Friday, January 31, 2014

Was it the Vaccines?

This post isn't intended to spark a debate about vaccines.  It's meant to answer the question that's come up now and then since Mae's diagnosis (from our family's experience).

After we received Mae's autism diagnosis we heard the words "so do you think you should've skipped the vaccines?" for the very first time.

My answer then is the same as my answer now: No.  

And to the other question...

Are we having Patrick vaccinated?  Yes.  

I understand why people ask about vaccines and it actually doesn't bother me in the least to be asked this question (so if you've asked, don't feel bad!).  Autism is a frightening diagnosis and when people are frightened of a thing they want to know what they can do to prevent it from "happening" to their family.  And I know that because of certain widespread "studies" that have gone on in the past decade or so, autism and vaccines have become topics that go hand in hand.  

But I am also certain that Mae's autism is not the result of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which so often is supposed to be the one that triggers autism in those sorts of articles (and she was way past the time in which mercury was still in vaccines, so that's not a consideration either).  

You see, we moved to Florida during the summer that Mae turned one.  And we were assigned a doctor by our insurance and we called and called and tried to get an appointment and the office just wouldn't call us back.  So we were assigned another doctor.  And we called and called again without a response.  I was sick after the miscarriage and in and out of the hospital and then on bed rest and the cycle went on and on and Maggie didn't get shots that year.

It wasn't until we got back to California that Mae finally got her vaccines and by then, in retrospect, the behaviors that I would later learn were definitely red flags were already there.  The vaccines that she got before we left California (and after we returned) never caused a reaction of any sort.  She never even had to take Tylenol or Motrin.

No, if you asked me where Mae's different way of looking at the world comes from I would say that my best guess would be that I think it is largely genetic.

And then I think back to a day in the hospital when Mae was two or three days old and one of the on call pediatricians came to check in on us, because we didn't have our own doctor after I fired our family doctor a few days prior to Mae's birth.

There was something wrong, I told the doctor.  She was just too quiet.  Too good.  She sleeps soundly for hours. She was so quiet.  He'd looked at me like I was insane.  I should be thankful.  No, don't wake her up to feed her, let her sleep.

Babies are different, I told myself.  She's just an introvert, I'd say later, when she'd want to spend hours in her room with the door closed.  She just needs space.

So in a way I do feel like Mae's special difference and also her sensory processing issues, have been with us all along, even if they weren't glaringly obvious.

But I also think that there are things that happened that I would do differently, because I do wonder if they played a roll in making her life harder than it needed to be.

If I could go back I'd nix the antibiotics that she was given for ear infections.  In fact, I'm going to be far less ready to jump on the "let's prescribe an antibiotic for that tiny little scratch" bandwagon in the future.

Between seeing Mae's digestive problems and their effect on her behavior, which seem seriously improved with probiotics and all the other digestive aids we've given her, and after having seen the start of Patrick's dairy allergy within seven days of his being given a round of antibiotics at the hospital (for the hair tourniquet on his toe) I'm far less willing to allow them to be the solution to little things.

Don't get me wrong, I'd give antibiotics for something big and I'm grateful that they exist because they are necessary sometimes and they do save lives. But as I've seen gut health so closely linked to the ups and downs in ours days, I'm far less likely to introduce something that will devastate the good bacteria that we're working so hard to bring back around.

I'm more likely now to say, "do we really, really, really need to use this right now?" the next time a prescription for Zithromax is being scribbled on a prescription pad.

Then again that's my non-medical-degree-holding-layperson reaction to seeing how things that affect her stomach affect her behavior and can lead to painful, miserable weeks.  Other parents don't see changes or reactions to the same things we have.  It varies widely for different people.

I don't believe that antibiotics caused her autism.  But if there's one thing I"ve learned, we have to be far more careful about what we let go into Mae's system, because things that don't affect others can have a weeks long impact on her behavior and happiness. In our world a piece of bread almost caused a doctor ordered trip to the ER after eight days of pain and a little butter on hash browns meant two weeks of silence and tears, so it's not a stretch to think that something like antibiotics could mean something totally different in our world, than it does to almost everyone else.

Edited to add: I just wanted to add a quick note to say that this post isn't meant to say that I think it's impossible that kids that have autism could have a reaction to a vaccine.  I mean, with the reactions I've seen to various things that are supposed to be harmless it certainly wouldn't take much imagination to believe that it's possible. This post was born after hearing a "so, do you wish you hadn't vaxed her now?" type of comment and that's pretty much all it is, because I don't believe that vaccines have anything to do with our experience with autism.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Theme Thursday: On Their Way to the Barn

I was certain that somewhere in the depths of my computer (or at least facebook photo albums) I had a fabulous photo of Grumpa's barn with a rainbow behind it.  Then I discovered that the barn was just off the edge of the picture.  So plan two was a picture of Sadie "helping" load hay into Grumpa's barn.  Again those photos have magically disappeared (buried in the depths of my photo backups I'm sure).
Then I saw this photo and I just knew that even though it's not quite a picture of the barn it was the picture for today.  

