Solving the Mystery of PMS

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are going about your day, feeling like you’ve got a handle on yourself and your emotions and then all-of-a-sudden you’re freaking out and completely overreacting? It almost feels like you’re watching yourself cry/scream/fight in some kind of B movie that you can’t turn off. You feel completely out of control and you hear the voice in your head telling you that you need to get a grip/calm down/relax, but that voice is being slapped around by a force that wants to be reckoned with.

It’s a horrible feeling to completely lose control over your words, thoughts, and emotions. Regret and guilt rush in and take over when the anger and frustration have exhausted themselves. Anything said or done in front of your family, friends, or coworkers cannot be taken back and embarrassment and shame fall quickly in line.

My worst PMS moments have been like this, and the term “mood swing” doesn’t seem to do justice to the range of physical and emotional turmoil that I have the potential to feel. A few years ago, I sat in my psychiatrist’s office and awkwardly tried to describe how I awful I felt each month. I explained that I could feel the out-of-control feeling coming on as early as ovulation, and it didn’t subside until day 1 or 2 of my cycle. I took a deep breath when he promptly pulled out a little book, hoping there was a cure for the worst parts of myself in there. He began to read aloud a list of symptoms. With each symptom I answered “yes” to, my chest tightened a bit, and by the end of the list, he looked me in the eye and announced that I had PMDD. (PMDD is basically a more severe set of PMS symptoms that negatively impact day-to-day life) I wasn’t really surprised and anxiously waited for something…anything that would help me. The only alternative he presented to me was to increase my medications at ovulation and taper off when I felt better.

I was already eating Paleo and was making a conscious effort to use my nutrient-dense diet to come down from the sky-high amounts of drugs that had been prescribed to me at the onset of my adrenal fatigue/depression. It was shortly after this appointment that I sought out acupuncture and herbal remedies to help with the monthly mood swings. I found relief in this practice, but not in the fees that were not covered by my insurance. For the next 6 months or so, I continued the herbal treatments with some relief in the form of mood stabilization and increased energy, but struggled with late periods and longer cycles.

A couple of months ago, to my delight, I noticed that I didn’t need to take the herbs as often. I’d feel fine past ovulation and sneak in a couple if I needed them, but generally felt more in control, and I even noticed that I was actually pleasant to be around during the luteal phase of my cycle. I even wrote about how I avoided a meltdown.

And just last month, I felt a little edgy but still under control during a tense conversation with Chad, so I checked the calendar. You can imagine how I felt when I realized I was 1 WEEK AWAY from starting my period–7 days out, and I was in control of my mood. I promptly reported to Chad, “I’m normal! I am only having 1 week of mild PMS symptoms!” His reaction was a priceless mix of fear at having the wrong response and general relief.

I began to ask myself what had happened over the last few months that could have improved my symptoms so significantly. The answer may not surprise you…liver has been dubbed a Superfood in the Paleo world, and now I can safely say that I agree. In addition to regrowing my hair, the liver has helped with my PMS (I mean PMDD). The best part is that it’s not that hard. You may have read that we have been eating 4-6 ounces of liver consistently every week in our burgers or meatloaf. It’s relatively inexpensive, and we have not noticed a difference in the taste of the food. Click here for the burger recipe.

With a little research and a hunch, I also discovered that these nutrients are required to make the menstrual cycle happen each month.  I was listening to the Balanced Bites podcast #32 on my walk a few weeks ago, and when Liz began talking about how Vitamin B-6 and A were key in synthesizing the delicate dance of estrogen and progesterone every month, I listened carefully, knowing that these were in the vitamins that I used for relief of my symptoms.

What I can conclude is that every month around ovulation, my body strips the available nutrients from my liver necessary for the rising and falling of hormones that allow an egg to drop, ready for fertilization. The mood issues come into play when I’m trying to function without sufficient nutrients. When I eat just a few ounces of beef liver each week, I get enough Vitamin A, B-6, and B-12 to allow the hormones to ebb and flow like they are designed to and there’s enough leftover in my system for me to function normally.

