How Hollow Is the Sound of Victory….

In the United States, the divorce rate is approximately 50%, but among special needs families, the divorce rate is estimated to be as high as 80%. David and I have been married for 11 years, and we dated for almost 5 years before that. Relationships are not always easy because in a relationship there is another person involved who has his or her own opinions, preferences, personality, habits, personal history and experiences, etc, but in a family where stress runs high, relationships are even more difficult.

David and I have had a stressful last 6 years. We’ve survived a move, a new job, 3 pregnancies, 2 births, 1 miscarriage, cancer, 3 Autism diagnoses, 3 Celiac diagnoses, etc etc etc. I have lost the ability to eat anything that I didn’t prepare myself, the ability to go and participate in many things I used to enjoy, many of my belongings (due to the polyester allergy), my health, and many of the things I used to enjoy doing for recreation have now become something I have to do to keep my family safe. David has watched me (and consequently our lives) morph into a completely different person from the woman he married in a matter of 2 short years. Although all of these stressors have never been able to tear us apart, despite more than a few heated arguments, I do see why so many families are torn apart.

The strain caused by fighting battle after battle for your children is great, even though we are happy to fight them because of the love and responsibility we feel for our children. These battles are also often hard fought and not always won, and sometimes when we do win and finally access the damage, we see that the cost of victory is so very steep (not just financially). Does this mean that the 20% of special needs marriages that survive just get lucky and avoid a few more stressors than the other 80%? I don’t think so.

I have recently been reminded of a conversation I had with an Indian woman I worked for in high school. She had been married twice. The first time her marriage was arranged by her parents in India to a man who later died of brain cancer. The second time she arranged her own marriage (they did not date) to another Indian man living in the United States whose wife had left him. She told me that she felt the most important part of a marriage was a commitment to each other and that if you are both truly committed to that other person, then you will always love them.

I have had many years to think about what she said, and I think she is right. The only thing that can withstand the kinds of battles, stressors, and changes that we have seen in the last several years is the stalwart commitment of two people to stand shoulder to shoulder on the battlefield of life and keep fighting until either you are victorious or you die trying. Given all I have learned in the last several years, I think my favorite wedding vows I have ever heard were the Klingon wedding vows on You are Cordially Invited from Deep Space Nine….“Will you swear to join with him/her and stand with him/her against all who oppose you?” Life is a war full of many, many battles, but “how hollow is the sound of victory without someone to share it?”

About to Go CRAZY!!!!!!!!!

Let me preface this by saying that without a doubt the absolute deepest desire of my heart from the very beginning has been to get my children feeling better. However, let me also say that I always feel a bit overwhelmed once they do actually start feeling better because they have soooooooooo much ENERGY!!!!!! I remember feeling this way about John after we had been gluten free for several months. He went from a very low energy, sleep all the time kind of baby boy to a constantly on the move never took a nap toddler overnight!!

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A picture of John at about 18 months old. He had just started walking a few months before but fell almost every time he walked because he could not hold his feet straight. His hair was very fine and thin, and worst of all, he was so low energy that in this picture he was laying on the table eating his snack because sitting was too exhausting. He would sleep at least 12 hours at night and still take a 3-4 hour nap in the afternoon.

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A side shot I took of John for his doctor at about 2 years old right as we were going gluten free.

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A picture of John with his cousin taken about 6 months after we went gluten free (so about 2.5 years old)…..such a difference in such a short time!!!!!

Now that I am beginning to sort out Jessica’s Fodmaps issues, I am noticing the same kind of thing. She is feeling A LOT better! I can see it in the joy on her face, in the fact that the rocking is 100% gone, in the increase in her constant chatter to me, in her energy, in her hyperactivity, in her “busy-ness,”….. All of the sudden she is feeling better and taking in/dealing with a lot of input she just couldn’t deal with before. It’s only been a few days, but the difference is astounding!!!! I just hope we level out soon before I go stark raving mad from all of her new found energy!!!!! Still….a wonderful problem to have! :-)

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The kids playing out in the ice we got this week!

