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Monday, July 28, 2014

How I Know Claudy Loves Me: Soup

I'm going to start another blog installment I'd like to keep up.  It'll be called "How I Know Claudy Loves Me".  I've been trying to work on loving unconditionally lately, and I think one thing that could help me is noticing all of the sweet, simple things Claudy does to show me his love.  I think we often overlook the acts of service our significant other does if they've been doing them a long time, or if they're not new and commonplace.  By noticing and being grateful for what he does, it will only serve to help our love flourish.

How I know Claudy loves me:  He has soup even in the dead heat of summer.  I just adore soup, and hate only having it fall/winter.  Every few weeks I break down and make a soup for diner--even if it's in the high 90's for temperatures.  Of course, we have AC, but I know it's not his favorite time to be eating a pipping bowl of liquid.  He sips it all down without a word of complaint. :)  What a guy!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Micro-Mommyism: Hungry Mommy

I've been avoiding dairy for over a month now for Calvin.  Last night I had a dream that I had pizza with CHEESE on it.  You know you're missing dairy when you dream about it.  I can do without milk, yogurt, and even ice cream because those all have good substitutes...but there is nothing like melty, gooey, CHEESE.  10 more months to go until I can wean Calvin and have it again.  I can do this!!!!  I don't know how well I'll do if I have to keep cutting things out though.  In my instance a hungry mommy isn't a very happy mommy...gotta work on that!

EOE Update: Oral Food Trials

As mentioned before, Carter was re-tested to a few foods he failed last year either via prick or patch testing.  He passed corn, beef, pork, bananas and green beans via both prick and patch, so his allergist is having us feed them to him.  He has us introduce just one at a time to him for three weeks (once a day) and then has his blood drawn before and after to track his blood eosinophil counts.

We recently finished corn, and his blood eosinophil count had actually gone up, but he had no bad side affects and the pollen count was high that week (can affect it if you suffer from seasonal allergies like he does), so we're still going to keep it until we can do an EGD once air pollen calms down fall/winter.   He was IN LOVE with corn tortilla chips and ate them by the pounds each day, and so we feel comfortable keeping it since his mood, amounts he ate/appetite, skin, and bowel movements all seemed unaffected and fine.

We also did banana for almost a month, since we started it like the day after Calvin was born and it took me forever to want to leave the house, let alone drag my toddler to get his blood drawn.  He didn't seem to love plain bananas, but I made him a smoothie almost daily with one in it.  I also made a banana cake, but he didn't want too much of that.  He seemed like he did with corn, no noticeable changes in any arena.  Bananas are so versatile, I really hope that this is a true pass.  His blood work actually went down (good thing, the less eosinopihls the better), so we're keeping it for now.

We started green beans a few weeks ago and after about a week he was super constipated and in a lot of pain going to the bathroom, so we've since pulled it.  (Someday he's going to be so glad I share these intimate details with the universe...)  I'm not sure whether to try them again to make sure it wasn't a fluke (doubt it though since he's never had a problem and was almost like clockwork, although my husband did wonder if it could be the daily smoothies chalk full of veggies and fruit--but he's been having those for several months with no problems...), and if so how long to wait in between trying it again?  I'm not in a big rush, since it totally sent us spiraling downwards with potty training.  It took two weeks to get him to go on the potty again since he was terrified of the bad experience he had had.  He was going in his underwear almost daily and only after HOURS of whining.  It was awful.

