Summers Stories: The Shut-Ins Get Out!

Summers Stories The Shut Ins Get Out

Well, hello, there, strangers!

Betcha thought I’d fallen off the face of the earth, right? Well, sort of. Not exactly. Okay, here goes:

Let’s start with a little bit of trivia about me: I’m a Reader. A HUGE reader. If given the choice, I’d rather have a gift card to a bookstore than a weekend at a spa or a free for all clothes shopping trip.

I’ll read almost anything: non-fiction, great literature, brain candy comedies, well, really, the only thing that usually skeeves me out is romance novels, but I have even found a few authors of that genre that I enjoy.

For the past almost 3 years, 97% of my reading has been medical literature, message boards, articles and tips on FPIES, fructmal, salicylate intolerance, and living and cooking for special medical food needs. 

Necessary, but not what anyone would call “fun” or “relaxing”. 

As a matter of fact, little about our lives the past almost 3 years could be called “fun and relaxing”.

Since returning to work last May, every month has gotten harder, more stressful, and more overwhelming for me. After the extremely  rough winter we just endured, I found myself battling depression, anxiety, and just general “being burned-out”.

I’m not an ostrich. I face problems head-on. But after nearly 3 years of facing so many complicated challenges with determination, I just…couldn’t anymore.

The emotional exhaustion finally got to me. I couldn’t cope any more.

I needed a break.

I didn’t really even realize how much I needed a break, until I noticed a new installment of one of my favorite book series out in the stores. Since I’m compulsive about re-reading an entire series before reading the latest installment, the beginning of March found me picking up the first Eve Dallas novel.

(In case you haven’t read them, the Eve Dallas novels are written by J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts. There are 40 books in the series, plus almost a dozen novellas written in compilation books. They’re excellent stories!)

I’ve been plowing my way through them ever since. I’m currently on the 26th book on the series (not counting the novellas that were published in compilation books).

Yes, I read insanely fast. 

Between all the craziness of my life, my work, and my escape into books, I have completely dropped the blogging ball. 

Apparently I can’t read and write at the same time. Who knew?

So that explains where I’ve been the last few weeks. Either flying, hanging out with my family, reading, or taking some shaky steps into re-engaging with the world.

Oh, yeah…I haven’t mentioned that part yet.

Yes, the Summers Shut-Ins are stepping out of Mama’s comfort zone and attempting to try for some normality.

It’s making my stomach cramp, but it’s the right thing to do.

We started Jed in martial arts last January, and that has been going beautifully for him and for us. Jed loves going, and is already showing great leaps and bounds in personal growth and maturity from the small exposure of two half-hour classes per week.

It’s really phenomenal.

Then, the weekend after my last post, when I was at my most drained and discontent, I went to the Ladies Prayer Retreat our church puts on every year.

I’ll write a LOT more about that later, but the short summation of the weekend brought about two changes in our household: Tee Ball and Sunday School.

There’s far too much to go into about those right now, but I promise to flesh out the Tee Ball, Sunday School, and Prayer Retreat stories later.

Basically, at this point, our lives are expanding exponentially…and it scares the crap out of me. I’m on pins and needles trying to figure out how to navigate the outside world with two little boys that have such confusing issues!

However, it needs to be done.

I need to break out of my comfort zone and stop living our lives in the confines of our house. The boys need to experience the world beyond our walls.

Even if – especially if – we homeschool the kiddos, the outside experiences will be good for them.

Beyond all the reading, world expanding, and work, we have continued on much as before.

We managed to squeeze in an entire zucchini trial on Zac – and gained our 13th safe food for him!

As is typical for us, it wasn’t an “easy” trial. The first part went like clockwork, then the three day break.

The day we reintroduced the zucchini after the break, though, Jed got sick.

The day after that, Zac started having some disturbing diapers that made us worry…until we remembered that he and Jed had blown bubbles on the porch the day before. We already knew about Zac’s issues with bubbles, but we let them blow them anyway in hopes that he had gotten old enough that he wouldn’t put his mouth ON the bubble wand this time.

Sadly, he did.

Hence, the weird diapers.

No sooner had the diapers cleared back up, and Zac got sick, too.

Both boys are now coughing, sneezing, have heads so congested I imagine they’re dizzy, are whiny and uncomfortable, and have ear infections.

I didn’t think to look in their ears until Thursday night, and when I did…WOWZA! Those were some seriously messed up little ears!

Since we only have rocephin shots as a safe antibiotic for Zac, and those take 3 days to administer, we decided to hold off through the weekend and try using garlic oil in their ears to see if that worked to clear up the infection before heading off to the doctor for the heavy-duty antibiotics.

Their ears haven’t gotten worse, but they haven’t gotten better, either. So it’s off to the doctor this afternoon.  Sigh.

At least we got one more food trial done before this latest sickness throws everything out of whack, right?

Oh, and while I was absent from here, Darrel and I went on a date. That’s always fun. And the weather was nice enough on several days that the boys and I went to the park to play. Again, always fun (and more about that later, too).

I’m sorry I disappeared the way I did. I didn’t realize how much weight I was carrying on my shoulders until I unwittingly lightened my load. It was good to take a little time to do something – no matter how trivial – that didn’t TAKE from me in some way. I needed the recharge.

And yes, I’m feeling much better now. 

So while I can’t promise I’ll be able to stick to the 5 days a week publishing schedule I prefer to keep, I can promise that I’m back from my impromtu hiatus.

Thanks for sticking around!

How have you been doing?

Fire Safety Awareness with Small Children

Fire Safety Awareness for Small Children

Back in January, a local mom’s group put together a visit to a Fire Station for the kids. They’ve done this every year since I’ve been a member, but my kids were never old enough to have any concept of what a Fire Station or a Firefighter was, so we never went.

This year, Jed is ALL about Firefighters, thanks to some kids TV shows he’s seen and some books we’ve read. So we went.

I thought it would be a good chance to teach him a little about fire safety; an important life lesson for all kids.

The best thing they did was to introduce us to an actual Firefighter in plain clothes, then have him dress in the full Firefighting outfit in front of the kids.

