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Saturday, November 15, 2014

First Snow Day Traditions Continue

Jules here-

On Friday, we awoke to a little less than one inch of snow which Lissie proclaimed, "Is today winter?"  Though winter doesn't technically begin until Dec. 21st-- up on top of the mountain, winter has definitely commenced- cozy fires, hot chocolate, and of course SNOWMAN PANCAKES!

Lissie & Grace immediately remembered the annual tradition and eagerly scrambled to the breakfast table to help assemble their delicious creations. From chocolate chip eyes to blueberry buttons, they all turned out delicious! (Except, of course, James's gluten-free buckwheat pancakes that tasted like straw- he still ate them).  A dollop of cool whip added to the sweet, syrupy, sticky mess!

After breakfast, they donned their winter apparel (which of course took FOREVER to find, assemble, and size for each...).  We knew the snow would probably melt by afternoon, so an 8 AM snow-play date made sense.  They made snow angels, threw fluffy snowballs, and loved exploring the snowy mountain scenery.
Snow Angels on the deck!
After defrocking, we curled up by the fire to build with blocks.  James asked Grace to build him a "golf course" and soon we had come up with a fantastic way to pass the time- mini-golf!  We made several different versions with obstacles, ramps, and make-shift (pretend) water traps.

Of course we started some homeschooling after all the fun, but the day had the feel of a holiday.  We attended our first ski swap that evening to get Grace outfitted for her first real "ski season" and went out to a local restaurant for fried clams and ice cream- yum! 

Easy Rule #54354- Take a moment to celebrate the change of seasons- it'll make the pile of snow gear in your hallway more tolerable.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Digesting it All

Jules here-

Though I have alluded to it before, I need to reiterate the reality of my diaper situation: my now-3-year-old-son has chronic diarrhea. It has been three years with only a handful of "normal" diapers to deal with-- imagine the amount of wipes I go through.  If I don't change his diaper within 5 minutes after he destroys it-- his poor Irish bottom because so irritated that I have to forcibly put him in the tub.
Still obsessed with golf..
Now that you are thoroughly grossed out, you may understand the desperation I feel in trying to pinpoint the allergen that terrorizes James's digestive system.  He has an elevated white blood cell count associated with allergens- but so far we can't find the food source. We know he's allergic to dust mites, dogs, cats, walnuts, and barley; he does not consume barley or walnuts on a daily basis. And I hope he's not eating too much dust. Because he's growing so well despite his problems, we have tried elimination diets rather than more invasive procedures.  Here's our journey summed up so far:
Mmm.... lactose free

Lactose Free:
Positives: Lactaid milk substitutes beautifully in cooking.  Cabot Cheddar is naturally lactose free!
Negatives: Expense! Lactaid milk is TWICE as much as regular milk.
Result: Initially an improvement, after 1 week he was back to his normal digestion.
No dairy products at all, including ice cream

Dairy Free:
Positives: Ummmm.... not many.  "Milk" is labeled clearly on most items.  They make dairy free chocolate chips at Trader Joes which is nice. Many people are milk-allergic/sensitive so there are plenty of items.
Negatives: Milk substitutes taste nothing like milk.  I enjoy a vanilla soy milk on my cereal- but drinking it plain- bleck.  The worst milk concoction I came up with was rice milk hot cocoa- it was inedible.  As for "soy cheese" my mom threw it out after tasting it saying, "No one should have to ever eat this. I need to eat something to get that taste out of my mouth."  
Results: Once again, initially (1 month) there was an improvement, but he slowly returned to his baseline status. We stayed dairy free for 8 weeks.
When one kid is dairy-free-- you have to sneak the other ones out for ice cream!
Egg Free:
Positives: Eggs aren't in that much pre-packaged thing. We had to make eggless pancakes (which tasted o.k.) and an eggless birthday cake which tasted pretty normal I think....
Negatives: The simple "breakfast for dinner" scrambled eggs dinner were out the window. Otherwise, this wasn't too hard.
Results: Nada. No change.
soy free rabbit food
Soy Free:
Positives: Labels are labeled "soy free." This was a more "all natural" diet and I would recommend it for anyone who wanted more "whole foods".
Negatives: Wow- soy is in EVERYTHING. Check anything that comes in a box or a bag- it probably has soy: Goldfish, crackers, cereal, breads, snacks, etc.... Soy Lechtin or Soybean oil, or simply Soy.  It made me really question our food supply if it so heavily processed- and I am someone who cooks mostly from scratch!
No bread at all- except for Bertucci trips... who could resist that?

Gluten Free: (Just started this trial 3 days ago)
Positives: Everything is REALLY well-labeled. This is a fad-diet so there are TONS of substitutes for normal food. Whole isles are dedicated to GF products.
Negatives: No bread or pasta. The GF bread runs about $6 for a small loaf, and it's not very good. We are sticking to rice cakes, corn tortillas, and simply no bread.
Results: Pending... we'll find out how is tummy is in a week or two....

