May 22, 2015

Four Photo Friday

If you write or read blogs you’re probably familiar with Wordless Wednesday—a post comprised of a title and a photo intended to evoke a feeling or a mood.

I have a hard time with wordless. Shocking, I know.

I enjoy looking at posts with more photos than words some days. Especially at the end of the week when my attention span is a done bun. So how about a weekly post called Four Photo Friday? Four photos and a word or two to sum up the little (or big) moments that made up the week.

Here's my first Four Photo Friday post... 

Posted something for Four Photo Friday? 
I'd love to see your pics!
 Add your link to the comments.

May 18, 2015

Is It Time For A Puntervention?

I appreciate a good pun, but not everyone feels the same. Some shun the pun and quietly seethe in the punner's general direction.

Sure this type of word play may not be the most sophisticated form of literature, but if one finds joy in a simple turn of phrase, what's the harm?

I once had a three week twitter convo flinging shoe puns back and forth with a fellow punster. A few people piped up to tell us to hold our tongues, but alas we chose not to tread lightly and instead ran ahead and even amped it up a bit to boot. 

If puns make you want to pun-ch a wall, then move along.

But if a silly string of puns makes you smile, take a few minutes to listen to this recent skit from CBC's "Irrelevant Show." It's only a matter of time before my family does this to me. Well, after they take care of my mother (the matriarchal punner of our family) first.

Check out this "puntervention." Puns—hate them or love them, this skit is for you! Listen Here.

As a pun-lover and a photoshop addict, this image brings me ever so much joy. 

May 15, 2015

Decisions—Growing Pains Update

When I wrote about recent Growing Pains with our daughter so many of you jumped in to offer support, compassion and some kick ass advice. We all know it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes that same village to support a family who's spinning in circles, not knowing what to do. Thank you village. Sincerely.

We've stopped spinning. For now at least.

We met with a wonderful pediatric endocrinologist yesterday at Sick Kids. I can't say often enough how lucky we are to live just a short drive away from this world class children's hospital.

With the support of a wonderful doctor and her team, we have decided to put off Avery's impending human growth hormone treatment for at least six months. Pheeeeeee-ew.

We learned the injections are nothing to fear. After the learning curve, they will become just another part of our daily routine. I can live with this. It's the fear of the C word that has temporarily stopped us in our tracks.

Avery's pituitary does not produce enough HGH. The answer to why is hidden somewhere deep within her unique genetic make-up. But also lurking there in the shadows are other unthinkable possibilities.

In this modern medical age we have a fairly comprehensive, albeit rudimentary, picture of Avery's DNA which includes the names and (some) functions of missing and duplicated genes. As well, we have snippets of information about diseases that may potentially crop up.

Will these diseases occur? Maybe yes. Maybe no. God, hopefully no. According solely to her genetic profile, Avery by all accounts should be showing signs of Limb Girdle Muscular Distrophy. She is not. Because we know that the gene responsible for this disease is one of damaged genes in Avery's DNA, we spent months worrying about the onset of this devastating disease that has never actually and thankfully, come to be. The neurologist says if there aren't yet signs of this disease now, there never will be. And...exhale...

The world of genetics is a wild and unpredictable place. So many factors combine to make us who we are. Though our child has a faulty chromosome 3, she also has a fully intact copy. That, along with her unique personality, environment and all of her other genes, including one damaged copy of chromosome 9, make Avery completely unique—all of these factors interplay to create the unexpected.

Recent research involving chromosome 9 suggests that one of the duplicated genes in Avery's damaged section of C9 is responsible for a form of leukemia. Will this disease manifest itself in Avery's lifetime? We certainly hope not, but nobody can say for sure.

Human growth hormone does not cause cancer. It is a very safe form of hormone therapy. But when a cancer is present, the introduction of HGH can trigger its onset and accelerate cancer growth.

It's a risk—small, but one we're not ready to take right now.

Avery's height, if her DNA was "normal" was predicted to have been in the area of 5'9. Yes, she was destined to be a statuesque Thornbury woman. Without HGH treatment she will likely reach a height just shy of 5ft. But, with treatment doctors predict (it's kind of a crap shoot to be honest) she will reach a height somewhere around 5'2ish—thus making adult life somewhat easier in terms of clothing, driving a car, riding the big roller coasters. All the really important things. ;)

There are just too many unknowns and more research to do before we can confidently proceed with any treatment. Thankfully, we have lots of time before the onset of puberty begins to fuse growth plates and the window of growth opportunity closes.

