Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Grade Field Trip

Today GirlyGirl's class took a field trip to a local theater.  It was just a two hour trip that wasn't expected to involve any food.  But, of course, we expect our kids to have their epi with them at all times.  Even if food isn't expected to be present.  You food allergy moms know, there is always a risk. 

This morning I reminded GirlyGirl to make sure her teacher knows to take her epi with them.  Shortly after I got to work, I received a phone call from a school nurse in the district (but not from our school) stating that GirlyGirl had told her teacher she needs to take her epi along and wanted to make sure that's what I wanted.  I said that this was correct, we always make sure the kids have their epi with them at all times.  With a hint of annoyance she replied, "OK." 

Our school nurse has been out for several days dealing with a family emergency, so a nurse from a different school had been contacted to deal with this epi situation.  Our regular nurse is awesome and always on the ball.  Before I even reminded her, she had Bubs' epi ready to go for each field trip last year.  I even offered to bring an extra set on field trips days, and she said it wasn't necessary.  So I didn't expect any problems with today's trip (not knowing she has been out). 

A few minutes after the first phone call, I received another call from a nurse's aide from our school saying she got the message that I want GirlyGirl's epi to go along with her on the field trip.  I confirmed that.  She then said that the concern was that if she had the epi on the field trip, that Bubs would be left without since they share a set at school.  I agreed that this is a valid concern.  However, there are over 20 kids at our school with epi in the nurse's office.  I would hope in an emergency that they would grab any epi pen in reach and worry about details later.  But I know that is not necessarily realistic, especially after reading about the food allergy fatality late last year where the pharmacy wouldn't issue epi without a prescription and the girl died outside nearby.

Luckily I keep an extra set of epi in the Boys and Girl's Club office.  The school office staff was able to get that set and keep it in the nurse's office until GirlyGirl returned from her field trip a few hours later.

All turned out well and neither Bubs nor GirlyGirl needed to use epi today (we actually have never used it on either one, but we are not willing to take a chance).  But I will definitely need to coordinate better in the future.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Update on Bubs and His Diet

We have known about Bubs' life-threatening allergies to milk, eggs, and peanuts since he was a little bitty thing.  But two years ago we had our food world rocked with some major dietary changes.  Due to some challenging behaviors, we ended up putting him on a elimination/rotation diet.  You can read more details about our journey here and here.

After testing for almost 200 foods and finding sensitivities to over 50 foods, we faced a new challenge on how to feed our son.  But with some helpful guidance and lots of planning we fell into a good rhythm.  And once we got the hang of things, meal planning and preparation actually became quite simple.

We were given the go-ahead by our nautropathic doctor to try adding new foods, one at a time over an extended period of time, to see if Bubs' system could handle these foods.  After all, with so many positive results, there was a strong possibility that many were false positives.  His system was so screwed up that it was fighting many foods.

We noticed an immediate change in Bubs' behavior with the diet change.  And over the past two years, we have gradually added many foods back into his diet.  At this point, the only foods we are eliminating are the obvious milk, eggs, and peanuts as well as gluten and soy (and artificial colors).

His behavior continues to be age-appropriate and non-aggressive.  (The only real trouble we have with him is the constant arguing with his sister!)  I am a bit hesitant to try adding soy or gluten back into his diet because those are known to be major offenders in general.  So for now we will just continue to eliminate those five foods.

What a relief it is to have more freedom when it comes to feeding my child.  We were managing okay with the major restrictions, but Bubs was getting really sick of eating the same foods every four days.  And I can't say that I blame him.  So we are back to making fun, flavorful meals, and Bubs is enjoying it and tolerating it well!       


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sloppy Joes (Top 8 Free)

My kids LOVE sloppy joes!  When Bubs was only a young toddler, he would literally eat four overflowing sloppy joes.  That's in addition to the fruit and veggies that were on his plate, and several cups of soy milk (before we eliminated soy and made the switch to rice milk).  Since we learned about his food sensitivities two years ago, we haven't had sloppy joes.  But we are now at a point where he is able to tolerate many of the foods we initially eliminated.  I decided to give sloppy joes a try again.  But this time I wasn't going to use the can of Manwich.  I wanted to make them from scratch.  Here's how:


1 lb ground beef (we use grass-fed only)
1/4 c chopped onion (I used dried onions from my spice rack)
1/4 c chopped green pepper (I used frozen to save time and energy)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard
3/4 c ketchup
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper (to taste)

1 c dry brown rice
1 c water
(you could use quinoa instead)

Top 8 free buns (I use Schar brand)

Brown beef over medium-high heat.  While it is browning, add onions and green peppers.  Once ground beef is thoroughly cooked, mix in garlic powder, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer.  While that is simmering, cook rice according to package directions.  Once rice is cooked, mix into beef mixture and continue to simmer.  Total simmer time should be 20-30 minutes.  Serve on buns and enjoy.

