You are loved: losing a child

baby_3

On February 9th my husband Grant, my 1.5 year old son Finlay, and I went to Santa Fe for a routine 20 week ultrasound.  The ultrasound went very long, and at the end the sonographer brought a doctor to the room to tell us that our second son has a birth defect that is “not compatible with life”: he is missing most of his skull and brain.

We had to wait almost a month to see a specialist in Albuquerque, and on March 6th we received the official diagnosis: our son has three defects: anencephaly (missing most of his skull and brain), an umbilical cord defect (one less artery than normal), and a hole in his heart.  I was also diagnosed with polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid).

Anencephaly is obviously the major defect present, and it means he will either die while I am pregnant with him, during labor, or shortly after he is born (hours or days).  There is a very small chance he could live long enough for us to take him home for a few days or even weeks.  We really have no way of knowing what his outcome will be.

We named him Royce Quill.  Royce means “son of the king”, and we know with certainty that this child is a son of God.  Quill means “bear cub”, and since we will never know him as an adult, he will always be our little bear cub.

For two weeks after the first ultrasound, I lived in a complete haze.  I honestly don’t know if I can remember many details from those two weeks.  After that, I began to slowly attempt normal life activities (like grocery shopping without bursting into tears……..sometimes), but life is still hard and dark.  I feel despair and loss almost every minute of the day, even during the brief moments when I feel slightly happy and normal.  But through every emotion, thought, and feeling, there has been an underlying theme: you are loved.

Royce Quill, You Are Loved.

When we did our second ultrasound on March 6th, RQ gave us a little gift: we watched him playing with his hands and sucking on his fingers.  He is not a vegetable, despite his massive lack of skull and brain.  In fact, while he is still in my womb, he is very much like a normal little baby.  He will potentially experience seizures in utero at some point, he can’t really swallow, and he does look different.  But aside from that, he is a normal baby rolling and kicking away, sucking on his fingers and discovering his small world.

All that being said, we would love him even if he couldn’t kick his tiny little feet or suck his fingers, for one simple reason: he is ours.  We have wondered whether or not we’ll try for a third child after we lose RQ.  But right now, all I can think about is how much I don’t want another baby; I want him.  I can find a little bit of rest and relief in knowing that this child is so wanted and so loved.  And not just by his mother and father.  We are not the only people who have cried over the loss of this child, and desperately wished we could keep him for longer.  We have been surrounded by friends and family who feel just like we do.

Royce Quill, you are so loved by your parents, brother, and so many others.  If that is the only thing I can give you in your short life, let me be satisfied in that.

Jamie, You Are Loved.

I am sad.  I am covered by a darkness and heaviness that is inexplicable.  No parent should ever have to lose a child.  No parent should ever have to spend time preparing for the loss of their child, calling funeral homes and getting estimates for cremation, trying to figure out how long you can hold a baby after he has died.

And I do feel alone.  We are hundreds of miles from our friends and family, 1-2 hours from medical care, and 1 hour from any sort of grief counselors or loss support groups.

But I am not abandoned.  Rather than feeling like God has punished us, or forgotten about us, or left us to carry this grief alone, I feel more loved than I ever have.  When I am in my darkest moments and feeling my deepest desire for RQ to live, I feel God there.  I feel convinced that He has experienced inexplicable sorrows, and one of them is RQ’s brokenness.

I am not alone in grieving for my son.  God is grieving with me, and possibly even more deeply than I can imagine.  I am loved.

Parents, You Are Loved.

Full disclosure: I am pro-life.

Many mothers who carry babies with lethal birth defects like RQ choose to abort their babies or induce early, so there is obviously a moral and political aspect to what we are experiencing.

There will be some people who are pro-choice who think what we’re doing is ridiculous.  I am putting my life at risk (every pregnancy is a risk) for a child that will absolutely not live.  I am using the medical system for a child who has a terminal defect.

There will be some people who are pro-life who think what we’re doing is a symbol to all other mothers with terminal birth defects that they can and should do the same as we are.  They see us making some sort of statement to the world.

To those pro-choicers and pro-lifers, I want to tell you something: you’re missing the point.

So instead of talking to those people, let me talk to every single mother and father who chose to have an abortion, or considered an abortion and decided against it, or induced a pregnancy early, or carried a baby knowing that baby would die.

You are loved, you mothers and fathers.  But more than that, you are worthy of love.  I don’t know what it’s like to consider an abortion because culture forces you to, or because your family situation forces you to, or because you have no money, or because the child will have no family.  But I do know what it’s like to be presented with the option of early termination instead of spending five months carrying a child I know will die, and then potentially having him die in my aching arms.

