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parenting

In sickness and in health – such is the commitment to care, nurturing and to love that each parent makes towards a child.

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What The Daily Mail Didn't Publish

What The Daily Mail Didn't Publish

London’s Daily Mail approached me a few weeks ago asking me to write a piece on what it’s like to have 4 children by 4 different men. The idea intrigued me so I did. The piece wasn’t published since, they said, “It’s not written in the Mail style.” So here it is as a personal gift from me to you. I hope you enjoy it. Struggling to hold back the tears, my daughter’s voice on the crackly phone line was barely a whisper. “Mama, Dan died this morning,” she said. Dan Smith, biological father to my third child, Jesse, was much loved by all of my children. He had been seriously ill with a rare form of leukaemia. We knew he could die any moment. Still, the news that reached me at my Primrose Hill home that cold February morning in 2010 sent shock waves through me. “We’re already organising the funeral,” Susannah went on. “We want to play jazz music, tell fun stories about Dan and celebrate his life. Don’t worry about being 12,000 miles away, we’ll video all of it for you to watch later.” I would love to have been there to celebrate Dan’s life. It had been a good life. He was an honorable man—one who kept his promises. Dan had long adored each of my four children although only one of them was a child of his own body. Four years earlier, Dan had chosen to move to New Zealand to be near the children. Together they had searched for and found a house for him so that all of us—me included—could spend precious time with Dan and care for him so long as he lived. NOT THE MARRYING KIND I had met Dan 53 years earlier when I was seventeen years old. We became friends. Later, in my mid-twenties, we were briefly married. I was never much in favor of marriage, however. That’s probably why I chose to give birth to four children by four different men. Now I’m being called a trailblazer for what is becoming an increasingly popular brand of mothering, commonly referred to as ‘multi-dadding.’ I am supposed to be what is fashionably termed a ‘4x4.’ Mothering children by more than one man recently hit the headlines with the news that actress Kate Winslet is expecting her third child by her third husband, the rock star Ned Rocknroll. Kate, 37, has a 12-year-old daughter, Mia, with her first husband, Jim Threapleton, and a nine-year-old son, Joe, with her second husband, Sam Mendes. The former weather girl Ulrika Jonsson is a 4x4, and the late TV presenter Paula Yates was a 4x2. While supposedly gaining popularity, this style of mothering is still hugely controversial. I am told that the news that a woman has children by more than one man is still met with a mixture of horror and fascination. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I have never had to deal with either of these attitudes. To tell the truth, I have never much cared what people think about me, how I chose to live my life or the way I have raised my children. Perhaps that’s a good thing, or maybe I am just naïve. One thing is for sure: I’ve always been one of those women so fertile that that a man could almost look at me and I’d get pregnant. I would never miscarry. I rode horses, went surfing and danced all night while pregnant and suffered no consequences. I am told that women like me are often looked upon as monstrously selfish, bad mothers. They are accused of being feckless for having multiple lovers and just plain wrong for not providing their children with a ‘traditional family setup.’ I’m sure some traditional families are genuinely wise, stable and happy. The parents love each other and care for their children with great devotion and joy. But, in my experience, such families are few and far between. KIDS MATTER MOST What matters most in child rearing is neither convention nor family labels. It is the children. Children brought up by a devoted single mother (or single father) who lovingly trusts their own parental instincts and forms honest relationships with each child in their care, thrive. I believe this is far better than desperately trying to hold on to a marriage that doesn’t work ‘for the children’s sake.’ What I find sad is the way an ordinary single woman—not a movie star or media giant—who has children by more than one man and has to bring them up by herself, earning a living and juggling the needs not only of her children but also increasingly of their fathers, doesn't get the attention, sympathy, or anywhere near the admiration she deserves. It’s a challenging job for any woman. I know, I’ve done it. I’ve raised four children all on my own, earned the money for our family, stayed up all night caring for them when they had measles, chicken pox or mumps, then got up the next morning to make breakfast and iron that school uniform about which I was told, “Mama...my teacher says it has to be perfect.” Many a time I worried where the money was coming from to pay for food that week. LION-HEARTED MOTHERHOOD I champion any woman making a life for the children she loves in this way. It is the child that matters most and his or her relationship to a mother, father, or a caring friend. Every woman has a powerful lion-hearted passion to care for and protect her children. Women should trust themselves, give thanks for such power and use it for the benefit of their children. Kids are notoriously smart. They know when they are being fed a line about what they are “supposed” to think and say. They easily distinguish between what’s real and what’s contrived. As parents, if we want to gain the respect of our children we must always tell them the truth