Friday, December 28, 2007

An imperfect Christmas

We had a lovely holiday, and the gluten-free girl inspired me to post about my imperfect Christmas.

We were not prepared for the holiday, really. December is a very busy month for Pendant Audio most years, and this year was no exception. There is usually a fair amount of rearranging so that none of our productions are released during the week of Christmas as well.

We were also preparing for our trip to Idaho, and my parents were flying in for Christmas as well. So by the 23rd, I was really at peace with the whole situation.

We managed to shop for Clark's Christmas gifts by having a friendly neighborhood babysitter for one evening. That went well. But after

On December 24, we started early, planning on meeting with my family later. My husband had a brilliant idea and thought it would be cute to take Clark to the mall and explain to him that he should choose a gift for each of us.

We got to the mall at around 10 a.m. Clark had a picture with the mall Santa and was very hyper as a result. So I decided to take him around the mall first. Daddy waited in the food court. Clark insisted we go up the escalator.

While we were going up, I asked him, "What kind of present do you want to get for Daddy?" Clark replied, "A yellow one!" I said, "No, well..." and he said, "A blue one?" And then he immediately said, "Ornaments!" but I wasn't sure if he meant for Daddy or if he was just exclaiming about the mall decorations. Undeterred (I mean, he's got autism, which kind of instills a remarkable patience in you about certain things), I went into Hallmark.

He looked at some of the ornaments, I told him not to grab, and I pointed out some of the boxes. I found a Superman ornament and said, "Clark, look! Who's that?"

"Superman!" he said, immediately.

"Do you want to get that for dad--"


OK then. :) I then found a sparkly star (Clark liked that for Daddy too) and a yellow gift bag (also approved).

I then went to American Eagle and picked out a nice shirt for my hubby, because we had a price limit on gifts and because I knew he was sick of all of his shirts.

We returned to the food court, and Daddy took Clark to pick out a gift for me. We then returned home.

My parents ended up not coming over on Christmas Eve, but that was fine. I made mayo and chicken. My sister was sick, and her car was in the shop, and my parents were at her place, so they decided to meet up with us on Christmas day.

That night, I went out on the balcony with my husband and we talked and I drank wine and felt generally celebratory. I poured some wine on the ground for the gods and told the world that this would be our successful year, and I meant it. :)

Christmas Day came, and Clark was VERY EXCITED about it, for the first time ever! This was the first year he really got it. And he got Tinker Toys and Frosty and Rudolph DVDs and train pieces for his train sets and some books.

Then it was time for me and Jeffrey to open our gifts from Clark and to each other. Clark had chosen a bright red glass drinking glass for me from Pottery Barn. Apparently he at first suggestion "a yellow present" was the same for me, too. :)

Then my husband gave me a beautiful Teavana tetsubin teapot. I was absolutely stunned...and mad that he disregarded our budget. -_- But he said he just had to get it for me. I love it of course!

My parents came over later, and we opened gifts from them. My sister and mother got $5 gifts and handmade jewelry, my dad got a book set about bars and wines, and my brother got a set of game pens (etch a sketch, operation). They were a big hit. Hooray for creative budgeting. Costco is a wonderful place.

I got some nice things as well -- a nice top, a sweater, $20 for Starbucks, earrings, and money (which will go into the Wii fund).

My stove was scrubbed, but I didn't dust or vacuum. My bathroom was clean, my bedroom wasn't. But we had a very Merry Christmas anyway! :)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Candy canes are evil

I wish I could say that everything leveled out after Clark got an illegal, but it got worse before it got better.

While Clark's behavior started to improve and he started to pull out of the candy cane-induced regression, his health got worse.

He was almost over a cold at the time he ate that candy cane. On Christmas Eve, his nose started running a lot more. On Christmas Day he had a terrible hacking cough.

He was coughing less yesterday, and I think he's past the worst of it, but SHEESH. Everything that could go wrong did. My mom nagged me about giving him cough syrup, but when I looked at the Delsym left over from our pre-SCD days, it had high fructose corn syrup in it. Um, NO. I gave him a spoonful of honey instead.

I was pretty busy through the holiday. I was cooking beef patties or chicken breasts most days. I made mayo. I made meringues, which Clark was very happy to eat, even though I haven't figured out how to make them right yet. And then they don't stay crispy. I don't even know how to store them.

Regardless, we had a fun Christmas Day. We went to the Los Angeles Zoo the day after Christmas, and Clark had a good time there too. He was very happy to see grandma and grandpa and Uncle Bobby and Auntie Cathy.

They are heading home now. I do miss my parents sometimes. Sigh.

I stayed busy. I wrote an audio script on Christmas Day, because as a writer, there is something wrong with your brain where you write when you have to, not when you want to. I'm supposed to get an IUD tomorrow and I'm kind of nervous about it. And next week we're flying to Idaho and I'm REALLY nervous about that.

I also e-mailed a compounding pharmacy near me to ask if they could make my sulfasalazine into a pill that's not loaded with corn starch.

