Happy Birthday, Maddy!

When Maddy turned seven, our family celebrated by beginning a new chapter that was be life changing, helped to raise awareness for those suffering from food allergy, and helped educate people about OIT. Now, as Maddy turns 8, and will begin the 3rd grade, so many possibilities are open to her as a child that doesn't have food allergies standing in her way!

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Check out my other blog, The Best Medicine, about my husband's battle against cancer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

High Hopes

Anxiously awaiting the taste of PB.

 Most parents will say their children’s personality shines through early on in life. It’s pretty evident, usually, which of those qualities become their strengths - whether those traits are adopted from your spouse, picked up from you, or were crafted on their own or, rather, with the help of another influence. Our children do eventually become these little individuals somehow melding all of the above into something entirely their own. Even if half of the time we are shaking our head at them in amazement or exasperation, it is incredible to witness watching our children grow up.

At a fairly early age, it was evident to us, that Madeline was a confident little thing. She had a sense of humor that matched her father’s and a brazen attitude that our family likened to my own, a dangerous combination to say the least! Family & friends humorously called her “assertive” for her age and often joked that if at three years old she was able to tell people what to do with such authority, imagine what she would be like at my age. At one visit to the apple orchard with friends, we moseyed along, enjoying the beautiful fall day. Maddy relished each moment, the beautiful weather as she ran through the orchards with our Goddaughter, Aubrey and other pals. She really wanted to get to the pumpkins next and was eager to be sure everyone knew where we were headed. Jumping on out of the wagon, and in front of our group, she let everyone know which activity was next on the agenda. 
Lil' Miss Bossy Pants - Fall 2009

Everyone, everyone – listen!” she yelled. “We are getting pumpkins next, follow me! Self-assured, assertive, confident, you name it; this kid did not lack it. And I was proud of that. 

She had more confidence than I could imagine. And it had started much earlier than that miniature event planner at The Country Mill. The spring before that particular incident, at just three years old she amazed us all, when she told us she wanted to perform a song for our church’s Spring Fling, a show put on to demonstrate the musical talents of our church members. Maddy practiced and practiced, mostly with her Grandma Linda. Music is very special to Jason’s side of the family and most in the family either play an instrument or sing in a choir and they’ve been determined since Maddy’s birth to pass that on to her. As a result, she loves music and was quite confident the day she took the stage. It was really hard to believe and beautiful to watch as she sang each word of Frank Sinatra’s classic, “High Hopes.” I’m certain I was more nervous than she, but why would she be? She had high hopes! 

Spring 2009
My memory threw me back to this moment when ol’ blue eyes serenaded me recently driving home from work. The memory struck me and I considered the expectations we had when we began our OIT journey. At the start of the peanut allergy desensitization program we had extremely high hopes for the way it would go – Maddy would get through the entire Rush Day protocol, she would increase her dose each week, she would love and adore the taste, smell, and texture of peanuts, peanut butter and everything peanut, and then she would graduate right on time. Ta – da!
Our hopes were dashed from the start - expectations had to be renegotiated every step of the way. That is the way this program goes.

That was hard to deal with sometimes, though. 

She didn’t make it as far through Rush Day as we’d hoped, she had quite a lot of little reactions along the way, and she certainly wasn’t enjoying the peanuts. 

She was to six peanuts at this point and we had high hopes, once again, for her to love peanut butter. We hoped to just get her through until graduation with some more options for her dose. She didn’t like dry roasted peanuts and those Peanut M&M’s were great, but so filling in the morning that she wasn’t eating a nutritional breakfast. Everyone told her just how much she would love the ooey-gooey peanutty goodness they all adore themselves, and we were all excited for something new. Wrong!

Let me reiterate - Maddy had done very well at this point – in all ways she could. Her body had been desensitizing just as it should – the few reactions were pretty normal and not at all bad. She had decided her dose was just that – medicine & she would take it as such, no matter the taste. Now that we were six peanuts in, I was really hoping for the “she likes the peanuts” phase to kick in and it hadn’t, not yet. 

At this point, too, Maddy said, “the one thing I don’t like about this peanut program is that it’s forever.” 
The first taste!

For a mom who had done nothing but eat, sleep, and breathe peanut allergy desensitization program  – this one punched me right in the gut – juuust a bit. 

But -  I’m not a quitter - and neither is Maddy. 

So, we soldiered on.  She soldiered on. 

