How We Saved Our Marriage (Part 3)

How We Saved Our Marriage Part 3 CradleRockingMama.com

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of “How We Saved Our Marriage”.

After our Serious Talk, Darrel and I felt a lot more optimistic about the state of our marriage.

In behavior, nothing had yet changed, but simply being on the same page again, simply communicating clearly with each other injected a spirit of hope into our lives that we hadn’t felt in a long time. 

I left for work the morning after our Serious Talk and epiphany, which was actually perfect since that gave us some distance to sit and work on our homework assignments.

We realized that showing each other that we loved each other had been easy when we were alone. With the kiddos around, our lives had changed. We couldn’t have 100% of our focus on each other any longer (even without chronic health issues), and our personal expectations and needs had changed, as well.

So for our first homework assignment, we each had to sit down and write out the things we needed to hear and see from the other person in order to feel loved. 

This goes back a “5 Love Languages“-type approach. We realized that neither of us had actually stopped doing things to show our love for each other; with the demands of our life being so much more demanding, though, we needed to prioritize to make sure that the things we did for each other would get the most “love bang” for the their buck!

I had the additional homework assignment of writing out my priorities for housekeeping. 

Darrel, as I said, is not a mind reader, and he agreed that having a list printed and displayed would help make him aware of what I wanted done, and ensure that anything he DID around the house would be off my list. That would ensure the house operated more smoothly, and I would feel gratitude for his participation and loved by him (turns out? “Acts of service” is one of my “love languages”!).

In the end, I created 4 lists for our wall: daily tasks, weekly tasks, never-ending tasks, and a “honey-do” list.

I printed them out, put them in some cheap frames I had laying around (that I spray painted to be pretty), and hung them up. We use a dry erase marker to check off tasks as completed.

Our Chore Charts CradleRockingMama.com

It seems so simple, right? Could a conversation and some homework assignments really make a major difference in our relationship?

YES.

The morning I flew home from work, Darrel sent me a text saying he’d had a hard time sleeping that night, and instead of getting up and playing video games or watching TV, he’d taken advantage of his unexpected insomnia to scrub the bathtub out for me.

He’d heard me mention that I was especially sore and achy after this work trip, and thought I might appreciate a long, hot soak when I got home, you see!

Y’all, I can’t tell you the last time Darrel made a gesture like that on his own! Driving home from the airport that morning, I felt like I was floating!

And I enjoyed a “kids-free bath tub soak” that was just what the doctor ordered.

Darrel’s birthday was last week, and I surprised him with a date. I arranged for my parents to watch the kids overnight, and showed up at Darrel’s office before he left for the day. We ate dinner at his desk, then went to a place that has mini-golf and arcade games (and other activities) and played for a couple of hours before going home and getting some cuddle time without kids interfering.

Our Date Night CradleRockingMama.com

I’ll be honest – neither Darrel or I have been able to check off every item on my daily or weekly lists at the end of every day or week. However, more of those jobs are getting done than ever had before, and now I’m not anxious about the lack of completion.

If the job didn’t get done that day or week, I know, now, that it was because we had too much to do and couldn’t get to it, rather than “I’ve worked my tail off and he’s not helping”.

We’re both working off the list, and that makes it possible for me to not feel upset when the list doesn’t end.

Darrel has left love notes out for me to find at unexpected moments, which always make me smile and feel “twitterpated” (you’ve seen Bambi, right?).

We’re back to seeing eye-to-eye on all things. No more feeling like the other person “doesn’t get it” or is being stubborn and willful.

We’re more casually affectionate toward each other. More random hand-holding, side hugs, quick pecks, and sitting side by side on the couch.

The biggest benefit, though, is in Darrel’s demeanor.

I know you’ll think I’m exaggerating, but he looks younger now! He’s lighter and more pleasant in everything; more patient with the kids, smiling more, laughing more, finding more humor in things. He’s just…happier in all aspects of his life.

Turns out, Darrel can handle anything that life throws at him, as long as he confidently has me in his corner.

Darrel says the same demeanor change is there for me, too. That I seem happier and calmer, as well.

Apparently, I can handle anything life throws at me, too, as long as I know Darrel is in my corner.

We’re a damn good team, y’all. We make it possible for each other to function at our best…as long as we are together in our hearts.

__________

Now, all marriages are different, and while I shared this story because I thought it could help somebody, I realize it won’t help everyone.

However, having been in a marriage that ended, and in one that is still going strong, I can say with total honesty: as long as both of you WANT to make the marriage work, you CAN make it work. There is always hope!

Maybe your epiphany will look different than ours. Maybe your homework assignments will be completely unrelated to ours. Maybe the change will be slower.

But it can be done.

For your kids, but mostly for your own soul, if you are in a marriage that is in a rough place, I sincerely hope you’ll reach out and have a conversation with your spouse.

If both of you are willing to accept responsibility for your own actions and do what needs doing, you can have your Honeymoon marriage back and life will feel better all around.

I know it seems hard to do when things are rough, but it helps to remember why you married your spouse before you start the conversation. 

Here’s a tip to help in that process: before you sit down to talk to your spouse, grab some quiet, alone time by yourself. (If you have to hide in a closet to do it, so be it.) Close your eyes, and start with the first day you met your spouse.

Force yourself to remember every little thing you liked about the person. Think about their smile, their good qualities. Think about the things your spouse did that made you feel like the most important person in the world. Think about the times your spouse has “gone to bat” for you; defended you and your family. Think about the sweet, loving things your spouse has done.

If you’re like me, your brain will automatically start throwing in “Yeah, but…” thoughts.

FIGHT THEM.

Focus on the Good. 

A little bit of time with that, and you may not be madly in love with your spouse again, but your heart will probably be softened enough to ease some of the stings from the recent disconnect you’ve experienced.

Your heart and mind will remember: I married this person for a reason. I love this person. I can sit and love this person in my conversation today, offering grace and understanding (even if I disagree). This person is important to me, and we need to figure out how to make sure we show that to each other.

It works, y’all. I did that, and it made it a LOT easier to listen to the hurtful things Darrel said in our first conversation. It made it possible to not immediately jump on the defensive. It made it possible to temporarily ignore the sadness and remember the love.

