Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Whole Family Transformation’

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.

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August 2012

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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. 

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

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Big B doing a “toy” walk

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

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Dash’s Achievement Wall at the Brain Balance Center

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

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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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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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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Sunshine and Nutrients, Days 12-17

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

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

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

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Pears Galore

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Zucchini to Spare

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

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Two garden boxes full of veggies.

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Golden Delicious Apple Tree

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Peas, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the-less

Love this meme. It’s true.

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

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

heart in sky

(Not my photo)

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

climbing everest

(Not my photo. Mt. EVerest)

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