We're going to ask more questions, weigh the pros and cons, and most importantly, take this reprieve to enjoy every inch of our little girl without worrying about the what ifs because... is short. And so is Avery. :) But short is also sweet and beautiful and healthy and perfection.

May 13, 2015

Growing Pains

large houseplant

When I say our daughter is our little girl, I mean to say that she’s our little girl and she’s a little girl. She’s been following her own curve on the growth chart since she was born—way down at the bottom, around the 3rd percentile. Sometimes lower.

Her adult height has been predicted to be around the 5ft mark give or take. Our main concern when she was younger was always her weight. A bony baby who refuses to nurse or eat even the tiniest meal is not for the faint of heart.

We worked extremely hard to put weight on her (it's still a struggle most days), only narrowly avoiding G-tube surgery. There was no secret bullet, only patience, persistence and possibly a deal with the devil. With our focus on all things high fat, nutrition packed, appropriate texture, etc. we didn’t worry much about her height. Until recently.

We were sent for a consultation with a pediatric endocrinologist upon the recommendation of our pediatric neurologist who had concerns about her overall growth.

After a bone age test—a simple x-ray of the growth plate in one hand—we learned that Avery’s growth measures at age four (she is eight). She then underwent growth hormone testing at Sick Kids Hospital to find out how much HGH she produces. Although her body makes growth hormone, it's not nearly enough. Where most people produce a level 5, her production falls somewhere in the range of 0.2 - 3.5.

Tomorrow we visit Sick Kids once more to learn how to administer growth hormone injections. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m afraid. I have a list of questions and concerns as long as my arm. Side-effects, cancer risks, other risks? And do the benefits outweigh those risks?

And did I mention the injections? INJECTIONS. Pardon my French but fark moi. I have to jab my baby in the abdomen every day for the better part of the next decade? The idea makes me sick.

What will I tell her tomorrow??

Avery has been in and out of the hospital often over the past eight years—sometimes to stay, but mostly just for specialist appointments. In the early days, she had no concept of pain and there was no fear. But since having blood drawn last year, and the I.V. they used to steadily administer the HGH during the recent testing, she has started questioning doctor’s visits. “Will it hurt mommy? No hurting right? Just talking, right?” Because mostly, it is just talking and it doesn't hurt a bit. 

Tomorrow might hurt. Or at least in the days to follow. And the thought of me doing the hurting? I can’t even… Mamas aren’t supposed to inflict pain on their children.

*I know there are worse things to deal with. This will be a mere blip in the history of our family. I know. And I also understand how fortunate we are to have this medical opportunity to make our daughter's life better. This treatment can cost upwards of $40,000 per year making it unaffordable for so many. But since Avery has a solid diagnosis that indicates HGH will be beneficial, it is covered under our provincial health insurance. We are lucky. I know. 

May 10, 2015

What Is “Veganish”?

Please allow me to explain my family's dietary lifestyle choice, but first just let me make myself a ham and cheese sandwich. Kidding. I haven’t eaten a pig (on purpose) since 1990. I may have scarfed down some bacon in a hungover daze or ingested the occasional undetected bacon bit in a Caesar salad over the years, but for the most part, there is never intentional pork on my fork. 

I wasn't really a meat lover growing up, but I tucked in because I needed the meat derived protein. Hello, Canada Food Guide conspiracy. More on that in an upcoming post. My family ate mostly chicken, fish, and the occasional lamb chop—to be clear, I was really only interested in the mint jelly sauce. Steak at our house was rare (as in infrequent, but cooked to a leathery chew-until-next-Tuesday texture). We ate eggs and drank milk, because, ahem...healthy. Little did we know milk, touted for its mega calcium propelled bone building properties, was in fact leaching the calcium from our bones. More on THAT later too. Spoiler alert: Casein is a dietary devil cloaked in a milky white washed dairy deception.

In 1990, my first year at university, I wrote a paper on the use of animals for cosmetic testing for my Deviant Behaviours class. I was horrified. We all know now about the pointless cruelty and suffering involved in such testing. It's disgusting. During that course of study I read John Robbins', “Diet for a New America” and it changed the way I thought about food and where it comes from. I became a card carrying vegetarian immediately. I was of the ovo-lacto variety because eggs weren’t actual animals (I know, I know. I had no idea at that time about the horror of factory farming) and milk because god knows, we as full grown adults NEED to drink the milk of another species. Not creepy at all, and compleeeeeetely necessary for our overall well being. Yes, that was dripping with sarcasm. 

