Monday, December 10, 2012

Becoming Real...Life With Food Allergies

If you've ever wondered what its like for someone with life threatening food allergies, here is a peek into that life...

-Every time we go out to eat, we have to make sure beforehand that the establishment has special accommodations for food allergies. There needs to be a separate frier, grill, they have to be SURE no cross contamination happens (no allergen foods or gloves or utensils will touch the food Amery consumes).
-We have to be sure that there are foods, that a 3 year old will eat, that are 100% free from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, beef, and garlic. I'm not sure how often you read ingredient labels, but this is no easy task. Some places the ONLY thing she can safely eat, are the french fries.
-Birthday party treats? Cake? Cookies? Treats? Ice Cream? Most foods you eat everyday? All can potentially take my baby's life.
-If any of us consume ANYthing that she is allergic to, we have to wash our hands and avoid giving her kisses until we have made sure through rinsing, etc, that all traces of allergens are gone. Otherwise, just from our hands or mouths touching her, she will get hives.
-Traveling? Not until we know that we will have safe places for her to eat along the way, and when we have reached our destination.
-Basically, everywhere we go, everything we do, we are on the defense. What would you do if everywhere you went, there were "weapons of mass destruction" so to speak, that could take your life at any given moment?

This is our life.

At 5 months of age, our gorgeous daughter, Amery, had her first food related allergic reaction. Until that point, she had only nursed. I decided one day to mix some of her rice cereal with some formula instead of milk I'd pumped. Luckily, she didn't like it and barely ate one bite. Chip walked in the room as I was burping her on my lap and asked what was on her face. I looked at her and saw hives literally covering her tiny face... and body. Within a few minutes she began to vomit, as her body was rejecting the milk. I called our doctor's office that evening when it happened and spoke with a nurse. We gave her benedryl, had her on close watch, and the next day would conduct our own little "skin test" as instructed by the doctor's office. Sure enough, the next day when i placed the smallest amount of formula on her leg, the area under and around the milk was covered in hives.

Fast forward a few months to  District Council in Grand Junction. Not thinking about her milk allergy since she hadn't had anything with milk ingredients since the formula, I gave her a bite of mashed potatoes. She spat it out (I suppose she knew it was bad for her?) and within minutes, the entire left side of her face and mouth was swollen. We hurried out of the restaurant to Walgreen's where I took Amery inside so the pharmacist could see. As we were inside, Amery began vomiting... a lot. I gave her benedryl, and thank GOD she was alright after that. Knowing what I know now, she could have been a LOT worse. Thankfully those times, her little body rejected the allergen quickly so she was able to recover.

Not too long after this happened, I had cream in my coffee one morning, as I always did, before nursing her. I placed Amery in the baby seat in the bathroom while I took a shower. When I got out of the shower, I noticed through my blurry-no contacts yet-eyes that she looked different. When I got closer, her lips were swollen like the Nutty Professor. From the cream in my coffee! ...For those of you who have wondered why I drink my coffee is where it started. Give up cream (along with other dairy products) or give up coffee? I chose to KEEP the coffee! Now I LOVE it black. :)
All dairy regarding Miss Amery was O-U-T.

August 12, 2010... I was fixing scrambled eggs. Amery was almost 11 months old, so I let her try some. Within minutes, just like the very first time she tried formula, she had hives all over and was vomiting. At this point, we made an appointment with the allergist. I figured if she had reactions to milk and eggs, there had to be more. And, what am I supposed to do? I'd heard each reaction can potentially be worse than the one before, so what happens when it wasn't just hives and vomiting (for those of you who are food allergy aware, this was a one time throw up deal - rejecting the food. Again, thanking God she was alright. Back then, I just didn't know what I didn't know).

Upon telling the allergist our stories, and confirming those reactions with testing, we also found that peanuts was on the list. This was alright since she was a baby and wouldn't be eating peanuts anyway, but how was I going to avoid all products containing any milk or eggs? Asher and I had been gluten free for about a year at this point - not for an "allergy" but for a "sensitivity" (There is a difference between food sensitivity, intolerance, and a life threatening food allergy. These differences have unfortunately muddied the waters for those children and adults who can die from exposure to an allergen. Much different than stomach swelling, aches, cramps, migraines, etc.) so I knew that I could handle it. Let's face it, I had no choice but to handle it. This was her life at stake.

As you read above, there are quite a few new allergens on the list. Aside from the tree nuts and peanuts (although they are the biggest allergens she has, she has never been exposed to any of these, which is pretty scary for me - they were found out through testing.) all of her known allergens were first discovered at a meal - she would have a reaction, and I would take the entire list of ingredients to her allergist and have her tested to see what the culprit was.

