Lessons Learned From An Achey-Breaky Hip

This summer I had some discomfort in my leg, lower back and hip. It wasn’t really painful, but bothersome when driving, walking or trying to sleep on my side. Then, one Saturday, part of my leg went numb, scaring the bejeebers out of me.

I expected the worst – a pinched nerve with a long recovery and lifting restrictions. How can you be a stay-at-home mama and not be able to lift the kids?

An urgent care and chiropractic visit later, I received a diagnosis. Imagine my surprise and joy – yes JOY – to receive news that it wasn’t my back at all. Rather, the numbness is caused by Trochanteric bursitis. A much better recovery and outlook than a spinal injury.

Wait a minute.

Isn’t hip bursitis for old people?

Apparently not. And I should have recognized the symptoms, because I’ve had it not once, but twice before. Numbness, however, was a new symptom and an indication of increasing severity.

I spent much of the summer in recovery. Less walking. No running. Lots of ice. Stretching. Yoga. And more stretching.

Bursitis forced me to slow down. A LOT.

More time for thinking…and for looking for the bright side of things.

1. Tolerating pain is not always a good thing

Our culture demands toughness. A high pain tolerance and the ability to continue through pain is considered a badge of honor. However, when it comes to my hip, tolerance for pain is nothing but detrimental. Carrying on while ignoring discomfort simple causes more damage. As I ‘muscled’ through it, inflammation increased to the point of pressing on a nerve, causing numbness. With bursitis, such negligence leads to permanent damage, cortisone shots, and eventual hip replacement. This has been a good reminder that I only have one body and need to be more aware of what it is telling me.

2. Not all exercise is created equal

A person with a history of bursitis CAN run and walk for exercise, but must have increased attentiveness to stretching and flexibility. Other exercises like yoga and swimming are a better option. Time to mix it up a bit.

3. Accepting help is not my strong suit

Before we knew what was wrong, my husband and mom stepped in to help with lifting. When my mom offered to go to the grocery with me, I wondered, Why? Grocery shopping seemed pretty tame. But when paying attention to what I wa doing, I was surprised by how much a back is used while grocery shopping – bending, stretching, reaching, lifting and pushing. I was especially grateful as she lifted our daughter in and out of the cart and car seat,  as she helped our son climb in and out of the cart, and as she helped lift bags into the car and into the house. While it was hard for me to admit I needed help with what seemed to be simple things, the help was invaluable and appreciated. Asking for help is less about admitting weakness and more about exercising wisdom.

4. Doing less requires creativity and patience

When you can’t lift, you need to be creative. Convincing our children to climb the stairs at night sometimes requires us to make a game of it. We discovered our son can climb into the cart if we park by the cart rack. He can climb up the metal rack into the cart. Our daughter can climb out of her car seat on her own if I unbuckle her and wait an extra minute or two. It may be faster to carry them, but it sure isn’t easy on the body if you’re trying to heal.

5. Numbness was a blessing and warning

As I mentioned before, I was generally ignoring my symptoms before my leg went numb. I may not have saught help if my leg had not gone numb, and would have caused further damage. The numbness warns of future escalation if I’m not careful to pay attention and to keep stretching. It caused realization of a growing problem and supplied enough healthy fear to make me seek help. Right away.

6. Persistance matters

Even when I feel good, I need to stretch and do the preventative exercises. Routine. Stretching takes time and I now have to be intentional to make time to do it. The IT band exercise pulverization with a foam roller hurts. I feel bruised afterwards. But it has a drastic effect on hip pain and discomfort. Whether I like it or not, it is effective and is required in my daily routine from here on out. When I am consistent in stretching and rolling – I feel great and can walk, jog and lift as I please. WORTH it.

7. Knowledge is power

My chiropractor wanted to know if our family has a history of hip replacements (we don’t). Know what I don’t want to think about at 33? Bursitis and hip replacements. But I DO want to know about something that can be prevented by changing my lifestyle NOW. After the first 2 rounds of bursitis, I should have permanently incorporated stretching in BOTH legs. But when I felt good, I slacked off and ended up paying for it with a numb leg and forced rest. Honestly, I needed some tough love and to have someone explain to me the long-term hard truth. I am grateful for a very honest chiropractor who was willing to be clear that neglect will have lasting consequences.

