Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Defines Your Family

Focus on the Goal
Have you ever complained bitterly to your friends about being swamped and a few minutes later added something else to your schedule? A few weeks ago, my Saturdays consisted of two early morning soccer games, a piano lesson, and 2 birthday parties. Likewise, Sunday was church, brunch, a birthday party, and a visit to Disney. In addition, I still had to find time to cook, clean the house and get the boys ready for school. On a given Tuesday, we had soccer practice, a cub scout meeting, and a new parent event at my son's school. Even superwoman would be tired.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A "Christmas" Letter

Inhale. Exhale. How long did that take? Life does not give us 5 minutes to take a breath; it moves at a rapid pace and we have to keep up. I have been missing in action for the past 2 months. Sometimes life intervenes and although I love to write, I had to take a hiatus from writing to just experience this unpredictable life. Today, I couldn't even remember the password for this blog and I still can't remember the password for my Twitter account. I have learned over the years that I can do it all but not well and I can have it all but not in the same day or month or sometimes even years. Now that I am back, please forgive the absence and the "Christmas" update that I am about to write. Don't we all love those "life has been perfect" letters. Thankfully, this is not one of those.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Summer Camp Experience

Now that summer is over and the boys are back in school, I can take a moment to reflect on summer camp. Since this was our first summer camp experience, I did weeks of research and settled on a camp at  our local college. This would be the first time that Gian would be away, independent of a structured daycare program so we wanted to make sure that he would feel happy and protected.  Actually, I am the one who really needed the extra boost of confidence.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Welcome to First Grade! I Love Teachers!

My sun child just received his first letter in the mail and it was from his new first grade teacher. It said, "some of the fun things we will be learning about can be found in the poem below...

Indigenous Florida Natives
Rabbit Play
Stories, Songs and Scripture
Treasures of the Ocean

Great Adventures
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Animals of Florida

I can't wait to meet you!" How awesome! He was thrilled and now first grade is a little less scary. I love teachers!!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My First Blog Award!

My blog BoysRising received its first blog award! It has taken me a few weeks to respond but it is never too late to say Thanks! Thank you to Karen Pokras Toz for recognizing BoysRising. Sometimes, as a writer, you wonder if anyone is reading, so it is nice to know that someone not only reads but enjoys the content.  Please check out Karen's blog at Karen Pokras Toz, especially her weekly summaries. Karen suggests sharing 7 things about myself, so here we go.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shedding the Post Pregnancy Baby Belly

Back on the Bike
 "Mom, do you have another baby in your stomach?" This came from my 6 year old, who has reached the "brutally honest" age where everything comes out unfiltered. I just smiled and said, "no sweetie" because I think that he was actually hoping that my answer would be yes. My husband quickly tells me not to pay any attention to my son's comments because unlike my son, he is not a 6 year old and has learned to filter his comments when it comes to a woman's weight.  Now,  at 5' 4", 118 lbs, I am certainly not overweight; in fact, my mother thinks that I am too skinny. However, in this small frame, there is 27% body fat, confirmed by the very young lady at the gym with the tape measure and torture device that clips to the skin. So why is it so hard to shed the baby belly

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fun with Legos - If You Can Imagine It, You Can Create It.

Almost every evening, my 4 year old says, "mommy, close your eyes, I have a surprise for you!"  He then leads me to his Lego creation. It is so challenging to get kids, especially boys, to sit and focus on a task that I am so happy that he can let his imagination run wild with his Legos. Often, I have no idea what he has created but he knows and he had a great time creating it. 

A few more

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Boy in the Mirror: Celebrating Fathers Who Create a Positive Reflection

Happy Father's Day! It is a sentiment that I have rarely had a chance to express to my own father. He was in and out of my life for many years and when he was in my life, it felt strange to say it. Happy Father's Day seems like a special statement to be reserved for the most special fathers, you know, the ones who were around to change diapers, wipe tears, give great advice, lecture that boy taking me out on my first date,  and walk me down the aisle during my wedding.

