Spirited and Then Some has moved! Visit us at http://spiritedandthensome.com where you’ll find the latest recipes, health tips, and how to start a food blog. Below is a snapshot of the latest spirited happenings!

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For example, there is a delectable recipe for creamy paleo fudge. Just yes. Because fudge is always a good idea.

Paleo Fudge Wax Paper.jpg

And then there is the avocado pesto. I cannot even. It’s heaven in a bowl is all I can say about it.

Avocado Pesto Barn Boards 3

Ooh! And lavender sugar scrub. Because who doesn’t want an at-home spa experience every once in a while. And by every once in a while, I mean all the time!

Lavender Sugar Scrub Pink Jar Eye Level

So head on over! We are excited to see you. Oh, and here’s our new address again – http://spiritedandthensome.com.

Spiritedly yours,
Morgan

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Because, yes. Chocolate and coffee, and I will need some. From where I sit, it’s raining.

Burning bush

It’s chilly. It’s totally fall.

Barberry turning red

And I thought, we spirits need this recipe this morning. However, a last-minute interview for a story meant I was on the road rather than at my desk.

But it wasn’t a total waste. I got to visit a fifth grade class and a second grade class. I cannot even.

“WOW!!! I LOVE your scarf!” said one fifth grader. Thanks, I got it at Bass Pro Shops last year, along with this cardigan. Livin’ high right here.

Same student, “I LOVE your purse.” Bought it off TV. Only the best for me.

I loved that kid. She made my day. But then it got me thinking, this girl gets it. The power of accessories. One can never go wrong. Kim K.’s gonna be calling me soon all, “Love that cardi! Do you feel more confident when you wear a cardi?” Is that even a question? And then she’ll say, “You know, some day, I am going to do, like, a really big interview, maybe, like 20/20, and do you think I should wear a cardigan?” And I don’t know if that’s actually how Kim K. sounds because I have never witnessed her show, except for the one time I saw a clip of it on another show where they were talking about vocal fry, but I think that’s what she would say. And then I would say, “Yes, Babs, will fully expect you to be wearing a cardigan. Do not disappoint. Although, is Barbara Walters even doing that show anymore? I can’t keep up.

Yet another student asked if I would come back tomorrow. You know what? I can’t. But, how about I just leave my heart right here. Seriously, you can just have it.

Okay, but the beverage. Chocolate and coffee, and it doesn’t require 45 ingredients. Because, no, I will not.

Chocolate coffee

Chocolate Coffee

Prepare 8 oz. coffee according to package instructions.

Add 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa

Add 2 tbsp. creamer

Stir together and enjoy.

I think you could definitely use unsweetened chocolate, breaking off a square or two. I wanted to try that to see how well the chocolate would melt, but, alas, we were out. Okay, someone try it, and then let me know.

In the meantime, I am going to sit back, relax, and drink this bad boy because it is morning somewhere.

We are in the midst of potty training Twinkle. And like all things related to parenting, there are countless opinions on the subject. To which I reply, I cannot even. Just let us each do what is right and makes sense for our children and family. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, what makes sense for each family will vary and is not an immediate indication that anyone else is doing it wrong.

But there is one thing perhaps many of us can agree on. The need for a survival kit. Because OH. MY. GOD. And true as toast, may I never have to do this again.

Patience in potty training is a virtue. And I am not very virtuous. But, alas, I have learned to fake patience for the sake of the girls. Here’s how I pull off this incredibly huge lie.

Stock up on rewards. FOR YOURSELF. Seriously. Potty training is just as much a learning curve for the parents as it is for the children. Okay, maybe not exactly equal, but pretty close. I mean, do you stop and try again in a few weeks? A few months? When they are 25 and presumably out of the house? Is Junior Pipsqueak really ready? Were those signs of readiness really readiness or were they misconstrued because you were getting tired of buying diapers? Passing notes in junior high about who likes whom and asking someone out on a date in high school were easier to navigate than understanding if your child is ready to potty train. So many mixed signals to decode. You know this to be true. So stock up on rewards for yourself. Alcohol is clearly a frontrunner, unless alcohol is not a good choice for you. No, I get it. I really do, in which case, maybe something else. Snickers. Sex? Sports? Pick a guilty pleasure and then go with it.

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You were dying to see my mad photography skills again, too, weren’t you? Every time I take a shot, a photographer loses her wings. Perhaps I’ll celebrate Twinkle’s eventual potty-training success by signing myself up for a photography class. Okay, but these are steadily getting better. Or rather, it’s just hit and miss. Remember this one when I tried to photograph orange food? Okay, kids, we are never eating orange again. Ever. We are only just going to eat strawberries.

Also, yes, the Lime-A-Rita is gone. Based on our new diet, no one in our house is technically supposed to drink it. That and 50% of us are under the age of 21. I, however, can technically get away with it. Mother is just another word for martyr, so I took one for the team and finished off the last one. Life is just full of tough decisions. We will rebuild.

Say good-bye to your carpet. Now, if you are a family that gets away with calm potty training in which Junior Pipsqueak goes straight from diapers to pull-ups to underwear, all without an accident, then, well, good for you. I am genuinely happy for you and your carpet. Our children have never quite potty trained that way. There may have been a time Dad was with me while I was potty training Toodle. And it’s possible she had an accident in the dive diner, so I hauled her out to the car while Dad cleaned up the mess, paid the tab, and left a VERY BIG tip. There was also this time, again with Dad, in which Toodle peed right in the middle of a clothing store. So that was good. Suffice it to say, we keep towels, spot cleaner (this is the recipe we use), and a 700-count box of wipes nearby. Also in our car, my purse, and K-Hubs’ fanny pack. Okay, fine, not the fanny pack. But he does still carry one around. Nope, he has just informed that he no longer carries it around. It is stuffed in a drawer somewhere in the basement.