Every person that watches her has to be shown how to use the epi pen, should she come in contact with allergens. And, until last week, I honestly never thought we would have to use epinephrine.
I knew she had life threatening food allergies, of course, but the thought of her ever coming into contact with something was so distant in my mind. I learned a lot this week.

This past Wednesday, Amery ate a cookie with milk and eggs baked into it when nobody was looking. I am so thankful that her teachers responded quickly - this made all the difference. Chip and I were panicked since we had no clue what was going to happen. We watched her closely and within 30 minutes she went from a few hives and a swollen lip, to red and swollen all over, coughing repeatedly, and unable to breathe. I took her to the ER and almost immediately upon seeing her, they hooked her up to a monitor, weighed her, and gave her a shot of epinephrine in her arm. Amery only cried for a few seconds after her shot. Within 25-30 seconds of the epinephrine, every single symptom from the reaction disappeared. I wish I would have videoed, although that was the last thing on my mind at the time. She was nauseas for a little while, but after that passed, she was alright. We were in the ER until about 3:00am as they have to monitor for a minimum of 4 hours after a shot of epinephrine (we stayed about 5 1/2) to watch their heart rate that speeds up, and to be sure that the symptoms don't come back and a second dose of epinephrine is needed.

The ER doctor again reviewed Amery's Food Allergy Action Plan with me. This is a set-in-stone plan that everyone caring for her has to follow should exposure happen. No panicking - like i did the other night! The doctor also reiterated the fact that seconds and minutes count. She shared a story of a recent incident when a 6 year old little girl had an exposure and did not have her epi pen on hand for whatever reason. By the time the EMTs arrived to the scene, she was gone.

On Thursday, after the adrenaline wore off, I broke down. I was a basket case. The reality set in that we could have lost her if we didn't respond in time. My children, just like any parent, are the MOST precious things in the entire world to me. It became so devastatingly real how close we can be to losing her at any given moment. Over food of all things. I hate that.

Things I learned this week - Even when we think our bases are covered, they aren't. She is always at risk, and I have to live with this in mind. Although my hope is to not have any exposures, I have to live as though there will be more, and myself, and everyone that cares for her have to be trained and knowledgable in how to respond. I will not send to her to a school (EVER...or at least until she is old enough to avoid contact on her own) unless they can PROMISE me that she will not be in contact with ANY known allergens, and they have a nurse on site who is WELL trained in food allergic reactions, and of course, prevention. The only way to be sure exposure doesn't happen, is to only have safe foods around her.

Things I ask of you who are around Amery....
- Do NOT feed her ANYTHING unless Chip and I have said it is ok.
- Wash your hands before you touch her.
- Keep a watchful eye out to be sure that you don't see her with any foods that could hurt her. As a matter of fact, just let me know if you see her with any food :-)
- Remember that she is 3 and she wants to eat the fun treats she sees your child eating. Please be nice and wait until she isn't around to give your kids the things she cannot have.
- Please don't bring snacks for everyone (kids) that she can't eat. No matter what.
- And please don't seclude her or take your children away from where she is to get treats. Thats no fun.
- Please include her. Just ask me for help. Its not as hard as you may think. There are a lot of fun, easy treats she can have that all kids love (Oreos is one of them!).
- If we are somewhere eating together at a home, a restaurant, or a party, respect her boundaries. Make your children aware of these boundaries. Please don't put your child beside of Amery if their hands and face and areas around their plates are messy, or are going to be messy, with foods that are not safe for Amery. This is an exposure just waiting to happen.

Maybe I left some things out. Maybe some of those seem overboard. I don't care. Her life is FAR more important to me than anything anyone might want to eat. Everyone who has ever complained about accommodations for food allergy kids should think about that. Nothing is as important as a life. Especially not food. From here on out, I have to be "that" mom. I saw firsthand just how close we are to losing her. Since nobody, including myself, is able to watch her every single move, we have to work together to make sure she stays safe. Thank you for helping us!

I am more thankful for her precious life today more than ever before. She brings joy and laughter to everyone she meets.

This is our life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Adventures with Team Early: And the Winner Is...

Adventures with Team Early: And the Winner Is...: Yesterday was a big day for Americans. Although I felt many different emotions throughout the weeks and months leading to the election, main...

And the Winner Is...

Yesterday was a big day for Americans. Although I felt many different emotions throughout the weeks and months leading to the election, mainly anticipation for the day when NO more political ads would be on TV or in my mailbox. Yesterday, I was anxious. I hated feeling that way, but I did. In the midst of my anxiety, I kept remembering the Scripture in Philippians (4:6) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.".
God knew my prayers before I ever uttered a word to him. He knew what the outcome of the election would be. He knows what his plans are...we do not. I am THANKFUL and can rest in that. It actually makes me really happy to know that its all in his hands!

