Tag Archives: Food Allergy Safety

Watch it Spin

Could even our biggest challenges like food allergies and anxiety spin into something positive? Could our greatest hurdles turn into the type of strength and perseverance that can be used for future races, experience and life?

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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Like Colossians 3:2 states, perspective is a major key to one’s happiness. Life was never promised to be easy, but also can see in scripture the promise of “beauty for ashes.” This was the promise for God’s people to be delivered from their plight. Though it was promised way back when, it can still give us hope and encouragement during the most difficult times and situations we experience now. Therefore, we must remember to embrace and accept the challenge as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to change, to be ultimately blessed for the troubles and pains. Like John Wooden’s quote, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out,” take the bad and find the good. We must teach ourselves to find the positive spin.

Since May is food allergy awareness month, let’s use our experience with food allergies as an example. So, let’s go back to that first reaction, an experience no one should have to experience

Saturday, December 13 was a typical snowy evening.   As I was setting up my son’s dinner, I was excited because it would be his first taste of yogurt. After two small spoonfuls, the verdict was in: he seemed to love it!

However, within a minute it all changed.

He started to fuss and rub at his face. Turning red, his lips and mouth swelled up as huge blotches formed all over his face, neck and chest. Although just an infant, fear was written all across his face.  After calling 911, an ambulance arrived after what felt like a lifetime.  In the ambulance, his state continued to get worse. I held an oxygen mask over his now slightly-blue lips.   As he started to zone out, I prayed that he did not lose his breath. Every time he cried, I felt a second of relief for he was breathing.

Asking the EMT repeatedly about his state, I now know that she too was worried.  Her silence spoke louder than any words could have. They did not have an EpiPen with them in the ambulance and called to meet up with another team on the way to the hospital. However, due to the snow, that did not happen. As the doors to the ambulance opened, they sprinted in holding my son as I ran behind them, helpless.

The hospital staff administered epinephrine, Benadryl, and a steroid then reassured me that everything would be okay.   It was 40 minutes after ingesting that tiny amount of yogurt and I now know that we were beyond lucky.  Not everyone gets those 40 minutes.

A moment of relief soon turned into the reality of what had happened. It mixed with guilt, throwing me into the most difficult place I had seen. That night, I slept on the floor next to his crib waking up every hour to check for breathing.  Yet, even in his sleep, TJ smiled on…

We soon learned that TJ was allergic to and needed to avoid milk, eggs, wheat, oats, barley, rye, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, sesame, soy, peas, and tomatoes. At first, I spent those early months trying to defend myself to others as a good person who did not eat too many or too little peanuts or eggs during my pregnancy.  Or, explaining why I chose to continue breastfeeding despite these allergies.   I was explaining myself to everyone to try to prove that I did not cause this and I was not an awful mom.  However, I had no one to prove myself to. It was not my fault. I did not need to sit with the guilt either. It was unhealthy and I needed to shift my focus to best help myself so that I could best help TJ.

What I did not know at the time was that I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder afterwards as well. It was a time of great fear and challenges. Not only did he have these food allergies, he had also developed viral-induced asthma and seemed to be sick all the time, needing breathing treatments daily. Events with family and friends became difficult for so many reasons so I just avoided them. It appeared to be one hurdle after another during that time. Then, mix in a miscarriage, the loss of my close friend’s baby, postpartum anxiety and some medical issues plus a lifetime of anxiety… those mountains seemed way too high to climb.

That’s where the spin comes in… I seemed to be spinning out of control but that did not mean I could not learn to spin it the other way. My perspective had to change before my situation did.

Therefore against the intense anxiety, guilt, exhaustion and pain, I turned to reading scripture, praying and writing. I had always been good at seeing the good in other people but it was a challenge to do this for myself, my own experiences, my own life. I had to teach myself to find the positive or else I would never break the cycle… I had to reverse the spin.

Despite the fact that food allergies, anxiety and health issues are all incredible challenges, there is also a lot of good all around, waiting to be discovered or even seen through these rocky journeys.