Besides the green beans, our last item to re-introduce is beef.  I'm nervous about this, because he never liked it as baby food (not that I can blame him, it smelled and looked absolutely putrid) but I always wondered if that was his way of telling us that it was bothering him.  I'm also nervous because beef nowadays is such CRAP.  The cattle industry and the stuff sold at the stores is terrifying (anyone see the Food Inc documentary...YIKES??!).  I miss a good Sunday pot roast, and every once in awhile I splurge and get myself an In-N-Out burger...but other than that I really haven't missed it.  I've always enjoyed almost every kind of beef (except for ground), but have a hard time eating it after learning about it.  We really can't afford the good stuff (grass fed...etc...etc.) and I don't even know where to get it.  I'm afraid to spend a ton of money only to find out Carter won't eat it or it bothers him.  I'm not sure whether to just go ahead with the scope to the corn, pork and bananas, or to finish it out with the beef.  I don't think I want to scope him with green beans, as I'm afraid it'd make him fail it.  We can do without green beans--they're not a pivotal food.  I go back and forth almost daily on how/if/when on the beef.  I'm content with how many foods he has, but I worry someday he'll want a hamburger and we'll have to scope for just one food, which seems so expensive and such a hassle and painful procedure for one thing.  But then again, it would be another protein...which would be good.  Oh, what to do?  When I decide I'll let you know, but in the mean time I wanted to update on the corn, banana and green beans since I couldn't remember if I had or not.

Mommy Do It

Micro-mommyism: When Carter gets frustrated and can't figure something out, or, for some reason he just sometimes feels lazy, he'll be found commanding "Mommy do it!"  Some day he'll be independent and not need me.  I sometimes get frustrated because he usually wants me to do something when it's not "convenient", but I know I'll miss his sweet pleadings someday.  And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when he's wanting some autonomy or is bent on trying it himself he'll be found saying "Carter do it!".  He wants what he wants, when and how he wants it and isn't afraid to voice it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Capturing Calvin: 2 Months

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My littlest C is now two months old!  Here's what the handsome fella has been up to this past month:

At his 2 month check up the doctor still thinks he has more allergies.  The way he has terrible eczema all over his face, arms and legs she says it's probably something I'm still eating since I exclusively nurse.  I was pretty bummed, and had truly been hoping to only have to cut out dairy.  I want healthy kids, damnit! She told me that I know best having done it before and to decide what to cut out myself.  Here we go on another hunt!  The only direction she gave me was to start with Carter's biggest triggers too.  I haven't done anything yet, because just that same week I had tried dairy again.  I had gone without it for a little over a month and since we had seen some improvement (better temperament--but still fussy sometimes, and better spitting up and burping--but still some) I wanted to make sure he hadn't just grown out of it and that I was avoiding dairy for no reason.  So, I'm not sure if his skin freaking out is due to the dairy or something else because I hear it can take a few weeks to leave your system.  I'm PRAYING it's just the dairy.  His face has cleared up, so I'm hoping his legs and arms do too soon.  If his face is like Carter's...it's the first place to react.  I had to avoid eggs, whole grains and soy when I was nursing Carter, so those will probably be the things I cut out next if I have to.  Until then, I'll be on a soy sauce binge.  Ug...

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Also at his checkup his stats were: 11.16 lbs (29th percentile--up from the 9th percentile at his last appointment), 21.75 inches (7th percentile, and I don't think she measured well, because that would mean he's only gained 1.25 inches and by the way his clothes fit I'm doubting it), and his noggin is 15.5 inches--yeah, almost as big as he is tall (65th percentile).  In typical St. Germain fashion he's an orange on a toothpick like his dad and brother were.

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Carter was also gaining good weight at this point, but Calvin has really shot up.  He weighed a pound less than Carter and weighed even MORE at his 2 month check up (Carter was at 10 pounds something ounces at his 2 month).  He's my rolly polly (as much as I'll probably ever get) and it's SOOOOOOO relieving to have a kid that seems to gain weight easily.  I'm clinging to this fact, and hoping this is a sign he doesn't have EOE.  I'm praying this continues because all of Carter's weight issues just about gave me a heart attack!  Calvin's a great eater, and thankfully is starting to go about every 3 hours between needing to eat, except for when he decides to just cluster feed here and there randomly.

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Just like clockwork, he has horrific cradle cap like Carter did at this age.  Guess it comes with the beautiful hair everyone raves about.

At first he did not like his play mat--didn't take to it like Carter did.  So, we put it away for awhile since our living room is so small.  We brought it back out yesterday and boy was he cooing at it and batting at the toys that hang down.

