Archive | May 2014

The Atypical Child

all kidsI feel a little strange writing this, but many of my friends with children with things such as autism or ADHD or other things refer to their kids as atypical, and I kind of like it. I like how it helps define it without putting a label on it. They aren’t special in the negative way, just as typical or “normal” kids aren’t ordinary or boring because their brains or bodies function a certain way. I love that it’s the typical child, who functions as most children do, and the atypical child, whose body just functions differently.

I also love getting together with these friends, with their beautifully different little people. #1 is at that age where he notices differences, but we can talk about it and then he just lets it go. One friend has the sweetest little girl with Angelman Syndrome. She’s the sweetest thing with the biggest smile, beautiful white-blonde hair and big blue eyes. We talked before we visited about how she’s the size of a two-year old, but she thinks like #2 does, and that that’s ok. #1 listened, asked why she was like that (to which I said, “Because God made her like that, just like he made you with your angel’s kiss”), and then he just went with it. He played with her and #2 for 3 hours and treated her awesome. (Granted, there were definitely some times where he got a little sassy, but he’s only 4. I’ll let him get by with that.)

I love that. I love that, just like he doesn’t see race when he sees his teachers (his blonde teacher and his brown teacher), he doesn’t see her as being “strange” or “weird.” She’s just “different,” and he accepts that. I want him to grow up keeping that thought. When atypical kids come into his classroom at school, I want him to think, “I should go be their friend,” not “why are they weird and different?” When a student comes in who is deaf, I hope he reaches out and smiles at them rather than makes fun of their signing. When someone has Down’s Syndrome, I hope he helps them, rather than teases them. If someone has autism or a stutter or any of the other myriad things that children can have, I hope he has compassion. I hope he isn’t one of the bullies, or one of the people who just stares.

And I think that’s something we should all want for our children. If my children ever in the future have something that makes them atypical, I hope some other little boy or girl comes along and loves them as they are. I hope someone stands up for them if others bully them. I hope someone reaches out and tries to understand. And by hoping that, I will do my best to make sure my children have to skills to be that person for someone else, if they choose to.

I’m not perfect. My kids aren’t, either. I catch myself staring sometimes. I often catch myself not knowing what to say to parents with atypical kids. If you have kids with these differences, will you share with us what you wish parents or kids would say or do? Because I often find myself stumbling over my words and being all-around a clumsy example for #1. Thankfully, he is still oblivious. I can take my cues from him. And hopefully, he will keep that kind heart as he gets older.

So what are your thoughts? What do you wish your kids did? What do you wish people would do differently? Please share! 🙂

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When Anxiety Strikes…

I have trouble with anxiety. I’m beginning to realize that it’s more than I thought, that my minimization just makes it grow. Today, it seemed like I was facing a mountain with no way around it. Desperate, I went to the only thing that helps on days like this: the Bible. And for some, that might sound cheesy, but it’s what works for me.

I’ve also never shared a quiet time journal, but felt like I was being prompted to share today’s. And I’m nervous as heck about it, to be honest. But here it goes. The verses I found comfort in are at the bottom.

 

Jesus, I am afraid. I am anxious. I am full of worry. And right now, I am giving it all to you.

All of it, I lay at your feet. You are God. You made the world, and you hold everything in balance. These momentary trials in my life are not even bumps in the road, in light of your power. I trust you to take care of me and of my family. And though I give you my fears, I know it will be a continual battle. Please give me the strength to consciously and continually give you my anxious thoughts. You are the God of the universe, and you are, somehow, also my Father. That you would care for a spec of space dust, a blip in human history, blows my mind and leaves me in awe. Why, I’m not sure. You show your love every moment I take a breath. Your love is so great that you hold the world, the solar system, physics itself, in perfect balance just so I can exist. How can I doubt that you will care for my momentary needs?

Jesus, thank you for what I do have: an amazing husband; two beautiful, loving boys; and my health. Remind me that, regardless of how I feel in this moment, you hold my life in the safety of your hands. I can’t see past right now, and it’s easy to doubt you. Give me peace, and help me hand over those worries that fill my mind.

Thank you.

