Intentionality: it's what's for dinner

I'm trying really hard right now to be intentional, in all aspects of life.

An intentional mama. To me, that means choosing to be present every single day. Not letting the day slip away while I load and unload the dishwasher 18 times a day, check and re-check my email 97 times a day, "pop online real quick like" to, you know, do something I absolutely, positively don't need to do while the kids are awake, like shop for curtains online. The list goes on. I should choose my children every morning and keep choosing them all day long. I do choose to have a side business but ultimately, I should choose my children first, above and beyond any other obligation, always. I knew when I was a little girl that all I wanted was to marry an awesome man and have children. I've done those things, but somewhere along the way I decided that a side business and the internet were equally as important. That's not true at all. Not only are those things not as important, they don't even hold a candle to the ones who call me mommy. Or the one I took my vows with.

An intentional friend. To me, that means choosing to keep in contact with all those I love so much. I've spent a lot of time doing stuff that doesn't even matter while neglecting the people in my life I love and the ones who love me back. I'm so lucky to have a handful of awesome people who love me back. I should make a better effort to keep up with their lives, to let them know that I think they're awesome and to show them I love them.

An intentional wife. To me, that means choosing to show my husband I love him in ways that I know he hears love. More touchy-feely. More sit down conversations. More just saying the words, "I love you." I'm so crazy lucky to have someone who treats me like gold. Truly...gold. He loves me even when I'm not being someone deserving of love. We've had our battles. We've had really hard times. We even wondered for a little bit if we'd make it. But we prayed and we worked hard and we overcame the obstacles and we became 10,028,048,018 times stronger. I know that lots of couples just...fall out of love. Life gets busy, children become the priority, so much so that couples lose sight of themselves and their relationship. The kids grow up and the marriage grows stale. And then you have a surge of empty nesters getting divorced because they just grew apart. Intentionality is the best way I know to make sure that we never find ourselves in that place. I want to grow old with my husband. All gray and wrinkly, living out our dreams and loving each other like crazy.

An intentional Christian. To me, that means devoting more time to the most important thing in this world: my God. I have slacked hardcore. At some point, as Landon became fussy, my business got busier and we moved cross-country, I just stopped getting up early every morning and diving into the Word. And believe you me, this girl has felt it BIG TIME. It's so true that we need a relationship with Him. Going to church on Sunday is something anyone can do. But to know Him and to have a relationship with Him is breathtaking. Words can't do it justice. Neglect any relationship, though, and it doesn't take long to grow apart, to forget how important that relationship is to you. The same can be said for God. I  need to be intentional, to be in the Word, to pray and to give Him the first of my day. Every day.

And finally, I just want to be intentional, period. I want to set goals and DO THEM. I don't want them to be these stupid little fleeting trials. I want them to be forever changes. That doesn't mean I don't get to try something on for size and decide it's not me, but right now that's pretty much the story of my life. 

Here's a little intentionality to start things off right. I have been shamefully neglecting the documentation of my kids' lives! Ben has a baby book that's about 1/118th filled out. My other children don't have one at all. FOR. SHAME. I'm so bad at that part of motherhood. So I've been trying really hard for the last few weeks to take lots of videos in hopes that every week I could compile them all into a little weekly recap. It ain't a baby book, but it's a start! And maybe I can be a more intentional blogger, too! ;)

a week of wild weather from Chelsea Hibbard on Vimeo.

I'm a few weeks behind, but this video starts the day before Thanksgiving with SNOW(!) and within a week we were in a heat wave, playing outside in short sleeves and soaking up the sun. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our new house, which was awesome. There was a little exploring of downtown Greenville, lots of outside time, Christmas decorating, a downtown date with my honey, and even a trip to Urgent Care when Landon busted his eye open with a stocking hanger. A little medical glue solved that lil crisis. But he's proven himself to be our daredeviliest daredevil of all our kids ever since, with many more bangs and smacks and falls.


One week in!

When I was doing Project Real Food last year, I stopped eating wheat. It was right after I found Wheat Belly and I just felt so strongly that wheat was a big problem for me. I wrote about the problems with wheat here, here and here. And I was wheat-free for awhile. It was actually pretty great! I found that after a few weeks, it wasn't too difficult to maintain, and the results I got were pretty remarkable. Somewhere along the way (when we moved cross-country), I got off track. Way off track. Like, shoving gluten in my mouth for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack every single day.

As I've learned with my own sensitive children, when you remove a problem food from your diet that is causing your body distress, and then you try to reintroduce it as some point, you are going to have a much more severe reaction than you ever did before. I have no idea what the scientific reason behind this is, but I've heard the same story from enough people now to know that there is a lot of validity here. I can only assume it has something to do with your body having adjusted to the "bad" food well enough that it could somewhat tolerate it before. Once you clean your body out and it's functioning at its best, and then you put that problem substance back in, your body must go crazy trying to readjust.

For me, that meant that the mild and mostly tolerable joint pain I'd been dealing with went into overdrive when I took grains out of my diet and then reintroduced it. By the time I wrote my last blog post, I was in so much pain every day that I lived in fear of what the next few years of my life were going to look like. If I was only 30 and in this much pain, what was 40 going to look like for me? Or 50? And it wasn't just the joint pain. It was the crazy fatigue, the 13 pounds I'd packed on in a month and a half, the headaches, the eye twitching, the hair loss, the dry skin, the acne.

