Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Saving My Son from Unnecessary Circumcision

When my second son Andrew was approximately 12 months old, he had a urinary tract infection so bad his urine became sort of like sludge. It would ooze out when he urinated, and appeared gritty. Our family doctor cleared it up with antibiotics, but after that his urine started becoming trapped inside of his foreskin after he urinated, the opening of the foreskin would be squeezed shut, and only a drop or two would exit. I don't know if this was related to the UTI in some way, but the trapped urine happened after the UTI. I worried because the entire contents of his bladder would be inside the foreskin, and I thought maybe the urine would be forced back up the urethra, perhaps causing damage or more UTIs. The amount of urine would cause his foreskin to swell to the size of half a lemon (which is pretty big on a tiny little boy). THAT is what I considered outside of normal ballooning. My now 5 year old;s foreskin also balloons when he urinates, but no where near as much as that. I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for things like "trapped urine," "foreskin ballooning," and "small foreskin opening," but really wasn't able to find a lot of information outside of the diagnosis of phimosis. At such a young age, real phimosis is almost unheard of, though many USA doctors misdiagnose it in children because they are not educated in normal intact anatomy. Everything I read made it sound like what Andrew was experiencing was way outside of what was normal and my concerns grew.

By the time Andrew turned two, our family doc though perhaps someone should take a look. She didn't know what to do. She is intact-friendly, but doesn't see many foreskins. She referred us to MSU Pediatric Urology where we saw Dr. Bartkowski. The first recommendation from him was to circumcise. I told him I wanted to avoid that, and that we should try anything else first. He thought about it for a while and decided on a course of steroid cream, hoping to widen the hole. We used that for 3 weeks. The extreme ballooning was still happening, so we had to schedule a follow up appointment with Dr. Bartkowski. He very reluctantly said to try for 3 more weeks, but no longer as it would make Andrew's foreskin grow too big and then we would have to circumcise for that reason too. If the second course of cream didn't fix the problem, then we would have to circumcise. We used the cream for 3 more weeks and still had the issue, so I just did not call or go back to Dr. Bartkowski.

We started seeing the issue less and less, but Andrew became interested in potty training and it was causing a problem because he would be frustrated that nothing was coming out, so I started searching for another doctor. There were several local intact-friendly pediatricians, but none of them would take us on a consult, and we did not wish to switch providers permanently. I had heard that UofM Pediatric Urology was good but they wouldn't take our insurance. Several months of calling around yielded nothing but frustration on my part. Why is it so HARD to find a knowledgeable doctor? Then I heard about Dr. Van Howe, and that he was moving to Saginaw from Michigan's Upper Penninsula. This placed him within a 2 hour drive for me instead of 8 or more hours. When I called in his new office in August, his practice wasn't set up yet and they thought he might start taking patients in September but the staff did not have a lot of information. I called again in September and his staff confirmed that they would take our insurance but they were not sure if they could take us as a consult. I had to call several more times and explain our full situation each time before I finally got an answer. I finally convinced them in the beginning of January and got our referral straightened out with our local family doctor. Amazingly, none of his staff that I talked to knew that Dr. Van Howe was such a big name in genital integrity and that he would know so much about foreskins, but that was our golden ticket and I was determined to see him.

We saw Dr. Van Howe on January 10th and he was so kind and patient. I explained Andrew's whole history and my concerns. He said that even the extreme amount of ballooning is normal- in fact, it was good because it showed that everything is still nice and elastic as it should be. In some very rare cases, the skin becomes hardened, like a callous, and is unable to expand. He did an exam and said the opening is a good size, but that we could try to encourage it to open up a little more with another course of steroid cream, but this time for 6-8 weeks straight. He was confident that the cream would resolve the issue, if time alone did not. If the cream did not work and we were still concerned, we could attempt surgical correction in a procedure that makes 3 very small incisions, like pie wedges, then sort of rotates the cuts to make one bigger hole. It's a common surgery in Europe, but only about 6 doctors in the USA know how to do it. It would have to be done by a pediatric urologist who can do plastic surgery, and the closest one is in Boston (that he knows of). However, he did think that Andrew's situation is totally normal, and having the surgery would be extreme. So, my nerves are at rest, Andrew is mostly normal, and I think the cream will do it's work and I'm a happy mother.

