Monday, September 13, 2021

Our Journey with Celiac Disease

In honor of my sweet girl and today's special mention as Celiac Disease Awareness Day, I am going a little off brand today and sharing our story. I say a little off brand because Celiac Disease actually effects 1 in 100 and many of those cases are undiagnosed. When my daughter was diagnosed at age 5, we were told that most people are symptomatic for 7-12 years before a diagnosis. This is insane to me because the initial diagnosis for us was done with a simple blood test. The diagnosis was then confirmed through an endoscopy with biopsy, which is a low-risk outpatient procedure. 

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disorder, which can case a variety of symptoms. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, which is protein found in wheat, barley, oats or rye, the body undergoes an immune reaction.  This is not the same as an allergic reaction. With celiac disease the immune response occurs in wall of the small intestine, and specifically the villi which line the small intestine and are responsible for the absorption of nutrients as food passes from the stomach through the intestines. If these villi are damaged, they cease to be able to do their job, and the person with celiac disease ceases to get the nutrients they need to grow and live healthy lives. 

People with celiac disease are 2x more likely to develop coronary heart disease and 4x more likely to develop a small bowl cancer. It is also associated with a host of other auto immune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS),  migraines, anemia, infertility and a host of other things as well including a short stature. 

There is no cure for celiac disease, however it can be managed and the damage to the small intestine reduced, by the complete elimination of gluten from ones diet. 

Our Story

After year of slow or no growth in our preschooler, she began complaining of random stomach aches. I passed them off to a stress tummy because she was starting kindergarden and I was pregnant with her little sister.  The stomach aches did not abate and she was in the 20th% for heigh and weight by that point, so her doctor ordered a blood panel to test for celiac disease. The blood work indicated that yes she was having an immune response. We then consulted with a pediatric gastroenterologist and scheduled a endoscopy with biopsy which confirmed the suspected diagnosis. 

There are a whole host of symptoms for celiac disease, some of which she has had, others not so much: 

Failure to thrive

Short Stature

Brittle bones

Delayed growth/delayed puberty

Vomiting

Chronic diarrhea/constipation

Tummy aches

Fatigue

Irritability

Eczema/skin rashes

Damaged tooth enamel

Canker sores

Anemia

In general, the symptoms are associated with malnutrition because the body is unable to absorb the nutrients via the small intestine. 

Living Gluten Free

Because we are a family of 6 and all the children were fairly little but fairly independent, we chose to go completely gluten free as a family for a while. Prior to doing so however all 1st degree relatives needed to be tested. This unfortunately revealed a host of other family members (cousins, aunts, grandparents) who had not yet been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Thus our diagnosis changed the way we ate in our home, but also how family in 2 other homes ate as well.  

Once all the testing was done, we set up our kitchen as a completely gluten free kitchen. Sauces that have soy-sauce for instance had to go (it is made with wheat). Breads and mixes and cereals and all the obvious stuff was given away as well. Rather than substituting with the less tasty GF breads right away (they are less tasty!), we tried to break a little carb addition and hope that our mouths and our minds would forget how good gluten breads tasted. I also found a whole host of new recipes to try out and add to the rotation rather than trying to adapt old favorites as gluten free.  For instance instead of attempting to make my favorite chocolate chip cookies gf,  I found a recipe for gf monster cookies and gf lemon cookies that are both amazing.  

After a short while, I realized that having the entire family gf was not financially sensible. Gf substitutes are generally twice the price of the non-gf foods, and frequently are not as filling. I committed to cooking all our family meals as gf, but then also had gluten breads or cereals or baked goods for her non-gf big brothers and father. The boys were a little older so we made a deal. I would allow them to eat gluten in the house as long as they were careful not to cross contaminate. If she started with symptoms or her bloodwork showed gluten exposure we would go back to completely gluten free. As my daughter got older, she has began to really take responsibility for her diet and when she wants specific gf foods or baked goods she has figured out how to make them and make them well enough that even the boys want whatever she creates. 