Showing forgiveness, grace, and understanding to him made it possible for him to show the same things back to me.

And we saved our marriage.

I don’t think I have all the answers about marriage. I don’t assume what I’ve said here will work for everyone.

I only hope that this story might give someone some hope, some encouragement, and maybe an idea of a place to start.

Let’s not let FPIES (or parenthood in general) trash our marriages.

Let’s fight for them. 

How We Saved Our Marriage (Part 2)

How We Saved Our Marriage Part 2 CradleRockingMama.com

Please read Part 1 of this story.

So here’s the scene: I’m full-on, 100% ticked off at Darrel for his real and imagined transgressions. I decide we need to have a Serious Talk.

That’s code for “I need to let Darrel know, in no uncertain terms, exactly how he’s ticked me off and what he needs to do to fix this.”

Fortunately, I’m not 16 years old any more, and I have acquired some tact and wisdom in the intervening years.

Also, I love Darrel. As mad as I was, at my core, I know we make a great team and have tons of love and respect for each other.

It was just…really  hard to tap in to that at the moment.

So I prayed. I prayed that God would take over this conversation and help me say the right things.

Most importantly, I prayed God would STOP me from saying the wrong things.

What’s that old saying? “You have one mouth, but two ears for a reason.” Or something like that.

So I started the Serious Talk with a question instead of an accusation. “What’s going on with you?”

And he answered.

Oh, did he answer. 

I won’t lie. He said some fairly hurtful things. He said some things I disagreed with 100%. He said some things that instantly – if I hadn’t prayed and handed control of the conversation over to God – would have made me jump out of my chair screaming “Bulls***!”

But I didn’t do or say anything. I waited. I listened.

Y’all…it was hard. 

When he was done, I spoke my piece. I told him how I saw things. How HE had done wrong. And I called BS on some things – though in a fairly tactful manner.

We went back and forth for a while, never seeming to get any closer, but at least not getting further apart.

Then, suddenly, the epiphany.

Do you want to know our big problem that caused the Serious Talk?

From my point of view, it was his tendency to not help out more around the house. I’m overwhelmed! Cooking non-stop, preserving foods, doing food research, raising the kids, nursing 3-5 hours a day, plus having to drop everything and go to work (for which I bring in a decent paycheck, thankyouverymuch – no “well, you don’t work for pay” argument here)…it’s a little much at times.

So when he comes home from work and barely engages in the housework at all, benefiting from my hard work while not contributing more than his paycheck, well, it started off just being irritating, but by the time we had our Serious Talk…it was infuriating!

So I’m leaning forward, holding his hand, trying to explain that I need more help. He interrupts me to defend himself. “I DO things around the house!” He listed off all the things he does.

The whole time I’m thinking in my head, “Yeah, but…” and suddenly the epiphany hit.

He DOES do stuff at home. He really isn’t  a total slacker in the housework department.

He just does stuff I DON’T CARE ABOUT

“Honey, have I ever told you the things I actually want you to do to help around the house?” I asked him.

“Not really. Well, no. Not at all.” he replied.

DING DING DING DING

Ladies and gentlemen! We have a “eureka” moment!

It takes two to tango. In disagreements it is exceedingly rare for one party to be completely innocent and the other party to be 100% wrong.

Even knowing that, though, I had not been able to discern where *I* had been at fault in our particular rough patch.

Here was my answer.

Darrel, like ALL men, is not a mind reader.

How can he properly help me around the house when he has no idea of my personal priorities for home upkeep?

He can’t. Simple as that.

So I’ll sit and stew over his “lack of help” – even if he’s doing “stuff” around the house, and he’ll work up resentment over my lack of appreciation for all that he’s doing. (Well, until he just stops doing anything at all, because, as Darrel put it, “why bother?”)

And we’ll layer resentment upon resentment until we no longer can stand the sight of each other…and for what?

For a lack of clear communication.

Now, some may argue that a man should just KNOW what to do around the house. That’s pretty much the thought I had been operating under.

The problem with that is easy to see, if you step back for a moment.

What if this particular man was not raised to know how to keep a house? Lots of mothers don’t properly impress upon their sons true housekeeping skills, so they grow to be men who don’t know how to keep a house.

However, even if your mother-in-law did an excellent job teaching her son housekeeping, what are the odds that her  priorities and your  priorities are exactly the same?

Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

Now, you may be reading this and rolling your eyes, writing me off as a drama queen. “Pshaw…her marriage didn’t need saving! This is piddly stuff! Not at all like what *I* have to deal with!”

Don’t be so hasty!

Did I mention I’ve been through a divorce? As a consequence, I’ve talked to a lot of experts about marriage over the years (my criteria? 30+ years of marriage and still happy to be married!) and read a library worth of marriage books, and do you know what I learned from all of that research?

Unmet expectations can break a marriage faster than anything else.

If your expectations aren’t met, you build resentment. If you build resentment, you stop building open lines of communication. If you stop communicating, you stop feeling connected. If you don’t feel connected, you stop caring.

You stop caring, and your marriage is, well, not necessarily over, but certainly in a really bad place.

And you get unmet expectations from a lack of clear communication.

So this may sound like Darrel and I were having a minor disagreement about division of labor, but it cut more to the core than that.

It had made me cry. It had made me feel completely alone. It had made me wonder with utter despair if this was to be my life for the next 50 years. We had stopped seeing eye-to-eye on many things.

That’s a lot more than just a minor disagreement over division of labor, right?

You can imagine how stunned I was to discover that Darrel had felt all those things, too! (Well, I don’t know if he’d cried about it. Probably not. I cry more than he does.)

Our “eureka” moment had revealed two people who desperately loved each other, and were both drowning in resentment and sorrow. Two people who badly wanted to “be” like we had been in the beginning, but had lost our way and didn’t know how to get back.

So we made a plan. 

We gave ourselves some homework assignments. 

Since this is already pretty long, check back to find out what our homework assignments were, and how it worked out!

Have you ever struggled with a lack of clear communication in your marriage? How did you overcome it?

How We Saved Our Marriage (Part 1)

How We Saved Our Marriage Part 1 CradleRockingMama.com

Last week I mentioned that Darrel and I have had to do some serious marital work lately, so I’m going to take a slight detour from the world of FPIES and Fructose Malabsorption and share that story.

