Snapshots from a Visit to Fargo


Sitting on the potty moving tiles around on the Words with Friends app singing the alphabet song.

Hugging my parent’s Yorkshire Terrier, Titan, declaring, “She my friend!” (Gender appropriate pronouns are a work in progress)

Wandering around after my dad left for work calling out, “Grandpa? Where are you?”

When I explain that we’re flying home soon, she looks at me and says, “Stay here?”

Pretending to go “back to work” because that’s what Grandma and Grandpa do.

Going on walks with Grandpa and Titan every day after he gets home from work.


Luxuriating in crawling around Grandma and Grandpa’s large house. It makes me reflect on how little space there is in our condo to crawl.

Crawling as fast as he can to greet Grandpa at the door when he gets home from work.

Being held by Grandpa, one of his favorite people.

Figuring out that if he reaches down from his high chair with food, Titan will eat out of his hands.

Feeding Titan all of his lunch.

Learning to climb stairs.

This is What I Call A+ Parenting

I went to Barnes & Noble with Ruby today, and sat down to play with Duplos for a while (because what else is a 2yo going to do there?). Ruby was building a castle, and invited me to help her. When I came over to help, she abandoned me for other, shinier, toys. So I started my own castle. It was color coordinated, so I ended up having to…acquire…blocks from her castle. Ruby came back and happily helped me finish my castle.

Then she looked over at the remains of her castle and, dismayed, said, “What happen my castle?!”

“The ignorant peasants hundreds of years after your castle was finished failed to appreciate the engineering and artistry of your ancient castle-work and appropriated the building materials for their own uses.”

She clearly understood what I was talking about because she stopped asking about it. Darn peasants.


Around the time Ruby turned one, she started getting a terrible diaper rash that would turn into bleeding sores. My pediatrician gave me antibiotic ointment to treat the sores, but was not remotely helpful in identifying what might have been causing them. I asked around to friends and family until Kyle’s aunt (to whom I am forever grateful) suggested I stop feeding Ruby dairy. She said she’d seen other kids with similar rashes who improved when dairy was taken out.

So I stopped giving Ruby cow’s milk and eventually I took out all other forms of dairy. The rash got better, and I was surprised to find that other things changed as well. Ruby used to randomly vomit, and that improved. She also used to get black, tarry poop, and that improved as well. I hadn’t realized that all of these things were connected. She seemed to have a milk allergy.

I wasn’t very familiar with food allergies, and my pediatrician wasn’t helpful on that front, so I took her to a local allergist. He did a scratch test, which came up negative. He told me that sometimes tests come up negative but that kids still have allergies (to which I wanted to know why I’d paid money for a test that didn’t tell me anything). He was generally dismissive and acted like I was being a helicopter mom for taking her to a specialist for something like a milk allergy. I was frustrated, but I figured since I was there I’d continue asking my questions, and when I asked him about the black, tarry poops that Ruby had been having he told me that I had mis-seen the color and that her poop was really dark brown. I insisted that they were, indeed, black, and he told me that if they really were that it meant there was blood in her stool from her gut and that he could refer me to a GI specialist. The way he said it was very condescending and I didn’t want to seem to be making a big deal out of nothing so I didn’t ask him for a referral (I now wonder if this might have been resolved sooner if I’d pressed and gotten the GI referral). He told me to give her soy milk and offer her cow’s milk every now and then to see if she’d grown out of it.

I gave her almond milk and continued nursing. Over the next year or so, her rash kept coming back. It never got as severe as it had when she was drinking cow’s milk, but it almost never cleared up. After being so thoroughly dismissed, I was afraid to take her back to a doctor. But I was talking about it to my downstairs neighbor, and she said that she’d had a similar experience with the allergist in Provo. Her kids had severe allergies and she drove them to an allergist in Salt Lake to be treated. She gave me his name, and I hemmed and hawed about taking Ruby because I was afraid I was making a big deal about nothing. She seemed to be doing better without the milk, so I held off for a while. But as Ruby started to speak more, she would tell me about how her bottom hurt, and when she woke up at night (because Ruby has never slept well), she would cry because her bottom hurt.

While all of this was happening, Sherman had been born and six months later started eating solid foods. When I gave him cheese, he got weird, mucous-y poops, a diaper rash, and vomited. So I figured he was allergic to dairy, too, and stopped feeding it to him.

