Tag Archives: health

Gluten-free: A Fact of Life

Today we visited new friends at their home for the first time. Within five minutes of stepping through the door, Ella ate a cookie. With gluten in it. The second she found out it had gluten, she cried. She spit it out, hid her head, sobbed, pleaded with me to leave.

We didn’t leave. Partly because I felt bad to leave when we’d only just arrived. But also because I knew we had some time before a reaction occurred (and I didn’t really want the results in the van – I hoped it would happen outside).

I did, however, cuddle Ella, and talk to her about the gluten how she felt emotionally and physically. I also told her she didn’t need to play, we could find a quiet place for her to sit where she’d be free from other children. Though if she’d still insisted we leave, we would have.

She didn’t stay hidden for long, she joined everyone else picking berries, and racing through the yard.

She was upset, she’d asked if the cookie was gluten-free. She’d been told it was safe. Unfortunately she asked a three-year old. Ella sobbed, “I don’t want to throw-up. I don’t want to feel yucky.” She knew what was coming.

I could’ve prevented all this from happening. Part of me wishes to turn back the clock and erase all of my baby girl’s pain. But there’s another part of me that can see the lesson learned. Ella now knows to ask an adult, more importantly: Mommy or Daddy, to find out if something contains gluten. She is also more aware of how her body specifically reacts to the gluten. And so am I. We’ve discovered that it becomes painful a lot faster than we realized, but that she can prevent herself from throwing up long enough to find a safe space to do it (though apparently our van constitutes a safe space).

Also I want her to learn how to be safe at other people’s homes. I want her to know it is possible to visit others, and still be safe. I don’t want her friendships limited to the non-gluten eaters.

One book I read just after finding out about the celiac’s disease told parents to tell their children that gluten caused every little upset. If they fall and scrape their knee, it’s because they ate gluten. They catch a stomach bug and throw-up, gluten’s to blame. The point was to scare the child away from ever wanting to try gluten.

I have several problems with this. First it creates a very scary view of the world. Second, a parent should not lie to their child, third, the child will figure out what gluten does to their body, but they’ll figure it out faster with a parents guidance. Lying to the child will actually make the process take longer because the child will have to figure out which of the many upsets are really caused by gluten. Then have enough of them to realize what the results are.

Also the child will soon realize that mom and dad lied. They’ll no longer trust what mom and dad say about gluten. SO the child will be more likely to stray from a  gluten-free lifestyle.

At 4.5 Ella knows to avoid gluten. She knows to ask first, she knows exactly what it’ll do to her. We have never needed to scare her. Even at the stores when they have samples to taste she’ll sometimes ask for one. We can’t always tell how safe the item is. We let her know it MAY contain gluten or may have touched gluten. It MAY make her sick. We then let her decide what to do. Sometimes she tastes it, sometimes she doesn’t. If the item contains gluten, she says, “No thank you.”

By being truthful and open with her, she’s gained the knowledge and experience to begin to protect herself. As she gets older we’ll continue to assist her. We’ll show her what a gluten cookie looks like vs a gluten-free. The same with breads etc. Most of the time a single look is all it takes to tell the difference. If the look doesn’t give it away, then the smell will.

Yes at times the girls may taste something with gluten, and they may end up sick because of it. It won’t be fun. But the experiences provide new information. And that knowledge is what they need to protect themselves. One day they’ll be on their own no one will step between them and gluten.

We follow a special diet, but in no way should that limit our life in any other way. Gluten-free is a fact of life. But it does not define us or our life in any way.

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Why Children Misbehave

About a month ago we went through a period where the girls were completely out of control. Someone was always being hurt, someone always being mean. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of tears, a lot of hurt feelings. The girls needed more attention , more love, more understanding, but the behaviours made it difficult to want to give them what they needed.

At some point, I believe, every parent gets to that point at least once. One night after a particularly rough evening, Ryan turns to me and says, “I just don’t get why she (Ella) does these things.”

