Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Take Control of Your Health: Order Your Own Blood Work

For those of you who are new to this saga, here's the quick recap: Henry was struggling with self-regulation. We took him to therapy (and still do), had him tested by a neuro-behavioralist, had food sensitivity testing done (he should steer clear of gluten), and had a genetic test done by a child psychiatrist. His genetic testing reveals that he has MTHFR issues and his body doesn't process folic acid the way it's supposed to, which means he doesn't produce dopamine and serotonin the way he is supposed to (which means he can only self-regulate about 70% of the time). 

And since it's genetic, it means I have issues, too! MTHFR is connected to anxiety, depression, addiction, thyroid issues, and heart issues. So I had a 23andme report done and took it to the functional medicine doctor to have her decipher it. The functional medicine doctor wants me to make dietary changes and start on certain supplements, but I want to have baseline blood work done first so I can make sure that the changes she is recommending are really necessary. 

I tried to have blood work done back at my regular doctor's office, but she didn't think many of the tests were necessary. I didn't want to have them done through the functional medicine doctor because I worried they would be more expensive. 

So I discovered that you can order relatively inexpensive labs from the internet! I know it sounds crazy, but I tried it, had a great experience, and can now recommend it. 

I used Direct Labs to order a bunch of things that my functional medicine doctor wanted to see. For the celiac panel, the test kit was mailed to my house, I did a finger prick collect, and sent the sample back to the lab. For the other tests, I printed a requisition off the internet and then took it to my nearest Quest Diagnostic (which happened to be in a grocery store). Then the results show up in my dashboard online. 

It's such an easy and empowering system, although I am a bit freaked out. One of the tests (CRP-hs) shows that I have elevated levels and am at increased risk for cardiac issues (which is definitely connected to MTHFR). I'm not going to let my hypochondriac brain get too out of control; I'll let you know what the functional medicine doctor says as soon as I hear!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram


JOIN US!: Registration is currently open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 8! Register now! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Goal Tracking App

I came across a great app for tracking goals: Streaks

It lets you input things you want to do (or things you want to stop doing) and the frequency with which you want to do them (either per day or per week). 

It's a really simple interface for day-to-day tracking. I was using it (and loving it) to track my two runs every week, nightly meditation, skipping dessert four times a week, and stopping work at 8pm. 

(The epilogue to this post is that I stopped using any type of tracking whatsoever because it started feeling oppressive. I usually love a good tracking system, but I was using it to feel more healthy and happy and it made me feel more neurotic than I already am.) But it's a great app if you need a good tracking system in your life!


JOIN US!: Registration is currently open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 8! Register now! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Math Games for a 1st Grader

I'm eager to make sure that Henry (1st grade) builds a really strong foundation for math fluency while he's young. I feel like I memorized math rather than build a really deep, conceptual understanding of it. The Montessori math he does at school is WONDERFUL, but I also want to support him at home. 

I saw this game pack featured on Kickstarter and went ahead and purchased it. It finally arrived! So far, we are having fun playing the math games. They mainly build number sense and fluency.

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alternatives to Scouting?

After I graduated from college with a degree in American Studies with minors in English and Women & Gender Studies, one of my ideas for a career was to reimagine scouting to be more inclusive of all genders and sexualities. 

Now that I have children, I'm looking for that kind of option! I've been doing research about alternative organizations

Do any of you have any leads or experiences with inclusive scouting?

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Monday, October 9, 2017

The Park Project

The boys and I are on a quest to visit every park in Austin. We purchased a real map, and we circle every park we visit. Sometimes we'll be out and about and we'll have some extra time, so I'll google the nearest park. Other times, we will intentionally bring out the map, look at it, and decide where to go. One day the boys decided they wanted to visit the "biggest park in Austin," so they selected Emma Long Metropolitan Park. It even has a beach! (The picture I have doesn't show the beach part.) It's such a sweet little ritual/tradition in our family. Living with children is so fun! 