So last week I bit the bullet (I believe it was Tuesday, after gorging myself on pizza - WHAT?!). The first few days I felt zero percent better, and maybe even a little worse. I was dejected but I knew from my experience with the kids that it can take up to 6 months, so 2 days was nothing. By the third day, though, I was feeling much better. So much less pain when I stood up from sitting or laying down. By the fourth day, even better! Today is Monday, and I went to bed at 4:00 yesterday (yeah, that's 4:00 PM) and slept until 7:00 this morning and I was bracing myself for the pain I was going to feel when I stood up, after laying down for so long, but to my surprise, I had almost no pain at all!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is totally worthy of 18 exclamation points, however grammatically incorrect it is. I also lost three pounds, which I desperately needed to see on the scale!

I did succumb and refill my Armour prescription on Saturday and took my first dose yesterday morning. Eventually, I want to get to the point where I don't need meds for my hypothyroidism. I want to heal it on my own. And I know it's possible, because I joined several facebook pages that have thousands of members with thyroid disorders, and so many of these fellow sufferers have gotten completely well just by removing grains from their diet. So much better, in fact, that they can go off their meds. But since I'm still having so many thyroid symptoms, I decided I'd give my body a break and take the meds for a few months until I've really removed all traces of gluten and grains from my body, and then try to wean myself off and see if I'm one of the lucky ones who needs no medicine.

In the last year, after healing my kids by removing grains, and then watching a few friends remove grains and/or gluten from either their diet or the diet of their kids, and completely healing them of things that even modern medicine couldn't, and now my own little experiments, I have no doubt left in my little ole brain that we shouldn't be consuming this stuff. I know that in biblical times, grains were a huge portion of our diet. I can't say with any sort of certainty why we can no longer tolerate them, but I can say with certainty that we can't (I believe no one should eat this stuff anymore, but you could say I'm biased). There are several culprits here. One would be that historically, we know that grains (and legumes, for that matter, which we also no longer eat) were prepared by a process of soaking them for long periods of time. I don't know how traditional cultures knew to do this, but they did. What we now know is that when soaking grains or legumes for long periods of time, we remove a huge percentage of the phytic acid in these items. And the phytic acid, we now know, is what's so hard for our bodies to digest. The second culprit is what I learned about in Wheat Belly, and I believe may be a general cause of so much of our disease in general: changing the genetic makeup of our foods. The wheat we have on supermarket shelves doesn't at all resemble traditional wheat. If genetically, it looks nothing the same, then common sense tells us our body doesn't "read" it the same.

I've been on a quest to determine why my children are so sick, and a common idea that repeats itself over and over again is that, since food is our fuel, and our food has been changed so much in the last few decades, of course our "machine" (ahem, body), isn't running the way it should. If I suddenly decided to put something sort of like gasoline, but not really, it just looks like gasoline on the outside but is really nothing at all like gasoline inside, in my car, what would happen? I would imagine that chances are, the car will not run well for long. If I give my car some sort of mix of partial gasoline, partial looks-like-gasoline-but-really-isn't, it would probably continue to run, but over time, act up more and more, behaving strangely, breaking down more often, etc. Just like us. We're eating a mixture of some things that are good for us that we've eaten for most of time, that our bodies recognize as food, and some stuff that is brand new to our food system, not at all time-tested, not at all food, and suddenly we have spiking disorders and disease like heart disease, asthma, eczema, allergies, autoimmune disorders, developmental disorders like autism, diabetes, obesity, cancer...really, the list just goes on and on and on and on and on and on...and on.

I'm not pretending to be a scientist, or even a researcher. I'm just a mom who cannot possibly deny what my family has been through this year. We were sick, and we're getting well now. And it's not because of what modern medicine was able to do for us. The hydrocortisone and steroids weren't the answer. The thousands and thousands of dollars we spent last year did NOTHING for us. Well, I suppose it did shrink our savings. It was changing our diet. It was eating healthfully 100% of the time and figuring out what foods have been altered genetically and removing them from our diet.

Perhaps we could tolerate traditional grains that haven't been hybridized or genetically modified, that have been soaked and sprouted and properly prepared. It would make sense. I just don't know where or how we could get our hands on that sort of wheat anymore. I used to think the Ezekiel brand would be the answer for us, but it doesn't appear to be that way, judging from this blog post on Wheat Belly's blog:

"'People have asked about the “sprouted wheat” breads and I just wanted to relay some personal experience with them, my normal use of them and what happened after I just gave that form of wheat up.

I would periodically go on Dr. Gott”s Diet: No white flour and sugar. It would work and I felt good because it was higher protein and no sugar or white flour will do a pretty good job of moving weight off. Kind of normal slow though. I was eating Sprouted Wheat flourless bread though.

When Wheat Belly came onto my radar and I read the reviews on Amazon while waiting for the book to come to me from my library, I too thought of the sprouted wheat. It is really delicious and I would have at least 4 slices per day on Dr. Gott”s plan.