 

 

Deuteronomy 28: 65

Psalm 3: 5-6

Psalm 23

Psalm 27: 1-3, 5, 8-9, 14

Psalm 28: 1-2, 6-8

Psalm 31: 14, 16, 24

Psalm 34: 4-10,17-19

Psalm 46: 1-3

Psalm 55: 4-8

Psalm 112: 7-8

Psalm 139: 23-24

Isaiah 41: 10

Lamentations 3: 55-59

Haggai 2: 5

Matthew 6: 25-34

Luke 12: 22-29

Romans 8:15

Philippians 4: 6-7

Isaiah 41 10

Proverbs 31 Woman: Verses 14 – 17

Proverbs 31 14 - 17Today, I started my Bible Study more than a little afraid. I have this bad tendency to shift the focus of tough stuff from me to someone else, and yesterday’s blog post had me worried. As I opened up the book, I couldn’t help wondering if all I’d get from it would be, “Oh, this would be a good point for the blog!” or “This totally applies to that situation So-and-so has.” Thankfully, Someone made sure to get my total attention. Here’s what I discovered today!

Verse 14:

ETR – “She is like a ship from a faraway place. She brings home food from everywhere.”

NIV – “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”

NKJV – “She is like the merchant ships. She brings her food from afar.”

TM – “She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.”

At first, I was completely confused. Does this virtuous woman just have a great culinary cookbook? If that’s the case, then I’ve got this down pat! We eat Italian food, Mexican food, Greek food, American food, Asian food…. But that seemed too simple, too shallow for a poem devoted to what a Godly woman looks like. “A Godly woman makes food.” It didn’t seem quite what I was supposed to get… And while I personally love the traditional role of housewife, I didn’t think God would pigeon-hole women into this role.

Then, I looked at all the translations together. “She is like the merchant ships.” These ships traveled the world, seeing cultures and meeting people completely foreign to their culture of origin. She “brings back exotic surprises.” I especially love that, those “exotic surprises.” Think about it: we all love when family or friends bring us little souvenirs from their travels abroad, even if it’s just some true Mexican tequila from just across the border. It’s something new. Something foreign. Something exciting. It’s something outside of our comfort zone. And that is what this woman does. She brings her family outside of their comfort zone. Whether it’s via a curry dish that is completely different from their usual ketchup and mustard hot dogs or something deeper, like inviting the neighbors across the hall to go on a play date to the park, she is the instigator for family growth. She refuses to stay stagnant, and pushes the family to stretch themselves and experience new things.

Verse 15 –

ETR – “She wakes up early in the morning, cooks food for her family, and gives the servants their share.”

TM – “She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.”

NKJV – “She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants.”

NIV – “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.”

The first section is pretty straight forward. She wakes up before everyone else and gets started on her day. Laziness is not in her vocabulary. No snooze button for this noble woman. No eye peeking at the sunrise, wishing it was just a little farther off. No, she wakes up and is willing to start her day. The second part, however, about the “maidservants” seemed a little strange and archaic to me. Yet the only translation that didn’t include it was the Message. So, I searched through commentaries until I found an explanation. If she had maidservants to feed, that meant she was wealthy. If she was wealthy, she could have had the servants do these early morning chores for her and just slept in herself. She, however, doesn’t do that. She wakes up and has a humble, compassionate heart. She doesn’t act any differently than a woman with no servants. She doesn’t lord her position over anyone else, and cares for her family herself (though I’m sure she did delegate during the day). And, she has compassion on those under herself. She didn’t have to make them food while she made her family food, but she chose to show them kindness by caring for them as well. She is a woman with a servant’s heart, willing to care for those who should by all rights be caring for her.

Verse 16 –

ETR – “She looks at land and buys it. She uses the money she has earned and plants a vineyard.”

NIV – “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

NKJV – “She considers a field and buys it, from her profits she plants a vineyard.”

TM – “She looks over a field and buys it, the, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.”

