Through the Fear

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One of the questions that I’ve been asked frequently over my years of blogging is, “What do you do about ticks?”  My family spends a lot of time outdoors, so I guess it’s an obvious question. My answer has always been, “We check for them everyday, and we hope for the best.”  I understand the concern about Lyme disease, but it never made sense to me to avoid the outdoors because of that risk. Maybe the hope was that I would have some secret for avoiding ticks. I am not a fan of spraying chemicals on my kids, though when I was in forestry school, we all sprayed ourselves without a thought, every time we went out in the field.

I don’t have any good method for avoiding ticks. They are abundant where we live, and we just consider them part of life. I did buy a flock of guineas just before Silas’ birthday in May this year, but as guineas do (based on what I’ve heard from others), our flock went from ten to two over the course of the past few months. But I do think they’ve helped. We’ve seen fewer ticks this summer.

Just before Mabel was born, Silas had an episode of swelling and pain in one of his knees. He told us his legs were broken. We assumed he had bumped it, fallen down while running around in the yard. After a day or two the swelling went down and he stopped complaining. We were caught up in preparing for Mabel’s birth, but I think both Jonny and I were a little troubled. Was this the first time he’d complained? Was this the first time his knee swelled? Or had this happened before?

After we brought Mabel home, Silas’ behavior turned wild and crazy, more so than his typical five year old self. We blamed it on the new baby and hoped he would eventually chill out. Then, in early September, he had another episode of swelling in his knee. This time, I called our pediatrician and made an appointment for the same day. I knew that this wasn’t normal. Examining his warm, swollen knee, she was concerned that he might have rheumatoid arthritis. She ordered labs testing to rule out leukemia, arthritis, and lyme disease. “I see a lot of Lyme this time of year,” she said.

Preliminary results ruled out the scariest scenarios, though his blood work indicated that he was fighting a parasite, or maybe allergies. “Let’s wait on the Lyme results, and go from there,” she told me. The following day, she called with his positive test for Lyme disease. I felt terrible for not having had him tested sooner, for dismissing his swollen knee as the probable result of a bump. My doctor reassured me, “This is better than the other possibilities we were testing for. I can treat this.”

We started him on a month long course of antibiotics, and almost immediately, his behavior became worse. That month was incredibly difficult with Silas, my thoughtful artistic child, wild and explosive, screaming erratically and bouncing off the walls. (And of course Job copies his every move.) We blamed the red dye in the medicine, the die-off of all his body’s good bacteria. I blamed myself. I know the signs of Lyme, why did it not occur to me to have him tested the first time his knee swelled?

We are about two weeks post treatment now, and I think Silas is calming down. I am working to rebuild his gut with healthful food and supplements, and trying not to be haunted by the countless Lyme horror stories out there. (Yes, I have googled, and googled, and read, and read.) We’ve eliminated family ice cream nights, and sugary desserts in general. I’m thankful that I can buy fermented pickles at the grocery store, one of the few fermented foods that Silas will eat. I made a big batch of my favorite fermented food, cranberry relish. It’s really good for you! We eat it in plain whole milk yogurt, and also use it to make cranberry granola.  I pulled my copy of Fermented Vegetables off the shelf and made sauerkraut, though we haven’t tasted it yet. A friend recommended chlorella in smoothies, so we’re doing that every day. Greens, goat milk, bananas, berries, pineapples, sometimes cranberry relish, and always the chlorella (can’t even taste it.) The same friend recommended rose geranium oil to repel ticks, so we’re going to try that as well.

At the end of the day, I can’t change the past, but I can do my best moving forward to help Silas heal.

