Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2011 ~ Day 264
Pink Raspberry Disaster

"How are you feeling?" I ask my two year old daughter.

"I feel bedda!" she giggles. "I am dood, Mommy. I feel dood." (good)

I look into her large hazel eyes, which seem brighter and glossier than normal. They twinkle at me as she smiles.

I exhale.

* * * * * * * *

This morning I called my big sister to talk over my new business plans from last night, and get her feedback as both an educator and the mother of four children.

She wasn't home so I left a message.

Here are the cast of characters who were in my house at the time:

Me, a 35 year old mother
Gabriela*, our Mexican-American housekeeper who comes on Wednesdays
My three children - Bug (6), Bean (4), Bee (2)

Gabriela and I continued to buzz around my tiny home like butterflies, making beds and washing dishes, scrubbing the bathroom. Sweeping. Herding children.

The telephone rang.


"Hi! I got your message and am calling you back."

I felt happy to hear my sister's voice. "Thanks so much. I'm really excited to talk over some new ideas I've had with you."

We got involved in conversation. All three of my children were milling throughout the house, then going to play in the back yard, then coming back into the house. My four year old son wrapped himself around my leg and tried to tickle me.

At some point I realized that my daughter was no longer in sight, and wondered what she was up to. I went to look for her, still chatting with my sister, and when I found my little girl seated at her small table she grinned up at me with a truly beatific smile.

Uh oh.

A pink smile.

A syrupy thick pink smile the color of bubble gum, princess dresses and flowers.

"What have you been eating, princess? Did you find a crayon? Is that paint?"

(This is what I remember thinking, it may not be what I actually said out loud. I felt mildly worried but crayons aren't too serious - she once downed an entire bottle of blue crayola paint and the good folks from poison control said it was completely non-toxic.)

My four year old grabbed an empty bottle off of the floor.

"Here Mommy. I think this is what she was eating."

I looked at the bottle he was holding and suddenly it came into sharp focus. I realized with horror what had filled that bottle just moments earlier.

"Oh my God. I've got to call you back."

Just minutes before, the bottle had been resting (tightly closed) at the back of a high wooden counter - containing at least 85 pills.

Raspberry flavored pills.

Pink colored, raspberry flavored pills.

Each one of which contained 1000 mcg of Vitamin B12, or as the bottle says "16,667% Recommended Daily Value" of Vitamin B12.

85 pills. 1000 mcg each.

I'm not a math genius but even I know that 85,000 mcg of Vitamin B12 is a massive overdose.

If you run the numbers (which I didn't do until now, 10 hours later) it comes to 1,416,695,000% of the recommended daily intake - for adults - of Vitamin B12.

Understandably, I started to shake.

"Oh My God. Gabriela, Gabriela! I've got to call California poison control RIGHT NOW."

Thank heaven for Google.Com... I had their number within seconds and was already hearing the line ring when I noticed the next piece of evidence.

A cereal bowl full of pink milk.

Thick pink milk.

"Hello, California Poison Control."

"Hello I am calling about my two year old daughter who just found and ingested an entire bottle of Vitamin B12."

"How much does she weigh?"

My brain froze. For a moment I honestly couldn't remember her weight. Was it 26 pounds? 28 pounds? 34 pounds? She just had her checkup and yet for the life of me, the number wouldn't come into my mind.

"Um, I think about 28 pounds. She is also very tall for her age."

"How many pills were in the bottle?"

"It was nearly full, and it contains 90."

"So the worst case scenario is that she had 90?"

"No, I'd taken at least a few of the pills. Worst case scenario would be 85, but I can see that she put some of them in her cereal milk... so probably less."

I was physically shaking as I held her in my lap. "Should I be rushing her to get her stomach pumped?"

"Not necessarily - just hold on."

I sat on the other end of the line, staring deeply into my daughter's eyes. I spoke to her in a calm voice.

"Are you okay? Is your tummy okay? Can you talk to me?"

She stared at me solemnly and silently. Her pupils seemed wider than normal and her eyes were so glossy.



"Your daughter is going to be just fine."

"What? Really?"

"Yes. You don't need to take her anywhere. B12 is a water soluble vitamin. Your daughter's body will take what it needs and excrete anything it doesn't need into her waste."

"Even though she took the entire bottle?"

"Yes. She can eat or drink anything she wants to, no restrictions. She'll be okay."

I teared up. "Thank you so much. God bless you."

"May I have your telephone number to call back and check on her later today?"

"Yes, of course,"
and I gave it to her gladly.

I hung up and hugged my daughter tightly.

Gabriela stood close at hand. "What did they say?"

I relayed the information, taking it all in.

My daughter, still in my lap, began to wiggle and smile.

"How are you feeling?"

"I feel bedda!"
she giggled. "I am dood, Mommy. I feel dood." (good)

I looked into her large hazel eyes, which seemed brighter and glossier than normal. They twinkled at me as she smiled.

* * * * * * *

I've watched my daughter like a hawk for the rest of the day. No telephone calls. Never out of my sight. I've given her so much water to drink, so that she could get the B12 out of her system the "natural" way.

When I saw that she was taking more risks than normal and acting pretty silly, I moved all of us into her bedroom, shut the baby gate and sat there while they played for an hour.

I knew my children would be safe in their carefully baby-proofed bedroom and at that moment it simply felt like the most practical way to keep everyone calm and making good choices.

I folded laundry and worked on paying bills while sitting with my three children within arms reach.

Probably an overreaction, but it helped me to settle my nerves.

After a few hours had passed with no serious repercussion, I knew that the woman at Poison Control was right. My daughter was fine.

The only side-effects I could visibly see from the megadose:

Her speech became extremely clear.
She was doubly energetic.
She continued to say, "I feel bedda! I feel dood!"

In the end, we were so incredibly blessed. My children and I all learned an important lesson about medicine safety the hard way, without any real harm to my sweet daughter.

Still, this is an experience I never want to go through again.

Despite how embarrassing it is, and how poorly it speaks to my own mothering abilities, I decided to write about our day candidly to help spread the word and raise awareness about how easy it is for two year old children to get into vitamins and medicines.

Even when they are placed on high counters and shelves in tightly sealed bottles. Even when there are caring adults and siblings right there, just steps away.

Two year olds are like little Houdinis. They're almost magical in their ability to make food and treats vanish. They can escape even the most watchful eyes. They are hazardous to their own health.

I don't know how my daughter got the bottle off the back of that countertop but I'm guessing it was the same way she usually steals food when we're not looking. She typically drags over a chair, climbs up on it, and then roots around for treats.

She probably thought those vitamins were sweet raspberry candies.

Again, the vitamin theft and ingestion occurred with four other people working, talking and playing in close range of my little girl.

We got very lucky today but honestly, it was such a narrow escape. What if she had chosen to open a bottle of aspirin? What if it had been a fat soluble vitamin - Vitamin A?

I shudder to think.

From now on, all of our vitamins and medicines are moving at least 6 feet off the ground... preferably in a locked cupboard.

Tonight I hugged my little princess a little bit longer than normal as I helped her Daddy put her to bed. I love that little magical mischief-maker so much.

She is the sweetest, silliest kid. We really need her to stick around.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011 ~ Day 263
Sudden Inspiration

Tonight my husband and I went to see "The Help", a film currently in theaters.

For those who have not seen it - or read the book (which I have not) - the plot centers around African American maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the heart of the mid-60s Civil Rights struggle.

The film tells the story of their lives and treatment at the hands of their employers... and also the life of the educated white woman (Skeeter) who bravely records the maids' stories for a potential book that will bring awareness to the tough reality of their lives in America at that time in history.

I cannot adequately explain how much this film moved me; partly thanks to its solid acting, but even more due to the theme of race relations juxtaposed with parallel parenting stories featuring mothers with their children.

When the movie was over, my husband and I walked to our car in silence.

"That was a really good movie," my husband remarked, "I liked it."

I responded by bursting into tears. Not just a few polite little tears, but a massive torrential flow of tears - the minute we were alone in our car.

"Why are you crying, honey?" my husband asked. "What's wrong?"

"I-I-I'm not DOING anything for ANYONE. There are SO MANY PEOPLE in need and I'm not DOING anything for anyone but myself!"
I sobbed.

"You DO have an important job. You are taking great care of our children."

I wept, "I'm not really good at it. I love them so much but I'm not really good at being a stay-at-home mother. I'm too impatient. I don't keep the house clean enough. It doesn't come to me naturally.

I'm like the Skeeter character from the movie. Good housekeeping isn't really part of who I AM. I should be DOING something for the world. My gifts are in my head. I should be USING them to HELP people.

There are so many causes I believe in, and I'm not doing anything about *any* of them!"

With this statement I devolved into another huge round of tears, then began to focus on the stars in the velvety night sky.

We drove home mainly silently.