Friday, June 17, 2011

25 + 5 Random Things About Me

Remember a few years ago when “25 Random Things About Me” was abuzz on Facebook? This morning I stumbled upon the list that I wrote in 2008 and surprisingly almost all 25 remains true.   Since I couldn’t make any major changes, I decided to add 5 more to the list and repost for all my new friends, so here we go. 
25 + 5 Random Things About Me
  1. My glass is always ¾ full.
  2. As a Virgo, I am judgmental but I try really hard not to show it.
  3. I dream about the house that I grew up in Dalvey, St. Thomas, Jamaica almost once a week
  4. I wished that I started having kids younger because I secretly yearn for at least six.
  5. I have a crush on Angelina Jolie

Friday, June 10, 2011

Boys of Summer: 10 Activities to Keep Your Super Hero Happy This Summer

New Smyrna Beach
My son just graduated from kindergarten. Yea!!! This is the first year that we have had to makes plans for 10 weeks of summer fun.  After some mind-numbing research into summer camps and activities that are fun but also educational,  below is a list that works for kids of all ages, especially boys with lots of energy to burn. 

1. Legos: I want to kiss the hand of the genius who created Legos. All the boys need are a few Lego pieces and their imagination and the result is hours of fun. Give them an entire box of Legos and you may have to check to see if they are alive. Make sure that the pieces are age appropriate and don't panic when he asks for help in building a battleship or spy airplane. Don't forget to gush over the resulting masterpiece. Soon you will also be able to take them to Legoland

Wekiwa State Park
2. The Beach: Any beach will do. Kids just love water! Sand between the toes, sand castles, running on the beach, beach volleyball, wave dodging are all activities that the kids will love. The great thing about the beach is that the entertainment is already there, you just need to bring sunscreen and snacks.
3. Bubbles: Bubbles are inexpensive and awesome for younger kids. All my boys love them, even the 6 year old! If you walk through your local mall, you will likely find a vendor selling a bubble gun. I was hesitant to spend the $12 but it has provided hours of fun. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Random Act of Unkindness Inspires 14 Words of Wisdom For My Boys

Tree of Life
Yesterday, as I was taking a leisurely stroll to the gym, I noticed a pickup truck driving through my neighborhood.  It was noticeable because it was a 2 seater with about 4 kids, mostly young boys crammed into the front seat.  As it drove by me, a boy in the passenger seat who looked between 15 to 17, looked at me and yelled a racial epithet, preceded by a 4 letter word.  My immediate thoughts were "Did I just hear that?" and "How weirdly random was that?".  Although I have dealt with prejudice based on race, I am fortunate to have gone 41 years without experiencing overt racist behavior.  One of my favorite quotes is "It is not about what happens to you, it is about how you react to it that matters".  With that in mind, I took a deep breath, exhaled it out of my system and refocused my energy on getting a good workout at the gym. 

Although I was able to free my mind from the ugliness of the act, as a mother, I couldn't help thinking about the young boys and what would cause them to be so angry at such a young age.  I don't know these kids but I wish them well.  As a mother of 3 boys, I know how easy it is for our children, especially, our boys to go down the wrong path in life.  As I tried to pour some positive energy into the incident, I thought about some lessons in love and kindness that have inspired me over the years and that I would like to share with my own boys.
  • If you live by only 1 rule, choose this one: Practice self love and then love your neighbor as yourself.
  • We are all created by love and with love. When you are feeling angry at yourself or the world, take a moment to reflect and reach within; you already possess all the love that you need within yourself.
  • Different does not mean deficient; embrace each other's uniqueness. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Love Your Love Life

Congratulations, we made it to the final chapter of the Happiest Mom! Thanks to all my friends, old and new, that have been following for the past 10 days.  I started this journey because I discovered that I had not read a book, just for fun, in at least a year, and wanted to jump start my love of reading and writing. Mission accomplished! I carved out the time to read a chapter every day and I blogged about it every day, even though quite a few of the blog posts were posted close to midnight. Before I started this project, I would get the kids to bed between 8 and 9p.m. and I would either fall asleep with them or shortly thereafter; I could never find that second wind to stay up and accomplish a few things before bedtime. I discovered that having a clear goal is what motivates me.

