Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Hope

We are a blended family, celebrating both Hanukkah (for my husband's Jewish roots) and Christmas (for my Christan ones).  Some people think this means a month long present fest.  But it doesn't.
For us, holidays are for giving.  Although we take great pleasure in giving to our kids, we've never had the means to go crazy.  They don't get eight nights of gifts, and they don't expect it.  It's not even a given that a gift for them will appear under the tree with a gift tag reading "from Mommy and Daddy".  We focus our efforts on gifts for loved ones.  And somehow, without fail, Santa Claus manages to arrive.
This was a tough year for us.  Somewhere around Thanksgiving, as the sales rush started and the kids started making lists of what they wanted, and what they wanted to gift to others, we had to take a long hard look at our bank account, increased health care costs, and face some hard facts.
We just couldn't afford to make many purchases.  I won't bore (or horrify) you with a dollar figure.  Let's just say that money was tight.  And it didn't feel very celebratory to me.
However, when I finally sat down to break it to the kids, they looked at me like I'd grown two heads.  "I don't think you understand," I explained, "We can't go shopping for gifts this year.  We can't..." I couldn't get all the words out.  Their shining faces, hopefully smiles were too much.  I told them the economy was tight, I told them no one had much to spare.  And I told them I didn't know that we'd really be exchanging gifts this year.  I even warned them that Santa might pay rent and call it a day. 
Again, they looked at me like I'd grown two heads.
"But, we can give people things, right?" Bumblebee ventured.
"Well," I explained patiently, hating myself for it, but motivated by a hand full of medical bills, "The thing is, we can't really afford to go shopping.  Even for inexpensive things.  Not for something nice enough to give as a gift."
She furrowed her brow.  "But Mommy, we don't have to go shopping."
The next thing I knew, the living room looked like it had been hit by a tornado.  There were perler beads jumbled in a corner.  There was fabric strewn across the sofa.  There were two (not so) little girls spread out on their bellies, with colored pencils and shrinky dink paper.  There was a long list of every loved one with check boxes next to each name.
And by the time Christmas came along, every single name was checked off.
For each Hanukkah gathering we attended, we arrived with a presentable token of remembrance.

It's not that the holidays are about gifts.  They're not.  It's about being together and remembering family.  But when money is tight, you feel the lack of gifts.  The emptiness in your hands feels heavy and awkward.  The place in your head where you keep that virtual shopping list is in overdrive, making you painfully aware of what you aren't spending.  And while you know that those you love don't keep tabs on prices, some tiny part of your soul weighs each and every package that enters the front door against the feather light offerings you had in return.
I only felt it in it's entirety for a few days this season.  And then I pulled myself together to prepare the kids.  And then...then they saved me.  They swept me away in their excitement, they motivated me to decorate the house.  They filled the tree with beautifully wrapped packages.
They made their own magic.  While we warned them of reality, they believed in something more.  And magic happened. 
I won't take away from the day by details, our idea of a plentiful holiday is likely much different than yours.  And yours is different than another family's.  Suffice it to say, if you listen to Bumblebee drone on, you'd think we spent a fortune instead, not.
I will say that Hanukkah ended on Tuesday.  And as we watched the candles burn down to the last spark, our hearts were filled with hope.  We were warmed our togetherness.  We treasured memories, of our family and our recent holidays shared.
Were our offerings at all comparable to what was returned?  Not when you think in terms of cash, I'm sure.  But every one came from the heart.  Every one was motivated by a child.  And our holiday was that much richer for the money we didn't spend.  There were no magi.  There were no spirits of past or future.  There was only tradition, and love, magic and hope.

Tonight, our menorah is shined (dipped in boiling water and looking nearly new, thanks to a friend's suggestion) and gently put away, awaiting the next holiday.  I can almost see the lights shining now.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

200 posts and counting

This is my 200th post.  Well, not the 200th post I've started...but the 200th published post.
Quite a milestone, although 200 posts in 5 years isn't very many at all.
But looking over the past 5 years, what a journey it's been.  I've learned a lot about the corn free life.  And the gluten free life.  Not to mention dairy free, for my oldest.
I've come close to going breatharian.  But not by choice!
When I first started this blog, it seemed like I was living on rice.  And, my diet's quite a bit more varied.
No, I can't have corn or any of it's derivatives.  But...There's a lot I can have.
There's the rice, of course.  And rice pasta.  But there's also quinoa flakes, and cream of buckwheat cereal.  There's applesauce and cheese.  There's peanut butter.  I can have eggs, too.  And chicken.  And tuna.
I can have spinach, peas, peppers and artichokes.  Sweet potatoes and parsnips.  I can have blueberries, apples, pears and raisins (as long as they're cooked or soaked first).  I can even have bananas (well, certain's a corn thing.) 
And of course, I can have chocolate.

In the past 5 years, we've even developed a variety of recipes for sweets that work for us.  We have white cake, and chocolate cake.  We have cookies...chocolate chip, sugar and most recently quinoa raisin.  We even have muffins.
I suppose it doesn't sound like much.  But if you'd been on the journey with us all along, you'd know how miraculous it seems to us. 
And I've gained weight. It's a post in progress, but I'll make the announcement now.  I've been over a hundred pounds for nearly a full year.  That's a milestone, the first time since I've started this blog.  It's a real sign that the light at the end of the tunnel is close.  Still maybe blinding, and there are still some shaky spots ahead, but it's there.  

Monday, November 28, 2011


My husband and I recently celebrated our anniversary.  16 years together, and going strong.
It led to the inevitable questions from the kids..."Where did you and Daddy meet?" (In school)  "Where did you go on your first date?" (Out for Ice Cream)  "Were you sad, Mommy?"
This is where the conversation gets tricky.
I was telling them the story of our first date, over a shared coffee and ice cream concoction (the ice cream was mint chocolate chip flavor, by the way), and my youngest's eyes were getting bigger and bigger.  I told them we ordered 2 straws.  And shared it.
"Mommy, you ate it, too?"
Uh huh.  Of course.
"Oh, no!  Did you die?"
This was said in all seriousness.  With a wave of fearful emotion behind it, and tears swimming in her eyes.  No, I quickly reassured her, I didn't die.  That was before we knew I was allergic to corn. 
This is a difficult concept to grasp.  There was a time when I didn't know I was allergic to corn, and could function.  There was a time when I might not have even reacted to the smaller derivatives.  But somewhere in there I did start reacting, and developed a love/hate relationship with food.
My husband recalled that when we first started dating, I almost exclusively wore empire waisted dresses.  And now we've known each other long enough for me to confess why.  Looking back, I remember how painfully bloated I would get during the day.  After lunch, especially.  Which isn't surprising, since I lived off corn chips my freshman year.  (I quit that in a hurry, and went to rice.  Or fries.  And chocolate bars.)   Anyways, those high waisted dresses accomodated my changing, tender belly.

It's funny how things change.  You don't even know why until you start looking backwards.
The kids asked what Daddy and I used to do when we went out.  The answers make me frown.  We went out to eat, although those restaurants are now pretty much off limits.  We went to the coffee shop, again, off limits.  We spent time in the discount movie theater.  About the only thing we 'used to do' that we still do is frequent the park. For different reasons, of course.

In many ways, life is much better now.  Mostly because I'm not constantly reciting "5 more minutes, I can make it through 5 more minutes".  But sometimes...sometimes I miss the ice cream parlor trips.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks...For Corn Free Meals

It's a hard year to be thankful, it seems.  Health care costs have skyrocketed, and making ends meet gets harder each month.
But we have amazing girls.  They're strong young women, with strong ideals.  We spent a few hours out walking, and playing at a local playground.
And then we came home to a corn free, gluten free, dairy free meal.  We all could consume almost everything on the table.  (I can't do green beans, but it's not Thanksgiving without them.  So I had to put them on the table.
What did we eat?  Well...let's see.
We roasted a chicken.  Maybe a bit too long, Mr. Violets couldn't carve it, the meat simply fell off the bones.  But it was good.
We made a mash of parsnips and carrots.  It was surprisingly good, and 3 out of 4 eaters agreed it should be made again.
We had chebe bread sticks.
Sweet potatoes, both fried into chips and cooked with a sweet apple juice/sugar and cinnamon mixture.  A small dish of the sweet version was topped with marshmallows and toasted.  Bumblebee approved.
We had green beans, too.

And there was an apple pie for dessert.  Not that there was much room for dessert, mind you.

All in all, it was a great meal...especially for all the allergies it had to accommodate.  I'm thankful that we didn't have to worry about accidentally poisoning anyone.  I'm thankful that I've stayed over a hundred pounds since April.  And I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by a loving family, that I have a husband who supports my food allergies, and that I have inherently good kids (they're not easy, but they're GOOD.)
I'm thankful that we're still making rent.  And groceries.
I'm thankful...I'm thankful that it's not impossible to eat organic on a budget.  And I'm thankful that I can go to sleep tonight and feel 90% sure that there's both going to be a tomorrow and that I'll be up for enjoying it.
I'm thankful that I can still feel thankful.  Life isn't always easy.  Especially when it comes to allergies.  But when there are family and friends to share it with, it makes things easier.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taking the Fun out of Fundraising

No one really enjoys fundraising.  Well, there might be a few folk out there.  But the simple fact is that sometimes, you need to raise money for a project or a nonprofit.  And your own checking account simply isn't padded enough to do it yourself.
The key to fundraising, of course, is to find something people want and sell it for a profit.
And the most popular fundraising options?  Food.
No one wants overpriced wrapping paper and holiday cards.  People will sponsor kids to walk or read...but it's essentially asking for a hand out. 
People like candy.  And cookie dough.  People are willing to go to restaurants when they hold fundraising nights.  An afterschool popsicle, a slice of pizza at after school events, it all falls under 'fun' spending.
Unless, of course, you have food allergies.

