Sunday, January 30, 2011

When I first started this blog, I envisioned letting the world in on the trials and tribulations of living with a corn allergy.  In fact, I envisined a lot more triumph than continuing trial. 
Unfortunately, as I look back over the years, I see that I've led followers on a confusing voyage...not just corn, but other food intolerances...Not just food intolerances but a host of other, unique and nonsequitor ramblings.  I've let you into my life (which is awfully corny for being maize free) and ranted about GMO. 
All of which are important, in some step of the grand scheme oft hings...but not necessarilly quite what I anticipated doing.  (Luckily, I'm told this is what blogs are for...artless ramblings about everyday things.  Sometimes with a running theme) 
I just want to thank you all for hanging in there with me.
I've discovered that I'm not just dealing with a corn allergy.  I'm not sure what it is yet...although after years of looking, you'd think I'd have an inkling.   I'm getting closer...maybe.  And I'll keep you all (somewhat) updated. 
Meanwhile, I'm going to try and get back on track to the trials and tribulations...focusing on the tribulations...of life with food allergies. 
It's not easy to live with restrictions.  But the challenges presented in life should enhance it, not dull it.  Challenge adds flavor.  I've been looking at the boundaries as if they were a prison of sorts. 
I'm adapting my New Years resolutions to include embracing these boundaries.  So I can't walk out...I can still fly.  (I'm working on those wings, and promise to keep them well away from the sun.) 

(And for those who read my earlier diatribe on finance and food allergy...tonight's dinner was rice pasta, egg and a few veggies.  Approx $1.25 per serving.  Last night I served veggies, pasta and some sort of Trader Joe's meat protein for the girls.  It came to closer $2 per serving.  Still, not TOO bad.  Although Bumblebee supplemented hers with crackers.) 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Corn Allergy

The thing about a corn allergy is that sometimes it;s not just socially isolating, it feels like a downright punishment. 
It's bad enough that you can't just go out to eat with friends, or try out a new restaurant, or stop for coffee and a muffin if you're caught in traffic on a long commute. 
A simple headache remedy costs a fortune, and you have to jump through hoops of red tape before you are given the privilege of paying it.  But the worst is going to the doctor. 
You're sick, with some complaint or another that simply doesn't improve on it's own.  You need medical advice, and probably medical treatment.  And you're tired, worn down from your ailment. 
However, you need to remind your dr that those latex gloves could be dusted with cornstarch.  Women need to bear in mind that the lubricant used during an internal exam is probably corny.  (and generally just put up with the itch of a topical one-time exposure)  And then you get to the prescription. 
"Is there corn in that?"
You get The Look.  Stifled laughter, poker face.  Why would there be corn in medication?  Corn is a vegetable.  It grows in fields, it's easy to spot on the dinner table. 
"There are often corn derivatives used in the excipients of medication." 
This gets a little better reaction, at least it sounds as if you know what you're talking about.  There's hemming, and hawing, shuffling papers or clicking of a computer mouse. 
"Dextrose, microcrystalline cellulose, xanthan gum..." 
At some point, you're told to talk tot he pharmacist, who blinks, and tells you to talk to your dr. 
Eventually, you either get an answer and start the "What are my other options" routine. 
Ideally, since you're not feeling well, the dr and pharmacist would be proactive in helping you track down a brand name of a medication that will work for your condition and is safe.  But more often than not, they leave you to do the legwork. Once you've exhausted all other avenues, you get to explore the world of compounding. 
I find that doctors are reluctant to write a prescription for compounded medication.  They prefer prefabricated pills, probably because the strength is guaranteed and they don't have to think about dosage or scheduling or anything like that.  With the pre-prepared prescriptions and over the counter medications, there are also pre-prepared instructions.  They fit into a neat little niche in your chart.  Compounding confuses things. 
Eventually, you usually get what you need and it only costs a small fortune.  :P  Or, if you don't *really* need it, you give up and save a small fortune. 
And then there are medical procedures and tests.  Some require contrast dyes and other niceties that just don't come with handy ingredient labels.  And the personnel don't have time to argue with you or track down answers.  So you either play a squeaky wheel, or give up and play the martyr.  It's only a few days/weeks of reactions, and the benefits outweigh the discomfort. 
Or there are tests where they say "If it's too uncomfortable we can always give you something." 
Except...with a corn allergy, you need to prepare for that scenario and have something safe available.  Which is expensive if you end up not needing it, and stressful even if you do. 
So you suck it up and just deal.  Cavities, biopsies, freeze off a mole.  Things no one likes to do.  As a human being, you suck it up and deal because you know that the end result is worth the discomfort.
But with a corn allergy, you quake inside because you know that if something goes wrong, they'll make you a whole lot more miserable the more they try to fix it.  And you have a very limited number of options to minimize the discomfort to begin with. 
It's no wonder they tell us it's just stress.  The miracle is that we don't all turn gray the first year after diagnosis! 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Watching Movies