Firefighters in full regalia can be scary looking for kids, so it’s important to let them see what one looks like before  they’re in a scary situation. Kids have been known to hide from Firefighters during a house fire, simply because they were scared of them. Giving them a preview of before and after is valuable.

Fully Outfitted FireFighter

After that, the kids got to go on a tour of the firehouse to see where the firefighters work and live when on duty.

Then they got to play with the equipment.

Loving the Fire House

My boys loved it! Their favorite part was the pole. Jed actually went up to the Fire Marshal and asked him, very sweetly, if he could slide down the pole.

The answer was no, of course, though I secretly wonder if Jed could have done it. He’s a big climber!

Instead, the boys made do with spinning around the pole as fast as they could.

Playing with the FireFighter Pole

All the kids were given the chance to climb into the fire trucks to look around.

Smiling Fire Fighter Trainees

My boys went back for a second climb-through, of course. They LOVE vehicles of any type, and being in a real, live Fire Engine was a little boys dream come true!

Fire Fighters in Training

It was a fun excursion, and I’m glad we went, but I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more fire safety awareness taught that day.

Fortunately, the kids have a couple of books in their growing library that are great at teaching about fire safety!

Hello Fire Truck

Our first ever “fire” book was Hello, Fire Truck! by Marjorie Blain Parker.

It’s very simple, with sing-song rhymes and a sweet story about rescuing a kitten, but it serves to introduce the concept of what a fire fighter is and what they do.

Jed and Zac both still love this book.

Going to the Firehouse

You can’t go wrong with Mercer Mayer, and Going to the Firehouse is a fabulous story for kids.

Little Critter and his class go to the Firehouse to visit Fireman Sam, who shows them all the fire fighting equipment and offers safety tips to the kids, including Stop, Drop and Roll, and staying low to avoid smoke.

Again, both my boys adore this book.

To the Rescue

Another fabulous Mayer book, To the Rescue isn’t specifically about fires.

Little Critter has to call 9-1-1 to come rescue his Dad, who gets locked in the basement.

This story shows Little Critter being smart: he tries different keys to unlock the door, stays out of trouble and makes his own snack while he waits for help, and knows his address when he calls 9-1-1.

Fireman Sam shows up with the police to come break down the door and rescue Dad.

Jed gets a kick out of this book; personally, I think he’s tickled at the idea of a kid rescuing a parent.

Clifford the Firehouse Dog

Last, but by no means least, is Clifford the Firehouse Dog by Normal Bridwell.

My kids LOVE Clifford. In this story, Clifford visits his brother, who is a firehouse pup. He helps the firefighters rescue people when a call comes in.

The best part of this book is at the end. On the last page is a list of “Clifford’s Fire Safety Rules”.

None of the rules is especially ground-breaking, but they’re simple, short, and presented by Clifford…therefore far more likely for my kids to remember!

In addition to good books about Fire Fighters and Fire Safety, there’s a ton of great resources at

Under their parents section, there are some great reminders for us grown-ups (like testing smoke detectors, having fire extinguishers, etc.), and in the kids section, they really make it fun and simple to learn fire safety.

With their games and coloring sheets, they break fire safety down for the kids into what they call the “Three P’s: Prevent, Plan, and Practice”.

I like that. It has encouraged me to take my own family’s fire safety awareness a step further.

As a Flight Attendant, I have a great respect for emergency procedures, so our smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are always ready to go.

I’m also big on plans. Jed and I have already discussed what to do in the event of a fire. He’s got it down, too. He’ll tell anyone, with great excitement, how if there is a fire, he’s going to “break out the screen in his bedroom window and take my baby brother outside to the pole”. He knows how to get out, and where the family meeting place is. That’s pretty good.

The only thing we haven’t done is to practice. So I think some fire drills are in our future!

Fire safety awareness is so important for our families. A visit to a firehouse is great fun, and potentially very informative. Even if you can’t do that, though, there are some great resources out there to teach kids how to stay safe in a fire – without scaring them.

Plus, watching kiddos role-play being Fire Fighters is great fun.

And I can’t wait to see how Jed and Zac react to a fire drill. 

Have you done fire drills in your house? How did they go?

Homemade Conversation Heart Candies

Homemade Dextrose Conversation Heart Candies

Making allergy and intolerance safe, healthier versions of traditional treats for my kiddos on holidays has become somewhat of a mission for me.

Last year, I finally managed to master making homemade dairy-free chocolates for Jed, which helped make Easter, Christmas, and Halloween more traditional for him. However, we recently discovered that cocoa gives Jed the Meanies, which means chocolate is out.


I was starting to feel a little sad about Valentine’s Day treats for this year. All I could think of making for Jed were homemade gummy treats. Nice, but not as much indulgence as I’d hoped to provide.

Fortunately, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day a fellow FPIES mama shared a video of an adorable little girl making homemade conversation heart candies for Valentine’s Day. She was precious, and the recipe looked pretty simple.

Ecstatic, I filed that idea away…but didn’t bookmark the video. When I was ready to work on the recipe, I couldn’t find the it! Instead, I had to Google for conversation heart recipes. Fortunately, there were several to choose from.

What I made is based off the recipe provided by About Food, which uses regular sugar, regular food coloring, and corn syrup. I’m sure it’s delicious and great for normal people, but it won’t work for us since we avoid fructose and food dyes.

I’ll be honest and say that I really had no idea if my tweaks and adjustments would work, but in the end, I will go on record saying these candies just might be better than the traditional, store-bought candies of our childhoods!

Jed loved them! He ate an entire pound in a matter of days. Darrel doesn’t even like conversation heart candies, and he liked them. My Mom liked them.

And when Jed gave Miss K (Zac’s speech therapist) a bag of candies for Valentine’s Day, she said they were better than the store-bought conversation heart candies. Then she ate the rest of the bag that day.

That’s some powerful rave reviews!

It rocked our little world to create such an awesome little candy for Jed, but the really fantastic part of these goes far beyond treats and candies.

For people with Fructose Malabsorption, eating some dextrose along with fructose can help offset reactions (within limits). Unfortunately, the dextrose tablets in the drugstore are laden with food dyes and other unpleasant little extras that we avoid.