About ten minutes into our drive a light bulb suddenly ignited in my mind. I envisioned a unique way in which I could alter my new private tutoring business, as it expands, to finance working with lower income students along with the relatively affluent kids I currently teach. Excitedly, I described my revised plans to my husband... talking his ear off for over a mile.

"EVERY child who wants to learn and needs a helping hand deserves to have that opportunity!" I concluded, passionately.

My husband smiled and squeezed my hand.

"This is a really great idea. I like how it builds on what you are already doing. I do think it can work."

Once home, I spent an hour crafting an email to a good friend of mine who is well connected with schools that supports low-income students who are motivated but struggling. I can't wait to get her response. I can't wait to get started!

I have an entire business plan in my head which could possibly take years to fully unfold, but thankfully I'm already on the road to realizing my new dream.

I'm already tutoring, building a base, honing my own teaching skills.

It's one step at a time... just one foot in front of the other... but you never know.
I may end up changing the world yet!

* * * * * * *

It's funny how inspiration actually arrives.

Pieces of the puzzle can fall into place for months or years so subtly you don't even realize that you're heading down a particular path, and then you do something like go to see a movie with your husband on a random date night... a film which causes you to think, cry, and think some more... and suddenly the world shifts on its axis. The fuller picture of your career and life purpose comes into clear focus.

At least, that is what seemed to happen for me tonight. I guess time will tell if my unexpected brainstorm comes to fruition :-)

I'm really excited about tutoring though, and even more excited about tutoring a diverse group of students.

When I've got my full business plan fleshed out a little more, I'll be thrilled to share it in this blog so that my children and friends will always remember the moment when I dedicated myself to creating something beautiful and worthwhile.

Though exhausted, I feel so hopeful and happy about creating a career around giving and teaching... the two things I have always done best.

Wonderful how seemingly small things ~ like going to see a movie, or having a single conversation ~ can totally, completely and irrevocably change your point of view and plans, in just a handful of hours.

Life is lovely like that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 ~ Day 261
On The Bright Side

We had a fantastic birthday party for my husband yesterday evening at his mother's house - such wonderful food, great energy, lots of laughter and the company of the people he treasures most... his family.

With a radiantly happy guy on my arm and three cheery kids, it really felt like a birthday celebration for everyone. We had a great time!

Today is Sunday, the hallowed day of rest I gratefully receive from my husband at the end of my long weeks with the children - bless his heart.

I could have slept in this morning but the sun is bright and somehow, despite how tired I've been recently, it felt right to jump out of bed and get a head start on the day ~ especially because this is MY day, a day where I can do whatever I feel like doing. I don't want to miss a second!

Sitting down to write, I realized how different my mental state is when I write on Sundays... so peaceful, contented, optimistic and grateful. Looking back through my Sunday posts, they tend to be sweeter and written in a different tone. Less anxious, more delighted!

I'm not a rocket scientist but it seems clear to me that sheer exhaustion plays a real role in how our life unfolds at any given time and how I perceive it. My "sleepy goggles" make everything look much bleaker than it really is; vs the well rested times when life feels pretty darn good.

Today I am laughing out loud over an incident that yesterday felt tragically stupid and frustrating.

Our daughter had awakened seven times (yes, 7!) throughout the night due to hunger, thirst, and the desire to sing (yes, sing!) to her brothers about food while they slept. Each time I heard her jumping on her bed or waddling across the bedroom to try to rouse them, I raced to get her back to bed before she awoke the entire family.

This made a fun game for her, and I'll admit it - she won. She had me up hourly until about 5am. In the end she got to snuggle in our bed with Daddy as I crumpled into a nauseous, dizzy pile on the guest room bed and prayed for more sleep which never came.

Thus I, bleary-eyed and exhausted, was just trying to make it through yesterday morning until naptime.

We were on our way to visit my mom and brother, giving my husband some peace and quiet to get work done on his own personal day, when my sons began arguing with each other - for the millionth time of the morning - in the back of the car I was driving.

"Knock it off, guys!" I'd snapped, forgetting to turn my head to check out my blind spot when backing up.


Yes, in a feat of total genius and dexterity, I'd managed to ram our Nissan Pathfinder into the side of our own Toyota truck as I backed out of our driveway.

My husband heard the crash and ran out of the house, laughing, to inspect the damage.

"Did you really just hit our car?" he giggled, as he saw the back of our Toyota which - thanks to its excellent steel bumper - was intact and only mildly scraped up.

(What a sweetheart for taking it that way.)

Inspecting the damage to the Pathfinder, I responded by bursting into tears. Its own plastic bumper was totally crushed in on one side, and I know from past situations that will run us upward of $1000 to repair.

"I'm so sorry," I wept.

"Oh hon," he consoled, "You're SO tired. You really need some sleep. It's okay ~ thankfully nobody else was involved in the accident and the car you hit is OURS. Don't worry. I'm not mad."

I cried harder. He was so nice about the whole thing, I felt even worse for letting him down.

Eventually the kids and I made our way to grandma's house, safely, and ultimately I did get some sleep. Not as much as I need, but enough to function.

Today the sun is shining and the world looks brand new. My crushed car debacle seems pretty harmless and wryly funny. In the end it's just one more bill we'll have to figure out how to pay, but no serious damage to anything that matters.

After partying with much dinner and dessert until late in the evening, our two year old daughter finally fell sound asleep and actually slept through the entire night.

When she called out "Mama!" this morning at 6am, I couldn't help but smile to see her cheery little face waiting at the baby gate. "I'm hungeeee!" she sang and danced, and this time, her serenade seemed adorable.

It's amazing how much better everything looks when you're better rested!
Today I may actually sing and dance and jump around the house with her :-)

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011 ~ Day 259
Ready Or Not!

Tonight over a quiet game of Scrabble after all of our kids were in bed sleeping, I confessed to my husband the realization I had that sometimes (even at the age of 35!) I don't feel ready or qualified to be a parent.

I know, I know. It's a little late for that kind of thinking.

After all, I've been a mother for going on seven years now. I have co-created three children. I wanted all of them very much. I still do!

It isn't the children I don't feel ready for. I adore them.

It's the pressure that I don't know how to deal with... the heavy sense of responsibility.

The way that I can never hand off the reins to someone else more qualified when I am having a terrible day and say,

"Hey - I really have no idea how to be a good mother in this situation, can you do it this time and show me the ropes?"

* * * * * * *

My kid is still sick. Or rather, he's still injured. Now infected.

This has been going on for over a month now, and while at first I sprang into superhero action in my best form ~ I'm getting worn down.

I'm feeling scared and vulnerable.

What if I can't do it?

What if I can't, despite my best efforts and all three heroic races out to the ER, what if I can't get him all the way well?

What then?

That doctor really freaked me out yesterday, telling me about the chance of IV antibiotics and hospitalization. She scared me straight into giving my kid a massive course of augmentin only three weeks after he had an awful hypersensitivity to cephalexin.

Now, 24 hours in, he's feeling itchy again. Complaining of pain.

My husband and I are frustrated; edgy... Not again. Not another hypersensitivity reaction :-(

"If it happens again, we'll stop the drug immediately," my husband said.

"Of course. But then what do we do about the infection?

We're stumped. We honestly don't know what to do. All we can do is pray, and pray.

These are the moments when I wish medicine really WAS what I believed it to be as a kid. Something that could solve even the worst problem. Something to protect and save children. An answer.

Since having children I have learned the hard way that doctors are mainly practicing, that they work hard and care a lot but sometimes make mistakes. That they don't always know what they are talking about - like the pediatrician yesterday who informed me that Keflex was a sulfa-drug when actually it is in an entirely different class of antibiotics, as confirmed by our pharmacist who raised her eyebrows and remarked, "She said WHAT? Who is this doctor again?"

These are the moments when I wish that I had the answers.

I wish that I knew enough to treat my own kid and heal him... without relying on anyone else.

I have a friend in our old town who is a nutritionist. She believes in her own wisdom, and her husband believes in her too. She was able, thanks to a special diet, to have an autism label officially removed from her son's medical records because he improved behaviorally and verbally so much thanks to her treatment.

She once told me that she never uses medical drugs, but always treats her son with herbs and homeopathics. She understands how to use them, and she has been able to heal him from every illness.

What an incredible skill, and what fantastic confidence she has.

She trusts herself to heal her own son, and she actually does it.

I wish so much I knew how to do this, so that I would know how to heal my own children.

If I was a doctor, I would have cultured the pus in my kid's incision yesterday to make sure that the antibiotic he is taking actually matches the infection he's got.

Without knowing what he's got, we could be wasting valuable time AND his friendly gut flora right now on an antibiotic that isn't actually helping him. It drives me crazy sitting here anxiously wondering what I'll be waking up to deal with tomorrow.

Will the infection be better? Will it be worse?

(Can you feel my heartbeat quickening?)

* * * * * * *

The weight of responsibility rests so heavily on me.

My husband reminds me gently that this is something I have to deal with inside of myself - deal with the fear and anxiety that infuse my veins whenever my children face real health challenges.

