Breastfeeding · Philly, parenting, summer, city living, toddlers, babies, nannying · Uncategorized

I Just Don’t Feel Like A Beautiful Earth Goddess Overflowing With Feminine Power Because I Nursed My Baby.

I nursed Alice just over a year, I think the last time was two or three days after her birthday in August. I always knew I would breastfeed, I didn’t give it a second thought. The facts are there, it is by far and away, the absolute best thing you can do for your baby in terms of health, growth, immune system, bond and comfort. I’ve known this forever, but had it further instilled while taking a Newborn Care course before Izzy was born, and from general research during my pregnacy.

 I recall one day around the age of 5 when my then 8 year brother asked me if I knew where babies came from, I said “Yeah! Mommy’s boobies!” My mom who had been listening from the other room (must have been a surprising conversation to overhear!) shouted “No they don’t!!” and then explained what they are really for, I’m sure she avoided Jeff’s original question all together. In my mind I knew that there were two of “them” an two of “us” and that they had something to do with babies, so I imagined that we had come from her chest, easy logic! What this conversation did do was teach me from an early age, what I’m sure most older siblings already knew, but what nursing is, how babies eat and what breasts are for. 

Alice and I were very lucky that nursing came pretty easy for us. Aside from needing shield the first two weeks or so while the swelling went down from birth, it was a rather pain free experience and came pretty naturally. The first few days of her life I did have to feed her with an adorable little syringe that the hospital provided, I pumped and nursed but she was having a little trouble latching and we needed to make sure she was getting enough. 

I had joined all kinds of breastfeeding support groups while I was pregnant in preparation. I also seemed to be having my baby right during a time where “Free the Nipple” and the fight to “Normalize Breastfeeding” (by exposing yourself to the public while you nurse, or at least that’s what it started to feel like) were popular social movements. While I did get some good advice and insight from these groups they did seem to create the expectation that breastfeeding your child is supposed to be this big dramatic feat that must be broadcasted and celebrated and every mother who chooses to nurse deserves an award for every month of hardship she faces while undergoing this painful “journey” full of difficulties. It made me feel like with every dip in supply I faced was going to be “it” one of those horrible times I’d read about, my baby was going to be screaming with hunger, my coveted freezer stash will begin to dwindle, I’d never get it back, my nipples will probably just fall off altogether, how would my baby survive??? It wasn’t like that at all. I’d just eat some oatmeal, drink a ton of water, pump more and nurse more, and everything would go back to normal. Sure, I hated pumping, the lactation teas I tried were really gross and I think wound up having the opposite intended effect, the vitamin supplements supposed to boost supply gave me so much gas that I couldn’t even blame it on the baby any more because my husband was beginning to think something was wrong with her, and it was a little frustrating having to nurse her constantly on the days she needed more than she was getting, but I just did it, I had to, it was just part of the process, I knew it was all temporary.

Everyday on the support groups I’d see posta about freezers full pumped milk, I thought I was supposed to have that too, but I despised pumping. I did after every nursing session in the beginning and then gradually pumped less and less. For awhile Dennis was giving her a bottle a few nights a week just so he had a chance to feed her too, I just pumped whenever he fed her to make up for the bottle he used. I would sometimes bring a bottle if we were going somewhere, I’m not a fan of nursing in public, I’ll get to that. I did also have to get rid of the majority of my stash I had accumulated her first four months when we discovered her allergies, so this idea of an overflowing freezer full of the magical liquid of Mother Earth and all woman kind quickly became unattainable. I stopped stressing about it, our situation didn’t require her to have much back up, I actually still have half a dozen bags in the freezer that haven’t been touched in months.

The only thing I’d really consider a “hardship” in our “journey” was the discovery of her allergies. It was through nursing that I first noticed that if I ate certain foods she’d have reactions. Before I even saw an allergist I stared to do elimination diets because I had read that a mother consuming dairy and soy while nursing can cause eczema in a  sensitive baby. This escalated rather quickly, after a few weeks of cutting dairy with no improvement I started cutting more and more out of my diet. At one point I had cut out dairy, wheat, nuts, soy, eggs, anything acidic, nightshades, artificial dyes and flavorings, rice and red meat. I was terrified to eat in general and this did of course impede my supply and the baby was slow to gain during those times. Formula wasn’t an option either because most formula contains dairy and the hypoallergenic tastes awful and is incredibly expensive. After a few allergy tests, prescription creams and the realization that starving myself was not helping anything, I reintroduced everything except dairy, eggs and peanuts, and her skin has been great. 

One thing I could never get behind and fully support is this generation of mothers’ desire to flaunt the fact that they nurse their babies and the need to be celebrated for doing the right thing. Nursing uncovered in public just to make a point, taking selfies with exposed breasts while their child nurses or even going as far as shelling out cash to have photoshoots dedicated to breastfeeding and plastering it all over Facebook and social media. So what, you feed your baby, we all do, that’s what you do in order to keep them alive, you don’t need a high five. God forbid you say anything about it that isn’t completely complimentary, you are then faced with scathing comments from supporters about how dare you shame a woman for nursing her baby and doing the natural thing etc etc etc. Cue eye roll. In my opinion it is just that, the natural thing, so just do it, don’t brag about it and make it all about you. It’s about your baby. It is a bodily function that might make someone uncomfortable to witness and whether you feel that they should feel differently or not, it is not up to you to decide that for someone. When I see a selfie of a mother nursing her child talking about what a wonderful person she is for doing so, all I see is another example of this genteration’s incredible vanity. The shock factor is gone by now, it’s getting old. It’s now apparently popular to spend lots of money on fine jewelry made out of your own breastmilk….what?? I’d like to take my baby’s earwax and have it turned into an Amber colored jewel to wear around my neck so I can always remember what her earwax looked like when she was little. So useless and frivolous. 

