Bed Rest Can Make You Crazy

by Leila on May 5, 2014

Bed Rest Makes You Crazy

These are things that I’ve learned while on bed rest so far…

When you are laying down and balancing objects in the air with your feet – because you may get so bored you do that – make sure you don’t use anything heavy just in case they accidentally fall on your face.

Everything on the ground that you can’t pick up bugs the shit out of you.

Dropping food on the floor can feel like the end of the world… and it is.

Your children may figure out if they all hide in another room, away from you, they can try to get away with things they aren’t supposed to be doing – like watching movies on their iPads or playing online games when they are supposed to be doing homework.

When you don’t text friends back (because you took a nap) for a long time after texting them something like, “I’m feeling really horrible today.” they may freak out a little and/or just show up at your house to make sure you are okay.

Said friends won’t think it’s as funny as you do when you laugh about it.

You aren’t as intimidating as a parent when you can’t get up from your bed rest position. Threatening to throw pillows just makes kids laugh. They will keep all heavy objects away from you… just in case.

Your internal dialog isn’t as internal as it once was. You start to have a deeper understanding of the relationship Tom Hanks had with “Wilson” in Castaway. Bed rest makes your bed, recliner, couch or hospital bed feel like your own secluded island.

Stacking small objects and balancing them on your forehead is really entertaining.

You may find yourself daydreaming about when you used to be able to drive and listen to music. Traffic seems like a welcome vacation from bed rest.

When/If you are able to leave your house for a short amount of time you totally understand why dogs stick their heads out the window. Also, people will look at you crazy when you imitate a happy dog in the passenger seat… and you do not care.

Pregnancy hormones and bed rest can create completely irrational angry reactions to simple things.

The silence of an empty house makes you crazy. The noise your amazing family creates in your house makes you crazy. Most days you are crazy.

When you are nesting and cannot physically do the things your hormonal body wants you to then you will make everyone in the house crazy.

Laying on your back and throwing objects in the air may, or may not, have the same results as balancing objects on your feet.

Some days are more difficult than others but, some days are still so awesome you forget you are on bedrest and why. Focusing on that makes you less stabby.

You may develop and allergy to people’s bullshit and drama.

For every really freaking mind boggling annoying thing your family does you find dozens of amazing things that they do to prevent you from plotting their doom.

Every milestone is a huge sigh of relief. Every week you get further along the easier it gets. Each and every damn day is cause of celebration… and no matter where you are on the timeline of bed rest you are further than you started.

If you are reading this because you are on bed rest just remember – You are doing the most important job you can right now… You are incubating your baby. Everything else doesn’t matter and don’t let any amount of frustration, annoyance, drama or negativity take away from that. There will be many low moments, and that is expected. It will be over before you know it…

Just don’t make a habit of balancing things on your feet and accidentally dropping them on your face.

It hurts.

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WTF Did You Say?! About Boobie Pillows

by Leila on May 4, 2014

WTF Did You Say?!

One night, my son said to me …

“I love snuggling with you, Mommy. Your heartbeat makes me happy and I like to listen to it. Its the best music. And your chest is soft and snugly like a fluffy pillow… Made of… boobies. Are there boobie pillows??? Those would be the best ever! Can I ask santa for boobie pillows!?”

And I almost died laughing.

Kids are funny.

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Funny Pregnancy Pics

Life is so unpredictable.

I’m the type of person that likes everything laid out. I like understanding all the possibilities so I can plan accordingly. Living in a constant state of unknowns is not easy for me. This has been the reality of my existence for the past few months.

My appointment this morning went better than expected, especially after the terrifying dog attack yesterday, my unexpected fetal monitoring in the hospital last week, and all the unknowns I’ve been dealing with. I was still with a lot of what ifs but even more relief.

Before we began the ultrasound I told my doctor that I was suspecting that she was now breech. She paused and said “I pretty much expect every possible worst case scenario to pop up with this pregnancy so I bet you are right! This one is going to be your troublemaker… she’s already keeping us on our toes…” she grinned at me and I told her if I was a betting woman I could have made some money on this. As soon as she touched the ultrasound probe toward my cervix we both saw feet and laughed. We seriously laughed a lot. I probably shouldn’t have laughed because it’s very serious stuff if she doesn’t turn. She was shaking her head and thanked me for having such a great sense of humor.

What else can I do? Honestly, the breech at 31 weeks is the least of my concern with everything else.

The biggest concern of vasa previa that was going to cause a mandatory early c-section between 34 – 36 weeks has been ruled out. It’s. Been. Ruled. OUT. The membranes that were exposed are not visible anymore. The blood flow in the umbilical cord is healthy. My placenta moving up which also caused no more membranes and/or umbilical cord to block my cervix. Oh and the placenta itself isn’t blocking my cervix either! I’m honestly not used to the small statistic of BEST case scenario working in my favor… it’s usually the opposite. I will freaking take this change, gladly!

At around twenty three weeks we thought I was going to deliver a micro preemie because of vasa previa and placenta previa. I was bleeding, contracting and showing all the signs. I was stuck on bed rest and dealing with all the scary possibilities. My cervix was completely covered with the placenta and umbilical cord and membranes. We looked at the scans and the progression was amazing to see… like the evolution of my pregnancy. It was truly the best possible scenario.

My doctor said “Normally, these two things being resolved naturally would mean life can go back to normal… but…”

Always a but…

I also have had a placental abruption (we don’t know how bad of one it is) and with my daughter being breeched, after my “she-hulk” moment, I have to continue to stay on modified bed rest. DOH.

However, the risk of a stillbirth have dropped significantly. The risk of my health has also dropped… though, with an abruption there is still a lot of concern but the vasa previa had a much higher mortality rate. It’s trading the lesser of two evils but I’m relieved.

What we do know right now is that she is very healthy. I’m losing weight but she is gaining again. She is measuring at approximately 4lbs and “seems very long”. She is a little bit bigger than expected at this point and that is a good thing compared to the last scan when she was showing to be very small.

