Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 4

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 first!

Having spent $50 on the cab to get to the museum, we just didn’t have the funds available to take a cab back. Public transportation time!

It really wasn’t that long of a walk to the train station, but after such a long, sensory-overloading day, it was a REALLY long walk back to the train station.

The kids, though, got lots of real-world practice at watching the “walk”/”don’t walk” signs, and crossing busy intersections. We’ve now reached the point where, even at home, whenever we reach a crossing of any sort, the boys will stop and actually say (as they do it) “look both ways – then go!”

When we finally got to the train station, we had no idea what ticket we needed to buy. The nice lady working in the booth came out to help us. Turns out? Both kids are young enough to ride for free, and the ticket back to the airport for both the adults was a mere $10.

Yep. The airport information lady was incredibly UNhelpful and downright cruel in the morning. 

Even better, the transfer we have to take is only a few stops from the museum, and after that it’s just sit on the train and wait til the end of the line.

The kids were pretty subdued on the ride back, though. Waiting for our transfer train, Jed asked to be held. He rarely does that, but he was just so tired!

Plum Tuckered Out

On the train, he held on to his dinosaur excavation kit for dear life (he’d also insisted on carrying it the entire way from the museum to the train).

Riding the Train

He did enjoy counting the stops until our destination, and sang his ABC song several times.

Zac just snuggled next to me…and eventually fell asleep!

Back at the airport, we grabbed the shuttle back to the hotel, ate some dinner, and Jed journaled some more about his exciting museum day.

Then it was bath and bed time, as we had an early morning on Sunday.

In the morning, I was up before everyone else. After getting dressed for my day and making breakfast for everyone, I woke the fellas up. They were surprisingly cooperative, considering it was 4:30 a.m.!

After eating, getting the kids dressed and the bags repacked, we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the airport. The kids got a little more practice at escalators and moving walkways as I escorted them to the kids play area at Terminal 2 in O’Hare.

They had a chance to play there for a while before their flight left, and while I had to leave to go to work, Darrel reported that the kids had a blast and made a new friend.

They had a pleasant flight home, a long 2 hour drive over to my parents house, and then Darrel headed back to our house without the kiddos to rest up for work the next morning.


It may not really seem like this was much of a homeschooling trip, but it actually was a highly educational outing. 

We covered the following subjects:

  • Math: counting stops on the train, talking about flight times and flight numbers, talking about money (buying tickets for the museum, buying the toys at the end of the day, train vs. cab), trying to get the kids to imagine being 1 inch tall and showing them how little that is
  • Language Arts: having Jed dictate stories to me to write, Jed pointing to letters and saying the letter name, AND Jed pointing to letters, saying their name, and then saying a dinosaur word that started with that letter! (he did that completely on his own a few times!)
  • Arts & Crafts: drawing the pictures to accompany the stories, plus the time he spent coloring in his special “travel coloring book” (These would also count as motor skill lessons)
  • Science: hello…dinosaurs! They already knew a lot of what the museum covered because of things we’ve read and TV shows we’ve watched, but seeing the fossils in person really activated Jed’s imagination! Plus Zac got to play with a microscope.
  • History: Jed learned about how people once lived in adobe houses and survived on maize, they both saw the timeline of earths development, and saw how Vikings lived and when (even though they weren’t really paying attention, they were exposed to it). Though much of it is undoubtedly beyond their understanding at this point, the idea of history has now been more firmly planted in Jed’s mind.
  • Safety: learning how to safely walk on city streets, learning how to watch traffic signs at intersections and “walk/don’t walk” signs, learning how and where to cross streets, learning how far away from the edge of the platform you should stand for safety at a train station, holding on to something or sitting down on a moving train, how to navigate escalators and moving walkways
  • Life Skills: all of the safety lessons, plus how to navigate places you’ve never been (the kids witnessed and we discussed our seeking help from the information lady and the train booth lady), how to behave at an airport, and how to read signs to learn where you’re going at an airport or train station

And probably some more things I’m forgetting to mention!

Not to mention the very cool Dinosaur Unit Study we did the three days prior to heading off on our trip.

Now that we know how to take the train (and that it’s so cheap!), Darrel and I have discussed doing simple “day trips” to the Museum. If we can catch the first morning flight and take the last flight of the day home, we can head up to Chicago more frequently to see some of the amazing things there.

Plus, a fellow Flight Attendant reminded me about Uber; I’ve never used it before, but Flight Attendants are huge fans of that service and say it’s much less expensive than a cab. When we do day trips to Chicago from now on, if the kids get overwhelmed, we can look in to taking an Uber back to the airport.

Was it worth it to take this trip?

Well, the kids loved it! They’ve commented frequently in the weeks since that they want to go back to the airport, that they want to go see the dinosaurs again, that they want to go ride the train again.

Jed’s desire to read increased greatly after the trip; I think seeing us use reading so frequently to navigate the city and discover the museum made reading a Bigger and Better Skill to Have in his mind. (We read books to him all the time, but, in perfect child logic, why bother to read it yourself when Mommy will read it for you?)

Darrel enjoyed the trip, too, though he returned home ever more grateful for our very nice, good quality mattress.

For me?

This trip was exhausting. It was a LOT of work. I made myself physically sick trying to get everything ready to go. 

But it was so. worth. it. 

It’s a taste of what I imagine homeschooling will look like in the future for us. At the age and stage the boys are now, our travel homeschool trips will be kept short and sweet.

But one day, oh, one day, they’ll be in the double digits age group and we can truly begin Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style. 

I can’t wait!

What would your dream Homeschooling trip be?

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 3

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 3

Read part one and part two first. 

After we left the kids science exploration area, we decided to go to the Viking exhibition.

The kids and I read the Magic Tree House series as bedtime stories, and one of the books covered Vikings. I thought this would be a great exhibit for the kids to see: real, live Viking stuff!

No dice.

Jed HATED it.

He didn’t like the music. It was too loud. He didn’t like that it was so dark in there. He didn’t want to stand in line. It was boring.

But mostly, he didn’t want to leave the corn fields.


When it became quite clear that his displeasure was going to completely ruin any chances of ME being able to see the exhibit (because I was interested in it!), we left.

And we took a break, explaining to Jed that he needed to behave himself in the museum, or we would have to leave.

After our break, and after Jed promised to behave, we went back inside for the Grand Finale of the Field Museum experience: THE DINOSAURS.

The Field Museum has a fabulous exhibit covering the history of our planet, and in that exhibit is a gigantic collection of dinosaur fossils! We have no pictures from that exhibit because Darrel and I were doing the best we could to keep up with two enthusiastic little boys running for every new display as fast as they could, and attempting to climb the barricades as often as possible to touch the bones!

We managed to keep the little monsters on solid ground, and even managed to get their running knocked down to brisk jogs. They were simply so excited they could hardly stand themselves.

I was impressed with some of the questions Jed asked as we made our way through the display; he’s obviously learned quite a lot about dinosaurs from our reading…and from watching “Dinosaur Train”!

We had tickets for the 3D “Waking the Dinosaur: the Story of SUE” movie, so at the appropriate time we  started to head that direction.

Who is Sue, by the way? Oh, she’s this little lovely:

Sue the Dinosaur

The most complete T-rex fossil ever discovered. Jed was about to explode with excitement when we first saw her in the main museum entry hall! He LOVES T-rex’s!

The movie is an awesome 3D film discussing how they discovered Sue’s bones, using CG technology to create ‘film’ of what Sue’s life might have been like before she died.

