Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sofia's Health Update

I have been up to my eyeballs in appointments for all 3 girls, they come in waves and we recently just got slammed with a huge wave of appointments.

I realized I haven't updated much about Sofia's medical appointments and general health...and doing so will help me keep it all straight :)

When Sofia came home she was sick, we had a sick child visit with her pediatrician and got baseline stats and some referrals going. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to get from point A to point B but I keep getting sidetracked along the way with new specialists and new referrals. My favorite is when one doctor refers us to a certain specialist who refers us to another (sarcasm noted).

After this appointment we scheduled a cardiology appointment for an EKG and ECHO. We were not concerned of any major heart issues, but several doctors did hear a murmur and kids with Down Syndrome should ALWAYS have an echocardiogram to check for Congenital Heart Defects since they're so prevalent.

While waiting for that appointment we took her to the international adoption clinic which is a fabulous starting point! They ordered a ton of blood work checking for vaccine titers, bloodborne viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, etc., lead levels, calcium, levels, and a hundred other things. Her diagnoses included malnutrition, lead exposure, parasite exposure, bloodborne virus exposure, growth delay, and of course Down Syndrome. The same day we saw the Down Syndrome Clinic doctor. They were excited with how well she was doing and ordered bloodwork for thyroid, complete blood count (to rule out leukemia which is also more prevalent in children with Down Syndrome), and Celiac Disease screen (also more prevalent in children with DS). They also ordered stool samples (oh so fun) to check for parasites (which is typical with kids who have been internationally adopted).

The bloodwork all came back as expected except for one of the items in the Celiac screen. We noticed some stomach issues in Ukraine and just like our other girls, we decided to take her gluten free and noticed a huge improvement in symptoms. Even after being gluten free for 3 weeks one of her markers for Celiac's came back high. They were going to send us to a GI specialist to have a biopsy done to confirm Celiac's but that would mean putting her back on a gluten diet and I just didn't feel right doing that since she is finally starting to feel better! So, since she is gluten free anyways, it's not important to us to have Celiac Disease confirmed at this point. We'll continue to screen in the future and if we ever decide to try a gluten challenge with her then at that point maybe we'd elect to have the biopsy done, but it's not a priority right now, and nothing would change with the results being positive. So for now she will stay gluten free, we know AT LEAST that she has a gluten intolerance, whether or not it actually is Celiac Disease.

The other follow up suggested from those appointments were a dental visit and she appears to have discolored teeth and possibly some bottle rot (dentist check scheduled in April with the other two girls). We were told to schedule a vision screen and hearing screen as well (vision was scheduled since before she came home because it's hard to get in).

Back to cardiology, she does NOT have a congenital heart defect!! She does have a PFO which is not a big deal. She also has a small "non-issue" with her mitral valve and they'll just keep following that. He did measure some borderline pulmonary hypertension, so suggested that we schedule with an airway specialist to see if any airway issues could be causing the possible PH. He wasn't confident with the number he got, so it may be a non issue as well. Regardless, we have to follow up. We scheduled the airway appointment for April.

At her 3rd pediatrician appointment (to have TB test placed and well child visit), the doctor suggested also scheduling with Pulmonology to look into the possible pulmonary hypertension, so that is in the works as well. We're trying to coordinate this appointment with her airways appointment and some of Mila's appointments at Children's Hospital since it's a 2.5 hour drive for us. The pediatrician also suggested having an evaluation done here for sure steps (ankle braces) like Zoya has. I'm afraid to get these for her because then she'll start walking ;) She's already so much trouble! HAHA!

She had her vision check today and got a great report! She has some blocked tear ducts but I'm hopeful those will resolve on their own with time as they're already improving. Should they not resolve we'll schedule a procedure to have them unblocked. Other than that she doesn't have to go back to the eye doctor for 18 months! Yay!!

She will see ENT within the next month and have a hearing screening done.

Okay, I think that covers everything, for Sofia anyways. I'm tired just typing it all! Overall she is healthy and the appointments should decrease once we get all of the initial appointments out of the way (as long as they stop referring us to new specialists! haha).

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Here is the post many of you have been waiting for! Drink recipes to replace pediasure!

Deanna starts us off here with some great information and the recipe she uses for Aleck:

Ok, so the first thing I want to make sure we highlight is that these recipes are NOT for infants.  This is NOT formula!  These recipes can be used a high nutrition/high fat/high calorie drinks for children who are undernourished or would otherwise be drinking something like pediasure, but in NO WAY is this intended for children under a year old.  It’s not a replacement for breastmilk or formula, so please don’t use it for babies (with one ingredient exception that Sarah’s going to talk about!) :)
Phew.  ‘Nuff said.

