Sunday, June 28, 2015

A New Diagnosis...and Having Food Allergies

A couple of weeks ago, Bubs returned home from summer camp and was complaining of being very tired.  I blamed it on a week away at camp.  A few days later he had some puffiness in his face, which I attributed to seasonal allergies and had him resume taking Claritin.  He continued with other complaints including difficulty catching his breath, decreased appetite, nausea, headaches, and ongoing fatigue.  I thought, dehydration, seasonal allergies, too busy with activities, etc.  I also noticed that his torso was getting thicker, for lack of better words.  But I thought this 10 year old boy may be in the beginning stages of puberty.  I even joked with him about becoming a man.  

 

I tend to be on the "we don't need to go to the doctor until an arm is falling off" end of the spectrum.  But when there was notable swelling in his entire body, I decided I should take him in.  

We went to our office's walk-in clinic the next morning.  When they weighed him, we found that he has gained 13 pounds in the last 4 months.  That is a ton of weight for this skinny kid.  We saw a nurse practitioner who spent a lot of time with us.  I could tell she was concerned and didn't really know what to think.  His physical exam seemed normal.  Heart and lungs sounded good.  Eyes, ears, nose, and throat looked clear.  No tenderness to palpation in his tummy.  She decided to order some labs to see if anything was off with his bloodwork.

This kid dreads anything with a needle.  He calls anything involving a needle a shot, whether it is a vaccination or a blood draw.  He loathes going to the allergist because he knows he will have to get a "shot."  So now, on top of all of his other symptoms, he was experiencing anxiety too.  

We were supposed to get the results the following morning, but I received no phone call that morning.  Bubs' face and body looked even worse.  I called and left messages asking for a phone call back.  My mind was spinning thinking of all the different things that could be wrong.  Heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, cancer.  If he had to be hospitalized, would they be able to feed him, or would I be able to bring in safe food for him?  I was thinking they weren't calling me back because something was so skewed that they had to look further into what was going on.  If everything had been normal, they would have called right away when they said they wouldFinally, at the end of the day, the phone rang.  (The delayed phone call had been because an additional test had been ordered to check for mono, which apparently takes longer than the standard testing they were doing.)  

Diagnosis: Hypothyroidism.  While this isn't a wonderful thing to have, I am so greatful it is something that is managebale with meds.  We can handle this.  Except the sample pills they gave us contain.....you guessed it.....MILK.  

I always check for lactose monohydrate on pill bottles because this is commonly an inactive ingredient.  I didn't know what to do.  It was now after hours, and I wanted to start this medicine first thing in the morning as Bubs continued to swell up.  I called the on-call nurse practitioner asking for a liquid form of Synthroid.  She called around to several pharmacies, but none of them were able to make that compound.  The pharmacy that she knew of that could make it was already closed for the evening.  We just had to wait another day.  I gave Bubs an ibuprofen hoping it would help with the inflammation, which it did.  He looked better within an hour.  

The following day the nurse practioner called me back saying they had decided to start Bubs on a gel capsule of levothyroxine called Tirosint.  I was happy with this as I had been inundated with support and suggestions after posting a comment on Facebook asking for help from the food allergy community.  Tirosint was a drug that several people had suggested as hypoallergenic, and it does not contain any milk.

He began the gel tabs two days ago.  Now we wait to meet with an endocrinologist in a month.  I told Bubs that he will get used to needles as he will have many blood draws in the near future.  

Dealing with food allergies is something I have become accustomed to.  But now having to navigate our way through a new chronic disease that involves daily meds which we have to check for his allergens is new territory.  We will get through this together.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Overnight Summer Camp....With Food Allergies



One of my favorite childhood memories was going away to a week long overnight summer camp.  We got to swim, do archery, sing songs, camp under the stars, make new friends, etc.  This is something I have always wanted my kids to experience too.

Most typical activities are more challenging when food allergies are involved.  This is compounded when the plan is for these kids to be away from home for five days without a parent around.  Luckily, there was a parent from our church who would be at camp with my kids for the whole week (our church sent a small group of kids to this camp).  She knew some general info about my kids' food allergies, but she needed to know more  She willingly met with me prior to leaving for camp so I could really give her the low down.

