Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Benefits of Healthy Eating’

Resolution for Improvement, Weeks 9-10

September 2012_Bob Hardy

Fall has Arrived in Utah
(Photo by Bob Hardy, Sept. 2012)

In Week 9, we achieved our lowest home exercise output. Ever. I decided that we needed to make a resolution as a family to work harder at completing all of our daily exercise requirements.

We figured that the BB program has three parts to it: Weekly sessions at the center, Home Nutrition Compliance, and Home Programming Exercises. It could be argued that equally important to home programming is the effort to keep the kids physically trying new things (like swimming lessons, a new sport, stretching their physical limits, etc). But for our family, the most we could do was add in a month of swimming lessons, and to go to the park more often. It has been all we could do, just to focus on getting all the home exercises in. Hence we allotted an entire third in our equation to Home Programming Exercises.

This is what we came up with, in a spur-of-the-moment family meeting, on the last day of September. I made each of us, myself included, take a turn making a verbal commitment to do better. I have since modified our committment to include “I will do my best.” It is proving difficult even now, to get all five sets in. We each placed our right hand on a Book of Mormon in our turn, and repeated:

I promise to do my best to do (or to help others do, in the case of Baby Blues and myself) five sets of exercises every day, for six days a week, between now and October 31st. This action will help our family not waste $XXXX.XX (a third of our BB costs, also representing the portion of Brain Balance that we feel home programming fulfills. The other two portions consist of weekly BB sessions and home nutrition compliance). I make this committment in front of these five (siblings and Mom) witnesses. In return Mom and Dad agree to take the kids swimming or to the zoo at the end of each week, and also make a (Brain Balance diet approved) treat on that same day. And they will let me eat all of my Halloween candy (the volume which will be collected at lower-than-normal levels this year).

Now this may seem like trading one Brain Balance requirement in for another. After all, Home Nutrition Compliance represents an equally solid 30% of the whole program. But we have been really good about nutrition compliance since the start. I figure sacrificing a day or two of candy consumption near the end of the program is a lesser evil than continuing down the path of shoddy Home Programming output.

Since we all made our agreement, we have done much better getting exercises done. We haven’t reached the ideal five per day yet, but we have come much closer, usually at three or four. I am also allowing for kids to add in extra exercises one day if they have missed some the day before, in order to keep their cumulative totals up. Often it is Freckles and Sparkle who are working hardest at this. When I can get Dash to help Big B, it is an exceptionally good day. Big B definitely performs above and beyond, when either Dash or Daddy serve as coach.

In other good news for Week 9, we welcomed a beautiful new cousin to our family. This beautiful girl makes four new cousins for our kids, born since June 2013. Two are girls born in Utah from my side of the family. And a set of twins, a boy and a girl, were born in week four on Daddy’s side, in Texas. All are beautiful babies. Here are the photos from the most recent addition, when we visited my sister and family.

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We love this tiny girl. It has been so long since we held a newborn, we are all enthralled. On this day Daddy came home from work to take all of the kids down to visit their new cousin while I held my monthly classics colloquium group at our house. This month we discussed our summer reading selection, The Count of Monte Cristo. Thank you Sweetie, for helping me take a break from all the BB work to do something I love!

Count of Monte Cristo

(Not my Photo)

Speaking of reading, Dash has continued to pick up new books that never interested him before the Brain Balance program. In weeks 9 and 10, he has read “The Real Story of Indians,” finished “Return of the King,” and surprisingly, read Glenn Beck’s “An Inconvenient Book.” He also picked up a new that book that fits with his interests, and read it entirely: “Greatest War Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from Military History,” by Rick Beyer.

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(Not my Photo)

In Week 10, it was also General Conference weekend for Mormons all over the world. So we spent ten hours listening to talks by all of the Apostles and General Authorities of the church, speaking on all kinds of subjects related to the gospel, and gospel living. We made an exception on daily screen time limits, because it was important to us that our kids attend the sessions with us. All conference sessions were broadcast over the internet, so we were home bodies for most of the weekend. Our kids watched all four sessions like we asked, though admittedly they weren’t super attentive or excited through all of them. Since Dash is a Deacon, he attended a fifth session. After a Brain Balance session at the center on Saturday, Dash and I went on a drive through Draper, and took the scenic route over South Mountain while we listened to one conference session by radio.

