Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Traveling for the Holidays and Eating Out

On one of my support groups recently there was a discussion about the possibilities of eating out with severe milk allergies. One member reminded us that when we go to restaurants and advocate for our child we are setting an example. Showing them how to manage their own food allergies and that we should continue to make that effort and not be afraid to walk out of a restaurant if we feel uncomfortable with the restaurant's ability to keep our child safe.

And she is right. Yet, I gave up eating out with our kids long ago because I hate the eye-rolling, the impatience, the way I am made to feel as if I am a terrible inconvenience for just asking questions.

Case in point, we were at the St. Louis Zoo the day after Thanksgiving. It was a cold day in Missouri and the zoo was not exactly packed. I stopped at a hot dog stand to get a diet coke. Max was by my side.

"I'm hungry" he said "What do they sell here?"
"Well," I answered "Hot dogs and pretzels."
"Are they safe for me?"
"I'll have to ask. Are you really hungry?"

So I begin to question the cashier. And let me set the scene. It is a cold day. The zoo is not busy. There is NO ONE else in line at this hot dog stand staffed by at least 6 people.

I ask what brand of hot dogs they are. Everyone keeps replying they are all beef hotdogs. I have to repeat myself several times to get the brand name. Farmland. I have never heard of it. I ask to read the label. One of the cashiers runs in the back to get the box. Max asks me about the pretzels. I look down at him and say it is most likely coated with egg or butter so it probably isn't safe.

I look up in time to see the cashier roll his eyes at me. He then turns and says something to the women behind him that I can't make out. They all laugh. Maybe I'm being paranoid but honestly why do people in the service industry think they can be rude to customers.

The other cashier returns with the box. I read the label and order two hot dogs without buns. Max wolfs his down and asks for another. In all he ate two and the half of Owen's he didn't want. He loves situations where he can feel like a normal kid.

And, though this is getting long, here is another example. Last summer we stopped at a hotel on our long vacation drive. We always choose hotels with indoor pools that allow dogs. This one also served breakfast. Traditional breakfasts are not exactly the safest of meals for us. But at this hotel they had out dry cereal in glass jars labeled Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops and Honey Nut Cherrios. We can eat Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops yet there were only two scoops on the table. Since I (nor would anyone) be able to tell which scoop had been used in which cereal, I went to the kitchen to ask if I could get Max's cereal directly from the box. The lady in the kitchen asked why so I started to explain about cross-contamination. She rolled her eyes, looked away, thrust the bag at me and said "Whatever." Later a woman at the table next to us stopped the lady from the kitchen and asked about my request. They talked in hushed tones and glanced over at me. I felt ashamed. Like I had made an unreasonable request. I know they are small instances and I shouldn't take it so personally but here in lies one of my own weaknesses. I hate conflict.

So, perhaps I should keep trying. For Max and Owen. For them to learn to stand up for themselves which I obviously have a hard time doing. Perhaps it will be a good lesson for me as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traveling for the Holidays and McDonalds French Fries

It has been a month since I blogged. I don't think I've even logged in since then. Partly I needed a break and partly I have just been darn busy.

We traveled for Thanksgiving and we will travel for Christmas. Eating while traveling can be tricky. I have in general given up eating out with the kids. It is too complicated and too risky but sometimes, well, everyone is hungry. What do you do?

We eat at McDonalds generally. And honestly it makes my stomach turn. I used to love McDonalds now I can barely choke down my bland salad there. BUT we have never had an issue there. The kids eat hamburgers and french fires. I know, I know, there are those out there now protesting "But McDonalds fries contain dairy!" So here's my story and take on McDonald's fries. I think it was 3 or 4 years ago that McDonalds changed the labeling on the fries, not the recipe, the labeling. They discovered after FALCPA went through that the flavoring they were using was dairy "derived". So they changed the labeling to reflect this. People protested, wrote letters. There are long threads on POFAK (Parents of Food Allergy Kids) regarding this. McDonalds did testing and found that the dairy derived flavoring did not contain milk proteins. I think Max was 2 or 3 and we had been safely eating McDonalds fries for a couple years. I decided that since it was one of the few "treats" he gets I would continue to let him have them. I know other parents of milk allergic kids who came to the same conclusion.

We have had nary a hive at McDonalds.

If I was a newly diagnosed family or diagnosed since the whole fries brouhaha, I would probably see the labeling and conclude McDonalds fries are not safe. For this reason I don't go around touting our McDonalds consumption to other food allergic families because sometimes when you tell someone you do something that they consider risky behavior they get that tight lipped look like you just told them you let your children smoke crack.

Anyway, this post took a whole side track that I didn't mean it too. I will have to write what I REALLY wanted to say about travel in the next post.

(I used the word McDonalds 9 times in this post. Anyone googling it may get this instead. Hee hee)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I am still confused about what seeds constitute the avoidance of all seeds. I feel like I need a list or need to make a list. A friend of mine avoids all spices in things for her seed allergic son because spices are generally ground up seeds. But Owen has tolerated mustard in things before and I have a hard time justifying pulling items out of his diet he has eaten safely.

So here is my list of seed avoidance so far: sunflower, sesame, poppy. I know mustard should be on that list but for now I am leaving it in. So what about caraway seeds? Cumin? I use cumin in a lot of dishes.

But as I go through my day I think about the seeds in mundane things like a cucumber or a tomato. How much protein do these contain? Is it stupid to wonder if they are a problem?

Am I missing any obvious seeds out there? What is on your seed avoidance list?

(For more seed info check out comments at Blood Test Results. Some good weigh-ins from a few people.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Post Mortem

Boy did we bring in the peanut laden candy Halloween night! We are talking butterfingers, recess peanut butter cups, peanut m&ms, snickers galore. I was hoping Max would end up with more safe things but people seemed to lack imagination this year. It's a good thing Max is such an enthusiastic trick or treater. He seems to just enjoy the door knocking and people admiring his costume. I knew he'd be okay with me taking all the candy at the end of the evening.

Owen on the other hand was not grasping the gravity of the situation. I grew more worried with each door and Owen's exclamations of "Candy? Yum, yum!" and "A treat for me!" I suddenly realized he had no clue that he didn't get to keep and eat that candy! I was afraid my substitute would not be satisfactory. Max is happy with skittles, starburst, twizlers and gummy lifesavers but Owen not so much a fan. He's more of a chocolate kid so I was hoping my baggie of mini-marshmellows and chocolate chips would be accepted in place of the mound o' candy which he couldn't even carry.

Luckily, he is easily distracted and readily chowed down on his safe treats when we got home.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Where is the Epi-Pen

I knew you all would marvel at the lost Epi-pen and you know what I still haven't heard a word from the nurse. I will say this was the back up Epi. I had already picked up the one from the classroom. So if something had happened, there were two Epi-pens at school. Also, though I know this is probably not legal, there was a stack of Epi-pen Jr.s in her cabinet.

In my last post I said the worst case scenario was Max would be at home for a couple weeks. I should have said that was the BEST case scenario. The WORST case scenario would have been me homeschooling him for a year. Seriously, how do you homeschoolers do it? You must have incredible relationships with your kids. I'm trying to keep Max busy each day, working on handwriting, reading, spelling words but having a hard time balancing Owen's needs and Max's needs. Ahhh! Calgon, take me away...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

When I don't post I start getting phone calls. From my best friend, Laurae (HI:) to my Mom, they want to know why I haven't posted anything. Well, my mind has been consumed with Max's school situation. Almost totally non-food allergy related. We've been talking and pondering and worrying and crying (okay David isn't crying, that's my job). And today we finally did it. The correct people were notified in the correct ways and I went to the Catholic school in question and gathered his things. Max is upset. I am upset. Even Max's teacher, the non-warm fuzzy one, was distraught and actually hugged me!

We know this is the right thing for Max. The school and us just didn't "fit" and it wasn't going to get any better. I just couldn't figure out what was bothering me so much about the whole process and the other day it hit me. I was breaking up with a school! The relationship had faltered. I'd had such high hope that this was the one! Then things soured and I had to call it quits. I had to break up with the teacher, the principal, the woman who runs volunteers for lunch duty and the woman who runs volunteers for "Littlest Angels" as well as the school nurse. I have always sucked at breaking up with people! "It's not you, it's me." "Yes, we can still be friends, see you at mass." What makes it worse is I don't have a back-up boyfriend (school) completely lined up. Worst case scenario is Max is home with me for the next week and a half.

