The Taynors

The Taynors

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Navigating Life with a Food Allergy Kid

We found out Ryan (now 5 yrs old) had food allergies on his first birthday.  He had a terrible reaction to his first birthday cake that landed us in the ER.  See that Post Here.    So we have spent the past 4 years navigating the world with food allergies.

Currently, Ryan is severely allergic to peanuts and eggs, mildly allergic to tree nuts, and has a sensitivity to gluten.  When he was a baby this was really hard because I didn't know anything about food allergies.  I didn't know much about reading ingredients and substituting items and making special orders at restaurants.  But I learned quickly, the research junkie in me got on the internet and bought a ton of books and we figured out our new normal.

Well here we are 4 years later and I am hitting a new milestone- imagining his future as a big kid, teenager, even an adult, dealing with these very restrictive allergies.  And it is completely freaking me out.  Up until this time I have been completely in control.  Every where we go, I pack his food.  Lunch, snacks, desserts... whatever he needs I would bring a handy dandy lunch box and make sure he is safe.  But now that he is getting older, it is getting harder and harder to do that.  He is in more big kid situations, independent situations, that make food planning more difficult.

My brother in laws wedding two weeks ago was a perfect example.  We were going to Pennsylvania for the weekend, staying in a standard hotel room (no kitchen or anything like that) and had commitments to be at a rehearsal dinner, the wedding reception, and a breakfast with the bridal party the last day.  The boys were in the wedding, so they needed to be with us the whole weekend.  Well meal planning was hard, like really really hard.

First we got there for the rehearsal and the dinner after.  We did have a special chicken meal ordered for him (egg free, nut free, gluten free).  So we knew  he had a complete dinner, but he had a hard time not being able to participate with the rest of the people.  He couldn't have any of the appetizers or anything at the buffet, or the dessert that was ordered.  He just ate his chicken and the special cookies I brought for him.  Ryan is use to this, so it wasn't a huge deal, but I could see his frustration in being "different".

The next morning was hard, we didn't have much time and needed a quick breakfast before the wedding activities.  I brought a huge snack bag, but that didn't help with getting him a substantial meal.  The restaurant at the hotel was super basic, eggs and baked goods (Ryan can't eat either), so we scrambled to a WaWa to get him Yogurt and fruit so he could at least have something.  The day continued like this, just trying to scramble to get him any food that was safe and fill his growing belly (he eats like a teenage boy).  At home I would have made him all these meals from scratch, or have good options, but those things don't travel well.

But the actual wedding was even harder, for Ryan and for me.  He couldn't eat a single thing at the cocktail hour.  Mini slider burgers, cocktail appetizers, macaroni and cheese station... nothing.  First of all most things I was sure were either gluten or egg based, but even if I thought it might be safe, I didn't have anyone to confirm it with.  The wait staff was very nice, but they had not idea the ingredients in each individual appetizer (or if it was cross contaminated with egg or nut).  Ryan was hungry, and cranky, and just wanted to eat the things everyone else was eating.

For dinner, he had his "safe" meal- same thing as the night before.  Plain chicken breast with vegetables (poor kid, so boring).  But that was the only thing these places could offer him that was confirmed safe.    Then dessert came around, and again he couldn't eat a thing.  Most was baked with eggs, and again no way to confirm ingredients of each item, lots of desserts with nuts.  So he had a cookie I brought for him as a treat.

And then to top it all off, breakfast the next morning.  The bridal party picked this diner in Philly known for its specialty eggs.  I assumed we would be able to get at least fruit or something so that Ryan could go and hang out with the group.  Well I was wrong.  They had not fruit or yogurt or oatmeal, or anything at all he could eat.  Not a single thing.  The owner of the restaurant was very helpful, he closed down one of the griddles and cleaned it completely so Ryan could have some bacon that was cooked separate from the eggs, but that was it.  It was heartbreaking for me to see how much he couldn't fit in with the gang.  Mike ran out to WaWa again to get him some yogurt so he could at least have breakfast.

