• Faith,  Family

    It’s okay to not be okay

    On Friday my country, New Zealand, was irrevocably changed.

    To live in New Zealand is to live in freedom, peace and comfort (compared to many other countries around the world). We are proud of the breathtaking scenery here, and of our friendly, easy-going people.

    But our peace was shattered by a gunman with a sick agenda, who shot and killed 50 people and injured another 29 while they were praying at two mosques in Christchurch.

    The impact of this event will be felt for a long time to come; so great is the shock and grief and anger that such a thing could happen here.

    Along with mourning for the people who were killed or injured, and their families, I feel for the poor citizens of Christchurch – people who have been through so much trauma in recent years due to the earthquakes.

    I can say that this event touched me deeply.

    While I wasn’t in the immediate vicinity, I just happened to be in Christchurch that day. Here is my story.

    My husband accepted an invitation to a good friend’s wedding in Sydney. We could’t afford for us all to go after our recent trip to Australia, but I encouraged Mr G to go, and to take a few days off to have a bit of a holiday.

    I’m used to him going away for several days at a time. It’s usually fine, although weekends are tiring, as there’s no school or kindy to give me a break.

    I decided to take the children to Christchurch for the a night or two at the weekend. I hadn’t spent much time there in years (the longest stretch was between the two earthquakes). Because of all the fun things to do in Christchurch, I was looking forward to having a great adventure with the kids.

    I originally planned to arrive in Christchurch on the Friday night. But on the Wednesday, E was very tired (she’s 6). I changed my plans. She needed a day off school to recharge her batteries, plus D was recovering from a cold.

    I’ll give them the day off, so we can sleep in and then head for Christchurch on Friday morning, I thought.

    Which we did.

    The weather was iffy, and I couldn’t decide whether to take them on the Gondola or to the Toy Collector, a toy museum in the cbd. The drizzle and cloud meant we wouldn’t get to see the spectacular views of Christchurch, but after arguing with myself about which option was best, I decided to go with the gondola. I would later thank God for this decision.

    On the gondola

    We had a great time, despite being able to see absolutely nothing at the top because the cloud cover was so thick.

    We were done around 1:30pm, so I drove us to our AirBnb accommodation as it had an early check-in time. I drove via Linwood Avenue, missing the shootings there by mere minutes.

    We dumped our things, and set off for K Mart as I had a few things to get, plus I needed to buy dinner for the children (I had AIP food with me). When you don’t live anywhere near a K Mart, you make the most of any opportunity to go there!

    My kids are currently obsessed with this George Ezra ‘Shotgun’ spoof, and were singing ‘K Maaart…’ at the top of their lungs. It is now 2pm.

    We arrive at the Palms mall in Shirley, and I stop to let the kids play at a little indoor playground there. I chat to a young Maori couple, when a lady comes up to us and says quietly, so as not to alert the children:

    “They’re evacuating the mall. A guy’s shot some people in the CBD and they don’t know where he is”.

    We look at her in disbelief. The young Maori lady jokes, “Well, he hasn’t met me! He’d betta watch out,” and we laugh.

    A security guard comes around the corner and tells us we need to leave immediately as they are locking down the mall. He tells us the CBD is in lockdown.

    We walk out of the mall to see an armed policeman who tells us to get in our cars and go home and stay home. Police cars are screaming along the main road by the mall.

    “Why do we have to go home?’ asks E.

    “There’s danger,” I say. “A man with a gun has hurt some people.”

    “Why?”

    “I don’t know,” I say, but I think it’s probably some guy who started to take pot shots at police after they’ve responded to a domestic. That’s usually the way of it.

    In a frightened voice, D who is 4 years old, asks me if he’s going to get shot in the back.

    “No darling, ” I say, but I scan the car park to make sure there’s isn’t a gun-wielding madman there, just in case.

    I have no idea where the shooting took place. All I know is we are near the CBD, and if the cops are locking this place down, the police musn’t know where this man is.

    We are a short drive from our accommodation, and once inside I lock the door and shut the curtains.

    I look at my phone and see I have missed a call from my Dad. I call him back.

    “Did you hear what’s happening down in Christchurch?” he says, even though he is calling me about something unrelated.

    “Dad, I’m in Christchurch,” I say. “What’s going on?”

    “Oh no! Some guy’s gone and shot people at a mosque, and they’ve just said on the news there’s been shootings at another mosque. They think it’s a coordinated attack, and they’ve found bombs,” replies Dad.

    Bombs?

    I wonder how far away we are from these mosques, and if there’s any others near by. I feel sick, and scared for the safety of my kids.

    After I’ve finished talking to Dad I try to get the TV at our accommodation to work. It won’t, and I spend several frustrating minutes trying to get it work, while my kids are in raptures over the toys in the house.

    I message our AirBnb host to ask if there’s some special way to work the TV, and add that I’m anxious to get news of what’s happening in the CBD. I remember to enquire after her welfare, in case she’s caught up in it.

    “I’m in lockdown,” she replies. “They’ve just arrested someone outside my work. My kids are in lockdown at school.”

    She sends me photos taken from her work, which show armed police everywhere.

    I feel stupid for even bothering her and tell her to stay safe, and that I hope she gets home to her kids soon. I feel grateful that my kids are with me, and can imagine how frantic I’d be to get to them if this had happened in my sleepy little town. I think about all the kids in lockdown at school, and how frightened they must be.

    I manage to get TV streaming to work on my phone. The news is horrific.

