Privileged

February 23, 2010

We collect Delta Privilege points.  Between Chris & Lisa’s wedding & the Tourism Conference among other events, we were eligible for Platinum status this year.  As a Platinum member, we get free room upgrades, free internet, turn-down service, etc. at each stay.  The best bonus is that we “earned” $300 which could be used toward room and/or dining charges.  The only catch is that status in the program may vary from year to year, depending on how often you stay and the year expires on February 28th.  We love the atmosphere & the staff at the Delta Barrington, as well as its convenient location downtown.  We’ve not been disappointed any time we have stayed, and even wrote a glowing review on Trip Advisor for them after our summertime stay.

We got a letter in the mail last month, explaining that the expiry date was coming up, so we looked at the calendar, chose a date, and booked two rooms for Saturday night.  (As a family of six, we no longer fit into one regular hotel room.)  We just put “Surprise” on the calendar for the kids, in case it fell-through, and booked out on Saturday night.  The kids had a wonderful time trying to guess what the surprise would be.

On Friday at suppertime, my parents took the girls to their house for a sleepover so that we could watch the Olympics and get ready in peace.  We lit a fire in the tv room, ate store-bought pizza (a novelty with Olivia out-of-the-house) and pulled out the couch.  D’Arcy marked and we all watched the curling & the skeleton races.  We told the boys what we would be doing the next day and they were happy to hear that we’d decided to dedicate the weekend to our family.  We turned off our computers and just hung out.

Both boys play basketball on Saturday mornings and usually D’Arcy takes them while I stay home with the girls.  Since the girls were with my parents, I planned to go watch the games.  On our way to Evan’s game, we dropped some clothes & snowpants off so that they could go outside & play while they waited.  As I rushed in the door, I discovered a pale-looking Sarah, wrapped up in a blanket on the couch.  My mother informed me that she had been throwing up in the night, but she wasn’t sure if Sarah was sick or had just eaten too much too fast.  I told them I would be back to pick them up in an hour when the game was over and we would decide what to do from there.

Evan’s game was great and he scored a couple of really nice baskets.  Alex was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to watch his game, but I explained that by going home, it would give me time to make lunch and be sure that everything was ready to go.

We got on the road close to 2:00, packed up with more than enough “stuff” for overnight!

Belongings for six of us for 24 hours! It may be the first time in 11.5 years that we've traveled without a stroller!

We had to stop at Canadian Tire along the way to buy water-wings for the girls, the only thing I forgot to pack.  We got to the hotel right at three and got checked in to adjoining rooms.  The concierge remembered us from our stay when Chris & Lisa got married, but I suspect we’re not an easy group to forget!

We got settled in and the girls immediately put their bathing suits on!  We tried to hold them back for a few minutes while we waited for our “welcome tray” of cheese, crackers & fruit.  (Another perk!)

After what seemed like FOREVER, I'm sure, to them, we were ready to head to the pool!

We were too busy having fun to take any photos while at the pool.  We decided that it was the perfect time-of-year to have an overnight (as opposed to March Break) because there were only two other families with similar age children, rather than the teenagers who seem to over-run the place during school holidays.  One family was from here – their little boy had on the same t-shirt from last summer’s basketball camp that our boys did!

After swimming, we all had baths & showers and got ready for dinner.  We peeked into the bar hoping to be able to watch Olympics while we ate, but there were so many reserved tables we headed to the restaurant downstairs instead.  As it turned out, they were expecting a large group, so the dining manager got us a table in the bar afterall!

We had taken the game “Science Diction” with us to play while we waited and all went smoothly.  We had one blip when our kids ordered “Shirley Temples” and I didn’t think to ask what was in them.  Just as Olivia started to sip, I thought to ask if there was pineapple juice in them and of course, there was!  Olivia wasn’t too impressed when we took it away from her, but the server came right back with a safe one and there was no harm done.

