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Preview: my kids' allergies

my kids' allergies

Here's a glimpse into life with food-allergic kids.

Updated: 2017-05-08T05:26:55.536-07:00


Back to school with allergies


I can't believe that we're already in the middle of September. The last two weeks have been a total whirlwind of back-to-school activities, school forms to fill out, and a gradual transition into kindergarten for my 5-year-old (who also had a birthday last weekend). Whew!

I'm lucky that my kids' elementary school is a nut-free school, so I don't have the same number of worries as so many other allergic parents. My allergic kid still carries an epipen in his backpack, but the risk of encountering peanut oil on a door handle or water fountain is so much reduced that it's just not the same level of risk for us.

Every school newsletter has come with a large peanut/nut allergy warning, and there are "nut-free zone" posters scattered all around the school.

He also has two teachers this year, one on Mondays and the other for the rest of the week. I've chatted with both of them, and they're comfortable with dealing with his allergies. In fact, the Monday teacher also has a peanut-allergic daughter who's the same age. And scarily enough, she also has had to use her daughter's epipen on her, when her daughter had some fruit from a tray which had somehow been contaminated with peanuts.

The biggest change that I've made this year is to Andrew's lunch. Last year, I refused to send him to school with peabutter sandwiches, because I was worried that the teachers wouldn't be able to tell the difference between peabutter and peanut butter sandwiches, and then other kids would bring in peanut butter sandwiches and claim that they're peabutter. But after a brief conversation with the teacher, and an assurance that most parents are now hyper-aware that they can't send peanut butter to school, I've broken my own rule and let him take peabutter sandwiches to school.

The yucky part -- he also wanted some dairy-free cheese slices to take to school for snacktime. What I didn't realize until I opened up his lunch bag that afternoon: he put the cheese into the peabutter sandwiches, which were in blueberry bagels. Blech! (On the bright side: at least there wasn't any ketchup involved.)(image)

Divvies cookbook winner!


I had ten entries into the draw for the Divvies cookbook (9 comments on the post and one via email), so I did a quick random draw, and lucky #7 was who the random number generator at told me was the winner.

According to the winner's blog, it looks like her very cute toddler has just been diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy, so she's now doing a lot of cooking from scratch -- so this cookbook will come as a great help to her and her family!

Thank you all for entering, and waiting ever so patiently for me to do the draw.

Next time I hold a contest, it won't be around the first week of school! It's been a little insane around here, that's for sure.(image)

Oh Fudge — Divvies cookbook contest


The book publisher for The Divvies Bakery Cookbook contacted me last month, just when I was missing all of you and missing writing about our family's allergic adventures. They offered to send me a review copy of the cookbook, and an additional copy for one of my blog readers.

They also sent me an additional freebie: the recipe that's in the cookbook for dairy-free and nut-free chocolate fudge. (It isn't soy-free, unfortunately, as it uses a soy creamer.) Click on the image below, and you'll get a larger version of the allergy-friendly fudge recipe from the cookbook.


So I whipped up a batch of this fudge. I used dried cranberries instead of marshmallows because I like having a little bit of sour in with all the sugar of fudge. The recipe is really good, and unlike a lot of dairy-based fudges that I've made in the past, this one actually crystallized and turned into a really tasty, just-right chocolate fudge.

As you can tell, the kids like them too.

And as I mentioned above: You too can win a copy of this cookbook! Just leave me a comment on this post, and I'll enter you into the random draw. If you're having trouble leaving a comment, you can also email me, and I'll enter you that way. This contest will run from now until midnight on September 5, 2010, and I'll get my husband to do a random draw of all entries. Then I'll contact the winner for an address, and send that to the publisher, who'll mail the cookbook out.

Full disclosure: I wasn't paid to write this post, but they did send me a free cookbook as well as the one that they'll be sending to the prize winner. I'm always happy to promote books that help other allergic families, so good luck to all of you who are entering the contest!(image)

Did you miss me?


Yeah, it's been a while since either of us updated the blog. Tony posted in January, then we had the Olympics in February, and things were rather hectic around town. (Yes, we got to go to the opening ceremonies — the whole thing was an unbelievable experience, and I've become an Olympics junkie.)The allergic angle: nothing they served at the venue was safe for the kids except for the pop and water. Even the fries had a dairy coating. Thumbs down to them. I'm just glad that they let us bring our own food into the venue once I showed them the epipen and benadryl. The Olympics venues were very high-security, and all the ticket pages said that we weren't allowed to bring our own food in except for medical situations. And they wanted us to get to the opening ceremonies at least 3-5 hours before the event started. Yeah, you'd panic too, wouldn't you, with two hungry allergic kids, and not allowed to bring food in with you?I guess I'm now doing a quick summary of this year so far!Andrew finished first grade, and only had one bad allergic reaction at school this year, when his teacher fed him yogurt ice cream. Yes, she didn't realize that yogurt is dairy. At least that's what she told me on the phone. Fortunately, it looks like his dairy reaction is getting a lot weaker — he just went off to the bathroom and vomited a couple of times, and didn't get hives. He didn't even tell her that he'd vomited until he was done.And then she tried to use the epipen on him, even though he wasn't having breathing difficulties. And when we looked at the epipen that night, it hadn't actually been activated. (I couldn't blog about it this politely at the time; distance and time is making this a lot easier to write. And his teacher this September is getting an epipen trainer from me, and I'm going to watch her use it on an orange or something. Oh yeah — here's a useful link: free epipen starter kit/trainer available here!) Both boys went to the allergist in May. Andrew's still allergic to the same things, but we can definitely take eggs off his list. The good news came from Geoff's test — he only had very small wheals for nuts, and no bumps at all for eggs, shellfish or dairy. So we've let him have all of those, and he hasn't had any allergic reactions so far. My fingers are definitely crossed!The summer's gone really well for both kids. We signed them up for a crafting program, where they did papier maché, clay sculpting and poured candles. Andrew got a lot out of this program because he has such a passion for building and crafting. For me, it was my first experience with dropping them both off for a "camp" experience without a family member around. I made lunch for them, and packed lots of fruit, safe granola bars and cookies, and left the epipen and benadryl for emergencies. And both kids had a great time, and nothing happened except that they got too busy to eat their lunches properly, and had a great time with other kids.Okay, I'm being rather verbose here. Apparently, I've missed blogging, and I've missed all of you! I'll be back soon. My goal is to write at least once a week, and I've got a cool contest coming up — Divvies Bakery has given me a copy of their cookbook to give away — I'll have that announcement up in a day or two! align="left" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="height: 245px; padding-right: 10px; padding-top: 5px; width: 131px;"><p>&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;iframe src=";amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;o=1&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;p=8&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;l=bpl&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;asins=0312605285&[...]