We all put on our 3D glasses…

Getting Ready to Watch the 3D Movie II CradleRockingMama.comGetting Ready to Watch the 3D Movie

and sat back to watch the show.

Jed, of course, made friends with the kids sitting next to us. If it had been left up to the kids, the two families would have spent the rest of the day exploring the museum together!

The movie started, and Jed was entranced! Zac, on the other hand, cried out when the movie dinosaur roared and attacked another dinosaur, leaped into Darrel’s lap, and buried his head in Darrel’s chest. “Daddy! Me scared!”

Oops. We had no idea it was going to be THAT scary. (Don’t worry; no permanent damage done!)

When the movie was over, we went downstairs for one last photo op with the Sue skeleton, but that didn’t go very well.

Jed just refused to smile.

After much entreating, he finally revealed to me that “I can’t smile, Mommy, because I’m just so sad.”

“Why are you so sad, honey?” I asked.

“Because Sue DIED and she was the bestest dinosaur EVER and I LOVE her!” (sobbing ensues)

Sue Died

Well. Huh. THAT’S not a situation I ever thought I’d face in motherhood! How do you comfort a child who is crying because a dinosaur died??

While Jed sobbed in my arms, Zac decided to show us how he was feeling:

Sue Died But I'm Cute

Yep. Happy to smile for the cameras! Still, a meltdown over a dead dinosaur?

It was time to leave.

On our way out, we stopped at the museum gift shop to find one small gift per kiddo that they could take home. The kind lady working near the entrance noticed Jed’s tears and asked what was wrong.

We told her he was sad that Sue died, and she looked as flabbergasted as we felt! She recovered empathy quickly, though, and attempted to bring a smile to Jed’s face…by offering a free candy treat from the store!


We had to quickly tell her he couldn’t have it because of food allergies, and she looked horrified. She couldn’t apologize fast enough, even though we assured her she was a sweetheart and had done nothing to apologize for.

Darrel and I were NOT upset with her for offering candy, to be perfectly clear; however, it was somewhat of a “wet blanket” thrown on our day. Somehow, even with bringing our own food to the museum for lunch and knowing this was the first time we’ve really done anything like this, we’d managed to feel relatively “normal” throughout the day.

The sweet gift shop lady’s kindness served as a reminder that, even when we try to engage in the world, we are NOT normal and will never  be able to engage the way normal people do…and that we can never let down our guard.


By the time we left the gift shop, though, Jed was in slightly better spirits. He’d picked out a T-rex dinosaur excavation kit and was itching to open it up and dig out those dinosaur bones!

We sat on the museum steps for one of the few photos taken of me and both the boys together, which was only slightly marred by Jed’s refusal to smile and Zac’s funny face making:

Sitting on the Field Museum Steps

Then we headed off for the train.

I’ll wrap up our trip in one last post, and then I’ll share the Dinosaur Unit Study we did. 

Have your kids ever had a meltdown over a dinosaur, or some other inexplicable thing? How did you handle it? (Now Zac is occasionally putting on a sad face and telling me he’s sad because “Sue dead, Mommy”!)

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 2

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 2

Read the first part here

Saturday morning dawned bright and early. Thanks to our late arrival, we were all sluggish and running late that morning. By the time we had dressed, cooked and eaten breakfast, gathered our lunch/beverages/school supplies, and ridden the shuttle van back to the airport, it was 11:00 a.m.

The Field Museum closes at 5:00 p.m. Ack!

The last time I took the train from O’Hare to downtown was over a decade ago, and I wasn’t sure how much it cost or how long it would take. We stopped at the information booth in Terminal 5 to ask for assistance.

The woman there was very unhelpful. She told us it would cost $40 to ride the train, and would take two hours. She didn’t know what transfer we would need to take, and told us to “just ask on the train”.

I doubted that would be possible. This isn’t Amtrak or even New Jersey transit, where there are conductors on the trains!

Still, two hours and $40…a cab would only cost $50 and would get us there in 30 minutes!

So the whole family piled in to a cab.

The kids were THRILLED to not be in carseats. I was less thrilled at the thought. However, we arrived unscathed at the museum just before noon.

Excited to Be At the Museum

The plan had been to pay for the boys and Darrel’s admittance, since I would get in for free as an employee perk, but when we first arrived we managed to go to the Membership desk by mistake. We soon realized our error, but by then we also had realized that some of the things we’d hoped to do at the museum were not covered by the regular admission fee.

To buy general admission tickets for the 3 fellas, plus 4 tickets for each of the special exhibits we wanted to see would cost just over $100.

Becoming members would cost $150, would give us entrance to all the special exhibits we wanted to see (and reduce the ticket price for the 3D dinosaur movie we wanted to see) and also would give us free admission in to a new museum that recently opened about an hour from our house!

Easy choice. If we come back to the Field Museum even once more this year, we’ll have saved money; if we go to the local museum at all, we’ll have saved money. We became Members of the Field Museum.

(Though, the old traveling adage of “take half as much stuff and twice as much money” is undeniably true! This trip cost more than we’d planned!)

Once inside the Museum, the kids immediately began whining for food. They’d been so excited at breakfast they hardly ate, so this was understandable.

We detoured to one of the “bring your own food” areas provided at the Museum and had a quick lunch.

While we ate, I set Jed up with his Field Museum Notebook to do some of his homeschooling work for the trip. He had been instructed before we left that anything on his trip that he really enjoyed, really disliked, found interesting, or even noticed, he was to journal.

Doing School at the Museum

He would draw the picture at the top of the page and was to dictate to me what he wanted written underneath.

It was fabulous fun to see what he decided to record! Oh, and I just have to point out Jed’s awesome “go finger” usage:

Showing Off His Go Fingers

Our speech therapy center offered a free handwriting workshop led by an occupational therapist last month. We signed up, and the therapist instructed the kids on proper pencil holding: the thumb and first two fingers of your hand are the “go” fingers that you use to hold the pencil, and the ring and pinky fingers are “stop” fingers that you tuck away and do not use. Jed’s got it down!

For his part, Zac simply wanted to scribble in the book. We let him.

Lunch eaten, it was off for fun!

We started with the Underground Adventure zone; a special exhibit that fit right in with what we’ve been studying in school: soil.

I had high hopes for this exhibit; it’s designed to replicate what the soil looks like from underneath the ground, but in huge proportions! Tiny microbes were the size of your head; earthworms were the size of elephants! Very cool, right?

My hopes were dashed just as we entered the exhibit. 

The Museum has cleverly set up the entrance as a “shrinking machine” to show the scale of the exhibit by pretending you have been shrunk down to 1 inch size. I thought the boys would have a great time pretending they were shrinking!

They didn’t. They freaked out.

The rest of our time in the exhibit was spent with the boys being terrified of every worm, microbe, and “soil critter” shown, and begging to go back outside “so we can be normal size again!”

Of course, as soon as we left, they begged to go back inside. Typical kids.

Oh, and on our way out I had to stare in horror at this sign:

This Is A Joke Right

Yes, Monsanto, the most evil, soil-destroying, poisoning the earth and our bodies corporation on the planet, is the lead sponsor of the Underground Adventure exhibit. Disgust and vomit, anyone? Ugh.

We had more ground to cover, so across the way we went to the kids science area.

This is a great place for kids! Just as you enter, there is a woodland scene set up to investigate, complete with easy on-and-off costumes for the kids. They can pretend to be turtles, bats, birds, or any other number of critters as they play in the woods. Very fun! Zac pretended to be a turtle for a while, but Jed didn’t want to play there.