We added some Ian's Top 8 Free Alphatots fries which were a big hit.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Going Dairy Free for GirlyGirl

I wrote a post last spring about GirlyGirl and her almost constant tummy pain.  You can read about it here.  We initially tried going gluten-free with her in hopes that it would help alleviate her tummy troubles.  We stuck with that diet for only a few weeks.  Here's what happened:

After seeing a handful of doctors and having many tests run, our pediatrician wanted to put GirlyGirl on some meds.  After trying the gluten-free diet for a few weeks, we hadn't seen a difference in her signs and symptoms (yes, I know if can take longer to see the full benefit).  So we decided to try the meds instead.  I must say that I have disagreed with the medical diagnosis she was given and the meds she was prescribed, but I also knew the meds wouldn't be harmful if taken for a short period of time.  And I figured we could always go back the the gluten-free diet in the future.

Well, her signs and symptoms actually did clear up with the meds...mostly.  At least she said her tummy wasn't hurting anymore, but she also hated taking the meds.  So it's hard to know if she was just saying that to get out of taking the meds.  I asked the doctor what was next.  He said to keep her on the meds indefinitely.  Now, that was an answer I would not accept!  I took her off one of the meds immediately (the one I disagreed with most), and I kept her on the other one until I could regroup and figure out what to do.

After talking to several people and reading lots of good information, we decided to have her go milk-free.  Another simple adjustment for us since Bubs has a milk allergy.  We already have all the appropriate substitutes in the house.

GirlyGirl does love milk and cheese, so cutting those out has been difficult for her.  I did finally find a milk-free cheese that she likes, but she isn't too keen on the rice milk.  But she's been milk-free for over two months, and she no longer complains of any tummy trouble or any of her other potty issues we were dealing with.  And she is now off all meds.

The more I read about issues with dairy, the more I lean toward keeping her off of it.  She has mentioned several times that she really likes milk and wants it back in her diet, so I'm not sure how long we can keep it eliminated.  But I will continue to try and continue to educate her as she gets older so she can make good choices for herself. 

At the same time we were making this diet change, we also decided to firmly cut out artificial colors.  There is so much information out there about how bad these artificial colors are for you.  In fact, in other countries there must be a warning label on foods containing artificial colors stating the possible effects.  Now, I love GirlyGirl with all my heart, but she can be a bit spacey at times.  At her well visit last fall, the doctor casually mentioned that some of her behaviors may indicate ADD.  Regardless of how you feel about that diagnosis, I figured eliminating artificial colors now may help her focus better.  After all, there is lots of research showing that artificial colors contribute to ADHD and behavior disturbances.  I want her to have the best chance in life, so we will continue to make these kinds of choices for her.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Product Review: American Medical ID

As a food allergy blogger, one of my missions is raising awareness of food allergies.  And what better way to raise awareness than to wear my cause!

My kids love wearing bracelets and necklaces.  So why not make it so their jewelry helps keep them safe!  American Medical ID is a company that strives to provide quality medical identification jewelry for kids and adults.  They offer a wide variety of products from silicone bracelets to gold necklaces and everything in between with personalized engraving.  There are styles that are suitable for men and women, boys and girls.

Check out these awesome products we got from American Medical ID:

Bubs loves playing soccer, so he picked out this soccer pendant on a stainless steel bead chain.  We were able to choose the length of the chain to make it a custom fit for him.

Perfect necklace for my soccer stud!

GirlyGirl likes matching her jewelry to her outfit, so she chose the stainless steel sleek heart bracelet with extra bands in a variety of colors.  The engraved portion is interchangeable with any standard "cause" bracelet making her possibilities endless.

Stainless Steel Sleek Heart bracelet

While at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference last fall (here's my recap), I met another food allergy mom (Tiffany Glass Ferreira) who gave me the wonderful idea of wearing a medical ID bracelet of my own.  I even stole her engraving idea.  What a great way to start conversations and raise awareness!  I also got a variety of bands, including a set of three holiday bands (I am a bit of a Christmas nerd) so I too could match my bracelet to my outfit (like mother like daughter).

