Dairy, Egg, & Nut Free Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cake

I’ve been craving a chocolate cake lately.  My dad’s birthday was yesterday, so I decided it was the perfect excuse to make one.  Nathan doesn’t like chocolate, so I made a Cherrybrook Kitchen Yellow Cake and a small chocolate cake.

It has taken nearly the entire 3 1/2 years that we’ve been dairy, egg, and nut free to find a cake that I like.  I’m a cake girl.  I’ll choose cake hands down over pie unless it’s pecan pie, and even then it depends on who made the pie.  When I found a chocolate Wacky Cake recipe, I thought I’d give it a try.  To my surprise, it’s much better than I had thought it would be.  It came about during the Depression when milk, butter, and eggs were hard to come by, so it has to be good if people are still making it today.  Some recipes I’ve found for Wacky Cake tell you to mix the dry ingredients then make three wells and pour the different liquids in the wells before mixing in the baking dish.  This recipe that I used didn’t do that and it turned out just as yummy as ever.  Enough already, let’s make a cake!

Ingredients (makes an 8×8 or 9×9)

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2  tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 T unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 C water
  • 1 1/2 T canola oil
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Sift your dry ingredients.  I just dump all of mine in my sifter (over my mixing bowl!) and sift them to together all at once.  I get a kick out of sifting and making “snow” come out!

Dry ingredients before sifting

Dry ingredients before sifting

I love how it looks after sifting.  Reminds me of fluffy snow in the wintertime.

 

SIFTED.FLOUR

 

Then, mix your wet ingredients.  This is not nearly as exciting.

CAKE.LIQUIDS

Next, pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and mix.  I used my hand mixer.  I just wasn’t in the mood to get the BIG KitchenAid out for such a simple cake.  After you’ve mixed up the batter, this is the time to stir in some chocolate chips if you want them through the cake.  Why didn’t I do this?!

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Pour your batter into a GREASED 8×8 baking dish.  If you want to eat more cake, just double this recipe for a 9×13.  I’m thinking  you might want to double this cake-it’s soooo tasty after this next step.

 

ENJOY.LIFE.BAGENJOYLIFE.ON.BATTER

 

I put about 1/4 cup of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips onto this cake.  After eating it last night…bump this up to 1/2 cup.  Trust me on this one and you won’t regret it 🙂

Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, then check it.  I honestly can’t remember how long it actually took.  My kids were distracting me quite a bit, but I know I started at 15 minutes cause I didn’t want to ruin this cake.  Test it with a tooth pick or a clean knife.  Adjust baking time to your oven, but don’t over-bake it!

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The chocolate chips on this moist cake kinda make it’s own “icing”.  Quite frankly, I wanted to smother this bad boy with a chocolate frosting, but I didn’t have any powdered sugar.  Boo.  I drizzled some melted Pillsbury over it, but it wasn’t that good.  I think that if you doubled the chocolate chips and then dusted it with sifted powdered sugar it would be enough.  With a scoop of ice cream on the side.  And a safe milk.  YUM.

So, that my ladies, is a moist, chocolatey, allergen free chocolate fix.  Perfect for a crowd.  Or yourself.  Either way, enjoy 🙂

An Allergen Free 4th Birthday Celebration!

Today has been pretty relaxing for a change!  This whole past week I have been preparing for N’s 4th birthday party.  Like all parents, I absolutely am in shock that he just had his fourth birthday!  It seems just like yesterday that I was holding him for the first time, unknowing all the parental ups and downs that were to befall me in just four short years ahead.  Here’s a picture from N’s 1st birthday where he’s eating his first dairy and egg free cupcake.  It’s crazy to think that is all he’s ever known.  I am comforted to know that  he loves his cupcakes and I make sure that he always has a safe one at every party we attend.

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Since then I have tried many recipes, gotten comfy (as in not so crazy-nervous) in the allergen-free world, and have become used to throwing great parties with yummy food that is ALL safe for N.  My brother (the one who named my blog!) always asks, “Everything is safe for N, right?”  This time it was everything except the mayo, which I don’t find as a huge threat to him.

Alright, let’s get this party started, and let me tell you what we served for N’s 4th birthday!!

