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: 
http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1103079&team=6151078

Feeling: A part of something bigger

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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

Searching for patterns in puzzles

With one hand, Logan took my hand and pressed it close to his cheek. He snuggled into his pillow and rested his other hand on his dad’s shoulder. The three of us lay in Logan’s little bed, quiet.

“Mom, is it share day at daycare tomorrow?” Logan whispered.

“Yup.” I saw his eyes are droopy, and I used my free hand to stroke his blond hair, temples and forehead. “You can close your eyes, sweetie.”

Logan thought for a half second, then obediently followed the directions. Not even a minute later, he was sleeping. He’d had a good day. He earned a “rock star” badge from his teacher in the morning, and kept it all day by remembering to listen, follow the directions and play nicely with his friends. “He even joined in a soccer game with the other boys,” the teacher told me when I picked him up that evening.

Mixed feelings ... mixed days

Mixed feelings … mixed days

God, why can’t it be like this all the time? I wondered.

The day before had been the exact opposite. He’d hit a friend at school and threw his fork at lunchtime. He refused to follow any directions.

Granted, he’s still getting used to his new preschool room at daycare and his new preschool room that he’s bused to in the afternoon. He has two new teams of teachers, two new rooms, and a completely different schedule. He was also stuck with a needle at the doctor’s office Wednesday morning, to draw blood for some tests. It’s somewhat understandable he had a hard day.

Not that understanding makes it any easier. I try to detect patterns or progress by looking over notes from the past year, and somehow nothing solid seems to emerge. His communication book begins:

“11/4: A little aggressive at daycare. Would not lay down at nap time, upset about a blanket, woke up other children.”

“11/6: Very defiant morning at home. Daycare—knocking over chairs, screaming, hit another child.”

“11/7: VERY defiant morning at home. Restless during nap, unable to sleep. Frequent loud outbursts—he tried settling down at the beginning of nap time, but had more difficulty as naptime continued.”

“11/8: Hit a friend on the head with a block, then screaming outbursts.”

And it continues. It does move more toward silliness and wiggles rather than aggression, but incidents of hitting and pushing still pop up every now and then. Emotional meltdowns about the wrong toothbrush, not getting to use the first stall in the bathroom, and other seemingly pointless issues continue, too. December had five recorded meltdowns. January had two. February had six. March had six. April had eleven. May had two. June had one.

Then there’s data from Fraser, the day treatment program Logan attended over the summer. It makes even less sense.  First week reports include “Great job listening!” and “Very observant and would initiate conversations with his friends.” Last week reports are the opposite: “Some trouble listening today. Had to be continually separated from his friend.”

Perhaps if I were more of a statistician I could discern something other than complete chaos. I have no idea why some days are nightmares, and some nights are like fantastic daydreams, like this one where Logan, Jason and I cuddled in warm, fall jammies and whispered about karate class and share day.

Fall Pumpkin Muffins

Last week came Grandparents’ Day, and to celebrate, Logan’s daycare served soft pretzels and cheese to the kids and visiting grandparents. I groaned, knowing I’d have to make an acceptable substitute so Logan wouldn’t feel left out at special snack time.

I’m never in a good mood to cook, and I’m definitely not in a good mood to cook that late at night. I’d had to work late, and I didn’t get home until 10 p.m. Luckily, as always, Jason came to my rescue by creating a pumpkin muffin recipe and helping me make it. They were delicious.

  • 6 eggs, seperated
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 3/4 c Luv sweetener
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tbs coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Blend yolks, pumpkin and vanilla in bowl. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix. Add dry mixture to wet and mix thoroughly. Blend egg whites until stiff peaks form, the fold into pumpkin mixture. Place mixture into greased muffin pan or wrappers. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Feeling: Confused

YEAR 1: 13 Lessons Learned

It’s hard to believe, but we have been on our biomedical path to recovery from autism for one year.  One year!  We’ve come a long way since deciding to try eliminating casein for three months.  To celebrate, I’m looking back on some lessons I’ve learned.  