I only nursed in public a handful of times, always covered, when she got to the age where she pulled at the cover I bottle fed her or planned outings around when she’d need to eat. She was never so hungry I that I just had to whip my boob out right then and there or else she’d pass out from starvation. From what you’d read other mothers writing about, this way of doing things is far too difficult, they MUST feed their baby the moment it starts to squirm and what they are doing is far too important to stop and cover. Another opportunity in my opinion to play the martyr and turn attention on themselves. Oh, yes, and make sure if you do this to take a picture and share it on Facebook so everyone can tell you what a brave and amazing mother you are. Now this is absolutely not all mothers, there are plenty out there that still place value on modesty and have other priorities that don’t involve turning their personal lives into spectacle, you just don’t hear as much about them because they aren’t broadcasting their “life giving nipples”. I’m also sure that I experience this phenomenon more than the average person because I am in the groups and on these types of pages where this behavior is highlighted. It still irks me regardless. 

Now that I’m done nursing and have had the opportunity to look back and reflect on my “journey” the main feeling I get from the whole thing is kind of….eh….. I’ve heard so many tales of how it is such an “amazing thing, you’ll love it, it will give you such a great bond with your baby, it’s so beautiful”. Sure, I’ll do it again, there’s no question in my mind, but I didn’t love it or hate it, I just did it because it was the best thing to do for my baby. Was I thrilled when I finally found a milk substitute that I felt comfortable enough giving my her in place of breastmilk or cows milk so she could finally wean? Yes! Absolutely. Honestly I feel like I get better cuddle time with her now than I did before she weaned. I was a little resentful of the fact that she’d snuggle in and relax with her dad but when ever I held her she automatically rub her face into my chest rooting to nurse and would only settle in if she got to, even if she had just eaten, and all I wanted to do was cuddle. The actual act of weaning her was much easier than I expected. She was already at the point where if I tried to rock her to sleep in the glider she’d wind up whining and reaching for the crib to go to sleep, a little sad at first but also pretty impressive. She took right to the milk sub I found, Ripple, made from pea protein, and only nursed periodically toward the end just so the process was a little easier on me, she could care less as long as she got her bottle. I never got engorged, no mood swings, no clogged ducts or mastitis. I didn’t need to take any measures to dry up, it’s just all happened pretty naturally. Now I know this isn’t the way for many other mothers, I know we were lucky for the most part, I’m grateful that I have such an easy baby, but I do feel that in the end, the reason this all went so smoothly for us was the approach I took. I just tried to be straightforward and relaxed as I could, I aimed for a balance of taking control of the situation when I felt it was necessary while also letting nature take its course. Alice has always slept well, she’s slept through the night since two months old,  basically ever since she started sleeping in her crib in a separate room, so I never really had to nurse her through the night and I think that was a great benefit for our situation. She loves eating and took to solids wonderfully and eats basically whatever I give her, another advantage. No, I didn’t feel like this beautiful earth goddess over flowing with feminine power the year that I was nursing her, which seems to be the expectation for some. I just felt normal, like a mom doing what moms do. There where a few bumps along the way, but I knew I could do it so I did. It wasn’t for me, it was never supposed to be about me, it was about doing what was best for the baby, it’s not that deep. So this is my response to everything I’ve been reading the last year. Sure you could think “If you are so tired of reading about people’s “Breastfeeding Journeys” and all the glory that comes with it, then why are you sharing yours?” Because I wanted to, some other moms may feel the same way about it as I do, I thought a blog post was a little more appropriate that sharing booby pictures. 

Philly, parenting, summer, city living, toddlers, babies, nannying

Picnics in The Parks, Sister Cities.


I first became aware of this park a few years back when I was working with an after school program and we took the little ones on a bit of field trip one day. It’s one of those little suprises that Philadelphia has hidden in the corners of some of the most bustling areas of the city. It’s located at 18th St and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, right smack dab in between City Hall and The Philadelphia Museum of Art (Rocky Steps), across the street from Logan Square’s iconic Swan Memorial Foutain.

On our way! I had to wake Alice up for the fun.

When you first cross the street from the fountain you come across the Plaza and Sister Cities fountain. It’s a splash pad that shoots up guisers from the ground. It’s called Sister Cities because the guisers are positioned to represent Philadelphia’s 11 sister cities from ten different countries, with Philly in the middle. There are few things more enjoyable than watching Izzy run through the spraying water, galloping at full speed, positively squealing with delight.

Of course Izzy always has to put her face directly in the spout!

Something else that makes this experience enjoyable is the fact that attendants frequently stop by to double check that all babies are in swim diapers, the falling leaves are swept regularly and all trash is picked up. The water in the fountain is checked twice a day to make sure that it’s safe, and water samples are sent to a lab twice a week to further ensure that the 20 month old toddler waiting with her mouth wide open for the next water guiser to erupt won’t get sick. There were several occasions where I caught Izzy doing this and I did have to ask her to “Stop drinking her hat” after seeing her sucking the water out of it once it was good and saturated.