I don’t care what you chose.  I don’t care if you chose the abortion or to have a baby that will drastically change the rest of your life.  I don’t care if you chose the early induction or to carry a baby who will die.  Whatever decision you made, you were in a position that no parent should ever be in.

And whatever decision you made, you are still worthy of love.  I love you whether you carried or aborted.  God loves you whether you carried or aborted.  Please take one moment as you finish reading this blog to feel loved and not alone.

Cutting the Metaphorical Umbilical Cord

I’ve had my calves for 7 months. They were born in March or April. By the time calves are 6 or 7 months old they are getting about 80% of their nutrition from grass; mom’s milk is basically unnecessary. These animals nurse for emotional reasons only; it was time to break them of that. When the mama cows are able to stop producing milk after their calves are weaned, they gain weight and prep for cold winters better. At least this is what I’ve heard, so it was time to wean the calves: simple in theory, a bit more difficult in practice.imag0809

The way I chose to do the weaning is supposed to be low stress. I built a three-wire electric fence across the middle of a pasture, no calf can get under, and my cows aren’t athletic enough to jump over; there are over 9000V pumping through the hot wires so it gives a pretty good spank to whatever touches it. I know… The plan was to put the cows on one side and the calves on the other, so they can see each other, just no more nursing. Nobody is out of sight of their mother; low stress, right?img_20161027_090308_815

Maybe for the cattle, but not for me. It took me over a week to actually get the cows and calves to stay apart. I had to separate them 3 times, twice horseback, once on foot; drive them to their respective sides 3 times, twice horseback, once in a trailer; fix fence twice, once when they’d broken through the barb wire and found another hole elsewhere, and once because I’m still figuring out how to do electric fence.imag0813 It doesn’t sound like it, but I was very, very discouraged. This was one of the first times I really came to face the fact that I have started working in an industry that I don’t have much experience in; I’d gotten a glimpse of the magnitude of my inexperience and I was floored.

I did take away something positive from this experience: there are almost no set deadlines in agriculture. Yes, planting needs to take place around a certain time, but it is ok if it’s off by a few days, or even a week; it’d be good to wean my calves in the middle of October (yes, this blog is a bit after the fact…), but it really doesn’t matter that I was a week later than I’d planned; brandings are nice to do when the calves aren’t old enough to weigh 400 pounds, but it’s ok to brand later when they are heavier. The point is there aren’t many specific due dates, just general guidelines. And this is a hard concept to grasp coming from the city, working in construction; both of which run on very specific timelines. Beginning to wrap my mind around that had to take twenty calves continually trying to reunite with their mothers, giving me the slip every chance they got, and generally irritating me to the point of screaming at them from the back of a horse.imag0806 I apologized to the horse.

Recipe of the Week: Barbacoa Beef

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

This week’s recipe comes from No. 2 Pencil.  Okay, here’s the deal: I normally edit recipes I find on the internet, because they’re never exactly what I want.  This time, no edits are needed.  Here is my favorite shredded beef recipe, in all its glory, in honor of my friend Michelle who has requested it.

Why this recipe of the week?

  • Easy (seriously, easier than anything I’ve posted before)
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Stuff you probably already have in your kitchen
  • Kid friendly
  • Versatile (put it in burritos, put it on rice, put it in tacos, put it in enchiladas, mix it with eggs….you get the point)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds of good quality boneless chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place boneless chuck roast in slow cooker and use seasoning to season on all sides.
  2. Cover and cook on low in slow cooker for 8-9 hours, or until meat is fork tender.
  3. Once meat is tender, shred in slow cooker and serve.

That’s it.  Really, that’s it.  You don’t need to cut up the meat into cubes, you don’t need to brown it, you don’t need to add liquid, nothing.  Just mix your seasonings together, put them all over the meat, and put it in the slow cooker.

Ta da!

Recipe of the Week: Banana Oat Yogurt Muffins

Banana Oat Yogurt Muffins

This recipe comes from Running With Spoons.  I’ve made very few changes to the original recipe, but I have some suggestions below for how to make this dairy free and/or vegan.  Note: I haven’t actually tried the dairy free or vegan version, but the substitutions I suggest are fairly common ways to modify recipes…so you should be safe!

Why this recipe of the week?

