Category Archives: Allergies

Simple No-Cough Tea (herbal tisane, actually…) and other natural cough remedies.

The bad news is that I was up with my four-year-old in the middle of the night.  We tried a number of things to stop her incessant cough, ending in the tea.  I didn’t start with tea because she doesn’t really like it, and there were a couple other things I could try first.  They didn’t work this time, but the good news is that the tea did.

My husband had a childhood full of asthma and tends to somewhat panic when our children cough, as he immediately correlates coughing with, “MY CHILD CAN’T BREATHE AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE NOW.”  I appreciate his sympathy, and frankly, his urgency regarding coughing has kicked my rear end into gear a number of times when I would be content to just let my kids cough it out.

For everyone’s benefit, I now try to identify coughs better:

  • Is this asthma and my child really can’t breathe?
  • Is this a “wet” cough because my child is on the recovery-end of an illness and s/he is coughing up mucus (which is a good thing)?
  • Or are they just coughing incessantly and it’s disrupting their sleep, spreading germs, and not having any productive effect?

Fi’s was the third.  She miserable, unable to sleep, had been coughing for several hours to the point where her stomach muscles were aching from coughing so badly.  And weakened stomach muscles often = puking in our home, and I determined that for her peace, to keep food in her stomach, and to reduce the chance of the cough spreading to the other six in our family, we needed to address the cough.

First, we tried an oregano oil breathing treatment.  “My” oregano oil breathing treatment works AMAZING WONDERS on my 11 year-old son’s asthma.  It is also fabulous for deep-down lung pain and infection.  Fiala’s cough seemed more upper-respiratory, so I didn’t have much hope that it would work for her, but I thought I’d try.

Oregano Oil Breathing Treatment

This requires a nebulizer, typically used for albuterol breathing treatments.

Into the medicine receptacle of the nebulizer, place:

  1. Turn the nebulizer on and breathe deeply.  Inhale and hold for a few seconds.  Repeat for 3-10 deep breaths.  This DOES put a little tickle at the back of one’s throat, and breathing oregano oil is kind of a learned skill.  However, if my young children can do it, you can, too!
  2. Alternately, you can put 2-3 drops into a large mug, fill it with boiling water, and breathe the steam deeply for as long as possible.

Oregano oil is an amazing product that is virucidal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.  It is also anti-parasitic.  I’m uncertain WHY it works on asthma, and there is less research on oregano oil’s effectiveness on asthma (unlike various funguses, bacteria, and viruses, which has been studied and proven effective numerous times).

Colloidal silver has effectiveness against a variety of viruses, bacteria, and funguses, as well.

Secondly, we tried:

Simplest Cough Remedy

  • Honey

Available in many health food stores for about $9, or online for $7-8.

Studies have shown that up to 10 ml (two tsp) of honey is as effective as dextromethorphan for relieving the coughs of colds in children with upper respiratory tract infections.

My daughter Fiala, in particular, is super-suceptible to yeast/candida overgrowth, so I limit her sugar intake, including honey.  And even though honey is good for just about anyone for a wide variety of reasons, I’m still leery of sugar, even natural sugars.  So, I would never give a whole 2 tsp to anyone.

Our favorite “medicinal” honey is from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms and is called Super-Enriched Honey.  It is raw and unpasteurized and contains pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.  It is really thick and has an unusual taste.  I find it pleasant, but if you’re expecting a honey-taste found akin to that found in the McDonald’s honey packet, you’ll probably be startled.

I simply scoop up a small spoonful of honey and let the child slowly lick it.  Consequently, when anyone coughs even a tiny bit in our home, they tend to come running with a certain proclamation of, “I need a honey spoon!”

When neither the herbal breathing treatment nor honey was doing any good, I brewed up a batch of my no-cough tea.

No-Cough Tea

Into a wire mesh tea ball, place:

  • Fennel seed — and, YES, I’m thrilled if your medicine cabinet and your spice rack are one and the same.

    2 tsp loose chamomile flowers

  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/8 tsp licorice root powder
  • optional:  1/2 tsp dried peppermint leaves
  • optional:  1 tsp dried mullein flower (verbascum thapsis)
  1. Place tea ball in a very large mug and pour boiling water over the top.  Let steep 10-15 minutes, then stir well.
  2. Sweeten with honey (especially if you didn’t use a “honey spoon” to stop the cough) or stevia, or simply don’t sweeten at all, as the licorice root lends a sweet taste.
  3. Put 1/4 cup of the brewed tea in a smaller mug and let child sip slowly for 10-20 minutes.
  4. If cough hasn’t stopped, repeat with 1/4 cup doses.
  5. This may take up to ONE HOUR for effectiveness — in other words, 3-6 doses of 1/4 cup each over the course of an hour, until coughs subside.
  6. Extremely effective for stopping coughs for 3-4 hours.  So, repeat throughout the day as necessary, trying to re-dose before your child returns to violent coughing.

(For readers local to the Phoenix area, all of the tea ingredients can be found at Sprouts.  All of the herbs — except the mullein — can be found in the bulk spice area.  Mullein flower can be found, packaged, hanging close to the “regular” tea and herb area, God’s Garden Pharmacy brand.)

What the ingredients are and why they work:

  • Chamomile (matricaria recutita) flowers have antianxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic properties, mainly due to chamomile’s natural phytonutrient, chamazulene.  The “anti-inflammatory” and “anti-spasmodic” characteristics especially important for calming coughs.
  • Beautiful, fragrant thyme.

    Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is a strong antiseptic.  Its natural phytonutrient, thymol, is actually the active ingredient in classic Listerine.  Thymol is also an active ingredient in most naturally-based antiseptic cleaners.  For coughs, thyme is effective not only in destroying germs, but it is a powerful anti-spasmodic and has bronchial-clearing properties.  (Thyme oil is extremely strong and should be used with caution.  However, using a pinch of the dried herb itself is safe for just about everyone, pregnant women and small children included.)  Thyme does have somewhat of an unpleasant “green/herbal” taste in tea;  however, do not omit it!!

  • Fennel, in general, is truly a miracle plant.  It is by far one of the most nutritious and helpful plants one can consume — from bulb to stem to feathery top to seed.  I personally cannot understand why it is not at the top of “Superfood” lists!  Fennel, as well as being anti-spasmodic, is also a pain-reducer, fever-reducer, and has antimicrobial activity.  It soothes upset stomachs and speeds healing of muscle strains (including muscles sore from incessant coughing!).  Fennel’s “magic” properties are largely due to the phytonutrients creosol (also found in chaparral and creosote) and alpha-pinene.  (Again, use the whole herb — fennel seed, not fennel oil, which is extremely strong and dangerous, if used incorrectly.)
  • If you have ever had Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals, licorice root is the main ingredient, followed by mullein.  Licorice is extensively used, world-wide, as a remedy for an astounding number of ailments, from lupus, to cancer, to diabetes, to chronic fatigue syndrome, to HIV/AIDS and more.  Its effectiveness is primarily from the naturally-occurring phytonutrient glycyrrhizinic acid which, among other properties, acts as an incredibly effective immune stimulant.  For our purposes here, licorice root relieves the dry, tickly feeling associated with hacking coughs — as well as shortens the healing time needed to recover from illness.
  • Peppermint has properties helpful to those with coughs and colds — however, the flavor rather clashes with the flavors found both in thyme, fennel, and licorice root.  Peppermint contains the phytonutrient menthol, long known for relieving coughs and other respiratory disorders.  An alternate tea, especially if your child enjoys the mint flavor, would be simply chamomile and peppermint.
  • Mullein (verbascum thapsus) has soothing, emollient effects via its plentiful, naturally-occurring mucilages.  It also reduces inflammation via natural tannins.  Mullein promotes expectoration, meaning it loosens phlegm in the respiratory tract, causing coughs to be more effective.

I dearly hope that some readers find this useful.  If you do, post a comment and let me know!!

Health stuff: Me, Fi, avocados, and candida.

  • After writing this, I thought, “How cliché!  I’m writing about a diet and it’s the new year, when everyone has made new commitments (again!) to some diet or another.”  But, for better or worse, that’s not what this post is about.
  • It appears my three-year-old, Fiala, has a crazy-bad body-wide yeast infection, and I was reading up on Candida overgrowth for Fi’s sake, when, to my particular interest, I read that Candida is frequently the source of hives in adults.  I’ve been getting intermittent hives for about the last two or three months, and the last two weeks have been AWFUL, with nightly hives (they’re always worse at night) and day-long burning and itching skin, especially on my hands, forearms, thighs, belly, and neck.  The whole world of Candida overgrowth is confusing and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  Trying to establish some sort of anti-Candida protocol is really hard for a three-year-old;  you just can’t make them quaff a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, no matter how you disguise it.  For me, though, it’s a little easier.  I am embarking on a week-long cleanse.  I don’t even know if I’m doing it “right”;  I’m just following what seems logical:  Eating a all-sugar-free-even-honey-and-fruit, super-low-carb diet, basically a Paleo diet.  I’m counting my carbs (minus dietary fiber), and maxing them at 30g/daily.  I’m also supplementing with probiotics (lots) and with apple cider vinegar (lots).  Part of me is concerned that I don’t know enough to start the diet knowledgeably, but the other part of me has decided that doing the best I can, and adding to my knowledge as I proceed, is what I need to do, otherwise, I’ll keep dragging my feet and eating toffee.  🙂  I figure that even if the hives are not from Candida, at least I’ll probably lose a few pounds this week.  At least, I hope I only have to do one week.  We’ll see.  Maybe it’ll be as easy as starting a gluten-free diet nine years ago, where I felt SO MUCH BETTER that how much “trouble” it was became a total non-issue, and I knew I could never go back.
  • The post from which this beautiful pic comes mentions the giant amount of "good" calories that come from avocados. For the record, I don't give a rip about calories, and my body doesn't, either. My body does, however, care about sugar. I can eat fat-laden meat and fruits and veggies and gallons of honey and never gain an ounce, but if I eat me some sugar, and too many grains, I *PACK* on the pounds. I think those Paleo folks are onto something.

    In news related to the above (and below), avocados, though they are technically a fruit, have NO sugar!  Well, not “no”:  An average-sized avocado has 0.4g sugar and 0.1g starch.  That’s pretty close to zero.  And they’re super high in fiber, avocados have a reasonable amount of protein (especially for a fruit!), and are crazy-high in Omega 6 fatty acids, and EFAs are also supposed to be good for Candida sufferers.  And, oddly enough, avocados are related to cinnamon!  I’ve long known that Fiala can handle cinnamon with no allergic reaction.  I wish I would have discovered the connection, long ago.  Fi’s been eating avocados like crazy the last week or so; a local grocer has them on sale for 4/$1.00 (Bashas’, for those readers in Arizona — the sale is good through Tuesday.)  I found this page very interesting;  it’s about different varieties of avocados.  I was trying to find what kind we have.  I’m still not sure.

