Eat Your Heart (or Liver) Out

I’m not the kind of person who puts a lot of time, energy, or money into my appearance. I put just enough effort in to stay current, but not enough to really feel good about it. I’ll blame it on modern media and the images of perfect beauty that we’re bombarded with everyday. This unattainable perfection causes me to get overwhelmed with fashion trends, make-up and expensive jeans. When I go out shopping, I will come home empty-handed or will spend way more than I should have because I couldn’t make a decision. I avoid it as often as I can and often rely on my husband to encourage me to buy something new or my well-dressed sister to hand-me-down some pieces that are trendier and cuter than what I’m currently wearing.

I feel like this is shocking and strange to the rest of the world, and it has only gotten worse as I’ve had more to deal with in Mommy Land. Fighting for Charlotte’s services and getting my family on board with Paleo have taken over as priorities in my life. Clawing my way out of depression and maintaining my sanity have left little room for online shopping and skin care. Chad often tells me that I tend to hyper-focus on things until they are resolved, so much so that I don’t even notice what’s right in front of me.

So hopefully it makes sense that I didn’t notice that I was losing my hair. I told myself that Classic Baby Hormone Hair Loss Syndrome was the explanation for the thinning, short pieces around my face that l had trained to look like bangs. I shrugged when my hairdresser politely asked how long it took to grow back after my first pregnancy. More questions about vitamins and stress just left me shaking my head.

One day last Summer I looked in the mirror and noticed that my hair looked thinner. And then I felt it. Really felt it. Where there had once had been thick, full locks begging to be cut were now thin, brittle strands slipping through my fingers. Panic and fear ran through me as I raced to the computer and Googled hair loss, adrenal fatigue, hormones. Cursing myself for not noticing and letting it get to this point, I searched in desperation to find a cause. What had I done? Would it come back? Why didn’t anyone tell me? The voice of my hairstylist played in my head. I closed my eyes and visualized the chunks of hair that I had seen in the shower. How could I have not noticed this sooner?

Powerlessness and self-blame roared through my conscious thoughts until I got a grip and started finding some answers. I was on the right track with the adrenal issues. I knew I wasn’t fully recovered from the stress my body survived after Charlotte’s birth. From my issues to her issues, every available vitamin, mineral or ounce of energy reserve had been exhausted. I know enough about the human body to know that it is excellent at prioritizing. In times of stress, the body knows to give available nutrients and energy to the organs needed to maintain life. Hair re-growth after having a baby is somewhere toward the bottom of the list.

I got a hold of some vitamins from my hairstylist and began taking them immediately. Several a day. And it worked. My hair began to grow and thicken and maintain its color. After nearly six months of taking 4 tablets a day, I can wash and blow dry my hair again without twinges of panic and guilt.

Even after getting my hair on a healthy regrowth pattern, I was still left with unsettled thoughts about nutrient deficiency. Why wasn’t I getting enough of these vitamins from Paleo foods? What do I need more of? Less of? How long will I have to take these vitamins? With no real expert to consult on this subject, I’m left to the depths of my own mind to find these answers, and that can really be a scary place. Research about depleted soils for growing crops and raising animals and how it’s negatively affecting our food supply is scaring me into thinking I’ll be bald by my 40th birthday.

Just as my search for nutrient rich foods to replace the vitamins had really begun to take hold in my mind, I was sent a powerful information source in the form of our friends Mike and Rachel. (Dr. Mike got us started on the Paleo diet and has provided tremendous support and information in healing Charlotte’s gut and my adrenal issues). Over a delicious bone-broth-based soup dinner on Saturday night, we discussed how Vitamin A is the main ingredient in my hair vitamins and is found in abundance in offal–the organs of animals that we typically don’t eat, especially liver. At these words, my heart rose and sank at the same time. I have read a lot about the benefits of offal in the Paleo world, but even the pictures of these foods turned my stomach.

