30 June 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Toddler Art Edition

We call it Etude de Débarbouillette (Avec Chaise).

For a look at some of my non-mom photography, check out my other blog, Vancouver Daily Photo. It's like Wordless Wednesday every day over there.

This post is part of the A Lot of Loves Wednesday of Few Words linkup.

11 June 2010

Things I'm Learning - Milk Allergies

The Imp was a pretty mellow baby. He cried when his diaper needed changing, when he was gassy, when he was overtired. But he was happy to be handed around to willing arms, grinned his toothless grin to any friendly face that came within range, and slept through the night at six months of age.

Then he became a toddler. From about 14 months on, there were temper tantrums. His willful independence started to assert itself. His stubborn temperament began to make itself known.

I can't imagine where he gets any of these traits.


A natural stage of childhood, I assumed. And it was. All part of the transition from dependent infant to independent little person, I thought. And it was. The lead up to the dreaded "Terrible Twos", I reassured myself. And it was. It was all those things - but turned up to eleven. Everyday simple things would cause extreme reactions. Aggression. Anger. Total lack of impulse control. My kid (that gentle, happy, cooing baby) had become that kid. The one that would. not. sleep. ever. The one that Did Not Play Well With Others. The one that bit other kids, that pushed the littler kids over at daycare. The brat that erupted into screaming, shrieking tantrums that would last an hour and a half, six or seven times a day, over nothing. The one that, when told not to do something, looked at us, oozing defiance, and did it anyway. And did it again and again, no matter what reasoning, cajoling, or expert-sanctioned behaviour modification strategies we threw in his direction. The child that bit, hit, kicked, head butted, and actually spit at us when we tried to change his diaper, or put his shoes on, or give him breakfast. We had THAT kid.

One of the really little guys at daycare actually cringed whenever The Imp went near him.

I was horrified. And mortified. And pretty sure that I must be the worst parent who ever lived to have spawned this awful, impossible to control child. I was pretty near the hairy edge of what I could deal with, so stressed that my stomach was literally tied in knots, causing me such pain that I spent big chunks of entire days curled into a ball on the floor. I was so frustrated, I wept daily.

It was awful. But it was our normal, and I didn't know what we were doing wrong.

Then my dad came to stay with us for a few days.

And he gently pointed out that the behaviour we were dealing with was very reminiscent of what he had experienced with my sister when she was about the same age. She'd also had uncontrollable anger and behaviour issues, which through trial and error (and terror that she would have to be medicated or institutionalized) they learned was caused by an allergy to milk. Dad said that within six hours of eliminating milk from her diet, she was an entirely different child.

The clouds parted. The angels sang.

Even though I was aware of my sister's milk allergy, even though HWSNBN and I had discussed, way back when I was pregnant, the possibility of different things being handed down from either of our families, it never occurred to me to associate The Imp's behaviour with his food. And I never wanted to be that mom. You know the one - the one who makes excuses for her "perfect" child's gawdawful behaviour.

Hearing my dad describe the uncanny similarities between The Imp's rage and my sister's childhood, it was like getting permission to explore whether his terrifying behaviour maybe, just maybe, wasn't our fault.

photo credit: luvi on flickr

The next morning, The Imp was a very different little boy. It literally was like day and night. Diaper change? No problem. Getting dressed in the morning? Easy peasy. Drop off time at daycare, which had become a half hour ordeal of screaming every day? "Bye bye Mummy. See you later!" as he ran off to play with the other kids.

And he stayed that way for the several days we managed to keep milk out of his diet. He slept better. The aggression towards the other kids at daycare melted away overnight. Small upsets could be addressed with words, and hugs, and kisses. The difference was gobsmacking.

Then he had some cheese at lunch one day through an oversight on my part.

The onslaught of his towering rage that evening was mind. numbing. Right back to hitting, spitting, biting, head butting fury.

Clear cause and effect.

It's been about a month now. There's been accidental ingestion of milk products a handful of times. Every single time has resulted in the same off the charts uncontrollable behaviour.