Wipes towels and Cleaner

Wear nothing of value (fanny packs included). The second time around for us has been a little cleaner than the first time. When we started potty-training Toodle, I had no idea just how much I would be peed on. It was nothing in comparison to the newborn weeks when I was getting used to diapers and changing them every 20 minutes, because, yes, I swear that is how often we changed diapers. K-Hubs and I also walked uphill to school both ways. Bottom line? The amount of laundry was overwhelming, and 2/3 of it was ours.

Grant some grace. For yourself and your child. At least when we potty train, it is always a little hit and miss in the beginning. And I am horrible about granting grace. I am so goal-oriented in life, I forget sometimes to sit back and relax, even if, and especially when, I am covered in pee and God only knows what else. A friend who potty trained her children quickly, and while they were young, said that as soon as you are ready to throw in the towel is about the time they’ll turn a corner and everything will click. I typically feel like the afore-photographed spray bottle of carpet cleaner, a little dejected and out of steam. But I will say as far as Toodle was concerned, my friend was absolutely right, and I believe the same will be said for Twinkle. But, holy cow, each child is different, you absolutely know best, and, yes, it’s a total marathon.

Take breaks. This is a must. You have to walk away from it. Let your spouse or significant other take over. And if you are a single parent like Mom was, consider asking a friend or neighbor to come over. One who will willingly follow your lead on how to potty train your child. One who will support what works best for your family. And if none of those is an option, then sneak outside. I, for one, am partial to hiding in the closet.

And how do you measure success? Well, clearly if your child is going to the bathroom ON the potty, it’s a clear sign of success. I also define potty-training success as not throwing the plastic potty out the front door into the yard. So there is that. Go with the one that makes you feel best.

After all the appointments and labs and testing and we did manage to live it up in Austin and Waco. Because as Toodle said, “Mom, let’s jump into the fun!”

Agreed.

And so we did.

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So did we stalk Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper? That’s the big question. And for an answer, I mean, define “stalk.” Actually, don’t do that because I’ll probably end up on some list somewhere. Ope, too late. I’m already on it.

So, if we define “stalk” as going to the market and perhaps craning our necks to see if they were there, then, yes, we totally stalked them.

But, alas, they were not there. The stop wasn’t a total waste, however. The store was beautiful. And I know they have the big silos now, but I gotta say I’m happy we saw the original location, where it all began.

Tree Trunk Tabletops

“K-Hubs” did a lot of shopping. He wanted to see all the things, and “he” bought an inordinate amount of home decor.

K-Hubs at Magnolia Market

I cannot even with how adorable and peaceful and relaxing and happy and BUSY that store was.

Magnolia Market Peaceful

I also love that K-Hubs took a picture of his ladies under the word “unexpected.” This photo op, he said, was totally planned because as far as his life went, the girls and I were not. Getting married and having children were completely unexpected. In fact, by the time we met, he had moved on from the idea of ever having a wife and children.

Unexpected

So there you have it. The girls and I were a “surprise.”

Back to unstalking. Okay, so, many people. Lots of crowding. So much to see.

One of the amazing sales associates totally played with the girls so “K-Hubs” could shop. Thank heavens because “K-Hubs” wanted to look at all the things a few times over.

We didn’t come away empty-handed. Please also notice my amazing photography skills.

Magnolia Market Storefront

We did get the skinny on what happens behind the scenes. For example, Chip is more likely to visit the store than Joanna, who is typically busy holding down the homefront. I believe they were filming while we were there, so neither Chip nor Joanna was in the store. One employee actually looked a little like Joanna, so I kept seeing her thinking, oh! There she is. Nope. Same employee. Still not Joanna.

What about prices? Well, “K-Hubs” scored some pretty sweet deals. Prices were totally reasonable.

We also stayed in nice hotels, especially in Austin. Although, I mean, honestly, who even cares about our hotels when we can talk Fixer Upper. But just so you know, Austin rocks some pretty amazing accommodations.

Palace hotel

Like this one. Toodle thought it was a castle. I kind of thought it was, too. “Queen Mama, we must dance,” she told me. So we did. We danced right there in the lobby. Labs and medical appointments were done. OVER. So, yes, we danced and celebrated, just the two of us, right there in the lobby in front of the highbrows. Because we could.

Palace Hotel 2

Queen Mama We Must Dance 1

And then we dined out for the first time since starting this new lifestyle. Whole Foods in Austin is like Grand Central Station. Place was huge. Okay, but this is the amazing part. I went to the meat counter, and still learning how to order for Toodle, I told the guy I wanted chicken or turkey with as few ingredients as possible. He said he had one in back but it wasn’t prepared and ready to be sold. Okay, I said, no worries. And then there was another kind right there. It had a few more ingredients. I said it would probably do for us. So I bought it.

Whole Foods Austin

As we moved around the salad bar, filling containers with fruits and veggies, this same guy came over to us, invited us back to the meat counter and pulled out the turkey from the back, had it prepped, and then gave us a sample. “I just think you’ll like this one better, and it will meet your dietary needs better.” Holy cow.

So then he took back the inferior meat we had just gotten and gave us the new stuff. Then he said, “I am going off shift, and I get to wow people, but I haven’t wowed anyone today. How about I wow you by giving you another package of this turkey for free?” Wow, in-freaking-deed. We got two pounds of meat for the price of one. Someone check my pulse.

Dining Out for the First Time

Guys, if you ever get a chance, dine at Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. It’s a madhouse. But it won’t disappoint.

Seriously, the girls thought it was Times Square. Their heads were exploding, what with the fancy hotels, amazing Magnolia Market, and Whole Foods.

And this has nothing to do with anything I have written so far, but on the way down, we hit crazy cold weather. During one lunch at a truck stop, the girls and I plopped ourselves in the back of the rented tank while K-Hubs sat out in the cold, in July, and ate his avocado chicken like the good husband and father he is. And this would be why we love K-Hubs.

K-Hubs takes One for the Team

I cannot even with this Halloween get-up. But a series of errors has led to the evolution of a costume. One way or another, Toodle is going to be her foster elephant, Ishanga, for Halloween. And, fortunately, at this age she still has low expectations for what she should look like.

