Ashley and Hazel: an inspiring story

I have a lifelong fascination with stories of people who are in the darkest hour of their lives and find a way out. I’m endlessly inspired, awed, and humbled when people prove who they are, in their extremities, and I’m privileged to be witness to it.

Ashley came to my class in Sandy, Utah last week, and patiently waited for over an hour afterwards to tell me the amazing story of her adorable two-year old.

Hazel was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive in her first year of life, along with several auto-immune problem (asthma, eczema, allergies). She’s now healthy, normal weight, and thriving.

I am so impressed by parents who take the road less traveled because they question status quo or authority, do their own research, and listen to their intuition. Check out Ashley’s incredible story HERE, on video, and feel free to encourage Ashley and other moms who are up all night with their children’s desperate health problems–searching, questioning, hoping.

I won’t die on most hills: thoughts on parenting

I had five 10-y.o. baseball players in the car last week, with this conversation:

Me:  Hey Tennyson, get your stuff off my expensive tennis racket!

Baseball Player #2:  Cool, you play tennis?

Me:  Yeah. I have a 10 and 1 record so far this year. I lost one because my doubles partner barely had a pulse that day.

Baseball Player #3:  How does it work? Do you have the same partner all the time?

Me:  No, we have a team captain and she makes the assignments.

Tennyson:  Why don’t you just be the captain?

Me:  Because. I’m the only single mom on the team and the only working mom. I don’t have time.

BP #2:  Where do you work?

Me:  At home. I work for myself.

Ten:    She’s the GreenSmoothieGirl! Duh! I’ve told you guys that! Mom, I’m your living, walking advertisement.

BP #3:  Are they good? Or gross?

Ten:  It depends. They’re good if you first put chocolate powder in it. And then vanilla powder.

[I try not to laugh out loud. WHAT IS VANILLA POWDER?]

Because I’ve got a few things that are really important to me, I try to be chill wherever I can, to earn the right to be an occasional stickler.

Last night, we went down 140 North in Lindon. Since I served a three-year term on the Planning Commission, I happen to know that, at a 10% grade, it’s the steepest road in our city. So for a decade, I have played a game that some of my kids like better than others. (My 17-y.o. son may or may not be scarred for life due to this game.)

As we start down it, picking up speed, I pretend I’ve completely lost control of the car. “OMG OMG, THE BRAKES WENT OUT!” I scream like I’m in a horror flick and mock-cover my head and lean to the right as if trying to avoid the inevitable crash. I flail my arms and fake-cry. The car crosses the median line, veering off-course. (It sounds dangerous. It’s really not; I’m in full control.)

After we did that on the way to Baseball Player #5’s house, we decided to do it all again, only they were in on the joke. They would all scream their heads off, too, as the car looked to be careening out of control.

I trained my rearview mirror on Baseball Player #5.

So much fun!   After the joke was up, a whole carload of us laughing hysterically–poor little Dallin was a good sport. Weakly, he claimed: “Heh…heh…I wasn’t scared.”

I try to be the fun mom, not uptight about stuff that doesn’t matter. Good parties, chats with my kids’ friends, always up for a trip to Jump On It or the movies.

You’ve heard psychologists say that as kids get older, you get to control fewer and fewer things. So I choose not to die on most hills.

Sometimes I let go of things that are actually heartbreaking for me. Right after my divorce, I was overwhelmed and let all 4 kids quit piano. A year later, 3 of them begged me for lessons and have practiced on their own ever since. I just told my oldest son that he doesn’t have to go to mid-week church activities. He’s old enough to make the choice himself.

Carefully evaluating which things I want to go to the mat for, I can hold my standards firm on the Big 3 that I care about. One, decent grades. Two, do what you say you’ll do and be responsible (everyone has work to do, and we do it well). And three, we eat right. I’m firm on those three and not much else.

Mother’s Day Blueberry Dessert

The more you eat raw food, the simpler it becomes. When I’m by myself, what I eat at home tends to be bare-bones, if I’m not in restaurants with friends. But when I have a Sunday dinner for my family, or a special occasion, I make it fancier. I’m not always the greatest at planning ahead, so sometimes I open the fridge and make something up, based on one ingredient I’d like to use.

Yesterday my two youngest kids made a lovely Mother’s Day dinner. I had a quick brainstorm about how to make the two pints of blueberries (currently in season) in the fridge into a dessert.

