Yup, Still The Worst Cook in Cybersapce

If ever I get too confident that I’m actually learning how to cook an feel comfortable in the kitchen, a day like today comes along to remind me I will likely always be an epic failure.

I bought a Spiral Slicer; a funky device that slices zucchinis into long, thin strands that look just like noodles. Since we’ve finally moved to Stage 4 of GAPS and can now have cold-pressed oils, I thought I’d make a recipe for pesto sauce that I found from the Home Health Happiness blog and something akin to pasta for the first time in God knows how long (because before the past 42 days on GAPS, we were following the Body Ecology diet, which also outlaws carbs). Zucchini Noodle Pesto – I was beside myself.

Zucchini noodles

Zucchini noodles

Normally, I’d never try a learn new, fancy dish like this during the week, and certainly never in the evening when we’re all just getting home. With Sadie tugging on my arm to play dolls with her, Logan incessantly asking me to play video games with him, the dog jumping up and down for me to walk her, and my husband eagerly chattering about something (today it was election results), it’s impossible for me to focus. I’d describe it like trying to learn Greek while walking on a tightrope over a shark tank.

But I’d taken today off work to catch up on writing (I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year and of course am already 6,000 words behind), clean, and grocery shop, so I had the sort of calm, capable feeling that comes after a day of accomplishments (I’d written almost 7,000 words, bought groceries and did the dishes!). I knew I could do this.

I picked up the spiral slicer and fumbled with it in my hands. “How does this thing work?” I asked Jason.

“Well, you use this piece to stab the end of the zucchini, and then you twist it through this piece.”

It felt foreign and awkward in my hand, even more so when I stabbed the zucchini and tried to twist it. Thin, dark green slices fell into my glass bowl.

“Oh,” I said, stopping. “Am I supposed to peel these first?”

I decided I should. That made the slices look like noodles, but I still couldn’t get them to slice into long strands. The tool just felt wrong, completely unlike a pen, which feels comforting in my hands — in fact, I even hold one while delivering a class lecture just to feel at ease. Maybe I should try holding one while I cook, too.

I sliced through most of my two pounds of zucchini, then decided I’d probably done enough. Jason was, thankfully, manning the food processor—another kitchen tool that never failed to baffle me- for the pesto sauce.

“Do we just drop all the basil in, or do we have to trim the ends first?”

“Is that all the garlic we have? I don’t think that’ll be enough.”

“The recipe calls for what? ‘A quart of oil olive, or as much as will fit’? What the hell is that?”

In the end, we did trim the basil stems, we had no choice but to only use six cloves of garlic (the recipe called for 2-10, which seems like an incredibly big range), and we only added maybe a cup of olive oil. All the ingredients swirled around with the high-pitched whine of the food processors, transforming into a bright green paste.

I dipped my finger in. It tasted lovely, like satin and velevet.

My zucchini noodles, on the other hand, were not faring so well. We didn’t really have a recipe for how to make them, but Jason guessed that, based on another recipe in Against All Grain, they’d need maybe five to eight minutes in boiling water. I did that, but when I drained them through the wire colander, they instantly turned to mush.

"Noodles"

“Noodles” Note how they were supposed to look in the picture behind.

I plopped the gob of zucchini into a glass bowl and sighed. It looked like pale green pudding – far, far from anything resembling noodles.

But—maybe because I’d spent all day writing, maybe because Logan’s had two rock star days in a row, maybe because Sadie was at the moment happily distracted—I was not deterred. I simply mixed in a few spoonfuls of pesto sauce and retrieved the now-cooked chicken from the stock Jason had been making. I spread the sauce over it and declared the meal a victory anyway.

The kids even ate it, though Logan had to be coaxed to do so. In fact, he had to be coaxed to eat everything, including his chicken, cabbage and carrots. Despite my satisfied attitude while cooking, I soon fell apart.

“Logan! EAT!” I cried as the night wore on and Logan babbled baby talk, pushed his fork through the air and pressed it to his face, then traced the faint circles around and around on his plate.. “Please take one bite!”

“No, Sadie, do not get up from this table again. If you do, you’re going in your bed. It’s not play time.”

“Logan, EAT.”

Logan stimmed all through the meal, taking bites only after three or four prompts from me. He screamed when I set the timer, telling him he had to clean his plate before it went off or he wouldn’t get a treat before bed. This tactic had worked a few months ago for awhile, but lately, it’s seemed to be more stressful on him than motivating. But on nights like these, it seems to be the only thing that works to get him to eat.