This is the face of a child experiencing pure joy.
Alice enjoyed as well! It was a little intimidating at first but she warmed up to it rather quickly.

Once you’ve gotten nice at soggy at the fountain it’s time to head over to the Boat Pond and Children’s Discovery Garden. Now this is REALLY cool. They have created a mini (very mini) hiking trail complete with streams and water falls that lead to a little “pond” perfect for little guys to wade in. It’s such a fun and imaginative place to explore, I can’t wait until the babies are just a little older to appreciate the trail where they can climb the small cliffs and follow the streams. There is a small shop where you can purchase little rubber duckies and toy boats to send down stream into the pond, I also very much appreciated the available swim diapers for sale.

Izzy wading in the pond, this is as deep as it gets, perfect for toddlers!
Alice getting in on the fun, lots of babies in the pond, it is kept clean but with all the children in and out, lots of leaves and a good amount of dirt, it is quite reminiscent of a real life pond, a good wipe down and bath when we get home is always a good idea.
A different look at the pond from the discovery garden.
A little stream and waterfall to discover.
Climbing the trail!

Once we build up an appetite there is plenty of shady space to throw down a blanket, change in to dry outfits and bring out some lunch. I could tell Izzy was ready to eat and had her fill of water thrills once she didn’t yell at when I tried to remove her from the pond, She did earlier when I had to change Alice’s diaper, the poor thing was devastated until she realized that we were only leaving for a minute. Even while they were eating she continued to gesture toward the pond like she wanted to go back in, or maybe it was her way of saying she had a good time.

I caught Izzy motioning toward the pond behind us.

Lunch was our typical pasta salad for Izzy, olives, peas, and cut up fruit for both, and an avocado meant for both but Alice was much more interested it than Izzy. This was after I got them changed of course, this task proved to be a little bit more of an ordeal than anticipated. The were both a little wound up from all the fun, hungry and on the verge of becoming very tired. I was dealing with squirmies, wet, waterlogged diapers, the removal of sticky leaves that had somehow manage to make their way into said waterlogged diapers, all the while trying to keep them covered and “decent” since we were in public. They were both a little fussy, Alice trying her best to crawl away half dressed while Izzy was climbing into the bottom of the stroller dead set on dumping out all the contents of the diaper bag, for the third time in ten minutes, I managed though! I may have wound up a bit soggy myself while wrestling two dripping wet kiddies, but at least they were dry, clean and eventually fed.

Bye Sister Cities! See you soon!

This really is a fantastic place to spend time on a hot day. It’s a great way to feel truly transported in the middle of Center City and I can’t believe it took me so long to discover it. It’s fun, free, safe and always a good time for a wide range of ages. There is a great café available to get lunch and not to mention all the fun exciting places to visit on the surrounding blocks. There is a great sense of satisfaction I feel on a long walk home from a few hours of legitimate fun and fulfillment for the girls. We love Sister Cities!

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Picnics in the Parks: Fitler Square.

This spring and summer I’ve been taking full advantage of the Philadelphia parks in the neighborhood where I work and used to live. There’s nothing better than packing up a little picnic, loading up the babies, some bubbles and a blanket, and spending time outside in a little grassy oasis in the middle of the big city. It’s free, fun and always available. I’d like to share a little about each park we frequent and why we like it, starting with my most recent discovery and possible new favorite, Fitler Square.

The entrance at Panama Street.

Located at 23rd and Pine, the square was named for Philadelphia mayor Edwin Henry Fitler in 1896. This tiny 0.5 acre park is so charming and quant, it’s kept beautifully clean and is so inviting there have been times where I’ve been tempted to stop and sit even if I’m passing through in a rush to get somewhere less “sleepy” than this great little park. 

There is an antique feel to it, likely in part due to the beautiful Victorian Era fountian proudly placed in the center surrounded by a lovely little garden and wrought iron fence. It’s one of those places that if you look in the right direction and tune out the sound of the cars passing by, not too difficult considering its nestled in one of the more quite areas the neighborhood, you can transport back a century and imagine yourself enjoying a little respite just as someone in 1917 must have done. 

The plaque reads ” Edwin H Fitler 1825-1896. Mayor of Philadelphia 1887-1891. A respected businessman and tireless civic leader. Filter Square was named in his honor October 13, 1896.”
Unlike some of the larger parks in the area, Fitler Square is a place you can feel comfortable throwing down a picnic blanket, kicking off your sandals, allowing your little ones to do the same, and if they venture off the blanket you won’t have to second guess what kind of questionable material they may come in contact with in the grass. There are “No Dogs in the Grass” signs posted along the fences, which believe it or not, I have come to greatly appreciate since the company I’ve kept in the parks I visit has switched from dogs to children. Believe me, I’m all for city dogs getting to spend some quality time in a nice grassy park, but there are plenty around town that our four legged friends are permitted to indulge in. It is very reassuring to be able to have a place to go where you can hang out on the cool grass, have some lunch and enjoy some outdoor time without some stranger’s pooch relieving himself yards away while the owner looks the other direction, chats on his phone and leaves the “business” for someone else to deal with. It’s also nice to know that refreshingly cool dew you’re feeling under your toes is just that, dew, and you don’t really have to question what else it may be. Dogs are absolutely allowed to visit the park, they just must be leashed and the grass is for people not pups. With that said I have seen dogs in the grass but people seem to be respectful enough to not allow them to “go” and if they do they’ll get an earful from one of the other nannies  or parents who frequent the park with their children. 
No pee on this grass!

