Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Archive for August, 2013

Food as Medicine. Days 18-25

When we began the Brain Balance program, I knew that dietary changes would be a big component of this journey. But Oh.my.goodness. I had no idea it would transform my life. My children are being blessed too! It’s just that I am living in my body, and not theirs. To a large extent, due to this fact, I can’t feel the effects of the changes that are happening to them. I see good signs in their sweet faces as well, but I FEEL the changes in myself. I know that helping me has helped them significantly. For fourteen years I have read about ways to help our family to live and eat more wellfully (is that even a word?). In the past five years especially, I have watched as researchers in the health and medical industries are starting to come to the same conclusions. Food is the best medicine. We are coming to discover that a mix of Eastern and Western medicine traditions can work together to heal our bodies. Let me just come up with a quick list of some sources I’ve studied in recent years.

There is Alejandro Junger, who came up with best-selling, research-based books, Clean and Clean Gut. After seeing his own health decline as a medical professional and becoming a patient in his own field of medicine, he determined that he needed to look elsewhere for the help he needed. Then there is Mark Hyman, who has advocated Functional Medicine for many years, and whose clients see large-scale results. And there is William J. Walsh. He is a psychiatrist who has helped tens of thousands of patients conquer mental health challenges through nutritional therapy. His book, Nutrient Power: Heal your Biochemistry, Heal your Brain is a tightly researched treatise on a number of disorders which can be helped this way. And who hasn’t  heard of Joe Cross ? He cured himself of a rare autoimmune disorder by way of juice fasting, as seen in his documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

All of these people have inspired me with their discoveries, and have intellectually prepared me to make dietary changes. However, there is a huge difference between learning and reading about a given solution to health problems, and actually DOING the work to apply the stellar concepts in my life! For years I have read and researched and concluded, and read and researched and concluded, that I and my family could benefit from making dietary changes. But this is the first time in my married and mommy life that I have chosen to COMMIT myself unwaveringly to follow a program. Admittedly, I have wavered in my commitment to the BB diet. I almost named this post “The Pendulum.” But the results I’ve seen in my own chemistry has convinced me that it is worth persevering, and worth my best efforts to comply completely. I have mentioned it before, but it must be said again. Changing my diet has virtually eliminated my mood issues.

And so this post will also highlight more of the foods we’ve been eating and experimenting with. But good news, the exercises are helping as well! Just yesterday I saw a change in Big B that I hadn’t noticed before. As a disciplinary measure in our home, we have adopted the Leap Frog consequence. We got this idea from a therapist three years ago who was helping Dash with some severe behavioral and emotional issues. Dash went to live with my brother and his family for a time, and while he was there, he learned about cause and effect. When unwanted behavior arose, he had to do a set of Leap Frogs. This means literally, that he had to squat down on the floor with a deep bend in his knees, using his hands to balance on the floor, squat down and then spring straight back up as high as he could. The minimum set of 10 Leap Frogs can be tiring, and the kids have learned that it’s better to comply with whatever is being asked of them, rather than suffer this consequence. This is a pretty good demonstration of a Leap Frog. Anyway, Big B has always had a really hard time completing a really great Leap Frog. He would very slightly bend his knees, and just jump up high. But this week, after he had a big fight, he earned a set of 10 Leap Frogs. As he proceeded to execute them, we saw for the first time, a well-executed Leap Frog. A deep bend in his knees, and he didn’t wobble on his landing at all. And then he did 9 more! We were so excited to see this, we clapped at the end, and told him what a great job he did. Freckles wasn’t too happy that we were congratulating him under the circumstances, but even he was transfixed, watching his brother carry out his consequence.

Oh, and Big B has also had less meltdowns on Days 18-25. AND, he seems to be doing less tummy touching than before, so lots of good progress! Michael and I were talking last night about all of the good things that have happened in our lives as a direct result of Big B’s presence in our family. We have learned so much through the years, while on the quest to understand his needs and also Dash’s. They have taken us in new directions that would not have been possible without their combination of  needs. I have had to stretch as their mom in countless ways, which makes me very grateful. I wouldn’t trade the experience we have gained, and I definitely wouldn’t trade my beautiful kids for all the riches in the world.

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This is the view from my back window. My kids love to visit Leilani’s house, and jump on their trampoline. Sometimes it is hard to get them back home.

Here is a look at our daily exercise sessions.

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Olfactory

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Primative Reflex Work, BB Music CD Playing in Background

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Core Strength and Primative Reflex Work

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Yes Baby Blues is a Streaker

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More Core and Reflexes Work

Dash, Freckles doing Sit-Ups, Big B doing a Starfish

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Big B doing Sit-Ups (20 today, his record!)

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Dash and Freckles on Push-Ups. Still working up to military Push-Ups

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Eye Exercises

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Cute Daddy

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Gorgeous Tomatoes from Sweet Lady at Church! Thanks A.H.!

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Guess What I am Making

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Yes, Big Bowl of Salsa, Delish

Just chop up all of the above ingredients, mix with juiced lemons, and refrigerate.

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Daddy’s version of Posho, with yellow corn meal.

See YouTube demonstration here (1:06-4:06 is just a lot of stirring.)

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He reminisced about being in Uganda today, when we ate this with a homemade Chili.

It was that good.

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Baby Blues supervising Sunday Dessert Prep, Recipe Here. Use Coconut Sugar or Raw Stevia to replace refined white.

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Organic Palm Oil Shortening to grease the pan.

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Mmm, didn’t last long. We didn’t make it for this cake, but for a yummy frosting alternative, check out this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Pudding.

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Sparkle wanted to dress up like a waitress, and served it to me properly.

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Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing, recipe from BB Nutrition Guide

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Dash got excited and put extra maple syrup on it.

We scored with the BB recipe of “Hali’s Favorite Waffles”.

Replaced Oat Flour with a mixture of 2/3 C. Almond and 1/3C. Coconut Flour. Also added Coconut Oil.

Check back for recipes!

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Daddy’s Yummy Peach Smoothie

1 peach, 1-2 carrots, 1 apple, 1 banana, ice, water, a little bit of coconut or almond milk blended.

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What we’ve been Eating

Just quickly, I wanted to write down some of what we’ve been eating over the last couple of weeks. We are far from thriving as gourmet cooks here, but the contrast between this and our norm just three weeks ago is striking to me. Now that I have my camera back again, I will try to take pictures of new foods as we make and consume them.