He even bypassed the cool animal hand puppets they have at two puppet booths for the kids to put on plays.

No, he was drawn to the model Adobe House on display. The one with all the CORN.

It had fake corn fields “growing” outside, a storage bin with fake corn, and showed how people of the desert built their houses and survived on so much corn.

Playing With Corn

Because, corn. Jed loves it. It kills Zac. Of course!

Fortunately, Zac wasn’t as interested in the Adobe House. After a quick run through, he wanted to go elsewhere. So I left with Zac and Darrel stayed with Jed for the rest of our kids science adventure.

While Zac and I explored other areas, Jed, our social butterfly, apparently did his level best to make friends with all the other kids playing in the house, and figured out how to “harvest” corn from the stalks outside.

Playing With Corn II

Meanwhile, Zac and I went into the music room, where he had a blast playing with all the bells, drums, and other percussion instruments.

Playing the Bells

Apparently, Darrel convinced Jed to at least try the music room, but Jed opened the door, heard the noise, and closed the door immediately reporting “it’s too loud, Daddy!” before running back to the corn fields.

Yes, thank you, Sensory Processing Disorder.

Playing the Drums

Zac spent a good 20 minutes banging away, though, before he wanted to see other things.

We left and went to another section, where Zac was drawn to an unbelievably cool microscope. It was designed to be very simple for kids to use, and you saw what was magnified on a TV screen mounted next to the scope.

There were lots of pre-made slides for the kids to look at, with butterflies, bugs, and other things flattened and laminated, plus many different kinds of rocks to examine.

Little Scientist II

At first, Zac didn’t know what to do. After showing him how the two different levers worked, though, he quickly caught on and refused help the rest of the time. “Me do it!”

Little Scientist

He could have stayed at the microscope all day if we had let him! My little Scientist in the making.

This is getting long, so I’ll share the rest of our Field Museum day in the next post.

Have you ever gone to the Field Museum? Did your kids freak over the Underground Exhibit?

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 1

Homeschooling Flight Attendant Style Part 1

On Monday, September 7th, I was wasting time between flights at work one day and decided to take a peek at what I would be facing for my commute to work the next weekend.

My next assignment was to begin Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., so obviously I needed to fly up the day before.

The only flight available on Saturday left at 8:00 a.m.

I groaned. No WAY was I going to go twiddle my thumbs in Chicago for almost a full day before starting work! I knew I’d have to either take another airline or drive to an alternate airport for my commute on Saturday, and I dreaded either option.

Suddenly, I had an epiphany! Why not  go up early for work? In fact, why not go up WAY early for work?

Why not fly the whole family up on FRIDAY, do something awesomely fun in Chicago on Saturday, and on Sunday escort the family to their gate, kiss them good-bye, and each of us fly off in opposite directions?

My heart with pitter-patter with excitement at the thought.

We have never been on a vacation as a whole family.

Darrel and I have only managed time alone a handful of times over the last 5 years, and most of those were simply sending the kids to my parents for the night and getting some time to watch TV alone – at home.

Not only could we manage to go somewhere for fun as a whole family, but I had it in my head to go to the Field Museum. The kids are HUGE into dinosaurs; what better opportunity to give them than to go to the Field Museum, which has a gigantic dinosaur collection?

This could be a homeschooling trip, too!

But…could we do it? Could we afford it? Could I make the food situation manageable?

I immediately called Darrel with my idea. It was full-on sales pitch time, folks!

“Well, here’s the deal. (Explain the situation and my idea.) I already have to get a hotel room for Saturday night, so it would really only cost us one extra hotel room night, plus museum admission. And as an (airline) employee, I get in free, so really it would only cost to get the three of you inside. And we can take the train straight downtown from the airport, so that’s really cheap, too. What do you think?”

After a few minutes of offering up arguments, Darrel suddenly stopped mid-sentence and said “You know what? Let’s do it. We’ve never gone anywhere fun, and this could be a good test run for us. Sure, honey. Book the room!”


My mind instantly started running at full throttle.

For starters, food. What were we going to eat? How were we going to eat it? How would I carry enough food for my entire family for two full days, plus the food I would need for work for two more days after that?

Then, water. Oh, I hate water. Zac is incredibly sensitive to corn derivatives in water. We have a safe brand of bottled water we drink at home, but I know from experience it is VERY hard to find in airports and hotels. In fact, it’s impossible to find outside a few select stores. How would we get water?

Third, homeschool. I’ve been going through some transitions with my perspective on homeschooling the last few weeks. I’ll go into more of this in another post, but knowing we were heading off into DINOSAUR LAND made me really  want to attempt a Unit Study before we left. One problem: I was supposed to be home from work that very night, and we would only have three days of official homeschool before heading off for the airport. Could I pull together a homemade Dinosaur Unit Study so quickly? Would it be any good?

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the solutions I found, but I DID find solutions! It involved lots of late nights, lots of cooking and freezing, and lots of anxiety, but I managed to pull all the pieces together to allow us to go!

Traveling with kids is always…interesting…but it’s more  interesting when you travel stand by. That means we fly space available; we only get a seat if there are unsold seats on the flight or paying passengers don’t show up for some reason.

The only way we could get to and from Chicago as a family was to drive to Springfield and fly out of there. Halfway through the 2.5 hour drive, I checked the flight and discovered it had filled completely up with passengers. No way would we get on the plane now!

The next flight was over 6 hours later. Sitting around the airport, unable to cook any food or feed the kids for 6 hours did not sound like fun. So we turned around and went home for a couple of hours before heading back to the airport. Oy. Such fun.

Back at the airport for the evening flight, the kids were overjoyed with excitement.

In the parking lot, they tried to find shade while we unloaded the car. (Thanks, Sensory Processing Disorder!)

Finding Shade

It was dinner time, and I was prepared! We sat at tables outside of security and scarfed down our food. It occurs to me that this is one of the very few times Zac has ever eaten a meal in public; the other times were at family reunions held at our church. So sad.

Eating at the Airport

Once we got to the gate, they immediately set about making friends with the people in the waiting area.

Entertaining His People

Traveling that day was a group of graphic design students from a local college, heading to a conference in Chicago. They loved the boys! Long conversations ensued, much laughter occurred, and I just stood back with Mama pride watching my boys engage so easily with complete strangers.

Zac eventually decided he was tired of talking, and decided to run in circles and play. He didn’t realize he was providing such great entertainment for everyone, but there were lots of smiles and laughs from the boarding area as he fell, spun, tripped, ran, and giggled through it all!

Playing at the Gate

Just before boarding the plane, one of the graphic design students (who hadn’t even been talking to the kids) came over and handed me this:

Awesome Sketch of the Boys


It was a very inspiring start to our trip.

Our aircraft arrived, and the boys ditched everyone to watch the plane taxi and park at our gate. Strange as it is to say, these children of a Flight Attendant have never really spent any time around airplanes, so they were thrilled!

Watching the Plane Pull Up

The boys loved the airplane ride, of course.

First Fun Flight

I’d prepared by bringing potato chips and activity books, but when we first got on the plane, Jed wanted none of that. He got out the inflight magazine and proceeded to “read” it to Zac! Honestly, I couldn’t hear most of what he was saying, but I know he was telling very creative stories about whatever photos he saw.

Reading the Inlfight Magazine

I worried about the beverage cart. I knew Darrel would get a drink, and Jed could have the water on the cart, but poor Zac would be able to have nothing off the cart. I lucked out at the store, though, and found a paint with water book!

