Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tips on dealing with a food allergy in kids

A few weeks ago my middle son, Chris, suffered a pretty severe allergic reaction to something that he consumed.
You can click here to read more about that.  Let me just say that it was scary as hell!

So, this is what I have learned in the past 19 days -, seriously.

It's absolutely amazing how our bodies react when we consume food.  What this has done was really opened my eyes to the fact that we need to consume more whole foods.  As a family, we are pretty good at this. We adhere to an 80/20 rule, where the vast majority of our foods are whole foods, not chemicals or processed foods.  That doesn't mean that we don't consume those types of foods; we just limit them.

But, maybe we need to limit them more...

Here is where we are at - we have eliminated all gluten, dairy and soy from Chris's diet.  Holy crap!, soy is in EVERYTHING!!  *sigh*

I'll share what Chris will be eating today, as an example of different options.  Please keep in mind that my child does not have a nut allergy.

Breakfast - 1/4 cup of dry oatmeal with 1/2 a banana.  The oatmeal is cooked with water, not milk.
                  8 oz of almond milk
                  1 egg scrambled, salt & pepper, made with coconut oil
Lunch - (this is packed for school)
                  2 celery sticks, cut
                  bottled water
                  turkey sandwich made using Udi's white sandwich bread (this is gluten, soy & dairy free)
Snack -      2 celery sticks with natural peanut butter and raisins
Dinner -     Spaghetti - noodles will be made with a spaghetti squash, sauce will be made using garden                             tomatoes, basil, garlic cloves, onion, and meatball will be made with ground beef and egg (no  
                  bread crumbs).

Really, it's not that bad.  We've switched him from soy milk to almond milk, have had to use Udi's bread for portable sandwiches for school and all I really have to do when planning out our meals (I do it for 2 weeks at a time) is to check to see if Chris needs an alternative to what we are planning on eating.

It has also meant that he cannot have most condiments.

Here are my top 10 tips for dealing with a new found food allergy -
1) Eliminate all suggested foods immediately.  Talk to your child about what will happen to them if they consume any of the foods that you are eliminating.
2) Check ALL food labels prior to consumption.
3) Stick with whole foods like fresh fruits, veggies and meats until you get a game plan in place.
4) Limit processed *free* foods.  (an example of this would be - we use Udi's bread to make his sandwich, we have not purchased any other gluten, dairy or soy free processed foods)
5) Go on a filed trip to your local grocery store, with your camera phone in hand.  Snap photos of items, ingredient lists and prices.**
6) Keep benadryl with you at all times.  Or, if you have been prescribed an epi-pen, keep that.
7) Water is key during the first 48 hours after an attack, drink lots and lots of water.
8) If you're told to eliminate 'dairy' don't just assume that lactose free milk is fine, the allergy may be to casein, whey or lactose - all are found in cow milk.
9) Talk to your doctor about scheduling a blood draw allergy test to pin point exactly what your child is allergic to.
10) You're not alone.  There are many sites on-line with recipe suggestions and that can answer your questions.

There are people out there that will help you, like say, if you find yourself at Whole Foods trying to find a suitable birthday cupcake substitute and you've been reduced to tears because soy is in everything!  I've found that my local grocery store carries many of the same foods as Whole Foods, for less.  Do your research, don't assume that you have to go to a "health food store" in order to get what you need.

**Aldi, which is our main grocery store, does have many gluten free and dairy free options now, which is great!  Unfortunately, they contain soy.  But, given that we don't consume much processed foods, finding a suitable substitute has not been too time consuming or too much of a strain on our food budget.

This whole experience has made us keenly aware how important what we choose to put into our body for it to use as fuel in order to nourish and sustain really is.  We are choosing to pause longer and really look and what we are putting into our mouths, and what it's purpose really is.  It's not about filling up.  It's about nourishing and sustaining.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Decade

We sang 'Happy Birthday' to him this morning while he ate breakfast.

"I'm a DECADE old now," he beams.

Yes, yes you are.

10 years ago today I went into work, like any other day.  There were "emergency" plans in place between my co-workers if I should go into labor while at work.  I was working until I went into labor.  

