Monday, September 15, 2014

The food allergy reaction

I mentioned in my last post that my father and stepmother came to visit me in August. The last night of their stay, we ate out for dinner as a family at the Mongolian BBQ. At the restaurant, I allowed our son to take something off the ingredient buffet that he ultimately had an allergic reaction to. It was a veggie patty and I mistakenly assumed that it was just vegetables. When Bry pointed out that sometimes those are held together with egg depending on the brand, I asked the waitress for the ingredients.
Contains: Soy, Egg, Wheat, and Milk ingredients
Now, as an allergy mom, I am very used to checking ingredients and reading labels. Why I didn't this time, why I wasn't more cautious, I can't say. This whole incident is something that I've beaten myself up for quite a bit in the last couple weeks. Our boy ate three bites of his dinner and and pushed it aside. His face got flushed and he started saying that he wanted to go home. He started vomiting right there at our table inside of 15 minutes of eating that third bite of dinner. The waitress and manager were understandably scared, but I assured them none of it was anyone's fault but mine. We all left the restaurant as quickly as possible to get him home so that we could give him some allergy medication; he threw up again twice more after we got him home. This reaction happened on a Friday. On Monday afternoon, we were in the allergist's office getting a prescription for an Epi-Pen and ordering some blood tests (to update his chart from two years ago). I've written about having a food allergic child in the past, and in that post I said, "Finding out what allergies your child has in a doctor's office is not nearly as distressing as finding out by accident." We learned about his egg allergy in the office so we had no idea just how violently he'd react until this incident.

Why an Epi-Pen? Our son did not go into anaphylaxis, which is what an epinephrin auto-injector is meant to help control. On the night of the incident, after we'd gotten home and gotten some Benadryl into our boy, I called my friend Taty; she's an allergy mom too and we support each other. When I told her what had happened, and described the reaction, the first thing she asked me was whether or not I was going to get him an Epi-Pen.
I had thought about it, but then again, he's never had airway issues before... She told me that just because he's never reacted with airway symptoms in the past, doesn't mean it may not someday happen. So when I talked to the allergist the following week, he agreed that an Epi-Pen would probably be a good idea. We were prescribed an Epi-Pen Jr. 2-Pack with each auto-injector containing 0.15mg of epinephrin (the adult version, with a yellow label, holds twice as much). One of the two-pack is at our son's school in the office and the other I keep at home or carry in my bag as needed. I debated pretty hard the issue of keeping the Epi-Pen in the school's office versus having our boy self-carry, but ultimately I decided that 1st grade might be a little young for self-carry. If he had a contact allergy, meaning that skin contact would cause a reaction, I might have reconsidered. His reactions are ingestion-only, meaning that he actually has to eat the offending food in order become symptomatic.

Epi-Pen's are not cheap, but frankly I think they are worth it. I would rather pay for them and never have to use them rather than need them and wish I had bought them. In the Mongolian BBQ restaurant, I had nothing. The waitress who had been serving us offered to see if there was any Benadryl and went into the staff area to check if anyone had anything we could use, but they didn't. We had to drive almost 20 minutes to get back home for some Benadryl. If I'd had my head on straight at the time, I'd have told Bry to drive to the nearest Rite Aid, CVS, or Walgreen's instead. The feeling of facing an emergency and being so unprepared is one of the worst.
Not a valid coupon
In addition to the Epi-Pen, I now carry children's Benadryl tabs that dissolve on the tongue. So, after telling my friend Taty the update on the getting the prescription for an Epi-Pen, she told me where to look for a coupon that will cover the co-pay, making the whole thing cost $0. Well, it will if you have prescription insurance that deals in co-pays. Ours unfortunately is not that kind. We have a health savings account from which we pay for everything medical, from doctor's bills to prescriptions to OTC medications. Which means in my case, the coupon was good for $100 off the total cost. Hey, $100 is nothing to scoff at, and I'd prefer having the discount to not having it...but another way of phrasing it might have been to say, "33% off your prescription". I know right? I wasn't kidding when I said they aren't cheap. I'll say again: I would rather pay for them and never have to use them rather than need them and wish I bought them. And I'll add: What price do you put on peace of mind?

