Wildflowers for Jade: 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Go Exploring

Chase and Pip are here! Kindle version and in paperback. Beautifully illustrated story of fun adventure in rhyming verse, for kids ages 2-5.

And yes, you will be supporting a single mother of a child who has Autism as well! (Shameless plug, maybe, but it's true.)
If you want a hard cover book stick around just a little bit longer, it's coming soon! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Annatto drama aka Annatto is the devil or turns my child into one

Andrew Magill
It began with a free cookie from Publix. Jaden was just a little over 3 yrs old. I
was hesitant but didn't think too much of it when they offered it to him. He went all hyper in the store after that, a little more than usual but that happens. I don't know if it's the florescent lights or the chemicals they clean with or the smells or… but something in the grocery stores set him off. Only he never calmed that night, until he was whipped into an absolute frenzy. It was hours later, 1 a.m. with me trying to hold down my screaming child to keep him in the bed when it hit me. He was yelling at the top of his lungs "Help me! Somebody help me!" At the time I lived in an apartment with people living under, over, and on three sides. I had horrible visions of the police banging on my door and ripping my screaming child from my arms into the night, because it sounded like he was being tortured. 

"What the hell has gotten into him?" I wondered desperately. "It's like he's been drugged." 

Just like. He'd been drugged. 

The next day I was at the customer service desk at Publix wanting the ingredients list of that cookie. They made calls, I made calls and sent emails. Two days later it was in my hand. It was a simple and short list. I understood and ruled out every ingredient except one. What was annatto? 

Ramon FVelasquez
Annatto, if you don't know, is what makes cheese yellow. Actually if you're eating something yellow, there's a good chance it's annatto. I had no idea previously that cheddar cheese was actually white, and they dye it to be yellow. Why? 

Annatto is a natural food dye, but it's also the most allergenic of natural food dyes. Unfortunately there hasn't been much study of it, so everything I will tell you is from years of anecdotal evidence. 

My first round of research turned up some odd stories of children so allergic-yet-addicted (it so happens some people crave what they're allergic to, don't know why?) that they would only eat yellow and only wear yellow. I wasn't even sure if I believed all that, but there was enough to make me wonder just how far this connection was with Jaden. 

He did have some annatto in his diet already but not much, due to his very self-limited diet. Grilled cheese was one of his 3 staple foods, and I used yellow american. I switched to white american. There was some slight resistance but it wasn't terribly difficult for the fact that the cheese was inside the bread, and not prominent. And I fed him in front of the TV so he wasn't staring at it the whole time. 
Slowly, his speech started to improve. At that time his speech had been very twisted. Twisted is really the best way to describe it. The words were half wrong, he would say one word when he was trying to say something else. The other half weren't even real words. Not only that, but he said them all in the wrong order. 

A few days ago I watched a short video of him from that era. He was talking and I was responding, and I thought "How on earth did I DO that?? I can't make out a single thing that sounds like a word!" I can't even begin to describe the copious amounts of desperate effort it took to understand that child… I must be a saint! 

I digress. In a few weeks his words started making more sense. Less scrambled sentences. Words that were actually words. I won't say it "fixed" everything. He still needed speech therapy for two years after that. But there was a definite notable improvement that made speech therapy more effective. But was it really the annatto? It's often difficult to tell in these types of trials. I started to doubt myself, often. There was still some slight trace of it in his diet, in the vegetarian Morningstar Chick'n Nuggets he ate it's listed as an ingredient (and I tried but could not get him to switch.) But I've ascertained that it can't be very much. Sometimes I gave in to his love of Goldfish. And I regretted it. Every. Time. His speech would become twisted again, his thoughts more confused, his behavior more hyper. After enough times it was too obvious a change, when that was the only thing that changed. It had to be the annatto. 

I think of that Publix cookie as a life saver. Thank you, Publix, for dosing my child with a large enough amount of unnecessary annatto that I could finally root out something that had been too subtle in his other foods. Seriously. How else would I have figured it out? I wouldn't have. It was also a backhanded blessing that his diet at the time was so severely limited. Finding a needle in a haystack is more doable when you've eliminated most of the hay. 

Why am I writing this rambly annatto post? Because I made a mistake again. I was prepping for a long trip, and Jaden's dad offered to make a last minute run to the store for road trip snacks. There's not a whole lot he can eat on the road. White cheese to put in the cooler (we switched to provolone btw, he's loving it,) bakery bread, and … oh I don't know. He was standing by the door keys in hand. "Goldfish." 