These are some links to websites and Facebook groups that helped me along the way:

Saving MY Son,

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strawberry Jam Kombucha Vinaigrette

Strawberry jam kombucha vinaigrette is an idea I've been toying with for a while, but I didn't have any handily-low jars of jam on hand to test it out. Fortunately for me, the boys have been eating a lot of sandwiches lately, so I finally got to test this recipe!

The players in this recipe are leftover jam, a combination of homemade strawberry freezer jam and store-bought jam in this case, unflavored kombucha, olive oil (I prefer light or extra light, but lots of people recommend extra virgin), and plain dijon mustard. When looking for vinaigrette recipes to get the ratios, lots of them have sea salt and pepper, but I choose to leave those out for my first experiment. I don't want to mess with the delicate balance of the kombucha too much.

2 Tbsp. jam
1 Tbsp. Dijon
1/4 c. kombucha
1/4 c. olive oil

Mix all together in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. This is an old store-bough jam jar. Feel free to lick the spoon that you used to transfer the jam from one container to the other.

Mmmmm, tasty! The picture doesn't quite do it justice. It's a delicate pink.

Then make yourself a delicious salad and sprinkle with your oh-so-easy vinaigrette! This particular salad is iceberg lettuce, cucumber (from my friend's garden), black bell peppers and black tomatoes (from my other friend's garden), sprinkled liberally with sunflower seeds. The vinaigrette is very tasty! A perfect blend of fruity and slightly tart.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What do you do all day?!

I think there is no worse question to ask a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, if you like lingo) than "what do you do all day?". No matter how innocently it is phrased, it immediately feels like a personal assault upon my work ethics and my intelligence. I think the average, non-SAHM has visions of peaceful breakfasts followed by children napping while mom enjoys bon-bons during her daily episodes of Chopped and The Doctors. I've never even had a bon-bon! (Have you?) If you ever get asked this question, feel free to refer people to this blog entry, and no matter how much you really want to choke them, try to refrain. However, I'm married to a lawyer, so I've got you covered there too.

If you are wondering why we stay-at-home moms are so exhausted with seemingly little to show for it most days, then take these two examples to heart:

Example 1: Putting on child B's shoes to prepare to go outside to play while waiting for the bus
Step 1: Round up socks and shoes for Child B.
Step 2: Convince Child B to sit still long enough for socks and shoes.
Step 3: Get interrupted by Child A, who says he needs help getting his shoes tight (they are velcro'd and loosely done).
Step 4: Child A also complains his shorts are too big.
Step 5: Go upstairs to find smaller shorts. Decide to carry a full basket of laundry up with you.
Step 6: You are upstairs anyway, so why not put that basket of laundry away? It will only take a minute.
Step 7: Discover that Child A's shirt drawer looks like a tornado went through, and you can't possibly cram another shirt into it in it's present condition. Neaten drawer. Still no room for a few of the out-of-season shirts.
Step 8: Move out-of-season shirts to temporary storage in another part of dresser, displacing in-season shorts.
Step 9: Move shorts into another drawer space.
Step 10: Put away remainder of clothes, taking a moment to lament that Child C's 3mo and 6mo clothes still haven't been sorted out and put into storage (he's 11 mo).
Step 11: take empty basket and smaller shorts downstairs to waiting child, and help him dress for expediency. Tighten shoes.
Step 12: Discover Child B, in the meantime, needs a clean diaper.
Step 13: Change diaper, put on socks and shoes.
Step 14: Head for the door. Stop and go back for caps. Stop and go back for drinks. Stop and go back for sunglasses. Stop and go back for ....  well, you get the picture.