I’m still working to make peace with nature. It hasn’t been easy for me, the girl nicknamed Nature Girl, no less, in her childhood. Ever since my dear friend Sarah was attacked by yellow jackets on a nature walk with her kids, resulting ultimately in her death, I’ve been battling fear, even two years later. It lurks deep inside me, surfacing when I least expect it. About a month after Mabel was born, I ventured out into our backyard with her, just wanting to get outside, to walk around a bit in the fresh air. About a hundred yards away from the house, I started to feel nervous. I had the thought, “What am I doing out here with a baby? How reckless to have her out here like this!” I turned to walk quickly back to the house, to get her to safety. It took me a few minutes to recognize that my thoughts weren’t rational, but based in fear, in past trauma. So yeah, I’ve still got work to do, but I’m battling it, and I’m beating it.

Every day, I’m more myself, and so is Silas. These things can’t be forced, but I pray that his body heals faster than my heart and mind have.

p.s. I realized I’d written a post all about Silas, without a single photo of him in it! Mabel is much better at sitting still for photos. Here are a few from the other day when he made a big mess pokeberry dye on the milking stand, (Gabe’s dirt bike project in the background.)



  1. Hi. We have five kids and live in the epicenter log Lyme disease (eastern Massachusetts). At least one of my kids gets Lyme each and every summer. Without fail. We hit it with those awful antibiotics for weeks and weeks each time. It’s frustrating, but necessary. I hope Sils is ok!

  2. I’m so sorry to hear of this trial! I tend to be fearful of things too so I understand! Will be praying for you all.

    Here are a couple of sites that I thought might be helpful for you:

    Judging from reading your blog over the years, I’d say you’re a pretty amazing mom! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” and may God’s peace that passes understanding fill your heart.

  3. Briana Elizabeth says:

    My Eva’s knee swelled up so badly from Lyme that she had to have a huge needle inserted and they drained the fluid off.

    It was awful. I SO understand your anguish.

    After that I got my chickens and let them free range, but still we were ever vigilant because ticks still happen.

    You’re such a good mom. Hang in there. He’ll be fine in no time.

  4. I am praying for your family! My son went through Lymes treatment when he was nearly 6. I definitely think all the fermented foods helped him along with getting breastmilk into him by adding it to foods. Can you do that since you are nursing a little one?

  5. My dad has had lyme three times, as he is a biologist and often out in the woods for field work. Even with testing it can be so hard to diagnose. The first time he had it he had to see so many different doctors before one finally believed him about lyme disease and he got the treatment he needed. He now saves every tick he finds in a vial of alcohol in case they need to be tested, since the testing isn’t necessarily accurate. I’ve heard that it takes 24 hours for the lyme to be transmitted by an attached tick, so if you do a careful tick check before that, it reduces your chance. Also, we always put iodine on tick bites, as it is supposed to help prevent it, too.

    I hope Silas is feeling all better soon! That’s so upsetting! It’s so hard to know exactly what to do and what to take seriously, especially when distracted by a new baby and in those circumstances.

  6. our son had lime, it took us a while too, to get him tested. it was in the summer he just turned 10 and was sailing a lot, so all his neck pain and upper arm pain was “blamed” on unusual movement. well as the neck was still hurting after 3 days and it seemed so evenly spread, we got to the pediatrician and she checked him. 4 weeks of antibiotics cured him and he didn’t have any side effects. so thankful and grateful for a healthy 17 year old today, many years later, and the incident is still in my neck. just check and consider, but don’t let fear overcome you.

  7. Love your pictures. So much joy and happiness and life captured in them. Will be praying for Silas and you all. When we moved to the Midwest we knew nothing about ticks. A few weeks after we moved my 12 year-old daughter said she finally had a mole. Oh, I said, and thought nothing of it. The next day or two I wore a summer dress to church. My husband heard about ticks from someone and was telling my daughter and I about them on the way home. We get out of the car and he notices I have one on my back near my neckline. I freaked. He got it off. Then I remembered my daughter’s mole and called her and asked her to show it to me. Her mole was a tick. Not the best way to learn about ticks, but we were fine. We too spend time outside and now just check ourselves. Trying not to live in fear.

  8. Oh that Lyme. It nabbed my husband when I was a week postpartum with our last.
    You and Silas will be in my thoughts and prayers. And just remember mama guilt never helped anyone or anything.