and treat them with respect as well as demand that they respect us in return. As far as the fathers of our children are concerned, they deserve the same respect and honesty from a woman as the child does, whether or not she is married to them. I believe that each child needs to get to know its father in its own way and make its own judgements. MY OWN STORY I grew up in a wildly unconventional family of highly creative, unstable people. Until I was 5, I was raised by my maternal grandmother. Later I was raped by my father and had my brain fried with ECT in an attempt to make me forget all that had happened to me. I was always a tomboy. I hated dolls. I loved to climb trees and play football. Yet from 5 years old I was sure that I wanted to have children. When I told my grandmother my plan she said I would need to get married to have children. “What’s married?” I asked. “It’s when you wear a white dress and have a big beautiful cake and promise to love and obey a man,” she said. “Ugh, I’ll never do that,” I replied. “I hate cake.” In any case, I knew she was lying to me since none of our Siamese cats were married, but they gave birth to masses of kittens. At the age of 17, while in my Freshman year at Stanford University, I got pregnant by a 22 year old man named Peter Dau. I rang my father. “I’m pregnant,” I told him. “What are you going to do?” “Give birth and keep the baby.” “You can’t keep the baby unless you get married,” he said. Had I been a little more gutsy I would have told him to get stuffed. But at the age of 17, still wrestling with all that had happened to me in my own childhood, he wielded a lot of influence over me. So I agreed. Peter was all for the idea. Single-handedly I put together an all-white wedding for 250 people in the garden of our Beverley Hills home. I made the decision to wear black shoes under my white satin dress. I felt I was giving my life away by marrying Peter, but I was willing to make the sacrifice since I so wanted this child. As soon as Dan learned of the wedding, he sent me a beautiful sterling silver bowl as a present which I still have. My first son, Branton, was born six months later. When I held this tiny baby in my arms he taught me the most important lesson I ever learned: Love exists. It is simple, real and has nothing to do with highfalutin notions or flowery words. At the age of 18, I realized my life had found its purpose—to love and be loved. PREGNANT AGAIN A year later, Peter and I left California for New York where he was to attend medical school while I went to work as a model to help support us. At that time, Dan left his job as a journalist in Massachusetts and moved to New York to be near us. My marriage to Peter ended amicably three years later. It should never have happened in the first place. Three days after leaving Peter back in California, I stopped overnight at my father’s house in Beverley Hills on my way back to New York. Barry Comden, a man much older than I whom I had known since I was 14 but never had a sexual relationship with, discovered I was in town and came to see me. I made love to him once and knew immediately that I was pregnant again. Marry Barry? No way. I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. (Years later Barry would marry the actress Doris Day.) Nine months later my only daughter, Susannah, was born. It was then that a large tumor growing off of my right ovary was discovered. It had been hidden behind the baby during my pregnancy. It was dangerous and had to be surgically removed. HELP WHEN IT MATTERS Once again Dan appeared in my life. He had always insisted that he fell in love with me from the first day we met. He had written me letters every single day my first year at Stanford. I never answered any of them. I didn’t share his love and I didn’t want to lead him on. He had also sent me book after book which he thought I should read. I read them all and loved them. Dan had always been kind and generous to me. He was always keen to protect and care for me when I needed it. So, when I ended up penniless and alone with two children and in need of major surgery, he offered me a home. I accepted. For several months the four of us lived together in New York. Dan adored Branton and Susannah and treated them as if they were his own. I was longing to leave the United States. I wanted to live in Paris—a city I loved more than any other. Dan was able to arrange a job for himself there as a foreign correspondent. In early 1964 we went. Dan had repeatedly told me that he was sure we were meant to be together forever. I hoped that he was right and believed that if I tried hard enough to be a good wife I would learn to love him as he deserved. On July 29, 1964, we were married in Paris. Like every other man I have ever been close to, Dan knew long before we were married that my children would always come first. I had sat him down and told him that he would have to treat Susannah and Branton exactly the same as he would treat any child of his who might come along. He agreed. On June 12, 1965, Dan’s son Jesse was born. He was delighted. True to his word, never once did he favor Jesse over Branton and Susannah. This was great for all three children who came to know him well and to adore him. When presents were passed out, each child was equally favored. Dan belonged to all of them and they knew it. FATHERS, FATHERS Because Branton’s father lived in America and we lived in Europe, Branton did not see him again until he was 11. By that age I figured he was old enough to make the trip on his own and spend a week or two with Peter. Susannah was not really interested in her father—also in the United States—until she was about 17. She then went to Los Angeles to meet him. A good friendship developed between them which remained