    When awful events happen, experts say we should shut off the TV or radio so as not to alarm our children. I do none of this, although my kids are playing in another room, oblivious. I sit glued to the screen in horror.

    Have they got everyone? Are we safe? I wonder.

    The news has no information about where the cordons are, or if there are any more attacks going on around the city.

    “Have you managed to get the TV working?” messages my host.

    I say no, and tell her not to worry as I’m using my phone.

    Finally, word comes that some people have been arrested. The cordon is lifted.

    I look online to see if the Palms is reopening – only because I have no dinner for the children. They don’t. I look up food delivery in the area because I don’t want to go out if I can help it. Everywhere is shut for the night. I don’t blame them.

    The children eat toast for dinner without complaint.

    At 6:30pm my host shows up at the door to fix the TV. I tell her not to worry about it and to go home, but she insists she’s okay and comes in. She tells me her kids are okay and have been picked up by her ex-partner. She asks if we are okay.

    As my children play loudly around us she tells me:

    “They found a bomb in my car.”

    I look at her in utter shock.

    She explains that she works near the Deans Ave mosque and parks her car nearby.

    After making sure the bomb posed no threat, the Police have taken her car to forensics. Goodness knows when she’ll get it back.

    The nice men on the building site next door gave her one of their work utes to borrow for the weekend. The kindness and trust of strangers.

    I can see she is in shock despite her insistence that’s she’s okay. It will hit you later, I think.

    She triumphantly manages to wrangle the TV into submission. I tell her to go straight home and have a stiff drink. I really hope she did.

    I look at the time – bedtime for my kids. I go into the room where my son will be sleeping. He’s got a few toys out, but it looks different.

    “What happened in here?” I ask.

    Miss E looks down and says, “Do you mean the stickers?”

    I realise that’s what is different. She found a sheet of stickers and put them all over the bed and drawers!

    It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I’m pretty sure you could have heard me yelling all over Shirley.

    Fortunately the stickers peeled off just fine, and E went to bed in disgrace.

    I watched the unfolding horror on TV until late. The news says that children are included in the dead. I cannot imagine the pain their parents must feel.

    The next day I decided to head for home. All the things I had planned were in the CBD, and I didn’t want the kids to see armed police anywhere and make them anxious. Plus, it felt very wrong to go sightseeing at such a time.

    Later that night I noticed how frazzled and fragile I felt. Exhausted, I fell into bed, only to be bothered by intrusive thoughts about someone breaking in to attack us.

    At midnight, D came in crying. He’d had a nightmare a man was attacking him. We cuddle together and fall asleep.

    On Sunday I am so tired, but I have to, need to go to church. We have a special service to mourn for those who lost their lives, and to process what has happened. It is a very moving service, and I almost cry.

    We light candles, and pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters who lost a loved one, and whom are no doubt feeling scared and angry. My daughter flits around each person, handing out love hearts that the children are making behind us. The old ladies smile. One says, “I needed that.”

    At the end we stand in a circle, hold hands, and sing the national anthem. It has never been a more fitting song. Here’s verse two:

    Men of every creed and race,
    Gather here before Thy face,
    Asking Thee to bless this place,
    God defend our free land.
    From dissension, envy, hate,
    And corruption guard our state,
    Make our country good and great,
    God defend New Zealand.

    My faith is a huge comfort to me. I hate it when people say ‘thoughts and prayers are not enough’. I know if you don’t have a faith, it may seem trite to say “I’m praying for you“. But believe me, it’s not trite. Like most people with faith, I believe that prayer works. Prayer can help. Prayer can create miracles. Prayer is sometimes the only thing I can do, but I believe my prayers are heard and answered, even if it’s not in the way I want.

    After church, a friend offers to take my kids for a play date with hers, and I jump at the chance.

    I have unpacking to do, the never-ending jobs around the house to do. But I know I am not okay.

    I take a nap instead. I eat some comfort food. I watch several episodes of Queer Eye because my God, the Fab Five lift my spirits.

    On Monday, I’m still feeling a bit fragile and I start berating myself for feeling that way. After all, I wasn’t in danger at any time. I had no right to feel the way I did.

    My inner voice is a total bitch.

    I tell that bitch even though I was never in any danger, I didn’t know that at the time. And I had my kids with me. My protectiveness was in over drive.

    Instead of continuing to beat myself up, I let myself feel all the feelings. I smile at what a number it’s done on my brain. I drop things. I fumble things. I break things. I keep saying the wrong word, which my kids think is hilarious.

    Mr G comes home, after what feels like an eternity. His holiday was a very damp squib as he just wanted to be home with us, but he is grateful that it ended with a joyous event – his friend’s wedding.

    I am deeply saddened by story after story coming out from Kiwi Muslims, who all say they were expecting this one day, given the level of racism they experience here on a daily basis. Stories of being told they are dirty, or smell, or to ‘go home’, or of swastikas being painted on their mosque. Despite all the wonderful ways our people have rallied together to help after the shootings, this too, is New Zealand. We need to own that, and we need to change.

    I think about things I can do to extend the hand of friendship to others in my neck of the woods. I know what it is like to be an immigrant, an outsider, to be different. I will be thinking about how I can best respond.

    If you have been affected by Friday’s events, it’s okay to not be okay.

    Even if you live nowhere near Christchurch, you are still entitled to feel shocked and grief. What happened was appalling.

    Talk to someone about your feelings. Journal it, if it helps. Take naps. Do the things that bring you comfort. Turn those feelings into something constructive. There are many ways to respond, many ways to help, many ways to bring about a more inclusive and safer New Zealand.

