Dairy Free Goldfish Crackers

On Monday Nathan had some more blood tests done to test some foods that have occasionally given him random, mysterious rashes.  Cantaloupe, mango, cherry, and celery are all foods we’ve been cautious with and basically avoiding the past few months.  All I can say, is I wanted my cantaloupe back, and so did Nathan.  We have always been advised to avoid strawberry due to the high, natural histamine level of the food, but I was interested in introducing it into his diet.  I have been wanting to introduce sunflower into his diet, but have been to afraid to try new foods with him anymore.  To round it out, we tested his dairy, oat, and peanut levels to see what those trends were doing.  Thankfully, we received some good news today!  Here’s the low down…

Cantaloupe, sunflower, and mango came back negative.  I’ve been holding a cantaloupe in the fridge all week waiting to enjoy it, and that’s what we had with dinner tonight!

Strawberry, celery, cherry, and oat were all low positives, but doc was open to food challenges in his office whenever we’re ready.  The oat numbers had decreased, so we were happy about that one!

His dairy levels DROPPED from 62.0 to 37.0 in the past 6 months!  I was so happy I nearly cried when the nurse told me over the phone this afternoon.  The peanut levels dropped from 88 to 77 in the past 6 months.  Wow.  Progress.  Good news, finally.  I tell ya, the last 3 years have been difficult with balancing multiple food allergies and I had begun to get weary the last few weeks.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but until then….let’s make some dairy free goldfish crackers!  I tweaked my version a bit, but see the original recipe here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 cup dairy free, shredded cheese (I use Daiya)*

1/2 cup dairy free margarine (I use Earth Balance dairy & soy free)*

5 T cold water

*Keep in mind, you can make these with dairy cheese and butter if you don’t have a dairy allergy in your family.

Here’s what you do:

1.  Put the flour, salt, and garlic powder into a blender (that’s what I used) or food processor and mix by pulsing.

2.  Add the cheese and pulse until well combined.

3.  Add the margarine in small chunks, pulse more until well combined with flour & cheese mixture.  You may have to reach in with a spoon occasionally to get things moving (if kids are helping, you may want to unplug your blender or food processor at this point, unless you want cracker dough on the ceiling).

4.  Add one tablespoon of water at a time and pulse to mix if using a food processor.  If using a blender, you may want to transfer mixture to bowl before adding water, mixing by hand after each tablespoon of water is added.

5.  Transfer mixture to plastic wrap, form into a flattened circle, and wrap well, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

6.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Transfer dough to floured surface, and roll to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick using floured rolling pin.

7.  Using a mini goldfish cookie cutter (or your favorite mini cutter), cut your crackers in the dough.  You can also just use a pizza cutter and make them into squares and add a dot in the center with a fork.  That’ll give you instant Cheez-its.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

8.  Bake for 10-14 minutes or until done.  Allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container.

Please forgive me for the lack of pictures of the process in this post.  I don’t always get to take many pictures when making messes in the kitchen with Nathan.  The picture below is right before we transferred the crackers to the parchment paper for baking.

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These crackers were definitely a hit with Nathan and his younger sister.  I’m betting they’ll be a hit at your house, too, and they’re easier to make than you imagine.  Edit:  A few people have been asking me where I bought my mini fish cookie cutter.  You can find it here on Amazon.  

Now it’s your turn….let me know what you think after you try these with your food allergic little ones.  Also, what recipe do you wish had a dairy free version?  Give me some inspiration to try something new!

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To Epi or Not to Epi? That is the Question.

Last week at our local food allergy support group there was a sales rep presenting the new Auvi-Q epinephrine injector.  I LOVE the idea of a talking injector to walk you through what can be a very scary experience.  I’ve had to inject Nathan once with the Epi-pen and it was pretty scary.  More scary was the dialogue in my head debating whether or not he needed the injection or not.  If I didn’t inject him with the epinephrine, we were gambling big time with his life.  I wasn’t willing to do that.  Here’s what happened.

