Adventures in Savings: Couponing Thrills, Chills, and Epic Fails

Everyone likes to save a buck. Some people will go further than others while some just wish they could stretch their dollars further without doing more to get there. Let’s face it: life is expensive, without even thinking about throwing a family into the mix!

image credit google images

Add the stress of stretching a budget over the needs (*and wants*) of an average family of three, four or five. Jax can put a serious crater dent in anyone’s budget, throwing things in your cart with abandon when you aren’t looking. And you may know all too well that if you aren’t mindful of spending straight from the start, babies can begin expensive and stay that way all through their childhood.

I decided the other day I am sick and tired of worrying about money. I have always been Sergeant Money, always responding with ‘how much is that going to cost me!?’, even before I would celebrate something exciting. Pennies are counted and recounted. Sometimes that’s a perfectly valid, healthy response! Its not a bad thing to be careful, but I’m human, have made mistakes, good and bad choices, and have bills to pay just like everybody else- and we’ve been stuck in this ‘half- life’ of not having our family and home all together. I live my life much better and more content with a mapped out budget, planned to a ‘t’ for what, when, and where to spend the dollars our family brings in and sends out. Lately, More Often Than Not, Occasionally, stress mounts and I inevitably end up angry and crying like a two year old’s tantrum, just to ‘make it work’ and to make it through the lists and budgets, only to start on ’empty’ all over again next week.

There will always be bills, there will always be things that come up, and pennies to pinch all across the board in family life. Someone very wise once told me that within reason, people with more money have the same types of problems and stress as people with less, the decimal point is just in a different place. Another person told me ‘the more money you have, the more you spend’. These pieces of advice put together an important lesson for those who wish to have more- there’s always the ‘if only we had a…’ thought process of not being happy with what you have and not making what you have work.

Fortunately, there are ways to make it work. One has become an interest of mine since I’ve been spending all this time at home with Jax and Bella lately.  There is a bandwagon of people out there whose mouths drool at the site of coupon flyers. They break into a cold sweat at the idea of missing out on a deal of free laundry detergent to add to their years’ worth already stashed away. They have to get their fix. With some years in retail tucked into my belt, I always swore it wouldn’t be for me. I’d watched TLC and seen the deals people get – hours of work earned them $1000 worth of product for pennies. Yeah right, I’d think. Sure, I’d use coupons here and there. A lot of times I’d forget. Other times I’d just skimp and get only the store brand and deal- some store brand items are great! Others, not so much. Now with my family finally edging even closer towards some semblance of normalcy, and being home with the littles day in and day out, I’m looking ever further to find ways to provide for my loved ones without breaking the bank or sacrificing quality. There is the logic that to go shopping means money is not being saved, but at some point, in the world we live in, we need things- and I refuse to choose between dog food or laundry detergent and a dinner just to stay on budget. Granted, there are people out there in the world who are faced with much greater troubles than a stay at home mom whose spreadsheet of budget categories may not be lining up too well, and wondering where it would be best to open a Roth IRA for her 401k rollover- but I’ll get to those issues later.

My first attempt at anything more than ordinary recreational coupon use last week resulted in an EPIC FAIL! I had it all planned out, the drugstore game was calling my name and my rookie self headed out to CVS with a good plan that fell flat when they were out of the BOGO (buy one get one free) item I was counting on. I ended up saving $16 and earned $8 in extra bucks towards another purchase, which I saved for later. I was in a hurry, my brain was overwhelmed, my skeptical loving sister was there, and the second I saw the BOGO was out, I was toast.

The rematch on Monday morning brought my retribution. I knew what I had missed on and why. I was armed with a huge deal at another store, and ready to roll. First up was CVS. My four transactions yielded a bounty including six laundry detergents, lotions, razors and replacement blades, colored lip balms, Eclipse gums, Altoids, and more. I saved a total of $81.72, earning Extra Bucks towards more products for free, including the six laundry detergents for $11. Next up, Target. We grabbed a couple treats for Jax- Jenga ($5 coupon), and two small Lego kits, more almost free razors,and grabbed some yogurt: purchase them for $2 ea, save $2 off two with Target coupon, add on another $1 off two coupon, and you’ve got yourself a deal. I did it twice. Total saved $16.01, small change in the couponing world, but to me, who a year ago would have shelled out for the same products, and may have even, ahem, paid with plastic out of convenience, that is HUGE savings. Finally, the big deal of the day: Petsmart. A place normally I wouldn’t even step foot in. But, they drew me in with their sale, and Science Diet had ridiculous amount of coupons. Bring it on: After $59.66 in sales savings, I had a whopping $79 in coupons. The total before savings and coupons? $183.92!! I saved an awesome 75% on enough cat and dog food for my mother to ask if the stash might outlast my cat, paying $45 out of pocket. The skilled couponer may possibly have avoided paying so much out of pocket, but I am pleased with the haul I made, 100% free or not.

Super Savings

It went so well I  looked into the flyer a bit more and went back again yesterday. After this, I will reduce my trips’ purchases to lessen my out of pocket costs even more. Purchasing certain items in one transaction earns $10 gift cards, so I took advantage, paid $59.25 out of pocket for $97.99 worth of product including toilet paper, dish detergent, and some snack foods like Planters Nuts and Indiana Popcorn (=addictive!). Okay, Stay with me here. With that transaction I earned 2 $10 gift cards, which I used with coupons to buy Tylenol Precise pain heat patches, Cold Calm, two Right Guard deodorants, and shave gel,  for nothing out of pocket!  Plus I earned more Extra Bucks to roll into three other transactions, each earning their own extra bucks. My plan was thwarted when we realized a special had run out on some shave gel freebies I was hoping to score, but overall the savings was still there.Trip two to CVS yielded me a bounty of $181.85 worth of products, for $68.50. The goal here will be to continue to get that out of pocket expense lower and lower and lower.

