A Ray of Hope

I have to say, I have some hope for the first time in a long time for my daughter’s contact reactions.  We moved and have a new allergist who gave us a plan to start to try to reduce and hopefully eliminate her constant contact reactions when we are out in public.  I felt so emotional at the chance to finally be free of contact reactions, I almost cried.  My hope was stuffed down and crushed, but still, I always pray for a cure.  I’ve always said that if her contact reactions would go away, it’d be so much easier to manage.  Not easy, but easier.  Having a ray of hope is nice.  It’s refreshing.

It’s a good reminder that my hope is in the Lord and perhaps I need to readjust my heart and remember where my hope comes from.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.”

Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

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A Glimpse into Living with Food Allergies

Faith, Family & Food Allergies

I talk a lot about food allergies.

Food allergies have determined certain paths we take.

Nothing is simple.

Want to take a bible study class with childcare? Just sign up and show up.

Not me.

There are emails and phone calls involved. There are questions about snacks. There are questions about having other kids hands cleaned in the room. There are quick EpiPen training sessions for her teachers. There are procedures figured out for me to be contacted immediately in case of an allergic reaction.

The same thing with any recreational event.

SG wants to take a dance class. She is currently crazy for Barbie in the Pink Shoes and wants to learn ballet.

Just sign up for dance class and show up, right?

Not us.

I emailed one place where I had previously spoken to the manager. To my face, she was agreeable and accommodating. I emailed her with the specifics needed to keep SG safe (either wipe hands or wash and no food in the room) and CRICKETS. No reply.

I crossed that place off of the list.

I emailed another place. The owner said she would have her own child wash her hands but it was up to ME to ASK the other parents to wash their kids hands. Ummm…no. What if they say no? I know most wouldn’t, but I have had issues with this in the past.

Thankfully I found a dance studio that is willing to wipe all the girls hands before they walk in the studio. (Thanks Jill for the help!) I’m overjoyed and can’t wait for my little ballerina to take real dance classes!!!

Let’s move onto grocery shopping. Put your kiddo in the cart (or buggie as we say in the south), fill your cart with any food you want, put your groceries on the belt, pay and go.

Not me.

First, I wipe the entire cart with wipes. Okay, not the wheels. But I SCRUB the part where SG might sit. I’m teaching her to walk beside me, but sometimes I have to put her in the seat part. The part where I’ve watched countless other kids eat the free, deadly dairy and egg filled cookies from the deli. And goldfish. That seat. And then I wipe down the rest of the cart- including the inside of the cart.

Then I find my ridiculously expensive groceries, reading EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME. Because ingredients change without warning. I have to be sure that what I buy is safe for SG. I also have to keep SG right beside me while reading labels, repeating my mantra to SG “Don’t touch anything!” or “Please keep your hands to yourself!” or “Don’t touch your face!”

When my shopping is finally done it’s time to check out and pay. I try to find our favorite cashiers who know us by name. They know to spray and wipe the belt down for us. I have seen spilled milk on the belts. And there is always some random stickiness. Who knows what that is? With a contact dairy allergy and egg allergy, I take no chances. If I can’t find any familiar faces, I go to a new cashier. I explain quietly that we have food allergies and say “Can you please wipe the belt to keep us safe?” Only one time has a cashier refused to do it. And then I lost my cool. And then she wiped the belt. Anyway, all that to get and buy groceries. And I try to ignore the stares I sometimes get as people behind me look at me like I’m a little crazy for not putting my groceries on the dirty belt.  Sometimes I feel my cheeks turn red.  Sigh.  Not that I really care what other people think. Keeping SG safe is my job as her mother. And I take it very seriously.

Let’s talk about haircuts. I love Great Clips for SG. Mostly for one reason… there is a giant bowl of Dum Dum suckers for kids to have after their hair cut. Doesn’t that sound like a silly reason to choose a place for a kid’s hair to be cut? When we are there, SG gets to have the same treat any other kid gets. It almost makes me cry. Seriously, that doesn’t happen much. We usually have to say, “No thank you. We have food allergies.” At our Great Clips, the stylists wash their hands before cutting SG’s hair and she gets a sucker afterwards.