I’ve debated about sharing this for two reasons. One, because it’s not directly related to food issues, and two, because it’s very personal and private.

With Darrel’s permission and agreement, though, I decided to share because I think some people can benefit from hearing this story, and in a way, it can  trace back to food issues (at least partially).

If you’re married, you surely know that all marriages have ups and downs, ebbs and flows.

That’s part of those pesky vows we make on our wedding day. “In good times and bad, in sickness and in health.”

ALL marriages go through times of great connection and passion, and times where you almost feel more like roommates who share the same name.

So, in my humble opinion, all marriages require work at some point. It takes effort to remain committed during times when your relationship…well…sucks.

Add to a normal marriage the strains of a chronic illness (or two, or three), and you’ve got a recipe for marital disintegration.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a proponent of the “bucket theory”. Usually this applies to tolerance levels of trigger foods, but it actually can apply to much more.

I’ve read relationship books that refer to this theory as a “bank account”; the general idea is that in any relationship, we make “love” deposits into the other persons “bank account”, and on bad days (or bad times) make withdrawals.

I like to keep things streamlined in my own head, so I prefer to think of it as “filling my husband’s bucket”.

If I’m pretty good at keeping his bucket full of lovey-dovey, warm fuzzy feelings for me, then on my bad days (or bad stretches), when I’m being nothing but an irritating nag, there’s a pretty deep well of love in his heart to balance out any draining I’m doing.

Of course, this works in reverse, too. Darrel has to keep my bucket pretty full so on days when I’m picking up his laundry from all over the bathroom floor (5 feet from the laundry hamper), I don’t decide I hate him.

When Darrel and I met, we had an intense connection. For those unfamiliar with the story, you should read it.

Some people say that “opposites attract”. It’s true; they do.

But they don’t often have the ability to stay together for the long haul.

Darrel and I are more of the opinion that it is the similarities that bring true closeness.

Differences add spice and interest to a relationship, but if you don’t have some very important core issues in common, the foundation will never be firm enough to withstand those rough patches.

From the very beginning, Darrel and I realized we had ALL the core values in common. Even minor things were completely simpatico between us.

And we still had enough differences to keep a little spice and interest!

Suffice it to say, our relationship had a HUGE, very full bucket of love and respect to draw on during these last two FPIES years.

I commented in our anniversary post a year and a half ago and again on our 5 year anniversary that I loved the fact that Darrel understood I needed to give 85% of myself to the boys right now, putting him last. That we both knew that one day, we could again put each other and our marriage in its proper place as the top priority in our lives, and were only back-burnering it temporarily due to the kids food issues.

That truly was always the plan. And we were confident that we had enough love and good-will deposited in each others buckets to survive until that day came.

Here’s where it gets tricky. When do you know you can start shifting the priorities around?

When dealing with a chronic issue like FPIES that has put your marriage last, when do you start to put your marriage first again?

I think we both sort of thought it would be when Zac grew out of FPIES. We’d never really defined the benchmarks for priority shuffling we were looking for.

This April, when we discovered goat milk is safe for Zac, we suddenly had the “FPIES out” we needed. Goat milk, while not a complete replacement for my breast milk, allowed us to occasionally take advantage of the grandparent baby-sitting service and spend time together.

Only, we never did.

While we’d never actually discussed when we were going to start putting some effort back in to our marriage, I think we both recognized that goat milk was the right time to start making some effort.

Since neither one of us made any efforts in that way, we both – without realizing it – started growing resentful and angry.

Now, I titled this post “How We Saved Our Marriage”, but I can promise you that Darrel and I were never bad enough to talk divorce, or even counseling. So some might think I’m being a tad over-dramatic in the title.

But I don’t really think so.

While we hadn’t trashed our marriage so badly that we were about to end it, we were in the beginning stages of habits, patterns, and thoughts that would put us directly on the path of marital destruction.

When you get a hole in the side of your boat, is it better to patch it right away? Or wait until you’re halfway – or completely – submerged before addressing the issue? Either way, you save the boat, right?

One simply has far fewer long term consequences and clean-up involved.

So yes, Darrel and I were heading down a bad path.

Sometime in the last few weeks, it came to a head. We suddenly realized what we were doing, and recognized that we really, really needed to do something about it.

We needed to figure out how to fix “us” so we would have an “us” in ten more years.

We needed to save our marriage. 

And we did. 

How we did it, though, is not something that can be summarized too quickly, and this post is already quite long. So stay tuned for the rest of the story. (Nothing like a cliff-hanger, right?)

Before I go on with what we did to fix things, I’d like to know: do other parents sometimes feel like their marriage has been thrown under the FPIES bus? 

Salt Shaking

Salt Shaking CradleRockingMama.com

This weekend, Zac reached another milestone: sweet potatos are safe!!

I. Am. Ecstatic!

Sweet potatos are SO yummy and nutritious! After slightly over a week of sweet potatos, Zac’s weekly weigh in was a stupendous 28 pounds!!

Plus, this week he’s done his usual “new food developmental leap”. He’s trying to talk more. I know I’ve said that he’s babbled more in the past, but this is different. He’s actually attempting to use words and sounds to interactively communicate with us! Before, it was just an increase in babbling with an occasional word thrown in.

This is huge!

He’s been more energetic, playful and rambunctious, even swatting back at his brother when Jed gets a little too boisterous.

Jed, understandably, is not a fan of that particular developmental boon.

With a new food under our belts, we were ready to jump right in to the next food trial.

I’ve been chomping at the bit to trial spaghetti squash and butternut squash. They’re both coming in to season now, and they would both be a fantastic addition to his diet (and mine).

Darrel, however, finally pushed hard for the trial he’s  wanted to do for months: salt.

It isn’t a bad idea; salt makes food taste SO much better, and it’s essential to life. I just wanted to trial actual foods instead of condiments during the summer months when fresh produce is so readily available.

Darrel pointed out, though, that we’ve had a hard time getting him to eat some of his safe foods, but salt might make them all more appetizing. (Cucumbers are delicious…but they’re far better with a little salt sprinkled on top, right?)