The park’s visitors all seem to be the nice respectful type you wouldn’t mind sharing your afternoon picnic space with. I’ve never come across someone smoking a cigarette, or anything else for that matter, therefore there are not dangerous cigarette butts scattered around. No one is ever blasting music, begging or stinking up the place. This park is very child friendly with whimsical little animal statues placed throughout that the little guys seem to love. Our favorite is a family of turtles by sculptur Eric Berg. Everytime we go we pay them a visit. There is always a child riding on the shell of one of them and there is something beautiful about the simplicity of seeing a toddler appreciate a piece of art as only a toddler could. There is also a cuddly looking bear right near the family of turtles who gets plenty of attention and a ram greeting visitors at the entrance of the park. 

Izzy greeting the Ram.
Little Izzy and the little bear.
Alice falling in love with the Turtles.
 

Now for the fun part! We eat! I bring foods that both babies can share because Izzy will inevitably pop something into Alice’s mouth or Alice will dive a pudgy little hand into what ever Izzy has. I keep it simple and bring an assortment of snack style foods that aren’t too messy because they will wind up tipped over on the blanket. A typical baby picnic will have a few 5 oz. containers with peas, chopped fruit, puffs, sliced olives or pinto beans, maybe a pasta salad for Izzy, Alice isn’t too interested in the penne noodles, but Izzy loves a good whole weat pasta with tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, chicken and some italian dressing. I bring out a few things at a time and keep them snacking the whole time we are out. It keeps Izzy close and munching while she is still having fun in her surroundings. 

Lunch!
Alice munching some fruit while Izz Bizz eats her pasta.
Always sharing!

When I’m satisfied they’ve eaten an appropriate lunch-sized amount of food (Alice will have likely nursed before we left the house), they play! While they’re still so little some bubbles and maybe a ball is enough to bring to keep them happy. There is also usually other children around generously willing to kick Izzy a soccer ball or hand over a peice of chalk. They also get great satisfaction out of watching the bigger kids play and Izzy is content just strolling around. The other thing I love about this park is that it’s nice and closed in. You don’t have to worry too much about a ball rolling into the street or a child dodging after it. 

So there you have it! We Love Fitler Square! It’s less than a ten minute walk from Izzy’s house so it’s always a go-to for us. It’s close to a grocery store and on the way back from one of our favorite baby classes, very convenient for us and it’s always nice anytime of the day. It’s an all around “Perfect Picnic Park” and I suggest anyone staying in the area head over for a bit of pleasent relaxation. See you there! 

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Teething “Lizcuits” ❤️

Alice and Izzy have both been teething for weeks. Izzy is working on her molars and incisors, Alice’s bottom teefers are just finally cutting through now that she’s a week away from 11 months! I was trying to find something to comfort them that worked and was homemade. I’ve heard tell of the wonders of teething biscuits but with Alice’s allergies I don’t trust much that is store bought. My mom found a recipe for egg and dairy free biscuits online, I made a few small alterations, and voilà “Lizcuits”! Both girls seem to enjoy them. I store them in the freezer so they last longer and are nice and chilly on sore gums, hard but not too hard, and soft but not too soft. They don’t break apart easily so they are great for gnawing and little ones aren’t able to bite off dangerous pieces. Izzy bites through them but has enough teeth to chew, Alice can work on one for hours without making any significant progress. Here’s how to make them! 


Even though most recipes are found online now, I prefer to write the ones I use the most down. Nothing worse that to having to unlock your phone or iPad with a hand full of sticky dough. I said in a previous post that I’m not much of a recipe person, but this is one that I’ve used several times and since it’s baking, I have to keep things fairly precise. 


Step one: Gather ingredients. This is fairly straightforward. I got the flour and baby cereal at Target. You could use white four, and oatmeal cereal instead of rice if you so please. The bananas are from Aldi and coconut oil from Trader Joe’s. I also sometimes mince strawberries or other fruit to add in, just make sure you adjust the other ingredients to make up for the added moisture of the additional fruit.

Step Two: Roll the dough! I add more flour as I roll because it can get a little sticky. I make them fairy thin, the flatter you roll them the harder they get. Maybe as Alice gets more teeth I’ll make them thicker and softer so she can still snack on them, but for now I feel better having them harder to break.


Step Three: Cut into whatever shape you want, they don’t really rise or change shape during the baking process. I chose this shape and size because they’re not too big but large enough to hold onto and they last a long time.


Step Four: Bake! They go fast, just 15 minutes at 450! Check on them frequently because the thin edges can burn, they can also get sharp, so check them before you hand them to baby. Let them cool completely, they’re still too soft when they are warm. 

 And there you go! Happy little teether! 

Check out those little tiny teefers!

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Izzy Patties! 

Izzy started solids at the recommended 6 months. We did a combination of purees and baby led weaning. Basically I’d make her some purees to freeze into ice pops, put into pouches or keep in the fridge. I’d gather a combination of what ever healthy fruits and veggies I could and throw them in the Nutri-bullet, the same way I’d make a smoothie for myself, and store it for the baby. I’d sometimes thicken them up with some frozen breastmilk, yogurt or avocado, maybe add some chia and flaxseed. We also did the standard sweet potato and squash purees. I’ve been asked for the recipes and how to make them but honestly I just throw things together. As you may learn if you continue to follow this blog, I’m NOT a recipe person. I grew up watching my mom cook who was always a “little of this, little of that until it tastes good” type. No recipes passed down the generations in our family! This drives my husband nuts, this method can produce some delicious culinary creations, but there is no garauntee that you’ll ever get the same thing again, he’s very type A when it comes to cooking, that’s why he’s the baker.