The second thing I wanted to encourage you to do is learn about your ingredients.  Don’t take our word for it!  This recipe is one that I play with and change often for Aleck, and you will have the best success if you experiment with what works best for you.  So change it!  Adjust it!  The confidence to do that comes (at least for me) from practice and from knowing your ingredients, and what’s really in them.  We’re going to do a post or two detailing some of these ingredients to give you a solid launch point, but seriously: we are no experts.  I can’t say it enough--
don’t take my word for it!  Learn about your food, and then leave us in your dust.  Seriously. :)

So Aleck’s recipe: 

This recipe will make about 16 oz (more or less...it’s definitely not exact). I blend mine in the morning, and then use it for one whole day, so this recipe will make enough for one entire day for us (sometimes I have to add a little more coconut milk or broth to the last bottle, but in general...one whole day).  Aleck is still semi-liquid dependent and undernourished from the orphanage--so if you have an older child or are just looking for a pediasure replacement, you may only need 8 oz. a day.  I will say that this recipe has a TON of good fats in it, but if you are just looking for a healthy snack smoothie...this isn’t it. This is for children who need to gain weight.  Aleck has gained almost 4 pounds in 6 weeks, so I promise that it works...but as he becomes well-nourished, I’ll be adjusting the recipe again.  It’s not your average smoothie (check the nutrition facts on the coconut milk alone if you don’t believe me!) :)

Generally speaking, the base recipe looks something like this:

⅔ cup pure coconut milk (comes in a can.  BPA free cans are out there if that worries you)
1 cup bone broth (homemade...NOT store-bought!)
½ T. blackstrap molasses
1 scoop powdered goats milk
1 heaping T. sunflower seed butter
up to 1 T. chia seed gel or flax meal (experiment: this WILL move bowels, fyi)
splash of pear juice
probiotics (we use Culturelle)
Nordic Naturals Baby DHA (fish oil--sometimes he just takes this plain instead of in the mix)

Put all ingredients in the blender and whip well.  (Just a side note: we use a Y cut nipple, because this is a thick mixture).

Now, Aleck does not care about the taste, and will drink this totally straight.  It actually has just a pleasant, lightly ‘nutty’ kind of flavor, but if your child needs something with a different flavor (or depending on what they may need for the day) just adjust it!  Think of this as the ‘base’ recipe.  Add a banana or some berries.  Put in a dollop of raw honey or add a little yogurt.  Whatever you need to do to make it palatable and tailored to their needs, go ahead and do it!  It’s a total experiment :)

Here you can clearly see how love and good nutrition have helped Aleck grow in such a short time!


Deanna did a super job explaining what these recipes should and should not be used for! Just as Deanna said, no two recipes really look alike! You can vary this greatly depending on your child’s specific needs and preferences! The ONE MUST-USE INGREDIENT, though, is bone broth! This is certainly a “staple” of these recipes! We'll be sharing more in the next post about how powerful bone broth is!

Unlike Deanna, I make each of my bottles/drinks individually. It would save a lot of time if I made the base drink at the beginning of the day, but this just works well for us because I do often change or add ingredients based on their needs that day, so making the recipe each time allows me to do this. This is much easier to do for kiddos who are not liquid dependent since they need less bottles/drinks throughout the day. Again, there's no wrong way to go about this!

When we met Mila at 7 months old, she weighed only 7 pounds. Mila came home around 9 pounds at 8 months old (Yes that means she gained about 2 pounds just from LOVE and likely from increased feedings since we were at the orphanage twice a day to feed her)! She was tiny and malnourished and very sick! Within 3 weeks, she was up to 12 pounds, 10 ounces! This almost 4-pound weight gain in only 3 weeks home was prior to her airway and heart surgeries! So clearly her lack of weight gain wasn't only due to medical issues!

We did follow doctor’s orders and put her on Nutramigen to start. I was not very happy with this formula at all (ingredients list = yuck) , but it kept Mila stable and gaining some weight until her open heart surgery. I didn't feel comfortable using a homemade recipe in a child under 1 and didn't have enough time or resources at that point to do the research needed to formulate a recipe that would give her everything she needed as an "infant." As soon as she turned 1 we started her on the recipe below. Even though we aren’t suggesting these recipes for babies under a year old, I’d TOTALLY suggest using the bone broth ingredient as a base for powdered formula in place of water (YES! even in children under a year old!) I used the bone broth as a base with Mila's Nutramigen before we eliminated the Nutramigen!

