Friday, August 31, 2012

Nature Walk Friday

The kids and I took the camera along on one of our obedience walks for Lucy around the yard. Along the way, we found some interesting things. Come join us on our walk!

We scared a frog by the little fish pond. Now we know to try and sneak up on it next time. Along one side of the pond this weed grows:


Miss Bear says they are blueberries (they are not and most definitely not edible!). My dad calls it skunk weed because of the smell it makes when he pulls it up. Whatever it is, it is growing like crazy around here. I do find it pretty, but I will be sure not to crush it.

A few buckeye trees, our state tree, grow on one side of the lot. The buckeyes are starting to drop. The kids are amazed at these and keep wanting to open more. The boys even planted their own buckeyes in the hope of growing their own tree.




My uncle grows a garden in the lot next door. We have had our share of tomatoes lately and making some wonderful homemade tomato soup. I love the look of asparagus leaves. I never liked asparagus until I had it picked fresh. What a world of difference! These stalks get me excited for the spring.



And here's a lovely little yellow flower. Another weed of some kind but pretty nonetheless.


Finally, check out this tooth my kids, the archaeologists dug up. Not flowers and greenery, but interesting enough.


Don't forget to see other nature walks over at Elisa Loves.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saturday Morning Reflection

On a Sunday... and no doubt it will be evening by the time this is published!

Along the path of the outdoor walking stations of the cross at a local shrine.

Good news! I am feeling so much better with the new diet (I prefer lifestyle rather than diet since it is for life). I thank God that my withdrawal symptoms were minor and a little summer cold helped suppress the insane hunger. For the first time in so long, longer than I can remember, I felt just plain tired from the day, instead of extremely tired or some other kind of tired even though I barely did anything. I also have at least double, if not more, energy than before! My mind is clearing up as well, and does not feel dull and foggy. It really is amazing what is one man's food is another's poison.

On the technical side, I said in a comment that I would post my Celiac panel test results. Interestingly enough, my doctor diagnosed me with only a positive AGA-IgG and AGA-IgA. And most likely using family history. By itself, those two tests being positive mean at the very least a gluten sensitivity or leaky gut syndrome of some kind. (The test shows markers the body puts out when attacking foreign objects, in this particular case, gluten.) Both my EMA and TtG tests, both of which are more specific to Celiac came back negative. I chose not to have a biopsy done and my doctor did not bring it up. A positive biopsy of the small intestine showing damage is the gold seal for diagnostics but more and more doctors are diagnosing on bloodwork alone given family history. Skipper was the only one who underwent the procedure. The poor kid had so much damage the GI doctor could see it even before taking the biopsies to be sent away for confirmation. But now he's growing like a weed. Praise God that we only have to change what we eat to be healthier - no medicines and no medical procedures other than follow-up blood tests!


I am so thankful for Confession. The kids and I visited a local shrine (dedicated to Our Lady). We visited some of the grottos - they have a walking outdoor stations of the cross - before heading into the small chapel for Confession. We did not stay for Mass but plan to in the future. This little place is only a ten minute drive from me and offers daily Mass and Confession.


Our newest family member and one reason I could not get on the computer yesterday:


She is a 4.5 month old lab mix we call Lucy (Skipper's suggestion). Lucy is definitely all puppy but smart as a whip. She came to us after living in at least two other homes and so has learned a few bad habits, but in just the past few days she has really caught on to who's the boss (hint: not her!). Given maturity and training, Lucy has the potential to be a great family dog.

This week will be low-key because of Lucy but we need to do a few errands: register Lucy with the county, the vet, and the library. The rest will quickly be filled in with play (possibly the last pool play of the season), school, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and dog training. And not necessarily in that order!


I am planning to finalize a post on our school year that's been in the drafts forever. It will depend on a certain puppy, baby, and daily chores.

I am thinking that somehow there is a thought between training a dog and the faith. Hmm, a little more thinking on that and perhaps a future post.

