Monday, June 12, 2017

My Genetic Testing Update

We’ve been on a journey in our family to get to the root of some of the issues we’ve been having. The first issue we started addressing was Henry’s struggle with self-regulation. It’s something we heard from teachers for multiple years before we finally took action. When he was five years-old, we started him in a play-based therapy. When his issues didn’t resolve themselves, we had him get tested by a neuro-behavioralist (recommended by the therapist). Those results came back pretty inconclusive. He said Henry might have ADHD in a few years but for now it just looks like anxiety.

He didn’t have any solid answers about why a five year-old would have anxiety, but he mentioned genetic testing and food sensitivity testing. Both of those tests (both administered by different people at different places) revealed issues that are linked to anxiety: a gluten-sensitivity which means his gut is malfunctioning and he’s not producing dopamine and serotonin well and issues with his MTHFR gene (which means he doesn’t process folic acid well, which means he doesn’t produce dopamine and serotonin well). Overall, the assessment was that he only had control of 70% of his behavior.

The psychiatrist who did the genetic testing prescribed a mega-dose of folic acid, and we have seen huge changes in his behavior because of it. We also took him off gluten.

Meanwhile, Matt and I used 23andme to get our genetics tested. I shared my report with a functional medicine doctor in my town, and it was a fascinating experience. It was similar to having tarot cards read! She would ask things like, “It looks like you might be particularly sensitive to strong smells. Is that true?” Check. “It looks like you might have had some trouble with pregnancy. Like a miscarriage. Is that true?” Check.

Basically, she shared the following things:
  • My body doesn't methylate well. The link explains what that means better than I can! My body's ability to methylate is compromised by about 40% (Henry's is about 30%). 
  • I am compound heterozygous with MTHFR and have both the A problem and the C problem. 
  • Out of the 26 genes related to methylation that my doctor looked at, I have issues with 11 or 12 of them. 
  • My body has a hard time absorbing B-12.
  • I have a strong need for cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. 
  • I have a double mutation in DAO so I should avoid high histamine foods. 
  • I have a double mutation in HLADQA2, which apparently means I should not eat gluten. 

Which led her to the following recommendations:
  • I should stop eating gluten.
  • I need a diet with more vegetables and fewer grains.
  • I need to take Vitamin D with K2.
  • I need to be on close to 1,000mg of B12, if not higher. I need it to be methylated and it should be in the form of a lozenge or cream. 
  • I should go on a mitochondrial support like PQQ.
  • I should drink green tea and matcha.
  • I should start taking a fish oil pill.  

Before I take any of the supplements, however, I’m going to go to my general physician and request a bunch of lab work. This is what she recommended:
  • Homocysteine levels
  • Vitamin D levels
  • Check HSCRP
  • Hemoglobin HGA1C
  • Full thyroid panel: TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPO, TG Antibodies, Reverse T3
  • Celiac panel (because I have a propensity for celiac disease)
  • Lipids
  • Iron: CBC, Ferritin, Iron study

Then I’m going to e-mail it to the functional medicine doctor and do a phone consult with her to see if my baseline results cause her to recommend anything different.

I’m also going to do a stool test and a urinary analysis through her.

Then after we have all the baseline data, I’m going to start the supplements and make the dietary changes. Then we will do the lab work again and see if there’s been any change!

She recommended that I take Henry to a pediatric functional medicine physician to switch him off his prescription folic acid because it’s full of artificial coloring and other fillers.

All of this is so out of my comfort zone and so new to me! I’ve never know much about functional medicine. Here’s the definition:

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practioner in a therapeutic partnership…It addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms…Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.

As I write all this, I'm metacognitive about how obsessive I sound in this quest to optimize our bodies and our lives. Maybe my "striving" is related to my MTHFR issues? Honestly, I'm perfectly content with the path we are on because I believe that our modern day food production system is pretty terrible and we aren't getting the nutrients we need. I believe our bodies are a system that need proper nutrients to function well. 

I look forward to getting my lab results back, taking some supplements, and making our diet as healthy as possible. 

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to Raise Children Who Aren’t Entitled

Or at least: “Things we are trying in order to not raise entitled children.”

My children are doing a lot of things lately that I don’t like. They sigh if I ask them to do something (or try to flat out refuse).

Meanwhile, I’m reading Little House on the Prairie and marveling at how much work the children do to contribute to the home.

First I got the idea to create a more specific chore chart so that it was very clear to Henry and Tate what their responsibilities were and how they would grow over time (since part of the problem was that Henry was frequently complaining that Tate didn’t have to do things that he did).

But once we had that idea, it started morphing into something else. We started operating with this mindset instead: When Matt and I are doing work to support our family, our children should be, too. When that work is done, we can all relax and enjoy our leisure time. Just like Little House on the Prairie!

We are only a week into it, but so far it feels so good! When it’s time to clean up after dinner, for example, Matt asks for a “kitchen helper” and I ask for a “house helper.” The kitchen helper helps wash dishes and load the dishwasher. The house helper helps me restore the house, wipe down the dining table, get the bath ready, etc.

The morning routine is the same with Matt. While he’s getting breakfasts ready, the boys are working, too. They are feeding Hoss, helping with breakfast, etc.

There’s still a little bit of whining, but more than that our boys are starting to show a change in their attitudes. They actually volunteer to help even more, and they say sweet things like, “I’ll help you do that, Tate.”