  1. I will never be as tough or as trusting as my little boy.  Logan doggedly follows me as I ask him to eat this or that, always adapting even if his face clearly says he doesn’t want to.  But he does–and that’s why he’s my hero.
  2. Nothing feels as good as picking Logan up from daycare and hearing, “He had a GREAT day playing with his friends!” 
  3. I am stubborn–and that can be a good thing.  Die-off and doubts are hard to get through, but this approach to autism simply won’t work for a picky 3-year-old unless determination is taken to new heights.   
  4. “Quinoa” is now a word I can pronounce!
  5. Sometimes, it’s OK to spend all day Sunday cooking and freezing things for the week ahead.  Especially with two working parents.  
  6. And sometimes, it’s OK to have a messy house because of it. 
  7. Autism is impossible without family.  I couldn’t do this without my husband, the best cook in the world who’s also skeptically following my lead (by the way, happy 8th anniversary, love!).  Nor could we do it without my mom, who supports us in too many ways to count.  Having people to rely on–like my cousin Sue, who helped drive Logan to therapy appointments even while pregnant and with her own two kids in tow–makes all the difference.
  8. Cursing “What the f*@# is jicama!” when I see an unfamiliar ingredient in a recipe list does not help.  Googling “what the hell is jicama?” is more effective.
  9. Nothing inherently tastes good or bad.  You simply like what you’re used to.
  10. Eating 80% vegetables for supper eliminates almost all colds.
  11. Food (and our lifestyles) has changed drastically since World War II–I had no idea people didn’t always eat noodles for dinner four nights a week.  (I’m not being sarcastic here–this was a shock to me!)
  12. The link between autism and inner health is clear.
  13. I still hate cooking.

 

Feeling: Proud.  Incredulous. Stunned. Yet–I still have to admit, a bit disappointed.  After the setback of two weeks ago, Logan has been back to his wonderful self.  I do believe we’ve seen progress–but I expected, or really really hoped for, more.  Over the past year I’ve read multiple stories and met with a few families who have all recovered from autism.  I believe it’s possible — but I don’t believe we’re there yet, and I can’t help feel a little let down.  What did those families do differently?

Luckily, as I said, I’ve learned that I am as stubborn as stubborn gets.  So here’s to more progress in Year 2.

Week 51: Renaming the Wolf

Since Logan’s diagnosis, my book journey has taken me from 10 Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew to The Autism and ADHD Diet to M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf.  Fisher, a contemporary of my great-grandmother, wrote bitingly about food in America during World War II.  The nation is grappling with rations and shortages, and the wolf scratching at everyone’s door is named hunger.

Unflinchingly, she quotes French philosopher Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin that “The destiny of nations depends upon what and how they eat.”  She blasts the (then, though now still applies) contemporary diet by saying:

“Where countless humans are herded together, as in military camps or schools or prisons, it is necessary to strike what is ironically called the happy medium.  In this case what kills the least number with the most ease is the chosen way.  And, in most cases, the happy medium, gastronomically, is known as the balanced diet.”

I keep trying to picture my great-grandmother saying something as cutting as Fisher.  She’d be sitting on her floral-print couch with her needlework in her lap and her chirping bird in its cage, maybe chatting with her neighbor (who would have come from a long way, seeing as how she was a farmwife in rural Minnesota): you know, those home magazines that preach a balanced diet are really just trying to kill the fewest people possible.

Clearly, Fisher was a woman ahead of her time.

Most of us aren’t hungry anymore.  We don’t have to worry about finding a sugar shortage at the supermarket or calculating how many dishes we can cook at once in the oven in order to save precious fuel.  The hunger wolf has retreated.

Yet Fisher’s quoting Brillat-Savarin on the fate of a country being linked to its diet is almost more relevant than ever.  There’s a new wolf at the door; a new threat arises from our basic quandary of how to feed ourselves.  For my family, that wolf is named autism.  For many others, the wolf is ADHD, Celiac’s, depression, diabetes … the list of modern maladies goes on and on.  Of course, there are dozens of theories as to what causes autism–and I’m not necessarily saying they’re wrong– but I believe (for what it’s worth) another of Brillat-Savarin’s quotes: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

As we say today, we are what we eat.  And we are a nation eating crap.

One of my favorite scoffs Fisher gives in How to Cook a Wolf is aimed at bread and our attitudes toward it.  “We still condone the stupid bread in this country,” she writes bluntly.  Wheat is refined until it is “not only tasteless but almost worthless nutritionally,” giving us white, sliced sandwich bread.

We must begin to ask, she demands, “why are we so ungastronomic as a nation?  Why do we let our millers rob the wheat of all its goodness, and then buy the wheat germ for one thousand times its value from druggists so that our children may be strong and healthy?”

I would add, why do we consistently remove nutrients from all our food in the pursuit of higher yields for lower costs, but then spend more on vitamins to replace that lost nutrition from food?  I bought Logan’s vitamins today — $50 — that really should be coming from the food we eat.  But even with our family’s healthy BEDROK diet, we still need to supplement.

Can we change the way we eat?  I’m haunted by the quote I began with, that the destiny of our nation depends on it.  Because now the wolf at my door–in fact, 1 in 68’s door–is named autism.

Feeling: I’d like to say sassy, like Fisher.  But simply assertive is likely more accurate.

This week the fair came to town! Logan and a friend from day treatment loved the car ride.

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