How I Learned to Feed My Children With Severe Food Allergies


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Not long after our second son turned one we realized that something was wrong.  He had always been a very thin little one, and he was shorter in stature than his older brother who always maxed out every growth chart from the day he was born.

I had attributed his trailing growth to genetics, with my husband’s family having men as short at 5’5″ and as tall as 6’5″ along with the men in my family fitting in the middle of his somewhere, we knew we could have kids all over the growth chart.

The other factor was that he was severely tongue tied until he was 10 months old, when the Pediatrician finally agreed to give us the referral for a Frenectomy. He could eat much better after, but he never made the type of gains we were hoping for, even on formula.

His little belly was super distended all the time, and he was beginning to show signs that something in his diet was affecting his digestive system negatively.  This prompted us to quit cloth diapering because we could not keep his bottom from rashes and hoped that disposables would keep him dryer.  They did not.

We even ended up in the emergency room one day because what came out of him was the exact same color and consistency of the milk he had consumed less than 30 minutes earlier.

1st Diagnosis

After he was about 18 months old we began to pursue, in earnest, some sort of diagnosis or help because he was beginning to vomit every single day and still had intestinal issues that were not changing.  His Pediatrician told us to try lactose free products and that eased the symptoms for a few months, but they came back.

We decided to eliminate all dairy, including casein, and see if that brought even further relief, which it did.  We had another child, our first daughter, by this time and she began to show the same symptoms as she grew.

Our whole family went diary free to accommodate two out of our family of five having, what we believed, was an allergy to dairy protein.

2nd Diagnosis

We moved to another state, and finally got our allergy testing, which was negative for both dairy and wheat.  This stumped us because, while being completely dairy free was helping some our son still had a distended belly, intestinal upset, and our daughter was suffering from eczema.

We switched to another Pediatrician in the same town after a traumatic appointment with our oldest, on the spectrum, where we realized that the former one was not equipped to handle children with sensory processing disorder.

The new Pediatrician begrudgingly went with my request for blood work for our son to test him for Celiac Disease.  She called me back two days later, You know that blood work you asked to be done, we actually did find that he has high levels of reactivity to gluten.  I need to refer you to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist.”

This Momma felt the weight of years, four at this time, of uncertainty and struggle being lifted in that very moment. By the end of 2015, 4 years after beginning to ask questions about our son’s symptoms, both diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

Now What?

You can’t eat breads.

You still can’t eat dairy.

You can’t eat things made on the same machinery as bread.

You can’t be in a room where someone has baked with gluten containing flours for at least 8-12 hours.

You have to make everything they eat, or bring it with you.

Here’s the number of a dietitian (who did not help us in any way).

How on Earth was I going to feed my kids?

I found Trim Healthy Mama looking at some Mom-blogs that I had been following since my husband was in the military.  As our family grew I was trying to glean as much as I could about how to care for our large family from these ladies.

I began to look at the program, and bought their first book The Trim Healthy Mama Plan, as an e-book, which is no longer in print.  I read the book in just a few hours and I knew that it was what I was looking for to meet my childrens’ needs.

I could combine foods, real foods, simple foods, and do it for weight gain.  I could feed myself during pregnancy, nursing and beyond.  It fit our whole family!

Over the Years we have dabbled in it for weight loss, my husband and I, and at this time we are seeing a lot of success.  You can find our progress over at Life In The Treehouse.

We love it so much that my husband buys me the yearly Trim Healthy Membership for our Anniversary.  He gets a Motor Trend subscription, so fair is fair.

We find our recipes from many places.  Cookbooks, Pinterest (We have tried over 500 THM Compliant recipes at the time this is written), The membership site, and Bloggers who make recipes for the community.


Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook

Trim Healthy Table

Our Favorite Trim Healthy Mama Bloggers:

Mamashire – Many of her older recipes are THM, but her newest ones are gluten free/dairy free but mostly crossovers or off plan.

