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I usually have some sort of Caleb story for Matt when he comes home from work at the end of the day.  Perhaps I should use my better judgement and keep some to myself, but a recent conversation went like this:

Me: So, Caleb almost gave me a heart attack again today…

Matt: What did he do this time?

Me: Well, I was going to take the kids on a walk.  I was holding Norah, walking out into the garage to put her in the stroller, and Caleb was behind me.  As soon as I hit the garage door button, Caleb sprinted out past me down the driveway as fast as I’ve ever seen him go.  He got all the way to the middle of the street before I could put Norah down, run after him, and catch him!  Thank goodness no cars were coming!  

Matt: We need to get a leash for that kid.

No kidding. This is not the only instance of behavior that drives me crazy.  We generally keep all bathroom doors closed and child locked because, well, you know.  Apparently Caleb has decided he is ready to potty train.  Anyhow, the other day, Caleb used his little potty chair and we’d dumped the contents into the toilet.  I went to his room to grab him a new diaper, and not 20 seconds later as I walk into the bathroom again, I see Caleb: hand in toilet, drawing it up to his mouth to drink.  AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!  At least he likes to flush, otherwise I would probably have used lots of soap in his mouth instead of just the gallon of water I almost choked him with, trying to wash his mouth out.

I think I see a pattern emerging here.  Case in point: tonight I was scrolling through old pictures and found this one of Caleb when he was just under a year.

It seems I’ve been missing the signs for a year now.

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I’ve really been wanting to write this post, but I’ve been putting it off for awhile.  What I write below could easily give way to complaining or showing frustration that would NOT be helpful to my son or others who suffer with food allergies.  Please forgive me if any of what I write does this, because that is not my intention.  I have a few reasons for sharing this information: First and foremost, I want to keep my son safe.  If anyone reading this does something different that could save his life, then I feel satisfied as a mother.  Secondly, if any information I give can help another individual, then by all means, please read on!

Have you ever considered what it’s like to have food allergies?  Here are some things you can do to help those who have them:

For Everyone:

  1. Be understanding.  If you knew that someone baked poison into a batch of brownies, would you let your kid eat them?  Would you even let them near that pan?  It’s a little extreme, but this is reality for people with food allergies.  Some food allergies can be fatal, and it’s a scary thing to mess around with.
  2.  Ask questions.  I can’t tell you about the gratitude I felt when I took Caleb to a new church nursery while we were on vacation.  I gave the worker information about his allergies, gave her the snack he was to eat, and right away she asked questions she didn’t know the answers to and took me seriously.  I was more than happy to answer any questions she had, and I felt completely confident leaving him in her care.  When I came back to pick him up, she had taken care of all his (special) needs.  Not everyone has been this great about it.
  3. Practice good hygiene.  A simple thing as washing your hands or brushing your teeth can prevent a reaction.  Even though many food allergens have to be ingested, some can cause reactions just on contact.    I heard a news story a few years back about a teenage girl who died because her boyfriend  kissed her.  She was allergic to peanuts and didn’t know he had eaten a peanut candy bar an hour earlier.
  4. If you have kids, teach them about allergies and what to do if they have a friend with it.  As we all know, being different can be very isolating.

For Friends: I have to admit that before I had Caleb, I was a pretty clueless and crummy friend, to say the least.  I hope now I’m doing a better job!

  1. Be thoughtful.  Do you know someone who has a dairy allergy or sensitivity?  Don’t invite them over for dinner and then make something with milk in it or serve ice cream for dessert.  I’ve made this mistake before, unfortunately.  Now I’ve been on the other side of it (when I was nursing), and it stinks to be left out of something good.
  2. Care enough to be flexible.  I’ve been lucky that my friends have asked if it was okay for them to feed their child (fill in the blank) around Caleb.  It’s nice to know they are aware and don’t want to make me feel uncomfortable about having my kid around theirs.  Plus, I appreciate that they care about his safety too.  Thanks, Lauren, you’re always really good about this!!!
  3. Bring safe foods to potlucks.  I’m not saying don’t bring a casserole or pb cookies to a potluck, but if you do make something, consider making it a simple dish where all the ingredients are obvious.  (Or, if you’re extra motivated, provide a recipe!)  My mom once had an allergic reaction because of eating some chili.  She thought it was a safe choice, but found out later there was peanut butter in it!  This may not be the time to bring your family’s “secret ingredient” recipe, unless you are prepared to share it.  I now love potlucks where people bring fresh veggie or fruit salads, because I can tell what’s in them and know if it’s safe/not safe for Caleb to eat it.

