Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Moods (part 2): natural relief is simple

  • August 22, 2012 2:51 pm

Finding relief from my moods naturally has been very simple. However, Simple is hard to do in an overly complex world. Simple is also much slower than I’d like, especially in today’s “microwave” world where we can’t go/do/think/talk/play/eat fast enough. Simple is really more like a crock-pot: Get your stuff together, have Patience, reap your reward with something that brings great Pleasure. I think the difference in the processes is that the former has Pleasure in mind first – before I’ve had time to Get my Stuff Together. And forget about Patience! Make me to wait for my Pleasure and I might have to give you a piece of my mood – despite the fact that “you” might be an inanimate object. Sound familiar? (please say yes.)

In the latter process, the Pleasure or Joy truly is a reward because even though we know how yummy and tender a crock-pot meal will be when we set out to make it, we still beam with Excitement when we cut into the meat and it falls apart, we moan with Joy when that first bite just melts in our mouths. The Patience part can still be hard for some of us who are tempted by the aroma, but we know that it will be worth the wait once it’s ready (plus it’s still uncooked – gross).

Mood relief has definitely been a crock-pot process – much longer for me, so my hope is that I can shorten the process time for others. But it does take time. I was on the “culprit” medication for 3 years. I am giving myself 3 years to be off of it for me to expect to be back to “normal” (after that I just might lose my Patience!). I have about 8 months to go!! But I already feel more and more like my old self every day for the last 6 months! I speak in terms of detoxing off a prescription, but the fact to remember is that my moods began before meds (thus the “need” for meds). But with the research I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had, I’m confident that I’m on the right path to healing and have put The Brothers on the right path to health. I still learn something new everyday, but everything seems to be flowing in the same directions and I can’t wait to slow-cook these bad moods right out of my life!

So let me just tell you the answer first, and then backup and detail the solutions that might also work for you like they have worked for us.

Consider the following cycle:

Mood Cycle

(That’s an original Google Drawing right there, folks. Be impressed. I might copyright it, so don’t go stealing it without sharing my blog with 10 people. Or buying 10 copies of my future book that I promise to write one day.)

This is truly a cycle and it can be either positive or negative. And depending on circumstances can be a downward spiral. Bad Day –> Bad Choices –> Bad Food –> Bad Mood –> Impulsive Choices –> Impulsive Eating –> Impulsive Beliefs (Fear) –> Wimpy Feeling –> keep–> spiraling –> down –> ward –> until –> you –> burn –> out.

It’s hard to pinpoint where on this cycle we enter. The tricky part is that “Choices” can involve both mental AND physical. First you think it, then you do it. But “Choices” can also involve neither. For instance, you don’t have an opinion on a topic, therefore you might be complacent. And “Choices” can also just involve one of the two. Like, you don’t think before you act. Or, you think about it all the time, and never make a move. I believe it really depends on our Habits because our Habits are like our masters that we blindly obey. Mental Habits are automatic thoughts/associations (like I think YUM when I hear the word “chocolate”) while Physical Habits are automatic actions (like I put my keys on my desk when I come home (in theory)).

Instinctively, I want to jump from “Choices” directly to “Mood/Attitudes/Beliefs” (perhaps a bad Habit?). I tell myself, “I just need to get over it. God has given me so many blessings, why can’t I just buck up and appreciate them? From now on, I CHOOSE to be happy/joyful/thankful/fill-in-the-blank. And to celebrate my new great attitude, I think I’ll sit on the couch and eat some of this comfort food over here so it won’t be so painful.”  Sound familiar? (please say yes.) Wrong direction, Jen! Derailing! Back it up!

What doesn’t seem intuitive me, but I’m quickly learning to be true, is that if I direct my Good Choices in the direction of what I do for my Body, my Mind follows suit, naturally. And something about the natural flow of that soothes my Soul. Bottom line, we must take better care to nourish our bodies. Maybe even, I daresay, make it a higher priority than nourishing our minds. Because when we nourish our bodies, we give life to our minds. It’s hard to nourish a dead mind…in my opinion, at least.