It is nerve-wracking to eat out when your child has food allergies, especially at a new place.  We explained her allergies to the server who was very understanding and cautious.  We didn’t ever feel like we were putting her out.  She discussed with the chef what Olivia is allergic to and they sent her a “safe” plate with cheese pizza & cut veggies.  It turned out the dip for the veggies was ranch dressing (egg) – eek! Luckily, it was in a ramekin, so we took it off her plate.  Evan was quick to share the ketchup from his fish & chips and all went well.

The boys, snazzed up for dinner

All four, ready for dinner

The three boys, waiting for our food

The girls weren't quite as co-operative about posing...

Olivia's pizza & veggies

We went back up to the room after supper and got into our pyjamas.  We all piled into our room and watched Olympics while playing “Lotto” (a bingo-type game the girls love).  Although we didn’t take many pictures, Alex got most of the action on his video camera!

Sarah put herself in charge of handing out game pieces, thus rigging the game!

When the time came for Olivia to go to sleep (about 9:15), she wanted me to lie down with her.  I took her into the kids room and we cuddled.  Of course, I fell asleep.  D’Arcy woke me a couple of hours later when he was bringing the rest of our sleeping children into bed!

They were all up bright & early on Sunday morning and were raring to go for a swim.  We swam, got cleaned up & packed up and went downstairs for breakfast (also included as a Delta Privilege members) .  I had taken a safe muffin, some oatmeal & some grapes for Olivia because breakfast is especially nerve-wracking for us.  (Peanut butter & eggs everywhere!)  While the rest of us ate from the buffet, she insisted on Froot Loops (like her sister) and yogurt with apple juice to drink; she had half her muffin from home.

It was about 11:30 by this time, so we checked out and headed to Costco for a few things.  The boys really wanted to use some money they’d saved to buy the Winter Olympics game for their wii, so we thought we’d look there first.  The girls were asleep by the time we pulled away from the hotel, so D’Arcy stayed in the van with them, marking while the boys & I went shopping.

We didn’t have luck with the game at Costco, but did at the second store we tried.  We then went in to see Grandma & Grandpa to have a visit there.  When we arrived, the girls were cranky from just waking up and the boys (Alex) were cranky from being overtired.  They whined & bickered until D’Arcy & I laid down the law and got them set up playing monopoly.  They all came around and we had a good visit, with a delicious ham dinner.  We ate until we were stuffed, with Erin, Brian & Morag all arriving before we left.

A little reading with Dad

While Grandpa gets his first look at the Thesis (well, the first part of it!)

He insisted he was "NOT TIRED"!!!!

Monopoly got them all cooperating again - eventually...

D'Arcy "wasn't tired" either...

We got home about 7:30, unpacked the van and got everybody tucked into bed.  I went to sleep while D’Arcy tackled the laundry and watched the hockey game.  He woke me at midnight to watch the ice dancers…

The kids were still reveling in the weekend yesterday morning and the boys thanked us profusely before heading to the bus stop.

When the mail came yesterday afternoon, I discovered a letter from Delta.  Inside, was a note saying that because of our loyalty, we’ve automatically been reaffirmed as Platinum members for next year!  Thank you Delta – we feel very privileged indeed!

Advertisements

“I ‘llergic to that”

January 12, 2010

Olivia seems to be getting a handle on her allergies.  She understands that some things will make her sick and she will rhyme off the list on her medic alert bracelet.  Lately, she has brought this up in different situations that make us giggle, such as:

  • When playing “wii sword slice”, whenever the master throws out the egg, she will announce, “I ‘llergic to that!”
  • When playing with the new toy microwave at my parents’ house, my mother says that the egg has been put on top of the piano, not to be touched because Olivia has told her she’s allergic!
  • While watching Disney’s “Planet Earth” this weekend, when she saw the pack of lions, she looked up at me very seriously and announced, “I ‘llergic to tigers!” (cats!)

Life has become much easier since she seems to comprehend that if she’s in contact with something she is allergic to, she will become sick.  When she would fuss over Christmas because I wasn’t including her in a trip to the grocery store, I would just tell her that there were too many nuts out at the store and she would accept that.  The same went for all the treats that were out before Christmas.  She’s very conscientious about asking “Is that safe for me” when we give her something new.

I hope that she continues to be vigilant and self-monitor.

In the meantime, we’ll be sure to keep her away from any & all tigers!

