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

Thursday, June 17, 2010

dream come true

So a few weeks ago, I was notified that I was about to realize my life-long dream of becoming a taste tester. Is there a better gig? The good people at Enjoy Life Foods (a company dedicated to making great-tasting, allergen- and gluten-free baked goods, cereals, and snacks) chose me, ME!, to join their taste-testing panel. I was told that I would receive samples of a new product that they were trialing to taste and report my opinion on.

You know what my first assignment was?

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE BITES! Do they know their taste-tester or WHAT?! So the way the REAL taste test worked was simple: I was to sample the three cookies, in order, and separated by sips of water and fill out an on-line survey while I completed the test. It was an easy and delicious assignment, and I was happy to do my part. Really happy. So happy, in fact, that if anyone else has some double chocolate brownie bites for me to taste, I suppose I would be willing to help out again.

So after the taste test, I started thinking......here I have ALL these delicious treats sitting in my pantry. Delicious treats that just so happen to be perfectly safe for my food allergic kiddo.....should I be a good sharer and let Evan play, too? Of course I should. So I set up a Taste Test Challenge for him and two of his cousins. Unfortunately, Evan decided to throw a tantrum and refuse dinner the night of the Challenge, so he had to sit it out. BUT, the next night....he was a happy little guy, so the Taste Test Challenge resumed.

The Samples:

The materials (testing plate and ballot):

The ballot:

Evan was more than happy to help out.

The Taste Test Challenge Begins with a bite of Cookie #1:
Each bite was carefully considered.
The ballot was filled out.
More tasting......
More deliberating.....
More judging....
After all three cookies were sampled, Evan spent several minutes (and required several more bites) deciding which of the three cookies was his favorite.
And finally, though the race was a close one, a winner was chosen:

Lesson Learned:

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Enjoy Life Foods, thanks for letting us play!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

yin and yang

I didn't sleep at all the night before my 20-week ultrasound during my second pregnancy. I wasn't worried about the ultrasound, really, but we were going to find out the gender of our baby. And what I thought we were about to find out kept me awake.

The first 20 weeks of my second pregnancy couldn't have been more different than the first half of my first pregnancy. The exhaustion and nausea were still there, but all the little pregnancy quirks were completely different. With my first, I craved macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, and mashed potatoes. With my second, I craved lemonade. That's it. I didn't want to eat anything or drink anything but lemonade. I did...but I wasn't happy about it. With my first pregnancy, my hair turned dark brown and got waves for the first time in my life. During the beginning of my second pregnancy, all of my hair fell out. Well, not all, but an alarming amount. The heartburn I had with my first was noticeably absent with my second.....and so on......

And so, because of these differences, I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was pregnant with a girl.

And I was fine with that. Really, I was. But still, I couldn't sleep. I didn't feel like the mother of a girl. And worse: I didn't know her name. Sam and I had known for a long time that our next baby boy was going to be Max. It was just one of those names that one of us said one day and the other said, "That's it!" and that was that. He was ours.

But a girl?! We had a list of names but couldn't narrow it down even a little. In the morning, we were going to find out that we were having a girl...and HOW COULD I SLEEP WHEN I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO CALL MY BABY?!

But then, [as if you don't know how this story ends....] the ultrasound tech got the measurements she needed, found the shot that we were waiting for and.....Yup. Definitely a boy. I breathed a sigh of relief because I DID know my baby's name. It was Max. It had been Max all along. And the differences in the pregnancies? Only the first of many, many examples of how my two boys, born into the same family, living in the same house, raised by the same parents, are Completely Different.

*Evan's labor and delivery were two-days past due, even, methodical, smooth, and even calm. Max came roaring into this world a week ahead of schedule and so fast and furious that he almost sent his non-medicated mommy into an emergency cesarean section.

*Evan: full head of dark, curly, mohawked hair. Max: Totally Bald.

*Evan has the most gorgeous, huge green/brown eyes that have these big, deep, soulful pupils that make him look like he's seeing everything and more. Max has the most gorgeous, huge denim-blue eyes that have these little pupils that let you just sink deeper into the beautiful blue....

*Evan was a sensitive baby who didn't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time, punctuated by hysterics and inexplicable wakefulness. Max, though not a sleep-through-the-night kind of kid (I just don't think I'm going to have one of those....), was a much easier sleeper from day one. A great napper and just plain go-with-the-flow.