So this is the only food allergy component. When I went to break up with the school nurse (who also hugged me and whom I really do like), she couldn't find Max's Epi-pen! I actually left without it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blood Test Results

I took Owen for a blood test last week. I think I failed to mention how horribly it went. The phlebotomist was not very good and kept moving the needle around in his little arm. He screamed and screamed.

The nurse called with the results yesterday. I wish doctors would call you with results. I know they are busy but I always have questions that the nurse can't answer.

Milk was the biggie at 8.32. I know many of you have children with RAST scores in the 100 level but 8.32 is the largest number we have ever seen. Egg was 1.30. Confusing considering the severity of his past reactions. Peanut was negative. Sunflower seed was .37. Again low considering the all over body hives he gets from contact with it. Sesame was .84. So despite the negative skin test, his sesame RAST went up from last year so sadly makes our list of things to avoid. In fact the nurse said to avoid peanuts, tree nuts (already doing, no biggie), fish and seafood (of course) and ALL seeds. Until he turns 3 which is in like three months. It's the all seeds that has me confused. I am not sure what all seeds entails.

Anybody else avoiding seeds? How do you manage it?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Food Allergy Humor #2

Last week I had dumped a bunch of foam letters in the bathtub with Max and Owen. "Look, I'm making alphabet soup!" I said. (Not that either of them has ever eaten alphabet soup.)

Later Max yelled, "Mom come here! Owen has hives!"

I ran to the bathroom to find Owen standing in the tub with the foam letters stuck all over his little body. "See," Max said, "Alphabet soup hives!"

Food Allergy Humor #1

Owen came to me today and said rather sadly, "I allergic to bugs."

Uh, okay, Owen


I had pulled the bag of french fries out of the freezer for the main reason of checking the calorie/fat/fiber count to record on my Weight Watchers tracking for the day. I hadn't been able to resist stealing 10 of my kids shoestring fries at dinner (just so you know one serving of Cascasdian Farms Shoestring Fries is only 2 points!)

Owen saw me holding the bag and even though he had eaten them for dinner he asked for the first time, "Safe for me?"

Max had always had great awareness of his allergies and by age two would bring me things and say "Mommy, read label?" But Owen has not shown the same awareness (or restraint) when it come to food. So I was quite proud that he seemed to be exhibiting an awareness of his own food allergies. "Yes" I replied "These are safe for you."

Monday, September 29, 2008

You Are In The Right Place

No, don't go away. You are in the right place. I am just trying out a new look.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading for Pizza

There was an article last week in the Washington Post about local schools trying to limit the amount of food used as prizes. It was ironic because in the same the same week I found this in our Kindergarten handbook regarding encouraging reading.

"Every time your child has read 10 books he/she will be rewarded with a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut!"

Excuse my sarcasm but Oh joy! Just what the diary allergic child wants! A personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut!

I have emailed the teacher (in a honey not vinegar sort of way) to ask what alternative she might be offering Max or if I should come up with a prize myself.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


My friend over at Monkey Business was running a contest about writing about firsts. Entries were due yesterday but here is mine. Day late and dollar short.

The first time you give your infant ice cream is usually a joyous fun occasion. My mother had really looked forward to giving Max his first bite so we had taken him to a local ice cream shop. Upon putting the spoon of vanilla frozen yogurt in his mouth, he pushed it out and made a face. Then the strangest thing happened. The area around his mouth got red and these large white bumps pushed to the surface of his skin. They happened so fast it looked like his skin was bubbling. What scared me was what my Mom said, "I've never seen that happen before." I couldn't imagine what was happening that my own mother had never seen before. In the car he kept clearing his throat like something was caught. Once home he threw up. The pediatric nurse at our doctors office thought it was nothing, "A skin reaction, maybe." is what she said. So this first was followed by many repeats of the same until we figured out Max had food allergies.

The first time Max was skin tested and subsequently diagnosed was heartbreaking. The doctor explaining anaphylaxis. The nurse demonstrating the Epi-pen and saying, "You need to take it everywhere, even if you are just running to the grocery store." I left shaking my head, thinking "They have got to be wrong."

The first time one of my children needed epinephrine was also heartbreaking. It happened at the allergist office and for some reason marked for me the seriousness of my children's allergies. However, there are firsts we haven't experienced yet, the first time I will have to administer the epi-pen myself, the first time we visit the ER, the first time for accidental ingestion of one of our biggie allergens. I know these could be very real for us. They aren't firsts I look forward too.

There is an elusive first we haven't experienced which I hope and dream and pray for everyday. The first time one of my children outgrow one of their allergens. Please God let me have that first.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunflower Oil

Oh, one other thing. Dr. B. doesn't think we need to avoid sunflower oil as it is highly refined. So watch out! I am going to buy any darn brand of tortilla chip I want!

Sesame Allergy...Or Not

We just got back from the allergist where Owen had a skin test for milk, egg, peanut, soy, wheat, strawberry and, of course because of our recent experience, sesame. Interesting outcome. Sesame was completely negative. It barely even got red. We will still follow up with a RAST (time for our annual testing anyway) but for us skin tests have generally been a good indication of allergy.

Results of the others some happy surprises and some not happy non-surprises. Peanut was also negative. Yea! We have never tested peanut before so cross fingers that we have dodged the peanut bullet. Egg was a HUGE positive. Second in size only to Max's first peanut scratch test at age 1. No surprise really considering Owen's last experience with egg. Milk was positive but not much larger than the control and soy and strawberry weighed in with a little red bump for each. As he is consuming both regularly, Dr. B. thought these were still okay for us.

So again, sesame allergy or cross-contam with those darn Back to Nature crackers? (David just thinks 2 year old 25 pound boys should just not consume a half a box Ginger Sesame Crackers.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adding an Allergen?

History: Owen is 2. Allergic to milk, egg and sunflower seed. Tested positive for sesame last year with a .44. The allergist asked if he had had sesame and yes he had, by accident (hummus), but liked it so much and had no reaction so I let him continue eating it. Allergist said this was okay. He has over the last year eaten lots of hummus and sesame crackers, etc. He is allergic to sunflower seed. Gets all over body hives from sunflower protein (namely sunbutter) touching his skin BUT RAST tested at .24 (what?). Has never consumed sunbutter but previously ate numerous things with sunflower oil.

Current issue: Two days ago I had bought a box of Owen and I's favorite crackers. Back to Nature's Ginger Sesame Crackers (contains sesame seeds and expeller pressed sesame oil). We have been known to polish off the whole box in one day. He ate quite a few in the morning. After nap I gave him a baggie of them as we picked up Max from school. When we got home he had a few hives on his stomach and then some on his face. Later he had a loose stool. All day yesterday he had diarrhea which has left his little bum red and raw. So I think it is a mild reaction to something and is similar to his milk reactions. We had started giving him whole milk yogurt and things containing milk after he turned one (pressure from pediatrician because he was underweight) and it always resulted in a few hives and diarrhea. (To which one of the pediatricians at the practice we go to did not think indicated an allergy and wanted me to start WHOLE MILK in a cup instead of eliminating milk all together, idiot).

So I am left wondering was his reaction to sesame (he ate A LOT of crackers) or cross contamination. I know that Back to Nature also makes a White Cheddar Rice Cracker and I read in Kids Food Allergy blog that Back to Nature does not do a good job with cross contam labeling.

What do you all think?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The vanity license plate I spotted today. Cracked me up.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Strength in Numbers

The surprising thing that came out of "being the honey" regarding Mrs. S. birthday celebration on Friday is that I found out there is another child in the class with just as many allergies as Max and perhaps then some. I knew there was another peanut allergy in the class as there are two epi-pens in the classroom and I knew that Max sits next to a boy at lunch who has an egg allergy. Turns out the two are in the same family. Twins! With food allergies! Boy and girl. The girl is allergic to peanut, tree nut, egg, soy and, I think, shellfish.

I talked with their mother on the phone. It was humbling and relieving and sad and GREAT to talk to her. And the best part was that the class parents turned the whole food thing over to us. And Ms. S. said she would prefer fruit for her party. So that is what other allergy Mom and I are providing. Fruit. Perfect.