Mila's Recipe 1 (12-14 months old):
(Mila was 100% liquid dependent at this point so she got 4-5 ounces every 2-3 hours, with one overnight feeding-typically 6-7 bottles per day. She would only take 2 ounces at a time when she was newly home at 8 months old (formula) and we worked our way up to 4-5 ounces at a time by a year old).
4 ounces of warm bone broth (chicken or beef-chicken is easier on the belly)
2 scoops powdered goat's milk (double the goat’s milk for the liquid suggested for higher calorie intake)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 cooked egg yolk
1 ounce canned whole fat coconut milk (works as a great thickener and mild sweetener)
1/2 tsp. Nordic Naturals Children's DHA
Vitamin D supplement (Nordic Naturals)

Blend all ingredients together, serve warm.

Mila's Recipe 2 (14-18 months old):
(Around 16 months we decreased her “milk” intake to 5 ounces 4 times a day and dropped the nighttime feeding)
4 ounces of warm bone broth
1 scoop powdered goat's milk
1 tsp. coconut oil (in 1-2 of the bottles daily)
1/2 tsp. Nordic Naturals Children's DHA
1 ounce organic pear baby food (stage 1-homemade or store bought, to sweeten and thicken)
Vitamin D supplement (Nordic Naturals)

*At this point Mila was eating solids and we added many of the "superfoods" (we will post about these next time)  into her food directly. 

When Mila reached her goal weight, we began replacing this recipe with coconut and almond milk. I am able to get her many nutrients through food as she is eating table foods now! 

This picture shows how much Mila grew in her first year home, thanks to the love of a family and good nutrition!

Sofia has only been home for 6 weeks, but has already gained 4 pounds! It's important to note that Sofia (just like Zoya) was a decent weight when we met her. However, she was still diagnosed as malnourished due to lack of proper nutrition and vitamins. In her before and after picture, you can clearly see, in addition to the weight gain, that her dark circles are gone and her eyes are much brighter and full of life...her skin is much clearer....her hair is growing a lot and overall, she just looks A LOT healthier! (No editing was done on any of these photos, by the way!)

Sofia's Recipe: (15 months-current 17 months old)
(Sofia gets 4, 4-5 ounce servings per day)
4 ounces of warm bone broth (chicken)
1.5 scoops powdered goat's milk
1 tsp. coconut oil (in 1-2 of the bottles daily)
1/2 tsp. Nordic Naturals Children's DHA (only in first bottle of the day)
Vitamin D supplement (Nordic Naturals, only in first bottle of the day)
Vitamin B-12 supplement (only in first bottle of the day)
Standard Process Probiotic (Prosynbiotic, only in one bottle/day)
Personalized Standard Process Supplements (via nutritional response testing)
Either 1/2 Tbsp. raw honey or 1/2 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses (I do 2 servings with honey and 2 with molasses each day).

As Sofia grows and gains weight I change the recipe. She is at a good weight right now, so I’ve decreased the powdered goat’s milk down to 1 scoop per bottle. I will probably drop her servings/day from 4 drinks to 3 (from 20 ounces to 15) this week. I still think it's REALLY important, though, to keep her on the bone broth for a lot longer (even when we switch to a less fattening recipe)! It is so healing to the body! 

Sometimes I replace 1 ounce of the bone broth with pear juice, or juiced greens (purchased already juiced because I don’t have time for that!), coconut water, coconut milk, or almond milk. Recently I started giving all the girls a few ounces of goat’s milk kefir, which is a great source of probiotics, so I add this to her bottle once or twice a day as well! I’m adding in some of these things because they are good for her, and because I want to make sure her palate is introduced to a variety of flavors so she may be more likely to eat a diverse selection of foods. I don’t want her getting stuck on having to have her bottle made one way and only taking it that way. So I make very little changes...an ounce here or there of something new. I also add a little flaxseed oil if she gets a little constipated and that seems to help a lot! I can’t put the ground flax seed in her straw cup because it clogs the straw so I try to add that into her yogurt instead.

In the next post, we’ll talk more about WHY we are choosing these kinds of ingredients...and then you will have the tools you need to decide which ones are right for you!  Happy blending! :)

Please feel free to leave comments with any questions you may have and we’ll do our best to answer them! Also, if you’re using a bone broth based recipe with your child, please share it with us! (Email spbasile at gmail dot com). We already have another mama’s recipe and story we’ll be featuring and would love to include yours too!!

