Monday, December 29, 2008

5 months gluten and dairy free

First of all... our Christmas was so good. Our morning began with baby Jesus finally making his appearance in the manger safe and sound. Then there was lots of unwrapping, coffee, a short drive to grandparents' house, more unwrapping, lots of food, laughing, more food, short drive home, and finally falling into bed happy and full. All I know is... Christmas is so much better with kids.

Now our other news...we have successfully reached 5 months with no gluten and no dairy! It has not been easy but it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be either. I only briefly mentioned it before so I thought I'd elaborate a little more on it now.

Sometime in the last few years I realized I had spent my adult life so far avoiding breads, especially breads with sugar. For years I never connected it until I began to pay attention and realized how miserable I felt afterward, not to mention how quickly I could gain weight (and did) by eating one measly little cinnamon roll. Once I made the connection, I tried just avoiding simple carbs but never with much success because, really, I loved them so.

Around this time, we had Ian. He was a good baby, very healthy and happy. But somewhere around 9 months old we got a lot of comments on how little he was. When I look back I can see just how tiny he was but it's so hard to see at the time. I finally pinpointed his slow growth that began at 6 months old (coinciding with him eating solids/cereal for the first time). He went from the 50th percentile to not even on the chart in a few short months. He managed to squeak by his one year birthday at 18 lbs even... keeping him under the percentile chart where he stayed until his 2nd birthday when he made it to 5th percentile. I chalked it up to just being him and that he would hit a growth spurt sometime. His pediatrician thought he saw signs of an allergy but after certain half-hearted elimination diets we didn't see many changes so we just left it alone.

Finally this last summer I decided I was done trying to figure it out on my own and paid for testing for both of us. I had been wondering if it was a gluten intolerance with me for quite some time and wanted to know for sure. So Ian and I were tested for both gluten and casein allergies. A couple of weeks later I got the results and it showed yes and yes on all accounts. We both had gluten and casein intolerances. At first I was upset. I knew it meant a lot of work but then I felt relieved once I started reading about the symptoms. I realized that so much of what I had gone through in the past and what Ian was currently experiencing all came down to the fact that eating this food was bad for us.

The short of it is I have never felt better in my life. My digestion and my health have improved greatly, I no longer feel sick after eating, and it's changing my thyroid and hormone levels to where they should be and haven't been in many years.

The bigger news is Ian. He went from chronic diarrhea 3 to 4 times a day (insane first time parents thought it was normal since that's how it's always been for him) to normal and only once a day. And he's growing! I measured him on his birthday last February, and in 6 months, from February to August he only grew 1/2" in height. We began the gluten-free/casein-free diet in August and within 1 month he had grown a full inch! He's now grown 2 full inches in 4 short months and he's still growing, officially reaching the 50th percentile for his height. He looks healthier and hardier than ever before. It's been nothing short of amazing to see.

About 6 weeks into it, we let him have a couple bites of ice cream to see how he would react. He had diarrhea for 4 straight days. We knew then that we couldn't budge at all and we haven't. And my family has completely stepped up to the challenge and makes sure we have food we can eat at all family gatherings. It's a huge relief for us because making sure we always have snacks on hand isn't the easiest thing to do. Ian has responded really well too and always asks us first if he can eat a certain food. He knows to ask if it has gluten or dairy in it and doesn't argue if we tell him it does... he puts it down and finds something else to eat.

In people with gluten intolerances or celiac disease, gluten damages the villi in the small intestine causing malabsorption making it very hard to properly absorb nutrients. For years, the "classic" symptoms were weight loss, poor digestion, and failure to thrive in infants and children. But they are finding the symptoms can vary greatly, just like in Ian and myself. It is completely treatable with a gluten-free diet and the intestines will heal over time as long as gluten is no longer eaten.

