Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Ready for Mexico

This Christmas is going to be a first for us. My entire family is flying down to Mexico for Christmas. We are all going to stay at my parents house, Casa Lagarto. My parents took my boys down to their house last spring break, but this will be a first for the baby, my husband and myself. When I say my entire family is going, I mean EVERYONE. I'm not excited yet since I am still plugging away getting things done before we leave. My parents have been stocking up on food for Connor to eat at their house for sometime. They also don't eat a lot of food down there that is not "Connor friendly". They have a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and corn tortillas. They eat a lot of fresh seafood and beans too. Whatever they can't get locally, my parents buy from the Puerta Vallarta Costco. Yes, there is even one down there. It makes getting diapers and such easier for us.

Next Blog Post: A Casa Lagarto Christmas!

Have a great Christmas Everyone! See you soon.


I realized recently that I never wrote about Thanksgiving. We had a great day spending time with family. We all decided this year to not cook. None of us were particularly interested in hosting this year and spending a lot of time and money to make a bunch of food that would barely get eaten. Instead we met my family at a restaurant for lunch and met with my husband's family for dinnertime snacks.

Connor is really into seafood right now. Since Disney World, Connor has only wanted to eat seafood. He asks all the time if I will make crab legs or shrimp for dinner. Since I don't eat seafood (nothing from the sea) that has been quite a challenge.

The restaurant where we had lunch was a buffet and traditionally buffets are a nightmare for us. There is very seldom anything without gluten or dairy for Connor, and the contamination factor is huge. I called the restaurant first thing in the morning and asked about the menu. I spoke to the manager who informed me that all the seafood would be plain, without butter or anything else. There was going to be plenty of fruit and meats also. I would always ask to speak to either the manager or the chef directly. I always stress the allergy and ask for specific dishes that would be safe. If there are no choices available for Connor, I would just bring as much of his own food from home as possible. The nice thing about this particular restaurant was that the seafood was in a different area than the other food. The fruit and meats were also all separate from things like bread or cheese. It was nice and easy. Connor had a good time and loved his crab legs! It was a nice way to spend a holiday. With no clean-up either...

Monday, November 24, 2008

It has begun...

I started Connor on Valtrex yesterday. He immediately starting letting out toxic smells. He was off but nothing major. Today, on the other hand, was pretty major.

Connor has OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. I feel like most of what makes him different is linked to his OCD. When he was little, two or three years old, we were living in fear that anything we did could lead (and usually did) to a major meltdown. We couldn't turn on or off any lights. We couldn't turn the TV on or on. We couldn't even flush our own toilet. My grandfather made the mistake one time of flushing the toilet with Connor around. My grandfather still carries that baggage. It isn't pretty. Connor would be fixated on it and would want you to undo the act. Of course we couldn't undo some things and really couldn't or we would be feeding into the obsession. Connor hasn't behaved like this in years, until today.

Today I saw so many of these behaviors return. He wouldn't let me put his bowl on the table. He wanted me to do it a certain way. When I refused, he snapped. After an hour of screaming irrationally for an hour, I finally had to put pressure on his torso. I learned about this from Temple Gradin in a conference one year. She is an adult with high functioning autism, and she talks about pressure and how it soothes the brain when "short circuiting". It kind of "reboots" his system. He is still off, but nothing like before.

I have to say, as much as I hate going through this, and hate Connor having to go through this, I hope this means he is "a responder". Stan Kurtz talks about the first week being the worst. I just focus on what will hopefully come out of this and am glad Connor is on Thanksgiving break.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Autism Warriors

I have to pass on a great news site devoted to autism. It is a very informative site and the writers, I believe, are all (or most) parents of autistic children.

I think we all need to become aware of a serious issue going on with the Somalian immigrants living in Minnesota. The rates of autism in their children are 1 in 28 children! Yes, I will repeat that, 1 in 28 children! I know the national rates of autism is supposedly 1 in 150, which is an extremely conservative number, but 1 in 28?! The government is dragging their feet (no surprise) to gather data to try and figure out why these particular people, in this particular place, are seeing such catastrophically high numbers. Please read in more detail about this story and the fight ahead for these people at these great sites:

I also want to mention a fight going on between a great autism advocate, JB Handley and the man I refer to as Da Devil (He da devil) Paul Offit. Please go to Age of Autism and read about the lies DD is spewing now. He has even written a book talking about us "parasites" and how we are ruining the world. I hate to type the title, but I think most of you will enjoy the irony, Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. Only Da Devil would consider a cure for autism wrong. By the way, for those wondering who DD is, he is the "brilliant VACCINE INVENTOR" who is mentoring Amanda Peet and encouraging her fight against Jenny McCarthy and other "parasite" parents like me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Visiting the Doc

Yesterday Connor had his first doctor's appointment in years. He doesn't get sick, and traditional doctors aren't very knowledgeable about autism, so there is never a reason to go. I decided a couple weeks ago to go back to our DAN! (defeat autism now!) doctor to see what was new with DAN! and to get a new perspective. Connor is doing so amazing, but he is not recovered. He is still awkward with peers and gets obsessive about topics. I was very interested to see what the doctor would say after seeing Connor. Our DAN! doctor has been our doctor since the beginning. We were one of his first autistic patients in his practice. He didn't know a lot about autism back then, but decided to dedicate his practice to treating kids with autism.

