The Lost Bag Saga…it Gets Worse!

The Lost Bag Saga It Gets Worse CradleRockingMama.com

Now that I’ve finished reporting about Zac’s FPIES reaction, I’m going to conclude the Lost Bag Saga. I’m sorry it’s so long, but I want to finish this story (both in writing it and living it) so I can move on. (Read the whole story here, here and here.)

As of Tuesday two weeks ago, there was still no sign of my bag. I had to accept it was gone forever.

That night I sat down at my computer to write and upload some recent photos I’d taken, and got frustrated – again – at the lack of storage space on my computer.

The dratted thing has 110 GB of storage on it, and it constantly tells me I’m out of room! Every time I click on the “clean up your crap” link (paraphrasing, of course), it shows I only have less than 8 GB of “my crap” stored on my hard drive.

Obviously, some program is eating up a TON of memory…but I hadn’t been able to figure out the culprit so I could pull the plug.

Now, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that Darrel is a computer geek. I’ve asked him to take a look at my computer and fix this before, but somehow, it’s never been a high priority. (In all fairness, I usually get completely irritated by the situation after  he’s gone to bed, and forget to ask him to fix it the next day.)

Still.

This time, I was TICKED.

How many of those photos and videos would have been saved to my computer and NOT on the external hard drive that was lost/stolen if I had ANY computer hard drive space to speak of?

The next day, I had no choice but to start replacing the items in my tote bag. After buying a new external hard drive, I eagerly went home to use the cable to plug in the big hard drive Darrel and I keep at home for our BIG, total computer backups, to see exactly how much I had lost.

Remember when I said I’d be surprised if I had anything backed up after Christmas 2013?

It was worse.

FPIES has so overtaken my life that I had not backed up a single photo or video since – are you sitting down?

AUGUST 2012.

ALMOST ALL OF ZAC’S LIFE IS MISSING FROM PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD.

Not to mention some of the most fun parts of Jed’s life to date are all but gone!

I felt crushed. Completely heartbroken.

Mad at American Eagle. Mad at Darrel. Mostly, though, mad at myself. I KNOW better!!

As horrible as it is, there was nothing to do. I can’t un-lose a bag.

But I can make sure this never, ever happens again.

First step: get Darrel to find out what’s wrong with my computer. If I don’t have to keep an external hard drive with me at work to store even a small home video, then I won’t ever risk losing one again, right?

So Wednesday night Darrel took a look at my computer.

In about 20 minutes, he had the answer. iTunes.

iTunes had 5 full backups of my iPhone stored on my hard drive, each one  consuming about 15 GB of memory.

He suggested I delete all but the most recent.

However, I had a thought. Wouldn’t SOME of my photos and videos be stored in the iPhone backups? Maybe I could salvage some of those lost memories through that, right?

Darrel agreed, so I went to work.

Now. Anyone who ever deals with computer photos and videos will probably have a stroke at this next part: I had a grand total of 840 MB of hard drive space on my computer to work with.

Before I restored an old backup of my iPhone, I wanted to make darned sure I didn’t lose anything I adored off my current iPhone setup. I needed to copy all of the photos, videos and voice memos currently on my phone to my new external hard drive.

My computer only has one USB outlet. That means that I had to plug in my phone, copy under 840 MB of photos/videos to my computer, unplug my phone, plug in the external hard drive, cut and paste the photos/videos onto it, unplug the external hard drive, plug in the iPhone, and repeat.

FOR HOURS.

I kid you not: I spent over 7 hours on that part alone!

Finally, everything I could think of that I really didn’t want to lose was safely NOT on my iPhone. I made sure to create a backup of the current iPhone status before moving on, anyway.

Once the backup was complete, I restored the iPhone to the oldest backup currently eating up space on my hard drive.

I salvaged what I could, then restored it with the next backup.

And…repeat. For all five backups.

Y’all, I nearly cried. I found some of the last photos ever taken with my Nana and the boys before she died. Those would have been lost forever if I  hadn’t had those backups!

Finally, all I could find was saved securely onto my new external hard drive (and quickly copied on to the big external hard drive we keep at home, naturally) and it was time to bring my phone back to modern times.

I selected the backup I’d made before starting the old restores, and…nada.

“That backup is corrupt. Won’t work. Too bad, so sad. Ain’t gonna happen. HAHA!” (That’s not the official iTunes message, just what it felt like in my head.)

Not only did I lose almost 3 years worth of photos and videos of my kids, but to top it off, thanks to this whole debacle, my iPhone thinks it’s June 2013!!

Are you kidding me??!

Now, by this point it was 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. I’d been awake for over 24 hours by then. I was supposed to take Zac to speech therapy at 11:30 a.m., then race home, get dressed, and head to the airport for a 3:00 p.m. flight to work.

I didn’t have much time left to mess with salvaging photos. Before getting ready for therapy, I checked the status of my flight to work and saw that it had been cancelled! Suddenly, I had LESS time to mess with it! Phone working or not, I had to RUN.

Fortunately, my mom was heading over early to help me get ready for work, so I was able to race to the airport for an earlier flight.

After getting to my hotel in Chicago, I started looking. Surely SOMEONE had experienced a corrupt backup for their iPhone and found a solution, right?

I eventually found a company that promises to fix corrupt backups for $30. Money is tight, but I need a working phone…so, sold!

After doing everything their program says to do, I attempted to restore my iPhone again and…it didn’t work.

I sent an email off to the company saying “please make it work, but if you can’t, I’d like my money back” and thus began the back and forth of “try this”/”nope”/”try this”/”nope”.

By the time I made it to Saturday night, I was flat-out “fixing computer crap”-ed out. My phone was functional enough at that point; I’d just lost some data I REALLY wanted back.