WELL–in late December after I read the book, I got rid of the sprouted bread and my shape changed faster than it ever has on a diet. My belly fat is disappearing. I had gotten rid of the sugar way before that, but after taking ALL the wheat out, the last in the form of the sprouted bread, I was on the fast track losing fat. THEN, my aches and pains went away. But only after the wheat in any form was gone.
Since that was the only change I made–my experience tells me most definitely the sprouted variety of breads is going to hinder you and put WHEAT into your system. Just thought folks here would like to get a real life experiment result.'"
Sprouted wheat bread is made by allowing the wheat seeds to sprout, thereby reducing carbohydrate content slightly and making some of the nutrients more bioavailable. The Ezekiel brand, for instance, claims to be adhering to the advice provided in the Bible in Ezekiel 4:9:
'Take also unto thee Wheat, and Barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and Spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it…'
But, as Janet’s experience illustrates, it’s still wheat. And it’s not the wheat of the Bible, i.e., 28-chromosome emmer or 14-chromosome einkorn; it’s the sprouted seeds from 42-chromosome modern wheat. And what a difference 14 chromosomes can make!
It is folly to believe that such a process as simply allowing the seed to germinate somehow disables all the bad potential of modern wheat. It still contains the gliadin protein that clouds your thinking and stimulates appetite. It still contains glutens that disrupt intestinal health. It still contains amylopectin A that sends your blood sugar through the roof. It still contains lectins that disable the normal intestinal barriers to foreign substances. It still contains apha amylase, peroxidases, lipid-transfer proteins, and thioredoxins responsible for a variety of allergic phenomena."
This is our reality, our world. There is so much wrong with our food system right now, but I really, really, really believe that things will get better. I don't think it will happen next year, or probably even in the next five. But I do believe that it's something that we simply won't be able to ignore any longer. I trust and believe in science, no matter how corrupt things are right now, and I know that someday, enough research articles will be published, and in combination with results of so many people just like me (and the thousands of people I've "met" in the last few months online, healing themselves with no medicine at all), that we will have no choice but to change or die off. We're killing off our society. With FOOD. So pathetically sad.

And sadder, still, is the fact that for so many families who don't make plenty of money, the choice is simply to eat crappy food or not eat at all. I had a breakdown in the Trader Joe's parking lot on the phone with my mom this weekend about how much money I spent on groceries. It's the same story every single week. I go shopping, I feel like I bankrupt our family, but I don't know what else to do. It was this diet that saved my kids' skin, yet it's this diet that has ballooned our grocery budget. What's a family to do? Knowingly feed their children food they know is actually harmful to their health or starve them?

Or probably, more importantly, what we need to learn to do as a culture is to reprioritize. At some point, having fancy clothes and a fancy house and fancy electronics became the norm. And with that, the expectation that our grocery budget should be a nominal part of our family's monthly expenses became the new reality. The advent of cell phones and Pinterest has taken all of that up a notch - almost no one doesn't have a smartphone in this country anymore, and with Pinterest came the expectation that our homes be immaculately decorated thrones reflective of our worthiness. In 1901, 40% of a family's income was spent on food. I don't know what the exact statistic is today, but in 2003, a family spent 13% of its income on food. Yikes, guys. No wonder we've lost our way. I am 150% guilty of this!

Someday, I just know that this won't be an issue. I believe it with every fiber of my being! I think I have to. I need to believe it for my children and their future.


Some honesty for once: being sick + in denial

So I'm a whole foods junkie. I think most people know that about me. What's funny, though, is that I'm a total poser. It's actually not funny at all.

It's really, really sad.

Last year I did the whole Project Real Food thing. We went on GAPS and my kids went from horribly afflicted with some of the most severe eczema to very mild eczema.

I've learned more about food in the last year than ever before and I've become more passionate than ever.

But...then we moved. Even before the craziness that was putting our house on the market in a short period of time and moving cross-country, I would indulge in a bag of peanut butter M&Ms, a Simply Lemonade and the occasional trip to McDonald's to fulfill my guilty pleasures. I was sort of a closet junk food eater. But it was pretty minimal and by going probably 85% paleo when my kids did, I had shed all my baby weight and was looking and feeling pretty good.

Then we went through the whole moving thing. Because of the intense physical labor involved in getting our house ready to put on the market, I didn't gain any weight despite eating like crap 3 or 4 days a week. But once we hit the road and headed to South Carolina, some really awful eating habits developed.

See, I love fast food. Like, a lot. In my pre-foodie days, I ate out almost every day. And when I wasn't eating out, I was at home eating pizza rolls and boxes of macaroni and cheese. It was bad.

Like, bad. 

I was young enough that the only side effect I suffered from that lifestyle was being overweight. I weighed as much at 23 years old as I did a few years later when I was 9 months pregnant with my first kiddo. That would be 170 pounds. Ahem. On a 5'5" frame at only 23 years old. And what's worse is that I had always been skinny with zero effort. I graduated from high school and BAM. I started packing on the pounds.

I went on Weight Watchers (or really, I just starved myself - I ate Lean Cuisines for lunch and whatever dinner I wanted) and was able to shed all that weight and get down to about 130/135 for my wedding at age 24, and from that point on, I yo-yo'd and mostly kept my weight in an okay range by starving myself periodically and eating only dinner most days. There was a brief stint where I exercised pretty regularly after Ben was born and even got tone (for me)! But that was short-lived.

Anyway, back to South Carolina. We ate out on the road a lot, and life was hectic and crazy with three kids, traveling back and forth from Greenville to Lexington to house shop, and then "moving" to Myrtle Beach for a month and now settling into our house, where we had no kitchen for days and I'm still sitting in the middle of a room full of boxes and a house completely messy and not anywhere close to being put together.

I've been saying, "Oh, it's just life. We're just surviving. We're doing what we need to do right now to get by, but once XYZ happens, we'll get back to our healthy eating ways."

Except, that's not really true.

I talk the talk so well. But I don't walk the walk at all. I ate McDonald's last night! Me! The little whole foods junkie.

Cough. Cough.

I ran out of my thyroid meds about a month and a half ago, right around the time I weaned Landon, and I've since gained...wait for it...thirteen pounds. THIRTEEN. POUNDS. In a month and a half.