Thank you Sophia and Rhonda


I know what you're thinking...who are Sophia and Rhonda? Well, I don't know them least not personally, but they've done something incredible and I want to thank them. Rhonda has a daughter Melanie and Melanie is allergic to nuts. During a flight on Air Canada, Sophia locked herself in the bathroom for 40 minutes while the snacks containing nuts were being served.

I've flown on many an airplane for business, and a few for pleasure, and since Andrew's nut allergy appeared, I've started to notice what others around me are eating on the plane, and what the airlines are serving for snacks. Most of the flights I take are "short haul" hour, maybe two. Fifteen years ago on this length of flight, the traditional snack was almonds - the smoked, over-salted ones. Today, it's pretzels or cookies. You know what? As much as I love almonds (although I will confess to preferring them raw and unsalted), I don't begrudge being forced to choose between pretzels and cookies...or...dare I say it..."nothing thanks, I just had breakfast".

I read recently, I think it was Allergic Living, where some airlines refused to stop handing out almonds because they were the "traditional snack" on flights, and customers demanded them. Are you kidding? You don't DEMAND anything on an airplane these days, and I don't know of anyone that would switch airlines because one served cookies instead of almonds, or Coke versus Pepsi. Come on...that's absurd. The convenience of the airline's schedule and the friendliness of the staff have far more to do with my choice of airline than the food. Maybe that's just me.

Back to our heroes. Having to lock herself in the bathroom to get away from nuts? That's just wrong. I never want to have to think "How many epipens did security let me bring on board, and what happens if something...happens?" while I'm at 40,000 feet. After that experience and "difficulty accommodating their needs even after being informed of their nut allergies" they complained to the Canadian Transportation Agency (sort of like the US FAA for you folks state-side). The upshot of this effort is that Air Canada has 30 days to effect the CTA's ruling which requires:
"an exclusion or buffer zone where passengers within that zone will be advised that they can only eat foods that are peanut-free or nut-free and that they will only be offered peanut-free or nut-free foods as part of Air Canada's onboard snack or meal will also address the risk of other passengers eating peanuts or nuts"

Air Canada is honestly not my first choice for air travel in western Canada. Depending on how they handle this, they could become a contender though. Westjet hasn't served nuts in a long time and Andrew and I have flown with them. In the mean time, thank you again to Sophia and Rhonda, and when I'm travelling by plane, even without my family, you can sign me up for the nut-free section!

If we're lucky I'll get to sit in a part of the airplane with no peanuts, no almonds, no cashews, and none of those other "nuts" we never want to see on a plane.

I first saw this story on the CBC's website. You can click there to read the story or here to see the video clip.


Dining out - How cool it could be!


You know that flood of flyers, newsletters and useless paper that comes to your mailbox on an almost daily basis? Well, every once in a while there's a little gem that arrives. Last week, I was sifting through the realtor ads, the pizza place coupons and back-to-school flyers looking for envelopes containing actual relevant and sometimes important mail when this caught my eye. Desi - Fine Indian Cuisine...hmmm. Before I continue, I need to make a few statements about Desi: I have never eaten there, I don't own shares, and I don't know anyone that works there or has an interest in the place. The place is up on the main street a few blocks from our house. The reason it catches my eye is, quite frankly, the logo. The eye-catching-ness of it is not attributable to its's actually because it looks very similar to the Paris-Dakar Rally logo. You follow the link and be the judge. you can see it in the top right corner of their web page.So, now I'm flipping through the menu they've sent me, probably becuase I'm hungy and haven't had lunch yet. Congratulations to the marketing department, they've done their job. My wife and I used to go out for Indian food occasionally, and there is a large concentration of immigrants from India in a nearby neighbourhood, so the local Indian restaurants are really quite good; they have to be. When the locals are experts at picking good Indian food from bad Indian food, you have to be good just to survive. These folks have the usual selection of curries, flavoured rices, and as is usual, it's sorted by the meat: chicken is separate from vegetarian which is separate from lamb and goat and so on. What caught my eye here, is that each dish has a series of marks after it. There are circles, squares, triangles and stars. My first reaction was some sort of condition that applied to a coupon I hadn't found, or that some dishes were "heart smart" or low in fat. Actually, if you look at the bottom right, there's a legend for these symbols. The star indicates the dish is vegan. You might notice that not all vegetarian dishes are vegan, and this information would be very useful to you if you were, well, vegan. I'm not, so I read on. The circle indicates the dish is "nut free", the square indiates "dairy free" and the triangle is "gluten free". WOW...did I just see an allergen list on a restaurant menu. What's more, it a footnote! They're not even bragging about it, they're just stating it for your convenience.Now, as I said at the beginning, I've never eaten there, so I haven't "grilled" them on whether they have a "nut" side of the kitchen and a "non-nut" side to prevent cross-contamination, but why would you label something as "nut free" without taking some precautions. It's a bit like going out to a Kosher restaurant. If you've got meat, you can guarantee there's no dairy. However, we usually find around here that "Kosher" means vegetarian with dairy, and that doesn't help with our kids allergies.So, it appears we may have some research to conduct with these folks to see if we can put "curry back on our menu". I wonder if Andrew and Geoff would eat's a strong flavour for a 6- and almost-4-year-old. And, as you all know, most young kids have only one spice/condiment and it's ketchup...sigh, but just imagine telling your child, "You can have anything with a circle AND a square and it will be safe!" How cool would that be?![...]