On another note, a friend of mine who has been a long time reader of my blog, recently joined the food allergy club. I know she never thought she'd be here. Her son recently tested positive for peanut, almost all tree nuts, egg and corn. I know she is having a hard time. It's so hard to walk in these shoes until you have them on. I know she wants reassurance. So, I can't tell you that your son will outgrow any of his allergies. No one can tell you that. You didn't do anything to cause them and you couldn't have done anything to prevent them. Take those thoughts out of your head. But you can do this. You and your son are stronger then you ever imagined. I know adults with food allergies and parents of adults with food allergies. They have made it and turned in to great, strong people. You and your son will be there someday. In the meantime, grieve and learn and lean on some people and educate and don't be bitchy like me. And some day you will be giving this same advice to someone who has been newly diagnosed.

Welcome to the club. Sorry you had to join.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Being the Honey

I have been a bitch lately. Lashing out at people before giving them a chance or walking in their shoes. Ever since Max started school this year I have just been in a tizzy of worry, clouding out all rational thought.

I don't know how many people have said to me lately "You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar." And I know it's true. I was just saying to someone last night that I am going to try to "be the honey."

So today when I got an email from the class parent saying they wanted to celebrate Ms. S's (Max's teacher) birthday and were looking for suggestions for what to serve and that they probably couldn't accommodate food allergies so we with such problems would need to provide something else, I felt the heat rising from the pit of my stomach but thought "be the honey." I replied I would be thrilled to bake something for Ms. S.'s party. Chocolate cake? Oreo cookie cupcakes? Cookies? Muffins? You name it I can do it. I felt better about myself.

The reply I got was "Thanks for the offer. Can I get back to you when I find out about the other kids food allergies too?"

Be the honey....
Be the honey....
Be the honey...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Medic Alert Bracelets

I bought Max this Medic Alert Bracelet because I think it is time he start wearing one. I got him something "cool" looking because I thought he would be more willing. No such thing. He keeps hiding it on me. I just found it again.

My husband doesn't see why he needs to wear one. He is safe enough at school and otherwise barely out of our sight. Even Max comes up with why he shouldn't have to wear it. The other day when I was asking him to wear it to the gym he argued that they didn't serve snacks there so he was safe without it. Besides he won't eat anything he isn't supposed to.

So does he need to wear it? And how do I get him in compliance?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What is Your Opinion?

The following email came through one of my mommy groups. Not knowing the peanut allergic moms side, should peanut butter be banned in this classroom? I'm interested in your responses...


I've got a dilemma and I'm not sure how to handle the situation. It concerns my son and his new classmate who has a peanut allergy.I preface this by saying I'm a former EMT, so I'm very familiar with anaphylactic shock, severe allergic reactions, Epi pens, and the like. I'm not really looking for a Food Allergy 101 type of discourse, but more along the lines of how a child with food allergies assimilates into the non-allergic world.

Here are the facts:1. My son J (3.5 yo) is autistic and enrolled in a public elementary school that features a special needs preschool program. He was in the school last year, another Fairfax County school this summer for summer session, and back at his original school for the new school year.

2. Due to the nature of his condition, J is very tactile defensive and sensory, esp. with food. Think picky toddler eater, times 10. He has a special diet with biomedical supplements, so I'm not entirely unfamiliar with what it's like to *not* be able to eat everyday, common things that every other child on the planet enjoys. But he is down to 2 options for lunches (PB&J, or grilled cheese sandwiches.. .which he's not supposed to have because he's on a casein-free diet, but we do offer him occasionally so he doesn't completely max out on the other option. and yes, we've tried and he hates the non-dairy cheese alternatives, so we supplement with probiotics and digestive enzymes to help with any distress, but it does make him rather "stimmy"). He is down to 2 options for dinner as well, both of which require a stove to prepare - so we can't just flip the menu to serve lunch at dinnertime.

3. J IEP includes socialized eating during snacks and lunch, hoping that seeing other children eating and trying different things might inspire him to imitate. It hasn't happened yet, but the teachers are aware of his feeding issues. We supplement with private OT in the home for feeding as well.

4. A classmate of J's has a peanut allergy. On his first day of school, after we sent PB&J into school for lunch, the teacher asked me to no longer bring PB into the classroom due to the classmate's allergy.

5. I explained J's limitations with diet, his IEP needs and goals in respect to feeding/eating, and asked if there was a workaround since there's really nothing else we can feed J. She thought perhaps J could eat in another room or at a table by himself. I did not say anything because she needed to confer with the parents of the affected child and the health coordinator, but I was not really thrilled with isolating J because it seemed punitive (why isolate him vice the other child) and he would lack the socialization needed to expand his feeding skills and repertoire.

6. Today the teacher announced that they have rendered the classroom a "peanut free" room after speaking with the parent about the severity of the allergy. She is drafting a letter to send home to all parents, and PB is no longer allowable in the preschool while this child is in attendance.

7. J's school is not a peanut-free school, nor is the Fairfax County school system. The school cafeteria features PB&J on the menu daily as a "default" option if students don't care for anything else on the lunch menu. There are a few hundred children that attend the school. Since the child is clearly highly allergic if they're now rendering the classroom peanut-free, wouldn't it stand to reason that the other hundreds of children who use the bannisters, library, gym equipment, playground equipment, and other commonly-shared objects/areas could potentially harm this allergic child?

I keep thinking that there has to be a workaround. That this child could eat in the other preschool classroom... perhaps one room can be peanut-free and in the other it's allowable. I know it's not a perfect comparison because it's not a life-threatening situation, but when J would wig out from sensory overload when we went into a grocery store or heard another child crying which would trigger a complete empathetic meltdown in him, my first gut instinct was to protect my son because he's different and sensory-sensitive. But logically I knew I couldn't ask people in public to make their children stop crying (don't we all wish this was possible!?) or take their kids out of the store or ask the store to turn the music down or the flickering flourescents off. J had to learn to cope in a world with such uncomfortable, intolerable distractions. We have to live in "their" world; they can't live in "ours" - in other words. So when I try to think of things in a fair and balanced nature, I wonder how kids with severe allergies have to face situations that threaten their health on a daily basis, and what are potential strategies to accommodate both types of kids without penalizing one or the other. How does the peanut-allergic child live in a peanut-eating world? How do moms with children with severe food allergies handle this in the school, in public areas, etc.? How do moms who are current or former educational providers (public or private) handle both types of kids? I feel like I need to advocate for the rights of my own child, as much as another mom would advocate for the rights of hers. Both types of kids are entitled to the right of a public education. But rather than be combative, I'd like to find a cooperative solution (other than harm my own son's health with daily cheese intake, or sacrificing lunch in the schools everyday). Any insight, advice, or suggestions are highly appreciated.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Conference Fall Out

The teacher is strict and stern. Not a lot of warm fuzzies floating around.

Max is truly being a disruptive turkey.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Conference Tomorrow

Now I'm more nervous. She wants the school counselor to sit in on our meeting. What does that mean?

Friday, August 29, 2008

First Week of School In Review

From a food allergy perspective last week went fine. The nurse actually called me the second day of school to see if I had any concerns. She said the girl who sits next to Max brought a peanut butter sandwich (for snack) the first day so they were going to talk to her parents and see if this would be an every day thing. If so they were going to switch seats. There is one other peanut allergic kid in the class so I don't know why they just didn't sit them together to begin with. There was a birthday so I sent in a cupcake. The teacher has provided me a list with all the birthday dates for the year.

I was more anxious than I think I was acknowledging. This is typical for me. I felt horrible all week. My stomach hurt. I generally felt on edge. Just dropping him off the first day was hard. But I didn't cry until Friday morning when the teacher asked if we could set up a conference because Max was having trouble "socially". I really think she means behaviorally. Apparently he was doing some pushing in line. I'm not surprised his behavior is less than perfect. He was testing everything last week. Throwing a fit when I asked him to set the table. Refusing to stay in his bed the night we had a babysitter. (He was up at 10:30pm when we got home.) He is a child who is terrible in transitions and likes to test and re-test to see how far he can take something. However, after just 3 half days of school was his behavior bad enough to warrant a sit down conference? My mind immediately went to dark places. With multiple life-threatening allergies, he's probably already not a favorite in the teachers mind. Add on a possible behavior problem and I fear a private school might suggest he's not a "fit". My husband thinks I'm being silly and after a weekend under my belt I'm looking at the situation from a different angle but Friday morning I went out to my mini-van and cried.

Tomorrow we start full day and car pool. They will have lunch at school as well as snack (all provided by parents). So we'll see what this week will bring.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Day Has Arrived

Tomorrow Max starts at his new school. I left last week's teacher meeting more nervous than when I went in. I had high expectations as the administration and nurse had been saying all the right things. Tables are washed after snacks and meals. Hands are washed before and after eating. The Epi-pen would be kept with the teacher at all times. The nurse is there full-time.