 People with food allergies don't necessarily buy that type of food "anyways".  And it's remarkably difficult to sell something you don't believe in.  The conversation goes something like this:
"Hi, would you like to buy XXX?"
"Oh, I just love XXX, don't you?"
"Not really.  I'm not allowed to eat it 'cause I have allergies."
"That's too bad.  You must be disappointed."
"No, there's artificial colors and GMOs and lots of corn syrup, so it's not very good for you anyways."
"I mean, it looks really good, but Mommy makes cookies so I don't feel left out, and they taste even better."
"That's nice..."
"I probably wouldn't eat XXX even if I could cause it's so bad for you."
"But I think you'd like some, it looks good!"
"Maybe next year..."

Sometimes there's some discussion about preservatives and allergies and the Standard American Diet.  Really, it's hard to sell something you don't believe in.  So, this year we are taking a stand.  We don't buy certain food items, so we won't sell them either.  The exception being Girl Scout Cookies (which I might actually buy, if our goals were just health and environmentally motivated.)  We might advocate restaurant nights.  We'll work the popsicle booth, since they sometimes sell fruit juice pops.
But we won't sell candy or popcorn.  Or cookie dough, or more candy.  We'll buy and sell scrip, we'll walk in the Walk-a-Thon.  We'll attend bookfairs.
But somewhere, we have to draw the line.  I wouldn't be concerned if it really were once in awhile, but it's not.  And now candy takes precedence over other fundraisers, since more kids apparently participate.  Someone has to draw the line.
Now, the only question left are we going to pay for Science Camp?
*sigh*  We'll manage.  I think this one, small issue is worth standing strong on.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pharmacy Stress...Still?

After dealing with a corn allergy for nearly 8 years, it's hard to believe that getting appropriate medication is still stressful.  Or even challenging.  After all, it's been established that I react to the premade formularies.  My allergy information is in my medical file.  I always have a list of derivatives with me, along with the contact info for my compounding pharmacy.
And yet, when I developed another UTI earlier this week, there was still very little I could do but watch drama unfold.  I started by calling the doctor's office.  Stated the problem, left sample, ascertained the correct antibiotic.  Gave them my pharmacy phone number and fax over and over.  Finally they ask what exactly I want from them.  I tell them I need the prescription faxed in or I can pick it up in person.  They ask which med I want, then.
I tell them whatever is most appropriate, of course!
And then...then the woman huffs and says "Ma'am, you're the one being unreasonable."
Apparently it's unreasonable to want to be healthy.  To be willing to pay extra and jump through hoops, and patiently try to untangle red tape in order to be healthy and function properly.  It's unreasonable to want to avoid an allergic reaction.  Unreasonable to request that a doctor use a fax machine instead of a computer, or, horror of horrors, write an old fashioned paper prescription and leave it at the front desk.
I'm unreasonable.
I'm not a dr.  I can't diagnose myself, or prescribe medication for myself.  I can't order tests.  I'm also lacking the funds to have my choice of healthcare providers.  I'm lucky to have the privilege of paying (an exorbitant fee) for health insurance, but I'm limited in those options.  I'm stuck with the providers that are covered.  (and I pay them on top of the insurance company, so I'm limited in how much time I can afford to spend face to face.)  But as an individual, I think that for the privilege of paying for healthcare, I deserve to at least be treated respectfully and given safe options in a timely manner.  I want to be included in the healthcare process, because I am the expert on my body.
In a health care provider, I want them to be aware and respectful of my unique health condition.  I need someone who actually cares about keeping me healthy, not someone who would rather stick to their checklist.
I'm not asking them to make a housecall.  I just want them to use a different pharmacy than most people do.
Is that really so much to ask?
I suppose the extra 36 hours or so it took to get a compounded prescription wasn't a lot.  But if they'd waited much longer, I'd have needed a $500 trip to the ER for an injection, and risked a multithousand dollar hospitalization.  Just a few hours makes a huge difference when you need an antibiotic compounded.  Maybe it's just stress, but I don't think I should have to work twice as hard to pay twice as much and still be called 'unreasonable'.
But then I'm an idealist.  Maybe that's where the 'unreasonable' part comes in.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Raising a Child with Anxiety

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again, while expecting a different result.
Sometimes I wonder what it means when you do the same thing every morning and always experience a different result.  That's what it's like parenting a child with Anxiety.
We never know what will set her off.  Some days are perfectly fine.  Other days?  Other days the wrong person woke her up.  Or I sat on her right side instead of her left.  Or...or we don't know because she can't talk.  She can only gasp for breathe between hysterical sobs and refuses to let me touch her.
She's doing well now.  "What are you doing differently?" her doctor asks.
"Nothing," I tell them, with a helpless shrug.
"There must be something," they tell me.  I think they're trying to be reassuring.  It isn't working.
The best I can tell, there is a cycle to anxiety.  I don't know how it works, exactly.  I'm not sure anyone does.  But as far as I understand she views the world in black and white, there's right and wrong.  She envisions a scenario, works out the kinks and plays it out.  She can adapt some days, when she feels quick on her feet.  And other days?
Other days, she hides under the pillows.
It's enough to drive a parent crazy.  And the worst part?  The worst part is asking for help.  Because there is still a stigma.  You must be doing something wrong.  We go over and over every moment of the day, every reaction, every pitfall.  We stress about every problem in our household.  (Although we realize there is nothing we can do to change the fact that she needs to share her room, or our financial standing, or choices we've made in the past, somehow it doesn't change the guilt) We talk about rewards and punishments, which only work when she decides they will and only bring us all to tears when she's too far gone to care.  (But consistency is key, they tell me.) 
On second thought, the worst part is the toll it takes on the family. Our other child can't help but feel the stress and act out.  I can recognize that she's acting out, but it's hard to convince her of that.
Raising a child with Anxiety isn't for the faint hearted.  It's not about reassurance or being patient.  It's about being ready for anything.  One day I say "Time for shoes," and she laughingly waves her be-shoed feet in the air, proud to have beat me to the punch.  Another day I say "Time for shoes," and she hides under a table.
But there are rewards too.  The snuggles and sweet whispers, the whispered stories, the innocent indignation.  She'll surprise us by washing her own dishes (but only her own, that's only fair) when the dishwasher goes out.  Or put hours of work into a surprise.  
We're proud of who she is, even when we're struggling to help her learn how to function in society.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Little Things

What is it about one small restriction that seems to encompass my life?  It touches everything.  From dinner time, to snack time, to leisure time, to craft time.  It's not just that I can't ingest corn derivatives.  I can't be around them when they are airborne.  And the fact that I have this unique intolerance (which touches all sufferers in unique ways) means that I can not be a pillar.  I can't be in a position of supervision because I can't be reliable.  There are too many variable in life to prevent exposure completely.  Which means reactions are impossible to predict, and just as impossible to ignore.  Which, to put it bluntly, makes me unreliable.  Not irresponsible, mind you, simply unreliable. 

A corn allergy makes me different.  It does separate me from the others.  Go out for coffee?  Sure.  But I won't be drinking any.  And we need to sit outside.  And...hopefully the rest of the group is up for that awkwardness.  Because, right or wrong, there is always some awkwardness. 
Group projects are a challenge too.  It seems like most work done in a group setting convenes around food.  Pizza.  Coffee.  Yoghurt.  Even donuts.  You meet at a restaurant, or in a small room and bring food to break the ice. 
Corn allergy, that sort of puts the chill back in the air.  Sometimes, I get so used to this allergy that I forget that I'm the oddball out.  I simply can't be a part of 'that' group.  I have restrictions. 
It's the simplest little things that fall through the cracks.  And those little things are the ones discussed over popcorn in informal gatherings, or pizza after the official meeting.  Little things that no one thinks are important.  But they're details.  And without those details, it's hard not to feel left out, as friendly and open as everyone else tries to be. 
It's not intentional.  I want to stress that I realize it's not intentional.  (I have to tell myself not to be paranoid when these things come up)  But it's usually an unexpected shock, like someone balanced a bucket of cold water over the front door and I'm the one who opened it. 
Corn allergy so drastically impacts what we eat, our dining options as well as choices, that it carries over into every aspect  of our lives in ways that other food allergies and even Celiac Disease do not.  All food restrictions are hard, but when it comes to corn, that's when I feel really different. 
And when I think about why I missed these little impromptu gatherings where details were addressed and dismissed, it's generally the corn aspect that lies at the root of things.  I know from the outside I look like I'm just not interested.  But the fact is, the risk just doesn't outweigh the potential bonding.  I love chatting informally outdoors where I'm not assaulted by perfume or personal care products, and food fumes disperse quickly.  But it's hard to get motivated to go somewhere to watch people you almost know enjoy a meal. 
And it's hard not to feel like you're in the spotlight when it's the little things you don't do, that make you miss the details. 
It's not a bad thing, necessarily.  It's just different.  Another little quirk.  Quirks can be endearing, they can be overlooked.  It just takes a little work.  And a little more work to keep track of those teensy little details that slip through the coffee-hour cracks.  And, of course, a good sense of humor to avoid letting those details get to you.  (This is the part I'm struggling to keep this weekend) 
Corn.  It doesn't just affect our diet.  It affects our lives. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What I've gained from having a Corn Allergy

