"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, May 30, 2010

take the stairs

Have you seen this? I love it.


Friday, May 28, 2010

all you need is...stuff, apparently

Do you ever look around your house and feel claustrophobic? I do. Particularly on Christmas afternoon, but throughout the year as well. I'm not a hoarder or a compulsive shopper or into knick knacks or collections, but, Damn. We have a Lot of Stuff.

I have always been naturally drawn to minimalism. In theory. And I think I could embrace it as a lifestyle, too. I would love to clear my life, for once and for all, of the clutter. But I can't. And it's not because I have these emotional attachments to my things or anything like that. It's because I am in the Accumulation Stage of my life.

It was after college that I really started accumulating things. First, it was a husband and all of his Stuff. Bins of stuff. Bins and bins of stuff he hadn't looked at since he left his parents' house, but couldn't let go of either. I had my own bins, too, of course...not to mention the wedding presents. We moved the bins and wedding gifts into our first house and began accumulating furniture. And Decorative Accents, because we had all of these bookshelves and coffee tables and nightstands now. We might as well buy something to put on them.

I wasn't thinking that, one day, children would come and their stuff would become decorative accents anyway. Which brings me to my current position in the Accumulation Stage: Life with Children. Before you have kids, you look at your friends with kids and you think: Why on earth does it take them so long to leave the house to go anywhere? It's just A BABY. How hard is it to put a BABY in a CAR SEAT and Just Go to the mall? But once you have kids, you realize it's not the baby that slows us down...it's the baby's stuff. Where's the binky? We need two in case one touches the ground. Better bring three. We need at least one extra outfit, but remember the blowout yesterday morning?! Better bring two. Grab the diapers and wipes. Where's the Sophie teether for him to play with in the car? And his links. Bring the links in case he's not interested in Sophie today. We should bring a blanket and jacket in case it gets chilly. Don't forget the stroller! Bring the jogging stroller because we'll be walking a lot, but bring the travel system, too, in case he falls asleep in the carseat. We'd hate to have to wake him! By now, the stores at the mall are all closed, but that's okay because you clearly have everything you really need anyway.

But you don't. That's the thing. You always *need* something. And not just groceries and disposable things....What is it about parenthood that makes us keep buying more things? We can't just NOT buy our kids Christmas presents, or Birthday presents, or You Went PeePee on the Potty presents, can we? Not really. I mean, the stuff that entertains my three-year old today won't necessarily entertain him a year from now. But I'll hold onto his outgrown toys for his little brother....so we can't just replace things, either. And I know what the argument to that is: Kids don't need more toys. Take them outside! Take them on Nature Hikes! Tell them stories! Give them an empty box and let their imaginations run wild! Okay. I get it. But I'm a stay-at-home mom with a three-year old and a seven-month old. My reality is that my Big Boy isn't a run through the field kind of kid. He's a play with trucks in the dirt or kick a ball or slide down his slide kind of kid (More Stuff). And an empty box and an imagination are great, but there's also a lot of "Mommy help me make this a car" that comes with the box and imagination...and sometimes Mommy doesn't have time to help him make that into a car. Sometimes Mommy just needs him to play with his fire house and fire men while I put the baby down for a nap (More Stuff).

And what about older kids? What about the stuff THEY accumulate? I just had a conversation with my mom about this. She has eight kids. Two of us are totally out of the house. Two were out but have returned home temporarily. One is out now but may be coming home. One is away at college but comes home on breaks. One is home but leaving for school next fall. And One is at home in high school. My parents' house is like a revolving door of Stuff. My mom is a total neat freak, so she's quick to purge the unneccessary clutter (has to be with eight kids!), but the amount of stuff that comes into and out of their house is insane. BUT....it's not My Parents' stuff.

My mom is in the De-Cluttering Stage of her life and I'm jealous. She told me that she recently gave each of my four brothers a large bin. In each bin were all of their trophies, medals, and other assorted sports-related memorablia from their Little League days. "Keep 'em, Pitch 'em, whatever," she told them, "but do something with them because they're YOURS. Not mine."