It is also possible I may not have to get a c-section. It is also possible I may carry to full term without risks. Neither of these things were a possibility just a couple weeks ago. A couple weeks ago I was having to prepare with the possibility of having a premature daughter and hospital bed rest. Now, these things are not ruled out completely just yet but they aren’t mandatory. 

This has been the hardest few months of my life. Right now I’m so relieved I want to dance around like a happy drunken monkey. I can’t. But, I want to. 

For months I’ve been telling myself, “I’ve got this…” but now I’m really feeling it… and I have many amazing supportive people to thank through all of this.

I’m due on June 11th and have two months left. I’m hoping the final stretch of this pregnancy is smooth sailing. I was in a lot of pain today and still not feeling like my usual self, but I slept most of the day and woke up feeling like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

It’s a damn good change of pace. I’m thankful for it.

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I’m an animal lover, but I am also very cautious of them. I’ve always taught my kids what to do if a dog attacks them or how to behave around dogs. It is a constant lesson that I try to reiterate to them. When we are hiking and camping they are all quizzed about the predatory animals in the area and how to avoid problems. As much as you prepare for a worst case scenario you don’t ever really expect it to happen with your kids… at least I didn’t.

Yesterday the kids had their normal routine of playing out front with friends and neighborhood kids. I got a recliner chair for the porch so I can sit outside with them while on bed rest. My friend and I were talking when my neighbor drove by and I saw he had a new dog. I noticed the dog right away because it started to bark at the kids and even tried to get out of the van by jumping out of the window. It kept its eyes on the kids, barking the whole time and my instincts told me this was going to be bad.

Everything happened fast…

I stood up and kept my eye on the van. As soon as my neighbor opened the door the dog bolted for the kids. I was running towards the kids at the same time and yelling at the top of my lungs before anyone really knew what was going on. The dog’s fur was standing up, it started biting at the kids who were trying to run away and it knocked my son off of his wiggle bike. I was only a couple steps away when he started to bite my son’s back. The dog backed away as soon as I got close but it was biting at me, barking and I was expecting it to attack me. I made noise. I grabbed my terrified six year old son in one arm to hold him up as high as I could and had his wiggle bike in the other hand. My daughter said it looked like I was going to start hitting the dog with the bike. The dog backed off when my neighbor finally got close but the dog never stopped his aggressive stance. My son was crying and I was still screaming at my neighbor. I don’t even know what was said but all I knew was that I was truly terrified and it was a feeling almost unknown to me.

It was all honestly a blur.

Thankfully my son’s injuries weren’t bad. He has scratches, bruising and a few puncture marks where you can see the dog bit him. I was grateful that I go there in time. I was relieved the dog didn’t go after the 17 month old toddler who was outside. I was happy no real harm had come to any of the kids. I cannot imagine how bad it could have been had I not reacted so quickly.

Instincts and adrenaline are a funny thing… I reacted before I even really knew what I was reacting to. My body has been in a lot of pain with this pregnancy and I usually can’t even get up off of the couch without wincing. I felt nothing during all of this.

When the adrenaline subsided and I stopped shaking that’s when my body started to let me know how bad of shape I felt I was in. My son was okay but I became aware of what this could have done to my unborn daughter because of all my complications. I thought I felt terror when I saw a dog going after my son… this was a different level of fear.

The more time that went on the more pain I felt. I had a check up in the morning and we had planned on doing an ultrasound. If any of the big scary signs came up I knew I needed to get to the hospital immediately. I did fetal kick counts. I changed positions every time I started to have contractions. I tried to hide it from the kids how bad I felt and I waited for any signs of distress. Besides all of the pain everything seemed to be mostly okay. My abdomen felt completely different. She had been transverse for a couple weeks and after the incident she was sitting really low. It was painful. I felt like I was being stabbed from the inside of my lower girly parts. I spent the night tossing and turning and worried that I was going to go into early labor or that the membranes from the vasa previa would rupture or that the placenta abruption was going to become worse. Every worst case scenario was running through my head.

When I’m in a moment of real vulnerability I usually withdraw. I usually just kind of hide out and wait for the smoke to clear. I was really shaken up and put it out there what happened. I’m thankful for all the friends and family who were thinking about us, giving support and offered help.

It helped. A lot.

I read a lot of the comments from my Facebook and texts to my son and it comforted him. I often have a lot of apprehension about sharing difficult things with my rad people online because it’s not attention driven. I was well into my pregnancy complications diagnosis and bed rest before I shared it with anyone outside of a small group of friends and family. What I share I usually try to have some kind of meaning – humor, inspiration, awareness or uh mostly humor. One thing that I have learned with my pregnancy complications that the great world of the interwebs is more than we often give it credit for… it is a place of amazing support and awesomeness. And to be totally cheesy – love. Sure, there is a lot of hate bashing and parent shaming that goes around but I try to tune out all that noise and focus on the things that don’t suck.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that you all rock and I’m thankful for it.

Though, I would really like a totally uneventful, uninteresting and BORING life until my baby ninja arrives! 

My son snuggled with me all night, he woke up a few times crying about dogs and I took comfort in knowing he was okay until my appointment in the morning…

Thankfully, everything with my baby and pregnancy was okay. (Continued on another post)

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Making the Most Out of Bed Rest

by Leila on March 20, 2014

Bonding Moments on Bed Rest

He insists on snuggling with his baby sister daily.

One of the biggest hurdles during bed rest has been not being able to bond with my family the way I am used to. It’s really hard at times, but we try our best to get through it.

I’m the type of Mom that would love to drop everything and go camping for the weekend.

I’m the Mom that will say, “Let’s go to an amusement park for dinner!”…

I’m the Mom that will gladly invite all of the kid’s friends over and have play dates, pool parties or let them run amok like wee little lunatics.

I’m temporarily the Mom on bed rest that can’t do any of the things that I am used to and I am thankful that our family has mostly adjusted well. 