I’m not sure if you can see the difference or not in this picture, but the difference is a great delight for us to see! How are we accomplishing this? Well….we’ve done: the Yeast Diet, GAPS Diet (and SCD), Elimination Diet uisng IgE/IgG levels, Body Ecology Diet, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, and probably a few others….but right now we are on a no Fodmap diet of wild caught meat, fresh eggs, peanut butter (with nothing added but salt), and rice! Over the next several months we will be adding vegetables and maybe even some fruits back one at a time to determine how much of each one we can tolerate and using what preparation methods. It’s still early, and we have a long way to go. But I am encouraged by the improvements we have already seen that perhaps this was our missing piece of the puzzle. :-)

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A family picture my dad took a couple weeks ago in front of the chicken coop of course!

How to Cook Eggs in Stainless Without Sticking

**As a note, the domain name of my blog will be changing January 26, 2014 to http://www.urbanpioneerwoman.wordpress.com

Since discovering that we have Celiac, I have made an effort to convert my kitchen almost completely over to stainless, glass, ceramic, or re-seasoned stones/cast-iron in efforts to avoid cross-contamination. The other day, I stumbled upon a way to cook eggs in a stainless skillet without any sticking! I figured there had to be a way to do this, since back in the old days I’m pretty sure pioneers didn’t run to their local Walmart for a new tephlon pan… Here’s the trick: 1) Take enough palm shortening (or another type of vegetable shortening or lard would probably work) to melt into a thin layer in the bottom of the pan 2) Once melted, put your eggs in the pan and cook. That’s it!

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It worked like a charm!! We will never buy tephlon again!

A Simple Christmas and Sweet Potato Pie Pancakes

The other day I heard someone on the radio reading Christmas Wishlists from 1913 and 2013. The list from 1913 included items like: oranges, nuts, candy, mittens, books, etc. The radio show hosts were laughing trying to imagine their children’s responses if they received items from the 1913 list. I found this rather interesting because the things mentioned on the 1913 list were very similar to what our children were getting for Christmas this year. Most years David and I make a majority of our gifts, but this year was even more similar to a 1913 Christmas because of our food allergies, fabric allergies, and just all of the medical expenses we had this year.

We started out our holiday season by getting out our Christmas decorations. I had recently gone through them and gotten rid of quite a few in an effort to avoid allergens and to be a little bit more of a minimalist (less to store, etc), so we got out the tree and ornaments (many homemade or handed down from older relatives), the small Christmas village Jessica enjoys playing with, and a few special decorations.

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Lots of good memories on that tree!

Throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas, the kids and I made some homemade Christmas ornaments using some branches from a tree David had cut down in our yard, a woodburning kit David got for Christmas one year, and a few pieces of leather string leftover from making moccasins. I think they turned out rather traditional….and very cute!

a reindeer

a reindeer

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a snowflake

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and a couple presents! (the pinecone to the left with glitter and ribbon was one of the ornaments the kids and I made the year before last…..David contributed last year with some wooden ornaments he turned)

We also made some gingersnap cookies! Usually we make gingerbread boys, but last year we couldn’t make any cookies with our allowed foods. This year we used this paleo recipe (which was EXCELLENT), but we had to make some adjustments…. I had to replace the almond meal with homemade walnut meal. I’ve made walnut meal before, and I did the same exact thing that I did last time. But this time, I ended up with walnut butter….oops! So I didn’t add the oil, mixed the walnut butter with the molasses, and added more arrowroot starch….the dough still looked rather odd….but they turned out REALLY good (even David approved)!!!! We are thinking about making another batch (this time making them into gingerbread men and icing them with homemade powdered maple sugar icing) when we go see my parents!

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Jessica helping me make the cookies in the apron her great-grandmother gave her!

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The finished product!

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Definitely passed the taste test!!

Last night, we had our Christmas Eve (we always do it early so the kids can have time to stay home and play before we start traveling to see family), and we started a new tradition this year! We made each other a gift! David made both of the kids a wooden sword. I made the kids a Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy doll to go with a book I had picked up for them, and Jessica made everyone a beautiful picture and paper sack puppet! I think next year we will all make gifts to exchange with each other. :-)

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Opening their Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy book

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Jessica opening her Raggedy Anne doll!

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Jessica checking out her wooden sword (John is a little slower at unwrapping)

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John trying out his wooden sword! “Arrrggghhh!!!!”

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David was pleased with his safety razor (although we later realized I bought the wrong one so we’ll have to send it back…)

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The gifts Jessica made for everyone <3

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The best picture I could get of John and Jessica dragging their Raggedy dolls and swords through the house!

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A close up of Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy….The dolls are 100% cotton. Their clothes are clothes the kids wore as babies, and I painted their faces on (the rosy cheeks are powdered hibiscus flowers so it actually rubs off).

