Friday, October 30, 2015

Peanut Allergy - 6 months later - Part 2: the feelings

I've written and rewritten this post so many times in my head. I never thought that 1. I would have a child with a food allergy and 2. that it would be so stressful and sad at times.
When Ruthie was diagnosed I was so sad for a few days and that really took me by surprise. After all, it's JUST an allergy...there are so many things that could be wrong with her that would be 100 times worse. But really, once I stopped and really thought about it, it is understandable. I mean the kid will never be able to eat a Reese's cup or boiled peanuts and that in itself is pretty heartbreaking. But seriously, this is life changing and has the potential to be life threatening. For the first few weeks it was absolutely terrifying to go anywhere for fear that we might run across a peanut and the thought of going anywhere other than Chick-fil-a (which had gotten the all clear from the allergist) to eat was terrifying. As time went on though we learned which foods generally have peanuts and which don't. We learned how to spot a peanut or peanut butter from a mile away and we learned to scope out the "landscape" for any potential hazards when we go somewhere new. If we take a meal to the pool, park, zoo, etc and we're eating with other people you can bet that I know exactly what every other person is eating (and so do my big girls but more on that in a minute).

The thing about a food allergy is that it affects not just the child with the allergy but everyone else in the family. For us Ruthie's peanut allergy means that nobody can eat peanut products in the house. My big girls LIVED off of peanut butter before Ruthie's diagnosis (most days they ate pb and jelly for breakfast and lunch). I teared up a little when I told them we couldn't have peanut butter anymore. My heart hurt for them and what they had to give up. I went to the store and bought every other kind of "butter" and made a fun event out of trying them all to see what we liked best. Ellie was all about trying the new ones. Emmie wouldn't touch them for a month or two. But the great thing? The girls understood that this was serious and they never once complained about not getting to eat peanut butter anymore. Ellie loved the sun butter and almond butter and while Emmie wasn't willing to eat any other "butter" she didn't complain about switching to turkey and cheese. As time went on Emmie grew to love sun butter and even though she can take pb & j to school for lunch she actually prefers the sun butter!

One of the most heartwarming things to see as we have learned to live with a food allergy is the way my big girls have become Ruthie's best protectors. When we picked up Ruthie's first Epi Pen Ellie wanted to learn how to use it. When we go anywhere where there is food they are always on alert for peanuts. When we drop Ruthie off in the nursery they tell them Every.single.week. that Ruthie can't have peanuts. When babysitters come over they will give them the third degree about what they have eaten all day which is really funny when it's dinner time and they their quizzing the babysitter about her breakfast! It just melts my heart to see them taking care of Roo.

This month brings another "sad" moment. Halloween. See, it's not just Ruthie that can't eat candy with peanut butter but her sisters can't either. Ruthie is really too young this year to realize we're taking candy away but the big girls will be very aware. This means that before they eat any of their candy we will have to go through it and take out the candy with peanut butter. Our dentist's office will pay kids for turning in their candy so I think we'll probably do that with all our peanut candy. The really great thing? Today Ellie trick or treated at school and I told her she could have a piece of candy when we got home. She immediately wanted me to look through her bag and take out anything with peanuts (there wasn't anything...even better!). She didn't even think twice about the fact that she might lose some of her candy.

So what are my fears for the future? I'm very nervous about when she goes to school. Preschool isn't so scary because they only eat a snack there and the teacher hands it out and I know that the teachers are very diligent about watching out for allergens. The idea of her going to elementary school however where the teacher isn't watching what everyone puts in their mouths is very scary. While Ruthie has never had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts we know now that she very likely could at some point and the idea of that happening when her type A, control freak, nurse Mommy isn't there is almost paralyzing.