8. I’m grateful

NO matter how annoying it was to have numbness, limited movement, and to make extra time to stretch, I am so grateful the problem was just bursitis. A back injury would have been much worse. This experience has added self discipline into more than just one area of my life. It makes me get out of bed so I have time to stretch before the kids get up. Plus, since I now start my day on the floor stretching, it gives me time to read my bible and pray before I get up. What else am I going to do down there on the floor? I am grateful to know what the problem is, and how to prevent further flare-ups. And I’m grateful that all the stretching and slow moving this summer has paid off with a pain-free hip this fall.

Lessons Learned The Hard Way: How NOT To Strip A Bar Stool

I wasn’t going to share this, but since in the real world, DIY projects do not always go as planned, I thought it necessary to share how I got a little over confident and made an incorrect assumption during one of my recent endeavors.

While it was a relatively minor mistake and the project was salvaged, I created unnecessary work for myself (and my husband).

After successfully stripping and spray painting our console table, I planned to use the same process to update some bar stools to use at our our kitchen island.

Since the first project went smoothly, I figured this one would too.

Logical, right?

WRONG.

The four stools had a shiny finish, which I assumed to be a thin clear coat or polyurethane finish.

Since I was planning to spray paint the stools, I knew I needed to remove the shiny finish to make sure the paint would stick.

I’d just had a great experience using the chemical stripper, so instead of testing a small inconspicuous area of ONE bar stool, I decided to go ahead and coat one, and try sanding one. Then, after stripping those two stools, I’d select the easiest method to strip the other two remaining stools.

Honestly, after what happened, I have no idea WHAT was on the stools. Perhaps it was a clear coat…but it was certainly not compatible with the chemicals used.

Half Sanded Bar Stool

Half Sanded Bar Stool

After easily sanding the larger, flat surfaces, I found sanding the spindles on the legs to be cumbersome and awkward work.

It wasn’t that the sanding was a terribly difficult task, it was more that the idea of painting on a chemical stripper seemed MUCH easier.

AND, for the record, painting on the stripper WAS easier than sanding the stool.

Bar Stool With Chemical Stripper Applied

Bar Stool With Chemical Stripper Applied

SO, being lazy that day, after painting one stool with stripper, I decided to paint the remainder of the stool that was half sanded.

Why not just go the easy route?

Or so I thought.

HOWEVER, after the stripper had been applied, the wood literally swallowed it up.

INTO the grain.

Chemical Stripper Soaked INTO the Wood Grain

Difficult to see, but here is Chemical Stripper (CitriStrip) Soaked INTO the actual Wood Grain, below the top surface

You don’t have to be an experienced DIY’er to know that this is a bad thing.

VERY.

BAD.

What little clear coat was there evaporated into thin air, leaving the porous wood free to absorb the chemicals from the stripper.

With the stripper IN the wood grain, there was absolutely NO way the paint would stick.

It HAD to be removed.

It could not be removed by scraping with a putty knife.

It could not be removed by wiping clean with mineral spirits.

(Mineral spirits simply removed the top layer of stripper from the surface, but all along the stool, there was chemical soaked into the wood grain itself)

So, after deciding I didn’t FEEL like sanding off the VERY THIN the clear coat, I now had to sand down even FURTHER to remove the chemicals from the wood.

AND, instead of just saw dust, I now had paint stripper tainted saw dust.

It. Was. Nasty.

And required me to remove my contacts and rinse my eyes with saline after suddenly they got VERY itchy. Yikes!

Sanding this deep, even with rough sand paper was HARD work.

Especially on the spindles.

Talk about a workout; with extremely poor ergonomics.

My arms and back were so sore half way through the first stool, that I finally swallowed my pride and asked for my husband to help me sand the other stool (which was thankfully only half-coated).

While he was a WILLING and gracious helper, I can say with confidence that he did not appreciate my lack of testing the stripper before applying it to not one, but TWO stools.

And, he was right. Seriously, I’m a biochemist!

I KNOW that not all chemicals react the same way on different surfaces.

In fact, I could have probably figured out a way to do a simple test to see WHAT type of coating it WAS.

BEFORE I started.

What was I thinking!?

I am grateful my husband helped (and did a great job).

Otherwise, that stool might still be sitting in my garage, and we’d just have 3 painted bar stools in our kitchen today.

After all that, I used 100 grit sandpaper to strip the remaining two stools, and found those to be less work than even ONE with the chemical stripper added to it.

I then went over all four stools with mineral spirits to remove any saw dust (or chemical dust) from the surface to prep for paint.

Not my brightest moment.

