Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Seriously Picky Eater

Well, I am coming out of the fog from Chemo last week. Treatment number 3 - I am halfway through my 6 treatment and managing fairly well. Anyway my big problem recently is my 3 year old who barely eats anything. Now this is the child who is allergic to wheat, egg, nuts, sesame, pea, banana, and coconut. That is a big list, and at first I thought I would never find anything for him to eat, but I have. There are plenty of options, I have searched for 2 years to find new things for him to eat. I can (and have) make any kid friendly food safe for him. Everything from pizza to mac n cheese and chicken nuggets. I have baked bread, muffins and cookies by the dozen. The problem is 9 times out of 10 he will not even try it! He is even starting to refuse some of the old staples he used to eat, like grilled cheese and organic chicken sausage. Thank goodness for enjoy Life Foods, he does eat their bagels, granola bars, and cookies; along with Van's wheat free waffles and Chex cereal. Forget about vegetables, he will only eat grape tomatoes and a few fruits on a good day. I have gotten him to eat some yogurt and cheese on occasion.
A couple of months ago I started giving him some Pediasure each day just to make sure he was getting is nutrients and some calories. Milk is thankfully not one of our allergies, and he loves it. However, he wants to drink milk all day. You all know how persistent a 3 year old can be when they want something. We are starting to have some serious battles. I would prefer that he eat some food rather than fill up on milk before meals. Tonight he shouted at me "I don't want food! I want milk." Well, he did not get it. My willpower was strong today. I gave him water. He drank it, but refused to eat and fell asleep on the couch without any dinner. (He was exhausted from a play date this afternoon)
I do not want to be fighting with him constantly about eating - the last thing I need is a toddler with an eating disorder. I know they say don't force it, they will eat when they are hungry. But, can you raise a child on breakfast food, fruit and 1 vegetable? The worst part is that I am loosing the incentive to make him any new foods. What is the point when it just ends up in the trash? I have considered seeing a nutritionist, but unless they can get him to actually put the food in his mouth, what is the point? Today I was cutting up fresh pineapple and he would not even lick it. There is just no reasoning.
My other 3 kids were fairly picky, but they did eat at least a small variety of foods and would taste some new things. Nothing like what I am dealing with now. Does anyone else have anything to offer here?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More on Playdough

Well I had to put this on the back burner for a few days. A little case of anemia landed me in the hospital for a blood transfusion. STUPID CANCER. Anyway - thanks to all for your comments. I agree with all of you that I will just supply the class with safe play dough every month. Although I may purchase one of the options that I have found online. It is not cheap - but that is the price we pay to keep our kids safe. If I do choose to make it, I might have a friend whom I trust to make it right take turns. I can even make a double batch to that the other class that shares a room has one too. It was not hard, so I do not know why some of the batches did not come out right.

In the meantime I wanted to share the 2 sources for wheat free- gluten free dough. This first resource was sent to me from kidsfoodallergiesblog.com . It is Colorations® Wheat & Gluten-Free Dough which does not contain the following common allergens: Latex, Dairy & Casein, Egg, Gluten, Peanut & Tree Nut . It looks to be a modeling clay that you can use to mold shapes and leave to harden. I am glad to know about this now. I had looked into purchasing modeling clay for my children from the craft store. However, there are no ingredients listed on the package so I had no way of knowing if it was safe.

Next there is another product from Aroma Dough. As their web site states "ALL products are Gluten Free made with 100% organic, wheat-free rice flour, sodium, water, moisturizing oils, natural aromas (no perfumes). This formula is perfect for children who have special needs such as Autism, Celiac’s Disease, ADD/ADHD, or other allergy related issues. It DOES NOT contain nuts, nut oils, perfumes, soy, dairy products or wheat."

I have purchased this and my kids love it. It like your traditional Play dough, but it is gluten free. It is also scented - each color is a different scent. It has also last us quite a long time. They also sell large buckets of dough for $19.95 that would be an appropriate size for a preschool class. Based on our experience with this dough, I would recommend it.

As I am finishing this post I am leaning toward buying a couple of batches of the Aroma Dough. That will probably be easier and give me better peace of mind.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Playdough Issue

We are having our first allergy issue with school. C's teacher pulled me aside and said that the play dough recipe we were using was not working. I had previously shared a list of recipes for the moms to make safe play dough for the class. I made the first batch and all seemed well until today. I guess some of the dough that they have gotten has been wither too oily or too dry etc. She asked if I could make special dough for Connor and the rest of the class can have regular dough.

I am torn - I do not mind making C's dough at all. I am a bit worried that C will accidentally play with the wheat containing play dough and have a reaction. I am trying to figure out how to handle this. I guess I might need to make the class play dough every month? Or by a big batch of wheat free Aromadough for the class.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gluten Free Meatball

Hi all - just wanted to let you know I found a gluten free meatball at Costco the other day. It is made by Coleman Natural Foods and is all natural - no nitrates, growth hormones, or MSG etc. It does contain soy and milk, but NOT egg. We are going to try them this week and I will let you know how they are. Hopefully C. will eat them! If you want to find out more about their products here is the link. http://www.colemannatural.com/

There is no warning about cross contamination due to shared equiptment, but I have not called the company to enquire about their processing practices.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I am here - still managing allergies

Hi There everyone. I know it has been a few weeks. I am here - doing well. I have had chemo treatment and it went very well. I have a few side effects - nausea and fatigue that lasted about 4 days. After that, each day got a little better. I am a little dissapointed that today - exactly 2 weeks after my first treatment, my hair started to fall out. It is a little freaky. It is kind of like when your dog is sheeing and the hair falls out when you pet her. Ick.

Other than that we are gearing up for Halloween. I have volunteered to bring the Halloween treat for both my son's preschool classes. Honestly it is easier than worrying about what someone else may bring. However, since I have become a bit of an allergy maven I felt it necessary to inquire if there were any other allergies in the class so I could make sure it was safe for everyone. There is a milk allergy in the class. Yikes - the ONE allergy we do NOT have. I will figure it out. If I need help - I will be bugging you guys.

I also think I have averted future unsafe cupcake debacles at school for R. It seems that most of the moms bring store bought cupcakes that at labeled processed in a facility that also processes nuts. Who can blame them - we all have enough going on without having to bake cupcakes! To avoid any more situations where R. can not eat the cupcake, I purchased Entenmann's Brownie Bites. (They seem to be safe for peanut allergies) They come prepackaged in the little bags. This way they can be kept in the classroom and not in the freezer. R. is very excited - he can not wait until the next birthday so he can have his special brownies. Problem Solved!



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wheat Free Play Dough

It is the custom in our preschool for the mom's to take turns making playdough for the class each month. Since C can not play with traditional playdough made from flour I worked up a plan to keep him safe. Before school started I met with his teachers to review all of his allergy information. At this meeting I brought up the issue and had printed up some wheat free playdough recipies I had found online. I figured that we would pass them out at BTS night. I also decided to volunteer to make playdough for September so I could make sure we got on the right track.

This is the playdough I made - it came out really great. The texture is really nice. I chose a recipie that called for shortening a a little vegetable oil. I thought it would make it more pliable and keep it from drying out. And it did! I ended up emailing all the recipies to the moms and got some really positive replies. I think overall they are really understanding and willing to try and help. It is nice to know that there are still some compassionate people out there. The teacher also asked me to share the recipie with the moms of the 2 day class that shares the room!

Here is the recipie:
2 c. cornstarch
1 c. salt
1 tbsp. shortening
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil

Mix and cook over low heat until mixture leaves edge of pan. Knead until smooth. Store in plastic bag or container at room temperature. I added food coloring and kneaded it in while the dough was still warm. I did wear gloves so I did not dye my hands green. Next time I am going to try adding it to the water fiirst.

My Interview w/ 5 Minutes for Mom

Hey check it out I did this interview a while ago and it is now published on this site! Pretty Cool.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Thanks for All the Well Wishes

I just want to say a HUGE THANK YOU for all the kind notes of love and support. It really means a lot , even though most of us have never met in person I do feel we have gotten to know each other quite well via the Internet. We are doing well all things considered. Life has been a sea of phone calls, doctor visits, and tests. I do not have the full picture yet (one more test to go) by the middle of next week I will have a course of treatment. Otherwise life has been pretty normal - surprisingly normal. We still had all the BTS nights, soccer, swimming etc. Tonight we hung out with some friends and had pizza and beer.

I am looking to the positive - at the end of this I will have new boobs! Smaller, perky ones too!Who does not want that? I will be checking periodically in and lurking for sure!

A quick school update - it is going really well for both boys. C only had 1 potty accident on the first day. He also loves his Speed Racer lunch box that he uses to take his own snack to school. The teachers have been great. I signed up to make the play dough for the first month , so this Sunday I will be making wheat free play dough. I have a couple of recipes, so we will see what works.