In between purees I’d sit Izzy in her high chair while I cooked for her parents and tossed her little bits of whatever I was making. If I as preparing a salad for the week I’d give her a big piece of lettuce to gnaw on, if I was making a fruit salad, tiny bits of fruit, boiled veggies, little pieces of chicken, bread, eggs ect. I had her trying everything. Her main nutrients still came from primary breastmilk and secondarily purees, the other things were mainly just to introduce her to taste, texture and feeding herself.

Teenie Izzy gnawing on a steamed carrot. She was very well supervised while trying new foods.

I started thinking up more substantial “meals” for her when she turned a year. A staple has been simple nutrient packed mini Turkey Patties! I call them Izzy Patties just because, you know, they’re for Izzy and Izzy is cuter than turkey. I make a batch of them about every week and store them in the fridge, she’s always happily eaten them though it seems like recently she much prefers a fresh batch over the refrigerated ones, understandable.

Here’s how I make them, once again, this is a loose interpretation of various recepies that I have come across, I don’t measure, who has time for that? (I know, most people, but measuring involves numbers and I do NOT do numbers) they can vary batch to batch but in general have the same ingredients.

Here’s what you need:

  • One onion
  • 1 package of organic ground turkey. I try to stay as organic as possible, it doesn’t always happen for the adults, the damage has likely already been done, but I try to always feed the babies organic.
  • A big ol’ spoonful of organic flax for fiber.
  • A big ol’ spoonful of organic chia for calcium and omega fatty acids. Who doesn’t need some omega fatty acids right?
  • A bunch of spinach for iron. The pictured spinach is kind of witlty but that’s ok for cooking, I use the fresh stuff in the salads I make for the week.
  • A little salt.
  • A little garlic powder (or chop some up, we didn’t have any yesterday)
  • A little oregano because it was in the cabinet.


I use this little food processor for the onions and spinach. This thing is great, I have the big version at my house but I rarely use it because it’s so cumbersome, this little bugger is the best, I use it all the time at work. I chop the onions fine enough that the pieces blend in with the meat instead poking out all over the place when you form the patties.


Squish it all together while you heat up some olive oil in a pan on mediumish heat. Take about a spoonful of the mixture at a time and make little patty shapes. Sometimes I make them ahead of time, sometimes I make them as I go.


Toss them in the pan! Wow check out that big one! Let them brown for about ten minutes.


Give the baby some frozen peas to play with while she waits. This is always a go to with Izzy. She loves frozen vegetables, she’s been working on her canine teeth for what seems like weeks now so something frozen before her meal seems to help sometimes.


Flip the patties with some tongs. Mmmmm looking good! Watch out for oil splatter! I always make sure curious babies are secured in a high chair or down for a nap to avoid any potential burns from above.


Let them cool and feed that baby!! I couldn’t get Izzy to eat much of anything yesterday for lunch, she ate six patties at dinner though! I often make these for my husband too, because just like a little baby, it is difficult to get him to eat a nutrious diet, but he loves these.

There you have it! I have more Izzy munchies to share, stay tuned for seeet potato “fries” (even though there is no frying involved) broccoli quinoa muffins and more. This recipe is allergen free and safe for Alice too, but for now I’ve been just giving her ground turkey mixed with onion and spinach not in patty form. She needs a few more teeth first.

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This is how we Rainy Day…Rainy Day…Rainy Day.

Rainy days stink, they really stink when you have babies to entertain! Arts and crafts is a great go-to. Both babies are a little young to quite grasp the concept of brush-paint-paper-picture, but Izzy is old enough to appreciate color, texture and the cause and effect of dipping a brush and spreading some paint around on white paper, and of course making a good old fashioned mess! Here’s how we spent our morning: 

Step one: Disrobe the artist. I find this easier than a smock or paint clothes. It’s summer, morning, we were staying in and I hadn’t gotten her dressed yet, and it’s much easier to wipe her down or throw her in the bath after than making unnecessary laundry. I live for avoiding unnecessary laundry.

Step Two: Set up the “studio”.  This time I put down garbage bags under cardboard boxes. Last time I taped garbage bags to the floor but she was way too interested in ripping them up, plus it was harder clean up. I put the bags under just in case paint made it’s way through any openings in the cardboard, probably didn’t need to, but why not? I taped four large pieces of white paper down and a few paper bowls to the cardboard. I learned that if you don’t tape the bowls down they wind up upside down, under a bottom, or on top of a head. I put just a small amount of washable, non-toxic baby-safe paint in the bowls and scattered paint brushes around. 

Step Three: Observe as the little artist explores her creative side. Alice watched on, she’s still a little too little to get much out of it, plus, the thought of two paint covered babies was a little intimidating, one day soon, but not yet! She was plenty happy observing the artist at work. 


Step Four: Dodge messy hugs. Offer a kiss on the forehead instead, and take a moment to pat yourself on the back for providing the child with so much fun she just HAD to give you a hug to show her appreciation.


Step Five:  Keep cool and allow the inevitable to unfold. Tell yourself that’s she’s “So advanced, expressing herself so well at such a young age. I wonder what the pink foot represents in her mind?”