until Barry died. A non-traditional, unconventional family? Absolutely, but it worked because there was honesty and there was love—the two most important things in any family, anytime, anywhere. For five years I had told myself that, if only I could learn to love Dan more, then everything would be all right. But I couldn’t. And it wasn’t. Confused and disappointed, at the age of 27, I faced the fact that our marriage had failed. We moved to England and we separated. It was Easter. I went to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland to clear my head. Of course Dan grieved over the failure. But that never stopped him from being a welcome person in our family right up to his death. Years later he would marry Gerda Boyeson, a psychotherapist who died a few years before he did. BLESSED MEN The men who made my life rich after Dan and I divorced were, each in their own way, as special as he had been. Each accepted that my children came before all else in the world to me. I never compromised. I chose men, be they friends or lovers, who brought wonderful things to my children. No man ever came before my children. If any man didn’t understand and accept this, he had to go. One man whom I loved, Graham, taught my children to climb and sail and mountaineer. All my children forged deep bonds with Graham which have remained to this day. Another man, Garth, gave Branton, Susannah and Jesse his much cherished toy collection from his own childhood. Garth took us all on wonderful picnics, introduced us to hidden beaches, sang songs with us and blessed us with his unique brand of joy. Then there was David, a man with whom I lived with for 5 years in my late twenties. David constructed beautiful rooms for each of my children in the tiny house I had bought with the little money that my grandfather had left me, when Dan and I separated. David wrote and recorded songs for each of my children. That was 40 years ago. Last year, Susannah and her partner visited David and his wife in Barcelona where he now lives. AN UNCONVENTIONAL MOTHER Ironically, the only complaint I ever got from any of my children about my not being conventional enough was from Dan’s son Jesse. “Why aren’t you like other mothers?” Jesse asked one day when he was 7. “I don’t know, Jesse, what are other mothers like?” “Oh you know,” he said, “They’re fat and bake cookies.” Jesse even grumbled if, while I was waiting to pick him up from school, I sat on the playground swings. He was adamant that such behavior was not “proper” for his mother. Sixteen years after Jesse was born, I became pregnant for the last time by yet another special man—Paul. I announced my condition to 17 year old Susannah as we were all setting off for a six week holiday in Canada with Graham and his son Ruan. “I’m going to have a baby,” I told her. “Don’t worry Mama,” she laughed, “We’ll say it is mine!” FAMILY CELEBRATION In March of 1981, I gave birth to my fourth child, Aaron, at our home in Pembrokeshire. All three of my other children helped deliver him. While I was in labor, they prepared the most delicious lunch I have ever tasted from fruits and vegetables from the garden. I had insisted on giving birth naturally at home, not in some clinical, cold hospital. Jesse had been born via natural childbirth, at a clinique d’accouchement in Paris. After the experience of natural childbirth I swore if ever I had another child it would have to be this way. As for Dan, one way or another he was always close by. He knew David, Graham, Garth and every other man who was to play a role in my own life and my children’s lives. For many years he spent Christmases with us and with our other male friends when they were there. Dan loved to play saxophone at family gatherings. One year he dressed up as Santa Claus. Aaron, then 5 years old, was completely taken in by the costume and terrified when this rotund man belted out, “Ho, Ho, Ho, little boy, what do you want for Christmas?” It took a lot of reassurance from Aaron’s big brothers and sister to convince him that Santa was really ‘good old Dan.’ UNIQUE & INDEPENDENT As for my children, each of them is totally unique and highly independent. I have always fought hard to encourage them to trust themselves and listen to their own heart instead of doing or saying what the rest of the world tells kids they are supposed to do and say. After graduating with a first class degree from Lancaster University, Branton, now 53, developed a series of successful businesses. Susannah, 50, with whom I have written 5 books and done two television series, is a sought-after voice artist. Jesse, 48, is a highly skilled plastic surgeon. Jesse and I have also written a book together. Aaron, now 32, is a designer and filmmaker. He and I have worked together for the past four years developing Cura Romana—a spiritually based program for health, lasting weight loss and spiritual transformation. Branton and Jesse have been happily married for many years. Both have three children each. As for me, I am probably the world’s worst grandmother. I don't babysit, or do any of the things grandmothers are ‘supposed’ to do. (Including baking those cookies Jesse once complained about.) Why? I’m not sure. I guess because for forty-five years of my life I was a mother. I loved this more than all the books I’ve written, all the television programs I’ve devised and presented, all the workshops I’ve taught, and all the other things I’ve done and enjoyed. Right now, my life belongs to me alone. I love the freedom this brings me. I am passionate about being a catalyst in people’s lives, helping them realize their own magnificence and live out their potentials both for their own benefit and for the benefit of all. Who knows what exciting challenges lie before me. Bring them on!