Having 2 girls who don't like gore, swearing, or too much action and adventure in a movie...and who still think kissing is gross...makes the whole "snuggle up for a movie" bonding experience that much more difficult.  We ditched the cable in favor of grocery money long, long ago.  (And we don't miss it)  Digitized broadcast channels are often scrambled, and we've found that there's even less on TV for tweens than there was when i was one.
Between this ongoing issue, and the fact that Penguin didn't recognize a Monty Python reference or the phrase "Wax on, Wax off"; we realized that what we really needed to do was reintroduce the kids to some classic movies.  80's style.
The films we were dying to see 20 years ago.
For the most part, Penguin enjoys them more than Bumblebee.  Bumblebee prefers Barbie and Disney classics, and we do pepper our screen time with 12 Dancing Princesses and Bambi and Mickey Mouse.  But one cannot live on animation alone, and there are only so many times one can watch "National Treasure".
However, as much as Penguin enjoys the movies, she can't always remember the names when she wants to watch them again.  Or the names we throw out there simply don't ring a bell and we have to describe a story line. 
"Star Wars" is still as popular as it ever was.  "Monty Python" is unique enough to etch it's title into memory.  But the quirkier, quieter movies are enjoyable...and their titles, not on billboards or previews or commercials to stir the memory, seem to escape her mind.
It's truly enlightening to learn what scenes made a distinct impression on her.  So, a list for your reading pleasure.  In quiz format, in case you want to test your own film savvy.  (unfortunately, the list is restricted to movies we've actually thought about exposing her to in the past few years and the films that made enough of an impression to get discussed)  To find the answers, highlight the area after the '='
a) "The movie about the applesauce" = Baby Boom.  She views it, rightly, as a comedy.  Her memory surrounding the making of the applesauce because the protagonist was bored. 
b)"The funny one about the guy riding a bicycle" = Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Maybe not 80's.  But I'm glad it was the bicycle scene and not the lengthy discussion about why Sundance was pointing a gun at Etta in her bedroom that made the impression on her.  And if you haven't seen the movie, Sundance IS a good outlaw.) 
c)"The one where the man and the boy are friends and they play in his awesome room" = Big.  Less suitable for kids than I remembered.  But still fun.  And the man is a boy, remember, he turns back at the end?  "Oh, yeah!" (If she says "No, no, no, the other one!" she's thinking of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium.  Which we own.  And is a really good movie that came out relatively recently) 
d)"The really sad one where the man has to pretend he's a girl and everyone gets mad" = Tootsie.  I'd have thought Tootsie was funny and Butch Cassidy sad, but go figure. 
e)"The one where the man talks to the little girl in Dutch."  You mean Santa Clause?= Miracle on 34th Street.  The original, of course.  
f)"The one where the guy runs through the house, but the house is all torn up but he's worried about the baby and he has to find her before he worries about his stuff." = 3 Men and a Baby.  Okay, so she kind of got that one. 
g)That weird guy sings rock and throws a baby in the air = Labyrinth.  Although I had to point out that they zoom WAY out so you can't see the baby in the air. 
h)The one where there are people walking and they're like playing in a corn field and then they all die or maybe they're angels= Field of Dreams.  (She obviously didn't "get" it.)  Bumblebee listened to her try and describe this movie and said "Penguin, you mean like Mommy?" 
i)The one with the kid who changes his dad's bank account so he has like a million dollars in there= D.A.R.Y.L.  It took awhile to figure that one out.  It wasn't until she remembered that he and his dad played baseball that I could ask the right question "Was he a robot?"  YES!  Oh.  Now I get it. 

Anyways...The perspective is interesting.  And I have to wonder about what other kids get out of these memories.  I find that I, myself, remember movies differently than I view them now.  Both my husband and I are much more aware of sexual content and rough language even when our kids aren't in the room.  We find ourselves saying "I don't remember the language being quite so bad the first time around." 

