The Health Disrupter Journal from The Allergista!

The Allergista is one of my favorite bloggers, and I’ve talked about her many times on here. She was kind enough to reach out to me to give me a chance to try out her health disrupter journal and share it with you guys!

Now, I have a confession to make: she asked me to do this a looooong time ago. Like, months ago. And I have not adjusted well to keeping up with blogging and parenting a 1 year old. Add journaling on top of that and I majorly failed. But I wanted to complete the journal before writing this post, so… here we are, months too late but honest!

So this isn’t my first health-journaling rodeo. I’ve kept a diary of what I eat and my digestive reactions before, and I’ve also tried out a few apps to track symptoms along with diet, sleep, and other things. I have a love-hate relationship with journaling this way. It’s great because it’s shown me patterns in my health, and helped me to discern what foods/habits cause my pain to flare up, or cause my IBS to get bad. But it’s really hard, at least for me. The first few days go well. I’m excited and write down everything in detail. But after that… life happens. I try to jot down some notes at the end of the day, usually while half-asleep, and soon I miss entire days.

And of course, when I do get sick, journaling is hardest of all, and also most crucial. So this is a huge challenge for me. The great thing about journaling is that even small bursts can be helpful in solving health mysteries. So with the Allergista’s health disruptor journal, that’s exactly what I did. I journaled for a week or two at a time, then took a hiatus. Not by design, but because that’s kinda just how it happened. But I still solved some of my own health mysteries.

The journal has four basic parts: a daily log, a weekly notes section, a weekly summary of symptoms, and a monthly calendar. To be honest, I didn’t use the monthly calendar much, but only because I have another one that I keep all my appointments and life notes on. I know in this day and age, most people don’t have a monthly paper calendar posted up anymore, so this would probably be more useful to someone who didn’t have another system in place.

The daily log is set up for allergies, but is easily adapted to chronicle chronic pain or gastrointestinal problems. The only section I didn’t use much was logging skin problems, since that’s pretty exclusive to tracking allergies. But I liked the tally system of giving each symptom a number and totaling it. The higher the number, the “worse” a day is symptom-wise. This is great because when you’re in a flare, you can feel like “oh I’ve felt horrible all week” but looking at the numbers you can see that there are days where even though you have symptoms, you’re feeling a little better. That can be really encouraging, especially in a long flare.

I like the body location symptom tracker. I’m a very visual person, and I like to doodle, so it was fun and also informative. I could see pain “make its rounds” so to speak. I like that a lot.

Finally, the notes section. At first, this was the biggest chore, mostly because I was unsure what to put there. But I ended up using it as my place to pose questions and come up with hypothesis. I could look back at previous weeks and see if I’d proven my ideas or answered any questions.

The biggest health mystery this journal helped me solve actually had to do with anxiety. When I have a panic attack, it almost exclusively happens at night. My anxiety keeps me awake, and eventually builds until I’m sweating, pacing, and generally loosing my mind. I found out through journaling that there are two things that I thought were helping me that were actually contributing to my panic attacks.

One was drinking. I had gotten into a bad habit of always having a glass of wine at dinner or bedtime most nights, thinking it helped me relax. It kind of did, but on nights when I didn’t drink I was much more likely to sleep well. Stopping this habit didn’t completely eliminate my anxiety attacks, but it helped a LOT.

Second was reading. Yeah, the thing EVERYONE tells you to do when you can’t sleep! I adore reading, and I read paper books with no irritating backlights to disrupt my sleep cycle. But I think I must love it a little too much. I noticed I tended to have trouble sleeping after reading, and noticed that I get a little too into books to relax. I stay awake thinking about the book (especially suspenseful ones) and end up in the anxiety zone. Now, I’m careful to only read either books I’ve read before or calm, non-suspense/mystery/adventure books before bed if I read at all.

