Getting By … (With a Little Help From Our Friends)

A goofy grin spreads across Logan’s face, and his eyes crinkle up in delight. “Hoo hoo,” he giggles. “I get to eat peanut butter!”

“That’s right, sweetie,” I say, “as long as we keep drinking broth and eating lots of meat and veggies this week, on Saturday, we get to have peanut butter!” 

Stage 2 of GAPS allowed us to add ghee, and a few other things, but for the most part, it’s not much different than Stage 1. And after eight days of basically nothing but boiled chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, squash and carrots, both Logan and I are awaiting this Saturday’s reintroduction of peanut butter as if it were the second coming of the Messiah.

Overall, we are getting through. We couldn’t be doing it without help, though! I owe deep gratitude toward my husband, who is helping us cook our way through this diet (even if he isn’t following it himself) and my mother, who has saved the day more than once by bringing us quarts of broth. We went through about 12 quarts of broth last week, and I can’t imagine how anyone, even stay-at-home moms, could cook this much.

I also don’t know how I’d be getting through without my friend Erin, whose family has gone through GAPS and dramatically improved the health of her daughter. She’s been a wonderful motivational coach!

Most of all, I am indebted to Logan’s teachers, especially Ms. Amy at his daycare. Every day she’s come up with a new strategy for coaxing Logan to drink a little of his broth and eat his veggies and seems as invested in his health as his family is. She’s even declared she’s going on a diet, too, so she can bring special food to lunch and talk to Logan about the types of foods we eat.  

Without Ms. Amy and the rest of our support, I wonder where we’d be, and I’m so thankful for Logan’s little community. That’s why I am so strongly looking forward to the annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraiser, which is this weekend in Minnesota. Last year I realized how large of a community there is of people with autism and people who love people with autism, and how amazing it is to be a part of this group.

I know some people have strong feelings about Autism Speaks as an organization, and I considered not walking this year. But ultimately I decided that the Walk for me is about community and feeling like we’re not alone. The other purposes of the Walk are important, too–research for autism is needed, and the awareness the Walk brings is, I think, vital. Despite the fact that 1 in 68 children today are diagnosed with autism, so many people remain unaware. I worry about bullies when Logan gets to elementary school, and I hope by the time that happens, parents will be able to teach their children to be tolerant of differences.

So we will join our community and walk proudly this weekend! If you would like to donate to our cause, you have my heartfelt thanks!

To Donate:

Feeling: A part of something bigger


Surviving Stage One

“Hey,” my husband mumbled in a low voice, casting a sideways glance at me.  The kids were at the kitchen island, as they usually are when we arrive home from daycare, chattering and vying for my attention.  “There are cookies in the cupboard for you.”

“Nope!” I smiled.  “I’m doing the diet.”

“You haven’t cheated?”

I shook my head, then admitted I had taken one bite of an apple during Logan’s class field trip to the apple orchard.  He’d begged and begged to have one of the ones he’d picked, and it broke my heart to say no.  He devoured it like it was the most delicious treat known to man–I was worried for a second he was even going to eat the seeds and stem.  But other than that, we haven’t strayed from GAPS Stage 1-legal food.  (I even made it through my Thursday coffee shop run with a coworker without ordering anything other than herbal decaf tea.)

I couldn't say no to an apple during a class field trip.

I couldn’t say no to an apple during a class field trip.

We are now on Day 5, and things are looking up.  All week Logan has had fabulous, focused days at school, earning a “rock star” badge every day.  He had the best night he’s ever had in karate class, following the instructor the entire time without getting distracted and wiggly.  

Of course, meals are still another story.  Every time it’s time to eat, Logan approaches the table with apprehension.  Most of the time he refuses to eat during the day.  Snack times are the worst, ranging from all-out meltdown for a half an hour to a quivering lip for a few seconds.  He hates all broth and will sit at the table for two hours rather than taking one sip.  Even the “Shredder” chicken, which is shredded chicken simmered in broth and named after Logan’s favorite Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles character, doesn’t appeal to him.   (I devour it.)

Our world right now is basically turned upside down.  We’re installing hardwood floors, so all the furniture from two rooms is piled in the kitchen.  This obviously makes things harder, but at the same time, I feel like GAPS has simplified things, too.  Now when I open our fridge, I don’t have to wonder to cook, because all I see are five 1-quart mason jars filled with broth, vegetables, and meat.  And even I can pour broth into a large saucepan and add veggies and meat to simmer.  I kind of like it, actually.

Boiled squash, chicken and onions.

Boiled squash, chicken and onions.

