Monthly Archives: August 2013

We’re Just Here For The Ketchup [Eating Out With An Allergen Kid]

[I’ve been working on this post for four months. Don’t laugh. Sometimes I’m weary about writing about food allergies because I don’t want to seem like Cindy Complainypants. My kids’ allergies have followed the norm, for the most part: Landon, though he still has foods his tummy can’t tolerate, no longer vomits at the mere ingestion of eggs. As the allergist hoped, he has outgrown his allergies. Lucy’s due for her every-18-months testing and while we’re not convinced she’s outgrown her allergies we are hopeful that they’re no longer life-threatening, that her bloodwork will continue to show a decline in the seriousness of her allergies. The combination of her allergies numbers declining as well as having three years of being an allergy mom under my belt has helped me to feel a little more relaxed.]

We do not eat out very often. Maybe once a month and it’s usually something low key. Part of the reason is that we chose to have a smaller restaurant budget so that we could have a larger grocery budget. But, honestly, it’s mostly just because it’s hard.

Lucy is allergic to eggs, wheat, dairy, and peanuts.
Landon is intolerant to gluten and corn.

Did you notice something up there? I said Lucy is allergic to wheat and Landon is intolerant to gluten. That’s one of our most recent findings. It was a bit of a bummer for us because it meant tightening the reigns a bit. We’ve had to become even more vigilant. Which is fine. We can do that. We’ve had him tested for celiac and we’ve had his allergies re-tested and have just come to the general conclusion that while those foods don’t pose a life-threatening risk for him, his body is simply unable to process them the way others are able. It… messes him up. And he doesn’t need that. Nobody needs that.

So when people hear about their allergies they usually say, “Oh, my gosh! What do they eat!?”. That always makes me giggle. Fruits, vegetables, and allergen-free stuff I make from scratch. Honestly, it’s not a bad gig they’ve got. And, really, feeding them at home is easy. It’s feeding them out on the town that’s a problem. I have a few tricks for how to find things on the menu [it would be so easy if I could get my toddlers to eat salad]. I also thought I’d share some experiences we’ve had at specific restaurants and maybe if you’ve had a really positive or really negative experience you could share it in the comments.

To start with, we have to decide where we’re going to eat before we go there. That way I can go online and look at the corporate information regarding allergens [assuming it’s not a local place]. I learned this after a trip to Mellow Mushroom with the kids this year. I was talking to my waitress about what they offered. I told her the specific allergies the kids have and she said, “Oh, we have a gluten-free crust and vegan cheese!” I was so excited! It was the first time they’d ever ordered off the menu. Their stomachs were upset later but we were on vacation, so I just hoped their little systems were trying to adjust. I began to get suspicious when Landon had some eczema pop up. So I looked at the company’s website and egg was an ingredient in the crust! There is nothing that will give you mom guilt quicker than giving your child a food they can’t have, assuring them it’s safe, and then having to help them through the reaction. Major fail. So now we check corporate websites and talk to managers.

Talking to a manager is always the most important step. The best experience I’ve had with this was at an Olive Garden in Atlanta. We told our waiter of the allergies. It’s frustrating, and a bit challenging, to feed allergen kids because there’s almost never an option on the kids’ menu that’s not fried, breaded, or cheesed [that doesn’t say good things about kids’ menus]. When Lucy was the only one we were buying meals for we’d have to either split a plate with her and make our meal something she could eat or pay for her to get an adult meal.

After we found, and modified, an item on the menu to fit her needs, the waiter alerted the manager and the chef that someone at our table had food allergies. The manager came over and was pretty sympathetic that it was hard to find something on the menu. I thought that was nice because sometimes we’re treated like our allergy issues are inconveniencing them. Next the chef came over with a pen and wrote down the details of Lucy’s allergies. I love that because otherwise they’re sending the waiter out to double check things a few times and that makes it hard to relax. I also like this idea of having a card ready, we’re totally going to start doing that. Oh, and if you are wondering what we can order at an Italian restaurant, it’s plain chicken breast and vegetables cooked by themselves. That’s right. The kitchen has to stop what they’re doing and clean work surfaces to avoid cross-contamination, get out new pans and utensils, and keep all of the food separate [okay, so maybe it’s super inconvenient for them but a kid’s gotta eat].