So all I can say is, I get it. I see the deals, and I want them. Why? Because I like to be able to provide us with basic needs like laundry detergent, and lotion for my alligator-like dry skin, without breaking the bank. I have goals and needs for other financial aspects for our family- a bigger emergency fund, a no-sweat bill paying system, to pay off any lingering debt (I’m one of the luckier people to have very little left on student loans- at least we have that going for us! But it will feel even better to make that number a ‘0″), and finally, a new- to- us second vehicle (and to pay CASH for it. YES, CASH.) Some things I’d honestly just like to be able to get my hands on without feeling guilty over what budget category I’m stretching too far, and I’d love to be able to include the many more activities a growing family faces for an active, healthy, and fun lifestyle without feeling like we’re getting bent over.

A wonderful opportunity also arises in this new ‘project’; the obvious surplus created with stockpiling from playing the coupon game will provide my family an even greater ability to give back. Remember I mentioned the families out there who are in dire straits when I’m researching 401k rollovers and Roth IRA’s? If you see me walking out of CVS with what looks like a year’s worth of Cheerios after a great BOGO, you might think back to my pledge here and now: I’m excited to use this new endeavor to be able to give back. I’ve always seen the empty bins waiting for donations for food and thought there must be some way I could help. I am a ‘look on the bright side’ kinda gal, Lately my gratitude for what we DO have has come to a head, and I’ve said a few prayers to find ways to make it through and have happily found answers (something I have never, ever, genuinely done before in my life), and I plan to pay it forward.

Want to see more deals? Send me your coupon flyers, those ones you throw out every Sunday. Always remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

An Interview with Health Coach and Gluten Specialist Lisa Vasile

I am very excited to share some insight and information about eating a gluten free diet and living a healthy life from Lisa Vasile, Health Coach and Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years experience. Lisa is the creator of 4Betterhealth, a business she started to validate her clients and empower them to overcome their frustrations of not feeling well and fears of a present health condition or family history might mean for them.

She has a passion for helping people find solutions when told “nothing is wrong with you” and offers tips and tricks for a truly healthy lifestyle, focusing on all aspects of a client’s life and how they can drastically decrease the potential for cancer, heart attacks, or loss of jobs due to being ill and having to take time off from work. Lisa graciously agreed to share insight to why people may want to trial or need to live gluten free, her own journey with Celiac Disease, how nutrition can impact life (for good or for bad) and includes some great resources for teaching children about Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance too!

-You are a Nurse Practioner and a health coach and creator of 4BetterHealth. Tell us about your typical day. Is it all ‘gluten free’ or do you work with other needs?

I work with clients who are searching 4 Better Health. As an allopathically trained RN/NP we are taught diagnose and manage symptoms… but even years ago I always wanted to know “But why?” “What causes it?” “Isn’t there a way to prevent or reverse this?” and that lead me to a more holistic approach – finding why – and the passion with health coaching to help others find the WHY and HOW.

More than half the clients come to me because they want to lose weight but after working with me for a while realize that their weight is a reflection of their health. In working with me, clients are able to decrease cholesterol, high blood pressure and over the counter pills. Many don’t know they have an intolerance and after a while we trial removing specific foods and they feel better than ever.

People don’t pay attention to their eating, stress and self medicating habits. Millions of people in America are taking over the counter medications for heartburn, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, headaches, insomnia, arthritis pain, anemia and allergies and my job is to show them that a headache is not the body telling you “I am running low on tylenol or anemia is a low iron supplement level…please refill me”. The body is trying to give a signal that something is out of whack and I have the honor of helping them figure out the CAUSE not just manage a symptom.

My clients range from 28 to 65. 

One client was referred to me because she was told by a gastroenterologist, gynecologist, allergist and PCP that nothing was wrong with her but she had daily abdominal pain, bloating and excessive fatigue.

Another wanted to lose weight and after 4 months has lost 15 pounds, reversed her prediabeties, cholesterol, insomnia and heartburn.

Another was putting her daughter on a gluten free diet for short term memory issues (after testing that “nothing was wrong with her”) and we did a pantry makeover and gluten free grocery shopping/label reading.

I have many clients who just want to know how to shop and overcome packaging label misconceptions that are interrupting their health goals.
I also teach wellness advantage seminars to community groups and work with the school’s Wellness Policy in the goal of making an impact on school lunches, vending machines and helping people learn how to make foods available for those with allergies.

-You have celiac disease. What was it like to finally have that diagnosis?

Well, honestly? My first thought was “No more beer?!!”  haha

Seriously, I was so validated after a lifetime of constipation, rectal bleeding, heartburn, headaches, horrible fatigue, and infertility. I am 5’8″ and graduated high school weighing 115 pounds. I was told my whole life I had “Irritable bowels”.

I went completely gluten free and within a week ALL OF MY SYMPTOMS were gone! That was soooo exciting to me. I can give blood now without the use of iron supplements! For anyone who has had a lifetime of constipation, heartburn and headaches; they will fully understand why even now – 5 years later I am so thankful. 

I am thankful I don’t have to take medications or over the counter medications such as iron or stool softeners which can cause other problems – all I have to do is eat alittle different!! =)

I have accidentally eaten gluten about 2 times a year (we call that “being glutened”- haha).  It is usually from cross contamination and my body will tell me loud and clear with heart racing, days of brain fog and unbearable GI symptoms.

-And this runs in families?

Celiac is an autoimmune and can only be triggered if a person has the gene for it. Many people have the gene, but the body must have something happen to decide to ‘fight’ (build antibodies) against itself when gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) is introduced to the system. So, yes. Celiac is an allergy and is genetic therefore runs in families…. about 1:110 people have Celiac. Sadly 97% are undiagnosed.  That is a lot of people who could prevent more autoimmune, medications, cancers, diabetes, etc.

Since my diagnosis, my NP office has diagnosed over 20 people and 2 other staff live GF with reversal of symptoms.

One for Joint pain and swelling (see inflammation below) and one who takes 4 OTC medications for ulcers, heartburn, bloating, and constipation and has monthly B12 shots low B12 and nueropathy. She also had an endoscopy result of “appearance of celiac damage but negative for celiac” and her GI said “your tests were negative” with no push to trial a GF diet =(

HOWEVER, Very important is to remember that people can have a gluten INTOLERANCE without having an allergy, antibodies or endoscopic changes. (my coworkers)

Humans actually do not have the enzymes necessary to process & metabolize gluten (we are not cows). But, over the years our bodies have adapted to tolerate and break down the grains. Unfortunately, many people have intolerance exhibited by skin disorders, bloating, brain fog, ADD/ADHD, GI symptoms, migraines, low iron, B12, neuropathies, joint pain, infertility, osteoporosis, and once they take out gluten – their symptoms vanish.