Monday, February 11, 2013


I promised Deanna and I would be sharing more about what our families DO eat! So in Part 3 we will show a sample of what a day of meals might look like for our families!

First of all, I have to share this video! When Deanna sent this to me, I laughed so hard I almost cried because some days I feel like this...like if I try a new recipe and they hate it HAHA! Even if you just watch the pancake part, it will be worth it!!!

Here is a sample of one of our days this week and what we ate at the Basile House!

*Milk (Almond for Mila and Zoya, “Sofia’s recipe/goat’s milk” for Sofia (4 oz))
*Pizza Eggs (Scrambled eggs with pepperoni and cheese, garlic, paprika, oregano, sea salt cooked in coconut oil) and pork sausage
*½ Happy Tots squeezeable pouch with flax seed, honey, and whole food supplements, vitamins, fish oils (for Zoya and Mila, Sofia’s supplements/vitamins, etc.  are mixed in her milk).

*Gluten Free Banana/Chocolate Chip Muffins
*Milk (Mila gets the rest of the milk she didn’t finish with breakfast, and if she did finish she gets watered down juice, and Sofia gets another 4 ounces of her recipe)
*Zoya has snack at school M-F. I send GF snacks for days that kiddos bring in a snack that she can’t have. Her teacher asks for healthy snacks so many days are fruits or veggies anyways.

*¾ cup Almond Yogurt with ½ avocado each (mixed in)
*½ banana
*Zoya got a spoonful of coconut oil and extra flax seed with some happy tots food because she had not had a BM in a day…within an hour she went.
*Juice/Water mix

*Veggie Straws (our weakness)
*Sofia’s recipe milk for Sofia
*Water/juice for Zoya and Mila

*Homemade Gluten Free Chicken Noodle/Vegetable Soup (with bone broth of course)
*Oopsie Rolls http://yourlighterside.com/2009/05/gluten-free-low-carb-buns-aka-oopsie-rolls/
*Almond Milk for Zoya and Mila

*Sofia gets one more 4 ounce drink (her only remaining “bottle” of the day) right before bed. Occasionally if we had an early dinner we will do a bedtime snack, but typically we don't because they are in bed a few hours after dinner :)

So that is a sample of what one of our days might look like! All of the girls drink from straw cups and Sofia gets one bottle right before bed to work on bonding. I try to get 12-16 ounces of “milk” (either almond, coconut, or goat’s milk) into the girls each day. The rest of the time I give them about 1 ounce of pear or apple juice mixed with 3 ounces of water (or so). We will be sharing more about what recipes we use for our littlest ones’ milk mixes! 

We do a lot of “platter-type” quickie lunches. They love cheese and Applegate pepperoni with some fruit for lunch. Mila is going through a stubborn picky phase right now (I hope it's a phase), so I will often mix whatever we are eating in with some mashed cauliflower or baby food for her and she will eat it that way much easier. 

A “real” foodie might look at our menu for the day and pick out things that we should change (like the cream cheese used in the Oopsie Rolls or the veggies straws, or add more raw veggies)....BUT this is what works for our family. The “balance” Deanna talked about is so important. Maybe cream cheese, for example, isn't an ingredient I’m thrilled about giving them, but the ease in making them, their delight in eating them, and the benefit of the eggs mixed with them is what I considered when I made that choice. We always have room for improvement, our diets aren't perfect, but I feel really good about what my kids eat most days!

And here is a little bit about what Deanna's family meals might look like for a day:

Ok, so OUR typical day might look something like this...but sidebar for a second: I’m loving looking at Sarah’s list because I can see so many foods that sound similar...and yet, I can see how we still do things a little differently.  That’s what this is all about!  What works for YOUR family can (and probably will) differ from what works for mine, and still be balanced.  Isn’t it awesome that we have so much freedom with food to find good choices and tailor them to our personal needs? I love it.  Ok, sidebar over :)   So a breakfast example at our house might be something like oatmeal and banana with almond milk for the older two.  Aleck has 4 oz. of ‘Aleck’s drink’ every morning, and then something like pureed quinoa with coconut milk, and bananas.  Sometimes, he eats oatmeal too!

For our morning snack, we might eat hardboiled eggs, pretzels, or crackers and have water to drink.

For lunch, maybe sunbutter (or natural peanut butter, since we aren’t nut free) and raw honey (or homemade jam) sandwich on a 12-grain bread with carrot sticks and coconut milk...this is one of my kid’s favorite ‘special’ lunches, and this twist on ‘PBandJ’ just makes ME feel good, too.  :)
Aleck would have something like mixed vegetables, lentils, and 4 oz. ‘Aleck’s drink’.  If we are eating something he can also have, then we would just puree some of that food for him to eat.

