Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Be the mom you want them to remember.

I came across this on Pinterest, and I thought it was a great reminder. I enjoy it because there's no expectation defined, no pressure to this kind of mom, or that kind of mom.  No anxiety about being the mom that cooks 7 healthy meals a week, or the mom who does crafts every weekend, and also has a spotless house. Instead, it's simple. 

Image courtesy of Grace Filled Imperfection

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Eliminating artificial food dye series part 2: the how

If you're just joining us, you can read part 1 of the series here, which is the background information on why we decided to eliminate artificial food dye for Jake.

As I said in my last post, I was very skeptical when the doctor first suggested to us that the food dye could be contributing to Jake's behavioral issues; one, I hadn't really heard of such a thing, and two, I didn't think that he really consumed that much food dye to make a difference.  I knew food dye was in the obvious items, such as cake, candy, mac and cheese, etc, but since he wasn't eating that kind of stuff everyday, I didn't really see how it would be affecting his behavior.

I was surprised when I starting to go through our food at home.  Some of the foods that Jake was consuming everyday contained food dye!  The biggest culprits that I found (that didn't seem obvious to me) were:

-Nutrigrain bars: the only safe ones I've found are the apple cinnamon flavored kind
-Eggo blueberry waffles; I guess it makes sense since we all know those aren't actually little blueberries in the frozen waffles (we've since started to just purchase plain or cinnamon waffles, he didn't seem to really care/notice)
-Peanut butter crackers; you know, the kind that are yellowish/golden crackers with peanut butter in them, come 6 in a pack?  we always had these on hand (I usually had the Austin brand) to throw in my purse if we were going to the zoo or taking a car trip....I was very surprised to find these had yellow dye in them!  I guess to make the crackers more golden?  However, I was able to find some other brands (Market Pantry by Target, Keebler, etc) that do not contain the dye, so we just switched to those instead.
-Popcorn: not that we were eating this everyday, but it is one of their special treats that we enjoy while having movie nights.  I was able to find an Orville Redenbacher "simply natural" option with no artificial coloring.

Those are the few biggest culprits I can remember off the top of my head, at least the ones that he was consuming on a semi-regular basis.  There were some other things that I noticed it in but that we didn't eat as often (for example, the little packets of blueberry muffin mix....the brand I had contained food dye, but when I started reading labels I found that Betty Crocker did NOT contain the dye, so if we want those as a special weekend treat, I just pick up that brand instead)  And some other things that I've noticed had it in it, but fortunately we weren't using them anyway (certain types of syrup, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, even things like whole wheat pizza crust...it really was shocking when I realized just how many things contained it!)

Something else to note: it is found in many children's medications, both prescription (if you have them flavor it) and over the counter.  You can find liquid ibruprofen and tylenol without the dye, but you do have to carefully read the labels.  It is also found in some gummy vitamins for children (fortunately, it was not in the brand we had been using, so we didn't have to make a change there)

I will say, it was a lot of time spent in the grocery store reading labels when we first found out.  There were other things that I avoid (certain snack crackers, some cereal, etc) but for the most part, we've been able to carry on by substituting some items.  Here is a full list of how artificial dyes may appear on various food labels, courtesy of 100daysofrealfood.com:

 The bigger challenge has been places outside of our home.  Here is what we've done for those:

At School
Once we decided to eliminate, I contacted Jake's teacher to discuss it with her, and she was fantastic about it.  She went over the school lunches with me (surprisingly, anything that he would be selecting off the menu was already dye-free so I didn't need to worry there), and we discussed snack time, which takes place in the classroom every afternoon.  She told me some of the more common snacks (snacks are sent in by parents and while the school does give guidelines, there are still some items that wouldn't work for him...fruit snacks for example....which to me shouldn't even be on the allowed list of foods, but that's a rant for a different time)  Anyway, we covered the ingredients he can't have and she agreed to scan the list of ingredients and if there was something he couldn't have, he would be provided with his alternative snack (I sent in a bag of pretzels and a bag of goldfish, that way he'd have something to eat instead)  They aren't allowed to send in cake or sweets for birthdays, so that's not an issue there.

