After taking a year off from allergy testing, Kaspar rocked rounds of both skin and blood tests last week. While allergy testing is notoriously inexact, the results reflect indisputable progress.
Our new allergist, although limited in his knowledge and treatment options by the bounds of Western Medicine, is also, to his great credit, pretty open-minded; he has another patient, a five-year-old, who’s ‘outgrown’ eczema, as well as multiple nut allergies—this is, statistically, an unlikely event—and avoided albuterol asthma treatments for years thanks to TCM doctors in New York (this boy’s mom called me yesterday, and we’ll meet with their family in the coming weeks to learn more about their story). He also has solid instincts, opinions, and—most usefully—interpretive skills, around this whole business of testing. Although I didn’t know it at first, this is just the medically-minded guy we’ve been looking for. (Yeah, I said it).
I was hesitant to subject Kaspar to countless blood draws as we did last year, when we hunted desperately (and with questionable oversight— the first allergist we saw lacked the above-mentioned skills entirely) for foods Kaspar could safely eat. The up side of having run those tests, however, is that we now have a lot of baseline info against which we can measure subsequent results. Kaspar’s numbers on last year’s tests came out markedly high; even our new allergist remarked, in looking over the records, at the levels of Kaspar’s nut, legume, and egg allergies: Not good. But he was optimistic around some of the others, and suggested we do skin tests for wheat, corn, oats, and some veggies.
Conflicting opinions abound regarding skin versus blood testing accuracy, and I questioned whether skin testing would be useful, given that we’d started with blood tests last year—why switch things up now? But this allergist handled my questions deftly and respectfully (he figured out pretty quickly that I’m savvy with this stuff and expect him to work with us, not to regurgitate some all-purpose SOP); he said that while skin tests do sometimes turn up false positives, they can impart a fairly reliable sense of whether a person’s system will react to a food upon ingestion, without running the risk of anaphylaxis in testing. Kids with eczema, too, regularly turn up blood test numbers that are all over the map (we knew this, and found it frustrating last year: how could we tell what was really a problem if the numbers were probably whack?). This allergist said there’d be no point in skin-testing, say, peanuts, since those results were so very high and pretty much guaranteed a bad reaction—especially since we’ve already landed in the ER once-- but some of the mid-range foods from last year’s tests would be worth taking to the skin first in order to get a sense of whether they’re really problematic, with the express goal of expanding Kaspar’s gastronomic options.
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I made a quilt last week! More accurately, I made a small-sized quilt, and it took me several weeks, as I worked on it in fits and bursts, at one point stopping for days due to having sewed the borders on all wrong and becoming sort of avoidant about making them right again. I was sewing it for a baby, however, who’s two days from her scheduled arrival, and there’s nothing better on this earth for my productivity than a hard deadline; I pulled my project back out of wherever I’d stashed it, undid the seams, and finished just in time.
I learned a few things about sewing from making this quilt. For one thing, proper tools are probably a more solid starting point than all-around improvisation, without any real tools at all (save for the trusty sewing machine itself). I went with improvisation, which shouldn't surprise you. I cut the squares from un-ironed fabric (pieces I’d pilfered from a scraps box outside a fantastic fabric store/craft factory here in Austin, Stitch Lab), without measuring, using kitchen scissors. I didn’t have any pins yet, either, so when I set about sewing I just topped one square on the next and got to it. Eyeballing the quilt into being this way wasn’t unsuccessful or anything, but it resulted in a few uneven lines, some bunching fabric, and other minor annoyances that could have been easily avoided, given proper planning. But shit, I’m not a planner, and the final product turned out to be kind of awesome for its intended purpose. No, it’s edges aren’t perfectly straight, but I did commit myself to the thing and pay attention to detail in a way I usually don’t (I am BIG picture-oriented, people. This was good for me!). It looks handmade. It looks perfect for bundling a baby, for getting spit-up on and washed again and again, for tea-party picnic outings, for fort-building, cape-wearing, and maybe someday for re-creation or incorporation into something else someone else makes.
On the day that I finally finished it, I put my real work (the kind I get paid for) off until the evening and went out to buy some filling, and a fabric for the back. (Found organic materials for both-- score!). When I arrived home, a package was sitting outside my front door with my name on it. It was from my dad, and contained an old box full of colorful thread, some thimbles and PINS like you wouldn’t believe. I’d never seen it before, but immediately deduced that it belonged to my paternal grandmother (who passed away when I was in high school... and I didn’t even know she sewed). Hooray for my dad being a hoarder of sorts, because here was my perfect sewing tools starter-kit, needing some organization and updating, but definitely enough to get me through. I rocked the final touches on the new-baby quilt, took some (imperfect) photos to remember it by, and sent it off in the mail.
I like making presents for people. I like swallowing my impatience in order to see something (big picture) I imagined take shape from pieces. I like the uneven lines. I like that the quilt I made doesn’t have six million identical twins, all manufactured in China. It's completely unique. For the borders, I cut up (without measuring) a big piece of cloth my most favorite of cousins had brought back from some travels in Kenya before Kaspar was born; we swaddled him in it for months, and now it’s part of something new, for someone new no one's met yet. I like this piecing-together process. It takes patience but brings about surprises (thanks Grandma!) and rewards. My friend, who’s very pregnant with the little girl-baby, wrote today that it’s “by far the most beautiful thing we have for (her). I’m so touched.” Which left ME so touched that something so clearly imperfect can also be beautiful and appreciated and loved.
This is how we are. And so it's fitting that our things-- that we make, give, and receive-- should also be this way.
Now I want to make more. My friends better keep having babies, though; I don’t think I have a big quilt in me just yet. Not until I learn to measure things properly, anyway, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Hello, my name is Taylor, and I’m an imperfectionist.