Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Quaker Oats Takes Jab at Food Allergic Community

Update: Quaker has apologized. However, I will still choose not to support them for now. 

An article came across my Facebook news feed the other day. It was on BuzzFeed and looked to be authored by Quaker (or at least was being used to promote the Quaker products). It was posted on Quaker's Facebook page, so even if the article was not from their marketing department directly, it was endorsed by their company Facebook page and was being used to advertise their products.

This article listed 50 Thoughts Every Mom Has at Snack Time. You can read it on the website at BuzzFeed.

The article begins by detailing a mom's inner thoughts as she tries to prepare an after-school snack for her kids. Here's a screen shot of the first part of the article:

Really? These are the thoughts that run through every mom's mind during snack time? These thoughts have NEVER crossed my mind and I can say for certain that my sweet friends never entertain these thoughts.

My kids have life-threatening food allergies. Feeding us is like a chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong. I have a hard time finding safe and healthy snacks for us and I know my friends do as well.

However, my friends treat us graciously. They ask me what is safe for my kids and go above and beyond to accommodate us. They encourage me to bring my own food and they commit to only feeding their children safe foods while mine are nearby.

I know this is not the case with everyone. Some people are incredibly inconvenienced by our food allergies. Others are downright rude to us about it.

Well, I'm not sorry that my child's life threatening medical condition makes your life slightly more challenging. I AM incredibly sorry that my kids have to navigate a world where people and even companies treat them as second-class citizens, making them out to be nothing more than an incredible inconvenience and the butt of many jokes.

Shame on the author of this article. The statement, "I mean, I like her, but come on" is beyond offensive. This insinuates that we should only be friends with those who are just like us. Forget those who have various challenges, they are not worth befriending. No, only like people who are don't have any type of difficulty.

I guess this means that we can't be friends with those who have cancer or other serious medical conditions, are handicapped, have emotional struggles, or have learning challenges. I mean, come on, those people are difficult to be around sometimes! Heaven forbid that I have to exhibit some grace and compassion, I mean, that's just so time consuming for my very busy self!

Absolutely not. This kind of self-centered thinking is the problem - not the sweet kids and courageous families who are faced with incredible challenges. 

These are not the thoughts of EVERY mom at snack time. No, I'm thankful to report that a few gracious, kind, compassionate souls still exist. I know, for they are my friends. They help me advocate for my children with their allergies and they are quick to sacrifice for our safety. 

I will not be supporting this company in the future. I hope they apologize and show a little compassion and humility. Maybe with some phone calls they can be educated about the severity of food allergies. I urge you to contact them at this number and share your thoughts on this article with them: 1-800-367-6287

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Effects of Anaphylaxis

I wanted to share this graphic of the 17 Effects of Anaphylaxis on the Body. While I've seen little Bee have many of these symptoms I was not fully aware of all the different internal effects of anaphylaxis. I learned a thing or two about Bee's reactions and I plan to share this with family and friends so everyone can better understand what happens during an allergic reaction.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

{Allergy Free} Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

These are wonderful moist muffins with the perfect amount of chocolate. I love that they have no cinnamon so the flavor is purely pumpkin and chocolate. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

6 tsp egg replacer whisked with 8 T rice milk
2 cups sugar
1 can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup apple sauce
3 cups flour blend
1 tsp xanthan
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips

In large bowl whisk together egg replacer mixture through applesauce until smooth.
In another bowl combine flour through salt and whisk well.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 400 for 14-16 minutes.

When cool, glaze with a mixture of rice milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Drizzle over the top of muffins.

Adapted from Echoes of Laughter

Thursday, October 16, 2014

{Allergy Free} Maple Cinnamon Cookies

Maple Cinnamon Cookies

3/4 cup Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T original hemp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T maple syrup
2 1/2 cups flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan
2 tsp baking powder
t tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup Spectrum shortening
1/2 cup Earth Balance
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
3 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon for sprinkling

Cream Earth Balance with both sugars until light and fluffy.
Add egg replacer, vanilla, and maple syrup and mix well.
Add all dry ingredients and mix slowly until dough forms.
Roll spoonfuls of dough into balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
Flatten slightly with hand.
Bake at 375 for 10-11 minutes.
Cool on wire racks for 5 minutes.
Frost when completely cool.

For frosting, cream Earth Balance and shortening together until smooth.
Add powdered sugar and salt and mix well.
Add maple syrup and vanilla and mix on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
Spread onto cool cookies and sprinkle them with cinnamon.

Linked up with Allergy Free Wednesdays at Real Food, Allergy Free

Thursday, October 9, 2014

{Allergy Free} Apple and Caramel Muffins

Apple and Caramel Muffins

1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/3 cup brown sugar packed
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup rice milk whisked with 1 tsp lemon juice
2 1/2 cups flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup diced apples (peeled)

Streusel Topping:
1 T Earth Balance
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp xanthan gum

Caramel Icing
2 T Earth Balance
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T rice milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix the dry ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a bowl.
Mix the wet ingredients (olive oil through rice milk mixture) in another bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
Gently fold in the apples.
Pour into greased muffin tins and add streusel topping.
Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.
Then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 10-12 more minutes until tops spring back.
Let muffins cool in pans for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool on wire racks.