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Dash and Daddy on their way to the Priesthood Session of General Conference

All Broadcasts available here.

One of my favorite talks at conference was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk about mental illness. This is a subject that many people, LDS and otherwise, struggle to understand, but which is a common affliction in our times. I felt like it extended validation and encouragement to those with mental illnesses, and those who have loved ones who suffer with it, sometimes for their entire lives.  I highly recommend his talk to anyone.

Deseret News Article on Holland’s “Like a Broken Vessel”.

I have struggled with depression ever since we started having babies, and so I appreciate the encouragement. Fortunately for me, it has only been severe during post-partum times or when a family crisis has occurred. The rest of the time it has been mild to moderate. One of the great blessings of following the Brain Balance program has occurred for me in modifying my diet, as I have mentioned in previous posts. I have found that taking out all of the common allergens and refined foods completely has helped my chemistry to balance out significantly.

Moodiness is still there during PMS times, but to a lesser degree. Also I have found that if I eat at normal intervals during the day, and without the junk, I feel better, and I cope with kids’ demands much more kindly. Conversely, if I allow my blood sugar levels to become too low by not eating regularly during the day, I become moody. As soon as I eat something, I feel better. This last scenario is also common to my kids. If no one has been eating at regular intervals, as happens in our home, no one is in a good mood. You can imagine how exponentially worse this was before, when we were eating junk refined foods, which mess with blood sugar in a big way. This all may be common sense for most of my readers, but unfortunately it has taken me years to cultivate healthy meal planning and providing three square, clean meals a day. Thus the positive effects are exceptionally clear for us at this time, when we are beginning to master clean eating. Tally so far: I’ve lost 15 pounds. Michael has lost at least 20 pounds in my humble opinion, but he isn’t monitoring so it is an educated guess. The kids have lost weight, but don’t continuously lose as we do, thank goodness. 🙂

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Seen and Unseen Progress: Dash, Weeks 7-8

I just watched a great news clip on Fox Channel 13 news. It aired just a day ago. Our fabulous Brain Balance Center director, Tammy Bingham, shares more about the Brain Balance Centers in Utah, and what the program entails. Take a look, here. And if you are interested in more about Tammy’s journey with her kids, see her blog, Our Brain Balance Journey. It’s a great read!

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All that goes on in our brains is unseen to us, but it affects us profoundly. We daily make decisions in our individual lives that affect us for better or for worse. We invest ourselves in those endeavors which we believe will improve our lives either in the short-term or in the long one. The French economist Bastiat understood this well. He published a brilliant essay in 1848, titled: “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” One need not be an economist to benefit from his insight. He says among other things:

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There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

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Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

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The same thing, of course, is true of health and morals. Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits: for example, debauchery, sloth, prodigality. When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately.

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This explains man’s necessarily painful evolution. Ignorance surrounds him at his cradle; therefore, he regulates his acts according to their first consequences, the only ones that, in his infancy, he can see. It is only after a long time that he learns to take account of the others. Two very different masters teach him this lesson: experience and foresight. Experience teaches efficaciously but brutally. It instructs us in all the effects of an act by making us feel them, and we cannot fail to learn eventually, from having been burned ourselves, that fire burns. I should prefer, in so far as possible, to replace this rude teacher with one more gentle: foresight. For that reason I shall investigate the consequences of several economic phenomena, contrasting those that are seen with those that are not seen.

Now many a reader may peruse this quote, and say, “What in the world does this have to do with anything?” After all, I’m not a philosopher, and Brain Balance is certainly not about economics. But in a way, we are all economists, in the sense that we have to make those daily decisions which we believe will bless our lives and those around us the most. All of us base our choices on the real and personal consequences that follow. As fallible human beings, we may get caught up in capturing what we perceive as real, immediate benefits to a course of action, the end of which is seemingly right in front of our eyes. In this position we often act without considering the unseen, but equally real consequences, good or bad, of that course.