IMG_0079

Instead of eating, Logan is spending most of supper tracing the circles on his plate.

It worked tonight, too, but his distracted/defiant/restless mood continued. He simply could not sit still while I read books to the kids, and a stream of baby talk and extreme silliness seemed to just bubble out of him. He reminded me of a pot of boiling water with the cover rattling on top, barely able to contain the steam struggling to escape.

“Logan, if you can’t have a quiet body, we’ll be done with books and go to bed,” I warned him. I warned him several times, in fact—then finally, I had to follow through with it. “That’s it!” I cried. “You’re not having a quiet body. Get in your bed. Now!”

“I WILL have a quiet body!” he cried. “I WILL!”

“Logan, you’ve said that for the past six times. You will have a quiet body tomorrow. But right now, there have to be consequences!”

He screamed and cried and kicked, his body thrashing all over his mattress. I felt awful, but I felt like I was exploding, too. Why can’t he contain his energy? No matter if he’s angry or excited, he’s always like that boiling water pot, bursting with hot emotions.

“What is going on with him?” I asked Jason when the kids finally fell asleep an hour later.

“Did you see his ears?” he replied. “Fire red.”

Feeling: Irritated

Starting a Sea of Supplements

Drops of blood spurted out as I sliced my finger with the knife. Red drops dotted the bottom of the stainless steel sink and the bright orange carrot I’d been trying to cut in mid-air.

I sighed. How long is this going to take to clean up, I muttered. I tried wrapping my finger in a paper towel to stop the bleeding, but a puddle of red seeped through. I cursed; I was going to have to take the time to run upstairs, clean the cut and find a Band-Aid.

Logan’s favorite breakfast, pumpkin pancakes

It was already 5:35 a.m., and I still had to mix Logan’s pumpkin pancakes, cook them, and get the roast in the crock pot for supper that night. I still had to spoon his CocoYo yogurt into a thermos to bring as a snack. And, of course, I hadn’t packed a lunch for myself yet.

This was Monday morning. The rest of the week went much the same–without the finger slicing but with the addition of Logan and Sadie standing in the kitchen, wanting to play, from about 5:40 on. Both cases mean less time to put together lunch, breakfast, two snacks for Logan and a lunch for myself for the day.

But other than crazy mornings, we’ve been plugging along steadily with GAPS. We’ve gotten to add some delicious new foods, like fermented vegetables and pumpkin pancakes, which we told Logan are special Halloween pancakes. We’ve also started making our own coconut milk.

I barely stomach dry, boiled chicken anymore, but with boiled carrots and fermented red cabbage, it’s suddenly delicious.

The pancakes have lead to a little more wiggle room with breakfasts, though snacks are still pretty boring. We have two options: the CocoYo yogurt (that I’m not entirely sure is legal in this stage) and the Peppermint Gummies I wrote about last time.

Results are also back from Logan’s blood and urine analysis tests, and we met with his MAPS doctor to discuss any abnormalities. Little surprise, there are quite a few.

“His thiamine levels are low, and his B-vitamin levels are low, and he has a high need for glutathione.” The doctor dived right in. “His need for a few B-vitamins is a potential indication of some methylation needs.”

I’ve been reading about nutritional supplements, the methylation process and other biomedical treatments for autism for the past year — basically nonstop, in fact. I have piles of articles and studies I’ve printed out with highlights and summary notes, where I’ve translated the scientific jargon into my own words. I thought I understood it all fairly well. Yet, sitting in that insanely hot exam room, I felt like I was drowning in it all. Magnesium glycinate what? Orthomolecular intestinal huh?

11 supplements (some twice a day) ... is this too much of an overload?

11 supplements (some twice a day) … is this too much of an overload?

When it was all over, the doctor had given us recommendations to begin seven new supplements — on top of the four Logan already takes – and had ordered four additional tests. On my drive home, I couldn’t help but think about all the other articles I’d read, the ones on gullible parents spending a fortune on worthless “cures” for autism when of course everyone knows there isn’t one.

But isn’t there? I then think about Joanna, the woman I met from White Bear Lake, whose two sons are no longer on the spectrum due to dietary changes and supplements. And all the stories, like Quinn’s and Darren’s, from Talking About Curing Autism Now, that offer evidence some children do recover from autism from diet and therapy.