So I’ve never been able to have convenient dextrose tablets handy for Jed before.

These work perfectly for those purposes! I can make these little candies to have around so Jed can eat slightly more fructose than he’s been allowed and still may avoid having reactions.

I can’t wait to see how much his food options expand with this creation!

The other bonus is that these are very easy to make. There are a few more steps to take than a regular, sugar-based confection, but nothing is difficult.

The original version of this recipe calls for powdered sugar. I switched the sugar for powdered dextrose.

To make sure the dextrose was the right texture, I ground the dextrose more finely in the Vitamix. If you don’t have a Vitamix you can use a coffee grinder; it will just take a little longer to accomplish because you’ll have to do smaller batches. Remember that you’ll need to add a little arrowroot starch to the dextrose to make the powdery texture just right.

The candies themselves call for one pound of powdered dextrose; you’ll need a little bit more to dust the counters. So grab a kitchen scale and grind up the dextrose until you have one pound (16 ounces) plus a little extra of finely powdered dextrose.

Once you’ve got all your finely powdered dextrose made, the rest is super easy!

Take 2 T. of regular, non-finely powdered dextrose and 1 T. of water and put in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until it dissolves and thickens a bit to become a simple syrup.

Making a Simple Syrup

By making your own simply syrup, you avoid using corn syrup. If you use dextrose derived from tapioca instead of corn, these could also be corn-free candies!

In another sauce pan, measure out 1 tsp. of the simple syrup, the gelatin and water and heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

In a stand mixer, add the one pound of finely powdered dextrose and add the liquid mixture. Turn on the mixer until you have a nice dough formed.

Plain candy dough

At this point, you can split the dough into sections to make different colors and flavors. I made three different variations of candies for Jed: pink/peppermint, yellow/orange, and white/vanilla. For each variation, I added 1 T. of extract and simply added food coloring until it was the depth of color I wanted.

After splitting the dough into thirds (if you’re making three flavors), plop one section back in the stand mixer and add the all natural food colorings and the flavor extracts. Mix until well combined.

Dust some of the finely powdered dextrose on the counter, dust the dough, and roll the dough out to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

Then grab your cutters.

Cutting out Candies

The easiest way to do this is to spend the $2-5 on some tiny fondant cutters. This isn’t where I bought mine, but these are the cutters I got and they made it SO easy for the kids to cut these out for me!

Jed had an absolute blast cutting out the candies!

Kids love doing this CradleRockingMama.comCutting out Yellow Hearts

Place each candy on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let lay to dry for at least 24 hours.

Pink Candies CradleRockingMama.comWhite Candies

One thing I learned in this project is that dextrose is a thirsty ingredient. My original recipe made a dough that was just right, but dried out very quickly. By the time I got to the yellow candies, the dough was almost too dry, and it crumbled and broke easily.

Yellow Candies

Consequently, I adjusted the recipe to add just a bit more water from the beginning to give more time to work with the dough before it gets too dry.

An additional step to take is to cover the dough with saran wrap when you aren’t working with it to keep it from drying out.

Once the candies are dry, though, they’re firm and not prone to breaking…and they’re delicious!

Yummy Candies

Double the recipe if you want to give these away as gifts for Valentine’s Day, but the proportions of this recipe are enough to satisfy your kiddos without overindulging.

Oh, and if you have a yen to make these even MORE authentic looking, you can grab a food coloring marker to write words on the candies. However, those are filled with food dyes, so if you’re avoiding artificial food dyes you’ll need to go plain.

That’s no big loss, though. These candies are beautiful and special without the words.

Bowl of Candies

After all, the love is obvious with these from-scratch, fructose-free, food dye free gourmet candies!

Homemade Conversation Heart Candies
Prep time
Total time
Fructose-free, food dye free, these gourmet Conversation Heart candies will thrill your kids (and their friends) on Valentine's Day!
Recipe type: dessert, candy, treat
Serves: 1 lb candy
  • 1 lb. dextrose
  • 3 tsp. arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp. gelatin
  • ¼ c. plus 1 T. water
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup* (ingredients needed: 2 T. dextrose and 1 T. water - see instructions)
  • all-natural food coloring
  • flavoring extracts
  • heart shaped fondant cutter/cookie cutter
  • food coloring markers - optional
  1. Begin by powdering the dextrose: mix the arrowroot starch and dextrose and grind in a Vitamix (or other high powered blender or a coffee grinder) until finely powdered.
  2. Make a simple syrup: put 2 T. regular dextrose and 1 T. water in a sauce pan and heat until the dextrose has dissolved and thickened into a syrup.
  3. Put the gelatin, water, and 1 tsp. of the simple syrup into a sauce pan and heat until the gelatin is dissolved.
  4. Put 1 lb. of finely powdered dextrose and the gelatin liquid in a mixer and mix until a dough forms.
  5. Split the dough into sections. To each section, add food coloring and extracts to taste and mix until well blended.
  6. Roll the dough out on a dusted surface and cut out shapes with fondant cutters.
  7. Lay each candy on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let dry for at least 24 hours.
  8. Enjoy your gourmet candies!

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Summers Stories: Scared of the Meanies

Summers Stories Scared of the Meanies

I just had 11 days off from work in a row, and in that time I never once plugged in my computer or other electronics, only turned on the computer once (for my last post), and made almost no progress on straightening out the house from the last few months of crazy work schedules.

With the men in the family bouncing back from stomach bugs, and me being flat out exhausted from work, there just wasn’t much energy leftover for very much else.

However, Darrel and I did teach Jed how to play “Go Fish”, which he loves, and I got some good playing and reading time in with the boys, so it was actually a pretty enjoyable week.

Meanwhile, Darrel and Zac bounced back 100% from their latest stomach bugs. (My Mom got better, too, though now Dad has the same stomach bug. Ick.)

By mid-week, Zac had improved so much we decided to call goat milk safe again! If he had been having an FPIES issue with the milk, he would not have shown constant improvements, even from a stomach bug. Thank goodness!

So we decided to begin a beef re-trial.