Sweets & Treats

Sweets & Treats

The worst health offenders in children's diets are processed sweets made from refined sugar. Not only are they bad for teeth, they can cause more serious problems in children such as subclinical deficiencies or hyperactivity, and in adults can contribute to the development of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and coronary heart disease. However, trying to get children to give them up is like pulling teeth from a hippopotamus. Far better to give them a wholesome alternative to replace those chocolate bars, biscuits and cakes. Here are some recipes for fruit desserts and all sorts of sweet treats, each made from nutritious ingredients - nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, carob and honey - which can be served at tea time with one of our delicious shakes or smoothies, or taken to school in a lunch box to snack on. They are as tasty as they are wholesome, and they are uncooked to supply your child with the highest level of  life order possible. Use them for tea and for snacks and parties. sorbets The easiest way to make sorbets is with a sorbetière - a special machine which stirs the sorbet or ice cream as it freezes it. I have survived for many years without one by improvising... orange sorbet Juice 6 oranges and then combine in a food processor with 2 juicy seedless oranges which have been peeled and quartered. Add enough honey or natural stevia to sweeten, and some nutmeg or ginger if desired. I sometimes like to add a grated peach or two to give the sorbet texture. Pour the mixture into ice-cube trays or a plastic lunch-box type container and freeze. Remove from the freezer and leave to thaw slightly for about ten minutes. Blend the mixture again immediately before serving, and spoon into glass dishes or into empty halved orange shells. strawberry or blackberry sorbet Combine 3 cups berries with 2 bananas and a little honey. Follow the method as above. The bananas give a creamy texture to the sorbet. carob and honey ice cream This recipe is one of my family's favorites. The combination of carob and honey I find unbeatable. 2 pints (about a liter) milk (we use goat's) 2 egg yolks 3 tbsp granular lecithin (optional but very nice since it gives a creamier texture) 1 cup unheated carob powder 1/2 cup clear honey 1 tsp pure vanilla essence We use goat's milk but raw cow's milk is good - if you can get it - or sheep's milk or buffalo milk.  Sheep's milk makes wonderful drinks and desserts, and it usually comes in a convenient powder. Freeze the milk in a low flat plastic container. When frozen, remove from the freezer and let sit for about half an hour until it is just soft enough to slice into pieces. Put the egg yolks into the food processor, add about a cup of the frozen milk, the lecithin, carob powder, honey and vanilla, and blend thoroughly using the blade attachment. Add the rest of the frozen milk and continue to blend until it is just mixed. (Don't overblend or you will make the ice cream too liquid.) Should it become too liquid simply return to the freezer for a few minutes then stir before serving. Serve immediately. cherry whip (for 1) 1 cup natural yogurt 1/2 cup pitted black cherries 2 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste Double cream (optional) Blend the yogurt, cherries and honey or stevia and pour into a tall glass. Top with a spoonful of double cream and garnish with a pair of cherries hung over the edge of the glass. As a variation, use strawberries or raspberries instead of cherries. raspberry fruit freeze pie There are many variations that can be made on this theme - using different berries and fruit to fill the pie base. pie base: 1 cup pitted dried dates 1/2  cup almonds 1/2  cup oat flakes 1 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste A little water Grind the dates and almonds as finely as possible in a food processor. Add the oats, honey (or stevia) and a little water and blend again. You need to add the water slowly to get the right consistency. You want the mixture to bind but not be sticky. Remove the base from the processor in a ball and flatten it into a pie dish with your fingers. As a variation you can add a tablespoon or two of coconut. pie filling: 2 bananas 2 cups raspberries Sherry Honey or natural stevia to sweeten Peel the bananas and chop into pieces about an inch or so thick. Freeze in a polythene bag with the raspberries until firm. Remove from freezer and blend the fruits together with a dash of sherry and a little honey or stevia to sweeten if desired. Pour into the pie crust and serve immediately, garnished with a few banana slices or raspberries. strawberries and cashew cream Make your own non-dairy `cream' from cashew nuts, and pour it over a bowl of ripe fresh strawberries (or any other fruit). cashew cream 1 cup nuts 1/2  cup water or orange juice 1-2 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste Nutmeg Blend the nuts and liquid as finely as possible in the blender or processor. Add a little honey, or stevia, and nutmeg and use as a topping for any fruit. sweet treats These attractive little sweets can be wrapped in colored paper and given in boxes as gifts for Easter, Christmas, etc. 1 cup mixture of almonds and hazelnuts 1 cup mixed dried fruit (such as date and apricot, peach and raisin, or sultana and pear 1 tbsp honey or natural stevia to taste Juice of 1 orange or 3 cups apple juice, dash of orange liqueur (optional), coconut flakes and sesame seeds. Put the nuts and the dried fruit in the food processor and chop thoroughly. Add the honey or stevia and enough fruit juice to make the mixture bind, plus a dash of orange liqueur if desired. Remove from the processor and roll into spheres the size of large marbles. Sprinkle a plate with the coconut flakes (toasted if desired) and sesame seeds and roll the balls in either one or both. Chill in the fridge and serve on a platter decorated with fresh fruit. rocky road bananas This is a great recipe if you have too many ripe bananas on your hands. Once frozen, the bananas will keep for weeks - unless they are eaten immediately as in my house! 4 ripe bananas 1/2 -1 cup coarsely ground Brazil nuts Honey Simply peel the bananas and skewer onto kebab or ice lolly sticks. Roll in honey and then in chopped nuts. Put on a freezer-proof plate and freeze until hard. Eat straight from the stick. If you prefer you can first slice the bananas crosswise, coat in honey and sprinkle with nuts, then freeze to make bite-sized treats. As a variation try mixing a few tablespoons of carob powder into the honey to make chocolate coated bananas and then roll them in coconut, dates or nuts...or all three! yogurt lollies The best ice-lollies are homemade. You can buy ice-lolly molds and sticks in most department stores. Mix a large bowl of plain yogurt with some frozen concentrated orange juice, then pour the mixture into the lolly molds and freeze. You can also add fresh fruit and honey to natural yogurt and blend it together to use, or simply freeze fresh fruit juices such as orange, grape, apple and pineapple. refrigerator cookies 1 cup rolled oats 1/4-1/2 cup blanched almonds 3 tbsp almond or cashew butter or 1/3 cup ground almonds 1-2 tbsp honey Handful of raisins Handful of dates 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 tsp cinnamon Pinch of allspice Finely grind the almonds, raisins and dates in the food processor. Add the nut butter, honey, vanilla and spices and combine well. Mix the oats with the rest of the ingredients. Form the mixture into flat cookie shapes in the palms of your hands (you may need to add a few drops of water) and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm. carob fudge Once chilled, these wonderful fudge balls have the texture of ordinary fudge, and their carob flavor makes them ideal chocolate substitutes. 1 cup sesame seeds 1/2 cup dried coconut 1/2 cup carob powder 1 tsp honey 1/2 tsp vanilla essence Grind the seeds very finely in the food processor. Add the other ingredients and process again. Form the mixture into little balls and chill. sunflower snacks 1/2  cup sunflower seeds 1/2  cup carob powder 1/4 tsp cinnamon A little apple juice Finely grind the sunflower seeds and mix with the carob and cinnamon. Add a few drops of apple juice, just enough to make the mixture bind. Form into a roll about 1in/2.5cm thick, chill and then slice. Alternatively, break off little bits and press them into coin-size wafers and chill.

