About peacelovepaleo

A mom of an autistic child trying to help other families adopt the Paleo diet and lifestyle


I was riding in the car with Dana and Charlotte last week on the way home from school. Dana, now age 11 and on an academic scholarship to a new private middle school, was sharing the details of her recent class field trip experience. She was describing the vehicle her class took to get to their destination–a luxury tour bus with TVs, cup holders, and plush seats.

I responded by saying, “Wow. No yellow school buses anymore? You’re fancy now at your private school. Nothing but the best for you guys, I guess.” It may have been a little snotty as I was trying to keep any feelings of entitlement and over-indulgence at bay, but Dana laughed and agreed with me. Neither of us are used to that level of accommodation.

It was quiet for a moment when Charlotte, now age 8, piped up. “Dana, you know what? You deserve that. That must have been really fun for you.”

Dana and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. We both then thanked Charlotte and agreed with her, that yes, Dana certainly was deserving of that special bus ride on her field trip.


It hit me at that moment that balance is a funny thing. While I may have been trying to minimize Dana’s experience by making sure she knew where she came from, Charlotte brought it right back around. It was almost as if she was saying, “You can’t make her feel bad for that, Mommy. She deserves that.”

And she’s right.

Sometimes we let fear keep us from knowing what we already know. Dana is not an entitled, selfish kid, and we’re all still learning how her new school works. I have to accept that it is my own personal fear that fancy buses and a more affluent environment are going to change her as a person. If I had to do that conversation all over again, I would have said something like, “Wow. How cool! That must have been so comfortable and nice!”

Fear and control are best friends in my mind, each one high-fiving the other while secretly trying to get the upper hand. I feel like I can control some unknown outcome here when what I really need is some balance and some trust in who Dana is as a person. I guess that’s what middle school is all about. It’s a time for them to spread their wings a bit without the constant watch of micro-managing moms like me. At Back-to-School night, her teachers politely declined my offer for in-classroom help. It’s leaving me a bit lost and a bit sad, but I will find other ways to support the school and stay connected with Dana.

As both of our kids are on their way to success and personal fulfillment, my current challenge is to find the balance of letting go a bit. I’m not the type to sit back and observe. I really can’t handle any kind of chaos or disorganization. But I have to learn to. It’s at this point in my life and our girls’ lives that it is healthiest for me to work on not letting the fear and control get the best of me–to work on developing positive feelings of trust and faith to guide us through more of the unknown.

I firmly believe that this approach to my mental health is as important as any food I put into my body. My thoughts and feelings are like my oxygen. They lift me up or take me down at any given moment. There is so much value in the way we think and feel that we need to accept that this is a component of health that really can’t be ignored.

Our family’s experiences with health dictate to our kids that we are all a work in progress. We have learned that it’s crucial to accept the challenges in front of us and adapt to them. Last week, Charlotte let me know that my response to Dana could have been more supportive. My body and mind ached for a change in thinking to feel better about Dana’s school experience. Until I did it, I didn’t realize how much better it would feel to let go of the fear, mistrust, and the need to control.

Changing our health means taking a hard look at ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions. It means always asking: Am I balanced? Am I having enough fun? Sleeping enough? Drinking enough water? Would I do better with less bread? These nagging questions are like Charlotte’s little voice in the back of the car. Can I do better? What can I let go of?

There’s no right or wrong. It’s a little bit of this and some more of that. We each must do our best to find our own balance each day, to realize a customized approach to how we approach our thoughts, our food, our exercise routine, and our relationships. It’s a personal journey that is uniquely ours, and we’re learning that the trick is to try to enjoy the ride. Maybe it’s best to pick one with plush seats and cup holders.



Set Point

I sat in the waiting room of the local orthodontist’s office, and I was nervous. Our pediatric dentist had given the green light to get a timeline for our younger daughter Charlotte’s impending orthodontic work. Based on this news, I booked 2 appointments. One was with an orthodontist about 40 minutes from our house who specializes in holistic methods of orthodontics, namely ALF or a lightwire device to gently expand the palate and move the teeth into proper alignment. We weren’t able to been seen by that doctor for several months. I also called the traditional orthodontist and made a standard initial consultation appointment, set up for just a few days later. This is where I sat tapping my foot with anxiety as my mind raced with fears and concerns.

I was nervous because I needed to explain to someone that I was meeting for the first time Charlotte’s entire health history and more importantly my concerns about the pain and discomfort a traditional type of orthodontics would cause her, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over. While I looked like a typical, local 40-something mom, I knew my questions and concerns were not typical. I had a bit of Tiger Mom in me at the thought of stepping foot into anything mainstream medical, and I came armed to discuss several topics: how orthodontics would cause Charlotte more pain and discomfort than a typical 8-year-old based on her oral motor deficiencies and sensitive nervous system, the use of conventional orthodontics versus ALF based on her specific needs, the negative impact of any kind of palate expansion to her neurological development, and ultimately how important it was to me that her WHOLE HEALTH be considered as we make a plan to straighten her teeth.


