Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's Not a Joke: Food Allergy Awareness

FARE has launched a new campaign to raise awareness for food allergies.  Here's their newest video clip:

You can read more about the awareness campaign and find more information on their website.

Have you experienced bullying due to food allergies?  Thankfully we have not experienced extreme situations, just clueless or careless people who brush us off or make snide comments.  I've only cried a few times.........and I'm sure these situations will happen again.  I'm just so thankful for those who are so gracious about our allergies. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Allergy Free Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

I call these cupcakes.  We ate them as muffins - at least I tell myself that since the kids ate them for breakfast.  They are light and summery with a perfect balance of blueberries and lemons.  I ate 5........shhhh!

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes
3 cups flour blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1 cup rice milk whisked with 2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup rice milk
zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup blueberries tossed with 1 T rice flour flour

Whisk together flour blend through baking soda in large bowl.
In separate bowl, whisk egg replacer through lemon zest.
Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
Gently fold in blueberries.
Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes.
Let cool on wire rack.

Lemon Frosting
1/2 cup Earth Balance
2 cups powdered sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1 T lemon juice

Cream Earth Balance.
Add in powdered sugar and lemon zest.
Mix on low.
Add in lemon juice and mix on medium until frosting is creamy and smooth.

Makes 24 cupcakes.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Great Unknown

With food allergies I battle a fear of the unknown.  I dread walking into new places, experiencing new situations, and meeting new people because I don't know what we'll be facing or how others will react.  I don't like not knowing what the outcome will be.

I'm terrified of others cooking for us.  I don't know how conscientious they are.  I don't know how aware they are of cross contamination.  I don't know if they truly understand the severity of food allergies.  I don't know how well they can read labels.  I don't know what their kitchen is like and how clean it is. 

I am always afraid that an ingredient on a label will be missed.  Not all foods have large allergy labels or lists of common allergens.  I'm afraid that I won't know one of the alternative (and tricky) names of our allergens.  I'm afraid of foods that aren't labelled, which is why I don't like anything homemade.  I just can't be certain of what's in a product. 

I don't know what it's like behind the scenes in a restaurant kitchen.  When I'm assured that Bee's food will be cooked separately and that they've handled allergies before and that I shouldn't worry, I still do.  I don't know how aware all the chefs and cooks and servers are.  I don't know if our specific instructions will get lost in translation as they are passed from person to person.  I don't know if they are following every precaution. 

But most of all I fear not knowing all of Bee's allergens  Many of her allergens we've discovered through trial and error.  That's never a good way to discover allergies.  We've tested multiple times and tried hard to avoid foods that are cross-reactive, but some of her foods didn't show up on tests and some of her allergens took us by surprise.  We've had ER visits that taught us new allergens and made our list longer. 

I have so much fear that we still don't know her full allergy list.  What if there are more things?  What if we're missing something?

I also fear that Bee will develop new allergens.  I fear that the doctors will not know the best course of treatment.  I fear because there is no cure.  Food allergies are really an unknown.  No one can explain the significant rise in food allergies over the years.  No one has found a cure or even a reliably effective treatment.  No one child's food allergies and symptoms are like another.  There is just so much unknown in the world of food allergies.  And walking in the unknown is scary. 
fear of the unknown

Monday, May 20, 2013

Food Allergy Documentary

There's a new documentary about living with food allergies!  Guess what I'll be watching this week??

I'm Not Nuts: Living with Food Allergies

Friday, May 17, 2013

Etiquette and Food Allergies

Last week I was very sick with some type of virus.  I have no idea what exactly was going on.  I had fever/chills/muscle aches/sore throat/total exhaustion/coughing.  I spent several days on the couch or in bed.  The day I started to feel a little better I lost my voice.  For 4 days, I croaked and whispered and tried to talk.  When you have 5 small kids, you really really need your voice.

Ohh, and during this time we were finishing up paperwork for our new house and working with the landlords of our current rental.  Lots of phone calls (hard to make with no voice) and lots of emails with papers to sign.

