Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two for two

Two seizures in two days.


I haven't been careful lately about keeping L away from too much sugar.  Last week, it was gingerbread boys. I was a little nervous, at first, but nothing happened.  On Christmas he had hot cocoa and fruit snacks in the morning, and birthday cake that night.  The next day it was pancakes with syrup and two days of the days since then we had chocolate chip dip with apples for dessert.

In the last two weeks, he's had more sweets than the previous 8 months combined. I never knew sugar was a trigger until he had a seizure on Easter morning after eating a basket of (healthy, additive-free) sweet treats. Since then, I've known that even additive-free sweets put him at risk.

I guess I just got sloppy. Everything we know about managing L's condition with diet is guesswork and trial-and-error. There is no information out there about treating RAS with diet. None. No doctors advising diet changes. No fliers with foods to avoid. Nothing in the whole wide Internet.  

So when I see him eat more than usual with no adverse effects, I start to question whether it was just a coincidence that Easter morning. Maybe I'm unnecessarily complicating his already limited diet. Maybe sweets aren't a trigger.

But they are. Sorry L. We're going to break this streak right here. No three-peat tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I had forgotten how bad M's reactions used to be.

Sometimes, when M is being frustrating, Whim and I will start asking each other, "Is this a reaction?"

This morning is my reminder.  No.  Or maybe.  I don't know.  I'm starting to think M has two kinds of reactions: one that makes it hard for him to have self control and one that makes him emotional.  Anyway.  Today was the emotional kind, and it is definitely the worse of the two.

M was in full meltdown from almost the moment he walked through our bedroom door this morning.  He was bawling because L woke up.  That's it.  Normally M wakes up before L, and it didn't seem "right" to him that L had woken up just as he did.  He was overcome with frustration, sadness, and anger.  All at once.  This is the kind of thing that we used to have to deal with every single day. 

I thought he had pulled it together by the time we went downstairs, but the next meltdown started as I was mixing up the pancakes.  This time because L sat in 'his' chair.  Again I was reminded how hard it was to do anything at all when M was like this constantly.  Today his reaction put L on edge and I was dealing with two crying, freaked-out kids.  Needless to say,  I didn't finish the pancakes.

I turned around and made magic chocolate on the spot, and man, that stuff works.  No more meltdowns for the rest of the day.  He wasn't perfect, but he never is.  He was back to normal.

I'm sure some reader may see this and think that all M needs is discipline, boundaries, a spanking, or whatever.  But the thing is, M responds normally to discipline and reason when he is on a clean diet.  He is completely beyond both when he is having a reaction.  No man or method can reach him.  Seeing him at a low point today helped me see how far he has come, and I am grateful.

So the culprit?   I don't know.  He had a few things yesterday that were different than normal.

Yesterday he had Annie's Organic fruitsnacks in his stocking, but that was first thing in the morning and they are Feingold approved.  Seems unlikely.

Then there was the birthday cake, which was right before bed.  Arrowhead Mills yellow cake mix and Allowrie butter in the icing.  I'm almost sure the cake mix was approved, too, and it definitely read clean.  Not sure.

So that leaves the butter, and it is the most suspicious.  Isn't butter supposed to be creamy white?  The label said "Pure" but what does that mean, really?  It's bright yellow, and the ingredients on the package don't add up to 100%.  I haven't had any luck finding any info online, but there is an address I can write to.  Until then, no more cake.

And the pancakes?  I gave up and poured them in a muffin tin.  They weren't the most delicious breakfast I've ever made, but they were good with maple syrup.  And no butter!

Merry Christmas!

We had a really wonderful, special, calm Christmas.   We went pretty light on presents, but it's as if the boys knew they had to savor every moment, and they really worked together to make today special.

We stayed snuggled up in bed until around 8, and when we finally went downstairs, the boys wanted to take a walk and deliver candy canes to our neighbors.   After that, when they looked in their stockings, they each found a book and snacks and wanted to read (and eat) them right away.   We made cocoa and took it outside and had a Christmas picnic.