  9. noreen flanagan johnson says:

    So sorry to hear about Silas’ health issues. I understand the worry and self-doubt when it comes to our kids’ health – our own 7yr old son has been having behavioral issues (anger/acting out/anxiety/ocd-type issues) after a strep-infection that caused very little physical symptoms. His pediatrician is not completely sold on diagnosing him with PANDAS/PANS, but that’s what we are leaning towards. The antibiotics helped a lot but there is still a long road to go before he is back to his normal sweet self. Will keep you both in our prayers.

  10. Nancy Mosley says:

    So sorry for Silas & the tick. Thanks for sharing the fermented food ideas. You are a great mom, Ginny! I love the pics of the girls laying down together. How sweet they are!!

  11. This makes me so grateful to live in beautiful New Zealand – no ticks, no snakes, only one native biting spider (the katipo), which is very shy and most of us will never see) and only one imported biting spider. The worst we get is fleas, and then only in the warmer north of the country!

  12. Claudette says:

    We don’t have many ticks where I live, but there (Pacific Northwest) are still some. An older man I know got Lyme and was very sick. So it happens as you unfortunately know 🙁 Poor Silas, it has to be hard for him too! So glad that you practice so many, many healthful options. And Mabel….well what can you say…the most adorable baby ever! Well Silas and Job were so so cute too. LOL The pic of the girls precious. Looks like a heart. Fantastic photography

  13. Richard (in Charlotte, NC) says:

    It is good to know that Silas is getting better now. Don’t kill yourself over what could have been and don’t worry about going outside with Mabel either; remember, you could just as easily trip over a wayward shoe or toy and fall down inside your house too. That said, you can’t throw caution to the wind either. You always need to be vigilant and watch for dangers anywhere. HAPPY HALLOWEEN to you and all, Richard.

  14. Just a quick word of optimism: I had Lyme’s as a teenager–exhausted, dizzy, weird neurological stuff–but was totally fine after the course of antibiotics. So it is possible for it to be taken care of without extra problems. And as far as going outside, I’ve known people who practically live outside, and have never had a problem, but I’ve known more than one person who has gotten Lyme’s though they spend practically all their time inside.

  15. My thought wouldn’t have been about ticks, but about how you could cope being so immersed in nature, and having your children so, after what happened to Sarah. Now I know. You are normal!

    When my brother was 4 or 5 he had a similar issue – the most horrible knee swelling. Actually, his was excruciatingly painful. I don’t recall his behavior; from my pint of view he was always out of control! They said it was bursitis, but I still recall my parents having doubts about that (and possibly the doctor was not sure either). Wondering now it that was Lyme Disease. We lived in Colorado and went into the mountains frequently, so it is certainly possible.

  16. I love how you are able to access your frontal lobe and cognitively /rationally unthink or dissect your emotional fears. I’m learning to do it with PTSD therapy, and reading your posts are like a balm. Thank you! Corella is great for the gut. And apple cider vinegar is a staple here.

  17. Living in Missouri ticks are a real concern for us too! I struggle with the predicament of spraying chemicals, but this summer when my daughter would get several mosquito bites. Thank goodness he is okay! And hopefully his body and gut will go back to normal soon!

  18. Just another mom says:

    Fear. It’s hard. Ticks are horrible where we live as well and also one of my biggest fears next to nuclear war. We check every time they’re outside because early removal is key. Lyme is real deal. My mom has it. It was undiagnosed for a very long time and she’s not been able to kill it off as she has other cobacteria infections with it. She struggles with daily pain. Ultimately we have to trust that God work good even out of evil. We do our best to be diligent. We have to trust God with the rest. God bless you and your family. The guineas help a lot.

  19. Praying for healing for Silas. We use No Bites from and have not found anything that it will not repel and it is natural.