*Evan is still my long and lean string bean. Max: Thick as a Brick. Have you seen those thighs? The other day, Evan asked, "So what is a Thunder Thigh?" Guess I've been letting that slip.....

*Evan didn't pick up food. He went straight to utensils and would have nursed or let me spoon-feed him forever. Max (because of BLW) has been eating finger food from the beginning of solids, looks at me like I'm a crazy person if I move towards him with a spoon full of food, and is already trying to drop nursings! Too soon, little baby!

*Evan achieved all of his gross-motor milestones right on schedule. As soon as I started reading in baby books or online that "your baby might begin rolling over," he did. And he would work up to these milestones in such a way that I always knew when he was about to accomplish a new trick. I'd have time to get the camera and video ready to capture his every First. Not Max. While still on schedule, he goes from Not Doing something to Doing something like a pro so fast that I almost forget to write it on his milestones calendar. One day about a month or so ago (see?), he saw Evan across the room and started scooting over towards him. Just like he'd done it a hundred times. So effortlessly, in fact, that I almost didn't notice it. Like, "Oh. There he goes. No big deal." The other day he was able to get into a sitting position from his belly with such ease that I wonder if he's been practicing at night.......

*As a baby, Evan's eyes would pop open from a nap and his mouth would simultaneously open in an I'M AWAKE IN HERE COME GET ME wail. Max will often play for a few minutes (or longer, probably, if I'd let him) before wanting to get up from a nap.

I absolutely love their differences. I love that they are unique individuals from their appearances to their personalities. It is helping me to become a more flexible parent, I think, because it's clearly obvious that one style of parenting will not fit all. Already, in these 8 fast-as-lightning months, I'm a different mommy to Max than I was to Evan. Part of that is birth order: the simple fact that I've been here before and know more now what to expect and what to do. But the other factor is their distinct personalities. I love that I don't get to choose who they are. I love that I will be getting to know them as they grow, and mature, and develop into who they want to be. I can't wait to see what they become.......

Lesson Learned:
Oil and Water or Peanut Butter and Jelly? Wonder how these two opposites will fit together....

Friday, June 11, 2010

strong like bamboo

Here it comes. A true confessional blog post:

Up until this point, parenting has been relatively easy for us. Not "easy" like "not hard," but "easy" like "doesn't suck the life out of you." Lately, not so much. My three-year old is working hard to earn the preschool superlatives Most Stubborn and Best Tantrum and my 8-month old has recently stolen Evan's former title: Mr. Early Riser.

Evan has never been a good sleeper, but up until a few weeks ago, when we kissed him goodnight and shut the door ("closed but not tight"), we could rest assured that he would lay in his bed, twirl his hair, tuck in his Tiger, and......eventually.......sometimes after two hours or more........fall asleep. Somehow, he has learned that those doors that open during the daytime also open at night, and he's taking full advantage of his new-found "freedom." He's not really "free," of course, because we're not just going to let him run all over the house at 9 o'clock at night (yet). He sneaks out of his room, tiptoes down the stairs and starts running around, shrieking this maniacal laugh, while we (I admit) chase him. We bring him upstairs, tuck him in and it starts over again. Last night he finally passed out sometime after 10pm. He was up for the day at 6am. He is three. This is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Max has learned that each of the two times he wakes up during the night he gets to eat. Soooooooo.....why not wake up three times? Oooooh! I know! Let's wake up every hour! Think she'll feed me every hour? No? Okay, then UP FOR THE DAY AT 5am IT IS!

This up-all-night behavior is making these boys cranky, whiny, clingy and in Evan's case: tantrum-y.

And all this chasing and feeding and not-sleeping enough is making this mommy cranky, short-fused, and yelly.

I'm not a yeller by nature. If something upsets me, I'll usually deal with it quietly. By ignoring it, crying about it later, or, in rare moments of productivity, I'll come up with a carefully worded response or argument stating my position. I've used a loud voice before. I've even yelled, but I don't like how it sounds and I don't like how it feels. So I try not to do it.

