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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

Kate, age 6

 

In late August I blogged about my daughter’s extreme reactions to artificial food coloring and the post was shared more times than any of my other posts have been. I’m glad. This really is something every parent should know about before they feed their babies solid foods. If I had known what I know now, wouldn’t have eaten anything artificially colored when I was pregnant or breastfeeding.

A week after my blog was published, we started our family on the Feingold Diet for Kate’s behavioral and attention problems. We’re now eating almost completely organic (it’s not cheap, either), however the first stage of this elimination diet actually cuts out most of our favorite fruits and veggies. We’re left with pears, bananas, avocado and a few others, along with grains, meat and dairy. By day three, we had seen major improvement in Kate’s moods and behavior.  And after several months we can now see a direct correlation between certain foods and angry outbursts. Kate seems to react to fruits and veggies that are high in salicylates which is something that the Feingold diet suggests you eliminate/lessen in the first stage. Had we not eliminated food coloring, preservatives and high sal foods at the same time, we never would have figured out which foods affect Kate. When we first took out dyes, we no longer had epic tantrums that lasted for hours…but we still had plenty of irritability, angry outburts and hyperactivity. It wasn’t until we pulled everything from her diet for several days, except for the blandest, least allergenic, least processed foods that we could add back in one food at a time to see how she did.

Salicylates are natural preservatives found in foods and they are related to aspirin allergy. My father has an aspirin allergy and my sister figured out she was sensitive to salicylates about a year ago. She’s dealt with severe breakouts of hives for the past twenty years. I have to admit, she encouraged me again and again to try eliminating salicylates from Kate’s diet but I was hesitant because so many of the healthiest foods have the most salicylates. More organic ice cream with a side of potatoes au gratin and a slice of bread and butter? Sure! But hold the spinach, blueberries, raspberries and cucumbers, please. I had tried a few times to go “Low Sal”, but because I hadn’t eliminated artificial food coloring and preservatives at the same time, I didn’t see any real difference. Starting with a “clean slate” was imperative.

Now I am keeping what I am calling a Food Mood Log in which I keep track of everything Kate eats and her moods and behavior. (And to all you expectant mothers, if I could do it all over again, I’d start with a Food Mood Log from the first bite of solids my babies had—-and I’d be especially wary of giving them anything artificial. (In fact, is it me or is it a funny coincidence that the Terrible Twos often coincide with toddlers getting their first taste of sweet treats?)

 ADHD and other behavioral disorders have been on the rise over the past several decades and the quality of our foods has gotten significantly worse. I saw a meme on Facebook that said “Once upon a time, everything was organic.” And it’s true. Foods were eaten in the season in which they were grown, they were from local sources—if not right from the backyard— and natural preservatives like salts and vinegars and sugars were used when meats or fruits and veggies were dried or canned for future use. Now we can eat blueberries, strawberries and dark leafy greens year round (maybe we weren’t meant to) and thanks to GMOs, many fruits and veggies have higher than normal levels of salicylates to prolong their shelf life. The strawberries growing in my yard get crushed from being pulled off the plant they are so delicate. In the grocery store, strawberries are bright red but much “harder” than my own organic, non GMO berries. They can last for a week or more without rotting or bruising. Salicylates are a naturally occurring preservative in plants, remember? Genetically modify the level of sals and the fruits and veggies take longer to go bad–good for those selling the berries, very bad for those of us who eat them.

At the beginning of this school year, Kate’s reading was assessed. The results showed that she was not only below grade level, but possibly severely learning disabled. The teachers never mentioned this early assessment to me (and I’m thankful because I would have panicked) but six weeks later, they assessed her again. We had coincidentally started the Feingold diet approximately one week after her first reading assessment. Six weeks later, she was tested again and her reading had improved by 50%. Her teacher and the special ed teacher told me about the dramatic difference they had seen from the first evaluation and the second and they were obviously baffled. They couldn’t explain how Kate barely seemed to understand what they were asking of her during first test and then appeared to be a competent, intelligent, engaged child during the second–who was pretty good at reading! Another Feingold Mother told me she thinks our kids must feel the way we do when we have a pounding headache….foggy, unable to concentrate and irritable.

Thanks to figuring all of this out, we now have a six year old who displays a much more typical temperament. She doesn’t constantly “freak out” over trivial things, she can move past frustration and disappointment without being stuck in the emotion for too long. She wants to read to us, she can play games and play quietly with her siblings without picking fights constantly. We’re seeing so much more of the loving, creative, funny and empathetic child that we always knew Kate was only now we’re not seeing her alter ego who was an angry, out of control little girl with low self-esteem. There are no words to describe this change except amazing, remarkable and life-changing. Our family is calmer and happier and not constantly in crisis. It’s not easy to maintain this strict eating program. We make mistakes and the kids are not in our sight constantly so they occasionally eat things they shouldn’t, and let’s face it, kids with or without challenges like these are still kids who have good days and bad days. But life is a lot better. A lot better.