He tells me that parenthood does not have to feel this heavy. That he loves our kids as much as I do but he is still able to sleep at night and trust that they will eventually get well.

I don't know how he does this. I am truly jealous. (Also a little skeptical...)

Is this a male/female thing?
Is it a mother/father thing?
Or is it just me?

Can I really be the only mother who sits up at night watching her children sleep when they are ill, to make sure they are still breathing?

No matter what the answer, the truth is that sometimes ~ rarely, but sometimes at moments like these ~ I really want to run away.

I want my own mother to come and take my place because she is such a PHENOMENAL mother, and she always seems to know exactly what to do.

I wish my kids had a better mother more like mine, someone skilled and confident and calm, who would steer them safely through childhood and its various mishaps. Somebody wise and intuitive.

They deserve that kind of mother! (Before having children I actually thought I would BE that kind of mother...)

All I can say for myself at this point, is that despite how genuinely scary it is to have the buck stop with ME when it comes to the health and welfare of three human beings, (gulp!)

I keep showing up for the job.

I haven't run away in seven challenge-filled years, and I'm not about to start just because we're navigating through previously uncharted, obstacle filled waters.

I'm not going to give up. Never on them, and not on myself either...

Maybe if I keep on trying, someday I will actually have more of the answers, faith and strength I so deeply yearn for at this moment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 2011 ~ Day 258
And The Beat Goes On...

Today is my husband's birthday and I really wanted to put together a fitting tribute to him here, but to be honest I haven't seen him at all since early morning and something else is on my mind.

Maybe tomorrow or soon, when the dust settles, I will write something worthy of him and post it for one of the three daily entries I am currently missing from this week.

One of my friends recently posted that his life has recently gotten so full with, well... life.

I really liked that. I can relate.

We've had a long, steady stream of stuff happening in the last few weeks that have made it so hard for me to get quiet time and space in which to write.

Today when I picked my four year old up from morning summer camp, I happened to check out his hand. The broken one that has been healing, steadily, day by day.

Exactly one month to the day has passed since his accident and even though I hoped we were 'out of the woods', I've still been pretty vigilant about casually checking out his fingers. It's a paranoid mom thing, what can I say.

All in all, my level of anxiety about his injury and subsequent allergic reaction has declined steadily since the day they removed his cast and those adorable little fingers were still a nice normal fleshy color.

This afternoon when I checked him though, my heart fluttered just a little and I inhaled. Quietly.

"You know what, hon?" I smiled. "Everything's just fine but I think you may have picked up a little infection. Why don't we just have your pediatrician take a little look, since we're so close to her office?"

"Okay, Mommy."

The kid is such a trooper, he didn't fight at all. Despite all of the many doctors he has been forced to deal with in the last month, he was extremely relaxed about the entire change of afternoon plan. What a sweetheart.

Long story short, unfortunately my instinct was right and it IS an infection.

Which means, more antibiotics for 10 days.

* * * * * * *

Not a problem. Except of course, for the erythema multiforme reaction he had less than three weeks ago to the last antibiotic he had to take for 10 days.

The doctor we saw (not our pediatrician, one of the partners - a woman in her 60s) didn't really make me feel better about this. She said, "Oh! Wow. Erythema multiforme is really serious. I've only seen 2 or 3 of those in my entire career and they really are scary."

This isn't exactly what any mother hopes to hear from a medical professional, especially when already worried about her small kid.

* * * * * * *

Still, she made it pretty clear that despite the recent allergy, we needed to take the chance on these new antibiotics.

"What are our alternatives?" I asked.

"Well, you can wait and see -" she began. "But, if the infection gets into the bone, then we're talking about hospitalization and IV antibiotics. So, I'd take the chance on this medicine."

That made sense to me.

Two hours later my son and I sat side by side at home in our kitchen with a bottle of augmentin in front of us. We high-fived in an act of love and solidarity.

"Are you ready?"

"I'm ready. I'm going to be fine, Mommy."

"Of course you are. This is no big deal. But, please do tell me if you start feeling weird like you did with the last medicine."

"Okay Mommy. I love you."

"Honey, I love you too and you've been so strong and brave. This whole experience will be over very soon. You'll be back to normal in no time."

We hugged and then I gave him his augmentin.

Thankfully, no immediate reaction. I'm no longer worried about a sudden reaction, now I just need to watch out for what happened last time. A delayed hypersensitivity.

"Some people have the immediate reaction," said our pharmacist, "but in others it takes days to develop. Just watch him closely."

* * * * * * *

I will.

* * * * * * *

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, today is my husband's birthday. I'm really looking forward to seeing him tonight and feel so grateful that we had an entire weekend together out of town last week.

Already it seems like a million years or so have passed since our romantic getaway.

I feel every bit as anxious and stressed as I was before we left, and I almost don't recognize myself in the memory of the happy carefree woman I got the chance to be for two whole days.

I love my husband so much, and for his birthday I wish him the best possible year!

But mostly, what I'm wishing for right now are ten healthy, infection free fingers.

I know a four year old who really deserves them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 ~ Day 255
Notes To Self

Note to self:

It's probably not a good idea to enroll your children for summer camps that meet at different times of day, in the same location, 30 minutes away from home.

Here's why:

8:15am Drive to camp
8:45am Drop off at camp
11:15am Drive to camp
12:00pm Pick up at camp
~Hang out at camp, eat lunch~
1:00pm Drop off at camp
3:15pm Drive to camp
3:45pm Pick up at camp
4:30pm Home from camp...

...driven to exhaustion, and out of gasoline.

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

If your four year old takes off his underpants and then starts to giggle hysterically, it's probably a good idea to see what he's giggling about. You may end up having to explain to him, in anatomical terms not kosher for Facebook viewing, why what he is doing is extremely inappropriate and unhygienic.

Whatever It Takes, Do Not Laugh.

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

When your six year old tells you that he is moving to eat at the grown-up dinner table because he feels like he is about to hit his little brother, let him move. He is telling the truth.

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

"Uh-oh" is pretty much never a good thing.
Especially when uttered by a two year old.
Especially when followed by "Poo-poo!"

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

Ryan Gosling may look dreamy on the big screen... and even when breaking up a New York street fight (Wow!) ...but really, would he wake up at 3am to walk the floors with a screaming, feverish toddler? Men like that probably need their beauty sleep.

At least that's what I'm telling myself ;-)

(My own handsome husband has got DADDY-POWERS, and damn, that's sexy.)

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

Eating sweet potatoes dusted in salt and baked in bacon grease is probably not good for you. Even if they are ridiculously delicious and comforting.

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

If a doctor sends you to the emergency room when you get a pain after office hours, three times in a single year, it's probably time to find a new doctor. That doctor probably majored in CYA* at med school. Overreactive = expensive.

(*"Cover Your A&&". This is a valid legal term and common degree program ;-)
I swear.)

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

A friend that sticks by your side for three months has potential.
A friend that sticks by your side for three years has staying power.
A friend that sticks by your side for three decades is a soul mate.

Very thankful for the soul mates in my nearly 36 year old life!

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

Let your friends or family members take photos of you, even on your worst days when you are covered in your kid's snot and sweating like a pig.

When you are 90, you will look at these photos and think, "Wow - I was so young, healthy and attractive!"

This is especially true for photos of you taken with your (sniffly) little children. They grow so fast. Someday your 60 year old kid will be showing you that same photo and saying, "Look how beautiful you were, Mom. I love you."

* * * * * * *

Note to self:

Spend less time on the computer writing about life, and more time living it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011 ~ Day 254
Top 10 Things About Returning From A Child-Free Vacation

Top Ten Things About Coming Home From A Vacation Without Kids:

10) The half-naked child running toward you, grinning from ear to ear with arms outstretched as you walk in the front door, shouting, "Mama! I have poo-poo!" as though it is a precious gift she has been saving all weekend just to share with you.

9) Unpacking your small weekend bag (ok, large weekend bag in my case) and realizing, "Wow - I have an entire closet full of clothes! I have a washing machine! I can finally wash the sweater I've been wearing for the last 4 days!"

8) Comparing your monthly rent with the nightly rates California hotels charge for a room during the summer, and realizing that when looked at this way, you're actually getting a great deal! (In fact, maybe you should open a hotel!)

7) Noticing the sunny, breezy weather you typically take for granted.

6) Appreciating how lucky you are to have amazing local grandparents who actually love spending time with your wild little bunch of kiddos while you are out of town decompressing.

5) Enjoying the use of essential items you may have managed to forget at home during your vacation... like boxer shorts (my husband), dental floss (me)... and the cell phone charger (oops!)

4) Realizing that your children have saved up three days of tantrums just for YOU :-) Because you are special like that.

3) Knowing that tonight you will surely get a good night's sleep in your own bed away from the noise of other hotel guests... bad dreams and unexpected child illness permitting.

