May 29, 2013

Home makeover: Playroom


This is a bad picture but the wall color is actually a very light blue.

I took the closet doors off to create a reading nook and painted the inside a pale lilac.

Dress-up clothes

I covered these diapers boxes with wrapping paper.


May 16, 2013

Pass the Peanuts?

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week!

In true awareness fashion, Anna was diagnosed with new allergies this week including tomato, onion, celery, green peas, cilantro, and coriander. Excuse me while I go stick my head in a bucket of water. That brings the list to 13.

Five "pieces of awareness" about food allergies:

-A recent study published in Pediatrics reported that over 30% of children with food allergies say they have been bullied about their allergies.  Previous studies have also found that having a food allergy puts a child at risk for bullying.

-Kids with food allergies have some of the highest anxiety rates compared to other disorders, including diabetes.

-Adults in children's lives often model exclusion and pressure children in ways they are unaware, because they do not fully understand the severity of many food allergies. Kids learn to refuse food or bring their own, but are often treated poorly because of it. Kids are put in a very difficult social position, particularly when the sharing of food is such a part of our culture.

-Children have died in schools because administrators did not take their allergy seriously, and were not willing to have emergency medication on hand at the proper times and follow the correct protocol.

-There are many people with minimal food allergies or 'intolerances' who are not aware of best practices for food allergy management, and their casual approach to the risks involved is seen as socially acceptable for food allergy management as a whole. Folks with severe food allergies who have to follow unusual precautions are viewed as being rude or distrustful.

The last year I have struggled so much with the allergies- not just the food but the social implications for me, as a parent, and for my child. I wondered why I always experienced so much resistance. Other people just didn't seem to understand and I felt this tension in the air when I had to explain about her allergies or politely decline food. Instead of listing a bunch more facts, I thought the best way to raise 'awareness' would be to share some of my day-to-day experiences.

"Through the eyes of a Food Allergy Mom" I will call it.

Some of my day-to-day experiences:

  • When I politely ask the deli lady at Kroger to clean the machine before she cuts Anna's turkey, she gets mad and is rude to me. When I ask to see the ingredients of certain meats I am treated as if I'm paranoid or lying. Sometimes workers will refuse to show me the ingredients. Several times I've been treated so poorly I had to choke back tears. Every grocery store visit I get a pit in my stomach when I head to the deli counter.

  • My child breaks out in hives at a birthday party and I'm in the corner giving her Benadryl while she is itching her whole body... all from sitting in a high chair that wasn't wiped down. Yet if I were to wipe down the seat before I put her in it, it would look weird and a little rude, as if I thought they weren't clean enough. The easiest thing is to just stay home.

  • When someone offers us food I have to politely decline because I don't know what's in it. Or someone wants to make dinner and asks me what Anna can and can't have. I have no way to answer them, because unless I make the food myself or take part in its preparation, I can't feed it to her. There is too much involved in avoiding 12 allergies, some of which are not even clearly labeled. Sometimes I am treated like a stick in the mud (Update: now that some of her allergies have gotten easier to identify, good friends are able to serve food that I know Anna can have!).

  • I decide to be brave and take Anna to a social gathering, a cookout, something I would usually avoid. I decide to be more laid back and not hover over her. My child sees a snack cup and thinks it is hers. She pops a snack in her mouth, just as I see that it is something she is allergic to. I grab her and ram my finger into my mouth to take the food out. She starts screaming because she doesn't understand what happened. Everyone in the room looks at us, and I feel like crawling into a hole.

  • Every time I drop my child off at the nursery at church I explain her allergies and her medicine, particularly because the workers are usually never the same. I always feel like the paranoid mom. In the back of my mind I am always wondering "Does this worker take this seriously? Will they really keep an eye on my child? Will something happen?"

  • I find multiple foods in the grocery store that do not list all the ingredients (I'd say about 70% of packaged foods list unspecific spices on their labels). When I call the company to get more information they are usually extremely rude to me and will not give the information I request, stating "ingredient confidentiality".

  • Every time we get invited to someone house or to a party, I weigh the costs and benefits of going. If I go, I have to bring separate food for Anna and possibly fight battles about why she can't have what everyone else is eating. She doesn't understand.

