About Me


Southern New Jersey

I am a Mom to 2 amazing and fun daughters and wife to a great guy and a wonderful father!

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Kayla, my oldest. She is 4 1/2 and is a sweet, loving and silly little girl. She took us 2 ½ years and 3 IVF’s to conceive. Kayla is allergic to dairy. We manage her allergy and work to balance her safety with giving her a normal childhood. Kayla loves to read books and play games - she amazes me every day.

Alysa, my youngest. She is 3 years old and is a silly little spitfire. She’s our monkey and loves to climb on everything. She was a “natural” baby, but it was only b/c of my wonderful doctors that we were able to stop an impending miscarriage. Alysa suffers from Acid Reflux Disease and sleep apnea. She may be little, but she has a big personality. She adores her big sister and is so much fun to be around. She keeps me laughing every day.

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Mothers Day 2009

Monday, May 28, 2007
Great Song
A week or so ago, J slipped in front of the girls and said a word he shouldn't have. Needless to say I was not too pleased. The next day, he had heard this song on the radio, found it online and e-mailed it to me.

It's so true and I think this song and video is so sweet.

posted at 9:13 PM  

Mommy Talk #7

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This Week's Question is:
What was your favorite maternity "could not do without" items?

Well, the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of something I could not have lived without during pregnancy was my body pillow. It really saved my back and my sleep (luckily we have a King sized bed). But of course, nothing was making me sleep good, but I still loved it. So much I couldn't part with it and just loaned it out to my best friend.

Other things I loved was my doppler - I loved to be able to listen to their little heartbeats at home whenever I wanted. Especially with Kayla (she was born in August) our pool gave me some much-needed relief.

And with Kayla's pregnancy -flip flops. They were all I could fit in with all my swelling. With Alysa, I had slip-on sneakers. The BEST!!!

I also read faithfully Your Pregnancy Week by Week and What to Expect when You're Expecting.

posted at 11:48 AM  

Saturday, May 26, 2007
Is It Saturday Night Already?
Ok - this has been a long couple of weeks, yet again it's going so fast. I'm still not feeling myself. Whatever I have going on, whether it's Lymes Disease or some mystery ailment is really wiping me out. Even J told me tonight, "No offense hon, but you look horrible". Yeah, thanks dear. Bet you all know why I married him now, don't you? It's been really had for me to be motivated lately. I'm exhausted and achy in my joints and would rather vege on the couch. But of course, 2 Toddlers won't hear of that. So...I push myself out the door every day so they can get their time outside. Today, I even filled up the kiddie pool with water and made their little days. Here are some pics of that fun...

Kayla had fun tossing toys into Alysa in the tunnel...
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Of course she saw Alysa was photo-worthy, she had to jump in too.
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Here's Kayla mid-jump and landing.
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Alysa was SO determined to carry all 3 of the soy yogurt containers.
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And I thought this was neat of Alysa throwing water.
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And what would my day be w/o a new video from my new favorite toy?

So to give you a clear example of just how out of it I've been, the girls had an appointment last Saturday (the 19th) with their Allergist. And, you know what? I totally forgot about it, well, that is until he called me at 10:15 that morning to remind me. Um, the appointment was at 10:00. Now for those that know me, know that this is TOTALLY unlike me. I'm never even late - forget not showing up at all. So he was gracious and rescheduled them for today. It all went well. He wants to retest Kayla's blood for the dairy allergy in August. Then he'll see her back the end of August (assuming I show up this time). If her blood results are good, he'll do the skin test and if that works out good, he'll challenge that day. Yikes. The thought of actually getting to a challenge is surreal to me. But I have 3 months to obsess over that. He gave me a clear emergency action plan to give to the Preschool. I have to reiterate again how much I like this man. His kids were running around the office and his wife and 8 week old were playing receptionist. He apologized at one point for his older kids. But I actually like it. We all see our docs in a professional capacity. It's good to see him as a human and most importantly as a father. Plus I know his older 2 have GERD (reflux disease), so he gets it on that level too. And he treats my kids as whole kids. He doesn't just stick to the allergies. He wants to see them in August as f/u to their allergies AND b/c he knows their GI doctor is having me take them off their reflux meds in June. So he wants to see how they're doing with that. It's good to know they have 3 docs looking out for them. The reflux trial is a whole other scary nightmare that I'll get into another day. But it all went well. Things stay as they are for now with their allergies, until August anyway.

Oh and in another monumental milestone in this house. After seeing the allergist, I gave the girls lunch and I got Kayla out of the kitchen first (our kitchen is typically gated off to them - started out due to Kayla's allergy). Anyway, I then thought, hey - now is as good a time as any to try Alysa with some cheese. I've kept her off dairy mainly to protect Kayla. But she finally stopped spitting up - at least she hasn't in 2 months. She ate almost an entire slice of american cheese. So far so good - although Kayla had cheese twice before she reacted to yogurt. So we'll see. I won't be putting her on milk right now b/c of Kayla, but if I can even get her to eat a slice of cheese daily, I'll be thrilled with the extra fat and protein and dairy. :)

Before I sign off, I thought I'd share a picture of my newest cake from my class. I am thinking of submitting it to the Cherrybrook Kitchen cake decorating contest. I really think I'll win, but hey, I won't know unless I try. Where most people can go buy Dunken Hines for $.97, I spend almost $5.00 on a single layer cake mix and for their birthday cakes I have to get 2 for their cakes. But they're allergen-free, so I don't complain. But a year supply would be awesome! :) Wish me luck.

The clowns were actually much easier to make than I thought they'd be.
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posted at 9:16 PM  

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Loving the Frustration
Kayla is in the midst of a super duper frustrating phase, yet I can't seem to stop laughing at her. She has no interest in napping and she will come in and out of her room with the excuse of having to go potty. I have had to resort to putting a child lock on the inside of her door for naps. It's the only way to keep her in so I can get some down time and time to do some chores, plus I'm worried she'll interrupt Alysa's nap and if that happens, I would have no choice but to run from the house screaming to escape the excessively cranky 18 month old. :)

Kayla is perfectly fine "locked" in her room. Most day she doesn't even want her book and song. She'll sit on her chair pick out a book, give me a kiss and watch me leave the room. Some days she'll actually fall asleep but most days she'll just pay for 2 hours. I actually prefer for her not to nap - sure she'll be more cranky by the time bedtime comes, but if she naps, she's up until 9'ish which means she's in and out of her room. I am not ready to lock her in at night b/c I want her to be able to get up at night if she needs us. Since we're sleeping - we aren't as responsive as during the day. Of course, after being in a bed for 1 month, she's just starting to get out of bed on her own in the morning. The other night she woke up at 4am. I heard her door open and I went to find her (we do put a gate up at the top of the stairs) and she comes in our room all upset b/c her "foot hurt" (this is typical lately - growing pains?). In the morning she thinks it's hysterical to open her own door and come find us or just sit in her room.

She's defiant and looking for every excuse to not go to sleep. But I can't help but smile. Sure I get frustrated, but in all honesty, I am loving every second of this. She's almost 3 (I can't believe it) and she has such a mind of her own and she loves being a big girl. Another new thing with her is "privacy". When she's going potty, she'll say "Can you leave me alone Mommy?". She likes to be in the bathroom by herself with the door closed. I love it!!! And how can you not love what the say? Yesterday she was showing me her booboo (from falling over a week ago) on her knee. She said "Mommy, that's my boo boo. Kayla is broken."

Other than loving Kayla's newest frustrating antics, Alysa is sick. She came down with a fever this morning. So I'm sure it's some sort of viral thing. I am fighting off some kind of wierd virus or I have Lymes Disease. I have to go tomorrow to get bloodwork. I have been having joint pain for almost 2 weeks now. And it moves. One day it's my wrists, the next it's my knees and so on and so forth. Oh and a constant headache. Anti-inflammatories are my friend. Wish me luck - I don't want Lymes Disease, but I'd rather that than some mystery thing that will drag on w/o a diagnosis. So all this means no gymnastics tomorrow. At least Alysa was still all for playing outside tonight. Who says a 102 fever has to keep you down? The way I see it the fresh air has to do her some good.