    You can call or text 1737 to talk with trained counsellors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Take care of yourself. And love your neighbour, always.

  • Autoimmune Protocol Diet,  Family

    Sabotage

    I have been trucking along with AIP for seven weeks now, and this week has been the hardest by far.

    I have been sabotaged in my efforts by well-meaning people who have no idea of the trouble they’ve caused. And bless them, why the heck would they? Had you ever heard of AIP before?

    Last Friday I was out and about sightseeing in Ashburton. I’d been in a rush to get out the door so I hadn’t packed lunch for myself. I thought I’d check out a few cafes to see if they had anything AIP friendly, figuring I could always go to a supermarket if there wasn’t.

    I found a chicken salad on the menu of one establishment, and asked if it was gluten free. Nothing at this particular cafe was labelled GF, DF etc. “Yes, I think so”, said the server.

    Pro tip folks – it wasn’t.

    Sure enough, my usual ‘I’ve-been-glutened’ symptoms appeared the next day: fatigue and a slight rash on my face. (Honestly, why does it have to be the face? Why not my elbow? Or left earlobe?) The joints in my hands hurt so badly I had to take painkillers just to get some sleep that night.

    It took me two days to recover.

    Then Mr G and I went out the other night as we’ve been doing the Alpha Marriage Course at a local church (it’s awesome by the way, I highly recommend it for any couple who’ve been together for a while – even good marriages need a tune-up, and not-so-good ones can be transformed).

    The course coordinator had got in touch with us to find out if we had any dietary requirements, as they serve dessert each night (the course is like going on a fancy date).

    At first I told the coordinator not to bother with feeding me as my requirements are just too tricky, but we both agreed that fruit would be fine.

    And it has been.

    However, the other night they proudly produced a gluten-and-dairy-free muffin, made with almond flour.

    I didn’t have the heart to say ‘I’m so sorry, I can’t have nuts right now on my diet’.

    As I grabbed my fork, I said to Mr G with a grin, ‘Oh well, this is the chance to see what almonds do to me!’

    You know what’s coming next.

    Whilst I am incredibly lucky not to have had a violent reaction, that muffin laid me up in bed for two days.

    The worst bit is because it wasn’t a careful reintroduction following the protocol, I don’t actually know if it was the almonds that my body rejected. It could have been a different ingredient in the muffin. It’s just conjecture.

    I’d hoped to start reintroductions this weekend, but I still don’t feel 100%, so I have to put it off by another week, just to be on the safe side.

    So, what have I learned, gentle reader?

    • Get your server to double-check with the chef about whether a meal is gluten-free or not
    • Don’t be so damn nice. Yes, I might have hurt someone’s feelings by refusing that muffin, but I’d rather that than be bedridden again.
    • My body sure does hate a lot of things! I’m glad I’m able to follow a proper protocol to find out exactly what it doesn’t like, rather than guessing.
    • Even if you don’t think you are allergic or intolerant to something while you are on AIP, take it seriously, and act as if you are. Do reintroductions the right way.

  • Autoimmune Protocol Diet

    AIP for the win!

    Today marks day 31 on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP).

    So far it’s been nothing short of miraculous.

    Back in October I contracted a nasty bout of bacterial pneumonia. The first lot of antibiotics I was prescribed did nothing, and – along with a script for different antibiotics – I was given a full blood test just in case I had something other than pneumonia.

    My blood work came back showing that my cholesterol was high, high enough for the GP to start making noises about statins. Now, high cholesterol is a symptom of Hashimoto’s (which I have), and to me was merely a sign that all is not well with my thyroid.

    I said to the GP, ‘Nope, no way. Give me six months to get my cholesterol down’.

    I was so ill I didn’t have the headspace to go AIP, but due to other Hashi warriors reporting they felt much better on a gluten free diet, I immediately gave up gluten. To my surprise, I didn’t find this hard. Mr G and I also started to have vegan or vegetarian dinners most nights a week to help up our veggie intake.

    I’m sure these measures helped, but nothing has gotten me dramatic results like AIP.

    Three weeks into AIP I had to have a routine blood test to check my thyroid levels and my cholesterol. They had not been checked since October. The nurse called me up to tell me my thyroid function had improved so much I was now hyperthyroid in stead of hypothyroid, and I needed to reduce my medication dose.

    She was about to ring off when I said “What about my cholesterol?’

    ‘Oh, it’s perfect. A really, really healthy level. People would kill for that level….What are you doing?’

    Cue long discussion about AIP after which she said “Can I send some people your way?’

    Folks, I am stunned.

    Not only am I feeling much better than I have in ages, my blood work proves that AIP is working.

    I was hoping my cholesterol levels had gone down, but I never hoped for perfect. I’ve been doing a lot of happy dances over here, I tell ya.

  • Autoimmune Protocol Diet

    Autoimmune Protocol: Three weeks in

    I know many of you have been wondering how I’m getting on with my ‘diet’.

    Well, I am officially living proof that miracles can happen – I’ve just notched up Day 21 sticking to the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP). Woot, woot!

    How much longer I will need to be doing the elimination phase for, I’m not sure. I’m going to give it at least six weeks.

    If you missed my last post about why I’m doing AIP, and what it’s all about, you can find it here. What a ride it’s been so far!

    Here’s a glimpse into my AIP-addled brain:

    Day One

    Woohoo! I got this! Meat, veggies, fruit, easy-peasy. I’ve got my stash of AIP recipes on my Pinterest board. I’ve ordered some obscure flours and ingredients to make all the yummy things I want. Let’s do this!