The record keeping app I use to record ALL of Zac’s nursing, diapers, reactions, and growth lost ALL data I’d stored since June 2013.

The note file I’d used to track both boys weight for the last two years – gone.

While there are a few more things missing I’d like to get back, those two things are the most important. They were worth the effort to me.

The company I hired for help with the corrupt backup is amazingly attentive. After hearing what I most wanted to retrieve from my iPhone, the lady there suggested I try their Backup Browser product. Using that, I was able to recover MORE photos and videos that had been lost! Plus, I retrieved all my “notes” files – including the boys weight tracker! Yay!

After utilizing that tool and getting everything I possibly could off the backups, I wanted to go ahead and try to restore my phone from the “fixed” restore again.

This time, and following the company tech’s instructions, my iPhone restored itself as a NEW iPhone…meaning even MORE data was lost from my phone!

(Join me in screaming, please?)

Even better, iTunes can’t “see” the backup of my phone I made right before I attempted the final fix (a backup that would have that lost data in it). It’s right there, saved on my computer, but iTunes doesn’t offer it as an option to restore. So I can’t even try to take my phone back to June of 2013…it’s stuck as a factory restore.

I’m just about sick to death of iPhones at this point. Anyone out there use a different smart phone that they like better? That does NOT do crap like this?

Fortunately, not all is lost. I asked our beloved speech therapist if she still happened to have any of the photos and videos she’s taken of Zac over the last year or so on file, and she did! She sent some excellent photos of the boys last summer that I hadn’t seen before.

My wonderful parents gave me a flash drive of all the photos and videos they’ve taken of the boys in the last three years.

Combined with what I salvaged off my phone with those memory-hogging backups, what I salvaged with the Backup Browser, and what Darrel has on his computer, well, it’s not as hopeless as it seemed.

I still lost A LOT of photos and videos of my boys, but there is at least SOME pictorial evidence of the last three years.

It’s better than nothing, and enough to make me cry with happiness when I look at it.

So, here’s a general call out to anyone who knows my family personally: if you happen to have any photos or videos where my children feature – at all – from August 2012 until April 2015, would you please, please send me a copy? I’ll give you big bear hugs – and maybe some sloppy kisses in thanks!

And yes, I’ve learned my lesson. Photos will now be saved in at least two locations. Print copies may be made as well. And I’m looking for other storage options for these precious, irreplaceable items!

And maybe I’ll return to pen and paper for record keeping. 

Perhaps one day my tote bag will just turn up and be returned to me.

I’ve accepted that it is gone, though. With the photos and videos I’ve salvaged, I can be sad, but content with what I’ve still got.

Now I just have to figure out how to replace all our tax documents and protect our personal information with the credit reporting agencies (in case my bag isn’t  just hopping around the country on random flights).

That one lost bag has cost me over 50 hours of time trying to salvage some of the data lost, not counting the time involved in buying replacements for the lost items. Adding up the time involved in the paperwork replacement, and I’m sure I’ll spend at least 60 hours of my personal time dealing with what one incompetent ramp agent at American Eagle screwed up.

I’m working REALLY HARD at not being ticked off. Most of the time I manage to be accepting and even “zen” about it, but occasionally, I want a responsible heinie I can put my foot in.

I think that’s pretty normal, though.

Oh, and every time I travel now? 

I stand in the jetway and watch for my bags to be loaded or unloaded on the plane. Once bitten, after all.


Anyone else want to eschew technology at times and revert to pen and paper? Anyone else have an iPhone screw up like mine? Were you able to fix it?

After the Oats

After the Oats CradleRockingMama.com

Last Thursday, Zac had an FPIES reaction to oats.

We were understandably sad and upset. More than that, though, this was the most severe acute reaction he’s had since his hospitalization at 7 weeks old; we were quite edgy about how his little body would cope with such profuse vomiting.

The last thing we want is another trip to the hospital, after all.

Fortunately, he stopped vomiting Thursday night, drank plenty of water, and comfort nursed throughout the afternoon and evening. No dehydration for Zac!

That night, he slept pretty well. Still, I wasn’t relaxed yet. I knew the bad diapers were coming.

Except, they didn’t.

The next day, Zac was fine.

In fact, he was perfect.

Blow. My. Mind.

I still can’t believe he reacted so strongly to the oats on Thursday, and was the picture of perfect health on Friday.

His perfect streak continued through Saturday, and by Sunday morning at church, I had relaxed completely.

Of course, you know the punchline, right? Sunday afternoon, while happily sitting and playing with the boys, Zac suddenly went from smiling and happy to screaming in pain. He clenched his whole body up so tightly he was actually shaking from the effort.

Darrel and I began the 20 questions routine and he quickly informed us his butt hurt.

Huh.

So we asked if he had gone poo-poo. No answer, just screaming. We asked if he needed  to go poo-poo. No answer, just screaming.

I gathered him up and took him to the changing table, assuming he had gone poo-poo and it had hurt.

(In case you haven’t caught on by now, it’s about to get graphic about poop. Click away if you’re squeamish!)

When I got his diaper off, I saw what appeared to be a small turd stuck to his heinie. I tried to wipe it off and realized that no, it wasn’t a small turd. It was a BIG turd that he didn’t want to push out. That tiny little bit was all he was able to expel.

Dealing with Jed’s constipation last year, I did a lot of reading about ways to help him. I know psyllium husks work well and are fairly safe for FructMal, but Zac has never had those (or anything else recommended for constipation treatment). Thinking a warm bath might help Zac poop, I raced him to the bathtub and got him into some warm water.

A few minutes in the tub, and he wasn’t screaming any more! He was back to smiling and playing; totally happy boy.