Epi Pen (image from http://www.store.gomed-tech.com)

For Child Care Workers:  I completely understand the difficulty of being a care-taker and having to deal with something like a food allergy.  I was a teacher for 5 years and had several children who had Epi Pens because of food or other allergies (like bee stings!).  I even had two students one year who were type I diabetics (the type you are born with), which poses a whole other set of food issues.  Now that I am a mother, I understand both sides, and the tension that exists there.  Had I known better, here is what I would have done EVERY TIME a child with special needs was in my care.

  1. Be kind.  It is not the parents or the child’s fault they have an allergy.  It just is.  Complaining about how much harder this will make your job doesn’t help anyone.  Do the very best you can.  Teachers and care-givers who do this on a regular basis will be blessed.  I know this because every time I’ve seen a teacher go out of their way, I try to return the gratitude I feel for their kindness.  At the very least I offer up a prayer on their behalf that special blessings will come to them because of their care for my or someone else’s kid.
  2. Follow the parent’s instructions as closely as possible.  If a parent asks for special consideration, it’s not because they are controlling and anal.  They simply want to keep their kid alive and well.  Unfortunately, I know many moms of allergic kids who don’t attend church, public school, or other functions because they’ve had a bad experience or are fearful that their wishes won’t be respected or followed.  I know a mom whose kid had an Epi Pen, and he started school this year.  The teacher refused to keep the Epi Pen in class or administer it should a need arise.  That teacher basically said she wouldn’t help the kid if he was dying.  My guess is that this was the first time she encountered the situation and was scared about it.  I can relate.  Luckily, for the child’s sake, he got a new teacher.
  3. If anything happens, tell the parent!!!  I am so grateful to be able to tell this story: The church I attend is pretty great about accommodating for my son.  However, one Sunday morning, the worker gave him a bite of coffee cake.  She realized her mistake immediately, took away the food, and watched him for a reaction.  As soon as I saw her to pick up Caleb, she told me about it.  She could have easily not said anything, because when I picked him up he was fine-no reaction.  However, her telling me did three things: 1. Allowed me to keep this nugget of information to share with Caleb’s doctor when he is ready to test again (crossing my fingers he outgrows some), 2. Allowed me to watch him and know what the problem was if he developed a reaction later on, which can sometime happen, and 3. Helps me to trust her MORE, because she shared her mistake with me, apologized, and tried to make it right.
  4. Pay closer attention and step in.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and where it becomes more difficult.  If possible, keep an extra eye out for a kid with allergies, mostly around snack and lunchtime.  Kids can be cruel and unintentionally hurtful.  A mom I just met told me that her son (allergic to peanuts) was taunted at the lunch table with a pb cookie, and another kid threatened to wipe his pb sandwich on him.  This scares me just thinking about it, not to mention how scared the mom and her kid were!  An adult can really help a situation like this.

For Restaurants:

  1. Provide an ingredient list of the foods you serve.  That means ingredients of the bread from your hamburger, not just that it has mayo, lettuce and tomatoes on it.  I’m happy to say that Baskin Robbins, Firehouse Subs and Chick Fil Aget more of my business because they provide their nutrition information on their website!  Thanks guys!!!

    I love Chick Fil A! (Too bad Caleb only gets to enjoy the fries.)

  2. If you are a server, please be clear with your cook and table about food ingredients when they ask.  In my experience, Kirby Lane’s servers have always done a great job at this.  Not everyone has, which means I am uncomfortable feeding it to my son, and therefore, order less.  More food for us = more $$$ for you!

Whew!  While this list is quite extensive (as are my stories), even doing just one or two of these things can really make a difference.  Just reading this post, in fact, will be a benefit to someone, even if it’s only me and my family.  So, thank you for reading!

If you read my last post, you know a little about how I discovered Caleb had an allergy, and my initial steps to manage it.  I had decided that I wanted to breastfeed Caleb if at all possible, and up until 6 months, I was able to do so with no problems.  In fact, Caleb was fed breast milk exclusively.  When it came time for me to introduce solids, I was excited and eager, because Caleb wanted it, and I was ready to begin the downhill walk to less nursing.  Yay!