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Finding Balance: Reducing Holiday Stress

We are in the final quarter of the year, and I find myself wanting to have a plan. I like going into the new year refreshed and ready. 

Here are some of the things that are on my mind:

  • I want to go through our budget and refresh it for the upcoming year. We absolutely need to get better about sticking to the budget we have set for ourselves. Life is always changing and evolving, so we have to intentionally set aside time to update our budget to match our life and then track our spending against it. 
  • I want to go through our home to remove, recycle, and donate anything that we don't really need. It's so easy for stuff to accumulate that we don't really use, especially since the boys grow so quickly. (Living room, kitchen, boys' bathroom, boy's room, boys' closet, hallway, office closet, rest of office, master closet, master bedroom, master bathroom, outdoor closet, backyard). It feels like I need to carve out 13 different chunks of time to knock these off the list. 
  • Make our holiday card.
  • Make personalized gifts.
  • Finish our back deck. We are installing a shade sail and trying to create the feel of a little room on our deck. The project has been going on for way too long. I would love to get it finished! 
For updates in between blog posts, find me on Instagram

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Family Meeting Idea

I started reading The Secrets of Happy Families. So far I'm enjoying it! 

One of the first ideas is about a weekly family meeting. The idea is really simple and common (it also comes up in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families). The family gets together and discusses a set of things, such as: 

  1. What things went welling our family this week?
  2. What things could we improve in our family?
  3. What things will you commit to working on this week? 
I don't think we are quite ready for this weekly ritual yet, although I love the idea of it. Tate is only four right now. I think these kinds of reflective and self-aware exercises work better as children turn from five to six. 

I think it would be fun to pair it with another ritual like pancakes for dinner or a pizza night.

For updates in between blog posts, find me on Instagram

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Ideas for Holiday Gifts: 4 and 6 Year-Old Children

The holidays feel like they are upon us (despite the fact that we are still swimming all the time)! 

For Christmas and birthdays, our families typically like to have a list of things that the boys might be interested in. I thought I would share our list in case anyone else is looking for ideas for their own children! 

6 year-old

4 year-old

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Recommendation: First Light

I've been reading more about climate change lately (which is definitely contributing to my anxiety about the state of the world). In my search for materials, I came across a great YA fiction book called First Light by Rebecca Stead. If you're looking for something quick and easy, I highly recommend it! (It's not nearly as depressing as reading about climate change...)

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fall is Here!

We are saying goodbye to summer (slowly but surely in Austin, TX). Even if it's takes a while for things to cool down, the season forges ahead in other ways: Halloween, Matt's Birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! 

We are going to pull out our Fall books, then our Halloween books, then our Thanksgiving books, and then our Christmas (and other religious holidays) books. We are hosting our annual pizza and trick-or-treating party in our driveway. We are starting to plan our Christmas presents for everyone so we can get ahead and not feel stressed about it. 

We are heading to Australia for Christmas this year, so we'll need to cram in as many Christmas-y things as possible before we arrive in a country where it's the middle of summer! 

Spending a few minutes laying out the land of the upcoming season helps put my mind at ease. It's going to be a great rest of the year! 

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Containing the Clutter: Children's Artwork

You all know I'm pretty crazy about containing clutter. My physical space impacts my psychological space so much. That's why I loved reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Even though I didn't agree with All.The.Things in that book, I did love the idea of everything having a place and making it a habit to regularly purge the things you don't love. 

Enter children's artwork. I love that my children want to produce and display art, and yet it's hard to find space for it in a place that still contributes to an overall feeling of calm around the house. 

My solution was to make a space of our home that could solely be devoted to their art. I wanted it to be someplace that they regularly see and could easily access. That's where the idea for this magnetic chalkboard came from. 

I bought a piece of sheet metal from Home Depot and painted it with chalkboard paint. Then we had it framed with with more wood from Home Depot. I bought a chalk pen to write their names on it. 