Northern NesterShe is mostly No Special Ingredients

Oil of Joy – Egg free/gluten free/dairy free

Lotsa little Lambs – The best gluten free pancakes, plus lots of other recipes!

Joy Filled Eats – Some dairy free, but lots of gluten free.

Well-Planned Kitchen – Used to be “Working At Homeschool”, and at this time many recipes still say that on the web.

Brianna Thomas – The Ice Cream Queen, including dairy free ones!

My Montana Kitchen – She does a lot of gluten free, and has some great dairy free things too.

Oh Sweet mercy – Real food, with lots of E meal options.

Wonderfully Made and Dearly Loved – Many gluten free/dairy free.

Darcie’s Dishes – She is the tex-mex food Queen.

Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen – lots of down home cooking

Nana’s Little Kitchen – a little bit of everything

Raye’s Place – gluten and dairy free, with some surprising ingredients that are delicious.

Sweet E’s – Greens heavy, and lots of inventive ways.  She does not cheat on her plan, EVER!


Thank you so much for stopping by!

If you want to learn more about my family, Read about Why I believe you are a Gatekeeper, or how to cut down your cooking time you have come to the right place.

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Leftover Days Will Save Your Bacon, Literally!

Whole Wedding

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As a mom with a lot of children, I am constantly trying to make our budget fit our needs.  A few pennies here, or a couple dollars there and you can have one bill throw off your whole budgeting system.

Food is the #2 bill in this house, and here is how we….

  1. Feed 8 people for less than $800 per month.
  2. Build and maintain a pantry that will feed us in lean times, from our savings.
  3. Decrease our food waste, and still eat fresh veggies and fruit, daily.
  4. Eat completely gluten free, without losing our minds!

Saving our bacon….

This habit came about because my husband was in college, full time, during the weekdays, and I was working overnight on the weekends.  Throw some homeschooling, weekly therapy for our exceptional needs children, and religious activities and you have a very full schedule.  Oh, and I went to night school during 18 months of this time, had shoulder surgery and recovery, and had two babies.  It was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Back to the food……

I call it a habit because we have tried to change the days we picked for our Leftover Days once, and it failed miserably because we were so used to the days we had done it on for three years.  We chose Wednesdays, and Sundays because those were our busiest days, and they were almost perfectly even in spacing.

It ticked all the boxes for me.  I could save money and time by using every last drop of what I was preparing, reduce my time in the kitchen, and actually not have to prepare or plan anything for two whole days a week!  I tell everyone about our Leftover Days!

What do you mean by Leftover Days?

I know that people use leftovers in all sorts of ways.  As lunches for their kids and themselves, as dinner when they are in a hurry, or even as a hail Mary pass on a rough day.

The one that we used to do when we first got married, and I grew up with, was eating leftovers when the refrigerator was so full that you had used every storage container, and you couldn’t remember when they had last been opened….then we got into the moldy containers and the mystery jars of unused condiments and it put people off of leftovers forever!

How do we do it?

We save our leftovers.  All of them!  Soups, meat loaf, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese or a slice of baked oatmeal.  No matter how small, we save it ALL!

We realized that we could not just save them for one, or even two days many times, and have enough for our large family for a whole day or even a whole meal and we were counting on at least lunch and dinner to be covered.  Three days worth of leftovers is just about perfect for our family, and they are first come, first served.  We do not all get our favorites, but we all get fed.

We will save a few things from the Wednesday to Sunday time frame to carry us over the shorter span between Sunday and Wednesday of the following week.

What happens if you eat all the food you prepared for multiple meals in between Leftover Days?

We ran into this problem a lot in the beginning, especially as our family has grown about yearly since we started it.  Now, to avoid that I automatically double, or triple every recipe.  I make sure that the approximate serving size of the prepared food at each meal is 12 people instead of 8.  This makes enough wiggle room for growing young boys, and a hungry husband after a day of chopping wood.

What if my family hates leftovers?