Even as I flip-flop between feeling gullible and progressive, Logan’s new pills now pile on our kitchen counter, and looking at them, I’m filled with either dread or hope, depending on my mood. We’ve separated them into a pill box to keep a week’s worth all organized. But still. Not only are they expensive – yet another recurring cost each month, this one about $200 – there’s just so many of them. I can’t fathom having to swallow that many pills every day for the rest of my life. Right now, Logan’s really excited about them – Jason’s been telling him the’re super pills. Will the novelty wear off once Logan realizes these are for the long haul?

At least the diet has an end date. We’re still lingering in Stage 3, but soon we’ll move into Stage 4. We simply have to. I admit I’m filled with dread more often than hope lately, and that part of me that wants to quit seems to grow bigger every day. This diet is hard. The supplements seem insurmountable. And my chest feels gripped by a tight fist that’s making it harder and harder to breath. Some days, I simply can’t tell if this a better alternative to junk food and meltdowns.

Feeling: Clueless

The one good thing from this week is we discovered Logan LOVES Halloween pancakes!

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can of purred pumpkin
  • Dash of cinnamon

Blend ingredients (Jason uses a blender; I just use a fork). Grease skillet with coconut fat (we save the fat that solidifies when we make coconut milk to use). Drop small dollops of batter onto a hot skillet and cook — like regular pancakes, little air bubbles pop up in the center when they’re ready to be flipped.

The Stage 2 Slump

GAPS 2 isn’t much better than GAPS 1.

We spent four days in Stage 1, sticking to broth, boiled meats and boiled vegetables. Everyone was getting more and more sick of the same three meals repeated; so, even though I couldn’t really tell based on behavior or physical evidence that Logan’s body was healing (i.e., stools), we moved into Stage 2.

“A junk food egg!” Logan exclaimed, seeing his eggs cooked in ghee rather than poached in stock.  He was beside himself with glee.

But other than ghee, there really wasn’t much difference between the stages. Fresh herbs could be added, but I’m such a bad cook that those don’t help me much; I don’t know what to do with them. I think our only other Stage 2 addition was fish, instead of just boiled beef and chicken, and Logan ate about five fillets of tilapia in one sitting.

Still, he and I were both losing weight. Logan’s lunch and snack boxes came back from daycare and school completely full–he wasn’t even taking a bite of food. We could coax him into eating at home, but only with enormous patience, threats of no books before bed, and promises of “root beer” (fizzy mineral water with two stevia drops) if he cleaned his plate.  Then we added yogurt. Finally, something kids define as a “snack,” and something he would eat at daycare.

But despite additions in our diet–or maybe because the additions were so few–GAPS suddenly became harder.  I felt tired and sick of food.  The thought of chicken made me reel.  I was more tempted than ever before to cheat; the pride I felt from sticking to a spartan meal plan began to wane.  

Logan seemed to echo these thoughts.  His behavior at daycare changed sharply, with more aggression each day and more screaming outbursts.  Picking him up each afternoon became more and more draining each day–listening to Miss Amy recap his day seemed to just zap what little energy I had left. 

And his eyes were so baggy.  Even though he slept fine — in fact, it could be argued he is sleeping better on GAPS because now he falls asleep right away rather than lying awake for two hours — he acted tired.  I decided to give him another apple, thinking he might just need the extra sugar, but it didn’t seem to affect anything.  And on top of his sluggishness, the little scratch that had been under his nose seemed to be growing into a net of red bumps circling his mouth.

Thank you to everyone who supported our walk for autism! Together, we raised $1,500!

Logan at our fundraising walk for autism. We are so grateful to everyone who supported us! Together, we raised $1,500 for charity!

The GAPS book makes it seem like anyone can try to reintroduce dairy, our MAPS doctor told us, but in her experience, she’s seen very few be successful with it. The rash, the aggression, the lack of energy–Logan was going to have to give up dairy (again).  So much for our one snack.

Like ending Stage 1, we might just have to rush out of Stage 2 simply because we can’t take it anymore.  So, onto Stage 3.  With a sigh.

Feeling: Lethargic

Our best Stage 2 meal:

Zucchini casserole from Cara at Health Home Happy (this website was a lifesaver for us in Stage 1!).

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 4 zucchinis
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Slice the zucchini into 1/2 inch rounds. Place chicken and stock into the bottom of a loaf pan, sprinkle with salt, and top with zucchini.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and zucchini is soft.

Surprisingly, even though it involved touching raw chicken (I’m slowly getting over that), this was incredibly easy to make.  And Logan actually ate every bite!  

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

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