Thursday, March 25, 2010

Autism Improvement??

(I've decided that, from time to time, I'd like to make note of any improvements or regressions I find in Sam's autistic behaviors. Maybe others would find this interesting or useful, but I'm really just doing it for myself. I don't keep a handwritten journal or anything like that, so this is the best way for me to keep track of his behaviors. This way, I can look back and do a better job of correlating his improvements/regressions with other things in his environment.)

Just recently, Sam has been more conversational than usual. He seems to be more "here" than he typically is.

Two days ago (Tuesday, March 23rd) Andrew crawled underneath the computer desk and was playing with the wires underneath. As I was fishing him out of there I bumped his head on the desk and he started crying. As I was holding him and rubbing his head Sam said, "Momma you hurt baby Drew's head." I said, "I know Sam, it was an accident." He replied, "I don't think it was an accident Momma. I think you did it on purpose."

Many may not see that as anything extraordinary, but for Sam it was so much more conversation than normal.

Then today, early this morning while I was still in bed, Sam came running into my room and asked, "Momma, where do sunflower seeds come from?" This is also abnormal as Sam does not typically ask 'curious' questions. Then later this morning he also asked where eggs came from.

There is still humming and clapping (most common during quiet-time) and there have still been several meltdowns when I tell him that his computer time or tv time is over. However, the chest patting does seem less.

His diet has recently consisted of: homemade yogurt from raw milk, organic strawberries, organic bananas, organic pears, organic apples, eggs cooked in bacon fat, bread with soaked grains, store-bought butter, brown rice pasta, homemade spaghetti sauce (using canned tomato products), soaked oats, grass-fed steak, non-organic potatoes and corn, store-bought roasted sunflower seeds. He's taking his cod liver oil and raw honey daily. He has not been drinking any raw milk as a beverage and hasn't had any store-bought cheese since Saturday, March 20th.

We have been home for several days and I have implemented a new daily schedule for our family. Perhaps the more strict routine is causing an improvement? Perhaps adding in the probiotics (yogurt) is helping?

Grandma Colette's Visit: Part 2

Later that day we loaded up in the van and headed to the nearest town to show Grandma around a bit. The town has an old homestead that you can visit, complete with log cabin, barn, and even a functioning blacksmith shop that operates on weekends. Directly behind the relocated homestead is a very small, very old cemetary.

We really enjoy visiting historic places like this. The kids had a great time running around the brick paths and exploring inside the barn.





Grandma Colette's Visit: Part 1

Last week Grandma Colette drove seven hours to come visit us. Even though she had to drive home in icky weather, the weather while she was here visiting was beautiful. We were able to spend a lot of time outside. Shawn was excited that he was able to show his mom around the property. Here are some of the photos we took around our property while Grandma was here visiting.






Grandma Colette...Look What We Found Today!!!


After being missing for nearly a week, Sarah was so excited when she found the bunny you gave her. It was hiding inside her little house in her bedroom. As soon as she found it she said, "I need to tell Grandma Colette that I found the bunny!"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sam's 5th Birthday: The Official Party Post

Our family isn't real big on having elaborate parties for each child's birthday. I usually make a special supper and birthday treat on their birthday and we get them a small gift. Sometimes we'll have family over for a small get-together.

Grandmas, however, are a different story...

My mom really enjoys doing "the party thing," so she decorated her house and gave Sam his own special party. Thanks Grandma!

Here Sam and Sarah are waiting for their cousins to arrive. The kids were just plain giddy to see the goody bags and helium balloons.


Sam with some of his birthday gifts




Sam and his birthday cake

Some of you might remember an early post of mine where I used the all-natural food colorings for the first time. While I was pleased with them on Sarah's birthday cake, I thought that they were a little too pastel-girly for a five year old boy's cake. So, I decided to just use organic fruit to top his cake. In my head the cake looked really neat with his name spelled out in strawberries and a strawberry border around the edge of the cake. However, once I started putting them on the cake I quickly realized that there wasn't going to be enough room for both his name and a border in strawberries. Also, after it was all said and done, I realized that the cake had a sort of Halloween look to it...doesn't it look like dripping blood or something equally gruesome? Anyhow, it tasted good (chocolate with strawberries..yum!)and Sam was excited to see his name on his cake. So, while not exactly what I would've preferred, it did end ok.