He LOVES Disney’s Cars Movie, and that was our theme!  I wish I could say all of these decorations and accents were my idea but they’re not.  I am lazy and always scrambling, so I hopped on Pinterest and found some Over Achiever Moms who had already designed all of these things and done the hard work for me.  Follow me on Pinterest if you want to see those things.

Our menu for the party was sloppy joes, salsa, guacamole, corn salsa, tortilla chips, watermelon, veggies & dip (hummus and soy based ranch dip), and homemade Ranch seasoned (dairy free) Chex mix.  We also had Rice Krispie Treats and, of course, cake!  The cake was a Cherrybrook Kitchen mix, Nathan’s request.  To wet our whistle we had unsweetened tea, lemonade, and good ‘ole water.

Check out this spread….

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IMG_4621Did you catch the stoplight theme for my tortilla chip dips?

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I just LOVE these labels I found to customize for our food!  Not that food needs to be labeled, but it was just fun!  Are ya hungry yet?  Cause I am!  My husband and I are munching on leftovers right now 🙂  Mmmm, chips & corn salsa!

Here’s a picture, too, of our fun “road” tables.  Loved this idea I found on Pinterest, as well!

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Alright, I know you want to see the cake.  I STRESSED over this.  If you saw one of my FB statuses last Saturday, I mentioned spending nearly 3 hours working on eggless royal icing decorations.  Um, that became a royal mess.  By Wednesday, it was starting to shrivel up and the colors were bleeding.  I was bummed, but actually I’m kinda glad it didn’t work out, because look at this cake….
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Pretty awesome, huh?!!  I had already planned on putting the plastic cars on it and had bought the checkered flags at the local cake supply shop.  My mom found the giant “4” candle and I went to work.  The “sand” on the cake is Golden Oreos that I put in the food processor, the “road” is Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and the white icing is yummy Pillsbury.  The green, blue, and red icing is a homemade recipe I found and I adapted to be dairy free.  I was surprised to hear comments such as, “Did you buy that cake?” and “Did you make the cake, Rachel?”.  The kids were saying, “I want a part of the road!”.  I have to admit, I wanted his cake to be awesome.  I didn’t want a “That’s a cute cake” kinda cake, but a “Wow!” cake.  I must admit I have taken cake decorating classes in the past, so that helped.  This will probably be the first birthday Nathan will remember and was really aware of the details like the theme.  I think these pictures show his excitement and how overwhelmed he was with all of the attention.

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I think in the above picture, he was getting a little embarrassed, overly excited, and overwhelmed and how happy he was!

I was so happy to get the perfect picture of him blowing out his candle.  Makes a Momma happy!

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I had made these cupcakes with sprinkles for the kids, but I’m pretty sure the adults got stuck with them!

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And, here’s the aftermath…..

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Gone.  ALL gone.  Plates were scraped clean and hardly a crumb left.  Success.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone would know everything was dairy, egg, & peanut free (and 7 other foods) if they weren’t aware of N’s allergies.

About 5 leftover cupcakes were there for me to indulge in after the party guests had left and the kids were in bed.  I only ate one.  I promise 😉

I slept so good last night knowing that the party was a success, the cake turned out better than I had hoped, and above all Nathan was happy, content, and safe.  I’m looking forward to the the coming year and watching him change, learn, and grow.  As I sit here wrapping up this post while on my patio under the party lights I put up for my own enjoyment, I realize I am so blessed.  Food allergies and all, he’s still a happy 4-year old boy.  He’s healthy.  He’s determined.  He loves baseball and trucks.  He loves trains and books.  He’s normal.  He’s mine.  And I’m so proud that I can say that Nathan is mine.  All mine, and I’m so proud of him.

What do you say Food Allergy Moms & Dads….how do you throw an awesome, allergen-free birthday party?  What recipes from the party menu do you want??  Leave me feedback..I love to hear from you!

I Love Stuff….That Makes Food Allergy Life Easier

I am really striving towards simplicity lately, because it keeps me much calmer.  Except shoes.  The more the merrier.  You too, huh?  Allergies, on the other hand, don’t have such a place in my heart.  But, if it’s something that helps this allergy journey a little less painful, a little more tolerable, or even a little more manageable, then who cares about simplicity?  I say, “Bring it on!”  Here’s a few things that help our daily life, and definitely made our  vacation activities possible.