The good news is that we can make a U turn at Choices whenever we want (and as often as we need to) and get going in the proper direction. Good Choices –> Good Food –> Good Mood –> Better Choices –> Healthier Body –> Healthier Mind –> Healthier Spirit –> Stronger Person!!

In upcoming posts, while I’m sharing some strategies that are working for us, I’d also like to debunk some myths about nourishment. I know from our experience, nourishment is not hard to find and it doesn’t break our budget – two common concerns I hear from others. I’d like to share how we find our food and how we afford it. What are some other myths or obstacles that hold you back from taking better care of your body? Please share your comments and feedback!

about Fun: fun trumps hard work

  • June 19, 2012 10:34 am

So yesterday I was informed by The Brothers that last year, Summer Homeschool was more fun than this year. Bummer.

Every summer, me and the boys do a little homeschooling in the mornings for 2 hours a few days a week. It keeps them structured, and it helps me work on skills they struggled with during the school year while reinforcing their other skills to reduce regression when the school year begins. This is particularly helpful because the transition is such a stressful time (for all of us) that their energy is freed up to only wig out about the socialization, instead of wigging out about that AND academic skills.

When we first started, these “academic” skills were more like OT – cutting/drawing on the line, gluing things together without a freak-out, yoga and calming-strategies, etc. But last summer, we actually worked on writing and reading and math, etc.

Sounds real fun doesn’t it? I like to think I made it fun since I’m pretty fun and all…

This past school year, their teachers had no suggestions on skills they needed to be working on. Not even social skills or anger management! #proudmama

So I thought I would make Summer Homeschool more “fun” this year (obviously only by my definition). We still write and read and do flashcards, but I added a Character Building unit. I got tools from various places and people, but have based it on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galations 5:22-23. The thing is that they have loved everything about the unit. The worksheets, the Bible study, the videos, the “crafts” (its just coloring and cutting – The Younger should teach the crafts portion. He has more artsy genes than all of us put together!), and especially the music! So I was really scratching my head on this one. We haven’t been as hard core on the writing and math this summer. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was too diligent last summer on academics and resolved to be a little more laid back this time around.

So what did I do differently last summer that was sooooo fun?

I found out that it wasn’t what we did during school hours that captivated them. It was what we did after we dismissed. We had a Cooking Class (that was code for “lunch”). They helped me make lunch and they would write down the recipes. Nothing fancy. Sandwiches, spaghetti, “good meat” and rice (will post that recipe another day). Some days, I would give them a “test” and they would have to make the rice all by themselves (rice + water + rice cooker).

I learned that it didn’t matter how much I drilled them last summer or how hard they worked to try to figure out that analog clock nonsense. What they remembered, and ultimately labeled the entire program, was the fun they had making a mess in the kitchen together. Therefore, this morning I announced that we would start school with Cooking Class today and they got to vote for what they wanted to learn to make.

The verdict…Breakfast Casserole…

This made me a little nervous because I “hide” good-for-you stuff in this recipe and secretly put onions in it even though they swear up and down they hate onions. But it worked out!  We had a nice brunch (with leftovers) and now we are off to the pool!

And so “fun” has been reinstated into the curriculum!  Maybe now I can pull out those flashcards without feeling like a math nazi.

how we made our Breakfast Casserole

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Allow me to translate…

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1. Fry 2-3 strips of turkey bacon and set aside.  (Since we use uncured turkey bacon, we have to add a little coconut oil to get it to brown and look like bacon and produce bacon grease.)

2, 3, 4. Finely chopped 1/2 an onion and saute in the bacon grease until translucent.

5. Add 2-3 cups hash brown potatoes and brown.

6. Cut the 3-4 bread slices to fit the bottom of a casserole dish. Ours is from Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix.
(The Elder added Step #7 in his notes: Eat Extra Bread).