By this time we were having some insurance issues, and I didn’t want to pay for a specialist out of pocket, but as soon as she was covered again I took her to the allergist in Salt Lake that my friend recommended. I didn’t get an appointment for Sherman even though he had similar symptoms because I figured there was no point paying for two appointments if it turned out this doctor was going to be dismissive as well. But the allergist patiently listened to the symptoms, my experience with the last allergist, and my concerns. He told me that it sounded like she had FPIES (Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome; pronounced F-pies, like apple pies), a rare type of multiple food intolerance/allergy. He did a few more scratch tests, and they all came up negative again, which corroborated his thesis that it was FPIES. It has a different biological mechanism than regular allergies, different symptoms, and it can’t be diagnosed with scratch testing for regular allergies. In some ways it’s more similar to Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance) than it is to traditional food allergies. The good news is that most FPIES kids grow out of it by the time they’re 6, and it can be very effectively managed by avoiding the trigger foods. At this point, I was certain that Sherman had it as well, although he was only officially diagnosed this past Monday.

The other news was that it was more deeply entrenched in Ruby’s life than I had imagined. Symptoms that I hadn’t even considered turned out to be related. Kids with FPIES don’t sleep well because they don’t feel well. Ruby has never, ever slept well. I’ve been up between one and five times with her at night since she was born. Since Sherman was born, and especially since he started eating solid food, it hasn’t been irregular for me to be up 6-8 times between the two of them. But nobody wants to hear that your two year old doesn’t sleep through the night or that your previously happy sleeper of a baby started waking up a lot at night when he was about six months old. It must mean that you’re a bad parent (in fact I recently endured someone detailing to me all the things I could try to get Ruby to sleep through the night; an experience I wasn’t thrilled about).

Instead of being IgE mediated like more common allergies, it is cell mediated and most of the mutiny happens in her intestines, which causes the GI problems like vomiting and diarrhea. In fact, Ruby has been having diarrhea for most of her life. I knew when she started solids as a baby that the consistency of her poop would change and gradually become solid. Her stools became more solid, but never got to look that solid. I had also heard that breastmilk is kind of a diuretic, so I figured that the fact that she was still nursing was what was giving her the loose stools. She was my first baby, and I had not idea what normal poop was supposed to look like. I also know from experience that talking to doctors about your weird poop is one of the fastest way to get dismissed (one of the take-home messages of this story is that I hate dismissive doctors). But the constant diarrhea was also making her dehydrated. Ruby nursed and drank water all the time; I figured she was a busy toddler and all the playing made her thirsty. And hearing that on some days your two year old nurses 10-15 times a day is another thing nobody wants to hear. It says something about you. Possibly many somethings.

The allergist gave me a handout to read that started connecting a lot of dots. As a result, I now knew what I’m looking for an was able to determine that Ruby and Sherman were both reacting to more than milk. Because FPIES is so rare, there is no test to tell you what foods your kids are allergic to. It’s all trial and error. If you feed your kid something and they get sick, you take it out of their diet. The problem was that since Ruby and Sherman were already eating all sorts of foods, I had no idea what exactly they were eating that was making them sick. And since soy–a food they are both now avoiding–is in a ton of processed food, almost everything they ate was making them sick. One day, Sherman got two sores about four inches long up each side of his bottom. He still has scars from it.

After the diagnosis I could see how all of the symptoms connected, but I didn’t know what food was making them sick. But you can’t stop feeding your kids. It’s scary trying to balance not starving your kids with trying to figure out what foods are making them sick. But now I have a list of foods that each of them are avoiding, and their symptoms are clearing up. No more throw up, no more diarrhea, Ruby is sleeping increasingly well, their poop is more solid than it’s ever been, no more rashes. And since I know what I’m looking at, I can tell when they’re having a reaction. Sherman had some dairy cross contamination on Saturday night and woke up every hour all night. But now I know why.

The foods Ruby is avoiding at the moment are: dairy, soy, rice, oats and eggs.

The foods Sherman is avoiding are: dairy, legumes (including soy, green beans and peas which it turns out are all botanically legumes), and grains (rice, wheat, oats, etc.).

I’m not 100% sure that they’re allergic to all the foods on the lists, but when I stopped feeding them those things they’ve both cleared up. After they’re clear for a few weeks I’ll try some of the foods I’m unsure of again to see what exactly they’re reacting to.

