Happy, Happy

Nico Allergies-1

The results are in! Nico does not have Mast Cell Activation Disorder! The blood work came back and showed he is allergic to pine nuts. How a pine nut got into a kitchen that swears is nut-free is a mystery I can’t investigate from California. Even the “pesto” they use from the manufacturer is supposedly nut-free. I called Morningstar, the maker of the veggie burger he ate, and they assured me there were no nuts of any kind in that burger (I gave them the lot number). Then they offered me coupons for free product.

“I think I’m going to pass,” I said.

Our best guess is that the pesto was mislabeled or there was cross-contamination. He’s only allergic to pine nuts, which his allergist says is one of the rarer allergies to cause anaphylaxis. Pine nuts are actually seeds from the pine tree but are grouped with tree-nuts due to their cross-reactivity. We’ve been advised that Nico should avoid all tree-nut and peanut products, including those items made in facilities that handle the same due to potential cross-reactivity and cross-contamination. I’m not sure if he should also avoid seeds. I need to call his allergist about that and because I’ve been ai found some studies that show pine pollen can exacerbate a reaction to pine nuts. We were in Lake Tahoe–is that a coincidence? My logical side says yes, more than likely. The mother in me says we should go to change.org and petition for the elimination of all pine trees and plants that share the same botanical family.

This isn’t our first time as a nut-free family. It’s rare for a pine nut allergy to return, but here we are. It can happen! I’m a little rusty, but I’m making my way around the grocery store. I found a cereal by an Australian company named Freedom Foods that is made in a dedicated nut-free facility. The boys loved it so, yay! Cereal, baked items, almost everything from a health food store–they’re likely going to have nuts or be made in a facility that handles them. We’ll figure it out. My most pressing concern is school lunches. What do you give a pescetarian child for lunch if they can’t have tree-nuts or peanuts? He can only eat so much tuna safely. Sunflower seed butter once I get the okay, sure, but what else? Dear God, I need to go to Pinterest again, don’t I?

Happy, Happy (ish)

PicMonkey Collage

“…sitting and waiting is one of the most miserable occupations known to man – not that it usually is known to men; women do it much more often.”
― Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

I waited 16 days for Nico’s appointment with the allergist. I monitored every crumb before it passed his lips. I stared at him while he chewed. I asked him how he was feeling and checked on him while he slept. I was very, very annoying.

One night, after I researched and called corporate headquarters, we went out for frozen yogurt. I barked instructions the entire time and made my patented Kermit Scrunch Face at the rogue peanut butter cup in the blackberry bin. I double-checked the ingredients and sat down in front of Nico empty handed. No yogurt for me that night; they were out of my favorite plain/original (of course my favorite is plain/original) and, besides, feasting on unrelenting anxiety was far more satisfying.

“Would you relax,” said the Mister, as my eyes made a 5th pass over Nico’s mouth, neck, the tips of his ears.

“I’ll relax on July 22nd when we know what happened,” was all I said.

We don’t know what happened. We know that his skin scratch test came back 100% negative for all tested food: milk, wheat, soy, eggs, seafood, and all the nuts expect pine nuts. Since he has a history of pine nut allergy, we went ahead and tested his blood for that. We also tested him for all the other rare allergies (including meat) and systemic mastocytosis. Those results we get in another 7-10 days.

Nico has been fine since the 6th of July. It’s like I’ve heard from so many people already–he went into anaphylaxis, we don’t know what caused it, and we don’t know if it will happen again. It’s not a comfortable place to be right now, but Nico is a trooper and I’m his rabid bulldog. We’ve got this.

The other day the boys and the Mister went and got yogurt without me. Mikey reported on the evening.

“Well, mom,” he said. “Dad and I took Nico to yogurt and we survived! I’ve never been so stressed in my life. Luckily, I didn’t have to ask Nico how he was feeling because Dad took care of that for me.”

“Oh? Dad asked Nico how he was feeling?”

“Every five minutes. Like clockwork!”

Really. You don’t say…”

“Mom,” Nico said, joining in the conversation. “I thought Dad was going to have a heart attack!”

Poor Nico. Flanked by not one, but two rabid bulldogs.



