A Different Diet, Fewer Allergies

In the midst of a particularly difficult Spring for allergy sufferers I read this article from The Huffington Post. I have battled chronic perennial allergies since I was a child. I have had allergy shots, sprays, decongestants, inhalers, and daily medication. Two months ago, I suffered a sinus headache that left me nauseated and bed ridden for two days.

The attack occurred in the late afternoon in the beginning of tree season (those cool, breezy days that seem beautiful when in reality there air is full of pollen and mold), after I had eaten breakfast and lunch (I had a bowl of whole grain cereal at each meal with almond milk because I can be a lazy vegetarian.) Anyway, in the throws of nausea I realized that I hadn’t digested anything I ate this day. It sounds gross but it made me wonder if any of the food triggered this headache.

Years ago, I suffered from Gastro-Esphogeal Reflux Disease. When it stopped responding to medication, I put myself on the blandest, vegan diet I could create and tracked every food I slowly integrated into my diet until I realized I had an issue with MSG and preservatives. No more GERD issues and no more medication after this discovery. With my allergies, I have never tried to change my diet outside of avoiding foods that I know contain pollen like Saffron and edible flowers. A fried zucchini flower almost sent me to the emergency room about 15 years ago.

An easy Google search for “foods to avoid if you are allergic to pollen and ragweed” collectively suggested to avoid bananas, melons, zuccini, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, whole wheat, and rice.

If you are allergic to mold it is best to avoid mushrooms, dairy, smoked, pickled, and fermented meat, fermented vegetables and condiments (like soy sauce and vinegar), beer, cider,  cheese (especially cheese with visible mold, fermented dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and buttermilk), and leftovers.

Of all these foods, the only one I am really having trouble avoiding is cheese. Discovering that cucumbers and leftovers  are bad for me is certainly not the worst news I will ever hear. As someone who has spent years dieting I am almost giddy to learn that I now have a medical reason to avoid celery and cottage cheese!  Ultimately, it seems like root vegetables are the safest  so long as they are completely organic.

Since that horrendous sinus headache and the research that followed, I have spent the last two months eliminating all of these foods from my diet. I don’t want to jinx myself but it is working. I still get sinus headaches but they are much easier to treat with OTC medication and they don’t last as long. My digestion has improved as well as my symptoms of asthma.  I am down to  taking Zyrtec daily and my rescue inhaler (which I hardly use these days).

The lesson here is this. I am not a doctor but a “seasoned” allergy sufferer  allergic to mold, pollen, ragweed, dust, and dander.  After altering my diet, this Spring has not been the worst for me. My sinus headaches are decreasing.  My best, non-professional advice is we need to be aware of what we put into our bodies, especially now with GMO’s, factory farming, and climate change it has to matter. It has to impact how we feel.  If you suffer from allergy issues, give this a try. It can’t hurt.
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Of course, a little moderation may help too.

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Princess Mommy

My  toddler has recently become intrigued by a wedding picture of my husband and I that hangs in our bedroom. “Mommy, you were a princess?” she asks as she points to the photograph of my in my balloon skirted wedding gown.
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“Not exactly, sweetie” I reply

“Mommy, you were a princess?” she asks?

What I am thinking is if you want to call a snarky workaholic, who managed to get hitched twice in her twenties, a princess be my guest.  Fortunately, she is only interested in the immediate  context of this photograph. She recognizes mommy and daddy.

Because of this photograph, for the first time in  my entire life ,I am being referred to as a princess.  She’s marvelling at the aesthetic and this “cleaning up” of the human form for your wedding day, the only association she can make is that of “princess.”  I have never wanted to be called a princess. Nor have I ever lived my life with “royal expectations” but if she sees me as a princess then here is my chance.

This picture can take her beyond the “happily ever after” and directly into the example that her mother, her parents, have set for her.

Being a questioned by a toddler means answering the same question multiple times in row.

“Mommy, you were a princess?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Couscous is a hidden gem of meal time starches. Although, it is is made of semolina it is has a fluffy texture that is much lighter than pasta. It cooks faster than rice and is very economical. It can be a good gateway food to introduce new textures. In other words, try giving your kids Couscous before introducing Millet or Quinoa.

On top of all these benefits is that Couscous can also be used cold much in the way of pasta salad. This recipe for Mediterranean Couscous Salad can be whipped up in 15 minutes and will be just as good cold the next day.

You will need:

1 box of Near East Couscous (I prefer the plain variety)

1 Tomato seeded and diced

1/2 Medium Red Onion diced

1/8 cup of Feta cheese

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon of Red Wine Vinegar (these are to personal taste)

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon basil and oregano

* Don’t be afraid to get creative with this dish and add other salad favorites like olives or arugula leaves.

Prepare the Couscous according to the instructions on the box and leave it to cool off while the other ingredients are being prepped. Dice the tomato and onion. In a medium bowl add the tomato, onion, cheese, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. (Loose baby spinach leaves work well here too). Stir gently to combine. Add 1 1/2 cups of the Couscous. Stir again and transfer to a serving bowl (if desired).  Save the rest for kiddies who may not like the flavor profile here.

Remember, the next time you come home from work and you want a fast cooking starchy side dish: when in doubt, make Couscous.