  • We no longer accept invitations out to dinner. The last time we went, we brought food for Anna, but she ate it all within ten minutes. While they other kids were snacking on dinner rolls, Anna gets really upset because she can't have one. It was awful.

  • When we go to the airport I have to pack all of her food with me, and the TSA workers demand to open it or that I leave half of it because I can't take it on the plane. Then she doesn't have anything to eat because I can't give her restaurant food.

  • When the kids eat together at her 'school', Anna is put in a separate high chair. This is because all of the other kids share their food. Anna is separated from everyone. I want her to be included, but there is nothing I can do.

  • When parents bring a treat to 'school', Anna can't have it. When the teachers try to be  helpful and say "so-and-so's mom wants to know what Anna can have" what can I say? I can't simply tell someone I don't know how to make food my child can eat. It's more complex than they realize.

  • We go to story time at the library and they have a craft afterwards. The craft almost always involves food. Every child gets to make their 'caterpillar' or whatever, and then eat it. My child cannot. I have to keep her from eating it and keep her from being a part of the social inclusion of enjoying food together. Might as well stay home.

  • We found a church we like, but the nursery isn't safe for Anna. There are only a few workers for a lot of kids, and snack crumbs are spread all over the floor where the younger kids walk and crawl, and Anna puts everything in her mouth. Ben and I take turns watching her in the foyer but we can never enjoy the service together. We decide we have to find another church. Thankfully it ended up being our old church where all of our friends are, so it's all good. 

  • People invite us over for the weekend or to travel and go on trips. We usually decline because we would have to pack days worth of food for Anna. We're going on a trip to see my family this summer, and I am leaving Anna here. I would love to take her with us, but the logistics of providing her with safe meals will be too difficult. I hate that she has to miss out on that time.

  • Most of the church events have free childcare so parents can go to meetings and participate in service projects. They usually serve pizza or something. We don't go to them, because sticking Anna in a room full of pizza and kids with pizza hands would probably result in her breaking out in hives from contact, and even if she managed to avoid that, what would she do while everyone else was eating? Might as well stay home.

  • On a regular basis I feel anxious for my child's future. What will she do if she's on a sports team and everyone goes out after the game? How will she go to an overnight or a trip with a friend? Will she never go out to eat- the number one most common social activity? How will she go to summer camp? How will she eat at a dining hall in college? I feel sick just thinking about it.

It's not all terrible. My friends have often  brought me to tears the way they have been so accommodating and understanding and gone above and beyond so that Anna can be included, or so we could have a safe meal brought when the baby was born, for example- things that I used to take for granted.

I write this not to whine but to raise awareness of what it is like for moms of kids with food allergies, particularly difficult ones. If you have an encounter with a kid with food allergies, show compassion. Try not to make assumptions or judge their mom. Try not to view us as overprotective, overanxious, or distrustful. Don't get upset when schools ban certain foods- remember how easy it is to forego a few foods in your kids' lunch compared to the daily complications of kids with allergies. Try to imagine how you would feel if your child was excluded from so many social opportunities. How isolating it can be. Try to plan social events that center on activities other than food. Try to understand our plight and if you can, try to find a way to include our kids. That's what we really want more than anything.

May 13, 2013

Home Makeover: Master Bedroom

(old owner's stuff pictured here)
Love that pea green, huh?
View from the master bathroom.
I feel like a broken record, but similar to the other rooms, the master bedroom is small. This was fine for Ben and I because we knew we wouldn't spend a ton of time in here. We would rather have more living space like an extra bedroom to use as a play room. It was a challenge, however, because there is really no room for dressers without making the room crowded. We had to find other ways to store things.
We decided to go with a gray-black-white-yellow color scheme, similar to the gray-black-white-red of the kitchen and dining room (keeping some uniformity here). We like light colors because they open up the room. So we painted over that horrid green with another (surprise) gray. This gray was Bunny Gray by Benjamin Moore, and I am obsessed with the color! Unlike the true gray used in the kitchen and dining room, this is a blue-gray. It is beautiful and serene, and looks more blue or gray depending on the time of day.

