Our Life with Food Allergies

THE NEW YOU

Something happens to you as a mom, when you see your child’s body shutting down right before your eyes. Something happens to you. A switch is flipped. You see your child getting pale and weak, swelling up, vomiting. You see all of the different systems in his little body freaking out, and giving up.

All of this, because he drank from the same straw as someone else. As you sit there, holding him after injecting him with epinephrine and waiting for the ambulance you just called, you pray he will pull through this one. You pray he does not become the next devastating case of a young life lost to food allergies. And you wonder how such a small detail, like drinking after someone else, can have such dire consequences.

As you wait, you are reminded again that the chances of your child outliving you have gone down significantly. You no longer have the luxury of not thinking about the mortality of your own children because every day is survival.

I am a food allergy mom.

The reality that I might someday bury my children because they had the wrong thing to eat, is a nightmare that many food allergy parents are living through as we speak. It’s my worst nightmare, and it could happen.

My seven year old lives with a myriad of life threatening food allergies. 1 in 13 kids live with food allergies today (and I have 3 of them). When I mention food allergies, most people’s first reaction is, “oh he must be allergic to peanuts.” Yes, peanut allergy is the allergy most covered in the media, but peanuts is only one of many we manage.

Egg, peanuts, tree-nuts, fish (airborne), shellfish (airborne), bean sprouts and pitted fruit have all caused my son to experience anaphylactic shock – a life threatening response to what his body has labeled as an allergen.

Managing food allergies requires incredible attention to detail, which is something that does not come naturally to me. There are so many times I have asked God WHY he gave me this to carry. Needing to be so detail oriented, with the stakes so high if (when) I mess up.

There are times when it feels like our entire life is consumed with keeping my kids safe. For example, when I take my kids anywhere public I automatically scan the crowd for sandwich bags, snacks and juice boxes. If there are too many around, we relocate. Now that my son is getting older, I occasionally point them out so he knows which spots to avoid. Honestly though, we usually wait until way after lunch to frequent the playgrounds. The anxiety of seeing most of the kids eating lunch (peanut butter, sandwiches with mayo, etc) while they play on shared equipment is too high for me to handle.

We have to check the ingredients of everything that goes in to their mouths. Everything. We have a saying, “if you can’t read it, you can’t eat it!”  But not only that, we have to know manufacturing information of those items as well because if they are manufactured on shared equipment, a reaction will occur. It has happened before. I’m not talking about ‘just being itchy’. We have had an anaphylactic reaction to chicken nuggets (labeled as safe) made on shared equipment as chicken tenders that contained egg.

The fact that it was made on shared equipment was not disclosed on the packaging and by law, it does not have to be. BUT the consequences of making things on shared equipment is huge to someone with food allergies. This is why I call to check. This is why even if someone reads the ingredients on the back of the box and it “looks ok” it still may not be ok to give my children. If I don’t know the manufacturing practices of the company, and I don’t feel like calling them then and there, then the answer is no.

This is not me being overprotective. This is the normal everyday life of those who manage life-threatening food allergies. It is the same decision that hundreds of thousands of people managing food allergies would make given the same circumstance. A piece of chicken or pizza or whatever it is, is not worth the risk. 

I wish people truly understood this, but it’s not something I can force anyone to see. Those who want to view me as overprotective, irritating and hovering without reason, will see me that way no matter what I say on the subject. I can’t help that and I will not compromise the safety of my children to redeem my reputation in anyone’s eyes.

I wrote this to give anyone who is interested, a glimpse in to the life of a food allergy family. I wrote this so other food allergy families may read and know that they aren’t alone. I will certainly write more on the subject, as I said before: it feels like it consumes our whole life sometimes.

Also I want to say, that God graciously answered my prayer by showing me why we have to carry this. He showed me that being constantly aware of our own mortality is a blessing, not a curse, and it enables us to remember to rely on Him and Him alone for strength to walk through this life both physically and spiritually. For that I am thankful.

It's not always abouttrying to fix somethingthat's broken.

