Sunday, September 29, 2013

Easy Crock Pot Gluten Free Short Ribs

Diets high in protein and no gluten are perfect for kids with ADHD. Even better is the ability to throw everything in the crock pot, turn it on and leave for the day. When you come home, dinner is served!

You'll need:
2 lb container of short ribs
12 ounce container of salsa - I used Gunther's Gourmet Crab Salsa . It provides great flavor
Beef stock

Add short ribs to slow cooker
Pour container of Gunther's Gourmet Salsa over the ribs
Pour in just enough beef stock to cover the ribs
Stir mixture
Turn slow cooker on high
Cook for 5 hours

When your ribs come out, they will be fall off the bone good!

The ADHD Kid Diet

I've decided to medicate my kid (for now at least) to manage his ADHD symptoms. I think he does need it, although the idea of side effects can be scary.

However I would like to do as much as I can for him through simple diet management. The medical community isn't jumping on the diet bandwagon just yet but other moms living with their ADHD-affected kids are finding some things are successful. And I trust them. For example....

Elimination Diets:
I have removed gluten and artificial dyes from Christopher's diet. Since doing so I have noticed a dramatic improvement in his demeanor. Where he used to be violent, he is now much calmer. He used to spin around in circles and slam into people. He couldn't stop himself from hitting, biting and pushing other kids. No one wanted to be around him. And I was at my wit's end.

Once I removed gluten and artificial dye from Christopher's diet, the aggression stopped immediately. It was a god send! However, he can still be a little impulsive. And he will still get over-stimulated and sometimes slam into people. Clearly we're not completely done.

According to WebMD, there are other dietary changes we need to make.
  • Eat a high-protein diet, including beans, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts. Add protein foods in the morning and for after-school snacks, to improve concentration and possibly increase the time ADHD medications work.
  • Eat fewer simple carbohydrates, such as candy, corn syrup, honey, sugar, white rice, and potatoes without the skins.
  • Eat more complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and some fruits (including oranges, tangerines, pears, grapefruit, apples, and kiwi). Eating complex carbs at night may aid sleep.
  • Eat more omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in tuna, salmon, other cold-water white fish, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and olive and canola oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplement form.

So in essence, say no to:
  • Gluten 
  • Artificial dye
  • Candy
  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • White rice
  • Potatoes

Say yes to more: 
  • Beans 
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Pears
  • Grapefruit
  • Apples
  • Kiwi
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Omega-3 supplements
Sounds like I've got a grocery list to make...

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Gluten Free Coconut Granola

This is from a mom, Christine, on one of the mail lists to which I subscribe:

Dry Ingredients
4 cups gluten free old fashioned rolled oats (I order Bob’s Red Mill in bulk from Amazon)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup shredded coconut
¼ teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients
½ cup water
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (Yes, this is a lot – I buy the large bottles of vanilla at Penzeys)

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.
Combine wet ingredients in small bowl, pour over dry ingredients. Toss to coat. (Break up any clumps of coconut.)
Bake at 300 on lightly greased (or covered with parchment paper) sheet pan with sides for 45 to 55 minutes, depending on how crispy you like it.
The only tricky part is that you need to stir it every 15 minutes or so or it won’t cook evenly.
If your child will eat nuts, you can add those before baking. If your child will eat Craisins or other dried berries, add those after it cools.

Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup

At least once a month, I will pick up a rotisserie chicken from the local Stop 'n Shop and find a variety of ways to enjoy quick and easy meals all week long.
I love telling my son that when I make homemade chicken noodle soup for him using a rotisserie chicken, that I'm making it with love (as opposed to additives and preservatives from Campbell's).
To make:
My son loves Ancient Harvest Quinoa spaghetti
Please note that quinoa spaghetti does need to be cooked for at least 15 minutes to have the same consistency as regular spaghetti. 
While heating the spaghetti, on a separate burner you’ll heat up three cups of organic chicken broth. 
When cooked, add the quinoa spaghetti to the broth along with some mixed vegetables from your freezer and your left-over chicken. You can season with salt, pepper and some Italian seasoning then let the pot simmer for five minutes. Soon you will have a tasty, hearty soup.

Barbara's Classic Gluten Free Cheesecake

Another recipe courtesy of my friend Janine:

Gluten Free Nut Crust Supreme
2 cups Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking Mix
½ cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Spray cheesecake pan lightly with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl stir together the flour mix and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form. Stir in the nuts and pat into your pan. The crust will be “crumbly” but will hold together once pressed into the pan. This will be more than enough for one large cheesecake and perhaps for a second smaller pie. Though it tastes so good on it’s own you may just end up eating it!

Barbara’s Classic Gluten Free Cheesecake
4 – 8 oz bars of gluten free cream cheese, softened
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon gluten free vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix all of the ingredients with a beater until smooth and pour into the unbaked crust. Place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
While that is baking, prepare the topping.
2 cups gluten free sour cream
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon of gluten free almond extract
Juice from ½ a lemon

Mix the topping ingredients in a bowl. After the first 30 minutes of baking, remove the cheesecake and spoon the topping onto the cheesecake. Be careful not to overfill the pan. Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake for an additional 10-20 minutes. You may want to place a piece of foil under the cheesecake just to catch any drippings. Cooking times can vary dramatically depending upon the amount of topping you choose to use. Watch to see when it starts to solidify but don’t let it stay in so long that the crust begins to burn.

Gluten-Free Thin Mint Cookies

This recipe is courtesy of my friend Janine:

Gluten-Free Thin Mints
•1 cup almond flour
•1/4 cup coconut flour
•1/2 cup sugar
•1/4 cup cocoa powder
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•1 egg
•1 stick(4oz) butter, melted
•1 bag(12oz) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
•1 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided

1. Sift together the almond flour, coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar until it’s all mixed.
2. Add in the egg, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and mix until it forms a dough.
3. Roll the dough into a log on some parchment paper and put in the refrigerator or freezer to chill.
4. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
5. When the dough is solid, using a sharp knife, cut out cookies that are roughly 3/8-inch thick. Lay the cookies out on a baking tray(don’t worry if they’re close together since they don’t really really spread)
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. Let them cool until they’ve hardened.
7. Make the coating by melting the chocolate chips and mixing in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of extract.
8. Lay the cookies onto parchment paper and refrigerate to fully harden. These will keep 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

To Medicate or Not to Medicate

We finally got our diagnosis from Children's Hospital and no surprise, it was ADHD. The doctor also noted that Christopher seems to have trouble identifying letters and is well below Kindergarten level there so she's concerned that there's dyslexia as well.

I agree with the ADHD but not so much with the dyslexia. Christopher's been learning some things more slowly than other kids his age--potty training was a challenge for example. And I'm still battling with him to use a fork at the dinner table. So I think it's a learning delay, as opposed to dyslexia.