The answer was painful. Obvious. We were responsible for her behaviours. Not directly of course, but in a lot of ways the things we did in response to her actions, caused more, bigger actions. At the time I wasn’t modeling calm behaviour. I didn’t model a gentle voice, I didn’t model patience, or a willingness to see someone else’s perspective. Her acting out directly mirrored my own acting out. Between Ella and I, Agatha also acted out. She no longer had comforting arms every time she needed them, she no longer had a soothing voice when scared, her sister no longer gave her the space she needed. With three people in the home angry and hurting, it only makes sense that Ryan felt the tension. It’s expected that he began to act out as well.

Use whatever analogy you choose. A family is a single unit, like the body, a car, or computer. When one part doesn’t functioning properly, the rest malfunction as well. As my hormones came back into balance and the quality of my sleep improved, my moods and level of patience improved. The difference was instantaneous and so beautiful. The girls calmed down, Ryan came home happier and better able to join the girls in their pursuits. Our family healed.

I believe, and please don’t take this as finger-pointing, that if a child is acting in a way that’s unacceptable to the family, then the parents need to look at their lives and see what the root cause is. Children, especially young children, pick up the stress and tension within the home and act on that. The moods in the home become substantial, palpable. A harsh word is as strong as a rough hand, a brick wall. When the people within the home are out of tune, then children aren’t capable of acting in a calm collected manner.

So what’s a parent to do? Sometimes situations are out of control. A person is sick, there isn’t enough money etc. Find out what you need in order to feel in control again. Or what can you do to make things better.

In my case it was a mental shift. I had to let go of needing certain things. I had to reaffirm my conviction that the parenting style we’ve chosen is the best for our family.  If it was a lack of money, we’ve been there, we’d find a way to make the money go farther, or decrease our wants. If a person was sick, we’ve been there too, we’d try to find ways to work around the illness without taxing the person. We’d try to find ways to focus on the rest of the family, rather than the sick person.

In all cases we find ways to have unstructured fun as a family. Before starting our fun we, the adults, talk and try to guess what behaviours we’re likely to see – running, climbing, jumping, screaming, grabbing, pushing, pulling, hitting…. and try to find ways to allow the behaviour without anyone else being hurt or afraid. From the “Playful Parenting” book we’ve taken the ‘love hit’ suggestion to heart a few times. If a child hits us, instead of getting upset, lecturing, saying ‘no’ we laugh and look goofy as we inform them it was a ‘love hit’ and now we’re so madly in love with them we must hug them and kiss them forever. They run away squealing – the hit and whatever caused it completely forgotten. The parents are now back ‘in control’ and everyone is enjoying their time together.

In order to fix hurt hearts and down feelings we don’t need a ton of time, but we do need to prove that we’re there for our children. We don’t need to give them everything, we can still offer guidelines and boundaries, but we must do so gently and respectfully. If we model it, they will follow it.

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I Won’t Settle For Mud

Someone stirs. Light blinds me as my eyes crack open. Time doesn’t matter – it’s too early. Anytime is too early. One child or another woke up multiple times over the night. I need more sleep, or want it. Somedays I’m not sure. In the moment before my eyes open for the day, I crave it. But there’s nothing to be done, the girls are hungry. I already feel guilty that I say ‘wait’ more often than I care to admit. Just so I can climb out of bed slower.

I pick the baby up and walk down the hall toward the stairs. I envision myself tripping over… something. I switch her to my left hip. Farther from the railing. One. Two. Three. Down the stairs. I’m careful to step to the left side of the curve, I don’t want to fall. We survive the walk down the stairs and I place the baby on the floor. Double check to be sure there are no small bits in a three foot radius around her, I give her a toy, check to be sure here are no loose bits or broken pieces. I walk to the kitchen. I can’t quite see her hands, so I go back and re-adjust. I need to see her hands and face. I Don’t want her to inadvertantly grab something she shouldn’t have.