The first few days were concerning; no typical FPIES symptoms, but he kept showing up with an allergy ring, and one day had a small diaper rash. Those are usually signs the food is bothering him.

Saturday morning, though, his heinie was as lily-white as the rest of him, and he started talking more. He regresses in his speech every time he’s sick, whether stomach bug or FPIES, so him using more words is a fabulous sign that he’s doing well.

Darrel and I are pretty confident that beef is going to continue to be safe for him, and that all the weirdness that happened over the last 5 weeks is attributed to stomach bugs and viruses.

Zac Eating a Hamburger

Enjoying a hamburger with quinoa pizza crust as the bun.

I hate that we “wasted” so much time, but it was vitally important to be 100% sure before moving on. Having to fall back like this is frustrating, but not nearly as frustrating as it would be if we had to pull 5 or 6 foods and re-trial them all because of confusing signs.

As a friend of mine says, “FPIES is a marathon, not a sprint”. Hard to remember sometimes, but it’s very true.

Now we can – finally – pick out a new food to trial for him!

Zac wasn’t the only one going through food trials last week, either.

I don’t know if I wrote about it, but a few weeks ago, while I was at work, Jed nagged my Mom to insanity for a bit of the chocolate she was using in a recipe for my Dad.

She caved just to shut him up, and gave him a tiny bit of the regular, plain, Ghiradelli chocolate.

You know, the kind with sugar and DAIRY in it.

I was NOT happy.

Even though she assured me it was a minute amount of chocolate, Jed was always very sensitive to dairy. We were not quite ready to start a dairy trial on Jed yet; it hasn’t been 24 months since his last exposure to dairy, and I wanted to give him the full 24 months before trying again.

However, it turned out to be one of those occasions that makes FPIES and MSPI Moms crazy: that little bit of chocolate caused ZERO reactions in Jed.

I was glad for it, and also exasperated – people won’t take me seriously if he doesn’t react to things I say not to give him!

In any event, Darrel and I decided to go ahead with a full-fledged dairy trial.

This time, we gave Jed cheese.

Oh, cheese, how do I love thee? How do I MISS thee? There aren’t enough words. I LOVE cheese.

It was a little tricky for us because Jed is now old enough to understand that some foods hurt his body, and that he has to eat them on occasion to see if his body can tolerate them now. We wanted to make him a little excited to try the cheese, but not talk it up so much that he would be devastated if it turns out he can’t actually tolerate it yet.

I think we did a pretty good job of making cheese out to be a yummy treat without making it sound like life is hardly worth living without it.

He was very excited to try it! I bought several different kinds of cheese for him to try, and he wasn’t thrilled with Swiss, mild cheddar, or the Babybel cheese rounds (though he really enjoyed unwrapping those!).

Jed Eating a Sandwich

Eating a few bites of a turkey and swiss sandwich with quinoa pizza crust as the bread.

The mozzarella was a bigger hit, as evidenced by the night I made Jed’s first ever dairy-laden pizza, but after one and a half slices he wanted to scrape the toppings off and just eat the crust.

Jed Eating Pizza

A gluten-free pizza for Jed!

Unfortunately, unlike his brother, Jed didn’t seem to do as well on his food trials. Two days after we started the cheese trial, he lost his appetite. For four days he hardly ate at all. He kept saying his tummy hurt.

When he did eat, it was things like crackers, rice cereal, and plain potatos.

He also had some diarrhea, and asked to sit and cuddle on the couch with me. While an affectionate child, he’s usually far too busy bouncing, running and playing to voluntarily sit with me on the couch, so that’s not a good sign for how he is feeling.

We pulled the cheese.

On the off chance he’s just having a very mild stomach bug issue, we’ll re-try it again in a few weeks.

The good news is that it took at least four cheese exposures before he had any disturbing signs, and even those were incredibly mild compared to what he used to experience when exposed to dairy.

He may not have outgrown his MSPI yet, but it looks like he’s outgrowing it.


One thing happened this week that made me incredibly sad. 

Thursday night I served up some fresh spaghetti for dinner, since that’s an ideal way to trial Parmesan cheese.

Jed had been telling us he was hungry. When he saw the spaghetti, though, he suddenly announced he wasn’t hungry and didn’t take a single bite.

He didn’t even want anything else to eat.

We attributed it to the cheese, and decided to pull the cheese based on that experience. (The diarrhea came the next day, confirming our decision.)

The next night, however, he made a little comment that led me to question him a little further.

Turns out, Jed didn’t want to eat the spaghetti because the last time he ate spaghetti he got the Meanies. He didn’t understand that the last spaghetti we fed him had been frozen and reheated, and that the spaghetti I served the night before was fresh made and safe for him.

The child would rather go hungry than risk getting the Meanies. 

Darrel and I have been very careful to present our food issues in a very matter-of-fact manner to the boys. Other than the IgE allergies, which we’re understandably a little more anxious about, we strive to make reactions and the Meanies not a scary thing in any way. We don’t want the kids to develop “issues” on top of their food issues.

Jed even confirmed that we haven’t made him feel afraid of food. The Meanies are just so scary for him to experience, he will choose to go hungry rather than eat anything that might give him the Meanies.

If that doesn’t break a Mama’s heart, I just don’t know what will. 

Overall, though, things are actually doing pretty well right now for the boys. Fingers crossed we stay stomach bug free from now on, so we can get going on food trials again!

Have your kids ever shown such determination to stay reaction free? 

Summers Stories: Kids Are Downright Adorable

Summers Stories Kids Are Downright Adorable

I had a big old post written for today, and when I went to edit and re-read, I depressed myself.

Sure, huge parts of our lives suck right now, but geez! If I’m getting tired of writing about it, I know you all are tired of reading it!

The short version of what’s happened this week:

Zac got another stomach bug. While I was away at work. While he was snowed/iced in at my parents. In the country. Running fevers and being sick. (THAT helped my stress and anxiety levels.)

Darrel got the same stomach bug while he was snowed/iced in at home.