The takeaway:

1) Lactose intolerance and milk allergies are not the same thing. Lactose is the sugar in milk, and intolerance usually leads to gastro-intestinal distress of varying degrees. Milk products can often still be used, as long as something like Lactaid is taken with, or lactose is removed from the finished product. A milk allergy, on the other hand, is usually a reaction to proteins in milk, like casein or whey. Reactions run the gamut from skin rash and hives to anaphylactic shock. Behaviour issues are less common, but do exist, at least anecdotally.

2) Milk ingredients are in everyfuckingthing. Read labels some time; look for whey or casein. Almost all processed food, even that labeled "lactose-free" has some kind of milk ingredient in it. Hot dogs. Hot dog buns. Most margarines contain milk ingredients. Crackers, bread & other baked goods: the ones that don't say "milk ingredients" outright on the label usually contain whey powder, and if the label says "enriched flour", it's likely milk ingredients that do the "enriching" even if no milk ingredients are listed on the label. Caramel colour, found in many processed foods, including Coca-Cola, (incidentally, do you know how hard it is to find ingredient lists or nutrition information on Coca Cola's own website?) is often derived from casein. If you don't make it from scratch, odds are good it's got some kind of milk in it.

3) Can't substitute goat's milk, or sheep milk, or any other mammal's milk. (Except human, apparently, as The Imp seemed to have no problem with my own supply.)

4) You don't "grow out" of a milk allergy. Symptoms may change over time, but the immune system's response does not magically disappear. My sister, now in her 30's, still struggles with it.

5) I cannot possibly express the depth of my gratitude for my father's perceptive observations and his gentle approach in sharing them with us. Had he not come to visit at that moment, noticed the similarities 30-odd years apart, and spoken up about them, it's difficult to imagine what our life would be like now. It really was becoming more than I could bear. I didn't realize how much it was affecting me until it went away. Don't get me wrong, The Imp is still a two year old. There are still tantrums of the stomping feet and being obstinate when thwarted variety, but words can be used to address them, they're over quickly, and they happen a few times a week instead of all day long every day.

6) I'm no doctor. I don't even play one on TV. I am far from qualified to offer any kind of medical, psychological, or psychiatric advice. Even my parenting advice, well, take it with a grain of salt, I'm figuring it out on the fly, just like everyone else. But for the love of all things holy, and possibly your own sanity, if you have a child with behaviour issues, at least be open to the idea of exploring food allergies as a contributing factor. I'm not saying every child on Ritalin just needs to stop consuming milk. But if there's a chance that behaviour issues are exacerbated by food allergies, isn't that worth at least investigating? We didn't do our homework a few evenings ago and accidentally gave The Imp milk - his behaviour until we finally managed to get him to sleep? A couple hundred years ago would've merited an exorcism. It was agony watching him go through that - he was literally howling and writhing in his fury - and knowing we had unwittingly caused it by giving him a chock full o'milk ingredients hot dog for dinner at the beach really made me feel like the worst mom ever. Perhaps with some justification this time.

So in answer to the question "Got Milk?" in our house the answer is now a resounding "Hell, no!" and I'm on the hunt for truly dairy free products. I've had some luck with kosher and vegan stuff, and I've been adapting recipes I know and love by substituting rice- or soymilk for regular milk, and vegetable or olive oil for butter, but I'm wondering if anyone can steer me in the direction of some great, absolutely 100% dairy free resources. Websites (preferably not of the hysterical-omg-you-guys-milk-causes-autism variety), books, organizations... Help?

10 June 2010

Things That Are True - Toddlers and Chocolate Cake

It's possible that we are bad parents; we did not go all out and have a big theme party for The Imp's second birthday. I thought about inviting friends to join us for an afternoon of kids running around shrieking in the park close to our apartment, but the Vancouver weather's been dreadful and 900 square feet of living space does not make the "If it rains we'll just go inside" concept exactly workable. So we had a simple but fun family dinner with his adored older cousins the Sunday before, complete with off key but enthusiastic singing, lots of presents, and birthday cake.

The morning The Imp actually turned two, we sang him "Happy Birthday" again first thing in the morning. To him, this meant birthday! cake! should follow almost immediately. Not having any on hand at 8am (clearly bad planning on our part), we promised him there would be some birthday! cake! after dinner that evening. Off he went to daycare, I got to work, picked him up early, and we headed to an afternoon meetup with other moms, kids, and Erica from yummymummyclub.ca. None of which involved cake, and all of which prompted The Imp to remind me of the promise made to him at breakfast.

