Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My daughter's a hero; or...It's okay to break into your own house.

Sometimes in parenthood; you find yourself encouraging the strangest behavior.

Today was one of those times. We finally arrived home from school; laden down with backpacks, undelivered girl scout cookies and a science fair backboard. While balancing these items in my arms and hollering for the girls to please lock the car when they finally manage to get themselves extracted...I realized that the gate simply wasn't going to open.

I pushed. I prodded. I jiggled the chain. The chain was loose. In fact; it was only attached to my end of the pulley. Which meant, the 6 foot fence was locked up tight.

What to do?

I did what any good parent would do. I sent my 10 year old up there to investigate. She willingly climbed the wall next to the gate, and then balked. It's a long ways down.

But, there was no choice. I was not in climbing clothes. She's young, she's spry, and she was going to do it. I called encouraging remarks and walked along the wall with my hand out to steady her (my side was cement, the other side was grass and clover.) I tried to get her to let herself down onto one of the lawnchairs, but it was a no go. She would have jumped into the raised bed (filled with bermuda grass) but someone (probably me) left a garden claw sticking up out of it.

Finally she managed to maneuver herself down along the other side of the fence, repeating "I'm scared, I'm scared, I'm scared" as her sister repeated the same refrain...but adding in "We're going to get in trouble!"

The men at the gas station nearby were amused. Or confused. I'm not sure which.

My exasperated "You're allowed to break into your own house!" was met with chuckles.

And then she was down, and manipulated the latch, and we were in.

"I'm a hero!" she proclaimed.

Yup. She's a hero. And I'm proud to say very unlikely to ever embark in a career of criminal activity.

Monday, February 23, 2009

An everything-free party! (except for fun)

Yesterday heralded my soon to be 7 year old's birthday bash. It's a big event. Turning a new year older. Holding up an extra finger when someone wants to know how old you are. Seeing your friends. And hey, cake!

She planned carefully. She designed posters. She drew pictures. She poured over party catalogues. We pondered the fact that although last year we found no Tinkerbell merchandise for her Tinkerbell tea party, there are at least 3 fairy designs this year. But no Webkinz; the topic of choice this year.

Invariably, my girls are a year ahead of the game. From Horses to Unicorns to Olympics to Harry Potter, we have to use ingenuity only to find 6 months later, our demand has finally produced supply. And by then, the girls are off into some other new and exciting trend. Next year, there will be Webkinz everything. And they'll be ho-hum about it.

Anyways...My rule for a low stress party is that we can't poison anyone.

It's a strict rule. And not even Mommy's health can be risked by dangerous normal food. Especially not Mommy's health. The birthday child is important, but who takes care of them? And who makes sure each guest goes home with the right parent? That the walls don't collapse?
That's right. Mom. And she can't do it from bed.

So, the requisite martyr-mom attitude must go out the window. Cake is corn free, gluten free, potato free, etc. Penguin deserves to feel at home in her own home; and why on Earth would I bake for one kid but not the other? Of course, the cake must be dairy free, too. And since nuts are a potentially serious reaction...no nuts allowed. This does create some increased stress for me before hand. The main issue? There's no back up. If my homemade cake does not turn out well; I have to bake another one. There's no last minute race to the grocery store for a powdered sugar icing frosted confection. No fall back plan. Sink or swim, the baking must turn out okay or guests will go hungry. Period.

After our own family; we start to consider guests nutritional needs.

For Miss B that isn't too hard. Her friends don't seem to have any allergies, just finnicky food ideals. That does make being a hostess slightly more challenging. Many a playdate has involved the dramatic sigh of a pint-sized guest accompanied by the breathy remark "Don't you guys just have something normal?" (Pardon me, I thought carrots and apples and grapes WERE normal.)

At any rate...I don't want them to go home from a PARTY grumbling. I have managed to perfect a few recipes that I feel good about serving. The kids are supposed to choose one; but Miss B chose something less than perfect. Still, my kids devoured it and I served chocolate chip cookies (homemade, delicious, perfected, "almost normal" as described by my brother) to the balkers. They asked to bring some home to their siblings, which can't be a bad thing.

We also served "Kinz Kebobs" which were skewers of California grown strawberries and Hondurian Cantaloupe (I tried to find something else local, I really did. But she turned up her nose, she's 7 and well...I haven't truly started that whole local-vore thing that I'd love to implement, and will totally jump on as soon as a tapioca farm opens next door.) Those were a big hit. You just can't miss with fruit on a palm tree stick.

The kids entertained themselves in a Webkinz Arcade, which was essentially a balloon labeled "Zingoz Bounce"; Silly Six Pins (A loud-electronic game that gets little use but the kids love) dubbed "Kinz Pinz" and a box labelled "Wishing Well 2" where the kids could earn prizes by pulling out matching plastic fruit. The concept was lost on them, they had a blast anyways and many of them just collected prizes. I feel bad that it wasn't more evenly distributed; but, no one cried, they were all too busy screaming in delight. That's a good thing, I think.