Overall challenges and suggestions if you need to do an elimination diet:
1. Making sure my kid isn't hungry. Before each trial I go to pinterest and search recipes, substitutions, etc.  I have snacks/food handy so he can have something all of the time.
2. Have fun substitutes too. James was soy-free on Halloween, so I made sure I had extra starbursts and candy corn for him (he couldn't have any of the chocolate candy). I am blessed that he is SUCH a good sport about not being able to have certain food items (For example, we were at a restaurant that offered free ice cream for kids for dessert, but he was dairy free. I grabbed one of the after-dinner mints and said he could have that instead... he didn't even fuss!!!)
3. Be patient. Elimination diets take time, and it's hard to want to rush the results.  It can be exhausting cooking two breakfasts for your children so one can be allergy-free.
Normal waffles to the left, GF waffles to the right-- you needed A LOT of syrup to swallow them down....
4. Listen to a nutritionist. James's gastroenterologist has a full-time nutritionist to offer suggestions during elimination diets so the child does not miss out on key elements of his/her diets. I know a few parents who take his/her kid off of dairy, and don't even consider the loss of calcium, etc.
5.You are going to screw up. Seriously- you will not be able to be 100% at this-- I am very vigilant about James's nut allergy as he has an anaphylactic reaction-- but a food sensitivity is so subtle that it's hard to keep him from Pizza Hut when the crust might have soy....

 No matter what-- James has been a great sport about his elimination diets and he often asks, "Wait, am I dairy free still?" Or, "Can I have tootsie pop or does it have soy?" And surprisingly he reacts well when I tell him yes or no to each item.  Though he still is quite wary of milk (I tried 4 different varieties to get him to drink milk during the dairy free time) and he'll ask, "Is this Grace's milk? Or James's milk?" and he hesitates to drink it...

Easy Rule #87979- Don't ever complain about other children's annoying allergies, because God might want to teach you a lesson in empathy. I've learned my lesson all to well.

Easy Rule #3535- "Dairy-Free Cheese" does not exist. It's never a good idea.

And a HAPPY ONE YEAR BIRTHDAY to my adorable nephew CHARLIE!! (And happy birthday to his mom too-- she was blessed with a baby on her b-day last year!!):

Looking like a cabbage patch kid

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Homemade Halloween-- and Birthday

Jules here-

Alas, with the move, house-hunting, homeschooling, holiday and working-- I have been greatly neglectful in writing blog posts (and yes, Ems has her own list of lame excuses too...). Our biggest fans have unrelentingly pestered us, so here it is :)

First, I have lovely pictures on my camera-- but I cannot find my camera cord to download the them; I may have put it in storage. For now, I am relying on my fantastic friends and family to help film the important moments, and you'll have to use your imagination too... 

Halloween 2013 Fantastic Used Costumes = Free
Throughout the years, I have been so blessed with hand-me-downs, consignments store finds, and garage sale deals-- that I have never purchased a costume at full-retail price.  After moving away from my local-haunts, I had to go to Wal-Mart. UM--- $25 for a kid's costume?!? Seriously? At best, I could spend $10 per kid on generic, skimpy costumes that we would have to layer so much that they would be unrecognizable as we traipsed around the chilly neighborhood. 

Of course, I turned to Pinterest for help.  After scouring "last-minute-kid's-cheap-costume-ideas", I had some simple ideas on a "how-to".  I saw a simple tunic-style cut-out of a pumpkin which inspired me (follow the link if you want the how-to on that one)

DIY Halloween: No-Sew Pumpkin Costume (in under 10 minutes for under $10). A great last-minute kid's Halloween costume from
Follow this link for instructions:

After seeing the simple felt pullover, I was inspired (mostly by the cost of "real" costumes), to totally create hand-made costumes.  Armed only with $12 and my hot glue gun, I headed to Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store to create 3 costumes without sewing, in two days. Grace decided she wanted to be the sun, so naturally I made James the moon, and Lissie a fluffy cloud (mostly because I had this awesome hand-me-down hat she could wear):

Obviously I did not make our friend's Ninja Turtle costume...
I purchased 4 sheets (paper-sized) white felt, 4 sheets of yellow felt, 2 yards of black felt (I think background blue for the sun & cloud would have been nice, but that would have cost another $6 to purchase them separately), dollar store hats & mittens, and I made my own face paint.  I used cotton balls for the cloud and we also glitter-glued sparkle over the sun & moon.  The kids liked helping glue the cotton balls on, adding "bling", an watching me hot-glue the outfits.  PLUS- the kids could wear regular clothes (including jackets) and have their arms free for holding candy!

Though I was proud of our make-shift Halloween costume-making, when I arrived at the library story time, one mom had sewn an exact replica of Little Red Riding Hood's dress AND cloak.... so my hot-glued cotton balls looked a tad shabby-- but who cares- it's Halloween and just plain fun!

The day after Halloween is not only All Saint's Day-- it's also James's birthday! I no longer have a terrible-two year old, I have a still-not-potty-trained THREE year old!! Of course, he wanted a golf-themed cake, and we took him bowling of the first time with friends.  He LOVED it.

James's Golf Cake
The flags were toothpicks with construction paper (Grace made them), the big golf ball and tee are real. The sand traps were graham crackers, and the mini-golf balls were white sixlet candy.
Big Guy is Three!
I cannot sew, I'm not very fancy, but I managed to pull off Halloween AND a birthday, and blogging about it-- kudos to me :)

Easy Rule #11111- You don't need fancy costumes or a lot of money for kids to enjoy holidays.

Easy Rule #45456- The best way to start out a candy-focused holiday is to start the sugar-indulgences before breakfast.

I think we need a sugar-detox