Week 41: Brownies and ball games

“Why was Joe out?”

This is probably the 12th time I’ve heard this question, and it’s only the fourth inning; I’ll hear it several times over the next few days, too, over and over: Why was Joe out?  Why was Joe out?

“Logan, you tell me,” I say.

“Joe was out because the fielder threw the ball to first base before Joe could run there,” he promptly recites.  Just like he did the last time.  And the other last time.  And the other.

Echolalia is a trait of kids with autism to quote a sentence they’ve heard somewhere; it can be random or appropriate, and it can be repeated a single time or multiple times.  Logan used to only speak in echolalia – he went from practically silent until age 2 ½ to suddenly speaking in these full, elaborate sentences (“Let’s go downstairs and get a vitamin and some milk before breakfast!”) that initially I was thrilled about.  After all, he suddenly could talk, and hearing my son’s voice finally was both a thing of beauty and relief; I thought I no longer had to worry about his communication.

Why was Joe out?  A full sentence, all on his own.

However, my husband and I soon realized that these extraordinary statements that were flowing from him weren’t actually expressive communication—much like a parrot can be taught to mimic sounds it hears, Logan was merely echoing long chains of sounds.  When he would say, “Ahh…what a day!” he wasn’t necessarily meaning the day was particularly hard or lovely—he was just quoting the Tramp from his favorite movie, Lady and the Tramp (which we had to watch every Friday night for about nine months when he was 3).  I’ve read that for kids with autism, saying these familiar sounds feels good, like scratching an annoying itch.

Logan’s echolalia has turned context-appropriate; now, at age 4, his new favorite movie is Frozen, and when I’m driving he’ll quote the character Kristof: “Come on, Mommy, faster!”  (In the movie, Kristoff is riding his reindeer and says, “Come on, buddy, faster!”)  Because of this, it’s also now somewhat functional.

Why was Joe out?  A good question, one he needed to know watching his first baseball game.

But it’s hard to know the difference.  Sometimes he’ll say sorrowfully, “I wish I could see my father again.  I miss him so much” (Beauty and the Beast), when Jason is at work.  He could be missing his dad, but I don’t know that we’ve ever used the word “father” instead of dad, and the tone of voice Logan uses would indicate he hasn’t seen Jason in months, not hours.  He’s recreating not only the words from the sentence but also the pace, the volume, and the pitch.

Why was Joe out?  His own question, but asked with the same vocal tone and rhythm—everything exactly the same.  Over and over.

As his meltdowns have drastically decreased, about five months into our zero-sugar, heavy-probiotics diet, we’ve been celebrating.  I just noticed this morning that I haven’t said, “Have a great day, sweetie.  And remember—no pushing!  No aggressive acts!” to Logan as I drop him off at daycare for months.  He’s had happy day after happy day for weeks.

But the echolalia persists; at times I wonder if it’s even increasing.  His subtle hand-flapping, too, doesn’t seem to be disappearing, either.  Of course, these are definitely tolerable compared to the daily reports of pushing other kids at school and multiple screaming fits every day.  We’ll take it as a win.  But still—they’ll make life harder for him down the road, and that worries me.

So when he repeats, for the umpteenth time, why Joe was taken out, sometimes it’s all I can do to keep from screaming.  It’s hard not to scrunch my face up and ignore the question.  Sometimes it’s hard not to cry.  And it’s always impossible not to repeat to myself for the umpteenth time:

“Why was Logan singled out?”

A special treat: a ballpark hot dog!

Jason’s GFCFSugarFree Brownies:

Blend together and bake

  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 3/4 cup cocao powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons  flax seed
  • 3/4 cup LUV sweetener
  • 10-12 drops liquid stevia
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • Quinoa and coconut milk til wet
  • 1/4 cup HOT water (to keep coconut oil liquefied)

Feeling: Frustrated

Week 40: Snack attack!