This is one of my favorite verses, but I often take it out of context. A virtuous woman is financially savvy. She carefully inspects this plot of land before she buys it, and then she uses money she saved up to plant a vineyard, something that will increase in value and bring in higher profits as each year goes by. She doesn’t just buy the first lot shown to her. I picture her in her flowing silk outfit looking over field after field, rubbing her chin, narrowing her eyes, and asking so many questions the real estate agent begins to get frustrated. She’s so particular! But she has in her mind what she wants the field for, so she knows what she wants within it. Then, once she has found the perfect field, she uses her savings to invest in it. Notice, it’s her own savings, not her husband’s. So, she has had the foresight to save up for just such an investment. She is repeating those earlier verses, being a blessing to her husband’s wealth, not a burden. She finally uses that savings to plant a vineyard, something that will produce fruit and probably wine. And we all know how wine grows finer with age. Each year that goes by as she tends to that field, it will produce more and more, increasing her profit. What’s more, her husband trusted her to be able to make such a huge purchase.

I like to take it out of context, though, and fuel my money hoarder. She sits inside my heart and cackles as more coins fall in, as my heart hardens more and more to greed. That is not a virtuous woman. As I’m learning, a small amount for spending money is necessary to keep the heart open. It isn’t a burden on a marriage for each partner to have those few things that they frivolously spend on, as long as there is still foresight. I can go get my hair done after saving up for a while because it’s an investment in my self-esteem (healthily) and because it’s something just for me. If I were to get my hair done regularly and my nails done weekly and buy expensive make-up and clothes all the time, that would be a drain on our resources and completely self-centered. The opposite is also true. If I hoard my money because I’m too proud and too much a self-induced martyr to splurge on myself, I am also self-centered.

This verse was especially difficult for me this time around, because this is the first time that I am intentionally not bringing any money into the house. I’ve done up some numbers just for heck’s sake, and technically I bring in about $2000 worth of savings from daycare costs, gas, etc. but those things don’t show up in the physical numbers. Often, I feel like I’m not contributing, and I’m not investing. I forget, though, that investments are not just financial. Just like this virtuous woman planted a vineyard rather than opened a ROTH IRA, my decision to stay home is another kind of investment, one that is just as valid as monetary investment. While some women invest in their families by creating future financial stability, I am investing in my family by forgoing the money I could earn to give them a permanent caretaker, stability, and moral investments that will grow in the future. Both are great, and neither is better or worse than the other.

Verse 17 –

ETR – “She works very hard. She is strong and able to do all her work.”

TM – “First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.”

NIV – “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

NKJV – “She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.”

The New King James Version threw me for a loop. Though I like to think I’m a little more literarily advanced than some (and thus entitled to make up new words like “literarily”), I realized I didn’t know exactly what “gird” meant. My trusty Webster-Mirriam Dictionary defined “to gird” as “to encircle or bind with a belt or band, to surround; enclose; hem in,” or “to prepare (oneself) for action.” The NKJV paints this beautiful literary picture of a woman not only literally dressing herself for the day, like the Message translation, but also of a woman who surrounds herself with strength. And lest we overlook the act of dressing for the day, consider this: what do you feel like when you slip on those comfy pj pants or “fat jeans” and a slouchy t-shirt? This is my go-to outfit most days, and so the thought of dressing for how I envision the day was convicting. I was dressing for lazing around the house, not leaving the indoors, and not really doing much more than computer surfing. I wasn’t being intentional about my day, starting with the way I dressed. When I worked as a Mary Kay consultant, my director constantly encouraged us to wake up and get dressed as if we were headed to an MK party: business skirt, nice blouse (note: blouse, not t-shirt), and make-up put on. She would even put her pantyhose and shoes on. (Yes, she was under 30. I’m actually surprisingly fond of pantyhose.)  She was dressing for the day she envisioned: a day as a professional businesswoman, selling product she believed in and delivering as polished of a message as she dressed. It just doesn’t feel the same to try and sell a product like that dressed in yoga pants, scrunchie-tied hair, and I-just-woke-up-with-drool-on-my-face “make-up.”