This was the first attempt. Nailed it.

Ishanga Costume 1

I was laughing so hard when I took this photo I couldn’t breathe. Omigosh, it was a throwback to my childhood and every time Mom tried to be mother of the year with some such project or another. It never panned out the way she wanted it to. Toodle’s costume definitely looked better in my head.

Anyway, as I was laughing, Toodle was saying, “It’s okay, Mom. The costume is perfect.” Oh, bless your heart, dear one, because you can’t even see over your tusk. Yes, that is supposed to be a tusk.

Ishanga Costume 2

But then I remembered I was supposed to turn Twinkle into her foster elephant, Sities, as well. And I had bought two gray shirts, one for each girl, but erroneously in the same size. Twice. Yes, that’s correct. First I thought I had two shirts in Toodle’s size. So I went back and returned one to get a size for Twinkle. It was after I cut off the tags and washed the shirts that I realized I returned the wrong one and ended up with two shirts in Twinkle’s size. Thank heavens for old t-shirts and low expectations. Toodle is wearing an old t-shirt of mine and Twinkle now has two shirts to pick from.

But, I decided to dismantle one of Twinkle’s two shirts and turned the sleeves into trunks for both girls. It felt a little wrong to rip apart a perfectly good shirt. But the thought of going to another store to get more supplies for these costumes left me feeling maniacal. I’m not a martyr. I never have been. Basically, every time Adam Levine starts singing, “If I got locked away, and we lost it all today, tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?” I always ask, well, Adam, hot as you are, WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU DO that you got locked away and we lost it all? True as toast. Every. Single. Time. That’s what I do. I mean, are we talking a life sentence for murder? Or just a few days in the gray bar motel to sleep one off? Big difference, Adam. I’m no martyr. Mama’s movin’ on.

I finally got the tusks figured out. Smaller is better. Because sight is important. Also, the first round of tusks weighed more than Toodle. Also, low expectations remain critical for success.

Ishanga New Trunk and Tusks

Do you know how many top designers have seen this picture and are calling, asking me to join their team? Oh, it’s endless. Just endless. They’re full of, “Hey, can you come over and rip the sleeves off our new line and turn them into trunks?” And I’m like, “Well, I’m eating a Kit Kat right now so….”

Trick or treating with food allergies has proven to be easier than actually creating a costume. Probably because Toodle has developed her own little system that has worked very well for her.

It started with a Fourth of July parade this past summer. She wanted to get all the candy, and I started to get nervous about that until a friend said, “Let her get the candy. The ‘getting’ is the fun part.” How true for Toodle. She just wanted to experience the conquest of sugary goodness even if she never got to eat her spoils. A bonus dad who was helping his kids get candy, and whose wife also had alopecia, ensured Toodle walked away with a boatload of goods.

And instead of eating her candy, Toodle decided she wanted to simply smell them. Um, whose child are you because I don’t think I am genetically predisposed to only smell candy, and I don’t think your father is either. This kid. She has found aa system that works for her.

And I think that’s because she still gets to be in control. No idea where she gets that personality trait. Instead of telling her she “can’t have” or “can’t eat” something, we have always told her her body simply wouldn’t like it, wouldn’t feel very happy. That has given her a sense of responsibility but also a sense of freedom. She gets to decide how she wants to treat her body. Truthfully, it’s a lesson for all of us.

I have heard of parents who let their children trade in their candy for a toy or approved treat of their choice. I suspect Twinkle would love that approach. Other families look for houses with teal pumpkins, which denote allergy-friendly trick-or-treat options.

The longer I have parented, the more I have come to believe there is no one way to handle anything in life. What works for one family may not be as successful for another family. But that doesn’t mean either family is doing it wrong. It means each of us is uniquely different. Like, maybe some of us are costume challenged while others sew amazing creations, worthy of a runway.

Ishanga Costume 3

Do you think I could get her to pose with her entire costume? Not a chance. Although, for as many tries as it has taken to get to this point, I can’t say that I blame her.

I, for one, am good at other things. Like sneaking a piece of candy when the kids aren’t looking. Because, for the love, is it Halloween yet? I can hold out on the candy for only so long. It’s genetic.

Yesterday I shared what finally prompted us to visit a specialty clinic out of state. And today I’ll share what we learned. As a recap, we had Toodle tested for:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Bacterial infection
  • Genetic mutations
  • Histamine intolerance

And possibly a few other things that were wrapped into the above tests. And oh boy, did we learn ALL THE THINGS. I cannot even with all that we learned. But let me try.

It turns out that Toodle was pretty low on the vitamin D scale. Not technically deficient, but very low. She also had a bacterial infection and a slight excess of yeast overgrowth in her gut. She tested negative for the histamine intolerance.

As for the histamine test, this had two implications. One, we didn’t have to pull more foods that are high in histamines, such as avocados and bananas. Thank goodness, too, because with all her food allergies, there would be nothing left for her to eat except chicken and tree bark.

Two, it meant her eczema was not caused by histamines, which led the dietician to think it may have been related to her bacterial infections and poor gut health. Essentially, her body was overrun with bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. Although she was eating, it was as though her body was starved for nutrients.

What caused the poor gut health? In my non-medical opinion, probably a host of things, namely the steroids used in the past to treat her eczema as a baby and antibiotics used to treat her recurrent bouts of croup. Essentially, her body never had enough time to rebalance itself before she got sick again with an illness. Interestingly enough, in the scope of modern medicine, there would have been no reason to think she would have any long-term effects from having been sick as a child. The general consensus was she would outgrow these finicky illnesses.

In fact, she didn’t get sick on a frequent basis. But when she did, it was bad. About every six months she would have some horrible virus, a bout of croup, or allergic reaction to something. She also never responded to regular antibiotics. Naturally, the doctors would up the ante with something stronger. We did the same thing whenever we worked with a new doctor. “Oh, yeah, the regular stuff? She dines’t respond to it. You have to give her the strong stuff.” None of us knew what we were doing.

