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I cannot even begin to tell you how far out of my comfort zone I am.  I have been asked by friends for years to start a food allergy blog, but was too afraid to do it.  Our middle child has multiple life threatening food allergies.  She is 18 now and not as severe with some of them as she used to be, but still anaphylactic to others.  I am not very good with technology.  Pencil and paper are more my speed, but after 25 years of marriage and learning to navigate food allergies, autism, keeping the neurotypical, non-food allergic child from feeling invisible (none of this perfectly, mind you)  I guess I have a lot to share.  So – here goes!

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My husband Steve and I have 3 children.  Madison is our oldest.  She is a recent college graduate and is currently in training for her first “big girl” job.  We are so very proud of her.  She has worked or volunteered, in some capacity, since she was 16 years old.  She has amazing compassion and love for her two younger siblings and has handled playing second fiddle to all of the medical needs with true grace.

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Lauren is our middle child and is in her first year of college.  Yes, it is a big challenge.  The university she attends has a rule for Freshmen to live on campus the first year.  She is anaphylactic to wheat, dairy, eggs and peanuts, so eating in the dining hall is not really an option.  We have kept her alive for 18 years by cooking the majority of her food.  She has still had to be injected with an epi-pen on 6 separate occasions, over the course of her life.  So, we chose her roommate carefully and received an accommodation to have a full size refrigerator in her dorm room to be able to hold all of her meals.  I make a weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners every weekend. It has worked very well for her college to be only an hour away.   We are so very thankful for Enjoy Life Foods and other companies like them that have come onto the scene over the last several years that have pre-packaged cookies and snacks that she is able to have.  Lauren is doing very well this year and just received notice of  making the Dean’s List this past semester.

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Our baby is Michael.  He is 15 years old.  He is funny, friendly and has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  I have learned many lessons from him over the past 15 years of his young  life.  I could tell things weren’t the same as with the girls when he was around 11 or 12 months old.  He would open up DVD cases and spin them.  He would line up toys and have a meltdown and a half if one of them was moved.  He did not speak.  All of my friends and our pediatrician assured me it was just that he was the baby and the girls spoke for him and that he would do things eventually.  If he had been my first child, I probably would have believed them, but he was not.  By your third child,  you know.  You don’t just take what anyone says and go with it because you think they know more.  I think even mothers of first-born children probably know.  Anyway, over the next 8 years we went through evaluation after evaluation.  We were told severe developmental delay, ADHD, sensory integration dysfunction (sensory processing disorder), and then finally what I knew all along and just needed someone else to see – Autism.  Of course,  before the official diagnosis at the age of 9, we still sought out help and therapy.  I had to teach him how to put his pants on and pull them up,  put his shirt on and put his shoes on.  Nothing came naturally like it had with the girls.  I vividly remember going to a parent-teacher store and buying beads and shoestrings to help him learn fine motor skills. I sat on the living room floor and put him sitting in front of me and dumped the beads and string onto the floor.  I took his hand in mine and helped him pick up a string and then a bead and put it onto the string.  You know that angry cry that little ones have when they don’t want to do something?  Yep.  That was Michael…and me, except my cry wasn’t an angry one.  It was one of heartbreak, that every little thing was such a huge struggle for him.  I could tell story after story just like so many other autism moms out there.  I tell you how we started out, not to make you sad, but to bring hope to those of you out there experiencing the same.  Michael is now in the 8th grade in public school.  He still has many struggles, but is doing remarkably well.  I cannot wait to tell you more about all of the progress he has made over the years and is still making and what all we have learned on this journey.

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Steve and I have been married for 25 wonderful years.  Does that mean each day has been wonderful?  Umm…no.   I can say, however, that I wouldn’t have wanted to do All The Things with anyone else in this world.  I look forward to sharing what all we have learned that has worked in our lives, family, marriage to hopefully encourage you as you tackle all the things of life.

 

Cindy

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aip, health and wellness

Entering the World of AIP

Well, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that Lauren went to see a functional medicine doctor recently.  She has been dealing with severe eczema, asthma, and life threatening food allergies for the majority of her life.  Due to her bloodwork results, she is now on an aip diet to try and get some out-of-whack numbers back in line.  She tested positive for ana, antinuclear antibodies, which basically means an autoimmune disease is lying dormant.  Lovely.  We’ll add that to the list.

AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol or Autoimmune Paleo.  It’s goal is to eliminate certain primal foods that can sometimes trigger inmflammation in people with autoimmune disease (dairy, eggs, nightshades, nuts, and seeds).  This includes spices that come from seeds, such as celery seed, which I use in Lauren’s German potato salad…  Potatoes! aww 😦  Basically, for foods that are allowed, think meats and vegetables, as long as it is not a nightshade, and bone broths.  Fruit is allowed, but in small amounts per day.  The only sweetener allowed is the occasional use of honey or maple syrup.  Her sheet says 1 tsp a day.  Yikes!

We came home with a mini booklet of 8 1/2 x 11 papers listing what foods she cannot have and those she can.  I will have to admit, at first, my eyes and mind went straight to, “What!? No potatoes!  No tomatoes?!  That means no chili!  No chocolate?! ”  I know.  I know.  A real negative Nelly stance.  Don’t worry.  I got over it and reframed my mindset to what we can have, and honestly, there are a lot of I cans out there.  They are just not what we are used to having. Some foods we have never tried or even heard of.  It’s like an adventure.  Like traveling to a place we have never been.  Dare I say exciting, even.  Okay, maybe not quite that far.  New flavors, new textures, new combinations will be our friends on this quest to fight inflammation and build up the body with good nutrition.

I had put her on lots of vitamin D3 and magnesium earlier this summer, as well as a good multi-vitamin with lots of B vitamins.  She was already taking a probiotic and vitamin c, along with an anti-oxidant.  Her bloodwork showed that her vitamin D was good.  Yay!  Success!  It had been rock bottom at her allergist appointment a few months earlier, so this is progress.  We’ll take it!  We already eat mostly organic, but Lauren craves a good cookie or some type of bready texture, which is hard to come by with food allergies.  Because she doesn’t get much of that, and now that we are on aip, that eliminated sugar, nightshades, and seeds.  Ugh.  I will say that, so far, we have had some fairly decent meals, so I feel encouraged at the moment.  I hope she does, too.  We are thankful for friends that have reached out with recipe suggestions.  We appreciate it!  In fact, we tried a few over the weekend with great success.

The first recipe we tried was on Friday evening.  We made a crustless chicken pot pie from a Paleo Instant Pot cookbook that I have.  It uses 2 heads of cauliflower florets, along with chicken broth, and the standard onion, carrots and celery.  It was really good!  Everyone liked it.  Score!  I was kind of skeptical about the whole cauliflower thing going in, but it gave just the right texture, a kind of thick, heartiness to it.  Who knew?  On Saturday, I made Lauren’s chicken noodle soup, mainly for Michael because he came home from school congested last week and I believe in the power of garlic and onions and homemade chicken noodle soup.  Remember, we just started this journey on Friday, so I didn’t realize how many no no’s were in that soup.  The noodles, for starters-rice based.  That’s a grain.  No no.  Black pepper- no no.  I did use arrowroot starch as a thickener, so that was okay.  We will figure out the rest.

Lauren had the sweetest friends come visit her on Sunday afternoon from school.  They drove over from Tuscaloosa just to see her.  I have tears in my eyes writing this.  They are all members of the discipleship group that Lauren was a member of.  None of them are from Alabama, but from all over the United States.  We cooked lunch for them.  I made one of the suggestions from a sweet friend that has experience cooking the aip way.  It is called Cracklin’ Chicken and the recipe can be found on nomnompaleo.com.  So simple, yet so delicious.  We also made roasted baby organic sweet potatoes, and pan fried squash and zuccini.  My husband also grilled burgers, so we would have options.  It was a beautiful afternoon of eating good food and getting to meet some of Lauren’s college friends.