So.

What are the lessons learned here?

  • Always, always TEST before you apply ANY chemical to a whole piece
  • When sanding wood with a chemical residue, remove contacts, and wear eye protection
  • A chemical stripper is not always better (or easier) than elbow grease and sand paper
  • As is noted on the CitriStrip label and on most reputable DIY sites…all clear coats are NOT created equal (To figure out what kind of finish you’re dealing with and what chemical to can be used to remove it, read this)
  • If you do enough DIY projects, you’ll find a way to mess something up; thankfully, many of these errors can be fixed, but will likely require some extra work (and help)
  • Don’t forget the basics and to follow instructions, even if you’ve used a chemical before

 

I think it is safe to say, that most of those lessons are basic! Things I knew and took care to follow before my first project with chemical stripper.

In DIY projects, no project is ever the same, and I should have never assumed the finish on the stools would respond the same way as on my console table.

Over confidence is NEVER a good thing when playing with chemicals.

The good news is, after removing all the chemical stripper, and sanding the other two stools, the paint adhered well.

At least fixing the problem with all that work was worth it, even if it my lack of wisdom took me on an annoying, arm-tiring detour.

Next time I strip something I’ll remember to go back to the basics and not get overconfident that everything will be ‘just like last time’.

Duh.

I’ll post soon with photos of the finished, painted stools.

What Do You See? What Does God See? Do They Match?

Standing in front of a mirror in June, getting ready, I found myself displeased with how my clothes fit. I sighed, wishing I had bought something new to wear for our family photos.

The image I saw really mirrored my own self image, not just my outward appearance:

  • A wife who still forgets her husband sees her as beautiful, despite his words and compliments
  • A tired mother, wishing she could have slept later than the baby who woke at 430 am
  • A mother of two whose body is different than it used to be
  • A woman who doesn’t spend time to get ready or to reflect on how she sees herself most days

On a normal day, I usually a rush to put on mascara, some sunscreen enforced face lotion, and a little powder before a child needs something. That morning, my husband was graciously taking care of the kids so I could spend a little more time getting ready.

But in this case, those added moments staring in the mirror weren’t doing me any favors. I was certainly NOT feeling ‘pretty’, no matter how many times I changed my clothes or added more makeup.

Instead, I was doing something very unproductive; sinking into the pit of self-loathing.  Annoyed with myself and my lack of exercise, healthy eating, and the realization that my body is simply DIFFERENT than it used to be.

I’m sad to admit that the problem didn’t start that day. It was bigger. Let me tell you how I got to this point. It was several weeks in the making.

In the weeks before our trip, I had searched my closet and several stores for the perfect outfit. I was supposed to wear something navy, white, and/or khaki. Sounds simple, right? I had 3 tops, and own 2 white pants and several pairs of khakis.

These clothes are all in ‘new’ condition, but were all purchased before my second child (some before my first). I like them, but frankly, I felt like they didn’t like me! They do not FIT as they did when they were bought. A common problem these days and the reason why I wear the same few outfits over and over despite having a closet-full.

After finding things in the store also didn’t fit as I desired, I decided it was a problem with me, and resorted to wearing Spanx under my pants. You know, to just make something I had ‘WORK’.

Yep.

So now I’m squeezed into spanx which are NOT physically comfortable, in order to ‘FEEL’ comfortable in my BRAIN, in a regular navy shirt and khaki pants.

I had thought that this strategy would give me peace of mind, so I could relax during photos.

Right.

Relax in Spanx. Ha.

I could hardly breathe. But at least I wasn’t focused on sucking in my stomach?

So that was my frame of mind as I coated my hair with hairspray to make it ‘stay down’ and put on more makeup than usual, in a weak attempt to cover my perceived tired eyes with mascara and concealer. As I applied mascara, my eyes caught words written at the top of the mirror in black marker.

“What do you see? What does God see? Do they match?”

I immediately felt the pang of conviction and mixed emotions. Remorse that I had YET AGAIN forgotten this truth. And, at that same moment, I was overjoyed by the remembrance that God sees me as useful, beautiful, and of eternal value.

I can’t take credit for those words. You see, I was getting ready in my niece’s old bedroom. We were staying at her parent’s home as we gathered to celebrate her wedding day. She is an amazing woman, niece and friend. She wrote these WISE words long ago.

I stood there, pondering the words as my son and daughter tumbled into the room a few moments later as my husband tried to rally them for a bath and to get dressed. They both had wicked bed head and mismatched pajamas.

