Embracing Motherhood I Need to Take a Break

I Need to Take a Break

If you’ve seen my pictures on FaceBook, you’ll know that our family just had an incredible vacation at Wolf Creek Lodge. While it’s true that we had a great time and really bonded as a family, the bottom line is that it left me feeling physically and emotionally drained.

Ruby and Elliot are so sweet and independent…ready to take on the world with us as their guides. But Ophelia and Julian are still a bit timid and afraid, needing us to hold their hands a bit more. Going out into the world on this vacation was really fun for the older kids, but it was completely overwhelming for the little ones…and for me.

Cuddling with Julian (15 Months)

Cuddling with Julian (15 Months)

Being so close in age, Ophelia and Julian seem to constantly need me and compete for my attention. Being on vacation just exacerbated their needs, and now they are even more fragile and seem to need me even more than before we left!

Cuddling with Ophelia

Cuddling with Ophelia

The bottom line is that I am feeling completely overwhelmed. I need a break. And so I’m taking one!

As much as I enjoy Embracing Motherhood and as much as it fulfills me and gives me joy to create and share the things I am learning and creating, being there for my family gives me EVEN MORE joy! And so I am going to take a break from blogging. I am going to take a break from FaceBook, Instagram, Google Plus, and Twitter. I am going to unplug from these things so that I can focus on the most important aspect of my life. My family.

I will still be working on my “Teaching Your Baby How to Read” flashcards and videos because they are a part of my daily homeschool routines, but I will not be blogging about them until my hiatus is complete.

If you need to get ahold of me in the meantime, my email is stacey.maaser@gmail.com

Thank you in advance for understanding!

Embracing Motherhood Free ABC Flashcards

Free ABC Flashcards

Learning the ABCs is, in my opinion, pretty much the most important academic thing you can teach a young child. Learning the alphabet is like unlocking a code. When young children learn it, you can see this little light bulb going off when they start to recognize letters and words made out of these letters in their environment. It’s a way for them to connect to their world and to be fully engaged in it.

By using these flashcards often and from a young age, your child will learn the ABCs with ease. (Read about why learning the ABCs is so important here.) Knowing the ABCs is basically one of the key pieces in teaching your child how to read, and will help him or her to unlock a world of possibilities through books. (Check out my collection of videos that show our children learning how to read over the years.)

When I was ready to start exposing Ophelia (our third child) to the ABCs, I couldn’t find a set of flashcards that I really liked, so I decided to make my own! My first set was a crude rendition of what I was looking for, but it still worked nonetheless. But being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to make it even better! I don’t proclaim to be any sort of artist, but I am good at paying attention to detail and trying new things, so I set to work hand drawing the best set of flashcards that I could.

My Flashcard Criteria:

This is what makes my flashcards stand out from most other flashcards:

  • They have both the upper and lower case letters on each card. (This is so children learn that they mean the same thing.)
  • Letters are shaped how we print them. (For example, notice the letter “a” in this font versus the lowercase letter “a” on my flashcard.)
  • Each card has an easily identifiable picture. (For example, I wouldn’t use an ape for the letter ‘a’ when a child might think it looks like a monkey.)
  • There is a printed word below each picture. (Like “apple” for A.)
  • The illustrations are simple and interesting. (There is something about the homemade nature of these cards that has been engaging for every child who has seen them.)
  • The letter and sound combination makes sense. (It really bugs me when I see flashcards using the word “eye” to teach the letter “e” or the word “shoe” to teach s. It’s like they’re trying to confuse kids!)
  • Short vowels and the hard g and c are used. (When children are just starting to learn their letters, these are the easiest versions to begin with, and it’s best to keep things as simple as possible at first. *I tried using a version where I included the long vowels and the soft c and g, and it was just too much going on…better to keep it simple!)

    The "A" Card from My ABC Flashcards

    The “A” Card from My ABC Flashcards

Preparing the Flashcards

  • Print: Open each file (Color ABC Flashcards or Black and White ABC Flashcards) and print on card stock (like this).
  • Cut: Cut the flashcards right in the middle horizontally and vertically. I like using this paper cutter. (If you want the construction paper backing to provide more of a boarder, you could trim all of the white edges off from each flashcard. *Warning: Each flashcard does NOT have the same interior margins, so don’t trim a big stack at once!)
  • Construction Paper Backing: I like using a rainbow pattern for just about everything, this being no exception, but you could use some other pattern of colors, all black, or skip this step altogether and they’ll still turn out fine. I like to trim my construction paper so that four pieces at a time will fit into my laminating pouch. So after trimming my construction paper to 8.5″ x 11″ and cutting the whole stack into quarters, I apply just a light coating with my glue stick (the laminator is going to really “seal the deal”), and give each flashcard a construction paper backing.
  • Laminate: First, I open up my laminating pouch all the way, and then carefully arrange all four cards so that they’re as close to the edges as possible while still leaving a small strip of laminate. (In the end, I want to be able to cut down the middle and leave a little laminate boarder around each card so that they don’t peel apart.) Then, I swipe the glue stick lightly on the construction paper side of the top two cards to help hold them into place, gently close the laminating pouch, and laminate using this handy little laminator.
  • Cut: Cut the laminated sheets right down the middle horizontally and vertically leaving a little laminate boarder on all sides.
  • Add Rings: Using a 3-hole puncher like this, make one hole in the top left and one hole in the top right corner of every flashcard. I like stacking them up four at time and positioning the cards directly into the corner using one hole punch in the 3-hole punch at a time. Then, I stack up all of the cards in order and put my rings through. (I like using these .5″ rings. I’ve tried the 1″ rings, and they’re just too big.) *Note: I have tried using loose flashcards, and they make a HUGE mess. Not only that, but if you lose one or two (which you will), the entire set becomes obsolete. I have also tried using just one ring, and it’s just not as easy for children to flip through.