Thank you, Great Clips. You’re awesome!

Let’s talk about eating out. Well, there’s not much to say, really. We only go out to eat on our date nights.

This whole post is not supposed to be a bummer. It’s a little glimpse into our complicated little world.

Still, I am so very blessed to be SG’s mommy. It’s something I dreamed about, prayed about and cried about for 6 years.

I am blessed to have become pregnant after battling infertility for 6 years.

I’m blessed to be a mother.

I’m blessed to be a stay at home mom.

I’m blessed to be a wife.

I’m blessed my Huzz provides abundantly for our family.

I’m blessed to have regular date nights with the love of my life.

I’m blessed to not have to worry about weight. (Eating dairy, egg and beef free and not eating out much has kept us trim!)

I’m blessed that we followed Dave Ramsey’s plan early in our marriage.

I’m blessed with friends and family who want to keep SG safe.

I’m blessed by a church that goes to great lengths to keep SG safe.

I’m blessed with a Savior who loves me and died for my sins.

I could go on and on. Sometimes I need to sit down and remind myself of my blessings.

Because sometimes, this food allergy life can weigh me down.

Today, I choose to lay it all down at Jesus’ feet and know that no matter what, He’s got this.

I might have to take extra steps and precautions, but it’s all for a very good reason. There’s nothing I won’t do for my SG.

Homeschooling my Preschooler: Easy Paint Chip Sample Games

I have chosen to homeschool SG for preschool this year. I am actually a former public school teacher. Once upon a time in a land far far away from Iowa, I taught first grade. For four years!

Today I’m going to focus on easy games that use paint chip samples. I saw a few pins on Pinterest that used paint chip samples (here on out referred to as PCS). The best thing about PCS are they are FREE! SG randomly collects them when we shop at Lowe’s. It keeps her busy while I browse the actual colors I like.

I had a pile of PCS and started there. A quick trip to the Dollar Tree for a pack of paper clips and clothespins and I was ready to go. I also had Sharpies at home and some stickers. That’s all I needed to make a few easy and cute preschool games.

These games don’t have names. I’ll just make some up right now. 🙂

Game 1: Clip and Count
To Make:
Using a Sharpie, write the numbers 1-10 on ten clothespins. Use 10 PCS and color dots using the Sharpie for each number. One dot for one, two dots for two, etc. We currently focus on 1-10, but you could do 1-20 or counting by 2’s to 10 or 20. Store in a plastic baggie.

Clip & Count

I colored circles with a Sharpie.  Round stickers would also work.

I colored circles with a Sharpie. Round stickers would also work.

To Play:
Mix up the cards and clothespins. Count the dots with child and find the matching numbered clothespin. Let child clip it on the correct PCS. You may have to assist several times before child can play alone. For an added challenge, ask child to put the numbers in the correct order after the clips have been added.

Clip & Count

Game 2: Spell My Name
To Make:
Use a Sharpie to write child’s first, middle, and last name on PCS. One name per PCS. Then write one letter per PCS for their full name. Keep the letters for each name in a separate plastic baggie. Put the whole name in front of the individual letters and store on top of the baggie.

We do this for SG's first, middle, & last name.

We do this for SG’s first, middle, & last name.

I store this with the name card on the front so I can easily grab this game & stay organized.

I store this with the name card on the front so I can easily grab this game & stay organized.

To Play:
Place the name card on a surface. (We play this on the floor.) Mix up the letters that spell that name. Show child how to spell her name using the name card as the guide. Eventually, the child can do this by herself. SG now doesn’t need the name card. She uses it to check herself. This game taught her how to spell her name in just a few weeks! And we only played it 2-3 times a week!

Game 3: Paperclip Counting
To Make:
Choose 5 PCS and write the numbers 1-5 and spell it out under each number. One number per PCS. Count out 15 paperclips. Store both in a plastic baggie.

