Monday, December 15, 2014

Journey to Healthy: Complimenting GAPS

So if you have been following along, our family has made some drastic changes. We have implemented the GAPS diet and several other natural solutions for our health and home.

Read about our health prior to GAPS:
Our Unhealthy Past
My Journey to 80
Journey to Healthy: Starting GAPS
Journey to Healthy: How Will I Have Time for GAPS?
Journey to Healthy: GAPS So Far

After about 5 weeks on the GAPS diet and focusing on healing our guts, my two year old son started to come down with a really bad respiratory cold. That night, I could literally hear him wheezing from outside his bedroom door. In our family, when any colds come into our home... EVERYONE gets it with sometimes the exception of myself. I mean really, how do you keep the 2 year old from crawling on top of the baby and not coughing in his face!!??! And if anyone gets it, my daughter does. I prayed over my kiddos and was already preparing myself for the doctor's office the next morning.

See, my doctor ALWAYS seems to push the antibiotics. I knew that if my daughter got this particular cold that it would go respiratory and I would be getting antibiotics for her. I was soooo anxious about it. I knew I didn't want the antibiotics, but what choice did I have?!?!? I called the dr and got in. While I got my little guy ready for the dr, I called my good friend, Becky, who was also helping me share about GAPS and other natural solutions with families, to tell her my worries and my heart. Certainly she would have some wisdom. She is such a great listener and really encouraged me. She said she would stop by that afternoon with some things that would help. So off to the dr I went.

Sure enough... ANTIBIOTICS were prescribed. My heart sank. The dr said it sounded bacterial and away I went to CVS pharmacy and filled the prescription. Would you also have guesses that like all the antibiotics have red dye??!!?!? That made me even more upset that if my daughter got this cold we would be undoing all that we had worked for.

So...let me stop to explain why.

Bacteria is on the outside of your cells. Viruses hitch a ride inside your cells. When you take antibiotics they kill ALL the bacteria, good or bad. This causes damage to your gut and immune system because you are killing the very lifeblood of your immune system. If you are treating a virus with antibiotics, you are killing your bacteria for no reason because the problem is on the inside of the cell and the antibiotics can not penetrate the cell membrane. The CDC says that the number one health concern is actually super bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. These bugs have been created because the bacteria becomes resistant to the antibiotics. It "learns" the composition of the antibiotics and they no longer become effective. So pharmaceuticals are having a hard time keeping up making new, different and effective antibiotics.

Back to my story...
I came home and Becky arrived just a little later. She literally came with a bag of about 10 essential oils! I knew of a few oils that I used to make my cleaning supplies and my homemade laundry soap, but I had never experienced them on my body or my kids. She was sooo encouraging! She showed me how to use them and I was pretty excited but also hesitant. Sure sounded like voo-doo to me!!!!! BUT... if they could help keep my kiddos off of antibiotics and protecting their guts I WAS ALL FOR TRYING THEM!!

Essential oils (EO) are extracts from plants. They are about 50-70x more potent than herbs. For example, 1 drop of peppermint oil is comparable to 28 cups of peppermint tea. Each oil is made of hundreds of different compounds and each compound can be used for different supports for the body. Pharmaceuticals actually study these natural compounds and try to break it down to see what makes it effective against sicknesses. Then, they replicate it synthetically.

So essential oils are available in different grades and qualities. There are synthetic oils that are used in perfumes, potpourri, lotions, etc. Then, there are food grade oils which are like your extracts and "natural" flavorings. Lastly, there are therapeutic grade essential oils that can be used for health benefits. The essential oils I had were high quality therapeutic grade essential oils. I could immediately tell a difference from the ones I used to make my cleaners and the quality of the ones Becky gave me.

One of the oils I used was a blend for respiratory support. I made like a mock vick's vapor rub and began applying it to my son's chest. Then, I got all the kid's feet and started applying another essential oil protective blend to help support their immune system so none of them would get sick. I also gave my son a bath with Epsom salts and eucalyptus to help draw out the sickness. My hubby definitely came home wondering what on earth I was doing! Hahaha! He was definitely concerned about not using the antibiotics. If the dr said to use it, we should use it. I felt like without a fever that it was potentially viral and I wanted to give the oils a chance.

We made a deal! Every 2-3 hours we would check him and see how he felt and then reevaluate if he needed the antibiotics. For sure if he got a fever or got worse, I was giving him the meds. So... at bedtime we checked him out. He still had a cough, but it seemed like every time I used the Breathe he did better. After a few hours, I went to reapply the the "vicks type mix" and I had to feel his chest moving to make sure he was breathing. It was a total transformation from the night before. BUT... I was still trying to be rational about it and still wasn't sure about the oils working.

I checked on him that night and reapplied the oils. He seemed to be doing a little better. That morning he had the morning dry cough and again the respiratory blend seemed to help. By now the kids thought it was funny to take off their shoes to apply the protective blend. Such a funny place for an oil. My son seemed a little better by lunch, but the hubby... not so much. He was starting to get the cold. So he finally decided to try the oils.

Long story short, the oils kept working. They worked so well the antibiotics expired and went into the trash!!!! I was amazed. I started spending so much time researching. I started researching brands and types of blends. I soon found that I could help my 9 month old with an essential oil blend for digestion which helps with all kinds of tummy problems. My youngest had such terrible reflux he was on the adult dose of Nexium!! He was miserable if he missed his dose too. Just a week prior I had held him for 2-3 hours straight screaming uncontrollably because I had forgotten his dose. I was so ready to find an alternative.

Less than a week and a half later after using the digestive blend, he started refusing the Nexium and was still sleeping through the night. The first time it happened I cried and prayed over him not even thinking that the oils had worked. We went from 3-4x a week, to 2-3x a week, to 1x a week, down to COMPLETELY OFF OF Nexium in just 7-8 weeks!! I was flabbergasted!

Later, we would see help with my daugthers allergies and asthma... and with my chronic back pain! I spent time studying brands of essential oils and research behind them. I was so intrigued. I couldn't help just sharing what I was experiencing. My SIL got to try like everything we were trying because I just couldn't believe the results!