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(Not my photo)

Peaches in Oatmeal

Breakfast Foods

We tend to stick with the very basics here. Most days we will eat cooked oatmeal sweetened with pure maple syrup, fresh fruit, and mixed in with either rice or almond milk. Sparkle (9) still refuses to try oatmeal or fruit, unless it’s an orange cut in rings or a banana without bruises. So her typical breakfast is two cooked organic, cage-free eggs, and a couple of links of a Costco brand of sausage that is minimally processed. I forget the exact brand, but will note it when I go back to buy more. I have made pancakes from a GF/DF mix from Harmon’s, but they seemed to be a touch pricey, for the quantity. Today we had breakfast for dinner. I made the Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe for pancakes, and substituted three ingredients: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free flour, canola oil, and a combination of rice/coconut milk. Sparkle wasn’t sure she wanted some, but by the time the rest of us had inhaled our platefuls of pancakes, bananas and pure maple syrup, she decided to eat one too. (Woot-woot!) Some days breakfast consists of a simple green smoothie, Michael usually makes it from spinach, frozen berries, ice, almond or coconut milk, banana, apple, and carrot. After starting Brain Balance, he stopped putting in a spoonful of his favorite strawberry jam (refined sugar). Most of us eat smoothies right up, except you-know-who ;). Daddy’s smoothies are much thicker than mine. I prefer more liquid, and usually add some to my glass. We will try flax-seed soon, to up the nutrient value even more. Oh, and right now, with our trees full of fruit, we are putting fresh peaches into anything and everything we can think of.

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 (Not my photo)

Green Smoothie

Lunch and Dinner Foods

I make a lot of Brazilian beans and rice. Most of the time even Sparkle eats them up. The trick with the beans is a thick saute base of oil, onions, garlic, salt, and cumin. We haven’t made a successful switch from our favorite jasmine white rice, but I am hoping to remedy this soon. So far the best Brazilian rice is made by first browning all the rice in an oil/onion/garlic/salt base, and then boiling, then simmering, with just the right amount of water. I bought a big bag of nice, short-grained brown rice from Costco, and it is calling to me. Soon!

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(Not my photo)

Brazilian Beans and Rice

Did you know that when you combine beans and rice you are eating a perfect protein? Make them Brazilian, and they really are perfect!

Since Brain Balance hasn’t outlawed corn yet (I understand that we will remove this on week 10 however), we make good use of the organic tortilla chips from Costco. They add a little crunch to many dishes, including our taco salad. My taco meat is made with ground beef, browned with a homemade spice combination (chili powder, garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, cumin), and served with tortilla chips, rice, beans, lettuce/spinach, tomatoes, guacamole, corn, and salsa, topped with a touch of homemade, dairy-free ranch dressing from the Brain Balance cookbook.

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(Not my photo)

Dairy-Free Taco Salad

Sometimes as a main lunch course, we dip tortilla chips into albacore tuna, mixed with homemade mayonnaise, and eat garden tomatoes on the side.

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(Not my photo)

Homemade Mayonnaise

Also popular in our family is chicken curry sauce over rice. This is a chicken stock-based dish, beginning with sautéed onions, garlic, spices, and veggies like carrot, potatoes (omitted now for Brain Balance), eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. Michael is the spice master, and takes pride in his ability to season this with just the right amount of curry, nutmeg, garam masala, and onion. A sprinkling of raisins is the final touch. We often don’t have left overs the next day.

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(Not my photo)

Curry Chicken Sauce

Last night Daddy made his famous Ugandan Curry stew with sautéed red cabbage and purple eggplant from the farmer’s market, lots of sliced onions, garden tomatoes, fresh garlic, seasoned with curry and garam masala spices, in a base of tomato sauce and ground beef mixed in. He also made a lovely corn meal-based side to accompany the stew, called posho. He learned how to do it in Uganda. For dessert, we used our big zucchini to make a Paleo brownie that was a delicious Sunday treat.

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(Not my photos)

Cabbage stew supplies and Posho

Snacks and Treats

Also great with Costco tortilla chips is my homemade fresh guacamole (avocados, chopped onions, diced garden tomatillos, garden yellow and sugar red tomatoes, a bunch of chopped cilantro, fresh juice of lemon, jalapeno pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper).

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(Not my photo)

Homemade Guacamole

Another yummy variation of dip is the Costco Jack’s brand of salsa with fresh peaches or mangoes cut into it. Some days instead of a traditional lunch, we will eat this type of snack at mid-day and then eat a combined lunch and dinner around 4 or 5pm. Fresh fruits and raw veggies are available pretty much around the clock for snacks, and also serve as staples at all meals.

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(Not my photo)

Peach salsa

I have done some experimental baking, thanks to my friend Heidi’s GF/DF/Vegan baking cookbook. So far we have made brownies, white bread, and orange/chocolate chip cookies using her recipes. All of them tasted great, and didn’t last long.

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We also made a simple oatmeal, fruit-sweetened chocolate chip cookie from a recipe I received from Michael’s mom, which turned out delicious.

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A meme from Facebook

I replaced the raisins here with Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

So far we have kept things pretty simple. I hope, as we go along, to get more creative, and be able to make mealtimes really enjoyable and healthy for all of us. For now, I’m just delighted to find my children, for the most part, to be flexible and open to eating differently. Where we are at now is a place that I thought, in times past, we weren’t capable of achieving. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.

Sunshine and Nutrients, Days 12-17

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(Not my photo)

The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together. ~Kurdish Saying

Well, we’ve passed through two intense weeks. Emotional intensity has always been a quality of our family’s life together. I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t know how to be anything else, and hope that others will just accept this fact and embrace it, as our friends. It should not be surprising to anyone who knows us that this program would crank up the pressure for us, and boy, has it! I was not certain at the outset that this would be a bad thing for us, and hoped sincerely that it would mean the opposite. And boy, has it! This post is dedicated to the enumeration of the positives that have come into our life since we commenced. Unfortunately my written descriptions and past images will have to suffice, as we have misplaced our camera once again.

August 1st was a great time to start this program for us. We have no birthdays in our immediate family (no need to make a birthday cake anytime soon) and school has been out of session, giving us the maximum latitude and flexibility to change up our routine. Our garden and fruit trees are producing well, providing an abundance of fresh produce which is directly incorporated into daily healthy meals. We have a farmer’s market every Saturday across the street from the Brain Balance center, both of which are situated less than two miles from our home. This helps me a ton. I received a note from one woman who moved out to Utah from Wisconsin this summer, so that her kids could participate in the Brain Balance program here in South Jordan. Her husband had to stay behind to work, leaving her to navigate the demands of this program as a single parent. I’m so lucky that it is all so convenient and close by, and that this house we bought last year was already stocked with the raw tools to assist us in our effort. Here are some pics of our garden and trees.

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Pears Galore

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Zucchini to Spare

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A bough from one of our mature peach trees, broken under the weight of beautiful peaches.

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Two garden boxes full of veggies.

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Golden Delicious Apple Tree

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Peas, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins

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Dash holds the BIG zuc, with Sparkle and Freckles. We just made Paleo Zucchini Brownies with that baby.