I blurted out as much of this as I could in the first minute of our consultation. While I tried to keep my cool and appear educated and calm, I heard myself blurt out…”I guess what I’m trying to say….is that we’re not your typical patient.” I sat frozen for a moment until the doctor smiled and responded with “Well, I am not your typical orthodontist.” He nodded as if to say: Challenge Accepted. He then asked Charlotte to get up from the fancy dental chair she was wiggling around in and stand up straight in front of him. He proceeded to check the alignment of her head, neck, and shoulders. He had her open her mouth and bite down. He asked about her inwardly rotated knees and heels and showed a bit of concern that the lower part of her body didn’t seem in proper alignment. I agreed completely with his concerns and confessed that I didn’t have much of a plan for dealing with those pesky knees and feet other than strengthening the muscles through plenty of exercise.

Based on his examination, his recommendation was to visit an osteopath to check her full body alignment and make a plan for her heels, knees, and hips in order to ensure that her teeth and jaw were being fully supported by a strong and stable frame. He said there was no reason to change anything in the mouth if it was only going to move out of place without a body to support it. He encouraged us to see the ALF orthodontist and we booked an appointment to come back in 6 months to discuss all that we had learned. Brilliant! I could not have been more pleasantly surprised with how this appointment went.

A week later we made the hour drive to see the osteopath, an alternative medicine doctor that emphasizes the physical manipulation of the body’s muscle tissue and bones. Right up my alley! I love learning about the human body and secretly, this was an appointment that I had always wanted for Charlotte, but could never justify the cost. I was confidently calm chatting about Charlotte’s health history in this environment–a second story office surrounded by pine trees and cool ocean air coming in through the open sliding glass door developing a trust with this alternative medicine doctor who resembled an ambling Santa Claus.

He listened carefully to me and then laid her face-up on a flat table and quietly and methodically felt each of her bones and muscles in a way that was more like a massage than an examination. His conclusion was that she was a perfectly healthy and strong child. (He may have even said beautiful child too, warming my heart). He wasn’t at all concerned about her knees and feet and said that all of the exercise she was doing would bring them into proper alignment as she grew.

With a calm heart and mind, I utilized his attention and expertise to ask him some questions that had been rolling around in my mind about Charlotte’s development. “How do I make her stronger in her environment? How do I make it so that other kids don’t hurt her feelings so much? How do I make it hurt less when she gets hit by the soccer ball? In short, how do I toughen her up?”


He nailed it with his simple response, “Keep raising her set point. When things get easy for her, make it a bit tougher. Force her to adapt.” I nodded and shook my head at the same time. I knew that. I could’ve told myself that. That’s what we’ve been doing that all along with Charlotte, and  I’ve experienced that first hand in my own body. He must have been reading my mind when he glanced and Charlotte and said, “Based on what you’ve told me, it looks like you’ve done a beautiful job so far.”

I loved how this appointment went, and I came home thinking about this idea of a set point. It brings out a humanness in us–forcing us to adapt to our own uniquely challenging environment. We all want to be better on some level and the belief that it’s possible is what creates our unspoken human connection. I see it in my gym everyday when my friends and I push ourselves to be measurably stronger or faster than we were just a few months ago. I see my older daughter Dana asking to dance in the classes with older and more experienced dancers as a way to push herself to the next level.

Why would it be any different with Charlotte? Why wouldn’t I naturally raise the bar for her? And while it feels so healthy, it’s so much more complex. I spent the first few years of Charlotte’s diagnosis making her world very comfortable. I protected her from failure and discomfort because she didn’t handle it well. And truthfully, when she didn’t handle it well, I saw it as a failure on my part as her parent. It’s not always pretty–tantrums and tensions, fears and frustrations day after day. And it was so easy to back the set point down, to control the child’s environment to make it safe and predictable as to protect my own sensitive self from the fear of failure.

But I didn’t back the set point down. Somehow we fought through the failure and the fears and landed here where we are today. Charlotte’s life is now full of challenging and rewarding situations that she handles herself, for the most part. She’s learned to sew and recently participated in a fashion show, proudly modeling the clothes she’s made. After just one season of playing rec soccer, she tried out and made a club soccer team. With two games under her belt so far, she’s played in the 80 degree heat and the cold rain. More important than the win or loss is that she has withstood the elements, learned to be on a team, and survived the challenges that she faced in her environment.


A few weeks ago, she sat with her elementary school principal and a yard duty and discussed a bullying situation that she was on the short end of. I wasn’t there to hear it for myself, but according to the principal her exact words were matter-of-factly, “I am sensitive and I get my feelings hurt easily. That’s why I’m so upset.” The issue was quickly resolved between Charlotte and the other girls as it was easy for the adults to navigate a solution based on the information Charlotte had given them.


More than anything, the appointment with the osteopath was part validation and part inspiration. Health is not an easy road to travel.  There’s no magic pill or formula and there is never one person who will have all of the answers. Our desire to be better, more capable human beings comes from a place deep within us.  Once again, I’m reminded that being Charlotte’s parent has forced me to face big fears, learn deeply about myself, and feel the amazing rewards that life has to offer. Ultimately, raising her set point is also raising mine.



