Inspiration

Friday Inspiration – Why Worry

June 26, 2015
Worry

I am a worrier.

I worry about what people think of me.

I obsess over things I’ve said or done. Completely innocuous things.

I watch my kid like a hawk when we are out. (That may not be accurate. Hawks have amazing vision and I’m blind as a bat. Except bats aren’t really blind and pretty much know everything that’s going on. Maybe I watch my kid like a bat?)

I have a hard time falling asleep at night sometimes because my brain kicks into overdrive thinking of all the things I might have forgotten.

I fret about the things I write. About it being good enough. About someone hating it.

I have a mental map of how to escape my house in case of fire or secret ninja attack.

Ok, maybe I don’t worry about ninjas.

But probably something equally silly.

Some of the worry I can’t help. Issues with anxiety aren’t that straightforward. It’s not always something you can control. (I worry about that. Ha.)

But some of it, some of the time, is in my control. Some of it is about letting go.

I was staring at this photo from a few years ago. It was a rare moment since having the first kid that I went for a stroll by myself. While on vacation with my parents I decided to take some photos at sunset.

Everyone else was settled in for the evening. I worried about leaving the kid with my parents and the hubs. Because that’s what I do when leaving my kid with perfectly capable people.

I worry.

But I ignored the irrational voice and the what-if’s and went for a walk.

As I walked toward the water and looked out at the horizon, I could see storms in the distance.

Oddly, I love storms. As much as they should make me worry, I find they have a calming effect on me.

I took my camera out and started snapping pics of the sunset, mostly blocked by the clouds.

In the water were two figures. I couldn’t make out anything more than their silhouettes, but they seemed absolutely unmoved by the oncoming storm, or the threat of darkness. They looked peaceful.

With rays streaming out above the clouds, and bold color peeking through underneath, why wouldn’t they? Who wouldn’t enjoy the serenity of sitting in the warm Gulf waters, watching the constantly changing painted sky above?

I don’t know anything about those two people, but I doubt in that moment they were plagued with worry.

They probably had stresses like anyone else. Things they could be obsessing over, reasonable or ridiculous. But they were enjoying that moment instead.

And I want to remember that. Whether it be the madness going on outside my doors, within my home, or inside my head, sometimes I need to let go of the “what if” and “what’s next” and enjoy the now.

 

To all my readers: May your weekend be one of enjoying the things in front of you, rather than worrying about what’s ahead. 

And welcome back. I missed it here.

 

Parenting

SPD: Why Pasta Rage Is a Thing In Our House

June 25, 2015
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“Would you like a cupcake? I asked your mommy and she said you can have one.”

He looked at the colorful tower, filled with illicit baked goods, then back at the adult offering him the forbidden treat.

“Are they gluten-free?”

“No, sweetheart.”

“Oh.” He thought for a moment, then added, “Well, are they organic or conventional? If they are organic, then it will be okay, I think.”

My friend relayed this conversation to me later, when she had to bring me over to reassure Jonas that I had, in fact, given her the green light to give him the cupcake. She was sweet, laughing about what she called the most grown-up conversation she had at the party.

And I was proud of the little man for wanting to be sure he was eating the right thing, even if I was letting him cheat.

But why was letting a five year old eat a cupcake such a big deal?

He doesn’t have celiac. He isn’t allergic to wheat.

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Gluten-y goodness.

Are we just following a dietary trend, and depriving our kid in the process?

In a lot of my mom-blog reading I’ve done over the years, I found lots of parents with kids on the spectrum* who found that their kid’s diet had a profound effect on their behavior. In particular, I saw a lot of parents who had eliminated gluten from their diets.

When I started to suspect SPD for Jonas, I wondered if pulling gluten from his diet might help as well. I could research all day long for reasons why that might work or not, or, I could go ahead and pull him off gluten and see how it went.

After all, not eating it wasn’t going to hurt him.

In a week, we saw fewer meltdowns.

We kept up with our no gluten plan, paying attention to the times we strayed. Sure enough, we could often map a meltdown or particularly difficult behavior to a slip up in the gluten department.

And we noticed something else. While we would see him having a more difficult time coping when he had bread or pasta (forget sugary baked treats – those are asking for trouble), when I tried a bowl of organic, GMO-free mac n cheese, he did just fine.

I started incorporating organic, GMO-free items that contained gluten back in his diet.

No added meltdowns.

I started to research more, and found myself reading a lot about the chemicals sprayed on wheat crops. In the last 10-15 years, it’s become more common for wheat to be heavily sprayed just prior to harvest.

There’s quite a bit of debate around the safety of one of the main ingredients, but the data being gathered is interesting.

 

Glyphosate in soil is strongly absorbed and bound by soil particles. It inhibits useful bacteria and kills off algae, resulting in an increasing prevalence of phytopathogenic fungi.