I thought you'd enjoy the slice of humor from our lives. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Grocery budget and food allergies

As any allergy sufferer knows, allergy friendly foods don't come cheap.  The more varied your avoidance list, and the stronger your sensitivity, the more brand loyal you become.  And the most allergy friendly companies are often the ones rarely on sale. 
Luckily, whole foods are healthy foods, and many are relatively the cheap.  Labor intensive, but bank book friendly.  Most people who have dietary restrictions try to balance their diets with fun, packaged preprepared safe foods that might cost exponentially more than the safe counterpart and cheap, healthy, labor intensive ingredients.  Many find themselves "stuck" following a healthier diet that way.
And others are completely price tag blind when it comes to food.
In our house, food is an ongoing struggle. 
There are 4 individuals.  One needs to lose weight, and has no will power.  (well, very little anyways.  But I love him anyway.)  He's the one often taking over food prep or presentation, when I'm not up for it.  One has very few food restrictions; is exceptionally picky, and is a perfect weight.  Two are avoiding gluten (among other things) and need to gain.  One of them is also avoiding corn, in charge of all cooking and budget keeping...and dealing with stomach issues on an ongoing basis. 
Hopefully you can visualize the bones of the problem here...variety and options.  When Bumblebee wants to live off of toast and jam, not only is that not healthy but it takes an extra layer of thought to keep her happy, fed, and the rest of us safe. 
Now, we've done fairly well with budgeting so far.  It's hard...but we figure the trade off is that our expensive meals come to under $15...and for a family our size to eat out is probably at least twice that, depending on where we went and whether the kids drink juice, soda or water. 
However, lately we've slipped a bit.  Mr Violets has been packing more lunches, and picking up odds and ends from the grocery store.  And I've been blissfully ignorant of the potential ramifications.  Until the credit card bill arrived and knocked me off my feet.
This opened a dialogue on what exactly the kids have been finding in their lunches.
And wait a many loaves of gluten free bread are you buying a week?
It's a miracle we can still make rent.
(Getting angry at your husband for helping out around the house isn't always a good move, by the way.  It raises his hackles and hurts his feelings.) 
Mr Violets' response was that we needed groceries.  He's been running to the store every time Penguin ran out of bread or bagels, he's been making sure we have enough squeezy applesauce in the cupboard (Which, he might add, I don't even buy enough to get through a full week!), he's been the one tossing crackers and green beans and bars into lunch bags.  I should be grateful. 
(Girls?  What happens to those bars?  Wide eyes.  Gulp.  Shift weight from one foot to the other.  Whispers.  "Well, X really likes them.  And so, um, sometimes I take a bite and's already open.  So I don't want to throw it away..." That's enough.  That's okay.  You're not in trouble.) the end, we've been spending expensive bagged lunches to school with the girls so they could give away the good stuff.  Grumble. 
I had to take a few steps back to see why Mr. Violets was getting so defensive.  Why couldn't he see that spending a fortune on food was a huge problem? 
"It's just money," he said, "I'll make more." 
And later "If that's what it costs, that's what it costs.  It's a sacrifice we have to make.  We can't let her starve." 
This is where I began to realize we were fighting two different fights. 
To him, the grocery budget is not a budget.  We need food, we buy food.  We buy what the kids will eat, what they want, what we want.  We splurge on candy or cookies.  But basics?  Protein, beans, grains?  Those are free foods.  We buy as many as we "need".  For me to put a limit on something as basic as bread (and casein free cheese) is akin to attacking his ability to provide. 
I was having trouble explaining that I look at the prepackaged options.  I break the meals down into dollars and cents.  Sure, applesauce in a squeeze is fun.  But at a dollar a pop, it isn't an everyday snack food.  It goes into lunches once a week.  So that there are room for other once a week snack foods.  Potato chips, protein bars, yoghurt.  (Coconut yoghurt may taste better than soy but it's nearly twice as much.  Making it a yummy TREAT that happens to be healthy.  Not a necessity.)  We can't consume the cheap calories half their friends are spilling across the lunchtables.  That doesn't mean we can afford the look alike comparisons for our kids to *spill across the lunch table*.  We can afford plenty of options.  Plenty of calories.  Plenty of safe, delicious, healthy food. 
Just not a lot of "normal" cheap and easy fundamentals. 
I may not be expressing myself well.  But the next few months we are tightening the grocery reins, Bumblebee will fuss and scream and our guilt mode will be on high alert as the neighbors tsk and tut about the "poor child whose evil mother starves her" (I feed her.  Food is on the table.  Snacks are in the cupboard.  Even on a budget, there will be appropriate food available to the tearful, tantruming, heartbreaking child who has everyone she meets enchanted.)  Penguin will happily scarf down whatever bits and pieces I come up with, giving vivid descriptions of what's right and wrong with my cooking.  (most of it boiling down to 'a little bit of real cheese and corn...I'm sorry Mommy, but I think something with corn in it would maybe help')  Mr. Violets will endeavor to learn the difference between "fun healthy food" and cheap basics. 
And me...well, I'm going to have to work even harder on this whole meal planning thing.  We have a bit of a plan with tuna casserole on Fridays, and chicken and rice on Tuesdays.  Leftovers Saturday and Wednesday.  But that leaves 3 days.  And a hungry Bumblebee.  (Who will stare at either meal and wait patiently until we're ready to serve her something different.) 

