Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

A little love from Orange County Register… November 10, 2009

I am positively blushing–but excited–about my coverage today in the Orange County Register.

Orange County Fare: A Culinary Journey Through the California Riviera,” the first cookbook produced by the Junior League of Orange County in more than 20 years, is a finalist in the cookbook category of the 2009 National Best Books Awards sponsored by USA Book News. The book focuses on fresh California-style cuisine – colorful dishes easily mastered by the home cook.
One of the recipes featured is by Rebecca Lacko of Capistrano Beach. Here’s a closer look:

Rebecca Lacko of Capistrano Beach donated her recipe Chicken Sausage Crostini to the Junior League of Orange County’s cookbook, “Orange County Fare: A Culinary Journey Through the California Riviera.”

Q. What was it like to be included in the new Junior League cookbook?

A. I was absolutely flattered to have my recipe appear in the same book with chef Jeff Lavia, chef Jamie Gwen, Richard Nixon, John Stamos and Vanna White. The proceeds from the book directly impact our Orange County neighbors and friends.

Q. What is your recipe?

A. I was pleased to donate my recipe Chicken Sausage Crostini (Page 21) to JLOCC, which devotes its trained volunteers and resources to five community projects focusing on the improvement of the lives of families in our community. The current projects are Orangewood Mentoring Program Activities, Florence Crittenton Services, CHOC Reading Program, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Emancipated Youth Program, and Orangewood Kinship. Through these projects, JLOCC returns more than $50,000 and gives more than 1,500 volunteer hours to the Orange County community each year.

Q. What is your full-time job?

A. Mother to two young boys, produce a national column on green living, and write for a variety of national publications and Web sites.

Q. What were your career dreams as a kid?

A. I always wanted to be in some creative field – writing, painting or singing, although I can barely carry a tune. I can remember relishing the idea of being able to live anywhere in the world while weaving stories for readers or painting scenes from my adventures on canvas. And I always wanted lots and lots of kids.

Q. When did you become interested in writing about food?

A. I began writing about food and nutrition more than six years ago. It seemed natural and effortless because I am always thinking about eating good food and I want others to join me. I’m also curious about how different kinds of food and spices can heal or provide specific nutrients, and how they grow or earned a peculiar name. Creating and sharing a nutritious meal with friends and family is, in my opinion, a great act of love.

Q. How so?

A. Humankind has been gathering to eat since the dawn of time, and it is a ritual that honors and nourishes everyone at the table. When we can make something that tastes good, fuels the body and is pleasing to the senses, we have in essence, created art. This may seem a lofty perspective on something as routine as eating, but when you stand back and study the process of preparing food and feeding others, there is a lucid beauty to the task.

Q. Why do you think volunteering is important?

A. We all know in our hearts how important social programs are to those in need. Living in close proximity to the ocean, we also are reminded to be good stewards of our environment. However, studies prove volunteering benefits the volunteer the most. When we give, we truly receive. A community can only be as healthy, vibrant and active as its members are willing to make it. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer remarked, “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

“Orange County Fare” is available at ($29.95), as well as Friday through Sunday at The Christmas Co. at the OC Fair & Event Center (fairgrounds), 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. For more information, visit


Born and raised: Ontario, Canada

Food heroes: chefs Bobby Flay, Alice Waters and Tanya Petrovna

Family: husband, Joseph; two sons, Joseph, 4, and Noah, 2

Favorite quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

Hobbies/spare time: reading, going for walks or hikes, traveling, cooking, painting, yoga and dance, playing with her kids

Motto: “When you look at your troubles from God’s point of view, you realize that everything is working together for good. Meet every circumstance with forgiveness and joy.”

Working on: a fiction book about an Orange County-based family, and beginning the outline for a nonfiction book that will be a series of essays about living by design


Q and A with Rebecca: My Gluten-Free Toddler January 20, 2009

Got a parenting dilemma? Need more information about something you’ve read on my blog? Just ask!

Reader Question: Our son is 19 months. Last year, right before his first birthday up until August he didn’t gain any weight, and was over-the-top irritable. My naturopath suggested taking him off gluten, which I did, and also had dramatic results. I have him back on gluten so he can be tested (if you take it out they won’t get an accurate result).

Rebecca: Congratulations to you on your commitment to your son’s health. Again and again, I hear from medical professionals that many patients’ complaints can be treated with a change in diet. While signs and symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly from person to person, typically they include:

  • Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or general weakness
  • Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stunted growth in children
  • Weight loss, or alternatively, obesity

Celiac disease can also result in malabsorption of nutrients. It is especially critical that your son is diagnosed now so that you can take steps to ensure he receives the nutrients he requires during this time of rapid growth and development.