  • Easy/fast
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Stuff you probably already have in your kitchen
  • Cheap
  • Kid friendly
  • Pregnant and/or nursing mom friendly
  • Can be made vegan (see yogurt and egg substitutions)
  • Can be made dairy free (see yogurt substitution)
  • Gluten free
  • Excellent snack (low sugar, high protein…smear on some nut butter for more protein, or grassfed butter for more fat)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
    • Suggestion: for health reasons, and to make this a more filling snack, get full fat yogurt!  If you can’t find full fat Greek yogurt, 2% Fage is really amazing and has 23 grams of protein per cup.
    • Substitution: So Delicious makes a dairy free yogurt substitution.  I’d just double check the sugar content, since some flavors are pretty high.
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
    • Substitution: to make this vegan, use flax eggs instead.  Make sure you buy your flax from a reputable store that keeps their flax cold at all times.
  • 2 cups rolled oats (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • Substitution: I used coconut sugar, partially just because I had it.
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
    • Substitution: I skipped this entirely, since I fed these to Finn and we try not to give him a ton of sugar.  You could amp up the protein by doing almost any kind of nut or seed (think almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.) or you could do a different sweet item, like raisins or craisins.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare a muffin pan by spraying with cooking spray (or smear them with coconut oil).  If you use paper liners, spray/smear those too.
  3. Add all ingredients except for chocolate chips (or whatever chocolate chip sub you’re using) to a blender or food processor and blend on high until oats are broken down and batter is smooth and creamy.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cavity until it’s about 3/4 full.  You can sprinkle extra toppings on the muffins if you’d like.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops of your muffins are set and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing.

The Darkness

This blog post is a temporary departure from our normal blog posts, which focus on our life in New Mexico and what we’re trying to accomplish: holistic ranch management, healthy eating, and building a family.  Today I’m writing about “the darkness”, which is what I call the first six months after my sweet son Finlay was born.

My Experience With “The Darkness”

Finn’s birth was challenging, but without major complications.  My midwife gently explained to me weeks later that it was a “traumatic” birth, but thankfully Finn was born safely, without interventions, and without drugs.  He was in asynclitic position, which contributed to the traumatic part.  I won’t go into the details, but due to his position during labor and delivery, the physical part of my postpartum recovery was a bit longer and a hell of a lot more painful than normal.

So even though I was in a little shock after Finn’s birth, and the recovery was extremely painful, I was still in complete bliss for the first 24 hours after he was born.  It was wonderful.

Then the darkness began.  When Finn was almost 24 hours old, we found out he had tongue and lip ties so severe that he was not getting any breastmilk at all.  Within 48 hours of his birth, we discovered that he was not urinating or passing any stool, and was basically losing all of his energy – not responding to us and not waking easily.  Thanks to the truly amazing midwives at the birth center where he was born, we learned about supplemental nursing systems (essentially feeding Finn through a tube) and found a fantastic dentist who resolved the tongue and lip ties when he was four days old.

Things started to get better, but when Finn was about a week old, I got mastitis.  About a week after that, I got something called clostridium difficile, otherwise known as C Diff.  I got it from the mastitis antibiotics that I took.  Here’s a few descriptions of the wonderful C Diff infection:

  • One [infection] – caused by the germ difficile – was estimated to cause almost half a million infections in the United States in 2011, and 29,000 died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis. (CDC)
  • Clostridium difficile, often called C. difficile or C. diff, is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Each year in the United States, about a half million people get sick from C. difficile, and in recent years, C. difficile infections have become more frequent, severe and difficult to treat.  (Mayo Clinic)
  • difficile infection can range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms of mild cases include watery diarrhea, three or more times a day for several days, with abdominal pain or tenderness. (WebMD)

Within only four days of contracting C Diff, I was at the hospital getting IVs due to very severe dehydration.  One of the descriptions above states diarrhea for “three or more times a day for several days”.  I ended up having C Diff for about 6 weeks, and during the height of the severity, which lasted for 2-3 weeks, I had diarrhea about 12-20 times a day (usually somewhere in between those numbers).  That’s not an estimate.  I had to keep a diarrhea.  I mean diary.