I came across the most interesting little snippet in the Wikipedia entry for sulfasalazine:

Because sulfasalazine and its metabolite 5-ASA are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, it is surprising that the drug is effective against symptoms outside of the intestine. One possible explanation is that, given that ulcerative colitis produces arthritic symptoms, it is possible that, in some cases, the arthritic symptoms are actually a product of unrecognized ulcerative colitis, which is effectively treated with sulfazalazine.

Fascinating. Especially considering that I have NO SYMPTOMS of gut dysfunction. None! And yet, the SCD clearly has an effect on me. The drugs that work for people with UC are working for my rheumatoid arthritis as well.

So for all those people out there thinking, "But I don't have any problems with food!" I posted this for you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Illegal happenings

So, yesterday my son came home from school and told us he'd eaten a candy cane. He said his principal had given it to him, and it was a small candy cane.

I wasn't sure if he was telling the truth or not. Earlier he said he got a candy cane and put it in his backpack, but my husband had checked and there was nothing in there. He then told us he ate it. I assume she gave it to him right before he left school.

We still weren't sure...and then he had explosive diarrhea before bed time. The next morning, there was clear regression. He was humming, and rocking, and getting upset about every little thing. Our friend Alicia came over, and had brought presents for Clark. She told him to get the white one from under the tree, and he had trouble finding it. That's old Clark. The day before his infraction, Clark had been helping me in the kitchen. He said he would get the oil for me, and I told him to bring the darker one. There are two bottles, and the oil color in one of them is slightly darker than the other. He brought it, no problem.

At least he had normal stools Saturday evening.

Now it's Sunday and he's the apartment police. "The coffee pot is done. The dryer is going. You didn't put soap in the washing machine, daddy." He is pointing to things and saying, "What's that?" when he knows the answer. He's chasing the cats and laughing maniacally. And when we send him to bed to sit for the thousandth time, he's already forgotten why he's there. Now he's crawling around the floor in his room, humming.

Sigh. And my husband and I are looking at each other and saying, "How did we put up with him when he was like this ALL THE TIME?"

I managed to do a fair amount of cooking on Saturday. I made a pot of questionable chicken soup (don't try to thaw chicken parts in the pot -- that's my advice to you), a big jar of ketchup, a pan of almond butter brownies, six chicken breasts that I cut up and froze after cooking, a pan of hamburger patties, and a pan of egg bread, which I ate. I ended up with another bad headache but I figured out it was from tension in my neck, from bending forward and cooking.

The headache mostly went away while I was sleeping. I had a dream about vampires and Jack Nicholson.

My parents might be here today, but definitely tomorrow. The apartment is a MESS. Oh well! I've still gotta make more travel food today for whatever we'll be doing tomorrow and the next day with my parents. It'll be a good dry run for our trip to Idaho in January. I'll have no computer access for four days. Now that's scary!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Italian chicken that wasn't really all that great

So, I was cooking again tonight and I thought I would try to be fancy.

I put together a pan of chicken breasts, added onion and garlic, and then poured half a large can of tomato juice on them. I then added some oregano and basil.

I took the other half of the can and put it in a small saucepan. I added onion and garlic to that pan as well, along with oregano and basil. I then set the heat to medium and put a lid on it, slightly ajar.

So the chicken was done about an hour later. I turned off the saucepan after about 45 minutes.

Well, the chicken was just swimming in the tomato sauce, which didn't cook down at all. Boo.

The tomato juice in the pan, though, had cooked down nicely, but there was really only enough for two chicken breasts, three if you were stretching.

Hm. OK, so next time, less tomato juice in the oven, more tomato juice in the saucepan.

My parents, brother, and sister are visiting for Christmas. So am also racking my brain to come up with recipes for my family, since I figure they're going to at least be eating some breakfasts with us. I am going to try a spinach egg breakfast casserole type thing. Since we're only about halfway through stage 2, our options are limited. I feel like I'm in a neverending episode of Iron Chef, where I have to make dozens of dishes out of the same ingredients. Ha!

Oh, I also made some spaghetti squash. I think I'll dress it up with olive oil and salt and some other spices as yet to be determined.

I'm tired, people. Tired. I write scripts and voice act for podcasts at Pendant Audio if you're interested in that sort of thing. Anyway, I recorded a bunch of lines last night and I've been turning in about a script a week, which is really good, and I still have two more to complete before the new year. Ack.

Oh, and during the first week of January we're flying to Boise, Idaho and then driving two hours to Twin Falls to visit my husband's family.

Yeah, that should be interesting, trying to get SCD food from point A (civilization) to point B (middle of nowhere). Don't worry, I know about what the airlines allow and what they won't. And they won't allow A LOT. *sigh*

I hope your holidays are shaping up to be happy! I'm at peace with the whole dealie-o. I'm not about to beat myself up about any of it at this point. So a very happy holiday to you readers out there. Thanks for being there!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Poor planning

I was determined to have a few marathon cooking sessions over this weekend so that I could concentrate on the rest of the week with a minimum of distraction.