The priority, of course, is keeping my daughter cooking as long as possible, but I need to also consider my other kids. I’ve learned to accept that things are different right now and look forward to when we can go back to our usual crazy life after she is born. I’ve researched and planned about three dozen camping trips already!

We bought a double recliner last week so I could be comfortable while having snuggle time with the kids or to be able to sit with them and help them with homework. It’s been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made and it’s helped bed rest significantly.

Bonding on Bed Rest

We read together more. We make origami. We draw, paint and make crafts. My six year old loves making journal books that we put together. We find ways to bond while taking life one day at a time in a more mellow setting. We talk about the summer often, I think it helps everyone look ahead.

I get drawings like these that make my heart melt – Does anyone else notice how terrified my son looks in his own drawing?

Bonding on Bed Rest

When I am on my feet and trying to take a prego belly selfie I get photobombed by my daughter… because she can’t help her hilarious self.

Prego belly selfie photobombed

For now, I’ve realized I’m the Mom that finds different ways to bond with my kids while not physically doing much on bed rest. That rocks just as much as us going on an adventure. Life, as always, is what you make of it… and I refuse to allow it to suck just because I can’t go out and do what I want with my family.

Live, laugh and ninja kick – and invest into a super comfy chair if you are able to while on bed rest.

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A Huge Pregnancy Bed Rest Milestone…

by Leila on March 19, 2014

Pregnancy Bed Rest Milestones

This pic was taken a few days ago after a really tough day.

My son always knows how to make things better.

We made it to the third freaking trimester!!!!

In early January I casually announced my pregnancy with an illustration of a big family with a baby ninja. In late January I found out I was having a girl and I was told to take it very easy until I had my follow up with my doctor. I was put on modified bed rest days later.

I started out with “just take it easy” modified bed rest to “don’t do much of anything” bed rest. I may end up on hospital bed rest if my symptoms don’t improve and each day my body is reminding me to do less and less. It’s frustrating but I am staying positive, keeping busy and taking it one day at a time.

When I started down this bed rest and pregnancy complications road I was 20 weeks. The statistics were scary at that time… if my daughter had been born at that point she would have had a less than 40% survival. I was losing blood, contracting and had all sorts of bad things going on. Bed rest has helped tame my angry uterus to keep my lil baby ninja cooking.

The first big goal was to make it to the third trimester. That seemed like a lifetime away and at times seemed impossible.

Today I said goodbye to my second trimester and welcomed the third. We are in the home stretch now. We are at a point where my daughter’s chances of survival are greater if she had to arrive today.

If I could dance right now I would be doing a super happy monkey dance while singing “Just keep cooking”.

I have no idea where the last 8 weeks have gone and I hope the next 8 fly by as smoothly. I’m so grateful to be where we are right now and surrounded by amazing and supportive people. Our world is full of awesomeness.

We got this, my baby girl… just keep cooking and Mommy and Daddy will see you soon. Don’t rush it, keep incubating and stop trying to play the congos on my cervix, please.

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Waiting for his sister

Except.

That word isn’t something you want to hear when you are at a prenatal checkup. It paralyzes you as it continues to echo in your ears.

Except… except… except…

There is no amount of delicate bedside manner that can make a blow like that any less painful.

It’s just one word. One freaking word that halts you.

Except would be an amazing word if it was followed up with something like…

Except, she’s wearing a ninja mask.

Except, you are further along than expected, she’s going to be delivered today healthy and painlessly. Yay, no more pregnancy!

Except, we found a million dollars while we were examining you. Here is your cash – cleaned up and sterilized of course.

Oh that last one painted a weird visual. Sorry, everyone.

In the fraction of a second all of this ran through my head as soon as my doctor said “Except…”

Yes, even the bit about the million dollars. My mind has strange coping mechanisms for stress.

I have placenta previa – which means the placenta is too close to my cervix and that makes natural delivery complicated – this is pretty common and not a big concern.

But… there is always a freaking but… in addition to that I also have vasa previa – which means there are vessels that aren’t in the right place, and are exposed, which means there is a possibility of them rupturing which puts my baby at risk. If there is a rupture I could lose her within minutes. That right there makes every other insignificant complaint I could have possibly had irrelevant.

Thankfully, this was all caught early and doesn’t pose a developmental concern. She can keep cooking until it’s time for a c-section (which I haven’t had one before) and be out of harms way so long as there isn’t a rupture. Vasa previa is very rare, hard to diagnose and not preventable. I feel like those three things are a common theme in my life when it comes to health hurdles my 11 year old daughter. When it is caught early that increases her chances of survival which is all I can focus on right now. As always, I have to make the most out of the cards I was dealt while trying not to freak out.

I’m on modified bed rest until, what feels like, the end of time and space. This isn’t easy for someone like me who is constantly going. I have to reduce my stress, which resulted in some massive purging of negative people and situations in my life that I refuse to waste energy on. I have had to become comfortable asking friends and family for help. I have to fight everything that is naturally me by slamming down my brakes and doing what is best for my daughter who needs to “Just keep cooking”. I’m at a point where the stress doesn’t consume me because I’ve had to force myself to get there. It’s not easy since I usually reduce my stress by finding solutions and the only solution is that I sit, wait and hope for the best.

I’ve made a long list of projects I’ve procrastinated on so I can keep busy. I cannot sit around and watch TV or play games all day because that weighs me down. I have to feel productive at the end of the day even if I can’t physically do everything I am used to doing. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, living in fear of losing my daughter, or complaining about this situation I am going to spend the next few months accomplishing all I can while sitting on my butt.

I almost didn’t share this news. It’s taken me weeks to decide to go “public” with it. It feels different when I share hurdles that I help my loved ones overcome compared to something that is about me. I get very uncomfortable when I’m not 100% and this isn’t the sort of attention I like. I also don’t like to cause anyone stress. Above all, I absolutely hate feeling vulnerable.

