Our journey with Brandon

October 3rd, 2012

There are a few questions that we’ve been asked over and over since June and it seemed like a good idea to document what’s been going on.

What prompted us to take Brandon in for allergy testing?

Two things came together at about the same time.  We had received an email from Brandon’s teacher that he was falling asleep in class.  We didn’t think anything of it until a couple of weeks later when he came home and said he wasn’t allowed to go to recess the rest of the year (this was May).  He was required to go to the health room to nap instead.  That’s when we found out there was a recurring, systemic problem.  I called a conference with his teacher and found out he was alternately sleeping or disruptive and hyper.  Around the same time, we had gone out to a restaurant and he had consumed a little bit of cantaloupe which made him sick immediately.  With my own history of food allergies, little red alarms were going off in my head.

Upon testing, Brandon reacted to every food tested except egg.  Wheat, soy, milk, rice, potato, tomato, sugar, chocolate, yeast, and one more (I’m always missing one when I list them).  We eliminated all of these foods from his diet and noticed improvement in his general demeanor, control, and energy level very quickly.  As I posted earlier, he’s down to just four of these foods that truly cause a problem.

Okay, so he has food allergies.  So what does this have to do with homeschooling?  Seems like a leap.

I agree, it was a decision prompted by an emotional reaction.  I had a conversation with the school principal and nurse that made clear that they believed that Brandon was being deliberately disobedient and that our choice of pursuing food testing was ridiculous.  The principal was utterly unhelpful, immovable, and did absolutely nothing to help us get through the last few weeks of the school year.

Though a bit impulsive, I still believe it has been the best move for him this year.  Brandon spent last school year being yelled at.  He was in trouble in music class.  He was in trouble in his regular classroom.  He was in trouble in the health room because he couldn’t sleep on command.  While Brandon projects himself to be a self-confident, social, extrovert, we have learned that he is actually quite insecure, anxiety ridden, sensitive, and folds into himself when stressed.  Our goal is to spend this year (and probably next) finding ways to build up his confidence again.

What about socialization?

Oh my, the number 1 question posed to homeschoolers everywhere.  I could cite so many books, links, resources that answer this question.  In short, in the real world we socialize with people of all ages.  So do homeschoolers every day.  There’s nothing that says kids need to be in a group of kids the same age in order to turn out just fine.

That said, yes, Brandon is still playing soccer with the same group of kids he’s played with for years.  He is attending school at Edmonds Heights K-12, a parent-participation alternative school formerly known as the Homeschool Resource Center two hours a week.  He participates in Sunday School and church activities.  He’s not learning in isolation.

What does homeschooling look like for him?  What’s he learning?

He’s taking a game-programming class called RPGMaker.  He’s taking Class Piano.  At home, we’re working through a lab-based Chemistry curriculum.  For literature, he’s reading The Hobbit and is looking forward to seeing the movie when it comes out.  The rest of the year, we have King Arthur and Robin Hood on the agenda.  For Social Studies, we’re working through Story of the World Book 2 (The Middle Ages), which includes a lot of fun little projects that bring history to life.  He’s also studying the election process, of course.  He’s working through a standard math text.  He’s looking forward to participating in Nanowrimo again this November for creative writing.  He’s working on a super-secret video project that combines his love of video games with learning new technology.  We’re looking forward to attending a few Seattle Children’s Theater productions (at inexpensive homeschooler rates).

Because we are enrolled through Edmonds Heights, he is still considered a public school student and as such, we are required to report his monthly progress to the school, to spend at least an hour a week with a certificated teacher, and to meet with an advisor three times a year.  On the flip side, we have access to a great library and many encouraging people, and we are held accountable, which is helpful.

How is it working to homeschool and work at the same time?

It’s truly a challenge.  Most days I don’t feel like I’m balancing everything very well.  I know that we are doing this for the right reasons and God has control of the situation.  I’m at the office very little right now, and Brandon often comes with me.  We’re learning how and when he learns best (which is a day by day struggle depending on what he ate the day before).  I’m praying that by the time tax season comes around again we’ll have this figured out a bit more, but realistically I think it’s just going to be a challenging time.  I am, most days, truly enjoying getting to know Brandon better and exploring and experiencing learning in different ways.

What is the plan for next year?  What about middle school?

We expect to homeschool through next year (6th grade) and he’ll move into Meadowdale Middle School with all of his friends in 7th grade.  Only God knows if that’s truly how it will work out.

Any other questions I’ve missed?

I’m happy to try to answer them.

Food allergies, revisited

October 2nd, 2012

Yep, I know… it’s been two years since my last post.  I’m not sure how that’s possible, but I do know that facebook has taken over most things that I would have blogged about.  At the same time, I’m sad that I haven’t blogged many of the events of the last few years.

