Week 44: Welcome, summer (finally)

Logan, Sadie and I sat on top of the wide, smooth boulder and looked out over the flooded park.  The wood chips were submerged on the east side, where the swings and slides were, and visible but dark and waterlogged on the west side.  We ate our snack of snap peas and popcorn as the clouds like mountains rolled overhead, occasionally slipping a few rays of sunlight on us and our rock.

“This is the best day I’ve ever had,” Logan said.  

I hugged him and smiled.  “Me, too,” I said.  Despite the periodic showers all day and the deluge the entire past week, the weekend had been wonderful.  We went to the beach, played baseball in our backyard, swam in the pool, went to a birthday party for one of Logan’s daycare friends, swam some more and now had come to the park.  We enjoyed a rare treat of watching TV — Scooby Doo, my favorite– since we all needed to relax a bit after such busy days.        

Summer means fun, busy days!

Not that they had all been perfect, of course.  I’m slightly groaning because I know all these fun activities means the house didn’t get cleaned (again), and I’ll be stressed all week because my bathrooms are filthy and I’ll be too tired after work to clean them.  My husband is grumbling slightly because the yard once again didn’t get weeded and still looks like a mini rain forest.  

And dinner Saturday had basically been a disaster.  Sadie and Logan came down with a case of the giggles, squawking and babbling and repeating “poopy butt” over and over (and over).  Sadie refused to eat her vegetables and instead mashed them up with her teeth and spit them out, laughing while green zucchini juice ran down her little chin.  Logan did better, eating everything on his plate, but still whined until I spoon-fed him his veggies.  Still, I suppose I have to count it as a win because I was asking him to eat a zucchini salad that he’d never had before, and usually he flat-out refuses and screams about anything new.

And I wasn’t sure how it’d go over, either.  I thought I’d done a decent job making it, as my cooking challenge this week.  The recipe seemed easy enough until I started actually making it, of course.  “Grate the zucchini and onion and let them drain for 30 minutes,” I read, which made no sense to me at all.  I mean, it’s not like a pot of pasta.  

But I did it, first figuring out how to work my food processor (which is a major victory in itself–the first time I’ve used it by myself since receiving it as a wedding present eight years ago!) and then figuring out what “julienne” meant for the red bell peppers (I ended up just dicing them anyway.  No need to get fancy.)  I even chopped two tablespoons of fresh mint, which scared me to death because the small leaves and wide knife were a poor combination in my clumsy hands and I was sure I’d slice my fingertips off–but also sort of had a calming effect because it smelled just like a mojito (though I’m not sure mint is supposed to remind people of alcohol).

Anyway, the recipe, from the Body Ecology website, is:

Zesty Zucchini Insalata

  • 1½ pounds zucchini, grated
  • 1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons Celtic sea salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • ¼ cup raw, organic apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint, chopped
  • Celtic sea salt, to taste
  • Grated lemon zest from one small lemon

Smell and taste, it reminds me of a side dish that some distant, great-aunt twice removed or other extended relative would have brought to a Fourth of July picnic when I was a kid.  Usually a memory of grandmother’s cooking is nostalgic or wholesome; unfortunately, not for me.  I remember my kitchen as a kid being full of microwavable vegetables and Chef Boyardee, so any food like this always scared me.  Honestly, scared me.  I can’t imagine having willfully taken a bite of anything with vinegar in it.  Which makes it even more impressive that Logan–and I–had no complaints (well, almost none.  Logan did say he didn’t like it, but he continue to eat it as long as I put it on his fork., and I thought it was better as a sort-of dressing to a salad of raw kale to cut the vinegar taste a bit.)  

Raw kale.  That just might be the polar opposite of the Hot Pockets I lived for in high school.

And it didn’t occur to me until just now how drastically different my eating habits have become.  I ate raw kale today.  I made insalata and tilapia for supper this evening.  And earlier I sat on a rock with my children and munched on sugar-free snap peas.  We circled the retaining wall holding in the soggy playground and looked at rocks and dropped sticks in puddles.  We trailed a family of ducks before Loki chased them away.  And we all agreed, it was the perfect day.

Feeling: Very grown-up



Week 43: Sniffing for success

Logan inhales deeply. “Ummm,” he says eagerly. He’s taken to asking “Can I smell that?” to everything he sees someone eating—something he knows he can’t have. It kind of breaks my heart, but he returns to his very non-sugary, non-starchy, non-sumptuous meals seemingly satisfied.

They say that 90 percent of taste is smell, so maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad that Logan can’t eat bread or fruit or any other staple treat of childhood as long as he can still smell it. Maybe, having gone almost six months without so much as a grain of sugar, the scent of it is all the sweet he needs. It’s really hard, though when he sweetly asks if he can have a cherry tomato or a green apple and I have to say no.

As I’m always asking myself, will this be worth it? Is denying him fruit for a couple years in an effort to kill off the yeast in his gut and recover him from autism worth the missed pleasure? Cutting out the candy, surely is worth it—but apples? Berries? Oranges?

“Yummm, smells good!” he grins over his sister’s peanut butter sandwich. It doesn’t matter what it is; it’s just the response he’s decided on.