So here is what I remember from the first two months of Finn’s life:

  • Having diarrhea 2-4 times every time I woke to nurse my newborn at night (3-4 times per night).
  • Grant having to help me up from the couch at night because I was so physically exhausted I could hardly get up.
  • Nursing my 2.5 week old in an IV clinic, surrounded by people, experiencing major oversupply (which means Finn choked and coughed and cried every single time he tried to nurse), experiencing major pain every time Finn nursed because his latch still hadn’t corrected from the tongue and lip ties, all while hooked to an IV.
  • Crying in the bathroom of Finn’s pediatrician because I had to run in there so many times during the checkup, and each time involved uncomfortable pain.
  • Falling on the floor of our living room weeping (yes, weeping) and begging Grant to find a doctor that could figure out what was wrong with me.
  • Lying on the floor, clutching my abdomen because I was experiencing cramping pain almost worse than anything I had experienced so far (but definitely not worse than labor!).
  • Sitting down in the nursing moms room of our church to attempt to nurse Finn, only to have to jump up and run into the sanctuary, throwing Finn into Grant’s arms, and then racing to the bathroom.
  • Taking six weeks to heal from a somewhat rare and extremely painful labor injury…and having diarrhea 12-20 times a day, which essentially meant I was irritating the injury 12-20 times a day.

But I also remember this:

  • Our friends bringing us meals every 2-3 days for almost an entire two months, and many of them adhering to my very strict dietary restrictions once I got sick.
  • My sister staying with me overnight when Grant had to go out of town, and then waking up just to keep me company every time I had to nurse Finn.
  • My mom bleaching our two bathrooms from top to bottom all by herself after I was finally healed of the C Diff.
  • Grant’s dad and his wife having us over for a “special” dinner, where everybody had to eat according to my boring and restrictive diet.
  • A friend bringing over a huge batch of roasted baby carrots, because I couldn’t have raw fruits or veggies.
  • The pastors at my church getting together on a busy Sunday to all pray for me as I sat crying in one of their offices.
  • A friend from out of state taking time to visit me, even though one of her best friends was experiencing one of the worst tragedies that’s ever happened to her.
  • A doctor who just met me, going out of her way to rush tests and figure out what was wrong with me.
  • My husband supporting me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically…doing literally everything he could to help me.

And I remember Finn’s first smile.  I was holding him in my arms, listening to a voicemail from my doctor.  She was telling me that we finally found a diagnosis: C Diff.  At the time, I didn’t understand C Diff very well, and I thought that Finn could catch it from me.  Since it’s not uncommon for people with low immunity to die from C Diff, I was instantly gripped with terror – I thought my son might catch C Diff from me and die.  I started crying, and at that moment I looked at Finn, and he looked directly up at me, and smiled.  As cheesy as it sounds, it was like a gift from God.  And for one or two very warm, sweet seconds, I knew everything would be okay.

The physical suffering from C Diff was terrible, obviously.  But it didn’t compare at all to the mental suffering.  There is a strong link between people with terrible gut health (or gut infections like C Diff) and depression.  The main reason why I call the first six months of Finn’s life “the darkness” is because of the depression.  Depression from postpartum hormones, and depression from C Diff.  It was a weight that made it hard to breathe, hard to function at all.  I cannot even begin to describe that weight.  I began obsessing about how I would run away because I genuinely felt like everybody would be better without me.  I couldn’t decide if I should take Finn with me, because leaving him with Grant would be too much of a burden, or if I should leave him with Grant because his father would hate me for taking his son away.  For the first time in my life, I truly hated my life, and everything around me.

My experience with C Diff and depression are nothing compared to a mom who loses her baby, or a mom who is in and out of the hospital with a very sick little one.  But that’s actually one of the main reasons why I’m writing this.

To Other Moms Experiencing Any Darkness

Moms out there: stop comparing your pain to the pain of other moms.

Don’t look at other another mom who has it worse than you and think you have no right to feel terrible about your own situation.  When I was struggling, I needed to accept and understand two things:

  • First: my difficulty and darkness was just as heavy and depressing as I thought it was.
  • Second: some other moms did have it worse than I did.

And those two facts can exist together without the ugly beast of comparison making us feel shame or pride.  Don’t look at another mom who has it worse and think, “I shouldn’t feel bad, she has it worse than me.”  And don’t look at another mom who has it better and think, “I have it so much worse than that other mom, she shouldn’t be complaining.”

Instead, accept the first fact and let it help you admit the dark situation that you’re in, so you can be honest with yourself and others.  Then you can begin to work on putting down the burden you’re trying to carry alone (although of course this takes a lot of time and love).

Accept the second fact and let it give you perspective, which prevents you from wallowing in your own pain.  It can help you feel thankfulness for the levels of pain that you are not experiencing.  But most importantly, it gives you deep sympathy and love for those who are experiencing pain much worse than yours.

Listen moms: we all suffer, and we can and need to own our suffering, so it can change us and teach us and grow us.  Do not look at another’s suffering and think that yours is so much worse, or that hers is so much worse.  Instead, look directly at your own suffering and let it move you to compassion for yourself, and look directly at another’s suffering (be it bigger or smaller than yours) and let it move you to compassion for the other.