    Day One, later

    I am already sick of coconut oil.

    What the heck are tigernuts???

    What on earth will I use as salad dressing?

    This ‘garlic mayo’ in no way resembles mayo…

    Day Two:

    Oh my Lord, I have SUCH a headache.

    I miss mayo.

    Day Four

    If I so much as see a coconut, I’m going to lose my sh*t.

    Day Five

    Why I am doing this? It’s so hard!

    I miss bread. Even my gluten free bread which tastes like particle board.

    Mr G and children enjoy icecreams, while I cry into my silverbeet.

    Day Seven

    Holy Moly, I actually did it. A whole week!

    Day Nine

    *furiously scours Pinterest for AIP salad dressings and drinks*

    Day Ten

    Nearly cries with joy to discover an AIP compliant jam (which makes for a good cranberry sauce substitute), and AIP compliant sparkling water infused with fruit.

    Nearly cries again when aforementioned water tastes like it’s the place where fruit goes to die. Drinks it anyway.

    Day Eleven

    Holy Moly it’s hot out today!!!

    Day Eleven, later:

    Oh.My.Goodness. It’s hot as Hades today, but I have not swollen up like I usually do in the heat. I do not have canckles! * hears angels singing hallelujah*.

    Day Twelve

    Declutters entire house, cleans oven, helps with swimming sports, walks everywhere.

    I think this diet might be working.

    Day Thirteen

    Due to slight increase in my energy levels I decide it’s safe to resume exercising again (my adrenals are pretty stuffed so I have to be careful). Walks over 13,000 steps, most of those before breakfast.

    Discovers really delicious AIP recipe. A+++ trader, would recommend.

    Day Thirteen, later

    Walks over 13,00 steps. Hits the wall at 4pm. Brain and body decide to quit on me. Mr G makes dinner.

    Day Fourteen

    Walks over 12,000 steps

    I am so damn sick of cooking!

    Ponders moving to America where they have AIP delivery services….but then I remember that I loathe Donald Trump, so decide against it…it is tempting though.

    Day Fifteen

    Walks over 13,00 steps. Hits the wall at 3:30pm. Mr G cooks dinner again. Could I be overdoing it? I feel totally fine when I’m exercising.

    Day Eighteen

    Decide to cut my hour of walking to half an hour as I think my adrenals aren’t coping with my newfound energy. My strategy works, I am able to keep going all day.

    Day Twenty

    My top is falling off me. Realise I have lost almost two dress sizes.

    Lest you think ‘ooh, I’m going to try that diet!’ let me point out that AIP is about healing, not weight loss. I suspect most of my weight loss is due to a reduction in inflammation. I take it as a good sign my body is healing. I would not attempt a food elimination diet as a weight loss strategy – there are easier ways to go about that!

    Decide it might be cheaper just to take out shares in a spinach company, because I eat so much of it.

    Out with my MiL and kids, we discover a place that sells AIP compliant fruit frappes. They are heavenly.

    Day Twenty One

    Abridged walking regime seems to be working, so I add in a couple of steep hills, just to see.

    So far, so good.

  • Autoimmune Protocol Diet

    Kicking Hashimoto’s butt!

    My long time readers will be aware that I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. It slowly destroys your thyroid and comes with some extremely un-fun symptoms (you can read all about it here).

    When I caught pneumonia last year I decided enough was enough.

    Whilst catching a bacterial flu had nothing to do with Hashimoto’s, I believe that my compromised immune system is the reason the flu developed into pneumonia – which took well over two months to shake off! Two months is a long time for anyone to be ill, and it was impossible to parent well throughout much of my recovery. Fortunately my MiL (a retired nurse) came to help out for a few weeks.

    During my recovery I made the decision to go gluten-free. There seems to be a connection between gluten and autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s. Quite why that is, I don’t think science can fully explain yet, although if you’re interested you can have a look here at these

    studies. But studies have shown that people with Hashimoto’s are more likely to also have celiac disease, and are significantly more likely to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

    I was so sick from the pneumonia that I thought I would give GF a go as a way of helping myself, even though I didn’t think gluten was a problem for me. I certainly thought I had nothing to lose! I often felt tired after eating bread – but that can be normal reaction when digesting bread – and I never had any stomach cramps or other symptoms associated with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

    I could not have been more wrong.

    It turns out I am VERY intolerant to gluten.

    After being GF for about 3 months I accidentally glutened myself by mindlessly eating something made of wheat. A few hours later all my joints were aching, I felt so tired – like sleep-walking through quicksand is the only way I can describe it – and my skin broke out.

    The same thing happened a month later after I accidentally ate a small piece of sausage (with gluten in it) at my daughter’s birthday party. A few hours later I felt awful, and it took me two days to come right.

    Discovering that gluten does me no favours has spurred me on to really give the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) a good try. I did the AIP diet a few years ago when my Hashimoto’s really began to flare up. I only lasted a few days. I found it too overwhelming.

    But life then was more difficult. My children were small, and only one child was was in kindy at the time. I just didn’t have the headspace to give it a fair go.

    This time around is different.

    I have one child at school, and one at kindy most mornings so I get time to myself. This has helped me enormously in being able to tackle the AIP, because it really requires a bit of brain power; at least at first. I’m already gluten free. Mr G and I also made the decision several months ago to increase our vegetable intake by having vegetarian or vegan dinners five nights a week, so eating copious amounts of vegetables at every meal doesn’t seem like a bridge too far for me. I’ve been eating strange things for breakfast (usually eggs with veggies) for about a decade, as I can’t face the thought of anything sweet first thing in the morning.