Because they're on their way to the barn and I'll stretch the theme in my imagination to include this picture as matching the criteria.  Besides, it's way too cold to go out there searching for barns at the moment.  So instead I'll dream of warmer times, like this day when Paul was walking Starr back to the barn after lunging him, back when we were brand new newly weds:

For more Theme Thursday pictures that will probably actually include barns, head over to Clan Donaldson!

The Highlights from Mae's Week (so far!)

We had a tough week and a half after Mae started taking probiotics a little over a week ago.  I'd known that there was a possibility that they'd make her pretty uncomfortable for the first week or two, but since all the other supplements had had such immediate positive effects I hadn't really expected anything dramatic.  I thought that the probiotics seemed to be taking her digestive health in the right direction with the problems we've had in the past (she's been able to completely go off the prescription for her tummy associated problems and the probiotics and magnesium are working 100 times better than the prescription ever did), but it was still tough to see the loss of ground in communication that we experienced while she wasn't feeling 100%.  

We seem to have turned the corner now however, and in the last two days there have been little moments that have made my heart soar.  I wrote down a few of my favorites so that I wouldn't forget them and I thought I'd share them here too:


Yesterday morning I handed Maggie a car.  Part of the therapy we do involves trying to encourage her to use toys for their correct purpose.  We haven't done much with cars though, since Maggie isn't really interested in them and we try to use activities that she's motivated by (like bubbles) when we're doing our little Mommy and Mae therapy sessions.  

After I handed the car over to Mae, she took it and ran across the room and set it in front of Patrick on the table and then made it zoom back and forth in front of him while he watched her with a smile.  

Not only was she using the car the way a toy car is intended to be used, but she was doing it to make her brother smile!


During our afternoon therapy session (with just Mae and I) we were playing with her Sock Monkey Jack-in-the-Box.  She wanted the music to play, but she didn't want the monkey to pop all the way out of the box and kept putting her hand over the box to make sure it wouldn't open.  

She was kind of tired thanks to a certain little brother who had woken everyone up at midnight the night before, and I was having a hard time getting her excited to play with anything at all.  In a last ditch effort I took the Jack-in-the-box and said "Where's the monkey?  He's in the box!  Where is he?  He's in the box!" in my silliest voice.  

Mae started to laugh uncontrollably.  When I said it a third time "Where's the monkey?" I paused about to say "in the" and wait to see if she said "box when she said "in the box!" in a perfect clear little voice before dissolving into giggles.  After that she was ready to play and pointed and said "in the box" over and over again.


She had smuggled one of her sisters toy stamps into the bath tub last night and after I told her it was a stamp she held it and said "stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp" over and over again. 

A new word!  New words always make me smile!


My favorite moment of the last couple days came two days ago when we were doing our Skype meeting with our coach from the University.  Mae had said "bubbles" over and over again and our coach prompted me to try to encourage her to use more complex language, so I said "More bubbles?  Can you say more bubbles?"  She paused, looked at me and said:  "Please!"  

I guess she's paid attention to all the times Sadie has asked for more of something and I say "what do you say?"


And those are the little encouraging moments from the last couple days.  I'm so relieved that she finally seems to be feeling a bit better after a tough week starting out the probiotics.  While I'm now seeing major improvements in her health from taking the probiotics, the first week and a half was definitely tough!

Now for a fun day!  We're meeting her therapist at her favorite museum/play area for a little freedom from being cooped up in the house!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Did She Fall in Love with Pink?

Sadie has always been our girly girl.  From the age of two she's insisted that being forced to wear pants, even if it's snowing outside, is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions.  She would live in princess dresses 100% of the time if we let her and spends most of her days in them.

Maggie, on the other hand, has always had a style all her own.  She loves red.  And polka dots.  When my red polka dotted dress arrived in the mail she tried to take off with it, running across the room while trying to figure out how to get into it at the same time.  She's shunned dresses, which has made things a little tough because almost 100% of the hand me downs in her current size are dresses, since Sadie refused to wear pants at Mae's age and I finally gave up and stopped buying them.