So, how can you help a parent when their child has been diagnosed with an allergy? The best thing that anyone did for me when she was first diagnosed was give me a hug. I had posted on Facebook that Ruthie had a peanut allergy and the next morning when we went into preschool Ellie's teacher at the time came over and gave me a hug. That meant more to me than anything else. I felt that she understood that this was hard and it validated my feelings and my sadness. I think after that I really allowed myself to grieve over the lost Reese's cups and boiled peanuts and in grieving I was able to overcome the sadness and much of the fear. Mrs. Elizabeth probably had no idea how much that simple hug helped me.
Another way you can help is to not think allergy parents are crazy. If we're out eating with friends and they have peanut butter I'm ok with that because, as I mentioned above, I'm always aware of what everyone else is eating. I don't expect you to change your life because of my child's allergy but I might ask you to wash your child's hands after they finish that pb&j if they're going to be playing with Ruthie. My fear is real and I will do anything to protect my child. What I really love is that most of our friends are already super careful when they have peanuts around her and I generally don't have to say anything about hand washing because they're already on top of it. I love this community we have that helps us so much.
When Ruthie goes to kindergarten I hope her teachers will understand my fear, especially that first year, and will be patient with me and my 500 questions about how we're going to keep her safe. I am glad that Ruthie is the third child so I will have built relationships with these teachers and administrators. I think one of the reasons I don't worry so much about preschool is because after three years I know these teachers and they know me and they know Ruthie (seriously, pretty sure they all know her name and she's not even in preschool yet). I know that they will do everything in their power to keep her safe. I hope I have that same relationship with the elementary staff by the time Ruthie gets there. (I feel like I already know the ones who are out front in the afternoon: "hey, there's the mom of Emmie...Emmie's the kid that NEVER hears her name when it's called over the speaker and always looks at her mom's car like she's never seen it before"...not even

I'm so thankful for all of those who have supported us on this journey. Those who have asked us questions about her allergy, who have been so understanding when I ask before their child's birthday if there's peanut ingredients in the cake (I like to ask ahead of time so I can take a treat for Ruthie if she can't have the cake being served at the party). Those who have helped me keep an extra eye on Ruthie if there's peanuts around and those who have been a listening ear when I'm worried. The people who have acknowledged the seriousness of the allergy and have been understanding about our hypervigilance. We have great people!
Most of all I'm thankful for my sweet little curly headed ball of energy. She is always so happy and full of life (and always up to something!) She will sit and claw at her eczema covered legs but you never hear a complaint out of her. She doesn't complain when we tell her she can't have a certain food (citrus does horrible things to her skin) or has to sit in a different spot because someone has peanut butter. We love this girl who's as wild as her hair!

*Thank you as well to our friends who are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project! If you're not sure what I'm talking about check out my blog post's not too late to participate and make Halloween more inclusive for kids with food allergies (and their siblings)!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Boo at the Zoo

One of our favorite Halloween traditions is Boo at the Zoo so last Wednesday we headed to Riverbanks for some trick or treating fun! We picked the perfect night because there was almost no one there and the kids didn't have school the next day so we didn't have to worry about rushing them home.
Little Bo Peep and her sheep and Elsa

I managed some semblance of an Elsa braid.

JP went as a super adorable baby :)

My little trick or treaters had a great time and are looking forward to Saturday!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Peanut Allergy -6 months later - Part 1: the facts

***I'm going to do my peanut allergy post in 2 separate posts. This one is the facts and in the next few days I'm going to write one about the feelings. This journey has been more stressful than I would have ever imagined and there are so many things that I worry about for the future. There are also things that have eased my worries (like the big sisters who have become Ruthie's biggest advocates!). So stay tuned for part 2.***

Yesterday we had Ruthie's 6 month (post peanut allergy diagnosis) follow up with the allergist. We talked a fair amount about some ways to help better treat her eczema and I'm hoping that maybe one of the things we're going to try will help decrease all the inflammation...I'll have more on that in a couple months if it works!

When we were at the allergist 6 months ago they did a blood test called a peanut component test (you can click the link if you want to read the medical jargon info). This allows you to assess the severity of the allergy. For instance, you can test positive to component 8 and still be able to eat peanuts. You might have some allergic reactions symptoms but you're not going to go into anaphylactic shock. Also, you can test positive to component 8 and not actually have a peanut allergy (it's also a component of some kind of tree allergy). Ruthie of course was negative for a component 8 reaction. If you test positive to components 1, 2, or 3 you are more likely to have a severe reaction, with component 2 being the most indicative of an anaphylactic reaction. Guess which one Ruthie was positive for? Yep, component 2...and 1. The good news is that she was on the lower end of positive. For all the components you want to be <0 .1.="" 0.3="" 1.75="" 1="" 2="" a="" about="" again="" allergy.="" allergy="" always="" and="" are="" around="" borderline="" but="" challenge="" check="" component="" considered="" day="" definitely="" doing="" down="" drop="" exactly="" go="" have="" her="" high.="" higher="" if="" in="" is="" it="" likelihood="" likely="" ll="" more="" not="" numbers="" office.="" one="" or="" outgrow="" p="" peanut="" plan="" positive="" remember="" right="" roof="" s="" see="" she="" significantly="" so="" t="" talk="" that="" the="" then="" there...can="" there="" they="" through="" to="" trending.="" up="" was="" way="" we="" which="" year="">
While we were at the office I got a prescription for a new kind of epi pen. It's called an Auvi-q and I had heard about it but was actually able to try a practice one when I did epipen teaching at preschool. The really awesome thing about it is that it talks to you! Since I'm a nurse and have had an epi pen for myself in the past I'm pretty comfortable with how to use one. However, the vast majority of the people who care for Ruthie don't have medical training nor have they had an epi pen for themselves so remembering exactly what to do, especially in an emergency can be tricky. With the Auvi-q you simply pull it out of the case and tells you everything else you need to do, including a countdown as you have to hold it in for 5 seconds once you inject it into the leg. It definitely makes me feel more comfortable leaving her with other people.

