Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just before Christmas, a 13 year old Chicago girl with peanut allergies headed off to school for the final day of classes, and a class party.  The teacher had made several calls to the Chinese restaurant of choice, and verified that the meal would be safe for the peanut allergic children in the classroom. 
There was a mistake.  
She never came home. 
Katelyn Carlson was taken to the hospital that afternoon, where she died from anaphylaxis. 

This story happens to strike a chord with me.  Maybe it's because Penguin's in seventh grade, too.  Maybe it's because I've spent the last third of my life learning everything I could about food allergies and intolerances.  Maybe it's just because when Bumblebee was little, and still potentially anaphylactic to peanuts, everyone rolled their eyes and told me how overprotective I was.  Or maybe it's that Penguin's been feeling more left out than usual on the social scene. 
I'm ridiculously grateful that my kids didn't show positive to the IgE portion of the allergy tests.  Which means that while reactions might make us all uncomfortable, scratchy, nauseated and stuck near a restroom for a few days (or in my case, a week or more), it means that in worst case scenario, if I get a call saying they're having a reaction, the odds are incredibly high that I will pick them up, hug them, talk to them and tuck them into their own beds to wait for it to wear off. 
I'm lucky. 
I know that I'm lucky, and yet this story still haunts me. 

I wonder why it is that food is so predominant in our society.  Why is it that we think of class parties, and we think of food?  Celebrations aren't about music or dancing or chatting it up.  They're about taste, and flavor, and treats.  In little kids, the focus is sugar...brightly colored sugar, presented in new and intriguing ways.  Crushed candy canes, melted hard candies, chewy candy rolled out like a fondant and molded into roses, or leaves, or whatever decoration is desired for cupcakes and cookies.  In older kids, savory foods aer desirable...adults look for restaurants to order from in bulk, for chips and dip and games become very food focused. 
So far this year, our middle school has hosted lunch time games such as a gum search (where a small piece of bubble gum is hidden in a pile of whipped cream and the participants hands are tied.  They race to eat their way tot he gum, and be the first to blow a bubble), cramming marshmallows into their mouths, and of course...multiple pizza parties. 
Licorice is given out as an incentive.  Brownies are baked as a reward.  Science labs have included oreo taste tests, and chip comparisons. 
Calls to the school have resulted in assurances that at this age...food really isn't present in the classroom.  And no...I don't need to bring in something comparable for my child. 
Either the admin is totally clueless, or they really just don't "get" it.  The kids have trouble separating what is important parts of the curriculum and what's just important to them. 
I think, in many ways, that's the point of food related projects.  They involve extra senses, and get kids excited about school.  They create a positive atmosphere...for the kids who can participate, anyways. 
Somehow I don't think the classmates of Katelyn Carlson will ever look at class parties the same. 

I find myself asking what can I do?  What can I do to make sure this doesn't happen in our school? 
I like food as much as the next guy.  I love fun food.  And I'm not naive enough to think that there is a perfect solution.  In my mind, the real issue is education. 
While I was looking for more information about the Chicago teen, I found an article about a young boy in Australia who died from an allergic reaction while on a class trip.  He began having an anaphylactic reaction to Beef Satay on an army cadet camp.  The army cadet officer, who was trained in first aid, stated that he had only been taught that food allergies could cause mild symptoms like a rash or coughing.  He had no idea that they could be fatal. 
Unfortunately, this perception is common here in the US as well.  And although the FAAN has increased awareness of anaphylaxis, the general public remain unconcerned.  If they are aware of the seriousness of allergies, they are convinced that only eating peanut butter with chunks of nuts in it could possibly cause a really serious reaction.  They don't believe that any of the other top 8 allergens are potentially serious or life threatening.  And they really doubt that anything NOT on the top 8 list could even cause a health problem. 
They want a magic cure. 
We all want to live in a safe bubble.  Where there is no such thing as dangerous food.  Where we can share any treat we make in our kitchen with anyone and the only thing we need to be concerned about are tastebuds. 
But that's not going to happen.  Food allergies, intolerances and anaphylaxis are on the rise.  The only way to protect ourselves is to arm ourselves with knowledge.  As much as I hate my nemesis, corn, I'm not all for banning it across the board.  I'm simply for full disclosure on a product label, including prescription medication, so that I can make an informed decision. 
As much as I want Penguin to fit in and eat what everyone else is eating...I'm not advocating that we deny the rest of the middle school their pizza parties.  But it'd be nice if they serve a fruit plate and shake things up with a top 8 friendly taco bar every now and then. 
I also want more epi pen awareness.  From what I understand, giving an epi pen requires a follow up at the hospital.  But the earlier an epi pen is administered, the less severe the reaction has a chance to become.  And if an epi pen is given in error, the risks are small.  In fact, if a person is having an apparent allergic reaction, the risks of giving the epi pen are far outweighed by the potential benefits.  Which means, it's even a good idea to have epipens on hand in first aid kits when medical help might not be readily available and they should certainly be stocked in medical rescue units. 
I'm concerned by discussions on parenting boards that indicate that medical rescue units don't always know what to do in the case of an allergic reaction.  They want to wait and evaluate and treat in a hospital setting.  But getting epinephrine into the bloodstream is essential in halting, or at least slowing, a life threatening reaction. 
I don't suppose there's much I can do about making epinephrine more readily available to those who might need it.  But I can be aware myself.  And I can educate others in the potential severity of food allergies. 
Some people stop breathing after 25 years of eating daily pb and j without incident.  They inexplicably develop an allergy to the protein. 
Others never develop more than a few hives, but hive out pretty consistently. 
And still others have varying reactions...sometimes vomiting, sometimes swelling, sometimes hives.  The fact is that you can't rely on having the same reaction, or the same severity, every time you're exposed.  And you can't be relied on to think clearly or rationally in the midst of a reaction.  You need to rely on the people around you to make good decisions, like finding and using an epi pen, or dialing 911 and contacting family members for more info.  Or simply encouraging you to relax, or get help as appropriate. 
So I guess my contribution is to be more aware.  To continue to speak up for allergy awareness.  And to remind others to do the same.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hassle free Holiday

This year, as you may have already guessed from my last post, was rather quiet.  I wasn't up for nearly as much energetic running around as my heart wanted me to be...and I turned most of the preparations over to the overly-excited Penguin and Bumblebee. 
They did an amazing job.  They planned and picked out the perfect gift for everyone (or so we hope...everyone seemed happy enough with their choices); they raided the wrapping stash and decorated each present with bows, ribbons and carefully chosen tags.  They created crafts to round things out, and give themselves the opportunity to give something "JUST" from them. 
We managed our annual gluten free baking experiment...a pastry crust, requested by Bumblebee, and although it wasn't what dh and I look for in a pastry crust, the kids were very happy with the resultant apple pie.  With french/dutch topping (brown sugar and cinnamon!)  We served Santa applesauce fritters (which dh was kind enough to fry up) and chocolate chip cookies. 
We skimped on the fun healthy foods, I'm afraid. 
Christmas Eve, we spent mostly at home.  My parents dropped by to drop off gifts; but we agreed to wait on opening most gifts until Christmas morning.  I just felt totally wiped out, it's hard to be social and nauseous at the same time. 
My kids were wonderful hosts, and eagerly stacked up the gifts to go; politely requesting that the "really important" ones get opened in front of them...and received the 'ooohs' and 'ahhs' that were due. 
After dark, we all bundled up and tumbled into the car to tour the highlighted Christmas light displays in our local vicinity.  We only went out for about 20 minutes, and only got out of the car once, but it was a nice way to settle in for the evening. 
The kids did stay up WAY too late.  I'm surprised Santa managed to come at all.  When I got up for a drink of water at midnight, Bumblebee startled me in the kitchen...convinced she was about to face the big guy himself! 
Somehow, though, he managed...because early Christmas morning, Penguin gently shook me awake and asked if it was time...and once she'd convinced Bumblebee and Mr. Violets to awaken as well, we slipped out to the living room to find our stockings filled with goodies, the cookies half eaten, and two brand new scooters.  Bumblebee examined hers to find it decorated with a fairy and a reference to her beloved WF.  (WF stands for Weird Fairies.  A comic strip she has created specifically to help counter the uber-popular Disney fairies.  She loves Tinkerbell...and hates that everyone else likes her to.  Bumblebee and her friends do NOT want to get lost in the crowd.)  "Santa is Awesome!" she declared. 
Of course, there followed the requisite first ride...still in pajamas!  :-)  And a few pictures for the scrapbook...although I'm not posting pj pics of my kids online.  Sorry. 
We had a very nice, laid back morning...although I did follow it with a nap...and managed to get to my in laws for a small gift exchange in the early afternoon.  Again, the kids were proud to distribute their chosen presents...and excited to hear that they'd made great choices. 
I slipped out and went back home for another nap soon after the last of the wrapping paper was stuffed into the recycle bin.  I'm not sure why I want to nap so much, but I sleep like the dead so I must be needing it. 
As I tucked the kids into bed that night, they were happy and smiley.  Although they did have one regret...Thank you notes might be a little more difficult this year, because instead of being focused on what they got from who, they were so excited about giving and worried about what their recipients thought of the wrapping and the present inside that they completely forgot to get wrapped up in the 'getting' part. 
Penguin felt that she was gifted some of the best toys EVER.  (And the amount of time she's spent actually playing with toys the past 2 days seems to support that theory)  But, she also confessed that she forgot to pay as much attention to who they were from. 
"Do you think there's something wrong with me?" she asked with a worried frown, "It's like I was more interested in giving than in what I was in getting." 
I told her that meant there was something very right. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Missing the holiday spirit...