Bottom line, it sucked for him.  He was at a big giant party weekend with such great food, and he couldn't participate at all.  That lead me to the "what about the rest of his life" thoughts.  Will he never eat anything at a cocktail party?  Will he ever get to go out to the diner for breakfast with his college friends to talk about the night before?  Will he ever get to try new and unique foods at the new hot restaurant in town?  Or eat a wedding cake?  What about college dorm food?  Of the girl he wants to kiss for the first time?  Is he going to have to  stop in the moment before leaning in for a first kiss to say "hey what did you eat for lunch today"?  How is his life going to be majorly impacted by having food allergies to such a common food like eggs?

The doctor does not think he is going to outgrow the allergies.  His levels were still so high at age 5 that he doesn't have much hope.  And I won't be able to pack all of his meals, where ever he goes forever.  This is a tough pill to swallow.  Food allergies in a baby/toddler is do-able, the rest of their lives is the hard part.  Luckily my BFF talked me off the ledge a little bit, we have no idea what world our kids will live in by time they are adults.  Maybe there will be better options, or new allergy treatments to offer a cure, who knows.  I sure hope there is some kind of change  because based on the the number of children that have food allergies, our future needs some options.  I won't even get into my rant about why children have so many food allergies these days, that is a conversation for another day!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review of Beaches Turks and Caicos

As previously mentioned, we booked a last minute spontaneous family vacation to Turks and Caicos.  We had been eyeing up the Beaches resort for a while, but every time we priced it out it was WAY to expensive. On a whim this summer I priced it out for a last minute Fall getaway, and I found a package for half the price, literally half the price.  We were very excited and booked it right away!  I couldn't wait for our getaway.

And a quick shout out to our wonderful travel agent Dina, that helped us book this trip very last minute and took care of all of our travel needs.  Call her when you decide to book-  Thank you, Dina!!

(Long post, but lots of good info if you are considering a trip)

It is expensive!   Even at half the price it is expensive.  But it is truly an all inclusive.  We did not pay a dime for anything once we got there.  All drinks, all levels of alcohol, water activities, kids camps... everything.  Even tipping is not allowed (if the staff is tipped, they need to turn it into the management to be donated to their charity), so it is not like other all-inclusives where you need to tip to ensure good service and good drinks.

When it comes to price I have two thoughts.
1.  Even though they are rare, you can get a discount, especially in the off season, so just keep shopping or have a travel agent keep an eye out for promotions.
2.  I think it is worth the money.  After experiencing the resort and all it has to offer, I do not think we overpaid.  IT IS WORTH IT!

We choose to stay in the Caribbean section.  It is the cheapest and the most simply done.  I believe it has also been around the longest, so it's a bit dated.  We personally didn't need the room to be anything special, so it wasn't worth the extra money to upgrade to the Italian, French, or Key West sections.  But if you are particular about your hotel room, need more space for more kids, or really want to stay in a "nicer" room, I would select a different section, there are plenty of options to fit your needs.

I would describe our actual building as OK.  The rooms were standard, two full beds, and a pull out chair.  It was definitely dated, nothing special.  They were clean, and the staff took good care of the buildings, but they were just very basic.  Our room was well located, we had a nice view and could see the ocean in the distance. And we loved being so close to the kids clubs, water park, and beach.

To be honest, our first impression the first 30 minutes at the resort was "oh no, maybe it's not going to be as great as we thought."  The shuttle brings you right into the Caribbean lobby, which is small and dark and dated.  And then we went straight to check into our room (no wait at all, we got right into our room).  So the blah lobby and the basic room did not impress us.  Luckily, that feeling of oh no didn't last for long.  As soon as we got our bathing suits on and explored the property, we were thoroughly impressed.

Bottom line- Caribbean has a great location, and plenty of options, but the rooms are fairly basic and a bit outdated.  We would stay in them again if we got the package discount we got.