The Arcade madness was followed by a treasure hunt to find Arte. Those with kinz experience know that Arte is the Curio shop manager who sends you treasure hunting. Our hunt culminated in the discovery of...well; rocks. Special rocks. Designed to be broken open and treasure unearthed. Our treasures? Lollipop rings, mardi gras beads and charm bracelet kits. (Please note that the rocks did harbor danger in the form of glutenous FLOUR. They were broken open outside; under the supervision of the non-Celiac parent. They were also created by the non Celiac in an off residence kitchen.)

Then we sat down and made bracelets. Luckily it all sort of worked out. The kids were not into making sure everything was even and fair...they were mostly into "I found this, I'm keeping this." Thankfully, I bought things by the dozen and there were only 8 kids total, including Penguin who is only a guest by proxy. So it really did seem to work out. I'm the only one who worried that some of the kids got slighted. (Unless they complained in private.)

I was told that the gem hunt was the most fun EVER. Good news. Things wrapped up with the unwrapping of gifts just barely before 3 pm; when the first parent came knocking to collect their offspring. And dh and I collapsed on the sofa with my parents and my brothers family thinking collectively "We survived!"

Miss B is happy. But dealing with that infamous after party "let down" feeling. After all, the next big event seems a LONG WAYS OFF. And her sister's upcoming limelight (Second march birthday) followed by her cousin's first birthday (3rd March Birthday) is not helping things much. Luckily, we got the party over with before her actual day of birth; so we can keep the celebration rolling through the week.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I'm reading a book called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. It's an interesting read about one family's endeavor to eat local for one year. They do have a firm foundation in healthy eating habits, and an intimate knowledge of gardening well before their local-vore adventure begins, which is slightly disappointing, but nevertheless; the information within holds my attention.

One fact that has jumped out at me is their Turkey choice. They've chosen to raise their own poultry for this adventure, something I'm not sure I could do (How do you not name an animal you interact with daily?) but, then again, I have trouble eating something I knew used to have a pulse, brain waves, and communication skills. The troubling aspect was the cited fact that around 98% of the turkeys sold annually (from the deli and freezer cases) have been bred for some rather unique qualities.

They are docile. They won't put up a fight at cramped conditions, and don't mind being half crushed for half of their lives.
Their lifespan is limited. If permitted to reach full growth, and wander around, the sheer "normal" weight of their bodies will crush their legs and ultimately, their chest. This, I imagine, provides a rather slow and painful death.
Most disturbing of all; they are incapable of procreating naturally. In fact, there are technicians who are skilled in surgically removing the male's sperm and inseminating the female.

Folks...Americans eat these monstrosities. In fact, we consider them prized fixings. Meanwhile, the days of the wild turkey (the bird that found itself on the table during our first Thanksgiving feast) is in danger of extinction. Varieties of poultry and livestock are not only losing popularity, they are disappearing almost as quickly as the rainforest lands can be cleared to make room for more livestock grazing land.

How is it healthy to eat the flesh of a critter that would not have survived another month if mankind hadn't put it out of it's misery? At least, when that misery is inflicted by mankind's lack of appropriate nourishment and attention?

We play G-d with animals, with plants, with our food supply. We pretend we can outwit mother nature in an operating room, with modern medical miracles. But we don't see the bigger picture. Someday we're going to wake up and realize that we ourselves are dying, and it will be at our own hand.

My kids are growing up in a world that I've helped create. It scares me half to death to think of the problems that I'm leaving behind for them and their children to clean up after. The more I learn, the more disturbed I become. It's not just pollution, global warming, and generations of poor nutrition and the loss of integral health knowledge (our food shouldn't be bright blue) that they need to bounce back from. They're also going to be contending with rampant wild strains of genetically modified and mutated crops, franken-turkeys who can't procreate, massive extinctions and mutations. They'll be cleaning waterways and seeking safe, fertile farmland.

I can see it unfolding like the Ghost of Christmas Future. And we have to do something. More than I am already.

Friday, February 13, 2009

V-Day...beyond food.

It's here. Friday the thirteenth...of February. This is the cause of much celebration in the homes of young girls (and boys, I'm sure). Today is the day of the school VaLeNtInEs DaY party! Yay!!!

Of course, this means cookies, and cupcakes, and (thanks to the new "healthy food in the classrooms" initiative) a fruit plate and veggie tray. Not to mention lovely party bags full of sweet, sugary, dye-bright, casein full candy. (Made from pure corn, of course!) They do look lovely. And the kids, of course, want to share something fun as well.

We've done light sticks with Harry Potter cards, and lovely little tattoo furry cards, and one year we made foam-y lips or mustaches that attached to safe lollipops. (Those turned out cute, but very mom-work intensive)This year, I think we hit a true winner though...these adorable little caterpillars with tags attached that read "I'm Buggy about you, Valentine" and "You're all WRITE" (Both socially acceptable for a 5th grade girl to hand about freely.)