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At first he loved to sleep on his tummy, but he's doing it less and less.  It seems that only works if he's pretty much passed out.  If he's slightly awake he takes it as a challenge to do tummy time and practices lifting his head until he's crying.  So, most of the time I put him a bit raised, and on his side.  Speaking of his head and neck--he's had that mastered for quite sometime and can really hold it up for long periods.  

His spitting up is A TON better since cutting out dairy in volume and frequency.  He doesn't act bothered by it now (versus crying/upset when he had to spit up), and I'd say it's a normal amount here and there.  Thank goodness!

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He's mostly a happy baby--he's very smiley now and I'd say even more vocal than Carter was.  He's very into cooing at you and likes to have a full on "conversation" back and forth.  But, he doesn't stay happy if he's set down too much, or when he doesn't want to be.  He will start to do what we call "angry breathing" for a little while and then from there it's loud wails!  Our poor neighbors.  Also, he likes to be held upright with his chest at your shoulders so that he can look out over your back.  He's particular and likes to be held while you're standing, even if you don't change your position from sitting down.  Odd, huh?  You would think it wouldn't make a difference.  Since he doesn't like to be set down much we wrap him to us (yes even Claudy has started wearing him in the moby wrap!  Funniest and cutest sight ever!) He'll now sit in his swing, but only for a few minutes.  I sure wish he'd like it, because he likes to be upright, and that's one of the only safe places for him to be upright if we're not holding him!

He's still sleeping in his bassinet next to our bed, but he frequently lucks out and I fall asleep nursing him in our bed.  He loves to snuggle in the laying down nursing position and fall asleep after eating.  Spoiled!  Carter never got to sleep in our bed. I'm becoming so lax!  He doesn't seem to really get in a night time/sleeping mode until around 11pm--from there, he's great at going down after every feeding.  I don't have to rock, or even burp him.  I can nurse him and promptly put him back down and he goes right to sleep with no help.  That is a huge blessing!  Now, if we could ONLY get him to not need to eat so much.  He still eats around 4-6 times a night (and that's counting from 11pm-8am).

His day time sleeping is starting to find it's rhythm though.  He's only awake for a bit in the morning and then takes a good, long nap.  From there, it's the typical eat, play, sleep the rest of the day, with the awake periods being pretty short.  In the evenings he has a hard time being able to go to sleep and can get pretty grumpy because you can tell he needs to, but he can't seem to fall asleep no matter ours and his efforts--often for hours.  And, I know babies aren't meant to be up that long and boy can you tell!  Ug.  And this always coincides with Carter's bedtime, or when I need to freelance, or clean up dinner...etc.  I'd die if Claudy wasn't home in the evenings.

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He seems to like to watch Carter.  Carter even lulled him to sleep one time because Carter was jumping on the opposite end of the couch where Calvin was laying down.  I was about to get after Carter for jumping so close to the baby and then realized it was totally putting Calvin to sleep!  Carter hasn't given us any problems with Calvin in forever.  He either ignores him, or is giving him kisses--and those two extremes are fine by me.  Carter likes to give Calvin goodnight kisses each night after family prayer.  MELT MY HEART!  I had Carter hold him on the couch for a minute while I went to fill up his sippy.  He's not great at holding his head up and was over it after a few seconds.

As is normal, he doesn't have great control over his arms and they can keep him up at night if he's not swaddled.  It's kinda funny because he just sits and rubs and rubs his face, but seems upset that he can't make it stop.  Thank goodness he's OK being swaddled with his arms down (the first while he wasn't) so he sleeps swaddled most of the time, unless he's on his tummy.

He had his first real bath (I get paranoid about slippery babies so we sponge bathed him forever).  It's just in the same, little plastic, blue, bath Carter had.  He LOVED it.  He used to scream with the sponge bath and instantly when I set him in you could see in his eyes he was like "this is AWESOME".  We call it the baby hot tub.

After Calvin's immunizations we took him to church for the first time last Sunday.  We got lots of "he looks like his brother".  I was proud to show him off!