Today was my oldest son's last day of preschool. *sniffle* He's getting so grown up! I thought it would be fun to put in a side-by-side picture of his first day (9-13-12) and last day (5-9-13). Here he is with his younger brother, our second son.

Example 2: Make lunch for self and child
Step 1: Give child reasonable choices. Have all of them rejected.
Step 2: Child hangs on the refrigerator door while you try and make choices sound appealing.
Step 3: Make choices for child, who then immediately wants every other thing you listed besides the ones you have selected.
Step 4: Set up child with lunch at the table. He requests a drink.
Step 5: Search for lost sippy cup. Keep looking; it's there somewhere.
Step 6: Find cup, fill it, and deliver it to child.
Step 7: Begin process of making your own, different lunch ( to accommodate allergies in newest, nursing child).
Step 8: Remember that husband asked you for a special item of clothing for tonight's work-out.
Step 9: Abandon lunch prep and start a load of laundry.
Step 10: Empty dryer and fold that load of laundry.
Step 11: Remember that you were supposed to be eating lunch, and go finish lunch prep.
Step 12: Sit down to write amazing and funny blog post while eating lunch, and discover that Photoshop has stopped working.
Step 13: Spend next 3 hours trying to fix Photoshop. Make sure to stop and nurse youngest child as frequently as humanly possible, and also retrieve the pickle chunk he has abandoned after older child gave it to him.
Step 14: Finally insert picture into blog entry.
Step 15: Congratulate self on a productive day!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lunch: What is the new normal?

Today, as I made lunch for my nearly-3 and nearly-5 year olds, I took a mental inventory of possibilities for myself. I'm still adjusting to my new dairy and soy-free life. In case you missed that post, our newest son Lucas is allergic to both and since he is nursing, that means I need to eliminate those things from my diet as well so they do not pass through my milk to him.

Anyway, the possibilities were a little low today. I was tired of the leftovers we had, but almost every new lunch creation I could envision required bread. Of which I was out. You see, life with dairy and soy allergies really limits what I can just grab out of the cupboard and eat. I have to make most of what I eat entirely from scratch. It's hard! I have 3 children under five! Who has time to cook from scratch? Ok, well, I probably *do* have time to cook from scratch, but that Facebook account doesn't run itself! Just kidding. It's more about patience. I've never really been the kind of person who is thrilled to be in the kitchen, creating something new. I have learned to cook, and I enjoy eating new food that I have cooked, but I can't really bring myself to say the phrase "I enjoy cooking." There's a difference, know what I mean?

Luckily for me, I recently discovered the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François. At the very minimum, I do indeed have 5 minutes of patience in one day. The gist of it is, I mix up a large batch of bread dough, enough for a few loaves, and store it in a bin in my fridge. When I need to bake a new loaf of bread, I grab enough for a loaf, slap it into a loaf pan, let it rise and then bake it. Really, my whole part in the process lasts for about 5 minutes, broken into 3 chunks. Unless you count the eating. That might take a while.

But sometimes the benefits of this new lifestyle make me forget for a few moments the negatives. Because pulling a beautiful, crusty, delicious loaf of bread like this one out of the oven is its own reward. It smells fantastic and tastes even better.

I couldn't properly capture it in this picture, but there's still steam rising off this bread. Don't worry, I slathered some (dairy-free) margarine on that heel of bread so fast it was melting off the knife. And that, my friends, is how you enjoy eating dairy-free and soy-free.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Another food allergy discovered

When I sat down to put together this article, the topic of food was heavy on my mind. I thought it was very appropriate, then, that our MOPS speaker came talk to us about that very topic!

In my family, I have to dwell on food an abnormal amount of time, or at least it seems like I do. When my first son was born four and a half years ago, we soon found out that he was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. Since we were exclusively breastfeeding, that meant I had to cut those things out of my diet completely. I remember my first shopping trip after that. I spent 2 hours wandering the aisles of Meijer, reading labels of things we normally bought and finding alternatives. Family dinners, church potlucks, and restaurants are all potentially life-threatening occasions for him, and cause no small amount of stress on my part.