How To Raise A Nature's Child

How To Raise A Nature's Child

The most rewarding thing I’ve ever done was giving birth to four children and learning how to be a successful mother.  "Your children are not your children," the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran wrote. "They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself...You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth."   I love this quote, not only because—having brought up four children by four different men all on my own—I believe it’s  just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever heard.  It also emphasizes the 'lightness' that develops when we give up trying to be perfect, and come to trust the processes of Nature while feeding, healing, and guiding each of our children towards what works best for them at any moment in time.   Like the seed of a plant that has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will, in time, produce a full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of incredibly rich potential that encompasses his or her unique nature.  I call it seedpower.  It holds far greater physical, creative and spiritual energy than any of us could hope to experience in ten lifetimes.   Each child is like the brush stroke a zen painter makes to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular—like no leaf that has ever existed before. Yet within this uniqueness, your child’s universal beauty is to be found, as well as life energy of the highest order.   When my first son Branton was born, I was 18 years old in university.  Like most parents, I had some harebrained idea that we parents need to mold our children from the outside.  We need to impose on them our ideas about what they should act like, think like, look like, and all the rest. Of course, this never works—but when we are young and naïve as I was, we just don’t know any better.   With a bit of luck, sooner or later we come to realize that what most certainly does work is not trying to mold a child at all, but listening to the whispers of each child's seedpower that comes from within. By doing this, we can respond to our children by offering whatever at any moment seems most useful to them, in the form of food, health, guidance, education and so on. This is infinitely easier and more successful all round.   Taking on the job of guardian for any child from birth to adulthood involves having to make 'contractual agreements', which of course must be re-negotiated from time to time as a child grows. Like every contract, the parent/child relationship is always a two-way deal. It has to be fair on both sides. It also has to nurture both people involved. How well your own contracts develop and how much joy there is for the both of you in fulfilling them depends to a great extent on how clearly the agreements between the two of you are understood. Let me show you what I mean.   In establishing 'contracts' with my own children, I was sure of a few things. First, I was committed to supplying them with wholesome food and clean surroundings, as well as physical warmth and safety. I also wanted them to have the right to their own opinions, even when they markedly differed from my own. In return, I expected them to appreciate the home, food and care I provided for them, although I knew it would never be perfect.  I also demanded that they be as honest and respectful of me and my decisions as their age would allow.   What I never asked of any of my children—and I think this is where so many parents go wrong—is that they love me. Trying to get into that particular agreement creates nothing but trouble. Whether or not your child loves you is fundamentally beside the point. Our responsibility as a parent is to use our best judgment and physical resources to help our child grow, and to discover his or her unique gifts.   Early on, I decided that I would try to do my best for my children, but they were stuck with me as a parent for better or for worse—complete with all my warts. And while I didn't expect them to love me, I did expect them to know that whatever I did, I did because I believed it to be right. Whenever some decision I made or action I took turned out to be wrong, I always owned up and asked for their forgiveness—just as I forgave them their mistakes.   What I discovered, quite by accident, was that there is a certain magic to all this. You see, when you decide to give up all claims to being a so-called 'good parent', or having your child love you, this creates a vast expanse of freedom for you both. What’s more, not only do children eventually end up loving you of their own accord, they develop a lot of respect for you—whether they agree with you or not. Most important of all, they come to feel safe, because they know that even though you can be unreasonable at times and unbending, your strength—on which they rely for security—remains uncorrupted by flattery or the kind of emotional blackmail which even very young children are masters at. In time, your children learn that your strength is there to serve them. It’s a discovery that can bring a sense of joy, even during the most challenging of times.   Now, of course, all my four children are grown up.  My daughter Susannah and I have written five books together.  My youngest son Aaron and I work together, developing internet sites which some say can be life-changing. My other two sons—Branton and Jesse—now have families of their own, including six unique and highly independent children.  This makes me a grandmother.  I adore all of them. But I confess that I am probably the world’s worst grandmother.  I don’t bake cookies, babysit or do any of the expected grandmotherly things. Why? Well, I loved being a mother more than anything in the world. But I’ve done that. So now my future belongs to me. I sense there are lots more adventures that lie ahead for me now.  I intend to be free to explore them.  What I find so wonderful is that all four of my children respect and understand where I’m coming from and, without judgment, bless me for just being who I am.

Nature's Child

Nature's Child

"Your children are not your children," wrote the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran, "They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself...You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." It is a quote I like, not only because - having raised four children on my own - I believe it to be just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever come across, but also because it emphasizes the `lightness' which develops when you give up trying to be perfect and come to trust the processes of Nature - in feeding, in healing, in guiding you and your child towards what is best for his or her development at any moment in time. Like the seed of a plant which has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will in time produce the full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of as yet unrealized but incredibly rich potential. Within each child is nestled his or her very own brand of unique seedpower encompassing far greater physical, creative and spiritual potential than he or she could realize in ten lifetimes. Your child is like the brush stroke the zen painter uses to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular - like no leaf that has ever existed. Yet within this uniqueness is encompassed universal beauty and life energy of the highest order.

