Week 21: Seriously?!?

Logan skipped into the kitchen, zooming his small Mario toy in the air so it could “fly.” As I dried dishes, I heard him chattering happily behind me.  It’d been a pretty good week so far, and I was only half listening to him.  Since last Friday, each day his typical meltdown-modes would be triggered a few times, like normal, but somehow he’s seemed to only start them–it’s as if he can now pull himself out of a nose-dive before crashing.

Suddenly I became aware he’d fallen silent.

I turned, and there was Logan, holding a piece of broken sugar cookie, its bright red sprinkles twinkling.  He stared at it, paralyzed in the sugary treat’s shine.

Shit, I thought.  I was so sure I’d cleaned up all of Sadie’s snack.

Logan’s voice was low and sounded almost scared.  “Can I eat that?” he asked, his eyes, round and blue, poring into mine.

I spoke carefully.  “Well, it has gluten in it, honey,” I said.

His eyes switched back to the cookie.  Mario dropped to his side.

“I will just put it back,” Logan announced.  And he placed the cookie back on the counter.

Dear lord.  Did he really just decide not to eat a cookie?  With no fits?  No screaming?  No hitting?  Seriously?!?

Also filed in the “seriously?!?” category, this week on Wednesday his preschool teacher reported Logan had actually engaged a new classmate in play rather than playing alone all day, and later, both his speech and OT therapists told me he’d been having markedly improved eye contact.

It’s all either coincidence–or this diet might actually be working.

Feeling: Amazed

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Week 20: Waffling…

Chef Logan

Have we seen any changes?  Not really.

Is cooking gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free getting easier?  Well, kind of.  The constant mountain of dishes on my counter is getting old, though.

Should we keep going?  Ehh…

Another week of getting up three hours early and still not finding enough time to eat breakfast myself come and gone.  At least it’s not so difficult anymore–in fact, I’m finding the time a peaceful, relaxing way to start the day.  And without two kids clinging to your legs, cooking isn’t so bad.  (Of course, the lunches I cook now are almost always leftovers from supper … but it’s still work, right?)  Knowing what I can and can’t make is immensely helpful.

And my husband figured out how to make delicious waffles without wheat, casein, or sugar.  He even found a recipe for syrup that tastes good.  The past two Sundays we’ve made sure to plan ahead by baking waffles for at least two breakfasts during the week and snacks for every day.  We’ve got a good stock of almond flour-coocnut flour cookies in our freezer now, as well as these strawberry “marshmallow” things that are basically plain gelatin with fruit and lakanto.  These pre-made treats have been a lifesaver for doing this diet.

We successfully ate out at another restaurant, too, and managed to stick to the diet.  Logan ate broiled fish with extra sides of vegetables and seemed to accept that he couldn’t eat the bread appetizer or ice cream dessert the other children had.  He’s also downing his probiotics and asking for more.  All signs point to successful implementation of the BEDROK diet.

Yet… Are we seeing any change?  My husband pointed out that improvement was supposed to be displayed fairly quickly, but we are still getting reports of rough days at daycare and still see crabby, whining fits at home.  Would it be much worse if we went off the diet?  It seems like we’ve been here before, contemplating if we should ditch the dairy-free diet because we couldn’t tell much change–and when we did, Logan’s behavior immediately went south.  So maybe the change has been so gradual it’s been hard to really tell.  I suddenly feel scared, like the possibility of living with autism forever is finally hitting me square in the face.  I wonder, nervously and shamefully, if I’ve simply been in denial all along.

Then again, how could we not have tried …

Feeling: I suppose I should feel embarrassed, looking at my husband’s waffles below, but I’m not.  I’m just glad one of us can cook.

Week 19: A bare cupboard

My alarm clock chimed at 5 a.m.  But not for me to get up and run (especially not since it was -50 degrees outside in Minneapolis) but for me to get up and cook.  Cook.  Ugggghhh.

I tried to be optimistic as I slipped on my slippers and robe.  I had an hour to cook Logan breakfast and lunch to send to daycare, leaving me 30 minutes to shower and dress before I had to wake the kids.  Plenty of time.  I found a pancake recipe in my GFCF cookbook, one where I actually had all of the ingredients (buckwheat flour, baking powder, corn oil, salt, vanilla, water.  Well, I actually didn’t have corn oil.  But I had coconut oil.).  I mixed and stirred confidently, until my batter looked like this:

GFCFSugarF Pancake batter

My batter … so far, so good …

Note the pretty picture next to it.  The recipe said “if needed, add water until batter loosens slightly.”  That was odd, I thought, since my batter was super thin and watery–I felt I needed to add more flour so the pancakes would actually be thicker than the paper the recipe was printed on.  Anyway, I’ll skip over the long, whiny story.  Here’s what they ended up looking like:

Not enough swear words in the world for these …

Nothing like the pretty picture above.  I couldn’t possibly feed these to Logan, and now it was 6:15 a.m.  I still hadn’t showered.  I had thrown together a lunch for him, though, of leftover GFCF chicken strips my husband had made for dinner the night before, and packed three small containers of vegetables: cabbage, green beans, and squash.  He’s been doing a pretty good job of eating all his veggies at home for dinner–though I suspect not so much at daycare.  And luckily, I can get ready in under 15 minutes (refusing to wear make-up or do anything beyond brushing my hair really comes in handy some days).  I’ll simply tell daycare to cook him some of the gluten-free oatmeal I had given them as back-up, I decided.  If pancakes like the ones above don’t justify a back-up, nothing does.

This scenario repeated pretty much all five days last week, though one day I successfully made scrambled eggs to send.

