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.

 

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!

My First Week Eating Keto: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Hi, my name is Jessica and I am a sugar-addict.

For real.

When I was a kid I sneakily consumed spoonfuls of brown sugar when my mom’s back was turned. I regularly stole packets of dry pudding or hot cooca mix to eat late at night while reading my newest Baby Sitters Club book. My sweet tooth was never satisfied.

As an adult, my self control hasn’t improved much. Ice cream, wine and pizza is my trinity of weakness. I have discovered that I am an emotional eater as well. A high anxiety day has me craving an extra-cheese pizza with a side of buffalo wings. With 4 young kids, high anxiety days were becoming more and more frequent.

I have been pretty open about my struggles to manage my anxiety. One of the side effects of the medication I was on was weight gain. And man did I gain. I gained about 30lbs in 3-4 months. Seeing myself balloon up so much, so quickly, freaked me out. I decided that something needed to be done, NOW.

Why Keto?

I knew the foods I wanted to cut down on. Sugar, carbs, alcohol and coffee. That was all I had been surviving on, and , well, things clearly weren’t going too well.  I was constantly exhausted and unmotivated. I had difficulty falling asleep at night, and an even harder time waking up in the morning.  As a homeschool mom of 4, my poor choices were affecting us all.

I had to change. I started looking for diets where the people on it reported feeling great. Overwhelmingly this lead me to consider Whole 30, Paleo and Keto. After reading everything ever, I decided that Keto matched my desires the most and left the most room for me to work around our dietary restrictions.

Needing my food to be coconut, banana, avocado, egg, nut and seafood free limits things just a bit.

Another reason I chose Keto? The science behind it is really cool. Basically instead of your body relying on carbs for fuel, you want your body to start using fat for fuel. To do this, you cut down your carbs, eat a ton of good fats and a moderate amount of protein. I have been following this way of eating for a week now. Here’s how things are going.

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The Good 

What I love most about keto is that I am not hungry. I am not counting calories (right now anyways) and all I am worried about is the ratio of fat to protein to carbs. I don’t eat more than 1500 calories a day though so it’s not like I’m going crazy over here. I get most of my fats from meats, olive oil and grass-fed butter. Leafy greens are my favorite so I happily incorporate them in daily meals too. As time goes on I will get more adventurous with my meal choices. I just wanted to keep things simple while I got the hang of calculating my macros.

The money we are going to save from not buying coffee, wine, and takeout is going to be SO GREAT! Cha-ching!

I am no newbie to checking labels (hello, food allergy mom here!) but I never checked for sugar content or carb content. It is INSANE how much sugar and carbs are in everything! I love that I am learning so much more about the food my family is eating.

Another good thing about this diet is that there are a lot of fantastic resources online. There are tons of recipes and Facebook groups for support and questions you may have.

The Bad 

The sugar and carb cravings are INTENSE. My body is completely addicted to these two things! I went grocery shopping and was drooling over the garlic bread. I had a dream that rivaled Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!

Another very real thing is the keto-flu. I was fortunate enough to only experience this for about 2 days but a lot of people report feeling this way for a couple of weeks as their bodies shift from carb usage to fat usage.

Probably the most important thing I’ve noticed about this keto thing is that you really have to be all in. If you’re upping your fat, you NEED to cut those carbs. Nothing good can come from a high fat high carb diet. Cheating can throw things off quite a bit, so planning a weekly cheat day or cheat meal isn’t going to work with this diet. (Really bummed about that. Bye Bye pizza, ice cream and wine dates)

The Ugly 

I do wonder if I will ever not be a jerk in the morning, since I cut out coffee. It takes me about an hour to be pleasant. I’m not kidding, it’s terrible. I have been drinking tea instead but it’s just not the same as my creamy sweet coffee. *Cutting coffee IS NOT a keto thing, it’s a Jessica thing. I can’t drink coffee without adding a ton of cream and sugar, so I have to say goodbye. I did shed a tear or two over this. Go ahead and judge me.

Mothering 4 kids without coffee or wine? I may as well reserve my padded room now.

Also, my breath stinks. Like bad. Apparently this is normal and I will just have to start chewing (sugar-free) gum. I am also in the market for a stronger deodorant because holy cow. Just being honest here, folks.

Conclusion 

After a week following the Ketogenic diet it’s obvious to me that the good outweighs the bad and the ugly by far. I have a very small , almost invisible amount of will power when it comes to food, but I have found Keto easy to stick to because I am not starving.

I have also been starting to feel more energy. My 10 o clock bed time has been consistent and wake up much more easily (despite being cranky). I don’t feel sluggish (beyond those first 2 flu-ish days). I have started doing more housework, happily (well…), because I have the energy to do it.

Oh and I have lost almost 10 lbs. In the first week. I know most of it is likely water weight (no need to rain on my parade), but to see those 10 lbs gone is just proof that something is working.

I’m going to stick with this one, folks. Next week, I add in exercise.

My First Week on the Keto Diet

Turning 35: An Interview with my Husband

We always do those funny interview questions with kids on their birthdays, so I thought it would be fun to ask my aging husband some questions too, for his 35th birthday. So here we go:

“What. Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I have questions to ask you. Birthday questions.”

*laughs. “Of course you do.”

“Like an interview!”

“THIS IS AN INTERVIEW?!”

What are some of your favorite memories from childhood? “After we do this, I’m going to take these books and put them away. Alright? Deal? Are you writing this down? All of this? What are you doing? Writing everything I say down? Did you just type all of that? *laughs?* I’m not saying anything else.”

What are some of your favorite memories from childhood? “Ahhh, playing outside, playing jailbreak (you call it manhunt, it’s called jailbreak though). What else? um… playing sports. That’s a good question. Hm…what is the happiest that I have ever been, as a kid? Good question. Something I probably never really thought about… but I think it would have to be– me and Lamont had some good times. Playin’. Hanging out together. That’s a good question.”

Adulthood? Just becoming a Christian, probably. That will always be the number one answer in my life. The day I got saved. It never gets old, never loses it’s ability to just – give me joy. If we are talking about raw happiness – I was surprised by how happy I was when Anthony was born. I remember just FEELING happy. So I know the difference between happiness and joy. That wasn’t joy, it was just raw happiness. I think the first day we spent together, too would be number three. Our first date. We spent the whole day together. Yep that would be my top 3.

What’s your favorite way to spend a day? (Luke yells, “playing Wii!!!”) “Hahaha, um. I’ve had some good days. I think my favorite days are when we do something fun with another family, we aren’t worried about the kids and we can just talk and hang out. Everything is cool and we just have a good day.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I want to be an inventor.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? “Probably where I am right now. Here, with you guys in Providence. That’s where we are, you know?”

Where is one place you would like to travel? “I have literally no desire to be a traveler. You know why? I can’t go anywhere without thinking ‘how many people here are going to hell when they die’. I wonder ‘who’s preaching the Gospel here? What is God doing here?’ I WOULD go somewhere but I don’t desire to travel anywhere just to go see anything. Maybe Israel. ”

What is one thing you would like to learn? “Spanish.”

What’s one thing you’re glad to have accomplished? Graduation from college.

What’s one thing that can always make you laugh? “When my cousin Buck does a fart noise.”

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Happy 35th birthday to my amazing husband, father of four, friend to everyone who will have him, who will hopefully still go with me to Italy one day even though he has no desire to travel (that was news to me haha).

The world is a certainly a sweeter place because he’s in it.