I looked firmly at Chad, and we listened carefully to Mike explain how I may have begun to have trouble converting Vitamin A after the adrenal issues occurred. This may explain my hair loss and sensitivity to my hormone cycles. More information only leads to more questions from me…will it help my PMS? Will it help Charlotte? How do we get the kids to eat it? No real answers but lots of information about the great source of nutrients that offal, particularly liver provide. He and Rachel then explained their tricks for eating the unpalatable organ meat, and I wasn’t feeling much better–blending the organ pieces in its own blender and plugging their nose to down the “shake”, freezing the meat in tiny pieces and swallowing them like pills–any of their attempts to hide the awful tasting meat in food was fruitless.

Later in the evening, Chad and I discussed the information we had heard. We were encouraged that a natural source of vitamins for I what I had been taking in pill form was available. But did we really need another project? Liver? Really? Trying new foods and incorporating them into what you’re already eating takes time and effort.

On the other hand, it was hard to turn away from such a nutrient-dense food that really could probably improve the health of all of us, particularly Charlotte. It seems obvious to us that the more nutrient-dense foods we get into her system on a regular basis, the more progress we see from her. We weighed all of our current competitors for our time, money, and energy and decided that this was a project we were willing to take on.  

Once our roles were clearly defined we began to get excited about our new challenge. Chad’s job is to make the organ palatable in food while keeping it hidden it from the kids. My job is to procure the product, do the research, and hopefully enjoy the benefits of thicker hair. In addition, we will also share our tips with you for getting kids to eat offal, and observing and documenting any benefits we see regarding Charlotte’s issues.

If you are currently enjoying organ meats and have any suggestions for making them work, please feel free to comment below or send me an email.

Good Morning

A few weeks ago I was searching for more quiet time in my day. I was feeling like the days and weeks were bleeding into each other. The school week felt like a blur, and the weekend seemed like just preparation for the same mild chaos that we had just lived through.  My hope was that meditation and a quiet space at some point in my day would slow the days and weeks down, and ultimately I was looking for direction down a path to find the me that I know I have the potential to be. I have had fleeting visions of a calm, creative, and centered self that enjoys the day-to-day moments of motherhood and seems less affected by the day’s challenges.  
Chad suggested waking earlier and so he and I could have some time together over a cup of coffee before he left for work at 6am. As someone who savors sleep like a fine wine, I thought this was a terrible idea. I loved hearing the first alarm clock in the early morning darkness knowing it wasn’t for me. And when he would leave, I would slip back into a sweet slumber until the last possible seconds before I needed to be up-and-at-’em to get the kids to school on time. In addition to my desperate need to fill my sleep deprivation tank, I also had a concern that waking before the rooster crows would crash me into the proverbial afternoon wall of exhaustion at 3 pm. With homework, activities, dinner prep leading up to dishes, bath, and bedtime routine, this is just when the day really gets going and does not work so well with a pooped out and cranky mommy.
But after years of hearing yoga teachers and other mindfulness experts talk about being centered and present, I decided it was time to set the excuses aside and go find this elusive concept. After a few weeks of gradually setting my alarm clock back to 5:30am, I found that waking up earlier isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. After Chad and I talk about the day’s schedule and the evening’s dinner plan over our morning coffee, he leaves for work, and I have 30 gloriously silent minutes that I use to clear the cobwebs from the old attic that is my mind. And what I find is beyond any benefit of an extra hour of sleep–free, usable, precious, empty space that gives way to feelings of gratitude, peace, and even happiness to carry me through my day. 
Truthfully, this early morning time has become crucial to maintaining my mental health as I’ve come off of anti-depressants. After experiencing years of a drug-induced haze that kept me from going too high or too low, I’m pulling myself out of the lows, savoring sweet moments, writing to you about overcoming our challenges, and generally living a better life.
Oh…and I should mention that getting up before the sun means that I am fast asleep during the first DVR’d show that we had planned to watch together after the kids are asleep, but somehow I’m okay with that and so is Chad.
Here’s some images from a week of beautiful weather that I am proud to say that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Charlotte and Dana at ballet class.

