Saturday, April 19, 2014

Life and New Beginnings

So, as I'm sure a lot of you have noticed. I haven't been very present to this blog.

There are a lot of reasons why, some personal, some not. A lot of life has gotten in the way of being here of course.

Here's the lowdown for you, the Cliff's notes version. My oldest son was diagnosed with Developmental Dyspraxia. Since he already had Tourette Syndrome, OCD, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, etc., etc., etc., it was a little confusing, but not too overwhelming.

Then my youngest was diagnosed with ASD. Which, apparently I was the only one who didn't see that diagnosis coming and it hit me pretty hard. Harder than I would like to admit.

Then after a living in Autism land for a while the family - including extended, decided as a group to have my oldest son tested. Not surprisingly, he tested out in what used to be known as Asperger's. And life with him, got harder and easier after that.

Shortly after, I went through a change in myself. After being diagnosed with Diabetes (which is genetic), they found out that I had metabolic syndrome. Which explained a lot, but not everything. A short time later, I found out that I had NAFLD (Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease). My liver was inflamed and enlarged and had been causing me pain for quite some time. One doc swears it's NASH, another says it's not quite there yet. Either way, with my genetics, it's never good.

That discovery scared me, a lot. My father, who passed some years back died of congestive heart failure, but his liver was right behind. A raging alcoholic for many years, it had done his liver in. My mother, who is 30 years sober and clean this year, also has congestive heart failure and diabetes. Her kidneys are in the very beginning stages of failure and though no one's checked her liver, it's just kind of accepted that her liver probably isn't too good either.

That being said, over all she does quite well most of the time and most don't know that there is anything wrong. Though she has her days now and again.

Shortly after my liver diagnosis, I found myself pretty low. I looked around at my life and realized that though I'd thought I'd recovered fully from post partum depression from my youngest, I hadn't really come all the way out. Not to mention, life with two special needs boys, with various appointments, medications, therapies, etc. was not the calmest. My anxiety level was through the roof!

After a LONG look around at the mess I had my house in, the unorganized way I was living yet again, I made the jaunt into my doc's office.

This isn't something most like to admit, but lets face it. Life is messy, it's crazy and everyone today seems to be trying to be perfect. Newsflash - we're not!  :) If no one talks about this, then it becomes misinformation, it becomes the elephant in the room. As bloggers, we kind of put our life out there for everyone to see. Life though, it's not always pretty pictures, perfect projects and tasty treats! I made a decision a long time ago, when my oldest son was first diagnosed that I would not try to hide behind pretend perfection. There was so much stigma involved with various diagnosis and misinformation, and I wanted to be honest with people, up front. So, that they can learn. My son could learn, as could I.

Not many people know this, but I am NOT a fan of Big Pharma - at all. I mean, I could stand on the nearest street corner soap box and lecture for an hour or more all the reasons that I don't like medications. That being said, I've also learned that sometimes you need a little help up. My children for example, are treated with various natural remedies (when I can afford them) and my oldest does take medication. My youngest, we're still trying to go the natural way with him though. So, I guess I walk the line, though my heart definitely is always leaning toward more natural ways to do things.

So, making that decision to walk into the doctor's office and say: I need help, was hard. Not just hard, but H. A. R. D.!!!!!

That being said....I've been on what we term "happy pills" for several months now and I feel like my old self. Which has been amazing. I've adjusted the way we run the house, because of my liver and we now do pretty much NO chemicals in our home. Which was a bit of an adjustment, but it's been a welcome one. We've since moved from our old place to this new one. We have routines, organization, peace, laughs, giggles, more space and more light in our lives.

So, with that long novel, I'm telling you that I will be blogging again. Maybe not quite regularly just yet, but keep your eyes open, because I've got a lot I want to share with you all. Turns out living completely chemical free is also VERY economical! ;)

For those of you who've stuck with me through the LONG absence, you are amazing! I hope you're all doing as good as we are.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our Newest Hurdle

I would like to apologize for not being more active on here as well as my FB page. I wanted to explain why, but deciding to share something so personal takes a while to work up the courage to do.

I debated on whether or not to share this with you all. I mean, technically I don't know all of you personally and I've not even told my closest friends yet. In fact aside from my immediate few family members and my docs, no one knows.

It isn't anything truly awful I suppose, but just like when you're diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I'm sure I will hear it all....your diet did this, or you should've lost weight sooner, or something along those lines. With my type 2 diabetes though, it was genetic. Simply put, no amount of great diet, or weight was going to stop it from getting me!