So what’s my final verdict? Health journals are great, and the Allergista’s is one of the best I’ve tried! If you’re like me and can only journal in spurts, remember that it’s better than nothing and you can still benefit from what you learn from it. I highly recommend this one for it’s organization, it’s tracking tools like tallying and body diagramming, and it’s coverage of all areas you need to track in an easy format. You can download it by clicking


I hope you all check it out and give journaling a try if you haven’t already. You’ll be surprised what you can learn! Plus, if you have an attentive doctor, they may like to look over it and help you find patterns and give you advice.

Also, don’t forget to enter the #SPOONIERAGECOMICCONTEST! There are free prizes to win and I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s not much competition right now. So enter today! Google “rage comic maker,” choose your favorite, then create a comic that has something to do with health, chronic illness, allergies, doctors, medicine, or anything in between! Then upload it to twitter or instagram with the hashtag #spoonieragecomiccontest.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Book Review: The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy


My son did just turn five months old, but I still finished reading this book (however slowly) because 1.) I am a book completionist and 2.) out of all the pregnancy/childbirth books I read, this one was my favorite.

My insurance company is Blue Cross Blue Shield, and they surprised me during my pregnancy. I mean in a good way – yes, it is possible for health insurance companies to have good surprises. For one thing, I was given a case worker who called me every month to ask me how my pregnancy was going and check up on my physical and mental health. That was pretty nice. But what I liked more was getting this surprise package in the mail. A free book!


And I really really liked this book. I was sort of predisposed to because it’s from the Mayo Clinic. I admit I don’t actually know a lot about the Mayo Clinic, but when it pops up on the health blogs I read, it’s always a good thing. I think of the Mayo Clinic as the place you go when doctors fail you. Like, going to the Mayo Clinic is actually a little medical fantasy of mine.

(Side note: how sad is it that I have a medical fantasy instead of fantasizing about just being well?)


This really is the perfect pregnancy book in my opinion. It’s all fact-based and it focuses on delivering medical information in a way that’s simple enough for a non-doctor to understand. There’s no kumbaya in this book. I’m an emotional person who loves romanticizing things but when it comes to my health and my body, I don’t like to wade through fluff. I want the facts. I will add my own kumbaya, don’t worry. It’s childbirth, I was drunk on kumbaya hormones the ENTIRE time. I needed to understand what was happening and what was going to happen, and I only had nine months to learn.

Speaking of which, that’s another great thing about this book – it’s quick. It’s also got a great reference section that will point you exactly to whatever information you’re looking for. This book is definitely set up to be a reference book – you can read month by month chapters on the developing pregnancy, and you can look up any symptoms, illnesses, medicines, diet questions, basically anything that pops into your head very easily. Of course I read it cover to cover because that’s what you do with books in my opinion. If I need a quick reference, I’ll reach for google faster than I’ll reach for a book. Still, it wasn’t bad as a cover-to-cover read either, and I appreciate that versatility.

Look baby, no hands!

Look baby, no hands!

It did pull the same thing as What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the Official Lamaze Guide did in the chapters on complications and loss – saying not to read this unless you’re experiencing a complication. I get that pregnancy involves a lot of undue worrying – BELIEVE ME, I know – but I don’t know. Education eases my fears. I know not everyone is that way. But I’d prefer to see warnings more like “read this section only if you feel learning more will ease your fears – anxiety is very bad for expecting mothers and you may skip this section if you feel it would distress you.” Or something like that.

As much as I really liked this book, it was pretty far from perfect. I admit that some of my thoughts may be biased because of the fact that this book was free. I automatically assumed that because it was free, not as much effort was put in to it.

This book does seem like it was largely copy and pasted from a conglomeration of Mayo Clinic sources rather than compiled by an actual writer. I say that because there are a lot of formatting errors, like a lack of spaces between words or extra spaces around punctuation. And occasionally there are typos, usually in the form of tenses that don’t make sense. There was even one instance in the pregnancy loss section where a paragraph was straight-up repeated. That’s pretty sloppy and does sort of make you wonder how much you can trust it when there were clearly…. lapses in effort.