    Set of ABC Flashcards

    Set of ABC Flashcards

How to Use the Flashcards

  1. Start Young: I like to start using these flashcards when my kids are about 8 months old, but if you haven’t started yet, just give it a go no matter what your child’s age! It’s never too late to start!
  2. Silent Period: There will be a period of about 6 months where you are doing all the work and they are just silent, soaking it in and observing.
  3. A Little Bit Goes a Long Way: It’s not about designing some intricate lesson or keeping kids engaged for hours at a time, it’s about building neural pathways. This means that if you do the flashcards for a few minutes every day, it will build layer upon layer upon layer of understanding (which is thickening up the myelin sheath coating each axon connecting neurons thus making synapses occur more quickly) that will finally culminate over time with a deep and thorough conceptual understanding.
  4. Wait Until Interested: I like to sit baby Julian (currently 14 months) on my lap and flip through the flashcards together. At times, he has lost interest before I could even finish going through them one time, but the more we have gone through them, the more he loves it. (Whenever my children lose interest, I let them get down, and we move on. I don’t ever push it.) Nowadays, we go through the flashcards about 3 or 4 times in a sitting, and he still wants more! When this happens, I grab one of his favorite ABC books (like this one) and just keep on reading book after book until he wants to get down. The older he gets, the more we go through this ritual throughout the day.
  5. ABC Chant: I like to say a little chant for each letter where I incorporate the letter name, sound, and object as in, “A is for apple, /ah/, /ah/, apple, B is for ball, /buh/, /buh/, ball…” (Here’s a video of me using this chant with Ophelia when she was 14 months old using my original set of flashcards and another video of me using this chant with 14 month old Julian using my new and improved flashcards!)
  6. Wait Time: Once we’ve gone through the flashcards enough for them to know a few of the letter names, sounds, or object names, I will say, “What’s that?” and pause. Right now, Julian likes saying, “Buh, ball, b, c, d, /guh/ for g, p, and z. (When I change his diaper, I like to sing the ABC song and pause at the same letters. This helps him to stay still, and he loves it!)
  7. Praise Right Answers: When my children are first learning their letters, I praise them for saying the letter name, sound, or word associated with the letter. Keep in mind that as children are just starting to form sounds and words, they may only say the beginning sound of a word or letter. Listen for these sounds and words so that you can model the correct way of saying it. If they are interested, really slow down and exaggerate your mouth movements so that they can study how you form the word.
  8. Keep Flashcards Accessible: I like to prop up the flashcards and leave them laying around. Because they are so familiar, Julian loves finding them and flipping through them on his own. (I also have other ABC toys and activities stashed just about everywhere throughout the house so that my children are completely immersed in it.)

Flashcard Extension Ideas

The older kids are, the more creative and novel you’ll have to be to make the concept of learning the ABCs exciting. Here are some things I have enjoyed doing with my older children to reinforce their knowledge of the ABCs using these flashcards. *Pretty much all of these ideas involve taking the cards off from the rings.

  • Loose Cards: With the child sitting on your lap or nearby, hand him or her one card at a time. You can say, “What’s this?” or say the letter and ask him for the name of the object. He can either collect the cards in a stack in his hand, he can pile them up on the floor, your you can suggest that he makes a pile of his favorite letters.
  • Spread Out the Cards: Spread all of the cards out on the floor and ask your child to either retrieve a certain letter or say, “Can you bring me a letter? What letters do you see?” You can also place them upside down so that only the colored side is facing up, sort them by color, or try to guess what letter it is before flipping it over.
  • Make a Path: You can spread out the letters alphabetically or just spread them out in a long line in any order. Then pretend that the floor is lava and tell your child that the letters are stones that will save her from the lava. As she hops from letter to letter ask her, “What letter are you on now? or What sound does the __ make?”
  • Pocket Chart: Get a pocket chart like this, give your child one letter at a time and have him put them into the pocket chart. You can arrange them in alphabetical or random order. You can also reverse this activity by starting with the letters in the chart and then having your child retrieve them one at a time.
  • Sticky Letters: Put a piece of masking tape on the back of each letter. You can then give your child one letter at a time to put on the wall or herself, or you can start with them on the wall and have your child retrieve them and put them on your body, her body, the wall, around the house, where ever!
  • Get Creative: If you’re being silly and having fun with it, you can do a lot of creative things that will really engage your child. Use your imagination and have some fun!

Flashcard Printouts

Click on the text below each image to open the flashcard files. *If you don’t have a PDF reader, download one here.

Color Flashcards: I wrote about the above activities with these color flashcards below in mind. I used a free program called Gimp (which is like a really simple version of Photoshop) to color in each flashcard. *Unfortunately, when I saved my publisher file as a PDF file, it slightly changed the dimensions of every image and the margins. So when you go to cut out the cards, it will be best to cut them out individually and mount them on to construction paper.

Color ABC Flashcards

Color ABC Flashcards

Color ABC Flashcards Trimmed and Mounted on Colored Construction Paper

Color ABC Flashcards Trimmed and Mounted on Colored Construction Paper

Click Below for the PDF:

Color ABC Flashcards

Black and White Flashcards: You and your children can have fun coloring in this black and white set of flashcards to make them personalized and special for you! When I was making mine, my kids liked watching me color my copy while coloring in one of their own as well.

Black and White ABC Flashcards

Black and White ABC Flashcards

Click Below for the PDF:

Black and White ABC Flashcards

In Conclusion

Using flashcards to teach the ABCs is just one strategy for teaching your little ones one of the foundational skills of reading, check out my blog How Children Really Learn to Read to see how teaching the ABCs is just one of the pieces of the puzzle in teaching your child how to read.

You also might like to check out the following blogs:

The Metamorphosis of Motherhood Embracing Motherhood

The Metamorphosis of Motherhood

By Guest Blogger Lisa Hogan

Bio: Little sister of Stacey Maaser. Mother of a tender-hearted 2-year-old boy. Resting somewhere between an all natural hippy, and a modern, super clean city girl.