When restrictions seem to rule your life, it's hard to keep a positive spin on them.  You go to a party and find yourself turning down delicious dishes, desserts and drinks.  The grocery store is full of off limits food.  You have to call and find out if the school's movie night will be serving popcorn before agreeing to bring your child (or finding someone else to chaperone, so you can continue breathing)
Corn puts specific restraints on life; although it is freeing to know that the rashes and gi symptoms that used to parade as normal aren't something you need to accept and live with the rest of your life, it's also difficult to place restrictions on the air you breathe and the food you consume.
However, when I look back over the past few years since discovering I wasn't suffering from increasingly confusing jumbles of letters that added up to 'just stress', I find that I've learned and gained a lot from living with a corn allergy.
Besides the whole "life really is livable" thing, I think one of the biggest gifts has been learning about our food supply.  It's disturbing, and I'd love to stuff my head back in the sand somedays.  But I've learned a lot about labels and food processing that I otherwise would not have sought out.  I've learned about the plight of small, family farms and a little about political power.  I've discovered that blind trust in earthly matters is generally misplaced.  That's not a bad thing.  It motivates me to feed my family better, to actually make that effort to prepare real meals even if they just consist of organic rice and beans.
I've been forced to re-examine the organic issue.  I've always thought that organic was better, but I didn't really think about why.  Now I know it's much more than a label that I'm concerned about.  Learning about how corn infiltrates our food (thus poisoning my poor digestive tract) led me to an understanding of why there are unknown additions to our food, and why it's so important to support local agriculture.  I've realized that it isn't just organic that I'm looking to support, but foods grown without pesticides or chemicals.  I'm looking for foods that aren't developed in a laboratory. I'm looking for food that is what it looks like, and nothing more.
No compromises.  Everyone says fast food is bad.  But then they get busy and hit the drive through, munching away on those 'paper bag heart attacks'.  I admit, I've fantasized about it myself.  But, with a corn allergy, I can't compromise.  It's poison to me, why would I give it to my kids if it's not even good for them?  Scout night nuggets is not an option, so it's never come up.  I cook.  Maybe not completely from scratch, maybe not gourmet, but still.  It's real food with few preservatives. 
What have I gained from a corn allergy?  A chance to better define my feelings regarding organics and food quality in general.  A better understanding of food politics.  A chance to see how little things that seem insignificant or even wise can really throw a wrench in the bigger picture. 
I have a corn allergy, and it makes me 'that mom'.  A granola mom.  The odd ball out.  But I refuse to do it because I have to.  I'll do it on my terms...I'll define it in ways that make it right for us.  Corn free, naturally. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

GM corn and our rights as consumers

If you're a regular reader, you probably know how I feel about corn.  And you might think that if Monsanto has developed a new GM corn that can resist even stronger doses of the pesticide Round Up, and resists at least two different corn-loving insects; well, since the corn itself attacks ME regardless, it won't matter to me if it's on the market or not.
You'd be wrong.
I won't be buying this GM corn because I don't buy corn.  But, I object to it on principal.  Frankly, it scares me to read that the federal regulators don't require any approval, and it doesn't need to be labeled.
It terrifies me to think that big corporations don't feel a need to label food with origins that they think I might object to.  As a consumer, I have the right to know what I'm purchasing.  What my purchase supports, what I'm putting into my and my children's bodies.
I have an obligation to make informed decisions regarding my kids' health.  That includes what I feed them.  There is a reason I try to buy organic.  But simply buying organic isn't good enough.  Regardless of my personal desires, I have to balance ideals with the cold hard facts of my checking account.  If I can't afford an organic certified label one week, I should be able to make an informed choice among the non-organically grown options.  Which means, GMO need to be labeled.
This isn't about whether or not there should be genetically modified organisms on the market.  I think most people agree that they don't want to ingest GMOs or feed them to their kids; but that's not the point either.  I may not want GMOs to be mass marketed, and I may be concerned about the possibility of GMO pollen contaminating organic fields, but that isn't the issue here either.
The real issue is that if GM corn is sold unlabeled, then we as consumers lose our right to choose.  We lose our right to make an informed decision about what we buy and what we eat.  As consumers, we shouldn't have to research every morsel that enters our mouth.  (Trust me, as a corn allergy sufferer I do have to research every product.  It's hard work and the company representatives aren't always happy about the research I ask them to do.)  I'm guessing that companies are assuming that as busy individuals, we don't have the time or inclination to make a phone call prior to every purchase ascertaining it's GMO status.  And I'm also guessing that they are assuming that once the reveal that GMO corn has been on the shelf and a pantry staple for a certain number of months or years, we as a society will be more open to embracing other GMOs.  And that, in turn, can lead to an easier approval process.  Which, of course, won't need to be labeled because as a society we will already have accepted the use of GMOs in our everyday lives.
This is what I object to.
I don't know the long term consequences of GMO.  And maybe there won't be any.
But maybe there are some unforeseen consequences.  As a consumer, as an American Citizen, I have the right to choose.  The right to protect my family, if it makes me happy and doesn't impede anyone else's rights.  As a city-girl (like most of America) I can't grow all my own food.  Which means I need to rely on grocery stores.  And I deserve to know what's in the foods I purchase.  I deserve to choose whether or not to support GMOs.  We all deserve the right to avoid ingredients we don't want whether it's for physical, spiritual, religious or ridiculous reasons.  And we deserve the right to seek out specific foods if we so desire.  (Like raw milk, or even GMO if you really wanted it)  In order to exercize our right to choose, we need information.  Which means, GMO should be labeled. 
While we work on that as individuals, companies can work on it as well. 
Trader Joes and General Mills have indicated that they won't purchase unlabeled GM sweet corn (the kind that's sold frozen and/or canned.)  Today I sent a message through the True Food website asking other food manufacturers to do the same.  If you want to maintain your right to choose, consider doing the same. 

Artificial looks....artificial

Sometimes, Bumblebee likes to play afterschool.  So I find a spot in the shade, pull out a book and keep half an eye out to make sure she's okay. 
Today, as I sat with my book, a preschooler ran past and popped some brightly colored object into their mouth.  I had to curb my first instinct, which was to pull it out.  Put down my book and looked around.  
Then the brightly colored object began melting. 
"Mmmm, that looks delicious," a woman nearby told the child and they grinned, with a deep purply looking tongue and reddish teeth. 
I couldn't disagree more.
Artificial food colorings are derived from petroleum.  Yeah, gasoline.  Crude oil.  The stuff poisoning the gulf coast. 
It's also implicated in a number of health issues, and banned in children's products in parts of Europe.  Blue dye happens to be a potent neuro-stimulant.  It gives my daughter nasty migraines, although some research shows promise in using it to actually treat migraines. 
I've noticed that in the allergy friendly world, parents rely heavily on food colorings to make foods appealing.  A child can't have nuts, but can enjoy skittles and lollipops.  We used to be frustrated that Penguin couldn't have dairy or gluten...or certain food dyes.  It took everything off the table when it came to treats. 
Luckily, there are a few affordable options out there.  Yummy Earth is one delicious choice.  Surf sweets another. The colors aren't nearly as vibrant, but they do look more appetizing. 
After years of dealing with food issues and having given up purchasing colored products completely after reading "The Unhealthy Truth" by Robyn O'brien; what surprises me most is my reaction when I see these once tempting delicacies.
My stomach flops.  Nothing about vibrant red cherries appeals to me.  Bright blue candy looks inedible.  Patriotic posicles look like table decorations, not dessert.  It's not just that it looks inedible, they look non-tempting. 
The intent of artificial colors is to enhance the appearance and increase appeal.  But artificial food just isn't appealing.  At least, not to my family. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Something Sweet...

"I want to bake something," said Penguin. 
The thing with allergies is that EVERYthing we make gets made from scratch.  It's a hot day.  Turning on the oven may not have been high on my list of priorities.  And baking means extra dishes to wash, standing over a hot sink.  There's still dinner to cook, too.  And I'm fairly certain there are some not-corn-free cookies in the cupboard. 
But while she might have a few secondary options, if I want something sweet, I can eat ingredients or I can bake something.  And since I was craving something sweet (besides a handful of chocolate chips), I grinned at her.  A slow, shy grin was returned. 
"Really?" She asked, and I nodded, asking what she had in mind. 
Something different, she told me.  But not too different.  Something like...hmmm...Chocolate chip cookies. 
And since chocolate chip cookies just happened to be exactly what I've been craving, I told her this was a good plan. 
She asked if the 'something different' could be putting them in a cake pan instead making little cookies.  And since that meant one batch of cookies instead of 2 or 3 panfuls, I told her this was another good plan.  I figured worst case scenario, there would be sweet and chocolatey crumbs for me to munch on, warm dough for my husband, and she could resort to Soy Creamy ice cream. 
She didn't have to.  The chocolate chip bars came out delicious.  Between the four of us, we polished off the entire pan full. 
Well, except for 1 small corner which I'm currently eyeing.  Hmmm.  As the one with the most allergies, I'm pretty sure I get dibs.  
Sometimes, being allergy free has it's advantages.  