He had a couple of new ideas that I had thought of a few years ago and never pursued. Since many of our kids have viral issues, we are going to test for viruses. In Jenny McCarthy's latest book, "Mother Warriors" several parents talk about how much their child improved after addressing viruses. Please consult your DAN! doctor if you are interested in more information on getting rid of viruses. (check out Stan Kurtz's info at TACA)

We also talked about Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments. Our DAN! doc has done a lot of research into HBOT and feels that it is a great treatment for autism. He had also traveled to Fresno and visited the facility that we are going to go to in March. He was impressed with the facility. We are going to do some testing to ensure maximum benefits from HBOT.

I always feel like you need to go back and readdress things that didn't make it on your plate before. One great way to do this is to keep a journal. I always tell new moms just starting biomedical or ABA treatments with their kid's to write everything down. Sometimes years later you will finally get to something. We are always going down a path, and sometimes we find a fork in the road. Sometimes we go left and sometimes we go right. That path takes us down another path...and so on. We need to go back now and again and readdress the other direction, the path we didn't choose. Sometimes it just wasn't the right time.

We are going to do some new testing. I will let you know how it goes, and what path we decide to go down...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Trip to Disney

My family and I returned from our week-long vacation to Disney World. This year was the best family trip we have had. My parents decided to join us for four days this year. They are a lot of fun to have with us, and the kids love having their "Honey" and "Papa" with them. Our great friends, Aran and Chad also drove up to meet us. It is great to see them and their little one, Jon. Connor also had his best trip ever. He was much calmer and more in the moment then he has ever been on a trip. He wasn't consumed with what was next, or overwhelmed by all the excitement as much as usual. He did have a couple moments, but by far he did great.

I must say that going to Disney World with my family is a really fun thing. To be able to go into any restaurant and say we have a gluten, dairy, and soy allergy and still be able to eat fun, new and tasty food is amazing. Connor never had to go without or not have what everyone else was having. We wanted ice cream the first day and sure enough the ice cream stand at Animal Kingdom had gluten free rice dream ice cream. I highly suggest becoming acquainted with what the parks carry that is gluten, and dairy free. If you call or email any of the parks special allergy staff, they will send you a list of every park and what they carry. They even have links to the product websites so you can read the ingredients and become acquainted with the brand.

I did a couple of things this year that I think were helpful. The first thing I did was have every park mapped out for Connor. He and I sat down and decided what rides we were going on and when. He loves roller coasters, so I knew we had to get to those first. Also, I made meal reservations at sit down restaurants (as apposed to the quick service places) so that we could all relax a bit and not be rushed to find a table or to eat. The prices are a bit more, but if you budget for at least one sit down restaurant a day it is worth it. Depending on the park, time of year, and restaurant, you will want to make reservations at these places as soon as possible.

Another reason Disney World is such a great trip for us is because of the special needs pass. This is a pass they give people with special issues like people in wheelchairs or people with autism. Waiting in line is the number one reason people tell me they don't want to try a place like Disney. I will tell you that the day we went to Magic Kingdom, we had a big sit down breakfast in the park (Crystal Palace Character Breakfast) and took a lot of breaks, and we still rode every ride, and some twice, before our six o'clock dinner reservations.

I can not say enough about the food at the parks. Connor is so use to having a hamburger with no bun at every restaurant, that he goes crazy in the restaurants at Disney. Disney also takes food allergies very serious. The chef comes out at every restaurant to to talk about the allergies and discuss food options. One of Connor's favorite dinners was in Epcot at Japan's Tempenyaki restaurant. First the manager came out and talked about the allergies, then the chef cleaned the grill really well, then she cooked Connor's food in front of us first. He is on a seafood kick right now so he got the kid's shrimp meal. She cooked his shrimp and veggies in front of us on the big grill tempenyaki style. He loved it!

Connor celebrated his birthday while on vacation. We actually plan it that way every year. October is one of the slower times a year, so we plan our trip to coincide with his birthday and Halloween. This year, Connor chose to go to Hollywood studios for his birthday. We have never been huge fans of this park in the past, but this year we loved it. I made reservations for breakfast at a Little Einsteins character breakfast for that morning. Connor danced with the characters and had a great breakfast. We had dinner at a place were you sit in cars and watch old sci-fi movie clips like in a drive-in. The food there isn't the best, but Connor gets a rice milk shake, so it is cool. We also had a birthday cake for him. I ordered it about a week in advance. I told them the allergies and that was it!! They did a wonderful job. Connor also got a "It's My Birthday" button with his name on it, so every time a staff member walked by they would say "Happy Birthday Connor". I can't tell you how amazing it was to see the look on his face. He really felt a good way.

Disney does not skimp on anything. My husband and I always say that it is in the details. They really made our life easier for the week we were there. If you have a chance to go, please do. I would recommend staying on Disney. They have great transportation that takes you anywhere on Disney's grounds. Not having to get a rental car saves on the stress and the budget. We are already talking about next year. I am already saving for our trip. I don't want it to be a financial burden, so we use airline miles and start saving the moment we get back.

Our next trip is Mexico for Christmas. My entire family is going to my parents home in Mexico for Christmas. Even my Papa is going to make it. We are looking forward to that. Connor is using that trip as a way to focus. Check out my mom's new blog too

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

I fully believe things come to you when you are ready. I had heard about hbo therapy (hyperbaric oxygen) about two or three years ago. At that time I was overwhelmed with all the other biomedical things we were doing and working with the school, so I didn't really do a lot of looking into it. Recently I started to feel like there was something out there that was "calling" me. After ready Jenny McCarthy's latest book "Mother Warriors" I realized what it was. Several of the parents in her book mentioned HBO therapy and how much it helped their kids. I knew I needed to find out more about why it works and what the protocol entailed.

