Friday, August 17, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.17.18)

One
The end of last week rocked this kiddo's world! As I mentioned in Wednesday's post, Will passed his peanut challenge with flying colors, so to celebrate we went to Texas Roadhouse - where peanuts come with every meal and peanut shells cover the floor like carpet - for the very first time. I know the woman who owns our local restaurant, and when I told her we planned to visit she talked to her manager and had the staff show Will a little extra love.

Also, I could live on Texas Roadhouse rolls.

24 hours after Will passed his peanut challenge we filled his mouth with metal. He was surprisingly relaxed - even excited - about getting braces, and he thoroughly enjoyed learning about the process and choosing his multi-colored (red, white, and blue) rubber bands. His mouth hurt for about 36 hours, but after that window he has had few complaints. Can't wait to see the progress Will's braces make on his pearly whites!

Two
There's a fine line between tired and exhausted...I think we found passed it:

They look like they might keel over or fall asleep at any moment, but just seconds after this picture was taken these little bunheads showed off much of what they learned - including choreography from Swan Lake - at their week-long ballet intensive.


Three
If you've followed Chasing Roots for any length of time, you probably know that I dislike hot, sunny days on repeat and love it when Mother Nature sees fit to gift me with weather that actually changes. In particular, I like sudden snowstorms and swollen rain clouds that roll in slowly and then stay put until they've released every last drop.


Last weekend it stormed - on both Saturday and Sunday - for the first time in what felt like forever, and while I know it sounds silly, the change in weather lifted my spirits, brought a smile to my face, and left me feeling rejuvenated.

Four
School may not start until next Monday, but Will's soccer club and Hallie's dance company officially kicked off practices/rehearsals this week. Our afternoons and evenings (at least some of them - I intentionally "protect" two afternoons and evenings a week) are about to become far busier and at times even chaotic, but we're all looking forward to the semester ahead of us.

Five
Speaking of school, we survived "Back to School Night" week! I attended two and worked four back-to-school nights, so making it to the end of the week in one piece certainly deserves a high five.



Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

May the Nuts Be With You

On July 4th, 2009 and while picnicking with friends, Will put a peanut in his mouth. Immediately he began to gag and claw at his tongue, almost as if choking, so Tom and I quickly reached into his mouth and swiped the peanut - which was resting at the back of his throat - out and onto the ground. Will continued to scratch his tongue and the outside of his neck, so we cut an adult Benadryl in half (we didn't have any children's Benadryl with us), managed to get him to swallow it, and nervously watched him as the medicine did its job.
This picture was taken shortly after the peanut incident. I
notice now that he was still scratching the front of his neck.

Shortly thereafter, Will was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy, and since that day he has followed the only established standard of care for individuals with peanut allergies: strict avoidance while always carrying an epi-pen and Benadryl.

But times they are a-changin'...

Throughout the last five months and under the strict supervision of his allergist, Will has been participating in a peanut desensitization in an attempt to train his immune system to no longer react negatively when exposed to peanuts.

Will began by consuming nearly microscopic quantities of diluted peanut powder twice daily. These doses increased until he could consume minuscule quantities of pure peanut powder, which I measured out on a high precision scale. These doses also increased until Will "graduated" to eating one peanut every morning and one peanut every evening, and from one peanut we slowly moved to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and finally 12 peanuts twice daily.
Will's last official peanut dose last Tuesday night.

Each new dose was administered for the first and second time - one dose followed by a second dose 15 minutes later - in the allergist's office. We then administered that dose at home ourselves for at least one week before returning to the allergist's office to increase to the next amount. We treated Will's peanuts like medicine: overseen by an adult, taken on a regular schedule, and never missed. Will couldn't eat or exercise for 30 minutes after a dose so he had to adjust when he woke up in the morning and when he ate both breakfast and dinner. In the beginning, Will experienced a number of unpleasant symptoms - difficulty swallowing, tingly lips, and an itchy throat, mouth, and tongue - following each dose, but interestingly, the longer we continued with the process the less Will experienced these symptoms, even though his doses were getting higher and higher. By the time we reached six or seven peanuts the symptoms had all but subsided.