Last night I made another friend’s suggestion: Swedish meatballs.  You can find that recipe on forestandfauna.com.  I will say that I didn’t use all of the spices recommended in the recipe this time, simply because I didn’t have all of them.  Time to go shopping.  I made spaghetti squash and green beans to go along with the meatballs.  They were delicious.  I think due to not having all of the recommended spices, the meatballs weren’t as flavorful as they could have been.  Still learning.  In making the green beans, I fried a couple of slices of bacon to add in.  After dinner, I dove right into re-learning how to make Lauren’s German potato salad with sweet potatoes, instead, so that she would have something to eat for breakfast.  Yep, breakfast.  Think a breakfast hash.  It’s hearty and has protein from the bacon.  It makes a delicious breakfast food. There are many types of sweet potatoes.  There is the typical orange flesh sweet potato, but there is also a Japanese sweet potato that has purple skin and white flesh.  There is also an Okinawan sweet potato that is gray or tan in color and has purple flesh.  There are pale yellow skinned and purple skinned sweet potatoes, as well.  So, lots to choose from.  I used three different types in her new German potato salad.  I traded out the celery seed salt to a pinch of garlic salt.  I just left out the black pepper and kept the pink Himalayan salt.  I used a bit of maple syrup, instead of the sugar or coconut sugar I have used in the past.  Instead of a tablespoon of her flour, I used arrowroot flour (starch) to thicken.  Those are really the only changes.  I kept everything else.  It turned out beautifully.  I think we’re gonna make it.  New food adventures await!

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family, food allergy friendly

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and a green

Nothin’ fancy.  In fact, many people you ask don’t like meatloaf, but our family loves it.  Actually, anything that has a tomato based product (ketchup) Michael is all in!  This was one of the first meals I cooked that was Lauren friendly, she liked, and would eat.  It is a simple recipe because you basically just mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then transfer to a loaf pan and into the oven.  Boil a few Russett potatoes, drain, whip with some chicken broth or a non-dairy milk (I use whichever I have on hand) and mashed potatoes are finished.

Now, don’t forget a green vegetable to go with everything!  True story:  When Steve and I were in college, my mom came over to take us to dinner one evening and the one rule she had was we had to get a green vegetable to go with whatever we chose to eat off the menu.  She wanted to make sure she got one good meal in us because, as most college students did back then, we ate as cheap as possible.  Lots of Taco Bell, ramen noodles, and soft drinks filled our bellies.  That rule has stuck with me.  So, at our house, if there is a food that isn’t your favorite, you must still take some, but it is called a no thank you helping (a smaller portion than normal, but you are being respectful of the person who cooked the meal, and whether you want to admit it or not, you are benefitting from a balanced meal, not leaving out the vegetable because you happen to only like tomato based products 😉  The vegetable rule was my moms.  The no thank-you helping I learned from Steve’s cousin, Jan.  I thought that was ingenius and adopted it right away.   So, we either have english peas, or green beans, or maybe squash and zuccinni.

We had this meal last night before going to the high school football game.  We were a little late for kickoff, but our tummies were full of a home-cooked meal and we sat down at the table to eat dinner -together.  I think that’s important .  So, as much as humanly possible, we do it…and without further ado- Let’s eat!

 

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Ingredients:

  1 1/2 lbs ground beef                                 1/2 tsp pepper

  1/2 c chopped onions                                 1/4 cup ketchup

  1/4 cup bell pepper                                    1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1 tsp baking powder                                  1/2 tsp salt

 3/4 cup rice milk (or non-dairy milk)

 

 

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together.  Pack into a loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

 

 

family, marriage

A Chord of Three Strands…

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Well, it has been a little over a year since my very open post on married life and all the things and I thought I might visit with you about where we are.  Steve and I have been married now for 26 years.  Last year we hit a pretty rough patch.  I confessed how we didn’t seem to be on the same page anymore.  At the time, it felt more like not even in the same library!

We have become more intentional in our relationship.  Praying together before we walk out the door to go to work, school or whereever happens every morning.  Every morning.  Do we still have moments of frustration with each other or times we don’t see eye to eye?  Yes, but it is less often and less intense.  We seem to have found a new rhythm.

It was really different with both the girls out of the house and just Michael under our roof.  I recognized Steve’s need for BMX and all that entails and I think he has recognized that I needed to decompress from my former job and just be mom and wife for a while.  I needed to get our home back together.  We have also discovered that I have been dealing with some health issues that explains my exhaustion all of the time and why I couldn’t seem to do all of the things and keep up like I used to.  I am feeling much better, sleeping again, which helps alot!  I guess the pace of the Bierman household has slowed down compared to when there were five of us here, but we still have plenty to keep us busy!

I have noticed that Steve and I both acknowledge what is important to the other more readily.  We definitley make time for each other.  We are much more intentional about our relationship.  I guess it’s just that it was easier before kids, multiple kids and all that goes with that.  It sounds so simple yet we somehow still wound up where we did and had to fight our way back to each other.  It was worth the fight.  It is easy to just build a wall and do your own thing when things are tense.  It is difficult to stay affectionate with someone you feel at odds with.  However, choosing to show our spouse love and affection, even when it would be easier not to, benefits the both of us.  I have found that when we do the hard work, God blesses that.