  • Speaking of Fiala, you may have seen on OSC’s Facebook page that there was a chance she has Type I (juvenile) Diabetes.  I’m happy to announce that her urinalysis was clean — no glucose.  Part of me was kind of hoping that diabetes was at the heart of her life-long health struggles, because that would be a clear path, and it’s treatable.  But since she doesn’t… we’re back at square one.  I was really unhappy about that for a few days, and now I’m OK.  Better than OK, actually.  We see the naturopathic doctor again on Friday.  She’s planning on ordering up some blood tests based on what did or didn’t show on Fiala’s (very, very clean) urinalysis.  I’ll ask her about Candida then.

Simple Sandwich Bread Flour Mix (gluten-free, rice-free, potato-free)

Mung beans.

I know, you’ve always wanted to try them.  You have a deep-seated curiosity about them.


Well, let me pique your interest.

Have you ever made gluten-free bread that looked like a brownish brick?  If you’ve done any g.f. baking and you answer, “No” to that, I’ll know you’re lying.  😀

I accidentally discovered the secret to lofty, round-topped, well-rising gluten-free bread, and it arose (ha!) from me trying to make a bread for my nearly three-year-old daughter, Fiala, who is still highly allergic to just about everything on the planet.  The only grain she can tolerate is oats.  I’ve known for a couple of years that she can handle most legumes, and I’ve long been making farinata and other quick breads from garbanzo bean flour.

Recently, though, on one of my frequent forays into a local large Asian market, I noticed a package of mung bean starch.  I’d seen mung beans elsewhere in the store.  You can buy them in their tiny, green-skinned natural state:

Mung bean, Vigna radiata

Or shelled and split:

They look like smaller, oval, split yellow peas.

Have you ever bought bean sprouts?  They were probably from a mung bean.  Have you ever eaten cellophane noodles (also known as bean threads or saifun)?  Those are made from mung bean starch.

Mung beans are used a LOT in Asian cooking.  The Wikipedia article is quite interesting, noting the many cultures who use mung beans, and the wide variety of foods made from mung bean — whole, husked and split, flour, starch — from savory to sweet.

So, anyway.  I picked some up, and with fairly low expectations, crafted a Fiala-safe bread using little more than oat flour, garbanzo bean flour, and mung bean starch.


It rose very well, browned amazingly, sliced PERFECTLY — even right out of the oven, and tasted great.

I haven’t quite abandoned the idea of making bread from my other all-purpose flour mix, but for now, I’m very satisfied with the tasty bread made with this simple mix.  And the bonus is that EVERYONE in my family — all seven of us — can eat this bread.

Since this is already so long, I’ll have to post the actual bread recipe sometime in the near future.  In preparation for the recipe, though, whydontchya make the flour mix?

Mung bean starch (also known as green bean starch) can be a bit hard to find online…  I buy it for about $2.10 at a local Asian market for a 1 lb package.  Here it is on a site called Grocery Thai for $5.95 for a 500 gram (17.64 oz) package, almost triple the price of my local store.  If you find a better supplier at a better price, PLEASE leave the URL in a comment.

So, the only bummer about this mix is that, as one of the ingredients is a bit obscure, if you don’t live somewhere close to an Asian grocery, it may prove to be cost-prohibitive.  😦

Without further ado, here is the flour mix recipe:

Simple Sandwich Bread Flour Mix
makes approximately 12 cups

4 cups mung bean starch
4 cups garbanzo flour
4 cups oat flour
2 Tbsp xanthan gum

Whisk to combine all ingredients thoroughly.  Store in an airtight container in the pantry (no need to refrigerate).

One more note about ingredients:  I can find ALL of my flours at the Asian market:  Garbanzo flour is also known as besan or chana dal and is widely used in Indian cooking.  Oat flour can be found in the African foods section, called oat fufu (don’t laugh!).  Both area also produced by Bob’s Red Mill, which probably has better standards regarding cross-contamination for gluten concerns, and are produced in the States.  Inexplicably, the mung bean starch (made in China) is found in the Middle East aisle in my local store, but you may find it in the Korean section.  If your local Asian grocery has English-language-challenged employees, you may want to print out what you’re looking for in several different languages, so you can ask for help.  🙂  Bob’s Red Mill also makes xanthan gum, though I buy mine in bulk at a natural foods grocery for about half the price of Bob’s.

OK.  A second “one more note”:  This flour would be considered corn-free, if it wasn’t for xanthan gum, which is usually made from a specific bacteria that is cultured on corn sugar.  So, if you’re corn-allergic, depending on your sensitivity, you may be able to use this flour mix and the bread.  I haven’t tried the mix with guar gum (made from a legume/seed).  If you do, let me know!

Small things

  • Audrey and Fi on the trail Fri 04/29/2011

    My friend Kim and I took our collective nine kids out for a hike on Friday on a trail only ten minutes from my home, but which I’d never previously explored.  Fiala, at 2.5 was the youngest.  She is a more willing hiker than Audrey, aged 5, but her legs are shorter.  They tired at about the same point, halfway into the hike, which totaled about 1.5 miles, maybe a bit further.

    6:30 a.m. on the top of Deem Hill

    Both Kim and I decided that we wanted to go back to the park, sometime in the near future.  So, I went this morning.  I’m not an early bird, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was motivated.  I was up at 5:30 and on the trail at 6:00.  I hiked about 3.6 miles in an hour and 20 minutes.  Lots of altitude changes, but when I got back home, I checked the map,

    Looking towards the sun

    and as best as I can tell, even though I picked the highest trail, I only gained and lost an altitude of about 500′.  Felt like more than that.  Like a LOT more than that.  Clearly, I need to hike more.  As I walked in the door at 7:30 this morning, I could smell and hear the coffee percolating, and my hubby was wielding a spatula over the stove, trying to shoo our waking children back into their bedrooms.  🙂  It made me feel good.