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And a close up of the kids’ swords!

Then the kids threw some duck feed out for Santa’s reindeer, laid out some gingersnaps and coconut water (that’s all we had in the fridge), and went to bed in John’s room listening to Patrick Stewart’s performance of A Christmas Carol (Jessica has been quite captured with the story of Scrooge this year…I think she’s seen/heard 3-4 different versions of A Christmas Carol this season). <3

This morning we woke up to see what Santa had brought them! John was over the moon about his tin Curious George tea set complete with little wooden tea bags and little wooden tea cookies! Jessica seems to have enjoyed her little wooden stable with horses, and we all ate LOTS of oranges this morning from their stockings!! Santa also left the kids a nice note with a package of candy he had found that the kids could eat!

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What Santa brought :-)

This was followed by some Sweet Potato Pie Pancakes! These are grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free pancakes! I got my inspiration from several websites sharing recipes for plantain pancakes. I experimented with several different methods before settling on this recipe. I tried yellow and black plantains. They had a nice flavor, but they cooked to be rather dark (which my ultra rigid child on the spectrum didn’t like) and were too gooey. I tried green plantains, and their texture was almost exactly what I was going for except the flavor tasted very strongly of plantains…so I borrowed some ideas from my mom’s regular pancake recipe and my regular pumpkin pancake recipe. They turned out really well, except Jessica can’t handle the pumpkin due to her Fructose Malabsorption, so I switched it to sweet potatoes! Even David liked them (although for some reason he didn’t like them with syrup…we still haven’t figured that one out yet)….not bad for my veggie despising husband (he’s actually gotten much much much better over the last 10 years)! The only thing I am dissatisfied with is that the texture turns gritty after being in the fridge for a bit. You can leave them out for hours without messing up the texture, but if you stick them in the fridge over night and then try to reheat them, they are kind of gritty… Need to work on that…..if you have any ideas, let me know!! This would make a great cheap and on the go breakfast idea for us as opposed to meat, meat, or meat!

Sweet Potato Pie Pancakes
Makes 6 cups of batter and at least 20-25 pancakes
6 Green Plantains
1/2 cup mashed Sweet Potato (canned pumpkin is ok if you don’t have Fructose Malabsorption but you might need a bit more sugar)
.5 cup of maple sugar (that’s about 1 tsp of sugar per pancake…not bad….)
1.5 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp distilled vinegar (activates the baking soda instead of using baking powder)
 
Peel plantains (see this video if you have never peeled a plantain). Cut plantains into chunks (I use a mandolin). Blend (I use a vitamix, but a stick blender or some other high power blender would work fine). Add sweet potato puree and remaining ingredients, and continue blending. You will want to cook these pancakes a slightly lower temperature than you would cook grain pancakes. Take a spoon and place a dollup of batter in a circular shape (or as close as you can get). Flip once the bottom is lightly browned (if you cook them too fast the bottom will the brown and the top will make a mess when turning). When both sides are brown you are ready to serve plain or with your favorite syrup or topping!
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All that was left!

Overall, I think they ended up having a pretty nice Christmas, and I managed to only spend about $20, not counting David’s present. David and I haven’t exchanged gifts for the past 2 years (mostly because of all of our medical bills), but last year he got me a bracelet as his way of saying how much he appreciated all of my hard work. This year, I returned the favor, and got him a safety razor (he’s been wanting to try using one for a while). Next up is going to see all of the relatives…..who are all getting gifts I found in our closet….hopefully they like them!

Greek Shrimp Scampi

Since my last post, we have managed to determine that me and the kids all have low thyroid hormone (sprinkling kelp granules over our food to try and boost it naturally so I can get off Armour). We are also all allergic to polyester and maybe some other fabrics/dyes as well (let me tell you polyester is REALLY hard to avoid!!!!! We are learning VERY quickly how to be less materialistic!!!), and we all have Fructose Malabsorption and need to be eating foods that are low in FODMAPS (aka it’s a special diet created by Monash University in Australia). On the bright side, these changes seem to have cleared up John’s rash issues, AND he is no longer peeing through his diaper and sheets every night (YAY!!!!)! Also, I can now actually make a list of the meats/veggies we CAN’T eat instead of a list of the meats/veggies we CAN eat! All other categories of food are still a bit of a mess, but that’s real progress from where we were (although we do still have a ways to go as well)!! During all of this, I also managed to come up with a new recipe that I think is FABULOUS (and it’s also Paleo, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, low Fodmaps, Yeast Diet, etc etc etc safe)!!!!!!