I’m not worried about the nutrients. Logan eats enough kale, cabbage, and other vegetables with his meals to fill in what he’s missing, and he also takes a broad spectrum vitamin for additional support. In fact, since we started the vitamins a couple months ago, he’s taken a nap every day—a drastic change from where he was pre-vitamins. Every day we’d hear from daycare that he’d been loud and disruptive during rest time, yelling and knocking about the room so the other 4-year-olds couldn’t sleep. The vitamins (a special powder with almost 3,000 percent the daily recommended intake of B12 and B6) shut that that down like a light switch.

Napping with friends

Not only does Logan now take a nap, he has a new friend!

Success had seemed so close, I could smell it.

Unfortunately, in the past two weeks I’ve felt like an old bloodhound who’s lost the scent. Logan’s meltdowns aren’t back exactly, but they’re getting more frequent than they had been in May. It’s also getting harder and harder for him to focus and follow directions; I usually have to ask him five or six (or seven) times to put on his shoes or take off his pajamas—even then he often needs physical guidance or redirection. I’m also back to literally spoon-feeding him his vegetables, as he fidgets and wiggles and jabbers on—often in baby talk or jibberish—so much he can’t concentrate. Setting a timer has helped, but still, it’s making meals incredibly wearisome once again.

That being said, I did find one super-easy soup recipe I actually succeeded at making. (Of course, I use the term “succeeded” loosely; none of my family members would even take a bite of the creamy-but-bland gazpacho variation. But I liked it.) From The Candida-Free Cookbook, it made our kitchen smell delicious and fresh, like a garden of cucumbers and avocado. I even chopped the onion all by myself—without crying or wearing goggles!

I’m also feeling re-energized after hearing from another local woman who has recovered her son from autism through biomedical and dietary changes. Her 5-year-old has lost his medical diagnosis of PDD-NOS and happily plays T-ball and hockey with friends, she reports. I feel, once again, so strongly that this has to be the right path—after everything we’ve changed, we should be sniffing success all around us.

Cucumber Avocado Gazpacho:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1/4 a white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Chicken stock (or water; I used stock)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend everything in a food processor until smooth.  And that’s it–so easy even I could do it!

Feeling: Pretty upbeat

Week 42: Taking detours confidently

Warm weather has officially returned to Minnesota.  Translation: Road construction has officially returned to Minnesota.

Orange construction signs and cones on the road used to make me grip the steering wheel and start to hyperventilate a little.  Sh**!  I’d swear in my head.  Here it comes.

“Mom, go that way!” Logan would scream, pointing to the normal route.

“Sorry, honey, there’s a detour,” I’d say through clenched teeth as cheerily as I could.

And then came the screaming.

One day last fall on our drive to Sunday School the screaming lasted the entire 45 minutes it takes to drive there.  And any parent knows how hard that is–the screaming making you tense, not being able to reach back and do anything for your child making you tense, the worrying that all the tension will cause you to make a driving mistake and crash making you even more tense.  I don’t know how we made it to church that day — but that was the last time we went for months.  We were just beginning the GFCF diet back then, and I couldn’t handle the added pressure of driving through construction to Sunday School on top of daycare, preschool, therapy, and learning to cook.

But this spring, as we’re in a pretty set pattern with our diet, and Logan seems to be doing well, I thought I’d try church again.  Maybe the drive wouldn’t be so bad.  Construction on the highway had picked up right where it left off last fall, but maybe it’s time to try it again, I thought.  An ironic way of living dangerously these days, I guess.

I steered the van down the frontage road to the intersection and glanced left.  Just like last spring, bright orange diamond informed me my ramp was closed.  I braced myself and turned right instead of left.

“Mom, where are you going?” Logan asked from the backseat.

“I have to go around the construction!” I sang as happily as I could force.  “That on-ramp is closed for now.”

“Oh,” he said.  I could almost hear him shrug.

And we almost made it through May without a single major meltdown.  Of course, I have to say almost: The last two days were pretty disastrous, with aggression at daycare once again.  But we’ll chalk that up to the sudden heat and continue our attempt at treating Logan’s autism with dietary changes.  I even tried to make meatloaf this week–it’s hard to exaggerate how big of a step this was for me.  In my pre-kid years, I refused to eat meatloaf because I was a vegetarian (a fact I think my husband sorely wishes he’d given more thought to before proposing to me).  Even in my own kid years, I refused to eat meatloaf because I thought it was gross (and–sorry, mom–it totally was.)

But in the spirit of embracing diet and trying new things, I found a meatloaf recipe that called for quinoa instead of bread crumbs, and it seemed easy enough to make.  Well, it seemed easy until I realized I actually had to shove my hands in the raw, slimy hamburger and mash everything together.  That thought alone brought me to near tears–thank God my husband came to my rescue and did the dirty work for me.

This week’s experiment: gluten-free meatloaf

I admit I was extremely hesitant to take my first bite.  It still looks like gross meatloaf, after all, and anything with the word “loaf” even sounds loathsome.  But–honestly!  It was delicious!  The recipe is from The Candida Free Cookbook (with our minor tweaks):

  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cook the quinoa as directed, then mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Oil a loaf pan, add the mixture, and bake for 1 hour.

Feeling: Proud

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