Later -

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hug Your Kids

Following is something I wrote a few days ago. We got some really bad news , and I debated how to handle this on the blog. But you know what they say - Happiness shared is doubled, sorrow shared is cut in half. Anyway - here goes:

September 11,2001 - I remember the day 7 years ago. I sat on my bed nursing my newborn daughter and watched, in disbelief, as two airplanes flew into the Twin Towers. The experience left me shocked and numb. I could not understand how or why this was happening. I felt angry because I knew then that our world would never be the same. I was fearful of what was to come. I knew we would go to war, what else could we do? We had been attacked. I was mostly mad that this had happened at all – why did these terrorists feel the need to cause this kind of chaos and destruction? It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair.

It is now September 11, 2007 – and this morning at the same time there were dedications and moments of silence being held in NY, DC and Pennsylvania, my world was rocked again. I received the news that I have breast cancer. The coincidence in the dates did not hit me until later that night. I just thought another reason for this ominous date to be wiped from the calendar.

This morning I sit in the radiology office waiting to have an MRI. I am trying to process this information, but it is hard. I do not feel like this is really happening to me. I am in task management mode. I need to get tests done and appointments set up to I can see a surgeon. I need to see the surgeon and find out what I am really dealing with. How bad is this going to be?
I am feeling many of the same things I did 7 years ago. Shock – Disbelief – Anger. Why does this have to happen? Once again Sept 11th has rocked my world. I am determined to come through this experience stronger. Seven years ago our nation came together when we were under threat and became stronger. I will do the same. We were simply not going to let them get the better of us - they cannot win. We were dealing with a cancer on our society, in much the same way, now I must deal with a cancer in my body. I know I will have the support of my friends and family to help is through. I cannot let cancer win – I will not.

I am entering a new reality. I am going to war against cancer. I know my world will never be the same. I hope to find a new normal, eventually a better normal. I want my kids to know that we can be strong and overcome anything. I gave my kids extra hugs today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

School Days

School has begun and the related issues for allergic children are beginning again. I have spent the last 10 minutes catching up on my Google alerts, and I am really disturbed by what I am reading.

First a story of a 19 year old high school student who smeared peanut butter on an allergic classmate. Fortunately there was no reaction, but what was he thinking? What kind of person does that? I do not think I will ever understand bullying, I guess this kid was just trying to get off on a power trip. The police are looking into the situation, but the victim did not want to press charges. Why would he? That could just set him up to continue to be a target.

Then a story about a school secretary who resigned from her job due to the schools no nut policy. Apparently they do regular lunchbox checks to make sure that no one brings in any peanut product. (how the school has time to do that I'll never know) Parents feel that it is a hassle, and she is getting a lot of community support towards a petition to change the policy.

Finally a story about a boy who was pulled out of school when students threw rocks at him and said they were peanuts. Apparently the school also has a no nut policy, which is under fire from non allergic parents. This poor kid is under so much pressure because his classmates can not have the treats and food they like because of his peanut allergy. How is a child supposed to learn and thrive in that kind of environment?

It seems like this peanut / no peanut issue is tearing some schools and communities apart. Because of "those parents" that their child can not take their favorite treat to school. Believe me , I sympathise - I know it is a pain to have to read the labels. I do it every day for 9 different allergens! Why are we so focused on the foods we can or can not bring to school. We should be focused on education and nurturing the next generation.

My allergic boys are not in public school yet. so I have not had to deal with this directly. Our schools are not nut free, but they seem to be very nut aware - requesting that food eaten in the classroom (only snack) does not contain peanut products. Peanut products are allowed in the cafeteria, but there is always a buffer around the allergic child of friends who are not eating peanut butter. My daughter and her friends are learning to be considerate of their classmates with peanut allergies.

To be honest, I do not what nuts banned from our school. I do not think it is the best way to handle the situation. Peanuts are also not the only allergen out there. I think it can make our kids targets to ridicule from classmates as well as insensitive parents. Clearly many people don't get it, they never will. They do not want to be bothered with worrying about food allergies because of some other kids. Some people are just like that. We need to teach our kids the skills they need to survive in a world with peanuts and insensitive people.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Getting Ready for School

Like many of you I have been deep into preparation for school the past couple of weeks. K. started second grade last week. It was a great week, she was so happy to be back in school. Her teacher is really nice and the class seems to be quite structured for second grade. K does not have any food allergies so I do not have to fret about that. I did however have to send in a doctors note about her ruptured ear. She had surgery 2 weeks ago to repair the rupture, and can not participate in P.E. or any other physical activity for 3 or 4 more weeks.

The boys are another story. R will begin Jr. Kindergarten in a school that is nut free. I do not worry too much about him. I know the school snacks are safe and I will attend the class parties and field trips to check on what is being served from outside the classroom.

I am a little more concerned about C. His allergies are numerous, and the wheat and egg allergies worry me the most. He will be attending the same school as his brother, just 3 days a week. The school has a great tradition of scheduling home visits for all the students and teachers a week before school. It gives the teachers a great opportunity to meet the child one on one and makes the transition very smooth. It also gives the parents the opportunity to discuss any issues.

Due to C's allergies both his teacher and the assistant came to visit. I think the meeting went very well. C was very shy, but I feel like our allergy conversation went very well. Before the meeting I had sent a note to the school with a list of things I wanted to review. The teachers had a copy of the list so they were prepared with questions as well. They understand the importance that C only eat food that I supply. We agreed that I would send his snack in a lunch box so that he will know to only eat from his special box. I will be attending all the class parties and am happy to make 2 or 3 items for the kids to share. I also had some concerns about craft projects. Normally the mom's volunteer to take turns making play dough every month. C can not play with play dough made from flour. I printed several recipes for play dough that was made from corn starch. They will be distributed to the class. In addition I offered to supply the class with brown rice noodles if needed for art projects. We basically started a positive dialog. I explained that I was willing to help out in any way to help make sure C was safe and that would help the teachers to focus on teaching.

Over all I feel pretty good about the allergy thing. I think I am more worried about the potty thing. C. is newly potty trained (YEAH), but I worry he will forget to go, or be too shy to tell the teacher he needs help. Tomorrow is the open house, and school starts on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Does the President do?

Kids say the darnedest thing, and ask rather insightful questions. I was reading the paper yesterday when my four year old asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading about the election, and the people who wanted to be president. Without getting into political views I showed him the pictures of Johna McCain, Sarah Pallin and Barack Obama that happened to be in the paper that day. I explained that it was important to read about all the candidates so we can decide for whom we will vote. He had one simple question - What does the president do? Well I paused a bit, trying to figure out how to put it in terms that a 4 1/2 year old would understand.

What DOES the president do? I am not well studied in government and politics. Those subjects never interested me in school. But when you stop to think about it, just what does the president really do? I replied that the president meets with leaders of other countries to help them. He also tries to help fix problems in our country. If only it were that simple.....

Wow - A Busy Week

What a week! There was a lot going on between C's birthday and getting ready for school. We had a small party for C. at the house. Just a couple of families who also have 3 year old boys , and a couple of neighborhood kids for my older 2 to play with. I am a big theme person when it comes to birthdays. C LOVES trains, so I chose a train theme. Since it was a small party I used Evite for the invitations, but I did customize the invite with an image of a train. I also tend to get obsessive about coordinating goodie bags and the cake. I always make my own cake - except for the time I was 7 months pregnant.

I purposely planned food that would be safe for the kids. I normally do serve wheat products to my older children, when we have other kids running around the house I do not allow anything that could harm C. I would worry that he would eat a stray cracker. We also have a friend who's son has Celiac's disease, so I wanted to have things he could eat too. I held the party from 2 to 4 on a Sunday so I did not have to prepare a meal. Here is what I served:

Corn Tortilla chips (Tostito's now make an ORGANIC yellow corn chip - I am so happy, since C eats a lot of snack food I would at least like it to be organic!)
Spinach dip - it did have mayonnaise , but there is no way C would touch it with a 10 foot pole! Served with carrots and corn chips.
Bruschetta for the adults. - I had every intention of making gluten free french bread, but I ran out of time. Since it was just for adults I went ahead and used a store bought baguette. Again, there is no way C. would touch it.
Birthday Cake made from Cherrybrook Kitchens and ice cream.
Assorted adult and kid friendly beverages.

The weather was perfect - sunny and not too hot, so we did end up sitting on the patio for quite a while. We gave everyone a train tattoo when they arrived and had train bubbles to play outside on the deck. I ordered a foam train craft foam Oriental Trading Company, and purchased a "Stick the Number on Thomas Game" the kids had a lot of fun with the activities. The kids were so silly trying to put the number in the right place on Thomas. My husband also set up a large train track in the family room with our wooden Thomas Train track set. After that they were happy to play in the yard and the basement. It really does not take much to entertain 3 and 4 year olds.