Spinning forward and ahead…

1) Allergies have taught us to eat much healthier. It has opened our eyes and thus our mouths to a much more nutritious, organic and wholesome cuisine. It shined light on many misconceptions regarding health, food sources and fat, by allowing us to find great resources like Robin O’Brien. I still remember how I was pumping breast milk during my break at work when I got the message from an amazing nurse Kathy who sent me a video on her. I have not stopped following her since. Through the years, we have also found many companies and brands to trust. We have learned a lot.

2) Companies aren’t the only sources of great information. We have also met and/or spoken to so many other allergy families. We have shared ideas, joys and challenges. A support system is key and food allergies have allowed for that. They are all around. Sign up, join or boldly start your own.

3) We have been given a platform to teach to the ignorance and shine empathy on so many. In being able to educate others even our own family members and friends, relationships have taken on a whole new perspective and level.

4) Thinking outside the box – Having food allergies has really allowed us to get creative and go beyond the typical to ensure TJ, Madison and all of those with allergies are included. Why cry over the spilled milk and sheet cakes you can’t buy for birthday parties, when you have so many great alternative milks out there to purchase and so many cakes and recipes to experiment with and love! As we continue to add to our allergy-safe cookbook, we have fun with it.

5) It continues to teach us to appreciate the little things in life a bit more. We celebrate and praise God at the alter every time another food item is added back into our diets. Heck, we have even celebrated peas … shhh don’t tell my kids I’m not really a fan. Still, we are grateful for each blessing.

6) It develops self advocacy in children at a young age. A few weeks ago at a church class, teachers were switched without us knowing and the message about TJ’s allergies was not relayed. However, TJ spoke up for himself when they tried to give him goldfish which have dairy. Strong advocates with brave hearts will continue to make a difference in this world. I know I want to raise that type of child.

7) And the greatest blessing of all is the testimonies we have of God’s work. We were told TJ would have asthma until at least eight if not his whole life. – TJ no longer has asthma. He stopped daily treatments before he was 2.5. He hasn’t needed a breathing treatment since before he was 4. At 5 now, he is allergic to only dairy, eggs, and peanuts. Three allergies is a huge improvement from 21! While he used to be sick a lot, he has barely been sick this entire year and doesn’t even need an asthma care plan for kindergarten. We have a lot to be thankful for.

And when you ask TJ who took away the stomach bug he had in December, the breathing treatments, the other 18 allergies… His testimony is simply perfect. God!

Since beginning this journey, I have already learned to smile differently because:

1)      Special kinds of people wear these shoes.  Wear the label often thrown at you with pride. For you are special.

2)      Make the most of it, don’t let challenges like food allergies define you. Only YOU can define yourself.

3)      Ignorance is not bliss and needs to be educated. Let’s help share awareness with an open mind and heart.

4)      Let your faith be bigger than your fear.  Two thoughts cannot exist at the same time. A fearful one cannot remain when a faith-filled one butts in and takes charge. Trust your instinct but always be prepared and hopeful.

5)      Educating means advocating. Never apologize for it. Your child’s life, your life never requires an apology.

Last, but definitely not least, people with food allergies, old and young, continue to inspire us each and every day. They radiate so much strength, courage, and goodness. Don’t get me wrong, food allergies stink. However, we must keep focusing on the blessings while we keep safe, praying and believing God is continuing to use all of this as a testimony of his amazing love and healing power.

 

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So if it means having a house that’s a little messier and some challenges we know we will rise above, we’ll take it. We’ll use it all to continue to do our part to teach the merry-go-round of life to see the good all around and learn to spin the other way.

Food Allergy Awareness Week- May 12-18, 2019

This week is food allergy awareness week. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about food allergies and anaphylaxis, and help remove the isolation that can be associated with having an allergy.

Food allergies like many diagnosis in life have the ability to isolate, ONLY if we let it…

The first step in eliminating ignorance is to EDUCATE! So here it goes…

  • 1 in every 13 children in America has a food allergy. That is two in every classroom!
  • Food allergies can be life threatening and need to be taken seriously.
  • Strict avoidance of the allergen is the ONLY way to prevent a reaction.
  • 35% of children with allergies have been bullied due to their allergy. That. Is. Not. Okay. Bullying is NEVER okay!
  • People can be allergic to ANYTHING! However, 90% of children are allergic to the top 8 allergens:
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts (all nuts other than peanuts)
  5. Fish
  6. Shellfish
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans
  9. Sesame (which still does not yet have to be labels on food packaging)
  • The top 8 allergens must be labeled on packaging.
  • However, more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions.

