Week 15: Let the baking begin

For someone who’s never really cooked, December was a veritable cooking and baking storm.  Early in the month, the kids and I visited my mom’s house, and the first casein-free, gluten-free, sugar-free foods we tried to make were pancakes.

Who needs measuring spoons?

Who needs measuring spoons?

Let me start by saying there is a reason I am such an awful cook*.  My mom and I had a few options.  She had found a packaged pancake mixture that said it was gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free, but its directions also called for you to add milk and sugar yourself.  I also had a recipe from Elena’s Pantry, which was gluten- and dairy-free, but not sugar-free, and I had a recipe from a blog called Tula’s Story that follows the same restrictions.  The only problem with that was it called for a few ingredients we didn’t have.

But, we figured, why let that stop us.  Ingredients are more like suggestions than requirements, right?

We needed:

  • ½ cup organic pureed pumpkin (Check—except the can my mom had in her pantry listed 4 grams of sugar, which is natural sugar and pretty low, so we made an exception)
  • ½ cup organic peanut butter (Check, though my mom grimaced when she took a bite of it—it needs sugar, she said.)
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax (Hmm…I’m not sure what this is, nor do we have it.  Oh, well.)
  • 6 eggs (Amazingly, check!)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (Check!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (Check.  Wait, no—baking powder is different from baking soda, we realized.  We only have baking soda.)

We tried searching online for substitutes for baking powder and found we could use a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar instead, but of course, we didn’t have that, either.  So we shrugged, sprinkled in a small amount of baking soda, and called it good enough.

Everything blended nicely, and Logan and Sadie had fun helping us mix.  Then we ladled our batter onto the griddle, and crossed our fingers.

And who would have guessed—they turned out just fine.  Well, we’ll say just OK.  Mom didn’t like them, but I suspect she was wanting them to taste like pancakes should taste and be light and fluffy like pancakes are supposed to be.  They weren’t very light, and they didn’t taste like pancakes, butter, and maple syrup.  They tasted like peanut butter, mostly.  But Logan and Sadie ate them and didn’t even ask for syrup (which I had—sugar-free!)  All in all, it was a pretty good start to a holiday baking season.

Feeling: Light-hearted

*Love you, Mom!

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Week 14: New year, new look, new name

It’s almost the new year, so I felt it was a good time for a new look and a new name for my blog, which used to be called Reluctantly Dairy Free.  That was appropriate for when my family was attempting a casein-free and somewhat gluten-free diet to help our son through autism, but now we’re going even further.  We’re still reluctant, but in addition to dairy-free and gluten-free, we’re also sugar-in all forms-free.  So, Happy New Year, and welcome to The Diet Diaries.

Feeling: Resolved

Week 13: Adventures suck

A friend of ours quoted Rush drummer Neil Peart this weekend: “Adventures suck when you’re having them.”  I whole-heartedly agree.

I didn’t post last week mainly because I didn’t have anything to say.  I haven’t really increased Logan’s probiotics levels, yet he still has had a couple of really rough days.  Almost every morning has been either simply a struggle to get him moving or a complete meltdown, and almost every day we hear reports that he has been aggressive at school–even hitting two different teachers last week.  There doesn’t seem to be any cause for this, and it also doesn’t appear to be a regression, exactly.  Aside from these meltdowns, his behavior has been pretty typical for him–not bad like when we introduced the probiotics, but I also can’t say we’re seeing any improvements, either.

It all adds up to be hugely disheartening.  And confusing.  On one hand, I know we are still easing into the diet and aren’t completely sugar-free, so I don’t think I can write off the diet just yet.  On the other hand, I keep running into skeptics–most notably, our new pediatrician who told me there was no evidence diet helps autism.  I understand most physicians are trained to rely more on pills than nature, but I’d hoped this one would be different because he has a son with Asperger’s.  I also keep reading conflicting opinions on autism support pages with people claiming the bad science of GFCF has got to go, that it’s doing more harm than good because it robs children of nutrients, and that parents who buy into these alternative treatments are all delusional.  It’s hard to know what to feel–gullible?  Or progressive?  Add in the fact that I’ve also heard that to have any effect, this diet needs to heal the gut before the mind completely forms or “the cement dries,” so to speak, which seems to happen around 4 or 5.  Logan turns 4 in two weeks.  Are we too late?  Have we missed our chance at helping him (if it even existed in the first place)?