Are you loving your love life? If not, this is the chapter for you. Meagan talks about the challenges of raising young kids and the impact on her marriage. It is a sweet story with a happy ending.  Before I had

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Look out for # 1

I started reading a chapter per day of the Happiest Mom because I discovered that I had not read a book in a few years and I wanted to jump start my love of reading. I was surprised to discover in Chapter 10 of the Happiest Mom, entitled “look out for #1, that Happiest Mom author, Meagan Francis has a similar experience - she realized that she had not read a novel in 2 years. 
Looking out for number 1, is really challenging for me because I was brought up to be always concerned about the needs of others.  Frankly, it feels good to be helpful to others but when the mind starts to deteriorate and the body breaks down, actually long before that happens, it is time to look out for number 1. I think that most women suffer from this need to give until the well is dry.   If we are married, we hope that

Monday, May 30, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: A great plan can be your best friend

Today was one of those days that as moms, we all dream about! About 6 month ago, I bought a spa deal from Living Social and I have spent the last 6 month plotting the right time to use it. I have made several attempts but with 3 boys, there was always something going on with them that felt more important than my own needs.  Finally, my mother announced that she was coming for a visit and my wishful thinking turned into a plan - one that I was actually able to effectuate to wonderful results; tonight, my body is celebrating.

Chapter 9 of the Happiest Mom is about having a plan - knowing where you are going and how you expect to get there. I don't have any trouble making a plan; I am a "to do list" girl.  I can follow through with even the loftiest goals, except when it comes to taking care of myself. The nail technician nicely commented that I needed to get a pedicure more often.  If like me, you

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Did You Make Your Bed Today?

I am really exhausted tonight because my mother is coming for a visit tomorrow so I spent all day cleaning the house. If like me you don't have a spotless house, you know how much work it takes to get the house ready for a visitor.  Now, with some visitors, you can just just throw that pile of laundry in the closet and shut the door but not when mama is coming; you know that the first thing she will do is peak in the closet.

In every house there is a room where the entire family congregates; that is the room that generally causes housekeeping headaches.  In our house, it is the kitchen. Both my husband and I cook so the kitchen is "lived in", to put it nicely. It has always been my view that in every house, the kitchen and bathroom should always be clean even if every other room is a mess, so I am always trying to live up to my own expectation with regards to the kitchen. Honestly, I still don't have a method that works consistently but here are a few lessons from the Happiest Mom and some things that have worked for me occasion.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Go With the Flow, Your Perfect Day Awaits

Have you ever stumbled upon a perfect day? This can only happen when we go with the flow in our lives. This morning, I was hoping to wake up to coffee and donuts from my favorite Vegan restaurant. As it turns out, I had no such surprise i store so I decided to take my 3 year old, otherwise known as my "moon child" on our first mother-son date to get donuts. Did I mention that the vegan bakery is about 38 miles away from my house? Didn't let that stop me. The donuts were delicious and my son was perfectly behaved; he was just thrilled to have alone time with his mommy. It is not easy being the middle child.

A friend texted an invitation to the beach and I carefully weighed my options. Let's see, go to the beach or clean the bathroom?  An hour later, I was sitting in the sand watching the kids make sand castles, and joyfully splashing around in the water. Later, we continued the party at my friend's house, where the kids had pizza and played game, while mommy had some always welcomed adult conversation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Find Your Tribe

I was raised in Jamaica by a village of loving family and friends. I lived in a house with my Mama, my older brother, my Mama's mother, aunt, brother and an older cousin.  In addition, almost everyone in our small village was considered a "cousin".  Mothers had a lot of help. It wasn't unusual for a mother to leave our village to find work in "town", while leaving her kids behind with a relative.  There was no stigma to it; in many cases it was considered an act of love.

I expected that I would find my own village when I had children. I had a wonderful network of friends when I lived in Washington, DC but when I moved to Florida over a year ago, I had to rebuild my circle of friends. It has been challenging, therefore I identify with the Happiest Mom's suggestion that every mother needs to find and establish her own tribe.  Meagan describes it a "someone who pulls for you in tough times and stir the margarita mix

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Keeping it Real

How much has your life changed since you had kids? Has it changed for the better? When you look in the mirror, can you still identify with the person that you see? Are you the type of  mommy that you thought that you would be?

The Happiest Mom reminds up that "keeping it real" means not clinging to every aspect of your pre-pregnancy self, even though there is so much pressure to do so. It is important to create balance by hanging to those aspects of your life and personality that you loved while embracing the mom that you are now. I spent the day at the office, the evening watching Kung Fu Panda 2 with the boys and I am ending the day writing. Writing is fun and therapeutic for me and it is an important part of my pre-mommy self that I am trying to hold on to.  I am also embracing my new role as a soccer mom; seeing how much fun the boys are having makes going to a game or practice 3 to 4 times per week worth the effort.