Before I got and plop down somewhere to try and get a little rest (oh yeah, after I fold some laundry), I'll leave you with my 2 newest digital creations. The first is the Mother's Day card I made for my Mom and MIL. The 2nd is a page I made a couple nights ago. I'm having fun learning Photoshop Elements. My biggest obstacles are time (not enough of it) and I have to come up with ideas/themes for pages. I've basically been winging it. I think it's working. Hopefully you do too.

Mother's Day card for my Mom and MIL:
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My Mother's Day page:
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posted at 9:13 PM  

Wordless Wednesday - Riding in Cars with Boys
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*Yes, that is Kayla in our neighbor's son's car - she loved it!*

Hop on over to WW to see more great photos.

posted at 8:02 PM  

Bloggie Exhausted
I think I poste more last week than I ever have in one week. But Food Allergy Awareness week is important and of course well worth it.

Not too much going on around here. But it does seem that the girls have been funnier than normal lately. Kayla is severely fighting naps so it now comes down to her taking rest time. I have had to put a child lock on the inside of her door b/c it's the only way she'll stay in. She thinks it's fun to go into my room. Last week J dozed off in our room and we woke up a half hour later to find Kayla downstairs on the couch with Noggin on and sleeping.

Alysa is just so verbal it amazes me. I picked up her the other day to smell her tush and then she says "I stink". Her use of pronouns is really impressive. She'll say "I'm tired" or "Help me" or "I'm hungry". Yesterday she decided to go on and on all day about Tyrone who is one of the characters in the show the Backyardigans (Pablo, Austin, Uniqua & Tasha are the others). This the show that Kayla wants for her birthday party. And today Alysa was making the animal sounds that Baby Jaguar (from Diego) makes. They are so much into making funny faces and of course would live outside on the slide and swings.

Here is a video I took of them today while they were painting. I had to turn the speakers up a bit on my computer to hear the audio. You can get a glimpse of the characters that I live with. ;)

posted at 4:04 PM  

Sunday, May 20, 2007
Marriage Monday

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This week's Marriage Monday topic is How has children affected your marriage. Christine has posed these questions.

There was never any true discussion as to whether we'd have kids or not. Even before we were married, we both knew we wanted kids. J has always said he wanted no more than 2, where I was always like, no less than 2, no more than 3 kind of thing. Before we were married, we agreed that we would first focus on buying a house. We did not want to raise a child in the 2 bedroom townhouse we were renting. So we immediately set out to buy a house. That took us some time since the market was on its way to insane and we had quite a few bidding wars, had a contract that was lost, moved in with my parents while we closed on our current house since we had given up our townhouse for the first house we through we were buying. But that's another story. Since we had a contract, we actually started trying before the house was closed on.

We did battle infertility and that really had a profound impact on our marriage. At first J was very much a believer that it was all in my head. I tend to be a worrier/stresser, so he thought I was over-reacting. But once the doctor confirmed that there was actually a problem, he never argued about treatment. Infertility really put a strain on our marriage - between the money we spent, the time and the doctor ordered "baby dancing" as it's called in the infertility world. I've now learned, that even for a man, every other day to every day is TOO much. We fought over infertility, money or other random things. We were both under a lot of strain and no matter how much you say he's going through it too he never really understood what I was going through either on an emotional level or on the physical level (doctor's visits, surgeries, procedures, medications, shots, etc). Men and women view family and children different. For him, if we didn't have child, things would have been ok eventually - I could never see things that way. But in the end we made it through and we came out the other side with 2 beautiful daughters. And we came out stronger. I learned to let the smaller things go and he learned what it was I was fighting so hard for (our girls). There are still times he will thank me for never giving up and for working so hard to give him is little girls.

Having children also changed our marriage, although I can't say it changed any more drastically. So many changes took place during infertility that having the baby seemed less monumental on our marriage in some ways. We both mellowed to a degree and I did see how he changed in how he viewed things. I did this too - how I saw advertisements (commercials are SO not child-friendly), radio stations, etc. He now views these things the same way I do, but he took longer to get there. I went from being the "Bread-winner" to him being the "bread-winner" when I went to work part time. He used to say that daycare was no big deal, but he now does not want them in daycare and is happy they are home with us. We work opposite schedules which leaves little family time, so that has really changed our dynamic - but we both get to have that understanding of what it is like to care for your children all day along. It gives us a better understanding of each other that I don't think other couples get when they both work full time or one stays home and the other works. We can both commiserate on a long day at work and we can both empathize and understand the frustrations of dealing with an almost 3 year old who doesn't want to nap or even stay in her room for naps anymore.

Obviously we don't have the freedom that we used to, but we are both ok with that. Neither of us would trade our girls. I know J desires more free time - this does get compounded since we are home together so infrequently, which leaves little time for housework/yardwork and downtime for either of us. But in the end, we're doing what's best for our family. And I know that children has changed each of us individually and as a couple for the better. It also means that we have to schedule out time for ourselves individually and most importantly for time together. We make sure that we have at least one night a week. That is a given but we always stive for more.

Although we planned both our children and they are both everything we wanted, I don't think J had a true idea what it would mean. He had never been around babies much, so it was a huge change for him. But I'm happy to say he is a wonderful father. He helped me with midnight feedings and crying fits, he changed diapers and he shows them that Daddy can take good care of them all day long (when I'm at work) just like Mommy. He has his goofy manly ways of playing with them and they screech with delight and run to the window when they hear his car come up the driveway. I would never want to go back to it being just us (at least not until they're out of college).

We fit as a family and that is just as it should be.

posted at 11:35 AM  

Mommy Talk #6

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This Week's Question is:
Baby Names on your list...What name did you chose, and why?

This is actually an easy one. We knew way before we succeeded in getting pregnant that we'd never have a boy b/c we always had a boy's name picked out...Riley Franklin. Riley is J's middle name and Franklin is my Poppy's name (my Mom's Dad) - he died when I was 9 and I've always known his name would be my son's middle name. So for that reason I will always be sad that I will never have a son.

I decided that I loved the name Kayla b4 I was pregnant with her. Once I was pg, I told J that's the name I loved. He was not in love with the name. I would tease him that once we found out the sex, if she was a girl, it meant "war". I would also tell him to remember that the Mom fills out the birth certificate with the name. ;) But the night we found out the sex, J told me the name had grown on him and that he wanted that to be her name. So Kayla Hope it was - Hope to signify all we went through to get her.

With Alysa, again we had the boy's name all ready. Then I started to want the name Rylie for a girl, which would still honor J. He absolutely refused as in his mine Rylie was a boy's name no matter how you spelled it. Other names we considered (that I can remember anyway) were Samantha, Stephanie and Olivia. I really wanted Olivia but J didn't like it, so we ended up choosing Alysa Rose as the one we liked best. We chose 1 's' as opposed to 2 because it changed the meaning of the name. The meaning of Alysa is Princess.

The nicknames given to my girls by my father are KaylaKu and Alyscious.

posted at 11:31 AM  

My Favorite Restaurants

Janeen has tagged me for a Restaurant Meme. With Kayla's allergy we hardly every go out to dinner. We used to when she was a baby - she was so portable (Alysa was not). There is only one restaurant that we have felt comfortable bringing her to and have even let her eat a little something there. But it's still rare b/c it's never easy. But J and I try to get out the 2 of us every once in a while. So I'll list our favorites.

1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you're in.

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Todd (Louisville, Kentucky, United States)
Jiggs Casey (Berkeley, CA, USA! USA! USA!)
Kat (Ontario, Canada)
Cheezy (London, England)
Paula (Orange County, California, U.S.)
Jeff (Colorado, USA)
gekko(Arizona, USA)
Norma (Columbus, OH)
Janeen (Cleveland, Ohio USA)
Sue (Southern, NJ USA)

2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

Now, after all that I'm starving and I've already eaten lunch. So I'll just tage my 5 people.
Christine (my Sis)

posted at 11:30 AM  

Saturday, May 19, 2007
Food Allergy Awareness Week
*sticky post*

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Next week is Food Allergy Awareness Week and I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help spread the word about Food Allergies. Then I found that Ria at Check My Tag is hosting a place for all of us to share our experiences with Food Allergies for either ourselves or our children.