So! Into the kitchen went I on Saturday at about 11 a.m. The morning was spent grabbing a few essentials, including a few new canning jars, hamburgers, chicken breasts, and such.

Two batches went into one of my newly purchased Kerr jars. Hooray for mayo!

All did not go according to plan, however. I had some trouble separating the yolks from the whites and ended up wasting an egg or two that way. Since mayo requires yolks only, I ended up with a bunch of whites.

Self, thought I, I will try to make meringues.

So I whipped up the egg whites, added less honey due to the immense amount in the recipe from the Pecanbread site, a little vanilla, and I had a shiny fluffy mass of meringue. Yay.

I spooned it into a large Ziploc bag and cut the corner off to pipe them into little piles of what looked like white angel poop, for I am fancy.

And then I set the oven at around 200 degrees, and stuck them in there.

I fed Clark my last hamburger for lunch and there was no more leftover food, which meant there was nothing for me to eat. I made a batch of ketchup and got that packaged up in my second Kerr jar. Two hours later, at 1 p.m., I checked the meringues. They were not dried out.

I took a little nap. At 2 p.m., they were still not done. Finally I jacked up the heat on the oven to 300 and 20 minutes later, they were closer to done, but not really, so my first batch of meringues was not a success at all.

I was also in a low blood sugar rage and nobody wanted to be around me. I scraped up some of the meringue substance and ate it off the sheet, and perked up. I fed a few to Clark who thought they were the bees knees. Guess I'll have to try those again sometime.

I tossed a pan of hamburgers and a pan of chicken into the oven. Those were done at around 3:15, and I finally got to have lunch along with my migraine. Boo.

And that was my Saturday disaster. *sigh* At least Clark got to have chicken salad for dinner, which he loves.

On to Sunday!

I made Clark and I carrot pancakes for breakfast.

Clark was very happy to polish off, oh, nine of them or so. And then I told him he couldn't have any more so I could eat something. Sheesh.

No mother, he's not starving. I swear.

We then went to Ikea, which was buckets of fun as usual. I got a $2 frying pan, a $5 package of food storage containers, and Swedish coffee. Oh, you Swedes. I love your sense of style, your commitment to environmental responsibility, and your sassy food choices. Jeffrey picked up some Christmas gifts for Clark on the sly. Clark loves their little wood train sets.

Then, home again. I was all about soup today. I had put some bags of chicken parts in the fridge to thaw. Jeffrey informed me in the morning that one of them had sprung a leak. Why not, I love salmonella in the morning.

Anyway, I put on a big ol' pot of chicken soup to boil. Then I decided to play with butternut squash. Jeffrey had oh so helpfully peeled a big one for me.

So I put four pounds of butternut squash, about 1 1/2 sweet onions, and 1 pound of peeled and cored apples chopped up in a soup pan. I added 10 cups of water.

Then I sat down and cried as every muscle in my right arm was hurting from chopping up all of that. Whee. Hey, at least my wrist wasn't too bad, which was a miracle.

I simmered the squash soup for about an hour and a half. Then I pulled out every bit of the onion and processed the soup through my blender in batches.

The first batch had about half the squash and all of the apples. I added 1/2 tsp of ginger and 1/2 tsp of salt to that batch and ate that with Clark.

Too much ginger! Clark didn't like it. Oh well.

The second batch, which was the rest of the squash, I processed with 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt. This tasted better, but still a bit bland. Also the onions were a bit too strong I think.

So I will work on that more before I post a recipe. It was great fun and delicious anyway. Hooray.

Next I made two pans of egg bread, and they really weren't dried out enough, but oh well. Into the baggies they went for Clark's lunch tomorrow.

I then made a pan of almond butter brownies. I seem to be tolerating them now, yay! I ate three of them and nothing bad happened. I had stopped at Whole Foods to get another jar of almond butter, and they were totally out of the cheap brand. That made me mad, until I opened the pantry and saw a jar that I had apparently forgotten existed. Um. Yay!

And then my chicken soup was done at about 5 p.m. I let it sit on the stove until 7, and separated out the chicken and I still burned my fingers. Blah.

But I had a great haul of food. I have a biggish container of squash soup, two big containers of chicken soup, a small amount of chicken salad that I'll be eating at lunch today, some almond butter brownies, egg bread, and I still have a decent amount of mayo and ketchup to last me the week.

I did a bunch of other stuff over the weekend and still somehow feel relaxed. It's interesting. For the butternut squash soup, I peeled two apples. It took me like five seconds and I didn't even think about it being odd or too much work. Huh. Old me would have definitely thought it was a pain. I probably would have whined about it too. Hmm.

So that is a rundown of another SCD weekend for you. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Out of the kitchen

This week has been going really well. All my cooking on the weekend paid off, and I have hardly done any cooking at all.

Clark really likes hard boiled eggs. He has two for breakfast in the mornings. If I could make some carrot pancakes in advance, he could have some variety, too.

The weird thing is...I think I miss it. I miss being constantly in the kitchen.

I keep thinking more about recipes. I never considered myself a real foodie, but maybe I am. Or all the time in the kitchen is converting me.