Having salt in our food arsenal might make future food trials easier. Right now, I mostly have to hide new foods in other foods for Zac because he gets picky and turns up his nose at many of his safe foods.

For instance, I outlined the trouble we’ve had getting him to eat sweet potato for the trial. I finally found the way to get him to eat more sweet potato than I could imagine: sweet potato ice cream! He’ll scarf down 2 cups of that in one sitting and be a happy little guy!

It works, but it would be very nice to be able to just serve him his foods without resorting to cleverness and trickery.

Maybe salt can make that happen.

So Saturday night we served him his chicken for dinner, but this time we sprinkled some salt on it.

It went great! No problems at all!

The next day I added 1 tsp. of salt to a batch of cookies I made for him. Obviously these aren’t sweet, dessert cookies; they came out more like a savory dinner bread. But it worked, and he ate them.

Every food we can, we shake some salt on for flavoring.

Fingers crossed it continues to go well!

As for Mr. Jed, well, he’s had a bit of a tricky week.

I’ve been making the Quinoa Breakfast Bake for him for ages, and he’s never had a problem with it at all. Last Monday, he begged me for a “black cake” – Jed-speak for Chocolate Cake – so I added some cocoa powder to the breakfast bake and made him his requested black cake.

It was all he wanted to eat for two days!

For two days, he was also a miserable human being to be around.

He had absolutely zero self-control; tantrums and screaming fits over the mildest of inconveniences. He grew increasingly aggressive, too, hitting me and Zac and screaming at me “I don’t like people! I don’t like anything!”

I thought I’d lose my mind. When he gets like this, it’s clearly a food reaction of some kind so I try very hard to be patient and gentle in my approach to him. Certainly I correct his behavior and follow through with consequences and punishments if necessary, but I try to remember: this isn’t Jed.

This is Jed on drugs.

It’s just that in our case, the drugs are his food.

But y’all, it is so. hard. to not lose my cool completely when my older son suddenly goes off on a rage and does something horrible to me or his brother!

Well, as is typical for him, he bounced back a day and a half after the last ingestion and was typical, charming, wonderful Jed again.

In the meantime, I had found some maple syrup candies at the health food co-op that I happily bought for him.

It’s the first store-bought candy he’s ever been able to eat!

We decided to allocate it as a reward for completing all his chores for the day. One piece of candy for earning all 6 stars.

Hey, it’s cheaper than buying a new train every week!

And it worked! He was trying to finish all his chores before noon so he could get another piece of candy. Very cute.

Unfortunately, all week he was just…difficult. Not nearly as horrible as the Monday/Tuesday “black cake” debacle, but just stubborn, willful, argumentative, and combative.

Yesterday morning he found my maple syrup candy hiding place and ate an entire package – 6 pieces – at one time. Little sneak!

At first I was just upset that he’d disobeyed me. I understand the temptation; it’s hard for kids to control themselves around candy, after all. So I wasn’t furious, just upset.

Later, though, I was frustrated and hurt. Within hours of eating the candy, he turned into the maniac that visited us on Monday and Tuesday.

He refused to do his chores. He screamed at everything. He flung his body around and angrily exclaimed that he “hated everything and everyone”.

This is NOT normal for a typically happy 4 year old, y’all!

I went to the Fructose Malabsorption Parents group on FB for help. Is it possible, I wondered, that the cooking process of the cocoa powder and maple syrup made them more “fructose-y”? He’s eaten both with no problems before, but always they were room temperature or cold.

The parents there suggested that his issues sounded more like an amine or salicylate intolerance.

Sigh.

Seriously?

Isn’t it ever possible to get a break? We feel confident we’re finally outgrowing FPIES, but now we get to delve into another bizarre food issue?

One step forward, one step back.

I’m getting tired of the food intolerance waltz.

But I’m so relieved to know that Jed truly is a wonderful child…except when his food is messing with him. Knowing what sort of amazing person exists behind the food attitude makes me want to fight even more to find the answers to help him.

Have you dealt with amine or salicylate issues before? What are your go-to resources for help?

How to Keep A Food & Symptom Journal

How to Keep a Food and Symptom Journal CradleRockingMama.com

More frequently than I’d like to see, new parents post on the FPIES message boards.

It’s almost always the same basic introduction message: “My child was just diagnosed. I feel completely overwhelmed! What do I do now?!”

Every single time, the first piece of advice given is to start a food and symptom journal. 

We’ve kept one on both our kiddos for over 4 years now, and I have to say that food and symptom tracking is invaluable data for any parent tasked with keeping a food allergic/intolerant child safe.

However, many folks new to the food allergy/food intolerance world have asked – both on the boards and specifically to me – how exactly they are supposed to keep a food and symptom journal! It seems so overwhelming at first. They wonder what they’re supposed to write down, what format it should be in, and how detailed they need to be.

Today I’m going to clear the air on the subject, and share with you exactly how to keep a food and symptom journal.

Ready?

The best, most perfect food and symptom journal is the one that works for you. 

The end.

(Just kidding.)

Seriously, though…when it comes to keeping track of your child’s food intake and symptoms, the only thing that matters is what makes sense for you, and therefore, what you will actually use to collect the data. The actual format or method is immaterial. 

It’s sort of like a calendar. Some people are totally techno-phobic and must have a paper calendar system, while others are technophiles and keep everything logged into some app or program.

Both are perfectly fine. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you.

Keep in mind that you may not be the only person responsible for keeping records on your child. Your spouse, parents, or baby-sitters may also need to use the food and symptom journal. Consider accessibility to all responsible parties when making your choice.

Here are some suggestions to get you started. I haven’t used all of them, but am recommending ones that I’ve either used myself or heard other FPIES parents report highly about.

