Showing posts with label food allergies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food allergies. Show all posts

Thursday, March 30, 2017

living with food allergies

I have noticed over and over and over that it is impossible to truly understand the impact and challenges of living with food allergies unless you or a loved one are exposed to the struggle daily.

When Bennett had his reaction last fall to the new nut butter we tried my anxiety went into overdrive mode and it is just coming down now (mostly due to therapy). Even though his reactions in the fall ended with hives and did not affect his breathing at all, I have spent the past few months in a panic about Bennett and his allergies. 

When I am at the children's museum, or the park, or church, and a child has a peanut butter sandwich, or peanuts are served, I want to explain to people how hard and stressful it is to live with a food allergy. If you haven't been exposed to food allergies, or lived in close proximity to people with food allergies, it's hard to understand how frightening it is to see a parent pull a peanut butter sandwich out of a lunch bag.

And Bennett isn't even that allergic! His allergy is triggered by ingestion, thankfully, but it's still stressful to to take him to the park and other kid heavy places because he has a terrible habit of putting his hands in his mouth (we hand wash and remind, remind, remind, but this is a hard habit to break!).

Our friends and family have been accommodating, kind and thoughtful, but if I had to tell a new friend about what it's like to live with food allergies this is what I would say:

It is very challenging and sometimes heart breaking to have a child with food allergies. My son feels left out, he knows he is different, and it makes him sad there are so many foods he can't eat.

I spend a lot of time shopping for food and preparing meals my son can eat. Every time I shop I check labels, even if it's the three ingredient rice crackers I buy every week. Ingredients can change at any time and assuming a food is safe can have harmful consequences. Please don't feed my child anything from your cupboard or fridge or child's backpack without my consent.

There are restaurants we cannot go to because they serve foods cooked in peanut oil or made with peanut sauce. We have to bring a separate dinner for our son if we are eating out. We used to be able to go to two places and get him something from the menu, but he's been too reactive lately for us to try. If we want to "eat out" we either bring food for my son or my husband brings food home and I make a separate meal for the kids (this is what we usually do).

Holidays can be a nightmare. Finding food substitutes and safe options is hard and time consuming. (Last Thanksgiving Bennett had a smoothie while everyone else had a full turkey dinner.)

I have cried because I don't know what to make for dinner / I'm tired of eating the same five dinners that are safe for my son / I am exhausted from cooking.

I have also cried because I want to take my son out and enjoy a treat with him. Seeing pictures of parents taking their kids out for ice cream, a hot chocolate, or a cupcake because they wanted to do something special makes me sad and jealous.

Despite the challenges there are positives as well:

We are all eating healthier. I still eat the foods my son can't have, like wheat, but I eat way, way, way less than I did before. Nearly all of our dinners comply with Bennett's diet restrictions, which means at least one meal a day (and usually two because I often eat leftovers for lunch) is free of gluten, soy, corn, dairy (mostly, I do love cheese) and preservatives / food dyes. 

My son is learning compassion for himself and others. He knows what it is like to feel different and he carries heaps of kindness and empathy in his little heart.

I've learned a lot about cooking and preparing meals from scratch with a handful of ingredients.

And here's some ways you can help:

Be considerate and try to remember the food restrictions. I know this is really hard to do! Right now Bennett's list of restricted foods is so long it is easier to list what he can eat than what he cannot eat!! But the kids who remembered my son's food allergies on Valentine's Day and made sure he had a non-food treat in his bag made my day - not to mention his.

Think twice about bringing foods with peanut butter to kid focused places and events. For kids with airborne or contact allergies just breathing in or touching the allergen can cause anaphylaxis.

If you have a child with food allergies over for a play date:

- Please wash your child's hands and wipe the table down after they eat.
- Don't let them play with toys while eating unless you plan on washing them.
- Don't let them wander around the house with food (my son eating a small bit of peanut butter cracker off the floor when he was 9 months old led to an ER visit and his Epi-pen prescription)
- Musical instruments that touch the mouth are not to be shared (whistles, harmonicas etc.)

Parents of children with food allergies appreciate your kindness and consideration! It is so stressful to be in an environment where allergens are. When there is a safe place for us to drop our time consuming vigilance and let our kids play and make friends our whole family benefits.

Does your child have food allergies? Do you have a friend who has a child with food allergies? What is living with - or near - food allergies like for you?

Friday, October 21, 2016

in the eye of the storm

It has been a week.

Thursday morning I was writing a LONG blog post about how Bennett has been having a series of allergic reactions, but hopefully the next two days would be calm, when he had another reaction.

Here's the really fun (sarcasm) news: We're not sure what exactly he is reacting to. His doctor is fairly certain Bennett is having a massive immune response to something: either the initial food we thought caused the reaction, or a virus. Right now Bennett is on a very limited diet for 10 days - meat, vegetables, fruit - and then we'll start to reintroduce foods slowly.

Because without being on a limited diet this happened:

Bennett had a breakout - hives all over - Tuesday morning, followed by a flare up in the afternoon and evening. We thought we knew what the trigger was, but immediately after breakfast on Wednesday morning he broke out again. And this time it was worse. On Thursday I once again thought I knew what the trigger was, but in the middle of breakfast I noticed small dots breaking out on his face. I immediately took his food away and put him in a bath with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. I gave him an extra dose of the medicine and tincture given to us by our doctor as well. I don't know if it was the quick action on my part, or something else, but his reaction yesterday was not nearly as severe.


