Friday, June 30, 2006


I married a wonderful man. He has a delightful sense of humor, an awesome commitment to Christ and a passion for his family. I continually wonder at the grace of God to allow me such a husband as this. There is only one thing... he brought into our family and the lives of our children, allergies. I say this tongue in cheek, because of course I would marry him all over again! However, allergies are hereditary and our children inherited them. It is part of the lifestyle here in Odd.

Hannah was born with dry skin. The pediatrician told us to use a "good moisturizer" on her, like Vaseline Intensive Care. Little did we know that many lotions, this one included, use eggs to help emulsify their products. Hannah is allergic to eggs. We battled eczema, hives, vomiting and upset tummies with no knowledge of what was really going on. By 9mos we knew something needed to be addressed. We saw a dermatologist who recommended a "good moisturizer" and said she had eczema but there was nothing he could really do about it. Finally, at about 16mos I heard about an allergist - I didn't even know there were specialized doctors for allergies! - and I insisted to my pediatrician that we receive a referral. It was the beginning of a new life for us!

Finally the reactions, skin issues and seemingly inter-related symptoms were being validated. Hannah was given a scratch test of 50 common allergens and responded positively to nearly 1/3 of them. The nurse commented that she had never seen a more reactive 16mos old. We discovered she was highly allergic to eggs (both yolk and white), peanuts, all tree nuts, legumes like soybeans, green beans, pinto beans and so on, apples (the basis for most juices), lamb, cats, dogs, dust mites, tree pollen and corn. We were shocked! Hannah went on 3 types of topical steroids to control the eczema flare-ups and an oral allergen suppressant called Zyrtec. We started using an ointment called Aquaphor (the consistency of petroleum jelly), head to toe each evening after her bath. And our life of diligence towards ingredients and food began.

Bethany was born 2 years after Hannah and while she showed minor signs of allergies she did not have the strong reactions like her big sister. We were hopeful that Hannah might be the only Randall to inherit this irritant. Bethany is allergic to egg whites and strawberries, some pollens and cat but overall she has been free of most issues. What a blessing!

Caleb was born 2 1/2 years later and we saw instantly that he resembled his biggest sister (we have now coined them Type A and Type B). Type A's are smaller at birth, look the same and have allergies. Type B's are bigger, also look similar and do not have the allergy issues as badly. Caleb was an A. Because we already knew how to manage the skin issues we used Hannah's medications and treatments to control flare-ups and generally make him as comfortable as possibler during reactions. But when he turned 5mos he went from an easy-going contented little boy to a nightmare, especially at night. Some nights it took 2 hours before he would finally fall asleep, and the whole time he would be crying. I would rock and rock and rock but when I set him down he would start back again until, exhausted, he would allow me transfer him to his crib. We could not think of what was causing this change. He didn't like whole foods and did not really start solids until he was nearly 1yr old. We took him to see our allergist when he was 13mos and decided we should scratch test him now. We were shocked to learn that he was NOT allergic to eggs (we had basically become an egg-free home and assumed it would be a high allergen for all our reactive children) but instead discovered a high reaction to dairy and potatoes, along with animals, molds and pollens. Dairy. Dairy! The poor boy practically lived on the stuff. We switched him to rice milk and within a week our happy boy was back! We started him on Zyrtec as well and using the continued skin treatments along with severe dairy restrictions we are able to control many potential outbreaks.

When Leah arrived only a year later we were very happy to see a healthy Type B peek out at us. While she has some allergens she falls into the category with Bethany of easy management. We thanked God again that he saw fit to give us a break from the high maintenance of child allergies.

Mary came 17mos later and wouldn't you know it - Type A... all the way. She weighed within a few ounces of her older Type A siblings and was the same length. Most people immediately pick up on the physical resemblance, with Caleb especially. And she has dry skin that irritates her often. This time I realized we might skip the sleepless nights and have her tested early, so just a week ago (a few days shy of 6mos) we scratch tested her.

The scratch test involves a rubber ink stamp marking the whole of your back with 50 different numbered squares. Then the nurse places a single drop of liquid containing the allergic essence of a common reactant into each square - 50 different unique possibilities. After each square has their drop she takes a special needle and scratches off the top layer of skin under each drop to allow the liquid to react with the patient's broken skin, assuring the strongest possible reaction with the best chance of clear negative and positive results. Mary, not to be outdone by older siblings, was the most reactive 6mos old this particular nurse had ever tested... she has been doing this for 30 years.

So, we found out that cats, dogs and parakeet feathers are high reactants (so much for my dream of owning a dog - I told Christopher that there better be a dog with a bow around its neck waiting for me the day we finally move our last child out, I don't care how many years it takes). Mary is also highly allergic to eggs, carrots and oats. While the results can be saddening (no Cheerios) they are also incredibly beneficial. Maybe we can avoid some of the pitfalls we had with the other children because we won't even begin to expose her to these foods. I have to make adjustments in my eating because of my breast milk but it is a small price to pay. Besides, we all have our cross to bear. But I am looking forward to a Type B next time *wink*.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Imelda Marcos Eat Your Heart Out

Imelda Marcos is known (or rather notorious) for her shoe fetish. When opposing forces searched her Filipino home in 1986 and found a reported 3000 pairs of shoes (many never even worn) she defended herself with this, "I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty." Um, yea. Anyway... Imelda has competition in the form of 23 month old Leah Caitrin aka The Shoe Stealer.