When I look back on the last 33 years of my life, I don’t ever think, “Man, I wish I had judged people more!”  or “If only I hadn’t been so sympathetic.”  or “I should have been more cynical about her!”  No, quite the opposite.  I regret judging other people’s situations far too much, not being as loving and sympathetic as I should, and wasting way too much energy on cynicism.

I’m certainly not perfect after my postpartum experience, but I am a different.  I am realizing that my suffering, as big or little as it may have been, is moving me to be more caring and compassionate towards others.  Please don’t hear me saying that I am a beautifully loving human being now.  I still have anger issues, I still feel depressed sometimes, and I still get jealous of other moms.  But my heart is changing, and I am finding more desire to love than to hate…and I am very slowly starting to thank God for using my suffering to teach me that.

I know there are moms reading this that are struggling with things far worse than C Diff and depression, and I want to say something to you: you can get through your suffering, and it can make you into a better person.  It may not feel that way right now, and it may take a very, very long time.  So in the midst of your suffering, look directly at it and accept how hard life is for you right now.  Then reach out for love and support for yourself…and eventually reach out to another who is suffering to love and support her.

Recipe of the Week: Butternut Squash Stew

Going through all of my Paleo recipes made me realize just how much I love sharing successful recipes with other people.  Because I love to cook, I’m always looking for awesome recipes…and now that I’m a mom, I’m also always looking for easy recipes.

So, starting this week, I will be sharing a “recipe of the week”.  It will be a recipe that I made the week before, and it will be one of two things: either (1) a more challenging recipe that was totally worth it, or (2) a quick and easy recipe that either moms or busy people will appreciate.

Please don’t expect awesome pictures, because I’m not interested in starting a food blog.  Please don’t expect a ton of original recipes either, because I’m not THAT amazing of a cook.  But please do expect:

  • Descriptions that will hopefully help you quickly determine whether it’s worth your time to even try the recipe.
  • Lots of substitution options.  Lots.  Because it’s silly when a recipe requires you to go spend $30 on a bunch of random ingredients you’re never going to use again.
  • Recipes that are either healthy or worth it.  So if it’s not healthy, it’s going to be delicious.

Without further ado, our very first recipe of the week:

Butternut Squash Stew

This recipe comes from Allrecipes.com, and is technically called Moroccan Tagine.  But I didn’t want to freak some of you out.

Description

  • Easy/fast
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Stuff you probably already have in your kitchen
  • Cheap
  • Kid-friendly (at least the chicken and the butternut squash)
  • Can be made vegan
  • Gluten free

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, butter, lard, or olive oil
    • Suggestion: refined coconut oil because it’s easy to find and can be heated to high temperatures.
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into chunks
    • Substitution: skip this to make a vegan meal, and just double the garbanzo beans.
    • Time saver: get yourself a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and just throw 1-2 cups in there.
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
    • Suggestion: um…more like 5-6 cloves.
    • Time saver: it’s okay to skip fresh garlic and use garlic powder if you really need to.
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
    • Time saver: get the pre-peeled and pre-chopped butternut squash from Trader Joe’s.  I think they have it year-round.
  • 1 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
    • Substitution: as mentioned above, skip the chicken and double the beans to make this a vegan meal.  We do this a lot because it helps save money and get more plant-based meals into our diet so we’re not gorging on meat.
  • 1 carrot, chopped
    • Time saver: skip this if you want to; it won’t change the recipe that much.
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
    • Suggestion: get fire roasted.  You can put this stuff in anything and it’ll make it taste amazing.  Props to Christina Trudgian for teaching me that!
  • 1 14 oz can chicken broth
    • Suggestion: make your own ahead of time.  Let me know if you need help with this – it’s so ridiculously easy to make your own chicken broth, it will blow you away.
    • Substitution: use vegetable broth to keep the recipe vegan.
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (don’t skip this, even though it’s weird)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • Substitution: it’s hard to substitute for coriander, and if you have the cash, I’d suggest buying some because it’s useful in other recipes.  If you’d rather not buy some, you can substitute cumin, fresh cilantro, lemon oregano, or sage….just depending on what flavor you like best!
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Heat your oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the raw chicken and onion until done (or just onion).  When done, toss in your garlic and heat it up a bit, but don’t cook it for long – it’ll burn and taste gross.
  2. Throw in the squash, garbanzo beans, carrot, tomatoes with juice, broth, sugar, lemon juice, and all seasonings.  You can also put in your cooked chicken at this point, if you are going with pre-cooked chicken instead of raw.
  3. Bring everything to a boil, and then let it simmer on low for 30 minutes with a top on it.  You can actually go a bit longer if you want, but don’t go so long that the butternut squash turns mushy.
  4. Serve alone, over rice/quinoa/couscous, or with toast.

