughter real food. If only she could just stuff a box of Mac & Cheese down her. I admit, part of me is thankful she can't. All of this forced me to wake up to just how contaminated our food supply has become. I have to go to a specialty store to find cheese that is just cheese. Gah!

So, after excessive sugar and who-knows-what, the younger two have been in rare form the last 24 hours as they detox their system. Hershey isn't too bad, as far as food mucking goes, but sugar bombs mess with their brain and attitudes nevertheless. The two of them almost got shipped off to the nearest military school today after all of the fights, whines, squabbles, and other joys of siblinghood. I felt lousy, their dad felt lousy, though the twins usually can handle food junks better than the rest of us so they appeared to be the only ones functioning.

Food has been giving me headaches for weeks now as we try to stop the bad digestive issues poor Mary has to deal with. I kept going back and forth between this and that contradiction, because the screaming dogmatic stances are all around me, usually from facebook memes, but sometimes in real life, and were making me nuts.

I have vegan friends, low carb friends, paleo only friends, and just-give-me-a-burger friends. They all post the memes about health, herbs, foods, and natural miracles. Some are just false, like the stupid one that says spiders hate peppermint. Well, let me tell you, we've had lots of chances to try that one out and the spiders could care less.

Then there is milk. I hate the milk debate and spent a month trying to get to the bottom of it with little luck. First I'm told whole milk is evil because it's homogenized (not convinced, the theory comes from a study in the 70s that has not been updated or verified, according to the Nutrition Diva, but Mercola says it's evil since he says everything is evil and some things are so sometimes I listen and sometimes I roll my eyes). Then some say to instead use skim, because it doesn't have the maybe evil homogenized cream, but then you find skim is more evil because they put dehydrated milk in it (only a few do and it's easy to tell despite the labeling, but that may not actually be evil after all). But, but, but... dehydrated milk is waaaay evil (but only if it's not skim milk since it's the fat in this case that gets altered to oxidized cholesterol, which is confirmed evil), but whey protein powder is often recommended to boost protein (which may have oxidized cholesterol, so it may be evil). Then there is raw milk only groups (can't find, can't afford, not on the table here but probably healthier). Oh, and let's not forget those who say that God did NOT intend cow milk for human consumption, but only made it for baby cows... (Do you remember how the Hebrews were led to a land of milk and honey? I bet God wasn't thinking of a land full of lactating women. Just sayin'.)

I hate milk because it's confusing. Unless it's with chocolate. 

Let's all just give up on food, shall we? It's all contaminated. From what I have gained in my limited time for study, wheat is now officially evil, thanks to modern farm practices, and although some people can still digest the frankengrain, it is likely not ideal regardless. You have to go to some old Russian brand of wheat to get the stuff that was more like what our grandmothers used. I think the jury is still out on GMO food, but that's mostly because I can't really trust anyone doing any studies because that one is so politicized and the darling child of the FDA, and not really having much love for the FDA, I lean in the "probably frankengrain stay clear" direction. We've also found about 1000 uses for all that excessive farm subsidized corn and soy, most of which doesn't really resemble food anymore. All of this stuff means I have to get a degree in food chemistry to read a label and see if my daughter can eat it, if it will make my husband's metabolic syndrome cause him to die an early death, if it will make me fat, and if it will make the twins break out, or Sean's scattered brain scatter further.

When we eat real food, we feel great. Too bad we have to find a specialty store to get the stuff.

There's hope. I'm reading a book I kind of like right now called Trim, Healthy Mama. "Kind of" is the key phrase. They do rely on a lot of whey for extra protein, which I'm still not convinced is healthy until I learn more about that oxidized cholesterol thing, and lots of stevia, which I am not convinced is a fool-proof way to have your cake and eat it too, (or get your lemonade and drink it too). I recently found a study on how the body might react in preparation for carbs when it tastes sweetness, and how it may be messing people up when it prepares for something it then doesn't get. That would explain why diet drinks can lead to diabetes... or not. We don't know, but if it's from that alone, stevia may not be immune to the effect. Too soon to tell, but I think caution is necessary with stevia abuse for now. People cheer over how stevia does not spike the blood sugar. Neither does aspartame (which I am convinced really is evil in sweet form and no one should touch), and yet it leads to type 2 diabetes. Hmmm...