Let me just say, that even as diligent and cautious as our family is with my son’s food, sometimes it takes more than one of us to read new food labels, especially if we’re tired.  Or, how many of you have Almond Breeze milk sitting next to Rice Dream milk in the fridge and almost grabbed the wrong one?  Their containers are very similar (both blue) and I’ve almost grabbed the wrong one a couple of times.  In our particular situation, he was handed the wrong kind of cheese.  American cheese singles are very similar in color to Rice/vegan cheese singles.  We quickly realized the problem, and he had only taken a few bites.  Still, the hives came on pretty quickly, and so did the adrenaline racing through my body.  This was the first time he actually ATE dairy since his diagnosis.  I panicked. I whipped out the Benadryl and gave him a dose.  I actually had no idea if he was anaphylactic to dairy at this point, but I always assumed he was.  After an eternity (OK, probably just a minute or two) of watching him, the hives were still there and there was slight swelling of his lips.  I think I remember him coughing maybe once, but nothing too crazy.  The Benadryl just didn’t do enough fast enough for my liking, and between that and the slight swelling I did what I had hoped I never had to do.  He never was struggling to breathe, but I sure didn’t want the situation to progress that far.  Out came the Epi-pen and in 15 seconds the whole process was done.  It’s amazing how fast epinephrine works.  It’s amazing how fast I didn’t calm down.  I know I cried more than he did, and rightfully so-it’s a hugely emotional situation.  I was so scared, but more terrified of the outcome if I didn’t inject him.  When relaying the situation to our allergist at our follow-up appointment he said, “You did the right thing”.  Doing the right thing was so worth it-unnerving, but worth it.

Here’s another situation for you.  A friend recently had sushi two days in a row.  After the second day of having the fish with the sushi, she broke out in hives and was having esophagus spasms.  She took some Benadryl and went to bed, setting her alarm to wake up for the next dose.  By the next morning she was texting me, letting me know her lips were swollen along with the hives, and was heading to the ER.  They promptly gave her epinephrine, Benadryl, and prednisone.  Within a couple of hours she was heading home.  The only differences in this situation was that this was a slow, almost delayed reaction.  In some ways, I’d almost describe this as a biphasic reaction, but again, I’m no expert.

In both instances, there were at least TWO symptoms.  I am not a nurse or doctor, just another food allergy mom, but that is what I’ve been taught by our awesome allergist, and what I’ve always read.  I recently saw a visual guide originally from Allergic Living Magazine that outlines anaphylactic symptoms, as well as what to do after administering epinephrine.  Click here to see the guide and print it out to share with family and friends.  While you’re at it, print one for your refrigerator.  I’ve already printed mine and mailed it out to my sisters-in-law that wanted more info on our little man’s allergies.

How much does the general, non-allergic public know about anaphylaxis?  I just put out a quick survey on my personal Facebook page, wanting to know how much non-food allergy people know about anaphylaxis and administering Epi-pens.  Here it is….

Quick survey….WITHOUT using Google or other help, answer the following question. If you answer, I may use your (anonymous) answer on my next blog post.
What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis that needed an injection of an Epi-pen?

Here are the answers I received….

Response #1:  When I was getting allergy shots, I had an anaphylactic reaction (I know right?) Since it was at the allergy doctor’s, it wasn’t an actual pen, but I did get a shot of epi. What brought it on was a feeling of being far away and voices were very faint, I felt like I couldn’t swallow…felt like something was stuck and I couldn’t swallow it down or swallow around it. Also my palms and scalp got very itchy. By that point I’d flagged down someone and they gave me epi. It happened a 2nd time, and I had the same symptoms, only they manifested much quicker the 2nd time.

Response #2:  Shortness/loss of breath, swelling, sound becoming faint/roaring in your ears, weakness, redness, feeling faint, wanting to close eyes… I’m sure there’s more, but those are my reactions and why I’ve used my epi on myself.