In Defense of Bacon

I was at the gym today, and I overheard the words “carcinogen” and “bacon” being used in the same sentence. My ears perked up, and I immediately joined the discussion. Just as I had suspected, two of my friends were discussing the World Health Organization study that states that eating bacon and other processed meats increases a person’s risk for developing colorectal cancer.

I joined the conversation because I wanted to make sure that bacon–a Paleo staple and my favorite food–was being defended properly. To be truthful, I have often wondered about the health effects of cured and processed meats. If it were possible, I would only feed my family non-processed proteins in the form of pork, steak, chicken, and fish. If I have these items on hand cooked and ready to serve, this is certainly my first choice. But life is busy and lunches need to be packed, and therefore processed meats enter our lives. Checking ingredients and comparing prices, I’m always trying to find the best quality meats at the cheapest price with a bit of guilt and worry tucked into my decision. So when the bacon causes cancer study came out, I wasn’t really surprised. My gut has been telling me that processed meats aren’t the best and certainly not what the Paleo people ate.


So it gave me pause but certainly not panic. I put some thought into it, and attached more to our own experience than to some numbers on paper. Bacon and processed meats have been a staple in our diet since we eliminated grains, legumes, processed sugars, and dairy over five years ago. Our way of eating has been the foundation for curing my stage 4 adrenal fatigue and Charlotte’s autism.  I was able to conclude that eliminating those other foods and keeping processed meats with loads of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats had been advantageous to our health, and therefore bacon was fine for my family and me.

So if bacon is so healthy in our world, why is there a link between processed meats and cancer? Here’s my answer.

Before Charlotte was born, I followed all of the “rules” about nutrition and health. As a young adult making my own food choices, I ate a ton of low-fat chicken and whole wheat bread just as I was told. I exercised a little but not because I liked to. I avoided red meat, and I didn’t really like vegetables so I didn’t eat too many. I had a healthy first pregnancy and a healthy daughter, so I assumed I was doing everything right. Then I had Charlotte. And my health failed me. And the system failed us.

We know that over the last 20 years Americans have decreased their consumption of red meat, just like I did in my twenties. A fat phobia emerged in our culture with people like myself avoiding fat and red meat at all costs. As a result, we have increased our consumption of processed foods, sugars, and grains as we search for that elusive satiated feeling. We have more cancer, diabetes, and general illness among our population than ever before.

We have learned a lot about carcinogens. Most humans walking the planet today can tell you that cancer causing toxins lurk in our environment–our water, our water bottles, the teflon pans we cook in, the foods we produce, and in the air we breathe.

Our current approach to curing cancer seems to be using news reports and studies to inform us in an attempt to protect our bodies from our food and toxic environment, and it doesn’t seem very effective. Doesn’t it make sense to look at strengthening the body to fight off these carcinogens, rather than trying to avoid them or protect the body from them?


Recently I watched a documentary called The Truth About Cancer, and I learned a lot about cancer and the body. Knowledge is powerful and it knocked the fear of cancer right out of me. It left me educated and inspired me to continue to learn about my unique body and how it responds to our cancer causing environment. I know now how important the immune system is in defeating cancer. Just like viruses and bacteria that make us sick, cancer cells live in everyone’s body, and the immune system’s job is to stop their growth and get rid of them.

The documentary put me at ease because I know by living a Paleo lifestyle we are doing all we can to strengthen our gut health and ultimately our immune system. When we cut out sugars, grains, dairy, and processed food from our diet 5 years ago, the first sign that the diet was working were fewer illnesses and allergies for all four of us. Unlike cutting out red meat and trying to avoid environmental toxins, the Paleo diet improves immune system function. When we eat several servings a day of vegetables and fruits, we give our cells the nutrients they need to create a healthy gut lining. Supplements that we take like magnesium, collagen, beef liver pills, and probiotics promote digestion, nutrient absorption, and balanced gut flora. Short duration-high intensity movement (like CrossFit) that we enjoy doing empties any excess sugars from the cells and prevents insulin resistance.


My biggest fear about the release of this study isn’t for my own health. It’s for those who will shy away from protein sources like bacon and red meat and swing back toward grains and sugar as fuel. If we can’t eat bacon or sausage for breakfast, then what’s left? Pancakes and a syrup-like product? We know that these fuel sources promote a weaker gut lining, prevent nutrient absorption, load the cells with insulin, and down regulate the immune response. In The Truth About Cancer, I learned that cells loaded with insulin or excess sugar can’t absorb any Vitamin C. It’s nutrients like these that the body needs readily available in its immune system defense. How is this helping the body fight off cancer?