-Whats the best way to start removing glutens from one’s diet?

Easiest and cheapest would be to shop the perimeter of the store. Fruits, veggies, meats, dairy (however, some people have so much damage they need to remove casein for a few months until their gut heals) and eggs.
Read all spices/condiments in the cabinet and fridge – the labels should have a disclaimer of the 5 major allergens: Milk, Soy, Nuts, Wheat and Fish…. this does not include barley or rye- so read the INGREDIENTS.

There are soooooooo many Gluten free (GF) options now in all grocery stores. Those tend to cost a bit more, so I encourage my clients to find what they like and order it on Amazon.com (using the free shipping membership).

Breakfast: egg, fruit, protein smoothie, GF oatmeal (oats are naturally GF but usually grown and processed on the same fields/machines as the other grains – so it is best to find a GF oatmeal), GF cereal

Snacks: nuts, fruit, hard boiled eggs, humus, nutbutter and celery or apples, yogurt and gluten free crackers or protein bars.

lunch: gluten free rollup/tortilla with sandwich meats stated to be GF, rice & beans, salads with chickpea/beans/tofu/meat (*ensure salad dressing is GF).

Dinner: any meat, veggies, rice, quinoa, potato, sweet potato, corn, GF pasta, bread, taco shells, etc.
-Have you ever encountered any naysayers? Sometimes people can be doubtful an issue with gluten or food allergies are real. What do you say to someone that thinks its “all in your head”?

OH YES! my inlaws. 1 of my daughters has celiac (allergy) but the other 2 have ADD (intolerance). It isn’t that they don’t love our kids… it is truly a matter of understanding why gluten is an enemy in our kids’ bodies. It is reminding them that if the body is intolerant it can cause other autoimmunes, allergies, menstrual problems, infertility, nueropathies and cancer.

Even our pediatrician was surprised I put them all on a GF diet saying “Good luck with that- it’s alot easier to give Ritalin for ADD”…. we left that doctor.

-What was the best advice you personally received when removing gluten from your diet?

Actually, I didn’t get any. One of the reasons I am so passionate about education and sharing what I have learned and encourage people to be EMPOWERED by the diagnosis! We get to control our fate with a fork instead of injections or pill bottles! =)

My sister was diagnosed about 2 months before me and was amazing. We had been working together to help her, so I learned a lot.

I got the opposite from my PCP, the Gastroenterologist and Nutritionist they sent me to.  I heard “Its really hard”. “Most everyone cheats”. “Its really expensive”

My advice to others; “Empower yourself!” Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something. It really is NOT hard. It is a learning curve, there is planning and preparation but feeling better and helping your body to work better – and being proactive/preventing chronic illness is an amazing gift!

-What advice do you give to people just starting out?

One step at a time.

start with the shopping tips I gave.

Google is amazing.  If you are questioning if a food is GF simply type in your food item such as: “Paul Newman Ranch, Gluten Free” in google and you will almost always find your answer.

Write a list of foods you love and find a GF alternative

DONT over eat – many people gorge themselves with the GF foods because “they can have this”.

Write a list of ‘every day’ foods and find GF alternatives

Write a list of favorite meals and recipes and adapt using GF ingredients.

Read labels (*soy sauce/terryaki sauce often has wheat)

Have snacks with you in the car/when you go to friends houses… It isn’t their job to know how or be prepared to know what you can eat and sometimes a well meaning friend thinks they understand but uses a spice, cross contaminates accidently or serves hummus and tortilla chips and offers you this because they ‘saw the hummus package said gluten free’.

Your home is gluten free. How do you and your kids handle eating foods at special events like a child’s birthday party or an event at school?

We bring it and luckily my kids are old enough to say ‘I can’t have that’.

With toddlers who take what they want  – I would bring all their foods and stay with my child.

-How do you teach your children about gluten and celiac disease?

I talked to them at length and reeducated daily.

There are books online:

http://www.amazon.com/Bagels-gluten-intolerance-Celiac-Disease/dp/0979770300

http://www.amazon.com/Gluten-Free-Friends-Activity-Book-Kids/dp/1889374091

http://glutenfreehelp.info/book-reviews/mommy-what-is-celiac-disease/

http://www.google.com/imgresum=1&hl=en&sa=N&rlz=1T4TSNP_enUS460US460&biw=1239&bih=558&tbm=isch&tbnid=yJSEwGicqrWPfM:&imgrefurl=http://glutenfreegimmethree.com/tag/childrens-books/&docid=0g60cIEGzywpVM&imgurl=

http://glutenfreegimmethree.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/celiac-cover500.jpg&w=500&h=500&ei=z_AnT5vmFKng0QHcz7msAg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=475&sig=107659655819610387689&page=4&tbnh=165&tbnw=165&start=59&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:59&tx=82&ty=88

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=children%27s+book,+gluten+free&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&qscrl=1&nord=1&rlz=1T4TSNP_enUS460US460&biw=1239&bih=558&tbm=isch&tbnid=HhZae-TGoMoBYM:&imgrefurl=

http://www.sallysbooks.com/page3.htm&docid=1FhEwrhKaEFBkM&imgurl=

http://www.sallysbooks.com/USERIMAGES/final%252520cover%252520A5(1).jpg&w=400&h=450&ei=7fAnT6CqG4T40gGik-nNAg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=344&vpy=54&dur=4034&hovh=238&hovw=212&tx=125&ty=148&sig=107659655819610387689&page=8&tbnh=163&tbnw=145&start=132&ndsp=19&ved=1t:429,r:14,s:132

-What are your favorite go-to gluten free foods?

snacks:

humus and nut thin crackers, mary’s gone crackers or veggies

popcorn

apple and peanut butter

fruit or cut up veggies

tortilla chips with salsa or guac

meals – pretty much anything can be made GF

-Gluten has been in the news a lot lately- what do you think about people choosing this lifestyle because they think its the newest ‘fad diet’?

Well, there are a lot of ‘fad’ diets- one of my patients recently even told me they were doing the “17 day” diet???