Last Wednesday morning, Will and I arrived at the allergist's office for his final appointment in this process: the peanut challenge. Over the course of about 15 minutes, Will ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (up to the crusts), a peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar, five peanut butter pretzels, and a Reese's peanut butter cup, and then we waited for 90 minutes while the nurses kept tabs on his vital signs and symptoms. When all was said and done, Will PASSED and walked out with permission to, for the first time in his nearly 12 years of life, eat whatever he wants.
The various peanut selections we brought with us to the challenge.
Will ate the sandwich up to the crusts, the granola bar, a handful of
pretzels, and one Reese's peanut butter cup. 
Will's first peanut butter sandwich. Yes, it's weird to take pictures of
people while they eat, but there were already six people watching him
so I figured, why not make this eating experience even stranger? 

The caveat is that in order to maintain his desensitization, Will HAS to continue eating peanuts/peanut butter/peanut products for the foreseeable future. The hope is that after remaining desensitized for between three and five years the actual allergy will begin to decrease, but for the time being, he falls into a strange category: allergic to peanuts but required to eat peanuts daily. I'm learning, as we prepare to go back to school, that this makes filling out medical forms kind of tricky.

This process took a long time (the average desensitization lasts between four and six months) and was physically challenging for Will, not inexpensive for Tom and me, and emotionally exhausting and mentally frustrating for all three of us. (Only Hallie emerged unscathed.) But every uncomfortable symptom, every payment, every nerve-wracking moment, every tear...they were all worth it because we no longer need worry about accidental exposure and potentially deadly reactions.

May the nuts be with you, my boy. You did it.

For those of you who have kiddos with food allergies, or who have food allergies yourselves...

Consider finding an allergist who can at least assess whether or not your child is a good candidate for this process. This process is new, but as more successful cases like Will's are documented, more allergists will begin to offer desensitization in their offices. (When I say "new", I mean NEW. Will's allergist is the only one in our area doing this kind of desensitization, and some communities, even those bigger than ours, are completely without this opportunity for kids with allergies. Will was only patient #19 at his allergist's office, was the first child ever at his summer camp, and will be the first child at his school to have participated in a peanut desensitization.)

Something else to consider... Besides being a good candidate for desensitization from a medical perspective, Will was - is - the "right kind of kid" for this process. He is a rational and cooperative people-pleaser, which meant he understood why we were putting him through this challenge and how it would improve his quality of life in the future. He wanted to succeed to make me, Tom, and his allergist happy and because he's competitive and always wants to "win", no matter the situation. For the sake of comparison, this process with Hallie would - at least until very recently - result in DISASTER. She cannot be reasoned with or bribed, and when she doesn't want to do something she is as stubborn as the day is long. During one appointment, Will and I listened as an approximately seven-year-old little girl with a stubborn streak like Hallie's held a bite of egg in her mouth - while also screaming and crying - for 57 minutes. At one point Will and I turned to each other and both said some version of, "I don't think she's going to make it". A child with that kind of personality would have trouble making it through the process. (That little girl did not successfully complete her egg desensitization.) 

If you have questions about our experience or want to know more, don't hesitate to email me at erin@chasingroots.com or erinlferris@yahoo.com.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Countdown is ON

In a perfect world, I would have written and shared this post two months ago because - let's be honest - it takes all summer to prepare to go back to school in the fall. Next year I promise to plan ahead, create a more comprehensive and organized list, and pull together a post earlier in the summer, but in the meantime, here are a few of the simple tasks I will tackle before Sunday night in an attempt to help our family transition back to our school year schedule with ease...or as easily as possible.

Because I assume everyone has already taken care of school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, medical forms, and prescriptions, I'll skip over those.