Charlotte soaking up some Vitamin D at the park yesterday.

The girls and I enjoying salads at Chipotle.                                                                    







A salad for a picnic with lettuce, chicken thighs, grapefruit, radish, and sliced almonds.

Have a great weekend.

A Lesson Learned

Approximately one year ago, we moved to a new home. It was only about 1 mile from our previous home, and the neighborhood was familiar. We were moving only a few blocks from our very close friends. Escrow closed in the first weeks of the new year. Little did we know how much we would learn from the timing of our move.

We visited the home often before we moved, explained as much as we could to both girls to prepare them for the transition. The first few days and weeks went smoothly. No troubles arose until Charlotte’s 3rd birthday at the end of February. As some of you may have experienced, the third birthday is very significant in the world of a special needs child. Under the age of three, the child can (somewhat easily) qualify for Early Start services. This is a state program where the child is evaluated and receives therapies or services, depending on their individual needs. Charlotte had qualified for a center-based program where she was working on controlling her sensory dysregulation impulses in a classroom setting.

She thrived in this environment and loved her school. Three mornings per week, her caring and supportive team of teachers gave both of us what we needed at this point…a community where we felt like we belonged, specific strategies to help with behavior issues at home, and a safe opportunity for Charlotte to practice her emerging, yet delayed, social skills.  Unfortunately, the center-based school and all Early Start services abruptly end on the child’s third birthday.

The next step for continued services is through the school district or medical insurance. We hit an immediate road block with both of these options. Charlotte’s strong language and motor skills kept her from qualifying for anything. We were encouraged to mainstream her. On a cold and dark March morning, I made calls to local preschools. With apprehension and a fear of being rejected, I explained our situation to the newly-opended preschool from the same elementary school that Dana attended. We were welcomed with open arms, yet we were fully aware that this was a mainstream situation and these teachers had completely different training and experience than where we had just come from. I alternated my teacher and parent hats, connecting with and educating the preschool staff, filling them with as much information as I could that was specific to Charlotte’s needs at that time–sensory regulation issues, social delays, repetitive language, and defiant behavior. Despite my best efforts and the wonderfully receptive teaching staff, it was a brutal change for Charlotte.

Looking back, I wonder how we could have been so blind to how these huge changes were going to affect her.  I think we’ve learned so much about her needs from this journey, that experiences like these have begun to guide our choices, our actions, and our parenting. We see it all so clearly now, but at the time she was the teacher and we were the students. She took us back to the beginning of her life to let us know how much she was affected–she stopped sleeping.

Just like in infancy, it was slow at first. Initially, just some trouble going down at bedtime. It would take a few trips into her bedroom to settle her down to sleep. As the nights progressed, there was more resistance going down, and eventually waking a few hours later. This could be as early as 10 or 11pm–just as we were winding down, she would appear wide-eyed in our doorway. At the worst point, she would be awake for several hours in our bed, absolutely refusing to go into her own room.

We have always been a big fan of sleep hygiene, so we were hesitant to start any habits that were going to be difficult to break later on. We knew that letting her learn to sleep in our bed was going to be a battle we would have to fight eventually, so we faced it head-on. We had done “sleep training” with both girls in the early days with success, but we were stuck with knowing that wasn’t going to work for Charlotte. We were confident that she would have cried all night, never allowing herself to go to sleep.

I tried everything I could think of–I stood outside of her door in the dark hallway for hours, trying to wean myself away from her so she could learn to sleep on her own. It was maddening to hear her fall asleep and then wake herself up screaming for me. One night I remember rocking her in the rocking chair for over an hour, only to have her awake and talking to me, instead of getting sleeping or even drowsy.