None of those plans were used on this day, 10 years ago.

Nope, I calmly drove myself to the doctor's office after lunch.  Was told to go to the hospital after he examined me (which I did after I drove home, packed a bag, dropped off a steam cleaner and called your dad to let him know that I was in labor).

You weren't due for another week.

I arrived to the hospital, walked in with my bag, and checked myself in.

I then called your dad again, told him that it was going to be a while, don't come up yet, that I'd call him when you were closer to being born.  He had class that night, something important was going on in that class too, I don't recall what.  But, I knew that it was important that he be there and seriously, you were not in any rush to be born.

I know now, because it really wasn't your time.

And, because I've shared your birth story before, I'm just going to link it here and here and a little bit here  and get to the good stuff...

You are an awesome kid!

You are wicked smart and funny

You know way too much about Pokemon

You love Da Bears and am a rabid White Sox fan

You like to ride your bike and play with your friends

You are really good at baseball

You are super creative, building insane creations with legos and drawing up detailed plans for stuff - firework displays to rearranging your room

You hate watermelon

...and popcorn

You have your Dad's eyes

...and hair

You idolize your older brother

You are a loving older brother, yourself

You dearly miss Kitty

You self corrected your pigeon toe walk that we didn't catch and now have to wear inserts in your shoes. You can't run fast or kick fast.  This has hampered your ability to play baseball and swim competitively.

You love to talk and tell stories and corny jokes

You like making waffles with your dad on Sunday mornings

You are learning how to write cursive

You like Nerf gun and Light saber fights

You can make friends with anyone

You know how to carry a conversation

You make a mean grilled cheese (I always burn them)

You like watching The Simpsons & Malcolm in the Middle

You try to sleep with your door closed, but I always open it up because it messes up the air flow upstairs

You hate putting away your laundry and have been punished more times than I can recall for this

You want to live in a hotel when you get older

You are 10 years old today.  Those years have flown by!  You take on challenges and have a strong sense of self.

I'm proud to be your Mom
1 Year Old

2 Years Old - you still look the same!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Show Me The Way

It's going to be a busy weekend over here in Educational Anarchy land.

Tomorrow is my 12th wedding anniversary.  But, that's not why it's going to be a busy weekend.  Tomorrow is also my going to be 15 year old and going to be 10 year old's family birthday party...oh, and we are going to Sky Zone on Sunday...oh, and tonight, I have a children's re-sale to go to...and I need to make gluten free-soy free-dairy free brownies, and pick up cupcakes on my way home from the re-sale.  Shit!  I forgot about food for the party tomorrow...there's something else, but I don't remember...

You get the point

But, back to this anniversary thing.  So, I've been married to THIS GUY for 12 years

I am constantly being reminded of how lucky I am to be married to THIS GUY by my father.  And yep, I realize that I did good.

Here's the thing though, marriage is work.  But, that is likely not anything you are hearing (or reading) for the first time.

I recall being asked to list like three important things or sage advice or something like that...pearls of wisdom? about marriage for a bridal party game a few years back - here are my pearls:
1) Communication is key.  And I suck at this big time.  I'm one to answer with one word when I could spill a mountains worth.  It's my failure and it's something that I'm working on.  But, this communication thing...HONEST's key.
2) In the words of Fat Boy Slim - "I have to celebrate you baby, I have to praise you like I should."  I don't speak ill of my husband in public EVER.  Here's the deal, it's no one's business.  My husband is a great guy and if there is something that he is doing or saying or whatever, that I find irritating or insulting or whatever, that is between him and I, and no one else.  This is difficult for me because I'm a competitive ass.  So, when I'm in a situation where people are gossiping and bad mouthing their husbands I totally want to join in.  I normally just walk away, though.  It's not worth it and I try not to focus on the negative or bad, because there is so much good.
3) And, for yet another song reference, Styx - "Show me the way."  I am constantly trying to improve, to change and to grow.  My husband is a real life example of this for me.  It's so easy to stay, to not change and to think that nothing is going to get better.  Because, like marriage, change takes work.

