Disheartening Regression

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I have hesitated writing this down because, to be quite honest, I have wanted things to just turn around and be a non-issue. I tire of talking about it because these issues seem to be so all-consuming that I find myself just longing to think about something other than this. I also find it hard for people to really understand where we find ourselves because the majority of people just throw something on the table, sit down and eat. We are not that family.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy food and cooking.

But life as it is right now is about stressing amounts, reading labels, counting the calories, planning the menus, throwing pounds of food away a week at a time, spending huge amounts of money on safe foods/recipes to try, crying at meals, standing by with the EPI Pen, sneaking in the protein, starting and ending each day literally begging God for him to simply open his mouth and chew, and feeling downright defeated throughout the entire process.

Nothing about food allergies is easy. Add in Eosinoliphic Esophagitis and GERD and you have one heck of a battle on your hands and every hour of the day lately we seem to be losing.

But this is our reality and I know there are people out there who read this blog who are on the same journey we are. There are also so many who have taken our little boy under their wings and feel connected to us through the hardships we have had through prayer, practical help, etc. So I write to update and to help someone else navigating the days that seem so scary and uncertain. We are there.

So, what’s happening?

Once again we are finding ourselves exactly where we were this time last year. Although this time, we already have a fantastic team of Doctors we trust, and thankfully a diagnosis to assume as the culprit. So what is happening with Jonah is still scary, but we are confident we can get him the help he needs without the fight of someone taking us seriously.

Jonah’s eating has gone from acceptable to not-so-good to almost nothing over the course of six weeks. He’s back to losing weight quickly and we are once again finding ourselves in a panic, desperate for him to eat. And although he has gained back the weight he lost last year, he hasn’t ever gone past his original weight from his first year of life.

Our hunch is that he is having an allergic reaction that is going unseen (happening inside his body) that is causing his Eosinoliphic Esophagitits (EoE) to worsen. When there is allergic reaction, esonophils in your Esophagus can become inflamed, causing pain, damage and swelling. Up until now it has been controlled by medicine and the elimination of known allergens in Jonah’s diet and he has been out of pain, not vomiting, and a much happier little boy.

Between his GI Doctor and his Allergist this week, they will be able to determine if we should either change habits in medication and do a wait and see sort of thing or if we should go ahead and do another Endoscopy to biopsy white blood cells to diagnose the severity of his EoE currently compared to almost a year ago.

My fear is that he will need to go to an elemental diet where Jonah is off all solid foods and on an elemental formula diet to give him the nutrition he needs until he shows signs of improvement on his own with eating.

The other aspect to all of this is that between his many severe food allergies limiting his diet, past trauma caused by pain from EoE and past bouts of Anaphylaxis, it is more than evident to us at this point that he needs feeding therapy to help him eat. There are issues with different textures, with broadening his acceptability to other foods, presentation of foods without refusal, and simply learning to enjoy the process of eating.

Up until this point we have done well on our own with what I know from my past time in Speech Pathology, but I am also part of his problem since Jonah associates me with so many of his food issues.

He begins a new round of evaluations and assessments tomorrow.

So, there you have it. It’s complicated. It’s stressful. It’s disheartening. And it’s a long road. Please pray for improvement for Jonah, for comfort and patience as his parents, and for Sadie to continue on as a cheer leader for her little brother.

Sadie’s 4th Birthday

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Sadie,

We love you for so many reasons. The way you are with your little brother. The heart you have for other people. The way you feel emotions so intensely and internally. The way you are so eager to learn. The way you say the most funny, yet insightful things that go far beyond your little four years of life. They way your smile brightens our home.

We could go on and on…

Just know that you were the first to give your Mommy and Daddy the greatest calling in our lives as your parents and we thank God every day that we have you to enjoy to the fullest.

Mommy interviewed you about life as a 4 year old and here’s what you had to say…

  • Favorite color…Pink and purple
  • The coolest person on earth…Jonah or Karis
  • Favorite toy…My princess lunchbox
  • What you want to be when you grow up…A real princess
  • If you could go anywhere in the world…To the pumpkin patch again but I don’t want to fall off the tree again. That was not good.
  • Your favorite thing to do with Jonah…Run around the house and tickle
  • Favorite thing to do outside…Play soccer with Daddy
  • Favorite snack…Watermelon
  • Favorite drink...Orange juice
  • Favorite movie…Beauty and the Beast because the Beast changes into a nice person
  • Favorite animal…My princesses (sense a theme?!)
  • Favorite song…Jump into the Light
  • Favorite book to read…Jonah and the Whale story in my Bible
  • Best friend…Jonah Dylan
  • What you like to take with you to bed at night…Usually my bear, my light, and my Bible with the Goliath story to be brave
  • Favorite dinner…Vegan Pesto

We love you, our little Rae, Rae…Babushka…Sadie Roo!!!