I know that United States elections are not life and death. Nowhere close. I know that God is not a Republican, or a Democrat, or even an Independent. He is God. The king and ruler of all, and his plans are underway no matter who holds a seat in the American government. I consider it a privilege to live in a country where I can literally spend my life sharing the love of Christ with people around me. I know that it is not the government's job to feed the hungry, or give clothes to those with none. The government does not provide love to those who don't know love, or hope to those who have no hope.

 "If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your light will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

Basically, it makes no difference who wins an election. Our focus should not be on the circumstances, but on the people. Find people who are in need, and fill those needs. I want to take the focus off of myself and redirect, or reset, if you will, my focus towards the needs of others. In our American culture, we are so "me" driven. Even in the church. "What's in it for ME?", "How can I benefit from this?". If there is no personal gain or reward, or its not convenient, we don't do it. What would happen in we stopped that and asked "What can I do for YOU?" "Where/Whom can I SERVE today?". If there is one place you can be sure Jesus was when he was here on earth, it was with the people. He wasn't cooped up in a Synagogue or church building all week. He wouldn't have just been in church meetings on Sunday and Wednesday, then silent the rest of the week. He was out and about. Filling needs, serving the people, bringing healing and freedom over the broken and oppressed, making disciples along the way.

(Picture is of us with a mother in LA who was a former prostitute with all 10 of her children in the foster care system. Because of the LA Dream Center's help, she no longer has to turn tricks to buy food and clothes, she is engaged, has 7 of her children living with her, and...she is in love with Jesus!)

So, whether you are overjoyed with excitement that your guy was reelected, or you are disappointed that your guy lost... LIFE GOES ON. With THANKSGIVING, lets move forward. With the attitude of the followers of Jesus that we are to be, lets find ways to serve those around us. How can we fill the needs of the people around us? Who can I love today, or give an encouraging word to? Who is broken, oppressed, hurting, hungry, cold, alone...? Find a need, fill a need. Bring life. Bring hope. Bring healing. BE LOVE.


Monday, November 5, 2012 decades...

This is a big week for us.
Tonight Asher has his 2nd grade play... I will post pics later!
Tomorrow is Election Day. Honestly, I am most excited about the commercials and ads being GONE. Colorado is a big swing state and an estimated $1 million per day has been spent by each candidate for ads in Colorado alone. Thats a whole lot of commercials. Believe me. And, we have the cheap cable and no DVR, so we mute the TV and suffer through them. I may go into fight mode if I have to endure much more. Eek!
Thursday, my mother in law comes to stay with our kids so Chip and I can celebrate our 10th anniversary on a cruise in the Caribbean. Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. SO excited!
And, Friday, the actual date of our anniversary, we head to Miami....

The nostalgia sets in as I think about our lives over the last 10 years. I never could have dreamed we would have all of the adventures that we have had. I remember my own parents' 10th anniversary. They renewed their wedding vows and did a small ceremony, in which my little brother and I got dressed up and were participants in the "wedding". Its hard to think about renewing vows already since these 10 years have flown by so quickly. My parents' circumstances were different, since they weren't Christ followers in the beginning of their marriage, so they wanted to renew those vows for a reason.

Here are the thoughts I am experiencing...the loudest of which is: Am I old enough to have been married for 10 years? Well, apparently, yes. I am. I met Chip when I was 10, became "friends" (he was much older than me... a whole 3 years) when I entered youth at age 11. So, I have known him for 21 years. CrAzY. 21 years ago, he was just this super cool, older, skater boy in my youth group that everyone wanted to hang out with...including the older girls. :) Which is of no surprise...he IS and has always been hot!

I was 15 the first time I ever looked at Chip and thought of him as anything more than a friend. One day he walked into church and I remember thinking "Wow, he is really cute.". When it really hit me was the Sunday night he returned from his short stay at Trinity College in North Dakota. He had on a dark blue puff jacket, and sat by me during service. The whole time he was talking to me before and after service... he was totally spitting game... he had me smiling. I knew then that he was special. That year, my junior year of high school, at the risk of sounding like a stalker... he became my dream. :-)

He took me to my Jr/Sr. Banquet - it was a super weird, legalistic, and strict private school in a church... the people were out of their minds, and we dressed in formal wear to eat fried chicken at a hotel. Really classy. He was a true sport for hanging out that night. That night, after he left my parents' house, I told my mom out of the blue that I was going to marry Chip. I don't know what made me think that... I honestly don't remember saying it, but I remember feeling it. From then on, as our daughter Amery says, he was "my guy". He was always the one who gave me butterflies when he walked in the room, or would make my face get all hot when he'd talk to me. I always felt safe with him...I knew, even as my friend, he would protect me at all costs. That is just who he is. Chip is loyal to a T.

