Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘God knows our kids best’

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.

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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

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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!

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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.
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“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

Little Blessings and Progress, Days 26-32

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 Zenos Frudakis, “Freedom” in Philadelphia, PA
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This Frudakis sculpture has always been fascinating to me. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of our current situation until just now. I think that my boys, Dash and Big B, might understand a little bit about what it feels like to be the subject of this sculpture. Confined to a body that doesn’t allow the true self to be expressed. More so for Big B than for Dash, I imagine. But both of them can understand how he feels.

Wordsworth says that “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”

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Thomas Cole, Voyages of Life Series

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I suppose that none of us enjoys a perfect expression of our spiritual selves, while traversing our mortal journey. We have forgotten our first home with God, but it must have been a glorious place. I believe that when we are born, we are already perfectly whole spiritual beings, with individual characteristics and personalities already quite defined. We bring much of who we are with us, and that serves to guide us while we are here. But some of us are given physical bodies that limit that expression of our true selves, to varying degrees. As moms, we often feel like it is our duty to seize every opportunity to mold and influence our children for good. This is an honorable impulse. We might even say it is a God-given impulse. We have a clear idea of what our children should be learning and doing at each phase of their lives. A vision, if you will, of what is right and desirable for that child’s development. We trust our intuition, and for the most part it guides us in the right direction. By the way, for a great book on intuition, see this one (cover picture below).

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But there is a desire that has permeated my mind for quite some time now, with regards to my kids. Yes I really do want them to be successful and happy. And I have a pretty good idea of what I think that would look like for them. Often it doesn’t match up with what I see from day-to-day. But ever since I sat in a Mom’s Retreat a year ago, and listened to a veteran homeschooling mom, I have paused to consider my ideas. This woman taught us one of the principles that she learned to follow as a mother, and which she clung to in all situations. It became her founding principle of parenting. Here it is. She decided that God knew her kids a whole lot better than she did (and she knew them pretty well).

At one point in their lives, when it seemed like all her kids did was fight all day long, and things just started to get crazy, she decided to pray over it. And she got a specific and unusual answer about how to manage that situation. It was simple too, but she hadn’t come up with it on her own. Any time one of her kids came crying to her about some fight, she asked all involved parties to act out for her what had happened. And then as they acted it out, she stopped and observed for each child in the sequence of events, that he/she could have made the decision to stop fighting. And so they did this exercise over and over, and it helped them stop the fighting. She decided from then on that when she was unsure about a course of action in her parenting, even before consulting a parenting book, or another Mommy friend, she would kneel down and ask God specifically about what to do. Day in and day out, she asked for specific help with decision-making, and she tried to follow whatever that course would be, without questioning it. By choosing to act on those impressions, she continued to receive more guidance, And eventually God had taught her to nurture her kids to become who they were supposed to be. The person that they always were, before they came to her family.

So what does any of this have to do with Brain Balance? Well, I’m starting to see my boys more clearly. I’m starting to get better acquainted with who they are, which we hadn’t been able to see in former times.  I’m figuring out that God does know my kids better than I do, and He will inform our parenting and decision-making, if we will let Him. So I sat down with our BB program director this last Thursday, to discuss Dash and Big B’s one-month progress reports. It was so fun to hear about their triumphs and trials in conquering the physical tasks that they were being asked to perform.

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Dash holding Big B at Ft. Worth Zoo, 2007

Big B has made significant improvements with exercises at home. He melts down a lot less, and works hard at completing all of the exercises every day. I wasn’t sure what to expect from his progress report, but I was pretty sure he’d improved a lot, based on what I saw. I wasn’t surprised to hear that his stamina for completing exercises at first was low (just getting him to hold still has been a major trial for his mother in the first six years of his life!). He has shown himself to be resilient though, and very soon he was tolerating all of the tasks and stimuli being given to him. The very first week we brought him, for example, he didn’t even stop to play in the cute playhouse that is in their lobby. He just ran from one end of the room to the other in circles, while he waited for his turn to come.