Five reactions in three days has me a little on edge.

And by a little I mean verging on hysteria much of the time. 

Despite being a nervous wreck most of the week there has been relief as well. The people who have loved us and given me grace while I fall apart have been instrumental in helping us survive the week. I am high needs in these kinds of situations. The stress has been so intense I've been sick most of the week.

And there's been the hand of God on Bennett and our family as we navigate this week.

On Tuesday as I frantically pulled out of the driveway on the way to the doctor the song playing on the radio was Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson and the first lines I heard were,

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control

It was one of those moments where the desperate prayers I lifted up as I prepared for us to leave the house and go to the doctor were heard.

On Wednesday as I was driving to school/work (while Bennett is in school I work for the church in a different part of the building) this song came on

Then on Wednesday afternoon Jonathan came home from work, because my ability to carry on alone didn't seem possible. I needed someone else to be "on" for a while. It's really hard for Jonathan to leave in the middle of the day. I know he had to move patients around, and I know it wasn't easy, but I appreciate him stepping in when I was depleted.

And on Thursday after I completely fell apart on the phone with Jonathan, sobbing and wailing about not wanting to lose another child, a friend called and asked if she could pray over me. Jonathan letting me cry, and my friend praying truth and healing over me and Bennett, were life giving for me. I didn't feel like I could cope. My stomach hurt so much I was ready to haul Bennett and myself into the ER. But with the tears flowing out and the prayers coming in my stomach stopped hurting and I was able to calm down enough to parent effectively and handle Bennett's latest breakout.

Weeks like this I always wish I was a bit more together. Logically I know Bennett is not going to stop breathing suddenly. And if he does struggle to breathe I have medicine to give him via an Epi-Pen and there is a hospital a few minutes away. But when you've watched a child of yours stop breathing, it's extremely difficult to face emergent, or even urgent, situations without that trauma jumping forth from the back of your mind yelling and demanding to be heard. Jon thinks, Hmmm, he's having a reaction, while I think, This is it, the moment I lose him just like I lost his sister.

This evening I can look back and see how I could have handled things better. Or if not better, at least with a little more peace in my heart. But in the moment panic takes over and I just can't see straight. However, I can also see that although I was not very calm I did manage to pray a lot, ask for help, and be thankful.

Thankful for what, you ask?

That I didn't have to go through this week without my faith and my God holding me up.

For Bennett's doctor, who put up with my early morning phone calls and made time in his day twice to see us.


A car to take me to the doctor.

The ability to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Friends and family.

In all of that - the phone calls, the doctor, the people, the prayers - I see the hand of God and I see my prayers being answered. I've been in this season where my faith is stretching and growing through community, and to have the communities that I've found in the last six and a half years be with me during this difficult week has also been a way for me to see God at work in my life.

It is so difficult to say, this is really hard for me. I am not coping well. I don't feel like I can do this, but I am really trying to live honestly and vulnerably, and sometimes that means admitting I don't feel like I can handle what life is throwing at me.

The last three nights I've slept with Bennett's forehead pressed against mine. I forgot that he used to sleep like that as a baby; it was one of the few things that would comfort him when he was small and itchy and we didn't know why. This week I've watched him turn to art and coloring to distract and comfort him when he was in the middle of severe, uncomfortable breakouts (I'm talking head to toe hives). It's important for me to see the growth and change in him; to see the baby and the boy that are contained within every 5-year-old. It reminds me Bennett is growing, and he is here, and full of life and love.

As we drove to his doctor's appointment this afternoon he was listing all the things he saw out the window that God had made. After he worked through that list he said, "And God made me!

He sure did, buddy. And I am so glad God not only made you, but that in His infinite wisdom He chose me to be your mother. I don't feel equipped or able, but through Him I am. Isn't that amazing?

Friday, June 24, 2016

lucky find: the no-biggie bunch

I was helping B find books on army tanks at the library, and prying random titles out of Ainsleigh's hands as she tried to shove them in her book bag, when I noticed a book out of the corner of my eye on the bottom shelf. I crouched down and pulled it from the stack.

It was like finding gold.

I don't know why I haven't tried to find books on food allergies before. I guess it hadn't occurred to me .... ? We currently have three no-biggie bunch books checked out from the library. I think we'll eventually own the series. It's so nice for Bennett to read books about kids who have food allergies and need to bring special food with them everywhere.

Now in the book each child has one food allergy, and Bennett has many, but he can still relate! The books have provided many jumping off points for conversations about his allergies and how he feels about them.


To buy directly go HERE

I'm not being asked to promote these books, I just really like them!

Friday, June 6, 2014

toddler nutrition woes

The food battles are daily and extended. The battle from breakfast bleeds into the battle at lunch, by dinnertime I've given up so J has to encourage, plead and meet resistance at every turn.

After Bennett's illness last month his tastes have changed, or something else has been altered, and he will rarely eat meat, which is one of the few foods he can have.