1.  A waterproof container.  When we go on our vacation to the lake house, we float down the river to the ice cream shop at least twice.  Obviously we have to take my son’s Epi-pens as well as his inhaler, so we put it in a waterproof bag.  Last year the one we used leaked a little, so we had planned on just using Ziploc bags inside this same waterproof bag.  Instead, my sister-in-law, Jenny, let us borrow her new Aquapac, which she had purchased to protect her tablet at the beach.  It was perfect!  There was enough room for a twin pack Epi-pen, an inhaler & spacer, and still had room to spare.  We had Benadryl meeting us at our destination, so we didn’t send that along for the 35 minute float down the river.  The Aquapac worked really well, and I recommend it for those of you going to beaches, pools, spending time on boats, or anything that involves water.  You could even throw your small tablet or cell phones in it.  Thanks to the Aquapac, floating down the river safely was possible!  My husband is the one in the blue shirt, and he had the Aquapac over his shoulder, and N is in his own little floaty.

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2.  A Frio Cooling Wallet.  This summer we’ve gotten much more diligent about keeping our Epi-pens at the proper temperature by not letting them get too hot.  We spend a lot of time outside, so we opted to get the Frio Cooling Wallet, which is originally used for insulin.  It works perfectly for Epi-pens!  We have the Frio Duo Cooling Wallet, and it’s an exact perfect fit for a twin pack Epi-pen.  Once the cooling pack is activated it puffs up a bit and so I have to push the Epi-pens down in the sleeve, and it’s snug.  Do-able, but snug.  If you want it roomy, get the Large so you have plenty of room for  your Epi-pens and maybe something else.  We have two, one for the diaper bag and one for N’s mini-back pack for when we don’t have his sister’s diaper bag with us.

3.  Insulated Lunch Box.  We love our Bento Laptop Insulated Lunch Box with the Bento Buddies Containers.  Awesome lunch box.  Love it, ’nuff said!  The Ziploc brand lunch containers fit perfectly in a Bento lunch box, and are probably much cheaper than the Bento version.

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4.  Bug Repeller.  We used Jason brand natural bug spray and the Off! Clip On Bug Repeller.  We had no allergy trouble with either product, but do your own research, as I only researched for our particular allergy set.  I’d love to make my own bug spray sometime, but until then, these two things are doing the job when the mosquitos are trying to suck the life out of us!  I know this isn’t food allergy related, but we used it a lot on vacation, and I’ve heard of people having some pretty nasty reactions to mosquito bites.

5.  A mini backpack.  We use a mini backpack when just my husband or I take N by himself and just need his Epi-pens, inhaler & spacer, and Benadryl.  He’s too young to self-carry his Epi-pens, so this was a gender neutral alternative for my hubby and I.  We have another set of these things in the diaper bag for when the whole family is together.  The mini backpack is also big enough to put a few light snacks and a small water bottle.

6.  Safe Sunscreen.  We use Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple and N has done really well with it.  It doesn’t have any peanut derived oils that I am aware of, which so many sunscreens do.  It is also oat free, which is something else that is common in lotion type sunscreens.  It’s affordable and even makes the EWG’s list of best sunscreens with a rating of 2, meaning it is a minimal hazard to use.

Then there’s food products that I love, but I think that’s going to have to wait until another post.  I hope this list of products help you manage your family’s food allergies when you’re out and about .  They sure have helped make outdoor fun-in-the-sun much more attainable while staying safe!

Alright Allergy Moms (& Dads!), what are your favorite products to make life with food allergies less of a pain in the neck?  Leave a comment and share your awesome ideas!

Vacationing With Food Allergies: Make It Happen and Enjoy It To The Fullest

On Sunday we returned home from a full week in Northwest Michigan, one of the most beautiful places this side of the Mississippi.  I love it there with the tall pine trees, the beach just beyond them, and the constant breeze keeping the sweat from rising up on my forehead.  If it weren’t for family here at home, I’d buy a house on a lake, pack up and move in a heartbeat.  My husband would be leading the way.

It was a lot of prep work to get ready for this vacation, but this view from our deck every day and the fun we experienced was totally worth it.