First fruit snacks - huge hit!  Fresh from the States, thanks to our friends the Archers.
"This is healthy for me, right Mom?  This is no additives?"
Cocoa and fruit snacks for breakfast.  Why not, it's Christmas!
The presents were just the same way.   They'd open something and play with it for ages before going on to the next.   Thanks to my mom and Nana, they each had several gifts waiting for them under the tree.  They genuinely liked and were grateful for every thing they received.

What could it be?  What could it be?
"Mary and Joseph... and she shepherds and angels!"
It will never cease to amaze me how much he retains when he appears not to be listening.

I don't know how Whim ever gets candid pictures of their faces- all I ever get is hair!
We went out for a late lunch and when we came back, it was birthday cake and playing with new toys until bedtime.
Same strawberry icing.  I'll try a new color soon.
He nursed that cake for half an hour!
This is the same kid that ate the equivalent of 3 gingerbread boys in dough bites every time I turned around.

I won't take credit for how sweet the boys were today, because if I did, I'd also have to take responsibility for what a terror M was during Wum's wedding on Saturday. :)   Some things are just the luck of the draw.  But I felt really lucky and blessed all day long.

Tonight when I put the boys to bed, I let L down gently that when he woke up tomorrow, it wasn't going to be Christmas anymore.   He crumpled into tears, just as I knew he would, so I was lucky to have New Year's Eve to distract him with. :)   Poor little lamb.   He really loved Christmas this year. :)

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

We're with the band

View from the stage.

Last week, Whim spent several days at Farm Chokchai, playing guitar at a multi-day concert hosted in the forest there.  The boys spent the days with their auntie Waan making gingerbread and watching Christmas movies, while I slugged through finished up the last few days of the semester.  We got to say goodbye to our visiting friends and had a Christmas party to attend, but mostly, we were in countdown mode.

Thursday afternoon, Whim came back for us and we started the holidays right by leaving Bangkok behind and taking a quick family trip to Khao Yai for the last day of the event.
Miles being cool.  Everyone loves this kid.

L was terrified by this flower at breakfast.  I'm not the only one who likes to torture her kids with scary things, right?
Backstage passes - we were so cool!
Both the boys partied till they dropped.

Out cold

We ended up getting home at 3:00 am the day of P' Wum's wedding, which had its own consequences, to be sure.  But the boys got to see their Papa play, it was cool enough for dragon breath in the morning, and nothing says holidays like a road trip, right?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

M the ring bearer

Saturday was P' Wum's wedding (Whim's older sister).

She was the most beautiful bride I have ever seen.

The hall was gorgeous, the music was wonderful, (thanks to Whim!) and everyone looked amazing in their fanciest clothes.  It was the perfect wedding.


Except for one of the ring bearers. 

One little boy who just wouldn't cooperate.  He walked down the aisle alongside the groom (grudgingly), but instead of standing calmly beside him for the rest of the ceremony, he decided to spice things up.  He swung the pillow (actually a teddy bear with built-in ring box) recklessly by the leg.  When the officiant announced it was a time for a special song, he took advantage of the silence that followed to belt out "Amazing Grace".  At one point he flopped to the ground.  Finally, when he walked over to try to blow out the unity candle, I stepped in.

Yes, that's right.  It was M.

If I wasn't one of the bridesmaids, I could have sneaked backstage and called him off as soon as it became clear that he wasn't going to cooperate.  As it was, I was trapped onstage, humiliated, until the threat of candle-blowing sparked me into action.  I quietly sent him off stage to sit with his grandparents.  Instead, he found a stranger with an iPad and sat quietly playing for the rest of the ceremony.  Close enough?

The second the wedding was over, I ran into an adjoining room and cried.  My cheeks still burn when I think of it.  The worst part was having to pull myself together and brave the reception dinner afterward.  A handful of clucking grandmother-types and whispered "If that was my son..." comments confirmed my biggest fear - everyone in the auditorium was judging me and declaring me a terrible mother.  M had ruined the wedding, and I felt terrible.

Then, yesterday, the weirdest thing happened.  Everyone kept saying how adorable the boys were during the ceremony (Ln was the other ring-bearer.  He was lovely.)  Every time I brought up how awful M was, people laughed it off and said it was cute.  I called P' Wum and P' Boy to apologize for M and they laughed it off, too.   I thought back to all the naughty things he had done, and while they were totally inappropriate, they didn't seem quite as horrible as they felt at the time.