I’m reading the book Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God; I like it, though don’t take that as a recommendation because I’m only half-finished. I would describe it as an amalgamation of Geneen Roth and books on mindless eating viewed under a lens of Catholicism. Good, though not new.

I had to put the book down when I felt forced to make a decision I want to avoid. Years ago I lost 50 pounds by attending OA meetings. OA is structured like any 12-step program, though unlike AA or NA, you determine your abstinence and your meal plan.

The definition of Abstinence is the same for all members but the details of the Plan of Eating for each member may differ depending on what compulsive food behaviors we engaged in while practicing our disease, such as overeating, under-eating, and purging. A Plan of Eating is a Tool to help the OA member to maintain abstinence, i.e., to refrain from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors and to work toward or maintain a healthy body weight. There are as many “plans of eating” in OA as there are members and a plan may change over time for each member. Dignity of Choice has samples of some of the many plans of eating OA member’s use.

I joined because a reader emailed me and suggested I try it, with her sponsoring me via email. It was the most unexpected and intimate thing I have ever done with a stranger. To this day, I have no idea what possessed me to go so outside my comfort zone. I did well for the first six months. I followed her abstinence and plan of eating, which meant no sugar or flour. I was taught to believe that I was aaddicted to both. A part of me wondered if that was true, but I soldiered on. I had a goal–a 6-month chip–and I earned it and the weight I lost. I felt healthy and in control for the first time in a long time.

Then, two things happened simultaneously: I achieved my 6-month chip and I lost my sponsor. I am nothing without goals and a to-do list. It’s after I reach my goals and cross off every item on my list that I flounder. I walked every day for a year until the year was over.

Being in a 12-step program is like mountain climbing with a group; you are tied together by a rope and if your partner falls, there is a possibility you will, too. I fell. Very, very slowly. It took me 6 years to hit the bottom, but here I am.

It took me a long time to fall because I tried other programs (CEA-HOW, wasn’t the same) and started reading more books on mindless eating. For a while met regularly with a nutritionist who believes in intuitive eating. Going back to work, first as a volunteer and then the following year as an employee/volunteer, put a stop to that. The last two years I was truly on my own. The bottom came up on me right quick.

One of my few walks in Lake Tahoe.

We listened to podcasts on our way home from Lake Tahoe, and one of them featured Gretchin Ruben and her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday. I took her quiz and discovered I was an Obliger (as if there was any doubt).

Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They’re motivated by external accountability; they wake up and think, “What must I do today?”

Obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines, and go to great lengths to meet their responsibilities, so they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends. Others rely on them tremendously. However, because Obligers resist inner expectations, it can be difficult for them to self-motivate—to work on a Ph.D. thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced.

Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such as deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down. In fact, Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do. Behavior that Obligers sometimes attribute to self-sacrifice or lack of self-esteem—“Why do I always make time for other people’s priorities at the expense of my own?”—is often better explained as need for accountability.

The weight of outer expectations can make Obligers susceptible to burnout, because they have trouble telling people “no.” They may describe themselves as “people-pleasers.” They may, in fact, reach the point of Obliger rebellion, a striking pattern in which they abruptly refuse to meet an expectation. They may rebel in symbolic ways, with their hair, clothes, car, and the like.

Hearing that description made my OA/dieting/walking “failures” easier to understand. I wondered if I should give OA another shot. I contrasted the idea of believing I have an incurable addiction with the intuitive eating/eat whatever you like approach. Obviously, the latter sounded more appealing. I decided I wouldn’t make any decisions until I finished reading Cravings. (Rubin talks in her book about our ability to make loopholes–I suspected this was one.)

Which brings us full-circle to the moment I put down the book. The author just had to share a story of a woman who went to OA, stopped all sugar and flour, and has maintained her 150 pound weight loss for 15 years. She shared other stories, and I’m not sure she believes in sugar or flour addiction, but that story is still in that book. Taunting me.

I’m still not sure I believe in food addictions. The science goes both ways, much to the dismay of my INTJ heart. I’m thinking–always thinking–considering all my options and trying to retain my objectivity as I inch closer towards a decision. I have all the meeting times and dates memorized, if that says anything.