I know in my gut that this is right for Connor. There is a definite protocol in place and the safety rate is outstanding. So I started calling local HBOT centers. I heard from all of them that autism is not something they treat and that no one in Colorado would risk treating my son because it would be considered "off label". When I finally talked with the last HBOT center that I had a number for in Denver, a technician heard my sh peel and then, as all the other centers had done, he denied my plea. I then kinda lost my cool and began to rant about the ridiculousness of the bureaucracy of these clinics and how my son could be really helped but because of these stupid rules he wont have the chance. He then asked if he could put me on hold, so I figured he was just dishing me off to someone else, but instead he got back on the phone and began to whisper. He said if it were him he would find a "stand alone" center that was not connected to a hospital. He warned to find a reputable clinic that had trained personnel and not be fooled by people pawning off their equipment. He talked about the risks of renting one and that out of state would probably be my best option. It was a relief to actually have someone talk (or in this case whisper) to me fairly openly instead of just another "no". I felt reinvigorated that this was the right path for me and for Connor.

I found a clinic in Denver (about two hours away) that treats autistic children. It is a stand alone clinic, meaning it isn't connected to a hospital. The problem with this particular clinic is that they know they have a monopoly for desperate parents like me, therefore they charge three times what they should charge. I made it clear to them that I would not be paying that price and they said, "Good luck out of state then".

I had almost given up hope that I would find a clinic that I could afford to go to and that would work with us "off-label" people.

I found an amazing clinic in the LA area that have some pretty amazing and famous autism professionals working at the clinic. One of the doctors is Dr. Kartzinel, Jenny McCarthy's son Evan's doctor. This clinic looks amazing and the price is the lowest of all I have found. Please look into it if you have the chance.

In our case we are actually going to go to a clinic in Fresno, California. The reason I decided to do this is because I have lots of family and friends in Fresno and this clinic looks wonderful. The owners opened this clinic because of their own journey with their autistic child. They traveled all around California, and the country doing biomedical treatments for him. They wanted to spare other parents and children the financial hardship of having to travel all around the country to get hbot and other biomedical treatments. This clinic is also associated with the Ronald McDonald house. Please check out this clinic also if you are in the area. HOPE Hyperbaric Treatment Center

We are planning on trying HBOT this spring break. I don't want Connor to miss too much school and we will be there three weeks. The protocol is forty sessions with most people seeing some improvement around twenty sessions. Most clinics will do two sessions a day with four hours separation between sessions. Please look into this treatment later in your biomedical protocols. I think things like this do so much more after the gut and "bugs" are addressed. In fact, the doctor we use, Dr. Amy Yasko advises doing it in her stage three. Basically after addressing methylation and gut issues.

More info: Hyperbaric Healing Institute
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a method of administering pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure to a patient in order to improve or correct conditions. By providing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber we are able to deliver 10-15 times more oxygen then if delivered at sea level or at normal atmospheric levels. Some of the effects this has are to promote the growth of new blood vessels, decreases swelling and inflammation, deactivates toxins, increase the body’s ability to fight infections, clears out toxins and metabolic waste products, and improve the rate of healing. HBOT should be used to compliment conventional therapies and treatments.

Wish us luck...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From the Archives... Chocolate Molten Cake

I made this chocolate dessert a few months ago and thought it would be a good addition to Jill's blog. It is great as an elegant dessert but it can also be a great dessert for kids. I served it with vanilla flavored rice milk ice cream and the kids loved it. Very, very simple.

Just a note regarding the non-hydrogenated shortening. The only one that we have found that is soy free is made from palm oil (Spectrum sells a good one). However, if soy is not a concern, I recommend you use the butter flavored non hydrogenated shortenings that is sold usually in the refrigerated isle, next to butter. If dietary restrictions allow it, this is my preference.

Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free Chocolate Molten Cakes

4 oz non-hydrogenated shortening
6 oz gluten, dairy and soy free chocolate chips
2 organic eggs
2 organic egg yolks
2 oz sugar
3/4 oz organic white rice flour
pinch of sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar and whip until very thick and pale. In the meantime, melt the shortening and the chocolate chips together over a double boiler.

Add the shortening and chocolate mixture to the whipped eggs while the mixer is on low speed. Once all the chocolate is added, turn mixer back to high for about 10 seconds so it's all well mixed.

Fold in the rice flour and the sea salt. Pour batter into 4-oz greased molds and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. The outside of the cake will be baked but the center will stay slightly soft and gooey.

Let the cakes rest in the molds for a few minutes until they cool down enough to handle and then flip them onto a plate. These are best served warm with ice cream.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


by Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures, and a couple by habit. This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger. 'Armstrong, Beth, son, patron saint Matthew. Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, patron saint Cecelia. Rudledge, Carrie, twins, patron saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity.' Finally he passes a name to an angel and smiles, 'Give her a handicapped child.'

The angel is curious, 'Why this one, God? She's so happy.'

'Exactly,' says God. 'Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.'

'But has she patience?' asks the angel.

'I don't want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world. She has to make him live in her world, and that's not going to be easy.'

'But, Lord, I don't think that she even believes in you.'

God smiles, 'No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.'

The angel gasps, 'Selfishness? Is that a virtue?'

God nods, 'If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says Momma for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.'

'I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty, prejudice...and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.'

'And what about her patron saint?' asks the angel, pen poised in midair.

God smiles, 'A mirror will suffice.'