I was raised in the midst of cooking and food. My grandmother was half Italian, and her mother before her came over from Italy. She and her husband departed Calabria on a boat and crossed the oceans, 100 years ago.

I wonder what that was like, being young, making that journey. It must have seemed like a fantastic adventure. My great grandmother taught herself English from watching television. They didn't speak Italian around their children because they wanted to be sure they would fit in.

But my great grandmother brought her heritage along with her, recipes that have now been passed down through the generations. Her Easter bread is made by my family every year. I have been told that all Italian families have their own recipes. I haven't participated in that tradition since my gluten intolerance popped up a few years ago, and that does make me sad sometimes. It used to be a grand competition, where we would all taste each other's and decide whose was the best that year. My grandmother's salad dressing is legend in its simplicity. Only a few of us know how to make it right.

Until I was 10 years old, we lived downstairs from my grandmother. Since I was apparently an escape artist, I would leave our apartment in the middle of the night, climb up the stairs, and sleep on the doorstep of my grandmother's apartment. She would hear me and let me in. Over the years, I spent many hours in her kitchen. When we got older, she would invite each of us for dinner, like a small party, to eat with her and my auntie Karen. And of course, I would inevitably say, "Grandma, I'm full," and she would have none of it. "No you're not!" she'd say.

I remember her hands most of all. Her fingers were short and almost stubby, but she always had her nails done nicely, as was her makeup. Her wedding ring had been reworked into a fantastic cocktail style, and she always wore it. She bustled around the kitchen, and always had cookies in the cookie jar, glass with a metal lid that clanged suspiciously if you tried to sneak one. She kept her keys in the kitchen in a milk glass chicken. Every Wednesday was pasta night.

I'm told that I would sit near her while she made salad when I was very small, and she would feed me little pieces of the vegetables she chopped up. One time she gave me a piece of onion, and I ate it, no complaints, making no strange faces.

She was always there with a smooch and a tissue tucked up her sleeve for whatever emergency would arise. She wiggled our baby teeth loose when we were about to lose them because my mom thought it was too icky. :) And she was always adamant that our hands be clean before dinner. She would smell them to make sure we used soap.

We would have sleepovers on the couch, or on the spare bed in my grandmother's room, or we'd cuddle up with auntie Karen in her big bed. I would have tea for breakfast and feel very grown-up.

Christmas was always a big event. There were lists and lists of items to bake. My mother and my grandmother would both be in the kitchen, making tons of cookies, brownies, spice cake, nut cups, pfefferneuse, and more. We'd frost cookies and sneak bites of everything while packaging it all into tins with waxed paper in between the layers. We carried them down into the basement until Christmas, pounding our way down the creaky staircase, and my mother would yell that we sounded like a herd of elephants.

Christmas Eve was the big event. We'd all exchange gifts in the wood-paneled basement, which had a bar and plenty of space for treats. The large freezer served as another table as well. I always remember my mother buying herring in a jar for our uncle Kenny, who would sit at the bar eating it with crackers. I wrinkled my nose at it. The space heaters would be humming and we'd all sit around, opening gifts, and eating and talking and laughing until it was late.

It's strange, as you get older and people start to fade from your life, how those memories are still so clear and sharp. In my mind, my grandmother is eternally black-haired and smiling, as is my aunt Karen, my cousins are young and childless, my siblings are round faced and teasing. It's only with a shock that I realize that many of my relatives have passed on, that my remaining relatives are much grayer and more wrinkled, that my brother and sister are adults, and I am now 30 years old and have left much of my confused childhood behind.

I never questioned the love of my family; it was absolute and unchanging, unlike what most people experience. And now I am 2000 miles away from all of them, and sometimes family feels very far away.

Now that I am on SCD, my mother has talked with me frequently about Christmas. My parents are flying in with my brother to visit me and my sister. The question foremost on her mind? "What can you eat?" she says, her voice filled with concern.

And I smile, and explain that these early stages of limits are only temporary. I can tell she's not convinced. How can she be? She was raised to believe that cooking is an act of love, an act of God, that nourishing the body is nourishing the soul. But that's all right.

So was I.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More behavior gains!

Today my son's bus driver had told my husband that he wanted to find a bigger car seat-like thing for our son to sit in on the school bus. My son is very large for his age, and Clark has trouble fitting in the current one.

We had figured the reason he was in a seat like that was because he had gotten up and run around when he wasn't supposed to.

Today, though, the bus driver told my husband that if he couldn't find a bigger seat, he was OK with Clark just sitting in a regular seat. "He seems a lot better now," said the bus driver.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend cooking -- chicken soup and more

You will save yourself a lot of sanity if you cook a lot on the weekends. And boy, did I cook.

On Saturday I made a huge pot of chicken soup. The recipe is mentioned in the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle.