Just visit Austin for the scenery, if you can. This hotel was such a happy, peaceful place.

Just visit Austin for the scenery, if you can. This hotel was such a happy, peaceful place.

This has led me to believe most of us are probably walking around with some kind of autoimmune response/leaky gut, whether we have an autoimmune disease or not, that we don’t fully understand. For example, according to Dr. Amy Myers in her book The Autoimmune Solution, leaky gut is associated with obesity, ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, and eczema to name just a few (p. 7). How many people are walking around with leaky gut and a host of health problems, some minor, some severe, that could be corrected if they knew how to get to the root of the problem? Problems can start in early childhood, like they did for Toodle, or in high school, college, or any other time. I’ll revisit this soapbox in a minute.

Toodle also tested positive for the MTHFR genetic mutation. Her mutation is homozygous, meaning both K-Hubs and I have some form of the mutation ourselves and passed it to her. This one is fun times, let me tell you. While some people like K-Hubs and I can have the mutation and few to no negative side effects, others like Toodle can have it and a whole host of problems as a result. Interestingly enough, her version is quite rare, approximately 10-20% of the population have it. But more than 50% of the population can have some variation of it and never know it.

Some people refer to the MTHFR mutation as the Monday/Thursday/Friday mutation. That felt a little boring to me and didn’t aptly describe my feelings on the subject. In our house we have a slightly different nickname for it. Just sound out MTHFR quickly, as though you are playing Mad Gab, and add a “ck” sound in the middle of the F and the R. Did you do it? You now know what we call it. As Mom always used to say, “If you can’t laugh about it then what CAN you do?” So laugh we do.

And here is where I step on my soapbox again. The MTHFR genetic mutation is associated with the following health issues: addiction, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, fibromyalgia, heart attack, and the inability to expel toxins from the body. So when we hear the battles between going organic versus not or issues with plastics and other toxins, both sides may be right. For some people, these may never be issues. For others, it may be a bigger deal, especially if their body can’t expel what it doesn’t need. That toxicity can build up in the body to create a whole host of problems. It makes me wonder, again, how many people are walking around with this and don’t realize it. Or how many people are walking around with vitamin deficiencies that are contributing to their lower quality of life and even simple aches and pains. Or how many people, adults included, have some form of a food allergy/sensitivity and don’t know it.

Dr. Myers points out in her book, The Autoimmune Solution, that constant ear infections and acne can be associated with a milk allergy (p. 79-80). Who knew? I didn’t. She also points out that joint and muscle pain can be the result of inflammation either brought on by or treated with the foods we eat (p. 7). I fall in that category. My bursitis is null and void if I stick with whole foods. Again, who knew? Surely not me. I happily grew up on Hot Pockets, mac ’n cheese, and, if we were feeling particularly high brow, Tuna Helper. True as gluten-filled toast.

This is one of many challenges doctors face daily, according to Dr. Myers. If five people come in to a doctor’s office with completely different ailments from an undetected MTHFR genetic mutation, for example, how on God’s green earth would the doctor know to test for that? If a moody child or a hyperactive child (K-Hubs and I have raised both) came into the clinic, how would a doctor know to check for vitamin deficiencies and food allergies? Treatments and prescriptions are created around symptoms, so unless the patient does his or her own research, often families get help for the symptom but no actual cure.

Met to K-Hubs while on our trip, "You could just go home and make that bench for me, right?" Oh, sure, I'll just get right on it., was his standard reply. My request was perfectly reasonable, given that in the same situation, The Gram would have just said, "Okay! You create a distraction while I pull it toward the car."

Me to K-Hubs while in the lobby of one of our hotels, “You could just go home and make that bench for me, right?” Oh, sure, I’ll just get right on it, was his standard reply. My request was perfectly reasonable, given that in the same situation, The Gram would have just said, “Okay! You create a distraction while I pull the bench toward the car and shove it in the trunk.”

So what are we doing about this? Let me tell you. But let me also disclaim that I AM NOT A DOCTOR NOR DO I PLAY ONE ON TV. These are my thoughts and not verified by any medical professional. Here’s the thing, not only should I disclose this, but it is also so important to know that even with similar symptoms people can have completely different underlying causes. Again, let’s revisit Toodle’s eczema. It was not the result of a histamine intolerance. It was mostly likely related to a starvation of good gut bacteria and an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Completely different problems.

If we revisit her alopecia, we can see that it may be the result of poor gut health and bacterial overgrowth. Her hair is growing in healthily but slowly, so only time will tell. For other alopecia sufferers, though, it could be the direct result of food allergies or toxic overload of some kind. That would explain why when I would “copy” a treatment plan suggested by another alopecia sufferer, Toodle never quite had the same success. Two people with alopecia can have completely different reasons for having alopecia. At least this is what has been true for us.

After meeting with the dietician and then bringing her recommendations back to our family physician, who agreed to be Toodle’s primary care physician, we now consume homemade bone broth each day, stronger probiotics and a more concentrated multivitamin (what she had been taking wasn’t strong enough), chewable enzymes to help her break down her food, omega oil, vitamin D drops, and a B complex vitamin. We also reintroduced five foods to her diet, with success. Now her allergy count is just nine foods, all of which are no-nos on her health plan anyway. The change has been astounding. We have our girl back. To address her infections, she first took liquid caprylic acid (easily hidden in applesauce or a smoothie) to fend off the candida overgrowth in her gut and then took a very small dose of berberine for the bacterial infection. All of this was done under the care of medical professionals who calculated dosing, frequency, and duration.