The cake was great! It looked fabulous. My mother in law had bought me a great silicone cupcake kit from Wilton.

It is designed like a puzzle to make a train, dump truck, or rocket. It really makes the creative process very easy. This cake was very easy to make - you can decorate using any safe candy that your child likes. I used Skittles and Twizzlers. I hope they make more designs. Perhaps a girl theme?

I debated making some regular cupcake for the adults, but my husband and I tasted the Cherrybrook Kitchens cupcakes and decided they were good for everyone. They are really good straight out of the oven. The next day they are a little dry - but frosting and ice cream can hide that. I did serve chocolate (I do prefer vanilla) which I feel is not as moist. Everyone loved them - you really can not tell that there is no wheat or egg. They were all devoured! I also used the Cherrybrook Kitchens frosting. It is delicious and easy to work with. It spreads smoothly and pipes easily. One thing I did learn, was to use Crisco instead of butter if you want true white frosting. I have read it before, but I think it seems too unappealing - I do not even use it in cookies. The butter gave my frosting a slight yellow tinge, which makes it harder to dye accurately. My blue and greens were not exactly the shade I had hoped for.

I found a great web site for goody bags and supplies. It is Birthday In A Box. All you do is search the site for the theme you want, and they have pre selected goody bags you can order. I was really impressed, for $5.99 per bag I was able to buy a conductors hat, toy train, train whistle, train stickers and super ball. I was impressed with the service (delivery was prompt) and the quality. Since we were having a small party, it was in the budget (and I feel a good value). For a bigger party it might add up - but there is something to be said for convenience too. If you are looking for a birthday resource, check it out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Baby is Turning 3

I am not sure if there is any blogging protocol for just checking out. That is where I have been - checked out, unplugged , off the grid , whatever you want to call it. It started with the fact that I had to relinquish my lap top to the geek squad twice. (Cost me $100 but it was worth it. I got cleaned up - more memory - updated anti virus - etc etc.) At first I really missed my PC and Internet connection. Then, when I did get it back I had a hard time motivating my self to get back on line. Now - I have tons of reading and writing to catch up on! If I have committed an offense - my apologies.

Anyway - my baby turns 3 on Thursday. I am conflicted about this. Perhaps this has to do with my recent disconnect - who knows. We have moved him to a boy boy bed and are in the process potty training. One one hand I am sad that we will no longer have a baby. But I am so ready to ditch the diaper pail! Seven years of diapers is enough! I see other families with older kids at the pool. They can actually sit and have a conversation without having to chase a toddler down constantly. It must be nice - it will be nice, someday. I do have a close friend who is about to deliver her first baby, so I guess I can get some baby time in without the breastfeeding and sleepless nights.

In the meantime I am planing a SMALL allergen free train theme birthday party for the weekend. I planned it at 2 pm so I would only have to serve light snacks and cake. Pretty simple. I think I have the cake handled - a la Cherrybrook Kitchens. I will recap the details after the party.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Off Topic - I 've Been Tagged

I am going to go off topic for a bit today. We had a really great weekend - well Saturday really. The day started off at the Divisional Swim Meet where my daughter had her best race ever! She placed first in the 6 and under Freestyle and Backstroke, and qualified to advance to the All Star Meet this Saturday. I was shocked, this is her first year on the swim team and she loves it!

We were able to leave the meet in time to drive out to to one of the local wineries. Every summer they have a Key West Fest with food, face painting , balloon animals and of course a Jimmy Buffett band. we had a great time despite the 95+ degree heat. As I was browsing the local vendor booths, I found an artist who makes beautiful jewelry from sea glass. Really stunning - I wish I could have bought something. She had a quote printed on display from EE Cummings that I really liked "for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea"

I looked up the poem, I am sure I read it in high school, but it is now one of my favorites.

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may.
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly
she couldn't remember her troubles,
and milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:
and may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone
for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)it's always ourselves we find in the sea
in the sea

e.e. cummings

Now - I was tagged twice (I feel so cool :) by Speedbump Kitchen and the Nut Free Mom - Thanks!!!

SO here are my 6 things:

1. I get up 4 days a week at 5:30 to hit the local park for a boot camp class.
2. I am a Pisces and have always felt a connection to the ocean. It calms me. Thus the poem above.
3. My hobby used to be black and white photography. I may have missed my calling, but I hope to take it up again some day.
4. When channel surfing I will pause on Hannah Montana even if my daughter is not in the room.
5. I Tivo cheesy Bravo reality shows like Flipping Out and Orange County Housewives. I can not avert my eyes from the train werck.
6. I recently discovered that I DO like Margaritas (on the rocks, no salt).

Now for the rules.

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on the blog.
Write six random things about yourself.
Tag six people at the end of your post.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Now - whom to tag, I apologize if you have already been tagged previously.

Jennifer at Food Allergy Buzz
Janeen - I just saw that you were already tagged, I'll spare you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lifetime Fitness No Food Kids Area

We have a new Lifetime Fitness gym opening in our area this fall. I have never been to one before, but it looks pretty impressive. I have thought about joining so I called today to get some membership information. Previously all my gym decisions are solely based on the quality of the kids play area. I have rejected most gyms because the play areas are small, loud, crowded and littered with crumbs of who knows what the kids are eating.

I am seriously considering a membership to Lifetime Fitness. The facility looks great - then kids area is huge - they have a kids gym, climbing area, outdoor area, and computer lab. Plenty to keep them occupied. The added bonus - they do not allow ANY food into the kids area! This was very exiting news for me. If I can find a place to work out that has activities for my kids and they are safe - that would make me so happy.

I will know for sure next week when I go for a tour at the sales site. They are a nation wide chain, so if you want to see if they have one in your area you can check their web site at http://www.lifetimefitness.com/.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thinking About School

Wow - I did not realize it had been 10 days since my last post. Summer is flying by. We have been really busy with swim team - which is almost over. Realizing how fast summer is passing has me thinking ahead to school preparation. I scored a good deal the other day at Toys R Us. We happened to be there for a birthday present, when I noticed that they were offering free lunch boxes with the purchase of a back back. For three kids that was a $30 savings! They had a good selection - we chose Hannah Montana, Batman, and Speed Racer. Check it out if you need backpacks.

Since this is C.'s first year in pre-school, I awoke this morning thinking about how to prepare the school and his teacher for his arrival. The school has dealt with numerous allergies including wheat. I will be sending in his snacks (in his new lunchbox). So, they really just need to make sure he does not eat any food that I personally did not provide, and he will be OK. Oh yeah - and we have to make sure that the play dough is made from corn starch instead of flour. At our school the mom's take turns making play dough every month.

The school is nut free, although that does not prevent a well meaning mom from inadvertently sending in a food that has a peanut contamination. I have a non allergy friend who wrote "no nuts" in her kids lunchbox to remind herself not to include any peanut product. I thought that was a great idea. I will be attending all class parties and serving dishes that are safe and hopefully tasty for all the kids.

There was an incident at the school summer camp where a boy with Celiac disease was given an animal cracker. The mom was not happy and it made him sick for a few days. I try not to worry, but it is in the back of my mind. I also need ask them to make sure that they inform me of any class birthdays and school projects that involve food.

Our school has a nice tradition of scheduling home visits between all the teachers and student about a week before school. This will give me a good opportunity to review everything with his teacher. I have also seen different allergy plan forms on line that I will fill out for them. Oh yeah - and I need to order that medical bracelet.

What do you all do to prepare the school for your allergy kids? Is there anything I need to add to my list?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Made a New Bread

For 2 years C. has been existing on grilled cheese sandwiches made from Ener-g Brown Rice Bread. It was the first safe bread I found for him. It is so dry that grilled cheese is about the only thing you could do with it.

I am trying to branch out and encourage C. to eat new things. We got the go ahead from the allergist to try Sunbutter so I thought he needed a better bread to eat a Sunbutter and jelly sandwich. I bought the Gluten Free Pantry Favorite Sandwich Bread. I have hesitated to bake bread in the past for 2 reasons. 1. I do not have a bread machine and I was not confident that I would get it to mix and rise properly. 2. I can not use egg and I was not sure how the egg replacer would effect the final product. I finally just decided to give it a try.

I mixed the bread according to the oven method preperation. I did substitute the egg for 3 tbsp of Ener-g egg replacer mixed with 2 tbsb of warm water. Be sure to whisk it thoroughly. I was a little unsure of where to set the bread to rise. The directions say "a warm place." Well, considering that it is summer and our house is cooled with air conditioning I was perplexed. I finally decided to heat a cup of water in the microwave to warm it up, and let the bread rise in the microwave. It seemed to work well!