Is it just me, or do kids eat all the dang time?  One of the more frustrating aspects of doing this diet has been that basically, it’s not too impossible as long as you cook everything yourself — anything prepackaged usually has sugar.  For me that’s not so much a problem, as I usually only eat once or twice a day anyway, but for Logan, this is a big problem.  He has snack time twice a day at daycare, once a day at therapy, and once a day at preschool.  Even his social skills group–that met for ONE hour–included snack time!  Can kids really not go an hour without having a snack?

In any case, I am slowly learning a few products and brands I can safely and easily send (translation: that don’t require refrigeration) with Logan and still stick to the diet.

Popcorn

Angie's Popcorn

This is probably Logan’s favorite–he loved popcorn before going on the diet, and now he can have it again because Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop is non-GMO with no butter (or sugar) added.  Perfect for daycare snack time and movie time at home!

Snapea Crisps

lightlysalted

Then there’s the standby, the one we should probably buy by the ton because we go through them so quickly.  In fact, I once bought 10 bags of Snapeas at the Whole Foods near my office when the co-op near our house ran out.  They thought I was just a little crazy.

Luv ice cream and chocolates

Luv

Thank god we can still have ice cream.  Luv brand is the best, with no dairy or sugar (or gluten or any of the other dozen things that are no-nos).  Of course, the only problem with this snack is I can’t send it to daycare, preschool, therapy, or the dozen other places kids need to bring snacks these days.  But Luv also sells GFCFSugarFree chocolate bars and candies, too, which I’d be addicted to myself if they weren’t so damn expensive.

Seeds and (some) nuts

pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds (and sunflower seeds) are also good snack options for us.  Logan likes them because they’re similar to the cashews he used to love but can no longer have on this diet.  He also likes almonds as a snack (which are acceptable on the diet), but the seeds are better because we’re not allowed to send any form of nuts to school — too many possible nut allergies in other children.

Sea crackers

sea crackersI’m still working on these sea crackers — I like the Garden Herb version, and Sadie does, too, interestingly.  But Logan hasn’t caught on to them yet, which is too bad because they have nothing but flax seed, kombu, and herbs — no sugar or gluten!

Kale chips

Kale Chips

I tried making these once, and no one ate them.  Then I bought some, and my kids gobbled them up (we’ve tried both Rhythm Superfoods and Brad’s Raw Foods).  Now that Logan and Sadie know kale is OK to eat–somebody somewhere has put it in a cool-looking package, which must mean it’s a treat, right?–maybe I should try making it again.  It’d shave a few cents off our out-of-control food budget, at least.

Of course, we try to make some of our own snacks, too, like cookies for desserts sometimes, and frozen lemonade pops.  But being such a mobile family, and in particular, having a mobile son like Logan who attends three different “schools” throughout the week, it really helps to be able to throw something in his backpack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

If anyone has any other brands or ideas that they use or easy on-the-go snacks, please let me know!

Feeling: Organized

P.S.  Happy Mother’s Day to all the strong mamas out there!

Week 39: The apple cider experiment

Braggs

Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar Limeade

Since January we’ve been mostly adhering to the diet principles of the Body Ecology Diet.  We’ve cut out all gluten, dairy, soy, sugar (including fruit), and artificial colors and dyes, and we’ve added probiotics through coconut keifer and fermented vegetables.  We’ve also added vitamin supplements and omega-3 supplements to Logan’s diet.  All of this is to target excessive yeast in the gut contributing to autistic behaviors.

Another dietary change I’ve finally worked up to including is apple cider vinegar.  The Body Ecology diet recommends drinking at least 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with water each day–but good god, does it taste awful.  It’s like sour and sadness swimming in a jar, and the smell reminds me of being a young kid visiting my 100-year-old great-grandmother’s lonely apartment.