Our family physician has agreed to take on Toodle’s case so we don’t have to go to Texas every time we have a question. He is amazing, too. “Here’s what we’re going to do, Mom,” he said to me, “we are going to stop treating everything with steroids and antibiotics. They have their place but have done more harm than good in this particular case. We are going to take it slowly when she does get sick so we can decide what treatment is best for her. And we’re going to find her a lifestyle that supports HER. It’s so cool, Mom, that you found this clinic in Austin and sought more answers.” Wow. That’s a far cry from the dermatologist who yelled at me for pulling gluten and dairy out of Toodle’s diet.

We now have a supportive medical “team.” Takes a load off my back. But more importantly, we have our little girl back. Seriously, this kid just amazes us.

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We went to Austin, Texas in July to visit a dietician who specializes in autoimmunity, so this blog post has only been in my head for about 3.5 months. Probably it has simmered long enough.

We had hemmed and hawed about going to the clinic. The final blow was not that Toodle continued to lose her hair, but rather the eczema covering about 85% of her body. Warm summer months were around the corner, but extreme temperatures and humidity aggravated Toodle’s eczema so much so she had to stay indoors most of the summer. Poor kidlet. The eczema on the backs of her knees had turned her legs a deep shade of purple, as though sunburned, and her skin also vacillated between weeping and bleeding.

We had been doing all the “usual” stuff – homemade lotions (which did abate her symptoms somewhat), putting her in light layers, and keeping the AC on high. But, to quote Ghostbusters, “All right. Okay, the usual stuff isn’t working.” And I knew Bill Murray was right. There was no way we could send her to kindergarten in the fall covered in eczema that itched and bled and blistered.

So we filled out extensive paperwork and got in to see the dietician who could schedule us within the month. Um, yes, we’ll be there. Done.

During that time, Toodle continued to lose her hair, including eyebrows and some eyelashes. Her weight was still stagnant, and she was feeling extremely moody. Fully-body eczema? Can’t imagine why she would be moody. We kind of forgot about her hair, and even her food allergies seemed to take a back seat.

I still try to wrap my head around what it must be like to be five years old and manage alopecia, food allergies, and eczema, of which all are autoimmune responses. I wouldn’t do well, as evidenced by the number of Doritos, Dutch letters, and donuts that have at some point over the last 18 months been stashed away in my closet. Not to mention, the Costco muffins that are the size of my head.

I digress. I also just took a break to sneak a bite of Costco muffin while the kids are resting during quiet time. I will say, though, that I can no longer eat chips like I used to. I have read about people who start eating well and soon can no longer eat the junk food to which they were once accustomed. I am slowly falling into that category. Slowly.

I mentioned the paperwork was extensive, and I wasn’t joking. The clinic wanted to know about my pregnancy with Toodle, how she was delivered, whether I was Rh-negative and group B strep positive (yes and yes), and any illnesses she has had. They also wanted to know about our families’ health histories and Toodle’s emotional health. Although I was able to fill everything out, I had never looked at the information in that light before. Once I did, I saw a seemingly innocuous pattern of health that could easily lead to the problems she was experiencing. I also began to wonder how many other people in the world were unknowingly on the same path.

When we got to the clinic, I knew we were in good hands. I could just feel it. It was absolutely beautiful, and I didn’t take a single picture of it. And the staff! Omigosh, the nurse and dietician, I just cannot even with them. So cool. So sweet. So reassuring. After meeting Toodle and doing an initial patient check-in, the dietician and I did the consultation while K-Hubs took the girls around the complex. So not only was clinic beautiful but the people running it were able to accommodate a busy family of four, understanding the realities of having a 5-year-old patient. Toodle wouldn’t sit there indefinitely. And they didn’t expect her to.

I may have cried in the dietician’s office, telling her, “I’ll do anything you tell me to do. I don’t know how to care for my child. Things are wrong, but I don’t know what they are.” She confessed she had never worked with someone with alopecia, but she pointed out that because alopecia is an autoimmune disease, the problem is most likely in the gut rather than the scalp or hair follicle. As such, they would likely be able to help us. Makes perfect sense to me.

We fit the stereotypically functional medicine patient. We tried traditional medicine with traditional doctors and traditional treatments. Nothing worked. In fact, Toodle’s symptoms got worse, and the medicines to make her feel better actually made her sicker. Go figure. There just aren’t easy solutions for autoimmunity, and patients aren’t given a lot of hope. I just could not rest. It was nice to meet a dietician who specialized in autoimmunity and realize I didn’t have to settle.

Because we had rented a tank, also known as a Ford Expedition, and hotel rooms and packed four thousand cans of bone broth, we decided to make the trip worthwhile. If there was even a remote possibility of needing to run a test, we told the dietician to order it. If there was even a slight chance we would learn something about Toodle, we did it.

We ordered stool and urine tests (which we completed once we got home), a genetic marker test, and tests for histamine intolerance, vitamin D deficiency, bacterial infections, and yeast overgrowth.

We wanted a large rental car for Texas or a smallish rental van. We got a tank instead.

We wanted a large rental car for Texas or a smallish rental van. We got a tank instead.

When we got to the lab in the complex, I asked Toodle how she was feeling. “Will I cry, mama?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Only you can determine that.”

“I think I will just cry.”

Fair enough.

It took two of us to hold her in place while the phlebotomist drew the blood. At one point the line came out. The phlebotomist wanted to stop and suggested we just go to another lab somewhere around town if their location wasn’t open when we got back around to it.

Mamas, you should have seen the look on my face. There were no words. It wasn’t that I was mad at the phlebotomist. Just kind of panicked that she might stop collecting the samples. While Toodle continued to cry, I mustered, “We. Don’t. Live. Here. Must. Get. All. Blood. Now. Or. Trip. Will. Be. Null. And. Void.” So she asked if I was okay with her sticking my child again. I said, “I’ll be a good parent in about five minutes. For now, stick her and get everything you need. It is now or never.”

By George, we got the samples we needed. Later someone told me that in that moment I WAS being a good mother. Those were kind words. And it’s true that sometimes, many times, being a good parent means doing hard things. We are so proud of this kid. Toodle has managed her health better than most people we know. She just kind of leaves us speechless most of the time.

She was amazing!