A GF diet, however, is not a diet- especially not one that will expedite weight loss.

The only thing that may help jumpstart weight loss is the decrease in readily processed foods with wheat, rye and barley (crackers, bagels, muffins, cookies, cake, etc) and it is not possible to grab a bagel at Dunkin, scone at Starbucks or hamburg at Mc’D’s. Those should places and foods should be avoided anyway if someone wants to lose weight. 

I have seen some people eat a GF diet to decrease bloating before an event… to me if they are doing it to fit in a dress for a big event and it works; they are gluten intolerant and should keep eating that way.

if someone is gluten intolerant or celiac and they have to eat GF; GF foods are no less in calorie in fat- and many times (as stated before) people over eat because “I can eat this” or they start metabolizing and absorbing the foods which cause weight gain.

-Say its my birthday, and I can’t eat gluten, someone asks me ‘Can’t you ‘cheat’ just one time?

 NO! not with celiac. This is a recipe for more autoimmune (M.S., Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Psoriasis) and cancer.  It is imperative that a celiac be gluten free and their antibodies stay in ‘normal’ range. Perhaps with gluten intolerance – yet they will pay for it (similar to people who eat the buffalo wings or cheesecake even though they know they will have bloating and hearburn later).

-What do you tell clients first when they need to stop eating glutens? Do they ever resist with denial? What turns them around?

There is a saying that “Food and diet is more personal and harder to change than politics or religion combined”.  I would agree 1,000% with that statement.

It is something we learn from birth and all ‘celebrations’ revolve around food.

It is a hard change (which is why ‘diets’ don’t work).

It is a life style change and depending on culture, age and support from loved ones – it is a journey which requires motivation, persistance, trial & error and education.

Usually symptoms resolving (or backfiring) are validating to people and keeps them on track.

It is important for people to understand that one autoimmune increases the risk of others. Inflammation is caused by the body with autoimmune responses. Inflammation leads to many chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, migraines, high blood pressure, dementia, infertility, etc.

-Do you recommend any special techniques to prevent cross- contamination at home? Or do you recommend the entire family eats gluten free?
This would be for a celiac?  Most people who are gluten intolerant don’t have symptoms if they have microscopic cross contamination… Celiacs would and do. This is a learning process.

Everyone in the family must be on board if they aren’t all GF.

My husband still has his gluten bread, cereal and pasta… everything else in the house is GF. When we were first learning he used a separate counter…. but now he is very careful never to put his food (uses a plate), never puts his forks, knifes, etc on the counter, keeps his bread on a counter in a plastic bag. If you have someone who is not GF – they can’t use the same spoon to stir their pasta and the GF pasta – nor can they use your pans.

 On that note – when someone in the house has to be GF, it is advised that the kitchen have a makeover…. steel pans only (no more telflon – especially if they had been used with gluten in the past), all plastic bowls, baking dishes, plastic spatulas, toasters need to be replaced.

Peanut butter, butter, jelly, etc which may have a knife going in and out of GF and gluten foods should be separated and labeled.

If there is someone who won’t be eating GF, the pans, utensils, etc they use should be labeled – or if only one person is GF, their things should be labeled. (unless someone is only using steel which the gluten will not stick to and can be placed in the dishwasher.)

-What about eating out?

Thankfully, most restaurants (not fast food) know about gluten these days. Some much better than others.

depending how sensitive someone is – I would suggest they not go out for the first month until they are more confident in the learning curve.

Salads with a grilled meat or fish or beans are usually fine dependent upon the seasonings on the protein and if the grill is cleaned before the GF meal is prepared.  Salad dressings are hard, too. If the restaurant has a CHEF who went to culinary school (not a cook who was trained to make dishes for that restaurant) they will understand GF cooking and be able to read labels on dressings or tell the waitress whether something is GF and/or can be prepared as such.

 Bottom line is to MAKE SURE the wait staff really understands that this is an ALLERGY and if they seem confused (like “oh yeah, that’s mikl?) ask for the manager or leave that restaurant.
Some well know restaurants that offer GF menus:

Legal Seafood, Bugaboo Creek, Outback steakhouse, Boston Beer Company, Olive garden, PF changs, 99, Longhorn’s, Uno’s, Bertucci’s

There are great resources for gluten free eating out: http://glutenfreetravelsite.com/, http://celiacrestaurantguide.com/

-What budget friendly ideas do you suggest for gluten free meals? Some specialty GF items can get expensive!
Yes it can be, however, premade GF foods are much more than if you make your own.

Order packaged foods online – I use Amazon. Market basket offers an array of GF foods for cheaper.

Keep in mind – most of the ingredients in the GF foods tend to be higher quality. It is refreshing to know that a Celiac is putting nutrients instead of foreign ingredients into their system which can lead to more inflammation and autoimmune.

As I say to my clients and patients “Pay now with higher quality food instead of foods loaded with chemicals; or pay later with medications loaded with chemicals and higher medical bills”.

– Even though I try to maintain a healthy diet, up until I made the switch to gluten-free, even my normal go- to foods like veggies and hummus, or clementines looked and tasted unappealing, and I was rarely truly ‘hungry’, despite watching calorie intake. Now they’re back to being delicious, my stomach is growling for every meal and I’m seriously thirsty. What gives? Is my body just ‘normalizing’?

This is a normal reaction when your body and gut are healing.

I usually suggest people take a probiotic to help them heal their guts as their bodies transition. Those are safe with pregnancy and nursing.

When I coach clients  – even those who are trying to lose weight – I never talk about calories.

I start with boosting their water with a MINIMUM of 7-8 a day.

I encourage adding fruits & veggies – especially greens (at least 7-8 a day), higher quality grains (Quinoa is a great GF grain loaded with nutrients and protein), and more beans. I have a bunch of yummy recipes on my website all of which can be adapted to GF diet.

This always helps with hunger due to the higher fiber, hunger, and healing.

I dont know about you, but I really enjoyed what Lisa has to say! You can learn more about the services Lisa offers at her website, www.4betterhealth.biz

Post-Gluten Armageddon: Day Three? It doesnt hurt after all

“Food is the path to healing … There is no pill we can take, no surgery we can endure, and in fact, no cure other than living on an entirely gluten-free diet. Some find that distressing. I find it a blessing.