For a while now I've been okay with the "he's small, but healthy" idea, and I still want to subscribe to it, but I have serious concerns about his lack of growth. B is growing taller, but his weight gain is sooo slow. He's just over 23 lbs, which is great, but I was hoping for 25 lbs by now. B has energy (so much of it) and he isn't lethargic, but he is skinny. Like, I can see his ribs skinny.

And I'm so frustrated!

B takes the limited diet concept to an entirely new level. Add in his aversions and dislikes and the foods he will/can eat are few.

He will eat bread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, sunflower butter, jam, goat cheese, bacon, brown rice noodles, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, many fruits, carrots (sometimes), pizza and that's pretty much it. He won't eat hamburger, pork, turkey, or chicken anymore unless we really push it. Turkey has been a mainstay for so long, even when he wouldn't eat the others. I have a feeling a lot of this has to do with will power and stubbornness, which makes it more frustrating.

We've started making B eat what we serve, but that has consequences. Some days he is really grumpy and irritated and I know it's because he's hungry. But he won't eat what we offer and we're trying really hard to stop catering to him. We catered for a long, long time because we were so concerned about his weight, but we are trying to enforce the "one dinner" or lunch, or breakfast policy now. Many nights I suspect he goes to bed with a hungry tummy and that doesn't settle well with me.

I'm concerned enough that we're going to try a naturopath again. I hope we can find a good pediatric naturopath with a deep understanding of nutrition who practices in town. I'm already dreading B's three year check up with the pediatrician, maybe if we can bulk him up a bit this summer by seeing a naturopath I can lose the sick feeling in my stomach.

Some questions for fellow parents:

Does weight gain usually slow to this degree in toddlers?

Is your toddler a picky eater?

Do you ever want to throw all the food off the table and storm out of the room during meals?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

gluten and corn free tortillas perfected

It took me somewhere in the range of nine months to figure out how to make a good gluten and corn free tortilla. Of course it's free of nuts, dairy and eggs as well. I've had the basic recipe for a long time. I got it HERE. But I couldn't make it work perfectly for me. The dough was sticky. The dough fell apart. The dough worked, but the taste was mediocre, or downright awful. I threw away entire batches. I got mad. I got frustrated. And then I figured it out.

The only flour that I have had success with is the perfect flour blend from Namaste Foods. I buy it at Costco. Now, I can't figure out how to make anything else with this flour, but it makes a mean tortilla.

So Namaste flour plus the rest of the ingredients - minus xanthan gum because it's in the flour blend & I use coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar - is the magic mix. The tortillas come out pretty small. Next round I think I'll double the batch so we can have bigger tacos.

Form into balls, roll out on parchment paper (use a little brown rice flour if dough sticks to roller) use a bowl to make each tortilla into a perfect little circle, and warm over medium heat until it's as done as you like it.

5 ingredients.

Simple. Easy.

We can finally have tacos again. And elephant ears. I can't wait to try this out with butter (or ghee) and cinnamon sugar.

I'll leave you with a picture of Ains, who shouted at me the entire time I worked on the tortillas. Her new nickname is Queen Squawkers. She is going to love that when she's a little older. It's almost as good as Grumpy Bear. Maybe we should combine it - Queen Squawkers Grumpy Bear. Now that's a nickname.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

the firemen came to visit me!

I can hear Bennett talking to J in the kitchen. He is detailing his day, which was very eventful.

"Daddy the firemen come to see me. They did. About the crackers. The firemen tell me not to eat the crackers ..."

While I was at the specialty hospital this morning having Ainsleigh's eyes looked at (all is well) Bennett was at my mom's with my sister and her kids. When my sister stepped out of the room my three-year-old niece opened the pantry door, got down the goldfish crackers, and handed out snacks to everyone.

My sister wasn't sure if Bennett ate anything, but his lip began swelling and his breathing changed so she called 911. The paramedics and firemen spent thirty minutes at the house monitoring Bennett. By that time I was on my way home so they left with instructions to watch him closely for the rest of the day. Bennett is not allergic to wheat - he's intolerant, but not allergic - but my sister was very proactive about calling and making sure someone with medical knowledge and equipment was in the house just in case the situation worsened.

It's so hard for me to stay calm when things like this happen. I know he was in good hands. He was probably in better hands with my sister than me honestly. My sister is very good in terrifying situations, especially if the terrifying situation has anything to do with blood, or hospitals, or paramedics.

I worry about taking Bennett places and after a day like this it's hard for me to resist putting him in a bubble and keeping him with me at all times. Every birthday party is a minefield. Everywhere we go there are foods that can make him sick. A couple weeks ago we walked into an Asian restaurant. I stopped in my tracks in the doorway and looked at J. "Peanut sauce!" I said. Peanut sauce and eggs! It's everywhere!" We haven't gone to a Chinese, Thai or Asian restaurant in two years because the risk is too high. When the restaurant was suggested we thought it sounded good because we hadn't gone in so long. I didn't realize why we had avoided those types of restaurants until we walked in the door.

I try to be calm about Bennett's food allergies. I do my best to be relaxed because I know his allergies are inconvenient, but I have to keep him safe. I can't explain the feeling in my stomach when a mom pulls out a bag of snacks at the park or coffee shop. I live with so much fear, but I don't want to pass that on to Bennett. And I don't want him to feel like there's something wrong with him.