I'd love to say that this was the only food allergy issue we had this summer, but it wasn't. Bry brought home fresh peaches from the local farmers' market one Saturday and later that night our son says to me, "Mommy, I can tell I ate too many peaches because my tongue feels soft." With that statement, he had my immediate and undivided attention.
Source: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
I've done a lot of food allergy reading since he was originally diagnosed, and one of the things that's stuck in my mind all this time is a list of ways a child might describe an allergic reaction. From looking at the list on the left, you can see that our son described his reaction almost verbatim. The first thought in my mind was, "Oh no! Not another one!". A food allergy to peaches? Fruit allergies are actually more common than people realize, but the answer in our case was OAS - Oral Allergy Syndrome. I did some reading online about it, after talking to the allergist. It's like a food allergy, but not nearly as serious. An OAS reaction will only ever be to a fruit or vegetable, so nothing like eggs or milk. An OAS reaction will only occur in the mouth, so no hives, gastrointestinal discomfort, or airway issues. An OAS reaction is only to the raw version of the fruit or vegetable, but once the food is cooked, the reaction will not occur. Apparently, the OAS reaction is the body's own heat breaking down the proteins in the fruit or vegetable which is why eating them raw is the problem. Cooking the fruit or vegetable breaks down the proteins during the cooking process instead. If I were to take the peaches from the farm market and bake them into a cobbler, he could eat that. If I were to buy pasteurized peach juice, he could drink that. But I don't have time for cobblers and I don't buy juice, and as of this summer, I no longer buy peaches (or plums, or nectarines, or apricots just to be safe). I think what annoyed me the most about this OAS development, is that I had to update our son's med-alert bracelet...after having just bought a brand new one for him two months earlier.

After dealing with two separate food allergy issues for our oldest son this summer, I made an appointment with our allergist for our youngest son as a new patient. His appointment isn't until October. I had put off making him an appointment all this time, even knowing food allergies run in our family, just because he's so young; he's only just 2.5yrs old now. Skin testing is...uncomfortable at best, and little kids just don't understand why their back has been pricked 24 times over. I've wanted to spare him this as long as possible, but after this summer, I just don't want any more surprises. I feel like it's very important that we know what all our youngest is and isn't allergic to.

Best advice: If you deal with food allergies and don't already carry some kind of medication for it regularly, start. This Zumbamommy learned a hard lesson this summer.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The long hiatus (or what I did this summer) - Part 2

Originally, I had intended for my high-top shoes to be part of my "what I did in August post", but somehow, when I started writing about them, it just got longer and longer and the next thing I knew, it was its -own- post. The Zumbamommy got carried away talking about dance shoes? *gasp* Someone alert the media! No...? Buying high-tops was certainly not the only thing I did in August, just one of the highlights. Hey, I may not be a "let's go shoe shopping!" kind of gal and I may not give a flying fig about Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik (<-- did I even spell that right?), but when it comes to dance shoes...let's just say Bry wasn't totally out of line with that crack about a dedicated shoe rack.

- I went to a Zumbathon for Relay For Life: I love a Zumbathon in general. I mean, who doesn't? One would have to work really hard to -not- have a good time. This particular Zumbathon was one that Jae and Rae did together. Two hours of that? Just show me where to sign up! Beyond that, Relay For Life is a great cause. At the end of the Zumbathon, there was a drawing for prizes and I won a really nice travel mug and a new bracelet. One I didn't already have. The orange bracelet says "Feel The Music" on it. It's part of Zumba's Aztec Collection of clothing. Just one of three (yes, I said three!) clothing lines that I missed blogging about during my time off. There were other colors to choose from, but I thought the orange/pink one was the brightest and the prettiest.
***Side Note: You didn't miss much with the Aztec Collection, I'll be honest. Too many pastels! The bracelet you're looking at is actually something of an oddball from that line.***
This new travel mug is the one I now use specifically for coffee on the occasions I'm in the mood. I'm a bit of tea snob, so my other really good travel mug is only for tea. I learned the hard way almost three years ago, that if I put coffee into that one, it leaves a residue that doesn't go away until it's been through the dishwasher at least five times; a residue that leaves a terrible aftertaste. Want to take a guess at how long it's been since I've made coffee to go? Heh.

- I found a new practice partner: I've written before about having a practice partner - a friend who has agreed to come over to my house periodically to be my guinea pig test subject choreography previewer, so that I can try out the new stuff I'm working on before introducing it to my class. Doing this helps me not freak out (and we all know I'm prone to freak outs) over whether or not something is going to completely bomb because I couldn't teach it well. If you're wondering what happened to my previous practice partner Rae-Mae, she and her family moved 20 minutes further away from my house in order to be closer to her husband's job. My new practice partner is Kat. She drives my older son's bus, and she went to high school with my brother-in-law and his wife. We got to be friends and when I asked her if she would be interested in doing Zumba with me in my basement, the answer was an enthusiastic yes.