Physical provisions notwithstanding, the spiritual and  mental blessings that we’ve received since beginning the Brain Balance program outshine them. Right around day 6 or 7, my friend TS from church called me out of the blue. She thought she should call, but didn’t know why. Unbeknownst to her, we were in the thick of the overwhelming diet changes, and she had just recently gone through her own journey. They’d learned that her husband has Celiac Disease, and subsequently took the whole family off of gluten. In that process she had gained insight and resources that she could now pass on to me. Beyond the resources, she comforted me by just listening to my complaints, and giving me encouragement.

Last week, around Days 12 and 13, I needed more insight into how I could try my hand at improvising with food, and experimenting with the new ingredients. I also needed more recipes that were yummy and would fit the regime. The BB diet is not quite as restrictive as Paleo or GAPS, but more restrictive than most. By this time we were eating in compliance, but still not thriving. Great recipes have to be pretty narrowly defined. Thanks be to God, a couple of people came to my rescue at this juncture, with excellent resources, both with years of experience.

DB is a family friend who remarried last year, and at the same time undertook the huge task of thriving on a Paleo diet. He and his kids have lived with some of the same sensory issues that we have seen in our children, and have found a variety of tools, a Paleo diet included, that have helped them conquer their symptoms. Lucky for him, he married an adventurous woman, who not only took on the Paleo challenge, but turned their kitchen into a veritable Paleo Laboratory. She employs her daughters as taste testers, and regularly turns out what appear to be gourmet masterpieces! Her blog, if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks Miss Julie, and your Superman!

ND is a perfectly beautiful woman, who also happens to be the former owner of our happy home. She and her family filled this home with happy and healthy traditions, and she inspires me to do likewise. She read my last blog entry, and was moved to have compassion on me :). After midnight on Day 13, she was going to bed, but decided to write me an email before retiring. In true stream of consciousness form, she wrote down some of the ways she has modified her family’s meals to include a healthier array of options. With each meal idea, she included how she had improvised to make it better. Thanks to her writing form, common ingredients and recipes became useful to me. I began to see a bridge being built in my mind, between our former eating lifestyle, and our new paradigm. I begin to see how we can move forward, even after program interventions are complete, and settle on a healthier norm for our family. She also sent follow-up emails, along with more recipes and ideas in each one. THANK YOU, ND!!

Just to give my BB friends a couple more ideas, and to highlight how helpful her email was, here is an excerpt:

“Hamburger curry over rice: I love this because I can make it in the crockpot and it is ready when we are.  Cut up 2 cups of cabbage, 1-2 c celery, add cooked hamburger and onions, 1 to 2 t curry pwd and some ckn broth or water. It will need 1 t or so salt and serve over rice.  The recipe calls for a bit of catsup, but it should be good without it.  You could even grate some zuc or slice it. I like it if the veggies don’t get too done..nice and crispy.

Our family really liked a casserole I made with rice and hamburger and zuc.  I cooked the rice, added a package of cooked frozen hamburger (or what you have, I cook mine ahead and freeze it since it is such a mess to cook up), and some zuc sliced–I used to add some cream of something soup, but I think it would be yummy with a little coconut milk. Salt and onions would be yummy in it too.

You could make a zuc casserole with taco seasoning–the Schilling at Costco I think is clean for you, or you could make your own–, hamburger, sliced zuc and onions.  The recipe calls for Doritos on top (which are so not good for you) but maybe you could sub some rice chips–Dave’s has some yummy ones seaweed and something–also can get them at Smiths market place.  Maybe chips are totally out now, you could use the Costco plain corn chips to add some crunch–or it would probably be good without oh..it needs some tomato sauce, maybe two cans–boy, these are really rough recipes, but I hope they will give you some ideas to experiment with.

The apples from your tree make wonderful apple crisp–they won’t need much sweetening and I bet you could figure out a great topping with a bit of sucanut, oats?/gluten-free flour or pancake mix and a little oil. The apples are sweetest when they are yellow, can freeze and stay best and crisp right on the tree. I am so glad we planted all those trees for you!”

Oh, and here is another healthy food blog she linked from another neighbor. Thanks again, ND!

the-less

Love this meme. It’s true.

Beyond the heaven-sent help, I have also seen mental and physical health improvements in myself, Big B and others. Dash seems to be cruising through the exercises, and has accepted the diet, not without some grumbling :). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Big B’s balance is improving, and he is losing some of his tummy. Eye exercises have been hard for him to do each day, but he is trying. He can do sit-ups better than before (still working on the push-up formations, but that’s OK). His ability to do all the exercises and complete them continues to improve, albeit not without meltdowns. He needs lots of breaks, and still does the whole routing much better for Daddy than he does for me. I could be imagining it, but Big B’s eyes seem to be better aligned than they were previously. We go to the park a lot, and his coordination/ability to run around without falling down seems to be improving as well. Oh yay, Baby Blues just found my camera! Here are some park shots.

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We try to have the whole family do the exercises each day. With the exception of our 4-year-old, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. (Baby Blues just watches the rest of us laughingly.) My own lower back, which seems always to have been quite weak and prone to back pain, especially when I was pregnant or nursing a child, is much stronger now. The morning back aches, a fixture in my life previously, are gone. Earlier this year and last, I saw my hair thinning at what seemed to be an unnatural pace. I’d read enough to gather that it could be an indicator of a hormone imbalance, which of course can be greatly exacerbated by diet. Since we changed our eating habits, I have noticed that my hair seems to have stopped shedding. This has been a relief to me, if not an unexpected stroke to my vanity. I’ve lost five pounds. My husband isn’t keeping track, but he’s lost weight too. (I can tell because there is less of him to wrap my arms around.) This makes both of us happier with ourselves, as we have carried unnecessary girth around for some time now.

heart in sky

(Not my photo)

Perhaps this biggest benefit to the diet changes for me, is the way I have seen my moodiness and stamina stabilize in a big way. With a predisposition for depression in my family of origin, and having lived it firsthand for many years, I’m indescribably thankful to God for helping us put our aspirations into action through the Brain Balance program. To be sure, there is more than one way to achieve balance in one’s life. If I had hired a personal trainer for myself, I’m certain that I might see similar results, though perhaps not as dramatic, because a personal trainer’s diet would not have eliminated all of the inflammatory foods that BB has. As a mom, I have never been able to make that kind of investment in myself, worthwhile as it may be. What got us on board here, is that the well-being of our kids would be directly improved thereby. We had no idea how transformative it would actually be. For Michael and I, Brain Balance is a means of accelerating our physical and mental development beyond what it was. For Dash and Big B, and to a lesser extent, all five of our kids, BB is a way for us to help them over developmental hurdles that have heretofore been insurmountable. It may as well have been Mt. Everest to us.

climbing everest

(Not my photo. Mt. EVerest)

Nutrition Burnout and Recovery, Days 5-11

I knew it would be tough to completely change our eating habits. It was clear from Day 1 (see earlier post) that we are dealing with lifelong, deep-seated stuff here. Every time I’ve sat down to blog about this last week, I’ve been blocked. It was hard to feel anything but discouragement as I looked back at the end of the day, and saw only what looked like failure to me. I’m glad I waited to write it all down, because I think what we were seeing was probably the normal stress that comes when you undertake this kind of major dietary shift.  I’m thinking a bit more clearly now, after having seen good progress in making the transition. The only question remains, how to construct the narrative, without too much negativity, while at the same time describing a reality-based picture of our experiences this week. I will go with unadulterated honesty first, and try to work in the hopeful elements where possible.