Some good news


We're in the throes of a heatwave here in Vancouver. For those of you reading this who live out of the area, we have a silly little practice here when it comes to weather. Our "official" temperature is taken at Vancouver International Airport, which is right on the waterfront. During the winter months it can be several degrees colder inland where most of the people live, and during the summer (sigh), it can be hotter. So, today's official high is supposed to be 31°C...last night on our back deck it was 38°C. That's right around 100°F. Now I know that's "not hot" for some parts of this little blue-green marble we all live on, but Vancouver isn't really set up for a week of really hot (like this) or really cold (-10°C/15°F). We don't have AC in most of our homes, and when it's 2:30 and the temp is still in the high 20's/80+ we really don't sleep that well. After a few days, traffic gets...well....grumpy.So, on a more positive note, I had to go out and buy another epipen for Andrew. Not because we'd used one, but another one expired. That's good. I like expired epipens because expired epipens are unused epipens. I got to the pharmacy and discovered they didn't have any more left on his prescription, so we had to go to the doctor to get a prescription. It's kind of weird taking two perfectly healthy children (and one healthy father -- me) to the doctor, but there we were. We got the prescription and went to the pharmacy. The nice lady behind the counter handed me the box and told me how much I owed. I looked at the box and told her "Sept 2009" was a little early for the expiry date. "It's still good. What's your concern?"You know those little conversations you have with yourself in your head? Kind of like that scene from "Terminator" where the guy in the bar says something to Arnie's character, and the machine brings up a list of possible responses. The list reads something like: - No thank you - Pardon me sir - That's not going to happen - the one I can't print in a family blog, and that the Terminator actually selectsI had one of those conversations...without the profanity of course. I chose the helpful reply of "We only use these in emergencies...would you buy a fire extinguisher that expired in 2 months? I'd like you to order me a new one please.""Sigh, we'll call you when it's here". A few days later my September 2010 expiry prescription was filled.So, no reactions for quite a while now. YEAH!!We're next scheduled to see the pediatric allergist in March 2010 for tests to see if the kids are outgrowing any of their allergies. Apparently we neglected to share that information with one of our mothers...I won't say which one because my Mom would rather remain anonymous.Ooops...anyway, she has this fantastic idea for feeding the boys at summer BBQs. She gets dinner rolls and pre-cooked sausage rounds, cooks them on the grill and they have kid-sized hamburgers. For some reason the boys don't like hamburgers or beef patties, but they'll devour these mini-burgers with the sausuage like there's no tomorrow. The catch comes when you read the ingredients on the buns...there's whey in there, and Andrew's allergic to dairy. Or at least he was...he didn't have any reaction. We were reading the ingredients a few days after he'd eaten them.That situation got us thinking he might have outgrown his dairy reaction. So the next time we went grocery shopping, I picked up a package of goldfish crackers. I love these things almost as much as I love nuts, and was crushed when I couldn't blame my excessive consumption of them on my kids. Okay, maybe that's overstating the situation, but I really do like them. I picked a day where we had nothing to do that afternoon, and I could watch them...and gave them a quarter of a fish cracker each.Nothing. Well not "nothing" there were loud (and I do mean LOUD) demands for more.I waited an hour...still not[...]

Bad (Rice) Dreams


Dear Hain Celestial Group, makers of Rice Dream:

I really like your product because it's safe for my dairy-allergic children and contains all the calcium and vitamin D that they need. And they like it too.

But I really wish that you had a bit better quality control over your product, at least in this 2-litre carton size. To explain a little better, here's a photo of the tea that I made this afternoon.

(image) When I opened the carton, the milk was separated, and the liquid on top was clear. I shook it up to try to turn it back into a suspension, but totally failed, as you can see from what it did in my cup of tea.

There's no way I can serve this to my kids. They're picky eaters as it is, and to have their milk be lumpy and, dare I say, textured, might turn them off milk altogether. Really, milk should pour and splatter, but it shouldn't plop down in chunks.

I could go for the soy alternatives, but I'm not fond of putting too much soy into their diets, as this story will explain. They're little boys; I don't need to be putting too much estrogen into their systems and possibly screwing up their reproductive organs.