God had already brought about the passion and desire to help families find natural solutions and support when we started our Facebook group: LUNK Real Living without the Junk. Now, God began to work in my heart about sharing the oils with others as well. He just kept bringing people into my life that were also searching for ways to get healthy and not use antibiotics or synthetic drugs as much as possible. I questioned him for a long time. God, I already have so much on my plate with this diet and homeschooling! What are you doing? Is this really what you have me to do? Minister to others in this way? I waited. I prayed. God led.

My husband was on board. He was even using the oils. My mom was on board and helped me get started in sharing oils as a side income. God was leading Becky in the same ways He was leading me. Now, Becky and I were teaming up to teach about essential oils as well.  (Karin if you read this... it is soooo your fault!! ;) )

So my days are full and my nights are long... but my heart is full knowing that God has led me to this place in my life to help give answers to others... esp those I love dearly that are facing terrible physical circumstances!

Find more information here about the essential oils we have chosen for our family.

Journey to Healthy: GAPS so far

So as many of you know, we have been on a quest that I have labeled: Journey to Healthy with my family. You can read the beginning of our journey here:
Journey to Healthy: Starting GAPS
Journey to Healthy: How Will I Have Time for GAPS?

As you have read in my previous posts, our journey has been 5 long years of praying and waiting upon the Lord for answers. Through our journey I have cried and prayed over other children and families that have similar stories too. So... you are wondering... how are things going?

Our family has been TRANSFORMED!

GAPS so far

L being silly with Aunt Abby!

So... let's start with my 5 year old daughter. The process has been slow with her. We eat soup once a day with homemade meat broth from antibiotic free and/or grass fed meats. She initially hated having soup that much, but she has grown accustomed to it. She was such a picky eater so that took some getting used to. It really helped that our family was doing most of the diet together. I don't cook separate meals so she doesn't feel left out most of the time and when she does... she knows that Mimi and Mommy can't have it either! She has lost 2 lbs. over all and she lost it right away. I am guessing it was literally die off from the bacteria because she hasn't lost any since that first two weeks.

Currently her allergist, pediatrician and GI specialist are all on board and excited about the results! She has been great with her tummy and we did discover that her reactions to processed sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup, have a DIRECT IMPACT on her behavior. We had to give her Benadryl about a month into the diet for several doses and it took about 4-5 days to get her back to a normal kid state. We are guessing there is an intolerance to red dyes as well, but she still reacts to the dye-free Benadryl.
September Family vacation to the beach

I was totally on board doing the diet with my daughter, but boy was I in for a surprise as to how much this diet would change my life! I have dropped 35-40 lbs since Aug 1!! That's about 4 months and most of that weight came off in the first 12 weeks! My body feels sooo good! I had NO IDEA how much my diet was playing into my energy level, mood, weight and chronic back pain. I thought that maybe my back was just enjoying the weight loss, but just last week I cheated on some gluten-free pretzels and a gluten-free cake for my youngest son's birthday. BAM! TERRIBLE PAIN in my back! (Thankfully I had some Deep Blue to help... more on that later!) I had a week of waiting out the pain and it slowly went away. So... no cheating for me.

You know one of my hesitations in doing the GAPS diet, and probably one of your reasons too, is the time it takes to prepare everything. Well... now 4 months in... it is pretty easy. I have been in a little bit of a rut now that I am also working (I KNOW... I'M CRAZY! More on that later too!) but it really becomes second nature. When I am in doubt I steam some veggies and grill some steak! Mmmm. And if I need a treat... smoothies are the ticket or some almond flour chocolate chip cookies. YUM!

I have also seen this turn around without adding any probiotic capsules and a limited amount of natural probiotics in my diet. I am just too afraid of the die-off going into my milk while nursing. Many people do, but with having a sensitive baby already... I am taking my time with it for sure.

So as you know I have made my own homemade laundry soap, baby wipes, cleaners... and now this journey to healthy with GAPS... it has given me a passion to share with all of you... everyone I talk to! So many of us are suffering physically and just don't know where to turn. I started a Facebook group called LUNK with my girlfriend Rebecca! It is LUNK: REAL LIVING without the JUNK! Follow us as we share all kinds of natural solutions for health and home.

So... have you read the book yet?
Have you been wondering if you need to try it?
I'd love to hear your stories or answer any questions!
Feel free to find us on Facebook or ask here in the comments!

**I have also found some great support for our family's health through doTERRA essential oils... but that is another post coming soon! This is where the Deep Blue came into our update.

**Read about our health prior to GAPS:
Our Unhealthy Past
My Journey to 80

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Journey to Healthy: How Will I Have Time for GAPS?

Previous Post-- Journey to Healthy: Starting GAPS

I knew I was headed in the right direction starting the GAPS diet. Everything in Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride just made plain sense. But to be honest, I was completely overwhelmed trying to understand where to start! Many excuses... very valid excuses... kept coming to mind.

How can we afford buying everything fresh and natural?
How can I make anything my picky eater will like?
and the most valid one of all... 
How will I have time to do all this work?

We just traveled to North Carolina for vacation with my in-laws. My sister-in-law approached me one afternoon and simply stared at me with the most caring eyes and started crying telling me how I am such a wonderful mother. She told me how proud she was that I was doing this diet for me and my little LJ.

First let me say... YOU CAN DO IT! If you feel that this diet could be the one thing that will help you or your family... then YOU CAN DO IT! I am not some super Mom! I homeschool my kids. I get tired. I deal with chronic pain at times. I have a messy house on more occasions that I'd like to admit. With only one of us working, we naturally have a very tight budget! If I can do this... you can too. It just takes the guts to jump in and a willingness to learn. It just takes one change at a time.

Really the main obstacle to living GAPS is learning, learning and more learning. It truly is not a "diet". Diet to me means... restricting yourself from foods to drop some weight. This is a life change! You have to put the habits aside and relearn how to do things. This is a new way of thinking!