But much worse than the thirteen pounds is my general health. I've been in such denial for years.

I don't have issues with gluten!

I'm healthy!

I don't need exercise!

I can afford to eat fast food here and there!

I'm young!

I am so not healthy. I'm 30 years old and:

-I'm so tired all day long that all I can do is count down the minutes until bed time.

-Yet when bed time comes, I'm wide awake.

-I have joint pain. Pretty badly. Like, I limp every single time I stand up. Most steps hurt these days.

-I have acne. ACNE! I didn't have zits at all in high school. Yet, as an adult?

-I'm overweight. I crave sugar and carbs like it's my full-time job.

-My eczema is getting much worse than normal.

-My asthma has even resurfaced lately.

-I have really intense dizzy spells almost every day.

-My hair is falling out by the handfuls.

-My skin is supa dry.

-I've suddenly had a really hard time driving at night. Like, anxiety attacks because it's so hard for me to focus on the road.

-My depression has also recently surfaced.

-I feel like I'm getting sick...a lot. At least once I week I declare I'm about to get the flu or a cold. Yet the next day I'm totally fine. I should be thankful I don't get full-blown sick much at all, I know! It's just weird how often I feel like I'm teetering on the edge of sick. This is totally new.

You get the point. I'm not healthy. I have hypothyroidism + adrenal fatigue. I'm a hot mess. And I know exactly why. And I know exactly what it would take to fix it.

Get back on Armour for my hypothyroidism, start the Autoimmune Protocol diet (basically strict Paleo, very similar to GAPS) and exercise every day. Yet...somehow...I just can't. I say I will every day. But every day it's the same thing. Well, just the one last time I'll go to McDonald's. Or Zaxby's. Or go get hibachi. Or, or, or.

There's always tomorrow!

Tomorrow is my worst enemy. I know better than most that the foods I'm putting in my mouth are killing me slowly. I know without a shadow of a doubt that my awful diet and lifestyle are completely to blame for my super fast declining health. More than most people, I actually have no one but myself to blame.

I've decided that the best chance I have of actually getting back on track and taking care of myself (and not just my family, which I'm so notorious for doing) is to put it out there. To own it. To make myself accountable to someone but myself.

I've been living this lie for awhile now, pretending to be so healthy and into whole foods. And I am...for my kids and my husband. But I'm lousy at taking my own advice and even lousier at forcing myself out of a lifestyle that has become a habit so very hard to break.

Tomorrow needs to be my best friend. Tomorrow needs to be the day I start over. For good.


Our house!

We bought a house.

I love this house. It has almost triple the space of our last home. Maybe closer to 2.5 times, but whatever. This is so perfect for our family of 5. Tim will be working from home now, so we need more elbow room. The kids are getting older, we'll have more guests now than ever, we just...felt like we should buy a larger home than our last.  We'll actually have a place for guests to sleep that doesn't involve a couch or a wood floor! 

We closed on it yesterday. I'm shocked by how painless the whole process was. I have to say, we've been insanely lucky to have nothing but positive, seamless experiences in the process of buying (and selling, though only one) the two homes we've owned. No delays, no hiccups. The inspection was awesome. 

I keep describing the situation as just "at peace." There has been zero giddy excitement. You'd think that would make me upset, but actually? Totally the opposite. Our first home, I felt all sorts of giddy excitement. Everything was shiny and new. Our house had been flipped (very poorly) and in the end, all that shiny new stuff blinded us to the quality issues and serious hidden problems the home had. 

It's why we were in love with the farmhouse, but walked away. The farmhouse made me feel all giddy and excited inside, but it had been flipped...and physically moved off its foundation and put on another. Insert scared face here.

This house just gives me peace. I know it's a really well built home. It feels solid and the inspection confirmed that gut feeling. It's huge. It'll fit our family so well. The only downside to this house is also an upside. It's all builder grade. Just very basic, bottom-of-the line, cheap finishings and materials. I say it's also an upside because it means I get to be the one to personalize it. It requires a huge element of patience because it's not like we can swoop in and make every change I want right outta the gate. But that's okay. I'm up for the waiting game. In the mean time, I get to brainstorm all the ways we'll make this house our home.  :)

Each kiddo gets his/her own room! What?! And we have a giant bonus room upstairs that will be a great kids playroom and function as a family room and guest room, too, since it's giant and has its own bathroom. 

It has a master downstairs, which I dig. And like a kids room sized closet! 

It has not one but two pantries, which is a massive step up from ZERO, which is what our last house had until we gave up the coat closet to turn into a makeshift pantry. And one of my favorite aspects of the house? The size of the kitchen! It puts my last kitchen to shame. Unfortunately the linoleum is, like, really bad. And the formica countertops are not in the best shape ever. So...that's step one after we get our stuff moved in and walls painted. Tim and I each had important must-haves when buying our house. His was location, proximity to things, bikeability and an office. Mine was a screened-in porch (hello, I am a mosquito magnet and this is the south) and a nice kitchen because I practically spend my entire day in that room. So many of the homes we saw in our price range had granite, wood floors, fancy appliances. This house has none of that. But it has SIZE. And it has a good neighborhood, a screened-in porch and all the things on Tim's checklist. And since it was also the cheapest house of all we were considering, we knew we could take some of the profit from our last house and use it to spruce up the kitchen. So we're currently in the planning stage and I am having WAY less fun than I ever could have imagined because I've changed my mind exactly 639 times in the last 7 days alone. 