Response #3:  Facial swelling (or other significant body swelling), respiratory distress, esophogeal tightening, or a reaction that involves two or more body systems. Coming from a person who just had my first ever allergy reaction.

Response #4:  ….sneezing and having trouble breathing by the second sneeze, and I immediately realized she was having an allergic reaction…

Response #5:  Swelling of the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, “itchy” throat…

Now, all of these individuals except two have experienced anaphylaxis themselves.  Regardless, in all responses there were at least two symptoms being described, and that is my point with this post.  I want people to be aware of the symptoms and be ready to administer the Epi-pen first if it’s needed.  Something else to remember is to ALWAYS carry TWO Epi-pens or Auvi-Qs.  Why two?  The first one may malfunction, or if medical help has not arrived within 15 minutes and symptoms are still present you will need to administer the second injection.  I can’t stress enough the need to keep that epinephrine RIGHT THERE all the time.  As my son has gotten older, we now have his own “Epi Bag” that goes with him if our daughters diaper bag is not with him.  I currently carry is Epi-pens, Benadryl, and asthma inhaler, as I don’t feel he’s old enough to do that himself.  We are getting into a really good habit of keeping that bag with him at all times, or within a 60 second distance.  For example, if we’re playing at the playground, the Epi Bag or diaper bag is in the stroller at the edge of the playground.  Or, if he is going to the barn with his Poppa, the Epi Bag goes with them because it’s a 2 minute walk to the barn.  In the past few months, I’ve read too many articles of anaphylaxis deaths-three to be exact.  Why so many?  They did not have their Epi-pens with them, or in one case it was a first time reaction.  Bottom line?  Epinephrine saves lives.  Know how and when to use it, and don’t be scared to use it.  The outcome of not using epinephrine is way more scary.

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor.  The information here is what I have been taught and learned in our food allergy journey.   Do not use this information in place of medical care.  If you are having an allergic reaction emergency, call 911.  

(Positive) Ramblings of a Food Allergy Mom

I was totally blown away by the response to my most recent post, Rants of a Food Allergy Mom.  So many of you responded with thoughts like “You took the words right out of my mouth” and “I couldn’t have said it better myself”.  As food allergy moms and dads, we all feel like ranting at one point or another.  It’s a long, weary road with shots of adrenaline running through our bodies almost daily.  A cough sends our stomachs to knots, and hives make us shake and our hands sweat.  Put the cough and hives together, and our whole bodies tremble as we reach for the Epi-pen and Benadryl.

But, I’ll tell ya, this isn’t the whole story.  Actually, yes it is for some of us.  For most of us, food allergies and perhaps asthma is the worst of it.  My husband routinely reminds me that our son is so healthy otherwise, even though he is skinny as a rail.  He tells me, “We’re not dealing with cancer or something like that”.  And he’s right.  Then the guilt of my Pity Party for One weighs me down, and I am absolutely forced to look at our little guy and be so incredibly thankful.  Our son is nearly 4 years old, and has not once needed to be on antibiotics.  Not once.  He doesn’t have a physical disability that keeps him from running and playing.  He doesn’t need a wheelchair to get around or even a pair of glasses to see the latest episode of Martha Speaks (one of his faves!).  He’s not blind or deaf and doesn’t have a rare disease.  He’s alive.  He’s healthy.  As I watched him play yesterday as the warm breeze blanketed our patio, it hit me that he’s an almost 4 year old boy-and that’s it.  I refuse to let food allergies define who he is as a young boy to the point that it hinders our ability to parent the real, whole child.  There’s so much more to that little boy than food allergies and I can’t wait to watch him change as he grows up.