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mother. It’s what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. Then I graduated college, got married, and my husband informed me that we were broke and had to work a few years until we could have children. That was hard, but I threw myself into my work and learned to enjoy the flow of it. It took longer than I wanted, but finally my husband said we could start trying for a baby. One month went by, then another, then another. Every month was a let down. I eventually thought we were infertile and became a bit depressed. But I just decided to focus on work, fashion, recipes, and travel, and time passed by. I liked my life.

After one year it finally happened. I was pregnant! I could hardly believe it. It was what I had always dreamed of. I was ecstatic! Everything was wonderful.

Then reality hit. I couldn’t exercise like before. I had to cut down on caffeine and sugar. I couldn’t eat all sorts of other things that were dangerous during pregnancy. Harumph! Besides that, I started to “show”. Everyone was telling me how my face looked different. They wanted to touch my growing bump. Then I started getting forgetful, gassy, bloated, and my acne got worse. Call it hormones, but it was a big reality check. As I approached the due date this baby made it hard to sleep, caused cramps in my legs, and I couldn’t even walk very long before I started to ache all over. I retired from work the last month and a half and tried to read all I could for the future that awaited me.

Then the day arrived. Labor! It was everything I expected and more! After trying for a home birth, I ended up in the hospital, and after 36 hours we finally got to meet Tristan. I was now a real MOTHER! It was amazing. I felt all those mama hormones start to surge through me. I loved this boy. He had been a part of me, and now on the outside he felt like he was still part of me. It’s like the umbilical cord was and is still there.

Again, reality soon set in. I didn’t get my body back as fast as I thought. I could no longer leave this little boy without leaking milk, feeling anxious about him, or missing him terribly. Going out to eat was no longer fun and relaxing. While at a restaurant, he would start to cry, we would get embarrassed, I would try to nurse him, the nursing cover would fall off, no one really got to eat their meal, and we realized that it just wasn’t working anymore. Don’t even get me started about sleep! That didn’t happen much with a small baby. Also, talking to other adults would typically end in some sort of small catastrophe with a crying baby at the end.

Anyways, this is where I think new mothers can learn a thing or two from the butterfly. A caterpillar might be happy and carefree, eating away, focused on herself and the needs of the moment for awhile, then at some point the desire for something more switches and she encases herself and becomes a pupa. In this stage the caterpillar sacrifices EVERYTHING from it’s past life. To move to the next stage, the caterpillar, and a new mother, has to sacrifice everything. There might be a bit of sadness and nostalgia as you realize you can never really go back to those carefree days of just eating leaves. A mother really does transform too. She becomes something totally different. Those first few months are crucial as she becomes forever bonded to this new little person. When the butterfly emerges after it’s encasement there’s a lot to learn and do. A butterfly now can dart around on the wind, pollinating flowers, finding a mate and producing more caterpillars. It’s an exciting new stage.

Metamorphosis_of_a_Butterfly_Merrian_1705

Metamorphosis of a Butterfly (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, by Merian Maria Sybilla, 1705)

Being a mother I feel like I have changed in so many ways. As my baby started to be content to stay on the blanket for while, and as he slept more, I could start to gain some of my “old” life back, but all of it with a different focus and appreciation. There is a different goal in life, and a lot of it revolves around this new little baby. There is so much to learn and do as a mother. It is difficult, and you do have to change the way you do just about EVERYTHING. But after this transformation, there is a new sense of duty and excitement to life. There’s so much fulfillment in wearing an outfit that suits crawling around on the floor above any expression of fashion.

Bottom line, once a baby is on the way, your life is beginning to change, and it’s a wonderful journey. Don’t yearn for the caterpillar stage once you’ve become a butterfly. Embracing motherhood means SO MUCH when you let it really change you. When you embrace these changes, you love your new wardrobe. You love dancing with your baby. Rocking them to sleep. Delighting them with a peekaboo or a tickle. When they are peacefully asleep after a day of adventures you feel so accomplished. I never thought I would find someone I would be so HAPPY to share my raspberries with (and I love raspberries by the way).

I am a mother, and I absolutely love that it defines me now.

The Metamorphosis of Motherhood Embracing Motherhood

The Metamorphosis of Motherhood

Embracing Motherhood Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Ever since the Flint water scandal, my husband and I have both been a bit more concerned about lead being in our water. We are fortunate enough to live in a city that does not flouridate its water…check to see what’s in your city’s water here, and we’ve always used a simple faucet filter, but we wanted to learn a little more.

 

So we ordered these testing strips and learned that our water had no noticeable levels of lead, chlorine, copper, or bacteria. And when I tested the water that came through the filter, I got the exact same results, so guess what? We ditched our filter. 🙂 Our water did test at being very hard (which is probably why the previous owners installed a water softener system), but after doing some research, I learned that having hard water means that it’s full of a lot of minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that are very good for your body, but will clog up your coffee pot tubes, shower heads, and leave dirty rings in your tub and toilet. We have opted to simply clean things out a bit more and enjoy the benefit of the extra minerals!

In this article, I’d like to share what I learned about the Flint water scandal, what’s so bad about having lead in your body, how to detoxify from lead poisoning, how to know if your water has lead, the best filters to get lead out of your water, and other sources that might lead to lead poisoning, .

The Flint Water Scandal

Basically, Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early, was faced with the task of saving the failing city money and on April 25, 2014, he oversaw the switch from Detroit’s water supply (that drew from Lake Huron) to the Flint River (while waiting for their own regional water system connection to Lake Huron to be built).

The contents of the water in the Flint River are actually not to blame for all of the lead. Instead, the blame lies with the high levels of chloride ions (present from the over deicing of the roads which causes chloride ions to run off into waterways) that are really to blame. Nick Krieger explains in his article, “What Makes Flint Water So Corrosive,”

“The negative chloride ions are corrosive, so when the high-chloride water is pumped through lead pipes (or iron and copper pipes joined together with lead solder), lead leaches into the water.  It’s as simple as that.”

