Friday, May 22, 2020

Celiac Disease- My Story

I'm dusting off this old blog of mine, which is having some very sad problems (it's not so pretty right now) to share a story I've been encouraged to share. This is a long one and if you aren't interested, that is ok but I'm sharing in case it helps someone else on their own health journey. 

This month is Celiac Disease Awareness Month so I  thought it might be a good idea to post an update on all that has been going on with my health the last 10 months or so. It’s been a journey and continues to be one but God has been so good and faithful in orchestrating all that has been going on and I wanted to share.

Back in July, as I was super busy getting us ready for the new school year and helping out with our church VBS, I began having symptoms that are my telltale signs that my Iron Deficient Anemia was back. These symptoms include lethargy, dizziness, headaches and most of all craving ice! I had gone almost 3 years without these cravings so I knew something was up. I saw my primary and requested labs be done to check my numbers and they came back low as I expected. This resulted in a referral and eventually an appointment to a hematologists at the end of August. 

Then in August, I came down with what we thought was 2 back to back stomach bugs but now know was my body telling me it had had enough. During this time, I was extremely tired and began being unable to take a shower without almost passing out. I was feeling so miserable and just plain worried about my health that I started doing some research to discover what would be causing my Anemia. God kept putting Celiac Disease in front of me so one night I began to research the disease and came to the website. On there website, they have an assessment tool where they ask you questions that relate to the disease. It was at this time that I realized that things I’ve been dealing with for years, were connected to CD. The crazy thing about CD is that there are over 100 different ways your body can react and produce symptoms. For me, mine had to do with hormones including miscarriages, Iron Deficiency, joint pain and the inability to produce breast milk for my babies. This final one was the most depressing for me. I struggled to nurse all 3 of the kids and desired to do so so badly but my body was malnourished and couldn't produce what it needed to. When the assessment was complete, the results said “You have a high chance of having CD. Please contact your doctor.”

Now why would I believe this test at all? One, I have 2 family members on either side of my family who have been diagnosed for years. Two, it was crazy to see how many things could point to CD when I thought it was only stomach issues. 

Fast forward to my hematology appointment on August 26th. I was in the middle of week 2 of my stomach issues, I felt awful and so weak and just plain didn’t feel good. I was seen by a very rough Hematologist who basically said that my numbers really weren’t that bad and that he didn’t think I was really anemic. In this whole time, he barely looked at me. He told me what he thought he’d recommend for me; coming back to see him in 6 month to see how I was doing, then asked, “Does that sound good?” He finally looked at me in the face and I said, “NO.” I told him I was tired of feeling so badly and that I wasn’t okay with what he was saying. I’ve walked the Anemic road for over 15 years and I know how my body feels. At this point, I felt like he finally saw me and said, “You definitely look anemic but your numbers from a month ago aren’t low enough for me to do anything about. How about I run your labs right now and we can go from there?” I agreed and also asked for a referral to a GI doctor since we had discussed the possibility of Celiac Disease. 

I was so frustrated walking out of that office that day but I was also thankful that his eyes were opened to seeing me and that he ran the labs that day. Three days later, I received a call from the Hematology department telling me that they were ready to schedule my iron infusions. I was confused because I was unaware of what my numbers were…well guess what, they were low enough for the infusions! The following week, I began my 2 week long every other day trek to La Jolla for these infusions. Their system is different from ones I’ve experienced in the past. While going to La Jolla for 2 weeks was a disruption to our life, I was finally able to start feeling a bit better. 

We also decided on August 26th that I would try a Gluten Free diet until we left on our trip 3 week later. We wanted to see if I would feel better in general and at this time, didn’t know when or if the GI referral would come through. After a week on this new diet, I began to see a difference. My stomach issues started to decrease, the chronic cough I’ve dealt with for over 6 years lessoned and I just felt better. We went on our trip to Maine and Massachusetts, where I remained *mostly* gluten free with the exception of a few meals that then made me not feel so great.

When we returned home, my GI referral was waiting. I immediately went back to the Celiac Foundation website to see if there were any recommended doctors in San Diego on my health plan. I found one and God orchestrated all the pieces for referrals to be changed and appointments to open up. I met with this doctor on Oct 25th. I told him my symptoms and my experience with a gluten free diet and he told me that he suspected CD. He ordered a Celiac blood panel, the first step in the process, but also ordered an Endoscopy for November 8th. The endoscopy is the standard for a confirmed diagnosis of CD. When I arrived at my procedure, my doctor came to see me and said that my numbers were off the charts. He said that based on that, he was 99% sure I had celiac disease and would verify with the procedure. After I woke up from the procedure, I saw him again and he said again that he was almost positive the biopsy would come back as a confirmation of what he thought. This began our journey into the world of Celiac Disease.

I went home that day totally overwhelmed by what I found out. I had my suspicions but to have the confirmation... it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sad that this was my lot but so very thankful to finally have some answers. In true Samantha fashion, I bought a bunch of books and began my research process. I like to know everything I can about something I am dealing with so that I can be as prepared as possible. We dove headlong into a whole house cleanse and turned our kitchen into a completely gluten free kitchen to make things easier for everyone. Is this necessary with CD? No but with having little kids who aren’t as responsible as is needed to stay safe AND since I cook most of the 3 meals each day, we decided this was the best course of action.

I’m not going to lie, November and December were some pretty dark months. I experienced all the levels of mourning multiple times, made worst by missing out on favorite holiday foods and many baking experiments gone wrong. This way of life is an expensive one and it added to the despair I felt. On top of it all, we kept finding products we thought were gluten free but weren’t. Gluten is hidden in so many products and I spent much of the month and into January feeling pretty crumby. I was riddled with extreme fear of eating anything and anywhere other than at home. I was afraid to eat what others cooked so I just made my own. I didn’t trust any foods and the anxiety I experienced was high. I had dreams each night about eating food at restaurants or others homes and they were all anxiety causing. During this time, I went to Instagram searching out resources and others who shared their experiences and found quite a few. The problem with this is that some of these accounts caused more fear and anxiety, while others were a great help.

Through social media, I found a Registered Dietian who also has CD and that is her primary target group. After 3 month of my diagnosis and still not feeling better, we decided to hire this Dietian to help me through this process. We began out journey together in February. At this time, she asked that I also cut out soy, dairy and caffeine so that we could see what was the culprit of some of my ongoing issues: heartburn, constipation, persistent dry cough (6 years) and overall stomach discomfort. I had also gained about 20+ pounds in this process and couldn’t figure out why. She also put me on a probiotic and had me track my foods. 

Over a 2 month period of time, we discovered many things that are causing me problems. I can’t eat many vegetables and if I do eat them, they need to be cooked. I’m living on cooked bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini and broccoli. Thankfully these are all things I like to eat! Based on my symptoms, she recommended that I get tested for SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth). This is a common complication of living with Celiac Disease for as long as it seems I have and treatment is a high dose of antibiotics and a low carb, low sugar diet to starve the bacteria. When I first called my doctor, it took about 2 week for them to send the referral over. I then called to schedule the appointment for the test and they told me they were booked out through May and that they still hadn’t processed my referral so I needed to call back. I was so discouraged because I just wanted to feel better. My food options are greatly limited, I still don’t feel great and I have continued to gain weight. But God in His goodness, showed up and when I called to see if I could schedule my appointment, the lady found on for me the following week!!! I was so incredibly grateful! 

On March 11th, I went into the office to take this SIBO test. How it works is I was to “fast” the 24 hours before by only eating rice, white gluten-free bread, chicken and eggs. I could only drink water and plain tea and I couldn't eat anything after 7pm or drink after midnight. The next morning, I drove back up to La Jolla for this test. How the test works is, your body produces bacteria to help with digesting your food and as a result produce Hydrogen and Methane gases which you breath out. Those who have SIBO produce higher levels then normal so to conduct the test, they have you drink a sugary substance with some water (Praise the Lord!) And then measure your gas levels every 30 minutes for 3 hours. You breath into a bag that holds the gases and then they push the gases into a machine to get your levels. My base level number for both gases was 7. For Hydrogen, anything over 20 ppm, is a positive for the infection and my numbers were over 200. For Methane, a positive is anything over 10 and I was over 40. 

Then Covid struck. My doctors office shut down because they are a private practice and I was left in the dark. Through this time, we prayer about what our next course of action would be. In April, we decided to give a Naturalpathic doctor a try. I had done a lot of research and found that I could kill this Bacteria in this was, so we thought "why not?" I am currently in the process of fighting this lovely Bacterial Infection and am now on an even more restrictive diet called the Low Fodmap Diet. It is temporary and has been a challenge in the time we are living but I'm so hopeful that healing is happening and hope that I can get back to eating most food again in my daily life.

 I am thankful for the wisdom God has granted me as I've walked this journey. It's had a lot of ups and downs and there are still a lot of pieces that are still uncertain. Celiac Disease has wrecked havoc on my body for a long time which means there is a lot of repairing that needs to happen in the process. As my Naturalpath has said "This will be a Marathon not a Sprint." 

If you have any questions or want to know more information about Celiac Disease or SIBO (not always connected to CD), please let me know. I've done a lot of research and know more about the digestive track then I ever thought I wanted to know 😬😂. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

2017-2018 Kindergarten Curriculum Choices

Last year, my son came home from preschool at the age of 4 begging me to teach him to read. He's always been a smart kid and has always LOVED books but something had flipped in him and he was ready....I was not. I wasn't prepared for him to be ready, we were getting ready to have baby #3 and I wasn't in the mindset, however he was eager, so I began my search for the best place to start. 
During this search, I came across numerous homeschoolers and homeschool curriculum and at the same time, God started showing my husband and I that Homeschooling was going to be the best option for us. 
Fast forward to the summer and we had tried a reading program but it wasn't clicking in his young brain. When I look back at it now, he just wasn't quiet ready for the program I selected but it gave us a good start. We slowly worked our way through All About Reading and started Horizons Math. He looked forward to doing school but I was preoccupied with a newborn and had postpartum depression so my focus just wasn't there. We had decided at the end of the school year that it was best to send our Hippo to his preschool for one more year, and while looking back I'm not sure I would make that decision again, it was what we needed to do in our season. During that time, we continued our reading practice with him, dropped the All About Reading program for the most part and switched to Bob Books and the All About Reading 1 Readers as our source of reading practice. We continued with Horizons Math K here and there and by the end of his Junior Kindergarten year, we are at about a half-way through Kindergarten level. He has most of the kinder skills but needs some work on a few things.
Our goal for this year, is to go back and make sure that concepts are solidly there before we jump ahead to 1st grade material. There are the programs we are using to do just that.

Language Arts:

We have decided to go with IEW PAL: Primary Arts of Language for our Kindergarten Language Arts program. It is an all encompassing program that works on the 4 areas of LA: Reading, Writing (and Penmanship), Spelling and Speaking/memory. The program is a K-2 program and can be used with kids in all areas of this age level. The beginning stages of the program will be easy and will be review for the Hippo, however, we want to make sure concepts are solidly in place before we move ahead. We also, want to start from the beginning with this so he learns the concepts in the order they do it. You can watch my Unboxing here:

For Math this year, we have decided to go with RightStart Math Level A. This program teaches Math in a different method and is a manipulative and game based program. It is teacher intensive but we are really looking forward to it. 
We have also decided to use Math Lessons for a Living Education 1 as a supplemental application based program. This isn't something we will spend lots of time on but something that is just a little different or to use during our breaks.

Additional Stuff:

For some independent work time, we have picked up a variety of things for him to do.
For Critical Thinking Skills we are using Can You Find Me?
For Drawing we are using My First I Can Draw

If you'd like to see what we are doing as a whole group, you can watch this video below or check out this blog post here.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

2017-2018 Pre-K Curriculum

Over the past year and a half, I have done a TON of research...maybe too much research 😜. Anyways, one thing I continued to return to was My Father's World Curriculum. They aren't a huge, in your face kind of company however they have been around for a while and have been used by a lot of families. The reason I keep going back to them is that their "Core" is heavily focus on Bible and History and how the two interact. Not being raised in the church and going to public school until college made large gaps in the connections in my mind of between Biblical History and the History taught without those aspects. I also really like that MFW is a mix of Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches because those are the two my husband and I relate to the most.

Do to a variety of reason, we decided to not use their Kinder or 1st grade curriculum for The Hippo Boy but will likely use them for our Mountain Lion. To begin this, we decided we'd try them out with their Pre-K curriculum. It is a full Pre-K curriculum that has a large enfaces on Bible story's, learning the Alphabet and Numbers 1-10 as well as a lot of play! You can watch my unboxing video here:

Now along with this Pre-K Curriculum, we are adding some things she will do along side the Hippo if she wants to. You can see our whole group curriculum here. We also picked up a few other items as well so that she had her own workbooks to do while the Hippo did his. You can see the video here:

Here is the list and links for what we will be using:
-Usborne's Illustrated Alphabet
-Get Ready for the Code A and B
-Handwriting without Tears: First School Book
-Bob Books Alphabet and Pre-Reading
-Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book K
-Get Ready for School Alphabet Sticker Book
-Get Ready for School Number Sticker Books
-Preschool Scissor Skills
-Developing the Early Learner Books 1-4

Thank you for stopping by to check out what we are going to be using! I hope these ideas are helpful if you are looking for options. I'm planning to review all these things and will be sure to let you know how it all goes :)

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

2017-2018 Homeschool Curriculum

Within the last year and a half, my husband and I have felt called to homeschool our children. We have a variety of reasons that brought this on but we are SO EXCITED about this new adventure God has us on and we can't wait to get started.

Over the next month, I hope to get our plans on here for anyone who is interested. I'm one of those crazy people who research a TON and have looked at so much so I thought I'd share what we are going to be using and how we are organizing. Also, I have started a YouTube channel where I've been kind of blogging lately so if you want to see more, check it out!

Alright onto the reason we are here:

2017-2018 Homeschool Curriculum

Morning Time-everyday

We will be doing a morning time routine where we will begin our day together doing our Bible Time,  Character studies and calendar time.
Ideally, we will begin this prior to Tiger Boy's nap so he can be apart of it.

To tell the kids it's time, we will be using The Unlikely Homeschoolers idea or a "call to worship." This is a song that will be played each morning to tell the kids it's time to begin and they will have the entirety of the song to get to our location with an attitude of worship.
  • Call to worship: 
  • MFW Bible: Using the Preschoolers Bible
  • Memory verses from the MFW Pre-K Curriculum and AWANA verses.
  • Hymn: we will be learning a new hymn each month that we will also be learning the story of using the book "Then Sing's My Soul."
  • Sing fun kid's Bible songs and preschool songs to go with the season
  • Calendar Time will be us going over what the day is, weather, temperature, etc.
  • This may also be a time where we read a picture book.


Science is the Hippo Boy's favorite subject so we will be doing this every day. We have chosen to use Sonlight Science A. It is an everyday program that uses lots of Usborne books that we own so it was a good choice for us. I'm hopeful this will be a good program.


We will be alternating History(Social Studies) and Geography every other day. 
  • Geography: Evan Moor Beginning Geography
  • Social Studies/History will be a variety of topics and unit studies we pull together. We will discuss Community Helpers, Native American's, National Holidays, US Presidents, and anything else we feel we'd like to use. If I have time, I'll post resources I use for these units.
Art- 1x a week
We have decided to go with HomeArt Studio for our curriculum. It's a video based program and I'm really looking forward to the kids learning art in this way. We will be using the Kindergarten, 1st Grade and Holiday Art's and Crafts DVD's which we purchased from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. We will also be using the Usborne Big Book of Colors and the Usborne Art Treasury. Both books are great and I explain how we will be using them in my video below.

Health and Wellness
In California, it is recommended that you teach health in some capacity. The topic is covered some in the My Father's World Pre-K Curriculum we are using for Leia and partially for Aston as whole group content however we are adding these two books to the mix throughout the year as it fits: Why do People Eat? and What Makes Us Ill? We will also talk about safety as well.

I created a video with all the details below! 

Please let me know if you have any questions and I will be sure to review how the year went as things go. 

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Word of the Year 2017

A few weeks ago, I purchased Lara Casey's Powersheets for 2017. I started working on them and finished them off just in time for the new year. I have LOVED the process and the freedom to make a mess and dream big on paper without it being perfect. If you think you can get a little messy and "brain dump" onto some paper, I'd recommend these! (My workbook is the year notebook that is now sold out as are the 6 month version HOWEVER last I heard, they were taking pre-orders for a Summer shipment! Link here)

What Matter's Most

One of the aspects of the Powersheets, is to look back at the time prior, to look at yourself and to think about what really Matter's most to you. In this process, I was reminded of what matters and what really could be worked on in my life, not just this year but always. So I created this Big Picture Vision Board. My life is pretty simple as a stay at home mom but these Powersheets can be used for even the stay at home mom whose goals are not big time career or life goals.

Word of the year

Another aspect of the Powersheets are to decide on a word that will describe what you want to focus on or what your year will embody. After working through the Powersheets Prep, I came up with my word:
Pinterest Link

I choose the word Joy after actually picking a different word but woke up the next morning feeling like Joy was more fitting. I am a melancholy personality and tend to live in the "glass half empty" world. Things in my environment affect me greatly, and can cause me to loss hope easily. I'm the ultimate introvert and need some alone time to recharge but in our current life, that isn't always possible :) So this year, I am deciding to do only things that bring me Joy and weed out the other stuff in my life that causes me to stumble. The following things are what I hope to Cultivate out of that Joy: A clean home (because it makes me happy and helps in my Joy), Growth in my Faith, My Marriage, a Life Giving Home and my Usborne Business. 

Theopedia's definition and comment on Joy is:
Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness. It appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books; 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books.^[1]^
Webster's dictionary definition: 1) to experience great pleasure or delight : REJOICE, 2) the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: DELIGHT.

So far, having this reminder and this word to focus on has been a great benefit to my day to day life! I'm grateful for the reminder to be Joyful in my circumstances and can't wait to see all I learn this year while having this be my word! Hopefully in the next few days, I'll have a post about my GOALS for 2017!!! I'm excited about these!!

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Saturday, December 31, 2016


Wow, when 2016 began, I didn't know what the year was going to look like. I am the true melancholy personality and topped with pregnancy, I just lacked motivation all around. I was exhausted and just didn't feel like doing much so the normal things I used to do ended and a different type of year began. It was a year of pulling back, refocusing, doing research, some resting(before #3 came) and just being very introspective.

I grew a lot this year in my walk with the Lord. I went through some amazing Bible Studies, which I'll share below. My faith and relationship with God grew in a wonderful, yet quiet and personal way. And I found rest in Him.
Life Lived Beautifully Studies: Flourish, Proverbs 31 and Planted, She Reads Truth: Moses, Acts and Advent, Lifeway:Seamless, Living Free
In 2016, we added Tobias to our family...our 3rd beautiful baby we got to take home. His delivery was simple and easy and we were home 24 hours later. He slept most of his first 3 months and has been our most joyful baby. He brings so much life to our home and we are incredibly blessed! I however discovered in this time that I struggle with Post-partum Depression. Everything in life was beyond overwhelming and I just didn't feel like I could cope with it all. Thankfully the fog lifted quickly at around 3 months but the season was rough and I'm glad to be on the other side of it.

My husband was amazing this year, stepping in and taking over all the things. He has become the primary family chef this year and has done a great job stepping into my role. This is one of the reasons why I stopped my meal planning posts...because I wasn't planning any meals. 2017 will hopefully bring back the routine of it all.
In 2016, I had the privilege of teaching our oldest son to read at 4.5 years old. He was begging to learn, so we jumped in head first. This among a variety of other things, lead to us deciding to homeschool our children starting summer of 2017. I've done a TON of research, praying and YouTube watching and am so excited about the new adventure we have ahead for us in 2017.
And in this crazy year of change and different paths then I had planned, we decided that it would be a good challenge and opportunity for me to sign up as an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books and More. I began this journey on September 2, 2016 and God has lead me down a path I never thought I would have headed down. I've had more success then I ever thought I'd have. It's been a fun and crazy ride and I don't know where God is taking it from here but I look forward to seeing His hand at work and we are thankful for the extra income it has brought us in the last 4 months.
All of this to say, I've missed this space of mine, I've missed the ability to share my thoughts and enjoy this space to write and share and be creative. I don't know what God has in store for 2017. I'd love to spend a little more time on here in some capacity but life is CRAZY with 3 kids 5 and under and all the other things on my plate...who knows what will come but I sure hope some more order and time to think is on the schedule which in turn means more time to write, create, plan, organize and cook.
How was your 2016? Was it what you thought it would be? Did something catch you off guard? I'd love to hear from your so please share in the comments below!
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup

Over the last 2 years as we've grown our own winter squash, I've started to play with some recipes and have some favorites. This is one of those and is just so comforting when it's cold outside! The kids love it and it's a great side for dinner or with a grilled cheese for lunch!

Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squash or 1 argonaut (one of our favorites), cut in half and deseeded
4 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon of butter and olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2-3 Tablespoons of heavy cream

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees and roast squash flesh side down for 30-60 minutes until a fork a pierce through all areas. Once the squash a cooled enough, flip the squash over and remove the flesh. This can be done a few days before you make the soup if you'd like.
2. In a heavy pot (I use my dutch oven, a cheaper option here), sauce the apples in the butter and olive oil, about 5 minutes.
3. Once apples are softened, add the squash, spices and broth. Simmer covered, for about 15-20 minutes.
4. Using an emersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (You can use a regular blender for this part too, just remember to be very careful and not over fill your blender. You'll have to work in batches.)
5. Add cream, salt and pepper to taste and Enjoy!
I add pepitats to the tops sometimes for an extra crunch. You could also put plain croutons on top too if you'd like. 

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