Why didn't I ask for his veggie sticks? 

So a whole huge box of Goldfish was bought and I tossed a handful each into two baggies. A little tiny bit every 6 months or so is not *that* bad… 

Until that night, 8+ hours later we arrived at my parents house, all travel-weary and stuff. Unpack the car, talk to the parents… while Jaden snags and eats the whole rest of the box of Goldfish. 

And so begins my 5 whole days of some of the most hellish behavior I've ever had from him. I'm. Not. Kidding. 

I told my dad (or maybe screamed at my dad, it's all a blur) "He's not usually like this! If he had been, there would have never been a custody battle!" 

For the record, there was never actually a custody battle. Also for the record, it's not a bit true anyway. I was just at one of those I'm-pulling-my-hair-out moments. Was all of this really from the Goldfish? Or was it the change of scenery and routine, or stuff between me and his dad, or… 

And on day 6 I had my child back. Still hyper, smart-mouthed, and easily frustrated but no longer these things at a screaming 20 on a scale of 1-10. His true personality was back and no longer drowned out. I realized how much I had missed him. Nothing had changed but that it had been the right amount of days for a whole box of crap to get out of his system. I will never feed him another Goldfish again and will body slam anyone who comes near him with one. Just saying. 

After all this drama I realized that I can't, just can't, be the only parent of a hyper child with Autism and SPD who goes off like a baby on crack when fed annatto in the world. I might just have been lucky enough to figure it out where others haven't who weren't given a free Publix cookie at the time when their child had limited themselves to only 4 foods which happened to include chocolate chip cookies.  I'll concede that might be a rare chain of events. 

So I'm writing this for them, or you, whoever you is who is trying to figure out why your child turns into the tasmanian devil sometimes and if it could possibly be a random, unheard of, seemingly innocent food additive. 

That is all. Oh and as a word of warning to everyone else. I will body slam you if you come near my child with a Goldfish. 

"Natural food colors such as annatto extract have not been extensively investigated with respect to potential allergenic properties." Wikipedia  
"Allergy symptoms for Annatto include…
Mood changes
Behavioral changes

Food Intolerance Network Factsheet: Annatto
There are a lot of anecdotes here that describes similar physical and behavioral reactions to annatto.

Read my most recent post on annatto: Taking Annatto Seriously 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Introducing Chase & Pip!

I added some new tabs to play with so must take a moment to introduce them to you!

First, Chase & Pip star in my first (almost) published children's book, "I Go Exploring".

The page is a little bit under construction. Bad form, I know. My apologies.

Second I'm please to introduce to you Wildflowers for Her!
We begin with a collection of my best poetry, and it's really pretty good. :)
As many writers know, poetry and short stories are rarely money makers, especially while you're still alive. I could have waited until I'm dead but I'm a bit too impatient for that. So instead of allowing them to continue to gather dust and cobwebs I've decided to share them. Click on the link above and follow Wildflowers for Her, or join the email list, to receive updates when I post the short stories. IMO it's worth a look!
Maybe I'll post some inspirational posts "for her" as well. What? I can be inspirational. Stop laughing. 


Thanks for stopping by! <3 <3 <3 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Graduation Day

My very hard working little Jade has graduated from all of his therapies. May 3rd was his last day at BCA! :) 

First day of school

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Typical people, it’s time to start pulling your weight

Years of therapy - speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and social skills. My 5 year old has worked his butt off to learn how to understand and relate to the typical world. What a smile means, what a frown means, what sarcasm is and why people don’t say what they mean and mean what they say. Don’t hug, don’t touch, don’t stand too close because it makes the typicals uncomfortable. We still haven’t got that down. Typical kids jump away like they’ve never had affection at home. Sometimes I feel sorry for them.

He. Tries. SO. Hard. He doesn’t get it right. The kids are mean. He wants to give up. He echoes lines from his superhero cartoons “That kid is NOT my bro.” He sobs in my lap for a half hour because I won’t let him quit soccer this time.

And I think, it’s not fair really. He was born behind the curve in understanding an illogical world. Meanwhile those for whom learning comes easy breeze through with a scorn and a laugh, some flippant remarks, adults who think we all “take it too seriously” when every day that we go out in public is a war. A war to keep my child from sinking into self-hatred and killing himself. Too dramatic again? Uh oh, better run back to your pintrest and desperate housewives, because today I’m keeping it real.