 

 

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Let’s Get One Thing Straight…

The internet is full. Don’t you think? There are  LOT of people out there who know what they are doing, who are winning at life, and sharing the things that work for them. It all can be overwhelming, can’t it? You can find almost anything on the internet to back up any position on any topic. People are constantly throwing out ideas about how to be a good parent, wife, mom, person, teacher. It can be SO MUCH.

Regardless, here I am.

Writing.

Adding my voice to the many others out there;

just another drop in the ocean.

     Why in the world do I want to add to a platform that seems to be overflowing with unsolicited advice and how-to lists on every topic imaginable?

 

Because that’s not what I’m doing here.

 

I don’t have life figured out, and I’m not going to get on here and pretend that I do.  If you want some tips and tricks to make your life go smoothly, then you aren’t in the most helpful corner of the internet. However if you want to see what our real life looks like, our real, imperfect, messy life, then please come in. Stay a while.

I live in New England and homeschool my 4 children ages 7, 6, 4 and 1 1/2. My husband and I love serving God, our church and community here. Our family manages many life-threatening food allergies which affects our daily lives. I’m always trying to find time to sing, read and write. Blogging is a fun outlet for me, and I have had a blog since the days of Xanga–which I am so glad I kept a secret, by the way.

So while I’m not sure of the best housekeeping schedule (if you’ve seen mine, then you understand), or how to balance everything most Mom’s need to balance, I am trying.

I do strive to have a house that is clean most of the time, kids that are happy most of the time, and dinners that are delicious most of the time. Above all of that I strive to have a deepening relationship with God, and my family.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I do hope you learn something here, but my primary purpose for this blog is not to teach. It’s to link. To join those of us together who are walking similar (or completely different) roads, or who are simply interested in the road I have been called to walk. I want to create a space where our lives are celebrated, and you are encouraged. I want to create a space where truth is transparent, and friendships are formed.

I am so happy to share our adventures with you.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another- What! You too- I thought I was the only one.

 

Back to (home) school! Are you ready?

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It feels like just last week I sent in my End of Year Report to the school district, detailing that my students-my children have exceeded expectations with flying colors and will be moving onto the next grade levels.

Wait a second, it WAS just last week. Wonderful! Now we can sit back, relax, and enjoy the summer.

But hold-up.

What is going on with Target’s Dollar Spot? It’s all beautifully and wonderfully school-ish. Cute little books, games and cards, made of wood and felt and all of those almost-indestructible materials.

My excitement rises.

Can it be? Is it really time to start preparing for the new school year?

You may think it strange that I love this time of year so much but here is the truth: I am a school supply junkie.
I have Ticonderoga pencils and Expo dry erase markers delivered every 3 months from Amazon. Walmart has boxes of Crayola crayons on sale for $.50, begging me to buy a year’s supply every August.

Every summer around this time I experience a back to homeschool pre- prep, preparation period. Here’s what it entails:

Go through all of our books AGAIN. It’s my favorite thing. Book baskets, bookshelves organized by category and reading level, adding to my Amazon wish list. If I am talking about books, I am a happy woman. If I am looking at them, I am even happier.

Speaking of books, it’s around this time that I usually receive the Gigantic (think old-school phone book size) Rainbow Resource catalog I was sure I unsubscribed from. Last year’s issue is kept next to my bed in case I hear an intruder and need a weapon. Do I even look at it? No. There are no pictures, nothing colorful, and so it’s not much fun to shop from. But it’s girth could likely knock out an unsuspecting burglar in a pinch.

Make plans that I won’t follow. A new schedule. New experiment ideas. Individual education goals for each child. Plan it all out. Put it all somewhere. Brainstorm, and forget it for a few months. Getting it out of my brain and on to paper actually does help, believe it or not. No matter the lack of follow-through.
Lakeshore Learning Store. I go, I consider more posters than available wall space and I spend an hour making some very difficult decisions.

Ask the kids what they want to learn this year. “Chemistry and Geometry” my 7 year old told me last summer. “Paper airplanes and Samurais” said my 6 year old. I am always surprised by their answers. My 5 year old apparently wants to learn about underwater creatures and oysters making pearls. I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t ask! I should also make my own list of personal learning goals.

As we gear up for another year of homeschooling, what do your preparations look like? How do you get ready to tackle a new year of learning?