You see, we’ve got this.  We don’t have to let food allergies change everything.  I’ll be the first to say that after the initial diagnosis, it DOES change everything.  That diagnosis feels like a death sentence and until you figure it out, it is the most annoying, difficult thing.  Don’t let this be the end of your story.  Don’t let food allergies define your child.  The next time you lay eyes on your child, think about what they really are “into” these days.  I bet it’s not whether Clorox wipes are better than baby wipes to clean away allergens, or Epi-pen versus Auvi-Q.  My little guy is living and breathing seeds, planting, and digging these days.  He has been obsessed-no, make that OBSESSED-with picking up maple tree seeds.  You know, the “whirly-gig” seeds that flutter to the ground after you throw them in the air?    Those were my favorite, too, as a kid, and he picks up every one that he sees.  He digs the seeds out, puts them in a pile, and “plants” them in the mulch at the base of our Rose of Sharon bushes.  Now, what is your kid loving?  What can’t he live without? What must she do every day to keep her happy?  Parent THAT child, not the food allergic child.  When you are at home and you know you’re safe from allergens, let loose and pretend those allergies aren’t there.  Get out in the dirt and plant some seeds, or crawl on the living room floor and help build that train track for the umpteenth time.  It’s worth it.

I think what I’m getting at here, is that we all go through a grieving process.   I think I’ve gone through this grieving process at least two times.  I’m pretty sure it starts all over again with each new diagnosed allergy.  But, we’ve got this and we CAN do this. To every grieving process, no matter how many times you’ve gone through it, is the fifth and final stage-acceptance.  Once you get to this point, you can start to parent your whole child again, not your “child with life-threatening food allergies”.  To be honest, I think I limbo frequently between the fourth stage-depression-and the acceptance stage.  We’re only 3 years into our journey, so I’ve not yet graduated the grieving process.  Our latest new allergy was just diagnosed this past November, followed by a successful soy challenge, but then set back again by the failed baked egg challenge.  The ebb and flow of these emotions are still pretty raw and sore.  One step forward, two steps back.  Will it ever end?  It doesn’t matter.  Would your child’s personality  be any different if they didn’t have food allergies?  Nope.  They’d still pick up seeds to plant and they’d still love Thomas the Tank Engine.  You’ll get to that stage 5 of acceptance sooner or later, and until then do your best to see past the food allergies that scream to define your child.  Don’t let it.  Play with, love, and parent that little ballerina, baseball player, gardener, or gymnast that brings harmony to the worried life you live.

It’s your turn.  What’s something positive that has come out of your very own food allergy journey?

Rants of a Food Allergy Mom

I’m going to be very upfront with you.  Some of the emotions in this post are pretty raw, and ultimately exactly how I feel (a lot of the time, but not always).  Some days are better than others, but there comes a time when one must get things off their chest.  It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week, and if I wasn’t an introvert, this is what I’d shout to all of the non-food allergy parents out there to raise a little “awareness” of the realness of food allergies.

I’m jealous.  I know we’re not supposed to be jealous of others, but I am.  When we go to the local dairy farm and I look over at your kid peering in the ice cream case to make his choice, I’m jealous.  Just once I’d love to be able to take Nathan out for ice cream (spontaneously, at that!) and let him stand on his tippy toes to peer in at the rainbow of ice cream flavors….and pick whatever he wanted.

I’m jealous of those pictures you post on Facebook of your kid at the major league baseball game, holding a hot dog….that you didn’t bring from home.  You see, when we go somewhere we pack food.  Every.  Single.  Time.  How do we keep a hot dog warm after an hour drive from home, a long walk into the stadium, and the search for our seats?  We don’t.  He’d have to eat a cold hotdog, or something that didn’t need to be warmed up.

I’m jealous when you invite us to lunch after a play date at the park, but we can’t go.  It hurts to see everyone driving to the restaurant as we turn to head home….because I didn’t pack a lunch for Nathan, and the restaurant food would send Nathan into anaphylaxis faster than you could say “I’ll have a cheeseburger, please.”.