To make icing:
Combine Earth Balance through rice milk in small saucepan and heat over medium low heat.
Whisk until the brown sugar has melted.
Then add vanilla and powdered sugar.
Drizzle warm icing over muffins.

Makes 12 large muffins.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Unknown Food Allergies

Let's talk a little bit about our sweet Punkin. I have said that she had food allergies from the time that she was only a few weeks old. Here's why I suspected food allergies from the beginning:

  • She had incredibly dry skin. We're talking about very rough, sandpaper, flaky skin. My pediatrician was shocked when he saw her at her 2 month check up because her skin was so very dry and scaly.
  • She had eczema and red rashy skin. Bee was our original eczema baby and while Punkin's has never been as bad, she did have lots of red rashes (and still does).
  • And of course there's the tell-tale sign of hives. She's had outbreaks of hives multiple times. While hives can be caused by other things, I was fairly certain that these were food related.

So, to keep track of Punkin's allergic reactions I keep a food diary. I write down every time she has hives and what she ate that day. So far I haven't been able to confirm any patterns. However, I suspect that she has an issue with dairy and with nuts - specifically almonds.

Right now we can't be sure what she is allergic to. In fact, her allergy tests all came back negative when she was tested last year. But we know from personal experience that these tests are not always accurate, especially on young children. The most accurate way to determine a food allergy is through a food challenge. Of course, I'm not going to start feeding suspicious foods to Punkin to see if she has a reaction, but I can tell a few patterns after looking through our food journal.

While we usually eat only allergy-free foods in our house, there have been times when only Punkin has gone to dinner with us and tried a few regular foods. And there are a few hidden snacks in our house that are just for the parental figures. These snacks are not allergy free and are usually eaten late at night when Bee is not around to have any problems.

Not knowing what is causing a reaction is the most frustrating and scary part of being a food allergy parent. You want your kids to try new foods but you know that new foods could cause a problem. However, you have no idea which foods you should try and which foods might cause a reaction.

What can you do to help you discover the list of food allergies?

  • Keep a food journal - Write down everything that your child eats daily and how their skin looks and if they have any reactions.

  • Continue with allergy tests - While these are not always accurate, they do sometimes yield some helpful information.

  • Learn about food families - Knowing that Bee has an allergy to banana means that she's likely to also have an allergy to avocado and melons (which she does) because those are in the same family and are cross-reactive. 

  • Listen to your child - Often Bee will refuse to eat certain things and it is often because they make her feel unwell. She's a fairly good judge of things that bother her or might cause a problem. Sometimes I just have to trust her senses and intuition. 

There are many reactions that we've never pinpointed the cause. I try to write down everything I remember from the day of every reaction and keep a list, but it doesn't always become clear what food caused the reactions. I can just go off our past experiences and what our various allergy tests have shown. There is so much guesswork and intuition involved.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Allergy Free No Nut Butter Baked Oatmeal

Perfect for a quick school morning breakfast. And it tastes just like eating a chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookie. Yummy!

No Nut Butter Baked Oatmeal

1 1/2 cups regular gluten free oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup original hemp milk-unsweetened
1/4 cup unsweet applesauce
1/4 cup melted Earth Balance
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Pea Butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Grease a 7x11 pan.
Mix all ingredients together in large bowl and then spread in pan.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aftermath of an Allergic Reaction

Doctors tell you what to look for during an allergic reaction. You've seen these anaphylactic reactions so you know what they entail. You alert everyone to look for hives, swelling, redness, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Numerous online articles are dedicated to outlining all the possible symptoms of an allergic reaction. It's important to quickly recognize these symptoms and be ready to respond with medication. But no one tells you what life is like immediately following an allergic reaction.

Here is what happens at our house after a reaction:

  • Bee is exhausted. She will often go straight to bed and sleep for hours after a reaction. She's usually very tired for the next few days as well.
  • Bee is swollen - often for several days. This swelling is usually somewhere on her face or her neck.
  • Bee is stuffy and runny. She sounds like she has a terrible cold and she needs lots of Kleenex.
  • Bee has a cough. She will start coughing during her reaction and the cough will linger for several days or even a week. It's usually a dry cough that occurs throughout the day and can be worse at night.
  • Bee is itchy. While the itching is uncontrollable during an allergic reaction, she might still have some minor itchiness for several days afterward. This means lots of lotion, cool baths, steroid cream, and humidifiers.
  • Bee has a rash. During the reaction Bee usually has a full body rash of hives. After the reaction calms down, she is usually left with patches of a red, bumpy rash. This is usually her eczema flaring up and making her feel hot and itchy.
  • Bee needs Benadryl. We often need to treat her discomfort with some Benadryl for a few days. It also helps prevent a rebound reaction since it does take a few days for the allergen to completely exit her system.
  • Sometimes Bee needs oral steroids for a few days. While I don't like giving her steroids, they are sometimes necessary following a severe reaction. They keep the swelling down and help prevent a rebound reaction.

Usually with an allergic reaction we spend about 6 hours in the ER to treat the reaction and monitor Bee. After that, we go home with an exhausted child who is still miserably uncomfortable. Then we spend the next few weeks hovering over her, watching for any signs of another reaction and worrying ourselves silly. Thankfully, she's never had a severe rebound reaction and after a few days, is feeling like her old self again.