The cabinets are getting painted white Monday and then the granite is going in...sometime. When I can decide on a color. And then Tim and I will tackle the floors and backsplash ourselves. Lots of blog posts to come, I'm sure! 'Cause that's how I do.

Now let's talk about my second favorite part of this home: the screened-in porch! Ah, swoon! 

We'll install a ceiling fan and then you can find me in the screened-in porch 98% of the spring, summer and early fall. 

Our living room is a decent size. Someday I fantasize about wood floors, because carpet is something I'm not at all used to anymore. I love the vaulted ceiling and the fact that the kitchen opens right into the living room. Last week I snagged a PB Basic sofa on Craigslist for $125 because the covers were all stained, so I replaced them with a $49 Erktorp slipcover because it fits the PB Basic PERFECTLY. What what?! I'm excited to put together my vision for this room. :)

And last but not least, we have the office, which we're turning into a joint office and I'm uber excited about that! 

And the dining room. Which I was totally griping about having, because we are not dining room peeps, but I scored a $150 solid wood dining room table and chairs on Craigslist that I'm refinishing and I am totally giddy about that. Now that I'm working out the logistics, it'll be sort of fun to have a fancy room.

That's a wrap! Welcome to our new house. Many, many decisions and blog posts to come. Probably over the next few years. ;)


Our Eczema Battle + Recovery Journey

The last time I wrote on this blog I was dejected, heartbroken and angry. I've felt those emotions a lot in the last year. As we near the one year anniversary of the beginning of our plague of severe eczema (and moving into year five of our eczema journey), I've been reminded over and over the past few days of how far we've come as people continue to comment on my instagram pictures, noting how great Adalyn and Landon's skin is looking.

It is.

So great, in fact, that I've so quickly forgotten the lows we've been to in the last year. When we were in the absolute worst thick of it, I stumbled across a blog post a mom wrote that chronicled their year's journey with severe eczema, and it, along with the Sammy's Skin blog, kept me going. It gave me the faith I needed to persevere. When I thought, "This will never get better. Life will always be this hard," I was reminded that a mom has incredible power when she fights for her children. A mom can conjure up the strength of superheroes when it comes to her children. She will fight big fights and she will become a vocal champion of a cause, even if her nature is an introvert, when it comes to her children.

So, here goes nothing.

Our year in pictures + words from my heart:

In November of 2012, my children were happy, healthy and growing like weeds. Landon was five months old, Adalyn was 2 and Ben was 4.

At the beginning of December, Landon's skin began bothering him. He started clawing at it here and there, but I didn't initially think much of it. I thought it was just a baby doing what a baby does and vowed to be better about clipping his nails.

Then Adalyn got really sick. So sick that we took her to the hospital a few days after she'd begun antibiotics because she still wasn't getting better.

She was fine. It was just strep and scarlet fever. A bad case of it, but nothing that was going to jeopardize her health. But before we knew it, our happy, bubbly toddler became an extremely fussy, itchy, sleepless child. Her demeanor changed so drastically that I truly felt there was something wrong. I often contemplated getting her started in Early Intervention (and eventually, I did get it scheduled). She cried over almost anything. I'm not referring to typical toddler tantrums. I know those. This ain't my first rodeo. But rather, earth-shattering, "You may as well have just ripped my heart out of my chest with your bare hands and stabbed me in the eyeballs with a pencil when you told me no, mom!" tantrums. They would last sometimes upwards of an hour or longer. Her just screaming, at the top of her lungs, tears pouring down her face in buckets, me often joining her, but almost always curled up in the fetal position in some corner of the house, praying for God to give me my little girl back. 

Compounded by the fact that eczema is triggered by stress, we dislike emotional outbursts more than the average person because they're always followed by an eczema outbreak and intense scratching. She would often sit there screaming, clawing at the skin all over her body. She would bleed. Her clothes were almost always covered in blood. 

The eczema began the week she got strep, but got worse each and every week, for both her and Landon. It began fairly mildly, like this:

But by February, it was awful. Sometime in April, after reaching the end of my rope in coping with two of my three children covered in such extreme eczema, I decided enough was enough. I was going to solve their eczema problem. Period. By that point, they looked like this:

It was pretty horror story-ish. Especially to live it. But it all felt very normal at the same time. Like, it was what we knew. We just dealt with it. Because you really don't have a choice. 

After having gone through several different rounds of elimination diets, I felt confident in saying it was not a food allergy or intolerance. Then I stumbled across solveeczema.org, which I talked a lot about here, here and here. The site lays out the theory that it was the introduction of detergents into the environment in the 1950s that follows the upswing in eczema cases. Thus, many children with eczema or asthma are reacting to these harsh chemicals, and when removing detergents from the home completely (a long and difficult process, though absolutely worth it), the eczema resolves. 

I still believe this site is an incredible resource! We still live a detergent-free life. I have no plans to ever go back to detergent. I believe in the bucket theory, that we all have a "bucket" inside of us, where allergens and irritants are processed by the body. The body can handle so many of these before it begins to overflow, and at that point, everything becomes a trigger. It explains why so many people have intense allergy attacks in the spring and suddenly can't tolerate foods they can tolerate any other time of the year. Your body can fight off the mild food intolerance when it's not busy trying to fight off the pollen. Detergent is not a necessary product and we functioned fine without it for most of time, and in my pursuit to heal my kiddos, I heard from a lot of people who can't use products with SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) because it irritates their skin so much. This is not healthy or beneficial stuff, guys! If we can easily function without it (and believe me, we do, and it's much more affordable - but more on that another day), we should. My children initially got better.