So I will be posting next week our story about Kayla’s allergy – how we found out, how we manage and the changes we’ve made in our lives to cope. For those who live with food allergies, please consider joining in to help educate everyone on the impact that Food Allergies have, not only on those who are allergic, but also on those around them.

Links to Food Allergy Posts:
Kayla's Diagnosis
How to Read a Label
13 Food Allergy Facts
Managing Kayla's Food Allergy
What the Future Holds

posted at 10:01 PM  

What the Future Holds
This is going to be my last post for Food Allergy Awareness Week, although I could probably go on and on about it.

Kayla's chances of outgrowing her allergy are pretty high. I have gone through stages where I "knew" she'd never outgrow and others where I "knew" she would. We were originally waiting until August to retest her but since we changed Allergists recently, we decided to go ahead a few weeks ago with the blood test. Although it wasn't what I dreamed up, it was not what I expected either. While she has not outgrown her allergy, her levels dropped quite a bit. So she is heading in the right direction and that's all I can really ask for. Her doctor will retest her in about 6 months or so.

The reason I opted to do it now is because a negative blood test does not mean we can go home and feed her dairy. After a negative blood test comes a skin prick test (where they prick your skin with some dairy and interpret the reaction). If she passed that, we would do a food challenge in the doctor's office. I can't give details on it, b/c we've never done it. But basically she would be given dairy (most likely milk if she would drink it) and wait a while, then give a tiny bit more, wait, etc. It means hours spent at the doctor's office but it's the safest place to do a challenge. It's not something that should EVER be done at home. With preschool looming in September, I wanted the time to get through all the testing so I knew what we had to deal with then or not.

At least now I know that she's still allergic and will fight through the growing anxiety over preschool and buckle down to organize my thoughts/questions for her allergist (we'll see him next Saturday). I am enlisting him in organizing guidelines for the school and an emergency action plan. There are a lot of issues to address and lots of meetings to request with the school. But we've picked one that is not only what we wanted academically (it's a Montessori preschool) but they said all the right things with regard to her allergies. So I have hope.

The thought of sending her off into the care of someone else surrounded with preschoolers eating dairy snacks and drinking open cups of milk absolutely terrifies me. But I know it's unavoidable. I don't want her missing out on the experience of preschool and especially a Montessori preschool education. So we will deal and cope.

My hope is that she really does outgrow her allergy. And if not, then I hope we raise her with the awareness and the respect of what the risks are for her. I don't want her to be afraid of every situation even though I know those situations will come up. I hope I can be a good enough Mom to empower her to take care of herself as she gets older when I can't be with her. And J and I hope that she will understand her allergies and that we help her to be secure enough in the wonderful girl she is to stand up to the food allergy bullies that she is inevitably going to encounter (yes there are kids that threaten food allergic kids with the very food they are allergic to). We are taking this age by age and we don't hide her allergies from her but we talk to her in terms she, as an almost 3 year old (yikes) can understand. And I'm sure when I drop her off at preschool, I'll have to leave Alysa home b/c I won't want to endanger her by having her in a car with a hysterical Mom.

But most importantly I don't want anyone (including her) to pitty her or us. She is a wonderful, silly, beautiful little girl who is so full of life. I would not trade her for anyone. I won't say I am happy she is allergic or even that I enjoy all the changes (although some are not bad - the girls eat much healthier and less crappily processed foods), but she is worth every sacrifice and inconvenience. And she really has not "felt" her allergy at this point. She loves cakes and cupcakes ice cream and cookies - they are just more expensive than everyone else's. ;) And believe me - all our parties are dairy free and I never get anything but rave reviews for the food and the cakes. So believe me when I say this stuff tastes great! She has a normal life as a soon-to-be preschooler with lots of room for exploration and play, friends, parties, gymnastics and plenty of adventures - we just have to tweak a few things.

I hope I have been able to give a glimpse into our lives and give some of you a better understanding of food allergies. Food allergies are unknown to so many and education is the only way to help other understand. Even for us, I know how "easy" we have it at times as there are many children with multiple food allergies and we "only" have one food to avoid. I have enjoyed your comments and appreciate your thoughts and encouragement.

posted at 10:19 AM  

Saturday Photo Hunt
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This week's theme is Cooked/ing.

Here are my first 2 attempts at cake baking/decorating. Due to Kayla's allergy, I make all their cakes. Dora was my first and Alysa's was my 2nd. I'm currently in a cake decorating class so I can actually get good at it. I have already learned so much in only 2 classes.

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Alysa's Disney Princess
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To view other Saturday Photo Hunts go here.

posted at 9:24 AM  

Friday, May 18, 2007
Managing Kayla's Food Allergy
I apologize in advance for the length. And I'm sure I even left some stuff out. Sometimes I forget all the changes we have made - I have grown so accustomed to the way things are.

As a FAM or Food Allergy Mom I get a lot of comments/questions wondering “How I do it”. It’s honestly a question I can’t answer. I just do.

First, let me give a little food allergy background. Food allergies are not like environmental allergies. What I mean by this is that the ONLY “treatment” for food allergies is complete avoidance of the offending food. You can’t take antihistamines and eat whatever you want. The more exposure you have to the food, the worse the reaction can and will get. This progression can happen slowly or very fast. What is an “innocent” reaction one time, can be a life-threatening reaction the next time. Hives (which Kayla gets) is considered a precursor to anaphylactic shock (when you stop breathing). So we live as if she is one exposure away from not being able to breathe – because she very well could be. Most food allergies can be outgrown, but the key to that is also complete avoidance. We obviously take this VERY seriously.

I will admit that when Kayla was first diagnosed I was totally overwhelmed. I had no clue what table food to feed her so for a few months I just kept her on baby food. She was only 9 months old and was perfectly happy with this. Kayla would eat anything and everything out of a jar. So it worked for us. Because I was able to delay table food introduction (aside from wheat toast and crackers), our learning curve was slow in the beginning. Two months after her reaction we were visiting friends whose daughter is 7 months older than Kayla. She was eating cheese doodles. Now, I knew Kayla had a contact reaction, so I just figured I’d follow her around and make sure she didn’t take the cheese doodles. I should have known how fast Toddlers are. Before I could stop her my gf’s daughter touched Kayla’s back with her cheese-doodle-crumbed hand (they were in bathing suits). I immediately cleaned Kayla off, but it was too late – hives broke out on her back. Now I have gotten a lot of surprise from people b/c they think cheese doodles use “fake” cheese. No, they do not – they are real dairy. I knew she’d react to them, but like I said, I was on such a learning curve that I never dreamt to ask that no cheese doodles be put out. I learned my lesson that day. And Kayla has not had contact with dairy since that day (almost 2 years ago) and therefore has had no dairy-related reactions (*knock*on*wood*).

J and I have completely changed our household, what we eat and how we live. You are talking about 2 people who LOVE dairy. I used to drink over 3 gallons of milk a week plus cheese-cheese-cheese! We would have some kind of dairy in every meal. That has all changed. We are not a completely dairy-free household, but we are very close to it. We do have milk in the house, but it is kept in the garage fridge and it is not uncommon for me now to have to throw out spoiled milk. Cheese is a rare treat for us now. We do not allow anyone outside me and J to bring dairy into the house or eat anything dairy in the house. All our parties are dairy-free. J and I won’t eat any dairy unless Kayla is sleeping

After the few months I took to hide behind jarred baby food, I buckled down and did the research I needed to do. And now, it’s just my daily living. I know what names dairy hides behind in ingredient lists (there are many and you can read this list here). I can easily substitute for dairy in baking and cooking. The only item I have not found a suitable substitute for is cheese. I have all sorts of safe foods and snacks that the girls eat. Soy makes this very easy (assuming it’s safe – 50% of dairy allergic kids are also allergic to soy). Kayla drinks soy milk and eats soy yogurt and soy ice cream. She loves tofu lasagna and pizza without cheese. She loves dark chocolate and eats chocolate chip cookies. There are a lot of companies that make all sorts of allergen-safe foods. And when dairy can hide in all kinds of foods like hot dogs, lunch meats, chicken strips, pretzels, even soy cheese etc, this is a wonderful thing. We have to check the ingredients EVERY time we buy something. Manufacturers change their ingredients often, so even if we are buying multiple packages of the same item, we read every box every time we buy. So our grocery shopping time has drastically increased along with our food bill. I also then will check the list when I’m putting it away and then again when I am opening the package. You can never be too careful – we are human and accidents can happen. We also have to worry about cross-contamination. I can only buy her prepackaged lunchmeat, not only so I can read the ingredients but with the deli, the slicer may have touched cheese or put cheese on a meat slicer even if they shouldn't. I make a lot of phone calls to manufacturers checking on ingredients and their cleaning practices for plants or lines that manufacture dairy products.