(View from our balcony when Cookie Monster visited)

The beach was AMAZING! Most beautiful beach I have ever been to and I am blessed to have been all over the world at various beaches (Hawaii, Cabo, Riviera Maya, St. Lucia, cruises, Bahamas, Italy, California, Dominican Republic).  This was my favorite.  We were there the last week of September, so thankfully the place was very quiet.  We never had to fight for a spot on the beach, a turn on the floating rafts, a cabana... We had our pick of whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it.  I can not wait to be back on that beach.

(A few different days on the Beach)

The Resort overall-
The place is huge, so many different areas to wander.  The Italian section was the main area- biggest pool, zero entry pool, kids area, hot tubs, nicest swim up bar, the main buffet restaurant, and right off the beach.  Key West was towards the end of the resort, but had two very nice upscale restaurants and felt very cozy and quiet.  The French section was new and updated, close to the water park area, great little coffee shop open all day and late at night, near the main stage for entertainment and some great restaurants.  Each section had its own personality and some nice attributes.  Again because we traveled in the off season, we never had to fight for a spot at the pool, we could go anywhere.

I am not sure how many pools there are, but we spent time at 4 of them!  It was fun going to different areas each day because each pool had something different about it.  All had a swim up bar, that of course Mike and I loved, but the kids loved just as much.  The bar tenders would happily make the kids strawberry smoothies or apple juice.  They loved it.

They had about 19 different restaurants!  19!!  That is so great when you are traveling for a week.  They had a few basic buffets for breakfast and several more options for sit down dining in the morning.  They had family friendly restaurants and then they had fine dining for adults only, and everything in between.  At the time we traveled a few of the restaurants were closed, and they all opened on a rotating schedule.  So we had a calendar with all the options and when they were open.  At first this kind of annoyed me, but in the end it worked great, we always had plenty of great options.

We ate breakfast at Mario's and Guiseppis two times each, these were buffets, it was the easiest option with the kids and to start our day.  Then one morning we ate at Barefoots, a restaurant in the sand, which the kids loved because they could play as we waited for our food.  Then the last morning we had breakfast at Schooners which had unique food and ocean front, nice way to end the trip.

For lunch, my favorite option was Dino's pizza.  We could come right out of the water park or off the beach and sit in the "Town Center" for pizza, salads, or sandwiches.  We always had a good lunch there.  Then we also tried Bobby Dee's which is in the water park for days where we were right out of the pool, super casual, burger and fries kind of lunch.  Bobby Dee's also has an ice cream and milk shake bar open all day.  Lastly we tried Arizona's for a lunch buffet with a Mexican twist.  All the food was good and we loved the variety.

For dinner, Mike and I ended up spending a lot of time on our own (see kids camp section).   Our first night we ate as a family at Neptunes which is a bit fancier but kids are allowed.  The fish was delicious and the wine was good (they refill your glass every time they walk by, your wine glass never gets empty!).  After that the kids wanted nothing to do with us, so we got a lot of date nights.  Sky was a romantic ocean front dinner with a great menu and champagne, and Arizonas for dinner offered a delicious steak.  Soy was a casual Japanese style restaurant and the sushi was soooo good!  I don't think we had a bad meal!

In addition to the dining, we loved stopping in the coffee shop for an afternoon cappuccino and warm chocolate chip cookie, or grabbing ice cream to go from the ice cream shop.  We definitely ate and drank our moneys worth.

Kids Camp and Activities-

The reason we picked this resort is because we were hoping for a mix of family time and adult time.  And that is exactly what we got.  We were able to spend a lot of time as a family doing things we love,  AND we were able to comfortably bring the kids to camp and spend some time as a couple relaxing and enjoying the beautiful island.  It was truly a perfect happy medium.