Chicken legs and thighs, about 4 pounds or so
Ten peeled carrots or 1-2 pounds of baby carrots
1-2 onions
garlic cloves
4-5 stalks of celery

Get a big pot and fill it halfway with the chicken parts. Add peeled or baby carrots, chopped onion, garlic cloves, and celery. Fill pot with water until it almost covers the contents of the pot, but not quite as more water will cook out at the start.

Put a lid on it and simmer for 4 hours. You'll need to check it and add more water as it cooks.

After making the soup in this way, I added a teaspoon of sea salt and a teaspoon of sage. Next time I'll try adding the sage ahead of time, but spices sort of vanish when you cook something for four hours, so I'm not sure if it will make a difference. I ended up with a lot more chicken than necessary, so I separated out some of it to use for chicken salad later in the week.

On Sunday, I did some more marathon cooking. First, I cooked three chicken breasts in the oven with olive oil, salt, sage, onion and garlic. I let it cool, shredded it, and put it in the freezer. It was yummy, and I know, because I ate some out of the pan. :) I would have cooked more but that was all the chicken breasts I had left.

I also cooked a pan of hamburgers with the chicken. I get the frozen ground sirloin patties at Costco. They are a very good deal and don't have additives. I put them on a cookie sheet lined with foil and put garlic and onion on top of them. I discarded the onion pieces after cooking because you can't eat them until later on in the diet.

Then I reduced the heat in the oven and made another pan of almond butter brownies for Clark's lunches. I ate one, to see if it would bother me. It didn't seem to, but I didn't feel that wonderful after eating it, either.

Next was two pans of egg bread. I cut that up and stowed it in baggies for Clark's lunches next week.

I also made mayo! Hey, remember how I promised you a photo? Well here it is! Don't say I never gave you nothin'.

Hopefully it won't taste sucky. I used light olive oil, but I fear this light oil isn't as light as the other light olive oil I got before. We'll see.

And then after that, I boiled up two pounds of baby carrots for lunches, too. Then I packaged up some chicken soup and baby carrots for my lunch on Monday.

I want to make ketchup again but I don't have any jars. Oh, if you want to buy individual Ball jars or something like it, go to a craft store like Michael's. I can't use a whole case, so I think I will go there and grab a couple for stuff like this.

Friday, December 7, 2007


So Clark has, once again, caught a cold.

As he was eating yesterday he said, "I'm sick a lot."

Well, he's clearly *aware* of it, where before we didn't really know. It's so cool to have thoughts and feelings popping out of him on a regular basis now.

He is bringing home interesting drawings from school. He brought a wonderful police officer, with a hat. He made a holiday card, with a snowman drawn on the front. The snowman had large, orange ears and was adorable.

I guess I'll have to post a picture, huh? OK, I will. Later. I will!

I'm at the point in stage 2 that I suspect a lot of people get to. I think at this point, you are tired of the foods you've been eating, but you are also overwhelmed by the thought of adding more. I mean, let's face it, there's a LOT of food to test. Meh.

So today I made some pancakes with canned wild salmon and eggs. It was passable, but not good enough to put up here proudly or anything. I wanna mess with seasonings. OK, fine, I'll share it. They're not bad, just not great. You know?


2 cans wild salmon, drained
5 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

Mix, fry, eat. My son liked them and so did I, you just don't really want to eat a lot of them. I'm not saying that because there's some crazy side effect, I'm just stating the fact of the matter. I didn't want to eat a lot of them. :)

Tomorrow, mad shopping. I am on a quest for SCD legal vanilla, and we will be buying lots of food. Also a heating pad, and I need to find a thermometer for I will be making goat yogurt! Whee! Oh crap, I have to order the legal probiotic for the yogurt! Better do that.

Natural, no sugar added applesauce has saved my life and my sanity. You have to make choices on SCD to buy products from time to time rather than make them from scratch. This was absolutely the right decision on the applesauce. And I have about 12 jars of it sitting on the floor in my kitchen. You think I'm kidding. Well, I'm not! A photo here would be proof, but alas, I am tired and also lazy.

Also, I think the melatonin my son is taking is SCD legal. Woo!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Recycling is bad (kind of)

OK, so that almond butter jar I salvaged for ketchup?

Well, I painted the floor with that ketchup, because I am a klutz. SMASH.

Honestly, it was the worst glass breakage I've ever seen. It just shattered into paper-thin microscopic fragments everywhere. I spent 20 minutes carefully cleaning up glass. Booooooo.

I think I'll try an actual Ball jar or something.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


So I finally took the plunge and made SCD ketchup. And dayum, it's pretty good!

I decided I would recycle a jar! So I took an empty almond butter jar and scrubbed and scrubbed to get that really sticky label off it it. Finally it was all shiny and clean. Hooray.

I then took a small saucepan and added the ingredients of doom. Ketchup is red, like lava, and dangerous as all tomato products are when heated.

Here's the recipe I used:


3 cups tomato juice
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp honey

Mix the tomato juice, salt, and vinegar. Simmer until thickened. Add the honey and complete the cooking. Pour into a jar and refrigerate.

Now here's the part where I give you tips, because ketchup is evil. It's evil because you can't really simmer it unless you enjoy getting burned. You can't really leave the lid on, either, because you need it to reduce, and it will do that faster with the lid off.