I got nervous though when right after we sat down, Max's new teacher (Mrs. S.) asked, "So he is allergic to peanuts. Does that mean peanut butter and things with peanuts in them as well?" I thought "Oh no, she doesn't quite get it."

"Do you want his place at the table washed before he eats?" she asked. I said I thought tables were already washed after snacks and meals. The other Kindergarten teacher (Ms. G.) spoke up and explained what they did last year. She had a child in her class the previous year with multiple allergies and was able to go through the table and hand washing process in detail. I added that if people didn't wash their hands Max would remind him. I explained Max's awareness of his own allergies and his defensiveness which can come off as being rude.

When we got to Max's milk allergy Mrs. S. asked, "So what about yogurt or those yogurt drinks, ice cream, he can't have those?" "No," I replied, "or Goldfish crackers or anything that contains milk."

"What will happen if he touches milk?" asked Ms. G, "We have lots of milk spills."

"He will get localized hives." They all seemed rather alarmed at this. I explained that they would need to wash the skin with soap and water. And observe him for other symptoms. Just getting on his skin wouldn't necessarily send him into anaphylaxis. I realize this may be the case for other children but in our case if it's not ingested it had never led us down an Epi pen path.

We covered much, much more about food allergies and Max's needs in order to keep him safe. By the end, Mrs. S. looked beaten down. Which made me more nervous. In hindsight, it has to be hard on teachers. The weight of responsibility for so many children's safety. To have a child who needs extra precautions must sometimes seem overwhelming. Especially when that child is allergic to something in every other child's lunch. I know how I felt when Max was first diagnosed "How am I going to do this?" She must in someways feel the same.

The extraordinary part was what happened when I got home. The school nurse called me. She wanted to know how I felt about the meeting. I relayed my nervousness and we went over the points we felt needed reinforced with Mrs. S. I felt I had found an ally.

It seems we covered everything to keep Max physically safe. But I am still worried about the emotional part. I wonder how much his food allergies will make him feel left out this year. I didn't feel I got into this as much during the meeting. Ah, well, it is a process.

I'm less nervous about the food allergy part now. My nerves today are probably more centered around everything other parents are nervous about. Will his teacher like him/understand where he is coming from? Will he get along with his classmates? Will he like it and embrace learning in a new environment?

I guess the worries never stop, no matter if your child has a food allergy or not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to School

Whew! We are back from over two weeks in Wisconsin and I have less than a week to prepare for school. I have a meeting with Max's teachers tomorrow. So far I am very impressed with the food allergy awareness they have in place. I am expecting tomorrow to go smoothly, just don't want to forget to cover anything.

Back in May at our support group meeting, Maria Acebel spoke to our group about school safety. She has a website and training program for keeping kids safe at school. She's a wealth of infomation and has turned making every school safe for kids with food allergies her mission. I am taking her discussion points with me to tomorrow's meeting.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Peanuts in Weird Places

For the past two years I have been having problems with ear infections. Three really bad ones that just would not go away. Well, I wanted to get to the "root" of the problem. So after many PCP visits and THREE ear doctors I have a legitimate answer. Eczema in my ears. Some people have a problem where they have cronic itching in my ears (brought on by my enviromental allergies?). In any case, I pick at my ears or use Q-tips which introduce bacteria or the skin in my ears cracks allowing moisture to take hold causing a fungal growth. Bad news all around.

However, my new ear doctor said, there is a product out now that helps with ear eczema. Just a few drops a day for a week and my ears won't itch. Relief!

Out of habit I turned the sample over to check the label. Second on the inactive ingredients? PEANUT OIL! Seriously, peanut oil. In ear drops!

I held out using it for a week and last night concluded I needed to stop my ears from itching (more sneezing and runny nose lately too like I said allergies?). So I used the peanut oil drops. I'm just paranoid about them though. I wash my hands constantly and treat them like they are the deadliest of drugs I have in my cabinet. (Which okay, they just might be.)

What unlikely place have you found peanuts?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Angry at the Doughnuts - A Little Rant

When I dropped Max off at camp this morning I noticed the teacher giving one of the assistants a few boxes that highly resembled something you would get at a bakery. "Do those boxes contain cookies, doughnuts or something else I need to be concerned with." I asked.

"Oh yes, doughnuts, for a birthday celebration. I don't suppose Max can have those?"

Hmmm, let's think about that one.

I replied no and headed home to round up a cupcake to bring back to school for someone's birthday celebration.

Why, oh, why, must people bring "treats" for their children's birthday, I say again. I simmered all day and glared at the offending Mom with the doughnut box at pick-up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tagged - 6 Random Things About Me.

I have been tagged by Food Allergy Buzz. I've never been tagged. It feels like being part of the in crowd.

First here are the rules:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.

  • Post the rules on your blog.

  • Write 6 random things about yourself.

  • Tag 6 people at the end of your post.

  • Let each person know you tagged them by leaving an entry on their blog.

  • Let your tagger know when your entry is up on your blog.
Now, 6 random things about me:

  • I was considered a geek in middle school and generally shunned in high school. I was just generally not very popular and hence cast myself as the outcast in all social situations.

  • Despite not being the popular type I ran for Miss Wisconsin THREE times as Miss Sparta, Miss Southeastern Wisconsin and Miss Wisconsin Central. Which now seems weird even to me. I won preliminary swimsuit two of the years I competed and placed Top Ten, 1st runner-up and 4th runner-up in that order. The picture is from 1994 with my roommate from that year who's name is Pam and I believe she might have been Miss Waukesha. I'm the one in the purple.

  • I have lived in 6 states. Wisconsin (19 years), Washington (8 years), Arizona (6 years) North Carolina (2 years) Virginia (2 years) and Minnesota (1 year). Adding that up you get my age. (No we are not a military family)

  • I once was an elf at Santa Land at the Bon Marche in Seattle.

  • I love movies about people striving for greatness but being held back by the everyday only to find greatness in their ordinary lives such as "It's A Wonderful Life" or "Mr. Holland's Opus" However, the movie I will watch over and over again is "Overboard" with Goldie Hawn.

  • I don't like fish. Don't make me eat them. But like fishing. We took Max recently. He let all the worms go. That's me fishing a couple weekends ago. David thinks I'm hot when I'm fishing.

Now for the taggees. I am tagging a few other FAMs: Kids Food Allergies Blog (because she's an awesome blogger), This Adobe (because her blog is so elegant), My Kids' allergies (because she was one of the first blogs I started reading), Owen's Food Allergies (because Owen is having a rough month), Fruit of the Womb (3 for me, because she always leaves nice comments on my blog), and Allergy Life in Loudoun (because she's a great voice for food allergies and a real go getter.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ice Bat

The night before Max's birthday he just couldn't wait for a present so I gave him one. He has been wanting an Ugly Doll. So I gave him and Owen their new friends. Max got Ice Bat and Owen got Ugly Dog. This was followed by Max's bright idea that his birthday cake should not only be a bat cake but an ICE BAT cake. Well, I'm game. Bring it on, I say. Judge for yourself.

Of course Max also needed to make a habitat for Ice Bat. A diorama if you will. Apparently Ice Bat lives in a cave in the Himalayas. Those are snow flakes coming from the ceiling. Later stalagmites and stalactites were added.

He then needed to make a habitat for Ugly Dog who apparently is from Africa. But sadly an image has not been captured of his home. Maybe another day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baking A Cake

I have been wrapped up in my own little funk the past few days. I think the peanut challenge affected me more than I am willing to admit. Thing is I have become a person who doesn't cry much. It takes a lot for me to break down and cry. I hold it all in and then when the dam breaks I have a hard time stopping. Which is why I never cry.

But today I had a thought. Having a child allergic to many foods causes much baking to be done. Max's birthday is tomorrow. He wants a cake in the shape of a bat by the way. So today he and I set to making the batter. The whole mixing and pouring took less than 20 minutes. He and I had a pleasant time together (which is rare lately). So my thought afterward was that non-allergic kids parents generally buy their cakes or cupcakes. Rarely anymore does it seem like you attend a party where the dessert is homemade. And aren't those kids and parents missing out on that quality time? So here is the positive. Baking with your child is an enriching experience for you both. And we get to do it all the time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Three Strikes and You're Out

"It tastes like Sunbutter." Max said seconds after the allergist administered the peanut butter to his lips and tongue.