I wasn't sure how much we would actually use the camp, we travel as a family because we want to spend time together.  But the camp was so awesome, that the kids wanted to go frequently and we were comfortable sending them.  The camp is broken down into many groups- under 1, 1-2 yr old, 3-4 yr old, 5-7 year old, 8-10, year old, teens, etc.  At first I was a bit bummed Patrick and Ryan wouldn't be in the same group, but as the week went on it really didn't matter.  Patrick's group did so much age appropriate activities, and Ryan's group did more big kid adventures, they were both so happy.  It was nice to have them broken into an appropriate age group so that they aren't mixed into one big group.

Examples of some of the scheduled activities for the 3-4 yr olds: Cookies with Cookies Monster, Art and Crafts with Abby, swim time in their private kids pool, Letter or the Day, movie night PJ party, Beach Party with Big bird, Face painting, Duck hunt, playground adventure, Story time with Elmo, and Dress up costume parties.  Every day was different, every hour was different.  So much fun.

Examples of the schedule for 5-7yr old "little Pirates": puppet making, beach olympics, pool games, beach science experiments, snorkeling lessons, treasure hunt, sand castle making, Kids Mini Dance party, Bonfire with marshmallows, Boat Cruise, and talent show.  This was a great age where the kids became friends and looked forward to seeing each other each day.

By the end of the week, Ryan knew all the kids.  He was famous, he was the social director letting everyone know when he would be in camp so that they could plan to be there too.  He even signed himself up and participated in the talent show (without me having any idea, I missed it)!  The teens where doing it and his group went to watch, and he asked to enter and participate.  He did the Robot dance across the stage for 2 minutes and was from then on known as Robot Ryan by all the other guests.

The camp counselors were wonderful, they knew the kids by name and greeted them with big smiles and hugs every time we dropped them off.  It was really a great experience.

(hard to see but this was the science experiment on the beach)

In addition to the camp- there was so much to keep the kids busy.   The water park area was legit.  Three large slides, two medium slides, a smaller splash area with small slides, lazy river, and surf simulator.  We all had a great time in the water park.

They also had parades, character shows, bonfires on the beach, Character parties, and an xbox lounge and game room.  We were not bored for one moment.  You could do as much or as little as you wanted.  That is one reason we loved the camp so much.  The kids had the opportunity to go go go and do everything they wanted to do, and Mommy and Daddy could check out for a couple hours each day to chill and do nothing.

We also took advantage of the free snorkeling, and brought Ryan along with us both times.  One time we took the short boat ride off shore and snorkeled on a local reef, and then the next time we got a tip from the hotel and just walked down to the end of the property and snorkeled right off the beach.  Ryan loved it!  Such a cool way to introduce him to the activity and not spend extra money.

I would say this resort is set up to accommodate families with kids of any age.  They have something to offer everyone.

Lazy river

kids only swim up bar

some slides

little kids area

medium slides in the back ground

lazy river

one of Ryan's many camp friends

examples of that weeks schedule

boat trip

One of the best parts about the trip, especially if you are use to Disney, is the character availability.  We saw them and interacted with them so much.  Just hanging by the pool, they would come by and say hi.  While sitting at lunch.  They participated in the kids camp activities, they just walked around the resort.  Even if you aren't a character fan, it just brings some extra fun for the kids to always see them around.  Some of the girls from kids camp even arranged a surprise (not paid for) visit from Cookie Monster to our room for pictures and he brought a small gift for the kids.  It was really special to not have to fight for time with them.  

Examples of how we spent our days-

1st Full day-
Breakfast at Mario's
Water park as a family
Lunch at Dino's
Quick little nap for the kids, cocktails on the balcony for the parents
Kids went to camp to try it out from 3:30-5pm
Mommy and Daddy went to the beach and had a drink at the pool bar
Live character show at 6:30
Family dinner at Neptunes
Kids to bed, relaxed on the balcony

2nd day-
Breakfast at Guiseppe's
Kids to camp 9-11:30am
Mom and Dad went to the beach, had drinks delivered to our chair, and were buzzed by lunch- oops
Lunch at Dino's again, we loved the pizza
Italian pool as a family
rest time for the kids
Cookies monster to our room
6-8pm kids to camp for the kids talent show and party
We went to dinner at Sky and sat by the fire after until pick up

And then the days continued like that- a combination of family time, camp time, pool time, water park time, beach time, etc.

