Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A More In Depth View of the Little Munchkin and Why We Eat the Way We Do.

This post is going to be long.  I haven't talked much about any of this on my blog before, and am getting ready to try something new out, so I'd like to have it chronicled a little more here.  For myself, but also for anyone else that it might in some way help.  Or even maybe it will sound familiar to someone else and they could offer me some insight too.

Since the munchkin was born, I have always noticed that there were things that she did that were a little out of the ordinary.  There was the obvious acid reflux issues that my poor baby suffered from since she was an infant up until I started making all of her food from scratch and being super picky about every single thing that went into her mouth.

The first 6 months after the munchkin was born was very isolating.  I didn't feel like anyone else could understand or relate to what we were going through.  If she was awake, she was usually screaming.  I was sleep deprived and so was she and my husband.  We also had lost our home and were living in a tiny, claustrophobic condo, farther away from our friends and family then we were used to.  We never wanted to go anywhere, because we knew we would have to turn around and leave anyway.  Everyone always asked why we didn't want to come, why we couldn't miss her nap, why we couldn't keep her up later past her bed time.  It was frustrating to say the least.  Even when we tried to explain, no one ever really understood. Our marriage definitely took a beating and even a couple of my friends turned their back on me.

If only I knew then what I know now.  I truly believe that all over her reflux issues were directly related to my diet while I was pregnant and while I was nursing.  Clearly the same diet might not cause issues for other people's babies.  But it did for mine.  I knew nothing about health or nutrition and it wasn't anything I was concerned about.  It wasn't until I was forced to learn more, that I realized how important it really was.  She had already been eating solids for a while now, when I really started to get a grasp on how important of a role diet could be playing with her reflux and mood issues.  I started making all of her food from scratch.  Nothing from boxes or cans, nothing with preservatives.  Mostly everything was organic and all of our beef was now from pastured, grassfed cows.  I cut out all sugar completely, with the exception of raw honey.  The only foods she ate for the most part, either came from an animal or grew out of the ground.

Immediately, her reflux issues got better.  Then quickly, they were completely gone.  We could finally take her off of her medicine.  She was sleeping better through the night.  She was napping better.  She was calmer in general and happier.  It was such a huge relief.  I was feeling better too.  The weight I had worked really hard to finally lose was staying off easily (for the first time in my life), my joint and back problems started to go away and my digestive system was working alot better too.

I could go on and on, but since making such a huge transformation in my family's eating habits and having it go on for almost two years now, it is by far the best decision I have ever made for us.  It's frustrating sometimes, in today's society, and having to explain to people all of the time why we eat the way we do.  It also requires more work and preparation, but the pros (for us) clearly outweigh the cons.

Then we started noticing other things, like the munchkin's sensitivity towards other peoples feelings (even people on tv).  We had to be careful how we would inform her that she was doing something wrong.  If we were too harsh she would get so upset.  Big crocodile tears would start rolling down her face and you could really tell that her feelings were deeply hurt.  If she saw other people upset, she would immediately become upset herself.  I remember once we were watching fantasia together and once Mickey was put into jail and started crying, she just about lost her mind.  She turned to me, huge tears rolling down her face, and said, "Mickey is crying, why is he sad?"

She can also become overstimulated very easily.  After her 2nd birthday party, we decided that we were no longer going to have large parties to celebrate her birthday.  We invited all of our close friends, family and everyone's children.  She was such a nervous wreck the entire time.  She wanted either Joe or I to hold her constantly or else she would be crying.  I think it was more having all of the other kids over and playing with her toys and touching all of her stuff.  Especially the boys.  They were pretty aggressive with her things, throwing them on the floor and pulling things apart.  I think this really stressed her out and made her pretty upset.

She is really particular about her stuff.  She likes certain things in their place and when they are moved, she notices write away.  And until they are returned, she is not a happy camper.  When she saw her new kitchen set that we had gotten her for her birthday for the first time, Joe had placed a spatula, a spoon and an oven mitt from the little hooks above the stove.  When she walked into her play room the next day, she immediately noticed they were in a different spot and had to put them back right away.