At sandwich restaurants we can usually just order some extra meat for our sandwiches and have them put it on a separate plate. Mexican is our favorite because it’s pretty easy to find dishes that work. Chinese would be okay but there are so many egg dishes that it’s hard to feel safe. The hardest, though, is “American” food. For example, tonight we went to Culver’s for burgers and there was not a single thing the kids could eat. They didn’t have dedicated fryers so their allergen statement said the fries contained gluten. When I tried to ask the cashier about it she directed me to…the allergen statement. Of course, I’d brought food for them, the fries would have just been a bonus treat. But I got a little sad. Not one thing for them on the menu. I could’ve probably just ordered them a plain burger but it doesn’t do much in the way of filling them up and it didn’t seem like they’d take great care to keep them away from the buttered buns back there.

family date | hey, beth baker!

The kids had a blast. They ate rice cakes, pineapple, and peas. They just loved the experience of sitting in the booth. Some place new. I brought along some coconut milk ice cream so they really got the whole experience. It was a great dinner, even if Lucy was just there for the ketchup [yes, she did dip her pineapple in the ketchup and use it for a filling on her rice cake sandwich.

family date | hey, beth baker!

It helped that we’d set them up with our expectations. We told them beforehand what kind of behavior we’d like to see and told them the restaurant only served fries that made them sick.

family date | hey, beth baker!

After dinner we made it an official family date night. We saw some favorite friends at the store where I used to work and they gave the kids some “baboons”, totally making their night.

family date | hey, beth baker!

Then we wandered around a nearby sculpture park for a bit and had a great time playing tag, hide-and-seek, and pretending we were birds. I guess that makes little dining annoyances seem like no big deal.

family date | hey, beth baker!

family date | hey, beth baker!

family date | hey, beth baker!

I feel like there are two camps of allergy moms [and maybe really all moms]. You can choose to get upset that restaurants won’t cater to your family. You can get frustrated that something in your life is “harder” that you think it should be. You can even get angry that you don’t have “normal” children. But I’m allowed to treat them however I want [I can make them think the way we eat is totally normal]. I can be calm about food allergies and take it in stride or I can make them feel like they’re an inconvenience. I want them to think this is okay. That it isn’t a big deal. I want them to think they’re special even. And that these allergies have helped our family eat so much healthier. That I don’t mind making things from scratch for them. That they’re worth it. And food allergies are cool! [Too far? ;)]

family date | hey, beth baker!

family date | hey, beth baker!

family date | hey, beth baker!

And somehow, as much fun as the dining in a restaurant booth experience was, when I show Lucy these pictures all she can talk about is running like an airplane, skipping on the ramp, and “the park that didn’t have a playground but was still fun.”

Homeschool Preschool: The Letter A

As I promised in this post, I’m here to give a round-up of how our first week of homeschool preschool went. If you’re not into that kind of thing feel free to stick around for pictures of my adorable children. ;)

Our first week was ‘A’ week.

homeschool preschool

We start off each Monday with these Do-A-Dot letter sheets. They are the favorite of both kids. Sometimes we do the dollar store rocks and then the markers but both kids agree that these are fun. I don’t usually recommend kind of expensive art materials but these markers are amazing. We tried the bingo markers from the dollar store and quickly found out they’re not washable. If you use a 40% Michaels coupon you can get the Do-A-Dots for a reasonable price.

homeschool preschool

Thanks to garage sales, thrift stores, used book sales, and library discards we have a pretty decent home library for the kids. We did go to the library together to get the alligator and crocodile book because I knew Lucy would enjoy it.

homeschool preschool

To go along with that book and the AlphaTales cd that is on repeat in our van [no, really. Sorry Chuck!] we did this craft. I saw it on this site, they have something for every letter so it’s a great resource.

homeschool preschool

We’re doing letter practice each week. I think it’ll be really fun to look back on it in 6 months and see how her penmanship has improved. Honestly, I see a huge difference in just the two weeks we’ve been going at it. Right now we’re mostly working on tracing, though she is practicing free-handing her name.

homeschool preschool

We used our gems and some ice cube trays to practice sequencing.

homeschool preschool

Landon was there, too. ;)

homeschool preschool

I’m not sure it’s normal for a 3.5 year old but this kid has some serious spatial reasoning skills so her “fun” activity one day was a set of tangram cards I found at the dollar store last year. We put drawer liner under the shapes to keep them from sliding down and remove any frustration that might cause.

homeschool preschool

We read 10 Apples Up On Top and tried out this activity. I thought she’d definitely like it because it involves using a glue stick but it failed. We tried it a few different times [because sometimes it’s just how she feels on a given day] but no dice. So we might try these the next time we work through the letter ‘A’.

homeschool preschool

Our games for the week included Deja Moo!. It’s pretty much a matching game but the cards are face up and they’re of the same cow but just a little different. So, for example, you’d have to find the match where both cows are wearing sunglasses.

homeschool preschool

Ruk Shuk is a favorite of the adults of this house, but Lucy likes to pretend she’s playing by correctily ordering the rocks horizontally [instead of stacking them].

homeschool preschool

Castle Logix is just the right amount of puzzling logic for her. It has different levels of ability so it’ll last her a while. Which is good because we have a box full of 24 piece puzzles she’s discarded.

homeschool preschool

Landon likes to get in on the action sometimes. He wanted to help unload the dishwasher so I set him to the task of organizing the sippy cups.

homeschool preschool

Our fun ended with a “tea” party outside that included mulch and water. Yum.