It’s a mindset shift for us to think that our children should be helping instead of playing. We definitely value free play and want our children to have time to decompress, but I think it gives them a warped view of the world if they are doing that while we are working to support the house. We are all a family, and we should work together to contribute to the functioning of that family. The specific things that people do vary depending on a person’s age and abilities, but the amount of time is the same. And in the same way that self-directed free play is good for development, so is doing chores (or “family contributions,” as we call them). They are learning to follow multi-step directions, building fine- and gross-motor skills, strengthening executive function, learning that they are important to the overall functioning of the home, and realizing that they do not exist to be served by others.

It’s definitely more difficult to require them to work alongside us, but I think the benefits will be worth it in the long run! 

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Using Bamboo for Privacy

There's a new house going up next door (let me know if you want to be neighbors!), which means we now have second-story windows, a garage, and a front door staring straight into our shower and our master bedroom. 

I googled some information about bamboo and came across a place on my side of town (East Austin) called Bamboo Your Privacy. They only sell clumping bamboo, which is non-invasive. 

The boys and I booked an appointment and visited their land to decide what we wanted. The taller and more established bamboo is, the more expensive it is. We decided on "medium" bamboo that will grow 20-30' for the side that has the new house and "small" bamboo for the other side of our yard that will grow to 10-15'. 

Matt and I are doing terrible at saving money this year. We keep investing in making our house feel more and more like a sanctuary (we really are homebodies on a day-to-day basis), and then we also keep investing in vacations. Vacations feel like an awesome way to take advantage of the limited time we have with our children while they are young. We booked a trip to Australia! 

I'm okay with our decisions for now, but I do feel like we need to sit down soon to figure out how we are going to save for the boys' colleges (we don't want to saddle them with debt as they start out their lives) and then be prepared for retirement. 

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Planning a Creek Clean-Up

One of the things we decided to do during our summer vacation was plan a creek clean-up. We live on a creek, so the idea is that people will meet at our house (with water bottles, water shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.), and we'll provide trash bags. After we pick up trash for an hour or two, we will cool off in the pool! And then eat some pizza. 

I'm looking forward to it! 

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Reflection & Rejuvenation: June

Wow. We are officially getting to the middle of the year. How did that happen? 

I'm feeling good about our summer plans. I'm looking forward to three weeks of vacation time with my boys! 

I'm not going to set any specific goals for the month, beyond just enjoying myself and my family! 

Here are my regular goals for the year:

  1. Run at least twice a week and do yoga at least once a week. I'm still consistently running, even though I still never want to. With regard to yoga, I'm going to try switching to doing two sun salutations a day. In the fall, I really do want to start going to a class.
  2. Eat in a balanced and healthy way. I'm doing much better! Salads for lunch! Smoothies for breakfast! However, I am back to eating too much junk food during the day. Mainly cookies! I need to get back to tracking my healthy eating goals. I can eat dessert on Saturday and Sunday and then once during the week. I need to track this every day instead of just weekly like I'm doing now. 
  3. Continue my daily meditation and gratitude practice. I'm continuing to do guided medication using the Insight Timer app. I love it! I do need to work on my gratitude practice. I think first thing in the morning in the shower would be my best time. 
  4. Stop working at 8pm to create two hours of free time for myself each evening. It's been really hard, but I'm stopping by at least 8:30pm most nights. This is a must!

Here were my specific goals for the month:
  • Make our deck much more comfortable and inviting for the summer. We are working on this as our savings allow! 
  • Build a cut flower garden, following the advice in this book. We got a quote for this and will move forward as our savings allow! 
  • Take Tate to get genetic testing to see if he needs a prescription of folic acid like Henry does. We took him; we are just waiting for the results! 
  • Plant non-invasive, clumping bamboo in our yard to create more privacy against the two-story house that is being built. Done! 

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A New Art Area

I'm always inspired by what Kylie sets up for her boys in their Montessori home, but I never feel like I have the time, space, or energy to follow suit!

But I have wanted to have a dedicated art area for a while. We do have a table in the boys' room, which is a good area for drawing and coloring, but I wanted them to have access to other supplies. However, I didn't necessarily want those supplies to be in their room (because they frequently play in there first thing in the morning unsupervised).

Kylie's recent post about having an art table in the main area made a ton of sense, but it doesn't match up with the layout of our house.

So I decided to turn one of our shelves into an art area by purchasing:

I raided my own craft closet and added:
  • A felting kit
And I added this from IKEA:
The shelf is right our dining room table, so I decided to order a fitted oil cloth tablecloth from this Easy seller. We will keep it in a basket on the shelf, so when we want to do art we can protect the dining room table and go from there! 

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Light Box for Children

I added a new light table work to Henry's art shelf. I bought this relatively inexpensive light box and then printed clipart that I thought would be easy to trace. I figured it would be a good way to improve his handwriting! 

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How to Teach a Child to Swim Properly

Henry and Tate are such little water babies. We swim in our backyard nearly every single day after school and definitely every weekend (basically from March through October). I want to continue to support Henry's growth as a swimmer (as long as he wants to; there's no reason to push him during his free time). 

I did a little research to figure out how to best teach young children the freestyle stroke. I wasn't able to find one amazing, comprehensive resource, but was able to piece together a few things, and this will be my approach:

  1. Use a child-size kick board to teach him how to properly kick: long, extended legs and loose with fast kicks (being carefully not to bend his legs too much). Chin should be kept in the water. Here's a more thorough description. I can say things like "fast kicks" and "small and fast" to cue him about proper form. 
  2. Then I'll teach him the "arrow" pose for swimming across the width of the pool without taking a breath: hands extended above the head with arms over the ears.
  3. Then I'll teach "catch-up" arms. 
  4. Then add in the breathing! 
During my research, I came across the most amazing website that has free step-by-step lessons with videos and lesson plans. I highly recommend it!

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