This will not be one of those massive “catching up” posts, though.  For today, I just want to throw out there the cheat sheet we’re putting together to go with Brandon when he goes to a friend’s house.  His food allergies have been much more pronounced and serious than anything I’ve dealt with before, and it’s been a learning experience.  I hope to write out our journey so far soon.

In the meantime, here it is:

Brandon is allergic to five foods: Cantaloupe, Sugar, Yeast, Soy, and Tomato

Cantaloupe will make him sick immediately.  Best not to give him fruit that has been mixed with cantaloupe.

Sugar causes swings from hyperactivity to lethargy and crankiness, but no severe reaction.
Limit: Anything with sugar, brown sugar, cane juice

Yeast, when consumed in quantity, causes Brandon to be virtually unwakable the next morning.
Avoid: Breads, cakes, pita chips

Soy causes extreme stomach pain, headache, nausea, slurred speech, and has caused Brandon to lose mobility. His reactions to soy do not begin immediately and can take 12+ hours to manifest. If you see him eating something with soy, please stop him.
Please do check labels, many chips and most tortillas use soybean oil.
NO Chinese food, tofu, foods cooked in soybean oil, edamame, foods with “soy protein”
Ok: “Soy lecithin”

Tomato caused a very strong reaction in the clinical setting. He has not had tomato since, so we do not know how he would react. An epi-pen was issued in case of anaphylactic shock, where the airway closes up. If you do not know how to use an epi-pen, please ask and he would be happy to show it to you and explain how to use it. In an emergency, please don’t hesitate to use it and call 911.
NO tomato sauce, pizza or pasta with red sauce or tomatoes, barbeque sauce, ketchup

So what DOES he eat?
Meats, salad, vegetables, and fruits are good. He likes sugar-free jello. Popcorn is probably fine. 100% fruit juice or water are good. We do try to keep some sugar-free snack foods in his emergency kit (which contains his inhaler and his epi-pen).

It’s a journey, and we’re still discovering ways to keep Brandon healthy and feeling well.  When he’s well, Brandon is a joy to be around.  He is helpful and kind, funny and thoughtful.  When he is not well, he can be inattentive, angry, very easily frustrated, seemingly deliberately disobedient, hyper or lethargic.  We continue to pray for wisdom and patience on this journey.


I did it!

November 27th, 2010

Coming in at 50,600 words, Taking the Leap is finished! The first draft is complete, anyway. Revision will be underway shortly, but it feels SO good to have completed what seemed to be such a lofty goal. 50,000 words written in 19 days. Woo Hoo!


November 20th, 2010

This year, because I clearly have no concept of how much available time I truly have, I have committed to participate in National Novel Writing Month. This is a challenge to write 50,000 words in November alone. And to make things more interesting, I did not sign up until 11/9.

They provide this calendar, so you can check up on me:

Or my graph and other tidbits about my writing can be found here.

Let the insanity continue!

Spring craziness

May 1st, 2010

I think I can safely blame FaceBook for killing my blogging efforts. The little day to day stuff gets posted there. This last week has been a little crazier than usual, so here’s a longer update.


Alyson is doing great in Kindergarten. She loves her class, her teacher, and her school. She’s preparing for a fairly large part in the Kindergarten Peter Rabbit play. They’re having graduation pictures on Tuesday and she’ll be graduating June 9. After much consideration, we have enrolled her at Seaview for Fall. We love Cedar Park, but we’re looking forward to having all three kids at the same school with the same schedule for a year.

She just started a new season of soccer. Her previous team filled up before they got to Alyson’s registration, so she got bumped from the Storm Troopers to the Grasshoppers. She had a great time at their first game this morning and is looking forward to facing off against the Storm Troopers next Saturday. Coaching those 5 year olds appears to be similar to herding cats, but they sure have fun.

Alyson loves…. her family, reading, her stuffed animals, pink, her friends, and so many other things.


BJ is sitting out this sports season. He’s (sometimes) bat boy for Christian’s baseball team, though, and he’s looking forward to being on his Sounders soccer team again in the Fall. He’d LOVE to take a turn on Alyson’s team but we don’t think he’d pass for five very well 🙂 BJ blogged about Christian’s last baseball game. He’s hilarious.

This school year has been a challenge for him. BJ is a very impulsive child who lacks a filter between his brain and his mouth. He’s gotten in trouble enough that we had to have a conference with the principal, counselor, and one of his teachers last week. This whole team-teaching thing is a disaster (at least for our active ADHD boys), no offense intended to his teachers, who I’m sure are good teachers. He’s not enjoying school and thinks everything is boring. We know he’s a smart kid and just wish he’d show it more often. The school wants him tested for the Challenge (gifted) program, mainly to gain insight from the results. We aren’t really willing to send any of our kids to the Challenge program, as it’s held at a late start school, an hour and a half later than Seaview. They’ve created a way to reward him for good behavior and I’m hopeful the rest of the year will be better.