In order to be well, I have to eat well. I have to feed myself. I have to live in food.

Yes.”

So here I sit (on the morning of day four), three full days after removing glutens from my diet. It hasn’t been perfect, I have a half- eaten package of chicken breasts in my fridge I’m fairly certain contain injected broth which of course is not gluten free, and  I may end up having to eat it before my next trip to the grocery store. Or maybe not, I’m hoping it can go sit in the icy confines of the freezer for someone else to devour. I’ll put a big ‘X’ on it so I remember not to feed it to myself. Honestly, I’d be feeling perfectly okay with understanding the gluten-is-in-that game if it weren’t for the fact that I eat chicken for almost every meal. (And for the time being I have an answer: eat pork. Or steak. Or eggs. Done.)

Jax has handled not drinking out of my cup while he’s digging into his buttered noodles like a champ, at least after the first moment of rejection he felt when I shrieked at him. I’ve been needing to break him from his little habit of not leaving other people’s drinks alone anyways- a five year old blowing bubbles into my lemon water with mac-n-cheese lips is not my idea of ‘yummy’, gluten sensitivities or not.

Here’s the amazing thing. I looked at this idea of me going gluten free as some sort of crazy idea that could work, or it couldn’t. I’ve always been the professional skeptic- show me the facts but then back it up with good, solid evidence and reasons the counter argument may not apply. So I held on to the chance that this couldn’t make a damn bit of a difference. And then I’d be the silly girl left with some great understanding of how going gluten free works wonders for some people but apparently, not me.

But, so far, that’s not the case for me. THREE DAYS into this and I am FEELING AMAZING. What the hell! No one told me about this sooner!? I was a skeptic, no matter how much research I read or how much I could post about it either. I didn’t think at all a change like this could make a difference. Remember Joe vs. the Volcano? I’ve been walking around with Brain Cloud. And luckily for me, I feel like it has lifted. I’m not terminally grouchy with Jax. I’m getting things done (err, unless I’m on Pinterest). I took the kiddos outside to play two days in a row. No, seriously. I haven’t had that sort of energy. in. a. long. time. And we’ll do it all over again today. I’m not waking up with headaches- they went away. (The daily dose of Kale has helped. Honestly, who the eff craves kale?! Me, that’s who.) My skin is still sand paper-dry, and the eczema is a lot less red but not GONE, but its not so uncomfortable that I feel like it could walk on its own.

Really. I didnt actually think it was possible to feel better so soon. Shauna James Ahearn says it well on her website, Gluten Free Girl:

“I stopped eating gluten. I have never gone back since. At the end of the first day without gluten, I felt some energy. My stomach didn’t hurt when I ate. On the second day, I didn’t need a five-hour nap. On the third day, my brain fog cleared, as though my contacts had been cleaned for the first time.”

(www.glutenfreegirl.com)

I may have hit a tiny bit of a low point yesterday afternoon lusting after sugary, chocolatey brownies. But I’m pretty sure thats a combo of all the pictures of brownies I’ve seen lately on gluten free websites, promising they can deliver deliciousness, and PMS. (Sorry if thats TMI, but really? Get over it… …All better?)

I will definitely concede that some of why I am feeling good is probably connected simply to the fact that I’m not subjecting my body to the never- ending crash cycle of carbohydrates and sugars of bread and pasta. But the bananas, yogurt (yes it is a hefty source of sugar), sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc- while not hovering too high on the scale of glycemic index offenders- still provide plenty of carbs for my body to contend with. The long and short of it is that I might be eating LESS carbs, but not ‘no- carb’, like with South Beach or Atkins (where people face some serious sugar withdrawals for the first few miserable days). Thankfully, I usually lack the sweet tooth so many people have, and my biggest daily source of sugar was The Dreaded Vanilla Coffee-Mate, so I’m not left jonesing for sugar like its a druggie’s crack fix. (I also had been slowly weaning myself off of coffee mate over the past few weeks because its a  source of nasty, gross calories my body didnt need, so I’ve been mixing it gradually with first fat free half and half, then almond milk, and I now have my daily decaf with just half and half or just almond milk. Full disclosure.)

The craziest thing is that a few weeks ago, I was actually adding more and more whole grains into my diet, in an effort to make sure I was eating the healthiest choices I could for my fat behind. Kashi cereals. Whole Wheat pasta EVERYTHING. And I was feeling worse and worse. Whole grains are good for you! They contribute a lot of benefits to the breastfeeding mom’s diet! Heart Health! But I was feeling even more like shit worse and worse.

The moral to the first chapter of this story is that after a solid three days of not eating gluten, I’m glad I dove in. And so far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. Its exciting to do a little nutrition research and come out on the other side not only unscathed but feeling great. Now onto tackling the frightening pantry full of pasta, and Jax’s not so great chicken nugget habit…

Gluten Free Who? Thyroid What?? I need to do what?!

A little while back, I talked about the cranky old lady who kept asking me whenever she saw me how much weight I’ve lost after having the baby. Her greeting never included a hello- this (senile?)bitch would jump right into “So? Well how much weight have you lost??!”…I fought back by giving myself time to lose the weight patiently, trusting my body would do its job and that maybe being just 10 weeks post partum, it truly was too early to worry about it. I knew most moms drop the weight like a dirty shirt when they’re breastfeeding, and was slowly coming to grips with the fact that I’m not one of them. Fast forward to where we are today, Bella being six months old, and the question would kill me if she asked today. Because I haven’t lost one. single. pound. And its not without having tried and tried and tried.

