Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Gluten-free, Schmooten-free November 16, 2007

I’m on the verge of giving up. The only thing stopping me from waving bye-bye to our gluten-free experiment is my husband’s absence–he’s on a business trip until Saturday night, and we are all in this together. So until he returns, I’ll grin and bare it.

His trip cushions him from toddler tantrum fallout; I’m a one-woman tantrum-wrangler, while nursing and entertaining my infant on the side. I haven’t been able to even shower since he left, but I did pick up a nice ylang-ylang candle today, so at least it will smell pretty around here until he gets back…

OK, the lowdown: Little Joseph’s school has, after all, not been as supportive as I’d thought. They like to bake muffins, etc., and little Joseph enjoys the yummy results. And so he should, I imagine. Even as an adult with self-control, self-awareness, and well, concern that I should gain too much “self”, if I were hanging about with a bunch of friends baking muffins, I know perfectly well I’d want to help myself to them, warm right out of the oven, and would be greatly disappointed if I were excluded.

Regardless, I have been faithfully serving only gluten-free foods to Joseph at home and I have to admit, the tantrums come and go as mysteriously as ever, even after several days in a row of being only with us, without the interruption of nursery-school food. To be honest, it’s tricky to figure out what to serve him. We all consider the soy-based angel hair pasta a big hit–high in protein, low in calories, and low-glycemic, it also meets the grown-ups’ nutrition requirements. While my first attempts at making gluten-free bread were quite spectacular, for some reason I have not hit a homerun since. We’ve, unfortunately, had to throw out more bread than I care to admit, because it either did not cook evenly (mush on the inside, cement on the outside), was hard as rocks or completely unpalatable. I’ve considered just getting a bread maker, but, even though I’ve been using packaged mixes, I like the centuries-old tradition of bread making. For whatever reason, I’ve always held a certain respect for breadmakers–it’s truly an art craft, and I feel like buying an electric bread-maker would be like the skilled quilter resigning herself to machine stitches. (Not that I can quilt, either.)

Here is where we stand: I love my son and I would go to the ends of the earth for him. When I picked him up from school the other day, he spontaneously decided to give each classmate a hug before leaving. He was waving and shouting, “bye-bye! adios! sayonara!” walking out of the school and was full of giggles. He ate a good dinner and we played games and watched some Diego. By bathtime, however, he was screaming “mine, mine mine!” in the tub (what he was referring to is anyone’s guess) and throwing bath toys and washcloths all over the bathroom. When I got him out, he spent the next hour screaming, kicking and carrying on like a wild monkey, and then, sigh, finally settled into his bed and snuggled me and gave kisses and hugs for another hour and was once again my sweet angel. What on earth?! Is he secretly a pre-menstrual teen-aged girl? Perhaps I should invite the cast of puppets from Baby Einstein over to stage a toddler version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

By contrast, my little infant Noah just giggles and smiles. Then laughs, then chatters. He goes to sleep when I put him in the crib, and he waits patiently while I stir organic apple sauce into his brown rice cereal with nary a complaint. He keeps me sane. He keeps little Joseph sane–he loves to love up his baby brother with kisses, and even when he’s in the middle of a breakdown will pause to hand Noah a toy.

So, my gameplan is a.) find a new approach/reaction to little J’s unbridled screaming fits, and b.) try making a bigger deal out of his good behavior than I do out of his undesirable behavior.

And, maybe this weekend I’ll make whole grain pancakes.


Winter Wellness – Coping With the Common Cold November 9, 2007

This previously published story (San Diego Family magazine) is now available for FREE reprint.
Simply include my byline and drop me a note indicating when and where it will appear.

Most children will develop at least six to eight colds a year. Every year, more doctor visits and absences from school and work are caused by upper respiratory infection–the common cold–than any other illness. According to Sharp Healthcare, during a one-year period, people in the US will suffer an estimated one billion colds. There is no cure for the cold, so what should you take? Although over-the-counter drugs may bring relief, many usually cause unpleasant side effects. Your drug store’s vitamin display hosts an endless selection of supplements, but it’s not easy to know what to try and what to sneeze at. Because the cold-bug has bugged people as long as there have been people, many old-time remedies are tried-and-true. Here’s a list of treatments with the most scientific evidence in their favor.

Echinacea(eck-in-ay-shah) can reduce the symptoms and duration of colds or even stop a cold. Until the 1930s, echinacea was the number one cold and flu remedy in the United States. It lost its popularity with the arrival of sulfa antibiotics. Ironically, sulfa antibiotics are as ineffective against colds as any other antibiotic, while echinacea does seem to be helpful.

