My favorite wellness and mothering books...And how to make cold-brew coffee!
There has never been a time when I could simply blindly accept things without boldly questioning them. For years, I thought that I was just strong-willed or obstinate, and I felt badly about it. When I was elementary school aged, dad had told me I should become a lawyer because my arguing with him could last for days. I wasn’t backing down (and neither was he) until we had reached THE TRUTH. This desire to get to truth (or the best, most effective answer in any situation) — even if it meant clashing with those in authority over me, even if it meant getting bad grades on a test, even if it meant appearing too passionate — has always been burning inside me.
One of my earliest school memories was getting a letter home to my mom that “Heather answers all the questions right, but does not follow instructions.” I was in first grade, and I wanted knowledge! That letter got sent home on more than one occasion. In high school, I got a “C” in PE because I didn’t buy the “right" kind of socks, and frequently left my socks at home. I didn’t follow arbitrary rules if they didn’t have a good well-defined purpose. Period. (Did I participate? Oh yes! And I loved sports so much I ran Cross Country two years of high school, and played softball two years. But socks, people, socks.) In college, the worst grade I got was in an intro to media design course, when the professor simply wanted everyone to copy a simple sunflower in Adobe Illustrator, using the same colors, same technique, same highlights and shadows. But I couldn’t conform to what everyone else was doing, and illustrated that flower my own way, spending hours upon hours extra, creating a digital masterpiece. My first full-time job out of college was at a marketing firm, where I was writing press releases and doing graphic design. Weeks into the job, I was in the boss’s office, correcting his grammar and syntax in an article we were creating, and I came at him with arms full of grammar books to back up my view. Follow his instructions even though I knew them to be wrong? Nope. Challenge.
This unquenchable desire to find that which is TRUE, that which is best, most effective, most original, and to reject traditions and rules and preconceived ideas, means I have spent a lot of time reading in search of truth. Several people have asked me recently how I find the right book on a particular subject, since there’s so much junk out there!
When searching for a book or looking for someone to trust, I’m looking for someone who questions and boldly challenges the status quo, the norms, the accepted, to arrive at ultimate truth. To find new ways of solving problems, we’ve got to look at these problems from creative perspectives! For me, there is nothing sacred that cannot be questioned. That question you heard asked by the bold lone-ranger in calculus or physics class— “When am I ever going to use this?!” is a VALID one, and should be answered to your satisfaction, or you should leave. I think it’s important to ask the toughest questions, especially ones involving people’s lives, bodily health, and freedom. (We don’t have the time in this short life to get every answer to every question, but we need to be confident about decisions we make about the things we put in/on our bodies, and the things that will affect whether we will have the freedom to ask those questions in the future.)
Ask whether Abraham Lincoln was right in invading the south. Ask whether it’s a good idea to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag — go through it word by word. Ask what is in your deodorant. Ask whether God exists. Ask whether it’s beneficial or detrimental to the average body to get a case of measles, or whether measles was created for a purpose. Ask whether bacon does your body good. Seriously, though. Go straight on down and ask each question and get to the root. These have concrete objective answers.
The authors who take on the challenge of questioning the majority may risk their careers, their income, their reputations. They will be called quacks. When you deviate from mainstream, though, you earn my respect..and my curiosity. I’ll buy your book.
But of course, non-conformity is not everything! To find truth, I want to understand a person's motive for sharing their view. I'll need to look at the studies included (and not just the abstract or the conclusion of the study!). I'll want to see if the ideas stand up to logic. I also want to see that they've experienced what they're describing to be true.
So, I've written a list of some of my favorite books/resources on the topics of nutrition/wellness, education, and Godly motherhood. These should all have asterisks next to them, warning you that I do not agree with every sentence written within the books! Some of them, I am skeptical of whole chapters! Besides God's Word, there is no perfect book. But these I think are pretty good.
- Nourishing Traditions
- This is my go-to for how to prepare foods in a time-tested way — the way people have fermented or cooked their foods for millennia — for maximum nutrition and ultimate healthy digestion. How to soak beans, make sauerkraut, prepare organ meats, and then loads of other critical information. No excuse for not having this in your kitchen.