Now my third son has been diagnosed with milk and soy allergies, and we are back to square one on what we commonly eat. I thought the first time around was rough, but this time is certainly harder. Milk or milk proteins are in virtually every processed food available on the shelf. Even cooking from scratch has been a brand new journey as I can no longer rely milk, cream cheese or shredded cheese to provide flavor boosts. Avoiding soy is even harder.

But, even in the face of adversity, I am reminded that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Learning a new way of eating is a struggle, but it is one that is ultimately in God’s plan for me. When I trust Him, he gives me new resources and ideas. Our meal planning at first was a bit crazed, but it is smoothing out as I find or am given new recipes and new products to try. Even better, my son’s skin is clearing up and I’ve lost 5 pounds!

It would be easy to just wean my son, but I know that for my particular family, learning this new way is better. And I want to say thank you to all the other moms that I have discussed this with, and found sympathy, empathy, and inspiration. As mothers, we often go through trials that we would not face had we never had children. It is hard, and sometimes we want to give up and take the easy route. But, just as we must pick the cheerios up off the floor (for the thousandth time), so must we also sometimes choose to take the harder road if it is a better choice for our family. And learn to make our own yogurt, because coconut milk yogurt at the health food store is crazy expensive.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Monday, December 24, 2012

Reflecting on Christmas: Perspective given by my children

In years past, I have made a valiant effort to find the “ultimate” gift for each person on my list. Often, I have spent hours shopping (which, if you know me, equates to torture of the nth degree). Budgets have been blown, and sticker shock is drowned out by Christmas carols played at too-high a volume on the ride home.

This year, my four-year-old is really starting to ask a lot of questions. Like, why do we have Christmas? Why do we give presents?

As my husband and I work to give thoughtful, rather than off-the-cuff, answers to each of his (million) questions, it has led me to think of our gift-giving in a deeper way. Why should we punish ourselves in the desperate search for the “ultimate” gift? The holiday is so much more about honoring the birth of Christ than whether or not we got that Nintendo WII we were hoping for. I’m not saying gift-giving is wrong, by any means. I confess to having a few things on my wish list this year. But give JOYFULLY! Unless it is another fruitcake, your loved ones will more often than not be pleased with whatever you find.

It was mentioned in our first December MOPS meeting, during our holiday tips discussion, that one person gives only 3 gifts to each child, in memory of how many gifts were given to Jesus. Those gifts were thoughtful and meaningful! Surely we can do the same without killing ourselves (figuratively) over our shopping?

This year, I have decided to put together gift baskets for each home we are visiting. There will be a little something for everyone. Mostly, it will be food, but food that is created lovingly and thoughtfully with our own hands. It can sometimes be hard to find the time to dedicate to this, but my little four-year-old kitchen helper is right there by my side, encouraging me. He is keenly interested in measuring, pouring, and sprinkling. I have put him in charge of spreading the sprinkles on the chocolate dipped pretzels. He took this job very seriously, and did it extremely well. He also helped pick out the cookie cutters to use for the salt-dough ornaments, and directed me in their placement on the cookie sheet.

If he can have that much enthusiasm for creating and giving, I can too!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thanksgiving... the crunchy way?

Last year, I decided to make pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin, for the first time ever. I received so many compliments on it, that of course I had to do it again this year.

The whole process takes a while, but is actually fairly simple. I wish I had pictures for you, but of course I never remember to take pictures until after the fact. However, there are lots of lovely pictures at the website that I used to learn to do this, here: Pickyourown.org

The first thing you want to do is wash the entire pumpkin. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, VERY carefully cut your pumpkin into wedges. For a small pumpkin, you can just quarter it. A larger pumpkin may need to be cut into sixths or eighths. The goal is to have the pieces small enough to fit into a roasting pan and to cook evenly without taking too long. You don't have to remove the stem, but you can if you want to. I usually end up with pieces no more than 6 inches across at their widest point. You can also use a large glass pan, so long as it has high sides.