I would rather avoid the subject and then months later casually mention, “Oh and by the way, I was on bed rest for 4 months and couldn’t really hang out… sooo, whatcha wanna eat?!”

The friends I’ve known for a long time can probably go on for hours about all those “Oh and by the way” moments I have thrown at them after the fact. Sorry, guys! (Insert evil laughter here)

The reason I changed my mind is because I’ve realized there are a lot of parents who are, or have been, in the same boat as I am. Those parents who have had to play the waiting game and hope that their babies keep cooking as long as possible are more common than I ever realized.

We all want to have healthy and thriving babies, and we try not to think about those worst case scenarios. But, what I have learned in this past month is that there is so much strength in embracing these challenges and taking comfort in the miraculous success stories. I’m choosing to share what I’m going through so I can not only explain why I may pick up obsessive habits like making hats, but, to also connect with others who are finding themselves in a similar situation. Maybe my experience will provide some comfort or raise awareness no matter what the outcome.

I started this blog with the intention of sharing my “Nothing can hold me back” attitude and I plan to do just that with this situation as well. I’ve had several friends express how inspiring I am when life throws obstacles in my way. Truthfully, I don’t see myself as inspiring… I just try to get through every crazy situation with the least amount of damage while focusing on the kickassery times that are just beyond the struggle.

It is going to be a long road. I am hoping for the best while making the most out of each day while my daughter continues to cook in there and uses my ribs and abdomen as punching bags.

Live, laugh and ninja kick to happiness. Always.

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Food Allergies and Classroom Parties

There are a couple food allergy misconceptions I want to clear up with this post.

The first is that peanuts are NOT the only food allergy that can be life threatening. I don’t understand why this is a common assumption. Yes, peanuts are harder to control because the proteins that cause the allergic reaction can become airborne which is a total nightmare.

Peanuts are harder to manage because of the airborne aspect. People who are allergic to peanuts tend to have more frequent breakouts because avoidance is trickier than with something like milk. However, they are not the only fatal food allergy.

Any food allergy can potentially become fatal. Yes. Any.

That is the second thing I want to clear up when it comes to food allergies. If any food allergy can potentially become fatal, and there is no way to predict when a food allergy can become fatal, therefore all food allergies should be taken seriously.

To me, that logic is sound. However, not everyone will agree.

How Do People Die From Food Allergies?

Let me explain how people die from food allergies. An anaphylactic reaction can start out like any other food allergy response, but it turns for the worst very quickly. The body starts forming hives and swelling internally and under the skin – that is called angioedema. Air passages are blocked off and the reaction can suffocate the person within minutes. The only thing that can stop an anaphylactic reaction is an injection of epinephrine aka epi-pen. It is adrenaline that rapidly reduces the symptoms.

My daughter has, unfortunately, gone into anaphylactic shock one time in her life and that day will always haunt me. I almost lost her that day and the swelling was so horrible I didn’t even recognize her.

The only way to prevent an anaphylactic reaction is by complete avoidance. That seems easy but it isn’t as straightforward as that in a world that revolves around food.

The first time someone is exposed to a food that becomes an allergy it is because the immune system has decided that food is the enemy. The body thinks that food is something harmful and it freaks out by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Our immune system is what protects our body from harm and in the case of food allergies our immune system is being a bit paranoid – no one knows why some people’s immune systems develop allergies, and no one understands why the magnitude of the reaction varies so much.

If you know about Oral Immunotherapy that is a different topic that involves a clinical setting, initiated and controlled by a board-certified allergist and immunologist over a long period of time. Exposure to a food allergy in a clinical setting is a different circumstance than being exposed sporadically. Oral Immunotherapy is not something anyone does without a doctor overseeing it’s progression. I just want to clarify the difference so there isn’t a misunderstanding of the two.

The only way to stop your body from freaking out and creating IgE’s that cause allergic reactions is by avoiding sporadic exposure. No exposures = no angry antibodies. If your body is not being exposed to that allergen then it has nothing to attack.

Imagine your body is like a castle and your immune system is the castle’s defense system. The IgE’s are the soldiers who attack invaders. The more times your castle is attacked the more you build up your defenses. You reinforce your borders with more soldiers, your soldiers are on high alert and may be a little spazzy. You are expecting battle and ready to attack these enemies every time they poke their heads up on the horizon. If this battle continues to happen over, and over, and over, and over then your body keeps building up the IgE’s.

Continually putting your defense system on alert can result in an uncontrollable and devastating battle.

That is where anaphylactic shock comes into the picture.

Peaceful times in your body creates peaceful antibody soldiers.

The theory is that the more avoidance you have the more your soldiers chill out and it is possible they “forget” that something was an enemy. The longer you go without exposure the less paranoid and strained your defense system becomes. Studies have shown that you are more likely to “grow out” of an allergy if you do not have sporadic exposures. Studies have also shown that the more you expose your body to an allergen the more you increase the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction.

When someone tells me they, or their loved one, has a food allergy I cannot help but stress the importance of strict avoidance. Just a bite of a “mild” food allergy and some benadryl can do more harm than good in the long run. It’s just not worth pushing it even if it is not easy.

When my daughter was an infant, and she was allergic to well over twenty foods that were all possibly life threatening, I was told it would be improbable to avoid all of her allergens to allow her IgE levels to lower. Notice I did not say impossible. I was just told it would be too difficult. It has been difficult but it hasn’t been impossible and we have been quite successful despite a few battles. Our lifestyle is creating a safe home environment and careful measures outside of the home to minimize her exposure. It is not easy but it is what’s best for her.

We have been, mostly, successful. When she has had an unfortunate exposure it sets her back weeks and even months. I see the difference every time she has an allergic reaction – She has a reaction and her body becomes so obviously on alert that the slightest exposure after causes a more severe reaction every time until her body calms down again.