[graph courtesy of Fit Day. Nutrients for 1 ounce of beef liver]

You may be asking yourself why I don’t just take the vitamins instead of dealing with cow’s liver. Somehow my body seems to know the difference between the synthetic vitamins pictured above and the real deal. I feel better in the short-term, but the communication of hormones is interrupted and my period is delayed when I pop the pill form.

I think I may be on to something here as anything I read online having to do with PMS and food has to do with so many women being unable to keep their cravings in check. My theory is that the body is low on nutrients just before bleeding occurs. The body is starving for nutrients and tells the mind to go get food. That may explain why we crave sugar, salts, carbs, and all of the foods we know we shouldn’t eat.

In addition to the cow’s liver, I’ve been supplementing with magnesium for cramping and breast tenderness. Chocolate contains magnesium and may be a reason why women can’t stay away from chocolate certain times of the month. Magnesium is an essential mineral that relaxes the body. We also use it for soreness from exercise and help with sleep.

I am so full of hope and overcome with relief as I begin this leg of my journey toward wellness. I have learned so much about what my body needs to function effectively, and after years of living in a depleted state, I can finally enjoy the benefits of a healed and healthy body. In addition, my girls enjoy the liver burgers every week and magnesium supplements a few times per week. Hopefully, they will be better equipped to win the battle over their own hormones someday.

My New and Improved “To-Do List”

I’m a big list-maker and the To-Do list has always served two purposes in my mind: write an important task down so that I don’t forget to do it and have the things I’ve done that day written down as visual confirmation of tasks accomplished. I love the feeling of getting things done, and I have even been known to finish something and then write it down on my list just to have the satisfaction of crossing it off.

This task-oriented machine that lives inside of me is both a blessing and a curse. I manage to accomplish quite a few things in a given period of time, but it’s difficult to keep myself in check. When I get going on my list, I get so overwhelmed with everything that has to be done, that I sometimes skip meals, stay up too late, or miss out on moments to relax and do something for myself. Oftentimes the blinders that I wear when it comes to accomplishing things keep me from really listening to what my body needs.

I spent years letting my To-Do list run my life. I was sending constant stress signals to my body to get things done and keep things perfect. I didn’t realize how dangerous these messages were until my body and mind had enough. Charlotte was born, and I got so sick with adrenal fatigue and depression that I had to embrace a different mindset about getting things done. The blinders had to come off so I could listen to the needs of my body and re-learn my limits.

The Have-To-Do List

My To-Do list today looks very different than it did in back in my perfectionist, plate-spinning days.  Instead of a list of tasks that I feel that I must accomplish or the world will end tomorrow, I chose a few things that really need to get done to keep my household running smoothly. Typically, I keep a list of groceries that I need for meals for the week, any items or tasks for the girls’ school/therapy/activities, and another list for finances and making sure the bills are paid. My general attitude is that if I’ve covered these things, everything else kind of takes care of itself.

The Want-To-Do List

My old To-Do list was a combination of household items that MUST be done mixed in with personal challenges or activities that were intended to be fun and healthy, but turned stressful with the wrong mindset. Exercise is the perfect example. I used to tell myself that  I HAD to exercise everyday, and I would wrap myself in guilt if I didn’t get to the gym. Now I reward myself with exercise if I’ve finished what I need to from my have-to-do list. I also switched to doing a variety of exercises that I really enjoy so it really feels like something I WANT to do.

I wrote last week about my near meltdown and learned that when I filled my day with too many have-to-do items, negativity and crankiness spill over into my time with the kids or Chad. Whatever I may have accomplished will never outweigh the feelings of impatience around the kids or a pending personal implosion.

So for me, things like blogging, reading, calling a friend, or taking a nap all fall into the want-to-do list. I’m learning to organize my day so that these important tasks get done and have the same importance as the things that I HAVE to do. When a pocket of time opens up, I fill it with something that I WANT to do. It’s a win-win when I take time for myself and get a feeling of accomplishment.

Paleo

Changing my mindset about which tasks in my life are things I have-to-do and which are things I want-to-do has been very powerful, especially when it comes to the Paleo Lifestyle. I remind myself often that we are choosing to live this way. Keeping Paleo a want-to-do item helps keep the demands of this lifestyle in perspective. Whether it’s trying one new Paleo recipe this week or tracking down some hard to find pasture-raised meats, it’s a personal challenge that I WANT to achieve.