One evening I didn’t have any breast milk to mix with the baby cereal, so I decided to pull out a can of Enfamil that they had sent me in the mail.  I mixed it up and started feeding it to Caleb.  After about 4 bites, Caleb started pulling at his bib.  I tried to give him another scoop or two when I noticed that his mouth and chin were looking red.  We started cleaning him up right away, and we noticed that along with the redness, he had small white hives everywhere the cereal had touched, including his hands.  I cleaned him again, which seemed to help the redness, although he was really fussy.  Thinking this was just a skin reaction and he was tired, I got him ready for bed.  We put him down, but he just didn’t sound right so I got him up.  By then an hour had passed, and when I looked closer at him, I realized that his whole face, ears, and hands were swollen.  !!!!  I don’t think we noticed the swelling at first because, after all, most babies are chubby all over!  Seeing his swollen ears finally clued me in.  I felt super horrible for him, not to mention thinking how dumb I was to give him formula when I already knew that when I ate dairy it caused him problems.  Obviously, I hadn’t considered that baby formula is made with cow’s milk.  Ugh.  (Imagine me slapping my forehead here.)  We called the doctor and gave him come Children’s Benadryl.  I considered taking him into the ER, but I didn’t hear any wheezing (thank you God!), so we waited and the Benadryl seemed to work.

During Dinner

Starting to Swell

Luckily, our 6 month appointment was in a few days, so when we spoke with our doctor she recommended us to a pediatric allergist.  We saw him a few days after that.  It was so great to talk with him and finally get some solid proof for things that I only guessed at.  He first tested for beef and soy.  Beef, because it also comes from a cow, and soy, because it is another alternative for milk.  Plus, it’s another huge allergen.  Thankfully, Caleb was negative, so he tested for wheat, which also came up negative.  Yes!  Testing babies apparently isn’t done much; I think because they are so sensitive, change so quickly, and tests might not always be accurate. We made an appointment to see him again at 1 year.

Swollen Ear

From 6-12 months we didn’t have too many hiccups, other than finding out Caleb was allergic to ammoxicillin.  I pretty much fed him any fruit and veggie I could.  I waited on feeding him strawberries, but when I did, no allergic reaction.  I waited on feeding him egg, any nut, fish, and of course, dairy until after we saw the allergist again.  I started reading labels furiously, and grocery shopping took a little longer than it used to.   I also began to realize that wow, things could have been much worse.  Had Caleb been allergic to soy, I would have needed some serious help.  Soy is in so many foods, and I was already struggling with trying to make meals without dairy.  Note: I am NOT a good cook.  I also realized what a gift it was for me to be able to breastfeed Caleb from the beginning, and I am so grateful for all the support I received in order to do this successfully.  It probably saved Caleb from much worse.

At one year we went back to see our allergy doctor, and Caleb was tested for tuna, salmon, egg, and peanut.  The egg and peanut were positive reactions.  Sigh.  Having the peanut allergy didn’t surprise me, but it was definitely disappointing knowing that kids usually don’t outgrow peanut allergies.  At least I know what to do with this one, since I grew up learning all about it from my mom.  My doctor recommended that we avoid all other nuts, as well as sesame.  It occurred to me that my pediatrician had advised me at our 6 month check up to not give Caleb a flu shot (even though they normally recommend this for babies in the winter), because it may contain trace amounts of egg.  I felt very grateful, to say the least.  I found out later that the MMR shot they usually give at 15 months also may contain egg, so we are going to hold off on that one as well, at least until Caleb (hopefully) outgrows his egg allergy.

Right now, we’re just doing the best we can, which is pretty good, I think.  Here are some things that we do to keep Caleb safe and make our lives easier:

At home:

  • I pay close attention to what foods I give Caleb, especially if it’s something he hasn’t had before.  I never give him more than one new food every few days.
  • I ALWAYS double check the food labels.  Dairy and egg go by a lot of different names.  I got a great list from our allergist.  If you want to see it, let me know.
  • Also, I don’t really cook with dairy anymore.  If we want cheese on our taco, we can add it, but I never serve it that way.  I’m disappointed because I really like fettuccine, and when I tried to make it with soy milk, it really sucked.
  • I try new things (sometimes).   I’ve tried making bok choy and eggplant.  Neither went over well, but hey, I still feel good about trying something that I haven’t done before.  Plus, the more things I know Caleb CAN have, the better.  Fruits and veggies are usually safe options.
  • Controlling the environment.  Right now, Caleb can’t get in to any food, which makes it easier.  Matt or myself might have a PB sandwich every now and then, but I always clean and wash up before and after I eat (away from Caleb) to make sure no oils get wiped anywhere that could endanger him.
  • Letting people know about Caleb’s allergies.  Sometimes people want to give other kids food (not really a good idea), so it really helps everyone if people are aware of things that could potentially harm him.