    So what is the AIP Diet?

    Basically it’s the Paleo diet on steroids. But like, if steroids were actually good for you.

    Though not invented by her, medical biophysicist Dr Sarah Ballentyne has refined the AIP diet. Dr Ballentyne suffered from several autoimmune diseases herself (once you have one, it’s not unusual to develop more) and was able to greatly reduce or eliminate her symptoms by adopting the AIP diet. You can read her story here. Dr Ballentyne is an award-winning expert on autoimmune diseases, and what I really love about her blog The Paleo Mom, is that she doesn’t shy away from explaining the science behind the link between autoimmune diseases and diet.

    Some exciting findings are coming out from clinical trials using the AIP diet as a method to treat patients, and I certainly feel confident that it is a robust, scientifically-backed diet protocol. Unlike taking advice from Freely the banana girl…

    The AIP diet focuses on nutrient dense foods and eliminates foods that commonly cause allergies, intolerances, and inflammation. The idea is by eliminating all problematic foods, your gut has a chance to heal, and then you can slowly introduce foods back to see which ones are causing problems for you. Many people report a huge reduction in their symptoms, and in some cases their AI disease has gone into remission!

    On the AIP Diet you eliminate all grains, all dairy, eggs, all nuts, all seeds, all seed-based spices, all nightshades (tomatoes/potatoes/eggplant/peppers), sugar, alcohol, NSAIDs, sweeteners and food additives.

    Instead, you focus on quality meats, healthy fats, leafy and root veggies, fruit, fermented foods and bone broths. For a full list of yes and no foods, see here.

    Nightshades in particular, seem to be bad news for people with autoimmune diseases. See here for a run down as to why.

    I absolutely love tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes. I never met a hot potato chip I didn’t want to eat! But I do suspect they will turn out to be problematic for me, as when I prepare nightshades they all make the skin on my hands hurt. My dad is very allergic to raw tomatoes and nuts, and has recently developed an intolerance to egg whites. My grandfather was very allergic to egg whites. So I won’t be surprised if egg whites or nuts are not really my friend.

    I’m not gonna lie. I will probably cry if I discover I can’t eat peanut butter anymore. I love the stuff.

    With all those ‘no’ foods, I know that the AIP diet seems overwhelming. Impossible, even.

    For now, food elimination diets really are the ONLY way to know what foods you might be reacting to. I know there are a myriad of tests out there like hair follicle testing etc, but the science just doesn’t support their claims. An elimination diet will unequivocally tell you what foods are harmful to your own unique body. It is this knowledge that is driving me to stick with the AIP diet for the next few months.  

    Quite simply, I HAVE to know.

    The AIP diet isn’t forever. Once you start to feel significantly better and see an improvement of your symptoms, then you begin a slow reintroduction of the ‘no’ foods. There are strict guidelines around the reintroduction, which is why the P in AIP stands for protocol.

    Many folks find they can safely consume some of the ‘no’ foods, and can, most importantly, know for sure which foods are a problem for them. Even these foods may not be off the menu forever. Some people report that certain foods they couldn’t tolerate at first (like dairy, for example) can later be safely eaten after the gut has healed some more.

    It’s not a typical diet, as in a weight loss diet. There’s no calorie counting, no points system. Just eating when you’re hungry.

    One week in

    I wish I could say I have already seen a miraculous reduction in my symptoms (some people do!), but I haven’t yet. I have lived with Hashimoto’s for several decades now, so I imagine that will greatly impact on how long it may take my gut to start healing.

    I found putting together my week’s meal plan very overwhelming, but having eaten AIP for several days, I now feel like I have a handle on it. I’ve even freestyled my meals a couple of times.

    I have the excellent book “The Autoimmune Paleo Protocol Cookbook” by Mickey Trescott, which I highly recommend to anyone considering giving AIP a go. Mickey spells out the what’s and why’s of AIP, and has delicious recipes to make the transition to an AIP diet much easier than winging it. She has meal plans to follow and ideas for batch cooking to reduce time spent in the kitchen.

    What I really liked about the book is that Trescott has advice for AI sufferers who are too damn sick to cook. While I have only had that happen to me a few times, I know many chronically ill people who would struggle to prepare these healing recipes. If that’s you, check this book out for her tips.

    I have also spent several hours scouring Pinterest for AIP compliant recipes, and have, oh, about 260 recipes at my fingertips. But who’s counting?

    While I’ve really missed my peanut butter on toast, I haven’t found this week to be that bad. It helps that the food is delicious. Mr G is joining me for lunches and dinners (and I really appreciate his support!), and he’s rates Trescott’s Curried Chicken Salad, Kumara Chips, and Caulifower ‘Rice’ recipes quite highly.

    I bought some of the expensive flours, which though aren’t necessary to eat well on AIP, will help me to feel less deprived and likely to quit – so I think they are a good investment. I made this lovely sticky ginger pudding by Healing Family Eats that I found via Pinterest, with banana ‘icecream’ (frozen bananas blended with a little coconut cream). Yum!

    Sticky Ginger Pudding

    I don’t plan to make habit of baking AIP treats too often, but I feel better knowing the ingredients are all there should I need them.

    As I said, I won’t be on the diet forever. I’m hoping to reintroduce some of my favourite foods in the future. But most importantly, I’m hoping to kick Hashimoto’s butt and feel better soon. Wish me luck!

