Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Owen Has No Sense of Self Preservation

He is standing 10 feet away from me as I talk an injured Max into rejoining his gymnastics class. My back is turned for such a short time and he is just watching a Baby Einstein video on a portable DVD player which another mother has brought for her daughter. As I turn back around what is it I yell? "Owen!" or "No!" or "Oh my God!". I don't exactly recall.

There in his hand, touching his lips is one of those little pretzel sandwich things. What is in the middle?

"He's allergic." I say pulling him to face me.

"It's just cheese!" the mother replies, her face concerned, contrite.

"He's allergic to milk." I say.

"I am so sorry!" she says "I think he only got part of the pretzel."

The sandwich does appear whole. No hives on Owen. Caught in the nick of time.

Honestly, even when Max was younger than two, he did not accept food from anyone but me. He did not pick up food and just eat it. I always thought he had such a great sense of self-preservation. He always just seemed to know. I swear some of his first words were "Read label?" It was a blessing for him to be so conscientious and a curse that food (sometimes even safe food) was considered the enemy.

Owen on the other hand has no sense of self-preservation. If it looks edible he is going to try it. Again, a blessing and a curse. A blessing that he will try and like so many foods, a curse because he doesn't seem to inherently know his boundaries like Max does.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Breastfeeding and Food Allergies

I didn't blog last week as I would have liked. Turns out I hate typing on my husbands laptop. So back at the ol' keyboard and I would like to talk about breastfeeding.

A report came out a couple of weeks ago about how breastfeeding reduces food allergy risks.

This was posted on both of the yahoo food allergy support groups I subscribe to. In one of the groups it caused some ranting. Women who breast fed their food allergic children for 3, 5 and even 13 months felt frustrated that this is the information out there and it didn't do a darn thing for their children. I on the other had was frustrated with their frustration. I guess it just bugs me when something doesn't work for someone and they feel they can throw up their hands and say "Hooey!"

One woman sited another study which showed exclusive breastfeeding for the first nine months or more increased food allergy risk and sited this as the reason she was weaning her five month old. I think the key word in this study is "exclusive" which to me says it isn't the breastfeeding that is the problem it is not introducing solid foods within a certain time frame.

Breastfeeding is good for so many other reasons whether or not your child has, will have or won't have food allergies. And we can't look at either of these studies as the be all and end all. Yes, it is frustrating that our kids have food allergies but no one is out there pointing their fingers at us and saying "Well, you must not have breastfed them long enough." Food allergies are one big puzzle and if the breastfeeding puzzle doesn't fit for you that doesn't mean it doesn't fit for someone else. I see no reason for half of the group to stand up and say "I breastfed for 3 months and it didn't help my child's food allergies at all!"

I breast fed Max for 13 months and Owen for 22 months. I didn't do it either times because it "may" reduce their risk of food allergies. I did do other things however that I felt may help. I took a probiotic while I was pregnant and while nursing. Both our last pediatrician and our current allergist sited a study in one of the Scandinavian countries about probiotics significantly cutting the risks of food allergies. I also didn't eat peanut while pregnant or nursing Owen (did with Max and you know where that got us).

I'd like to point out another study regarding c-section's and food allergies. Basically children who were born Cesarean are more likely to have food allergies. It all has to due with the good intestinal flora we have in our guts. It is believed that in a c-section birth this flora is not passed on to the baby. Food allergies are a reaction of our immune system, 90% of which is in our intestines. Hence, the use of probiotics to help food allergies.

Max was a c-section. When I got pregnant with Owen I was aware of this study but I didn't have a VBAC JUST because I wanted to reduce food allergies. Other factors had to weigh in. Just as with breastfeeding. Why be frustrated with a study saying breastfeeding helps reduce food allergies? Don't we have enough everyday food allergy issues to be frustrated about? Seems like a waste of energy. Then again, me being frustrated with other people's opinions may also be a waste of energy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Driving a long distance with children is difficult. Driving long distance with food allergic children requires extra packing. We went to have Thanksgiving with our in-laws. We packed everything we were going to cook right down to the margarine. No stopping at restaurants; had to pack everything we were going to eat on the road as well.