But in the last month Mae's changed her mind. She wants to wear all pink, pretty much all the time and is even happier if the pink outfit has a tutu or a fluffy skirt.  If I wear pink she will hug me about a hundred times during the day.  She suddenly loves all things Pinkie Pie.  I haven't totally gotten used to seeing her in all-things-princess however, and I still find myself gazing at these pictures now and then when I open up my computer.

Of course she's still wearing a sleeper under the princess dress because she pretty much wants to be in a sleeper around the clock... but here she is... our new little pink loving princess:

The princess admires her gown.

I hush a certain big sister who yells from across the room that it's "way too big!"

 A curtsy from the princess.
We have trouble... Our brother is going to try to steal the princess dress.
And while we usually let him steal whatever toys he wants, we aren't
going to be giving up the dress.  Not today, not any day.

Mommy to the rescue with a firm "no Patch."  

Presenting Princess Maggie!
(that would be her amber necklace in her mouth)
She never takes that thing off.
And finally a smile from a very happy princess.
In other news Sadie has decided that her new favorite color is now purple...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Frozen House

I've really got nothing this morning (and doesn't that always mean a long, train of consciousness post?).  I think that the cold outside that's been seeping inside has frozen my brain, even with the thermostat turned way, way up.  I slipped outside yesterday to shovel the walkway quickly before Mae's therapist arrived and realized that around zero with whatever the windchill was didn't feel all that cold any more, even in a sweater without a jacket.  So it must not have been the -17 windchill that we enjoyed when I bundled Sadie up and took her to her dentist appointment on Friday because that... that definitely felt cold.

Whenever I start to feel to miserable about the seemingly endless cold I try to remind myself "it could be 80 degrees and a million percent humidity" to try to bring myself back around to "I love snow!"  The effectiveness of that strategy, however, is wearing a bit thin.  I don't want 80 and humid or -17 and frozen.  I'd happily settle for a balmy 40 degrees right now.  That's not too greedy, is it?

I'm pretty sure that at 40 the kids would think it was summer and would be ready to race around outside in short sleeves.

And since I'm spending so much energy thinking about getting through the day that's in front of us, here's what a snow bound Tuesday is looking like for us:

School gem hunt.
We have a late start to therapy at 10 am this morning, but by the time it starts the kids will already have been up for four hours.  While I'm writing this and Paul is watching them Patrick and Maggie will have dumped dry cereal on the carpet and smashed it into tiny pieces to insure that I vacuum.  While I vacuum Mae will try to stand right in front of me to feel the air coming out of the vacuum while Patrick runs forwards and backwards giggling hysterically.  When I turn the vacuum off Mae will turn it back on at least two times before I can get it out of the room.

Once therapy starts Sadie and I will do school in the connecting room for the same amount of time just to keep her from trying to hijack the therapy session and turn it into a "dance party." Patrick will take a nap, using his glowy elephant as a pillow.

Therapy will end at 1 pm and then I'll probably read to the kids from one of the Little House on the Prairie books so that we can all appreciate how much colder it could be.  I'll have a Skype meeting at 2-something to go over the Mae and Me therapy plan for this week for the study we're in, which reminds me that I need to fit in another Mae and Me therapy session before that, so that will have to happen between 1 and 2:15.

Our therapy session will probably involve bubbles because she is super, super motivated by bubbles (and by me singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).  After that it will be "look, we're still stuck inside!" time for about an hour, into which I'll fit a epsom salt and baking soda bath for Mae, while Sadie and Patrick play in the girls' room.  Then it will be time to make dinner and feed the kids while wishing that Paul didn't have night classes ever, because dinner time without him is the #2 thing that I dread all week long (#1 is bedtime without him, which will be up next).

After that I'll wrangle Mae and Patrick upstairs, possibly at the same time.  If I do manage to get them both upstairs at the same time I'll feel like a super hero.  I'll brush their teeth while singing the Dora theme song (it's the only way to get a certain some one to let me brush her teeth), and then Mae will help me put Patrick in his crib before we begin the Maggie night time routine.

The Maggie night time routine involves wrapping Mae in her down comforter and then her regular comforter and telling her that she's a little burrito, while she giggles.  Once the covers are just right I'll sing a song with her bear and pretend to tickle her while she says "ickle, ickle, ickle" and grabs my hand and then pushes it away and says "ickle!" again.  She'll press her hands together very seriously while we say the Guardian Angel prayer and a Glory Be and she'll probably let me help her make the sign of the cross while she smiles proudly at how well she can fold her hands now. Then I'll tell her a story about Oatmeal Bear, in which he's lost somewhere and she has to save him.  There's a good chance she'll fall asleep during the story, hugging her bear.