And despite still feeling drained and heavy if it’s been too long between meals since I’ve eaten, overall, I believe I have more energy.  Now when the kids go to bed, I don’t instantly collapse in my bed.  I actually have energy to go wash dishes.  And when my alarm goes off in the mornings, I don’t feel like I’m rising from the dead and stumbling downstairs to cook and wash another round of dishes (aside from meal-time meltdowns, dishes are the worst part of the diet — I now wash dishes before work and after work.)  I’ve also lost 8 pounds, though losing weight isn’t something I wanted to do.

And I think Logan is cheerier, too–again, except for meal times.  And those will get better as we move on to Stage 2, which we’ll start tomorrow.  We get to have ghee!  And we’ll try introducing yogurt, too, which we’ve held off on until now because the casein makes me hesitate a bit.  Hopefully, as we are able to introduce more foods, meals will get easier.

Stay tuned for Stage 2.

Feeling: Dedicated

My shopping list for the next five days:

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 1 big bag of carrots
  • 2 butternut squashes
  • 2 bags of onions
  • 1 bunch leeks
  • Ginger root
  • 4 pounds hamburger
  • 4 pounds roast
  • 2 whole chickens
  • Case of mineral water

GAPS Ground Zero

“I don’t love you,” Logan coldly informs me while sitting at the kitchen island. “And Sadie doesn’t love you and Daddy doesn’t love you and Loki doesn’t love you and Kitty doesn’t love you.”

He pauses, glaring at me and knowing what my answer would be. “I want a ham and cheese sandwich!  YEEEEEEESSSSSS!”

I may have gone temporarily deaf from his screams, which he holds until he’s red in the face.  “That’s all right, sweetie,” I tremble.  “I understand you’re mad at me–I would be, too, if I were you.”

Tears start to drip down my face.  I can feel a headache coming on.

This is GAPS implementation day.  That morning, we’d officially started Stage 1 of the diet — only boiled meat, non-starchy vegetables and broth allowed.  Logan hadn’t taken it well.  He’d screamed for about an hour before breakfast, refusing to eat chicken broth and cauliflower soup instead of his normal hot buckwheat cereal.  He did finally drink it, after promises of going to the special indoor playground we usually save for the depths of winter.

“I want waffles!” he’d screamed for 10 minutes.  Then it became, “I want buckwheat cereal!”  Finally, he rounded out the morning by screaming, “I want eggs!”

Eggs are allowed on Stage 2 of the diet, and the plan had been to introduce them to his stomach after three or four days.  But we buckled, compromising that if he ate his broth, we’d cook him one egg (which we poached in broth).

The GAPS diet is meant to starve yeast and opportunistic bacteria in the gut, healing it and sealing it to improve overall health.  By slowly introducing foods one at a time, we’re also hoping to pinpoint why Logan’s ears still grow crimson every once in awhile–even after we cut out dairy, gluten and sugar a year ago, it’s clear there is still something he eats that irritates his system.  But because the food on Stage 1 is so easily digested, it does feel like the entire body is starving instead of just the bad stuff.  (I know–I’m following the protocols religiously, too, and I’ve been constantly hungry since Saturday.)  And it doesn’t help that Logan –when he finally caves and eats — is only eating small amounts.

And the strange thing is, the food tastes good!  I decided to blend cauliflower that I’d boiled in chicken stock and add it back into a small amount of stock, making a soup of sorts, and I loved it (even if my headache had now fully arrived.)  My mom has been the super supporter she always is and brought us chicken and acorn squash soup and a blended broccoli and bone broth soup she made herself (which is impressive, given she cooks only slightly better than I do), and they both were delicious.  Every time I eat, in fact, the food tastes like the best food I’ve ever eaten.  

My mom’s chicken and squash soup

Logan, though, has other ideas.

Lunch time was a repeat of breakfast, though the scream session lasted maybe slightly less than an hour.  By dinner time, he only screamed for about 10 minutes before he realized he simply was not getting anything other than chicken, veggies and broth.  Maybe he’s coming around, I thought.

Nope.  Breakfast the next morning began with more wails for buckwheat cereal.  This time I suggested that I make him mini hamburgers instead.  He was somewhat perplexed by this, but agreed.

The biggest problem with this was that I had to touch raw meat.  I don’t think I’ve ever touched raw hamburger before.  Ever.  But somehow, that was only a fleeting thought as I molded small patties and put them on a plate.  I filled a big pan with about two inches of bone broth and added shredded carrots and chopped cauliflower.  Then I plunked in the burgers.  I had no idea how to tell when they were done other than the vague recollection that the meat should no longer be pink.

Burgers in broth

Once I decided they were brown enough, I scooped out the carrots and cauliflower and threw them in a blender with some leftover onions from last night’s supper.  It all turned into a beautiful orange paste that looked almost like cheese atop the burgers.

