Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What we learned today at school

Conversation during Andrew's bedtime routine:

Andrew: "If you are in a store, and have to go to the bathroom, you can ask someone who works there: 'Where is the bathroom?' and they will tell you. If you ask someone who doesn't work there, they won't know where the bathroom is."

Daddy: "That's right Andrew, where did you learn that?"

Andrew: "At school, from my friends." came the reply.

Daddy: "What are your friends' names?"

Andrew: "Alex, Della, Chloe, Dora and Boots".

Daddy thinks he may be watching a little bit of TV when he's not at school.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas projects

What do you give to your kids' preschool teachers for Christmas? Well, when I dropped Andrew off at preschool last week, and saw all the teachers shivering with mittens on, I had an answer!

These are Fetching fingerless gloves, made in Patons SWS yarn (70% wool, 30% soy), and they feel so soft on your skin. It takes less than a ball to make one pair. I like them so much I might not be able to give them away!

Modification: I went down a needle size because I knit loosely.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Yup, it really does take me a week to get Halloween photos up. I blame getting another cold. I've been warned that we'll be sick for the first couple of years of having kids, but now that I'm in the middle of it, I'm just being miserable.

(Thanks to Auntie Vicky for taking the photos!)

Here's Andrew, who was a gorilla.

And here's Geoffrey, who was a lion.

We only gave out non-dairy, non-peanut candies, which I think disappointed some of the kids who came to our door. But we always have tons of candy left over, and I didn't want Andrew getting into something that he's allergic to.

He did come home with a couple of pieces of milk chocolate, but Tony was happy to eat them up right away for him. We did trade him for some candy that he is allowed to eat.

A photo of the trick-or-treaters.

Andrew and Geoff only went to about 4-5 of our neighbours' doors, the ones we know really well. And Andrew had a blast doing it, and then when he got home, he had even more fun running up and down to answer our door and give away candy.

One of our neighbours also has allergic kids. Last year, she had different buckets of candy for different kinds of allergies (the no-nuts bucket, the no-dairy bucket, etc.). This year, she just handed out plain chips, which I thought was a smart move. Maybe that's what we'll do next year -- and then I can eat them too.

Another of our neighbours was super-thoughtful and made little bags for Andrew and Geoff, with safe candies for Andrew, and some candies and a wee book for Geoff. We are so lucky to have such great neighbours!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Andrew's new allergy bracelets

Remember a few weeks ago, I got some silicone bracelets from Australia, but they'd had a mixup on the order? Well, the replacement ones arrived last week, and here's what they look like.

They're a great fit on his little 3-year-old wrist, and it's now very easy to read the writing on the bracelets. The inside of the bracelet still has contact cell #s on it, but they're just indented, not in dark text.

I'm happy with these, especially at the price and customizability. They're from Buzzmeband, in Australia. Shipping seemed to take 2-3 weeks, but it's 2 weeks from the US, so only an extra few days from the other side of the world.

Now, if only I could get Andrew to keep them on his wrists -- he'll put them on, but then takes them off again after 20 minutes or so.

UPDATE: January 3, 2009
Buzzmeband seems to have gone out of business. See this post for another fun beaded allergy bracelet from Australia.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Remember Erica Ehm?

You're a Canadian child of the 80s if you remember Erica Ehm. She was one of Much Music's first VJs. I think she was 18 at the time, and her dad was one of the channel's owners or something.

Anyways, her latest incarnation is as the host of the Yummy Mummy TV show, since she, like so many of our generation, now has a kid.

The reason I'm blogging her -- her daughter is allergic to peanuts and fish, as she describes in this article.

My apologies for a long absence. Socks have been knitted, and life has gone on.

But we've been a house o' plague for a couple of weeks. Andrew brought home a nasty throat virus from preschool, and was miserable for a week. Then I caught it just as he got over it. And now Geoff and Tony have it. It seems to run its course over a week, so hopefully we'll all be better by the end of this week. I sure hope so -- being sick SUCKS!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


My current UFO (unfinished object) is a pair of socks for Sarah. I love working with these bright colours. It's a Knitpicks yarn: Simple Stripes Sunset.

The pair before this was all shades of grey, so it's a nice change to be working on something with such cheerful colours. They're going pretty quickly, too. Heel turns are done on both socks, so I only have the feet to finish.

And it turns out that it was my fault that Andrew's preschool recommended the treats that they did. I forgot to get them a list of safe foods, and the other mom did get her list in. So they just picked two foods off her list and didn't check them for dairy content.

I got them a new list today, and they were grateful. I think they'll use it, too, especially for group treats or holiday celebrations -- of which there will be plenty over the next few months.

Andrew's loving his preschool, too. He even has "best friends" there, and he remembers their names. But of course, when I ask him who his best friend is, he always answers, "Megan."

Here's a photo of Andrew and Megan at the Canada Day parade in July. They are awfully cute together.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Socks for Christmas!

In case anyone missed me, it's because I'm now addicted to knitting socks. And since Andrew hasn't had any allergic reactions for a month, I'm getting a lot of knitting done!

I've discovered that it's easy -- and therapeutic -- to knit on the SkyTrain. So in the month since I've been back to work, I've done 3.5 pairs of socks. (The second sock of the fourth pair is in progress at the moment.) Here's a photo of what I've done so far.

On the allergy front, I'm working with the preschool folks to come up with foods that parents can bring for birthday treats. Another mom who has a peanut-allergic child has recommended only two: plain packaged Rice Krispies squares, and Wagon Wheels. But both contain milk ingredients, so Andrew would be left out of birthday party celebrations.