I’m jealous when we go to church or story time and the teacher brings an unplanned snack-that is unsafe and I didn’t know to bring a safe alternative.  I see your kid gobbling up their candy or treat out of the corner of my eye, while I squint to read the ingredient list.  I only read it because Nathan asked me to.  I know that he can’t have tootsie rolls or doughnuts, but for some reason he thinks there is hope if I check the label.

I’m jealous of your vacation.  You stay in a hotel and go out to eat at Rainforest Cafe, Olive Garden, and Texas Roadhouse.  We stay in a hotel suite with a refrigerator and microwave, pack every single meal in advance, and often eat several meals in our hotel room.  A vacation is not relaxing to me when it comes to food.  It’s harder and more tiring.  I have to cook, pack, and plan for every snack and meal, and then some.  I cannot run out of safe food for him.

I’m jealous that your kid can go to birthday parties and eat the pizza and the cake that looks like a racetrack with Lighting McQueen racing through sweet, buttery icing.  Thankfully Nathan is still OK with his mom-made cake with white Pillsbury icing with added sprinkles to make it more festive.  Someday this will change, I know.  Tears will flow, and he’ll feel down in the dumps that he’s the weird kid.  I dread that day.

I’m jealous that you’re not scared to send your kids to preschool or Vacation Bible School without you there.  You see, I can’t trust that anyone else would react fast enough if Nathan were having an anaphylactic reaction, or even realize he was having a reaction at all.  Would they be brave enough to give the Epi-pen, or would they just call 911?  By the time the medics got there, he could be in cardiac arrest….and it’d be too late.

I’m jealous that you don’t have to wipe down restaurant tables, grocery carts, chairs-you name it-every time you go out in public.

I’m jealous that you don’t freak out every time your kid coughs.  Your kid will go to school and never bat an eye at unsafe foods in the cafeteria.  He’ll go to a friends house and have a PB & J for lunch.  He may be on a little league team, and enjoy the pizza party after the big win.  He’ll never have to say, “Don’t touch me until you wash your hands” or “No, thank you” when he really wants to say “Yes, please!” when you offer to share your  brownie.  Oh, and Halloween.  I just thought of that.  That’s a whole new post.

I’m jealous that you don’t have to read food labels one, two, and three times.  You grocery shop based on taste, desire, and price.  I grocery shop based on safe and unsafe.

I’m jealous.  I get scared.  I’m fed up.  I am angry.  I’m tired of researching recipes.  I cry.  I’m disheartened with positive blood test results.  I’m terrified of food challenges that fail.  I get tired of people staring at me when I look like a crazy germ-o-phobe while wiping down restaurant tables.  It’s not easy.  I hate it.  Adrenaline shoots through my body and I shake when I think he’s having a reaction or gets a hive on his face.  I live and breathe Nathan, food allergies, and safety.  Sometimes I hate food, cause I get tired of thinking about it.

That’s a glimpse into my daily life.  Am I uptight?  Yes, a lot of the time I am.  Am I overreacting?  You the non-food allergy mom may think so, but I’m not.  Dealing with the the possibility of death at any moment of any day is anything but relaxing.

Yes, this a lot to take in, and may be rolling your eyes, but this is my life.  Food allergies have made me more aware of others, and I will listen to your parenting hardships if you need to vent.   Hopefully this post has made you more aware of food allergic kids and their families and how we feel while keeping our kids safe (and this is really just a few situations that are difficult).  I pray that you will be more accommodating, less judgmental, and stop rolling your eyes.  I promise we food allergy moms don’t act like this all the time (at least outwardly), and I promise that I have a turn-that-frown-upside-down response to these rants, which I will share with you later this week.  But, no matter how I feel, when I lay my head down to sleep at the end of the day, this little gentleman makes it ALL worth it!  God has blessed me with a curious, energetic, persistent guy and I love him, food allergies and all.

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Now it’s your turn to vent.  Please share, let it out, and know that others like you are listening.  Food Allergy Moms, what makes you jealous??