I've seen his school work and he seems to get a lot of "happy faces". He is writing and the letters look normal (for a 5 year old that is). Plus he loves school and doesn't appear to be frustrated at all. So I think maybe he just needs a little extra attention for reading and writing. I will ask the school to provide testing though and we'll get to the bottom of that.

However I totally agree with the ADHD diagnosis. Plus, I'd also throw in SPD and ODD for good measure as well. The doctor gave us a prescription for Metadate CD and suggested I try that out with Christopher. A low dosage to start: just 10 mg per day.

I did some research on ADHD medications and there are definite side effects which scared the bejesus out of me. I'm like I'm supposed to do this to my child??? No way!

Then I started asking around and I joined an ADHD parents' group on Facebook and learned that there are a lot of parents going through what I'm going through now. And everyone says that the medication is fine. I liked how they said if it doesn't work out for your child, you could just stop. Truth told, I hadn't thought about that--I felt like once we started I was locked in--so I appreciated that as an option.

I looked into holistic options as well (since I realized diet makes a huge difference, why not consider herbal supplements?) But the thing about herbal supplements is that nothing is regulated by the FDA and these supplements could have some strong components to them as well. I went onto the site and looked up Brightspark, for example because I had heard about that as an option. I started reading the reviews and saw that one woman reported that her child was experiencing something called Micropsia, and it was because a form of Arsenic is one of the top ingredients and it was affecting her daughter's brain chemistry. I'm sorry but...Arsenic??? In a children's medicine???

I just don't know how I feel about going to the Internet and buying powerful psychotropic supplements that are not regulated by the FDA and that are being administered to young children. Do we have any idea their safety protocols? Do we understand how they will affect little kids? And are they really putting Arsenic in them??

Long story short, I decided to start Christopher today on the Metadate and we'll see how it goes. He mentioned today while we were at the dog park that he was super thirsty but aside from that, so far so good. No negative side affects. Yet. I did notice that he played with his friend Salvi for an entire hour without shoving him as well, so that's equally good. Hopefully this was the right decision for us. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Looong Days

Christopher asleep under his Thomas the Tank Engine blanket

It's 7pm and my son is sound asleep on the sofa. He's fully dressed. He has not eaten dinner. We did not have baths or read books. He is exhausted and will probably sleep through the night. And I will let him.

This is the second time this week that he's fallen asleep super early. On Friday he fell asleep on the car ride home from the after-school program. That night he slept all the way until 5:30 the next morning. Nearly 12 straight hours. And here he is sleeping again.

We do have such a long day and I know it's a lot for a little kid. I have him in both the before-school program and the after school program, meaning I drop him off at school by 7:10am and pick him up at 5:30. 

I have considered hiring a nanny for the afternoons but the summer nanny took 2/3 of my paycheck and I am just starting to get my savings back on track again. Plus, she had a few issues (such as almost quitting on her second day) which wasn't her fault; she just hadn't been around kids like Christopher before. But the school has and they understand him and I trust that they are taking good care of him and that they can handle him. Lastly, if Christopher's nanny gets sick, I have to scramble at the last minute for back up childcare. I'm already having to take days off for school vacations and professional development days. I can't afford to take sick nanny days too. That's too much.

I experience mommy guilt every day I drop my little man off and he cries out to me as I leave. I feel guilt every day he tells me that it's too long a day and that he wants to come home. I wish I could stay home with him. I wish I had more family around to help out. I wish I could win the Powerball jackpot and not have to worry about money anymore. I wish, I wish, I wish. 

But the reality is, I need to pay bills, feed the family and keep a roof over our heads. So I work full time. It is what it is. People tell me that I shouldn't feel bad because he will adjust (and I will too!) and I know that it's still better than foster care so that comforts me actually.

So when is the next Powerball drawing? Anybody got some inside scoop on winning numbers???

Good Luck Baby Veronica

Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court gave custody of 4-year-old “Baby Veronica” back to the Capobianco family. She had been living with them for two years while the birth father Dusten Brown fought to regain the parental rights he apparently accidentally signed away prior to deploying to active duty. Two years ago state courts gave him custody and Veronica has been living with him while the Capobiancos continued to fight. Today they finally won.

This poor little girl has now been ripped away from her bonded family twice in just four years. Hopefully she doesn’t end up suffering from PTSD and RAD like other kids shuffled around from home to home often do. My own adopted son has lived with me for two years and he still can’t sleep in his own bed and sometimes fears that I’m going to give him away. Our adoption has been finalized for a year but with PTSD he will sometimes get triggered right back to that scary place. Hopefully Veronica doesn’t suffer the same fate.

I gotta say, even though I’m an adoptive mama, I kind of have to say I side with Dusten Brown on this one. I know that paperwork was signed giving up his parental rights but he claims that he didn’t know what he was signing and that has got to stand for something. Okay, okay I know that sounds kind of suspect. But the guy was in the process of deploying to Iraq, his girlfriend was pregnant and yeah, the guy had a lot going on. 
Dusten Brown was serving our country in the most honorable way possible. Doesn’t he get a break?

I do wonder how Veronica is going to feel when she grows up and learns how the Capobiancos ripped her away from a family who loved her dearly. I don’t know how they’re going to explain that.

Meanwhile she has a daddy who fought for her and never gave up. That’s probably going to resonate with her. Especially if the Capobiancos keep the bio dad away from her, which I’m assuming they will just to create some family unity.

I also wonder why the Capobiancos wouldn't allow for an open adoption. That's very common in the foster adoption world and this little girl is clearly bonded with her bio family. It seems rather cold to shut them entirely out of her life. I hope that the Capobiancos let the family she has grown to love be a part of her life going forward. It would really be in her best interest.

The big take-away here is that our adoption laws clearly need some work. If two parties can fight for nearly four years to win parental rights for one little girl, then something needs fixing. There really should be some sort of a cap on this sort of thing so you don't keep disrupting this little girl's life.

Not to mention, the Capobiancos were fighting based on their lawyer's contention that Federal law does not recognize an unwed father as a biological parent. How is that possible. The guy needed to marry the mother before he could be deemed Veronica's father? That's nuts!

Anyway, good luck little Veronica. I hope you have a happy, healthy future ahead of you. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Effort at Foster Child Advocacy

For the Love of Children

I've been reading a lot of blog posts as well as comments from foster parents (some who have adopted their foster kids) and birth parents who have lost their kids but funny enough, I don't see anything being written by people like myself; people who specifically sought to adopt (not foster) a child who needed a home.

I have the utmost respect for foster parents because that is a really hard, often thankless job. You're caring for someone else's broken children and you're the one left to pick up the pieces and put them back together again. These kids are often angry at their situation and suffering either physically or emotionally (or both) from the abuse that they suffered at way too young an age. In addition, you're dealing with over-worked social workers and a system that is horribly broken and in my humble opinion, heavily weighted in favor of the birth parents who have caused all this pain in the first place. I tip my hat to you foster parents. You are true angels walking on this earth.