Step SIX: Take a quick cracker and peek-a-boo break. This is a very important step.


Step Seven: Take away the blue paint, the blue paint now has chewed crackers that have been spat into it, you can’t be sure that the culprit won’t attempt to try these crumbs again now that they are blue.


Step Eight: Marvel at the child’s masterpiece! What a work of art! Take a picture, because let’s face it, this ones not quite a “keeper” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it shouldn’t be documented. 


Step Nine: Asses the damage to the child. She’s a piece of art hersel! Very cute, but still needs to be cleaned. Warm damp paper towels did the trick. By this point most of the paint had dried so there was no longer the threat of her tracking it all over the house. 


Step Ten: If all goes well you will have sufficiently stimulated the child enough to tire her out. Now it is time to dress her, put her down for her nap and clean up the studio. I save the boxes, garbage bags and bowls for the next rainy day. Here’s to a nice long gloomy weather nap for our little artist!!! 

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Alice is Allergic.

I used to roll my eyes when I heard tales of elementary schools around the country no longer allowing kids to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school, I couldn’t believe that they had the nerve to send parents lists of what they could and could not pack in their children’s lunches. When I worked at an after school program I was shocked by forms sent to the teachers by a few parents listing their child’s many seemingly bizzare allergies and sensitivities. I remember thinking “Oranges!? No way, that parent is must be a hypochondriac, no one is allergic to oranges.” One day a kid forgot to bring sunscreen, I said fine, I’m sure someone else has some and started to get a bottle from another child’s bag before the other teacher stopped me abruptly. I had NO idea that nowadays you can’t even put sunscreen on a child without having their parents permission. All I could think was how can this be a real thing. What is this world coming to? I started to come across more and more people with gluten sensitivities, in fact I even convinced myself I had one for a while. I just figured it was the trend, in five years this will all be a thing of the past, like the Zika virus, or swine flu, some kind of exaggerated scenario that will fizzle out eventually.

The main reason that I had convinced myself that I must have a gluten sensitivity is because I have eczema, I’ve always had it off and on my whole life. Never super severe, just aggravating. I don’t think I have a a gluten sensitivity anymore, and if I do I like bagels too much to care, but I do still have eczema, which is why I wasn’t surprised when Alice started to get itchy around three months old. I wasn’t concerned at first, I didn’t really think twice about it. She has my complexion, she had some pretty significant baby acne as a newborn, I always kind of had pretty cruddy skin in general, I figured it was a little sensitive baby skin mixed with just her general skin type.

Alice was born with something called a hemangioma on her forearm. It’s a type of vascular birthmark, fairly common and benign. Hers started off looking like a little tiny purplish fingerprint, I noticed it immediately after she was born. It reminded me of a birthmark my grandfather had, I considered hers to be a “touch” from him in heaven to let me know he was with her. I loved it. The thing about hemangiomas is that they grow, some grow and grow, then they gradually go away by early childhood. I got on google once we were told exactly what it was and I was pretty disturbed by what hers might turn into. Cosmetically they can become very alarming looking once they hit their peak in size. I quickly put those feelings aside and focused on how lucky we were that hers was on her forearm, and not on her face or head, or a place that could impede her airways or vision, which unfortunately is often the case. She was healthy, so I just let it be. Then, at around two months, I noticed that hers started to get a little scaley. It almost looked grey, like it may already be involuting, but I knew it was way too early for that. It had grown significantly over the previous weeks, but I was expecting it to get much bigger. I put a picture up on a Facebook Support group for Hemangioma Parents and was alerted to the fact that hers was ulcerating, and was advised to see a doctor immediately before it starts to bleed.  A hemangioma is basically a grouping of  underdeveloped blood vessels, once it starts to bleed it can be very difficult to stop it, it can also be incredibly painful. The thought of my sweet little baby in any sort of pain was of course horrifying so we made an appointment at CHOP (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) for that week.

Dennis (husband) took her to her appointment with the dermatologist. I sent him with a big long list of questions, it was “baby’s first ailment”, I was very concerned. The dermatologist apparently took the list from him when she saw it and proceeded to run down it and answer every question while a nurse typed it up and they sent him home with a copy. I cannot express how much we love CHOP and how blessed we are to be able to see the doctors we have been able to see. If there was one thing that could possibly make me stay in Philadelphia long term it would be the doctors that we have access too, some of the best in the country. We were given antibiotic for the ulceration and started her on a topical gel called Timolol. This would close the wound and keep the hemangioma from growing. It was a bit of a blessing in disguise, we were treating hers before it grew too large, if it hadn’t ulcerated and we just left it it would have likely gotten much bigger.

On my list I had asked him to just mention her eczema, maybe she could suggest a good lotion. I had only noticed a little on her shoulder at that point. I was more focused on the baby acne that had just recently cleared up. I had expressly put that DID NOT wish to use any steroid cream whatsoever, so I was surprised when he came home with a prescription for hydrocortisone 2.5 and Desonide ointment. It seemed that the doctor had the impression that her eczema was worse than I had thought. She also sent a list of creams to try, up until this point I hadn’t put anything on her skin, I had always read that you shouldn’t put any creams or lotions on a baby under 6 months. I bought some Eucerin and put it on her that week, so began our ordeal, the next few months were spent buying every cream in the pharmacy, trying every natural remedy on Google, while to our horror, we watched as her skin just got worse and worse. I still refused to even fill the prescription for the steroid creams. Even though the dermatologist had assured me that they were safe, and the lowest potency, I had been scared away from them by other parents warnings of TSW, Topical Steroid Withdrawal, a condition that occurs when a person’s skin becomes dependent on steroid creams and the symptoms are a thousand times worse than eczema on its own. It is very rare, but I have a little cousin who was struggling with it, along with eczema and her own long list of allergies.