I am pleasently suprised that it is quite good. It is like real bread! It smells good and has the right texture. It even keeps well in the fridge for a few days. My older 2 like it toasted with Soynut Butter. Of course, I have used it to make grilled cheese. Hopefully I can get C. to try a Sunbutter jelly sandwich! Even if he does not eat it now, I feel better that I can offer him a real sandwich when he get a little older and goes to school.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I Don't Know What to Expect

This is not the post I had planned for today. I just saw this article on Janeen's website. It also came across my Google alerts. It is a tragic story of a man who lost his life from a bite of a cookie. All it took was one bite and 90 seconds. Unfortunately he chose not to carry an Epi pen and the life saving measures they did take were not successful. You can read the story here.

This story has got me thinking about my own kids. My son R. has a severe peanut allergy (98.9 IgE on his last RAST,) but I have no idea what kind of reaction to expect if he were to be exposed to a peanut. He has only every had one reaction almost 3 years ago. He ate some of my peanut butter toast and broke out in hives. He had eaten peanut butter before did not have a reaction. We do not have a history of allergies ,so I was surprised he reacted. I knew immediately what was happening so I gave him Benadryl and took him to the pediatrician. He was fine and we have been carrying an Epi pen ever since. I guess we are doing a good job avoiding peanuts ever since. But, I have this huge fear of the unknown. What would happen if he were to eat a peanut? Is he one of those kids who will drop right away? Or will his reaction be gradual? Not knowing what will happen really has me concerned. I do not think he is contact sensitive, but I can not think of a time he has even been in a room with a pure peanut product.

Does anyone else have this same concern?

I also wish I had insisted that he have a RAST test done as part of the initial diagnosis. I did not know anything about food allergies then, and figured that the scratch test was enough. I would love to know what his initial IgE levels were. Have they increased over the last few years? I suppose one piece of advice I would offer moms who are just starting on this journey is to get a RAST done. It may not mean much right away, you need to avoid the allergic food regardless. However, it can be useful to track the progress of the allergy from year to year.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Allergen Free Brownies

We finally got a chance to make the new brownie mix I purchased. It is the Ooey Gooey Chocolaty Brownie Mix from The Cravings Place. They are gluten free, wheat free, egg free, and nut free. It is hard to find gluten free items that do not pose a risk for cross contamination with our other allergens, so I was very excited to find this company. I especially love that the recipe does not even call for eggs, so I do not have to think about how the egg substitute will alter the brownies.

I have to give credit to my husband who actually baked them while I was out. When I came home they smelled wonderful. These brownies are great! Every member of the family loved them. They are light and fluffy - a little cake like. There are chocolate bits in the mix which become melted and gooey. You would never know that they were wheat and egg free. Some of my previous wheat free, egg free baking has come out really dense. I was surprised how light they were!

After the kids went to bed my husband and I ate them with vanilla ice cream. YUM! This will be a great mix to have on hand to take to parties and school functions. I think next time I might make a little frosting to spread on top.

The Cravings place offers several other cake, cookie and muffin mixes. I will definitely be trying more mixes from them. Check it out and let me know if you try any other mixes!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Allergen Free Food to Go

I just heard about this new business in Raleigh NC, and I think it is a great idea! Before we had picky kids with foods allergies I used to request a place called Let's Dish (there is also a similar business called Dinner Done.) If you are not familiar with the concept, it is an industrial style kitchen that supplies all the ingredients to make several meals. The idea is that you prep all your meals ahead and store them in the freezer. Then follow the directions for re heating at home and you have dinner ready in a snap. This is a life saver when you are working full time. However, when confronted with numerous food allergies this is no longer an option.

For people living with allergies in Raleigh, NC there is a new business called Rosie's Plate. They specialize in pre-prepped meals to go. They have built a brand new a gluten free, peanut free, and shellfish free facility just for this purpose. They use all natural and organic ingredients. They have also taken many precautions to assure the cleanliness and purity of their facility and food. More information regarding their practices can be found on their web site.

Rosie's Story is like many of our stories. She is a mom who struggled to feed her family healthy foods that were free of their multiple allergens. I think that it is great that Rosie not only took charge of her families allergies, but she has used her experience as an outlet to start her own business and help other families in similar situations. I love hearing positive stories about women starting businesses and helping other people.

If I lived in the Raleigh area, I would definitely check out Rosie's Plate. Hopefully it will be a success and we will see more allergy friendly food service businesses started around the country.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One of Those Weeks

Have you ever had one of those weeks? I am sure you have. I just feel like I am going off the deep end! School is over and we have not been able to establish a new routine yet. I just found out that some good neigbors of ours are going to move. This is sad because we really like them and our kids play together all the time! The house is a mess and I have become completly disorganised.

I had to leave the house today. It is the 3rd beatiful day in a row we have been cooped up inside due another bout of strep throat. This weekend we missed a swim meet, dinner with friends last night and a day at the pool with another family we have not seen in over a year! It was going to be such a nice weekend. :(

I left the house and came to Panera. My 6 year old was hysterical and begged me not to go. She usually does not react that way and relishes a day with her dad. I just had to get some space. I have been here a while. Long enough to have coffee, work on a project I have been hired for, have some lunch and surf the net a bit. I am way behind on my blogs - have not read or written much for 2 weeks. I would rather stay longer, but the guilt is starting to set in. I really needed this break and it has been rather enjoyable. I think I will have to make this a regular thing.

Just talked to hubby - he wants to go do dinner since he has need home with the kids all day. Ha ah. Try it day after day! I am not really in the mood. Perhaps I will let him take the 2 older kids and I will stay home with the 2 year old.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Food Products

Oh my goodess there is so much going on lately. I have a lot to share, but I am going to have to break it down. First of all I found some new food products that my son C. can eat. (He is allergic to wheat, eggs, peanut, tree nut, peas, banana, sesame and coconut.) It is challanging to find manufacturers that have a wheat free product, which is not cross contaminated with one of his other allergens.

I would like to echo the sentiments posted on Kids Food Allergies Blog. It would be great for more food manufacturers to take notice of food allergies. Especially multiple food allergies. It is very disapointing to find a new product you could use only to find that there is a cross contamination issue. I am grateful for Cherrybrook Kitchens and Enjoy Life Foods - we love their products. I am sure it is very difficult to make foods that are tasty, will ship well and are allergy friendly. I am sympathetic to the challanges - but there is a market for these products!

Anyway here is what I found:
  1. Grahahm Crackers by JO-SEF - gluten free and egg free. Made is a dedicated gluten, casein, peanut and tree nut facility. They are very tasty and C. loves them. They are also the right size to make smores. Yay!!!
  2. The Cravings Place Ooey Gooey Chocolate Chewy Brownie Mix. They also make other mixes that are gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free and nut free!!!! I am so excited! We are going to make them this weekend, and I will post the results.
  3. Miss. Roben's Mock Graham Cracker Mix. I have only seen Miss. Roben's products online and was glad to find something on the shelf that I did not have to order. I am going to attempt to make cut out cookies and will post the results.
  4. 1-2-3 Gluten Free - baking mixes that are Gluten -free, wheat-free, Corn-free, Dairy-free, Nut-Free, Peanut-free, Soy-free. I did not buy any on this trip. They are a little expensive, but I will give them a try at some point. Check out their web site.

Over all it was sucessful trip, although I spent more than I intended. When I find something new I just can't resist.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Need Help Cooking Without Eggs

I am not one to bake from scratch. I always felt that cake mixes were better than anything I could do from scratch, so why bother? Well now with all the allergies we have, I guess I have to become more adventurous. I will admit I am resistant, and not patient enough to make the same thing over and over again until I get it right.

Tomorrow I take C. in for a food challenge to oat and peas. I need to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (with gluten free oats.) I should be doing that now, but the health food store left my safe chocolate chips out of the bag! UGH - I was ready to cry when I discovered that. C. is sleeping now so I have to wait to go back and get them. In between swimming lessons, swim team practice for my oldest and my physical therapy. I know I will not be baking these until 9:00 tonight.

Anyway here is my question for you daring bakers out there. There are so many ways to replace eggs (applesauce, flax seed, Ener G egg replacer etc.) What works best when? Is there a cheat sheet out there somewhere? I have also read more than once that when using the Ener G egg replacer it is better to double the powder used. I also was going to buy a safe brownie mix that called for 4 eggs. I hesitated because I thought when replacing that many eggs there is no way it would come out right. Someone at the health food store suggested using purred prunes. For a $10 box of brownies I was not willing to take a chance. It is a little confusing for us non bakers. I would love any help!!