At Ruthie's appointment I also talked to the allergist about when we should introduce JP to peanuts since we know that if he lives in an environment of strict peanut avoidance he's more likely to develop a peanut allergy. The new research tells us that if there aren't any "risk factors", peanuts should be given to a child when they're under a year old. Apparently because he has a sibling with a peanut allergy he's 7% more likely to have one than the average kid. The doctor said yesterday that once he's 6 or 7 months old if he hasn't shown any signs of eczema, doesn't have any GI problems, and if we haven't noticed any other food allergies or intolerances than we can give him small amounts of peanut butter. We'll have to be very careful when we give it to him so that we minimize the exposure risk for Ruthie. If JP has any of the above mentioned issues then we will have him skin tested at the allergist before giving him peanut butter.

I always leave the allergist office feeling like my head is spinning a little. All the information above was covered in under 30 minutes. It was a lot to take in and a lot to try to remember. I definitely had to come home and look some stuff up (like more information about the blood test) but I think my sleep deprived self managed to remember and keep straight most of the information I was given!

**If you missed the Teal Pumpkin Project post click here to read it and find out how you can make Halloween more fun for kids with food allergies!**

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pumpkin painting and the Teal Pumpkin Project

When Ben came to visit he brought the kids each a pumpkin. The girls have just been itching to paint their pumpkins so today it was nice outside, we had nothing to do this afternoon, and I braved the painting with three children. The girls had a GREAT time painting their pumpkins!

Since JP wasn't so into the whole pumpkin painting thing I used his pumpkin for our teal pumpkin for the Teal Pumpkin Project.

What's the Teal Pumpkin Project you ask?
The Teal Pumpkin Project is an awesome initiative that works to make Halloween a little bit more inclusive for kids with food allergies (and those with diabetes and Celiac's disease too!).

As many of you are aware, Ruthie was diagnosed with a peanut allergy earlier this year. There are many fears and anxieties that come with having a child with a food allergy and there is also some sadness. Sadness that she won't get to eat everything in her Halloween bucket...that we may have to take things out of her bucket. She won't realize this year but next year she'll be old enough to be aware that we're taking candy out of her bucket. And it doesn't just affect Ruthie, it affects our whole family. We've already faced this issue this year when we went to Boo at the Zoo. We had to tell the big girls ahead of time that if they got candy with peanuts in it they wouldn't be able to eat it. Fortunately we were there on a slow night so we were able to switch out for something different if they were given something with peanuts. We're also fortunate in that Ruthie is able to eat things made in a facility with peanuts (like M&Ms) but many children with peanut allergies are not.

So, now you want to know how the Teal Pumpkin Project helps kids with food allergies and how you can get involved? I'm so glad you asked!
Next time you're at the store grab some fun non food treats like pencils, little notepads, stickers, bubbles, crayons or glow sticks. Then paint a pumpkin teal and put it on your porch. When Halloween comes around your teal pumpkin lets those with food allergies know that you have a non food option available at your house! *If you're also handing out candy make sure you have your candy and your non food items in separate containers!*

This is something near and dear to my heart and I hope you will ALL participate this year and spread the word to your friends and neighbors! (You can click on the any of the links above to get more information about the Teal Pumpkin Project!)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

1 month old!

I am one month (and 1 day) old!