The most powerful change we have made is praying with each other.  To some people it may sound kind of corny, but to me, it has made a big difference.  I’m not saying that when we pray all of the clouds depart and a rainbow appears and all of our problems go away.  I am saying that I believe and trust in God’s word and that He is faithful to keep His promises.  According to Lamentations 3:22-23, His lovingkindnesses never cease. For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.

I began writing this post back in May or June, I think.  It is now August.  School has started.  Our college girl is not at school, but is home dealing with some pretty heavy health issues.  An unexpected change that we didn’t see coming.   We’ve had lots of unexpecteds this summer.  So the new rhythm will have to become a new, new rhythm.  Ha!  Anyway, new challenges and new stressors, but we still have the same God with us and I know that we will work through these new challenges together, too.  Praying all the way.

A chord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

family, health and wellness

…and then June happened.

Well, for two weeks we ate right, exercised, and were feeling good. We knew that Michael and Steve were going to church camp with the youth group the second week of June, so Paleo was kind of out the window. Camp food is camp food. Early mornings and late nights. Just as it should be. Lauren and I stayed home because she is home from college and we had a room in the house to get cleaned out. Her room. I had used it as a storage room for all the things when we had wood floors put in and I had not emptied all of the boxes by the time she was home. She has been none too pleased to be sleeping on the top bunk in Michael’s room. So, we had plenty to do. There was no reason for us to stop exercising or eating right, but somewhere in between getting the boys packed, snacks purchased, and them sent on their way, I lost my mind and abandoned the exercise/eating right routine we had begun to establish. 

Lauren and I did get the room cleaned out. I even got the yard mowed while they were away. However, exercise was non-existent, as was the healthy eating. Somehow, I convinced myself that a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls and binge watching Dowton Abbey (yes, I know everyone else watched it like six years ago) was the new order of the day…every day…like four seasons worth. I know. I know, but we could get back on track next week. Right?

Life has a funny way of marching on where it will, even if the direction it marches isn’t where we intended. Steve and Michael had a good week at camp. They walked all over the Charleston Southern campus and despite the bus having a bit of trouble on the way, they all made it there and back home safe and sound. I thought that we could just get back into the swing of things when they got back, but God had other plans. Steve received word of a sweet family member’s passing in St. Louis and a couple of days later, I received word of my dear Uncle Jim’s passing. It was a long week, but we are so thankful that the services fell so that we were able to attend both of them. Trips were soon scheduled for Mississippi and Illinois and we got busy cooking Lauren’s meals for the trip and packing. 

Attending funerals has a way of presenting a crystal clear picture of how quickly time passes. I was reunited with cousins I had not seen for twenty to thirty years and met some of their children, who are practically grown themselves. I gave hugs to aunts and uncles that, in my mind’s memory, are 50, but in reality are now in their 70’s and 80’s. Waters muddied as we little cousins took for granted seeing each other at big family get togethers every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Fourth of July. Somewhere along the way, we all grew up, got married, had children, raised them, and are living our lives in respective states all over. Some of us have sons in law or daughters in law. Some of us have grandchildren now. It seems that life is so busy as we raise our own families that we have lost touch…or at least it feels that way to me. It makes my heart ache a little. I am grateful for seeing those I was able to see for the short time we had to spend together. It warmed my heart to see the new little family members and meet the teenage cousins that reminded me of what their parents looked like when we were growing up. That made me smile. 

We arrived home just in time to get ready for another good-bye. Our beloved pastor of our church in Alabama is moving on to a new chaper in his life. We were blessed to have him for fifteen years. I was blessed to sing with our choir at his last service with us. It was a nice celebration of him and his family. We love them. We will miss them, and we are grateful to have served with them. 

As I finish writing this post my family is on the road once again. We are coming home from a visit to Arkansas to visit my father in law and step mother in law. We have travelled like crazy this month. None of it planned, but all of it necessary. Time absolutely does march on and we are being more intentional about taking time to visit more often and spend time together. We had a good visit with our family in Arkansas. We showed our kids our old stomping grounds like the high school we graduated from, the college we met at, the church we got married in, etc… We had good conversations along the way. 