After that it's back downstairs to clean the house and get Sadie into bed.  Sadie will worry that all her babies are tucked in and will tell me that one of them is crying and that Mae doesn't take very good care of her babies and so Sadie has to do her job.

I'll set the alarm and try to remember to take everything I could possibly need upstairs at this point, because coming down stairs after 8 pm means there's an exponential chance of running into (or being attacked, I imagine) by a mouse.

Then I'll go upstairs and work on orders that need to go out until 9pm when I have a board meeting to attend (via conference call) because I'm the secretary to the board of directors of a small corporation (it's a family thing so it's a volunteer job that I do just for the "fun" of getting to be part of things).  That's likely to go on for an hour or two (it will likely be closer to two) and I'll have to just hope that Patrick sleeps through the whole thing since he's been adding a waking between 10 and 11 lately, which is problematic because he's really too big to nurse while typing at this point.

If I'm smart once the meeting is over I'll go to bed, but it's more likely that I'll either sew a little longer or get sucked into reading my favorite blogs (did you see my update blog roll!  It probably still is missing some of my favorite blogs since I follow through so many different sources, but it has it's own page now!  And totally random sections that only make sense in my head.).  Then, finally, it will be time to go to sleep. I'll probably wonder if I turned on the security system.  It will be on, but after worrying for five minutes I'll still get out of bed and go downstairs to check.

On the way upstairs my foot will make one of the million creaky spots in the house complain loudly.  I'll freeze and listen... hoping against hope that Patrick doesn't wake up...  He won't.  He'll let me relax into bed for exactly thirty seconds before he yells to let me know that he's wide awake.

And sometime during the midst of all this I'll have to slip Maggie her supplements, which at this point, look like this:

My other night time prep work for the following day.
Maybe I can fit this in before the meeting..

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Waiting for the Storm to Pass

Yesterday, as I lay on Mae's mattress while she clutched my hand, holding perfectly still lest I make a sound that bring back the waves of tears that had finally stop after almost an hour, I found myself thinking about our diagnosis, and even right there in that painful moment I felt a wave of gratefulness that we were no longer adrift in a sea of wondering what on earth was going on with her.

The afternoon had been perfectly normal up to that point, but I've also been expecting tantrums lately because we started a probiotic a week ago and saw an instant increase in tantrums (from basically none to twice a day) as her little tummy has adjusted to this new addition to her supplements.  I've been clinging to my book which says that reactions to probiotics usually clear up after one to two weeks and we seem to be heading in that direction with each day being a little bit better than the last.

Still, I wasn't prepared for the intense sorrow of this tantrum.  She was so, so very sad.  Mae had fallen asleep on the floor and taken a nap while I was reading to the kids to pass the freezing cold afternoon.  She woke up in hysterics.

I scooped her up and tried to sit with her on the couch but she jumped up and grabbed my hand and took me over to the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs. So I opened the gate, thankful that Paul was there to watch the other two, and followed her the stairs.  When she got to the top she looked at her room and then turned and ran into my room.  I thought that maybe cuddling in the big bed would calm her down, but as she sat on my bed looking around she became steadily more upset.

"Do you want a bath?"  I asked her through the sobs, not expecting a response, just hoping that it would help.  We've started doing epsom salt baths in the afternoons and she loves pretending to be a mermaid in the tub.

She stopped crying for a moment to watch me pour the salts into the bath, but after about five minutes in the tub the sobbing and shaking took over and I carefully picked her up and took her into her room to get her dressed.

Once she was dressed I watched her for a moment, feeling helpless.  She pressed her face against the cool wall and wept and somehow, in that moment, I felt like it all was beginning to make sense.  Or at least, I hoped that the sense that I was attempting to wrestle from our afternoon of tears was actually true, because if it was I might, in some small way, be able to help.

I'd read two posts this past week and as I lay on her bare mattress next to her and she pulled her heavy down comforter up to her chin and tried to disappear in the crack between the bed and the wall, they came back to me.  The first post was on a new blog I just discovered called Autism Chick, and the blogger talks about her understanding of what a young man who's overwhelmed is going through while being forced to go into the gym at school (although that description falls so short of doing the post justice and I'd definitely suggest clicking on the link to read it).  The second post was by Jess at Diary of a Mom and her description of an experience with her daughter that she shared earlier this week came back to me as I lay there, trying to comfort Mae and do something, anything that might help.

"It's okay baby bunny.  Do you want your bear on?"  I turned on Oatmeal Bear's "womb sounds," which she usually loves and the crying increased.  I quickly snapped it off.  "I love you so much Mae."  The sobs intensified at the sound of my voice.