He bent over at one point, and I saw his tush. No sign of poop at all.

He’d sucked that turd right back up into his body.

Not. Good.

He got out of the tub, and I figured we’d have a nice, big poop to clean up within an hour.

Instead, every 45-60 minutes for the rest of the day, he would suddenly stop what he was doing and begin screaming, clenching his body in pain.

Amazingly enough, he slept great Sunday night. I had the thought that maybe he was over it and his little body would poop in the morning.

Nope. On Monday, he kept up the clench and scream routine all morning long. We were running out of hot water in the bath tub; eventually I just left it filled, turned on a space heater in the room, and shut the door in an effort to make the hot bath last for multiple uses.

It wasn’t too much to expect since he was asking to go sit in warm water every half an hour or so.

We actually missed speech therapy on Monday because he was screaming and clenching so much I couldn’t get him dressed. Every time I tried to get him to relax and put on clothes, he would scream louder.

In fact, the only time he stopped screaming in that 45 minute stretch was to tell me his first ever three word sentence: “No go, Mama!”

Now, I’ve never experienced constipation, so I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the pain it causes. To my mind, though, 45 minutes of non-stop screaming, coming on the heels of almost 24 hours of frequent scream-and-clench, seemed excessive.

I called the doctor.

Fellow FPIES/rare food issue Mama’s can vouch for the fact that it can be so frustrating to talk to regular doctors about our kids. Regular pediatricians deal with normal kids. Our kids aren’t normal. It can be a huge mis-match at times.

The nurse I spoke to is a very sweet lady I’ve dealt with before, and even though she knows Zac has issues with medicines and foods, let me just recount part of the conversation we had:

Me: “…so, anyway, that’s what’s been happening. I don’t know if this is normal, or if we need to have some pictures taken for a blockage or something.”
Her: “Well, it sounds like regular constipation to me. What we recommend is to give a little miralax and see if that helps.”
Me: “Zac actually has a hard time with medicines. Do you have any other suggestions?”
Her: “Prunes.”
Me: “Um…anything else?”
Her: “Pear juice.”
Me: (sighing internally) “OK. Thanks.”
Her: “No problem! Give one of those a try and if he’s still constipated in a few days or if his condition worsens considerably, give us a call back and we’ll see him.”

I’d really rather not trial a new food or medication on him when he’s just barely over a terrible acute FPIES reaction AND in considerable pain from constipation.

Finally, though, I’d had enough. Knowing that if he kept this up we would have no choice but to give him one of the nurses suggestions, I felt a little tough love was necessary.

He kept clenching and screaming, and refused to let me hold him, pick him up, or even touch him. I KNEW he would feel better if he would just poop, and while I knew that trying to poop was hurting him, it truly was the only thing that would fix the problem.

The next time he screamed and clenched, I snatched him up, yanked off his diaper, and stuck him on the toilet.

I had to hold him in place, because he absolutely did not want to bend at the waist. He’s only in the early stages of potty training; I didn’t put him on the toilet because I’m trying to convince him to poop in the potty (honestly, at that point, he could have pooped anywhere in my house and I would have been thrilled), but because it was the only place I could think of where I could force him in to a semi-squatting position.

I hoped the squatting would help him go.

As he screamed in my ear, I cooed gently to him, rubbing his back or his belly (wherever I could reach at the time) and encouraging him to just relax and let the poop come out.

Just as I was about to give up and go plop him back in the warm bath water again, he suddenly, without warning, plopped out a gigantic, rock hard turd.

It kind of took me by surprise, actually. Sort of an uneventful ending to a slowly escalating stress situation.

He grabbed me for a hug, and within a minute was back to happy, smiling boy again.

For the next two days, Zac had a LOT of poopy diapers. He did have two days worth of backlogged poop in his tummy, after all!

And they were all perfect.

I’ve heard of constipation sometimes happening at the end of an acute FPIES reaction instead of diarrhea, but it’s never happened to us before.

I’m honestly not sure which one sucks worse.

In any event, Zac is back to normal and being his usual cheerful, exuberant self. It appears we are done with the oats reaction for good.

Now we’ll give it another week or so, and then we’ll start a new food trial.

Hopefully the next one doesn’t go the way oats did.

I’m looking very forward to the day when food trials are a part of our past. This process is straining and draining for all of us when he reacts.


So, fellow FPIES mamas, do you have any brilliant suggestions for how to treat constipation in our little ones?

Outgrow FPIES at 3? Yeah, Right!

Outgrow FPIES at 3 Yeah Right CradleRockingMama.com

Sorry it’s been a week since I wrote. Believe it or not, the lost bag saga has continued through this time, and I haven’t had the time or the energy to write about it. I’ve been too frustrated and crying too much just living it; recapping it was more than I could bear.

But that’s on hold for today. Instead, I have to share a little kiddo update.

Zac had a lovely zucchini pass recently, and then the kiddos both got ear infections that put any food trials on hold. After returning from work last Monday, and giving it a couple days to make sure he was still at baseline, Darrel and I decided to go ahead with another food trial.

This time, though, we thought it would be easy. Not even a real trial.

Last September, we were on the 3 day break of an oats trial for Zac when the stomach bug from hell came to visit. It wiped out the whole family, and knocked Zac for a real loop. Poor little guy lost most of his safe foods, which then had to be re-trialed. It took us almost 3 months just to get back to where we were pre-oats trial!

So now, 7 months later, we decided to go ahead and finish up that oats trial. He’s already had the 10 day intro, and the (now very long) break, so all that’s left is the reintroduction for 5 days and call it a pass. Right?

