The Cycle of Life

A few months ago we received a surprise package in the mail from my husband’s grandparents.  It contained a live butterfly garden from Insect Lore.  The garden came with a postcard with instructions and a code to order live caterpillars when the weather was warm enough to actually release butterflies.  I stashed the garden on a high shelf in our playroom and forgot about it until my ever-vigilant daughter asked eagerly if it was time to get the caterpillars yet.  We ordered the caterpillars online, and a few days later they came in a little cup like this:

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The cup had this hardened caterpillar food on the bottom and a paper lid with tiny air holes.  Five busy caterpillars climbed all around inside the cup, eating the food and growing bigger by the minute.  The instructions said to put the cup in a safe place and leave it alone.  This is my kind of nature, folks! 🙂  Four of the caterpillars grew at an alarming rate, tripling their body size in one day.  The last caterpillar remained quite small, although I did see him eating.  In a few days, the four large caterpillars crawled their way to the top of the cup, hung upside down from the paper celing, and began to form into chrysallids.  This was an amazing process to watch:

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As they hung there in their chrysallids, the husband and I were going to make a quick four-day trip to San Francisco and the Sequoia National Forest for our tenth wedding anniversary.  The kids and dog all went to their grandparents during this time, and I hoped the butterflies would wait to emerge from their chrysallids until we returned.  Late that Sunday night, as we hugged kids, petted a nervous dog, and unpacked gifts that we had brought back with us, I noticed movement in the butterfly garden.  Sure enough, three of the butterflies had fully emerged while we were gone and were flitting around the garden.  The fourth one never made it out of his chrysallid.

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We sliced up fresh oranges and inserted them into the Butterfly Garden so the butterflies could feed on the sweet juice.  For two days, the kids and I observed the painted lady butterflies, made drawings and diagrams of their bodies, and basically learned a lot about these beautiful creatures just by watching them.  Then it was time to release them.  We took the garden out to the back yard, which was in desperate need of a fresh mowing.  This, however, was good for the butterfly release because there were lots of dandelions for them to land on.  We opened the garden and coaxed them out.  One flew away over the fence almost immediately, but the other two cautiously ventured out and landed again and again in our dandelions, making for lots of good photo opportunities.

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It was a fascinating life learning experience, and we hope to do it again next summer.  We washed and put away the butterfly garden and will order caterpillars when the time is right.

(by the way, I am not being paid to endorse Insect Lore, but I wanted to share because we had such a good experience and I think many homeschoolers (and others!) would benefit from this information.)

A Dinosaur of a Solution

bookimage(See yesterday’s post for the first part of this series)

My mother-in-law gave me The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf to read first.  I put it aside for a few days, reluctant to start reading what seemed to be a very scientific book.  Then a heat wave hit, and the kids wanted to be in the pool practically every second of the day.  I had to be out there with them; so The Paleo Solution became my poolside read.  I will admit that I skipped a few chapters here and there because they were too “sciency” (ha! new word!) and because I just didn’t want to focus that hard.  However, the rest of the book surprisingly made a lot of sense.  Basically, the Paleo lifestyle entails what the author believes our ancestors, or cavemen, followed.  Although I am a firm believer in God creating the universe and all that is in it, therefore denying the existence of “cavemen”, I do get the gist that this diet, or lifestyle, would have most likely been prevalent for Adam and Eve and subsequent generations after the fall of man.  A Paleo lifestyle consists of three components: food, fitness, and sleep.  When these three components are followed within Paleo guidelines, physical health should improve, weight will be lost, and athletic performance will be increased.  Here’s a closer look at these three components.

1.  Food.  Well, what food would have our early ancestors eaten?  Certainly nothing processed and nothing that would have taken too much effort to make.  From these concepts, the Paleo foods are derived:  an abundance of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, eggs, healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil, beef, chicken, bacon, pork, shrimp, and fish.  Foods not allowed on the Paleo diet are cereal grains, legumes such as beans and peanuts, refined sugars, dairy products, potatoes, processed foods, and vegetable oils.  Why would someone want to avoid grains, legumes, and dairy?  Well, I would encourage you to read Robb Wolf’s book yourself to get into all the technical terms; but to put it simply, these three groups of foods are really all in the same category.  They contain proteins that irritate the gut.  They can cause a lot of issues in people with automimmune diseases.  Because they damage the gut lining, your body does not absorb nutrients correctly.  Grains and dairy also affect the gall bladder, causing your body to misuse vitamins.  Basically, these foods strip down your gut lining and other organs, leaving you wide open for a host of diseases and even cancer.