So far it's working out great! They can pile as much onto it as will fit. Once it gets full, they have to take something down in order to add the new thing. Then we generally say a little goodbye ritual to the thing they are taking down and we recycle it. It's good practice in letting go of things that we no longer need (such an important lesson learned from Marie Kondo!). 

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

B-12 Deficiency

I've been continuing down my health and wellness journey. It's a slow journey but a steady one! 

After visiting with a functional medicine doctor (I am in love with functional medicine, which focuses on the whole human and tries to incorporate research way more quickly than mainstream medicine), I decided to get some baseline blood work done. My functional medicine doctor wanted me to start a whole host of supplements and dietary changes (like no gluten), so I wanted to get baseline data to see if her recommendations actually had any impact. 

It was way more difficult than I thought to order blood work from my general physician. My general physician thinks my functional medicine doctor is a quack. 

I ordered as much as I could from my general practitioner, such as B-12, lipids, and some hormone stuff. 

My general practitioner reported everything back to me as "Normal." I found it odd that the normal range for B-12 was anything from 193-986. Honestly, it's counterintuitive that a range that large could all be normal. I did some quick research that seemed to indicate that the normal range for B-12 in Europe and Japan is much smaller than the range in the U.S. and that those countries/continents treat B-12 deficiency very seriously. 

My own level is 288, which is uncomfortably close to the bottom end of the range. So I am definitely going to start a B-12 supplement. Honestly, it made me very glad that Matt and I decided to let our sons eat meat from a young age (since they really wanted to), even though we are both vegetarians. 

I remember that one of you mentioned B-12 a very long time ago. I'm sorry I wasn't ready to hear you at the time! 

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Halloween: 2017

Those of you who have been following Feeding the Soil for a while know that Halloween planning starts early around here. I let my boys keep a running list of what they might like to dress up as this year. They know they can add whatever they want to the list all the way up until the cut-off date. After that date, they have to stick with the costume they chose! 

Since we don't buy Henry and Tate a lot of weapons for toys, Henry has gotten the idea to pick a costume that comes with a weapon (smart guy). This year he decided to be a devil so that he could get a pitchfork. I tried to talk him into being a farmer with a pitchfork, but I wasn't persuasive (I didn't try too hard; I really do want to honor who my children are and what they want in their lives). 

So two devils it is! 

We are going to move forward with our annual Halloween party (it's our 5th one!). We post a general invitation on our neighborhood list-serv. We start at 5pm with pizza in the driveway. We set up sidewalk chalk, train tracks, etc. and just hang out for a little while. Then we go trick-or-treating as a group through the neighborhood. It's fun to have these kinds of rituals in our lives. The boys are looking forward to it. 

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Hello, Friends!

How have you been, dear Friends? 

Frankly, I've been overwhelmed by the weight of injustice in the world with the ascendance of Trump to power plus the resurgence of explicit, public white supremacy advocacy plus the spiraling threat of climate change plus the threat to immigrant rights and the rights of multiple other groups along various lines of difference. The worse part is that I know that my friends, colleagues, and neighbors who have less privilege than I do (as a white, cis-gender heterosexual with economic advantage) have to shoulder the weight of the injustice even more than I do.

I continue to fight against injustice by focusing on a liberation-based educational approach (i.e., Montessori) and continuing to support the evolution of the Montessori approach through anti-bias and anti-racist thinking, but it's been hard to shake the general pall that clouds my world. 

It has felt impossible to write about things as trivial as Halloween costumes or home-cooked meals on this blog, but I finally came to realize that this space is like a gratitude journal for me. It gives me respite from the storm and enables me to elevate the things about life that I want to be true for all people. I want all people to have the time, space, resources, and opportunity to live a purposeful and joyful life (while continuing to advocate for others to be able to do the same). When I write in this space, I'm carving out space to think about the kind of family and community I want to foster. I'm taking a break from the 11 hours I spend working to eliminate injustice every day and focusing on the things that are right in my world, even when I'm overwhelmed by what's wrong. 

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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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