It was in the middle of one sleepless night that I remembered the sensory inputs that we had done early-on in her diagnosis. With her improved skills and sensory regulation, we hadn’t needed to do any bouncing, brushing, massage, or swinging. The next morning we made an appointment with the Occupational Therapist that we had worked with through Early Start. We paid the $125 for an hour-long session that would teach us to regulate and calm Charlotte’s nervous system to find sleep again.

We brought back all of our old tools and re-learned the importance of sensory input in Charlotte’s life. Without hesitation, we added in joint compressions, brushing therapy, jumping, and swinging to her daily routine. She began to seem like her old self in her new environment. We recognized that sensory regulation was not a ball we could afford to drop again, so we sought out private Occupational Therapy and began to pay for as much as we could afford. In the meantime, I filled a grievance with our insurance company for failure to cover her needs.

After a few weeks of rigorous sensory regulation inputs that made her feel comfortable in her new environments, Charlotte began sleeping better. We have learned so much about how to make her comfortable in her environment and how to help prepare her for sleep. We make sure she gets plenty of exercise in the form of therapy or play throughout the day. We start her bedtime routine early and give her a lot of time to get ready to go to sleep. Rocking, bouncing, massage, and other inputs became part of of her bedtime routine. We limit her naps and keep her bedtime consistent.

Currently she falls asleep easily and then wakes only once to come into our bed. Once there, she falls asleep quickly and sleeps soundly until morning. While it’s certainly not perfect, and we have tried everything from bribery to physically moving her to keep her in her own bed, we accept it as her progress and listen to what she continues to need–safety and security in the form of us.

Sensory inputs and twice weekly Occupational Therapy Sessions are firmly set in our schedule. We learned that this is absolutely crucial to her healthy sleep patterns. Also, with any change in routine or her environment, we prepare Charlotte with words and visuals. We travel less often, knowing how it stresses her system and affects her sleep. We let her be our guide for a busy weekend with friends or a mellow night at home with an early bedtime. We still look for the fine balance between challenging her system with new experiences and stressing her system to the point of dysregulation.

I heard Chris Kresser say on a recent podcast that more melatonin is produced in the gut than in the brain. I nodded in agreement and reflected on the lessons we have learned about sleep, change, regulation, and overall health in this past year. As we heal her gut with the Paleo diet, we will heal her brain and nervous system, and she will find more comfort in her environment with fewer sensory inputs.

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate Charlotte’s 4th birthday this month and all of the lessons we’ve learned together.


Over the weekend, I was dealing with some stuff that made it difficult for me to be grateful for all of the wonderful things I have in my life. I was forced to do some tough mental work and get to the root of some big issues, get in the right frame of mind, and face a new week with a new perspective. Sifting through My Box of Truths and getting mindful and grateful is harder than it should be for me, but after years of practicing mindfulness and a few months of meditation, pieces of the process are finally beginning to happen somewhat effortlessly.

I was standing in the shower this morning, and I heard a noise coming from the bottom of the shower door. I looked down, and I paused for a moment expecting to see Charlotte laying on the floor next to the shower scrunched in a ball, having just woken up, realizing I was no longer in the bed next to her, and finding the cold bathroom rug near me more comforting than a warm and empty bed. Only….she wasn’t there. She hadn’t laid on the floor like that in several months. I took a deep breath of relief that I was not having to deal with that distraction in my sacred alone time, and I only found the dog looking for a drink.

I got out of the shower, dried off, and peeked in my bed to see her sleeping soundly. I could have felt discouraged that she still climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and I could have wondered how much longer this would continue to go on, but instead I smiled and felt thankful for her continued progress. It was then that a door of positive energy and gratitude opened in my mind and heart and a cascade of lovely and positive thoughts tumbled into my consciousness. I was able to recall funny and playful moments that I’ve had with Chad and the girls in the last few days and weeks–laughter, smiles, and a sense of relief–wanting to come to the surface of my thoughts, but being bullied back by the deeper and darker stuff.