I put some young Thai coconut meat (1/2 cup?) and coconut liquid (1/2 cup?) into my BlendTec, with a little lemon juice (1 Tbsp?) and agave (2 Tbsp?), plus some cashews (1/3 cup?) and 6 frozen strawberries. I whizzed it up into a cream sauce and served it with ½ cup blueberries in each of five crystal glasses as a parfait. Yum, everyone gobbled it up.

(I put question marks after the measurements because I didn’t measure, so these are guesses–don’t hold me to them!)

Food Schizophrenia: Living in the “Real World”

I don’t live alone eating fabulous little organic snacks, with my re-useable eco-friendly grocery bag, from a health food store, wearing all-hemp clothing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

I drive carpool in my SUV, and wore an Abercrombie t-shirt today, and forgot my re-useable bags so I stuffed groceries, unbagged, in my purse. And then, today, I worked the Snack Shack at my son’s baseball game. Serving hot dogs. Every varsity parent has to do a turn.

I really did that.

I stood at the end of the table covered with candy and stuff, fetching people Gatorade and hot chocolate and candy bars, signing a box of Green Smoothies Diet books in between customers, all while trying to see the baseball game. (Moms. We’re multi-taskers. We learn to live in snippets. You never really get to focus on anything.)

If you don’t think I took some heat for schlepping hot dogs, from the parents who were there who know me well, think again.

Jeff said, as he walked past, “People will wonder why the snack shack didn’t make any money today!”

Not true. The snack shack made a killing. I kept my thoughts of “Would you like Blue Dye Number 1 for Attention Deficit Disorder, or Red #40 for anaphylactic shock?” to myself. Instead I said, “Blue Gatorade or Purple?” I might think the thought, “Only a dollar for carcinogenic nitrites in a bun!” but what came out of my mouth was, “Would you like catsup and mustard on that?”

Someone said, “Are the hot dogs really really good?” I confess to saying, “I really don’t know. I haven’t had one since 1987.” (A mental censor stopped this thought from coming out of my mouth: “You mean ground chicken beaks and feathers?”)

Jeff also called me five minutes after he left and said, “You need to take a photo of you working in the snack shack. And send it to me.” So I did. Here it is for your enjoyment.

Right before I’d left for the game, I got a group email from my son’s church leader about the activity this week. He said, “It’s at 6 a.m., but don’t worry, because afterwards, we’ll feed the kids donuts and drop them off at school.” (He’s a DENTIST.)

I kept my mouth shut at the baseball game. But I confess that, to the church leader, I wrote an email saying that the activity requires that I have to choose between his physical health and his spiritual health. (I haven’t made up my mind whether to send him or not, but really? Donuts? If I ate a donut for breakfast, I’d feel sick for hours. Lard, white flour, sugar—that’s all it is.)

A father at the game asked what I was doing, signing books. His son, Scooter, is rather worshipped at Timp High School, and his older son Rhett led the baseball team a few years ago to a state championship. He thought my signing nutrition books while manning the candy table was a riot. He showed me his bag of caramel rice cakes and asked me if they qualified to clear my high bar.

I told him, “If you look at this table, I bet you can’t guess what my pick for WORST snack is.”

Here, I’ll tell you the options and you can guess. Laffy Taffy, Snickers, Hershey’s Chocolate, 3 Musketeers, Red Vines, Roasted Peanuts, Salted Nut Bar, Spitz Sunflower Seeds, Fruit Snacks.

He said, “Well, it’s not the peanuts.”


He guessed Laffy Taffy. Nope. (It’s awful, of course, but there’s even worse.)

It’s the Spitz Sunflower Seeds (Dill or Barbecue flavor). They’re full of MSG, a deadly neurotoxin. I’d take sugar, over that substance, any day.

My second-worst may also be a surprise to you. It’s fruit snacks. First ingredient, high fructose corn syrup. The very worst refined sweetener there is. (This is actually a ridiculous contest because all of those candies have corn syrup, Laffy Taffy has those awful food dyes….it’s a contest between terrible and awful.)

Are you fixing the plumbing in your cottage? or building a mansion? part 1 of 2

My high-school junior son’s photo is on the front page of Sports, rubbing the snow of the baseball before he pitches it on Tuesday. Brrr! And then the next day, I’m skiing in a t-shirt at Sundance. Gotta love Spring in Utah!

I was in warmer St. George last week with a lot of downtime, watching my younger son play baseball.

(Tips for traveling there? Café Rio, this is what I always order. Vegetarian salad, all beans/no rice, no fried tortillas chip-strips, whole-wheat tortilla, extra romaine. And Dixie Nutrition’s frozen yogurt with no sugar, one flavor has just stevia, $0.99 for a small.)