Painting on the Plane

Zac got to have a glass of water served to him, just like everyone else.

He only got to paint with it, instead of drinking it, but he didn’t care. God bless paint with water books!

As all flights do, ours eventually landed. As we headed to the shuttle van to take us to the hotel, all I could think about was how excited the boys would be to ride the airport train!

Soon, though, I realized we had quite a way to go before arriving at the train…and my children have never encountered escalators or moving walkways before! (Well, Jed has used escalators, but rarely and it’s been a LONG time since he’s seen one.)

It made for some harrowing moments getting on and off at first, but the boys caught on quickly. Whew!

And yes, they did love the airport train.

Riding the Airport Train

We arrived at the hotel around 10:30 p.m.; far, FAR later than we’d hoped to be there. We were all exhausted, so we simply unpacked as much as we could, threw our food in the freezer and fridge, and tucked ourselves in to bed.

The kids have never stayed in a hotel that they remember, so they were a little scared of sleeping there at first. After we showed them where we would be sleeping and how the room would look when we turned on the bathroom light, though, they relaxed and were able to rest. Whew!

For such a short flight, that was a very long day.

I’ll finish up our trip in the next post, and then I’ll share the awesome Unit Study I threw together for the kids! 

What’s your best traveling with kids story?

Sick Again

Sick Again

It’s been so quiet here for the last two weeks that I can hear crickets chirping, but there’s a good reason: we broke out of our comfort zone in a BIG way – and then we all got sick. Boo.

I’ll share more about our trip in a whole post of its own, but two weekends ago the Summers family got out of town. For the first time in their lives, the kids went on an airplane ride for fun. We went to Chicago!

Even though it was only a one day, two night trip, traveling with our food issues meant a whole lot of prep work on my part! I spent all week before the trip making arrangements.

Part of that was food, and part of that was homeschooling. (Yes, another post is being written about that part, too.)

Since there is so much to share in all these big posts coming up, today I’m just giving a little update on the kids.

I took Jed in to get a referral for an evaluation for Sensory Processing Disorder. Our pediatrician agreed he should be evaluated, so we arranged for that. I’m actually quite nervous about it, which is silly, since I’ve pushed so hard to make it happen!

The part that is most freaking me out a bit about this is that while she is okay with us getting a specific SPD evaluation at the therapy center recommended to us, she also wants him evaluated at a place that will evaluate everything…including a psych evaluation. Is that normal for this process? I don’t have a lot of good experiences with psychiatrists and psychologists, so I’m naturally a bit nervous about that part of it. Any reassurances would be lovely!

We held off on doing any trials for Zac before our trip. Since we knew we would be traveling that weekend and that traveling would bring lots of changes and exposure risks, we decided to wait on anything new.

Last Tuesday, home from our trip, we started tomatos…again.  The week before, we went grocery shopping and Jed begged for some cherry tomatoes. Zac got all excited and said “me eat tomatoes, too, mama!” Then I had to physically stop him from popping a cherry tomato into his mouth!

We decided he may be ready to give tomatoes a real trial.

The first day, he was excited (as he was before). He popped a piece of a cherry tomato into his mouth, and almost instantly spit it out! He told me “Yucky, mama!”

Trying to salvage the situation, I said “Whoa, kiddo! Before you decide you don’t like tomatos at all, let me share something with you. *I* don’t like tomatos that way, either. They’re too squishy. Is the squishiness what bothered you about them?”

He said “Uh huh.” So I showed him how I make tomatos for me. I cut the slice of tomato, then rinsed the seeds and goop off of it. Then I cut it into a smaller bite and gave it to him to try.


He liked it without the goop attached! (Downside? Now Jed, who would eat tomatos any way I served them before, has decided he will only eat them with the goop removed. More work for me. Sigh.)

That night he ate about two cherry tomatos all by himself, and we were feeling good.

Now, I had started feeling sick the day we left on our mini-vacation, but powered through because I didn’t want to miss anything. On Tuesday, I was feeling a little worse, but by Wednesday I really dropped the ball.

I barely cooked anything on Wedenesday, and suddenly realized, as I prepped for dinner, that I hadn’t fed any tomatos to Zac that day and that there was no way to really add tomatos to the dinner I had planned. Oops!

Thursday I corrected that, but by then, the kids were both showing signs of sickness.

Sick + FPIES food trial = not a great idea.

He’s got so much mucous from his sneezing and coughing cold/virus/whatever that it’s making his diapers look very NOT normal, and his appetite, behavior and sleep are all wonky. That makes it hard to tell how tomatos are actually doing for his little body.

So, the tomato trial isn’t a wash, but it’s not going full-speed, exactly as planned. We’re just introducing tomatos and not worrying if he won’t eat them. After all, he’s not even eating some of his favorite foods right now thanks to being sick!

We shall see how tomatos play out over the next few weeks, since I’m sure it will take that long to recover from our current ickies and finish the trial.

I’m just grateful that this time, I got him to at least try them!

In other news, we have finally gotten approval for TEFRA for Zac! Though we didn’t receive any sort of bill in the mail, we did receive a Medicaid card for him. His therapist joyfully told me that means it was approved!

We can now afford his speech therapy! 

Of course, he’s inches away from being released from speech therapy, since his talking has just blossomed since July. Still, good to know we can afford it – and that we don’t have to back pay them, since they haven’t been paid anything for his therapy since February!

This is sort of ironic, in a way. Just as Zac gets approved for a service he won’t need for much longer, I’m probably about to have to begin the process of applying for TEFRA for Jed for OT services he will soon need (if the evaluation proves my gut instinct correct).

Well, at least I’m well-versed in filling out the forms, now, since I had to do so twice for Zac this spring!

That’s it for our little world…a fun, spontaneous trip, working, homeschooling, being sick (still sick), trialing foods, continuing to push for answers for our kiddos, and, as always, getting far too little sleep.

What’s new with you?

Swimming Holes and Copperheads

Swimming Holes and Copperheads

One Friday a few weeks ago, Darrel woke me up with the news that he had decided we should go swimming that afternoon.

This was huge! My children have never been swimming in their lives. We’ve wanted to take them, but thanks to Epsom salts, we know Zac can have FPIES reactions through soaking. Since I know of several FPIES kiddos who have reacted to chemicals in swimming pools, we decided food was more important to trial than swimming pool water and have avoided pools this whole time.

I used to be a swimmer in high school. Varsity, no less. Not teaching my children to swim has been frustrating.

This summer I made some efforts to find local “swimming holes” of natural bodies of water where people go swimming that we might take the boys to teach them to swim. I failed to find any suitable for our purposes.

Darrel finally succeeded!

So after school, we loaded up the car with swimsuits, towels, a picnic lunch, water, a blanket, and headed off to King’s River.

At the Trailhead

Slightly over an hour later, we arrived at the trail head. The instructions Darrel found said it was an easy .6 mile hike to the swimming hole. We figured the kids could handle that.

Intrepid Hikers

The guy who wrote those instructions was on crack.

That hike was easily 1.5 miles, and parts of it were not easy at all! Still, the kids were total troopers and never complained once. (I can’t say the same for their parents; we were loaded down like pack mules, after all!)

After what seemed like forever, we turned the corner on the trail and saw this:

Perfect Swimming Hole

Suddenly the two hour journey to get there was all worth it! Beautiful!

The boys were chomping at the bit to get in the water, but, since they don’t know how to swim I insisted they wait for us.