We stopped at the same hotel we did last time we traveled to Alabama. Last time though we got McDonald's to eat in the hotel room and on a whim got Chicken Selects which appeared safe instead of our usual plain hamburger. Max threw up in the middle of the night.

Of course this is what he remembers from our last hotel stop. He requested that we bring our food and not buy anything "because, remember, I threw up last time."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Laid Up

I had surgery on my foot yesterday so by doctor's orders must be in a reclined postion with my foot up for several days. Time off comes with viocdin for pain so I going to try to catch up on my blogging between drug induced naps.

Outpatient surgery was interesting. Kind of like being on an assembly line. Wait here, apply wrist band, wait here, move to hospital holding area, change into gown, lie here for processing, insert IV, then sedation, wheel to surgery....wake up in new holding area. Husband called, loaded into wheel chair and pushed to exit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pizza Fridays and Birthdays

I haven't written much about pizza friday because they have been going swimmingly.

We have even moved the English muffin pizzas to birthday parties. The last two Sundays have been taken up with birthday parties featuring pizza and cake. I told Max ahead of time what they were having and asked him what he wanted to bring instead. He replied his own pizza and cupcake. And while other people ate their pizza, Max happily munched his own and told everyone around him that he was allergic to cheese. He then asked them all to wash their hands when they were done.

At one of the parties the father of the birthday child asked Max if he wanted more pizza. Max looked at him like he had two heads until I reminded the father that Max was allergic and we had brought our own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Food Allergies and Quality of Life

The very famous (at least among the east coast people who have children with food allergies) and popular (takes like 8 months to get an appointment with him) Dr. Wood did a study with the not so famous Sally Joo (never heard of her) about The Impact of Childhood Food Allergies on Quality of Life. Their conclusion was that it does impact quality of life in some areas.

The four areas that differed from the general public were: physical functioning, emotional/behavioral problems, family activities, and family cohesion.

Here is how I view my family's standing in each area:

Physical Functioning
I guess you can't have a food allergy and not have it affect physical functioning in some way. My kids can not eat things other people eat. I think my children are also smaller than other children their age because their diet is limited. For Max I wonder if it has affected his muscle tone in some way. Part of it is his refusal to eat much at all (which will again be covered in emotional/behavioral problems). At age 5, Max can not pedal a bike and often finds physical activity taxing. Don't think I don't worry about this.

Emotional/behavioral problems
Ahhh, where do I start. I think Max's food allergies have taken a huge toll on Max's psyche. I need a therapist who specializes in food allergies to sort it all out. At a recent teacher conference his teacher and I were discussing if his need for absolute control stemmed from his food allergies. Or if his anxiety about many things stemmed from his food allergies. I told her he can't really remember his more serious reactions as they happened when he was only one year old. She talked about the unconscious mind and how on some level he must remember being sick from food. I do believe this. I can't help but feel it is partly my anxiety that he internalized though. When he was a toddler I would hyperventilate just introducing new foods to him, afraid we hadn't discovered the extent of his food allergies. I was beyond careful as I know many, many other parents of food allergic children to be.

The other part of this is Max's refusal to eat. We have called him the two bite wonder. Two bites and he's full. If he eats more than that his stomach hurts. I feel it has been better lately. We have a handful of foods he will eat all of. (One being his English muffin pizzas). However, I can't help but feel this aversion to food has affected his health.

Max also is obsessive about telling others when they are eating something he can't have. He says it defensively "I'm allergic to cheese!" Then asks them to wash their hands.

Can we say he has issues? I think so.

On the other hand, Owen's only behavioral problem (in regards to food allergies) is when I won't let him have something wants. For some reason he doesn't have the same sense of self preservation that Max did at this age.