I am a woman of convenience – I don’t like to return things to a store unless absolutely necessary. I try to do one-stop shopping wherever possible. Kayla’s allergy is nothing if not inconvenient. We now regularly shop at different food stores plus on-line food shopping for more specialty items. And the cost really adds up. Specialty food is expensive, so our budget certainly feels the strain. But, like with anything else we have adjusted and it’s just part of our normal life and routine.

Aside from reacting if she ingests dairy, Kayla is contact-reactive meaning she reacts if it touches her skin. This adds a whole different level to her allergy. We not only have to watch what goes into her mouth, but also what she touches. This means asking friends to wash their kids’ hands at parties before they play with Kayla and washing our hands and mouths after eating anything dairy or anything that could contain dairy. The one time recently that J and I went to the movies, we changed in the garage and put our clothes right in the washing machine. When out, we don’t let anyone touch her without washing up first. This makes taking her places outside the home especially frightening and I will admit that I have stayed away from places and events due to her allergy. I try really hard not to raise her in a bubble, but it’s a really delicate balancing act and a very difficult one. I have still taken her to festivals and shows (Dora, Diego & Elmo) and of course birthday parties. But I also try to limit them and spread them out to limit her potential exposure as much as I can. I have some wonderful friends that make play dates easy as they go out of their way to help accommodate Kayla. And I’ve had others who are not so cooperative forcing me to pull back a bit.

Taking her places does get stressful. I feel a lot of anxiety leading up to parties and outings. I can’t take her to parties by myself since I can’t watch Alysa, the mini Tasmanian Devil and keep an eye on Kayla at all times all at the same time. So if J can not come, then I draft my Mom and if she can’t go, I don’t go. It makes me sad when this happens, but I literally have to be glued to Kayla’s side at all times so she won’t touch something or put something in her mouth. But this too, even the anxiety is a normal part of our lives. Once I even had to leave a play place b/c of their set-up in relation to their snack area. Talk about a heartbreaking moment – Kayla saw where we were and was devastated to leave without playing.

On a day-to-day basis, especially when we are at home, we don’t even feel it anymore. There is no strain or stress. We have our kitchen organized around her needs and it works. We have Benadryl and her epi-pens in our kitchen within easy reach and another set with her things for when we leave the house. She wears a Medic-Alert bracelet in case we can’t talk for her. I know to those that don’t live it everyday it seems like we must go through chaos each day trying to feed her and keep her away from dairy. But it’s really not like that.

Aside from the things you’d expect, like the change in diet and way of life, we have had some other very scary “side effects” from Kayla’s allergy. Had I known then what I know now, I would have kept Kayla on formula when she turned 1. But we put her on soy milk. The problem is soy milk doesn’t have nearly enough fat in it compared to whole milk or formula. So that mixed with the huge learning curve and a Toddler who didn’t want to eat any meats or fat or protein foods coupled with not being able to eat dairy equaled disaster. She entered the zone of FTT or Failure to Thrive from her lack of weight gain. She even faced hospitalization at one point. It was a terrifying time for us. In the end, she ended up in feeding therapy (done by a speech therapist) who helped us get Kayla to eat more foods that she should (she would not go anywhere near formula at that point). We also had her on a calorie supplement for over 1.5 years (another hit to the budget). She was also re-diagnosed with GERD (aka reflux disease) a year ago and her medication made a world of difference. She is no longer on the calorie supplement but we do give her Flax Seed Oil daily to increase her fat intake. But comparably speaking, - she now eats better than other toddlers I know. She has a wide range of meats that she eats and eats quite a few veggies (although these come slower). And she will usually try anything even if she then tells me “I don’t like it Mommy. Kayla not have to eat that”. It was a long road, but she is now a healthy 26 pounds (yes, she’s still thin) and looks healthy. And that’s all a Mother can ask for.

At this point, I’ll bet you’re wondering what we do with Alysa. As far as we know Alysa has no food allergies. But…up to this point, she has not had dairy. She started out on milk-based formula, but her reflux and need for the hypoallergenic formula was, in some ways, a good thing as with how much she spit up there would have been no way to manage it with Kayla. Kayla has been spit up on numerous times. We held off on milk introduction due to Kayla’s allergy and Alysa’s higher chance of food allergies. We were even more conservative with her food introduction. Because Alysa still spit up a lot at the age of 1 year, we switched her to a soy toddler formula. I could not risk her spitting up whole milk on Kayla. So to this day, Alysa is still dairy-free. But with Kayla’s problems with poor weight gain, I did not want to give Alysa soy milk. At this point, I can’t say when I will introduce Alysa to dairy. I’d like to start giving her cheese, etc but Kayla thinks nothing of disobeying J and me and climbing across the kitchen table to grab whatever Alysa has in front of her. So we are nervous about it. But I know if Kayla does not outgrow this, that day will have to come. When Alysa has to come off the formula, I don’t want to jeopardize her health and growth by giving her something that lacks what she needs.

Like any crisis/life changing event, Kayla’s food allergy has changed me. I am much more aware of what I and my girls eat when out of the house. I can’t avoid bringing any food out of the house that contains one of the Top 8 Allergens, but I can do what I can to limit the risk of exposure to another child or person. I won’t let them drink soy milk outside of the house or car. I bring water only into places, unless it’s a restaurant (which is a VERY rare occurance in our home). I only bring foods that do not break apart easily to limit the crumbs. I’ll bring fruit or raisins or stick with cheerios or teddy grahams instead of large crackers. And of course, I am extremely conscious of them dropping anything. I would never dream of leaving food on the ground like I have seen so many mothers do. I can’t manage all potential food allergens, but I hope that I make it easier for other Moms and their food allergic kids. And even when I’m not at home and not with Kayla, I will find myself checking the ingredients lists of foods that I am eating. It is just a natural part of dealing with food for us.

At this point with her being only 2 ½, Kayla doesn’t know what she is missing. She knows she is allergic to dairy and that she wears an “allergy bracelet”, but she doesn’t understand. We tell her dairy makes her sick, but it’s an abstract concept for her. In her world, she eats, cake and cupcakes and ice cream and drinks soy milk. She can have chocolate and hot dogs and lunchmeat (only prepackaged) like other kids. She just doesn’t know what we go through to make sure those things are safe for her. And when we do go to parties, I make sure to bring similar safe foods to what they are having and a safe cupcake for her. “Thanks” to her favorite cartoon Dora, she does know what an Ice Cream Truck is. And the few times she’s heard him come around this spring, she has gotten excited. So we may have some difficulty with that one. I know that won’t be the last time she will feel the strain of her allergy. I just hope that J and I do our job right and raise her to be strong and understand her food allergies so she is able to take care of herself as she gains more and more independence. And I hope that her limitations have the smallest emotional and mental impact on her as possible.

posted at 4:10 PM  

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Lactose Intolerance vs Dairy Allergy

I have encountered many people who confuse Lactose Intolerance with a Dairy Allergy. So I figured this was the perfect time to post about the difference.

A person with a food intolerance will have an adverse reaction to a food but it does NOT involve the immune system. Someone who is lactose intolerant lacks the enzyme that is needed to break down the sugar in milk known as lactose. The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be gas, bloating and abdominal pain. A person with lactose intolerance CAN drink milk – those I’ve known drink Lactaid which is true milk, but has the lactose taken out.