Some previous swimmer had made several of these stacked rock sculptures all around the swimming hole. They were awesome!

Some previous swimmer had made several of these stacked rock sculptures all around the swimming hole. They were awesome!

Darrel took a few minutes to take some pictures while I got the boys into their suits and set up “camp”. Just as I started to take off my shirt to head to the water, Darrel shouted at the boys to “Go to Mommy! Get away from the water! NOW!”

Darrel taking photos of the waterfall

Darrel taking photos of the waterfall

Since they’d been trying to get in the water before we were ready, I just assumed that was why Darrel was yelling. Then he yelled again.

Curious, I walked over to see what was going on.

“There’s a copperhead. See?” Darrel said.

I looked. OMG! A 3-3.5 foot long copperhead was swimming toward the rock wall, where it slithered up and stopped.

Right in the swimming hole we were just about to put our precious children.

Heart don’t fail me now!

Considering my ginormous snake phobia, one would imagine this marked the end of our attempts at swimming that day, right?


It was over an hour drive plus almost an hour hike through the woods to get there! We didn’t want to go through all of that and not fight for a chance to swim!

Besides, my self-imposed “get over this snake phobia” treatment is apparently more effective than I had thought. Despite being in such close proximity to an incredibly dangerous snake, I was not freaking out.

Kind of shocking, actually.

Suddenly the snake disappeared into the water. We had no idea if it was still in the swimming hole or had slithered through some little hole to escape elsewhere.

So we waited and watched.

Snake Watch!

Snake Watch!

Ten minutes later, there was still no sign of the snake, and two young ladies with a Dalmatian came hiking up.

I warned them about the snake and we all stood on dry land, watching. Jed and Zac, of course, played with the doggie and forgot all about swimming.

Five minutes later, more intrepid swimmers arrived. This was a couple with their 3 month old baby and one of their friends. They, too, began Snake Watch with us.

Finally, after 20 more minutes passed with no sign of the snake, the new Daddy decided to climb up to the top of the waterfall and jump in to the swimming hole.

We all cheered as he did it, but just as his head reached the surface our cheers turned to screams. “Swim! Get out of there! There’s the snake!”

He swam like a fish for shore, as the Copperhead was busily swimming directly at him.

As he reached dry land, the snake turned directions and swam up on another rock wall against the water.

Now both the new Daddy and Darrel started throwing rocks near the snake, trying to urge it to slither AWAY from the water.

Because we knew where THIS little jerk was...

Because we knew where THIS little jerk was…

While the snake was present and accounted for, the lady with the Dalmation let her dog wade into the water a bit, and we let the kids go about three feet in to the swimming hole to sit down so they could pretend they were swimming. They loved it!

...we let the boys do this! And they loved it!!

…we let the boys do this! And they loved it!!

Until Jed decided to be disobedient and go farther in to the swimming hole with no warning. He took two steps and hit a drop off; down he went, completely underwater! Darrel leaped into action faster than I could even think, pulling Jed out safely.

Safe, but terrified. 

Shortly after that, the rocks finally did make the snake move! Unfortunately, it slithered back in the water and disappeared again. Everyone took off running at least 5 feet away from the waterline the instant Mr. Copperhead was no longer visible.

Well, folks, that’s it! All three groups of wannabe swimmers gathered our stuff and left. Obviously the copperhead was not going to leave, and no one was willing to jump in that water (again) with him.

We loaded up all our stuff and began the long, hot, hike back to the car. The kids were still begging to go in the water, so Darrel decided to walk with the boys up the creek as far as they could. Since I was in tennis shoes and not sandals, I headed for the trail.

It was a REALLY long hike back. Unlike on the hike to the swimming hole, where the kids were anxious to find the water and didn’t dilly-dally, on the way back, they wanted to dilly-dally in every decent sized area of water they found! On 3 different occasions, I simply put my stuff down and sat on a rock to wait for the boys to catch up. And yes, I was paranoid that a snake would slither out of the woods at me at any moment.

Fun times.

Even better was when the creek finally got too shallow and dangerous to walk in, and Darrel herded the kids back up onto the trail. They did not like that at all.

So for the rest of the hike, they moved slowly and complained constantly and loudly.

It was miserable.

When we got to the car, Jed informed us that he was hungry and wanted to eat NOW. Since we hadn’t gotten to enjoy our picnic at the swimming hole, we set up the picnic blanket in the shade of the car and ate.

Not quite what I had in mind for the afternoon!

On the plus side, that was when Zac got to eat his first ever potato chip, so at least there was one bright spot in the day!

We went home, dejected and frustrated. However, we decided that it was worth it to try and find another swimming hole, and Darrel promised to keep looking.

I left for work the next day. Sunday, a mere two days after our foiled attempt at swimming, Darrel and the boys succeeded! He found a new swimming hole and headed out with the kids.

Since I was at work, I could only enjoy seeing the pictures Darrel emailed to me. It looked like glorious fun (and made me hate being at work all the more). The kids loved it and can’t wait to go back.

I can’t wait to go. I haven’t been swimming in 3 years, after all! I only wish we had found this great place earlier in the season. We won’t have many more weekends of swimming left to us this year.

Oh, and the best part of our experience? Ever since the copperhead incident, Jed has had several bad dreams at night about “copper snakes” and falling in the water and nearly “drownding”. Though, at least he’s impressed with Daddy being “like a superhero, Mommy!” and “saving my life!” Good job, Daddy!

Stupid snake.

Have you ever been chased away from a swimming hole by a snake? 

A New Way to Fail a Food Trial

A New Way to Fail A Food Trial

Last time I updated, I said that we had started a green bean trial on Zac. It looked so promising that first day (after we convinced him to try one).

Sadly, the green bean trial has flopped.

The second day of the trial, I couldn’t get him to eat any green beans at all. The third day, he only ate a few beans. The fourth day, again, he wouldn’t eat any.

The fifth day, he told us he didn’t like green beans.

I showed him how he can take a bite of something he likes along with the green bean, and then he won’t have to taste the green bean. That trick worked to get him to eat some of his beans, but the next day Darrel and I questioned whether it was worth pursuing the trial any longer.

On each day after eating green beans, his poop was mucousy and soft. Like thick, less watery diarrhea. There were no signs of visible blood, but the mucous and consistency weren’t good signs.

We asked him all week if his tummy hurt, and he kept saying “no”. I can’t help but wonder, though, if he was being literal. Maybe his tummy didn’t hurt, exactly, but maybe it felt “off”, and he doesn’t know how to explain that feeling.

Other than the diapers, there were no concerning signs. But is it worth it to pursue a trial with a food the child says he doesn’t like, and therefore will not eat?

Darrel and I decided that no, it is not. There’s no sense in pushing to make green beans safe if every time we serve them we will have to battle to get him to eat any of them!

So we gave up on the trial.

That’s a weird feeling for an FPIES mama who has pushed so hard to find foods for her child. To give up is just…well, NOT what we do in this house!

This is an entirely new way to “fail” a food trial in our world.

On the plus side, we had learned through Jed’s schooling that with stringent ‘immediate hand washing’ rules Zac can handle many arts and crafts supplies with no reactions!

Except for markers. They end up all over him, either by him drawing on himself or just residue from overenthusiastic coloring, and he was definitely having a mild reaction to something in those markers. We had to yank markers away from Jed to get Zac back to baseline before we dcould even attempt the green bean trial.

Did I  mention that markers just happen to be Jed’s FAVORITE thing to draw with! Ugh!

