Advocating for Your Family's Care

Written by Kathleen Morris

Edited by Becky Tankersley

A little over a year ago, our daughter spent three weeks in the Pediatrics unit of the hospital with a severe eczema infection.  During that three week time frame, I gave birth to my son (who also spent a week in the Pediatrics unit, in the room next to his sister).  This was not the birth or life my inner crunchy momma had in any way hoped or prepared for, but it’s where I found myself nonetheless.

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I learned a lot while in the hospital; I learned even more after we left.  I joined many online communities where thousands of patients and parents struggled with similar health issues. I noticed a recurring theme: people frozen by fear.  Not just fear of the sickness which plagued them or their children, but fear of the medical community in general—the doctors, the nurses, and the hospital itself.

Fear is a natural response, but can also be counter-productive because it can make us freeze when we should act. If you ever find yourself or someone you love in the hospital, there are a few ways to make the process a little smoother. The pointers below come from my own experience and from consulting with friends who are also well versed in these challenges. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting place. 

My hope is that this information will help you know how to advocate for yourself, your children, and whoever else in your life needs it.

Have a Second Set of Eyes (and Ears!)

If someone is going to be hospitalized for any length of time, I highly recommend a second person be present with the patient as much as possible.  The patient, regardless of age, has many stress factors at play, including various procedures, medicines, and lots of questions—both from doctors and nurses as well as from the patient. The second person can keep an eye on the medications, have a general understanding of the procedures and the risks, provide support to the patient, and build a report with doctors, nurses, techs, and meal deliverers.  Being hospitalized results in tons of information, questions, decisions to make, and lots of medications.  It is simply too much for one person to remember and manage alone. 

Be Grateful

Second, show some gratitude!  We have access to some of the best trained doctors and nurses in the world. Starting from a posture of gratitude goes a long way with medical professionals who are very frequently overextended.  Remember, they are human too, so treat them with respect.

Ask Questions

Third, ask questions!  If you are confused, or you are getting contradicting information, or you want to know something but have an inner voice telling you to be quiet, ignore it! Speak up! Do not let intimidation win.  In some cases there will be a team of doctors, all with different roles. Figure out who plays what role. Remember, this is your (or your loved one’s) health—your questions matter. Your thoughts matter.  Open your mouth and get the information you need.

Find the Patient Advocates

Fourth, figure out who the patient advocates are.  Many hospitals have dedicated staff to help if there are difficult encounters with hospital staff, you feel like your concerns are not being addressed, or there are upcoming procedures for which you need to prepare.  For example, our children’s hospital has a team of trained professionals who help get kids get mentally ready for procedures through play.  These individuals can also advise you on ways to reduce stress while at the hospital.  These people are an amazing resource—use them!

Know When to be (Appropriately) Angry

Fifth, and I leave this toward the end for a reason, know when it is time to channel your aggressive, demanding, no-nonsense self and direct it at the appropriate person.  For example, one weekend a tech came in to redo my daughter’s PICC line but did not tell me ahead of time.  Before I knew it, the line was out, the bed was moving (because it was on wheels and was a bedsore-preventing inflatable mattress), and the tech was trying to put a needle into my toddler’s arm.  There was no one there to hold my daughter still except me, who was a few days from giving birth.  I knew we needed at least four people to hold my daughter and put the line in based on our previous experiences, so of course the two of us couldn’t do it by ourselves. It turned into an awful wrestling match and left my daughter without a PICC line for medicine she desperately needed. My daughter was so traumatized we had to switch rooms.  Let’s just say that I informed multiple people that this “horse poo” would not happen again.

And guess what—they heard me and it did not happen again! Also, it didn’t negatively affect my relationship with the staff because I had expressed gratitude from the beginning (see my second point).

Pray

Finally, pray.  I do not think anyone can be truly prepared for this type of experience—it’s awful.  For me, crying out to God, questioning him, and just telling him where I was helped me immensely.  One of our biggest challenges was keeping my daughter’s PICC line in and clear. One weekend she lost her line (again).  If she went more than 24 hours without an IV, we would have to start the entire 14-day treatment all over, meaning a lot more time in the hospital.  We were down to a window of only a few hours, and no one could get a line, IV or otherwise, in my daughter. Even when the needle went in, my daughter went nuts and blew her vein. To top it all off, the best “sticker” in the unit, Keeley, was out that day. Everybody on duty at the time had given up.