Let's just say it was a totally crazy, crazy week!

On Thursday, I spent the day in my jammies (and my kids did too).  We played around the house, watched movies, ate snacks, and did puzzles.  It was a quiet day.  During our quiet afternoon the door bell rang.  I grabbed Punkin and headed downstairs to peek out the door.  There was a woman standing on our porch with something shiny in her hands.  She was also knocking on the door.  I had no choice but open the door (or let her wake up Ladybug).

It was my neighbor.  A neighbor I've never really met before.  She had in her arms a large foil casserole dish with a note taped to the top.  She explained that her church had been encouraging members to focus on blessing and reaching out to others.  That week the challenge was to bless her neighbor.  She chose me.

I thanked her profusely and chatted with her for a minute before I headed back inside.  When I shut the door I looked down at my drooling Punkin in my arms.  I was wearing my stained and spit-up covered tank top, dirty pj pants, and sporting hair that had not been washed that day.  I didn't have one bit of makeup on and my entry way was full of boxes and tubs that were being packed up.

I looked like a sleep-deprived, disorganized, mom of 5 little people.  Now, I know that's exactly what I am, but I sure don't like to look like it!  I looked absolutely awful.

I put the casserole dish on my counter with a huge feeling of guilt washing over me.  Here is my sweet neighbor who doesn't know me except by sight (she's seen me wrangling all 5 kids on our walks around the block) and she brought me dinner.  She has no idea that we can't eat that dinner.

What do you do in this situation?????

Here's my food allergy etiquette advice.

Talk about food allergies as much as possible with those that know you.  The ones who do know your family will know about your allergies and will be aware of your limitations.

For those who don't know you, you have to decide if it's an appropriate time to educate them or to just smile and move on.  You can take a break from the soapbox once in a while.

There are times to educate about the allergies and there are times to just say thank you and keep going.  I chose the latter with my neighbor.  I'm not going to see her much as we are moving in a few weeks.  She would have had no way of knowing about the allergies and she won't be cooking for us again (at least I doubt it) so it's not important for her to have our allergy list.

But I sure felt guilty with a giant cheesy lasagna on my counter.  There was no way I could throw her homemade lasagna in the trash!  So, I called some friends and chose to give it away to another family and pass the blessing on.  Her thoughtfulness blessed us and her food can bless another family.

I sent Prince Charming over the next day with a card the kids drew for her.  He brought along Ladybug (who can't talk) to tell her thank you.  We decided not to mention the fact that we weren't the ones who enjoyed the lasagna.

Food allergies sure put us in awkward situations!  How do you take food into your house that has some deadly ingredients?  How do you know when to explain about the allergies and when to let it go?  What do you do in a situation when others try to bring you food?

Refusing food can make you seem ungrateful and taking food that you cannot eat will make you feel guilty (and can pose a safety hazard).  It's a no-win situation! 

I need a food allergy etiquette guide!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Egg Free Resource

Here's a resource I recently discovered for those who are gluten, dairy, and egg free.  There looks to be some good recipes on the Fork and Beans website but I really love the info on gluten free grains!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Allergy Free Lemon Donuts

My kids want donuts every weekend, so I have to come up with some new varieties.  Here's our new summertime donut recipe - Lemon Donuts!  They are so light and fluffy and lemony! 

Lemon Donuts
1 cup rice milk plus 2 Tablespoons
4 Tablespoons plain coconut Greek yogurt
3 cups flour blend
1  1/2 tsp xanthan
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup Earth Balance Soy Free
1 cup sugar
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
zest of 1 large lemon

Whisk milk and yogurt together and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk the flour, xanthan, baking powder, and salt together.
In mixer cream the Earth Balance and sugar until fluffy.
Add egg replacer mixture and lemon zest.
Add the flour mixture and milk mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture.
Mix until just combined - don't overmix.
Spoon into greased donut tins.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until donuts spring back when touched.
Cool on wire rack.