One of the conditions that had to exist for our family to be able to dive into an intense program like this was that my mental health had to be at a place where I could stay present for the kids, and carry out the demands of home programming without going into full retreat and isolation mode. Since the day I became pregnant with our first child (Dash), depression has been a part of my life. For as long as I was either breastfeeding a child, or expecting one, my brain chemistry would be out of whack. This means that for the first 10-12 years of our marriage, I was an emotional mess. When our youngest turned three, I began to feel like myself again. It is a touch disturbing to acknowledge that my good husband has seen the whacked-out “me” much more often in our life together, than he has the real me. Thankfully he stuck around anyway, reaching out to my alternating selves, with unfailing love and patient devotion.

Here is a picture of me when I was a small girl. I don’t remember the year, but it is in the mid-to-late 70’s. I’ve always loved this photo, perhaps sensing when I view it, that this represents the real Rebecca. She is a very happy girl, insatiably curious, and a bundle of intense energy. I’ve had to re-introduce myself to her from time to time, but she never fails to make me smile, inspiring me with grateful remembrance. That girl can do anything she puts her mind to, and guess what? It’s still true, 30+ years later. Often when I look into the sweet faces of my own five babies, I see a little bit of that cute Becca. In Big B’s case, I see a lot of her.

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Me, at approximately age 4.

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(Courtesy Angela Marie Photography, 2012)

Left to Right: Sparkle(8), Freckles(10), Big B(5), Daddy, Mommy, Baby Blues(3), Dash(12)

Brain Balance requires all of their clients to commit to eating a very specific diet, which for the average American, means a big change. In short, we now eat no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no refined flours or sugars, no MSG, artificial dyes, additives, nitrates, and only occasional raw sweeteners in very small amounts, limited to: honey, stevia, 100% unrefined maple syrup, agave, organic coconut sugar, or molasses. It’s not as restrictive as say, the Paleo Diet, but Paleo fits within the scope of what we can eat. So I refer to their resources quite a bit. One such excellent blog is authored by a family friend, and could be helpful to anyone who is serious about Paleo. We decided at the outset that any diet and exercise changes that Dash and Big B had to adopt, the rest of the family would also sign on to it. I had a few dishes planned, but no snacks for in-between meals. I figured yeah, they know how to eat carrots, apples and almond butter. But wow, I was SO off. They rifled endlessly through the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator, wondering what they could possibly eat that they were familiar with. The compulsive rifling persisted throughout the week, almost as if they believed the next time they checked, their old foods might have found their way back to them.  They did know how to eat carrots or broccoli, yes, but only last week it had always been dipped in Ranch dressing! Where was the Ranch? It was no more! And of course I couldn’t send them to friends to play in this state, they’d only find our OLD Ranch bottle in THEIR fridge, and then complete melt down would be assured.

paleo pyramid

So here we found ourselves, on Day 5. We had by this time made a trip to the farmer’s market and to a local grocery store to purchase a variety of new staple supplies, like coconut oil, coconut sugar, coconut flour, almond butter, GF/DF/sugar-free pancake mixes, Easy Life chocolate chips, more produce, almond milk, rice milk, and cage free eggs. We got ourselves through the weekend alright, thanks to Dad’s skills at making a mean Curry Chicken over Rice, which the kids have eaten and loved for years. But by Monday Dad was back at work, and Mom was up. I had laid out a menu plan which I thought would work fine. And it did work fine for me. I love my Brazilian Beans and Rice, and could eat it every day, no problem. But my kids were tired of it. We’d eaten it at least a couple of times since Day 1. On this Day 5, Sparkle was visibly wilting, having NOT found anything she could bear to consume. Admittedly, I saw this coming with her, but did not prepare well enough. She is a stubborn girl, and can dig her heels in for days if she wants, depending on the issue of conflict. She was pale, and kept filling up her water bottle with her tried and true lemon juice, honey, and ice water, to get her through the hours. Absolutely nothing was left in the kitchen that she liked. And honestly we did throw out 99% of her diet with this change. What saved her from complete starvation here was a tuna sandwich on GF/DF/SF bread from Eleanor’s Bakery.

Noelle Christmas 2007

Sparkle, Age 4

As I was saying, my mental health had to be in a decent place before we could benefit from a Brain Balance program. I felt when we started that we were in the right place and time to move forward. But this last week, I seriously questioned whether I could really do it. I lost sight of Becca, the real me, the do everything girl. Depression for me has always been greatly aggravated by low blood sugar levels. The first impulse is always to sequester myself in my room, and put the kids in front of some screen. (Oh, and did I mention that the BB program also requests you limit your kids to no more than 30 minutes of screen time per day? That doesn’t seem unreasonable, until you as the mom are spiraling down into retreat, and you need a buffer to keep the kids out of trouble. And yes, neurobehaviors of an atypical child left to his own devices will inevitably lead to trouble!) When we filled up and delivered those four boxes of dry goods and two bags of dairy products to our neighbor, we said goodbye to foods that represented perhaps 60-70% of our habitual diet. So things got BAD, and FAST. Not helpful was the fact that this week at my husband’s workplace was especially demanding on him. They’d flown in a whole contingent of analysts from a market research firm which looks to be merging with his company here soon. He was not able to come home before 9pm on virtually every night of this week.

Burnt-Out-Mom

(Not my Photo)

As Day 5 passed in utter hellish frustration, we moved through the subsequent days of this week as if we were “walking in molasses” to borrow a phrase from a local author. We were all hungry, as Plan A menus became Plan Bs, only to be rejected. And I had no Plan C. My Plans A or B, only a week prior to this, had been jumping in the car and running to Little Caesar’s or Iceberg. So yes, we had many a mile to go, and it seemed as if we only moved forward by inches. This post isn’t dedicated to how we are doing on the home exercises. But our performance there (indeed, our performance in virtually ALL other essentials) was invariably influenced by our limping along nutritionally. We managed to fit in two exercise sessions per day on all of these days but Day 8, which I will mention later. During this time, what we did eat was 98% in compliance with the parameters outlined by Brain Balance South Jordan. The only problem is that it wasn’t enough. We languished. Day 6 was a little better food-wise, but in terms of meltdowns from Big B, he was just getting started. I was told that setbacks and reversals in behavior were to be expected, as we move through the program and make the necessary adjustments. But I seriously wondered if what I was seeing could possibly be in the norm. Have I given you enough of reality yet? I’ll move on now to some of the good things that happened this last week, shall I?