Always Time for Comfort Food…Dairy and Egg Free Chicken Pot Pie

I am so thankful that winter is behind us.  Now that it’s warming up a bit and it doesn’t take two parents and 3 hours to suit up to go outside, we are enjoying fresh air, sunshine, and even breaking out some fresh recipes.  This recipe I’m sharing today, goes with us pretty much year round.   I use it less during the warmer months, but Nathan still asks for it even on the hottest of days.  He loves it so much that he had leftovers for breakfast this past Sunday.  Whatever, he was a happy kid with a full belly…and hey, it wasn’t unhealthy Pop Tarts!

Let’s make some chicken pot pie!  Here’s what you’ll need….

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I use frozen veggies, because that’s about all I can manage with an almost-four-year-old and a 14-month old running around the house.  I put in broccoli, peas, and corn, but you could do carrots (Nathan is allergic), lima beans, or green beans.  Come up wit your own unique blend of veggies that you love.  If you want to get really easy, pick up the frozen vegetable soup mix and use 1 1/2 cups of it.  I would advise picking out the okra if there is any, because it gets slimy when cooked too long and it’s just gross!

We use Pillsbury Pie Crusts, but I’d eventually like to start making my own.  Beware that Kroger brand refrigerated pie crusts contain dairy!  Read your labels every time!  For the butter we use Dairy and Soy Free Earth Balance margarine, and it’s great.  Rice milk does the trick for the milk, too.  You’ll also need some 2 cups of chicken broth, which is not pictured here (totally forgot!).  If you don’t have a dairy allergy, just use your regular butter/margarine and milk.

In the measuring cup is flour, and the cubed chicken (leftover from a roasted chicken earlier in the week) is already in the pan with the gravy and veggies.

Here’s what you do…

Melt the butter in the skillet on medium heat.  Once melted, mix in 1/2 cup of flour, salt & pepper.   Once the butter & flour mixture have made a paste, pour the chicken broth (2 cups total) & rice milk (1/4 cup) in a little at a time, stirring constantly to maintain a smooth consistency.  Once smooth and thickened, add a little more.  Repeat this process until all the 2 cups of broth & 1/4 cup of rice milk is gone.

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After the gravy is made, add veggies and 1 cup cubed chicken, plus 1/3 cup rice milk.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour mixture into bottom pie crust, then top with remaining pie crust.  Flute the edges and pierce the top, like this:

IMG_4172Place pot pie on a cookie sheet to prevent any drippings from making it to the bottom of your oven.  Trust me on this one!  Bake at 450 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.

IMG_4173Crust should be golden brown on top when done.  This will be VERY hot, so be careful when serving it up.  We usually pair this meal with a salad, or sometimes fruit.  Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

I really hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does….which is quite a bit!  If you try it, let me know what you think.  Now, what’s your favorite allergen free comfort food to make?

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients:

1/2 cup dairy free margarine

1/2 cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup rice milk, separated

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup corn

1/2 cup broccoli florets

pie crust (We currently use Pillsbury, homemade is preferable)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Melt the butter in the skillet on medium heat.  Once melted, mix in 1/2 cup of flour, salt & pepper.   Once the butter & flour mixture have made a paste, pour the chicken broth (2 cups total) & rice milk (1/4 cup) in a little at a time, stirring constantly to maintain a smooth consistency.  Once smooth and thickened, add a little more.  Repeat this process until all the 2 cups of broth & 1/4 cup of rice milk is gone.

After the gravy is made, add veggies and 1 cup cubed chicken, plus 1/3 cup rice milk.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour mixture into bottom pie crust, then top with remaining pie crust.  Place pot pie on a cookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Lasagna, Cake, and Ice Cream, Oh My!

This weekend we attended a birthday party for one of our family members.  Nathan was so excited to go to a party and see his cousins.  Thankfully, all of his cousins (and their parents) are really good about remembering his allergies.  They are very accommodating and wash their hands after they eat and before they play with Nathan.  If they forget, we just remind the kids to wash up before playing.