  20. catherine says:

    Dear gilly,

    my daughter contracted lyme from the second tic she got, wenn she was barely one year old. luckily, we noticed the red circle quiet early and only had to have 2 weeks of antibiotics (which she hated. rightly so.). I too am afraid to roam the woods and meadows with the kids now and make sure that we cover our legs. more easy now that fall is definately here. tics are horrible. i don’t see their point and i want them wo go away. but they will stay, i’m sure.

    All the best for you and yours and all the blessings in the world.

  21. I am sorry. I am praying for you and your family.
    Julie C

  22. Prayers for Silas, hope he continues to recuperate well! Lyme is truly frightening, but of course we can’t isolate ourselves from the outdoors. I’m a veterinarian, and at this time it seems we have far better tick control measures for dogs than for humans, not to mention a reasonably effective Lyme vaccine. Hopefully these things are at least being researched for humans. So glad you have access to raw goat milk, among other things it can be very helpful for joint health. Do you plan to try to milk your doe through, or are you having her bred this fall again?

  23. 3 of my 6 had in while we were in VA!
    I was terrified to move back this way… But I hear ya Ginny. It’s so terrifying!

  24. we have lots of lyme disease in our area (hudson valley, NY), and lots of natural/holistic specialists if you ever need more help. several friends of mine have been through this with their children. i’m sure they can work via Skype or over the phone. best of luck! seanaskye at me dot com.

  25. Oh, I’m so sorry that you’ve all been going through this. I know nearly nothing about Lyme but I do know I should be better about checking my kids. I really wish there was more that could prevent it. It seems like it’s been growing so much! May God heal him completely and soon.

  26. I am so sorry Ginny, but it sounds like you are on a good path. Ticks are really bad
    here , always have been and I guess I just have always taken them as part of our lives. My guy’s use Octogon soap during the peek seasons and Mike and I have been joking about getting a family of opposums as pets since they eat a lot of ticks.Keepng you always in my prayers.

  27. Oh gosh. So rough to go through. Poor Silas. I hope and pray he is fully recovered as soon as possible.

    {{hugs}} for you too my dear! Deep breathing and prayer. Deep breathing and prayer. That’s my answer to fear. {{hugs}}

    My now 17yo daughter had Lyme ten years ago, was treated with antibiotics, and continues to suffer through bouts of joint pain, poor girl … A few weeks ago I found a deer tick on my ankle. We removed it cleanly and have been minding my every little twitch and symptom! Just yesterday my knees started aching, very unusual for me, and I thought, “uh oh,” so, we’ll see …

  28. I am sorry you have had to meet this terrifying disease. We live in the PNW and never thought we had to worry about Lyme Disease, only the other scary tick borne diseases. Without knowing it we camped in more than one positive outbreak area over the end of the summer 26 years ago. Three daughters, my husband and our dog all started having problems. Our gentle dog bit our nephew, so we put her down. Our 4 soon turned 5 year old started complaining about her head hurting. The other two girls started loosing their healthy coloring and slowing down. My husband started feeling ill. Many tests, appointments and a set of X-rays later our youngest was very ill with no answers in sight. Next on the list was a spinal tap to rule out leukemia. In the meantime my husband felt like his heart was wrong, but didn’t mention it to me because of our fear for or daughter. It was December and I was finishing sewing Christmas dresses and noticed a bite on the underside of her arm. I remembered it had been there as long as she had been ill. It was covered up by shirts, didn’t bleed, didn’t itch and she dressed herself so it had gone unnoticed. I started researching spider bites, this was long before computers in every home. My mother was getting her hair cut and was speaking to a woman whose daughters were ill and had just been diagnosed with Lyme Disease. The symptoms were similar and they had camped within miles of us. Our very kind pediatrician listened to me and tested her. He called me back a few days later congratulating me on my correct diagnosis. My other daughters were tested positive also. My husband ‘s count was extremely high. Treatment was started, but at that time pediatric treatment was still uncharted as to what was the best antibiotic since the top rated drug was not allowed in children. My husband was just days away from IV therapy. It was a long winter with many treatments for both my husband and youngest. I would like to tell you that the fear magically disappears or that the guilt lessens immediately, it doesn’t, but over time it does. The outdoors is where we like to be. We camp, we run in the trails and still visit areas with outbreaks. I sew bug pants, light weight long pants, for the littlests for camping. We use minimal bug repellent on clothes and still we have found local ticks on and embedded after only one hour out playing while camping. We check often, remove, mark the spot, record date and pray. Unfortunately as you know Lyme carrying ticks are hard to see, so mostly we pray and watch for any of the symptoms. I feel that knowledge learned first hand is the best defense for early detection. I pray that all will return to normal and that your fears lessen over time. I pray that Silas recovers quickly and that you will never experience Lyme Disease again. My youngest is now a mommy who has had to call me to remove ticks from her son, of course one was in his ear. Sorry this was so long. There is so much more I could have said. It was a very dark and scary time for our family. But, we got through it we all enjoy the scary outdoors even more now. Prayers.