Reader: Where did you find recipes while doing your toddler’s gluten-free diet? I find it hard to find a good resource with kid appeal menus. It’s a VERY hard diet to follow and because of the amount of work involved I too am hoping his tests are negative! Either way, if that’s what it takes to have a healthier child, then I will be a gluten-free cookin’ mama.

Rebecca: First, I completely agree; a gluten-free lifestyle is in no way “care-free.” One visit to, and you learn very quickly that wheat and gluten additives are hidden everywhere, from salad dressing, to egg dishes and sauces, making restaurant eating potentially disastrous. While it can be tough to find foods your little one will enjoy, frankly, it is much easier than being diagnosed as an adult, who already has a lifetime of food preferences and habits to overhaul.

When I first set out to test the gluten-free theory, I simply went to my local health food stores (where I regularly shop) and selected those items specifically marked “gluten-free.”  Most grocery stores now supply a list of all gluten-free products they sell—you just have to ask the store manager for the list.

For me, the experience was confusing and expensive. Some of the products were tasty and worth the extra cost, and some were downright unpalatable and went straight in the trash. We like to eat together as a family, and gluten-free grains are among the highest on the glycemic index–meaning I quickly put on a few extra pounds while trying to encourage my child to try his new foods. The simplest and most logical thing for our entire family is to eat a low-carbohydrate/low GI diet, consisting of lean protein, beans, veggies, fruits, probiotic yogurt, cheese, nuts and seeds. And high-cacao (over 70%) chocolate for treats! My son Joseph also enjoys gluten-free pancakes and breads frequently for breakfast and lunch. My waistline is leaner and Joseph is happy and comfortable, and doesn’t feel deprived. I love to cook and have a separate blog with several amazingly delicious gluten-free and kid-friendly recipes that your whole family will enjoy.

The two biggest hurdles with small children? Goldfish crackers and birthday cake. They are both irresistible magnets. I make my own goldfish crackers at home, and you can buy gluten-free cake mixes, but you will always have difficulty at playdates and birthday parties.

I wish you the best of luck and look forward to learning the results of your son’s GF test. Please check back with me if you have any further questions–I’m here to help!

Want to learn more? Check out these posts:
Gluten-free and Loving It?
My Gluten-free Toddler, Follow up
Gluten-free, Schmooten-free

Hit ”Comments” with your health or parenting question(s), or thoughts about raising a gluten-free child!


Q and A with Rebecca: Managing Diaper Rash September 24, 2008

Got a parenting dilemma? Need more information about something you’ve read on my blog? Just ask!

Reader Question: My daughter is two-and-a-half and suffers from very bad allergies to anything with milk in it. If she even has one Goldfish cracker she steals from someone else, she breaks out in her diaper area. It becomes blistered and red like a sunburn!

Rebecca: How painful! I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s uncomfortable allergy. One of the first things you can do to relieve your daughter’s irritations is get her out of diapers and into underwear. When delicate skin is irritated, the most important thing you can do is keep it clean and dry. The average age most children are potty-trained in the US is 2.75 years, so you are right on target. Begin by allowing your daughter to run about the house “bare-bottom” while you train–this will help her to get to the potty on time while she is learning—and allow her bottom to heal.  

Reader: I’ve been trying to potty-train her because my ped said it will help her sensitive skin once she is out of diapers.

Rebecca: When my son Joseph was a baby, he suddenly developed a horrible diaper rash. His bottom blistered and cracked, and he was in a lot of pain. We were on vacation, and the diaper ointment I was using did very little to help him. A mother overheard me trying to console him and recommended a natural, low-cost and highly-effective treatment which can be found at the grocery store: cornstarch! (—the kind in the yellow box, or use organic, like I do.)  Just sprinkle it generously on your baby’s clean and dry bottom after every change. It will clear up a rash that day!

Reader: Actually, she doesn’t get the rashes unless she accidentally eats something containing milk [thank goodness] but that is a very helpful hint and I might pick some up just in case. You know what else I have found that works? Egg whites. I know, that sounds crazy but it really, really does work [and quick!]