Tech Food & Symptom Journals

  • Google Calendar. Lots of FPIES families report using Google Calendar for their food and symptom journal. It’s apparently very easy to set Google calendar up to record specific symptoms and food intake. I’ve never used it so I can’t tell you how to do it, but this has always earned a “thumbs up” rating from other FPIES parents. One big plus to this is that it can be accessed online, so you can easily pull the data and organize it in the  middle of a doctors appointment.
  • Apps. There are a few smartphone apps out there that can help you keep track of food intake and symptoms. One that is recommended is mySymptoms Food and Symptoms Tracker. This one looks promising to me! I use my phone for almost everything; however, for us it wouldn’t be practical since I travel for work and my parents watch the kids when I’m gone. If I didn’t travel, though, I would probably give this a try. It has many of the same benefits as Google Calendar, but all conveniently located in one app.
  • Spreadsheets. For some very tech savvy people, they’ve created their own spreadsheets and databases to record food intake and symptoms. Honestly, I do not know how they did it, but the ones who have done so are very happy with the results! If you’re especially talented in this field, you could consider doing this.

Paper & Pen Food & Symptom Journals

  • Worksheets. You can find food & symptom journal templates at both the IAFFPE and the FPIES Foundation. Look them over, see if one seems to fit your thinking and record keeping style, print them out and give them a shot. OR…
  • Spiral notebook. Just a blank spiral or composition notebook that you fill with the data you find pertinent. This is the method I use for most things.

If you go the old-fashioned, blank notebook method, I’ll share how I use ours and you can use that as a starting point for your own methodology.

Since I have two kids to keep track of, I use two facing pages per day. One side is Jed, the other is Zac.

I write the date in the upper left hand corner, then the kiddos name at the top of each page.

After that, it’s just a timeline! Here’s a sample of one of Zac’s baseline day entries:

7:30 a.m. – woke up
7:40 a.m. – wet diaper
8:00 a.m. – ate b/q/e/c breakfast bake, drank 2 glasses gm
9:30 a.m. – poopy diaper – perfect!
10:00 a.m. – snacked on q/e/c/a cookies – 16, drank 1 glass gm
11:45 a.m. – napped, woke at 1:25 p.m.
1:30 p.m. – wet diaper
1:45 p.m. – ate q/e/c/a cookies – 5
3:00 p.m. – ate b/a/gm popsicles – 3
5:30 p.m. – poopy diaper – perfect!
6:00 p.m. – ate chicken – 1/2 c. (4 oz.), quinoa – 1 c., drank 1 glass gm
7:00 p.m. – ate dried cucumber slices – 13
8:15 p.m. – asleep

Then at the bottom I write anything pertinent about the day. Example: “Today was a great day! Didn’t fight me for naps, behaved well, perfect poops, think we’re ready to start our next food trial!”

For us, this makes sense. B=banana, GM=goat milk, A=apricot, E=egg, Q=quinoa. Since he has such a limited diet and I often adjust the recipes as I make them, this is all I need to know.

Of course, things look very different on accidental ingestion days, or on food trial days.

Then his log might more resemble this:

7:30 a.m. – woke up
7:40 a.m. – wet diaper
8:00 a.m. – ate b/q/e/c breakfast bake, drank 2 glasses gm
9:30 a.m. – poopy diaper – very good, but a little mucousy; good color and consistency
10:00 a.m. – snacked on q/e/c/a cookies – 16, drank 1 glass gm
11:45 a.m. – napped, woke at 1:25 p.m.
1:30 p.m. – wet diaper
1:45 p.m. – ate q/e/c/a cookies – 5
3:00 p.m. – ate b/a/gm popsicles – 3
**4:00 p.m. – ate a bite of one of Jed’s rice crackers – GRRR!**
5:30 p.m. – poopy diaper – perfect! (miracle!)
6:00 p.m. – ate broccoli – 3 stalks (approx. 1/3 c.), chicken – 1/2 c. (4 oz.), drank 1 glass gm
7:00 p.m. – ate dried cucumber slices – 13
9:35 p.m. – asleep – fought sleep pretty hard; fussed and thrashed over an hour but finally calmed and went to sleep

My notes under that day might read: “Day 3 of broccoli and it has been going pretty well. Some mucous in the poop. Reaction? Body adjusting? Don’t know yet. Stinker grabbed a broken bit of cracker off the floor while Jed was eating. I HATE ACCIDENTAL INGESTIONS! But things have been going well enough that we decided to keep going and just observe for now. Hopefully it won’t be enough to cause a reaction to confuse the food trial. Concerned about fighting sleep at night. Not normal for him. Will watch to see what he does overnight and tomorrow. Hopefully it’s just the rice cracker and nothing more.”

__________

All this is fictional, but fairly accurate for a typical food and symptom entry for Zac.

I don’t write down nursing on the paper log, simply because I don’t often have the notebook with me when I actually nurse him. Every nursing session is recorded in an app I have on my phone.

Since I’m the only one who nurses him, that works well for us. Everything other than nursing is recorded in the notebook, so anyone can write down the other data there.

Using the app for nursing makes it easy for me to cross-check nursing session numbers and length of time, since the phone keeps an accurate time-log of how long he actually nurses.

During food trials, I’ll sometimes even grab the number of nursing sessions and total time nursed from the app and write in in the food journal book. (He normally nurses 3.5-4 hours per day; if he nurses for 7 or 8 hours on a food trial day, that is concerning, since that could be a sign of comfort nursing.)

I’ll often write something like “Broccoli: Day 3″ at the top of the page, too, to make it easier to flip through the book to find food trial data.

I usually include any activities we do, such as going to the park, playing in the sandbox, or coloring with beeswax crayons…just in case. Such things can prove useful when you have an unexplained reaction.

If he’s especially cranky or fussy, I note that in my comments – unless there’s a specific tantrum he has, which would get noted in the timeline. This often helps me determine if he’s having a reaction or doing a typical baby thing like teething.

As you can see, there are lots of options for keeping track of food intake and reaction symptoms. You may decide, like us, to use a combination of record keeping for reasons that best suit your purposes. 

Whatever way you go, though, be as detailed as you need to be. Write down everything you can think of at first. Quantity of food, any unusual behavior or potential reaction signs you see, any activities that are atypical for you, and times and dates are vital. Anything else, like my daily summary, is icing on the data keeping cake.

If you have any tips or questions about food and symptom journals, please share them! I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list, and I’ll be happy to include anything that you can think of or fill in any blanks I may have left.

How do you prefer to keep your food journal?

Sweet Potato King

Sweet Potato King CradleRockingMama.com

What. A. Week.