Yesterday I made the boys a big batch of banana oatmeal cookies to take to town for our errand running. 

Both kiddos ate a good breakfast, so they weren’t hungry on the drive to town. Neither one showed any interest in food until Zac was getting out of speech therapy at 12:30 p.m.

I happily handed off the baggies of oatmeal cookies to the boys, and they enthusiastically chowed down.

We had a few errands to run, and when we had finished the errands we still had about 2 hours to kill before Jed’s martial arts class started. Since they’d been SO good that afternoon, I decided to treat them to a picnic and play time at the park.

As usual, both boys loved being at the park. Jed had some new sandbox toys to play with, and he headed right for the “beach” to play.

Usually Zac jumps right in with climbing, playing, running, and shrieks and giggles the whole time. I didn’t think much of it when it seemed like he was having a hard time deciding what he wanted to do at the park, though.

He came up to me only a few minutes after we arrived and asked for a snack, and I handed him his bag of cookies. He looked at it for a moment, then started to dig around in the bag of food I had for Jed and myself to find something different. When I told him the cookies were all I had for him to eat, he just got up and went back to the play area.

I assumed he was more interested in playing than in food.

Until about ten minutes later.

I’d noticed a…conflict…in the sandbox, so I’d moseyed over to see if it was under control or if I needed to intervene. (I don’t intervene unless violence is about to ensue. Kids need to learn to sort out their own problems whenever possible.)

I knew Zac was at the big fake train our park has, and glanced over to make sure he was still okay while keeping a closer eye on Jed.

Suddenly, I heard Zac screaming and crying.

I turned towards him, and he was running towards me with a look of total pain on his face.

That might have been more concerning, except he’s taken to putting that look on his face every time he gets the slightest bump or imaginary boo-boo lately; consequently, I didn’t race over in a panic. I just called out “Did you get a boo-boo?”

He didn’t quite make it to me before he stopped and projectile vomited all over the ground. 

He heaved three times before that vomit was finished. 

We went to the bathrooms to wash his face off, and he said he felt better. As soon as we cleared the bathroom door back to the park, he took off running and grinning for the slides.

Well.

That’s not good.

But he seemed fine.

In the last year or so, his FPIES reactions have been much more mild than they were when he was an infant. Sure, they’re no walk in the park, but we don’t typically deal with profuse vomiting to bile, lethargy, or dehydration any more. The last year or so, his worst reactions are typically one good puke and then the more chronic symptoms of bad diapers, comfort nursing, sleep disturbances and crankiness.

So I made the decision to stay at the park. The worst was over, right?

I did notice Zac still wasn’t quite as enthusiastically playing as he normally does, but figured the vomiting sort of drained him a bit.

Twenty minutes later, as I sat on the picnic blanket keeping an eye on the boys, I once again heard that scream and cry and saw Zac running towards me. 

This time I ran for him.

I got to him just as he unleashed a BIGGER, much more violent vomit.

After telling Jed to gather his sand box toys, I washed Zac’s face and we left the park.

I know he isn’t contagious, but the other moms there don’t. I didn’t want them to worry about that “crazy mom with the puking kid” that wouldn’t take him home.

Mostly, though, it was out of sympathy for Zac. The second vomit really took it out of him. When we left the bathroom, he stayed right by my side and showed no interest in anything except being with Mommy.

He needed to go home.

Thankfully, Zac didn’t vomit on the way home. He fell fast asleep. The minute I started getting him out of the car seat at home, though, he woke up crying. We barely cleared the front door before he vomited again.

He vomited twice more in the next hour, eventually vomiting clear stomach fluids.

Thankfully, he continued to drink plenty of water throughout the ordeal, and comfort nursed quite a bit last night. Dehydration never made an appearance.

And after his 4th vomit of the night, he perked up considerably. His “lethargy” was short-lived.

So now we wait for residual nasty diapers, and for an eventual baseline.

It’s clear oats are a no-go; the first vomit was almost exactly 4 hours after ingestion. Typical FPIES time-frame. 

Back when he was diagnosed, in August of 2012, the doctors all said kids with FPIES outgrow it around age 3.

Zac’s 3rd birthday is in just about a month.

I know the prevailing wisdom has changed the “outgrow at 3″ prognosis to a more likely “outgrow between 3 and 6″ since our diagnosis. Still, when you’re told ‘3’, it sort of sticks in your mind. Somewhere in the recesses of your mind, you’re still holding out hope for 3.

So this sucks. A lot.

It’s been a really emotionally exhausting April already. Adding our first acute FPIES reaction in such a long time just really sapped me out. 

I’m just grateful it was only 5 vomits and not hospitalization. Darrel and I agreed that, based on how much more mild his reactions have been in the last year or so, the severity of this  reaction means that had we trialed oats at an earlier age, he would likely have ended up in the hospital.

So I’m grateful. 

For the crap sandwich we’re eating. 

Sort of. 

(FPIES parents get that completely.)


Did your kiddo have a reaction around the time the doctors told you FPIES would be gone? How did you cope?

American Airlines Lost My Valet Checked Bag – Part 3

American Airlines Lost My Valet Checked Bag Part 3 CradleRockingMama.com

Read the first parts of this story here and here.

I didn’t know what to do.

The last thing I wanted was to miss my sons first ever tee-ball game. But…I really need my bag back. If there was a chance, however slim, I might find answers to its whereabouts by waiting to talk to those agents, I felt I had to take it.

Besides, even if staying didn’t lead me to answers, at least I would know that I had done everything humanly possible to secure my bags return. If I left, I would always wonder if I might have found it if only I had stayed.