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Brain Balance always produces good fruit.
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In the case of the BB program, we are discussing an investment that always yields good fruit, both in the short-term and  the long-. As mothers of special needs kids, we learn how harsh a teacher experience can be. We try to foresee all obstacles that lay in our child’s path, and seek to remove them. Then we discover that we can’t remove all obstacles for our child, even if they were foreseen well in advance. Eventually they will have to tackle their own obstacles head-on, and we have to allow them the freedom to do that, even if they fall down along the way. In Weeks 7-8, we saw a lot of falling down at home. We struggled to fit in all of the exercise sessions, and our kids watched more Netflix than they should have. But we also saw some amazing progress in between all the meltdowns (some of which were my own tantrums, witnessed by five little people). Here is a little principle that I learned from Carol Tuttle, author of Remembering Wholeness.: As human beings, we tend to discover the secrets of a good and happy life by living out the reality of what we DON’T want. We make endless mistakes, but if we are wise, we choose to stop making the same mistakes, rather allowing them to inform our vision for the future. Then we exert ourselves to take those steps which will move toward that place we envision. When we have determined finally not to return to what we know, and which we don’t want, then we are making real progress.

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Being Realistic Is The Most Common Traveled Road To Mediocrity -Will Smith

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This is what we have desperately hoped to do, as we navigate through the Brain Balance program, on many fronts. We have taken a route which, in the short-term has been difficult for the family, in terms of family routine and nutritional changes. Brain Balance demands that we change many things about our lifestyle and schedule all at once, from Day 1. Naturally we are sometimes overwhelmed. But just as a smoker whose lungs immediately clear and gradually heal upon quitting, so have we been rewarded in our physical bodies. Only we didn’t know the extent to which our bodies had suffered under our habitually SAD diet. Only when we actually removed damaging substances did we personally feel the healing effects and recognize how badly it was needed.

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DASH’s HOME PROGRESS:WHAT IS SEEN AND NOT SEEN

He is getting taller! On Sunday of Week 7, we went to visit Grandma’s house, where we got to visit for awhile, and ran into some of my siblings, whom we don’t see that much. One of his uncles who had been away for a number of  months with his work, immediately mentioned that Dash was getting taller. Within a few minutes of Dash entering the room where we grown-ups were chatting, three different people remarked the same. And Freckles too! I’m not sure if they are really growing taller, or if they just look taller because they have been losing the girth around their middles. But we were told by the Brain Balance people to expect that our children could see a period of physical growth, due to the dietary and exercise changes, which I believe we are seeing.

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Baby Blues, Dash, and Freckles: Swimming Lessons

We had all of the kids in swimming lessons this month, three days a week. Dash, Freckles and Sparkle are all making huge strides in their swimming technique, each new session bringing the chance for them to show me some new skill they have acquired in the aquatic realm. I remembered recently that in July when Dash had gone to Scout Camp, and also in months past, his leaders encouraged him to try to do the initial requirements for the swimming merit badge, and each time he tried, he failed. Well after just a week or two of swimming lessons, he went on a scout overnighter, and easily passed off not only the initial requirements, but virtually all of them. This was huge for him, and for us. I am so proud of him! I am also very proud of his sister and brothers, who are not a whit behind him in making great strides with their swimming.

Dash had a singular episode in Week 7 that was alarming at the time. I have since decided it is a sign that he is acquiring greater emotional awareness than he’s ever had before, and one of his BB trainers agrees. It was the night for both Dash and Freckles to go to their respective scout troop meetings. Freckles got out the door OK, but Dash was actually on his bed, and pulled the covers over his head when the appointed hour arrived. With some pushing and impatient words from me, he did get out of bed and come upstairs. But instead of getting ready to go, he laid down on the couch, and buried his head with a pillow. I continued to urge him in strong tones to go get his scout shirt on, and get in the car. I had seen it all before. Usually he relents, and complies with my request for action, albeit grumpily. Today however, no dice. He wasn’t. going. anywhere. I left him there, when it became clear that his mind was absolutely made up.