Last night, as I lay in bed trying to discern the reason I'm not quite into the holidays this year, it came to me.  Although, I've felt worse some years...and been mid diagnosis some years...I've fought hard to get out,  get baking, to grasp the little things and play them up.  This year, we have our gifts together and the tree up, the elf is finding new spots to hide, the kids are giddy with excitement...and yet the baking isn't even done yet.
Every time I think of it, the nausea is still too much.
And I feel down.  Really down.
As I lamented to my husband the lack of excitement, and that all I really want to do is curl up and enjoy the days with him and the girls, it occurred to me that my lack of social graces is mostly inspired by...shame.  After 10 years...I have a diagnosis.  I'm intolerant of or allergic to corn.  I have Celiac Disease.  And the two conditions have triggered multiple other identified intolerances.  I've just been treated for H pylori.
I should feel great, right?
I'm exhausted.  I'm sleeping more often than a 3 month old.  My abdominal region feels crushed, bruised.  I'm desperately trying to eat enough to keep the scale from dipping under 90 lbs.  And at my last dr appt, the dr flitted her eyes around the room, then shrugged and buried her nose in the notepad in front of her, not even writing...just tapping. 
That tapping, the not meeting my eyes, the little frown...the shrug and release to a dr I've never met who can't see me for a month...not reassuring.  There's a diagnosis missing. 

In the past, by Christmas, I've been optimistic.  I've thought I had the answers I needed, and believed I was on the mend.  I could answer questions positively and clearly, or simply evade them by pretending I wasn't that bad.  This year, I'm lighter than I've been in at least 5 years.  I can't stop bleeding, and I'm not buying perimenopause 'nothing to worry about, just be patient'.  The nausea and cramping are really bringing me down.  I'm not playing poor me...I'm trying to simply state the facts.
I'm also worried about my daughter who has developed trichotillomania, or the urge to pluck out her eyelashes methodically.  I know this is the right diagnosis, although so far my attempts to get her help have not really led anywhere other than "Tell her to stop!"  Which, of course, I've tried.  :P
While I love hanging out with family, and I would love to have a get together, or attend one, I've felt up to either for a full...oh, five?  Fifteen?  minutes at a time over the course of the past 3 months.  I'm really hesitant to make plans because of how bad it makes me feel to leave early or change my mind last minute.  I'm haunted by memories of discomfort and reactions.  I'm withdrawing from questions because I have no answers.  And I'm avoiding...because I'm finding that after years of this whole sick-at-the-last-minute business, even those I love are starting to think I'm choosing others first.  When the truth is, I'm embarrassed that I'm still sick, that my stomach is threatening (and I'm now aware that I'm the only one fighting to keep her digestion under control), that I don't have answers and am starting to give up finding any.
(I didn't say that I'm giving up.  I'm saying that I'm starting to give up hope of finding answers.  There's a huge difference, as I found myself trying to explain to my husband.)

In past years, I've daydreamed about hosting parties.  I've enjoyed getting together, if only for an hour, with loved ones and family.  I've told myself that this will happen, someday, when I'm better.
This year, I'm not so sure. 
My goals for the new year are to get the house clean again, to get food under control, to get help from the medical community.
Humble enterprises.
I thought by now I'd be farther in my journey.  It's hard to admit to myself that what I thought was the bigger picture is only a few puzzle pieces.  And I'm wondering if the missing diagnosis could possibly explain both the food reactions and the menstrual irregularities. 
I suppose you could say that I don't want to ruin anyone else's holiday with my own frustration and shrugged shoulders.  I'm disappointed that the answers gained over the past few years simply aren't quite good enough, and I'm ashamed of where my limitations have led me, and uncertain what lies ahead.
 So this year, while I'm thinking of family and friends...I'm going to be happy that they are celebrating.  I'm sending best wishes.  And I'm hoping that they understand why I'm playing the Christmas Card friend (which reminds me...I never did get Christmas cards mailed...make that a 'New Years card friend') instead of a hostess.  I'm going to focus on what I am up to instead of worrying about appearances and what I'm not up to. 
And I'm going to try really hard not to feel guilty about it.  It's the holidays, and even if I'm still climbing my way back up from my last reaction and the bout with H Pylori, and still seeking answers, I'm going to salvage what I can...even if it means sacrificing what I wish I were doing.  I'm going to enjoy Christmas, regardless of the social aspect...or lack thereof.  And in the new year, I will find healing, and strength.  And maybe we can get together 'just because', and celebrate friendships and family without the stress of holidays as an excuse. 
If there are other readers struggling to find missing pieces and feeling discouraged, I just wanted to let you know you're not alone.  Let's band together online, and embrace our strengths...accept our weaknesses...and just enjoy the day. 
Happy Holidays. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I'm Grateful for Good Kids

It occurs to me that I never got around to finishing my "Thanksgiving" post.  And it's not terribly coherent, or even that relevant a week later.
But I'm still grateful.  And I've a lot to be Thankful for, any day of the year.
Wednesday of this week ushered in the first night of Hanukkah.  Bumblebee had a small meltdown over not being the ONLY one to get to light a menorah this year, although on Wednesday she was permitted.  She stayed coherent through the whole argument, though, which is a big step for her.  And Penguin stayed calm and was so sweet about the whole thing.  Thursday and Friday Penguin lit her own, smaller menorah.  At 12, it's still fun.  I'm not sure how important it will be to her at 13.
I'm still struggling with no appetite.  A little worried that I'm going to lose weight at this rate, so I try to choke down some peanut butter and chocolate when I realize it's been awhile.  My body doesn't object too much as long as I don't eat much at a time, and it's more calorie dense than broth, or rice, or baked fruit.
The kids are filled with the holiday spirit.  As am I.  Although waves of nausea and persistent debilitating cramping make it difficult to anticipate the 'togetherness' aspect.
Maybe it's selfish of me, but I want to spend time with people I love not thinking about my stomach.  At this point, being sick over the holidays seems like a tradition itself.  But so is HOPE.  Hope that things will improve.  Hope that we're going up an easy slope, and the end is just in sight.  Hope that recovery is waiting in the new year. 
Today, I had high hopes for the weekend.  There were several places on the agenda...a promise to take one child to the mall, another to a local park, and a small exhibit I didn't want to miss.  Both evenings are booked for spending time with loved ones.
As you might deduce from the fact that I'm typing rather than playing, this morning has me curled up with a heating pad.  The kids are cheerful enough, they showered me with hugs and kisses.  They told me to sleep.  And I'm listening to them playing happily in the living room.
While I absolutely HATE that I'm in here rather than out there (or even better, in the car listening to them in the backseat) I love that they are so understanding, so flexible.  And I'm grateful for the chance to parent them. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Tonight, as I tucked Bumblebee into bed, she asked for permission to watch TV if she got up really early.
Well, of course, I told her that she could certainly turn on the television if it would get her out of bed more than 5 minutes before we need to leave for school!  (Yes, I wake her and shake her and tickle her and toss her clothes to her and remind her what time it is in regular intervals between when I wake up and when she stumbles bleary eyed to the front door.  And yes, we've tried putting her to bed earlier.)
Good, she told me.  The PE teacher told us we need to watch more TV.
Now, I'm all for progressive learning.  And I'm not opposed to a little television, I even think that it can be *gasp* educational in certain amounts.  But...the PE teacher suggested more TV?  Really?
Uh, huh.  Oh, and we're not supposed to watch PBS or movies, she adds.
This has me suspicious.  I'm a little curious as to what else is ON TV, since we don't have cable and rarely even watch broadcast stations.  So I ask her to elaborate.
"We need to watch something with commercials," she explains, "So we have time to do push ups."

I wonder if the PE teacher expected any of the kids to listen to her advice and hear "You need more screen time!!!"  Probably not.  But I may mention it, anyways. 
And Bumblebee?  She's been informed that while she is welcome to watch a little TV now and then, we're not going to carve TV time into our day to help her make time for push ups.  She can do push ups while she's dancing to "The Dog on the Front of the Tag" or waiting for Webkinz to load.  She can do push ups while she's draped over the kitchen chairs complaining that dinner takes too long.  She can do push ups instead of creating a new railroad layout.  She can do pushups instead of pulling out the Littlest Pet Shops when watching a movie. 

Bumblebee disagrees.  She's pretty sure she's supposed to watch more TV.  And stay up later, too...