The boys almost got stuck for good at my parents house. This would have been very bad, since my parents had almost completely run out of food for them. Miraculously, my parents were finally able to leave their house long enough to bring the boys home before we got more ice and snow, though I had entertained the thought of having Darrel drop me as close to their house as he could so I could hike in with supplies and get snowed in with them. Thankfully, my parents even made it home safely.

After Zac got better, my mom got the same stomach bug. (Apparently we’ve just passed the same stomach bug back and forth for the last few weeks. Fun fun.)

Remember when Jed had Mesenteric Lymphadenitis? That was in December of 2013. We JUST got a bill from the hospital dated February 3 of this year for the amount of $823.31. Yeah. 13 months for insurance to pay their part so the hospital could bill us. And you know we’ve got $823.31 just sitting around. Ouch.

Somehow Darrel’s parking sticker for work got misplaced in all the car shuffling we do when I go to work, and the University charged him $80 for a replacement. Yay.

All in all, we’ve had a crappy week. Tack this week on to the last two months and I wanted to crawl under the covers and not come out for a few days.

But you know what? I’m not nearly as dejected and depressed as I might have been from all of this. Jed saved me from sinking in to a pit of gloom bigger than the ocean. 

On Monday, he just melted me in a zillion different ways, and my heart got so full of love, pride, and sheer awe of his sweetness and goodness that when I re-read my original, whiny, post, I rolled my eyes at myself and re-wrote it.

Instead I wanted to share how downright adorable kids can be, and how, if you let them, your kids can unwittingly pull you out of the darkest emotional holes.

For starters, Jed apparently saw a commercial for vacations in the Virgin Islands around the same time as I told him I had to ship a package to Virginia. Now he has combined the two and is making up imaginary stories about his Thomas trains leaving the Island of Sodor and traveling to the “Virginia Islands”, which tickles me to no end.

He wrapped up Monday night by ad-libbing a bedtime prayer where he thanked God for trains, Santa Claus, and told God “good job, God, for keeping Mommy safe when she was in bad weather”…an event that happened almost three weeks ago that he and Mom prayed for. I nearly cried when he said that.

But the biggest bout of adorableness came yesterday when we were running errands in town, and it happened at two different times and places.

Our bank has a bowl of lollipops on the counter for their customers. As a food allergy mom, I do my best to ignore the bowl and not call any attention to the free treats my kids simply cannot have.

Jed noticed it anyway.

He started begging me to let him have a lollipop, and when I reminded him that he couldn’t have one because of the Meanies he retorted, “Not for me! I want to give it to someone!”

Well. I picked him up so he could get a lollipop, which he promptly ran over to give to a lady standing in line behind us.

Then he gave a lollipop to the bank teller who’d been helping me.

When we left, he waved broadly and screamed out “Bye bye, everyone!” And everyone in the bank smiled, waved, and told him “goodbye” in response.

A little later, we were at the post office shipping an Etsy sale to Virginia. They also have a bowl of candy sitting on the counter, and once again, Jed wanted to give the candies away.

There was a considerably longer line at the post office than at the bank, but Jed gave a piece of candy or a lollipop to every single person before he was done.

After telling them the candy was for them, most of these folks tried to give the candy back to Jed.

Every time, Jed responded by saying “I can’t have it because it has BAD ingredients in it!”

I about fell on the floor wanting to laugh! Can you imagine what these people were thinking? “Gee, thanks, kid. You can’t have crap but you’re giving it to me??”

I restrained myself from laughing and explained more clearly to these folks. “He has food allergies and intolerances, so he can’t have them. He just really wants other people to enjoy treats.”

To their credit (and probably because they’d seen him get the candy from the basket on the counter), most people ate the candies right there.

Jed was thrilled! He had a huge grin on his face and was so happy to make everyone else happy.

By the time we left both the bank and the post office, you couldn’t find a frown or bad attitude in either business if you tried: everyone was smiling, laughing, and happy.

And that is why I’m not nearly as bummed as I have been, even though last week was challenging and hard.

My son has the sweetest heart, the kindest spirit, and the most natural charm and joie de vivre of anyone I’ve ever met.

Who could be cross in the presence of that?

What’s the most adorable thing your kiddos have done?

Homemade Gummy Treats

All Natural Gummy Treats CradleRockingMama.comAbout two years ago I made some gummy treats for Jed. The recipe I used was simple and delicious, and since I didn’t change a thing about it I only shared the link, not the whole recipe.

We loved those gummy treats! There were only two things I wanted to be different about them: one, they were a little too  gummy…almost tough to chew, and two, they were opaque. I wanted to give Jed something that more resembled a traditional gummy bear.

So I tweaked that original recipe, and the results earned a HUGE double thumbs up from both Darrel and Jed!

It’s very simple to make, but I didn’t take step by step photos; you’ll have to use your imagination.

Other homemade gummy recipes I found online said to either juice your fruit or use store-bought fruit juice. We don’t have a juicer, so that option was out, and we don’t use store-bought fruit juices since pretty much all of them have added sweeteners or are a mix of fruits.

Instead, I took two cups of frozen raspberries and two cups of water and put them in a sauce pan. Decide which fruit is safe for you and your kiddos, and use that for this recipe. Bring the fruit and water to a low simmer and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

The result will be a fruit-flavored liquid. (I made raspberry.) Pour the mixture through a strainer into a measuring cup, collecting 2 cups worth of fruit-flavored liquid.

If you have a juicer, do whatever you have to do to get 2 cups of juice and warm it in the stove before the next step.

To that, add the maple syrup and lemon juice and stir. Then add the gelatin and stir. Immediately pour into your molds.

I had a silicone pan with 24 heart-shaped mold spots to use for this Valentine’s Day treat (like this one). However, any silicone mold will work beautifully for this. If you don’t have a silicone mold, just use a cake pan lined with parchment paper.

Place the pan in the refrigerator and let set for at least three hours. Once it has set completely, remove the gummy treats from the mold and dig in!

Yummy Hearts

If you’ve used a cake pan lined with parchment paper, lift the whole thing out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper and cut the gummy treats into squares.

Yummy Gummies

Jed ate ALL of these gummy treats in one day, so I have no idea how long they’ll keep. I’d recommend storing them in the fridge, though, just to make sure they stay fresh.