A food allergy involves the immune system. Basically when someone eats the food, in this case dairy, the body’s immune system mistakes the food as a threat and creates an immune system response – attacking the offending food. A food allergy has the potential to be life-threatening. Signs of a true food allergy can be any or all of the following:

• a tingling sensation in the mouth
• swelling of the tongue and the throat
• difficulty breathing
• hives
• Vomiting
• abdominal cramps
• diarrhea
• drop in blood pressure
• loss of consciousness to death

Symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after the person has eaten or has contact with the food to which they are allergic.

It is also important to note that where Lactose intolerance people have trouble breaking down the sugar in milk, a person allergic to dairy reacts to the proteins in milk.

Source: Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network

posted at 11:34 AM  

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Thursday Thirteen #24
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13 Facts about Food Allergies

1. Scientists are reporting an increase in food allergies over the past decade. In particular, peanut allergies among young children doubled between 1997 and 2002.
2. Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies, with 6.9 million allergic to seafood and 3.3 million allergic to peanuts or tree nuts.
3. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) outside the hospital setting.
4. Eight foods account for 90% of all reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, etc.), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
5. There is no cure for food allergy. Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to prevent a reaction.
6. Food allergic reactions result in over 30,000 emergency room visits each year.
7. It is estimated that between 150 and 200 people die annually from anaphylaxis to food; including children and young adults.
8. Approximately 2.2 million school-aged children have food allergy.
9. One in every 17 children under the age of 3 has food allergy.
10. Milk allergy is one of the most common in young infants, with 2-3% of children under three years of age allergic to cow's milk proteins.
11. Trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Patients should be on guard for hidden ingredients (such as milk or peanuts) in unsuspected places such as candy, baked goods, trail mixes, sauces, desserts, and gravies, just to name a few.
12. Medications can even contain dairy (Prevacid Solutabs is one example).
13. Virtually all infants who develop cow's milk allergy do so in the first year of life, with about 80% ‘outgrowing' their milk allergy by their fifth birthday. Nearly 25% of these milk-allergic infants retain their sensitivity into the second decade of life, and 35% go on to develop other food allergies.

Source: Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network & AllergicChild.com

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

posted at 8:30 PM  

How to Read a Label for a Milk-Free Diet
In continuation of my Food Allergy Awareness Week Theme, the following is the list of ingredients that dairy hides in. EVERY time we buy a product, J and I have to check the ingredients list for dairy. Ingredients can and do change frequently and without warning (we've had this happen). Even if we buy multiple packages of the same item, we check every package.

Derived from Dairy
artificial butter flavor
butter, butter fat, butter oil
cottage cheese
half & half
lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate
milk (in all forms - including from goats and other animals)
sour cream, sour cream solids
sour milk solids
whey (in all forms)

May Indicate the Presence of Milk
(we make many phone calls to manufacturers)
caramel candies
flavorings (including natural and artificial)
high protein flour
lactic acid starter culture
luncheon meat, hot dogs, sausages
non-dairy products
(yes non-dairy creamer has dairy in it)

More Allergy Posts to come...

posted at 9:47 AM  

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Wordless Wednesday
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Hop on over to WW to see more great photos.

posted at 10:00 PM  

Monday, May 14, 2007
Mother's Day
I had a nice Mother's Day. J took off from work as he always does. My parents came down in the morning and J made us all a big breakfast/brunch. He did all the cooking and all the cleaning up. Always nice. Our breakfast consisted of eggs, banana pancakes, bacon and sausage. And of course - it was all dairy-free. Kayla ate like gangbusters (it was their lunch). She had 2 whole pancakes, some eggs, 2 pieces of bacon and some strawberries. Alysa, didn't do so well. She ate 2 pieces of bacon, a half of yogurt and some strawberries - she would not touch her pancakes or eggs. Can't say I blame her on going for the bacon though. :)

After brunch, the girls went down for their nap (well, Alysa did - Kayla never napped). My Dad put in my hot water dispenser which we've had for a year sitting in our garage. I'm excited that it's finally up - now I don't have to store a tea pot anymore. Yay!

After their naps, we took the girls miniature golfing for the first time. I'm sure you can imagine that they preferred the obstacle course that was the golf course more than playing golf. But it was a beautiful day and they had a lot of fun. After golf, we went to an awesome playground by us and then home to have a cook-out and more outdoor fun. Again, Kayla ate great - potato chips while Daddy was grilling, then a whole hot dog, some baked beans (refused potato salad) and a whole piece of Apple Kuchen Coffee Cake. Thanks Michelle! Alysa? In between the slide and swings and just generally running around the yard like a mad-Toddler, she ate some potato chips and 2 bites of hot dog. I am guessing we won't be doing much eating outside this summer. LOL

I can't say I got any downtime, but I enjoyed my time with my family. We don't get many days with J home with us, so I enjoy what we can get. Here are some pictures of our day.

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Me and the girls...
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Kayla golfing...
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Alysa golfing...
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The Girls getting into trouble...
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Alysa having fun with Daddy...
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Me and Kayla...
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The girls back home waiting for dinner...
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Here is a video that I took with my camera. It's the first time Alysa actually sat on the big girl swing and held on. Keep in mind that she had been swinging all by herself with my Dad pushing her for at least 5 minutes b4 I starting filming.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day!

posted at 8:40 PM  

Mommy Talk #5

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This Week's Question is:
Did you find out the sex of your baby? Why or why not? Honest...did you have what you were hoping for?

I found out the sex with both girls. I am very impatient so I did not want to wait, plus I'm a huge planner. I really wanted the nursery decorated the right way and I didn't want all yellow and green clothes. :) I know some people say they wanted the surprise - but in the u/s's we were on the edge of our seats and were surprised to find out then.

It worked out the best with Kayla. She was our first and up until the u/s, J didn't really see much. He couldn't feel her move yet and I wasn't showing too much. So it hadn't "hit him" yet. But once we knew she was a girl - she was named that night (I knew her name for months b4 I was pg - our boy name was also picked out), he totally changed. I could see the instant bond. It was finally real for him. He became so protective of her. It really helped him bond to her as a person. It was very sweet to see the change. With Alysa, he knew what to expect, so the bonding happened much earlier.

We had no preference with either pregnancy. J used to want a boy then a girl. But infertility really solidified us just wanting a healthy baby. I truly couldn't pick a preference - I wanted a girl and a boy for the same and different reasons. And J loves having daughters, although I know he'd have just as much fun with sons, as would I. I also loved referring to them both by name from the moment we had the u/s.

We had many u/s's with both girls in the first trimester (every 1-2 weeks) due to my high risk status. But after that it was at 20 weeks, and then we paid to have private 3D u/s's done with each pregnancy. Both girls came out looking just like their pictures. We could tell in-utero that Kayla was all her Daddy.

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I won't inundate you with all the other u/s pics. ;)

posted at 5:05 PM  

Kayla's Allergy Diagnosis
So it's officially Food Allergy Awareness Week. As I stated last week, I will take this week to do some posts on Kayla's allergy. For my first - I will tell you how she was diagnosed.

Kayla has been allergic to dairy since she was born, but was not officially diagnosed until she was 9 months old. As those who've been here before know, Kayla was an IVF baby - but once I got past the high risk portion of my pregnancy, I had a picture-perfect pregnancy. Surprisingly (aside from the hormone issues of maintaining an early pregnancy), my body does pregnancy very well. She was 2 days early and I had an uncomplicated delivery. She was the picture of health. The first week was the typical newborn honeymoon period. All she did was eat and sleep. She wanted to sleep long hours at night from the beginning. We were even told by her Ped that we needed to wake her to feed her, since she went over 5 hours at night the first few nights. [Let's say - I didn't follow this advise with Alysa]. At about a week of age, this all change. She started to get very irritable during feedings - she would pull away from the bottle and cry and would cry for short intervals after eating. [At this point she was getting a mix of bre*st milk and formula - she ended up solely on formula at 3 weeks of age b/c my body - due to the hormonal problems I just didn't produce, well, barely anything]. Within a week, she would scream for 2-3 hours after EVERY feeding - and when she would eat every 2-3 hours, well - you get the picture. She was diagnosed with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)at 1 1/2 weeks. We first tried non-medical intervention - changed her formula to a hypoallergenic one, raised her bassinet so she slept on an angle, thickened her formula and held her upright for 20 minutes after every feeding. None of it helped. There were times I'd have to feed her again b4 the crying stopped. At the age of 2 weeks and 3 days, we ended up in the ER b/c she refused to eat AT ALL. It was at night and her Ped knew she needed medication but could not prescribe it w/o her being seen. She was way too little to skip a feeding.