On this cold and rainy morning, I thought I would share a few of them with you to get your positive juices flowing.

On Saturday the girls and I were driving to the grocery store and Dana had brought her camera with her. It’s a small digital camera handed down from my mom, and Dana’s favorite thing to do on it is take silly videos of herself and Charlotte. As usual, she was recording herself acting silly and over-the-top. While she played the video back, she showed Charlotte and asked, “How do I look?” Without skipping a beat, Charlotte responded, “Not pretty.” At first I was taken aback and glanced over my shoulder to scold Charlotte for the rude comment about her sister. Only, when I saw her trying to hide a smile behind her little hand and heard Dana feign a tantrum, I let sisters be sisters and marveled (and laughed out loud) at Charlotte’s use of humor during that social interaction.

Last night we were eating dinner at our coffee table. This is considered a special treat, and normally only happens because Chad doesn’t want to tear himself away from a movie or sporting event that he’s been sucked into and move to the appropriate dining table. Chad and I sit on the couch and the girls set the low table and bring playroom chairs into reach it. I often voice my concern about this set up because I worry they don’t have all the tools they need to be supported and eat a good dinner. Nevertheless, I went with it for the sake of something fun and different. Last night I had low expectations for Charlotte to eat a fennel and orange salad that I had made for the second night in a row. Chad must have felt the same way because half-way through the meal, he reminded Charlotte to eat her salad but told her she only needed to eat the oranges. She looked him straight in the eye and said, “Daddy, this is the same salad we had yesterday, and I’m going to eat the orange and this (a radish!) too.” She promptly put both items on her fork and ate them up. It was all we could do to keep from laughing out loud, and we applauded her for a good job with her dinner.

So, I’m walking through my Monday morning feeling much lighter, not only tremendously grateful for Charlotte’s progress, but feeling even more gratitude for my ability to enjoy it.

My Box of Truths

Life can be tough. Just when we think we have all of the coping mechanisms in place to knock down stress and anxiety, things still just seem too hard. Exercise, clean diet, and even medication are no match for tough competitors like the fear, uncertainty, and disappointment that can sneak into our thoughts and control our behavior. And just like a sensory-seeking and dysregulated 3-year-old, we feel uncomfortable in our environment and find ourselves trantruming our way out of the pain.

Being overwhelmed with self-doubt often feels like something has broken open inside me. The box of thoughts and emotions that I like to keep closed up tightly has unlocked and its contents are spilling out for the world to see. I’m scrambling to pick up the negative thoughts and spiraling anxiety and close them back up before anybody notices that I’m less than perfect.

So my question today is…what do we do with all of these truths when they are out in the open of our own consciousness? How do we handle it when feelings of abandonment, worthlessness, disappointment, fear, sadness, and judgment are out of the box eagerly waiting their turn in line for their chance to take us down?

We can sit and wallow in sadness and despair like our dirty clothes that litter the laundry room floor.

We can drive guilt and fear around like passengers in our mini van.

We can trudge on and ignore our truths, forcing them in the closet like the old toys and clothes that need to be donated.

Knowing that these are not the real answers and only fill the box with feelings of failure and mismanagement…how do you squeeze in the time to effectively deal with your truths? It’s challenging to say the least, to find the time between your older child’s cough and fever and the younger one’s refusal to sleep when your husband’s out of town and there are no clean dishes.

And what’s worse? If you suffered at all in these truths, you know that getting your head in the right place to deal with overwhelming emotion and trying to be a parent at the same time is like watching the sand slip through the hourglass, knowing that it will be desperately harder to get a grip on yourself when time runs out.

Nothing screams louder at times like these than the need for space and protection. The urge to go hide under the darkness of my covers is so strong, I’ll go back to it only minutes after being out of bed in the morning. I must find the sense of peace and quiet that is a like a precious power to stop the spinning demands and self-doubt. I’m seeking a chance to reconnect with the adult voice in my head that leads me back to my strength and faith, and when I finally find it, I take a deep breath and hold it, allowing all of the positive energy to enter my core in the form of strength and self-acceptance.

