Posts tagged ‘Allergies’

November 29, 2011

Sleep Diva

A long time ago, I learned that traveling anywhere with a little one—whether it’s a short train ride to New Jersey or a cross-country flight to Los Angeles—requires a recovery day upon returning home. Jacob settles back into our home pretty easily; he’s always excited to see his toys and run around more freely again. Plus, at home he knows where the Cheerios are. But still, his sleep schedule is a little off, and his energy levels need to regulate all over again.


For me, the recovery is as much psychological as it is physical. Walking into an extended family member’s house and eyeing the (evil) cheese plate before I even see the host clearly puts me on edge. Add to that the fact that every greeting isn’t just, “Hi! Good to see you! Happy (Fill in appropriate greeting here)!” It’s more like “Hi! Good to see you! Happy whatever! Okay, so if you’ve eaten any cheese, or anything containing butter, milk, or any other form of dairy since you last bathed, could you not kiss or touch our child? Thanks! Really, so good to see you!”


And yet, no matter how hard we (family included) try, every trip means administering Benadryl at least every other day, if not every day. By the time we come home, Jacob’s skin is often like sandpaper, and it takes a few days and some heavy-duty lotion to get it back to normal. I’m starting to think Jacob’s list of allergens looks like this: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and travel.


Don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving was a fun weekend, and we had lots of great time with family and friends. But that doesn’t make the recovery any less necessary, especially when Jacob’s sleeping habits take a turn for the dramatic.


The first night we were in New Jersey, we’d planned to share a room with Jacob. The translation here is that we kicked John’s brother out of his room and onto the couch. About two am, John and I got kicked out of the room, too—onto the floor. Even at home, Jacob sometimes wakes up once or twice in the night, but he can usually put himself back to sleep. Apparently, this is only the case if we’re not in the room with him.


The next night, we didn’t even bother trying to share a room with him. We effectively kicked John’s brother to yet another couch (thank goodness John’s family has enough couches!), so we could sleep on the furniture in the living room. I slept much better that night, but I fell asleep amazed at what a diva Jacob could be if he really wanted to. Will he ever have sleepovers?  Will his friends have to sleep in another room?


In the meantime, here’s a photo I talked up while we were home. I know I ranted about Christmas coming too early in the retail world, and so I have to admit that not only am I posting this Halloween-y photo a month late, but it was only taken two weeks ago. Maybe I need a calendar, too.


November 1, 2011

Adventures of the Traveling Food Allergies

According to a recent study*, traveling with a toddler with food allergies is approximately seven and a half times more complicated that simply traveling with a toddler.


Simply traveling with a toddler? Ha! Fun, yes. Simple, noooo.



When we planned our trip to Montreal, we figured it would be after Jacob was fully weaned, which would allow me to eat freely and would make sightseeing and so on a little easier. For the most part, we were right. But we didn’t consider the host of other obstacles his allergies set before us.



As much fun as it was to have Jacob with us, his sensitivities did present some challenges. We never administered Benadryl, but we came close a couple of times.


Our first full day, we tried to feed him some grilled salmon at a restaurant. I told our bilingual waiter about the allergies (pretending they were my own), and to be sure he got it all, he sent over another waiter—one without a French accent to his English—to be sure he’d understood everything. They even brought me gluten-free bread, because they thought I couldn’t eat the baguette they were serving. After a number of reassurances that the salmon had only been cooked with olive oil, we gave it to the little man. And he loved it! Great news!  Well, until the hives started to show.


From that point, we only fed him fruit from restaurants. The rest of his menu was food we’d brought along or bought at a local grocery store. Thank goodness it was cold outside, so I didn’t worry about carting cold cuts around all day.


When John and I ate, we tried to eat anything that might contain dairy with a fork and knife—even quesadillas and chicken fingers. If one of us needed to hold, say, toast with butter, we’d make sure the other person had at least one dairy-free hand. It sounds nuts (pun intended), but it was the best we could do. And after every meal, we used mouthwash to clean ourselves up. Just a kiss after a café au lait can set the little guy off. Thank God he hasn’t shown any signs of anaphylaxis, but maybe that clause should end with “yet.”


Still, there’s always a silver lining, and on this trip I discovered an incredible combination of modern conveniences: ordering take-out in a hotel. Once Jacob’s asleep, we’ll eat what we like and just be careful when we clean up. When it’s take-out, you don’t have to cook, and you avoid the tip for the delivery guy (John doesn’t require tips). When it’s in a hotel with a kitchenette, you get to eat on real plates without having to clean anything up. Plus you don’t need a babysitter, and you can wear yoga pants and no shoes. Does it get any better?


Joking aside, this trip made more real for me how dangerous the world can be for Jacob. We’re not sure what caused it, but he had very red cheeks one morning and a rash another. We started to wonder if he might just be allergic to Canada.



While it’s tempting to want to build a bubble around him, that’s not going to help him figure out how to live in his world. The other day I spoke with a woman whose teenage daughter has a bunch of food allergies, and she told me her goal for her children was that they learn to negotiate their world. After this trip, I’m adopting that as my mantra as well.


It’s tough sometimes to look in the fridge and realize there’s nothing Jacob can eat in there. I never thought I’d know what it felt like to not have something to feed my child. I am grateful all over again that I can go around the corner and buy what he needs, but even in trendy Park Slope, there are slim pickin’s.


This new lifestyle is not something I’d expected in my motherhood, but every life has its challenges, and it’s rare that we anticipate them. Success and happiness come from making the most of what you’re given, and while sometimes I want to find some crazy magic way to make Jacob’s allergies disappear, that’s just not possible. They are a physical manifestation of how both he and we have to get to know the wonderfully unique and individual person he is. And whether or not it involves butter, eggs, or wheat, that’s a journey I’m more than willing to take.



* that being our trip to Montreal

October 17, 2011

Bread Is Back!

Last week, with the go-ahead from both our pediatrician and allergist, we gave Jacob wheat for the first time in over two months. I made sure we didn’t have anywhere to go, anything out of the ordinary to do, and watched him very closely both while he ate and afterward. Almost a week later, I’m still checking diapers for any sign of reaction, if you catch my drift, but so far? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. For the record, we hadn’t noticed any adverse reaction in him before, apart from the skin test. Either way, finally, and with many shouts of praise, BREAD IS BACK.


Gone are the days of paying six dollars for a miniature loaf of “bread” each week.  Can I get an “amen”?


The allergist recommended matzo, since it’s pretty much just wheat flour and water. I liked to think of Jacob’s diet those first few days as that of a carnivorous kosher vegan. Once that was deemed successful, we tried rosemary ciabatta . . . and then dairy-free, egg-free cookies . . . and then baguette . . . and Cheerios . . . and Italian bread. All were raging successes. One word comes to mind when we put a piece of bread in his hand: gobble. I don’t think we have to worry about the little man’s weight anymore.


When I was in high school, I worked in a Panera Bread restaurant. No, I never got tired of the food. At the orientation session (“Planet Bread”) the other new employees and I had to recite over and over, with increasing volume, “Bread is our passion, soul, and expertise!” My friend Adam thought I was joining a cult. Of course that wasn’t the case, but man, oh man, is it good to have bread back in our lives.


Next step, eggs!  The recent failed attempt may have been because the eggs weren’t fully cooked—apparently that can happen in the inside of French toast. We’re starting with egg matzo, of course, and hoping for the best!


Operation: Fatten That Child is making steady and happy progress. Onward and upward!

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