  • I am daily checking my garden for sprouts, even though it’s only been six days since I planted it.  🙂  I’m eager.  I also started some tomato seeds in homemade/improvised seed trays, and will do some more today — either tomatillo or chile pepper.  The rest of my compost simply won’t be ready by the time I’m ready to plant some more, so we’ll be getting some bags of manure from Home Depot.  I’m trying not to feel like a composting-failure by resorting to the home improvement store, but at least they’re only $0.85 each, so it’s not like I’ll be throwing more money at the garden than is justified.  I tend to get really gung-ho about a project, drop a hundred of our non-existent dollars on it, then abandon it.  I’m rather hedging my bets this time — investing as little money on the garden as possible, both so that if it fails, we’re not out a big chunk of change.  Also, the less money I spend, the more profitable the garden is.  I’m also trying to resist the urge to quit before I’ve even really begun, when seeing some head-high plants from a friend’s garden.  A friend here in the Phoenix area.  However, I won’t.  I won’t quit.  I have spent a lifetime of giving up on things when it appears that I won’t (or even possibly won’t) TOTALLY EXCEL, and that’s a really, really, really bad habit, which I’m ready to kick.  It’s hard, though.
  • I love the Body of Christ, the local church.  The guy who is leading the small group I attend — actually, he’s sort of leading it, but more like mentoring another guy into leading — is going to be moving next Saturday, and mentioned something about it on Thursday.  Another guy — who has only been attending for 4-5 weeks — pipes up, “I have a trailer!” and in a few minutes, the two had made plans for the Trailer Guy to help the Moving Guy move.  The whole thing made me smile.  I guess if you’re not part of the Body of Christ, you rent a U-Haul.  🙂  Along the same lines, my hubby is helping the daughter of a friend from church (she goes to our church, too) move today.  Even though I’m sure he’ll get a sore back and a few trips to the chiropractor out of it, I’m happy that he can help…  We’ve been on the recipient end of the Body of Christ SO OFTEN, and it’s right and good to reciprocate.
  • Small Fiala update:  She had her half-day last week.  She is officially 2½.  We are cautiously testing bananas this week.  So far, so good.  I wouldn’t even have tried bananas, but last week, she woke early, climbed up to the fruit basket on the countertop, and helped herself to a banana, with no apparent ill effects.  But, some of the foods we’ve tested this year have appeared safe for a week or even two, before she absolutely exploded in a rash.  That’s what happened with corn.  We are only able to test one new food every 3-4 weeks or so, because it takes anywhere from one day to two weeks for a reaction to show and then an additional week or two for her to heal enough from the bad reaction to get her back to a “baseline” from which we can test another food.  So far this year, she has failed carrots, corn, potatoes, and coconut (and all other palm-related foods & products).  She has only had a successful trial on eggs, which have made a delightful addition to her still really, really limited diet.  I’m starting to consider another trip to the allergist.
  • So now, today, it’s not yet noon, and I’ve hiked 3½ miles, had eggs and coffee with my hubby, made pancakes for my children, and blogged.  🙂  Laundry, ironing, baseball, starting another tray of seeds, and preparing to lead worship in SuperChurch tomorrow will take up the rest of my day.  It’s one of those days which I call to mind when I’m talking to someone I haven’t seen in a while, and they ask, “What’s new?”  Well, nothing is new.  Nothing at all, really.  It’s not really an eventful life I lead, but it’s still a good one.

Support Your Local Organic Farmer!

I have joined a CSA!

I thought everyone knew what a CSA was, but I have been met with a lot of blank stares and, “What’s that?” with folks who don’t share my elation.

CSA stands for “community supported agriculture.”  With a CSA, you commit to buying a share of the produce from a small (usually family-run) farm for a season.  Your share is delivered (or picked up) weekly for the length of the season.  That way, the farmer is ensured that they have customers, and the risk of farming is spread over a large number of customers.  Some weeks, the share will be more, some less, depending on what ripens and thrives.

The particular one I chose, WindyView Acres,  is a family farm, located in Dewey, with is between Cordes Junction and Prescott, north of the Phoenix area. They have operated as an organic farm since 1996, but they are not certified organic.  I have talked on the phone with the owner, Dana, and am 100% satisfied in her organic farming practices.  The cost of the whole share is $500, which is $25/week.  The season will start the first week of June and runs for 20 weeks.  There aren’t any guarantees, but the goal is 5 veggies… and I think she said 5 fruits weekly, too, though that seems like a lot of fruit, so maybe my memory is wrong on that one.  Members also receive fresh cut flowers, herbs, and a dozen free-range eggs every other week or so.  The owner/farmer told me that if the first week’s harvest is a little sparse, she will definitely provide eggs and maybe even some meat.  (They raise natural meats — not organic feed, but primarily grass-fed, all-naturally fed cattle, hogs, goats, sheep, and chicken. And they sell raw milk — goat and cow — and homemade cheeses, too.)  Visit here for a list of what they raise.

CSA members are also welcome to visit the farm at any time.  Dana sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that they just had a lamb and a calf born yesterday, so I envision a trip to the farm in our near future.

More good news is that three of my friends (plus my mother-in-law, who lives just down the road from the pick-up spot) signed up, too, and we’re going to run a rotation, so each of us only has to pick up once per month, then deliver the produce to each of us in the rotation.  The pick up spot isn’t too far from my house, but it’s nice that I won’t have to drive out there every week to pick up my produce.

When I talked with her, and she found out I have five kids and like ALL veggies*, and again after I had sent her five customers, she asked, “If we have an extra abundance of one or more veggies, do you want me to throw it into your box?”  Of course I want that!

