Friday, April 11, 2014

We had a baby!

Introducing our sweet baby Walter, born Sunday April 6th. He weighed 9 pounds and was 21 inches long. He's so sweet and we are all in love with him! More pictures and a beautiful birth story - everything I'd hoped it to be - to come soon. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

32 weeks along with baby #4 - Affirmations to get me through

Through  my journey with depression and anxiety, I feel like I have learned many, many valuable lessons. Lessons that are CHANGING my life and how I view it. One thing that has helped me so much is doing the Soul Integrity Mentorship. I haven't spoken much about it yet because it has been such a personal and life changing few months, but I hope to write more about it when the time is right. Eventually I hope to teach the principles I'm learning because it's been that incredible to me.

Another thing that I have realized throughout my journey to the dark is the power our thoughts and words have over us. It is not easy when you're in a really depressed or anxious state to have positive thoughts - and when I was in my low states, even having someone mention to me that I could change my thoughts stung much too painfully - but, it is truly amazing how much our thoughts and beliefs affect us. Learning to recognize my thoughts and change them has been such an amazing practice for me. Lately, I have been letting the negative thoughts take over strongly in my head, so this is a way for me to really let out what those thoughts are and attempt to replace them with positive affirmations. I hope if you're struggling with negative thoughts, you can give positive affirmations a try. "I AM" are two of the most powerful words you will ever say to yourself.

This time around, I am experiencing some emotions that I didn't experience with my previous three pregnancies. Well, maybe I experienced them, but this time they seem stronger...heightened.

First, I always have major body image issues creep up when I'm pregnant. Obviously there are some underlying emotions there that I need to work on. When I see other pregnant women I just LOVE their bodies and their big bellies! Like, LOVE THEM! But on me, it's so much harder. In one breath, I absolutely LOVE my big belly and in another breath, it's so very difficult to really love it.

I have been thinking about what it is that I don't love about it and I think it is actually the weight gain, more than the big belly itself. The weight gain in pregnancy is very difficult for me. I tend to gain (in my mind) a lot of weight when I'm pregnant. I don't just gain 20-25 or even 30 pounds. I am already up to 32 pounds and have 8 weeks I'll probably get to 40 or more. Which, when I write it out isn't THAT bad, but in my mind, it might as well be 100 pounds. That is how negative my mind views weight gain. I was talking to my midwife about this today and she suggested some affirmations to help me combat these negative thoughts. I thought I'd write them here and share them in case anyone else struggles with this same thing in pregnancy.

My body will gain just the right amount of weight for my body to have a healthy pregnancy.
I am growing a healthy baby.
My body is working a miracle.
My growing belly is holding a precious baby.
My body is healthy and wise.
My weight doesn't change my worth.
The weight will fall off easily just like it has the other three times.
There is more to me than the size of my body.

I am also struggling this time with the feeling of being DONE. I have never really experienced that before. Of course, at the end of Olive, I felt this way but that's because she was "overdue." I have never experienced these feelings of done-ness at such an early stage. If I am being honest with myself, I've felt done since about mid-December. Obviously not cool when you have MONTHS left in your pregnancy! I have tried to figure out why I'm feeling this way and I just can't really put my finger on it. I don't feel depressed or anxious or any emotions like that, I just feel done. Ready to be me again. Sick of being pregnant. Which is just SO SO odd for me to experience because I never feel that way...I am usually the person saying how much I LOVE pregnancy. It has been an interesting journey to say the least. Here are some affirmations for myself to get me through these emotions.

My baby will come when he is ready to come.
My body is growing a beautiful, healthy baby.
I am cherishing these last weeks growing this baby.
I am patient and giving my baby love as I await for him to arrive.

Have you experienced this? Do you have any affirmations or thoughts to add?

Monday, January 27, 2014

I might be crazy! But I am following my gut.

If there has been ONE invaluable thing I've learned since becoming a mother, it is to listen to my gut. It never leads me wrong. 

Several months (actually, years ago) home schooling my children started creeping up in my mind. It really appealed to me. But, having kids so close in age, I worried that it'd be too hard or that I wouldn't be able to do it. I have my bachelor degree in Elementary Education, so I didn't doubt my ability to teach, I just worried about the stress of having my very high needs child home all day long. In the same breath, I felt guilty for wanting a break from him! I felt guilty wanting to ship him off every day. 

We found a good charter school here that is Montessori based, so I decided to enroll him in it for kindergarten. He's been attending full day (8:30-2:45) since September. While I enjoyed the philosophy of the school, it just wasn't working for my little Max. Most days were more than a battle getting him out the door and when he would come home, he'd unleash and have meltdowns galore. He was super well behaved (for the most part) at school but was really struggling socially. I worried about him feeling left out because of his food allergies. When you can't eat ANYTHING anyone else is eating, it's got to start weighing on you. As a child, he doesn't understand it like I do. Because of the social struggles that having autism brings and then in addition to that, the food allergies, I just started worrying about him a lot. 