Dinner Prep
Double every dinner and freeze the extra servings. During the two weeks before school starts I work my way through my favorite freezable recipes - spaghetti, chili, sloppy joes, tacos, chicken fajitas, beef enchiladas, and pancakes - so I can have multiple dinners ready and waiting in the freezer for busy nights. On the weekend before school starts I also cook a couple of batches of both sausage and bacon to go with breakfasts. (Last year I made egg muffins, bacon and egg burritos, and sausage and egg sandwiches, but none went over well with Will and Hallie so I plan to skip those this year.)


Clothing Prep
Clear out what doesn’t fit or won't be worn. I spend an hour with each kiddo in his/her closet trying on clothes and shoes and pulling out what doesn't fit. I also talk through outfit combinations so they each know what does and doesn't match and can more quickly get dressed in the morning.

Organization Prep
Put into place and talk through any organizational systems the kids will use. We always review how the kids will deal with paperwork from school, unpack and repack their backpacks, unpack their lunch boxes, pack their soccer and dance bags, etc. This year I made Will a soccer practice and game checklist (laminated and attached to his soccer bag) that will *hopefully* keep him from regularly forgetting at least one of his required items - I'll let you know in a month or two how well this works!


Hair Prep
Take everyone for a back-to-school haircut. For trims I take both kids to Great Clips - they don't require appointments so we can pop in at our convenience and we're usually finished in less than 30 minutes.


Calendar Prep
Update your master calendar for the entire YEAR. I spend an hour or so going through the school calendars, sports calendars, and extracurricular calendars to make sure every scheduled day off, late start, early release, practice, game, class, recital, and meeting is on my master calendar. Yes, more events will be added and dates/times will change throughout the year, but at least I know I'm starting out the year relatively organized.

Transportation Prep
Practice getting to and from school. We walk and/or bike the routes the kids take to school to make sure they remember where to safely cross streets, what to look out for, where they'll meet friends, and where I'll pick them up on rainy days.

Breakfast Prep
Plan a fun and EASY breakfast for the first day of school. I get up early enough to get myself ready before the kids rise and shine, and then I work on breakfast while they're getting dressed and making their beds. I warm up (pre-made and frozen) pancakes, scramble eggs, cook sausages, toast bagels, or pull out cereal, but I don't go overboard...first day included. Our tradition - which the kids love and is both inexpensive and easy - is miniature powdered sugar donuts with scrambled eggs. (We also have these donuts on birthdays, so the kids consider them a special treat.)


Photo Prep
Make whatever sign your child will hold in their first day of school picture (if you have such a tradition). I print my signs and glue them to construction paper - for stability and a pop of color in the photos - a few days beforehand so I don't find myself running around frantically the night before or the morning of the first day of school.


Last but not least, enjoy the last few days of summer and get ready to enjoy a few hours of quiet on the first day of school!


In case you're wondering about a few omissions above, here are three things I don't do:

Freak Out, especially about all the summer school work we were going to accomplish but didn't. Will and Hallie both read every day, some days for hours, and Hallie completed a small book of math review problems in June and reviewed her multiplication fast facts a few times this month...but that's it. And we're all going to survive.

Wake Up Early starting a week or two in advance. No one in my family likes waking up early, and doing so the week before school starts doesn't make doing so on the first day of school any easier, at least in our house. For us, the transition to our new schedule is kind of like ripping off a bandaid - it hurts a little more up front, but we'd rather suffer for a brief period of time than be uncomfortable for a longer period of time.

Pick Out Clothes for following day or even the week. I planned outfits a week in advance when the kids were little, but I don't anymore - Will and Hallie are old enough to pick out their clothes and get dressed on their own now, so the evening time we used to spend on clothing is now dedicated to extracurriculars, homework, and dinner. I absolutely understand that this is a necessity for some, but I'm grateful to have outgrown the need for outfit planning! (Exceptions include the first day of school for Hallie, picture day for both kids, and concert days for Will.) 