Monday, October 6, 2008

Preparing For Disney

Every year for the past four years we have taken Connor to Disney World for his birthday. I know this seems a bit extreme but after we went the first time we fell in love with the experience. Connor is a bit of an adrenaline junky. He loves roller coasters. He loves rides in general. He loves rides most adults cringe at going on. Luckily for him though his mama loves those rides too. Also while visiting Disney World the first time, we found out how easy it is to eat in the Disney owned restaurants. They take food allergies seriously and try to have fun kid friendly food that is safe for all kinds of allergies. We kinda feel like a rock star because the chef always comes out to talk to us and walk us through what is safe and what they can make especially for us to fit our allergies. They even have ice cream and brownies for dessert! They have dinner rolls at almost all of their restaurants. Connor NEVER gets to have bread at a restaurant so this is especially cool for him.

Our friends (and blog contributor) Aran and her family live in Florida so it is nice to meet them also and enjoy a few days with them. It is a nice break from the cold Colorado winter.

As most of you probably already know, Disney also has a pass for special needs that allows you to basically skip the lines. This is an amazing thing to have! I would trade standing in the long lines any day of the week to take away Connor's autism, but since that isn't an option right now, I will take the no wait at Disney World. It is like having a "fast pass" for every line, so it doesn't really mean no wait, but a significantly shorter wait.

We have it planned to go not only during Connor's birthday, but also Halloween. Halloween has never been a great "holiday" for us since the entire day revolves around candy. Connor has never been able to eat any of the candy he gets from trick or treating or the party at his school. One year the town we live in gave out apples for Halloween from the grocery store. Connor was thrilled since he knew he could have apples. At Disney World they have an even for Halloween called the "Not So Scary Halloween Party". It is a fun way to experience the dressing up part of Halloween and not worrying as much about the candy part of it. We let the boys get candy at the designated areas just for fun, but we trade them for non candy treats later.

Having said all of that, I will tell you that planning this trip every year is an event for me. You can't just walk into the restaurants at Disney World without a reservation. You have to call sometimes up to six months ahead of time to get into some of the more popular places. If there are characters involved, you need to plan at least six months out for it. Also, every year Connor fixates on the next thing we are going to do. He isn't even off of the ride and he is asking what we are going to do next. This is very frustrating since he can't even enjoy the ride we are on. This year I hope I have solved that dilemma by making a schedule on an index card so he can always know what is next. Having a schedule at school has worked really well, so I thought it made perfect sense to try it at Disney World. For some people this might take away the fun and spontaneity of the experience, but for us it is just another way we can take away Connor's anxiety and give him some reassurances.

I am looking forward to our trip and will post pictures and a few stories about how everyone liked the trip in a few weeks. I recommend going to anyone looking for a fun, kid friendly, allergy free vacation, with minimal waiting in line too!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I can have yogurt?!!

Yes, it is true, they have come out with a dairy free, soy free, gluten free yogurt. I was picking up a couple of things with the baby today at Safeway and saw a new yogurt in the organic food section. When I read the ingredients I couldn't believe what I was reading. The milk that was used was coconut milk. It clearly states on the label that it is soy and dairy free. Gluten free was missing on the label so I figured it was too good to be true. Once I looked it up on-line, it explains why they don't include the verbiage "gluten free". It is in fact gluten free though.

Connor was skeptical that he wasn't allergic. He said he was afraid that it had gluten. He didn't want to taste it yet. I am not a big fan of yogurt myself, but I tasted it and it was pretty darn good. It doesn't have any coconut taste. I would be surprised if anyone could tell the difference between this and cow milk yogurt.

So Delicious® Coconut Milk Yogurt
Dairy Free Lactose Free
Soy Free
Rich in Medium Chain Fatty Acids
Excellent source of Vitamin B12 (vegetarian friendly)
Formulated for maximum calcium absorption
Contains Pre- and Probiotics for enhanced intestinal health
Cholesterol Free
No Trans Fats
Certified Vegan

Live Active Cultures include: L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Plantarum, L. Rhamnosus, L. Paracasei and Bif. Lactus

Monday, September 29, 2008

"On a journey to get my autism out"

I just wanted to post about a cute thing that happened today.

My parents have been staying at their house in Mexico for the last couple of weeks and while they were gone both of my boys lost a tooth. I was telling my mom how excited they were about losing teeth and having a visit from the tooth fairy so she said she would call later to talk to the boys. When she called she asked Connor how he was doing and what he had been up to while she was gone. Connor started telling her about his journey. She asked what journey he was talking about and Connor responded, "my journey to get my autism out".

He saw the name on my blog one day and figured it was something fun. He started asking about journeys and what they mean. I didn't think much of it at the time since I didn't know he had seen the blog name. He started saying he was on an adventure, or a voyage, an odysey or an excursion. I still didn't catch on to the connection with the blog name. I have told him in the past that a doctor accidentaly gave him bad medicine and that we are trying to fix it. I want him to know that there is a reason he has to take all those pills and why he sometimes gets overwhelmed.

When I asked what his journey to get his autism out meant, he replied, "I'm going to get the bad medicine out and then my autism with be gone". Somehow hearing him say it, I knew he could.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gluten Free Cinnamon Crackers with Pear, Fig and Vanilla Bean Jelly and Baked Pear Flan

Although I am no expert in gluten free baking, I have managed many times to bake gluten free cakes and cookies, but this was my first attempt at baking yeast breads using gluten free flours. I have to admit it was a challenge and it took three trials to get to these crackers that you see in the photos. It is a very simple recipe but I couldn't get the consistency right the first two times.

The trick to getting a thin cracker is to roll it as thin as possible, almost like paper. The first two doughs were tough so rolling them became a challenge. The baked crackers were rather thick and hard. Finally, for the third batch, I added a bit more water to see if a softer dough would be easier to roll. And there it was, worked like a charm.