Nevertheless, the reason this book speaks to me is because it really goes where so many of the low-carb, paleo mentalities only give lip service towards - the real need to feed your cells with the stuff only things from the plant world can provide. Fabulous green smoothie recipes are part of the plan, along with salads, and even the occasional evil BEAN. You can eat breakfast that has a grain Mary can have, instead of 1000 ways to use eggs, which Mary can't have. However, I was sold when I saw she had many recipes that use chocolate. Chocolate that doesn't use soy, TBHQ, BHT, or UDIENOW. Yes, they had me at chocolate.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Saturday Snapshots - Great Lakes

There are definite perks that come with this interesting lifestyle.So far we've hit "three" coastal shores of the US, including the Atlantic, the Gulf, and now the Great Lakes. Ok, the lakes are not exactly an official shore, but they do make quite an impact on the northern end of our country.

We headed up to Lake Erie to a small coastal town about 15 miles from where we're staying in northern Ohio. Just as we approached the drawbridge, the arms went down and the light went red. So, what do a bunch of nerdy tourist homeschoolers do? Jump out of the car and run up to watch it, then run back to the van before we hold up traffic and annoy everyone.

After this we wandered to a local beach. It was a cool day so we did not swim, and I'm not that confident about the cleanliness of Lake Erie this close to Cleveland, so we just lounged.

Naturally, we learned a little bit about the lakes on the way, such as the fact that they hold 21% of the world's fresh water, and a bit about the lake weather. That would explain why the whole area is one big, sloppy, wet mess. Colorado is always so dry so having rain, and sometimes very heavy, street-flooding, torrential rain for over 2 weeks straight puts us out of our comfort zone, and boredom was getting us crazy. A day at the beach was just what the doctor ordered.

This park also has a small lake and checks out canoes, so the younger two talked dad into a canoe ride.

We were given a great gift this week. A gentleman in the park had just purchased a new keyboard and wanted to give his old one to us, figuring we'd get good use out of it. Of course, figuring out where to put it is a pretty big challenge. At the moment it lives on Sean's bed during the day and stands up behind the captain's chair at night. Sean plays it most of the time, mainly making up chord structures that have an eerie resemblance to 80's music. I don't think the 80's music will be particularly helpful with our folk music band, but the twins have a wild idea of having a band in the future with electronic instruments and they like the idea of having a keyboard to enhance that someday sound. Mary wants to learn a bit of keyboard (I'm looking into low-maintenance basic courses now so we don't step on her fiddle progress), and Sean is already obsessed with it. It makes all the weird noises a 13-year-old boy could ever want and his mother doesn't scold him to stop it. She scolds him to put on headphones, but not necessarily to stop.

While we figure out what to do with the keyboard, we have figured out some new arrangements to some historical folk music for our next CD. No, we aren't planning one officially yet. We can't afford it, but I am treating this the same way I treat everything. We couldn't afford the instruments, the sound system, the bus, or even to take off on the road 1 1/2 years ago. What we did each time is to plow the fields and await the rain. We don't wait for the rain and then plow the fields. If the fields are ready, God will provide when it's time, just as He did with the instruments, sound system, van, bus, and when we took off on the road before we were financially ready. Pray, plow the fields, and wait for the rain.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Musings: Mary Sue and Gary Stew

I love having teenagers. If you don't love hanging out with your teenagers, you may be doing something wrong, because they can give you such a challenging new perspective on the world.

The twins have developed some fairly strong opinions in the last few years regarding most modern "Christian Fiction". They study favorite contemporary authors because writing has been their main passion since they were 12 years old, filling notebook after notebook writing stories, along with hours reading authors who have mastered the art. They have found many favorite authors, except in one area. Christian fiction.

It is a rare moment when they can stand sitting through a mass produced, pop fiction Christian book. They love books written by authors who just happen to be Christian, such as Tolkien considered himself, but when they write as "Christian Authors", and most especially for the young adult age, the characters quite often lack depth or have a manipulating feel about them. They and some friends have a term for these characters, found most often in Christian circles: Mary Sue, or if a male, Gary Stew.

Mary Sue is the perfect role model. Perhaps she is the main character, or perhaps she is the wise mother or aunt of whom the main character will eventually emulate to become her own Mary Sue. She is the good teacher, trying to do right when the world conspires against her, or she is perhaps the daring and exciting heroine you will want to become if you ever hope to be awesome too. Whichever the plot requires, that's Mary Sue. (Please note that Mary Sue also finds her way into the secular world. Anywhere an agenda is promoted, Mary Sue or Gary Stew will be there.)