My "keeping it real" thoughts are:

  • I may not be perfect but I am perfect for my kids (quote from Kelsey); that is why God blessed me with them and them with me.
  • I'm not sure if motherhood has made me smarter because with every child, I lose more of my ability to remember important things, like where I put the car keys; however, it has made me much wiser.
  • I have mastered "mind travel" - all the exotic place that I visit in my mind during a tantrum.
  • So sorry for all the times, before becoming a mother, that I gave a mommy the "why can't you control your child" look.
  • I am not the mommy that can create lovely scrapbooks or plan the perfect pirate themed party for the boys but I am good at the things that are important to them, like laughing at all their potty jokes, watching the movie Cars with them hundreds of time and always playing the "smell my stinky feet" game. 

How has motherhood changed you and what good skills has motherhood taught you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Trust Your Gut

I had my first son in 2004. Even though I had read all the parenting books and absorbed advice from every relative and stranger, I was still overwhelmed when I had to leave the hospital with my "Sun" child. The nurse handed him to me and said, "you can go home now." I thought, "are they going to really trust me with this precious child, I have no experience!"  

Chapter 3 of the Happiest Mom talks about trusting your gut; some people refer to it as instincts or intuition or that strange feeling in your stomach but regardless of what you call it, it is unlikely to lead you down the wrong path.  We all want to be successful parents so we spend a great deal of time conducting research and getting advice.  Sometimes the advice is unsolicited and not helpful and an appropriate response is necessary. Unfortunately, I always seem to think of a good response 5 minutes too late. I think that Meagan has either been bitten by the nice bug or she has really mastered the art of retaining her inner peace and not becoming defensive.  For example, she would respond to a childcare provider who says,"I really think that she should be potty trained by now" with "I talked to my pediatrician, and she agreed that it is better to wait until she is older." Great advice but I would have said, "If you didn't want to change diapers, you should have chosen a different profession!" Just kidding! That is what I thought; my actual response was "let's keep him in the 3 year old class for a few more weeks and when he is potty trained, he can join his peers in the 4 year old class." I was able to respond this way because of experience with my first child. I felt pressured to potty train him and my sweetie would hide in a corner or behind a sofa to take care of his needs in peace. It was frustrating at the time but now I say, "good or him!" He used the potty when he was ready and not a minute before.

Words of wisdom for today:
  • Don't let anyone shake your confidence in your own judgment
  • If you read something that conflicts with your parenting philosophy, ask yourself: Is what I'm doing working?
  • Beware of mothers, mother-in-laws and parents with older kids who have selective memories and will of say,"when Johnny was 4, he was the perfect toddler," Don't believe it!
  • It is normal to want advice from others; consider the advice, conduct your research but go with what feel right for you and your family.
  • If you don't like any of the advice in this blog post, ignore it :-).
My gut is telling me to get off the computer and go watch Kung Fu Panda with the boy, and since I always trust my gut, I am signing off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: The Kids are Alive!

My husband went out of town and left me with the boys and when he returned, the dishes were piled high in the sink and toys were scattered all over the house; he looked horrified. I felt judged so I said, "you should be happy that the kids are alive!".

"Aim Low and Go Slow" is the title of the second chapter of the Happiest Mom. The chapter advises moms to set realistic expectations - for you and everyone around you - and be patient with yourself and others.

Today, I am reminded of the following:

  • No 2 kids are the same. Sometimes the "terrific 2" starts at 2, sometimes it starts at 4 and sometimes it starts at 18 months and lasts until 5.
  • Set the bar high for things that really matter to you. For me, any safety issue is a high priority. I wouldn't chose more than 5 things because if everything is important nothing is important. Set it low for routine tasks, such as sending the kids to school with matching socks or getting a gift to the teacher everyday during teacher's week. I managed to get all 12 teachers a gift card at the end of the week and I am sure they were still appreciative of the gesture.
  • I am sad that my six year old has a cavity but it is not the end of the world - the tooth fairy will appear, a new tooth will replace this one and I will do better with the replacement.
  • So happy to hear that my child is not the first to have mooned someone.  I will apologize to our relatives at Thanksgiving for the next 12 years but when he turns 18, he can issue his own apologies.
  • Don't rush the kids into reaching milestones before they are ready. I can guarantee that the boys won't go to college in diapers.
  • For the past 5 years, I have been meaning to create a "first year" photo album for my now 6 year old. Apparently I am not the only mother with this unrealized goal.
  • In addition to my "to-do list", it is ok to have a "don't do" list and a "don't do ever" list. Awesome advice. Thanks Meagan!
  • I can have it all and do it all but just not in the same day or month or even the same year. I can happily live with that reality.
After several unsuccessful attempts at a family meal at a relatively nice restaurant, I have learned that "aiming low and going slow" means stick to restaurants that are super kid friendly. Why spend the entire dinner asking a 3 year old to be quiet or prying the knives from the baby's hands or diving to catch the glass that he is about to throw. 