- My dad and stepmom came to visit me: They usually come once a year in August to celebrate my birthday with me and this year was no exception. Like last year, we did a lot of day trips to various attractions and points of interest around Grand Rapids, even one in Kalamazoo. I did a whole series of posts last August about the places we went last year so I'm not going to go into a lot of depth about the individual days and our sightseeing this year. I will say this: My stepmom came to my Zumba class and got to see me teach. I'm not sure she had all that great a time though. My teaching style is apparently quite different from what she's used to experiencing where she lives in Quebec. I was disappointed, because I want everyone who comes to my class to have fun and just enjoy themselves. But I do know what the reality is: that my style truly won't appeal to everyone. I myself have taken classes with different teachers here and there, once or twice, over the years whose styles were not my personal preference, so I understood where she was coming from.

- We missed my friend's wedding: My good friend Tay, writer of the blog A Fresh Coat Of Paint, and I go back as far as 9th grade. When she got engaged many months ago to her long-time boyfriend, Bry and I started making plans to visit Toronto and celebrate their marriage. Alas, t'was not be. The day before we were supposed leave I started feeling sick - sore throat, and just a general feeling of being run down. We were still waffling as to whether or not I'd wake up in the morning feeling well enough to go, when our oldest promptly threw up. And so our trip was over before it had even begun. We called my father-in-law to tell him and his wife not to come to our house to watch the boys since we weren't actually going anywhere after all. That's right, Bry and I were supposed to get a weekend to ourselves. Disappointing? Absolutely, but the silver lining was that we'd paid the up-charge on the hotel reservation in order to get the cancellation insurance (don't stay home without it!). In the week that followed, the rest of the family eventually went down for the count by turns. As our oldest and I started feeling better, our youngest got sick followed a couple days later by Bry. The whole thing couldn't have been timed worse.

Best advice:
1) Coffee flavored tea tastes absoloutly dreadful - avoid this at all costs. *shudders*
2) Always always always get the cancellation insurance.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The high-top dance sneakers

I spent the first couple of weeks of August doing the back-to-school shopping marathon. It's best to break that down into several different day's worth of trips, I've found. That's based on my experience from last year. In any event, I went to just about every second-hand shop within a 30 mile radius to look for fall clothing for my boys.

***Side Note: Also my niece-to-be! Auntie Zumbamommy is going to have a niece, bring on the ruffles and bows!***

I shop second-hand for my boys a lot. Boys are rough on clothes. My oldest put holes in three different pairs of jeans (all the same size) over the course of the last school year. I'd much rather pay $3.99 for a second-hand pair than $14.99 for something new from the mall. It's just more cost-effective! Well, it was in one of these second-hand shops that I noticed something neon over on the shoe rack. You all know, dear readers, that neon is like a homing beacon to this crazy Zumba girl. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a pair of DC Rebound's. They looked barely worn, the tread was practically out-of-the-box new, and there weren't any scuff marks on the outsides of the shoes. Although it was clear that the previous owner had worn them outside.

I looked at the label on the inside...size 10? Hrmm. But I figured I had nothing to lose by trying them on. And hey, guess what, they fit just fine! What gave me pause, and why I haven't ever bought high-tops before, is that I'm only 5'3" and I was worried that a short girl like me would look ridiculous in shoes like that because they are so bulky. Yes, you did the math right, I am 5'3" and can wear a size 10. Mostly I'm between a size 8.5-9.5 depending on the brand; at least I used to be before I had kids and my feet spread. Oh the joys of motherhood! Heh.

Back to the shoes, I checked the price and for $7.99 I decided I'd give them a shot and risk looking a bit silly. I washed them and they looked brand new. In fact, when I went to wash them, I discovered that the previous wearer had used an insert. I pulled that out and realized that the original insole was still in place but had no imprint; it felt like they'd never been worn. The only thing that could make these shoes better was getting rid of the ugly grey laces...but because they are high-tops, the laces need to be 72" (which is longer than I am tall! grr...) which are lot longer than regular shoelaces. Searching, I discovered that the standard length for roller skates is 72" and from there it was easy to find -neon- roller skate laces. In case you're wondering, one shoe now has a green lace and the other a pink lace. You can see from the picture that I bought three colors of laces because I wasn't sure what I'd like the best. And actually, even after they came, I still couldn't decide. So, when in doubt, get a second opinion - the green/pink combo was Jae's idea. Credit where credit is due!

Want to know what Bry said to me when I brought these home? No, it wasn't, "-More- dance sneakers?!" for which I thank him very much. It was, "Those are going to support your ankle much better than your other pair." He read my expression and noted the shock, "Isn't that why you bought them...?" he asked me. I said, "No, I didn't even think of that. I bought them because they're neon dance sneakers for only $7.99!" After that, there may have been a comment or two from him about how I should buy a shoe rack for our mudroom just to contain the various pairs of dance sneakers...