Our furniture just happened to work really well- the bed and mattress are both from Ikea. We ended up getting this bed way back when because we loved that it was low enough to the ground that we could hang out with the kids on it and wouldn't have to worry about anyone falling off and getting injured- I love hanging out with the girls on our bed in the morning! You can't really see but in front of the bed is one of those leather ottomans that opens up. We also use that for storage space (blankets and things), and Anna climbs up and down off the bed from it. To make up for lack of dresser space, we fit most of our clothes in the closet (it's a good size) and used the drawers in the nightstands for some extra things.
The duvet cover is from Target. The little shelves are from the Christmas Tree Shop and the vases are the recycled wedding centerpieces I keep using (hey, I have 17 of them!). Eventually I will replace those with something a little more interesting.
The room has two windows- one massive and one small. I had two pairs of curtains from Ikea and I decided to split up the panels. I used three panels on the big window, and one panel cut in half on the smaller window. Worked well. The curtain rods are from Hobby Lobby- have I mentioned that is the best place to get inexpensive curtain rods?

Here is the view into the bathroom. The corner bookcase worked great because it made use of an otherwise unused space, and we had nowhere else to store our books. We pared down our book collection to books worth keeping and re-reading. I always love an excuse to get rid of unused things!

The wall collage was a gift from my sister for our wedding. I filled it with family pictures that were edited on PicMonkey (free online editing website) to look vintage.  I used the 'dusk' feature.
One of these is a picture of our wedding. The other is a charcoal drawing Ben made me before we got married. It's one of my favorite things! The frames were reused ones that used to hold my two degrees. I have no use for a framed diploma these days!

Paint (Bunny Gray by Benjamin Moore): Gift
Duvet cover (Target) = $40
Shelves (Christmas Tree Shop) = $15
Curtains (Ikea) = $20
Curtain rods (Hobby Lobby) = $25
Hanging collage = gift
Other stuff- frames, bed, etc. = had
Total = $100
Lastly, we completely finished the dining room. There were a few things we still had left to do. Our picture from the last post:
And completely finished:

We added some curtains and some shelves. Recognize them? They are the same ones from the bedroom. I really liked them (a great way to display some knick-knacks you love) so I spray painted a few from black to white using the leftover chandelier spray paint. I used them to hold a wooden elephant from our stay in India and a wooden bowl my mom brought home from Costa Rica.


May 12, 2013

(More) Life Lately

I forgot to include some of the pictures I meant to so I decided to update this post!

Things have finally settled down around here. At 4 months we turned the corner. Anna has completely adjusted to her sister. She no longer throw fits, and we haven't had any behavior episodes in weeks. She is as sweet and loving as can be, and so happy!  The baby is more calm and sleeping well. She takes fewer naps and I am able to get out of the house more. I am getting the hang of going out with the two of them- to the park, the store (occasionally), and to friends' houses. I will probably never brave an entire grocery shopping trip with the two of them, however :)

Instead of being in survival mode, I am really enjoying the two girls. The weather is great and we are having a blast!

Eating lots of meals outside.

Rice Krispy treat-meaking

Best friends

Butterball. 4 months.

Long trips to Florida
Grandma and "Pi"

Feeding the fish

Reading to Rosie


Bloodwork allergy testing. Bandaid. Not happy.

Frog bouncing on cow.


Mother's Day

Sweet girl.

May 6, 2013

Who's Southern?

Lately I've been getting a lot of "Where are you from?" questions. I'm not really sure why. Maybe the blog gods want to give me something to write about.  I usually pause when I'm asked where I'm from, like I have to think about it. It's a difficult question for me, because technically, I am from New York state. I grew up in a small town in what is called "upstate New York", about three hours from the city (and nowhere near Rochester or Buffalo, because apparently those are the only two cities people know of in New York outside of NYC).