I committed to trying everything. I bought organic clothing and that's all they wore. I bought specialized eczema clothing that had built in sleeves and feet so my children couldn't reach any skin to scratch. I bought the Scratch Me Nots that went over their hands.

These things helped. They at least couldn't obliterate their skin.

I changed out nearly every cleaning or personal care product in our house. I bought mattress protectors to keep the detergent embedded in their mattresses from reaching their skin. I superwashed everything to death. 

Eventually, though, things got worse. Much, much worse. We had setbacks that I documented here. One week I'll never forget, Landon's face took a big turn for the worse. It was quite horrifying. He was miserable. My husband was out of town. I was clueless and felt helpless. I just knew it wasn't normal. I knew something was seriously wrong. 

It looked as though he was losing chunks of his skin. He had blisters on his face. I called our doctor and told him Landon had something that it turns out he didn't (impetigo).  We started him on antibiotics and went on our merry way, assuming he would get better. 

Two nights after we began antibiotics, while my husband was still out of town, I, by the sure prompting of God, somehow stumbled across a picture of eczema herpeticum. I wasn't even searching for anything to do with Landon's infection, because I assumed it was impetigo and he would be better soon. But the moment I saw it, I knew that I had been mistaken. Landon didn't have impetigo, he had whatever this was. And then, as I scrolled down the page on my phone, I saw this:

When I saw the words, "can be fatal," my heart dropped. I knew in that moment that our eczema journey had gotten out of control. I frantically called my husband, at one or two in the morning, pleading with him to tell me what to do. He was out of town and I wasn't sure if I needed to take Landon to the emergency room immediately or wait until morning. If you read our story when I first wrote about it, you know that I decided to wait until morning because he had been acting fine when I put him to bed that evening.

We did learn the next morning that my suspicions were right, that he did have eczema herpeticum, and that as it is caused by the same virus that causes herpes and herpes simplex 2, it behaves in the same way and can live dormant in your body and reoccur over and over and over. For those who have had it once, they are at a high risk of developing it again...and again.

I persisted on my journey to rid our house of detergent.

By Landon's first birthday, he was looking pretty good, but my daughter was still pretty bad. In fact, during the party, she ripped open her neck and we had to bandage her up.

The night of his first birthday party will always be one of the worst nights of my life. After we wrapped up the clean-up and got the kids to bed, we went outside to relax and unwind from the busy day. Adalyn was having one of her meltdowns, screaming and crying and just inconsolable. After about thirty minutes or so, my husband went in to attempt to comfort her somehow. By that point, she had worked her way out of her scratch sleeves and had literally soaked her sleeper in blood. The sight was horrifying. The backs of both her knees were so awful that I was speechless. They were completely raw, open and bloody. She had quite literally torn the first layer or two of her skin off. The next week, she could hardly walk. She was so infected. My mom was there with us at the time and for someone else to witness what we were going through, and to express her concern that this was just beyond anything she could possibly have comprehended without seeing it, made me feel justified in my desperation to fix this for my children.

In that desperation, I sought out the help of a naturopath after being recommended one by a friend whose life had been forever positively changed by her naturopath. He healed her when the entire medical community failed her and she was bedridden. So I called him and made an appointment, but the earliest he could get us in was a little over a month away. 

We lived as hermits at this point. We couldn't go anywhere without stares and comments. People found it completely acceptable to ask my daughter what was wrong with her face. Children told her she was gross. I felt as though we were living in hell. Truly. My depression during this time was incredible. There were days I did not know how to muster the strength to get out of bed and face the day. At one point, I documented a day in our life because I was so tired of hearing the phrase, "It's just eczema."

Ben and Adalyn went with my mom to South Carolina for two weeks shortly after this time. During the time there, Adalyn got better. We weren't sure if it was the climate or the house. We'd had mold growing on our basement walls that we had removed. Could that have been contributing?

After she came back, she began to get worse again. Landon was still awful.

We decided that if there was even a chance the climate in South Carolina was the reason for the improvement, we had to move. So we got our house ready to sell, put it on the market and it sold pretty quickly. In a month, we would no longer be residents of Kansas. We would be relocating to South Carolina, where if nothing else, we would have the support of family. During that time, we met with our naturopath, who told us we had to go on the GAPS diet.

I'm not going to lie. I'd already heard all about GAPS and knew there was no way I could do it. I researched it myself several times. I knew that people tout it as a tremendous help for all sorts of ills, eczema being one of them. But I was so reluctant because, first, it's a very difficult diet to be on. Secondly, my kids were already mega picky. How could I possibly get them to survive on boiled meat, boiled vegetables and lots and lots of bone broth?! My naturopath (and several blog posts I'd read from moms who have already been down this road) said that no child would starve. Within 7 days, the kids would not only eat what I gave them, but their bodies would be reconditioned to crave this food that we've eaten for most of time. I agreed to give it 7 days, but was extremely skeptical. At this point, Ben, my five-year-old, would literally throw up at the table if forced to eat things he didn't like.

If you don't know about the GAPS diet, I'm not going to rewrite what so many others already have written, so instead I'll point you to a good rundown here. If it sounds like something that could help you, I would highly encourage you to buy the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

Our adored family physician confirmed that this was probably a good move. He said that even though we'd tried unsuccessfully to implement elimination diets before, we never did them long enough. He said most people go for a month and think that's long enough. They don't see results, so they quit and forever go on assuming they aren't intolerant of those foods. It's simply not enough time, he said. Some people need six months. And the philosophy of GAPS is that leaky gut syndrome is responsible for so many of our allergies and intolerances (and for many other diseases, even mental disorders), and it can take up to 2 full years to heal a leaky gut. So really, one should not give up until they've given it two years, but I fully recognize that it's a nearly impossible feat to do something like that for 2 years before losing faith. I committed in my mind to six months.