It’s a constant work-in-progress to balance the things we want-to-do with the things we have-to-do, but thinking consciously about the choices I’m making for myself and my family are guiding me toward a healthier mindset while being kinder to myself.

photo: courtesy of Google images

The Mommy Meltdown

I can safely say that I avoided a dreaded Mommy Meltdown this morning. Hopefully, you are familiar with this term, and I am not alone and vulnerable in sharing how it feels when life gets so overwhelming and frustrating that I just lose all patience and any sense of calm and get….well, not a lot of fun to be around. I’ll spare you the details and just hope you understand how trying to exist in an exhausted/stressed/overworked state takes only a pouty-faced look from your 7-year-old send you into a full-blown “I cannot do this for one more second” kind of state.

This morning I won the battle with myself. I avoided screaming at the children. I didn’t even have to call and vent to my husband or best friend. I just dealt with it and moved on. I was so proud of this feat that I decided to do an entire post on what I consider the tremendous act of self-sacrifice that it takes to stifle a Mommy Meltdown.

After getting both girls to their destinations (school and therapy), I took a walk and began thinking about all of the things that led up to my anxious and fragile state this morning. There were certainly plenty of things, just as there always are. Your list may look similar, but in the last 24 hours, I’ve dealt with: a surprise insurance bill for supposedly paid therapy, seasonal allergies and crankiness from both children, my husband traveling AGAIN, slicing my right thumb on a mandolin and the annoying bandage that comes with the tender wound, not to mention dogs, meals, laundry, homework, and activities.

What I reminded myself on my walk isn’t necessarily “Paleo”, but just a life lesson that I’ve learned about managing my stress level and my personal health over the last few years. Dealing with all of the above junk isn’t really fun. It’s a pain in the butt….but it doesn’t have to make me feel miserable. I determine what makes me feel miserable and what makes me feel like I’m doing the best for my family. Simply, I am in control of my thoughts, and this is an especially powerful message that I say to myself when I’m having to deal with lots of the pain-in-the-ass stuff.

This is exactly what I practiced this morning when the pouty-faced look was just about to send me over the edge. I went upstairs (where my children were NOT) and realized that all of the negativity from yesterday’s events had flowed over into my mood this morning. When I had that ONE more thing to DEAL with, I felt like I was losing control of everything. It took tremendous self-control and self-discipline to walk away from a situation that was clearly getting under my skin, but I did it and it worked. I got control of my thoughts. I also made my bed and took a few deep breaths. When I felt better, I went back downstairs and dealt with what else needed to be done before getting out the door.

When I had a moment to myself, I took my walk, listened to Paleo Solution #125 on my ipod, and felt a little lighter knowing I only had to deal with the meltdowns of others, instead of my own, for the remainder of my day.

illustration: courtesy of Google images

Courage: Paying It Forward

A few weeks back when I did this post on food addictions, I mentioned that I would share my tips with you how to embrace being the crazy mom who doesn’t feed your kids Goldfish crackers like everybody else does. I’ve had many thoughts stirring in my head since then trying to figure out a way to write about how hard is it to be different from other parents, but how important it is to be true to yourself and the desire you may have to move forward on your Paleo journey.

I hadn’t put any words to paper on this particular post, mostly due to a lack of time, but also because I wasn’t really inspired to do it. Yesterday I became inspired by the post below from fellow Paleo bloggers, Stacy and Matt of Paleo Parents. They have a successful blog and cookbook and have been on a crusade to help other families achieve the success they have had. Since beginning their Paleo journey, Stacy and Matt have lost 200 pounds between them and their kids have seen tremendous benefits in their overall health and behavior.

 http://paleoparents.com/featured/the-fattest-people-in-paleo/

What I love about their blog is how courageous and truthful they are about their journey. They bravely share their before and after photos, as well as areas of their mental and physical health where they still struggle.

With courageous and truthful actions comes the risk of vulnerability. For Stacy and Matt, their honesty left them open to harsh comments and criticism on their weight and health status. Matt writes openly about this in the above post and shares how he and Stacy accept the risks of hurtful words with the sharing of their story.