As I said last week, I came home from work on Tuesday full of energy and zest. Two hours later I was wiped out.

Then the kids and I all got hit with minor sniffles. I’m guessing environmental allergies is the culprit, as it’s all been runny noses and sneezes with no other symptoms.

Even mild allergies, though, make it hard for the kids to breathe at night, so we’ve had frequent wake-ups most nights from BOTH boys. Add to it the bizarre, nightmarish dreams I’ve been having all week and, well, I am still exhausted!

(Sorry, but cute alert here: both kiddos come up and ask for their noses to be wiped, which is adorable, but the way Jed does it just makes me giggle and melt at the same time. “Mommy, I have a “Bless You”!” he says. Because when he sneezes we say “God Bless You!” and then he usually needs his nose wiped. SO CUTE!)

On top of that, the last two weeks Darrel and I have had to do some serious marital work (more on that later; don’t fret – it’s good!), and I am stressed and just feeling about ten steps behind on everything.

Well, I guess that’s life. Sometimes you’re ahead of the game, and sometimes you’re playing catch-up.

On the plus side of things, Tuesday I stopped on the way home from Tulsa and ran some errands. One of them was to buy some organic sweet potatos from the health food co-op.

That night, I baked up some sweet potatos and served them to Zac.

Y’all, he ate A WHOLE SWEET POTATO in one sitting! Little boy just couldn’t get enough!

Then he slept – are you sitting down? – NINE HOURS STRAIGHT. 

Seriously.

That’s the longest he’s ever slept in one night before.

The next day he was just fine! No FPIES symptoms at all.

Only one problem: he refused to eat another bite of sweet potato!

This is one of those times that I hate FPIES. Is his food refusal because he can tell the food is no good for him? Or is he just expressing typical toddler pickiness? Is he just exerting control in one of the only ways he can?

Or maybe my kids think it’s fun to make Mommy crazy?

So Wednesday, unprepared for a sudden sweet potato refusal, we weren’t able to hide sweet potato in anything else and he didn’t eat any.

The next day, though, Mama was on a mission.

We’d decided that, due to a lack of any FPIES evidence at all, we were going to push through no matter what. 

So I pureed sweet potato and put it in his cookies.

He still didn’t like it. He didn’t eat an entire batch of cookies in one day like he usually does. But he ate enough to ingest a decent quantity of sweet potato.

Friday I still had cookies leftover for him, and this time, he ate them. All.

I also sliced some baked sweet potato and fried it in goat milk butter. He ate some of that, but not a lot.

Saturday I played the “hide it in cookies” trick again, and again, he didn’t eat as many as he usually does. But again, he ate enough.

By Sunday morning, there had been nary a reaction sign at all from him…if you don’t count the lack of interest in eating the sweet potatos!

So today is Day 2 of the 3 day break, and we’ll resume sweet potatos on Wednesday.

With any luck, by next Monday we’ll have our 11th safe food!

(And God Bless sweet potatos if they’re safe! I LOVE sweet potatos! The only reason I went with regular white potatos for the TED in the first place is the high reaction ranking sweet potatos have in the FPIES world. So I will be positively chowing down on sweet potatos, y’all!)

In other positive news, Jed successfully completed his entire first week of jobs on his chore chart, thereby earning the toy train he so desperately wanted.

Earning his first toy CradleRockingMama.com

I know. I’m still a little flummoxed, too.

Sadly, when we got to the store to buy his beloved “white train”, we learned it had been discontinued and they were all sold out. Uh-oh!

Fortunately, he found another train that thrilled him, so he left a happy, proud boy, with a happy, very proud Mama.

Since then, he’s not been as stellar, but it’s not really his fault. He was being shuffled back and forth between our house and my parent’s house, and we hadn’t really established how we would handle the job chart going between the two places. So there was inconsistency on the adults in that one.

With last week being such an exhausted, “Mommy is so tired she falls asleep every time she sits down” kind of week, I forgot to keep up with his jobs, too. More inconsistency. At barely 4, and new to the concept of defined responsibilities, he still needs reminding. Lacking that, he missed a few stars.

Still, we’re now at the start of the 3rd week and he’s only missed a handful of stars total. That’s very impressive to me!

We also started “laid-back pre-school” at home. Jed found a small workbook I’d bought a while back and expressed interest. So far he’s traced the first 4 letters of the alphabet and done some “find the like items” and “find the different item” worksheets, and he loved doing it!

I’m encouraged.

On one thing, though, I’d like to ask your advice. How do you deal with nightmares in your preschooler?

Friday night he kept waking up about every hour all night long, screaming at the top of his lungs. He would tighten his body up, clenched, scrunching his face, moaning, screaming, thrashing…for all the world, he looked like he was in physical pain.

I was so worried about him, I stayed awake to watch him sleep. His actions reminded me of his mesenteric lymphadenitis episode, and I was scared. Exhaustion finally overwhelmed me and I did fall asleep, but I slept fitfully.

The next day, I asked him how he felt and he said “I feel just fine!” He acted it, too. Later on, he told Darrel about “the ghostesses that chased me at night” and the “bad guys that scared me”, and Darrel finally figured out: he wasn’t sick or hurting…he was having really terrible nightmares all night!

Ugh!

I really don’t know what, if anything, can be done for this. I don’t know where his “ghost” and “bad guy” fixation came from, but I’m a little concerned. Any ideas? Insights?

I hate the idea of my little guy being afraid.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

How has your week been? 

Exhaustion

Well, I’m still here and still breathing.

Work simply exhausts me. I don’t know why, but when I’m on the road I just cannot sleep any more. Once upon a time, I’d go to a nice hotel on a layover and crash out for ten or more hours straight. Now, I just…can’t. If I get 4-5 hours per night of sleep I’m going good.

Believe it or not, but even with the kids frequently waking us up, I get more rest at home than I do alone in hotels at work.

Isn’t that sad?

I got home from work yesterday, feeling energized and ready to hit the ground running. Two hours later, though, and it was like I’d used all my energy for the week and I simply crashed out.

So, I’m here. I’ve just not been awake long enough since I’ve been home to write anything. I’m hopeful that will change soon.

Thanks for being patient.

Does work just exhaust you, too?

Two Years on a TED, and…Outgrowing FPIES?

