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.