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma
- A mind-blowing look into how corn is in almost every processed food, the disgusting conditions in which feedlot meat is produced, and then shows a refreshing alternative in sustainable small farms — one called Polyface Farm, right here in Virginia. One of the best, most interesting books on food I’ve ever read.
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome
- When I was dealing with postpartum anxiety, I eventually turned to medication, which did NOT help at all. It was THIS book that helped me understand how my gut was the cause of my brain issue, and by going on the diet described, I was able to completely heal.
- Eat Dirt
- Describes different causes of leaky gut and how to fix them with diet. Simple and useful, especially if you have different health problems within your own family and need help solving each of them.
- Cure Tooth Decay
- I am prone to tooth decay despite excellent oral hygiene since childhood. This book explains how diet is the cause of tooth decay, as minerals are pulled from inside your teeth. I had no idea that teeth were such living things, or that cavities could heal!
- The Peanut Allergy Epidemic
- Another MIND BLOWING book. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I also do. It’s vaccines, ya’ll. Any injection can provoke the body to create allergies, and peanut is a "perfect allergen." The history and the science will rock you.
- How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor
- This doctor was far ahead of his time, recommending in the 1980s not to give your child fever-reducing medications, not treating earaches with antibiotics, and more. He calms down frantic parents with the reassurance that most illnesses are easily treated at home.
- The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care
- I didn’t get this one till I was pregnant with my fourth child, but it was a great refresher on pre-conception diet, fertility, pregnancy, birth, and early childhood health, all from an extremely natural perspective.
- Dissolving Illusions
- This book gives a very detailed scientific history of vaccination, FULL to the brim with peer-reviewed published studies. The only way I could enjoy this more is if it had a less creepy cover 😉
- The Untold Story of Milk
- You’re going to want to read this if you are considering drinking raw milk. A full history of milk and pasteurization — from WHY milk began being pasteurized and why it shouldn’t be anymore. Milk is a very alive food, self preserving, and the microbes it contains are life-giving and protective against allergies and help you digest the milk itself.
- The Moth in the Iron Lung: A Biography of Polio
- It's about the bizarre history of the MANY causes of polio and it is FASCINATING! This seriously needs to be made into a movie! I was so riveted (even already knowing many of the details of the history) that I read it in three days.
- The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God's Creation
- Sustainable farmer, Joel Salatin, explains that caring how our food is produced and how farm animals are treated, pleases God. God's patterns in nature must be obeyed for health to follow. He's a REALLY entertaining writer.
- Dirty Genes
- We all have the ability to make our genes function at their best, or less than best. No longer are we bound by the antiquated idea that our genes are our destiny. Epigenetics — changing how genes function based on your environment/lifestyle — is the future of genetics. Dr. Ben Lynch tells about seven of the most common important gene polymorphisms, and explains what you can do to get the best health outcome with your unique genes. It's phenomenal, especially if you've had your genes analyzed and know your SNPs. I have the GST gene polymorphism, which makes it tough for my body to clear environmental toxins like car exhaust or BPA from plastics. His book helped me understand how to minimize those effects! SO GOOD.
- The School Revolution
- Parents have the moral responsibility to control the content and structure of their kids' education. To Ron Paul, this means opting out of the government-owned monopoly of public schooling, and instead making use of the overwhelmingly vast availability of homeschooling materials in existence — many of these resources online!
- Dumbing Us Down
- The author of this was a teacher in NYC public schools for 30 years, and then concluded that compulsory government schooling is quite simply “dumbing us down.” It calls for the complete overhaul of a system that groups everyone with people their same age (unlike anything in the real world), locking them away for most hours of their day, teaching them to think the same way about the same things — not to be individuals with unique ideas.
- Weapons of Mass Instruction
- The same author of “Dumbing Us Down” writes the history of compulsory schooling, and how its creation of a “manageable” population of standardized workers (as opposed to self-taught inventors, creators, adventurers, leaders) has been deliberately designed since before the 1900s.
- Folks, This Ain’t Normal
- This covers a broad spectrum of topics entertainingly, so it's hard to sum up, but I'll tell you what I feel each time I read it: It makes me glad I had kids so I can raise them with a strong work ethic, personal responsibility, an entrepreneurial spirit, and teach them old fashioned skills like raising their own food. Written by the most famous farmer in America, Joel Salatin!