I know I've written about Bennett's food allergies and my concerns, but it's a constant element in our lives. There's so many things we can't do because of potential hazards. Tomorrow night our church is providing child care so parents can spend time together for Valentine's Day. It sounds like a great event, but they will be serving pizza and Bennett is too young for me to put him in a situation like that.

When Ainsleigh was first diagnosed I was talking to our pediatrician about how I was coping. When I told her I felt overwhelmed she said, "Ainsleigh's issues are really intense right now, but in the long run they will be easier to manage than Bennett's food allergies."

You know what? I agree.

I'm tired of spending so much time thinking about food, packing food, looking out for potential food hazards and creating an environment that makes Bennett feel normal while keeping him safe.

I know I'm going to receive comments about living with food allergies, how it's manageable and everything will be fine, but I honestly don't want to hear it tonight. Tonight all I can think about is my baby boy and what he went through today.

Monday, September 16, 2013

b is sick. again

We are stuck in a horrible sick toddler cycle and are a little lost as to how we should proceed. Bennett's tummy hasn't been the same since the allergic reaction two weeks ago - or whatever that mess was - but he's been feeling okay.

Last week (I think, it's all beginning to blur together) he had a rough night where he almost threw up twice, but never did. It was more like dry heaving. Then last night he woke up at 11:30 puking, poor kiddo. I stayed in the guest room with him so J could get some sleep. Bennett threw up one more time at 2:30, but he's been fine this morning (though his diapers are not) even though he doesn't want to eat much. This morning when I asked him if he felt sick he said no. Then I asked, "what happened last night," and he said, "I barf." Thanks, kiddo, I know. I was there. Now let's discuss why it's so difficult for you to throw up in a proper receptacle.

I'm so frustrated. It's hard to feed Bennett and make sure he is receiving adequate nutrition. And now I'm wondering if there is something he is allergic to that I'm missing. I thought the sugar overload on Saturday might have been the problem since he doesn't eat much sugar, but it doesn't make sense that he wouldn't throw up until Sunday at 11:30 if that was the culprit. And we haven't given him any more cake even though he asks for it at every meal.

I made him muffins yesterday and that might be the issue, but I didn't use anything he hasn't had before and I know I didn't include any allergens. I just about drive myself crazy when he gets sick because I want to know what the problem is so we can fix it. It is possible he has a little virus, but that possibility is usually the last one I consider. When I was changing him before rest time I noticed a few spots on his skin and nearly cried. It's so frustrating to always wonder if something I'm doing is making him sick and I hate feeling like I can't feed him properly, even though I am trying really, really hard! 

We have to get Bennett feeling better and sort his gut out so we don't have any more problems. No one is enjoying the late nights and sad, sick toddler. We have probiotics on the way and we were doing glutamine because that shores up the gut, but when I read that the main side effect of glutamine is an upset tummy I took Bennett off it last week. 

It's super hard to make sure he doesn't get any allergens EVER as we have a small kitchen and don't have a separate set of cooking utensils, pots and pants etc. to absolutely ensure zero cross contamination, but I think we do a pretty good job. (Yesterday J was making jam while I made pizza dough and muffins. When we ran into each other for the tenth time I told him we need to win a kitchen remodel contest. Only problem is our house is small and there is nowhere to expand to other than out to the driveway. J said that would be fine. I think we're both a little tired of this house). I just hope we can figure something out soon since Bennett has been feeling less than himself for two weeks now.

I'm scared Bennett's losing weight (again) because of all this, but I'm not going to weigh him because I don't want to see that he's still at 19 or 20 lbs. I need to get him in for his two year well check, but I want him to be feeling a little better as there's probably a vaccine or two he needs and those always make him ill. And I really, really dread that moment when they put him on the scale. It feels a little like an indictment every time they call that number out. I need to work up the courage to go in and face it.

I'm trying. I'm doing the best I can. I just don't have many options.

Monday, September 2, 2013

so that's what 'glutened' means

We don't know exactly what happened, but Bennett was exposed to something yesterday, and we're pretty sure it was gluten. We were all up most of the night with a very sad Bennett with a seriously upset stomach. He screamed on and off (mostly on) from 7:30-2:30 when we finally gave him a dose of Benadryl to knock him out.

J ran out twice to buy digestive enzymes and other things to help settle his stomach, but nothing helped for long. The blistering diaper rash did not help matters. It broke my heart to hold him while he screamed "all done!" and hit his diaper over and over. It's impossible to explain to a two-year-old that he is going to feel poorly until whatever he ate that irritated him passes through.

It's so hard managing a little one with food allergies. Bennett is not in our care all of the time, but it's hard to relinquish control when things like this happen. Like I said, we don't know what happened, but it looks like he was either given snack in the nursery during church, or another little one gave him something. I think he was given snack despite our precautions because his reaction was so extreme and the snack I provided was still in his bag. I don't think a small bit off the floor or from another kiddo would do that to him, but he's never had gluten so I could be wrong.

J and I don't want to make anyone feel bad, or accuse anyone of anything, but we're going to have to do something before we put Bennett back in the nursery at church. I do not want to go through what we experienced last night again. Bennett was in pain, horrible screaming pain, and I'll do anything I can to prevent that from happening in the future.