If she could, Leah would have been born wearing shoes. Seriously. Ever since she could crawl she has been fascinated by shoes. Mostly her older siblings' shoes. Occasionally her own. Definitely her Mama's and Daddy's. She will drop anything to put on an empty pair of shoes. She could be called the Shoe Whisperer. They call to her in their own private language. She recognizes their need and understands how to fill it. After all, what is a shoe good for if it is not being worn? Poor, lonely, tired out shoe with no one to love it. Pathetic picture isn't it? Not on my daughter's watch!

Now God, in his mighty intelligence, designed Leah's feet to work perfectly with her particular quirks. She has chubby landing boards for feet. No dainty, small boned, slight lady's appendage here. Nope. Leah has hefty ankles with wide, thick blossoms on the bottom of each leg. She can put on her Daddy's work boots and clunk around for an hour without breaking a sweat. Her feet make her particularly suited for the task of wearing shoes made for people 15 times her age.

So you might think, with all this shoe lovin' going on, that Leah has several pairs of her own shoes... you would think that - but you would be mistaken. Leah has a pair of tennis shoes which she will occasionally keep on (but only if you place military grade magnets on the bottom of the shoes and then land Leah on the planet Jupiter). She owns a pair of sweet Mary-Janes for church but we have yet to see her wear them there. Recently we purchased a pair of stars and stripes "crocks" which she does enjoy putting on and off but as soon as a larger pair of anything is available they are left in the dust. Apparently her giftedness as the Shoe Whisperer only works with the larger sizes.

She wears our company's shoes, her Nana's shoes or even a stranger's shoes. High-heeled, open-toed, lace-up, slip-on and buckled all receive equal opportunity with her. It is great to see such an open heart in a child so young. She hasn't been tainted by society and the laws of etiquette - white shoes when? I don't think Leah even finds it particularly important to wear a matching set of shoes and putting them on the correct feet is a total mystery to her. But her zeal makes up for it all! Any time you want to watch a fashion shoe - I mean show, to rival Prada stop on by.

Friday, June 16, 2006


It's that time of year again and graduates are graduating... We are going to my cousin's graduation from Carmel High this evening. The small towns in our area are one by one serving up Alma Mater heraldry to mark their students out for future success. We are not an official part of this process because we homeschool. But that didn't stop us from participating in our own Advancement Ceremony last Friday evening. It was beautiful.

My family is actively involved in a special support group specifically for the homeschool family. We call ourselves the Monterey Bay Christian Homeschool Group, or MBCHS. It gives me an opportunity to involve my kids with other like-minded Christians in activities and education. We meet together a few times a month for play groups at the park, and once a month we have a meeting set aside for parents only where topics of relevance are discussed. I really enjoy it. So do my kids!

The Advancement Ceremony is the biggest production our humble group presents. Unlike public or even private schools our numbers are so small that we can really make the event personal. We began the evening with a dinner and opportunity to socialize with other participating families. There were about 25 families, all with varying aged children in differing grades. It is great to have this multi-generational contact for my children. I appreciate that Hannah and Bethany have friends from several age brackets, and since they are not pigeon-holed into a specific grade they are much freer to act according to their personal desires and not the "peer group" mentality of the age.

After dinner the primary program began and each child was given an invitation to present something of their choice to the families. Hannah and Bethany sang When You Believe (including the Hebrew stanza) from the movie Prince of Egypt. It was such a safe environment. Here, in front of families and children they know and care about there was no stage fright or fear of ridicule. They sang their little hearts out and received thunderous applause (as did every other student participating!). It took an hour for the children to each address their turn and we were delighted with renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to words from our founding fathers. Then the certificates were awarded.

This is my favorite part! You see I have complete control over my homeschool and what grade/mark of achievement my child earns. I don't have to worry about whether they finished all the "right" workbooks before the cut off date. I am free to acknowledge the work and success they made, individually, this past year. I chose to have their certificates acknowledge the completion of the school year rather than the completion of a grade. In future years I might choose differently - it's up to me though! So Hannah and Bethany both received their certificate with a place for Teacher and Principle (myself and Christopher) to sign. The girls were so proud!