2 cups powdered sugar
lemon juice

Whisk in lemon juice until a pourable glaze forms.
Drizzle over donuts.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Punkin Update

In March we made the 3 hour drive to take Punkin to our immunologist.  During our 4 hour appointment, we saw a resident, our doctor, our dietician, and 4 different nurses.  It was a long day!

What did we learn?  I don't feel like we learned much.

Punkin was allergy-tested and everything was negative - not even a little bit positive.  Her skin test showed nothing!

So, we learned that she has eczema - which we already knew.  But we don't have a real reason of why hers is so severe.

We don't have a very exciting action plan other than lots of cool tub soaks, lots of lotion, keeping her cool, using a humidifier, and using even more lotion.

I think I'm still in shock that her test results were negative.  I'm just not sure how confident I am with those results.  She's so much like Bee with her symptoms and yet the doctor believes she has no allergies. 

We'll keep on with our tub soaks and lotion regime and the we'll go back in November.  I'm hoping to have some type of answer.  It's discouraging to hear that she has eczema with no real reason as to why.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Allergy Safe Nail Polish

When you parent an allergic kiddo, everything can pose an allergy risk.  I'm a little paranoid about nail polish but we've found a great natural alternative.  We love Piggy Paint at our house and it's safe for all my girls!  It's all natural and water-based with no harsh chemicals.  I even let Bee paint my nails with it!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Food Allergies, Sports, and Activities

We want our kids to be involved in activities.  But is there an activity without food?  Even with sports, there is always the snack brought after the practice or the game or the team get together at a local restaurant.  I am just not excited about sports.

There's also the added element of the outdoor sports.  With those we have to worry about the outdoor allergens and the heat.  Both of those factors can cause severe eczema flares in Bee.

So, I am concerned about the heat, bugs, pollen, dust, and food involved with most sports.

We've had to be a little creative with regard to our activities.  Right now, our kids are involved in 2 things - violin and ice skating.

Violin is indoors.  Yay!  You don't eat while you play!  You don't even get food near your violin.  Perfect!  Bee is loving violin lessons and she's slowly learning to play on her strings.  We have bi-weekly group lessons with our studio and all the kids play together.  Each week the kids have individual private lessons.  I love that they will have a foundation in music and will always be able to play an instrument.

Ice Skating is also indoors!  What I love about ice skating is that it's cold in there!  Bee can wear her warm and comfy clothes and can skate to her heart's content.  There is no food on the ice and everyone is covered up so that no one is directly touching Bee.  As long as we avoid the snack bar, we stay safe at the rink.

And we have swimming during the summer time.  Bee does well in swimming pools as long as she showers afterwards and uses lotion.  Swimming keeps her cool as well.  We try to go to the pool first thing in the morning so we avoid all the birthday parties and people who bring food to the pool area.

Can I admit that I'm glad we don't do soccer and baseball/softball?  I don't want to sit out at the fields every Saturday morning in the wind or the heat.  I don't want to be out late at night for practices or games. I don't want to battle the bugs!

Food allergies dictate our activities and the eczema limits us too.  But we can participate in a few things.  I've found that carefully choosing only a few activities is the best way to go for us.   

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Babies and Eczema

Well, lately I sometimes feel like I'm reliving the nightmare of when Bee was little.  Punkin has eczema, spits up a lot, and sometimes has tummy troubles.

I've made sure that I no longer sneak gluten and dairy-filled snacks but we're not sure what else could be bothering her.  This means a visit to our pediatrician and a referral to our immunologist at Texas Children's.

For now we're doing tub soaks, lotion, and we might have to try an elimination diet if her skin doesn't clear up soon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Allergy Free Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken

Here's a fast and easy weeknight dinner with only a few ingredients!  It was simple and yummy!  All the kids loved it and I enjoyed my chicken over a spinach salad!

Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken
1 T olive oil
5 garlic cloves minced
4 T brown sugar
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper

Salt and pepper each side of the chicken breasts and place in a foil lined baking dish.
Heat olive oil in skillet and lightly brown the garlic cloves.
Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar.
Pour over chicken in baking dish.
Bake at 425 for 20-40 minutes (or until juices run clear).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

News from the Hive

Our Hive has some news!  We are moving!  (I'm actually not excited about it........)  