Navigating Maize

I'm again frustrated with the lack of appropriate wording for corn allergies.
The only word we have for a potentially debilitating reaction caused by an ingested substance is 'allergy'.  But when it comes to corn and corn derivatives, allergy doesn't describe the half of it.
You see, food allergies indicate potential anaphylaxis.  And while with corn, we do have the potential for anaphylaxis, most professionals also associate true food allergies with food proteins.
Corn derivatives like xanthan gum, citric acid and microcrystalline cellulose are 'pure'.  They don't have protein.  But they still manage to pack quite the whollop.  So, Corn avoiders tend to avoid all corn derivatives, at least until they figure out which ones they, personally, can tolerate.
Most allergists run diagnostic testing when determining food allergies.  They start with skin tests, and then draw blood.  The intention is to measure the antibodies present and then determine the likelihood of a severe reaction.
However, as this South African Journal notes, corn/maize frequently reveals a false negative result.  Double blind placebo trials reveal reactions.
In short, corn/maize does NOT follow the typical allergy rules.  It's not always protein mediated.  And the typical allergy testing rarely reveals a positive result.
There are also multiple potential allergens in corn, although studies have not been done to evaluate them thoroughly. 
While I know all this, not everyone in the medical community seems to.  Even worse, the companies who produce and package my food, and everyone else's, tend to have a very tenuous hold on the understanding of corn and it's potential for causing reactions.
This understanding is encouraged by the belief that food proteins are the problematic substance when dealing with food allergies; and that the Top 8 are the main (frequently misunderstood as 'only') foods responsible for 'real' reactions.
So when I contact a company and say "Is there corn in this?", they respond with "Of course not, it's a bottle of fruit juice."  When, in fact, there may be 3 or 4 different corn derived ingredients either on the label or used as a processing agent.
(If you're wondering, off the top of my head:  Ascorbic acid, citric acid, xanthan gum, and vitamin enrichments are the first 4 ingredients I can think of found in juice drinks that are often corn-taminated)
Some companies get it.  When they say "There are no corn derivatives" they mean that they pick the fruit, squeeze it directly into pure, clean glass bottles and seal it up for distribution.  They KNOW what's in there.

Shopping with a corn/maize allergy (or whatever it is you want to call this condition) is a completely different experience from what shopping used to be.  There are entire aisles in the grocery store that are off limits. And even the aisles that are inviting seem ominous.  New products are tempting, and yet need to be cautiously evaluated.  First, the label is scrutinized.  Questionable ingredients noted.  The company then needs to be contacted to verify the source of questionable ingredients, and to ask about processing.  And then comes the moment of truth.  The deep breath, the taste.  And hopefully, if the evening passes without reaction, a full out meal. 
And then it gets added to the normal rotation.  However, just because an item is familiar doesn't mean that a shopping trip is filled with confidence or that each purchase is quick and safe.  Every single time I go to the store, I read ingredients.  I scan for red flags that sound 'different' from last time.  If packaging changes, it means I need to contact the company (and/or double check with the corn-free community on delphi)  to see if any portion of the packaging process has changed. 
If corn were like dairy or eggs or even gluten, answers would be easier to get.  The protein would be the main item of concern, the answers would be straight forward.  They are for my daughter.  But corn...corn is complicated.  It has so many facets and is used so many different ways. 
Learning life without corn derivatives is truly like navigating a maze, except that rather than navigating a complicated labyrinth to discover a vicious minotaur, the maze itself is the danger and once we find the center, the danger is long as we continue to stay vigilant. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to make a sandwich...with food allergies

No corn.  No gluten.  The first thing to go, without a backward glance, was sandwiches.  Bread is chock full of both those items, in fact...since wheat and yeast and salt make up the gist of most sandwich bread recipes, it seemed impossible to ever find a substitute, beyond rice cakes that is. 
However, life went on.  I didn't really look backwards. 
At least, not until Bumblebee passed the peanut challenge.  Something about peanut butter simply begs for a sandwich.  It's good on a spoon.  It's divine dipped in chocolate.  But it's better on bread. 
The trouble is that most yeast is grown on corn.  I really didn't even want to go there.  And experimenting with a yeast dough using only flours I, personally, am safe consuming seemed simply overwhelming.  It's not like I had a lot of experience with what it's supposed to look like.  And if I screwed up with expensive flours...well.  Lets just say I wasn't anxious for this specific learning experience. 
I'm still not interested in a yeasted dough. 
But, it's been 7 years since I was first diagnosed with corn allergies.  5 or 6 years since I went gluten free and got corn savvy.  I've learned a thing or two about cooking, we have cookies and cake and muffins. 
And so, the corn free, gluten free peanut butter sandwich was born. 
Most people start with a store bought loaf of bread.  Me?  I start with a cup of water.  I beat in a few eggs.  Add my preferred blend of rice and tapioca flours, some sugar and oil, and a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg.  Bake.  Slice.  Smear with peanut butter and...yum. 
It's not that healthy.  There's an awful lot of sugar and carb content.  But, it sure is satisfying. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dropping the Donkey

Aesop has a fable about a miller and his son who take a donkey to the market.  Along the way, they receive repeated criticism and advice for their handling of the donkey.  In the end, the donkey falls into a river and floats away. 
Some days I can really relate to that miller. 
With the food allergies and the migraines, I kept circling back to square one, but at least I felt in charge.  We were solving a puzzle.  Most of the pieces fell into place under the headings of either "corn" or "gluten". 

I still deal with the whole donkey-in-the-river scenario sometimes.  I feel like I need to use mind over matter to deal with symptoms rather than the simple (and sometimes not so simple) act of avoidance.  It's not entirely rational, but I spent a long time working with professionals on the premise that my symptoms were just stress related.  Just because they aren't doesn't undo that work.  

You'd think I'd have learned. 
The trouble is, when you are in over your head, you turn to others for advice.  Sometimes, you get lucky and stumble into people who know the best next steps.  And sometimes, you don't. 
This is what seems to have happened to us with Bumblebee. 
We've spent 4 years working with professionals who felt that labels hurt kids.  That anxiety is rational.  That we, as a family, were doing something wrong. That we needed to really think about it.  That we should analyze our actions. 
We've been told to and tried rationalizing, bribing, and taking away priviliges.  We've tried encouragement and sticker charts and good-will offerings.  We've tried starving her into verbalizing if she won't touch dinner, and we've tried being a family of short order cooks.  We've stood firm.  We've given in.  All on the advice of others because what we were doing wasn't working. 
It turns out that rather than getting advice on how to TREAT anxiety, I should have been learning about how, exactly, Anxiety Disorders work.  (And it is worthy of those capitals, believe me)  Because the current belief is that they aren't rational, by any stretch of the imagination.  There isn't control over her feelings and since those feelings are overwhelming, she didn't have control over where they led her. 
By treating her like she did have control, or bending over backward to 'compromise' and then being frustrated at her refusal to cooperate; we've got a child who's no longer in tears.  She's angry, she's sullen, she doesn't want to treat us with respect because she doesn't feel respected.  She put up with food allergies, and dietary mayhem for years.  And us?  When she felt 'sick' we dragged her off and abandoned her at school, where she was overwhelmed and didn't have the tools she needed to deal with those feelings.  It doesn't matter that I was dying inside each day I left her, or that everyone told me it was the right thing to do.  To her, what matters is that she felt alone and overwhelmed.  And then once in awhile, she is terrified and needs us again...and at the same time, she hates us for being needed. 
Rather than getting her through with our own problem solving techniques, we asked for advice.  And based on the results, I feel like I'm watching my daughter floating down the river on Aesop's donkey. 

The good news is, we're no longer looking for what's wrong with us.  We aren't hunting in the dark for a magic cure.  There isn't one.  We just need to fish that donkey out of the river, dry her off, and set off again.  And maybe this time, we'll make it to market unscathed. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cuts hurt Kids

