March is heading out like a LION!

Good-bye March... Hello April! I remember as a little girl that I looked forward to April so much. Not just because it was my birthday month (the 14th!), but because April, where I grew up, meant SPRING. It meant opening the windows, switching to a lighter jacket, tucking the hats and mittens away until next year. It meant the smell of wet, fresh earth, the sound of birds chirping, and the feel of cool rain. Here, in upstate New York, spring takes a little longer to arrive. Tonight, as a matter of fact, we're supposed to greet a hefty snowstorm and by tomorrow afternoon there should be 6-12" of the cold white stuff on the ground. Outside there is still snow left over from the winter storms, but we've been watching it melt inch by inch these past few weeks and are ready for some spring-like weather to arrive.

In the meantime, life goes on.

:: It's maple sugaring season here, and our family took a drive to a nearby farm to see how the sap is drained from the trees and boiled down into syrup. And how it can be turned into cotton candy and maple candies, too!

:: I finally broke down and got a smartphone. I've been feeling the urge for a while now, and the desire finally overcame me. I signed up with Verizon and got a Droid X. Oh my, I do love my new phone! All I want to do is play with it. I don't want to do laundry, teach my kids, look at the sky, sew 'H's prairie dress, pet the cats, or anything else I would ordinarily want to do during an average day. I just want to sit and look at my phone. This feeling will pass, right?

:: I took Erma to the vet for blood work this week and today I received the results. It's not good. Though she appears to be fine, her kidney function is failing rapidly. Wow. I know that she won't live forever, but I am not ready to think about life without her. I'll see the holistic vet soon and we'll discuss the blood work numbers.

Two things that I'm long overdue on telling you about: Disney World (exciting!) and 'H's eye surgery (scary).

Disney World, to sum it up, was exciting and full of all kinds of surprises. Everything they do there is over the top. Everything is made for FUN. It's also incredibly crowded, but we expected that. 'A' is the perfect age for it - she loved everything. 'H' returned home with a very short list of things she liked and a long list of things that scared her, but she managed to have a good time in spite of herself. Her favorite ride was Soarin' at Epcot.

Eating at the park was, in theory, very easy for a child with life-threatening food allergies. I had told the restaurants when we made the reservations that she had allergies, and when we arrived at the restaurants, I spoke with the manager and the chef before we ordered. They told me what she could eat and she made her selection. At the Crystal Palace, the chef took us around the buffet and she pointed out what she would like, and the chef prepared it for her in the kitchen, rather than take it from the buffet and risk cross-contamination. At La Hacienda de San Angel at Epcot, 'A' ordered a burrito but decided that she didn't like it, so she didn't eat much there. What do you think she liked the most? Yes, dessert. What kid doesn't? How wonderful that she was able to eat a brownie with ice cream at a restaurant and we didn't have to worry!

All in all, I give Disney World 2 big thumbs up for how they handle food allergies.

About 'H's surgery: A few days after we returned home from Florida, the girls were playing and 'A' knocked 'H' in the face with a board game piece. Of course they did this while I was on the phone - I think all interactions that result in crying happen while I'm on the phone. 'H' said her eye hurt, so I looked and saw something in there. I had no luck trying to flush it out with eye wash, so we all hopped in the car and took a ride to the pediatrician's office. He couldn't get it out either, so we were sent to Albany Medical Center to see the pediatric opthamologist. She took one look and said, "It's metal, and it's been there a while. It's not from this morning." Where could she have gotten metal in her eye, and why didn't she tell us about it when it happened?

The doctor took most of it out but felt there was still some rust left, so she scheduled surgery for the following day. 'H' had to have the whole nine yard for anesthesia - a drink to put her into la-la land, followed by the anesthesia she breathed in through the mask. She came out of it just fine and has been okay since then. I was way too concerned about her and the surgery to think straight. It took me a while afterward to unwind and come back to a state of feeling like things are "normal".

Things ARE normal now, thank goodness. All is well in our little world. In the bigger world, all is not well. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the nuclear reactor meltdowns, the political upheaval in the Middle East, and in my state, the extreme state budget cuts are all cause for concern. But here at home, we're good. Safe and sound.

Thawing out

Hi there. We've had a whirlwind two weeks. All of which I promise to write about in more detail very soon. We explored Disney World; 'A' ate in restaurants all week without any food allergy incidents (BIG WOOHOO!!!); we returned to upstate New York to find snow; spent two days at the hospital with 'H' who had a piece of metal in her eye and needed surgery; spent entirely too much time away from home in the evenings all week; and we finished up this longest week ever with a parenting workshop where we realized just how much we're scarring our children (well, not really, but if we were "glass half empty" type of people, we could have walked away with that message). Tomorrow I'll work at the Farmer's Market and after I come home in the afternoon, we are going to spend the remainder of the day together as a family, talking, laughing, playing, eating, resting and feeling grateful to have each other. No driving, no meetings, no computers, no distractions. No health scares, no surgeries, no risk of allergic reactions, no stress. We need this time. We need it very much.