Day 7 started out very badly. Freckles and Sparkle had come down with bad head and chest colds, and all the kids were dying to get out of the house. So we packed us up, and headed to the zoo as quick as we could get there. Unfortunately by the time we’d made the 30-minute journey, Sparkle had gotten worse. We sat on a bench inside the zoo for 45 minutes, while Dash, Freckles and Big B walked around some of the nearby exhibits. At this point I was so desperate to get my daughter to eat a clementine, I bought a rice crispy treat from the nearby bistro to help coax her along. I also bought water and a big veggie cup that had Ranch dressing in it. She seemed almost to the point of nausea, and I felt that it was most likely because she simply wasn’t eating. I made a deal with her that for each bite of clementine (a fruit she’d heretofore rarely eaten, despite countless opportunities) that she took and swallowed, I would give her a bite of the rice crispy treat. This she attempted, with an appearance of true illness (and a touch of martyr), but unsuccessfully. She managed to swallow one wedge, but then threw up the second one. I thought maybe she should eat the veggies first, to get her tummy to a better place before attempting the oranges again. So I just gave it to her, Ranch and all, with an order that she eat as much as possible. Post-veggie consumption, she still could not manage the clementine, so I gave up at that point, gave her the rice crispy treat, and told her to eat it so she wouldn’t faint on the way back to the van.

Oh, but I was going to move on to the good stuff, sorry!! Did I mention that we just harvested two of our peach trees , one of the big ones and one of the baby ones? They are beautiful, and we are benefitting from the fresh fruit daily. Our garden is producing endless zucchini in all sizes, gorgeous tomatos, tomatillos, cucumbers, peas, eggplant and beans. Our pear tree is nearing harvest time, I think. The color is looking rosier, and I think pears don’t soften on the tree. So we will bring some of those in soon and watch. For this fresh and free organic food, I am daily grateful. Sparkle has yet to avail herself of this resource, but I have hope for her. Sooner or later, she will pick something up and take a bite. I recently read in a book called French Kids Eat Everything that it takes a minimum of 7-10 introductions to a new food for a child to decide they will like/eat it (great book, I highly recommend it!).

The night of Day 7, we went to the Summer Party for my husband’s company. It is always lots of fun, and they always have good food. Michael asked the organizer if there would be any food there that would be compatible with our new dietary regime, and was informed that there would be. So our dinner consisted of cut up fresh fruits, green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, corn on the cob with no butter, and grilled roast beef. The kids didn’t stay long at the picnic table, because there was a huge inflated water slide that had been set up for all the children of employees. Miraculously, Sparkle and Freckles recovered long enough to enjoy the water play for the residue of the event ;). And an extra tender mercy from God, I met one of his co-workers from New Jersey, who has two kids with Autism/Aspergers. I talked his ear off for at least 20 minutes, and discovered that his family is going through a similar experience to ours.  They are enrolled in a program out of Princeton University, which also includes intense home programming every day. That helped to lift my flagging spirits. Also on this day, or perhaps the next, I don’t remember, a friend from my neighborhood called me out of the blue, who happened to have just gone through the process of taking her family off of gluten. She had some good recipe ideas for me, and checked in again Sunday (Day 11) to see  how it was going. More tender mercies from God.

I did not expect to see much in the way of sickness next day, but such was not to be. Since I’m moving on from the negative here, I’ll just say briefly that their symptoms got worse as the week progressed, and other family members caught the germ as well. On Day 8, I had contracted a full-blown version of it, and decided to take the day off from exercises. At this point we threw the media limitation out the window, because I seriously couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed for a sizeable chunk of the day. So they got some Netflix and Minecraft time. Bright spot for the kids, no?

On Day 9, Daddy came home a little bit earlier. It was Friday by now, and we managed to get in two sets of home programming exercises. Unfortunately, Daddy had also caught the bug, and would require the rest of the weekend to rest and recuperate. However on the bright side, I was able to re-up our Costco membership, and purchased a good amount of ingredients I’d been lacking previously, to avail myself of some excellent recipes. I found two great recipe books online for my Kindle App. Both were written by fabulous moms, who had spent the time experimenting until they found what worked well for their families. My friend Heidi wrote one of them, and I can attest that her GF/DF/SF brownie recipe is really tasty. By Day 10, I was starting to feel better, and knew that the worst was behind me. Sparkle still struggles to find foods she wants to eat. But we are slowly finding things that she will choose to eat. With more tools and supplies at my disposal, we will be able to eat a broader variety of foods. With some great recipes on hand (can’t wait to try the substitute Ranch dressing recipe in the Brain Balance binder!), we won’t have to struggle so much to get our kids eating what we prepare.

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My friend Heidi’s Gluten Free Cookbook

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Another great cook book

I am feeling stronger, and the healthier foods seem to be clearing up some of my brain fog. I’ve lost about five pounds, and it seems to be a trend. Big B looks trimmer to me. Still chubby, but uniformly trimmer than before. The frequent home exercises for strengthening the back and spine and core muscles have helped me a lot. I’ve always had a lower back that is prone to fatigue and aching. But no more, thanks to the home program. I can do sit ups again, which I hadn’t done in I don’t know how long! I can do push-ups better than before, and I am seeing our kids making similar improvements. Big B initially had a hard time even forming himself into the right shapes for the daily exercises, but he now can do most of them without help. Freckles went from not being able to do even one sit-up on his own, to doing 75 sit-ups in three sets last night. Dash has mastered the exercise routine very quickly, and seems happier. Last night when I was  helping Big B change his shorts, he actually stood up and balanced on one leg. This has never happened before. He has always leaned heavily with his body on Daddy or me, when he had to change clothing. So we are seeing small improvements day by day. Thanks, if you read all the way to the end!! I expect the next post will be a bit more positive. I suppose to enjoy the great things, we must also acknowledge and appreciate the not-so-great.  Please share if you feel someone else could benefit from my experience.