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Lucy Lately


These Lucy Lately posts make me laugh a little because Landon is, for the most part, excluded. I feel confident he thinks things we would all find humorous. Landon was always what you’d call a “late talker” but he was doing a great job of mimicking sounds and repeating things after me. You could tell he was trying really hard to make his mouth communicate what his brain was thinking. He was pretty consistent in saying “mama” and “dada” and would randomly say longer or more challenging words like “Jack” or “Poppa”. He said “mil” for milk and that sort of thing. But then, unfortunately, when he had a few seizures last spring he completely stopped talking. So at 22 months we had him tested and his speech was declared to be at a 9 month old’s level. I feel like everyone gives me really sympathetic looks when I tell them that. But I think one of the best ways we can help our children is to not take their [or our] shortcomings so personally. We’re here. We’re doing the best we can. And that’s enough. We’ve been working with our awesome speech therapist on a weekly basis for a couple months now and at almost 27 months he’s back to saying “mama”, he’s significantly increased his sign language vocabulary [which is way better than the grunt shriek he was using to get our attention], and he’s added some sounds back in to his vocab like “ga, ba, ah”. Who would have thought I’d ever get so excited about one syllable sounds. Some days, when Lucy fills any penetrable silence our home might posses I feel a shred of guilt about my quiet one. :) So, there’s a really long explanation for why I only quote one of my children. Yikes!


Lu: “It is such a beautiful day!”
[swats at mosquito.]
Lu: “Okay. I’m ready to go inside.”

Me: “Lucy, Daddy is putting you to bed tonight. Say good prayers.”
Lu: “Good prayers.”

Lu: “Mom, come sit beside me on this pillow. I left a really big spot for you.”

[coinciding with]…

Lu: “Mom – I need to eat more chocolate so that I can be as big as you.”

Lu: “Moooooooooooom. I want to have Mommy and Lucy time. Play tag with me.”
Me: “Luce, sometimes when mommies have babies in their bellies they need to rest more than usual.”
Lu: “Well, just take him out already!”

[jumps on top of me]
Me: “Lucy, you need to be careful – there’s a baby in my belly and we don’t want to hurt him.”
Lu: “Oh, Mom. He’s fine. He’s sleeping. He thought it was funny. He wants me to do it again.”

Lu: “I did school today. It was really fun. I learned a lot.”
Friend: “What did you learn?”
Lu: “Oh. I don’t know. Mom, what did I learn?”

Lu: “Mom! Did you know a zero and an ‘O’ look the same?!”

Lu: “Mama, let me talk to Mimi. I need to ask her a question.”
[Talking into phone.]
Lu: “Mimi. Mama is going to have a baby. She’s going to go to the hospital to teach the baby how to eat with Daddy and the doctor. And you’re going to take me and Buddy to the playground. Okay? Oh, and then it will be Christmas.”
Lu: “Mimi. I want Minnie toys for Christmas.”

[Putting on socks]
Me: “Okay, put your toes in.”
Lu: “Did you say cousins? I have cousins… Let me see. Their names are Maddison, Taylor, Pa…”
Me: “No I said put your toes in.”
Lu: “Oh, well I really love my cousins.”

Lu: “Dear God. Jesus Lord God. Jesus Lord God. Jesus Lord God. Amen.”


You’re Gonna What?!

homeschool preschool

This week marked our first week of homeschool preschool. Does that surprise you? I feel like it surprises a lot of people. I mean, my husband is a public school teacher. We support our schools. We support a strong community-based school system. The school district we live in isn’t great but we could send our kids elsewhere. The district Chuck teaches in has one of the best early education programs in the state, and it’s within walking distance of his building. It’s not a matter, for us, about feeling like public [or private] schools aren’t good enough.

Our homeschooling discussion actually began when we were still relatively newlyweds, not soon planning for a family. Oh a whim we picked up a book from the bargain bin one day called, “Crunchy Cons” by Rod Dreher. The premise of the book was that there are people who can cross the line between conservative and the granola-farmer’s market-tree hugging-Birkenstock wearing crowd. Granted in 2006 when the book was published the crunchy conservative group was probably a little smaller than it is now. But, for us, the book came at a time when we were trying to figure out how to “do” our marriage and who we were in the great, big world. It places a strong value on the importance of strong faith, families, and communities and we loved that.