Less than a minute later he looked up from his coloring and said that his lips and tongue were itchy. He then started to cry and said his throat was itchy too. I went and got the allergist. By then his lips and tongue were slightly swollen. She gave him Benedryl and we hung around for the next 1 and 1/2 hours to make sure the reaction didn't advance. We left tired and hungry.

She said we will wait two years before we try again. Honestly, I could wait my entire life before repeating any of the food challenges we've gone through in the past five months.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What Brand of Peanut Butter?

What brand of peanut butter does one buy for a peanut challenge? Max's oral challenge is Tuesday. I am really nervous about this one especially after the epi event with Owen in April. I am so afraid that even with a low skin test and a low blood test (.55!) that he will anaphalax. I felt I was really level headed about Max's milk challenge last March (failure) and Owen's egg challenge (failure). But with two failures to the two allergens all allergist tell you your child will outgrow what are the chances that he has really outgrown the one allergen allergist tell you your child will never outgrow? (try that as a tongue twister) Am I crazy to go through with this?

In the meantime, Jiffy or Skippy? Or the natural stuff from Whole Foods? Seriously, I have become so neurotic about avoiding peanut products I might need those gloves hazardous waste guys use to just pick up the jar and put it in my cart.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Random Act of Kindness?

I took the toddler with me to Wegman's yesterday. Big boy was in camp. Sweet German high school babysitter is in Germany.

When I returned to my mini-van after spending nearly $200 I found a Wegman's gift card sitting on my back bumper. I picked it up, confused. I peered around the parking lot. Was I on Oprah? Where were the cameras? Was this a test?

An elderly couple walked by us. "I should give it to them" I thought. Followed by the thought "What if there's nothing on it. Then they'd really think you were cuckoo." I thought about going back in the store to find out if there was anything on it but I had a toddler verging on meltdown and a van full of expensive persihables. I got in to drive home.

As I drove I wondered how much was on the gift card? $20? $100? $200???? And why did someone leave it on my bumper? Was I deserving of such a gift? Like everyone else I am feeling the crunch in rising groceries and gas prices but for me it results in less lattes, less junk for the kids, not so many nights ordering pizza or Chinese take-out after the children are in bed. I'm not losing my house or having to walk because I can't put gas in my car. I started counting my blessings. I have great kids and a loving husband. A roof over my head. Food on my table. I am extremely lucky. And not deserving of the random act of kindness.

I called my husband when I got home and told him about the gift card. "Did someone hit the van ? Maybe it was left to make up for any damage done?" "I don't think so. I didn't look" I went outside to check. Besides one small paint scrape on the bumper, the van looked fine.

Still pondering the card I looked it over and found a customer service number. I dialed and asked if I could check the balance.

$3.27. At least I'm still blessed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two Entries!

Boy, I totalled a whole two entries last month. I really am a slacker. Thing is sometimes I just get tired of food allergies. Talking about them. Blogging about them. I thought about a lot of other things to blog about but kept pushing food allergy thoughts aside. Alas it is an everyday part of my life so back to business.

We just got back from vacation in Alabama. We drove so there is the whole traveling with food allergies thing. The only place I have continued to stop for food is McDonalds. I know that their labeling for their fries changed a few years back but as they never presented a problem for us I have continued to let Max have them. However, I am sick to death of McDonald's. So on the way down I had us stop at Subway. They seem to have changed their kids meal recently. The previous round sandwiches contained egg (remember the sort of yellowish coloring). Now they just use the regular white bread but cut it in half. Max ordered a sandwich with lettuce, cucumber, and olives (the guy in front of me asked if was becoming a vegan a little early). I ordered Owen a turkey sandwich. They both got apple slices.

Max took all the veggies off his and ate only the bread. Owen ate just the turkey and left the bread. Next time I'll just order a turkey sandwich and they can split it between them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I treated myself yesterday. I hired a babysitter and went grocery shopping by myself! I have started going to a different store. Tried out a few locations. And yesterday decided I liked it enough I would surrender my name and address to them so they can track my spending and sell my name (don't know if they do that really) and got the shoppers club card.

I have been searching for a store where I can buy Silk Soy Yogurt and Oeros, Applegate Farms Turkey Bologna and Oscar Meyer hot dogs, Follow Your Heart Soy Mozzerella and Minute Maid Frozen Orange Juice. That perfect blend of foods we need for my allergic kiddos and the stuff you find at the regular grocery stores. Wegman's has it all. Almost a perfect balance.

Could still use a little help getting some of my other favorite products there, like Tuffutti Ice Cream! Why is no one selling Tuffuti. Also, Fruit A Bu fruit roll-ups, Fleischman's Unsalted Margarine and Back to Nature Sesame and Ginger Crackers (Owen and I can eat a whole box it one day.) Also not liking the hummus options at Wegmans.

For more opinons on products see Kids Food Allergy Blog.

But in general, Wegmans is it. I have begun a new grocery store relationship. I'm digging it. Even bought myself a latte there while I browsed the great kitchen items they have there.

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Could Die

Max and David headed off on their camping trip this weekend with much food supplied by Mommy, two epi-pens, Benedryl, How to Read A Label handouts and after many pop quizzes administered by Mommy which Daddy aced.

Yesterday I took Max and Owen to the grocery store to gather (that's what us women-folk do right?) snacks for the trip. I let Max pick out cereal with sunflower oil, chips with sunflower oil and even individual packages of sunflower seeds (never seen a kid so excited about sunflower seeds) since Owen was staying home with me.

At home later, Owen wanted Max's cereal. Max put his arm around him and said "No, Owen you can't have that it would make you really sick and you'd have to have the shot." Owen continued to protest and point at the cereal. "No," said Max "You could die, Owen, you can't have that."

I stopped what I was doing and looked at him. I just let it go. I just didn't realize that Max knew that food allergies could kill you. I guess how could he not know. He has probably heard me say it though I try not to talk about it in front of him. He doesn't express fear of dying (only fear of me dying someday), so I just didn't know that he knew.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pump It Up

Max decided he wanted a Pump It Up party this year. As he talked about it he suddenly got thoughtful and asked "Do they make you have pizza to eat though?" "Oh, no," I replied, "I'm sure we could bring our own food, like hot dogs or something."

Boy was I wrong. I called to schedule the party and the woman on the phone started talking about the pizza packages. "Wait a second," I said. "Are we not allowed to bring in our own food."

"Well, yes and no. You can bring in your own cake and pre-packaged snacks. But no other food including any kind of salsa or dip."

"Well, we have a problem then." was my response. I explained Max's dairy allergy and that he couldn't eat pizza.

"Oh, in the case of an allergy we can make an exception." I was momentarily relieved until she added, "You can bring in seperate food for the birthday boy, but you will need to order a pizza package for everyone else."

"That still doesn't seem fair for Max. It is his birthday and it does bother him when everyone around him is eating something he can't have. It's an emotional issue for him as well."

"Well, how about this, for the time your party is set up most people have already had lunch. You could do a pre-packaged snack and the cake, which you can bring yourself."

I found this to be acceptable and honestly less work for me.

I will give Pump It Up half-credit. The woman I spoke to was kind and understanding of our situation. She handle the conversation professionally and with tact while sticking to Pump It Ups rules. (I'm sure she personally did not make them). But under no circumstances will anything other than pizza be served at Pump It Up. You may not bring your own hot dogs.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Camping With Food Allergies

PK (pre-kids) David and I car camped up and down Western Washington state. From Orcas Island to the Cascades to the Olympic Pennisula. We prided ourselves on being minimalist in our car camping as well. We cooked over the open fire. However, our meals were often elaborate. Cashew Chicken Stir-fry, Brown sugar crusted salmon with pasta and snow peas, one pot chicken with vegetables. Scrambled mess for breakfast (eggs, potatoes and bacon.) We'd come back to camp from a long day hike to some high peak and spend lots of time chopping and drinking wine and relaxing around the camp fire. Okay, David was chopping and I was drinking. PK David was the chef and did a majority of the cooking. Now I do most of the cooking, however, I am more of a short-order cook.

This weekend we took both kids car camping for the first time. Meals are quite different with two food allergy kids. We had hot dogs roasted over the fire. We purchased a camp stove for making bacon and pancakes (recipe from "What's To Eat"). One night we had hobo dinners (hamburger, potatoes, carrots and onions cooked in tin foil on a grate over the fire). And of course a camping trip wouldn't be complete without s'mores. Chocolate bars prove to be the most complicated. I had to melt down safe chocolate chips into candy bar molds before we left. But allergy wise all went fine.