A few minutes later, I was startled to observe that Dash really did look very distraught about something. Upon further questioning, he mentioned that he was feeling really bad. He didn’t know why, at all. He said, “Mom, I don’t know why, but there are tears filling up in my eyes.” (Said with an inflection of unfamiliarity and surprise.) “I feel really bad, like something big is about to happen, something bad. I don’t understand it.” I asked him what he thought might happen, and he said he didn’t know. Was it something big, or something bad? I asked him. His answer: “Both.” I said, “Have you ever felt like this before?” His answer: “No.” Then he said, “Maybe it’s just puberty starting, Mom, I don’t really know.” In any case, it was an unprecedented display of emotion for Dash, a child who has always had a hard time clueing in to the emotions and inner-worlds of people around him.

emotions flash card

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A few days later in Week 8, I made another startling observation about Dash, but this time in a good way. Monday I had a huge Mommy meltdown moment. We came home from swimming lessons and everyone was very hungry, and in the kitchen all at once, looking for lunch supplies. Fighting ensued, because as we all know, too many cooks spoil the broth, am I right? It got pretty intense, and everyone started pushing everyone else, until finally I blew my top.

too many cooks spoil the broth

(Not my Photo)

I was yelling at the kids to leave the kitchen and go to their rooms, because I needed a break! Well it all escalated until everyone was almost in a full-on tantrum. But then the coolest thing happened, which almost makes me happy I melted down. Dash, seeing my obvious state of insanity, started picking up the house and encouraged the kids in a positive tone, to leave me alone and come out of the kitchen. He said something like “Mommy is tired, and we need to listen to her, because she has spent her whole life being our mom.” He alone got the kids to cooperate in exiting the premises. Then when the kids were under control again, he went out and brought all three of our trash cans back to the garage. Another situation which is unprecedented, and which gives me great hope. Either Dash is connecting better with his emotions and those of other people, or my meltdown was so acute and alarming, that it compelled Dash, as the next-oldest person in the vicinity, to re-establish homeostasis!

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Dash in an apron he made in Home Economics unit, Spring 2013

I will end this post with one more observation on Dash, which makes me happy. We decided to take a break in Week 8 from all technology/screens in our house during waking hours for the kids. After a day or two, they stopped asking for screen time, and that is when the real fun began. The kids searched out and found our box of dominoes, and decided to play. Some of the dominoes were missing though, so they couldn’t play a normal game with them. Well Dash, not losing a second, came up with a new game using dominoes that consisted of each person building a tower, and then knocking down each others’ creations in a mock battle. They all played this game for at least a couple or three hours that afternoon. I actually had to take the dominoes away from the big boys, still playing the game, so that they would go to bed.

domino tower

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Domino Tower: Not Dash’s but certainly not far off from what he sees in his mind when he builds one. The ability to see what cannot be seen.

I will write another post soon to talk about Big B’s progress, and do a more technical rundown of exercises and improvements, as per the report I received on both boys today.  They have made great improvements in all areas, and in some, it has been exceptional progress. Yay!!! Also, this week we are starting the food challenges. First challenge: Take out all potatoes from our diet for one week, and then add it back in over a four day period, to see if we have any reactions to them. By the middle of November we will have taken out and reintroduced into our diet three more foods too: corn, eggs, and rice. We will know by the end if we have any reactions among our family members to these items. It will be an exciting month!

