Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Newsflash: My kids allergy is not YOUR problem

***Shortly after writing this post, I heard from a friend whose daughter has a peanut allergy. Please note that my son's allergy is VERY different from peanut allergies. My son's allergy is not one that can effect him simply from being near the allergen. He has to ingest the allergen. For the sake of this article, I am referring to children, like my son, whose allergy is not as severe. For children who have a severe allergy, it is very important that concessions can be made and that the child is not teased or targeted because they have an allergen that is not their fault!

We are walking through a farmer's market.

There is a lady selling fresh donuts.

But even better, she has free samples.

My three-year-old little lady begins tugging at my elbow fat.

The lady is holding a donut out, offering it to Abigail.

The elbow fat tugging is her shy-girl way of saying, "Can I pleaseeee accept this donation of a free donut into my belly. Pleaseeeeee?"

I nod and am not at all surprised when her five-year-old brother immediately pushes his way to the front of our family mob to see if this free-ness can stretch to him as well.

He loves food.

And again I nod.

Oldest brother Isaac remains firmly planted halfway behind me. He likes donuts. But he is allergic to eggs. And eggs are in nearly ever baked good. I ask the famous, "Does it have eggs in it?" question already knowing the answer, and turn to Isaac apologetically when her answer comes out in the affirmative.

There is a moment when the lady, holding out the donut with her tongs toward Abigail, hesitates. Her eyes say to me, "Well if one kid is allergic, can the sister have one?"

In other words, "Is this fair?'

A conversation ensues. "His allergy is not her fault," I say. "He has to learn to live with it."

In other words, "No it isn't fair. But it's fact."

The woman surprises me by thanking me. "I'm so tired of seeing parents try to pad this life for their kids," she says. "The real world isn't free of pain."

Now don't get me wrong. I do my very best to help ease the disappointment of missing out on birthday cake and certain types of ice cream. If Isaac missed out on the donut, when we got home, he'd meander over to the snack cabinet and pick out something that his brother and sister wouldn't get to participate in. We try to even it out.

But in the end, my son has an allergy. (Currently, more than a quarter of children outgrow their allergy, and those allergic to milk, egg or soy are the most likely to be in the outgrowing bunch.*However, as his parent, I feel the tremendous need to prepare him to lead a life that may mean avoiding a certain food for the entirety of that life. I pray that is not the case. But it might be.

I have been so incredibly impressed by friends who purposefully change their birthday party recipes to make sure Isaac fits in. (This is despite the fact that he usually doesn't even bother trying their egg-free baked goods because he is so used to not being able to eat them.) And while I appreciate the kindness of my friends, I really do not think their kindness is required.

Isaac has an allergy and he must learn to live with it.

His brother and sister missing out on something simply because he can't partake simply isn't a good representation of the world he is growing up in. He  has to get used to carrying epi-pens everywhere he goes. And he has to get used to being denied a food everyone else is eating. He is blessed to live in a country where ingredient lists are readily available**, but when he can't be sure of what is in something, he'll have to pick something else.

And he certainly can't expect the rest of an office party to skip eating a food because he can't eat it.

I understand that we want to save our children from pain, but our world has pain. There are disappointments. And not being able to ever eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream certainly is one of them. But trying to protect him from that pain will not prepare him for that pain!

Please understand my heart. There are times when JB and I are passing a food stand, and we decide, quietly between ourselves, not to even go over there because we know Isaac will be left out. When we pick a restaurant for dinner, we purposefully choose one that will not completely limit what he can eat. We pick ice cream that he can eat, and we don't keep snacks in our house that have eggs.

But in the end, while we can make certain concessions, I tell my friends, "Your effort is appreciated but not expected."

And I mean that.

The idea that a classroom full of other children should have to not have snacks with eggs because my son is allergic, is simply ridiculous to me. Obviously, if this was an allergy that effected him based on the product being in the room, that would be different. But if he is only affected by things he eats, why should every other kid have to suffer because my son is allergic to eggs?

This is the real world.

And the real world has eggs.

JB and I believe that we are doing our son much more of a service to teach him to navigate the world's land mines instead of removing those land mines altogether.

Monday, September 29, 2014


JB had to do five nights in a row at an ER an hour away. He opted to get a hotel to avoid 2 hours of commute time with little sleep. But he had one requirement. I had to leave town. He told me he wouldn't be able to stay at a hotel and not see the kids if we were only an hour away. He wanted us to have some fun while he was gone!

Flying with four kids is a no-can-do for me right now mainly because I am not OUT OF MY MIND. Driving over four hours is also off my list. So I had to think of somewhere I could go with four kiddos by myself that was under four hours in drive time.