So I started it off with medium heat. I then stirred continuously. It should be bubbling while you're stirring it.

If it's at a good temperature, you can stir it and it can bubble and it will only spit at you if you do something like slow down, get distracted, or try to take a bathroom break. So go to the bathroom before you start!

Switch hands every so often if you get tired. If you slow down too much, your sauce will spatter onto your hands, which is about like being snapped with a rubber band. This is a sign that you should hop to and pay attention.

It will seem like it is never getting thicker, and then in 20 minutes, it will start to look vaguely ketchup-like. At this point, it will be thicker, and so you will probably have to turn the heat down a little more. You'll be able to tell because your rhythm with the stirring won't be working anymore, and you'll get splattered with hot tomato justice.

Turn it down and keep stirring for another 15 minutes or so. You're done when you say so, because you're the cook, and YOU make the rules. Seize your power. Feel your anger. It is your destiny...wait, that's the Emperor.

This is the result. It's a bit thinner than regular ketchup, but it is surprisingly tasty on scrambled eggs. And hamburgers. And chicken. It is made of yum. And tomatoes.

Green bean conversation

Yesterday, I saw that Clark had come home with a spork in his lunch box. I was surprised, since we have never sent him with utensils, figuring he'd just rather eat with his hands. Of course, this was not always so. Like many autistic kids, Clark had a serious aversion to touching anything slimy, wet, or greasy.

But not anymore!

Going gluten free really helped him with that at first, and he continued to progress through casein free, and now on SCD. He has almost no aversion to touching any kind of food, although cleaning out the pumpkins at Halloween did give him pause. But then he dove in. :)

So I held up the spork and asked him, "Clark, why do you have this?"

And he thought and thought. And he said, "It's for the beans. So I don't make a mess. At school." Yay! Some great conversation progress, there.

We usually send him with a baggie of cooked green beans, assuming he'd eat them with his hands, but I suppose a teacher gave him a spork to eat them. Aww. :)

Our toxic world

Don't you think it's kind of strange that so many people seem to have chronic illnesses, that autism is on the rise in a big way, that conditions such as multiple sclerosis have no known cause or cure?

Did you know that there are many diseases just like MS, that have known causes, and that MS is just a catch-all term for demyelination without a known cause?

And what about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Nobody knows what causes that, either.

How can "we don't know why this happens" be a valid diagnosis of any condition?

So, what could be causing all of this? Well, for one, our environment is full of nasty toxic chemicals that are absorbed by everyone and everything. We're just now hearing the news about how nearly 25 percent of toys now being tested contain lead (try for safer options).

As time goes on, I think exposure to all of these toxins can cause a chain reaction of events that ends up with you being miserable.

But chemicals aren't the only thing that can start your body down the road of being constantly out of whack. Dust, pets, seasonal allergies, those chemicals we use for cleaning, pesticides in food -- all of this stuff will also contribute to your allergic load.

See, there's only so much that our bodies can take. That's why, for example, I noticed that when my seasonal allergies went into overdrive, so did my rheumatoid arthritis. I found that if I cut back to more non-allergenic foods when my allergies were going nuts, my arthritis would calm down, as well.

So what's affecting you? Heavy metal poisoning, chemicals in your bedding and sheets, particulate pollution from semis on freeways...some people are more sensitive than others, of course, but we're bathing, sleeping, dressing, and driving in a toxic sludge of chemicals each and every day. Because I live in California, there's even a sticker on my car saying it contains cancer-causing chemicals.

What does that have to do with gut dysfunction, you might be asking?

When your body is constantly overwhelmed with all of this crap, your body is undergoing a lot of stress. Your immune system is trying to fight off a bunch of stuff, and it gets confused (autoimmune disease) and overwhelmed (immune dysfunction).

So you end up with an exhausted system that can't fight off the most basic infections. Eventually you get sick with something you just can't fight off by yourself.

Then your doctor prescribes antibiotics. Antibiotics can be great, when necessary and not overused, but they kill good and bad bacteria alike. And when the good bacteria isn't replenished immediately, bad bacteria step in to fill the void.

As your condition progresses, more good bacteria die as more bad bacteria fill in the void. And most of the good and bad bacteria that reside within you are in ... the digestive system, the heart of your immune system.

When the bad bacteria thrive, they damage your digestive system further. The system becomes so damaged, that larger particles of food start to leak through the barrier that's supposed to not let them through until they're good and digested.

That's leaky gut syndrome. It can also be caused by or aggravated by gluten intolerance. In sensitive individuals, gluten tears and rips its way through your intestines. It's called the "protein with teeth" for that reason.

When these bits and pieces of food leak through your intestines, your body has to do something with them. It tries to use them, and so it starts sticking them into your tissues wherever it can.

In certain individuals, your immune system gets suspicious of these little not-digested food particles, and eventually, something triggers your immune system to attack them. Unfortunately, while attacking these "invaders" your body starts destroying your own tissues in the process. That is how, it is postulated, leaky gut syndrome can start an autoimmune disease.