  • Family,  Parenting

    Holiday

    Although it seems like it was an age ago already – instead of two weeks – we welcomed 2019 in with a wonderful holiday to Australia.

    Burleigh Heads Beach, QLD

    When you have small children, holidays aren’t really holidays. They’re just a change of scenery, as the hard work of caring for young ones still has to continue. (Unless you’re smart and booked yourselves in at Club Med where you get nannies.)

    Mr G and I reckon our trip to Australia was the first one that felt like a proper holiday since having kids. Our two kids no longer have to be watched like hawks, plus they’re good travellers who take it all in their stride. There’s no nappies to change, naps to fret over, or prams to lug around. Most importantly – they know how to operate Netflix so Mr G and I can sleep in.

    The flight from Christchurch is a mere 3 1/2 hours. Mr G rigged up our portable DVD player with a double headset, so the kids were entertained nicely for most the flight. We were even complimented on how well behaved they were on the plane! So, thanks Mr G.

    The purpose of the trip was to attend my BFF’s wedding in NSW. I was her bridesmaid and E was her flower girl. We tacked several days on either side of the wedding, with no real plans other than to lie on a beach somewhere in the Gold Coast, and see the Aussie animals up close. But like, from behind the safety of glass at a zoo.

    Ready to go to Auntie’s house!

    We spent a couple of nights at Ballina, which FYI is pronounced ‘Bal-in-uh’, not ‘Ba-lee-na’, as Mr G and I discovered and were mocked mercilessly for. It’s a lovely spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the GC, with plenty to do.

    While there, we swam at Lake Ainsworth (over the road from Lennox Head beach). It is a fresh water lake, surrounded by tea trees which infuse their goodness into the water. The water is much darker as a result, but makes for a rejuvenating swim, and has even been known to help people with their skin conditions. My own skin felt fantastic after a dip there!

    Then it was on to Armidale for the wedding.

    I don’t have a photo of the bride for privacy, but she looked like a screen siren from the 30’s – just gorgeous. It was a privilege to see her marry her lovely fella ( I *may* have shed tears at the ceremony, and *possibly* sobbed buckets as they danced to Etta James’ “At Last”).

    After the wedding we headed back to the Gold Coast, stopping at Dorrigo National Rainforest and Woolgoolga Beach along the way.

    We spent the rest of time staying at Southport on the Gold Coast. The GC wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. I expected to hate it, as it has a rather brash and tacky image over here in New Zealand. To my surprise, I found it rather beautiful.

    We kept costs down by shunning most tourist attractions. Our kids are quite content happy with going to the beach or a playground, so we’ll save the theme parks for when they’re older.

    We were only a few minutes from The Rockpools and Broadwater Beach. The Rockpools is a great splash pad area for younger children and toddlers to cool off; complete with squirting octopuses, crabs and even a waterfall. A minute’s walk from The Rockpools is the beach and a really cool playground. We had a marvellous time and it’s all free.

    My beautiful friend D, who lives in Adelaide, came over especially to see us. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me! I met D in London, and she and I and our friends had many, many adventures together. D brought her adorable baby with her, which is no mean feat. Travellers with babies, I salute you! It did my soul good to hang out with them both for a couple of days.

    We all went to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which I was dying to visit. Wow, what an incredible place! My kids are animal mad, and thanks to a great kids tv show called The Wild Kratts, they have become quite knowledgeable about all sorts of animals – especially Aussie animals. Seeing their faces as they looked (and even held!) at crocodiles, snakes, Tasmanian devils, koalas, and kangaroos in real life was something I won’t forget. My children are STILL talking about it, weeks later.

    It was definitely a highlight for me, and I’d recommend the sanctuary to anyone visiting the area. I learnt a lot about the care and conservation of the animals, and the animals certainly looked well cared for, in good facilities.

    We had a great day chilling out at Burleigh Heads beach, and enjoyed a good meal out at the local RSL club – a very Aussie experience.

    We enjoyed the wonderful beaches and warm weather so much that we are already plotting to return. I can finally understand the pull of the GC for many kiwis. There’s plenty to do, the beaches are gorgeous, and the water isn’t freezing like it is back home!

    Thanks GC, hope to be back soon.

  • Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    A Simple Advent

    Long-time readers of mine will know that I love, love, love Christmas.  While I’m not quite Buddy from ‘Elf’, I I enjoy Christmas as much as my children do, only I’m not motivated by presents.  It’s not just the day itself, but all the little things spread throughout December that add to my sense of anticipation and joy.

    Things like decorating the tree, prepping the advent calendar for my kids, singing Christmas carols, making gifts – and my all-time favourite, looking at the Christmas lights.  

    I also enjoy revisiting the story of Jesus’ birth.  The weird, fantastical, miraculous birth that changed everything.

    As evident in the shops where the nativity is all but swept away in a tsunami of Santas, reindeer, and elves, it can be difficult for Christians to find time for quiet contemplation in a culture that tells us to shop ’til we drop; and that we absolutely MUST end the year with some sort of Christmas party if you are a part of any sort of group at all. 

    Terrible things will happen if we don’t have a Christmas work do!  The world will cease to exist if Little Johnny doesn’t get to sit on Santa’s knee at his third Crimbo party of the season!  Have you even lived if you haven’t handmade your own ugly Christmas sweater?  

    I go on about this every year.  I’m essentially Gollum at Christmas time:  I loves it, and I hates it.  It is a deeply meaningful religious celebration for me, and I hate what it has become in my culture.

    This year I have gone into Advent even more mindfully than before.

    This is our first Christmas as a ministry family.

    While you and your kin are enjoying a leisurely day, my husband will be conducting two services on Christmas Day, and is expected to put in an appearance at a combined church Christmas Eve service.  We’re also supporting friends who are hosting a community lunch for locals here in Point.  We will have family staying with us.  Christmas Day will be anything but quiet.

    Knowing this, I am more careful than usual with what I say YES to.  Mr G was away at his studies when we put up the tree and danced like lunatics to carols (The upbeat ones, obviously.  One cannot boogie to Silent Night).

    He missed out on the excitement on our children’s faces as they came down to breakfast and saw our Advent Calendar was up and ready.

    Actually, our kids are lucky – they get two advent calendars this year.  The one above was made by me a few years back.  The children get a chocolate and a piece of paper with something they will do that day – which is always stuff we would do anyway: like choosing things to donate, making a gift for their teacher etc.

    Normally we wold keep things simple with one calendar, but then we found this beauty put out by @home&church.org.nz this year.  We gave one to all our Sunday school families, and I hope they are enjoying it as much as we are.

    The Advent Tree by @home&church.org.nz

    The detail is incredible, the characters friendly-looking, and it includes simple devotions the whole family can do together.  What could be more simple for harried parents?  Made from thick cardboard, this will be a family taonga for many years to come.  You can buy them at The Warehouse, but the trees are all sold out on the @home&church.org website.

    I myself, start off the day with a short devotional, snatching a few minutes of quiet time to think and pray.

    Prior to Advent my kids (and Sunday school) made these simple Advent Candle wreaths I found on Pinterest.  Even a group of older boys took time and care making theirs.  Each Sunday in Advent they flip a flame up to light the candle of peace etc.  You can find them here.

    We’ve been to see The Grinch at the movies, and believe it or not, a real family highlight has been the four of us watching the Christmas season of Nailed It on Netflix!  

    Still to come is going to see a pantomime, and driving around to see the lights.

    As the ‘Minister’s Wife’ I have repeatedly had several church people come up to me and say ‘we should do x event for Christmas’ and try and leave it with me!  Nuh-uh.  I’m always happy to support events, but if people really want to do something, they need to make it happen, not me.

    Simple Advent.  Say yes to the things that bring you joy, and biff all the rest.

    Wishing you a very merry – and hopefully peaceful – Christmas.

  • Family

    Recovery

    I’ve been silent on here for a while, at first because I was busy with E’s school production, and then with a holiday to see our friends and family in Whanganui.

    Our holiday took a nasty turn when the kids and I all came down with a horrible bug that seems to have affected half of Whanganui.  I was down for the count for five days with a fever, and was too ill to travel back on the day we were supposed to leave.  Fortunately we were able to extend our stay, but as the bug was bacterial and highly contagious, I stayed away from others so as not to pass it on.  I was quite upset not to be able to see many of my friends and family – which was the purpose of our getaway – but no way was I going to risk giving it to anyone else.

    Mr G managed to avoid the bug entirely, praise God!  D was okay, but E’s bug developed into pneumonia.  Antibiotics sorted her out and she’s almost back to normal now.  Me, I was left wiped out, but otherwise seemed to be on the mend.  Until we got home to Pleasant Point.  The first day back was fine, but the next day I woke up feeling terrible and couldn’t get out of bed for several days.  I still didn’t think it was pneumonia as I had no cough, but eventually I was well enough to shuffle off to the medical centre where pneumonia was confirmed.  One course of antibiotics did nothing, so I’m on a different sort, and crossing my fingers that they work.  If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos; and one of the really crappy things about having an AI disease is that illnesses hit you harder and take you longer to recover from than folks with robust immune systems.  So I’ll be out of action for a while yet.

    My MiL dropped everything to fly down to help with the kids, as pretty much all you can do with pneumonia is rest.  And rest some more.  I’ve watched a LOT of Netflix and have run out of books to read.  If you’re one of my friends, do drop me a line to help alleviate the boredom.  🙂

    It’s not all doom and gloom.  I managed to make it out out the house to attend Pets Day at school, which was epic, and I did get to catch up several of my favourite people while I was on holiday.  I’ve read some good books, and holy moly – go watch Bodyguard on Netflix.  What a twisty-turny show!  We’ve had a cold snap here, so I have been ramping up the hygge, with copious cups of tea, warm scarves, and snuggling under our we-could-definitely-use-this-in-Antarctica-duvet.

    Pet Day, best day ever!

    Gratuitous child shot as I just think D looks super cute in the photo

  • Frugal Living,  Parenting

    Frugal snacks for hungry kids

    One of the best things about living in a small town like Pleasant Point, is that it’s so easy to get together with friends.  Everywhere is a 5 -10 minute walk away, and the roads are safe enough for older children to bike or walk on their own.

    After school and at weekends our house is usually overflowing with children, as our kids play with their friends from school or church.

    I love it.

    When we had children, I said to Mr G that I wanted an open house when our children’s friends felt welcome – just like my family house was when I was growing up.

    Well, we’ve definitely got that sort of house!

    All those children (it’s not unusual for us to have five or more) mean there’s extra bellies to fill, and that can really take a chunk out of your budget if you’re not careful.  I do a lot of baking, and that helps to cut costs down considerably.