To accompany the crackers, I made a pear, fig and vanilla bean jelly and also a baked pear custard. For the custard in these photos, I used cow's milk (I am not of an dairy free diet), but it works the same with rice, hemp or coconut milk.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Graham Crackers

1 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix (used Bob's Red Mill all purpose mix)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 Tbs agave nectar
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 to 4 oz water, at room temperature
Ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, stir together the baking mix, salt, instant yeast, agave nectar, oil and 3 oz of water. Mix well and slowly add the remaining 1 oz of water, if needed. Shape into a ball and place it in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for 90 minutes. It can also be placed in the refrigerator overnight retarding the fermentation (I chose to retard the dough this way).

Lay out two sheets of parchment paper or silicon mats. Divide the dough in half and place the dough between the sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is paper thin and about 15" x 12". Peel away the parchment on top and place the dough on a sheetpan. Spray the surface with cooking spray and sprinkle cinnamon sugar and top.

Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes or until brown. Let them cool before serving.

Pear Flan

250 ml rice milk, hemp milk or coconut milk
3 eggs
60 grams sugar
Half a pear, thinly sliced

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Slowly add in the milk and whisk until thoroughly combined. Strain through a fine sieve and pour the custard in your ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking sheet or deep baking dish and add some hot water to go up about an inch high. Bake at 300F for about 25 minutes, but it will depend on the size of the ramekins. The center should still jiggle a little but the rest should be set. Let them cool for a bit and store in the refrigerator.

Pear, Fig and Vanilla Bean Jam

2 pints of green figs, quartered
2 medium sized Bartlett pears, medium diced
1 lb sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1 vanilla bean split

Wash the figs, pat them dry and cut the stems off. Cut them into quarters and place them in a ceramic bowl. Dice the pears and add them to the bowl. Add the lemon juice, sugar and vanilla bean. Stir the fruit gently and cover the bowl with parchment paper. Let the fruit macerate at room temperature for an hour.

Transfer the fruit to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Transfer the fruit to another bowl, cover with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, transfer the fruit to a saucepan, bring it to a boil, skim impurities from the surface and cook for about 7 minutes. Laddle the jam into jars and seal.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Connor's Lunch Box

While at Whole Foods getting all the fun new food to go into Connor's lunch box for school, I discovered this new and "clean" lunch box. I hated putting all of his organic food into a grody 'ol plastic (probably full of lead) junky old lunch box. I hate to sound so dramatic, but it did make me feel like the food that was going in was getting contaminated by the grodiness of it. This new lunch box is safe and has a ton of room. I do tend to over stuff Connor's lunch box anyway, so now it doesn't get all smooshed in the process. He has a fascination with other countries so this lunch box was perfect for him.

While talking about his new lunch box I figured I should at least mention what I put into it. Connor is on a low protein diet because of his genetics. Because of this, and because he is sooo darn skinny, I insist the school give him access to food every two hours.

Connor's lunch box:
1 huge organic grapefruit (he loves these things!)
1 organic nectarine
1 organic blueberry dried fruit
1 bag of gfcf barbq chips (whole foods brand)
1 bag of pizza flavored gfcf bread sticks (glutino brand)
1 baggie of raw organic pistachios
1 baggie of organic baby carrots
1 raw food bar (spirulina)
1 juice box (R.W. Knudsen Lemonade)

I know, I know, where's the pb and j?

I would love some suggestions...

Crocodile Creek Countries Lunchbox
School lunches can now be more fun than ever with this beautifully-designed, high-quality lunch box. Lunch box is 10"w x 7.5"h x 3"d. We have given special attention to make certain that the lunchboxes currently offered by Crocodile Creek do conform to the current U.S. & European Consumer Product Safety Standards as well as FDA recommendations. Our lunchboxes are child safe, with lead-free linings and are Phthalate and PVC free. Ages 3 and up. Handwash in warm water with mild soap and soft cloth. No abrasives or heat.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Helpful Magazine

I just found my favorite magazine on the rack at Whole Foods again after months of it being gone. I know they were doing something to it and it was gone for a while, but it is back.

I read it last night and found some great articles and recipes. My mom use to make my sister and brother and me a special breakfast on holidays and special weekends called baby dutch pancakes. When Connor started the gluten free, casein free diet we were sad that we couldn't make those special pancakes any more. This issue of Living Without has a recipe for these baby dutch pancakes. I was so excited I called my mom right away to tell her. They call them dutch pancakes. I will update you when we make them...stay tuned!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dinner Idea

I always struggle with dinner ideas. It actually gives me anxiety most days. I have no imagination and I actually despise cooking. I always feel like it is another thank-less task we moms (and some dads too) have to do. Sometimes I find a really cool thing to make and I spend two hours chopping and sauteing and everyone moans and groans when I set it on the table. "I wanted sloppy Joe's" is what my middle son always says. They always want what I didn't make. My husband always eats what ever it is I make, but I always feel like I am torturing him. He likes lots of spices and herbs and...stuff. I like simple flavors. I like yummy food, don't get me wrong. I just don't want to be the one doing all the work making it. I have looked into a couple of gluten free, casein free meal plans. I have even tried a few places. I love them but the problem is always money. I found one recently that looks really good, but it is hard to justify the cost.

I don't know if anyone else struggles the way I do with dinner. I am going to assume there are a few people out there that can relate to the difficulties I experience and share some of the meals I have found that don't get as big of a "Why are we having this for dinner?" moan. I use as many organic ingredients as possible. I also stick to things that don't take long to make. Here is my first suggestion:

Rice with chicken and chorizo and broccoli

When doing this "recipe" I use the Lundberg - Organic Risotto Tuscan rice. I think this takes out the creativity of adding flavors and spices. I really like the taste of the sun dried tomatoes.