Last but not least, Food Allergies-

Traveling with food allergies is not easy, especially when its several allergies.  But I would say Beaches is very good at dealing with it.  They are not Disney, Disney is in a league of its own with allergies, but they were good, thorough and I felt safe with Ryan eating.  The way it works is you have to go to the food concierge at the main lobby, and put in food requests ahead of time.  This overwhelmed me at first, because I didn't know where we were going to eat and when.  But after the first day I saw that it was worth it to take the time, plan out our dinners, and put in a food request in advance so that we could get Ryan a good meal.  This even worked on the nights he went to kids camp for dinner.  As long as the chef had a meal request, he would personally deliver Ryan is dinner whether he was with us or with the camp.

Breakfast we just did the buffet and I would get Ryan yogurt, fruit, cereal, and bacon because I knew they were safe options.  Only one day I put in a food request for special pancakes on the day we went to the sit down restaurant for breakfast.  Lunch we knew the pizza at Dino's was safe, so that was a good option.  And Bobby Dee's I just spoke to the manager on site if we went and confirmed a safe meal for lunch, so I didn't have to put it special requests in advance.  So really only dinner needed to be pre-planned.

They also had the chef make him gluten free, egg free, nut free cupcakes and cookies that I picked up from the front desk that he was able to bring for desserts.

Bottom line- there was always a safe meal for him, it just took a little pre-planning  and organizing.  I consider this a success for our first time traveling out of the country with a food allergy kid.

If you are looking for a family vacation, a beautiful location, a chance to relax or to fill your day with activities, kids to be entertained, good food and wine, and a break from reality... then this should be your next vacation.  Start saving now, its not a cheap get away, but its worth it.  The Taynors will be back!

Our Journey Towards Baby 3

Right off the bat, this is not a pregnancy announcement!  It is actually the opposite, it's the story of how we have been struggling to grow our family.  It has been a challenging year plus on this roller coaster ride, and I am ready to get it all off my chest.  You never know who will find this post, that may be going through a similar struggle, and find peace in knowing they are not alone.

Almost immediately after Patrick was born, I knew our family wasn't complete.  I knew right away we would have another baby.  I didn't know when, but that is what I felt in my heart.  When he was about 1, I felt we were ready, but Mike and I had an adult only trip to Colorado planned that summer, and I really didn't want to go pregnant.  So we decided as soon as the trip was over we would officially start trying.  Leading up to that time, I tracked my cycle so I had a pretty good idea how long my cycle was and when I ovulated each month.  August 2015 we "pulled the goalie" and started trying for baby 3.  With both my past pregnancies, it only took about 3 months, so we were hopeful that we would be pregnant by the Fall.

September- I got my period.  October- negative pregnancy test.  December- Not yet.  And this continued for a few more months.  I was trying to stay positive, I know it takes many women a long time to get pregnant.  But each month we were disappointed to find out we still were not pregnant.  I never even considered after two great pregnancies that it would not come easy again.

In March 2016 we finally got pregnant!  I was soooooooo excited!  Shocked, relieved, ecstatic!  I had a cute little way of surprising Mike with the news, and he was more excited then he has been with the past two pregnancies (he always gets nervous when I am pregnant).  I think since we had to work a little harder for this one, made it a little extra special.

Everything seemed to be going well, I had morning sickness, peed all the time, the normal first trimester fatigue... all of my regular early pregnant symptoms.  My first doctors appointment was scheduled for when I would be 8 weeks, April 1.