As the years went on, it became much easier to eat gluten free. With the popularity of the low-carb or no-carb diets, options like lettuce wraps reduced much of the stress. Packaging began labeling things GF making it easy to find the right foods. In the last few years some grocery stores even have gf sections.  

If you are switching to a gluten free diet, there are 5 tips to help.



If you are not on a gluten free diet, and just reading this for your own edification, that is awesome! I will leave you one more though regarding how to support those around you who struggle with celiac disease. Please recognize that it is not a choice - it is a medically restrictive diet that is exhausting to maintain. It is frustrating not to have the pizza and cake at every single birthday party. It is frustrating to have to explain why you aren't eating when everyone else is digging in at a social gathering. It is anxiety producing to go to functions, weekend retreats, summer camps, friends houses and not know if you are going to be able to eat anything they provide. It is nerve wracking to travel and know that you have to pack all your own food because that special meal you requested may or may not be available, and that town may or may not have gluten free options, and your waiter may or may not have a clue what it means to be gluten free. Living with celiac disease is stressful and frustrating, but can be a beautiful way to grow in self-control and temperance. My daughter learned at an early age that just because something looks tasty and she is hungry and it is right in front of her, that doesn't mean she should eat it. This is the way she was created, beautifully and perfectly for a unique purpose, and this cross will help her to grow in holiness if she perseveres and accepts it. This is her journey and I am so lucky to be on it with her. 

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, July 23, 2021

Are You Raising an Entitled or Enlightened Child?

Are You Raising an Entitled or Enlightened Child?

When I was growing up, anytime my siblings and I would grumble about wanting something, my father would reply, “Want builds character”. His response typically elicited deep sighs or eye-rolls from the children, very similar to the sighs and eye-rolls it elicited from my children when I repeat those very same words. I remember mumbling under my breath something to the effect of “I have just about all the character I can handle”.

Want Builds Character

Like any good adage, this one is grounded in truth. Want or desire is not inherently bad; the desire to have what we cannot immediately have provides fertile growth for a variety of virtues. When we have unmet desires, it can spur us to work harder, to reflect on our priorities, and to be grateful for our needs that are met. Conversely, when we are given everything we desire and left without wanting, our capacity to grow in patience is diminished, our expectations for others are unrealistic, and we adopt a sense of entitlement rather than a posture of service. 

No matter what you provide your children, they will still want more. It is not possible to meet every desire because as humans our appetites are insatiable. At some point as parents, we have to say No. This is about more than just saying No to your children. This is about teaching them to recognize the difference between want and need. 

When we get into the habit of giving our children what they want, but do not need, we fail to help them make a distinction between what is necessary and unnecessary for a happy life. 

When we give in occasionally, we actually reinforce a behavior. Researchers have found that intermittent rewards are the strongest way to increase a behavior. If you want your child to keep asking – give into their requests some of the time. If you never reward their requests, they will stop asking. The worst thing you can do with kids, is to give in to the cry “I want this” every once in a while. They will only ask for more and more and more. 

This doesn’t mean children should never have special things. Setting up parameters for special gifts is a great way to give special gifts. Maybe you celebrate special feast days and give special gifts at that time. The key is being intentional about the gift giving, and not whimsically giving in to the immediate and passionate pleas. When our children request things, we have always just told them to put it on their list. They keep a mental or actual list of thing they may want to request at birthday or Christmas, or maybe to buy themselves when they have earned enough money. 

Children are not mini-adults. They need adults to guide them to understand what is a normal desire for something, and what is really needed in life. When we give into the request and leave our children without unsatisfied wants, we diminish their drive to work for what they want. They don’t associate hard work or individual accomplishments with the achievement of their desires. They come to expect others (rather than themselves) to work to satisfy their needs. None of us want our children to grow up with an attitude that other people are simply there to satisfy their desires (physically, socially, emotionally or psychologically), yet when we fail to say No, we not only spoil our children, we stunt their development. 

Rather than say yes next time your child asks for a want, try to get them to think deeper about their request, rather than just saying yes or no.