At some point, after almost compulsively trying to comfort her with words a half dozen times, I began to realize that any time I spoke, or moved, or made the tiniest sound the sobs would intensify.

She began to calm down, laying on her back looking at one of my hands, while clutching the other hand tightly.  I made my hand movement copy hers, since she loves it when I imitate her, and she almost smiled.  She made shapes with her hands and I copied them.  Then she touched the wall lightly.  I copied the movement but my big, clumsy had made a tiny patting sound and she looked at it, horrified, and began to sob again.

And so that was how I found myself laying there, attempting to be perfectly still, while she clung to my hand and I waited for the moment to pass and it was in that moment that I found myself grateful for her diagnosis.

You see, before I'd began reading everything I could find about autism, I would have been frustrated.  After an hour of screaming I would have been at wits end.  I would have wondered why she wasn't outgrowing tantrums.  I wouldn't have even begun to attempt to understand what was going on in her little overwhelmed body.  Instead I felt my heart breaking at her struggle, but I was also thankful that I could be there with her, even if the best support I could give her was my silent presence.  

In the beginning people asked me why I thought we needed a diagnosis.  They said that it was just a word that wouldn't change anything.  At first I disagreed on a basic level, because of the therapy options that became available the moment the test results came back.  But it's more than just therapy options.  By learning and reading and gaining a tiny picture of understanding of what she's experiencing I find myself in a position to be there that I'm not sure I would be in if we didn't have that one little word that "labels" my three year old.

Cuddles with Daddy.
Without the label I would have thought she was just a three year old angry about not getting to go outside and play in the -17 windchill.  With what I've learned from reading about autism I'm able to stop and try to see the way the downstairs and my room and even the sound of my voice, were all overwhelming her.  And I began to see her room in a new way.

She strips the sheets of her bed so it's a bare white mattress.  Everything is cleared away so it's just a mattress, the walls, her favorite two heavy blankets and a few of her favorite stuffed animals that sometimes make the cut and get to sleep with her.  Compared to Sadie's cheerfully pink half of the room it's bothered me in the past (especially the insisted upon bare mattress).  To my eyes it sometimes look dreary.  A part of me wants to brighten it and straighten it and make it fit my definition of a pretty little girls room.

But now?  Now it's beginning to make sense.  It's a refuge when the rest of the world is overwhelming.  She flees to its simplicity and it helps calm her.

After an hour I stretched my leg a tiny bit and it brushed her Pinkie Pie doll that was laying at the end of the bed.  The doll began to say "I'm Pinkie Pie!" in a voice that filled the room.  I winced.  She sprang up and grabbed the doll.  She stared at it for a long moment, her face serious.  The moment stretched on.  I waited for the tears. She pressed the button again and I found myself pondering her love of all thing's Pinkie Pie lately, and how Pinkie Pie with her love of parties and meeting new people is about as far from the part of the spectrum that we're hanging around on as one can possibly be.

Then she stood up and smiled and started to bounce.

Finally asleep cuddled up to our sister.
It was over.  The storm had passed

We went downstairs and had dinner.  She climbed on Daddy's chair and hugged him around the neck.  She raced around the house with Patrick.  She fell asleep holding her big sister's hand on the couch, the tears seeming already like a distant memory.  But the feeling of thankfulness stayed with me.

I am thankful that I was able to be there, helpless to do anything though I was, while she clung to my fingers and processed whatever it was that was overwhelming her.

I find myself realizing more and more these days that just being there is sometimes far more important than anything I could do to try to make things better.  I may not be able to fix everything, but I can simply stay by her side and wait for the storm to pass.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We Cannot Be Silent

I read a lot of blogs.  Too many blogs maybe.

And yesterday, as I watched them roll in through my news feed, I noticed a sort of trend in some of the prolife posts.  Since I saw the first post that began ambling down this particular route yesterday morning I've rolled the idea around over and over again in my mind, mostly because so many people were vehemently agreeing with the sentiment expressed in the comment sections.

Basically the train of thought that I couldn't shake (and that you may have seen floating around the blogosphere if we read the same blogs) said that almost anything that we say to pro-choicers and especially women who've had an abortion, is going to be hurtful and that even at our most compassionate our carefully worded posts would likely sound insensitive and cruel to a woman who's had or who has maybe even considered an abortion.

I can't say that I've ever gone in to have an abortion, or that I've even thought about having one.  Even when I was solidly pro-abortion and was spending hours each week in side a Planned Parenthood as a volunteer it was something that I just couldn't quite wrap my mind around doing myself.

So I can't say that I've been there or have walked a mile in the shoes of anyone who has found themselves going down that particular path.