Second, I realized that I literally do. not. have. strength. Mentally, physically, or spiritually, I often greet my day wishing it was some other kind of day (like a beach and a Cocoa Loco kind of day). I don’t surround myself in the one strength I can always depend on, and that I often need to fix my human lack of strength. The days I don’t do a Bible Study are glaringly obvious. I am cranky. I get angry quicker. I have no patience or normal kid things, and I cannot stand my husband doing what he does. The days that I do surround myself with God’s strength, I am calmer, more at peace, and much more capable of handling the everyday mayhem that comes with life. And I physically don’t have the strength to go throughout my day. Just 6 years ago, I could keep up with kids all day long, giving piggyback rides, reading book after book, playing tag, being firm with discipline. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a good exhaustion born from actual hard work. Now, I have bursts of energy that last less than 30 minutes usually, and my kids are left playing by themselves as mommy catches her breath with a cup of coffee. I physically don’t have the strength. I am not in shape to do my job. If my job were sitting behind a desk, I’d be fine. I’m not massively obese or really any worse than most women my age, but I am not where I need to be.

 

So, here are some questions to ponder:

Do I push myself to break out of my comfort zone? Do I help or hinder my family’s growth?

Do I get up early and begin my day by caring for my family, or do I wake up with my own needs and desires at the forefront of my mind?

Am I wise with my money, investing and saving it so I am a blessing to my family? Or, am I wasting money I earn on things that won’t last because I won’t plan for the future?

Do I wake up eager to begin my day, or am I reluctant to roll out of bed? Do I surround myself with spiriual and mental strength? Am I physically able to do my job to my best ability?

Proverbs 31 Woman: Verses 10 – 13

Proverbs 31 WomanToday, for lack of a bible study at the moment, I decided to dive back into my favorite passage in the Bible: Proverbs 31.  As a woman and a wife, I love having a passage that basically lays down the ground rules. Even more, I love how it morphs and grows every time I read it. There is always something new to learn from it! Since many of my posts have been anxious or angry lately, I thought I’d share something a little more upbeat today.

The passage starts in verse 10. The NIV Easy-To-Read version (my husband’s) says, “How hard it is to find the perfect wife. She is worth far more than jewels.” Before, I always assumed that it meant literally perfect. Like, the 50’s wives with their cute little dresses, pouty red lips, and bright smile as they vacuumed. Or, the image I had of my own mother: balancing a million things at once, being a stay-at-home mom, and always having a spotless house. That was and will always be unattainable. Perfection cannot be grasped by us here on earth, and it seemed so unfair that it was one of the requirements to being that Proverbs 31 woman.

The passage, though, notes that “the perfect wife” can be translated “a noble woman.” So what is a noble woman? Webster-Mirriam Dictionary defines noble as something or someone “of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence.” The passage isn’t calling for a perfect woman. It’s calling for a noble one! Not, “who can be the perfect wife?” but “who can be a woman of excellent moral character?” After all, the writer knows that no one is perfect. How arrogant of me to think he was asking me to be perfect. The rarity of finding a noble woman, a woman with this moral excellence,” is what makes her “worth far more than jewels.”

Verse 11-12 in the Easy-to-Read version (EtR) were a little more confusing. I decided to open up the wonderful BibleGateway, and the comparisons were really neat!

 EtR – “Her husband depends on her. He will never be poor. She does good for her husband all her life. She never causes him trouble.”
NIV – “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

NKJV – “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”

The Message – “Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.”

Originally, I read the verses to literally mean “she helps him make money, and she doesn’t make any trouble.” Sounded good to me, but it seemed a little flat. After all, what about the women who are stay-at-home moms, or who are not able to work because of injury, illness, or something else? Are they then not noble women? Are they making their husbands poorer?

The other translations, however, opened up an entirely new realm of this “depending.” It isn’t just in the surface level financial trust. His poverty isn’t in the bank. It’s in their relationship. He has “full confidence.” His heart “safely trusts her.” He “trusts her without reserve.” Her worthiness of his trust brings him “no lack of gain.” He “never has reason to regret it.  How beautiful is that! How many of us can look at our relationship with our husband and honestly say that he has no reason to regret giving us his heart? I know I can think of so many times I did not honor his trust, whether it was something simple or something huge. Think about it: when my husband says I am the most beautiful woman in the world, and I brush it off with a “you have to say that” comment, I am crushing his affection, saying he doesn’t count as a man to determine beauty. Simple. When I withhold my body from him, denying that sexual aspect of his being because I’m angry/resentful/hurt/apathetic/whatever, his trust that I will nurture him is damaged. (And yes, ladies, our husbands need that just as we need relationship.) And the biggy: when I look to the appreciation of the men around me, outside of my husband, it opens the door to resentment, fear, and hurt. And that one is the big one for me, because I have incredibly low self-esteem. While I am appreciating and acknowledging my husband’s compliments and genuine attraction more than ever, I still find myself wanting to go out and be the “trophy wife” on his arm. I crave the glances, the attention of other men to feel better about myself. Not because I’m looking to go to them, and not because I want to be a tease. Purely out of unconscious need to feel like someone wants me or thinks I’m pretty. That “need” devalues my husband.