2.  Fitness.  The first people to live on this earth did not sit at a desk staring at a computer all day.  Adam himself was cursed to a lifetime of working the fields by the sweat of his brow when he disobeyed God’s command in the garden of Eden.  People back in those days did a lot of running, carrying, building, digging, hunting, climbing, gathering, etc.  Daily exercise was a natural part of their lives.  And while many people today exercise to lose weight or stay fit, the truth is “If you do not exercise, you are broken.” (The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf, p. 145.) Basically, in order to be complete, a person following the Paleo lifestyle should do enough physical exercise to build some muscle, keep that muscle, and strengthen bones.  This exercise would not be cardiovascular in nature, but rather would focus on strength, mobility, flexibility, power, and endurance.  Thus the Paleo lifestyle emphasizes circuit training, also known as interval training.  Robb’s book offers a plethora of exercises to try, and there are many websites devoted to Paleo fitness and exercise as well.

3.  Sleep.  Again, going back to the first people on this earth, it is unlikely that any of them were “night-owls.”  You wouldn’t have found a person then that stayed up way into the wee morning hours working on a project and then rising early to a loud alarm clock, chugging coffee or some other source of caffeine to make it through the day.  No, these people went to bed when the sun went down and got up when the sun rose.  They didn’t need alarm clocks – their bodies were naturally well-rested and would give themselves a “wake-up call.”  Subscribers to the Paleo way of life make sure that they get a good amount of quality sleep every night (Wolf’s book suggests at least nine hours!) They get this sleep by sticking to a strict bedtime, making sure their bedroom is completely dark, and avoiding stimulants such as coffee in the afternoon and evening.

After reading Wolf’s book (and then going back later to wade through the more technical chapters), I was mostly convinced.  I still had some questions.  Won’t I be hungry a lot without grains and dairy to fill me up?  Is this some crazy diet that is actually going to mess with my body?  Won’t all that meat and produce be expensive?  So I hit the internet, found lots of information that settled my fears and misgivings, and encouraged me that this could be the solution our family was looking for.  (Here’s an easy post to read about the top five misgivings people have about Paleo).

Okay.  The husband and I discussed it at length and decided that we were going to give this Paleo thing a try for at least thirty days.  We planned on Monday, July 21, being the first day of this new lifestyle.

(My next post will detail how we planned to do Paleo as a family and the costs involved.)

 

 

 

The Search for a Solution

A little over a year ago, I blogged about my husband and I doing a juice fast that extended over a few weeks.  It was extremely helpful in clearing out all the toxins that had been building up in our bodies and in giving us a good jumpstart into a much healthier lifestyle.  And for a while we rode that healthy train, eagerly eating the fresh fruits and veggies that were so readily available in the summer and early fall months.  Come winter time, our motivation began to slide.  Exercise fell to the wayside in the cold rainy months of December and January, and the good eating habits quickly followed.  I soon found myself drinking sugary coffee drinks and soda on a regular basis again.  I put absolutely no thought into what was going into my body.  We frequented fast food places and indulged in desserts daily.

In May, Chris was informed by his job that he would traveling to China for ten days for a work convention.  He panicked, knowing that he had gained quite a bit a weight in the last few months.  Not wanting to be the “big guy” on the long plane flight there, he started making immediate changes to the way he ate.  He joined a gym and played racquetball a few times per week.  Inspired by his changes, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to find that I was heavier than I had ever been before.  I joined my husband in his efforts to eat healthier and exercise more.  After he returned from China, we went on another juice fast to hopefully help kickstart more weight loss.  Then we started watching pretty carefully what we were eating – whole grains, good dairy, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc.  Occasionally we allowed ourselves a “treat” by getting fast food or having a dish of ice cream.  I watched the scale and was frustrated that the pounds didn’t seem to budge.  Even worse, I was having daily digestive issues, exhaustion, and brain fatigue.  I couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing all these health problems when I was doing my best to eat better.

Something had to change.  But what?  I researched online and read health books.  Everything seemed to point in the direction I was already facing.  One day I poured out my frustrations to my mother-in-law.  She related to me that a few weeks ago she had gone to see a naturopathic doctor with her husband to help him with his physical ailments, some of which were the same as mine.  The doctor had put them both on a Paleo diet for fifteen days.  Within a few days of starting this new way of eating, they both felt so clear-headed and energetic.  As they progressed, physical issues like extreme tiredness and digestive problems resolved themselves, and the weight was just dropping off.  After the fifteen days were up, they continued eating a mostly-Paleo diet with very favorable results.  I was impressed, interested, and. . . skeptical.  How could not eating whole grains and dairy be healthy?  Wouldn’t there be missing nutrients and vitamins?  Wouldn’t you feel hungry all the time?

I guess I had a lot of questions.  And when you have a lot of questions, there is only one thing to do.  Find the answers!