You can not do GAPS without 3 major changes in your eating habits. 
(1) You must get antibiotic free, natural meats. The antibiotics kill the good gut flora.
(2) You must eliminate ALL processed foods and starches. This includes any sweeteners (with the exception of raw honey) and unhealthy additives. Sugar and starches feed the bad bacteria.
(3) You must heal your body with probiotics and probiotic foods. This includes drinking meat broth, eating unprocessed yogurt and kefir, and eating cabbage. I would also go as far to say that you need to eat more prebiotic foods (foods that feed the good gut flora) like bananas, garlic, onions, etc.

These are just the MAJOR changes in your pantry :/ There are plenty more changes Dr. McBride talks about in her book! I know it can sound overwhelming. I was there too! As I read the book, I honestly got tired just thinking about all the things I would have to learn to make and do on a daily basis!

How will I have time for all of this work?
So now that I have told you that I am not super woman, let me tell you that sometimes I think I am and over do it! As I was getting started I told myself... YOU CAN NOT DO IT ALL!!! If you are thinking of living GAPS... repeat this to yourself! YOU CAN NOT DO IT ALL from DAY 1. It takes time to learn and make it a part of every day life.

Start with researching. Read the GAPS book. Start figuring out where you can find things for the diet. Gotta love throwing it up on Facebook and getting all kinds of people to respond :)

I took about 45-60 days to slowly get to the point of going on the Full GAPS diet. Here was my process:

Read some inspirational GAPS stories online to get me motivated!
Dropped all sweets and pop
Found a farmer, butcher and prices on beef.
Decided to find 2 recipes a day to start building my recipe box.
Dropped chips, cereal and potatoes.
Bought unrefined extra virgin coconut oil on Amazon.
Dropped breads but kept some wheat in my diet (ie: wraps)
Substituted dried fruit for my LJ's favorite, fruit snacks.
Tried to find local raw honey to buy in bulk.
Started cooking with coconut oil in things when I could substitute it.
Went strictly to a gluten-free diet
Bought organic butter and started making ghee.
Ordered a nut bag to make my own nut milk.
Made homemade almond and coconut milk.
Made almond flour and coconut flour from the pulp from making the milks.
Dropped ALL grains. Rice was the last to go for me.
Started all natural grassfed beef and antibiotic free chickens. 

Started eating breakfast at 10 AM.
Stopped eating fruits and meats together.
Started making broth and eating soup for lunch everyday.
Got together with a friend who buys more natural than me to find out where the best prices are for things.
Started researching probiotics and where to buy them.
Found a GAPS legal coconut milk in a can that has no additives at Trader Joe's.
Made homemade coconut milk yogurt.
Canned tomatoes and peaches
Started learning how to soak nuts and roast them.
Started making condiments: mayo, ketchup, peanut butter, dressings
Switched to organic bananas and apples.
Found GAPS legal sausage and ground pork.

I am still in a process now 8 weeks into the diet. I still haven't changed my eggs 100% of the time to antibiotic free. I still buy mostly non-organic fruits and vegetables.

I will tell you that it may not be easy every day, but it is WORTH IT! I feel great! I feel so different as a person. I have dropped 20 lbs. I feel more at peace. I have more energy. I don't have major fatigue spells, cramping, bloating or swelling. The way I feel motivates me to keep going with my family!  It makes me realize just how much my food was affecting my body!

I still tell myself... YOU CAN NOT DO IT ALL!

I have to remember that I am learning and I'm learning a lot in a short period of time.

My friend Becky has really encouraged me that every change... every single choice... is making an impact. My family is more healthy than before I started. Just keep progressing!

As Dory would say... 

You can find all of my victorious and failed recipes on my Pinterest boards.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Journey to Healthy: Starting GAPS

Read about our health prior to GAPS:
Our Unhealthy Past
My Journey to 80

Well I have received sooo much feedback and questions about how the GAPS journey has gone so far. So many people have either heard about it or have considered jumping into it, but decided that it was just too much work or would cost too much money. Before I get to an update on how it is going, let me start by explaining how this all came about for our family.

Finding Out about GAPS
Around April, I talked to a friend about her journey with food allergies. I had asked her to pray about LJ because she was about to get the prick tests done at the allergist. She ended up really opening my eyes with her own testimony. She has food allergies to MANY things. She also has had some depression struggles in her life. She shared with me how in the past 5 years she has made so much progress. She said she had discovered that most of our immune system is in our gut and that melatonin is produced in our gut. No doctor prior to her natural doctor had made the correlation between stomach problems and her depression. She also explained that food allergies or intolerances are caused by foods leaking out of our gut and if left untreated, you just develop more food allergies.

Suddenly some things made sense about my LJ. She had suddenly developed a sensitivity to a new allergen and some times it seemed she had already hit puberty with some of her mood swings.

I came home with some new found hope about my LJ. I looked up information on my friend's alternative medicine doctor and realized that I could not pay the $$ to go there. So I started to pray. I figured if God wanted us to see this doctor, he would provide a way.

I posted something on Facebook about my hope to get answers and a couple people threw out the term leaky gut to me. This put a name to the foods leaking into the system. Thank goodness for Google! On to researching I went.

WebMD suggests that the medical community doesn't really know much about leaky gut. Leaky gut is basically when your intestinal walls become permeable and foods are released into the blood system, turning into toxins in the body. (There are many pictures on Google that can give you an idea of what I'm talking about.) So... the foods that take the longest to digest are often culprits of "food intolerances" because they are not as easily absorbed before penetrating the walls! That totally made common sense to me. Dairy has like two processes to get digested and grains take a long time to digest as well. Hence, LJ struggled with them among some other things.

So... at that point I was pretty convinced LJ had a leaky gut, but how to fix it? My neighbor talked about her having healed from psoriasis on a clean diet. Well all this talk on Pinterest and FB about clean eating intrigued me and at that point I kind of looked into Paleo and GAPS. Just about the same time I met a lady my age who struggled with ulcerative colitis and had some great success with the GAPS diet. I hadn't researched much about GAPS at this point, but she was very helpful and encouraged me to try it.