Andrew was wearing a white shirt. Being the quick thinker that I am :), I remembered to take it off before cake time. Doesn't he look like the life of the party? For such a little guy, he has the cutest pot belly!

Changing Seasons: The Five-Day Difference

It amazes me when I look back at previous posts and compare pictures of our homestead from March 5th to the ones that I took five days later on March 10th. This property is coming to life right before my eyes. It's beautiful and I feel blessed that we've been given the opportunity to watch this beauty unfold.







Playing Catch-Up

No, our family hasn't moved. We haven't been in the middle of any dramatic life-altering events. We haven't even been experiencing computer problems. I've just gotten busy and decided to put blogging on hold for a time. I have, however, still been taking pictures during this brief vacation. I hope that, in the next few days, I can get caught up on posting. Thanks for bearing with me!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A WAP Birthday Treat

Yesterday was Sam's 5th birthday and also the first time I had to consider incorporating the Weston A. Price food guidelines into our menu. I did find a wonderful recipe for a Brownie Pudding Cake (you know, the brownie with the gooey fudgy chocolate sauce underneath...yum!) that called for soaking the grains and used real food in the ingredients. The recipe can be found here:

http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2009/06/brownie-pudding-cake-dairy-free-and-soaked.html

The only alteration I made was, in the first six ingredients when it calls for 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk, I just used 1/2 cup plain 'ol raw milk. It turned out wonderfully! I purchased some Breyer's All Natural French Vanilla ice cream and served it with the warm brownie pudding cake. Sam was excited with his birthday treat. Andrew loved it. The messy picture on my previous post is Andrew after devouring the brownie pudding cake.

My dilemma now is that we're supposed to have an informal birthday party for Sam this weekend. I'd like to make him a traditional birthday cake, but I haven't found any recipes for a cake from soaked grains. I'm so new to soaking grains that I don't feel confident in converting my tried-and-true non-soaked recipe. Does anyone know of a good cake recipe using soaked grains? Or can you give me a simple tutorial on how to convert my tried-and-true non-soaked recipe into a healthy soaked recipe?

Here's my non-soaked recipe in case it helps:

2-1/4 cups freshly ground soft white wheat
1 cup raw honey
3/4 cup cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs, well whipped
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted virgin coconut oil
3 tsp. vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Combine all ingredients except boiling water. Beat for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). In greased 9x13 pan, bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Frost with your favorite frosting.

Oh, I guess I also need to research frosting recipes that don't include powdered sugar!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday
http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2010/03/real-food-wednesday-3910.html

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Sam!!

I can't believe it, but Sam turned 5 years old today.

All day long, Sarah was more excited about Sam's birthday than Sam was. However, as soon as it came time for presents, THEN Sam was excited about his birthday.

Sam got some markers and neat wooden puzzles from Uncle Larry and Aunt Patty


Sam was excited to find some "monies" hidden in the card from Grandma and Papa

He really liked the little $1 airplane that Shawn brought home for him

Then he got REALLY excited when he saw the fishing pole that was from Grandma Colette
video

Andrew liked Sam's birthday because he got to eat birthday treats

Friday, March 5, 2010

Changing Seasons: Spring Beginnings

If you take a quick look outside, things still look pretty brown around our home.




However, if you walk around and take a closer look, there is so much evidence of Spring.

New growth from our strawberry plants


The first daffodil blooms


One of our cherry trees getting ready


Isn't God's creation beautiful?


With so many wonderful previews, I'm anxious to see what our new home will look like when Spring is here in earnest.

Announcing An Addition To Our Family!

Shawn and I are excited to announce that we have more babies in the house!



No, I'm not pregnant again...did I scare you Colette??

Shawn brought 15 of these cute little Rhode Island Reds home yesterday.

Here's the brooder that Shawn built for them.





Right now they're in our dining room. I don't know how long they'll stay in our dining room though. We're learning as we go here. They may get transferred out to the shop or may go straight from house to coop..we'll see.

