Green Day 2011

The Leprechaun Traps...last year Austin came home from preschool the day before St. Patricks Day telling me how he HAD to make a trap and catch a leprechaun. He didn't get it. He's been planning this trap {no I'm not kidding} since then. He said he wanted to be rich. "I want to get that pot of gold so I will be rich and have a thousand dollars!" (if only a thousand dollars could make us rich, right?!)

He was worried about getting the trap ready for at least a week. Finally I said, well go ahead and work on it. He did the majority of the work but was having a hard time trying to make the trap door. So St. Patricks Day Eve Cameron helped him put it all together...complete with a piece of fake gold as bait.

Isaac wanted to join in the fun so we made a trap with a laundry basket. But he covered it up so the leprechaun wouldn't go in. (huh? isn't that the point, little dude?) He insisted that he didn't want the leprechaun getting into his trap so, that was that.

In the morning the kids were excited to find a dollar bill in each of their traps, along with a trail trail of green shredded paper leading them to the bathroom. They found a note written on the bathroom mirror, and a shirt, a pen, and a "sticky hand" for each of the boys. Isaac was hillarious yelling, "come out you naughty leprechaun. you are so naughty; you made a big mess!"

Austin couldn't figure out how the leprechaun got the dollar in the trap without setting it off. He also wondered why there weren't foot prints this year...oops. But he was excited for the dollar bill and begged me not to clean the note off the mirror.

Landon was the leprechaun's helper. He woke up early to make sure the leprechaun went potty after he left the gifts... (you know what I mean? green food coloring in the toilet - if you have boys do it... they LOVED it. and Landon loved being a partner in crime. who knew it would make him feel so special?!)

Even though the leprechaun didn't leave her shirt with the others, Ella wasn't left out. Cameron, himself bought this shirt for her. I love when he does things like that. You gotta know, Cam is NOT a shopper. He'd rather do almost anything than shop. So it's just kinda extra special when he brings something home and says, "I just thought she'd look cute in this!"

Landon only had school until 11:30 that day. Cameron was working late that night. So after we picked up Landon we drove out to base and did some more leprechaun pranking. We left a note in Cameron's car telling him he'd been choosen to have "good luck for the rest of his days." from Lucky and her helpers. We left a few little green treats. I wanted to call him and tell him to come look in the car but the kids just wanted to let him find it after work, so we headed back home.

Since Cameron worked until 8:30 that night, I invited a friend over. Her husband's in Afganistan so it was just the girls and kids. We had our own little Green St. Patricks Day party. I made Tortilla Chip chicken fingers for the kids and Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup for us. Everything else was green (uh, except for the bannas you can see in the picture ;) )

The corn bread you see is becoming a staple at our house. Gluten-Free bread is just NOT the same as "normal" bread. But we all LOVE this cornbread. I use it for everything from just eating, to BLT's. We can't eat it more than once a week because it has mixed flour in it, but we make sure to eat a double batch that day! Here's the "normal" version of the recipe...even though cornbread season is kinda over you might like to try it - moist and not too sweet and so so good.
Buttermilk Cornbread:
1 C buttermilk ( I use 1 C rice milk and 1 TBS apple cider vinegar)
1 C cornmeal (I've been using white cornmeal, just for a change)
1 C all purpose flour (I use a combo of rice flour, potato and tapioca starch and xanthym gum)
1/4 C sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten (I use EnerG egg replacer)
1/4 C vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 4 1/2 inch by 8 1/2 inch loaf pan. Whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in milk, eggs and oil, just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 min.


Scenes from this weeks Family Night

I DESPISE Daylight Savings Time. I really feel jipped of that hour {every morning for months - it's true, I curse Daylight Savings Time everytime my alram goes off and it's still dark outside!}. BUT, Monday night we really did appreciate a little extra sunshine.

Landon's amazing. From the time he was BARELY three and riding his bike without training wheels and building his own jumps with scraps of wood, he's been a great rider. He hits the jumps head on. He's ready for a bigger motorcycle. I KNOW Cameron's itching to get him one.

Isaac refuses help of any kind, pretty much all the time. He'd rather wear his goggles upside down than let anyone help him put them on.

I love this picture. He refused to get his own sweatshirt; I forgot to grab one for him. Thankfully, Landon wore three jackets and let Isaac borrow this one. I love the boots on the wrong feet and the goggles upside down. It's just a classic picture that describes Isaac's "I'm doing-it-myself or I'm not doing it" determined to do it no matter what kind of attitude.