On the website, I saw that they raise sheep, too.  I talked with the owner about that, and she said that she breeds a certain kind of sheep, specifically for their wool, as she spins, and have never butchered any of them.  “But, since I breed them for the color of their wool… I have three ewes who are going to lamb, and if one or more of them aren’t the right color, I’ll consider butchering them.  And, two of my rams are fighting, and that doesn’t stop, I’ll have to turn one of them into mutton.”  Fiala (my 2 year old) can still only eat lamb (due to extreme and extensive food allergies, if you’re new to the blog), so it would be fabulous to have a farm-raised local source for lamb.

So, I’m really happy.  Local, family-farm-raised organic produce, $25/week is a good deal, all the way around.  Yesterday, when out grocery shopping, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Support Your Local Organic Farmer” and it made me feel warm and fuzzy that I was doing just that.


*Well, actually, I don’t like brussels sprouts, which, when I was a child, used to make me gag, and I was so traumatized by them that I haven’t eaten them in about 25 years.  But, I told her that I’d be willing to try them, since they’d be fresh from the field and I might like them now…  🙂

Answering your questions

I had this post about halfway done, and WordPress ate it.  I was trying to insert a picture, and the picture wouldn’t insert, so I had the post with no picture.  Then, I finally got the pic to show up, but the text had evaporated!  Argh!

I will try again.

I used to be enamored with my Stats page, especially the part that keeps track of search terms that people use to find my blog.  Some of them are odd, some baffling, some funny.  But, most of them are along the lines of

gfcf lunches for kids
teething out of order
rice milk recipe
amo amas amat
gluten free sugar cookie recipe

I popped over there today, though, to see what folks have been asking lately, and thought I’d try answering a few.

  1. “post blueberry morning cereal gluten free”  NO.  Since wholegrain wheat is the third ingredient AND Blueberry Morning contains malted barley syrup, it is certainly not gluten-free.  However, as of 22 Dec 2010, Post has changed its manufacturing process and ingredients to ensure that Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles are gluten-free.  It has also reduced the grams of sugar per serving from 11 to 9.  (Make certain your purchase is the NEW box, labelled as gluten-free.)  Pebbles wouldn’t be my first choice for a makeover, but at least Post is trying.
  2. sonlight verses rod and staff”  I’ll assume you mean versus.  R&S is a very traditional, solid, wholly Christian curriculum, unapologetic for its “old-fashioned” style of education, and unashamed of its Christianity.  It’s a good choice for families from very conservative backgrounds who want a traditional text-based education for their children, especially for those in grades 2-8.  Sonlight is a Christian company, but not nearly as dogmatic, not nearly as “Amero-centric” as R&S, and literature-based.  I think Sonlight’s 27 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight is brilliant.  Read it, and that’ll likely lend to your decision-making process.  We’ve used a bit of R&S English (effective, but boring) in our nine years of homeschooling, but the heart of our homeschooling is from Sonlight.
  3. So not ugly.

    homeschoolers are ugly”  REALLY?  Audrey doesn’t agree.

  4. toilet paper nick names”  WHAT???  And, how did Google choose to direct the searcher to MY blog with THAT term??  Oh.  That’s how.
  5. can dogs be “allergic to carob””  I have no idea.  I’m guessing they could be, though.  My son Wesley was really allergic to carob for a number of years… five or so… until he grew out of it.  Carob and carob bean gum is a surprisingly frequent ingredient!  I wonder what a dog’s symptoms would be…
  6. i voted mccain”  Why, yes.  Yes, I did.  I still think he would have been a better president than our current one, whose name shall not be named on my blog.
  7. where is the hassayampa river”  It flows through the town of Wickenburg, in west-central Arizona, mostly underground.
  8. how do you pronouce celiac”  SILLY-yak.
  9. can barley cause eczema”  Pretty much anything can cause eczema.  You may want to check into dermatitis herpetiformis, which is a skin condition that can be misdiagnosed as eczema.  It is caused by an autoimmune reaction to gluten, and barley contains gluten.
  10. natural childbirth in a hospital”  YOU CAN DO IT!!  I’ve done it five times over.  However, states vary widely as to what they typically allow — hospitals in most states in the West are more apt to give their patients their rights.  However, you must choose your doctor or CNM (certified nurse midwife — many have hospital privileges, or work within an OBGYN practice, and some hospitals staff them) well.  Do your research!!  Also, take Bradley classes, not only for the instruction, but to develop a support system for birthing naturally in a hospital, and to be able to network to get suggestions for naturally-minded doctors, doulas, etc.  If nothing else, PLEASE watch this series of short videosE-mail me privately if you want a few additional tips.  🙂

Why I’m weathering the storm better this time (and: Restoration)

About a year ago, I was pretty despondent over Fiala’s health.

I’m doing much better this now, in spite of the fact that she’s had her worst month of 2010.

Fiala is now on the tail end (bless God) of about four weeks of a really bad outbreak.  She’s still on Septra;  we have another week or so to go with that;  I’m so happy, though, that she’s really turning the corner, and the infection is abating, and her skin, body-wide, is healing.

When listening to my pastor Dennis’ message yesterday (, the December 5th one), I realized that one of the biggest reasons that I’m weathering this “episode” so much better this time is directly related to something he said:  Thankfulness while IN a dilemma releases God’s activity. And, even if my dilemma doesn’t get better, if God just SHOWS UP, then it’s OK.