She was put on Zantac and we ended up seeing specialist. She was so bad that when she finally started to coo (she was hardly ever not in pain, so she cooed rarely), that you could hear that her voice was horse. At 2 1/2 months she had an Upper Endoscopy (a camera down her throat) to rule out a physical reason and to see the extent of the damage. Luckily nothing major was found - but she was still bad. She finally started to outgrow the GERD (or so we though) at 4 months (she was rediagnosed with it at 18 months). This was a very hard 4 months for us. Aside from the typical newborn wakings and exhaustion, we would take turns pacing the floors with an inconsolable baby. And the cry was so intense there was no doubt to the pain she was in. My heart broke for her. There were many nights that I would just sit there and cry with her.

She also got eczema over that winter. In a lot of food allergy cases, eczema is a symptom. Although I had no idea and food allergies had never entered my mind.

At 8 months, I was told by a nurse at her Ped's office that it was ok to introduce cheese and yogurt. We had not introduced fruits and vegetables until she was 6 months old. She had a couple bites of cheese twice and then when I gave her yogurt, her face broke out in hives around her mouth within minutes of eating the yogurt. Knowing what it was, I had called her Ped (it was a Sunday). A few hours later, she vomited. J and I watched her over the course of the next few hours for breathing difficulties, but she did not have to be seen that day. The Ped we saw that day said he wasn't convinced it was an allergy b/c the hives were concentrated (completely irrelevant), so he wanted me to try again in a few days. That did not sit well with me, so a week later I put a tiny amount of yogurt on her arm and she did indeed break out. That was enough evidence for me. At her 9 month check-up her Ped (the one she regularly sees) had her blood tested for dairy and soy. Soy was negative and dairy was positive. We were then sent to an allergist.

We were happy to have a positive blood test, especially since food allergy testing can be very inaccurate. There are a lot of false negatives and positives. We obviously had no doubt she was allergic from her reaction, but it's good to have the medical back-up. Almost a year later her Ped prescribed epi pens just in case. Allergic reactions only get worse with more exposure - it can go from an "innocent" reaction one time to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction the next with NO warning.

Looking back her GERD early on was most likely from her dairy allergy. It wasn't completely caused by her allergy b/c she still has GERD and she has had no contact with dairy since June of 2005. But I wish I knew then so we could have helped her sooner.

To this day, Kayla has never had a life-threatening reaction, but food allergies by their nature are potentially life-threatening. And with her being contact reactive, it makes things even more sticky. So we take every precaution that we can. But I'll get more into that in another post.

Here's a pic of my Little Kayla at 8 months after eating the yogurt...
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posted at 9:45 AM  

Friday, May 11, 2007
Our Nightmare
I have refrained from posting this story as I didn’t want to talk about it until it was all said and done. It is now over, so here goes.

Let me tell you a little story about a Boy:

Boy meets Girl. Boy falls head over heals for Girl. Boy marries Girl. Immediately following their honeymoon, Boy is diagnosed with Cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to be exact. Boy goes through 6 months of Chemotherapy. During Chemo, Boy continues to work 2 jobs so Girl can still party and shop and have huge cellular phone bills. Boy gets a clean bill of health after 6 months of Chemo. Immediately following clean bill of health Girl tells Boy she has been cheating on him and has a Boyfriend. Boy and Girl separate and Divorce. Boy falls in love with Wonderful Girl, marries her and has 2 beautiful, amazing, adorable, sweet…(you get the idea) little Girls. Boy and Wonderful Girl and family live happily every after, never having to think about Yucky Girl again, right? WRONG!

That little story is about J and it’s a true story even if it is the cliff notes version. You’d think that with no children together, he and his first wife should have never seen or heard of each other again. That is what we thought it would be like. But that’s not how it went. Almost 2 years ago (it will be 2 years in June), I was at home and had a girlfriend over. Kayla was napping and I was 3 months pregnant with Alysa. All was good, until I opened our mail. First let me say that I handle the finances in the family. I do the bills, etc. And I open and look at everything – even every piece of perceived junk mail before shredding it. In the mail was an envelope from Chase which, I of course assumed was a solicitation for a credit application. Thankfully I opened it and read it. It was a letter from Chase to J thanking him for his credit application. It let him know that they were processing it and if this letter was “in error”, to please contact them. I remember thinking – J wouldn’t apply for a credit card w/o me knowing. I called J and gave him the information so he could call Chase – of course he told me that he had NOT applied for a Chase card. So as to not drag this out too much, J’s ex-wife (who apparently STILL had his social security number), had applied for a Chase credit card in HIS name and put herself down as his current WIFE and as an authorized user.

It then became a mad dash to put fraud alerts on J’s credit reports as well as get copies of all 3 immediately. I also got his credit scores. The next day we got a letter from Discover saying they put a freeze on his account due to charging activity that did not match his history. J did not have a Discover card. [Side note – medical bills and his ex’s habit of running up major bills put J very behind in his bills, especially since everything was in his name. So she had destroyed his credit while they were married and after. It took us years to repair the damage, but we had. I had even been told the fall before this all happened that we BOTH had excellent credit – this had been music to my ears.] We were devastated to see the extent of the damage. She had applied for over 20 credit cards all within a 1-2 week time period in May of 05 and from that alone, his credit score was destroyed. She applied for all of them over the internet. Chase had approved the credit card but we were lucky enough that Chase had not yet mailed out the credit cards. They have EXCELLENT fraud precautions in place. She put her address on the account, but as protection, Chase mails the letter we got to the last 2 addressed listed on his credit report which is how we got it. Discover approved the application instantly AND gave her INSTANT access to the credit – allowing her to run up apx $2,000 in debt. Luckily or as far as we know, no other cards were issued. But she was also able to obtain a Verizon Wireless cell phone and run up over $500 in cell phone charges in a matter of weeks. This is the scariest because the cell phone was in HER name with J’s social security number. Apparently Verizon did not even LOOK at the report they got. Yes, we knew that we were not legally responsible for the money, but it was devastating to us and the most devastating part was that the credit score J and I had worked so hard to restore was once again destroyed. And in a world where we rely heavily on these numbers from 3 companies, it’s a huge blow – even your insurance rates are dependent on good credit.

Yes, we were lucky that we caught this early – thanks to Chase. So you’d think b/c we caught it early AND we knew who it was that it would be easy to fix and easy to catch her, right? WRONG! Identity Theft is known to be the fastest growing crime, yet no one in law enforcement will take it seriously. We went to our police and were told it’s not their problem; we had to file a report in her town. J went there and was told to go to our police department. He did and filed a report. A few days later when no detective contacted us, I called. I was treated horribly and was told it’s not a violent crime so it was “no big deal”. Again, we were told to go to her town. J did and FINALLY got a report done. But in the mean time, she had no idea we knew and she could continue to charge and do damage. So we hired an attorney. He wrote letters to the police and prosecutor to aid in getting us information – of course to no avail. But most importantly, he wrote a letter to J’s Ex and told her to cease and desist. At least now she knew we knew.

But this became an ongoing struggle with the Prosecutor. They did finally pick up our case. Again, her name was on the applications and she even made in-person charges, so if they had worked fast they could have had eye witnesses to prove it was her. But no – they dragged their feet. We were also lucky b/c when they did finally bring her in for questioning she admitted it. Then of course, why would the companies involved cooperate? Oh, that’s right b/c they want to cover themselves and they don’t care about the law-abiding citizens that they hurt with their ignorance. So Verizon dragged their feet in giving the Prosecutor the paperwork.