It's so hard to find a balance between general protection and obsessive control. Do I make everything Bennett puts in his mouth myself? Do I keep him with me at all times? I spent days trying to figure out what we're going to do for Bennett's birthday cake and now that we have someone willing to make it for us I'm wondering if I should cancel the order. I gave a detailed list of instructions, but what if an ingredient is used that he can't have?

When we are out and about, or on a play date, I shudder when the goldfish crackers or granola bars or food of any kind comes out. It's stressful to keep an eye on every piece of food all the time, which is why I let some things go, and which is why Bennett will get a little rash any time we are away from home for two days or more. But this was waaaaaaaaaaay more than a rash.

Maybe it's time for a food allergy bracelet? But he has so many allergies how do we pick which ones to put on the bracelet? I've seen stickers that say, "food allergies, please don't feed me," or "food allergies" followed by a few blanks. Maybe I should order some of those and stick one on his shirt (or forehead??) before I send him somewhere without me.

I'm frustrated. And sleep deprived. Bennett seems to be feeling better this morning, but he's still having some residual issues. Hopefully the worst is behind us.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

food! (it's all I can think about)

You know how much I hate cooking. As I develop my skills it gets a little easier, but most of the time I don't enjoy it. Having a toddler with food allergies has forced me to cook a lot more often than I would like, which I hate, but on the positive side of things, it's also made us eat a little healthier.

J is doing really well with cutting back on sugars and eating well. Me on the other hand ... Well, I'm pregnant. I had a dream about Oreo cookies last night which resulted in a 9 am shopping trip. I'm hungry all the time right now and I want to eat bad, bad things. Bennett is absolutely fascinated by my Cheez-It obsession (shameful). He calls the Cheez-Its mama (really shameful).

Our kitchen is too small for us to attain true self sufficient food production. I'm not even sure I want to go that far, but J keeps nudging the Paleo diet my way and eventually I won't be able to say, "I'm pregnant, not right now." This especially applies to the topic of liver meat, which he keeps bringing up. I know it would be great for B, but I can barely handle chicken. Right now we're about halfway to where we want to end up eventually. We have a garden, we eat fairly well, we're slowly changing our ways. 

I struggle with how we eat and what we eat. I worry that I'm not providing the best food for my family. We cut way back on pasta, but now that I'm pregnant we're eating it a couple times a month and every time we do I feel a little guilty. Sugar is a big issue for me, especially when I'm pregnant. Especially now that I can have eggs again. I think about food, recipes and menus a lot, but a lot of my time is spent finding foods for B, making food for B and preparing meals for the family. 

We used to eat tacos quite often, but the prepackaged seasoning and corn shells or flour tortillas won't work for B. This evening I made tacos from scratch - with J helping on the tortilla front - and it went really, really well. B loved the gluten free tortillas (I was going to buy from the store, but they had eggs) and we did too. He liked it even with lettuce, goat cheese and seasoned hamburger inside. For the seasoning I made a mix I found online. I was apprehensive about the seasoning, but it was good. And it had barely any salt and no MSG.

B and I picked strawberries from the garden for dessert. I added grapes and raspberries to make a fruit plate and we ended dinner with handfuls of fruit and happy bellies. After putting together a fairly easy dinner with zero iffy ingredients I feel pretty good about where we're heading and how we're doing but I'm sure I'll be back to crying over pasta in a few days.

Do you struggle with what and how you feed your family?

Gluten free flour tortilla recipe found HERE (I used coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar and it tasted great!)

Taco seasoning recipe found HERE

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

a treat for b: gluten, egg, dairy, nut free bread

Sweet, sweet bread 

B has been doing so well with our new sleeping routine. I wanted to do something special for him since he's adjusted so well and been a little trooper. He's a little young to understand the concept of a reward, but I still wanted to do something. I'm not really into buying toys as a reward, so I chose a bread baking day instead.

I found a recipe with a handful of ingredients and went to our local health food store to buy what we needed. I felt a little like a kitchen witch, buying strange ingredients like arrowroot starch, coconut nectar and teff flour. It was expensive, but most of the things we buy for B are costly.

I used this recipe, but instead of hazelnut butter I used sunflower butter. We just figured out that B is allergic to safflower, but sunflower is okay. *happy dance* We made the bread, let it rise, then I put it in the oven while he napped. The original plan was to make it after nap, but he refused to sleep then passed out in my lap at 2:00. Tricky boy climbed up, held my hand and asked me to sing to him. Five minutes later he was out. For his after nap snack I prepared a plate with plain bread, bread with sunflower butter and bread with goat cheese (finally found one he likes!) B ate it all and asked for more.

I was really pleased with the end result. The bread was simple to make, easy to slice and tasted pretty good. Honestly, it's easier than trying to find something at the store he can eat. I'll probably add this to my baking/cooking routine for him because it's high in protein and calcium, two things he desperately needs in his diet.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

toddler food allergies // tears // difficult seasons

While getting in the car at the grocery store today I glanced at the car next to me and saw a mom leaning over the backseat handing half a cookie to her little one. She was eating the other half, of course, and the smile on her little's face when he accepted his half almost made me cry.


a) because of pregnancy hormones

b) because there has to be serious advance planning - and I usually have to do the baking - before I can share a cookie with Bennett.

