Thursday, November 15, 2012

Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories

I am so positively thrilled to have a guest post by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, the editor of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. This book has become my new best friend, literally. I keep it on my bedside table to read each night and go to bed comforted in knowing that I'm not alone in my struggles of raising a child with a neuro-behavioral disability. Thanks to Adrienne in all of her efforts to build a community of support for parents and to provide that little bit of extra strength to help us all get through the day.

Finding Strength
by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista
This past Sunday I moderated a panel discussion of the book, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories.  I co-edited and contributed to the book along with 32 other parent-writers. The panel was at a local bookstore and about 15 people showed up – friends and supporters of the writers, including my mom, and a handful of special needs parents.
I was plowing through my presentation, starting with a nervous and slightly awkward introduction to the book and I got to the part where I talk about how the essays, the blog connected to the book, our Facebook page, and our brand new forum had been lifesavers for me in a time of intense stress, isolation, and darkness, proving to me that not only was I not alone in my feelings and worries and frustration and grief of trying to help my child with a neuro-behavioral disability, but I was actually surrounded by wonderful people who understood what I was going through and who could help…

And I started to cry.
So embarrassing.

Part of it was insecurity and lack of sleep (my child’s been having some serious sleep issues lately), combined with anxiety about talking in front of an audience and add to that the frustration of having to pick out an outfit I could wear in front of an audience since I spend most of my day in yoga pants and stained sweatshirts and I’m never prepared for things like this. Oh – and the 10 lbs I’ve gained from too much sitting didn’t help much either.
But mostly, I cried because I am truly touched by the community I’ve found through speaking out about my child’s special needs and my feelings about it.  Overwhelmingly touched.

Three years ago when Kay, my co-editor/co-conspirator and I dreamed up an idea for a book I was in a personal pit. My son’s behavioral issues had reached a head, he hadn’t yet gotten the FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) diagnosis that has informed our treatment, intervention and parenting  decisions since then, I was working 30 hours a week, my husband was working 100, my son’s first grade teacher sent a note home every single day detailing all the things he was doing wrong in school, my friends had started avoiding me because all I did was vent about how rotten my life was, my hair started to fall out and I gained 20 lbs in about 2 months flat without the pleasure of eating delicious foods to get there. Stress was making me sick. I felt alone and lonely and pretty hopeless.
But then the essays for the book started coming in and I saw my feelings in other people’s stories. We started the blog, and I felt more connected, then the Facebook page started growing and growing and growing…and I realized not only was I not alone, that there were thousands, probably millions, of other moms out there just like me – moms who were puzzled by their children’s behaviors, were trying everything they could think of to help their kids, were taking them to specialists and doctors and therapists and trying dietary changes and new routines and behavior modifications from every book they could read about and still were not seeing the changes they wanted to see. These were moms who felt judged by friends and family and even random people in the grocery store, angry from dealing with unforgiving schools that treated them as if they were the enemy, and just plain exhausted from having to think of all of this stuff all of the time. Moms who never ever got a break because the minute they got a handle on one thing – maybe wrapping their heads around giving their kids medication, for example – something new started up. Medication side effects. Problems with friends. A new grade, a new teacher, a new school year. New challenges.

So the community grew. And I felt less alone. I made some life changes, including quitting my job and treating my illness. My son got out of the classroom that was so difficult for him. And the community grew! Because I was able to worry and vent to people who knew where I was coming from, I was able to reconnect with my real-life friends. Because I was getting lots of good, seasoned advice, I was able to start solving some of my child’s problems. I felt empowered. No longer lonely or isolated! All because I found community!
I got out of my pit. And now I help other people get out of their own pits! It’s such a terrible place to be.  

If you would like to be part of our community, please connect! Our blog is Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, on Facebook we’re at easytolovekids. On Twitter we’re at #easytolovebut, and we have a brand new forum so that people can post about their children’s issues and their own problems with a little more privacy than is afforded on Facebook.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall and Winter Season Illness-Management Home Remedies

I stopped by my sister-in-law's house last night where sickness was on the rampage. He little girl has had a fever of a 103 for a week and her son just started spiking a fever of the same degree. The clincher is the fact that she has a newborn too! Even though she is very much like me and dabbling in the homeopathic realm, I found myself going through everything she should be doing for the baby and the kids to help keep the bugs at bay. Now, I do have a medicine cabinet with dye-free Advil and Tylenol for the baby in dire emergencies, but I've found that I can manage surprisingly well with my natural remedies.

