Saturday, October 27, 2012

A big move filled with lots of great allergy "firsts"

So we've moved to a new town and a new school.  Our last move was very  stressful given the planning and forethought required to keep Alexa well fed and healthy.  I had no idea if I could find her safe brands or how her new school would handle her allergies.  This move, thankfully, has been unusually easy from a food allergy perspective.  There have been many 1st for us and I'm just overwhelmed by how great this feels!  These are the "firsts" we've had in the last 2 weeks:

1.) When traveling, we stay in efficiencies so can cook or reheat meals for Alexa.  This time, we opted to stay in a regular hotel, which is cheaper.  We planned to order safe pizza for dinner and I brought a bagel for her breakfast the next morning.  When we arrived at the hotel Alexa asked if we could eat out. (surprising since we rarely eat out with her).  Next to the hotel was a restaurant named Papa Razzi.  I looked up the restaurant to see what I could find about food allergies and at the bottom of the menu it stated "If anyone in your party has a food allergy, please notify your server." I decided to give it a try knowing that if they could not feed her safely (or if I was uncomfortable) I would give her the extra lunch I had packed for the trip.  The staff was amazing (I'll give you all those details another time), Alexa not only had a delicious safe meal, she also had breadsticks and focaccia bread for the first time! woo hoo! Jason was actually disappointed he missed this big milestone.  I'm sure it seems strange to a non-allergic family but for our family, it's a big deal.

2.) The morning of our move I stopped by her new school to drop off her records, meds, etc.  I had already researched the school and knew they had an amazing allergy policy but I was overwhelmed with how thorough they were.  As I was completing forms I saw a box for volunteer badges and attached was a sign that read "if you are visiting any of the following classrooms, please wash your hands prior to entering to keep our food allergic children safe" wow.  Alexa's class was listed. awesome.  Next, the nurse came in and met Alexa and I.  She took her meds, read through everything and showed me the posters they keep around school which have photos of each allergic child and list their allergies.  I was thrilled to see it but also shocked at the large number of kids on it *shakes head*. The nurse also gave me several options for Alexa's Epi Pens, wear them, teacher hand off, a set for each teacher, etc.  We opted for teacher hand off and I will tell you Alexa is THRILLED her Epis are with her at all times.  She said "Mom, this school is just GREAT! I mean GREAT! They bring my Epi Pens everywhere, even recess and if someone forgets them they send someone back to get them."  I had no idea how much it bothered her to not know where they were stored.  Physically seeing them with her all day gives her a sense of comfort.  What a departure from last year.  I had to email the principal the Chancellor Regulations detailing why my daughter HAD to have her Epi's within arms reach and went 4 days before finally getting them approved.  When I dropped Alexa off on her first day at her new school this year, I just kissed her in the hallway and watched her go knowing she was in great hands.  When I picked her up she announced there were several other kids with allergies in her class and even another 2nd grader named Alexa with a PN/TN allergy.  I could tell right away she feels safe and no longer feels "different" from the other kids.  What a gift!

3.) After 4 days at her new school, Alexa rode the bus for the first time.  I called the bus company the Friday before and the woman was SO nice and helpful.  She said "Yep, we have her listed, we know she's carrying them, we know they will be in her backpack.  We will have her sit up front and all bus drivers are trained." wow.  It feels so good to let my girl be just a regular kid!

4.) Last night we attended our first school party.  Normally, at school events, as soon as we arrive I scope out the food and show her what's safe, what's not, and what to be aware of.  Last night was the FIRST party we have been to that was completely, repeat, completely nut free!!! wow.  In the craft room they had 1 food related craft and they used all safe items. (oreos, whipped cream, twizzlers, skittles).  In the "Cafe" they had pizza, fruit, veggie straws,  safe pretzels and water.   Alexa and I came into the room, I scanned the table and I looked at Jason and said "did you see the food? No nuts, no baked goods, no candy!" I literally tear up thinking about it.  For the first time EVER, I could relax at a school event and Alexa could enjoy the event without worry and without the "I wish I could eat that! I hate allergies" There was no nut residue to worry over, no little hands covered in Peanut butter touching everything-just happy kids and happy parents!