The EtR verse 12, “she never causes him trouble,” especially stuck out to me. While I am purposely trying to moderate my tendencies to seek outside approval (cursed people-pleasing self….), I am discovering a new vice: gossip. And lord oh lord, does it bring my poor husband trouble. The verse actually made me laugh out loud. I am far from a noble woman for my hubby. My mouth likes to run away, leaving icky feelings, foot-in-mouth moments, and bruised relationships in its wake. Poor husband either has to listen to my blather or has to try to piece together what my carelessness broke.

Verse 13, however, was my favorite of the bunch today.

EtR – “She is always gathering wool and flax and enjoys making things with her hands.”

NIV – “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”

NKJV – “She seeks wool and flax and willingly works with her hands.”

TM – “She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.”

What? Are we supposed to all sit in rocking chairs and knit all day? Or should we be crafty, scouring Pinterest for the next neat thing to make with the kids or to use around the house? No.

The verses show a deeper meaning to this idea of working. This noble woman is “always gathering,” “selecting” with care, “seeking” and shopping “for the best yarns and cottons.” She is selective in what she chooses and makes sure to get the best things for her chosen career as what appears to be a seamstress. And, she takes pride in what she makes. She willingly works with her hands, enjoying what she does. So then, do I have the same outlook as she? Do I take pride in my chosen career? Do I choose the best materials? Do I take joy in the activity? I was unsurprised to discover that I don’t. In a culture where women are often pressured to join the workforce, my decision and passion to stay home with kids and take care of my household has left me feeling second-rate. I have a passion for being a housewife and mother, but I don’t take pride in my children, my husband, or my home. I am definitely not living in excellence. And that goes for any career. Do you take pride and have joy in your chosen path? If you’re a nurse, do you welcome the sunrise each day, thrilled to work with patients and co-workers? If you’re a teacher, do you eagerly grade papers, knowing the impact you’re making every day in a child’s life? If you’re a bank teller, do you give your best effort behind that counter? Whatever your job, do you value it like this? And I do mean temporary jobs as well, since sometimes we cannot do or have not discovered our “dream job” just yet. For those of us who have found what our passion is, though, do we chase after it and do it to our best ability?

I’m only four verses into this passage, and I’ve already been massively convicted. Am I striving to be a noble woman, one with a strong moral character and the desire to live with excellence? Am I protecting and nurturing my husband’s heart, so that he has a safe place to come to? Am I bringing him good things, or am I living recklessly and bringing him pain? And am I living my passion as if it’s second-rate, or am I living it passionately, proudly, and eagerly?

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s verses bring.

“It’s So Immodest!”

http://www.mamabeanparenting.com/

A poster ad for the University of North Texas

Look, I understand. I promise I do. No self-respecting woman wants to expose herself. Seriously, tell me if my panties play peek-a-boo when I bend down. And I’m just as mortified as the next girl to realize my bra isn’t as thick as I wish it was for those “nippy” days. That said, this idea of “immodesty” is one of the biggest hurdles I face as a breastfeeding mom, and it isn’t just on your part.

I won’t blame society alone. I know a lot of my experience is self-induced. I grew up in a household where anything below the collar bone was immodest, where one-piece swimsuits were the only acceptable suit, unless it was a tankini. Even our swim team speedos were frowned upon behind closed doors, because Lord knows those have no padding. So I grew up being ashamed of my chest and seeing it as a body part to be hidden. When breastfeeding arrived, along with its massive bust change, it was difficult to put aside those previous feelings and just enjoy the moment. It still is difficult. I was embarrassed on Sunday night at church when #2 pulled off the nipple to giggle at a friend as he was picked up, and I couldn’t get my hand over it fast enough. A lot of my attempts at modesty fail, though. Both boys, though moreso #2, hated being covered up. Anything near #2’s face gets yanked off within seconds. He also likes to play. A lot. Reference the nipple-reveal from Sunday. And it’s mortifyingly embarrassing.