Brain Balance Assessment Epiphanies

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(Not my photo)

Definition of epiphany (n)

e·piph·a·ny

 [ i píffənee ]
1. sudden realization: a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence
2. appearance of god: the supposed manifestation of a divine being
When a parent first sits down to discuss the results of assessments on her child’s development, emotions are mixed. Regardless of what the conclusions my be, some apprehension is present. In our case, not too much, but a little bit. The person interpreting the results for you has the power to either confirm or deny your long-held suspicions about your child. You ask yourself, am I just imagining it? Are these problems really just a product of my not having parented well? All of the critical voices come to the fore at a time like this, and inform the level of a mom’s anxiety. I am a lucky woman, in the sense that my husband always respects my opinions about how we want to parent, and encourages me to follow my intuition as mom. By the time we brought Dash and Big B to the Brain Balance center, we knew that they were neurologically atypical, in varying degrees. Knowing this, I still found myself quite surprised at what we learned. It didn’t completely floor me, because I knew that God was guiding us along. But still at this juncture, the confirmation of my gut feelings was emotional. Scarcely a week has passed since this meeting, and having begun this intensive program, we feel as if swept up in a powerful whirlwind, which is all-consuming.
ImageDash on his 1st Birthday

ImageBig B, on his 1st Birthday

We learned that Dash has, over the years, developed some pretty good coping mechanisms to compensate for primitive reflexes that he still exhibits. These reflexes normally go away during infancy and toddlerhood, but apparently they can stick around for years on end. I was completely unaware that he has some eye muscle immaturity, which has likely interfered with his schoolwork. I won’t detail the full report here, but just highlight some things. With Dash being a great reader, I never suspected that his eyes were anything but normal. In reality, out of four areas of visual testing (ability to do slow and fast eye movements, light sensitivity, eye stability during head movement, etc.) he consistently had delays of at least two years (the eye development of a 6-10 yr.old). One test showed us exactly where he placed his eyes while reading a designated passage. Those with great reflexes and muscle development track smoothly through written passages. But Dash’s eyes moved not so smoothly, tracking back at points, and his effienciency diminished near the end, as his eyes began to tire.

He and Big B both hear perfectly well, but their processing of sound is delayed. While Dash’s balance and equillibrium were normal, his spatial awareness was that of a 6-yr.old. His core muscle strength was that of a 4-8 yr. old. All this and more helped me to understand my 13-year-old much better. Big B’s assessment was even more enlightening, if that is possible. He still retains all of the primitive reflexes. One of them is less pronounced than the others, but all are contributing to frustration in his current executive functioning. His core strength is that of a 3-year-old. While his auditory perception is that of a teenager, his auditory processing is also that of a 3-year-old. In terms of fine and gross motor development, spatial awareness, balance, rhythm, coordination and equillibrium, he is developmentally 2-years-old.

Big B’s eye muscle and vision tests were possibly the most surprising to me. They revealed that his eye reflexes are non-existent, meaning he can’t look to a point in what should be his peripheral vision without also turning his head in the same direction. The effect of this disability is that he’s suffered with a type of tunnel vision. Not that his eye muscles are defective, only they are poorly developed, as if he were still an infant. This discovery made me instantly both sad and hopeful. Sad, because he has labored with it now for six years, and I had not perceived it. Certainly I have added to his distress by my heretofor unrealistic expectations of him, in more ways than one. Especially regarding academic tasks, I have been humbled. I understand now that to press him to “catch up” academically with his 6-and 7-year-old peers is to ask the impossible of him. He is stuck in the sensory-motor stages of development.

I am also hopeful, because I understand that my 6-year-old’s neuroplasticity at this stage in the game is exceptional. I have seen into the wisdom of homeschooling. I felt that God had guided us formerly, and again recently, to pursue this course for our children. Right now Big B is the most needy, but all of our children are benefitting from the home programming exercises, and I expect to see an acceleration of developmental and academic progress as we move forward. Only in homeschooling circles have I found social and philosophical support for the idea that it is best to allow a child to progress academically at his own pace, even if it stretches into the teens. Without an intervention program like Brain Balance, many children are weighed down by these developmental delays, and they have to labor on the conveyor belt public model, despite their disabilities. The solution to these delays, without such helpful supports, does not happen without the passage of time. With the freedom to pursue improvement at individualized paces, what emotional and mental harm could we prevent! Brain Balance is a remedy to the scenario in which a child takes many years to achieve vital developmental milestones. In the homeschool community have we seen the evidence that children do catch up, even if it takes a long time, when they are allowed the freedom to pursue their course accordingly. But how merciful that programs like Brain Balance and groups like the NACD offer valuable intervention services that accelerate developmental processes for kids and families who struggle to efficiently navigate the journey.

After this lengthy post detailing vital ways the assessments have helped us, I hardly need to say that this service makes my short list of “the best money I’ve ever spent” items. Even if a parent chose only to embrace the assessment, nutrition and home programming element of this program, without the in-person sessions at BB, it would help immensely. This objective insight into a child’s reality can only be helpful in fostering a higher quality of family life. We may yet bring our other three children for assessement, as our circumstances permit. I hope in the mean time to take full advantage of what we have learned, and propel all of us wholeheartedly into the intensity of the program. This blog is sure to be one of the best pressure moderation valves I have available to me, moving forward.

Please share, if you think our journey could be helpful to others.

Brain Balance Days 1-4

 Yep, this picture pretty much sums it up around here.

At this writing, we are on Day 5.

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This was our last fast food trip, pre-Brain Balance. I chose one of my favorite places, The Purple Turtle.  None of this food would make it on to our approved menu list now. Dash was mad at me for choosing this place, so he made sure he let me know how miserable I was making his life! I thought to myself at this moment, “Babe, you have no idea. Come back in another week or two (after we get going on the Brain Balance diet), and you will be pleading for corn dogs and tater tots. In the days leading up to Day 1 of Brain Balance exercises and diet changes, we went through our kitchen and purged. I’ve learned the therapeutic value of a household purge. Every time I do it, I feel like the world is new, and the brain clutter has vanished. I highly recommend it to anyone, and every six months is best!! That said, this is the first time that I’ve managed a complete food purge on a broad scale. Excepting a few long term food storage items like whole wheat, sugar, and powdered milk, anything that we couldn’t eat on this new regime was put in one of two places: In a box for Leilani and Jake (10 kids in their blended family), or in the trash. The guidelines are: no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no MSG/Additives/Preservatives/Artificial dyes/flavorings, no refined sugars or flours, no white rice or white potatoes, and only 5 raw sugars (pure maple, honey, agave, stevia and coconut sugar) in small amounts. Organic produce is encouraged as far as possible, and organic products that meet the above specs. Boa Sorte to us!

Day 1

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My husband and I are lucky to have a great realtionship. It is rare that we lose our tempers with each other. When this happens, it is usually about one thing: Money. If you know us well, you know that we have very different paradigms about how to approach money. We each have good and bad elements that we bring to the financial table. We learned early on that this fact was likely never to change. So we make do, and set the parameters together, because that is all we can do. It was a HUGE, GIGANTIC deal to get us to a place where we were both willing to put out the big bucks to enroll in this type of program. But some resources are worth it. Those like the Brain Balance Center, which are changing families and lives every day, in significant ways, is one of them.

We are almost 5 days in to the process of making over our family diet, and undertaking some pretty involved physical exercises to help us rewire our brains. It’s not as intense as I imagine a military boot camp might be, but it is tough. We went through the excercises for the third time, and found that Big B has a hard time even getting into the formation to do some of the exercises. So we are starting slow, not expecting a lot. On Day 1 of the new diet, Michael and I had more fights than perhaps we’ve had in the last 6 months put together! I have no idea what came over our household, but apparently stuff happens when you start messing with lifelong eating habits :).