This was the hard one, and it's the one that is still a little hard for me because I don't want him to feel sad or left out at social events.  When it's a family thing, it's much easier....our parents have been great about it (my mom got her birthday cake from Whole Foods so that Jake could eat it with the rest of us, and my mother in law made him brownies and had plain vanilla ice cream on hand for Easter dessert)  For his own birthday party, the place we had it provided a cake, so I just brought brownies to supplement and he was fine with that (actually, even pre-dye elimination, he preferred chocolate/brownies over white cake anyway, so this is working out better for him!)  

But when we are at non-family birthday parties, I obviously don't expect for special food to be made for him.  We started this elimination back in December; that same week, we went to a birthday party and I honestly just didn't even think about the cake.  It was chocolate cake with purple icing, so I scraped off the icing and he ate the cake....the chocolate part could have contained food dye, but since we were just starting this thing and Jake didn't really understand, I took the risk. 

He was at another birthday party a few weeks ago, and they had ice cream to go along with the cake, so he had that instead.  I'm not sure what we'll do for other places.  There is a Trader Joe's set to open right by our house very soon, and I've heard they will carry individual cupcakes with no artificial ingredients....I'm thinking that might be a good option to have, to swing through there and bring something?  I don't know.  I don't really know how to approach this.  If you are a parent of a child with other food allergies/sensitivities, I would love to hear from you.  Do you bring your own stuff to parties, or does your child eventually get used to it?

All of that being said, Jake has been amazing about the whole thing.  Really, he has.  We told him that the food dye isn't good for anyone, and for him especially, it can make him feel yucky.  He caught on quickly to the fact that bright colored things have it in it, and he's even avoided it on his own a few times without us there!  They don't normally have cookies in the lunch line, but they had flower shaped ones for the first day of spring a few weeks ago....he told me about it and said that he asked the person working the lunch line if it had dye before he took one....they looked at the packaging, told him it did, and he said "no thank you, I can't eat that" 

So it hasn't been easy, but it also hasn't been terribly challenging either...and I'm hoping that it will all be worth it.  Next up in the series: a review of the progress so far! 

Monday, April 28, 2014

A trip to the zoo in pictures

Sometimes a post needs no explanation and the pictures can do the talking...this is one of those.  (just for the record, this is what the boys did in my absence while at my girls weekend that I talked about in the last post...they clearly have no trouble carrying on the fun without me!)

Sometimes a mama just needs a night away.

I think every mama can agree that as much as we love our kids/husbands/families, we can all use some time away....time to take off the wife and mommy hat, and replace it with the friend hat.  I did just that a few weeks ago when my BFF and I went on our yearly sanity saver girls weekend.  In previous years (including last year), we've gone to NYC, usually in January or February.  With my birthday falling in December and hers in January, this was always a good plan.  This year we decided to change it up and try out Deep Creek, Maryland in the spring instead...and we're so glad we did! (especially after the winter we just endured, who knows if we would have even made it into NY in January??)

Here's what we concluded: in NY, we felt this pressure to go go go.  It was the pace of the city, and just the fact that we felt like we were dishing out money to be there, we'd better take advantage of it.  But in Deep Creek?  There wasn't much to do, and that was part of the appeal of it for us!!  Don't get me wrong, there was plenty to do if you were interested, especially in outdoor activities (and we might have done more had we been there with the hubbies and in the summer) but as it was, we felt zero pressure and we LOVED it.  This was our view off the patio of our room; what's not to love?

Our activities consisted of: manicures, lunch, hours spent talking and catching up while enjoying a gorgeous view of the lake, more talking, wine, dinner, more talking, night out at a bar watching a cover band, sleeping in, coffee, breakfast, shopping, talking. 


