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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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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.

Re-discovering Life

Re-discovering Life

I think maybe I know what's wrong with you.' `What?' I asked skeptically. `You're always thinking about such serious things. You're always telling yourself what to do and what not to do. No wonder you're angry. You've forgotten how to have fun, Mummy. One day in summer, everything seemed to go wrong for me. For no apparent reason I awakened in the morning with the awful feeling that nothing was worthwhile. At 10am I received a telegram from a publisher saying that two manuscripts (of which I had no copies) had been lost in the mail. By noon not even the brilliance of California sunshine (where we were on holiday at the time) could shake off the heavy black cloud that surrounded me. I was angry with myself - and trying to avoid being angry with everyone else. My two younger children, Jesse, aged eight, and Susannah, ten, kept asking me to take them to the beach. I didn't want to go anywhere, especially the beach. I did not want to do anything for anyone. Finally, in the worst possible spirit, I consented - making sure, of course, that they realized I was doing them a big favor. The pure white sand and the fresh sea air on the almost deserted beach did nothing to improve my mood. It seemed to me that life was `out there' and I was `in here' locked away in the depths of the gloomy dungeon I'd built and was powerless to break out of. As the sun shone brighter and more beautiful, I grew steadily more gloomy. Finally I could stand it no longer. Despite the fact that the children were playing in the sand nearby and I didn't want to upset them, I broke down and cried. Susannah asked what was wrong. `I don't know, just about everything seems wrong at the moment,' I whined. `I feel like that sometimes,' Jesse said, offering no sympathy whatsoever. `I think you must be angry.' `So what if I am?' I snapped. `Why don't you hit something?' he suggested. `There's nothing to hit,' I replied irritably, `and anyway that's stupid.' `No, it's not,' Susannah chimed in. `It will make you feel ever so much better, Mummy. Or maybe you could growl like a dog.' I was willing to try anything. So, feeling like a complete fool and admonishing myself for behaving so stupidly in front of my own children, I growled and complained. I hated everyone, I said. I hated myself. I was lonely and I felt the whole world was stupid. Then I growled some more while the two of them sat listening silently. Not once did they try to console me, or tell me I was wrong or protest that the world was really a lovely place to love. Not once did they pass judgment on me or make me feel ashamed of myself or foolish. They just sat and waited. Finally I felt a little better. Jesse had been right, I thought, but I still had no idea where to go from here. At last I was quiet. Only then did Susannah say, `I think maybe I know what's wrong with you.' `What?' I asked skeptically. `You're always thinking about such serious things. You're always telling yourself what to do and what not to do. No wonder you're angry. You've forgotten how to have fun, Mummy.' She was certainly right. Having fun seemed as far away as the moon at that moment. I realized then, that for several months I had saddled myself with my work as if work were the only thing that mattered. I'd hated almost every minute of it but had felt proud of being such a `responsible adult.' `Maybe you're right,' I replied. `But how does somebody who's forgotten something so important remember it?' `Come on, let's dig a hole,' was her reply. `Yeah, I like holes,' Jesse chimed in. Feeling like a half-frozen hippopotamus, I lifted myself off the towel and mechanically moved toward the site they'd chosen for the hole. I started to dig. Jesse, who tended to act a bit of a clown, was soon sliding down into it and Susannah was snapping at him for `ruining the shape.' I looked at the two of them fiercely sneering at each other and saw myself as I had been just a few minutes before. I began to laugh. So did they. Before long we had a beautiful hole dug. It was probably the most beautiful hole you've ever seen... or so it seemed to me. We had a contest to see who was best at running up and leaping over it. Then we drew pictures in the sand and ran into the ice-cold water, splashing each other. By the time the first wave struck me, I, like the two of them, had become part of the sea and the sky. There was no more gloom and no more supercilious self-assurances that I was `doing the best thing.' I was alive again. Later that evening I thanked Jesse and Susannah for helping me and teaching me to have fun again. Then in typical adult fashion, I added, `You know I'm likely to forget and be all grumbly again before long.' `That's all right,' replied Susannah, `we'll remind you.' And they have - again and again over the years.