Afternoon snacks vary widely around here.  This past week, we were loving kiwifruit and homemade trail mix, but it really could be anything from homemade banana chips to veggie straws, to granola, to apples and peanut butter.  Snack is kind of a big deal around here (isn’t it always with small children?), and the minute our oldest gets in the car from kindergarten, snack is the word.  And it changes every day!  Unless mommy is at her wits’ end...then we might have the same snack for 3 days straight because that’s what is made, and that’s what is easy.  Please tell me you know what I mean....Ahem. :)
Aleck might get applesauce and rice rusks or really, any number of pureed foods.  He is just plain not discriminating between foods at all right now, so he just eats literally whatever I puree for him.  

A typical dinner would be vegetable chili with salad and coconut/almond milk to drink (ok...the kids drink that...mommy and daddy might drink iced tea or water).
Aleck would again get anything we are eating that is also good for his belly.  In this case, I would probably puree some of the beef, add brown rice, and peas or carrots for his supper.  He also gets about 4 oz. of his special drink.

Last but not least, our children rarely forget to ask for that bedtime snack...even if they have only eaten an hour ago, which kind of drives their daddy nuts.  Ha.  A typical night snack here would be a fruit smoothie, or vanilla coconut milk yogurt...something along those lines.  Aleck also gets his last bottle at this time.

In Part 4, Deanna and I will be sharing our "pediasure replacement recipes" for kids who are liquid or semi-liquid dependent, and/or malnourished. We've both had so many inquiries about this, so we're excited to finally get that post going! We also plan to share a "super foods" list and explanations of why they are great foods and why we try to incorporate them into our meals/recipes.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Building Trust Through Feeding and Food Progress for Sofia!

*****Interrupting the Nutrition Series to bring you this fabulous update!*****

It's no secret, one of our biggest struggles we've experienced with two of our post-adoption kiddos is extreme food-related behaviors. Zoya and Sofia both struggle(d) with wanting/needing to eat all the time. I've posted a bit about this in past posts, but some of the behaviors Sofia demonstrated around food include: yelling, crying and screaming at the sight of food (not because she didn't want it, but because she NEEDED to have that food the moment she saw it), crying when her food was gone, breaking down if she saw someone else eating when she wasn't, eating anything in sight (food and non food items), not having a preference for favorite foods, never turning food down, needing frequent small snacks often throughout the day...to name a few! Meals were a very frustrating time as you can imagine.

I'm happy to say we're seeing the light here! She has been doing much better and is even starting to turn down foods, and not finishing drinks/meals. This is HUGE!!! Today, I fed Mila lunch first and Sofia played on the kitchen floor HAPPILY, knowing Mila was eating and she wasn't!!! Do you know what that means? That means she is starting to realize that food will ALWAYS be available to her....that she can trust us!!!!! This is not just a little accomplishment, this is HUGE!

The biggest improvement I've seen is in the look in her eyes around food. She is still semi-obsessed when food is presented, BUT she will look at me and give me eye contact when I request it (instead of focusing ONLY on the food)...her eyes look peaceful now instead of scared. She CAN wait in between bites without having a melt down. She doesn't cry when her food is gone! We are so happy to be seeing this progress!

Sofia has had an aversion to cold foods, as it's not common practice in Ukraine to feed children anything cold (their view is that children will get sick if they eat cold foods...obviously Americans don't share that view). Zoya had this issue as well.  Little by little, I've been offering her bites of cold baby food or yogurt, or a room-temperature drink (instead of heated) and she's always had the same reaction, until today!!!

In the videos below, you can see she is trying some cold almond yogurt. You can see her face and the surprised look, but she is willing to keep eating it even though it's cold! In the past she would have stuck her tongue out and cried.

Some strategies that I accidentally found worked with Zoya, have worked well with Sofia too! When we were in Ukraine with Zoya, there was nowhere for her to sit for her meals, so I sat on the floor with her. This worked really well because eating/feeding is such a trust-building experience and this allowed Zoya (and Sofia) to move away from me on their own to "take a break" from the sometimes overwhelming experience of eye contact/eating. It might not make sense but for former orphans, building trust through eye contact can be overwhelming and I find it best to allow them those "breaks." As I said, feeding is the best trust-building experience I've found with all of my girls, so I try to take meals as an opportunity to work on that.