I then cook the organic chicken with just some salt and pepper in a pan with a little oil.

I steam broccoli.

When everything is cooked I add it all together and top it with a little chorizo. I like the dry cured chorizo like what I fell in love with in Spain. I actually haven't found a good tasting chorizo in Colorado, so I have my friend Aran ship a few packages to me from Florida. I think it adds a little texture and saltiness to the meal.

Enjoy. My kids actually all like this meal. No further endorsement needed.

Lundberg - Organic Risotto Tuscan

Description: Dine in beautiful Tuscany tonight with this unique vegan risotto. Zesty organic sun-dried tomatoes, piquant onions and spicy garlic combine with Lundberg's organic Arborio rice for a delicious, fast and easy side dish or entrée.

Product Weight: 5.6 oz. (160 g)

Ingredients: Organic arborio rice, organic dehydrated vegetables (tomato, garlic, onion), sea salt, organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice flour, organic spices (turmeric, basil, oregano, parsley), yeast extract, citric acid, organic sunflower oil.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cool New Ice Cream

While in Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, while on the search for a new gluten, casein, soy free cheese, I found a new ice cream. It has a coconut milk base and no soy. It has agave nectar as the sweetener and is made with primarily organic ingredients. It is typically hard for Connor to try new things because only a couple of products are safe. Once we find something, we stick with it. I feel bad because I like to treat Connor to new cool things on occasion. This is probably my hang-up since Connor doesn't complain and is generally pretty happy with the food he gets.

Connor has only tried two out of the five flavors so far, the vanilla and the chocolate. Be careful, one flavor made by this company does contain gluten. The mint chocolate chip flavor has barley. His favorite is the chocolate delight. I tasted the chocolate delight myself and it was surprisingly good. I am very critical of things like ice cream and don't normally like non-dairy ice creams. In this case, it was very chocolaty and it has a very distinct coconut taste in the background. Well worth trying, especially those who love ice cream and are sick of the few non-dairy chooses out there. Good eating!

Gotta Do Chocolate
A chocolate delight, as rich and satisfying as they come.

Ingredients: coconut milk, organic agave nectar, organic brown rice,
organic cocoa, organic chicory root, carrageenan, organic guar gum, sea salt. CONTAINS TREE NUTS (COCONUT). MANUFACTURED IN A FACILITY THAT ALSO PROCESSES DAIRY.

Although NadaMoo! is not certified gluten-free, we’re choosy about our ingredients. All NadaMoo! flavors are made with gluten-free ingredients except for Lotta Mint Chip, which contains grain-sweetened chocolate chips.

We are working on our Gluten-Free Certification, so check back with us for updates.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Finding Strength

Today was the first big meeting of the year with Connor's school. I have been preparing for a couple of weeks. I have read several inclusion books and even a few blogs. I went in to the meeting more organized and with more concrete plans than ever in my life. I wanted to not only give great ideas for what to do this year to strengthen Connor's social skills, but give concrete plans and strategies on how to implement them.

We are doing data this year for the first time ever. This is going to be new for the school and very new for me. When I home schooled Connor in the beginning while doing ABA, I hired a BCBA (board certified behavior analysis) to come in a couple of times to train me on ABA and to design his programs (what to teach). She would always tell me that data was key to any good program. Since I was doing the program myself, I couldn't teach and take data. Plus, I could see with my own eyes if things were improving. Data didn't work then, but now it is crucial. Connor has several different teachers (regular teacher, special ed, lunch buddy teacher, etc..) and we need to see empirical data to know if he is improving in the skills we are teaching. The school is on board with data, it is just so new to them, they need to figure out the logistics of it. I also feel that keeping data will keep them consistent. They dropped several great programs last year simply because no one was watching.

I am pessimistically optimistic about the year. I know more this year than any other year, and I feel more organized. Connor seems happy this year with the teachers and kids. I just hope with the new structures in place, he will only blossom socially.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reinventing The Wheel...Again

Connor started school this week. For most parents this means getting school supplies, buying a backpack, etc. For me this meant researching Wrights Law, and finding new programs to try. Connor had not had the best summer school experience. The school district and I have two very different ideas of what "training" and "support" mean. I wasn't about to have this year be another disappointing year for Connor.

I have often wondered if inclusion is right for Connor. Is he a round peg we are trying to put in a square hole? I bought a book that I highly recommend for anyone trying inclusion with an autistic child. It talks about the benefits of inclusion along with detailed programs to help teachers implement social skills in the classroom and throughout school.

I have voiced my concern for Connor during lunch and recess. He has a hard time with social skills and those are the main times during the day that he interacts with his peers in a non-structured way. I had been hearing about different programs like "Lunch Bunch" and other buddy programs. Connor has a desire to socialize but doesn't quite know the rules. He might do something inappropriate or say something about a topic that isn't interesting to other kids and they won't be interested in him anymore. He doesn't have the ability right now to catch on to their disinterest. "Lunch Bunch" is a way to work on social skills in a structured way with a couple of interested peers and a facilitator.

Another program we are going to try is a class wide peer training. Last year I was a bit skeptical when I was first introduced to this concept. I didn't want to draw extra attention to the fact that Connor is different. This of course, I have come to realize, is silly. The kids already know that Connor is different. We need them to know how he is the same. We need to teach the kids why it is that Connor doesn't always say the appropriate thing. We need to teach why Connor doesn't every whisper or play with them on the playground. They need to know why he has behavior issues sometimes. I don't want the kids thinking he is just weird. I want them to see past the parts of him that are different so they can see the cool fun parts of him. Connor is very funny. He is witty actually. Many of his teachers have commented on this fact. They say that when he opens up and is comfortable, he is actually quite humorous. I want the kids to see all that he has to offer by explaining that even though he is different, it's OK to be his friend.