That is something that some other sweet sisters in Christ had encouraged me in, months ago…  In spite of their teaching/correction/kicking me in the rear, it took me several months to pull out of the pit of feeling like perhaps God didn’t love my little girl enough (or something that would keep Him from healing her).  This time around, I’m not even tempted to go there.  Or, if I am tempted, it passes quickly, because I don’t give that line of thought the time of day.  I don’t let myself think that.  I rest in His sovereignty;  He can choose to heal her, but if He doesn’t, I will still trust in God my Father.

I’m definitely still praying for her healing, but more than that, I just want the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in our home, and in her body and her life.

Other things that are happening:

  • A dear friend had a dream that Fiala’s reactions were not caused by food at all, but from a small animal in her bed.  She wrote to me, not suggesting that I take the dream literally… but, completely unbeknownst to her, I had noticed that Fiala seems to get WORSE upon sleeping/resting in her bed, and I had already theorized I thought maybe her mattress was infested with something, and we should get a new mattress.  The one we have is a second-hand mattress, and not in very good shape, though I rather rationalized that it would be OK since we use a waterproof pad each time, under the sheet.  So, we’re working on the mattress thing.  (She doesn’t have a new one yet, though.)
  • Also, I realized that her clothes are bothering her — pretty much the only place she’s not broken out right now is in her diaper area.  My husband Martin is having a similar reaction in his sock area — everything covered by his dress socks has been itchy, and he’s had a sandpapery rash there, very similar to Fiala’s.  I have been making my own laundry detergent for the last year+, and cannot think of anything in the ingredients that might be anything other than innocuous except, perhaps, the soap itself.  I use Kirk’s Castile, which is made from saponified coconut oil.   I know Fiala has problems with anything palm-related, so perhaps even though it’s gone through the chemical process to make it soap, it’s still giving her problems.  So, this weekend, I went out and got All Free & Clear and am washing all our clothes (and re-washing her clean clothes) in that, plus a half cup of baking soda, and an extra rinse with 1/2 cup vinegar.  Last night was the first night she was in newly washed pajamas and bedclothes, and she woke up looking significantly better this morning.   Coincidence? Perhaps.   But, I’m just trying to do every little bit that may help, considering environmental things, as well as food.
  • And, I read recently (in my Clean Eating mag) that larger-than-USRDA-doses of Vitamin D have been shown to improve/resolve health issues, especially those related to the immune system.  So, I have my son Wes* and Fi on 2000 IU daily. We’re just on the third day of that, and I’m uncertain, of course, if it’ll have any positive effect, and how long it’ll take.  But… I felt like I had to try.

Unrelated, really, other than that the above song has ministered mightily to me in the last month:  A couple of months ago, I suggested to my hubby, Martin, that our church’s worship team learn the song Restoration (written by Clay Edwards, led above by David Brymer and Clay’s sister, Misty).  He didn’t go for it.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, he borrowed my oldest son’s MP3 player, so he could listen to music while doing yard work.   I had loaded the song (weeks ago, for Ethan) onto the player.   Shortly after the yard work was done, Martin had pulled up the chords… and he’s been playing it periodically over the last couple of weeks.  Hehehe!

While preparing my set list for small group last week, I came across the chart for the song, and played it several times, just to “warm up”.  Guidelines for small group worship leaders are that song introductions should be rare;  we would rather do songs that the people in the group know and can easily worship to.  But, I called my friend Sheila to see if she’d be going to small group that night (she was) and did she know Restoration (she did) and would she sing along, if not otherwise engaged, if I led a bit of it during ministry time, after the main worship set (she would).  So, that was the plan.

It’s hard to explain what happened during worship and ministry-that-wasn’t-normal-ministry time.  Worship, in my estimation, didn’t go fabulously.  It seemed like many were distracted, and people weren’t really engaging God.  It’s my job, as a worship leader, to facilitate that.  I can’t make God show up, but I can sure invite Him, and help pave the way for people to engage. So, I was a wee bit bummed out.  Only a wee bit, though, because appearances can be deceiving, and I didn’t know for certain what was going on, and I just continued to lead us in worship.  After worship, we had a time of prophetic ministry, and the Holy Spirit just poured out a bunch of words through lots of people for lots of people.  The small group leader just had everyone gather in the center of the room, and asked me to just play over everyone, which I did, praying all the while.  Then, I started playing Restoration… and the Holy Spirit fell, even more.  It was just what everyone needed.  It seems like God wanted me to play that song, on that day, at that time, not months ago, when I wanted my hubby to teach it to the team.  Everyone learned it quickly, and sang it wholeheartedly.  It was His timing, and I wasn’t even aware of it!!

So, anyway.  Equally unknown to me was that Martin planned to teach it to the team that coming Sunday (yesterday).  He did.  Practice was wonderful.  We just sang and played and worshiped.  I abandoned the vocals and picked up an acoustic, just because I wanted to play it.  I wanted to express that song with more than just my voice.  (I don’t play guitar on the regular worship team;  I just sing.)  Martin invited me to change guitars to one that was amplified.  (He was playing electric.)  At one point, he told me not to strum so hard;  I don’t know how he can keep himself from NOT strumming hard when a song gets intense!  So, that took a little concentration, to not play so hard, even when the song built dynamically.  Hehehehe!   In sixteen years of being on the church’s worship team, I don’t think I’ve ever played acoustic, plugged-in, during a practice.  Maybe once previous.  It was fun.

So, I guess to tie those two lines of thought together:  I am encouraged that — even when I’m not 100% aware of it — I am growing.  I’m following the Holy Spirit.  I’m becoming more teachable (historically, that’s not one of my strong suits).  And, I’m seeing fruit from it, and I’m happy about that.

God is good.


*Wesley’s asthma is by far the worst in the winter months, December through March.  Hmmm….  And, of course, celiac disease is autoimmune.