In our (almost) 15 years together, we have learned about and implemented a number of health strategies, with varying degrees of success. In spurts of collective energy, we’ve learned how to de-tox from sugar as a family, and incorporated green juices and green smoothies into our diet. We’ve gone to counseling when trauma has arisen. or when my depression has become too much. We’ve intermittently jumped off the conveyor belt of public schooling, and replaced it with a homeschool routine. We recently upped our aerobic levels together as a family, by way of running together. All of these interventions have been helpful and necessary. But the emerging pattern is that we haven’t been able to sustain excellent diet and lifestyle habits over enduring lengths of time, and this keeps us stuck on the proverbial treadmill. Throw one or more special needs kids into this mix which, and it can get pretty insane.  This is one of the big reasons we needed to pay the big bucks. Once you give that kind of money to someone, to change your family’s life, you can’t afford to blow it off. You can’t give up when it starts to get rough.

We took Dash and Big B to their first Brain Balance sessions at the center. B ran a path from one wall of the lobby to the next. They have the cutest built-in miniature house, right there in the lobby, complete with a couch for mom and a shelf of toys to make the wait pleasant. He’d occasionally pause there. but mostly chose to run around. Both boys came out happy, and excited to return in two days. After dropping them off I dashed madly to the Harmons nearby to load up on whole foods that we could eat. This was a hungry day. And I had a big headache.

Day 2

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(Not my photo)

On the morning of the second day, I woke up on the verge of a panic attack. I had been having bad dreams all night. Incidentally Robert Downing Jr. was in my dreams. He had his Iron Man persona going on, but in a bad way. Iron Man in a leather jacket was a homicidal gang leader in my neighborhood, who went on the attack, anytime someone questioned his authority or stood up to him. Throughout this extended dream sequence, I spent most of my time either fighting him or hiding myself and my family from him, after having inexplicably called him out on his bullying. Any dream interpreters want to take a shot at it? Analyze that and get back to me, will you? What I get from this is that I have been in fight or flight mode for a little while now, trying to gather the resources to fight the incredible forces of habit.

Usually when things get too demanding or chaotic, I stop and take a break to breathe, and address the tasks at hand only when I’ve achieved a semi-peaceful emotional space (you could also read this as procrastination, but it is a coping mechanism). When it’s not possible to work up to big tasks, I do dive in, but often with a bad attitude. I’ve purposely designed my life to be simple and flexible enough to allow me time and space to approach things without haste.

So on this morning, instead of getting out of bed immediately to do exercses like we’d been, I curled up in a ball and asked Michael to hold me. In that moment, I prayed to God to help me do it. I didn’t want to blow the routine off, but the tasks in front of me loomed like Everest. By the way, that’s a tag line for Michael’s company. “What’s Your Everest?” they ask. The idea is that any company which has tough marketing and financial issues to resolve, should come to them to do the tough analysis, and will come away with real solutions. Not even a week before Day 2, I sat in church in San Jose, with the women in my old neighborhood. I’d been asked to read a quote about how God will remove mountains for us when we exercise our faith. I cried as I read it (Mormon women emote a lot on Sundays when they all gather). I felt that God had recently given me the tools to remove what has felt like a mountain of concern and frustration over Big B’s developmental delays. And now here I was, on Day 2, the reality of the task bearing down. I asked Michael to give me a priesthood blessing, which he gladly did. (laid his hands on my head, and invoked a blessing of extra strength and courage from God on my behalf). I felt better. With Michael’s help, I’d given myself the emotional space to put off diving in unprepared, and we got the first iteration of exercises done for the day. Sometimes inertia can be crippling. Thankfully it can be overcome.

Day 3

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(Not my photo)

Today we dropped the kids off for their second sessions at the Brain Balance center, and went immediately to the nearby farmer’s market. They were in the last half hour of their sale time, so we got half price on a lot of fresh, organic produce. A cup of organic raspberries at the market was $3.00. At the local store to compare prices afterward, we found remarkably that it was $2-3.00 more to buy a similar amount of conventionally grown raspberries. With Daddy home on this Saturday, Day 3 was much brighter than Day 2. He helped me do all three home exercise sessions, and the kids listened to him really well. I’m not sure why this happens, but they often listen better for him than they do for me. Today we had a small breakthrough for Big B. He was working on the “lizard” exercises, which have two parts. It was tough for him to execute yesterday, but today he managed to put his body into the mirror formation of the first position without help. He got SO excited, he jumped up and ran around yelling, “I did it myself, I did it myself!! Mommy, did you see? I did it myself!” So yes, a happy moment today. For a treat, I tried to convert my normal brownies recipe into a product that met the new dietary specs. Sadly, this failed miserably. I was surprised how overly sweet it tasted to me, after having no treats for a few days. We had plenty of meltdowns from Big B today as well, but we worked them out. We also weeded a couple of plant beds, and removed a couple of zucchini plants that had taken over a big chunk of the garden. We went to bed tired.

Day 4

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Looking East over South Jordan

On Sunday, Day 4, we took a break from the home exercises to focus on keeping the Sabbath day. This was a welcome rest. Big B kept asking if we could do the exercises. He also loves taking the lemon flavored fish oil pills at bedtime, and kept thinking that he wouldn’t get his fish oil if we didn’t follow the routine (we use that leverage when needed). I went to visit family in the next valley over, and enjoyed the “me” time immensely. Michael made curry chicken and rice for dinner. He added the Brazilian beans I made yesterday as a side dish, and it complemented the menu quite well. On this day I felt loved and supported by my extended family for our new journey. There really is nothing better than to love and be loved :).

A Little History

Have you ever seen one of those moms at the grocery store? You know, the harried one. She has tired eyes, and wears old worn-out yoga pants. Her husband’s polo shirt falls well below her generous hips, and her flip-flops plod along resignedly. Her non-descript hair is pulled back in a sloppy ponytail and she wears not a trace of make-up or accessories. She’s got (at least two) loud kids who are so excited to go to the grocery store that they can’t stop clamoring for her to buy this or that, holding up traffic on all sides, while their pleas fall on deaf ears. When she addresses the little cherubs, it is in clipped and stern tones. In Utah, to their credit, people are pretty understanding. We do live in the land of big happy families. But there are times that even the politest of onlookers can’t disguise their irritation or pity as they survey the chaotic space we inhabit. This has been me for many years. I only take the kids to shop with me when I have no other choice. Why? We are a walking circus. My kids are also beautful, funny, irreplaceable treasures in my life. And I love them dearly. But not at the grocery store, not at this phase of our development.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog. Our development. It’s a vague word, development, defined by many things. One would think I know something about it, since I have an Associate’s degree in Child Study. It might seem unfortunate or lamentable to an outsider that it has taken my husband and I many years to figure out how to address our children’s development issues comprehensively. Our first child was born 13 years ago, and he had issues right from the get go. We didn’t know what was going on with him at the time, but I was absolutely certain that I’d never — in my 27 years of life, and my 15 years of child care giving experience with hundreds of children, normal and atypical — ever known a child who exhibited more continuous physical energy and mental/emotional intensity than this, my firstborn did. Stephen came straight from heaven that way, fiery spirit and old eyes. But I couldn’t figure out why he was different, or explain it to others. We knew for sure he had something going on, when in the first short months of kindergarten he was shutting down emotionally, begging us daily not to make him go back. We decided at the time to ditch public school and homeschool him instead. I’ve never regretted that.