Here's the scoop:

We live in a rent house and we were planning to renew our lease.  We just learned that our landlords want to move back into our rent house.  That means that we're going to have to move out this summer!

We are in the middle of house hunting for another house in one of the nearby neighborhoods.  So, the blogging might be a little sporadic between the packing and the moving.

We think we'll be moving sometime in June.  Moving with food allergies is not at all fun!

I hate house hunting with food allergies.  Why?  

  • Because we have to wander through houses that have pets or might have food out or might be dirty or might have tons of air freshener stinkiness!  All of those things can bother Bee!  (We often have to go as a family since we don't have someone to watch the kids and my hubby and I both need to see the houses).  So, the kids get to go along on our trips and we keep a careful eye on Bee at each house.  It does give us a good indication of how she'll do in the new home though.

  • Because it's hard to cook when you're in the middle of moving and packing.  When you don't have many options for eating out safely, you cherish your kitchen and home-cooked meals.  Cooking when your kitchen items are packed is really tough.  I hate trying to plan meals, get things cooked, or pick up our standby meal of Chick-Fil-A.  Moving means unhealthy and quickly planned meals.  

  • Because something might get overlooked in the midst of all the moving plans.  I'm afraid I'll forget something or misplace the Epi Pens or forget to read a label carefully.  Moving makes me lose my mind!  But I can't let that happen because I've got to keep Bee safe and not lose track of the kids during the craziness!

So, I think I've just discovered a new fear - moving with food allergies.  I'm afraid that I'll forget something or miss something or be less vigilant because of the chaos surrounding me.  And that's just not an option for us.

By the end of our move I hope this will be true of us:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Date Night

We had the chance for a fun date night for our anniversary last month.  So, what do food allergy parents do on date night?

First, we had my parents (and my grandma) here in town to watch the kids.  They are experienced allergy grandparents and are careful of our extensive allergy list.  The kids stayed in the hotel with them - where the chef is also aware of Bee's allergies.  He cooks some things special just for her.  So, the kids were taken care of and we had our first child-free date in a long, long time!

We went to a nearby restaurant and had a wonderful dinner together - filled with lots and lots of dairy and gluten and things made with eggs.  My favorite part of the dinner?  All the cheese!!!

Truffle oil fries with fresh parmesan cheese?  Yes please!!

And we even ordered mac and cheese.  That will always be one of my favorite foods - especially when it's made with Gruyere cheese!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wear Your Allergies

This is the closest we will get to watermelon this summer.........

If you can't eat it - wear it!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Please Don't Exclude Us

Food allergies are isolating.  We fully understand what exclusion means.  And it is so very hurtful sometimes!

I fear that Bee will be excluded from important events or from things she'd like to attend.  I fear being left out of parties and fun events.  I fear that people will refuse to invite us because we are hard to accommodate.

The fear of exclusion is real.  We've experienced what it's like to be excluded.

Years ago, another family was having a get together at their house.  We were the only family in this little group of friends who were not invited.  We heard about the party after the fact and were surprised that we were not invited.  We saw the host a few days later and the party somehow came up in conversation.  He looked sheepish and rather embarrassed; it was then he admitted that they didn't bother inviting us because they assumed we wouldn't be able to safely come.

True, we probably could not have attended, but it was quite a snub to not even be invited.  It did hurt my feelings.  Thankfully, the kids never knew.  But I worry about when this happens between kids.  What will we do when we experience our first birthday party snub?  How will Bee handle other kids talking about an event that she couldn't attend or wasn't invited to?  How will I comfort her and explain our differences?  Will this ever get easier?

It's so hard to walk away and leave events because of the food.  It's hard to turn down invitations because of the food that will be present there.  It's heartbreaking to know that we are so limited.

Some will exclude us because we are difficult to accommodate.
Some will exclude us based on fear - they are fearful that we will come and something could happen.
Some will exclude us because they refuse to acknowledge the food allergies and they are tired of hearing about them and dealing with them.