After you quarter it, scoop out all the seeds, and start laying your wedges in your pan, skin side up and flesh side down. This year I did two pumpkins and ended up layering the wedges. It was fine; just make sure there is a little room between them. Add about 1" of water to the bottom of your pan to keep the pumpkin from burning and keep the flesh nice and moist. Cook for 60 - 90 minutes, testing with a fork. When the fork pierces the skin and flesh in multiple places easily, it is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. If some water drains out, just pour that off, but don't be too overly concerned about it. The recipe allows for the extra liquid of fresh pumpkin.

After it is cool enough you can pick up the pieces with your bare hands and not burn your fingerprints off, use a large spoon to start scooping out the insides. Be careful not to get any of the skin. Put it all into a bowl.  You'll have a pile of beautiful orange pumpkin flesh in no time!

Next, get out your  trusty blender or hand mixer. I like the blender because it keeps the splatter contained. Always make sure you use the lid! I never understand why the contestants on Top Chef and Chopped have such a hard time with that. I've never had a blender explosion like they have... But anyway. Blend your pumpkin flesh down into a nice smooth puree. You'll need 3 cups of puree per pumpkin pie. If you have more than this, you can freeze it for another time. I made two pumpkin's worth, and have 6 more cups of puree in the freezer for another time! YUM! I recommend freezing it in 3 cup increments for easy use later.

Here is your recipe (modified slightly from the one linked above):

  • 1 cup sugar
    •  Instead of sugar, you could use honey (use 1.25 cups), natural sugar (1 cup), agave (1 cup), brown sugar (1 cup), Stevia (1/3 cup) or Splenda (1.25 cups).
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • one half teaspoon ground ginger
  • one half teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 can (12oz) of evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Mix well using a hand blender or mixer.
Note: You may substitute 4 teaspoons of "pumpkin pie spice" instead of the cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger. I prefer to have more control over spice proportion, so I use the individual spices instead.
Note: Fore a lighter, less dense pie, use 4 eggs and 1.5 cans of evaporated milk.

This mix is very runny, but don't worry, it makes a lovely pie. Preheat your oven to 425. Pour the mix into your pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temp to 350 and bake for 45 to 60 minutes longer, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Isn't it just drool-worthy? Be careful though. Your guests won't appreciate the drool.

Now, at this point, most people would be done, and you could move on to preparing the rest of your (in this case) Thanksgiving feast. Which I did. The big day came around and much family togetherness was had. Everyone enjoyed the turkey, which I'm shamelessly also going to post a picture of, just because I was so darn proud of it.

That's 17 lbs of finger-licken' goodness right there. Not in front of your guests though, especially your MIL.

After you've had to loosen your belt or change into sweat pants from all the yumminess, you can proudly bring out that homemade pumpkin pie along with all the other sweets. I attempted a pumpkin roll this year and it turned out wonderfully, if I do say so myself. I didn't use my homemade puree, but only because it wasn't done yet by the time I baked the pumpkin roll.

NSFK (not safe for kids). Seriously, there's so much powdered sugar in those bad boys you'll be scraping the kids off the ceiling. They are 10 Weight Watchers points per slice. But OH MAN are they good. Ahem.

Now, luckily, my husband was the first one to get pumpkin pie and he quickly realized "something" was missing. You notice how I very neatly bullet-pointed all the ingredients above? Well, when I printed the recipe off originally... it wasn't that way. You'll thank me later, and here is why. I forgot the sugar! Big oops. I quickly discovered this pie is very forgiving though. I scooped all the filling out and into a mixing bowl, added the sugar, gave it a quick blend with a hand mixer, and scooped it back into the pie crust. I evened it out with a spatula, accounting for the missing slice, and it still looked good, and tasted better! LOL

Well, learn from my mistake. This is what happens when you allow your preschooler to help with the baking. It is easy to lose your place in the recipe! After relating this story to a friend, she said that she puts all the ingredients on the counter in order, and as she uses them, she puts them away. That way, she can't miss anything. Great tip! Happy baking, my friends!
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