The symptoms can range from mild to moderate ones like hives and stomach pain to severe ones like anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Reactions are NOT all the same. Symptoms can change from reaction to reaction. Just because someone didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction the first time, doesn’t mean they can’t the next. Also, just because you were not born with an allergy, does not mean you can not develop one.

* These facts are not to provoke fear, but instead to spark awareness and instill understanding. Once we have the facts, we combat the fear that tries to associate itself with it all … with faith.

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/111/isa.43.1.niv


What is important for us all to know?

  • Reactions DO NOT just happen when someone ingests the allergen itself.

    • They can happen due to cross contact (the presence of unintended allergens), inhaling it, and from saliva (sharing utensils, instruments, chapstick, drinks, kissing).

    • My son’s last reaction at the age of 2.5 was this type of reaction. He had tried a new oat milk and while the company did not have the container labeled for it, the production lines were not thoroughly cleaned from his other allergens. Thus, it caused a reaction that was less severe and very different from his initial one, but still needed epinephrine and a trip to the ER.

    • Cross contact issues and food allergies in general take diligence. Just because the product dues not have the cross contact information labeled doesn’t mean we don’t need to call the companies or do more researching and double checking on line. Also, even products that we have used for years, we still must double check their labels as companies sometimes change the makeup and ingredients in their products. It is not a burden; it is a way of life that ensures safety.

  • Many of these people must carry EpiPens (Epinephrine) with them everywhere they go. It’s beneficial for everyone to know how to use an EpiPen. So reach out to someone who is trained in it and ask to learn. It does not take long to learn, but it also does not take long to react and need assistance. So spend the time now. It is greatly appreciated.

What can we all do? – nationwide initiatives to get involved with

Join the Teal Pumpkin Project

  • Halloween can be a difficult time for those with allergies.
  • This project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies.

How can you participate?

  • Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters (see FARE website for suggestions)
  • Place a teal pumpkin (the color of food allergy awareness) in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available
  • Spread the word! Tell your families, friends and neighbors about this initiative.

Snack Safely

  1. Check out the Snack Safely website.
  2. This is a site that has safe snacks and foods for those with allergies.  
  3. Schools use this. We all should use this. 
  4. When you are planning an event or party, check it out to ensure everyone is safe and included. It’s not always easy or convenient to “think outside of the box.” But, that’s often where the difference is made. What may seem small to one person is huge to another.  “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop

Turn It Teal

  • Teal is the color that represents food allergy awareness.
  • This initiative started in 2014 and now their mission has expanded into going throughout the country, lighting up buildings, bridges, and attractions in teal everywhere.
  • You don’t need to light up a building to spread awareness. You can do this at your school, work or church, by setting a day in May to “turn it teal” and encourage everyone to wear teal! We are doing this at my work this Friday!
  • For more information: Turn it Teal

What can we do? – ways to help everyday

Be Mindful

  1. Wash your hands after eating.
  2. Wipe down surfaces after eating an allergen.
  3. Don’t share food or utensils.

Empathy/Ask

  1. Get the specifics. Find out which foods your friends, family members, classmates, co workers, church members, etc. are allergic to and what the symptoms of a reaction are.
  2. Simply be aware and have an open mind to it. Empathy goes a long way.
  3. If hosting an event, ask what products and foods are safe.
  4. Take it seriously. It is not a joking matter.

Like with anything in life, listening wholeheartedly and empathetically goes a long way. So while our messy counter top may not have everything others have on it, we all deserve to feel included, safe and loved.