A little humor... I was deboning a roasted chicken to use the bones up for broth when Critter asks Skipper, "I wonder where chickens come from? Maybe a pig?"

The statue of these children look up to Our Lady of Fatima.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gluten-Free, Here I Come

I received my test results from the doctor today, and sure enough, I am positive for celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that both of my boys have (they tested positive nearly three years ago). As bad as I have been feeling lately, I am perfectly fine with this diagnosis. I do not have to wander the grocery aisles or wonder, "what in the world am I going to eat" as I have been living this diet through the boys for nearly three years. But now, where I would eat gluten when they ate gluten-free, such as pizza, I now join them.

What I found interesting - incredible - even is how little informed some family members still are about celiac disease, despite our constant explanations, saying yes/no to this or that being gluten-free, and how to prepare foods. Crazy! Perhaps some of you are familiar with the disease, perhaps not so I thought I would share a little if you are interested.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body attacks itself. In this case, the body creates an autoimmune response to gluten (all forms of wheat, rye, and barley, and contaminated oats) and attacks the body's intestinal tract. There are little "hairs" called villi in your intestine that do a few good things like grab up the nutrients from food your body needs as well as block the bad stuff from crossing the intestinal barrier. Well, in an untreated celiac person, those villi are flattened, leaving the intestines wide open for food particles to cross the barrier and prevents the person from absorbing nutrients. And this, my friends, is what causes a whole host of problems.

In nearly all cases, the celiac person has a genetic pre-disposition for it. There are lots of people running around with the gene, but something triggers that gene to come into play, like an illness or pregnancy. Once upon a time, celiac disease was thought to be an early childhood disease and the few children diagnosed with  it were literally on their deathbeds, unable to eat the very foods that sustained the "normal" public, and suffering from failure to thrive and malnutrition. But, science is catching up. Today, it is estimated that 1 in 133 people have active celiac disease (but I was told only 1 in 4,000 are actually diagnosed) - and this does not even go into the many, many more people who are gluten intolerant without having celiac disease! This is big stuff, and I believe you will find more and more people having to go gluten-free, and there will be a radical shift in our food consumption.

As far as symptoms, it can cause a myriad of problems, or none. Yes, that's right. All this nasty stuff can be going on inside of you, without you ever knowing, destroying your intestinal villi and increasing your risk for acquiring other autoimmune diseases, malnutrtion (which causes even further issues), osteoporosis, lactose intolerance, certain cancers (such as intestinal lymphoma), and neurological problems.

But, what exactly are the symptoms? Classic symptoms - what doctors typically looked for but many people with the disease do not have - are abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. Other symptoms, however, can affect not only your GI system, but your mind, your skin, your entire body: irritability, depression, anemia, upset stomach, joint pain, muscle cramps, skin rash, mouth sores, dental and bone disorders, neuropathy (tingling in the legs and feet), weight loss, diarrhea and/or constipation, gas/bloating, weakness, fatigue, stool changes (foul smelling, oily), stunted growth (in children), osteoporosis. And I am sure there are those who have walked this path that can add to this list. To show you how different people present, I will share my boys' pre-diagnosis symptoms as well as my own.

Skipper... As an infant and toddler he was pretty healthy. He had the typical colds and the odd high fever time to time. From birth, he pooped - a lot and all the time. It did not change (not until he was gluten-free). He was exclusively breastfed prior to solids and up through about 20 months. When he became ill with a fungal infection when he was nearly four, the diarrhea worsened. After mentioning it to the doctor, celiac disease was mentioned. Boy, do I miss that pediatrician! He also had unexplained anemia at one and a huge appetite. He was always a great eater, ate a wide variety, and had no problems with growth. He was off the charts until he turned one, where he has hung out at the 95th percentile for height. His weight did slowly drop to around the 50th percentile, but seriously he went from chunky to tall and skinny, taking after our typical family traits so I thought nothing of it (by the way, he still is very tall and still very skinny!). Closer to diagnosis he did start to want only gluten-filled foods like animal crackers, bread, pizza, mac-n-cheese, etc. And, I did notice he went through spells of not wanting dairy, and then trying it to only refuse it so I think that was due to a lactose intolerance, long since resolved on the GF diet. Really, if it had not been for that crazy fungal infection, we would have no idea what celiac disease was, but here we are. :)