See, words and attitudes do hurt, even for a child who might not have the finest grasp on words. What he understands less is why he’s an automatic outcast. He takes it out on himself, not knowing how he’s messing it up, but knowing that he is.

My five year old said he hates himself and wants to kill himself. Several times.

At first I reacted by saying I hate Autism. But I don’t. I hate typical. Typical, self-important, entitled yahoos to whom life hands apples and they make quips about what to do when you get lemons.

The week I was dealing with a suicidal five year old, rejection on the playground, new soccer kids in new soccer team who scorn and push and play better, meltdowns in public and sobfests in my arms; that same week I am confronted by an internet post that mocked parents who have screaming kids in target. Bring on the inevitable tidal wave of public opinion and vicious posts about bad parents and rotten kids. I wasn’t mad, yet. I know people are ignorant (though it’s 2012 and the information age, for God’s sake.) I'm always more hurt for Jaden than offended for me, because people think of him that way. Kids do pick up on those attitudes, yes even kids with disabilities. I insert a small PSA about special needs kids and thinking before you bitch, and get the slap down because life is rainbows and I should learn to laugh about it more. “We all have problems.” Yep, I can remember the time I had to choose which coffee to make in the morning and trying to make it home from work in time to watch my favorite show. God, life was rough.

I do laugh at myself, my problems, my issues and my screw-ups. I make jokes about it all the time. Humor and finding the joy in my life, or at least the sarcasm, is part of what holds me together. My husband left me? I have jokes for that. Don’t have a job because I’m caring for my son? Sure, poor humor is rich. You put down my son (or incite others to do the same)? I will tear your fucking eyes out. Fair enough? Some things. Aren’t. Funny.

Jaden is about to complete his 3rd year of therapy. All that to relate to the typical world, and because that’s what he wants to do, not because I give a damn about him looking like a “real boy.” And he’s doing amazing, just absolutely amazing and I’m proud of him and the hard work he’s done. He’s doing great until he’s around typical kids who see different a mile away no matter how much therapy it’s had.

How much time have you invested in your kids, or even yourself, to be able to relate to children/people/families with special needs? If a child with special needs is behind already, and your honor roll kids are so smart, why is it so hard for them to learn how to meet a child with Autism half way instead of making that kid do all the work to get up to their standards? Instead of handing out donations at the supermarket and thinking you did something special, why don’t you spend some time teaching your kids what special really is, why different doesn’t mean bad, and how to be a friend?  We’ve invested 3 years and counting. You can match that with at least a few days.

A child having a meltdown at the supermarket doesn’t offend me, by the way, but a mean-spirited child sure does. I blame the parents.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Nature of Boys - vs Nurture

Before I had kids I thought I knew so much. I believed in nurture’s superiority to nature. I thought that boys must gravitate towards “boy things” more because they were told that’s what boys like. As any mother with sons could have told me - if they could have gotten the words out through their laughter - that is just not the way it is. I admit the deeply embedded “I love cars” gene has my scientific mind baffled, considering there were no cars up until 150ish years ago. (I’m not looking up when cars were actually invented, as a woman I really don’t care.)

It’s apparent that other things are also buried deep within the male DNA. When I had to explain to Jaden some of the subtle difference between our *ahem* parts, and it finally dawned on him that mommy didn’t have an “outie,” his reply was “Oh… I’m sorry Mommy!”

At four years old he was already convinced of the superiority of a peepee.

My son is surrounded by estrogen. All of his teachers/therapists are female, the director at his school is a woman, and I’m his primary caregiver. Meaning I’m the boss. Jaden’s dad, while having some of the all-to-normal subtle forms of the belief in male superiority, isn’t one to spout off a chauvinistic remark. So imagine our surprise when during a casual conversation about office politics, Jaden cried out “Dad, your boss is a woman?! You can’t have a woman for a boss!”

I almost, at that point, gave up any hope for the future of the race.

He is, however, very sweet and considerate. He insists on buying me flowers (with my money) whenever we go to the grocery store, is quick to say “Wow, you look beautiful Mommy!” when I come downstairs dressed up, and tells me often that he loves me and what a great mom I am. And I don’t even have to pay him to do it.

So in spite of his little boys-are-better quirks, and the body-gas humor, superhero and supervillian obsessions, and his having to shoot or beat up every bad guy in town, I do think he’ll turn out to be a good and considerate man. With nurture.