In the book, Dreher spends more than a few pages talking about his family’s decision to homeschool. He talks about how it strengthens families. How an education can be perfectly tuned to the needs and desires of each child, each family.

“Strong, healthy individuals and strong, healthy societies cannot be made without strong, healthy families. Homeschooling puts the family first, and involves all its members sacrificially in helping its youngest learn and grow… ‘We want our children to be thoughtful and perceptive, to be able to weigh information and make wise, well-grounded decisions. We want faith to be an integral part of their lives, not a separate subject. If someone’s going to put spin on a topic, it’s going to be [us] and it’s going to be in the direction of what we believe to be right and true.'(p. 138)”.

So we kind of tucked that information away. It would be a few years before we started a family and then a few more we would even consider their schooling. And yet somehow, quicker than I would have ever believed, here we are.

And our situation has changed slightly. When Lucy was diagnosed with food allergies to wheat, dairy, eggs, and peanuts the choice to homeschool became easier. Without seeking, I stumbled upon story after story of parents who take on exhaustive, emotional battles with their children’s schools to ensure they have a safe environment in which to learn. I thought of her sitting alone at an “allergen free table” while her friends laughed at a lunch table farther away. I thought about her having to miss classroom activities where food would be involved. I read stories of children dying because they had an allergic reaction at school and no one was close by who could recognize the signs or administer an epi-pen. I think Lucy is understanding her food allergies more and more every day. She has experienced the digestive wrongs of just a small amount of something she can’t have and now asks, “Will this make me sick?” We don’t live in constant fear of her food limitations but we do recognize the need to exercise caution and the extra effort required to keep her safe.

So, now that I’ve sort of explained how we came to the decision, I did want to kind of put up a disclaimer that every person, every parent, every family is totally different and this is what we’ve decided to do right now. We are not “stuck” with this decision. It’s something we’ll seek out until God changes our perspective, if He so chooses. We don’t think it’s ‘right’ or that not homeschooling is ‘wrong’ [obviously, I mean Chuck is still a public school math teacher] but it is right for our family. There’s always a fear that someone will harshly judge you for a decision that you make, but that’s easily righted if you believe you’ve entrusted the decision to God. What I fear more is that someone would believe we think our present convictions are ‘better’ than theirs or that they’d feel any sense of perceived judgement coming from our direction. Just like everybody else, we’re just trying to build up a family that honors the calling Christ puts on our heart. Whew.

Onward. I thought I’d give a quick glimpse into what our days are looking like and how it’s going for us. Since Lucy is a few months from four, we wanted to start something official but we didn’t want to leave Landon (2) out of it. We plan on her being in preschool again next year so this year our objectives were simple:

-Following directions
-Letter & number recognition
-Write her name
-Memorize her address and a telephone number
-Create a positive perception of homeschool time, and begin a routine.

And for Landon they’re pretty basic:

-Following directions
-Imaginative Role Play
-“Homework” from Speech Therapist

homeschool preschool set up

We start the day with a Bible story and “devotion around the breakfast table. It usually involves these three books [The Jesus Storybook Bible, Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing, and Big Thoughts For Little People] and we’re loosely following some of the ideas from here.

homeschool preschool

Because of their ages, our “school” time lasts between 20-40 minutes with Lucy fully engaged and Landon semi-participating. We’re trying out a workbox approach a la 1+1+1=1 but we’re only doing three per kid and I don’t have fancy bins. Before I commit any resources to it, I wanted to see how the kids would respond to the system so I used some organizers I had around the house [okay, they used to hold all of my fabric but with a baby coming in a few months and two toddlers to spare I’m not really doing much in the way of recreational crafting right now.].

On top of the shelves we’ve got a few workbooks. I know work pages are sort of questionable for some but Lucy LOVES them so I try to pick them up when I see them for a good price used [because usually a kid only did the first few pages and then it sat for a while and was quickly outgrown]. It’s cheaper to buy a workbook than it is to buy paper and ink for our home printer. I know, I did the math. :)

I also pick out three to five books for the theme of the week. Right now we’re just doing a basic ‘letter of the week’ thing and picking out topics that start with that letter. So for ‘A’ we did alligators and apples but I’ll share more in-depth about our week in another post. We’re also reading a lot of fairy tales, rhyming books, and poems with hand motions as suggested by our speech therapist.

homeschool preschool

There’s a bench adjacent to the little nook where the shelves are that we’re using as a desk. We’ve pulled up some kid-sized chairs and we keep our art trays on top to designate which space is for which kid. If you have two kids close in age that makes perfect sense to you. :)

homeschool preschool

On the first shelf we keep the “work” of the day: the printables based on the objective. Lucy has a desire to learn to write her letters so we’ve got some worksheets to help her towards that cause. The favorite sheet for both kids was actually the dot sheet.