She was amazing!

The dietician and nurse were simply amazing. The dietician did a phenomenal job of deciphering in the moment what tests were worth doing. The nurse did a wonderful job of helping me understand how to do the at-home kits (urine and stool to be done once we got back home and mailed directly to a lab). I may have left the kids with K-Hubs and followed her back into the clinic for a quick rundown on how to do the at-home tests. And then when I still didn’t get it, she explained it again. I may have also said, “You know, the kids are with K-Hubs right now. I have myself all to myself! This never happens. How about you explain it one more time, and talk slowly.” The nurse complied. That clinic? So my people. They just totally got it.

K-Hubs ended up helping Toodle complete most of the labs, not because I minded scooping poop, but because there were special mailing instructions. All the items had to be reassembled in a certain order or we ran the risk of altering the effectiveness of the labs or some such thing. Omigod, no. I’ll scoop the poop any day of the week. DO NOT MAKE ME HANDLE PACKAGES WITH SPECIFIC RESULTS-ORIENTED OUTCOMES THAT BECOME INVALID IF REPACKAGED INCORRECTLY. I cannot. So I didn’t. K-Hubs did. We sat in the bathroom collecting “data” for K-Hubs to mail to the labs. Livin’ the dream, we were.

Single friends once asked me what they should look for in a potential mate. I said, “You have to find someone with whom you can talk about poop and sex. If you can talk honestly about those two things, you will probably be just fine.” I stand by my advice.

Back at the clinic, we happened to be the only patients that afternoon, which was super awesome for the girls. We got amazing care, and they got the clinic to themselves. Also, did I mention the nurse explained the at-hone labs for me about three times? I did? Well, let me do it again for good measure. She patiently explained the at-home test kits to me without breaking a sweat.

We are totally biased, of course, but we feel like the clinic kind of saved our family. They are rational, practical, sensitive, kind-hearted women and men. Nothing suggested to us as a means for treatment was out in left field. It all made sense and was tailored to Toodle’s situation. I admit, I kind of didn’t want to leave. Aqua walls (if I remember correctly) and a white leather couch, be still my heart. The chi was amazing in there. From their recommendations, we have overhauled our lifestyle again. But it has been so worth it. In my next post, I’ll share what we learned from the tests and how we have responded.

So many carrots cried in the making of this photo. Also, the strawberries are in therapy.

IS THIS NOT ONE OF THE UGLIEST FOOD PHOTOS YOU’VE EVER SEEN? And, sadly, this was something like the 3rd or 4th try. This is an upgrade from where I started. Orange food is not in my color wheel. If I were in high school and my photography instructor said, “Morgan, go take a picture of an orange soup,” I would cry so many tears. Alas, I am graduated. So the only ones crying were the strawberries and the carrots whose reputations were maligned in the making of this sad little photo.

But the two finickiest eaters on the face of this earth, that would be me and Toodle, ate it. We even went back for seconds. K-Hubs and Twinkle also went back for seconds, and Twinkle just ended up carrying it around in a thermos because soup is not easy for a two-year-old. “Uh-oh!!! Wha happin?” You just spilled soup everywhere. But, you’re two and you’re cute, so that makes it okay.

K-Hubs was secretly unsure of this combination. But he said later that it was quite delicious. Then there was a battle for leftovers. Twinkle won.

This soup is like the ugly duckling. It doesn’t start out looking all that great. Actually, it never looks great. But it tastes wonderful. I guess that means it isn’t like the ugly duckling after all. But it does have a good personality. So give it a try.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups strawberries
  • 2 cups chopped carrots, steamed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-4 tbsp coconut oil (optional)

Directions

  1. If using fresh strawberries, wash and slice. If using frozen, thaw to room temperature. I typically use frozen because we buy in bulk. With the frozen strawberries, I fill my measuring cup to about 7-8 cups. As the strawberries thaw, they shrink down to about 5 cups.
  2. Steam sliced carrots until soft.
  3. Add two cups water to a high speed blender.
  4. Add strawberries and carrots. Blend until smooth.
  5. Transfer to deep saucepan.
  6. Add coconut oil, if using.
  7. Heat until desired temperature.
  8. Serve warm. (We have also eaten this cold, more like a smoothie.)

This is a nice starchy soup, which makes it filling and perfect for those times when you are out of all the things. It is also great for long car rides. Or long days at work. Or long days at school. I use this recipe as a base and then add in whatever strikes my fancy. I rely on the coconut oil as a fat source to keep everyone in our family full. It works like a charm.

Also, I went back for another photo shoot with morning light. Not nearly as terrible as the previous 3-4 photo shoots. But not totally what I was going for.

Strawberry Carrot Soup 2015

Photographers may be in tears, but at least the spoons are still smiling.

And always with the add-ons. I cannot even with the add ons. They make this soup versatile.

*Cream – whipped, half & half, whole, from a can, does it really matter? Cream. Just add it. (I have not added these so I cannot attest to their awesomeness. But I suspect they make the soup, especially if you want to make a dessert soup. Dessert soup. Yum.)
*Cinnamon and sugar
*Stevia
*Almond or rice milk

These are typically “ors” rather than “ands,” as in, probably don’t dump all of these into one soup. Cream OR cinnamon. Maybe. Because now I think that sounds good. To be fair, I have seen some recipes call for chicken broth and cream. Or sweet cream and then a bunch of savory spices like thyme, parsley, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Hey, it’s your party. Host it how you like.

As for those other ugly photos, I want you to feel good about your Monday. Like, your Monday isn’t as bad as these photos are. Maybe.

So here they are.

Grab your goggles and prepare for awfulness. It’s like the 1970s got sick in my kitchen. Food photographers all over the world are losing their will to live. And seriously about the goggles. Grab them. Your eyes won’t ever be the same.

No goggles close by?

Grab your sunglasses.

Because orange food. There are no words.