Flint could have added orthophosphate to neutralize these chloride ions for $100/day, but it chose not to. As a result, the lead pipes corroded and leached lead into the water. In addition, the corroded pipes allowed other contaminants such as bacteria from the soil that led to a spike in those contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease.

One of the most disturbing factors of the Flint water scandal were the people in charge who KNEW it was going on and yet did NOTHING!

On October 1st, 2104, 6 months after the switch to the Flint River, General Motors complained that its car parts were corroding when being washed on the assembly line, so they were quietly hooked back up to the Lake Huron Water. Meanwhile, residents complained about tainted, foul-smelling tap water and health symptoms such as rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it, but nothing was done for them. It took ONE YEAR of complaints, independent tests, lawsuits, national, and global recognition and FINALLY in October of 2015, the switch back Lake Huron through Detroit’s water system was made. (Read A Toxic Timeline of Flint’s Water Fiasco for a truly flabbergasting timeline of events.)

Now, under the public eye, Flint is faced with the insurmountable task of replacing all of the corroded lead pipes, which could take over two years and cost upwards of $60 million! And what are residents of Flint supposed to do in the meantime? You can only drink and bathe in bottled water for so long…and not only that, but plastic water bottles leach chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the water. (Which is why we try to stick with glass water bottles when we can!)

What’s So Bad About Lead?

Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children whose bodies and brains are still developing and growing. There are no levels of lead in the blood that are considered safe for children. While lead exposure can be stopped, the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

Even low levels of lead can cause the following side effects.

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage
  • Seizures, unconsciousness, and death

If adults ingest lead, 99% of it will leave in their waste in a couple of weeks. But with children, only about 32% of the lead taken in will leave in their waste. Under conditions of repeated exposure, lead (and other toxic metals…mercury, aluminum, cadmium) can accumulate in body tissues, even the bone. Even if you have removed the threat of lead, lead that has accumulated in the body can continue to do damage.

Get Lead (and Other Toxic Metals) Out of Your Body

If you’re worried that your child has been exposed to lead, go to your doctor (or free health clinic) to get a test done right away. They will be able to tell you after a simple finger poke if there is any lead present in your child’s blood and what the implications are. Lead that has accumulated in the body can take months or years to be expelled, so it’s a good idea to continue taking precautions to get rid of it long after the threat has been removed.

There are certain foods can help to get rid of lead accumulation in the body. The phytic acid present in all grains, seeds, nuts, etc. prevents our bodies from absorbing valuable minerals, but also chelates (binds to and removes) toxic metals from our bodies. One of the best sources for phytic acid is brown rice (that hasn’t been properly soaked and fermented to get rid of the phytic acid). Other sources would be any nuts, seeds, or anything “whole grain”.

Cilantro oil and chlorella are also really good at working in tandem to to eliminate lead (and other toxic metals) and they will actually add more vitamins and minerals to your body rather than leech them away! Get some cilantro oil here and some chlorella here. It’s also a good idea to take some really good vitamin c (not with ascorbic acid) to boost your immune system while you detoxify. *Check out some other great detox ideas here.

Check with your doctor or naturopath before starting a detox program with your child, but some general rules of thumb are to start with small doses using just a few drops at a time, and make sure it is really diluted with some other liquid.

Is There Lead in Your Water?

It’s not just Flint who has a problem with lead in their water source. In a Rolling Stone article by Tessa Stuart called, “It’s Not Just Flint: America Has a Major Lead-in-Water Problem” she explains that,

“There’s always going to be some amount of lead in some amount of homes — it could be from the service line, or from lead solder used as glue in some pipes, from leaded brass plumbing, or a myriad of other sources. “Most homes in the United States are going to have some form of lead-bearing plumbing,” Lambrinidou says.”

Check your water: You can go to the National Drinking Water Database, enter your zipcode, look for your city, and see exactly what they have found in your water.

Test your water: Or you can buy your own kit, like this, for $20 and it will test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrites/nitrates, chlorine, hardness, and pH.

Best Water Filters to Get the Lead (and Other Toxins) Out

If you decide that you want to filter your water (probably a good idea), here are some filters you might want to consider. (FYI: Stay away from reverse osmosis filters because they filter out EVERYTHING including all of the good minerals that you want to keep!)

  • Radiant Life 14-Stage Biocompatible Water Purification System ($1,595) – This is WAY out of our price range, but if you’re looking for the best of the best…It gets rid of ALL toxins, and you can tuck it away under your sink. (Also, if you’re trying to convince your significant other that you want to buy a $120 water filter, give them a choice between the $120 one and this one. The $120 one will suddenly seem like a much better deal!)

  • Berkey Complete Water Filtration System ($289) – This system is incredible! Not only will it work on city water, but you can take it with you camping to use on some pond water! It will filter out bacteria, parasites, pesticides, nitrites, nitrates, and gets rid of 99.9% of heavy metals (including lead and mercury). This model also comes with flouride filters.

  • AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System ($120) – This is cheaper than the Berkey and takes up less room on the counter (or you can get an under the counter version for $261). It filters out bacteria, parasites, 99% of chlorine, 99% of lead, 98% of other heavy metals, 95% of arsenic, 99.9% of glyphosates, 92% of nitrates, and gives an 85% reduction in flouride. It easily connects to a standard faucet with no tools and requires no electricity or permanent modifications to plumbing.

Lead Isn’t Just In Water

In 1978, the government banned the use of lead based paint in houses, so most homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead. When the paint chips and peels, children are especially susceptible to ingesting it because little fingers like to pick and peal and those little paint chips and then they don’t wash their hands before eating food. Not only that, but the dust from the peeling lead paint can be inhaled.

If there are no chips or scratches, you can paint over the lead based paint, and keep painting it every 4-10 years to prevent any from showing through. If there are, it’s best to call in a professional to remove the paint…or just move!

In Conclusion

 

The Flint water scandal was an eye opening headline that got everybody thinking about what is in our water. We bath in it, we cook with it, we water our garden with it, and we drink it…so it’s good to know what we’re taking in with our water. I highly recommend getting your water tested, and if you live in an old house, do some research about lead paint. I also highly recommend getting your children tested for lead poisoning if you have any doubt or even just to ease your mind.