You are capable of setting the tone here for your entire household.

My husband loves variety.  We rarely eat the same meal twice in one month, and I prepare almost every single one myself.  That’s a lot of recipes, and a lot of leftovers, if we were not good stewards and use them up, that is a lot of waste.

So, in light of our desire to reduce our food waste and its affect on our bank account, he and we, have learned to either tolerate or love our leftovers anyway.

Sometimes, I combine multiple things and “recreate” them into something new.  Sometimes, I can use them, plus a little can of something from the pantry and jazz it up.Sometimes, I put it in a corn tortilla for the kids, or on salad for my husband and myself.

Really, we have just learned to roll with it.

What about my kids with sensory processing disorder?

Momma, I got you!

We have a child on the spectrum, and my husband is too.  Food was a big issue in our house for three years, when our oldest was at the height of his oral aversion.  I kid you not, it took that long and meals were rough.  But, we also lived without a microwave during that time, and I learned a valuable lesson from that.

My husband and oldest son, the ones with sensory problems, get to pick first, because I do not want to put them off of leftovers forever.  Do they eat things they do not like, absolutely, but they know that it is the last time for a while.

Also, You can restore the mouth feel of almost any leftover by baking it at a higher temp for a short amount of time.  Say, 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes to warm it up in the oven, and then wack it up to 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, or even use the broiler for a minute or two.  It worked for us, and still does!

So, Call this a large family Hack, or the ingenuity of a desperate work outside the home Mom, but it WORKS!


Thank you so much for stopping by!

If you want to learn more about my family, Check out what we have been eating, or how to cut down your cooking time you have come to the right place.

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Our Stillbirth, a Story of Hope

*Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: this is a detailed account of my stillborn child’s birth.  If you do not want to read this, I completely understand.  I am passionate about giving my son a voice and sharing my experience as hope for other moms.  All our stories matter because these tiny ones matter to us!

Our stillbirth, a story of hope

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December 2016 I found out we were going to have another child.  This would be my 7th pregnancy and 6th living child.

I felt great!  The baby was growing well, we had our 12-week appointment and he was dancing around like a little jumping bean.  My husband was set to leave to train his service dog for three weeks, the first week of  January 2017.  I would have an appointment while he was gone, and he would be home for the gender ultrasound in February.  At least, that was our plan.

I had just started a new position as an overnight caregiver at a group home and worked there for a couple weeks.  I had people in place to watch the kids while I worked and slept after my husband left for training.  The first weekend after he left I got sick.  I was dizzy and nauseous and just felt off.  I had been long past the morning sickness, so I just thought I had a bug.

My 16-week appointment was set for Monday morning, and then I got a call that they needed me to reschedule it because someone had gone into labor.  My appointment was rescheduled for Wednesday, I would be exactly 16 weeks that day anyway.

I went to the appointment and had to bring all 5 of my kids which was not unusual.  My OB had a hard time hearing anything at all with the doppler, again not unusual for me at that gestation due to my placentas being positioned on the sunny-side of my uterus more often than not, and she moved us to the room with the ultrasound so we could find things easier.

My children gathered around, watching that little screen, and there the baby was.  but, the doctor kept wiggling the ultrasound wand trying to stimulate movement.  I knew we saw no heartbeat, but you always hope it’s not the truth when you realize it’s happening it’s like a dream. Then, my oldest child and veteran prenatal appointment companion said, ” Momma, there’s no heartbeat.” calm, cool and collected, he was 6 and didn’t realize exactly what that meant, yet.  The doctor reached down and grabbed my hand and mouthed to me, “I’m so sorry!”  My eyes welled up a bit as I had to lie and tell my children that the doctor was making sure that we didn’t need another ultrasound and that she was still looking around.  She scheduled an immediate ultrasound at the main hospital, but we all knew what the results would be.

I walked my children out of the office and to the car, put them in their seats and shut the car door and asked one of my older boys to start it.  I got on the phone and called my mom.  She answered quickly, and I turned my back to the car and cried as I told my very first person that our baby had died.