Critter... diagnosed via bloodwork after Skipper's positive bloodwork and biopsy for celiac. If Skipper had not been first diagnosed, I believe we would have been led to this diagnosis through Critter. Like his brother, he was pretty healthy. And like his brother, his bowel movements were the same since birth only he was more on the constipated side. Looking back he definitely had the bloated toddler tummy but he was also quite a chunky one and was always bloated that we did not see it until he went GF and it went away. He also had issues with speech and no kidding, two weeks GF and he had a huge jump in speech! But what would have made me question the doctor was his growth. He was off the charts and at the top like his brother but the fall he was 2 1/2 I realized he was still wearing the same size shoes and the same clothes from a year ago! Plus, whereas his brother ate and ate and ate, Critter seemed to want less and less and avoided the very foods that were making him sick.

As for me, I am not really sure what is due to gluten, but what brought me to the doctor was a general feeling of not feeling well. As I have already mentioned, I have been struggling with depression for a bit now. Between that and the fatigue, the stomach seemed minimal. I did have bloating, cramps, and some stool changes, but I really thought that was from having dairy. I was tired of headaches, of looking pregnant (the bloat), of waking up and an hour later struggling to keep awake, of the wild mood swings, of the hunger, the irritability. I think it will be interesting to see what clears up for me going gluten-free.

So, as you can see, celiac disease can come across in many different ways. Even Miss Bear, who has tested positive for one of the tests used for celiac disease (though she is not confirmed celiac yet) is tall and skinny, starting to eat more and more gluten like her big brother did, and worst of all, is a very moody child. It has been tough, figuring out what is going on and what to do.

The only cure for celiac disease is a GLUTEN-FREE diet/lifestyle. No, it will not go away. It lasts forever. One little does hurt. Cross-contamination is a real thing. This means nothing made with wheat, barley, rye, and oats - like cake, cereal, bread, cookies, many soups, noodles, etc. - can be eaten. Thankfully we live in a time where many food choices abound and if you are willing to experiment in the kitchen, it is actually fun.

Anyway, I thought I would share so if you found this interesting, I am glad. Never fear to ask questions when it comes to someone's diet. I would rather you ask and learn than stumble about, ignorant and unwillingly to find out more.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday Morning Reflection

This past week...

Another week has passed. It was a long week because of illness, but despite that, it was a good week. After a fun weekend of "camping" out and enjoying family, I thought to settle into a normal week of school, with a trip to the grocery store (much needed) and the library. But, Skipper did not feel well on Monday though it seemed to pass quickly and he was up and playing and eating normally. The following morning Miss Bear seemed fine and then she was not. She passed the next two days, feverish, like this:


I almost had to take her to the doctor for dehydration because she was barely awake to drink! She definitely had the worst of it. Miss Z was off as well but nursing - lots and lots and lots of nursing - kept it from getting out of hand. Skipper's reformed another day and Critter had a two day spell. They are all now sporting cold symptoms.

This past week was a perfect one for watching some videos and catching up on some reading for history. One really cute movie we found on Netflix that turned out to be quite educational (in a subtle way unless I interjected my voice in) was A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventure. This little turtle searches all over for his one true love, and he finds himself in many situations. This could lead to talks about geography, the food chain, trash and recycling, whaling, biology, oil spills, etc.