The first night I wore these out to Rae's class, my ankle felt the best it had during and after class since before I'd re-sprained it. Rae noticed them and thought they were neat. When I told her that they were really supporting my ankle well, she asked, "Isn't that why you bought them...?"

Best advice: If you're in the market for something, try a second-hand shop. One, you never know what you're going to find in there one day to the next. Two, you save a lot of money. On, DC Rebound's start at $21.00 and go up from there. The pair I bought for only $7.99 is currently selling on Amazon for $48.95.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The long hiatus (or what I did this summer) - Part 1

Well folks, I'm back after a long break for the summer. I'll admit it, I didn't originally plan to take such a long more or less just happened. A big part of it was having both kids at home full time again. I didn't realize just how spoiled I was from Sept.-May until school ended. Having two kids at home, it felt like I was the "mommy-police", having to mediate some argument or dispute every five minutes (that's not an exaggeration, it was literally five minutes between disagreements most days...) over toys, play space/personal space, or what cartoon was going to be watched on the TV. Since I could barely focus on folding laundry or doing dishes in those short intervals, I figured it was a pointless endeavor to try to sit and write. At first, I kept meaning to "get around to it" on weekends when Bry wasn't working and could be my parent-policing partner, but as the time kept passing, I eventually just accepted that I was taking the summer off. At least from blogging at any rate, I taught my class through summer and I sure as certain -went- to class through the summer.

- I taught through the summer: Bry convinced me I should teach Zumba through the summer when back in May my original plan had been to take the summer off. I was reluctant, fearing that everyone would be too busy to come despite their best intentions. My students are also members of my church and I know that church attendance drops from June-Aug. But with a little encouragement from Bry and a little advice from Jae, I decided to go ahead and hold class. Bry has been my biggest supporter from the very first Zumba class. He understands how important it is to me and respects that. I in turn, value and respect his opinion and if he seemed to think teaching over the summer would be good for me, I was willing to give it a shot. So deciding to teach, I of course went to Jae for advice. She said, "If you're going to do this, get them to pre-pay you." Did I mention she's really smart? It was a great idea. Pre-paying for the summer meant that they would lose the money they paid if they didn't show up for class, and losing money is a pretty good motivator. I asked in May who'd be interested in sticking out the summer with me and I had two of my people bow out almost immediately for work reasons and personal reasons respectively. The others though were game, but they were concerned about paying for each week knowing that there would be some weeks when they just couldn't make it. I didn't want to have anyone pay for something they knew for certain they weren't going to use, so I had everyone who wanted to do the summer write down which weeks in which months they already knew AT THAT TIME would be weeks they'd miss class. To be clear, it was for dates they already had plans for. Not for "Oh something suddenly came up in the middle of the summer." Because I have a smaller class, it wasn't too hard for me to look at everyone's dates, calculate how many out of the 13 weeks they thought they'd make it and then multiply that by $5. And, strangely enough, it turned out that every one of them told me June 17th was a bad night for them. So I just didn't hold class that week - make that 12 weeks of summer... Heh. Bottom line is that per class, everyone pre-paid the same price, just that some pre-paid for more classes than others.
To sweeten the pot a little, I offered two guest passes to everyone who pre-paid me. I'd love to say that this helped me get more people to my class and expanded my numbers. Alas, only one person was able to co-opt convince a friend to come. Once. Everyone else tried so hard. I'll give them that, they tried. The problem was, that everyone they asked said no. The reasons given varied, but they all had the same theme of "Zumba is too hard". Sigh. The one guest who did come to my class enjoyed it very much and said she liked my style, so that was gratifying. 
***Side Note: If you're wondering about my guest passes, I made them using a stick-on label template and printed them myself to stick to the backs of my business cards. If you can't see it well, under the Zumba logo is the church's logo and next to that are blanks for me to write in the dates it's valid, as well as the date it gets used.***

- I took over the lobby of the church: Our church is a building with specific zones for heating and cooling. Great for cost efficiency! Not so great for holding a Zumba class. Turning on a zone doesn't mean instant heat or AC. It takes the system close to 45 minutes to get to whatever temperature has been set. Needless to say, if we need the AC for a 6:30pm Zumba class, it's best to get it started at 5:30 but that wasn't always the case unfortunately. So I requested, and was given, a box fan to set up in my little room to at least keep the air flowing. By the first week of June, one fan wasn't even close to being enough keep us all from overheating. For that second week, I had every intention of bringing a box fan from home in the hopes that two would do the job, but I forgot. So it was executive decision time! The lobby of the church is a wide open space with a very high ceiling. It was unused, but best of all it was cool. So I set my sound system up on the coffee bar and we got to dancing. This arrangement worked well by and large. I had to cancel class three times, once for a church outreach program, and twice for a potluck supper/book club. I have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to keep the lobby from now on, but there's the possibility I'll have to move the class back upstairs. Time will tell!