I wash the table and wish there were no bugs in the house. But the girls love them so I cringe and wash the table, and counters, again. A crumb drops on the floor, I sweep it up, but the broom was sticky and now the floor is likely sticky. Ella asks for breakfast. I tell her ‘just a minute’ I grab the cloth and wipe the floor. Rinse the cloth, ring, and hang it. Just so. Nothing should touch the counter, or risk getting the cloth wet. Bacteria will grow. I wash my hands and grab clean bowls from the dish washer. Pour the cereal and let the girls pour their own milk. Nothing spills. We’re all good.

I wash my hands.

I take my pills. While the girls eat, I clean. I can see where the bacteria grows. I can smell it. Our compost bin’s in dire need of washing. It’s been two days since I last washed it. With biodegradable soap. The girls ask for more food.

I wash my hands. We’ve been awake for roughly fifteen minutes.

I wash the fruit, cut the fruit, place it on clean plates. Then before bringing it to the table, I wash the table. Rinse the cloth, wring it, hang it. Just so. Wash my hands. The cloth wasn’t clean enough for me to handle food after touching t. The fruit is placed on the table.I take the dish cloths to the dirty clothes. Wash my hands. Get clean cloths.

The girls run off to play, food drops from their laps leaving a trail of crumbs behind them as they dash away from me. I clean. I want to bake some muffins. But I know the girls will want to help. I can’t handle raw egg, salmonella, on their hands today. I don’t want them to mix. Flour could get on the counter. There’d be a lot of cleaning. I’d get stressed, and grumpy. I can’t do it. Not today.I wash my hands. They’re probably dirty.

I cut up cheese, fruit, and veggies, and place some crackers on a plate. There’s plenty of food they can have, without stressing about germs or diseases.

I load the dishwasher. Just so. The water needs to cycle around the machine, get the dishes – just right, or they won’t be clean enough.

The girls bring  toys down to the livingroom. I cringe and try not to tell them to take them back upstairs. They just want to play, and be close to Mommy. They drop the toys and lay down on the floor next to Cordelia. They kiss her and cuddle her. They pull her arms this way and that. She smiles and coos. She loves them. But then something happens. Agatha grabs her and hugs her extra hard, then lets her head flop to the floor. She cries.

I dash over and pick her up. Agatha tries to comfort her, but her hugs only make things worse. The look on her face lets me know she’s upset and didn’t mean to hurt Cordelia. But I can’t bite back my words. “You hurt her, step away.” I turn away from her while I cuddle Cordelia. Agatha cries heartbreaking tears. I get angry. I’m angry at her, I’m angry at myself. I’m tired and I can’t stop myself. But I should be able to stop it. I shouldn’t snap. I should foster the love the girls have for each other, instead I push them apart.

I feed Cordelia and the girls ask for shows. I turn the T.V. on and am thankful for the break. It’s 8 O’clock in the morning and I’m already thankful for a break. Luckily we aren’t going anywhere, otherwise I’d also need to get everyone dressed, and snacks packed, but then there’d be no T.V. otherwise we’d never get out the door.

The phone rings, I get up, Cordelia bites me. I wince as I hurry to grab the phone before it completely wakes her up. I step on a wooden block. I scream at the girls to pick them up or there’ll be no more shows.Ella says, “Soprry Mommy.” as she dashes to comply.

The day continues much like that, until Ryan gets home or wakes up. If he’s on nights the evening is a bit smoother, but once the girls are asleep all kinds of thoughts enter my head. I need to double, triple check the doors and windows. The alarm needs to be on. Upstairs Ella’s window and the playroom windows need to be closed. In case someone with a large ladder decided to break into our home and climb in from the garage roof. As I lay in bed willing myself to sleep I think of what I’d do if the house caught fire. How I’d get all three girls out – in less than three minutes. I figure out what I’d do if someone broke in. A baseball bat can do a decent amount of damage, so can a knife, but then so could that metal framed baby chair. Hmm which would give us enough time to get out of there? What if one of those hares that hop around outside tuned out to be a killer bunnie. What if it decided to eat us? Okay, I might not really think about that one, but now that it’s in my head – who knows.