I have read the birth parents' perspectives and I try to feel sorry for them...but I just can't. I can't be anything but angry at what they have done to their children; at the utter selfishness they exhibit on a near constant basis. They hurt their children in horribly inexplicable ways and then blame everyone else but themselves for the outcome.

Case in point, Christopher's mother called DCF "Baby Snatchers" and would scream at and even assault social workers because they took her child away. Christopher's mom's social worker had a protective order in place because the bio mom had indeed attacked her. We also had to have our court-mandated visits with a security guard in the room in case she attacked the workers during a visit. Yeah, it was that bad.

However the bio mom failed to recognize the extreme danger she put her son in when she robbed a chain store with him in tow. Nor does she acknowledge the fact that she put his life at risk when she took police on a high speed car chase through crowded city streets in an effort to escape capture. She literally could have killed them both. But yeah, let's blame DCF.

In my early adoption journey, I got to hear about and meet so many children who have been through hell and back, all at the hands of the people who are supposed to love them and protect them. My heart breaks for these children and I am so angry at the people who hurt them. I just can't have sympathy for them.

One day I met a beautiful 15-year-old girl who had a little toddler sister, to be adopted together. I inquired with my social worker about them and was told how the older girl had been raped and impregnated by her own father and that the toddler was the offspring. The girls were still a legal risk, meaning the birth parents continued to fight to maintain their parental rights. Yep that's can rape your daughter and still get to keep your kid until the state jumps through years' worth of expensive hoops to terminate rights. Meanwhile, the kids get victimized over and over again and all you can do is sit by and watch. It's horrible and it's just not right.

My own social worker used to work in the foster side of care and she told us stories about having to bring kids to visit parents in jail for molesting them. Often times, the parents are in jail for a year or two and then they get their kids back and start the abuse all over again. The social workers see what's going on but their hands are tied by laws that heavily favor birth parents and all they can do is watch it unfold. The well-trained social workers see the signs of abuse but these kids are too young to verbalize what's going on so a credible claim can't be made against the parents. So the courts side with the birth parents and the abuser gets to continue victimizing their kids without consequence. I asked my social worker how she handled watching that and she said that's the reason she switched over to foster adoption. At least these kids have a chance at a happily ever after. The kids in foster care have years of physical and emotional pain to look forward to and she just couldn't stomach it anymore.

I have a friend who was a foster parent initially but then switched over to adoption track for the same reason. She and her husband cared for a little girl and totally fell in love with the adorable toddler. The mother eventually got the little girl back and my friends cried over the loss, as any normal parent would. She cried even harder after the little girl died in her mother's care and she wasn't even allowed to attend the funeral. According to the mom, the child had a high fever and then had a seizure and died. The mother claims she called 911 but that an ambulance never came. (Um yeah right.) These are poor people so no autopsy was ever performed so who knows what really happened. My guess is the baby got a hold of some of mom's drugs, OD'd and died. That's just speculation but considering the scenario, not an unlikely one. The sad thing is, this child had been in a safe, loving home but the state wanted her reunited with her bio mom because that was supposedly in the best interests of the child. How dying on your living room floor is in anyone's best interest is really beyond me. But that's the mindset right now.

The same friend now has a toddler boy in her care. Wow he is a cutie! They are trying to adopt him but are fighting his birth mom, who wants to retain parental rights. Birth mom is a drug-addicted, homeless prostitute but all she has to do is show up to monthly visits (that her social worker escorts her to) and occasionally look presentable in court and her rights are maintained; for now at least. Meanwhile it's my friend and her husband giving this child a safe and loving home. The happy, safe, loving little guy could end up losing everything he has to go live in a homeless shelter with a woman he barely knows, if the bio mom chooses to make that effort. My friend and her husband live in fear every day that the child they adore could be taken away from them by a system that heavily favors birth parents, no matter how horribly unstable they may be. Unfortunately, their experiences have some historical merit so I certainly can't tell them their fears are unfounded. All I can do is support them best I can.

In theory, I feel sorry for the parents because they're so obviously damaged themselves. Maybe they're mentally ill, drug addicted or have been horribly abused as children themselves. But that sympathy ends when I see what they are doing to their kids because of their own personal demons. God has entrusted these people with beautiful, trusting, adoring gifts and they are abusing that trust over and over again. At some point the cycle needs to stop! And we as a compassionate Christian society need to find a way to stop it. I wish I knew how to enact change but I'm just an over-worked single career mom doing what I can to get by. Besides blogging about it during my one free hour a week, what can I do?

The only comfort I'm able to derive in all of this is that my own little boy is safe and loved and wants for nothing. Right now he is playing in his room with his new Angry Birds Jenga game, without a care in the world. Yesterday he played soccer in the town's youth league and then had swim class at the YMCA and after that we met some friends at the Science Museum for an afternoon of fun learning. He is a happy little boy! This is a far cry from the scared and lonely two year old, who in intensive foster care, banged his head against walls so badly that his caregivers were afraid he was giving himself a concussion. Thankfully he has very few memories of his past life and that's exactly how I want it to be.

And now I need to go play Angry Birds Jenga with this happy little boy who has been begging me for the last hour to get off of my computer and go play with him. So I am off to enjoy a rainy Sunday with my little family.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gluten Free Apple Pie With a Crumb Topping

We went apple picking today at Brooksby Farm in Peabody, MA and came back with a peck of sweet, ripe Cortland apples. Now that we have all these apples though, what are we going to do with them? Make an apple pie of course.

Pie Crust
Okay, I'm not going to lie. I bought the pie crust pre-made. I just don't have the skills to bake a GF pie crust so I went with Whole Foods gluten-free pie crust, found in the freezer section

I know there are quite a few bakers who mix their own custom GF flour but I'm just not that accomplished of a baker. So I bought the GF flour from Whole Foods as well.

6 medium thinly sliced peeled apples
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup Gluten Free baking mix (I used Arrowhead)
½ cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup gluten free baking mix (once again I used Arrowhead)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Heat oven to 375ºF. Use butter or cooking spray to coat a 9-inch pie plate. In a medium bowl, mix the cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, sugar and milk; add the butter and stir, ensuring the entire bowl's contents are coated; add in the Cortland apples and mix; then place mixture in pie plate.

Next, mix the baking mix, and brown sugar streusel ingredients in a small bowl. Melt butter in the microwave; add to mixture and stir until crumbly; sprinkle over filling.

The reason I say to make sure that the butter coats the entire contents of the crumb topping is because I didn't do that and so some of my topping retained it's powdery consistency even after baking. Much better to coat the entire topping mixture with butter and get that nice golden brown across the whole top of the pie.