Paperclip Counting

To Play:
Show child the number 1 and point to the word “one.” Explain she needs to put 1 paperclip on the PCS for the number 1. Repeat with 2, 3, 4, & 5. For a challenge, mix up the cards, have her clip the paperclips herself and then put them in order from 1-5 or descending from 5-1.

Game 4: Sticker Counting
To Make:
Choose 5 PCS and write the numbers 1-5 on the PCS. One number per PCS. Choose 5 more PCS and put one sticker on the PCS for the number 1, two stickers for 2, etc. (I chose to use the same stickers for each PCS because I didn’t want SG memorizing a butterfly sticker for number 1, two balloons for number 2, etc.) Store in a plastic baggie.

Sticker Counting

To Play:
Mix up the sticker PCS and mix up the numbered PCS. Assist child in matching the number 1 PCS to the PCS that has one sticker. Repeat. For a challenge, mix them all together, the stickered and numbered PCS. Have child match them alone and order them from 1-5 or from 5-1.

Game 5: Sticker Spelling
To Make:
You will need one PCS per letter of child’s name. I put one letter per PCS. I did it for SG’s first and middle name. I stored both names together in one bag. If child isn’t ready for this, store one name per baggie.

Sticker Spelling

To Play:
Have child spell her name, assisted or unassisted.

Game 6: Paperclip Addition
To Make:
Choose 3 PCS. Write these math problems on them using a Sharpie: 1+1= 1+2= 1+3= On the other side of the PCS, write the answers. 2 3 4 Store in a plastic baggie along with 9 paperclips.

Paperclip Addition

This is how SG checks her answers.

This is how SG checks her answers.

To Play:
Tell child you are going to teach them how to add numbers. Show her the first PCS of 1+1=. Have her put 1 paperclip above the first number 1 and another paperclip above the second 1. Tell her you are both going to add the paperclips. Count them together. Then tell her it’s just like that for the math problem. Point to the math problem and say, “1+1=…” Then count the paperclips again. Ask her what 1+1=. If she doesn’t say two then you can tell her. Show her how to check her answer by turning the PCS over for the correct answer. (Note: My exact wording isn’t needed. I typed it out as an example of how this can be worded. Feel free to say what works for you and your child.) Repeat per PCS and add more addition problems when child is ready.

I keep all of these games in an inexpensive photo box. The box also matches my living room decor, so the games are nicely camouflaged in our living space.

These are some of the skills SG learns when playing these simple games:
1. Following directions
2. Counting
3. Fine Motor Skills
4. Simple Addition
5. Learning to recognize math symbols (+ and =)
6. Able to put numbers in order from 1-10
7. Able to put numbers in order from 10-1
8. Learning to spell name (first, middle & last)
9. Matching number sets to numbers
10. Sitting still to work on and finish a task

(As a side note, SG is 3. She turns 4 in late November. We started these games in August and they are age appropriate for her.)

SG enjoys these games (especially the paperclip ones!). I love that these games were simple to make and have taught SG a great deal already!

I hope this post has brought encouragement to someone out there.

I have more ideas to share for another day.

What about you, friend? Do you have any easy and frugal preschool ideas?

(I was inspired by this blog post & this one.)

Beef Allergy?

Beef by J.R.

I have to share something.

SG has always eaten beef safely. Mostly cooked ground beef in stuff like spaghetti and meatloaf, but also steak.

This summer, we let her eat her steak cooked medium, the same way we eat it. Normally, we cooked her steak well done. We prepared and grilled it at home. Several times this summer she had 2-3 hives around her mouth, which quickly went away.

After she had steak the last time and broke out in a few hives, the light bulb went off in my head. I sat and thought about it and finally pinpointed it to beef- or rather steak. I thought it was because we tried a new brand of steak and maybe there were cross contamination issues.