Stress + Stress

About 18 months ago, July of 2009, I posted about the family stomach bug.  The one that the kids seemed to eventually recover from, but I just never really did.  Well, eventually I figured I was probably close to normal.  What is normal, anyways?  Other than an absence of being 'worse than usual'.
It turns out that somewhere between then and now, I developed a bacteria known as H Pylori.  Ironically, this bacteria was originally called "stress" and is the number one cause of ulcers.
Diagnosis was really easy.  Luckily, my dr did think to run the blood test and it was positive.
The next step should be relatively straightforward.  A triple whammy attack of 2 antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor.
Of course...I had 2 questions.  What's the PPI for?  And "Is there corn in that?"
The answers were not so straight forward.  I'm uncomfortable that the answer to "What's the PPI for?" was 'That's the standard treatment, we find it works.'
I know it's just me.  But I like to know WHY.  And the answer of "You just don't understand" gets under my skin.  Of course I don't understand!  Why else would I ask?
And then it comes to corn.  The list is quite long.
It encompasses a large number of potential names.  I don't react to the protein.  I don't know why.  I'm not willing to study it too much further...not on myself.  Not after dealing with it and learning more, and accepting what I've learned over a full 7 years.
7 years.
It's a long time.  It's been a long process.  You'd think after so many years I'd understand what was going on.  I'd be able to navigate any system.
But I didn't count on a system that doesn't recognize or respect the acknowledgment of prior doctors, of unusual situations.  I spent 4 days visiting with the pharmacy.
I was reassured.  Placated.  Confidently soothed.  But I didn't feel validated or respected.
That's scary, and it makes me feel rebellious. 
But the bottom line was that the ER was accessible.  If I end up there they can do something.
There's nothing else they could offer.  The dr says to talk to the pharmacist, the pharmacist says the doctor makes the call.  They called the manufacturers and asked if corn was used in the process.  They couldn't tell me if they ascertained "any corn derivatives" or if they specified starch as well as protein.  The stress of going to the pharmacy on a daily basis for less than 10 minutes with the pharmacist before they walked away was getting to me.
The end result is that the decision was up to me.  I could trust them, and take medication that may or may not help.  And was likely to make me nauseous and crampy by it's very nature.  Or, I could not take it.
H Pylori is common.  It doesn't always cause symptoms.
But I'm symptomatic and I'm getting depressed.  (from the symptoms...seriously?  If you lived on rice because your stomach was volatile, you'd probably get depressed, too.)   So, I took the meds.   At least, I took them until I gagged on them, and couldn't keep them down.
Then I stopped taking the one I was most suspicious of (omeprazol, the PPI) and continued...much more successfully...with the antibiotics.  I figured that vomiting undigested meds wasn't helping me any.  So taking the antibiotics alone was better than nothing.
My colon still feels like it's been beaten to a pulp.  Mostly because of the charlie-horses that set in not long after the meds took effect.  Typical corn response, for me.  I'm still having occasional tightness of breath, but that was one my complaints before...so who knows if it's corn related?  I have chills, but it's pretty cold.  Still struggling with nausea and lack of appetite.  The itchiness has finally subsided.  (Mostly.)  I don't seem to have actually hived out.  I've slept 16 hours a day (at least) for the past 2 weeks and I'm still tired. 
But I'm thankful that the antibiotics are over, and I'm crossing my fingers that once the corny reaction finishes working it's way through, maybe I'll be able to enjoy the holidays.
It seems like I've missed spending time with family and friends a lot the past few years.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Down Day

5 years ago, I thought that going gluten free and corn free and having that "Celiac Diagnosis" (even if it was by duck theory) would be the end of stomach issues, and dropped balls, and letting the kids down. 
I thought it would fix everything.  I had names, labels...even when I hit a plateau I knew it was so much better than it had been and hoped that eventually, I'd find the slope and get climbing upwards again. 

I'm starting to think I was wrong.  These really are just pieces in the puzzle of my life.  They help, but they don't cure.  There's something, some vital piece still missing. 
Last week I was quickly diagnosed with H Pylori, which might help to explain the slow backslide of the past year.  The treatment is almost as bad as the disease, but I'm hoping after the ten days of antibiotics are over I'll maybe finally snap back to radiant health.  Or, maybe just feel like spending an entire afternoon at the zoo. 
The worst part isn't the nausea, or the cramping and fatigue that's just enough to keep me near bed.  It's my daughter asking if I'm sick, and wanting to stay home "to take care of you!"  It's dropping her off at girl scouts, and apologizing because I really can't stay (Er, but I'm going to run in and use the restroom real quick...)  It's my oldest asking if I'm going to die.  (NO!  It's not the least bit serious, it just makes me need to rest.  It just upsets my tummy.  You can help by getting along with your sister.)  It's trying to face dinnertime with a smile, because they need real food and they need to feel good about real food.  And it's laying in bed, thinking about the dishes I don't feel up to scrubbing, the floor I want to vacuum, the counters that need to be washed down. 
Sometimes I just want to be unreasonable, and throw a fit...insist that they find what's "wrong" and "fix" it.  I've come close to screaming in frustration.  I know, I need to be patient and let each step bring me closer to healing.  But I'm not sure rationalizing it makes the process any easier. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

The trouble with being a full time homemaking mom is that there's plenty of leeway for adapting my activity to suit my physical needs.  And so, as nausea and cramping and general fatigue increase, I instinctively adapt.  But there's very little gauge, from my end of things. 

It's been years since I spent my days going from bed...to an internal soliloquy about getting back to a heating pad...to crawling back into bed for a brief reprieve.  It's been years since a little old lady cornered me outside a public restroom for going out and about and exposing the rest of the world in "my condition".  It's been years since I shot up 3 waist band sizes in an afternoon.  Or vomited blood. Or even curled up on the bathroom floor and wished I could just fall asleep and not hurt anymore. 
Put in perspective, I'm doing great. 
I get frustrated sometimes...but I don't wonder how I'm going to find the strength to walk from the car to the school and back. 
So it caught me by surprise to have my husband tell me he was worried.  I've been slacking off, I know...but I've been feeling 'bleh'. 
At least since September.  And we had a rough summer.  And I've been hormonal. 
Gently he pointed out that according to my faithful little planner that I record in but ignore, I've been 'hormonal' since May.  And nauseous.  And that my diet is dwindling again.  (variety wise, not calorie wise!)  In his eyes, I'm slowly fading away and it's scaring him. 
Of course, I had no response for that.  Other than to splutter that of course I had been eating a lot of rice...it settles well, and there were things I didn't want to miss.  I haven't lost that much weight, I think.  (He didn't actually have to say "You're missing them anyway")  I paused.  I harumphed.  I called.  I made the appointment. 
I wish I could say it went well. 
The first time the dr asked if I was taking any medication for my Celiac Disease, it didn't seem unusual.  But the 3rd time, I got an uncomfortable feeling that I'd just wasted a copay. 
I explained to her about corn, and at least that's in my record now.  They took enough blood to put my entire arm to sleep, and I'm enormously relieved to find that the phlebotomist was understanding about my freaky rolling veins and patiently used a child sized needle.  (It takes twice as long, but is less likely to lead to a lost or collapsed vein.) 
But I pretty much left with the diagnosis of..."You're skinny.  You need to gain some weight." 
Which seemed obvious.
The GI will call if they need to see me.  Maybe the blood tests will be enlightening.  But I have a sinking suspicion that I'm stuck with "skinny". 
At least it's a new diagnosis.  Usually they just say "Huh, that's weird.  Maybe it's just stress."  

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Haunting Good Time, part 2

The rest of the weekend wasn't quite so spectacular.  Saturday I awoke with Bumblebee's fever and was happy to usher the kids off to Grandma's house for a day of play.
They came home with a huge pumpkin, and a handful of safe candy each.  I went back to bed.

Sunday dawned bright and early...with bouncy kids...and a feverish Mommy.  Eventually it was time to leave for trick or treating at the zoo.  The kids asked me to stay home.  They knew Daddy was up for anything.  They didn't want to miss any fun.  I reluctantly agreed to stay in bed.  :-(
But I hear that the local zoo put on a hauntingly good time yet again!  They really outdid themselves, Lara Bar, Cascadian Farms, and Martinelli's Apple juice were just a few of the healthy food sponsors handing out chemical free treats.  There were also seeds, and paperwork, and stickers.
And merry go round rides, and animals to visit, and then just enough time to rest before they went to "just a few" houses for their evening fun.

They were a little nervous.  As Penguin put it, "Mom, it's a little rude to just ring someone's bell and ask them for candy!"
But they only got one sour puss who said he'd give them some candy, but seriously...they needed to hurry home and watch the World Series.  It was getting good.
The game must have kept a lot of dads glued to the TV, because there were handfuls of candy dumped into the bags.  The girls were excited, because the end of trick or treating is the beginning of the real fun...

Trade ins!!!
Remarkably, there was quite a bit of the haul that one kid or the other could eat.  There were Trader Joe's Semi Dark chocolate bars that read free of gluten and dairy (and dye), Necco wafers from a knowledgeable friend (free of the top 8 and dye, but comprising mostly of corn), Yummy Earth Lollipops, treat size Annie's Bunny crackers (safe for Bumblebee), a few chocolate bars safe for only bumblebee (including a full sized 3 Musketeers...which she called "super gigantic") some pixie stick like candy that was actually uncolored, and some yellow starbursts that I'm not overly happy about Penguin eating, but they are blue dye free and we know it's blue that's bad for her.  All in all a good haul even before I pulled out the good stuff to trade the dangerous in for...an Enjoy Life Boom Choco Boom bar and Florida's Natural fruit snacks.  (Plus our own treat bucket goodies)

If you're wondering what the trick or treaters who came to our house were treated to; we filled our goodie basket with pencils, notebooks, glow in the dark bats, silly bandz, stickers, and Florida's Naturals (Yes, there's corn in those.  But they're inexpensive, appealing and the kids can eat them.  Anyone with a corn allergy can have one of the party favors).  Basically, cheap, easy, and most of the leftovers will last until next year.  Oh...we gave out little rubber duckies, too, dressed in Halloween garb.  The little ones who actually pay any attention to what's going on love those.  :-)  (And my kids are claiming those leftovers)

And now we have enough candy to last us through Thanksgiving feasts, Holiday parties and both Christmas and New Years activities.  Oddly, this is Wednesday.  And although I've told them several times that they could have a treat after school, they keep going straight to the cupboard for fruit leather, or homemade muffins, or asking me to make porridge.  Which is fine...and probably healthier than those fun size candy bars...but there are bags of candy on the table, kids...Get to it before your dad does!!!  

