Full Head Syndrome

July 5, 2009

Dear Family,

There is nothing quite like taking a big fat sit on your ass while
rethinking some of your oldest, most deeply held beliefs. I've spent the
better part of my waking hours doing that this week. Result: at least a
few cornerstones of my being a Person Who Is Right have been shaken. See
below for details.


Other news: a skunk ate one of the teenage chicks last week--it got into
their box at 2:00am. A sad day followed--Graham felt like she'd let them
down. But the other ~26 or so are growing rapidly and ate their body
weight in asparagus beetles daily until they'd...er..."used up" that
particular patch of Graham and Otto's backyard.


NOTE TO SQUEAMISH BROTHERS: words pertaining to the female menstrual
cycle will appear in the following paragraphs. The words will appear in
BOLDFACE in case you want to skip them.

Bet you can't guess, but I got my PERIOD this week. Yesterday, to be
exact. This is only the second time I've gotten IT since getting
PREGNANT with Jem, and Goddammit IT sucks!! :( I had CRAMPS that made me
lie down on the floor and cry, at which point Jem came over and offered
to nurse, to make IT all better.

The best part, as my family will tell you, are the HORMONES that come
along with this WHOLE EVENT. In fact, I've been crying at everything
this week, including loud noises and salty food and the fact that Jeff
has a left eyebrow. The main HORMONES that are out of whack are
LeaveMeAloneOsterone, and CleanUpYourMess!trogen.

Today I feel just slightly less like I've been hit by a steamroller.
Best part is, maybe I'll get to do IT again in 32 days!

There. It's over, boys, you can sit back and rest easy, no more
pertinent BOLDFACE for the rest of this e-mail.


Our snap and snow peas have enjoyed the damp (4+ inches of rain in ONE
WEEK), cool weather: they are over six feet tall, and are providing
vegetable nourishment for my own Ben Starling. They are super good, too.


Jem is often using the toilet during the day, but at night--in case we
don't get in there in time--he wears a diaper. We thought that it would
be more convenient to use something other than a cloth diaper, so we
invested in "g-Diapers," who bill themselves as "A totally new way to
think about diapers."

They consist of a cotton cover (except that none of the cotton ever
touches the baby because they come) with a plastic liner. Into the liner
goes a disposable absorbent liner. The "green" part of these disposables
is that you're supposed to be able to flush the liner, or compost
it--which we do.

One of their many taglines is: "100% fashionable, 100% functional,
earth-friendly, green diapers."

The only problem is (and I provide this info to save you the trouble of
spending the money to find out yourself) that they are: "100% annoying
to put on, 73% leaky, 83% expensive, and 90% hype."

Oh well. We fell for it once.


I haven't updated you on Jem's language progress in while, so I'd better
do that before he starts applying to Ivy League schools:

"bilappy!" - I need to climb on your lap NOW to have a hug!
"bilomgy!" - I want to come!
"Dah-bo" - strawberry
"Rah-bee" - raspberry

Unfortunately, Jem's neatness-while-eating skills are not progressing as
quickly as his language is. The picture of him after eating spinach soup
last week...well, it made me cry.


Ben has been very helpful in my moral ponderings this week, especially
on Friday while I was obsessing over chicken recipes.

"Mama, are you going to start with eating chicken, or cow?"

"But if you're going to start with chicken and not pig or cow, why would
you _want_ to kill a chicken more than a pig or a cow?"

"Do you know what chicken tastes like?" [after a quick consult with
Jeff] "I know what chicken tastes like! Kind of like chewy tofu."


You may think, after reading Ben's adorable comments, that he sounds
like such a cute kid, and that you'd love to meet him!

The reality is, that he _is_ a cute kid--and also, the odds of him
acting sweetly in your general vicinity if you happen to drop by, are
very, very low. When people are around, he almost always decides that
it's a good time to talk like his brother. That is, he talks like Ben
but with a high-pitched, whiny tone, copies Jem's inflections and
pronunciations, and communicates in the most annoying, demanding,
monosyllabic way that I have ever encountered.

And don't get me started about his super-loud, high-pitched forced
laugh, which I refer to as The Maniacal Laugh of Death...

I'm not sure what to do about this--the talking and laughing, or my
feelings about it. He really doesn't care at all what I think about it,
or what you think about it--and I actually WANT him to maintain such
high levels of self-esteem, not needing anyone's approval for knowing
his own self-worth, yada yada puke.

But I also really really really don't enjoy his demanding baby talk persona.

Thinking about parenting is very time-consuming.


Note: the following section is going to go into great detail about the
beliefs I'm currently or in the process of re-questioning. Feel free to
skip it if you want, but I'd be grateful if you let me know if your
bullshit detector goes off when reading any of this. I'd also appreciate
it if you could pass along any refuting evidence, either for or against
these ideas.

1. According to researchers and billions of eaters worldwide, my
vegetarian diet--while healthy in many respects--may be lacking some
important nutrients. According to many, these nutrients (specifically,
fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals) can ONLY be found in pastured
(non-grain-fed), organic animal flesh, organs, milk, and eggs.

2. The kicker is, these foods should really be consumed raw.

3. Question: could I possibly eat raw liver?

4. Answer: probably not. But let's go on, assuming for now that
carefully-cooked animal products will still have some health benefit.