In confusing times like these, we need to look to our bodies to guide us. What are we eating and how are we moving when we feel our best? We don’t really need a study to tell us how to eat, but we can learn from it and use it to strengthen our bodies and lessen our fear. We can safely say now that bacon, hot dogs, salami, and red meat (along with many other environmental chemicals) have components that may cause more problems for a weak and sick body. On the other hand, we can safely say that in a strong and healthy body these carcinogens may not be a threat. Let’s move away from the fear, confusion, and avoidance of our environment and build a stronger body of healthy systems.

Every cell in our body contains protein so of course it makes the most sense to eat the healthiest animal protein possible. Grass fed meat, pasture raised chickens and pork give the load of nutrients we need for the system of systems which is the human body. So wherever you are in your journey toward better health and whether your bacon is pasture raised or conventional, I say go ahead and eat it, as long as it’s next to an omelette filled with bell peppers, onions, spinach, and topped with a big spoonful of avocado and not….with a bowl of cheerios and milk.

Soccer Mom


The girls and I were driving around town a few weeks ago, and all of a sudden I heard Dana yell, “Limo!” from the back seat. Out of my rear view mirror I saw Dana’s arm pointing down the street to where in fact a limousine had passed us, a rare occurrence in our small town. As I focused back on the road in front of me, I heard Charlotte’s high, anxious, whiny voice coming from the seat right behind me. “Where?! Where?! Oh no! I missed it!”

Sadly, this situation is not uncommon within the 4 walls of our mini van. Dana will typically spot something interesting on the road or driving by, Charlotte will miss the sighting due to her dysfunctional visual processing. Before her Kindergarten school year began, Charlotte had difficulty reading the eye chart at her physical exam. A special needs optometrist confirmed that glasses would not fix this particular problem. A weakness occurred with the eyes and the way the brain processed the visual information. It’s a concept that is difficult to understand for those of us who process visual information normally.

I know Charlotte is struggling with her visual processing when she is having difficulty with eye contact, when she can’t look at me and smile at the same time when taking a picture, when she avoids reading or homework, when she seems to be using her peripheral vision (or looking off to the side) to process her world. And when she can’t see a limousine driving by that she really wanted to see. It’s a frustrating problem that is difficult to fix. Due to Charlotte’s progress we no longer qualify for any therapy that would be covered by insurance, but clearly problems still exist. Since 2010, we have paid out of pocket for Charlotte to have private vision therapy, a process where her eyes and brain are trained to work together. Though expensive and far away, the therapy has been helpful.

In September of this year, we finished 20 sessions of vision therapy and I sat down with the doctor to review her results. I wasn’t really happy with them and neither was he. He said to keep an eye on her reading, and he wanted to see her back in January. In all of our years of receiving this therapy we had never been told to come back so soon. I left frustrated and concerned. As we entered her second grade school year, I observed Charlotte as she read and while she recognized most of the words, she still struggled with reading fluently or smoothly. She would get to the middle of a sentence, stumble and have to go back to the beginning of the sentence to start again. Her teachers see that she is still reading at grade level, but I see a struggle that will eventually catch up to her and I feel powerless to fix it.

I held onto to that powerless feeling as I watched her on the soccer field. For a year we had done a soccer skills class where she learned the fundamentals of soccer, how to kick and dribble. During the scrimmages of this skills class, I saw a fierce athlete come out in her and attack the ball with an energy and focus that she didn’t have during the warm up and drills. She had asked to be on a real team in the Fall and standing on the side lines with Dana and Chad watching her warm up for her first ever game, my stomach was fluttering with feelings of pride, amazement, worry, and terror.

To our surprise, she did just fine. She played a defensive position and instinctively knew to protect her goal. When she moved to an offensive position later in the game, I could see the familiar look of confusion and disorientation as she struggled to stay in position and figure out what she was supposed to be doing. Nonetheless, we were proud and chalked up the day as a huge victory for our family.


In the next few weeks, the focused and aggressive player that I saw in the scrimmages last year began to emerge. She was sprinting after the ball beating out other players and even had a few attempts at goal. Other players and parents were astonished, but I wasn’t surprised. I knew what was happening, and I was thrilled. I could smell success. She was so close. I made a cheat sheet to help Charlotte understand how the game worked and used her intelligence and budding confidence to teach her more about the game. We took her to a local university game for her to see how the big girls play and to get a global perspective of positioning, passing, and scoring.


Finally, it all came together. All week she talked about wanting to take “a clean shot at the goal.” She was visualizing a solid kick that got past the goalie and into the net. On Saturday she had an amazing game and scored 2 (almost 3) goals! In her typical non-autistic ultra expressive fashion, she celebrated with a huge smile, running over to the sidelines to hug us and high five-ing her teammates.Truly, it was a magical moment.

It wasn’t until about a week later, I noticed homework time seemed less stressful. She was reading out loud to me while I was cooking or doing the dishes and generally seemed more connected to the text. Like a typical second grader, she was reading to herself, looking over at the pictures for clues and going back to the text. When we read together, there was more fluency and visualization like we had worked on and she had a better understanding of who the characters were, what they were doing, and what might happen next.