And I thought to myself: Oh my god. I haven't even begun accumulating my boys' trophies. Or report cards. Or school pictures. Or handmade clay pots with "Happy Mother's Day" written on the sides.

I think we're going to need a bigger house.

Lesson Learned:
www.becomingminimalist.com

Thursday, May 27, 2010

outtakes

I had my camera out to document the Ice Cream Social. Here's what happened, in order, when I asked Evan to Smile:
Lesson Learned:
Can't wait to see the School Pictures that come home...

we all scream for ice cream!

They make non-dairy ice cream. I can find soy and coconut milk ice cream at my local grocery store. It's pretty good....better when you load it up with some yummy toppings...and of course there's always sorbet for an icy non-dairy treat....but sometimes, you just want a bowl of soft serve. I hadn't even considered the possibility of a smooth, creamy, non-dairy, soft-serve. And then....I found this. This will blow your mind.

There was a recipe for One Ingredient "Ice Cream" posted on the Baby-Led Weaning bulletin board that I read. It's meant for babies--kids who have had the real thing may turn their noses up at it--but my 3-year old LOVED it. My 7-month old *liked* it. He preferred the spoon (it was his first time eating off of one!).

Put away your pens and recipe cards....you won't need 'em.

Ingredient:
Banana.

Directions:
Slice
Freeze
Blend until creamy.

That's really it! Some people add some liquid to speed up the process (apple juice works well, I've heard), but I didn't and it turned out perfectly. I just needed to poke the chunks with a fork a few times in between blending.

Boys eating ice cream!

Big Boy eating ice cream!

Baby Bird eating ice cream!

Lesson Learned:
Ssssshhhhh! Don't tell them it's healthy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

He Eats!

Max is really figuring out this whole Baby-Led Weaning thing. He's actually EATING now, which is such a neat thing to watch. He knows just what is coming when we start setting the table for meals....and starts to get a little impatient if we aren't fast enough in getting his food on his tray. We offer him food twice a day on most days (banana in the morning and fruit and veggies at night). Some days, if he's antsy to join Evan for lunch, I'll offer him some food mid-day. I'm still not sure how much he's eating...a lot of it ends up in his lap...but he seems satisfied to sit through meals with us and I know it's a process. He's already picking some favorites....sweet potatoes, pears, and broccoli, are established favorites.


I love watching him scan his tray before choosing what to grab. This boy knows what he wants.





He's even had his first picnic! Here's Max eating pears at the Botanical Gardens.





My favorite to watch (but not to clean--ugh!) is broccoli. It's fun to smash and smear...





...until it gets in his eyelashes...





...but just look at that face!




A new favorite is watermelon. He'll eat an entire wedge!! He also loved peaches the one time he tried them. This kid sure is lucky to be starting Baby-Led Weaning at the perfect time of year for super-delicious fruit!



Lesson Learned:
For BLW, patience is key. They'll get the hang of it if you remember to just let them lead the way. AND.....I'm finally seeing the benefit of having an October baby: Sure, it meant that the first four months of his life we were practical shut-ins...but he hit perfect time of year to be starting solids....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

hat head

For some reason, as soon as my babies can sit up by themselves, I have this uncontrollable urge to put things on their heads. I can't explain it, I just find babies with "hats" to be very adorable and funny. It's genetic. When my older sister was a baby, my dad apparently put things on her head, too. It continued with each of my seven siblings. Some of the memorable hats, the ones that live on in Keenan Family Folklore are the dishtowel hat, which was known as the Queen of Sheeba hat, and the empty coffee-maker box, which was known, obviously as The Grand Percolater. Like I said, I can't explain it.

In no particular order, here are:

Tiny Oven Mitt:

(with apologies to my son, who will forgive me...)
Sister Mary Clarence:

Rainbow Block Head:


Princess Leia:
Punky Mohawk:
Ring Head:


Lesson Learned:

Maybe this is why Evan refuses to put on his bike helmet.......