At my bridal shower, my friend Gladis gave me the best advice. She said "lower your expectations and you will have a happy marriage." I think this is also good advice for raising kids because it allows us to be realistic with our expectations of ourselves, our kids and our spouses and every good thing that happens is a reason to celebrate.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Happiness is Within Reach

Yes, I can! I am not sure if I am referring to claiming my happiness or reading a chapter a day and blogging about it.  As you may be able to tell, it is almost midnight and I just found time to share my thoughts from the first chapter of the Happiest Mom.

The nice thing about a good book is that it encourages reflection. Here are a few of my random thoughts after reading the first chapter:

  • Kids everywhere prefer to have their sandwich without the crust much to the horror of most moms.
  • A 3 year old's heart can break because his brother called him a "bad boy". Don't overanalyze it, just give him a big hug.
  • The existence of the human race depends on moms keeping their boys from accidently causing great harm to themselves.
  • There are other mothers out there who would trade in brunch with the family for a few hours of quiet enjoyment/reflection on Mother's day.
  • If you want to give a mommy a great gift, give her time alone to grocery shop.
  • You can recover from taking the kids all the way to school only to realize that you forgot their shoes.
  • I think that I know how to raise happy kids but can anything be done about the whining?
  • I am not the only mother who has been tempted to cry and call my mother for a hug.
  • My oldest child is 6 and I have ironed his clothing maybe twice and I am fine with it.
  • No is a beautiful word that should be used without guilt.

The best quote from the first chapter is "How can you find happiness if you can't find your keys?"  I am a law and order mommy, and a happy life for me means an organized life. It doesn't have to be perfect, I just need to know where the pieces fit. I get a quick happiness boost from rearranging furniture in my house. Does this work for anyone else?

I am an optimist and I always want the glass to be way more than 1/2 full, which is why I am drawn to a book about finding happiness as a mom. The mommy war stories are funny and I relate to many of them but they can leave moms feeling hopeless and resigned to just getting by. It is nice  to read that happiness is within the reach of all mothers. It is for the taking, now, not when the kids get older or better behaved or reach some other milestone.  I look forward to getting past just surviving and actually thriving! Now where are those keys? See you tomorrow. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reading the "Happiest Mom", Join Me!

I love to read and I love to write! I always thought that those 2 passions helped to define me but today I realized that I have not read a a book, not including legal books, in over a year. How could that be?  I have been carrying around the book, "The Happiest Mom" by Meagan Francis for a few weeks now but every time I pull it out, a baby tugs on my skirt, the phone rings, and the pile of laundry starts to call my name.  Now, this is precisely why I need to read this book. I need to organize my life and reclaim my passions and my happiness.

This is where I need your help. The "Happiest Mom" has 10 chapters and starting tomorrow,  I am committing to reading 1 chapter per day and I am holding my feet to the fire by blogging about it daily. This is a very cool book; I know this already because I have been following Meagan's advice on her Website for a few months now.  If you haven't read the book, stop by Amazon or your local book store, grab a copy and join me over the next 10 days. If you have already read the book, stop by and comment.

With 3 toddlers to foil me, I am nervous but happy to jump start my love of reading.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers, You are Royal, Today and Everyday!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has ever provided a child with a special hug or smile, who has changed a diaper or stayed up late at night with a sick child.  Your love for a child nurtures that child but also impacts the future of a nation. The way that we love as adults reflect how we were loved and nurtured as children.  It takes a village to raise a child and I am especially thankful for the women who raised me. Special mommy hugs and love for my Mama, Linett Wills (photo), my Mother, Roslyn Chambers, Granny Da and Aunty Fan. Thanks to them, I had a childhood filled with love and have been able to pass that love along to my own kids.