Children: Go Easy

Children: Go Easy

Where we do the damage to nature's biological plan is by providing an environment which is inappropriate to the needs of a child in a particular matrix period. We do this either by not supplying these needs - for instance by not allowing the constant physical closeness at the breast right from birth, not providing the infant with a myriad of physical objects and experiences in early childhood, not giving him the opportunity to begin classifying and ordering the relationships between things after he is seven, and so on - or by trying to force on a child a way of thinking or behaving for which his brain is not yet ripe. The Japanese for instance place their children into schools at two or three years, where they are forced to read, work with numbers, and wrestle with other abstract concepts long before they are ready to do so according to their biological clocks. As a result, not only do the Japanese have a big problem with dyslexia, their children wear more glasses per capita than any other children in the world, and when they reach adulthood also have one of the world's highest suicide rates. Pearce believes that we are trying to teach our children to read far too early. `I can stand up here and attack people's notion of Mother, Country, even God, and nobody will protest,' he says, `but when I say that we are doing severe damage to our children by forcing them to read before their brain's development is ready, all hell breaks loose.' Pearce insists that the practice of forcing five year olds (or even three and two year olds) to read can do irreparable damage to their development - damage, which he points out, is beginning to show up in widespread dyslexia, illiteracy and anxiety in our society. For by forcing him to read before his brain development is ripe for the task, we are not allowing the child to complete the intelligence and brain growth at his current stage of his development before going on to the next. Of course, because the human mind is enormously adaptable - with effort and a great deal of approval from teachers and parents - many children do learn to read. Yet this may be at great cost to them. After all, Einstein not only learned to read late, he did not even learn to talk until he was three. Forcing children to read early - which includes `encouraging' them to read early - is not the only grave mistake we make, insists Pearce. Equally damaging is our discouraging daydreaming in young children. You know the kind of thing - your child sits gazing blankly out the window, or lies on the floor sucking his thumb for minutes at a time. Meanwhile the parent, who has been taught that daydreaming is `an escape from reality' says to him, `Johnny, for heaven's sake, take your thumb out of your mouth and do something...' magical child Not only is such daydreaming harmless, like any activity which is natural to a particular matrix, it is absolutely essential to a child's inner growth processes. Daydreaming - which takes place when children sit looking blank - is a form of natural meditation helpful for his brain development. The child who has been excited and stressed in a positive way by interactions with his environment one moment will retreat into a state of restorative and calming relaxation the next. The two create a balance. Another early practice which we parents discourage, with poor consequence for our children, is what Piaget called magical thinking. A child sees the world as something not separate from himself but closely connected to him, and believes that he is able to influence concrete external reality by his thoughts and actions - much in the way primitive people do. He may fantasize, make up stories of dragons and fairies, and dream dreams of wonder and power. Many parents spend a lot of our time trying to get the child to give up such magical thinking and `attend to reality.' But such behavior has an important part to play in the child's genetic organization and development. (The notion of the interconnectedness of thought and physical reality has recently been validated by findings in high-level physics, by the way.) Indeed, such childlike perceptions may even be the link between the so-called real world and what we call extrasensory perception, as well as a key to the development of man's awareness of more subtle realms of consciousness which primitive peoples and psychically endowed individuals share. It may also be an important part of man's spiritual equipment which we, by our repression of our children's `blank staring' and `magical thinking' are thwarting. What Pearce and Piaget are really asking is simply that we stop and look at what our developing child really needs, and that we set aside for a moment what we think he needs. They ask that we listen to his `heartbeat' instead of badgering him - that we give him time to grow in safety from one matrix to another. Once we learn to do this then perhaps his birthright - the enormous creativity and intelligence embodied within his seedpower - will have a far greater chance of fulfilling itself.

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Children are extraordinary people - neither the dewy-eyed little darlings we put on our Christmas cards nor the wild savages we fear will grow up to be criminals if not disciplined properly. And Nature's child is indeed wild - wild because he doesn't fit into our idea of what is and isn't done, wild because he hasn't learned the subtle art of concealment and hypocrisy we cultivate as adults, wild because no matter how much we try to make him conform to our will, if he is lucky he never will, so strongly directed from within is he by his own destiny. As adults, most of us can't help trying. When we try too hard, we succeed only in turning our children into the same hypocrites we ourselves have learned to be. It was a little girl named Jill - a freckle-faced, runny-nosed, redheaded three year old - and two of her nursery-school friends who first made me aware of my own hypocrisy. Jill and a friend were setting up an imaginary tea party. They had carefully laid the small table with battered plastic cups, filled the cracked teapot and put wadded-up pieces of paper in a paper cup for sugar cubes. During all of this the two girls chattered in obvious imitation of their mothers. `Who else is coming to tea?' asked Jill. `Oh, you know that awful old Mrs Simpson - the one who always has her hair in curlers,' replied her friend. `Do you know she doesn't even bother to put a coat over her nightgown when she goes out for the milk?' So the conversation went as the two girls, unaware that anyone was listening, prepared for their guest. When the table was all set, Jill leaned out the window and told a third little girl she could come to the party now. She entered the play house and was greeted with exclamations of: `Why, dear Mrs Simpson, how very nice of you to come. It is so lovely to see you.' I thought to myself how often a scene similar to the one I was witnessing takes place. I was trying to remember the last time I'd been guilty of this kind of two-faced behavior, when my thoughts were interrupted by `Mrs Simpson,' who had been seated at the table. Suddenly she rose, dumped her `tea' back into the cracked teapot, and said very slowly and deliberately: `I heard what you said about me from under the window, and I don't like it. I'm not going to be your old Mrs Simpson any more no matter how nice you are to me, so there!' Young children hate being patronized. They react strongly when someone is false with them. The less privileged the family background of the child, the easier it seems to be for him to see through superficial geniality - and the more demanding he becomes of true, undivided attention and real relationships with adults.