I came home and explained my findings to my husband and even told my Mother-in-law about it. Within a few days she called me to tell me that Dr. Oz had had a program about leaky gut. All around, it seemed like GAPS kept popping up everywhere in conversation and that God was pointing us to the new journey on GAPS... but could we do it?

Deciding to Do it
Ok. So I have to admit, as I began researching this new thing called GAPS, I was skeptical and a little overwhelmed thinking about the restrictions! No Wheat! No rice! No oats! No sugar! No canned fruits or veggies!  No processed anything! No Heinz ketchup! No Jiff peanut butter! No... No... No...

Suddenly I recalled a friend who had told me about all these things she couldn't have on a diet she was on a few years back. Honestly, I remember thinking...

"she's crazy! How can she go without ___ & ___ & ___? I could never do that!" 

Well... I confirmed with her... yep! Same diet! YIKES!

At that point, I just kind of held off... knowing this was what we needed to do, but how can I make my picky eater do this? How can I afford this? WHAT AM I THINKING?!?!

So... I made the easy wimpy way out... I decided that I would try it first! I could be a guinea pig! I'd see how this would go for me and maybe transition her on it. I kept researching on the GAPS site. It just seemed so confusing for some reason.

I wanted to know why... teacher here remember... gotta learn the WHY! So... I bought the book... the best decision I have made on this diet so far! If you are considering the diet, buy the book. It's called Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. It really helped me. I highlighted and tagged so much!

What causes leaky gut?
The unbalanced gut flora (bacteria). (Surely you can remember the Activa commercials, right?) If the good gut flora are outnumbered by the bad ones... the walls become permeable. Then those bad gut flora become toxins in your body!

Hello auto-immune diseases! Got one of them? What American doesn't? What does every American eat too much of sugar and carbs! What do bad flora want to feed on... yep sugars and carbs!

Ok. So neurosurgeon and nutritionist, Dr. Campbell-McBride explains it so much better in her book... but that gives you a basic idea. You can read more on the GAPS site or in her book. So many things that were eye opening that I could go on for awhile...

Suddenly on the pages I was no longer on a journey for my baby girl. Now written on the pages I saw myself, my son, and then even my Mom. My children got their tummies from me. (Hence a genetic piece of the puzzle!)

Inflammation? Yep... Chronic Back Pain!
Bloating after eating? Check!
Cramping? yuck!
Diarrhea? How did I not pay attention to that?
Auto-immune disease? Yep! Hashimoto's Thyroid disease
Allergies? environmental, including intermittent asthma
Depression or Anxiety? Not extreme but bouts of "PMS" moods... what woman doesn't :)
Milk intolerance? Ugh... don't eat ice cream before bed! Been thinking I was lactose intolerant for a long time!
Eczema? some on my hands here and there

Formula fed? Yep!
Antibiotics as a kid? Who hasn't? But I even have an allergy to Penicillin because I had it so much as a kid!
Other meds that hurt your gut? the pill, ibuprofen, pain meds... ugh!
Bad diet? As a kid it was Kraft Mac n' cheese, pop and fast food! SUGAR for sure! CARBS oh yeah!


Suddenly so many things made sense. I looked back at LJ's health history! BAM!!! Antibiotics when she was under 2 days old pumped solidly for 48 hours! The good gut flora that she got from me... killed by antibiotics! IT SEEMS SO OBVIOUS NOW!! And there were cycles... sickness... antibiotics... diarrhea... bad eating...

Suddenly the guinea pig option was out! Now... FOUR of us were in! Me, my Mom, LJ and baby T!

Bring on the probiotics!
Bring on all the No foods!
Bring on learning to cook differently!
Bring on... a whole new ME... a whole new family!

This isn't a diet... it's a life change!
One that I am so glad we are making!

Now... where to start?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Our Unhealthy Past

Many of you know that we have struggled with LJ's health since her birth in 2009.

Here is a little recap of what has happened with her health:

a couple days old

At Birth
LJ, our firstborn, was born at 5 lbs. 14 1/2 oz. and 19" long. I had been induced at what they said was 38 weeks even though it was full term according to my cycle dates. I had been contracting for over 3 weeks. After I was induced, I still had a 3-4 hour labor. I had back problems during pregnancy and could barely walk, hence the induction. At birth her hips were loose, but that resolved within her first day. We waited a little while for her first bowel movement and wet diapers were not frequent initially. At 48 hours, LJ spiked a temperature and was sent to the NICU. Immediately she got a spinal tap and an IV with antibiotics for 24 hrs. From the very beginning she wasn't very good at latching and so we struggled with nursing. (Looking back I think the fever was due to poor eating and I wish I would have told them to supplement a little formula to get us started.) She also wanted to feed 45-60 minutes, which soon wore down my back and sent me into emergency back surgery when she was 4 weeks old.

NOTE: all vaccinations were given on time!

Early On
At 3 weeks old, she transitioned to the bottle. Unable to keep regular formula down, she went right to a soy formula. We had to watch her weight constantly as she was labeled with Failure to Thrive. (Oh if I could just talk to earlier self to help with this diagnosis.) She had baby acne right away and that lasted for a while. She also developed bad diaper rashes and eczema. She also could not eat a normal volume of milk. Projectile vomiting and arching was common at feeds. We had to try to keep her calm.

3 months old and just out of NB clothes

Even at 7 mos she could only take 3 oz of milk at a time. We charted everything she took in. We would do a happy dance if we got in 18-19 oz. in ONE DAY! (If this had not been my firstborn, I would have been a sore mess knowing that a normal baby gets 28-32 oz. a day! ) Often, LJ would refuse to eat any of her bottle. I would force it, offer it every 10 min, and often rock her as I wept. I tried to stay calm. I prayed and sang as much as I could. When she wasn't eating, she was gnawing her fist in hunger, but knowing that her tummy would hurt she would still refuse.