Whenever we post pictures to Facebook we get lots of comments on how they look alike.  I think Calvin is a chubbier, darker version of Carter.  However, he seems to be lightening up with all of the skin that's been falling off with the eczema.  Here's a comparison of Carter (right) and Calvin's 2 months.

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And, here's a comparison of Calvin at 2 months (left) and Carter at 3 months.  I think they look more alike here, because of Calvin's chubbiness matches more with Carter at an older age.

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Calvin has also been super active (I LOVE having a summer baby!).  He's gone to a water park for the first time (7 peaks), gone to a parade (Provo's 4th of July parade), gone hiking and fishing.  Of course, he's slept through most of them--but still!  So much better than being inside all day, every day during the winter.

I already can't imagine our family without this sometimes grumpy gus, wide smiled, snuggly little boy.  Happy two months, Calvin!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Health Matters: What's Been Working For Us

With Carter's health being miles away from where it was last summer I wanted to compile what we've been doing, so that I don't forget.  I'm not going to say that one of these is a "cure all" or that even the combo has brought about all of the improvements we've seen, but I certainly think they, and a lot of prayer, have helped immensely.  And, it's not just us seeing a placebo affect because Carter's EOE is in remission (a 100% clean scope) and all of his doctors and dietitian feel he looks and is checking out SOOO much better (we have lots of blood work and measurements to prove it).  Hopefully it can also help someone else.  I try to hide my craziness, and like to think I'm not too granola...but I'm gonna let it all out in this post.  Let's still be friends afterwards, even if you've seen my hidden hippie side, OK?

The most beneficial thing has been figuring out his allergic triggers.  I could go into the difference between IgE mediated allergies (those that can kill you--and go into anaphylaxis/you need an epi-pen prescription for) and IgG (those that cause delayed reactions like eczema, diarrhea, gas, bloating...etc.) but I won't and will allow you the opportunity to learn and research about it.  We found out Carter's allergic triggers by doing prick and patch testing with a board certified allergist.  But, even then there are false positives and negatives.  So, the only true way is trial and error.  The best way is to cut it out of your diet for several weeks, then re-introduce it.  If you feel OK, and notice no symptoms then your body is OK with it.  Often, people go so long with symptoms (I'm just gassy, I've always had eczema...etc.) that they're used to feeling crappy.  If you can bare cutting it out and notice how much better you feel I think it's worth it!  This was the hardest, longest step.  It is like searching for a needle in a haystack--I mean keeping a food journal and going through some super mundane meals while we slowly added foods back into his diet.  UG.  I still shudder when I think of how many meals of black beans and plain chicken this poor kid had to eat.  BUT, I will say I'm soooo glad we did it when he was small and didn't care that his meals were often different from ours.  Some of Carter's biggest triggers were random things like spinach, peas, turkey...not your typical nuts and sea food.  But, it was truly worth it to see him pooping regular, his skin eczema up, have a clean scope, have an appetite (because it didn't hurt his esophagus to eat), see him stop vomiting, see him stop having rashes, and to see him gain weight.  Talk to me if you have questions.

Along with cutting things out, we got a Blendtec blender and Carter has a smoothie just about every day.  I put fresh (sometimes canned if we run out) fruits and veggies in it.  He drinks anywhere from 2-4 cups worth.  I used to look for recipes, but now I just throw anything in and he'll drink it.  I can tell some days are better than others, and sometimes I have to bribe him (no more rice milk until you finish your smoothie) but it certainly helps me feel better when he passes on the fruits and vegetables at meal time.  I smile when I know he's drinking a sweet potato, squash, or broccoli covered up in strawberries or peaches.  Mu-hahaha!  Sneaky mommy.