Since I wasn’t 100% sure what to do, I asked Darrel and my parents for advice. Darrel felt about the way I did; not sure. My Dad, however, recently retired from working for an airline for 35 years. He felt that staying and asking the gate agent for any ideas was the best way to find my bag.

With a sick feeling in my gut, I made the decision to stay.

With more time to kill, I found an outlet for my phone and sat down to do some digging.

First I looked up and called Kalamazoo airport. After a few transfers, I finally got in touch with someone from American Airlines at the location.

The situation was very confusing to him; it took a while to get him to understand that I had never been there, I just suspected my bag may have ended up there. Finally he got it, and sadly answered that it was such a small station that if any bags showed up unclaimed there, they were opened and dealt with immediately. Mine had not been flown to Kalamazoo by mistake.

Then I called Detroit. I had less luck there. In the end, I never reached a person. I only reached an automated answering line for baggage services. All I could do was leave a message and hope for a call back, which so far, I have not received.

I wasted some time reading, and then it was time to try to find the people working that night.

Here’s the tricky bit: the gate agent working that night was off duty on Monday. However, her sister is also a gate agent there, and the other sweet employees suggested I ask her for help.

I found her easily, and explained the story. I told her I knew she was not involved in this, but that maybe, if she could ask her sister for me, her sister might remember something useful.

All I’d honestly hoped for was that she would pass along a message. Instead, she called her sister right then – and handed me the phone to talk to her myself! Amazing!

Even more amazing, the gate agent from Friday night not only remembered that flight, but remembered me! Unfortunately, she didn’t remember anything that could help. The only extra info she added was that, after we boarded the delayed flight, they had to wait for a LONG time for the ramp workers to show up to load the bags.

I apologized profusely for bothering her on her day off, and thanked her for her time. After handing the phone back to her sister, I asked if she knew where I could find the supervisor working that night.

She made a funny little grin, and said “Nope. He’s a floater. But I can call him for you!” And she did.

The supervisor was obviously a little off-kilter by the whole situation and had nothing helpful to add, but he was nice enough and said he would keep an eye out. He took down my information in case he found my bag, or any data on it.

Before I left, the sweet sister I’d bombarded asked if I was sure they had emptied the forward cargo hold on the flight. Apparently, the aircraft we flew on is a little unique and has two separate cargo areas. Sometimes the smaller, forward cargo area is overlooked.

I didn’t know, but it was at least another line to tug.

After gratefully thanking her, I left the gate area, totally defeated.

I had tried everything I could think of, and found nothing. Other than that one, slim line to tug about the forward cargo hold, my day of investigation left me with nothing.

Before I left for my flight home, I swung by the American Baggage Service Center again. Who knows, right? Maybe during all my running-around, the bag turned up.

This time, the supervisor on duty was incredibly nice and sympathetic. He took me back to browse the bags again, and I still didn’t find mine. He personally wrote down my claim number and information, and promised he would keep a close eye out for my bag and contact me if he finds it.

And that was that.

My easy, “sure I’m going to find it; I’ll be back by noon with my tote” day had turned in to a fruitless quest.

Not only did I not have my tote, but I was going to miss my sons first tee-ball game.

I started to cry again, but quickly snapped out of it when I realized that the flight status on my return flight indicated we would be arriving early.

Early enough that, if I pushed hard, I might make the last bit of Jed’s game.

Mama was on a mission. My day was NOT going to be a complete loss!

I had a seat near the front of the plane, and, with no baggage to deal with, the minute we landed and the seat belt sign turned off, I was up and running to the door.

I ran full speed from the gate to my car, and raced to the baseball field. I got to see the last 25 minutes of the game.

Jed was on the field when I raced up, and when he saw me, he forgot all about his game and ran over to give me the biggest hug I think he’s ever given me in his life!

I indulged for a minute (I needed a hug, too), then scooted him back to his game. Thank goodness tee-ball is very laid back!

After we got home and put the boys to bed, I called my home airport to ask about the forward cargo hold. The lady told me that too much time had passed; no one would remember that flight. But, she continued, they always open that cargo hold as procedure, so it was surely checked.

Another dead end.

Darrel held me while I sobbed on his shoulder for a good half hour. Monday was an emotional roller-coaster, and I was absolutely sapped out.

With “delayed baggage”, American gives 5 days of searching before they send out forms for reimbursement. That was day 3, and there was no sign of my bag anywhere.

I didn’t have much hope for a safe return of my kiddos videos and photos. Since I had started the day with such sure hopes that I would find my bag, that was the first time I had really processed what I had lost.

I felt helpless. All those memories…gone…and nothing I did or could do would make a difference.

The sad thing is, I’ve already experienced something like this. The first week Jed was alive, we took many photos and videos of him in the NICU on my phone. When he was just ten days old, though, my phone suddenly crashed. ALL my newborn son photos were lost.

It absolutely broke my heart.

Still, I survived. And took many more photos of Jed as he grew.

So what are the lessons I learned from this?

  • We all know not to pack important stuff in our checked baggage. I would never have left the external hard drive or my tax papers in a bag I was checking in at the ticket counter or gate checking! But I had confidence in the “my God, it’s so simple there’s no way they can screw it up” valet checking process. I won’t ever make that mistake again. I will NEVER leave anything I can’t live without in a bag that leaves my possession. EVER.
  • Back up my back ups. Photos and videos can’t be replaced if the original is lost…unless I have copies elsewhere.
  • I need to make my peace with the fact that we are broke, we will always be broke, and we will never get ahead financially. This lost tote bag is going to cost us easily $450, and as an airline employee pass-rider, I’m not sure I’m actually entitled to any financial compensation for the loss. Every time we start to get ahead, we get hit with more monetary blows. I guess I’ll never be upper middle class ever again. I need to be happy with grasping the bottom of middle class with both hands and a prayer.
  • As hard as it is, I’ve got to try to remember that losing those videos and photos is not the end of the world. I still have my beautiful boys to take MORE pictures of, and, thanks to the blog, there are some videos and photos I still have access to that were surely lost. Losing the proof of the memories doesn’t erase the memories themselves. It’s sad; heart-breakingingly sad for me, but I’ll get over it. Someday.