When we got home, The Imp helped me mix up a quick one layer cake and I threw it into the oven. It was done and out on a cooling rack awaiting frosting on the kitchen counter. HWSNBN and I were sitting in the living room puzzling over what to throw together for the evening meal. The Imp was in the kitchen playing with his fridge magnets. We weren't paying as much attention to him as maybe we should have been.

The Imp has developed the charming habit, as he learns new words and expressions daily, of narrating things as he does them. Like, "I hugging Daddy," and "I climbing the chair."

You can see where this is going, can't you?

The Imp's little sing-song voice gradually entered our conscious hearing: "I eating the cake! I eating the cake!" he chanted gleefully.

HWSNBN and I ran into the kitchen to find The Imp sitting on the floor, chocolate crumbs all around him, chocolate cake crammed into his mouth, chocolate morsels smushed into his little hands, his t-shirt, his hair. He was, indeed, eating the cake.

 The Imp's handiwork, of which he was most proud

Us: (exasperated) Imp! What did you do?
Imp: Grin.
Us: (ask a stupid question...) Did you eat the cake?
Imp: (looking at us very seriously, then suddenly beaming) Happy Birthday!

So we all ate chocolate cake for dinner. Maybe we're awesome parents after all.

09 June 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Run For The Hills Edition

I haven't blogged much lately. Sometimes it's more important to be present in the moments than to document them. There are lots of posts half-written in my head - I'll be back at it soon.

This post is part of A Lot of Loves' Wednesday of Few Words linkup.

02 June 2010

Things That Are True - And Now We Are Two

Mere seconds after The Imp first graced us with his presence

The Imp turns one, and there is much rejoicing

Celebrating The Imp's second birthday

How did that little tiny boy who taught me how to be a mom become this big boisterous two year old? 

Oh, the milestones; they are so bittersweet.

01 June 2010

Things I'm Doing - Mischievous Moms at Sandbar

So, again with the nerves. I always volunteer or jump in at the merest mention of a fun opportunity. "That sounds great," I'll say. "How can I help?" And then as it approaches - currently I'm looking at T-minus 5 1/2 hours - I start to angst.

Yes, I did just use angst as a verb.

freedictionary.com defines the noun angst as:
angst [æŋst (German) aŋst]
1. an acute but nonspecific sense of anxiety or remorse
2. (Philosophy) (in Existentialist philosophy) the dread caused by man's awareness that his future is not determined but must be freely chosen
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

My personal definition:
to angst:
1. a desperate search through the closet for something to wear to the Impending Event, followed by a rejection of every item of clothing I've ever owned (Too trendy. Not trendy enough. Trying too hard. Too casual. Too dressy. Too "look at me". Too wallflower. Too [insert random adjective here])
2. consumption of several handfuls of chocolate chips
3. a bout self-loathing, for the consumption of chocolate (not Fit By Forty Compliant, that)
4. an extended bout of self-doubt, of the Who Do You Think You Are To Do/Be/Want X variety
5. a sudden need to alphabetize all my recipes/books/expense receipts/fabric samples/twitter friends

In this case, the Impending Event is a meetup of moms and twitter friends at Sandbar on Granville Island this evening. I've been broadcasting my attendance and involvement in this event far and wide for the last several days. I know that I'm a tremendously social person who loves nothing more than being in the thick of the fun. And yet... and yet. Here I sit. Angsting.

I'm looking forward to tonight. I'll get to see some old friends, meet some new ones, and meet Erica Ehm, a woman and mom that I feel like I already know through our interactions on twitter and through her website. Plus, she was in my living room daily when I was a teenager!

And Erica's looking forward to it too - she mentioned it in an interview on Breakfast Television this morning - sadly not an embeddable video, you'll have to click the link. (Ahem, the 4:25 mark gratifies my ego in a big way.) And Erica, if you read this, THANK YOU for pronouncing my last name Hinde rhymes with blind and not Hindie rhymes with indie. Thank you, thank you, thank you. That almost never happens.

Now, since I have this "awareness that [my] future is not determined but must be freely chosen",  I'm pretty sure I've got some stuff that needs alphabetizing. And an outfit decision to make.