The ultrasound clinic called while I was on the phone with my mom, and the earliest opening they had was 2 hours later.  I took my kids home, and fed them, and planned to have a friend sit in the car while I got the ultrasound.  I have never been able to hide how I feel well, but God gave me a supernatural ability that day to look “normal” while feeling so much like I wanted to scream.  “Nicole, don’t freak out.” was what I kept telling myself, I wanted my kids to not be afraid of what I knew was coming.


The ultrasound was quick.  She took me back, and we started.  I had only cried once at this point, and the minute I saw her try and get the heart rate recorded and it was a flat line I broke down, sobbing.  She remained stoic and silent and finished the scan.  When she told me I could get ready to go, I said, ” I know you can’t tell me anything, but I know what I saw and my child is gone.”  She finally looked at my eyes, and with absolute compassion, she said, “ I am so sorry, nobody should have to go through this.”  I said to her what would begin to be the entire theme of  the next year, ” This isn’t about what I deserve.”  She hugged me, and then I went out of the room.

I had not told my husband yet, he was in Florida, and I wanted to tell him when I was sure, and without the kids around.  Sitting on the bench next to the main exit of the hospital, I called the only number I had, it was one of my husband’s classmate’s numbers.  I told him I needed someone in leadership to be with my husband when I told him something important, and he said he would go get someone and call me back.

It was about 20 minutes, and my husband called back.  I told him that our son had died and that I wanted him to stay and finish training his dog because it was still going to be our reality when he got home and he would need the dog.  My husband was crying hard when he got off the phone, but I told him we would skype later that night.

I began walking back to the car and my OB called and confirmed what I already knew.  She gave me three options about how to proceed, and I picked the only one that I could live with.  I was going to be induced on Saturday, January 21st, 2017.  I got to the car, and told my kids and our friend that our baby was gone, and let my kids know about the induction that was coming.  The oldest kids cried, but they had never been exposed to death or dying in their memory, so they were crying because I was.  Our oldest looked at me and said, ” Momma, I have an idea!  What if someday Jesus puts a new 6th baby in your baby house!” (this is what he called my uterus at the time) and I told him I thought that was a fantastic Idea.  It was the beginning of hope to me to know that my children believed that God was still good.

My Prayer

That night, after I had told everyone, and taken care of my children, I put the kids to bed and I sat and watched TV and cried.  It was the cry of pure pain.  I told God I was angry and hurt, and that I really wanted that baby to live.  I begged Him to help me to live with this.  I needed Him to start my labor so that I did not feel like I was walking into an abortion on Saturday.  I knew my baby was dead, but my body didn’t.

My mom came in the afternoon on Friday.  She would be with me at the induction the following morning, so I would not be alone.  We went to dinner, and while we were there I felt a POP inside like a balloon breaking and I checked in the bathroom to see if my water had broken.  It was just a little bit, so I figured it was nothing.  Then, we went to the store and I started having contractions.  Nothing very painful, but they began to take my breath away with their frequency.  I spent the rest of the night having contractions and leaking a little bit of fluid, but I knew I got my miracle!  God had answered my plea for my body to begin the process before the induction.  He is never late!

Induction day

We got to the hospital bright and early.  I was not angry or crying, I was at peace.  My OB checked me and confirmed my water had broken.  I told her, she had let me know on Wednesday that she had a stillbirth at 26 weeks herself and I knew she would understand, about the miracle God gave me.  She cried with me and understood that it was what I needed to do this that day.

She let me try to do it without induction medicine and I was told that this being a VBAC I could lose my ability to have more children if my uterus ruptured.  I wanted to deliver my child whole, it was the only gift I could give him and he was worth it to me even if he would be my last.

At noon I had not progressed much, and then I got the medicine for induction.  I began the most painful labor and delivery I have ever had, but not all of the pain was related to labor.