Yesterday we got chickens, weeded the asparagus patch, removed a tree from the fenceline and repaired the fence. Today I'm using my clothesline. I'm feeling really homesteader-ish today!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Gradual Change

Rhyah's comment in my last post got me to thinking..."How did we get to the point that we're at now?" I know that our changes in eating habits didn't happen overnight and Shawn certainly wasn't turning down Doritos at the beginning of this food conversion. So, I've been trying to think back...

I would have to say that our food conversion officially started on Christmas 2007. From my parents, I received the NutriMill grain mill, hard white wheat, hard red wheat, soft white wheat, Sucanat (to replace brown sugar), Sucanat with Honey (to replace white sugar), and some raw honey. Prior to receiving the grain mill, I would bake cakes, brownies, and waffles from scratch on occasion, but I was using bleached flour and white refined sugar. If I made pancakes it would've been from a box of mix bought from Aldi. I started playing around with my recipes and converting them over. After much trial and error, I eventually found a bread recipe using freshly ground hard white wheat that we all really enjoyed.

Shortly after that, I stopped purchasing artificially flavored pancake syrup and we started only using real maple syrup. Also, around this time (early 2008) I stopped purchasing margarine and switched over to plain ol' butter. At this point we were still eating boxed scalloped potatoes, boxed breakfast cereals, Hamburger Helper, canned beans, canned cream of mushroom/chicken soups, canned chili, Velveeta... There was still a lot of processed foods in our diet, most were bought from Aldi because I was trying to keep our food budget down. Later that year, I stopped purchasing microwave popcorn. Instead, we purchased a big bag of popcorn from Sam's Club and borrowed an old popcorn popper from my mom. The baby steps happened little by little.

We kept this pattern of eating for quite a while. I continued to bake a lot and alter my recipes to use freshly ground flour, Sucanat, and Sucanat with honey. I would make small changes..like making my own spaghetti sauce instead of buying it ready-made in a jar or finding a local source of raw honey instead of purchasing it online from another state.

When Andrew developed eczema around three months of age (around February 2009) I started researching how my diet could be effecting him. I was exclusively nursing at the time. Up until this point, I had never really thought about how the food we ate effected more than just our waistlines. I soaked up every bit of knowledge I could find on food allergies and food sensitivities. I started omitting certain foods from my diet in order to try to give my baby some relief from the itchy rash. First I gave up wheat, then I gave up wheat and dairy. I was willing to do anything to keep my baby from scratching himself until he bled.

So, while I was doing this trial and error change in my diet, the rest of the family kept on eating as normal. One day a friend of mine (Hi Amanda!) witnessed one of Sam's awful meltdowns. She knew that we had issues with Sam exhibiting autistic-like behaviors, one of which was the "meltdown over nothing" behavior that came on a daily basis. She recommended that we look into the Feingold Diet. I did, and when I read about the symptoms that could be helped, I cried. This diet gave me hope that I could help Sam through changing our eating habits.

So, in July 2009 the whole family switched over to the Feingold Diet. The Feingold Diet eliminated all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from our diet. In the beginning stages, it also eliminated salicylates. The changes we saw were amazing! We saw an immediate improvement in Sam. He no longer would wake up screaming from his naps and he was finally able to be fully potty-trained. The autistic-behaviors did not go away entirely, but they did noticably improve. Drew's eczema, however, went away totally and completely! We were only on the diet for a week before his skin was beautiful and clear. This was my turning point. It was easy for me to see how the food we eat can drastically effect so many aspects of our lives.

I became a woman on a mission. In the week before beginning the Feingold Diet, I was serving the kids Froot Loops and Sunny D Smoothies for breakfast. I'm not exaggerating at all here. I remember serving it to them and being proud that I had gotten the Froot Loops for free with coupons and I actually made money, using coupons, by buying the Sunny D Smoothies. This is when our family's eating went through drastic changes. I had made a lot of food from scratch before, but I did even MORE now. I started trying out recipes for homemade granola instead of purchasing boxed cereals. I started making our own lemonade instead of using the CountryTime drink mix. I stopped using the cream of whatever soups and started making my own. I stopped purchasing cans of chicken broth and made my own. I tried and succeeded in making homemade marshmallows so the kids would fit in at Vacation Bible School. I found organic lollipops online to have on hand for spur-of-the-moment treats. We ate out so much less since there were very few restaurants that offered food without artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. Home-cooked meals that were made from scratch became our new normal.

