I am so happy to share this with everyone. The previous blog entry is about the Feingold Diet. My sister-in-law, Sondra, wrote this testimony about this time last year,--it's their family's experience with the Diet and the gains they saw in my sweet nephew, Will, as a result. It makes me excited every time I read it.
God’s Strong-“Will”-ed Blessing
February 28, 2012 Sondra McDaniel
Prior to Feingold-
Life at our house changed with our beautiful son, Will. From early on, we knew he was very energetic and would require lots of strength, rest, and prayer. When he was born and up to about the age of 4, we watched the foods that he ate very closely. We were not informed about Feingold then, so we were not aware of the benefits of “all natural” foods. We did watch his junk food intake though. We bothered lots of people with this choice, and I’m sure that he was secretly given more treats than we wanted him to have. He loved learning new things and I remember it coming with ease! As a teacher, I was almost certain he would one day qualify for the gifted and talented program at school. As a mom, I was so proud of the possibility! He started Pre-K at three years old due to having a birthday that falls a week before the deadline for the program. He is the youngest in his class and had some problems with behavior at first. He had a hard time adjusting to sitting still. However, he still learned so much in Pre-K! He was amazing us all the time! He liked being read to and also liked learning new things! As he got to be about four years old, our family grew by one sweet little brother! As our lives got busier and more hectic, our eating habits changed for all of us. We no longer looked at the amount of junk food and other unhealthy foods that Will was eating. Processed foods such as hotdogs, lunchmeats, boxed pizzas, pizza rolls, and many more became staples in our house. Between baseball games and practices for a span of six months, most nights ended with a meal coming from the microwave. During the week, Will was eating processed school food for lunch and then coming home to yet another plate full of innutritious material. I have to be honest; I was eating everything he was eating at school and home too! They say hindsight is 20/20, because as I look back, I recall this being about the time Will became very defiant and even more “Strong-Willed”. That’s the term I usually use when I am apologizing for his ill behavior. We took lots of measures in disciplining him. Spare the rod, spoil the child seemed to get old especially when we could tell it just wasn’t working!
Time –out lasted an eternity! I tried some of the strategies that I use for 22 kids at school 187 days of the year and it did not phase him! Alan and I were out of energy and we just kept trying the same old things to calm him down without any improvements! He turned five and it was time for kindergarten. I felt like a new start would calm things down. His behavior at school was close to excellent. It was, however, a different story at home. As soon as we get home it was like he was a completely different kid! Temper tantrums and screaming fits lead us all to argue most evenings. This is very hard to admit, but Alan and I would get mad at each other for the other getting mad at Will. We were not adhering to God’s master plan. Some of his actions would just get to us! We dreaded trips to the store, restaurants, vacations, family functions, and even church. We would have the long talk in the car about what would happen if ____? He would reassure us that he knew all of that and promise us he would be good. Later, we would find ourselves leaving embarrassed and on the way home having the same old talk, “Why did you act like that?” His response, “I’m so sorry, I couldn’t control it.” I have asked myself many times in the past month why I had not asked him what he meant by that sooner. I just contributed it to him having a new brother all this time and it would pass. We felt he was searching for attention, so we made sure that all our love was shown to both of them and made extra special days for Will to make him feel better. Most of those outings ended the same dreaded way. It had almost been 2 years at this point since Lucas was born. When would this end?
As far as learning difficulties in kindergarten, he seemed to lose interest in wanting to know more. He left kinder with a DRA of 6. Not the best, but passing. His math was very high. He said he was interested in numbers and puzzles. The teacher felt confident in him and suggested that he was just the youngest in his class and everything would come along in due time.