Austin tears it up out there! Since he's been eating the right foods for his body he's gained F.I.V.E. pounds! He's getting stronger. This is the second time he's been riding that he can hold the bike up for long periods of time. His confidence is building. He's one that knows his limits. He keeps it at first gear but rides strong.

And this little chick-a-dee loves watching the crowd. She hung out here until it got too cold. Then her, I and Isaac turned on the truck and hung out inside, while the boys rode until they couldn't see anymore.
Family Night - the best night of the week


Still Guessing

There's much going on lately but the MAJORITY of our LIVES revolves around what we eat. So, while I keep up with scouts and parent teacher conferences (over the phone (!) weird?) and preschool snacks and dioramas of falcon habitats and laundry and {FINALLY} an appointment with the principle to discuss Austin's needs for next year, and church responsibilities, and a teething one year old and... well, life, I am constantly watching for allergy symptoms, constantly trying to figure out how to make our old favorite foods okay for Austin, constantly thinking ahead, "what can I feed him tomorrow if I give him this today?" (it's the rotation that is the hardest for me to deal with, eliminating bad foods really stinks but it's doable, rotating the foods he can eat is exhausting)
Austin is doing much better. He's gained a pound in less than two weeks. He looks healthier. BUT still, despite my efforts, TWICE he's gotten hives on his mouth and tonight his lips swelled. So... I go through all these emotions: discouragement, when he gets hives or when I feel like this is all just SO hard; happiness, no ELATION, that something relatively simple like eliminating something from his diet can "cure" him of his symptoms; worry that he will always suffer; worry that he will have a life threatening reaction at school; worry that he'll develop more allergies; worry, worry, worry. Despite my best efforts not to, I still worry.
Today when he got home from school he was wound up. REALLY HYPER. I wondered if he ate something, but his emotions have been just as scattered as mine have been (he's working on accepting this as much as the rest of us - probably more so) so I let it go. We had to drop something off at a friends - Austin ran around her house like a M.A.N.I.A.C. I wondered again, but still, I didn't think I had fed him anything he couldn't have. Then, after dinner I noticed... one half of his lip swollen, and hives dotting the other half. Weird, I know, but that's how his "minor" reactions present. The crazy thing about it is allergens can cause hives up to 6 hours later. So it could have been ANYTHING he ate today - or even if he smelled some Peanut Butter at school, or if the jump rope he used during PE was used by someone who had eaten PB before he used it. I don't know. That's the MOST FRUSTRATING part of all of this. I just don't know. It's just guessing, all the time.
So I go through the things I DO know.
*smoothie with hemp protein (could be the hemp, but I doubt it - yo! there was no "weed" in it!!)
*apple cinnamon crock pot oatmeal (the best new way to make oatmeal!!) this is my main suspect. The oats were not certified Gluten Free and they were generic - much more likely to be cross contaminated with other allergens.
*non-dairy, soy-free, butter substitute I used for his sweet potatoes - the very last ingredient is pea protein - could be that, he's had three reactions to legumes, which the pea is. But, it would be a very trace amount so, I'm not sure.
*the chicken broth I used to cook the quinoa we ate tonight - could be that. it wasn't certified Gluten Free, but I've used it before... not sure
*the "breading" I used for the fish - Austin asked for fish sticks, they are definitely not on our diet, so I found some gluten free breading - the last ingredient, though is MSG. MSG isn't good for us for lots of reasons but, especially because it is derived from soy. could've been that, but again, it would have been trace amounts.
What I have to do to figure it out: I can't use any of my "suspects" for four days, at least, and then give them to him one at a time to see which one it was. I'm really thinking it was the oats. Next time I'm in Boise, near a health food store, I'm going to buy certified gluten free oats and only give him those. Also, I need to get rid of our generic labeled food because they are all manufactured with other foods and likely to be cross-contaminated. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that food is just going to cost {A LOT} more now. So many changes and SO many guessing games... blah! I know we will figure it all out, I just wish we could do it faster, and with no more suffering for Austin.
*Sorry, Buddy, I'm working on making things better, I promise.*