The other FPIES moms turned me on to, saying you could search for allergy-free art supplies by allergen there. I’d found that the art supplies Zac most often reacted to had soy in them, so I ordered some soy-free markers for Jed and Zac to try out. A few days after we gave up on green beans, Jed’s new markers arrived in the mail.

We decided that since I was going to work, and the green bean trial had flopped, a pseudo-marker trial was in order. His reactions to the other markers were very mild; though not something we wanted to continue, trialing these new markers was something I felt comfortable doing while I was out of town. (We don’t start food trials when I’m going to be gone.)

It’s our first non-food deliberate trial ever. So weird, but necessary, since arts and crafts supplies will now be front and center in our house from now on.

So far, so good on the new markers!

Maybe my kids will finally get to create the way normal kids do! Wouldn’t that be nice!

While all this marker and green bean trialing was going on, I also decided to accept a little reality: Zac’s hair was getting far too long.

I’ve never cut his hair, because I just couldn’t imagine cutting off all those amazing curls! Even I had to admit, though, that his hair was hanging in his eyes too much.

Fortunately, our speech therapist told me about a place called Pigtails and Crewcuts, which specializes in cutting children’s hair.

The lady that cut his hair was amazing; she asked me what I wanted done and when I said “Nothing, but I can see it needs trimming. I just don’t want to lose those awesome curls!” she said “Yeah, they’re pretty great. I think I’ll do this (explaining what she was going to do). Then he won’t look like a little girl. It’ll be more of a Surfer Dude look.”

I love that! My little Surfer Dude!

Zac handled the hair cut really well. Very little squirming at all. In the end, he looked just like he did before…only his hair wasn’t falling in his eyes and the back doesn’t “dread” up as easily as it did prior to the cut.

Zac has randomly announced “I love my hair cut” at least 6 times since it happened, so I think it was a good thing to do.

Zac's First Haircut

With Zac’s curly locks, I’m unfortunately not going to be unable to save money by cutting his hair at home as I do with Jed. Even worse, since Zac looks so well-groomed, Jed’s hair definitely looks like he had a homemade hair cut! So now both boys will be getting hair cuts at Pigtails and Crewcuts.

Oh well. They’re more expensive than a barber but less expensive than an adult salon, so I guess it’s worth it. Maybe I can start cutting Darrel’s hair to save some money?

The boys also had their first gymnastics class last week. We were so excited for it!

Sadly, it was horrendous. When they got there, both of my boys forgot every single thing I’ve ever  taught them about behaving in public. They didn’t stand in line, they didn’t wait their turn, they didn’t listen to the instructor…they acted like wild animals!

It was mortifying.

However, while Jed has some experience with being in a classroom, thanks to martial arts, Zac has never had the privilege.  This was an entirely new experience for him, so it’s not unbelievable that he wouldn’t behave properly. That’s why there are instructors there, right? To instruct them not only on what they are teaching, but to enforce the rules of behavior in the class, too, right?

Apparently that isn’t the belief of these instructors. Other than calling the kids (my two and another little boy who was just as ill-behaved) back over when they wandered off, they never once said anything about how the kids needed to stand in line and wait their turn with no cutting.

I spent the entire class on the sidelines calling the kids names and pointing to where they needed to go, and twice pulling them aside and informing them that they needed to straighten up, pay attention, and behave.

It didn’t work, obviously.

Darrel and I debated on taking the boys back this week. While we are interested in letting the boys learn tumbling and have fun burning off energy, a good part of why we (and I think many parents) chose to enroll them in this activity was to help them also learn how to follow rules and instruction.

If the instructors won’t make them follow any rules, is it worth it to go back?

I debated on it all week before finally deciding to give it another try. Maybe they were having an off day last week. Maybe my boys got it out of their system, so to speak, and will behave better this week.

On the way to gymnastics, I informed the kids that I had some instructions for them. I went over the rules: stay in line, wait your turn, no cutting, and do what the instructor says. I told them I didn’t care what the other kids were doing, and I didn’t care if the instructor ever reminded them of the rules. THIS was what I expected of them, and they WOULD follow MY rules or we would stop going to gymnastics.

You know what? They were a lot better this week!

All “not great” behavior came after about 45 minutes in class, when all  of the students got a little wild, not just my boys!

The instructors still didn’t do any guidance on rules, but this week one of the other mom’s came over and helped out with trying to corral the kids.

I’m still not sure if this is a good place for us to be, if it takes the mother’s who are paying for the class to help keep the class in line.

But my boys sure do love going!

Have you ever ended a food trial simply because your child didn’t like the food? Have you ever trialed art supplies?

Our First Month As Homeschoolers

Our First Month As Homeschoolers

At 9:00 a.m. on August 4th, the boys and I went to Jed’s first day of school.

I really love the commute; we just walked across the house and into our new classroom!

That was my first week ever as a homeschooling Mom, and I had no idea how it was going to go.

So many questions: Will I be up to the task? Will Jed love it or hate it? Will he actually learn anything? Is this going to be the best decision we ever made, or a monumental disaster?

Now that a month has passed I have to say: HOMESCHOOLING IS AWESOME!

Jed loves school.

Let me clarify that: Jed loves, loves, LOVES school!!

Every morning he wakes up saying he wants to start school NOW. At one point, Darrel planned to take the boys swimming after school, and Jed told him he did not want to go swimming; he wanted to do more school!

And check out this little beauty…

Yes, Jed actually complained he had a stomach ache and knew the only thing that would fix it was more school.

I’m beside myself with joy. 

Now for some logistics. Some might wonder how we are handling school with my work schedule. As a Flight Attendant, I’m gone for days at a time, after all.

My intention was to school Jed on days that I was home and let him have days off when I’m at work. On that schedule, he might have school 12 days straight, and then have 5 days off.

My Mom was persistent in her belief that Jed needed to do some schoolwork more consistently than that. She wanted to continue teaching him when I was gone.

I am not – yet – comfortable with that. In these early days of establishing our homeschool “routine”, I knew that I would go crazy trying to make sure his education stayed on track when I was away.

I’m kind of a control freak on some things.

Still, Mom had a good point. Days and even weeks off with no school might lead Jed to stop taking school seriously, and leave us battling when I returned from work.

My compromise was simple: I create “homework packets” for either my parents or Darrel to go through with the kids when I’m gone.

I had originally intended to give Jed weekends off, but that quickly became an impossibility because Jed begs for schoolwork every day!

So far, he has either had school or done homework packets every single morning since August 4th, and is ecstatic to head to the classroom every single time. Some mornings he even goes to the classroom before I do; I find him digging through my desk to find his assignments for the day.

While technically Jed is of Kindergarten age, when Darrel and I flipped through Kindergarten curriculum at the homeschooling convention we attended back in May, we realized something: Jed was not ready for that.

I’m a firm believer in the concept that the best “education” for small children is to play. That, combined with our complicated food issues, meant that Jed never attended Pre-school.

Apparently, nowadays children are being taught in Kindergarten what my generation learned in First Grade. Which means they are taught in Pre-school what I learned in Kindergarten. (Yet somehow America’s high school seniors rank terribly low according to international standards. Hmm.) Insane!

The lady at Alpha and Omega suggested we begin with Preschool curriculum to help Jed bridge the gap between what he already knows, and what he will need to know to begin Kindergarten.

Flipping through the Horizons Preschool texts, we realized that Jed already knows 50-60% of what it covers; the remaining lessons will bridge the gap.