One nurse would ask if she had Down's. I tried to be gracious but my heart hurt. Not only was feeding my new baby so stressful, but my back kept me in constant increasing pain. One orthopedic doctor would tell me... "ehh, she'll eat when she's hungry". My pediatrician was very helpful but she didn't have answers. She kept ruling out things... but looking back a lot is so clear if only someone would have known what to look for.

I finally got a brain around 5-6 mos and took a video of a normal feed. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed that I thought... let's make these people see how difficult it is! What a brilliant idea! She was immediately diagnosed with silent reflux. (Clue: If a baby refuses to eat, cries, gnaws their fist, and eats better when they are asleep... REFLUX! Boy do I wish I would have known that. ALSO... wet burps... yep not normal! That's reflux too!) The answer they gave was Prevacid! It didn't work at all so we went off at 10 mos. (Honestly many other parents I have met with that have tried it have not had any success with it!)

Rice cereal was given in each bottle to try to weigh down the milk to keep it in her tummy. This did help her eat more regularly and kept the milk down more... but it still didn't fix anything.

7 mos old. Happy Valentine's Day!

Starting Solids 
The norm was to start solids at 4 mos, but we waited until 7 mos. and kept the bottle until age 2. We started with proteins right away. At age 10 mos she had an MRI done. Around age 11 mos, we went to a pediatric specialist in Indy and even consulted a dietician. It finally felt like we would get some help. They ordered her a Pediasure equivalent in soy form called Bright Beginnings and a powdered fatten-er called Duocal.They also ordered a Feed Study at this point because of her bad gag reflex. All came back normal.

The dietician actually made things worse :( She at first wanted us to push dairy even though she was off dairy. We had to remind her no dairy... Then, she said well push margarine or butter in everything to beef up calories... DUH that's dairy... but not thinking we did that for a little while until I got a clue and I just went back to plain food.

Thankfully LJ showed great development! In fact, she was checked out by 2 First Steps therapists at 2 separate times and passed with flying colors. They were a huge encouragement! I still remember one of them saying, "your job is to offer the food and her job is to eat it". This really helped me to have more peace at eating times! What great advice.

16 mos.

Making Some Progress
At 16 mos, LJ finally made the chart! She was 3% of the national average! I did a happy dance because she gained 3 lbs in 3 months! That was like super awesome for her! I definitely think most of her progress was from the Duocal. She continued with the recommended vaccinations and ended up with chicken pox around this time.  She also had antibiotics for slight pneumonia a few months later. 

20 mos old

At 20 mos, I finally started making a correlation to food allergies! Not sure what took so long... no one had even suggested it. I had given her Benadryl off and on for what I thought was seasonal allergies... but NEVER THOUGHT OF FOOD ALLERGIES! Geesh! Anyways, I saw a clear reaction (runny, itchy nose, sneezing right after eating at a restaurant) on our way to see a Pediatric GI Specialist and I gave her Benadryl which helped immediately. The GI specialist helped us confirm a suspicion of allergies. She also informed us that reflux is eczema on the inside of the body so it made sense that she had both. (IF ONLY SOMEONE WOULD HAVE SAID THE WORDS AUTOIMMUNE!)

At 23 mos, she had an endoscopy. She had some irritation, but other than that, nothing came back abnormal. She did suggest an allergist at this point, but being that she was so young we didn't want to do the prick tests. Instead we eliminated foods and watched that no dairy or eggs got into her diet. She made VAST IMPROVEMENTS AT THIS POINT!

2 years old--- starting to plump up for sure!

More Progress
LJ continued to have progress. Taking away the bottle was soooo hard at 2 years old. She would only take milk in a bottle and water or juice in a cup. There was no forcing her to take soy milk at this point. When she dropped the bottle, she was done! I remember our pediatrician saying... she is the most strong willed child she had ever witnessed in her practice; strong willed like her own daughter :) We tried soy milk Popsicles, chocolate flavored, and even smoothies... eventually we gave up and just offered it to her several times a week and sneaking it her oatmeal, which was a staple of hers. Instead we pushed V8 fusion juice to at least boost her calcium in take. At about age 2 1/2 she finally started drinking it on her own.

over 2 years old signing "cat" in ASL
Recent Struggles
She was growing very well... still a little short in stature, but the food allergies were definitely a major factor in her growth. As soon as we eliminated them, she did so much better. She also developed Urticaria at some point. Basically you break out in hives from extreme cold or heat. Thank you google! She had always complained of her bath being too warm and had broken out in hives here and there. But now it was more pronounced. 

Summer she turned 4

At age 4 1/2 she suddenly started major diarrhea. We eliminated all of the top 8 allergens to try to work it out. She got better, but no true resolve. After blood work and stool samples, we were off to the allergist at age 5. After prick testing we found that she has sooo many environmental allergies, but only one food allergy showed positive, walnuts. So... we tried introducing foods again. Wheat... not good. Peanuts... fine. Soy... fine. They called wheat an intolerance. Such a foreign word to me made me go researching again.

Several friends threw around a new word to me... leaky gut. That led me to GAPS. So that's where we are now. Suddenly so much is making sense, which is great because our third born has developed a dairy allergy and eczema! 

THIS MOMMA WANTED ANSWERS... 5 years was too long to wait! Hopefully our journey can give you answers that you may be searching for!

Are long time prayers being answered? Come join our journey... hopefully a journey to healing for our family...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Busy With THREE!

Well it has been a long while since I have written a blog post.


I'm loving every single moment though... well most of them. Hahaha!

Ben and I hit our ten year anniversary just a little over a week ago! What a blessing! I definitely love my man more and more as time grows us together! To celebrate we traveled way north to Mackinac Island! It was such a peaceful and relaxing time! We biked, walked, ate the lunch buffet at the Grand Hotel and enjoyed dinner and lunch on the water! It was so refreshing. Something about no cars and only biked and horses on the island made the atmosphere more relaxed! The smell of fudge every 50 feet downtown was hard to walk past!

Here is an update on the rest of us:

Our littlest joined our family a few weeks before Christmas and it is crazy to think that he will be eight months very soon! He is crawling... sitting up on his own... saying Da-Da ... and GROWING UP WAY TOO FAST! He is really a joyful addition to our family though! He smiles just about all the time. We can't imagine our home without him!