 

It's Like the 1970s came to my kitchen and got sick So Hideous Still Pretty Bad

This blog post has been in my head for about three weeks now. After today’s shenanigans, it’s just time to write it.

I’m calling it. The summer. Fun. Gloriousness. It’s all over. We are in the throes of the dog days of humid hell. Toodle was all, “I’m bored with all the things,” and I thought, how can she be bored with all the things? How can she not love every fun thing we’re doing? We traveled to Texas and visited the Magnolia Market from “Fixer Upper.” We went to a family reunion at a water park. And then went to a reunion of K-Hubs’ college buddies, which included my cousins and their children. How can that not be so much fun? Well, it was. But that was then and this is now. Plus, she knows school is just around the corner, and school means friends and socializing and probably learning, but mostly socializing.

Wait, how does she know that?

Perhaps because we already bought her school clothes, and she’s dying to wear them NOW. Or perhaps because we bought school shoes for dressy days and gym days and whatever days. And she wants to wear them NOW. Or maybe because we bought her school supplies, and they are packed in her book bag. This book bag, by the way, is double her size in weight and about three times her height. But it was cheap at Costco and super-cute. So that makes it okay. I think by middle school it should fit her just fine. And, yes, I labor under the assumption that she will hold onto this book bag until then.

We wanted a large rental car for Texas or a smallish rental van. We got a tank instead.

We wanted a large rental car for Texas or a smallish rental van. We got a tank instead.

It was unseasonably cold on our way to Texas. So while we huddled in the back of the tank to eat, K-Hubs took one for the team and ate atop the cooler.

It was unseasonably cold on our way to Texas. So while we huddled in the back of the tank to eat, K-Hubs took one for the team and ate atop the cooler.

Psychedelic skee ball? Yes, please. What else are family reunions for?

Psychedelic skee ball? Yes, please. What else are family reunions for?

Unexpected? As a later-in-life husband and father, this is how K-Hubs describes us ladies appearing in his world. Thank God he's the calm one.

Unexpected? As a later-in-life husband and father, this is how K-Hubs describes us ladies appearing in his world. Thank God he’s the calm one. Also, this is Magnolia Market. I die.

We have discussed all the issues, including why my butt is big (thanks, 5-year-old), who gets which books in her bedroom (stop whining, or I’m taking all the books out of both your rooms), and whether Ed Sheeran is better than Taylor Swift. We are now over it. These major conundrums no longer matter.

In the words of my 3rd cousin (remember her?), “I need to be with the people.” For Sinas, that would be her network of peeps in the retirement community where she lives. Perhaps that’s why she is 102 years old and still going strong. I love her. For Toodle, it’s kindergarten, and could it be here already? Geez.

We’ve done the zoo only a gazillion times. A 45-minute round-trip drive for 15 minutes of a whining good time. Because humidity. Because eczema. Because why did I think that would be a good idea?

We’ve done Bass Pro Shops. Because indoor aquarium. Because no indoor humidity. Another 45-minute round-trip in a rain storm for 15 minutes of indoor exhilaration.

Today we went to the last of our summer camps. Another sports-related one. You know, gross motor skills and following directions and all that (teachers, we really are trying, I promise we are). And Toodle managed to get stuck IN the soccer net. Did I snap a picture of it? No. Like Toodle, I have a case of the summer screw-its. Please note: wear white shorts when sitting on a grassy lawn. Always a smart choice.

Oh, and another reason no photos? Twinkle was bawling her eyes out that she couldn’t play with the others on the field. She, too, is SO OVER this thing called summer, which in her world, translates to “follow my older sister to ALL HER THINGS FOR 12 WHOLE WEEKS!”

We are done.

This is not a photo of today's shenanigans because I didn't take any. But notice how there are no blue shirts around us? That's right. Because we decided to root and cheer for and otherwise join a completely different set of teams. Because of course. Coach K-Hubs had his work cut out for him.

This is not a photo of today’s shenanigans because I didn’t take any. But notice how there are no blue shirts around us? That’s right. Because we decided to root and cheer for and otherwise join a completely different set of teams. Because of course. Coach K-Hubs had his work cut out for him.

Dear All the Teachers,

We love you. We really do. We so eagerly send our cherub babies your way. K-Hubs and I want to be homeroom mom and dad. We can’t wait to sign permission slips for field trips or chaperone fun night at school. We are so there. Because this? We are so over this. PLEASE HELP US FIND STRUCTURE AGAIN. I keep looking for it, and it eludes me every time. I’m ready to put my best self forward for this year. Toodle as well. Honestly, it will probably last for four minutes. But we really believe we can do it this time. Because optimism.

This is how bad it has gotten: I caught myself with the television on and it was sunny and beautiful outside. What in the actual what? And then I just didn’t even care. Probably Disney Jr is educational. Except that it was just me and the girls were down for quiet time. I still didn’t immediately change the channel or turn the tv off.

K-Hubs came home and asked how the day went. I replied that we watched every episode of Mickey Mouse Club House known to man or woman, but the kids were mostly fed (picky eating much?) and we were all still standing. His response? “Sounds like a successful day.” Because he gets it.

Last year, I was so emotional about sending Toodle into the world, as evidenced by this blog post. Bless my heart. It was so true for me then. And, yes, I have a few little bittersweets running through my mind as an era comes to an end. Homeschooling was so fun for the two years Toodle and I did it. I’m grateful we had that choice. But mostly? She can’t wait for the new school year and neither can Twinkle, who will also be in her own two-year-old program at the zoo. So, it’s hard to feel too sad about this when our little monkeys are so excited to go to their respective jungles.

Even now, as I write this, the two-year-old is lifting my shirt up because I don’t know why. Sofia’s on, and she just can’t care about that.

School year, are we there yet? Please take the wheel, for we have no more gas.

Me and K-Guy

Look at these young pups. We think this is the first photo of us. Selfies hadn’t been invented yet.