Most recipes tell you to cook 45-50 minutes but I found I needed 55 minutes for this pie. You might want to check on your pie after 45 minutes as perhaps oven temperatures do vary.

Serving Suggestion
I put a scoop of Breyer's All Natural Vanilla ice cream on top and the pairing was divine. I highly recommend!

Happy Birthday Baby Veronica!

AP Indian Child Welfare ml 130911 16x9 608 Baby Veronica Custody Case Rages On
Baby Veronica turns 4 today

The little girl at the heart of the Baby Veronica case turns four today. Happy birthday little girl!

As an adoptive foster mom, I pretty much across the board believe that kids should live with the person who will best take care of them. Frankly I think unfit parents have too many rights to get back their kids after they've been removed from their care, which causes those kids more harm than good. I could never be a foster parent. Never. God bless the people who can foster a child for any length of time and then give those kids back to the bio parents. Those people are truly needed and I admire them for their courage. But I chose the route of foster adoption for a reason. I wanted to be a permanent mom; not a temporary one.

The case of Baby Veronica is different though. This isn't a case where the child was removed from parental care by the state because of abuse or neglect. In this instance, the birth mother put her daughter up for adoption apparently unbeknownst to the father. The father claims he didn't know she was giving their daughter up for adoption. True, the facts are a bit murky here. The mother claims that she not only notified him but that he signed documents asserting both his knowledge and acceptance of the adoption. The father claims he thought he was signing custody papers for his daughter so she could obtain military benefits while he was deployed to Iraq as an active service member. I have no idea what the truth is here.

When the dad, Dusten Brown, found out that the mom had put Veronica up for adoption, he immediately went to court to regain parental rights. He was still deployed to Iraq and the little girl was 4 months old at the time. Since he's part Cherokee, Dusten Brown invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) to gain custody of his daughter. It worked and at the age of 27 months, Veronica was handed over to a father she had never previously met.

Fast forward to today, Veronica's fourth birthday. The case continues to go back and forth through the courts; meanwhile the child continues to live with and bond with her biological dad, step-mom, half-siblings and extended family. As I understand it, the birth mom is entirely out of the scenario.

So now what? Does Veronica stay with her biological family or does she go back to the Capobiancos? The laws are murky and contradictory here: The Capobiancos live in South Carolina and Dusten Brown lives in Oklahoma so there isn't one single state law to follow. Meanwhile, because Dusten Brown is part Cherokee, the Federal government becomes party to the case due to the ICWA. One ruling overrides another and the roller coaster continues. These people must all be spending an absolute fortune on legal fees.

It's unfortunate that we have to try and legislate this child's custodianship because what we really should be doing at this point is simply acting in the child's best interest. Is it in her best interest to stay with Dusten Brown or would she have a better life if she were to go back to the Capobiancos?

I personally believe that it's best for Veronica to stay with the Brown family at this point. She has bonded with her family and it's a loving, stable home. Ripping a child from her family is very traumatizing and could, at worst, result in a case of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Do the Capobiancos really want to traumatize Veronica like that just so they could become parents?

Also, how do the Capobiancos plan to explain to Veronica why they took her away from her loving, biological family; family she looks like and acts like, to live half a country away with people she doesn't have any biological or cultural connection to? She doesn't look like the Capobiancos and like other adopted children, will feel like an outsider much of the time. Meanwhile, the bio family loves her, looks like her and shares the same culture. The Capobiancos could become absolute villains in the eyes of the child they claim they love. I cannot believe that this is what they want.

I feel for the Capobiancos. They really, really wanted to be parents and fell in love with Veronica the moment they met her. That's got to be heart wrenching. However, as parents, sometimes we have to do what's right for the children we love, no matter how difficult or painful that action is. Ripping Veronica away from her loving, stable family environment at this point would really do more harm than good. So in this case, I truly believe the Capobiancos should stop fighting for custody of Baby Veronica (who is actually no longer a baby) and move on with their lives.

One other note: there are over 100,000 foster kids awaiting a permanent home today. If the Capobiancos want to be parents as much as they say they want to do, why not pursue foster adoption and give a needy kid a loving, stable home? That would be the win-win here for all involved.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Diet Fail This Week

Christopher got into trouble at school this week for pushing kids. Plus I realized he was acting out at home again. I actually had to put him into a time out the other day for the first time in weeks. This surprised me because he had been doing so well.  But soon I realized this was entirely my fault. I had gotten lazy on enforcing his diet and he ended up eating gluten and artificial dyes, which make him act aggressively. I know this and yet I still let it happen. Bad mommy!

My kid had been doing so well... SO well on his gluten free, artificial dye free diet. He was listening and respectful and he was keeping his hands to himself. I know he still had the impulsive thoughts (because he told me so) but he was able to override while he followed the elimination diet.

However this week, I knew he was getting a Pop-tart each day during the after-school program and I didn't stop it. I also saw that one of the kids had a birthday and brought in Blow Pops for each of the kids in the program to take. I let Christopher have one so I wouldn't seem like the "mean mommy". On another day, the kids played Bingo and when each child won a round, they'd get a lollipop. So Christopher had yet another no-no food this week and I allowed it because I didn't want to be mean.

Last but not least, I *thought* I had bought gluten free ice cream cones at Whole Foods but I bought organic, wheat-based cones instead. So every night, I think I'm giving Christopher a healthy GF treat for dessert and lo and behold, instead I'm actually contributing to the problem. Mommy fail.

After being told that Christopher's behavioral issues had returned and seeing his hyperactivity for myself, I realized I needed to be super strict with his diet. This mom had learned her lesson the hard way but I learned!

So now I will provide a Gluten-free, artificial dye-free snack + dye-free juice to the after school program every day. I'm also throwing away the remaining ice cream cones. Lastly, when Christopher comes home with a dye-filled piece of candy, I'll just switch it out with an approved treat. He really likes Lucy's Brownie Cakes so I will always keep a stash of those in the house. They're a bit pricey but I think all kids should still be able to enjoy tasty treats and this also helps me not feel like "mean mommy".
Brownie Cakes

So now Christopher's week-day diet will look something like this:


Chocolate milk
Sliced fruit
Handful of garbanzo beans


Honest Kids Juice (favorite flavor is grape)
Two turkey roll-ups
Sliced fruit

School Snack

Pirate Booty

After School Program Snack

Honest Kids Juice 
Lucy's chocolate brownie

Ta da! This will work. Christopher will still have a fun, tasty treat with the other kids while also ensuring that he maintains a strict diet that helps regulate his behaviors more effectively. So we'll just have to see how it goes. Wish us luck....