This week, I've heard several people say "They keep talking about budget cuts, but I don't see any affect.  Not really.  Do you?"
I've cited a few things, and been brushed off.  I think they just want to justify things to themselves, and hide in the sand.  But I just got back from Back to School night.  So here's the low down on how, exactly, cuts are hurting the elementary school crowd.  (Middle school BTS isn't for awhile yet)
  •  Art Teacher -- Gone.  I know art is a fluff subject to some.  But creativity is important.  Experimenting with new ways to express yourself is an important part of taking care of the whole child.  And art in particular is a relevant class to a variety of rising job markets, maybe not oil and canvass painters but graphic design and the like are an important part of digital communities and marketing.  But art will now be left up to the teachers and their limited supply of materials and time.  (While the official Art Teacher had an Art Curriculum; exploring impressionists and various techniques; regular teachers need to also prepare curriculum for reading, writing, mathematics and geography.)  
  • Supplies are limited.  Parents are requested to supply the classroom with pencils, lined paper and copy paper in addition to their own student's desk-supplies.  And of course, donations of tissue and hand sanitizer if you want them available.  Forget allergy friendly accommodations...Whatever parents bring, they're grateful for. 
  • Music Program -- Gone.  There are still band classes in the middle and high school levels.  But the elementary program has been eliminated.  Although not all kids took advantage of the option, those who did tended to have higher test scores and fare better over all during their teen years.  Learning music as a kid is completely different from learning it as an adult.  And it does build connections in the brain that otherwise will not be formed.  
  • Support Aides -- Depending on the level of support, they have been reduced or eliminated.  What does that mean for actual kids?  It simply means that instead of being in a group with kids who are at a similar reading level, they will have to either keep up with the middle of the roaders, or pace themselves to put up with the middle of the roaders.  It means there will be more awareness of ability levels inside the classroom.  It means that the teacher will not have as much time to dedicate to kids who aren't getting it, and that she won't have any time to challenge those who already get it and are getting bored.  
  • Classroom sizes -- Even though they are cutting support aides, they are increasing classroom sizes.  In a nutshell, it means more kids per adult.  Most adults know what that means.  And if you don't, why don't you offer to stand in for an afternoon?  
  • Custodial service -- reduced.  This doesn't just mean they won't take out the trash every day.  It means less vacuuming, less bathroom touch up, and will make an impact on the overall environment of the school.  And no, parents can't offer to help out.  It's illegal to have a volunteer take over for a position once filled by a salaried employee.  
  • Field trips -- Although visiting local historical sites and nature preserves have long been an integral part of the curriculum, budget cuts have eradicated them.  We're down to one.  It will be both fun and educational, but we'll be supplementing with home trips.  Assuming our own budget can handle it.  
  • Library time -- This is where it really hurts.  The library is the access point for books read for pleasure, for book reports, for research projects.  In the past, students have been taught how to use the library to look up various topics and led through the process of research and writing a report.  Skills they will use throughout their school years.  But, instead of having a full time media specialist and regular access to the library, there will be one librarian on campus.  Long enough for each class to spend twenty minutes in the library.  Every other week.  So instead of a story and browsing time, they need to file in, choose a book and check out.  And although in the past parents were encouraged to come in and help students choose age appropriate titles...since the district laid off so many media specialists, not only are our librarian's hours limited, she no longer is able to accept volunteer support.  It's just her and a teacher.  Just enough adults to actually check books out.  
  • There are cuts in other areas too.  Kindergarten days have been shortened, scheduling has become creative to try and preserve teacher tenure and benefits.  They need medical care as much as you or I, and they have families to feed.
Usually Back to School night is a happy event for us.  We talk about what to look forward to.  But this year, on top of Bumblebee's issues, we're left feeling unsettled.  Is it going to be a great year?  Sure.  But only if we really work at it.  And yes, the Budget Cuts show.  Maybe the one good thing is that tomorrow's voters are the ones learning from experience how important their education is, and how easily it can be affected by little things like budget issues. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When I was a kid, vegetarianism was the dreaded dietary trend of teens and tweens.  It was a right of passage that half of us experimented with after reading Charlotte's Web, and probably a quarter of us actually continued with.  It's still a phase discussed in numerous books and magazine articles.  But the newest dietary trend (the kind that isn't for weight loss) seems to revolve around organic choices.
When my daughter came to me and said she was considering cutting out corn and soy (on top of the gluten and dairy she already avoids) I was a little worried that she wasn't feeling well.  No, no, she was quick to assure me, it's just that corn and soy are usually GMO in the US.  And she doesn't want to eat genetically modified organisms.
She reassured me that it wasn't my reading choices that made her think.  It was an article about how good GMOs are that convinced her.  She disagreed with the article, and their evidence that most corn and soy grown in the USA are GMO and 'not hurting anyone' really concern her.  People have cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and increased incidents of food allergy and intolerance.  We don't know why, but diagnosis like chronic fatigue and various depression issues appear to be on the rise as well.
I was impressed by her argument, and we discussed how we can focus on organics but I don't want her to obsess over small amounts of corn or soy or conventional fruits and veggies.  It's more important to have a varied diet than to avoid specific farming practices.  Besides, as a family, we have enough to worry about when it comes to what goes into our bodies! In fact, I figured that our own dietary awareness was what set her off. 
But I've been listening in check out lanes.  And at playgrounds.  Not to mention while waiting for classes to let out.
It seems that my teenager isn't the only young lady concerned with the safety of genetically modified foods, and corn syrup.  Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dillemma" was published in a kid friendly format (which I need to look up) and has been making the middle and high school rounds.  Parents are commenting that their kid's sudden interest in ingredient lists, and desires to avoid high fructose corn syrup or soy are taking parents by surprise.  Some are asking to shop at Whole Foods, or refusing to eat anything not labeled organic.  Their parents aren't sure what to think.  Or how far to support the cause.
After all, teenagers are famous for changing their minds.  Like the parents of the 70's who were tempted to sneak ground chicken into the tofu, today's parents wonder if they should hide the corn syrup laden foods.  And how exactly to do that.
I had to laugh at the conversation about hiding conventional foods.  After all, there is nothing inherently nutritious about corn syrup.  Even the most ambitious propaganda from the corn refiner's association doesn't go so far as to suggest that corn syrup laden food is anything more than equivalent to cane sugar laden food.  The point has always been to convince the public that food is food regardless of how much processing or chemical processes they put it through. 
The concern, which no one seems able to voice properly, is that corn is so entrenched in our food supply that totally eradicating it does cause potential problems.  It doesn't mean that corn is inherently good.  It just means that total avoidance is to today's diet as a vegetarian diet was to the meat and potatoes fare our parents were raised on.  Maybe worse, since there can be corn derivatives used to wash meat or eggs, used in the waxing of fresh fruits, even in the fortification of vitamins.
The answer isn't to do a better job hiding it.  The Corn Refiners association and the FDA seem to be doing a good enough job, if the experience of the Delphi Avoiding Corn forum is any example.  The answer is to look, really take a good, hard, critical look at our dietary staples.  Ask about sources.  Make preferences known, and look for variety as well as organic symbols.  Support local farmers (if you don't avoid corn, include the ones who grow it organic, the on-the-cob variety) and eat close to the source.
The next generation knows they want to make a change.  They know there is something inherently wrong with genetically manipulating plant DNA.  They don't have the words or experience to explain or defend their objections, but that doesn't invalidate them.
The next generation may need guidance in defining their objections.  They need help modifying their choice of diet, whether it is vegetarian or organic or paleo, into something nutritious and balanced.  But they don't need adults to circumvent or override their decisions.  Just as the vegetarians in my day were objecting to the rise of factory farms, today's organic activists just want to make a change.  They want to be proactive.  And like any change in this world, the best place to start is at home.  I hope today's youth is more successful at avoiding corn than my generation was at eradicating factory farming.  But since it's easier to make a statement with a choice to buy organic, to put dollars toward local pesticide free produce rather than processed calories, maybe they'll have a chance. 
I support the cause.  It's not just about corn.  It's about health, for my kids and their future. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

Real Food

Recently, struggling to come up with food for Bumblebee, I couldn't help but wonder when we got to this point.  And was immediately assaulted by the memory of sitting in a professionals office, discussing Bumblebee's reluctance to attend school and food issues and being told that she shouldn't be expected to eat the veggies and whole grains I make, since she doesn't have Celiac Disease she deserves "real food".  And an interview with a nutritionist shortly after I was diagnosed with both Celiac Disease and Corn Allergy, tearfully explaining that there was NOTHING I could eat, and the kids needed food too...and being told that I couldn't deprive them of "real food". 
Each time I was on overload, so I nodded, blinked away any tears threatening to fall, and agreed that my limited diet was intolerable for kids. 
But I never thought to step back, narrow my eyes and ask what exactly they considered "Real Food"?  What, exactly, is wrong with a gluten free diet that makes people think of it as "fake" food?  Rice bread isn't any less valid than wheat just tastes different.  Rice pasta, again, simply has a different texture and taste than 'regular' pasta.  It's not fake.  It's just made from a different grain.
Looking through gluten-free cookbooks always makes me shake my head.  While I am in need of inspiration for nightly meals, I find that specific cookbooks for gluten free foods have a distinct focus on baking.  Breads, cakes, cookies.  Carbs.  Of which we, as a society, get way too many of to begin with.
Real food.  Is it cake?  Pizza?  Macaroni?  And when did it get that way? 
I look at last night's meal (which was a sort of quiche-filling poured over leftover pasta.  Not gourmet, but tasty and chock full of spinach and pepper and onion, as well as protein from eggs)  I wonder what ever possessed me to think that serving cereal or a sandwich to Bumblebee was somehow superior?  A valid choice if she doesn't like the meal, sure.  But more appropriate because it's "real" and has gluten and/or dairy plus corn? 
What's happened to our priorities? 
I'm exaggerating a bit.  I've never really thought a sandwich was "superior" to the rest of the meal.  But there's been that nugget of guilt.  Poor Bumblebee.  Poor Mr. Violets.  They have to put up with fake food, when they could be eating...GLUTEN. 
Well, the guilt is ending (er, well, ending I mean 'being hidden away and ignored to the best of my ability') right now. 
Tonight's meal is rice and beans with salad.  It's a meal offered on dozens of restaurant menus, and enjoyed by thousands of households in the american continents.  Plural.  There's nothing fake about it, even if I only serve avocado and no cheese or sour cream.  In fact, I believe some would find it even more traditional that way. 
Real food isn't about gluten, or dairy, or any other allergen.  It's about food.  It's about seeing your food, knowing where it came from, and enjoying it.  It's about food that's approachable.  Simple.  Nourishing.  It's the opposite of what you'd pull out of the Star Trek Enterprise holo-replicator mechanism.  It's the good chocolate.  (you know, the only kind I can safely eat that costs a fortune)  It's old fashioned oats or Quinoa flakes.  It's pure cane sugar.  It's water instead of Kool Aid.  It's food that formed on a farm, not in a laboratory, and grew from seeds that weren't GM.  (at least, in my opinion) 
Real food is a recurring theme on allergy boards.  Missing, wishing, dreaming of "real food".  But food without allergens IS real.  It's valid.  It's tasty.  It's nourishing because of what IS in it, not lacking because of what's not. 
And you know what?  In many ways, it CAN be superior to the so called "real" of the Standard American Diet.  Real Food is often gluten free.  Why shouldn't it be? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Allergies and the Environment