What's the big deal you ask? Well, for one, all OTC medicines and drugs have side effects and I don't like not-knowing what is inadvertently going on inside my body. I sang my praises to Advil for many years using it to help with any manner of pain or inflammation. Three sinus surgeries later come to find out that something in Advil, Sudafed, Claritin and other drugs promote nasal polyps (which is what lead to three separate surgeries). Who'd of known that? We also know that acetaminophen and ibuprofen are very hard on the liver. There ARE side effects. I still have ibuprofen from time to time in dire emergencies for myself, but I have found other effective means of treating both symptoms and illness. Honestly, my essential oils work more effectively on my cough and allergies than any OTC medication I have ever tried, hands-down (when I wake up in the middle of the night in a coughing fit, I rub some melaleuca on my feet and I stop hacking and am immediately able to go back to sleep - I don't buy cough syrup anymore, ever).

So today I thought it would be fitting to list my 'Fall and Winter Season Illness-Busting Home Remedies.' And with that being said, today I'm very grateful for all that the earth provides for us in its natural state to help keep us healthy and strong! I'm also grateful for the information that keeps coming forward regarding natural supplementation and trace minerals and how they can help to bridge the gaps in wellness. I have a good friend who's son began to develop ticks (Tourette's). She did some research and found that these ticks were linked to a lack of magnesium in the body. She immediately began a magnesium supplementation routine and she commented that the ticks disappeared over night. It is truly amazing but such an amazing blessing. As I'm one more day behind on my gratitude list, I'm also very grateful for friends. They are good for support, laughs and can be answers to prayers. Relationships are what truly make life most rewarding and wonderful.

Fall and Winter Season Illness-Management Home Remedies
- Coconut Oil - Cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil is absolutely amazing. It is anti-bacterial and anti-viral and it works both topically and internally. Although it isn't truly pleasant to eat plain, it is effective. According to Bruce Fife, author of 'Coconut Cures' three tablespoons of coconut oil a day is therapeutic. Honestly, I pull it out when I feel run down, notice a cold approaching or for a boost in the metabolism. Coconut Oil is immediately metabolized in the liver and used by the body for energy - IT DOES NOT GET STORED AS FAT. So have no fear! Have a spoonful in the morning to jump start your metabolism. I also will rub it onto my glands, chest, sinuses - anywhere I am experiencing a problem. I swear this is what helped me turn the corner when I had pneumonia. I keep this on hand always - in my kitchen and a small tub in my bedroom. Ironically, Bentley loves it and always asks me for a swipe in the morning. The unfortunate part is that it is expensive - but worth every penny. They have been selling it at Costco lately for an amazing price; I keep picking them up for food and first aid-storage.

- Umcka Cold Care Drops - This one is new to me but has already made a believer out of me. I started to come down with a cold a couple weeks ago and randomly grabbed this as it touted 'clinically proven to reduce duration and severity of cold and flu.' I also gave it to my toddler when he woke up with a faucet-nose (I gave him a very small dose). I was shocked when my toddler's nose cleared up the next day as did my symptoms. However, my symptoms returned as did his because I failed to continue to use it for another couple days as instructed. Once I got us both back on it though our symptoms subsided once again. Also on the pricier-side, but it seems that most of the good stuff is. They had it on sale at Smith's not too long ago. I also think the drops are more potent and effective than the chewable tablets.

- Essential Oils - These are the kickers. I'm AMAZED at how effective my oils have been. I use Doterra essential oils and always have on hand the following:
-On Guard
-DigestZen (This one is important for me to help with my sinuses)
-Wild Orange

I have alot of oils but the aforementioned oils are essential to treat the main illnesses that are constantly circulating through the home. I also always have empty capsules on hand for the oils that can be used internally.
-Antibiotic Replacement -  5 drops of On Guard, 3 drops of Oregano, and 3 drops Frankincense
-Ear Infections - Rubbing Melaleuca or Thyme oil behind the ears (never in the ears)
-Peppermint oil is effective in treating stuffy nose, sinusitis, asthma, fever and cough.
-Lavender helps relax and soothe and is also effective for fevers, bee stings, bruises, sunburn (almost everything. They say: when in doubt, use lavender).
-DigestZen is wildly effective with acid reflux, heartburn, gas, digestion and busting up old mucous from colds.
-A couple drops of Ginger helps with stomach upset (get rid of the pepto!). Wild Orange is amazing in herbal tea and water and also a great combination in a spray bottle with OnGuard to spritz in your house when the germ bugs are floating around.