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sometimes, it's nice to give in

Some parenting resources claim the tween years (the tumultuous time between childhood and teen years) begin as early as age 8.  Which means that at the moment, I'm living with a child at both ends of the tween spectrum.
And being typical kids, there are moments they each revel in the ability to reduce their beloved sister to tears.  Or break their mother's heart.  And press buttons.
They press buttons my husband and I didn't even know we had, and once they find those buttons...well, some days they're worse than a toddler going after a remote.

Most days, it's a battle to stay calm and focused.  Our mornings are full of "I'm not going to go to school, and you can't make me!"  And various reasons why...generally PE related and involving yelling, collapsing, going to jail for not running fast enough and other hyperbole.  (We've learned it's best not to laugh.  Much better to sive a sympathetic hug, a sincere "I'm sorry you don't want to go," and hand them their shoes.)

But Bumblebee poked her head out of her cocoon, batted her lovely caterpillar eyes at me, and asked to please stay home.  She complained she hurt all over.  Her throat was scratchy.  She was so tired.
I told her I was tired, too.  After all, who gets up every 20 minutes to break up a fight that escalates from soft whispers to reverbrating "I hate you"s that friends 3 blocks away can probably hear?  That's right.  Mom.  And sometimes dad.
I've dragged her crying from the sheets every morning this week.  Dressed her like baby doll, ordered her to the restroom, prepared a breakfast she lay her head down next to and sobbed and then drove her to school.

She wasn't crying.  (yet).
I looked at her for a long time.  I thought about my to do list.  I sighed.
And then I gave in.

I know I shouldn't have.  She wasn't running a fever.  But, we've had some rough mornings.  Some long afternoons.  And lets not even discuss the evenings.  
So, to sum up today...Bumblebee went back to bed with a smile.  She helped me put groceries away.  She finished her big report.  We snuggled up together and read a book.  We chatted about...well, nothing.  And everything.  We watched Seventh Heaven.  We took a nap. 
And when her sister came home, there was no fighting. 
Maybe the only thing I knocked off my intended "To do" list was the grocery store...but I feel as if I got so much more by spending the day with my daughter. 
I know, we can't take days off "just because" and it's irresponsible to keep kids out of school unless they are contagious or about to collapse from exhaustion...but sometimes, once in a very long while, it's nice to give in and spend the day just reconnecting.  Monday, she's back to the old routine. 

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Hello 2011!

The New Year comes, holding the promise of a clean slate.  A new year, a new beginning.
We're looking forward to leaving the health challenges of 2010 behind...and hopefully getting some help for health in 2011!
As far as resolutions go, we do have a few.  We're still working on taming the mealtime battles; so adding variety to everyone's diet (especially Bumblebee's) is forefront on the plans.  Not just variety, but consistent variety.  It's hard to experiment when my stomach can't...well, stomach it.  But we fully intend to try.  And to cut the grocery budget a bit, as well.  (we hope)
We're going to get outside more...the girls and I have compiled a list of 25 parks to visit.  Mostly small, neighborhood playground style...but we'll visit and then we'll write about them twice a month, or until our determination fizzles.  And since Bumblebee has stayed in her jammies all day today...stubbornly refusing to get fresh air or a refreshing bit of what we like to call 'rainshine'; I'm not sure we'll ever get through all 25.  But who knows what the next 52 weeks will bring!
I'm hoping that a plan to get outdoors will help get us all more fit.  
As for me...I'm working on a list of 25 classics/must reads that I've been putting off but always think "Oh, yeah...I should read that!"  Like Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand or Canturbury Tales or Don Quixote.  (all on there along with Self Reliance by Emerson)  If I can't afford classes, I can read on my own.  I'm also planning to start updating the Reading Hour blog more regularly.  I read a lot, but I don't often think to sit down and share what I just read.  I absorb the story, marinate in it for a bit and then move on quickly. I'll still be reading fluff, but I want more substance too. 
Meanwhile, I'm still feeling bleh...which makes the reading challenge so appealing...but I'm also feeling a little more positive about it.  Only 3 weeks or so until my next dr's appt.  I can get through 3 more weeks.
This year looks to be full of excitement.  It will be the year of science projects, as it's Penguin's last and Bumblebee's first year of required participation.  The official teen years will begin in about 3 months when Penguin turns 13; and this will be the last year of single digits for Bumblebee.  Two more big field trips, girl scout cookie sales, birthday parties...the next few months are simply full of activity.