Monday, May 17, 2010

things you know

You know summer is right around the corner when you find yourself licking your arm so as not to waste a drop of that sweet watermelon goodness.

You know it's a serious nap when, in his sleep, your baby smiles, then laughs, then wrinkles up his forehead in an I'm-about-to-cry squinch, and finally drops the chin and lets his mouth just hang wide open.

You know your husband Gets It when he comes home from work, takes a minute to survey the damage of the day written all over your face, and then announces, "You know, I could really go for some take-out tonight."

You know you're a Food Allergy parent when you see your kid put something from the playground into his mouth and you say, "Oh good. It's only sand."

You know it's May, but not yet even June, when the whine du jour becomes, "It's too hot to play outside." And then you also know it's going to be a long, whiny summer.

You know your 3-year old wasn't *quite* ready to wake up from his nap when he comes downstairs whining, "I am NOT going to take a nappy. I jus' too tired to sleep."

You know you're not hiring the contractor that hands you an estimate for your bathroom remodeling project with the word "construction" misspelled in the company logo.

You know you've reached a new low when you use your finger to swipe something brown and mushy off the kitchen chair...and you're *pretty sure* that it's Sunbutter, but just to be sure, You Lick Your Finger. (Um, no. I've never done that....that would be gross.)

You know you used to be a teacher when May rolls in and you get that uncontrollable urge to start packing stuff up and organizing things in closets.

You know you're a Food Allergy parent when you go to Disney World for the food.

You know your baby brother already looks up to you when his eyes get all twinkly, his face breaks into a wide, 2-toothy grin, and he starts wiggling his whole body when he sees you.

You know your big brother already loves you when, even mid-tantrum, he'll stop whatever he's doing if you start to cry just so he can put on his best Make The Baby Laugh routine--and it works every time.

And you know you're one Lucky Mama when your two boys, who have only known each other for seven months, are already Best Buddies.

Lesson Learned:
See that? You're smarter than you think.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

my little funny man

One of my brothers came home a couple of years ago and announced that he had become a stand-up comedian. We weren't shocked.

Well, I think the funny gene has seeped it's way into my firstborn. He's discovered The Joke. It's one of my favorite mini milestones so far, I think. He's developing his spoken and receptive language skills while learning about conversational give-and-take, and of course, honing that sense of humor. He's always enjoyed a good gag and is an easy giggler. When he heard his first joke, however, and you could *see* the wheels turning as he tried to create one himself, THAT was priceless.

It all started when his daddy told him the classic, "Why'd the chicken cross the road..." That was met with hand-over-the-mouth laughs and was repeated to me as: "MOM! Why'd the chicken...um...why'd the chicken go on the road?" "I don't know, why, baby?" "To get on the other SIDE!" [hahahahahaha].

Then I blew his mind with this gem: Why'd the chicken cross the playground? "Hmmmm? I don't know why, mommy." To get to other SLIDE! He immediately had that twinkly-eyed look: He got it, and was amazed at the pun. And was probably also stunned that his lowly ol' mommy knew something so clever.

It was then that you could almost see the words coming together in his brain. He was playing with language and thinking of how to use his own words in a clever way. He wanted to come back with a comedic match. Here's what he came up with:

E: Why'd the chicken cross the road?
Me: Why?
E: To.....um....to drive....to drive on the big steamroller! [hahahahahahahaha!]

So....he's still working on his delivery. But who doesn't like a joke that ends with the old standby steamroller gag?

Over the past few days, and several times a day, Evan will stop what he's doing and say, "Let's tell jokes!" So he'll tell me about the chicken and the road (or steamroller) and I'll have to come up with a new one, although he'll play along even when it's a repeat: "A hot...! I mean...Um, I don't know mommy? What do you call a puppy in the middle of the summer?" Do you know how hard it is to come up with jokes under pressure? Is this how Johnny Carson felt?

As good as the laughs are when the jokes are funny, my favorite are the laughs when the jokes are over his head. He knows that, when the joke is over, he's supposed to laugh. So he does--hand over the mouth, huge belly laughs.

