After years of bloody poop and projectile vomiting in ice cream stores I decided to have my son tested for gluten and lactose intolerance. It’s not a small test. He had to be put to sleep with anesthesia, and just as I got everything scheduled, Joan Rivers died having the operation he was scheduled to have, so I canceled it.

This deciding process involved three people who helped me: One person did research for me (percentage of children who throw up from milk products, definition of gluten intolerance, amount of blood in poop that is alarming vs just sort of a problem.) One person dealt with all doctor appointment scheduling (the allergist, the general practitioner who kept not referring me to the allergist, the ENT, the surgeon.) And Carla, our driver, who took my son to appointments where all he needed to do was pee in a cup.

You can’t outsource holding your kid’s hand when they get wheeled to the operating room. But you can outsource almost everything else. The trick is to think in terms of discreet tasks and what sort of person is good for doing that task.

You might not think of delegating doctor appointment schedules as delegating homeschooling, but it’s getting rid of stuff I don’t like to do so that I can spend time on decisions that I would never want to delegate, like whether or not my son’s biology tutor is doing a good job. That’s a lot of what it looks like to delegate if you’re a homeschooler.

Hiring someone for quick projects doesn’t have to be expensive. I use Odesk for tasks that are repetitive, systematic, and don’t require perfect English, like putting my address list into a spreadsheet for bar mitzvah invitations. You will find people there who are totally capable of that type of work and charge only a couple of dollars an hour.

For short, immediate problems, that need to be solved in person, there is TaskRabbit. Task Rabbit is not cheap, but it’s a life saver. When I was in Chicago and we left the cello bow in the north suburbs of Chicago, I found someone on Task Rabbit that would pick up the bow, pay for it in cash, and deliver it to our hotel room.

For projects that are more involved or require some cultural knowledge, there is Perssist. This is where you’ll find rock-star caliber assistants who can plan events, or figure out how to fit soccer and karate into your kids’ schedules, or make your winter vacation a dream. I especially like the list of common requests on Perssist because it gives me ideas for projects I am doing myself but could be outsourcing.

There is so much advice in the world about how to delegate to get your office job done. But it’s very difficult to get insight as to how people are delegating their personal life. I try to be very up front on this blog when I am delegating stuff, so we can share ideas, but I also like reading the job descriptions on Persist to get ideas on how I could get away with doing less as a homeschooler.

Well, maybe not less, but definitely less of what I don’t like.

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25 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Um, first of all, you can’t leave us hanging…how did the test go, what were the results and what is the fallout?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh. Right. How could I forget that? Before I tell you the results, here’s the history:

      He was off gluten as a newborn. I didn’t eat gluten for the whole time I breastfed.

      Then he got a couple of operations (he was born with a birth defect. Here’s the link to that:

      He had asthma. He got an inhaler. I took him off gluten and the need for the in haler went away. It was like magic, really. I kept not believing it was true and I’d put him back on gluten and it really was true.

      He complained about his stomach. A doctor put him on Prilosec. I thought it was BS. I don’t know why. It’s just my instinct. I thought he didn’t need that medicine.

      Around age seven my husband pointed out that Zehavi had stomach aches and loose stool almost every week at some point. And often he talked about blood in his poop.

      So I did reading and took him off lactose.

      He kept throwing up. Oh yeah. He threw up a lot as well. I thought it was that I was not tough enough about gluten and lactose, so I really clamped down (so expensive to eat that way, by the way) and he still threw up. Still had stomach aches. Still had blood.

      So I took him off soy.

      No change.

      Then I took him off all additives. Which is an absolutely insane way to eat in the US. Especially if you are always away from home for cello. And I felt that I was making my kids crazy about food and I wanted medical help.

      My son has already been to a million specialists, but we went back to the GI. He said this was one of the most complicated cases he’d ever seen and he recommended an endoscopy. (Not hugely surprising. My other son had one when he was three.)

