Moms Need Some Help, Too


I’m over at Thinking Mom’s Revolution this week with a few thoughts on self-care for special needs moms. Need to take my own advice!

What do you do to take are of yourself?

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Alternative to Traditional Orthodontia: The ALF Device

Because I can’t do anything mainstream.

At my kiddos’ most recent dental appointment the dentist finally dropped the hammer and declared it was time for braces for Kyle, my almost-10-year-old. Specifically, he needed a butterfly or a rapid upper palatal expander. I broke into a cold sweat.

1. I had one when I was 11-12–I still think of it as The Rack–and it was kind of a disaster. While it did a bang up job widening my face and correcting for an undershot jaw, it left my front teeth unsupported and vulnerable. While horsing around with my sister, my face crashed into her head and I lost a tooth. Having a gray, dead tooth front and center is a big Fashion Don’t for teenage girls. Don’t even ask about the snaggle tooth flipper I had to wear for two years.




It looked good and it felt fine, but it was kinda weird, ain’t gonna lie. My sister and I weren’t exceptionally wild girls.  We were kids, we were horsing around, and BAM! I was out a tooth.  Kyle, on the other hand, is super active; he and his little brother are pretty scrappy; and he has already knocked out two of his loose baby teeth from playing rough or fighting with Mike. Leaving his front teeth that vulnerable was an invitation to dental disaster.

2. Kyle has mild epilepsy and there’s mounting evidence that seizures aren’t entirely benign and they can leave behind subtle neuronal changes, so managing and minimizing seizures and subclinical seizures is of the utmost importance. The upper palate is basically the floor of the brain’s support–the maxilla bone and a bit of the sphenoid bone, which houses the pituitary. In our experience, just about any kind of brain disturbance–fever, a bonk on the head, ingesting gluten–can lower Kyle’s seizure threshold. Even just mentioning rapid palate expansion to Kyle’s neurologist caused an immediate eyebrows-shooting-into-hairline reaction: “No, you don’t want to do that!”

Our first consultation was with a mainstream orthodontist, who was a lovely person with a gentle manner and a thriving practice, but she brushed asides me concerns a little too quickly.  (Seriously, you wear a flipper for 2 years as a teen and see if it isn’t a wee bit scarring emotionally.)

Then I remembered that our osteopath had told me to call him for a referral as soon as the word “braces” was mentioned.  So I did.  A week later we had a consultation with a dentist who uses something called an Alternate Lightwire Functionals device, or ALF device for short.

The difference between a butterfly device and and ALF device comes down to action, intensity, and time.  A butterfly requires frequent application of increased force (cranking!) against four teeth. Like so:



The ALF device, in contrast, delivers continuous, even force over a longer period of time, like a spring slowly unwinding.  Actually, exactly like a spring, since it’s a custom-fit looped metal wire. It is also helpful in treating sleep apnea.  It’s about the structure of the entire head, not just the alignment of the teeth. In fact, the first thing the dentist did was check Kyle’s spine, shoulders, and neck rotation before he had Kyle climb in the chair and open wide.

Once the appropriate molds are taken, it is significantly easier to install than an an expander and virtually painless. The wire just snapped in and the dentist glued it in place.  It is adjusted every 6 weeks. We follow up each adjustment with a quick visit to the osteopath.


My son’s device has more loops than this.  Kyle also has a lower device with acrylic blocks to realign his bite, which he is getting used to for a week before the dentist glues it in.



His smile before:



And his smile with the devices locked and loaded.  Note that his smile is more symmetrical, his front upper and lower teeth are better aligned, and his lower jaw isn’t sliding forward:




My handsome boy!

1. Of course it’s more expensive that traditional orthodontia and it will take longer, but this was the ONLY way to go for us. It’s a slow, gentle, gradual treatment that takes the shape and structure of the entire skull into account.

2.  Here’s how you can find more information and the name of a dentist or orthodontist that uses the ALF device in treatment:

List of practitioners


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What’s in Your Lunchbox?

Lunch this week is a little tiny bit extra complicated because Mike is attending Clone Wars Camp at the local JCC and pork and shellfish are not allowed (They’re not Kosher).

This means no salami or pepperoni. Easy enough to work around. Today’s lunch was apple slices, a GF chocolate chip cookie, and leftover chicken with rice.