A large percentage of autistic kids have gut dysfunction. I know my son has gut dysfunction and immune system dysfunction. For example, as a reward for my son's good behavior, we would take him to the play area in a local McDonald's. If he received seven good behavior stickers, he got to go play.

And EVERY SINGLE TIME (I kid you not), he would get sick within 24 hours. Every time. Why? Because his body is out of balance and working in overdrive.

My son was born toxic, as are most of us today. He was exposed to toxins through me. He was born with a ventricular septal defect, a small hole in his heart. These defects have been linked to maternal exposure to air pollution. Did it contribute to his condition today? I don't know, but it's interesting, you know?

So why don't they do more studies on it? Because it's not profitable. Medicine is a big big big big business. Studies are done on drugs, because drugs make money.

Go to the Arthritis Foundation web site. In the past, the warnings were that "fad" diets were dangerous. Now, on the "alternative" section of the web site, it begrudgingly devotes a few lines to possible food intolerances.

I'm taking the much-hailed Enbrel. The package insert lists risks such as heart failure and lymphoma.

Oh, but click on over to the sponsors page:

Abbott, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Wyeth. The page is a who's who of the biggest drug companies in the world.

Of course the Arthritis Foundation will say diets are dangerous. Don't want to make the sponsors mad, now do we?

I saw a fascinating video about how toxic our environment is, and how consumerism is at the heart of why our planet is being trashed at a fantastic rate. We are all contributing to this mess, every day. It's about 20 minutes long; you can view it here:

Not a single doctor I've ever seen has thought that food, allergies, or our toxic environment just might be contributing to a chain reaction that seems to be at the heart of "modern" diseases we are seeing today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Are you happy?

I got to thinking about how, when you have a chronic disease, you put up with far more from your own body than you would put up with from anyone else.

I mean, think about it honestly. If you went through the list of your symptoms, with whatever chronic disease you might have, and you described them to someone who was NOT constantly ill, do you think that person would consider your condition to be acceptable?

I'm going to bet not.

I think about how I spent a year -- a year! in agony. I think about how I would sit on my bed, about to call the doctor's office, because I was in too much pain to wait until the next appointment. I think about how I would call, feeling defeated, and I would try not to cry as I described the pain I was in, how the medication wasn't working.

I think about how when it was time to go in and get my son out of his crib in the morning, that I would think that there was no way I'd be able to lift him. I think about how I would lie in bed after waking up and I would feel how stiff I was, joints throbbing, arms and legs feeling like they were just too heavy for me to get out of bed.

I think about how if I grasped something too hard, or turned a knob too quickly, I'd see stars and everything would swim in my field of vision.

I think about how I was always so tired. So, so tired. I think about how foggy my thought processes were, and how I just couldn't concentrate, or remember anything.

Brain fog was the first sign I recognized in the medical papers I started reading. It is a symptom of gluten intolerance.

But whenever people asked how I was doing, I'd just whisper that I was fine. I lied to other people, and I lied to myself.

I guess the worst part of all of it is that the doctor who was treating me genuinely was doing the best she could do.

My new doctor summed it up best. She gave me my recommendation for a new rheumatologist. I asked her about him.

"He doesn't believe in diet," she said. My face fell a bit, and she added, "None of them do."

I already knew that, I guess. It's just hard to hear.

So every time I see a new rheumatologist, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells when I tell them that dietary changes really helped me. I guess I figure they're going to yell "WROOOOOOOOOOOOONG!" like Lex Luthor in Superman Returns or something.

They never do, though. They put on a poker face, and say nothing.

But I tell them anyway. Because if even one doctor takes what I say to heart, maybe...maybe something will happen.


The medical community is fully 20 years behind any research currently being done. Gut dysfunction is considered to be the last great frontier, and it is probably the part of the body that is the least understood by modern medicine. A thyroid specialist told me that. He told me that his son had recently developed rheumatoid arthritis. I told him he should seriously consider looking into dietary changes to help him, and I think he took it to heart.

So here I am, trying to let people know that it's not all hopeless. Someone told me that, you know. I told a few people that dietary changes helped me on a rheumatoid message board. One person laughed at me. He told me, "You just haven't accepted that this disease is going to ruin your life."

I didn't believe that.

Studies show that about 50 percent of people who are diagnosed with RA are completely disabled within 10 years of diagnosis.

I was going to be one of those people. In fact, I was going to apply for disability. But I thought, "I'll probably be denied. I'll try this diet thing in the meantime."

It was only a week before Thanksgiving and I tried it. I didn't care about the holidays, I didn't care about any of that. I wasn't going to throw a fit about not being able to have cookies and pie. I was in too much pain.

On the fourth day, I woke up with a clear head. The swelling in my hands had dramatically decreased. I smiled, for the first time in as long as I could remember. I looked at my husband and said, "HI!" I felt like I hadn't seen him, really SEEN him, in ages.

I was getting better, for the first time since I'd been diagnosed. And I had something new and precious and shiny that Christmas.