Usually after we finish the first shelf we’ll go into the living room and snuggle up and read a few books and maybe sing a few songs.

The second shelf has our fun thing of the day. They’re both big on projects so we save those for second. They also involve markers, paint, glue, etc. so we wait to do those.

The bottom shelf has an independent activity for each of them based either on their interests or the theme, depending on what we already own. This is the most important shelf for Landon because he pretty quickly tires of the others. Which is okay. We’re really not looking for “book knowledge” from him as much as the ability to listen and sit still for a couple minutes.

It’s been fun to have this consistent routine. We’re doing these sit down days three days a week and keeping the other two days open for play dates and park adventures. This week we did the park one day and the zoo one day.

It’s working well for us so far. It’s just the right combination of structured and free play and short enough not to worry about it too much. I think it’ll be just the right amount of conditioning to make next year go smoothly. Hopefully I’ll learn a little something about how kids this age learn at home so that when L and L are older I have some activities to keep their younger siblings busy while they’re doing their reading and ‘rithmatic. :)

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Broccoli & Hummus Pizza [and our meal plan!]

weekly meal plans | hey, beth baker!

Pregnancy is not totally a friend of meal planning, it seems. If you can make it past the first trimester drowsies then you get to contend with the second trimester cravings. There are some wrenches.

But I will say dinner is more likely to get on the table if I meal plan the week [and I’m sure my family appreciates that].

So here’s the week:

Sunday: late lunch and a light meal at church.
Monday: Zucchini Egg Scramble. Trying to maximize my protein. I also made roasted cabbage [sprinkled with turmeric] for the kids and they went NUTS over it.
Tuesday: Spaghetti with kale. A meal with four ingredients from my backyard: it was a proud moment. I made this not-tomato sauce [and added in tomatoes I needed to use up] so we got beets and carrots from that. We had friends over for dinner so I had to add a jar of marinara to it also. We used brown rice penne instead of noodles to make it easier for the kids to eat. I add brown sugar and cinnamon to my sauce [just like my Sitti taught my mom] and I add garbanzo beans and homegrown kale to wrap it up. Yum. We also had some Mountain Bread topped with olive oil and rosemary [also from the backyard]. It was so humid in our house that I had to make the Mountain Bread in my cast iron skillet to keep it from spreading too much.
Wednesday: Roasted Broccoli Quinoa [this is one of my favorite recipes]. I need to start making two heads of broccoli because the kids love it so much.
Thursdays: Landon’s speech therapist comes to our house [which is amazing] but she’s here from 4:30 to 5:30 every Thursday so we either have to eat before she comes or having something in the crock pot that’s ready to go. or, in Landon’s case, both. So tacos are easy to throw together; especially if you do all the prep beforehand.
Friday: Green beans from the backyard and potato wedges covered in olive oil and Dijon mustard on the grill [kind of following this recipe].
Saturday: Broccoli & Hummus Pizza, recipe below! [*Broccoli twice in one week. Craving = broccoli.]

broccoli and hummus pizza | hey, beth baker!

Broccoli & Hummus Pizza
Serves 2 to 4

For the Crust we use this recipe with no changes. I like it because it only rises for 10 minutes but you have dreams of tossing pizza through the air of your kitchen – this is not the recipe for you. I try to put as little flour in as I need to keep it from keeping dense, so I usually spread it onto parchment with wet hands.

1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese [I just grate it right over the broccoli and don’t usually measure]
Salt & Pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup hummus
3+ oz. feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425F [No seriously, I know recipes always start off by telling you to preheat but do it right away this time.] Prepare your broccoli by cutting it into florets. Toss it onto a baking sheet with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Throw that into the oven as soon as you can [even if it isn’t done preheating] and keep it in there for at least 10 minutes. You want to get the roasting started on the broccoli before you add it to your pizza.

Prepare your dough following the recipe and when it’s ready spread it out on a piece of parchment. Spread your hummus on that like you would a marinara. When the hummus is spread you can pull the broccoli out and arrange it on top of the hummus. Then sprinkle the whole thing with feta [feel free to add another cheese in if you’d like. Cheese it up.].

Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes. Ours likes 17 minutes every time and enjoy. I love this in the winter with a tomato based soup to round out the meal.

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