I used to have a metabolism that not only hummed, it cranked. About a year before I was pregnant with Bella, you could easily find me awake in the kitchen at 3AM because I couldn’t sleep through my hungry, growling stomach. If I dared miss or delay ‘a feeding’, I’d spend the day battling low blood sugar bad enough I wouldn’t be able to see. To make matters worse, the low blood sugar would still sneak up behind me and take hold faster than I would realize, despite haven eaten recently, leaving me literally walking away mid conversation to get something to eat- quick! I was one of those people who had to keep snacks in the car lest I get hungry on that 15 minute ride to work in the morning. I couldn’t stand being in a grocery store or restaurant in the summer without a sweater (and sometimes a jacket on top too) because of the air conditioning. I needed to sleep all. the. time. (and still do). Seriously, I’m the only person I’ve ever come across that would say “I cant go out to breakfast until I have something to eat.” (Otherwise the wait for a meal would set me back for the entire day). It started when I was pregnant with Jax, almost six (!!) years ago. I would complain to the doctors about ridiculously low blood sugar and they told me to eat. Well, duh! If it was that easy! Thanks for making me feel like a crazy, pregnant, moron. (In my defense also, those doctors seem to have been the group that graduated with less than stellar grades, but lousy OB GYN’s don’t belong in this post). Yes, I’ve seen other doctors, My thyroid levels have come back borderline abnormal several times, but since apparently most doctors these days see ‘borderline’ as ‘untreatable’, I’m stuck feeling miserable. At least I could eat though, and I was spared the dread of going to my 10 year high school reunion overweight.

SO here I am, wishing I could have the overdrive metabolism of days past- because now my body is stuck in full reverse. My hair is falling out, my skin is on fire with flaky, dry patches of eczema, and on some days my energy level is low to the point it feels like I’m walking through waist deep water just to get up the stairs. And its all new issues since having Bella. Ugh. Cant someone fix this for me!? Well, since I’ve already seen doctors and the ones that I’ve seen were not keeping up with their research, which leaves them stumped and me without a solution, I’ll be seeing a chiropractor in a few weeks who specializes in natural medicine and particularly, autoimmune disorders and thyroid disorders. Having done my research (meaning having spent a bunch of time on Google, which means I could be an unofficial expert *not really*), hypothyroidism and gluten intolerances (and full blown Celiac Disease), go hand in hand. And to treat hypothyroidism, you have to cut out glutens… Doh. To add to the fun, the most common form of hypothyroidism, is an autoimmune disorder. Chris Kresser, L. Ac says “hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in 90% of cases” and that “(o)ne of the biggest challenges facing those with hypothyroidism is that the standard of care for thyroid disorders in both conventional and alternative medicine is hopelessly inadequate.”
 

He goes on to say, “The link is so well-established that researchers suggest all people with AITD (autoimmune thyroid disorder) be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa. What explains the connection? It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid. Even worse, the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it. This explains why it is critical to eliminate gluten completely from your diet if you have AITD. There’s no “80/20″ rule when it comes to gluten. Being “mostly” gluten-free isn’t going to cut it. If you’re gluten intolerant, you have to be 100% gluten-free to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid.”

Furthermore, the symptoms of both thyroid disorders and gluten sensitivities, intolerances, and full- blown “dont touch me with that gluten molecule” issues all mimic each other, especially when someone with gluten issues has ‘silent symptoms’- meaning they experience sluggishness, feel cold, have rashes and itchy dry skin,

 

Okay. So I read information like this about a week ago and have been milling it around in my head trying to come to terms with it. “An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of these people are unaware of their condition. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. Levothyroxine, a synthetic form of thyroid hormone, is the 4th highest selling drug in the U.S. 13 of the top 50 selling drugs are either directly or indirectly related to hypothyroidism. The number of people suffering from thyroid disorders continues to rise each year.”

Got it. I totally get it. All these hypothyroid articles were written about me. Yes, I get it. But Really?? What about my undying love for crusty, artisan style bread? What about the wonderful pizza Dean made which I devoured the other night having full knowledge the research says I wont be able to do that anymore?

And for ultimate insult added to injury, my beloved vanilla Coffee-Mate coffee creamer, with its lame vanilla flavoring, is probably off the list of foods I’ll be able to eat. I’ll get over it, eventually, since its not good for me at all anyways, but come on. The discovery of gluten sensitivities has achieved something no diet has ever accomplished with me before: STOPPING ME FROM having my vanilla flavored coffee. Damn the people that started sourcing vanilla flavor from barley. Damn them! (And if anyone knows for sure its Gluten Free let me know. I checked the website and it just lists artificial flavorings so I’ve said screw it. Its probably better for me NOT to be consuming that crap anyways.)

 

In the great words of my mom, when I was talking to her about all this hootenany, “well, now

you cant even have a beer!!” Thanks mom!

I’ve always understood how serious it is to avoid glutens for those with Celiac Disease. I get it. I just never thought I’d have to deal with it. On top of that, I DO believe some people say they need to eat gluten free because they think they are on a diet. I know these people arent really gluten free- eaters though because I would watch them devour all sorts of foods without even a glance at the ingredients. Hello!?!? Its a way to drive me crazy. I know food allergies and sensitivities are REAL, and I am a firm believer that NUTRITION HEALS. But the people that waltz into a restaurant saying they require a gluten free meal but then order the soup of the day (thickened with a flour roux), the grilled chicken with vegetables (the chicken is injected with broth solution and then marinated in who knows what), and the vanilla ice cream and a brownie to share (again, the dreaded vanilla flavor, the brownie is just stupidly gluten unfriendly) are full of shit and always have been.  

The long and the short of it is that I’m gonna have to bite the bullet and stick to this. I made it through Day ONE fairly easily, and am on day two. Its easier said than done in a house full of pasta and wonderfully fluffy white bread just baked in the wood stove. This will have to be a learning process. But at this point, anything I can do to feel human again must be a step in the right direction. Have you dealt with gluten allergies?Thyroid disorders? Did your whole family have to go gluten free? What are your favorite resources? Stay tuned for more of yet another crazy chapter …

 

 

 

 

Jax: Challenges that make a mom feel like she sucks…

I need to talk about some challenges we’re facing with Jax. I don’t have any trouble at all talking about these issues, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve had a lot of trouble coming to terms with having to do something about them.

Jax has always been a vivacious, happy go lucky kiddo. His energy is never ending and he has the enthusiasm to match. I talk a lot about the great results I’ve gotten from integrating techniques from Attachment Parenting theories, and about changes we’ve had to make or try in order to adjust some of Jax’s behaviors. But what I haven’t talked openly about is the challenges we’re facing with Jax. We re-enrolled Jax into his preschool in Massachusetts. Jax and I were both so excited to have him back in his element with his school.