But there was a time when I did find myself in a dark, empty place, seemingly devoid of grace.

I wouldn't have described it that way at the time.  Life was "fun."  I might have said that I was happy if you'd caught me on the right day.  But it was also empty and dry and fragile.

I'm not sure I can put into words how much I would like to take my wild, reckless 22 year old self by the shoulders and give her a good hard shake, but she needed it.  I needed it.

The thing is, I needed to feel badly about the things that I had done wrong.  I needed someone to tell me that I needed to stop making excuses and take a good hard look at the choices that I was making.  And I needed someone to convince me that there were truths that were absolute and that right and wrong were far more than abstract debatable points in some poli science classroom.

Realizing that the way I was living my life was wrong and beginning to utter those first half hearted prayers that I whispered before I fell asleep at night were the first stumbling steps that I took towards being forgiven and towards ultimately forgiving myself.

But first someone had to tell me (and convince me) that I was wrong.  I needed voices that showed me that there was more to life than having fun and doing what I wanted to do.

We should be compassionate.  We should be kind.  But 41 years ago our country cemented into law the legal slaughter of the unborn.  Since that time 55 million lives ended that had only just begun.  

So you see, there is one thing that we cannot be.  We cannot be silent.  We cannot ignore the murder of millions.  

Have compassion and empathy and love for those who have gone through the painful experience of having had an abortion, but also speak out against this injustice that the Supreme Court gave such a foothold in their decision in Roe vs. Wade.

If my conversion has taught me anything it's that realizing that I was living in a way that was really wrong is painful.  But it was also necessary. I had to know that I was wrong before I could seek forgiveness.

Staying silent while the slaughter continues unchecked because someone, somewhere might be hurt by the fact that killing an unborn child is wrong, isn't doing anyone any favors.  Pray.  Speak the truth with love.  And then go back and pray more.  Pray that the words you've spoken might be used by God to reach into the darkness and show someone the tiny flicker of hope that accepting his grace will ignite.

Staying silent will never set the world on fire with His love and His love and grace are the only things that can end the violence of a culture who believe that the right to an imagined freedom is greater than the right a child has to his own life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Defense of Eating a Gluten Free Diet

There have been quite a few articles going around lately (here's an example) decrying the benefits of a gluten free diet.  I've even been warned on a certain Catholic forum that gluten free is damaging for anyone who doesn't have celiacs, and has absolutely no benefit at all.
Now I don't go around telling everyone in the world that they need to be on a gluten free diet.  If you feel fantastic eating wheat and are healthy than I wouldn't change a thing.

But there's also a reason that gluten free is so huge right now.  It's because for a lot of people cutting out gluten is seriously life changing.

When I eat gluten I have regular migraines and asthma.  Without gluten both of those not-so-minor inconveniences go away.  Without gluten I feel better and have more energy.  And every time I cut gluten out of my diet I find myself magically at my pre-pregnancy weight within a few days.

So I really don't understand the rash of articles that I've seen that are generally quite hostile to the idea that anyone even try the diet.  I'm a little confused about why it matters so much that you'd try to convince others to avoid it.  It's not as if the diet is being forced on anyone.  The gluten police don't go from house to house forcing people to throw out their bread and pasta.  If you don't want to try a gluten free diet, don't do it!  Ignore your friends posts the way you ignore all the other posts online that don't interest you.  It's as simple as that.

Honestly, I'm very, very thankful for the people who I know (in real life and online) who shared their experiences with a gluten free diet with me.  I'm thankful that when Patrick's allergy was still a mystery we had an opportunity to try a gluten free diet and noticed that it seriously changed the way our house runs.

No one in our house has tested positive for celiacs, but if I were to add wheat into our nightly dinners it would be a disaster I don't even want to imagine.

And that disaster would drag on for two weeks.

It would start with itching and a rash for Mae.  It would turn into three hours of screaming starting at around 4 am.  The next few days would be sluggishly horrible.  We might end up at the doctor.  The last time she had a piece of bread I spent two days on the phone with doctors discussing whether or not we needed to head to the ER and that was after eight days on a prescription laxative (because that sort of thing always happens on a weekend!).  Once the first week was over it would be another week of teeth grinding and screaming, tears and non-verbal non-communication.  Somewhere around day 14 life would begin to shift back to normal, except that we would all be shake by the memory of what a single piece of homemade wheat bread can do.

Of course, it's not that dramatic for all of us.  I have no idea if Patrick has a wheat sensitivity because while he loves gluten free bread and cookies he turns down wheat every time I offer it to him.