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Review: Once A Month Meals



A couple weeks ago my husband asked me “What would make your life easier?”

Huh…whaaa? Easier, you say? It had never occurred to me to think of it in those terms.  Yeah, I know, how lazy can I be if that’s not an active and frequent thought?  So, here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:

1. Not making dinner every night

2. Having someone spoon feed me lessons in how to be organized

3. More sleep, less brain fog, more meditation, less driving, more cowbell…


Are you acquainted with the concept of once-a-month cooking (OAMC) or freezer cooking?  I’d first dabbled with it before Mike arrived (7 years ago!) in an attempt to get the freezer stocked up before we had a newborn in the house.  I did it exactly once and was so overwhelmed I never tried it again…until this month. This is what I did to make my life easier and possibly save some money on overall food expenditures.

I’ve had Once A Month Meals (OAMM) on my radar for a while, particularly since they have a menu swapping feature that lets you build a menu from their recipe collection and adjust it for your family’s size.  OAMM also features specialty menus like traditional, whole foods, diet, baby food, and–my choices–gluten-free, dairy-free and Paleo.


The absolutely best part, they spoon feed you how to do it!  Whoo hoo!  I knew I could figure out a shopping list, but this service offers an absolutely beautiful, detailed list (of course, I forgot a few things on my shopping day anyway), a lengthy prep sheet, cooking day instructions, plus all kinds of little videos and tricks on their website. Best tip: store all your prepped veggies in a cooler over night. When you subscribe to the service they you send a series of OAMM 101 Basic Training.  Little pointers like don’t jump right in, clean out your freezer first, and don’t try to cook with little kiddies underfoot.



So, how did I do? I totally bit off more than I could chew.

Every summer my husband takes our two little guys to Pact Family Camp and I stay home with the teen, who had summer school classes this year.  I knew I’d have 5 full days to work on this project.

I needed it.

Because of my chronic fatigue, I’d planned on spreading out the cooking to 2 days.  I ended up spreading it out over 3.  In hindsight, I should have dialed down my ambition.  This plan is designed for hale and hearty young women who can power through 12 hours straight on their feet.  (I was also spending part of each day sorting through piles and heading out with my teen.  We hit the beach, ate out a couple of times, and took a short hike at a local park.)

Day 1, Thursday: I shopped.  I hit Whole Foods for most of the meat I was going to use and Trader Joe’s for some of their staples (and organic chicken tenders). I spent less than $350 for all organic produce, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and pastured eggs.  I bought almost exclusively organic staples as well, like Muir Glen tomatoes and various spices.  I used hemp seed milk in recipes that called for milk or almond milk.


Day 2, Friday (it also happened to be July 4th): I prepped.  I chopped and chopped and chopped.  I honestly enjoyed separating prep out like this.  I’ve done it a couple of times before for Thanksgiving dinners, but nothing on this scale: my list included 6 cups of pitted and halved cherries, 7 cups of chopped onion, 2 cups of sliced onion, 4 cups of shredded zucchini, and 4 lbs of diced chicken breast. I put on music (I made a Lindsey Stirling Pandora station), wore comfortable shoes, and enjoyed the smell of fresh basil and cilantro, snagged a generous handful fresh pitted cherries, and managed not to cry my eyes out over 12 cups of onions.






Day 3-4-5, Saturday, Sunday and Monday: I cooked.  I spent 2-4 hours each day cooking. About a third of the meals I picked were prep the marinade, bag ‘em, and freeze ‘em.  I ended up doing most those on Monday morning.



What I made:

  • GFCF Apricot Muffins
  • Sausage & Pancake Breakfast Balls
  • Almost Chick Fil A Chicken Nuggets
  • Nightshare-free Cherry BBQ Chicken
  • Chicken Sausage Stir Fry with Kale
  • Mini Zucchini Bread Pancakes
  • Crockpot Shredded Chipotle Beef
  • Paleo Asian Turkey Burgers
  • Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken
  • Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs
  • Carne Asada
  • Tender Grilled Pork Chops
  • Chicken tenders in lemon and rosemary marinade,
  • Italian turkey meatballs (meat mixed for me at Whole Foods meat dept)
  • Turkey-zucchini poppers adapted from this recipe
  • Batch cooked black beans and pinto beans

…actually double portions of everything but the pork chops and carne asada. So that’s about 30 organic, allergy-friendly meals for roughly $350.