Christian is also still having some trouble at school, but like BJ he’s a smart kid. He’s just having a hard time organizing himself. He has a difficult time keeping track of assignments. We’re working with his teacher to find solutions, and I’m volunteering in his class once a week to supervise a bonus recess the kids can earn by getting their assignments in and having a good attitude. Monday, Christian leaves for two nights of 5th Grade Outdoor School at Camp Killoqua. He’s looking forward to it. He loves camp and he’s looking forward to going back to Bible Camp this summer.

Christian is playing baseball for the Echelbarger Phantoms this Spring, and Bill is head coach. The Phantoms are a very fun team to watch play. Bill always keeps the details up on his blog.

Christian is active in our church youth group and enjoys being active in their bible studies and activities. He is singing with Seattle Children’s Chorus (next concert June 5 in Seattle), and with our church choir. Between baseball and choirs and youth, the kid has something going on nearly every day.

As for me, I’m still primarily gluten-free and still holding steady about 30 pounds lighter than I was last summer. I lived through another tax season. I’m spending a lot of time keeping track of the kids, their projects, and their events. It’s a whirlwind and I’m grateful we have Google Calendars to keep us all on track.

I think that’s about it!

Allergy diet FAQ

September 2nd, 2009

I’ve been asked a few times about this crazy diet my doctor has me on, and what brought this on in the first place, so I thought I’d explain…

What started all this?
Last fall I started having problems with my skin (dry skin and acne). I thought maybe it was the change to cold weather, but as we’ve gone through summer with no improvement that certainly wasn’t the case. In the spring, I found myself suddenly and intensely allergic to bananas. My hay fever was worse than it’s been in years this spring as well.

The banana allergy, in particular, really had me worried about what else I could be allergic to. In August, I finally went to a doctor who specializes in environmental medicine… meaning how environmental factors affect the body. He recommended allergy testing and lab work. The blood work came back with everything good except my Vitamin D level (which was nearly nonexistent).

What am I allergic to?
The first day of allergy testing, I reacted to every pollen and mold they tested. I reacted more strongly to grasses and cedar than anything else. By the end of three weeks of testing, I had also tested allergic to: wheat, eggs, corn, soy, tomato, potato, rice, baker’s yeast, and milk.

“But I eat these things daily!” I said. Apparently this is normal. We are supposed to be eating foods in rotation, yet the processed foods we eat daily include most of these ingredients. The more that I have read, the more I understand what’s going on. It doesn’t make it any easier to do meal-planning, but I’m working on it.

This is the book
that has a great chapter explaining what’s going on. If I could find a good online summary, I’d post it.

So what happens next?
I spend three weeks without any of those 9 foods. I’m on day 5 now and surviving. I spent a small fortune at PCC (like Whole Foods) to restock my pantry/fridge, and started weekly fruit and veggie delivery from Eden’s Organics. After the three weeks, I will be able to reintroduce each food individually, one every 4 days. If I do not have any kind of a reaction, I can continue to have it every 4 days. If I do react, it goes back down to the bottom of the list to try later. It’s possible I will not get wheat or eggs back, as when I was tested for those I felt faint immediately. I really didn’t feel any reaction to the other allergens (other than the swelling where the test was done, and the allergy tech said my face would flare up.

So what CAN I eat?

I can eat fruit and veggies (except banana, tomato and potato) and meats. There are grains that I had never heard of that I can have (quinoa, millet, amaranth). For breakfast, I’ve been eating oatmeal with brown sugar. I know I’m supposed to be rotating grains but the oatmeal has been really easy. For lunches and dinners, I’ve been having salads with shrimp or leftover roasted chicken, or tomato-free chili, or today I had salmon with quinoa and sauteed zucchini. For snacks I have nuts and dried fruit, or veggies and natural peanut butter or hummus.

Mostly, I’ve just learned I have to read every single label, and pretty much just avoid anything that is pre-packaged, processed, or otherwise combined. Yesterday, Christian had tuna and I tasted it thinking it was simply tuna and water (makes sense, right?). THEN I read the label. Nope, there’s soy in there. Other than that, I’ve done well so far. I’ve lost two whole pounds. The kids are enjoying reading labels and identifying allergens.

Any other questions that I should try to answer?

A new school year…

August 27th, 2009

I’m trying really hard to remain optimistic about the new school year. But I’m incredibly frustrated that this year not one but BOTH boys will be in team-taught classes. This didn’t go so well for us last year, so imagine our surprise when Christian even still has one of the same teachers!