But I've been yelling lately. At my three-year old. [sniff.] I don't say mean things; I yell things like "Stop and look at me!" or "Just go back to your bed!" or [gulp] "BECAUSE I SAID SO!" I tell myself that it's the only way that he listens to me when he's in the middle of one of his all-out, raging, hysterical tantrums. But I don't think that's it. I think I do it because it's easy. It just comes out. It doesn't require restraint or patience or compassion. And, unfortunately, it's effective. Because I don't do it often, when I do yell, he knows I mean serious business. (And I do.) So I yell, he pauses long enough for me to get his attention, and then I can move forward to changing his hysterical or dangerous or just plain obnoxious behavior. And that is all the positive reinforcement I need to learn that if I want to get him to listen, I have to yell.

But that's about to change.

I'm frustrated with his behavior, to be sure, but HE'S THREE. He's a BABY! What is really troubling me lately, is my response to his behavior.....my yelling. It may be effective in the short term, but parenting isn't about the short term. I need to find something that works and doesn't make me want to cry. And I have to realize that HE'S THREE. This is a phase. I won't be sending him off to college [sniff!] telling him to Go Back To Bed for the 100th time.

So, I'm going to take the following pearls of wisdom and use them to shape a more positive, compassionate, patient response to Evan's tantruming:

From my Grandma, a beautiful, thoughtful, and REAL woman (and mother of FIVE boys!), whose compassion and wisdom I admire and try to draw strength from: "Just don't sweat the small stuff, sweetie." Because, in the big picture of our lives, this is just a blip. I need to look at the bigger picture, the fact that, in between the tantrums he is a loving, cuddly, thoughtful, and sensitive little boy. He is imaginative, creative, and passionate. He is playful and giggly and he loves loves loves his baby brother.

From a friend, a mother of three grown children: "Little kids, little problems; Big kids, big problems." Don't stress out now, there's lots of room for worry in the future. [gulp] As "big" a deal as this feels right now, when I ask my mom (mother of eight) how she dealt with bedtime troubles and tantrums, she says, "I don't know, we just got through it." EIGHT TIMES. See? So this won't scar either one of us. We'll get through it and move on to bigger issues, which again will feel monumental at the time.

And from a cousin, who reminded me of this quote that I first learned in an East Asian Art History class: "Be strong like bamboo; Always bend, but never break." I will be flexible. I will bend to appropriately respond to his behavior. I will not give in to his tyrannical demands, but I also will not break.

Lesson Learned:
Breathe. Ignore the tantrum. Hug that sweet, adorable boy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Part 3: Evan vs. Egg

A few months ago, Evan had a RAST test done to see if his IgE levels were low enough to challenge some of foods he's allergic to. While his milk and peanut levels are still off the charts, his doctor wanted to go ahead and challenge Egg. In a food challenge, a teeny tiny bite of the food is given to the patient. After 15 minutes of observation (during which we were looking for signs of an allergic reaction: itching, redness, hives, congestion, coughing, vomitting, swelling, difficulty breathing, etc.), another, slightly larger bite is given. Another 15 minute observation follows and the process repeats until the equivelent of a serving has been given. It takes several hours.

When the nurse called to tell me the [wonderful] news, I asked her for specifics on what we should bring in for him to eat during the food challenge. I assumed that we would be challenging BAKED egg, and wasn't sure how many eggs I should bake into my batch of super-delicious cupcakes that I just knew Evan would happily consume during the challenge. Silly me. We weren't challenging BAKED egg. We were challenging EGG. As in Hard-Boiled Egg. As in, There is No Way on Earth My Picky Eater Will Touch This With a Ten-Foot Pole. I told the nurse that "encouraging" my 3-year old to eat something new....something, not to mention, that we have previously told him to avoid eating, touching, or even being near....might be more of a challenge than she realizes, she responded, "No problem. Just bring his favorite food to mix it in." Hmmmmmm.....how to disguise a hard-boiled egg in his favorite food? He loves yogurt, but picks out all of the "berries." He'd pick out the egg, too. He loves applesauce, but drinks it through a straw.....don't know if egg would work in that. After much deliberation, I came up with sunbutter (I could roll the egg into a sunbutter pinwheel and he'd be none-the-wiser), and GUACAMOLE! It has a strong flavor, is already chunky, and he'd get to eat it with chips! Perfect.