But I also got this book for free. And the information was good. It never showed bias towards natural childbirth or more medicalized childbirth. Plus, even in sections where you might think they’d have to get fluffy (like the section on pregnancy loss) they keep it very respectfully informative. They discuss the emotional recovery aspect very seriously, encouraging the reader to seek support and care, but the book also remembers its role as a giver of information, and offers data as a was to understand what physically happens in the hopes that it might bring some level of comfort and acceptance. It also very pointedly lays out things that cannot cause pregnancy loss, to lay to rest any blame game the reader might take up.

It also had an entire section on chronic illness and pregnancy, and it was pretty extensive! That’ll always win you points on this blog.

All in all, I do recommend this book. If you get it for free, definitely read it. If you’re interested, go by your local Half-Price Books or check online and buy it used. It’s not going to read like a New York Times Best-Seller, but it’s got accurate, unbiased info, and that’s very hard to find. Especially when it comes to pregnancy.

After reading this, I am definitely going to seek out the Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year (even though it’s almost half-over already) ((*cries in the corner*)).


They hooked me with their free book and now I’ll buy the rest of them. That’s how they get you!

Madeline and Childlike Pride Amid Illness

In an old house in Paris that’s covered with vines

lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.


When I think of Madeline,  I think of my sister. All three of us loved the Madeline books, cartoons, and dolls, but most of our Madeline books and dolls belonged officially to my middle sister. I was 7 years old during her Madeline phase. She was 5. And she also happened to be in the hospital. She had a brain tumor, two surgeries, and spent over a year in the children’s hospital. She’s now a happy, healthy adult.

Being that I was 7, my memories of that time are trivial, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve gained more and more insight into the gravity of the things that happened then. Being diagnosed with a chronic pain condition as an adult has also given some of those memories new meaning – like Madeline. Because now I feel more deeply connected to Madeline, and I wonder if the people giving my sister Madeline dolls and books did so with these same thoughts in mind.

Madeline is, on the surface, a series of stories about an impish girl who, as the stand-out scrappy runt of an orphanage run by a fretting nun, gets into heartwarming shinanigans in gay old Paris. But there’s a bit more there.

The Madeline book that I remember most vividly and that, I believe, is the most famous, is one in which Madeline has appendicitis. Miss Clavel, the nun, wakes in the night because “something is not right” and instead of finding Madeline making her usual trouble she finds her in bed with a burning fever. Madeline is rushed to the ER and undergoes emergency surgery.


Everything turns out alright. And Madeline is thrilled by the whole thing. The iconic moment from that story is when she proudly shows off her scar.


And that stuck with me because that’s exactly what my experience with my sister was. Her room was full of the most wonderful toys and snacks and very interesting hospital things, and across her head was a scar, just like a headband would be across her head. I honestly don’t know how she felt about it– if she was self-conscious or if perhaps Madeline helped her feel proud of it. I thought it was cool. I didn’t have very interesting thoughts. I was told repeatedly not to touch it so I spent most of my time thinking about touching it.

Sister of the year right here.



So that’s probably why Madeline books are a good present for kids in the hospital. I don’t know. But what’s really interesting to me now is the Madeline dolls my sister had.


Pretty run-of-the-mill dolls. Some stood on the shelf, others were floppy rag-dolls for cuddling. But they all had something in common.

1 madeline scar



You could be sure that whether she was a doll, in a book, or on the screen, she had her scar. Why? Because it’s a part of her character. You can’t have Madeline without her scar. You can’t have Madeline without her story.

And dolls get such a bad rep for promoting unrealistic standards of beauty. And now we have these companies working hard to make more “realistic” dolls to teach better values. But twenty-odd years ago, Madeline was waaaay ahead of you.


Every time we saw a Madeline doll, we pulled up her dress to point out her scar. Was that an intentional outcome that the adults in our lives hoped for when they gave us Madeline? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know.

But now I’m all grown up, and I’ve got three scars on my tummy. And sometimes when I look at them, I think of Madeline.