Still struggling with mixed emotions, I saw the joyful sparkle in their eyes, high energy movements, and simplicity of my emotions as I watched them.  If I see my children as such beautiful, amazing, and earth shattering little people, how much MORE does the Lord see in me and in them?

He made us all. Every detail. With loving care we can’t even imagine.

If you’ve given birth, you know that a tiny baby can only be made by a loving creator. They are too perfect. Tiny toes, fingers and noses. No matter how they look to human eyes, these children are EXACTLY as God made them, and their days and birth were all ordained beforehand by Him.

All these thoughts remained with me as I finished getting ready.

I put on a necklace and forgot to care what I looked like to the world and was just glad the necklace was a great distraction for my daughter to play with.

Because of truthful words on that mirror, I was just me. As I was that day; wife, mother, woman, and child of God.

We had fun taking pictures. There was much laughter, play and joy. My daughter had one outburst of tears, but that is expected from a 1-year-old. Everyone was relaxed and after taking some posed pictures, the entire family went down to the beach to wander and let the kids play.

Had I not seen those words, I am not sure I would have relaxed or stopped worrying about how I looked.

I would have missed the fun, preoccupied with my own perceived inadequacy.

Instead, I spent the day with a refreshed view of how God sees me, reinforced by how I see my own children.

Here’s one photo from the day that thankfully doesn’t look like I am slathered in makeup and fully doused in hairspray.

Family Photo

Some time after returning home, I came across this passage, and was reminded of that moment.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25-34

 

The next time you struggle with your clothes, hair, or skin, remember to ask check if your self-image reflects that of your maker.  Do they match? I know I will be writing this question on my daughter’s mirror when she is old enough to have one.

 

 

DIY Spray Painted Console Table: How to Update Furniture with Spray Paint

DIY Spray Painted Console TableA little paint and elbow grease is an inexpensive way to change something that doesn’t fit with the decor of your home and seems dated into something that looks like it was MADE for your house.

Last week I posted on how to strip polyurethane coating off of a console table. The poly coat was THICK, but came off fairly easily, and the table was stripped, sanded, cleaned and was ready for paint.

Since I made an effort to strip this table and make it smooth for paint, I chose to use spray paint, so it will have a smooth, look. free of brush strokes. This post describes the steps taken to paint the console table.

The spray paint was $3.50 per can, and I used 3. New hardware was $10 for the three drawers.

1. Preparation

Furniture Stripping and Preparation to Paint

Table, stripped, ready for paint

Strip the table and prepare to paint. For tips, refer to DIY Painted Console Table: How to Strip Furniture and Prep for Paint

Ensure the table is clean and free of any dust, or loose particles

Locate a well-ventilated space, free of wind (so your spray paint isn’t carried away by the wind instead of falling on your furniture)

Always use a mask when working with spray paint

2. Real the Paint Label

2x Coverage Spray Paint in Satin Granite

2x Coverage Spray Paint in Satin Granite

I know this seems like a silly step, but reading the label is a MUST

All spray paints are NOT created equal. Even if you’ve done this before, you need to know the specifics of the paint you will use

For example, my paint should be applied when temperatures are below 90F and humidity is below 65%.

Additional coats should be applied within 1 hour, or after 48 hours.

Paint is dry to touch after 1 hour.

3. Test the Paint

Test the Spray Paint

Test the Spray Paint

Shake the can. Not just a little. A LOT. The can says to shake for one minute. That is a MINIMUM.

Noisy? Yes. But ensures the paint will work at its best

Test your spray paint to make sure the sprayer works as expected, and that the color is right

I used Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover 2x Satin Spray paint, in Satin Granite. It contains both paint and primer. I chose a satin finish because I didn’t want it to be too shiny, but want to be able to wipe it off if needed (small children).

I did my test spray on the bottom of one of the drawers. Once satisfied it sprayed well and I liked the color, I was ready to paint!