Our two year old has adjusted to being the middle child really well. He loves his younger brother... a little too much :) He loves riding his tricycle around our little cul-de-sac. He loves hitting his baseball with Daddy. He is always trying to keep up with his older sister too!

Our two oldest loving being in our new neighborhood. They love playing with their friends. There is a homeschooling family next door that is about to have their fourth child. They are great neighbors and we just adore their whole family! We are very blessed!

Our oldest seems to be blossoming into a girl more and more everyday! It is hard to believe she is 5! We started homeschooling kindergarten last Fall and took a LONG break while we were adjusting to a family of 5! While other families were ending the school year and preparing for summer, we were breaking out the books again. 

She loves animals so I have been integrating Science into our Phonics, Reading and Writing curriculum! Every two weeks we work on a new letter. We have been learning about all kinds of animals that go with our letter. We write down their habitat, what they eat, whether they are herbivores, omnivores or carnivores, and one interesting fact. It has been so much fun. I'm so thankful for our time together. If I had to give her over to school each day this Fall I'd be such a mess right now.

This fall we will be joining a home school co-op. Every week for the semester we will enjoy some socialization and classes with other homeschooling families. I'll be teaching some ASL classes while the kiddos enjoy some classes like music, art, Lego challenge, etc. We are so excited!

Many people have asked about our desire to home school. With my teaching background, it is definitely my passion to make learning a part of our every day life as a family. With teaching K and 1st it seems kind of silly to send my daughter to someone else when I can do it myself. There is also a desire to impact my kiddos for Christ in these easily influenced young ages! How cool to teach your kiddos beyond the classroom subjects too! I'd love to teach them baking, cooking, sewing, etc. and give them opportunities to learn outside the classroom. Ultimately though we don't know how long God will provide for me to stay home or when He might lead us to send them to school. So... we will pray each year about it and enjoy it for every minute I get to have them here.

Healthwise, my back has been doing well. Besides back labor with #3, I have been relatively healthy! This has been a big change! So thankful to be able to keep up with all 3 while feeling well.

That's where we are at... in a simplified nutshell! Hope you'll drop us an email or text and let us know how life is treating you! Hopefully I can keep our blog more updated too :)

Til next time... live life and enjoy the blessings God gives you each day!

Friday, January 31, 2014

New Mama: Getting Registered

Congratulations on becoming a new Mama! 

If you've even stepped into Babies R Us or Target to start your gift list, you may have easily become overwhelmed with lots of questions. 

What do I really need? 
How many will come in handy? 
What brand should I go with?

My sister-in-law had the same questions. Here is what Babies R Us says u need. Well here are some thoughts from me and my sister-in-law, Samantha to help you get started!

>If u are looking to save money, this is a great area to save. You can find like-new cribs for around $100 at consignment shops like Once Upon a Child.
>If you go with white it is easy to convert old furniture to use... like a dresser... with just some paint.
>You can save by buying a convertible crib. If so go for one that goes to a twin. The toddler conversions aren't the greatest in my opinion because they end up being higher off the ground. Plus, some parents just transition their toddlers to a twin. 
>Also keep in mind that a toddler bed runs around a $100 so make sure you are truly saving money if you are buying a conversion.

Changing Table
>Some of my friends just use a changing pad around the house... on the floor, on the bed, on the couch. This saves them room in the nursery and money for other nursery items.
>I prefer some sort of changing table. If you decide to get one, you definitely want something with storage or a diaper hanging bag for your supplies. 
>I wish I would have just used the top of my daughters second hand dresser. It gives you storage on the top in the drawers. When they are potty trained you just have a dresser and have not wasted money on a changing table. Some just put a wood framed box on it or crown molding that goes around the top of the dresser.

Other Furniture
>You won't need a night stand any time soon. I spent my money on a tall book shelf that I use for my kids books and the top for the lamp and things. Neither are necessary.
>Remember when looking at a dresser that eventually your kiddo will get out their clothes. Make sure it is short enough and easy to open.
>A recliner may be more useable than a rocker. For me the recliner was more spacious and comfortable.
>If you get a rocker, definitely get something comfy or you won't end up using it much. A glider is also safer for when the children are playing in the same area. 
>Don't forget some night lights so you can see them without waking them with a bright light.

Changing Pad & Covers
>I love my 4 sided pad, but it is harder to find big enough covers.
>You will want 2 covers for when one is in the wash.
>You will also want to buy some waterproof pads/liners that you set on top of the covers for little accidents. It will save your covers while you have newborns who tend to pee all over. 

>I have about 5 small and 4 larger waterproof pads. I use them in the swing, on the changing table, in the car seat and on the sheets for more protection on your fabrics and covers.
>My step Mom had a great trick too. She would put 2 sets of sheets on the crib and a waterproof pad in between them. If they got wet during the night, she would just strip off the top layers. No making the bed at night.
>I don't use any crib mattress pad covers. My crib mattress was plastic so I just wiped it clean if it got dirty.
>I also don’t like bumper pads. By the time the baby can roll around you have to take it out, so for me other than being pretty, they are worthless.
>Get 2-3 crib sheets! Sam and I both had reflux babies, so we use more than the average Joe. I think I had 5. You can't have too many if you plan to eventually put them in a toddler bed or have more kiddos. 
>I also bought a used crib sheet from a hand-me-down store as my "sickie" sheet. I used this sheet whenever my kiddos were sick so that it kept my other sheets nice looking. Plus, if it gets too gross, I just dump it on the trash and go get me a new one.
>If you are using a bassinet, you'll want 1-2 sheets for it. It is really hard to use a crib sheet. It just don't fit well enough.
>If you are buying a Pack n' Play, they make special sheets to fit them. I would suggest just using your crib sheets. They will be large, but are easy to fold over the edge. If you really want one though, you should only need 1 unless you travel often or use it around the house. 