I got this list from the peanutallergy boards:
-Safeway Graham Crackers
-Honey Maid Graham Crackers
-Keebler Graham Crackers
-Teddy Grahams (just NOT the chocolate chip ones)
-Fresh Fruit
-Delmonte Fruit Cups
-Fresh Veggies, carrots & celery
-Jello with fruit cups
-Sun Maid Raisins
-Pop Tarts
-Plain old Oreos
-Nabisco Fig Newtons
-Robert's American Gourmet -- veggie Booty

I haven't checked all of them for dairy (particularly the graham crackers), but I know that Andrew has had almost everything on this list without a problem.

I'd really like to get either the delmonte fruit cups and the jello with fruit cups onto the preschool's approved list, as those actually feel more like a party treat.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Happy Anniversary to us

Seven years and one day ago, we had a giant storm in Vancouver. It took out power lines and blew trees down, all over the city. I couldn't sleep for all the noise of the storm -- we were in a 12th floor apartment at the time, and it sounded like we were going to be blown to Oz at any minute.

The next day, we got married.

My maid of honour got dressed in the dark that morning. Actually, she lit the candles on her candelabra so that she could see -- and totally freaked out her boyfriend at the time, as she went wandering through her apartment with the candelabra. She also braved the Vancouver streets in the dark -- no stoplights were working in most of the city.

Our wedding and dinner location wasn't sure that they were going to have power until about four hours before the ceremony. Thank goodness they only told the best man, and not us. I didn't need to panic about that.

But we managed to get all gussied up, and had our hair done nicely. And we had gorgeous wedding photos taken in a local park. There were trees down all over the park, except for where we'd decided to shoot. So it all worked out in the end.

I can't believe it's been seven years. Happy anniversary, Tony!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Medic bracelets

Andrew now has two kinds of bracelets which list his allergies.

The first one is the usual medicalert steel bracelet. The real Medicalert bracelets are $70 and I didn't want to spend that kind of money until I figured out if he would actually wear the thing on his wrist.

So I found a cheaper alternative online, at the Diabetic Drugstore: kids' medicalert bracelets for $11.98 US. They were super-fast, with delivery in less than a week from Virginia to British Columbia. Unfortunately, the bracelet they sent was the adult size (pictured on the top right, above). They were super-friendly on the phone when I spoke to them (gotta love that Southern accent!) and sent me a kids' bracelet for free (bottom).

It turns out that Andrew will wear it for a few hours, then wants it taken off his wrist. So we'll keep working on that.

The other bracelet also has a customer service issue. It's the Buzzmeband, from Australia. You can specify the colours and type -- I went with yellow and orange because I figured it was bright and noticeable. It's a perfect fit on Andrew's skinny 3-year-old wrist. Unfortunately, they didn't fill-in the text as I'd ordered (I wanted black lettering). But they actually emailed me before they mailed it to me. The manufacturer had made that mistake, so they were going to mail me the incorrect bracelets, just to tide me over, and refund my payment, and re-do and re-send the order with the text filled in. So I gotta give major kudos for customer service and satisfaction to these folks.

These Buzzmeband bracelets aren't a traditional medicalert bracelet, which is a concern in an actual emergency. But I think that they're pretty cool-looking, and Andrew might actually be more willing to wear this softer bracelet. So I'd rather have him wear something which lists his allergies, than nothing at all. If nothing else, it's a reminder to his preschool teachers and any parents who might be around that he has allergies.

I actually like the Buzzmebands as a fun bracelet. If I could think of text I'd want to write on my own wrist, I'd be tempted to get some for myself! They're not expensive -- $15-$25 for 6 bracelets (depending on what colours you want) plus a couple of bucks for postage. I think I'd want some kind of purple/red/blue marbleized combo.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Geoff's test results

Off to the allergist this morning with Geoff. She gave me a lecture about how allergies are hard to diagnose, and that ingestion and obvious reaction (hives, vomiting, etc.) is really the only way to diagnose an allergy.

Then she scratch-tested Geoff, but not the full panel, just a few things: milk, egg whites, egg yolks, and soy. And they were all negative!!!

I'm cautiously hopeful. Since he's never had any of those foods directly -- just through breastmilk -- he might not have been sensitized to them yet. It usually takes a couple of direct exposures to get sensitized to an allergen, and then the allergic reactions start escalating in scale.

So we'll probably try him on egg yolks this weekend -- I need to go and buy some organic eggs for him. Then next week, we'll try a tiny piece of cheese.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Are the dangers" article, part deux

Are the dangers of childhood food allergy exaggerated?

NO The acquisition, preparation, and consumption of food are fundamental and unavoidable parts of life. Retrospective and prospective case series show time and again that food allergy can be fatal for some people, at a time and place they cannot predict or avoid. Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis outside a hospital setting. Population based studies show that up to 6% of preschool children have had allergic reactions to foods ...

It might be just me, but I think that this article isn't as convincing as the "Yes" side that was in my earlier post. Although I do agree strongly with this statement: "Even a mild allergic reaction may reduce a patient or parent's self confidence in dealing with allergy, whereas successful management will-increase the patient and their family's perception of control and reduce anxiety."

I suspect that if I'd read these articles after a major allergic reaction, I'd be agreeing more with the "no" side than the "yes" side.

I'm steeling myself for taking Geoff to the allergist tomorrow morning. I'm afraid of what the results will be. Dairy, almost for sure, and who knows what else.