These are truly reminiscent of regular gummy bears, only made with real food ingredients and just about as healthy as a treat can be. Enjoy! Jed certainly did!

Jed showing off his gummy heart

Homemade Gummy Treats
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Real food, sugar-free, simple and delicious - you'll love eating these gummy treats and feeding them to your kids!
Recipe type: dessert, snack
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 c. frozen fruit
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 T. gelatin
  • 3 T. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Put the frozen fruit and water in a sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Pour through a strainer into a measuring cup, collecting 2 cups of liquid.
  3. Add the maple syrup and lemon juice and stir together.
  4. Add the gelatin and mix together well.
  5. Pour the liquid into a silicone mold and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
  6. Remove the gummies from the mold and store in the fridge.
  7. Enjoy your healthier gummy treat!

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Summers Stories: Running on Fumes

Summers Stories: Running on Fumes

After last weeks stomach bug, things settled down somewhat on the kiddo front. Both boys bounced back fairly quickly, though none of our tummies were at 100% by the end of the week.

Still, no more vomiting or diarrhea, so it’s a step in the right direction.

We didn’t have any choice but to begin a re-trial of goat milk, though. Our second regular supplier of goat milk called with another gallon available for us, and since we KNOW Zac has been safe on her milk before all the tummy troubles started, we had to give it another shot. He used up about half the breastmilk stash I had stockpiled in the freezer the last time I went to work. We didn’t have enough to get through another work trip.

So far, so good. He asks for milk to drink, and hasn’t shown any problem signs. He’ll continue to receive the “safe” goat milk until we run out, and then we’ll begin trialing the new goat milk (in the Crystal Geyser bottles, not the plastic jugs she provides) to see if he continues to do well with that.

God willing, he does fine.

Beef and art supplies are still off the table for now, though. Even though he’s doing okay, we’re giving him a good long stretch before we will be ready to move on. We need to be 100% sure before trying anything else.

Meanwhile, Zac is doing beautifully in speech therapy; so good, in fact, that our previous order of “don’t push him to talk at home so we don’t stress him out” has been rescinded! Now we are to be just as demanding as Miss K. It’s time for the family to start “outstubborning the mule“.

That’s going to take some getting used to; we’ve spent the last 8 months tip-toeing around his speech limitations. However, in one week we’ve managed to get him to say “ba na” for banana when he wants one, which is the first real word he’s used to specify which food he wants. Score!

Jed is doing well. He loves going to martial arts, and is getting downright good at following directions (for the most part).

I made some conversation heart candies for him for Valentine’s Day, and some raspberry gummy treats, and he loved them (recipes to come). Unfortunately, he was incredibly wired up on Sunday after eating them all weekend.

I don’t think it was a fructose reaction, though it might have been a little much for him salicylate-wise. He’s gotten very good at spotting when he has the Meanies, and he didn’t say anything about Meanies when we spoke. He said he was “banging bashing baddy”, which probably means something specific in 4 year old Jed-speak. I interpret that to mean he was having a plain old sugar rush from getting so much sweet stuff in one fell swoop!

So maybe next time I make him treats, we need to ration them a bit better.

As for me, though, I have to confess I’m sinking into a serious pit. Beyond wanting to de-ice, I realize now that I am absolutely running on fumes…and the fumes are almost gone.

After getting home from work last Monday, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in a total lethargic slump. I got nothing accomplished those days. Nothing. I’m not sure if I even cleaned the kitchen. I simply didn’t have the energy.

Thursday I had to run around town with the boys all day at speech therapy and martial arts, and that night I fell asleep at – I kid you not – 7:00 p.m.

In the boys bed.

I woke about 1:00 a.m. and moved to my own bed, but the boys woke me up at 6:30 a.m. After quick scrambling some eggs for Zac and pouring some cereal for Jed, I passed out on the couch again until NOON.

Friday I slept like a normal person at night, but Saturday afternoon found me passed out on the couch again for three hours in the middle of the day.

I. Am. Exhausted.

And I think I’m getting a little depressed.

All the weird reactions and stomach bugs in our family have had me tied up in knots for the last two months.

Work is draining, and I’ve had to do far too much of it for far too long.

The house is a disaster and it feels like I will never, ever make any headway with getting it in shape.

Taxes are looming and I’m feeling stressed about trying to get all the paperwork together for that.

Our money situation has started to improve, and that’s a welcome relief…but then I remembered that our union and company are required to present us with a new contract proposal in July. If it is ratified, the merger my company began so long ago will finally integrate the flight attendants. Depending on the proposal and how the seniority lists go, it could be okay…or it could mean I have no option but to quit my job. Quitting my job would absolutely trash our finances beyond compare. We’d have to declare bankruptcy. So I’m still stressed about money.

A while ago, I said that it was clearly good for my mental health to write every day, whether I posted anything or not. Not writing is not good for me, and I’ve had no choice but to cut back on my writing these last two months.

Beyond writing providing some mental clarity, I have a couple of things I have wanted to write about for a LONG TIME that I think could actually be published. These project ideas of mine could not only potentially help lots of people, but could also earn some money for my family. And for over a year now, I have not been able to sit down and work on them.

The frustration is beyond description; I feel like I’m going to erupt. Especially in light of the fact that I look at my life and can see even the most mundane tasks slipping through my fingers like sand.

I feel like I’m stuck in a rut that I will never escape from, and it’s starting to grind me down.

So, I’m sorry I’m such a downer lately. For your sake as much as mine, I hope things change soon.

On the plus side, I have a couple of good recipes to share (when I get the chance to write them), and the boys do seem to be on the upswing from all the craziness that’s been going on with them lately.

So there are a few silver linings in my grey little world.

Spring just needs to come again. Soon.

Homemade Sea Salt Hand Scrub

Homemade Sea Salt Hand Scrub

This winter is being particularly rough on my hands. They’re cracking and severely dry, no matter how much hand cream I slather on.

Long before I delved into the food allergy world, I made my own sea salt hand scrub. With my hands so dry and icky lately, I remembered this scrub and raced to my bathroom for a little spa treatment. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was completely out!