{just a little bit of} H-E-double-hockey-sticks

Okay, Yes. I know. It's a strong word. Too strong of a word, really, to describe our life. BUT, there have been some times this week I have felt like I was living in it. The moments are fleeting and surrounded by many small miracles and happy moments, so, yeah, it's really WAY TOO STRONG OF A WORD. But, dang it, those moments seem to last a LONG time when you're living through them.
This week our family has suffered from: bronchitis (me - 3 days on an antibiotic and inhaler and today is the first day I'm feeling okay, since last Monday) pink eye (just Landon, so far. can we keep it that way? please?) colds (the Littles, of course.) and a 24 hour stomach virus - the "runny" kind (first Isaac and Ella, now me, possibly Cameron) DON'T COME TO OUR HOUSE - IT'S THE BLACK PLAGUE!!! (but we're on the mend, so come next week; we'll be better!)
As if that's not hard to deal with ... We got some news. And it's really not good. Remember this post? Thankfully, since then we've found a new allergist that was willing to take Austin on as a patient, even though she doesn't take our insurance - and our insurance approved her charges anyway. phew! But... the BEST PART is...SHE IS HELPING HIM... Oh, this is an answer to prayer. For over a year, I've known something was more wrong with Austin but couldn't figure it out on my own and couldn't get a doctor to help me. FINALLY, I feel like we have the support we need to figure out how to help Austin.
So, here's the verdict. After re-testing Austin, and doing some more tests to different antibodies (did you know there's two allergy-caused kinds? neither did I. question: how come the other docs didn't do this test?! just wondering) in a regular blood test and an "inhalant" skin test we've discovered 6 new allergies; 2 to foods and the rest environmental. Blood tests also showed that Austin was pretty deficient in some vitamins, especially vitamin D, which is proven to make allergies worse. The deficiencies suggest that his body hasn't been absorbing nutrients from his food. We learned that the "BIG" allergies include dust, cats, dogs, dairy, nuts, soy, eggs. These are all "class IV" or higher, meaning they cause significant immune response (reactions that include swelling and hives, itchy skin and eczema, stomach upset). He also shows sensitivity to some other things, including gluten.
So, here's the treatment plan for now. First things first: vitamin D supplements. check. that one was easy. (so many people have suggested kinesiology - technically called APPLIED KINESIOLOGY... we're not there yet. Austin's immune system is going so "haywire" right now that any type of desensitizing him is just a bad idea...but maybe in the future. To be honest, there's bigger problems right now.)
First a bit of background: remember I'm no doctor so, these terms and explanations are not text book, just my understanding
All of his allergies together make up a total "allergy load". If the allergen load is small, the body can handle small amounts of an allergy - one reason that two people with the same grass allergy handle hay fever season differently. Austin has been getting BOMBARDED with certain allergens, especially SOY. We completely replaced every bit of dairy in his diet with soy, plus there is soy in all kinds of random places - even the multivitamins I had given him (did you know Gatorade powder has soy in it? Seriously.) This gave him a big allergy load. So then, when the seasonal allergies hit, or he played at a house with a dog, or we let him eat a piece of pizza thinking we could just give him a dose of Benedryl, his allergy load increased even more, until his immune system couldn't handle it and started attacking other "harmless" things in his blood.
back to treatment:
So, for now we have to focus on repairing his immune system and getting his body properly absorbing nutrients.
We have eliminated everything he's allergic or sensitive to, including gluten and soy. {We are going to start some "sub lingual drops" (like allergy shots) for the seasonal and environmental allergies; which will in turn lower his allergy load, eventually.}
We are also using a "rotating diet." Since his immune system seems to be ready to attack, we are rotating all of his starches, and I'm even being [a little less]careful to rotate certain high allergy fruits (like strawberries, bananas, and apples). What this means is that on a given day he can have only one type of grain or starch - either rice, corn, oats or potato - and then he can't have that starch again for four days. This keeps his blood from being "overloaded" with any one type of food, making his immune system feel "safe" and preventing a new food allergy.
In about six months we can start adding in certain foods in small amounts at a time. I think we'll continue rotating to be safe.

A trip to Boise Co-Op (Health Food Store) and $200.00 later and I think, okay I can handle this...but that took a couple days, because I was sick, and I had to research to figure out what to buy. So in the mean time... well, here's the story from the beginning (yes, I know, long winded tonight, I am - and a bit like Yoda. ha :) )

Cameron went to the appointment with Austin because I was too sick to do just about anything. When he told me the news I cried...only for a minute, because that doesn't help solve the problem...but it does give me clarity sometimes, and so does vacuuming. So that's what I did next; vacuumed the whole house, I think it helps me because I can't hear the kids and my mind can just think on it's own for a minute, plus less dust is good for Austin, so I vacuum almost daily. Anyway, after that I decided to look through my cupboards. Wow, this is going to be tough. Cameron stayed in Boise to take Austin out to lunch for his "last pizza" for a while, and I rallied, woke the little kids up from naps and went to Walmart, channelling the Little Engine that Could, I can figure out what to make for dinner, and I can make it through the store without falling over... I can do this.