On High Alert

November 20, 2009

Earlier this week, I was talking with our pharmacist, who is also our friend, about Olivia’s epi-pens.  One of the ones we keep in her epi-pen bag had expired at the end of September and she wanted to know if I wanted a new one now, or did I want to wait until January when our health plan will cover them again. (We’re covered for two per calendar year and any additional ones we pay $120 for.)   I actually paused and thought about it then told her that it is only six weeks until the new year…  When it’s been so long since she’s had an anaphylactic reaction, it’s easy to become complacent.

Yesterday, I had a wake up call.

On the weekend when I got groceries, Evan asked for a box of “S’more” pop tarts as a treat.  Since fruit pop tarts are one of the “safe” commercial treats that Olivia can have, I said “sure” then came home,  put them away and didn’t think about them again.

Late in the afternoon yesterday, Olivia came into the living room where I was with one of the new pop tarts in hand; Sarah had climbed up and gotten one down for each of them.  Olivia had about two bites and something made me go check the ingredients on the box.  Fourth ingredient from the end – dried egg white!!

I panicked.  I grabbed the epi-pen bag and made Olivia sit on my lap so I could watch her.  I called my mother and told her I needed her to come over because if I was going to have to give her the epi-pen, I wanted someone to be with me.  She reminded me that Olivia had eaten 1/16 of an egg baked in cookies before she started to react during her baked-in egg challenge and she felt Olivia would be fine.  After all, how much egg would there be in just two bites?

As it turns out, she was fine.  She developed a few hives around her collarbone, by her ears and her cheeks got red, but I gave her some Reactine and other than some eczema she’s fine this morning.

As for the epi-pens, Deborah brought us a brand new un-expired one last night!

Her bubble has burst!

November 13, 2009

Yesterday, we all passed a new milestone – Olivia went to her library program which includes stories & crafts without any of her regular caregivers with her.  Since her birthday, she is now eligible to go to the 3-5 year old programs, which parents (or grandmothers in our case) do not attend.  We asked Sarah if she was ready to help Olivia out and to remind her not to put anything – including her hands – in her mouth!  Sarah said she was.  My mother took her downstairs at the Library and asked the librarian, in front of the other parents, if she was comfortable with the epi-pens and when she said she was, she said good-bye and went upstairs.

It was somewhat nerve-wracking for both Ginna & Mom, who was at home.

It was fun for Sarah to have her sister in her program.

I can only imagine that it was liberating & exciting for Olivia to have some independence.

My mother told me that she did peek in and Olivia was watching Sarah and doing everything that she did.  She was listening nicely and made a whimsical paper mask that the girls had a great time with when they were finished.

Two years ago, we were so afraid to take Olivia anywhere because she was having allergic reactions to so much.  The library was especially scary because who knows what kids are eating or have on their hands while they read library books!!  When I expressed this concern to the allergist when she was a baby, he said, “Yes, you’re right.  She does have a chance of having an anaphylactic reaction when you take her places like the library, but she can’t live in a bubble either.”

I’m so glad that in only two years, with the exception of having to wear a medic-alert bracelet, take a bag full of epi-pens and antihistamines with her everywhere, and ask “is this safe for me” before she puts anything in her mouth, she is now living as normal a life as her siblings did which includes weekly trips to the library!

That’s one bubble I’m glad has burst!

Olivia went to Halifax for her H1N1 vaccination today.

Obviously, it went well.  I didn’t realize how stressed out about it I was until I started to discuss it with her allergist.  I felt the tears sting my eyes and had the lump in my throat after he had explained to me that there was virtually no detectable egg in the vaccination ( the company that made it found 20 nanograms per part and Health Canada could find none) and that there had been no problems at all in the clinics they’d given to egg allergic kids so far.

As Olivia’s mom, I was able to find my voice and heard myself say, “It’s just that her worst reaction – the one where I held her lifeless body while five people scurried to find a vein they could get an IV in because her blood pressure was so low and her veins had collapsed – is burned into my brain…  I trust you, but…”

He was quick to reassure me.  He told me he knew.  (He has children that are allergic as well; actually he has life-threatening food allergies himself!)   He said that he wouldn’t suggest it if he didn’t think she would be perfectly safe, and that he would give it to his own daughters in the same situation.  How could I have any reservations after that?  I teased him about having a clinic for this on the most stressful day of the year for a parent of a child with food allergies!