Granted, adopting a dairy-free, starch-free, and sugar-free diet is probably healthy even if it doesn’t cure autism.  One of the foundations of this diet is that 80% of each meal should be vegetables, which is obviously a good thing–for me, my daughter, my husband, and Logan.  And it is seeming easier and easier, in theory, at least–actually finding the time to get organized to do it is another story.  I tried to tackle the natural food store again, deciding that going on Monday would be less hectic than Sunday, and I could wander around and explore or ask questions.  Instead, the place was so packed, you could barely squeeze through the small aisles, and the lines for the few cash registers stretched halfway to the back of the small store.  I left without half of the items I’d gone to hunt for.  We also tried ordering some lakanto (an acceptable substitute for sugar) online, only to find out it’s on back order with not exact estimated arrival date.  I know I detest cooking, but at this point, it’s not even a lack of cooking knowledge that’s preventing us from following the diet–it’s simply finding the ingredients!

I could go on and on–more stress at work, stress from school, stress in the marriage, stress from cold season and a toddler who’s molars are coming in … it’s definitely easier to bitch that adventures suck than it is to proclaim that this is the most wonderful time of year.  But I’m trying.  And I hope, like all adventures, this makes for a good story one day.

Feeling: Disheartened

Week 12: Reasons to be thankful

As the hectic Thanksgiving week wraps up, I feel thankful for many things.  Of course, the big family with cousins and dogs we had fill our house on Thursday, our lovely house itself, and getting to see my brother if only for a short time.

I’m also thankful we picked last week, a short one, to begin packing Logan lunches.  Hard-boiled eggs, carrots, broccoli, vegan cheese, chocolate “pudding” … daycare reports that Logan is doing a good job understanding he is on a special diet and not complaining about wanting what the other kids have though he’s not eating a ton of his food, either.  We haven’t started sending breakfasts or snacks yet; we’re still easing into effort of putting lunch together every night.  It means he is still getting some sugar, unfortunately.  We’ve thought about getting around the hassle of sending breakfast by keeping Logan at home an extra 45 minutes, feeding him breakfast at home, and then taking him to daycare just in time to catch his bus to preschool.  That would mean he would qualify for only half-day tuition rather than full-day tuition.  But, incredibly, going half-day for Logan would actually cost us $3 more per day because A) it’s only a $60 savings anyway and B) dropping him off an hour late would mean I miss the last bus and would have to drive—and park—downtown.  And the headaches we’d save by feeding him at home would be cancelled out by the headaches caused by battling traffic.

I’m very thankful for my husband and his ability to cook despite his inability to ever tone things down.  Our Thanksgiving meal was a strictly traditional feast with all the bad stuff: stuffing, mashed potatoes (laced with cheese), green bean casserole, buns.  I—and his sister—had tried to convince him to cook more simply this year, but Jason has this crazy need to exceed.  It’s exasperating but also endearing; I know he wanted to please everyone rather than have everyone conform to Logan’s diet.  Luckily, Logan has no interest in side dishes and only ate turkey and some raw broccoli and carrots.  I think the commotion of a dozen people he doesn’t see too often all around the table also motivated him to leave quickly, before he could notice the three pies on the counter.

Our meal at my mom’s house two days later was healthier and more suited for Logan’s diet, which is yet another reason why I am always so thankful for my mother.  She works so hard to help out with our diet attempts, buying two big grocery bags full of things she found at Trader Joe’s that were GFCF and some sugar-free, too.

But thinking about that, I remember I am not thankful for seaweed snacks.  I just about gagged and crashed driving down the highway as I popped one in my mouth.  The kids may have liked them; I did see them take a few nibbles, at least.  But mostly they just loved crumbling the papery sheets into confetti and tossing them all over the minivan.

Most of all, though, I am thankful for the progress Logan seems to be making as we work to decrease his sugar intake.  True, he still has many struggles, and I fought tears on Thanksgiving while watching him try (and mostly fail) to play with his cousins.

“Logan’s kicking us!” they complained during their rough-house game of football in our backyard.

How do I explain to a 7-year-old, whose social functioning skills are perfectly intact, that some people cannot understand the subtle difference why it is OK to run full-speed into another person’s body, wrap your arms around his waist and throw him to the frozen ground but not OK to kick his legs?  Why it is OK to steal the ball from another kid and run away with it and yell, “touchdown!” but it is not OK to steal the ball when the “play” is over and run in the wrong direction?  More importantly, how do I explain those subtle differences to Logan?  No wonder he often tries to retreat to his video games, where the rules are clear-cut and consistent.

But I think Logan has been happier and more compliant the past week or two, and I try to remember that.  Friday he helped me put ornaments on our Christmas tree, and the whole day was about one of my favorite days ever.  Now because he’s leveled off a bit, I’ll be increasing his probiotics this week, and Jason will begin to bake with lakanto and attempt to ferment vegetables.  It’s likely Logan might regress a bit because of these things, and I’ll try to remember the reasons why again we’re attempting all of this.

Feeling: Thankful

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