While a reaction is very scary and stressful to the child, what does the recovery process look like for the parents?

  • We are weary and exhausted. We usually feel like we need a nap after our ordeal. It's almost like feeling you've been up for days and then run over by a truck. It's a terrible kind of tired.
  • I usually have a migraine. The stress and panic of the reaction usually sets off a migraine for me. Not only am I tired, but I have to spend the next day in bed with a pounding headache.
  • We are stressed. Nothing can ruin your day like seeing your child unable to breathe. It makes us feel stressed and that stress and anxiety linger for weeks.
  • We feel guilty. After every reaction we analyze what we did and what we didn't do. We feel guilty wondering if we could have prevented the reaction or if it was somehow our fault.
  • We become hyper vigilant. If you thought we are always neurotic, you should see us after a reaction. We check and double check everything. Many days we don't even feel like leaving our little allergy free house. We also tend to hover over Bee and worry about everything she touches.
  • We lose trust in both ourselves and others around us. The guilt compounds and we feel completely overwhelmed and unable to cope with our allergy lifestyle. We question everything we do and cook. We also refuse to eat out for a time and we try to stay away from everyone for a few days to allow us some recovery time. We feel like we're second-guessing ourselves and everyone around us.
  • We plan for the next time. After each reaction we come away a little more knowledgeable and a little more prepared. We talk about what we would do differently next time and how we can be better prepared for an emergency.

We experience the aftermath of an allergic reaction for weeks and sometimes months after the initial incident. Once the initial reaction is over, there is still a long recovery time. This recovery is not just physical, but is mostly emotional.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chicken Potato Soup

Here's an easy fall crockpot recipe. The red potatoes, garlic, and rosemary make a perfect comfort food!

Chicken Potato Soup

6 large red potatoes, washed and diced
1 large onion diced
6 garlic cloves diced
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 package of chicken breasts
enough chicken broth to cover
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in crockpot.
Cook on low for 6 hours.
Remove chicken and dice and the place back in crockpot.

1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/4 + 1/8 cup rice flour
1 cup rice milk

Melt Earth Balance in small saucepan.
Whisk in the rice flour.
Slowly pour in the rice milk and whisk until the roux is thick.
Pour the roux into the soup in the crockpot and turn off crockpot.
Let thicken for 20 minutes and then serve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When the Food Allergy Lifestyle Gets Old

If you are managing food allergies, you know that it gets old rather quickly. It is so tiresome to constantly evaluate every situation for an allergen and read every label for safety. I often confess to my husband that I'm tired-tired of eating this way, tired of living this way, tired of explaining the allergies, and tired of being so stand-out different. I just want to go out to restaurants whenever we want. I want to go to that birthday party and not worry about food. I'd like to go to someone's house even though they have cats and dogs and there are peanut butter cracker crumbs on the floor.

But in the times that the food allergy life gets old to me, I realize that I'm not being vigilant. Usually I'm able to remind myself that I have to be always aware in order to keep Bee safe. I must refuse to give up even though I'm tired. Other times I find myself being less careful or even entertaining the thought that she has grown out of an allergy. Most of the allergic reactions and ER visits that we've experienced have been in these times when I was feeling less alert in monitoring the allergies.

Yes, I get so very tired of living this way, but it's no excuse for forgetting to read every label and not taking the time to call every event ahead of time to discuss the allergy safety protocol. Despite the mundane moments in this allergy life, I have to choose to persevere and continue to advocate for Bee.

If I get tired of the allergy life, how much more so do those around me? I've noticed a trend in friendships.

In the beginning, I explain the food allergies and am usually met with faces of fear and awe. They are terrified to be around my children and amazed at what our family has to manage. I try to impress the seriousness of the allergies upon them so that they will be alert and aware when around our family. This helps keep Bee safe when we are with friends. I need everyone working together to insure that Bee's environment is safe.

It becomes more routine after we've known people for a little while. They easily remember that we are "the weird allergy family" and so they always remember to wash their hands and do things differently around us. They don't need me to remind them that they can't eat certain food around us. They know that we can't attend certain events - like that ice cream sundae party. So, they know that when we decline invitations that we're not being rude or ungrateful, we're just being safe.

Over time though, I've seen that some friends tend to forget the allergy situation or at least diminish the seriousness of the allergies that we manage. They ask if they can bring certain foods to our house. They ask if they can eat something around us. They question why we don't get out more and they wonder why we live so differently.

I've learned that this is not because they are insensitive and inconsiderate. It's just because our allergy lifestyle gets old to us and to everyone around us. They get tired of taking the precautions all the time. The seriousness of the food allergies gets tiresome and they can become forgetful. They don't intend to cause us to be in an unsafe situation, but they can overlook what we cannot - that Bee's life is at stake and we won't compromise her safety.

So, what do you do? I remind myself that they don't have to think of food allergies daily. When the newness of our friendship starts to wear off, so does their awareness of our allergies. They can become forgetful. They have good intentions but they simply don't live in this state of awareness that we do.