When we’re kids and we get hurt or sick, we’re so freaking excited to tell people about it. We show off our band-aids, we tell the exciting story, we make you sign our cast, we brag about getting shots or taking medicine. Why? Probably because grown-ups are constantly praising us through any medical adventure. The doctor gives you stickers and lollipops for a reason. Your parents coo to you that you’re so brave and so good. A team of doctors and nurses work tirelessly over you while your main job is to sit still, and you’re the one who gets told “good job!”

Illness is universal. Everyone winds up on a medical adventure at some point. But the older you get, the more autonomous you want to be. Illness is like crying: it’s private. But humans evolved to cry when they need help, and keeping it behind closed doors is completely counter-intuitive. Same with illness. Illness should be something people come together over. You need praise and encouragement and pride to get through it.

endo endometriosis scars swimsuit

I should be wearing my bikini and pointing at my stomach proudly, saying “look at me! Look what I did! I was very brave and good! You’ll never believe what happened!” When you’re drugged up at the hospital, you get that child-like pride back. You never really see shy drugged-up people do you? Without inhibitions, most people recovering from a severe injury or illness act like it’s an exciting story to share. And it is!

Why do you think Madeline is so popular?

If, for any reason, there’s ever dolls made of me, I hope they all have scars. Madeline is doing a lot of good out there. I never felt like dolls were shaping my view of beauty and self worth… but 7-year-old me would be quick to tell you that her Madeline doll has a scar, and it’s really really cool.


And that had to be good for my sister.

And it has to be good for me now.

Thanks Madeline.

Book Review: The Official Lamaze Guide

Do not read this book.


When I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to learn about natural childbirth. I’ve read a lot of books and attended classes and I am a huge advocate for birth with as little medical intervention as possible. Lamaze is the biggest name in natural birth, and this is their “official guide.” How could it be this bad? I am asking myself that as much as you’re asking me.

Let’s dig right in. I bought this at Half Price Books at the very start of my pregnancy. I hadn’t taken any classes yet but I figured I’d probably take a Lamaze class at some point. In the end, my hospital had to cancel their Lamaze classes when teachers became scarce. I looked in to taking a class elsewhere but the prices were all over the place. We happened to also be looking in to the Bradley method and their classes were much more uniform – no matter where you took them, the price and length was the same. More on that in another post.

All you need to know is that I decided to read this book before committing to a class. Let me also say that I think the actual class has to be way better than this pathetic book. I still can’t believe just how unhelpful this book really is.

Let’s start with the cover. “Giving birth with confidence.” That sounds good.


Alright so what’s going on back here? Childbirth is not a disease… so far so good. A book that tells you what to expect, not fear – knocking “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” huh? Cheeky.

Childbirth is exciting and not fraught with danger…. plain English, positive tone…this sounds great!

Well that’s why you don’t judge a book by its cover.

Basically everything the cover says is the opposite of what this book actually is. This book is almost nothing but fear-mongering. And remember, I am pro-natural-birth and anti-medical-intervention. I am on this book’s side, but it presents its argument in crazy-talk and worst-case-scenarios. “What to Expect” was written in a WAY more positive tone with much less “do this or your baby will die” tones.


Rather than presenting traditional hospital birth as “unnecessary interventions” or a choice that simply isn’t for everyone, it colors them as THE ENEMY. Doctors and nurses cannot be trusted! Don’t even let them take your blood! THEY’LL PROBABLY USE IT IN THEIR SATANIC RITUALS.

Okay it’s not that extreme but it does err on the side of hysteria.

It refers to natural birth as “normal birth,” and it does so aggressively. I get what they’re trying to do, but nowadays “normal birth” isn’t the norm so really it’s just a rather confusing name. Everyone knows what you mean when you say “natural childbirth.” So like, calm down.

This book also promotes ideas that, if not flat out dangerous, are at least controversial – like co-sleeping. I don’t want to start a whole big “thing” here adult beds are simply not 100% safe for infants. It seems like there’s constantly another news article in my facebook feed about babies dying this way. I was shocked to see the “official” Lamaze guide not only claiming it was safe, but recommending it as the best thing to do! I personally think it’s a death wish, but some people maintain it can be done safely. Either way, there’s no definitive answer one way or the other, yet this book states its opinion as fact.