“Look!” I beamed at my children.

“Is it cheese?” Logan asked, suspicious.

I faltered.  “Well, no, not exactly,” I said.  “But try it.”

It took an incredible amount of coercing, but eventually, he cleaned his plate.  Success.

Maybe today will be better, I thought.

Again, nope.

Around 11 a.m., Logan started complaining he was hungry.  I offered him chicken and broth, which he declined.  And kept declining.  And kept declining, and began insisting to me that nobody loves me.  My body was feeling heavier and heavier, and my headache was now almost blinding strength–whether from the screaming, the stress or the sugar withdraw on my part.  I sucked down another two bowls of chicken squash soup and some cauliflower, and collapsed on the love seat.  Jason took over the task of convincing Logan to eat.  He cried and cried and cried, but again, eventually ate some chicken and vegetables.

Then he crawled on top of me and we both feel deeply asleep, cuddling together.

Feeling: Sluggish

A few reluctant bites of squash

A few reluctant bites of squash

Stocking up to start GAPS

The kids are at daycare.  It’s my day off, and my lovely walk with Loki is over.  I’ve bought the last of my groceries.

It’s time to start cooking.

My first attempt at making bone broth

My beef broth had been simmering all night, and as I turn it off and poured it into mason jars, I wonder why it seems a little pale — more like water with a bit of dirt than the thick, dark brown gel I’d been expecting.  And there’s so much of it — by the time I empty all of the liquid from my stock pot, I’m down to one empty mason jar left.  I’m sure I did something wrong, but I can’t figure out what.  I know I followed the directions, vague as they were.  (Fill the pot 3/4 of the way full?  Does it matter if I use a giant pot or a little pot?)

Oh, well, I decide.  Nothing I can do about it now.  So I move on to my next task of the day, making SCD/GAPS yogurt.  I pour my organic, whole-cream, grass-fed cow milk into a saucepan (only after Googling “how many ounces in a quart?” and pouring the milk into a Nalgene bottle to figure out how many ounces there were in the half-gallon container) and balance my new thermometer on the side (have I mentioned that besides hating cooking, I also hate math?).  Then I wait.  And wait.

Eventually, the milk hits 180 degrees F.  Hurrying, I plunk the saucepan into a large bowl of ice and wait for the temp to drop down to 110.  Now I have to figure out how to keep it there for the next 24 hours.  I wrap the mason jar with a beach towel and cram it into a small cooler, draping more towels over the top.  Maybe that’ll work, I think.  Probably not, but maybe.

Now it’s time for chicken stock.  I’ve posted before about how much I hate touching raw meat, and no, I haven’t gotten used to it in the past year (mostly because my husband still does most of the cooking.)  I try not to grimace as I rinse the chicken in the sink, and and try not to think about how much it feels like a naked baby.  I realize I’ve never handled a whole chicken before.  I wish I could still say that.

Is anything more disgusting than raw chicken?

Is anything more disgusting than raw chicken?

My recipe called for the neck and giblets to be added to the stock pot, but the chicken I bought hasn’t come with those.  I both scowl that I bought the wrong thing and sigh with relief that I don’t have to touch any more disgusting bits for now.  I throw the chicken in its pot, add onions, carrots, garlic, a thick slice of ginger root and water, and set it on the stove.  Go me–four hours down and three cooking goals mastered.

Flying high, I move on to putting away laundry and cleaning bathrooms.  I’ve done two loads and am on my third bathroom when Jason walks in.  He wastes no time letting me know how I messed up everything.

“Why didn’t you cut the onion up more?  That would give the stock more flavor,” he said. “Now it’ll taste like water, just like the beef stock you made.  You put way too much water in that one, and you bought the wrong type of bones.  And the yogurt probably won’t stay at a constant temperature the way you’ve done it.”

“I just need to take over,” he continued later, when it’d been proven he was right about the mistakes I’d made.  The beef broth was watery, and after he took over and finished the chicken stock, it tasted much better.  “It’d be like me trying to teach the kids grammar.  That’s your area; cooking is mine.”

Holding a scummy wash rag and bottle of ACV, I kick the bathroom door shut and start to cry.  I’d been so proud of myself, yet it turned out I’d done nothing right.  

Feeling: Devastated


The bone broth that turned out more like water


The last latte

Loki and my last latte

Today I took off work to cook in preparation for GAPS.  I need to make chicken stock, beef stock, and GAPS yogurt to have on hand when we start tomorrow.

But first, I took a lovely walk with Loki and enjoyed my last latte.

Here goes … wish me luck!

Feeling: A nagging sense of foreboding 

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