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Mother’s Day Advice From A Mom

Mother’s day weekend is upon us. Somehow it has turned from one day to an entire weekend.  The greeting card aisles of most stores in my area have been scoured all week. Restaurants are gearing up for the big Sunday brunch push.  I hate to say it but it’s a big Hallmark holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a nice card but it’s not necessary. My daughter made me a little gift in school and it’s the most perfect and appropriate gesture.

Restaurants and spas have become the go-to sources for Mother’s day celebrations in an attempt to offer rest.  I may not turn down a trip to either of these any other day of the week but on Mother’s day it’s a little contrived.

I’m not speaking for everyone but if you really want to give mom a break on mother’s day, consider spending the day doing everything that she does. All the little things that miraculously “get done” around your house, from laundry to toilet cleaning,  is not the work of elves.  Ask her for a list of things that she would like done. I don’t mean chore coupons. I mean get that list and get to work.  Consider giving Mom the gift of time; the time to let her go and do something on her own, of her choosing, while everything else accomplished.

Even if this means she is just sitting on the couch; it could be a magical treat.

The Evolution Of The Diaper Bag

The diaper bag is not just for newborns and babies. Over time, particularly by toddler-hood, it evolves into an emergency supply kit.

An emergency for a toddler can be anything from a scraped knee to wet pants to extreme boredom, making this bag virtually life support for the parent.

It always contains:

1.Diapers
2.Wipes
3.Tylenol
4.Fork and spoon
5.2 “Take and Toss” sippy cups plus one lid. The spare cup is for holding snacks or treasures.
6. A complete change of clothes including socks and a jacket or sweatshirt
7.Crayons, small notepad for coloring, and a toy
9. Juice box
10. Non perishable snack such as fruit snacks
11. A small towel (has a kid ever puked in your car?)
12. Hand sanitizer
13. Disposable bib
14. Advil (for me)
15. Sun block
16. Bug spray
17. Travel size first aid kit

In a zip lock bag I carry one extra diaper, hand sanitizer, wipes, snack and a drink, and 3 crayons. This bag is my “insert bag” it goes into my purse for emergencies. The bag always stays in the car.
My diaper bag went from a fancy designer bag to a zip top tote with lots of pockets. It stays in the backseat of my car. After a busy weekend it gets restocked.

I imagine I will have an emergency bag for a while. In my experience where there is a child there should be a change of clothes, hand sanitizer, and snacks.

A Teacher Thanks You

It’s the end of the semester here at work. The buzz of the finals and research papers leave a frenzied humming in the air.

In my office I meet with students. It’s time for individual conferences regarding their research papers. Office hours get extended, pressure is turned on as stressed out students “just trying to get it right” filter through my room.

The tutor in me likes individual meetings. I do these in class all semester but they are shorter meetings and shorter papers. Research papers need more time. Students need more feedback. They come in and we discuss. The discussion and plan for improvement is a process I enjoy.
However, because of the pressure,  it’s usually at this point of the year that I wonder why I am a teacher. Am I doing the right thing? Am I on the correct path? Am I helping these students?

Today, a student walked in and he says, “Professor, I want to do a double major and I want English to be one of them. How do I do this?”

He goes on to tell me how much he enjoyed talking in my class. He loves to analyze and think about the readings. He’s taken books out the library to  read more on the topic.

He sits down and we begin to comb the databases for additional information. We talk about television shows that are also developing the theme he is discussing in his paper. We discuss what articles sound interesting. It’s a thrilling moment for an English teacher.

I haven’t had many but it’s something I never expected when I began teaching. I never, ever expected anyone to tell me that I helped them develop an appreciation for reading or thinking. I never expected anyone to tell me that, because of me, they want to be a teacher.
In the last ten years I have been a teacher, I can count a handful of students who have told me this. One in my lifetime would have been more than enough. The first one was never expected. The second blew me away, by the third I was astonished.

Cleverly, these moments always happen during my moments of doubt. Is this the universe telling me not to give up?

For an English teacher, these are the moments we live for. The one student who doesn’t just get it–who embraces it–is a moment I collect.

And so, for the student who has ever told me that I made them want to be a teacher. For the student who loved my class and continued to read after taking it. For the student who asked me what I am teaching next semester, I extend a heartfelt thanks. Because you have helped me just as much, if not more.

Fight The Summer Slump

Summers approaching and with it the potential for “Summer Slump” when children can slip into academic regression if they are not active and engaged in learning and socialization. How can a parent fight this?

If your child is going to be home all summer, here are some tips.

1. If financial resources allow, consider a day camp or learning enrichment classes at a local school.

2. Register for a website such as ABCmouse.com and work with your child daily to practice math and language arts, among other skills.
3. Go exploring. Venture to new parks and playgrounds. Resist the urge to share every moment on Facebook or Foursquare. Play with your kids.

4. Organize a play group so your child can interact with other little ones.

5. A membership to a local zoo pays off quickly and offers endless opportunities for discovery.

6. Summer school at home. Look for local learning opportunities such as museums, library activities, and “field trips.” Plan “lessons” for your children. Make it challenging by covering a different subject each time. Consider: Language Arts, Math, Science, Foreign Languages, Art, History, etc.  This can be anything from music in the park (or watching a musical) to a local historical site.

7. Download the Field Trip Application for learning on the go!

Use summer as an opportunity to enrich learning experiences and share time together.