In case you don't know... gluten is a protein found in flours like wheat, rye, and barley. It's basically the glue that holds breads together giving bread that light fluffiness. So this means all wheat breads, crackers, pasta, cereals, pastries, etc.... are out. But it's not just bread products it's in, it's in the majority of processed foods, soy sauces, and certain spices and rubs (especially in restaurants) and is even found in certain shampoos, skin creams, and makeup. Lipstick is the biggest offender because of the close proximity to the mouth. Here's a list of gluten containing foods and ingredients. It means a lot of label reading for our whole family. The other important factor is cross-contamination. Even 0.1 gram of gluten can cause intestinal damage (average person eats 10 to 40 grams of gluten a day) so that means you can't use the same toaster as regular gluten bread, even double dipping with a knife into peanut butter can leave crumbs which can cross-contaminate. There have been several times at a restaurant where the server has forgotten and brought my salad with croutons or the toast with my breakfast and I've had to ask them to make it all over again from scratch, not just to toss the croutons out. It's not easy for me but I'm getting better at it.

Going without gluten has been a fairly easy transition considering. But adding to it that we can't have dairy (casein) and it's been a good challenge for all of us. Unlike lactose (milk sugar), casein is found in the fat of all dairy products which means no milk, cheese, butter, or any products that might contain milk. Although again we have to check labels because even soy milk cheese, a nondairy product, still contains casein.

For now, Sawyer eats gluten and dairy free too. Gluten intolerance tends to run in families and it's easier for me to make one meal for all of us. Thankfully Jeremy doesn't mind at all. He eats like we do at home but enjoys regular pizza and other things when he's out. Overall, we've adjusted well. It helps that we are feeling better and have seen such an improvement in Ian. Also, more and more people are becoming aware of food allergies so the grocery stores carry a good selection of gluten and dairy free products (although not always the same product unfortunately). And we've found a few restaurants that have separate gluten-free menus so it's nice to have a choice when we decide to eat out.

I'm finding that there are so many foods out there that are delicious when they aren't smothered in cheese or eaten with a hunk of bread that fills you up fast. And we still have our favorites... just a bit modified. See?

French toast: Tapioca bread dipped in vanilla hemp milk, eggs, and cinnamon with real maple syrup. It's delicious and actually better than the gluten and dairy version we made before.

I'm so happy we've made it this far. I can see challenges in the future, like traveling, or when the boys get a little older and have to choose for themselves, but we'll tackle those days when they come.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All is merry...

...and she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

The angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Merry, merry Christmas...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Staying in

We are frozen inside today. After a big snowfall yesterday, the freezing rain came during the night and we woke up to solid ice covering every surface. We can't even see out of our east facing windows from the layer of ice covering them. So we are inside, the fireplace turned on (oh how I wish I could say... "a warm fire burning and lots of wood waiting"... but no, we flip a switch. No complaints though, gas fireplaces provide good heat they're just not as romantic.) So let's see, the fireplace is on, blankets are laying haphazardly across the living room floor and we are warm with a winter wonderland outside. Jeremy is watching football and I'm still reading one of my favorite books, taking it slow since the holidays have taken most of my free time. Things are good in our little frozen tundra.

The boys went out and made a little snowman a couple of days ago.... a baby carrot worked perfectly for his nose.

They are keeping busy. Sawyer is playing cowboy with his wooden duck-on-a-stick as his horse.

And Ian is building towers for his Star Wars figures to stand on. "EPO" is missing an arm and Han Solo's fingers have been chewed off but they are well loved.


And for fun... some of the unique and fun things discovered on Etsy by pouncing:

Ramen noodle coin purses
Apple jackets and her tea bag cozies are so sweet.
A wooden piggy bank
Seriously cute pattern for crocheted baby shoes
Star Wars cufflinks
Unique neck scarf
Possum necklace
Mini magnets- perfect for pictures on the fridge
And a pair of handmade mugs that I couldn't resist buying.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Favorite things...

Reading by the fire

Going to a book signing and meeting an author who was so wonderful and friendly and whose book projects I can't wait to start.

Ian walking out of his room in the morning wearing his book bag as an apron and telling me he was going to make me breakfast.

My mug cozy by Deb that I love, love , and love.

The $2.00 hand carved manger scene from Goodwill... currently awaiting the birth of Jesus.
And Mary and Joseph who are making their way to Bethlehem via our window sill
The anticipation of snow

...the getting to play in it...

...and the not enjoying it.

And my new camera, complete with a steep learning curve. Thank goodness for a nephew who is willing to answer all my questions.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Northwest snow

After much waiting and anticipation for the snow, we were not disappointed. Ian was so eager to go outside that he dressed himself declaring he was ready to make a snow angel. We added a few more layers just in case and let him loose.