Our reading was all about Ancient China. I found three neat little chapter books. Originally I wanted to have Skipper read one to me, but I ended up reading them this week so we could wrap up this unit. The books are from a series of Read-It! Chapter Books Historical Tales. The three we read were Stranger on the Silk Road: A Story of Ancient China, The Jade Dragon: A Story of Ancient China, and The Emperor's Painting: A Story of Ancient China. There are more books in the series, covering different parts of history. I found mine through our local library. Also, to note, I had not realized that the Stranger on the Silk Road is actually set past 1,000 A.D. (we are studying all of B.C.) but we had talked about silk making so it still fit for us. Another book that would work but I did not see until I looked at Amazon was The Terracotta Girl: A Story of Ancient China.

One last thing of note last week was my first visit to a family/environmental doctor. It is going to be a slow process. After talking with him, he was definitely, without a doubt, on board of totally eliminating milk, egg, and peanuts from my diet. Despite my negative allergy skin test in the past, he said if I react the way I do, I am allergic. So there you go. Our first step together as a doctor/patient duo is to retest for celiac disease. I had been tested when the boys were first diagnosed but that was nearly three years ago! And my digestive issues seemed to be worsening... So I am awaiting test results before we move on to the next step. I am glad to be doing something and actually having a doctor on board.

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Today...

The kids are still recovering. I need to buy some healthy, belly-filling, cold-fighting foods. I was thinking of cooking a chicken for some homemade chicken soup. Perhaps a beef stew another day. Something warm and easy on the throat.

I also have to pick up the pictures I had taken of the kids. I cannot wait to see them and put them up!

Confession!!!

And hopefully, but probably not, feeling kind of yucky myself, is finally getting to the basement and organizing all the boxes that were stuffed down there during the move.

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This cutie always makes me smile.

Random Thoughts...

On Prayer... I have really struggled with prayer. So much so that I will start and within a few heartbeats I am wondering what I was even doing. This past week I really tried to concentrate more on prayer and I found simple lines to be the best - "Jesus, I trust in You" was a favorite. These little one-liners really helped pull me out of myself this week and helped lift me up. I am sure there is something nice little quip about simple prayer out there. Simple is definitely working!

A Little Humor... Skipper told me at dinner the other night, "I do all my stuff now. I've never been in time out my whole life, since I was seven." He cracks me up. Thank God for that.

On Journaling... I have never been much of a journaler, but this past week, I thought, why not? I have so much randomness going on inside of me, perhaps it would help to write it down. I am keeping it online because of little eyes who can read now. It's simply a private blog and I write a little morning meditation and a nightly list of thanks. I throw in some quotes, prayers, and health stuff as I feel the need arise. Little quick bits that do not take much time. It has been a great release! And, it will be a good to look back on to keep inspiring me and to track my health.

And finally, I leave you with this. I found the quote at Tiffany's for the Assumption and love it.

"O Mary, my Mother, be my refuge and my shelter. Give me peace in the storm. I am tired on the journey. Let me rest in you. Shelter and protect me." ~St. Bernadette Soubirous~

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Assumption of Mary


Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Assist your people
who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us, poor sinners.

~~Ancient Prayer

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Fitting Quote, No?

I receive daily minute meditations in my email via AmericanCatholic.org. Here is a recent one, definitely fitting for what I posted earlier, and one I plan on copying out. I wanted to share.

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God is going to take care of us, whether or not we can see down the road. He will not let us walk in darkness and leave us there alone. He will not let us walk to a place and abandon us. 

And now, to get busy. I need to start some bread for the boys so they can enjoy their first pizza pies off the campfire. A tent needs setting up, but I see it's now starting to rain! We need to rain so desperately so no complaints, but I really, really hope for a clear night. And boy, it is chilly outside! I love it!

Peace to your weekend.

8/11/12: Saturday Morning Reflections

I sit here this morning - a cool, quiet morning, with the sound of a train in the distance and the slurp of my son drinking his first ever morning tea (mint with a touch of agave syrup since the honey is gone). The morning mist and dim light remind me of autumn not too far off. After a summer full of hot days, this wet and cool morning is a sigh of relief, a wonderful respite.