But I’m not trying to cause it. It’s the other person at the end of the boob. I have no control over him or his actions, but I do have a responsibility to feed him. What’s more, he is a person in his own right. I think sometimes people look at a nursing mom, and all they see is a giant boob. Sitting there. Staring at them, with one giant cyclops eye. Let’s all rub our eyes now and look again. It’s one person helping another survive. When did our culture become so sexualized that a natural process has become “immodest?”

Let’s look at it this way. If someone told your 1st grader to go eat in the bathroom stall, you would be horrified! Moreover, if your boss said, “Mary, I cannot stand the sight of you today. You need to go eat in the bathroom for lunch,” you’d probably file for harassment or verbal abuse. After all, bathrooms are full of germs and possibly diseases, especially public restrooms. That’s if no one is in there! “Mmmm…. tuna salad with a side of the farts. Delicious!” “I just love eating my minestrone soup while So-and-so deals with their food poisoning.” Not.

Or, would you let your daughter go eat her lunch in your truck on a Texas summer evening? We’re all well-acquainted with the method of cooking frogs. They don’t realize that the temperature is rising, and so they let themselves be cooked. It’s the same method.

And why do you breathe into a paper bag when you’re hyperventilating? To reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood by breathing in carbon dioxide. A cover with no opening (think blanket) does the same thing.

All of these are things regularly expected and considered “normal” for a nursing mom. Don’t believe me? With #1, I pumped in shame in a locker room during breaks I had to fight for. I ended up losing my milk production because I was too ashamed to ask and too embarrassed to have milk in the work freezer. With #2, I nursed him in a back corner of the airport bathroom at 3 weeks old. I got to listen to one girl force herself to throw up, and another have some serious bowel issues. Neither are pleasant smells or sounds. And for three months while I finished my degree, I pumped in whatever bathroom stall I could get, though I did my best to use the handicap stall. That way, I could be farther from the toilet and any potential splatter. Think about that. Breastmilk in a bathroom. I also often nurse in the truck whenever Little Man gets hungry inconveniently. We live in Texas. Our winters are 65* at noon. We won’t mention our summers.

But that’s expected. After all, no one should be subjected to seeing another person’s personal parts, right?

Right?

I’m sorry, but that is wrong. And hurtful.

I, and most nursing moms out there, am doing my best to be modest. I’m not talking about Extreme Breastfeeding Mamas of America here. Most of us genuinely want to respect our bodies and your feelings by staying covered up. The inherent lie of it all, though, is that breastfeeding is immodest. So many people will say, “It’s just not modest,” but when actually faced with a situation, when it’s gone into more deeply, change their tune because they realize how silly the notion is. We shouldn’t be shamed into hiding in bathroom stalls for your decency. We shouldn’t have to melt in our cars because we’re worried about what you’ll think of us.

It’s often in ways you don’t even realize, so here are a few examples of what a nursing mom often sees:

The raised eyebrow – what we think you’re thinking: “What is she thinking?” “Is that a boob?” “Why isn’t she covering up?” “Weird…”
what we feel: ashamed, embarrassed, like freaks.

The slight frown – what we think you’re thinking: “How immodest!” “Can’t she take that somewhere else?” “This is not the place to do that.” “Women these days…”
what we feel – immodest, ashamed, looked down upon, like sluts

And those are just the most common. There’s also the quick glance away and blush, the lip twitch, the wide-eyed stare…. We know that most of you aren’t meaning to hurt our feelings. We want to work with you, honest.

We just aren’t willing to degrade ourselves or our children for your sensitivities.

So, next time you see a mom nursing, give her a smile. Look in her eyes, not at her chest. Realize that there’s a cute pink critter eating, not a lady flaunting. And please, tell her she’s doing something awesome, even if you don’t mean it yet. One judgmental look, one casual phrase against it, and we’re back in the bathroom stall praying no one poos while we’re in there.