Two Years on a TED and Outgrowing FPIES CradleRockingMama.com

Friday marked the two year anniversary of my FPIES TED.

I remember waking up on August 8, 2012, excited but apprehensive about the new diet our family was beginning. If you had told me then that two years later I would still only be able to eat 15 foods, I would have thought you were either crazy or the biggest pessimist in the world.

Yet here I am.

My original 12 item TED dropped to a 10 item TED within the first month. A year later it reduced again to 6 items. (Four of which were sea salt, pepper, stevia and olive oil!)

The only new additions to my diet since have been the foods declared safe for Zac; to be honest, though, most days I still wind up eating the basic TED.

Some of Zac’s safe foods are either too hard to get or too expensive for me to feel okay about consuming in any significant quantities. The rest I just haven’t found a way I like them with my limited ingredient list.

I’m working on it, though. My diet is much more palatable than it has been.

The most amazing thing about this experience is that all of Zac’s safe foods were discovered during the second year of my TED; last years “one year anniversary” post found me saying that even though we hadn’t found any safe foods yet, the TED was worthwhile.

Fifteen months on a TED with no safe foods for Zac…another nine months on the TED where we found nine safe foods for Zac…and on this anniversary I find myself wondering:

Is Zac outgrowing FPIES?

Last Monday we attempted to start a pole bean trial. For three days he refused to eat a single bean. I asked for, and received, lots of great ideas for how to present them in a way he would find appealing, but nothing I tried worked.

Then I had to get ready for work, and decided to just shelve the trial for now.

Last Thursday, the day before I left for work, he and Jed played with sidewalk chalk, after which he licked his hands.

Saturday he ate a full, big bite of Jed’s pancake; a store-bought mix that has multiple ingredients.

Later that day he licked the top of the salt shaker.

Sunday he chomped down on a big ol’ piece of Jed’s sausage. Sure, it’s pork, but it’s not specially raised corn and soy free pork AND it has a bunch of spices and sugar added.

All of these accidental ingestions sent my Mom and Darrel into panic, but in the end he exhibited not so much as a single bit of mucous.

No reactions. At all.

Over the summer he has eaten quite a few things he shouldn’t eat; one of the scariest for us was a corn chip Jed had dropped.

No reactions from any of them. Not even the corn chip!

All of this lack of reaction is forcing Darrel and I to seriously think about whether Zac is outgrowing his FPIES.

Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. How would we know, either way?

Most FPIES parents discover their baby has FPIES after the introduction of solid foods. So they have the benefit of knowing with certainty that soy, oats and rice (as an example) were their child’s first triggers.

Because we were diagnosed at under two months old via breast milk, Darrel and I don’t really know what foods were triggering Zac.

We can guess, though, based off my diet.

Our most likely culprits are rice, sweet potato, corn, oats, and chicken. Since chicken is now a safe food for Zac, that leaves me with a fairly short list of potential “first trigger foods”.

(Incidentally, Zac passing chicken is yet another reason I suspect he’s outgrowing FPIES.)

So what to do now? Continue as we have, just trialing random selections of foods in the effort to build his diet?

Or get brave/crazy and trial rice, oats, and sweet potato?

(I’m not ready to trial corn; frankly, it scares me to death.)

But rice, oats and, sweet potato…they would sure be a nice addition to our diets!

I’ll admit no small angst when I consider this. The idea of not living with FPIES is…alien and confusing.

That’s strange, right? The fact that being normal could seem so odd to me now.

The thing is, when I reflect on the last two years it seems that Darrel and I, of necessity, chose to start wearing magical glasses that rendered the world in black and white.

Slowly, we’ve worked our way up to sepia toned glasses.

But living without FPIES…well, that would be like suddenly being able to see in Technicolor!

It’s a little strange and overwhelming to consider.

We’ll never be able to live in 3-D; fructose and histamine will still influence our food decisions. They’re lifelong conditions to manage.

FPIES, though. It isn’t necessarily lifelong.

The idea of being able to eat somewhat normally is scary and thrilling.

It almost feels like pretty much every new experience I had during my high school years. Scary because it’s new, and thrilling because I want to do it SO BADLY!!

Two years into my TED, and I’m still completely, 100% certain I did the right thing for my son.

Now I just have to decide if all that effort is being rewarded.

__________

What do y’all think? Does it sound like Zac may be outgrowing FPIES to you, too? What should we do now?

Unconventional Meatloaf

Unconventional Meatloaf CradleRockingMama.com

For two years, my primary foods have been beef and potatos.

I’m quite talented at hamburgers and fries by this point, but on occasion, I want a little variety.

Usually I make myself a pot roast or steaks, and switch from fries to mashed potatos or roast potatos. It’s not much, but it keeps me going.

The other night I had a “eureka” moment: remember what I said about how to make the best hamburgers ever? Well, cucumber is a safe food now! I can shred cucumber in my burgers to make them better!

So I did, and it was delicious (of course)!

The next night, my little brainstorm went a step further: how could I turn this into a meatloaf?

I searched, but every recipe under the sun makes meatloaf using tomatos.

Whether tomato sauce, ketchup (ew), or diced tomatos, every recipe I found called for tomatos in some shape or form.

Well. Hmm. Tomatos aren’t safe for us yet.

So I tweaked.

You know what? Turns out you don’t need tomatos to make a tasty, unconventional meatloaf!

Even better, I would bet money that you could substitute any number of veggies for the cucumber and get the same result.

So here’s how to do it:

Put the ground beef in a bowl. I’m sure you could use ground chicken, turkey, lamb, or pork if that’s all you can eat.

Shred your veggie – in my case cucumber – into the bowl. If I could pick, I’d try using zucchini or carrots for this if I didn’t have (or didn’t like) cucumber.

Meat and Cucumber in a bowl for meatloaf CradleRockingMama.com

Add quinoa flakes (though you could use oats or breadcrumbs if that’s what you have), sea salt, black pepper, and one egg to the mix.

All ingredients for Meatloaf in a bowl CradleRockingMama.com

If eggs aren’t an option for you, just omit the egg! If you really want, you could experiment with flax eggs, or chia eggs, or egg replacer. I bet it will work just fine without the egg at all, though.