Taking care of the kids preoccupied my time so much I haven’t replenished my jar since it ran out over a year ago! Ack!

Well, I had to rectify that immediately, and I am so glad I did! After just one scrub down, my hands felt almost completely normal again.

I bet in another couple of days my hands will be completely healed. This stuff is awesome!

Surely I’m not the only person suffering with dry, icky hands this winter, right?

It’s very simple to do.

Start with sea salt. For this, I actually prefer the pure white, slightly processed sea salt. It isn’t quite as abrasive on your hands. Hain’s makes a nice version for this.

Dump the sea salt into a bowl and add your oil. I’ve used almond oil in the past, but this time I used Jojoba oil. Pretty much any liquid oil will work, though; it’s just a matter of personal preference.

Using a spoon, mix the salt and oil together.

That’s it!

Sea Salt Scrub 1

One little note: I’ve noticed over the years that the amount of oil necessary varies depending on which carrier oil I use. For that reason, I recommend starting with 3 T. of oil and adding more as necessary. You may find you need to add more salt, too, depending on the oil choice. In the end, you want the texture to resemble damp sand.

If you want it to smell nice, you can add some essential oils when you add the carrier oil, but that isn’t necessary.

If you want it to smell nice but can’t use essential oils, you can infuse the salt with scent the old-fashioned way. Just put some vanilla beans, orange peels, or herbs in a jar and fill with sea salt. After a few weeks, the salt will take on some of the scent and you can use that in your hand scrub.

I have a jar with a cork lid that I’ve used for my scrubs for years. My Mom taught me to make this when I was still a teenager, and she always stuck a seashell in the scrub to use as a dipping device.

Turns out, a small seashell scoops up just the right amount of scrub for a single use!

Sea Salt Scrub 2

Plus, it just makes it seem fancier and more spa-like.

In fact, jars of this salt scrub make lovely gifts for almost any occasion. Wrap a pretty bow around the jar and give someone a “spa in a jar”!

Right now is an ideal time to try this, in my opinion. Valentine’s Day is this weekend and nobody wants dry, cracking hands on a romantic evening!

Give it a shot; your hands will thank you for it! 

Homemade Sea Salt Hand Scrub
Prep time
Total time
A soothing, healing hand scrub perfect for dry, winter skin.
Recipe type: personal care
Serves: 1 jar
  • 1 c. sea salt
  • 3-5 T. carrier oil (jojoba or almond work well for this)
  • 10-15 drops of essential oil (optional, personal preference)
  1. Pour the salt in a bowl.
  2. Add 3 T. of carrier oil and essential oils and mix together.
  3. Add more carrier oil (or salt) until the texture resembles damp sand.
  4. Scoop into a jar and add a seashell.
  5. Enjoy your pampering!

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Summers Stories: Mystery Reactions Solved?

Summers Stories Mystery Reactions Solved CradleRockingMama.comLast Monday I woke up in Boston, just as another major snowstorm began.

My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:45 a.m. We finally took off at almost 1:00 p.m. We were lucky, though; we were one of 4 flights that my airline was actually able to get in the air that morning. The rest were cancelled.

After arriving back in Chicago, I was relieved to discover the rest of my trip had cancelled as well…I could go straight home!

While waiting for my flight home, I called my Mom to see how the kiddos were doing.

That’s when I learned that while I was trudging through a small blizzard to the airport that morning, Zac had vomited.

While I spent hours sitting on an airplane going no where, Zac had endured extreme stomach pain that made him clench his body so tightly he was immobile as he cried and screamed. This happened about every ten minutes for over four hours.

While I anxiously sat in limbo, uncertain when or even whether  I could get home to my family, my little Zac sat at home refusing to eat all day and having frequent liquid diarrhea diapers.

There was nothing I could do; I was almost a thousand miles away.

But when I landed, I raced home as fast as I could.

The boys weren’t asleep yet; I arrived home just at bedtime. So I went straight to the boys.

When I said “hello” to them, they both lit up to see me. When I said to Zac “Hi, honey. Grandma said you didn’t feel good today. Does your tummy hurt?” He looked at me with a sad face and said “uh-huh” in the saddest little voice ever.

My heart hurt.

Darrel and I decided to pull goat milk. Goat milk is still safe for Zac, I believe, but I’m suspicious of the new supplier of goat milk. So we had to pull it to see if that is the cause of the last two weeks of problems and the acute reaction he had on Monday.

Tuesday morning he had a rotten, awful diaper fairly early in the day, but he regained his appetite and when asked, confirmed that his tummy did NOT hurt that day. Whew!

Then Jed went to the potty. Despite being perfectly capable of wiping himself, he occasionally insists that we do it for him. This was one of those occasions. When I wiped him, a glob of mucousy blood came with the poop.

The poop itself was layered in the toilet. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, there were at least three major problems with that poop, not even counting the bloody mucous.

Later that afternoon, Jed decided to make cookies and dumped my colored dextrose all over the dining room. During clean-up, I found residue of blue finger paints on the table. (Don’t ask me how; we’re usually obsessive about cleaning up.)

Despite reporting that he felt fine all day, that night Zac woke up in the middle of the night and came to our bed. Wednesday morning he woke me up…by vomiting on me. Twice.

We went to take a bath while Darrel stripped the bed, and after that, he seemed perfectly fine. His attitude was good and he was playing and energetic. He didn’t have much of an appetite, but he did eat. His poop wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either.

And I had to get packed to fly back to work. That day.

Based on what Zac ate on Tuesday, Darrel made the decision to also pull beef from Zac’s diet. We also decided to lock away all art supplies for the time being.

In two days, my son lost goat milk, beef, and art supplies. And vomited. And had diarrhea. And intense pain.

And I had to leave him in the middle of all of that.

If someone had sucker punched me on Wednesday on my drive to the airport, it couldn’t have hurt any worse than knowing I was leaving my boys when they aren’t doing well.

A friend pointed out that some viruses cause bloody stool, which could explain some of what we’re experiencing.

But with FPIES and food intolerances, it’s foolish to assume a normal childhood malady until evidence clearly points to such. You have to assume it’s the food and act quickly, just in case.