I now have three friends who live in the Mongtomery area. Stebbs (whose real name is Sarah but I never call her that), Brittny H., and Claire. I realized that I didn't get a single picture with Brittny H., but it was still wonderful to see her and her hubby and her two now three kiddos. Brittny is a very young breast cancer survivor which was followed up by a very unplanned third pregnancy. She's been through the wringer, but she is doing great!

Here, firstly, are some pictures of my time with Stebbs. I stayed at her house since it was large and she has a 5 and 1 year old and was therefore prepared for anything and everything we might require!

Cuddling with her Graham and my Hannah. Graham is just six weeks older than Hannah. 

William was the first "real" friend my boys had when we moved to Turkey. They have remained fantastic pals! Click here to flashback to our lives when they first intersected in 2010. 

On Saturday, we went to the Montgomery zoo after watching William play soccer. So cool that our membership at the Nashville Zoo gets us 50% off at most other zoos in the country! Score! With that money saved, let's pay some extra money to take a ski lift over the park. The kiddos loved it. Stebbs rode with Isaac and William while I watched Hannah. Then we switched. I took Abigail and Sidge. Sidge wanted my arm around him the entire time and Abigail was pushing me away the entire time.

What would Moms do without PB&J!?

By far the favorite thing they saw at the zoo was NOT an animal. it was these superheroes. Which I think are going up in preparation for Halloween.

They wanted pics with all of them.

Hannah showing Graham how to use the bike that he hasn't quite figured out yet. He is listening intently. 

Such cuties.

Stebbins trying to handle 2 one-year-olds at once.

Abigail has joined the buddy world as well!

I also got to spend some time with my wonderful friend from the Azores, Claire, who is also living in Montgomery (albeit nearly an hour from Stebbs.)

Claire made egg-free pumpkin muffins and Isaac LOVED them! Goodness knows I am going to try them again!

So neat to see that Abigail totally remembered Ms. Claire.

Claire has just started homeschooling her fourth grader -- Jacob -- one of the nicest boys I have ever met. When I first met Claire two years ago she told me, in no uncertain words. "I will NEVER homeschool. Totally not for me." Not sure what happened, but here she is!

Little Bria is now 2! When I met Claire in the Azores, she was just preparing to go back to the States to have her. The girls loved hiding under the table and sharing their pumpkin muffin.

Claire HATES pictures so I am pretty impressed she let me attempt a selfie. 

17 things that change forever after you have lived abroad

I recently read a fantastic blog that I wanted to share. You can read the complete article by clicking here: 17 things that change forever after you have lived abroad. 

Here is a quick summary of the author's findings. (You'll need to click on the link to read details of each one.)

1. Adrenalin becomes part of your life
2. But when you go back ... everything looks the same.
3. You lack the (and yet you have too many) words.
4. You come to understand that courage is overrated.
5. And, suddenly, you're free.
6. You no longer speak one particular language.
7. You learn to say good bye ... and to enjoy yourself.
8. You have two of everything.
9. Normal? What's normal?
10. You become a tourist in your own city.
11. You learn to be patient ... and how to ask for help.
12. Time is measured in tiny little moments.
13. Nostalgia strikes when you least expect it.
14. But you know it's not where, but when and how.
15. You change.
16. You fit your home into a suitcase.
17. And ... there's no turning back.

My husband recently shared a quote with me from a book he was reading that I feel nearly accurately describes how we feel about the four years we spent outside of the USA.

"There are times when I am very grateful for having spent so many years outside America, in Europe and the East, not only because it helped me to understand the stupendous things going on in the world but because it has made America a new country to me, which I will never again take for granted as so many Americans do...

"Perhaps, most of all I am most thankful for having been born in a country which, after an absence of twenty-five years spent all around the world, I found I would have chosen to be born in, if I had had the choice. Its woods, hills, streams, fields, and springs suit me. They have the fertile, half-wild, well-watered beauty which seems to me to include almost everything. I suppose everyone in the world feels that way about the country in which he was born, but the feeling is doubly important and sound after one has actually put it to the test against other countries and landscapes over most of the world."
- Louis Bromfield, 31 December 1944 (Malabar Farms)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

25 manners every kid needs by age 9

I did not write these. This article originally appeared in the March 2011 edition of Parents magazine. I do not own and did not create this list of manners but I do think they are great!
My oldest is now 6. I have 3 years to help him figure these all out!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

That S*cks!

When someone opens up and tells you something painful that has occurred in their life, I'll give you a surefire perfect answer. Simply say: "That sucks."

(If you absolutely can't use that word, then find an appropriate alternative.)

Don't try to fix it. Don't try to pat it down. Don't try to tie it up with a nice little bow. They've already 
tried that. They simply want you to grieve with them. 

(I promise you that's what they really want!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Funnies

JB came home from the ER last night, and I told him I needed to wash his clothes right away because he needed them the next day. "Don't let me forget to put the scrubs in the dryer." I said. We turned and Abigail was starting to cry. "Why you gonna put Scrubs in the dryer?" she said. That's what we get for naming our dog after medical clothes.