At church:

  • Communicate!  I’ve told the workers about Caleb’s allergy, and I found out what they do in the nursery.  Since all they ever give kids is their own sippy cup and cheerios, the chance for Caleb to come into contact with an allergen is pretty low.  I leave Caleb’s epi pen in his bag, but I haven’t shown anyone how to use it yet.  I need to do this.
  • It helps that my church is small, so I know most of the workers, and they know me.  If it was bigger, there would be more work involved in communicating Caleb’s needs.
  • I’m also lucky that my church has a good check-in system.  Caleb’s allergies are listed on his name tag every week, so the workers can see the medical alert.
  • The older the kids get, the more I’ll have to communicate.  I’m sure other classes have better snacks than the Cheerios in the nursery, so I’ll probably just send Caleb with something specifically for him every time.

Going out:

  • We take Caleb’s epi pen with us at all times.  I  haven’t had to use it, but I would hate to get into a situation where we needed it and didn’t have it.
  • Going to restaurants is difficult.  Most menu items are off limits, because it usually has some form of dairy in it, or I just don’t know what’s baked into the bread, or what it might have been cooked in.  I usually bring Caleb’s food with us if we go.  On the occasion that I do want to give him something off the menu, I ALWAYS tell the waiter about the allergy, and then ask specifically what ____ has in it, or what it’s cooked in.  So far, we’ve given him black beans, rice, and sweet potato fries (he loves these!) from a restaurant.  It’s not much, but it’s nice to get out, and fun for him too.  I wish restaurants were more willing to share the ingredients in their food, but I understand why they don’t.

At a Friend’s House:

  • Believe it or not, this one can be tricky.  Parents give their kids snacks all the time, so I pay close attention to what the other kid is eating.  If it’s something Caleb can’t have, I watch him like a hawk.
  • When my friend threw a party, I went ahead and asked what they’d be serving for the food to see what I could give Caleb.  I felt uncomfortable doing this, but I found out what I needed to know.  I brought Caleb a little food, but I knew there were some things there he’d be able to eat.  I’ve also politely asked if the cooks wouldn’t mind if I read the food labels.  This once kept me from giving Caleb a hotdog with a milk product in it.
  • I usually feed Caleb before we go.  If he’s hungry it’s much more difficult when there’s little he can eat.
  • When I bring food, I usually try to bring a healthy option that everyone can eat.  Fruit and veggies or other single ingredient foods work the best, plus they are easy to prepare.

This was a long post, phew!  I have a bit more to say.  If you don’t have allergies or sensitivities, but want to see some things you can do to help people who do have to manage them, come back to read my next post!

I just stumbled upon this beautiful post.  It is worth the 5 minute read, and I want to share it with any other Christian moms out there.

People say your life changes when you have kids, and boy, are they right!  One challenge that we face on a daily basis is how to cope with Caleb’s food allergies. Even though Caleb is only just over a year, I have quite a bit to say on this topic, having had some experience with food allergies my whole life.   People who’ve never dealt with food allergies sometimes don’t really “get it”, which is completely normal.  I’m writing because I want to share how I dealt with finding out about Caleb’s allergies, as well as maybe give some tips that I’ve found to be helpful.

What some people don’t know is that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity.  A true allergy has symptoms like swelling, hives, itching, rashes, and difficulty breathing (due to swelling).  In some cases, eating a food you are allergic to could lead to death.  Food sensitivities will usually cause reactions like intestinal problems (diarrhea, cramping), headaches, fatigue, or irritability.  Eating a food you are sensitive to may not kill you, but the more you eat of this product, the worse you will feel.  Also, babies have very sensitive tummies, so sometimes they will be more sensitive or allergic at the beginning, but later outgrow it.  **An interesting fact that I learned in doing research on allergies is that sometimes people crave what they are allergic or sensitive to, which makes this all the more confusing…I hope this isn’t why I crave chocolate all the time!!!

When I was a kid, one of the things that was not allowed in our house was peanut butter.  Even though I didn’t (and don’t) have any known food allergies, my mom wasn’t so lucky.  One of the worst things she is allergic to is peanut butter.  For a long time, I felt annoyed with my mom because we couldn’t even have it in the house.  Her allergy is so severe that even the smell of it would trigger allergic reactions.  I still remember the day she came home with an epi pen and showed us how to use it.  I think that was the first time I realized my mom could die from eating something with peanut in it.  Scary.