Yesterday I came home from the gym and sat down in my quiet house. I began thinking about doing a blog post and my mind began processing Charlotte’s amazing progress. She had been scoring goals in her games fairly consistently, she was more focused and connected when reading, and her piano lessons and practice had produced less frustration lately. I thought I might be imagining all of these amazing connections. Was all of this a coincidence or was something significant happening neurologically? What if the movement was the missing piece? When playing soccer she had to move her body and visually process at the same time. Had she ever really done that before? Certainly, there wasn’t a big movement component in her private vision therapy that I knew of. I knew it had to be connected. What if we moved the way we were supposed to–in play and sport–and for fun? Would that improve other areas of our brain?

The answer is Yes. I spoke to Lori, our amazing Occupational Therapist for many years on the phone, and she was able to confirm that linear movement (up and down, side to side, back and forth) is considered to be foundational for rotational movement which activates the inner ear canals which connects to our vestibular and visual processing centers. With all of these connections in place, the brain and eyes can do what they were designed to do–take in visual information and respond appropriately just like Charlotte’s had done. She was essentially rewiring her brain and improving her reading while she was playing soccer.

It initially felt like a big light bulb or flash of lightning that all of these ideas were connected. That Charlotte’s brain could be changed by just doing what she loved. We may not need expensive therapies or reading intervention or stressful homework nights. We may be able to chart our own course help her. But wait a minute. That’s what we’ve always done. We’ve gone back to the basics to improve her health. It now seems like common sense. I see the benefit of movement everyday all around me. When I workout at the gym, the blood, sweat and tears of my fellow Coast Rangers amaze and inspire me. The community and the connection always brings me back to making myself a better athlete even when my body is aching and sore. Watching Dana, our oldest daughter, develop as a dancer, finding herself and learning to express herself through movement, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of being a parent thus far. And it was just last April that Chad had ACL surgery, and his commitment to movement through recovery has him nearly back to where he was before his surgery.


It’s not something to overlook or consider as an optional piece of health. In the last few months, Charlotte has taught us that movement changes who we are. We still have a lot more work to do before she’s the one telling Dana about limos driving down the street, but today I’ll choose to soak up all of the feelings this experience has taught us. I’m so grateful for her bravery to try a new sport, her enthusiastic and competitive nature which makes it so fun and rewarding for her to play and for us to watch. Nothing pleases me more as a parent than to watch our girls find happiness and health within their power of their own bodies. I proudly wear the title of dance mom–and soccer mom.

Surviving Superstress


A few months ago, I helped a friend thought a stressful time. That friend happened to be my husband, Chad. He was on a business trip and hit a wall of stress. He felt it in his body with muscles tension, an upset stomach, and a general feeling of unsettledness that is hard to describe. I call it Superstress.

He called me to talk about it. Rather than talking about what caused the stress, I talked to him about what he could do to feel more in control. Because let’s face it–stress is everywhere. Today’s world is full of stressors that often steal our joy and leave us uncomfortable in our own skin. We cannot control our environment completely, but we can control how our body responds to it.

As an anxious person my entire life, I always dream of being one of those people who is unfazed by stress. I want to smile and laugh through the big problems of life. I want to feel like I am capable of handling whatever life throws at me.

When I talked with Chad on the phone that evening, I realized I was closer to being that version of myself than I originally thought. I surprised myself and rattled off a whole list of things he could do now and in the coming days and weeks to help his body through times like these. Here’s what I told him and it seemed to help. Hopefully, it will help you too.

1. Breathe.

When we feel very stressed, we have activated our sympathetic nervous system. This puts us in a mode called fight-or-flight. This means that our sensory systems are very alert. All of our senses are activated and ready to battle the potential threat. Our heart rate increases and our breathing shortens, and we feel ready to take on something big.  What’s amazing about this response is it keeps us alive and that it’s temporary–or it’s supposed to be.  After the body gets the message that we won the fight or ran away successfully from the threat without injury or death, we calm down. Our breathing regulates and we feel safe again.

What happens in today’s world of chronic stresses is that the fight or flight signaling gets messed up. We feel anxious and ready for battle all of the time. It’s very difficult to relax. That’s where Chad was. Stuck in the fight or flight mechanism or Superstress. But there is a way out. Breathing is the escape hatch. It overrides the mind and tells the systems of the body that everything is okay.  Big, deep, cleansing breaths reset all of the systems. I told Chad to find a quiet space and take some deep breaths.

Deep breathing is a great one time fix to get us out of the fight or flight mode relatively quickly, but in order to stay out of chronic stress, it really needs to happen everyday. Our body needs a constant reminder in this world full of stressors that we really are okay and that everything is under control. While I’m not perfect at this, I do try to make time to breathe as often as possible. My favorite tools for guided breathing include the Headspace app, and a post Crossfit yoga recovery tool called Rom Wod. I also use Yoga Tune Up as a way to loosen and release tight muscle tissue using breathing and therapy balls.