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Here’s how we did it.

1.  We rented a house with the family (and thanks to my in-laws for footing the bill!).  With a house, we could cook all of our meals which took a lot of stress out of the whole week.  I cooked most of the meat ahead and then prepped the sides once we were there.  My husband and I did all of the dinners.  That way, we knew exactly what N was eating, and he was safe all week long.  Renting may seem expensive, but it’s usually about the same as a hotel with a mini kitchen once you add it all up.  Plus, we went home with CLEAN clothes because we had a washer & dryer.  Not having to tackle the Mountain-O-Laundry once you get home might make renting a house worth it right there!

2.  We packed our meals for travel days and ate at rest stops.  This is a two for one.  Safe food and the kids get to RUN!  The kids love the picnic atmosphere and the fresh air energizes you for the next leg of the trip.

3.  Severe allergens were not allowed in the kitchen.  My sister-in-law and her man graciously kept their peanut butter upstairs in a bedroom and the door stayed closed.  At the end of the week, the dirty dishes/utensils came down and went straight into the dishwasher.   Thank you to Sharon & Adam!

4.  Relax.  Seriously, try to RELAX.  Yes, stay vigilant and cautious, but relax so you can think clearly and keep your food allergic kiddo safe.  One thing that helped me relax was locating the nearest hospital ahead of time.  Another thing that helped me was taking a TON of safe food.  Not knowing what the grocery stores were like there was nerve wracking, so knowing I had plenty of safe food on hand was comforting.

What did we do on vacation?  It’s more like, what didn’t we do?  We hiked, fished,

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floated down the river,

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ate (safe) ice cream at least twice, played in the sand,

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had s’mores, boat rides, beach trips, sunset walks, playground exploration,

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dune climb,

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and junior explorer class to search for bugs.

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You name it, we did it!  Food allergies don’t stop us very much, and our Epi-pens were with us every step of the way….even on the float down the river.  I want my son to be a kid, and experience things just like I did as a kid.  I try not to freak out (at least outwardly) so that the anxiety doesn’t rub off on him.  He had a blast, and this face…..

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….is totally worth it.

In my next post, I’d like to share some products that helped make this trip a little easier, and some foods that made this excursion lip-smacking good!

So…when it comes to vacations and managing food allergies, do you hold back and get scared, or do you relax and enjoy yourself?

What’s for Lunch? Allergen Free Lunches For Home Or On The Go

Sometimes I get in a huge food rut.  Let’s face it, we are avoiding 10 foods that my son is allergic to and it’s just plain difficult to be creative sometimes.  N is allergic to dairy, oat, egg, peanut, carrot, pumpkin, celery,  and strawberry.  We also avoid tree nuts because of cross contamination and have to skip raw tomato.  We recently went on a semi-spontaneous road trip and I had to pack all of my little man’s meals in advance.  I was agonizing over what to pack for him, and I was given a bit of inspiration while perusing Facebook one day.  A friend of mine posted Chicken Nugget Kabobs.  Brilliant!  A lot of the time, it’s all in the presentation or an Oldie But Goodie with a twist.  Now, I couldn’t do this exact lunch idea for on the road, but it did give me some inspiration for these mini-kabobs made with ham, Daiya cheese cubes, and fruit all stuck onto toothpicks.  I even got a little help assembling them and they were a hit!  I served them up with sugar snap peas with hummus for dipping, and 2 mini muffins.  For an at home lunch, this would even be a great fine motor activity for the little ones, and we all know kids will eat better if they help create their meal.

BuildingMiniKabobs                      MiniKabobsLunch

The next meal I packed for him was similar, but involved him “building” little sandwich crackers.  I used a pizza cutter to slice some ham into squares, cut some Daiya cheese into small, thin squares, and added a bag of Wheat Thin crackers.  Basically, it’s a homemade Lunchable…but much more healthy!  I paired it with fresh watermelon (a favorite!) and another mini muffin.  This is another fun lunch for at home.


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We recently were able to welcome some new foods in our lives!  Finally, we can now make our allergen free version of PB & J sandwiches….with SunButter!  I am sooooo excited for SunButter.  It’s so creamy, and has a wonderful, satisfying flavor.  The flavor is oddly close to peanut butter but without a side of anaphylaxis.  Score!  I made the sandwich the morning he would be eating it for lunch so it wouldn’t get soggy, so that’s why it’s missing in the picture below, not because I ate it 😉  N loves berries and cucumbers, and of course the Golden Oreos I put in his lunch for a treat.