I walked Jax into the classroom for his third day back when I heard the dreaded words: “Kate, could you take a second and have a little talk with Inga? It won’t take a minute.” Awww, Crap. Its like getting sent to the Principal’s office. Sure, I’ll go outside with Inga and get my ‘You’re a bad mom bitch-slap’ from Inga. Does she have a whip!?

Inga’s ‘very concerned’ about Jax. He’s five, you know, she says. I give a gentle ‘I know what you mean smile’, but I’m thinking to myself ‘I’m not such a terrible mother that I don’t know how long ago I squeezed my son out’…and I resist the urge to tell her he’s only been five for three weeks, but I have to admit, she’s right. I’ve been a little worried too, I just have no clue where to start and how to help him. Or, I have a clue or two, and some ideas on where and how to help, but its an overwhelming can of worms to tackle.

Here’s the thing. A little while back, we took Jax in for a screening for some speech therapy. What started as a simple screening for a lisp and some letter replacements turned into a two hour meeting with an IEP (individualized education program) to address the fact that Jax didn’t want to stand on one foot on the Occupational Therapist’s ‘X’ mark on the floor and ended with them telling me if they enrolled my son, he’d be an easy case to get more funding from. (Incidentally, the assessments the occupational therapist was doing with my little guy oddly resembled a field sobriety test, minus the ‘recite the alphabet backwards’, and he would have failed. Miserably.)

When we were sitting in the meeting to discuss the many ways my poor little guy wasn’t measuring up, the director of the program said something along the lines of adding my son to their program, with his needs being ‘easy to address’, that they get the same funding for any child and our case is ‘great for funding’. Realistically, of course the funding would come to the programs per child, its done through the school system. But really? Who tells a parent they want their child to be enrolled in their school for easy funding?! Duh. Say it when we’ve left the office, please.

Jax needs a little extra help with his grip to hold a pencil, crayon, etc- apparently this will help his teachers’ issues with the fact that he doesn’t want to color in the lines. No Big Deal. (Although technically speaking the ability to color in the lines falls into the ability to write legibly.) He’s clutzy, and thinks its funny to slide into home on his knees on the playground, always wearing through the left knee of his pants. So randomly playing a lousy game of baseball when the other kids aren’t playing is out for this kid too. Heaven forbid. When the Occupational Therapist asked Jacob to balance on one leg, and then to walk on the straight line touching his toes to his heels, had Jax been capable as an almost 4 year old, he would have told her to shove it. (See? Just like a field sobriety test.) Sometimes kiddos just aren’t interested in what the teachers want them to be interested in. Other times, in teacher speak, they say the child isn’t ‘interested’ (fingers in air making quotes) because they can’t do it.

I’m grateful Jax’s needs are simple but need time with special treatments. We are fortunate we aren’t facing the uphill battle of special needs some families are. Some I hope he’ll grow out of or are just a phase, but my deepest worry is that they might be searching for underlying issues with the ones his teachers keep bringing up. It concerns me that parents and some teachers today may have the tendency to jump onto names and conditions and medications instead of relying on simple, gentle coaxing of a child’s natural need to be just that- a kid!!

Honestly I’m happier to keep us trudging along, with faith in our little guy to catch up on his own time, than to have him toe the lines of experts who say he is lacking fine motor skills. Don’t they see him build cars and assault vehicles out of legos!? Obviously we’ll get him whatever help Jax might need, but I love my Jax just the way he is.

2011 Recap

Now that we’ve all survived Christmas, and are relatively unscathed, its time of course to take a few moments to reflect on the past year and what’s to come. 2011 has been quite a year! I am finding it hard to believe we’re heading towards the very end of another year. Over the past year, my daughter was born, my son turned five years old, we’ve moved (a couple times). I left my job (terrifying). I’ve found new passions, lost others, and rediscovered some the old.

2011 has been a year for learning- learning things about myself, and learning what I’m capable of. I’ve always been the type of person to be self-confrontational and to face whatever I’m afraid of. Sometimes it might take longer than other times, but eventually, as long as it has nothing to do with spiders, I will face it. I did something I never would have imagined myself doing in the past- having Bella naturally. I actually had imagined doing that in the past- and thought I’d never be able to do something like that! I’ve talked in the past about how transformative this experience was and still is for me, and it will continue to be as it leads to some of my plans for this coming new year.

2011 has proved a time to realize my little guy, no matter how much I love him, will have time where he drives me Bat-Shit Crazy. (In case you’re not familiar with that term, its a description of how parents feel when they reach the point of going outside just to scream or to tear their own hair out in chunks.) Its also been a time for me to learn how to deal with it. Sometimes the only way I’ve been able to face it is to shout, to Time Out, to let that Bat Shit Crazy feeling have its turn. But other times its been a great opportunity to reflect on how to deal with the situation differently, thanks to some shiny new ideas from attachment parenting techniques, to find some compassion and redirection and solve the problems before they get to be a problem.

2012 is full of hope and optimism for me. I’m excited for some projects I’ve already been working on for a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to striving towards some new goals I have set out for myself. Because I don’t necessarily believe New Year’s Resolutions are effective or often even achievable, I’ve been working on forming these goals since the beginning of December, but am excited to work them more into my daily life with the freshness of the new year.

My biggest ‘umbrella’ goal I’ll be working on in 2012 is organization. Those who love me or know me well enough know I suck at planning and organizing. If you want me to put together a great menu for a special party, I’m your girl. If you want me to do something a normal adult might be capable of, such as scheduling my dog’s shots annually or knowing where I took off my shoes, or actually mailing the bills I just wrote checks for, you’ll need to look somewhere else. The amazing thing is I’ve gotten much better than I used to be. Before Jax was born, just getting out of the house was a struggle: I’d get out to the car before realizing I had no idea where my wallet was (I still lose my debit card a few times a year).

So this is the thing I’ve promised myself: no more chaotic moments of forgetting where I’ve put something, and no more ‘oh I meant to clean that’ or ‘that was due WHEN!?’ I’m fine as long as I have a system; my remotes never go missing as long as they are returned to the same place everytime. My shoes are always put away on a rack because that’s where I’ll look to find them. I’m the type of person that has to park in the same place whenever I go to the mall otherwise I won’t be able to find my car. And I’ve promised myself I’ll make those appointments, like bringing my dog to the vet on time. (Somewhere my sister in law, aka ‘our vet’, just did a happy dance of relief- finally she’ll make that appointment!, haha). I solved the bill issue (where I’d write the checks and forget to mail them), a long time ago by automating, but this year we’ll be taking a step further towards some bigger savings goals. I’m working on losing the baby weight consciously, with a system, instead of floundering unhappily day to day with the issue staying I’ll sign up for that doula course I’ve been wanting to take, and we’ll make some plans for our family, really mapping things out better for ourselves.

