Monday, August 27, 2012

Dairy-Free...Still At It!

People often ask me how George is doing these days with regard to his dairy allergy, so I thought I'd update here. It seems like so long ago that George was constantly broken out in a rash and difficult to soothe, but those days really are in the past. I am nearly five months dairy-free now, and I am continuing to nurse George with no milk and extremely limited soy in my diet. An exception is two ounces per day of Alimentum formula that he gets with his baby oatmeal, as I long ago told BJ that I'm just not dedicated enough to add a 20-minute pumping session into the end of my day for that. George struggled with other types of formula, but the Alimentum seems to work really well.

George's dairy and soy problems are not equal in nature. It has become apparent to me that he does have sensitivity to soy, so I limit my intake quite a bit for him. Dairy, however, cannot be consumed even in moderation. As I believe I said in a previous post, I experimented months ago by eating a single hush-puppy that I knew had milk in it, and he was broken into a rash all over his face the next day; worse, it didn't go away (which was par for the course) and we had to apply the steroid cream all over again. I was so daunted by a soy-free diet in particular, because soy is in practically everything; however, some quick research led me to understand that the two most common soy ingredients on the labels, soy lecithin and soybean oil, are not considered allergens by the US Food and Drug Administration and therefore are safe to consume. This organization has not led me astray, as I consume soy lecithin all the time with no apparent recourse for George. As it stands now, I can't consume a quantity of soy sauce such as a quarter of a cup that goes into a marinade; I can, however, dip the corner of my sushi rolls into soy sauce guilt-free (no edamame to accompany it, though!).

The health benefits that have come of this for me have not gone unnoticed. Although my weight loss has finally stabilized, I'm a good 15 pounds under my George pre-pregnancy weight and more than five pounds under what I weighed before my pregnancy with Silas. This is encouraging, especially because my running has slacked and I've still kept it off. (Note: The Moore War Run 5K was this past Saturday and I ran the whole thing without stopping in 35 minutes. What what. I decided to stop making fun of myself when the posted results showed me in 7th place out of 23 for women in my age group!)

This being said, the real challenge for me will come this fall, as I approach my favorite time of eating, with all of my favorite foods, and will find myself quite limited. I do plan to nurse George until his first birthday in January, so that puts me through the whole Christmas season scrambling to find my dairy-free favorites and somehow try to take the milk out of my favorites that do indeed utilize the cow. I will be looking head-on into a Christmas season of no Hello Dollies, creamy gravy, green bean casserole, hot chocolate, homemade egg nog, pumpkin ice cream, etc. I have decided to begin focusing on the foods that I CAN eat though, and I'm still quite excited about the options: homemade cranberry sauce, pumpkin bread, sweet potatoes, turkey, homemade marshmallows...Yum. I'm also excited about the potential for experimentation to make my favorite foods work for me. Butter crisco can easily substitute for butter in baking and, surprisingly, does not contain dairy. Mashed potatoes also taste delicious when made with chicken broth (thanks for the tip, Rachem!). I'll try substituting rice milk for cow milk in our family's traditional fried bread. And I'll be damned if I'm going without my favorite of all, pumpkin pie! Who needs evaporated milk anyway? Who even knows what evaporated milk is? I have put some research in and found this dairy-free, soy-free recipe for pumpkin pie, and I'll report back on results.

Additionally, I intend to finish what I started last year with the chili exploration. The truth is, BJ and I did experiment with two different chili recipes, but I only posted one of them on the blog. Toward the beginning of our quest for finding good chili recipes, Owen received his diagnosis and sent our plans into a tailspin. The season was never the same after that, and we lost the motivation for frivolous things like chili. This fall we're going to try it again, and I'll finally put up some belated posts because I took good notes.

Finally, a happy first birthday to Owen today. We love this little man and I get to see him next week! (Did I mention that George and I get to visit Massachusetts for a long weekend??) Tomorrow morning before I head into work I will plant some Black-Eyed Susans in our front garden in his honor; Som has declared these as her flower of choice to commemorate our man and the life he brings to our lives, in spite of his difficult journey over the past year. We love you, birthday boy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Colorado, 2012

Yesterday we returned from a nine-day trip to Estes Park, Colorado, with my parents and the boys. To say that the trip was refreshing and badly-needed is a bit of an understatement; we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and had a great time in the beautiful Rocky Mountains! There was plenty of fly-fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, rock skipping (by some more than others!), reading, and eating to go around! Bouts of sadness were few and far-between for me, which was a nice change of pace. Our family took a few days to drive there, spending the majority of the second day enjoying Denver and its Butterfly Pavilion, hotel swimming, and microbrewery ammenities. On the third day of driving we arrived at our cabin, where we spent the next five nights particularly enjoying life. Here are some pictures from the adventure. Believe it or not, I have vastly pared them down; please feel free to look at as many or as few as you wish.