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One of my favorite ideas that I found on the internet a year ago or so (but can’t remember the source), was the following idea of serving lunch in an ice cube tray.  N loves it when I serve his lunch this way, and it’s a great way to get a variety of fruits and veggies in the kids.  Like I said before, sometimes it’s all in the presentation.  This tray has cantaloupe, watermelon, and broccoli.

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I wish I had time for cute little cut outs and such, but I just don’t.  I’ll leave that to those Super Moms that don’t have kids that follow them around all day wanting to be held.  If you are one of those moms, more power to ya!  I’m happy if the kids get a mostly whole foods diet and they actually eat it before I have to mop it up off of the floor!

What’s your favorite allergen friendly lunch at your house?  

“Read My Lips: Restaurant!” Eating Out With Food Allergies & How We Do It

It’s no secret, I love to eat out.  In fact, the title is one of my infamous quotes from my preschool years.  My mom had asked me what I wanted for dinner and that was my response.  I’m sure that gave her and my dad a good chuckle as they pulled out some leftovers from the fridge.

Now, we only eat out after church on Sunday, rare occasions, date night (three cheers for eating with two hands!) and for celebrations.  This past Friday night we were celebrating Nathan finishing his first year of homeschool preschool.  We followed a real curriculum that I bought from one of my favorite homeschool blogs.  Nathan did really well, and I was so happy at his progress when I filled out his end of year assessment.  To celebrate, we decided to ask Nathan what he’d like to do.  He replied with, “The Cow House!” , which is our local dairy farm.  Go figure.  My kid with a life threatening dairy allergy wants to go to a dairy farm for ice cream.  Rice Dream “ice cream”, that is!  He also wanted to go to their barn and look at the animals, which is always fun.

So, how do we take an anaphylactic-to-dairy-kid to a dairy farm?  Here’s how we roll…

We take this:  a silicone baking sheet as a placemat.  I give my sister-in-law, Jenny, credit for this idea.  You can roll them up or fold them into a square to fit in lunch boxes and they work perfectly!  The link for the silicone baking sheet is not the actual one we use.  Ours were purchased at Target in the Kitchen/Baking Department.  We put it down after wiping the table and chairs REALLY well with baby wipes.  Nathan knows not to touch anything until it has been wiped.

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Next, we pack his food.  I always take similar foods to what we are having.  The restaurant workers were gracious enough to heat his chicken nuggets (or we do it at home right before we leave), and they generally are, you just have to ask and explain the allergy.  Here is Nathan’s lunch box that we love!  It’s the Bento Insulated Laptop Lunchbox, with the Bento Buddies containers.

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Then we wipe his hands really well with baby wipes, or head to the bathroom for soap and water.  This is crucial, in case your little one has touched something that you don’t want in their mouth.  Once he is eating, I make sure to wipe my hands before touching him or his meal if he asks for help.  We use A LOT of baby wipes when we go to restaurants.

IMG_4363I just love that smile of him enjoying his Rice Dream “ice cream”.  Sometimes we take our own safe ice cream cones and “build” our cone there with ice cream and safe sprinkles.

We used to order food for Nathan in select restaurants like Red Robin, Qdoba, and Chipotle.  After a mysterious reaction at Chipotle a year ago we decided to stop eating out with him.  At that time he was still young enough to not care about taking his own meal, and for now still seems to be OK with it.  I do watch his emotions closely to make sure he’s not getting bummed out.  We buy him juice boxes or potato chips where we can-he loves that!  Our goal is to get him eating in at least Red Robin again since they have such a great allergy rating on Allergy Eats.  We actually had really good luck with our local Red Robin and would love to let him enjoy safe meals.

I’d love to hear from you…..Do your food allergic kiddos eat safe restaurant meals or do you pack meals for restaurants?

Also, if you haven’t headed over to the Mom Vs. Food Allergy Facebook Page, head on over and give it a “Like” so you can get more food allergy tips!  Thanks!

(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?