Out other food adventure this week was eating out for the first time since beginning our diet journey.  We went to Buffalo Wild Wings, which Logan had always referred to as “the mac and cheese restaurant,” since that’s what he ordered the first time we were there…and, therefore, the only thing he orders every time.

“They don’t have that anymore,” we told Logan as we pulled into the parking lot.  “You’ll have to order chicken.”

I’ll spare you a video clip of the meltdown that followed that.  But, amazingly, after about 10 minutes he calmed down and agreed to order and eat chicken.  And we ended up having actually a great meal, and because his chicken strips were “naked,” with no breading, the it was also acceptable for the diet.

So dinners so far have been a win, lunches have been about even, and breakfasts utter failures.  But we’ve only been on this strict phase of the diet for about two weeks, and just the last week while I am back to work full time.  It’ll either get easier as we get into routine, or it’ll get harder as I lack more and more sleep.

And is it working?  Is it worth it?  So far, it’s hard to tell.  Logan had an awful week, with minimal focus and maximum aggression.  But a number of things were working against him.  It was his first week back to daycare after two weeks’ vacation.  He was still getting over strep and an ear infection, and he had picked up a cold.  He’d been taking antibiotics, which likely killed off all the good bacteria we’d been building up in his gut.  And, to make matters worse, he also turned out to be allergic to the medication, so his skin is covered in a red, blotchy rash.  He looks awful, and I imagine he must be feeling pretty poor inside, too.  I hope that as the rash fades away, after he’s back to healthy, and after he’s back in the routine of daycare and preschool, we’ll be able to assess if his behavior is more social, empathetic, and regulated–and if the diet is a likely cause of those changes.

And as Logan’s adjusting, I hope we adjust, too.  I hope I get better at cooking and it becomes a more natural part of the day.  And I hope we can find more items and recipes he can eat.  With not-OK foods on top and OK foods on bottom, our pantry now looks pretty bare.

Feeling: A bit like Old Mother Hubbard

Week 18: Back to square one

How I loved being home for two weeks.  Man, the amount of things I accomplished in one day all to myself, with the kids at daycare!  This diet would be starting to be no problem if I were permanently a stay-at-home-mom rather than a teacher.  And how unfair, it seems like of all the moms I know who do this diet or another diet, or those who strike me as the “healthy” moms–none of them work outside the home.

More proof that you have to be rich to be able to afford to be healthy, I suppose.

Anyway, as I got ready to head back to work this week, reality sank in again, and my panic-attack-inducing stress returned.  Sunday night as I rocked Sadie to sleep, I found myself checking off my mental to-do list before I could fall asleep myself: Read Logan his books and put him to bed.  Clean the kitchen.  Make a breakfast for him to take in the morning.  Make him a lunch to take.  Gather snacks for him to take for the week, type up an official diet list for his daycare, check to make sure we have a quart of unsweetened coconut milk to send with him to daycare, and make him a Nalgene bottle full of his special lemonade.  And, because it’s his birthday, fill little party favor bags for him to give to his friends tomorrow instead of the typical junk-food birthday treats.  Oh, also and, because tomorrow is “hot chocolate” day at daycare, make a no-dairy, no-sugar substitute to send.

Then maybe find my laptop, phone, bus pass, and anything else I’ll need to bring for myself so the morning goes smoothly.  I tried not to grunt too loudly from lower back pain as I stood up from the glider and then leaned over to lay Sadie in her crib without waking her.  Looks like we’re back to the days of staying up so late I won’t be able to walk the dog or exercise in the morning.  Or even shower.

And on top of the return of stress, we had other bad news this week, too.  Logan’s diaper rash wasn’t a reaction to any of the new foods he’s been eating (which is actually awesome news) but rather perianal strep.  Like, strep throat of the butt–who knew that was even a thing?  The bad part about this, though, is it needs to be treated with antibiotics, which will negate everything we’ve done to build up good bacteria in his gut for the past month.  It will likely mean regression of the good behavior we’ve seen recently (behavior like last night, as I put the fish, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, and cabbage on the table, Logan exclaimed, “Mommy!  Don’t forget the kale!”).  Essentially, we’ll be starting over at Square One again.

Sigh.  Well, bring it on, I guess.

Feeling: Weary.  And the new semester hasn’t even started.

Week 17: Even more baking …

They look like hamburgers, but they taste like … well, they don’t really taste like much.

This is now officially the most baking I’ve ever done in my life.  With these new, crazy ingredients to take the place of dairy, wheat, and sugar, we’ve now made quinoa cookies, Christmas (non)sugar cookies, and fake German chocolate cake.  On top of that, I’m cautiously hopeful the diet is working.  My evidence?  Today I banged my shin into the dishwasher door, which was down, and howled in pain.  Logan slid off his chair where he’d been eating lunch, and walked over to me.

“Mommy, what did you step on?” he asked, studying the floor.

“Nothing, honey,” I said, and explained what had happened with the dishwasher.

“Hmm,” he said.  “I will just put it up.  Then it won’t hurt you anymore.”  And with that he rolled the bottom rack in and pushed the door to its upright position.

Now, perhaps he’s simply learning empathy the older he gets.  This is probably a pretty normal reaction for a 4-year-old.  But it’s been a pretty uncommon for Logan to display concern for others, as it is with most children with autism.  It’s probably still too early to know for sure, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that as we continue to eliminate sugar and increase good gut bacteria, social behaviors like this continue.

And the verdict on all this baking?  I can’t say I love it all, but Logan and Sadie at least do!  The fake German chocolate cake was especially yummy.  Jason modified a recipe I found here, and bit by bit, we just might be figuring this GFCFSugarF thing out.

Feeling: Hopeful

Happy 4th birthday, Logan!

Happy 4th birthday, Logan!

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