2) Basking in the love, smiles and hugs of the three cutest kids in the Universe ~ at least two of whom are genuinely thrilled to see you :-)

1) Remembering that if you keep working hard enough with a positive attitude (and stay on good terms with the babysitter!) you'll be able to enjoy another 'romantic' weekend getaway next year!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20, 2011 ~ Day 253
The Life We Want

I'd meant to write more during our weekend away but (happily) we got so caught up in having a good time, the writing didn't happen.

My husband and I have spent two very full days together, soaking up happy moments like sponges.

We've had our fill of peaceful uninterrupted conversation... listening to music, walking along the ocean, sleeping, catching a great live show, watching an exciting movie, discovering a delicious 'local' brewery restaurant away from the tourist zone and generally enjoying ourselves.

My guy also biked from sea level to the top of a major mountain range today ~ loving every second!

Meanwhile, I slept in. He and I have both been enjoying a little taste of heaven.

We've checked in on our kids about four times and in every single instance, they were exultant and delighted to be spending time with their babysitter and grandparents.

During one call, they couldn't even be bothered to come to the telephone, they were so busy enjoying playing a video game on their grandmother's iPad.

When we've spoken with them, they've seemed extremely happy and cheerful. My mother said they slept for nearly twelve hours straight last night... wow. She certainly has the magic touch. (I wish I could figure out how to make that happen during "normal" weeks.)

So, with our kids happy and in good hands, it has been truly possible for me to unwind. Decompress. Chill.

Spending time alone with my husband, relaxed in the knowledge that we don't have to rush home at the end of the date, has proved more blissful than I had even hoped or imagined.

These are the special times that remind me just how well we click as a couple and just how much I love my man. Things are always so easy, so smooth, when it is just the two of us. We get along very well and have so much fun together away from the pressures and stresses of daily life.

For two whole days, no worries over bills or work schedules, children getting sick or injured, children fighting with each other. No need to compromise or negotiate over which parent can have the freedom to do what they want to, when they want to.

Just us. Enjoying each other's company. Having fun, laughing, seeing new things.

It is so *easy* to live like this!

Yet, despite the myriad challenges we will return to tomorrow

(ahem, "Reality")

we are both happy and grateful to have such a precious family to return to. Our job as parents is endless, and without question the hardest thing either of us have ever committed to, but we love those three kids more than anything in the world and they are definitely worth the sacrifices we make daily for them.

Yesterday while we were driving, I asked my husband:

"Where do you think we'd be right now if we hadn't had children already?"

and he replied, "Here," and squeezed my hand.

"No, I mean... I know that we'd still be together. I mean, what do you think we'd be DOING with our lives as a couple, if we hadn't had children?"

Turning his gaze briefly from the road to my face, he smiled.

"If we didn't have kids? We'd be busy trying to have kids together."

I laughed out loud.

"Good point."

* * * * * * *

Thankfully, the life we want is the life we have.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, 2011 ~ Day 251
Move Over, Tom Cruise

Tomorrow morning, my husband and I will embark upon our first romantic weekend away from the kiddos in THREE YEARS.

In the interim we have literally created, brought into the world, and raised a daughter to the age of two!

(Readers of this blog know that we are also parents to two extremely active sons ages four and six.)

This means that we are very, very, very tired.

My husband and I are extremely excited about our travels and will be blogging about our adventures from the road.

Our children are also extremely excited and enthusiastic about our impending departure.

They will spend the weekend in the company of their favorite babysitter and their beloved grandparents.

In fact, they really can't wait for us to leave :-) Really.

To give the full sense of their absolute joy over our coming trip, today I will interview one of the key members of our family unit, our six year old son, to describe the mood of the children in our house on the day before the journey begins.

"So, tell me about what it will be like when Daddy and I are out of town?"

(He giggles.)


"Why will it be so fun?"

"Because we will get to do WHATEVER WE WANT when grandma is here!"

"Oh really... hmmmmm... what does that mean?"

"We like to paint art, eat snacks like cheese and lots of yummy bars. We like to have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner."

(He begins to sing about spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, orchestrated to his own tune.)

"So you're excited about the food you'll eat while we're gone?"

"YES! And we will watch so much television!"


"No, not SO much television. Um yeah, some television, but not SO much."

(The backtracking has begun...)

"So what will you watch on TV?"

"Bob the Builder!"
(He begins to sing the theme song for the claymation show.)

"What else will you do while we're gone?"

"We will play outside and do scavenger hunts! We will find treasure!"

"So are you going to miss your mom and dad?"


"Oh no? Why not?"

"Because it is so boring to be with your parents EVERY DAY, EVERY YEAR. Parents need to go away. Yay Yay Yay Yay Yay Yay Yay!"

"Is it okay for your parents to miss YOU while we're gone?"

"No, it's not okay. We won't miss you and we want you to stay there for 60,000 months."

"Really? No parents?"

"I never miss you, even when you're here."


"Okay, well, I'm pretty sure that your Dad and I will miss you. But you don't have to miss us. So, what do you think it will be like with your little brother and sister while we're gone?"

"It will be SO much fun. We will build a fort under the TV and play with all of our toys and eat lots of macaroni and cheese and zucchini for dinner. Dessert! Dessert, we're going to have ice cream and chocolate chips. A million!"

"Well, I'm very happy for you that you are so excited about your weekend break from Mommy and Daddy. We love you guys so much, and we're glad that you feel safe, happy and excited about your weekend with your grandparents and your babysitter.

Do you have anything final you would like to say, for the record, about our upcoming trip?"

"I hope you will have an awesome kitchen at your hotel, and a good time. Yeeeeessssssssssssss!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!"

* * * * * * * *

So there you have it... while our children will apparently *not* miss us at all during our two day absence, they do wish us well in our endeavors and hope we will find a way to enjoy ourselves while they party hard at home with food, sweets, playtime, and a nice break from their folks.

I guess this is Risky Business, rated G.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011 ~ Day 249
Spectacular Fail

I really screwed up, and I'm so mad at myself!

Actually, it's a more complex feeling. I'm not just mad. I'm humiliated and frustrated and sad and can't even believe that I made such a dumb mistake.

It doesn't seem like me. It isn't something I would do.

But, I did it.

This Sunday - this past Sunday - was the baby shower for one of the sweetest little bundles of love ever to be coming to this planet.

A little boy is due to dear friends of ours in just a few months.

I am so excited about this baby. We've been psyched about his impending arrival for months.

When I got the invitation to his shower, I cheered out loud - so happy that it would take place on a Sunday!

My personal day. A day when I could come to the shower without any of my own kids... and just enjoy my friend. Her soon-to-be baby. Fun conversations with adults. Delicious food, because she is a great cook.

A fantastic Sunday.

I'd RSVP'd to her friend throwing the party, bought a present and wrapping paper for my kids to decorate... the whole nine yards. Pinned the invitation to my bulletin board.

But I'm sure you've guessed it by now... guessed the sad and true tale of my own lameness.

I forgot! I missed the shower and didn't even realize it until tonight!

* * * * * * *

How could I possibly forget the baby shower for one of my dear friends?
(Someone whose family we look upon like family?)

On top of which, how could I forget a party?


How could I space out like this?

I'm the type A one... the list maker... the person who makes my kids' doctors appointments three months in advance. I'm the one who remembers little details like my friends' kids' favorite toys or favorite colors... and if I don't know, I'll ask.

What is happening to me?

* * * * * * *

When we realized this evening, too late, that I'd totally spaced out about the shower, I sat down on the floor next to the refrigerator where my husband was hunting for dinner and put my head in my hands.

"I don't understand," I groaned. "I've never done something like this before... just completely forgotten about an important event I was looking forward to. Who AM I right now? Who have I become? I would NEVER have done this before."

"And you'd really bought a present?"
my husband asked.

"Yes." I shook my head and held back tears. "I don't know how this happened."

"Well it's no big deal,"
he consoled me. "I'm sure she'll understand. You had a really tough week last week."

My friend is such a kind person, she probably *will* understand and forgive me. Still, I'm having a lot of trouble forgiving myself.

It is true that last week sucked for me.

Last week my kid had a serious allergic reaction, I didn't sleep well from worry, my autoimmune issues flared, I came down with asthma when eating all foods with sulfites, and I lost several pounds.

On Sunday, when I should have been feting her sweet baby boy-to-be at the party, I was actually sleeping.

I know that fact shouldn't embarrass me, but it really does. I was taking a long afternoon nap while my husband played with our kids at the beach; I was decompressing.

Feels really silly to say though; I, a 35 year old mother of three, forgot to attend the baby shower of one of my close friends and was instead, sleeping.

This is not a reasonable excuse for spacing out. This is the kind of thing a 16 year old might do.

If I had actually remembered the party and felt too ill to go, I would still have at least called or emailed to explain and say how sorry I was.

* * * * * * *

I screwed up.

It's that plain and simple.

I forgot that it was a special day, and blithely pulled the covers over my head when my family left for their adventures... so happy to be resting for once. I slept all afternoon and didn't get out of bed until nearly 2pm.