I ate a vegetarian diet happily for ten years. I was a healthy weight, my hair shone like a golden retriever's, my skin was clear, I had loads of energy, I didn’t bloat. Life was compassionately delicious.

But from the moment our first child was conceived, the cravings hit hard. I needed it. I wanted it. I had to have it. Mmmmmeat. I couldn’t get it into my face fast enough. They knew us by name at The Keg by the time Sebastian was born. My husband jokes that the first time I wrapped my lips around a t-bone (not a euphemism) it was like a scene from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.

After our second child was born and I finished nursing, the cravings and the idea that "meat was necessary" faded away and my husband and I adopted a Flexitarian lifestyle. People think we made up that term. It's really is a way of eating and it's diet we've followed until recently.

We offered both of our children meat and dairy when they were ready—chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk and cheese. Sebastian, with the exception of cheese and yogurt detested all of them. To this day, cows milk makes him gag. When he was a toddler, he would ask, "What did this used to be?" (he was asking about the origins of his chicken fingers). "A chicken," we told him. He didn't like that answer. Not at all.

Flash forward to today—Sebastian is nearly twelve and has strong opinions about the world. He believes it is wrong to kill animals unnecessarily. And he's right. I know he's right, but I also know how tasty turkey bacon is along side my eggs and buttered toast.

Last year, for a variety of reasons, we began transitioning over to a vegan diet. I was comfortable preparing vegetarian cuisine, so the switch to vegan dishes wasn't too difficult. Watching the documentary "Forks Over Knives" (currently running on Netflix Canada) sealed the deal for us. Have you seen it? If not, it's worth watching. Unlike other docs like "If Slaughter Houses Had Glass Walls" (which is also excellent and eye opening, but not in the shocking sensationalized way you might expect) it focuses on the significant health reasons for following a vegan diet. In light of some recent health issues in our family, this switch made sense to us.

So why do we call ourselves veganish? Because that label—because everything needs a label, right? (sorry, more drippy sarcasm)—fits us perfectly. We are among a growing new breed of human feeders. We try to make smart, healthy and kind choices when we shop. We know plant based is best, but sometimes (maybe once a month) we choose to indulge in a slice of organic free-range chicken breast. And sometimes, when we're shopping at Ikea and we're super tired and starving, and our kids aren't with us, we *might* lapse into our old ways and have a 99 cent hotdog on the fly. I know. Please don't judge. I was really, really hungry and not thinking straight. Also, I suspect Ikea hotdogs have pork in them and are not in fact 100% beef as I had believed them to be. So maybe forget that whole intro bit about no pork on my fork. Apparently, I am not perfect after all.

Hard core vegans do not think highly of us veganish folks. And that's unfortunate. About 90% of the time we live a vegan lifestyle. The other 10% is well... Ikea hotdog-leather-couch-ice-cream-cone-on-a-hot-day-scrambled-eggs-fishsticks-but-the-expensive-kind-gouda.

I'm truly sorry full-on vegans, but we veganish families do our best. We love animals and are absolutely revolted by the cruel and unnecessary torture they endure because of greedy, gross humans. We can and must do better. Much better. Every time I see a pig truck drive by on their way to their death, I get angry and then tear up. 

And I understand that the casein protein in dairy products is toxic. It is a proven cancer trigger. I know this, but yet I sometimes send cheese strings to school with my daughter because it's the one thing I know she will eat.

We all make choices—some good, some bad, some ignorant, some just plain lazy. The more vegan and less -ish we become, the more satisfied I feel about the choices I'm making for my family. We have a long way to go, but we're getting there, one bean curd stir-fry at a time.

Being veganish means we try to live a herbivore life in a carnivore world as best we can. It's personal and it's nobody else's business to criticize us when we fall short. Being veganish isn't black and white. This lifestyle has shades of grey—hence the header image for this post. See what I did there?

Please feel free to follow along here—the stories, recipes, the hits and misses. Or better still, join us! And please know I won't judge. If you accidentally fall face first into a pot roast or buy a pair of cool leather Frye boots, you won't be ousted from this club. We all want to do what's best—what is kind, compassionate, healthy, green—but everyone stumbles along the way and that's okay.