She is now eleven and her food allergy count is down to five. She still has insanely elevated IgE levels but she is improving. It is unclear what exactly has caused her to “lose” some allergens, but we do know that strict avoidance has significantly helped her IgE levels improve. We know that her food allergies can continue to improve or they can change for the worst any day. We just make the most of it and appreciate what we have that day.

The wild card in the deck of allergies is that continuous exposure isn’t the only way a food allergy can go from mild to worse. The scariest thing about food allergies is that you never know when an exposure to an allergen is going to be mild or fatal. One day you can have the sniffles. The next time your airways could close and the only thing that will save your life is with an epi-pen. On the other hand you can have twenty days of sniffles and never need an epi-pen.

You just never know.

But, I Don’t Have To Worry About Food Allergies… Or Do I? Should I?

Anyone can also develop a food allergy at any point in their life without warning. It happens more often than you may assume.

I’ve grown up with mild food allergies. I used to only react to pork and on a very minor scale. I would have to eat an entire ham in order to have any reaction. When I was a teenager I ate Mahi Mahi for the first time and broke out in hives. About ten years after that I ate it again and had a horrible reaction, when I was on a camping trip, after eating one bite. Two years ago I started to react to shellfish. I had never had a shellfish reaction before that day. I was actually on a blogger trip to Santa Barbara as a guest of Toyota and we were eating at an amazing seafood restaurant on the pier. The reaction came on quickly and I thankfully had benadryl on hand because it’s always in my purse due to my daughter’s food allergies. It wasn’t a horrible reaction but my lips swelled up and I broke out in hives. My friend’s and I kind of joked about it all because I looked like a cartoon character but I took it very serious. I completely avoid shellfish now.

A lot of people feel burdened by the increasing number of food allergies. Food allergies being managed at school, and especially over classroom birthday parties, is a huge topic of debate. It is a topic that has strong dividing lines that are exhausting for families of kids with food allergies. Some people feel so strongly against food allergy accommodations that they feel there should be specialized schools for kids with food allergies or they should all be homeschooled. Some people are of the opinion that the only food allergies that are worth accommodating are those that are deemed “severe”.

The problem with that line of thought is no one has an idea when a reaction will go from mild to severe. What causes a runny nose today could kill a child tomorrow.

The other problem with that line of thought is that anyone can become allergic at any time even those that have no family history of food allergies. So, someone screaming for their non-food allergic child’s rights could easily find themselves on the other side of the fence.

Someone could eat something like cashews without any issues their entire life and, without warning, go into an anaphylactic reaction from just one bite.

I will never be okay with or agree with the attitude of excluding, discriminating or punishing those with disabilities. Yes, some people feel that if it isn’t their problem then they shouldn’t have to deal with it. Some people feel that their right over eating what they want is more important than the right of a person with burdening food allergies. The attitude of “Suck it up and deal with not being able to eat the food you want.” can go both ways.

I would rather be known for the person who shows compassion, empathy and looks beyond my own selfish impulses rather than the exact opposite.

It is important that the world develops a little more compassion, patience and understanding about food allergies because while it seems like someone else’s problem… it could very easily become something that changes your life, or the life of a loved one, with just one bite.

We do not push for accommodations outside of school. We opt out of a lot of activities, celebrations and birthday parties. I host mot family gatherings because I do not want to burden anyone with her food allergies and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel guilt if they mess up. We have cut and distanced ourselves from many people who just don’t get it and don’t want to. That is our choice. We do have some of the most amazing friends in our lives who go above and beyond to make sure my daughter is safe and I appreciate them so much. For every selfish, bitter and entitled person who have encountered I am thankful that there are a dozen of the opposite in their place. These hurdles have made my daughter a wonderful, empathetic and strong young lady who appreciates genuinely rad people in her life.

It doesn’t take much for one person to consider the life, well being and care of another person over themselves despite the excuses they may have. One act of compassion may be a burden in a moment of time for one person but it is, literally, worth a lifetime for the person who’s life could end.

I hope more people choose compassion over selfishness.

I hope more people choose life over a death cupcake in the classroom.

Thank you for taking the time and stopping by. My daughter reads my blog and has a lot of input on what I write about when it involves her. I do moderate comments that are extremely hateful because she doesn’t need that and this our space. I’m happy to debate and hopefully enlighten. She does appreciate all of the kind words and general awesomeness and we do our best to laugh off the … yanno, other stuff.

Live, laugh and ninja kick. 

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food allergies and classroom parties

Photo Credit: Amazing and Atopic – THANK YOU!

After the interwebs uproar over everyone’s right (or not) to party in the classroom I decided to finish this article I started writing awhile ago. This is all about how I manage my child’s food allergies in the classroom when it comes to classroom parties. My daughter is now in middle school and through her elementary school years we learned a lot on how to help her teacher’s manage food allergies in the classroom. My son is now in the first grade and his allergies are managed completely differently because his are not as severe.

Every child is different. Every school, school district and teacher is different. These are just general tips to help provide some alternatives to help ease the potential classroom wars over “death cupcakes”.

These tips may also help those with special medical related dietary restrictions as well.

Know Your Situation and Educate Yourself

Your biggest asset and ammunition is going to be empowering yourself with education. Become very informed, knowledgeable and make sure you are clear on the misinformation out there. The more informed you are the better you are able to appropriately advocate for your child.

The first thing you should ask yourself and your child’s doctor is, “How severe is the risk?” – Yes, there is a huge difference between an anaphylactic reaction and an upset stomach. It is important that you always act appropriately in the best interest of your child.

Food Allergies and Classroom Parties

If your child needs an epi-pen then proceed appropriately and know your rights. A life threatening reaction needs extra steps and care to make the classroom manageable and safe. You will want to look into a 504 Plan and discuss it with your child’s doctor. A 504 Plan includes accommodations so that your child has safe access to all school activities in public and even most private schools. It will also include an emergency and health plan to ensure that your child’s needs are met in case of an allergic reaction. With a 504 plan it legally protects your child under the ADA American’s with Disabilities Act. It will become your trump card in situations where you may find yourself frustrated with the lack of accommodations or support from other parents, teachers and even faculty.

