Monday, April 22, 2013

New Plans for Our Allergy Journey

As I mentioned a few posts ago, there is a lot changing in our lives. Our journey with food allergies is no exception. Thankfully, these changes will hopefully be for the better; however, we are still in the very early stages of these changes.

Last October I made a post about oral immunotherapy (OIT) as an option for us to help Big Monkey overcome his peanut allergy. We saw our local allergist in January, and I discussed the options with him. A little birdie told me that he had once considered offering OIT himself, so I wanted his opinion. In short, he told me he was waiting a few more years to decide what sort of "treatment" he wanted to offer. Our other option was traveling and/or relocating to Oregon for 6+ months to work with an allergist there who was already offering OIT. That option just sounded exhausting on so many levels.

Here is what traveling with both Monkeys looks like
We decided that before we made any final decisions, we needed to have Big Monkey component tested. There is a blood test available called the uKnow Peanut test that measures one's antibody response to individual proteins within the peanut. Protein components Ara h1, Ara h2, Ara h3, and Ara h9 are associated with high risk of anaphylaxis upon exposure. Ara h8 is associated with mild symptoms and cross-reactivity to birch pollen. Typically, this test is only recommended for someone that has had a positive blood test but no reaction to peanuts; however, since Big Monkey has only had one known reaction, we thought it wise to complete the test just to be sure we knew exactly what was going on. Sure enough, he is strongly Ara h2 positive and is negative for the mild/cross reactive Ara h8. It is no longer a question of "if" Big Monkey experiences anaphylaxis with an accidental exposure, but "when."

So our decision? To wait on OIT for a few years and then re-evaluate what our allergist says. We had already decided to continue with homeschooling, so there was no longer a worry about treatment later interfering with school. We're already a peanut free household, and have already adjusted our lives for the last three years to successfully (so far) avoid peanut exposure. So waiting would not change much in our lives. 

Our hope? That either our allergist or another amazing allergist locally would start offering OIT. We knew it was a long shot considering how few allergists offer OIT in private practice, but we were keeping our fingers crossed. 

So imagine my surprise, shock, elation, and disbelief, when, just weeks after receiving Big Monkey's uKnow peanut results (possibly within a week, I can't remember exactly), we were informed that there is an allergist just 30 minutes from my mom's house that is now offering peanut OIT. Now, my mom is not exactly "local," but we are both in the same state and within driving distance. Commuting to that area weekly or bimonthly would be possible with both kids either by car or plane. I would not need a hotel, my husband would not have to take time off work, I would have a baby sitter for Baby Monkey, I would have a support system for myself and Big Monkey at/immediately after each updosing, I'm familiar with the area, and best of all, travel would be cheaper and less time consuming. To top it all off, the boys would see way more of the Monkey grandparents, and of course, everyone is excited about that! 

So I called the office. I chatted with the nurse. She chatted with the doctor. We now have a consultation appointment in three weeks! In three weeks I am going to have a discussion with a medical professional that could change my son's life (and our lives) forever. Words cannot even begin to describe what I feel, but it is a mix of excitement, hope, relief, anxiety, and fear. There are risks and a chance of this not being easy, but at the same time, what part of Big Monkey's day to day existence with food is easy and not risky?

I would move mountains for this little man...

And for good measure: 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Big Homeschool Changes and Plans

The new year has brought in a lot of big changes for the Monkey family. We have changes in the food allergy journey (more on that next month!), changes in the homeschool project, and just changes all around! Everything is for the good though. Today I'll tell you about the changes going on in the homeschool project.

Our biggest change in the homeschool project is that we have decided to homeschool the monkey boys beyond the preschool years. For now, we are thinking through elementary school, and then we will re-evaluate. Of course, we will take everything one day at a time. If we at any point feel that the boys are not thriving, enjoying themselves, learning at the proper level, or are not connecting with others the way they should, then we will re-evaluate traditional school options. However, so far Big Monkey has thrived beyond my expectations in his home preschooling journey.

Once that decision was made, then it was time to re-model the "school room." It was a complete mess to be honest. It was working for us for preschool, but if I plan to homeschool two kids for several years, I am going to need to be a lot more organized! It has been a several month process, but I can finally say that the school room is done (minus the worktable that we will be getting soon).

Here are the before pictures of the office/school room/workout room.

I had a desk, but it lacked drawers and cabinets. What little storage I had was stuffed with my stuff leftover from college and grad school that I just never purged. My organizational system was piles on the desk.

That's my sewing cabinet next to our work boxes.

So where did I store everything? The closet, of course! Half is material and scrapbook supplies. The other half was school supplies, art supplies, and games. It was so full that it was permanently spewing from the closet and forever on the floor. It was easier to get to the totes on the bottom if half of them were already out on the floor. Oh, and yes, I think that is a bag of something sitting on my office chair. 

Several pieces of furniture and hours of organization later, I have this:

Everything is stored in the two main cabinets and hutches and there is plenty of room for adding more material there.

The bookcases also aren't full, which will be great for adding reading material over the years.

Much, much cleaner, although I'm not sure it looks much different in the photos, it feels worlds different when you walk into the room. 

So we are now working on selecting our curriculum for future years. We have 2 more weeks of our letter of the week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Then we will move on and start learning to read over the summer (pending Big Monkey's interest once we start, of course). Next school year, we are currently planning on starting a kindergarten curriculum (probably using the K4 curriculum  also from Confessions of a Homeschooler). Exciting stuff!