* * * * * * *

The whole thing concerns me, and here are my main worries:

(1) My friend will forgive me ~ but (understandably) never quite trust me again to be solid and not flaky;
(2) I am losing my mind and memory like my father did;
(3) I have more on my plate than I can actually handle, and important things are falling through the cracks
(4) I am a lame friend.

I have been fretting about this all night, after having apologized to my friend and her husband the moment we realized that I'd messed up.

My husband thinks I'm going overboard with regret.

"It could happen to anyone," he says - "Let it go. We all do things like this sometimes."

Really? I think to myself. Really?

Because I don't.

At least, I *didn't*.

I didn't ever do flaky things like this before.

Is this a sign of me losing my edge? Or is it a sign that I've grown more relaxed (too relaxed) and less uptight (less organized) in the last few years?

Do people with fancy phones have these problems? My husband's telephone acts like a calendar and beeps whenever he has a meeting coming up... and he doesn't seem to forget things any more.

Do I need a smart phone too, to beep whenever we have an important playdate, doctor's appointment, family dinner or party to attend? Would a smart phone keep me, well... smart?

I could go around in circles like this in my brain all day. Come on, Mama. Get your act together!

For now there is only one simple fact: I missed it.

From here, all I can do is start over and try very hard to show my friend how much I care about her and this new baby... give her the present I've been saving for him...

and use this experience as a motivator to get myself back on track.

Make lists. Use the calendar relentlessly. Channel my inner organization guru.
Be committed. Be there for my friends, always.

They say that 99% of success in life is just showing up. I failed at that pretty spectacularly this time around.

Next time though, I won't let her down.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011 ~ Day 248
Sleep? Hahahahahahaha

We've had an early morning at our house today.

Two-year-old early, that is.

Which means morning started around 3am. And then 5am. And finally, 6am.

Our little alarm clock doesn't beep. She makes the strident "Mommeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!" sound and everyone in the house jumps up, wild eyed.

"Is it morning?" my 4 year old asked blearily last night when his sister began to wail.

"No, sweetheart," I mumbled. "Your sister's just having a bad dream."

The first time she called me into their room, she wanted water.

I got her water. I tried to put a blanket over her. She shoved it angrily away. I kissed her good night.

I closed the door.

She then began to scream hysterically.


Sighing, I re-opened the door.

"You want your blanket?"


I re-entered the room, put a blanket on her, and turned to walk away.


"What is it?"


"I just gave you your bottle. See? Here it is next to you. Good night, honey."

Again, I left the room and went back to bed.


I returned swiftly, so she wouldn't awaken her brother again.

"Honey, what's wrong?"


"Honey, there is no monster."


"You want your Daddy?"


"Honey, Daddy is sleeping right now. You will see him in the morning."


Through the darkness I heard my husband's muffled, exhausted voice.

"Bring her in here if you want, so we can all go back to sleep."

Sigh. Sleeping with the 2 year old. Not the most restful slumber, as any parent can tell you.

"Yay, Dada!" she jumped out of bed and padded down the hall in her jammy-feet.

Climbing into our big bed she positioned herself in my normal place and began to wiggle her little arms and legs to get comfortable.

I squeezed into the narrow space between our daughter and my husband and tried to go back to sleep. My daughter continued to stretch this way and that.

Suddenly I felt little feet begin to kick my back.

I turned toward the little head resting on my pillow.


she giggled.

I groaned. "It's bedtime..." and rolled over again.

"OH! It BEDTIME? O-kay, MAMA!"

For one blissful minute, silence.

Then, she began to sing.

"LaLaMaMaBedTime! Lalabebamama da!"

I went to stuff a pillow on top of my head, then remembered that my pillow was now tucked under my daughter's head.

"This isn't going to work," I moaned crankily. Grabbing a blanket, I dragged it out to the couch in the next room, since one of my other children was sound asleep in the third bedroom.

"ByeBye Mama! Nih Nih!" the two year old called after me.

Burying my head into the couch pillows I wrapped up in my single blanket and fell into a fitful slumber.

I know I actually fell asleep because in the moments that followed I found myself telling my best friend over a cup of coffee at our favorite coffee shop from high school how my daughter hadn't been sleeping recently and it was driving us nuts. She nodded in sympathy.


Somebody knocked on my back.


I rolled over. A small face peered into mine.




"You want to go back in your room? Are you going to go to bed?"
I realized how happy I would be to get off of the couch and back into my own bed. I stood up.


She padded back toward her bedroom door, waiting for me to open it.

As she entered her bedroom, my daughter ~ at 3am ~ did a small dance and threw her arms in the air to make a grand entrance.

"TA DA!!!!!!!!!"

She then ran to her bed, jumped in, pulled the covers over her head and started to fall asleep.

And despite how tired... how bone tired I felt at that moment... I could not help but smile into the dark night as I shut her door, again, and stumbled into my bed where I slept soundly for two whole hours before our little alarm clock sounded off again.

What a (completely adorable) little nut.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14, 2011 ~ Day 247
Glad To Be Here

I'm sitting in a child sized chair at the kitchen window looking out over an orange tree full of fruit.

A light wind is rippling through our trees, and in the background all that can be heard is the hum of the refrigerator.

Six months have now passed since we moved to this wonderful, cheerful, welcoming house. Six beautiful months which have been such a blessing for our family.

Even through the hard times, we've really pulled together as a unit here... and despite the fact that its front door recently managed to maul my kid's fingertips, I really feel this is a house of love. A house of great energy. (A house of healing!)

Pretty soon, I know I'll hear the slew of familiar noises that herald the return of my husband and kids from their Sunday of adventure.

He, a magnificent father, has taken them swimming at the beach and biking along the boardwalk. At least, I am pretty sure that's where they've been... given the notable lack of swimsuits hanging from the bathroom rack and child-sized bicycles scattered across our driveway.

The kids will return sandy and exhausted, probably cranky, yet having enjoyed the best afternoon of their week.

For this, I am truly grateful.

When I dropped my eldest son off at summer camp a few days ago, he sighed wistfully and remarked,

"I wish my Dad would be picking me up from camp today."

I knew what he meant. Moms are fine, and as mothers go he thinks I am ok ~ I make the cut. But dads, especially *his* Dad... dads are fun.

I've tried many times to be the fun parent ~ grabbed the bikes or the bathing suits, taken my kids on surprise outings.

What I've discovered along the way is that it isn't what you DO with them that makes it fun... it's who you are.

I am a nurturing, responsible, loving parent who likes to have long conversations with my kids and get to know their personalities. I like to treat them with respect, and share with them the things that we both love.

My husband is a hands-on, active father who likes to take them out into the wide wide world - giving them the chance to expand and grow. He exposes them to risk and adventure, in a good way. He teaches them about confidence, which is SO important.

Nothing makes me happier than to sit in a quiet room reading a good book, with the people I love nearby. I am never more contented than late at night when my entire family is winding down for the evening and I know they are safe, well-fed and taken care of. With my husband sitting close to me reading or working, or holding my hand while watching a movie - I pretty much feel like the luckiest woman on the planet.

Someday when our children really become readers, one of them may end up sharing my enjoyment of this kind of activity. There may come a day when I sit in companionate silence with one or more of my kids on a rainy day... all of us appreciating the joy of a good book. I can almost envision us doing that with "Harry Potter" in a few years, just as my mother used to read the "Anne of Green Gables" series with me.

Honestly, I'll probably never be the mother that laces up her jogging shoes and takes her kids in the stroller on a multi-mile run ~ or who runs races with them at the park.

I have many friends who are fabulously athletic and do this often, with gusto. I admire them so much! I wish I could be that mom, and at times I have tried to be that mom.

In the end though, that's not really my style.

I spent a lot of time in my teens and early twenties wishing I could be more like other people ~ more laid back and outgoing like my big brother, more sassy and confident like some of my closest friends. Funnier.

Having children and experiencing my thirties has shown me how to let all of that go and accept and appreciate the good things about just being myself.

I am the mom that wakes up to give medicine on schedule in the middle of the night. I am the mom who will go out of my way to find pumpkin pie in the summer time to give to my kid who was having a bad day... or to bake it from scratch if I can't find one at the store. I'm the mom who will make my kid a paper airplane for the four hundredth time because all of the rest of them are stuck in the neighbor's tree. LOL!

I'm proud of being a mother that my kids can depend on, even if I'm not the funniest or even the most fun parent to be with.

My daughter has recently taken to hugging my legs and saying, "Lap! Lap! Mommy!" which means that she wants me to sit down so she can climb in my lap.

When I pull her up on to my lap and cuddle with her for a moment, burying my face in her wispy hair with its soft shampoo scent, she smiles and tries to pet my head like a dog.

"I lu yoo Mama!" she confides, and then giggles happily because she knows she has just said something heart-meltingly cute... and also because she knows she is participating in a special ritual with her mommy.