I have to extend them some grace. The same grace that I have to give to myself when I am feeling less than eager to read another label or cook another new meal. I understand that I can get tired of being different. It's to be expected really. Others will feel the same way. They will be tired of having to be alert and aware around us. They will accidentally forget certain things about our medical issues. And in those moments, I can respond in grace and provide gentle reminders.

There are going to be times when I feel less alert and when others experience forgetfulness. A food allergy parent must continue to persevere even when it's tiresome and it just gets so very old to live this way. In those moments I have to look at Bee and I'm quickly reminded that it's all worth it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

{Allergy Free} French Toast Muffins

French Toast Muffins

1/3 cup melted Earth Balance
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk

For topping:
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

In large mixing bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together.
Add wet ingredients and mix slowly until just blended.
Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes.

For topping:
Mix cinnamon and sugar in small bowl.
Melt Earth Balance in separate bowl.
Dip muffins into Earth Balance and then roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

You can make 8 larger muffins or 12 smaller muffins filling the tins only half full.

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Can the Church Include Food Allergic Kids?

It's hard to visit churches when you have a food allergic child.  Some churches are very aware of allergies and others have a long way to go in learning how to keep allergic children safe.

So, how can a church include kids with food allergies while also keeping them safe?

Educate staff on the serious nature of food allergies
It's difficult as an allergy parent to walk into a church and encounter staff who know nothing about food allergies. It means that I have to spend lots of time trying to explain food allergies and what they mean for my child. If everyone on the staff is aware of what food allergies are and the serious allergic reactions that can occur, it is easier to make sure my child is safe. All staff should be educated on the signs of an allergic reaction and the safety measures and medical protocol. 

Make sure all staff members know how to use an Epi pen or AuviQ
Many churches have training and background checks for volunteers and staff. These should also include a brief education on the treatment for an allergic reaction using an Epi pen or AuviQ. If all staff and volunteers know how to use the life saving devices, then the children's area is a much safer place for any child with allergies. Basic first aid should be part of the training to work with children in the church.

Have an allergy policy in place
The church should already have a policy in place for accommodating an allergic child.  This policy should include some type of notation in their computer system that alerts everyone of the allergies. There should be a way that the allergies are notated on the child's name tag or on the role sheet that the teacher's have every week. The staff should also have an emergency protocol for what to do if a child has an allergic reaction. A plan should be in place for the staff to know to administer meds, contact 911, alert a supervisor, and quickly locate the parents.

Serve a snack that is free of the top 8 allergens
The most common allergens are peanuts, treenuts, shellfish, fish, wheat, dairy, eggs, and soy. An easy to find food that is free of all of these allergens is Rice Chex, Cinnamon Chex, or Chocolate Chex. Other brands to consider are Kinnikinnick, Enjoy Life, and Glutino. Careful label reading will help you find snacks that don't contain these common allergens.  

Consider becoming food free
Some nurseries and children's programs are choosing to be food free for the 2 hours that children are in their care. These churches chose to focus on Bible lessons, play, music, and arts and craft time. They keep the kids busy with other pursuits and skip snack time altogether. This is a great alternative for kids who have food allergies and it eliminates the worry for parents of food allergic kids. In a society where every function revolves around food, this is one safe place where kids are able to learn without fear of coming in contact with an allergen.

Be open to learning about the different allergy needs of each child
The allergy profile of every child is different. What is safe for one child may not be safe for another food allergic child. There are many types of allergies and the degree of allergy varies widely as well. The church must be flexible and open to discussing the allergy situation of each child and reevaluating their program as needed. Policies might need to be changed if a new child joins the program. If the entire staff recognizes the unique needs of each allergy family, they can adapt and train staff on the new changes.

The important thing to understand is that every food allergy family has different allergies and must take different precautions. If the church staff is open to learning the details of each situation and changing their policies accordingly, food allergy families will be able to participate and feel included in church functions. And we so appreciate being a part of our faith communities as much as possible despite our allergy limitations!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

{Allergy Free} Maple Cinnamon Bread

Maple Cinnamon Bread

2 1/4 cups flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup rice milk whisked with 1 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup browned Earth Balance (melt Earth Balance over medium heat until it bubbles and then wait until it is clear, about 5 minutes)
1/8 cup cold Earth Balance
1 T cinnamon
2 T brown sugar

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 T rice milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk together flour blend through salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl stir together the maple syrup through browned Earth Balance.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients just until combined.
In a separate small bowl cut the cold Earth Balance into the cinnamon and brown sugar.
Fold the cinnamon mixture into the batter.
Pour into small greased bread tins.
Bake at 350 for 25-27 minutes or until toothpick inserted into loaves comes out clean.
Let cool in pans for 15 minutes and then cool on wire racks.
To make the icing combine the ingredients and whisk well, adding more powdered sugar or rice milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.
Drizzle loaves with icing.

Makes 4 small loaves.

Linked up with Linda's Lunacy Making a Home Linky

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Food Allergies and Church Don't Mix

I've found that the church is one of the most difficult places to navigate with our food allergic family. It's so frustrating to us. We want to be involved and be a part of our faith community. But our food allergies severely limit the number of activities and functions that we attend.