For more information, visit: FARE website

 

 


“Peace requires everyone to be in the circle – wholeness, inclusion.” – Isabel Allende

 “When everyone is included, everyone wins.” – Jesse Jackson

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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Honey Oat Bites

I love granola bars.   Over the years, I have gone through phases of several brands.   However, the more and more I learn about food; the more and more I want to create our own version.   A very close friend of mine shared a similar recipe with us back in March of 2018; however, it used peanut butter.   Therefore, we switched it up and made it safe for us. It is a hit not only with everyone in our house, including our picky son, but also a huge favorite for anyone who visits.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup of almond butter (We use Barney’s almond butter because it is free of peanut contamination, unlike many other brands.)

2/3 Cup unsweetened coconut flakes (toasted at 350 degrees for 6 minutes, flip them half way through)

1/2 cup chia seeds or grounded flax

1/3 cup raw honey

1/4 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.

  2. Chill for 30 minutes

  3. Roll into balls

  4. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

  5. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • Substitute any other nut butter including peanut butter if safe for your family.
  • For a protein boost, add in some protein powder.

These are a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth and get some much needed energy along the way.

 

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Chocolate Covered Heart Cookies

I have always loved to bake and experiment with recipes out there. However after TJ’s anaphylactic reaction, I became paralyzed in many aspects of my life including my passion for baking. Like I’ve stated in previous posts, I spent the next two years, avoiding… avoiding and avoiding, paralyzed by that fear. For most of my life, I was the person who would enthusiastically volunteer to bake for events,.  However, I avoided this at all costs now. It was easier…

it was safer …

it was what I did to handle the fear the world of allergies brought.

I mean they do say FEAR = false evidence appearing real.

However, soon I started to learn that I didn’t need to do this and that in fact, parties and events that set up an incredible challenge for us…

…were really bringing us an incredible opportunity.

FEAR = forever embodying amazing revival

That’s when we started to experiment with recipes and began to create our allergy-safe recipe book. Yesterday, I took the day off to prepare a couple items for my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower today. One of those preparations involved creating this very recipe with TJ (who has already eaten 3 of these cookies).

So here you go: the perfect heart cookie drenched in scrumptious chocolate and everlasting love.

Heart Shaped Cookies (dairy, egg, peanut free)

Oven: 350 degrees

Time: An hour (But the dough should sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using.)

  • It makes 24 cookies.  I doubled it to make enough for the event.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup non-dairy butter (We used Earth’s Balance)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chunks
  • 1 tablespoon Nutiva Shortening
  • sprinkles of your choice

Directions:

  1. Melt the dairy free butter. in a saucepan.
  2. Mix the DF butter with sugar.
  3. Stir in apple sauce.
  4. Then, add vanilla.
  5. Slowly mix in 3 cups of flour.
  6. Place dough in plastic wrap or even a plastic baggie after shaping them into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for at least hour, or up to 24 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or use some of the DF butter and flour to grease the pan.
  8. Roll the dough in a 1/2 thick rectangle and use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many as you can from the dough.
  9. Repeat until the dough is done.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  11. Have the cookies cool completely.
  12. Use a double boiler or create your own.  I used sauce pot of boiling water and put a mixing bowl on the top of it.  In the mixing bowl on top, add the chocolate chip chunks and shortening. Stir until melted and smooth.
  13. Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate, removing excess by tapping it into the bowl.
  14. Place the cookies on a sheet of parchment paper and quickly add the sprinkles onto the west chocolate. Let set completely.
  15. Keep the cookies refrigerated until time to serve or an hour before to ensure no melting chocolate.
  • Final note: If you battle anxiety from anything,…no matter how long…no matter how deep the scars go… I promise you…you can heal.  You can defeat it.  You can overcome it.  I will be doing more posts about this and mental illness because healing happens…prayer and believe…and eat yummy cookies throughout it all!

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EpiPens in Maine

Lawmakers in Maine are considering a bill all states should pass: “to allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense EpiPens at no cost to the patient.”

See the article here:

MAINE LAWMAKER’S PROPOSAL TO MAKE EPIPEN MORE ACCESSIBLE

Every six months we have to shell out sooooo much money to purchase two sets of the generic version. (4 sets total: 2 for each child – one for school and one for home) While we feel thankful to be reimbursed for more than 3/4th of each set, that’s still a ridiculous amount of money!