Five Top Tips for a Food Allergy-Safe Kitchen

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There are basically two camps of thinking when it comes to cooking with a member of the family who has one or multiple food allergies. The first completely eliminates the allergen from the home, making it a safe haven for the allergic individual by nobody having the option to have the offending food available. The other camp does not eliminate allergens, but comes up with a system to keep things safe.

I see the drawbacks and benefits of both sides, but for our family, there are just so many allergens to steer clear from that the rest of the family who isn’t affected by Jonah’s multiple food allergies would not be realistically content.

We also feel that Jonah has so many anaphylactic allergies to deal with that we want him to be comfortable both in and out of our home to eat confidently no matter who is with, or what situation he finds himself in by being able to read labels, ask questions, and decrease anxiety he may develop over offending foods as he gets older. The reality of his diagnosis thus far is that there are multiple allergies that are life-threatening for him and he lives in a world that surrounds him with them. The more we can help him navigate at home in a “realistic” setting, the more confident he will feel when put into situations outside the home to advocate for himself and protect himself when we can’t be there as he grows older.

We have come up with a system in our home, specifically our kitchen to still ensure ultimate safety for Sadie, who has a life threatening peanut/tree nut allergy and for Jonah’s multiple anaphylactic list of allergens as well. Hopefully if you are newly diagnosed or going back and forth between which way is the right way for your family, these tips will give you confidence in your kitchen.

  • USE SEPARATE UTENSILS/COOKWARE  We keep bowls, plates, spoons and forks separate so Jonah is always eating from the same things. As time has passed we have also designated cookware specifically for one use. Example: we have a small skillet that we only use for eggs and nothing else. This way we don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. I also use the same muffin tin for his baking and line cookie sheets with foil so I can throw it away after use.
  • CLEAN WITH DISPOSABLES  I used to be a hard-core frugal when it came to cleaning our kitchen by using washcloths and a homemade vinegar spray in our paperless kitchen. However, when dealing with allergies, a washcloth or a sponge is asking for a trip to the hospital from cross-contamination. We don’t think twice about using disposable wipes to clean the surfaces of our kitchen nowadays. We also make a point to clean Jonah’s eating spot first and then move on to other areas of the kitchen as to not subject his safe area from any contaminants we are cleaning up with the same wipe.
  • SEGREGATE SNACKS  We keep any offending snacks in a separate cabinet in our pantry that is too high for either child to reach, even if they got a chair. For the refrigerator, we keep any cheese in a separate drawer away from everything else that is safe and reachable.  We also have plans to implement green stickers to food items that say “safe” and red stickers that say “not safe” as a preliminary introduction to reading labels for Jonah now that he is getting to an age to understand right from wrong. It helps out family members or babysitters who come into the home and are nervous about having to read labels without us there with a hungry little boy. When Jonah is old enough to read, we will start educating him on all of the key words and alternative words for ingredients he is to steer clear from. Until then, everything is out of sight and out of reach.
  • DESIGNATE SAFE EATING AREAS  Jonah always sits in the same spot at the table. This way we all know not to sit there with any unsafe food and to always start cleaning in that spot. Likewise, if I let Sadie have a treat that he is not able to eat, she either sits in her specific spot at the table away from Jonah’s area or at the desk where I can easily wipe off anything that falls. He already knows not to go to either spot that is an option for Sadie to avoid an “owie.”
  • DE-CLUTTER  We have already always been a pretty clean and tidy family, but even more vigilant (you might argue paranoid) in our kitchen than anywhere else in our home. We keep it minimal on the counter tops, only having out what we use daily. We do dishes right away so nothing is left out to curious hands, and we deep clean as we go. The less mess you have to deal with, the less chance there is for any mistake to be made or any accident to be more prone to take place.

So there you have it. The top five tips I have for implementing a safe kitchen when you are dealing with food allergies. Regardless of what camp you fall into, hopefully this is a good springboard for you and your family members to gain confidence to cook and operate in your kitchen bye creating a safe environment no matter what you choose.

Menu Plan

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Even though all I am craving right at this moment is a huge bowl of potato soup, eh…maybe Corn Chowder and a hefty side of chocolate malt balls (weird, right?!), I am planning for meals that have actual nutritional value of some sort and not for every single whim and desire that seems to fly my way.

If this boy in my belly could have his way, I would be on a very steady diet of all things potatoes. Mainly in the fried fashion. Oye vey.