Since he knows so much of it already, I’m making my life more complicated by re-writing the lesson plans to combine 2-3 lessons per day. At this rate, we should be able to finish Pre-school by the end of December, allowing us to begin Kindergarten curriculum in January.

(Although we can all agree that my life just needed more complications, right?)

For the “homework packets” I put together, I take small projects from the daily lessons I have with Jed and set those aside for my parents or Darrel to do with him when I’m gone.

I also have myriad little activity books for Pre-K and K levels that we’ve purchased over the last few years, and I simply copy pages from those to add to the stack.

If, in our school that week, we covered letters A and B and the number 1, I assemble pages from those activity books that cover that information so Jed gets more practice at writing those letters and learning the phonics behind them.

That keeps the curriculum firmly in my hands, while keeping Jed on task, on routine, and eager to learn more.

It’s working, for now.

One thing I hadn’t counted on was how time consuming being a teacher would be!

Even if I were not re-writing the lesson plans, the prep work for a day of teaching would still take a good half hour.

The lesson plan re-writes take me at least half an hour per to complete.

Assembling the homework packets takes 1-2 hours.

The planning time for each class is almost as long as the actual class!

I may have only 1.5 students (Zac wants to “go to school” each day, too), but becoming a teacher is truly an adjustment! Suddenly I have even more respect for teachers than I already had.

We are still in the early days of homeschooling, but I’m already seeing clear learning styles from Jed. This child simply thrives with hands-on, interactive activities, and loves challenges and “tests” he can be the best with.

Talking to him? Quickly involves our lessons being hijacked by a squirming, squiggly, wiggle-worm of a distracted child. It takes many minutes of our lessons to get him back on track whenever I try to teach via explanation.

Still, our daily school takes only about 2 hours per day of class time, even with flying through multiple lessons each class…and Jed is just sucking information up like a sponge.

We’ve already covered letters A-J, both upper and lower case:

Jed Writes His Upper Case Letters

Jed Writes His Lower Case Letters

In a month he has memorized 4 Bible verses, plus shown that he knows all his colors, most of his shapes, has counted to 78 (though he’s only really comfortable with numbers 1-20), recognizes letters we haven’t officially covered in class yet, and begged to learn to read. I’m truly amazed.

Thanks to all our reading together, he even earned a free book from Barnes & Noble from their Summer Reading Program! When he learned he had earned that book for all his hard work, he got so excited he could hardly see straight! Immediately, he begged me to teach him to read so he could read even more. Love. It.

Jed Earned A Book

Plus, this is just flat-out fun!

Already, we’ve stayed up late to watch a meteor shower (school assignment!), started a mural, done more arts and crafts in a month than we did in the entire preceding 5 years, tackled an obstacle course (pretending to be worms digging through the soil), played BINGO for shapes, colors and letters, and (my favorite) played with a parachute.


Homeschooling is turning out to be a fabulous fit for our family, even if I’m experiencing a few growing pains along the way trying to figure out how to juggle all these balls. Jed is learning a ton, and so am I. Turns out? I’m pretty good at this teaching thing.

Guess I knew what I was meant to do back in college before my life trajectory changed.

Well, I didn’t end up teaching for a living, but now, I’m teaching for my son’s life. I think that’s much better.

How long did it take you to get the hang of homeschooling? Is it typical for kids to get this excited about school?

We Love Potatos!!

We Love Potatos

On Thursday, August 13th, Darrel and I declared russet potatos a safe food for Zac. It’s his 18th safe food, and we couldn’t be happier!

For his part, Zac adores potatos. He gets excited by mashed potatos, thrilled with hamburger hash, and ecstatic over French fries.

For our part, life is So. Much. Easier. Now. 

In fact, I’ve come dangerously close to “burning us out” on potatos and beef due to my overjoyed slacking off in the kitchen. One day last week I realized I’d made some version of beef and potatos for every single meal  over the previous 4 days.

I think I lost my mind a bit over the sudden cooking ease I was experiencing!

Beyond that, though, we discovered Zac’s first PACKAGED food! 

As Darrel and I mentally created the packing list for our picnic lunch one day, I said “…I’ll grab some potato chips for you, me and Jed, and I guess I can make some cookies or muffins for Zac.”

Darrel suddenly sat up and responded excitedly, “Why not give the chips to Zac, too?”

I was dumbfounded. The idea of feeding Zac something that wasn’t made completely from scratch just…did not compute!

But the potato chips in question have only three ingredients: potatos, olive oil, and sea salt. All safe ingredients for Zac!

So we took the leap and, well, Zac loves him some potato chips!

And they seem to love him right back.

And I love having a pre-prepared snack food for in-town errand running emergency food backup.

Ahh…it’s a nice step on our journey towards some kind of normality. 

(The photo for this post is of Zac eating his first ever potato chip. He loved it!)

Mr. Zac is doing incredibly well all across the board. We just learned that his speech therapist thinks he might be released from therapy soon! The last 5 weeks or so has seen Zac blossom from a nearly mute child to a veritable chatter-box!

Not only that, but it turns out Zac is quite the little manipulator. I guess three years of watching how things play out has taught him all the right buttons to push.

Now, instead of just falling on the floor and crying when he’s upset, I get to hear him cry, stick out his lower lip so far he might trip on it, and tell me “You hurt my feelings, Mommy!” through his tears.

The first time it happened? Oh, yeah. Mama felt some guilt. I hugged on him and loved on him and tried to make him feel better, apologizing all the while, and came up with a compromise that made me look weak…just to make up for hurting his feelings.

Yesterday might have been about the 45th time he’s said that to me over the last two weeks. 

It’s kind of lost its effect, much to his chagrin. 

Now I just nonchalantly say “Yeah, well, you’ll get over it.” Then I remind him to do whatever it is that I told him to do that “hurt his feelings”. He’s not happy with my quick ‘catching on’ to his game!

Kids. Ah. Such fun.

Other than the emotional blackmail, I couldn’t be more thrilled with Zac these days. The only thing that is a little sad is the fact that he has now told me twice that he doesn’t get any milk when he nurses. He admitted that he just wants to nurse so he can have one-on-one alone, snuggle time with me. (Sibling rivalry, much?)

I’m not sure whether to believe that completely, though, since every time he is hungry he immediately starts screaming to nurse. Is it just habit that has him wanting to nurse when he’s hungry? Or is he still actually getting a little milk and knows boobie is faster than me cooking him food?

I don’t know the answer to that, yet; I will say that I won’t be surprised in the slightest if Zac is weaned by the end of September. <sniff sniff>

We started a green bean trial last night. Actually, we tried to start it on Sunday, but he ended up taking a late nap and was very cranky at dinner. Consequently, he refused to even try a green bean.

Last night, though, we managed to talk him in to it with the help of Daniel Tiger.

All I have to say is GOD BLESS the writers of Daniel Tiger! They have an episode where the kids go to a garden to see all the yummy foods growing there and to taste them. Katarina Ballerina doesn’t want to try one of the veggies, but Teacher Harriet convinces her that “You’ve got to try new foods ’cause it might taste good!”

Now, whenever one of our kids turns up their nose at a food? All we have to do is say “Remember what you learned from Daniel Tiger and Katarina Ballerina? You have to try new things at least once – you might like it!” and they give it a try.

Many times they do NOT like the food, but every now and again, they do. Last night with green beans was one of those times.

After reminding him of Daniel Tiger, Zac ate one single green bean. Suddenly, he was “Yummy, mommy! I like this!” and very proud of himself that he tried it. “Me tried new food! It’s good!”