Friday, September 13, 2013

We FINALLY Got Our Eval From Children's Hospital

Children's Hospital, Boston

After an almost unbearable eight-month wait, Christopher finally had his neuro-eval at Children's Hospital. Yay! Hopefully we're moving in the right direction for a long-term solution now. I hope so at least.

The appointment went well. Christopher met with the therapist for about two hours and I met with the behavioral pediatrician. I told the doctor all about Christopher's history as well as the issues that have brought me to Children's.

Once the discussion ended, the doctor told me that she recognizes that Christopher's behaviors are probably not typical ADHD simply because of his trauma background but that he may have more of a ADHD *like* scenario going on. I agreed that his background plays a huge role in Christopher's life today. He won't sleep in his own bed, he has irrational fears and he worries that I will give him away when I get mad at him. But that's not the behavior stuff I want addressed. I can manage those things myself. I want to address the ADHD-like stuff because that's what's keeping him from integrating well into society. I hope that came through in our conversation.

I think it's possible to have an ADHD diagnosis in addition to all the trauma stuff he has had to work through. It's tough to unravel everything going on with my little guy, I'm sure. But we need to try to see each piece on its own, as much as we can.

A Revelation

In going through the questionnaire that I completed, we discussed the concept of "food hoarding". I said that Christopher has been known to hide food ]behind pillows and to sneak into the refrigerator when I'm asleep or taking a shower. He will also pick up random food and drinks off the street and try to eat or drink them, with me running after him, yelling for him to drop it. It's gotten to the point where I lock some treats in my car to keep him from sneaking them (or else I just don't buy them).

I never really thought about these actions in the context of his history but apparently they stem from the fact that early in life, Christopher never felt certain that he would get fed. A child who is chronically hungry develops a primal fear that he or she will never have enough food. They learn to eat whatever they can, wherever they can find it or they stash it away...just in cse. Thus his actions are the sad result of early abuse, neglect or deprivation. Well that just kind of breaks my heart. I can assure you though...this little guy wants for nothing now. He just needs to be able to accept that.

Next Steps

I go back on September 26th to discuss Christopher's diagnosis with the behavioral pediatrician and therapist. I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say and to figuring out how we could best treat my awesome little guy so that he's a happy, healthy, well-adjusted kiddo.

This Was Random...

When we were leaving the hospital, all the sudden I heard from behind me, "Christopher?" I turned around and there in front of us were Christopher's last foster parents. They live three and a half hours away so the idea of running into them at Children's Hospital in Boston is completely shocking to me and obviously even more so to Christopher. (They were there getting some treatment for their grandson.)

He didn't recognize them at first and when they reminded him who they were, I could tell he didn't know how to take that. He started acting out. Running around the lobby. He climbed on top of the Information Desk and just acted a bit out of control. He wouldn't speak to the former fosters. I decided I needed to get him out of there because hey, it had been a long day (3 hours of evaluation) and now he was going to deal with the emotions of his last placement. It was too much. So we left. I asked Christopher if he wanted to hug the former fosters before he left and he said no. That's pretty telling because this kid hugs everybody. I didn't push it though and left it up to him. At that, I said goodbye to the fosters and we left. Christopher calmed down as soon as we got outside and has been calm ever since. I haven't brought up the former fosters and won't unless he does. 

And with that now we wait for the next step. So stay tuned. More to come!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Do Weighted Blankets Calm Kids (And Grown Ups) Down?

I have long had a feeling that putting mild pressure on a kid with some sensory stuff going on calms them down but it wasn't until recently that I realized that there is some scientific evidence to back this feeling up.

My examples are purely anecdotal. My super sweet niece and nephew both had a really tough time calming down as babies and my sister would intuitively bounce or swing them (which is a therapy for sensory processing disorder. She just didn't know that) to get them to calm down. One time when I was in the car with them my niece literally would not stop crying for over an hour, no matter what we tried. I finally as a last resort, decided to go into the back seat, put my hand on her chest, apply some mild pressure rubbing back and forth and within five seconds she was sound asleep. Yes, it was that quick. We were a bit shocked actually but very very relieved. As much as I love my niece wow all that crying was hard to handle.

When I took my now adopted son on his first airplane ride, during the ascent, when he felt the mild pressure on his chest due to gravity pushing him down, the same thing happened. He literally fell asleep in five seconds. At first I thought that he had gotten the wind knocked out of him because it happened so quickly. But a quick look at him showed he was just snoozing quite peacefully.

My nanny also commented that when the kiddo is strapped snugly into his car seat, he seems to be his calmest. He is relaxed, calm and often either falls asleep or at least seems really almost drugged, no matter what time of day it is.

Seriously, something about all this feeling of mild pressure or of being swaddled is so calming to kids with sensory processing stuff going on.

Unfortunately I can't afford to take a flight somewhere every night so that my kid gets a good night sleep. Nor can I drive around all night with him strapped snugly into his car seat. I need a better solution There is an answer though: Weighted blankets.

What is a Weighted Blanket?

A weighted blanket is simply a heavy blanket; filled with weights throughout, usually between 4 and 15 lbs. You can wear it on your lap, around your shoulders or to cover your whole body while you sleep. When a weighted blanket is applied, it provides relaxing, deep pressure touch stimulation. The pressure causes the wearer to release seratonin and melatonin, known relaxers naturally found in the body.

I found several blogs where the writers said that the weighted blanket really helped their child.

[My son] won't sleep without his weighted blankets now -- they bring a level of comfort to him that would be hard to replicate in any other form.

And from Shadowdaughter:
It’s beautiful.  It’s wonderful.  It’s very calming and soothing.  It feels like a super-heavy beanie-baby.  Many companies use ball-bearings as weights in their blankets, but Salt of the Earth uses fine-grade river stones.  It feels like sand.  The cotton is also a great texture, nice and stiff like the cotton of a good top sheet. My husband (who has been diagnosed with ADHD) loves it as well. 

It sounds like these blankets are quite helpful but a search of online retailers show that they cost a good $100 bucks. Before I spend money like that, I want to make sure I know it works. Maybe I'll do a little more research and see....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reuters Investigates: Adopted Children Traded Online

I just read an incredibly disturbing 4-part series about "re-homing" or the practice of finding a new home for the adopted child you no longer want to or care to raise.

Did you know that you could go online and give away your kid like he or she is a pound puppy? It's true.

Reuters interviewed a few parents who actually allowed themselves to be photographed and interviewed for this story. Personally, I'd be hiding my face in shame if this were me but they felt justified in their actions. She was too hard to manage. Or, therapy was too expensive and inconvenient, or better yet, the state told me that if I gave her to foster care, I'd still have to financially support her. So they all found a complete stranger on the Internet to take their children. Yeah, that makes sense.

I do understand what it's like to raise a traumatized child. And as a foster parent, I know what I'm getting into. We foster parents receive tons of training, social worker support and background information on the children. Even armed with all that though, still between 10-25% of foster adoptions disrupt (according state records).