5.) After 2 years of Alexa being unhappy, anxious and/or overwhelmed about school (socially, academically, or safety wise) She is happy.  She loves school! That is a "first" that makes me cry.

I know fellow allergy parents can relate to the joy and relief I feel knowing our child is finally in a school where she feels like just one of the gang.  Safe, secure and able to focus on learning instead of worrying about her getting sick.  My gratitude towards the PTG and the school administration for making this school safe for my daughter, is just overwhelming.  I'm going to write them an email thanking them.  I'm sure they know how grateful the other allergy parents are but I feel the need to remind them how amazing it is to be in an environment where the school puts the kids first and the adults could care less if there are cupcakes, candy, or CRAP served at these events.

So happy and blessed that this has been such a wonderful experience.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What are you REALLY giving up?

Why are some people so possessive of their food? What are they really being asked to sacrifce.....
Here's a poem I wrote about the issue:

The Sacrifice:

Could you go without peanuts for a few hours a day? 
Could you go without soy, fish, wheat or whey? 
What would you lose for an hour or two? Would this really be so difficult for you?  
Would it cause you grief? Would it cause you pain? 
Would it rob you of joy? Could you smile again? 
Would your hopes and dream all disappear...cause such pain you'd cower in fear?
What really are you giving up by avoiding some food?  Is this too much to ask of you?
A favorite food compared to a life? 
It astounds me it cause such strife. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

No Bake Sunbutter Energy squares.

Elizabeth Goldenberg at OneSpot Allergy posted this No Bake Energy Bites recipe on her blog.

No Bake Energy Bites (Nut-free version of Smashed Peas and Carrots recipe)
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup SunButter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed or hemp seeds
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until thoroughly incorporated.  Working with wet hands, press into balls. These are so delicious, consider doubling the recipe. Enjoy!

When I made them, Alexa complained they made her mouth itchy.  I could not figure WHAT was causing this.  I later realized the Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed I used had a "same facility as tree nuts" warning on it (dummy!!).  I really wanted to make the kids some kind of granola bars.  Since I had not yet tracked down any safe Flaxseed, I made another granola type bar from a recipe I found on Pinterest. (at least I think that's were I found it).  It contained oats, Sunbutter, honey, oil, vanilla, and 1 cup total of whatever mix-ins you wanted.  I chose coconut flakes, raisins, craisins, and chocolate chips.  You have to melt the honey, Sunbutter and oil before adding your oats and mix-ins so when I added the chocolate chips, they melted and the bars came out like chocolate granola bars.  The kids LOVED them!  Yippee!  I finally had a way to get some fiber and fruit into the boy who eats nothing healthy!  So, anyhoo, I still wanted to try the no bake recipe from Elizabeth.  Today (even though I'm STILL out of flaxseed) I tried this combo:  

1 Cup Oats (Quaker old fashion)
1/2 Cup Sunbutter spread (I used creamy)
1/3 Cup Honey (from the farmers market-YUM!)
1 Cup Coconut Flakes 
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1/2 Cup No Nuts Dark Chocolate bits -not pictured (or use Enjoy Life Chocolate chips)
1 tsp vanilla

I mixed all the ingredients together using gloved hands to incorporate the Sunbutter and honey.  The raisins didn't want to stay in the mix so I microwaved the mix for 15 seconds.  I mixed again until it was all together and then spread it evenly into the bottom of a large plastic storage container lined with wax (or parchment) paper. (see photo)  I chilled it for 1 hour and cut them into squares.  YUM! They are a bit chewy from all the coconut but are delish for a quick bite. 

The kids haven't tried them yet-I'll let you know the final verdict.  I have GERB brand sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseeds from PeanutFreePlanet on the way- when they arrive I will experiment with all kinds of homemade granola bars and granola for the kids.  Who says living Peanut/Nut free is boring?? Not me!!! Hope you try these out and enjoy them!!