What is it about that (trip, toy, activity) that sounds fun to you?
How long do you think you will enjoy it?
Will this affect more than just you/How will this inconvenience others?
Do you need this?
Where will you keep this?
Where will the money come from to buy this?

This summer one of my kids asked me “Mom, am I spoiled”. I took a deep breath and let the question soak in, then with kindness in my voice and love in my eyes, responded, “In this situation, Yes. Yes, you are”. We then discussed together the situation, why this child desired something, and why the request was unrealistic, and what to do with the feelings that were being experienced”. 

When we say No to their wants, get them to think about it, and focus on filling their needs, we are able to parent in a much healthier way. Targeting our efforts on meeting their needs deeply, rather than skimming over the needs and giving them wants instead, is essential in healthy parenting. Learning to say No gives us the space, energy, and resources to say Yes when something important is needed. 

We have to be honest with our children, and help them to process their materialistic desires, or we suffer the fate of raising a generation of children who expect others to serve rather to serve themselves, who expect to receive rather than give, who can’t distinguish between wants and desires, and who fail to recognize the beauty in simplicity and sacrifice. 

The questions I want to leave you with are here: 
Do my children regularly ask for things that I never would have considered asking for when I was a child?
Am I raising entitled children or am I helping them to understand the difference between want and need? 
Am I helping them to find pleasure in the simple things in life, or encouraging their desires to fit-in with the over-indulged norm?  
Am I fostering in my children a desire to HAVE the best, or to BE the best version of themselves?  
Am I raising a Giver or a Taker?

Thanks for stopping by!



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Will I Love My Second Baby as Much as the First? Seven parenting tips to ease the transition.

The Mathematics of Love

The question of having enough love to go around is something that permeates the mind of many expectant parents who already have a little one at home.

If you find yourself worrying about this, know that you are not alone, and there is no shame in the fears you hold. Take comfort in the many many mothers who have been in our place and given birth to many children and come to realize the fundamental truth:

Love multiplies, it doesn't divide. 

Our energy, our attention, our finances, those are fixed to some degree although somehow those too seemed to operate with some sort of supernatural growth in our home as well.

With each additional life you bring into the family, you bring another soul into the world to love and who will love in return.  Our hearts are enlarged as our families grow and our capacity to love depends. There is no scarcity of love.  

Your firstborn is given a new role as sibling.  S/He will be taught to share, to 'love' even if you don't 'like', to fight and reconcile, to forgive, to communicate, to think of others, to grow in patience and to love with wild abandon. The bond of brother or sister is unlike that of any other relationship. Once you and your husband are gone, your child will have another adult with a shared history. Different but similar. They will have the same stories told from a different point of view.

Two children, growing the same home, with the same rules and same family culture, will be very different from one another. I think it is in this difference that we see the possibility of loving both deeply without competition. You just can't compare your children because they are so different and wonderful in their own way, created for two different and unique purposes in this world. 

Furthermore, at different stages of growth some children are easier than others, and that can change as they themselves develop. My third born was the easiest child until she hit 12. I am desperately hoping we return to that ease as she moves into young adulthood!

I recently heard a religious brother speak about community and he reminded me that family is like purgatory - it is the place of our greatest joy and our greatest suffering. This is true for our children as well as the adults in the home. Our relationships with our family members help us to grow in virtue daily, hourly, sometimes moment-to-moment. We learn to love, to forgive, to receive forgiveness, to grow in patience, temperance, prudence. To paraphrase St. John Paul II,  is in the context of the family we learn to give and receive love. We learn to love one another, not because we particularly like one another in the moment, but because we love the family unit of which we belong. I have told my kids more than once - when you fight it hurts ME more than it hurts your sibling. Be kind to your sibling because you love ME, even if you are angry with them. Reconcile with your little brother because he is your family, not because you want to be his best friend. 

As we embrace these daily lessons on love there are of course some practical things that we can do to set our families up for success, particularly as we adapt to the huge changes of having a new baby in the home. Here are 7 practical tips to help ease the transition, and make everything in the home run a little more smoothly. 