I'm not sure what it is about allergies; but I find that the farther I delve into them the more aware of our environmental impact I become.
Part of it is the quest for a cause, which may lead to a cure.  Part of it is becoming aware of the way our food chain works, which raises more questions than it seems to answer.  And part of it is simply that the more aware I am of what is IN food, the less I want it in my (or my kids') bodies.  It's not about avoiding allergens.  It's about our safety, and our society's sustainability.
What would we do if suddenly massive truck routes were made impassable?  If we were forced to eat fresh produce and meat without grains?
This happened in parts of Europe during the second world war.  This dangerous diet led to...increased health.  But, during the second world war, we still had memories of how to farm.  We had a little extra space to garden.  We had memories of how to prepare and preserve our own food, or there were plenty of people around who could teach us.
And there were a lot fewer of us to feed.  In an age of microwaves, freezers and take out containers, how many would know how to plan and execute a month's worth of meals if heaven forbid there were no more factory food deliveries?  There's a commercial that we used to laugh at.  "Without us, some guys would starve".
"So true," we joked.
But when we entered the realm of food allergies and started cooking from scratch, we stopped laughing.  With an increased awareness of ingredients, and additives, and the true definition of cooking from scratch, the jingle seemed too hit too close to home.  And all of these realizations led us to an increased awareness of sustainability.  
Allergies themselves are overwhelming, especially when you have a slew of them that require multiple pages to list.  Corn being one of the toughest allergies to live with, since it even shows up in the citric acid rinse on bagged salad.  Sustainability isn't a main concern.
And yet, it is.  Corn is the number one source cited when companies talk about environmentally friendly "green" resources.  But it isn't sustainable.  It isn't a sustainable crop, it requires a lot of gunk to grow industrially, and then it takes a lot of energy and effort to turn cobs into something that doesn't resemble a kernel, an ear or a husk. It's just natural, and sounds more sustainable than petroleum and plastic. 
I now look at food in a new light.  I wonder about the modifications we've put it through the past several decades.  Trying to grow a better variety, something easier or hardier or simply more aesthetically pleasing.  I wonder about the cost of our actions.  The loss of heirloom varieties of plants, the loss of diversity.  I worry about what exactly is coursing through the veins of my children.  I've seen the detrimental effects of food dyes on Bumblebee.  I've seen a playful Penguin double over, pale and sweaty, from a simple snack. 
I hear them complain of random tummy aches or mild headaches, and I wonder what else might be going on.  I look at ingredient lists and ask myself why, exactly, they need BHT or TBHQ.  Xanthan gum might improve the texture, but how much can a body really handle?  And what about all those synthetic vitamins?  Grown en masse in laboratories to try and replace some of the nutrients lost in the soil from our poor farming practices, do our bodies know what to do with them?  And the process itself can't be especially good for the environment.
None of this would ever have been given more than a fleeting thought, I'm certain, if it weren't for the food allergies.  I used to figure that what was in the food wasn't all that bad, I read lists...but not that closely.  Carageenan?  Hypromellose?  tocopherols?  High fructose corn syrup?  They had to come from somewhere.  And the FDA approved them.  That was good enough to consume them in moderation.
And now I wonder.  Not only what they do to us, but what effect do they have on the environment?  What unseen damage can they do?

I note that food isn't the only thing with an ingredient list, and the personal care aisle scares me, too.  Products designed to be washed away into our water supply.  With names like Polyethylene (which, by the way, is bits of plastic designed to help exfoliate.  Bits of plastic and corn derivatives, bound together for eternity and washed into our water supply, where any bacteria and large particles might be cleaned up...but anything minute is likely to remain in tact and be ingested by something else, animal or human.) or ammonium lauryl sulfate (a foaming agent commonly derived from coconut or palm alcohols) what sort of effect do they have on our water supply?  Or the quality of the soil they drain into? 

You see, the awareness of cross contamination, and the inability to sterilize away cornstarch dust or drops of peanut oil, makes me aware that nothing vanishes from our planet.  It may get absorbed, or rearranged, or diluted.  But it doesn't vanish.  The problem may begin, for our family, with allergen containment, but the question of "why" leads us to the bigger picture.  The chemicals and GMO's whose safety I question for my family aren't easily contained. The wind blows, the bees pollinate, and flowers blossom freely.  They don't know where the boundaries between organic and inorganic lay.  And honestly, as a society we don't know the long term effects. 

Most of us don't give it more than a fleeting thought.  I know I never did.  I tried to toss my water bottle into the recycle bin instead of the trash can, I parroted the idea that organic was better but I didn't really deeply care.  Not until the allergies opened my eyes, and I began not only seeing the cause and effect of something as ubiquitous as food but questioning choices I'd never thought to question before. 
While some studies are linking allergies to environmental causes, I'm finding that allergies are lowering our personal environmental impact in a lot of little ways.  Sure, I have to drive farther to get to the grocery store that carries gluten free pasta, but I don't waste time idling in a drive through.  I don't buy many single serve packages, and we gravitate toward environmentally friendly cleaning aids like baking soda and vinegar. 

Truthfully, I don't know if I'm happy to know all I know.  I'd be perfectly happy to still be in the dark regarding the origins of microcrystalline cellulose and astaxanthin.  In fact, I don't think I'd miss being able to spell either one without a cheat sheet.  Awareness breeds responsibility. 
While I can't do as much as I want for the environment, awareness gives me the opportunity to do more than I might have before and allergies give me the motivation.  Maybe someday my grandkids will have a planet to inherit, after all. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Mommy, promise not to get offended if I tell you something?  Promise?" 
Um, okay. 
"You might become famous someday.  You might be famous for having the most food allergies." 

I found it amusing, not offensive.  And I can see how it would look that way to a child who has spent the last 10 years on a food allergy diagnostic roller coaster, especially when one of them is corn. 

So...What do you eat?

Last week we started a Candida diet that was also (mostly) free of gluten, casein, corn, and a host of other smaller allergens. 
The verdict?  Success.  And Mr. Violets is sick of salad. 

In the world of food allergies, one question seems to arise more than any other.  At least, when the subject of either corn or gluten is involved.  That questions is..."What do you eat?"  (said in a variety of tones ranging from pity to suspicion or outrage) 
So here's a list of dinner dishes for a week's worth of meals. 

Baked cod on a bed of spinach and onions.  (3 thumbs up.  Bumblebee declined to taste.)
Homemade 'quiche' (4 wavery thumbs up.  It's better with some sort of cheese.  Off the candida diet, we make two dishes, one with dairy cheese one with dairy free corny cheese.) 
Chicken breast with mashed turnips and salad.  (It's better than it sounds.  3 thumbs up, Bumblebee only gives a 4th thumb up for the salad.  But she at least contemplated the turnips.) 
Tuna casserole.  (not gourmet, but we like it.) 
Crepes with nut butter and soup. 
Spaghetti soufflee

There are a lot of eggs in there, but eggs are a good source of protein, calories and fat.  And they're cheap, which goes a long ways in their favor.  Next week, we're looking forward to Mr. Violet's diet including beans and sweet potatoes again...adding several potential delights to our menu. 

We found that the second week was a bit harder than the first week.  We wanted to revert to our old "make a starch and everyone chooses their own veggies and protein" cycle.  And the heat wave that hit made our appetites wane.  But we seem to be muddling through.  Tonight's menu is stuffed squash for Mr. Violets and the girls; leftovers for me.  Not bad; and could be made corn free if you have a safe source of ground beef.  (or you could probably use lentils.  They aren't listed on the candida free diet, and I haven't actually tried adding them back to my own diet...but I can't eat squash and am still deciding how well tomato sits.) While nothing we made was gourmet, and probably doesn't compete much with restaurant fare, it was homey and tasty and filling.  What more can you ask for? 
That it feed a whole family?  Well, it did that, too.  (Or it would have if Bumblebee were just a little less stubborn.  But again, she tried and gets points for eating salad almost everynight.) 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Grocery Bill

Some days, I look at the grocery bill and feel guilty.  After all, I'm the one who has the most restrictions.  Chocolate chips cost $3.39; rather than $1.99.  Pasta is pretty close to the same.  I can't swap brands for a better price.  My daughter may be gluten free...but she isn't corn free.  And sometimes gluten free by itself isn't all that expensive.
But recently I was given a puzzle.  As you may recall if you read my blog regularly, I was recently on an extended liquid diet.  Consisting of mostly broth, pureed veggies from said broth, applesauce and gelatin.
It wasn't a very expensive diet.
I was still making meals.  The grocery bill should have gone down a bit, with Mr. Violets having extra leftovers for lunches and Penguin having extra leftovers for munching.  Oddly, it went up quite a bit...just for those two weeks.  I was truly puzzled when I looked over the credit card bill.
But then I turned to the receipts, and I looked in the fridge.
It seems that instead of using those leftovers, new meals were made and consumed.  And instead of finishing off the last bit of hummus, it was pushed to the back to make room for a new tub.  There were 3 tubs of (unsafe for me) margarine in there.  And the summer sale stash I'd stockpiled?
So this is what happens when moms get sick.
No one went hungry while I was down.  (And no one goes hungry when I'm *not* down)  Actually, I wasn't all that down and out...the liquid fast thing helped a lot.  I was tired, but mostly functional.  I did work more on "get that yourself". 
I had noticed that the tupperware cupboard was looking a little bare.  I hadn't noticed how much toast Gluten Free Penguin was enjoying.  I was just mentioning the leftovers and presuming the family would follow through.
Before this turns into some sort of poor me rant, I want to skip straight to the point.
Eating allergen free doesn't have to be all that expensive.  It's only expensive when you don't mediate your choices.  Look in the fridge, use those leftovers.  Put off shopping trips, and while it's important to stock up on sale items when they are on sale...they need to still be used as if you don't have a huge stockpile and are still limited to one or two packages a week or month.
I can make a tuna casserole that's safe for all of us.  It's not gourmet, but it's tasty.  It costs about a dollar a serving.  But if we throw half of it away, it costs $2 per serving.  And the amount that is thrown away gets replaced by other, often more expensive, snacks and lunch items.
Likewise...rice and beans costs maybe $4 total?  And after it serves us, there is enough rice leftover, generally, for fried rice tomorrow night. But if we throw half of it away, the cost doubles.  And leftover night becomes "easy meal" night...and easy meals are generally a little more expensive at least for the ones eating single serve items. 
On the other hand, the old standby, a sandwich, costs about $2 each for Penguin.  More if dairy free cheese is involved.  And it's not filling by itself.  $2 doesn't sound like much, but it adds up quickly.  The worst part is that gf bread may be a good vehcle for hummus, tomatoes and other items...but it isn't in itself very nourishing. 
It's good to know that my corn-free status isn't the sole source of high grocery bills.  Allergy eating can be expensive...but it can be affordable, too.  With a little bit of planning. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Corn Crazies

I can have chocolate.  But not Hershey.  (Or Dove, or Palmer, or Nestle)
I can have eggs.  But only certain, specific eggs.  Not generic grocery store eggs.
I can eat apples.  If they are unwaxed and peeled.  But that doesn't mean I can have any old applesauce.
I can eat rice.  But only if it's un-enriched, and only from certain farms that don't grow corn. 