A Haunting Good Time

Halloween weekend was full of fun festivities for our family. 
We held our breath throughout the week when Bumblebee developed a fever and took to bed for a few days, not out of undue concern for her health (we were certain she'd recover fairly quickly, especially if she'd consent to taking just a little dye free motrin to bring it down) but because it was so close to Halloween.  What if she missed all the fun?  :P 
Thankfully, Friday morning she bounced (well, rolled and stumbled, really) out of bed and double checked her costume one last time before leaving for school.  She had settled on a Graduation Girl in honor of Junie B Jones, but couldn't quite bear to spill grape juice "splotchies" or "Polka dottie" all over the beautiful white graduation gown I found stuffed unceremoniously in the back of the closet.  I made a new mortar board for her, tacked on a tassle, and we quickly rolled up a diploma for her to proudly carry around the schoolyard for the parade. 
Penguin, the mature middle schooler, was allowed to wear her costume to school and glowed with the reviews.  Thankfully, I had no last minute baking to do since middle school skips the official class parties and what not.  There was a cookie in her lunch.  She had a perfect costume (Minnie Mouse, with a skirt long enough to remove the black leggings if the California weather got too hot)  She was happy. 

The elementary school hosted a parade where Bumblebee proudly marched around the blacktop with her class.  Nothing special.  But it's fun for the kids, and I went to support her and snap pictures. 
Afterwards was the class party.  I must say it was surreal to not have to provide anythign or fuss over my kid.  I opted to stay for awhile when I overheard the teacher warning the other moms to cook the separate pancake mix first so it didn't get cross contaminated with any wheat at all. 
Oh.  Celiac?  Curiosity and this weird innate sense of protection for unknown children got the better of me.   
They did a wonderful job at ensuring that one child in the classroom stayed safe (there was another food allergy child as well, but his mom was there so I removed him from my warning radar) and were extremely discreet about the allergies.  The children know about the child who has life threatening nut allergies because there is an epi pen in the classroom and because they aren't supposed to bring peanut products during rainy day lunch, as we learned before.  They didn't know about the child with Celiac, they didn't need to.  They still have no idea.  I wouldn't know if I hadn't picked up on the food policing and offered to help. 
I turned down the request for help flipping pancakes.  Not that I didn't want to help, but I was concerned about the safety of spraying Pam.  I know it's an issue for other uncornies, and coupled with the proximity of the whipped cream can (and the way the flecks of whipped cream kept hitting one mom in the face) I felt it was a little safer to stand elsewhere.  
I was then asked to go around with the milk. 
Blank stare. 
I'm afraid I had to ask them to repeat themselves several times before it occurred to me that "Oh, right!  Some people drink milk!" 
I felt like an idiot.  But, I learned that another family doesn't keep milk or milk products in their home.  They don't like to be different or make a scene, so they let the kids have milk products when out and about...it's a "happy compromise" and they don't seem to react too much.  I really wanted to say something more about our experience...how we thought Penguin was fine and dandy with a little milk baked into goodies, a bit of cheese or yoghurt with dinner, an occasional serving of real ice cream.  That she didn't know that the nausea and abdominal pain she felt were abnormal.  She never thought to complain, only occasionally comment.  But this really didn't seem like the place or the time to get into those details, so I simply said something about how we used to think the same thing, but my oldest can't tolerate any at all now and asked the first table if anyone wanted milk. 
I felt like a bit of a hypocrite pouring this white poison into their little glasses...thinking of what it would do to my poor daughter.  But then the other half of my brain snapped in and said "You idiot, as long as they aren't allergic to it, it's better than soda!"  And I kept pouring with a smile. 
One girl asked "Is this real milk or fake milk?" And I snatched the cup out of her hand almost before she'd finished speaking. 
"This is cow's milk, what do you usually drink at home?"  I asked suspiciously. 
"Whole milk with vitamin D," she proudly stated and I handed the cup back to her. 
When we ran out I looked at the next jug thoughtfully, and asked myself if you shake cow's milk.  Tried to discreetly hold it up to the light, but it didn't look separated so I decided to stick with a gentle swish just to make myself feel better before I opened it. After all, Rice Dream needs a good shake, but that gallon jug was awfully heavy and awkward. 
Bumblebee was ecstatic.  The main highlight of the party were favor sized card games which the children were given time to play, and little plastic "knock the ball into the cup" type games.  The food was relatively healthy, and colored like real, normal food.  She drank water instead of milk, although I'm not sure she's ever tasted cow's milk.  They had lots of fruit ("Yum!") and pumpkin pancakes. She says her teacher makes "good choices"; which is a wonderful way to wrap up Red Ribbon Week, too. 

After school was the elementary school carnival.  We played games to our hearts content, and won plenty more than candy.  In fact, there was only one piece of candy that was brought home total.  I told them to throw it in the trick or treat bowl and we'd pretend the rest had been taken already.  :P 

All in all...a great start to the weekend. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Puzzle Pieces

Over dinner, Penguin told us about her day.  She's learning nutrition, and a little bit unhappy about the milk info.  (It's not good for you if it makes you sick.  I agree with her.  But the coursework insists that there's a "Dairy" group, not a "calcium foods" group.) 
She also learned "something gross". 
She learned that many supermarket foods are coated in or gassed with ethylene. 
Of course, this is where I pipe in that ethylene is often corn derived...and she nods, uh huh, they learned that. 
It's also a plant hormone. 
I find this intriguing.  I want more info.  Hmmm....a plant hormone.  We know that corn is an endocrine disruptor.  We know that the majority of participants in online discussion of corn reactions are women, and that corn reactions seem to make 'that time of month' that much worse.  We know that corn allergy does not follow the typical allergy path, and that those of us reacting have a variety of inexplicable sensitivities and tolerance levels.  Could the fact that a derivative is actually a plant hormone be significant? 
I tell her that it is gross.  That it's terrible that 'they' can play with our food, that it looks normal but 'they' don't have to tell us that it's been gassed, or waxed or treated if it's an "industry standard".  She agrees.  "It's a plant hormone!  They put it in all our food, the fresh food.  The kind you buy in the market and it's not labeled." 
I'm impressed.  She gets it.  She's outraged at the duplicity, the fact that the industry doesn't trust us, the consumers, with knowledge.  She's indignant. 
"I mean, it's a hormone.  A plant hormone.  Everyone thinks it's gross." 
The next generation might just make a difference after all. 
And then it occurs to me.  She's...12.
"Is it gross because it's a hormone?"  I hesitantly ask, but she doesn't even have to open her mouth to answer.  My husband chokes on his snack and stands coughing over the sink. 
"Yeah...she's 12," he says, still chuckling, "The teacher said the word 'hormone' in class, in front of the boys." 
"It was so, so...gross!" Penguin repeated. 
Well...her reasons may be misguided, but her reaction is still right.  Treating our food, especially our farm fresh produce, with plant hormones for farmer's convenience is just...well, gross. 
And I have more puzzle pieces to research. 

Halloween Horrors

It's that time of year, again.  My sewing machine has been singing, cloth snippets sprinkle the floor, and everyone checks clothes piles for pins before snatching them off the sofa or lounging over them.  (A nasty habit I discourage, growl about, snap over yet never quite manage to eradicate) 
Costumes have taken shape.  Plans are made to decorate the front yard (although I'm not so sure the cobwebs will make it out...) and the excitement surrounding trick or treating is beginning to build.
School parties are also being planned, and the buzz on all the parenting with food allergy boards centers on the challenge of preparing appealing treats that the kids will enjoy.

Unfortunately, although we've all read and raved over "The Unhealthy Truth", I see that it just hasn't been taken to heart by many.
In the face of adversity...and potential tears or disappointment...the worst in us comes out.  Parents who spring for organic milk, hormone free meat, and all natural juice are stocking their cupboards with vibrant sprinkles, frighteningly neon chewy candies, bright lollipops and other chemical experiments. Favorite ghoul goodies of the year include crispy rice treats, made with marshmallows (corn syrup, blue dye and powdered sugar), crisped rice cereal, margarine and lots of sugar, colored with bottled coloring or decorated with canned frosting (more corn syrup and several preservatives and artificial flavoring compounds) and food coloring gels; clear cups filled with artificially vibrant colors of gelatin decorated to look like monster heads, and of course homemade cookies and cupcakes with monstrous amounts of tinted icing.
These goodies can be made without gluten, or dairy, or nuts.  They are free of the top 8 allergens and sometimes even a few more.  They can delight kids who eat the evil eight on a daily basis, while allowing our own necessarily deprived kids feel like one of the bunch.
It's lonely having allergies that preclude even those decorations.  Although, I'm happy for the excited parents and the smiling recipients.  
Unfortunately, I can't help but wonder what the long term trade off is.
Artificial colors trigger major migraines in my oldest.  Studies show that they cause hyperactive activity in children not diagnosed with ADHD.  They are a neurological stimulant.  And certain ones are linked to cancer in laboratory animals. 
And they don't even have any redeeming nutritional flavor.  And, as petrochemicals derived from coal tar, they're bad for the environment to boot. 