Commission E, the German government agency charged with investigating herbs, recommends treatment of colds with echinacea purpurea, beginning as soon as you notice symptoms. Choose a preparation used in clinical studies, such as Echinaforce and EchinaGuard.

Elderberry, taken as a tea, is an old and effective remedy for relieving coughs, treating sinus congestion, and reducing the pain and swelling of a sore throat. Studies have found that elderberry extract interfered with the growth of multiple strains of both influenza A and B viruses in cell cultures. The tea is relaxing and produces a mild perspiration that helps to reduce fever. In a double-blind study performed in Israel, a standardized elderberry extract reduced the recovery time from a particular strain of epidemic influenza by almost fifty percent.

Garlic(Allium sativum) has antibacterial properties and helps detoxify the body. The story of garlic’s role in human history has filled countless books on health. Dioscorides wrote of garlic’s ability to “clear the arteries” as far back as the first century AD. The famous microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, performed some of the original studies proving garlic could kill bacteria. Garlic was called “Russian penicillin” during World War II because, after running out of antibiotics, the Russian government turned to this ancient treatment for its soldiers. After World War II, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals manufactured a garlic compound for intestinal spasms, and the Van Patten Company produced another for lowering blood pressure. In 2001, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial provided meaningful evidence that garlic might treat or prevent colds. Results showed that participants receiving garlic were almost two-thirds less likely to catch cold. Even better, participants in the garlic group who did catch cold recovered about one day faster. As a commonly used food, garlic is on the FDA’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list.

Zinc lozenges may be moving toward acceptance by practitioners of traditional medicine. In 1996 the Cleveland Clinic tested zinc gluconate lozenges and found using zinc in the first 24 hours after cold symptoms occurred shortened the duration of symptoms. Note: Excessive amounts of zinc can result in nausea and vomiting. Do not to exceed the recommended dosage. Choose a lozenge made without refined sugar.

Chicken Soup The healing properties are not an old wives’ tale! Researchers at Nebraska Medical Center set out to determine which components of the soup were cold-fighters, using samples of chicken and a portion of each of the vegetables, as reported in the October 2000 journal of the American College of Chest Physicians. The results of the study demonstrated that “a variety of soup preparations…presented evidence that chicken soup might have an anti-inflammatory activity.” However, that the sum is greater than its parts. “Pureed carrots or other vegetables are not recommended as a remedy while chicken soup is.” Dr. Douglas Hoffman recommends that you will feel “a whole lot better if you stay well-hydrated and keep the calories flowing in. Chicken soup is arguably one of the best things you can eat when you are ill with the cold or flu. One simple meal provides water, electrolytes, calories, and plenty of nutrients.” The Egyptian Jewish physician, Moshe ben Maimonides, recommended chicken soup for respiratory tract symptoms back in the 12th century which were, in turn, based on earlier Greek writings.

Love in a Bowl: Chicken Noodle Soup

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (approx. 3 medium breasts) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium stalks celery, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 (14.5 ounce) cans reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup parsnips
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup uncooked rotini or favorite pasta Bring all ingredients except pasta to boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in pasta and return to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes, until pasta and vegetables are tender. Makes 8, 12oz. Servings; Calories: 157; Total fat: 1gram; Cholesterol: 25mg; Sodium: 490mg; Carbohydrate: 16grams; Protein: 22grams; Dietary fiber: 2grams 

3 Bug Myths
1. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses. Many believe that when mucus turns yellow, it means that a bacterial infection has occurred for which antibiotic treatment is indicated. However, viruses can also produce yellow mucus.

2. Vitamin C is not your best defense. The late Dr. Linus Pauling was a famous and enthusiastic advocate of the healing powers of vitamin C. But 30 major trials prove no consistent evidence that taking vitamin C prevents colds. It has been noted, however, that the vitamin can help shorten the duration of a cold.

3. Getting wet or being in a draft does not cause a cold.

Am I Contagious?
Crowded Areas.

When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, tiny fluid droplets containing the virus are expelled. If you breathe these in, the virus may establish itself.

Direct Contact.
If a person with a cold touches his runny nose or watery eyes, then shakes hands with you, some of the virus is transferred.

Don’t Touch That! Inanimate objects (doorknobs, telephones, toys) can become contaminated with the virus. If a child with a cold touches his runny nose, then plays with a toy, some of the virus may be transferred to the toy. When another child plays with the toy, then touches her contaminated hands to her eyes, nose, or mouth, she transfers some of the cold virus to herself.