I can certainly agree that it takes big acts of courage to be a Paleo blogger. Sharing personal information and photos about your children and yourself is hard to do, even when you believe in a cause with all of your heart. Like Stacy and Matt, I am willing to share our family’s story because I want others to feel the results that we have. The warm comments that come through this blog give me more courage to continue to share our journey and embrace any risk of criticism or negativity, so please keep the comments and questions coming.

I honestly feel like the reasons that parents like Stacy and Matt and myself share our stories openly is because we have learned to practice small acts of courage everyday by living Paleo. The world would be a better place if we all accepted each other as parents and didn’t pay so much attention to what we’re feeding our kids, but that’s just not the case. Just bringing an apple and some coconut chips to swimming lessons opens the door for other parents to ask what your child is eating and why. Bringing a gluten-free treat to a birthday party can bring questions and some looks of concern.

So today I’m paying it forward and asking you to embrace those times where you may be at risk for criticism or questioned for your food choices and push through it. I can speak from experience when I tell you that it gets easier to answer the questions about why your kid has a different snack at a playdate or school function. It gets easier to talk to your pediatrician about the changes you’ve made to your child’s diet. It gets easier to explain to another mom why your child doesn’t eat gluten or even whole grains.

When you begin to own your journey and speak your truths, your passion becomes contagious and the information you provide becomes powerful. These days when I’m asked how we knew Charlotte had a gluten intolerance or why we cut out grains, my straight up answer is “It improved her Autism.” These words are hard to say out loud in a casual conversation at ballet lessons or a waiting room, but they are making a lasting impact on the person I’m speaking to, and they give me the courage to continue to embrace our journey and speak our truths.

So, wherever you are in your Paleo journey, please continue to be courageous like Stacy and Matt, let go of the expectations of others, and own what works for you and your family.

 

photo: courtesy of Google images

A Gift to Myself

Finding an old writing entry is a little bit like finding a lost treasure. Coming across my own words and hearing my own voice can often pull me out of an unwanted emotion or the depths of anxious thoughts like nothing else can. I came across this today…it’s an old entry for the Las Madres newsletter (my local Mom’s group) on the topic of Time for Myself. Reading it today really helped me put things in perspective and again recognize the importance of taking care of my own needs. While the Paleo Lifestyle has clearly been my base for better health, it’s important for me to remember other experiences and components that have guided my journey.

Here’s a little background–this was in August of 2009. Charlotte was a year old and while she was struggling with Sensory Dysregulation, we were not aware of it and had not begun the Paleo diet or any other intervention (you’ll notice this in the chicken nugget reference).  

Time for myself….

Today I got a pedicure.  This one was different than any pedicure that I have ever received. After my polish was applied and I was left alone on the tan leather bench to dry, I cried.  Well, maybe more than cried…silently sobbed into the blue single-layer tissue from a box next to me.  I went into Lavender Day Spa with the intention of switching my toe nail polish to a more autumn-like hue and became captivated by the solitude and the voice of Ray Charles on the speaker. 

On July 12th of this year, I learned that my dad passed away.  Many of my closest Las Madres friends know that this has been a difficult summer for me. I have been dealing with the death of my father while my mother stayed in my home for 6 weeks, recovering from her ankle surgery (my parents divorced 6 years ago).   It was during this difficult period of time that I began to put my children in daycare 1 day per week and take the time to get through my personal challenges.  It was on one of my sacred Tuesdays that my need to sob became real and public.

I would love to say that PMS or hormones played a part in my emotional overflow, but sadly not.  It was in this quiet and safe place that I opened a hand-written, unfinished letter from my father to me.  Just a few days before the pedicure, my sister, my husband and I traveled to Texas where my dad resided, to retrieve his ashes and become the legal guardians of his estate in a Texas courtroom.  As a shocking gift, the letter given to me was found by one of dad’s closest friends.  In the letter, my dad granted me permission to let go of any angry feelings I still held toward him and to use his mistakes to grow as a person and be the best I could for my girls.