It's true that with an international adoption, people receive no training, no state services or support and very little information on the child's history. They are sometimes ill-equipped to handle a difficult kid with behavioral issues and they decide, hey this isn't what I signed up for.

But it's wrong to give your kid away to strangers on the Internet. I don't care what the reason.

What's even worse is that states are not doing anything about it. It's apparently completely legal to give your adopted children to a registered sex offender, as some people interviewed in the story did.

What? He was a pedophile? I didn't know!

Yeah you didn't know because you couldn't be bothered to check him out.

You know, I am far from being a perfect parent. But if something were ever to happen to me (God forbid) my son would go to live with a loving family member...not a stranger on the Internet. Just sayin'.

Want to read this insane story for yourself? Check it out here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Marathon Monday Memories

Good luck today to all the Boston Marathon qualifiers who get to register for next year's marathon. I heard the BAA opened up 9,000 more spots in the field to accommodate all the 2013 runners who never got the chance to finish because of the bombing. The BAA is truly a class organization.

On April 15, 2013 I was at mile 21 of the Boston Marathon with my best friend Jan, another friend named Sue, Jan's young daughters, my little son and my dog. I had considered taking us down to the finish line because that's where all the action's at but decided it would be too chaotic with so many little kids. Who knew this would be the best decision I could have made in my life for all of us. Otherwise, I might not have been here to write about the day. I shudder to think about that.

It was a beautiful sunny day and we had so much fun cheering on the runners. I had several friends running it this year and I was there to support them, as they did me when I ran in 2011. I love love love the Boston Marathon. Just such a magical experience every year for me.

We paid no attention to the police cars that zoomed past us, sirens blaring. I just assumed someone had fallen or passed out. That happens. I mean hey, running a marathon is hard work!

 It wasn't until we had left the course and gone for lunch that we saw the news: Two bombs had gone off at the finish line at the Boston Marathon and there were dozens of injuries. More tragically, there were three fatalities, one of whom was an 8 year old boy. How heartbreaking. And scary.

Since I posted on my Facebook status that I was going to be at the Boston Marathon cheering on friends, my phone now started going off like mad. Everyone I knew wanted to make sure we were okay. My brother Chris had some scary news though. His daughter (my niece) Kirsten was at the finish line and no one could get in touch with her. I was now sick to my stomach.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, cell phone service was turned off to ensure that another IED couldn't be detonated. However you could still text. So I was the one family member to get in touch with Kirsten, thank goodness. I told her to call her dad and brother. I then start calling friends and check in on Facebook to let others know that we're okay. It takes several hours but thankfully everyone I know checks in. They are shaken but safe.

As a mom with three little kids in tow, I knew I had to get everyone home to safety. Bridges in and out of the city were closed (no one knew what we were dealing with) and so my friend Sue had to come to my house as she couldn't get back to hers. Fine with me. The more the merrier. We cooked dinner, ate ice cream and waited for the MBTA to open up so Sue could go home.

That night and in the days that followed, I watched a ton of news coverage regarding the bombing. They didn't know who had done it and for several days residents of metro Boston lived in fear that there would be another bombing. I was afraid that I'd walk past a garbage can during the work day and watch it blow up in my face. Everyone was really scared.

When Jeff Baumann woke up from his coma and ID'd the guy who dropped a backpack at his feet, everything started happening very quickly. Next thing you know, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev have killed an MIT cop, car jacked a guy on Memorial Drive and threatened to kill him too. Officer Dic Donohue is shot and critically injured. The police then shoot and kill Tamerlan but Dzhokhar goes on the run.

I watch all this on TV and I know I shouldn't be doing this in front of my 5 year old but I can't help it. I am completely freaked out and need to know right NOW what is going on. I can't wait till Christopher goes to bed. I need real time information to make the decisions that will keep us safe.

On Friday morning, Tamerlan is dead but Dzhokhar is still missing. Governor Patrick closes Boston and tells everyone to stay home. But my company made me go into the office. Crazy but just bad timing. We have a vendor visiting and have very real deadlines to meet. So I update my Facebook status to say I'm going into Boston, so that people know where I am, just in case. As I drive to drop Christopher off at pre-school, I'm listening to NPR the entire way so I know if I'm driving into danger or not. Christopher asks me questions like, why do people kill police officers? Do they want to kill us too? I have no answers for him. I dropped him off, hugged him extra tightly and left for work.

Work was emotionally rough that day. At noon I get a call from pre-school saying they are closing for the day. I high tail it out of Boston and go pick up the kid. We spend the rest of the day locked in our house.

That night more craziness unfolds on the news as Dzhokhar is found hiding in someone's backyard in Watertown. The world is watching live as Dzhokhar is captured safely and transported to the hospital.  Boston is finally out of danger. We can now start to try to make sense out of all this. Although several months later, I really still can't. I probably never will. What makes a kid from Cambridge decide one day that he's going to go blow up small children? Sigh...RIP little Martin Richard.

While all this is going on, Christopher is still a traumatized ex-foster kid who is at this point, dealing with the fact that his therapist is leaving her practice. He HATES transitions and is acting out. On top of that, now won't sleep alone in his own bed because he's afraid of terrorists. He's afraid to leave my side and asks me a lot of questions I just don't have the answer to.

A Facebook friend posted photos he found on the Internet of the two bombings. It appears that someone got hold of the security camera footage from outside Marathon Sports and posted it to Twitter. Like an idiot I click on the link and see some really graphic photos; images I wish I had not seen. I didn't sleep at all that night.

I was completely stressed out, needed sleep and I was all alone here with my kid to take care of things myself. It wasn't easy. But compared to the folks who were at the finish line that day, I had it pretty easy. I really should stop complaining.

Fast forward, Boston is healing slowly but surely. On Facebook, I follow Jeff Bauman, the Norden Brothers and Heather Abbott, three victims of the Marathon Bombing who lost five legs between them. I also saw the picture of little Jane Richard sporting her new prosthetic leg (here). I have to say each one of these people is amazing and if anybody exemplifies Boston Strong, it's these courageous individuals.

So good luck to my friends who get to register today for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I guarantee you we will be out there cheering you on as I have done every year prior. We are after all...Boston Strong.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Follow Me on Twitter!

You can follow me on Twitter now too!

I'll go here to link to articles regarding foster care, foster adoption and unhealthy food that's in the news. Also, now that I'm sometimes working 12 hours a day at the day job, I can post family updates here more quickly than I can on the blog. And I'll be doing it all in 144 characters or less. Enjoy!

My Soccer Star

Black Cats Warming Up

I was apprehensive about signing Christopher up for soccer this fall because last year, it didn't go so well. He got way too aggressive with the kids on his own team and they didn't want to be around him. He pushed them down. He hit them and the coach kept taking him out of games. My son spent more time with me on the sidelines than he did with the other kids on the field. And for this I was paying $100? No thank you.