Over the last few months, I've been getting more and more exhausted, despite having my blood sugar under control and eating a more controlled diet. I didn't understand why though, I was even angry at myself for being so tired. Well, after months and months of that exhaustion level rising and rising and rising and this uncomfortable feeling under right rib, getting more and more uncomfortable, it finally turned to pain this last Wednesday. Enough, after 2 days to drive me to the doctor, and I don't generally go, unless forced to.

Thursday afternoon, I received a call from my doctor's office, telling me that I have second stage liver disease, aka NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis). What this means is that for some reason, my liver has begun to store fat and is now enlarged. This is the uncomfortable feeling I've had under my rib for the last year or so. They (the doc's office), is working through some insurance red tape to get me in for a biopsy to determine how far into NASH I am.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that if I can give my liver a break as it were, from processing any high fats, chemicals, etc. I can work my way back down slowly or hold my liver here for a while. So, I am learning and working with a wonderful group of individuals who have NAFLD (Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) or NASH or whose children have it. Some of them have had to have transplants, others have slowly worked their livers from toward the end of stage 3 to the beginning and other have held their's where it is, in NASH, and done so successfully for years.

I share this because, I've shared everything about our lives here. I've tried to give you an honest look into what is becoming more and more, a typical blue collar home. The more our life is out there, the more people may talk about Autism, Tourette Syndrome, Dyspraxia, SPD, etc. The more it makes those of us with all these things in our lives feel less alone. So, I shared this in the hopes that maybe a little light will get shone on this as well. I read an article that said something like 1 in 10 have this and do not know. There are no signs, until the exhaustion starts and that can be any number of things. They said two things that struck me: One, that I have had this for years, most likely a decade or more and didn't know. And two, that I am lucky, that most people don't come in until there is already cirrhosis of the liver!

I shared this not for sympathy, in fact this is the reason I haven't told any of my friends - I'm not a big fan of sympathy. I shared it because, this is our life and most likely the lives of many others out there. It also explains to you and me, why sometimes I just haven't the energy to get to doing all the bloggy things I used to do all the time. I'm working on this though and hopefully will have good news to report eventually!

My nephews are coming over today, so I've got to tidy up and get breakfast going around here. I hope that you all are having a great weekend!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gluten Free/Dairy Free (Eggs & Milk Free) Onion Rings

The hardest part about going not only dairy free, but gluten free as well is the loss of those beloved comfort foods. Well, at least it is for me. I mean, technically I can still eat all those great foods (even as a diabetic), but that is hardly fair to the boys as they sit there watching me salivate over my goodies. So, of course I try to eat as they do.

One of the hardest things for them to give up though was onion rings. I seriously don't see the big whoop though because I am seriously not a fan of onions. To be honest, I've only just started to cook with them in the last few years of my 30-some years of life. Yes, I am that picky! Anyway, I stumbled on this one recipe that just didn't quite work for us after a while. No matter what I did, each time I made them, each batch was worse and worse. Naturally, I tweaked it until we came out with probably the most delicious onions rings I've ever tasted - though to be fair, I've obviously never tasted an onion ring before now. That being said, I swear these guys are so gosh darned good, even I could sit down and eat nothing but, onion rings!

Apologies for not so great photo, I'd just found out that my youngest had erased my entire memory card and did not pay attention to lighting or how they figure those things out! 

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Onion Rings
1 cp of All Purpose GF flour*
1/2 - 1 tsp onion powder
1/2 - 1 tsp chili seasoning**
1/2 - 3/4 tsp hamburger seasoning
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp of ground pepper
1 onion, sliced into rings (or however you like)
1 cp of water

* I've had to do what I think is about 1 1/4 cps of flour most the time. If your batter is a little too runny, slowly add more flour.
** I use Root Cellar's Garden homemade chili seasoning for this.

Super easy directions:
Heat your oil while you get your ingredients together and mixed. Slice your rings.
Add all ingredients in a bowl. (I mix the dry all together before adding the water.) Let it sit for a few minutes.

Drop your rings into the batter. Using tongs, move around and dredge the rings in the batter until nicely coated. That's it! Just CAREFULLY place your rings, one at a time, into the oil. Yes, it's tempting to drop several in at once but, then they literally stick together. Do it one at a time, as good old AB (Alton Brown) always says, "Your patience will be rewarded".

Remove to a paper towel lined plate or a cooling wrack over the top of a cookie sheet, whatever you've got to do, will work. I used paper towels, because I was just too rushed to do another set of dishes. Ok, ok, you can call it lazy, today I'm not offended by that. I'm channeling my inner Garfield. :)

If you so need, sprinkle a little salt on them while they're fresh out of the oil and let cool.