She also likes her routine and things to stay in the same order.  Each night, we put on our PJ's, brush her teeth, read a book then go to bed.  If we even attempt to do any of these things out of order, she will let you know.  And not very calmly.  Probably alot of kids like to keep things in order at their bed time routines, but this is with every thing else too.  If we are heading out the door and Joe grabs our diaper bag instead of me, she will notice immediately and say, "No! Mommy do it!", because I am the one who usually carries it.  She needs to know that things change and we sometimes do things differently, so we will say something along the lines of,  "Daddy is helping mommy and is going to carry it for me this time".

Usually Joe takes her to the sitter in the mornings, but every rare once in a while (like today), I will take her.  I have to prep her ahead of time, so there are no surprises and she doesn't get upset about the break in the routine.  As soon as I walked into her room this morning to get her out of bed, I told her good morning, and then started talking about how daddy was out of town still and that I would be taking her to Stacy's house today.  If we talk to her about everything and let her know what's going on and what is changing ahead of time, then she is adjusts a little easier.  It's the surprises she doesn't like at all.

When I pick her up from the sitter, she is usually in their family room and waves to me through the window as I walk up to the front door.  If she is in the living room, and doesn't see me coming, and I walk into the front door, then she will get really upset and start crying and pointing to the window because she didn't see me coming and wave to me first.

The munchkin is an amazing child.  I would hate to make her out like she has all of these issues or want to sound like I am complaining about her.  She is amazingly smart.  Her speech, along with many other things, are actually advanced for her age.  She is loving and sweet and so much fun.  She melts my heart and makes me feel like the luckiest person alive every single day. I also realize that in the grand scheme of things, none of this is awful.

But still, there are some things that give me pause.  You might remember our bathing routine situation a while back when she suddenly became deathly afraid of taking baths.  Thank goodness that has gotten better, but it definitely took some time and some convincing.  She will still look at the drain occasionally and start to say the word "scared" and tremble a little.

I found a website called The Highly Sensitive Person.  It had some really interesting information.  The author actually wrote a book, called the Highly Sensitive Child.  I ordered it.  Alot of it sounded like the munchkin actually, but alot of it didn't.  Still some of the advice given in the book I have actually implemented with some success.  Alot of it, I think could be implemented though for any child with some success.  Although I do consider the munchkin to be very sensitive, I am not quite sure that she is "highly sensitive" according to their definition.

Of course some days are better then others.  Some days you would never even know she has any of these reactions on other days.  Something will happen, I will wait for it, then nothing.... she will brush it right off, like its no big deal at all.  Then there are days like yesterday.  When I picked her up from the sitter she was still sleeping.  I went in to wake her up and she became immediately upset.  I scooped her up and gave her extra hugs and kisses.  She just kept sobbing and looking at me with big tears in her eyes.  She was so sad, but she had no idea why.  She was like that all the way home.

Once we got home I asked her if she wanted to make some cupcakes and she started to lighten up a little.  She would give me some heavy sighs here and there, but she was distracted enough by making the cupcakes to be able to move on eventually.  By the time we got them into the oven she was feeling a little better.  Once they were out and cooling, I packed her into the car so we could go pick up some dinner from Moe's Southwest Grill.

On a side note, this place is awesome!  Their steak is from grassfed cows.  I get the steak fajita (hold the tortilla), then an extra side of steak.  The munchkin and I will split up the steak and veggies and put some cheese and sour cream on the top and its a fantastic easy meal for us when we are in a pinch.

So while we were at Moe's, we ordered our food and as we were leaving, she had another pretty bad melt down because she wanted to stay and eat her food there.  I really don't think it was so much that she would rather eat there, but that she thought we were, and didn't like not knowing what was going on.  I told her we had to go home and eat because they didn't have any milk there.  She thought about that for a minute and then decided to let it go.  Whew.

It was one thing after another the entire evening.  Anything and everything was setting her off.  And in a big way.