A friend just found out that her second daughter is allergic to a ton of stuff: dairy, eggs, corn, potatoes, oatmeal, peanuts, nuts, and a few other things that I don't remember. I gave her a tour of our cupboards, but so much of what I can give Andrew includes oatmeal or corn or potatoes. (Our egg substitute is potato-based, for example.)

So I'm worried about what the allergist will find for Geoff's allergies. Update tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Are the dangers of childhood food allergy exaggerated?

Thanks to Sarah for this link to a British Medical Journal article:

Are the dangers of childhood food allergy exaggerated?
"The natural course and epidemiology of food allergy are not the same in children and adults, and the associated dangers may also differ. Many statements on food allergy in children have been derived from adult populations or studies in which children and adults were not analysed separately. However, studies of children suggest that the dangers are overstated; this leads to unnecessary alarm for many families and schools and also to medical advice and management that may be disproportionate to the risk."

I'll admit that, after reading this, I did feel a lot better about how we're dealing with Andrew's allergies. Plus, as the article points out, his odds of dying because of his allergies are pretty slim.

No of deaths




Food allergy2






Unexpected, sudden, non-violent deaths that were unexplained or caused by medical conditions not recognised before deathw9






Sudden infant death syndromew11


There is another side to this article, but Sarah emailed it to me when I was at work, and I keep forgetting to link to it when I'm at my desk. (As you can tell from my posting frequency, it's gotten kinda tough to juggle family, work and the rest of my life.) So I figured I'd link to this one first, and that would prompt me to link to the other one when I get to my desk.

I've been doing the early shift at work -- get up at 5 am, out the door at 6 am, and at my desk at 7 am. So I'm pretty groggy by the time dinnertime is over. Geoff goes to bed between 7:30-8 pm, and I'll confess that most nights, I'm half asleep with him.

The early shift is tough in some ways, but nice in others. I can get parking at the SkyTrain station, and the trains aren't sardine-cans full of people yet. Plus I can get so much work done before the rest of the office arrives. And it's nice to leave work at 3 pm, and pick up the kids from my mom at 4.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Friends & family and allergies

We're so lucky to have a fantastic group of friends who really get it about Andrew's allergies. They're careful to bring over "Andrew-safe" food for potluck dinners at our place, and they're sometimes even more careful than I am about checking out all of the ingredients.

When we went on our Summerland vacation, Sarah even wrote out all of the ingredients for all of the home-baked cookies that she brought, and had us look them over to make sure that they were safe. Because of course, while Andrew doesn't really care about curries and other grown-up food, he does love cookies and anything else that looks like it has sugar in it.

I think the turning point for our friends might have been the time I let Andrew (at around 2 years old) have a taste of some gelato ice cream, and he threw up all over me after two licks. (I gave it to him because I wanted to see if he'd outgrown his dairy allergy.) You can tell people that your kid has an allergy, and they might think that it's not a big deal. But after they see him get violently sick, they take it a lot more seriously. I love our friends for taking care of us so well.

The same thing goes for the grandparents. My mom's been there for two of his peanut reactions, and afterwards, has been so mad at herself both times. She's gotten so much more careful now with what she buys for him -- and when in doubt, she now has the backbone to tell him "no." Which is hard for her, because she always says "yes" to anything he asks for. Once she figured out that he could ride a bike, she even took him to Toys'R'Us and let him choose any bicycle he wanted. Yeesh. Talk about a spoilt grandson!

Monday, September 11, 2006

My baby's becoming a toddler

Geoffrey took two steps this afternoon at my mom's house! He'd taken one step from the coffee table to me on Saturday, but did nothing on his birthday. I guess he was saving the next step for the day after his birthday.

My mom called Tony at work, and then he called me to let me know.

Mixed feelings -- I wish he'd done it for me!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Happy birthday to Geoffrey!

My baby turns one today. Exactly a year ago, Tony and I were pacing the hospital corridor, trying to figure out if those were real contractions, or if they were the false ones that I'd been having throughout the pregnancy. He was breech anyways, and a c-section had already been scheduled for two days later. We saw the doctor, who said that there was "no percentage" in waiting, as he was stubbornly sideways, and the contractions and pain were certainly real enough, and I'd probably show up that night needing an emergency c-section, amidst the chaos of a Saturday night in the ER.

So early in the afternoon of September 10, 2005, Geoffrey was born. He weighed in at 8 lb 2 oz, just a hair lighter than his brother.

He lived in my fleece sling for most of his first year, when he wasn't nursing voraciously. By five months, he weighed 20 lbs!

This photo of the babies in my moms' group was published in the local newspaper last Christmas. Geoffrey's the sumo wrestler in the middle, all calm and mellow.

Geoffrey idolizes his big brother. Before he could crawl, he just would follow his brother with his head. Nowadays, he crawls after his brother like Andrew's his own personal demigod. A flawed demigod who hits him at random intervals, and plays with him at other times, but still someone to look up to, and to try to emulate as much as possible.

(I couldn't resist a photo of Geoff in his birthday suit, after his bath last night.) Happy birthday to you, dear Geoffrey. Happy birthday to you!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Loving preschool

Both of us are loving Andrew's preschool.

I took the day off to take Andrew in. I was thinking that he might need me to stay with him since we've never left him alone with other caregivers before -- he's always been with me, my mom, or Tony's mom.