I promise you, when you're done, you will thoroughly enjoy the rewards of a job well done. I'm not joking when I say that I seriously couldn't stop nibbling when I perfected this recipe! Did I mention that I seriously abhor onions?! It wasn't just me either, my mother, Mr. Blue Collar and even my stepson couldn't keep their hands out of the finished batch. I think I only managed to save half a batch to my freezer for future use. They are so tasty!

Alright, I promise, no more forcing my new found love of onions on you. If you try this, I hope that you enjoy it!

P.S. This batter for these onion rings is loved so much, my oldest son even asks me to make his fish sticks with it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Honest Life Book Review

The Honest Life...alright, I'm just going to say it. I was totally against the name of this book. I mean really a Hollywood actress with a million dollar lifestyle...what is she going to say to me that is going to even be the littlest bit relatable to me?

I ate my words. I mean it. I completely and utterly was so judgmental!

I am a mother, who like Jessica, did my research and was horrified at what they've put out there for our families to eat, to use in their daily lives, etc.. At the time though I was almost completely overwhelmed and sort circuited. Jessica though, took it and ran with it.

Why I loved her book:

She tells you why eating organic and/or locally is important, but does it in a manner that doesn't make you feel horrible if this is something that you can't afford to do. She addresses the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen, GMOs, seasonal produce but, doesn't demand we all pop out and start growing our own food. She even admits she has a "black thumb" where growing things is concerned.

She tackled the cleaning area of "Honest living", by talking about VOCs, Hepa filters, dust, mold, etc. She even tells you more than once in her book that you don't have to go buy her company's products that you can do it yourself or find something else that works. As a matter of fact, she even goes so far as to give you several recipes for cleaning supplies!

I'm not much of a girly girl. I mean I literally brush my hair, slap it in a ponytail and go, but if you are, she has you covered there as well. From make ups you should watch out for to masks you can make yourself, she's thought of it all. Yes, including fashion, for all you fashionistas out there!

I think my favorite part of the book was the back. Not very exciting I know but, I'm the kind of rushed mom that needs all my info literally in one place or I'm never going to find it. Yes, I am one of those 'I put it in a place so I wouldn't forget - and forget where that place is' kind of girls! So, the back filled with great charts that tell you which fish is a safer choice, where you can go to learn more or the list of  "dishonest" ingredients" is perfect for me.

Overall, I was really impressed. She admits she is "just a mom" and tells you to go find these things out for yourself. So many places in the book she acknowledges that not everyone can afford to do what she does, and turns around and gives you practical advice on how you can do the best that you can in an area.

In this day and age where so many celebrities endorse products, or their own companies and tell you that their product is the best way, or the only way. She's not afraid to say, hey here's another option you can try. Or here's a suggestion on how you can make this work for you and your family. There is some kind of respect that a celebrity can gain in my book if you can not only acknowledge those out there who make less than you do but, then offer them an alternative to help themselves.

It's Honest-ly refreshing! I would recommend this book to anyone.

 You can get her book here or visit her company's page here: 

I was not paid or compensated to endorse this book, the review is my own.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Real Life: Why we are milk and gluten protein free!

Since I have been posting a lot of dairy free, gluten free and/or allergy free things on my FB page, I thought that maybe I should tell you all why. I've mentioned it in passing before but, it's time to share a bit more of our life with you all.

My boys at the Special People day at the local Shriner's Circus.

It started when DW my oldest son, was born with something called MSPI (milk/soy protein intolerance). It apparently only happens in the midwest and/or if you're from the midwest. I'm thinking our diet is most likely to blame but, who knows really. It is when the little guys or gals can't digest milk and/or soy proteins. Some kiddos get this worse than others, while others simply switch to a soy milk or if breast feeding, the mom switches to a few things and your kiddo is almost as good as new. My two little guys though, they happened to get probably one of the worst cases our doctor had ever seen.

 DW was admitted to the hospital twice for failure to thrive, dehydration and malabsorption issues all due to his MSPI. I was advised then to stop breast feeding and switch to a soy formula. We didn't know any different and followed doctor's advice. Which led to switching from a soy formula to a another formula, to another and another until my son was put on NG (Nasal Gastric tube) feeds on a 24hr pump. That lasted for 6 months. Where they literally just dripped food in by the hour - DRIPPED IT IN!  They wanted to do a TPN but, feared he would not survive, that's how bad off he was. That's when we landed on something called Vivenex T.E.N. and he could tolerate it, it was a godsend. Horrible, awful stuff really. Given to people in a vegetative state. So you can imagine how truly tasty it really was. When he ripped his tube out at 10 months old, I asked the doc if we could try it without the tube and we were able to do that successfully. By 2yrs old though, we were told that he'd outgrow his MSPI and to go about our lives. So, we did just that.