Interestingly, at the back of the book there are appendixes and charts with nothing but the scientific, documented evidence of the safety of natural birth practices vs. medical intervention. This data paints a fair picture of the risks and benefits of each. It also leaves out the questionable recommendations like co-sleeping. You guys couldn’t find any data on that one? But you still included it in the book? Right….

What’s most upsetting about all of this is that this isn’t just another birth book – it’s the official Lamaze guide. The most well-known “brand” of natural childbirth. I was a first time mom looking through the hundreds of birth/pregnancy book titles and I picked it up because it was a no-brainer. This official book had to be trustworthy. What new mom would see “The Official Lamaze Guide” and think they had any reason to doubt any of it? If this book was the only source I had of info on natural childbirth, I’d be out. No way, I’m out of here, hospital birth is the way to go. I’m not a Goddess, I want my husband involved, and I don’t want to be terrified of every choice I make. This book has to be scaring people away.

Speaking of which…what comes to mind when you hear “Lamaze?” Breathing techniques, right? Methods of relaxation for labor. Something like that. Well, in the intro of this book, it proudly states that “Lamaze isn’t about breathing techniques anymore” and that it’s no longer a “method,” but a “philosophy.” Oh boy.

I personally was hoping to learn some specific breathing techniques. I think relaxation exercises are awesome and I started learning them before I was even pregnant to cope with anxiety. I was excited to learn pregnancy-specific techniques. But here we are. Well, what about this “philosophy?”


How shall I put this? Hmm…do you remember that episode of Friends where the girls started reading the self-help book about how to be “Goddesses?” And men are “thunder-bearers” and they steal women’s “wind?”

Yeah. So this book goes on and on and on about how women give birth with other women. Only women know how to support a woman in birth. We’re all part of an ancient sisterhood of women teaching women their womanly ways. Dad who? There’s actually an entire section about “retiring the coach.” That’s Dad, Dad is the labor coach. Or he used to be. But all those silly men ever do is steal women’s wind! All a woman needs is her sisterhood.

Am I talking about labor or a witch coven? Will there be naked dancing in the woods later?

You know what else is great (and by “great” I mean “lol wtf great”)? This book has pictures! And they’re almost all of women with other women engaging in the womanly art of childbirth, the pinnacle of womanhood.





Those last two are WAY too happy.

But occasionally we’ll see a man.


A man being USELESS. Isn’t that just like a wind-stealer?

The subtitle of the Bradley Method is “husband-coached childbirth.” It’s been a great way for us to build our relationship and a great way for hubs to feel involved in all the excitement. Lamaze seems to think husbands just don’t have a place outside of the before and after of childbirth, and I think that’s really sad.

This book isn’t all bad. The flowery emotional bits are very true and sweetly written. It talks a lot about enjoying pregnancy and reveling in the miracle of a new life growing and all that. And it has some good information. But all of the emotional stuff and the good information can be found in other books, blogs, etc. – and it’s presented in much better ways. I cannot give any reason to read this book. There are so many better books out there. Leave this one on the shelf.

I just can’t even with this book you guys. I can. Not. Even.



Book Review: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

what to expect

It’s THE book. Everyone’s heard of it and most people with kids have read it. There’s even a movie of it? More accurately there’s a movie that uses the same title. I’m pretty sure it’s not an adaptation of the book. And I don’t have plans to see it, haha.

Overall, I liked this book. I know a lot of moms who don’t like it, though I’m not sure of their reasons. Most people I know who don’t like it are really in to alternative medicine and all natural lifestyle, but all of those things can be found in this book. They’re not exclusive, and the book is full of information on traditional medicine and c-sections and everything else too. I think it does a really good job of giving you a nice overview of, well, what you can expect.

So if you only read one book while you’re pregnant… well, maybe not this one. Continue reading