Enjoy!

Good Neighbor

I got here and knew nobody. I started my job and had basically zero background doing anything “cowboy”. The biggest event of the year in raising cattle is, hands-down, the branding, and that takes multiple people, most of whom need to know how to rope, and at least one who knows how to use a branding iron.

brand

I have a great neighbor named Brooks who grew up cowboying.  His brothers, dad, and friend also did, and they were willing to help me in my time of need.

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We spent a long morning roping calves,

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throwing, and branding them.  Brooks’s nieces all gave us a hand.

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Some of my cows were pretty interested what we were doing.

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We moved onto the cows, who much were easier to work with in the squeeze chute.

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Then we trailed them to their next pasture, and ate.

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And all I needed to do was provide them food and beer afterwards.

imag0301

The Gosses go Paleo…week 4

We made it.  Four weeks of Paleo eating.  Recipe suggestions and final thoughts below.

Stuff You Could Eat Even if You’re Not Doing Paleo

  • Chocolate chunks – I totally messed this recipe up by heating everything too long, but it was still delicious.  This is an awesome way to make chocolate without dairy or refined sugars.
  • Italian sausage and potato soup – you wouldn’t even know this was a Paleo meal.  It was perfect for the slightly cold weather we’ve had lately.
  • Creamy and smoky chipotle pork chops – definitely my favorite recipe of the week.  I don’t use liquid smoke, so I used smoked paprika to achieve the smokiness factor.  This will definitely be made again, although I’ll probably toss some pasta in the sauce.  This time we ate it with a roasted acorn squash, which was still pretty good.
  • Korean ground beef – this is actually a non-Paleo recipe that I’ve been making for years; I switched out some of the ingredients for Paleo approved ingredients.  I am constantly recommending this recipe to people, as it’s fast, easy, and delicious.  Just don’t do nearly as much sugar as she recommends.

Stuff You Probably Wouldn’t Eat Unless You’re Doing Paleo

  • Fruit and nut bread – while it was great to have “bread” for breakfast instead of eggs, and this was pretty delicious, I’m still not a big fan of stuff like fruits and nuts and seeds in my bread.
  • Spaghetti squash chow mein – I didn’t know what category to put this in.  I may make it again some day, simply because it’s nice to sometimes skip a bunch of carbs with dinner.  If I do make it, I’ll leave out the celery and add in some meat.  Grant had it as a vegan Paleo meal, and I added eggs.  We were really tired of meat at this point and needed a break.
  • Lasagna – while this was better than I thought it would be, lasagna needs cheese.  Period.  And not freaky cashew cheese, which I actually left out, because I don’t like ricotta anyway.
  • Slow cooker beef & broccoli – this was actually a perfectly good recipe, but I have other better slow cooker Asian beef recipes, which I will go back to after this diet.

My final thoughts:

  • I don’t think that the Paleo diet is sustainable, in the same way I don’t think that a vegan diet is sustainable.  I think we should be wary of any diet that cuts out a very large number of food items that have been eaten for thousands of years, whether those items are animal products or grain products.  That being said, these four weeks will have an impact on my future diet – I will probably eat a lot less gluten, I’ll be much more careful about the dairy I eat, and I will definitely go back to eating frequent vegetarian meals.
  • This diet did nothing for my health…at least that I can see.  I have some pretty intense gastrointestinal issues, and the Paleo diet does not appear to have helped them.  I say this only to point out that everybody has a diet that is right for them – there is no one-size-fits-all.
  • I need some cheese.  Stat.  I often hear that not having gluten is the hardest part of the Paleo diet, but I disagree.  The Paleo diet has shown me just how much I love dairy products.

Grant’s final thoughts:

  • Not having bread or tortillas makes eating very logistically difficult, but other than that, he didn’t really miss refined carbs.
  • Cheese, shmeese.  Grant didn’t miss dairy at all.  He did miss beans.
  • If this diet were sustainable (he agrees with me that it’s not), Grant says he wouldn’t really mind doing it.  (He’s a nut.)
  • BEER.  No other explanation necessary.

The Gosses go Paleo…week 3

We’re done with three weeks of the Paleo diet!  I found some really amazing recipes this week….enjoy.