My dad, the Original Jokester in this funny family lineage, shared some of his tried and trues with Evan over the phone the other day.

Pop: What's the difference between a chicken and a henway?
Evan: I don't know, Pop, what?
Pop: [whisper cue: "Say: What's a henway?"]
Evan: Oh! What's a henway?
Pop: Oh, about four or five pounds!!
Evan: [silent contemplation]
Evan: Oh! [fake comprehension] hahahahahahaha!!

And the other family "favorite:"
Me: Did you hear we're supposed to get some snew later today?
Evan: What?
Me: ["Say, What's snew?"]
Evan: Oh! What's snew?
Me: Nothing! What's snew with you?!
Evan: [staring at the crazy mommy] But when are we going to get some? Can I have some?

Lesson Learned:
You know what comedic truth doesn't need to be taught? Potty humor kills every time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

resources

For parents, teachers, friends, and your food allergic child, here are some helpful resources:


The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
http://www.foodallergy.org/


Kids with Food Allergies
http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/


Food Allergy Initiative
http://www.faiusa.com/


Food Allergies for Dummies by Robert A. Wood, M.D. and John Kraynak


Children's Books:

Allie the Allergic Elephant by Nicole Smith (Peanut Allergy)
Chad the Allergic Chipmunk by Nicole Smith (Nut Allergy)
Cody the Allergic Cow by Nicole Smith (Milk Allergy)
Bugabees Friends with Food Allergies by Amy Recob (Top 8)


Cookbooks:

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
Kid Friendly Allergy Cookbook by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Marie Rominger
Sophie-Safe Cooking by Emily Hendrix


Lesson Learned:

It's a whole lot easier to navigate these uncharted waters by following someone else's map.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the silver lining

As much as I can whine and complain about it, though, there have been some unexpected positive points that have come out of Evan's food allergies, here are just a few:

*I learned to Trust my Mother's Intuition. For 9 months, we dealt with dozens of unusual symptoms, issues, and ailments that *seemed* to add up to more than your typical newborn maladies. When we could finally connect all of the dots with One diagnosis of Food Allergies, I felt justified in my repeat visits to the pediatrician and my "overprotectiveness."

*I learned how to cook.

*I learned how to bake.

*If one of my kids ever comes to me at 9pm on the night before a school celebration, with a note requesting baked goods for the class, and I don't have eggs in the fridge...I won't have to go to the store or bug the neighbors. I can think of 6 different ways to substitute for eggs in a recipe now.

*I have learned a lot about what is *in* food. Start reading labels and you may be surprised. And icked out.

*I've also learned about what's NOT in some foods: I don't know how they do it, but Oreos and Hunt's Lemon "pudding" are both dairy-free. Um...sort of ick, but I'll take it!

*My kid is not That Kid, screaming and crying about the injustices of the world when I refuse to flag down the Ice Cream Man as he drives through our neighborhood. (In this house, that magical van is still known as The Music Truck....and it's a mystery as to why the kids go running towards it.....)

*I have become confident in my role as my child's medical advocate. I don't blindly follow the advice of my pediatrician (although I could....she is wonderful), but research, deliberate, and decide what's in our best interest. And it's not always the same answer each time or for each child.

*Evan has been exposed to a much wider variety of foods than he would have been otherwise: quinoa, arrowroot, tapioca flour, coconut milk, and sunflower seed butter, are just a few things that I would never have purchased if not for the allergies.

*I have been touched, time and time again, by the consideration and the kindness of others. From my sister, who went out of her way to make Thanksgiving Dinner safe for my son (and the 21 other guests she hosted!); to my neighbor who is nearly fanatical (in a good way) about hand-washing when our kids play together; to the playgroup mommies who call to verify what my son's allergies are before packing their kids' lunches; to the friends who *don't* bring peanut butter sandwiches and Go-Gurt to my house; to my brothers and sisters (in their teens and 20s) who don't roll their eyes or make fun when I fall all over myself to ensure that they have washed their hands before touching Evan (and now even remember to do it on their own); to the mommies who make safe Birthday Party Goodie Bags for Evan (so I don't have to take half of the goodies away from him when we get home); to the Preschool Director who, when I told her about Evan's allergies said automatically and casually, "Then his classmates will bring fruits or vegetables for snack, no cheese;" to all the people who, when they learn of his allergies, *don't* look at me, or him, with sadness or say things like, "Wow, that poor kid." .......to name a few..................