I love homeschool. I love the flexibility and control it offers me. I love the way my children are taught as individuals and not as a group. I enjoy the complete understanding I have of their academic strengths and weaknesses... no parent-teacher conferences for me! Mostly I am at peace knowing I am providing the best environment for my children to learn and grow safely. I certainly can not protect them from everything. I don't want to! There are lessons they will learn in hard mistakes throughout their life. But I can keep them from being teased viciously, bullied unmercifully, or even idolized inappropriately. These social wounds have no "value" in teaching small kids about "real life". I don't intend to put my children through them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mary Mooooo

We call her Mary-Moo, Pumpkin-Poo, Poopity-Do as a "nickname". We have called her this ever since the beginning. "Why," you might ask? I have NO idea. She was born the smallest of all our children (7lbs, 12oz) and has been the easiest as well. In fact she only recently started to cry, preferring, up until now, to mew like a kitten. Even her cry is sweet. But Mary Moo it was and Mary Moo it is. So we thought it appropoe to introduce her to Cow. It was a match made in heaven.

Let me first give you some background on Cow. We purchased a toy with hanging dealy-ma-bobs for Hannah in early 1999. We called the toy the Bat-At because you put the child on their back underneath this canopy of hanging dealy-ma-bobs and they could "bat at" them with hands and feet. Hannah immediately enjoyed the game and spent hours contentedly entertaining her parents with her dexterity. Cow was one of the dealy-ma-bobs. Hannah grew especially found of Cow and finally we removed Cow from the Bat-At and allowed her to play with it alone. She was THRILLED. She would shake all over when Cow was in sight and if Cow was in her little hands he immediately went into her mouth. We knew we had to save him for future children.

Bethany was introduced to Cow in early 2001 using the Bat-At once again. However she preferred to sit in her Johnny-Jumper so we attached Cow with toy rings to the cords and allowed her to gum the loyal toy to her heart's content. Cow is made from a polyester material with a light stuffing, similar to what a cloth book would feel like. He has the perfect combination of size, weight and shape combined with color/pattern to make him an instant success. Small children can get any part of Cow into their mouths without hurting themselves and slightly older children can choose certain aspects of him (tag, loop, nose) to chew. I have no idea how many times Cow has been washed.

Caleb received Cow when he was about 4mos old in late 2003. He was still in great shape and Caleb immediately took to the polka-dots on the back side of Cow. He would be mesmerized by them for upwards of 30 minutes and then suddenly, with a start, try to stuff all of the poor bovine into his mouth at once! We tenderly packed Cow away when Caleb grew to old but realized we had this toy that seemed a hit with all our children and began to wonder if he would indeed make an appearance for every one.

Leah came so quickly after Caleb that Cow was barely packed before we took him back out again. We got a new Bat-At for Leah, the old one taking on the look of an old bag lady with missing front teeth. The newer version was improved, over-engineered with bright fabrics, rattles and squeakers in random places, removable mirrors and its own set of dealy-ma-bobs to boot. We tried to use the accessories it came with but Leah was not altogether impressed like her older siblings had been with their Bat-At. Something about Cow was simple, black and white with high contrast and not a lot of "noise". Maybe a reflection of a bygone era *wink*. We pulled one of the new fangled dealy-ma-bobs off and replaced it with our beloved Cow. He was a hit. Leah cooed and smiled and chewed her friend for months.

And now Mary. Mary Moo even. I got Cow out of the basket of newbornish toys a few weeks ago and introduced the two. Mary loves him. She literally goes into a full-body smile at the sight of Cow. She shakes with joy and exuberance and when she can get him in her mouth - bliss!

Cow loves it too. He has come to find a great deal of love in this family with their small children. Each new person needs him in a slightly different but no less important way. He doesn't mind the time passed in a box because he knows that there will be another little person soon who needs his special touch. He is content. And that's all that matters.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wisdom from Experience

Christopher and I took the kids to a treat for dinner tonight. We have a favorite hamburger joint in Salinas called, Margie's (it has great eats!). In order to get there we must drive over the Salinas River, as you see to the right. We drive over this river almost every time we go into Salinas. We discuss the name of this river, its headwaters and final dump into the ocean often. Our girls are very familiar with this river. So this conversation is what we heard from our 7-yr old and 5-yr old tonight.

"I see the river Hannah!" Bethany is generally easily excited and gets giddy at noticing the waters rushing below the bridge.

"Yea, I know. I see it to," Hannah plays bored.

"Oh look, there is an island in the middle of it. I wish I could be a fairy and live on the island." Bethany is already imagining all the creatures she would make-believe lived on this island, and how many children each one would have.

"What would it be called?" Out of sheer curiosity Hannah must ask. Usually she finds some minor fault with Bethany's plan and will tell her so.

"What the island? Hmmm... Bethany's Island, maybe. (pause) I just love the Jordan River."

"That isn't the Jordan River!" Hannah is in absolute disgust that her sister would get this wrong.

"It isn't? I thought it was..."

"No Bethany! The Jordan River is in Israel. We aren't in Israel. We live in California."


"No, that is the Sacramento River." And with that final piece of absolute knowledge Hannah ended the conversation.

PS - Hannah also knows that a mile is "2000 feet long" and was once again shocked that her sister did not know such elementary facts.