Communication * Praise * Change

On August 23, 2012 I married this really awesome guy

And, my life is better because of it

Don't mistake me, I'm not saying my life is 'easy', I'm saying it's better.  I don't live in a fairy tale where woodland creatures follow at my heals.  Though, right now I'm trying to hunt down a field mouse that got into the house, but that's not what I'm talking about.  You see, I was put here to be the best me that I can possibly be, and my husband helps me do that.  I'm a better wife because of him, I'm a better mother because of him and I'm a better person because of him.

When he introduces me to people, I am his wife, the writer.

I don't even do that.

He gets me, when I don't even get myself.  And that, that is pretty awesome.

*Show Me The Way was our 1st dance song
*Praise You was our introduction song

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Officially a Toddler

Back in early June we went on vacation out West.  While on the road it became apparent that Will was becoming irritated by his bangs being in his eyes.

At this point, he was 15 months old.

He also hadn't had a haircut.

With a small sewing scissor I chopped his bangs one evening, early on in our trip.

Fast forward to last week, and I'm about 60 feet in the air waiting in line with Cody and Chris to go on a water slide.  I was not wearing my glasses and, well, I was about 60 feet in the air.  I looked down and noticed this adorable little girl running around by where the water slide we were about to do on dumps you out into a pool.  I mentioned this to the boys.  They both informed me that it was Will.


This was not the first time he was mistaken as a little girl.

This was the first time that I mistook him as a little girl, though.

That sealed the deal, it was time to get his long, curly, light brown hair cut.

I was not happy about this AT ALL.  For me, it would signify the end of babyhood.  He would officially be a toddler.

This growing old stuff sucks!

I had originally kicked around the idea of having my mom cut his hair.  As she was planning on coming up in July, I kind of figured that she could do it.  My mom is a beautician, she's owned her own salon and worked for many years while I was quite small at one called Beverly-Woods in Chicago.

My moms business card from the salon she owned in Oak Park.  Her name is not Fran, BTW.

My mom cutting my hair

I kind of figured that it would be a neat little generational memento thing to do.  Unfortunately, my mom was unable to travel here in July.  I figured that was my "out".  It's not meant to be, obviously.

Obviously, not.

So, not only did Will get his first hair cut, he also enjoyed his very first sucker.

I was a mess!  I no longer have a baby.  He's a toddler.

This getting older stuff sucks!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today is Tuesday

In two weeks, on Tuesday, September 2nd, my 9 year old son would have started his school year.

In two weeks, on Tuesday, September 2nd, my 9 year old son would have attended his very first homeschool co-op group for this homeschooling year.

Last week, on Tuesday, August 12th, we came to the decision to enroll Chris into school.

This came after months of talking, feeling feelings that suck big time, more talking, phone calls and touring schools, followed by more talking.

And, the feelings, they are still here and they still suck.

Chris seems to be doing fine.

I'm not.  Not right now.  Not right this minute.

Yesterday, on Monday, August 18th, my 9 year old son, Chris, started the 5th grade.

I dropped him off at school.

I picked him up from school.

...and he's doing fine

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I share a lot via social media.

Between this blog, my Facebook pages, Twitter, Pinterest and now, Instagram I'm pretty plugged in.

Here's the deal, I know that I'm not alone.  I know that no matter what is going on in my life someone else has experienced the same thing or something similar.  Good, bad or indifferent.

Also, my family of origin is spread out all over the world.  I use social media to stay connected with them and for them to stay connected with me.  Between photos and quick updates, it's a wonderful thing, in my opinion.

But, this sense of community that exists is amazing.  I have a very limited "friends" list on Facebook specifically for that reason.

I can pose a question regarding tongue tie and get immediate responses.  The same is true when recently dealing with a food allergy.  Or when I was stuck in my van with my ignition not wanting to turn over.  My Uncle from New York called me on my cell phone to walk me through the steps to try to start my van!  

I get advice on family activities and restaurants that are worth checking out, and ones that are not.

And, for me, it works.  I know that it doesn't for everyone, and that is fine.  

Friday, August 8, 2014


We are in the middle of a pretty crazy allergic reaction over here in Educational Anarchy Land.