This has been quite a process. I’ve had to grieve the fact that my kids can’t eat like normal kids, and that I have to be really strict about other people feeding them. The nursery workers at our church fed Ruby something a couple of weeks ago that made her throw up. Even if we could afford pre-school, it makes me strongly hesitate considering it because I don’t want her to be sick all the time because she’s eating other kids’ snacks or because the teachers aren’t sufficiently vigilant for an FPIES kid. I guess it would depend on how reliable the teachers were about these kinds of things.

So this has been my life for the last little while. It’s been pretty overwhelming.

Learning to Crawl

Sherman is on the verge of crawling. If he really tries he can kind of inch himself around the room, but for the most part he just gets up on hands and knees and wobbles back and forth. When we try to encourage him to crawl by putting a toy or his binky just out of reach so he has to crawl for it, he puts up the biggest fuss. Big ol’ tears run down his face and he cries and cries because wouldn’t it just be so much easier for me to get what I want if you would just give it to me. Boy howdy, you’d think that crawling was the hardest thing in the universe by the way he carries on. I do not remember Ruby carrying on like this when she was learning to crawl. He really wants to crawl, but he doesn’t want to do the work to get there. We keep encouraging him anyways, and sometime soon I expect he’ll be chasing Ruby around the house (or she’ll be chasing him around).

Some Ruby Stories

Sleepers were on clearance last week at Wal Mart, so I bought some a size or two up for the kids. Ruby was digging through the groceries when I got home and she pulled out one sleeper with a zebra print.

“Ruby sleeper?” She asked me.

“Yes, those are for you.”

“Try on?”

“If you want.”

So I helped her trying on a hilariously large zebra sleeper, and she was enthralled. She ran into the room where Sherman had just woken from his nap and said, “Look, Sherman! Zebra!”

She insisted on sleeping in that sleeper that night, and when Kyle put it on her she ran around to every body in the house declaring, “Look at me! Look at me!”

That night she peed through her diaper and needed a new sleeper. While Kyle was pulling off her prized zebra sleeper, she wailed, “No no sleeper! No no sleeper!” (Don’t take off the sleeper.) She was not happy to have a dry sleeper if it meant the zebra one was gone.

Ruby has gotten into a game on my phone called Survive! Mola! Mola! which is about a fish that eats smaller fish and grows bigger. It’s simple enough that Ruby taught me how to play it. “Touch this” (the shrimp, sardines, etc., that the Mola eats) “Fish eat.” (The fish eats it.) Repeat.

Today Ruby was playing it while I put Sherman down for a nap, and when I came back I heard the music of the game and saw a lump hiding under a blanket.

“Mommy?” Ruby says.


“I’m hiding under blanket.”

“Thanks for telling me. I never would have found you otherwise.”


We got a TV for Christmas. It’s been great. I love TV (well, Netflix; cable is a thing for old people). Ruby loves TV, too. Specifically she loves (love love loves) My Little Pony. I have seen every episode many times, and we watched the Rainbow Rocks movie dozens of times. Ruby knows all the Rainbow Rocks songs. All of them.

But she recently figured out that the remote turns the TV on and finds Ponies. So when she decides she wants to watch Ponies, she comes up to me and says, “Watch ponies? Where da ‘mote? Where da ‘mote?” (Can we watch ponies? Where’s the remote?).

It kills me every time. Now whenever Kyle or I are searching for the remote, we say, “Where da ‘mote? Where da ‘mote?”

Harold and Her Purple Crayon

My two-year-old “Harold” went on an adventure today with her purple crayon (no doubt inspired by a certain book we got for Christmas). I was visiting somebody for church, and Kyle was talking on the phone with his parents. When I got home, there was purple crayon up and down the hallway and in spots in the living room.

Ruby could tell she was in trouble, so she pulled out a wipe and started wiping up the crayon without us telling her to (she happens to clean sometimes, too). And amazingly…the crayon came off. The last box of crayons I bought, I got a special kind that was advertised to be super washable. It was a little more expensive, but I figured there was a solid chance I’d be cleaning crayon off the wall in my future so I bought it anyways. Guys, it’s so washable that Ruby cleaned up most of the crayon all by herself. It wiped off almost like marker on a whiteboard. Not that I think this is a good reason to color on the wall with crayons, but at least a naughty child gets the experience of cleaning it up all by herself now.

The Potty Training Tales

Despite my mother’s sound advice of never reading parenting books (except the scriptures), I insisted on reading a potty training book by a parenting expert that I generally agree with.