Monday, June 9, 2008

Emergency Preparedness

I recently read Allergy Mom's blog entry regarding Hurricane preparation. I found the information interesting and useful.I especially found the tidbit about putting your computer in the dishwasher amusing, yet practical. We do not live in hurricane territory, so I did not think I would need to use any of the information.

Well, last Wednesday we had severe thunderstorms with extremely high winds, and at least 3 tornadoes in the area. Now they were not huge, like you see in the mid west, but in Virginia they do not have to be, to cause a panic. I was in a restaurant when people started getting text alerts that the schools were going to hold the kids until the storms passed through. This was fine with me, that last thing we need is a bunch of school buses on the road with tornadoes in the area.

The high drama was over in about 20 minutes, and the buses showed up about 45 minutes later. In the meantime, we had lost power in our neighborhood. Usually this does not concern me at all. Our power outages are normally short so I do not worry about the food in my freezer or the lack of AC. Businesses in the area still had power so we were able to pick up some burgers and wings for dinner. However, poor Collin's food all needs to be reheated or cooked, so he has to make due with cereal.

We were so not prepared to be without power. It was not until it started to become dark that we thought we should look for some flashlights - we found a couple with enough battery power to last a while. I knew from reading Allergy Mom's blog that if I did not open the refrigerator and freezer, my food would last until morning at least. When morning came with no power I though I should get some supplies.

I spent the morning gathering up some non perishable food, ice, an extra cooler and some underwear (I was already behind on laundry.) I figured that if I did all this, then the power would come back, and I would not need it. No such luck. I emptied the ice maker so it would not leak all over the freezer as the ice started to melt. I had to throw away the ice cream and a couple other soft things, but the meats and hard frozen items were still frozen.

After lunch it was starting to get a little hot (this was the first day we had over 90). We decided to head over to a friends house who still had power and AC. As I was literally walking out the door I heard a click and the power came back on! Yeah!

Overall it was not really that bad at all - it could have been so much worse. It just set me back a couple of days - I still have some catching up to do around the house.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What has Happened to Tolerance and Compassion?

I came across this article today on newsday.com. - http://www.newsday.com/news/local/suffolk/ny-linut035711913jun03,0,5213082.story Apparently American Airlines is being sued for allegedly endangering a boy with a nut allergy. The mother in the suit claims that despite all the precautions she took in advance to work with the airline to prevent peanuts from being served on the plane, the flight attendants served them anyway. I would be very upset if an airline seemingly ignored my requests as well, but I doubt that I would sue. Fortunately her son did not have a reaction on this, but I am sure it was a very stressful flight for the family.

I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the flaw in this case is that fortunately her child did not suffer a reaction or worse. It is sad to say, but it will probably take a tragedy for the airline industry to really step up and take notice. I have not flown with my children yet, but when I do I will do my research and be very selective on the airline I choose. I have heard that Jet Blue is great to work with.

I also took a few minutes to scroll through the comments following this article. I have to say that I was shocked and saddened by how flat out mean and inconsiderate a lot of the comments were. The comments being flung about were just hateful. People really think that we are going to ruin their lives by requesting that they go a few hours without a peanut! I know most of this stems from ignorance, but I can not help but get mad at how insensitive people are to others situations.
I want to make it clear – I am not looking to go around banning foods. I am not even convinced that we should ban peanuts from schools. I am trying to teach my kids that they need to learn to take care of themselves in a world where they are surrounded by allergens. This includes surrounding themselves with a supportive network of friends, family members, teachers and colleagues.

But what has happened to being tolerant and compassionate? I have never really understood what motivates a person to be so hateful. What else can we do to communicate the dangers of food allergies without creating barriers?

If you want to raise your blood pressure a few notches – check it out. If not , just take this entry as a reminder that our society is self centered and most people do not give a lick about anyone but themselves. The best thing that we, as allergy moms, can do is stick together to help each other out.

Monday, June 2, 2008

RAST Test Can be a Good Way to Track Progress of Allergy

I am currently awaiting the RAST results for C. Hopefully I will get a call in the next day or so. In the meantime I have been thinking about the importance of having this done on a yearly basis. When R. was first diagnosed with a peanut allergy we did not have a RAST done. I really did not know anything about them. Since we did a good job of avoiding nuts, we went through 2 1/2 years not really knowing the severity to R's allergy. I did not really worry that much about his allergy. Our pre school was already peanut free and the nanny at the time totally "got it."

Looking back I think I have been a little too liberal in allowing him to have some baked goods. He has never had never suspicious cookies or brownies ,as they often can hide nuts. But I let him have birthday cake and sugar cookies. I guess we are lucky we have not had any accidents.

After my baby was diagnosed with number of allergies I started to really educate myself. When R. turned 4 I decided to have a check up with the allergist and get a RAST test. That is when we found out that his peanut allergy is a 99.8 . The only problem is that I have no previous test to compare. I wish I had - so I would know if it is the same or has gotten worse.

I would advise anyone to get the RAST test done in addition to the scratch test. It is a good way to track the progression of their allergy from year to year. This information will not necessarily tell you what will happen if there is an accidental exposure. Every child is different and reactions can vary each time. We need to be prepared for everything from eczema and hives to full blown anaphylaxis.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Allergy Shots?

We saw the allergist yesterday regarding Katie and Ryan's environmental allergies. I just wanted to make sure that their ear, nose and throats were looking OK, and confirm that the current treatment was working. I also wanted to see Dr. M one last time before she relocates out of state. I am very sad about this. We tried a number allergists before we connected with Dr. M. She was the first doctor that really took the time to talk about all my concerns and go over all the information. I had done so much of my own research that, I knew a lot of what she brought up - but it was nice to have the verification that I was doing the right things.

Everything is fine - she gave me some Nasonex for Ryan to use on the bad days. She also spoke to Katie about considering allergy shots. Basically she needs Claritin and Nasonex every day or her symptoms return immediately. She is a really good candidate for allergy shots. But, she is six years old and does NOT want to get shots every week. I can not, and will not, force her to get the shots. I need to find a way to get her on board. I would be OK with a reward system - but I do not want to go overboard. I am not sure if a trip to Starbucks each time is the right thing to do? I would get her a small toy very couple of months or so if she was good. Perhaps a sticker chart? Leading up to a bigger reward?

Has anyone else gone through this? How did you get your child to get the shots?

I have had such a bad spring with my own allergies, that I am considering testing myself and getting shots. I though if we went together it might help.

I Would Love to Eat Out

Hi all, wow - I have been a bit out of it lately. The weather here in the mid Atlantic has been really beautiful. As a result the kids want to be outside all the time. Which is great - but I have fallen behind on just about everything. My house is a mess, I have about 12 tons of laundry to do, and we are seriously low on food. But hey - playing outside is more fun!

Anyway - will you indulge me while a whine a minute? It is Friday about 5:30 and I really do not feel like dealing with dinner. Husband will be late tonight and all I want to do is take the kids out for a quick bite. Not so simple when you have 8 food allergies to deal with. I can work around the peanut allergy OK. But little C. with the other 8 is a challenge. I would have to fix his food and take it with us. Kind of defeats the purpose - right? I would really love just to pick up and go out to eat without thinking about it! Monday morning we went to the park and I saw another mom who had picked up McDonald's for a group of kids. How I wished I could have done the same. We are not big junk food eaters, but it would be nice to have that option once in a while. Some people do not appreciate what a luxury it is to be able to take your family out for a meal. Don't get me wrong - I normally have no problem handling our allergies. I am blessed that we are all in good health (other than the allergies). BUT - some days I just long to be able to go out for a care free meal. I am sure some of you have the same sentiments?

OK - I am done - I feel better - Thanks for listening!

BTW - the big kids had chicken nuggets, oodles of noodles and fruit. Little kid had an Enjoy Life Foods bagel and tomatoes. He is not eating much these days.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mold Allergies and Food?

I have came across a message board post that suggested avoiding certain foods if you have an allergy to mold. One of them was yeast bread. My daughter has a mold allergy so I thought I would try to check into it. I have not found a lot of information yet. I did find the following list of foods supposedly to avoid.

foods made with yeast
sour cream
soy sauce
pickled or smoked meats and fish
dried fruits
raw vegetables and fruits

Has anyone else heard about this?

Could Stress during Pregnancy be Related to Allergies in children?

Some interesting articles came across my Google alerts recently. There are some researchers looking into the possibility that stress during pregnancy may be related to the development of allergies and asthma in children. A small study was done, and it seems that stress can affect the immune system and cause increased IgE levels. They measured the IgE levels of the mother and the cord blood taken at birth. This was then factored in with information about the mother’s lifestyle and environment. The result being that there may be a correlation between pre-natal stress and allergies. Here is the link to the article.