Fiala/Titanic – Oh God Oh God Oh God!

Sunday, my pastor, Dennis Bourns, had a sermon that wasn’t.  He said that he meant to speak on thankfulness, but instead relayed a number of stories from a recent ministry trip to Northern Ireland.  I’m glad he did.  The theme running through the stories was about depending on God.  He called it something like steering clear of the iceberg, where you can see that your Titanic is definitely heading for disaster, and all you can do is pray, “Oh God oh God oh God!”  Then, He responds, and alerts you, or opens your eyes, to a way out, one that you would not have previously considered.

I needed to hear that.  It seems I can see my ship on the path to destruction, and too many times, I just brace for impact, instead of asking Him to divert the ship, or come up with some sort of Plan B.

Afterward, Dennis asked each of us to participate in a time of corporate prayer, each praying individually for that “iceberg” in our lives.  I prayed for my 11 year old son Grant, who, I’m afraid, is bent on destroying himself and taking down as many people as possible with him.  That’s a “gift” of motherhood, by the way:  Extrapolation — perceiving events the events of today, and envisioning a possible/likely future if things proceed down the current path.  That can be both a blessing and a curse.

I asked my hubby what his was, and he said, “Fiala.”  I do understand that.  A day or two previous, he called her situation “distressing.”  It is.  She’s in the middle of the worst outbreak she’s had in a year.  Head to toe with eczema — BAD every-square-inch-of-her-body-covered, sandpapery, intensely itchy eczema — and on top of that, it got infected (impetigo), so now she’s on antibiotics (Septra).  In addition, she’s broken out with a different kind of rash…  I think it might be related to the impetigo, but I’m not sure.  It looks different than her “standard” eczema, larger, redder papules.  She is absolutely miserable, and it’s heartbreaking.  Right now, we’re totally praying, “Oh God oh God oh God,” because we simply don’t know how to proceed.

For now, in addition to

  • Septra
  • Various topical remedies (including olive oil, Vaseline, and bacitracin — when she can handle it, because when her skin is really raw, it stings too badly)
  • Hydroxazine for itching (which seems to work, but also makes her giddy/hyper)
  • Bleach baths 2-4x/week (the doctor we saw at the urgent care center said to do it every day for the next week or two, but that’s too irritating to her skin),

we’re taking her diet down to “bare bones” as my hubby calls it — the foods that we know are the least likely to cause a skin reaction.  That means lamb, garbanzo beans/flour, oats, blueberries, all the veggies of the brassica family, olive oil, cinnamon, and stevia.  That’s it.  On one hand, that sounds like a lot of food — and it is definitely enough food on which to survive.  But, on the other hand, it is a very simple diet for a sweet little two year old girl who loves to eat, and she spends a lot of her day asking for food (food other than what she can have) and feeling left out, often crying over missed food.  Obviously, the things that are hardest for her to understand are foods that we’ve previously OK’ed, but are now taboo, particularly maple syrup, honey, and a wee bit of sugar (like in her all-blueberry organic jam).  It’s hard to say no.  I caved and gave her cranberries on Sunday, and she paid a dear price for it on Monday.  I had been thinking that her previous bad reaction to cranberries was tied to the corn syrup in Craisins.  So, I got a variety from Trader Joe’s that is sweetened with real sugar.  She was SO VERY MISERABLE on Monday (yesterday)… that did it.  I have buckled down on her bare bones diet, with no risks allowed.  Already today, she’s doing better than yesterday, although only nominally so.

I’m thinking a trip to the pediatric g.i. doc is in our future.  My hubby hasn’t been much in favor of that, since, in the last year, I’ve done a good job of managing her care, and Doctor Mama doesn’t cost a $50 specialist co-pay.  But, I’d been considering it anyway, as Fi doesn’t appear to be making any improvements, digestive- and skin-wise, and I’m feeling rather lost without some doctoral care.  And, these last two weeks (when her skin has gotten awfully terrible again) has rather spurred me on to re-prioritize finding a doctor for her.  I mean, I haven’t made a appointment or anything yet.  But, I’m thinking that we’ll need to take that step.


I keep telling Fiala that she’s a genius.  She’s smart, but I am more impressed by her… emotional intelligence.  She’s two years old — just barely — and often more perceptive than any of us.  She is the sweetest member of our family, deeply concerned when someone gets a boo boo, or gets in trouble, or has a hard time with something, ready to give hugs and words of consolation, celebrating — with visible relief and joy — when the difficulty has passed.  Likewise, she notices and files away into her memory things that make people happy, and will frequently say something like, “Great dinner, Mama!” simply because she knows it brings a smile to my face, and she’ll receive sincere thanks and some lovin’ in reply.  She acts with similar kindness and encouragement to everyone.  Recently, she has started asking just about everyone, “Hi!  How are you doing?” because she has noticed how happily everyone responds to a two-year-old who is sincerely concerned with their well-being.  She is simply a gift of God to our family;  I become more and more convinced that God knows we need.  🙂

Her restricted diet gets more and more difficult to manage as she gets older.  If you’re 12 months old, and you’re eating something different than the rest of the family, you’re not that likely to notice.  But, if you’re 24 months old, and you really like eating, it becomes a source of frustration and sadness that you can’t eat what everyone else is enjoying.

Countless times, Fi has asked for a food item, only to have me respond, “Oh, Fi… I’m so sorry, but you can’t have that.  It will hurt your skin!”  or, “It will hurt your tummy!”