It's easier to exclude us.  We know this.  But how wonderful when someone makes the effort to include us.  How special it makes things knowing that others truly want us to be there and are willing to make sacrifices so Bee can attend.

My fear is that she'll experience more exclusion than loving inclusion during her little life.  I am fearful of explaining to her the reasons why.  I am sad to think that she will have her little heart hurt as she faces the exclusion that has already happened and is bound to happen again. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Food Allergies and Emotional Damage

I wrote about how I have separation anxiety and how I worry about being away from Bee.  I've also blogged about how much I worry.  Boy, do I worry and become fearful!

But how do I keep from letting my fears rub off on Bee?

I want Bee to live as normal a life as possible.  I want her to have wonderful experiences and learn to be independent and responsible.  I want her to be socially well-adjusted.  I want her to enjoy childhood, make memories, and develop confidence.

And I worry that I will destroy all of this with my crazy fears!

Did you know that I once saw a piece of cheese in a commercial and I panicked and switched off the TV.  Cuz, you know, that cheese was going to jump right out and attack her.  Yes, the food allergies have made me crazy!

And I saw a food allergy crazy kid once.  He was in a nut free classroom and the snack was served.  It was No Bake cookies that were safe for him and for Bee as well.  He took one bite of the cookie, flipped out, threw himself on the floor, started crying, and screamed that there were nuts in the cookies.  It took his mom 15 minutes to calm him.  He was extremely tightly wound.  And this child was 3!  Imagine what he'll be like as he gets older!

I want Bee to be aware of her allergies and understand the severity.  She must learn to be careful and know her limits.  But I want her to enjoy, to smile, to play, and to have fun.  I don't want her life to be dictated by what she can't do and what she can't eat.  I don't want her to be emotionally damaged by the fear of life with food allergies.  

Amazingly, Bee handles her situation very well.  She knows not to eat food from anyone.  She knows to have her medicine close by.  She understands to come to me when she isn't feeling well.  How is my child remotely normal and not completely neurotic??

We've talked with Bee and our other children over and over again.  We explain the allergies, we talk about how to be safe, we caution them against eating anything that isn't from us, and we remind them about the medicines we have on hand.  But then we focus on the things we can do, the foods we can eat, and the places we can go.  I try to point out all the experiences we've had despite our food allergies.  I focus on the positives.

In refusing to let fear dictate our daily life, I've noticed that Bee is confident, socially well-adjusted, funny, loving, compassionate, and responsible.  She handles her situation beautifully.  She doesn't look at what she can't do, but throws herself into everything that she can safely do.  She's proud of her food options and she's excited to try new foods.  She also sweetly shares her foods with others.

The other day she told me, "Mom, sometimes I'm itchy, but I'm the allergy girl."  She just accepts it and she moves on.  She doesn't even complain and her differences don't lower her self-esteem.  When I'm tempted to be frustrated or completely discouraged by our challenges, I think about how Bee handles her situation.  She's matter-of-fact and positive.  She has a lot to teach us. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Allergy Free Gingerbread Donuts

Here's a new donut recipe that is perfect for fall.  I don't know why I decided to make it this spring, but I just wanted some gingerbread!  These were yummy!

Gingerbread Donuts
2 cups flour blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 T Earth Balance soy free
1 cup rice milk mixed with 1 T lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk

Spray donut pans.
Whisk dry ingredients together.
Cut in Earth Balance with pastry blender.
Add milk, vanilla, and egg replacer.
Mix well (but there might still be a few lumps of Earth Balance and this is ok).
Fill donut pans only 3/4 full.
Bake for 12 minutes at 350.
Cool in pans for a few minutes and then move to cooling rack.

Cinnamon Glaze
I didn't actually measure any of the ingredients for the glaze.  So, let me guesstimate....
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
rice milk

Whisk together the powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Slowly add rice milk while whisking until the glaze is thin enough to pour over the donuts.

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