Friday, August 10, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.10.18)

One
After a month of rarely using an alarm clock followed by a week of early wake-up calls to get Hallie to her  "Creative in Nature" camp, I felt a seemingly brand new appreciation for sleeping in (until, you know, 7:45am) last weekend. Oh, lazy Saturday mornings, I love you so.

I get to sleep in this weekend as well, and then that's it...until Thanksgiving, at least. 😂

Two
Speaking of Saturday mornings... Last Saturday morning friends and I celebrated another friend's birthday at a new breakfast/brunch restaurant in town. The restaurant received mixed reviews, but the company earned an A+.

Three
After attending a fantastic "Creative in Nature" camp last week, Hallie knocked out both Little Belles dance camp and the Ballet Austin dance intensive this week. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that offers - through its city parks and recreation departments, school districts, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses - such high quality summer programming for kids.

Lest you think I forgot about Will... He wasn't able to attend a camp this week because he had two big appointments that would have interfered with camp attendance. (More on these milestones next week!) He did, however, still get to attend workouts at "his" gym and his soccer practices started back up this week as well. 

Four
I use little cards and notes from Will and Hallie as bookmarks, and in June, I accidentally returned a book to the library with one of these cards - a beautiful Mother's Day gift that Hallie made for me last year - tucked inside. I didn't realize I had done so, however, so you can imagine my surprise, delight, and thankful heart when I went to the checkout counter at the library last week and the librarian returned it to me. Nothing on the card links it to me except Hallie's name, so I assume they searched for the name "Hallie" in their system, connected her to me by last name, and then attached an electronic note to my library card so that whoever checked me out would ask if the Mother's Day card belonged to me. I am so grateful to the library for going the extra mile to reunite me with this special gift, and so relieved that Hallie and the library - who haven't always gotten along - seem to have made amends.

Five
Hallie's desk chair FINALLY arrived, only three months after we first placed the order! The chair is adorable and surprisingly comfortable, and future engineer Hallie loved putting it together with a little help from her daddy.


Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Waltzing Through Wisconsin

While there are still plenty of new experiences for us to have in Wisconsin (we try to have at least one each year, so this summer we went on a tour of Lambeau Field and rode the rollercoasters at Bay Beach), we like to spend at least part of our time in Madison visiting our favorite places and participating in our favorite activities.

In this, likely my last Wisconsin post for the year, I'm recalling and documenting the small but uniquely Madison experiences - those we might accidentally forget about when we focus on the more exciting experiences - we had this summer.

Saying hello to as many Bucky Badgers (there are currently 85 throughout Madison - we have quite a few more to visit before we're done) as possible:
On campus by the Memorial Union Terrace.
At Brittingham Park.
At the Henry Vilas Zoo.
At Metcalf's grocery store.

Posing in front of the Capitol:
The railroad tracks by my elementary school.
The end of State Street.
The bridge over West Wash.

Painting the Vilas Park Shoe Slide:
Painting Saturn.
Making her handprint "signature".
Back the following day to show off her "hand"-iwork.
The finished Saturn!

Walking through the St. Mary's meditation maze:
Finding her inner zen.

Playing miniature golf (specifically the giraffe hole):
Madison has the best miniature golf course ever: slides and
rock walls, tunnels and rivers, zip lines and, of course, giraffes. 

Enjoying popcorn, lemonade, and Wisconsin's own Spotted Cow beer on the UW Memorial Union Terrace:
Listening to a great blue grass band.
It was 74 DEGREES outside on the evening I took this picture.
74 DEGREES. 😍

Farewell, Wisconsin! See you next summer!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Fails to Fives

I mentioned in last Friday's High Five post how it could easily and perhaps more appropriately have been replaced by a Five Fails posts.

Here's how all the things failed us last week...along with the upsides that kept me hanging on to the end of my rapidly fraying rope!