What was I thinking? He changed into his indoor shoes, and he was off to play. First the painting room for ten minutes, then the activity room. He says he did some playdoh stuff too, so I guess he did hit the puzzle/playdoh room. Yeah, he loves it there, and he's totally ready for preschool.

I love it too. The staff have all been reading up on allergic reactions, and they've been studying the literature. They asked me to stay after pickup time to help them learn how to use an epipen, and we did a little pretend-demo using Andrew's epipen. And they did better than I did! (My excuse: I haven't read the instructions for a long time.) They also had me fill out a separate medications sheet for his Benadryl -- which is his usual medication for accidental exposures.

The only drawback to this preschool: the Scholastic Books flyers by the sign-in sheets. I'm a sucker for books, and at these prices, I'm getting sucked in. There's a Robert Munsch package of 20 books for $80. It's so tempting! (Follow the Robert Munsch link for audio files of him reading his books -- free to download!)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Day two of back-to-work

Today was my second day back to work, and Geoff was a lot better today with Granny and Nanna. No breakdowns, he took really good naps, and he's just back to his usual happy self.


Because work, well, it's busy. Lots more responsibilities now that I'm back, and I'll probably be bringing some work home with me regularly. But I might be able to tweak my job so that I can do work-at-home days, to save on commuting time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Off to Preschool!

Andrew's first day of preschool was this morning. He had a great time, liked all the teachers, and is looking forward to going back again on Friday.

He told me at breakfast: "You drop me off at preschool, leave me there and you go away." I guess he was more than ready for this next stage of his life.

Today was a parent-participation day, so we were there the entire time to make sure the kids were comfortable with the setting. While talking to the staff, I found out that while they are a nut-free zone, they haven't had any peanut allergies yet. But this year, they've got four kids with peanut allergies, and another kid who's off to the allergist to get the official diagnosis. So they're pretty paranoid and want to be as careful as possible.

I spent most of my time there helping the staff figure out how to deal with his allergies. I've offered to get them an epipen trainer, and they said that they'd reimburse me for it.

And then I got more homework from preschool! I've got to get them a bunch of recommended treats for birthdays and special occasions that are safe for him, and some recipes and other things that they could send out in a newsletter to parents.

My first thought was Wacky Cake, of course. (Thanks Liz, for that recipe!) And then when I was googling wacky cake, I found a Wacky Lemon Cake recipe -- think I'll be trying this for Andrew's next celebration! (He can eat lemons straight; loves sour things.) Or maybe we'll do it for Geoff's birthday this weekend. He's not on wheat yet, but everyone else who's coming will be able to eat it for him. I'll just make some jello for Geoff -- he loves jello!

And then there are lots of commercial products that are dairy-free and nut-free, and therefore safe for Andrew as treats -- oreos, a few non-dairy sherbets, the Dare line of cookies ... we do have a pretty good list now, but I just have to write it all down for them.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to work today

It was my first day back to work today. Both of our moms came over to watch the boys, and well, everyone still loves each other tonight, so I guess it went well.

Geoff missed me a lot. Wouldn't sleep well (only took two 45-minute naps) and didn't drink very much milk at all -- about 2 oz. Poor kid. But he did eat well today, so he's not starving himself, and he'll probably nurse all night, which is also fine by me.

And tomorrow is another big milestone: Andrew's going to start preschool! Fingers crossed that it goes well and that he makes lots of friends there.

And I was chatting with my next-door neighbour, whose son started Grade 1 today. All the parents got a note asking them not to send any food containing peanuts, nuts or sesame seeds, due to allergic kids in the school. Woo hoo! I guess by the time Andrew gets to that school, it's going to be pretty much a nut-free zone, so I won't have to worry about him all day.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Big oops

We fed both boys some turkey sausage with "modified milk ingredients" this weekend. I'd bought the sausage (from M&M) last month, but we didn't get around to eating it until this weekend.

I don't think Andrew ate any of it on Saturday. But he did eat some on Sunday, and complained, "I feel sick" about an hour later. He retched a little into the sink, but didn't actually throw up. Then he ate half a bite of sausage this morning, and refused the rest. That was when Tony read the box, and there were the "modified milk ingredients", about five ingredients into the list.

I have no idea what I was reading when I bought that box of sausages. Normally, I read the ingredients on any new product two or three times, just to make sure that I haven't missed any of the secret words for dairy (whey, casein, lact-anything).

And I was eating it too, which explains why Geoff picked up a tummy-rash and had some mucousy poop on Saturday and Sunday. Sigh. I'm pretty sure he's got the same dairy allergy as Andrew does. Oh well, as others have told me, at least we know how to deal with it, this time around.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Boys on a bike

Tony been cycling a lot this summer. He hit 1000 km last week, and was pretty pleased with himself.

We also bought a bike trailer from one of our neighbours, so now Geoff can also go cycling with Tony and Andrew. Here are the three of them, off for an evening ride. Tony says it's quite a workout -- 32 lbs of Andrew, 24 lbs of Geoff, plus the weight of the bike seat and the trailer.

Me, I'm knitting. Remember the sock yarn that I bought last week? I got it on Friday, and started knitting that night. Finished the first sock last night, after neglecting pretty much everything else all day.

This sock knitting thing is addictive, especially with the self-striping yarn. I've seen these socks and thought it was so much work because of all the colour changes. Turns out the yarn does all the work, so all I have to do is keep on knitting and changing needles.

Looks like I'm going to need more yarn. I only bought two balls (to make two pairs).

Friday, September 01, 2006

The soy controversy

Since Andrew's allergic to dairy, I've been giving him rice milk and soy milk as a substitute. I continue to be worried about giving him too much soy, because of various articles that I've read.

Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food
... Most important, many respected scientists have issued warnings stating that the possible benefits of eating soy should be weighed against the proven risks. Indeed, thousands of studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility - even cancer and heart disease. ...

Should We Worry about Soya in our Food?
breeding the exotic birds down under was a retirement dream. They wanted to feed their young birds the best, so they began giving the chicks a soya feed. ...The result was a catastrophic breeding year. Some of the birds were infertile; many died. Other young male birds aged prematurely or reached puberty years early. "We realised there was some sort of hormonal disruption going on but we'd eliminated other possible hormone disrupting chemicals such as pesticides from the inquiry," Fitzpatrick says. ...

... babies fed exclusively on soya formula could receive the oestrogenic equivalent, based on body weight, of five birth control pills a day. ...

Scary stuff. Just another worry to add to the list. By giving him soy milk when I got pregnant with Geoff, did I cause him permanent harm? (It was the highest-fat content non-dairy milk out there.) I did try to nurse him while I was pregnant, but there was just no milk, and he soon lost interest in nursing. Once he hit two years, we moved him onto rice milk and soy milk. Nowadays he gets maybe a cup of soy milk every day. Is that considered a serving "in moderation"?

Only time will tell us.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Went in to work today

Well, I went in to work today and left Geoff and Andrew with my mom for the afternoon. She did great! Got both of them down for their naps with no crying, and had both of them fed and happy when I got there at 5:30.

Geoff didn't even miss me, she said. Well, why should he? Her house is loaded with toys for him, and she lets him go anywhere and play with everything.

I've got an allergist appointment for Geoff in a couple of weeks. Hopefully it won't be too traumatic, and he won't have too many positives, so that then I can start adding foods back into my diet. This no-dairy, no-eggs, no-nuts diet is getting old. On the other hand, it's sure helping me keep the weight off.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stages of grief

I think that I'm going through the stages of grief in dealing with Andrew's food allergies. It took me a while to realize what was happening, so I figured I'd blog about it in case it helps anyone else in their journey.

The stages:
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
We were in denial for the longest time, though it was so obvious that he was allergic to milk. When he ate yogurt for the first time, he threw up and got hives. So of course, I gave him some more yogurt a month later. Threw up again. Then I made breastmilk yogurt, to make sure that he wasn't allergic to the bacteria in yogurt, but the dairy. And yeah, he was fine on the breastmilk yogurt. Nowadays, anytime he throws up, we take that food away without any questions about whether it's an allergy or not.

Did we have anger? Yup. And blaming, too. The allergies couldn't have come from my side -- or his side, said both our parents. Though Tony was colicky as a baby -- I suspect he had a dairy allergy back then. And we're both lactose-intolerant. So there's definitely a dairy sensitivity in the family. His cat/dustmite/mold allergy comes from me -- I've got those too. No idea where the peanuts/nuts allergies come from.

And yeah, we bargain. We're still bargaining. If we don't give him anything that could cause a reaction, then he'll be fine. Because keeping him away from all his allergens, his doctors say, is the key to letting his body "forget" that it's allergic to them, and then treating the allergen as a food.

Of course there's some depression. I sometimes lie awake at night wondering how he'll get through school, will he be able to make friends and survive to become an adult? And my attitude to food is just horrible these days. Food as fuel, not as a delight, as it used to be. Sometimes I see food as an enemy -- it's the thing that could kill.

Acceptance? No, I don't think so. Not yet. I'm still processing through the other stages, and I go back and forth through them.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sad today

I've got one more week of maternity leave, and I'm feeling the blues today.

I think Geoff felt it too. He was super-clingy all day, though he did take a bunch of breaks from being on me to play with his toys, climb the stairs a bunch of times, and try to ride Andrew's electric car. Though I guess it's now Geoff's car, since Andrew got a new electric dune buggy from Nana!

I'm going into work on Wednesday to have lunch with my team. I'll be away for a few hours, and it'll be a practice day for my mom to see how she does alone with both boys. I'm a little panicked, but I think I was just as panicked last time I did this with Andrew, and she did marvellously well with him. In fact, sometimes I think he's closer to her than he is to us! (He's certainly far better-behaved for her than for us.)

Tony came home and asked how my day went -- I guess I was being quiet. I said "désolée" -- "filled with regret". Though I think "wistful" would also have covered it. I don't really regret much about my maternity leave. I helped start a fabulous local moms' group, and I've started this blog, which I hope to continue.

I also spent a year as a stay-at-home-mom, and I think the kids are better for the experience. I just hope that Geoff will be able to adjust to the transition of hanging out with Nana instead of mommy. Heck, I hope that I'll be able to adjust to doing things without him!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another Andrew

We met another Andrew today -- a neighbour's 6-year-old. And he's also allergic to peanuts -- he has anaphylactic reactions, and carries an epipen. So that's four allergic kids in our area.

By the time Andrew hits elementary school, I think the schools will be totally sensitive to all these allergies. I'm so glad that I'm not one of the first parents of allergic children in the schools. That must have been so difficult -- not only to advocate for your child, but also to then let your kid go to school, and trust that they'll come home again, safe and healthy.

Do I sound afraid. Yup, I am.

And I'm grateful to all those moms and dads who came before me, who argued with the schools about their kids' reactions, and showed them ways to keep all the kids safe in school.