I want to keep spreading the word about what we’ve learned. My hope is that families who have infants and toddlers will be more aware of how food and behavior can be related so that they can avoid what we’ve been through. It’s much easier to never give your kids certain candies and processed foods to begin with than try to change their eating habits when they are older.

**And a big thank you to the reader who read my blog post “All Parents Should Read this One” and suggested that if Kate reacted so strongly to red dye she would be a good candidate to try the Feingold Diet. That was the comment that clicked for me and made me determined to try it.

While many of you cloth diapering parents are still dealing with dirty diapers and possibly potty-training, listen carefully–your relationship with your child’s bodily functions does not end with potty training. It changes, it becomes less “hands on,” so to speak, but it lingers on…and on. My girls are six and nine. They are fully self-sufficient going to the bathroom, including “dropping the kids off at the pool.” However, while the kids do make it to the pool, they usually don’t get flushed. Quite often another family member gets a bit of a foul surprise the next time they need to use the loo, so I wrote a little poem called “Please Flush, Frankie!” Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped them remember to flush, but it has brought a little humor to an otherwise stinky situation.

 

Please Flush, Frankie!

Little Frank was a handsome tot,
He ate and slept and pooped a lot.
He lived with his mom and dad and sister who
Was three years old, named Sally Sue.

Frank still wore diapers and needed help
But Sally Sue used the potty herself.
Soon after Frankie had turned one,
He sat on the toilet just for fun.

And on the day that he turned two,
He sat on the pot and made a poo.
His family cheered and clapped their hands.
They all said Frank was quite advanced.

By three years old he’d grown quite tall
And didn’t wear a dipe at all.
And Sally Sue at almost six,
Had mastered all the big kid tricks.

She could read and write and tie her shoes
And she never forgot to flush the loo.
But when Frankie had to go
He’d call for Mom or Dad like so:

“Mommy, Daddy! I need help!
I can’t get on the pot myself!”
So Mom or Dad would run to see
If Little Frankie had to pee

(And if Frankie, dearest son,
had to do more than Number One,
They stayed to help him wipe his buns).

One year later at four years old
Frank was taller and quite bold.
He didn’t need to call for help
And did his business by himself.

Now Frankie always washed his hands,
But almost everyone understands
The second most important part
Is to flush before you depart.

But Frankie was a busy boy
And Sally Sue was most annoyed
When she went in to use the pot
And had Frank flushed? He had not.

She’d plug her nose, her eyes would water,
She’d wish she’d been an only daughter.
She’d spray perfume on a hankie
And then yell “PLEASE FLUSH FRANKIE!”

The next day, his Mom, named Rose,
Went to the john to powder her nose.
Once inside she began to wheeze—
Fumes had brought her to her knees.

She coughed and gagged and nearly choked.
Was Frankie playing a horrible joke?
Why most folks would surely blush
If they had forgotten to flush!

But then two days later Frankie’s pop,
Went to clean the bathroom floor with a mop.
But oh my goodness! How it stank!
And he bellowed “Please flush, Frank!”

Soon Frankie’s family hatched a plan
To help him remember to flush the can.
If Frankie wouldn’t flush, neither would they!
And they decided to start the very next day.

When Frankie wanted to float his boat
In the bathtub, just like a moat,
He banged on the door and disturbed his sister
Who smiled and said “It’s all yours, mister.”

(What Frankie saw he would not say.
But his boats did not sail that day).

That night, looking for his toothbrush,
Frank discovered his mom hadn’t flushed.
It must have been a terrible sight
‘Cause Frankie had nightmares all that night.

The next morning Frank felt ill.
The image was burned in his memory still.
He hoped the pot was sparkling clean
When out walked his Dad with a magazine.

Frankie had hardly made it in
When his head began to spin.
What he saw that day changed him forever.
Did he ever forget to flush again? Never!

Wipe your buns, pull up your pants and
Don’t forget to wash your hands.
But even if you’re in a rush,
Before you leave, PLEASE FLUSH.

Numbers One and Two are Fine,
But to Always Flush? Divine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate the Black Cat, Cooper the crabby Robin and Lauren a Monster High Doll

Kate the Black Cat, Cooper the crabby Robin and Lauren a Monster High Doll–Halloween 2013

Halloween is a fun time of year for most families with small children. It’s also a little stressful–finding the perfect costumes, the over-consumption of junk food, keeping track of your Trick or Treaters on dark streets. Thankfully Cooper wants to be a ghost this year…a pillow case with some eyes cut out. That’s his idea of a costume. Three cheers for low maintenance! My girls on the other hand, have always been more particular about their costumes. This year we will have a ghost, a black cat and a witch. Unfortunately, Kate the black cat, now wants to be Elsa because her best friend is being Elsa. Kate was also a black cat last year (see picture) but since the Elsa costumes are all sold out she’s decided she’ll just be a cat again (unless she changes her mind at the last minute and goes as something else entirely).