4. Apply Paint to Legs, Drawers and Smaller Surfaces

Apply the first coat with even strokes

Table after the first coat

Second Coat

Second Coat

Touch up any areas that aren't coated once turning upright

Touch up any areas that aren’t coated once turning upright

Turn the table upside down on a tarp or other protective surface (You may want to use a towel or something to pad and keep it from scratching)

If time has passed from the test spray, shake the can again, for at least one MINUTE

To spray paint:

  • Hold the can upright 10-16 inches from the surface, and spray using horizontal strokes
  • Start spraying before the furniture
  • Continue spraying and pass at a steady speed over the furniture
  • Continue spraying until just past the furniture and release
  • Shake the can, and repeat, slightly overlapping the previous pass of paint, until the surface is coated

After two coats, allow to dry before turning the furniture upright

Once upright, touch-up any areas that are not painted due to the angle of spray

If you don’t go PAST the surface, pools of paint will form. I learned this the hard way, with pools where I changed directions OVER the table (see photo of 1st coat). I had to do 2 more coats after 48 hours to even things out. Doing it the right way up front will likely reduce the number of coats required.

My table has curved legs and feet, which made it easier to apply paint with the table upside down. You could do it upright if desired. Turning it upside down also protected the top while I painted the rest.  After the legs had dried (1 hour after last coat), the table was turned over and wiped down before continuing.

5. Apply Paint to Top

On a large, smooth surface, the importance of spraying before and past your surface is magnified. Follow the steps in the image below:

How to apply spray paint

How to apply spray paint

Table top after 1 coat of paint

Table top after first coat of paint

Remember to shake the paint can for a minute before beginning and often between sprays

RESIST the urge to do one thick coat. If you spray it too thick, the paint will bubble and you’ll have to sand it down and begin again

If applying more than 2 coats, wait at least 48 hours (Or if you make an error and need to add two more layers like I did)

Fully painted, 4 coat os paint, before hardware

Fully painted, 4 coats of paint, before hardware

Repeat steps to reapply paint as needed

You can see in this First Coat image how I ended up with pools of paint because I tried to paint half of the top of the table at a time. Don’t do that! Lesson learned. I ended up letting the table dry for 48 hours before painting as described above. Address the whole surface at once (if possible).

I used 4 coats of paint on the legs and table top by the time I was satisfied with the paint on my table.

6. Fully Dry and Reassemble

Finished Table with Hardware

Finished Table with Hardware

Verify that paint is no longer tacky before reassembling

Reassemble the furniture

Use a screw driver to affix drawer pulls or hardware

Due to humidity, the paint was tacky 48 hours after the final coat.  I waited 72 hours before re-assembling.

I ordered black drawer pulls that fit the holes that were already drilled (2.5 inch spread).

7. Determine if Ready to Clear Coat

I am still considering distressing the table, so will not apply clear coat quite yet

Once I decide, I’ll either post an update about the clear coat, or the distressing process

Overall, we like the color we chose and find the satin finish to have just a little shine, but not too much. After 4 coats of paint, the color is even, solid and the table looks clean and updated. It goes well with our house and looks nice in our entry way.

Since I’ve learned a few lessons, I am now ready to tackle the bar stools in my kitchen, hopefully with fewer coats of paint.

Before and After

DIY Painted Console Table: How to Update Furniture with Spray Paint

Happy Painting!

nifty thrifty sundayThis post was shared on Nifty Thrifty Sunday link party!

DO These 10 Things When Your Child is Diagnosed With A Food Allergy

We discovered our son’s peanut and cashew allergies at 15 months through allergy testing. He was tested for allergies because after we switched him to dairy at a year, he became ill, and lost weight. We switched to rice milk and were sent to a nutritionist. Along with increasing intake of beans, lentils and meats, the nutritionist recommended trying nuts as a healthy fat and protein source.

Since we were already doing allergy testing for dairy and soy, we decided to also test for nuts. When the testing came back with no measurable dairy or soy allergy, and instead an allergy to cashews and peanuts, I was shocked. He had never eaten either of those foods.

After a year of struggling with severe infant reflux, we had some  indication that certain foods might be a problem. I was prepared to find a food allergy that causes stomach upset, nasal congestion, or skin eczema, but I was NOT prepared to find a potentially life-threatening, anaphylaxis inducing allergy.

It is by the grace and mercy of a loving God that we learned of his allergy through testing instead of a trip to the ER. Words cannot express my gratitude.

With the diagnosis came a prescription for an Epi-Pen. We were instructed that a nut-free home was a ‘good idea’. We were directed to a few websites for ‘tips’ and told to follow-up with an allergist for skin testing when our son turned 3. The pharmacist showed me how to use the Epi-Pen and recommended doing training with all family and caregivers.

Apparently after some web research and Epi-Pen training, we were equipped to keep our son safe.

It was like as long as we had an Epi-Pen, we’d all be OK…

But I didn’t feel equipped.