He skin-prick tested her to the vaccine first, and after a fifteen minute wait to see what would happen, nothing did!  Her allergist talked to us some more and answered all my questions (and I had lots!).  We decided together that based on her SPT, we would give her the whole (half) dose at one time instead of doing it gradually.  The nurse came in and gave her the needle, to which she didn’t even flinch.  When it was over, she asked, “Where’s my chocolate milk?” since the last time we were there, in August, was for a dairy challenge!  We all had a great laugh over that and I promised we would go for some chocolate milk as soon as we were allowed to leave.

She had to wait in the office for an hour to make sure she didn’t have a reaction.  I won’t say it was fun, but it was certainly eye-opening to be in a room with that many other parents of egg-allergic kids.  Normally, we all keep to ourselves in the waiting room, but today people were talking about what other allergies they were dealing with.  Two boys had mustard allergies – glad we don’t have to deal with that!

When we were given the okay to go, we headed out to McDonald’s to get her some french fries & chocolate milk and then headed to Costco for a few things.

Meanwhile, Sarah was with her grandmother, creating her pumpkin which was a great likeness!

hallowe'en 021

Pumpkin Sarah

The three boys, meanwhile, raked the leaves on the church property with the Cubs.

Halloween3AlexI arrived home mid-afternoon and helped Alex bake a cake for Olivia and while it was in the oven, we went to get some dark shoes for his first boys’ choir performance tomorrow.  Then I dropped him back at home to carve his pumpkin while I went to get a few things for Olivia’s birthday tomorrow.  It was one of those crazy days where, we were all doing different things at different times; I set out cheese, ham, fruit & veggies for them to eat for supper.

hallowe'en 015

hallowe'en 025

We had our first trick-or-treater at about 4:30; he was about two years old.  My parents came down at 6:30 so that we could all go out together as a family.  I can’t help but think this might have been our last year to do that since Evan will be in Junior High next year.  Although it was a Saturday night, the streets were fairly quiet; the boys’ principal, who is a neighbour surmised that it might be due to H1N1.

The girls & I did the block and D’Arcy took the boys a bit further.  When they got home, we sorted through the candy and took out anything deemed “unsafe for Olivia.”  They were all in bed before too long, but then D’Arcy & I had to switch gears and I started getting ready for Olivia’s birthday and D’Arcy tried to get some marking done but keeps falling asleep.

I should take Auntie Ruth’s advice and “not worry until there’s something to worry about” as today went far more smoothly than I expected!

Dare I say it, we even had fun!!

hallowe'en 003

Cousins & friends

hallowe'en 016

Halloween7 Wivvy

Halloween8 W&A

Last day as a two-year old!

So much to be Thankful for!

October 12, 2009

We hosted D’Arcy’s side of the family for Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday and it was worth every moment of the preparation!  Back when we first invited everyone, they all wanted to bring food, but because of Olivia’s allergies, we decided that it is far less stressful to cook everything ourselves and then we could be sure she was safe.  I started making pies & rolls two weeks ago, and put them in the freezer.  Auntie Kay came over on Saturday and we peeled, chopped & cooked the potatoes, squash & applesauce.  We closed out the B&B Saturday night and got the tables set up so that we wouldn’t be in a huge panic in the morning if guests decided to hang around.

Yesterday, D’Arcy put the turporken in the oven at 7 a.m.  We had told people to arrive anytime after two.  We went to church, and rushed around tidying up.  I was in a panic because at 2:00, I was still mopping the kitchen floor and D’Arcy was running out to my parents’ house to pick up extra chairs.  At 2:45 when the first guests arrived, I commented that I should have remembered who it was coming to dinner and then I wouldn’t have been so stressed about not being ready on time!