If your child has a disability that can be triggered by food then this can also apply towards your situation. Again, seek the advice of a medical professional.

In some situations your child may be best suited with an IDEA plan or IEP. There is a lot of information out there on the differences between all of these accommodations so I am not going to go into too much detail about them.

I also suggest speaking to a local advocacy program that can inform you of your child’s rights within your school district and county. I’ve worked with a couple and they were a plethora of information.

If your child’s food allergies or dietary restrictions are not life threatening that does NOT mean you do not have rights or that you cannot find appropriate accommodations. You will probably have an easier time if your child’s food allergies or dietary restrictions aren’t life threatening – at least that is what I have experienced with my son’s needs compared to my daughters.

No matter what category you are in you should know the following:

What are all of your child’s food allergies?

How does your child need to avoid these allergens? Airborne? Contact? Ingestion?

What medications does your child take?

What are the type of reactions your child has?

How does your child describe their reactions?

Does your child know their medications, dosage and how to administer them properly?

You will want to discuss these things with an allergist and work out the details on what is the best approach for your child. To be perfectly honest – a parent’s opinion doesn’t hold as much weight as a doctor’s request. You will want your child’s medical team to chime in on these facts so that any hurdles along the way you can have that added protection. Don’t expect your doctor to do all of the work for you but they can be a safety net, resource and support system.

After you have a clear picture of what your child needs at school it is time to find out what policies are in place with the school district and school. Sometimes a lot of the concerns you may have are easily resolved without having to do much work.

For example: Many school districts ban classroom food related parties or classroom parties in general. For some reason a lot of people like to blame food allergy families. However, this has a lot more to do with taking away classroom instruction time, liability and education disruption. Holiday parties are also a topic of debate so many schools have opted to remove classroom parties to make it fair for all. If this policy is in place then, hopefully, the school complies with the district policies and that removes any of the battles for parties inside the classroom.

Of course some schools or teachers ignore these types of policies and will allow things to slide. That is why becoming informed is important and proceeding in the way that suits your circumstances.

Some schools ban allergies and are very food allergy friendly. Some schools have found themselves in the news because parents have asked for a child with food allergies to be homeschooled. It is all situational and test scores become the least of our worries when we start evaluating a school for our food sensitive children.

You may wonder what the best method is to gather the information on policies. I go directly to the school district, nursing services and special needs department first. Most schools have the information posted publicly or you can request policies.

Then I approach the school. If you know your child and can explain your situation clearly and show an understanding of school policies and procedures it makes the world of difference.

There is a big difference between what some parents may feel they should get, what their child is legally entitled to and what is possible. Unfortunately, many uninformed and unreasonable parents have made headlines and created big waves demanding accommodations that aren’t possible which can make it difficult to create that clean slate for your child. Yes, we want our children to be safe, included and happy but there is a balance and work goes along with achieving this. It starts with us.

If you act like a crazy freakaziod parent you will probably be treated like one.

Treat everyone at that school as if they are a part of your team and you are all in this together. It is not you and your child against them. Be patient, understanding and strong. I cannot emphasize that enough.

My daughter’s first principal is one of my favorite people on this planet and I mean that sincerely. He was such an amazing amount of support for her. We learned a lot together on our road of managing her very specific, severe and difficult allergies at school. That was a relationship that grew over time and if I acted like a jerkface I am sure it wouldn’t have played out the way it did. Not to say he didn’t see me have some very bad, angry and on the verge of losing my mind moments but the point is that I went into it as this person is my ally – not my enemy. It worked out.

You won’t always find supportive faculty staff. That is just the reality of it. Even if food allergies weren’t a factor there are just some people on the school grounds that you seriously wonder why they are even allowed to be around children. You have to accept that and just know how to work around some people’s quirks and know who you can rely on. You will not be able to get everyone on the team of food allergy awesomeness but you can figure out how to work with them anyway.

Always show genuine appreciation for those on your team who get it and have your back and hopefully you will find more awesome team members than sucky ones.

I also suggest doing all of this before your child begins school. Start early, prepare long before most kids enter school and before you start going to kindergarten tours. It is also good to get the ball rolling early so that the school may be able to place your child with a teacher that doesn’t have a heavily food focused program or one that is just known for being especially accommodating for special needs. It is better to get matched to the right teacher for your child than try to change one who is the worst match possible.

Believe me, I know this from experience.

In the Classroom – Teachers Rock

Your child’s teacher is going to become one of the most important people in your lives for that entire school year. When your baby isn’t with you he/she will be with their teacher. That teacher has anywhere from twenty to well over thirty other students to take care of, wrangle, educate and inspire. Teaching is not an easy job and I respect my teacher friends and family completely because they deal with more insanity than we can’t even imagine.

I’m not a butt kissing kind of person. I’m too authentic for that. I’ve had anywhere from texting/facebooking/socializing friendships with my kid’s teachers to cordial volunteering and holiday gifts relationships. I bring this up because I’ve seen on forums that parents should bribe and kiss a teachers butt for preferential treatment.

I’m against this whole butt kissing to get what you want attitude in school completely. I do think you can respect a teacher, be helpful and adore everything they do without being a fake sycophant.

Having said all that I do think that parents should be exceptionally generous to our rockin teachers when it comes to gifts. Why? Simply because they deserve it not because parents should be crawling up their butts.

What does a teacher really need from you?

Patience first and support next. Your child’s teacher is going to be the person who is going to have to be the buffer between other parents and the classroom. If there is any flack for policies or accommodations because of your child’s food allergies then the teacher is going to get it. The teacher is going to need you to be patience and supportive in any way you can. Sometimes things may become difficult for you, your child and the teacher so they are going to need you as much as you need them. It’s not easy to advocate for one in a crowd of thirty even if it is their job.