Our food allergic children have higher levels of IgE antibodies, which cause them to have allergic reactions to certain foods. It seems reasonable to me that if the mother has increased IgE levels, regardless of the cause, that she could pass it into her infant.

I found this theory very interesting and started thinking about my own experiences. I thought about the differences in my three pregnancies and the allergies in my three children. We do have allergy genes in my family, so we do have a predisposition for allergies.

My first pregnancy was normal. I had an average amount of stress for someone expecting their first child. I loved being pregnant and did not have any complications. My eldest K. had a mild milk allergy as an infant that was outgrown by the time she was two. She has no other food allergies. At the age of six she did develop environmental allergies to tree pollen, dust, mold, ragweed and cats. This has caused some complications with ear infections and a ruptured ear drum, but otherwise is manageable.

My second pregnancy was fairly normal. I would say that my stress level was higher. At work I had been promoted to a position with more responsibility. This also required more travel. My husband's company was also going through some changes. This left his employment future a little uncertain. With one child and another on the way, unemployment is that last thing you need to worry about. Thankfully everything eventually worked out for him. Many of you know, being pregnant with a toddler at home is more challenging that your first pregnancy. You can not sleep after work or on the weekends like before. My middle boy R. is highly allergic to peanuts. At the age of 4, he also developed environmental allergies to dust, tree pollen, cats, and ragweed.

My third pregnancy was my most stressful. I had been promoted at work again, I loved my new position, but it was more responsibility, travel and stress. I also had a new boss, whom I liked a lot, but made my head spin! I really think she had some ADD issues. It was non stop go go go. I was due at the end of September and the summer was always our busiest most stressful time of the year. After a very difficult 2 weeks and working many extra hours, I went into pre term labor at 32 weeks. It was intense and scary – I really did not know if they would be able to stop it. Fortunately modern medicine was able to buy me some time. I was immediately put on bed rest and had to take medication every 4 hours to keep from having contractions. Since there were a couple of projects I had not finished, I continued to do a little work from home. At 36 weeks the doctor said it was safe to deliver and I could stop taking my medication if I wanted. Since we had family coming to visit I thought it would be a perfect time to deliver, so I stopped the meds. My baby boy was born 3 days later! C. is allergic to wheat, egg, peanut, tree nut, peas, banana, sesame, and coconut. This spring he developed environmental allergies to tree pollen, grass, ragweed, mold, and dogs.

If you take a look at my experiences and compare it to this new theory, perhaps they could be on to something. It is hard to say for sure – there are many variables. This is not to discount other theories, including the hygiene theory, which also seems very logical to me. Who knows if they will ever definitively determine the cause of food allergies? I am just glad that there are doctors out there looking for answers.

I do not think I could have done anything differently to reduce my stress. Sometimes the circumstances just are what they are. Stress is a hard thing to control these days. Especially with how busy we are trying to have it all and do it all. There are a myriad of reasons that stress is not good for us. We all need to do whatever we can to take care of ourselves – mind, body and spirit.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Allergist Check Up

Well it was one crazy week for us. Long story short, it involved allergy testing, strep throat and, so far, 2 cases of pink eye. We will be house bound for the next day or two, so it will be a good time to catch up on many things. The first is our trip to the allergist.

There was a part of me that looked forward to the allergist visit. I knew that the actual test would be difficult, but I was eager for some good news. I am a very practical person, so I knew better than to expect that C. would have out grown any of his 7 (oops I mean 8) allergies. (I always forget coconut.)But there was a part of me that would love to be able to have ONE food back – is it too much to hope for? I know his wheat allergy is too high from last year, for him to have outgrown that. But, perhaps he would outgrow the egg??? It sure would make a world of difference in baking!

The first good news, the asthma that he experienced two weeks earlier was much better. Now for the fun part, enter the nurse with the needles. Now, the last time C. had skin pricks, he was 6 months old and did not know what was coming. At 2 ½ he is wiser and stronger. I am already struggling to keep him in the room – I have no idea how I am going to hold him still for the 2 dozen or so needles that need to be administered. C. had been coloring in a book quite happily, and put up a big protest when I tried to pick him up for the test. The nurse then called for reinforcements. Next, he really surprised me! I was able to get him to sit on the table facing me in a way that would enable him to continue coloring while the nurse pricked his back. He actually sat still this way while the nurse gave him every needle. I was truly amazed! Once the hives began to develop and become itchy, he did get fussy. It was a bit of a battle to keep him from scratching his back. I can not blame him; huge welts were beginning to develop. His entire back was enflamed! Poor guy – I did not think to take a picture to show his dad. We wandered around the offices a bit and played a stacking game with the basket of stickers to pass the time.

And the verdict – still allergic to wheat, egg, peanut, tree nut, banana, sesame, and. After we follow through with that RAST we may challenge him on the pea and coconut which showed slight reactions. Now we add the environmental allergies – trees (really big welts), grass, ragweed, mold and dogs. We will continue with the breathing treatments and put him on Claritin right away. I have to say that I really like my allergist. She is new to the practice, but we clicked. She really took the time to answer all my questions, which was great. The bad news – she is relocating out of state this summer. Mental note – get RAST done quickly and schedule appointments for R. and K. before she leaves.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You Won't Even Miss It

I recently received a nice comment from a fellow allergy mom Heather MacDonald. She wrote to let me know about her local cable show “You Won’t Even Miss It.” The show is located in New England, but it is available for viewing on line at www.youwontevenmissit.com . I made some time to check it out over the weekend. I thought it was really well done. I do watch a lot of the Food Network, and often wondered how long it will take for them to get around to doing a special on cooking with food allergies. I guess we do not have to wait any more!

Nancy and Chef Rick Tarantino specialize in developing recipes that are free of milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, and shellfish. I especially love that Nancy and Chef Tarantino also make a gluten free version of all their recipes. I am most excited to try the Meyer Lemon Squares (yum) and Chipotle Chicken Wings. My little allergy guy probably won’t touch it, but the rest of the family can enjoy. We can at least offer it to him.
If you get a chance check it out!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I was Inspired to Bake Today

I am on a mission to find more family friendly allergy free foods. Since it is food allergy week I have decided to try some new things. Today I was inspired to bake. I will admit that baking without standard wheat flour does intimidate me quite a bit. When I read my first recipes and saw how many ingredients I had to blend to replace wheat flour, I pretty much shut down. That was a couple of years ago, am now I think I am ready to face the challenge. But if I can find a short cut, you bet I am going to take it! I had purchased some bread mixes made by Gluten Free Pantry, and I thought I would give them a try.

The first was the Ginger Spice Cake Mix. Since C. is allergic to banana I have wanted to bake applesauce bread for him. I mixed the following:
· 1 cup buttermilk
· 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Added the dry mix and then folded in ¼ cup of applesauce, in place of the egg. I baked these in mini muffin pans instead of a loaf pan for 15 – 17 min. I find mini muffins to be more convenient for the kids and easy to freeze.

I have to say that they were really good! The whole family loved them. J You would never know that they did not have wheat and eggs. This will be a great treat to bring to preschool next year. They would also make a great cupcake - perhaps with cream cheese frosting. They are pretty sweet, so I think next time I will try unsweetened applesauce.

I was feeling really good about my results with the muffins, so I thought I would try the Sandwich Bread mix. I have hesitated in the past as we can not use egg, and the recipe calls for 2 eggs. I have been unsure if you can use egg replace in yeast bread. I finally just decided to give it a try. I mixed the bread according to the directions for the oven method. I used Ener-G egg replacer in place of the egg. I have heard from 2 different sources that this egg replace works best when you use double the amount of powder for water. So, to replace 2 eggs I used 6 tsp of egg replacer whisked with 2 tbsp warm water.

I let the bread rise for 40 min – it did not seem to rise as high as I would have thought. I am not sure if this has to do with the egg substitute or not. I decided to bake it anyway. I would say that this bread is pretty good. It is a little dense, buy fairly moist and good flavor. My kids enjoyed it toasted with soy nut butter. I will try using it to make a grilled cheese sandwich tomorrow. This bread is not as dry as the pre made brown rice bread that I usually buy, that is pretty terrible.

Does anyone out there know how to make good sandwich bread without wheat and egg?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

So far it has been a busy day of doing nothing, which is exactly what I wanted! I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish all the other moms out there in cyberspace a Happy Mother’s Day. I am new to the blogging community, but I really enjoy it. It is very therapeutic and a little addictive. I want to thank those who have reached out to say hi and comment on my blog. I look forward to helping our community to grow even more. I hope you all are enjoying your day too.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Allergy Induced Asthma

Last week we had an appointment to take C. to the allergist. It has been over a year since his last RAST test and I was interested to find out of any of his IGE levels had changed. We also seem to be having an exceptionally active pollen season and C. has been showing symptoms of seasonal allergies.