Compulsion versus Coaching, Weeks 5-6

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Baby Blues, First Day of Preschool, Fall 2013

“The miracle of children is that we just don’t know how they will change or who they will become.”
“The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.”
As a 12-year-old girl in provincial Utah Valley many years ago, I had my first experience with “coaching” from an older girl in our LDS youth program. She was assigned to lead our young women’s volleyball team. I was brand new to the program, and without team sport experience . We got started into the first volleyball practice, and I had no idea how to play. I just came because someone invited me, and it sounded fun. You can imagine my horror, when the ball was served and came straight at me for the first time. I think I just watched it drop in front of me, no attempt to bump or set it to a teammate at all. Well naturally this didn’t please my young coach, and she immediately shouted something at me, like “YOU NEED TO HIT.THE.BALL!!!”. I mumbled something like, “Sorry!” and braced myself for the next time the ball came at me. Well, as volleyballs inevitably do, this one came back to me numerous times during the practice, and each weak attempt of mine was derided with a shout that increasingly diminished my confidence. In fact I was ready to sit down and cry right there, but my pride would not allow it. Thankfully, there were two or three girls on my team who saw me ranging close to tears, and rallied around me after each verbal onslaught. They helped me to shake it off, and carried me through the rest of the practice. To this day, wholly thanks to those kind girls, I LOVE volleyball. I surprised myself and returned to practice the next week, and then the next. At some point during that season I stopped apologizing, and decided to channel my anger over this girl’s abuse into learning the game, the end goal being to shut her up. And I succeeded. I don’t think I’ve ever written a thank you note to these girls. Good thing I can find them on Facebook!
Have you ever noticed that God doesn’t compel us to do things the way He wants us to? No matter what, regardless of how stupid we are in our choices, as a perfect parent, he never compels us to do what He wants. I have been extraordinarily blessed to be raised by parents who followed this principle, of respecting agency, above all else. As far as I can tell, compulsion was never a tool in their child-rearing tool box. I’ve spent most of my parenting years trying to follow their example, and allow my kids to made as many of their own (age appropriate) choices as possible. So when I step out of my head long enough to observe how I have sometimes interacted with my kids lately, I shudder. I hear myself talking to the kids during Brain Balance exercises, and I really want to put myself in time out! Compulsion is SO much easier than Coaching!! I never played team sports growing up, so my experience with coaches was limited. But I have often observed with AWE the positive energy that I see in men, women, youth, and youth leaders, who spend their lives and energy being a cheerleader to others.
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My Sweet Parents
Kennedy-Moore expresses an idea that resonates with me. It touches on the inevitable and universal unknowns of parenting. Our entire experience here on earth is defined by unknowns. We humans love the illusion of control over our lives, and we cling tightly to it. I’m fairly certain that I am not alone in feeling that the unfolding 21st Century, with all of its unprecedented disasters, whether natural or man-made, could easily intensify our determination to control everything. In truth, we aren’t in control. We’ve not yet learned to dictate to the elements. Our life’s path and in this case, that of our children, is unknown. It doesn’t mean that we can’t prepare ourselves and our kids effectively for the future, or that we can’t consciously determine to plot our course in a given specific direction. But unless we have the foresight of a prophet, the exact nature and form of the scenery along our respective pathways remains hidden, sometimes until we are already traversing that thorny and stony personal ground.
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Big B, traversing stony ground. 😦
Henry B. Eyring wisely observed once that the only thing many of us have in common is that life will surprise us.:”Years ago I served as the bishop of a ward (congregation) composed of young people. Time has wiped away much of what I learned then of their sorrows and mistakes, but I can still see in my mind most of their faces. I meet some of them as I travel about the world. Their faces and their physiques have been changed enough by time that I sometimes stumble trying to remember names. Others I have followed more closely, with a chance to know what life has offered them. When I learn of their lives, I am amazed at the variety of their experiences. Each life seems to be unique. About all they have in common, as nearly as I can tell, is that they have been surprised by the pattern of the tests of their faith. The surprise has come because they could not know when the tests would come, what they would be, nor how long they would last.”
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Unexpected Trials, Fellowship of the Ring