How Motherhood has Changed Me: A Testimony

By Guest Blogger Renee Washburn

Author Bio: Renee is a married stay at home mother of one sweet 10 month old boy. She loves learning new things, living a natural life, and is passionate about her faith.

How Motherhood has Changed Me: A Testimony

Up until the point where my husband and I considered starting a family, I never really gave motherhood that much thought.  However, when I was just a baby, I had a great infatuation with other babies and children.  One of my first words was “baby”, and I always migrated to other babies throughout my childhood and my preteen years.  I began babysitting on my own at 11 and tried starting my own babysitting business.  From that point on, I always had a job each week until I graduated high school.

It was just in me.  I loved babies and children and I felt like I could relate with them.  Throughout my 20s, I was always involved in the youth programs with our church, and to this day still have many young people around me.  I always thought that when the day came for my own baby, it would just be second nature, but there was something that I hadn’t thought about.  Pregnancy.  Labor.  Delivery.  Oh crap, I have heard nothing but horror stories!  I was scared to have a baby inside me growing and then have to “deliver” it?!  But it seems as thought God knew before the foundations of the world how much I would learn and learn to love this phase and the passion that would develop to help others see how amazing it truly is.

Planning for a Baby

About a year before our first born was conceived, I had inherited a whole stack of baby books from a friend.  She knew I had been thinking about having a baby so she thought it would be nice for me to understand a little of what I was getting into.  I was sure thankful for that!  I read the beginning of “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” and what options are available for expectant moms.  I did have some clue as to the options in regards to pain management, and I had heard that my mom was able to give birth naturally.  She spoke about it a lot while I was growing up and her choice of breastfeeding and how it was the most natural.  Well, me being a person who chooses the natural, God supplied route, I was interested in learning about natural birth.  I had heard about such a thing as “midwives’ and thought that might be nice since I didn’t really like medical doctors all that much.  In this section of the book I saw that there was such a thing as a “birth center” and a “certified nurse-midwife.”  I liked both those options so I instantly decided this was my choice.
Now to see if Dallas, Texas had either of those options.  (I am a planner, and I feel like I need to have a plan set before I start the actual journey.)  So sure enough, Dallas had both of those, and it seemed somewhat affordable.  But we first needed my husband to get a good job that would allow me stay home with our children.  This process lasted for months and months and months until it just became clear it was not available.  Then we found out that my mother was sick and my dad was having a challenging time taking care of her, my grandmother, and working full time.  Time to move.
So we packed up what we had and headed across the country to New England to live with my parents and grandmother!  It was a great change from the tiny apartment we were living in to a large 3,200+ square foot home with an apartment attached for my grandmother.  One evening after we had settled in, my husband and I were watching “Call the Midwife” (a show that we had both had grown to enjoy) when an advertisement for midwives in Connecticut came on the screen.  My heart warmed and I immediately knew this is who we would have a baby with!  Little did I know that they were indeed Nurse-Midwives, but they did ONLY home births!!!  Home birth?!?!  What age are we living in?  The early 1900s?  I didn’t know of anyone who had a home birth and thought it was a little crazy.  But I knew how God worked in me and I knew that I needed to give this a chance.  So I set up an appointment to visit their home quarters down on the shoreline and asked a million questions..and I wasn’t even pregnant!  But as I left, I felt peaceful and knew this was it.  I trusted them. I believed they knew what they were doing and had my best interest at heart.  So the next weekend we got pregnant and the journey began.

Pregnancy

After the 7 weeks of morning sickness (which I now know is due to a lack of protein in my diet), I began my research on how to best grow this being inside me, take care of myself, and have a successful delivery at home.  One of my midwives suggested looking into a birthing class when I was about 12 weeks along because I had so many questions!  So I found the closest Bradley Method teacher, for the best price, and boy did I find the BEST teacher!  She was a mother of 4, had a home birth, and was studying to become a midwife!  She had loads and loads of information and really just helped my husband and I immensely.  I felt so blessed to have had her.  God is sure good!!  Every time we learned something new, I felt like my brain grew and my eyes were enlightened.  And each time I gave glory to my Heavenly Father because I knew that this is His will for all women and He knew how bad I wanted it!
As the months crept along, the anticipation grew, and we were more prepared than ever.  I would only let positive images and thoughts and stories into my mind and heart.  I would not listen to anything negative, and I really believe that this is why I had such an amazing birth experience.  I just believed and trusted God whole heartedly for everything to be the best, and not just me, but my husband as well.  We were completely like-minded about everything which in turn helped our marriage by being more on the same page about just about everything than we ever had been.  This “baby” was bringing us closer together!
My due date came and went and Baby Washburn did not show himself until 2 weeks later. (We did not know it was a boy at the time. We stayed away from all ultrasounds because it has been proven to affect the fetus, and health insurance did not cover them.)  So we were surprised when we found out it was a boy, although we both deeply wanted a boy and internally knew it was one.

Birth

My active labor lasted less than 10 hours, and everything moved along at a nice pace.  I was in the shower, in the kiddie pool, and then standing over the toilet pushing!  There was one moment when I said while sitting up in the pool, “Now I understand while people want epidurals!”  But I was glad I didn’t get one because I would rather have this beautiful experience than lying on my back in a bright hospital room pushing whenever the doctor says to push.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding went extremely well.  Again, I read credible books, and I trusted God that I would be able to do it. My milk came in early and my son gained all the weight he needed. He was and still is incredibly happy and healthy.  I have never pumped or given him a bottle.  I have never left him with someone else.  I strongly believe that breast is the best and my needs are second to his needs right now.  It is only for a short period of time and I would rather have this time with him now than regret that I didn’t spend enough time with him when he was a baby.  I rarely get tired.  And if I do need a shower or bath break, my husband or my parents are in the house to spend some quality time with him.  When he has weened himself then I will treat myself to a spa day.