 

 

 

My Stitch Fix Experiment pt. 2

Ok everyone, I have a confession. I think I unintentionally led you all to believe that I was anticipating the arrival of my first box from Stitch Fix, but really I was waiting on my second.

The first box arrived in mid-March, and it was kind of a complete bust.

There was a black dress that looked awful on me, a teal shirt that was very loose and just not my style, and a flowy pink shirt that also was not my style. Also in the box was the most beautiful bag I had ever seen, and the most comfortable jeans I had ever tried on.

I kept the jeans, and sent the bag back only because I really have nowhere to  bring such a beautiful (and expensive) bag.

Here is a quick post from my instagram when I got my first box:

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So that was box 1. Why aren’t there any pictures of myself in the clothes? Well, have you ever gone shopping with someone and didn’t want to come out of the dressing room because you looked terrible? That is exactly how I felt. They missed the mark on my style, and I didn’t like how anything fit. Except for the jeans. Those were amazing.


But today. Today my second box came and it was so much better than the first. They must have taken my notes in to consideration (I love prints, and color and don’t mind tighter fitting shirts) when picking for me this time.

Let’s start with how fun it is to even get the box. It is all wrapped up so nice and pretty, and the mystery is super exciting. My toddler even appreciates it.

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 Ok so the first thing I opened, actually made me angry. canva-photo-editor (6)

These booties are so cute, aren’t they? They are exactly EXACTLY the style that I didn’t even know I had. So why was I angry?

I put them on and within 2 minutes I was dying to take them off because they were so uncomfortable. UGH. If I can’t wear them for 2 minutes around my bedroom then I probably shouldn’t invest in them long-term. DARN. SO CUTE THOUGH.

The second thing I opened, was also something I had no idea I would love. Long, flowy flower pants. No, I am not kidding. I love these so much and they are super comfortable.

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My husband, laughed when he saw them. Out loud. Loudly out loud. “But I love them!!” I said. I felt like Juliet defending Romeo, or something. Don’t tell me I don’t know what love is, I know what love is, and I love these weird pants!

“They’re nice babe, and you look good in them but you won’t wear them anywhere.”

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Ok, fair point. Maybe I wouldn’t wear them anywhere, especially because I am not a fan of the shirt they sent to go along with these pants. But I do love them so I am not set on sending them back just yet.

The other 2 pieces, I like in theory.  A pink jean jacket and a striped boatneck sweater.

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The sweater was really comfortable and exactly what I would pick out. In fact, I have way too many striped shirts. I have so many, that I decided to send this back. The jacket didn’t fit me too well because I have large shoulders so felt restricted when moving in it. I do like how this looks though, and a pink jean jacket is something I would NEVER pick out on my own. Had it fit correctly, I would definitely consider keeping it.


There are a few things that I love about this service.

  1. The surprise and mystery is really fun.
  2. You can try things on in the comfort of your own home and sending things back is incredibly easy.
  3. They really seem to listen to your notes about what you liked/didn’t like about each fix.
  4. They also send this little outfit guide that features the things they put in your box. In case you, like me, have no idea how to style things and need a little bit of help.

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I want to keep things real with you guys, though. The clothes are not Target quality, so they are not Target prices.

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Some people have to mentally prepare to see prices like this, especially when they are used to their wife shopping at Old Navy or Target.

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Hahaha!

However, your styling fee goes towards anything you decide to keep, and if you want to keep the whole box you get a 25% of discount. I think that is pretty good, but some people may not. See above photo.


All in all, I really enjoy this service. However, I don’t know if I will continue with the boxes right now. I have thought about using it as motivation to get healthier and lose some weight. Once I get to my goal weight, I may reward myself with a few months of stitchfix to help build my new wardrobe.

How does that sound?

If you want to try this service for yourself, you can use my referral link to get $15 off of your first fix! I want to get my first Stitchfix!

If you try it, please let me know how you like it!

Dressing Like A Grown-Up: My Stitch Fix Experiment pt 1

 

I just want to start off by saying- this is not a sponsored post. No one has paid me anything, I have gotten nothing for free, and honestly I don’t know what to expect from this experience.