2. Move

When the fight or flight mode is activated in our bodies, we are prepared for physical activity. The Paleo people would have had to outrun a predator or climb a tall tree to get some nourishment. In most situations, the body would use the flood of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to physically get to safety. That doesn’t happen in today’s world. We’ re stuck with these waves of cortisol as we are sitting in our car in traffic or a desk at work. That’s why it feels so good to take a jog or kill a workout at the end of the day. We’re using up the “energy” our bodies gave us to beat the stress, and we find a natural rhythm with our bodies again. Our senses will alert to stress, we will get the necessary energy and use it up through exercise. The next day or when we needed it, the cycle starts again.

When I’m flooded with stress and anxiety, I find the most relief by moving outside. I love my Crossfit gym and the community there helps me through stress every time I step in the door, but I know when I’m really stressed, I need to get outside. I will hit one of my favorite hiking trails with a friend or walk the beach in solitude. In either scenario, I come home renewed and invigorated. Humans are designed to move outdoors, and that’s why it works every time to pull me out of Superstress. Most importantly, I’ve learned to incorporate it into my weekly exercise routine. I hit the gym 2 or 3 days a week and spend at least 1 day a week exercising outdoors.


3. Allow

When Chad got home from his trip, we reflected on several things. One of the things we have both noticed after living in Superstress was how sensitive our bodies were. It seems like just when you get your breathing and thinking under control, the body will overrespond to another stress threat. Sometimes these can be very silly threats and we feel back to where we started–racing heartrate, muscle tension, stomach ache. It could be days or weeks or hours after we have started to feel better. I call these “afterschocks”. There’s been a big threat like an earthquake to the body. It’s usually accompanied by lots of smaller feelings of stress until the body has completely reset all of its signaling. It’s like trying to ride a bike you’ve assembled yourself when you haven’t tightened all of the bolts and screws. It’s going to feel okay at first, but it’s not going to hold up going up hill or very fast.

I warned Chad on the phone about the aftershocks and gave him the following advice–ease back into life and all of your thoughts very slowly. Stressful thoughts and feelings will resurface. Allow them to come and go. Be aware of your thoughts and don’t attach to the messages that are fueling the stress. Encourage yourself and talk through it.

Self talk through stress can be very powerful.I love messages like “You are in control. You’ve got this. You can handle this.” It’s kind of silly, but I give myself bonus points for handling things well and staying in control when I’m feeling out of control. If I’m calm and patient with the kids that’s 10 or 20 points. Smiling at the slow driver when I want to scowl, 20 to 30 bonus points. Cleaning up the house or something I’m really not wanting to do would be 100 points. Instead of being ticked off that I’m so stressed and being forced to continue parenting, driving, or cleaning, I’m working toward that carefree version of myself and not buying into the messages and thoughts that feed the stress response.

3. Nourish

This wouldn’t be a Paleo blog if I didn’t talk about food. Surviving Superstress is a difficult task for the body. The body is striving for a sense of peace and homeostasis. To get back to that place takes nourishment. While it is so tempting to indulge in feel good comfort foods, sugars, alcohol, and grains will only fuel the stress hormones we are trying to keep at bay. A Paleo diet with meats and vegetables gives your systems an availability of nutrients and minerals that help all of your systems reset appropriately.

When Chad came home from his trip, we reset with healthy meals of grass fed meats, salads and potatoes, lots of rest and time outdoors. We spent unscheduled time with the kids and recharged our bodies in a way that would prepare us for whatever challenges lie ahead. I was proud to help him through his Superstress using all of the tools I’ve learned along the way. I gave myself 1 million bonus points for that.


I took the girls to a new dentist’s office a few weeks ago. I sat in the waiting room and began filling out the forms with our names, addresses, insurance information, and health history. While I was filling out Charlotte’s form, I stopped and held my pen above the word listed so innocently in alphabetical order: Autism. I was frozen with indecision. My first thought was to slide right past it . We had never been here before. I glanced up and observed Charlotte chatting away in a lively conversation with the receptionist while making good eye contact. They really would have no idea. I could walk right in to this new place with two typical kids with no shame and no secrets and no lengthy explanations. I wouldn’t be on the look out for sensory meltdowns or strange behaviors. Heck, maybe I could even sit in the waiting room during their cleanings and read a magazine like other parents do.

I stopped myself. Checking the box would only cause more questions and confusion for these medical professionals trying to learn their new clients. I could see them trying to match the myriad of symptoms that present as Autism to this social, alert child in front of them. No, it’s not a match. She is not Autistic. However, placed under the proper stressors, she is not going to respond typically. And really, with Charlotte, anything could happen. So, no, we are not typical. Knowing I couldn’t ignore the box and also protecting myself from any behaviors that may surprise us all, I established our reality with pen and paper for the first time. I checked the box. And next to it I wrote the word: Recovering.

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This has not been officially diagnosed. We haven’t taken her back to Kaiser and had her re-evaluated. (we would never put her through that again) We don’t have a doctor or other medical professional that keeps tabs on Charlotte’s progress and has proclaimed that Charlotte is no longer suffering with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. On December 10, 2010, we received the diagnosis, and from that day forward we took the reigns as her primary care providers.