Halloween isn't just a once a year, rare treat excuse for a food fest.  It's the gateway to 3 months full of food related activities.  As we finish off the Trick or Treat leftovers, we'll start in on Friendship Feasts, winter wonderlands, and ending with Valentines.  Then a short break before spring and summer parties.  More sugar, more food coloring to cover the absence of allergens.
As we drift farther into the year away from 'candy day' we tell ourselves that we're cutting back.  But in reality, Halloween is the setback day.  We make an allowance for this one "special day" of sugar and sweet poisons, then we simply spend the next several months making less bad choices, remembering how much junk we sent coursing through our brains and intestines to celebrate the spirits...and congratulate ourselves on comparative restraint.
My kids know that food colorings aren't a special treat.  They'll be not only content, but giddy over a few chocolate bars and some Yummy Earth Lollipops, supplemented with silly bandz. 
Of course, they are blessed with an immediate reaction.  They can look at a confection and weigh it's tantalizing taste with tonight's pain, and although I recognize the maturity involved it breaks my heart to see them struggle.  
Unfortunately, this is the time of year when dye triggered reactions or 'allergies' are the loneliest.  As I bond with other food allergy moms, I'm still the odd man out...but even if I COULD give my kids that stuff, I like to think I wouldn't want to.  I realize that it would be a slippery slope, one I'm glad not to have to navigate. 
Meanwhile, we'll enjoy the finer points of Halloween.  The harvest festivals, the scarecrows and pumpkin carving, the costumes and spooky decorations.  We'll bake cookies, and squash, and put away the air conditioner.  We'll turn on the porch light and sip cocoa.  And the kids will tumble into bed, having survived the toughest food allergy holiday of the year. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

There is nothing in our society more emotional than the subject of food.  Just ask any mother to be...the battle between breast and bottle usurps more conversations and internet boards than any other newborn topic.  Then there is the question of when to introduce solids (You're a bad mom if you intro too early.  An even worse one if you starve your poor darling by introducing 'too late'.  And the standards keep changing.)  Then there are religious dietary restrictions.  Health nuts.  Food allergies.  Food intolerances.  Behavior disorders responding to dietary intervention.  Pesticides, salicylates, MSG, preservatives, sugar and transfats.
However...although many of these may bring about a spike in blood pressure, or a bona fide shouting match...the most explosive issue in PTA meetings across America can be the issue surrounding a simple Peanut Butter sandwich.
It's simple.  It's easy.  It's tasty.  It's deadly to a select few.
And that's what adults can't even wrap their brains around.
It scares me to think what kids can do.  That even at their most malicious, the elementary school kids who pick up on their parents' annoyance with a potential peanut butter ban or their classmates obvious avoidance of anything peanut related, won't realize the potential cost of exposure.  They may think they're being funny by shoving a granola bar under an allergy sufferer's nose, or smearing peanut butter on someone's arm.  They may know it's mean.  But teasing, in their brains, is designed to demonstrate the futility of an irrational fear.  There's no room in their for the possibility that a fear of food could possibly be rational.
What really scares me are the potential consequences.  Not just for the victim, but the attacker.
Imagine that you're 8 years old.  You hate pink.  You passionately hate pink.  Your friend's favorite color is pink, and she happens to wear a pink baseball cap to school one day.  "Wear it!" she says, and you shake your head.
This evolves into a battle of wills, and at some point she jumps up and pops it on your head...you brush it off, glare at her, the teacher tells you both to knock it off, she giggles uncomfortably and you later make up.
Now imagine you're the "bully" with the pink cap.  And your friend says she doesn't want to wear it.  After insisting that it's pretty, it'll look nice, it won't clash with her iron-red hair, you pop it on her head...and she knocks it off, falls down and starts gasping for breath.  An ambulance arrives and she's rushed to the hospital, unconscious.
Obviously, you're at fault for forcing the cap over her head.  You knew she didn't like pink, didn't want to wear the cap, and you refused to accept her wishes.  But you didn't comprehend that putting a cap on her head could kill her.
It's the same thing with food allergies.  For the vast majority of kids, food is simply an aesthetic experience.  They may not like certain textures or temperatures, or flavors.  But they express their unique opinions and that's that.  Most adults experience childhood opinions simply as an extension of their sense of selves...kids express opinions and in their limited lifespan sense that whether they get a red or green lollipop is a matter of life and death; they want to live...they want a red one like their best friend or they'll be doomed to dorky green forever.  (This is what spawned the infamous "Get what you get and don't throw a fit" saying)
Unfortunately, food allergic kids get lumped in the same category as the doomed dorks...the ones who are picky, won't eat crusts or colors or soggy crackers.  The ones who recoil from plantlike objects on their plate.

It's a hard situation.  No one can fault the tuna fish lover for sticking their tongue out at the picky eater or waving their odorous sandwich under the nose of someone who's pretending to gag.  As long as both parties are having relative fun, it's relatively harmless.
But what about a kid who is fearful of peanut butter sandwiches...because they have an epi pen sequestered in their belt?  Or because they've recently tested positive for peanuts as an allergen and their parents are in the process of ascertaining how serious the allergy is?  Their fear is real, based on symptomatic consequences, not aesthetics.
How is a yard duty to know the difference between one kid screaming "No, keep that sandwich away!" because it's gross and they make people laugh by reacting, and another screaming "No, keep it away" out of real fear?  The fact is they can't.  At this point in time, the severity and far reaching implications of food allergy are just too abstract for most people.   
Food allergies shouldn't relegate a kid to a lifelong bubble.  A child with food restrictions is still a child, first and foremost.  They deserve to live life to the fullest of their ability, and even the ADA protects that right.  
Which is why the new trend of Food Bullies is so disturbing.  Neither the bully nor the victim are sure how to define it.  Even witnesses might not process, immediately, the dangers of what's going on.  But, it impacts a child's sense of safety.  It threatens certain children's safety, and perhaps their lives. 
My kids are lucky.  If faced with a food bully, they will be annoyed.  Frustrated, their feelings possibly hurt.  Penguin assures me that the worst bullies she sees are substitute teachers, who tell her that milk is important and she will get very sick if she keeps refusing to drink it.  I'm not sure if this makes me pleased, or sad.  Since the behavior is obviously judgemental, but not necessarily bullying.  And there's not much I can do (other than calling the office each time it happens to express my displeasure.  Which I do.  I don't think it's happened in awhile, it's just made a deep impact.)  Anyways...my kids will survive food bullies.
But not every parent can literally say the same.
Not every bully is intentional, and that thought is just as scary.
I will continue to teach my kids the importance of tolerance, and accepting that something specific might be important to one person for reasons that we simply can't comprehend but should respect.  

Monday, September 06, 2010

Time in a bottle

Some days I wish I could simply bottle. 
It's Labor Day weekend.  We should be going to a park, or the zoo, or cleaning out the garage.  We probably should be barbequing.  Or shopping.
Instead, I'm sitting at the computer, listening to the chatter of two voices and the clink of their toys as they create a wonderland in the livingroom.  There are corrals set up around the fireplace.  Toy bins have been upended to make either traps or houses, it's hard to tell which.  Molded plastic horses, and kitens, and dogs and jungle animals are carefully laid out in intricate interactions across the floor.  There are strings draped from chair rungs to plastic hooves, and bits of paper shredded and piled as 'winter preperations'.  There's giggling, and I catch bits and pieces of phrases like "Oh, wait...no, I have it...they should..." and "That's a great idea!  And then..." 
I let the moments wrap around me, holding my breath when I slip into the room, watching their heads bowed together over a cheap plastic saddle, and slipping out again, careful not to diturb their game. 
We don't get full blown games like this very often anymore. 
There was a time when any item, any moment, every day was filled with fantasy worlds and magical moments.  But at 8 and 12, we're straddling the lines between child and teenager.  Family or friends.  Toys and gadgets.  Games and gossip. 
Today, I'm listening to the blossom of creativity as they dream.  Anything could happen. 
Earlier, Penguin asked for pizza bread, expressing a desire for some savory baked item.  We went online, then whipped together a cup of brown rice flour, an egg, some salt, oil and just over half a cup of water. 
Her tummy is filled with this concoction dipped in pasta sauce.  (her sister spread jam on it...Bumblebee believes anything baked should be sweet)  And I feel like it is a good day.  A successful day.  A fulfilling day. 
Even if there are dishes to do and no path cutting across the living room. 
There's laundry to fold, and shelves that need dusting...but just now, I'm going to close my eyes and listen to kids being kids.  Because today won't last.  And a camera couldn't hope to capture it. 

Monday, August 09, 2010


Jealousy burns, bitter and sour, a shield against hurt and anger.  Frustration.
Some parents get to look at a treat lovingly prepared by their kids, and see the pride, the smiling faces.  All they have to fear is a bit of dust, unclean hands.  Unique flavoring, and how exactly to keep themselves from betraying their misgivings.
And then there's the food allergy parent.  The corn allergy parent, to be exact.
My loving kids ransacked their brains and raided the kitchen.  They found bananas, strawberries, and chocolate chips.  They searched the cupboards for real chopsticks.  They put two and two together and tucked them, secretly, into the freezer.  A few hours later, they began bugging me for popsicles.
I knew something was up...but not what.
I treasure the pride, the ear-to-ear grins, the shining eyes.
But they were out of safe bananas last time I went to the store.  And I tend to react to store bought strawberries.
So all I could do was squish them up tight in a hug, grin back my tears, and thank them from the bottom of my heart, while breaking theirs.
Maybe it's not such a big deal to say "not right now" if you don't have food allergies.  Maybe just the restrictions make food itself seem like a much bigger deal than it is.  But it gets old, being on my toes all the time.
Choosing whether to grin and bear the digestive disturbances that go on and on and on...or the discomfort of being in the spotlight.
I know the grass is always greener.  We have so much to be thankful for.  But tonight, I'm feeling sad.
And in dire need of a chocolate covered banana that hasn't been gassed to ripen properly.  At least the kids aren't too old to snuggle up and watch "Road to El Dorado" with me.  A good snuggle and a funny movie might just make up for it all. 
Well, that and a handful of chocolate chips. 