Sidge was getting annoyed with Abigail at the table. I was explaining to him that Abigail would be his sister forever and he better get used to her being annoying and "chill out!" Abigail decided to pipe in at this point. "Yeah Sidgey. You a tinker." (Stinker.)


I brought Abigail some strawberries.
Abigail: "Thank you."
Me: "You are welcome."
Abigail: "I forgive you."


When the kids are practicing their letters, it isn't unusual for me to see one small thing wrong and say, "Well, you made a mistake, but other than _____, it is just right."

Today while writing his number "2", Sidge wrote it backwards. 
Sidge: "How does this look?'
Me: "Well it's backwards."
Sidge: "But other than that, is it just right?"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Love Letters from God

If you are looking for the perfect girl for new parents, THIS BOOK is it! I really can't imagine a sweeter and more precious gift for parents-to-be or a first baptism/dedication/christening.  Love Letters from God is basically a Bible for children but it comes with a very special addition to the typical Bible stories that run abundant in childrens' books.

What child does not love to receive mail? This book plays on that idea. On each page, a child can read a story and also read his/her own personal mail from God: written in the Father's words and directed at the child. Accompanying each story in this unique children's Bible is a very special and encouraging letter -- each tucked away in its own lift-the-flap envelope just for them. 

Designed for children 4-8, I really think the age range could be broader (3-10 at least.) Love Letters from God contains eighteen of the most popular Bible stories -- nine from the Old Testament and nine from the New. In addition to the excitement of the child being able to open up a letter from God, the pictures in this book are done extraordinarily well and shine and nearly appear to pop off the page. There is also a special memory verse on each page as well.

In the end, there is an opportunity for the child to write their own letter to God at the end of the book.

My only issue with this book is the fact that it does require gentle handling. Otherwise, I can't imagine a better book to add to your Christian library! 

Booksneeze.com has provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A message from Criss

A message from Criss -- from our currently sponsored couple: Joel & Criss

To help with our adoption costs I have signed up to sell Thirty-One! 

If you are interested in any products for yourself or know anyone who loves Thirty-One and share my page with them, we very much appreciate it! 

They are a faith based company with lots of bags, accessories and organizational products. Just click the link and click on 'Christina Van Wyck' as your consultant!

SO if you could, please pass on the link and THANK YOU for all your prayers, help and support!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


A local toy store had a visit from Ariel this week. I decided to drop in and see how much the kids liked it. The result was that the boys could have cared less and were disappointed that there was no prince coming. Hannah could have cared less. And Abigail LOVED it -- although you'd never know from your face. 

I told Ariel what a HUGE accomplishment this was for Abigail to come up to her. I told Abigail how proud I was of her too. This was a VERY hard thing for her to muster up the courage to do!

When I asked her if she wanted to let Ariel give her a tattoo, Abigail replied, "I don't know Mommy. I'm very shy."

I am realizing why Hannah is throwing me for such a look as a mom. The boys were basically twins. Abigail followed afterwards but she was SOOO shy that she NEVER tried to get out of her stroller to wander. Never fought to get out of my arms. She wouldn't stray a step from me.

I don't think I realized what a blessing that clinging was. Because now I have Hannah. She wants OUT of her stroller. She wants OUT of my arms. She wants to GO without me in sight! Trying to keep track of her with three other siblings as well is NOT easy.

Where's a clinger when I need one?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Hermitage

My friend Tara is visiting us! I haven't seen Tara since before I left for Turkey. She was part of our "Mayo lifeline" during medical school and also made the trip to Nigeria with us -- she will always hold a special place in my heart. I have never met her husband Kelvin, and today, we decided to take a homeschool field trip day to "The Hermitage" -- Andrew Jackson's home in Nashville, TN.

Learning about the 7th President of the United States. Isaac has a very keen interest in the Presidents of the U.S.A. He has many facts stored in his little brain, and so it was especially great to get to take him here.

With Tara (expecting her first baby in December)

They had these little audio devices that you can listen to throughout the tour of the grounds. What was so cool was that they had a "kids narration." The boys LOVED finding a number and typing it in and listening to Andrew Jackson's bird "Polly" narrate for them.

Tara listening to her tour.

The majority of the view was outside -- and it was a beautiful, crisp fall day for us to enjoy!

Andrew Jackson's home. I started to take the tour and then realized that my four little ones had no interest and I just didn't want to deal with it. They were much happier running around in the grass.

His tomb.

One of the slave cabins.

I've never seen cotton up close! How incredibly interesting.

How amazing is God to make this plant.

I loved showing the boys this.

Abigail's favorite! Ponies!

Tara with cotton.