If possible volunteer as much as you can and especially during field trips and class parties. Don’t be a pest about it but be present, helpful and full of awesomeness.

You will want to discuss how your child’s teacher manages food related parties in the classroom.

What is the policy on classroom party or holiday celebrations?

What about birthday parties?

If parties are allowed then you have to weigh two things – if your child has a severe allergy do you want to push for a no party policy OR can a non-food related party option be offered? What about store bought and approved allergy friendly foods that are safe for everyone to eat? What if they party outside of the classroom and you provide alternatives? The goal is to keep the learning environment safe first.

My son’s allergies are not as severe as my daughter’s. Ever since preschool I have offered allergy friendly snacks and provide them. His teachers keep the snacks on hand and he is happy to have his own treat when other food is offered that he cannot have. I am fine with this. He is fine with this. A lot of parents ask me what allergy friendly goodies they can provide for him for birthdays and holidays and I am beyond appreciative of it. I don’t demand it. It works for his situation.

My daughter is a different story. She cannot physically come into contact with some of her allergens without breaking out in hives. If she touches that allergen and it gets into her mouth, eyes or nasal passages it can be fatal. Classroom parties cannot happen around her. Period. It can kill her.

Alternatives have been parties outside, on the grass or lunch benches, at the end of the day before school lets out where she has a treat she can safely have that we provide or everyone gets an allergy friendly snack. Her classroom has to be free of the allergens so when she is sitting at her desk to learn she can learn without being at risk. Yes, this has cause some serious problems with pushy parents and not so strict teachers. This is where her 504 Plan and IEP became necessary.

Once a parent had pushed a classroom party with food that wasn’t safe, the teacher folded, money had already been collected for this unapproved party and my daughter was going to be in a very high risk situation. I was furious. She was devastated. Canceling it would have meant possible social backlash for her and myself because of the parents behind it. The party was outside, my daughter and friends got to party with the principal for an hour and it all worked out. It was a choice to be flexible and find an alternative and it worked out.

It also never happened again.

I try to do everything possible to offer reasonable alternatives that make peace because she’s gotta learn to be flexible while being a great advocate for herself. Life is full of choices and she does learn that sometimes situations aren’t accommodating but we can find kick butt solutions that are more fun anyway. Be open to reasonable alternatives that don’t put your child at risk.

Unfortunately, not everyone is reasonable so sometimes I throw down her disability rights card over their death cupcakes and they can juice up on the hate-o-rade all they want.

Popsicle parties are a huge hit. A bigger hit over cupcakes and donuts on a hot day. Allowing younger children to have a bubble party on the grass before school lets out is also a hit. A special reading time, pajama and movie party or even an “electronics day” are awesome alternatives. My point is that the possibilities are truly endless that a school celebration doesn’t have to focus on any kind of food.

Sometimes teachers want to offer a class party as an incentive and it is part of their lesson plan so try to work with them on it. I have, on many occasions, provided the teacher with snacks for the entire classroom that were allergy friendly so that he/she did not have to worry about reading ingredients or making a mistake. I donate these to the school or classroom and I am happy to do so. I know that not everyone can make this happen but if it is within your abilities then it’s a wonderful way to give back to the school.

I can’t set out an exact plan for you or your child when it comes to school. There are just way too many variables and circumstances. I find that every year changes for us so I can imagine you are all dealing with an ever changing deck as well.

My approach hasn’t been without hurdles. It’s far from flawless. I am the first to provide as many reasonable alternatives, resources and support but I am also the absolute first to throw a verbal choke slam down and sprinkle it with some word-fu as needed to make sure my daughter is safe. My daughter’s health situation is very difficult and life threatening. On top of her having food allergies she also has juvenile idiopathic arthritis, an autoimmune disease, eczema, asthma and chronic urticaria. She is a happy, thriving and amazing self advocate who has known a lot of unfortunate struggles. I never thought she would be able to attend middle school safely but she is now.

Food Allergies and Classroom Parties

The biggest compliments I’ve ever received have to do with how amazing, well informed and strong she is when it comes to her health and struggles.

I’m not a medical professional. I’m just like every other allergy parent out there. All I can offer everyone reading this is some insight into our world and hope that it helps in some way. It’s not easy and I’ve been on this road for awhile now and will continue ninja kicking, with my allergy princess of doom by my side, to happiness in this seemingly selfish death cupcake filled world.

Oh and feel free to comment or drop me an email with any questions you have about food allergies. I can offer advice, support and encouragement to help our ever expanding food allergy community.

Thank you all for stopping by.

Live, laugh and ninja kick.

ninjakicktodayintheface

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Birthday Parties in the Classroom

When a food allergy debate pops up on the interwebs I start getting flooded with links and my awesome people asking me how I feel about it or asking if I will chime in. The scenario is usually the same – Someone out there is annoyed that his or her child cannot bring what they want to school because of someone’s food allergies. This week Carina Hoskisson on Huffington Post is asking why my child’s allergies mean she cannot bring her homemade death cupcakes to school for her beloved child’s birthday.

Update: The same article was also posted to “Today’s Mama”. 

Well, she isn’t asking about my daughter specifically, but very well could have so I decided to answer directly. Carina, let me clear up some obvious misconceptions you have about this topic and maybe give you some insight so you, along with your friends, can stop whining about this potentially fatal topic.

“All over the country parents are being asked to accommodate the specialized needs of other people’s children thanks to the skyrocketing number of food allergies and food intolerances. (They both have similar symptoms, but intolerances are generally considered less serious and not life-threatening.) “

Correction – Parents are being asked to accommodate the specialized needs of children who have a disability and need to have a safe, secure and functional school setting so they can attend for the purpose of school. That purpose of school is to learn, not to eat cupcakes or celebrate your child’s birthday party. It doesn’t matter if there was one student or twenty in the classroom – their disability and legal rights trumps your preferences for birthday parties. Period.

You can throw a pity party with cupcakes over that fact if you want.