It's funny how the mind works.
Some deep seated memory can float to the surface, and pieces of a mystery will fall into place, leaving you chuckling to yourself (or smacking yourself in the forehead) but helpless to do anything to change the past.  A memory is simply a memory.
Today's trigger was a family reunion, and my mind quickly drifted back several years, to the same family reunion (with more relatives I was excited about seeing.)  my brother had an earache or some such not-bad, but not-sociable illness, and my dad volunteered to take me.  Afterall, it was his family and he really wanted to visit with them.
We stopped at Subway on the way.  Purchased sandwiches, and I got away with ordering my preferred salad-on-bread...although he insisted on the bread.  We got to the picnic, and he wanted me to sit down and eat.
This made no sense to me.
I was 13 or 14 at the time.  I could not understand why he didn't "get" that eating came at the end of fun.  For me, eating was an End.  I didn't like the beginning it signified.  I'd eat, because I was hungry.  But then I'd feel bloated...my clothes would hurt.  My stomach would whine.  I'd feel itchy, and hot, and nauseous.  Eating was a "Now you curl up in a chair, close your eyes and listen to people tell stories" activity.
Eating meant time to get in the car, and go home, and curl up in bed with the trash can in easy reach.
Eating was social...but it came at the end of socializing for me.  It was the start of a game called "How long can we be civil before giving in to misery this time?"
Looking back, this was the timeframe my Celiac symptoms started kicking in.  That 'healthy' whole wheat bread packed a whollop of gluten.  And it made me cringe because my instincts said bread was bad.  Salad was good.  However, I was losing weight which made my parents want to stuff me full of carbs and ice cream.  It all makes perfect sense, looking back now.
But this memory took place then, before we knew that food could bite back.  So my dad and I arrived, he told me to sit and eat, and I refused.  He was frustrated, disappointed, I knew my behavior was embarrassing him.  But still, I put it off, trying to be polite and feeling utterly confused and frustrated.  To me, everyone had to know what eating felt like and I wanted to go exploring.  Greet some people.  Commune with nature.  Go on an expedition with my cousin.  (I was just barely young enough to pretend we were lost in a forest...we'd both read My Side of the Mountain...and the reunion took place in a campground area so no one had to put up overnight guests.)  Eating would have ruined it all.
It was bad enough they'd made me choke down breakfast. 

My dad was smart.  He didn't get into a big blow out fight with me.  He didn't turn it into a battle of wills, or let this disagreement turn into a showdown in front of his entire family.  He simply let go and said if I wanted to go hungry I could go hungry.
And as I recall I was perfectly happy until I got hungry.
At which point I learned that my beloved salad-on-bread had been disposed of because mayo doesn't keep.  And food time was over, so most was packed up and put away.  You don't get dessert until you eat lunch...and my lunch was gone. 

I remember feeling confused, betrayed, hungry.  And the look I got from my dad confused me further.  He'd won, he was right.  But so was I, in my mind.  Eating would have destroyed the afternoon of fun.  Why on Earth were people chatting it up after eating?  How could they stomach a game of volleyball with a whirlwind in their bellies?  Were grownups some sort of masochists who thrived on abdominal discontent or did they have some magic spell I didn't know about?

I'm sure I was rotten to me dad for the rest of the afternoon, and pouted all the way home.  I know I was tired and cranky.  Now I know that I was missing a piece of the puzzle...the piece that says you aren't supposed to feel like you're exploding two bites into dinner.  A satisfying meal shouldn't leave you wanting to curl up and sleep it off so you don't have to pay attention to each step of digestion.  But then...then I thought I was normal.
My parents were missing the piece of how food made me feel.  They assumed I simply didn't want to sit still long enough to swallow.  They thought I might be concerned about calories (hence the bread, and the bowls of ice cream I consumed under watchful eyes).  They thought it was a teenage rebel thing.  And probably there was some teenage attitude.  I'm certain I was a handful.
But now I know that it wasn't all teenage angst.  I had Celiac Disease.  I have Celiac Disease.  I still hesitate to eat before socializing, it's just an ingrained, learned behavior.  I'm still startled to notice when I don't feel rotten after eating.  I still think "Oh, rats, I just ate!" when the kids or my husband want to go out on the spur of a moment.  There's so much more to food intolerances than we know.  And when they begin early, there's this added dimension of not having a normal baseline to guide symptoms by.
I found an old diary from when I was 9.  It had all of 5 entries in it.  One read "Got my allergy shots today.  Read a book.  Threw up in kitchen and went to bed early.  Wrote in diary.  Going to sleep."
Hmmm.  Another said I felt sick after dinner and went to bed.  I wish I'd kept a better record of how often those allergy shots made me sick, because that seems like another piece of the puzzle. 

Meanwhile, memories will continue to arise...revealing more of how undiagnosed food intolerances have affected my life and who I am.  And Dad...I'm really sorry I was so rotten to you that day.  I wanted what you wanted, to enjoy the picnic and the company.  We just had different ideas on how to make that happen.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Enjoy Life

In the world of food allergies, there are certain companies that stand out.
And in the world of Corn Allergies, company loyalty seems to reach an all-new high.  We thoroughly read every label, looking for minute additives...and then catch the hopeful words "No Corn".  Of course, we know that these two little words simply mean whatever the company has decided that they mean.  Perhaps that there is no unprocessed corn product.  Or that there is no high fructose corn syrup (Post declared it's Raisin Bran corn free because they use regular corn syrup)  Or maybe it means that they actually, *gasp*, know the origins of all of their products...and not one are derived from corn.
As a corn allergy sufferer, I'm always holding my breath for the latter.
Then there are companies who try, really hard, to understand the dynamics of corn allergy.  Who contact FAAN and work with them.  Continually proclaiming their product to be corn free while the supersensitive of us shiver, shake and break out in hives.  "Well, you see, that's very unusual," is the usual response.
But we asked in advance because we knew this was a potential problem.
You can almost hear the shrugging on the other end of the line.

Fortunately, there is one brand that doesn't shrug it off.  Enjoy Life foods does claim their food to be corn free, as per FAAN's standards.  But they will be upfront and admit in letters and email that if you are very sensitive to corn, the only products truly safe are the Cinnamon Crunch Granola, the Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips and the Boom Choco Boom Dark Chocolate Bar.  (Note:  Only the varieties above are safe to my knowledge.  Always read labels, and contact the company directly about any questions.)  Other products have minute amounts of maltodextrin or xanthan or other corn derivatives. 
While some of my fellow Uncornies scorn Enjoy Life for claiming corn free when they use some corn derivatives, I have to give them credit for patiently walking the middle ground.  They are honest and upfront.  As far as the general public goes, these products are corn free.  And for the majority of corn allergy sufferers muddling through the grocery store, the purer derivatives are safe enough.  It's only for a few of us that there is a problem.
And Enjoy Life is kind enough to answer our questions, offer advice, and encourage us to check with a medical professional before taking any risks.
After 7 years (or so) of experience contacting companies and requesting information, I have to say that Enjoy Life is one of the best companies to deal with.  They are responsive, and seem open.  They are encouraging and do their best to really understand, or at least sympathize with what the food allergy patient deals with daily.
Thanks Enjoy Life!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010


My husband is on the floor, with an open box and a variety of parts and pieces carefully spread out around him. 
"Can I help?" Bumblebee asks.
"Sure," he says, while carefully looking at a packet of screws. 
"I found a paper!  Hey, these are the directions!"
"Awesome, but we don't need the directions." 
She looks at him suspiciously and he defends himself by claiming he's a boy and boys don't usually need directions. 
She perks up and grins.  "I'm a girl!  I could read them for you!" 

Problem solved. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dear Company Spokesperson,
Thank you so much for your response to the inquiry as to whether or not the ingredients in your product contain corn. 
I have to point out, however, that you were not being asked to comment on the safety of corn derivatives for individuals with corn allergies.   Nor are you being asked to replace the role of medical advisor.  And if I took your advice to discuss every product I was considering placing across my lips with my medical provider, my medical provider would not have time to attend to any other patients.  That's why they suggest I do my own research.  As they advise every patient to do. 
Which is why you received a letter inquiring as to the origination of your ingredients. 
I'm pleased to hear that you know of no documented reactions to caramel color/citric acid/microcrystalline cellulose etc.  Unfortunately, I have experienced reactions under blind trial conditions.  These reactions were identified through the use of food diaries and helpful companies who were willing to share the source of their ingredients.  How else would I know why ascorbic from batch A made me sick and ascorbic acid from batch B didn't? 
I believe my doctor's response was "Huh, that's weird.  There are no documented cases of allergic reactions to these derivatives.  But if they affect you like this, I think you should definitely avoid them." 
Which brings me full circle to the problem at hand. 
Where were your ingredients derived?  I am asking for my health, not for the heck of it. I'm not asking for proprietary information.  I'm asking for sources of ingredients listed in your product.
If you don't want my business, simply respond that you don't serve people with unique allergies.  Don't quote the FDA's impressive quality control measures.  I presume, since you are still in business, that you adhere to their policies.  I don't really care about FAAN's policies since the top 8 allergens, as identified by the FDA, don't really pertain to corn.  But I do think that as a consumer, I have the right to know where products come from.  What country.  What plant.  And whether the plant originated as a seedling or a science fiction worthy science experiment.  

Thank you.

This letter was inspired by THIS post at Delphi forums.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Living the Mixed Kitchen Life

Tonight, I ,anaged to get dinner on the table somewhere around the time that 3 of us were hungry.  It was nothing fancy.  Simply rice pasta (courtesy of Trader Joe's), and a scramble of eggs with carmelized onion and a few greens of varying kinds for those who wanted and could eat them. 
Bumblebee ate early, and was requested next door, where I offered to walk her. 
"Don't poison my dinner," I teasingly warned Penguin and my dear husband. 
Amidst their protests that they love me, would never poison me, did I even have to remind them? I headed out the door with Bumblebee, gave her a kiss, told her when to return and to be good, and returned home. 