In the end, she was arrested and charged (and she plead guilty) with a whole slew of charges for fraud, identity theft and some others. There was even an article – a REAL article – not just a paragraph blurb about her indictment – in the local papers. If she were to get sentenced on each one of the charges individually she would spend years 46 years in jail and have fines in the amount of $160,000. She was sentenced today – finally – after almost 2 years, which is why I’m now comfortable writing about this. She got 364 days in jail, then 2 years of probation, and she has to pay back the companies she defrauded (of course to get our money back we have to take her to small claim’s court – again, the victim doesn’t matter), plus fines which total in excess of $12,000.

And of course, this all couldn’t end with her arrest and the notification to the companies that this was an identity theft situation. Discover ultimately sent J to collections on the charges. Even though they KNEW it was from fraud. We were even told to PAY and then recoup from Discover. Um…yeah, when H*** freezes over. So that was more time out of our lives clearing up the collections issues and getting that off his credit report. And it will be 7 years until all the applications will be removed and his credit fully restored. Of course, we try to get them removed, but you try getting a person at the credit reporting agencies and letters don’t do much b/c you get cookie cutter responses.

So we have done all we can. J and I have now frozen our credit reports. Meaning that no one can access them unless we specifically give them permission. This is not allowed in every state, but New Jersey allows it. And luckily they allow everyone to do it. Meaning that the police would not let J put me down as a victim even though I am. Did she not label herself as his wife, therefore also stealing MY identity? Am I not just as legally responsible for any debts of J’s? But since I’m not on the police report, I’m not considered a victim. So mine is frozen, but each time we need credit, I have to pay to open mine temporarily. But it is a small price to pay to protect our reputation and family. So our lives have been forever changed by her despicable act. She stole from us – she stole J’s name, my identity and our time and money. She destroyed J’s good name. She deserved nothing less than jail time.

With Identity Theft being the fastest growing crime, law enforcement and the justice system really need to catch up. It’s an extremely serious crime. We were lucky that we caught it early AND we knew who was doing the damage. Others are not as lucky and have much more damage done – damage that can take years to correct as well as thousands of dollars. We again were lucky that it “only” cost us over $500 – but that does not include our time, future time and future money spent to open my credit reports. With insurance changes, college, weddings, and everyday life events – it’s unreasonable to say it won’t be costly going forward. And unfortunately I firmly believe that things won’t be taken as seriously as they need to unless someone other than the criminal are held somewhat responsible. And I don’t mean the victims. I mean the companies. Chase took a very easy step in ensuring the validity of the application and I will be forever grateful (I am now a Chase card customer). In the age of internet applications – it is irresponsible of companies like Discover to give instant credit over the internet with NO proof of identity. Honestly, they deserver to be out the money, but in actuality, the stores may very well be forced to eat those costs which is unfair as from their standpoint, she had the card and was listed as a valid user. And Verizon? Her name and his social security number? Need I say more? I believe that these companies (not Chase) need to be held accountable for the part they had in the damage to J – Discover still even tried to collect from him and in doing so hurt his credit score even more. These companies need to take this seriously and protect their customers. In doing so, they would also save themselves money.

So in light of our experience I am offering up some free advice. I highly suggest getting copies of your credit reports each year – some states mandate that you can get them for free once a year from the three reporting agencies. They are Experian, Equifax (800/685-1111) and are TransUnion (877/322-8228).

Check all the accounts for validity. Also, check your children’s. Another fast growing part of identity theft is stealing those of children. It’s the “perfect” crime b/c it will in most cases not be discovered until they are 18 and by then the damage could be extensive and irreversible.

I also suggest guarding your social security number with your life. Don’t carry your card. Don’t give out the number unless you ABSOLUTELY have to. Doctors don’t need it – I never put it down, the girls’, mine or J’s. Unless a company legally needs it or really has to access my credit score, I won’t give it out.

Invest in a good shredder. I shred anything and everything with our name and address. Of course I know there are some things that get through – like I can’t force others to shred my return address on envelopes. But I do what I can. I even tear labels off packages I received and shred them. I shred all junk mail with our names and address. I am so very careful when it comes to that stuff.

And I recommend looking into ID Theft insurance. It can be added on as a Rider to your Home Insurance policy. I don’t think it is that expensive. But check first with your policy – in January of 2006 (after all this happened to us), my home insurance company added ID Theft insurance to all their policies. So we now have it w/o needing an additional Rider. So we’re good if it happens again, but it’s too late for our costs incurred from this time. Let’s hope there is no next time.

After all that – I apologize for the lengthy post – we are glad this ordeal is finally over. Well, at least the part where we are waiting for her to be punished. We will forever have to look over our shoulders. We can’t let our guard down b/c she has his social security number memorized and she could have given it to anyone. But we have done the best we can to protect ourselves going forward. And we will do the best we can to protect the credit of our girls and the life we are trying to give them.

posted at 10:13 PM  

Saturday Photo Hunt
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This week's theme is Five.

The 5 cousins - before my 4th nephew was born last week...
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To view other Saturday Photo Hunts go here.

posted at 10:10 PM  

Thursday, May 10, 2007
Another Page
Here is another page I made tonight while J was mowing the lawn. I did this while listening to Kayla chatter away in her bed. Very good motivation.

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I used a kit from Lindsay Jane Designs. It's her Pink Candy kit from May 8th.

Let me know what you think.

posted at 9:44 PM  

And Carpenter Ants make...how many?
Yes, according to the over-the-phone evaluation from our Termite company, we very well may have Carpenter Ants. Now, we have a yearly contract with a company who inspects for termites and we pay for this, so if we get termites, we won't end up with thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. But...this warranty ONLY includes termites. So now we have to pay them up to $250 to treat the disgusting little critters. They say it's most likely the ants b/c the sawdust flakes are large. And of course they can't get out with their bug goggles and chemicals until May 25th. So we'll be sharing our home for the next 2 weeks with these little critters that completely freak me out. I can't stand bugs.

And the best part is they are in the girls' playroom. So I'm waiting to receive information on the chemical they will use so I now how long I have to kick my kids out of their play area.

I just hope the damage isn't too extensive - although I don't even know how we'd figure that out without taking the wall down. Ugh!!!

posted at 9:39 AM  

Thursday Thirteen #23
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Just 13 of the Many Things I Love About Being a Mom

1. I love that I created (with the help of J of course and some doctors…) these 2 little people.
2. I love Big Squeezie hugs.
3. I love to kiss the soft, warm cheeks fresh from sleep.
4. I love to hear them call me Mommy.
5. I love the pure excitement when Daddy comes home from work.
6. I love being responsible for taking care of 2 little people.
7. I love the things they come up with and say.
8. I love sleepy cuddles right after they’ve woken up.
9. I love to hear that they look like me or J.
10. I love sweet Toddler kisses – wetness and all.
11. I love to see the world through their eyes – they don’t take anything for granted yet.
12. I love to wonder what is going through their minds at any given moment.
13. I love to hear their laughter and know that I have 2 happy kids.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

posted at 8:03 AM  

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Purse Meme
So I'm a COMPLETE slacker. Back in April Janeen tagged me for the Purse Meme and i COMPLETELY forgot about it. I came across on another blog yesterday and the light dawned. So I'm doing it now. Sorry Janeen. :)

I have never been one to get away with a small purse - I just carry to darn much with me. I also have never liked purses with a zillion compartments. But...that is what I use now. For a while, I only carried my purse when I was without the kids, but I recently majorly downsized the diaper bag, so there is no more room for my wallet. And since I don't really need a diaper bag on the rare occasions I'm just with Kayla, it was time to get rid of the big bulky bag. But I still need something that I can carry my stuff and her epi pens and I can even squeeze in her portable potty seat in it (yes, only when it's clean). So now I am using a back-pack purse with a zillion compartments. The reason, is that one compartment is the perfect size for my wallet, and the other is the perfect size for her epi pen and benadryl pack. Plus little pockets for all my other junk. Here's my purse and most of it's uneventful contents.