It wasn’t until his younger brother Benjamin came along however, that we started putting the pieces together. By the time we saw that he had developmental issues, we were a decade into raising kids, and American brain researchers had made vital advances toward understanding neurologically atypical children. We have five kids. Stephen (whom I will refer to in this blog as Dash) and Benjamin (Big B) are the first and fourth in the birth order, respectively. Last Fall, when B started kindergarten, I felt a strong sense of deja-vu. By Christmas I seriously doubted my choice to leave him at the school at all. But the school is great, and he loved his teacher. We decided in February that the cost was too high for us to keep the kids in school, and so we returned to schooling at home. Thankfully, the availability of online and conventional education resources and an increase of homeschooling families generally, has made this a Golden Age for alternative education in America. The parallels between Dash and Big B’s issues are striking. However it is clear that B is dealing with a more severe set of developmental challenges than Dash has had. Behaviorally, this last Spring and Summer have been exceptionally difficult for Big B. We became so concerned about him that we decided a fast was in order.

As a  primer here, I should note that we are Mormons. Fasting is a monthly practice for us. On the last Saturday of each month, we reflect on our relationship with God, and begin a ritual that lasts for approximately 24 hours. We finish dinner on this night with a prayer to God that marks the beginning of our fast. We skip the next two meals, and donate the money we’d spend on those meals to the church as a fast offering to help others locally who are in need of assistance. We feel that this practice allows us to lay aside our bodily appetites and focus more intensely on our relationship with Heavenly Father. We decide on a purpose for our fast. And we pray often throughout the day over that purpose. Each person/family’s purpose is different. One month we may fast and pray about a loved one who is struggling. Another time we may ask God’s help with a special challenge we are facing. You get the idea.

In May of this year, we determined that Big B would be the focus of our fasting petitions to God. I longed for clarity over what we should best do to help him. I’d been concerned over his development before, but at this point, his distress had become acute. He was so frustrated with his inability to be still, for example. When it was time for us to sit down and read aloud with the kids from a chapter book, he would cry because he couldn’t sit and listen. It was painful for him to attempt it. A child whose motor never stilled, whose restlessness never relented. This ADHD-like behavior impeded his progress in learning his ABC’s. And he had other issues which baffled me: he couldn’t hold the pencil well enough to write almost at all, even after months of practicing. He seemed always to need sensory input, compulsively reaching under my shirt or his dad’s, to stroke our bellies while sucking his thumb. He seems always to be out of balance physically, leaning on others to help him button a shirt or put on his socks. All of our concerns can’t be listed here, but I knew we needed extra help and guidance to meet his special needs.

Within days after my fast, I began to see my prayers being answered in unmistakeable ways. My neighbor over the fence announced suddenly that she and her family were moving to California within a  month, and would be renting their house for a year. The woman (I’ll call her Leilani) who would be bringing her family from Hawaii to rent the home was an Autism specialist. For many years I wondered if Big B and Dash both suffered from some type of Autism Spectrum disorder, like Aspergers. At the very least, I suspected sensory integration issues which sometimes looked like Autism, from what I could tell. When this woman moved into the home over the fence in early June, we became instant friends. We’ve had numerous conversations about Autism in the context of the symptoms I saw in my kids. At one point I told her something about Dash, I think it was about his ability to “push my buttons” in a conflict. She said that wasn’t an awareness that an Autistic/Aspergers child normally possesses. And for the first time ever, I heard a plausible explanation for B’s odd tummy-stroking behavior. She told me it was definitely a sensory issue, and that he needed an expanded “sensory diet” to be able to help him out. No doctor or professional I had asked, until that point, could give me any insight about why a 6-year-old would exhibit this behavior. I’d get a blank stare at best, and at worst, a suggestion that I just wasn’t “teaching him appropriate boundaries.” This new friendship with Leilani was the first answer to my prayers.

And then almost two weeks ago, I discovered that a new Brain Balance Center had just opened up, literally around the corner in South Jordan, and they were having an informational presentation that very night.  The methodology of these learning centers for developmentally challenged kids is based on Robert Melillo’s theory and research about the two hemispheres of the brain. I had read his book “Disconnected Kids” back in 2009, and found myself nodding in agreement all throughout my reading. It seemed to pinpoint a lot of behaviors I had seen in my family, and explained so much. At that time there were no Brain Balance centers near our home, but I thought to myself, “how wonderful would it be?” Now that a center had presented itself, I asked my husband if he would come with me to the info meeting. I was so relieved when he came, and I saw him nodding his head in unison with me throughout the discussion. The presenter was a mom of three kids, two of them on the Autistic spectrum, who described the continual frustration she’d felt in trying to figure out how to help her kids connect the dots in a variety of situations.

We went home from the presentation fully intending to have Dash and Big B assessed, but had no idea how we would be able to pay for them to participate in the program. But after discussing it at length, and tuning in to how we might pursue this course of action, we began to feel strongly that God had led us to this place, and would provide the way for us to accomplish it. I have to quote a scripture here, which I have come to know absolutely as true in my life. It is from the Book of Mormon, and it is spoken by Nephi, son of Lehi, a prophet that left Jerusalem during the time of Jeremiah:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

Now it is clear that our deciding to enroll in the Brain Balance center wouldn’t be seen as a “commandment” from God, in the traditional sense. However, we felt strongly that the Lord had led us to this juncture, and kindly let us know that it was time to act, and to change our course, for Dash and (especially) Big B’s benefit. This being the case, there was nothing to do but say “Ok, let’s do it.” So we proceeded to enroll, found financing, and began. Now after having started, we are seeing on the horizon new ways that we will be able to find the cash to pay off the loan we agreed to. This is another unexpected blessing.

Now this post is already long, so I will stop here and say that on Day 3 now of this intense program, we are all feeling better physically and mentally, due to the daily exercises and diet changes that this program has imposed on our family. I’ll go into more detail in the next post. This is my introduction and explanation for this newly-created blog. I hope to document our entire journey as it happens, so that someone else who may be at the beginning of their own journey will find support and validation. Before I close, here is one more link, belonging to the presenter of whom I spoke, the mother of three. She wisely took up her digital pen, and documented their miraculous journey through the Brain Balance program, and now blesses others in like manner.

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