Writing the prior paragraph took longer than the entire process. 
However, when I stepped into the kitchen, Penguin was staring at her plate and my husband was at the sink.  My place was empty. 
"What happened?" I queried, trying to see the joke in the matter and thinking that it really looked like my dish in the sink that was being furiously scrubbed. 
Dh turned and gave me the look that I deserved to give him. 
"One thing.  You asked me to do one little thing.  And I couldn't do it!"
"I was only gone two minutes!" I exclaimed, more confused than upset.
"I know!" 
At this point Penguin couldn't help bursting into laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation (and probably scared that her parents were going to start a full fledged fight at the dinner table)  And confessed that they'd poisoned my plate accidentally. 
Apparently he reached across the table to help Penguin pour some sauce, and a small amount splashed onto my plate. 
If we were a normal household, I'd have had a sprinkle of undesired flavoring, and ignored it. 
But with food allergies?  It meant an extra plate and eating tomorrow's leftovers. 
Dh was really upset with himself, but like I told him...better to acknowledge the error and not make me sick (I might have suspected eggs!  Or onion!  Or the cheaper TJ pasta!  Or heaven forbid the handful of chocolate chips I treated myself to after dinner) 
It disturbs us because neither of us like the message we send our kids when a crumb, or a drop, of something unintentional happens to land in an unexpected area.  But, the kids aren't satisfied on a corn free diet, and my husband doesn't really want to restrict his diet that far.  And asking makes me feel bad. 
So, we'll continue to be supervigilant.  I'll try not to lose my temper when accidents happen (I try...And this time there was plenty to eat so I really wasn't upset!)  And he'll have to forgive himself when things do.  The real point is that we need to continue to be aware and avert disaster. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Baking free

No gluten.  No dairy.  No corn. 
After 4-5 years, you'd think I had this down.  But no, I still manage to burn a batch of cookies by doing something dumb, like not thinking. 

So here are a few of my lessons learned the hard way: 

Turn the oven down.  This is the one I get caught on most frequently.  I go into autopilot and turn the oven up to 350*.  Casseroles still cook at 350*.  Cookies and cake go in at 325*. 

Cream the sugar with the eggs, not the fat.  Something about gluten free foods reduces the structural stability of the finished product.  Beating the eggs with sugar helps to build the framework that gluten would otherwise offer. 

To help things rise, beat the eggs in a liquid.  I have no idea why this works.  But if I measure out the liquid first, then beat in the eggs, then fold the dry mix in, I get nice floofy pancakes instead of creamy crepes. No baking soda required (which, in turn, means no sugar is necessary.  The batter isn't sweet, but it isn't bitter either.) 

Use a smaller container.  There just isn't the same stability in gluten free cooking.  Especially when you don't have butter.  (or margarine)  Smaller containers offer the batter something to climb up against, to cling to, to push on.  Whatever the mechanism, they are less likely to come out of the oven with a dense, flat cake. 

Extra grease or parchment paper is a must.  GF goodies stick, and crumble.  Loosen them ASAP, too.

Chill the dough.  Cookies spread less and really are easier to work with if you take the time to toss the dough into the fridge for half of an hour.  (Yes, I still skip this step a lot.  And I get a lot of well-done cookies to show for it.)

Use spices for flavor.  Nutmeg and cinnamon add a nice touch to just about anything sweet, especially when you don't have vanilla.  Using brown sugar instead of white addsd more depth of flavor, too.

Don't expect your creations to mimic Mrs. Field's famous cookies.  Just be happy that they are sweet and satisfying, especially if you can't handle the gums.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Kernel of Fear

For about a year now, we've had a leaky bathtub faucet.  I've been assailed by guilt whenever the radio reminds me to turn off the tap while flossing, reprimanded by my kids for wasting water while waiting for it to heat and lain awake listening to the drip-drip-drip.
It's not that I didn't want to repair it.  As soon as I realized it couldn't flip all the way off, I got on the phone and the landlord sent a plumber out.
Unfortunately...he couldn't twist the faucet off the wall because it had rusted together with the pipes behind the wall.  "No problem," I was assured, "We just go in from behind.  It'll take a day, two at the most." 
Well...behind that wall was a massive china cabinet, with every piece of china and breakable knick-knack that I had any desire of keeping intact.  In the interest of protecting those breakables, the whole thing had been tightly bolted to the wall.  Which would take a day or two to reposition by itself.
I'll admit, I hid behind this feat for much longer than necessary.


The fear of corn.
You see, in order to get to the pipes, they needed to slice through the wall.  When they were through, they needed to replaster the wall, patching up the drywall.  And there's corn in that. 
Cornstarch makes a handy adhesive that doesn't appeal to bugs.  (Hm, I wonder why?  Maybe they instinctively suspect that it's dangerous?)  Interestingly enough, I've heard that there's wheat starch in some drywall compounds, too.  Of course, gypsum is the main ingredient.  But there's corn, too.
And where there's corn, there's pain.
They'd be filling my house with cornstarch, turning off my water, and taking over the bathroom.  While I hung out, smiling politely and asking if there was anything I could do to help besides stay out of the way. 

Knowing my reactions to corn, this just built the dread.  And the longer it's gone on, the bigger the tower of dread.  I huddled in the shadow of it, thinking.  I hate missing events.  I was too sick to go to the science fair last year.  I was miserable through at least one concert, and passed out on my husband's shoulder when a woman wearing too much ethyl-based perfume sat down next to me at a concert.  I bloat up to a 5 month pregnant belly just walking past the kettle corn booth.  And let's not talk about what happens when food hits the irritated areas of my intestines.  We'll leave it at, I want to be home alone for that.  I was home alone for that the first time the landlord called to schedule things.  I leaned my forehead against the cool ceramic side of the bathtub, listened to the "drip, drip, drip" of the faucet, and immediately decided I didn't care.  I pleaded stomach flu, and put off rescheduling for um...well...yes, a whole year. 

Home is my refuge.  My safe space.  My bubble.
I let certain things in, take calculated risks.  But...we make sure they aren't airborne risks.
Sawing through drywall would create airborne corn.  To settle on the counters.  The table.  The pots and pans hanging on the wall. 

Now, I try not to let corn dictate my life any more than it already needs to by virtue of it's presence.  But...this...This was different.  It meant a lot more invasion.  It meant nowhere to hide for an indeterminable amount of time.

I'm glad to say that we finally dealt with it.  Our kind landlord found a lovely, no frills gentleman who looked at the job that I was assured would take nothing less than a full days work, assuming nothing went wrong once they got into the wall, simply nodded and said he could do it.  He didn't elaborate.  He arrived at noon.  I hid in my room as I heard the sawing commence immediately.  Not long afterward, the faucet clanged into the bathtub (Which is just outside the door to my room).  After about 3 hours, he was spackling up the patch on the wall.  And we opted not to paint, since that area is generally covered by a piece of furniture anyways.

I've been corned.  But not as badly as it could have been.  Not nearly as badly as my nightmares warned me.  The worst part is actually the discomfiture I feel inside.  The massive emotional reaction I've had to the whole incident.  The dread, the memories of whispering responses through cramps as I try to smile politely.  The fear of being mid-reaction when he showed up. (It would just be embarrassing.  I know, I know.  Grow up and deal with it.  But...) I lived through similar experiences just fine.  So why do they haunt rather than reassure?  How could I have let this go on for a year because of a simple fear?  (There were plenty of other things to focus on, so it's not like the tub was the only thing on my mind for the past 365 days, but still.  You'd think I'd have acted sooner.) 

I can't really justify, only acknowledge that corn in particular can wreak havoc with your emotions.  It makes a person feel paranoid.  Seeking bananas or eggs from a "safe" source can make you feel like you have OCD.  Taking great pains to keep the corn free dishes isolated from a few drips of citric acid enhanced tomato sauce or even a few crumbs of enriched flour, doesn't improve that image much.  And I don't know about others, but when I take a step back, my precautions always seem ludicrous.  But when I let go and try to act normal...I get sick.
Not just "Ugh, that didn't sit right.  Hopefully I'll be in for lunch" kind of sick, but an ongoing, slow recovery, frequent backsliding kind of sick. 
After a few brushes with trust and food, or just breathing, it seems relatively fair to be paranoid.  
It's enough to make you crazy.  But, as this incident has reminded me, even when grounded in cold hard truth...fear can't dictate your life. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Form Letters

Recently a form letter response was posted on one of my forums and I have a few thoughts to share on the subject. 
More and more companies are developing formulaic answers to allergy questions.  The problem is that there are more than just 8 allergens in the world.  And even within those allergens, there is a wide variety of acceptable risk.  Until relatively recently, companies who cared could be depended on to respond with a thoughtful, researched response.  Other companies could be ferreted out by their lack of response and amusing replies (Such as my favorite: "I can't imagine why there'd be corn in cheese.  Where do you buy your cheese?")