7 Practical Parenting Tips

1. Just say YES. Learn to say YES as much as you can, even when you need to say NO. The best way to do this is to learn to do what I call deflecting:  "Yes, I would love to do that. We can put that down on our list of things to do" (or something to that effect). So we say yes, but not right now. It is similar to what we do when our kids ask us to buy things for them. Rather than saying No, we say "Awesome idea for your birthday/christmas list. Let's right that down". You affirm the idea even when it isn't possible at the moment. 

This is a way for you to help your child of any age, to grow in their recognition that you are not there to be their slave, you have multiple responsibilities, you desire to help them meet their goals, wants or desires, but you are not always available to them on a 24 hour schedule. 

Older children can be part of the process to figure out how to make things happen. "Yes, I would love to do that. I am doing X right now, but when do you think we could do Y?".  Or "Yes, that sounds like fun thing. Can you find out more details about it?" Our children have been involved in searching for vacation homes, restaurants, parks, hours for stores or museums and more. There are often little things they older ones can do that involve them and help them develop skills, and give them a greater awareness of how complicated things can be. Often they come to the "no" answer themselves after doing just a little bit of research. 

2. Enjoy Together Time. Include your older child in your home duties or routine. Bigger siblings can be a huge help with laundry, kitchen duties, or helping get things for baby (or you!). Reinforce how much you appreciate the bigger sibling's help. Let him or her know the specific things you value "I love how you pitch in and help me with the laundry each day" or "I am so thankful to have your help with this clean up". Do not emphasize that things are harder or busier or more difficult with baby. Focus on the ability and skill of the big kid, and your delight in being with him or her. 

Be open to time together, rather than constantly striving to have 1:1 time with baby, and 1:1 time with older sibling. One-on-one time with your child is awesome and will happen naturally. If you are try too hard to cultivate 1:1 time initially it can be frustrating for you and the older child. The reality is that now your life occurs as a family. Your baby doesn't know any different. Your older child will adapt. As your schedule allows, perhaps during baby nap time, you can work some individual time for big brother or sister into the daily schedule. Try to protect the things in your schedule that are most special to you both, maybe it is a story at bedtime or playtime in the bath, then let go of the other things and be ready to create new special time together as a trio. 

3. Breathe and Count. Little ones need to be taught how to deal with the frustrations that come with a change in family life. Specifically, it can be very frustrating to have a sibling messing with your things. My son loved legos and nothing was more frustrating for him than having his brother come mess with his building. As baby becomes mobile s/he can be an irritant to the older siblings. I taught my oldest to count loudly when he was frustrated with his little brother. It is a classic psychology tip to help people of all ages to deal with anger (stop and count to ten), and prevents them from simply lashing out or yelling "mom" all the time. 

4. Sharing and Not Sharing.  If your older child is struggling with the little one, give your first born a small place or space where little hands can not reach for their special things. It is not unreasonable to want to have some privacy or special things that are not shared. This is especially true when we consider how rough little ones can be, or that some of your older child's toys may not be safe for the little ones (think choke-ables). Have a space or place where your older child can keep some of his or her special things, that aren't designed for the baby, or that are particularly special. 

5. Create a New Flexible Routine. Your new routine should be flexible to adapt to the evolving schedule as needed with baby. One of the most difficult time for new moms is when baby needs to eat, but toddler or preschooler wants attention. Plan for that and have activities on hand that can engage the siblings while you are occupied. 

One thing that worked well for me was having a special activity I could do with my toddler while I nursed the baby. For instance, sticker-time while I fed the baby became part of our daily routine. I loved these sticker books (click here) by DK publishing because there was just the right amount of words vs. stickers, and the stickers did not stick well on OTHER things. They have a bit of a puzzle type layout and are great for preschool aged spacial reasoning. We are also huge readers, so reading with the toddler or older siblings during breastfeeding time helped immensely. This nursing pillow (here) was a lifesaver for me because I could almost be handsfree with baby and able to hold the books. Some of my favorite books are Emily Wilson's new board book for girls, Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Where the Wild Things Are, and of course Curious George.   