>You'll want 2-3 swaddling sized blankets. I like the flannel type.
>No matter what season your baby is born in you'll want 2-3 fleece or thick, soft blankets to wrap them in. Newborns need to be kept warm. Even if you aren't dealing with snowy conditions, you still have to deal with air conditioning too.
>You'll also want a thick, warm blanket to go over your car seat unless you buy a special car seat cover.
>Sam had a great suggestion! When picking out warm blankets, don’t go too thick. Imagine still having to control a wiggly baby inside it.
>You will also want 2-3 receiving blankets that are medium warm. These are bigger than a swaddle blanket. You'll use this to play on the floor and to cuddle with when it isn't too cold. Crocheted blankets are my favorite! I sometimes use these over the top of my Pack n' Play to keep the fan or air conditioning from blowing directly on the baby.
>This is just me, but I don't waste money on crib set blankets. In my mind they are super expensive and I would rather have a sentimental homemade blanket any day.
>Bottom line...lots of blankets :)

Bath Time

>Infant towels and wash cloths aren't essentials. With my third kiddo, I just use normal towels. However, it is really nice to have cutesy ones and people love to get them for new Mamas. I would suggest 3-4 sets.
>Robes aren't really necessary either, but I love bundling my little guys into a cute robe. They make adorable pictures too! People love to get this for a new Mama!

Bath Tub
>You'll want a tub that is easy to store and has something to hold a little baby. Mine has a little sling in it.
>My MIL uses a sink and a hand towel on the base to help with slipping. Both Samantha and I feel a tub is better with strong kicking legs and floppy bodies.
>I use a wet washcloth, bucket of warm water, soap and a towel on the changing table for a quick bath for the first two months.
>When my kiddos are sitting really well I use a laundry basket. This helps with siblings that take a bath with them too.

Infant Care

Burp Cloths
>Don't waste your time on registering for special burp cloths. Register for 2 large packs of cloth diapers. These are more absorbent and easy to bleach if they get terribly stained or stinky.

Health Items
>You definitely want a humidifier which puts moisture in the air. I used to get warm air ones until a pharmacist said that a cool air one is safer because a warm air one can put bacteria into the air. Cool ones are easier to clean too.
>We got the Crane Ultrasonic Elephant Cool Mist humidifier. We’ve had to replace a little part but the company sent it express mail for free.
>Get a good thermometer. We have a head scanning one but it isn’t as accurate. I would rather an ear one. You’ll get a regular thermometer and aspirator at the hospital.
>Don’t forget a grooming kit!

Baby Products
>Check out my opinions and thoughts on shampoo/ baby wash in this post. I prefer all Burt’s Bees products for their safe ingredients and nice smell. My favorite things are their bubble bath and fragrance free/tear free wash. They have a diaper ointment that I have not tried yet, but hope to soon.
>I don’t use lotion much on my babies, especially in the first 6 weeks. As their skin gets used to being outside the womb it will get flaky at times, but it is best to not over bath them and just let their skin adjust.
>I LOVE using baby powder. It can really freshen a baby and help dry up a bottom.
>Vaseline and diaper cream are must haves.

>Don’t bother registering for a lot clothes. Just pick out anything that is very specific that you want. You will get TONS of clothes!
>Register for lots of socks. Get a few packs for each size up to 12 mos.
>For winter get a warm coat, booties and hats.
>For newborn to 3 mos, you will mostly use sleepers. Remember those 8-10 diapers a day! You’ll want something easy to open and not a lot of layers. Zippers are the best because at night you don’t have to think about snaps!
>I also love the newborn onesies or sleepers that cover their little hands like mittens. This keeps their nails from scratching their face and their hands warm!
>Sam likes the bag styled sleepers. Just remember that you can buckle a car seat or swing around them.
>For little girls, register for some cute bows. For newborns, use some Karo syrup or KY Jelly to attach cute little bows to their bald heads!


Car seats
>If you aren't getting a travel system, it will come with an infant car seat. This is the way to go with a newborn in my book!
>Definitely think ahead and register for a convertible car seat. This is for an older child. The guidelines just changed.
>Register for a convertible car seat that can go up to the car seat weigh limit. If you can find one with a booster seat go for it. They will use it until like 1st grade so get a nice one.
>A funny little thing, but a BUILT-IN cup holder is REALLY NICE when your kiddo is old enough to use it. You can get clip ons, but they don't work so well. Getting sippy cups and snack cups thrown on your car floor is no fun!

>I prefer a travel system. This really saves my back and I love the security of using it in stores because a car seat in a shopping cart is not always the safest or easiest to use.
>Make sure to test it out or at least the brand. It should be comfortable to push, easy to fold up and put into the car!
>You will want a lightweight one for your larger toddler. This is nice because when they are older, you'll pack a lot less things... so there isn't a need for the bulkier one. Open it up and make sure it is tall enough. We got a cheap one and it is so low I slouch to push annoying!

Play Time

Infant Swing
>This is a lifesaver!! This is where I spent my money. A swing is great for any baby, but especially a reflux or colicky baby! 
>It is a play area and sometimes a bed. Seriously it may be your crib for several months!
>If you're baby gets sick and is stuffy, it will help with breathing too.
>I love my Graco Sweet Peace swing! It goes all different directions which is great for a colicky baby! I also love that I can put my Graco car seat in it for a smaller infant or a sleeping infant right from the car!
>The biggest thing is you want something that can go sideways and not just front to back. Most babies prefer that motion.

Sleep and Rocker
>These are a newer and replace the idea of a bassinet. I just got my first one and I LOVE IT! It really keeps them more swaddled and I can rock the baby if they need help falling asleep.
>I also like how the baby isn’t laying flat. This helps settle a baby’s full tummy when you have just finished the late night feed!
>These are also WAY cheaper than a bassinet.
>Did I mention they are simple to fold up and take places too?!?! LOVE THEM!

More Play Things
>You'll want a play mat for tummy time and floor play time.
>I hate bouncers because that's what my swing is for. Many Moms swear by them though.
>Don't bother registering for books, DVDs or toys unless you want something specific.
>Bumbo seats were the rave. They are to help learn how to sit but we barely used it. My son got too fat in the legs for it and my daughter was always in the swing or high chair for play time.
>I never had a jumper, but I have been thinking about getting one for my third child. I have friends who had toddlers that loved the jumper over the stationary exersaucer.