We were left with mystery food reactions. Is it the goat milk? The beef? The art supply residue?

And what about Jed? What caused him to suddenly, after over a year, have bloody poop? (He also had red “slapped cheeks” on Wednesday, though we didn’t go outside. A typical problem sign.)

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? I decided to give a little pictoral reference for how this sort of thing makes a food allergy/FPIES parent feel.

Here is a normal person.

Normal Person

Freedom! Space around them to go wherever they want, do whatever they want to do.

Here is a food allergy/FPIES parent.

Allergy Parent

Just because their child can be hurt by food, half of their freedom is gone already. They are backed into a corner. But it’s tolerable, because there is still some freedom and movement available to them.

Now you’ve got an allergy parent dealing with food reactions – especially mystery reactions. This is what that feels  like.

Trapped on all Sides Allergy Parent

That little bit of freedom is gone, and in it’s place are monsters attacking.

You feel cornered and trapped. It’s fight or flight time.

This kind of stress is usually akin to dark alleys at night.

We live it daily, never knowing when the monsters will attack.

I had to leave my babies when they weren’t feeling well, and it absolutely killed me.

Then Thursday came, and I suddenly began to feel…off. Not sick. Just not well. Friday I spoke with my Mom early in the day and heard that Jed had vomited twice and had a nasty poop in the morning. By the end of the day, he’d vomited again.

Zac, meanwhile, was feeling and acting like a perfectly healthy little boy.

Darrel, like me, was not feeling 100%.

So when I left, we were suspicious of the milk, the beef, or the art supplies, aware that a slim chance existed that a virus was to blame but not daring to hope for it, but by Saturday morning it was clear that the Summer’s have been hit by a very strange, very mild stomach bug of some sort.

Thanks to FPIES, I consider a stomach bug to be some of the best news in the world!

But what a rotten week.

We’ve kept beef, milk and art supplies pulled from Zac’s life, however, just in case one of those was actually causing a problem in conjunction with the stomach bug. We will reintroduce them one at a time to make absolutely sure they’re safe before moving on to more food trials.


Remember when I said this year started off with an inauspicious start? I really hope it starts to improve soon. So far 2015 has been exhausting.

Has anyone heard of a weird stomach bug that hits slowly and last for days going around? This is a new type of stomach bug for me.

Quinoa Roll Out Cookies

Quinoa Roll Out Cookies

Right off the bat I will tell you that this recipe does NOT taste like manna from Heaven. Unlike the “sugar” cookies I created for Jed, these cookies taste like a dry cracker. After all, there isn’t any sweetener in them at all!

But for people on a restricted diet, with limited ingredients and limited options, these can at least satisfy the urge to participate in holiday cookie creating, if nothing else. 

They certainly did that for Zac!

My sweet boy finally, after two and a half years of life, got to actively participate in a festive kitchen activity that resulted in something he could eat.

That’s worth it in my book. Maybe this will serve the same purpose for you!

This roll out cookie uses only 4 ingredients, and it rolls and cuts out perfectly fine. The end texture is spot on for a roll out cookie, and when I sprinkled some stevia on my cookie it tasted pretty good! 

Without the stevia, well…dry cracker. Not bad, but certainly not a cookie!

You can also make these dairy free, if you prefer. Just use an alternative milk and a vegetable shortening, tallow, or lard instead of butter.

I didn’t try it with an egg replacer, but if you try it that way, you could even make these vegan, gluten-free, and top 8 allergy free. (No promises that it will work out at all with that many substitutions, though!)

Anyway, it’s insanely simple to make. 

Put all your ingredients in a bowl. Mix well until combined.


Ta-da! Batter!

I made both these cookies and Jed’s “sugar” cookies on the same day, basically simultaneously. So, just as with Jed’s cookies, I wrapped this dough in plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to chill.

Dough Wrapped Up

And just as with Jed’s cookies, I’ll tell you to skip that step. This dough, when chilled, didn’t want to roll out easily and crumbled into a mess. At room temperature, it handled much better.

So no wrapping and chilling required!

Rolling Out Dough

Then the fun part! Call in your kitchen helpers, lightly flour your work surface, and let them roll out some dough. 

Zac has never had a chance to do this before in his life, and he loved every minute of it!

Cutting Out Cookies

Once the dough is rolled out, grab your cookie cutters. Again, these pictures are from Christmas, so just imagine using heart shapes instead for your Valentine’s Day cookies.

This was another task Zac adored. If I even tried to help him with placing the cookie cutter on the dough, he became highly indignant. If he had the words, he’d have been saying “Mommy, back off! ME do it!”

No problem. I just rolled out the dough more frequently than I had planned to.

Cookies Ready to Bake

Once the dough is rolled and cut, use a spatula to move the cookies to a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Beautiful Quinoa Roll Out Cookies

Bake at 375 for 8-12 minutes, and voila! Totally tasteless cookies!

But cookies that will make your food intolerant/allergic child feel like they’re part of the festivities, which makes them the most delicious things in the whole danged world. 

If stevia is safe for you, I’d strongly encourage you to add some stevia to this recipe. It will make them taste like an actual cookie. As stevia varies greatly in strength, I hesitate to suggest an amount. I use KAL stevia, and with that brand, I would use 6 scoops of stevia to start with.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope all your loved ones get to feel included in the festivities. Hopefully this recipe will help!

Quinoa Roll Out Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These simple and plain roll-out cookies are ideal if you're on a restricted diet!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2-3 dozen
  • 1¼ c. quinoa flour
  • 4 T. goat milk butter (regular butter, shortening, lard or tallow would also work)
  • 2 T. milk (goat, cow, almond, hemp, etc.)
  • 1 egg
  • Stevia (optional, to taste)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put all your ingredients in a bowl; mix until well combined.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough in small batches.
  4. Using a cookie cutter, cut out cookies.
  5. Lift the cookies with a spatula and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  6. Continue re-rolling the dough, cutting out shapes, and traying the cookies until you run out of dough.
  7. Bake for 8-12 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool on the counter.
  9. Enjoy your totally bland, but totally inclusive roll-out cookies!

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