      So we had the endoscopy. The result is that there is no evidence of celiac, IBS, or other common diseases that have to be treated aggressively.

      The result: we have no gluten or lactose in the house and the kids re not allowed to order deserts after a meal we eat out. The boys don’t eat soy very often because my editor sent me research about how it’s bad for growing boys.

      So. There we go. That’s what happened. Almost everyone who comes to our house to visit gets fed up and drives an hour to the nearest McDonalds. Not kidding.


      • Veronica Valadez
        Veronica Valadez says:

        I agree with the enterolab testing idea. Also, it might suck, but have you done the total elimination diet where he only eats really basic non-reactive food until all the symptoms stop? Then add in one thing every three days? I feel your fristration and I totally understand the expense and challenge of living this way. I also feel your pain as a mom trying to get answers and help him. Other foods can be culprits too, nuts or fruit or nightshades, it’s hard to know. In the San Francisco bay area, there are doctors with machines that you our your hands on and they can give much better answers about elusive health issues. They are real doctors and have great results, maybe there is someone near you doing that? I’m just thinking about what else I would do if I were you. You’re doing the right thing, follow your intuition, you know your kid better than anyone.

        • Laura
          Laura says:

          I swear doctors call our kids’ symptoms complicated because they don’t handily fit in a ready diagnosis. As parents, it’s easier to see symptoms as a mystery tale that leads us to a villain. Often that villain is unexpected, even more often doctors add new villains in the form of prescriptions.

          My daughter was unable to digest anything but breastmilk till she was nearly 16 months. She had pain, scary green mucus and blood in her diaper, and vomited a lot. (Instead of cake, for her first birthday she had crushed ice which she loved.) Once she could eat she ate only certain things, like mushrooms and raw cabbage. I trusted she knew what she needed. She still threw up. Doctors wanted her on all sorts of drugs and wanted to do surgery that would make it impossible to throw up (what if she gets food poisoning, I asked) and wanted to hospitalize her to “challenge” her digestion in a medical setting. We said no to all this. My daughter diagnosed herself in her teen years as having a (now inactive) case of Eosinophilic gastroenteritis based on symptoms and an old copy of lab tests.

          One of my sons also confounded doctors with severe asthma, weird rashes, and unrelenting school problems. I kept trying to hone his diet down to the healthiest foods possible, sure culprits like milk and chocolate were the problems. It wasn’t until he ended up with a diagnosis of ADD that we found some solutions. Turns out he was allergic to many of the foods I considered healthy. He was also allergic to SCHOOL (and, I soon discovered) school-like homeschooling. Here’s how we figured this out:

      • Tracy Moore
        Tracy Moore says:

        If you haven’t already, it could be worth trying to encourage Zehavi to drink water-based kefir, daily. (You can get hold of the water kefir grains online.)

        So I’d recommend researching (or outsourcing the research of – hah!) the benefits of consuming kefir daily, and how to prepare the culture. It’s easy, not time-consuming, and can help improve gut-issues and related health challenges, sometimes substantially so. As it’s water-based, you don’t have to worry about the lactose intolerance. (Though I’ve read that milk-based kefir is superior and that much of the lactose is removed during fermentation. Not sure if that’s true or not though…).

  2. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I haven’t managed to make the transition for work type jobs, even though I can identify plenty of things like buying train tickets, paperwork etc. But it seems to come down to not trusting the consistency of the work and fearing that if it goes wrong I’ll have a bigger job on my hands to pick up the pieces. Nice to see the list of common requests though, and would be fun to see what’s on the list of other blog readers here.

    On the kids side of things, my thought process is if it is boring I try to do it with the kids so at least we are spending time together and connecting on one level or another. That being said what I would really love to outsource is the whole job of knowing whether or now they still fit in their clothes and upgrading the wardrobe when necessary,shoes & all, including dealing with changes of season. We are normally a few weeks behind being dressed properly for the weather and they have normally outgrown their stuff well before I get round to doing anything about it.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Me, too. Outsourcing the wardrobe and managing the change of seasons – even just making sure everyone had every pair of footwear in the correct size.