I've seen such a dramatic change in Christopher's behavior over the last few weeks though that I decided to try it again. I am happy to report that I'm glad I did because Christopher did GREAT!

I will say things started off on a shaky foot. He was so tired after an exhausting first week of school and so there was a lot of crying and whining going on for the first 30 minutes or so. I also had to remind him several times "hands down" and "keep your hands to yourself" so he didn't get pushy with the other kids. But he did get it and started focusing on playing and not so much on the kids around him. He even said to me that he was thinking of pushing a kid down but didn't and he was quite proud of himself. As well he should be. That's a pretty awesome change of behavior.

Once the practice was over and the game started, Christopher played like a seasoned pro. And this isn't just a proud mom talking. I honestly think he was really really really good.

My kid was scoring goals. He (legally) could deflect hits and deftly hip checked another player who was in his space. When he took a wayward arm to the face or got tripped by another kid, he  soldiered on. He even formed a partnership with another little boy on the team so they could score more goals. I saw him discussing strategy with the kid and was like, um are these kids really just five years old??? I was a little surprised at his competitiveness actually This is one tough kid.

All I can say my friends with kids in the schools around the region: watch out. My kid's going to dominate the soccer field when he's old enough to compete against your kid.

Go Black Cats!

All Boston School Kids to Get Free Breakfast and Lunch

There's no such thing as a free lunch....unless your kid attends public school in Boston, MA.

Earlier this week, a Facebook friend posted a status sharing the news that all Boston school children will now get free breakfast and lunch courtesy of a Federal program called the Community Eligibility Option, regardless of the parents' ability to pay. I found the debate that followed the post interesting and chose to participate myself.

Basically, the program was put into place because too many parents were sending their kids to school without food or even the money to purchase food. The schools were dealing with an epidemic of kids who didn't have any food in their bellies for 8+ hours. Wow.

Perhaps the parents couldn't afford to feed their children but found filling out paperwork too difficult (especially if English isn't their primary language) or too invasive (they didn't want to publicly list their salary).

Perhaps the parents just forgot to give their kids money. And of course, there is always the small segment of parents that just couldn't be bothered.

Whatever the reason is, instead of penalizing the offending parents, we're now using our tax dollars to feed all kids, regardless of need. In Boston apparently 40% of children all qualify for a subsidized lunch. But what about the other 60% Why can't their parents pay?

Let's not even talk about the crap that these kids are eating because that's another discussion entirely. Instead let's talk about parental responsibility. We need to feed our children. That's a basic requirement. When we start ceding these responsibilities to the state, what comes next???

Please understand that I am in no way against providing assistance to children in need. And I truly believe that children need food in their bellies to be able to learn. They shouldn't suffer because of the actions or inaction of their parents. I firmly believe in "hand ups". But when that "hand up" turns into a "hand out", I start taking issue.

Programs like this create a culture of dependency and make it so easy for people who have no business having kids to have even more. And then we as a society become burdened with caring for those children, whether it be financial care through taxes or physical care through fostering. This is not going to be sustainable and it will affect our economy, our healthcare system, our school systems, basically every aspect of society. It needs to be addressed before it gets any more out of hand.

But let us now talk about the food these kids are getting. Bread, pizza, hot dogs and sugary desserts filled with artificial dye. What they call "healthy" does not constitute healthy by my parental standards. Nope not at all.

So when all kids will start getting a free junk-food lunch, it makes my job of providing a healthy lunch to my child more difficult. Christopher cried to me the other day when I picked him up from school because it was pizza day and all the other kids got pizza but not him. He cried, "I hate our gluten free diet!!"

The thing is, I don't want my kid hating healthy food. I want him to love it and embrace it. How do I do that however when he is surrounded by junk food being labeled as healthy?

I don't see this issue going away anytime soon and I guess I just need to educate my kid on what's healthy and what's not. What else can I do?

Anyway, I've got to get off Blogger because my child is telling me he's hungry and I've got to go feed him his healthy, nutritious breakfast because he wants some (gluten free) brownies instead. Signing off now!

To read more about this topic, please click here:

We Survived Our First Week of Kindergarten and Lived to Write About It

My kiddo made it through his first week of Kindergarten and all I can say is ... so far so good.

The schedule is rough on both of us though. The school is locked except for a few times of day and I can only drop him off or pick him up at these mandated times: 7:00 am, 8:10 am, 2:15 pm, 4:15 pm and 5:30 pm. (We live in a really nice neighborhood but Sandy Hook was in a really nice neighborhood too. 'nuff said).

Since I need an hour to get to and from work (thanks to the god-awful public transportation system in metro Boston whose on time rate is somewhere in the single digits), I have to drop Christopher off at 7am and can't pick him up until 5:30. That's a long day. But what's this single mom supposed to do? I have to work.

By Friday, my kid was literally falling asleep in class. And when Christopher is really tired, he has more trouble managing his behaviors so his impulsivity comes out, which is never a good thing. I opened his backpack on Friday night to see a note from his teacher saying that he punched Nicholas in the head while the kids were lining up for dismissal. Yeesh. Thankfully, this was an isolated incident after an entire week at school so I'm not panicking...yet.

Christopher's always been an afternoon napper so it's going to be an adjustment to go for a whole day without that added sleep. He's very used to our go to bed routine of 9pm but I started putting him to bed 15 minutes earlier incrementally so he can get the extra sleep he needs overnight. So far it's actually working and he's been asleep every night since Friday 30 minutes earlier than usual. Hopefully this helps.

Christopher is doing great in school though. He actually loves it, which is a huge relief to this momma. After three days he was already coming home with small books that he needs to read to me. My kid has started reading after three days of Kindergarten and he loves it!!

Plus in the before-school program he is running around, playing dodge ball with the other kids, so he gets all that little boy hyperactive energy out of his system before he has to sit down and be still for learning. It actually works out really well for him and honestly, I might keep him in the before-school program even when I don't need to as it's a great energy release for him.

All in all, I'm impressed with the Forestdale School and with Christopher's Kindergarten teacher and program. I do wish I had more flexibility with pick up and drop off but after Newtown I get it. Safety is so important. Let's hope the rest of the year goes equally well.

Brown Rice Syrup as a Substitute WORSE Than High Fructose Corn Syrup?

I have been reading over the last few years how organic, "healthy" treats for kids are substituting brown rice syrup for high fructose corn syrup. After all, high fructose corn syrup is the devil's food right?

However now studies are showing that rice has measurable amounts of ARSENIC, which could create long-lasting, negative effects on your health. But the FDA is taking no action. Say what???