My favorite thing to make when it's chilly outside or when I feel like I'm coming down with the gomboo is Cinnamon Apple Spice tea with one drop of Wild Orange Oil and one drop of cinnamon. Make sure to stir well and be aware that some oil will float on the surface. Delicious and so comforting.

-Vitamins - Of course we all know to take our Vitamin C, but in recent years studies have shown that Vitamin D may play a larger role than Vitamin C. I get my Vitamins from Standard Process as they are derived wholly from food and are therefore most usable by the body. Most vitamins you buy at the store are synthetically-produced and that usually means they are petroleum-based. Other must-haves, Vitamin B as it is very important for brain function. Fish Oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and also tremendous support for the brain. Standard Process also has a good multi-vitamin to fill in the gaps for what we are missing from our food and diets.

-The Three S's - Sleep, Stress and Sugar are also key components to staying well. Shoot for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, Avoid sugar and refined carbs when you are run down or starting to feel ill as sugar actually lowers your bodies immune system for a couple hours (give or take depending on how much sugar you have) making you unable to effectively fight 'the bad guys.' Stress of course makes us more vulnerable to catching a bug and inhibits a quick recovery.
I use all of the above to treat both myself and my kids. I start pounding my tea, a truckload of water, capsules with OnGuard and Oregano (five drops each), diffusing the oil in the air, eating coconut oil and taking the Umcka drops at the first signs of a cold.

Regarding fevers - my mother always flips out and asks me immediately if I've given the kids something to lower the fever when she hears their is trouble over here in paradise. Here is what I personally have learned and go by:

- A fever is just the body's reaction to a bug that it is trying to fight. By leaving the fever alone, you are allowing the body to fight it more effectively. I have heard that brain damage can't occur from a high fever but I do know of a few people whose child was never the same after a prolonged high fever (I don't know the details, and every body and its capabilities is different, but something I monitor carefully nonetheless). I have to admit that I follow my gut with how high the temperature is and how miserable the child is. If the kiddo is doing pretty good, I don't worry to much. Listlessness, and being inconsolable make me nervous and I get out the Tylenol and ibuprofen when they are totally miserable or it interferes with their sleeping. I always start with my oils and turn to OTC medicine if it isn't quite going right. Trust your gut and do what is best for you. Best of luck through the cold and flu season!

Coconut Oil - I usually get mine at a Bosch Kitchen store or lately at Costco. Just look for cold-pressed and unrefined; you want oil that has been processed as minimally as possible.

Doterra -

Standard Process Vitamins - These vitamins are usually sold by chiropractors and individual distributors. If you need help finding a distributor, let me know.

Umcka Cold Care Drops - With the vitamins and supplements at your local grocery store or Whole Foods. They are also available on Amazon.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Gratitude and Re-Committing

I didn't get the 'memo' but it looks like people are doing a 22 days of gratitude type of deal in lieu of the Thanksgiving holiday. Despite it being a little cliche, there's never a really good reason to not jump on board a gratitude wagon. Aside from that, I was also inspired by the lesson in one of my church meetings yesterday, that was simply on kindness, to re-commit to a few very important goals.

1. I am grateful for all four of mine, his, and our children. Parenting and step-parenting has proven to be one of the greatest ongoing challenges of my life. Not one of my kids is like the other. They all have unique stuggles, quirks and personalities that make me want to sometimes either squeeze them like crazy with happiness or frustration. ;) They are constantly reminding me (unverbally) of what my priorities should be and they are constantly teaching me patience. If I can keep calm and carry on (thanks Mr. Churchill), I think I might actually be okay at this parenting thing. From patience and calm is born consistency and greater capacity for unconditional love. Kepping calm and exercising patience is what I am re-committing to.