My youngest also made little tags for cute little heart mazes (yes, I know...landfill fodder *sigh*) that read "You a-MAZE me" she's very proud...and the best part is, they were cheap, encouraged the kids creativity and fine motor skill development, are completely allergy friendly...and they certainly are unlikely to be duplicated, today, anyways.

The only cloud in our sky is that the youngest (the one who can eat the dairy decadent gluten gorged feast planned for the afternoon) will be missing her party due to a fever. That's okay...I get to snuggle a sick baby (who isn't often a "baby") and the Valentines will keep; she doesn't need the sweets and we'll have our own party this weekend.

Besides, her birthday's coming...

Monday, February 09, 2009

The things we take for granted...

When you wake up with a fever, sore throat and chills; you really gain a new perspective on Tylenol.

I mean, when the kids have a headache, or stub a toe, or grow new molars, I have that magic bottle in the cupboard. It's always handy, and when I run out; more is only a quick hop in the car to any local drug store or grocer. But, the same isn't true for me.

A few years ago, I had an amusing time trying to track down safe acetaminophen (Tylenol). The problem was that I wanted something for a headache and menstrual cramps. Over the counter Tylenol and Tylenol knock-offs would do the job just fine. Except that every blessed one of them contains corn derivatives.

In other words; I can choose between the pain that has a (probably) limited duration, or abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea etc that goes on for a guaranteed 2 weeks to a month. Or; I can find a pharmacist to compound it. Compounding, as I soon found out, is becoming a lost art...lost to the red tape of legislature.

Thankfully...A few years ago, I did find a pharmacist willing to help me. And today, when I woke up with aches and pains; I thanked my lucky stars and reached for my trusty compounded acetaminophen.

I've come to take for granted that mild aches and pains can be virtually extinguished by a little capsule filled with a very common substance. And that there doesn't need to be a trade off. Or even a waiting period. I guess I've become spoiled.

Unfortunately, this morning I quickly realized that my medication had expired. Quite awhile ago, actually.

So now I'm patiently waiting for my doctor and the pharmacy to work out the logistics of compounding more acetaminophen. And next time...I'll be grateful that it's in the cupboard. Well worth a dollar a dose.

And next time, I'll keep an eye on that expiration date.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Gluten Conundrum

I find myself writing this out over and over and over. So here goes, in my blog, where I can later cut and paste or just link it. :-)

The evil of gluten:

With most food allergies, as I've learned, the gial is to track them down. The best tool for this is a food diary (to help note trends) and an elimination diet followed by food challenges. (The challenges are vital because you do not want to live in unnecessary fear, nor do you want a diet that is too restrictive.)

However (!!!) Gluten does not follow the same food allergy rule. If you suspect gluten is the root of your health issues (and increasing evidence links it with arthritis, weight gain, autism, asthma, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and any other dx that leaves a dr proudly smiling and reassuring you that while there is no treatment, you aren't dying.) then you have more to do than 'simply' cut it out of your diet, note symptoms, and challenge it.

You see, gluten intolerance could be Celiac Disease. And Celiac Disease, while easy to manage, is important to diagnose properly. People with Celiac experience intestinal damage when they ingest even small amounts of gluten. And; they may experience damage without correlating symptoms. In other words...when you "challenge" gluten, you might find that you can "tolerate" small amounts. But those small amounts that don't cause symptoms can flatten your intestinal villi, and leave you malnourished; setting you up for a host of serious conditions down the road.

So, before going gluten free it's a really good idea to go to the doctor, discuss the idea with him and insist on a blood test first. Request a FULL celiac panel, not just the TTG. This will guide your decision on whether to follow up with a GI, or get a biopsy, or just give gluten free a go. This is particularly important with children...they are less likely to continue the diet in their teen and adult years without a proper diagnosis. But, if they aren't thriving and gluten is impacting growth, it's better for them to be healthy and gluten free than wait around for enough damage to occur for a diagnosis to be made. Only you, in conjunction with a good doctor, can know what's best for your particular situation.

It doesn't hurt to go gluten free. It can be a healthy, well balanced diet. Many cultures have a traditionally low gluten or gluten free diet. But once you do give up gluten, the intestines will start to heal. When the antibodies are no longer active, it will be impossible for a doctor to definitively dx Celiac Disease. While you don't need a doctor's permission to eat gluten free; you may need that note for college, or kid's camp, or employment reasons, or if you're ever hospitalized or need long term care and they aren't keen on a special needs diet. And adding gluten back in can create symptoms before damage is severe enough to detect. Or, it can cause damage without symptoms...leading you to believe you're cured until you collapse.

If you go gluten free, and then challenge it without symptoms, it is important to regularly monitor your antibodies with blood tests. If you do develop Celiac damage; you want to catch it as early as possible.

Also...if wheat, rye, barley or oats seem to cause rashes or shortness of breath, contact your dr. This could be a traditional IgE mediated allergy; and challenging it on your own at home could be dangerous. IgE allergies can be tested with a blood RAST or skin prick test; and an educated guess made as to the potential severity of reaction.