Andrew's off to preschool in a week. He's been packing and re-packing his Diego lunchbag for school since I gave it to him. He's allowed to bring a jug of water (not juice or milk) and a piece of fruit (not fruit leather or anything else preserved) for snacktime. It's the same rule for everyone -- so there won't be any dairy, or wheat, or any of the top allergenic foods at the preschool. They've had a lot of kids with allergies go through, so they were totally reassuring to me, and their policies are fabulous. Not to mention healthy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What's causing the allergy epidemic?

The most popular theory about what's causing the "allergy epidemic" is the hygiene hypothesis: "[C]lean living isn't necessarily good for us. By depriving our immune system of key infections caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, we fail to develop the necessary tolerance for ordinarily tame foreign particles. In short, the immune system -- underused and spoiling for a fight -- goes ballistic when finally given the opportunity, no matter how slight the opponent." (Source is the Maclean's article linked above.)

Trust me, my house isn't clean. But I have a kid with severe food allergies.

What I'd really like is to have a researcher to look at the link between allergies and cigarettes.

There's at least one researcher who's found that
"Pregnant smokers increases grandkids' asthma risk." And we know that allergies and asthma go hand-in-hand.

And look at the demographics -- smoking increased dramatically in the 50s and 60s. That was the post-war generation, who could afford to smoke as much as they wanted. (Yeah, there were smokers in the war years, but cigarettes were rationed.) So everyone smoked -- at home, in public, in their offices, at parties, everywhere.

And in the course of doing this, they changed their grandchildren's genetic makeup, making them more prone to asthma -- and probably more prone to allergies as well. So here we are, two generations later, and seeing what's being called an allergy epidemic.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More pills for my kid

I bought more drugs for Andrew yesterday. (Sigh.)

I've been toting around the liquid Benadryl for his accidental reactions -- he's gone through a bottle over the last year and a half, so it's not like we're dosing him every day. But the darned thing keeps spilling just a little bit in the bag, and leaving everything else kinda sticky.

So yesterday, I was at the drugstore waiting on the pharmacist for some cream for Geoff's nasty bum rash, and looked in the allergies section. They do have a chewable Benadryl which would be much easier to carry around -- so I bought a box of those, even though they're labeled for 6 and up only. The pharmacist said that it was fine to give him half a pill for a reaction. Then I looked online, and Dr. Sears' recommended dosage by weight is one pill. I suspect we'll give him half a pill, wait half an hour, and if it hasn't really kicked in, give him the other half.

They also had Triaminic Softchews for allergies, so I bought a box of those, which actually do have a dosage guide for 3-year-olds. Andrew's going to be spending some time at Granny & Grandpa's house this fall, after I go back to work. He usually reacts to their cat by getting seriously sniffly, sneezy and generally miserable-looking. But he just keeps right on playing, even though his nose has a long snot line all the way to his tummy. No photos of that one -- yuck! Anyways, this might just help him out a little bit with dealing with his cat allergy. Though we'll probably still have to dunk him in a bath and change his clothes when he gets home, so that he'll STOP reacting at home!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sometimes, the universe answers

When I'm on the computer, I use a Graphire pen instead of a mouse because it's a lot easier on the carpal tunnel than the mouse. But it also comes with a wireless mouse so that Tony and Andrew can use the computer too.

Well, Andrew got into the habit of hiding or throwing the mouse when he was done with the computer, and it would disappear for days at a time, frustrating Tony to bits. So a month ago, I posted a note on Craigslist asking if anyone wanted to sell me their mouse. And yesterday, I got a note from a fellow named Nate, whose graphire tablet had just died: did I want his extra mouse and pen? He'd just chucked them into his office garbage, and fished them out when he saw my posting on Craigslist.

Hell yeah! So Geoff and I went out there last night, picked up the pieces, and when we got home, I hid them where Andrew hopefully won't find them. Until he hides the original mouse again. I gave Nate a bag of those two-bite brownies in exchange, and I hope that he and his girlfriend enjoy them!

The moral of this post: sometimes, you just need to put it out into the universe that you'd like something, and sometimes, the universe answers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Socks, anyone?

I've just won a couple of balls of yarn on ebay. They're self-striping, so they should be fun to knit up as Christmas presents for friends. If all goes well, this is what they should look like. (I got #739 and #736.)

So, who wants socks from me this Christmas?

This online shopping thing is fun. I just got a case of granola bars from NoNuttin' this morning. Andrew opened all the boxes, and devoured most of a chocolate chip one before his swimming lesson this morning. I got the last bite that he didn't want -- tasty!

And it's so nice to be able to feed him something without having to read the label and hope that the "may contain traces of nuts" line is just to cover their asses, and not because they've just run something containing peanut butter on that production line. Plus, these things are made right here in British Columbia!

Case of granola bars: $83.20 (Cdn). Peace of mind: PRICELESS!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stomach bugs

There's a stomach bug churning through our house, and everyone's got it but Andrew. Tony's about 12 hours behind me -- I'm just starting to feel better. But the poor guy has to get into a car and drive for 5 hours tomorrow. Hopefully he'll have shaken most of it by then.

I think Geoff brought it home from the swimming pool last Friday. On Saturday night, he was up at 3 am to poop -- mostly in his sleep, but it took me an hour to get myself back to sleep again. He's also been a bit fragile, and he's had 6-8 poops a day since the weekend.

Hopefully now that I've gotten it from him, all the antibodies will be going into him via breastmilk, so he'll be able to shake it off in the next day or two.