(I’d really rather not, though! So if anyone reading this works for American Airlines, or has a friend who does, and can throw a little assistance my way, I’d appreciate it more than you know!)

For the record, I’m not mad at American Airlines as a whole. The only person I’m remotely mad at is whatever ramp agent misplaced my bag in the first place. That one person screwed up, obviously, but EVERY SINGLE person I dealt with throughout this whole experience (other than the one baggage service center supervisor that wasn’t horrible but wasn’t very sympathetic) has been a total gem of sweetness, kindness, and as much help as they could give. That includes the people I’ve spoken to on the phone, as well as the many people I spoke to in person on Monday. Truly, they have some wonderful people working there. No one should let the one bad apple taint the whole bunch.

But I still want my bag back. 


Have you ever lost something irreplaceable? How did you handle it?

American Airlines Lost My Valet Checked Bag – Part 2

American Airlines Lost My Valet Checked Bag Part 2 CradleRockingMama.com

Read the first part of this story here.

So there I am, standing in baggage claim in Chicago, crying.

Not my proudest moment.

A Chicago Police officer walked by and asked if I was okay. The whole story came tumbling out through my tears. He’s a credit to his uniform; he let me spill it out without looking at all disinterested.

When I finished, he asked if I’d checked lost and found. Maybe it had wound up there.

I thanked him, and went to lost and found.

Another sympathetic employee informed me that if any bags show up at lost and found, they are taken directly to the baggage services center…where I’d already struck out.

I cried again.

Now, I had made friends with one of the Flight Attendants who worked that flight home. She has a son near my kiddos age, and we bonded over that. I sent her a text asking if she, by any chance, remembered the name of the gate agent who worked that flight. Maybe the gate agent that night would remember something that might give me a clue where my bag had disappeared to!

She didn’t remember, but she looked it up. Then she suggested I head back to the gate we left from; maybe I’d find the agent there, or find someone who knew her.

Back through security and off to the gate. The agent working there was busy boarding a flight; not a good time to ask for help. But the agent at the gate next door was in between flights. I knew he was working on something, but he didn’t have a crowd of people demanding his attention at the moment. Perhaps he could help?

So I asked if he had a minute, and when he said yes, told him my tale.

He was also sympathetic, but said he couldn’t do much to help. He knew that both the gate agent I was looking for and the supervisor who had worked that night were not on duty yet, since they work afternoon shifts.

He did, however, call a supervisor.

After telling the story again, the supervisor started looking stuff up in the computer and making calls. He also shot down my theory about the bags falling off the cart by reporting that the gates in that concourse don’t use carts to transport valet bags. So I was even MORE confused about how our bags went missing.

Over the phone, he got someone to check in the employee lost and found, and two other places I can’t remember.

They managed to find a missing tote bag; unfortunately, it belonged to a Flight Attendant for Frontier airlines. For a moment, my heart leapt! We actually had the same first name! But I clearly have a different last name than this lady, and don’t work for Frontier.

However, that gave the agents an idea. Since my Inflight Manual is in my tote bag, perhaps someone found it, opened it to ID the owner, saw the Manual from MY airline, and sent it over to my operations center.

It sounded like a strong possibility, so I thanked everyone and headed to my terminal to go check.

First, I headed to my airlines baggage center. A quick walk-through, and nope. No bag. Then I called lost and found. They had NO bags in their office at the time.

Then off to my airlines Flight Attendant duty office.

The folks working at the desk that day said that if they had gotten that bag, an email would have been sent out to all office personnel and I would have been notified immediately. They also shared my befuddlement at HOW a valet checked bag could be lost.

Then he made a comment about how if someone found it, they’d be sure to send it to my base.

Uh-oh. I’ve transferred bases twice in the last two years. I can’t remember if I updated the base information in my manual!

So I called both my previous bases, to see if it had shown up there. Nope.

By that time, I had missed my planned-for return flight home. I still had some time to kill before the next flight I could take.

So I headed back to the original, sweetheart of an American agent that helped me. This time, we talked through procedure. I hoped it would help clarify where things might have gone awry. Sure enough, my educated guess on procedure was verified:

  • IF a valet checked bag does not make it on the aircraft, for whatever reason, it is supposed to be loaded on the next flight to that destination.
  • IF it is NOT loaded on the next flight to that destination, it is supposed to be taken to the baggage service center.

Since obviously neither of those “supposed to’s” occurred, something weird and inexplicable happened. But what?

Time to think outside the box.

What if, instead of putting it on the next flight to my home, the ramp agents just put it on the next flight heading out of that gate?

My sweetheart agent looked up the next flights departing from that gate, which happened to both depart on Saturday morning. The first went to Detroit; the second went to Kalamazoo.

I wrote down the flight numbers, and before I headed off, made sure I got the names of the employees that had been so helpful. This is a rotten situation, but truly, everyone I dealt with (aside from the one baggage service center supervisor) was extremely nice, helpful, and sympathetic. Especially considering my line of work, I try to reward good employees with compliments addressed to the right people.

I left the gate, and then it was decision time. Jed was scheduled to play his first-ever tee-ball game at 6:00 p.m. If I took the next flight home, I would make it with no problems. If I stayed in Chicago to talk to the gate agent and supervisor that worked Friday’s flight, I might not make the game at all, and would certainly miss most of it.