One of my friends suggested that I read the letter once and then place it in the drawer with other important documents in file called “Dad”.  While the burying of this letter and my feelings has been tempting, I know that the healthiest action for myself and my family is to come to terms with his death and the fountain of emotions that have followed. 

Is this feat possible with a 19-month-old who climbs like Spiderman or a 4 ½-year-old that asks “Why?” to just about everything? Where in my day between nuking chicken nuggets and folding endless baskets of clean laundry is there time to properly acknowledge my feelings and grieve my parent?  Yes, his death was messy and so is my grief.  Do I save my outbursts and pouring over his letter for my children’s naptimes and bedtimes? Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop so I can grow and learn and be a better parent than my father was to me.

In order for me to answer to my father’s dying wishes and heal from this pain, I need some time away from my children.  Most of us may think of time for ourselves as a luxury.  Grocery shopping without screaming, a massage at Splendid Foot, or the irresistible monthly Mom’s Night Out are any mom’s necessary vices.  However, my experience today at Lavender Day Spa taught me that time for myself is crucial.  Without it, I cannot rest, recover and grow as a human being. Leaving my time to myself to the schedule of my children will only allow me to be as good to myself as the length of my daughter’s nap. 

I encourage us to find deep, meaningful time for ourselves on a regular basis to refuel our souls, feel fulfilled, and find ourselves. Just as we learn from our children, we want our children to learn from us.  We want to be great models of love and respect, and portray the values most important to you and your family. I think most of us would agree that beyond all of these lessons and values, we want to give them our truest and best selves.  Taking time away from our children helps us to reconnect to the values, interests, and new and old experiences that make us who we are while we continue to recreate ourselves.  For if we lose touch with ourselves, we may be writing letters to our children asking them to be better than we were.

~Joy

A Fondness for Facebook

I love the internet, but more specifically, I love Facebook. I used to be annoyed by the hype of it all, but recently I’ve owned it and made it work for me. Each day my News Feed brings me photos of my friends’ cute kids, exciting news about a pregnancy or promotion, and lots of articles that friends share and bloggers write. I dig into each and every one and read and enjoy everything from stories of Modern Motherhood to the ins-and-outs of Insulin Resistance. The shift from Annoy to Love for this social media occurred when I was tired of feeling guilty about my Facebook ritual, and I asked myself what I really wanted to spend this time doing. My answer was a customized space that transformed the infamous Time Suck to a message of permission to myself–Get Inspired to Write.

Thankfully, it’s done just that. This week I’ve been compelled to write this post based on the following stories I found on Facebook:

7 Things You Don’t Know About A Special Needs Parent

and

Tips for Food Allergies: A Child’s Perspective

The topics are varied, but both of interest to me. Clearly, an article that outlines the honest thoughts of a special needs parent is right up my alley. Additionally, a mom’s article from a child’s perspective on the effects of food allergies definitely grabs my attention.

I still very much operate in my teacher brain most days. So hopefully, it’s not completely shocking to you that I would like to create a Venn Diagram (overlapping circles that show how 2 or more things are alike and different) on these articles and find several powerful messages that lie in both of these stories. I loved both of these articles and could not resist the urge to compare and contrast, so here are the similarities that stood out to me:

Both moms take a big personal message and write in a clear and concise way. It’s as if they are saying, “I don’t want to overwhelm you with how important it is for me, so I’m going to break it down into just a few points to help you understand”, i.e. 7 things and 10 tips.

Both moms write from a place of isolation. Maria Lin’s third point is how alone she feels raising a special needs child. Referring to her son, Jacob, Maria shares, “With this honor of caring for him comes the solitude of the role.” Gina uses her child’s voice to drive home the isolation, “Having another friend with food allergies in my classroom or to eat with me at lunch would help me too”.

Both moms are owning their vulnerability. One of my favorite Likes on Facebook is Brene Brown and her amazing work on vulnerability. I see these women sharing and owning vulnerable, but universal thoughts, like jealousy and embarrassment.

So after finding these similarities and displaying this diagram, I would take it a step further with my students…what can we learn from these articles? What can we take with us in our lives?

And maybe it’s because I see so much of myself in both of these writers, the answers are crystal clear to me.