Jump forward about 4 years... He'd lived at Wrightsville Beach, and was back in Winston again. I'd lived in El Salvador and Phoenix, and was back in Winston again. We were, once again, back at each other. Our friendship grew strong during those first few months back home. We hung out all the time, and could talk about any and everything. It was different than before... in years past, although we were good friends, there wasn't the freedom that we had this time around. It was easy. We could be ourselves  and have fun being friends. We were older, wiser (haha, well...thats up for debate), we knew who we were more than we did before, and we were ready. Ready for each other.

On October 13th, 2001, Chip told me he liked me. I didn't want to mess up our friendship, so I didn't respond the way I wanted to deep down. But, over the next three days, I thought about our history. I thought about how he was my very best friend and I couldn't imagine him dating anyone else, or me ever wanting to be around someone more than I wanted to be with him.

April 13th, 2002.... Hilton Head Island, SC....he proposed at beach marker 113. I think the number 13 isn't all that bad. :-)

And, November 9th, 2002 at 6:00pm... I became Mrs. Early. My dreams came true.

Over the past decade we have lived in NC on two different occasions, Florida, and Colorado for the last 5 1/2 years. We have the MOST gorgeous children...a 7 year old boy, and a 3 year old girl. We have more fun now than ever, are possibly in the best shape we have even been in since being married, and literally every, single day is an adventure. We truly love the life we have been given, the ministry we're privileged to be part of, the children we have honor of parenting... it is more than I ever would have imagined it would be. We have grown closer through the ups and downs we have endured. We are stronger now than ever. I know more what love is today than ever. I thought I loved him as much as anyone could on our wedding day, but that love has deepened so much throughout the years. It has become something unbreakable. We are a team, a family, a unit. We are still the best of friends, and he still gives me butterflies. I cannot WAIT for the rest of adventures to unfold, and there is NObody on the planet that I would rather have beside me.

Here's to a million more decades....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hiking the Rock

This morning, after an amazing night at Thrive Church, we went to meet some friends to hike the Rock of Castle Rock. It was my first time hiking it. Chip, Asher, and Matt and Talen all went last weekend, so this weekend they decided to bring all of us girls along. Amery did so well...she is such the independent little thing. She wanted to climb around all by herself. Asher and Talen were ALL over the place. They were climbing high and low, and doing a great job. The girls were pretending to dig for diamonds, and the boys were finding all sorts of cool rocks and animal remains. One time I even put my hand in my hoodie pocket and THOUGHT I had a rock in it from one of my kids. Well, instead of pulling out a rock, I pulled out a BAT SKULL! I threw it on the ground and probably squealed a little. Asher put it there because he wanted to bring it home, haha! He didn't bring it home. 
I love living in Colorado for so many reasons. Its so gorgeous here, the culture and people are awesome, its such an active place to live...we get to snowboard on some of the most amazing terrain in the country in the winter, ride our bikes on the endless trails, hike beautiful is pretty much the most perfect place to raise a family. LOVE it...everything about it. 

Fun in Federal Heights

Last night we had the privilege of going to Thrive Church in Federal Heights to hang with their youth and some awesome friends, Joel and Nicole Sosa. Chip got to speak and I had so much fun getting to sing with their worship team. Their band is so talented, so it was a blast! 
I am definitely at home when leading people in worship. I know it is what I am called to do, and I love meeting other people with the same heart for Jesus and for worship. It is so cool when you can join in with a different team than you're used to, and your hearts are all in the same place... you can have fun and feel such unity in worship. That is how its supposed to be. :-)
Chip spoke about engaging with culture. He had some great points on how we can't expect to make any sort of lasting impact in culture by just doing big "evangelistic" events. You have to be consistent and in relationship with people that you desire to can't just show up in someone's life and expect to have influence. It was all really good stuff - I love listening to him speak. Not to mention, he keeps you laughing while he throws nuggets of wisdom at you. You don't even know what hit you half the time. What can I say, I love him. 
So grateful to have friends like that the Sosas. It was a fun night for sure. Not to mention, our kiddos came with us and they had a blast with the Sosa kids. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween

Today is the day after Halloween...
Last night we went Trunk-or-Treating at our church and the kids had a BLAST!
Asher was like a teenager this morning - he could have slept for the entire morning if not for school, and Amery was up and at 'em early...ready to eat her candy!
Her food allergies make it a little tough at times like these, but she is SO good about making sure candy is "safe" with us before she eats it. She knows that the chocolate is a no-go, so she has already been taking it out saying she doesn't want to "oweee" food.
Asher was excited to get some of his candy in his lunchbox.
I love being their mom!!!