What to do?


This story is so long…part 3 tomorrow!

American Airlines Lost My Valet Checked Bag – Part 1

American Airlines Lost My Valet Checked Bag Part 1 CradleRockingMama.com

Friday, April 3rd, I flew on American Eagle from Chicago to Arkansas. I valet checked two of my bags.

Just to clarify, when traveling by air, these are the baggage options:

  1. Carry on
  2. Check at the ticket counter (for arrival at final destination)
  3. Gate check (which means you carry your luggage through security to the gate and check it to your final destination there)
  4. Or Valet Check (an option typically reserved for strollers and wheelchairs on large aircraft, but used also on smaller, regional aircraft for roller bags that qualify as a carry on but are simply not going to fit in the overhead bins of a regional jet)

Valet checked bags are left plane side with a tag indicating they are to be returned to the jetway at the end of the flight. The ramp agents pick up the valet bags, carry them through the jetway door, down the steps, and load them straight on to the plane in the cargo hold. It’s a no-brainer, and I’ve never had a problem with doing this.

So, I valet checked my rolling bag and my tote bag, left them in the appropriate spot on the jetway (the 4th and 5th bags to go down, as I was the 4th passenger to board), and got on the plane.

The flight was delayed for a mechanical by 45 minutes, and we sat at the gate for another half an hour (almost) before finally closing the door to leave, but I didn’t care. I was going home!

We landed. After deplaning, a handful of the whopping 22 passengers on board stood in the jetway waiting for our valet bags to arrive. One by one the other passengers gathered their belongings and left.

My rolling suitcase arrived, and it was the last valet bag brought up.

I was missing a bag, and three other passengers were missing theirs. 

We nicely asked the baggage guy to double check the cargo hold. He did; nope. There were no more bags anywhere in the cargo area. He suggested we visit the baggage carousel.

The four of us trouped down to the baggage carousel and waited. And waited.

And nothing came.

So we visited the American check in desk to file claims on our lost bags, all of us flat out amazed that our bags could go missing as valet bags.

I mean, really…how hard is that to screw up?? 

In 36 years of airline experience, I have certainly had lost checked bags before. I have had lost gate checked bags.

But I have never even heard  of a valet bag going missing!

Because of the assumed simplicity of a valet checked bag, my tote bag had lots of important stuff inside. Stuff like ALL our tax documents (I’ve been trying to get our taxes done on my layovers), an external hard drive for my computer with ALL my videos and photos of the boys (the only place I have all of that saved), and my work supplies. 

I need my bag.

The agent there was as baffled and befuddled as we; how on earth could a valet bag get lost? She said that in all liklihood, our bags would be sent on the next flight, which was scheduled for the morning. She nicely gave me the number for the airport directly so I could call and check.

Finding these bags is made more difficult due to the fact that there are no numbers, tags, or other tracking tags on them. With nothing else to do, we all went home.

Saturday I called after the first flight from Chicago. No bags.

I called after the second flight from Chicago. No bags.

I called after the third flight from Chicago. No bags.

I called the 1-800 number for American Airlines baggage issues; no record of my bag anywhere.

As frustrated as I was, I decided to ignore the situation for Sunday, which was Easter. I wanted to spend the day happily with my family. So I did.

But I made plans for Monday.

See, I work for an airline. I understand things go wrong. I’m not mad about this; I’m baffled and confused. Sure, things go wrong with, but this? How?!

The only thing that made any sense was that the bags had been taken down the jetway (the Flight Attendants told me that they had seen the ramp agents take my bags – Flight Attendants recognize Flight Attendant bags from a mile away), loaded them into a cart to take to the cargo hold, and somehow our four bags fell off and no one noticed.

If that’s the case, then surely these untagged bags were taken to the Chicago American Airlines baggage office, right? If my bag is there, surely someone would have noticed, opened it up, found my information, and entered it into the system. Right?

Except…maybe they’re swamped with bags, and mine slipped through the cracks. I know I can spot my bag from a distance; even a well-meaning baggage employee won’t be able to do that…and isn’t as invested in this bag as I am.

It seemed a good idea to fly up to Chicago, look through the bags they’ve got unclaimed in the back, find my bag, and fly home. Easy.

So I left my house at 4:30 am for the Monday morning flight and was in the baggage service center in Chicago at 8:00 am. 

The agent there escorted me to their holding area to look for my bag.

No. Bag.

I was flabbergasted! How could it not be there?

The agent turned me over to the supervisor, who was the one and only person who was less-than-sympathetic that I dealt with the entire day. When I asked him “what happens now?”, he shrugged his shoulders, and with a ‘who cares’ tone of voice said “If it’s not here, it’s not here. They’ll be in touch.”

Not helpful, dude.

I couldn’t help myself; I started crying.

Sure, it’s going to be a pain in the tailfeathers to replace all my tax documents. Sure, I’m going to have headaches for years due to the fact that identity theft is a possibility thanks to so much personal information I had in my bag. Sure, my sons TEFRA application will be delayed now, since I need our finished tax returns from last year in order to apply, which means even longer before our finances improve thanks to the costs of speech therapy.

But that’s all surmountable.

Darrel and I have an external hard drive at home to store all our important stuff on. But the small external hard drive I carry with me at work is the one I use most often. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have NO photos or videos of my kids after Christmas 2013 on the home drive! (I can’t even check, yet, since the only cable we have to connect those devices was in my lost tote bag.)

Somebody, through sheer incompetence, stole part of my memories of my childrens’ racing-by, hard-earned, beautiful childhoods. 

Those photos and videos cannot be replaced. 