"I love you too, angel," I smile back. I cherish these moments with my little girl.

As bony and thin as I've become again lately, I'm so glad that my children (and my husband) still think that I have a comfortable lap to rest in. Their love is the highest honor and best gift I've ever received in my life... better than an Ivy League diploma or career success; better than anything.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011 ~ Day 245
Rhymes with Witch

There is a word for what I am when I haven't eaten in over eight hours and it isn't "hungry".

No, it would be that other, more descriptive word - the one that rhymes with witch.

I'd actually type it with gusto here after the day I've had, but hey - this is a family friendly blog.

Somewhere out there, others may exist who also get more than just grumpy when they are hungry.

I'm pretty sure that at least one or two other people like me exist within my own home! LOL... I made them myself.

(If you're reading this, my darling grumpers, Mommy loves you and is sorry that she gave you her hypoglycemic gene.)

Today was simply one of those days that needed an alternate reality.

For example, there were more than a few moments this afternoon when my children loudly whined, "Mooommmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!" at me, and I regrettably ignored them or worse, snapped back -


(As in, "Mooommmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee, he hit me!" or "Mooommmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee, I want more pretzels!", or "Mooommmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee, I don't WANT to take a bath!!!")

In my alternate Mom reality, I would have looked up and given a pleasant sweet smile and then listened patiently to their plaintive whining before modeling for them a few better, more polite ways to get my attention.

The alternate reality version of me as a mother is really fantastic - I wish you could meet her. I wish I could BE her!!! LOL. If only I could ever be as great as the mom I have invented in my head; the one who consistently does everything right.

* * * * * * *

But getting back to my witchiness, because that was basically the theme today.

I hadn't eaten a proper meal in nearly 48 hours - two days. Not since the hives/throat and lips swelling/wheezing thing. I've been working as hard and fast as I can to figure out what a person can actually EAT with a sulfite allergy ~ but I keep getting it wrong!

Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot out there on the Web about this problem... although I did read today something very interesting - that it may be indicative of a metabolic/enzyme deficiency rather than a true allergy - and scientists are working on this theory in the search for a cure.

So that's pretty cool!

But for now, I've been floundering around like a fish out of water.

Yesterday I thought I'd read I couldn't eat black beans, so I didn't share the wonderful black beans my husband made for our kids for dinner.... which looked and smelled SO good. (It turns out, after further research, that black beans are pretty sensational for my condition and are a natural source of something called molybdenum which can help improve a sulfite sensitivity. So I should have eaten the damn beans.)

Today, I thought I remembered that it was okay to eat tuna fish that had been packed in water so I opened a can at my mom's house for lunch - my first protein in 2 days - and within 3 bites I started to wheeze.

"What the...?"

I rushed back to the laptop and found after about 1 second that canned tuna is actually high in sulfites and known to trouble people with sulfite-induced asthma. Ugh.

So, now I know. Black beans are awesome, and canned tuna sucks.

This learning process wouldn't be so tough if I wasn't juggling 3 kids and 2 summer camp schedules at the same time, but Life seems to believe I can handle a bit of 'extra' challenge. So, the sulfite thing just adds to our typical general chaos and intensity.

On top of all of it, my husband is adding on another (wonderful) side project to his repertoire... a company we are very excited about, but which will by the sheer nature of "work" mean extra hours away from the family and even more household responsibility for me to shoulder. I am excited for him, excited about the company, and have a good feeling that everything is going to work out well -

- but gee, I'm pretty tired.

* * * * * * *

Sometimes I want to have a personal conversation with God,

and just ask -

"So, when does it get easier?
When will my health be back?
When will all three kids be healthy?
When will they be happy?
Will they EVER like each other???"

Then I realize that NOTHING is going to get easier until I get a better attitude; and that shuts me up pretty fast. I'm certainly not going to attract a magnificent turnaround if I sit around whining and complaining all day like a few small children I know and love... who happen to look just like me.

* * * * * * * *

After spending most of the day schlepping my kids around the city, stopping in to visit my mother - poor thing, I was such a grump! - and having to once again hit the grocery store with three hungry children (read: H-E-L-L), I finally purchased food that I was 99% sure I would not have an allergic reaction to.

All of it needed to be cooked from scratch, of course.

But hey, as my mom pointed out when I was at the height of my tirade about food preservatives and additives, at least there is still SOMETHING I can eat.

So here you go - the dinner menu:

Tonight we feasted on organic baked chicken, sauteed zucchini, roasted corn on the cob and corn tortillas... with a side of black beans for me.

Happily, nothing happened beyond a small amount of lip swelling. No wheezing, no hives.

All in all - SUCCESS!!!

* * * * * * *

Now that I'm well fed, the funny thing is that I'm a completely different person.

Relaxed, mellow. Sense of humor is back. Feeling optimistic about the whole diet thing. Happy with my kids, don't even care about the whining... now that they're asleep in their beds, the whole day seems funny in retrospect.

(Even the part where they were screaming and throwing a string of large plastic beads at each other while I was driving on the freeway...)

I think, now that I'm in a totally contented state of mind, that the major takeaway I have from today is to appreciate how lucky we are to have the things we DO have on any given day... even when there are other things we are clearly missing.

Ten years ago I could eat basically anything I wanted to and never got hives, wheezing, swollen lips or any asthma symptoms.

At the time I was desperately sad and only wanted to finally meet the right person and have a family. It was my strongest prayer - that I would actually meet someone kind and cool and special who would love me back... and that we would have a beautiful bunch of kids together.

I took for granted how great it was to be able to go to any restaurant and eat whatever I felt like eating, without any fear of allergies.

Today ten years later, I have three incredible kids and an extremely lovable husband... and I can't really eat that much without my immune system freaking out. I hope the allergy/asthma thing will be temporary ~ but really, despite the stupid allergies - I have so much.

I have a lot to be grateful for and I don't want to take any of it for granted, not for a second.

Just a handful of days ago I was all twisted up in disbelief and fear, worried that I could lose one of these three precious kids to injury and allergy. I prayed with all my heart that he would be ok. My prayer (and yours - thank you!!!) seems to have been answered, and he is visibly getting better.

Cheers then, to all that I do have.
Cheers to all that we ALL have.

We have so much in this country, in our respective cities and individual homes, in our beloved families... so many good things.

Tonight, now that my Inner Witch has been beaten back with chicken and beans, I give thanks with all my heart for the precious gifts I have sometimes been too hungry to see clearly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11, 2011 ~ Day 244
A New Start

I'm running behind on posts, a situation about which I feel both sad and acceptant. At the rate I am now going, there's going to be plenty of catchup to do to make sure that we end up as a family with 365 posts by December 10, 2011.

That said, there have been a lot of new developments and changes recently in my own day-to-day that at first shook me up and now have inspired me to reach an entirely new level of clarity.

In an nutshell, it was determined that I have a sulfite sensitivity or allergy. Sulfites are chemical additives used to preserve foods, and there are also many foods that contain their own sulfur (like eggs, for example). There are really three different types of allergies a person can have - sulfa drug allergies, allergy to sulfites, and allergy to sulfates.

I'm not sure yet exactly where I fall on the spectrum and have an appointment with my allergist to figure it all out.

Still, I've had a whole lot of hives, swollen lips and wheezing/coughing over the last few days and weeks - enough to make a girl worry more than usual.

So in a way, it is a relief to have found the culprit that ties it all together. In another way, I am totally overwhelmed to realize that I will have to change my entire diet again.

After digesting the situation (haha, forgive the bad pun!) I responded in my favorite way. Yes, you guessed it, I created a new blog!

Welcome to Tasty... and Sulfite Free! I am going to update this blog from time to time with information I collect about sulfites and a sulfite sensitivity; my personal experiences with this sulfite problem; and the recipes I create for myself to fill the major void that will now exist in my diet as I exclude sulfite containing foods.

This new blog joins my old blog, Tasty... and Gluten Free! in the ranks of recipe blogs for food allergy sufferers and the folks who love them.

Given that I already avoid gluten, most dairy and sugar, pretty soon I'm going to be sitting around with nothing to eat (or write about!) besides beef, chicken and fish! I'm laughing about this... sort of.

I'm excited about the new blog though, and about this opportunity to take lemon juice and make it into something better... something sulfite free!

They say 1 in 100 people have some form of sulfite sensitivity... so maybe some of my friends, family members or readers may ultimately benefit from the new blog. I won't be updating all the time, just when I can and when I have a good new recipe or tip to suggest.

In the end, I'm just grateful that there are many foods I can still eat. Food is such a social connecter, it really bonds people together. I have never felt more lonely or excluded in my life than during the five weeks last summer when I could not eat solid food with my friends and family.

So while we may no longer be able to break bread or drink wine together, I will be so happy to share my journey back to wellness... and even invite everyone over for some roast chicken with carrots and fresh potatoes.

In fact, I'm busy planning my first sulfite-free recipe right now!