We've even found some churches to be unable to accommodate our family. When this happens, I'm sad and discouraged. Some staff are inconvenienced by our needs. Rather than find ways to allow us to participate, they are rigid in their policies and unwilling to make changes to welcome our family. This can be very hurtful and while we try not to take it personally, we do feel isolated at times. The very place that should be accepting of our medical needs, the church, is the one place where we are not welcome.

What makes a church an unfriendly allergy place?

Most churches serve coffee and donuts or other morning foods such as muffins. When you are bombarded with breakfast foods at every turn, it becomes frustrating and scary. Trying to walk through halls or pass through common areas where everyone has plates piled high with unsafe foods is a nightmare.

Some churches allow food in the sanctuary. In some churches, the members sip their coffee and snack on donuts in their seats as they listen to the sermon. This means that it is unsafe to sit on the pews or chairs at church. We sometimes have to bring blankets to cover our seating area to minimize the risk to our children.

Some churches have multiple buildings and the children are far removed from parents. In these situations, it would take a long time for me to navigate the large campus to get to my child in the event of an emergency. It also makes it difficult to communicate with those who are caring for our children and makes it impossible for us to check on them without missing the Bible study for adults.

Most children's programs serve snacks. This means that I can't leave my kids in any of the rooms safely because they are contaminated. Because snack time is such an ingrained notion in most church programs, the thought of changing the normal snack or doing away with the snack completely is met with much resistance. With the unwilling attitude to make changes to the snack policy, it means that my child cannot attend.

Most staff members are uneducated about food allergies and emergency protocol. Because the teachers and staff do not understand food allergies, I am unable to safely leave my children. Often, the staff has no plan in place to accommodate children with any type of special need and I'm left with a child who has no classroom to attend and who feels completely isolated and left out.

Many staff members underestimate the severity of the allergies or don't take the risk seriously. I've had many members tell me that they'll just serve my child a different snack while still serving the unsafe snack to the rest of the kids. They don't understand that just being in the room with the food can cause a problem. Some even believe that a little bit of the allergic food won't be a problem and have not followed my snack instructions for my children. This results in allergic reactions for my kids.

Most church functions revolve around food. The Sunday night fellowships often include a dessert get together after the service. Wednesdays nights often begin with a church wide meal. Special events are centered around the food, the candy, the ice cream, or the desserts. Sometimes the Bible studies are even potluck-style with everyone bringing their favorite snack food. When it comes to church events, the food is inescapable.

Many churches are changing their format to include small groups in people's homes. These always include food. For an allergic child, going to another person's home is often very unsafe. There could be residue of allergic foods throughout the house or the owners could have pets that cause allergy issues. Moving the church functions into homes of church members that are not aware of the allergies creates a scary environment that can be dangerous.

All of these situations create a problem for food allergic families. Because there is a general lack of awareness and sometimes no allergy policy in place, churches are often very unsafe. This means that there are times when we cannot attend church or must visit multiple churches to be able to find one where we can safely attend. We want to worship with those who share our faith and not be limited by the medical conditions of our children. At some churches, it's just not possible.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

{Allergy Free} Blueberry Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

This is perfect for rushed school days when you want a warm breakfast. The cinnamon and nutmeg go wonderfully well with the dried blueberries. My kids loved pouring some milk over their oatmeal to help it cool.

Blueberry Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

3 cups regular oats
1/4 tsp xanthan
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup olive oil
4 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 6 T rice milk
1 1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk

Grease a 7x11 pan well.
Mix all ingredients in large bowl and then spread in pan.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Can pour milk over the oatmeal before serving.

This can sit in the fridge over night covered with foil. If you choose to do that, place the pan in cold oven and preheat to 350 and then let it bake.

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

{Allergy Free} Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

These are rich, creamy, and amazing.  The cupcake is moist and the frosting is thick, but my favorite part is the cookie crumbles throughout the cupcake and icing. 

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
4 cups flour blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup vanilla hemp milk
4 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 6 T rice milk
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance
1 cup water
1 package of K-Too chocolate cookies (Oreo substitute)

Pull all cookies in half, leaving cream on one side.
Put the cookie pieces with cream on them on bottom of lined muffin tins, cream side up.
Crush remaining cookie halves.
Mix dry ingredients.
Add all wet ingredients and mix well in mixer until smooth.
Fold in 3/4 of the remaining crushed cookies, reserving the last 1/4 of the crushed pieces to put in icing.
Pour over the cookies in muffin tins.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

For icing:
1/3 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup cream cheese substitute
1 T vanilla hemp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar
remaining cookie crumbs

Mix together all ingredients, adding more milk or powdered sugar to reach a thick, creamy consistency.
Fold in the cookie crumbs and pipe icing onto cupcakes when cool.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

If you use one package of K-Toos you will not have enough cookies for each cupcake.  I just left a few cupcakes without a cookie on bottom rather than open a new package.

*These should probably be stored in the fridge because the cream cheese substitute can become runny when not kept cold.

Linked with Share Your Stuff Tuesday

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Linked with Linda's Lunacy

Hip Homeschool Moms

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Identifying as the Allergy Family

If you knew us in real life we would be "that family with food allergies."  Most people know *of* us before they've actually been introduced to us.  I feel like we walk around with a tattoo across our foreheads that identifies us as the food allergy family.