Some GSG readers were in the baseball stands in St. George. They talked to me through my son’s last two games–except the times I’d leap out of the stands as my son (shameless bragging alert):

–bottom of the last inning with two outs, score tied, got trapped in a pickle between 3rd and home but beat it (that’s where the catcher and 3rd baseman have the runner in between them trying to get back to either base), and then:

–slid face-first into home plate, beating the tag with a “SAFE!” call from the ump only after the dust cleared, with the other team’s coaches and parents screaming, “OUT!” — to score the winning run, 11-10.

One of the GSG readers is in her 70’s and pointed sadly at her adult son, who had just shown up, Coke in hand. She said, wistfully, “I wish I had an influence on that. I just don’t.” She’s already lost one of her 9 children to colon cancer.

Young moms, you have all the power in the world. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Your children are all yours, right now. They won’t be forever. Eventually the larger culture starts to own them. So walk the talk now–they will respect you for it always, even if they have occasional tantrums.

So with more free time than usual, I had some long convos with friends I’ve been neglecting and needed to catch up with. My friend Jennie, as I was driving home for 4 hours, reminded me in a long philosophical chat, about this quote I’d forgotten about, from C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Jennie and I had been talking about two subjects, switching back and forth. One was religion, and the other was nutrition. Comparing C.S. Lewis’ comment to religion, she said this to me:

“Robyn, you take for granted all your knowledge about nutrition. You sent me to Dr. Rodier, and I did this cleanse, and I had no idea what to eat, for so long. I still don’t. I obsessively read labels. You might roll your eyes, but that’s because two months ago I was that girl you blogged about once who asked if fresh fruit is as good for you as canned fruit. The one who thinks there has to be Jell-O at every meal, because that’s what my mom did.

“I’m still celebrating that I ate whole-corn tortilla chips with my lunch, because it’s better than the Doritos I ate before. And that won’t make any sense to you. But you have to know where I’ve come from to celebrate where I am.”

I’ve been thinking of Jennie’s words for days. She’s so right. I have become aware over and over, recently, that many of us start from a very low point, knowledge-wise, regarding nutrition.

More tomorrow….

Introducing the Cornia Family: GreenSmoothieGirl Makeover [part 4 of 4]

Our third selection is the video that moved me to tears as I watched it. You know how I feel about young moms. You knew I’d pick a young mom. This was our most difficult choice–but BlendTec and I were unanimous with each of the three picks.

Samantha Cornia is only 25 years old and has four children. Everyone in her home struggles with MRSA infections–staph that is immune to antibiotics. That’s because they’re constantly on antibiotics and other prescriptions, like steroids.

You’ll hear more of her story as we release segments of their journey, on YouTube and here. Her 3rd child was born with all her organs outside her body. When my baby was very ill, a woman named Ginger Ford whose son had the same syndrome, spent a year pumping breast milk while her baby was in the NICU having many surgeries to get his organs put inside his body. She gave all of that breast milk to me. (I was under a lot of stress and was very underweight, 115 lbs. at over 5’8″. My own milk disappeared and my baby refused most foods and was allergic to the rest, like Samantha’s baby.) Largely thanks to her, my baby recovered and thrived. I told Ginger that if I could ever do anything for her–anything at all–I want that opportunity, because she helped save my baby’s life in a very intimate way.

As I watched Samantha’s video, I wrote in my notes, “She reminds me of me. When I was her age.” Very ill. So tired of drugging my babies and watching them struggle. Desperate for something else, something better than drugs and fatigue.

What a crucible for powerful change that awful place in my life turned out to be. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we climb out.

Samantha’s youngest is 14 mo. old and has massive food allergies and won’t eat. He’s on lots of steroids and recently had an upper GI and colonoscopy–his esophagus is swollen and raw and he cries constantly. He falls asleep at night clutching his throat. He is a heartbreakingly gorgeous little boy, and you will fall in love with him on film.

I am ecstatic to work with the Cornia family of Lehi, Utah. They are big soda drinkers, and until attending my Junk Food Dude book reading last weekend, they’d never had a green smoothie.

They don’t generally eat whole foods. Samantha’s parents struggle with obesity, and she was raised on what she calls “Mormon Mom casseroles.” When a friend suggested a few years ago that she visit, she said, “Green Smoothie Gross!”

Now Samantha finds herself in a very different place in her life. Devastating health problems have humbled her, and she finds her mind and heart open to change.

(Make a mental note of that. Those who mock you now, for taking a whole-foods path, may be on your porch begging for mentoring a few years from now. When they’re ready, they know where to go.)

Please stay tuned for more from the Cornias, and watch their sweet video here.