In October I talked to his teacher and she reassured me that he was doing well, so I pushed it out of my mind that I should home school. But it kept nagging at me. November and December were rough months for him and he began to have more problems at school. He was evaluated by the school psychologist (with my permission) and found to have developmental delay and high functioning autism. He was just really struggling and then blowing up at home because of all of the anxiety. I decided in December that we'd start home school in January instead of returning to school after Christmas break. But then, I realized I needed to get his IEP updated and current so that we wouldn't lose out on that legal protection. I sent him back to school in January with the hope that things would be better. I had a great meeting with his teachers and team and we put a plan together that would help him. After three weeks, things were not getting better and in fact, seemed worse than before. 

Call me crazy but after a very difficult few months and home schooling being very heavily on the forefront on my mind, I decided to pull Max out of school and begin! I sent his teacher an email on Thursday saying that Friday would be his last day and today, we started home school!! Never mind that baby #4 is due to arrive in two months time! I feel peaceful that it will all work out. So, I'm trusting that peaceful feeling. 

I bought curriculum from the blog Confessions of a Homeschooler and spent the weekend preparing for our first week. Max is an extremely bright little boy, but he does need a lot of extra help with writing, cutting, and basically anything fine motor related. Maude just turned four and hasn't had any "formal" learning, so while she's picked up some things along the way, she's just a beginning preschooler. I decided to use the preschool Letter of the Week curriculum since I'm teaching both of them. They are on slightly different skill levels but I think it will be good for both of them. It will be good learning for Maude and great review for Max. I also bought the Kindergarten curriculum so that I could use it to supplement Max's learning. For example, he's ready for higher math skills (he's a math genius! seriously!) and beginning reading, whereas Maude is still working on recognizing her letters. The ease of printing out the curriculum and having it all put together for me was just what I needed. Even though we are starting mid-year, we are still beginning with the letter "A."

I felt so much joy this morning teaching these precious little souls. Olive, who is 2, sat at the table with us and colored (she loves markers) for the entire hour we did our work. I'm planning to have a very light home school routine which I think will work out perfectly for our family at this time. We are doing school work for one hour in the morning, then after that reading for 15 minutes together and 15 minutes individually. The rest of the day is play time and yes, screen time (we love PBS kids!), while Mommy takes a much needed nap.

My kids loved the undivided attention I was able to give them this morning, and I loved it too! It is very easy for me to live most of the day in my head. Being an introvert and being a mother is not the easiest thing for me. I am overwhelmed by the constant noise and tend to check out a lot...which is not always the best thing for my sweet kids. My goal this year was to be present and I am appreciating how home school will help me (or force me, lol) to accomplish this goal. 

I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if I'll home school next year. But I felt so strongly that this is what my sweet little boy needs at this time, so even though it may "add" to my "stress" or make life "harder" (what are those negative phrases even about? children are my joy - and yes they challenge me - but that is what I signed up for when I made the choice to become a mother), it will be worth it. I knew it so profoundly this morning as we sat around the table working together. It felt so, so right. And we all felt so, so happy.

Following my gut is not always easy, but I never regret it. 

(and now, when I have a very stressful home school day, I can come back and read this post, hehe!) 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

NutrEval Diagnostic Test

Well, what do you know...right after I posted about how awesome our week had been, everything went WAY WAY WAY downhill!

Life is like that right?

Starting on Monday, we have had epic meltdowns at least once a day. For those who aren't familiar with special needs children, there is a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. All children have tantrums - they're normal. They are usually resolved by talking with them, reasoning, helping them understand, etc. This is not the case with a meltdown. A meltdown is a total and complete breakdown and nothing that is said or done will fix it or stop it. (I just found this good explanation of what a meltdown is). It just has to run it's course. It can be incredibly frustrating! But, knowing what it is always helps me to remain calm and patient (truth: I don't ALWAYS remain calm and patient but the more knowledge I have about the nature of meltdowns, the easier it is becoming to keep my cool during them). I realize that during a meltdown, Max's brain is not working properly and he is not in control. It really sucks to be having them daily again, though. They last upwards of an hour sometimes. And nothing can help them :( I think he even had a panic attack during one of them. It was a pretty severe meltdown.