Truth is, if your child has a potentially life-threatening food allergy, there is a lot you need to know because you NEVER want to use that Epi-Pen! 

After doing some research on our own and conversations with doctors and nurses, we got our feet underneath us. From those efforts, here are some tips for parents who have a child diagnosed with a food allergy.

DO These 10 Things When Your Child is Diagnosed With A Food Allergy

1. Choose your sources carefully

DO not do a random google search for ‘peanut allergy’. While some helpful information will come up, there are countless stories of extreme reactions that will scare you out of your boots. A little fear is healthy, but you do not need to read every food allergy horror story out there. When looking online, choose reputable associations and websites known to have accurate medical information.

The Food Allergy Research & Education (formerly FAAN) has helpful information for parents, schools, and kids, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has similar information, as well as journal articles on current scientific research. Your state may also have an association dedicated to food allergies; here is the link to the MN Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of MN (AFAA) Facebook page .  Some blogs may give you a more personal view of other’s experiences, but you may have to be selective. Here is a list of 16 great food allergy blogs, I’m a fan of The Nut-Free Mom.

2. Request a consult with an Allergist

We waited (in error) to go to the allergist until my son was 3 based on the pediatrician’s recommendations. If diagnosed in the pediatrician’s office, don’t wait to see the allergist. The wealth of information the allergist provided was worth whatever copay is required. Most insurance plans cover the appointment and we didn’t even need a referral to go to ours. Allergists are experts in their field, and can give you a realistic and full picture of your child’s specific allergies.

3. Do Epi-Pen training with family and caregivers

After our son was diagnosed, we trained our entire family how to use the Epi-Pen. Every prescription comes with a training pen, and it took just 15 minutes. It gave us the chance to explain what anaphylaxis looks like, and why it happens. We were able to clarify what nuts he was allergic to, and that even though allergic peanuts and cashews, we avoid ALL peanuts and tree nuts.  It brought greater awareness of the risks of foods for him. Now no one gives our son food before asking one of us, or reading a food label.  In writing this, I realize we are overdue for an Epi-Pen review session. Oh and don’t forget to register your Epi-Pens here and they will send you a free travel bag to carry them in.

4. Master food labels and teach family and caregivers 

Reading food labels on EVERYTHING is not natural to many. I have some food allergies myself, so I was accustomed to reading food labels, and my husband had some practice too. However, my food allergies make me feel sick and are not life threatening. I needed to be much more diligent to read the label before EVERY purchase. Some of our family had never dealt with food allergies of any kind. Reading food labels is not always easy for them, and I don’t expect them to do it perfectly. When in doubt, read the label together or pick something else. Never assume anything is safe if you didn’t read the label. My son’s grandparents, aunts and uncles have made his safety priority and when in doubt, they call me and read the label with me on the phone or in person, or ask me to bring something for him.

Don’t forget to read labels on ‘Safe’ foods, even if purchased before. We have unknowingly purchased potentially nut-contaminated foods by buying what we have before and wrongly assumed to be ‘safe’. Companies change manufacturers and bring on new products often, so it is possible for their ‘safe’ status to change depending on the other products being made using the same equipment. To be safe, just read everything, every time. There will always be food to eat, regardless of your allergy, but it may not always be the same stuff.

5. Tell people

While you don’t want a food allergy to define your child, a life threatening allergy should not be a taboo discussion. And actually, even an allergy causing fairly mild symptoms is worth mentioning, because you don’t want your child to feel sick when it is avoidable! If your child is going to spend time at someone else’s house or you are having people over, a quick heads up is important. Not only will your child be safer, and your mind be calmer, but you can save others from feeling bad because the food they brought or have on hand may not be safe for your child. It can be a brief mention, allowing you to offer to bring something, and for them to ask for tips on safe foods. With nuts, I tell people that fresh fruits and vegetables are the best bet; they are healthy and not processed on equipment with nuts. As your child gets older, they can take on this responsibility.

6. Clear your home of allergens

Let me be clear: choosing to eliminate an allergen from your home is a personal choice for every household. In our case, we made our home nut-free because we want our son to be able to eat everything we have on hand and never worry about getting sick in our home. We avoid all nuts and products processed on equipment with nuts. Don’t forget that some non-food items may contain a food allergen. Watch out for lotions and soaps which may contain things like oatmeal, nut oils, soy or other allergens.