Cuteness in the cabin

A preface shot to the above-mentioned rock throwing. Silas was a master of dumping rocks, sticks, and pine cones into the river right outside of our cabin.

 He may be getting big, but he'll always be my baby!

It may be hard to see, but there are two male elk tangling horns just below that center tree. Each evening we walked and/or drove down Fish Hatchery Road, which was adjacent to our cabin. Every night we had success spotting wildlife there, typically elk..but once we saw a black bear walk across the road in front of us while we were walking the boys!

 Gots to get clean to get dirty again the next day!

George and Daddy on a rock in the middle of the river.

Georgie fell asleep for a morning nap, and when he awoke he found himself in his jam-jams inside Rocky Mountain National Park! And in Papa's arms to boot! Dream come true!

My mom in the alpine, 11,700 feet up. It was noticeably chillier above the timberline, if you can imagine.

Hiking time! BJ and I have come to learn that hiking with two little ones is quite unlike the grueling backpacking days of yore. Sometime I will write a post about the time we hiked the 60 miles through Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness on the John Muir Trail...before we had children.

This elk, seen around town commonly, has Christmas lights stuck in his antlers. They didn't seem to be bothering him in the least though.

I wish I could say that all of these hours spent fishing resulted in even a single fish caught...but I cannot tell a lie.
 Can you see BJ way down there?

An excavator was parked right outside of the Subway we ate at in Russell, Kansas, on the way home. The only thing that could have made this better for Silas is a treasure trove of Sour Patch Kids tucked into the scoop.

 This wildfire was enormous and only two miles downwind of our hotel in Colby, Kansas. From where we were as we drove past, you could hear and feel it. Utterly amazing.

A great time had by all!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Running for Reasons

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about running and the different goals that people have when they go running. At the time, I was committed to losing my Silas-pregnancy weight, and my goal was completion of the Edmond Turkey Trot 5K with no walking breaks. It was so appropriate for me that my first complete 5K was on Thanksgiving Day, and that year above all others I celebrated by crossing the line with utter gratitude for my husband and my new son.

I mentioned in that post that one night in training I ran alongside (okay, trailed miserably behind) a fellow at the same park who clearly seemed to be training for boot camp. He wore a heavy-looking backpack and sprinted intermittently, paused for push-ups (with the backpack still on, mind you), and kneeled before a statue of a fallen soldier in the park. I was humbly reminded that we all have goals while running, and some are much more noble than mine.

Now, I am running for Aiden. I'm signed up for the Moore War 5K at the end of August and, due to repeated sciatic flare-ups, my running has not been consistent so this jog will kick my butt. I'd like to continue by running in the Hot Mamas 5K at the end of September. Just to let everyone else know who I'm running for, I made this fancy-schmancy shirt:
It says "Running for Aiden," in case you can't read it. The back reads, "EVERYONE needs a pertussis booster. Save a life!" Woohoo!

Another worthy goal comes from my friend Paige. Paige just recently married BJ's childhood friend Josh, and together they have committed to running for clean water in Africa. Paige, who has never run further than a mile (per her words!), has committed to the half-marathon because this cause is so dear to her heart. She and Josh already sponsor two girls living in Tanzania, and she is currently raising donations for an organization called World Vision. Paige said that money that she raises will likely go toward putting wells into communities that need clean water. She said that 50 dollars can provide clean water for one person for a lifetime. To read more about Paige and her cause, click here.

Friends, I hope that you are doing well. I remarked to BJ tonight that this blog is a true mirror of my personality and moods. The last few posts have been so depressing, which is a reflection of the moods I have felt since the end of June. I'm re-emerging now though, different and better, and my posts will no doubt begin taking more positive turns as healing progresses. Thank you for bearing with me; I know that terribly sad stories and plugs for vaccinations are not the only things you want to read about. For most people though, it is simply human nature to talk about what is constantly in one's mind.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Case for Vaccinations

Credit the following quote to NY Times Magazine writer Susan Dominus:
"Andrew Wakefield has become one of the most reviled doctors of his generation, blamed directly or indirectly, depending on the accuser, for irresponsibly starting a panic with tragic repercussions: vaccination rates so low that childhood diseases once all but eradicated here---whooping cough and measles among them---have re-emerged, endangering young lives."

I can't tell you how many people there have been over the years that BJ and I have heard express fear of vaccinating their babies for the routine diseases. Despite the fact that the advent of vaccinations has been heralded as the greatest medical advancement in history, a number of parents these days choose not to vaccinate their children. For many of them, this decision is borne out of fear.