Unbeknownst to us (and as providence would have it), Keeley’s best friend, Audrey, was my daughter’s nurse that weekend. Audrey called Keeley, who was hours away at a basketball game.  Instead of going home to rest and be with her family, Keeley came straight to the hospital from the game, yoga pants and all.  We went to the procedure room. Two sticks and the PICC line was restored, with almost no time to spare. 

You never know how God will send you a miracle. 

Today, my family is healthier than it has ever been.  We have struggled within our family and with medical professionals as I have hunted down different ways to bring healing.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, know you are not alone.  Do everything you can and rest in knowing that especially when you are at the end of yourself, God shows up in some miraculous ways.

*To learn more about Kathleen, head over to our “Contributors” page.

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

My Little Forkful Recipe: Veggie Broth

Written by: Janet Kibler

Veggie Broth

This broth is extremely healthy and alkalizing, so it will help balance your body’s pH levels and soothe an acidic stomach. Even better, it’s delicious, savory, and versatile!

I usually make broth on the same nights I’ve planned on making potato dishes, so I can just throw the potato peels right into the pot. But if I am in too much of a rush to make both, I freeze the potato peels until the next time I’m ready to batch broth. 

INGREDIENTS:

·       2 cups of fresh spinach

·       2 cups of broccoli

·       3 cups of celery (I’m allergic, so I sub in shredded cabbage)

·       2 cups of red potato skins

·       1 small zucchini, chopped

·       1 lb. fresh green beans

·       1 medium onion, chopped

·       2–4 tsp raw honey

·       1–2 tsp paprika

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and add 1 gallon of spring water (I actually use a bit more, just enough to cover everything). Simmer for 45–60 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Once cool, pour off most of the broth, leaving some in the pot with the cooked-down vegetables, and freeze it in 1- or 2-cup portions using any freezer-safe container or bag (I like silicon freezer bags). Frozen portions can be thawed later for making soups or as directed in other recipes.

Puree the cooked down vegetables and remaining broth using a blender/food processor or an immersion blender. If desired, add regular or plant-based milk and it becomes Cream of Vegetable soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Little Forkful

Written by: Janet Kibler

Edited by: Amber Crafton

Photo by: Alyson Mcphee

Photo by: Alyson Mcphee

Preparing food for family and friends is meditative for me. I love to experience the textures of the fruits and vegetables as I wash them, the velvety soft skin of a peach or the earthiness of a potato. The vibrant colors cause me to marvel at the creativity of God. I enjoy the fresh scent of cilantro and sneaking a taste of crisp sharp-sweet red pepper or tangy, soft kiwi when no one is looking. Nothing, I am convinced, can make me happier than a perfectly ripe slice of cantaloupe.

Imperfections are no disqualification. Overripe strawberries can be blended into a breakfast smoothie. That awkwardly shaped potato that won’t make it as an oven fry can be diced into a stew or mashed with turnip. Even the peels can be used to simmer a savory veggie broth. Much like life, nothing is useless, provided you have the eyes to see it’s potential.

What I love most about the process of preparing food and bringing loved ones together around the table is the connection it creates with what we put into our bodies and with those we invite to partake with us. When we are gathered together over a meal prepared with love, I believe something of that spirit can’t help but be infused into every forkful. You can see it in the faces around you and hear it in their laughter.

I encourage you in your busy lives to leave margin for enjoying meals together with family and friends. Jesus very much enjoyed fellowship over meals with his disciples and he used those pauses from his thriving ministry to invest in those closest to him. They provided time to explain the deeper meaning of his parables and to field their questions. Not only that, but by accepting the hospitality of those reviled by the religious elite of his day, he modeled a simple strategy for loving people deeply. Many a soul has entered the Kingdom of Heaven over dinner.