      We’ve started ordering shoes from amazon, especially for sports. That way, I know what we bought last time, just order up one size, and you know it’s in stock.

      The worst is planning to travel and figuring out who needs what. I would outsource that.

  3. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Outsourcing requires funds. What if you haven’t got ’em? There’s plenty of stuff around here I could outsource but it would just eat up everything I’m setting aside to send my son to Purdue in the fall.

    Right now, the one thing I’d like to outsource most is my damn ironing. I’ve got three weeks of shirts piled up. And yes, I own enough shirts to go three weeks. I like shirts.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You can use Odesk. The people who work there charge $2. And it’s a really great exercise to force yourself to think about what you do with your day and what things could be done by someone who makes $2 and hour.

      Side benefit: the people I hire on Odesk are always thrilled to be working. The money makes a huge huge difference in their lives.


        • Linda
          Linda says:

          They are probably living in another country. As employers we can go online and hire people who live in another country where minimum wage is a dollar an hour. Legal.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          the people on Odesk live in countries where $2 is a lot of money and there are not a lot of jobs.


    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      Oh man. I’ve outsourced all laundry and it’s the greatest thing to have happened to my life with children. You can’t beat .50 per pound, washed, folded, ironed, delivered. I feel like I’m ripping them off everyweek.

  4. Nan
    Nan says:

    It’s probably not lactose but casein intolerance along with gluten and likely soy, possibly eggs. Try enterolab testing .

  5. Veronica Caladez
    Veronica Caladez says:

    I am a homeschool
    Mom too, and we live without gluten and mostly without dairy now. i had great success curing my own long term health issues with an elimination diet alone, nothing invasive. I an not a doctor, just a mom who has worked through many similar issues. I have also helped others find healing through the process. I don’t have medical advice but I do have food and diet strategies for kids and adults to share and I can point you to some great resources to learn more about all sides of the issue yourself. I am totally happy to talk or email with you about it. Just a few changes can give you a lot of information that is very reliable, unlike some of the medical tests which tend to be sketchy with results.

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I would think it would be difficult to find those types of services in rural Wisconsin. Have you had success finding people where you live, or is this for when you are in Chicago? I don’t really like strangers coming into my house, would those things still work for me?

  7. Angela
    Angela says:

    I have a long history of GI issues (and ADHD) and the diet was a huge game changer for me. I was skeptical when a friend recommended it, but when I read their book “It starts with food”, I thought what the heck I may as well try it. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. My IBS and blood sugar issues are virtually a thing of the past. I sound like an infomercial but there you have it!

  8. Sarah Griffith
    Sarah Griffith says:

    I don’t miss gluten and dairy in the least, I feel so good without them. You can invite me to dinner, ha ha.

  9. malaika
    malaika says:

    I went off gluten and dairy as part of going Paleo. And recently went back on while travelling. It’s awful. I think the body just doesn’t know how to cope with them, even after a short time being off. Loose stools, at irregular intervals, and hours of stomach ache, and painful digestion. And acne. It’s just not worth it, but I know the planning can be awful. Luckily you can ask airlines to provide GF meals, and a lot of airports and restaurants now offer GF and LF options, especially the chains.

  10. Emily
    Emily says:

    My parents outsourced art classes by hiring a local artist to come to our home and teach art to all 6 of us (4 kids + 2 parents). We did this once a week during my dad’s lunch break. The instructor even helped us paint a mural in my bedroom that is still there more than 20 years later, and it looks pretty good for amateurs! Plus, it has aged very well. We all contributed to the mural, including my brother, who was only 5 at the time. Now, we have some really fun art to look back at even though none of us is really an artist.