Parties are a whole new ball game for those with food allergies…..and especially their parents.  Once Nathan turned 3, he was definitely wanting to go off and play with friends or cousins at birthday parties.  This can be absolutely nerve wracking for us as parents.  Think about it.  There’s usually tons of kids slathered in ice cream, icing, cheese, and often times nuts.  Depending on where we are and if we know everyone or not, we just can’t ask that every kid suds up after eating.  Skipping every party, and staying home isn’t an option either.  Even food allergic kids have to have fun and, most importantly, have to learn to manage themselves in an often unsafe world.  My husband and I often take turns watching the kids play  or checking in on Nathan to make sure he’s fine.

So, what’s a stressed out mom of a food allergic kid to do?  Spend a handful of hours before the party making safe lasagna and cake, and packing up all the trimmings!  I think it’s really important that Nathan help in the kitchen to learn basic skills, but also to realize what needs to be done to keep him safe.

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We were short on time today, so we are using a Cherrybrook Kitchen Yellow Cake mix.  I usually make cakes from scratch, but this time we took the easy way out.

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I even opted for the hand mixer so Nathan could have a turn.  He likes this, but what he really loves is licking the beaters after we’re done!  Don’t be afraid to include your kids in the kitchen, no matter what their age or allergies.  Nathan has been helping me in the kitchen since he turned 2.  There are a lot fewer messes now!

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His favorite part!  Even food allergic kids should get to lick the beaters and spatulas!  I remembered doing this as a kid, and it brings back lots of memories helping my mom in the kitchen.

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If you haven’t checked out Cherrybrook Kitchen’s products, you need to!  They are dairy, egg, and nut (peanut, too!) free and you can read their allergen statement here.  They also make ready made frostings that are safe.  I haven’t tried the ready made frosting yet, but a couple of months ago we tested the chocolate frosting mix and it was really tasty!

To take to the party, I also made a safe lasagna made with dairy free cheese.  This is pretty easy, thankfully!  It’s just a basic lasagna, made with what Nathan calls his “safe cheese” instead of regular mozzarella.

Here are some things we do for parties to make them as safe as possible and high on the fun factor for Nathan:

1.  Take a safe meal.  I always ask the host what they are having and make Nathan’s version.

2.  Take plenty of baby or antibacterial wipes.  Treat this as a restaurant situation and wipe things down if you need to, especially hands before and after meals.

3.  Talk to your child BEFORE the party.  Remind them not to take food off of tables or plates, and only accept food from you or other designated individuals.  You may want them to wear an allergy alert bracelet or t-shirt at especially large gatherings or a new place.

4.  Show your child unsafe food.  I sometimes take Nathan to foods that he may not recognize and remind him they are unsafe for him.

5.  Make it known.  Talk with other guests, especially if they ask questions.   This is often a great time to say, “Would you mind having your child(ren) wash their hands after they eat ice cream and cake?”  Most people are really accommodating and will comply.

6.  Take two Epi-pens and Benadryl….EVERY TIME!

Enjoy those summer parties!

What’s That Smell?!…..Our Journey Part 3

What’s that smell?!  Oh, that’s the eggs baking in the muffins.  I hadn’t baked with eggs in over three years, and I have to admit….it smelled disgusting.  But it was exciting.  There I was in the kitchen the night before Nathan’s second food challenge (woohoo!) digging through my Betty Crocker cookbook, and mixing up a batch of  “real” blueberry muffins.  Once the batch was in the oven and the aroma filled the house, it just smelled weird.  I almost couldn’t handle it.

Nathan was again so excited to be trying something new!  This food challenge was even more exciting to him because he actually got to eat something, rather than just sipping soy milk.  With a food challenge, the patient goes in with an empty stomach…basically so there’s not much to throw up if they have an adverse reaction.  He was definitely hungry and those muffins looked so good to him.  Here he is waiting for the doc to come in to get us started with those muffins.  Don’t ya just love the mustache prop that he got at story time the day before?