It was a beautiful day, so the cousins could go outside and play while the grown-ups got caught up.  The one thing I was most stressed out about was making gravy, as I’ve not had much success in the past, and the turporken is so lean that there weren’t many drippings.  However, between Shannon, Karen & I, we actually made a pot that tasted really good!!

At five, we got everyone assembled around the table and D’Arcy welcomed everyone and said grace.  Then, we proceeded to go around the table of 35 and everyone (with the exception of the under-5 set) told what they were thankful for.  There was lots of laughter and a few tears as we reflected on all the riches we have in our lives, and thought about those family members who couldn’t join us due to distance or work commitments.

We then got the food out on the kitchen table and served it buffet style.  I am pleased to say that I managed to get it all out hot and had made enough!  When we were all eating, Sarah presented Grandpa with an ear of corn that she grew for him.  Her corn stalk had produced two ears – each about an inch long – so she cooked one for him and one for her!  I didn’t realize until afterwards that she actually ate hers!

At dessert time, we recognized Phinn’s upcoming first birthday and Uncle Bill’s upcoming 50th.

I tried to figure out today how much food we actually consumed and came up with the following:

  • shrimp ring
  • veggie tray
  • two bags of veggie chips
  • a bag of pita crisps
  • Large Turporken which should serve 25 (all but one drumstick and enough meat to make a sandwich)
  • 8lb pork roast
  • 4 lbs roasted new potatoes
  • 5lbs mashed potatoes
  • three squash
  • 2kg sweet green peas
  • 5lbs stuffing
  • two steamed cabbages with sage butter
  • 1 litre bean salad
  • 6 dozen rolls
  • 1 litre cranberry sauce
  • 1 litre apple sauce
  • 1 litre gravy
  • 1 jar of mustard pickles
  • 1 pumpkin cheesecake
  • 24 pumpkin muffins
  • 1 pan of apple crisp
  • 2 1/2 blueberry pies
  • 1 1/2 apple pies

I hate to fathom a guess how much wine, beer, pop, juice, coffee & tea we went through!

And did I mention that it was ALL peanut, treenut, egg & soy FREE?!  (I did mention at the table that I was thankful to have regained dairy!)

When everyone was leaving, one of D’Arcy’s brothers suggested that this might have to become a new annual tradition and we couldn’t agree more!

The homemade bread, dried and ready to be made into stuffing

The homemade bread, dried and ready to be made into stuffing

The table, being set

The table, being set

Olivia with Auntie Kay & Uncle Hug

Olivia with Auntie Kay & Uncle Hug

Brian & Morag

Brian & Morag

Emily playing with some of the youngest family members

Emily playing with some of the youngest family members

The turporken, just about at temperature. (Yes, we cooked it upside down!)

The turporken, just about at temperature. (Yes, we cooked it upside down!)

Visiting before dinner. (I didn't really ever get out here to join in.)

Visiting before dinner. (I didn't really ever get out here to join in.)

It was a beautiful day for playing outside!

It was a beautiful day for playing outside!

Phinn with his Uncle Ryan

Phinn with his Uncle Ryan

Skateboard lessons from cousin Pat

Skateboard lessons from cousin Pat

Evan, the no-handed pogo stick jumper

Evan, the no-handed pogo stick jumper

Our boys will need to practice a lot before they're as good as Pat!

Our boys will need to practice a lot before they're as good as Pat!

Michael, Camille & Stephen discussing various important matters.

Michael, Camille & Stephen discussing various important matters.

Cheesy photo, but the only one of the two of us...

Cheesy photo, but the only one of the two of us...

Another cheesy photo while we tried to figure out how to make the gravy...  It was really tasty!

Another cheesy photo while we tried to figure out how to make the gravy... It was really tasty!

Olivia & Aunt Shannon

Olivia & Aunt Shannon

Finding our places at the table

Finding our places at the table

D'Arcy, welcoming our family and getting ready to say grace

D'Arcy, welcoming our family and getting ready to say grace

Kathleen, starting off the "What I'm Thankful For" Circle

Kathleen, starting off the "What I'm Thankful For" Circle

Sarah, presenting Grandpa with the corn she grew for him.

Sarah, presenting Grandpa with the corn she grew for him.