Breathe in, breathe out…

I’m trying to remind myself of the bright sides here…
– teachers creatively kept their jobs despite budget cuts
– Christian apparently liked this teacher and is not too bummed he didn’t get the teacher he wanted
– Christian’s second teacher will only be 1 day a week, so hopefully he’ll have a bit more consistency this year (and it’s his music/pe teacher, who he also liked)
– BJ’s only in second grade and hopefully it won’t be as big of a deal as it was for Christian in 4th.

That’s all I’ve got so far. We get to go visit Alyson’s classroom this evening, so we’re looking forward to that.

Event roundup

June 19th, 2009

I imagine everyone’s getting tired of me writing, “We’ve been busy”.  Maybe I need to invest in a thesaurus.  Thankfully we just had one kid in sports this spring, but baseball really seemed to take over our lives there for a couple of months.  It was a lot of fun, though.  Pics and details are on Bill’s blog.  BJ and Alyson will be playing soccer in the fall, and Bill may be looking into Fall Baseball for Christian.  I think he’s nuts 🙂

I had the pleasure of accompanying BJ on his field trip to the zoo on Wednesday.  Alyson got to come too, and she’d been asking to go to the zoo, so it was perfect.  (She can spell ‘zoo’, by the way.)  We had BJ’s friend Sammy with us, and the three kids stopped at EVERY bench to have their picture taken.

Zoo kids

The new penguin exhibit is open and SO much better than the old one.  I’m sure I could’ve gotten a better picture, but the kids were not as interested as I was.  It was even feeding time, so I wish we could’ve watched a little bit longer.


And we ran into the famous peacock.  (Okay, so maybe not famous, but the peacock is one of the things I most remember about the zoo from when I was a kid.)


BJ was a really good big brother and made sure Alyson could see at each exhibit.  He was also really responsible about keeping himself and Sammy with Alyson & I.  BJ’s really grown up a lot this year.  Alyson really wanted to see the giraffes the most, and the boys both wanted to see the bats.  All were happy.  (Except poor Alyson who got sick at the end of the field trip.  We’ve come to the conclusion she was simply over-exerted.)

The annual school carnival was a couple of weeks ago, and Alyson got to ride a pony.  Mom would be so proud.  She even had her heels down (one, at least) 🙂  She loved it.  When we first saw the ponies from across the field, she asked, “Are they real?!?”  LOL

Alyson on the pony

Christian and I also walked the Race for the Cure, our  annual tradition.  It’s always incredible to see the number of people turning out to make a difference.  You can see that while we were near the front and well past the half-way point, there were still thousands of people ahead of us and behind us.

Race for the Cure Seattle

Christian enjoyed the kids area this year too, especially the football toss (though he throws a football like he pitches a baseball).

Christian Football

I think that’s it… our update for another season 🙂  The summer will be filled with sports camps for the boys, daycare for Alyson, and work as usual for us adults.  Christian’s also looking forward to his first week of sleep-away bible camp!  We hope everyone has a happy, safe, fun summer!

The end of another school year

June 19th, 2009

Well, today is the last day of another school year already. I don’t know where the last 9 1/2 months went!

Alyson’s Kindergarten evaluation appeared in the mail today. She is, on average, a year ahead of herself. They evaluated 8 areas and assigned an ‘Estimated Developmental Age’ to each. In three areas, she tested at age 5 (personal skills, language, and gross motor). In three areas, she tested at 5.6 (visual motor, body image, and fine motor). And in two areas, she tested at age 6 (numbers and concepts). Very interesting. The bottom line says, “Alyson is ready for half day kindergarten. She is on probation based on age.” She’s very excited to go to her own school in the fall.

BJ is proud to be officially a 2nd grader. He had a couple of 2s on his report card, mostly accompanied by ‘occasionally’ on the Effort line. He’s starting to rush through work like Christian. He’s still getting 4s in PE 🙂 His teacher made a note that she appreciates the responsibility he took in turning in math assignments this year. Great job, BJ!

UPDATED:  Christian’s officially a 5th grader (wow, that sounds weird).  While he certainly struggled to turn in assignments, apparently the work he did in class showed significant improvement.  Yay!

Christian’s (almost) 10!

May 17th, 2009

Christian’s kid-party was yesterday at Traxx Indoor Raceway.  The kids all had a blast racing each other.

Birthday boy:

Racer Christian


Racer BJ

And Alyson got to go all by herself after the crazy boys were finished.  She’s so proud of herself that she only crashed once!

Racer Alyson

Christian got Nerf guns from every one of his friends.  They all opened them right away and had an organized battle right there in the party room.  Crazy kids.  Over all, Christian said this was the best birthday ever 🙂

Happy Birthday Christian!