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I’ve learned to function, albeit imperfectly, within the realm of the unknown. God will illuminate the path immediately in front of me, and I step into that lighted portion. After making that step, I’m in a position to see the next portion lighted for me. From the moments Dash and Big B were born, Michael and I found ourselves on a course that was relatively lonely during the early years. Some of this loneliness was admittedly self-inflicted. I always felt like I should have control over my kids, but didn’t, and sensed judgment on numerous occasions from others. Rather than risk more judgment of my parenting by closer association, I often chose to avoid situations where I might encounter it. Thankfully, God placed various angel-women in my life. As fellow sojourners, they reached out to me despite potentially awkward differences they might have anticipated. They were sometimes my age, but more often than not, they were my elders, by at least a decade. I managed to gather a collection of friends along the way, whom I could also be helpful to, having learned never to judge another’s parenting harshly. “The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect.” Thank you, Eileen Kennedy-Moore.
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“The valleys of discouragement make more beautiful the peaks of achievement.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
The last while for our family in the Brain Balance program is distinguished by numerous peaks and valleys. We have wanted to improve on getting all three sets of exercise in each day at home, and it has been tough. Finally going into week 7, it has become easier. We are getting them done now, without WWIII descending! But in weeks 5 and 6, it was a lot of hit and miss. We’d get 3, even 4 sets of exercises done one day, and then for two days straight, none whatsoever. There was one stretch of days, at least five in a row, that we saw huge, repeated meltdowns from Big B. I seriously wondered if he would ever manage a normal three-set day. Ever. Again. Just one measly set would take us an hour and a half!
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Perhaps the important lessons of life don’t occur in a linear fashion at all, even though we may have been trained to expect that in our results-centered society. I have a journal that I have kept over the years. It mainly consists of the thoughts that have come to me from month to month, as I’ve prayed over different issues, and gotten insight when studying the scriptures. Sometimes when things are tough, I pray again, over parenting problems that seem always to reappear, familiar iterations defined by the same emotions and recurring communication patterns between me and my kids, me and my husband, me and God. Does that make sense? Virtually every time I read back over these particular journal records, it seems that the current answer is right there. Even though it was written in the past, the solution is in renewing my commitment to honoring those insights. I’m all over the board here, I know! I guess I’m saying: keep a journal, people! And pay attention to the solutions you find as you make your way through new challenges. Though conceived in former times, they may become the solutions for your next iteration (of trials).
And let your child fail. It’s really OK. Wouldn’t you rather see him learn how to pick himself up NOW? With enough practice, our kids will become pros at failing gracefully, and then move forward to what works. When they are done pouting on the ground, we are there to pick our kids up and point them in the right direction.
success and failure
“Whether your child succeeds or fails is up to your child, not you, and the measure of success or failure must be your child’s, not yours.”
–Peter Gray, Free to Learn
Moving on to some of the peaks, shall we? Great news on the Dash front, in weeks 5 and 6. While Big B spent much time pouting on the ground, Dash was on an upswing, and did something unprecedented. He has been in the Brain Balance program for a month. Since he was a very small boy, has always been hyper-focused on military ships, aircraft and weapons systems. Poring over encyclopedias of military stuff, etc. His room is full of these books. My homeschool bookcases upstairs, on the other hand, are full of classical literature for all different ages. We’ve encouraged our kids to pick books from this genre as reading material, with varying levels of success over the years. Dash has usually looked at them and said “BORING, Mommy, can we just go to the library?”
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Our Homeschool Library
So I was really surprised when early this week, Dash went up to the homeschool bookcase and took a second look. In weeks 5 and 6, he has read in their entirety: The Red Pyramid, The Jungle Book, Heroes from Roman and Greek Mythology, the Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and parts of Moby Dick and The Mysterious Island. Then to change it up even more, on that same night, he cleaned up his entire room, hung up all of his favorite posters that had been sitting in storage for a year, organized his closet, then came upstairs and gathered his (very-full basket) of clean laundry, took it to his room, folded and put everything away, and THEN went across the hall and scrubbed out his entire bathroom like a pro. These are all things that I have asked him to do as part of his weekly chores, never having secured his compliance without great contention. He also threw me a curve, when we started making dinner a bit late one night, and Dash decided that he wanted to help me set the table. Apparently when he says: “I’ll set the table, Mom, ” this is what he means:
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I was duly impressed.