1. We replaced our old - and suddenly leaking into our closet - water heater in March...and the new model continues to malfunction. (For two months we've had to relight the pilot every few days, and while at first the problem seemed like a fluke, it has now become much more than a fluke.) It went out on Sunday and again on Friday.

The upside? Will is getting really good at lighting the pilot, our ridiculously hot weather makes cold showers less miserable, and we're one step closer to getting it fixed. (I realize it should be easy to get the water heater fixed given the fact that the appliance is nearly new, but there are some strange details in play here that make the process a little more complicated.)

2. Thanks to a few suddenly dead patches of lawn, Tom discovered our sprinkler system wasn't working correctly.

The upside? After quite a few hours spent working on the system (which involved sitting in the lawn among the fire ants and under the blazing sun), Tom used his engineering problem solving skills to repair/replace and reconfigure all three broken sprinkler heads on his own.

3. Will's phone - and its charger - started the downward spiral toward certain death.

The upside? A system update seems to have given the phone a renewed lease on life, which gives us hope we can wait two months to replace it for his birthday. We like that Will's phone is ridiculously old and inexpensive because we don't worry much about him losing it and it has very few capabilities other than texting and calling, which is what we want for him. I was worried we wouldn't be able to find those features (or lack there of) in a replacement, but when I popped into Sprint last week I found a phone that while new, is relatively inexpensive and fairly lockable in terms of what Will can access.

4. Our freezer stopped doing its job, and I spent a couple hundred dollars to have the appliance repair company try to fix it...which they could not.

The upside? The freezer didn't completely die (it basically turned into a refrigerator) and we have a back-up freezer, so we didn't have to panic about what to do with all of the frozen food while I shopped for and found my new refrigerator...which I LOVE. Also, both Tom and I hated our old refrigerator - its design was poor, it had a faulty ice maker/water dispenser (that we tried unsuccessfully to have fixed), and a couple of years ago it leaked into the back wall of kitchen to the point that we had to have the kitchen wall redrywalled and the wood floor in the office (the next room over) replaced. It's been a money-suck since the beginning, so we waved goodbye to that appliance with smiles on our faces.
So pretty!

5. The orthodontist decided the time has come to put Will in braces. We thought we had more time since Will still has a couple of baby teeth left to lose, but when the orthodontist looked in Will's mouth at his annual check-up (Will had some orthodontia done a few years ago but for the last three years we've just been in a holding pattern) he decided we needed to move forward immediately to prevent a specific problem from getting worse.

The upside? Will's braces are going on on Thursday so he'll have more than a week to adjust to them before school starts. Also, our dental insurance, while not the best around in terms of provider flexibility and dental work, actually offers a small amount of coverage for braces which will make this expense a little less painful.

6. Hallie's desk chair - the one that matches her desk and dresser and that we've waited on for MONTHS - arrived...defective.

The upside? A second new chair is on its way! We're crossing our fingers it arrives before Hallie returns to school and the homework begins...

7. And last but certainly not least, Tom's car finally took its last breath.

The upside? We replaced it with a Ford Escape that, at least thus far, works well for him in terms of both people and music/disc golf gear transport. I have yet to ride in Tom's new car, but the kids say it's quiet, comfortable, and has great acceleration!
Since you saw a picture of Tom and his car, here are pictures Hallie
and I took while the boys took a test drive. This one's my favorite.
But I like this one too...minus the pink-shirted car
dealership employee photobombing us from his desk. 
And just because, here's the outtake. Hallie told me to look at
the camera and make a weird face. I did, and she lip bit my arm.

To be clear, I completely understand that these kinds of things happen. We plan for them as best we can. We deal with them when they arise. And we try not to let them get us down. But when they all happen back to back (to back to back), I can't help but feel a little ganged up on. Thankfully, Tom and I usually worry about completely different aspects of life. And when we do worry about the same aspects of life, we worry in completely different ways. He took all of this in stride, and not only kept me from losing my mind but helped me recognize the opportunities these problems presented. I'm thankful for a husband who can turn fails into fives!