2. I'm grateful for gratitude. It sounds pretty obvious, but it is so important to remember to feel and express gratitude often. When you do this, it shifts your focus and I think it opens your eyes to more of the beautiful in daily life and helps you avoid the snare of ingratitude which breeds contention and frustration and hopelessness. I am re-committing to expressing gratitude from the big to the small everyday and to find something to be grateful for in those tough moments. When Preston hits a rough patch, I remember how grateful I am for what he is teaching me and the opportunity to help him.

3. I'm grateful for my faith. My faith in a loving Heavenly Father that knows me by name, my faith in Jesus Christ that has experienced everything I have and made it possible for me to make mistakes and be forgiven for them. My knowledge of right and wrong has directed the path my life has taken and continues to influence the decisions I make and the course of my future. Someone mentioned yesterday that God is always pushing us in the right direction. What a comfort - I just have to follow that guidance. I also know that everything in life happens for a reason and there is always something to learn that is for my benefit. Fear and faith cannot exist at the same time; I re-commit to having faith and trusting in the Lord and the path he has outlined for me.

4. I'm grateful for the goodness in others. I love that people will give of their time to help others who are in need. I love that when I was having a rough day, somebody noticed and brought by a delicous loaf of banana bread (I still don't know who did that). I love that when the new girl at school was sad and crying at lunch, Preston went and sat down with her and tried to help cheer her up. I love that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there are people working tirelessly to help those who have lost homes or loved ones. Someone once said that "There is inherent goodness in everyone if you but just look for it." I am re-commiting to be less critical and look for the goodness that is in everyone.

5. I'm grateful for simple pleasures! I love my dark chocolate! I love artichoke dip!(I'm eating some right now which is what inpsired this one - it is delicious!) I love sitting on a furnace vent with a blanket in the winter! I love dancing to Michael Jackson on the Wii! I love playing board games with my family! I love sleeping in clean sheets! I love fresh bread from the oven with butter and honey! I love it when Preston says something clever and witty! I'm re-committing to really enjoying the moment and finding joy in the simplest of pleasures.

Moving forward, for family night tonight I'm going to take the kids to Barnes and Noble and have them pick out a notebook or journal. Each night I will have them write just one thing they are grateful for that day. In that journal, I am also going to have them record one simple act of service they did that day (it can be helping someone pick up their books, or giving someone a compliment or helping someone elderly in the neighborhood - big or small). My hope is to keep this going beyond Thanksgiving and to hopefully start thinking more about what they can do for others. Happy Monday all!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Spider Cookies

So, I missed my post yesterday because I got over-involved in a kitchen re-organization. My kitchen isn't even that messy but I pulled out the vacuum and sucked up the crumbs in the drawers and re-located various items to make my kitchen time not only funner, but easier (and to make room for some new gadgets that I just got from Pampered Chef - which makes kitchen time SO much happier!). The really ridiculous part is that I love doing it - all the time. I've always had a very organized personality. I'm good with that.

At any rate, I spent the day before, Halloween, making my famous chili and cornbread and spider cookies. I went to greater lengths this year as I hunted down natural licorice for the spider legs and a red hot replacement for the spider eyeballs. I used a natural cake mix which honestly, just isn't the same as the cake mix that uses those unstable and brain-altering partially hydrogenated oil molecules. Did you the know the half-life of partially hydrogenated oil is 122 days? That means that after you have consumed something with PHO in it, it is in your body doing who knows what for that amount of time? Crazy!! With that being said, I'd still rather have the taste suffer just a titch than to use partially hydrogenated anything. But that's just me.

Here is my oreo cookie/spider cookie recipe that was always one of the things my mom did that hallmarked halloween for me. She of course used the real red vine rope and red hots which I did for several years as well. Whatever works for you!

Halloween Spider Cookies
1 Package Devil's Food/Chocolate Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Oil
Optional (1/2 cups Chocolate Chips)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. When you take them out of the oven use the bottom of a glass to press down and flatten the cookies a bit.

Creme Filling
8 oz Cream Cheese
1/4 Cup butter
1 tsp Vanilla
3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

Or you can make a regular white frosting to use for the filling. I don't usually use the cream cheese recipe and I almost always add 1 tsp of almond extract to the frosting recipe I do use. Almond extract makes the world a happier place.