We shall see how the rest of the trial goes.

Oh, and you may have noticed my total absence here lately. Well, I may have finally bitten off more than I can chew.

We started homeschooling on August 4th. It’s going incredibly  well, but it’s quite time consuming for me! My work schedule may be a tad reduced, but it is still not anything resembling part time. So working full time, juggling regular life, food issues, and now homeschooling on top of it? Might be one ball too many.

It’s infuriating, because I have SO many things I want to write about! I keep making “draft” posts with topic ideas; right now I have about 30 draft posts that are just waiting to be written.

Well, I’ll keep trying. Hopefully after a few more weeks I’ll have a better balance for my new ‘job’ and can start picking up balls again. Namely, blogging.

Oh, and I’m very excited! Tonight is the boys first gymnastics class!

I’ve mentioned living way out in the country before, so you can imagine my joy to discover there is a bona fide, award winning gymnastics/dance studio about ten minutes from my house! Even better, enrolling both boys in a weekly tumbling class costs less than just having Jed in martial arts!

I’m praying they both like it and that it isn’t “too loud” for Jed.

How have you been lately? I miss you guys!

Three Years on a TED

Three Years On A TED

On August 8, 2015, I celebrated three years on a TED (Total Elimination Diet).

If you had told me my TED would last three years back in August of 2012, I wouldn’t have believed you. If I did finally believe you, I would have curled up in a ball and cried.

Nonetheless, three years later I am still eating the highly restrictive diet necessary to keep my son alive in those early days.

Few TED’s are perfect from the get-go; mine has undergone changes over those years. At first, I was eating 12 items. That was quickly reduced to 10 items. Eventually, it dropped to 6 items. (Grass-fed beef, organic russet potatos, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and stevia, in case anyone wonders what finally allowed Zac to start finding safe foods!)

Now I eat those 6 things, plus all of Zac’s new safe foods, which means that while my diet is still small, it is actually quite easy to maintain. I can finally make anything from appetizer to dessert with the limited items I have to eat.

I still carry all my food with me to work…and all my water, too. Honestly, there are times I would love to be able to simply call for room service rather than deal with cooking my own, safe food on the road; then, though, I think about where the chicken or beef or vegetables would come from in that dreamed-of room service meal and, suddenly? The effort involved is worth it again.

Never again will I eat as I did pre-FPIES. 

For starters, I lost 63 pounds I desperately needed to lose by going on such a restrictive diet. Though my weight has fluctuated a bit since spring, when Zac began to wean, and I’ve put back on about 6 of those lost pounds, I’m still healthier and more trim and active than I had been my entire adult life. I won’t lose that.

Secondly, I discovered I have food intolerances along with my boys. While my health isn’t perfect since the onset of the TED (I have had a few infections and general sicknesses along the way), I no longer suffer from constant, debilitating sinus infections as I always did prior to the TED. I no longer have any symptoms of IBS, which I’m sure I would have been diagnosed with had I ever bothered to pursue a diagnosis. My sleep, sporadic though it may be, is far better; I fall asleep easier and faster, and sleep better when I am asleep than I ever did pre-TED.

I never want to return to my life of general malaise and feeling “run-down” all the time.

Third, my  knowledge of our food supply is FAR greater than it was back when I ate the SAD (Standard American Diet). I don’t have the time or energy to devote fully to it, but I’ve become a bit of a food activist over the last 3 years. It’s appalling to me how corrupt and wicked our food supply is, and even more disheartening to know that so many Americans spare that issue so little thought or concern.

Will I avoid restaurants and convenience food forever? I really can’t say. With my lifestyle as a Flight Attendant, I can’t guarantee I won’t “cave” once in a while on the road and simply grab a salad somewhere. Honestly, though, based on my food intolerances and the fact that I don’t want to ever feel so badly again, my options for “caving” will be rather limited. Odds are, I’ll be carrying everything I eat with me to work for the rest of my career.

I simply prefer to eat real  food these days.

After three years on a TED, I considered what I might say to someone just embarking on one.

Honestly, at this point I’ve come to the conclusion that TED’s are miraculous, wonderful things that I believe every person on earth should seize as a personal health discovery aid. So many people are probably unaware of food intolerances that manifest in symptoms that make them feel terrible and are hard to treat or fix; finding the cause in their diet would alleviate much of that discomfort and/or harm.

However, for Mama’s doing a TED for their FPIES or food allergic child, it gets a little trickier. I’ve heard of so many women who went on a TED for their child only to find their own health got WORSE. Women who were already healthy and fit lost a distressing amount of weight until they were malnourished and sickly. Women who suddenly had alarming health issues pop up once they changed their diet.

I believe I got very lucky with my TED.

Still, in the beginning I didn’t think I would be so lucky. I thought it was a certainty that I was absolutely wrecking my health completely in order to keep Zac alive…and I still jumped in to my TED 100%.

I would do the same today, even if the outcome had been different. My sons health was – and is – worth it to me.

Further, I would encourage any Mama with an FPIES child to pursue a TED. Mine has lasted a long time; in fact, while I’m not completely sure, I think it may be one of the longest breastfeeding TED’s in the FPIES world. (I know some who have done it longer, but it seems most manage to end their TED within 2 years.) So while two years of poor health is NOT a good thing, NOT advisable, and NOT recommended…if the alternative is your precious baby suffering intense pain, how could you not at least give it a try?

If it’s too much for a Mama’s body to handle, well, then she at least knows she gave it a good try. She at least knows she did the best she could for her baby by leaving no option unexplored. That’s motivation enough for me – and for most of the other FPIES TED mama’s I’ve spoken with!

While I think TED’s are a little known and potentially powerful diagnostic tool for the general population, I know FPIES TED’s are a different animal. For me, my TED for Zac turned into a TED for me, as well. Other FPIES mama’s aren’t in that situation.

Their TED is strictly for their child, and it may prove disastrous to their own health. I’ve said it before: Mama’s have to water their own roots so they can take care of their family properly.

It’s a terrible position to be in when you realize the TED that is helping your child is almost killing you. I have no great advice for the Mama’s in that situation, except to say that you have to do what is right for you and your child.

Usually the FPIES mama’s recommend a woman on a TED who is in such a position do formula trials for her child BEFORE she weans, simply because there are far too many examples of our ‘rare’ children reacting to even elemental formulas. Eliminating your child’s only safe nutrition before knowing you have a backup could prove disastrous in the long run.

Many of those trials do end up with safe formulas, which means a TED Mama can wean with the sure knowledge that she did every single thing in her power to keep her child healthy and alive.

For those unfortunate Mama’s whose formula trials end in reactions, well, there are still options. She can continue to nurse on her TED, knowing that her health is suffering but it IS temporary; by keeping her baby non-reactive, she can sooner discover safe foods that lessen the breastmilk dependence and speed up the time frame on weaning.

Some Mama’s have delved into the world of homemade formulas. I’ve heard of some made with hemp milk, and some that use liver as a base. There are options out there; though, having not used any of them myself I have no additional information about them.

In the end, after three years on a TED and three years in the world of FPIES, I still believe that TED’s are a worthwhile endeavor for FPIES Mama’s. Even if it proves unsuccessful, the knowledge that you tried carries a lot of weight.

Besides, whether successful or unsuccessful, any TED done for a nursing baby will be temporary. My three year TED is a long one, but it won’t last forever.

Yours won’t either.

Have you done a TED for your FPIES baby? How long did it last?