Principle Wholeness

Principle Wholeness

When it comes to food for this kind of total health, there is one basic principle to remember - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Know this and you can stop worrying about all of the contradictory advice that is continually being thrown at us from the media about what you and your child should and shouldn't eat. The best foods are whole foods - fresh natural foods - such as fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown), pulses, whole grains, eggs, a few dairy products. Whole foods have not had every nutrient refined or processed out of them, neither do they come swimming in syrup or emulsified in junk fats. They arrive on your child's plate and enter his body just as Nature intended them, radiant with their own natural colors and textures and brimming with a complexity of structural information essential to maintaining a healthy body and balanced mind. Just what is this structural information? It is something you will find mentioned in few books on nutrition. Yet in an understanding of it lies not only your ability to establish real health for yourself and your children, but an ability skillfully to support your child's seedpower - his individual nature - so that it unfolds beautifully as he grows. The term structural information was coined by an eminent Russian scientist - winner of the much coveted Lenin Prize For Science - Izrail Brekhman. He used it to describe the infinitely complex synergistic, energetic and chemical order in living plants and animals on which human beings must feed if they are to maintain high-level health. Living systems are unique in the universe. Unlike non-living things - from rocks to rubber hoses - they do not continually degrade and disintegrate as described by one of the most important laws of physics - the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Your own body and the body of your child defies this law. It avoids decaying into an inert state because it is able to assimilate energy from outside. Put simply, the better quality the energy it takes in, the more alive it will be. The very high order of the sun's own electromagnetic energy is converted by plants through photosynthesis into material form, then stored in complex ways. This high order of structural information is embodied in the healthy plant as it comes out of the ground - a fruit or vegetable, pulse or grain. It is the embodiment of its wholeness - implicit in the plant's structure. The plant (or the animal which has fed on the plant) brings to the person who eats it a high degree of structural information - living energetic order - which makes him able to resist degeneration, simply because its wholeness has not been degraded by processing, fractionation or chemical distortion. Nobel Laureate, physicist Erwin Schrodinger, put it another way. He says that for a person to stay really healthy he needs to drink order from his environment. This is exactly what your baby or child fed on wholesome natural food does. The more order he drinks, the more support you are giving him for balanced high-level health and growth - in every way. drinking order For it is not only nutrients in a food which can be measured chemically - vitamins, minerals, protein etc - that are important for health. It is also the complexity of the way these, and other, as yet unidentified factors - positive and negative magnetic fields and subtle energies for instance - are present and combined in a particular food that matter. Processing foods not only destroys vitamins and minerals (which cannot be adequately added afterwards despite what food manufacturers would have us believe) it disrupts its structural information, impeding or destroying a food's ability to carry life energy into the body and brain of the child who eats it. Feeding your child on such foods year after year - convenience cereals, white bread and pasta, refined sugar, phony snacks and drinks full of chemical flavorings, colorings and preservatives - steadily degrades the natural order of his own body and mind, creating a poor seedbed for his growth and inner development. It also lowers his immunity, making him susceptible to illness, and contributes to the kind of mental and emotional imbalance which is becoming endemic amongst kids in our society who are being raised on junk foods. At the core of hyperactivity and many emotional problems you see in children lies this inability of the ready-made frozen foods, drinks, chips cooked in junk fats and poor quality school dinners to offer a child order - the structural information needed for sustained physical and emotional balance. Chemical additives, food colorings and flavorings, hydrogenated `junk' fats - they are all products of a multi-billion pound food industry whose main purpose is not to serve your health, but to fill its own coffers at your expense. They are a poor excuse for good food. As an experiment, a biochemist at the University of Georgia bought one of the new munchy-crunchy children's cereals. He emulsified both the box and the cereal, then fed one white rat the box and another the cereal. The rat that ate the box thrived. The other did not. So poor is the quality of our common convenience foods that the packaging can sometimes be nutritionally superior to the food it contains. Foods grown on healthy soils (preferably organic) and eaten as close as possible to their natural state offer your child the highest quality of structural information. There are two major concerns which parents voice about feeding their children. The first is the question of cost, and the second is the question of time. Contrary to popular belief, feeding a family on good natural food - fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain cereals and breads, pulses and so forth (whether or not you choose to eat meat and fish) - is far cheaper than relying on the poor quality, prepackaged convenience foods a lot of mothers use these days. A pound of good boiling potatoes is fifty times less expensive than the same quantity of potatoes made into crisps. Growing your own sprouted seeds and grains is very cheap. It can be done in a couple of old jam jars in your kitchen, and kids love helping, since these little plants grow so quickly. Sprout a seed, and within three or four days you will have increased its vitamin C content as much as 600 percent. Like home grown organic vegetables, these little powerhouses for health are not only delicious, they are some of the healthiest foods you can feed any child. As far as time is concerned, I have never found that it takes a lot more time to prepare meals from scratch using natural foods than it does to dish out their poor relations - convenience foods. A hearty homemade soup based on brown rice and vegetables, with pulses or a bit of meat or fish, is one of the best whole meals you can eat, and it is only a question of putting the ingredients into a pot and letting the stove get on with it. Besides, kids love to cook. Involve your children in food preparation from the time they are very small. They love it. I have always used the opportunity of us being together in the kitchen to explain to them about the goodness and bounty of foods and about why I don't let them eat sweets and mass market drinks and junk foods, and to help them become aware of the way in which television and magazines are continually trying to sell kids and parents foods which are not really going to do good for them. I believe it is important that, right from the beginning, children are made to understand the ways in which our highly commercial society tends to exploit human beings and that such exploitation needs to be resisted if they are to live out the truth of who they are. You will be surprised at how savvy even very young children can come to be about such things.