Not everyday is like this. In fact right now I’m doing pretty good. Since becoming aware of these thought patterns, I’m better able to stop and calm down before I let them get the better of me. I still wash my hands.

For me, I have to let go of the clean home. If I begin cleaning, I contine cleaning. If I’m cleaning, they can’t pull out more toys. We fight. They cry and I feel horrible.

Somedays it takes a lot of effort. Other days those toys come down the stairs, I leave the room. I take a few minutes in an orderly space and talk myself through the mess. Tell myself what it means to them. Remind myself that toys on the floor are okay, smiles on little faces are more important. Most days I succeed and we move on without the girls knowing what went through my mind. Other days, when my blood work is off (thyroid) or I’m excessively sleepy, it takes a lot more effort to stay in control of myself. On those days I can only handle so much before I snap. On those days I try to arrange our day to allow me as much time as possible to adjust my thoughts. If we’re out, I take lots of time getting places, and getting home. I wait until they’re ready to go before herding them to the van – if they’re not fighting, I’m not fighting and vice versa. When home I try to set them up with an activity that’ll keep them occupied without infringing on my warped space.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what most of my triggers are, to allow myself the freedom to have  a messy house. To know that htose thoughts aren’t ‘me’ and to get passed them. I know things are heading in the right direction when everyone in our home smiles more than they frow, and laughs more than they cry.

Some days I parent like this. Somedays I can’t stop myself, but those aren’t my ideal. Those aren’t even the most common. But they happen, and I try to learn from them. But mostly I try to survive them. I know they won’t last forever, I know my girls will recover. It’s important to me that Ryan points out when I’m out of line. It’s even more important that both Ella and Agatha tell me. Most recently they’ve began telling me to stand on my head when I’m grumpy. It works. By the time I’m on my head I’m over being grumpy. It also provides an opportunity to reconnect with them, despite harsh words. But they shouldn’t need to regulate me, they shouldn’t feel responsible for my moods. They should be free to love, laugh, play, make messes. One day they will be. For now I shelter them, and myself, from others who see nothing wrong with the things I say or do when I’m upset. It’s hard enough to parent without others telling me to settle for less than I aim for.

Sure, if I aim for the stars, I may not get them, but I certainly won’t settle for mud.

 

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I Can Eat A Rainbow – Can You?

Everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with information about healthy eating. Some of it good, others not so much. Some sources say cut this or that, some say low fat,  low cal, but all the processed junk food is okay because it meets the basic requirements of being low fat and low cal.

When we’re bombarded with all of this information, it can make it really difficult to know just which information to pass onto our children. as parents, we can become stressed that our child isn’t eating, or is eating too much, or the wrong food. We often loose sight of the most important point – a balanced diet. A balanced lifestyle.

For those who know the Canadian food guide or food pyramid, you know there are a certain number of foods a person should eat every day – even children. I don’t want to go against the established authority here, but I don’t agree with those guides. At least not completely. The guides say children ages 1-5 should be eating basically the same, and that doesn’t cut it for me. Just as adults need to adjust their intake for their body needs, so to should children.

An active slim five year old does not need to eat the same as a plump, not quite walking one year old. Therefore I’m telling you to throw out the guide, and trust. Trust your child to eat what his or her body needs. But, and this is very important, it’s up to you, the parent, to provide a healthy varied diet. It is not up to you to force your child to eat something. In fact if you do, you’re more likely to cause a more long lasting aversion, whether to that particular food or to certain textured foods, or just new foods in general.

For younger children, just starting to eat solids, allow them to pick at the food, play with it, taste it, spit it out. Assume more will end up on the floor, them, the table, the floor, the dog, than in their stomach.

After they master the pincher grasp, as they toddle around the house, periodically stop them and offer, where they stand, a healthy food. Also have available for them to graze a healthy variety of finger foods. Fruits, vegetables, crackers, cheese etc.

As they get bigger and have clear preferences, allow them to choose what they want to eat, allow them to help with the shopping, make the list, find the items, allow them to cook. Even a two year old can help in the kitchen, even if it’s just washing the lettuce, or stirring the batter.