The pediatric dental hygienist scanned the information I had provided her, she stopped and said aloud, “Recovering. Okay. Good.” There was no bright light or interrogation of how I arrived at that status. No questions of what defines “recovery” or the semi-controversial question of how one recovers Autism. There was no mention of the word Autism at all. But also present, was the absence of fan fare or acclamation. There was general acceptance in her response, as if this is something she sees on this very form every day. And as I logically expected, Charlotte breezed through the rest of the appointment and no other questions or concerns arose.

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We are stepping into this world of Recovery very slowly and carefully. It’s certainly different from the world I might have imagined back in 2010. I’m not sitting back with a glass of Chardonnay with my feet up looking over at Chad and saying, “Wow. Glad that’s over.”  We’re working harder than ever. Our current project list includes improving our marriage and finances, planning for the future, and adapting to the changing needs of both of our kids.

We’re gradually giving Charlotte more independence and pulling away therapies and other supports. We’re letting her talents, interests, and relationships develop. This is a delicate and scary process. I talked to Chad last night about our last session of OT (occupational therapy) yesterday and this idea of Recovery. We shared our fears and concerns. Can we say it’s real? We are entering the mainstream world now armed only with the tools we’ve developed ourselves. Is it enough?  We were protected under our label of Autism. If we step away from it, can we still use it if we need it?

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Recovery is not a safe word for me. My father battled alcoholism all of my childhood and spent many years in and out of Recovery, only to take his own life with alcohol in 2009. If I I’ve learned anything from the struggles of my dad, my self, and Charlotte, it’s that the human brain is fragile. It does not exist separate from our physical bodies. We have not looked at Autism as a disorder of the brain, but rather of the body. Our path for healing began with this very simple concept. When I look at our life and our journey thus far, this spark of hope lights up the darkness and the fear that lies ahead.

Recovery will include more of what we know will work, looking at Charlotte’s overall health and letting it continue to guide our path. Her behaviors, sleep, motor control, skin tone, eye contact, language, level of connection and empathy are all clues to how she is feeling in her body. We will continue to teach her how to coordinate her movements through occupational therapy and exercise, calm her nervous system with inputs, express her thoughts and needs with friends and family, train her eyes and brain to work together, encourage her to self-regulate with nature and play, and nourish her body with real food. We will continue to observe and change and grow and push toward health–mental, physical and spiritual.

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And while it’s scary to enter a world and stare down our biggest fears, we know that we have developed powerful tools for success. While the rest of the world wonders how and why Autism is affecting our kids, we will continue to pave our own path and find our own way toward health.



Four Years


I don’t know if you can see the transformation that I see in these photos. It’s been nearly 4 years since the photo on the left was taken. It was given to me by our day care provider, Michelle, whom I am positive spent many attempts to get Charlotte to look at the camera and smile at the same time. This was the best it was going to get. Her body is rigid. Her eyes are not working together to focus straight ahead, and she is sweaty and hot from running and playing hard to regulate herself at the park that day. While it may seem innocent and very typical, for me, it is a visual reminder of how far we’ve come.

This month, April, marks 4 years on our Paleo journey. Charlotte walked into the kitchen a few weeks ago wearing some silly glasses, a cute top, hot pink pants, and a princess crown. I asked her to stand still so I could snap a photo. The photo on the right is what I got. Eyes locked on the camera. Body relaxed. Sassy, expressive, and just so Charlotte. And so different from where we were. 

In four years time, Charlotte was re-born. A healthy body and mind that makes us laugh and shake our heads in wonder every single day. A true transformation that is difficult to express in Before and After photographs. 

As I reflect on the last four years, it’s not just Charlotte’s transformation that has me blissfully stunned and dismayed. It’s my own. It’s also how we’ve all changed as a family. It’s amazing to me that something so tragic and dark as an Autism diagnosis has brought a gift of light and hope and gratitude that fills my heart every day.

For a while we controlled everything about Charlotte’s life…from her food to her clothing to anything that would upset the delicate balance and send her into a spiral of anxiety and dysregulation. While it may not seem like it on the outside, we’re changing. We try to be less rigid ourselves, to go with the flow and observe her behavior, interactions, and a budding independence.

This week I bought the girls the soundtrack to the movie Frozen to listen to in the car. As I drove to school to pick them up, I thought about the bickering that would come over who would sing. Dana wanting to sing her heart out and Charlotte screaming in a loss of control and sensory overload. I began to rehearse my script for how there would need to be rules and lots of turn taking, how to deal with the pouting and competition over the volume, song choice, and who could sing the loudest. And then I stopped myself. I trusted the work we’ve done and let them work it out themselves. This is a big deal when you are a control freak like me, particularly in a confined space of my mini van. But it worked beautifully. They worked together, choosing their favorites to sing and sharing nicely. 

We’re changing and growing. We’re learning and supporting each other. We’re allowing the sassy-ness, bossiness, and expression to all come out to play. We’re dealing with issues as they come up and generally feeling a bit less stress. We’re hanging tough and through this process, becoming more accepting and tolerant. 