Stainless Steel Small Silicone Flex bracelet for me!
(Also available in Sterling Silver)

We also received samples of some of the new products from American Medical ID.

The Beware Bandits bracelets are perfect for children, especially young kids.  They have easy adjustable plastic snaps and cute animated characters representing each allergen.  There is also a place to write in emergency info on the inside of the bracelet.  The downside of these is that they are for a single allergy only.  But if your kids are like mine, they like to line their arm with bracelets.  So the more the merrier!
Beware Bandits bracelets

We also received the new Tyvek Zipp ID bags.  The kids love putting their extra bands or Beware Bandits bracelets in these, but they could also be very functional for other small objects you want to keep together in your purse or diaper bag.  When you order a pack of these, you get four colors.  And it's only $3.95 per pack!

Tyvek Zipp ID bag

I have been quite happy with American Medical ID products, and the service has been amazing!  When we received our order, there was a minor typo in Bubs' name.  They immediately sent us a replacement with no questions asked.  The company has been fabulous to work with. 

If you are looking for any type of medical ID jewelry, check out American Medical ID.  There are so many wonderful options to choose from. It is hard to pick just one.  You may end up with a box full of ID jewelry like us if you're not careful!

Bubs sporting his soccer pendant

Friday, January 3, 2014

Product Review: Enjoy Life Foods Dark Chocolate Morsels

In our house we LOVE Enjoy Life Foods!  It was one of the first safe brands of food I found early on in our food allergy adventure.  And recently they have expanded their product line to offer a wider of variety of items to the food allergy community. 

Not only are their products safe, but they are delicious too!  If you didn't read the label, you wouldn't know you were eating "special food."  It tastes like the real stuff!

We have used the Enjoy Life semi-sweet mini chips for baking for years.  They are a perfect substitute for any chocolate chip recipe.  Chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, muffins, donuts, etc, as well as melted for dipping/coating treats. 

I was excited when Enjoy Life announced a new product release: Dark chocolate morsels.  I was determined to make something other than chocolate chip cookies with these.  During my holiday baking, I thought some dark chocolate morsels would go nicely in my cranberry bars.  So I gave it a try, and boy was that a good decision.  The bars are already pretty sweet, so the dark chocolate added a nice flavor without adding too much sweet. 

Cranberry bars with Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels

My opinion of the dark chocolate morsels?  Perfection!  They look and taste just like the real thing. 

We use so many of Enjoy Life Foods products, from chocolate for baking to cookies to granola to seed and fruit mixes to chocolate bars to decadent bars and more.  Okay, we pretty much use all of their products.  You will see on many of my blog posts or Facebook posts that I often reference using Enjoy Life Foods items.  Enjoy Life Foods are Top 8 Free (in a dedicated facility), gluten free, and free of anything artificial.    I know I am making a good choice for my kids when I buy Enjoy Life Foods items. 

We keep a variety of items on hand to grab for a snack or treat, and my kids know the food is safe when they see the Enjoy Life logo.  Even my non-allergic kids eat and love these products! 

The Enjoy Life Foods website is also very helpful.  You can check out all their products, get new recipes, and learn more about food allergies.  There are also coupons available to print.

While most "special food" costs a little more than "regular food," Enjoy Life Foods products are pretty reasonably priced.  And I usually have a coupon with me to help reduce the cost.  So go check out their website, print some coupons, and hit the grocery store on your way home to pick up some dark chocolate morsels.  Then get baking.....and share the recipe of what you've made so others can enjoy it as well!    

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (Top 8 Free)

I was recently reading my Facebook feed and came across a post shared by Jenny from Multiple Food Allergy Help for some yummy looking cookies made by Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats.  I knew if Jenny could make them safely for her son, I could make them for mine.  So I clicked on the link to see how they were made.  Check out the recipe here

I have to admit, when looking at a recipe, I tend to be intimidated by a long list of ingredients.  And I'm even more turned off if I don't already have all the ingredients in my fridge or pantry.  That means I have to actually go out of my way to look for a new item at the store.  And I never know which store will carry the particular item I need.  But after a little closer look, I decided these cookies would be worth the extra step.  (And it turns out, it wasn't really that bad after all.) 

The only things I did differently from the original recipe is that I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour and peppermints that are free of artificial colors rather than traditional candy canes.  They still tasted wonderful and looked just as good.  I even froze some to enjoy on New Year's Eve.  The kids can't get enough of them!

Peppermints free of artificial colors