We were finding that maybe some creams worked better than others but it still felt like we were getting nowhere. I was so tense all the time. I was so afraid to even look at my baby, I had no idea what I would see hour to hour, she’d wake up clear, then a few hours later she’d be covered head to toe in a rash. Her eyes were getting swollen from eczema on her eye lids, we had to keep her swaddled most of the time because she would be constantly squirming and scratching. If she wasn’t swaddled her hands had to be covered, she always had a hat because her head was itchy red and flakey. Things like tummy time were out of the question, the moment you placed her down she’d start rubbing her face on the ground to relieve the itch. You couldn’t even hold her without her rubbing her face in your shoulder. Baths were unbearable. One of us had to hold her arms still while she fought to scratch while the other quickly rinsed her down and immediately slathered her in thick layers of Vaseline and what ever cream we were trying that week. The word that came to mind the most was “maddening”. My head was constantly spinning at this point. I couldn’t focus on anything but her skin. It was beyond heartbreaking for us to see our tiny baby so uncomfortable. We kept hearing “It’s just eczema, it’s just her skin, it’s so common, it could be worse…” every time I heard these things I wanted to scream. Sure it could be worse, but this was pretty horrible. I knew it wasn’t just “her skin”. During this time I was also online constantly researching eczema remedies and talking to other parents with children suffering. I kept seeing allergies mentioned, I knew that had something to do with my little cousin’s issues also so I called an allergist. By this point I had cut all of the top eight allergens from my diet. This in its own was maddening, I was terrified to eat anything. I was keeping a food journal and writing down every ingredient of everything I ate and writing down what her skin looked like hour by hour of everyday. She’s always been breastfed and everything I was reading was telling me that the way her skin was acting, flaring up and improving in a sort of cycle throughout the day, puffy eyes ect. it was looking more and more like she was having allergic reactions. I called the pediatrician and got a referral for CHOP’s allergy division. I had high hopes of going to that appointment and having an allergist tell me that my diagnoses was exactly right and all I had to do was stop eating “this, this and this” and she’d be cured. Nope…that’s not what happened at all. The allergist told me that it as unlikely my milk had anything to do with her skin, I once again heard “she just has eczema”, she told me to reintroduce the foods that I had cut out, she said that there hasn’t been enough research done to validate the theory that a baby can react to an allergen through the mother’s milk for her to advise me to eat a certain way. It was her concern that I eat normally so that I don’t risk malnutrition myself.  I asked her why I had read over and over again about babies who skin issues cleared up when the mother stopped eating dairy, or gluten, or soy ect, she had no answer. She thought maybe a contact allergen could be a culprit but wasn’t sure, I at this point, had already considered the trauma of having to rehome our three cats our little dog and asked her to do a skin test for pet dander and mold. The one good thing that came from that first appointment was that the skin tests were negative, a huge relief that our fur babies were safe. She also eased my fears a little bit about the steroid creams. She assured me that we would stop if she showed any sign of a dependency, and convinced me that easing her discomfort was so much more important than avoiding the risk of something extremely rare happening to her. Her ointments are such a low potency also, and I eventually discovered that if I diluted them even more with her creams, it still helped and made the potency even lower.

I still wasn’t convinced that this wasn’t allergies though. When she was seen I had been off dairy for about two weeks, her skin was still bad but seemed to have shown a bit of improvement. I started dairy again and it got worse almost immediately. I cut it out again, more improvement. I was also using the steroid creams at this point and had the constant question of whether I was on to something with the allergies or was I just masking a bigger problem. Mind you, I haven’t mentioned all of the other things I was afraid might be causing it, polyester, any fragrance in our soaps, shampoos, laundry detergent, the fire retardant chemical that they use in car seats, mold spores, the city water, any artificial colors or flavors that I ate, anything other than cotton coming in contact with her skin, certain ingredients it the lotions we were trying, nothing was safe, I was seeing the world around us as one giant hazard. The thing with eczema is yes, it is common, but it is also a condition with an infinite amount of possible causes with just as many possible solutions, but what works for one person likely won’t work for another. It is weeks, months, even years of trial and error. I also was still going back and forth with the prescription creams, I was afraid that because every time I stopped using them for a day she’d flare up again they weren’t working, we’d have to increase the potency, she was becoming dependent, so I’d stop using them, and she’d continue to itch and squirm and be uncomfortable, so I’d go back out of desperation. I was afraid of her missing out on milestones because I was still keeping her swaddled in her bassinet all the time, so afraid of her coming in contact with anything that might make her flare up or scratching herself bloody.