We can create a strong family culture by working together to prepare and enjoy a meal. Not only can children learn practical life skills, but that time is also a precious opportunity to share about each other’s day and discover together the deeper lessons hidden in the little happenings.

These times can be tailored to fit your lifestyle. Recipes don’t need to be complicated to be healthy. For a busy working couple or a family with many extracurricular activities, consider a service such as Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, or Blue Apron. The ingredients are bundled by meal and can be prepared in about 30 minutes. Our family has a weekly prep day (usually Sunday afternoon). The kids have their own set of knives and aprons, and we work together to prepare produce, storing everything in glass containers for the week ahead.

Connecting with people is more about conversation than a five-star meal. A friend of mine holds monthly “Soup Sundays” where she prepares a slow-cooker meal the night before. Family and friends brings rolls and sides. It is a lovely way to reach out with just the simple act of throwing ingredients in a crockpot. We have recently begun a tradition of potluck birthday celebrations that are prepared along a theme chosen by the birthday boy or girl. Everyone brings a dish to share, so prep and clean-up are a breeze. Some of the themes have included “German Smorgasbord,” “My Big Fat Greek Birthday,” and “Enchiladas Two Ways.” Before one of my dearest mom friends moved out of state, we would frequently take turns hosting a “Mom’s Sanity Dinner.” Both of our husbands often worked evenings, and, as many of you know, the days can be long and lonely with small children. The rule was that we had to pull together dinner using only what we had on hand. It would start with a phone conference as we each rooted through our kitchens in search of ingredients for a cohesive meal, each of us bringing a dish. It was always a blessing to have another adult to talk to while the kids played together in the next room!

There are many ways to use the gift of food to enjoy the people in your life. I would love to hear some of your ideas for creating connection, so please share in the comments. And don’t forget to try these two recipes for putting those potato peels to good use!

Pumpkin Spice Everything! [+ Pumpkin Bread Recipe]

Written by Toni Shiloh

Edited by Tara Sanders

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When autumn blows in there’s a jump to my step and expectation in my heart. Do you feel it too?

Cooler temperatures have rolled in and the trees have blessed us with an array of color.

Pumpkin spice everything also pops up wherever you go.

If you don’t like pumpkin, the sights and smells might assault your delicate sensibilities.

If you don’t like the commercialism of it all, you might scoff at the flavored chips and cookies.

If you’re like me and savor pumpkin, you kick up your feet and enjoy the show while sipping a pumpkin spice beverage and eating a slice of pumpkin bread.

Which brings me to today’s recipe. When the temperatures dip and the leaves dance in the wind, my fingers get the itch to bake. I’d love to share a pumpkin bread recipe with you, complete with pumpkin spice. ;)

You’ll be needing some flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin puree, olive oil, eggs, water, ground cloves, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and some nuts if you like that kind of thing (I do! Walnuts for the win!).

Here’s the breakdown:

1 + 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp pumpkin spice

1/2 cup walnuts

First, be sure to preheat your oven to 350˚F. While that’s warming up, you’ll want to sift the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Now I’m going to be honest, I don’t own a sifter. I never sift. *Gasp* I know, the horror, right? I instead mix all the wet ingredients first and add in the dry ones…to each his own. ;)

Once they’re all sifted, mix your wet ingredients. You know, that great pumpkin, olive oil, eggs (which should be beaten in one at a time), and the water. Once that’s all good, go ahead and add in your ground cloves, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice.

Then comes the nuts. Or chocolate chips, which I’ve heard people do from time to time. Once it’s all mixed go ahead and grab that loaf pan (greased and floured) and pour it in. Be sure to bake it for about 50-60 minutes.

While it’s cooking, dream of pumpkin delight passing your lips and warming your insides. I don’t recommend peeking in the oven because it’ll just prolong the wait. Perhaps you could get some laundry done or do other chores while your house gets perfumed with pumpkin spice.

When it’s ready, let it cool before removing it. I’ve stored my loaf in the fridge so I can just cut off a slice each morning and warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. I hope you enjoy!