The last night she had steak and we realized it must be the beef, I kept SG up late, letting her watch movies and holding her by my side. I was armed and ready with her EpiPen and Benadryl, which thankfully, she didn’t need. She didn’t have a reaction further than the first 2-3 hives, but as a food allergy mom, I know reactions can be delayed.  And can get worse.

Knowing that, I slept fitfully.  I checked on her several times through the night, listening to her steady breathing.  The Huzz held me in his arms and told me it was gonna be alright.  “Beef isn’t that good for you, anyway,” he said.  But as he held me close, a few tears slipped from my eyes.  “Here we go again with food allergies,” I thought.

After the Huzz drifted to sleep, I laid in bed, took deep breaths, and prayed. I prayed for answers, for safety for SG, for wisdom in learning to live with yet another food allergy, if that is the diagnosis. And I didn’t know this exact verse, but I knew most of this verse. I prayed this several times. I looked it up the next morning. Matthew 11:28.

Matthew 11:28

SG tested negative to fish and shellfish in the past but I’ve yet to give her any. When they tested her last week for beef, she was retested for several fish and shellfish. All of the tests were negative. So that’s positive! I will learn to like and cook fish and shellfish. We’ve decided to slowly introduce these foods into SG’s diet.

But back to the beef…

After a week with three different tests, the results are in- kind of. According to the RAST test and the skin test using the beef serum from the allergist, SG is allergic to beef. However, she has been eating well cooked beef since she was small. We skin tested her again with a raw and cooked piece of beef. She had no skin reaction to either!

We have two other blood test results that aren’t in yet. One is checking for the tick thing (I’m not getting into that explanation. Just writing this all out is enough for today.) The other test is to see if she is a high histamine releasing person. There are medical names for these but I just can’t remember them.

Anyway, the allergist recommended we continue to feed her well cooked ground beef, as she is TOLERATING it. That’s the important word.

It’s scary to knowingly feed your child a food you know she is allergic to. But I’ve unknowingly fed it to her for several years. And the downside to complete elimination is she MIGHT possibly lose her tolerance.

The Huzz and I had a convo about giving her a small amount of ground beef with hashbrowns on Saturday mornings. That way she has it first thing in the morning and we are both with her all day.

Let me just tell y’all something. Today, I felt peace that surpasses all understanding. I was prayed up. I prayed no matter what we learned today, I would joyfully say, “Lord, Your will and Your way.”

When SG had her RAST test for beef, we decided to go ahead and check her milk and egg levels.

I prayed her milk level would have gone down, or at least stayed the same. Instead, it rocketed off of the charts. And her egg whites went WAY up. Egg yolk went up, too, but was the least dramatic.

The last time I received her RAST numbers, I BURST into tears. I felt as if my world had come crashing down, for the second time. The initial diagnosis was a HARD day. Reading the hard facts about her RAST test a few weeks later devastated me yet again.

But not this time. I am disappointed. I would be lying if I said it’s all hunky dory. It’s not. But I serve a God who is bigger than food allergies. A friend reminded me that this is a “momentary affliction” in light of eternity. Those words played in my head driving home from the test.

God filled me with His grace and I was able to stand up straight and talk about what needed to be done and get through the appointment without falling apart.

And ya know what? As I’m typing this, a little tear is in my eye. I don’t know if it’s because I’m retelling this beef story, if it’s because I’m overwhelmed by God’s grace or both.

Probably both.

I’m a little 5’1 ball of emotion today.

I know that through it all, God is good. And as much as food allergies STINK and have changed our lives, it’s a part of us. We will continue to be vigilant parents and provide her with a normal childhood.

The Lord has gone before us and is the Alpha and Omega and that comforts me greatly.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7   (NIV)

(Emphasis added by me.)

Food Challenge Update

The Egg designed by my very talented graphic designer- my brother!

The Egg designed by my very talented graphic designer- my brother!