Deprived

That’s how I feel sometimes: deprived. All the things I once enjoyed – ice cream, milk shakes, pizza – are now forbidden foods. And my baking urges? Those have to be channeled the way of the vegan: no milk, no eggs, no fun. Do you know how hard it is to explain to a four-year old why he can’t eat those goldfish? Or to your husband that it isn’t just teasing when he waves Tin Roof Blue Bell ice cream under your nose, and then enjoys it overly-much? How do you handle church nursery, where other babies have formula and drool and spit up, but your child can’t be near any of it? How do you explain to well-meaning friends and family that, yes, it is necessary to continue breast feeding because it’s much cheaper to not eat dairy myself than to fork over buku bucks for dairy-free formula? (Yes, soy formula has some dairy aspects. And it stinks.)

Before you all offer me your well-meaning pearls of wisdom, please know that this isn’t an every day occurrence. I don’t always feel deprived. There are days when I’m thankful for #2’s food allergies, even though they’re difficult. It’s helping us eat healthier, and it’s broadening my culinary skills. And yes, I am infinitely grateful to even have #2. I wouldn’t trade food allergy-free anything for the little boy I have.

And then there’s days like today, where I just want to toss in the towel. Milk is in everything. Everything! Oats, his other food allergy, are relatively easy to avoid. But milk? It’s not just cheese and milk and butter and cream. No…. It’s the cheese powder that covers Doritos. It’s the whey buried under 15 other ingredients in margarine butter. It’s the kiss a grandmother can give after having eaten yogurt, and the oily fingers of a friend who ate pizza thirty minutes ago. It’s the cream snuck into tomato soup, and the Parmesan that the chef forgot he added. It’s the ice cream shop innocently using the same scoop to scoop sorbet as they did the ice cream. And it’s the mom who’s not actually allergic who feels terrible when the baby has a reaction.

Food allergies are hard. We’ve had food intolerances before, both #1 and I. Both were also to dairy. The difference, though, is that we were fine as long as we didn’t eat it. Cheese still existed in our house. Ice cream was had by all. Cake wasn’t terrifying, and chocolate candy was just a sad temptation. Now… Cheese is banned. Ice cream is my nightmare. Cake makes me depressed, and chocolate candy – Let’s just not go there. (Easter, anyone? Birthdays? Oy…)

So forgive me if I wallow every few days. It’s hard! People hear “milk allergy,” and their mind goes to “lactose intolerance.” I wish… Honestly, I do. If only it were so easy as switching regular milk for extra pasteurized milk. And they don’t understand that it’s not only a tummy reaction (if that at all). His worst foe right now is contact. Anything dairy has him breaking out in hives. And God forbid he should get a hold of anything dairy, like that used ice cream spoon left in its bowl, or the Reese’s cup wrapper left by an unsuspecting child (or parent). Please don’t pity me, or think I’m being dramatic when I ask you to make sure your family has washed their hands before holding my baby. Please don’t be offended if I turn down those amazing looking cupcakes you slaved over, or if I mention how much I miss ice cream. And please, please, please don’t point out how much I’m whining. I’m doing my best, honestly, not to. Just pretend like it’s some new, strange diet plan. Everyone else seems ok if a dieter complains about missing carbs or sugar. Mine’s just permanent, unlike yours. I think I’m entitled to a few wistful looks and a comment or two. Trust me, I’m not trying to get your pity. It just needs to be said every once and a while.

What you can do, though, is offer up your own experiences with food allergies. I welcome the camaraderie of those who know the struggle of cutting out a major food group. Even better? Recipes. Lots and lots of recipes. Or name-brand food suggestions that I can make on the fly. Do you know how hard it is to make dinner from scratch every day? Even 30 minutes is tough. I’m in love with spaghetti. My family doesn’t enjoy eating it every week, though.

And finally, know that I don’t expect the world to revolve around my little man. Whether you have a food allergy or not, I don’t expect you to scrub down your house or hide all the goldfish during Sunday School. I’m not that crazy. Just be willing to work with my. This is tough to tackle, but I know it can be done. Having a friend at my shoulder just makes it easier.

Our face dairy-free.

Our face dairy-free.

#2 after an empty bowl of mac and cheese attacked.

#2 after an empty bowl of mac and cheese attacked.