So here's the thing.   I think it's possible that my reaction might have been due, at least in part, to.... being hungry.  We didn't get to each lunch that day because of wedding prep, and I get really emotional sometimes when I miss a meal.  I have been known to cry because I can't decide what I want to eat.  It's ridiculous, I know, but when I get like that, I am completely beyond reason.  Could it be that M's antics were the stuff of wedding memories and funny home videos and not the disobedient treachery it seemed to be at the time?

Anyway, I'm so bummed now because I missed the entire wedding.  I spent the whole time stressing and worrying and being embarrassed, and even long after M had left the stage, I didn't take even a moment to soak in the beautiful scene.  My sister got married.  A nephew being crazy and silly is forgivable.  But what about a sister who is so frazzled and stressed out that she isn't even present?

I hope the answer is still yes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fun with auntie waan

The boys' auntie Waan stayed with them last week while Whim was away at a big, multi-night concert.

She is always so sweet with them. One night she taught them to make gingerbread boys.

I saw a Pinterest post once of zombie gingerbread boys- missing arms and legs. That's exactly how the last batch turned out because L kept sneaking them.

I just need to figure out how to make one of those 'nailed it' photos.

Monday, December 17, 2012

messages from Santa

We don't really do Santa around here.  We're not anti-Santa or anything, but it just sort of ended up this way.

My mom told us the truth about Santa when I was 4, and I was always glad to play along, but secretly be in the know.  We still put out cookies and milk, wrote lists, and got gifts from Santa-- right up through high school and college.  It was tradition, we just knew it was only for fun.

W, of course, grew up without many special Christmas traditions.  They went to church, they went caroling, (which deserves its own post - caroling in Thailand is strange) and they may or may not have gotten a gift.  But there was no tree or decorations, no Christmas cookies, and certainly no Santa. 

Living here, there is no outside culture that would let me just allow them to believe without personally telling them.  Sure, they've seen Santa in movies and books, but they don't think Mickey Mouse or Spiderman are real.  I would have to talk about him and tell them he's coming and explain the magic and I wasn't up for that.  Because the thing is, it's one thing to allow your child to believe in something beautiful for a while, like Santa.  But it's another thing to personally convince them it's true, and then turn around later and tell them it's not.  No judgement from me for all the Santa-believing families out there.  It just wasn't going to work for us.

But... that didn't stop me from creating these adorable messages from Santa.  They don't have to believe to enjoy them!  And they're free.  Nothing beats that!
One for M.
One for L.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gingerbread Boys

"No!  Not the buttons. Not my gumdrop buttons!"
I love my church.

For all kinds of reasons, like how the people there are genuine and everyone is welcome.  Today the list of reasons expanded to include gingerbread boys.

Homemade, awesome, no-additive gingerbread boys!  After a quick button-removal surgery, they were safe for the boys.   They had 2 each.   I love that Waan and Ben checked and knew that they were safe, except the buttons, before I even asked.  I love that people at church care and are looking out for us.

And Waan's coming over this week to make more.  We can decorate them with safe chocolate chips and some more of that freeze-dried strawberry icing.  Gingerbread boys are one thing they don't have to do without. :)

And now, a joke. 
Q: What does a gingerbread boy sleep on?
A:  ???

He did actually enjoy the cookie, despite the melancholy photo.
M chose this shirt today to match L.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Do you have Christmas in France?

We took a few comparison shots before we unceremoniously
stripped ol' fake tree and re-decked the halls.
After 6 years of fake-tree Christmases, we are the official owners of a real, (formerly) live Christmas tree. Thank you Ikea Thailand!

It's a Christmas miracle!

I couldn't be more excited if a cheeseburger came to life and did a claymation song and dance for me.  (I admit I would be slightly more excited if John Cusack was my neighbor and we got to fix up a super cool old camero and go skiing together.)

Can you identify my favorite slightly-Christmas-related 80's movie, which is currently queued up and ready to watch?