In addition, glyphosate can cause micronutrients, especially manganese, to become unavailable and thus lead to deficiency diseases. A similar process is suspected to take place in the digestive tract of humans and animals.

In certain circumstances, glyphosate can affect the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals. The first studies dealing with this topic fear that the gradual negative impact on the intestinal microflora is most likely the cause of long-term health consequences.

However, more research is needed to determine if and to what extent the inhibition of bacteria and reduction of micronutrients has an influence on human health. – Dirk Brändli and Sandra Reinacher | Ithaka Journal 1 | 2012: 270–272 | ISSN 1663-0521

 

With more and more information emerging on the connection between our gut health and our mood and behavior, it makes a lot of sense that if these herbicides/fungicides/pesticides are disrupting our gut environment, it’s affecting our behavior. Especially our kid’s behavior, since they are growing up in the age where use of these products is more and more prevalent.

My gut** feeling– yes, I know, that’s very science-y of me – is that the chemicals used on the wheat crops are what aggravate the sensory issues, not the gluten itself. So, while we don’t do a ton of gluten, I do let the kid eat GMO-free, organic pasta on occasion.

We’ve also been trying to extend that organic approach to other foods in our home.

Dietary changes to help the gut environment go well beyond gluten, but this small change has definitely been a step in the right direction for us.

We’ve also trying some supplementation in his diet, based on interesting data related to genetic mutation, but that’s a whole lot of info for another day. (It’s fascinating stuff, I promise.)

If you have a child with sensory issues, have you tried dietary changes and seen a difference? Do you have a favorite organic or gluten free product or meal your kids enjoy?

 

*the spectrum, or the autism spectrum, refers to various neurodevelopmental disorders “characterized by social deficits and communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors and interests, sensory issues, and in some cases, cognitive delays”. SPD is not one of those disorders, but many children on the spectrum experience sensory processing issues. 

**it’s a well-read gut at least. That’s why it looks so full.

Parenting

SPD: The Kid With All The Feelings

June 24, 2015
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Another invitation to a kids’ movie night sat in my inbox, and I stared, wondering if it was time to try again.

I thought about the first attempt to take our kid to a movie. We talked about all the great things we’d have. Whatever snacks he wanted from the concession stand, a big bucket of popcorn to share with his dad, and maybe even a soda.

It has to be a special occasion if I was offering to let him have a Coke.

He was cautious, as he often is when trying just about anything new, but excited.

We arrived to the theater early enough to find a good seat and gather our bounty of snacks.

But as we sat, he looked around, getting nervous in the dimly lit theater.

And when the lights went down for the previews, and the booming sounds bubbled forth from the speakers, he got upset.

Really upset.

Upset enough I had to pick him up and take him out of the theater.

I hugged him, trying to discuss why he was so upset. But he just kept asking to go home.

It was too dark. Too loud. Too new.

Too everything.

After some time, I managed to get him back in the theater, well after the previews had ended and the movie began, and we made it through at least part of the movie before he was overwhelmed again.

Our movie trip was a bust.

I learned a lot from that movie trip, more than just the fact that I’d be waiting for video to see movies for a while.

I started paying more attention to the times he found himself overwhelmed. As I made a mental note of the things that seemed to upset him, the reactions that seemed out of line with the situation, I started to wonder. Was it just the age? Is it this hard for everyone?

Being a parent is hard. It’s even harder when you start to feel that you are somehow failing.

As I researched more and more, though, I started to discover that his fears and reactions were a sign of something called Sensory Processing Disorder. The more I read, the more I found myself nodding along.

Yup. That’s my kid.

And that gave me somewhere to start.

Sensory processing is what your brain does with the information the senses send to it. People with SPD react differently, even abnormally, to those messages the brain receives. One doctor refers to it as a sort of “traffic jam” in the brain.

There are a variety of signs of SPD, and not every kid reacts the same, which can make it difficult to identify. They can be hyper or hyposensitive. For example, some kids can’t stand an uninvited touch and avoid excessive “input”. Others, like my son, crave sensory input. You’ll find them seeking out hugs, running in circles, jumping, even intentionally bumping into things.

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Other possible signs a child has SPD are:

  • Aversion to foods of a certain texture
  • Complains about clothing being “itchy” or “hard”
  • Can’t stand tags in clothes
  • Clumsy
  • Has meltdowns in high stimulus situations (think parties, crowds)
  • Easily distracted
  • Talks loudly
  • Not reacting when someone calls their name, or delayed reaction
  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Has a hard time transitioning from one activity to another

The list goes on for quite a while.

Why am I sharing all of this?

Because chances are, someone you care about could be dealing with SPD. A friend’s child, a family member, or your own kid.