I was still keeping a food journal, and after posting a picture of her during an especially bad flare up to a support group, a mother said that she looked similar to her baby if she ate eggs. Looking back in the journal I noticed that eggs could possibly be linked to her reactions. I scheduled another appointment and pushed for more tests. That day we tested for eggs and peanut, lo and behold, she tested positive to both! I didn’t ask for peanut but because of the link between nut allergies and eczema they did it just as a precaution. Her egg hive was pretty significant, a very clear positive, the peanut was apparently right on the cusp, the allergist said it could almost go either way but we were given an Epi pen and scheduled an office food challenge for once she started solids. At that point, because I was now throughly convinced this was food allergy related, I continued with my elimination diet, which by now had become much easier because I had gotten used to it and it wasn’t quite as restricted as it had been, I found that I could still eat baked egg and dairy and soy and she still improved. I also started the prescription creams again because I felt comfortable that we were getting to the root of the issue and easing the symptoms while we worked it out was ok. Her skin was finally consistently getting better and better. We brought her in for her peanut challenge about two months later, once she was comfortable with eating purées. With children with allergies they like to introduce them to certain foods in the office so that the doctors can monitor their reactions. Recently doctors have begun to advise that parents introduce peanut to their children earlier than it was previously recommended, but in Alice’s case they did in office just to be on the safe side. We were supposed to test for dairy, wheat, and soy that day too, but to everyone’s surprise she failed the challenge. After the first little tiny taste if peanut powder that they mixed into her sweet potato, her lips swelled up, her mouth turned red and she broke out in hives scattered about her body. The didn’t give her anymore, gave her Zyrtec and an oral steroid, monitored her for another few hours and she was fine, but definitely allergic to peanut. We couldn’t do the other allergy tests that day because the medicine they gave her would block any further reactions so we wouldn’t be able to get an accurate result.

She had her most recent allergy test at about nine months. They wound up testing for dairy and soy. I had given her traces of wheat and she didn’t have a reaction so we know at least we could keep that off her ever-growing list. I knew she’d test positive for dairy. I had recently gotten my hopes up that maybe we were in the clear with that one because I had accidentally slipped up and eaten some cheese and she didn’t have a reaction, but a few days later she broke out in hives when the tiniest drop of milk touched her, it was a surprising and disappointing reaction, but at least I was getting answers. She tested positive for soy, upsetting, but not necessarily surprising, dairy and soy allergies often go hand in hand. So there we had it. They said we don’t have to go back for a year when they will re-test her and we’ll do some in office  baked egg and dairy food challenges. They encouraged me to give her fish and tree nuts at home with the theory that the sooner we introduce them to her the better her chances of avoiding an allergy to them will be. I gave her a little almond, she seemed to have a mild reaction so I haven’t tried since, the thought of using the Epi pen is too terrifying, I’m not taking any risks. She eats salmon regularly so we are ok on fish.

So there ya go…just like that, I’m an allergy mom. It’s what I get for scoffing at others with allergies. I have so many mixed feelings, I’m happy that I have the answers, her eczema is mostly gone, she still has sensitive skin but I no longer need the steroid creams unless she is having a reaction to something, which isn’t often. She definitely has sensitive skin and I’ve trained myself to not panic over every little bump or red patch. She’s still an itchy little thing but now I can distract her with a toy, she enjoys baths and we don’t have to have her hands covered anymore. She has an 80% chance of growing out of the dairy, egg and soy allergies which is promising, less of a chance with the nuts.

This has all completely changed how I see the world. It’s a minefield full of dangers that might poison my baby. We are constantly cleaning, checking, wiping, changing. I’m so scared of the Epi pen but feel safe when it’s with us. I notice every nut or shell in my surroundings, it can be across a playground and I’ll still hone in on it and secretly curse the parent that allowed their child to eat such a common allergen at a playground where my my baby might want to play. We’re still unsure of the exact severity of her allergies, thankfully we haven’t had to deal with an anaphylaxis type reaction to anything and hopefully it will stay that way. We’ve already experienced other parents aware of her allergies afraid to let their children near her, literally yelling at them to “Stay away from Alice” well intentioned, but even after I’ve assured them it’s ok, I don’t think there will be a problem unless they feed her something, they’ll still make a big deal about not wanting their child who may have eaten one of her allergens to give her a reaction. I just think about how that might make her feel when she gets older and it breaks my heart a little. I’m getting used to preparing allergen free meals for her and I, (I still eat a little dairy in hopes that she’s still getting traces and possibly helping her build an immunity), I’m sure eventually I won’t think twice about it all, it will just be how we live, but at this point I’m still getting used to it. The hardest part for me is not wanting to seem like one of “Those moms” that I used to judge while still making it clear to everyone around me that this is for real, I’m not exaggerating. I’m prepared for a life of saying “Alice is allergic” day after day, notes and special instructions for her teachers, camp counsellors, baby sitters, family members, friend’s parents, and worried that people won’t take it seriously enough. I worry constantly about when she gets older and dares to eat something she knows she shouldn’t. She’s crawling now and I feel like I can’t safely put her down anywhere other that my house. I can’t look away for a moment for fear she’ll find something I hadn’t seen and pop it in her mouth. Parenting is hard, this is an entirely new level. All in all I’m optimistic, we’ll make it work, such is life, you just figure it out.

So that’s my introduction to Alice. She’s obviously much more than her allergies, but this is a reason why I started this blog. I’ve found a lot of support through social media and connecting with other parents over frustrations, safe foods and recipes has made this all much less overwhelming, so I hope to return the favor.

 

 

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Alice now, ten and a half months.
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Alice at her most recent allergy test, this day we added soy and officially dairy, to her list of allergies.
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Alice, five and a half months, tested positive for peanut and egg.
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Alice at four months. Swaddled to keep from scratching and rubbing.
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Alice, four month, I’ll never forget this day, my poor baby.
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Alice, three months, when it really started to get bad.
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Hives from a single drop of milk.