Family Activities
Family activities can be limited by food allergies. If something seems to involve too much food I tend to avoid it. Lately I have been branching out more, attending pot lucks I wouldn't normally go to. We also avoid overly peanutty activities such as baseball games. Even flying on an airplane is a pain in the ass. It's not that we don't do things. It just requires more planning and more packing and the accompaniment of an epi-pen or two or three. (Yes, I have been known to carry multiple) We have gone to few movies and very few restaurants (too risky).

Family Cohesion
This is the area in Dr. Woods study that food allergy families scored higher in than the general public. I guess when something threatens your life you tend to stick together.

In a nutshell (no pun intended), I wouldn't exactly say our "quality of life" is less. We are a happy family. We laugh. We have feasts and treats. Do we have more challenges? Yes. Do we tiptoe where others might burst forward? Yes. But we preserver. We move forward. We find the ways in which food allergies don't hold us back.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Art and Quality of Life

I have been feeling stressed out lately, an issue with Max, fighting with my husband, over-worrying, two small stubborn children. I've been feeling a little crazy.

Last night I had a guitar lesson and as I sat there with my instructor working to find the right key for me to sing "Away In the Manger" as I played the guitar, I could feel my blood pressure lowering. The more I played the more relaxed I became. By the time I left I felt at peace, in balance...hopeful.

By no stretch of the imagination am I a great guitar player. I'm not even a really good guitar player but I enjoy it. I enjoy the act of doing it. For no one but myself.

As I was driving home I was thinking about art and music in general. If I had not had music in elementary and middle school would I be able to pick up an instrument at my age and feel I was able to do it? Hadn't the music literacy I received in my education helped me be able to enjoy playing and participating now? Hadn't my quality of life been enhanced by music education?

I think this is a good argument for the importance of art in public education. Yes, everyone should learn the basics. Yet, I feel so many people would also find life more worth living if they could touch their inner artist, whether it be visual or performance art; music or dance; watching or doing. How will they find the path to the arts if it doesn't start in education? It seems that the worth of everything taught in public schools needs to be measured but how can the enjoyment I experienced last night, decades after leaving public school, be measured?

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I have guilt about not being a good poster as of late. I have lots of thoughts rolling around in my head but they keep getting confused with overwhelming thoughts dealing with other issues in our lives right now. So if you check my site regularly and are feeling let down by my lack of interesting and articulate thoughts on food allergies, please keep checking in. My head will get straighten out sometime soon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Advice Giving

I belong to a yahoo group of mommies in my area. Often questions come up relating to the introduction of food to babies and food allergies. I always add my two cents. Some people are interested and follow up with questions but I feel most people (and this is perhaps just my perception) seem, well, skeptical. I sometimes feel scoffed at and lately almost mocked. Therefore, I have decided, and dear reader you may tell me that I am wrong in doing this, not to respond on this particular board to food related questions. At least for now. I am having a hard time putting myself out there lately and feeling slightly slapped in the face. Not full on back of the hand, more of a light flick. Just getting some "Back off Allergy Mom" kind of vibes.

Having been a kid who is teased and having a small child whom tells me tales of being left out at school, perhaps I am being a bit sensitive lately.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A New Me

As parents of small children whether they have food allergies or not, we often don't pay enough attention to ourselves. Among the worrying, comforting, loving, playing, teaching, feeding, dressing, cleaning, juggling, running, and even letting go, we lose parts of who we are until one day we are changed completely. We are no longer that hip, young, flirty, smart childless person we were 5, 10, 15 years ago. We come to a point where we realize we need some remaking. Who says we can't be a hip, young-at-heart, smart person with children? We've changed but that doesn't mean we can't own who we are. Right?