Additionally, reactions to food allergies and a food intolerance are very different. One should not be taken more or less seriously than another. Intolerances should not be considered less serious because you are assuming there isn’t an autoimmune disease that is triggered by said intolerance. Ultimately, it is irrelevant if it’s an anaphylactic reaction or an intolerance because both are an unfortunate disability for that child. Don’t make light of either of them because you simply don’t understand the difference. We live in the age where information is at our fingertips any time we want – use it.

“To a certain extent, I get it. “

No you obviously don’t…. But, nice try.

“I would never endanger the life of a child over a peanut butter cookie; that would be ridiculous.”

Then you are obviously ridiculous because you contradict this attempt at making yourself not seem like a selfish person who cares more about the type of cupcake you want for your kid rather than the well being of a child. Or did you mean you would only accommodate over a peanut butter cookie and not any other fatal allergens?

“My children’s school requires that we only provide store-bought treats because some children have allergies or dietary restrictions.”

You are misinformed and assuming on this one. Most school districts along with PTA policies state that any food brought to the classroom for celebration or part of an event has to be store bought and pass safety regulations. This has to do with liability. Same goes for school events when they have to research vendors who are serving food. Your lovely, homemade, buttery, gluten-stuffed cake may give the kids food poisoning. No one wants their children being fed listeria, e coli or salmonella no matter how delicious you claim them to be.

“I don’t always get to eat what people are serving, but I certainly don’t demand that my friend make me a separate cake for me on her birthday.”

Your egg white allergies and sainthood for not demanding that your friends make a separate cake have nothing to do with what is appropriate inside a classroom. It’s honestly a little pathetic that you would even try to compare the two just to make you seem like you “get” it.

“Some schools have even gone the route of banning all classroom birthdays and celebrations, which is ridiculous.”

Actually, a lot of school districts banned classroom parties because they take up valuable classroom instructions. All schools should ban classroom birthday parties from school NOT because of food allergies but because children are in school to learn not to eat your damn cupcakes for your child. Why is the classroom YOUR platform to have the party you deem worthy of your kid? Why do you feel entitled to take away an hour of instruction from twenty to thirty other kids because you want them make your kid feel special? You think it’s selfish for your child not to eat cupcakes or whatever crap you want to bring, but a lot of people don’t even want their kids eating junk food or taking away classroom time for your kid.

The classroom is not for your celebrations no matter what the occasion. Have a party at the park after school. Prepare whatever the crap kind of cake you want in your home and have thirty kids get hopped up on sugar on your own time and dime. It’s not the school’s responsibility to host your child’s party, but it is the school’s responsibility to keep their students safe.

“However, my kid shouldn’t have to forgo his birthday cake because yours can’t eat it.”

“The fear of one shouldn’t outweigh the rest.”

“Let’s stop the allergy insanity, and let the rest of them eat cake…”

This is where I lose my temper on people who have little common sense or compassion for others.

No one is telling you to forgo your son’s birthday cake because another child can’t eat it. You are being asked not to do it in the classroom that would harm another child.

I will be very blunt about this – Your child’s birthday cake does not mean more than my daughter’s life. If you truly think that your death cupcakes are more important than a child’s life, then I am so thankful not to know you. It makes me sick that parents would try to fight to put my daughter’s life in danger over a birthday party at school.

Your child’s birthday party in the classroom could easily take away the rest of my daughter’s birthdays. Could you live with that? Or would you just justify a tragedy like that with “Well, it’s the girl’s fault for even being in my kid’s classroom.”

Your view on how your child’s birthday should be celebrated in a classroom is completely selfish, uninformed and you should be embarrassed for sitting down at your keyboard and whining about it. You should seriously stop whining about how hard the world is for your child’s birthday party to be inconvenienced because of food allergies and maybe be a little thankful that this is the least of your worries in your, obviously, perfect world.

The road of food allergies for my daughter has been filled with people like you and I have gone out of my way to do everything in my power to work with other parents, make sure she is safe and even throw down her legal rights over their entitled preconceived notions. Ultimately, we always win and situations like this help me weed out the people who are not worth our energy. I am constantly thankful for the caring, open minded, selfless and compassionate people in my life that don’t even flinch at any accommodations they CHOOSE to make for my daughter’s safety.

They love her that much not to be such a jerk over what she cannot control and that could end her life.

I do not know you at all. I am trying so very hard not to judge you. I’m simply going off of what you have put out there in your article which, to me, just screams “Yet another uninformed, entitled parent, who doesn’t want to think outside the box and they want to bitch and moan over the world not being the way they want it to be”. I do hope that you can see outside your misinformation and assumptions and maybe grow a little more from this.

However, if you still think that your child’s cupcakes inside the classroom are more important than my daughter’s life then I will gladly show you multiple things that you can shove somewhere uncomfortably. 

I’m not going to apologize for my tone, harsh words or visuals. They also make me laugh despite how angry I am.

For everyone who gave me a heads up about this article – Thank you. For all of you who I know through my blog, or “real life” who have been cheering my daughter on or appreciating how much I advocate for kids who deal with people like this or those who are in the same boat as us – this is all for you.

For my not so baby girl who now reads my blog regularly and helps encourage me to keep fighting the good fight for her – I love you and your health hurdles have never been and never will be anything negative in our world. They are simply you and nothing more. Don’t let people like this hold you back or get you down. You are an amazing self advocate who is compassionate, caring and a better person for the struggles you have had to face in a world surrounded by people like this. I’m proud of you. Focus on the rad people out there who have your back. Oh and please… clean your room! 

Thanks for stopping by my ninjas. Let’s all keep living, laughing and ninja kicking to happiness and a, hopefully, more compassionate place.

Update 2/23/14: I decided to finish an article about how I manage food allergies and classroom parties for my children. If you are looking for some insight on how we make it a success and overcome hurdles hopefully you will find it of use. Thank you all for the amazing response to this. 

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