Tips to avoid getting sick, in the homeroom or the boardroom:

  • Wash your hands several times a day with soap and water.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, avoiding acidic juices, which may irritate the throat.
  • Gargle with warm salt water, for a sore throat. Add one teaspoon of salt to eight ounces of water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when you sneeze or cough. Then, wash your hands.
  • Get enough rest, don’t smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly.
  • Don’t spread the virus! Avoid going to work or school with a fever or bad cough. People with colds are contagious during the first two to four days of the infection.

Speak with your doctor about these non-drug treatments, and be careful not to exceed dosage recommendations on the package of any supplement, prescription, or over-the-counter drug.

 I Feel Like I’ve Been Hit By a Bus!
Exactly what causes the aches, pains and runny nose?

The common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nasal passages and throat) caused by one of many viruses, most commonly from the rhinovirus family. As the cold virus multiplies in the body, the mucus membranes in the respiratory tract swell, causing the air passages to narrow, making breathing difficult. The sinuses become congested. The nose runs. Sneezing, a sense of fullness or achiness in the head, and tearing or burning eyes are all part of the process. At the most contagious phase of a cold, the nasal secretions are thin, watery mucus that is almost entirely composed of viral discharge. When the secretions turn thick and yellowish or greenish, that means the discharge is full of dead white blood (immune system) cells, dead viral particles, and dead bacteria. This is a sign of healing and the least contagious stage of a cold. A common cold, if uncomplicated, lasts about five to ten days. A child who is sick for more than 14 days in a row has probably contracted a series of viruses. While your child’s immature immune system is busy fighting the first virus, another can settle in.  Colds usually strike 24 hours after the virus enters the body. Occasionally a cold can lead to more serious conditions, such as ear infection, sinusitis, bronchitis or influenza. Contact your health care provider if your fever goes above 102°F, if the lymph nodes in your neck are hard and swollen, or if you develop shortness of breath.


My Gluten-free Toddler; follow-up

Filed under: health,Lacko Family Chronicles,marriage,travel — rjlacko @ 8:21 pm
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We committed ourselves to a month-long gluten-free trial diet for our toddler, Joseph. Read about the smashing success of our first few weeks here. We were ever so pleased with his calm and happy demeanor that we almost forgot about the tantrums and spontaneous refusals to cooperate with even the simplest requests. So confident were we that when we traveled to Aunt Jen’s wedding in Kansas at the end of the 30-day trial, we allowed wheat to be part of the grand occasion—and paid the price. Dearly. We once again faced the eye of the notorious tornado: Total Toddler Meltdown.

In my heart, I secretly thought, It’s not the gluten, those healthy grains found in virtually everything from fish crackers to cream of broccoli soup. It’s the blip in routine: an airplane flight, a different bed to sleep in, the convergence of cousins from far and wide. I felt like even though he was eating bread and butter with dinner, it wasn’t a “controlled test” because we were out of our daily routine.

Anyway, here we are, halfway into November and Joseph is once again gluten-free. His nursery school has been incredibly supportive and I have been reading labels dutifully. Where I used to be hyper-vigilant about sugar content, I have added strict gluten surveillance to my list of things to be overly concerned about. Yes, I’m one of those mothers, who can’t accept the innocuous offering of a snack during playdate before suffering the giver with a thorough cross-examination. Please don’t judge; pity, perhaps.

Still, I’m unconvinced. My husband, on the other hand, has had a revelation. He now remembers that when he was Joseph’s age, he was put on medication for exactly the kind of uproarious frenzy our son demonstrates when he’s had gluten. He wished his parents had tried a diet change, like we have. So why am I so unconvinced? First, little J is getting close to three. Shouldn’t we expect him to act, well, childish? Isn’t this part and parcel of the age-group? Also, he still has his moments where he mysteriously refuses (crying, kicking and running away) when we are simply trying to get him to put on shoes. To be  honest, while I want our little guy to be calm, happy, self-assured and at ease, I also want him to experience the full, shall we say, “pageant” of life’s emotions. I would never sculpt his personality through the introduction of pharmaceuticals, certainly, but I do want him to know that it’s OK to feel really strongly about something and it’s my job to help him find more constructive ways to express himself.

I guess what I’m asking is, does my son have an aversion to gluten, or should I just learn to be a better parent?

**looking for more about my gluten-free toddler? See the latest here.