  • At 2 weeks I weighed 8lb 7oz...I had gained over a pound from birth!
2 weeks old.
  • I eat about every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-5 hours at night.
  • As of today I wear size 0-3mo clothes and size 1 diapers.
  • I am still a bit overwhelmed by this wild and crazy world!
This is my "what in the world is going on in this world" look.
  • I love to be held and snuggled!
  • I use my pacifier a lot during the day but I don't use it at all at night.
I'm already a champ at holding my pacifier (because if I don't someone might pull it out!).
  • I sleep in the bouncer or swing during the day and in the rock and play in my room at night.
  • I am a VERY noisy baby. I grunt and groan and squeak a lot.
  • I am pretty fascinated by Franklin.
  • I've been sitting in my Bumbo chair some and while I'm not so sure about it, I do a great job holding my head up in it.
  • I just started on Zantac a few days ago to help with my reflux (it was starting to wake me up at night after Mommy fed me and then it would take a while for Mommy to be able to lay me down). The first few nights on Zantac have been successes! I do however really, really hate the Zantac. I gag and spit and sputter the whole time. Mommy says it's a good thing she's a peds nurse because she's had to pull out all her tricks to get the medicine in me. She also thinks I might be a bit dramatic.
  • My big sisters love me so, so much, especially Ruthie. She makes sure I'm never far from my pacifier and my blanket. I'm still trying to figure out the sisters and am not sure if I'm ok with them or not. (I do love it when they sing to me though!)
Ruthie likes to accessorize me.
  • This month I went to Boo at the Zoo. I slept through the whole thing but my sisters say it was lots of fun!
  • I spend a lot of time in the car but I'm pretty good natured about it.
  • I love to be outside and especially like going on walks.
  • This month Columbia had severe flooding. Fortunately we were safe at our house and we never lost power or water. I did go many, many days without a bath because Mommy wasn't comfortable using the water to bathe me, even after it was boiled.
  • I've had my first playdate with Ruth and I've been hanging out with my buddy William at preschool drop off the last two weeks.
hanging out with Ruth

snooze fest 2015 with William...this is how we roll during preschool drop off
  • I got to meet my Uncle Ben and his girlfriend Ruth. I thought they were pretty great even though that Giant kid kept trying to rub the hair off my head.
  • I've been able to spend lots of time with my grandparents. They're pretty fabulous.
  • I love bath time. Sometimes I get so relaxed that I fall asleep!

Emmie at (almost) one month.

Ellie at 1 month.

Ruthie at 1 month.

(Right now I think JP looks the most like Ruthie.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Three Musketeers

The girls LOVE to play outside and they've been enjoying the cooler weather (especially Ruthie, the hot weather makes her eczema ten times worse) and the increased opportunities to play outside. Plus, it finally stopped raining and has pretty much dried up so we're loving the sunshine!
Ruthie LOVES to slide but our slide is super fast so she generally needs someone to catch her at the bottom. Fortunately she has some great sisters who are willing to oblige her. They have recently devised a new way to slide so that nobody has to be the "catcher". They all go down together! Emmie goes first, Ruthie well protected in the middle and then Ellie bringing up the rear. They did this over and over the other day and had the BEST time. I just love to watch them laughing and playing happily together!

Monday, October 19, 2015

First (play)date

My friend Mary Katherine came over today with her little girl Ruth. Ruth was born at the beginning of September and this was the first time I had gotten to meet her! She's so cute and dainty...she already looks so girly! She and JP hung out for a few minutes and then they took turns napping...the life of a baby! I really enjoyed getting to visit with Mary Katherine (and Ruthie napped almost the whole time they were here so I got REAL adult time). We have so many new babies at our church (the week JP was born there were 4 babies born in 3 days!) and I have gotten to know many of the moms better thanks to our "pregnant moms" dinners and I can't wait to watch our sweet babies grow up together and I look forward to many more baby playdates!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Suprise Visitors

Last week my brother Ben and his girlfriend, Ruth, came from Delaware/Pennsylvania to visit my parents for a few days and go to a Clemson game. While they were in the state they, and my parents, came to Columbia for a visit and for Ben and Ruth to meet JP (and so Ben could work on rubbing the hair off of JP's head). I just told the girls that Gran was coming so they were super surprised when everyone else showed up! They had face timed with Ben and Ruth a few days before so they were already acquainted with Ruth and had already decided they liked her. We let Ben and Ruth ring the doorbell when they got here and the girls were so surprised to go to the door and find their Giant!
We so enjoyed their visit and, since the big girls were out of school because of the flooding, they got some extra visit time!

We enjoyed meeting Ruth and she made friends for life when she brought a box of books to read to the girls and then spent a fair amount of time reading to them.

The girls were also thrilled to get lots of outside time with Uncle Ben pushing them on the swings! Books and swings...pretty much the way to win their hearts!

JP was mildly impressed with his visitors. He slept through a lot of the visit.
Bonding with Grandaddy.

I figure just give him a few months and he'll be highly impressed that he has a giant for an uncle, especially if Ruthie has anything to do with it. She thinks Uncle Ben is pretty fantastic.
My mom brought dinner for all of us and my dad made homemade ice cream. It was an all around great day!
Grandaddy had to get a haircut while he was visiting.