They come from a place of love for their children and a desire to get their truths out.

They are owning it and sharing it and feel brave and empowered enough to educate you.

They don’t want to live in it alone anymore.

They are modern mothers, using the power of social media to bring about changes in opinion and changes in how others see them and/or their children.

They are brave and smart and inspiring for writing their truths. And so are my friends who shared it with me.

Did I mention that I love the internet?

Baby Bliss

I had the tremendous pleasure of becoming an Auntie a few months ago. My younger sister, Jill, had her first baby, a girl. This experience has been so special on so many levels and has really opened my mind and heart to experience motherhood with new eyes.

I’ve never been one to gush over babies, but I find that I can’t hold back around my brand new niece. At three months old, she is looking right at me and her sparkling eyes and toothless smile are so precious I can hardly stand it. Then when my girls jump in to make faces and get her to coo, it’s all over. Jill and I look at each other with an exchange that says, “This is as good as we thought it would be.”

The girls bonding as cousins is amazing and awesome to see. I’m sure we will continue to love their interactions and play, but the most striking and surprising of pleasures is the mutual bond that now exists between Jill and me. When the baby first arrived, Jill looked to me for words of wisdom on things like nursing and sleep patterns. She needed my help and I gave her the simplest advice that I could think of: Don’t stress about the details (We’re good at that). Watch her. Listen to her. Give her what she needs.

With seven years of motherhood under my belt, I used my lessons learned to guide her on her own path of meeting her baby’s individual needs. I held back from giving too many details or instructions and let her have the freedom to learn as a new mother while I eagerly watched and waited. And as I see her learning and knowing her baby like only she can, I feel like a teacher who has seen the brilliant lightbulb in my students’ eyes. I let go of the worry and stress that I have been feeling for her and watch in awe at the perfect, inseparable bond that exists between them. It’s so natural and pure and perfect that part of me aches to have it one more time for myself.

I look to the gifts that are my own children and wonder about the purity and innocence of our bond. It feels very much the same as the early days of infancy, but also so very different. Why? I initially dismiss it as kids growing up. I can’t smother them with love and tenderness all day like I did when they were babies. They must be independent of me, go to school, make friends, etc.

As I sit with these thoughts for a few days, I begin to think about how important the bond is and all of the influences that can get in the way. What our kids wear, how they perform, where they go to school, and certainly what they eat all bring input to the one who owns the job of Parent. It’s easy to become a rule follower and lose track of the needs of the child that were so crystal clear in the beginning.

All of the opinions and expectations of others can cloud the bond that is so naturally created. We become vulnerable and judged and can lose the beautiful gift of our intuition along the way. Accepting my vulnerability and trusting the natural bond when raising my kids gave me strength to face experiences that felt tough and were difficult to accept. Pushing the outside influences aside to make the best choices for my kids led me to a place where I can meet their needs without fear of judgement. 

Through this experience of becoming an Auntie and welcoming this new baby I have learned how precious this bond is. I have also come to realize how blessed I am to be on a path that keeps me bonded to my kids in a way that allows them to grow and change while knowing that their needs will always be met.

I hope to teach Jill so many things about the journey that motherhood is. I want to protect her and baby from the influences that will interfere with the bond they both currently feel. I want to encourage her to be herself and to trust that precious intuition. But most importantly, I want her to understand, like I have, that the most natural thing we can do as mothers is meet our child’s needs, special or otherwise.

A Defining Moment

At the end of every post I write, I find the box on my Word Press Dashboard screen that’s entitled Categories, and I click one of several choices that I’ve created that best fits the content of the post. After finishing the Liver Post a couple of days ago, I noticed that the Categories of Mom’s Health and Stress Management were the most often used. I was somewhat surprised at first, and then I put some careful thought into the content of my posts and the direction of this blog.

When I created this blog several months ago, I would have not predicted more posts about Mom’s Health than Recipes or Sensory Regulation. What I had envisioned is different from what currently exists–but I’m okay with that.

So the post that you are currently reading is about embracing and defining what this space has become. I believe what truly calls us and speaks to us is what guides our writing, speaking, and our day-to-day thoughts and interactions. Underlying and unspoken passion sometimes bubble up in our semi-conscious thoughts until we really hear the words we are speaking or writing and embrace them for what they are. If we are brave, we ultimately accept them as part of ourselves.