Sorry for the poopy post. I'll try to find something more interesting to blog about next time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Peanut allergy study

I just listed Andrew's three allergic reactions to peanuts over the last year, and sent off the information to a new research study on peanut allergies at McGill University. They're building a national database on people with peanut allergies.

I figure that the more people who know about his allergies, the better it would be for him.

I also just ordered some pretty funky silicone bracelets for him (with his food allergies listed as the text), and I'm trying to order a child's medic-alert bracelet but the website won't take my credit card, so I've emailed them to see what's up. The bracelets are in preparation for when he starts preschool -- in two weeks!!!

The preschool is a nut-free/dairy-free zone, so I'm not too worried about it. They've had lots of allergic kids, so they sound extremely well-trained and prepared.

Sleeping through the night

Andrew slept through the night last night. We're ecstatic. Tony's happier than I am. Normally Andrew jumps out of his bed sometime between 11:30 pm and 3 am and climbs in with Tony.

I'd probably be more excited about it if I wasn't so exhausted from Geoff's wakeups last night -- every half hour from midnight until 2 am, which is when he started grunting and pooping in his sleep. I got him to the change table, and took off his diaper. But he hadn't finished pooping yet, so kept on grunting and pooping -- on the changepad! Yuck!

I had a smokey and a lot of chili sauce last night as a late-night snack. I'm not sure if either disagreed with him, but I can tell you that they're not making an appearance on the menu for a while!

But I digress -- back to Andrew's sleep habits.

I found out last week that Andrew's RDA of calcium is 800mg/day. When I counted up what he's getting, I think that he's only getting less than half of that. So last weekend, we started giving him 500mg of calcium every day. His sleep has been getting progressively better over the week, and last night he slept from around 9:30 until 7:30 this morning when Geoff woke up and started yelling at me to wake up too.

So now I'm feeling guilty for not giving Andrew more calcium supplements earlier. And wondering if I've affected his growth/height. But his nails have never shown any calcium deficiency -- they remain thick and hard to clip. And he's somewhere around 40-50th percentile for height, which is his growth curve. So I'm hoping that all will be well and we've caught it in time.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My kid is a fish

Andrew loves the water. Actually, that sentence needs a little more emphasis. Andrew LOVES the water. He loves splashing in puddles after it rains (and it rains a lot here in Vancouver). He loves taking baths. He loves dunking his head into his bathwater and staying down there and freaking out mommy. Daddy just gets his watch out and times him -- he'll stay under for 4-5 seconds. He loves going to the beach and watching the waves come in and out, and running into the water, and throwing rocks and sticks back out there.

And of course, he loves the swimming pool. Here he is with a swim ring at the vacation house that we rented this summer. He was in the pool or the nearby lake until 9 pm every night.

When we got back from vacation, we put him into swim lessons by himself (none of that mom&tot stuff for him!). The instructor said that we could bump him up to level 3 of the swim lessons because he's so good in the water.

My kid is barely 3 years old, and can already swim a couple of feet by himself. Man, I'm proud of him.

And of course, if he takes up swimming as a major hobby, there is a major plus as far as his allergies are concerned -- you don't often get peanuts/dairy in the pool, as you might in a ballpark. Also, if he is exposed to an allergen, swimming will wash it off him.

But best of all, swimsuits are a lot cheaper than hockey equipment! But I hear that the practices are just as early in the morning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Peanut-allergy trial on children

This series of posts is from a mom whose 2-year-old is in a peanut allergy desensitisation trial. There's another set from another mom in the same trial.

The first child has gone from being extremely senstitive to peanuts to being able to tolerate two peanuts a day.

More importantly: both are still alive after eating the equivalent of a LOT of peanuts. (They powder the peanuts into peanut flour for the trial.)

I'd call this hope for the future.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nothing happened

We went out for lunch today to the chinese supermarket, which also has a great food court. Andrew loves the "gai fan" -- steamed chicken with rice and hot steaming soup, and usually eats a ton of it.

All was well until we were done and walking back to the car. Then, as we were passing the chinese dried herb store, he stuck his hands into one of the open bins at the front of the store.

I looked more closely -- it's usually just stuff like dried mushrooms or dried shrimp or scallops or really weird stinky herbs. And it was a bin full of walnuts!

I'd just read this discussion at an allergies board where kids went into anaphylaxis while playing with acorns in their own yards. So I was a little panicked for a moment. Reviewed where his epipen was (in my bag, on my shoulder), and kept an eye on his hands for a few minutes.

But nothing happened. Whew! So he's either not allergic to walnuts, or not contact-allergic to them. (He's never been exposed to them.)

This is kind of a non-post, but certainly a slice of how I'm finding that I have to think now. The entire world is a minefield when your kid has allergies.

After-dinner fun

Every night, the neighbourhood kids get together after dinner to play in the street. It's actually a little dead end road that's blocked in so that cars don't go into it.

Those are heavily-laden blackberry bushes in the background. Andrew LOVES to eat fresh sun-warmed blackberries, then go back and play with the various cars and bikes.

This is Geoff's first time in the car -- he loves it!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Finding food for Andrew

Sometimes it seems that I spend half my shopping time looking for food that Andrew can safely eat. So when I find something safe, I'm ecstatic.

Well tonight, I found three safe things for him!

The first two might even send me free samples (I'll believe it when I see them), and the third one is available at an organic grocery store in Coquitlam. One of my coworkers hits that store regularly, so I can ask her to pick up some for me the next time she goes, and then I can get them from her when I go back to work next month.