And they do drink calcium-enriched orange juice, but there is such a thing as too much juice. As well, I dream of a day when they can drink regular milk, and eat cheese for the calcium, so I do want them to keep drinking something that looks like milk.

I'm blogging this petty incident because this isn't the first carton of milk to do this to me. There was a run of bad milk for about a month last summer. Then last week, we returned three cartons to the grocery store. Tomorrow, I'll be taking two more back to the store. (To answer additional questions -- the expiry date is August 24, as you can see in the photo -- and I know that my husband bought the milk and brought it home right away, because he also bought ice cream in the same trip, and it didn't melt.)

As you all know, taking a 6- and a 3-year old to the grocery store isn't a simple chore. The 6-year-old is better now, but they both get bored, they both get annoying, and they both beg for every single candy and treat on the shelves. Taking them to the store and lining up to return *milk* is a form of parental torture.

So this is my plea -- whatever is broken over the summer months, please fix it so that I don't dread opening up your next carton of milk because I don't know that it will be drinkable. I don't like the taste of your competitors' product, but I also don't like feeling like a hostage to your poor quality control.(image)

Kindergarten Field Trip to the Dairy Farm...Seriously


Sorry for not blogging for a while...I got a little busy with some other stuff. I know; lame excuse. My last entry teased about the upcoming field trip to a local dairy farm. Andrew is quite an outspoken boy which, when combined with a ... shall we say "fully developed and operational imagination", makes for some interesting sound bites. Leading up to the field trip, his Kindergarten teacher started talking about nutrition, and how eating foods from the "dairy group" was a good way to get vitamins and minerals children's growing bodies need. One of my favourite exchanges went something like,Teacher: How many servings of dairy should we have per day class?Andrew: (hand frantically extended skyward) NONE!Teacher: Well, for you Andrew, that's correct ... awkward pause ... anyone else know how many servings the rest of the class should have? (questioning glance/glare directed at Andrew's Dad standing at the rear of the class)Dad: (impish shrug directed to Teacher and "atta-boy" smile directed to Andrew)Andrew was a little nervous leading up to the field trip because he was concerned they would all be tied down and force fed dairy products or something. Has anyone seen that in an episode of Pokemon, Batman or Bakugan? Where does he come up with this stuff?Anyway, we met up at the school and parents drove the kids out to the farm, about 15 minutes away where we met up again. We were shown a video about the nutritional benefits of milk, introduced to the cows and shown the milking equipment. Given it is spring, there were many calves there too. At this farm, after a period, the calves are taken from their mothers and kept in a separate pen. I have to confess, I found this a little sad, and I'm by no means "granola", but that's pretty much 180° from what my wife and I did with our kids...I know, they're "just cows", but one Mom nearly cried when she heard they took the calves away. I think it's to keep the cows' milk for the dairy production.Through the tour, Andrew maintained his detached curiosity about the farm, and enjoyed looking at the cows and chickens (they collect eggs there too).Overall, Andrew enjoyed the trip, and learned about cows and how a farm works, so it was a worthwhile trip. The following week, the teacher showed the kids how to turn whipping cream into butter by churning it by hand. I sent Andrew to school with his own crackers and some of his non-dairy margarine. The teacher put those together for him separately and he was able to eat with the other kids, and eat what they were eating ... sort of. I like to try and give him a similar food to what the class eats when they do something like this.I was looking at that link I've provided for the margarine. That's not the label we get here in Canada. Ours has quite clearly across the front that it's "Lactose Free", and in smaller print that it's Kosher. It's also a yellow label rather than the red that is shown. I also noticed that the link provided indicates it: is "lactose free" in the description, has no milk or anything like it in the ingredients, and the warnings section indicates it may contain milk. Hmmm ... probably best if I say nothing.So, the school year is winding down now. We've got Sports Day coming up, but the Kindergarteners only do a half-day there, and my wife and I will both be there to watch, so we should be able to control the food there. Next September, Andrew starts Grade 1 ... they're in school all day and bring their own lunch. That's a whole different challenge, but we've got all summer to gear up for that.Thanks for reading, more news as it comes available.[...]