That's what we've been doing and what we need. Here's what we've got in photos today:

:: Snow

:: Snow melting into big puddles

:: Grass, and girls who play in the grass. Girls without coats who play in the grass

:: New growth on the thyme plant in the slushy, snowy garden

:: Emerging daffodils

:: Bold, beautiful flowers on the orchid indoors

See you soon! Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow is a big day for our family... we leave for the airport, for Orlando, for Disney World! We'll be spending the week with Jeff's family, and it will be the first time in years that Jeff and I have visited Disney World (separately, back in the day), and it'll be the first time the girls will see it. They have no idea what to expect. How could they fathom something that is beyond their wildest dreams? They ask me, "Will there be a bouncy house there? Will there be a carousel there? Will there be a ferris wheel there?" Oh, little do they know! More, more, more!

I think I've got the food allergy paranoia under control... to the extent that I can. My purse contains the following items: epi-pen jr.; children's benadryl; prednisone, tagamet and hydroxyzine (in children's dosages); band-aids; bubble-gum (because liquid tagamet tastes horrible); my driver's license; credit card; sunglasses and lipstick. Yeah, I'm ready for a vacation.

I've asked so many people what they recommend seeing in Orlando. The answers I've gotten are all over the place. "I hated Animal Kingdom; Animal Kingdom was the BEST! Don't see It's a Small World; My kids LOVED the Epcot countries! Why isn't It's a Small World on your list? Don't see the countries at Epcot; go to see the princesses; my kids were scared of the princesses..." and on and on. When I put the answers in perspective, it all makes sense. Our vet loved Animal Kingdom. Very small children were scared of princesses. Older homeschooled children loved the countries at Epcot. And really, who likes It's a Small World? I have a list of attractions I think the girls would like to see, and we'll see what works for us.

I'm gone for a week, and I may or may not bring my camera. I may or may not post. No matter what, I'll be back with a full Disney report next week. Allergy and attraction reports in full! Stay tuned!

See you very soon. Have a wonderful week!



:: Making a collage at the Hyde Collection ::

Wow, what happened to February? It went by in a blink. Here it is, the second day of March already. Big things happening here. For starters, we've been doing a lot of things I enjoy lately: visiting the Hyde Collection (two Tuesdays in a row - a good record for us); snowboarding & skiing; snowshoeing; reading (A Visit From the Goon Squad for me, Smiles, the Sound of Long "I" for 'A'); working at the Farmer's Market; attending our UU congregation; sewing a prairie girl dress-up dress for 'H'; and celebrating life and friendship with friends and loved ones.

We've been up to something else as well.... planning our upcoming trip to Disney World! By upcoming, I mean soon... very soon. The chatter of excitement grows louder every day here. I imagine that most families plan out what rides they want to go on and which attractions they want to see, and while we're spending some time on that too, my top priority is getting 'A' through the entire trip without having an allergic reaction, and if she does, being prepared to handle it. That means getting her medicine bag in order, identifying the nearest hospitals and finding out if the Orlando ambulances have Advanced Life Support equipment on board, contacting chefs at restaurants to alert before we arrive, picking out the perfect sized food bag to hold her lunch and snacks every day, and thinking about what food she'll be able to eat.

:: 'H's favorite activity: cutting paper. Hyde Collection ::

I've become increasingly cautious and nervous about 'A' and food. This past year she has had more reactions than ever before, and the severity scares me. In the past two weeks she had two more - not anaphylactic ones requiring a hospital visit, but reactions nonetheless. The first one was to some Tyson Fun Nuggets she ate. They're the dinosaur shaped nuggets that, according to the packaging, contain Wheat and no other allergens. She ate the nuggets for dinner and her stomach was a mess the following day. We didn't connect the dots, and fed her the nuggets two days later for dinner, and again her reaction was the same. I reported it to the company and to the USDA. Clearly there is an undisclosed allergen in the nuggets, and although she is allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts, I would say it's dairy.

The second incident happened a few days ago. I was feeling wiped out after snowboarding on Sunday and ran into the grocery store to pick up dinner supplies. I got a bag of Green Giant steamed vegetables from the frozen aisle. They were in an olive oil sauce. Again, the ingredient label didn't indicate any allergen. I had the presence of mind to rub the sauce on 'A's skin before she ate it, and to my surprise, that section of her skin blew up with hives. Again, there was clear evidence of an undisclosed allergen. I contacted the company.

One of the things that caught me off guard both times I contacted the companies about the undisclosed allergen was the way I was told, "We never hide allergens in our products, we are required by law to report them. We wouldn't do that," as if I were lying to them and falsely accusing them. The Tyson representative asked me if I was sure she has allergies. The Green Giant rep tried to get me to say what else she had eaten that day, that perhaps it was something else.

All of this has filled me up with new emotions, with anger and fear taking more of a central place than ever before. It's one thing if I know for sure that a food item has an allergen - I simply choose to not feed it to 'A'. But when the product is something she's had in the past, or is clearly labeled and does not appear to contain dairy, eggs or nuts, I relax my guard and think it's OK to serve it. See why I'm starting to feel crazy?

:: Name Cards ::

On to a completely different topic: Laura and Mary (I have to bring it up, don't I?). We're finishing up Little Town on the Prairie. In it, Laura and her friends purchase name cards and exchange them. Who do you think ran downstairs to make name cards right away? 'A' and 'H' made them up and had a ball exchanging them. Jeff and I made some name cards too and we joined in the fun.

:: More Name Cards ::

Now the girls and I are going to look through all the artwork I've saved. I really want to mount or frame some of their pieces and display them. The questions are how and where?

:: A year's worth of painting and drawings ::

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!