Why this is good
  • People never forget us
With our little entourage of 5 stair step kiddos and our larger than life food allergies, we are pretty memorable.  Thankfully this means that people immediately recognize us and our kids and connect us with food allergies.  This helps us keep our kids safe.

  • People heighten their awareness when we are around
Because we are apparently so unforgettable people are mindful of what they are eating or serving when we are around.  Most people see us and their immediate reaction is to remove food or to keep food away from us.  At least they get the message and give us a wide path.

  • People are educated about food allergies through us
We have the privilege of being the face of food allergies in our community.  When people think of food allergies, they immediately think of us.  And through the educational information that we've been able to share with others, they are more aware and understanding of others with food allergies.  They often refer newly diagnosed friends to us so we can connect with other new allergy parents.

  • People are brought into our food allergy network
Through our food allergy advocacy we often meet other families with food allergies.  It is encouraging to be able to connect with them, share our struggles, talk about our discoveries, and commiserate about our fears.  We have been able to connect with so many other wonderful people and families through our identity as an allergy family. 

Why this isn't good

  • I hate standing out
Our family stands out and not always in a good way.  People seem to panic when they see us coming and quickly hide the food.  When they talk with us the conversation often centers around the food allergies and how to keep our kids safe.  I miss being somewhat normal.  I miss just being able to have a quiet conversation and not have friends and teachers tracking me down to ask food safety questions.

  • I hate when we are treated differently
Yes, we are sometimes looked at as if we are pretty strange.  Some people refuse to accept the reality or severity of the food allergies and they think we are ridiculously over-protective parents.  Others are so worried about the food allergies and our kids that they seem to exist in a state of panic whenever they are near us.  

  • I hate when we are excluded
There have been times that we were not invited to a party or other function because the host didn't know how to accommodate us (or didn't want to make the effort).  It's hard to hear of birthday parties or get togethers that bypassed us.  Some people are honest and tell us they don't know how we could possibly come and others try to secretly overlook our lack of invite.  Either way, it does hurt that we can't participate as much as we would like.  There's no easy answer for including us, but it's heartbreaking to watch the world go by filled with cupcakes, ice cream, and pizza and miss out on the fun and togetherness.

  • I hate when it feels lonely
I've talked about it before and I'll say it again.  The food allergy life can be lonely.  Some people think I'm crazy for my vigilance.  Others don't understand our medical issues.  Still others overlook us because it can seem nearly impossible to find a way to safely spend time with us.  I feel the loneliness and also worry about our children's ability to make friends who are compassionate and understanding.

I'm still trying to make peace with the fact that we are the food allergy family and that our reputation will always precede us.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

{Allergy Free} Strawberry Streusel Muffins

Strawberry Streusel Muffins

1 3/4 cup flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup hemp milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely diced fresh strawberries

Streusel Topping
1/4 flour blend
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan
2 T Earth Balance cut into small pieces

In small bowl combine first 7 ingredients.
In large bowl whisk together hemp milk through vanilla.
Stir in dry ingredients until just moistened.
Gently fold in strawberries.
Spoon into greased muffin tins.

To make streusel:
Combine flour, sugar, and xanthan in small bowl and cut in Earth Balance until mixture forms crumbs.  Gently press topping onto each muffin before baking.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Cool on wire racks.

Makes 12 muffins.


I'm linking up with Allergy Free Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why You Need a Spacer for Your Inhaler

When we were first prescribed rescue inhalers to keep in case of emergency I was not very familiar with them.  My husband has asthma but he rarely uses an inhaler so I was hesitant and overwhelmed.  I thought that you simply grabbed the inhaler, took a quick puff, held your breath, and then were fine.  I've learned a few things since then.  After visiting with the respiratory therapist at our hospital I was introduced to the spacer.

What is a spacer?

Spacers are devices that fit with an inhaler and help ensure that the medicine is properly administered.

There are two more common types of spacers:

One has a round opening that is placed in the mouth.  The inhaler is attached to the other end and medicine is sprayed into the chamber of the spacer.  Through taking normal breaths, the medicine is administered to the lungs.

The other type has a face mask that is placed over the nose and mouth.  The medicine is sprayed into the chamber of the spacer.  The medicine is administered to the lungs through the nose and mouth.

Which spacer do we have?

We actually have both.  However, we have found that Bee is most comfortable with using the spacer with the small mask.  I carefully fit the mask around her nose and mouth and administer her medicine.  She takes 5-8 normal breaths and then all the medicine has left the chamber and entered her lungs.  She is not as comfortable with placing the other spacer in her mouth.  Spacers with the mask are better for younger children.

Why do we use a spacer?

Without a spacer, much of the medicine from the inhaler sprays into the mouth and coats the teeth, tongue, and throat without reaching the lungs.  Less medicine actually reaches the lungs.  Also, much of the medicine can be swallowed and will end up in the stomach without reaching the lungs.

With a spacer, a child can breathe normally while the medicine is administered.  Because the medicine is sprayed into the chamber and not the mouth, most of the medicine is breathed directly into the lungs.  Therefore, a spacer ensures that the maximum amount of medicine enters the lungs.