7. Deal with your emotions

There were two main emotions I felt about my son’s food allergy. Sadness and fear.

It’s just food, right? I felt silly that I was devastated by our son’s allergy diagnosis. Yes, I love peanuts but that is not the problem. How will it feel to him when he understands he can NEVER eat any? I don’t want him to have ANY food allergy, let alone a life threatening one. I want him to be able to eat a peanut butter sandwich and not have to worry about reading a food label before he eats. I want him to be able to eat all birthday cake and not worry about whether he will be safe at a birthday party. I want him to be care-free about food, especially as a child. BUT, I NEVER want him to have a reaction even more.

The fear associated with a child’s food allergy is a very real, and powerful fear. It can be paralyzing. Initially, I dealt with this fear by controlling the situations and foods he encountered. Long term, this isn’t going to work. He will go to school, friend’s houses, and birthday parties WITHOUT me. The only way I can truly deal with the very real and present fear for his safety is through regular and focused prayer, and trust that the Lord will protect him. HE will, but that doesn’t mean it gets easier.

One thing that helped me sort through my emotions was this book. The writer is a mom who shares openly about her experience and emotions that surround her child’s severe allergies. There were helpful ideas for how to handle allergies and how to handle other children in the home who do NOT have those same allergies. It gave me some much-needed perspective.

8. Consider a Medical Alert bracelet

Whether the allergy is life-threatening or not, a medical alert bracelet can serve as a reminder to you, your child, and any caregiver. This may be helpful especially when your child is small and not able to make their own safe food decisions. IF (I pray it never does) a reaction occurred, a medical alert bracelet is a great way to notify medical personnel of the allergy if you were not present. I have been looking for a kid-friendly bracelet, and will be purchasing this one for my son, with the peanut and tree nut identifiers.

9. Educate your child

It is our job as parents to educate ourselves, caregivers and our children until they are able to advocate for themselves. When we found out, it was our job. When he turned 3, we started actively trying to help him understand that there are some foods that are not safe to eat (even though others eat them, and you can buy them at the store). When shopping, we walk by the bulk nuts and talk about what they are and why we don’t eat them. I ask him, “Do we eat nuts”, and he says “No”. Although he thinks it is a game, I know the awareness will help in the long run. Despite all our discussions, the most effective thing that helped him understand WHAT allergies are is a Sid the Science Kid (on PBS) episode about seasonal and food allergies. He watched it twice on DVR, and told me all about what an allergy was and how some people are allergic to things other than nuts. I’m not sure where to find the full episode online, but PBS does play reruns…

10. Let them be a kid

While awareness is important, I want him to be a kid. He will have a lifetime of vigilance since most do not outgrow nut allergies. By making our home nut-free, he can be relaxed at home.

I never want him to feel left out because of his allergy. When we go somewhere new, I always bring a variety of nut-free snacks or pack a lunch to be sure food isn’t an issue. Eating out, desserts are the biggest problem; we never order it because it is rare to find ANY that are safe. If we are with others who order dessert, no one in our family participates. If we are somewhere with other kids (birthday party, playdate) and they have a ‘treat’, I always have something small and sweet (lollipop, teddy graham, grapes) to give him, and try to plan ahead so if possible, I can bring something that looks similar.  

We have spent time finding good alternative products so he can have the same ‘kid’ food experiences non-allergic kids have. Find non-diary ice cream for dairy allergies, non-nut butters for nut allergies, and vegan products for egg allergies. Try local places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and even Target, and look online. Check out my recent post on three of my favorite nut-free options.

 

Do These 10 Things When Your Child is Diagnosed With A Food Allergy

 

If you’re new to this, I hope this post points you in the right direction! For us, now that we have educated ourselves, the biggest challenge is making the right people aware so that he is safe outside of our home. If you have other tips, I’d love to hear them!

What’s a Little Rain?

 

When I woke up this morning I had basic expectations for the day: clean the house, run an errand, go to the grocery store.  I noticed the gloomy clouds outside but it didn’t really phase me. I grabbed a yogurt and started making a cup of coffee. Regular. Normally I drink decaf, but my daughter was up for over an hour (teething) in the middle of the night and I was struggling to wake up.

I found myself busy getting each child ready and fed, throwing in some laundry, running the garbage out, and getting myself ready. Most of this was done with my unusually clingy daughter in my arms.  Inevitably, I forgot about my coffee until it was too late – No longer hot. My morning coffee usually ends this way. Hot cup of coffee sitting under my Keurig, getting cold as we get ready for the day. I decide I will drink it anyway and transfer it to a mug, to-go. Sigh. I miss hot coffee.