- The Unhurried Homeschooler
- An encouraging little book about trusting the Lord and in the instincts He gave you to educate your children, in your family's own way, at your own pace. I felt like a weight had been lifted when I read this!
- For the Children’s Sake
- If I were to read only one book about educating our young, it would be this one. She encourages us that children are capable of far more than we even envision for them, and that we should allow them to be individuals and use their own minds to learn skills. Instead of talking at them, and handing them “twaddle” (childish-cheesy junk unworthy of their intellect) , we simply provide them with the idea that knowledge is attractive and reading is delightful.
- Passion-Driven Education
- Nurturing a child's natural curiosity and helping them learn and grow through the process discovery and questioning.
- The Hidden Art of Homemaking
- Initially bizarre and tiny, but inside it's a treasure. It's about making home a place of creativity, making ordinary life a meaningful work of art worth savoring.
- The Lifegiving Home
- This book seems to describe a lot of my own childhood home life...without ever having known us! It's about how to create a family culture that breathes refreshing life into all who come near it. Covers everything from soup to holidays to homeschooling to making home even in times of travel.
- Supernatural Childbirth
- When I lost Grace, a stranger sent me this book, which got tossed into a box until the day I was really ready for it. It contains the story of a woman who was told she was barren, and then got pregnant…four times! Then she took her faith to another level, and believed God could give her a painless childbirth… and she got that too! It’s a very strange, kooky book, and certainly not for everyone. But if your faith needs a kick-start in the area of fertility and childbirth, and you’d like lots of scriptures to memorize and recite to increase that faith, then this is for you.
- Dreaming with God
- Though not specifically about motherhood, it applies to it seamlessly. This is one of my top five books of all time! It encourages you in your walk with God to co-create this world WITH Him. God calls us His friends, and as friends we are working to make this world better for His glory. He is always doing a NEW thing, so we get to partner with Him and dream up how this newness will look! All about Godly creativity.
- Mission of Motherhood
- Counter-culture and life-changing, Sally Clarkson talks about the critical and challenging role of mothers spending TIME nurturing the hearts of their kids toward God. I bought it when Lochlan was a toddler, and back then I didn't grasp how good it was, because I hadn't hit the overwhelmed stage of motherhood just yet. Now, I read it over and over again.
How to Make Cold-Brew Coffee
What better kind of break than to sit outside with a book and a homemade iced coffee on a hot day like today?! My recipe is so simple, so yummy, and much cheaper than coffee out! My only problem is pacing myself with it, because it's smooth, sweet, not acidic tasting like hot coffee is, and it is strong!
Start with a whole 12-oz. bag of organic coffee beans. Coffee, when not organic, is heavily sprayed with pesticides, so I prioritize organic. I get Equal Exchange Love Buzz coffee because I think I've tried every other organic coffee I could find and this was the strongest, richest, and just all-around best! I've been drinking this brand for about four years.
Then grind the entire bag of beans to a coarse texture. Too fine will make it way way way too strong. I have a "burr" grinder that I hate (it makes a huge mess all over the counter), so I don't recommend mine!
Then, dump the grounds into a tall 1-gallon size glass mason jar. Or you can split everything and put it into two 1/2-gallon size jars.
Next, measure out 14 cups of purified water, and pour on top of the grounds in the jar. It will be completely full. Since water is a main ingredient, I use our countertop Berkey for perfectly pure water. (See the Berkey behind me in the above photo.) We also have a whole-house filtration system, which takes out a lot of the chlorine, sediment, and other contaminants, before the water is further purified by the Berkey.
Put on a lid and let it sit on the counter to "brew" at room temperature for 18 hours — no more, no less. Then strain through a large French press in batches. Finally, pour into large jars and lid, then refrigerate until cold. Save the grounds to compost for your garden.
To drink, fill a tall glass 1/3 to 1/2 full with the cold-brew coffee, add 1 T organic maple syrup, lots of raw cream, ice, a few drops of organic almond or vanilla extract, and stir. A stainless steel or glass straw is the perfect accessory for this!