What I do know is this: I have no sense of style. None. I am a stay at home mom, have 4 kids, and am currently wearing my husband’s T-shirt and some Christmas leggings from Walmart. In March. Mama needs some fashion help, STAT.

My friends are jumping on the grown-up bandwagon and trying this service I’m sure you have heard of: StitchFix. Apparently for a $20 styling fee, someone will pick your clothes out and send them to you. If you like them, you buy them. If not, you send them back! Sounds simple enough, and the thought of spending an afternoon in Target trying on clothes is nauseating enough for me to click on my friend’s referral link.

Ok. If you’ve ever wondered what signing up for StitchFix is like, you’re about to find out.

First things first, you enter in all of your sizes. I actually knew those, which had me feeling pretty good. I was nervous they wouldn’t carry 14s but they do! Score! Next came a quiz where you rate outfits by how much you like them. This part was really really difficult. This is where I truly learned I have zero fashion sense. There were no stretchy pants, no oversized sweaters, no Tshirts with Marvel characters on the front. Gosh what do I even LIKE? Not flowers, not leather, not cut-off shorts.  Wait a second, am I supposed to like any of these options? Is this what people are wearing nowadays? Did I just fail this StitchFix quiz?

I somehow muddled my way through this style quiz and went on to the preferences. I really appreciated this portion as they asked you what parts of your body you are comfortable showing off, and which you prefer to keep covered. What colors you prefer and if you like animal print (hard pass there).

By the end of this ordeal, my head was spinning, but I also felt like they knew so much about me. My hunch was confirmed by this end-of-quiz-summary on their website, “We know you like to keep your arms and back covered but aren’t afraid to show off your rear.” Wow, I would have never put it that way, but now that you mention it…

Next, we discuss price points where I shamelessly selected “the cheaper the better” for every single option. There was also an area where you could request special outfits say if you had a wedding or something coming up, which I thought was cool. Let’s be real here though. I have nowhere to go. No special events. Nothing. Ever.

Moving on.


My first box is coming in a couple of weeks and I am – well – less than optimistic. The mystery is exciting though, and I  can’t wait to share what comes my way.

I thought I was all set until  my friend Niki asked me if I linked my Pinterest Style Board to my profile. Um, no I didn’t even know if I had one of those. I only use Pinterest for recipes and lesson planning and definitely not fashion ideas. Niki said I should really do it because they will look at it and get a “better sense of who you are.” Oh. ok.

I went to Pinterest and pulled up my “Dream Closet” board I started about 8 years, 4 kids, and 40lbs ago and hadn’t contributed to in at least 3 years. In the split second it takes for the page to load, I’m hopeful.

Maybe before kids, I had a sense of style and motherhood had put everything on the backburner. Maybe there is a fashionista buried underneath my oversized sweaters covered in boogies and the $10 shoes I bought at Aldi. I bought shoes at Aldi, people. Aldi.

Here I was, face to face with my dream closet a la 2009.

 

*Sigh. My hope died a horrible death.

Hoodies, trench coats, crazy pants, traditional Asian wear.  I still love it all, but after looking at my “Dream Closet” I am positive my “stylist” will certainly be working hard for her $20. My expectations are low, to say the least. Don’t worry, I will share the next part of this adventure with whoever is interested enough to read about it, so be on the lookout for Dressing Like A Grown Up Part 2 -Box Day.

Do you use a clothing subscription service? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

New Season, New Goals

October is my favorite month out of the year. The month that I am the most thankful to live in New England.  The foliage surrenders to unavoidable change and eventually lets go; and the process is simply lovely to watch.

I always wonder if God made autumn, and the beauty that goes along with it as a reminder of how beautiful surrender is, and how it lends itself to true growth. Growth that you might not notice until after a long, cold winter… but every spring from the once leaf-laden ground, fresh grass sprouts and flowers bloom.

This year, God has been showing me the importance being intentional with my time and energy. This is really difficult for me, and probably one of my biggest weaknesses. Still. I am the queen of wasting time. I am the queen of procrastinating, pushing things off to the very last minute possible. I did it when I was in school, and I still do it now. But, God does not call us to live like that. He calls us to live with direction, with purpose. Primarily rooted deeply in scripture, but I believe He is also honored by my desire to manage my time and resources wisely.