Until I had children of my own, I wasn’t a huge fan of Halloween as an adult. Once I outgrew my own childhood desire to dress up, I went through an Anti-Dressing Up for Halloween Stage that lasted until Lauren was a toddler. Suddenly Halloween was fun again because I had an appreciative audience–my child who got a kick out of seeing mommy and daddy look silly. This year I’ll don a hot pink wig and some funny glasses and call myself Crazy Mommy. My husband’s favorite go-to costume is an alarmingly realistic mullet wig that looks alarmingly natural on him and some fake teeth.

One thing that I love about living in the suburbs, that I didn’t have growing up in rural Vermont, is that we live in an actual neighborhood. It makes for good old-fashioned-family-friendly Trick or Treating. We know at least a dozen of the families around our block and it feels really safe  to trail behind our little creatures, princesses and ghouls, just enough to let them feel like they are on their own. It also means that we get lots of trick or treaters, another thing we never had growing up–both little kids with their parents and partially-costumed teenagers. We give out candy happily to anyone who knocks. Who are we to spoil the fun of someone who just wants to celebrate? Our kids will be that age before I know it. Even when they are gangly, braces-wearing zombies with a little acne on their chins, they’ll always be my little ghost, my black cat and my little witch which is why I really enjoyed this blog in the Huffington Post: What You Need To Know About Six Foot Trick or Treaters.

What are you kids dressing up as for Halloween? And if you have a diaper wearing infant or toddler, under what costume will you stuff their fluff?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love blogging. I love writing about my experiences with my kids, sharing ideas and tips, and getting feedback and hearing the opinions of the readers who leave comments. For the most part, I try to keep my blogs upbeat and positive, even while discussing something challenging–like a hospital stay with a sick child or the never-ending cycle called housework. But just for fun, here are a few examples of blogs I might write, followed by what I might really be thinking:

 

Instead of:

10 Fun and Easy Ways to Braid Your Little Girl’s Hair

I want to write:

Crew Cuts: The New Look for Girls in 2014

Instead of:

Six Recipes that Will Appeal to Even the Pickiest of Eaters

I want to write:

Welcome to the Trough: Self-Service Dinner at Our House

Instead of:

Sibling Rivalry: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I want to write:

The Trampoline: The Cage Fighting Ring Right in Our Backyard

Instead of:

Date Night, Keeping the Spark Alive

I want to write:

Date Night, What’s That?

Instead of:

Holiday Recipes to Try With Kids

I want to write:

Flour, Sugar, Raw Eggs, and Too Many Bossy Little Helpers Elbowing Each Other Off the Stool: A Recipe For Disaster

 

If you could write a snarky blog today, what would you call it?

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I am far from a jock. I am not a fitness guru either. I don’t do yoga and I have a deathly fear of group aerobics classes. But I try to stay in shape in the limited time that I have between school drop offs and pick ups, grocery shopping, dentist appointments and all of the rest of parental duties we all have.

We are members of the YMCA so I have access to the daycare for two hours a day. But I don’t always make it. And I love to exercise outside in the fresh air so that I can get both the kids and our crazy little dog burning off their excess energy at the same time. Kate’s first grade class had a play date yesterday so the kids and parents could get to know each other better. It was about a mile and a half away and I had so much to do that I knew if I was going to get the dog walked and get any exercise myself, it was going to involve having Kate ride her bike while Clover and jogged behind her.

One confession I must make is that I.Hate.Running. I hate it. I have bad memories of doing the Presidential Fitness Test and having to run the mile in grade school. I had exercise induced asthma as a child so I was the kid gasping and crying trying to finish. Now my idea of pleasant exercise involves running and walking on the treadmill while plugging my headphones in to watch some daytime TV (a treat for me since I don’t watch any TV during the day at home). I’d rather hike outside but hiking with the kids (and trying to get exercise myself) just doesn’t work. They are still young enough that we go very slowly and stop about every three feet because they need to look at a bug, pick up a pretty rock or whine about how tired their legs are

Having Kate ride her bike while the dog and I followed turned out to be a great solution. In fact, my slightly paranoid parental instinct kicked in as we rode past driveways, the public shopping center and constant traffic (and we were even on  the sidewalk!). Nothing makes you run like chasing after a child you are afraid might forget to stop before coming to an intersection! The agony of sprinting, trying to catch my breath and cramping muscles all go unnoticed while Mommy Adrenaline is pumping through my veins. It’s an amazing experience really. The fight or flight response to stress and danger allows ordinary people do extraordinary things when they need to and for me, sprinting that fast, for that long, is truly unnatural–but when I am chasing my baby, I don’t even feel it.

My view as the dog and I sprinted to keep up with Kate. This is staged of course! I was like "Pant, gasp. I need you to stop for a minute so I can get a picture for my blog. Wheeze!"

My view as the dog and I sprinted to keep up with Kate. This is staged of course! I was like “Pant, gasp. I need you to stop for a minute so I can get a picture for my blog. Wheeze!”

Often when I try to exercise at home–doing sit-ups, the plank or lifting my little weights, I find myself being treated like a piece of gym equipment…suddenly mom looks like something to jump on, climb up or balance on. I suppose it just adds to the workout when you are constantly dodging, lifting and carrying the extra weight of a toddler.

How do you incorporate your little helpers in your exercise routine?