1st grade came this year. Yet again, a fresh start had to change something. Right? After a full summer of baseball and processed foods, he tested out at a DRA of 6 again. First grade welcomed, spelling tests, reading every night, and throwing a fit every night. Some nights we just didn’t even do homework in fear spanking him being the last thing we do before bed. He had a hard time with his sight word test every week and also his reading skills tests. The first semester resulted in C’s and D’s. This was now January. Our fear was him repeating first grade. So, we resorted to the “No-pass, No-play” scenario for baseball. He cried about this and decided he would do better. The change I did see in Will when he turned 6 was a love for the Lord. All this time we had talked about God in relation to behavior, Will was actually listening. See, the beginning of this story may have sounded like we were a horrible family and horrible ungodly parents. Not at all, that is why something never seemed to fit with how Will was acting and falling behind at school. We had done and were doing everything right. God was in our walk everyday with Will and our family. We went to church together and prayed as a family together in-between Sundays. Our puzzle was missing a piece and I had prayed for so long. I was tired and drained and I couldn’t afford to feel that way anymore. God answered our prayers the night of January 10, 2012. Will was scared to go into the bathroom to take a bath alone. This was not like him at all because, oh how he just loved making every wall in the bathroom dripping wet with water. So, I was a little taken back by this. I almost told him to just be a big boy and get in there before he was in trouble. I compromised and decided to take the time to clean the bathroom while he bathed. As Will was taking a bath, he asked me why God had not answered his prayer about not being scared. I reassured him God would and he just had to have faith he would. Will knew what faith was. We had talked about God and faith a lot. A few minutes passed and I heard him cry like I have never heard before. I came around the corner thinking he had fallen and hit his head or something. He was sitting there with a red splotchy face and bright sparkly eyes. I immediately asked what was wrong. He told me he didn’t want to be scared anymore, he wanted to be saved!! Glory! I told him to calm down so we could talk. I asked him questions about what he meant. He had not shown those kinds of emotions until that night. Sure, we had talked about him being baptized because he had seen his cousins commit their lives to the God. This time was different. I asked him to get out of the bathtub so we could go into the living room. He looked at me and said, “No momma, there’s not time! I want to be saved now!” That night my “Strong-Will-ed” son was saved in the bathtub. We said the prayer together after I asked God to speak through me in a way that Will would understand. I can’t really recall the exact words I said, but I know exactly how I felt! I felt proud! I can’t tell you how long it had been since I had truly felt that for him. After praying he looked at me while crying and said, “I’m so happy!” So was I. This is the night that Will started changing his actions because he knows that he is accountable for them now. He was baptized two weeks later and I was completely amazed when he wanted to stand alone in front of the church and shake hands with everyone. I had the talk with him about looking people in eye, saying thank you, keeping hands off your nose, etc. He told me to hush and he could do it just fine. That he did. I started writing this story to share the benefits of the diet, but really Will’s progress is the benefit from God. The diet was a blessing from God that He knew we needed. Will had taken a turn for maturity through God and had begun to slow things down a bit resulting in a blessing for the whole family. He could control his actions easier, but his struggles still lied within his learning abilities. A few weeks after being saved, he was attempting to do homework again. It had gone pretty well these two weeks. Still had hard times, but it helped that God had shown us to stay calm with Will in times like those. A new semester brings harder homework. He was to read the little book two times and take a short 6 answer test all on his own. He ended with frustration, threw his head back with tears streaming down his face. He said, “Why isn’t God answering my prayer? Why is he not helping read better?” My reply to this was silence. I just held him while he cried. The next day I called Kim to ask her for advice about the questions Will had asked the night before. The conversation ended with me deciding on trying the Feingold diet, or some form of it. She had lots of experience with it and had seen firsthand how taking certain ingredients out of the equation equal gains for everyone. I had to try this. My sweet son had all he needed to succeed. He had great parents, a loving brother, great families, and an awesome God. The puzzle wasn’t quite finished. I knew he could succeed, so I had to give this a try. I didn’t want some additive or coloring to hinder with my child’s faith. I talked openly to Will about this and he was onboard with it! He said he had seen his cousins learn how to act and read well. It was his turn now. When he said that it made it more of a requirement than an option!