Allergy testing

People wonder at times why I tell them to run elimination diets. Some people have told me, "But I've been tested. I'm not allergic."

Well, here's the thing. Allergy tests are not perfect. There are also several types of allergy tests.

The most common type of allergy test is the IgE test. The IgE test tells your doctor if you are allergic to something. By allergic, I mean that it looks for foods that, when eaten, will cause an anaphylactic reaction that will kill you.

That is what the IgE test will show.

There are a couple of ways of doing the IgE. One is by skin prick testing and another way is by a blood test. Either one will show if you will swell up and die if you eat peanuts, for example. Because these types of reactions are severe, your insurance will cover IgE testing, but not food intolerance tests (IgG testing, which I'll talk about a little bit later).

So my doctor tested me, and I came up undetectable on absolutely everything, except for cats, on which I scored moderately allergic.

My son was also tested for allergies a year ago and scored a big fat zero on everything as well.

My doctor said I should make sure my cat doesn't sleep with me. Well, see, my cat is getting older and thinks I'm his mom, so at night he's permanently attached to my hip. And if I try to keep him out of the bedroom, he will scratch and claw and yowl in order to get to me.

Zack puts the "Duh" in Devoted

Now, you know from reading my journal that I was reacting strongly to gluten. In fact, pretty much all of my out of control inflammation was tied to food. So why doesn't it show up on an IgE test? intolerance is not an allergy.

I can't stress this enough, people. You can be very intolerant to a food, and not allergic to it in the slightest. If I eat gluten, I will not die. But I will probably have an arthritis flare.

So, that's the cool thing about SCD. Not only does it promote healing of your digestive system, but if you use the approach at the Pecanbread web site and introduce foods slowly, you get the best of both worlds. It's an elimination diet, at heart.

The only criticism I have of the initial foods in the Pecanbread protocol (meats and eggs) is that certain people will be intolerant to those initial foods as well. So you may want to try something a little different for the initial diet. Instead of doing chicken, eggs, and beef, I'd suggest wild salmon (only wild!) and/or cod fish, along with the cooked carrots for a less allergenic intro diet.

I'd do the wild salmon/cod fish and cooked carrots for at least three to four days. The next thing I'd add would be the cooked green beans and cooked squash. After a week, I'd start introducing some of the other foods and gauge how I feel. Stick to four days between each food. I introduced eggs later and seemed fine, but I wasn't sure, so I was glad I waited.

The other type of testing you can do is IgG testing. This type of testing will show delayed reactions to food -- intolerances that show up within 2-4 days. It's not totally accurate, but it's pretty good. Keep in mind that IgG testing only works if you are eating the foods in question, so if you are doing an elimination diet, you should wait until you've introduced all the foods you think you might be having problems eating.

My doctor said I would have to pay for IgG testing, because insurance doesn't cover it, or, if I'm not so worried about real numbers, then I could elimination diet. And I'm already doing that with SCD.

No two people are the same, so when you try a true elimination diet, you will be able to pinpoint foods that you personally have a problem with. And at the same time, you will be able to promote healing. Many times, intolerances can be corrected after healing has taken place and good probiotics have been introduced.

Now in the future, if I'm still not sure about some foods after introducing absolutely everything, I can choose to do the IgG test, and I might. But for now, this is more than adequate.

It's no good to just remove a food group and see what happens, because you may have multiple intolerances. So if you have a problem with beef, eggs, and peanuts, and you cut out just eggs, you will still be having a problem with beef and peanuts, but you'll never know unless you cut them ALL out.

The other thing my doctor wanted me to do was to start probiotics. I showed her some of the pages from the Breaking the Vicious Cycle web site, that explains all of the awesome probiotics that are in the yogurt that Elaine recommends you make at home, which has about 700 billion probiotic thingies per cup. My doctor was suitably impressed and said, "If these amounts of probiotics are accurate, then yeah, it looks good."

So, I will be continuing according to plan. Once I get paid this Friday, I'm going to order some Progurt starter, and get going on some goat milk yogurt for both of us. Yay!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Happy birthday, Clark

My little monster turned five years old on Tuesday.

This was, as you might imagine, VERY EXCITING for a number of reasons.

One of the reasons was, of course, cake!

On the morning of his birthday, he asked if there was cake. I told him he would have cake after I came home from work.

Apparently, after I left for work, he asked daddy if there was a cake. Daddy said yes. Clark asked, "Where?" with eyes as big as saucers. Daddy told him it was in the fridge. :)

Well, finally the long wait was over, and Clark got to have his almond butter brownies.

These were VERY GOOD, according to Clark. And then he turned into Mr. Grabby Hands, and I told him NO MORE after he'd eaten two. The end. He then proceeded to take one in his lunch to school for the rest of the week, much to his delight.

I'd talk about how much I love the little monster, and how amazing it is that SCD has transformed our little communicatively challenged kid into a mile-a-minute question asker, but since I was just photoshopping the jello off the wall behind him -_- , I think I'll save that for another post.