After I put her to bed, I started thinking about it alot.  Over Thanksgiving weekend she was a madwoman as well.  Lots of breaks in her routine, missing a nap on Saturday and all of the foods she wasn't used to eating could have all been contributing culprits.  But I have been noticing more and more lately, that when she does eat certain meals out of the ordinary, she can have some pretty crazy behavior issues result from it.  Yesterday for lunch, I had sent spaghetti with whole wheat pasta.  We rarely ever have any wheat.  We usually stick to proteins, veggies, fruits and healthy fats.  But it's not something that I was cutting out all the time.  I didn't feel that it had any health benefit and I knew it caused me to gain weight, so it just wasn't something I usually incorporated.

I realize that kids are not going to behave perfectly all of the time, nor do I expect the munchkin too.  But when she is looking at me with confusion and panic and is crying and sobbing and can not even talk to me about what is going on, because she has no idea herself, then something is wrong.  When she can't seem to control her reactions to things or calm herself down, this just doesn't seem right to me.

I have been doing alot more research lately on gluten and the problems it can cause, with a focus on children.  I am going to try to cut out all gluten and processed sugar from her diet completely and strictly for 6 months and see what effect, if any, it will have on her.  This also means, I will be cutting it completely out of mine as well.  If she does have a sensitivity to gluten, it might be really hard to tell with her since we so rarely give it to her.  But they say even small amounts can cause problems in many kids (studies show 40% or more of the population is suffering from gluten problems and some say much more then that) It will be interesting to see if it plays any role in the things we have been having trouble with.  It will also be interesting to see if makes any difference for me as well (I have a pretty strong feeling that I have some acne related issues for sure).

Luckily this isn't going to affect our daily routine in an extreme way.  I already bake gluten free, using mostly almond or coconut flour, and use only raw honey and stevia as a sweetener, but we do have exceptions here and there. And, I am usually more lenient when we are at a friend or family members house. I do make spaghetti every few weeks or so with whole wheat pasta.  These are the things we will be eliminating completely.  I am also going to really miss my Trader Joe's sprouted whole wheat bread in the morning with breakfast.

It will be an interesting experiment though and at least I will know either way if it is having any effects on us.

Wish me luck!

Does anyone else have any other thoughts or stories to share that might relate?


Ashley @ It's Fitting said...

First of all, congratulations on being such a great mommy! Being able to read your child and their emotions is hard, but being able to take a step back and think about what might be causing it is awesome... especially when it would be so easy to get frustrated and chalk it up to being "sensitive".
I have had a number of friends who have gone the food route with their kiddos... all with resounding success. I have read a lot about the affect of artificial dyes and colors on children and definitely notice that my kiddo gets different when he has them. I say you do what needs to be done for your family! And if that means taking out gluten? Go for it! I actually just got a note today from the author of the new book "Gluten Free for Dummies" letting me know that it had just debuted! You, however sound like you are SUPER in the know about it all... I sadly was a mess when we went gluten free with the kidlet.
Also, YAY on the grass fed, sustainable beef and organic veggies! We made that lifestyle choice when we moved up here to northern CA and had the kidlet... it makes SUCH a huge difference!!!
Anyway - I would love to hear how things are going with the gluten free... and I know that there are other moms out there that would be fascinated by your journey as well.

Laura said...

I dont have any suggestions but I wanted to comment on the fact that you're so involved and taking control of the situation. I'm interested to see how the 6 month trial goes and if it has a positive affect on anything. I'm sure it will, there are so many issues with gluten products and more and more people are being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Check your local area, we have a local bakery that sells only gluten free products. Desserts, pasta, rice, bread, pizzza - pretty much everything! Maybe there is one local to you.


Anonymous said...

I think this will help her so much. I am sure it will be hard not to give in and give her bites here and there, but I have seen some huge successes in taking kids off of gluten to help their behavior, social interactions, and overall quality of life. I say that even if my kids grow out of their gluten allergies, I'll still, at least, severely limit their gluten intake. It just makes sense. Good for you...you are a fantastic momma. :)