In this video, you'll see Sofia on the kitchen floor. I have seen good progress with both girls when I feed them on the floor where they can move around rather than in a high chair. (I do feed her most meals in a high chair but try to do these little trust building feeding exercises when I can!) She is eating some flavored almond yogurt (I started with this because I thought she'd be more likely to eat it because it's sweeter than plain yogurt!) You can see that I let her play in the yogurt which is ultimately going to help her be okay with eating cold foods. Our fabulous OT had given me that advice (let kids play with their food before/during eating) and it has really helped my kiddos to be less sensory defensive with food issues.


Here you can see that I'm requesting Sofia to give me eye contact to get a bite of food. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't. When she is so focused on the spoon/bowl/food, I put some on the spoon and slowly move it up toward my eyes to get her to eventually give me the eye contact. Sometimes she scoots away for a little break. You can see that she still would prefer to focus on the food, but I'm gently asking her to look at me so she can connect the food with "mama," thus building trust. (By the way, she does typically close her mouth around a spoon but because this was her first time really eating cold foods I think she was a little hesitant!) Also in this video I had moved to plain yogurt with avocado and honey to change it up and decrease the sugar that was in the flavored yogurt! Typically when I do this I hold the bowl closer to my chin to get her to naturally look up that way, but since I was taping with one hand I couldn't do that! 


One more video...here I held the spoon in her mouth longer, trying to get her to close her lips on the spoon now that she was used to the coldness a little bit more. This ended up working really well for her to naturally give me some eye contact! 


I'm including this video because I think it's funny! I was telling her no in Russian when she was trying to whack the spoon and bowl (which we use often because she still responds much better to that than the English "No") and you can see how quickly she responds to the word and shakes her head. HAHA! I love how you can hear Zoya in the background saying "Niet!" 


Jump for joy with us! We're thrilled with her progress and the improving trust and bonding happening around here lately! We know now (with Sofia being our third princess), to expect temporary regressions...and although those are never easy, we are seeing some light at the end of this tunnel and for that we are thrilled! Go Curlie Girlie!!!!!


I posted Part 1 HERE! 

First of all, I want to introduce you to my friend, Deanna! She's going to be contributing to some of the nutrition posts and sharing some recipes! Deanna and I met while she and her husband were adopting their adorable little guy Aleck (during our adoption of Sofia). I love the post she just wrote called "Food Revolution." Just like she says, we must be long lost sisters! Our views on nutrition, along with our lifestyle and how we carry out our nutritional hopes in day to day life are very similar! Please check out her recent post here!  I find myself nodding in agreement with her with many of the posts she writes, this one especially! I like how she described her family as not being over the top nutritional foodies (LOL), but just trying to make good decisions and balancing all of that with the time we need for other aspects of our lives! I completely agree! We aren't the family who never lets out kids eat ice cream or have a special treat in moderation, but we do pay very close attention to what our children eat!

Secondly, if you're looking at making some lifestyle changes, I suggest reading "Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats" by Sally Fallon. This book is  a great resource to help people move back toward eating God-made foods...foods that were meant to heal and nourish our bodies! 

Part 2:
I won’t go into all the details here, but this is a great article to read that tells how nutritional needs of people with Down Syndrome differ from others. http://einstein-syndrome.com/health_medical/feeding_an_infant/

I have learned a lot from this blog as well! It is an AWESOME resources for parents of kiddos with Down Syndrome who are interested in how nutrition can affect our children!! http://dsdaytoday.blogspot.com/ Remember all the new information can be overwhelming so don't try to tackle everything at once. Pick one change for your family and try it out...little by little! 

Foods we avoid:

Cow’s Milk: We decided right off the bat with Zoya to avoid cow’s milk. I had done a lot of research on cow’s milk in general and also found that there is a higher incidence of people with Down Syndrome being intolerant to cow’s milk. There are connections between cow’s milk and a higher rate of ear infections in the general population. Kids with Down Syndrome typically have much smaller ear canals, thus making it even easier to get ear infections and have Eustachian tube dysfunction causing fluid in the ears. This blog post THIS BLOG POST (click)  explains the connection pretty well and gives some more information on some of the reasons we cut out cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is one of the foods I cut out of my diet during my “recovery” as well and this helped me to make the same decision for Zoya. Since Zoya was nearly 2 when she came home, we put her right on almond milk. I wish I would have known then what I know now, but thankfully Zoya was healthy enough that my lack of knowledge didn’t make a huge difference! They do eat some foods with milk as an ingredient in moderation (they are not 100% dairy free), but they never drink cow’s milk. We try to substitute things such as almond yogurt for regular yogurt and goat milk, almond milk or coconut milk for cow’s milk (for both drinking and recipes). I can tell you that none of my girls has ever had an ear infection (knock on wood!)