If you are the nurturer of a child and today you are feeling tired, overwhelmed or under appreciated, just know that you are royal, your love heals, and the love that you give today will last a lifetime.

In the heart and mind of a child, mother's day is everyday so Happy Mother's Day to you, today and everyday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Going Gluten-Free for your Health

I am really excited to have Angela who blogs at Caffeinated Autism Mom as our first guest writer.  BoysRising provides support and information for parents raising boys and also covers healthy living and eating.  "Going Gluten Free for your Health" covers both topics and is an informative and inspirational treat for all readers. If you would like to be a guest writer, please contact me regarding your Story From the Heart.

Going Gluten-free for your Health
Guest post written by Caffeinated Autism Mom
Have you seen gluten-free products at your local grocery store recently? According to a report earlier this month from Packaged Facts, the gluten-free market has grown 30% in the past 4 years and is projected to have sales in excess of $5 billion annually by 2015. That is a huge market! In the past few years there have been many new options added to store shelves. I am grateful that gluten-free products are becoming easier to find. I hope that this trend will continue to provide consumers with better access to quality GF products at even more competitive pricing. 

Maybe you’re wondering what all the gluten-free hype is about and why someone would choose to make such a change. Well, there are lots of reasons! Some people try a gluten-free diet to relieve symptoms from conditions like: rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, MS, fibromyalgia, and autism spectrum disorder. I have 2 boys diagnosed on the autism spectrum and a change in diet has been the key to unlocking speech in my youngest son. A survey found that among those families who try the GFCF diet (gluten-free, casein/dairy-free) to help with autism, almost 70% see improvements in their children. That is very significant!  
My thoughts are, if it won’t hurt them and it might actually help, then why not try it? Even though I was scared to make dietary changes and I initially resisted the idea, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My son is talking! And, some of his other physical and behavioral symptoms have also improved. As you can imagine, I am now a big proponent of dietary intervention for kids with autism and I love to share our experience with others.
April is designated as Autism Awareness Month. Since both of my kids have seen wonderful benefits from the GFCF diet and I’ve become a sort of expert on the topic, I thought it would be great to give you some basics about going gluten-free. Even if you don’t have a child with autism, a gluten-free diet can be a positive step toward improving your health. There are many symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity, some of which include: fatigue, depression, weight gain, diarrhea/constipation, headaches, asthma, eczema/rashes, joint pain, bloating/gas, frequent infections (yeast, sinus, urinary tract, etc.), infertility, etc. 
Are you intrigued and thinking about taking the plunge into the GF world? Here are some tips I’ve developed out of my own experience on how to go gluten-free.
  • Learn from free GF resources. Check out gluten-free cookbooks from your local library and visit GF websites and blogs. See what types of ingredients you will need to acquire and become familiar with the names of alternative grains, like quinoa and amaranth. Also familiarize yourself with substitutions and how to read labels. If you’re making changes for your child’s benefit, TACA has lots of helpful information related to starting children on a GFCF diet. My favorite online GFCF recipe resource is Gluten-Free Goddess. 
  • Be prepared to spend more on groceries. Going gluten-free is not cheap. Pre-made and packaged items are already expensive and the prices of their GF counterparts will greatly affect your food budget. If you like to bake and cook, save money by making your own stuff. Seek out gluten-free products in bulk at your local grocery store or health food store. Places like Costco are also starting to carry GF options. Another place to source and purchase GF items is online. Comparison shop before you buy and look for coupons and sales. Discontinued items or things close to expiration often end up in the grocery store bargain bin. I’ve found many amazing deals on gluten-free items by always checking this section of my store whenever I go shopping. 
  • Take things in steps. Choose one item, like cereal, and replace it with an allergy-free version. I started my boys on the GFCF diet cold turkey. I DO NOT recommend this because it can be very difficult and traumatic. If you ease into it one step at a time your taste buds will become accustomed and additional changes will be easier. Try one new item each week until you have eliminated all gluten from your diet. 
  • Stock up on GF supplies. After reviewing some cookbooks and recipes you will have a better understanding of what new ingredients you should buy. Gluten-free desserts and breads require specific combinations of several types of GF flours, so you will want to follow recipes to the letter. Just replacing regular flour with GF flour or a GF blend will not always yield good results. I’ve had some colossal flops along the way as I figured this out. Find a good all-purpose GF flour blend and start experimenting. My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill. 
  • Be prepared for a change in texture. Gluten is a protein that imparts elasticity into baked goods. You are not going to get the same kind of result when gluten is absent from the product. Most gluten-free items tend to be crumbly and dense. When you are first starting out you will notice a big difference, particularly in breads. There will be a period of trial and error as you familiarize yourself with brands you never want to buy again and others you like and want to stick with.    
  • Focus on what you CAN eat. If you are pining for your favorite chocolate cake or crusty sourdough boulĂ©, you are going to drive yourself crazy. As I mentioned, there is a big texture difference. You’ll find things that work for your palate. We have several allergens that we avoid at our house, which can make meal planning fairly complex. Instead of worrying about what is free of gluten, dairy, egg, soy, nuts, and so on, we try to focus on building a meal around what we know the boys can eat without worry: protein, vegetables and fruit.
  • Be prepared to feel worse, at least initially. When making a change like this, the body will often go into detox mode. It can often feel like you’ve got a case of the “blahs” or the flu. My son had a hunger strike for several days when we took him off of allergens. His behavior was already awful and violent, and it actually escalated for the first 2 weeks. His body was addicted to the allergens. The offending foods created a drug-like chemical effect in his brain caused by leaky gut syndrome. Going off the food made him act like he was going through withdrawal. It was not pretty. But, it got better. The first week was the worst, and then after 2 weeks he started talking. He’s made tremendous progress since then and his body is healing.      
  • Stick with it for at least 60 days. After you’ve eased yourself into the GF lifestyle, make a commitment to be 100% gluten-free for a minimum of 60 days. Changes don’t always happen suddenly, so give your body enough time to respond. It’s a very good idea to start a food journal and list of symptoms prior to going on the GF diet so you can accurately assess what changes happen after removing gluten. You might notice significant changes almost immediately, or smaller changes that happen slowly.
Some people think that the gluten-free phenomenon is only a food fad, like the low-carb food craze when the Adkins Diet was popular. I strongly disagree. Celiac disease is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in the US, conservatively estimated to affect 1 in 133 people. Autism continues to rise alarmingly fast, occurring in 1 out of every 91 children in the US. A gluten-free diet is helpful to the majority of families who try it in order to help their children diagnosed with autism. Many people who go gluten-free for other health reasons will often see improvements in their symptoms, too. I strongly believe that the need for gluten-free diets and demand for GF products will continue to increase at a steady pace in the years to come. If you have any sort of health issue, I would highly recommend that you learn more about the symptoms of gluten intolerance and maybe give the GF diet a try to see if your health improves. It certainly can’t hurt! 
If you would like to learn more about autism, sensory processing disorder, food allergies, my awesome kids and my crazy life, please visit my blog at Caffeinated Autism Mom