Strength and courage in these quiet moments allows me to sit with my box of truths and open it slowly, pulling them out one by one. And if I’m feeling really brave, I’ll examine and feel fear, judgment, and worthlessness for what they really are. I’ll embrace the pain and ask myself some tough questions. Where does this come from? Why does it hurt so bad? Who can help me with this?

And with even more bravery, you may find the strength to wear your truth like a piece of fine jewelry–knowing that only others who own and wear pieces such as yours will complement your truths for their uniqueness and antiquity. You find pride in yourself and your truths will tell your story. Until one day you feel so good to be beaming in your truths that you notice your box lays empty and shattered. There’s nothing left to lock up and push down. You’ll wear each truth that enters the box proudly, handling it with unique strength that comes to only you in your quiet and brave moments.

And so my dream is this…we will no longer suffer in isolation. We will unite as mothers, empty our boxes, share our truths and emerge from these dark days of motherhood with our jewels on and shining bright.

The Power of Paleo

Over the weekend, a friend of mine was reading through my blog on his iPad. I was nervous and fidgety, as I am when anyone is reading my writing. I recognize that my writing is personal and thoughtful, and I also knew that this touchy-feely success stuff is really not his style. I was setting myself up for some harsh criticism, or worse, to be the butt of an ongoing joke in our circle of friends. Nevertheless, I took a risk and held my breath. After many long moments, he finally laughed and nodded.

“I like that you have a plan and stick to it. You’re focused and you’re not going to let anything stop you.” He was of course referring to the lazer-like focus we have with adopting the Paleo diet and how it has become an obvious lifestyle choice for us. He read the Come Hell or High Water message loud and clear.

His comment stuck with me as I circled my way through my favorite Paleo blogs this week. I looked at all of the information, questions, and success stories through a new lens and really noticed themes of support, committment, and dedication to this way of life. Each story is so familiar to ours–loss, hopelessness, and despair giving way to progress, success, and hope. Inspiring stories of the fearless and focused overcoming Diabetes, PCOS, depression, anxiety, and weight-loss.

I identified with the many individuals who experienced secondary growth in harder-to-measure but easier-to-see achievements–emerging confidence, strength, and a sense of purpose that may have never surfaced due to the bullies on the playground, flawed Conventional Wisdom and profit-seeking Big Pharma.

It’s easy to see why so many of us feel this success. The leaders of this ancestral health movement empower their armies with information and answers that were there all along but are now are so easy to see. Science that stay-at-home moms like me can understand. Messages that denounce Complacency, but Encourage your best effort. Responsibility and Accountability with Consistency and Respect.

Each of us Paleo soldiers are leaning to read the messages of our bodies like a road map to better health. We reach our personal measures of success and become so empowered that when we find the strength and courage to share our stories with the world, we know that we will be welcomed with open arms into this powerful community.

While the Paleo diet has given Charlotte her health and future, the Paleo community has given me the confidence to help others. So I will say it loud and proud, without getting fidgety and apprehensive, and I believe that our story will be accepted and respected by even the toughest of critics.

The wonders of coconut

If you are new to the Paleo world, then the word coconut may bring to mind the synthetic, overly-sweetened junk found in suntan lotion or a cheap pina colada, and if that’s the case, my hope is that this post will educate you about the wonders of this delicious and super nutritious food. Our family reaps the benefits of coconut products so often, that I think it is worthy of an entire post.

The coconut is a versatile nut that contains many uses and benefits. You may have noticed the rise in popularity of coconut water. It’s also been called “nature’s Gatorade”. With naturally occurring electrolytes that our bodies need to recover from exercise or any strenuous work, it also contains salt, potassium, and magnesium.