I have always known that I was passionate about the current state of motherhood and parenting in general. After my post partum breakdown, I had to recognize the thoughts and expectations that were tearing down my mental state and making me internally sick. Perfectionism and doing-it-all were not working for me, and it is clearly a constant challenge for me to sort through my thoughts and expectations around motherhood, Paleo, and life in general and land in a place that feels safe and healthy.

When I began to have tremendous success in talk therapy, I knew that I had found a great power in using my words. Nothing feels better to me than speaking to you about how I pulled through a difficult day or faced a new challenge. It must be the educator in me that feels like if I can explain it, then I know it and understand it on a much deeper level. Existing on that level of understanding is what keeps me coming back to you and keeps me loving–yes, I said it–loving motherhood these days.

However, I know that the pull of perfectionism and the nagging anxious thoughts are not long gone. It’s just like the bread, sugar, and pasta that tries to find its way back to the table; the temptations of our old ways must be recycled into better choices through the tough lessons we’ve learned. Oh, and how I’ve learned…so many lessons with so much wisdom and knowledge about my personal health, that I cannot hold back.

It is with certainty that I say this–had I been told about Paleo only 2 years earlier when I was pregnant with Charlotte, I firmly believe her issues and therefore this blog would not exist. As a result of this truth, helping other families achieve some level of success from diet change is a burning desire that comes from an internal passion I cannot extinguish, no matter how hard I try. So don’t you worry, you’ll still be reading about our Liver Experiment and everything Paleo.

I’ve grabbed this defining moment and reflected on where we’re headed together, and here’s what I’ve come up with…Life’s tough lessons have brought me to creating this space to share what has worked for me–taking care of myself first. When I’m taken care of, then I can meet the needs of my family. Paleo is the beacon of light that guides my journey.

You don’t need to have a special needs child to like it here. You don’t even need to be eating Paleo or even wanting to eat Paleo. All are welcome. If you embrace Parenting as Life’s ultimate journey and sacrifice, want to make good choices for you and your family, and teach by example, then jump on board. Let’s learn together and make the most of this time with our kids.

Good Morning

 
A few weeks ago I was searching for more quiet time in my day. I was feeling like the days and weeks were bleeding into each other. The school week felt like a blur, and the weekend seemed like just preparation for the same mild chaos that we had just lived through.  My hope was that meditation and a quiet space at some point in my day would slow the days and weeks down, and ultimately I was looking for direction down a path to find the me that I know I have the potential to be. I have had fleeting visions of a calm, creative, and centered self that enjoys the day-to-day moments of motherhood and seems less affected by the day’s challenges.  
 
Chad suggested waking earlier and so he and I could have some time together over a cup of coffee before he left for work at 6am. As someone who savors sleep like a fine wine, I thought this was a terrible idea. I loved hearing the first alarm clock in the early morning darkness knowing it wasn’t for me. And when he would leave, I would slip back into a sweet slumber until the last possible seconds before I needed to be up-and-at-’em to get the kids to school on time. In addition to my desperate need to fill my sleep deprivation tank, I also had a concern that waking before the rooster crows would crash me into the proverbial afternoon wall of exhaustion at 3 pm. With homework, activities, dinner prep leading up to dishes, bath, and bedtime routine, this is just when the day really gets going and does not work so well with a pooped out and cranky mommy.
 
But after years of hearing yoga teachers and other mindfulness experts talk about being centered and present, I decided it was time to set the excuses aside and go find this elusive concept. After a few weeks of gradually setting my alarm clock back to 5:30am, I found that waking up earlier isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. After Chad and I talk about the day’s schedule and the evening’s dinner plan over our morning coffee, he leaves for work, and I have 30 gloriously silent minutes that I use to clear the cobwebs from the old attic that is my mind. And what I find is beyond any benefit of an extra hour of sleep–free, usable, precious, empty space that gives way to feelings of gratitude, peace, and even happiness to carry me through my day. 
 