5. According to the book I'm reading, "Cure Tooth Decay," by Ramiel
Nagel, the whole bacteria-eating-sugars-on-the-teeth-causing-cavities
theory is mostly a myth. Weston Price, a dentist in the '30s and '40s
went all over the world documenting isolated indigenous cultures where
tooth decay and improper jaw development was nearly non-existent. He
also documented the way that tooth decay (and many other chronic
diseases, like asthma) became rampant in these populations within a
generation, when people began eating a "western" diet. In some cases
tooth decay went from .00% to ~68% in ONE GENERATION.

6. The populations that Price studied, with only one exception, consumed
foods daily from at least two of these three "special foods" groups:
land animals (including their organs), fish and seafood (including their
organs), and raw (non-pasteurized) milk and other raw, whole dairy
products. As noted, all animals ate their own traditional diets: no
pesticides, no Confined Animal Feeding Operations, and NO GRAIN.

7. None of the populations with good teeth utilized "dental hygiene" as
we know it. In fact, many of the folks with these beautiful teeth had a
dark scum on top of their rock-solid enamel.

8. Only one of the populations Price studied consumed any grains
containing gluten. (That exception was an isolated Swiss group whose
grain consumption was limited exclusively to fermented whole-grain
sourdough rye bread.) ALL the populations he studied consumed their
grains after properly preparing and soaking them, and they ate lots of
fat along with these carbohydrates in the form of pastured, raw-milk
cheese or butter, etc.

9. Could it really be that all these years I've been stuffing myself
with whole grains without preparing them properly??? Examples of
so-called _improper_ preparation: extruded dry breakfast cereal, rice
cakes, steamed rice or millet etc. that hasn't been soaked first, hot
cereals prepared without fermentation, regular yeasted breads, crackers,
muffins, cookies, cornbread...pretty much everything that I've ever
eaten, DAILY.

10. Jeannette Turner, writing in the Wedge Community Co-op newsletter,
explains three reasons to ferment. First: "...all grains contain phytic
acid in the outer layer of the bran. Phytic acid combines with calcium,
phosphorous, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and
blocks their absorption. This means that a diet high in whole grains
which have not been soaked, fermented or sprouted can lead to bone loss
and serious mineral deficiencies.

"The second reason is that there are enzyme inhibitors in all grains,
which are neutralized by the soaking process. Enzyme inhibitors
literally wear down the body’s digestive capabilities, leading to
digestive problems ranging from chronic indigestion to irritable bowel
syndrome, chronic fatigue, candida overgrowths and food allergies, among
others. The people most at risk for these problems are vegetarians and
vegans, who base their diets around grains and grain-products.

"The third reason applies only to grains that contain gluten, which is a
kind of protein. Different grains have different amounts of gluten.
Oats, barley, rye, and especially wheat all contain gluten. Rice, quinoa
and millet do not (they do all contain phytates, however). Gluten can be
hard to digest, and many people are allergic to it. The good news is
that during the process of soaking and fermenting, lactobacilli help
break down the gluten, making the grains’ nutrients more available to
our bodies.

"Different people have different digestive capacities, and there are
plenty of people who can consume just about anything with no discomfort.
Others are more sensitive and will feel heavy, bloated or in pain after
consuming various foods. It often takes a while for the digestive tract
to break down, so vegetarian, vegan or macrobiotic diets that work so
well at first (and the benefits are well documented) may cause problems
later on."

11. Okay, so I'm getting there. I'm on my way toward losing my identity
as a Vegetarian, and turning into a person who eats meat.
Intellectually, I'm there. But the one problem is, that means I actually
have to consume it...

12. I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday, after consulting with just
about everyone I've ever met, and found the nice folks from Kingbird
Farm. They gently and carefully raise their animals on organic pasture,
and everyone raves about the meat from these animals. And come on--how
could you feel bad about buying a chicken from a pleasant, smiling lady
named KARMA??

13. Except that I was freaking out. Literally. I was dizzy, and kind of
numb, and totally crying, and I'm not even sure why except that how we
eat is such a personal thing, and to question this basic Way is to
question myself on the deepest level.

14. But I pulled myself together and bought a 4-pound chicken. I can't
tell you much about it, even though Karma chattered on about the
heirloom variety that it is and told me how to cook it and how it would
have a lot more dark meat than most chickens. "I have nothing to compare
it to!" I said. "I've never eaten it before." She looked at me and said,
"Well, goodness! No _pressure_ or anything!"

15. The silver lining to this diet, which I'm going to try because at
this point I've tried other "healthy" diets that haven't helped my gums
and teeth at all--is that raw sharp cheddar cheese is on the menu. That
really is a good thing, because the prospect of lots of meat, bone
broth, cod liver oil, raw milk, and fermented sour millet gruel sent me
into such a State on Monday that I couldn't believe how much I was
craving brownies.

16. I walked into the Co-op that night with the most horrible clenching
in my chest. Everywhere I looked was food, and yet I couldn't figure out
whether I should eat any of it, and whether I even wanted the stuff I
should have! Questioning everything has never been quite so painful as
it was the other night, at Greenstar in front of the brownie case.

17. The funny thing was, after obsessing for over half an hour about
what to buy, I didn't even eat anything except for spinach soup, when I
got home.

18. Oh yes. Right. About the meat-eating: our four-pound pre-killed and
pre-cleaned bird is currently defrosting in our refrigerator. I plan to
cook it tomorrow, if it's thawed. Tune in next week to find out about
the next steps, chewing and swallowing it... :)

19. It's just a little bit tricky to try to recreate an indigenous diet
when I didn't have one to begin with. I think this is why we search out
things like veganism, raw-food-ism, vegetarianism, Atkins Dietism: there
are at least a few goddamn RULES!


Okay, happy Independence Day! Thanks for reading.