What we're thankful for - our family!

What we're thankful for - our family!

Phinn being amused by his grandpa, "Otty" so Emily could finish her dinner.

Phinn being amused by his grandpa, "Otty" so Emily could finish her dinner.

Thanksgiving Dinner entertainment by John.  The other kids joined in of course!

Thanksgiving Dinner entertainment by John. The other kids joined in of course!

Phinn with his "Great" Auntie Anne

Phinn with his "Great" Auntie Anne

Fourteen of twenty-two grandchildren & one great grandchild!

Fourteen of twenty-two grandchildren & one great grandchild!

We truly are very blessed and have so much to be thankful for!

Olivia’s dairy challenge

August 11, 2009

Olivia had a dairy challenge this afternoon.  I was afraid to be optimistic because she failed her last challenge miserably despite having a negative skin-prick and patch test.  This morning, however, I had a really positive feeling and even started to think about some of the things dairy would open up for us her:

Butter

Yogurt

Cheese

Ice Cream (Soy, egg & nut-free, of course!)

Macaroni & Cheese

Cream Cheese

Whipped Cream

Apple Crisp

Smarties & some chocolate bars

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture…

We went to her allergist’s office and after going over how she’s been since we saw him in April, he told me he felt really confident about her chance of passing a dairy challenge.  Many children with a non type-1 allergy to dairy will outgrow by the age of one.  Most will outgrow by the age of three, and virtually 99.9% will outgrow by the age of five.  (Alex was close to five!)

The allergist & his nurse checked her skin over and took notes of all her existing spots & eczema patches.  (Her skin still hasn’t recovered from when we tried cinnamon last month!)  She then was given 5 cc’s of chocolate milk from a syringe and we were allowed to go back out into the waiting room to play.  We sat beside a boy named Matthew who was only a few days younger than Evan and was challenging shrimp – which he did not like!  He was very personable and great with Olivia.  He was really interested in all her allergies and the fact that she takes two epi-pens with her everywhere.  He also realized that when she got called in for each of her next doses, he got called in right after her…

Fifteen minutes after the first dose, she got a second syringe with 10 cc’s in it this time.  The first one, she held in her mouth for about a minute before swallowing until the nurse convinced her it was okay.  The second took less convincing!

After another fifteen minutes, she was given 15 cc’s.  Before each dose, her whole body was checked for new hives and any difference in her appearance.

Fifteen minutes later, she had one hive under her chin, but was otherwise fine, so she was given a medicine cup with 30 cc’s…

She threw her head back and drank it as if it was a shooter, then licked the inside of the cup and her lips!  The nurse was getting a kick out of her and I have to admit, I was too!  There was no doubt she was enjoying it!!

Her last dose was 60 cc’s which amounted to about a half-a-cup in total throughout the afternoon.  Then we had to wait for an hour to make sure nothing happened.

Matthew was waiting too, so at least we had company!  He was declared a pass and I was sure we would be too.  She didn’t complain of any stomach pains & her skin, other than that one hive, looked the same as it did when we came in.  In the past, when she had contact with milk protein we knew it pretty much immediately!

We sat down to talk with the allergist and he told me that we can give her some yogurt & hard cheese tomorrow, only a total of two toddler servings.  Since she’s never had dairy her body may be lactose intolerant for a couple of weeks because it won’t recognize the lactose.  He says that’s normal, but should go away within a couple of weeks, and if we’re lucky it won’t happen at all!

He also did a skin prick test for all tree nuts, egg & soy, since we were there.  Only soy, pecan & pine nuts were negative, with walnuts & almonds being the largest (other than egg which is still extremely high) followed by cashews, then the rest.

However, that doesn’t change our lives in any way, since we already avoided all tree-nuts to start with.

I can’t wait to give her the yogurt & cheese tomorrow and hope that she’ll love those as much as the chocolate milk.  Alex’s birthday is a week from today and I’m already dreaming of frosting his cake with butter icing rather than palm oil!!

Wish us luck that tonight goes well, and that this is a true pass.  I really feel, deep down, that it is!

Woo hoo!!!