My advice to all fellow mamas: take that time to get away!!  As you can see, it doesn't have to be anything fancy to be great.  It doesn't have to be a huge time commitment....it doesn't even need to be an overnight.  But find something, anything, that enables to you remove your other hats for a brief period of time, and connect with your friends.  I promise, you'll come back feeling refreshed and happy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ham it up!

"I can't wait to put all of this ham in my belly!" ~Liam

Friday, April 4, 2014

Eliminating artificial food dyes series part 1: The Why

It's taken me a long time to write this post, even though it's something I've written in my head a hundred times and to be honest, I'm still not sure how I want to approach it.  As I've said before, one of the reasons I keep up with this blog is that I want to have some type of record of the kids...but that's a catch 22.  I want a record, and I want to be honest, but where's the line?  Once something about them is "out there", it's out there.  I try to be careful with what I share, knowing that it won't bother them now, but being respectful about the fact that eventually those little kids will be grown up and may not be happy that mommy overshared parts of their childhood.

On the flip side, I also said that some things I want to share just in case it could help someone else.  Which brings me to my current topic: food dye and behavior.  You may be wondering how the two are related (because I would have wondered the same thing just a few months ago), but it turns out there may be a huge correlation.

The short story here is that Jake has always had a strong personality.  He's strong-willed, he's independent, and he is very vocal about his feelings.  We often joke that he was that way coming straight out of the womb; it truly seemed like his personality had been set from the moment he entered the world.  And while those characteristics are wonderful and they're what make him Jake, they can also be exhausting and frustrating.  And the older he got, the more strong-willed he became, and the more intense his feelings and reactions about things became. 

We hit a rough patch a few months ago; he had started kindergarten and we really kept thinking it was just that.  That he would adjust.  That he'd snap out of it.  That he would stop the hour long tantrums, the throwing himself to the ground, the hitting, the yelling, the throwing....all of the things that would happen when a situation would escalate.  It would start over something so small, so seemingly insignificant that the reaction would come out of nowhere.  One minute everything would be fine, the next minute a hurricane would be tearing through the house, and we were powerless to stop it.

We were frustrated and upset, and felt helpless and guilty. We both felt guilty thinking that we had messed up somehow, that somewhere along the way we screwed up big time.  And I felt guilty because I would watch him during these fits and while I was angry with him for acting like that, I also felt sympathy toward him.  It was like he couldn't control what was happening, and no matter what we said or did, he couldn't pull himself back together.

His fits would go on for what felt like forever...30, 40, 60 minutes...and when it would stop, it was almost like he had no recollection of what just happened. Once the hurricane passed, there was a calm....sometimes that calm would last the remainder of the day and he'd return to being my sweet little boy, other times, a cloud would hover and we would brace ourselves for other potential tantrums. 

Finally, sometime around Thanksgiving, we knew we had to do something.  There wasn't a particular occurrence that sent us over the edge, it was more just the build up of months of frustration and the realization that 3 months later, maybe this wasn't just kindergarten adjustment.

To maintain a bit of privacy, I'll edit this part...but I will say that we spoke with our pediatrician and other doctors at this point.  After a few meetings, someone asked if we had ever tried any type of elimination diet, specifically artificial food dye.  I sat there and numbly shook my head while thinking "What?  That's absurd.  We don't even eat that much food dye, how could that possibly be the root of this?" But this person was persistent, and talked to me for awhile about the negative side effects of food dye, and how it's in so much more than we realize.  She spoke of how it's been banned in other countries, and how some other countries still sell it, but have to place a warning label on the product that states, "this product may have an adverse effect on attention and behavior in small children". 

I was still skeptical, but I promised to take it under consideration.  Later that night, Brian and I spent a long time combing article after article online, astonished that we hadn't heard of this before, but also feeling a weird sense of relief as we read accounts from parents that sounded identical to what we had been going through.  We weren't alone!  And maybe we weren't failures, either. 

Now that I've written part of a dissertation on this topic already, I'll stop this post here and will pick up soon with the rest of the story: the how and the results. 

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