8-12. In a bowl, beat 4-5 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk (we used unsweetened coconut milk), salt, garlic powder, and any dehydrated/powdered veggies you want to hide (today it was “spinach” – code for anything green).

13. Crumble bacon (we cut into strips with shears)

14. Layer the potato/onion mix on top of the bread.

15. Layer more veggies you want to hide.

16. Layer the crumbled bacon.

17. Pour the egg mix evenly over the entire dish.

18. Top with freshly ground pepper.

19. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 20 minutes.

20. Yeah, I was the only one washing dishes here…Oh but The Younger did wipe up spilled eggs off the kickstool!

21-22. Layer cheddar cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. (we used Daiya Foods Cheddar Shreds)

23. Enjoy!


Me: Do you think you’ll know how to make this on your own now?

The Elder: Yeah, now that I have the list of ingredients and the steps.

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about Birthday Parties: how we handle the gluten/dairy dilemma

  • June 5, 2012 10:20 pm

One of the toughest trials of being a gluten-free family is sending one of The Brothers to a birthday party. Because most families are not gluten free, there is usually no gluten-free menu to cater to my little ones. Now on occasion, we’ve encountered a host that was willing to provide a gf option for my boys, but that is a rare gem and I don’t count on it happening (unless they are also a gluten-free family – we all kinda take care of each other like one big gf family!). So my standard RSVP for a birthday party is to say “Yay, my child will be there but there is no need to include him in the food headcount because of his special diet. Can you please tell me what you are planning to serve and I’ll send in comparable items for him to enjoy.”

And here are my standard substitutes for common birthday party items:

  • Cake or cupcakes: Chocolate Mug Cake (see recipe below – not the same recipe I use for MY crazy eating plan, thank goodness for the kids!) with Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Cream Cheese Frosting (very low milk content (in the natural flavorings) – we have never been affected by it. It’s not even listed on the can’s label, but click link for the official ingredients list.) There are other frostings without gluten and dairy, but this was the only canned cream-cheese flavored one that works for us.

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    Frosting

    Click for ingredients list


  • Ice Cream: So Delicious Chocolate (or Almond Breeze Chocolate, if cheaper and there are no nut allergies at the party). Both brands are dairy- and soy-free. I usually scoop some into a cup or thermos so I don’t have to bring the whole thing and risk melting it. Click link for coupon.

    So Delicious Ice Cream

  • Pizza Option 1: Make our own using Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix (makes 2 thin and crispy crusts or one thick crust) or The Hub’s special recipe (so special that I’ll have to ask him the recipe and I’ll post it at a later date). We bought out our local Big Lots of their BRM pizza crust mix stock, so we are good to go for another 6 months or so! And we top the pizza with Daiya Cheese Shreds. This cheese substitute is both dairy- and soy-free! It melts nicely, stretches and even crisps when overcooked! We’ve used the mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper jack cheeses and all three are yummy!

  • Pizza Option 2: Mellow Mushroom’s Gluten-free, Vegan Cheese Pizza (they use daiya cheese also for $2 extra). The Younger isn’t a fan of this crust and sauce, but The Elder will eat all things “Pizza.”

Everything else we’ve come across on a party menu has been OK for them to eat, such as fruit and plain potato chips, etc. They don’t really eat hot dogs or hamburgers, but if they did I would just request no bun or cheese.

What do you do to accommodate your special diet? What other birthday food items have I left out here?

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how to make a Chocolate Mug Cake

2 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp millet flour (or almond flour)
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
1 pinch of salt (optional)

In a large mug, melt coconut oil (nuke 10-15 seconds) and coat sides well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients, quickly beating together before the coconut oil solidifies. Nuke for 2:30 minutes. Turn mug upside down on a plate to release the cake. Let cool before frosting.

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