Kids In The Kitchen

Kids In The Kitchen

The important thing when feeding children is to build your own menus around what you yourself like best and then share your enthusiasm with your growing child. Enthusiasm tends to be contagious. These menus are vegetarian. This is not because I think all children should be vegetarian. It is because, generally speaking, babies and young children seem to thrive on vegetarian dishes and some find meat constipating and hard to digest. Also much of the meat and chicken and fish these days is either highly processed (i.e. breaded fish pieces) or comes from animals which have been overmedicated with antibiotics. I have raised most of my children from the beginning on vegetarian foods only, introducing them to fish and game and free-range chicken if and when they showed an interest. However, if you and your family are committed meat eaters then the soups or stews you make will simply have meat or chicken or fish added. They can still be pureed or chopped to serve to a child in whatever way is appropriate to his age. meals for nature's child breakfast babies 6-12 months Mother's milk and 4oz porridge made from wholegrain oats or wheat or millet or rice flakes toddlers 1-2 years 1 small piece of ripe fruit or a small bowl of ripe stone fruit mashed or chopped with1 cup almond milk or yogurt or a dish of Live Muesli children 2 years up A dish of Live Muesli or 1-2 pieces of fruit with almond milk  or yogurt, and Scrambled egg and 1-2 slices of gluten-free bread with butter and honey lunch babies 6-12 months Mother's milk and 8oz vegetable stew puree or vegetable soup and Mashed fruit 1-2 years Vegetable stew or vegetable soup either pureed or in bigger chunks or Wild Nut Burgers or Lentil Soup or Stew 2 years up Vegetable stew or vegetable soup or Wild Nut Burgers or Pitta Pockets tea babies 6-12 months Mother's milk and Nut milk perhaps pureed with a small crust of gluten-free bread 1-2 years Small plate of raw vegetables (grated carrot with celery, beetroot, tomato, & dressing) cut up small or `Spiderman Salad' Serve with wholegrain crackers, rice cakes, oat cakes etc spread with butter, nutbutter or honey. 2 years up Fruit with a slice of gluten-free bread or oatcakes, rice cakes, etc, spread with cottage cheese or nut butter or butter or honey and Small plate of raw vegetables (grated carrot with celery, beetroot, tomato & dressing) cut up small supper babies 6-12 months Mother's milk and 8oz Live Muesli pureed 1-2 years Live Muesli with slice of gluten-free bread or toast Live Muesli sprinkled with chopped nut kernels and If desired, a warm dish of soup or a baked potato or brown rice measurements & quantities I have given approximate measurements such as cupfuls (abbreviated to C - an ordinary cup holds about 8 fluid ounces), handfuls, tablespoons (tbsp), teaspoons (tsp), pinches and so on. Each time you make a recipe it will be slightly different, which is the whole fun of cooking and eating and one reason why children love it. Sticking to cookery book rules takes all the spontaneity out of things. Embroider these recipes to suit your taste and imagination. You will quickly grasp the basic principles of texture, color, nutritional value, taste combinations and presentation.