Look, I gotta go.  The Christmas tree is on fire...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Healthy snacks

He's supposed to have an apple-slice hat,
but this was just a dry run so I skipped it
Today was M's day to bring snacks for preschool.

The request was for something Christmassy.  I wanted to do these adorable banana slice snowmen I saw on Pinterest (obvs.) but I was worried that if I sliced them and got them ready that morning before work, they'd be brown and slimy by snacktime.   We tried them the other day and they were totally cute.  I will have to do them some other time... maybe for S week?

Anyway, I made a fruit/veggie plate instead. I hope that wasn't lame.  I wasn't trying to take a stand or make anyone feel bad about sending junky snacks or anything.  I don't even really know what they usually eat, because I don't ever get to go. Whim says it's generally things like goldfish or crackers or fruit.  I just wanted something that M could eat and that he would be proud to share.

The pea pod tree was decorated with bell pepper, and I put a row of apple slices around the outside edge.  I took the picture after I'd cut up the first apple.  You'll just have to imagine the apples go all the way around. :)  The covered bowl is macadamia nut butter.  I can't even say if it was good or not because I didn't try it.  It smelled really good, though.  And the star and presents are cheese.

After school today all that was left was a handful of peas and some of the macadamia nut butter.  I guess it was a hit.


L represented RAS at Saturday's Special Needs Awareness Program by being as adorable as possible.

Setting up -I had all my STARS stuff out, so my table felt so official!
L stepped up to give our booth the cute factor that we were lacking.
And when that balloon popped right in his face? No seizure.  Awesome.

The SNAP festival was so good to be a part of.  Because it was the first year, there was still room to grow, but it is definitely the start of something very good.   I can only imagine how many people they will be able to impact in the years to come. 

I didn't think to get any pictures of the rest of the event, but along with the informational booths like ours, there were support/therapy booths, carnival games, puppet shows, olympics-style games, live music, food vendors, and all kinds of free activities for kids to take part in.

PlanToys, a local brand I love, had play area filled with their beautiful wooden toys.  The boys loved that there was shady place to sit down and play, but I kept waiting for the sales pitch.  I couldn't have been more wrong - there were no toys for sale, they were actually giving them away.  M played with this wooden cake decorating set for ages... I think I may have to get him one for Christmas. 
For a kid who isn't great with imaginary games, he sure loved playing with this cake.
I had high hopes of connecting with another RAS mom at the event.  And I did!  Kind of.  A friend stopped at my booth and told me that her running partner's son had similar symptoms when he was younger, but has now grown out of it.  I know her, too, and was able to ask her more about it this afternoon.  Her son fainted rather than having seizures, but they never had a diagnosis.  It's so encouraging to hear about another child who outgrew it, and it makes me that much more sure that we won't be dealing with these seizure forever.    

Maybe more important than me personally connecting with another parent, however, was that I was able to get the word out to several organizations who help families of children with special needs full time here in Bangkok.  Several representatives stopped at my table and took STARS information back to add to their files.  They meet with families every day, and they have a much greater chance of reaching people than I do at one Saturday fair.

And lastly, the same hospital who told me L was spoiled and we let him cry too much had a booth directly across from ours.  Whim took the high road and kindly stopped by their booth with a handful of pamphlets.  Hopefully the next family will end up feeling more supported than we did, and they'll walk away with answers instead of all those scary questions.  And that's what SNAP was all about.

I don't know what he's doing in this picture, but he's cute.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Highlights from Phichet

The boys are asleep, the car is unloaded, Whim's at a gig, and I'm gearing up for heading back to work tomorrow.  Every vacation and long weekend tricks me into thinking I'm a stay-at-home mom.  What do you mean I need to type my lesson plans and the homework sheets?

I shouldn't have taken a shower so fast after we got home.  That upcountry smell is already gone.
These strings of lanterns reminded me of the beautiful Yi Peng lanterns- just a few weeks too late.
This weekend we brought the boys to Phichet to help Whim's dad's put on a Christmas program/outreach.  Whim took care of the music, his Dad did the message, the boys charmed everyone in sight, and I mostly tried to keep them out of trouble.  There were some crazy moments, but I'm glad we did it.  It's important for the boys to see us living out what we say is important to us.  There's no better time than Christmas to get involved in helping the less fortunate, and it sparked some good conversations with Miles, too.  Happily, the event went off well, but I don't actually think it was the highlight of anyone's weekend.
(I think) Whim's highlight was this exchange between M and Xaio Lin.
XL: You are a boy?
M: Mmmm (nod)
XL: Mmmm (nod)
And that was it.  Best buds for the weekend.  Sorry L.  Luckily for you they like little brothers.