6. Stop the Guilt. You did not do anything wrong. A sibling is a gift to the whole family. Put the guilt behind you and recognize that the Lord has a design for your family that will help each member grow in holiness. Part of that plan for your holiness is the family life, and all the joys and struggles that come with raising children. Part of God's plan for your children's holiness, includes a shared family life. Embrace it. Trust in the Lord. Rather than focusing on things you wish were different, look for evidence of God's love for your family everyday. Holding onto the guilt is not only damaging for you, but it can foster resentment between the children. Do not apologize for giving your older child a chance to practice patience or any of the other virtues (i.e. I am so sorry you had to wait while I changed Baby), but rather compliment him or her when they act virtuously (i.e. You did such a great job waiting so patiently!). 

7. Don't Force it.  For some children, having a baby in the house is the best thing ever. They dote on the baby, the want to play with her, hold her, feed her.... other children really don't care. Some of these differences are due to age, but most of it is just temperament. It does not mean that the children will grow up especially close or distant. Don't worry about it. How a child adapts (or struggles to adapt) to a sibling is no indicator of how close the children will be in grade school, teens years, or as adults. Their lives together are hopefully going to be very long, and you don't need to force a friendship. Friendship will evolve if you encourage the growth of virtue in your individual children. 

If you are struggling in a particular way and this post hasn't helped as much as you wanted, find me on Instagram and send me a message. I am here for you. You aren't alone in this!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Friday, July 2, 2021

What your kid really needs may surprise you

We went on vacation this month as a family and drove a days journey north to the great state of Utah. It was about 20 degrees cooler than Arizona, but still warm and sunny. We traveled initially for the regional play for my oldest child’s soccer team, but then stayed an additional week for family time.

What surprised me most about the trip, was that amidst all the amazing and extravagant things we planned to do, one of everyone’s favorite part about the vacation was the family time together. Particular favorites were the nightly games and sharing three meals a day together around the table. And I agreed. I cherished the time where it was just the six of us laughing, teasing, or recapping stories of the day. 

As I sat on the balcony one afternoon reading through sociologist Joshua Packard’s report on GenZ from Springtide research, I came to a deeper appreciation of why the kids (and I!) cherished that time together.

Today’s teens and young adults are in large part lonely. A 2018 report by Cinga Heathcare found that the GenZ cohort is the loneliness of any generation. We think they are connected online and with technology, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t lonely. In fact, the young adults of today report the highest level of loneliness or any generation at anytime. 
Among 10, 000 surveyed young adults, 24% of those in the 13-17 age range reported that they feel completely alone either always or sometimes (2020, Springtide). 

We are living in an increasingly isolated environment. We strive to meet the individual needs of each child, but I think sometimes I fail to recognize the importance of the collective time together. I say yes to everything I can, wanting the children to have experiences and time with friends, yet sometimes a better answer is ‘No’ – tonight we are having family time. Our kids need it. We need it. 

A friend recently hosted my family for a beautiful dinner. It was a year in the planning (thanks COVID) and a serious battle to keep on the books. I said No to sleepovers with cousins and birthday parties at a resort, and even an expenses paid weekend away with my husband. Everyone was pulled in a different direction, but between 4:45 and 8:00 I mandated we be together at our friend’s home. And it was wonderful. We laughed, and shared, and celebrated friendship together. 

It doesn’t have to be a big vacation, or a dinner party with friends, although those were the experiences that lead me to this new awareness. It doesn’t even have to be really great, memorable time. We still had fights and cursing and doors slamming on vacation too. What we need as a family is simply to be present for more than a check-in. We need to share life together, not live in separate rooms under the same roof. We need to sometimes shut down the screens that pull us away. We need to carve out time to be with one another, to love one another, to live life together. What our kid's need most is not complicated. 

Our kids just need us.