We are being told that brown rice is "organic" and organic = good. We pay more money to shop at Whole Foods than at Market Basket because organic = healthier. However it looks like this might be a myth. Arsenic has been linked to Cancer and who knows what else. Yet the FDA deems organic products with rice and rice syrup to be safe. Yikes.

With autism, ADHD and youth food allergies on the rise, it's obvious to me at least that food and water contamination must be be a huge contributor to the wide-spread epidemic. However the FDA is doing nothing with their data, meanwhile we continue to unknowingly harm our children.

I don't know about you but I'm getting to the point where I feel like I need to go buy a farm in the Midwest somewhere and start producing my own food supply off the grid.

If you're interested in reading more on the subject of arsenic in your rice products, please click here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy First Day of Kindergarten!

We made it through the first day of Kindergarten today. When I picked up Christopher this afternoon, I asked him how it was and his answer was...boring.

Well at least he wasn't crying or begging me never to take him back. I didn't get a note from the teacher to please see her and no one got injured. So I'll take "boring" I guess.

Here's a picture of my little man on his way to start his Big Day!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

Today is Labor Day in the US and I will celebrate the holiday by only doing the "mom" part of my usual "working mom" job. Thankfully it started off son let me sleep all the way to 7:00 am today. That's like sleeping until noon in pre-kid life. Haha!

I actually really needed this three-day week because my job has really burnt me out. Yes I know it's only been a few weeks since I came back from vacation but they have been some pretty intense weeks. Sadly, I don't see it getting any easier in the foreseeable future, either.

I am a business analyst for an global financial services firm located in downtown Boston. I work in the Marketing Department and specialize in systems that create productivity and revenue lift for the sales and marketing teams. We are short-handed, yet trying to accomplish a lot. Right now I'm in the midst of implementing three different products with two vendors, creating a business case for funding for a new CRM, creating a business case for 2014 funding for the two products that we're implementing now and last but not least...completing the discovery process (i.e. deciding if this is the right fit for us) for a fifth product. Much of this work all has a due date of September 30th and my task list is currently a seven-page Excel spreadsheet. I'm a bit stressed these days. And often exhausted.

Add to this that Christopher starts Kindergarten tomorrow so we'll be completely changing our routine in the midst of all our craziness. Starting tomorrow, I will need to drop him off at 7 am and pick him up at 5:30. That's a long day for a little kid but I don't know what else to do. The school doesn't allow rolling drop-offs and pick ups (doors are locked for safety reasons) so I have to fit my schedule to the school's schedule. With a one-hour commute to work (longer when the T runs with delays, which happens often) I don't have much leeway. It is what it is.

I feel guilty about the long day but I always comfort myself with the knowledge that no matter how tough it is, it's still going to be better than foster care. Also, September will pass and the rest of the year should be a bit easier. Just don't be surprised if you don't hear from me too much this month. We're busy busy busy!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Red Dye #40 is a neuro-toxin????

Now that we're on a gluten-free, dye free diet, my son no longer likes to "spin". And by spinning, I mean he would spin around at high rate of speed and then slam into whomever or whatever was next to him. It was really really aggressive and everyone within a narrow radius of his orbit hated it.

I noticed a few days after our new diet started that he wasn't doing this anymore. I was like, huh. Awesome. I didn't know which component of the diet had caused the change though. Was it the gluten or the dye? Then I read an article about red dye #40.

The reporter for this article interviewed a woman who's daughter stopped spinning around in circles as soon as they eliminated red dye #40 from her life--in her case it was in the child's allergy medicine. I had no idea that there were so many artificial colors added to kids' medicine but apparently that's something being addressed by the FDA now. Wow.

Artificial food coloring is derived from petroleum and can be described as a "neuro-toxin." Per the article:
"Neurotoxins damage nervous tissue. Dr. [David W.] Schab, the Columbia psychiatrist, concluded in his report [a review of 30 years of scientific studies involving food dye and behavior] that the dyes likely cause 'neurobehavioral toxicity.' When I asked him why the reaction occurs in some kids and not others, he said ... artificial food colorings have a drug effect, the same way nicotine has a drug effect, or Vicodin. This is probably why AFCs [artificial food colorings] have a greater effect on children; children are smaller. Dosage is a size-relative factor." And all this is why the FDA is considering the link between AFCs and behavior, and whether the agency should ban them or require warning labels."

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), our use of food coloring has increased five-fold in the last 50 years. Yes, Americans are clearly eating a lot of junk and it's affecting our children.

The CSPI wants the FDA to ban eight artificial food dyes. They are specifically targeting Red #40, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6. These dyes make up 90% of the food dyes on the market and cause the most problems.

The bigger "wow" is that the EU already bans these food dyes but the FDA isn't so sure there's actually a link between aggressive behavior and artificial food coloring. Um, really all they have to do is go online and find the study after study showing causality. Really makes you wonder if the FDA is truly an independent government entity or if it's getting some $$$$ from the huge food distributors who would stand to lose millions if they couldn't keep mass producing this garbage. Hmmmm.

Anyway, change won't happen overnight so in the meantime, we need to be much more vigilant about what we as parents are feeding our kids. The bottom line is we need to educate parents and medical professionals about the dangers of artificial dyes. If we all knew that we were spoon-feeding our children a steady diet of neuro-toxins, would we really continue to do so? I think not.

If you'd like to read the original article I referenced, please see it here:

Healthy Eating Can Be Fun!

Now that I have my kid on a healthy gluten-free, artificial dye-diet, I couldn't be happier. He is so calm and fun to be around. And the diet really is easy to maintain too. You just have to be a little creative.

For example, Christopher loves slushies but the ones from the local ice cream shop are full of nasty dyes that make my kid act like an insane lunatic. So now we make them at home instead using pureed fruit and my son loves them!

I went to Target and bought the Squeezy Freezy Instant Slushy Maker and now we enjoy tasty, healthy slushies that are actually fun to make together. You can find them on as well.

If your child likes slushies the way my son does, you'll want to invest in the Squeezy Freezy and in some recipes as well. My kiddo loves watermelon, so I'll attach a watermelon slushy recipe here. Hope you enjoy!

Watermemelon Squeezy Freezy Recipe:
1 Freezy Squeezy
1/2 watermelon, chopped in pieces
2 cups of chopped strawberries, quartered
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups ice

Freeze the Squeezy Freezy cup for at least three hours (overnight works best)
In a blender combine watermelon pieces (ensuring that you removed the seeds), strawberies and sugar
Puree until drink is soupy
Add contents to Freezy Squeezy cup
Let sit for a few minutes then squeeze. Voila! Your fruit drink has been transformed into a tasty, healthy slushy.

Unless you bought several Freezy Squeezy cups, you will have lots of slushy mixture left over. You could now add the ice to the blender and chop the juicy contents until it has a slushy consistency. Add the slushy to glasses, garnish with fruit and enjoy!