(Definitely) The boys' highlight- seeing this swan at a rest stop on the way home. 
It's a good thing we didn't take them anywhere expensive, because nothing could have topped this in their eyes.
Every mom has a few photos of her kids on the pot... I like that his will be a little different. 

Actually, even though I loved that toilet photoshoot, my real highlight came this afternoon.  We had the bigger part of a long, long drive ahead of us.  I glance back and....

It was such a quiet ride home!

Success!  Whim's brother (center) was just posing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I love Bangkok, but every time we get away from the city, I remember what it's like to be surrounded by trees, to really breathe, and see the stars.

We're in Phichit for the weekend and it is gorgeous, and quiet, and perfect. The boys are in heaven because they've got the run of the resort and can explore on their own.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday memories

Whim came home this weekend with five boxes of candy canes.  I wrote before about how somehow the entire Christmas season seems, to me, to be wrapped up and encapsulated entirely within candy canes.

M had been asking for them as a decoration.  I was holding out, thinking that somehow I was going to find a dye-free brand somewhere, or that maybe I was going to make some.  But since they don't want to eat them anyway and only want to decorate with them, there was no reason not to spring for a box of the cheap, artificially colored 59 baht ones.  Or five.

L is in heaven.  Basically he spends all his waking hours (minus meals and quick bathroom breaks) moving the candy canes from one place on the tree to another.  He isn't picky.  As long as they are in clusters of 10 or more, he's happy.

So he's making his own kind of candy cane Christmas memories- of being entranced by the sparkling lights and the bright colors and shiny wrappers.

Tonight, the boys and I had another special holiday moment.  We were all snuggled up in M's bed reading tonight's Christmas bedtime story when M saw fireworks exploding in the sky outside his window.  Of course!  December fifth is Father's Day in Thailand- the King's birthday.  Fireworks lit up the sky in celebration, and the boys and I had a front-row seat from M's cosy bed.  Though they knew that today is Father's day, to them, these were Christmas fireworks.  And I wouldn't dream of spoiling that magical Christmas moment.  It couldn't have been more perfect.  The boys went to sleep with fireworks bursting overhead and visions of candy canes dancing in their heads.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the neighborhood gang

I've written before about how M used to have a hard time making friends.  He was too rough, and too wild, and he just didn't 'get' other kids.  They didn't get him either.  He's come so far, and now, to my joy, he perks up when he hears the sounds of kids playing outside.   It makes me so proud to see him race outside, scramble into his flipflops, and take his place as one of the neighborhood gang. 

He's recklessly brave when it comes to asking, "Do you want to play?" Even with kid-strangers.  Thank God (really, Thank you, God!) he's confident and other kids' reactions don't get him down.  He sometimes runs back to me and reports with a shrug, "She said no!?" but it doesn't affect him.  He's never hesitant to ask again because he was rejected earlier.  But how much longer can this last?

I love that, at four, he has no concept of self-esteem or saving face or sour grapes.  He doesn't sit on the sidelines in agony waiting for someone to smile at him before he works up his courage to join in the game.  It doesn't even cross his mind that kids won't like him or won't want him to play.  What can I do to keep this alive in him?  I can't remember a time in my childhood when I wasn't plagued with worries like those, but surely at some point I was as carefree as he is.  What happened to change that, and what can I do to make sure that never happens to my boy?

I try not to be a helicopter mom, I really do.  But it's so hard.  By the time we started M on his diet early this year, he already had a bit of a reputation with the neighborhood kids.  Not that he was mean or anything, but more that he was a pest.  M was the kind of kid that would start by innocently picking up a toy from the ground, but as soon as he saw that its owner wanted it back, would run away laughing.  He'd think he was starting a game of chase; they'd start screaming that he stole their toy.  And it didn't help that M was the only kid in the neighborhood who was expected (by us) to apologize when he made a mistake.  So after a situation like that, I'd walk him back to the friend and have him say sorry.  It just made everything worse, because it made M's errors stand out.  The other kids all got in spats and fights and got over them and forgot about them without apologizing.