The older they get, the more freedom you provide. Give your child the information they need to learn to make healthy choices. When you’re shopping and they ask for the cookies and you say ‘no’, tell them why. Is it because of the budget, or for health reasons. For us we often say ‘no’ to store bought, but will offer to make something similar, but healthier at home. We also tell the girls why an item isn’t healthy, we show them the label. As people with celiac’s disease we read a lot of labels, and that’s good for our children in a number of ways.Most importantly it gets them looking. One day they’ll decide for themselves what to eat, it’s our job to give them the information they need to make balanced choices.

When our children ask us for a certain food we talk about why it’s a fun food or a healthy food. Sometimes we’ll talk about other foods they’ve chosen to eat that day, and give them information about balancing their diet with healthy and fun foods. If they choose to eat marshmallows for breakfast,t hen they probably won’t feel very good, they could have upset stomachs, they might not have the energy they need to play. If they choose to eat a tomato, mushroom, and cheese omelet, they’re more likely to feel good, and have energy to play.

If you have a picky eater and you’re worried about the over all health of your child? First, don’t panic. Second, it’s mostly harmless.

One way to encourage healthy eating in children is to give them power. The more power they have over the experience the more likely they’ll eat. Let them shop, let them make the food, let them choose when and how to eat. It’s easy to say we eat when we wake up, then again at noon, and again at six, with a snack in between, but children don’t work that way. Many children need more food earlier, and less food later, but when we pressure them to eat out of synch with their body, they eat less than they would if they followed their body.

Making Sushi Rolls

Make the food fun. I invited a friend over and she said she’d bring fresh fruit. I expected a store bought platter, or a dish with cut up fruit. Nope. She brought a party. A long wooden skewer through the center of the regular old fruit made it so much more fun, and when they were done eating they had swords! Okay not all children turn everything into swords, they could’ve been magic wands.

Cut the cheese, bread, anything into fun shapes. Have healthy food available at all times of the day, pre-prepared and ready to snack. Have your children help prepare the food. And whatever you do, don’t stop your child from eating because ‘it’s almost time for dinner.’ If you’re having trouble getting your child to eat, then don’t stop them from eating, ever. Let them figure it out. Sure you may not have the family meal, but there are other ways to make up family time. Play a game at the table instead.

You can encourage your child to figure out what they don’t like about certain foods. We always tell the girls, you don’t have to eat it, but I want you to taste it. We don’t force, and they can spit it right back out. The point is to try new foods, not worry about manners. We’ve discovered Ella loves octopus, sushi, and countless other foods. There are several she won’t touch, but as she explores she’s willing to try new foods, and old ones she didn’t like before become better. Not always edible, but better.

We also don’t lie about foods. We won’t tell the girls, just taste it, then insist they taste a certain amount. Licking it is good enough. If we wanted a certain amount eaten, we’d say that from the beginning. We also don’t hide foods from them. If we offer them a piece of chicken covered in cheese, we don’t hide a vegetable in order to get them to eat it (though grating cheese over vegetables is something my girls love). If they don’t like it, that’s okay. They can pick apart their meals and eat what they choose. There have been times when Ella’s had eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, or some other  quick, low flavour food for supper every night for a week. Everyone else has dinner and she makes her meal, or waits until someone else is ready to make it for her.

Children rely on us to get them food and drink, they’re not able to choose to eat watermelon or pizza on a whim. Someone needs to get it for them. As adults we’re able to run to the store and buy something we suddenly want. Remembering that allows me more patience with my children, when they don’t want what I’ve made. And that is the final point to remember, patience. Realize this too shall pass, and one day you’ll look back and laugh about how your child only ate, or never ate such and such. We can lead a horse to water, but not make him drink. The same is true with children. Let your children know why their bodies need a mixture of foods, why a certain food is a healthy choice, give them the information, and allow them to decide what to do with it. You are, after all the one doing the shopping and can veto some choices if you feel the need.

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