The restrictions sound crazy.  Laughable, even.
I can remember being relieved that I was "just" allergic to corn.  Just corn.  It sounded so easy.  But things got harder, I sought help.  I started reading and found a community of corn-allergic individuals.  My eyes widened, I shook my head, I congratulated myself on not going overboard.  And then, slowly, I learned that I needed to be just as fanatical as others seemed to be.  There are times I wonder if I've gone crazy.  But I've spent too much time recovering from unplanned, unexpected, hindsight revealed 'oopses' to believe that it could possibly be just in my head.
Every so often it gets to be too much.  I step outside myself and look at the restrictions through a stranger's eyes and think I'm going too far.  And although I try to rationalize it out, and even talk myself into taking chances,  I find others in a similar situation voicing their own shaken faith in their bodies' reactions to normal, healthy, should-be-safe food.  More often than not, the culprit is quickly and easily identified in the form of an added enrichment, or a new preservative.  Sometimes it requires a little a cross contaminated batch of almonds (perhaps shipped in the same loading truck as corn?)  How can you dispute unintentional blind trials that end in proof?  Especially when there are multiple people reporting the same experience.  Maybe our methods aren't scientific, but they aren't easy to dismiss either. 
That's what makes social events so hard.  Even water is softened with corn derived citric acid, or the taste is improved by corny minerals, or it's bottled in a corn-based environmentally 'friendly' polymer.  People might overlook the fact that you abstain from cookies.  But if you can't even accept the water they hand you due to allergies...well, the looks are enough to make even the least self conscious of us blush.
Whispers of eating disorders aren't uncommon, or surprising.  Especially now that Orthorexia is the diagnosis du jour.  
For me, as I suspect it is for others, the truth is much more complicated.  There is no self-loathing involved.  I'm tempted to give in, and hang the consequences.  Regardless of caloric content, I'd love to eat that cookie.  Taste the pasta salad, or at least have a few pieces of the fruit plate.  (I'd settle for drinking some of that new-branded water in the cooler)  But in reality, the consequences aren't worth it.  I want to share the meal, but I want to function tomorrow. Whether it's hives, boils or GI malfunction...the reactions are not fun, comfortable, or something to be shared in public.  They also aren't mediated by any part of the brain other than the immune system.  IgE, IgG...the body is attempting to protect itself.  
It's unfortunate that without demonstrating those reactions, it's difficult at best to convince others that they are nonetheless real and valid reasons for food avoidance. 

The trouble with corn is that even when I'm avoiding everything as I should be, there are little, subtle exposures that slip in.  These exposures seem to keep me from fully recovering or ever being 100% reliable.  And the years of damage have affected my daily stamina.  I don't have the energy I should, and it isn't's malnutrition.  Even if/when I'm eating healthfully, the long term damages are still there.  

With a corn allergy, sometimes it feels like I'm sitting in a box seat.  I'm not entirely alone, thanks to the internet, but I don't exactly fit in with most of the other groups.  Whether it's the food allergy advocates, the Celiac sufferers or the tree-huggers; I have 3/4 of the values in common...but there's still a wall between us made of that eco-friendly kernel, insidious yellow seed, corn. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just one more thing to worry about with allergies

According to a recent study, children with Celiac Disease, like those with any chronic illness, are more at risk for emotional and behavior problems than their peers. 
I don't think it's a huge leap to say any food allergy would work similarly. 
And I can't help but wonder if this is what plays a part in my kid's anxiety issues.  Is it related to trichotillomania?  Or the anxiety driven tantrums? 
I don't know.  But I can't change the way our family's dietary restrictions work without hurting us.  So I can only hope that we can continue to reassure, that the interventions we've chosen are helpful, and that as a society we become more supportive of food restrictions for any reason. 
Why would kids with dietary restrictions be more at risk for emotional problems?  To my way of thinking it's understandable when they are required to go to school, but school personnel and their peers don't always 'get' allergies.  When other parents are busy fighting for their children's right to eat peanut butter, the food allergy kid is hearing "you're ruining things for everyone".  When pizza is served to 19 out of 20 kids and the food allergy child gets to grab their own personal lunch from their backpack, they get the message that they aren't as special as the rest of the class.  They have to put up a wall to remind themselves to say no, to be polite, to be different. 
I don't know what the answer is.  But awareness helps.  And hopefully therapists will learn a bit about food allergy; and the difference between medically restricted diets and eating disorders. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Challenge Awaits

My husband has asked for help.  He wants to lose weight, and he craves sugar as if suddenly exposed to it after years of being deprived.
Bumblebee has asked for help liking vegetables.  She took recent nutrition curriculum, along with a short lecture from her doctor, very seriously.
And I'm just sick of being sick.  I reckon I'm on the mend, but there are a few tests still pending (expensive tests that need to be put off just a teensy, tiny bit) 
So...the challenge is based on a gluten free candida cleanse.  There will be salads at every evening meal, free access to veggies, a few non-gluten whole grains, and some new meals.  Most meals will be corn free.  The girls will be permitted dressings and moderate access to fruit (we really want Bumblebee to feel obligated to munch on veggies.  We know she likes some...we just need to get her to eat more of them than the safe, comforting carbs she craves) 
This weekend, dh is fasting.  Next week's menus include such goodies as roasted chicken, mashed turnips, egg salad and omelets.  Penguin is excited, she loves veggies and new things and that she won't be the only corny one not eating gluten.  Bumblebee is accepting but trepidatious.  She knows she can go for a long time without eating, but as we tell her...the point isn't NOT to eat.  The point is to eat healthy foods.
I'm telling myself it will make up for missing Lent.  And's much better than that liquid diet I just got off of.  I may make up a bit more gelatin, which although not candida friendly is acceptable on some candida style diets and I'm not supposed to eat raw veggies, they make my pancreas bite back.
I'm not sure the week's challenge will go...but I thought I'd share.  This way, we can't back out!

Monday, May 30, 2011

How to Cure a Headache

It happens to all of us sooner or later.  That nagging, insistent pressure in your forehead, or just behind the eyes, or sometimes in the top of your head. 

Maybe not a full blown migraine.  Those are blessedly rare (whether sufferers can believe it or not).  But even a run of the mill headache can be miserable. 
If you have no food intolerances, your course of action is simple.  Head to your cupboard, or check your purse.  If you're out of pain killers, simply ask if anyone around you (preferably work or social friends) happens to have any Tylenol or Motrin.  Choose from the assortment offered. 
If you are sensitive to some ingredients, simply head to the corner store any hour of the day or night.  They won't even check your ID.  Choose from an entire display case full of extra strength, migraine, tension, PM, non-drowsy and many other variations of a formula for pain relief.  Read ingredients, choose what's appropriate, and you'll be out of their in under $10.  Even if you have a dye allergy, there are a few options available.  The most obvious are the dye free liquids for the 6-12 year olds, but there are a couple adult configurations as well. 
However, if you have a corn allergy, things get sticky.  If you've run out of your supply of safe meds, or it's your first headache since starting this journey, you need to start at the beginning.  Contact your medical doctor.  Weird, I know.  But it's the vital first step in the process of obtaining the simple, Over the Counter variety of pain relief the rest of America pops daily without inhibition.  You need to obtain a prescription that reads (your choice of pain killer, acetaminophen or ibuprofen) NO CORN DERIVATIVES.  Then you need to contact your local compounding pharmacy.  Or one that will work mail order with you, suck as Francks.  Ascertain that they are capable of obtaining the pure, unadulterated drug of your choice.  (There are a few compounding pharmacies that start with the ready made pills and just adapt them.  You want to avoid these pharmacies.)  Ensure that they understand what corn free entails (and that they believe microcrystalline cellulose can be derived from corn rather than always from trees)  Then drop off or fax in your prescription. 
In a few days to a week, you should be able to pick up safe pain killers.  The exact same dosage and active ingredient as the ones available at any drug store or supermarket, for only a few times the cost. 
It doesn't seem fair sometimes.  To keep an eye on the expiration date, and budget for a $100 bottle of something that so many can purchase for a 10th of the price.  To think and plan in advance, second guessing flu season and headaches and menstrual woes.  But, then I take one. 
Fortunately, the trade off of having meds that will kill off a headache at it's start is priceless. 