Anyways.  Here is a typical form letter response from a big box company:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding {product name}. We strive to maintain the highest quality products and appreciate your patronage.
(Company name} labeling declares major allergens (peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, and wheat) and we follow the U.S. FDA's regulations. We recognize the serious nature of the allergen issue and we strive to minimize risk.
Both major and minor ingredients of all products, as well as all processing procedures and equipment, are closely scrutinized and all potential allergen issues ... are declared on our labeling.
If a product contains gluten (ie. wheat, oats, barley, etc...) as a major component, we will include it in the ingredient list. For consumers concerned about the presence of trace amounts of gluten, we suggest avoiding products that include natural flavors or spices.
We assure you that strict manufacturing processes and procedures are in place and that all of our manufacturing facilities follow rigid allergen control programs that include staff training, segregation of allergen ingredients, production scheduling, and thorough cleaning and sanitation.
Thank you for your continued support. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us {Contact info}  Sincerely, Company representative

Now, at first glance, this letter seems very helpful.  It's well written, professional, and addresses both allergies and gluten.  They state that strict manufacturing processes are in place, reassuring the reader that quality and safety are paramount. 
Now take a second glance.  Note that only the top 8 allergens are addressed, "All potential allergen issues are declared..."  This means that they decide, within the guidelines drawn by FDA and FAAN, what exactly is an allergy issue.  Without consulting you, or your doctor. 
Note also that specific manufacturing processes are not addressed.  Is the facility dedicated allergen free?  Are there open vats of certain allergens?  What are the rigid allergen control programs? 
While I have no doubt they are thorough, and present no problem to the average allergic individual, this letter does not specifically address any specific concerns.  It's no better than a simple FAQ posted on a website. 
As an allergy sufferer, it's my job to weigh my risk benefit ratio in any individual food.  I don't have the convenience of farmland, or the money to create a self sustaining agricultural space.  This means I do need to rely upon the grocery store to provide my daily caloric needs.  Which, in turn, means that I need various companies to give me quality information on their products.  I need to know where corn, or gluten, or dairy, or any other specific ingredient, might be in those products.  I need to know where certain ingredients are derived.  I may need more information on packaging protocols. 
And I need my questions to be taken seriously, and answered by an individual who thinks for themselves, not a machine or someone clicking buttons that have been approved by the PR department. 
For those new to the world of food allergies responses like the above can be downright dangerous.  They give a false sense of security, and although they end with an entreaty to contact the company if there are further questions, they also give the individual a feeling that their answer should have been answered.  After all, the company has mysterious, but strict, manufacturing processes.  They train their employees.  They scrutinize for allergens.  And who better to recognize a specific allergen...the individual avoiding it,or the company cooking for a nation of buyers? 
Right.  The real answer isn't quite the one given. 

For those who are new to the world of food allergies, don't be discouraged by canned answers.  Ask, and keep asking.  Some answers can be found in FAQ and form letters, but many more require an individual answer.  And if your allergen isn't found on the top 8, you may need a direct response from someone who works with the product, not just someone in the office. 

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Corn, the Ungreen

Calling corn a sustainable crop is like saying oil is a renewable resource.
I loosely paraphrase this from "The Compassionate Carnivore" written by Catherine Friend.  I love that concept.  Environmentalists everywhere are jumping on the Cornwagon.  Because it's a crop.  It can be renewed within a growing season.
They don't think about the fact that it requires thousands of pounds of chemicals to be grown profitably.  Or the tons of fossil fuels involved in the growth, transportation and processing of that corn into usable derivatives; then delivering the derivatives somewhere useful.
Corn is only green in the field.  And then, it's only green to your eyes.  Sure, in moderation it isn't harmful.  But in the mass quantities it's grown today, it isn't good for the soil, or the Earth.  Add in the GM seeds that are often used to grow conventional corn, the gallons of chemicals used to keep it "healthy" and pest free, and the machinery used to harvest and process it and you have an Earthday nightmare.  
Not only is corn unsustainable, it's in everything.  If something were to happen en masse to our corn crop, what would Americans eat?
Not corn chips or tacos or corn bread, obviously.  No more popcorn.
Pizza makers would scramble to find a new product to dust their boards with.  And soda drinkers will be left mixing juice with seltzer.
They may need to squeeze their own juice, too. 
Cheese makers would be stuck with bricks of cheese, since the shredded requires an anticaking agent, and many would have to find new packaging that doesn't involve corn starch.
Conventional farmers would lose large quantities of their stock...Which means factory farms would be in serious trouble.
Tylenol, which is encapsulated with cornstarch, would be unavailable.
And you wouldn't be able to drown your headache in beer, which is fermented from corn, either. 
Manufacturing would pause, since there's corn in several construction materials. 
 Soap, shampoo, cleaning products, even producers of hand sanitizers would run into a trouble.  There would be nothing to ripen green fruit with, no dextrose for salt. 
No toothpaste, no xanthan gum.  No baby powder, or diapers, or menstrual pads.

The medication issue would probably be the worst, and all medical grade cleansers would be hoarded in hospitals for sterile procedures.
Of course, the good side would be that without corn, our diet as a nation might improve to the point that the need for certain medications and medical attention might actually drop.
Which would probably be good for the environment, too.
And of course, us uncornies would suddenly have a lot of doors open in the shopping world.  :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sometimes, as parents, we find ourselves making difficult decisions.  Having to choose between buying our kids things that will make them happy, and keeping to a budget.
Of course, as adults we know they don't need extra toys.  Or candy.  Or other treats.
But everyone else seems to have them, and all the other parents say "Oh, well, it's only $5, $10, $50..."

Every little bit adds up.
Although it's hard to say no sometimes, I'm proud of my dd.
Just the other night she was asking something, and she smiled and said "Mommy, I think we have just the right amount of money.  Because we have enough money for rent, and to eat every day and to buy treats once in awhile. But not every day, like some people.  Because that's not healthy."
I'm glad that she doesn't feel deprived.
As I look around our home I see so many things I want to upgrade.  Replace.  Flat out get rid of!  But I pause.  Practicality sets in.  Anything that I would want to replace in a year, needs to stay.  If it's reparable, it stays.  It doesn't always get tidied up, or repaired in a timely manner, but it's relatively clean and not unsafe.

I resent our expensive allergy friendly diet, and sometimes yearn for blue box mac and cheese, frozen dinners, the ease of a drive through happy meal. 

Then I look around at the world.  The first glance, of course, makes me want to upgrade more.  Get rid of the old sheets!  The plastic toys that look used.  The chairs with tattered seatcovers.  The clothes that I've owned for more than a year.  Go out to a restaurant, if for no other reason than so my kids know what a happy meal toy is. 
The second glance is what gives me pause.  The landfills are overflowing.  As I toss abandoned fast food coffee cups and grease stained bags that end up in our gutter in the trash, I see a lot of overflowing oversized trashcans by the curb come trashday, and although more than half the driveways sport recycle bins, it's far fewer than 90%.  And they're rarely overflowing. 
There's an island of plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific ocean.
Polar Bears in the arctic, who have never heard an airplane or seen an automobile, have discernible levels of plastics and pesticides in their blood stream.
Factory farms are steadily crowding out family farms, and humane (animal) farming is struggling to remain a viable resource in any community.   One quarter of American meals are eaten in restaurants.  2/3 of the remaining meals are take out or pre-prepared.  The remaining quarter or so of meals are prepared using exotic techniques such as spreading condiments onto sandwich bread or microwaving vegetables. 
There's a pipe spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf Coast waters as I type.
It's not that the second glance makes me want to move into a redwood tree like some kind of 60's fanatic (although I remember reading "My Side of the Mountain and dreaming about it.) but it does make me want to...either save the world or go back to bed and stay there. 

And how can we help the world?  By living smaller.  Experts (such as the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Fed, and the Slow Food Movement, and Whole Foods) suggest paying attention to where your dollars go.
With a tight budget, I do that.
Avoid unnecessary packaging.  Avoid excess waste.
Again, from a budgeting perspective, this is paramount.
Don't buy things you don't need.  And keep the things you own in good condition, so you can reuse them or pass them on.
As someone without a lot of money to spread around, I do this.  Garage sales never seem to work for us, and since I rarely have much extra cash to donate where I want to I assuage my conscience by sending used goods to places they can be put to the best use...if not a friend or family member, to a local job rehab center or the Salvation Army.
Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  Respect our resources.

When I'm tempted to buy junk, or feeling bad that I can't, I remind myself of those 4 Rs. 
Like my daughter, I'm glad we're 'poor'.  It's forced us to make hard decisions, to focus on what really matters, and to lighten the imprint we make on the Earth.  Unlike her, I'm surprised that my kids seem to have a greater appreciation for their toys.  They pull out the Barbies and create elaborate games.  Other parents look askance when I talk about the intricate Littlest Pet Shop set up the girls were fighting over. 
Of course, maybe it's healthier to get outside and ride a bike.  But when that's not feasible, I'd rather they have a box of scrap paper to build origami cranes, or a closet full of board games, or a plastic tub of plastic animals to turn to than a TV to turn on.  (yes, we own a TV.  No, it is not hooked up to cable.) 

And I'm really surprised to hear the reinforcement come from her mouth.  She's glad we can't afford too many treats?  For sweets in lunches every day?  She's glad I don't buy her too many toys? 

I'm sure I could do a better job at being green, and raising green kids.  I could walk more, or buy a bike.  I could make a more concerted effort to get to the farmer's market.  And I do intend to work on continuing to lessen my carbon print.  But for now, I'm going to be happy that our budget keeps us (somewhat) green.  And my kids know it. 
I just hope that she continues to see the positive...and not resent the sacrifices. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's corn in that.  There's corn in that, too. 
And that.  And that.  And...oh, forget it! 

Sometimes, a corn allergy feels especially difficult because of the prevalence of corn derivatives used in products.  I've always felt that we need full disclosure on labels.  Sure, it's hard for big corporations.  But in our society, we can't have a big enough garden or keep chickens and beef cattle in our back yard.  City ordinances and space constraints prevent us providing our own unique meal needs from scratch.  We need to rely on companies to provide our basics, as well as our treats. 

This means we need to be able to depend on a label, both for food and medications. 
There is now an online petition to help build support for adding corn to the required to be labeled list.  If you would like to participate, please click here and sign your support!  Thanks!