The next few weeks looked a lot like this:

It was four days of misery. Four long, miserable days. We started day one of the GAPS diet with a tummy bug that took out both Ben and Adalyn. Needless to say, almost no food was consumed by them. For four days, Ben ate nothing. He is already a tiny little thing. I watched him lose two pounds and inside, I began to panic. I knew it. I knew he wasn't going to eat. I told my naturopath he was too picky! But then, on the fifth day, he ate. Just a little at first. But by day seven, he was shoveling all the food into his mouth happily. Plain ole' ground beef. Broccoli, carrots, peas, squash, even ONIONS! Fish, chicken, all of it! All three of my kids had a healthy, awesome appetite by day seven. They were eating meat and vegetables for breakfast. I was in disbelief.

But I was ecstatic. Maybe we should take a cue from these kids. Maybe if we could all muster up the strength to do this for a month, we would find ourselves also craving the food our bodies really need.

This was Landon's face right after starting GAPS. He still had scabs on his chin.

Within a few weeks, his face was mostly clear.

So was Adalyn's face.

Adalyn's body definitely had improved quite a bit, but while her face was totally clear, she did still have quite a bit of eczema all over her body by the time we made it to South Carolina, which was about a month after we started GAPS.

The move to South Carolina did complicate the diet. How was I going to drive with three children halfway across the country and still move forward on this diet? How would we house shop day in and day out while on GAPS? Admittedly, I moved through the phases of the GAPS diet much faster than recommended. I even introduced foods I wasn't supposed to earlier on in the process than I should have, mostly because of our move. It was just not possible to keep this up. We were mostly operating on the Paleo diet, which is nearly identical to Full GAPS. No grains, no processed food, no dairy (some can tolerate fermented diary like yogurt), no nuts.

For our move, I packed a cooler full of things like bone broth, cut up chicken, ground beef (they'll eat it cold), cold peas, carrot sticks, chunks of cheese I pre-cut (my kids do fine with cheese), yogurt and raisins. We made it with no problem. My husband and I, who had been on the Paleo diet all this time, fell off the wagon during this trip and are just now getting back on.

There were times that it was literally just impossible for us not to eat out. We survived with Jimmy John's, Jason's Deli and Chick-fil-a. Jimmy John's has unwiches, which are any of their sandwiches wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of bread, and Chick-fil-a has grilled chicken nuggets with fruit cups or applesauce as kid's meals and Jason's Deli is awesome for compiling a plate of veggies and fruit and some meat. Aside from one stop at a Fatz (where we found their kids menu has grilled salmon and broccoli on it, how awesome!), those are the only places we have eaten out at with our kids and we've done it very rarely. We didn't allow one cheat, although technically even those would be considered cheats because the quality of food is incredibly important on GAPS. It's supposed to be organic, pastured, grassfed, etc. Our kids definitely have had digestive troubles when eating out, even when it was relatively healthy, but at least their eczema didn't flare.

I tried hard to stick to the GAPS diet because I was nursing Landon, but I'm sorry to say that I was not successful. First, I lost about eight pounds the first week on GAPS intro and my milk supply tanked. Because I've been down that road twice and lost my supply with both of my other children, I immediately switched to the Paleo diet instead, desperate to keep my supply but hopeful that not being on Intro would be okay. I thought the Paleo/full GAPS diet would be good enough since so little of the food proteins come through our milk anyway. Or so I thought.

I already had a gut feeling that my kids were sensitive to a lot of foods, so I just made sure not to reintroduce any of the suspected foods, even if the GAPS diet said we could. I also found out during this time that Landon is allergic to eggs. The first time I gave him eggs, he projectile vomited. He swelled, he got hives. Not sure if it was the eggs or something else, I gave him eggs again, and again he threw up and got hives. Finally, I tested a patch of yolk on his skin and he broke out in tiny little bumps all over. Yep. He was allergic to eggs.

Other things I didn't introduce, or removed immediately after trying to introduce because their eczema flared:

-Berries of all sorts
-Melons of any kind
-Any citrus
-Sweet potatoes
-Carrots (my daughter can have these but Landon gets awful digestive upset)
-Milk (they eat yogurt, butter and cheese without a problem, but no other dairy products)

I definitely know we have some sort of citrus allergy or intolerance. I have read this is extremely common among children with eczema. I've read many people's eczema will flare if given any citrus. It's definitely that cut and dry for us. One day about a month ago, I gave Adalyn and Landon pineapple and within an hour, they were both clawing at themselves quite violently and their eczema was just awful by that evening. They react the same to any melon - watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, you name it.

I read about Oral Allergy Syndrome/cross-reactivity at some point in our journey and I want to mention it here because I think it's a part of eczema and allergies and asthma for some. Pulled from the Mayo Clinic's website:

We found the kids' banana allergy to be weird. Who's allergic to bananas? Finding this really made a lightbulb go off in my head. I think my kids must be allergic to ragweed, because they react to melons and tomatoes, too. There are more in-depth charts elsewhere, too that were really helpful to me in deciding what to eliminate for now.