Two years before my youngest was born, DW was diagnosed with something called functional abdominal pain. What did that mean? That they could find no reason for his stomach pain, even after he was scoped at both ends! He would just double over in the fetal position for hours sometimes, other times, just minutes. Yet, afterwards he'd sit up and eat, drink and even talk, like it never happened. As you can imagine though, it wasn't conducive to weight gain, let alone maintaining his weight. There are theories that it is some form of stomach migraine, food protein sensitivities, to psychosomatic. They gave us a medication and said in time it would help his pain and even his appetite, as he was still small in size. I was never really sure that it worked really but, I was scared so we went with it.

Flash forward to when my youngest was born. I breastfed him the entire time. 3 months in, like clockwork, he began the screaming that MSPI entails - not fussing or even crying, SCREAMING! I stayed breastfeeding him this time though and thoroughly changed my diet, but like his brother, he was extremely sensitive to just about everything. Still, I was determined to breast feed until he was 2 years old! By the time he was 12 months old though, I decided that there was only so many times I could eat ground turkey, sweet potatoes, brown rice, green beans and just a couple of other things. Literally a very narrow diet.

JD at his 1st birthday, with his diary free cake. He was a big fan of the frosting! 

By the time JD, my youngest, was 2 years old, DW was now in constant pain and no one could tell me why. His failure to thrive diagnosis was still in place and in fact, he'd lost even more weight and only wanted to eat macaroni and cheese and ice cream! Which jogged my memory. I'd read an article during my MSPI research that sometimes the things we're most allergic to become the things we crave! So, with a little nudge from a wonderful friend, the lady behind Sensory Street Inc. on FB, named Ida, the very next morning I removed milk/casein from both of their diets again and changed their vitamin supplements to something a little more easily digestible. Liquid, no preservatives, gluten, dairy, etc. free.

DW, 6 years old, pale, and a few months away from almost being put in hospital in 2010.

Within a week, he was eating more things, his pallor improved so dramatically it was almost scary! Within a couple of months, he went from 8 medications down to 5 and of those 5 left, I was able to get 2 of them to half strength or to the lowest dose possible! Which was progress. I'm not one of those moms that can just give their kids meds and be ok with it. Even though he's taken them for years, I cry before every new drug, no matter how small the dose. So, to loose them or shrink them, made me feel fantastic.

Flash forward a few months and every disorder that this boy had, was so much milder, it was like living with a different kid period! His tics from his TS (Tourette Syndrome) were so much milder mainly. He went from ticcing so hard, he couldn't walk, he was beating himself up, he couldn't finish a sentence (partly due to tics and partly due to his OCD that made him have to start the sentence over every time a tic stopped him from talking straight through). He went from having coprolalia - that would be what the general population thinks of when they hear Tourette Syndrom, to never expressing an urge to do it! The change in just his TS alone was mind blowing!

It peaked my interest for sure. So, like any science geek, I did the research, read articles, bought numerous books, listened to online lectures from scientists and doctors. As my step-son says, I "got my geek on"! I learned how or why this might happen and what I learned, changed the way that I look at food, how we feed ourselves, our crops, and the pharmaceutical companies too! No worries, I'm not going to lecture you, promise. This was just our journey and it's not for everyone. So, if you want to know more, ask and I'll tell you but, otherwise, no preaching here! :)

Over time, we began to go organic as much as we could afford to do above and beyond the milk free stuff we had to buy.

Flash forward another 2 years..
My oldest, DW, is getting poked and prodded for what must me the millionth time in his little life. I was holding his skinny, little, legs down while these sterile nurses attempted to get blood from his pale, little hand. I looked down at his teared streaked face and thought, "What am I doing? Why are we doing this again?!". It was at that moment I realized that instead of continually drawing blood to check for Celiac disease yet again, let's just go gluten free to save the trouble! My son has shown every indication/symptom of Celiac apparently all these years. When they'd check him though, he'd test negative. So, they said, let's check him every 6 months - 12 months....which for some insane reason I agreed to. After my epiphany though, we haven't had to go back! And yes, I put my other son on a gluten free too. I mean DW was allergic to strawberries and JD had followed suite, DW was sensitive to peanuts and JD followed suite. So, chances are that if one was sensitive to gluten, then the other one was or would be. So, why not?

Was it easy? No! As a matter of fact, he actually had what a neurologist/psychologist who knows his stuff said, was severe withdrawal symptoms from the gluten! He had a violent breakdown in the OT/PT's office that was like something he had as a wee child before we removed him from milk. It was INTENSE!