So, in our little Epi Pen bags we have an inhaler and a spacer for when we need to use that inhaler.  Now I don't have to worry about whether Bee is getting the proper amount of medicine. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chocolate Dipped Donuts

Chocolate Dipped Donuts

1 1/2 cups flour blend
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 dash of nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
3 T Earth Balance melted
1/4 cup rice milk
1 container Greek coconut yogurt, plain flavor
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Dip Topping
1 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup vanilla hemp milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
extra hemp milk

Whisk together dry ingredients (flour blend through nutmeg).
In separate bowl combine all wet ingredients.
Gently stir in the dry ingredients until just blended.
Scoop batter into large Ziploc and snip off part of one corner.
Pipe donut batter into greased donut pans.
Bake at 350 for 9 minutes.
Cool on wire racks.

To make chocolate dip topping:
Heat the milk for 90 seconds.
Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla.
When chocolate chips are melted, quickly stir in powdered sugar.
Add extra hemp milk only if the dip is too thick.  You want to be able to dip the donuts in the topping and pull them out easily.  Whisk in the milk until the topping is a creamy spread.
Add sprinkles and leave donuts on wire racks to let the chocolate dip harden.

Makes 12 donuts.

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!
Hip Homeschool Moms

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does the Type of Inhaler Matter?

My doctor has prescribed Xopenex inhaler's for Bee.  These are the blue inhalers for those of you who identify inhalers by color.  The medicine in the inhaler is levalbuterol which is a little bit different from the albuterol in a regular inhaler.  For some, the levalbuterol has fewer side effects - less jitters and shakiness.  We have used this inhaler in the past without any problems.

When I went to get a refill after the inhaler from our doctor was running low, I learned that our insurance refuses to pay for this inhaler.  Why?  Well, they wouldn't tell me, but after I did a comparison between Xopenex and the regular albuterol inhalers on the market I realized that it had everything to do with the price.  The Xopenex inhalers are extremely expensive and there is no generic version available.

I called my doctor to ask to have Bee's prescription changed to an albuterol inhaler.  I asked for the ProAir HFA inhaler because that is one my husband uses.  I knew that this inhaler would fit into Bee's spacer and that it had a dosage counter.  Both of these features are extremely important to me.  Bee can get the maximum amount of medicine through using her spacer.  Also, I don't have to keep track of each time with use the inhaler or worry about running low on medicine and being left with an empty inhaler.  So, I specifically requested that little red and white inhaler.

When I went to the pharmacy to pick up our prescription the pharmacy had filled the Proventil (yellow) inhaler instead.  They assured me that it was the exact same medicine.  I then asked if the inhaler had a dosage counter and was promised that indeed it did.  I came home with my inhaler and opened it to put it into our Epi pen bag.  I noticed that there was NOT a dosage counter.  Then I looked at the shape of this inhaler - it was round and did not have the squared-off shape of our other inhalers.  This means that it will not fit snugly into Bee's spacer.

I had just paid $60 for an inhaler that was not what I requested and did not meet the specifications that I had asked of the pharmacy.  Yes, I admit.  I was furious.  I called the pharmacy and after much haggling, was told I could bring back the inhaler and trade it for the ProAir.

I asked if my doctor had prescribed the Proventil inhaler and was told that the doctor simply prescribed an albuterol inhaler and that the pharmacy had filled it with the Proventil inhaler.  They did not consult with me or give me an option.

When I picked up my new inhaler I had a $15 refund on a card.  Yes, the ProAir inhaler happens to be cheaper than the Proventil inhaler.  I was about to ask the pharmacy why I wasn't given an option and why the Proventil was chosen for me without my consent.  Well, my answer is price.  The pharmacy preferred to make as much as possible off of our prescription so they filled my order with the most expensive inhaler option that they had.

So, what lessons did I learn?

  • Always talk with your doctor about the options available.  If you request a specific brand of inhaler make sure that the doctor writes that on the slip so that the pharmacy cannot change your prescription.

  • Always check the shape of your inhalers against the shape of your spacer.  I had no idea inhalers came in different shapes.  They sure do though!  Make sure the ones you have fit comfortably in your spacers.

  • Always check the price break down with the pharmacy before you fill your prescription.  They will happily try to upcharge you or give you a more expensive medicine when a cheaper alternative exists.  Feel free to nag them until you are sure you have the best option in medication.

  • Always do research before taking a medicine home.  If I had looked up the Proventil online before I picked it up I would have learned that it was the wrong shape, wrong price, and wrong specification (no dosage counter).  I could have refused to pick up the prescription and worked with my doctor to get the ProAir instead.

While we've been managing food allergies for a while I'm still new to the asthma world.  There are so many options and medicines that it is totally overwhelming.  I'm still learning!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

{Allergy Free} Peach Crisp

Peach Crisp

1 cup flour blend
1/2 cup rolled oats (Gluten Free)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 T flour blend
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
2 large peaches (or 3 medium peaches) peeled and chopped

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp rice milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Line 8x8 baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Mix the ingredients for the crust together and cut in the Earth Balance until mixture is crumbly.
Reserve 3/4 cup of mixture.
Press remaining mixture on bottom of pan evenly.

