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.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Advice Giving

Per a recent comment by another blogger I finally realized why I felt uncomfortable with the publication of my blog in Readers Digest. It was the assertion that I was offering advice on food allergies. In fact I think it says "Get real food allergy advice" and lists three blog addresses including mine. I want to say I have never thought of this blog as a way to give advice. In general I try not to give advice about anything unless asked. Saying I could give advice implies I am an expert. The only thing I am an expert on is managing my OWN children's food allergies (and even I slip up on that sometimes.)

However, I have learned so much from other people's experiences and that is what I want my blog to convey. My own, my sons', our experiences in dealing with food allergies everyday. And I use the word everyday to convey that we don't get a vacation from food allergies. We can't have just a little of an allergic food, we can't take off Christmas or birthdays to have special allergen laden treats. Our food allergies are managed everyday, one day at a time. I want to share our experiences and hope that others learn something from them. But for the record, I don't give advice:)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

ACTUAL Letter to the teachers

So here is ultimately what I did send to Max's teachers. I'll have to address all my other issues differently. Namely the distribution of the life-threatening food allergy list.

Via email:

First off I am sorry my sons were so distracting at our committee meeting yesterday. It was hard for me to focus or perhaps I would have been able to bring up these issues while we were all still together.

I have been pondering the food for the Asia Trip since our meeting and I have a few thoughts. The way the event is structured now is for many people to bring various foods making for a pot luck of sorts. I think this leads to a host of logistical problems. Where and how is the food set up? What about utensils/dishes/napkins, etc.? Where do people sit to eat? I feel a pot luck leads to people standing in line to get food, children focusing more on eating than enjoying Asia and a lot of garbage to clean up. How do we control the crowd and the mess? I just fear a pot luck might overshadow the real purpose of the "Asia Trip" which is to explore Asia not feed everyone lunch.

Here is my idea: What if one or two foods were choosen for each country and many people asked to bring the same thing already sepearted in to bite sized portions. For example a small bite-sized samosa for India, Shredded colored cocoanut or Chinese crackers in a small cup for China. The food would then be kept at a "kiosk" near the set for each country so the children could enjoy a small "snack" in each country. This way they could easily distinguish which culinary delight belongs to which country and still be hungry for lunch later on.

I also have food allergy concerns regarding a pot luck which I feel could be minimized with the "kiosk" idea. But that is an issue we can discuss later.

Please see my ideas as my way of offering options and simplifying this wonderful event.

What do you think?

End transmission

Friday, March 14, 2008

Letter to Max's Teachers

To the teachers at my son's school:

First off I am sorry I had to bring my two children to the food committee meeting today. I know they are not the easiest children to bring somewhere and expect to be quiet. They were quite distracting especially to me. However, you did not choose the best time to hold a short meeting. Had you made it an hour later I could have left them with my husband.

Secondly, I don't feel the meeting went very well. I had wanted to insure at least a few safe food choices for my son. I am so tired of him being made to feel left out. The meeting was so scattered though and since only 3 out of the 13 volunteers showed up I don't feel I was able to make much of an impact. Also , I think the list of life-threatening allergies only really confused people as we are telling people they only need to really avoid peanuts and tree nuts even though things such as milk, eggs, strawberries and even white potatoes were listed as life-threatening. What is the point of distributing such a list unless you really want people to avoid all these items? (You also just singled out every child with a life-threatening food allergy by distributing their names and allergens to a number of people with their own agendas. I don't know how comfortable I am with that.)

I know you are asking people to label dishes but I want to point out a few things. People don't always know how to label a dish. For example, some part of the dish may need to be sauteed, the maker of the dish may do this in butter but forget to add that to the label. Or perhaps they use margarine in which case all the ingredients in the margarine should be included in the list. I will still look at the sea of food, labeled as it is, at this event and feel panic. My son will still only eat those items I bring. It is the only way I can assure his safety.

I don't know what I expected to be different. A pot luck is a pot luck. And with food allergies more than luck needs to be on your side. I guess at least I was assured that 3 out of his five allergens will not be present.

Lastly, to say that the food is only to give the kids a taste of Asia and that they will all be happy in the end because it is Pizza Friday that day and they all love pizza is the last disservice to my son who appears to be the only milk allergic child in the school or at least on the life-threatening list. He can't eat the "Taste of Asia" and he can't eat the pizza.

Why do I feel so frustrated with today?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Traveling WITHOUT Children

You can find lots of advice from various online support groups about traveling with your FA kids. However, what about when you travel without them? Meaning what do you need to prepare when leave you them with Grandma and escape with that stranger of a spouse. I hear you laughing now. How often does that really happen? Well, it is happening to me this week, we are going to Spain! Grandma has arrived, our flight is this afternoon and my five year old is running a slight temperature and is complaining his ear hurts. But that's another story.

I know many of you have trouble with family members understanding and taking your childrens' food allegies seriously. I am lucky to be blest with parents and in-laws that understand the severity my kids allergies and want to do everything they can to insure their safety.

Here is what we have been working on the past week so that Grandma can take over:

1. I have always believed my house is the safest place for my food allergic kids. However, I went through all the cupboards to make sure all unsafe food was either tossed or clearly labeled. This was actually a request by my Mom. She doesn't want to make any mistakes. (I told her she could get cow's milk yogurt and milk for herself but she doesn't want to take any risks so even she is going soy for the week). So out went the crackers my husband bought for him and I but contain sunflower oil. Labeled was the box of Ms. Grass's soup which I bought when I was sick and wanted some comfort food. I was actually surprised how little in our house was unsafe. We keep a pretty clean home!

2. I pointed out the pan which I had been using for eggs. "Well, put it somewhere where I won't use it. I don't even want it in the cupboard." as my Mom's reply.

3. Provide lists of routines, meal ideas, things to do and of course emergency contacts and numbers and instructions. We went other where the almost half a dozen epi-pens are, how to recoginize anaphalaxis and how of course to use them.

4. But most importantly we filled out and had notarized a medical release form. A friend of mine told me a story about how she was in the ER with one of her children this past year and a man came in with his nephew. The child's mother was in labor at another hospital but the child was running a high fever and needed medical attention. The hospital refused to treat the child because the uncle wasn't the legal guardian and didn't have a medical release. So whenever you leave your children, food allergic or otherwise, always leave a notarized medical release form.

So we are off! I'm nervous but I know my kids are in good hands.

Addendum: Red Dog wanted me to add the medical release form. Here is where I printed a free form