DW just this February after he woke and brought his menagerie of animals with him. 

That breakdown was on day 4 of going gluten free. By the end of that week, he was almost neuro-typical! I ask him to pick up and like a typical 8yr old he grumbles, protests and then....picks up! He still tics, but his aggression is next to nil now. He actually smiles and laughs a lot! He's currently in the process of being knocked down on his ADHD meds and his OCD/Anxiety meds as well! Oh and his appetite improved by leaps and bounds!! He went from barely eating anything for breakfast, to wanting 4 gfcf pancakes! He went from avidly avoiding anything he'd never eaten before to actively agreeing to try at least one bite of new foods. Which is a HUGE sensory thing in my house and something both boys are super sensitive to.

As for my youngest when he went gluten free...

My silly little jokster at our local zoo. 

Newly diagnosed with ASD in November, I was given an ADHD med to put him on. I cried for 2 days before I put him on it but, I did so because I knew I couldn't handle him as he was. This kiddo was all over the place! I went to the bathroom one time...literally not even a single minute: 60 that time, he had stacked enough things up to get to the things I'd put on top of the fridge! He was like a wind up toy without anything to wear him down! His therapists would continually tell me that I needed to work on his attention span at home....does anyone know how to do that?! When I would ask, none of them could even give me an idea on how to do this. So, it wasn't just me struggling with this sweet little boy. I loved him though and didn't want to loose his silliness, and I knew meds might do that to him, so it was heartbreaking to do.

Shortly after going gluten free, he got sick, the first time in his whole little life he's ever gotten sick period. He was always my healthy ox! A poster child for a breastfed baby, he never really got a cold even until this last year! He was loosing things from top and bottom. So, I don't typically give them their ADHD meds when they are that sick. He was sick for 6 days and at the end of those 6 days without meds and being gluten free, he was calmer - much calmer. Now, I know it takes time for those meds that have built up in his body to fully dissipate but, the difference in just that short of a time was distinct.

He's still a little wilder than the neighbor boys but, still way more still than he was before. His ASD traits
show a little more, like when he prefers to sit in the room with me but, not want to play or talk to anyone but, he is TONS calmer! He is actively trying to be silly again, he smiles, laughs...still avoids too much eye contact but, he's medication free now and he seems happier and healthier all around. It did not make the impact on him as much as it did for my older child and there are some theories as to why. Mostly they hold that his premature birth and lack of oxygen at birth contributed to his current neurological predicaments but, that's ok. He's still my little man!

Did I go gluten free for a behavior change? No, I didn't. I did it for the health of my oldest son. What happened in the process though was worth it alone. Since that time, I got my "geek on" a lot more and have learned TONS of information on why this might've happened. Do I preach to the masses? Not always. If asked, then yes but, generally I understand that not everyone believes in this, I used to be one of them. I understand that not everyone is blessed enough with being able to afford the things that we've had to do. My husband doesn't make a ton of money but, he does make more than your average burger flipper. Which has entailed us to slowly figure out how to do what we've done over the years.

So, if I share a lot about gluten free and/or milk free, or organics, or a bit more whole foods a lot on my FB page or Pinterest page, this is why. These boys are my whole world and getting them to where they are today is worth pinching and stretching every penny to me.

Do I force my opinions or experience on everyone else? No! This is just our experiences. And I say again, I realize that not all of us can afford to eat this way. We did it slowly, one thing at a time over the course of 4 years. It's tight sometimes, a lot more than we'd all like but, their neurological and physical health is worth it to us. And no, I don't condemn or look down at anyone who doesn't do this!

I shared this so that some of you who've messaged me can get an answer to why I termed my page and blog "Blue Collar" but, then speak of organics, dairy free and/or gluten free recipes or post things about health that might seem bizarre to the general public. I do not think that we all can afford this kind of stuff but, when you have to for the health of your children, you learn to cut corners. Like cable, we do not have cable - shocking I know. We do not have voicemail, call waiting, caller ID or anything like that. We have a straight land line phone for emergencies and I have a very cheap cell phone, with no real perks, that I keep with me in case something goes wrong while out at one of their appointments or anything like that. We buy our zoo membership, children's museum memberships etc. with our tax refunds because otherwise we'd have no way to afford that normally. So yes, I realize that we all can't afford to eat this way, nor do the things that we've done and I don't look down on anyone who can't. This is just OUR life, it may not work for you but, diversity is what life is all about! Right?

Hope this answers some of your questions you may have on why I share what I share as far as organics, GMOs, health, etc. goes. I hope you all have a wonderful week everyone!