This is getting too long, and I haven’t even begun to tell you the hoops I leapt through on Monday. Part 2 tomorrow…

Summers Stories: Fun With Kids

Summers Stories Fun With Kids CradleRockingMama.com

Being gone for a few weeks means a LOT has gone on in our lives that I haven’t shared.

Let me start, though, by updating about the kiddos doctor appointment yesterday.

Sure enough, the doctor found signs of ear infections in both boys. However, either the virus had just run its course or the garlic oil helped, because she said it looked as though there had BEEN an infection, but there was no active infection at the appointment. Their ears both looked like they were clearing up all on their own.

So no antibiotics necessary. Whew!

While I was checking the boys ears the last week, though, I learned a neat trick. They were both much more cooperative about my peeking in their ears if I let them peek in my ears first.

So. Cute.

Checking Mamas Ears CradleRockingMama.com

We’re supposed to give it a week and see if the boys are still coughing and sneezing. If they aren’t, great. If they are, we have to go back to see the doctor again.

Fingers crossed we don’t have to go back!

Other than a couple weeks of sick kiddos, we’ve actually had a lot of fun recently. Even better, it was all free or cheap!

For free, we had several beautiful days of warm, sunny weather, and took advantage of that to go to the park.

Monkeying Around CradleRockingMama.com

My boys LOVE the park! Zac is finally getting big enough to really play hard, and Jed is getting old enough that he’s making friends and playing made-up games with other kids.

Watching a gaggle of small boys running around, pretending the playground equipment is a pirate ship and the sandbox had buried treasure is more fun than I would have imagined.

My kiddos climbed, slid, swung, balanced, and pushed themselves to the the limits of their abilities. It was glorious!

More Monkeying Around CradleRockingMama.com

Jed made some friends in the sandbox one day, and they all decided to bury him in the sand. He loved it!

Burying in Sand CradleRockingMama.com

One day, as we were leaving, the kids begged to go down to the creek. Sap that I am, I let them.

They were in long pants and I had no spare clothes in the car, but we were heading straight home after the park.

Yep. Both boys wound up riding home in just their diapers or underwear. They drenched themselves!

Creekside CradleRockingMama.com

And had a blast doing it. 

Next time, though, I’m bringing appropriate clothing for the excursion.

Speaking of getting drenched, the next fun activity we did the last few weeks was to wash my car.

I know. I never would have thought of car washing as a fun kid activity, but both my boys absolutely LOVED it. At under $10, I got a clean car and some good, clean fun for the kids. (Pun intended!)

Spraying the Car CradleRockingMama.com

They were also pretty good little helpers at it, too.

Jed particularly got in to spraying and scrubbing, while Zac mostly enjoyed watching and running through the mist.

Soaping the Car CradleRockingMama.com

I tried to get Jed as excited about vacuuming the inside of the car, but after just a few minutes he announced “I’m all done, Mommy!”

Vacuuming the Car CradleRockingMama.com

Oh, well. 

Over at my parents house, the kids had a play date with a neighbors grandson, rolled in the mud and got disgusting, played with the chickens, helped gather trash, and “drove” the lawn mower.

All of it was free, and at the end of one day Jed reportedly told my mom “This is the most fun place ever!”

It really doesn’t take a lot of money to entertain kids. They can find fun anywhere!

Of course, I can’t help but think all that outdoor time helped get them sick, since it’s spring and pollen is going nuts. Still, after a long winter with not much to do outside, they love their outdoor playtime.

I guess I’ll just have to figure out how to minimize the effects of spring next year.

Zac successfully trialed zucchini over the last few weeks, and I must admit I’m madly in love with the new addition to my diet. Zucchini tastes SO good!

One night, I made kebobs for dinner. Darrel and Jed got cilantro-lime chicken kebobs, but Zac and I ate simpler fare: steak and zucchini.

This was the first time Zac had ever been served a kebob, and he really enjoyed them. He refused, however, to let us slide the food off the stick. Instead, he ate it like it was a big old ear of corn!

Kebob Chow Down CradleRockingMama.com

Highly amusing for all of us, and he ate like a little piggy that night.

Oh, just because I’ve written about his speech issues before, I thought I’d share this adorable video of Zac saying his alphabet.

 

It’s not complete; there are some letters he can’t quite say yet, and even the ones I know he is trying to say are largely unintelligible to anyone but Miss K or his family.

Honestly, with most of what he says these days, even I have a hard time understanding him…but I’m thrilled he’s trying and always congratulate and encourage him. Over time, his words become clearer.

Eventually, I just know he’ll be chattering away as loudly and clearly as Jed.


I’m getting home from work late tonight, and this weekend is, of course, Easter!

Tomorrow I’m planning on making more gummy treats, conversation heart candies (in flower shapes this time), and roll out cookies in Easter shapes for Jed to enjoy on Easter morning. In fact, he specifically asked me to make enough that he can share with his Sunday School class!

He’s so sweet. 

I’ll share more about how Easter plays out for us next week.

If you’re looking for any ideas on how to treat your kids on Easter, here are a few previous posts you can peruse for inspiration:

Easter Baskets for Food Allergic Kids
Easter Basket for My Allergic Kiddos
Dairy and Fructose Free Chocolate Easter Bunnies

Have a wonderful weekend, and a glorious Easter!

Summers Stories: The Shut-Ins Get Out!

Summers Stories The Shut Ins Get Out CradleRockingMama.com

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 14th 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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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

Smiling Fire Fighter Trainees CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 FireFacts.org

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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.

Boo.

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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

Pink Candies CradleRockingMama.comWhite Candies CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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 CradleRockingMama.com

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!
Author:
Recipe type: dessert, candy, treat
Serves: 1 lb candy
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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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