Score one for the not-helicopter parents, I guess.  The kids all worked it out just fine.   I can't say I would have done it differently, though, even if I could go back, because I do think it's important for people to acknowledge their mistakes and learn to make proper apologies.  Miles does both with such grace for a four-year-old.

Anyway, despite his former role as M the Menace, he is now friends with all the little boys in the neighborhood.  The girls, unfortunately, have been much harder to convert.  Once they made up their mind that they didn't like him, they have been mercilessly cruel to him ever since.  Does it count as bullying if you're too sweet and happy-go-lucky to have your spirit crushed by it?  I stayed out of it for months, because I felt like I had learned my lesson about helicopter parenting and I was going to let them figure it out themselves.  At some point they would give him a chance and realize that he's a funny, nice kid.  But I had forgotten about the pack mentality and the particularly shocking capacity for meanness that small girls possess. Mostly, we'd leave when they got started and talk to him about how we don't have to spend time with people who are unfriendly to us if we don't want to.

Finally, about 2 weeks ago, I couldn't ignore it for another day.  I told those four little girls that enough was enough and that they couldn't treat M like that.  He just wanted to play together.  The oldest girl's father, who lives down the street, was right there.  Why didn't he ever say something?  It's one thing to not be a helicopter parent, but it's another thing to let your child become the ringleader of a gang whose sole purpose is to mistreat a neighbor for months.

Anyway, even though I hate confrontation (yes, it counts as confrontation even when they are 8) I don't regret what I did for M.  We're already starting to see some change- today when we walked to the fishpond, two of those little girls were kind to our boys. And that same father jumped right on his girl when she tried to pull some of her tricks.

As a kid, I never wanted an adult to get involved because then it felt like it "didn't count".  If the teacher would have come over and scolded everyone and told them they had to play with me, I wouldn't get any enjoyment from the game.  I'd know they were only playing with me because they had to, and I would have rather played alone.  But M isn't me, and he doesn't overthink things the way I did.  For him, this solution actually works.  He does just want to play.  And the best part is, now that they're not ganging up against him, they're all going to be charmed by him in no time flat.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another reason, another season, for making cookies.

Do you know what makes delicious and beautiful dye-free icing?

Freeze-dried strawberries! I pulverized them in the blender and the bright red powder made a pretty pink icing with a nice tangy taste.

Do you know what doesn't make very good sugar cookies?

A shortbread cookie recipe! Whoops. Well, they're still good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent 2.0

There... that's better!
Even though I'm still 100% in love with our advent books idea, I was kind of bummed about not having something in the pockets for the boys to look forward to each day.  This morning, before they woke up, I decided to put two little ornaments in each pocket.  We already had these nutcracker and star ornaments, but we hadn't put them up this year for some reason.

Perfect!  Now every morning they'll get to add two ornaments to their tree, and every evening we'll read a book together.  I've said it a million times before - the boys really never complain about all the things they don't get, and it makes me want to give them all the special memories I can that don't revolve around junk food.

Anyway, speaking of the boys' tree, I have to say that it's so awesome.  It's one that another teacher gave me when she moved away.  I held on to it, knowing that one day it would be so cool for the boys to have their own tree in their room.  This year was the first year they seemed old enough not to destroy it, and so far so good.
The boys' tree, with their advent books wrapped up underneath.

I am pretty impressed by their job on this tree.  I didn't move a single ornament (obviously, given those giant apples hanging together at the bottom!) and they are so proud of it.  Anyway, the ornaments are all cheap plastic ones from Tesco Lotus that came with the tree, which is perfect of course, so we don't have to worry about them getting lost or broken.

Here's proof that kids can be thrilled about Christmas without candy canes and red and green m&ms.  As for me, well... Whim saw candy canes on sale for 59 baht a box and I've been so tempted!