Wow Love Is Real

Wow Love Is Real

My first child was born in a huge teaching hospital in Los Angeles. The labor was long and regrettably not natural. I was given an analgesic during labor and an epidural for the delivery. It was all very cold, efficient and mechanical. The hospital I was in happened to be a Catholic one in which every other woman there seemed already to know the ropes since she was giving birth to her fifth or eighth or tenth child. Nobody bothered to tell me much about what was going on or what was expected of me. My baby was taken from me immediately after the birth and put into a nursery with all of the other babies while I was wheeled off to a private room. Soon they brought this tiny creature to me. I held him in my arms and stared at him in stark wonder. Then at three hourly intervals he would reappear for twenty minutes at a time and I'd hold him in bed beside me until the nurse would come and take him away again. The third or fourth time they brought him to me, he began to cry. I nestled him, rocked him, and spoke gently to him but he wouldn't stop so I rang for the nurse. `My baby's crying,' I said, `What should I do?' `Have you burped him?' `Burped him?' `You have fed him haven't you?' `Fed him? Am I supposed to feed him?` The nurse took him and put him to my breast. His tiny mouth opened and reached for me as if he had known forever what to do. He began to suck with such force it took my breath away. It was like being attached to a vacuum cleaner. I began to laugh. I couldn't help myself. It seemed incredible that such a tiny creature could have such power and determination. He too had a purpose. He was raw, insistent and real. With every fiber of his being, this child was drawing his life and he would not be denied. Tears of joy ran shamelessly down my cheeks while he sucked. There in the midst of all that clinical green and white, I had discovered what love was all about. It was really quite simple—a meeting of two beings. The age, the sex, the relationship didn't matter. That day two creatures--he and I—had met. We touched each other in utter honesty and simplicity. This experience was for me a true epiphany. My life was forever altered by it. There was nothing romantic or solemn about it. No obligations, no duties, no fancy games, and you didn't have to read an encyclopedia of baby care to experience it. We'd met, just that. Somewhere in spirit we were friends. I knew beyond all doubt that I had found something real and real it has remained.

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.

Love With Muscle

Love With Muscle

Children have also taught me much of what I know about love. They have a singularly unsentimental attitude toward love and show little patience with an adult's romantic notions. To a child love is nothing fancy. It is a real and tangible feeling to be taken highly seriously. `If you love somebody,' a six-year-old boy named Charlie once told me, `then you help him put his boots on when they get stuck.' `When I grow up,' said eight-year-old Marlene, `I'm going to love somebody even if his handwriting is messy.' I once had a real demonstration of what love is all about from my eldest son, Branton, who was then eight and to all appearances totally indifferent to his little sister, Susannah. One Autumn evening, after we'd all been out in the yard, we discovered Susannah was missing. Through a series of misunderstandings she thought we'd gone off for a walk in the woods - and we thought she'd gone back to the house. By the time I realized she was gone, Branton had a dachshund under each arm and was firmly ensconced on the sofa watching his favorite television program with a friend. If one thing was certain in our house, it was that Branton would do absolutely nothing anyone wanted him to do - such as set the table or wash his hands - while this particular program was on. I could stand in the middle of the room and scream at the top of my lungs but he wouldn't hear me. After I'd searched every room for Susannah, I began to be frightened. It was dark by then, and she was only five years old. Our house in the country had enormous expanses of land and woods surrounding it. She could have been anywhere. Careful not to betray my anxiety, I announced, `Branton, Susannah is gone.' There was a pause, rather like a slow take in a cartoon film, then he turned and looked at me. `I can't find Susannah,' I repeated. `She isn't in the house, and I don't know where she is.' He was up as if dynamite had blown him off the sofa. The poor sleepy dachshunds were shaken out of their stupor. `I'll find her,' he said on his way to the door. Then he stopped and turned to his friend, still engrossed in the television program. `Get up, Jeff,' he commanded, `we've got to find Susu. Hurry up.' I have never seen any human being move faster. Within two minutes he had been around the acre of land surrounding the house and rung two doorbells to ask if the neighbors knew where his sister was. By then I had remembered our talk about going for a walk in the woods, and had headed toward the thicket. Branton, still running at top speed, came up and passed me by, all the time calling: `Susannah, Susannah.' As we headed up the big path into the woods, I heard the faraway sound of a child crying out. It was Susannah. I tried to reassure her we were coming - while attempting to avoid falling in the wet mud - meanwhile Branton plunged on ahead, apparently afraid of nothing. In another minute he had her in his arms. As I approached, I heard him saying over and over, `Oh, Susu, Susu, are you all right?' as tears streamed down his cheeks. Later that night at the dinner table I told Susannah, who frequently suffered Branton's scorn, that now she knew what Branton really felt about her. I suggested she remember this evening whenever she became discouraged by his taunts - calling her a drip, for instance. She smiled. `You're a drip,' said Branton.