We're supposed to have another snow storm on Wednesday... I think Ian will be very, very happy.

And so it appears even chickens love the snow. Every time we look outside Guinevere is walking around pecking through the snow to the ground. She has a nice cozy nest in the coop away from the wind, complete with fresh straw and a heat lamp, but it seems she prefers the rugged outdoors. Just don't go getting frostbite on that little comb of yours....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Baby blue

In between sending bundles of Christmas packages off in the mail, cooking dinners, washing laundry, and reading books to little ones... I realized someone hit 19 months yesterday. A sweet and beautiful soul full of spunk and spirit.

There's a rumor it's supposed to snow this weekend. We really hope it does...

Sunday, December 7, 2008


We got our Christmas tree earlier this week while it was sunny and cold out. We bundled up and went to a local lot with beautiful already-cut trees. We didn't feel like trudging in the mud this year to cut our own so we were happy to support a locally owned business and ended up with a beautiful noble fir (my favorite). By the end of the evening there was leftover popcorn scattered across the floor, traces of hot cocoa in mugs, and tired boys staring at the decorated tree not wanting to go to bed.

I mentioned in my last post about the Advent Conspiracy. We are really trying to approach gift giving differently this year. In both sides of our families we usually only buy for the kids so there isn't much pressure or stress to buy for lots of different ages and personalities. Still, we want each gift to be thoughtful and creative. Out of our nine nieces and nephews, I'm making or partially making 6 of the gifts. I had grander ideas 2 months ago but realized I was being a little too optimistic about what I could get done. But I'm really happy with what we've ended up with and hope the kids will be too.

Since we aren't obligated to buy for the adults, it actually opens up a ton of ideas for relational giving. Relational gifts are gifts that involve your time, something that will bring you closer to the person. The ideas are endless.

*Bring coffee and some muffins and spend a morning with a loved one
*Knit/Crochet a scarf
*Give popcorn and a movie to spend an evening with a friend
*Set aside art time with a child, bring the supplies and draw together
*Give your favorite recipes in a little collection tied with ribbon
*Offer to build a garden together in the spring
*Give baking lessons to the kids in your life
*Offer to babysit
*Take an elderly family member/friend out for an evening or just spend time with them
*Offer to go grocery shopping for a family
*Make a set of cards as a gift
*Bake some bread or cookies for a friend
*Make jam
*Make a memory book for a friend full of photos
*A mixed cd of your favorite music

For more ideas see Rethinking Christmas. And for a great idea on Christmas Day... bring a gift and use it that day.

Today starts the second week of Advent. The candle we'll light tonight is for peace.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

-Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Welcome December!

So many of my favorite things come around in December. The tree, the colors, the lights, the knitted stockings, the cold weather, the candles... love them all. But mostly I love that they all represent a tradition... something that the boys can look forward to every year.

We are in our 3rd year of celebrating Advent. The season began on Sunday, the beginning of the celebration of Jesus' birth. Our Advent wreath is up and the first candle is lit. Although we grew up in Christian homes, we are new to Advent. Since it was deemed a liturgical observation, our non-denominational churches didn't recognize it.

I'm still learning... but Advent is a season of waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus' birth, which we observe as Christmas Day. The Advent wreath is a circle which reminds us of God and His eternal love and mercy which has no beginning and no end. The green of the wreath represents hope and the eternal life we have in Him. The 4 candles represent, in order of lighting: hope, peace, love, and joy. And lastly, the 5th candle lit on Christmas morning, represents Christ's birth, that He is the light of the world.

I have found some good info online. My sister posted several great links on her blog... I liked this one.

As an addition to this, our church is a part of the Advent Conspiracy. It's a concept, an idea, that instead of buying gift after gift for our loved ones, we give something handmade or give our time or anything that gives more of ourselves to make the gift more meaningful. And the money that we would spend on just another store gift, we give away. Here's a great video explaining it in more detail. There is so much poverty around the world, I love using Christmas as a way to help those in need.


A couple of little reindeer thanks to a package from Grandpa and Grandma in New York. They were checking each other out at first and then when big brother got something in his eye, Sawyer had to copy. Welcome December, welcome!