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Now a month later, he doesn’t run around the room anymore, but focuses on something to play with. His gains are modest when compared to Dash’s. However, we may appreciate them more enthusiastically. The length he’s had to span to achieve those gains, seem incredible to me. Now for a few specifics on Big B’s progress: He still has much work to do on strengthening his eyes. On all exercises but one, he’s improved. His core muscle strength has improved. He used to have the equivalent of a 3-year-old’s core strength, but now he has that of a 4-and 5-year old, depending on the muscle group. His biggest strides were made in auditory processing. He went from having the audio processing of a 3-year-old to that of a 6-year-old, putting him at his age level. From his coaches: “[Big B] is so much fun to work with!He always works hard in every session. His focus has improved a lot!” From the cognitive coach: “[Big B] always completes every assignment. His listening comprehension is fantastic!”

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(Not my Photo)

As I sat in the office with the director, I had the advantage of seeing through an observation window that connected to the sensory motor room. I had a good view of Dash’s current session tasks. Just a little visual here: He was walking on a balance beam, with headphones over his ears (transmitting audio input of some kind that he had to filter out, in order to complete his tasks), special glasses on his eyes, the left lens of which transmitted a red flash intermittently (more stimuli for him to filter out), vibrator cuffs on his left ankle and for the first time on his left wrist (both of which vibrated continuously), a sock on his right foot and a bare left foot, and he’s walking along the balance beam, being asked for the first time to toss a small yellow ball up and down while he moves along the beam, first proceeding forward, and then going backward. I was impressed at how well he handled all of that. And he does this type of stuff for half an hour, three times a week.

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(Not my Photo)

So just a couple of things I remember from Dash’s progress meeting. He is doing really well! In many tasks, where he began at the level of a child much younger than he, great improvements had been made. He’s advanced in varying tasks at a performance level of 1-to-4 years beyond what he was doing a month ago. For example, in one of the visual (eye muscle development tasks, he began at the level of a 10-year-old, and has advanced to his age level, that of a 13-year-old. While his auditory processing is not significantly better than it was a month ago (that of a 10-year-old), his fine motor dexterity has moved from that of a 7-year-old to that of a 9-year-old. In his balance beam skills, he’s advanced from an 8-year-old skill level to that of an 11-year-old. In virtually all areas he’s improved by at least a year or two. From his coaches: “[Dash] is an all-star in the Sensory Motor Room! He is improving in every function. He is talking less and less about ships (one of his favorite subjects, he will teach you all about it if you have an hour). From the cognitive coach: “[Dash] is very creative. His essays are always fantastic. He works hard and fast, and usually completes extra assignments.”

So all in all, it has been a great week. Update on our diet: Still going strong!! Get a load of all the peaches I harvested this week! We have given a bunch away, but we are still working to creatively put away about a third of what you see here. I am steady at six pounds lost. Michael has me beat at ten pounds so far (probably more, but he never weighed himself to get a base line, so we are guessing..). All of our kids have seen their waistlines decrease. This is not good news in the case of Baby Blues, who is already too skinny! So we are working to get more calories into him.

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I had a neat experience this week that I forgot to mention. It deserves its own post, but I will just tack it on to the end of this one. On Day 27, I got away to watch a marvelous play with my mom and two of my sisters at the Hale Center Theater. Mom had purchased these tickets months ago, and the day had arrived. I had never seen this play before, so I didn’t know what to expect. It surpassed my expectations. It was roaringly funny, a story about Ethel P.Savage, a wealthy old woman whose greedy children won guardianship over her, and then committed her to a mental institution. Their reason to convince the powers that be of her unfitness of mind? This crazy idea she had, to put all of their late father’s money into a memorial fund, created for the purpose of helping others make their dreams come true. And besides the fact, at a ripe old age, she had taken up acting on a whim, and persisted in the idea that she would be great at it. However, the supervising doctor is far from convinced that she was unfit to manage her own affairs, and spends the duration of the play investigating the question.