I sit here, and I think, reflecting on the past week, the past months, the future. For a long while, I was not going to write about what has been happening with me. It was personal, it was silly, it was not what I wanted to share. Yet, then, I write nothing, and am quiet. Not a bad place to be really, if that were the truth of the matter. However, on reflection, I think that this is the very place to share, this little blog where I strive to lead a Christ-filled life, and not am empty place filled with a day here and there of activities.

Still, I am hesitant. It is not an easy thing for me. I look around and see so many who are hurting, who are in pain, who have no home, no friends, no food, no God to sustain them, and yet, here I am, so richly blessed. I have a home - not just one, but two (until we sell anyway), plenty of food to choose from, a supportive and loving husband, four beautiful children whom I am able to see grow daily, family whom I am able to see often, freedom, and most importantly, I can know the one true God. I can pray to Him, cry to Him, be with Him, suffer with Him, love Him.

And yet, I do not. I had forgotten that I could place suffering with His. How could I have forgotten? How is it so easy for me to think that I am the only one struggling to live day to day, to be all He asks of me, when I feel so lost, so very alone, so very without God?

Depression... I hate the word. I hate the feeling it fills me with when I think it. For a long while I did not want to admit it - to myself, but then I did, and then, I did not want to admit it to others, but now, I am. I have done this dance before, going to the edge and back. Long ago have I learned to hold tight to my emotions, to keep a mask in place. Each time is a struggle, but with each moment, I have also learned to fight it, to come back to "normal."

I felt it coming on a little bit toward the end of my pregnancy, but it did not really hit full force until about 6 weeks postpartum. The spring was the worse, while illness rained. Then, we picked up and moved, and that seemed to help, being around family, keeping busy. But over the summer, here and there, it pokes its ugly head up, saying, no, I am not finished with you yet.

But I fight back. For a bit, it was too easy to not pray, to not think of God, to not think of anything really other than how miserable I felt, with no energy. I am working towards feeling better, so that I can be a better mom, wife, and daughter of God. Prayer is still difficult. My mind wanders so easily. Mustering energy to attend Mass is hard. Gathering courage to go to Confession even more so. The other day I went to go, and I made it to the church, only to have Miss Z go crazy on me, followed by Miss Bear needing to go the bathroom, and wanting to do it all by herself, had an accident (for which I was not prepared). And then, on the way out of the bathroom, Miss Bear fell and banged her head and knees awfully. I did not get to Confession, and this mama desperately needs to go.

I say all this for me. It is real. It is where I am at. Many days I feel myself again, and think, finally, it is going away, only to have it come back. I am walking daily, enjoying the peace of nature. I try to let go of the guilt of not being able to do all I want to do. I try to hug and cuddle more, even when I do not feel like it, to try and make up for the mom the kids have right now. I am trying to pray, even if my mind wanders so quickly in. This week I see a doctor as well. From past experience I know certain foods are migraine and mood triggers for me, and long have I wanted to try this elimination diet to weed out all the triggers. I want to retest for celiac disease before I begin since it has been nearly three years since Skipper's diagnosis and my own negative results, and while looking for a family doctor, I came across a doctor who is both a family doctor and one specializing in environmental medicine. He looks to the cause of symptoms, not just the symptoms of chronic illness, and is big into how our food, our environment, etc. affects each of us individually. A coincidence? I think not.

So I am on the path of remission. Yes, I say remission, because this may be a part of who I am, part of my life-long struggle. I am coming to grips with that, for now anyway, and I pray this only leads me closer to God and closer to the woman I am meant to be.

And to you, my readers, a small prayer would be most welcome. I have been quiet. I think I like this Saturday morning reflection so perhaps I can keep up with this for a while, though I still have school-related posts to put up (I will post them as promised to some, though they will be outdated). In the meantime, I want to pray and reflect on where I want this blog to go.

So, enjoy this beautiful new day. As for my house, we have an exciting day of preparing for a front yard campout with family, making some pizza pies on the fire, and hoping for a clear night to view the Perseid meteor shower.

God bless you all.