Before K-Hubs, I had never heard of a golden birthday or a golden anniversary (unless someone was talking about being married for 50 years). But apparently celebrating 15 years of something on the fifteenth of that month is kind of a big deal. In honor of this golden business, it was 15 years ago today that K-Hubs and I met.

I have a little theory about the whole deal. When Mom went to hang with God, she said to Him, “I had a lot of work I still wanted to do down there.” And God said, “I know. But you’re needed up here.” And Mom said, “I’ll trust your plan. But, um, could we send someone to Morgan? A friend? Someone she can partner with? I sort of overshot my mark when I raised her to be independent.” God said, “I know. And, yes, I have someone in mind.” And then Mom said, “Oh, good. I’m relieved. And by the way, can you make him a little older?”

Fast forward four months to a party, hosted by my older cousin and his wife, consisting of college buddies from marching band, their spouses, and their children. There were so many people, I couldn’t keep names straight.

We started at a park shelter and then moved the shindig back to my cousin’s house. Cars were packed with kids and food. This guy from the party offered to give me a ride.

GUY: Do you know how to get back to your cousin’s house from here?
ME: No. [Mental head slap. Unh, he clearly thinks I’m an idiot.]
GUY: Great. Well, let’s follow one of the others and hope we don’t get lost.
ME: Nice car you have. It looks new.
GUY: I never buy a new car. Depreciation. It’s ridiculous.
ME: Oh, sure. Right. Depreciation. Um, well, you keep a very nice car.
GUY: Take care of the car, it’ll take care of you.
ME: Yes, that’s, um, that’s true.
GUY: We made it. Didn’t get lost.
ME: Phew, right? Well, thanks for the ride. I’ll just, um, go find my cousin, let him know I’m here.

Later, I’m talking with my cousin’s college buddies, the few I knew, and Guy joins us. Did he even talk? I don’t remember. But, surely I was talking. And then I stopped talking long enough to notice he was STARING AT ME, amused. I figured it was because he still thought I was a directionally-challenged passenger who didn’t fully respect depreciation until I noticed that nope, no person had EVER looked at me that way. And plenty of people have known over the years that I am directionally challenged. A friend recently suggested I join the 21st century and purchase a smartphone just to have Internet access while getting from point A to point B. It’s that bad.

So while he was staring at me, I was entranced and then forgot what I was talking about. But, as parties go, we got separated by other conversations, and I didn’t see him for the rest of the evening.

Poor God. He was like, “For the love of Me, you two, I’ve got other things to do. How dense can you be?”

Pretty dense.

So, the party went overnight, and because families were in from out of town, no one left. Couches were dripping in children who overran all the comfortable spots to sleep, as kids are wont to do. Tents were popped in the backyard for brave souls who suffered through an unseasonably chilly July night. Lay-Z-Boys were reclined. Blow-up mattresses were in place.

No one slept with the people they came with.

ME [to Cousin]: I didn’t know they were married.
COUSIN: They aren’t. They just fell asleep like that.
ME: Where are their spouses?
COUSIN: Over there. And there. And there.
ME: Oh, sure. Right.
COUSIN: We all traveled across the country together on dingy, crowded, stuffy buses. 10 years later, we’re all still good friends and conditioned to sleep anywhere.

Bless my naive little heart.

Aside from couches, tents, and mattresses, there was one lone futon.

And what are the last two singles who are still awake on Earth supposed to do with said futon? Split it. Yep, Guy and I shared the remaining place to sleep.

Be cool, I told myself. Wow, he’s really good looking. Was he that good looking on the way back from the shelter? Already I don’t remember. Probably he just holds everyone in a trance with that gaze. 

ME: If we’re going to split a futon, probably I should know your name.
GUY: I’m K-Guy. Nice to meet you. Again. So, what brings you to this party?

In one of my more brilliant moments, I had, what is it called? Diarrhea of the mouth? Yeah, I had that. Because cool.

ME: Well, my mom passed away four months ago and my cousin and his wife thought I’d enjoy hanging out here. Live life NOT under a microscope. It has been very stressful and overwhelming and Cousin thought I should get away and then he suggested this party and then, well, here I am.

FOR THE LOVE, that is not what he’s asking, I said to myself, as the words continued to flow. Just say, ‘My cousin, your friend, invited me here.’ That’s all that’s needed in this situation. Geez.

I may or may not have been going through a phase at the time where I told EVERYONE who came into contact with me what had happened to Mom. Grief, denial, and disbelief are powerful tools, and they engulfed me. I’m pretty sure I told every stranger my story because I couldn’t believe it myself. It was a great conversation ender under almost all circumstances. But I was slow to let it go.

Expecting this to be another ended conversation, with awkward silences and uncomfortable humans, I tried to reel the words back into my mouth, mentally head-slapping myself and wondering why I was even speaking in the first place. Because I should never speak. Ever. And then K-Guy does this one.

K-GUY: Omigod, your mom just died?
ME [still trying to recover from that bout of verbal overload]: Uh, yeah.
K-GUY: I had no idea. Wow. How cool of you to come to this party. That was cool of your cousin to think of this. Omigod, wait. Your mom must have been very young. Because, well, you’re not exactly old.
ME: She was young. Two days after her 49th birthday.
K-HUBS: That. Is. So. Sad. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m pretty sure I’m older than you, and my parents are still living, and I don’t know what I’d do if I lost them.

So, there we were on the futon, staring silently at the ceiling while HE PONDERED WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO LOSE HIS PARENTS. Seriously. Could this guy have had any more empathy for a stranger?

Okay, fine. I’ll give him that. A caring personality AND good looks. Fine. He can have those. But that’s it. He’s just another person on this earth. No big deal.

K-GUY: I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ve managed to have a good time, in spite of, well, you know.

I suppose if you’re going to put it that way and be wonderful, then I guess you get to be special. Or something.

So what happened next? We talked. All night. “Really?” you ask. “That can’t possibly be.”

Well, okay, you caught me.

WE didn’t talk all night.

I did.

Love at first sight? That’s not what we call it. More like, click at third sight.