When I was 18 I left New York to attend the University of Georgia. During the first year, I really struggled. I hated the culture. I didn't feel like I fit in with the people around me, people who were mostly from suburbs of Atlanta. I had pretty negative first impressions of my new location. First off, I had never heard of a subdivision before. All we had were houses on a regular street, that all looked different. The idea that someone had a lakehouse was completely foreign to me. People came from huge schools where they had been on different 'tracks' (like honors) and entered college with a full semester of credits under their belt. Huh? We had one school in our town that offered two AP courses and everyone was on the same 'track'!  Why did racial groups seem so separated and have their own subcultures? Why was interracial marriage taboo? And what was Chic-fil-A and why was everyone SO shocked to hear that I had never eaten there? Speaking of food, where were all the corner Italian places? Why were there a million boring Mexican joints instead? Why did all the guys wear tucked-in polo shirts, short shorts, and boat shoes? Why did all the women look like models, have long, shiny blond hair, and always have their nails done? What was Cotillion? Why was everyone in a sorority and what the heck was this crazy rush thing? Why did people prefer watching football over basketball? It was so boring! Oh, and I had never seen so many churches in my life! There was one on every corner. And what was a campus ministry or youth group? I never heard of these. The food was different, the dress was different, the language was different, the attitudes were different (note: some of these cultural differences were also from going small town to 'bigger town').

I felt like I was in culture shock. I talked about transferring- maybe to Virginia (like it would be much less southern or something, ha). But a funny thing happened the following year. I found a group of friends I fit in with. I started to enjoy living in Georgia. I started to accept, then LIKE, the culture. Fast forward ten years later, and I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love the South. Sure, I definitely don't love everything about it and some things still drive me crazy. Sure, there are a few things I miss about living in New York (ok not that many). But I consider myself southern. Not a born and raised Southern Belle, mind you, but someone who loves and belongs in the South.

My parents retired to north Florida several years after I left New York. So apart from a few family members, most of our family has somehow migrated to the Florida-Georgia area. Therefore, when people ask me the question "Where are you from?" part of me wants to say Georgia, part of me wants to say New York, and then part of me thinks that when I go "home" (or to my parents') it's in Florida.

My identify crisis has sparked my thinking about the ways that I consider myself Southern and the ways I consider myself Northern. I had some fun with this, and maybe even got some of my identify figured out!

(Forgive me for my stereotypes)

Ways I consider myself Northern (and/or small town):

I don't wear dresses to football games.
I cannot stand the humidity. Or bugs.
Cockroaches are EVIL and FREAK ME OUT!
I don't own anything Polo.
I use terms like soda and sneakers instead of soft drink and tennis shoes.
I can't stomach collard greens or grits.
I love the North's long, crisp fall season with pants and light jackets.
All Christmases are meant to be white.
I'm always in a hurry.
I don't dress my girls in smocks or monogrammed clothes, except for rare occasions. It's not really my style.
I love authentic takeout Italian, I just can't find any (Olive Garden does not count).
On that note, I do not like Monterrey's, Mexicali, Vallerta's, Salsa's, or any of the million-and-a-half Tex-Mex restaurants.
Interracial marriage isn't taboo to me. Two of my best friends (a friend from college and an older couple) are in interracial marriages.
My social and table manners are not that great (maybe I should go to adult cotillion?!)
I don't own a gun and never want to. On that note, I don't hunt and never want to.
I tried out a social sorority and hated it. Big time. Ditto for rush.
I'm anti-death penalty and still can't believe we execute people instead of letting God be the final judge.

Ways I consider myself Southern (and/or 'bigger town'):

Sweet tea is the drink of choice. Unsweetened tea is gross.
I cannot stand the cold weather.
I plan on teaching my daughters good 'ol fashioned social and table manners (once I learn them myself ;) . It's good for them.
The only way to refer to a group of people is ya'll.
I love almost all southern food (see above exceptions).
I smile at people I walk by.
I have conversations with the bus driver, the cashier, the waitress- everyone! One of my favorite things about the South is that people are so warm and friendly.
I live in a subdivision, albeit a very small one.
Church is one of the biggest parts of my life.
I believe Chic-fil-A is God's gift to fast food.
Football season is by far the best sports season of the year.
I believe in less government, fewer entitlements, and more states' rights.
Admittedly, I have a (slight) Southern accent.

All that said, I love living in the South and wouldn't have it any other way. Ideally, I would like to live a little further north where the weather was more mild and there were more mountains, like North Carolina. I don't know if that will actually ever happen, but if it doesn't, I'd be happy staying here in Georgia.  I like it here. I love my born-and-raised southern friends, even if we are a little different.

I'm a Northerner-turned-Southerner.

And I kind of like having one foot in both worlds.