Stuff You Could Eat Even if You’re Not Doing Paleo

  • Crockpot beef stew – Paleo enthusiasts all over the world argue over whether potatoes are allowed on the Paleo diet.  I decided that they are allowed on my Paleo diet.
  • The green chile from week 1 – this stuff is so delicious.  It doesn’t have a roux, which is slightly weird…and the peppers are not roasted, which is also slightly weird.  But it’s easy and amazingly tasty.
  • Buffalo chicken casserole – who would have guessed that Frank’s Red Hot is Paleo approved?!  I needed something that tasted non-Paleo.  This seriously did the trick.  Also, spaghetti squash is weirdly filling.
  • Sausage gravy stuffed squash – okay, three things about this recipe.  First, just use butternut squash (WTH is delicata squash anyway?).  Second, arrowroot powder is amazingly good at thickening gravy…like, better than regular flour.  Third, this was awesome.
  • Sweet potato nachos – yes, I will make this when we’re off Paleo.  And yes, I will add cheese.
  • Fudgy brownies – there is no way you could eat one of these and guess that it’s dairy and processed sugar free.  These are heavenly.

Stuff You Probably Wouldn’t Eat Unless You’re Doing Paleo

  • Eggs

Just kidding.  But really, I am sooooooo tired of eating eggs for breakfast.  Thanks to my one year old who still nurses like a newborn, I really need substantial meals like 10 times a day, which is why I’ve eaten eggs for breakfast every day on this Paleo diet.  I miss being able to do something like oatmeal and peanut butter, quesadillas, granola and yogurt, or bean burritos.  If any of you out there have a suggestion for a Paleo approved breakfast without eggs that is filling, send it my way.

Grant’s thoughts for this week: it’s becoming a lot more normal.  He says that if he doesn’t think about it, he doesn’t miss bread.  He also says he feels really good after all of his meals.  But he says it’s hard to eat with other people.  He went on a work trip this week and watched his friend eat a chicken fried steak while he snacked on fruit and beef jerky (I keep yelling at him, “You could have ordered fajitas!”).  And since it’s hard to eat with other people, it’s kind of a self-centered diet.  I mean, you can go to a restaurant with friends or go to a BBQ at a friend’s house, but you can’t eat 75% of the stuff there, and then everybody around you feels weird.

My main thought for this week was: wow, I feel a lot better.  The first two weeks were terrible.  I felt woozy, dizzy, and shaky.  I got HANGRY at least 2-3 times a day (that’s the truth, ask Grant).  My workouts were ten times more challenging.  A couple of days into week 3 all of that went away.  I don’t feel any better than normal, like many other Whole30 or Paleo enthusiasts say they do, but at least I don’t feel like total crap.

Last week I bashed Paleo enthusiasts who eat crap meat.  I still stand by what I said…but it’s only fair that I confess our meat cheats.  We have stuck to local pastured/grass-fed beef, chicken, and pork…except for the following:

  • Beef jerky
  • Eggs (yes, I consider them a meat)
  • Sandwich meat
  • Bacon (I had to treat myself somehow)

So, there you have it.  Nobody is perfect, and definitely not us.

The Gosses go Paleo…week 2

If you caught my last blog post, then you know that Grant and I are doing the Paleo diet (lifestyle?) for four weeks due to some health issues I’ve had over the last year.

I’d really like to share our journey with you, mostly because I love sharing helpful recipes with people, but also because I just like talking about food.

Following the same theme from last week….

Stuff You Could Eat Even if You’re Not Doing Paleo

  • The “cornbread” muffins from last week’s blog.  These were so awesome that I made them twice.
  • Paleo smoothies – this is basically just frozen fruit, nut butter (not peanut, of course), greens (or not), and coconut milk and/or coconut cream.  Definitely delicious enough to make again, especially if we’re out of yogurt and have some canned coconut milk in the pantry.
  • Fiesta chicken salad – I’m not a huge fan of chicken salad, but this one was pretty good, and you could add/remove quite a few ingredients.  (I also made chicken salad with leftover pesto from the week before…that was less delicious, but still good.)
  • General Tso’s meatballs – this is a recipe I’ve made many times, way before we ever considered doing Paleo.  If you don’t want to make it Paleo, just use corn starch in place of the arrowroot powder and bread crumbs in place of the almond flour.  Make sure you follow her suggestion for using corn starch, though (in the comments).  Also…I made the sauce with coconut sugar instead of honey, since we’re still not feeding honey to Finn.  Bad idea.  Use honey.
  • Southwest avocado ranch dressing/dip – yes, a thousand times yes…I will make this again after we’re done with this stupid diet.  I won’t have Grant make homemade mayo for it, because…too much work.  This dip was great with veggies, crackers (yes, I found a Paleo cracker recipe – see below), and sandwich meat rollups (see below again).
  • Blueberry muffins – ah, my lesson in the dangers of ingredient substitution when cooking Paleo.  Jamie: “Coconut flour smells good, I’m going to use that instead of almond flour!”  Anybody who has done Paleo or Whole30 knows what happened next…I had to scramble and add a ton of eggs and coconut milk to salvage my muffins.  They’re edible…if you like all the moisture to be sucked out of your mouth when you eat something.  But, I will make them again, because I can tell they would have been delicious if I weren’t so stupid.
  • Savory garlic roasted almonds – the Paleo diet is really making me love roasted almonds.  These were heavenly.