The only thing I can think that is triggering them is being off of his supplements in preparation for doing the NutrEval Diagnostic test. In order for the results to be accurate, I took him off all of his supplements a week in advance. A few days later is when the meltdowns began. He has been eating allergy free so I am fairly certain they were not triggered by food reactions. It has been good for me to see because sometimes it feels like these supplements just cost money and don't do anything but WOW. They do a lot! Because he has been a different kid without them. And the only supplements I have been giving him consistently are the basics like probiotics, cod liver oil, multivitamin, and enzymes. One other thing that I've noticed has been a trigger has been hunger. I am thinking he may be dealing with some hypoglycemia because hunger has possibly been a factor in these epic meltdowns. When he melts down, he is always very aggressive towards me. Kicking me, hitting me, slapping me. It is not okay but I don't know how to handle it. He's so strong now and when he melts down he's totally out of control. I can't put him in his room (trust me, I try!) because he won't stay in there. I also don't want to leave him alone during the meltdowns because I don't want him to feel abandoned when he is his most vulnerable. I'm at a loss of what to do though because he also needs to understand that hitting and attacking me or his sisters is NOT okay. Needless to say, it's been a pretty hard week.

I was so worried about getting a urine sample this morning for his test, that I couldn't sleep last night. I probably only got 3 hours of sleep total. I had tried to get a sample yesterday morning but he already emptied his bladder into his pull up, so it was a no go. The problem is that the urine has to be frozen at least two hours before delivering it to the healthcare provider, so I needed to get it done in time for his blood work! And I wanted to get his blood work done ASAP so that I could get him back on his basic supplements. Last night he went to bed in underwear which I was nervous about because he is not able to stay dry at night. Around 4 am, I was so anxious that I just decided to go ahead and wake him up, just praying he wouldn't freak out and would be able to go pee in a cup for me. It was such a blessing because even though he was wet when he woke up, he was able to go enough in the cup for me to get a good sample (I had to fill three vials). He didn't melt down or get angry (which has been the case in the past when I try to wake him up to use the bathroom). I think it helped that I promised him that he could play the iPad at 7 am for 20 minutes. He does well with very firm, clear boundaries. Thankfully, he went back to sleep until 6:15 this morning and then cuddled with me until 7 when he turned on the iPad. He was an AWESOME listener (another answer to meltdown!) and turned off the iPad right at 7:20 am to get in the car for his blood draw. He did wonderfully at the lab getting his blood work done. He was very calm and sat right on my lap. He didn't wince or cry and was so brave. I promised him a special breakfast afterwards so we bought some gluten free donuts and bread, then went home and made french toast. He also requested hot chocolate (made with rice milk, cocoa, honey, and vanilla). The donuts and bread were not totally allergy friendly because they had eggs and corn but I told him today we weren't going to worry about that! It was his special treat for doing so well. He kept saying "But I can't eat eggs" and I just kept reassuring him that his body would do just fine and that it was a super special treat. I sure hope that someday he doesn't have to worry so much about what foods he can and can't eat...right now he is VERY aware of it. Which is a good thing, for being in public, but it also makes me sad that it even has to be something he worries about at almost 6 years old.

I'm SO glad it's over and am hoping that I can sleep tonight! I am super eager for the results of the test. For more information about what this test is, click here. It is basically a complete nutritional analysis. It will show what he is and isn't deficient in as far as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, etc. goes. It also checks for gut dysbiosis (uneven bacteria and yeast levels in the gut) as well as heavy metal toxicity. The cool thing about the test is that it only cost me $159. Since our insurance is on their Easy Pay program, they bill the rest to insurance. It is about a $1500 test. Even if our insurance won't cover everything, Genova Diagnostics won't come back to me for the remaining amount. All I have to pay is $159. That is pretty miraculous! When I've had the baby and have nursed several months, I'd like to do the test for me too. Another good test is the Organic Acids Test from Great Plains Laboratory. That test costs $299 without insurance, so I was grateful when my doctor told me about the NutrEval test, which is very comprehensive and costs me less.

I am just really excited to get his results so that we can take a more targeted approach with his supplementation. It will be really cool to see exactly what's going on in his body. We are definitely dealing with some malabsorption issues because he has only gained 2 pounds in the past year. For his age, children should be gaining between 5 and 8 pounds a year, I believe. So hopefully we can address some of these nutritional imbalances and get some good healing to happen!! Wish us luck!

Oh, we also started him again on Diflucan today to address yeast overgrowth so hopefully we will see some improvement with that too.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seeing Improvements

We have had a pretty awesome week at our house!

I pulled the allergenic foods from Max's diet around the 7th-8th of January and this whole last week, we really started to notice a difference in him behaviorally! I also started using essential oils on him twice daily that I'm really feeling are helping. It is amazing how sensitive his body is to foods. I hope we can see some healing so that we can add in those foods he's been reacting to, but I am grateful that I can see such a huge difference in him just from removing the allergens. I am also really impressed with the results we've gotten from using essential oils consistently.