Everything comes in waves and cycles. There are days, weeks, months even, when Bennett's allergies feel manageable and easy. Then there are times, like now, when I just want to feed the kid a peanut butter sandwich because I'm exhausted and if I have to read the back of one more food package I might scream.

This morning Bennett wandered into the living room eating toast crusts. I was busy writing the grocery list. When I looked up I stared at him for a second then jumped to my feet and grabbed the toast from his hand. I blamed myself, thinking I had left my plate out after eating toast just before bed last night, but when I flipped up the trash can lid there - a good ways down - was the remainder of the toast. Usually when he starts messing with the trash I hear him, but this morning I didn't hear a thing.

Bennett was itchy all day. We kept an eye on him, but wheat just makes him itchy and rashy - his poor mouth looks just awful from being in contact with the bread - so we didn't give him anything (other than homeopathics).

While we were out grocery shopping I continued my quest to find bread he can eat. I know he doesn't have to eat bread (what would I put on it anyway?) but the kid is eating toast out of the trash, obviously he feels like he's missing out on something. All gluten free bread has eggs, egg whites, or safflower. Even the gluten free flour tortillas I was looking forward to buying him have egg whites. I could make his bread, but I'm barely keeping up with his food as is. Adding bread in seems like a lot right now.

This evening J made taquitos for dinner. I looked up gluten free flour tortilla recipes online, but didn't write down a recipe, or buy ingredients or remember to find a recipe with ingredients we have in the house so Bennett had the filling without the tortilla. No big deal, really, but it was the last straw.

I try to focus on the positives. Like how blessed we are to have the money to buy specialty foods, and how lucky we are to have many stores nearby that carry foods Bennett can eat. But the day to day is wearing sometimes (and I really think much of this is pregnancy related right now). I have everything crossed that when we have allergy testing done after his second birthday we'll find out he can have tree nuts. I am hopeful that he will grow out of his egg allergy as well.

But there's so many worries: is Bennett eating too much fruit sugar? How do we prevent cross contamination in a small kitchen built in the '40's? Where are we going this week? What food do I need to bring? Why does he have a rash? Have we introduced something new? Did I forget to check an ingredient list? Why is Bennett's weight stalling again? How do we make sure he gets enough to eat on such a limited diet? Are we doing the best we can? Etc. Etc.

Just to give you an idea of what we're up against, these are the foods Bennett cannot have: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, dairy, corn, safflower (maybe sunflower) peaches, pears, sesame seeds.

Seriously. Lately meal planning has felt like bashing my head repeatedly against a wall. I'm ready for it to feel manageable again. I'm ready to meal plan and go grocery shopping without having a breakdown and/or crying. 

I hope this post doesn't come across as ungrateful or whiny. I'm really tired today (toddler bed sleep training post #2 coming soon). And sometimes I just want to share a darn preservative laced cookie with my son.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

this is so exciting!

You know you're the mom of a kid with food allergies when a new EpiPen makes you super excited. (I'm not getting paid for this post. The makers of the product don't know me from Adam). Just watch the video. If you have allergies, or a little one with allergies, you'll understand why I'm excited.

More information about the new Auvi-Q EpiPen can be found here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

too much excitement*

Okay guys, we need a name change. Those muffins I made on Monday? The ones that are ALL gone on this here Tuesday? Not only do they have 5 billion calories, they also require a person to change their toddler's diaper many, MANY times throughout the day. So we shall call them Fatten the Baby (and clear out the intestines!) Banana Blueberry Muffins. Not recommended for adult consumption.

J and I whipped up a batch tonight after B had gone to bed. He does that now. It's strange. I'm waiting for the good times to end. I was out of coconut yogurt so I used applesauce instead. Then J said, "How much pea protein did you add?"

"I haven't added it yet because you said we should increase it and I wasn't sure by how much."

J then proceeded to dump TWO huge scoops into the batter. He mixed and mixed and mixed and then we taste tested. Honest opinion? YUCK. That "tasteless" pea protein comes with a very nasty aftertaste. I had to eat a whole lotta Cadbury Mini Eggs to get the taste out of my mouth. I have no idea why B loves these muffins, but he ate 9 in two days so we're calling it a win. If these babies don't make him gain weight I am tossing out the white flag. And crying.

I am wiped out. B has been waking up EARLY (oh, hey that's where the sleep problems have gone!) and today was a bit draining. I managed to drive two minutes off my normal track en route to a speaking engagement and got totally confused/turned around/out in the boons/made it with a few minutes to spare when I like to have thirty. I've lived in the valley my entire life, but the proximity of country to city in this area still baffles me. The rest of my week is equal parts ick (dental cleaning) and yay can't wait! (H&M shopping trip. Because it's time.)

*most sarcastic post title

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

when you can't make it better

Bennett has been itchy for a couple days, but this morning at story time I noticed his near compulsive inability to leave his neck alone. After lunch I nursed him down for nap then settled on the couch with my book. Bennett woke up screaming after thirty minutes. Full on, mad baby, why aren't I sleeping? screaming. I considered teething, but when I picked him up from his crib he had his hands on his neck, scratching away.