Camping with the Beavers - Part 4


We had a link camp planned for the Easter weekend. For those who don't know, a link camp is where the Beavers, Cubs (8-11 year-olds) and the Scouts (11-14 year-olds) all camp at the same place and over the course of the weekend, have intersecting activities.Scouts basically cook their own food, so the kitchen just puts ingredients into a rubbermaid tote for them. One of the Scouts has celiac's disease (often called a wheat/gluten allergy, but it's technically not an allergy) but that child was on a trial of some sort and was supposed to be eating gluten, so I was told not to "worry" about it. The Cubs eat with the Beavers. For this camp, we had about 30 kids and 20 adults, and we were arriving Friday afternoon (Good Friday) and leaving just before lunch on Sunday.The Scout leader had the idea that we should do a real Easter dinner at camp. He wanted a full turkey dinner with all the fixin's. I had visions of re-naming the kitchen "Sam 'n' Ella's Diner", as did the parent who runs the kitchen during our camps. Bone-in ham was the compromise.Here's the menu I laid out for the camp:Friday lunch - bring your own/eat before you come to campFriday PM Snack - same sort of deal as last camp - fruit and various drinksFriday dinner - chili with bagged salad and bread rolls. The chilli was a bean chilli that you add one can of tomato paste and optional is a pound of ground beef. The chili was surprisingly good, but unfortunately I don't have a packet to look up and link to. If I find it on-line I'll certainly post it. It was dairy and nut-free, and it came in a bag a little smaller than a VHS cassette (can I still use that as a size reference? maybe a 3.5" external hard drive is the new size benchmark). Best of all, it actually tasted pretty good. I got a sample of it from the Scout leader a week early, and prepared it for Andrew so it wasn't "strange food" at camp.Friday mug-up - s'mores and hot chocolate just like last time (with chocolate rice milk for the allergic kids)Saturday Breakfast - pancakes with sausages and the usual assortment of drinks. I made certain that the pancake mix was dairy free, and that the sausages didn't contain any dairy-based filler (some do you know!). There was only one margarine at the camp and I chose that (Fleishman's Lactose free), and the cooks made 2 batches of pancake batter; one with milk and one with the rice milk we'd made for Andrew. He likes sausages and pancakes with syrup, so that meal was a success.Saturday Snack - fruit, juice boxes and raisins. Before someone launches into a tetra-pak rant, we were hiking in the park...actually geocaching in the park (GC1EQGM if you're curious)...and I don't really like the idea of putting juice into some of the canteens/water bottles these kids bring to camp. Not everyone brought a sealable container for drink for a start, and several were dollar-store specials, chosen more for the Pokemon on the bottle than any actual capability to hold liquid for an extended period of time.Saturday Lunch - build your own sandwiches. I bought a bunch of cold cuts and several loaves of bread, more fruit and the usual drinks. Andrew likes brown bread (that's all we eat in the house, so we chose bread that was dairy free, and we got some Wonder+ bread or something like that for the kids that insist on white bread). We got a variety of cold cuts and cheese slices and so long as the cheese slices were kept away from the honey ham, I knew Andrew was fine.Saturday Snack - same as beforeSaturday Dinner - bone-in ham, Idahoan instant mashed potatoes (HEY! You try to convince a volunteer parent to peel, boil and then mash 45 potatoes), frozen mixed veg (peas, carrots and corn), fresh broccoli, and instant gravy (Bovril or Oxo as I recall). For desert, we had pies and ice cream (or Rice Dream for Andrew).Saturd[...]

Camping with the Beavers - Part 3 - The Menu


Planning a menu for a weekend with a 5 year-old is not really that complicated. You figure out how many meals and snacks are required while you will be away and place your child's favourite meals as appropriate. Expanding that menu to cover 13 kids and their parents is relatively simple math. However, like most 5 year-olds I've met, Andrew is somewhat particular about what he eats. I mean that comment outside the world of food allergies; he's five. All five year-olds are picky eaters."I want the crusts cut off my sandwich!""My carrots are touching my potatoes!""That's the wrong cereal!" You know how it goes...Scouts Canada likes the leaders to set an example for the children. One example we can set is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Basically, we're not having "Sugar Frosted Cocoa Bombs" and a can of pop for breakfast, followed by that memorable lunch Ally Sheedy had in The Breakfast Club. I tried to augment a couple of Andrew's preferred meals with sides that rounded out the meal. If he didn't want the added side dishes, that was fine, I knew what he was eating.Here's what we had:Saturday LunchBring your own lunch - unlike this week's trip to the aquarium, all the parents understood and respected my warnings about nuts.Saturday PM Snackapples, mandarin oranges, bananas, OJ, apple juice, 2% milk, water, coffee, tea.Saturday DinnerM & M Chicken strips (dairy and egg free, with an egg warning) and fries with bagged salad, a couple of dressings (Ranch and Italian I think) with the fruit and drinks from snack time also available.Saturday Mugup (after the campfire)s'mores and hot chocolateSunday BreakfastWaffles, syrup and drinks and fruit from snack timeSunday Snacksame as Saturday's snackSunday Lunch - we broke camp before lunch, so for most kids, it was a piece of fruit before they passed out in the car on the 1/2 hour drive home.Probably some raised eyebrows around items on that list. Please let me explain.I brought a small cooler with substitute foods for Andrew. When something on the menu was not safe, I substituted from the cooler. These substitutions were more on the side than the main dish, although I must confess, I did bring some of Andrew's instant oatmeal (which he will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner if allowed) as "plan B". Here's a run down of the main ingredients and any substitutes.Milk - most kids drink milk, outside of allergies, it's good for growing kids. For kids with allergies, we try to provide the nutritional equivalent. We had to serve milk at the camp.I don't have a problem with people eating/drinking dairy in Andrew's immediate vicinity. They just need to keep it out of his food ("say it, don't spray it"). His reaction to milk is to hive up and vomit. Peanuts and nuts are the really scary reactions. Andrew likes to drink rice milk in situations where most kids would drink cow's milk, so I substitued rice milk from my cooler.Chicken Strips and fries. I know, it's not the best dinner, but most kids will eat it, and Andrew can and will too. M & M makes some pretty good chicken strips and fries. They also "get" the allergy thing. Here's a quote from their website:NEW! We've added Nutrition & Allergen Information to our product catalogue. Simply click on the category and then the product that you want to see, and look for the Nutrition & Allergen Information heading. sourceThey'll even go one step further. They can email you a filtered list of what they sell. If you tell them to remove all items with nuts, peanuts and dairy allergens, they'll send you the entire list of what they sell. How cool is that?!Andrew doesn't really "do" salad yet, so I was certain to barge to the front of the line and get his food before anyone had a chance to spill ranch dressing on the chicken strips by using[...]