On February 5th, we dove into the diet with feet first. I made a visit to the grocery store and bought lots of all natural food items. I was set! I cooked my heart out for two days. I had made food for several days’ suppers and Will’s lunches. I planned ahead for our busy schedule of work, church, and baseball practice. That night homework was the same. He was frustrated. On Tuesday night, after supper, we sat down for homework. He read his book with ease and it sounded more fluent than previously (ever.) He did not get frustrated and he was so proud of himself. When he was done reading he looked up to see tears streaming down my fact this time. I asked him how come he had gotten so frustrated the night before. He told me that his head was fuzzy. I inquired what he meant and he showed me shaking his head side-to-side and yelling AHHHH. He had not expressed this to me prior to this night, nor had I asked him why he had ever been frustrated. Another regret for this mom to add to her list. I then asked him how his head felt at that time. He thought about it like he was trying to feel his head without touching it and replied, “Moderato, just a little fuzzy.” This made since to me. He loves music and learned this word at school. It means medium. I was in shock! First, I was in awe that he was answering my questions with sincerity. Secondly, he was sitting still! Maybe there was something to this diet after all. I had thankfully recorded this homework session and was able to share this eye-opening time with Alan. I have watched the video several times since with a smile. I shared our new found eating habits with his teacher. She was amazed to see the difference at school in only a short few days. Every day I check his backpack, but never with this much excitement. His practice pages are usually incomplete, messy, and the dot on the “i” in his name is the size of a dime and colored in. This week, his work was completed, neat, and he dotted his “i” ever so carefully. His coloring was actually neat and pictures were colored in with the appropriate colors. For example, the grass was green and not purple. On Thursday, four days in, Will put his plate in the sink without being told. I just sat there to see what he would do next. He proceeded to rinse his plate, the others as well, and load the dishwasher. This is usually something I would not allow to do or he would choose to do. I was sure something would be broken. I was proven wrong by my newly found 6 year old son. He turned to find something else to do and realized I had been watching. He thought he would be in trouble for touching the breakable dishes. To his surprise, I told him thank you. He said, “ I thought I would do this for you so you would not have so much to do before bed.” To this I was speechless. Just tears. See, he didn’t know I was watching him. In the past, he would only do stuff like that to get attention. He would look over his shoulder and make sure I was watching before he continued doing his good deed. It was different now. Homework went well that night too. So well that after he finished the required reading, he wanted to read for fun. He chose The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle. I will forever remember the title of that book. It was the first book Will had ever read to me without getting frustrated or being told to do it. I was so proud of him! More tears came that night too. For so long I had gone to bed at night with tears of sadness while praying for some answer to his problems. These were happy tears. The next day was Friday, which meant testing day at school. He made a 95 on his spelling test, 90 on handwriting, and a 75 on his reading test that he reads all on his own. The week before the diet he made a 50 on his reading test. His two sight word tests were 100s. He had always made 70’s or low 80’s on these. The dreaded DRA test was the next week so we had some waiting to do. The weekend came and he went to my mom’s house. We were open to him eating anything on the weekends. My mom reported that he did have some “unnatural” foods but made good choices on his own most of the time. We were in shock. We went to church with mom Sunday morning and he was good during the service. It was special to see. The new week brought new challenges in what to cook. I figured it out on Sunday evening at the grocery store and had everything planned. The week came with lots of new surprises and great homework experiences. Evenings at home were so much fun! Lucas even seemed calmer since he copies everything that his big brother does. More blessings! On Wednesday, we were told his new DRA level. He tested on a level 6 in kindergarten and it was now February. Surely it had gone up since the last test in mid-January. He made it to a level 10! The teacher was just as shocked as we were that he had made such gains in these two weeks! This last weeks tests resulted in a 100 on the spelling, 90 on handwriting, and another 75 on the reading test. He was so proud of himself and that made it even more special for me. He was excited to share the news with everyone and gave credit to God for answering our prayers with the diet. He knows he needs to eat the right foods and he knows he needs God’s help with making the right choices. At the end of this week, I asked him how his head felt and he told me, “Not one tick.” This past weekend came with plans that did not include our kitchen. We ate at a few friends’ houses, church, and Will spent the night with a friend. Sunday morning in church was challenging as usual and he seemed to have a hard time having self-control. Alan noticed the change after the weekend of indulging in foods that were not approved. He said, “Will needs this diet!” For two weeks we had not been upset with him except for the normal 6 year old occurrences. We do not want to go back to the way it was! My heart smiled when I heard Alan say those words. Alan is not a fan of change and this diet definitely changed our schedule. He had a hard time adjusting to some of the “all natural” tastes in some foods and will continue with this adventure. I am even more motivated to know that I have his support. When I first started this diet for Will, I remember saying several times that we would change foods that only fit into our busy schedule and that are easy for us. After almost three weeks, I am withdrawing that statement. God has shown me that Will is more important than a schedule. He is the schedule and we will do what it takes to do what fits him! God has shown us in such a short time what we have been praying for several years. He never said parenting was easy. He did say he would never put more on us than we could handle. I’ve always felt blessed. Now I feel it even more. I know it’s not going to be easy. I realize the cooking takes a lot of time. But there is almost nothing more exciting than giving my children a plate of food their body needs. I have always loved to cook for fun, now I can cook with love for my children in mind. Alan and I haven’t full committed to the diet when we are away from our kitchen. We are working on that. I can tell that I do have extra energy and less stress. I enjoy myself as a mom even more. Most importantly, I am enjoying Will even more. He seems more at ease and calm. In return, giving Alan and me the time to bond with him to make good memories! Life is good in our house now.
He showed us the way and I’m sure we will need Him all along the way of our new journey……….
To be continued with many more Strong-“Will”ed Blessings!