I notice this difference in myself when I talk to other moms about diet change. I’ve become much more tolerant and accepting of what others are doing to feed their families. I’ve become much better at listening to what others are dealing with. It’s been very humbling as I clearly don’t have all of the answers. And when you throw a husband, other children, and three meals a day into the mix, it certainly creates a challenge that is bigger than me.

But that being said, I still feel the need to help those who are ready to make a change with food and their kids. I’ve compiled a list of things I think you need to know as you begin, continue, or adapt in your Paleo journey.  If I’ve learned anything on this journey, it’s that everybody needs something different. Some need a push to get them going, a little guilt or fear sparks an interest and a change begins. Others need more time and space to think and talk about how this is all going to work. I can’t help those who can’t get past the thought of life without bread. You’ll notice a little good cop, bad cop as I’m hoping it strikes a spark in everyone wanting to make a change.


1. Social Situations are hard at first.

Birthday parties or other social events around food or eating are challenging. There’s no getting around it. The best way I’ve learned to handle this is to plan ahead whenever possible. Typically, I feed the kids before we attend a social event where I’m not certain what is being served. With a full belly, they’re less interested in eating pizza and more interested in playing and enjoying the party. It helps to communicate with the host of the party before hand to let them know you may bring an alternative meal or treat or just pass on food all together. This may seem strange at first, but it gets much easier with practice. If we are going out to eat, we discuss some ground rules before entering the restaurant. We tend to do hash browns with ketchup instead of pancakes, french fries instead of a bun, and always water to drink, never soda. The key here is confidence and some will power. If you set the example as the person making good choices and thinking ahead, others in your family will follow. 

2. Paleo is Personal.

in my opinion, there are no set rules for Paleo, only guidelines. The idea is to eat cleaner than you did before you started. The foods that are restricted in Paleo are processed or sugary foods that tend to aggravate symptoms of stomach discomfort, hyperactivity, inflammation, weight gain, or other issues in the body. Certain foods may not be an issue for you or your kids. The best way to find out how strict you need to be is to cut out foods one at a time (or a few at once) and see how the body responds. If you add them back in and a have negative result, that food is not best for you (or child) right now. This doesn’t mean it’s Paleo to eat donuts or cereal because it doesn’t upset your stomach. It’s about listening to your body and adding back in foods like dairy or carbs to see what your body can handle. What’s different for you is different for me. And while it may seem to be easier for me or someones else, it’s really not. We all have temptations with food and different ways of dealing with it. So, it’s really up to you…baby steps versus cold turkey…you won’t know until you try.

3. Parenting and Food.

Chad and I learned early on in our marriage that we have different ways of expressing love and affection to each other. Learning to speak each other’s Love Languages has been a huge learning experience for us, but one that has benefited us tremendously. One thing I’ve noticed is that many parents express love and affection with their children through food. This is neither good nor bad. We are human beings and feeding our children is instinctual. For some, treats and special meals are ways of showing how much we care. Sometimes the more the child loves the food, the more the parent feels fulfilled and a unique love language is born. I find that it is more difficult for parents who speak this “food love language” to make the lifestyle change that Paleo requires. Making changes around food and kids involves making changes around parenting. It is hard but not impossible. We are human beings, and we can change the way we love. We can accept new challenges and change our parenting as a result, if that’s what we want to do.

4. No excuses.

I went to Costco a few days ago and was overwhelmed. There were more Paleo options than ever and I had resist the urge to put items in my cart that were “Paleo”, even though I really had no need for them. From Kombucha to Kerrygold cheese to Chia seeds, there is an abundance of real food at our fingertips. It has not always been this way. Just a few years ago, I had to order my coconut flour online if I wanted to do any baking. Now I can pick it up at Nob Hill with my eggs and produce. It is easier than ever to eat Paleo. More people have heard of it, and it reduces the amount of stress or anxiety you or your children may feel around eating differently. Four years ago when we began eating this way, there were only a handful of websites and 1 or 2 cookbooks. Now there are more than I can keep track of. Our gym actually has frozen Paleo meals delivered to those who ordered ahead. Times, they are a changin’, and it’s for the better. 

5. Let it Go.

It’s only been a few days since the Frozen cd debuted in my car, but I’ve already heard this song more times than I can count. I laugh out loud at the girls belting it out from the back seats, but can’t help but love the message it sends. I am making a conscious effort to Let Go of unhealthy thoughts and perfection. I ignore posts on my Facebook feed about healthy cleaning products and the dangers of conventional meat and produce (gasp!). I only recently started reading about essential oils because it was all just too much. I have found what works, and I don’t try to do everything. There is no Paleo Perfection. If you screw up and eat bad, get back on track. If you have a few non-Paleo favorite treats that make you feel like a normal person, rock on. Just keep your thoughts healthy and your food clean as much as you can. It’s your body. They’re your kids, and the only expectations you have are the ones you put on yourself. Find what works and stick to it. I am so glad that we did, and I am looking forward to seeing the growth in our family over the next four years.