(And companies...if you stumble on this...we'd love more 'pure' options.  No dye.  No gluten, lactose, or corn.  Including microcrystalline cellulose.  We don't mind the less polished looking capsules, or paying a little extra for something with a shorter shelf life and fewer ingredients.  And although we may be in the minority right now, at least you won't have to compete for our business, at least at first.) 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is it safe to go allergen free?

There's a new slew of "all in your head" diagnosis coming out.  First up, doctors have supposedly identified an eating disorder known as orthorexia.  Essentially, sufferers believe that certain foods are pure evil and begin to restrict their diet to the point that it is unhealthy and dangerous.
Next up is a spin-off of anorexia.  People with eating disorders begin to blame gluten or other food allergies as the reason that they can't eat what is put before them, or offered at parties, or why they aren't eating at social functions. 

"Whether confirmed as celiac disease through blood tests or self-diagnosed as intolerance...the condition requires treatment by way of a highly restrictive diet. ... it also requires monitoring trace elements of protein present in foods or its preparation becomes necessary lest upset stomachs, painful GI tracts or other debilitating symptoms strike." (emphasis mine)

In the article I site above, this paragraph disturbs me even more than this upsetting practice.  Because it indicates that even if one has a documented, medically rational reason for complete and total avoidance...the worst that can happen is a stomach ache (the word debilitating is in there, but I doubt most people really comprehend how debilitating physical GI symptoms can feel)  The truth is that with the (albeit relatively rare) true IgE food allergies, which are NOT limited to the top 8, even a small crumb can cause anaphylaxis.  If a peanut falls on the salad, and the cook immediately fishes it out and sends the salad out to a nut allergic individual, their throat can swell shut before the rest of the party is done commenting on how delicious the first course looks.
If someone with celiac accepts a plate with toast on it, and simply removes the toast and brushes off the crumbs...not only will they suffer from debilitating stomach issues for a few days, their intestines will sustain physical damage that can be viewed and verified by endoscopy.  This damage leads to malnutrition, along with a host of other related problems and, worst case scenario, even cancer.
I don't doubt that there are some people who are afraid of food for unhealthy reasons.  Nor do I doubt that there are people with unhealthy obsessions about food, or avoiding too many foods.  But is the best way to address that fear to label restrictive eating as a psychiatric disorder?  Or is it to do more research?
I firmly believe that most people seeking a restrictive diet are motivated by physical symptoms.  Maybe they have an intolerance or allergy.  Maybe their bodies are just fed up with soda and fried foods.  Maybe they just need a little help balancing nutrition.  Regardless, identifying the motivation should be the first step.  And then rule out causes.
And if an individual is adament about avoiding foods, then it seems likely that they may not need to reintroduce those foods.  Instead, therapy or medical support should focus on identifying what one *can* eat.  And instituting a balanced diet.  So many people these days do not know how to cook, or find vegetables...or what to do with them when they do, that if they decide to give up gluten and nightshades they feel like they're stuck with white rice and carrots.  There are a host of little known veggies out there...and others that are just scary looking.
Maybe the orthorexic would be more adventurous if they learned how to prepare and eat an artichoke, a salad, their own dressing or sauces.  Those with anorexia and other eating disorders obviously do need counseling toward reaching a healthy body image.  But it might be easier if any digestive problems (like bloating, which can make a teenager feel inexplicably "fat") were addressed at the same time. 
At any rate, when someone has a valid reason for total avoidance, their choices need to be respected.  And they will be less likely to obsess over their food choices if they weren't concerned with mental health labels.  At least in the long run.  It seems reasonable and healthy to me for someone newly diagnosed to spend a little time obsessing about food, since they quite likely have been told to drastically change their way of looking at food.
As someone with a unique allergy, I don't want to be blown off and made sick or worse because of a 'trend' in 'it's all in your head' diagnoses.  As the mother of a food allergy sufferer, I don't want her labeled as eating disordered just because a few of her peers use the word 'allergy' inappropriately.  I see her eat a wide variety of fruits, veggies, carbs and protein every day.  What we don't eat doesn't matter nearly as much as what we DO eat.  And I sincerely hope the medical practitioners diagnosing these conditions, as well as the laymen labeling them, acknowledge the difference.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sick food

Sometimes, even if you are eating safe food, stomachs get upset.  And that can be a challenge.  It's tough if you're caregiver to a food allergic child, it's even tougher when you're the one with allergies, and you're the one with an upset stomach.  (My husband is all for cooking...but he's heavy handed on the spices and can't quite figure out the difference between "tastes good" and "gentle on the digestion") 
The BRAT diet is easy to follow.  Bananas (Green University from WF if you have a corn allergy), Rice (Lundbergh or unenriched from Thailand if you have a corn allergy), Applesauce (All natural, no citric or ascorbic acid...with a corn allergy, I use Trader Joe's), and Toast.  Since I'm gluten free, I follow a "BRA" diet. 

But sometimes, you want something even lighter.  Recently, my doctor suggested I go on a liquid diet for a few days.  Liquid. 
I'm sire she was thinking Ensure, and protein drinks, and soup and milkshakes or smoothies. 
I looked in my cupboard and sighed. 
What did I come up with?  Well, it wasn't totally liquid.  We made a huge batch of broth.  I mashed some of the carrots.  I know, I know, there's no nutrition left in them.  But I was hungry.  And they filled me up and set gently.  I had warmed applejuice with cinnamon, fork mashed sweet potatoes and parsnips with broth, and when I was starving...a scramblled egg (It's soft, not fibrous, which seemed to be what the dr wanted to avoid).  I also made gelatin. 
In fact, the first thing I thought of was gelatin.  Good old J-E-L-L-O, as the commercial used to sing.  Of course, the brand name and store bramd flavored gunk is full of corn derivatives and artificial gunk that I really don't want in my, or my kids, bodies.  So, I used Knox. 
Honestly, I don't care much for the thick Knox Block recipe that's on the back of the box.  I wanted something that wiggles and jiggles and tasted...Jello-like. 
Here's what I came up with:
2 cups applejuice, warmed on the stove. 
While it warmed, I dumped a cup of cold water into a small casserole/baking dish and sprinkled 1 packet of Knox gelatin into it. 
When the apple juice was done simmering, I whisked it into the water/gelatin mixture. 
Then I chilled everything. 
And enjoyed it. 
No, I didn't cut it up into cute little squares.  I did it the way my mom used to do it, scooped it out into my bowl.  Oddly, it tasted better with just a sprinkle of salt (I think my electrolytes were off balanced, since I was also chugging plain water to eradicate a kidney infection)  My husband's opinion?  It tastes like sick food. 
Which is exactly what you crave when you're sick. 
And my version included no additional sweeteners, no artificial colors or flavors, or anything else undesirable. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Does cutting out corn hurt?

A lot of people notice that when they cut out corn, they feel better overall...and begin having much more severe reactions to things that only used to bother them a little.  It makes it look like cutting out the corn has hurt them in some way. 
Here's the thing.  If you're allergic to corn (or gluten) then you've been ingesting something you're intolerant to at almost every meal for most of your life.  Of course, your intolerance or allergy has probably developed over time...but throughout that time period of intolerance, your body has essentially been a battle zone. 
So imagine a battle field.  Things suddenly calm down, the enemy just...vanishes.  Are your soldiers going to take a nap?  Of course not!  They're going to band together, and go on high alert, watching for intruders or any sign of renegade activity. 
And, seeing as there's very little to attack when you've cut the corn out of your diet, there are a lot more 'soldiers' available to attack any perceived threats. 
When your body attacks a perceived threat, you feel rotten.  It's a defense mechanism, digestive issues are your body's way of flushing a toxin from your system.  Rashes sweat a toxin through your skin.  Swelling increases liquid to make it easier to flush that toxin through.  Except, of course, that food isn't really toxic. 

Eventually, your body will calm down.  It'll stop attacking those invaders.  The SCD recommends a broth diet to jump start your allergy free dieting because it gives your digestive tract and immune system a chance to calm down and adjust.  I think that's a great (though not always plausible) plan. 

At any rate, if you are diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance and start noticing worsening reactions, don't despair.  Take it easy, eat lightly, try to rotate foods so that you won't inadvertently create a new intolerance, and eventually your body will relax and (hopefully) slip into "normal" mode.  A newer, healthier...BETTER normal for you!  :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Real life is like Webkinz

Last night, Penguin and I used the online grade book to look up her grades.  She told me how much she hates grades, because they don't help anything.  They just feel like a punishment, when they aren't good, and normal when they are. 
So we looked at the percentages.  And what happened when a paper didn't get turned in (or at least recorded yet)  And then I told her that all I care about is that she does her best work. 

It wasn't reassuring for her.  So I tried a different tact.  When you see that you have an A+ in Social studies, but you only have a B- in English, it means when you have extra credit from both classes, to do the extra credit in English first.  And it means you might be in a hurry to do homework...but you need to take a little more time with English, to double check spelling and stuff. 
Suddenly a light bulb went on. 
"It's just like webkinz world!" 
Webkinz World?  (For those who don't know, it's an online virtual pet community, accessed by an "adoption" code you obtain by purchasing a plush Webkinz toy.  it's full of games and several once a day activities.) 
"Yep, webkinz.  Like when I'm doing the acadamy and having trouble in one class, I keep working on it so I can level it up." 
And she went on in more detail about how this improves her pet's performance. 
But I thought it worthy of blogging. 
Real life is like webkinz.  You need to work on the areas you're weaker in, so that you get caught up to your strong areas.  And then it's all around more fun. 
Who says we don't learn anything from computer games?