>You will not know what your baby will like until you try some out. However, a well vented bottle will save you a lot of belly aches and spit ups.
>If you are planning to want to plan on registering for at least one 8oz. set in case you have to pump!
>If you are planning to bottle feed only, you may want to register and then return them if the baby hates them or get several 1 packs to try until your baby finds a favorite.
>My friends mostly rave about the Tommy Tippee and Dr. Browns bottles. I like that the Tommy Tippees are very well vented. I used the Milk Bank bottles and they are no longer available. They were triple vented and perfect for my reflux babe!
>When you pick a brand, you will eventually want 8-10 8 oz. bottles. Honestly I wouldn't waste money on smaller bottles. 
>You will want all the sizes for the nipples. You will want enough to have one for each bottle. Check your bottle package to see which size comes with the bottle set before registering for other sizes.
>Get a nice bottle cleaning brush. I love the ones with a suction cup bottom.
>Get the small bottle and sippy cup cleaning brushes! You'll need them for the vents!
>A bottle warmer...not worth the money or headache!
>A sanitizer is great if you are bottle feeding and going through a lot of bottles every day. You can use the sanitizer to clean your pump parts, binkies and bottles.
>The Medela sanitizer bags are great for a Mom who just nurses, a Mom who randomly uses a bottle or when you are traveling. 
>You can just clean and not sanitize, but it really helps to get them fresh and truly clean! I normally quick wash the parts and then put them in the sanitizer. It saves me a lot of hassle. Swish, pop into the sanitizer and then 2 min in the microwave!
>A bottle drying rack is not a necessity. Now 3 kids in I wish I would have gotten it because I have an organized personality and I love when things are in their place.
>I also love having my dollar store plastic buckets for all the bottle and sippy cup pieces.

Breast Pump
>Before registering for a $300 pump, call a local hospital supply store and see if your insurance covers it. Both our primary and secondary insurances covered a brand new one for 100%. I just had to get a script from my OB. I dropped the script off at about 35 weeks and I picked it up a few days after my baby was born.
>If you can’t get a free pump, you can buy a second-hand one. You will just want to replace all of the main parts except the air tubing. You’ll need breast shields, valves and bottles. I bought my used one for $80 and spent like $15 on new parts. Just make sure you match the brand of pump you have to the parts. They are not universal.
>If you are not sure how long you may need a pump, you can also rent one from the hospital or supply store. I think the hospital charged $30 a month.
>Some wonder if they need a pump if they nurse. I have always needed one whether to keep my milk in, increase my supply, pump an extra feed for freezer supply or when I had a babysitter. For me it is piece of mind.
>This time around I got a hands free bra. I know this will be a great help now that there are 3 kids!

Nursing Accessories
>I never found covers very helpful. I just always used a light blanket.
>Nursing pads come disposable and washable. Washable is definitely the way to go. I made mine. Here is how
>I ended up using a shield, but many women don't. You can always get one at the hospital or later if you need one.
High Chairs
>Several of my friends have the chairs that attach to the table directly. They love it because it is easy for travel and saves on space.
>I got one that is a beast. I have the Graco 4-in-1 high chair. It rolls around and can be made into a booster seat too. It does take up A LOT of room. I do like that it contains the mess to their area and not on my table. I also love that it is a higher model which saves on my back. Plus, I can roll my kiddo to wherever I am working in the Kitchen because most of the time I am cooking or cleaning while baby is eating.
>In my opinion, if you are going to go big, get one with wheels. Who has time or space to fold it up or the strength to pick it up to move it?
>I guess the space saver booster seat type high chairs are kind of a happy medium. I’ve never regretted my beast though, just sayin'.

Other Items
>I LOVE my boppy for bottle feeding or nursing. It helps to balance baby and save my arms.
>Pacifiers are one of those picky things. Some kids like them and some don't. Most nursing babies tend to like them. There are relatively two types. There are the gumdrop kinds and the more traditional nipple style (ie: NUK brand). This is a trial and error kind of thing.
>Pacifier holders are so great. They keep those binkies off the floor and when they are older they can get their own binky!! I love making them! Here is how.
>My first two kiddos hated teething rings.
>My best friend is gripe water for upset tummies. You can find it at Wal-Mart and most grocery stores.

Diapers and Wipes
>Sometimes it is hard to guess how many diapers you will need. You definitely want to register for NB-size 2.
>For my 8lb. babies, I used 1 value sized NB box and a small package until they grew into size 1. Even though the NB size says up to is really more like 10lbs.
>Remember you will use 8-10 diapers A DAY for the first 4-6wks. 
>You will go through at least 5 value boxes of size 1 and size 2.
>My fair skinned baby broke out with every diaper except Pampers Sensitive. My other kiddos took the cheap brands. For newborns I prefer the Pampers Swaddlers because they show the line when they potty which is not very easy to tell with a NB.
>Wipes are different in quality for sure. Huggies and Pampers are the thickest. If you are looking for a chemical free option take a look at my recipe here.
>If you are cloth diapering, check out my thoughts here.

Diaper Bags
>Go for easy to carry rather than huge. We have a larger one for newborn-early toddler. We have a mini backpack for walking age and older to hold a few essentials!
>I raided a travel section at Wal-Mart for some small Vaseline, wipes and baby powder to reduce the load!
>Some women just get a fashionable bag or purse and share the space with baby items. I tend to carry my clasp wallet in the diaper bag!


I’d like to leave you with this little bit of advice from Samantha about your new journey into Motherhood. She is a new Mama and I thought it was very insightful:

“Don’t stress about having every detail in order ahead of time. Just stick to the basics. It’s a whirlwind and usually the most important things are just basics: food, diapers, clothes, warmth (hats and blankets) and hygiene. Then imagine it getting pooped and puked on and PRESTO you have the picture of life with a newborn!”

Well said SISTA!