Throughout the day I was able to laugh and speak to the nurses and my mom.  One nurse told me she had never seen a mom in my situation be as joy-filled, she had only seen bitterness and anger.  My labor is my testimony of a merciful God, even in something as small as breaking my water BEFORE I walked into the hospital, he had met me in my pain, and everything else was just going to be the path I had to walk to get to my child.


I knew myself well enough to have discussed with my OB that I needed an epidural because I was hurting in so many different ways I needed something to not hurt so much if I could prevent it.

The charge nurse ignored the instructions, and all I was given was short-acting narcotic pain management.  I kept telling her I felt pressure and I could not relax, she did not believe me and felt I was not having enough progress to call the anesthesiologist.  They changed my pain medicine to one that worked a little longer, and after an hour and a half nap I woke up delivering my child.  I asked my mom to get the nurse, I was not going to ask my mom to confirm that I had delivered my baby like that.

The nurse said, “oh, you were right, all you needed was to to be able to relax.  Your baby is born.”  This was the last time I cried before I held my son.  We didn’t know he was a he until I held him.  We had picked the name, McLeod, for him.

She got the second nurse, and they began working to get him in my hands.  My mom was in the bathroom and came out to me holding my tiny boy.  She told me later that she had never seen such peace on my face as she did at that moment.  I replied, “ I did what I intended to do.  I delivered my son, whole.

We got to be with him as long as we wanted.  And, got lots of pictures, and foot and handprints.  They were so respectful and careful with him.  I never imagined anyone would treat him so well other than me and my mom.  They provided me with a pretty purple box with a blanket and little clothes that he would go to the place to be cremated in.  The local mortuary would even cremate him at no-cost, because of his gestational age.  We left the hospital after 4 hours of a nap.  I went home with just memories, it was like a weird nightmare to be wheeled out with handprints in a box and not my son.

It was the first day of a year that would teach me that grief can be done in a way that proves the hope I had gained in his birth.

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Birth Story Baby #6

He was highly anticipated, deeply loved, and a promise that life was going to move on!

I found out I was pregnant with baby #6, 1 day before our stillborn child’s 1-year heavenly birthday, but I had felt sick for about 2 weeks.

Brown Plain Collages Facebook Post


It was the last of the four names my husband and I had picked out for our boys when we first got married.  What happened to the other three?  We used them!

McKinzie is our first child and son, McKinley is our second, and McLeod our precious boy born to heaven at 16 weeks gestation was our 7th pregnancy.  I can’t remember why we picked the last two names, but the first two are family names.  Our Mc-clan was growing again, after 8 years of girl babies!

The Delivery

I had felt off with him for a couple days, had higher blood pressures at the ultrasounds and perfect pressures everywhere else, and one morning I could hear my blood pressure in my ears just walking across the living room of our apartment.  I called my OB and she asked me to come in and be checked.

I spent the whole day in Labor and Delivery with just a couple high pressures, and my OB came after her office hours to talk to me.  She wanted to send me home, and then see me the following day, I insisted that I did not feel good and wanted to stay.  She told me she could monitor me one night.  She listened, and I am so grateful!



My pressure went up in the night and stayed there.  At morning rounds her words to me were, ” Do you want to have a baby today?”  My answer, ” YES!”  He would be born in the Palindrome Week of August 2018, his birthday is the same forward and backward.

csectionmickkinnon (2)
The last Facebook post before he was born

I was exactly 35 weeks.  I was eligible for a VBA2C, and it was my dream, but I had a feeling that my blood pressure would go up, as I had already been high overnight, and I wanted us both safe.  I was giving my last chance at a VBAC to him, to keep us both safe.  I would find out later that it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made.

My Cesarean Section was scheduled at 4:30 pm.  At 4:00pm, they were checking on him with the doppler and couldn’t find a heartbeat.  This bereaved mom panicked, I would say a little but it was a lot!  So, they pulled out the ultrasound and went to find him.  He had turned transverse, sideways.  This is the first reason I am glad I listened to that still small voice telling me to accept that VBAC was not going to be my story this time, or ever again.