Family Matters: Making the Switch to Paleo

Written by Jen Muncy

Edited by Tara Sanders

In April of 2016, our sweet Livie was born. We knew that she was the missing piece to our family and that she would be our last child. Shortly after she was born, we made the decision for me to come home from work. God sure knew what He was doing. It was that December when our world was shaken. Liv was med-flighted to a pediatric ICU an hour away from home and diagnosed with pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and RSV all at once. Talk about God halting everything! Our world stopped. She spent a very scary week in the pediatric ICU where her little body was pumped full of antibiotics. When we returned home from the hospital, we spent months trying to get her little system to work right again. My son had started preschool that year and brought every kind of germ home, which my daughter picked up due to her weakened immune system. 

Even before the hospital stint we had been having trouble with her (I don't know of a better way to say this...) pooping. She only pooped on her own about once every 2 weeks, and it only grew worse after the hospital. One day at the doctors office (which at that point felt like Cheers, where everyone knows your name), the nutritionist came in and asked if we had ever thought about The Paleo Diet for her. My puzzled look probably told her that I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that it was about avoiding refined or processed foods, and eating fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, nuts and healthy oils and fats. Basically, no sugar, processed foods, legumes or dairy. I left the doctor's office and immediately went home and bought a book on Paleo. I spent the next week reading, learning and buying the right things to "go Paleo" and that's how it all started for us.

At that point, Liv was too young to take formal allergy tests, so we began The Paleo Diet. I knew that if this was going to be a lasting thing for her and I (I was nursing her, so we were in this together), I was going to have to figure out how to still make things that we love and enjoy without sacrificing her being a "normal" kid...or my sweet tooth!

Photo: Example of a Paleo-friendly grocery haul. 

Photo: Example of a Paleo-friendly grocery haul. 

It's been a year and a half since we began this lifestyle and that is exactly what it is: a lifestyle that we've made our own. As with any shift you make in your lifestyle, you have good weeks and bad days so I won't judge you if you eat an Oreo.... or two.... or a sleeve like I did a couple of weeks ago! How do they make those things so good? We've since found out that Liv is not actually allergic to anything. She is free to eat a normal diet and I let her, but we still eat Paleo for the most part because it makes us feel great and it works so well for our family. I truly feel that it is the way God intended for us to eat. To me it's much more about fueling our bodies with the right foods that God placed on this earth for us, and not the processed, sugary foods that we've grown accustomed to here in America. I truly find it so fun to take something that can typically be a processed or unhealthy food or snack and find a way to make it Paleo-friendly. It's like a science experiment in the kitchen and I love it! If you are not so inclined to go back to lab class, you can search Pinterest and find a million Paleo-friendly recipes out there. Since the beginning of this journey, I've also started an Instagram account @jeneatswhole where I love to inspire people to make healthier choices. It has become a great creative outlet for me and allows me use my passion to help other people on their own health journey! I share recipes, what we eat and healthy shopping lists. I'd love to connect with you! 

Well, I couldn't just end this blog without sharing one of our family's favorite dinner recipes. If your skeptical, just try it. I promise you don't have to compromise taste to eat a clean, whole foods diet.

Paleo Coco Cashew Cauliflower Curry

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Ingredients: 

1 bag of fire roasted bell peppers and onions (I use Trader Joes)

1 bag frozen cauliflower rice

1 head of cauliflower florets 

2 tbsp full fat coconut milk 

2 tbsp minced garlic

several dashes of coconut aminos 

2 tsp sesame seeds

1 tsp fresh ginger

2 tbsp whole cashews

1 tsp chili garlic sauce

1 tbsp curry powder

Drizzle of honey

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Saute bell pepper and onion mix in oil

Add in cauliflower rice and cook for another 2 minutes

Add in cauliflower florets and cook until tender (I use frozen)

Add coconut aminos, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and cashews and cook for about 1 minute

Add in coconut milk 1 tbsp at a time until it gets to the consistency you like

Add in your curry, chili sauce, honey, salt and pepper stir and let simmer 

 

I like to top mine with cilantro, almond sauce, a lime, and extra cashews! 

These measurements can be more or less depending on your taste. This dish is very forgiving! 