We are setting up a reward chart for him also. We are still working through the specifics, but it is a chart that he gets stickers for every time he completes a specific task appropriately. At the end of the chart, when all the spaces have stickers, he gets a reward. This is basic ABA. It is simple, but it works. Remember to always keep the reward something that is truly, a reward. Also, in the beginning you will want the child to be successful everyday so set up the chart to make it possible to get the reward at the end of everyday. After a couple of weeks the reward could be obtained after two full days or so.

The school seems to be willing to try all of the things I have "suggested". They want Connor to be successful, but they also know I won't take no for an answer. Much of my job is trying not to step on too many toes, but still getting my point across clearly. Sometimes you have to shake up the "establishment" to get results. Change doesn't generally happen on its own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Blueberry Crumb Bars

Jill has been asking me for a long time to start baking more simple gluten, casein and soy free desserts that kids can enjoy, so this will be my little section dedicated to it. I am a pastry chef by trade, but I have never really baked allergen free so this is a learning experience for me. I have found that even the most common ingredients contain gluten, such as vanilla extract, which is made with alcohol and alcohol is made from wheat. Ingredients that I never suspected had gluten, do in fact have it, so I will have to be very diligent and check every single item in my pantry.

As many theories state, the human digestive system is our second brain, in the sense that it controls and builds our immune system and protects our brain from toxicity. Therefore, the treatment for autism is very linked to the protection and strengthening of the digestive system.

We believe that Connor most likely had a genetic predisposition to the autism disorder. However, when his young immune system was overloaded with toxic metals, his body could not react fast enough and became sick. The symptoms started shortly after.

This is why the rebuilding of his immune system through diet has been crucial and so effective. Behavioral therapies are necessary but most likely insufficient without the support of an allergen free diet, but this diet doesn't have to be boring and it is important to make it fun and kid friendly. So here are a couple of cookie recipes that everyone will be able to enjoy.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 oz non-hydrogenated shortening (palm oil)
4 oz organic brown sugar
2 oz organic milled sugar
1 organic egg
1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract
8 oz gluten free baking mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
5 oz gluten, dairy and soy free chocolate chips
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the shortening and the sugars until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and the egg. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that all ingredients are well incorporated. Add the baking mix, the xanthan gum, the baking soda and the salt. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a log that is about 3 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in parchment paper and refrigerate it overnight. Cut the log into half an inch disks and bake them in a 350ºF oven for about 12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown but the center is slightly soft.

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Makes a 13 x 9 inch pan

3 cups gluten free oats
2 1/4 cups gluten free baking mix
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
8 oz non-hydrogenated shortnening (palm oil)

1 lb frozen or fresh organic blueberries
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs water

In a medium saucepan, mix the blueberries with the sugar and cook until the blueberries start to bubble. In the meantime, dissolve the cornstarch with the water and lemon juice. Add the cornstarch mixture to the bubbling blueberries and cook stirring constantly until it thickens. Pour the filling in a bowl and let it cool completely.

For the crust, combine the oats, brown sugar, baking mix, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add half of the shortening and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers or with a pastry cutter. Add the rest of the shortening and do the same. The shortening is soft and sticky that's why we want to work quickly. Don't work too much. We want a crumbly dough.

Take half of the crumble and press it onto the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Spread the cooled blueberry filling on top of this dough. Take the remaining half of the crumble and sprinkle it on top of the filling. Don't press it in because we want to keep it as a crumbly topping.

Bake in a 375F for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool completely before cutting it. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Changing My Look

Sorry to confuse anyone out there who might be wondering if this is still "Connor's Journey with Autism". It is indeed. I thought it needed a change. It was time to change purses and time to change the look of my blog. Sorry for any confusion.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Favorite Things

I am always on the look-out for cool and yummy food that my kids will like. It isn't a hardship anymore to be on the gluten and casein free diet. When we first started the diet in 2001, the internet wasn't as easy as it is today, and most people didn't even knew what gluten was. My neighbor said to me, after telling her about the diet Connor was going to have to go on, that it shouldn't be that hard to not give him wheat, just give him white bread. Somehow that made sense to a fairly intelligent person. Now, you can find gluten free things everywhere. We even have a few gluten free bakeries here in Colorado.

I don't think it is hard to find gluten free things anymore, but finding things your children will actually eat is still a challenge. Parents tell me all the time that they spend so much money on the diet and their children don't even eat most of it. I have bought my share of flops and cooked my share of them too. Once I find something they like, we stick with them. I get so excited when my kids actually LOVE something I bought or made. It is so hard to find things to put in their lunch box that is healthy, safe, and child friendly. I don't want my kids to be the ones at the birthday party with the baggy of carrots and a rice milk box.

To help parents save time and money, I am going to submit all of our favorite things here in this house. Of course, this isn't going to mean that your family will like the same things, but these are time tested and very child proof.

Let's start with breakfast...

Since we are low protein here (due to build-up of ammonia in Connor with too much protein based on DNA mutations) we stick with cereals and breads.

Envirokidz Cereal: Gorilla Munch, Koala Krisp
(Some of the cereals have soy, which I don't advise eating)

Perky O's
(A lot like cheerios)

Glutino Cereal
(Another cheerio-like cereal) I like the tase of these better than the perky's, but they have corn as a main ingredient.

Outside the Breadbox
I highly recommend the bread from this gluten free bakery!!
This is the only gluten free, dairy free, soy free bread that tastes good and is light and fluffy. It isn't dense and heavy like most choices on the market.