For more on this topic be sure to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. I will be covering various aspects of this (and other stuff too!) over the next few issues. Subscribe here.


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Eight Brilliant Parent Hacks for Your Next Family Vacation

I love a good vacation, and it has long been a goal of mine to make our family trips more of a vacation for us all. This summer we headed north for a few weeks in the great state of Utah. The mountain ski towns on Utah are only about 10 hours from the Phoenix area and the drive is beautiful. As I was unpacking from our 11 day trip yesterday (both figuratively and literally), it realized we have developed some parenting hacks worthy of sharing. Whether you are going away for a weekend stay-cation, or a jaunt across Europe, these 8-tips will help keep everyone smiling. 

1) Let your kids pack.  Make a packing list with each child, and then give them ONE small suitcase. Have them cross off each item when they put it in the bag. Double check as age requires. If it doesn't fit in the bag it doesn't go. Plan to do laundry if you are gone for more than a week. 

2) Give them a small travel bag.  Give your child a small back pack for their extra items (toothbrush, books, sketch pad, sticker books (I love the Ultimate ones), charging cords, water bottle, gum etc.) and anything else they need to keep quiet and happy for hours while traveling. 

3) Kids carry their own stuff. When our youngest was little we bought a scooter suitcase similar to this one by another brand  (click here) for our Europe trip and it was awesome. Small but functional and it helped the little one keep up with us as we walked the airports. Once the big kids realize they will have to carry their own gear, they get pretty good at packing light. The one linked with my affiliate is heavy duty enough for any age traveler. 

4) Build in down-time everyday - Even after your kids are through with the naps! It is really great to relax on vacation. Resist the urge to be on-the-go 100% of the time. Target one special thing a day and then chill time or just explore a little. I will never forget my oldest whining a few years ago about having to see "one more old thing". I had overpacked the schedule when they just needed a pool, park, a playground or a big kid nap. 

5) Don't spend your whole time in restaurants. If you figure 1 hour per meal, 3 x a day, that is a lot of time (and money). Grab deli-meat and bread and make sandwiches for lunch on the go, or cereal and milk with some plastic bowls for a quick breakfast or pre-bedtime snack. Eating out it part of the travel experience, but it is pricey and the kids don't appreciate it in the same way we adults do. Plan ahead a little for some quick, easy dinners that require little prep and few ingredients. We made both shrimp scampi and lemon chicken piccata on this recent trip and those dinners were better than any of the food we ate out. Pastas and rice are super simple and cheep to make in any kitchen. 

6) Don't spend your whole time in the kitchen. We usually stay in rental houses when we travel which gives us the benefit of a kitchen, but I want a break too! This summer we hit the perfect balance. Breakfast at home and then either lunch out and dinner at home, or we packed lunch and had dinner in restaurant.

7) Find the Free Stuff. Part of a great vacation is experiencing life in a new place. Play at the parks, go on hikes, look up times for farmers markets, flea markets, or free admission days at the museums, and talk to the locals. As budget permits do some extra stuff, but find a balance. One of my favorite memories of Spain is walking the open flea market in Madrid. It was awesome. 

8) Do laundry before you come home. I remember years ago feeling a sense of dread as I drove home after a little family road trip. I love my home, but re-entry and all that goes with it can be a challenge. I was dreading the mountains of laundry, the grocery shopping that needed to be done, and the bickering that I knew was coming as we tried to mobilize all hands to help unpack. So we started doing a few loads of laundry at the end of the vacation. For this most recent trip, all the kids came home with clean clothes in their suitcases, able to unpack their folded clothes and put them away directly. 

I admit after almost 2 weeks away, I am happy to be home (although not so happy with the heat here during the Arizona Summer!). I hope you get a chance for a little or big get away this summer as well, and if so these 8 tips will help your trip seem more like a vacation. 

For more on traveling with children read some of my archived posts: 

RoadTrip Survival Guide

Vacations vs Family Trips

Journeying with Friends

For more photos and thoughts from our trip check out my Instagram here. 

Safe Travels and thanks for stopping by!



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