Owen-wise was more difficult. The kid was way too interested in the campfire so we spent most of the time getting in between him and the flames.

So our first excursion was less relaxing and less gourmet but in the end we want to create memories for our children that will take them into their adulthood and hopefully out into the woods.

(PS We packed four Epi-pens for the excursion. Two for each child. And Benedryl.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Anger Management

Warning: Off Topic Post

I have been taking an anger management class lately (it has made me realize my quick temper lately is more from my feeling of being overwhelmed than that my kids drive me to madness.)

Soon after the second class, which laid out our homework as noticing when we were getting angry and cooling our self down, Max tested me.

I was putting Owen in the bathtub. Max got up on a stool and started flicking the light on and off. "Max, please don't turn the light on and off. I can't see what I'm doing." He does it again. I turn to him very calmly and repeat "Max, please stop." He stops until my back is turned and does it one more time. I turn and yell "MAX, STOP DOING THAT."

He replies, "Ah, ah, ah, Mommy. Remember your class? I am just giving you a little practice."

Bested by a child again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Due to fairly recent recalls on Silk Soy Chocolate Singles due the presence of cow's milk proteins, the milk allergic might be questioning the safety of their soy milk. I have a solution for you. Make your own! A friend recently mentioned that her mother makes her own. She blogs about it at Soy Simplified. It's inexpensive and you are guaranteeing the safety of your own food.

Now, you might ask, does that mean you are taking up soy milk making? And the answer would be no. It's not that soymilk is inexpensive (it's not at almost $5 for a half gallon). It's not that I'm lazy (which I sort of can be). It's not that I wouldn't know what to do with the mounds of okara that is the by product of making your own soymilk (because I really wouldn't even with the help of my friend's mom's blog). It's that if I went through all the bother of making my own soymilk and my kids hated it and refused to drink it, I would be a little resentful. Max is the super taster you know. A change even in a brand of a product we use and he detects the subtle difference. For heavens sake I bought Red Delicious instead of Gala apples last week and he refuses to eat them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lactic Acid Starter Culture

From everything I have read lactic acid starter cultures MAY contain milk proteins if they are derived from milk. However, lactic acid starter cultures may be derived from vegetable sources such as beet and corn. So if you see it on a label and have no way to call the company and get a straight answer (assuming someone at the company is knowledgeable enough to answer your question and/or will actually respond to you) assuming that the product contains dairy is the safest route to go.

Most companies don't indicate on packaging what the source of the lactic acid starter culture is, however, I know of a least one that does. Wellshire Farms does a line of meats including turkey sticks and pepperoni. On the label for their turkey sticks it states that the lactic acid starter culture is derived from corn. I personally think they are tasty though Max thinks they are too spicy. I haven't looked at a package of pepperoni but you can search their products with elimination of your specific allergen and pepperoni does come up as dairy free. If you are in doubt please call the company but (this is mainly for elisha (Hi! Thanks for introducing yourself)) may be worth a shot.

The Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act only covers labeling for foods under FDA inspection. It does not cover anything under USDA, hence meat. Which is why companies don't have to disclose the source of their lactic acid starter culture. Here is a good FAQ sheet about FALCPA.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ice Cream - Take 2

I've been meaning to bring up some of the comments posted recently on a variety of subjects but as I suck at blogging lately I haven't done it. So I'll start today and try to do one a day.

A lot of people commented on the Purely Decadent post. Many of you really like Turtle Mountain products, a few prefer Tufutti. 1AllergyMom brought up that Turtle Mountain does process their product on shared equipment and felt like the labeling was misleading. I read their website and I guess I was heartened that they are at least watching out for cross contamination by batch testing. Here is part of their statement:

"Turtle Mountain applies strict quality control measures in an effort to prevent contamination by undeclared food allergens. To assure our preventative measures are effective, we sample test our product for the presence of gluten, dairy, peanut and almond allergens using state of the art testing methods. "

Mama o' the matrices also brought up that Tufutti does peanut products but does not label their products as such and sites a risk with these products as well. So, research well my friends, and decide what is best for your family. Cross contamination labeling is optional.

Coincidentally a new blogger had recently commented about Ice Cream as well. I had not heard of Temptation Ice Cream. At the end of this post she shares that Whole Foods claimed the company making the ice cream was going out of business and that's why they were no longer carrying the product. Via private email the author has told me that a call to the Chicago based company revealed this to be an untruth and they are still cranking out Temptation Ice Cream. In fact I picked up my first pint today at Wegman's. I'll let you know how the kiddos like it.

PS Also agree with Speedbump Kitchen that trying to clean Tufuttie Cutie Ice Cream Sandwich bits off toddlers fingers is ridiculously hard.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Do You Trust Your Husband?

Last week my husband was talking about taking Max on a camping trip with other fathers and kids. A daddy and kid only trip. I must have been looking at him funny because he stopped and said "That's okay, isn't it." I hestitated. "Yes..." I answered. "What are you worried about?" he asked. "I'm worried about you managing Max's allergies on this camping trip." "Oh." he replied, "I promise I'll really pay attention to it."

It's not that I don't think he can do it. He just doesn't always think like I do. Assesing every risk. Checking out everyone else's food. Playing out emergency situation in my head. Reading every label. Just last week he came home with a new brand of hot dog. "Did you read the label?" I asked. "Doh!" he replied, "I didn't even think about it." Sure enough the hot dogs contained a lactic acid starter culture. I've tried to contact the company to find out if the starter culture is dairy derived but the haven't called back.

And up until recently he couldn't even remember that Max was allergic to tree nuts. I have heard more than once, "Cashews? Really? He's allergic to cashews? And pistachios? Since when?" Grrrrrr. I believe he does finally have that down as he was looking at new recipes last week and shouted from the other room "Cashews aren't allowed in the house, right?"

I will let him take Max on the camping trip. It would be fun for them. But Daddy will need some allergy boot camp before hand and I'll probably worry the whole time.

How is your significant other at manage your child's food allergies?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Rocked the Taj Mahal

Okay, still recovering from last week. (Caught a cold). But our Taj Mahal for Asia Day rocked! I don't pat myself on the back much, in fact if you compliment me I tend to say "Oh, it's all right. Could have been better." or some other self deprecating comment. But, seriously, I'm proud of myself!

Here's David and Owen in front of the Taj Mahal.

Close up of the "scroll" work. Each piece cut and glued by moi.

The food turned out okay. My Pancit Noodles didn't turn out. Seemed like an easy recipe but when you are cooking at 6:00 am sometimes things don't work. Max wouldn't try the veggie wontons, did not like the Samosas (even though they rocked!) but did like the Spring Rolls! One out of four is not bad.

I personally thought the Samosas turned out the best and as they are free of dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish, I'll leave the recipe here. I got it from a friend from Indian. She even offered to have her mother-in-law help. Wish I would have had time to take her up on it, would have been fun.


  • 2-3 cups of cubed boiled potatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • flour tortillas
  • red chili powder and salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying

Fry onions in a little oil til golden brown. Add cumin and coriander and fry for another minute.

Add boiled potatoes and green peas. Add salt and chili powder to taste. Stir for 10-15 minutes.

Stir in chopped cilantro and stir for another minute or so. Your filling is ready.

Cut flour tortilla in half. Put in some filling. Fold into shape of triangle and seal edges with a flour and water paste.

Heat some oil in deep pan. Fry samosa to light golden brown.

You may serve hot with Mint Chutney or other chutney. (They are good cold too. I'm thinking may be a great on the road breakfast item.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Need Four Hands This Week

I volunteered to help create an "Asia" themed set for Max's school. The kids will take a pretend flight to Asia and explore the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, rice paddies, Japenese Sand Gardens. So this week I am literally helping to build the Taj Mahal. I volunteered to do the mosiacs on the building. What was I thinking!!??