The source for these was a great new web board that I just found: PeanutAllergy.Com. If you're not a parent of food allergic kids, you should read through some of the posts on the board to get a taste of what living with a peanut allergy is like.

Lunchbox Killer article

Bending over the bubbler to take a mouthful of water in readiness for the antihistamine, Daniel heard a voice: "Would you like some of this" The boy waved another bit of the sandwich, peanut butter exposed, under Daniel's nose. "I was surprised, so I took a deep breath and inhaled," recalls Daniel, a bright student and talented pianist who at the time was nearing the end of Year 9. He gulped the tablet, but antihistamines take about 15 minutes to kick in and he knew he was no longer dealing with a lesser, skin-contact reaction. "Immediately, my eyes and throat and tongue started swelling," he says. "Eventually, my tongue cracked open and bled."

Read the full article if you have any preconceptions about "just" having an allergy to peanut butter.

Mother's instincts

I was talking to a friend yesterday night, and spouting off about mother's instincts. You see, a mother is supposed to know when something's wrong with her kids.

But in today's parenting game, most mothers don't trust their instincts. They trust their doctors, or their own parents (okay, sometimes not so much their own parents), or whatever book has been recommended to them. But as another mom once told me, the doctor -- or the book's author -- isn't with your kid 24 hours a day, and doesn't get it when you just "feel" like something's wrong.

The friend I was talking to had a colicky child who screamed for hours a day, until about 4 months of age. And then once she started solids, she got hives and a horrible rash from dairy. But the mom hadn't really cut out dairy from her diet, even though she'd gotten that advice from friends, and her own mommy instincts told her that something was wrong. But the doctor said that dairy doesn't go into breastmilk, and so did the La Leche League counsellor.

(I want to go and throttle the La Leche League counsellor, but that's another post. I think that she should hold herself personally responsible for this poor babe crying in pain for all those months.)

But I'm just as guilty of ignoring my mommy instincts.

I've been (mostly) off dairy for the last year. I went off dairy about a month before Geoff was born, and then had an accidental exposure when he was about 3 months old. That wee exposure made him cry for two nights, and caused a rash on his calves that took six weeks to go away.

Last week, I decided to try again. I had a bite of aged cheddar cheese because it's supposedly got the lowest amount of milk protein. No reaction from Geoff that night, so I was delighted. Two days later, I had a bit more. Again, no reaction. Woo hoo!

Then last weekend, I had some (cow's milk) feta on my greek salad. Still no reaction that night. But the next day, he stated getting rashy dry-ish skin on his calves and forearms. I spent the next day coming up with excuses for why his skin was dry.

But my mommy instinct has finally kicked me in the shins. It is an allergic reaction, and I need to recognize it as such. I'll go off dairy again for another month, and maybe I'll try again after that.

Photo of my kids

A photo of the kids together. Why is it that Geoffrey is happiest when he's being squished by his older brother?

Poisoning my child

I'm poisoning my child. At least, that's how I feel every time I feed him something and he vomits it up.

We haven't had any allergic incidents for months, and then in the span of three weeks, we've had three vomiting incidents.

The first in the chain happened when we got back from our Summerland vacation. I gave Andrew some juice that he hadn't had before (Minute Maid Fruit Solutions) and topped it up with a quarter tsp of his strawberry acidophilus. He'd had the acidophilus before, so when he vomited about two minutes after drinking his juice, I blamed the juice. He also got two hives on his face about 10 minutes later, but a little dose of Benadryl cleared that right up.

Well, I blamed the wrong culprit. Yesterday, I gave him the acidophilus again, on top of some of his berry juice. He vomited again, and this time, I knew it was the acidophilus because he's already drunk half a carton of that berry juice, without incident.

I called Natural Factors this morning, and they confirmed that the acidophilus does have dairy in it. So that's going back to the health food store -- hopefully they'll take it back. I bought it months ago, but didn't get to open it until now because he had to finish the previous bottle first. (I'm not deliberately poisoning my child. He's finished 2-3 bottles of the previous formulation of this acidophilus, but they've now changed the formula, and priced the bottle at $5 more.)

We've had our three incidents -- hopefully that'll be our three in a row and we can go a few more months without anything happening.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

He threw up again today

He threw up again today. I'd given him a new calcium/magnesium chewable vitamin, and about two minutes after he chewed it up, he started heaving. Only spit came out for those first couple of heaves, and then he seemed to settle down. And then, about 20 minutes later, he started heaving again, and left three big mucousy puddles on the hardwood floor. At least it wasn't on the carpet.

His name is Andrew, he's three years old, and he's allergic to a lot of things. Milk and all other dairy. Peanuts. Tree nuts (but possibly not almonds). Eggs. Cats. Mold. Dustmites.

I'd read the ingredients on this bottle of vitamins very carefully, and there was no declared dairy in the ingredients. But there was a comment that it didn't contain eggs or soy, but didn't say anything about not containing dairy/milk. So for that omission, I've returned the bottle of vitamins to the store, and purchased another one that says that it doesn't contain dairy. When I left the house this afternoon, he was finally taking his afternoon nap next to his father. And his breath was wheezy and hoarse-sounding.

Life with an allergic child is always frightening. It's all about listening to your child sleep, to make sure he's still breathing. It's about reading every label, and hoping that the manufacturer hasn't lied about something. It's about having nightmares about letting him out in public where peanut-butter-eating children lurk in every corner, waiting to smear him with enough peanut butter to kill him.

Yeah, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself today. It always happens after an allergic incident. :-(