Gluten: Celiac’s Disease is also more prevalent in the Down Syndrome population. Zoya’s blood test came back negative. However, she was having many bowel issues and at the suggestion of our Nutritional Response Tester, we did a gluten free trial to see if it would clear up her bowel issues. Not only did her bowel issues completely disappear, but her behavior DRASTICALLY improved with the elimination of gluten! Some people will swear that food does not affect behavior, but we are living proof that for SOME KIDS food REALLY affects behavior! Many people mentioned to us how Zoya's behavior had really started improving as soon as we cut gluten out of her diet (these people didn't know we had made that diet change for her either!). I can tell a huge difference between "food behaviors" and "defiant/purposeful behaviors" which is also important. When I see food related behaviors it's almost as if she just can't control her impulses (more so than normal!). 

A neat little sign that some people who are gluten intolerant will have is called BRALY'S sign. Zoya has the tiniest little shortest pinkies ever! I will have to take a picture of them! I thought maybe it was connected to Down Syndrome, but Mila and Sofia both have normal length pinkies!  We decided to follow the same guidelines with Mila and Sofia, anyways, because we know the overall benefits are great. Lots of packaged foods contain gluten, so by eliminating it, we also eliminate many processed foods which contain other less-than-desirable ingredients as well. 

Here is a great article on gluten: HERE IS A GREAT ARTICLE ON GLUTEN (I am about 90% gluten free as well. I just eliminated gluten completely for 30 days and I did feel as if I had more energy! The only times I do eat gluten are really only on special occasions, at gatherings, or just here and there if there is something I wish to indulge in-in moderation of course. When I started my food journey I cut out a lot of carbohydrates, sugars, and a large percentage of gluten-containing-foods and I attribute that diet change, in part, to my health improving so greatly). 

Our girls are rarely sick with colds/viruses/bacterial infections and I truly believe that their clean eating contributes greatly to this (and the immune systems of steal they inherited from Ukraine don’t hurt either!).

That is what they don’t eat….and in the next post I’ll talk more about what they do eat and what supplements we use! If you're thinking about making a change, start small...experiment with almond milk or coconut milk (if your child is not an infant), try out a recipe with a gluten free flour. It's really hard when you dive in 100%...when people do this, it tends to not last as a lifestyle change because it seems so overwhelming, so I really suggest making very small changes over time! 

Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section! I'd love to hear from other mama's who are thinking about making, or have made similar food eliminations and hear how your kids have been affected! 


Monday, February 4, 2013


Okay, firstly, I just posted on our family blog about how the girls are adjusting as sisters!!! CHECK IT OUT HERE!!!

Part 1

I have wanted to put all of my nutritional thoughts down on the blog for quite some time now, and that's finally happening. I get so many inquiries daily from mamas who have newly adopted kiddos from Eastern Europe...and those mamas are looking for answers in how to help their children gain weight and become healthy.  Sometimes they're malnourished like Mila was, and sometimes they're just "post-orphanage unhealthy" like Zoya and Sofia. Often times, parents take nutritional advice from professionals who really have no background in nutrition-specific needs of internationally adopted children or children with DS (which both present their own unique challenges). Many parents with kids over the age of 1 are told to use Pediasure and for many reasons that was just not an option I was willing to choose (have you seen the list of ingredients on there? SUGAR! and I can barely pronounce the rest). I'm not saying you're a bad mama if you have your kid on pediasure, but personally, I know my children do NOT react well to sugar and I know it steals the good nutrients from their bodies, so, I had to start researching some other options! Thankfully I had my own personal experience with "food as medicine" prior to adopting our girls. This experience enabled me to make some good nutritional decisions for my children who were in desperate need of some healing! 

I am passionate about good food and how it can heal the body. My own journey with good nutrition and whole foods started about 7 years ago when I got really sick. I was only 23 years old but I was really sick. I was constantly tired, like REALLY tired. And I was sore, everywhere…every muscle in my body ached. It was the kind of tired and sore where I felt like I had been hit by a Mac Truck and just come out of a coma. I went to work, barely made it through the day, then came home to pass out on the couch, wake up around 9pm, eat something if I had enough energy, and then go back to bed for the night. I could barely pull myself out of bed in the morning because everything just hurt and I was so tired I couldn’t even open my eyes. I had been in an accident and suffered two herniated discs in my neck. Still I was young and should have been able to bounce back! I saw so many specialists in addition to my primary care doctor—a pain management specialist, lyme disease specialist, and infectious disease specialist…to name a few! I was diagnosed with chronic mono, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and lyme disease (which is code for nobody had any idea what was wrong or how to help). At a chiropractor visit one day I heard of another chiropractor who practiced Nutritional Response Testing. At my wits end, I decided to give it a try. Through major diet changes (slowly over time) and whole food supplements, I finally got my life back and became healthy again! Basically I learned to go back to the roots of whole foods and not packaged foods with tons of additives and artificial ingredients. Surprisingly I learned "low fat" options meant that in addition to the fat being taken out of the products, other ingredients were put in to replace the taste that was missing. I had no idea what I was eating, like most of America. 