I've already shared my migraine/asthma/general not feeling as good gluten experience.  Basically I just don't buy that you have to have celiacs to benefit from a gluten free diet. Sure not everyone needs a gluten free diet, but I feel like our experience is proof that there are people without celiacs that benefit too.

The other complaint I've heard is that it's hard to eat a balanced gluten free diet.  This makes me want to laugh. Hysterically.  You don't have to eat a gluten free diet to be healthy, but with just a tiny bit of common sense you can come up with a healthy gluten free diet.  

100% Gluten and Dairy Free...
One article I ran across said:  "If you embrace such a diet, you'll end up "eating a lot of foods that are stripped of nutrients," Tallmadge said. Studies show gluten-free diets can be deficient in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc..."

Maybe I just think people have more common sense than they do, but honestly I kept a pretty detailed account of the nutrients I was getting when I cut out wheat (and quite a few other things) and the only thing I had a problem getting was calories. I was eating an insane amount, but without wheat adding in a ridiculous amount of calories, I felt like I was eating all the time.

We don't eat a lot of packaged food, I do cook from scratch most of the time out of necessity and I think that the problem has less to do with people eating gluten free and has more to do with people eating foods that have been processed to death.  Eat food that is food, with ingredients that are recognizable as food.  It makes a huge difference.

At this moment I'm not currently on a gluten free diet.  Maggie is.  Patrick basically is.  But at our current income level the rest of us are eating gluten because wheat is an inexpensive source of calories (along with rice and beans and potatoes).  To make Maggie's diet work (financially) the rest of us are eating a less ideal (but still homemade) diet since no one else has reactions that are nearly as severe.  

But as I look forwards to the future I do hope that someday we're back on the gluten-free wagon.  Because I've seen first hand why it's such a big deal to so many people and I've been convinced as a result that for some of us, it is absolutely and unquestionably worth it.

Mommy Needs Sleep!

Oh Patrick!

Mommy needs sleep.

I feel like I can't really complain, because for most of Patrick's life, he's been a champion sleeper.  But these past few days... oh my!

Last night he woke up around 10 and then around 11 and 12 and 1 and 2 and 3... before finally sleeping until 7.  Each time he woke up he would scream until I let him nurse for about five minutes and then happily smile as I put him down awake while he quickly drifted back to sleep... for another 55 minutes.

For a kid that's been sleeping through the night, or just waking up once a night, for a long time, I am not impressed with this new pattern of waking up ever sixty minutes or so.

We started out co-sleeping with Patrick, but just like Maggie (and totally unlike Sadie) once he was six months old or so, he just didn't sleep well in the big bed.  He wanted to play.  Now when he's there he wants to roll over and wrestle with Daddy, or jump up and down and look out the window.  Sleep just doesn't happen for Patrick in the big bed.

And of course part of the problem is that I can't really let him scream and scream, since my number one fear is that he wakes Maggie up and I then have two screaming children... because I know that Maggie, once awake, will be up for at least an hour or two, bouncing and yelling and climbing the baby gates, and so I avoid that at all costs.

If I'm in the room with him, not holding him, he's screaming.  If I'm holding him but not nursing him, he's screaming.  I have a feeling that this particular 14 month old knows that he has the upper hand because Mommy will do just about anything to get him to stop yelling to keep him from waking up his sister.

I vaguely remember going through periods like this with both girls that came and went between 10 months and 18 months when they finally seemed to really start sleeping consistently through the night.  In fact, while I know plenty of people who dread those first baby days of sleeplessness, Patrick and Mae were such good sleepers originally that from the start I find myself dreading the sleeplessness that always arrives around the one year mark (give or take a few months).

On an I'm-so-thankful-for-Paul note, he got up with Mae (and Sadie who'd been woken up by her sister) at 5:27 so that I could sleep until 7 when Patrick woke up and was ready to rumble... so I did get a couple of small stretches of unbroken sleep between 3:30 and 5:20-something and 5:30 and 7:00.

But seriously Patrick, sleep through the night tonight.  It makes Mommy so much more fun to play with during the day!

When do you tend to find your little one (s) have woken up the most?  Were the first few months the most sleepless or do you dread the toddler waking more than those first days?

Monday, January 20, 2014


February is looming.

Before we started doing formal school time with Sadie I would eagerly read every post I saw about homeschooling and I remember seeing quite a few about the dreaded month of February.  February, it seemed, was some sort of homeschooling nightmare twilight zone, a short month that drags on and on and on, blustery and cold and miserable.

When Sadie requested (demanded) we start school back in June a thought popped into my head: Sure we can start now!  I mean if we wanted to, we could even take all of February off!  It won't be that bad!"