I do not have unlimited time, but by putting things off, I am making the assumption that I do. I am assuming I have time that is not promised to me, and that is just not a helpful attitude.

I do not have unlimited energy. I am a finite person. No matter how much I want to do everything, I absolutely cannot. Energy is something I need to learn how to manage so I am no longer burning the candle at both ends.

Enter 2 words that would have sent me running the complete opposite direction just a year ago.

Set Goals.

October Goals-

 

Something I have found a bit helpful is making monthly goals. Before you think this is something I do often, I would like point out that my first month of goal setting was August. So I have done this twice, people.

My monthly goals for September were :

-Bible Study (James)

-Homeschool and tweak our curriculum/schedule as needed

-Follow the Keto way of eating consistently

I have been pretty consistent with all 3 of these goals. I like just having 3, because it isn’t too overwhelming and I don’t feel like a huge failure.

Here are my goals for October:

-Bible (finish James and start Joshua)

– Keep eating well and exercise 5 days a week 

-Bed time at 10.

*For transparency’s sake, I just want to let you know that I am currently messaging with a friend who is asking me if I am going to events that I agreed to go to. And I have no idea when the events are. Just that they are sometime in October, and I RSVP’d yes to all of them…ooops!

My next goal should be to write down things right away, but since I’m already at my max of 3 I’ll save that one for November.

So, what are your goals for this month? 3 things you’d like to make habits of? In what ways would you like to see change and growth?

 

Drudgery-Free Menu Planning

The past few weeks have been rough. I have been fighting a pretty brutal battle with bronchitis and was laid up in bed for a good week or so. It must have put me in a bit of a masochistic mood because I decided to solve all of my most annoying problems while hacking up my lungs.

At the top of my list was revolutionizing the one task that puts a knot in my stomach on a weekly basis. No, not laundry. Not cleaning the bathroom {although yes I hate that too}. Not even having a budget meeting. I’m talking about:

Menu Planning.

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This has got the be the one of the most surprising revelations in my adult life. WHY didn’t anyone tell me that figuring out what everyone is going to eat every day is the most annoying, irritating thing ever?

I have been feeding my family for years, yet coming up with a weeks worth of dinner ideas is physically painful. Why can’t I come up with an easy way to do this?

I have tried a million different apps and websites that give you grocery lists and all of the bells and whistles but nothing sticks. Nothing stays consistent. Every Sunday night I find myself in the same conundrum with the same dreadful feeling in my stomach. WHAT IS EVERYONE GOING TO EAT?

Well, I was talking to a more-organized Mom-friend (pretty much all of  my friends are more organized haha) and she told me about this grouping method she used for the summer. It took a little time on the front end, but I was in bed, sick. I had the time.

So I tried it. Even though it was a bit of a pain to sit and think of food, again, after that initial hour or so of figure things out I have successfully used this grouping system to plan a months worth of meals in less than 5 minutes.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Brainstorm your groups:  Examples could be Soups, One Dish Meals, Grilled, Instant/Crock Pot, Family Favorites etc.
  2. Under each heading write  3-5 go-to menu items your family enjoys. I divided this part in to “main dishes” “side dishes” and “salads” to allow for some variety but of course you don’t have to do that.
  3. Assign each group a number.
  4. Give each day of the month a group number, and choose a meal under each group.

 

 

What I like about this method is that it ensures that if I follow it, I won’t accidentally feed my family chicken, rice and veggies every night for 3 months. I plan on changing my groups every season, to incorporate seasonal veggies as sides which my budget will love.

I did make groups for breakfasts and lunches, but honestly don’t think I will use it. Nothing gives me more trouble than dinners. As long as we have Cheerios and sunbutter in the house, my kids are all set for the other meals.

Of course, this is just an idea for people who are looking for a different way to streamline menu planning and who don’t care if their families eat similar styles of meals each week.

It sure made things a little easier over here, at least for now!

How do you menu-plan? Are you happy with how it’s going? Let me know in the comments!