I bought a new oil from doTerra (and was lucky enough to use some saved up points I had, so it actually didn't cost me anything out of pocket!) and have been really impressed. It's called DDR Prime and it's supposed to be good for neurological things, cellular repair, and I have seen some testimonials about good results with children with autism/SPD/speech delays. It is a pricey oil, so I put about 25 drops in a roller bottle and filled the rest up with carrier oil in order to dilute it. I've been putting it on all of my children's feet and spines at bedtime, then I also put it on Max's spine and feet in the morning. I've also been using other oils daily on him - OnGuard for boosting the immune system, Cypress on the bladder area for bedwetting (no improvement there yet), Balance/Serenity for anxiety and general calming (definitely an improvement in this area), and InTune for focus/calming.

So here's where the real evidence for me comes in. Friday, Max wanted to be near me all day. Usually, when he is near me, he's pushing me, pulling on me, etc during a meltdown. But on Friday, he was joining me often on the couch, cuddling up to me and just sitting with me. I honestly thought he was getting sick or something because that never happens! He really doesn't like touch (unless it's tickling), especially emotional, cuddly touch. He even said "I love you" to me after I told him I loved him. That's big.

Then today, my husband is not feeling great, so he's been laying in bed resting. Max came up to me, whispering that he wanted help to write something. I helped him write a note which said, "Dad, I'm sorry you're sick. Love, Max." Guys! This is HUGE!! He is not a child that notices others, especially that others are having a hard time. For him to first, notice it, and then want to do something about it, is pretty dang big! Our hearts just swelled when we saw him do this. It was so incredibly awesome.

We have also noticed that he has been much less rigid and more flexible. Usually things have to be done in a certain way and when things don't go according to how he was expecting, it can trigger a lot of anxiety. For example, I made a list on my refrigerator showing what we're eating for breakfast and dinner every day. Since we're limited on food choices, the list is staying the same every week. This is good for me but also good for Max - predictability is really good for him. This morning, the chart said we'd be having waffles for breakfast but I really didn't feel like making waffles. I decided we'd have oatmeal, which Max always makes a fuss about. I knew it'd probably set him off because a) he wasn't anticipating it and b) he doesn't "like" oatmeal (but he really does), however, he was so flexible! He started to get a little worked up over it but when I talked him through the reason why I wasn't making waffles and then gave him some choices of toppings (maple syrup, hemp seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, etc) he got really excited. He happily ate his bowl of steel cut oats and then proudly declared to me that he wanted to have that EVERY day for breakfast, even on school days. That was a pretty big difference to see such flexibility in him during a moment that would have normally caused him a lot of anxiety and probably triggered a meltdown.

There are probably a bunch of other examples I'm forgetting - small things most people probably take for granted like good listening or treating people with kindness, or getting dressed and ready by himself without tons and TONS of prompting. It's so awesome to see such positive changes and I'm feeling really hopeful that we will continue to see improvements with him!

We will do the bloodwork this week for an organic acids test, then we'll start Diflucan again to help with yeast overgrowth and continue avoiding allergenic foods for awhile before we start reintroducing to check for reactions. He's been off any supplements so that we can get a good picture of what's going on in his body with the bloodwork. I'm REALLY eager to get that done and get a good look inside his body!

Healthy No-Bake Cookies (Gluten, Nut, Refined Sugar Free)

The other night, I was craving some good old-fashioned no bake cookies. So, I set out to make some. Of course I used peanut butter (which my kids can't currently have) so I kept them hidden in the freezer, and yes, I ate the whole The next time I made them, I decided I should probably make them nut free so my kids could enjoy them too. Honestly, they tasted almost identical so if you're a peanut butter lover like me, I don't think these will disappoint!

Healthy No-Bake Cookies (Gluten, Nut, Refined Sugar Free)

1/4 cup butter*
1/3 - 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup rice milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup gluten free rolled oats*

In a small pot, melt butter, honey, sunbutter, and rice milk over medium heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in raw cacao powder, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix well. Add rolled oats and flaked quinoa, then stir to combine. Drop by spoonfuls (or use a handy dandy scoop like this) onto parchment paper or a silpat lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm and then enjoy!

*You can definitely substitute coconut oil to make these dairy free, but since we are off of coconut products and can tolerate butter, I used butter (yay for butter! yum!).
*Peanut butter can most definitely be used! Almond butter would be yummy too!
*Since I was using raw cacao powder, I didn't want the nutrition to be destroyed by the heat, so I stirred it in after the mixture cooled sufficiently. If you're using regular cocoa powder (which I totally have and do use), just throw it in at the same time as everything else.
*You can use only rolled oats here if you can't find flaked quinoa, it makes no difference in taste, I just added the quinoa flakes because a) I have them and b) they're pretty darn healthy and c) I need to use them up...I imagine you could also probably use only flaked quinoa if you can't tolerate rolled oats, but I haven't tried it.

See my other equally as yummy grain-free/GAPS-friendly (but not currently allergy friendly for us) no-bake cookie recipe HERE.