Rebecca: The egg white thing has been used successfully by thousands of moms around the world, but it isn’t risk-free. Please allow me to share my concerns: Babies under one are highly susceptible to allergic reactions, and while your daughter is over two years, readers are cautioned not to try this with younger babies. Secondly, I’m concerned about the possibility of salmonella developing in the warm, moist regions of the diaper area. The close proximity of the urinary tract in females increases the risk of infection from the egg whites, and/or infection from soiled diapers.  Urinary tract infections are extremely painful, frustrating to treat (nothing can be done to ease your baby’s pain), and can be avoided by using cornstarch and potty training as soon as possible. Please let me know how things go and if this advice helped. My heart goes out to you and your little one!

Hit ”Comments” with your health or parenting question(s), and I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours. Your privacy is respected; I will not publish real names without permission.


Q and A with Rebecca: Potty Training September 1, 2008

Got a parenting dilemma? Need more information about something you’ve read on my blog? Just ask!

Reader “Butterflymom”: My little one is 2 ½ and she could not care less about potty training! When she was about 1 ½ she was VERY interested but I didn’t pressure her (mainly because she couldn’t communicate with me in public that she had to use the potty). Besides, it was mainly just curiosity. Now, she would rather be in her diaper, which I don’t get.

Rebecca Lacko: I’m sorry to hear about about your “missed opportunity” back when your daughter was younger and more interested in the potty–that is why the Baby Signs Potty Training program uses sign language, so the baby can tell you when it’s time to go.
But that’s water under the bridge–it’s a year later and the good news is that you are committed to helping her reach this significant milestone. Does she have friends who use the toilet, or is she in a preschool or daycare setting where she can observe other children using the toilet? That can really help. Demonstration is key.
While our little baby Noah is doing great with the Baby Signs method, our first son Joseph outright refused to use the potty (read the full details here), even though he knew all there was to know about it–he didn’t care if he was sitting in his Number Two’s, he didn’t want to use it. The trick that worked for us was really quite simple: We put the diapers out of sight (only one would appear at bedtime.) In their place, we put a basket full of big-kid undies, and allowed him choose which ones he wanted to wear every day.

“Butterflymom”: See, I’ve tried the whole panties thing and she just doesn’t care. She tells me, ”No, Mommy, I poop in my diaper.”

RL: The undies must become non-negotiable. However, you can make it an exciting process from your daughter’s perspective by adding perks, like rewards. I filled a large dish with tons of prizes (stickers, plastic necklaces and rings, fridge magnets, just dollar-store stuff) and I put it in the bathroom and told my son that every time he used the toilet, he got to choose something from the dish. He went right to work, trying to use the toilet, even when he didn’t have to. And every time he asked for a diaper, we said together, “good-bye diapers! Heeeeelllllllloooo undies!) It was actually fun.

“Butterflymom”: I’ve tried little prizes if she goes, even a calendar with stickers to put on it when she goes, NOTHING. NOTHING WORKS!

RL: I promise you, your daughter will not go to kindergarten in diapers. It sounds like you are doing all the right things. You have the opportunity now to use this milestone as a means of growing your bond with your daughter by being consistent, trustworthy and her biggest cheerleader. Whatever you do, keep smiling and maintain a positive attitude. The reward every child is truly seeking is your unconditional love, so demonstrate it abundantly, especially after a successful potty trip, or after a good try at using the potty. When mistakes happen, just cheerfully say, “we’ll try to use the potty again next time!” and that is all, then just clean it up and move on.

“Butterflymom”: The problem I’m obviously having is I’m not being consistent. When she has an accident in her panties and then asks for a diaper, I give her a diaper. I feel like an idiot because, in hindsight, why would I do that? That’s just showing her if she has an accident, I’ll give in and give her what she wants. (*Sigh* This first-time parenting stuff… I tell ya!)

RL: Parenting is a 24/7 challenge, to be sure. Give yourself a break, mom—you’re learning, too! If you need help remaining consistent, please keep this in mind: you are the parent. Your toddler may say she wants to poop in her diaper, but you know what is best! You’re there to help her make decisions that benefit her health, and her self-esteem. You wouldn’t let her choose when or if she’s going to take a bath, and you wouldn’t let her decide at every meal what she should eat. (If my son Joseph had that power, he’d eat yogurt, Goldfish crackers, and ice cream around the clock!)
Most importantly, the risk of a urinary tract infection is reason enough to get her out of poopy diapers. They are extremely painful and the risk of UTIs only increases as the child gets older and, ahem, produces bigger poops.
This can actually be a fun process, you just have to decide it is. Let your goal be good health and a strong loving bond. Your own reward will be a new level of patience, and a confident, diaper-free kid!
Let me know if this information is useful, and how things go!

Hit “Comments” with your health or parenting question(s), and I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours. Your privacy is respected; I will not publish real names without permission.