Boy was that a mistake. It suggested an all-out approach to potty training and suggested doing it at an age that I now feel is far too young to potty train.

So we’re not going into the things I tried that went wrong at first. I want to talk about the things I did that ended up working. Because that’s the kind of mood I’m in tonight.

I started small. After everything went wrong the first time, I gave it a few months, and I started on levels that didn’t stress me out. That meant that we worked on going potty only at home and only while she was awake. If I was having a bad day, I just put her in a diaper and called it good. She didn’t wear pants or underwear while we were working on it, and I used a toddler potty so she could take ownership and go by herself. The most effective way to get her to go at first was to sit her on a toddler potty while she watched My Little Pony. She would end up going at some point during the episode and I would praise her for going in the potty.

Gradually, we worked up to her recognizing that she needed to go and sitting on the potty all by herself. Then I added underwear, which was a few steps back and a few steps forward for a while. Then I added pants. Then, I started taking her out without a diaper. After a little trial and error, we’ve gotten it down pretty good. And when I say gradually, I mean gradually. We moved forward when I felt like it and she seemed ready, and at this point we’ve been working on it for around four months. Accidents are infrequent, and I can now take her out and be reasonably certain she won’t need a new pair of pants. She is still wearing a diaper at night and during naps, and I’m willing to do that until she starts waking up dry. I’m in no rush.

Some things that I found helpful: never ask a toddler if she needs to go potty (the answer is always no). If I see her holding it, I tell her to go sit on the potty. If she doesn’t listen I lead her over to the potty, help her with her pants and ask her to sit down and try. And if we’re about to go out, I tell her that she has to sit on the potty and try to go. Asking her to “try” going potty seems to be more effective than asking her if she needs to go or telling her to sit on the potty; it seems like she’s alright with giving it a go as long as it’s ok if she doesn’t need to go after all. Occasionally she doesn’t go, but 90% of the time she’ll go if I’ve asked her to try. If she doesn’t go, I just say “Thanks for trying,” and don’t make a big deal about it.

In fact, not making a big deal about it has been the biggest asset for me. By doing it gradually and still relying on diapers, it wasn’t a crisis if she wasn’t making progress fast. And if she or I had a bad day, I just put her in a diaper and tried again the next day. Since I was laid back about it, I wasn’t pressuring her and she didn’t resist. When she has an accident, I just say, “Remember, pee and poop go in the potty. You can try again next time.” That’s it. No biggie.

The nice thing about the toddler potty, is that now she can pull her pants up and down (although sometimes she requests help) and sit on the potty all by herself with no help from me. Most of the time I don’t even know she’s gone. She even dumps it into the big potty all by herself sometimes. This independence has a bit of a downside, because she never tells me that she needs to go when we’re out. But I’ve found that if I ask her to go before we leave, and just give her a chance to go potty every 1-2 hours after that, we can go out for hours at a time and have no accidents.

Feeling confident that my toddler can go out without a diaper is a really great feeling. I’m glad it’s gone so well.

Origin Story

Ruby had a poopy diaper before bedtime last night, and as she was stalling before bed she was telling me about “Poop on the butt.”

Me: Yes, well, that’s where poop usually comes from. The butt. Actually…it’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s a good start.

Kyle: I dunno, it seems pretty straightforward, poop comes from butts.

Me: Actually, all poop was originally formed in the heart of a star…

And that is a point that you can neither argue with nor take anything seriously after. So that was the end of that.

Big Boy Sherman

This week Sherman started sitting independently.

I have never been very sad or nostalgic when Ruby hits milestones; I have always been excited and enthused at her new abilities and independence. I never wished to go back to her baby days. But for some reason recently, as Sherman grows bigger and starts doing things like eating foods (boy lives on a steady diet of milk and cheerios, I’m afraid I’m turning him into his father) and sitting independently, I find myself feeling very differently. I find myself with a desire to blubber and moan about how he’s my widdle baby boy and who said he could get so big and sit and start eating and I want to moan and sob and cry and…

Seriously, where did my sweet baby newborn boy go? Wasn’t be born, like, yesterday? Why can’t he go back to being content to snuggle and sleep all the time; why does he have to want to play with toys and interact with other things and people?

I don’t try to understand the complex emotions that go with motherhood. I just go with them. And sniff a few times as my baby boy grows up.