Then stir it all up! Even better, get your kids to stir it for you. You can also mush it around with your hands, if you’ve got a little stress to burn off!

Helpers stirring the mix CradleRockingMama.com

Once it’s all mixed together well, press it into a loaf pan and throw it in the oven.

Meatloaf in a pan CradleRockingMama.com

An hour later, you have a tasty, potentially allergy-friendly, unconventional meatloaf!

Tomato Free Meatloaf CradleRockingMama.com

Yum!

Easy, moist, and very tasty. Doesn’t get much better than that! 

Enjoy!

#rating# from 1 reviews
Unconventional Meatloaf
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Adjust the ingredients to suit your purpose, and make a customized, allergy-friendly delicious meatloaf for dinner tonight!
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, etc.)
  • ⅓ c. shredded veggie (cucumber, zucchini, carrot, etc.)
  • ¼ c, quinoa flakes (or oats or breadcrumbs)
  • 1 egg (optional - or use a flax or chia egg)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Press into a loaf pan.
  4. Bake for one hour.
  5. Enjoy!

Meeting Another FPIES Family (Talking about the Crazy in Real Life)

Meeting Another FPIES Family - Talking about the Crazy in Real Life CradleRockingMama.com

Over the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time on message boards for FPIES families.

A LOT of time.

As a result, there are many FPIES families I consider “friends”, even though we’ve never met in person and, to be honest, probably never will.

One of those families, it turns out, has family and friends in Arkansas, and sent me a message: We’re going to be in your area next week…want to meet up?

YES! WE DO!

So Friday last week the kids and I headed over to Terra Studios to meet our first ever, in real life, face to face FPIES family.

I can’t begin to describe how awesome it was.

These last two years I know the message boards have helped me keep my sanity. The online friendships have sustained me and educated me, helped me cope and keep my sons healthy.

The message boards are great!

But being able to chat face to face with folks who are going through the same thing as you, well…it’s even better than the message boards. 

Like us, this family has two kiddos, but they have girls. H is 5, and has outgrown her FPIES (thank you, Lord!) and only deals with Fructose Malabsorption. B is 2.5 and is still in the thick of her FPIES, along with some other complicating factors.

Can I just say…the boys fell in love with the girls; H especially!

(Now, I did ask the mom about what I could share in this post, and she said she was fine with whatever pictures I wanted to share. It still felt weird putting someone else’s kiddos photos up, so I put little hearts over their faces. I promise you, the girls were adorable and precious!)

Wherever H went, the boys were soon following.

Following the Girl CradleRockingMama.com

They found a puppy doggie wandering around and all fell in love. H decided this dogs name was “Allie”, despite the fact the he was most definitely a HE.

The Pied Piper CradleRockingMama.com

They chased that poor dog all over the grounds, but he loved the attention!

H is a whole year older than Jed, and just enough taller that she was able to carry and swing him. Bless her heart, she kept trying to get Jed to swing her, and he tried! But he just wasn’t able to do it. She was at least 3 inches taller, and every time he tried her toes still dragged on the ground.

The good news is that she enjoyed swinging the boys, and they ate it up.

Spinning Zac CradleRockingMama.com

It was so nice to see the boys play with other kids. They just really don’t get the chance to do that very often.

To be honest, the parents didn’t get as much time to sit and chat as I would have liked, thanks to keeping track of 4 rambunctious, running kidlets. The times that we were able to talk, though…what a breath of fresh air!

There was none of the preamble; the lengthy explanations and ground-work laying. We were able to jump right in to “what tests have you had run?” and “what specialists are you seeing?”

We chatted about our food issues and didn’t have to rehash the previous 4-5 years of our experiences before we could get to the nitty-gritty.

It was wonderful. 

Food was also not an issue. Sure, B had her Nutra to nosh on, and H got a cookie from the snack stand at one point, but the whole “food is the reason we’re here” thing that non-food allergic moms seem to think is the norm just did not happen.

Turns out? It’s totally doable to get a group of kids together for three hours and NOT provide them with a snack!

Poor Miss B was not feeling very well. She had caught a cold early in their travels, and the remaining cough triggered her asthma. Her blood sugar was all over the place, too. By the time we’d been visiting for a couple of hours, their home team of specialists had advised them to take B to the ER for a steroid.

They decided to take her to Arkansas Children’s Hospital (where Zac was hospitalized and diagnosed) since their family lives closer to Little Rock than our neck of the woods. Just in case.

We had to get a photo of the kids together before we left, so after much chasing and verbal guidance, we got them all lined up on a swing.

Once again, I was reminded of how difficult it is to get more than one child to cooperate when taking a photograph!

The other parents got one shot where both of their girls are looking at the camera and smiling, but the best I got only had sweet little B looking at the camera and smiling. H was sticking out her tongue, Jed was covering his eyes, and Zac was looking at Jed.

Kids on the swing CradleRockingMama.com

When it was time to leave, Jed got sullen. He really didn’t want H to go! If it was up to Jed, we’d move that family in with us so he could play with H and B all the time.

As they were loading up the car, I took a series of photos that just tickled me. Reviewing them on the computer was like watching time-lapse photography, and it’s so indicative of my kiddos personalities.

H is walking off with Jed, and Zac is helping close the car door and waving good-bye.

Carried Away CradleRockingMama.com

After I got the kids strapped in the car and started driving, Jed starting crying that he wanted H. I told him that they had to leave, because B was sick and needed to go to the hospital to get helped by the doctor.

At that point, he got VERY concerned for “that baby”; he really didn’t want her to have to go to the hospital and “get poked” (get shots) by the doctor!

It’s been three days now, and he still talks about playing with H and asks if B has gotten poked by the doctors. 

I wish we had had more time to visit. This brief three hours brought to light just how isolated I feel most of the time. Even though we have, for the most part, supportive friends and family, it’s different talking to another parent about FPIES and FructMal.

They get it in a way that is hard to explain to non-FPIES/FructMal Parents.

They’re part of the “tribe”.

I really enjoyed the visit, and now I wish I had other FPIES/FructMal families near me even more than I did before.

Have you had a chance to visit in person with other FPIES families? Did you think it was a breath of fresh air, too?