  11. Betty
    Betty says:

    I second the poster above who said to do a serious elimination diet. I had such bad joint pain, fatigue and loose stools for several years before I was referred to a really strict elimination diet. It took about three weeks for my body to clear all the bad stuff, but I started to feel better and after six week on the strict diet I felt amazing! Then I added in one thing every three days and it turns out I can’t eat onions, garlic, shallots or leeks. At all. Ever. I never would have thought to take them out of my diet but now I can’t imagine how I survived eating them for so long. The elimination stage sucks, and it does have to be for eight to ten weeks, but you just have to think that if you figure it out you’ll be better for the REST OF YOUR LIFE so it’s worth a few months of suck.

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I sympathize with the pain and confusion. And the helplessness. It looks like you may have built up a some resistance to the disparaging effects of reading medical journal articles. If you have at all, this article is well worth your time trying to get as much as you can from it. It will help tie together a lot of disparate information you will see popping up all over the place.

    The large majority of diseases we face now, diseases of civilization they are called, are chronic. And they do not come from germs. They come from our own immune system not functioning the way it should. Medical knowledge is shaped like everything else pretty much, it is a bell curve and the median (mainstream medicine) is years or even decades behind the leading edge. Of course you can’t tell the leading edge from the crazy fringes until time passes and it gets all sorted out. Unless you happen to get lucky. I got lucky, after 15 years of struggling with doctors over my wife’s thyroid condition, we finally have it under control. For one reason: we figured it out, we found a doctor that would support our approach, and then we followed through. She’s not in perfect health, but she’s gotten a lot better. So I feel like a grizzled veteran in this process of having to figure things out for yourself. I’d like to help, I wish I could help.

    The best I can do is direct you to some things to think about. That article above spells out what is really happening: the modern world is full of novel chemicals and stressors that in many people, eventually overwhelm the ability of the immune system to function properly. Some people luck out and are more robust, or lucky in not having enough exposure to the right stressors and stay fairly healthy. But you have to work pretty hard at saying “no” to doctors to not be on any prescription drugs, these days, whether you’re 80 or 8. I only suffer from anxiety, idiopathic IBS (i.e. medicine already threw up their hands on that one) and adhd – none of which require meds beyond tea and cigarettes. And I guess the chicken soup I make should be considered medicinal grade.

    When the immune system malfunctions, all you can say is that some place, some system in the body will develop a disease, because the body, via inflammation (which is an oxidative process, like using peroxide to kill bacteria) attacks itself. Asthma, allergies, many of us think autism and a host of other neurological / learning disorders, arthritis, arterial sclerosis, alzheimer’s…I am trying to just list some of the ones that start with A. Any system in the body can be affected. Cancer is something that is in every living animal body on earth. We’re pretty much the only ones keeling over from it because our immune systems do not handle it as they are designed by nature to. Obesity is, it will come out before long, an immune system disorder in many people. Even depression is an almost always an inflammatory disease brought on by immune system dysfunction—not a something rooted in neurotransmitter imbalances; those are symptoms.

    There are hundreds of “causes” that will never be shown by science to cause anything because they are synergistic, and their impact is affected by both genetics and epigenetics, so you’ll never get repeatable results unless you use immense samples – and immense samples have so much variation you will not see a clear effect. Science is going to have to figure out how to see this, for now it is only being glimpsed by a few pioneers.

    But very often the root of the immune system malfunction starts in the gut. It’s only in the past few years that researchers have begun to realize what an enormous role the gut plays in health. And it does so of course in part because it is the system whereby we receive every material thing we need to survive. Most of that is in food, but we also need the 100 trillion (“good”) bacteria we each have to digest some of that food into nutrients for us. Some of those nutrients have not yet been officially discovered by science yet. The gut and it’s biome are also a critical players in the immune system. What we think of as “just” the digestive system has 1/3rd as many neurons as the brain does. A lot of that is for digestion. But a lot is for immune system function.