It was at that appointment, during my pregnancy confirmation ultra sound, that we knew something was wrong.  The minute the doctor started the scan, I knew there was a problem.  I didn't see anything on the screen.  Not a sac or spot or anything at all.  The doctors face was blank.  There was no baby there.  But the doctor didn't say that.  We immediately started going through all the possibilities.  Maybe I was earlier in the pregnancy then we thought, maybe the sac was hidden somewhere in the uterus, maybe we should have a specialist do the scan.  That lead to a week of doctors appointments, blood work, and ultra sounds.  Long story short, about a week later the doctor confirmed it was a miscarriage.  My hormone levels were all great and growing as a normal pregnancy should, but the baby wasn't growing along with it.  After some consultation, we decided to do the D&C procedure that week.

Well we were heartbroken.  Completely devastated.  It was like the rug was pulled out from under us.  We were so excited and hopeful and happy to be pregnant, that we immediately got our hopes up.  We immediately imaged our family with 3 kids, we immediately planned how we would set up bedrooms, when I would go on maternity leave, how we would tell our families on our Disney vacation, pictured Ryan and Patrick as big brothers.  Ryan has been praying every night for a baby, he was going to be so happy.  Learning that we were no longer pregnant just ripped that all away.  I didn't know how to process the emotions.  Especially since physically I still felt pregnant for another couple of weeks.  It was a terrible loss, the sadness ran very deep.

The doctor said he didn't see anything wrong, he had no reason to believe something was wrong with my  health, and that we were free to start trying once my cycle returned.  So we did.

I got my period the end of May, we started trying in June, and I found out I was pregnant again by the end of June!  Even though we had just gone through that horrible experience, I didn't really worry it would happen again.  Seeing the positive so soon took my breath away.  We were happy and excited, this time we would have a health pregnancy.  I became an expert at pretending to drink at social events, so no one suspected a thing.  I could not wait to finally announce it to the world that we were growing our family.

We scheduled our 8 week appointment, went for our first scan, and got the bad news again.  This time we saw the sac trying to grow, the baby got to about 6 weeks before it stopped growing.  I did the blood work and scans and appointments just like we did in April.  All with the same results.  Another miscarriage and a D&C in August.

I couldn't believe we were going through this again.  I think the second time around I felt more angry than sad.  Why was this happening?  What was wrong with my body?  What else could I be doing to help get pregnant?  Why did the whole world around me seem to be pregnant?!?!

This second miscarriage also lead to me re-evaluating the whole process.  Are we not meant to have another baby?  Should we stop trying?  Is this a sign from God that my body can't handle a pregnancy?  Or is it just normal, like so many people keep saying?  Should I see a fertility specialist?  Or should I just keep trying and it will happen when its meant to happen?

So to help us grieve, we planned a spontaneous last minute family vacation to Turks and Caicos (that post is coming next).  We wanted to appreciate the family we have, the blessings in our world, and not agonize over getting pregnant and the loss of these babies.  I know that sounds crazy, but the time away gave us perspective and took the edge off.

In the meantime, the doctor ordered a full list of blood work, to take a look at everything going on that may be affecting my pregnancy.  At this stage they are not considering it an "infertility" issue because I had two healthy pregnancies, I am under 35, and its only 2 miscarriages, not 3.

Our current status is this- my blood work came back with a few areas of concern,  One thing specifically is that my cardio lipids are very high, leading to blood clotting.  The doctor suspects the blood clotting is causing the problem, because not enough blood is flowing to the baby to give it the ability to grow.  He also recommended I see a hematologist to help review the blood work and explain whats going on.  I also decided to see a new OB for a second opinion.  I want someone else to see the results, hear my story, and let me know what they think is going on.  I like my OB but he seems very nonchalant about the whole thing.  The new OB appointment is this week, and the hematologist is next week.  So I guess we will see.  Hopefully they can create a plan for us.

We really really want this baby.  As much as I am nervous to get pregnant again, my gut still tells me we are not done.  There is another baby for us.  We will continue this journey, work with the doctors, and pray a whole lot, and I believe whatever is suppose to happen will happen.  My Rainbow baby will be here one day!