Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Lifestyle Changes’

A candy-less Halloween can be fabulous!

Friends, if you are still following our blog, thank you. I hope it has been helpful for someone. I am behind again! Here is a quick post on what we did for Halloween. Stay tuned for a post with Dash’s final assessment results.  And here is a set of family photos, which I love. It reminds me that good health springs forth from a healthy relationship with food. I think all of us have achieved a healthier weight this year. The trend continues, with the exception of Baby Blues, whom we are encouraging to consume larger quantities of good calories. He has always been on the underweight end of the spectrum. So has Dash, for that matter.

Michael Smith Family 08_2012-001

August 2012


November 2013

We had talked with our kids at the beginning of October about making Halloween candy an incentive for getting all of their home program exercises done each day. Here is what we decided. The kids and I did alright with the exercises this last month, but we still didn’t manage to get them ALL in, as we were hoping to. As the end of this month drew closer, we had to make a decision about how we would celebrate Halloween. After talking as a family, we decided that instead of trick-or-treating, we would buy some new Beyblades and a Beyblade stadium, and let the kids do a tournament. We also decided to have a party at home, with treats and food that fit in with our diet. It was great! Big B and all of the kids were super excited all week, and kept asking us when we would go pick up the Beyblades, and when they could play with them. So we finally bought them on the 30th, and told the kids that on Halloween morning they could open them up and start warming up for the evening tournament. At 1pm on Halloween day, they were still going strong.:) Twenty years ago if you had told me all five of my kids would sit around and basically watch spinning tops “battle” each other in a plastic arena for hours on end, INSTEAD of going trick-or-treating, I’d have thought you were crazy! Alas, it is true. Spinning tops decked out with sculpted metal and plastic parts can be endlessly entertaining. Give each top a name and a battle persona, and the kids are set! Another fun event from Halloween week was the Trick-or-Toy party at the Brain Balance center. Here are a few pics. 


Baby Blues and Big B, a samurai and a ninja.


Big B doing a “toy” walk


Sparkle and Big B, honing their Badminton skills. Using plastic golf clubs.


Dash’s Achievement Wall at the Brain Balance Center


Big B’s Achievement Wall, also at the center.


A few pics from our recent photo shoot.

I misplaced my camera this month, for almost two weeks. If you know our family, you know that this is a long-standing problem. Though I must say, we have improved! Three or four cameras have fallen victim to our toddler-rich home environment (and the demonic fixation of at least two of my boys with flushing things down the toilet) in the last ten years. At least this time it was only misplaced, not deceased. And even if some pee wee tried to flush this one, we’d be ready. >:D THIS camera is waterproof! So I didn’t get the Beyblade tournament on film, but that’s OK. Sometimes we forget that once upon a time (only 10-15 years ago), before “blogging” was even a word, we all survived just fine without photo-documentation of every single family event or significant milestone. Sometimes we have to chuckle at our image-obsessed digital age, you know? The point is, Halloween can be fabulous without candy, and even without pictures!


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.


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.


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, Big B


Big B and Sparkle Swimming

Big B has been making good strides in his development, and this makes his mama very happy. I was beginning to wonder if the meltdowns would ever cease. Finally in week 8, I saw a significant decrease in the drama, which I’m sure was a relief to all of us, especially Big B. Among other things, I have seen him playing more nicely with his younger brother. Where B is normally inclined toward very rough play, I have noticed that he has started to be more gentle. It doesn’t always last very long, but one day I saw him playing imaginatively with Baby Blues for an hour at least, perhaps more. They were pretending to be animals, dogs and big cats, I believe. Rather than pushing his brother around and provoking him to fight, Big B played gently, which is rare for him.

Another random thing he did was to take a big pad of paper and a pen. He sat quiet and still on his bed (another unprecedented behavior for B!) and wrote down all of the letters he knew in the alphabet. Usually writing practice with him is like pulling teeth. But not only did he start writing random letters. At one point he brought me a white folded card he’d retrieved from our stationary box, and written his name on it with a picture of a person on the front. He told me it was a letter for Grandma, and wanted me to put a stamp on it. He did all of this after watching his older sister write a letter then address and stamp it.

In swimming, he also has made a lot of progress. He and Baby Blues were in the same beginner’s swim class. While the latter was obviously uncomfortable in the water, B just took to it like a fish, and fearlessly tried anything the teacher asked of him. One day he was barely learning to dunk his head under, and in a short time he’d learned how to float. Not long after he started swimming around with a pretty decent free stroke that helped him navigate in the 3-foot section of the pool.


Baby Blues sitting on the stairs, sometimes until someone compels (or bribes) him to take his turn practicing the swim skills.

Moving on to Big B’s Progress Report, I was happy to discover that like Dash, he too had made improvements in all of the developmental tasks he has been working on. It is exciting to see the home improvements! Even more exciting is the discovery of his new skill levels, of which I’ve hitherto been unaware. His coaches have said: “B has improved so much in the Sensory Motor Room! He comes right in and gets right to work! We are very excited about the improvement in his VOR reflexes! He has been working hard in the Cognitive Room! His listening comprehension is great! We are proud of him!”