I pick up my favorite brand at my local grocery store and use it as an afternoon refreshment on a warm day. Sometimes I add it to my water bottle and sip it after a workout (or just an otherwise exhausting day) for a boost of energy and hydration.

When we first began using coconut oil for cooking, I knew that there were significant health benefits, particularly for digestion and stomach issues. Since we believe digestive issues were the main cause of Charlotte’s delays, we were eager to use a product that might help heal her stomach.

Based on our success with it, I have known for a while that I wanted to share information about coconut products on this blog. I found a podcast on Underground Wellness with Dr. Bruce Fife, author of the book, Coconut Oil Miracle. I listened to the podcast and took notes as to learn more about coconut products and share with you how coconut oil has been beneficial in healing Charlotte’s gut and brain issues.

Here’s what I learned from Dr. Fife on the podcast, as it relates to overall health:

*Coconut oil is a healthy Saturated Fat that is heat stable. This means you can cook with it at high heat, and it will not go rancid and create free radicals in the body, which promote premature aging.

*Coconut oil stimulates the thyroid, regulating metabolism and increasing overall energy.

*Coconut oil has been known for its healing power. Being a MCFA (medium chain fatty acid), it has anti microbial properties, meaning that it helps break the lipid coat of bacteria and viruses and allows the body’s white blood cells to work more effectively.

*Coconut oil promotes healthy gut flora by allowing the friendly bacteria to flourish in the gut and killing any microorganisms or parasites that are not beneficial to the gut lining. It also kills candida (yeast overgrowth) in the digestive tract.

*Of particular interest to me was information about the benefits of coconut oil and Alzheimer’s. Dr. Fife mentioned that coconut oil provides ketone bodies which promote healing in the brain, and that many Alzheimer’s patients have had a regression in their symptoms after using coconut oil. Any kind of brain healing sounds good to me.

*Many more unbelievable health benefits are listed on Dr. Fife’s website.

What do you do with coconut oil?

Dr. Fife recommends drinking 1 to 3 tablespoons a day of melted coconut oil for an energy boost, but if you want a slower start, you can substitute coconut oil for any cooking oil like canola, corn, or vegetable oil.  We make a lot of skillet meals where we saute endless combinations of meat and veggies in coconut oil. In addition, some of our favorite recipes using coconut oil include Better Butter Chicken, plantain chips, or even sweet potatoes sliced like fries and cooked in coconut oil. (Make sure you wear old clothing or an apron when cooking with coconut oil since stains are difficult to get out of clothing)

Our favorite brand of coconut oil is the Extra Virgin Gold from Label Tropical Traditions (above). It smells and tastes delicious. We buy the gallon size and use several times per day, and it lasts about 4 months.

I also keep a store-bought brand (above) around the house in case I run out. While it doesn’t taste or smell quite as spectacular, it’s a good substitute.

Are there benefits to coconut milk?

Coconut milk is the meat of the coconut crushed with added water and strained through a cheesecloth. You’ll find it in its least processed canned form in the Asian or Thai section of the grocery store. It serves as a base for many Paleo sauces and soups.

This is not to be confused with carton coconut milk easily accessible at most grocery stores. With coconut milk as the base, many stabilizers and sweetners are added, increasing the drinkability but reducing the health benefits.

What about coconut flour?

If you do any gluten-free baking, you may notice that coconut flour is often substituted for gluten laden flours. Coconut flour is the product of the dried and ground meat of the coconut. With lots of fiber and no phytic acid, the flour is ideal for Paleo baking. Our hands-down favorite dessert for birthdays or other special occasions is the coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting in Bill & Hayley’s book.

Check out any of the Paleo recipe sites in Paleo Community for many more ideas of how to make these wonderful products a staple in your kitchen.

Coconut oil & the skin

Dr. Fife mentioned in the podcast what we already know to be true. Coconut oil is great for the skin. My skin tends to be very dry, and I recently substituted my expensive face moisturizer for coconut oil with success. I immediately noticed less inflammation and puffiness due the detoxifying and healing quality of the oil. For severe winter dryness, I recently switched to this product from Tropical Traditions.