My 9 year old has been consistent with getting a nasty headache once a month that would land him in bed for the day, but would be better by morning.  I didn't really think anything about it.  It would leave as quick as it would come.  I made a mental note of it and just figured I'd bring it up at his yearly.

Not this month.

He returned from Texas about three weeks ago, got a headache upon return, vomited and then was better by the morning.  The vomiting was a concern.  But, since it didn't continue and left as quick as it came, I wasn't too concerned.  That was until yesterday when he experienced yet another headache that landed him in bed.  Two headaches that close together with vomiting during one is cause for concern in my books. Throw in a fever spike last night and I'm calling the doctors office at 8pm to get in as quickly as I can.  The concern of neurological issues is scary. Especially since I have epilepsy.  Especially since I searched WebMD.

I was able to get him into the doctors today, which was wonderful.

By the time we got there, though, hives started to break out all over his back, legs and arms.  Bug bites were ruled out, these were hives.  He was having an allergic reaction to something.  Specifically, to something he ate.  And his body WAS PISSED.  He was sustaining a fever at 102.3 and couldn't focus, complaining of dizziness.  

We are pretty strict about food consumption in our home.  We don't consume cow milk.  We try to stay organic.  Our soy milk is GMO free and we look for that across the baord.  We eat balanced meals that are protein heavy with adequate serving sizes and limit all junk food.  If we consume sugar, it's sugar.  Not artificial sweeteners.  Not chemicals.

Chris has always consumed soy milk.  Not soy formula.  Soy milk.  We started him on it instead of cow milk.  Yes, I know there are better dairy substitutes out there.  We like it because of it's protein content per serving.  And yes, we are willing to entertain another option if it turns out that he has an allergy to it.
But, because he's always had soy milk, he's developed a dairy sensitivity.  He can consume some dairy based foods, just in moderation.  Yogurt is a good example.  

So, the big three, for food allergies, are dairy, gluten and soy.

On Wednesday evening Chris was in charge of making dinner for us.  His choice - grilled cheese sandwiches with french fries.  Sourdough bread slathered with butter and melted Munster cheese.  Oh, but wait!  On Thursday morning he had his regular daily serving of soy milk, 8 ounces of it.  BAM! BAM! BAM!

And Thursday afternoon is when he started to complain of a headache.  Actually, let me back up a bit.  That morning he was acting weird.  Like frigidity and unfocused.  So, there are warning signs.

So, where are we now?  Elimination diet and then reintroduction of each of the big three to see if we can determine which food he reacted too.  Sugar is being cut out as well.  My bet is on either dairy or the combination of the other two while diary is present.  If we cannot pinpoint which is the culprit, when we return to the doctor in two weeks for his yearly he'll be given a multi panel allergy test ... all foods, including fruits and vegetables and then environmental agents as well.  I almost cried with the receptionist at the doctors told me the base price for this test.  $3,600.00.  *deep breath*  She then called the company that they go through to confirm that my insurance was part of their plan, and it is.  We won't have to pay the entire amount, we'll have to still pay, but not the entire amount.  We would have a precise read on what exactly he's allergic to, though.

Right now the hives are spreading.  They have moved to his trunk area and up his neck and to his face. They've also moved to other parts of his arms.  He is on benadryl to help with the hives and aleve for his headache.  He's craving apples and complaining that the water tastes like it's been siting outside with lemons and limes in it for like 3 days.

The doctor advised us to keep benadryl on us at all times.  Just in case.

You know what?  It could be worse.  It could have been a neurological issue.

I'm counting my blessings tonight and truly contemplating "let food by they medicine".              

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Chose To Breastfeed When I Failed The First Two Times

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week.  Here is some additional information if you are interested in finding out more:
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
Breastfeed Chicago
La Leche League International 

Look for local events promoting breastfeeding as well.