In the beginning of July, Aiden Smith was still alive and battling pertussis (whooping cough). We were visiting friends in Kansas City and I had a discussion with my friend Heather, who is an emergency room pediatrician. She and I talked about the former physician Andrew Wakefield, who has had a huge hand in falsely invoking public fear about a relationship between the MMR vaccination and autism. As a psychologist, I have debated this point to friends and clients far too many times (not with Heather though; she and I are certainly on the same side!). Since the time that Aiden's battle with pertussis became so desperate and eventually fatal, the debate over the safety of vaccinations has been heavy on my heart.

So let's talk about Andrew Wakefield, shall we? Even though his claims have been debunked and he has been stripped of his medical license in the United Kingdom precisely for the damage he did in all of this mess, people are still afraid that vaccinations will give their kids autism. So what exactly did he do? First, the giant myth that lingers--that Andrew Wakefield proved a cause-effect relationship between the MMR vaccination and autistic disorder. FALSE. Let me make this clear here and in the remainder of this post: THE CLAIM THAT VACCINATIONS MAY CAUSE AUTISM IS LUDICROUS.

Let's talk about what Andrew Wakefield DID do.
He decided to join forces with a pharmaceutical company that had worked to develop an alternative vaccination for measles alone; in doing so, Wakefield stood to make tons of money if he could find a way to discredit the standard measles-mumps-rubella vaccination already in use and substitute his alternative.  In addition, he decided to try to make some money by concocting a colon-related medical problem, encouraging a way to make his new diagnosis mainstream, and then selling specialized "diagnostic kits" to physicians for this specific colon problem. In doing this, Wakefield himself speculated that he could make $43 million annually.

So what did Wakefield do next?
Why, he recruited participants for a study---unethically from the beginning, I might add. First off, he acted without consent from the IRB, which is the agency that grants permission to researchers before they begin working with participants. He recruited 12 participants, which is an absurdly small sample size to try to prove anything. Wakefield claimed that all of these participants, who were children, had developed autism within days of receiving their MMR vaccination (remember, this is the exact vaccination he was TRYING to discredit for financial reasons). Truth is, three of the 12 participants never actually had a diagnosis of autistic disorder. Five of the remaining 12 had been diagnosed with autistic disorder BEFORE they ever received their MMR vaccination, and the remainder of the children (as documented by the hospital and physician records) actually began showing symptoms of autistic disorder months after the MMR vaccination administration, not days as reported by Wakefield.

Then, Wakefield subjected these developmentally-challenged children to repeated invasive procedures, including colonoscopies and lumbar punctures. Ouch! He took the laboratory records from these invasive procedures and changed the "Normal" findings to instead say "Abnormal." He reported that these children showed symptoms of a strange problem that he termed "autistic enterocolitis," which is a bunch of mumbo jumbo. But wait! How convenient! He just happened to have a "diagnostic kit" for this so-called autistic enterocolitis, and here it was, ready for sale! Ugh, you can sense my sarcasm I hope.

Wakefield continued the ruse by falsifying parent reports, plugging in numbers and other "abnormal" reports when it benefited him to do so, and otherwise blatantly lying to both discredit the MMR vaccination and plug his new "diagnostic kit" for sale. Then, he wrote up a journal article about it and The Lancet stupidly published it in 1998. They have since retracted it. Despite the onslaught of attempts, no one has ever been able to replicate his 'findings.'

So where is Wakefield now? Well, the United Kingdom nailed him, charged him with scientific fraud and the abuse of developmentally-challenged children, and stripped him of his ability to practice medicine in the UK. He now lives in Austin, Texas, where he continues to stir up trouble, claim innocence, and attempt to sue truth-tellers for defamation (his most recent defamation suit was dismissed by a Texas judge only two days ago).

Wakefield's incompetence and flat-out maliciousness has had far-reaching effects, beyond what these poor 12 children had to endure. The quote that leads off this post refers to the number of diseases that have resurged recently, likely in part due to the anti-vaccination movement that was strengthened by Wakefield. And if all of this isn't absurd enough, consider this statement by J.B. Handley, co-founder of an anti-vaccination group: "To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one."

It's ridiculous and heart-breaking that babies like Aiden have lost their lives to diseases that should have been eradicated. People often look to physicians for their expertise, and I find it particularly egregious when physicians abuse that power. Another point for people to be aware of is the importance of adults knowing their own vaccine status. Some vaccinations require that adults receive boosters for them years later in order for them to remain effective throughout the lifespan; pertussis is an excellent example of this type of vaccination. For references and additional information on this topic, check out these links: