Friday, March 2, 2018


A few years ago I got sick.  Really sick.  I didn't know it at the time.  It kind of snuck up on me.  I was in the thick of it before I realized something was really wrong.  I had given up gluten and dairy and chicken on my doctor's recommendation but I was still sick.  Almost daily.   I knew there was something that I was eating that was bothering me.  I knew food had somehow gone from nourishment for my body to a weapon that made me sick every time I ate.  I couldn't figure out what I was eating wrong or why I was always in the bathroom.  I wished I could stop eating, that to nourish my body I could simply take a pill.   I was tired of eating, I was tired of bloating and weird aches and pains, but most of all I was tired of my bathroom.   Really, really tired of my bathroom.

I found out I had SIBO.
And then a year later I discovered I had Candida on top of that.  I took meds, worked out and followed the low fodmap diet religiously and I started to feel better.  I lost almost 30 pounds and had my energy back and my life back.  Or so I thought.  

On my youngest daughter's 12th birthday I got up from the table in the restaurant only to have explosive diahrea in the bathroom.  I thought I was getting better.  I had eaten at this restaurant before and had the same exact meal and hadn't gotten sick.   I came home and while we sang happy birthday to her I started to cry. I knew I couldn't eat her cake and celebrate with her without experiencing more repercussions from the meal I had just eaten and the dessert on top of it.   I was tired of being sick.  I was tired of missing out.  I was also angry and sad and completely deflated.  I texted my good friend Kate Scarlata, who is also a world renowned expert in the low fodmap diet, through tears (from the toilet).  I joked with her that we could have a whole series of "texts from the toilet", but I wasn't joking.  I was just so tired of spending some of the most important days and nights of my life in the bathroom.

Going away to New York City with my family I spent an entire day in line for public restrooms (when I could find them).  I was afraid to eat anything for fear of not being able to find a bathroom in time.  I even told my 80 year old father that I was worried he wouldn't be able to find a place to eat once we left the city.  He laughed and said "There is a restaurant or three on every corner in New York.  We have a combined 150 years between us, we'll find someplace to eat.  You don't have to worry about us!"  I realized finding a place to safely eat was my problem, something I worried about.  It is not an issue for the masses.

I feel like this illness took my 40's away from me.  Took a lot of my energy away from mothering my kids, took away my desire to participate in social events (when most social events involve food it gets tiring to stay involved when it is food that is making you sick).  But this disease also took away my ability to work and a lot of my self esteem.  I have my master's degree in early childhood education.   I couldn't teach with this condition.  Five year olds don't wait while you go to the bathroom for the 5th time in one hour.   Three year olds don't understand when you have to run out of the room mid story.  There is not always someone at the ready to cover for you in the classroom when you have an emergency.   I was done with all the taking.   I was ready to feel in control again.

I'm a lot better now.  I still have my sick days.  And they may not be related to SIBO or Candida or the food I ate.  They may just be nerves or hormones or life.   At least I am not sick every day.  And truthfully on those sick days a little of that fear creeps back in again.  I can't do it again.  I just don't have the energy to be that sick again.  But it also makes me grateful.  Grateful for the good days.  Grateful for Kate.  Grateful for the low fodmap diet.  Grateful for eating healthy meals with my family that we all love.  Grateful for food that doesn't make me feel sick the next day.  Grateful for friends and family members who check in with me before events to make sure I will have something to eat on their special day.  Grateful for life's events like skiing, and hiking and window shopping that don't always involve food.  Grateful for laughter with good friends who don't care when I bring my own lunch to their house, to my kids who know that not every event has to involve food, and to my husband who is content to spend our dates hiking, skiing, or just snuggling on the couch watching tv.  When you are chronically ill over a number of years you realize who your people are.  They are the ones that are still there when you feel well again.

Since I've starting to feel better I've also started adventuring out more.  I want to travel and show my children the world.   Now that I'm in a better place and my symptoms are more in control we have started traveling more.   I don't want my illness to control me anymore.   I'm done having my life interrupted.

In the past few years we've been to Puerto Rico and Hawaii to celebrate my husband and I's 20th anniversary with our 3 girls.  At the end of this month my oldest daughter and I are going to Haiti with the Be Like Brit Foundation to build a house for a Haitian family still homeless after the 2010 earthquake and to work with the children in the Be Like Brit Orphanage.  I am humbled to be able to go and so excited for the eye opening experience this will provide for myself and my daughter as she heads off to college this fall.  I know even a year ago I would have been too nervous to make this trip.  To travel alone without my husband to cover for me if I was sick.  Deciding to go and jumping on this opportunity made me realize I'd turned a corner in my illness.  I was more excited about this opportunity than I was nervous about being sick.

Traveling with digestive issues isn't always easy.  It requires planning and forethought and packing snacks and food that will sustain you when you can't find a meal where everyone else is eating.  For this trip to Haiti I also need to have energy.   I need to be able to carry supplies for the house we are building up mountainsides, to keep up with my group when we go on trips around the island, and to play with the children in the orphanage when they are done with school at the end of the day.  I always pack low fodmap snacks in my suitcase and purse for times I can't find food.  I eat every 3-4 hours so snacks are less of an issue but getting enough calories in one sitting to count as a meal and keep from being hungry is.   I always try to stay in a place with a kitchen so that I can make my own rice, oatmeal or quick standbys for when meals out aren't an option for me.  The orphanage has a kitchen where volunteers can cook some of their own food.  Some people complain that the low fodmap diet is complicated and hard to learn.  It's not.  It was a life saver for me.  It helped me go from sitting on the toilet to planning a trip to Haiti.   It helped me get on with living and for that I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

But I wasn't in labor: the Birth Story of our First Born

Your first child.   Everything is new and exciting.   From the information you learn in birth class down to the onesies and toys in the nursery.  Nothing is a hand me down.  Everything is a new experience!  First kicks.  First ultrasound.   Every moment is celebrated by parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends.    

We had no idea if we were having a boy or a girl so we decorated the nursery with yellow walls and a zoo theme.  Who doesn't love animals?  Our friends and family threw us baby showers and showered us with advice, gifts and stories.   Green and yellow onesies and blankets filled the nursery bureau.   We'd heard all the good, bad, and ugly birth stories and we were ready.   Or so we thought.   All we had to do was wait.

Your Grammie Ruth Ann thought you were so
clever to already be waving at us in-utero!
This was our first so we wanted to be surprised.  Everyone was emailing guesses about the birthdate and whether we were having a boy or a girl.  But the baby didn't come early even though we hoped in the heat of summer it might.  The baby didn't come on the due date, August 12th.   We hoped the baby might be born one day late and share Grandpa Bob's birthday.   He would never get to meet our first child but we wanted them to share a special day.  So when we were still waiting a week and a half later our doctor insisted we move forward towards getting this baby out.  I wanted to go as naturally as possible so rather than scheduling an induction she had us schedule an appointment at the hospital for me to have a hormone strip put on my cervix to hopefully get things "started".  She insisted this method often starts a more natural labor but that if it didn't work an induction would be the next step the following day.   When scheduling it we had two choices: our anniversary or the day before.   We wanted to give the baby as long a chance to come on it's own so we went with the later date.

We arrived at the hospital before 7:00 on our 3rd wedding anniversary.  They put the hormone strip on my cervix and then I thought I'd be able to go home or at least meander around the hospital but they insisted I be monitored by a belt and machine regularly so I had to stay quite close to our room.   I was an outpatient because they didn't know if it would work and I had a roommate because I wasn't in labor. Yet.

Throughout the day I noticed contractions that were quite strong and lasted for exactly 45 seconds.  It got to the point where I would be talking to Rod or playing a game of cards and I would hold up my finger as my cue to him that I couldn't talk and I would literally watch the clock.   I knew that in 45 seconds the uncomfortable feeling would pass and that I could talk again.   These contractions continued throughout the day and even got closer and closer together from 5 minutes to 4 minutes to 3 etc.   I told the nurses who were in and out of my room all day checking the machine attached to the belt around my waist. They insisted that I was most definitely NOT in labor.   They didn't understand why my doctor had done this to me.  And they said that my uterus was extremely irritated.   Ok.  I believed them.   They were the professionals!

Around 5:00 I was walking around with Rod and having contractions so badly that I had to stand against a wall and breath deeply before moving on.   Still not in labor.   Wow, I thought, if this isn't labor, what the hell is labor actually going to feel like?   I didn't squeeze Rod's hand, I didn't use lavender lotion to calm me down, I didn't suck on the lollipops I had packed in my birthing bag. I was not in labor so therefor I did not call on any laboring tricks to get me through.

At one point I felt like I was on an episode of Friends when they wheeled a meal past my roommate who had just arrived an hour before.  My previous roommate had already left to have her baby.  Must be nice I thought!  They apologized to my new roommate and told her that she would not be getting a meal because she would most likely be having her baby that night or the following morning.  They then wheeled the tray over to me and said "Here is your dinner Mrs. MacLeod."   I almost lost it.  I had been there for over 10 hours yet my roommate who had just arrived was going to have her baby before me?!  I had no desire to eat.   The tray sat in the corner.

At that point I was done. I'd had enough.  I told the next nurse that checked on me that I wanted to go home.   If this wasn't working and if I wasn't going to have my baby today then I wanted to spend at least part of my anniversary NOT in a hospital.  I would go home and come back the following day to be induced.  They called my doctor who said "But Kari doesn't want to be induced, have you checked her to see how far she has progressed?"   They said they hadn't because I was not in labor.   She insisted they check me before sending me home.

When one of the nurses checked me she said "I can't feel your cervix!" Me,  being in a completely frustrated state of mind thought,  "Well then get a nurse that can!!"  Rod, who apparently paid more attention than I did in birthing class knew that meant I was completely effaced and about to have our first baby!

Mind you I was an outpatient in a room with a roommate not even in the birthing wing!  The nurse got extremely anxious and said she'd never delivered a baby before, ran out of the room and came back with a wheelchair and literally ran down the hall with me to the birthing wing with Rod in close pursuit.  They called my doctor back and apprised her of the situation and she asked them to have me try not to push while she drove to the hospital as fast as she could.  She literally ran in the room around 6:00 and Kelsey, our first child, a girl!! , was born at 6:08.  The heat lamp was not on in the room because the room hadn't been prepared for a delivery.  I was bleeding a lot so they rushed Kelsey out of the room and to the nursery to warm her up.  There she sprawled full length unlike all the babies in their burritos or curled in the fetal position.  She stretched out those long limbs and was so content to sprawl.

Every other baby was wrapped up like a burrito and this was Kelsey, all stretched out!
My parents knew I was at the hospital that day but because nothing had happened all day we hadn't kept them apprised of the situation.   My dad and step mom were at a funeral nearby and stopped at the hospital around 6:30 to ask how I was doing.   They told them that I wasn't a patient there and sent them on their way.    My mom and step dad were at a meeting in Boston and called the hospital before they left for home to see if they should come to the hospital or head home.   They again informed them that they had no record of me as a patient so she headed home.   This was before cell phones so we had no way to reach him on the road.  When we called their houses we got both of their answering machines and told them that their first grandchild had been born.  As soon as they got home they listened to their messages and turned around and drove the hour back to the hospital to meet Kelsey.

When my dad arrived I was in shock, and kept repeating, "But I wasn't in labor, how could she be here?"   I wasn't in labor!"  I must have said it ten or twenty times.     He insisted I had been very much in labor, they had just told me I wasn't.   But I didn't use anything in my bag of tricks!  Rod didn't get a single death squeeze to the hand!  Our baby wasn't even in the room with us for me to see her and hold her and realize this was all a reality.  When she finally came back to us there were lots of pictures to be taken and lots of holding to be done.  

Happy & Proud Grandparents!
First Grandchild!
Uncle Rob!
The next day we had lots of visitors.  We still looked tired but it was nice to be able to show off our new baby!  I insisted she stay in the room with us all night.  I did not want to be separated from her again!   

With her Grammie Ruth Ann who Kelsey Anne was named after!
With dear friends Laurie and baby Lucy and Stephanie!
After that first night we both became very attached.   She literally didn't sleep off of me again until she was 6 months old.   The first night home we tried and tried to put her in the bassinet next to our bed.  We rocked her, and both sang to her (maybe that was the problem) but she would not sleep.  Then I would curl her up on my chest with her head under my chin and she would instantly fall asleep.  At peace, at rest.   I joked when she was little that she didn't need a lovey because she had me.   She could sleep on me anywhere.  In the middle of a party, on many walks in the baby bjorn.   But in a stroller, no way!  She needed to literally be on my body!   So the first time she fell asleep in a baby swing I almost cried tears of joy.  I called her uncle at work who had given us the swing to thank him!   She was finally sleeping off of me!  Although holding babies is one of my greatest life's joys, to be able to get something done while a baby is sleeping was a close second!

The bassinet that Aunt Sue, Uncle Rob, dad and many other
relatives slept in.   But not Kelsey!   
Kelsey's favorite sleeping spot!
Kelsey has always been a healthy active girl.   And while I realize her birth was uneventful and required no medicine or induction I also realized after the fact that her birthing experience was something I did not want to repeat.   I was going to do that very differently the next time!   I moved on to midwives at The Birthing Center in Wellesley where I had a much more positive birthing experience.  I never did complain to the hospital where she was born.  It was too close to home when it happened and then I was too busy with my new born to contact them.   I hope those nurses learned their lesson that day.   To listen to their patients, to watch their faces, and to monitor their pain levels and experience not just look at the machines.  Most importantly,  to pay attention to their patients! 

Ever since she was a tiny baby people have always commented on Kelsey's beauty.   As her mother I have the honor of knowing that her true beauty is really on the inside!  She is so much more than a pretty face!  Since that first night she has never stopped surprising us!   Always an explorer.   Always adventurous.  No fears of going on amusement park rides all alone because her sisters were too little to join her and I had to stay with them.   She is an avid dancer but she took a turn as a "soccerina"- a soccer playing ballerina as well.   She has legs for days and knows how to use them.   That sprawling and spreading out that first night should have been a sign as to what was to come.  She is giving and loving and "mostly" a great big sister!   She is smart and funny and so kind and actually a pretty easy teenager.  On a recent visit to a new doctor they asked how it was with two teenage and one pre-teen daughter and I said "So much easier when they were little!"  He joked and laughed and asked what I was doing wrong.  

Happy baby!  Always always smiling!
Content and happy to play by herself.  But more content being held!
Always exploring the world!
Always ready for an adventure!  She learned to walk in Scotland.
But she grew her wings in NYC being in the Macy's parade for dance!

Always healthy!  Loved food -all of it!  Never a picky eater!
We can set a clock to her belly! Even if we eat
 breakfast late she's hungry for lunch at noon!
Always on a stage, dressing up, or dressing down...
dancing, singing, performing!
Kelsey, Thanks for being the greatest anniversary present ever!   You were the one that made us parents and that is the best gift we have ever received.  I feel so blessed to be your mom.   I am so proud of the person you have become and the joy you bring to our family.   We look forward to continue watching you grow, explore and leap through life.  Always stretching yourself to new limits and reaching for the stars in everything you do!  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

You'll find me on Instagram

So I haven't been blogging as much lately.   I go through spells where the words just need to tumble out of me and others where they don't.   I'm not sure if anyone is reading or if anyone cares.   My teen and preteen daughters ask "oh, you're still doing THAT?" and "why?"  Hopefully someday they'll look back and enjoy these posts or be glad I kept a blog during these years as a sort of family scrapbook.   Maybe they'll just roll their eyes and just think it was one of the many weird things their mom did.  Or maybe someday they will find the writer in themselves and learn to journal on long trips, write about the stories that make their life meaningful, use a diary to write about their joys & struggles.

Lately you'll find me at the lake on weekends kayaking and soaking in summer with my 3 girls still under one roof.  I know that time is short.  It makes me nostalgic.   Weekdays we're home so K and Rod can work.  H & L and I work out, read, go on adventures with friends to the beach, the drive in, the mall, the movies.

I'm recording this summer through instagram (kari_macleod14) and sometimes on Facebook and less and less on the blog.  Below are my summer instagram posts.  Looking forward to our adventure next month camping in Hermit Island, Maine and going to Hawaii to celebrate our 20th Anniversary with all 5 of us!   We will miss our pooches!  Hope you are enjoying summer & all that makes this season special to you and your family and friends!  -xo

This!  #happysummer

Enjoying first day of summer with these two at the beach.
Bikini's, books, and toes in the sand where they belong!

Starting my day outside #butfirstcoffee #outdoorliving

Cocktails & selfies on the dock
#outdoorliving #grandpasbirthday #lakelife @duckheadcottage

Floating our cares away #lakelife #friendsforlife

Happy 4th!

So much fun with these 5 #pollardsmills #waterfalls # NH

Summer reflections:  make time for toes in the sand, good friends, long books,
roasting s'mores over a campfire, swimming in waterfalls, watching fireflies,
drive-in movies, iced coffee, laughter, family, soaking in the sun, watching the
sun set over water, admiring the full moon #maketime

Cousin caterpillar

This girl!  Teaching me to be brave!  Jumping from the highest rocks
and riding all the biggest roller coasters!  So proud of how much fun she is
having taking risks!  Even if she has to scream the whole way down! 

So much Love for these 3!   Thanks for the photo @abbyjeanne_photography 

Monday, June 5, 2017

The year of cozy....

Our Christmas card last year wished everyone a cozy holiday season.   That craving for cozy seems to have followed us into this year!  In January I started reading articles and blogs that mentioned the term hygge:  a Danish term defined as "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."  I realized I wasn't the only one craving cozy.    For my birthday in April my friends gave me a "hygge" birthday themed gift complete with a cozy blanket, a mug, a box of tea, a new candle and a wish for a hygge year ahead.   They said they got me a blanket because with a spring birthday I probably don't get blankets as gifts very often.   I month later I texted them and jokingly blamed them all for the lousy weather that has made me need that blanket every night since!!    I still enjoy cozy but am certainly craving some sunshine and warm (or even hot) days outside where I don't need to curl under a blanket every night!

Duck Head cottage is already quite cozy.  A 1940's cottage it has small rooms, cozy fireplaces, small beds, and little spaces.  This winter/spring we've made a few changes that made it even cozier, if that's even possible.  We opted to get a small sectional for our living room so we can all cozy up together as a family when we watch movies.   We only have one more year with Kelsey home before college and we want to fit in as many movie nights all squished on one couch as we can before she goes!  Sniff sniff!

It fits in perfectly albeit a little squished between a heater we don't use on the wall and the kitchen doorway.   We are planning to remove the heater to make a bit more space for it to make the room feel a little less squished.  But it fits us all and is quite cozy.  I got a striped turkish blanket too which feels a bit more summery for cuddling.  

We decided to keep the leather couch we already had in the living room and put it in the front entry room adjacent to the dining room table.  We had a more casual futon there and while it provided more sleeping area I didn't always love the look.   Our nephews often have snacks in this space so the leather couch is more durable.   It's also the perfect spot for morning coffee with views of the lake in this cozy corner nook.   I call it my coffee couch because it's where I usually choose to sit when I wake up earlier than everyone else and come downstairs to have coffee and enjoy the stillness of the lake.  

This area is off the front hallway as you enter Duck Head.  There are hooks everywhere in the hallway for bags, coats, ski stuff, etc.  It's the perfect mudroom/entryway for the cottage especially for multiple families sharing the space.  It gives us storage space to tuck things out of the way so we can enjoy the main living areas.  

This is where we live when we are the lake.   With two sitting areas, a large farmer's table and the propane stove we spend the majority of our time when we are inside the cottage in this room with views of the lake.

The lake is like a mirror most mornings.  So still that it reflects the opposite shore and Gove Hill perfectly! 
We spent the weekend celebrating these two.  150 years of combined living.   My dad turned 80 yesterday and my step-mom turned 70!   We celebrated with all 5 of their kids, their spouses and their 13 grandchildren.   My brother and sister-in-law's cottage was filled with 3 families -13 people and 2 dogs.   We had 12 and two dogs at Duck Head.   It was such a fun weekend with 25 of their family members all together for the weekend to celebrate them.  Their smiles said it all.  They were just so happy to be surrounded by all their kids and grandkids for their joint celebration.   You'd think it would have been hectic but everyone chipped in and helped plan and cook different meals and helped with clean up.  Rod and I really felt like we were on vacation too because we were in charge of one meal for the entire group and after that we were able to relax and enjoy our company the rest of the weekend.  What a treat to be able to relax while hosting!

This delicious cake was dairy and gluten free and I had a HUGE slice!  

We also enjoyed homemade ice-cream which is a bit of a tradition with my dad.   We've made it together for years and it only seemed fitting to have some to celebrate his 80th birthday.   Rod, Haley and my dad mixed up the ingredients and we all took turns cranking it on my brother and KT's dock while he made homemade pizzas for everyone.   We made vanilla and M&M ice-cream and it was delicious! Especially with that cake!

Happy 70th & 80th Grandpies & Gammie!!
This man usually is dressed for the day as soon as he gets up but I caught this chance to get a picture with both of us in our pjs on his 80th birthday morning!  Nice hair dad.  I guess we know which side you slept on ;)

Rod has apparently taken on my anal quality of organizing the fire pit area!  ;)  It looks like a smile!  
The weekend was filled with shared games.
Shared meals
Cousin time

Good conversations

Lots of outdoor time at Myles Away
Lots and lots of dock time!

A boat escorted couple of swims across the lake as well.  And lots and lots and lots of fishing!
What looks like a proposal but was actually Sam helping Lindsay put her worm on her hook. 
And even some naps
A end of weekend chat caught through the kitchen window with our youngest, our two labs and Grandpies.

A break from packing up to watch friends graduating through Skype
We left P & P at Duck Head for an extra night to enjoy the quiet (& calm) after we left!
We'll be back soon!  Looking forward to more summer days at the lake!!
Hopefully they will be a little more sunny but still just as cozy!