Week 28: From raw to rotten

I’d been looking forward to March 21st all year.  Since we started this stricter phase of the diet, in the back of my mind I’d set this as our first finish line–if we could just make three months, cooking and eating gluten-, casein-, and sugar-free and probiotics-rich should have gotten a lot easier.  It should have become routine.  And we should be starting to see results.  Plus, the weather would be getting warmer, I would be finished with my master’s degree, and the college I teach at would be starting its spring break.  Life should be good come end of March, I’d thought.

And it has, I suppose (except for the uncooperative Minnesota weather, where snow is expected again this week).  Cooking dinner has gotten much more routine, and making breakfasts and lunches each morning has become a quicker process.  Logan’s preschool teacher even told me last week that she believes she sees a definite difference in Logan from last year, when he wasn’t on the diet, to this year, when he is on the diet.  “I think you should keep doing it,” she said, almost timidly.  (I had just finished my usual whine about how difficult it is to maintain.)

It’s all been encouraging.  Still, I see Logan oddly waving his hands in the air–stimming–and hear him babbling baby talk and endless lines from movies that come out of nowhere and get disheartened.  We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  But at least, with our first deadline passed, I feel a bit of renewed strength to set a new finish line.

It was good timing, then, to add another element to our diet lifestyle: fermenting vegetables.  Because of their high levels of good bacteria that helps restore gut health, fermented vegetables are supposed to be a main part of this diet, and we have been including them in our suppers every night since even before the new year.  But we’ve just been buying them; eating vegetables that we’ve “made” by essentially letting them rot to grow bacteria, which people normally avoid like, well, the plague, is a bit intimidating.  My husband ranged from concerned to terrified that we’d make ourselves all sick.  Buying jars of it in the store made it seem a little less risky, somehow.  Angelica’s Garden was our favorite brand of fermented red cabbage–we’d tried a few other brands and veggies, too, like kimchee and raw, fermented pickles, but they weren’t as good.  There’s a taste to fermented veggies that’s an acquired one, for sure.  Sharp, sour, sort of spicy.  I still see Logan grimacing every now and then as he takes a bite, but he’s almost always a trooper and cleans his plate.

Even though fermenting is a pretty simple process (as far as cooking is concerned, since there is no cooking involved), it still took all day and spilled over into the next morning.  We bought four heads of cabbage (both green and red), little cucumbers, carrots, onions, jalapenos, dill, and a half dozen jars of spices.  Back at home, we started with the cabbage. And by “we,” of course, I mean my husband.  My role was simply cleaning up the giant mess afterward.

My husband shredded the cabbage and carrots in the food processor, then mixed them together with grated fresh ginger and Himalaya salt in a large stockpot.  (This step sounds easier than it was–the vegetables had to be weighed on a food scale, then the salt crystals had to be ground and weighed, and the correct salt-to-veggie ratio had to be added.  Jason kept muttering things like “450 grams…225…half of 28…so that means…”  I wanted to say it means there’s too much math involved for me to not feel like hyperventilating, not to mention too much ickyness in hand-mixing the slimy stuff,  but I didn’t.)  Then he scooped it into jars, packed it in tight, and sealed the lids.  “I must be forgetting something,” he kept saying.  It was just too simple.

Jason did pickles next, quartering them and packing them into jars with salt, onions, dill, and jalapenos.  He then poured filtered water in and sealed the jars.

Now, the 10 jars simply sit in a cooler, whispering to each other as the gases escape from the ever-so-slightly loosened lids (fermentation creates carbon dioxide — the jars could explode if the pressure builds up in the jar.)  If you lean your head in close, you can hear it, almost like a song.   Tiny bubbles inside the jars whiz to the top as bacteria grows.  This is what some call wild fermentation, done without a starter culture.  When they’re ready in a week or so, it will be interesting to see how they taste–and more importantly, how they affect our health.

Feeling: Curious


Week 27: And it’s all thanks to (The) Who?

My husband wrote this and sent it to me last week, suggesting he be a “guest blogger.”  This is shocking because A) my husband never writes anything, B) I didn’t realize my husband thought any of this, and C) he admits to crying(!).  Because of A-C, I’m happy to post his blog for this week’s chapter.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through our entire music library (65 GB worth of music—about 12,000 songs) on our new, fancy, grown-up stereo.

I’m not an emotional guy by any means, but music tends to take me a bit out of my element (like writing this) and can sometimes tear me up a bit.  But still, I’d never have fathomed my reaction when finally getting down to the W’s in the library while playing The Who’s Tommy.