Somewhere in my mid 20's I realized my hair was getting darker. I had always been a sunny blond and wanted to keep it that way so I started getting my hair highlighted. When my roots grow out I go back to the salon for more highlights. I have been doing this for at least as many years as I've been married (11?). I scheduled my day at the spa sometime last week; partial highlight and a cut, skip the blow dry. At the same time my Self magazine had arrived in the mail with Sarah Michelle Geller on the front cover, her hair a much darker hue than when she played my favorite TV character of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And it suddenly occurred to me, "Why am I fighting it? My hair is no longer naturally blond. What if it was this color?" Saturday afternoon, I tucked my magazine under my arm and headed off for the salon. I sat in the chair and offered the magazine to the colorist, "I know I said highlights, but do you think we could do this instead?" She inspected my roots. "It's really close to your natural color. It will probably even be easier to maintain. Let's do it."

So I did.

I am no longer a blond. With my new color, I think I may need new make-up. Perhaps a new wardrobe? I feel like a new person.

As I left the salon, I thought I looked older, more mature. More fitting my age. I stopped in Whole Foods for a few last minute items for dinner and a bottle of wine to celebrate my new do. At the cash register the young attendant scanned the bottle, looked up at me and said "ID please." Guess it isn't the hair that makes me look young or was she just trying to flatter me?

Here I am with dark hair. My kids didn't think I should have my picture taken alone.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Oh, where do I begin. I think I have a Halloween hangover.

When Max was first diagnosed I imagined Halloween being the worst holiday ever. Au contraire. Max embraces the night of the dead with his whole being. Sometime in June he started asking "How long til Halloween?" As the costume magazines started to arrive (in August?) he started to pour over them. Had me circle all the ones in his size. He then would go back and forth between pages saying "I want the mask from this one and the sword from this one, and the scary hands from this one..." On and on and on. I had to look at the magazines dozens of times to the point where I just wanted to throw them all out the window.

Max is always describing inventions, creatures, suits, cars that he is imagining. Last spring, he and David sat down to put one on paper. Max talked, David drew and this is what they came up with:

Since Max kept wanting to be every creepy, gory thing he found in the magazines, I suggested we try to build his alien costume. After some coaxing (he really wanted to BUY one) he agreed.

I bought a cheap alien costume and we built from there. Some styrofoarm, duct tape, wire, pipe cleaners and glow in the dark paint and here is the result.

I don't think it turned out too badly. Notice the "tentacles at the bottom.

He was pretty proud. People asked him what he was and he would say "I'm a martian. Martians are from Mars." He told people he designed it himself. He walked up to each door and said in a big theatrical voice, "Trick or Treat." He even scolded other children for not saying it.

However, he also told just about every person he encountered that he was allergic to peanuts. "Is this candy safe for me? I'm allergic to peanuts. If it has peanuts in it I can't have it." After a few houses I told him that though I was glad that he was so aware of his allergies and knew how to protect himself, I wanted him to just say "Thank you." and at home we would trade out the trick or treat candy for safe candy. Is this the right way to handle this? I am actually proud of him for always standing up for himself and recognizing what he shouldn't have. He even turned down a back of Cheetos someone was handing out. "No thank you, I can't have that. I'm allergic to cheese." I didn't even know he knew what Cheetos were. At the same time I want to teach him to be gracious with others.

With the number of Max's allergies, he coudn't have much of what was handed out. Once we were home and I gave him his safe candy, he was okay with this and I believe he had a great time trick or treating.

Owen was a puppy. He has been wearing this toy cloth bucket with a puppy face on his head for the past few weeks. So I sewed a few black spots on a pair of blue pajamas, braided some yarn and pinned it on as a tail. He was a super little trick or treater; following his brother to knock on doors, insisting on carrying his bag even though it dragged on the ground. He doesn't like to pose for pictures so here he coloring at the school Halloween party last weekend.

I'd like to add the part about how I tricked my kids into eating vegetables before trick or treating by making a "Witch's Brew" for dinner but I'm tired and coming down with a cold so I'll close here.