I will tag Jennisa and Carrie.

posted at 10:24 AM  

Wordless Wednesdsay
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*They like the feel of the cold "beer" on their faces & being "like Daddy"*

Hop on over to WW to see more great photos.

posted at 9:42 AM  

Monday, May 07, 2007
My 1st Digi Scrap Page
Instead of traditional scrapbooking, I decided recently to get into digital scrapbooking. It's less expensive, less time consuming and space-saving. Not to mention it's right up my alley since I love doing anything and everything on the computer. I have spent the last couple of weeks researching software and hunting up kits with papers and elements. So...I finally made my first page tonight - the picture is from Easter - Alysa was miserably tired but also quite snuggly.

Let me know what you think. My goal is to make one ongoing family album. Of course, I have a lot of back pages to do since I want to start with Kayla's pregnancy.

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I got the kit for this page from Miss Mint. It's called Lilac Garden - perfect since my favorite color is purple.

posted at 8:00 PM  

Mother's Day Give Away

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It's almost Mother's Day and 5 Minutes for Mom is having a contest just for us Mom's. What better way to celebrate than getting some extra goodies?

Hop on over to check out the contest and enter.

posted at 7:00 PM  

Mommy Talk

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This Week's Question is:
How much weight did you gain (w/ picture...if you brave enough:) and what did you like MOST about pregnancy? What did you like the LEAST?

With Kayla I gained an absurd amount of weight. I had massive swelling starting about 5 months into the pregnancy. Toward the end I had no ankles left and I could only wear flip-flops - thankfully it was a summer pregnancy. I gained about 60 pounds. But I lost 20 of it in the first week b/c it was ALL water weight.

Here's me at 38 weeks - we took pictures every 2 weeks and she was 2 days early, so it's the last picture of me (besides when I was in the hospital).

With Alysa, I "only" gained 47 pounds. This time around I had minimal swelling. I guess I'm just not one to gain the 25 pounds you're supposed to. :)

Here's a picture of me at 39 weeks.

My favorite part about pregnancy was feeling them move. It is amazing to me and it always made me smile. The worst part of pregnancy would have to have been the swelling the peeing constantly and the groin pain at the end. Boy that pain would bring me to my knees at time. I actually didn't mind the weight gain - I loved having a belly. :) And I'm happy to report that I've lost all the weight from both pregnancies and the weight I gained from the drugs of infertility. :)

posted at 2:44 PM  

Sunday, May 06, 2007
Zany Mama tagged me with this Meme. It looks like a lot of fun. My blogging motivation has been lagging the past few days with Kayla suffering from major molar-teething-itis. Hopefully this will jump-start me back into the swing of things. I have lots to read too.

Q. What is your salad dressing of choice?
A. Ceasar

Q. What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
A. Wendy's

Q. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
A. Currently Chili's - I LOVE their Cajun Chicken Pasta

Q. On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
A. 20%

Q. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
A. Corn muffins

Q. What is your favorite type of gum?
A. Anything that doesn't lose its flavor after 2 seconds

Q. What is your wallpaper on your computer?

Q. How many televisions are in your house?
A. 3

Q. What’s your best feature?
A. My eyes? They are green.

Q. Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
A. Only part of the bone in my foot when I had a bunion removed - and some teeth.

Q. Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
A. Hearing.

Q. When was the last time you had a cavity?
A. A couple years ago - well, it wasn't a full blown cavity, but it was heading that way, so my dentist filled it anyway.

Q. What is the heaviest item you lifted last?
A. Kayla - all 26 pounds of her.

Q. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
A. No knocked, but I did lose conscienceness once in a care accident I was in.

Q. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
A. No way!!!

Q. Is love for real?
A. Yup.

Q. If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
A. Not sure.

Q. What color do you think looks best on you?
A. Red - goes with my highlights.

Q. Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
A. Not that I am aware of.

Q. Have you ever saved someone’s life?
A. No.

Q. Has someone ever saved yours?
A. Yes. I was in a car accident 14 years ago - an 18 wheeler ran a red light and hit my car. When my car stopped, I was in the middle of the highway and had no clue - I had just "come to" and had no idea where I was. My boyfriend at the time had been behind me - he ran over to my car and got me out and safely across the highway.

Q. Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000?
A. No - although the money sounds good, I'm

Q. Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100?
A. Can't say that I would.

Q. Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
A. I'll pass on this one too - I like my fingers.

Q. Would you never blog again for $50,000?
A. Yeah - that I would do. I could use the $50,000.

Q. Would you pose nude in a magazine for $250,000?
A. No.

Q. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000?
A. I don't think I could - I like spicey, but not THAT much.

Q. Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
A. No - only if it were to protect my children.

Q. Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?
A. I'd like to say yes, but I'm not sure I could actually do it.

Q. Give up MySpace forever for $30,000?
A. Sure - never been on it.

Q: What is in your left pocket?
A. Nothing - it's empty.

Q: Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
A. Never saw it.

Q: Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A. Both and some ceramic tile.

Q: Do you sit or stand in the shower?
A. Stand.

Q: Could you live with roommates?
A. Yup - I've done it before, but of course, it depends on the roommate.

Q: How many pairs of flip-flops do you own?
A. Uh, about 4.

Q: Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
A. Never had one - well, I've gotten pulled over once if that counts - but I've never gotten a ticket (*knock on wood*).

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. Rich!

Q: Last friend you talked to?
A. J - he's home early today for our wedding anniversary. Besides him, my girlfriend Donna.

Q: Last person you called?
A. My Sister - left her a message and had to hang up on her voicemail b/c Kayla got hurt.

Q: First place you went this morning?
A. Home - we stayed in today. The girls were too cranky to venture out.

Q: What can you not wait to do?
A. Go to sleep tonight - it's been "one of those days".

Q: What’s the last movie you saw?
A. Premonition - yes, it's actually a recent movie - shocking, I know.

Q: Are you a friendly person?
A. I would say so. I try to be friendly and nice to people - but I have my moments. ;)

I will tag...Janeen, Carrie and ...Haley. Have fun girls - I did. If anyone else wants to join in, leave me a comment so I can come by and check it out.

posted at 2:21 PM  

Friday, May 04, 2007
Exhausting Day
I took the girls to the Philadelphia Zoo today with my girlfriend and her 2 boys. Kayla had a blast, but Alysa was a bit on the tired side so she was very cranky and miserable most of the time. And she won't sleep in the stroller, so it was an interesting morning. I had a mini freak-out though. I took Kayla, Seth & Alysa on the train ride and when I was done getting Alysa situated on my lap, I turned and saw Kayla putting something in her mouth and chewing. I freaked out, putting my finger in there and asking her what she ate. She responds - "Oh, a pretzel". So then, as I'm throwing some of the chewed up pieces on the ground outside of the train, I asked her where she got it - as I'm silently praying that it was a leftover piece that she had from earlier. Nope - her response..."Oh, on the floor" as she points to the floor of the train. I was NOT happy and had to scold her about picking things up off the ground and eating them. Even though she's on the Zyrtec, I gave her a dose of Benadryl to be safe. Thankfully she had no reaction.

It was a nice day and I'm glad we went, but of course, it was a food allergen obstacle course, but we made it through. It really wears you thin to have to be so on guard everywhere you go. It can just suck a lot of the enjoyment out of it for me. But the bottom line is that Kayla really enjoyed herself.

Of course they both zonked out on the way home. And I had fun giving really breaking in my new camera. Here are some pics from our day...
Alysa after about 5 minutes in the Zoo.
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Kayla & Seth seeing the elephants.
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Alysa and her 1 excitement of the day - she's saying "Look. Look." She's looking at the Giraffes.
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Me and the girls.
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Kayla & Seth
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In the car sleeping (no I did not take these while driving).
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In other news - J spent the last 2 days replacing the walls to our pool. This was no easy task and took the help of his brother and a friend. The pool is about 25 years old and last summer I noticed a wall "caving in". Let's just say, it was a miracle they had not collapsed. Some of them fell apart when they took them out. Very scary, as it's a 10,000 gallon pool. But it's done now, so I can breathe easy. Here are some pics of the progress. These were taken with my old camera, as I didn't want them dropping my new one in the water. :)

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The one rotted wall>
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The pool with no sides.
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Kayla helping.
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One of the rotten walls.
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One of the brandy new walls.
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All done.
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That's about it for me tonight. I am completely beat.

posted at 7:05 PM  


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