Whenever I pick them up at the pharmacy, I always think about how many people… kids… babies don’t have the necessary protection that these devices bring because of the insanely high, immoral cost!

But like always, we must reflect on how blessed we are…

on how much TJ has improved since his first anaphylactic reaction …

and how we truly believe his body as well as Madi’s will be restored from all of these allergies.

But in the meantime, we stay prepared, always with two sets on hand.

Go Maine, let’s get more states on board!

A Picky Eater’s Peas

Picky eating drove me crazy for way too long. From the time TJ was first able to eat, he was never really interested in food.

Some of this was due to his 21 food allergies at that time, texture sensitivities, and the fact he was a slow chewer and eater.

However, in every difficult situation, there is always a blessing. Because of his pickiness …

He wasn’t the child grabbing for someone else’s food at daycare. (Thank God for that with a list as long as his at that point.)

At his one year old appointment, his pediatrician who we love, spoke the medical truth, “TJ would have a reaction in daycare that year. The chance was too great not to. We just had to make sure the staff was prepared.”

(The course of action we took after that is for another post… as well as the panic I fell into..)

BUT…while that’s the medical facts, we believe in the God of real truth, of miracles, of the impossible … TJ was and is living proof of that. He never had a reaction that year at daycare or any of the other years after. God is good! And prayer with belief is powerful.

Looking back, his pickiness was a blessing, a way he was kept safe in otherwise, high-risk situations. However, he was still such a picky eater and it drove us nuts especially after his blood work came back around twelve months, stating he was mildly anemic, adding more to his already limited plate! (Quite the paradox if I can say so myself!)

Our options were put him on a supplements or try to build up the iron naturally with food. The latter was what we chose after meeting with two nutritionists. So we spent the next four months, getting him to eat three meals a day filled with iron … each meal would take an hour or more for him to complete… talk about patience…

When he was rechecked, sure enough it had worked! However, it did not stop the picky eating nonsense which continued for years…

Therefore, I was always on the search for new safe foods, recipes, inspiration …

When my daughter was first born, in a conversation with another mom, she mentioned roasted chickpeas being something her own picky eater loved.

TJ liked chickpeas here and there so we tried it… (I would have tried almost anything at this point) …and sure enough it was an instant hit!

And the added bonus… it’s so easy!

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  1. Organic chickpeas (When we use a can, we make sure it is BPA free.)
  2. Salt
  3. Pepper
  4. Olive oil
  5. Any other spices your child likes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Rinse and dry chick peas. Get out as much liquid as possible
  3. Coat the oven pan with a little bit of olive oil. Not too much
  4. Put the chickpeas in the pan.
  5. Sprinkle salt, pepper or whatever spices you want. (Amount is always to your child’s liking. I only use a little pepper for that reason.)
  6. Drizzle the top with some more olive oil.
  7. Put in oven for 40-45 minutes
  8. Halfway through, shake or flip the chickpeas around to roast all sides.
  9. Finish cooking until lightly browned and crunchy.
  10. Enjoy!

It’s been over two years of making this recipe which now both of my kids continue to enjoy. And even though it may still take TJ a little longer to eat them, he does so with a smile.

Store Bought Favorites

Oh how busy life gets! There is always something to prep, cook or bake for, but not always the time to do so. Since TJ’s diagnosis, more and more great companies have been creating delicious treats... aka tasty time savers.

*Of course, always make sure to check ingredients and labels every time to ensure it is also safe for you and your family. Check labels with each purchase as companies do change the recipe here and there. Better safe than sorry … so cliche but true.*

Here are some of our favorite go-tos.

1) Mo’Pweeze Cupcakes: Mo/Pweeze Bakery

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2) Abe’s Crumb cake: https://www.abesmuffins.com/the-muffins

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3) Abe’s Muffins: https://www.abesmuffins.com/the-muffins

4) Azure’s Bagels: Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

 

While TJ’s teachers always have a box of Oreos as his special treat in case we don’t know about a party or event at school, we ask for a monthly schedule at the start of each month to try to prevent that.  Therefore, during the crazy weeks where dinner time is late and bedtime is even later, we are blessed to have found such amazing products and trustworthy businesses.