How can they not get it?


Andrew goes to a great school. He loves his teacher, and he has great friends in his class. Every newsletter that comes home (they're in the process of switching to an email version which is even better) reminds parents about the nut-free status of the school. The kindergarten teacher sent home notices to all the parents about not bringing peanuts, nuts or sesame products to school. Andrew's not allergic to sesame, but someone's child is and we respect that. We don't send sesame crackers to school even though he likes them, and the dim sum sesame balls stay home.Today was the big field trip to the aquarium. Dad got to go too. We were all instructed to arrive at the school 1/2 hour early, and we would be back around 3PM. Both the morning and afternoon classes would be going on this trip, so I guess the afternoon students were to arrive about 4 hours early. We were instructed to bring a lunch too! (he's not actually sleeping, just pretending)So, Dad spent a few minutes this morning making and packing lunch. Bananas and apples are good (and we actually had some in the house), so in those went. Granola bars are a nice treat, so in went a couple of NoNuttin' bars; one for Andrew and one for me (I am a certifiable nut addict, but don't eat them around Andrew abviously, and I like these bars). Sandwiches are good. I like meat and cheese in mine, but since I was packing the two sandwiches together, Andrew had PeaButter and I had Sunbutter. I was going to put jam on mine, but Andrew doesn't really like jam and was concerned that my jam would get on his sandwich. I know how that story ends, so "fine, I'll have just the sunbutter". I threw in a waterbottle I'd filled from the Brita and a couple of apple juice boxes (when Andrew gets tired and hungry, juice hits his blood sugar faster than food and prevents a melt-down - useful trick) for drinks and we were off. Andrew prefers the PeaButter (which I can assure you tastes remarkably like smooth peanut butter). I prefer the sunbutter which doesn't really taste at all like peanut butter, but looks a lot like it, and tastes exactly like ground up sunflower seeds. For the record, we use McGavins bread, usually "Ancient Grains", "12 Grains" or some other birdseed-like bread. We've never (knock on wood) had a nut or dairy problem with any of them.It's really fun to watch 5 year-olds explore an aquarium. Sharks are totally cool, at least until the big kid pretends to be a shark and tries to eat the other kids using his jacket as a shark mouth. No, I take that back...that's fun to watch too. The jellyfish mesmerise the kids and watching them in the touch-tank stroking sea cucumbers and sea stars is fun too. I like watching kids learn, almost as much as I like teaching them (I'm not a teacher by profession).Lunch time rolled around, and I could feel the usual apprehensions building. What were all these kids having for lunch? We found a table outside at the cafeteria (it was a nice day today, no rain and the temperature was around 13°C/55°F), and Andrew, another parent, two other kids and I sat down. One child was happily munching on her Wonderbread and Kraft singles sandwich. No worries there, Andrew doesn't react to cheese unless he eats it. No nut bars, no suspect treats there ... CLEAR!So, I turned my attention to the other child at my table. A sandwich that looked a lot like mine, but he had jam on his...diplomacy... "So, what did you get for lunch?" That's a safe question isn't it? The question may be safe, the answer wasn't!"Peanut butter and jam...want some?", as he thrust his sanwich at me spraying partially chewed bread as he spoke. Remember the siren sound signalling "red alert" on the Enterprise in the original series of Star Trek? Yeah, tha[...]

Camping with the Beavers -- Part 2 - Planning the Camp


We've had two camps now, but I'll start by talking about the first camp, and save the 2nd one for another post.We're a new Beaver Colony; it just started up this year.  It's my first year as a leader, and the Scout leader had booked us a weekend at Camp McLean; he would arrive Friday and leave Saturday with the Scouts, and we would arrive Saturday and leave Sunday.  Unfortunately, being new, we really hadn't started planning early enough, so the only time available was November 29/30.Let me describe the weather in Vancouver around late-November and early-December.  It's basically "rain, heavy at times, with a chance of showers".  Temperatures will be near freezing if it doesn't rain, and +5°C/40°F if it does.  Night-time temperatures would likely be very near freezing.  The sleeping arrangements were in cabins; unheated cabins.  They don't leak, but the lack of heating makes for a worry-factor when dealing with 5-7 year-olds who love to spend their day splashing through puddles.  Hence the reason for organizing the early-October camp for next year now.Part of Scouts Canada's requirements for a camp (here we come back to the allergies) is to plan a menu considering any food allergies.  Suffice to say, I grabbed that bull by the horns and had both elbows out when anyone offered to help.  I would create the menu.  I would do the shopping.  I would cook.  I would serve the food (the camp has a huge, well-stocked kitchen).  I would clean up.  I would know my kid was safe.  Reality check!That's not possible.Leaders are working flat-out to put on a program at camp.  We had 13 kids and 14 adults at this camp.  We are all trying to keep the kids warm, dry, amused and engaged in the activites we have planned.  Leaders don't have time to cook and serve the food, then clean the kitchen. Beaver camp was well described by one of my fellow leaders as a 26-hour birthday party for 13 kids.  Add in the weather and you've got a potential for some parents to be in trouble with the elements.So...we need a menu that works for all children (and parents - although none of them has a food allergy) attending.  I reviewed the health notices of each child and parent for allergies, and I was (sorry to phrase it this way) pleased to note that in our colony there are 3 other kids with food allergies.  One to peanuts and two to dairy.  Great! (sorry again)  No need to single out Andrew as "the kid with allergies".  During our last regular meeting before the camp, I would tell the kids and parents not to bring nuts and not to share food without checking with your friend's parent.  I reinforced this message by explaining that some kids in our colony have food allergies, particularly to nuts and diary.  At that anouncement one of the Beavers (not Andrew) leaped up and said, "I'm allergic to peanuts!"  Andrew chimed in "Me too!".  I actually heard one of the other Beavers ask, "Why can't I be allergic to something?"  That first kid was going to camp, the two with dairy allergies were not.  There would be no stopping Andrew from going to camp.  It was kind of cool to have the kids identify themselves to the colony; protection of privacy prohibits me from disclosing that to the group.Despite the good vibes going on , I still had concerns...I was going to have to let go of some responsibility and trust another parent in the kitchen.  Trust my wife?  Definitely.  Trust a well-intended parent who doesn't "get" the allergy thing?  Hmmmm....not-so-much.  I'm not very good at trusting with respect to allergies anymore.  You can look back through the posts my wife has put up, and see what's happened in the past.One advantage to being a leader, is that we set the camp program.  I volunteered for this ta[...]