Take care and much love to all.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8, 2011 ~ Day 241
Prayers, Answered

Yesterday night I reached out and asked everyone I knew to pray for my four year old son. Everyone.

I asked our friends and family, my friends from the Road Back Foundation, the prayer group from my church Mother's group, our play therapist, the followers of this blog. I asked everyone who reached out to me personally, and even some who didn't.

Then I prayed, the same prayer I have held in my heart every day for two weeks. I kept my focus tightly upon a vision of my son as healed and happy, running around doing everything he most loves to do... riding his bicycle, swimming, playing tag with his big brother, climbing all over his Daddy. I prayed that the light of divine grace and love would heal him and bring this vision into our reality.

Tonight I want to thank you all, every single one of you, for your prayers.

It has been a very long day, but I believe that your prayers - and ours - have been answered. At this moment, at least for now, the prognosis for our son looks a lot better.

* * * * * * *

Yesterday evening by about 1am, I almost cried when my son awakened screaming about how itchy he was. "Give me the strength to keep on going," I murmured toward the ceiling and then cared for him until he fell back asleep... knowing that we would need to leave our house by 8am to arrive on time for his 8:45am appointment with the orthopedic surgeon.

All too soon dawn had broken and I heard my eldest and youngest children romping and screaming in the room next door. Bleary eyed, I faced the clock - 6:30am. Time to get a move on.

Before we could leave I needed to make several arrangements, most importantly to set up the ophthalmology appointment for this morning that the ER doctor had insisted on in order to discharge my son from the ER on Saturday night.

"Call the hospital right at 8 on Monday," she'd said, "and let them know that we said your son MUST be seen by the ophthalmologist immediately, as early on Monday as possible."

Yet, when I actually spoke with the woman in scheduling this morning, it turned out to be a lot more complicated than simply saying "The ER doctor said...".

There was no time today, she said. None at all.
The doctors were all full up.
There was another clinic about an hour away that we could drive to, but we needed to be there by 10am.

(This last option was impossible, as we needed to come back to her hospital at 8:45am to see the surgeon and get his cast off and wound checked.)

Was his eye watery? Did it have discharge? she wanted to know.

"His eyes are red and swollen, he is complaining of a headache, and the ER doctor said it was crucial that he be seen today."

"But does he have any discharge from his eyes?"

"Not that I know of."

"Then come in tomorrow at 7:15am,"
she said - and that was the best she could do for us.

"Okay," and my voice quivered a bit. "The ER doctor said my son could lose his vision if not treated properly. Will tomorrow be soon enough?"

"We just don't have any availability today, ma'am."


There was no point in fighting with her, she'd already spoken with her supervisor once. Besides, we were late to leave for my son's orthopedic appointment. Time to trust. Time to go.

My husband, who had thoughtfully offered to stay home and watch our other two children so that I could go with our son alone to his appointment, kissed our son goodbye and wished us luck.

"Hopefully you'll get your cast off today, little man!"

Of course, the moment I went to buckle him into the car, I noticed a yucky discharge from his eyes for the first time.

* * * * * * *

Blessedly, we made it to the hospital in only 20 minutes - about 18 minutes faster than on the day of the accident. Despite our late start, we arrived to his appointment on time.

As we waited in a room to be seen, I placed a telephone call to my son's pediatrician, explaining the erythema multiforme, the eye problem, and our inability to see an eye doctor until tomorrow. I mentioned the watery discharge.

"We'll see what we can do for you and call you back," the operator replied.

"Thanks!" Squeezing my son, I assured him that we would get the best care for him possible today.

Then we began to fill out the paperwork.

When we got to the question, "Rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10," I stopped to ask him how his hand was feeling. For at least 10 days he has consistently told me that his hand felt okay.

Today, he responded differently. "It hurts, Mommy," he said.

"It does?" My stomach clenched.

"Yes, the one finger here (he gestured to the side of his cast) hurts."

"Well," I sighed. "I guess we're in the right place, if you're having a problem."

Inside the worrying began to tick tock again, as I wondered exactly what we would see when they cut off his cast. Would there be an infection? Would it be the tissue necrosis his doctor had described at the last visit? Would I soon see what my baby boy's fingers looked like, partially "dead"?

Taking a deep breath, I changed the subject and began to talk with my son about how great it would be to see his hand again after two weeks covered in a cast.

As we were chatting, the cell phone began to ring. Glancing at it, I noticed in surprise that it was the ophthalmology clinic calling me back. "This could be good news!" I smiled at my boy.

Sure enough, it was!

"Ma'am," I heard a male voice on the other end of the line. "My name is Simpson* and I work for Dr. Brennan in the Ophthalmology department. I realize that you were told today that we could not see you, but actually since we were faxed doctor's orders to see your son today, we legally have to comply with that."

"Great!" I responded. "We're actually in your building right now, on the 4th floor! When would you like us to come to you?"

"Why don't you stop by in about 30 minutes to an hour,"
he replied, "and then we will see how to squeeze you in."

"Thank you so much!"

"Yay! Honey, things are starting to turn around today!"
I beamed at my little son.

Just then, the door to the room opened and the physician's assistant came in. "We're going to have a tech come in to cut off the cast," she said, "and then we're going to look at it."

My son started to tremble, nervous about having his cast cut off.

"They won't cut my arm, will they Mommy?"

"No sweetheart, they know what they are doing."

Soon the tech came in with a very interesting looking machine.

"Do you like the sound of vacuums?" he asked my son. "This machine will be loud and sound like a vacuum but it will only tickle. Not hurt."

my son answered nervously, and began to hide the casted arm behind his back.

Gently I pulled it back forward and held it in place so the tech could do his work. With great speed and dexterity he neatly cut the cast off at both sides and began to unravel the inner cotton.

I watched with baited breath - wondering again what we would see.

Would my boy need more surgery? Or would this part of his trauma finally draw to a close?

* * * * * * *

Happily, we saw no dead skin. His four fingers (the ones that had been shielded from the son) looked pale and smelled quite terrible, still caked in dried blood... but they seemed to have a normal flesh color under the crud.

I exhaled. Gently turning his wrist over, I noticed only one area that looked strange - a dark blue line near the crease of his finger.

"What is that, Mommy?"

"Oh honey, I don't know - but I think it is just a bruise."

The physician's assistant re-entered to examine his hand.

"Yes," she assured us, "that is just a bruise - part of the normal healing process. In fact, your son's hand looks excellent for this stage of healing. Sometimes we see that fingers have turned black when you have this kind of a fracture at the fingertip. But the color here is good. You won't need any more surgery."

My face burst into a broad, beaming grin - as though someone had lit a Sun within my skull.

"Hurray!" I exclaimed. "Did you hear that, honey? You made it! You've gotten through the hardest part! I'm so proud of you."

My son stared at us both suspiciously, as though wondering whether or not he could trust any good news.

"It still hurts a little, Mommy."

"That's normal,"
smiled the P.A. "It may take a while to feel completely well."

We then waited to meet the "real" doctor to get his take on the situation.

"This is a fantastic looking hand," he said. "Really the best possible result you could have right now."

Again, I lit up like a Roman candle and felt tears spring to my eyes.

"So we're past the infection risk?"

"Yes. No need for another cast. Simply wash it gently with soap and water and bandage it like this (wherein he gave us a lesson using bandaids) for the next four to five days.

The nails will fall off,"
he continued, "and when they do, there may be a drop of blood. Make sure to inform all over-responders... those who might become unnecessarily worried and call 911 if they see a small amount of bleeding, like babysitters or grandparents... that this is normal. Simply press on the nail bed and put on a band-aid, and Voila! he will be healed."

He then let us know that our son could return to swimming lessons in one week. THIS was the news that finally helped my son realize that we'd gotten a really great outlook today.

Suddenly his little face illuminated with as much radiance as mine had done.

"I can go swimming again Mommy? In a week? Really?"

I watched about ten years of anxiety fade off of his cherubic four year old face.

"Yes honey! Isn't that wonderful?"

Kissing the top of his head, I thanked the doctor and his P.A.

"Thank you so much, you have made our entire year," I smiled.

* * * * * * *

The rest of the morning involved a very long wait at the ophthalmology office wherein the extremely affable and very Irish Dr. Brennan carefully examined my son's massively dilated eyes and pronounced them healthy.

"He may have a little bit of pink eye but there is nothing you need to do about it. Right now the pressure in his eyes is perfect, as is his vision. I would like to see you back in three months, to makes sure that this erythema multiforme is not the first sign of a juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I expect that he will continue to have perfect eyes at that time."

He then confided in us that his own daughter had experienced erythema multiforme and her pediatrician had chalked it up to a post-viral reaction. "She's been fine ever since," he added.

All in all, this was a very comforting conversation and the topper on a fantastic morning. Definitely worth the two hour wait in their lobby.

My son and I left the ophthalmology office nearly skipping, hand in hand, even though neither of us had eaten breakfast or lunch and it was 1pm.