****This was what I wrote back in February but never published. Since writing this, we had to stop the 1/2 cupcake every day. SG starting breaking out in rashes on her body when eating the cupcake. The allergist and I decided to stop the baked in egg cupcakes. We will retest her next year and see if her skin tests and blood tests show an improvement. This is a very delayed update. Thanks to those of you who prayed for us!****

From February 2014:

I was a mess Wednesday night cooking with raw eggs. I was paranoid about cross contamination. I was fighting worry with prayer. Lots of prayer. I had nightmares Wednesday night.

Then the moment came Thursday morning when I watched my miracle child eat a cupcake I had baked that contained a food she is allergic to… That was very hard for me. SG, on the other hand, had no idea what was happening. She is just three and the allergist and I decided we were not going to tell her she was eating baked in egg in her cupcake. We told her we were going to have a little cupcake party at the doctor’s office.

I packed a Tinker Bell paper plate and Tinker Bell napkin. I packed a juice box and bottled water for her. I put it all in our little picnic cooler.

The cupcakes were in a Ziploc bag and then in a Target bag.  There's the Tinker Bell plate & napkin!

The cupcakes were in a Ziploc bag and then in a Target bag. There’s the Tinker Bell plate & napkin!

Then she gobbled up the 1/4 of the chocolate cupcake. And we all waited and stared at her. She was completely fine. She had one light red blotch (not a hive) and that went away in a few minutes. Other than that little incident, she did great. She ate the entire cupcake over about an hour and a half.

We left with instructions to give her one cupcake or muffin daily.

This morning, I gave her an entire chocolate cupcake for breakfast. Right after eating the entire cupcake, she had a little hive on the corner of her mouth. I called the allergist.

After talking to the allergist, SG is not to have an entire cupcake every day. She is to have 1/2 of a cupcake given to her in small portions, every other day. Hopefully, she will tolerate this lower dose better than she did today. I’m glad the Huzz will be with me Sunday as SG eats 1/2 of a cupcake.

Right now I’m feeling the weight of all this. It’s a lot for these little thin shoulders to carry. The Huzz is super supportive but I’m SG’s caregiver. When he’s at work, I have to decide on my own what to do. I’m the stay at home mom. I’m the one with her all day every day calling the shots. I pray when I’m alone with SG I always make the right decisions regarding her food allergies.

So there you have it. The food challenge at the allergist’s office surrounded by the doctor, nurses, The Huzz and me, went amazingly smooth. When I was all by myself with my child, then the hives appeared. Sigh.

Please keep praying for my child. I keep reminding myself,

“God is bigger than food allergies. He is bigger than eggs and dairy. Have faith.”

And here’s the verse I’m praying for SG,

“With God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Because that verse is true my friend. And I’m clinging to it, with all of my heart.

P.S. These past two days have drained me. After writing this I felt very emotional. Wouldn’t you know it, one of our pastors read my prayer request about the food challenge and called shortly after I wrote this and was feeling low. He called to say the pastors have been praying and wanted to check on SG. Coincidence? No. It was just what I needed when I needed it. Thanks, Pastor Kip for praying for us and praying with me on the phone!

Food Allergy Awareness Week: My Mommy Confessions

image

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week. Maybe you already know that food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children under the age of 18 years old in the United States. I’m not going to wow you with a bunch of facts. I’m going to let you know more about us. And how food allergies affect our lives.

So here are my ramblings and confessions about our life and food allergies:

1. We don’t want to be different. Oh, we don’t want to. But we are. We didn’t ask for this lifestyle. We only do what we have to do to keep our child safe.

2. We are not crazy. Yes, sometimes I feel crazy. Or “cray cray”, as SG has come to say.

3. We are not out to ruin anyone’s traditional treats and foods. Birthday cupcakes at school or traditional holiday foods can be DEADLY to children with food allergies. There are plenty of fun, new and safe ways to celebrate birthdays and holidays. You may have to forego a store bought cupcake or that famous mac and cheese or pecan pie, but really, isn’t it worth it to have a loved one with you? We only want to be included in a way that’s safe.