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By the way, we sat on the front row of this little theater. I sat on the very end, an arm’s length away from the actors in different scenes. These hilarious people kept us laughing the entire time! It was a small cast. Most of the characters were mental patients, who became her companions at the institution. Hannibal is a former statistician, who was replaced by an electric calculator, and owns a violin, which he wrongly believes he can play beautifully. Florence Williams, crippled by the loss of her young child to death, carries around a large doll, and mothers it like her son.  Jeffrey was a veteran pilot from the war, at once shot down, and bereft of all his crew members. He believes he has a great scar on one side of his face, which he keeps always hidden from others. Fairy May is a compulsive liar who is obsessed with having others love her. She is unkempt throughout the play, but believes herself to be stunningly beautiful. More on the play here.

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Hannibal, Ethel P. Savage, Fairy May

Now here is where the play surprised me, and I found myself unprepared for the overflowing emotions that came over me. Endearing people with all of their eccentricities, I grew to love them as they were. So I wasn’t prepared for the last scene, when Ethel is parting from her newly beloved friends. She loved them so much, she actually considered staying in the institution, because she was happy and needed there. But Doctor Emmett’s wise counsel convinces her that her place was not in an institution such as this:

“Jeffrey sees only what he wants to see—an excuse for not facing the future. Does Florence see that her child was taken from her? Does Fairy see what the mirror should tell her? No. They’ve found refuge in an egg-shell world where you don’t belong. For you see yourself clearly, I’m sure. You belong in the world you can best serve. The impulse to live your life with courage was right. Go ahead with your Memorial. And don’t be betrayed by the illusion of contentment. The door is open for you. Make your peace with loneliness.”

But here is the clincher, which found me during the finale, in the spotlight on the front row, then leaving in tears. As Ethel looks back on her friends one last time before parting, the scene changes. Where Hannibal stood playing his violin with a wildly unstrung bow, now he stands, with a perfect instrument, and he plays it sublimely. Where Fairy May stood, with wild hair and agitating behavior, now stands a wholly beautiful and self-assured young woman. Where Jeffrey sat forlorn at the piano, covering the right side of his face, now he exhibited a straight back as he played a beautiful concert piece (accompanied by Hannibal naturally). Where Florence sat previously perched on a couch, fussing over her doll child, now sat in front of her a perfectly healthy, beautiful young boy, who smiled up at her.

This final character transformation naturally affected me most. In fact I’m sitting here bawling, just recalling the instant the lights illuminated that scene. Here was a concept I understood. Each of us possesses inside of us a perfect, immortal spirit. God made us that way. When we finally return to him, hopefully our time on earth will have blessed and nurtured that spirit, even effected by great trials, instead of breaking us. But as Stephanie Nielson has eloquently expressed, we are not our bodies. Each of us is a soul and body combined. The vision of who my sons really are keeps me going when we struggle to make it through the day-to-day struggles, doing yet another set of exercises. We are making important changes. Our journey towards helping them to step into their authentic selves did not begin and will not end with this Brain Balance experience. But it’s such a blessing to see their progress accelerated. Here is one more link that expresses my feelings about each of my beautiful children.

Incidentally, Dr. Leslie Philipp Weser writes this in the forward to Robert Melillo’s book:  “Reconnected Kids,” something that fits right along with the song above posted:

“In Reconnected Kids, Melillo likens the child’s brain with functional disconnect to a symphony orchestra where the conductor (brain) allows the two sides (left and right hemispheres) to become out of sync with each other. To fix the problem all the instruments need to be broughts back to the correct rhythm, harmony, and key. Simply correcting the violins isn’t enough; the rest of the orchestra needs adjustment as well. Similarly most neurological systems in disharmony require more than one solution to correct imbalances. To address only an auditory or visual processing problem, a nutritional problem, a reading problem, or a dysfunctional family problem alone is not enough. Melillo’s emphasis on correcting the entire orchestra is right on target.”

Happy Labor Day to all!

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