I had detected a pattern where he would develop a cough, runny nose and rub his eyes every time we played outside. I consciously kept him off any allergy medication for a week before the appointment in preparation for the scratch tests. The day of his appointment his coughing seemed a little worse than usual. At nap time he was really fussy and started to wheeze a little bit. At one point I considered taking him straight to the pediatrician instead of waiting for our 4:00 allergist appointment.

I gave up on the nap and was able to get him to calm down with some books and a video. His breathing got a bit better, so we settled in to wait for the allergist appointment. Anyone with allergic kids knows that developing asthma is a possibility, so that is the thought running through my mind. I just thought it would not happen at 2 ½.

Shortly after we got to the allergist his breathing worsened as we waited in the exam room. The allergist came in checked his breathing and said that she wanted to give his a nebulizer treatment before we went any further. Since C. has never had a breathing treatment, he was not happy about it! I had to hold him close and wrap my legs around him to keep him from kicking. All the while I am also trying to hold the mask on his face. As he screamed his lungs out I just tried to reassure him that he was ok. I told myself that the crying was good – the deep breaths would help get the Albuterol deep into his lungs. The nurse, was very nice, but did not stick around to watch – or even help as I balanced this chaos. In contrast, the nurses at the pediatrician’s office are great in assisting to administer medication or draw blood.

Finally when it was over and we were both dripping with sweat the doctor came back. She checks his breathing, which was much improved. She also said that given how constricted his breathing was, we would not be doing any scratch tests today. So, now we are on Pulmicort once a day and Albuterol as needed for coughing and wheezing. I only needed to give C. the Albuterol for 3 days. He is doing much better and we are gearing up for the scratch test next week. He has learned to sit still for his breathing treatments – it helps that I let him watch Tom & Jerry.

I guess I have a little research to do on asthma.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cupcake Alternative for Class Parties

There seems to be a firestorm of controversy lately about bringing cupcakes to school for birthday celebrations. Some communities are trying to cut back the amount of sugar in their schools. Other groups have serious concerns about exposing food allergic children to a treat that will cause them to have a reaction. It is true that the majority of food allergic reactions at school happen as a result of food being brought in from home. Eliminating cupcakes at school would reduce one risk. This is a very emotional issue for everyone. Parents want their kids’ health and safety to be a priority. Other parents don’t want their child’s right to celebrate birthdays with cake to be infringed upon. Being the mother of a food allergic child, I think there have to be a way to celebrate birthdays without sugary, potentially dangerous treats.

My daughter came home from school the other day and mentioned that there had been a birthday on the class. I asked her if she had had cupcakes. (K. has no food allergies, so I was not worried.) She told me that instead the mom had come for lunch and served the class fruit with whipped cream. What a great idea! If milk is a concern you could easily substitute non dairy whipped topping. My kids personally love strawberries with cream or vanilla yogurt for desert. K. said that everyone in the class liked it, and no one mentioned anything about cupcakes.

Is it possible that the cupcake issue is a bigger deal for the parents than the kids? My daughter’s class did not seem to miss the cupcakes. I have also thought about sending in a little goody bag with a few trinkets from the party store. Kids love cheap junk! The party favors are always the toys that cause the most arguments at my house. And – I promise you my 4 year old son’s all time favorite toys are the 30 cent pirate cake toppers we got at the party store.

I also heard from another mom who takes in sugar free popsicles for her son’s birthday.

What do you do to celebrate birthdays at school?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Food Allergy Week Challange

My son C. is allergic to wheat, egg, peas, banana, sesame, peanuts and tree nuts. We have rid our house of most of his allergens except for wheat, some eggs and the occasional banana. Wheat is clearly the hardest of his allergens to live without. I find myself making 2 pastas, sandwiches on different breads, and on occasion 2 different pizzas. It is more work, and I wonder if he realizes that we eat different foods.

So, since next week is Food Allergy Awareness Week and I have decided to mark it by planning all the meals to be free of all C.’s allergens. Now, the hardest part is going to be planning a week of meals at once. I truly am terrible about planning our meals ahead. I read about moms who plan their food for the week, shop and are all set. I have tried to do this, but it never seems to work out. On most days 4:00 rolls abound and I wander into the kitchen so see what I can throw together. It is a disaster.

I really hate the dinner hour. Getting dinner on the table with 3 kids under foot and fending off requests for last minute snacks is a huge challenge. Then, when we do get to the table, I am barraged with whining about how they do not want what I have prepared. This is followed by constant pleas, by me, for them sit still and eat. I also remind them that if they leave the table without finishing, then that must mean they are full and the kitchen is closed. They do not need to eat everything on their plate, but they can not ask for snacks if they did not eat their dinner.
Now enter into the equation that fact that 2 year old C. is VERY picky and not all that interested in food. He spends dinner time begging for “more milk.” Until he realizes that he is not getting it, and goes off to play with trains. I am lucky if he has eaten a few blueberries and a cherry tomato. I just look at my husband and wonder how do other people do it – what are we missing?

I know I have my work cut out for me, but I do not think it is too much to ask my family to sit down and eat one meal together. I think it would be good for us. Eating allergen free might give us all an appreciation for what those with foods allergies go through. In the meantime I would love to hear any meal time tips or tricks that work for you! I clearly need the help.

Monday, May 5, 2008

No More McDonalds French Fries

I do try to teach my kids healthy eating habits, so we do not eat at McDonald's on a regular basis. But on particularly busy days sometimes the drive through is the best option. The Happy Meals are safe for K. and R. to eat. I would get french fries for C. and then make his special nuggets at home. Well no longer. I do not remember where I first heard that McDonald's french fries may contain wheat. Sure enough, when I checked their web site I found that they do contain : WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.)

I know when we were first diagnosed with food allergies I looked up the ingredients for the french fries, and they were safe. That was about 2 years ago. I am not sure when they made this change I am just glad I caught it. When managing kids with food allergies you can never be too safe. This is just good a reminder that manufacturers do change their ingredients. It is a good idea to re check the ingredients of foods, even if it has previously been considered a "safe" food for your child.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Leaving Your Food Allergic Kids II

Well we went to the wedding this weekend and the kids were fine! I even managed to relax and have some fun. It was a great wedding - good food (an amazing mashed potato bar!), great band and a fun crowd. I am exhausted - my stamina for dancing til midnight is not what it used to be. I think it will take the week to recover.

All my preparation and stress was probably over kill, but I will do it again the next time. Aunt J. loved the way I labeled all the food in the pantry. I also cleared out a basket and filled it with safe snacks that everyone would enjoy, Pirate Booty, Cool Ranch Doritos, and Potato chips. I just wanted to make things as simple as possible.

In advance I made some chicken and rice soup that everyone could eat. I also planned a taco dinner on Sat night since it is safe for everyone and my kids love it. I made some Popsicles and had them available in the freezer for a treat. I also bought some Cherrybrook Kitchens cookie mix in case they needed and activity.

I posted all the pertinent allergy information on the refrigerator:
  • a list of allergies for each child
  • a chart for medications they needed to take and when
  • emergency contacts,
  • Epi pen instructions
  • a menu and list of snack ideas.
The kids did great - they did not miss us for a minute! They were well behaved and the weather was great so they played outside a lot and got to watch a movie at night. They never even got around to making the cookies!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Organized My Counter

This post has nothing to do with allergies, but I thought I would share anyway. This all started with my cleaning my pantry so I could label what food was safe for Collin to eat; now I have cleaned off my counter top. The space was formally used as a dumping ground for papers, schoolwork, mail, catalogs you name it. Now it neatly accommodates all my clutter!

I found that magazine files are great for coloring books, note pads, and worksheets. I bought one for each child. Now if they want to do an activity, they know where they can find it and where they can put it back when they are done. It is a beautiful thing!

The file box on the left is for all my miscellaneous papers. I have labeled my files to organize; bills to pay, school papers and reminders for each child and each school, recipes from magazines, a separate folder for allergen free recipes, coupons, things to do, kids activities and summer camp info. I also have separate files to sort articles from magazines - gardening, kid’s crafts, health and wellness, decorating etc. It is great – I have a place to file everything daily, and it is close by when I need something.

I do not want to mislead you - I do not actually do all theses things - I just keep the information organized. I am ever hopeful that I will find the time and the motivation to garden, cook and decorate my house.

On the right I found a little bin for our cell phones, i pods and sunglasses. This contains their cords too! The little stripe boxes contain markers and crayons. They are so cute and were such a good deal at our local Pottery Barn outlet that I had to get some more to hold receipts.

This has been fun and I love how clean it looks. Perhaps I will tackle my corner cupboard with the dreadful lazy susan.