Happy, Happy


In the book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor McGonagall gives Hermione Granger a Time Turner. This hour glass on a necklace allowed the wearer to travel back in time. Hermione used it in order to take more classes during her third year. I want one.

What have I been doing lately? Everything and nothing. I go to school, I volunteer in the library. I help the boys with homework, I cook dinner. On the weekends we try to do something as a family. I find myself returning to journal-style blogging, which is how I used to blog when I started 7 years ago.

I do have one exciting piece of news to share. I’m the literature coach for our diocese’s academic decathlon! We’re reading The Call of the Wild and Heart of the Samurai. I’m so excited, so nervous. Aside from a couple of days subbing, and a semester of helping first years after I graduated law school, this is the closest I’ve come to teaching. I trying very hard to tamp down my naturally competitive nature. I doubt very much the children want to meet with me every single day of Christmas vacation.

(The decathlon is in March! We’re not going to wipe the floor with the competition by celebrating the birth of our Lord!)

So that’s what I’m doing.

The State of My Face


I thought I would give an update on my face since I last talked about the flareup that turned out to be rosacea. I dutifully took all the medications prescribed to me by my dermatologist who, in my completely uninformed opinion, may have Asperger syndrome. Let’s just say she lacks an empathy gene, and when I asked her about a mole during my rosacea appointment, she acted like I asked her about the color of her underwear.

“The purpose of your appointment is not to talk about a mole. Your appointment is to talk about your rosacea. You need to schedule an appointment to talk about your mole because this appointment is about rosacea.” All of this she said while looking at the wall to the right of my head.

During my appointment about only rosacea, we concluded that the medications weren’t helping, so she added a fourth one to the pile. This I also dutifully took, and my face did get slightly better. Unfortunately, it also got ridiculously oily. I have always had dry skin, so the excess oil production was confusing. Never have I had to reapply powder or blot my face during the day, but there I was, blotting myself with paper towels and tissues. I eventually realized that it was because all of my medications were drying out my skin, causing my body to produce oil in record amounts. My face didn’t look good enough to put up with one more hassle. I stopped all my medications and started researching other dermatologists.

I was painting the 4th grade classroom with the teacher, complaining about my face per usual, when she suggested I use essential oils. She gave me a sample of Immortelle by doTerra after making sure it didn’t have any oils that would make matters worse. I tried it, and I have to say I loved it. It’s all I’ve been using ever since, and my face looks better than it has in a very, very long time. Not perfect by any means, but much better than before. No one has asked me lately if I’ve been punched in the jaw, which I consider a success.

I’m not sure if I really had rosacea after all, and I’m not recommending immortelle for those who do because it’s expensive and I don’t want anyone to waste their money because some weirdo on the internet said it works great. If you do buy it, be aware that it stinks to high heaven. A list of the ingredients (Frankincense, Helichrysum, Rose, Lavender, Myrrh) should explain why.

Immortelle users swear it helps with eyesight, wrinkles, rosacea, dark under eye circles, brown spots, wound healing, scarring, and taxes. I’m kidding about the eye sight. <----sardonic Here's the thing. You have to watch out for marketing mumbo-jumbo, and there is a lot of marketing mumbo-jumbo in any and all forms of retail. Immortelle has worked wonders for me, but I don't believe it works on repairing eyesight. I'm sorry, but I don't. Wrinkles, okay. Same goes for skin rashes and other inflammations, especially since it has lavender. I know for a darn fact it doesn't work my brown spots because I’ve been applying it to my ever-growing collection for two months now with zero improvement. ZERO.

At least this gives me something new to complain about. BROWN SPOTS. They immediately age me, no matter what I put on my face. I can’t cover them up with makeup, but I suspect my makeup is too sheer. Other than immortelle, I haven’t used anything else to lighten them up. I won’t go back to my socially awkward dermatologist, obviously. I need to do something, though, because my 1+ hour of daily recess duty isn’t doing me any favors. If you’ve had success lightening your brown spots, I would love to hear your recipe.

OMG MY SKIN. This is 41, people.