    What you eat of course, affects the gut itself and the gut biome tremendously. So do prescriptions. One of the prescriptions that has the greatest immediate effect is a proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec. The stomach has some ability to overcome a simple antacid like maalox or something—by making more acid. But proton pump inhibitors basically turn off the acid machinery. You need acid for digestion, sure. So you set up the condition for odd nutritional deficits to occur without sufficient acid. And they are hard to spot because you’re eating plenty of whatever it is, but you’re unable to digest it without sufficient stomach acid.

    But stomach acid also does something else for us. It kills bacteria and breaks down viruses and other pathogens. We have relatively weak stomach acid as animals go, that is why we can’t eat roadkill like a crow or a vulture without getting sick. We modern people can’t even eat what vikings or eskimos ate. If the stomach acid gets too low, and this continues for extended periods, the immune system can think that it is under an immense assault – it must be if this much live bacteria is getting through. Evolution did not prepare the immune system for proton pump inhibitors. So the immune system is stimulated to go into overdrive. And stays in overdrive. And inflammation pops up in random places. And we call it a disease.

    So my hunch is that the prilosec pushed your son’s gut into a state of ill health that goes by the general name of leaky gut syndrome. Maybe you have read about it. It is not something mainstream medicine knows much about, and it is certainly nothing they can do much about except try and cover up symptoms of a disease that is unchecked and raging.

    So I would suggest comparing the diets you have come up with to the GAPS diet. It might be worth a try. Just google GAPS leaky gut and you should find some decent material in the top hits.

    And then I would advise two other things. These are more controversial, do what you think is right.

    In case it is not leaky gut, or that is only part of the problem:

    a) consider setting up a skype appointment with Dr. Tent of Diverse Health Services in Novi Michigan, 248-477-0380. Why? Because he has a lot of experience dealing with people that have reached the end of a process of going from doctor to doctor and finally giving up. He can recommend tests to rule out heavy metal poisoning, other toxins, and nutritional issues that might not be at all apparent without those tests. He’s not a doctor I have seen yet. When I can afford it, if he stays in practice, he’ll be the physician I go to if / when I need one. He’s not perfect, but I am impressed with him. I’m not saying dump the other docs – hell no. I’m just saying he can prescribe some tests that would help rule a lot of stuff out that would be invisible to mainstream medical people. If tests show tons of mercury or aluminum or whatever at least he can present you with options to bring that under control.

    b) consider suspending any further vaccinations, at least until your son’s health is greatly improved. It’s forbidden in this country to say anything against vaccinations. Amazingly a few doctors, like Sherri Tenpenny, who is a doctor my wife has seen, is still in practice after speaking out. In time that will change, and we’ll see vaccines in the future how we now see bleeding people to try and cure them. There was a time, when I was born, when doctors considered breastfeeding savage, idiotic and harmful. My mom got a shot to prevent lactation and they never even bothered to mention it to her, let alone ask permission. Because anyone who believed in science would never condone such a thing as breastfeeding.

    Vaccines don’t work unless they have adjuvants. Adjuvants are chemicals that provoke the immune system to respond very strongly. With these, the tiny amount of cell components they inject with a vaccine are enough to produce antibodies for 80 to 90 percent of people. Which is well and good but unfortunately the immune system provocation sometimes ends up doing a lot more than just having antibodies get generated. The provocation adds to the immune stimulating affect of many other lifestyle factors that they mention, and many they do not mention, in that cdc article I linked above.

    When you are trying to bring the gut back into balance, the immune system back into balance, avoiding things that tend to throw these out of balance is prudent.

    Do what you think is best, my conscience is clear because I have not held anything back.

    I wish you and your family all the best, and your son especially a speedy recovery.

  13. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    After much personal research in dealing with my own personal medical issues, I have to agree with the last commenter. I recommend this book by Sarah Ballantyne,The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. Even if you are not interested in a Paleo diet, I found this book to be an excellently researched, detailed and illustrated reference on how your immune system functions and the problems that occur when it is compromised.

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