In other good news: Even though our peach supply has finally dwindled away, in weeks 5 and 6, our pear tree began to drop some beautiful fruit, which we are still enjoying immensely. We have a golden delicious apple tree that we are watching anxiously for evidence of readiness. AND, this is actually the big news here. Sparkle, my 9-year-old picky I’m-living-on-popcorn-right-now-because-there’s-NOTHING-to-eat daughter, made a discovery. She LOVES pears!! Yahoo! I’m jumping for joy, because it has been a very long time since I have seen her try ANYTHING new to eat, most especially food from the fruit family!
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Home Grown Pears and Sparkle
I also learned something for myself, which opened my eyes about the relationship between what I eat and how I feel. Near the end of Week 5, I helped to host my sister’s baby shower. She is having her first girl after three boys, so it was time to party it up with the pink! So I made a yummy pan of brownies with some left over butter from the freezer and some refined white sugar I still had in a storage bucket. I used to make and eat these all the time, before Brain Balance. I took Sparkle with me to the event, and in an effort to help her consume more needed calories, I decided to ease up on the diet just for that morning (except we didn’t eat the cupcakes, because they were on the high-end, sugar-wise, but oh how yummy they would have been!). So I ate a lovely croissant with a delicious chicken salad filling, a bunch of veggies with Ranch dressing, two excellent salads that were mostly in compliance with our diet, and then allowed us to eat one brownie and one cream puff. We enjoyed it all immensely.
But then Sunday came the next day, and in the middle of the morning service, I found myself getting really emotional. And it just kept getting worse as the day progressed, until by that night NO ONE wanted to be around me. And even Monday it seems like I was just a mess, for unfathomable reasons! That night it dawned on me: MAYBE the food I ate on Saturday was contributing to my mental state. There is no scientific test to certify this was the case, but I believe it to be so. It was the first time in over a month on the new diet, that I had had this type of palpable depressed mood. And I couldn’t blame it on PMS, which usually is pretty bad for me, because that all occurred the week previously —- and it was a historically mild case. As if by magic, I woke up Tuesday morning without a shade of moodiness, feeling like my newer, healthier self again. If any of my readers have had a similar experience with moods being affected by diet change, I’d love to hear about it!
Well this post has already meandered down a long-winded path. Let me see if I am missing anything else that may be relevent here. Oh, here are a couple more food pictures. After whipping up several different versions of a gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free chocolate chip cookie, I found one that I will keep as our favorite. And it doesn’t even use eggs. It’s from a whole foods recipe website that I love, which provides fresh inspiration every time I peruse it. These cookies were gone in almost 2 minutes flat. They were that good. Here is the recipe, it is a keeper!
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Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, from Stalkerville,
a Paleo-inspired real foods recipe clearinghouse.
We also started all the kids into swimming lessons again. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can work lessons in at any time of day, and just rearrange the homeschool schedule when needed. We decided that our homeschool schedule for this Fall would be heavy on Health and Physical Education, in order for us to give due attention to the Brain Balance diet/programming, and helping our kids strengthen their mental and physical health. We still keep the other basics (Reading, Writing, Math, Field Trips) in the schedule, but we spend a bit less time on them now than we do normally. After we have completed the BB program, they will be more confident in academics and learning skills all around. Two lessons in, the kids are divided in their responses to the swim classes. While the oldest three: Dash, Freckles, and Sparkle started in a lower level class, we discovered that they are actually advanced beyond that level. Baby Blues on the other hand, HATES swim lessons. He refuses to stay in the water with his classmates, which include Big B. Today’s lesson saw me picking him up when it was his turn to practice the skills with the instructor, and handing him into the water. At which point he squirmed and screamed earnestly, and then carried out the exercises with stoic resignation.:(
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On Day 1 of swimming lessons
Other stuff we have been eating recently:
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Left: Carrot Ginger Bisque, garden fresh tomatoes, Egg Salad on City Creek Bakery’s amazing bread,
fresh peaches, pears and apples with coconut milk drizzled on top; Right: Deviled Eggs
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Another A-MAZING recipe. I may never go back to our old brownies again!
Photo Courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess

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!

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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.

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(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.

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(Not my photo. Mt. EVerest)

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