Truthfully, this early morning time has become crucial to maintaining my mental health as I’ve come off of anti-depressants. After experiencing years of a drug-induced haze that kept me from going too high or too low, I’m pulling myself out of the lows, savoring sweet moments, writing to you about overcoming our challenges, and generally living a better life.
 
Oh…and I should mention that getting up before the sun means that I am fast asleep during the first DVR’d show that we had planned to watch together after the kids are asleep, but somehow I’m okay with that and so is Chad.
 
 
 
Here’s some images from a week of beautiful weather that I am proud to say that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Charlotte and Dana at ballet class.

Charlotte soaking up some Vitamin D at the park yesterday.

The girls and I enjoying salads at Chipotle.                                                                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

A salad for a picnic with lettuce, chicken thighs, grapefruit, radish, and sliced almonds.

Have a great weekend.

Gratitude

Over the weekend, I was dealing with some stuff that made it difficult for me to be grateful for all of the wonderful things I have in my life. I was forced to do some tough mental work and get to the root of some big issues, get in the right frame of mind, and face a new week with a new perspective. Sifting through My Box of Truths and getting mindful and grateful is harder than it should be for me, but after years of practicing mindfulness and a few months of meditation, pieces of the process are finally beginning to happen somewhat effortlessly.

I was standing in the shower this morning, and I heard a noise coming from the bottom of the shower door. I looked down, and I paused for a moment expecting to see Charlotte laying on the floor next to the shower scrunched in a ball, having just woken up, realizing I was no longer in the bed next to her, and finding the cold bathroom rug near me more comforting than a warm and empty bed. Only….she wasn’t there. She hadn’t laid on the floor like that in several months. I took a deep breath of relief that I was not having to deal with that distraction in my sacred alone time, and I only found the dog looking for a drink.

I got out of the shower, dried off, and peeked in my bed to see her sleeping soundly. I could have felt discouraged that she still climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and I could have wondered how much longer this would continue to go on, but instead I smiled and felt thankful for her continued progress. It was then that a door of positive energy and gratitude opened in my mind and heart and a cascade of lovely and positive thoughts tumbled into my consciousness. I was able to recall funny and playful moments that I’ve had with Chad and the girls in the last few days and weeks–laughter, smiles, and a sense of relief–wanting to come to the surface of my thoughts, but being bullied back by the deeper and darker stuff.

On this cold and rainy morning, I thought I would share a few of them with you to get your positive juices flowing.

On Saturday the girls and I were driving to the grocery store and Dana had brought her camera with her. It’s a small digital camera handed down from my mom, and Dana’s favorite thing to do on it is take silly videos of herself and Charlotte. As usual, she was recording herself acting silly and over-the-top. While she played the video back, she showed Charlotte and asked, “How do I look?” Without skipping a beat, Charlotte responded, “Not pretty.” At first I was taken aback and glanced over my shoulder to scold Charlotte for the rude comment about her sister. Only, when I saw her trying to hide a smile behind her little hand and heard Dana feign a tantrum, I let sisters be sisters and marveled (and laughed out loud) at Charlotte’s use of humor during that social interaction.

Last night we were eating dinner at our coffee table. This is considered a special treat, and normally only happens because Chad doesn’t want to tear himself away from a movie or sporting event that he’s been sucked into and move to the appropriate dining table. Chad and I sit on the couch and the girls set the low table and bring playroom chairs into reach it. I often voice my concern about this set up because I worry they don’t have all the tools they need to be supported and eat a good dinner. Nevertheless, I went with it for the sake of something fun and different. Last night I had low expectations for Charlotte to eat a fennel and orange salad that I had made for the second night in a row. Chad must have felt the same way because half-way through the meal, he reminded Charlotte to eat her salad but told her she only needed to eat the oranges. She looked him straight in the eye and said, “Daddy, this is the same salad we had yesterday, and I’m going to eat the orange and this (a radish!) too.” She promptly put both items on her fork and ate them up. It was all we could do to keep from laughing out loud, and we applauded her for a good job with her dinner.

So, I’m walking through my Monday morning feeling much lighter, not only tremendously grateful for Charlotte’s progress, but feeling even more gratitude for my ability to enjoy it.