  29. How scary! Poor Silas. I completely understand your fear. Don’t beat yourself up about it; fear is a normal, healthy response to danger and trauma, and I think anyone in your situation would feel the same way (I certainly would). Having said that, though, I think you’re giving your children a huge gift by not letting YOUR fear hold them back from exploring and enjoying the outdoors :).

    You and Silas will get through this. Thinking of you and sending positive vibes your way! 🙂

    PS. I already posted this on Instagram, but I have to say it again: that picture of your three girls is AMAZING.

  30. Poor you and poor Silas!

    I know this is completely unrelated but Frodo our mini schnauzer has had Lyme about four times and he is on chemicals to repel ticks and kill them once attached. His vet vaccinated him two years ago and so far this is the longest he’s gone without Lyme.

    We do a body check and remove ticks, we live near the woods and the deer walk through. My son did antibiotics twice as preventative when we removed a tick and wasn’t sure it was within the 48 hour removal window.

    Lyme is a hard disease to identify!

  31. Ginny,

    You probably know this, but, for some people, fermented carbohydrates actually cause or worsen gastrointestinal problems. Four months ago, my gastroenterologist put me on the Low FODMAP diet, which was developed at Monash University in Australia after several years of rigorous clinical trials, and it has made a HUGE difference to my life. After decades of chronic gastro problems, including frequent acute attacks, this is the first thing that has helped me.

    I’m not suggesting that Silas has a gastro aversion to fermented carbs, just that you may want to reconsider the heavy concentration of fermented foods in rebuilding his gut health if there’s a possibility of a negative response.

    If you would like to read more about FODMAP you can go to or or to Monash University’s site.

  32. My five year old was treated for lyme’s this summer and is now having some lymph problems at the location of the bite and back on antibiotics for cellulitis. My mother sent me this research about stevia extract as an effective treatment over antibiotics. Seems easy enough. Here is the study:
    Thank you for the information on fermented foods. I have failed to include those in her diet. Take care and prayers.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Erika! Silas seems to already be relapsing, two weeks post treatment, and this seems worth trying. Have you found any information on dosing?

  33. Poor little guy! Lyme sounds so, so awful. Sending healing thoughts to him and the rest of your family! All that food sounds so delicious, so at least there is a silver lining. 🙂

  34. Oh! We’ve fairly recently moved to rural Fauquire from San Diego and ticks are my biggest fear (next to nuclear war!) Being a parent is so difficult! It’s hard, as you well know, to determine when “wait and see” is the right approach and when a trip to the doctor is the thing to do. And, if we make the wrong decision, it is so hard to forgive ourselves. I hope you both continue to heal well and put this behind you quickly.

  35. Glad your little guy is doing better. Thanks for sharing your heart–I have struggled with fear and anxiety my whole life, and this week has been particularly bad with several family health issues. Fortunately, things are looking up, but I keep trying to remind myself that fear is not what God wants for us. Blessings and peace to you and your family!

  36. Oh the poor thing!! We get a lot of ticks here (although I think guineas are helping) and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before someone ends up with Lyme… Thank goodness you caught it early!

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