What I would do differently:  I wouldn’t make the chicken nuggets, which are delicious, the pancakes or the muffins.  The nuggets and the pancakes were mind-numbingly labor intensive and the muffins aren’t nearly as good as a box of my beloved King Arthur Gluten-Free Muffin Mix.

I think next month I’ll scale it back and do a couple of mini sessions, but I’m looking at a month of ready-to-go meals, fewer shopping trips, less time in the kitchen, fewer last-minute “Oh just get take out” decisions, and reduced spending on food.

Now, let’s just hope they eat it all!

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Filed under Getting started, Managing allergies, Meal plans, Product Review

Progress Check on Mama, One Year Later


This time last year I did a summary post of everything I was doing/trying/investigating in an effort to feel better.  If the starting gun to My Year of Feeling Better went off in January 2013, I was pretty much stuck not moving until January of 2014.

So what changed in 2014?  My naturopath figured out that my cells seem to be ignoring signals, like completely ignoring every incoming call and sending all that energy into voicemail.  Cell-to-cell communication was just weak.  My lipid panel were amazingly low for someone of my weight and the fact that I was eating a moderately high-fat paleo diet.  I just didn’t have enough cholesterol for basic hormone production and cell wall repair.  A total cholesterol of 127 is NOT good–it looked like my basic lipid metabolism was a little busted.  Dr Skinner mentioned something about lipid replacement therapy and it rang a small bell: way back in 2004 I’d gone to a natural health conference and heard about it.  I remember asking our DAN doctor about it and he told me that lipid exchange was what we were trying to do with all the high quality fish oil and krill oil we were giving my son. And that’s where I left it.


Fast forward…Dr Skinner proposed I try a phosphatidylcholine IV push with a glutathione chaser.  But I was going to have to be on a low fat diet for it to have the best chance of working. The fats I was eating were getting shuttled directly into storage. The idea is to do an “oil change” to facilitate improved cellular communication. Also, I’d just gotten back my results and I have genes that give me a 70% chance of being overweight AND don’t process dietary fats well.  Oh, and two copies of the gene for celiac.  Good thing I’m already gluten-free.


Here’s a good article from Patricia Kane, PhD, about phosphatidylcholine and how lipid exchange works. There’s also some evidence that it helps with athletic recovery (physical recovery from fatigue? I’m in!) and supports acetylcholine production, a neurotransmitter.

About the same time I decided to give MediFast a try for weight loss.  My mother has had good success with it.  I kept thinking I really already knew what I was doing…ha!  I had over 100 lbs to lose.  Clearly I didn’t know what I was doing and I needed to face up to that reality.  It’s a low fat, moderately low carb plan:  5 shakes a day and one lean-and-green meal.  I have to admit that it’s been a relief to NOT have to plan on my own meals much.  I just make sure I have frozen spinach in the freezer and salad fixings, eggs, eggs whites, and sliced turkey in the fridge. Everything I learned about weight loss and Paleo got tossed in the trash because it wasn’t working for me. I decided a stringent intervention was going to be more helpful than “moderation.”  I choose from the company’s gluten-free and soy-free options.  Yes it’s processed, but it’s working and my lean-and-green meal is always organic, whole food.

So for my birthday I started the PTC exchange and about two weeks later I started the MediFast.  After the success of the first two months, I started using some of my talk therapy time to address some of my poor mental habits around food and emotional eating. (Note to parents of special needs kids: I’m a big fan of the shrink.  Look into it if you feel like you need a non-family place to dump your mental garbage and sort through what you need to keep and what you need to let go.)

Almost five months later I am down more than 30 lbs and have had a significant improvement in my ability to function and be an active participant in life.  My memory is improving, my brain fog is receding, and best of all my energy levels have increased.  I used to have to plan on several naps every week and now I’m down to a couple of 30 min naps, if I’ve had fractured sleep the night before. I was able to go to the AutismOne conference last month, and while I had to bow out of evening activities and was in my jammies by 8 pm most nights, I was able to get through full days of conference sessions–from 8:30 am to 7pm–and withstand lots of high emotion from other conference attendees.  Five months ago I wouldn’t have been able to attend the conference AT ALL.