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Greek Shrimp Scampi over Spaghetti Squash pre low fodmaps diet (mushrooms are not ok anymore)

Greek Shrimp Scampi

1 pound Shrimp
Pasta (I use 1 roasted spaghetti squash)
Juice from one lemon
1/3 cup garlic infused olive oil (how to do it yourself)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1.5 tsp salt
Chopped green onions
Sliced black olives
**I think sliced mushrooms and some sun dried tomatoes would be excellent additions, but they are not low fodmaps or nightshade free so they are out for us.
 
Combine all ingredients except pasta in a skillet and saute until shrimp are cooked. Serve over pasta, perhaps with a side of green beans (or broccoli if you aren’t low Fodmaps)

Long Overdue

It’s been almost 2 months since I’ve updated my blog which is a very long time for me, but there has been a lot going on at our house and consequently a lot going on inside my head. I still don’t have the answers, but I would like to pen a few words to sum up what has been going on around here.

We went to Memphis to visit family twice this summer, once at the end of July and once at the end of August. Both times, John came back with hives. The first time they eventually went away. The second time they kept getting worse and slowly spread to all over his body except his feet and hands. Eventually his scrotum swelled (from the hives) so we got an after hours appointment to see his immunologist. (Turns out his scrotum swelled up because it was broken out in hives too.) The immunologist also noticed that John had developed an asthmatic cough. He ordered blood work, but we were unable to get it done until after the weekend, so I spent that weekend up every 4 hours with John giving him doses of benedryl large enough for his older sister as well as breathing treatments. Once we had the blood work done we were able to start steroids to give his immune system a kick in the pants. He was eventually doing much better (although the rash on his face still refuses to go away). The blood work raised red flags with the immunologist for possible Diabetes Insipidus, so we got a referral quick fast and in a hurry to an endocrinologist who requested more labs. Then the rash on John’s face started getting worse, so we went back into the immunologist, where we decided to run some more labs (including 23andme genetic testing) to try and track down what is going on with him.

That is the super duper short condensed version of the last 2 months. A LOT more has been going on than that, but I don’t think I can actually put it all into one post. Many different things are being considered with John at present: Diabetes Insipidus, Immune Dysfunction, Mitochondrial Disease, MTHFR genetic mutations, other food allergies/sensitivities, etc etc etc.

We have also significantly limited our diet trying to make sure that we hadn’t added in any foods that might be causing the problem, so currently we are adding foods one at a time on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. We have currently added most of the meats and most of the non-starchy veggies successfully. Any meats that are not wild or 100% verified grass-fed were making me sick (possibly the kids too but they don’t always communicate these things effectively). The starchy veggies appeared to be feeding our systemic yeast, so we are currently off those and on the highest doses of Nystatin our doctor felt comfortable prescribing. We are hoping that the combination of the Nystatin, super restrictive yeast diet, vitamin D (for the digestive tract and immune system), probiotics (soil based capsules, lacto-fermented vegetable juice fermented in an airlock container, and enemas…the kids thought that was awesome….anything related to poop is great fun if you are a small child!), and a few other supplements our doctor recommended we try out on me first…..hopefully all of that will at least get rid of the yeast.

Jess and I both have an MTHFR genetic mutation that affects our body’s ability to methylate (or get rid of toxins in the body) so that is the next thing that we need to look at with me and Jess. Hopefully that will get us pretty close to the end of our journey. John on the other hand….there are still a lot of unknowns. Does he actually have Autism, or does he has an underlying medical condition that has gone undiagnosed? We don’t know at this time.

How are David and I doing? Well we are tired, and we are trying to streamline life as much as possible. I am beginning to feel more positive and upbeat about things than I have been (which is a little surprising to me given what all has been going on). I think the biggest difference for me has been making changes in the way I am managing our home. I am spending more time at home which means I have more time to take care of our home and especially preparing the mountains of food we eat each day. I am also beginning to start adding some things back in that are very important for centering our family….things like family Bible study, homeschool lessons (minimally), tea parties, etc. I have also recently enjoyed having Jessica and John help prepare dinner, and I joined a local ladies Bible study, which I think will prove to be helpful with re-centering myself, our home, and our family. I am also taking joy in the new things I am learning about because of our health issues: how to butcher and pluck a chicken, how to make fish jerky, how to cook frog legs, sardines, squid, and much much more. More to come on that later. I have work that needs to be done and have probably spent to much time penning this update, but it is nice to be able to get out! :-)

Poultry Recipes!