And I know what it’s like to wonder why this kid is melting down. I know what it’s like to cradle a five year old who’s upset and can’t or won’t explain why. I know what it’s like to wonder why your kid can go from sweet and perfectly well-behaved one day to driving you insane the next.

Knowing there is a reason is a relief. And it’s a starting point for making things better.

So, if you know a kid who acts like the sky is falling when they get water in their face, or has an end-of-the-world level meltdown because it’s time to go to bed, know that there may be a reason why.

And there are things you can do to help them. And help yourself.

I’ll be posting more on SPD over the next few weeks, and hopefully others will feel free to share their experiences.

In the meantime, hugs to all the moms, dads, and their little ones with all the feelings.

 

 

*note: it goes without saying, but I am not a Doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. All info in these posts are strictly based on a) my experiences with my child and b) my own research

Food (Nom Nom Nom)

“Eat ALL the Veggies” Roasted Chicken Quarters

June 23, 2015
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Two posts in one week?

I know. It’s shocking.

But I promise, I really am trying to carve out time for my writing. For sanity’s sake.

Even if today is JUST a recipe.

Last night’s dinner turned out way better than planned, so it only seemed right to share.

As you all now, I love a good meal. But as much as I’d love for my meals to be Pinterest Perfect, the reality of life is that I don’t get paid to spend all day in my apron, and a heavily prepped and photogenic meal doesn’t change a diaper.

Yesterday afternoon, I stepped away from my computer and into the kitchen to see what needed to be prepped for dinner. I had pulled chicken quarters from the freezer the night before, so it was just a matter of what to do with them.

The veggie drawer was full – perhaps a bit too full. I have a bad habit of not using up my vegetables early enough in the week, which results in a mad dash to incorporate every vegetable known to man in one dish toward the end of the week, or a lot of sad, limp veg hitting the bin.

Not so good.

I eyed a package of thick cut bacon and a large bag of green beans and knew that was a winning combo in this house.

But I wanted to use up more produce.

Maybe a salad?

That’s a pan of some kind for the chicken. Another pan for the green beans and bacon. A bowl for salad. And maybe another dish for some sort of carb.

I not only wanted to make something easy, but I wanted clean up to be as minimal as possible as well.

I grabbed the bacon, chicken, green beans, a bowl of cherry tomatoes, a red bell pepper, and a red onion from the fridge and decided that I would find a way to put it all together at once.

I grabbed my favorite pan (which, I’m not entirely sure if it’s considered a braiser or a casserole, but it looks like this but with a handle and is amazing) and lined the bottom with bacon. After Jonas snapped the ends of the green beans for me, I laid them around the outer edges of the pan. I then added the sliced red pepper, the cherry tomatoes, and the sliced red onion.

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No fine dicing or fancy knife work. Just a quick chop-chop-chop and into the pan it all went.

The chicken was just as easy. A generous sprinkle of salt on the top and bottom of the quarters* and a little cajun seasoning on the tops for added flavor. (If you don’t have a seasoning mix you like, you could totally stick to the basics: salt, pepper, garlic salt – and maybe a bit of cayenne if you want some heat.)

I set the chicken in the center of the pan. A pat of butter on top of the chicken skin and a final dash of salt atop the veggies.

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With the lid on, I slid it all into the oven at 350 and walked away.

About 45-50 minutes later, I took the lid off and knocked the temp up to 450.

A few minutes in, I fished some of the bacon out from under the chicken and laid it on top of the green beans. While the bacon totally does it’s job laying on the bottom and lending it’s flavor to the veggies, I don’t like eating bacon that’s basically stewed. By pulling it to the top at this point, it won’t totally crisp up, but it does develop a much more pleasing texture.

15-20 minutes at the high temp and the chicken skin crisps up and the bacon looks more like bacon.

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I’m typically a barely-cook my green beans person, but I loved these green beans despite their lack of crunch. They were soft, but not mushy. (Bonus: the 1 year old can eat them.)

The tomatoes, red peppers, and onions all sweeten after roasting in the pan for so long, and the combined drippings from everything – the chicken, bacon, and veggies – are just perfect for spooning over a heaping pile of white rice.**

Mmmmm…

I think I’ll be trying again, maybe with more veggies. What would you try differently? If you make this one, let me know how it turned out for you!

And with all the extra time you have left over from making this quick meal, you can spend more of it on what you love.

Like making silly dubsmash videos with your kids.

 

*Chicken quarters (the leg and thigh) are a great budget food. They seem to go on sale often and are much cheaper than breasts, and have more flavor. Those cheaper bits are especially good if you are trying to stick to organic.

**A former roomie and forever bestie used to make white rice, gravy, and steamed broccoli when we lived together. It became one of my favorite “I’m broke and need comfort food and have the best roomies ever” dishes. The green bean, white rice, and delicious drippings in this totally take me back to that feeling.