I found this entry from a Whole30 diary I kept last year: “…woke up after 8 mostly undisturbed hours of sleep feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  I’d say about 80% of my joint pain had returned.  The lymph glands in my neck were swollen, my throat hurt, my ears and hearing were extra sensitive, brain fog and fatigue.  Fatigue, fatigue, fatigue. I was such an unhappy, impatient mama.”

That was pretty much my life 80% of the time. The other 20% didn’t have the active swollen lymph glands and sore throat.  I did recently experience a little backsliding due to poor sleep and stress–nothing like a little adrenal burnout to put your health on the skids.  Good sleep, a PTC + glutathione IV, and some adrenal/stress support in the form of passiflora herbal tincture pulled me out of that tailspin.

I’m struggling with the diet portion of my program mostly because I stress eat and I haven’t eliminated stress from my life.  At least now I can recognize it for what it is.  As for the PTC and glutathione pushes, I need to get one every week.  I inadvertently took a 17 day break and my mental function and energy took a real hit.  The only other intervention that has had this much positive impact on my well being was going completely gluten free a few years ago.  That helped eliminate most of my joint pain, but nothing has touched my fatigue until the PTC + glutathione. I’ve also been taking PTC orally in between pushes (and make sure I have it with a serving of almond butter or other good fats).

So, here’s me, before and in-progress:

January 2014



May 2014:



And the best part of all of this is that I’m able to be a better mom and partner.  I have the mental acuity I need to tackle my kids’ myriad issues and the brain power and stamina to remember little things like picking up dry cleaning and making dinner…  Please note: I’ve lost weight before but NEVER had the improvement in my fatigue or brain fog.  It’s the PTC + glutathione, not the diet.

I’m interested in learning more about how PTC will help my kiddos as well, not that any of them would be happy about a weekly shot.


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Filed under Chronic Fatigue/Fibro, Supplements

Epsom Salts for Chlorine Detox


Q:  It’s summer and we’re swimming a lot. How to we deal with chlorine?

In case you didn’t know, chlorine is not good for you.  It’s used as a disinfectant in our water supply and pools because it kills those little buggers that can make you sick, but it is, in fact, a toxin.  The idea behind its use is that we bigger buggers can handle a little bit of toxin and clear it out.  However…some of us and some of our kids are really topped out when it comes to toxins and toxin clearance. A dip in a public pool can push some kids with compromised detox over the edge.

What to do?  Epsom salts.

It’s by far the most frequently recommended remedy.  I’ve used Magnesium Sulfate cream from Kirkman Labs and straight Epsom salts in the bath tub.  I start with a cup in a tub full of water and maybe toss in half a cup of baking soda as well.

This is the brand an acquaintance swears is the cleanest:



You can find it on  It’s the brand stocked in Northern California Whole Foods stores.  I buy Epsom salts in bulk from Costco because we use several cups at a time.

And for the DIYers out there, make your own.

How does it work?  My understanding is that it delivers sulfate right through the skin, which the body can use.  Dr Rosemary Waring in the UK postulated that kids with autism might have a deficiency in a key detox pathway that uses phenol sulphur transferase (PST), an enzyme that is essential to the breakdown and clearance of toxins in the body, due to a lack of sulfate molecules.  Epsom salts can address that directly.

It also delivers a mighty generous dose of magnesium that can be very calming if your kiddo gets wired from a toxic exposure.

Edited to add:  A friend of mine also suggested using a Vitamin C spray.  Dissolve 1 tsp of powdered Vitamin C in water and use a spray bottle to apply.

So, dive in and enjoy summer time at the pool!

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Easy Frozen Yogurt

If you have an ice cream maker and some Greek yogurt, you are minutes away from some really delicious frozen yogurt. The way my kids are craving ice cream, I though I’d try to sneak a little probiotic goodness in under the radar. For my next batch , I’ll make this with homemade yogurt, recipe to be posted.

I have had the core of my ice cream maker jammed in the back of the freezer for two years. It was good and FROZEN.

I used full fat Greek honey yogurt from Trader Joe’s and about half a cup of organic strawberry preserves from Costco.


• 4 c. (32 oz) Greek yogurt, honey or vanilla
• 1/2 c. organic fruit preserves


Dump it all in the ice cream maker and turn it on.



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