Introducing Tony and the Beavers


I'm kind of jumping into the middle of this blog without introduction. So, let me back up a little and do the formal introductions. My name is Tony, "wenat" is my wife, and Andrew and Geoffrey are our kids. My wife asked me to start contributing here because some of my experiences could help the allergic parents community. Among other things, I'm a Beaver leader. You've read about our experiences with Andrew's and Geoff's allergies, and I can say as parents, we trust one another to check the ingredients. I've read some posts, primarily from Moms (sorry guys but it's true) where Dad, a grandparent, or an aunt or uncle is in denial or just plain oblivious and thinks the child is "a picky eater" or "it's not that bad...s/he'll learn to eat it". Hmmm...projectile vomiting, wheezing, hives and total change of personality...I WISH I could have mustered half of that when I was forced to eat brussel sprouts or liver as a child. My mom resorted to battering and deep frying strips of liver with the french fries to get us to eat them, but that's another story for a different blog.Andrew came home from Kindergarten in September with a flyer for our local Scout group.  Why put Andrew in Scouting? The usual two reasons...I was in it, and I think I'm a better person for it, and most importantly, he asked.   I guess a 3rd reason would be how adorable he looks in his uniform, but I will admit my bias.(I was in Scouting for 12 years, starting in Beavers at age 7 and I have been looking forward to the time when Andrew was old enough to enter Scouting and I could re-enter as a leader.)"This looks like fun Daddy, could I do this?" he asked from the kitchen table while studying the flyer.Yes! {cue the Tiger Woods fist pump}  It turned out that the group in our area didn't have a Beaver Colony last year; it would be starting from scratch this year, and with my experience growing up, I was the "head" leader. Fortunately three other parents have volunteered to be leaders too, and we have a fantastic dynamic within our leadership team and seven five year-olds, nine 6 year-olds and three 7-year olds; that's 19 kids full of energy and curiosity and questions that MUST be answered. (Little did I know how many of them would have food allergies too.)One of Scouting's sayings is "putting the 'out' in Scouting". "Out" means day trips and camping. Day trips and camping mean food; food brought by other kids, food prepared by other parents, food prepared by other kids later in the older sections of scouting. Trail mix was a staple of the diet when I was at camp with Cubs and Scouts...trail mix has peanuts and often chocolate chips...from the bulk food aisle.I need a TUMS just thinking about this.So, that's part one of the story of me and the Beavers - stay tuned for part two of this series on camping and allergies -- and the "meat and potatoes" of our camps (rice milk and lactose-free margarine in the mashed potatoes of course).[...]

Reason #138 for ice cream


"My foots are getting sleepy, and I need ice cream to wake them up."

(image) Yes, he's pointing at his feet, and he was being completely rational about his request.

I *love* having a 3-year-old!

And, to keep this post on topic -- our choices for ice cream are pretty limited. Soy ice cream is the easiest to get, but I do prefer the rice dream ice cream because I don't want the kids to get too much soy in their diet. (Here's why, if you're wondering.)

I'm not sure if it's playing russian roulette, especially given my last post, but we do let them have ice cream with the "manufactured on equipment" warning on it. I haven't found ice cream yet without that warning, and making our own ice cream is pretty daunting.

Edited post to add: We're not just nut-free, but dairy-free too. Home-made dairy-free ice cream recipes would be welcome! I do have an ice cream maker. Now there's an idea for an allergy cookbook — tasty ice cream recipes with dairy-free, egg-free alternatives!

Hitting close to home


A local woman was almost killed by a Starbucks dessert last year. Here's the story at the CBC website: "Near-fatal allergic reaction caused by Starbucks dessert".

And the worst part of the story: Starbucks didn't change the labelling on the product (subcontracted from another producer) and seemed reluctant to provide incident reports to the local health authorities.

Don't read the comments if you've got allergic kids. There's a whole lot of blame-the-victim in the comments, and several more comments along the line of "bring your own food if you're allergic."

One of my friends has severe food allergies and went out to a local allergy support group once. She commented that a lot of people in that group seemed to never go out anywhere. It's a classic Fear of Food situation, and I sometimes end up in that camp, worried for my kids, and freaked out that something random in their food will kill them.(image)

Happy new year!