After being on the Feingold Diet for a month or two, I also decided to remove MSG, corn syrup, and sodium benzoates from our diet. In my mind, it just started to make more sense to eat foods that had been messed with as little as possible. I could see that, when our family ate foods that were closest to God's design, we felt better and were healthier.

Around September 2009 I found a farm two hours away that offered raw milk. We started making the trip there and began purchasing raw milk, farm fresh eggs, and free-range antibiotic/hormone free chickens.

In October we purchased our first grass-fed beef.

In November I started purchasing things with the organic label...organic fruits and vegetables, organic coconut flakes and I made my first purchase of unrefined coconut oil. Up until this point I still considered and regularly used canola oil as a healthy oil. I also purchased some cod liver oil at this time.

In January 2010 I started trying to switch over my recipes from using white/brown refined sugar and instead using only raw honey or real maple syrup as my sweeteners. This is still an ongoing process. I also began researching and experimenting with culturing dairy.

In February 2010 I joined the Weston A. Price Foundation. I succeeded in making my own butter, buttermilk, cream cheese, and whey from the raw milk that we purchase from the farm.

Now we're at March 2010 and my goal for this month is to work at soaking grains before preparing them. I've already made soaked bread, muffins, and oats. Tonight I'll be trying to make soaked tortillas for the first time.

When I look and compare our family's current way of eating to the way we ate prior to December 2007, there's a drastic change. If I had made that change overnight, Shawn would probably be in a fetal position in the corner. However, by making this change gradually (it's been over two years!) it's easier to accept. The biggest issue for us is becoming accustomed to a new normal. I remember when I first started making bread from scratch..Shawn missed WonderBread terribly. Now, when I mention trying out a new bread recipe so I can make bread from soaked grains the first thing Shawn said was, "So, are we not going to be able to have your bread anymore? It's really good bread."

I try to imagine what our new normal will be a year from now.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday over at http://www.cheeseslave.com/2010/03/03/real-food-wednesday-march-3-2010/

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Way To A Man's Heart

I'm excited to update on Shawn's reaction to our change in eating. First of all, he has now lost a total of 25 pounds in the last three months. The most noticable change is in his belly. Where there used to be excess, there's now a belt fastened at the smallest notch possible! We're going to have to buy him smaller pants soon!

He came home from work yesterday telling me that he didn't eat the leftovers that I packed him for lunch. Instead, he ate a big lunch that had been catered in. He had fried fish, onion rings, french fries, fried this, fried that...you get the idea. He said that it all tasted really good. He enjoyed eating it. However, about 20 minutes after eating the food his ears started ringing and he felt dizzy. He had awful brain-fog and he believes it's because of all the crud that the processed food contained.

Last week he came home telling me that a student was eating Doritos in between classes. He said that just the smell of the powder-coated chips was enough to make him feel sick. He said that, if just the smell made him feel that bad, how awful would it have been if he'd actually eaten some?

Now, don't get me wrong. This man would still jump into a bowl of Velveeta/Rotel dip if given the chance. However it's amazing to see the change in his eating preferences. He has said more than once that his body feels differently after eating a meal made at home. He said that, after a McDonald's meal, his body feels heavy and tired..like it's having to work hard to digest the food. On the other hand, after a home-cooked meal of real food, his body just feels fed..content and satisfied. I like hearing him say things like this.

This transition of eliminating processed foods and utilizing real, God-given whole foods has been made so much easier by having Shawn on board. While he may not totally understand the logic behind soaking wheat to make bread, he's ok with me doing it if it can improve our family's health. I will say though that he has shown unwavering support in locating and purchasing grass-fed meats, organic grains, and raw dairy products. Just one of the many things I love about this man.