Now to prepare Evan for what was to come. The weekend before our Monday morning appointment, we began to talk to Evan about the Egg Challenge....just as we had talked to him about the blood draw needed for the RAST testing. We explained that the doctor was going to do a science experiment to see if he could eat eggs. "He doesn't think you're allergic to eggs anymore, but we need to find out for sure." We talked about how, sometimes, when we're at a doctor's office, we need to do things we don't want to do....like sit still while we get a vaccine, or Eat Eggs, because the doctor is just trying to keep us healthy. He seemed to get it. He role-played Egg Challenge a few times. We read Green Eggs and Ham and learned that, "Say! I do like them Sam-I-Am!" We were ready to take on the Egg.

So the food challenge started with a physical exam to establish a baseline from which to measure any reactions. The nurse took a hard boiled egg and cut off the tiniest little sliver of egg white. She put it in a measuring spoon and handed it to Evan and said, "There you go, Evan. Eat up!"

Um. Right. So Evan gave her a look that said, "YOU eat it," and I took the spoon from him before he could chuck the thing across the room. I reminded him about everything we had talked about the two days prior and told him that it was time to be a big, brave boy. He kinda opened his mouth a teensy bit, so I shoved the spoon in there. Out came the egg. Oooooookay. So reasoning and shoving didn't work. I tried the No Nonsense approach: "Look. We're here to eat an egg. You're going to eat the egg." Nope. I tried the bribery approach: "See those lollipops over there? Guess who gets to eat one......as soon as he eats this itty bitty bite?!" Uh-uh.

By this time, we're talking full-on I'm Not Going To Eat That tantrum happening. Mouth clamped shut, head shaking "no," body turning into a noodle when I try to pick him up.....you can picture it I'm sure. At this point the doctor and nurse exchanged a glance and said, [cheery cheery] "Okay! Well, why don't you guys just let us know when he's eaten it!" and quickly exited the room. Sam and I exchanged a look of our own....a look that said, "I don't know. You deal with it." And Max exchanged a look with all three of us that said, "I'll eat it!"

And so, I stooped to my all-new Parenting Low. Sam distracted Evan and I hid the egg in a sunbutter pinwheel. "Here, Evan. Eat this instead." "Is it egg?" [here it comes....] "It's sunbutter. You love sunbutter." And he ate it. At which point, I wiped the sweat off my brow and breathed a sigh of relief. Until it occurred to me that I HAD JUST FED MY, up until this point, EGG-ALLERGIC SON AN EGG. I started watching him like a hawk, looking for any sign of reaction. For 15 minutes I stared at the kid. I analyzed every twitch, itch, sniff, and blink. Finally, the nurse came back in, checked his vitals, and asked us how he was doing. "Great!" Sam and I said.

And then she started measuring his next dose. The morning continued like this, with me hiding the egg, lying about the egg, and rewarding him for eating the "NOT" egg with lollipop licks and Bob the Builder clips on my iPhone. And after that first meltdown, Evan really did do a great job. He didn't even mind me staring at him, analyzing every little thing, and constantly asking him, "Ev? How are ya feeling, bud?"

And there were things that made us wonder....he just itched, is that something? He was congested this morning, but is he more congested? Are his eyes red from rubbing them or the eggs? Is he quiet and cuddly because he's tired after waking up before 6am this morning, or is this allergic reaction lethargy? But there were no hives, no coughing, no vomitting, no swelling, and no other blatant allergic reaction symptoms. We'd know if he were having a reaction. Wouldn't we?

And so, after three and a half hours, Dr. B pronounced a tentative PASS! We were to watch him for signs of allergic reaction for the next 24 hours, but Dr. B is confidently optimistic that We Have Eggs!

And you know what this means, right?

CAKE! I think we can safely say that the kid wouldn't even let scrambled eggs touch his plate, but what kid doesn't love CAKE?!

I have learned how to make an awesome eggless cupcake, but my cakes were sunken disasters. I can't wait to make him a giant multi-tiered, chocolate cake. And he'll be able to have a Wedding CAKE! His bride won't have to get creative with a cupcake stand!

When we got home, I gave Ev a big hug and said, "Honey, I'm so proud of you. You did such a great job at the egg challenge. Now we know that you're not allergic to eggs! You can eat EGGS!"

He looked at me like I was crazy, like I had just missed that whole spectacle that had unraveled at the doctor's office, and said, "But mom. I don't WANT to eat eggs."

Lesson Learned:
Sometimes you have to throw everything you know about parenting out and just get through the moment. I'll teach him about honesty and remind him that we don't always get to spend the morning eating chips and dip and lollipops and watching shows right AFTER he eats his Very First Piece of Cake.