*Disclaimer - I realize that people have the power of choice.  Whether that choice is made through necessity or willingness.  In no way is this post written in an attempt to bash women who do not breastfeed.*

How did I fail at breastfeeding?  Well, I really didn't fail.  With my now 14 year old I could only nurse him while I was on maternity leave.  The day care that I had enrolled him in did not accept breast milk and insisted on formula.  At the time I was more interested in safety and security and I made the decision to enroll him in a day care that did not allow breast milk to be brought in.  Now, looking back, because everything is clearer in hindsight, I realize that I had other options available that may have allowed me the opportunity to pump and supply milk AND I realize that in fact, you don't need a separate refrigerator to store pumped breast milk.  So, I nursed for 6 weeks and then forced weaned my child to supplement him on formula.
When my second son was born five years later the necessity to breastfeed was more from an economical perspective than really anything else.  Formula is fricking expensive!  But, I suffered from intense postpartum depression that required me to take medication that eventually dried up my supply.

In both instance I felt like a failure.

I felt like I wasn't a woman nor a mother.

It sucked.

Because, here is this act that I can do, I'm capable of doing, supplying my child with milk and yet I can't.

A year after my second son was born I went in for a mammogram and was told that I had dense breast.  And, it was possible that this was the cause for my inability to continue nursing my 2nd son, not the medication.

I wasn't buying it.  Though I kept in the back of my mind as a way to ease by pride.

When my third son was born eight years later I had read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and attending a few LLL meetings.  I had read Beyond the Sling and scoured every breastfeeding and holistic sight for information.

I WAS going to breastfeed my son.

And here's the thing, I had the knowledge, I was educated in the matter but, what I think really made the difference was that I WAS going to breastfeed my son.  I wasn't sending my child to day care.  I wasn't in a situation where I needed to stop nursing for any reason.  I WAS going to do it.

I was determined, and I made up my mind.

And, let me tell you the first week SUCKED!  *pun intended*  At our first follow up appointment 24 hours after discharge from the hospital I brought the possibly of being tongue tied to the doctor.  She checked it out and said "Huh?  I think you may be right.  Here is a referral to a specialist."   A specialist whom we couldn't get in to see until a week later.  I was nursing literally 24 hours a day because my child was not getting enough milk at each feeding.  I was sleep deprived and cranky.  And, I felt like I was a failure.  I felt like maybe I wasn't designed to nurse my children.  Sleep deprivation will make you think some crazy ass things, let me tell you.

I found solace by reaching out on Facebook, to other mom's whom I knew were either breastfeeding or had. I re-read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  I made calls to my LLL leaders and spoke with the Mother's Help nurse at the hospital I delivered at.  I threw out all the advice I got that did not align with me being able to breastfeed my son.

When we went to our appointment at the ENT, she gave us a run down of what tongue tie was and what it was not.  I knew he was tongue tied.  When she looked at the underside of him tongue, she confirmed it to be the case.  The best part, she was able to snip the tie right there in the office.  The first time my baby nursed after the procedure he fell asleep within minutes because he had gotten more milk in that moment that he had at any of the other nurslings prior to that.

He was full.  He was satisfied.  He was happy.

I thought that if I could nurse for three months, that would be fantastic.

At three months I though that if I could nurse for six months, that would be fantastic.

At six months I though that if I could nurse for nine months, that would be fantastic.

My third son self-weened one week prior to his first birthday.  With the introduction of solid foods around that time, his desire to nurse diminished.

I wasn't a failure.

I was a woman and I was a mom.

My body did exactly what it was designed to do and I was delighted.

Here are the top 5 reasons I chose to breastfeed my third son when my first two attempts didn't work out.

  1. Promotes Emotions Health - having a documented case of postpartum depression looming in my background I seriously did not want to go through that again.  Studies have shown that there is less postpartum anxiety and depression in woman who breastfeed than in those who formula-feed their babies.
  2. Costs Less - holy cow is formula expensive!  
  3. Gut Health - have you ever swallowed an SOS pad?  Neither have I, but that is a pretty graphic representation of what happens to your babies gut when you introduce formula.  And, gut health is so important for a number of reasons, the least of which is having a healthy immune system.  
  4. Bonding - skin to skin contact and the time it takes for a baby to nurse helps them to feel safe and secure.  It helps them to realize that they are loved and that they will be taken care of.
  5. Mothering Hormones - breastfeeding releases a whole score of awesome hormones and helps chemical reactions to take place in you.  It's like a high.   
Always do what is right for your family, no matter what others may think.  

5 months old