More Stuff Kids Done Taught Me

More Stuff Kids Done Taught Me

A few years ago I had lunch with a beautiful and successful American woman in her mid thirties. Sooner or later the conversation got around - as it often does with me - to children. This woman told me that she had a five year old daughter. I asked her if it was difficult living and working in New York while raising a child on her own. She replied that it had been hard but that now it should get better since she and her little girl were going to parenting classes. `Parenting classes,' I asked, `whatever are they?' `You know, where you learn how to be a parent. We go twice a week together,' she reported with enthusiasm. Curious about what was taught in these new programs, and at the same time suppressing a smile at the latest American attempt to package up something as rich and complex as parenthood and spoonfeed it to clients well-heeled enough to afford the indulgence, I asked, `What do they teach you?' `Oh, they teach you just everything’ she screeched, sweeping her hand across the table in a way that makes British head waiters loathe American clients. `For instance, when your child goes to pick up something from the coffee table which you don't want her to have you must never be negative,' she said. `Negativity is not good for children,' she added, leaning closer in a conspiratorial fashion. `So instead of saying, "No, no," which might crush your child's spirit, you say, "Now darling that is a no, but this is a yes (pointing to other objects near by), and this is a yes and this is a yes."' OUT OF PATIENCE I have little patience with such practices - nor do I believe there are a lot of set rules to follow to raise a child well. That is because, like a lot of seasoned parents, I have learned about parenthood the hard way. When my first child was born—more than fifty years ago now—I was determined to bring him up right: not to make the mistakes that my parents had made with me, to ensure that he developed quickly both physically and mentally, and that he turned into the kind of person that I thought he should be. I worked hard at it. I read everything I could get my hands on about child development - all the latest theories and all the traditional wisdom. No time or expense was to be spared in bringing up this child. He would be breast-fed, disciplined, and taught to read by the time he was a year old using special equipment designed for the task. I would instill in him a strong sense of moral rectitude and good manners and he would be given every kind of educational toy I could lay my hands on to help develop his creativity. Also I would never lose my temper, always be patient and kind (but firm of course) and make sure he didn't watch too much television. My master plan for child rearing might have sounded good on paper, but it had a couple of big drawbacks. First, no human being could ever have carried it out. Second, it completely ignored the most important truth there is about child rearing - a truth which I did not myself come to know until I had two or three more children under my belt. It is this: You don't have to read a thousand books and follow a lot of rules the so-called experts make up to raise a healthy, happy, creative child. You only need to learn to trust in yourself and in the incredible powers of Nature. You also need to develop the art of listening—with your heart and mind and instincts as well as your ears—to your child. Most of the time he will tell you what you need to know. TO HELL WITH “PERFECT PARENTING” Once I finally figured this out - many tried and failed strategies down the road - I let go of my anxieties and theories. Then motherhood became not only a joy for me but a source of never-ending wonder. I discovered that each child—not only my own children, but boys and girls with whom I worked as a nursery school teacher, and others—is utterly unique and perfect in his or her own way. I also learned that your relationship to a child has a life of its own. So long as you are willing to face each child honestly and openly day by day and so long as you honor and respect this relationship, not only does this empower you to give the best guidance and care for the child. In some magic way which I still don't fully understand, it can even help heal deep emotional wounds within you yourself as a learning parent. Most important of all I discovered that the whole idea of perfect parenthood is a big fraud. There ain't nothing perfect when it comes to parenthood. Perfect by whose criteria anyway? The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can get down to the business of child rearing and enjoying it. For me, raising children—whether it be dealing with a tiny baby or seeing your twenty-five year old develop year by year—has been the most exciting and rewarding thing I have ever done—or for that matter, ever hope to do. And as for the widespread belief that unless you have been well mothered while you were growing up you are doomed to be a bad mother yourself. It just ain’t so—no matter what those high falutin’ experts keep sayin’.

Nature's Child Salads

Nature's Child Salads

Kids are meant to hate salads. In my experience what most, very young, children hate is not salads but the textures to some salads, because they are not cut or shredded finely enough. I don't blame them. I don't like salads either unless there is real aesthetic variety to the vegetables in their color, the way they are cut and arranged or mixed on a plate. I started my children on what my youngest calls `Spiderman Salad'. He came up with that name one day when I was explaining to him that if you wanted to be strong like Spiderman you needed to eat lots of raw vegetables. These first salads are more like vegetable pates. You can chop or puree them (depending on the age of the child) in a food processor or with a handheld blender. The secret is in the `binding' such as avocado or ground cashews or pureed hard boiled eggs which makes them stick together. The great thing about these `Spidermans' is that they are highly concentrated once they have been chopped or pureed. A dessertspoonful at a meal can give more nourishment than an adult side-salad. Experiment, but always taste your experiments yourself. If they are yummy to you, they are likely to appeal to a child. If not - re-season until you have created a real prize. spiderman salad When you make any salad for yourself, including dressing, put a little of it into a food-blender, the sort that has a blade, add a spoonful of cashews or avocado or the yolk of a hard boiled egg, or even a little thick yogurt - something that will bind. Mix it all together and season with vegetable bouillon powder and herbs plus a little salt and maybe a drop or two of olive oil. What you have left is a "Spiderman", a pate which can even be spread on crackers for older children. sprout magic salad Make a base with alfalfa or other sprouts and around the dish arrange: Grated carrot Finely shredded cabbage Chopped apples Grated beetroot Add: Sliced mushrooms, black olives, spring onions Sprinkle raisins over the grated vegetables and add a spoonful of seed or nut cheese. dressings basic french dressing 3/4 cup oil 1/4 cup lemon juice or cider vinegar 1 tsp whole-grain mustard or mustard powder 2 tsp honey A little vegetable bouillon powder and pepper to season A small clove of crushed garlic (optional) Combine all the ingredients in a blender, or simply place in a screw-top jar and shake well to mix. Some people like to thin the dressing and make it a little lighter by adding a couple of tablespoonfuls of water. avocado dip or dressing This is my favorite of all salad dressings. Kids adore it; you can make it thick for them to spread on crackers, leave out the curry powder and feed it pureed to babies, or make it thin to pour over salad. 1-2 avocados 1 cup fresh orange juice (use more or less to give the desired consistency) 1 tsp curry powder 2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder Fresh herbs (e.g. lovage and French parsley) 1 small clove garlic (optional) Peel and stone the avocados. Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.