Clearly, we have bought into the health benefits of this food. In addition to cutting out grains, we feel that incorporating coconut products into our diet has been key to improving our overall health. If you are thinking about making a change to the Paleo lifestyle, picking up a coconut product in replacement for one of your other products may be a manageable first step.

For more reading on how adding healthy fats to our diet has helped Charlotte’s brain and stomach development, see this post.


I was teaching third grade in the Spring of 2004 when I learned I was pregnant for the first time. I had a few years of teaching under my belt, and I had learned a lot about kids without ever having any of my own. In all honesty, I thought I was pretty prepared to be a parent. I had a good grip on discipline, motivation, and overall management. I had also recognized the importance of supporting education at home and how it made all the difference in finding succees in the classroom.

As my belly grew, I spent lots of time studying the faces and behaviors of the students looking back at me. I wondered often what the child inside me would be like in one of those small yellow chairs. What would she look like? How well would she listen? Would she be helpful or shy? Visual or kinestethic learner? Friendly or needy? I have always aimed for some level of perfection, so I secretly prayed for a daughter who would be good at all of it….an academic whip without boredom, a social leader without being bossy, helpful and kind while still knowing her place.

It was my heart’s desire that she would be all of the things that I only had the potential to be. Depsite my silent expectations, I knew she would be loved unconditionally, and I vowed that all of the things that stood in the way of my childhood success, in and out of the classroom, would never be known to her.

Someone was listening. God gave Chad and I the most beautiful, bright, academic, social, and sweet child that anyone could ask for. She hit all of her milestones early and learned her letters and numbers before she could talk. She learned concepts with incredible ease and I soaked up every moment….teaching her vocabulary words and phrases way above her age level. Using foam letters in the bathtub, at the age of three, I taught her to rhyme and eventually read. I couldn’t help it…the teacher in me thrived on her ability to learn…the parent in me beamed….and the inner child in me was reborn.

On Father’s Day 2007, we found out that Dana would be a big sister. With all of the same preparation and secret wishes, I birthed another girl. I wondered how I could be so blessed with two daughters, just like my sister and I….so many opportunities to make their lives all that ours were and so much more.

And then things unfolded so differently than I could have ever imagined…Charlotte stole so much of my time from Dana in those early years. I was angry at my powerlessness to continue to give Dana what she needed to be all that she could. With shame and guilt, I shared these feelings with Chad, and we pulled together to make a great team in those difficult times. We did the best we could with the challenges we were handed, but all the while, I wondered how badly I was breaking her.

Anxiety, guilt, and resentment became rocks in my backpack. My dreams were crushed when Charlotte’s misbehavior spilled into our lives. The timeouts that worked brilliantly with Dana turned into screaming, endless, exhausting tantrums. I helplessly watched sensory seeking behavior and our ineffective discipline take over any outing or activity. The family I had dreamed of was within reach but still seemed so far away. What had happened? Where did the happiness and pride go? What had we done wrong?

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse…somehow learning made the difference. Slowly at first and then with a depth of wisdom and knowledge I never could have experienced in any classroom, we learned who Charlotte was, instead of who she wasn’t, and by God’s grace, we taught Dana through words and actions how to be a sister to Charlotte. And just like she has always done, she learned and loved and beautifully bonded with her sister in a way that we could have never expected.

Charlotte’s needs opened our eyes to a whole new world that we were trying desparately to hide from. Beyond our fears and expectations was a beautiful valley of peace and acceptance.

Just this week Dana received a glowing report card showing all of the perfection I had originally dreamed of. While I read it I beamed with pride as a teacher and parent, and then I paused and said a silent prayer of gratitude for each daughter…thank you for the one I wanted, but thank you even more for the one that we all needed.