I plan on organizing everything to bring a sense of calm and order to our lives. Too many things in 2011 and before were full of ‘ups and downs’ and temporary fixes, so its wonderful to be feeling like we’re aiming towards a place of permanence and balance. And with that comes a time to purge the closets (moving and leaving the majority of your things two states away puts things into perspective for ‘needs’ vs ‘need to get rid of’). Overall, I’m hopeful and excited to see what 2012 will bring for me and my family.

What about your goals and hopes for the new year and beyond?

Holiday Wishlist

In the spirit of the holidays, I’m putting together my wishlist. I have a real list, mostly some easy things I really wish I was doing for myself since I became a mom of two. I also have an I-wish-this-was-real-List: the one I’ll fulfill myself once the Lottery Commission straightens themselves out and finally gives me my Jackpot (I’m patient but seriously, if I was running that place, I’d have won a long time ago. Really). I also have a list for Bella, since she’s four months old, I would be the one using the majority of things for her, so its really a natural extension of my list, right?

We’ll start with the Dream List, the stuff I’m not really asking for or going to get anytime soon, but it couldn’t hurt to at least write them down. Without further ado…
-a treadmill, elliptical trainer, spinning bike, or one of those treadclimber things. Or all of them. The baby weight’s gotta come off somehow and it is going to start snowing at some point. And don’t give me a gym membership unless you plan on watching the kids and getting Bella to take a bottle.
– I’m going to need a nice room for that equipment.
– Might as well make that a house, because the room would have to be attached to something. Nothing crazy, just something with a yard and not near loud, smelly neighbors. I’m all set with apartment living.
– A super nice, pillow top, king sized mattress, and boxspring,
– A nice computer, preferably a laptop, suited well for my digital photos. All my pictures are stored on their SD chips (compact but easy to lose). I’d love to be able to organize and edit them easier and even do little slideshows!
– Let’s throw in a nice digital SLR camera while we’re at it. Although my Blackberry takes okay-quality pictures…
– A bigger car. Silly me, Bella wasn’t on my radar when I traded the gas guzzling Yukon in for the cute little Impreza, which was ‘just enough’. Now we’re cramming all four of us into a car where Bella’s carseat base barely fits. Oops. We all make choices that end up not being the best I guess.
– Jax keeps asking if we can have a wedding. Like, he asks my grandmother if she’ll babysit him so his mommy and daddy can get married sometime, and then go on a honeymoon “someplace nice”. I’m all for us getting married, apparently our ability to plan really sucks! But by now its sort of a moot point, isn’t it? I’d feel awfully silly spending money like that for a dream wedding, especially since I’m wishing I could have a bigger car and a nice house. But then again, I do think every girl wants her dream day of being a princess, right? Right.
– While we’re on that subject, something sparkly wouldn’t hurt. Just no gold. I. Do. NOT. Like. Gold. (This ones next to impossible because I like to hold onto the money, and the money’s not going to me for something to wear on my hand. Nope.)

Okay. On to the REAL wishlist. This one’s far more realistic and what I’d really like. Since I fell into the ‘don’t do nice things for myself’ trap ages ago, and added two kiddos on top of that, I’m finding it super easy not to feel good about myself. SO, I’m making an early resolution for the new year of taking care of myself. From a parenting perspective, the kiddos DO always come first, BUT I need to be doing some things for me, to be a happy mommy/ wifey/ girlfriend. So here goes:
– some nice smelling perfume. Maybe a lotion, or something light. I can’t stand heavy scents but like something pretty.
– a great haircut. If I am trying to avoid the look of a frumpy lady with two little ones, my hair is NOT helping. Enough said.
– a REAL date night. We haven’t had a night out, just us, in maybe a year. Really!! And whoever offers to let us have a date night, it’d be awesome if you could miraculously get Bells to take a bottle. She’s not too interested in them at all, ugh.
– If the weather is at all cooperative, I would like to take a walk everyday. Especially cathartic would be to get time to take the dog out for a walk and to leave the baby at home, seeing as how strollers are tricky in the winter. Really, it’d be pretty awesome to get a nice walk outside everyday, with the baby or not. Lately I’ve really sucked about going on walks, and its not helping with my moods or that ever-stuck baby weight I keep wishing I’d drop.
– A 3 month subscription to Weight Watchers Online. You get the theme here, I’m sure.
– A nice workout outfit or two that will also be cold weather friendly. I have the jackets, but some new ‘activewear’ that’s slightly stylish would be cool.

That’s really it for me, so the rest is things for the little girl. If you don’t cloth diaper, you might not get what some things are, but trust me, they’re all good:
– a diaper sprayer. Really, just trust me on this.
– a gift certificate to Cotton Babies (www.cottonbabies.com). Their BumGenius are out in new colors I’d love to add to the stash (Mirror, Dazzle, Sassy, and Lovelace. Fun, right!?)
– Minky inserts (6 or 8 ) from Fuzzibunz (www.fuzzibunz.com). They’re awesome!
– Cloth Diaper friendly rash cream, like from Earth Mama Angel Baby or California Baby (regular creams cause repelling issues which equals wet baby leak mess). She doesn’t really get rashes, but every once in a while she wakes up with some redness and some cream could be handy.
– A Baltic amber teething necklace from Inspired by Finn.
– A couple fun toys for her. I’ve tried hard not to over-accumulate for the little girl, Jax always had so much stuff we barely used. So just a couple.

All in all, not too crazy of a wishlist. We may as well throw in that I wish Jax wasn’t asking for blasters and army men, but he’s drawn to them like its nobody’s business. So, with the exception of legos, let’s all try to give him some gifts that are crafty and fun to do activities, over more plastic he’ll just add to the pile and lose interest in five minutes later, mmmmkay? Mmkay.