About two months before the camp began, I spoke with the camp director on the phone, and he told me that I could provide all of my kids' food.  He told me that I would get the menu about a week ahead of time so I could prepare similar food.  He also told me that they wouldn't offer peanut products the week we would be there.  He couldn't guarantee that everything would be "peanut-free" since they may use some products that may have been processed with peanuts.  But they would do their best to eliminate straight peanut products.    

With this knowledge and knowing that an educated adult would be there, I eagerly signed the kids up.  For the next two months, I kept telling the kids how much fun they would have at this camp.  But deep down, I was having anxiety about their food.  New experiences are difficult, especially if I can't be there.

The weekend before they left, I spent lots of time in the kitchen preparing a week's worth of food, packaged and labeled for easy reheating and serving.  I did my best to make it easy by labeling each container with which food it contained for which day/meal and for which kid.  I had bags of dry food, each labeled in the same fashion.  I felt confidant as we headed down the road to camp on Monday morning.

Drop off was at the Dining Hall.  There were camp counselors and nurses there.  As soon as I said our name, the nurses knew right who we were.  She took our EpiPens and inhalers and told us she would escort me to the kitchen once I got the kids settled in their cabins.

After giving my kids a big hug and kiss goodbye, I found the nurse and we headed to the kitchen.  This is where I got nervous.  It didn't seem as if these three ladies (working in the kitchen) were expecting me.  Also, the first meal was supposed to be tacos, but they were making grilled ham and cheese.  When I asked about it, they simply said they had to switch around a few meals.  I got flustered because I had labeled everything by day and meal to match their menu.  I was trying to make it easy, and now things wouldn't line up right.  The adult from our church was with me and said, "It will all work out.  I'll help them get it straight."  I was thankful for that voice of reason.

During my explanation of all the food stuff to the kitchen staff, I also mentioned that they need to wash their hands before handling my kids' food because of cross-contamination.  I got lots of blank looks while I was talking to these ladies.  My anxiety grew as I continued to talk.  One of the gals said that they have a peanut butter bar at each meal.  Before she could say anymore, I said that the camp director had told me that this week would be "peanut-free."  She said that was fine, and she would wipe down the counter where they usually have that set up.

It seemed to me that there was a breakdown in communication somewhere.  If it weren't for this parent volunteer, I would have been a wreck and spent a lot more time there talking to all the staff.  But she kept me calm and told me she would look out for my kids.

I left the camp, feeling very uncomfortable.  The parent volunteer told me she would text updates to me each night so I would know everything was OK.  She texted me later that day saying that following lunch (their first meal), she met with the camp director and nurse, and they decided to move all of my kids' food to the staff fridge, and she would be in charge of reheating and serving my kids' food.  This would completely eliminate having to rely on the kitchen staff .  They also decided that all the kids at camp would wash their hands after each meal to help prevent a reaction.  :)

What a huge relief that was!  After receiving that text, I didn't worry a second more!  I enjoyed my week home with my little girls while the big kids had a blast at camp.  And they created all sorts of wonderful new memories that will last a lifetime!

I'm so glad I took the leap to send my kids with food allergies away to summer camp.  It's scary for all of us, but so worth the experience!  They can't wait to go back next year!

Scalloped Potatoes (Gluten and Top 8 Free)

 

One of the menu items for my kids at summer camp this year was scalloped potatoes.  I had never made these before, so I thought I'd give it a try.  They were quite easy to make, and they turned out delicious and creamy!

Scalloped Potatoes
5 lb bag of potatoes, peeled and sliced
11 oz container So Delicious Culinary Milk
1 pkg Daiya cheddar cheese
2-3 tsp dairy-free butter (I use Earth Balance soy free)
1 tsp onion powder (or real chopped onions)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 425ยบ.  In a medium saucepan, melt over medium heat milk, cheese, butter, onions, garlic powder, and pepper, stirring frequently.  Spray 9x13 dish with cooking spray, then place sliced potatoes in dish.  Once sauce is completely melted, pour over  potatoes and bake for 30-45 minutes (until potatoes are soft).  It's really that simple!      