Extra Special Drinks

Extra Special Drinks

banana shake (for 1) Peel and freeze a ripe banana, then chop it into fairly small pieces and blend with a cup of milk and a dash of vanilla essence. Sweeten with honey or natural stevia if desired. chocolate milk (for 1) 1 cup milk 1/3 cup carob powder 1 tbsp honey or natural stevia to taste Vanilla essence Whipped cream and finely ground pecans if desired. We use goat's milk but raw cow's milk is good - if you can get it - or sheep's milk or buffalo milk.  Sheep's milk makes wonderful drinks and desserts, and it usually comes in a convenient powder. Mix a little of the milk and the carob into a paste and put it in the blender with the rest of the milk, the vanilla essence and the honey or stevia. Blend well and pour into a glass. Top with a little whipped cream and finely ground pecans if desired. golden smoothie (for 2) 2 oranges 2 peaches 1 banana 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 tsp nutmeg A little honey or natural stevia if desired Peel the oranges and remove the pips. Homogenize in the food processor with the peaches and banana. Add the orange bitters or vanilla, the honey (or stevia) and the nutmeg. Combine well. Pour into two tall glasses with crushed ice and serve.

First Foods

First Foods

From the time he is ready to start weaning until he is five or six - or even beyond - how do you feed a child well? It is the question mothers most frequently ask me. If you really care about your child eating the best possible way for his long-term health and emotional balance, it is the easiest thing in the world to do. Babies and children always do - not what you tell them to do - but what they see you do. The way to feed a child well is to feed yourself well on simple, wholesome, natural foods and not to keep any foods in the house which are not health promoting - right from the beginning. Introducing a breast-fed baby to new drinks and to solid food is easy and lots of fun provided you don't get seduced by advertisers into believing that the best foods to feed him on come ready made in jars and packets from the shelves of supermarkets. They don't. Commercially prepared baby foods are not only more expensive, they are far less nutritious than wholesome homemade dishes from your own table since most of them have been processed to death. The best foods for weaning a baby are the same foods you eat yourself provided you prepare your meals from scratch and don't rely on the manufactured convenience stuff. Your breast-fed baby will not need solid foods at all for the first four or five months of his life. Until then any solids fed him - cereals or fruits or what have you - will tend to pass right through him. His digestive system is not developed enough to process them. Also, during the early months of a baby's life his defenses against allergies are rudimentary. If you give him solids too early there is a much greater chance that he could end up allergic to milk or grains or eggs or just about anything else. By the time he is five or six months old, however he will not only enjoy sitting up at the table with you while he eats but will also want to explore the world around him. For a baby that means putting whatever is offered into his mouth. This is the time for him to begin experimenting with new drinks and foods. learning to eat and drink Begin by offering him a little fresh fruit juice or vegetable juice diluted one part juice to three parts spring or filtered water. I started Aaron, my youngest, on diluted carrot juice made from an organic carrot or two in a centrifuge juice extractor and offered it to him immediately so it was full of vitamins, minerals and life energies. He adored the stuff. Fresh carrot and apple juice diluted in the same way is also a favorite with babies and children. Give them just a taste to begin with either on a little spoon or in a bottle. If your baby doesn't like the taste then forget it for the moment and try him again in another week or two. As they get older you can gradually decrease the water until they are taking it full strength. Offer your baby his first taste of solid foods while he is sitting at the table watching you eat. Mash a banana and give him just a taste, or a little flesh from a baked potato with a tiny bit of butter on it. Make it a game. If he likes it, great, let him have a bit more. If not, eat it yourself and forget it. You can buy one of the inexpensive hand held blenders and puree just about any wholesome natural food you are eating - from soups to nuts and from Brussels sprouts to whole grain bread to which a little spring water has been added. Let it be a game for the both of you - not some serious effort to get him to eat. If you want to avoid eating problems both now and later, never, ever, force food or drink on a baby or child. This is one of the cardinal rules of child rearing. Above all stop worrying about how much he needs to take. He will show you that himself by his responses. What so many parents forget is that the powerful will to live which lies at the core of his own seedpower and has brought your baby into the world will continue to sustain him. He will know how much food he needs now and later as he grows (provided of course his natural mechanisms for knowing have not become distorted by force feeding or being given lots of convenience foods loaded with refined sugar, junk fats and chemical additives). Children who have been raised on breast milk when gradually introduced to simple wholesome fruits and vegetables, grains and home made protein foods right from the table, learn to eat simply and gleefully. Every new taste is an adventure. a little of what he fancies Interesting studies have been carried out with small children. They show that provided the only foods offered them are good foods - that is not highly processed or filled with refined sugar, white flour or additives - babies and children left to their own devices will instinctively choose a wholesome diet. A child may eat nothing but bananas one day, then turn to carrots or whole grain bread or eggs the next. Looked at over a period of a week or two, his picking and choosing prompted by his own internal messages and instincts, spontaneously selects for him a diet which is virtually ideal when measured against what nutritional science says a growing child needs. Because his palate and instincts have not become distorted by manufactured foods, Nature's child is in touch with his body and its needs. He never has to give a thought to eating well. He does it the same way a bird sings or a waterfall tumbles over rocks down into a pool a hundred feet below. He not only supports his health and well-being in the best possible way, his own inner wisdom enables his own brand of individual seedpower to unfold beautifully into the unique individual he is designed to be - physically, emotionally and spiritually. When what your child eats day after day, year after year, supports the energy balancing, energy-producing functions in his body it creates for him an experience of grace in his life and in yours. He is far more likely to be centered in his demeanor, resistant to illness and cheerful in his outlook. When, on the other hand his diet is made up of highly processed convenience foods filled with junk fats and chemical additives - foods which have lost the complex balance and synergy in all living things - then you create metabolic confusion in his body and a greater susceptibility to illness and behavioral disturbances from hyperactivity to aggression.

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