For those not familiar, Tommy was a rock opera written by The Who.  It’s about a young boy who ended up in a catatonic state after seeing his dad killed.  The parents try a number of doctors and therapies, to no avail.  But he does come out of it, and in the end you could say the mom/son duo was the reason for it, albeit in a rock ‘n roll sort of way…

So I come to my favorite song on the CD, “Go to the Mirror!”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPzY30v9mtg)

I obviously haven’t listened to the song—or concentrated on the lyrics—in many years.  Even with tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t stop listening and rewinding – over and over and over again.

I’d like to think if Logan could express what Laura means to him, and what she means to our family, these lyrics would be a good start:

Listening to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet
Right behind you, I see the millions
On you, I see the glory
From you, I get opinions
From you, I get the story

I know I never express it enough, but I am so grateful to my wife for everything.  We wouldn’t be as far as we are up the mountain without her in the lead, and because of her pushing all the diet changes we’ve gone through, I think we can start to see the peak.

— Jason

Week 26: The price of peace of mind

On Fridays, I take Logan to occupational therapy.  He had a great session today, enjoyed his muffin* on the ride to daycare, and arrived in a happy mood.  As I hung up his coat, I saw him race up to another boy, who was playing trains.

“Hi!” Logan said brightly.  “Can I play with you?”

This easy greeting would have been unthinkable a year or even six months ago for my autistic boy.  Instead, he would have gone to play off by himself or maybe shoved the boy playing with trains.

“Yeah!” said the boy, holding out a black train to Logan.

Logan looked at the offered toy.  “Well, I really wanted the green one,” he explained.

The boy shook his head and squeezed his train tighter.  I took a step toward them, ready to intervene as Logan went into meltdown.  It never mattered what it was–a train, pillow, balloon, cup–Logan always had to have the green one.

But Logan simply took the black train and knelt to the floor to play.

So simple.  But again, this would have been pretty difficult to fathom happening even a few months back, before starting Logan on his GFCFSugarF diet.  Perhaps it’s a sign we are taking the right path.

Interestingly, I’d spent all week looking into getting more physical, concrete signs we are on the right path.  I found a few holistic Defeat Autism Now! (DAN) doctors in the metro area who would run lab tests to look at digestive health.  We could take Logan to one of these doctors, have a few lab tests done, and see if in fact there is evidence of yeast overgrowth in his gut, along with several other things.  For example, the labs might also look for a lack of vitamins and minerals, an excess of fat molecules, high levels of metals, or more.

It would be nice to hear a definitive yes–he does have a yeast overgrowth, and he should continue to live sugar-free.  It’d certainly bring peace of mind.

But–ouch–the price tag of peace of mind.  Most insurance plans–including ours–won’t cover these types of nonconventional doctors, and I estimate the bill for our DAN visit and tests will be right around the $1,000 mark.  Is it worth a grand for peace of mind to hear confirmation that we’re doing what we should?

Would it be worth it if we heard something different?  If there is no yeast overgrowth, and we’ve been stressed and overspending for naught?

Would it be worth it if we learned something additional–that on top of probiotics, there might also be a need for B12 shots?

Feeling: Frugal

* My wonderful mom made us these strawberry muffins, from Sugar Free Kids, with just about no taste whatsoever.  Maybe a slight hint of sand.  But, Logan eats them up. 

Week 25: My turn …

As today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, I’m thinking about what to give up for the next 40 days.  Brief disclaimer: I am not Catholic, but I do believe the act of periodic discipline is an important one recognized by many religions, and since I’d gotten in the habit of abstaining for Lent while growing up, it’s easy to continue.

Many people give up chocolate or sweets for Lent (hence the explosion of chocolate bunnies come Easter), and this year, I will be, too.  Of course, we’ve already given up gluten, casein, and sugar in our house for Logan’s diet, and the biggest question I always get is, “are you doing the diet, too?”

“Sort of,” is my usual reply.  To support Logan, we all eat GFCFSugarF meals at home, but when I eat lunch at work, I’ll grab a prepackaged (translation: sugar!) cup of soup and split a candy bar with a coworker.  Girl Scout cookie season also just ended, and it turned out to be my and my husband’s downfall: we bought and hid boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tag-Alongs in the highest kitchen cupboard, out of reach and out of sight for Logan and Sadie.  Now, after the kids are in bed and I’m cramming cookies in my mouth, I’m feeling guilty for even saying I’ve “sort of” given up sugar.  I just avoid it during the day and overdose at night.  And I feel like crap for it–physically, in addition to mentally.

So here I go.  I am officially (blogging about it makes it official) going 100% sugar-free, just like Logan.

I hope I do as well as my son.

Feeling: Craving sugar already.  12 hours down, 39 1/2 days to go.

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