One more confession - I do use a label maker. I have terrible handwriting and I like it to look neat :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Labeling Allergy Free Foods in Pantry

I am preparing the house to leave my kids with family members so my husband and I may attend a wedding. It was very nice of my husband's Aunt and Uncle to offer to stay with the kids. Needless to say, with all of our allergies I have a lot to do to get ready. I took the first step in organizing our pantry.

I ordered the Pantry Partner Stickers from FAAN. They are green and red stickers that you use to label your food - what is safe and what is not. Green is for go - that food is safe, red is for stop - that food is not safe. The stickers are good quality so that when you have a new box of cereal you can peel it off and reuse it again.

My 4 year old loved to help label the food that was safe for his younger brother. It was a great opportunity to clean out my pantry as well. Now it is easy for anyone to tell what snack food is safe for Collin.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Handling Food Allergies in School

Last night I attended an interesting meeting of the Health, Safety and Wellness Committee of our local School Board. They called a meeting to discuss the current procedures for keeping children with food allergies safe at school. They invited our local support group to represent the parents. I really appreciate that our representative, Maria, made a point to focus on our desire to build a positive relationship with the school board. Not only did Maria do a great job of providing insight into raising food allergic children, she also voiced important questions and concerns that parents have about sending their food allergic children to school.

I commend the school board for their interest in becoming educated on food allergies, and taking steps to formally discuss what policies could be adopted to help keep our children safe. I have previously had the opportunity to meet several nurses from out local schools. During these brief conversations I was pleased to learn that they have taken the initiative to put procedures in place to help food allergic children in school. They encourage an open dialog between the parents, educators and school medical staff to develop a plan that will work for each child. As parents we have the choice of where we want to store the Epi pen, where we want our child to sit during lunch and how we want to handle class parties.

Regardless of weather your school has a formal food allergy policy in place, keeping your child safe is about building relationships. Positive relationships with teachers, nurses, friends and other parents that foster open communication. A supportive circle of friends, family and teachers will help keep our children safe. We need to advocate for our children in a positive helpful way. We know more about our child’s food allergies and their reaction than anyone else. It is our job to communicate that information effectively.

It strikes me that another major component should be fostering awareness and sensitivity among non allergic students and parents. We have all read about the case in Kentucky where a school bully put a child at risk when a peanut laced cookie was sprinkled on his lunch. Fortunately this story did not have a tragic ending. The child accused of the bullying is facing some very serious consequences. There are so many people that do not understand how serious food allergies are. Did this child really understand that his actions put another’s life at risk? How do we raise our children to be compassionate and sensitive to those who may be different? This is an issue that transcends food allergies.

Our school district has regular school assemblies. I heard a suggestion that perhaps one of the assemblies could address food allergies. FAAN even has books and videos geared toward kids to educate them on food allergies. Perhaps we could benefit from the same kind of sensitivity training used to foster acceptance of other differences, applied to food allergies.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Can't Stand the Coughing!

My 2 year old had been coughing for 2 weeks. At this point, I am sure he has developed environmental allergies. I have established a pattern. When we go outside he is fine for about an hour. Then he starts to cough a bit. If we stay out he will sneeze a little and develop a runny nose. When we go inside the symptoms subside to an occasional cough. Until bed - then the coughing kicks up again and some mild wheezing begins. Oh the poor little guy, I can barely listen to him. Most night I awake in the middle of the night to hear him coughing in his sleep. We have an appointment with the allergist next week, so we just have to get through the next 4 days. I can not even give him antihistamines because he will need to have scratch tests done st his appointment. So we wait, and I try to keep him inside as much as possible. Which is next to impossible since it has been beautiful and everyone wants to play outside! They are calling for rain tomorrow. :)

My Daughter Needs Ear Surgery

Last September my daughter had an ear infection that resulted in a ruptured ear drum. We have since had hearing tests that showed a mild but recoverable hearing loss. Allergy tests where we discovered her allergies to cat, mold, tree pollen, dust mites and ragweed – which were treated with Claritin and Nasonex. Three weeks of antibiotics to treat the sinus infection and a CAT scan to make sure her adenoids were not infected. Over the months the hole did get smaller and I was optimistic that if we stayed the course, it would heal completely and we would not need to patch it.
Thursday we followed through with her ENT to see how it was progressing. Unfortunately the hole is still there and is going to require surgery to patch it. If we do not take care of the hole it could cause more infections and increased hearing loss. It is an outpatient surgery and is not invasive. She had tube put in when she was 1, so we know she can tolerate anesthesia. Kids are resilient so I am not too worried (yet.) One of the toughest things is that she can not play any sports or participate in PE for 4-6 weeks after. Since summer is approaching along with swim team, we have decided wait until August do have the surgery done.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Medic Alert Bracelet for Food Allergies

I have decided to get a Medic Alert bracelet for my boys with food allergies. I think it will help at the staff at their pre school to remember their allergies. I also worry that if we were to be in an accident Collin could be given something as innocent as a cracker, and end up having a reaction.

I have been scouring the internet in search for alternatives to the bulky chain bracelets. I guess the best bracelets I have found are the nylon bands with a metal buckle piece that slide on it. I am not sure I can fit all seven of his allergies on the metal along with our emergency contact information on that particular style.

Do any of you have medic alert bracelets for food allergies? Where did you get it and what information did you have printed on it?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Leaving Your Food Allergic Kids with a Sitter

Since my children have been diagnosed with food allergies I have only left them with two sitters. One was a trusted teacher from my daughter’s pre school, the other was our nanny. One sitter has moved away and the other is getting ready to start a family of her own, so they are no longer available. We do not have family in the immediate area; and finding childcare that we trust is difficult and stressful. I have to admit that my husband and I have not been out without the kids since last summer – yikes! There are some young teenagers in our area who do babysit. However, I feel that due to the severity of our allergies I would prefer a more mature sitter who could handle an emergency situation.

Now we have a situation where we have been invited to a wedding 4 hours away. My husband really wants to go, but I am having a hard time leaving my children over night. We have made arrangements for his Aunt and Uncle to come stay for the night. I feel like it is a huge responsibility for anyone to agree to take care of feeding our kids with all the allergies we have. I have a plan for organizing all the food and leaving detailed instructions, medical forms etc. I just hope it is enough to ease my mind so I can relax and perhaps have a little fun!

They visit us frequently and know our children very well. Our kids adore them and will have a blast while we are gone. I am very grateful that they have agreed to make the seven hour drive to stay with us. I guess it is hard to leave your kids with anyone else.

How do you all manage leaving your children with someone else?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Are food allergic kids picky eaters?

I thought I had a picky eater when I had my daughter 6 yeas ago. Little did I know how picky a child could be until I had my 3rd. Collin would survive on milk alone if I let him. I guess that fact that he is allergic to so many foods does not help.

When he was first diagnosed with allergies to wheat, egg, sesame, nut, pea and banana I was a little overwhelmed. I found a handful of foods that were safe and stuck with them. Now, that I am more educated and can offer him different choices, he is not interested. In addition, he is getting tired of his current staples of chicken, grilled cheese and fish sticks. This leaves little else for him to eat. When a new food is introduced he softly says “no thank you” and pushes the food away. If I persist he replies, in his most forceful 2 year old way, “NOOOO!” In preparation for preschool in the fall I have been trying to teach Collin about his allergies. He points to certain things and says he is allergic. He knows if he eats it, he will get sick and have to go to the hospital. However, sometimes when I want him to try a new food, he will say “I allergic.” Great!

At first I tried not to worry too much. I hear stories of some toddlers only eating brown foods. I would feed him what I could, give him a multi vitamin and move on. He is a little smaller than my other 2, but has always met the benchmarks for development. On the days when he leaves the table without eating a bite, I tell myself that when he is hungry, he will eat. When he finally is hungry, he cries for milk. If I am lucky he will eat some cereal. I also recently introduced PediaSure, which he calls “bear milk.” I mix it with regular milk so he will not get used to drinking milk that is sweet. He likes it, and on days that his eating is poor I give him some and know that he is getting some added nutrients.

As you will come to know – sometimes I bend over backward to make something that the whole family will eat, and is safe for Collin. It usually backfires. It is either truly terrible, or the kids do not like it.

I am somewhat relieved that he does not try to take “unsafe” food from other people. My middle son was always grabbing food off of any plate he could reach. Could his picky habit be some sort of self defense mechanism?

I guess the question would be now that I have created this situation, how do I fix it? I am sure some of you have been there, so any feedback would be appreciated.

Oh Yeah – the reason I have a renewed urgency to get him to eat better stems from a recent episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. She had a nutritionist come help her cook a meal. They cooked a very healthy meal full of vegetables. Every one of her 8 kids ate the food without complaining and even said they loved it! I love the show, but that really got to me. I am sure you will hear more on this topic later.