     

    Here are my go-to snacks for feeding a tribe of ravenous children on a budget:

    • Some genius came up with the 100 biscuit recipe (cookies, for my American readers) which you can find here.  It makes a large bowl of biscuit dough to which you can then add whatever you like.  I use chocolate chips, sprinkles (aka hundreds and thousands/nonpareils), cocoa and cornflakes, raisins, lemon zest, m&m’s etc.  It tends to be whatever I have lying around!  The dough freezes well, so you can make a huge batch of basic dough, divide it into whatever flavours you want to add, and pop some in the freezer for another day.  Biscuits obviously aren’t the healthiest choice, but for an active child, one or two with their afternoon tea won’t hurt them.  This recipe really does make 100.  Because the mixture spreads out a lot while cooking, a teaspoon of mixture is all that’s needed per biscuit.

    100 biscuits may still not last long…

    • Popcorn.  We have one of those air popper machine thingees, and a little goes a long, long way.  I can get a big bowl of popcorn for about 25 cents.  I’ve never met a child who doesn’t go crazy for popcorn.

     

    • Tiny cheese muffins.  I use a recipe from New Zealand’s famous Edmond’s Cookbook, but there is a similar recipe over at Just A Mum.  I use tasty cheese because a little goes a long way when it comes to flavour.  I use the same when I make…

     

    • Cheese scones.  My kids go nuts for scones.  I have made scones so many times I have the recipe committed to memory, and I can churn out a batch in 15 minutes.

     

    • Seasonal fruit.  My daughter eats a lot of fruit.  My son is picky about which kind of fruit he likes, but even he will chow down on anything when he’s got to fight four of his friends for the last slice of apple.  Peer pressure can be a good thing!  I’ve also found that children will eat pretty much anything if it’s put into a cool shape or design.

    These ‘palm trees’ get gobbled up quickly!

    • Real fruit or juice popsicles.  If you have some juice leftover from a party, you can put into straight into popsicle moulds or blend berries with banana for a creamy, frozen treat.  Popsicle moulds cost about $2 at stores here in New Zealand, and are worth this very modest outlay, as one single popsicle can cost upwards from $2 at the shops.  Plus you can make yummy treats that are actually healthy too.

     

    • Carrot and cheese sticks (I go easy on the cheese, it’s so expensive these days).  My children turn up their nose at hummus, but I live for the day when they’ll embrace it like some of their friends do.

     

    • Pikelets.  If you don’t know what a pikelet is, it’s basically a small, sweet, fluffy pancake.  I don’t make these often, but pikelets are great if you have a big crowd of children.  A little jam on top of the pikelet = happy children.  Generally I put out a plate of pikelets, things quickly resembles a school of piranhas in a feeding frenzy.

     

    • Crackers.  I stash away boxes of ‘company’ crackers when they’re on special at the supermarket.

     

    Lastly, I find the key to feeding a gaggle of children is portion control.  If I leave them with a box of crackers it will be gone in 1 minute.  If I plate up a snack for each child, then I’m rarely eaten out of house and home, and the children still seem satisfied.

     

    What are your go-to snacks?

     

  • Faith,  Family

    Life lately (in pictures)

    It’s been a whirlwind of activity here in the Pleasant Point Manse: birthdays, visitors, fashion parades and more.

    First it was my birthday, which I celebrated a little early by having three nights away at Lake Hawea, BY MYSELF.  It was a very restorative break, both in terms of getting rest and in doing things-that-make-Angela-happy.  “Oh, there’s a museum!’  ‘Oh, there’s some historic buildings!’  ‘Oh, there’s a Mexican restaurant!’  ‘Oh, there’s some gobsmackingly beautiful scenery!’.

    Lake Hawea

    I read two books, pottered around Wanaka, and explored Cromwell.

    I almost cried when I came home to this lovely gift that friends had made for our house/my birthday…

     

    Before I could blink it was my beautiful boy’s fourth birthday!  He had a simple, frugal, and fun Star Wars party.  We borrowed my brother’s precious Star Wars figures to use as cake toppers, and had an obstacle course and a pinata.

    D is 4!

    For the first time in my life I am a bit lost as to what to do with myself for work in the distant future, and exploring options is taking a lot of time and headspace.  But I find myself regularly loving on the children at our church.  It’s not hard, as they are a nice bunch of kids, and I genuinely enjoy their friendship and look forward to catching up with them each week.  The beauty of living somewhere small like Pleasant Point is that everywhere is walkable.  We find our house overrun with children most Sundays after church as our kids and the church kids continue their play.  I have quite a ministry in providing copious amounts of baking to the hungry hoards, and judging various magic tricks and fashion parades that unfold.  I grew up doing the same stuff, so I love, love, love seeing the kids playing like this.

     

    Life is not all sunshine and roses (and lakes).  Mr G is really feeling the pressure of his internship now.  Balancing study with the demands of the parish is stressful and the study often takes a back seat, only to loom large when assignments are due.  All four of us have been sick a lot with little bugs that don’t last long but are annoying to deal with all the same.  I’ve been missing my friends, family and ‘life’ we had in Whanganui.  I’m not usually a person who looks back, but this move has been difficult to process – I suspect simply because it was not my own choice to come here.  It’s not that I don’t like it here!  I do, and I am grateful for the friendships I’ve made here; I think it’s more that I feel at a bit of a loose end here as this move was for Mr G to learn the ropes of ministry which has meant putting my own plans on the back burner.  My aunt passed away, which has naturally been extremely hard for my cousins, and the only silver lining in that dark cloud is that while I am here in Pleasant Point, I am only an hour away from them and therefore am close enough to provide support.