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such good people.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

watch. Please. Watch.

This video is by the Food Allergy Initiative. It's a nice summary of the fears, struggles, and hopes shared by parents of children with severe food allergies.




Lesson Learned:
They said it best. We need a cure.

Monday, May 10, 2010

living with food allergies

Lessons Learned:

Potential symptoms of food allergies in an infant:
(obviously not every food allergic kid will have all of these, and many kids with some of these do NOT have food allergies, but if this list is alarmingly familiar and you have that hunch.....call the doc)

*"colic"
*bloody/mucousy stools
*failure to thrive
*chronic congestion
*reflux
*eczema
*extremely foul-smelly gas/poop
*vomiting/extreme spitting up
*gassy, uncomfortable baby
*"allergy shiners" (black circles under eyes, more common in older babies/kids)

People who don't know people with food allergies often don't Get It.
(Sorry for the snarkiness that follows.)

*No, you can't make Mac'n'Cheese with water instead of milk to make it safe for my dairy-allergic kid. That yellow powder, believe it or not, is actually "cheese."

*Yes, my kid will break out in hives if your child touches him with hands covered in Goldfish dust. So Thank You in advance, for washing your child's hands.

*Incidentally, "white" bread is made out of "wheat" also, so: No, he can't eat that. (Well, he can now, but this happened when he was reacting to wheat.)

*While we're at it: Just don't feed my kid. It's easier for him to just eat what he brought than for me to have to take something away from him.

*Your lactose intolerance is NOT the same as my kid's dairy allergy. He cannot have lactaid or take a pill before he eats a bowl of ice cream. A slip-up for you means an upset stomach. A slip-up for us means a trip to the emergency room.

*It's okay to eat something he can't have in front of him (I'll always have something similar that IS safe for him), just don't look at him sadly while you DO eat the pizza/ice cream/donuts/cake/etc. because then he WILL feel left out.

*And if you're going to comment on his diet (which I don't understand anyway, by the way...I don't comment on what your kid eats), don't say that eating this "diet" is a great way to "lose weight." We happen to be falling off the weight growth chart around here (he and I both, while I nurse an infant on a restricted diet) and we're a little sensitive about it. So just stop with the "Wow, he is/you are so skinny/lucky" comments.

*Please don't tell me that we're lucky it's "just" food allergies that we're dealing with because he'll outgrow them. He might. But he might not. And even if he does, that doesn't make today's struggles any easier.

*Don't make his food allergies his defining characteristic. Before the allergies, he's my sweet, smart, hilarious, compassionate, adorable little boy

Did you know.........
(from FAAN: The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network)

*Although reasons for this are not clearly understood, the prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis are on the rise. The incidence of a peanut allergy DOUBLED in children over a five year period (1997-2002).

*More than 12 million people in the US have food allergies. That's 4% of the population.

*3 million children in the US have food allergies, including one in 17 among those under 3 years old.

*Although the "Top 8" account for 90% of food allergies (milk, wheat, egg, soy, peanuts, treenuts, fish, and shellfish), there in NO inherently hypoallergenic food, and someone could have a reaction to any food.

*Most people who have an allergic reaction to a food have eaten that food before and thought it was safe.

*Allergies can start at any time, even in adulthood.

*There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of the food and early recognition and management of the allergy are crucial measures to take to keep the food allergic person safe.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

journey to the unknown

In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week (didn't know there was one, didya?), I thought I'd share our experience learning of Evan's multiple and severe food allergies. And what better place to start, than at the very beginning............