Pancakes and Waffles:
Namaste Mixes
Absolutely the best pancake and waffle mix.

More soon!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is my child autistic?

I was in labor with Connor for over 40 hours and 38 hours of it was natural. I didn't want any intervention and I definitely didn't want to use any medication. I was determined to give Connor as healthy a beginning as possible.

Connor was a bright and wonderful baby. He was social and playful and happy. Looking back, there were signs that Connor was already struggling with a toxic load, but they were so subtle there was no way to know. He had a love for fans. He would stare at his ceiling fan for long periods of time. We use to joke that the aliens were talking to him through the fan. He also never crawled. I blamed the "back to sleep" campaign for not exposing him to his tummy often enough. Despite these things, Connor seemed to be developing typically. He sat up on time. He rolled over on time. He even started talking at a year. He had six or more words by thirteen months. He was so social and happy. We always were complimented by waitresses on how happy he was. He always wanted their attention. I didn't even notice right away when all of those things started to disappear.

Connor is my first born. He is also the first grandchild. None of our friends had even started to have kids yet, and because of it we didn't have another child to compare to Connor. We thought that he lined up cars and stared at the wheels turning because he was an engineer's son and he was studying them. It wasn't until a neighbor came over with her little girl that was a couple of months younger than Connor that I began to notice differences. She pointed at a balloon we had in the house and turned to her mom and said, "balloon". Then she went over to touch Connor and he started screaming. It was then that I began to piece together the clues. I knew something was going on. I then realized Connor had stopped talking. He wasn't looking at me anymore either. I would call his name over and over and he wouldn't even look at me, then a car would drive by and he would turn and look at it. It was all so gradual that it was hard to see it happening.

I didn't know what was wrong. I took him to the doctor and he tried to reassure me that he was a boy and that nothing was wrong. I insisted that Connor had stopped talking and that that alone was not normal. I insisted he recommend we go to a speech therapist and have Connor tested for a speech issue. The speech therapist asked a couple of seemingly weird questions that didn't seem related to speech issues at all. She asked if Connor played with his toys appropriately. She explained that appropriate meant flying the plane around and making plane noises, or driving the car around and making car noises. I described how he spins wheels instead. She then asked Connor to point to mom. Connor didn't seem to hear her. He just continued to "play". She repeated, "Connor, were is mom?". He didn't even look up. She said she had seen enough. She told me that she would call his doctor and discuss her opinion of a possible diagnosis. I didn't understand why she couldn't discuss it with us . When we got home, I called the speech therapist's office and asked her to tell me what was wrong with Connor. I assured her that I wouldn't sue or hold her accountable for anything. She then told me that Connor clearly was autistic. She told me that he was a classic case.

I didn't know what autism was. I had never heard of it, but I knew it wasn't good. I started doing research on-line and quickly discovered other mom's out there that had a similar story. I would read for a while and then cry hysterically for a while. I knew that I was at a precipice. I would either lay down and die (which sounded easy) or get up and fight. Little did I know how much fighting I would have to do and for how long.

My mom had immediately gone to Barnes and Noble and found a couple of books by moms who had found ways to help their children out of autism using food and vitamins. I was so happy that although they had to suffer with the same issues my son was now going through, that they wrote a book to help those of us coming after them to learn what they had learned. I was so grateful to them for sharing their story and helping so many. They had done a lot of research and in the end their children were not considered autistic anymore. I knew this would be Connor. I had no doubt that with a diet change and supplements he would be recovered. I thought it would take a year or two and voila, Connor would be healed. It had only taken a couple of days to drive his body into autism, and I thought it would only take a year or so to heal it.

Seven years later, Connor is doing well. He is still autistic, but high functioning. I tell this to you so you don't feel like you have to see your child "cured" right away to feel like you are doing the right thing. I know now that some kids do recover right away from just diet, and others will never recover. I know that Connor was already autistic when he was given a double dose of vaccines at his 18 month check-up. I use to play the whata, coulda, shoulda game and think about what I would have done different, but everything happens for a reason. I feel like Connor is autistic to help other people. He is a strong person and he is living this life for a reason. Just today a mom called me to ask me about my journey and what I have learned along the way. Her son was just diagnosed and he is just three years old. That little boy will now be helped thanks to Connor. Maybe they won't have to make the same mistakes I made. Maybe their journey will be a short one.

Tortilla de Patatas

This is my favorite dinner/lunch/whatever to make. I have made the basic tortilla with many different veggies added depending on my mood. My kids LOVE this meal also.

I ate this almost daily while living in the north part of Spain, the Basque country. This is a very common tapa (or pintxo as they call it in the Basque country). Whenever my best friend is around I have her make it because she makes it so perfectly. It is amazing how food can bring you back to a different time and place.

Tortilla is gluten free, dairy free and soy free. You can add any veggie to it that you like and your kids probably won't even know. It is fast and easy and a staple in my house.

Basic Recipe:

Peel and dice as many potatoes as you like.

Cook diced potatoes in oil until soft.

In a bowl, add eggs (1 egg for every three or so potatoes) and cooked potatoes. Mix.

Pour egg and potato mixture back into pan with a little bit of oil in the pan and salt to taste.

Depending on the pan you will need to keep the mixture from sticking.

When it is done on one side, take a plate and lay it over the pan, flip.

Cook on other side by sliding the mixture back into the pan with raw side down. Salt more if needed.

Let cool and slice into pizza-like slices. Serve warm or cold. Use as a side dish or alone. Can also be used with some gluten free bread as a sandwich. ENJOY!