I tried to settle him on the couch with me, hoping he would go back to sleep, but he just cried. After watching him itch his neck and belly for a few minutes I decided to try a bath. Bennett settled in the bath, somewhat, but he was still upset and itchy.

When his general fussiness developed into full on crying I took him out of the bath and into the nursery. He sat on the changing table, itching his belly and screaming. I wrapped him in a dry towel and rocked him for a while, then put anti-itch lotion all over his skin, which had a few break outs. Bennett cried as I dressed him, cried when I tried to put him down to wash my hands, cried as I rocked him. I set him on the changing table for a minute and took a few deep breaths, totally lost as to how I could help him. After a minute I burst into tears, which did not help matters.

We cried and rocked for a while, then I settled down enough to realize breast feeding may calm him down. I'm so used to an afternoon and evening feed now I don't think about using nursing to comfort like I did when he was younger. After nursing for thirty minutes he was calm, but when I tried to put him down so I could get a drink of water he began screaming again. A solid hour - seriously, a solid hour - of cuddling on the couch in our pajamas and reading every. single. book. in the house with a moon, or about a moon, he was back to his normal slightly itchy, but able to roll with it, self.

I'm really struggling with this right now. I hate that Bennett is uncomfortable. I hate that I do everything I can think of to protect him from break outs, but it doesn't seem to matter. I need J during afternoons like this because he can be calm about the situation, whereas I can't. I start panicking about never being able to send Bennett to summer camp, while J deals with the immediate situation. I'm glad we have an appointment set up with our naturopath next month. She thinks he can help him with homeopathic medicine. I hope she's right. I feel like we can't go on as we are. I know this is not a unique struggle, but that doesn't erase the tiredness or frustration.

Sometimes I think people try to handle the grief of people they love like I try to handle Bennett's allergies. Like they're trying to protect them from what hurts, like they want to remove all the irritants from life so the grief doesn't break out. But it does. It's impossible to stop. One of life's hardest truths is that we can't protect the people we love from pain and hurt.

I know I need to give this over to God. I know He has His hands on our family and that He loves Bennett more than I do. I know all of this, but it's hard to actually do it. Instead I cry with Bennett, and don't even think about giving him a dose of Benadryl because I'm so upset. I hate not knowing how to fix it. I hate the panicky feeling that comes when I realize I'm a mother, and I have no idea what I'm doing. But that's not a unique struggle either, is it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

a slight possibility for change

We'd been on the road fifteen minutes when I realized I left our lunch at home. I thought about turning around, but knew I didn't have time if we wanted to make our appointment. I had a (fasting) blood draw and doctor appointment at 10:00 at a clinic 45 minutes from home. I knew I would be hungry, as would B, when the appointment ended. I panicked. I couldn't think straight. I drove all the way to my exit (about 25 minutes) with possibilities and plans running through my mind before remembering we were going to a town with many grocery stores, including two health food stores.

Our naturopath hasn't seen Bennett for a while. This appointment wasn't for him, but when she saw him she asked how he was. I gave my usual spiel, happy, healthy, but small.

"How much does Bennett weigh now?" she asked.

"Just over 17 lbs."

"And he's how many months?"

"16 yesterday."

She crouched next to the stroller and looked him over. "You know I'm all about small babies being normal and healthy. You know I think there is a wide range of healthy weights." I nodded as she stood up and turned to face me. "But this - 17 lbs at 16 months - is concerning. I'm totally with your pediatrician on this one."

A parent's heart briefly stops any time someone connects the words 'concerning' and 'your child' to form a bridge of possible problems. As a parent who has lost a baby my heart briefly stops, then I tumble down the baby loss PTSD rabbit hole, which is not a fun place to visit, or reside.

"Well it's so hard with all of his allergies." I listed them out, which sent her eyebrows shooting upwards. "And his pediatrician doesn't really believe me when I tell her he has this many allergies."

"Of course she doesn't. It's because she doesn't want him to be allergic to so many things. I don't want it either. That's a very long list. Bring him in to me after Hawaii. I think we can do something about this. I think we can help."

"That would be great! I would much rather have this than not have it, you know? I mean rather this than nothing ..." I trailed off as she nodded her head.

"I know. I know. But it's challenging too."

After the appointment we went to the bookstore where I used to work. My original plan was to eat lunch in the car at the park, play for a little while, head to the bookstore then head home. Instead we bought Bennett fruit and snacks at the health food store, walked over to the bookstore, then walked to a local pizza place so I could have a slice. It worked out just fine. I didn't need to panic about feeding him for twenty-five minutes. It made me a little sad to walk around town with him though. I used to look out the windows of the bookstore and imagine strolling the streets with my Charlotte.

When we finished lunch I could tell Bennett had more energy to burn off so I took him to the allergen friendly bakery in McMinnville. He had his first doughnut (well half) then played for a good long while before I loaded him back in the car for home.

Driving home I almost cried. I feel like having a little one with allergies would be easier for some mamas. Like they would go with the flow, become amazing chefs and handle it all with ease. Their little would be fat and sassy even with a long list of allergies. They would be so darn grateful for a living child they wouldn't mind a little food related stress.