She gave up on peanut butter for some time after that first try, but like most things, she tried it again and again. And, much like everything else with Maddy, her attitude about desensitization has come around again, too. Her dose, peanut butter, Peanut M&M’s, and peanuts are becoming a regular part of her life. Like her dad, she finds the humor in everything she does, and like me, she takes each challenge on head on. And like the unique child she is growing up to be - she has high hopes; she has high apple pie in the sky hopes!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

That's My Girl

Excited to try something new!
New things are difficult for most of us. As adults it is especially difficult to think about new friends, new places, or adopting new routines into our life. I’d really like to think when I am approached with something new I will jump into it with a great attitude - full force with energy and positivity. The truth of the matter is, though, more often I hold back a bit, allowing my reservations to keep me planted in the same place time & time again. Kids, though, usually are not this way. They are amazingly versatile, generally more forward thinking than us, and are more capable than we ever imagined them to be.

Maddy’s proven this to me time and time again in our journey toward freedom from food allergies. She has been nothing short of brave – ingesting this poison each day, twice a day in order to become eventually immune from it. There have been times she’s struggled with the flavor, especially just after she tasted her first peanut.  Some of those times I have joked with her. “Okay, I’ll let Dr. Mayer know we’re all done,” I’ve said playfully.

Quickly she’s replied “No, no! They’re not that bad!” And down the peanuts go!

5 Peanut M&M's = 3 regular peanuts
And who’s to blame her? All her life she’s been scared of anything resembling a peanut, peanut butter, food cross contaminated with peanuts, and has been told to stay away from those offending foods as well. She is at the age where hot dogs are considered their own food group and chicken nuggets from McDonalds are “like the best chicken, mom!” If given an opportunity to make her own dinner she would easily make cereal and if Dad asks about picking up dinner, she quickly yells, “Pizza!” at the phone. She enjoys fruit and vegetables, but much like most kids this age, she must be served the colorful foods in order for them to make it into her mouth and thus her belly; so getting her to like not just a new food, but a food that has been deemed toxic to her an entire lifetime is simply not going to be taken down easily. Those peanuts were NOT her new favorites! She was adding them to her daily routine, however, much loved, they were not!

Nonetheless, the weeks did fly by, quite quickly, I might add, after that first peanut. And, like we hope in OIT, they were relatively uneventful. Uneventful is actually rather exciting! Which means NO REACTIONS occurred – no hives popped their ugly heads, no tummy aches cramped our style and no fevers forced their way into our evening plans… nothing happened at all. Life was good! 

Maddy, as I’d said, did not like the peanuts, but the peanuts were tolerating her. Better yet, her immune system was holding strong, and as far as I was concerned was strengthening. My baby was eating peanuts! Every day! And by the third week of peanut dosing, she got a new treat – Peanut M&M’s. This chocolate covered peanut delicacy came with a whole new set of faces not nearly as awful as the plain peanut faces. As the weeks have gone on she has grown to like Peanut M&M’s a tad more than dry roasted peanuts. Hopefully we will get a peanut lover out of her in the long run!

These kids all amaze me!
Her logic and attitude that the peanuts though, her dose, are medicine is flawless; inspiring really. This outlook keeps her head in the game. Nothing is keeping her from that end goal – her eyes are on the prize – OIT graduation! I’m telling you - Jason and I have not even one time had to fight her on taking her dose. Since the day we have started this program, since the minute she decided she was in it, she jumped in it – with the energy and the positivity I spoke of before. Kids are amazing and she is a remarkable little girl. She is becoming an amazing little lady, and will one day be an outstanding woman. 

I told her this exact sentiment as we were driving home from the allergist’s office one day, “I am so proud of you for doing this you know,” I started.

“Why?” She asked. I really don’t think she feels it is an option to not complete this therapy. I remember the conversation so well. It astounds me that a child her age could have such awareness about herself. 

“Well,” how could I word this and do it without tearing up. “When I was your age, I’m really not sure I could do what you are doing – eating peanuts every day, visiting the allergist every week. I think you’re really brave and I’m proud of you.” 

She paused a second, silent, and then said, “If I were your mom, I’d make you.” 
Love this girl!

“What?” I said. 

She replied, “Even if you didn’t like the peanuts, even if you think they are not good. It’s the best thing to do.” 

I’m proud of the little lady she is and I think I know exactly what kind of woman she is going to become… anybody else have an idea?