Circumcision

There was a debate between my husband and I about whether or not to circumcise.  I really did not see the need as I had heard and read that in the Bible they were circumcised on the 8th day because that is
when Vitamin K was being produced. But when was this circumcision happening?  In the Old Testament, and we know that this was for this specific group of people.  It does not say in the New Testament, after Jesus Christ, for us to circumcise.  There was a significance for this ritual, and we do not need it now.  But what about keeping it clean?  Why not just teach him to clean it!  Why would God have the foreskin there to begin with if He wanted you to cut it off?  And why aren’t girls circumcised?  They have foreskin too… So yeah, there is a big debate in the world about this.  But I am glad my husband realized the unnecessary means for this ritual and decided to keep all my baby’s body parts.

Sleeping

Sleep arrangements have been another debate in our family.  We have a large dog and in my mind there was no way a baby was going to sleep in our bed because of him.  Over and over I had heard mothers telling me that co-sleeping is best, but I could not fathom it!  I did not want my dumb dog to accidentally sleep on him.  How horrible!  At first, we had a bassinet that would be next to me, and I planned that I would just pick him up whenever he needed to nurse.  But then 3 days before he was born, I had this thought that I needed to sleep with him in the bed, for at least the first few days.  So we trained our dog to sleep in the living room, and it worked!
A few days of baby in bed with us as turned into weeks, then months, and now he is almost 10 months old and still sleeps with us.  I have thought about moving him to his crib because it was getting a little uncomfortable for me, but really, he is still feeding at least 2 or 3 times at night and it just didnt’ seem right.  So he is still with us and I enjoy every night with him.  I have read and have heard from other moms that they will leave the bed, eventually, on their own, then they are ready.  So I am still learning about this one.

Vaccines

Boy that was a hard choice to make.  I read for weeks and prayed for months to find the best information and advice on whether or not to vaccinate, and this is what we decided.  Since I am a stay at home mom who plans on home schooling my children, there is really no point to inject them with a serum composed of mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, and cells from monkeys.  Again, my philosophy of God had it figured out in the beginning of how are bodies can fight and fend for itself.  Go natural- go God’s way.  “We are fearfully and wonderfully made…”

In Conclusion

In my day to day life as a mother, I really just go back to simplicity and doing it the natural way.  God’s way.  Everything from our marriage, to personal decisions on finances (living debt-free and living within our means), to being a stay at home mom, to daily time in God’s Word, to daily prayer, meditation, exercise, walking, yoga, stretching, home school, having a naturopathic pediatrician, eating an organic, balanced diet, drinking and making kombucha, avoiding processed foods and sugar…
This new role of motherhood has changed me for the better.  It is something that I love and feel confident about. It’s like my whole life up until the day I gave birth to my son was for this purpose.  So why not do it RIGHT.  Every day I pray that God will show me how to do it the right way the first time.  I don’t want to have to correct a whole bunch of bad habits.  I want to do it right.  I am not saying that everything that I do is the right way, but so far it has worked for me incredibly.
I am not someone to just do it my own way and close all doors to what other mothers are doing.  I seek, I ask, I explore, I observe, and I absorb.  I want to be the mother that God originally designed from the beginning.  This is my desire and this is my quest.  Initially my husband and I wanted 4 children, but not really knowing what that means, we will take it one at a time.  We love our first child with everything we have and do have room for another in our heart.  So we will just take it from there.
Embracing Motherhood The Mysteries of Digestion Unraveled

The Mysteries of Digestion Unraveled

Before I delve into articles about what we should eat and why, I wanted to first take a look at one of the most basic functions of human physiology: digestion. After this, I will explore cellular respiration, which is how we metabolize food to make energy. In doing so, I hope to have a strong foundation of understanding to build future health articles upon.

So often, we hear about foods and ways of eating that are “healthy”, and as a whole, we have held many erroneous beliefs about what should constitute “healthy”. (Although this is changing…just look at the February 2016 issue of Time’s article, “The New Rules of the Heart” which talks about how cholesterol is actually good, why we should avoid statins, how saturated fat is actually good, how weight loss isn’t about calories in/calories out, and how we shouldn’t be taking an Asprin a day!)

The science behind what makes food “healthy” or not is simplified too much and the truth is hidden behind too many corporate slogans rather than actual science. Once we can understand the building blocks of food, how we digest them into individual molecules, and how we metabolize those molecules to make energy, the term “healthy eating” shouldn’t be so debatable or vague.

I have been reading about this information for years in an attempt to search for and serve my family the healthiest foods possible. Reading Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions was the first thing that changed my view about food and made me realize how misguided we have been about fat and the food pyramid. (Check out the Weston A. Price website to learn more!)

In writing this article, I started with Sally Fallon’s ideas as a framework in my brain, then used a college textbook called Understanding Nutrition by Whitney and Rolfes to really delve into the scientific explanations of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and how we digest them (throughout this article, my descriptions come from this textbook unless otherwise linked). But even this seemingly benign textbook was not written without bias and made many leaps about what we “should eat” based solely on government recommendations rather than actual science.

So after reading this textbook and using it to explain the facts, I continued to ask my own questions, do my own research, and am now presenting an in depth synthesis of what I’ve learned about the foods we eat and how they are broken down during digestion.

In a Nutshell

When we eat any food, from cookies and cakes to burgers and fries to salad and dressing, it is all broken down into single molecules before being absorbed through the small intestine and sent into the bloodstream to be used as energy, for building, or stored for later use. All food can be categorized as and broken down into:

  • Carbohydrates –> Monosachharides
  • Fat (Triglycerides) –> Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids
  • Protein –> Amino Acids
Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and the Smallest Molecules They are Broken Down Into

Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and the Smallest Molecules They are Broken Down Into

*It takes about 6-8 hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine. In a study with 21 participants, it took  men an average of 33 hours for the food to be eliminated from the large intestine. It took an average of 33 hours for children too, but an average of 47 hours for women. Interesting!