I hope our naturopath can help. I hope there might be an answer. Or a better way of coping. I feel really lost and overwhelmed right now as we transition off breast milk. A new allergy seems to crop up every day. It's hard. It's challenging. It's sad to watch Bennett scratch his stomach, neck and head and know I'm doing everything I can think of to prevent his discomfort and still not succeeding.

I get this pit in my stomach every time someone says, "He's small." My heart drops every time a doctor looks him up and down and frowns. Realizing that hitting developmental milestones may not be enough anymore makes me sad. J and I have gone back and forth for a little while on what to do and how to cope. We know we need to do more. We know the pediatrician is close to pushing for a solution. I know it's not a big problem and I know it's a manageable problem, but here in the thick of it, it seems huge, overwhelming and complicated.

Friday, December 28, 2012

when your little has food allergies

On the advice of a family member I finally wrote out a card listing B's allergies, date of birth, doctor information, location of the epi pen and put it in the diaper bag. Um, why didn't I think of that months ago??

I worry constantly about what goes in B's mouth. Whenever we leave our home environment, he breaks out. His skin is very sensitive so everything from soap to carpets to food bothers him.

Most of his allergies aren't very severe. If he gets his hands on wheat or dairy, it's okay. He will rash up, but it's not life threatening. The only allergy we really worry about is peanuts since we ended up in the ER when he was nine months old for that one.

His pediatrician isn't quite sold on the idea that what he eats causes his eczema, but we are. We've seen a direct correlation between food and rashes. And we decided we didn't want to live that way. Your baby doesn't have to live with painful, itchy eczema and an upset tummy either. It's hard to change the way you eat and cook, but it is doable.

I miss peanut butter SO much. When B weans I am checking myself into a hotel and ordering peanut butter toast. People often shake their heads when I list his allergies and say, "I don't know how you do it." I have to refrain from replying, "Hey, I've had a baby die. This is much easier."

Back in the rashy days

I felt really lost when I first realized just how many allergies B has (nuts, eggs, wheat, dairy, most seeds, fennel). I've managed to figure out how to work with his specific needs, but there has been some trial and error. If you are facing something similar here are some guidelines:

- Check every. single. label.

- Cook from scratch as often as possible.

- Don't let anyone give your child food.

- Always have something your child can eat in the diaper bag, just in case a situation arises and you can't access appropriate food. (This is one of my recurring nightmares. Yay breastfeeding for helping me avoid it so far).

- If your child breaks out revert to the basics: fruit, vegetables, rice, plain chicken, anything you know doesn't irritate or cause a flare up. I usually have two-three iffy items going at once. If he breaks out I immediately drop all iffy items for a couple weeks.

- Be creative with food. B's diet is so limited I try to make what he can eat exciting.

- Find a cream that works. We use an herbal salve we found on Etsy and Curel Itch Defense lotion. When things are really bad I have used steroid cream, but that is a rare occasion. Most medical doctors will go straight to steroid cream as a solution. I think it's better to try diet changes first, but if your little one is miserable alleviate the symptoms as quickly as you can.

- Try homeopathics. I buy urtica urens from our local health food store. It is meant specifically for a rash due to food allergies. It really cuts down on B's itching. It comes in a blue tube, Boiron is the manufacturer.

- Use gentle soap, and not too much of it. We use Earth Mama Angel Baby in the bath and Allens Naturally laundry soap.

- Give your child fish oil.

- And probiotics.

- Use coconut oil for everything, including the skin.

It's hard, but you will adapt. And when your little one is happy, you will be motivated to keep going. To cook gluten free, to find egg substitutes, to try new dishes, to rely heavily on fruits and vegetables. There are days when I wish I could just feed him without worrying, but most of the time I no longer notice how restricting his diet is.

If you have any questions, ask, and I'll do my best to answer.

Friday, November 2, 2012

egg, dairy, gluten free pancakes

I did it!! I finally made a pancake Bennett can - and will - eat. My previous attempts have been inedible, but this one was pretty good. I even ate two, and I am particular about my pancakes.

I looked up multiple recipes, picked the most common ingredients and substituted nearly everything. I left out sugar, but next time around I may add a little honey. Bennett ate the pancakes plain. I offered pieces with and without jam; he threw the ones with jam on the floor.

Egg, Dairy and Gluten Free Pancakes


1.5 cups flour (I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free baking flour)
1 egg (1 TB flax seed + 3 TB water)
1 cup rice milk
2 TB coconut oil (melted)
3 teaspoons baking powder


Melt coconut oil
Add to rice milk (I mix everything in a large glass measuring cup. It makes it easier to pour)
Whisk together
Add flax seed, baking powder and flour
Whisk together 

If too thick add a bit more milk. I originally tried 1 cup flour, but it was way too runny. I couldn't get the pancakes to hold together.

They took a little longer to cook than I'm used to. Wait a while before flipping, or else you'll have a mess on your hands. Trust me. I only managed three good pancakes out of the entire batch.

Bennett looks a little grumpy in the pictures because he woke at 5:30 am. I have to find a way to make him sleep a little longer. He spent his morning collapsing on the floor and wailing. Around 9 he finally caved and is now passed out next to me.


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