I make homemade organic chicken broth.  Not sure if it truly posses all of the magical powers a lot purport it to (like this article), but even if it has a few it's worth it to me.  Plus, it's a WHOLE lot cheaper than store-bought...which according to rumor is made with the meat and not the bones, which is the beneficial portion.  Here's how I make mine:  I buy organic chicken thighs.  I boil it until the meat is cooked.  I pull the meat off and have Carter eat it.  I then put the fat and bones in a large stock pot. (The same one I cooked the chicken in, same water and all).  I then fill it up to the top with water.  I add a carrot, a large chunk of onion, a large handful of dried garlic, a good dash or rosemary and salt.  Really scientific, I know.  I cook that on low for at least 4-8 hours.  I then strain it and freeze it.  It's wonderful.  I don't know if it's just my recipes, but probably 70% of my recipes call for chicken stock and I just use this.  I also cook all of Carter's quinoa with it for flavor and the added benefits.  One could also throw in some celery to the stock broth, but Carter is allergic.

Easily enough, we found a multi-vitamin that Carter loves and will take every day--just to make sure that we're closing any gaps that he may have with his limited diet, and because like all toddlers, he is a picky eater.

I also read some studies that show that many people with allergies have low vitamin D.  We've had Carter's blood tested, and the allergist said it wasn't low, but it wasn't great.  We wanted a natural source, and found that cod liver oil has 116% of your daily needs in just one teaspoon.  We give him a teaspoon every night.  They have lemon, orange or unflavored--thank goodness!  I've really noticed a difference since we started doing that.  I'm not saying Vitamin D will cure allergies, since correlation does not equal causation, but it seems to help and I doubt it would hurt.  For example, last summer Carter had horrible eczema and seasonal allergies--the kid was on zyrtec ALL THE TIME.  We've been giving him daily vitamin D (even if he's spent all day outside) and his seasonal allergies and eczema is all but gone this summer.  There's only been a few days were he's needed zyrtec, and his skin is beautiful!

We also give Carter a daily probiotic.  I am probably feeding into the marketing of it--but I pay a hefty price for the Klaire Labs infant formula because it is free of the top allergens.  (Many probiotics come from dairy cultures which he cannot have.)  I mix 1/4 teaspoon into applesauce for him each night.  I really believe that it helps with gut health, which in turn helps with overall immune health.  Thankfully, this has been researched and isn't just "natural" health practice anymore.  His pediatrician told me to put him on one, and I even have little Calvin on the same one.  There's multiple studies out there that show the benefits, if you're curious.

I also try to cook from scratch and cook with whole foods as much as possible.  I make dinner every single night, and really the only place we've ever found that works for his food allergies is Chik-Fil-A which we let him have here and there.  Otherwise, it's at home every single night which can get tiring, but if giving my kid great nourishment isn't a part of parenting, then I don't know what is.  While it can be a pain sometimes, I only need to do it for 18 years, and it helps all of us be healthy too.  Plus, now I'm in the habit, so it's not so bad.  I was at my lowest weight ever since high school (before I got pregnant and without ever exercising) so I know it did us all some good.

We also ADORE coconut oil and have used many brands we've liked.  Again, it may be hype, but we have yet to see anything bad come from it either.  We were having a hard time finding a toothpaste that didn't have things Carter couldn't have with his 35+ allergies.  I didn't feel good about him accidentally swallowing chemicals, even from a children's toothpaste.  I read you could brush your teeth with it, so that's what we've done.  Praying all of his teeth won't fall out someday...Anyways, we do a huge, heaping lump on top.  He eats it off the toothbrush first and then we brush.  It's great for additional calories each day too.  Be sure to read up on coconut oil benefits, it's super interesting.  We also use coconut oil for his hair--it's the best gel for his mixed race curls.  We can just put that on, and it sets the curls perfectly, better than gel.  We also use it for general lotion, for him and us.  It's the best makeup remover for my mascara.  And, it's the best butter substitute for cooking and baking and wayyy healthier!