In addition, you may have seen my previous posts about food for this event. Here and here. They took half my advice on the food and are limiting the food to two types of dishes per country (for a total of eight different types of food). I decided that no matter what I am still going to need to provide Max's food, just to be sure he is safe. So in the next few days I need to make Spring Rolls, Samoasas, Veggie Wontons and Pancit Noodles. Someone wanna come help me?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Purely Decadent

Saturday I visited two stores in search of Tuffuti Chocolate Ice Cream. I hate switching brands once I have found something that works for us. But as I whispered "Damn it, damn it, damn it" when I realized that I was not to find Tuffuti Ice Cream on that day, I picked up a pint of Purely Decadent Dairy Free by Turtle Mountain. I read the label. It didn't contain any of our allergens. Underneath the ingredients was the 'Allergen Information'. I started scanning it figuring it had to be cross contaminated with something. This is what it says:

'Turtle Mountain applies strict quality control measures in an effort to prevent contamination by undeclared food allergens. To assure our preventative measures are effective, we sample test our products for the presence of gluten, dairy, peanut and almond allergens using state of the art testing methods. To lean more about our allergen prevention program visit us at CONTAINS: SOY'

Wow! You guys are too good to be true! But do you really taste 'Purely Decadent'. Max and I bought a pint to take home for a taste test. Max's conclusion "Delicious!" and I concur. It really is good and it's available at our local Safeway.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Multitude of Events Equals Multitudes of Substitutions

Okay, so I'm exaggerating but we do have a lot of outside the home events to attend this weekend. Today I have been running through the mental list of things I need to bake, buy or otherwise get together.

Here's the list:
Saturday afternoon birthday party: The mother is keeping it simple (Bless her!) She is serving fruit, juice and cookies. Note to self: Bake cookies

Saturday evening auction and dinner at Max's school, kids are going to onsite child care (only $30 after paying $80 last week for a sitter this is a steal.): They are serving the kids ice cream and were going to serve goldfish crackers but changed to teddy grahams. Note to self: Buy Tufutti Ice Cream (Chocolate) and send along own ice cream scooper (so my kids don't get cross-contaminated ice cream).

Sunday Newcomers Welcome Luncheon at our church: croissant sandwiches and sliced wraps (from Costco), potato salad and cole slaw (Safeway deli), brownie bites (Costco), Country Time lemonade and sparkling water. Glad she gave me a complete list but this requires I bring along complete lunches for Max and Owen. To make it simple I'll pack: Turkey wraps, Pillsbury crescent rolls (Note to self: buy Crescent Rolls), Carrot slaw (grated carrots) and the cookies I will have already baked.

Why the list? I titled this blog "Everyday with Food Allergies" because I wanted other people to see the preparation that happens for events that people without food allergies don't have to think twice about. I also want to say that a year ago I probably would have only done the birthday party and skipped the school dinner and church luncheon all together. But I can't keep us all shut away in a house. We need to build a community, make friends and get involved. Unfortunately this often involves events with food. So we will just need to learn to deal. Bring our own food. Watch carefully. And carry an Epi-pen (or two or three).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Why the Challenge?

(I have been avoiding my blog the past week. I've been having really angry feelings and misdirecting this anger at my husband (mostly my husband) and kids. And when I'm unbalanced emotionally everyone here seems to be off. So trying to recognize where I am and move on.)

3 for me asked why we challenged egg with Owen instead of testing. My husband actually asked the same question when I called to tell him what had happened. It's a good question.

I'll start that with a brief history of Owen's egg allergy. Having an older child with food allergies, I watched for ANY signs that Owen might have an allergy. He was a very colicky infant. So when he was only weeks old I did an elimination diet on myself (I was breastfeeding exclusively). I slowly added things back in by eight weeks he was a happy baby and the only thing I hadn't added back in my diet was eggs (interestingly enough toward the end of my pregnancy I couldn't tolerate eggs and threw up everytime I ate them.) We were on a trip the time Owen was eight weeks old and I had an Egg McMuffin one morning for breakfast. By evening Owen was a miserable baby. The connection seemed clear to me. So I steered clear of eggs until he was around 17 months old. By then he was only breastfeeding once (okay most of the time twice) a day and my diet no longer seemed to be affecting him. Some eczema but otherwise fine. He had by now exhibited allergy symptoms to dairy.

We did have Owen tested. Skin test at 9 months was negative for milk, small positives for egg and rice. At 17 months he was skin tested again, small positives for milk and egg. When I say small his wheals were 4 or 5 mm compared to Max's tests at this age which were 10 and 12 mm. Rice was negative we added it back in his diet.

After his reaction to sunflower seed we did a RAST. Milk was 2.6 (moderate level) Egg yolk was negative and egg white was only .55 (very low). On the same RAST sesame was .44. The doctor asked if he was eating sesame. I said yes. She said to continue to give it to him if he was tolerating it. He loves hummus and sesame crackers and eats them all the time.

Based on all these low test results the doctor suggested we challenge egg. I actually waited 8 months before I followed through with her suggestion.

So, what does all this mean? I think it means that the numbers don't always matter. Someone with a low RAST score can still have a severe reaction to a food. The number indicates that someone MIGHT react. It can't predict severity. And these tests are not perfect. They are performed by human being in a lab and errors do occur.

More than one allergist has said to "History trumps test results."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tale of a Food Challenge - Owen Gets the Epi

"Why are you cooking eggs!" exclaimed Max.

"Because Owen has a food challenge today to see if he really is allergic to eggs."

"Itchy" says Owen lifting up his shirt. Was this foreshadowing? I'm sure he was mimicking what Max did at his food challenge last week.

At the doctor's office they started out by just touching the scrambled egg to the inside of his cheek. He scratched at his cheek a little while later, it was red but not hivey so after 15 minutes they went ahead with the first dose of 1/4 teaspoon egg. I put it in his mouth and he pushed it out. He really didn't want to eat it, kept turning his head. I finally disguised it in some soy yogurt and he swallowed it. Complete betrayal registered on his face.

Soon after he was definately getting hives. I went and got the nurse who in turn got the doctor. We gave him some Zrytec and then an oral steroid. The hives were not abating and his eyes were beginning to swell. "I'm going to have to give him an Epi." the doctor said. I was surprised. They had been continually checking his blood oxygen and it was fine but I guess they just needed to stop the reaction. I held him on my lap while the nurse injected epinephrine into his leg. Soon after that he threw up. Before I had left the house I had thought to myself, 'I should bring him a change of clothes.' But I hadn't. I ended up having to take his shirt off and put his jacket on him because the vomit on his sleeve kept giving him more hives. We were there for two more hours before they released us after more anti-histamine and some oral steroids he is to take this evening.

I've been crying on and off since we got home. I don't know why this is more upsetting to me than last week. Because for the first time one of my kids got the Epi? Because it proves to me they really are THAT allergic. I don't know. Owen is fine now. Resisting nap as usual. I think I'll cry a little longer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Celebrity Apprentice

I am not one for celebrity worship. Even as a pre-teen I much prefered oogling the cute boy on my block then the members of Duran Duran. However, I have fallen in love with Trace Adkins. He is so down to earth and representing a charity already close to my heart, Food Allergy and Anaphalaxis Network. His own daughter has a life-threatening food allergy.

Courtesy of my local support group, here's a little more info on tonight's show and how YOU can contribute.

It's the final showdown between country music sensation Trace Adkins and British tabloid editor/America' s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan in the long-awaited season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice. Trace and Piers are the last two players remaining, and they will compete in a live two-hour finale airing on NBC Thursday, March 27th, at 9 PM ET/PT. Donald Trump will name one of them the first-ever Celebrity Apprentice and award a $250K check to the winner's charity.

Trace Adkins' integrity and passion for his charity, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), were enough to qualify him as one of the two finalists in this season of the TV reality series The Celebrity Apprentice. The final face-off will include a charity auction and performance by The Backstreet Boys.

They won't be the only ones singing. Trace Adkins will be performing his hit single "You're Gonna Miss This" live with his band during the finale. Immediately following his performance, a prerecorded live charity single download will be on sale to the public at, giving you an opportunity to support Trace Adkins' charity, FAAN. Starting Thursday, March 27th, this charity single will be available exclusively at iTunes for only two weeks. The net proceeds for the entire two-week lifespan of the download will go to FAAN. Thank you to Capitol Records Nashville and iTunes for coming together to give back to FAAN.

Also, NBC is now giving viewers a chance to lend a hand and support the charities attached to the show's finalists. Beginning Thursday, March 27th viewers will be able to donate to the two finalists' charities by texting the message TRUMP to 30101. Cost per text is $1.00, plus participating service providers may charge additional text messaging fees. Net proceeds will be donated to the finalists' charities. Viewers who text will receive a video message from Donald Trump thanking them for their generosity. Viewers can go to for complete details. Entrants must be 18 or older.