If you've ever read Elsie Dinsmore, you've read the perfect example of a Mary Sue. I have passed through an 8 year old stage with three kids and I have one who is currently that age. Not one of them obsessed over being perfect to the point of death. I prefer the Mary in the Secret Garden. Admittedly, as a parent I do have some sympathy for an author choosing somewhat of a Mary Sue character in children's literature, but that's a different subject.

On an adult level, read an honest biography sometime of Amy Carmichael, then go read one of the many mass-produced Prairie Romances. By the end of the novel, the romance character will finally become Mary Sue with her wonderful Gary Stew. Amy Carmichael would instead be loaded with continued challenges, and even maintain quite a few personality faults to the bitter end.

One is real. One is Christian fiction. In the end, which story really inspires? If the former inspires, why do we write so many characters who are like Mary Sue and not like Amy Carmichael?

The problem here is that Mary Sue cannot exist in this world. We are all fallen sinners with selfish thoughts, bad tempers, pity parties, an annoying habits. We work through these every day, but God can take the most fallen of us and do great things for His glory. However, Christians today don't want role models of depth that are being sanctified, they seem to want perfected role models. With only a few notable exceptions, I never see a Christian book published that has a struggling hero whom God used for His glory, like you see in the Bible. Look at David. The guy wouldn't make the cut in the world of Christian fiction. Last I heard, adultery and murder were not a Gary Stew quality. Peter? Please. Or look at Abraham and his interesting life rabbit trails off of God's promised course. Then there is Noah. God picked a man who, right after the terrible ordeal, would immediately run out and plant grapes for wine, then proceed to get drunk. A good Christian story would have ended with the flood and not added that awkward little event. There are exceptions, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, or perhaps Daniel. I can't think of a major faux pas for Daniel, but a lack of described sin doesn't mean it didn't exist somewhere.

Throughout history, only one Human pulled off perfect, and He did it because He knows what it looks like. We really don't fully understand the depths of such a thing and our characters usually just end up annoying people with their outward platitudes. In my opinion, we should stick with what we know in our human characters, and give Glory to the One Who Is.

My head-strong, very non-Mary Sue twins want to be authors someday. Authors who happen to be Christian so they don't have to write for some industry expectation in the genre. They want original characters who lack perfection but through whom great things can still happen.

The movie industry is very similar. One of the most popular movies in the last few years in Christian circles, produced by a distinctly Christian company, was one of the worst we've sat through in some time, when it came to plot and character development. All of us still cringe that it won awards and people swooned over it. I won't name it out loud because I'd probably get black-listed for disliking what I'm told to love. Yes, I liked the message it was trying to convey. I can totally stand up for the message, but why can't we have decent writing and characters to go along with it? A few characters did work through a significant change, but they did it suddenly and perfectly. None of this "two steps forward, one step back", like the rest of us have to deal with.  Of course, if you step into reality you may have a bad influence somewhere, like we meet in real life, instead of perfect, something real life is not.

Today, in some circles, (please note the word some), Christians have become nothing more than caricatures of the perfection we want everyone to see, instead of the brokenness that brings glory to God for His grace towards a wretch like me. The books and movies reflect this mentality. They seem to believe they best witness by being this perfect character, and though perhaps they will have some persecution for a time, ultimately they can show the world that all will go wonderfully for them and they'll have that happy ending for following the script. A Christian's humanity of falleness is stripped away and rejected as a bad influence, and with it we see only the glory of human behavior for following the life script, instead of the glory of God. This isn't to suggest, of course, we ignore what is right and celebrate the rotten behaviors we often see in the secular world, where there are no consequences to poor behavior. Quite the opposite. Usually it is the consequences of our behavior that points the strongest to the wisdom of God's law, and our need for a savior, especially when it is a daily struggle. In truth, it is in personal struggles where we need Christ the most. However, you cannot find the need for Christ when you only see the need to follow a good Christian life script.

We still watch Christian movies, even one by strictly Christian companies with an admittedly admirable agenda. I love the messages and sometimes a gem comes out. Yes, the twins still read Christian fiction sometimes and search for something that reads less like a manipulated example on how to behave just like Mary Sue, and instead reads more like the Bible, where humans sometimes fail, but God does not fail them. They hold out hope for something that reads realistically, and less like the glorification of a non-existent perfect personification of a Christian. Who knows? Perhaps my artistic children will start a new, truly original and honest trend in one of these industries.