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Crash! The first thunderclap rattles my home, and my son. Terrified, he sprints from the other room. In his panic, he slips and falls, smacking hard onto the floor. Many hugs later, we’re loaded in the car. I explain to him that thunder is just a noise and that rain makes things grow. I like the rain.

I ask him, what’s a little rain?

We start driving and the sky opens up. Monsoon style. Thankful for the lights of the car in front of me, I focus on staying in our lane as the wipers furiously work to give me a quick glimpse of the road.  Yikes. Probably should have looked at the weather. This is not going as planned.

Finally, as we pull into our destination, the rain lets up and we rush inside. We run into a friend in the hallway. She mentions that she too hasn’t had any coffee yet. Ugh! I forgot my mug at home. We continue with our other errands.

We find a DRY shopping cart (Phew) and get our shopping done fast. I begin to notice freshly drenched people running in and wiping water off their faces and glasses. Oh boy…maybe it will let up.

It doesn’t. Usually I’d brave it, but we’re not properly dressed and this is a torrential downpour. We wait 5 minutes. A man comes in, dripping wet, and offers to stand with my kids outside while I run and get the car. Untrusting, I say thank you but that we will wait. We wait 5 more minutes. It doesn’t let up. It begins to thunder, loudly. My poor toddler begins to lose it so we make a run for the car.

What’s a little rain?

Our rain coats were left in daddy’s car from the weekend. My kids have on their winter coats with hoods, they stay relatively dry. I am in a sweatshirt. Poor planning. I load the kids quickly, removing their soaked coats so they can be warm in the car.  I load my drenched groceries in the trunk and return the cart. One of my shoes gets filled with water from the river streaming through the parking lot. My cheap, plastic shoe is emptied before closing my car door.

I am soaked. My groceries are soaked. My purse is soaked. I close the door and look back and my son and he laughs at my wet hair. I look. It is a mess, plastered to my forehead, windblown and matted down. My daughter, not wanting to miss out on fun, starts fake laughing, which generates real laughter from both of them, and from me.

That is what you call a LOT of rain.

We get half way home and the gas light comes on.  Apparently our sprint in the rain is making me giddy. I start cracking up. Of course we need gas. It is that kind of day. Plus, it’s not like I have to worry about getting wet. We stop for gas, grateful for the roof.

I get back in the car and my son tells me the rain makes the plants grow. He tells me something I tell him all the time – that rain was made by God and God only makes good things.

Truth, retold by a 3 year old, sounds so sweet.

I unload the kids at home. I dry off our groceries and make lunch. I run to change my clothes while they are eating.   My teething daughter needs to be rocked to sleep, but my son wants me in his room, afraid of thunder that isn’t present at the moment. I can’t do both. I explain to my son that the rain has slowed. I rock my daughter as my son cries for me to come back. She falls asleep and I lay her down just as the thunder returns with vengeance.

I move my son into my room and make him a bed on the floor. I tell him I’ll lay down too but he needs to try to rest. I can tell he is tired and may actually sleep today. I plan to wait until he is asleep and do some reading. I wake up an hour later, he’s sleeping and apparently so have I. Can’t remember the last time I took a nap! Lovely. Probably couldn’t have done that with coffee in my system.

When we get up, I throw some coffee grounds into the French Press, fill it with water and stick it in the fridge. Iced coffee tomorrow. At least I don’t have to worry about it getting cold. No fuss, no mess. Recalling my error in looking up the weather this morning, I look up tomorrow’s weather. It should be nice. Tomorrow I can have my coffee break outside as the kids play.

This day did not go as expected. I did not clean my house and I did not finish all my errands. I did not enjoy a cup of coffee. But, I did make some silly memories getting soaked in the rain, and spent time comforting my kids. Despite the unplanned weather, we have groceries to make dinner. I call that success. We can finish that other stuff up tomorrow.

So I ask again, What’s a little rain?

Today it was a surprise to me, unpredictable and out of my control. Rain washes things away, leaving behind something wet, moldable, and messy. Today rain changed what was likely to be just like any other routine Monday and added some excitement. We did get wet, but we also laughed.We laughed hard.

The rain created new opportunity, changed the pace of our day and left me feeling thankful that it did.

My son says his favorite part of today was seeing other people getting soaked in the rain. Me too.