4. That last sentence bears repeating. We want to be included. Food allergies don’t have to define our lives. We live with food allergies. It’s a part of us. But it doesn’t have to define us or isolate us. But sadly, sometimes it does.

5. Our church- a biblical church based on Jesus Christ as Savior- has been amazing! SG is well cared for. Her class all has safe snacks and all kids get wiped with baby wipes. The church has been so wonderful in accommodating our special needs. And the people… the people… they have stood in the gap for us. They have sat with me when I cried and poured out my heart about some difficulties and struggles due to life with food allergies. And then they have touched my heart so deeply and invited us into their homes. Y’all, you just don’t know how much these sweet Christ loving people have touched our hearts. They have shown me the love of Christ in real and tangible ways. You know who you are. And thank you. You are loved.

6. We don’t go out to eat as a family. I have learned to bake and cook. When we first got married, I received an apron that said “Domestically Challenged” and I’m proud to say that is no longer true. While I’m not a chef, I’ve learned I can throw down some good homemade food!

7. I love Vegans. We, however, are not Vegan. But I’ve learned to search “Vegan” whatever and tons of safe and yummy recipes pop up. They have already substituted in baking for me. And we love Vegan products! Hello Daiya cheese & Earth Balance products! SG would never be able to enjoy “cheese” like goodness if it weren’t for all the yummy Vegan products out there. Thanks y’all!!!

8. Worrying is not a good thing and a sin. Yup. I struggle with worry. I’ve found some verses about worry that I’ve highlighted in my Bible.


“But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands…”
Psalm 31:14-15 (NIV)

“…and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
Acts 17:26b (NIV)

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

Food allergies have exposed this sin of worrying and is a reminder daily to trust The Lord with this very precious gift of a child He has given me to raise up. I sometimes struggle balancing doing my part in keeping SG safe and just plain ole worrying.

But then I remind myself,

“God has my times in His hands. He has SG’s times in His hands. I have to be responsible for certain things like her diet and right now her environment, but The Lord has our times in His hands. Worrying will not change that. Trust The Lord. Trust The Lord!!”

9. Food allergies can wear on marriages. Mine has remained strong- and actually, been strengthened by our standing side by side together. We are in this together. I’m thankful for a man who has agreed to keep our house free of dairy and eggs to keep our daughter safe. I know that isn’t always the case and I’m so blessed that we are united in our decisions.

10. Sometimes I get jealous when I see a family eating ice cream. I feel cheated somehow. The moment is fleeting. I’m glad for that. I don’t want to give in to jealousy. I know that’s a sin. Sometimes I get tired of cooking all the time and wish we could go out to eat as a family without worry or stress. Then I snap to my senses and look at the beautiful little reason I’ve given all that up. For six long years we tried and failed to have a baby… until on our very last try we conceived our precious child. Who happens to have food allergies. She is worth it. Who cares, really, about ice cream from an ice cream shop? I have a precious child who is worth every single sacrifice I make.

We are just normal people trying to lead a safe and normal life.

So there you have it- my random thoughts and confessions for Food Allergy Awareness Week.

 

 

 

 

 

Baked in Egg Food Challenge

The Egg designed by my very talented graphic designer- my brother!

The Egg designed by my very talented graphic designer- my brother!

Tomorrow morning we have a baked in egg challenge for SG at the allergist’s office.

I’m excited and terrified at the same time.

I felt weird purchasing eggs today.

I’ve overthought even the cracking of the egg. Raw egg isn’t being tested. Baked egg is. I think I’ll crack the required two eggs on a paper plate and throw it away. No cross contamination please!

I’m praying her little body will tolerate the baked in egg. It’s cupcakes.

So these are my random jumbled thoughts as I prepare to haul my tired self off the couch and bake with eggs for the first time in almost two years!!

Will you please join me in praying for my little baby? Her food challenge is tomorrow, Thursday at 8:45 CT.

I’m praying for the best. I’ll be sure to let y’all know the results.

Thanks, friend.