Before baking


Monday, May 25, 2015

Cookie Dough Cups (Gluten and Top 8 Free)

 

Who doesn't like eating raw cookie dough?  I have eaten plenty in my day, even with the worry of consuming raw eggs.  But now that our family is egg-free, we can all eat raw cookie dough without a care. 

I have been playing around with this recipe for a few weeks, and Bubs decided he would like these little desert shooters tonight to celebrate his birthday with extended family. 

These are really easy to make, and you probably already have all the ingredients in your kitchen.  You can quickly whip these up and enjoy right away, or chill for a bit to savor the classic cookie dough texture.

Ingredients:
1 c dairy-free butter (I used Earth Balance Soy Free), room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
2 1/4 c gluten-free flour
1 pkg chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life chocolate chips)

Instructions:
Beat together butter, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and vanilla.  Add applesauce.  While mixer is on low speed, add flour a bit at a time until well blended.  Fill small cups alternating dough and chocolate chips.  Serve chilled.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

True Solution Protein Shakes (Product Review and Giveaway)

 

With a family with four kids, we are always on the go.  Having two kids with food allergies makes this challenging at times.  I am always prepared with packed meals and snacks from home if we don't have time for a sit down meal, but this can be quite tiring, as most of you know.

I recently stumble across True Solution Protein Shakes which are ready-to-drink shakes packaged in shelf-stable containers.  They come in delicious vanilla and chocolate flavors.  And best of all.....they are free of the Top 8 allergens!  No milk, no peanuts, no soy, no gluten, etc.  A prepackaged protein drink that is safe for my kids with multiple food allergies!  Amazing!

 

I couldn't wait to get my hands on these.  This is perfect for our on-the-go lifestyle.  I can throw these in a cooler, and all the kids can enjoy this delicious treat.  What they don't know is that each shake contains 17 g (plant) protein, 5 g fiber, 23 vitamins and minerals, and only 10 g natural sugar.  There are no artificial colors or flavors and no preservatives either!   
      
A quick drink to fuel Bubs for his game

My kids have enjoyed this drink by itself as well as in smoothies.  I also intend to do some baking with it (more to come on this).  I can't wait to get more.  At only $3 a shake, this is definitely an affordable product.  I also just found out that our local health food store carries True Solution Protein Shakes.  I am eager to run out and get some more!  Their website offers a store locator so you can check out where you can get these.

Perfect in smoothies

Giveaway Time!!!

You now have the chance to try a case for free!  True Protein has offered to give away a case of either vanilla or chocolate to one lucky winner.  You must be 18 years old to enter and live in the continental United States.

To enter, simply comment below with your e-mail address or send me an e-mail at sarahpt213@gmail.com.  Be sure to share why you would love to try this product.  I'll be posting updates on my Facebook page throughout the giveaway, so if you haven't already, click on over and like my page.  Contest ends on May 31, 2015 at 10:00 pm CST.  One winner will be randomly selected and notified via Facebook and e-mail. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Lunch Refused

 

One morning a few days ago, Bubs and I got into an argument over his lunch box. See, he normally takes his lunch in his soccer lunch bag, but since I used a flat rectangular container to pack his lunch this day, I packed it in his Food Allergy lunch bag.

The past several months he has requested that I use his soccer lunch bag, and I have willingly complied.  But there are days that it is more efficient to use a rectangular lunch container which fits so nicely in his food allergy lunch bag.  On those days, Bubs will tend moan and groan a bit, but he doesn't usually put up too much of a fuss since the content of the lunch is something he desires.

On this day, however, he got quite snotty with me and argued over and over that if his lunch was in that [food allergy] bag, he wasn't going to take a lunch at all.  I was very proud of myself for remaining calm during this argument and questioned why he wanted the other lunch bag.  He was unable to give me a reason, but he was fired up.  I told him that I was going to walk away from this argument to give him time to calm down and collect his thoughts.  I said that I am willing to hear his reasoning and make accommodations if appropriate.  But the way he was talking to me was unacceptable, and I was not going to listen to that tone of voice anymore.  As I walked away from him, he made some rude comment to me (I don't even remember what he said).  That was it.  Conversation over.  I told him that he was being disrespectful, and his lunch would remain as packed.  He then refused to take it.  I told him over and over that he would be hungry at lunch time.  He said he didn't care.  I said that that was his choice.  At no point did I take away his food.  I have never withheld food as a punishment.  His lunch remained on the counter until he was well on his way to school.  Only then did I put it in the refrigerator to save for later. 