Over the month of June, I have been learning that balance and flexibility of all the things are the order of the day. Eating healthy and exercising are what we strive to do most of the time, but traveling to spend time with loved ones and pay our respects to loved ones that have passed on is important, too. The burpees, sit ups, wall balls, and paleo food will be waiting on us when we get back home.  For the month month of June, they turned out not to be the most important of all the things.

family, health and wellness

A Bierman Summer

Well, the first week of Bierman Bootcamp is done! We are all still alive! Actually, I think this is the most compliant my kids have been about something of this nature. Of course, Michael asked for it, so… He has been willing to try new combinations of foods. That isn’t to say that he has liked all of them, but he eats whatever the meal is and keeps going. That’s saying a lot for a sensory kid! So far, most of the meals in the Paleo In 28 book have been very tasty. There have been a couple that aren’t my favorite, but we are trying something new and the way I look at it, we can stick with most anything for just 28 days. By the time this is posted, we will be finished with seven of them.

As far as the workout is concerned, we have started out super slow and easy. I don’t know that Michael even broke a sweat the first day. Ha! We stretch every single day. You know those people who can do the splits and walk-overs, and when they stretch they lay down on their legs to touch their toes? Yeah. We are not those people. Our immediate family is not flexible. Several years ago, I tore a calf muscle. I have no fantastic story, unfortunately. It simply tore with one hop. Thank goodness it wasn’t so bad that I needed surgery or anything, but I did have to go to physical therapy for a few months. I learned so much. I had no idea how long the calf muscle actually is and how our muscles overlap and how tight they said my muscles were. I was told that if I didn’t stretch every day, my other muscle would probably tear, too because it was tighter than the leg I was there for. Well, now I stretch every day. I can touch my toes. That may not sound amazing to you, but I could not before. I don’t want my kids to have the same flexibility issues I have had, so we stretch- every day. We work out three days a week. What do I mean by work out? Running, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, wall-balls. I think that’s it, so far. We have just been doing two sets. We each start our timer and then stop it when we complete two rounds of the exercises for that day. It’s kind of like a mini- WOD (work out of the day). Of course, I plan on upping the reps and sets next week. Do more for longer. I know none of this is professional or anything, but at least we are moving. We are out in the sunshine and we are getting our blood pumping. That, to me, is the important thing.

As I told you in my last post, Lauren is our resident couch potato. I don’t know that she has ever “worked out” in all her almost 20 years of life. It is not really her thing. She has been to a few Refit (think Zumba) classes with me, but that’s about it. So, working out is out of her comfort zone. Thursday was a day full of “out of her comfort zone” things. Lauren had her annual allergy appointment Thursday afternoon. It was a workout day and so she did the workout that morning and got ready for her doctor appointment for the afternoon. Allergy appointments take several hours. They do blood work, scratch test, which is extremely uncomfortable, and discuss results and medications/treatments. Lot’s of decision making, especially with all of the health issues she deals with. Asthma, food allergies, and eczema, oh my! What made this appointment different is that for the last fifteen years she has been going to a different allergist, so this was a new office, new doctor, new staff, and she is considered an adult now. She is always nervous about all of the tests they run, but she was also going to be in the driver’s seat this time. They speak to her, ask her the questions, etc… She is used to Steve or me doing that. Growing pains. I am proud of her for taking charge, finding her voice, AND getting a workout in, on top of it all.

Michael has already begun his summer reading for school. He has two books he has to read and works data sheets to do on each. This is great considering last year we were cramming in his two books the last couple of weeks of summer! Don’t judge. It was a crazy summer. It snuck up on us, so we decided to be more intentional this summer and get it all done early. He has also been studying for the Alabama driver test to get his permit. He should be behind the wheel soon!

Steve and I took a bike ride (the Harley kind) down to Clanton Sunday afternoon. We just got on the highway and headed south. It was nice. I really enjoyed it. I don’t think we actually had a destination. We just rode. The next thing I knew, we were turning into Peach Park. We ate some peach cobbler, picked up some peaches and headed back home. (this was 2 days before we started Paleo, thank goodness, because that cobbler was delicious! 😉 It was fun to get out and just ride. We don’t do that often enough.

For the most part, our summer is starting out nicely. We have some decisions to make regarding Lauren’s health and mine (more on that later), but other than that, it has been a relaxing summer. Just the kind I like. I hope you are enjoying all the things of summer, too!