You haven’t seen many posts here recently because I have been very busy in the kitchen coming up with new ways to feed our family on our very limited diet, although not nearly as limited as before! (You can read more about our journey here and here.) Now that everyone can have turkey, we have been doing a lot of experimenting with poultry recipes. Truthfully, you could probably just use chicken (we just can’t have chicken right now). And now without any further ado, here are some of things that I have come up with so far:

Rosemary Lemon Turkey Spaghetti

(Nightshade Free)

1 lb ground turkey (or beef), 1½ tsp salt, 2 tsp rosemary, 2 green onions, 2 cups venison stock (or beef), half lemon squeezed, 2 Tbsp ghee, whole acorn squash pureed, and spaghetti squash

Brown turkey. Add all other ingredients except spaghetti squash and simmer. Roast spaghetti squash. Serve Nightshade Free Spaghetti Sauce over Spaghetti Squash.

 

Turkey Curry

2 cups fish stock (or turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock), 2 cups coconut milk, 10 radishes minced (gives it a little bite and thickens), 6 Tbsp ghee, 2 Tbsp curry powder, 1½ Tbsp salt, 6 Tbsp quinoa flour (or other flour to thicken), 2 lbs chopped turkey (or chicken), 3 green onions chopped

Combine all ingredients except flour, turkey, and green onions. Use emulsion blender to puree smooth. Add turkey and heat until turkey is cooked through. Dip out some of the sauce, add to flour, whip until smooth, and pour back into the pan. Add green onions and heat until thickened. Serve over millet.

 

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Turkey Pot Pie

And finally we come to the granddaddy of them all: Turkey Pot Pie. I am going to warn you, that this recipe is going to come out sounding complicated. It is not complicated….this is just how I have to make it in order for my family to be able to eat it. I listed the ingredients I used, but in the directions I gave different substitution options.

Turkey Pot Pie

1 ½ cups homemade turkey stock , 1 ½ cups homemade walnut milk, 2 Tbsp Ghee, 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs of fresh parsley, 2 green onions, ½ Tbsp majoram, 1+ Tbsp sage, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/3 cup quinoa flour, a couple thighs of turkey shredded, 2 carrots thinly sliced, a large handful of green beans cut, and this paleo pie crust (I used 3 cups almond meal, 3 Tbsp walnut oil, ½ tsp salt, and 2 flaxseed eggs, made by combining 2 Tbsp ground flax with 6 Tbsp water, heating briefly until it “gels,” and then cooling briefly in the fridge.)

 

To make the stock I boiled turkey thighs in my crockpot over night. You could use chicken or vegetable stock, but if you use store bought, you should reduce the amount of salt (probably to 1 tsp). To make the walnut milk, I blended walnuts that had soaked over night with equal amounts of water and a Tbsp of flax per quart of “milk” to bind it together. You could probably use any type of milk.

 

I combined the stock, milk, and ghee (you could use butter) in a saucepan. Then I placed all spices in a small food processor, blended until well minced and mixed, and then added the spices to the saucepan. (This is a great recipe for Cream of Chicken Soup if you prefer to go with your standard poultry seasoning or make your own poultry seasoning). Next I added the carrots, green beans, and turkey, stirred, and let the mixture simmer until the veggies had softened. Finally I added the quinoa flour (or any type of flour to serve as a thickener) through a mesh strainer (to avoid lumps) and cooked while stirring until desired thickness was achieved.

 

When I made my pie crust, I made a recipe and a half and had to substitute the originally called for coconut oil and eggs. My crust did not turn out like the author’s, but it was quite tasty….like the consistency of slightly sweet biscuits! I used 2/3 of the dough to pat out into a greased pie plate. Then I used the remaining 1/3 to pat out into “cookies” (because I could not achieve a nicely rolled out top crust) that I placed on top of the pie once the filling had been poured into the pie crust.

 

Finally, I baked it in the oven at 350 F until the crust browned. The pie crust recipe said it would take 8-12 minutes, but it took my Turkey Pot Pie closer to 30 minutes to achieve the toasted look I was going for.