Here’s what we’re chowing down on this week:

1. Lasagna Stuffed Spaghetti Squash (adapted for Jonah to be dairy-free)

2. Vegan Pesto

3. Turkey Tacos & Salad

4. White Chicken Chili

5. Breakfast for Dinner (Brinner)

 

Brown Baby Boy!

photo(8)Tradition is for us to have a Sex Party to reveal the gender of our babies. But between birthdays, holidays, and the craziness of life, we decided to do things a little different this time around. Still special, but different. And since nothing about this third pregnancy has been normal, we’re going with it.

TJ and I had a mid-afternoon date to our OB this week and found out together that we are in fact having a baby BOY! To be honest, we were both thrown back! We of course know that there’s only two options, but just sort of assumed and pictured another girl given my extreme morning sickness and probably the fact that Sadie was absolutely convinced she was going to have another sister. More on that in a moment.

We were thrilled to see that little boy kicking away since it’s been completely quiet to me feeling no kicks or movement whatsoever as of yet. My placenta is in the front, so now I can quit the freaking out. It is the most incredible thing to lay there and watch an ultrasound unfold as you trace all the different parts that make up your newly-formed baby growing inside of you. As the sonographer went from each limb, each chamber of his heart, and view of his brain I could not help but be so thankful and in awe at a God who is so good to bless us with precious life. It is truly a miracle and we don’t take it for granted.

Later in the afternoon we came home to the kids who were being watched by Nana and Papa. Earlier in the week, Sadie had gone with me to pick out a baby boy outfit and a baby girl outfit. She knew she would get to open a present later and it would either be the pink or blue she picked out. Let’s just say leading up to this point every time Sadie has been asked if she thought Mommy was having a boy or girl, these would be the responses:

  • It’s a girl. I already have a brother.
  • It’s a girl. She will play princesses with me.
  • I know Mommy has two brothers, but I bet she wanted a sister. (I love my brothers, but that’s sadly true.)

So let’s just say when she opened her present to find blue, it was a little rough on her little heart. There were tears shed, questions asked, and denial happening. We felt for her, knowing that these past few months haven’t been easy on her almost 4 year-old life. Preschool this year has been a major adjustment, I’ve been out of commission a lot more often than I’d like, and swimming lessons had been a fear to overcome. So not getting the princess partner was understandably a letdown for her heart and we get it. photo(9)We are working through it with patience, lots of love, and reassuring her in her own love language that she has a special place in our growing family. God gives us exactly what we need even when we envision something else, and now is as good a time as ever to teach her this life-long lesson and we know she will one day thank God for giving her two brothers!

Just today, she kissed my belly, talked to Baby Boy and assured him she loved him. So, of course, we are going to be fine.

Jonah knows there is a baby in my belly. He hugs him every day, talks about it daily and is careful to be gentle around me. But he has no clue about the boy/girl thing. I love his aloofness.

After our family relished the moment together, we Skyped with Nana B and Poppi in Texas and then went to the rest of our local extended family to hand deliver blue balloon surprises.

We couldn’t be more happy with a healthy, growing, Baby Boy Brown to welcome into our lives in 4 more short months!

Allergy-friendly Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

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Since we successfully passed our very first food challenge test with bananas last week, I have been dreaming everything banana. It seems like something so little, but it’s a major victory that really opens up some fun possibilities. For instance, there’s banana bread, banana cupcakes, banana pancakes, banana smoothies, and these chocolate dipped frozen bananas.

Here in Orange County, we have a historic little place on Balboa Island famous for their frozen bananas, dipped in chocolate and then an array of toppings to choose from. Too bad there it is a nightmare for cross contamination for Sadie and Jonah with those pesky peanuts. Jonah can’t have their chocolate either since it has dairy as a main ingredient. So our old favorite spot is now avoided like the plague and delegated to date nights.

That’s why these make my heart leap. If we can’t do it there, we will do it here in our home! Maybe one of these days we’ll take a stroll on the Island with these in hand too.

They’re quick, a blast to do with the kids if you don’t mind messy chocolate fingers or faces, and a fun way to spruce up a fruit into a fabulous dessert or snack.

Ingredients:

  • Bananas
  • 2 c. Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
  • 2-3 TBSP Canola Oil
  • Craft or Popsicle sticks
  • Sprinkles

Method:

  • Peel bananas
  • Insert stick from the bottom of the banana (don’t worry if the banana breaks. It will be covered in chocolate and still look like perfection)
  • Place bananas flatly in the freezer until completely frozen
  • After bananas are frozen, melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl for approximately two minutes, stirring every 20 seconds or until completely melted.
  • Add canola oil to melted chocolate, stirring to incorporate.
  • Cover bananas in chocolate
  • Top with sprinkles
  • Place bananas into the freezer again until they are completely set and ready to devour!