Stuff You Probably Wouldn’t Eat Unless You’re Doing Paleo

  • Lemon Alfredo spaghetti squash – I feel kind of bad putting this in the “stuff you probably wouldn’t eat unless you’re doing Paleo” category, because it was truly delicious, and one of the few Paleo meals I’ve had that actually made me feel full.  But let’s be honest, Alfredo sauce needs cheese.  That being said, I still highly recommend this recipe.
  • Sandwich meat rollups – I would never do this off the Paleo diet, but I am seriously DYING for some easy meals.  Enter the sandwich rollup: slice of sandwich meat, condiment of choice (pesto, guac, dressing mentioned above, mustard, etc.), slice of bacon, and a slice of veggie (onion, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, etc.).  You can go wild and make a bunch of different ones.
  • Paleo crackers – just no.  Some things shouldn’t be modified to fit the Paleo diet.  (Although Grant and Finn both love these, so MAYBE I’ll make them again.  And they are dead easy.)
  • Coconut whipped cream – I don’t know if I used the wrong brand of coconut cream or what, but this just didn’t work for me.  It never became “whipped”, so I tried removing some of the coconut milk and leaving the cream…then it became hard coconut butter.
  • Mediterranean beef tips – of course I didn’t do the tzatziki, stop judging.  (Yeah, I know there is Paleo tzatziki…but again, some things shouldn’t be modified to fit the Paleo diet.)  This recipe wasn’t bad so much as it was boring.

Here are Grant’s observations this week:

  • I’m no longer as hungry throughout the day.
  • I’m getting tired of eating so much meat.
  • I’m ready for a beer.

He’s clearly less verbose this week.  Here are my observations:

  • Paleo people are not only obsessed with coconut, they also can’t survive without cauliflower and sweet potato.
  • I’m so tired of cooking.  If you’re a mom and you’re reading this blog thinking, “That is a crap ton of cooking,” please know that I’m hardly doing anything else.  It’s not easy.  If you’re a mom and you’re reading this blog thinking, “That’s not too much cooking,” go fold some laundry and polish your “perfect mom” crown.  My laundry has been sitting on the couch for days.
  • You cannot use coconut flour in place of almond flour.  I REPEAT: do not use coconut flour in place of almond flour.
  • I am tired, weak, and HANGRY pretty much all the time.

So, as you can tell, I don’t like this diet at all.

Also, I have some pretty major beef (har har) with the type of meat that Paleo enthusiasts eat.  They’re pretty big on NO GRAINS ABSOLUTELY EVER, and yet I have met countless Paleo enthusiasts that buy a ton of meat from the grocery store.  I wonder if they know that those animals ate ridiculous (and unnatural) amounts of grain.  You’re not going to get the benefits of the Paleo lifestyle if you’re eating factory raised animals.  All that preaching about “good fats” and “omega-3s” goes straight down the drain when you’re eating grain finished cows, factory chickens (nope, “free range” does not mean pastured), farm raised fish, and factory pigs.

So I wonder how “healthy” the Paleo diet is when you’re eating a bunch of store bought bacon (those pigs ain’t pastured), free range boneless and skinless chicken breasts (those chickens ain’t living outside eating bugs), “environmentally friendly” fish (those fish ain’t eating living green stuff, they’re eating corn), cheap beef (FYI: cows don’t even have the digestive system to live on grain alone), and “organic eggs” (again, those chickens ain’t hanging around in a beautiful green pasture).

Paleo enthusiasts do so much to avoid gluten, grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar because they’re so unhealthy.  But then a ton of them don’t follow the Paleo decree of “pastured meat!” and end up eating a bunch of crap anyway.