The first two weeks of Evan's life were perfect. Blurry, brand-new, full of unknowns, and mostly sleepless, but perfect. By the end of the second week, however, my quiet, peaceful baby had changed. Beginning at 7pm every night, we quickly ate dinner, got ready for bed, and got things ready for the next day as quickly as possible because, at any time, the Screaming would start. It started every night by 8 and lasted until midnight or later (sometimes much, Much Later), at which time all three of us would have finally passed out, two of us having cried ourselves to sleep. The days were better, but still difficult. And by the end of the week, I was That New Mom: rocking the inconsolable, screaming infant, sobbing on the phone to her husband to Come Home Now. He did, and we brought our baby to the doctor where he was diagnosed with the malady that no new mom wants to hear: Colic.

So we were facing six months of this screaming. This helplessness. This SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MY BABY. The doctors gave us some tips to try (we were already trying them all...we had, of course, already googled "colic remedies") but basically just told us to hang in there. But by some weird coincidence, before the crying started, I had read an article in one of my parenting magazines that reported that probiotics had been shown to be beneficial in treating colic. At the time, I remember thinking, "Man. Glad my kid doesn't have that." I mentioned the research to Evan's pediatrician, who supported the treatment plan 100%, and we started Evan on probiotics the very next day. This saved our lives. Well, our sanity, anyway. The probiotics soothed Evan's troubled little tummy and he was so much happier. My baby was back.

We kept Evan on the probiotics for three months, at which point we sloooooowly weaned him off. To our complete surprise and joy, the crying never returned. He was healed.

Or so we thought.

Within a few days or weeks (I wasn't really paying attention, not knowing that I'd be later trying to connect the dots....), we noticed eczema in his elbow and knee creases, and under his chin. He was a little baby who drooled a lot, though, and it was during the hottest part of the summer, so we wrote it off. We treated it and kept him comfortable, but didn't give it much deeper thought. Over the next few months, he broke out in several random rashes, continued to be a scruncher (he was never a Lay All Out kind of baby, always had his knees scrunched up to his belly), and didn't sleep (but that was nothing new), but again.......he was generally a happy baby.

When he was about 9 months old, we gave him his first taste of Baby Yogurt. After a few bites he had a slight rash around his mouth. I called my mom (mother of eight, former pediatric nurse) who said, "Hmmmmm....could be nothing, but you might want to stop feeding him the yogurt and run it by the pediatrician." Uh Oh. My mom never tells me to call the pediatrician. I must have called her a billion times since his birth ("Is he eating enough?" "Is he eating too much?" "He's got a cough/runny nose." "Is this poop normal?" etc.) and she NEVER told me to call the pediatrician. The times that warranted a doc call, I already had. So....I called. The pediatrician who I spoke to said it could be "something" or it could be nothing, and to try the yogurt again tomorrow. After a single taste the next day, the lower half of Evan's face turned fire engine red, and I called the doctor. I was shocked, SHOCKED when she told me that it sounded like Food Allergies.

We have no family history of allergies. I did everything "right" to lower Evan's chances for developing allergies: I breastfed, I delayed introduction of solids until after he turned six months old, and when we did, we introduced only one new food every four days. He hadn't tasted any of the Top 8 allergens (milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts) until the milk-based yogurt. Little did I know that none of these things matter. Food Allergies can "happen" to anyone, at any time.

I was told to avoid the Top 8 until he turned a year old. No problem....the only one of the Top 8 he had had was the yogurt. I started paying attention to food labels a little bit (most of the Stage 3 baby food jars contain milk or wheat, FYI...but who wants to eat pureed Chicken and Dumplings anyway? Ick.) but didn't make any major lifestyle changes.

When Evan was 10 months old, we were visiting my family while my husband attended work-related meetings in their area. I was feeding Evan his breakfast of rice cereal and peaches when I noticed that tell-tale rash around his mouth. Impossible, I thought....he had eaten rice and peaches dozens of times with no problems. I reached for the box of rice cereal....a new brand, but still just rice cereal, right? Wrong. There at the bottom of the Nutrition Label, in clear, bold print: "Contains: Milk" Oh. Shit.