- I took a Zumba-Step class: The week in June that I was forced to cancel class, I decided would be a great opportunity to try out something brand new. Zumba launched Zumba Step earlier this year, and the local Jammer (remember her from my Jam post?) went and got the license to teach the format. I've never done a step class before. The popularity of step aerobics pre-dates me just a bit. By the time I was in my later teens, its time had mostly passed. So Z-Step was a new and interesting experience for me; only the second specialty class (after Z-Toning) I've taken. I can say this about it: it really makes your brain work hard.
Or at least mine felt like it was working double time - for the teacher's choreography that I wasn't necessarily familiar with, and for working with the step which I definitely wasn't familiar with. But, I can now say that I have done salsa on and off a step. Also cumbia, merengue, and reggaeton. I enjoyed the experience, but I wouldn't make my usual class.

- I did Rae's summer session at Bowens Mills: Last year I affectionately dubbed the session "summer camp". I still felt that way this year, it was the same class I took last summer. Same place, same time, same night, same carpool with Jae...even the same spot on the floor! The first night I got there, I was actually solo (Jae had to miss class the first two weeks) and when I approached what had been my spot last year, there was already a lady standing in it. Hrmm. Okay, I wasn't going to be a diva about it, I simply took the spot directly behind her. But before class even started, she turned around and got a look at me. I smiled at her all, "hi there, nice night for Zumba!" and for some reason I cannot fathom, two minutes later she picked up her stuff and move to the back row on the opposite side of the room. After blinking a few times I shrugged and moved my stuff over and took back my spot. Actually, It was my spot -and- Jae's. I made sure to stand in the middle between so that nobody would try to stand next to me on my right. Yeah yeah...that might have been a bit diva-ish. But hey, friends don't let friends' spots on the floor get stolen.

- I re-sprained that ankle: That about says it all doesn't it? Oh I was so mad at myself and I felt like such an idiot too. If you're a newer reader, and haven't gone back into the archive at all, I sprained my ankle in the spring of 2013 and I wrote two posts about it which can be found here and here. The floor at Bowens is made up of concrete slabs and the outside edge of one of my cross-trainers caught the crack between two of these slabs and I rolled it pretty hard. I was showing this piece of choreography I'd done to Rae and Jae one night after class and for some reason that I no longer remember, I thought it would be fine if I changed out of my dance shoes first. Had I been wearing my dance shoes, it probably wouldn't have happened; my Zumba Flex's are a lot narrower than the cross-trainers I had on. And you know what else? The spot on the floor where I was demonstrating this song, was not MY spot. Had I been in my spot, it probably wouldn't have happened; my spot on that floor is next to a crack too and yet I have a sixth sense as to where the crack is and how to avoid it. The minute I rolled my ankle, I heard Jae and Rae both gasp and go "Oooh!". I stood there for a few seconds, not because I'd rolled my ankle, but because I was listening for the beat so I could pick up the song again and keep going; all the while underneath the music, I could hear them asking me if I was okay, but they both sounded like they were at the other end of a tunnel. Yes, I know how crazy all that sounds...and the truth is, by the time the music got to a point where I knew I could pick up my choreography, my brain and my body were on the same page and telling me to sit myself down. So I did, and I sat there for a few minutes with my eyes closed, rubbing my ankle trying to dampen down the pain, and also silently congratulating myself for not having said some curse word in front of Rae's 9yr old son who was there that night.
When the foggy tunnel feeling went away, I stood up and asked Rae if she could restart the music and I finished what I'd set out to do. Rae and Jae, being the good friends they are, made attempts at talking me out of trying again. But I, freak that I am, had a score to settle with that floor. In the three weeks that followed, I went to class, I taught my class, and that was it. I didn't practice and in the evenings after my boys were in bed, I'd sit around with my leg propped up with an ice pack. I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to see that my ankle bounced back fairly quickly. I'll admit, it was probably the amount of rest it got in between classes.

Best advice: Don't spread yourself too thin. Had I tried to keep up with my blog over the summer, my posts would have suffered no doubt, but I know I would have spent most of the summer frustrated and irritated with trying to write yet not getting anything done. The break was what I needed and I'm glad I took it.