When Carter has still had outbursts of eczema (last summer) we knew we needed a good cream to attack it with.  I found out that a lady near us makes a homemade cream Teva Neta Diaper Rash Ointment, and I was all about that.  I love knowing that I'm supporting a local business.  I also know and trust her, so if she says it's "100% natural and 100% fair trade.  No parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, phthalates, chemical preservatives. Just pure, effective ingredients from nature."  Then I know that's the case.  Even though it was a diaper cream, she said it worked fabulous on eczema.  I tried it and have loved it.  Because it has beeswax in it, a tiny bit goes a super long way.  It's great at being a nice, thick barrier to help his skin stay moisturized while it's trying to heal--because if we're pulling this stuff out it's usually when an eczema spot has gotten out of control.  Often the skin is broken, so we need it to be sealed.  I feel so much better putting this on than a steroid cream.  I've also loved it for diaper rash as well.  Whenever Carter starts to get itchy he asks for his "cream".  

When there isn't a bad patch that needs extra love from the Teva Neta cream, we were recommended CeraVe from our allergist, and that works well too as his after-bath lotion.  We just barely pat him dry, so that there is still moisture on his skin and then trap it in with this thick cream.  

I also use a dye-free, fragrance-free laundry soap (pretty common).  I so miss yummy smelling laundry, but feel good not having added chemicals.  Just about any dermatologist/allergist will tell you to do this if you suffer from eczema.  We also don't use dryer sheets.  That was new to me, but I guess the dermatology clinic said not to, as the chemicals can melt onto your clothes and irritate sensitive skin.  

We also have Carter sleep with a humidifer every single night because it is such a freakin' dessert here.  I think that helps restore moisture to the air, especially since he sleeps 12 hours--that's a lot of time!  I think that has also helped his skin.

I hope this doesn't gross anyone out--but we also only bathe him once a week (unless he's been in a chlorine pool).  I find it allows his skin to make it's own moisture.  I'm sure we'll have to start bathing him more once he starts becoming a stinky boy--but for now it's working.  

And, last but not least, we sacrificed a virgin.  That seemed to really appease the Gods, and probably brought about the best results.  Just kidding!

This all being said, we've definitely had to use swallowed steroids a few times (twice for his asthma, and once to heal the cysts in his esophagus--a result from EOE), and topical steroids here and there.  But, I like to use those as a last resort and feel that all of the above measures keep us from having to use them as much as we used to.  I'm grateful for the wonderful combination of natural and modern medicine--I couldn't go without either, and am glad I don't have to chose!

This may seem like a lot, but it's so second nature that I rarely think of any of it.  It's worth it to see this little man be happy!

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If you have any natural remedies that have worked for you--let me know!

*FYI--None of the above products were sponsors, except for a free sample I received from Teva Neta*

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Glamorous Freelance Writer's Life

I love being able to write from home.  It keeps my resume current,  allows my writing to stay sharp, gives me experience, adds much needed income, and allows me to think about things other than sippies and slides which is a welcome exercise for my brain.

However, working from home is hard!

It's much easier to be in the office, sitting comfortably in my office chair in the peace and quiet.  

It's funny because I used to think that a freelance writer's life seemed glamorous and exciting.  I guess it could be if you didn't have two kids under three.  Here's a peak at my "glamorous" freelance life from just yesterday:

Write.

Chase naked toddler trying to convince him to wear underwear.

Sit down and try to focus, write a little more.

Nurse the baby.

Try to remember what you were writing about, write another paragraph.

Clean up pee from your almost-potty-trained-toddler.

Write another paragraph.

Wrap screaming baby to your body, hoping you can reach around him to write, and pray that he'll sleep once he's cocooned to you.

Munch on a few of your toddler's fruit snacks while writing another paragraph.

Make lunch for your toddler.

Write another paragraph.

Turn on TV for toddler, and feel a bit guilty about it--but realize it's better that you're doing it than a babysitter.

Proof-read whatever it is you've cranked out and pray while you hit "send".

Meanwhile, you're still in your bathrobe, without makeup and it's now 3 p.m....almost time to start dinner.  There's no heels, coordinated and ironed outfits, adult talk, business lunches, and socializing with your fellow employees.  Just the work part.

It's a juggling act for sure, but one that I'm very grateful for because of all the good reasons I mentioned at the beginning!  If any of you know of other writing opportunities, I'd be happy to throw another ball in the air.

I sure hope my boys appreciate the sacrifices I make for them to provide, but still be as reachable and present as I can be.