Yet the health benefits seem pretty amazing.  Arthritis, cholesterol, blood pressure, psoriasis, ear infections, digestive problems, and, of course, yeast–all appear to be helped by drinking ACV.  So I finally bought a bottle of Bragg’s Apple Cider Limeade, thinking it might taste a bit like lemonade.

It doesn’t.  And it was firmly rejected by Logan.

But I’d bought a bottle of this stuff and didn’t want it to go to waste.  So the next night I poured an inch or two of the ACV limeade into Logan’s water bottle (I’m sure you can tell by my measuring method that I mix drinks about as well as I cook), filled it to the top with water, then plopped in 10 drops of stevia.

Logan drank 32 ounces of it in one sitting.

Victory.

Will the ACV help with yeast?  Help with autism?  I suppose we’ll find out–at the very least, it’s another mark on the “can have” list rather than the “off the menu” list, and if nothing else, all that water will keep him hydrated!

Feeling: Like momentum is finally building!

Week 38: Missing the cook

This week my kids and I have been fending for ourselves in the kitchen as my husband flew to San Francisco for work.  Before he left, he made me practice prepping chicken thighs (frowning at me when I could barely lift the knife to slice through them…from time to time, I get this weird thing where it literally feels as though all the muscles melt out of  my hands–it really had only a little bit to do with the fact I was touching raw meat), made me learn how to turn on the grill, and made me actually cook them.

So of course for dinners this week, I made frozen GFCF chicken nuggets, frozen fish, and warmed up pre-cooked ham steaks.

I did it!

I did it!

Jason was justifiably worried about leaving us, I suppose.  And we definitely miss our cook!

But still, I think I did pretty well cooking a string of gluten-free, casein-free, and sugar-free meals myself.  Every night we all started with a big salad of spinach, arugula, pumpkin seeds, and fermented cabbage, and at least one other vegetable.  Logan and Sadie are still eating so slowly that by the time they cleaned their plates I could probably go start and finish Moby Dick that’s been sitting on my bookshelf forever (hell, maybe I could even fly to Nantucket and learn to harpoon a whale myself in the time it takes them to eat a few mouthfuls of lettuce).  But, at least they’re eating.  And even better–yesterday Logan’s preschool teacher emailed and mentioned how happy and talkative Logan has been in class this week.  Hooray for healthy and happy days!

Feeling: Upbeat

Week 37: The taste test trick

Our fermenting experiment appears to have gone well.  After a couple weeks cultivating good bacteria in a cooler in our basement, our jars of pickles and cabbage were ready to eat.

Almost surprisingly, they turned out well!  The pickles and cabbage were still crisp and crunchy, and the sour-tart sharpness was somehow intriguing.

Of course, getting the kids to eat them was another story.  Logan and Sadie both balked at the science-experiment-like jars, and now matter how hard I tried, Logan just wasn’t buying the pickles as pickles.  (Though come to think of it, I don’t know if he’d ever had real pickles in the first place.)  He wouldn’t even try the red cabbage, even though it looks almost the same as the store-bought kind he’s been eating for months.  I tried emphasizing that we made these.  I tried making his Mario doll squeak, “Pickles are my favorite food!” when we were playing dollhouse one afternoon.  But apparently, Logan is too smart for my tricks.

Next I tried a “taste test.”  I took a spoonful of each fermented vegetable out of the jar and placed them carefully on a plate.  One of the spoonfuls was the Angelica’s Garden brand, and the others were the cabbage and pickles we had made.  I thought they looked rather artful.

Our taste test: Store-bought red cabbage, our red cabbage, our white cabbage and carrots, and our two versions of pickles

“Who’s going to pick the winner?” I exclaimed.  I knew that would instantly get Logan’s attention.

“I am!” he shouted.  It still took about 10 or 15 minutes, but with more prodding about getting to pick which food “wins” by tasting the best, he eventually took a bite of each.

He still didn’t like the pickles, but–hooray!–he decided our version of fermented cabbage was the winner.

Feeling: Sneaky

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