As we exited the building he trained his dilated hazel eyes on me and said,

"Mommy, I'm going to be okay now."

"Yes honey, I truly believe you are."

We know that the erythema multiforme may recur.
We know that we've got work to do figuring out his allergies.
We know that we need to be watching out for blistering and sloughing skin.
We know that his bruised and stitched up little fingers will take months to fully heal and re-grow their nails.
We know there is the remote possibility that this rash has been the signpost for JRA. (Unlikely.)

Yet we also know something else today ~ something beautiful.

(1) Prayer truly heals, both the mind and the body. Life and faith can join together to create a happy outcome.
(2) Together, we are strong enough to get through just about anything. We are a powerful team.
(3) It is so important to hold on for the new day... even during our darkest moments.

In just 24 hours the world will always spin on its axis, changing everything.
Searing, painful sorrows may turn into radiant, honest joys.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 7, 2011 ~ Day 240
Diagnosed by Google...

This post isn't going to be written with fancy or elegant words, I just don't have it in me tonight.

Last night I rushed our younger son to the Emergency Room - for the second time in two weeks.

For several days he had been complaining about different odd symptoms.

Here is the Timeline of our events:

Monday, 2 weeks ago: His fingers were smashed in the front door causing two open fractures, surgery, splint, and 10 days of Keflex prescribed to prevent infection in bone

6 days later we notice that his eyes are red. Bloodshot, looking like pink eye but no crud coming out of the sides. No sticky stuff. It looks like an allergy.

On day 7, he begins to itch like crazy around his neck and head - so much that I call the pediatrician on day 8 and ask if he is having an allergic reaction.

"It sounds like a heat rash,"
the doctor says. This makes sense because it has been very hot outside. "Call us if it gets worse after he takes the next dose of the antibiotic."

It does not get worse, I do not call. Eyes are still red.

On day 11 he begins to complain of heel pain. "Mommy, my feet hurt. Mommy, it hurts when I bend my toes."

I tell him everything is going to be alright. Mentally I note the time and decide to call the doctor the next day if the pain continues.

On the morning of day 12 my son awakens me by bawling next to my bed. "Mommy my feet hurt me so badly. They hurt so much. I can't walk on them." He is sobbing.

I call the pediatrician. This time the nurse talks to another doctor, as our doctor is out for the day. "Sounds like tendonitis. When will you see the orthopedic surgeon about his cast?"


"Great, why don't you have him take a look at the feet while he is there. Until then have him keep his feet up, rest them and use a heating pad for discomfort. He can also take ibuprofen."

I tell the nurse, again, about the red eyes. "If they start to weep or ooze, call us back," she said.

Seven hours later I am giving my son a bath when I notice his feet.

They have the strangest looking rash on them I have ever seen.

There are multiple pale circles under the skin surrounded by blotchy red skin, almost in a honeycomb pattern. "What in the heck is that?" I wonder. The rash is on the soles of both feet, and seems to be spreading.

I try to think where I have ever heard of circle rashes - but all I know about target rashes related to lyme disease. I call the after hours nurse.

"Could be ringworm,"
she said. "Could be fungal. I'm not sure what it is, to be honest. You should call your doctor on Monday. Oh, and if it gets worse you can call me back but we'll probably just refer you to the emergency room or urgent care."

By 10pm my son is scratching at his feet madly. "Mommy they itch. They itch!" He begins to cry again. I suddenly notice that the rash is now on his hand too (the one I can see, not in the cast). Four or five large blotchy circles.

My gut is churning, and I know that all of this is just WRONG. Something is wrong.

Finally in desperation I turn to

I google the following: "symptoms red eyes, painful heels, muscle pain, circle rash on feet, itching."

Here is what I get from FamilyDoctor.Org:

20. Do you have a red, blotchy rash, with "target-like" sores or hives?

This could be ERYTHEMA MULTIFORME, a common rash caused by strep throat, viral infections and reactions to medicines.

So I google "Erythema Multiforme" and check images. All it takes is one photo to know that Google has helped me find the correct answer in five minutes to a problem it has taken six days for my pediatrician's office to consistently misdiagnose.

Then I take a moment to read about Erythema Multiforme, and my stomach drops.

Here is the page I read from the National Institute of Health... and here is the exact paragraph that got me into the car with my son at 11:20pm on a Saturday night rushing back to the ER:

"Mild forms of erythema multiforme usually get better in 2 - 6 weeks, but they may return. More severe forms may be difficult to treat. Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis have high death rates.

When to Contact a Medical Professional
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of erythema multiforme. If a large area of the body is involved, it is an emergency situation.

My son's rash had appeared and spread to his hands in 3 hours. I had no idea how much further it would go. My heart began to race as I carefully put on shoes and a sweater, packed a bag with sweaters, a blanket and some books, dressed my son and got into the car.

"We're going to have another adventure, sweetheart!"
I told him.

"Okay Mommy. What are the doctors going to do to me this time?"

* * * * * * *

My boy, who was itchy and uncomfortable but in calm and good spirits, drove to our local Children's Hospital ER and arrived in only 18 minutes this time. Unfortunately there was a long wait, but he was extremely patient and we read stories from the "Shrek" fairytale book given to him by his uncle for Christmas.

He lay his little head on my lap and rested while I prayed.

I've tried very hard throughout these past weeks to focus on positive things when I am feeling worst to try to raise the energy I am sending out into the world to a better place. It doesn't do me OR my kid any good to have me sit around freaking out about unknowns.

We told knock knock jokes and while mine were limited to jokes about oranges and bananas I heard on the playground when I was a small child, his were much more creative with a typical punchline of

"Butt-Butt poo-poo! HEEEEHEEEEHEEEE!!!!!"

For once I didn't tell him to stop the bathroom talk, because it felt better for both of us to be giggling and being silly together than fretting and being anxious. I laughed out loud at his jokes, which made him happy and he laughed even harder.

I also asked him to tell me about his favorite memories of times we'd spent together as a family.

"I loved when we went apple picking Mommy. When we baked the apple pie."

"Let's do that again this year!"

"That would be great Mommy. And I loved when we went to the island on the boat."

"Well we're going to do that again in a few months!"

"I want to swim in the water with my daddy. Will my cast be off by then?"

"Yes buddy. It definitely will."

I tried hard to envision him doing all of those things with us - hale and hearty and happy and HEALTHY.

The nurses and doctors could not have been more loving or sweet with him and all of them commented about how cute he was and how they could eat him up with a spoon. The doctor told him he was going to be a real heartbreaker in a few years, and all of them were comforting and kind to both of us.

When we answered the nurse's questions at triage and I showed her the papers about the erythema multiforme, she nodded and said, "I think you may have correctly diagnosed him, Mom."

Sure enough, after a thorough examination the doctor on duty in the ER confirmed that indeed it is erythema multiforme.

"My biggest concern at this point," she said, "Is that his eyes are involved. I would like you to see an ophthalmologist on Monday morning to make sure there isn't anything serious going on in there. We want him to keep that great vision."

She then let me know that we are in for a long haul. It may take anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks for this problem to clear up and even then, it may recur throughout his life. We have to watch him carefully to make sure his skin does not blister and ulcerate, that it does not slough off. (Horrible.)

According to the doctor there may be many causes for it - including mycoplasma (which we know our family has had a lot of lately), viruses, ibuprofen or the Keflex that he recently took. Once he is fully recovered we will need to begin working with an allergist to find out what he is allergic to, to see if there is an allergic root to the hypersensitivity reaction.

Unfortunately there is no real treatment for erythema multiforme. Because...

...just like his mommy's myriad problems, my kid's problem is autoimmune.

Which means I am probably going to have to take him at some point to see either my rheumatologist or my lyme doctor, to find out if I am at the base of his troubles.

Unfortunately, and it make me feel no end of guilt, I likely had all of my current chronic bacterial infections while I was pregnant with all three of my children. Who knows how this affected their developing little bodies. It might explain a lot about my challenged pregnancy with the baby girl...

* * * * * * *

So this is where we are now. The wonderful doctors and nurses discharged us at 2:40am. We drove home safely and I bathed my kid from head to toe (except for the casted arm) and then put him to bed. I lay awake until after 4am, trying to breathe. Trying to think happier thoughts about our future as a family.

Trying to let go of this mountain of worry that is hanging heavy on my shoulders.

I don't have a happy ending, nothing philosophical to say.

All I know is that I love my three kids a million times more than I ever believed possible before I became a parent, and I would cut off my own arm if I thought it would ensure them a long, happy and healthy life.

In my darkest hours I still believe in the power of prayer and the importance of changing my heart and thoughts into a positive direction. I believe that things happen for a reason, and I am holding on to see the greater reason behind all of these recent events.

For those who know our family, and even those who don't, if you are reading this post I ask you very humbly if you would be willing to pray for our little boy.

You know what they say ~

To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world...

This precious kid is, along with his darling siblings, my world.