Digestive System

Here is a picture of the entire digestive system just to give you a visual reference for where we are going. In my drawings, you’ll notice that I have included only what is necessary and exaggerated certain things for the purposes of clarity.

digestive system

Digestive System (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, LadyofHats, 2006)

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are primarily an energy source for plants, some animals, and humans.

From Polysaccharides to Monosaccharides

From Polysaccharides to Monosaccharides

Foods with Carbohyrdates

There is a misconception (probably due to that silly food pyramid!) that carbohydrates only refer to things like breads and pastas and not things like fruits and vegetables. But the truth is that lettuce is a carbohydrate, apples are carbohydrates, grain is a carbohydrate, and sugar beets are carbohydrates.

When you look at the nutritional profile of these carbohydrates, however, you’ll notice that the amount of carbohydrates differs greatly among different food sources. Also, keep in mind that carbohydrates (which all come from plants) can be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals if grown properly and not overly processed.

The total carbohydrates measured on nutrition labels include both simple sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and soluble and insoluble fiber (polysaccharides).

Types of Carbohydrates 

types of carbohydrates

Types of Carbohydrates (The numbers refer to the number of molecules.)

  • Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides are one molecule of sugar. Some foods contain monosaccharides and others are created when disaccharides are broken down during digestion. They are small enough to pass through the walls of the small intestine.
    • Glucose: The primary product of photosynthesis, found in all fruits and plants, most carbohydrates that we eat are converted to glucose during digestion
    • Fructose: Found in fruits, some root vegetables, cane sugar, and honey
    • Galactose: Combines with glucose to make lactose (milk sugar), not found on its own
  • Disaccharides: Disaccharides are two molecules of sugar. Some foods contain disaccharides and others are created when polysaccharides are broken down during digestion.
    • Sucrose: Made up of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose, found in the stems of sugar cane and roots of the sugar beet, occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables alongside glucose and fructose (especially in certain fruits and carrots), table sugar
    • Maltose: Made up of two molecules of glucose, formed during the germination of certain grains, mostly barley which is converted into malt, found in beer
    • Lactose: Made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in milk
  • Oligosaccharides: 3-10 monosaccharides connected together.  They are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine (so they give us no calories yet give us that full feeling). Instead, they pass directly to the large intestine where they are consumed by microflora thus increasing the amount of healthy bacteria. Examples include: artichoke, burdock, chicory, leeks, onions, and asparagus.
  • Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides consist of many monosaccharides connected together.
    • StarchStarches consist of tens to hundreds to thousands of monosaccharides connected together. They are how plants store glucose for future use. About 70% of a plant’s structure is typically made up of the starch amylopectin (which is highly branched making it easy for the plant, and for humans to hydrolyze, or break down in the presence of water) and the other 30% is typically made up of the starch amylose (which has a more linear structure that makes it easy to store, but can’t be broken down without the enzyme amylase).
    • Resistant Starch: Resistant starches cannot be broken down during digestion, and so they are sent to the large intestine where they feed the healthy bacteria residing there. Examples include: green bananas, rolled oats, green peas, white beans, lentils, pearl barley, cold potato and cold pasta (occurs due to retrogradation).
    • Fermentable FiberWe can’t digest the cell walls of plants, but some of them can be fermented in our large intestine like fructans (that occur in agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, onions, and wheat), inulin (occurs mainly in chicory), pectins (occurs mainly in the skins of citrus fruits and in apples, oranges, plum, guavas, and gooseberries), and raffinose (found in beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and whole grains). This fiber is soluble, meaning that it can mix with water, which creates a viscous gel that slows down digestion as it passes to the large intestine to be fermented by the microflora that resides there.
    • Nonfermentable Fiber: Humans do not possess the enzymes to digest some components of cell walls like cellulosehemicellulose, and lignin (which provide plants with the stiffness they need to stand upright), nor do we possess the bacteria to break them down either. (Ruminants and termintes possess symbiotic bacteria that help them to break these elements down.) These types of polysaccharides will pass through us unused. They are what is referred to as insoluble fiber (not soluble in water and NOT digestible or fermentable) and what gives bulk to our stool. Examples include pretty much any part of the plant that is hard to chew such as cucumber skins, the outer hull of grains, the hull of popcorn kernels, potato skins, grape skins, 80% of lettuce, and more.

How we Digest Carbohydrates

The digestion of carbohydrates occurs mostly in the small intestine.

carbohydrate digestion

How We Digest Carbohydrates

  1. In the mouth: The breakdown of carbohydrates begins in the mouth with the salivary enzyme amylase. Amylase works to break up the starch amylose, and hydrolysis begins breaking down the starch amylopectin. Very little digestion actually takes place here, however.
  2. In the stomach: Carbohydrates are churned into a paste in the stomach, but no chemical breakdown occurs during this process. The stomach actually neutralizes any amylase that was swallowed.
  3. In the duodonom: When carbohydrates enter the duodonem (which is the beginning part of the small intestine) the pancreas releases the enzyme amylase which breaks down polysaccharides into shorter glucose chains and maltose. (Babies produce very little amylase until over the age of one, although human breast milk contains a significant amount.)
  4. Throughout the small intestine: The brush boarder that lines the small intestine performs the final breakdown of carbohydrates by releasing the enzymes sucrase, maltase, and lactase that break down the disaccharides sucrose, maltose, and lactose into the monosaccharides glucose, fructose, and galactose.
  5. Absorption: The monosaccharides of glucose, fructose, and galactose are now small enough to pass through the walls of the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. Glucose and galactose need to hitch a ride on a sodium-dependent hexose transporter which will only transport them with a sodium ion. Fructose hitches a ride on another hexose transporter and doesn’t need sodium. As the blood circulates the liver, cells there take up fructose and galactose and covert them to other compounds, mainly glucose. This is why we say that most carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the blood!
  6. In the large intestine: Within one to four hours after a meal, all of the sugars and most of the starches have been digested. What passes into the large intestine are things that could not be digested or absorbed. This includes resistant starch (such as asparagus), fermentable fiber (such as the peel of an apple), and nonfermentable fiber (which includes cellulose, one of the components of cell walls). Resistant starches and fermentable fibers are water soluble and attract water which softens the stool. They are also able to be fermented by the good bacteria that (hopefully) resides in the large intestine releasing water, gas, and short chain fatty acids.
  7. Elimination: The nonfermentable fiber merely “bulks up the stool” and passes through unchanged. (Ever notice whole kernels of corn or popcorn hulls in your poop?)