MustacheEggChallenge

It was about 9:15 and the egg challenge was under way.  I was nervous, but still hopeful that this would open up yet another new food in Nathan’s diet, even if only in the baked form.  Studies are showing that if an egg allergic person can tolerate baked egg, then it may help them fully overcome an egg allergy.  That’s how I understood it from our allergist, anyway.  The first 1/8 of a muffin was down the hatch, and Nathan settled back in to watching his movie.  Tip:  If you ever get to do a food challenge, take lots of things for your child to do, especially if they are young.  Food challenges take at least 2 hours so keeping them busy can be a challenge in itself.

Every 15 minutes the nurse would come back and check Nathan’s vitals.  First check?  Everything is good.  Let’s move on to 1/4 of a muffin.  Down the hatch.  This boy is hungry.

FirstBiteAtEggChallenge

After the next 15 minute check, Nathan got sleepy, and wanted to hug on my arm, but was ready for more.  “My stomach hurts”, he said, “and it’s snowing outside guys!”  Gotta love the train of thought of a 3 1/2 year old!  I got a lump in my throat, and I got a bad feeling, but the doc thought all was still OK so we went for the 1/2 of a muffin.  Nathan started eating this portion, and unfortunately I had to head home to pick up our daughter.  My husband stayed with Nathan and they started watching his movie again.  Another 15 minutes had lapsed, and the nurse opened the door to come in for his vitals check.  Hives.  She saw the hives that my husband didn’t see since Nathan was sitting on his lap.  By this time I was at home with Julia, and texted the hubby to see what the status was.  No reply.  I comforted myself by assuming he was just chatting with the allergist.  Sadly, I was wrong.  I knew I was wrong, but just didn’t want to believe it.  A mother’s instinct is soooo strong.  Brent finally called me, explaining that by the time the allergist came in to check Nathan he was sneezing, had hives and was itchy.  The nurse had to administer Epinepherine to stop the allergic reaction.  Thank goodness we were at the doctor’s office and not at home.  I will NEVER do a food challenge at home.  The experience was scary, but could have been deadly had we been at home.  We were disappointed that he couldn’t have baked eggs, but thankful that he was OK.

What’s the scary part?  Had he been experiencing those symptoms at home, we probably would have just given him Benadryl.  Well, maybe not.  I did have to give him the Epi-pen at home once after he accidentally ingested cheese, and the symptoms were almost identical.  Having to give an Epi-pen is a terrifying experience, but the alternative is even more terrifying.  When should you give an epi-pen? When there is more than one body system involved.  Hives and sneezing, like in Nathan’s case.  Breathing problems and lip and mouth swelling is another combination needing an epi-pen.  There is often more symptoms that need to be addressed.  Throw vomiting or lethargy into the mix and you’ve got yourself a full blown anaphylactic attack.  Scary stuff.  If you want more info on how to treat an anaphylactic reaction, visit www.epipen.com or www.epipentraining.com

This reaction to eggs was so surprising to us.  Nathan’s blood test results for soy came back at around 2.0/100 or less.  So did his egg numbers.  No reaction to soy, but anaphylactic to egg.  That just goes to show just how crazy food allergies are, how unpredictable they are, and how the “numbers” from blood tests can’t prove what kind of reaction someone will have.  Our allergist was just as surprised as we were that Nathan reacted.  This is going to sound weird, but I’m so glad we did the egg challenge.  Now that  we know how he reacts, we will be even more careful with him around eggs, reading every label multiple times before something new goes in his mouth.

I’ll end this longer than expected post with this adorable picture of Nathan coloring his EggNots at Easter this year.  They’re made of ceramic and are dyeable and can be decorated just like regular eggs….without the fear factor.

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Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional.  Do not make medical decisions based on information in this post.  Contact your doctor or call 911 in an emergency.