I want to make sure to say I know nutrition can be so overwhelming. All of the changes I made over the past 7 years have been one small change at a time…and I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn! I’m not one of those mamas that has a weekly menu planned out and a shopping list to buy ingredients for each meal because at this point in our lives it just doesn’t work that way! I’m often throwing things together at the last minute….BUT I do have some awesome tools to make informed food choices for myself and my family so that when I am throwing something together at the last minute I know what I can grab. There is no “one size fits all” way to go….each family’s needs differ so drastically. So please know anything said here in regards to nutrition is not “the only” way to go, but it is what I can swear by and what has changed my life and my girls’ lives! Food IS medicine, it's the best medicine we have at our fingertips! 

In the next post, I'll talk a little bit more about how our girls eat, including things we don't eat and things we eat, and how nutrition may need to look a bit different for kids with Down Syndrome. I'm also working on a post with another mama that will give you some sample "recipes" for Pediasure replacements! I hope this will be helpful to many. I'm so excited that so many mamas are seeking out answers and ways to help heal their children and bring them back to health! Just one last reminder, I'm not perfect at this, it IS overwhelming when you start to make food changes, but each little change made is a step in the right direction! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

1 Month Home for Sofia!

Sofia has, so far, been the easiest to adjust to her new life (as compared to our other girls). It seems like she just slipped right into place and has been here all along! The only time I remember she hasn't been is when I attempt to take all 3 of them anywhere LOL! Then, I realize 3 is way more than 2 HAHA.

Sofia is such a rock star...so wild and full of energy and wakes up most days ready to hit the ground running 110 miles per hour. As we get to know her better, I've been noticing more quiet times, more observation on her part, and more insecurities that I can't wait for the love of our family to heal for her. She is learning how to seek comfort, she is learning she is worthy, but she doesn't fully believe it yet. I've seen her look at me as I hold Mila and kiss on her and snuggle and comfort her....the look in her eyes seems to say, "That looks like so much fun but I'm not sure I'm worthy" and THAT breaks my heart. I don't know how her eyes alone convey that message to me, but they do. In those moments I pick her up and love on her just the same. I snuggle her and smile at her and try to convey to her that she is worthy of love. So much healing left to do. With Sofia, it's harder to remember that she needs to be treated like a newborn emotionally....she IS so resilient...everyone that meets her comments on her strength and the fact that they can't believe she has only been home a month and comments on how well she is doing. So it's hard to remember that, although she IS so very resilient, we're just starting to peel back the layers and finding her buried little soft spots. Now that she is starting to feel safer with us, we are starting to see the fragile little babe under the shield of her BIG personality.

She has gained 4 pounds in 4 weeks! She looks great on the growth charts!! She is growing well and thriving! I'm working on a post about weight gain and nutrition in malnourished and post-orphanage children as I've had so many awesome mamas inquiring about what we do with our girls nutritionally! She has been fighting on and off fevers and we're not sure what those are all about. She had an appointment with a fill in doctor in town and that went terribly wrong for so many reasons. All I will say is that I had been questioning bonding on my part with Sofia and clearly that appointment indicated that I have nothing to worry about in that department. My love for her is fierce and growing and I would lay my life down for hers in a heartbeat.

She went to Children's Hospital yesterday to the Down Syndrome Clinic and to the International Adoption Clinic and had a TON (8 vials) of blood drawn...they ran the typical international adoption bloodwork as well as the typical Down Syndrome bloodwork. The doctors yesterday did hear a small murmur and we're following up with a ped cardiology appointment on Tuesday so prayers would be appreciated there. We're hoping and praying it is just a small issue that will not require any type of intervention. She's clearly thriving physically so I was surprised when they said they heard the murmur and would be really surprised if it was a serious issue, but none the less, my heart still sank and my mind has been wandering that way all day.

We are truly blessed having Sofia here with us! So thankful God created her with us in mind :)