By the time I looked back at my baby, he was covered from head to toe in hives. I yelled for my mom (naturally) and grabbed him out of the high chair. He began projectile vomitting. I could do nothing but hold him while he expelled the contents of his belly, became increasingly red, rashy, and hivey, and started to go limp. When he finally regained some control, I gave him some benadryl and called my pediatrician who told me: "He's having an allergic reaction that could potentially lead to anaphylaxis. Go to the Emergency Room."

Emergency Room?

Anaphylaxis?!

He, thankfully, did not experience breathing difficulties. His throat and tongue did not swell. We were lucky. This time.

We made an appointment at a pediatric allergist as soon as we got back home. After a skin prick test of 53 allergens, Evan's allergy list came back. He was allergic to: milk, egg, wheat, oats, peanuts, treenuts, green olive (olive oil), black pepper, and malt (derived from either corn or barley, malt is the result of a fermentation process and is used in flavoring: maltodextrin, for example, or "malted barley flour"). We were given an Allergy Action Plan and two Epi-Pens to keep with us at all times in the event of an anaphylactic reaction. And as it turned out, according to the allergist, all of those seemingly random infant issues (the colic, the eczema, the rashes, the scrunching, the sleep issues) were actually warning signs. If only we had known how to read them.......

Talk about a life style change. We got home from the allergist appointment and I opened the pantry. I burst into tears (again) as I realized how much work this Living With Allergies thing was going to take. We couldn't eat 92% of what was in there (I was still breastfeeding at the time and needed to immediately cut the allergens out of my diet, as well). Allergens were hiding in our cereals, sauces, boxed rice dishes, marinades, salad dressings, everything. I was going to have to go shopping....and worse: I was going to have to learn how to cook. Not just "make food," but cook. From scratch. And baking! Don't get me started on baking. How the hell was I supposed to bake my baby a First Birthday Cake with no WHEAT, EGGS, or MILK?!

So I went shopping. I spent a loooooonnnnggg time reading labels in the grocery store. I started researching. I learned how to cook and how to bake. I made a wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free "cake" that I was able to stick a candle on and present to my one-year old boy on his Very Special Day (the rest of the party ate "real" cupcakes...you know, from a box). I found a great on-line community of moms of kids with food allergies who Get It (and who have already figured out how to cook, bake, and shop). And we learned that Living With Food Allergies really isn't that different from our former lives--we're just careful, and prepared.....and actually, healthier. We eat whole foods now--meat, veggies, fruit, potatoes, rice, etc. And aside from the occasional chicken nuggets or hot dog (Hebrew National are safe!), we don't eat a lot of processed foods.

Since our journey into allergies began, Evan's list has changed a bit. He has outgrown his allergies to wheat and oats. We believe his positive results for green olive and black pepper were false positives (no reactions). And we now know that his "malt allergy" is actually a barley allergy, and he can tolerate malt derived from corn. We've also added a few seasonal and environmental allergies.

Evan's Current List:

Milk
Egg
Peanut
Treenut
Fish
Shellfish
Barley
Cantaloupe
Dog
Seasonal

But there's good news: following the recent RAST testing Evan had, we have been given the green light to "challenge" egg. We'll go to the allergist's office in June with a couple of hard-boiled eggs and some guacamole to mix it in and let Evan have at it. It's scary to challenge a new food. It's probably kind of like letting your kid jump into the deep end for the very first time: He's had the swimming lessons, you're right there if he needs you, but you're giving him permission to do something potentially Very Dangerous.

So that's our story. We're a different family now than we were 2.5 years ago. We know things we never thought we'd have to learn (like, how to make vegan chocolate chip cookies, or how to stab our preschooler with a needle filled with epinepherine). I'm approaching food-introduction completely differently with Max than I did with Evan, and am dairy-free while nursing him. And as scary as Evan's one serious reaction was......I wouldn't trade this part of him for anything. It's just a part of who he is....

Lesson Learned:

I can't write anything definitive here....we're still learning as we go.........