I came up with... what to call it? Italian Vegetable Sausage Soup? Chunky Minestrone? It's not too different then something we would normally eat. Just changed the chicken broth to GF chicken stock, left out the noodles, added a couple more veggies, and didn't serve it with these (my favorite breadsticks)

Believe it or not that pot of soup gave me confidence that I can do this pretty easily and feed my whole family ONE meal. I CAN create a place where Austin will not feel left out. I was proud of myself, for a minute, and then I went right to bed... should've gone to get an antibiotic that night instead of waiting two more days....

So we carried on, with no bread in sight. My plans to make it were ruined with the realization that Gluten Free baking requires a mixture of flours to work. Everything I've read (and I've been at this computer for HOURS researching allergen-free cooking) has mentioned that replacing wheat flour with one other flour will not work (except for almond and coconut flour - he can't have either - okay, if you wanna know; it's cuz the coconut is in the legume family and since he's had SEVERE reactions to 3 members of that family already, coconuts out for now.) So, I was again discouraged, since we aren't supposed to mix any grains or starches right now. But we were doing okay, and Austin seemed to handling it all exceptionally well.

On day three, though, he came home from school, asked for a snack and started crying, "can't I at least have a cracker?!" Not good. I called the doc's office and talked this over with the nurse. As long as we are EXTREMELY careful to limit this to no more than twice a week, I can bake with mixed flours. I will try to use the majority of one type of flour (like rice flour, for example) and only use other flours as minimally as possible to get a good baking result. I was ready to experiment. And since it was "oat day" I found a recipe for oatmeal cookies and Austin and I whipped out a batch. We decreased the rice flour and potato starch and increased the oat flour so the bulk of the cookie was made with oat flour, and success.
It wasn't a cracker, but it satisfied us all. Seriously, they were amazing, and not even an egg. Winner. Phew. I have at least one Gluten Free, eggless, nondairy, no nut, mostly one type of flour recipe

And today, these little gems came in the mail. Austin went through TWO cookbooks, exclaiming, I can have this?! YES! oh joy
The biggest challenge has been, and I think it will continue to be, getting organized to the point that I can actually feed him without it being a HUGE process at every meal. Because of the rotation, it's just very complicated to feed him (we had tacos tonight - he can't eat a taco shell again for four days...but I can freeze the meat and give him tacos for lunch on the next "corn day" or I could let him eat the meat with salad tomorrow but he's not really cool with that, "no taco shell for my taco mom?!")
So there's just SO SO much planning. I've made a calender to fill out and plan meals for the month, but, not only does the planning take time, I have to get him fed three/four times a day so I haven't been able to plan. I'm confident I'll get into a routine, though, and I'm hoping to soon have a freezer full of treats and breads and things for lunches, so I can eventually only have to "cook" one meal a day again. Gone are my chicken nugget or tuna sandwich for lunch days. At least for now.
I know the lighting is different, but I think you can still tell. He looks SO much healthier, I am amazed. His skin is no longer ashen, his lips are pink, instead of white and puffy, his dark circles - they are SIGNIFICANTLY lighter. I purposely didn't photoshop the pictures to see the differences better. I'll say it again, I am amazed... and so happy. What you don't see: it took 2 days and he told me he wasn't itchy. His back doesn't feel like sandpaper anymore. And his behavior has improved so much - he acted like a...popcorn kernel about to pop: agitated and crazy and UNable to stay still. He's still a little boy that loves to run and jump but he CAN sit still and the aggressive agitation edge he had is completely gone, leaving instead, just him.

There's some other aspects of all of this to consider too, though. His psychological health too. His brain development is at a place right now that is shaping the big boy and man he will become. We must walk a fine line of enough love and support and not too much indulgence. As in, we must accept his feelings and give him a place he can share them. We must help him realize that it's not his fault. We must never make caring for him feel like it's a burden to us. But we can't over react when he's sad he didn't get a cupcake at school and go buy him a new toy or give him 10 of something he can have or let him get out of a chore, because he could develop the attitude that the "world owes him something" because he can't eat bread.

It's all such a balancing act. I feel like I walk a tightrope. Lets not forget that I have three other SWEET babies that need me too. And a husband (can we go on a date soon?!) to spend time with. And myself. Sometimes I wonder if I'm still me, or if I'm just a mom. And while I can't even stomach the thought of not being what my kids need me to be, it'd be nice to just be me just once in a while.
SO, I walk my tightrope, GLADLY because I do know how blessed I am. And I do love this life and the people that are in it. And it's really not even close to feeling like H-E-double-hockey-sticks, but it's hard sometimes. So I pray that I am strong enough. And I pray I wont fall off that tightrope, knowing that I will. So I pray more, hoping that when I do fall, I'll know how to get back on and maybe I'll stay on longer the next time.