Come lunch time, my phone rang.  It was the school.  All you food allergy moms know how your heart skips a beat when the school calls, especially when it is at lunch time.   But this time I figured the call was about Bubs not having his lunch.  Sure enough.  I explained the situation but was met with resistance.  I was told that kids are not allowed to be at school without a lunch.  They asked if he could eat anything at the school.  I told them no.  They said they had already tried to give him food, and all he would take was an apple.  He later told me that they made him eat the apple.  I don't have a 504, just an understanding that he is to only eat food that I have approved.  (This will need to be discussed further with the school.)  Of course, an apple is apparently harmless to him, but who knows what that apple has been in contact with.  Someone could have made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just before picking up that apple to hand to him.  I told them that he had refused to take his lunch, it was his decision.  They said that kids just can't refuse to take a lunch.  I asked how I was supposed to force him to take it. This went on and on, back and forth.

Food allergies aside, this was a parenting issue and a learning moment for him.  He is almost 10 years old and old enough to understand the consequences of his actions in this type of situation.  I fully understand where the school is coming from making sure that kids don't go hungry and are well nourished.  There are many kids who receive their only nutrition at school.  This child is not one of those kids.  And this school knows it.  He is a fourth grader, and this is his first missed lunch.  Ever.  Probably his first missed meal.  Ever.

I refused to bring his lunch to school that day.  I was at a Mother's Day Celebration with my 4 and 5 year old girls.  Taking this phone call in the middle of that activity was disrespectful enough.  I certainly wasn't going to leave them to take Bubs his lunch when the whole purpose of this was to teach him a lesson. 

Later that night, as I was tucking him into bed, I asked him why he doesn't like that lunch bag.  He finally broke down and said that it's "because it advertises that I have food allergies and that everyone already knows I have food allergies and I don't like having food allergies."  I asked if anyone ever makes fun of him at school for his allergies, and he said no.  But this is obviously a deeper issue than just his lunch box.  I told him that I completely understand, and we don't need to use that lunch box anymore.  I also told him that if he had calmly explained that to me that morning, I would have switched things around for him to allow him take his soccer lunch bag.

I like to always be positive and excited about the fun things we do with food because of the kids' food allergies, but it still gets them down.  It breaks my heart that I can't fix this for him.  All I can do is listen to his concerns and do my best to help guide him through this. I try to make life as "normal" as possible, but he will always be different.  Until there is a cure, he will always have to bring food from home just about anywhere he goes.  I think ahead to dating, college, etc.  It is all possible, but there is lots of effort involved.  Lots of patience and planning ahead involved.  I just hope to be a positive influence on him in regards to food.  Not only for safety, but for health and wellness as well.

It's funny that I make such a big deal about raising awareness about food allergies, and all he wants to do is fly under the radar.  He just wants to fit in.  Different perspectives are important to recognize and acknowledge.  I will never stop fighting for him, but I will also do my best to make him feel as normal as possible.          

Monday, April 27, 2015

Chocolate Delight (Gluten and Top 8 Free)

 

If you are a chocolate lover like my family, this is for you.  Here is a quick and easy dessert that calls for only 5 ingredients.  That's right.  F-I-V-E ingredients!  And the fifth ingredient is optional.

Beware, though.  This is very decadent and rich, so enjoy with caution!


Ingredients:

1 package chocolate cookies (I used Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunchy Cookies)
1/4 c dairy-free butter, melted (I used Earth Balance Soy Free)
1 c culinary coconut milk (I used So Delicious)
2 c chocolate chunks (I used Enjoy Life)
Strawberries

Instructions:

Crush cookies in a food processor. Mix in melted butter. Press into pre-sprayed dish. Freeze while you make the ganache (chocolate and cream filling). Warm the coconut milk over medium/low heat for 5 minutes. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until melted. Pour over chocolate crust. Press strawberries into ganache. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Slice and enjoy!