Maybe your reading this laughing, because you already know what I hadn't yet learned... there is no escaping February.

Okay, as an aside, this post may be motivated by the fact that the high tomorrow is 8 degrees and we've only seen temperatures above freezing for a few beautifully shining moments usually hours before being slammed by another swirling Arctic vortex of doom and so, after months of cold, I may be started to feel like we live in Narnia under the rein of the White Witch, where it's always winter but never Christmas (do you know that there are Christmas presents here that still haven't been opened?  Because we were going to do a Christmas morning here in the house when we got home, but then the flu hit and then Paul's school started five seconds later (actually the flu and school overlapped) and I still haven't done it).  

So, back to the second month of the year and my naive mid-summer thoughts of escaping it.

You see, there is no escaping school in February, because calling off school for the month would only make it much, much worse.  Then we would be locked inside without the structure that holds together our days (and oh how my children need structure) and now calling off school and having a "vacation" sounds like the worst idea I have ever heard in my entire life.

Instead I've been changing things up a bit, for these last months of our school year (we should hit 180 days somewhere around the end of February beginning of March, although with therapy six days a week it's not like school time is going to be stopping, although I am getting motivated to get my unit studies organized).  Sadie's finished her two Singapore Math books and have been doing Life of Fred to keep busy, although there's only so much time you can spend doing math "for fun" even with a kid who requests extra math worksheets in addition to her math books.  We've been spending the majority of our time on science and hands on fun activities, and there may even have been a promise to build a model of Mount Shasta in our house and make a science project worthy explosion (maybe that will be once the snow melts a little and I can use my giant baking sheet to carry it outside?).

We've also been doing some serious Little House on the Prairie reading (we're to the second to the last book in the Rose Years, because nothing makes me more thankful to be stuck in a house than reading about a time when there was no electricity, or central heating or indoor plumbing.

Still I'm counting the days until we can push Patrick in the stroller without getting caught in a snow bank and the kids can really get their wiggles out by going outside and walking places again.  And whether or not that ground hog sees his shadow, I'm really, really, really hoping for an early spring!

Week Ending

I haven't done a Week Ending post in a while because most of the time we've been inside and my camera doesn't take very good indoor pictures... besides how many pictures of us sitting around reading Little House on the Prairie books and imagining that it's almost spring can there be.

This weekend though, I kept my camera with me and decided to at least try to capture some cuteness during Paul's days off.

The weekend got off to a start with Mae falling asleep inside a cardboard box while we were getting ready to go out of the house for the first time in seven days (for me and the kids, not for Paul):

I love this picture because it just sort of captures her personality... usually when I try to snap a picture I get a cheesy fake smile... this weekend I kept lucking out and getting the real thing:

On Saturday morning therapy was at the therapy center, so we dropped Daddy and Maggie off there and then went to a mall playground to wait for Sadie's ballet class to start.  Patrick did not want to go to the playground.  He kept trying to escape.  Finally Sadie and I followed him to see where he would go and he walked down the mall and tried to go into a sports shoe store...

Surprisingly I actually got a little bit of knitting done this weekend while sitting in the passenger seat of the van while we were doing errands.  I have this crazy idea to try to make something ever week or two (or month, if week is too ambitious), so that I'm all set when Christmas comes around.  We'll see in December if I've actually kept up with it.

Either way, I think Sadie will love this color:

Here the girls are in their matching pajamas.  When Sadie started to change out of hers Mae got upset and so Sadie changed back.  They're so sweet together.

I believe that Sadie is pretending to play the harp...

Here she is with her favorite baby of the moment:

And here's a picture I snapped of the girls at the end of Mass:

She had a pretty fun weekend:

Mae enjoyed wearing her Wonder Woman crown... and my boots.

We were doing a therapy activity in which I was supposed to do something silly and act very obviously as if it was silly.  I tried putting on her shoes.  She looked very serious and then grabbed my shoes and wore them for the next two hours.

It didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned, but it was pretty cute:

Blowing a kiss?

Patrick is just so happy to be playing with his sisters:

And he got one of the much sought after monster squeeze toys:

And then there was me...  Squeezed into a hat meant for Patrick.  But hey, it made them laugh, so...

And I have been such a slacker at my favorite link ups that I hadn't realized that there hadn't been a Week Ending link up in a while.  However, Re-Inventing Mother is my Week Ending inspiration and she has some beautiful pictures of her latest knitting projects (hopefully she posts an update of the second project that's on the page soon, because I've already seen a picture and it is beautiful!).

I hope you all had a great weekend and stayed warm!