The largest charity in the U.S. dedicated to helping and advocating for the 12 million Americans with food allergy, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) was established in 1991. FAAN's membership now stands at close to 30,000 worldwide and includes families, dietitians, nurses, physicians, school staff, and representatives from government agencies and the food and pharmaceutical industries. FAAN serves as the communication link between the allergic patient and others.

Trace's 6-year-old daughter had a severe, life-threatening reaction to peanut butter when she was just 9 months old, an experience Trace called "terrifying. " FAAN has played an instrumental role in the lives of families like Trace's and thousands more across the U.S. For more information about food allergies, visit www.foodallergy. org. Be sure to watch the finale of The Celebrity Apprentice on NBC, Thursday, March 27th at 9:00 PM ET/PT!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


"My ears are itchy," he says, just minutes after the doctor has given him a teaspoon of whole cow's milk via a syringe.

"You're ears are itchy," I repeat "Hmmm."

He turns his attention back to Toy Story.

"Do I have any hives?" he says. He clears his throat a couple times.

"Not on you face." I reply "Are you itchy anywhere?" I am trying not to put words in his mouth or ask too many questions.

"When will she check me for hives?" he asks.

"Well, if you have any hives I will go get her." I reply.

"I'm itchy right here. Do I have a hive?" He lifts up his shirt.

"No, no hives."

"It must just be a regular itch then." He says. He focuses again on the movie playing.

This repeats itself over and over again as we wait out the 20 odd minutes before the next dose of cow's milk. I write it off as nerves. He really wants to pass the challenge.

The doctor finally comes back in with . "Was that there when we started?" she turns to ask me. There is a small swollen spot on his bottom lip. "I'm not sure." I reply. His skin test was still positive so it is possible that a dribble of the milk irritated the lip. She listens to his lungs asking him to take deep breaths. His lungs are clear so we to continue with the challenge. She gives him two syringes full of cow's milk. "Let me know if there is any further swelling in the lip or if he is clearing his throat a lot." I nod.

He continues to say he is itchy, asks me to check his face for hives. After 5 minutes or so a definite large hive is forming above his lip. I call the doctor in the office. "We'll have to stop." she says. "I know." I reply. She gives him 2 teaspoons of Benedryl and says we will have to hang around to make sure the reaction doesn't progress.

"Do you understand what this means?" I ask him. "Yes," he puts his head on his hands. "Are you disappointed?" I ask. "Yes, I really wanted to try cheese." he replies.

The doctor and I talk. It is good that he tolerated as much as he did with only a minor reaction. However, she wants to wait another year before we try it again. "A year!" protests Max "That's a long time!"

"Yes, yes it is." says the doctor "But we want to give you time to outgrow the allergy."

I ask about challenging peanut. She feels with a low blood test and low skin test it is a good possibility he could pass a challenge but wants to wait til after his 6th birthday. Sometime in August.

Max is starting to fall apart. He's hungry. He wants to leave. I chalk it up to disappointment plus Benedryl.

After 30 minutes the hive has resolved itself; the Benedryl doing it's job and we are released. Max falls asleep in the car on the way home. Ever since he was first diagnosed at age one I would feel slightly panicked when he fell asleep in the car. I always want to reach back and make sure he is still breathing.

At home my mother-in-law suggests we play up the good side of this as much as possible. His bravery, he is outgrowing and we'll try again next year, it isn't his fault and there is nothing he did wrong it's just the way it it. She suggests a celebration.

So at dinner I make one of his favorites. Grilled chicken with rice and soy sauce. I tell him we are waiting for Daddy to get home to eat together because he are having a celebration. "A celebration?" he says "What for?" He loves any kind of celebration. "Because you were so brave at your food challenge today. Look what we get for dessert." "Cupcakes! Can I eat as many as I want?"

Monday, March 24, 2008


It has kind of snuck up on me. We have two challenges in the next week. Max challenges dairy tomorrow and Owen challenges egg next week Tuesday. Yikes. I will not give into speculation on what will happen and what will follow.

Max is excited though. He has asked a lot of questions about it and it has helped that we did a food challenge last year for black bean so he sort of knows what to expect. He asked if we were going to the store after the food challenge. I said maybe thinking he was going to ask for a toy if he was good. "Why?" I asked. He answered "because if we are, I'm going to buy some cheese." I guess he thinks he'll passed. I hope he does. More because now his hopes are up and I don't want him to be disappointed.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Scramble

About two weeks ago I realized I hadn't ordered a chocolate bunny from one of the nut free chocolate companies but thought "Oh, there is still plenty of time for delivery." Imagine my horror when I went online to find that both Vermont Nut Free and Amanda's Own were no longer offering shipping for Easter due to high demand. What was I to do? I drove myself to Michaels in a frantic search for a bunny mold and snagged the last Easter themed lollipop mold. So tonight I have been melting safe chocolate chips and pouring them into the bunny, chick, egg and flower shape. Okay, it really didn't take me that long. Max may still question why he doesn't have a full sized bunny but at least he'll have chocolate.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Eating Abroad

I have been wanting to write about our food experiences in Spain (neither my husband or I have food allergies and we didn't take the kids) but re-entry into the real world has been rough and has left little time for blogging. My memories of cafe con leche on a sun filled plaza are slipping away. I want to escape back there if only for a moment...

Ordering food in a language you don't know if difficult. With our handful of Spanish and the waiters' handful of English, we did for the most part end up with food we wanted to eat.

The Spanish have an odd eating schedule. Breakfast consists mainly of coffee of which I drank con leche (with milk) and David drank his solo (self-explanatory) with a bollo (pastry) or small sandwich of jamon (ham) or queso y pimienta (cheese and pepper). I love cafe con leche. The drink is smaller than the lattes served in coffee shops here and the taste stronger. And even though breakfast was a no nonsense affair, never was coffee served in a paper cup. It was expected that you were going to sit down at a table right there and enjoy your pastry and coffee, if only for 10 minutes. The result is you don't see people wandering around nursing a double tall skinny latte with extra foam. I also realized I drink way too much caffeine.

The other great thing about Spanish breakfast was the fresh squeezed orange juice or zuma de naranja. The cool thing was the way it is squeezed. Every restaurant seemed to have this machine that the server fed oranges into the top. The oranges dropped down were sliced in half and then squeezed on this turning wheel and out flowed delicious fresh squeezed juice. I told David I want an espresso machine to make my own cafe con leche and an orange juice machine to entertain the kids in the morning.

The hard part about eating in Spain was waiting for lunch which is taken between 2pm and 4pm. My blood sugar levels had a hard time with this. Restaurants didn't even open for lunch until 1pm at the earliest. Seriously, how do people do this? The interesting part was watching things really shut down for this siesta time. In small places we visited like Segovia and Toledo, shops closed and people headed home to have meals with their families. Things reopen around 4 pm or later and I guess people work til like 8pm. And that's okay because dinner isn't served til 9, 10, 11pm!

The food itself was pretty simple. We ate a lot of jamon y queso served with el pan (bread). You can probably find the jamon we ate in Spain at a specialty deli. It might be labeled Serrano Ham. It is thin sliced, chewier and fattier than the ham we know. Kind of like prosciutto but not as salty. The queso was always Manchego, which I already loved.

Toward the middle of the week it became my quest to figure vegetables into my diet. They just seemed kind of scant on menus but I did find them. The language barrier often kept me from knowing exactly what I was getting or how it would be cooked but since I'm not a picky eater, I really didn't mind. I did ask at one restaurant what the deep fried seemingly tasteless vegetable was with my mixed otherwise grilled vegetables. The waitress said she had to check. She came back to our table and said she knew what it was in Spanish but didn't know the English word for it. She wrote it down for me. Acelgas, which translates to chard. Deep fried chard.

The day we visited Segovia it was freezing. We even got snowed on. The wind whipping through the narrow streets had us numb to the bone so we ducked into a little Lonely Planet recommended restaurant. I really wanted soup but couldn't find the soup on our menu listed in my menu reader book. It was called sopa castellana. Did you look at it? Yes, that is a huevo (egg). It was basically broth with breakfast in it. Not vegetable soup but it hit the spot anyway. Good thing I'm not allergic to eggs.

I would love to take my kids to Spain someday or any other foreign country but it occurred to me how difficult it would be to do this if you had food allergies. I don't take them to restaurants here in the states, how would I safely feed them in a country where I didn't speak the language? I guess we'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it. In the meantime, I'll be dreaming of cafe con leche.