Jonah Dylan’s Second Birthday

Happy 2nd birthday to our Jonah (day before yesterday)!!!

Your favorite things (in no particular order):

  • trains
  • fruit leathers
  • bare feet
  • trash trucks
  • Sadie
  • playing with water
  • tickles/wrestling
  • apple juice and sweet potato fries
  • Goodnight Moon
  • music
  • saying “bye-bye” with your signature wave
  • the ladies
  • Giving squeezes and head bonks

Your dislikes:

  • diaper changes
  • not being able to walk at your own pace (slowest walker EVER)
  • new foods

Jonah,

You are one of the main sources of where our joy springs from within us as parents. In your short two years, you have taught us more about relying on God to protect and provide for us as a family and have showed us time and time again that you are someone so strong, so special, and so full of life.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that your love and compassion for people, your spunk, and your readiness to give love in spite of everything you have been through, especially in this past year is molding you into someone truly great.

We love and are thankful for every single day God gives us with you and are so humbled to have you as our son forever.

Here’s what you looked like the day you were born:

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Here is you on your first birthday:

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And here you are as a big-boy two year old:

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You had a fun “Choo choo…I’m two” train birthday party with us. Between the homemade allergy-friendly cupcakes you talked about eating all day, the falafel (your favorite eats), and running around with your cousins all night, you tuckered yourself out!

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Menu Plan

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When your husband says he wants to eat much more plant-based for the coming week, you outwardly agree very nonchalantly while inside you’re doing cartwheels like you’re a hyper seven year-old girl who just got out of school for the summer.

Your wish is my command, hubby.

Here’s the plan, man:

1. Eggplant and Goat Cheese Sammy with Tarragon Tomato Sauce & Roasted Broccoli (adapted from recipe to make allergy-friendly for Jonah)

2. Pumpkin Corn Fritters with Honey Sauce

3. Falafel

4. Black Bean Soup with Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

5. Roasted  Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Acorn Squash, Sweet Potatoes & Salad

 

Crockpot Butternut & Fig Chicken

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I love this meal for the fall with our family. It’s healthy, comforting, and smells amazing in the house when you walk in after a long day.

Using fresh herbs bring the dish a lively freshness, but feel free to sub with dried herbs if that’s what you have on hand. Simply reduce the amount called for in the recipe.

Don’t be afraid to throw in some of those fresh-picked apples from a great apple-picking day with the family if you’re feeling crazy too…figs and apples?! Ummm…yes, please.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • 12 dried dark figs, quartered
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped

Method:

1. Brush chicken with olive oil and season chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Add chicken to the crock pot. Top with onion, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, garlic and figs. Add chicken, fresh herbs, and chicken stock.

3. Cook on high for 4-6 hours. Serve warm.

Recipe: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

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There a few things that make me heart leap as much as it does when I can make something that not only my whole family can enjoy together, but that everyone raves over. Especially with Jonah being able to experience flavors he doesn’t get much of, I could cry.

Maybe it’s pregnancy hormones, but watching that little boy double-fist this Oatmeal Fudge Bar on his belly with the cold kitchen floor underneath him made a lasting impression on me as a sweet reminder of why I do what I do, how important my job as Mama is, and why cooking is so much of my passion.

It feeds my family, it binds us together, and it allows us to just be.

Bring yours together with this dairy-free, gluten-free,  & nut-free winner:

OATMEAL LAYER

1/2 c. dairy free shortening

1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. gluten-free all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. old fashioned or quick cooking oats (I prefer old fashioned but use whatever you have)

FUDGE LAYER

1/2 c. gluten-free all purpose flour

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1 1/2 dairy free chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Divvies)

4 T. dairy free margarine (I use Organic Earth Balance)

1 T. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 inch glass Pyrex baking dish with dairy free baking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a medium bowl with a wooden spoon) combine the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add applesauce and vanilla and thoroughly combine. In a small separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture and stir well. Stir in oats. Reserve 1 cup of oatmeal mixture for topping. Spread the rest into the prepared glass dish using the back of a spoon or your fingers. Set aside.

Make Fudge Layer: In a microwave safe bowl combine the chocolate chips and dairy free margarine. Heat in the microwave 20 seconds at a time until the chips are just melted. Add 1 T. water and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. In a small bowl combine the 1/2 c. flour and 1/4 c. sugar with a wire whisk. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Spread the fudge layer over the oatmeal layer. Sprinkle top with the reserved oatmeal mixture and spread with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

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