On about the two month mark of our GAPS diet, and after narrowing down our food list to very few foods, I noticed one day that Adalyn had almost no eczema anywhere on her body. She was a super happy child again. She was sleeping through the night. She was bubbly and giggly and just...so happy. It was an unbelievable sight.

While I noticed this, I also noticed that Landon had not had the same experience. He was spending most of his days in his scratch sleeves because he would just tear his arms up.

I had to deduce that perhaps it was not the environment (or that the environment alone was not enough if you subscribe to the bucket theory like I do). What could I control with Adalyn that I could not with Landon? Diet. I was still eating things that Adalyn was not. Berries, melons, sweet potatoes, bananas and so on and so forth. I made the decision to wean him. He was still waking up 6-10 times a night at this point, he is nearing 18 months old, and after a lot of thought, I decided it was the best decision.

I went away for three days with the older kids and my husband graciously took on weaning Landon. The first few days, there were no changes in his skin. By the fourth, I looked at his arms and noticed that the scratch marks that had covered most of the surface of his arms were gone. His face was looking great.

This was him just a week and a half after weaning:

At this point, I couldn't deny that for us and our buckets, food was the predominant factor. Food intolerances and allergies were filling our bucket the fullest. We could get rid of detergents and mold and possibly other allergens in our old environment, but until we got rid of the food intolerances, we couldn't heal. If we had only focused on food, that might not have been enough, either.

I believe these allergic kids have different factors impacting their skin, or their lungs, or their sinuses. Whether it's eczema or it's asthma or it's allergies, you can do something about it. And it doesn't have to be medicine. Maybe for your child it's harmful chemicals. Maybe it's food intolerances. Maybe it's environmental allergens in your home. Most likely, it's a combination of several things, but quite possibly, your child's body will be able to do its job and fight off at least one or two of its sensitivities if you find the predominant one.

It's been an insane journey. But when I see these pictures, I believe that it was worth every last tear, every last hour poring over books and websites and research articles. It was worth every dime spent, every trip to the doctor, every trip to the naturopath. It was worth all the failed attempts.

I don't blame moms who let their children be dependent on medicine or shrug their shoulders and say, "It's too hard," or "It's not going to work," or, "This is as good as it will ever be." I can't tell you how much I relate with all of that! But I do wish I could somehow convey how worth it this all was! I see my friends' kids' struggling with asthma or eczema or allergies and I just feel so brokenhearted for them. I know exactly how horrific it is to watch your children suffer. But because I know that very few kids have it as badly as ours did, and we were able to beat it, I just wish I could get everyone to try it for six months. We did finally get to the bottom of it! It was hard, but a year of hard is so much better than four years of hard or six years of hard or, God forbid, a lifetime of hard! So many people are stuck in the steroid cycle. And they think that's as good as it gets. They think it's their only option.

We don't have to be dependent on steroids or inhalers. We are told we have to by some in the medical profession, but that's just not true. No matter how many times we failed in our newest "breakthrough" or "trial," I never stopped believing that God gave us the tools to heal ourselves. I never stopped believing that somehow, if I kept trying, I would finally find our trigger. I am such a believer in the power of instinct and utilizing what God gave us. I am such a believer that we have created many (most?) of the diseases of modern man. If we can create them, we can undo them, too. I believe GMOs and pesticides and the mass amounts of chemicals that pollute our environment are the reason for the scary allergy epidemic (and for so many other things that now plague our children). I get angry, and I allow that anger to propel me to work harder and harder to advocate for my children. I will never stop fighting for my kids. And I have become passionate about food and our very broken system in the last four years because of my children.

There is a fear inside that the winter climate will overfill their buckets and their eczema will return. And it might. And I have to be prepared for that. But I do think that no matter what, we found a huge bucket filler in their food intolerances, and at the very least, if they do see a return of their eczema in a few months, it will be much milder.

Finally, I was able to test out this theory once and for all recently. I reintroduced oatmeal last week and within a day, Adalyn's eczema was back all over her legs. I gave it to her two days in a row and then stopped. And within a few days, her eczema was mostly gone again.

Landon had two allergic reactions last week. The first was when I was juicing and carrying him in the Ergo. Some of the juices splashed on him and he suddenly started scratching all over. I took him out of the Ergo when he started crying and noticed hives spreading rapidly all over his exposed skin.

That same night, I stupidly put mayo on his fish, completely spacing the obvious fact that mayo is egg-based. He threw up shortly after dinner and his eczema flared up.

For the next several days, he was much itchier than normal.

This is our life. I'm not happy about it. I'm actually quite upset. And it's why you'll hear me continue to fight against GMOs, to continue to push for whole foods, for the local food movement and to continue to make my own personal care and cleaning products. Landon is truly allergic to most foods. Adalyn isn't as sensitive as he is, but she's darn close. It's gotten out of control.

According to a study released in 2013 by the CDC, food allergies increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER. Potentially deadly allergies like an allergy to peanuts are dramatically on the rise (peanut allergies tripled in the same time frame noted above). I don't feel that it's alarmist to say that this epidemic is frightening and if we don't figure it out, we are going to quickly see it escalate out of our own control.

I've spent the past year or so feeling guilty for my "radical" views on food and our food system and being incredibly selective about what I share for fear of offending people or making anyone else feel badly. That ends today. What I've seen in the last year has confirmed what I already knew in my gut. I'm in a unique position to do something about this. I have a crazy drive, a passion for food and a mama bear's instinct. Today is the day I begin to fight for my children and their future...and I'm not going to stop until real changes occur.

My kids deserve nothing less.