Well, I started this post but realized I’d already written quite a bit last year. Then, I started writing this post (below) in September, but didn’t finish until today (in January).
The kids have been on a gluten-free, dairy-free (GFDF) diet since June 2013, with the exception of our two summer trips to Texas. (Because when your parents cook for you for weeks on end, you eat it and enjoy every last gluten-and-dairy-laden bite.) Last week, however, I got a serious craving for honey lime chicken enchiladas, which absolutely cannot be GFDF. They must be smothered in cheese and creamy green sauce. Go make them today and be so, so happy you did. Anyway.
GFDF had been feeling increasingly burdensome for two reasons: I was bored with our oft-repeating menu plan, and our kids are really, really not into this diet and go to great lengths to make that known. I asked PJ about what he thought about stopping GFDF, and he agreed to give it a try.
Dumb. Oh, my word. Dumb. HELLO?? There really was a reason we’d been doing this not-super-convenient diet for over a year.
The kids have been bonkers this week, in ways we haven’t seen in awhile. Noticeably, school was rough. Vernon has made great strides in completing school without strife, but he was some kind of special off-task this week. For the first time in quite awhile, he was pretty stubborn about getting work done. Brooklyn did not finish any day’s assignments this week. As I’d mentioned in last year’s post, I saw a significant difference in math. Last week? She got almost every problem correct and only took a few minutes to do the worksheet (A-quality). This week? She missed between five and ten problems per day (F-quality). At one point, I’d gotten busy with another task and came back 20 minutes later to find Brooklyn only on the second problem. The first problem had been to draw a specific length line with a ruler. Yikes. All the mistakes she made were either skipping the problems due to working haphazardly or making errors in simple math operations. This was a significant change from her norm of doing very well in math.
Neither of the kids have been able to just play this week. They have spent free time tearing from one activity to the next without being able to settle and enjoy themselves. This was characteristic of our days before-GFDF. And oh, the words. They. Won’t. Stop. Talking.
School problems combined with hyper behavior? Our off-diet trial lasted less than four days. As PJ was leaving for a week with the kids in crazy-pants mode, I declared GFDF to be back in effect.
So why did we stop, other than those amazing enchiladas? Both kids are very resistant to the diet, and we have to watch like hawks to try to stop them from sneaking off-diet food. If there is gluten or dairy to be found, they will find it and eat as much of it as they can. (Four pounds of truffles. Three cups of corn syrup.) Seth’s tray with cheese on it becomes a free-for-all if I turn my back on him. Group events with food are a stress-fest, and we often skip them for the sake of our sanity and our kids’ brains. We have to keep both kids and the food in sight at all times. I can’t imagine why we don’t get invited to more dinner parties. Already I’m dreading our small group on Sunday, where my main focus will have to be keeping our kids out of the kitchen and out of everyone else’s food. When our kids sneak off-diet food, we have both the effect of eating food that doesn’t help their brains and the heart issues associated with succeeding in rebellion. It’s a mess.
More recently, we had another opportunity to see how GFDF is beneficial for our kids.
After locking the fridge and pantry this summer, we were still dealing with one child who would wedge his/her hand through the locked pantry doors and grab gluten items (this child only took non-GFDF foods—this isn’t a hunger issue). We noticed that we weren’t seeing the brain organization in this kid that we were seeing in the other who was following the diet more successfully. After getting fed up (no pun intended!) with the number of times we were dealing with this issue, I cleaned everything out of the kitchen that wasn’t GFDF. A few days later, we were seeing noticeable improvement in this child—calmer, more able to focus in play and school, and less hair-trigger defensiveness and anger from constant sneaking and lying. Worth it.
We still deal with this issue every day. One of our kids is constantly thinking about sneaking disallowed foods. As vigilant as we are, any sweets that accidentally are left out disappear, often within minutes, and we still have to change our lock codes frequently (really not sure how the kids find opportunity to break our codes). We pray for our kids’ hearts and brains to be healed from the effects of neglect and for their salvation leading to a distaste for stealing and lying.
So. This post is less about GFDF and more about how dealing with our kids and their deep-rooted food issues (a sin pattern that is very common with backgrounds of neglect) is really, really difficult. Therapeutic venting aside, the point is that GFDF radically affects our kids’ brains for the better. Being food-related, it brings out significant, difficult heart issues, but we can get through the basics of our day (like school) without them acting like untrained puppies. We’ve had some powerful reminders that the sacrifices of GFDF (oh, how I miss convenience foods) are really worth it for our family.
In my copious free time, I’m scouring paleo and “real-food” blogs for some ideas to freshen up our menu plan. The kitchen is restocked with GFDF-friendly foods, and we’re back on the wagon to stay. I know that there will be times, particularly traveling, when eating GFDF isn’t practical. However, in those times we often are traveling to a great deal of family help to offset the increased hyperactivity. For our daily routine, though, it’s GFDF all the way.
Have any GFDF-friendly meal ideas? Let me know!