Monday, April 18, 2011

Autism Affects 1 in Every 70 Boys: Information and Resources

autism awareness ribbonImage via Wikipedia

April is autism awareness month. Did you know that 1 in every 70 boys is being diagnosed with autism? Autism is a developmental disability that generally appears during the first three years of life. It is a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Chances are that you have a friend or family member with Autism. Autism awareness month is a great time to increase your knowledge. Below are some helpful links.  

Autism and Boys - A genetic clue
Link to Autism and Boys - Science News
Why Autism is More Prevalent in Boys - MedicineNet
Not My Boy! Rodney Peete's Journey to Accept Autism Diagnosis

20 iPad Apps for Kids with Autism - The Autism Education Site
Autism Society
Autism Sucks - story by a mother in Jamaica
Autism Fact Sheet - National Institute of Neurological Disorders
Autism and Kids - Kids Health Organization
Autism is Treatable - Autism Research Institute
Autism - What you should know - CDC
National Autism Association
Autism Key - resource for parents
Caffeinated Autism Mom - insights from mom of 2 boys with autism
Holly Robinson Peete's Foundation - supports compassionate care for those living with autism
Age of Autism - Daily Web Newspaper

Autism Now - PBS video series recently published a good list of Facebook Fan Pages and Blogs that covers issues relating to Autism. Visit Babble for a summary of the pages and direct links.

Top 30 Autism Facebook Fan Pages

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