Rocking a Road Trip

Written by Deborah Hackett

Edited by Becky Tankersley

Ever since our littles were nothing more than dreams my husband and I have been road-trippers. He flies at a lot of airshows—occasionally he flies there, but most of the time he drives. And of course the venue is never just 10 minutes away! In almost 20 years we have put a LOT of miles behind us.

When it was just the two of us, road tripping wasn’t difficult. Soda, candy, a bag of chips and we were off. Then came the children—and the needs of the backseat far outweighed those in the front. Our first road trip as a family of three was from Fort Worth, Texas to New Mexico—about 10 hours. On that trip we took a bottle warmer that plugged into the AC adapter, diapers, wipes and some jars of baby food. The only time we stopped was for one of us to use the bathroom or to change diapers.

When our daughter was just over a year old we drove from Fort Worth to Winter Park, CO. That was a two-day event and required a basket of Elmo toys (how the Elmo cell phone didn’t get “lost” in the Rockies remains a family mystery), and more frequent stops to eat and use the restroom. Months later we spent a week touring the Midwest. For that trip we went high tech with a portable DVD player, a bag of pretzels and wall to wall DVDs of Elmo’s World (Elmo and I have a love-hate relationship).

Our second daughter arrived later and brought with her the added element of raging acid reflux. Vomiting babies and car seat straps do not play well together! Now our trips involved disinfectant wipes, a scented trash bag and yes, a travel potty for our eldest. Parenting is many things—glamorous isn’t one of them. Now came the rise of the to-go coffee shops in our needs. Picking places to grab a meal moved from being whatever was convenient and looked tasty to its proximity to a place that would sell us good coffee.

Now our girls are in elementary school and are seasoned travelers. From the suburbs of DC we have driven to Florida, Wisconsin and Maine—and we’re all still on good speaking terms by the end. Here are a few tips—all thoroughly tested!—for family road trip survival (note: I assume you will plan to meet your family’s physical needs so I won’t list having snacks, drinks and trash bags, plus extra patience for all the bathroom breaks).

1)      Involve the whole family in planning. This has been a game changer for us. When we plan a road trip we ask the children to research places they might like to go. We do our utmost to put one each onto our itinerary. When they were too little to Google, we helped them by asking the sort of place or activity they’d like and then looking with them. 

2)      Traditional car games. We play fun or silly games while in the car. “I Spy” is a great one, or “I Went to the Store” (each person takes a turn to name an item in alphabetical order while remembering all the other items mentioned too). We also play “Guess Who” with everyone from movie stars, TV characters and people we know.

3)      Paper and Pencil activities. This is where Pinterest becomes your BFF! There are so many sites about road trip activities. We love the road trip Bingo pages that come with words or pictures and different options for city, country or highway driving. There are worksheets for any subject you may be studying. My girls have clipboards and pencils in the backseat and can do a couple of math activities or some fun games that teach about the state or city we are visiting.

*Note: We always require at least thirty minutes of paper activities before any electronics come out!

4)      DVDs. Yes. We do have portable DVD players and a great collection of DVDs plus headphones. You have to pick your battles and trying to make our girls agree on a movie isn’t worth the emotional energy. I’d rather buy a pair of headphones. If we are crossing a state line we have them pause whatever they’re watching, then let them get right back to it if they’d like. The inside of a car for hours isn’t a child’s sweet spot. They need a little understanding and distraction.

5)      Tablet games. Again, non-electronic activity needs to be completed and good behavior maintained to earn the tablet, but then a set amount of time is allowed. We realized a long ago that we plan vacations that suit us adults but we don’t always consider children. I’m thrilled at quietly looking out over the mountains—my girls are bored inside of five minutes. I get it—scenery bored me witless as a child, so we try to engage with the children but also give them space to relax and make their own choices.

This is just our blueprint—I hope you’ll take what’s useful and ignore what isn’t. What works for us won’t necessarily be useful to a different family. Last summer we managed 3,500 miles in 10 days touring the Wild West. There were odd moments of irritation (mostly mine at the mess in the back seat) but on the whole we did extremely well. This summer we are tackling the Pacific Northwest and can hardly wait to hit the road!

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