Fats

Fats are the most efficient source of long term energy storage in both animals and humans.

From Triglycerides to Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids

From Triglycerides to Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids

Types of Fatty Acids

(*The following description of fats is adapted from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.)

Fatty acids can be categorized by how saturated they are:

  • Saturated: All available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom
  • Monounsaturated: Has one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and therefore lacking two hydrogen atoms
  • Polyunsaturated: Has two or more pairs of double bonds and therefore lack four or more hydrogen atoms

In addition, they are also categorized by how long they are:

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Has four to six carbon atoms (always saturated, found mostly in butterfat from cows and goats)
  • Medium-Chain Fatty Acids: Has eight to twelve carbon atoms (found mostly in butterfat and tropical oils)
  • Long-Chain Fatty Acids: Has fourteen to eighteen carbon atoms
  • Very-Long-Chain Fatty Acids: Has twenty to twenty-four carbon atoms (DHA)

How We Digest Fats

In children and adults, fat digestion occurs mostly in the small intestine (although in infants, it occurs mostly in the mouth). Most of the fat in our bodies and the fat we eat is in the form of triglycerides (three fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule).

fat digestion

How We Digest Fats

  1. In the mouth: Fat digestion starts slowly in the mouth. Some hard fats begin to melt as they reach body temperature. A salivary gland at the base of the tongue releases an enzyme (lingual lipase) that plays a minor role in fat digestion in adults and an active one in infants. In infants, this enzyme efficiently digests the short and medium chain fatty acids found in milk.
  2. In the stomach: Once fats hit the stomach, they would float if it were not for the muscle contractions that direct all contents towards the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. This churning action emulsifies the fat by dispersing it into large droplets. The gastric lipase enzyme in the stomach (that performs best in an acidic environment) starts to work on breaking these droplets down. But very little fat digestion takes place in the stomach.
  3. Bile in the small intestine: When the large fat droplets enter the duodonem (the beginning part of the small intestine), they are coated with bile. (Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When fat enters the small intestine, it triggers the release of the hormone cholecystokinin which signals the gallbladder to release its bile.) The bile emulsifies the large fat droplets into smaller droplets. This increases their overall surface area making it easier for the next step. (Bile acids in the bile often pair up with amino acids which have one end attracted to water and one to fat. This helps with the emulsification process.)
  4. Lipases in the small intestine: The pancreas secretes a lipase enzyme that hydrolyzes (breaks down in the presence of water) the triglycerides into monoglycerides and free fatty acids. *Infants do not secrete much of this enzyme; this is why the lingual lipase excreted from under their tongues plays more of an active role.
  5. Absorption: Monoglycerides and free fatty acids are now small enough to pass through the intestinal wall.
  6. Elimination: If you are eliminating too much fat in your stool (white poop anyone?), it is a sign of poor health (i.e. your intestines don’t absorb food, your pancreas doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, or your gallbladder isn’t passing on enough bile).

Protein

Protein is the building block of life.

From Protein to Amino Acids

From Protein to Amino Acids

Foods with Protein

There are both animal and plant based sources of protein. Animal based sources of protein have all of the essential amino acids that we need, including the ones that we can’t make and can only get from dietary sources. Here are some examples of different foods and the amount of protein they contain:

  • Chicken (31 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Hamburger (27 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Salmon (25 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Eggs (19 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Milk (3 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Kidney beans (9 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Tofu (8 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Barley (2 g of protein per 100 g)

How we Digest Protein

The majority of protein digestion occurs in the stomach. *Watch a cool video that explains the entire process here.

protein digestion

How We Digest Protein

  1. In the mouth: Protein (basically a bunch of amino acids all connected and bunched together) are crushed and moistened in the mouth, but no chemical breakdown occurs during this part of the process.
  2. In the stomach: Hydrocholoric acid in the stomach uncoils, or denatures, each protein’s tangled strands so that the digestive enzymes can attack the peptide bonds. Hydrocholic acid in the stomach also converts the inactive form of the enzyme pepsinogen to its active form, pepsin. Pepsin cleaves large polypeptides into smaller polypeptides and some amino acids.
  3. In the Duodonem: When the smaller polypeptides enter the duodenum (the beginning part of the small intestine), proteases are released from the pancreas that hydrolyze them further (break them down in the presence of water) into short peptide chains, tripeptides, dipeptides, and amino acids.
  4. In the Small Intestine: Then peptidase enzymes on the membrane surfaces of the intestinal cells split these tripeptides and dipeptides into single amino acids.
  5. Absorption: These single amino acids are now small enough to be absorbed through the small intestine and enter the blood stream. Only a few peptides escape digestion and enter the bloodstream intact.
  6. Elimination: Only a small amount of dietary protein is lost in the feces.

In Conclusion

I have been reading, learning, making big posters, drawing models, redrawing models, talking to anyone who will listen, synthesizing, and applying all that I have learned about digestion for years in an attempt to understand it as best as I can. I feel like I could keep drawing better diagrams or synthesizing the information better and further, but I have to just stop here and move on knowing that I am going to continue to dig deeper, learn more, write more, and draw more, and keep building on this with future posts.

I think that understanding digestion is one of the fundamental building blocks for understanding health, and I hope that my synthesis of this information can help you understand it better as it has helped me. I am excited to move on and keep learning! I hope you’ll join me!

See it in action! Watch a camera go inside the digestive system to see a 5 minute video of what the process looks like first hand!