Fast forward to four weeks after I had Caleb.  I was hanging out with my friend when I changed his diaper and noticed that his body was extremely inflamed, red and rashy!  I got worried right away, and called my mom.  She suggested that he was perhaps allergic to something that I ate, confirming the fear that had been lurking in the back of my mind.  This may sound gross to a non-parent, but you can really learn a lot from looking at a baby’s poop.  Even though Caleb was going at regular intervals, he was extremely gassy (which I had incorrectly attributed to being my husband’s son :)), and his poop was really slimy and green-not at all like the mustardish stools you’re supposed to see from a breastfed infant.  At this point, I freaked out and decided I needed to eliminate some food from my diet.

Caleb's Eczema

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any medical direction or know what I was doing, so after two days of trying to eat no wheat, soy, nut or dairy products (including chocolate), I was seriously discouraged.  Crying to my mom, I decided just to move forward with the elimination of dairy, peanut, and strawberries, because I had eaten a bunch the day Caleb got so rashy.  Did I do this well?  Not really.  I was so accustomed to eating foods with dairy in them (bread, sauces, cheese, yogurt) that it was difficult to do.  Because I was so inconsistent during this time, I didn’t really see any improvements, and Caleb’s skin continued to look terrible.  Finally, at two months, we took him in for a check-up, where I discovered a few things.  First, my doctor said Caleb has eczema.  Bummer.  Second, when she described symptoms of children who have a dairy allergy, she pretty much described Caleb-, green, mucousy poo, or even blood in the stools (luckily I’d seen no blood).  So, now to seriously eliminate dairy from my diet.  Because I had a little more direction, I got a little better at this point.  It took about 2-3 weeks of not eating ANY dairy, but finally I started to see results-Caleb’s poop started to look less slimy and his eczema started to clear.

It was those first months that were the most difficult.  Because so much of what I did at the beginning was guessing, I was never really sure of anything.    I still avoided eating nuts (because of my mom), chocolate (because most of it has milk in it anyway), and all dairy. I should also mention here that I limited eggs somewhat as well, only because I had a bad feeling about them and Caleb.  Dairy was the most difficult, because it is in everything (even taco seasoning, did you know?!).  I felt sorry for myself (why do I have to get the child with allergies?), and I also felt guilty-for feeling sorry for myself and guilty for the times when I just couldn’t avoid the dairy.  Sometimes we’d be out and all the food available had some form of dairy in it.  What could I do?  I could have not eaten it and gone hungry, risked offending the cook, or even end up explaining why and making them feel bad about it.  So I just ate it, and Caleb’s eczema  flared up again.  I felt like a bad mom for “cheating”, or not being strong enough, but I did take a little comfort in the fact that I was still breastfeeding, hoping that this would help Caleb more than anything.

I breastfed Caleb until about 13 months, when I weaned him, and I kept this “diet” up until this point.  It got easier with time, because I started finding things I could eat that didn’t seem to be a problem for him-soymilk, for one, and marshmallows when I was feeling like a dessert but couldn’t eat anything around.   I found a soy yogurt that was tolerable, but skipped the soy ice cream because it tasted so bad to me.  I missed a lot of fats, so my diet actually took a turn for the worse in some ways…I was constantly scouring the ingredients in those little powdered donuts or little debbie snack cakes, looking for ones that had no dairy in them…not much luck by the way.  I started eating french fries at McDonald’s again, which I’m not proud to say, but I did what I could.

If I were to meet a new mom who suspects her baby has allergies, I would first say to her, trust your instincts.  I had no evidence to support my feeling that Caleb was allergic to eggs, but when we got him tested at a year and found out that he was, in fact, allergic, I was grateful that I went with my gut and delayed feeding egg to him until after we tested for it.  Second, get some help.  I needed the advice and direction from a doctor (first to calm my irrational fears and to help me sort out the real symptoms and possible causes), the support of my husband and friends, and the information I could find on the internet.  Third, have grace with yourself.  Do what you can.  If you can breastfeed for a long time, great.  If not, it’s okay.   If you can avoid eating a certain food 6 days out of 7, great!  Even a little bit of sacrifice helped my baby.  Lastly, hang in there.  The hardest part is the first few weeks while you try to adjust.  Then, usually, you find out some more information and might be able to relax a bit.  Also, though your diet will never go completely back to what it was before ,you may get to eat ice cream again!  Yes!  Reward yourself at the end.  My husband took me out for ice cream after I weaned Caleb and I got a double scoop. 🙂

This post was pretty much about me.  My next post will be about how we found out about  the rest of Caleb’s allergies, and things I do that help everyone deal with his allergy.