How many of you find yourself at this time of year pulling out the whole Santa threat and using it to try to keep your kids in line near the holidays. You know the one ... "Santa is watching! You better be good or you will get nothing but coal in your stocking!" I can't tell you how many times I have used this increasingly ineffective and (honestly) empty threat at this time of year. It's pathetic, really.
This year has been rather challenging. My daughter has had some behavior issues. She has always been a bit of a spit fire. She beats to her own drum and has a will stronger than mine, which is saying something. This year I swore I would take my threats of coal more serious. I was exhausted. Her behavior was seriously wearing me down, so I decided to take my threat to a new, more palpable level. And dammit ... I am going to follow it through if need be.
I created what I call the Coal Jar.
You may call it the Mean Mommy Jar. I'm okay with that.
It was super easy. I bought a bunch of black pom-poms, which are the "coal". I used a couple mason jars I had on hand. I started this back in September or October, so I used the big mason jars. I place them up high, but where they can easily be seen every day. If their jar gets full of coal by Christmas Eve, than that is all they will receive in their stocking. They know that Santa will be checking their jars when he shows up on Christmas Eve. This has been surprisingly effective! I like it because I finally have something to back up my words.
Bayne, as you can see, is a pretty good boy. My biggest issue with him is getting him to do something when I ask. Lately, I have to ask several times. I hate having to nag him to do things. I swear, he won't move unless I've asked it 3 times and am hovering over him. I don't have time for that kind of nonsense and he is 8 years old (tomorrow!) now, so he needs to listen and do what he's told the first time. Now if he doesn't go on the first time, he gets a warning and then BAM! Coal in the jar. Ha!
Aubrey, as you can see, has had a little more trouble :). She has a whole bunch of behavior issues. Talking back, not listening, not doing what she's told, screaming, fighting back .... the list goes on and on. The coal jar was more helpful for my behavior, than hers. It helped to have something to do when I got upset, rather than get sucked into an argument with her. Instead, I could give her a warning and if she doesn't respond BAM! Coal in the coal jar. HA! Such a satisfying feeling. I know that sounds bad, but she has been wearing me rather thin over the past few months. I believe her kindergarden teacher feels the same way, so I know it's not just me.
The good news is, we haven't had to add very much coal to Aubrey's jar over the last month and a half. I discovered that Aubrey has an intolerance to gluten. It took me a while to put this together. She has had bowel issues most of her life. She has abdominal pain, bloating, constipation. The doctor had me giving her Miralax regularly. She is fatigued and foggy often. School has been especially exhausting for her. She was unable to complete her work. She has issues with behavior. She gets very upset over trivial things (i.e. making mistakes on her school work, water in her eye in the bath, etc) and when I say upset, I mean insane crying fits. I came to school at pick up time more than once hearing her screaming about something and the teacher would have to take her into the bathroom and shut her in because she will not calm down and it is a disruption to class. She takes a long time to calm down when she does have these fits. She was recently diagnosed with migraines. She has had dizzy spells, that I thought might be seizures, but they diagnosed them as migraines and placed her on deprokene / valporic acid. Towards the end of the summer she had a persistent rash around her mouth, that I assumed was from the heat, but it would not go away for 2 months. I had the doctor look at it and she said it was from licking her lips. Finally, while doing a post on my friends Facebook page (she makes the amazing Elemental Superfood Seedbars that are gluten free, organic, and raw - I do her page) I posted an image I found about gluten sensitivity vs celiac disease and almost every one of these health issues was listed on there. Not to mention, muscle and joint pain, which she constantly complains of and was recently hospitalized for toxic synovitis of the hip. The light bulb went on. Immediately I went out and got a book on gluten sensitivity called The Gluten Connection byShari Lieberman. I felt like I hit a jackpot. This was SO my daughter. Almost every symptom she had. I placed her on a gluten free diet right away and almost instantly I saw changes. The rash around her mouth disappeared! The rash was the final symptom that really tipped me off. I noticed that it would flare up at times and recede. After breakfast one day it was flared up and I checked the ingredients of the food she had ate. That morning I had given her a veggie sausage link .... main #1 ingredient .... wheat gluten. HELLO!
Now we are almost two months into this diet and it has been amazing. Her teacher can't get over it. She says she is doing so much better in school. She is able to be reasoned with and talked down when she gets upset. No more insane tantrums. She is playing with others more, rather than isolating. Has more energy, is getting her work done, not foggy or as fatigued, though she still does get tired with activity, but she still has a special heart, so that is to be expected. Other parent volunteers in her class have noticed the change in her as well. Just the other day one of the mom's told me how well she was doing and what a difference she has seen in her behavior. She hasn't had a rash since we discontinued gluten. She isn't complaining of muscle and joint pain. She still has large stools, but the bloating and abdominal cramping have gone. She use to sit for a meal, take a bite, then have stomach pains and need to use the restroom, never really finishing her food. Now, no more interruptions at dinner time. No more miralax either! Very happy about that. I hated giving that to her. And even better than that ... no more anti-seizure meds (deprokene / valporic acid). SOOO happy about that. Her neurologist believes we may have found the answer. We go back in February, so hopefully she will be migraine/dizzy spell free when we see him again. I can't believe the difference. I am just so happy. I am amazed at what a simple diet change can do. Here I was pumping all this nasty medication in her, doing God knows what else to her system, when really the answer was to ELIMINATE an allergen from her diet. Oh boy I can't wait to chew the ear of her pediatrician. Hopefully, her story will help one of her patients in the future. I try to be grateful we found out when we did, rather than frustrated that it wasn't suggested sooner. You live and learn, I guess.
Aubrey seems to love being gluten free. Fortunately, she thrives on being different. She had no trouble giving away the gluten filled candies at Halloween time. She is fine with not being able to have some of the foods she use to order when we go out. She doesn't seem to mind that she can't eat the same cake or cookies at parties. I make sure to have a gluten free cupcake in hand when we do find ourselves in those situations. I like to think that SHE feels the difference, that she FEELS better, and that is why she is embracing the diet.
Looks like no one will be getting coal in their stocking this year. Which makes me happy for sooooo many reasons. I think I will still do this again next year, just because .... it's one more tool in my Mommy tool belt.
Maybe you need a coal jar in your house, too?