For filling:
Whisk together all ingrediets except peaches.
Gently fold in peaches.
Pour on top of crust.
Top with left over crust mixture.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Cool completely before adding glaze.

For glaze:
Whisk together all ingredients and pour over dessert when cool.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When Your Doctor is Condescending

We had a recent ER visit with Punkin for an allergic reaction.  I wasn't sure what caused the reaction but I did have a suspicion.  I believed she had an allergic reaction to a fire ant bite.  But since Punkin has no diagnosed allergies, it was just a guess (although a somewhat educated guess).

When we entered the ER I showed the nurse Punkin's foot which was very swollen and red.  It looked like it had multiple bites on it.  The nurse agreed that it looked like she had bitten.  We both thought fire ants were a likely possibility.

After getting Punkin all settled and checking her vitals, I waited for the doctor.  I hoped it would be the same doctor we had seen before in this particular ER.  Unfortunately, it wasn't.  A lady breezed into the room and started tossing questions my way.  Then she dismissively waved in Punkin's direction and said that they would be sending us home soon with some Benadryl.

I was beginning to feel frustrated.  She had not even touched Punkin or even come close to her, much less examined her.  She offered not encouragement, no diagnosis, no advice.  So, I thought it was time for me to get in my questions.  After all, I was paying a high premium for her time and she needed to give it to me so I could do what was best for Punkin.

I asked her what had caused this reaction - if it was likely that Punkin had some underlying allergies that were not diagnosed.  I mentioned that we had a family history of extreme allergies but that Punkin had previously tested negative even though I knew that not all tests were accurate.

She then launched into a tirade against allergy testing and how controversial it was.  That was my answer to that.

Then I asked her if she thought I should worry about a secondary reaction or a rebound reaction and also what I should do in the future.

Her answer was that I needed to give her Benadryl.  Then she went on to explain all the symptoms of anaplylaxis in "doctor speak," using terms such as "stridor and urticaria" without bothering to explain any of them.  What she didn't know was that I knew what these terms meant - if only a minimal understanding - because I'm an allergic mom.

My last question was the cause of the allergy.

She extolled the virtues of keeping an extensive food diary of everything that Punkin ate to help us find patterns that might point to an allergy.

I then explained that it had been several hours since Punkin had eaten anything but had been at the pool.  I asked her if she thought it could be fire ants and if the bites on her foot looked like fire ants.

She turned up her nose and scoffingly remarked that I would need a time machine to determine that.

She said she was going to go write us a prescription for Benadryl (hello, I don't need a prescription for that!) and then she was gone.

Now, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was a brilliant doctor and just couldn't relate well to patients.  Then I said I didn't care.  I don't think she deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Harsh, I know.  She went into her chosen field to help others, heal others, educate others, and provide care.  She did none of those things that day.  Rather, she harmed someone by further destroying my faith in doctors and discouraging me greatly.

There was no reason to be condescending to me, throwing technical terms in my face and refusing to answer my questions.  Her education does not make her somehow better than those she treats.  She should demonstrate caring and take the time to answer my questions honestly, even if the answer is, "I don't know."  Telling me that I need a time machine is sarcastic, hurtful, and dismissive.  Refusing to actually examine my daughter while ignoring my questions is truly arrogant.  Doctors should never forget that they are treating people and not just problems.  They need to make time to heal the worry, doubts, and fears and not just see people as a medical diagnosis that needs treatment.

Sadly, it's not the first encounter I've had with a condescending doctor. 

So what do you do when faced with a condescending doctor?

  • Pick a different one - If you can change doctors or take your business and your health elsewhere, then do.  I have left practices because I refused to have a doctor talk to me like less than a human.  It's ok to "fire" your doctor.  There are plenty out there who would be glad for your business and happy to help you.  Find the doctor that you feel cares about your or your child's best interests. 

  • Ask questions - If a doctor will only talk in "doctor speak" rather than plain language, don't be afraid to question and question and question.  Keep asking those questions until you get an answer that you can understand.  And question every person that you encounter from each doctor, nurse, or assistant.  Ask questions until you feel that they have been answered.  You don't need to apologize for wanting to understand your or your child's medical problems as completely as you can.

  • Speak up - There have been times when I disagreed with a doctor or didn't want a particular nurse coming into our room again for one reason or another.  I voiced my concerns calmly and politely.  I have refused certain testing in favor of taking a different route and I have forbidden nurses from entering our room again.  It's ok to disagree and it's more than ok to tell them that you do. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

{Allergy Free} Lemon Vanilla Muffins

Lemon Vanilla Muffins

3 cups flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1 1/4 cup vanilla hemp milk
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted
1 T lemon zest

Glaze Dip
4 T Earth Balance melted
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla 
2 T hot water
1 tsp lemon zest

Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl.
Mix wet ingredients (except lemon zest) in separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just moistened.
Fold in lemon zest.
Pour into greased muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes or until tops spring back when touched.
Let muffins cool on wire rack.

To make glaze:
Whisk all ingredients together.
You can add more hot water if the glaze is too think to whisk well.
Dip cooled muffins in the glaze and let sit on wire rack until glaze sets.

Makes 12 muffins.

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