We went to surgery!  Me, baby on the inside, my husband and my twin sister.  She was there to support my husband and to potentially follow our son anywhere they needed to take him if he was not developed enough.

They set me up and brought in my doctor, who performed a version to turn him from breech to head down (I had to tell her he was transverse during the surgical time-out because her medical student failed to do so…do not be afraid to tell your doctor any new news, it could be VERY important).  Then, it began.

I hear, “Oh, there’s a nuchal cord.”  I knew this meant he had a cord wrapped but my husband did not.  Reason #2 I am very thankful for my Cesarean, the nurse told my sister afterward that his cord was wrapped so tight that they could not get it off without clamping and cutting it.  Mom-tuition is a thing!

The NICU team was there, and his oxygen would not go higher than 60%, so he was whisked away to the NICU along with my sister.  I was put back together, and taken to my room.  I did not get to see my son for three hours, but my husband went to him while I was in recovery.

He would go on to spend 12 days in the NICU.

Birth Story

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large family meal prep in as little as 1 hour a day

How to meal plan and prep in 1 hour a day

Preparing food for my army

When I worked outside the home I would try and take a whole day, sometime during the month, and prep as much as I could to make cooking for the rest of the month easier.  It worked for a long time, but it was hard to carve out the time with my overnight work schedule and my husband’s college schedule after our 5th and 6th children were born.

When I got the opportunity to become a stay at home mom again, I was excited to finally get back into the groove with my meal prep, but I discovered I could only make room in our fridge and deep freezer for about 2 weeks with how our family was growing.

I still really love once a month meal planning, but I do not have the space I need to accomplish as much as I need to.

Introducing 1-hour meal prep!

I still plan our meals a month in advance, using my Pinterest account and other resources.  I just don’t buy everything all at the same time.  You can Pin these instructions Here.

Canned goods are not the problem, it’s fresh and frozen for this family of 8.  We have one fridge with the tiny freezer, and a 1/4 size chest freezer.

With gluten allergies, we have to make most of our foods from scratch unless we can be sure of the manufacturing and processing, so I season all the food ourselves, and I cannot buy sauces premixed.

My goal, Monday through Friday, is to set aside 1 hour after I homeschool the oldest children, to prep and cook.

What does this look like?

**Putting dried beans to soak, in preparation for cooking the following day.

**Batch cooking defrosted ground meat for multiple meals.

Batch cooking ground meat to freeze for use throughout the month
10lbs of ground meat cooking for the freezer

**Oven roasting chicken breasts and cubing them.

**Chopping veggies and putting them in containers for fresh eating or recipes.

A tower of gluten free pancakes for the freezer.  A quick meal on a busy morning.
16x batch of gluten-free pancakes

**Mixing bits of ingredients for that day’s lunch and dinner.

**Baking gluten-free eats for breakfasts, snacks, and dessert night.

Gluten free, dairy free baked oatmeal prepped for the freezer
Double batch of gluten free baked oatmeal for the freezer.

**Cleaning out the fridge on Leftover Day so that it is ready for all the prepped ingredients and leftovers until the next one.

Where do I start?

Carve out the time!

I watched a movie with my husband last night and the line that stuck with me was, “The only thing that has value for everyone is TIME.”

I am a busy mom of 6 with a disabled husband.  I had to learn to delegate some things to my husband that he was capable of in our homeschool so that I could have this meal planning time.  So, far, everyone is succeeding for the hour and Momma has her prep time handled!

Then, make a list of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners for a week.  Then, prep what you can.  set the timer, and keep yourself busy.  When the timer goes off, clean up and stop working.

Mark off what you accomplished, and know that you accomplished something, and something is always better than nothing!

I put my leftovers in mason jar with plastic lids
Leftovers in mason jars

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