At lunch on Thursday, we had a similar exchange.  Fiala had her Fi-safe lunchmeat, carrots, and farinata.  She was particularly desirous of the pepperoni and cheese that others were having.  I sometimes give her a bit of sheep’s milk romano, but she really wanted a whole slice of provolone.  “No, Fi.  I’m so sorry.  This cheese will hurt your skin, honey.  And your tummy.  I can’t give it to you.”

Fiala was quiet for a while, thinking.

Then, she piped up, in a heart-achingly hopeful voice, “Cheese makes me better, Mama!”

I about laughed and wept at the same time.

Precious child.

Why celiac disease is so confusing.

A childhood friend sent me a message, describing symptoms, and asked me about my history with a “gluten allergy” and asked if I thought she might have a gluten allergy as well.  My response to her ended up being quite long… and I thought that it might serve well as a blog post, though I have surely talked about these things before:

OK… I will do my best to answer without confusing the issue even more!

First… I don’t have a gluten allergy. I have celiac disease (as do two of my five kids), which is an autoimmune disorder — like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus — but unlike most autoimmune disorders, the trigger (the thing that starts symptoms) is known. It is gluten. A small portion of the gluten (protein) molecule, called a peptide, does two things: It triggers a self-destruct response in the villi of the small intestine. And, it bonds to neurons in the brain, causing an opiate effect.

Thus, the two biggest symptoms with celiac disease is digestive problems (often diarrhea) and neurological problems (from as “innocuous” as depression to as severe as schizophrenia).

Here’s where it gets weird, though. There are three additional problems:

1) Since the villi in the small intestine are destroyed, many nutrients that should get in the body are not absorbed. This leads to a host of increasing health problems/symptoms that are actually secondary to celiac disease, as they are started from malnourishment of one (or usually more than one) nutrient. For instance, premature osteoporosis from malabsorption of calcium. Lack of calcium can also lead to heart problems — weird palpitations and electrical problems in the heart, because the body need calcium in order for its nervous/electrical system to work properly. There are many, many, many other secondary symptoms of celiac, which makes it particularly hard to diagnose, since the symptoms are actually spokes, and celiac disease is the hub. Often, these secondary symptoms will compound, increase, “develop” as a person ages, because the body has gone longer and longer w/o certain nutrients, and at some point it reaches a critical stage, and causes an illness in the body. Also… since CD is an autoimmune disorder, oftentimes, the body will just start spitting out antibodies to just about everything, in a “last ditch” effort to rid the body of invaders. (Often, when a person with severe, multiple allergies starts a gluten-free diet, secondary allergies and many other secondary health problems, including chronic illnesses, start healing or disappearing.)

2) Usually, even though celiac disease is not an allergy, someone with celiac disease ALSO develops T-cell antibodies to gluten, because the body recognizes gluten as a cause of the problem. IOW, if a blood draw is done, a person with celiac disease will, a vast majority of the time, show an “allergy” to gluten. So, a person can show a gluten allergy, when in reality, the *root* of the problem is celiac disease. Compounding this difficulty, although this a matter of hot debate among scientists and doctors, some people do seem to have “just” a gluten allergy, and not full-blown celiac disease. This is under debate, though, because the body’s response to having the gene that causes celiac disease is so widely varied, and many doctors think that if a person has a gluten allergy, whether or not other celiac symptoms are present, that person likely has latent celiac disease.

3) Adding even more to the confusion is the fact that some people with celiac disease are symptomatic from birth, and some people’s symptoms are triggered by a physically or emotionally difficult situation — like pregnancy, or a death in the family, or divorce, etc. Additionally, some people show symptoms in early childhood, then go into symptomatic remission (for reasons that are not at all understood) during the teen years. Then, symptoms come back later in the teen years, or even much later in life. So, it can appear that a person “develops” celiac disease at a later point in life, when in actuality, that person had CD all along, but for unknown reasons, was asymptomatic.


That was probably more than you care to know.

Suffice it to say, it’s a very confusing disease. Until recently (about five years ago), doctors used to think it was incredibly rare. It was thought that about 1 in 10,000 people have celiac disease. Then, a major, major medical study came out (Dr. Alessio Fasano, at U. of Maryland, if you care to look into it) that showed that on average, about 1 in 130 people in America test positive for CD.

Even diagnosis can be difficult, though… Some people who have the gene do not have symptoms. Genetic testing is expensive, and it is generally not done. However, the blood tests for CD often show false negatives, partly because they look (among other things) for antibodies to gluten, and not every celiac develops antibodies.

HOWEVER…. if you already have allergies, it may be wise to ask your doctor for a celiac panel blood test.

Though this is by no means exhaustive, below is a list of potential celiac symptoms.

I am MORE THAN HAPPY to answer any questions you may have, to the very best of my ability.

P.S. I do understand that I answered in a very roundabout way. What I’m trying to say is that you *could* be having trouble with gluten, and it *could* be an allergy, or it *could* be celiac disease. Without a doctor taking a look at your blood, it’s hard to say, one way or another.
P.P.S. I was diagnosed “presumed celiac” eight years ago, but have had a lifetime of symptoms that went into remission from ages 12-17. “Presumed” because my doctor knew my health history well, and all the trouble I’d had, and all my secondary diagnoses, but I had been on a gluten-free diet for a number of weeks before my bloodwork, so it was inconclusive. However, because a vast majority of my symptoms disappeared whilst on the g.f. diet, he called it “presumed celiac.” That, and at that point, one of my sons had been dx’ed with it. Nowadays, some doctors will accept simply alleviation of symptoms, via a g.f. diet, as enough indication for the presence of celiac disease. Some rely on bloodwork. Some rely on a small intestinal scope (to sample/view the villi). Some rely on a combination. The diagnosis standards are changing and varied.
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