Among his greatest needs when he started the Brain Balance program in August were Big B’s eyes and eye reflexes. He was still an infant in his vestibulo-ocular reflex, which naturally went to the top of our list of things to work hard on. In the first month, no matter how much we worked on it, we could not get him to execute the eye exercises with great efficacy. He tried his best, and submitted to the process, but no improvement was visible. So when we learned that his VOR had jumped from level 0 out of 15 all the way up to level 5, we were shouting for joy! He’s definitely benefitting from the exercises, and we need to help him to keep working hard. In Optokinetics, he went from a 5 out of 15 to a 6 out of 15. At first he could barely tolerate wearing the visual stimulation glasses. But he’s gotten to where he now can tune out the flashing light, and complete his tasks. His skill level there increased from a 1 out of 7 in August, now up to a level 6! Great progress.

In auditory stimulation (wearing headphones, filtering out only what he is hearing in his left ear) he jumped from  level 1 out of 3 up to a 3! In his auditory processing, he actually exceeded his goal, which was to reach his age level. He went from a 3-year-old level in August now up to the level of an 8-year-old! More great news, and encouragement for his mama.

In touch, he has also improved in all categories. In tactile stimulation (wearing vibrating cuffs around his left arm and left leg, which he has to ignore while doing other tasks), he went from a level 1 out of 8 in August all the way up to a level 7! In fine motor development, he went from a 2-year-old level to that of a 3-year-old. In spinning, he went from a level 3 out of 8 in August, now up to a 6. In proprioception, he went from the level of a 3-year-old to that of a 4-year-old. So still plenty of room for improvement, but he is getting there! Happy Dance!

In synchronization, he has also improved in all three categories. In balance beam work, he progressed from a 3-year-old level to that of a 4-year-old. In gait and aerobics, he has gone from age 2 to age 5 since he started! Working with the interactive metronome, he progressed from age 4 to age 5. In core strength, Big B has improved. In two categories he is up to his age level. In supine/back: he’s gone from age 3 to age 6, so goal accomplished. In prone/stomach he has gone from age 3 to age 4. In lateral/side he has gone from age 3 to age 6, so up to his goal now. In  brachiation/upper-body grip, he has gone from age 3 to age 4.

One of the fun and happy side benefits from enrolling us in Brain Balance is how the nutrition program continues to help us feel better physically, emotionally and spiritually. It feels so good to be healthier, and just brings great peace of mind. My husband has had perpetual acid reflux problems, complicated by an esophageal hernia in the last few years. Ever since we started with the diet change, he’s not had one symptom of either condition, at all! He has lost at least twenty pounds, probably more. I have lost 12 pounds so far, and each of our kids have lost weight as well. In Baby Blues’ and Dash’s cases, that’s not a good thing, so we are trying to pack as many oils into their food, especially Baby’s right now. But for the rest of us, getting trimmer has felt really good. Living the benefits from eating clean is enough to convince us that the lifestyle changes are worth it. Soon we will take a new family picture, and I will put it side-by-side with the last one we took, to see how we have changed. Here are two pictures we took on Memorial Day this year.


Left to Right: Big B, Daddy Michael, Freckles, Sparkle, Mama Rebecca, Baby Blues, Dash


I love my Sweetie

Food as Medicine. Days 18-25

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here is a look at our daily exercise sessions.




Primative Reflex Work, BB Music CD Playing in Background


Core Strength and Primative Reflex Work


Yes Baby Blues is a Streaker


More Core and Reflexes Work

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


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


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


Eye Exercises


Cute Daddy


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


Guess What I am Making


Yes, Big Bowl of Salsa, Delish

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


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

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


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

It was that good.


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


Organic Palm Oil Shortening to grease the pan.


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


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


Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing, recipe from BB Nutrition Guide


Dash got excited and put extra maple syrup on it.

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

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

Check back for recipes!


Daddy’s Yummy Peach Smoothie

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

What we’ve been Eating

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


(Not my photo)

Peaches in Oatmeal

Breakfast Foods

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


 (Not my photo)

Green Smoothie

Lunch and Dinner Foods

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


(Not my photo)

Brazilian Beans and Rice

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

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


(Not my photo)

Dairy-Free Taco Salad

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

homemade mayo

(Not my photo)

Homemade Mayonnaise

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


(Not my photo)

Curry Chicken Sauce

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


(Not my photos)

Cabbage stew supplies and Posho

Snacks and Treats

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


(Not my photo)

Homemade Guacamole

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


(Not my photo)

Peach salsa

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


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


A meme from Facebook

I replaced the raisins here with Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

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

Brain Balance Days 1-4

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

At this writing, we are on Day 5.



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

Day 1


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

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

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

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

Day 2

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(Not my photo)

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

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

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

Day 3


(Not my photo)

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

Day 4


Looking East over South Jordan

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

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