What I’ve Learned From Kids

What I’ve Learned From Kids

As parents we feel obliged to correct our children when they make mistakes when speaking. Yet so often the words they coin seem much more sensible and charming than their “proper” counterparts. ‘It's a froggy day,’ my son, Jesse, used to say when he meant ‘foggy.’ ‘Where are the ouches?’ My daughter, Susannah, would ask when she wanted to hang something on the clothesline. (She once caught a finger in a clothes peg and her great-grandmother had consoled her by saying, ‘Ouch, that hurts.’) Then there were ‘flat tireds’—the things you get when your car runs over a nail in the road—and the ‘constructions’ which you read to find out how to use something for the first time. Aaron, my youngest child, announced one day after playing with one of our Burmese cats, ‘Mummy, guess what, pussy cats have dangerous toes'. Kids have taught me to express my anger instead of being afraid of it. Watch two children fight. They sling the most appalling insults at each other. One gives the other a whack and swears not to play with him or her again. Two hours later they are best friends once more. They know so much better than we do how to forgive. Somehow they seem to understand that being angry with someone—no matter how important it seems at the time—is not half as interesting as all the things you can do, see, say, and make together as soon as the anger has passed. LIVING DEATH One summer day, many years ago, everything seemed to go wrong for me. For no apparent reason I awakened in the morning with the awful feeling that nothing was worthwhile. At 10am I received a telegram from a publisher saying that two manuscripts (of which I had no copies) had been lost in the mail. By noon not even the brilliance of Californian sunshine (where we were on holiday at the time) could shake off the heavy black cloud that surrounded me. I was angry with myself and trying to avoid being angry with everyone else. Jesse, then aged eight, and Susannah, ten, kept hounding me to take them to the beach. I didn't want to go anywhere, especially the beach. I didn’t want to do anything for anyone. In the worst possible spirit I eventually consented—making sure, of course, that they realized I was doing them a great big favor. The pure white sand and fresh sea air on an almost deserted beach did nothing to improve my mood. It seemed to me that life was ‘out there’ and I was ‘in here’, locked away in the depths of the gloomy dungeon I'd somehow built for myself and was powerless to break out of. As the sun shone brighter and more beautifully I grew steadily more gloomy. Finally I could stand it no longer. Despite the fact that the children were playing in the sand nearby and I didn't want to upset them, I broke down and cried. Susannah asked what was wrong. ‘I don't know, just about everything seems wrong at the moment,’ I whined. ‘I feel like that sometimes,’ Jesse said, offering no sympathy whatsoever. ‘I think you must be angry.’ ‘So what if I am?’ I snapped. ‘Why don't you hit something?’ he suggested. ‘There's nothing to hit,’ I replied irritably, ‘and anyway that's stupid.’ ‘No, it's not,’ Susannah chimed in. ‘It’ll make you feel ever so much better, Mummy. Or maybe you should try growling like a dog.’ REDISCOVERING LIFE I was willing to try anything. So, feeling like a complete fool and admonishing myself for behaving so stupidly in front of my own children, I growled and complained. I hated everyone, I said. I hated myself. I was lonely and I felt the whole world was stupid. Then I growled some more while the two of them sat listening silently. Not once did they try to console me, or tell me I was wrong or protest that the world was really a lovely place to live. Not once did they pass judgment on me or make me feel ashamed of myself or foolish. They just sat and waited. Finally I felt a little better. Jesse had been right, I thought, but I still had no idea where to go from here. At last I was quiet. Only then did Susannah say, ‘I think maybe I know what's wrong with you.’ ‘What?’ I asked skeptically. ‘You're always thinking about such serious stuff. You're always telling yourself what to do and what not to do. No wonder you're angry. You've forgotten how to have fun, Mummy.’ She was certainly right. Having fun seemed as far away as the moon at that moment. I realized then that for several months I had saddled myself with my work as if work were the only thing that mattered. I'd hated almost every minute of it but had felt proud of being such a ‘responsible adult.’ ‘Maybe you're right,’ I replied. ‘But how does somebody who's forgotten something so important remember it?’ ‘Come on, let's did a hole,’ was her reply. ‘Yeah, I like holes,’ Jesse chimed in. HIPPOPOTAMUS THAW Feeling like a half-frozen hippopotamus, I lifted myself off the towel and mechanically moved toward the site they'd chosen for the hole. I started to dig. Jesse, who often acted the role of a clown, was soon sliding down into it. Susannah was snapping at him for ‘ruining the shape.’ I looked at the two of them fiercely sneering at each other and saw myself as I had been just a few minutes before. I began to laugh. So did they. Before long we had a beautiful hole dug. It was the most gorgeous hole I’d ever seen... or so it seemed to me. We had a contest to see who was best at running up and leaping over it. Then we drew pictures in the sand and ran into the ice-cold water, splashing each other. By the time the first wave struck me, I, like the two of them, had become part of the sea and the sky. There was no more gloom and no more supercilious self-assurances that I was ‘doing the best thing.’ I was alive again. Later that evening I thanked Jesse and Susannah for helping me and teaching me to have fun again. Then in typical adult fashion, I added, ‘You know I'm likely to forget and be all grumbly again before long.’ ‘That's all right,’ replied Susannah, ‘we'll remind you.’

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