I'm delighted to report ... nothing!That's right, we had no reactions this entire holiday season. I was prepared, and bought an extra bottle of Benadryl a couple of weeks ago, just so that I had it in the house. Maybe it was my good luck charm because we didn't need it at all.Andrew's gotten amazing about handling his allergies. He asks clearly if something is safe, and if it's not, he simply moves onto the next thing that's safe. (This year, it was yummy chocolate sprinkle cookies which I love too!)He's been a very picky eater as well, but this season I also had some luck in getting him to try new things -- and he's loved them and asked for more.We're going to start implementing a one-bite rule for the kids' meals. If we have a new (safe-for-them) food, they have to try at least one bite before they declare that they don't like it.I did have some goat's milk cheese for our New Year's Eve party, and asked them if they wanted to try it (hey, I've got a full bottle of Benadryl on the counter), but I had no takers and I didn't want to push it. Goat's milk proteins are slightly different from cow's milk proteins, but still about half of the kids who are allergic to cow's milk also react to goat's milk.Andrew actually looked at me like I was crazy for offering it to me. Then he said, "I won't try it until my doctor says it's okay." Wow, that's one amazingly self-controlled kid.And finally, I want to apologize to the nice folks at id4udesigns. They custom-made a gorgeous medical ID allergy bracelet for Andrew last year, and I've totally forgotten to review their final product on this blog, due to my blogging break.It looks a lot like this one.Andrew chose green stones instead of the black ones in the photo, and has worn the bracelet everywhere in the last year. I'm happy with it because the information is all there if he gets separated from us in a crowd. And he's happy with it because it's a fun piece of jewellery that doesn't get in his way or make him stand out from the other kids. (The folks who made the silicone allergy bracelets from a previous post have gone out of business, so it's nice to be able to recommend this replacement source.)I'd take a photo of it but it's currently lost in his room, under the piles of Lego that he received for Christmas this year.[...]

Hello, Santa!


We took the boys to see Santa Claus last weekend -- they were pretty excited about the whole thing. Tony's office colleague took the photos, and it's at one of those houses that lights up the entire neighbourhood with Christmas lights.

The house's owner was dressed up as Frosty the Snowman, and gave away candy canes for the kids. (Yay for sugar candy!) And Santa was giving away little chocolate squares which had dairy and a nut warning. (Not so good, but I did manage to get them away from the kids without a huge fight.)

I know it's my first post in months — one of my new year's resolutions is to post more regularly — at least once a week, but I'm going to try for two posts/week. It's been a super busy fall, and I can't believe that we're only two days away from Christmas already!(image)

Cinnamon buns and rollercoasters


I don't know how other allergy moms have dealt with it, but I've been in a total baking funk since we realized the full scope of Andrew's allergies. Yes, I'm confessing to almost 3 years of buying safe pre-packaged stuff full of chemicals because I can't figure out what -- and how -- to safely cook for my kid.But now that Andrew's in kindergarten, there are all sorts of treat days and birthdays and other opportunities for other parents to bring in not-so-safe food that he's not allowed to have, so I'm kicking myself in the butt and trying out a bunch of recipes.And here's my total plug for the cookbook in the photo below: What's to Eat? The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook. (And now that I've found the link for that cookbook, I see that she's got a new cookbook out too -- it's going on my shopping list!)She's got a cinnamon roll recipe in this cookbook that's so good, only one survived past the first hour out of the oven. I forgot to get a shot of them when they came out, and that's Geoff's hand stretching out as far as he can reach (anything that's a few inches onto the counter is out of his reach), to get another one.Last Friday was Tim Horton's donut day at school for the kindergarteners, so we made another batch of cinnamon bun dough on Thursday, and deep-fried it for Andrew to eat instead of donuts. They were really good, he reported that evening, and he didn't even seem sad that he hadn't gotten the Tim Horton's ones.I've also gotten the kindergarten teacher a bag of mini-Oreos and a box of Transformers fruit snacks for the random birthday parties. Apparently that's gone over well -- some of his friends have wanted his Oreos over the treats that the birthday kid's folks provided. Oh, and apparently Andrew was kissed by a girl in kindergarten last week. :-)The other thing Andrew's been doing is asking us to cut his rice cheese up into thin slices. He's been seeing all these ads for cheese strings on TV, and I guess he's also seeing cheese strings at school, so he wants his cheese to look long and stringy too. I have such mixed feelings about this. I'm glad that he's so resourceful and creative, but I hate that he's feeling like he wants his food to look like everyone else's food. And I'm sad that he might be feeling left out.And there are the boys in car #3 of the kids' rollercoaster at Playland. They're both such adrenaline junkies that they would get off the ride and run back to the beginning of the line to do it again. I think they rode this one about five times before they finally wanted to move on to the mini-golf. We went yesterday, on the second-last day of the season, and they had a fabulous time.[...]

Heading off to school


My two kids headed off to school today -- the big kid to kindergarten and the little kid to his first day of preschool.

Andrew's had a couple of partial days of kindergarten already -- the teacher phases them in a little bit at a time. Today he was in for 90 minutes, and he'll be in for the full 2.5 hours on Wednesday, with his full class. He had a great time at school today, and is already looking forward to when he gets to go every day.

Geoff loved preschool last year, when we were dropping Andrew off there, and now he gets to stay there the entire time. We've warned the teachers that he's got two volumes: loud and louder, and they still think he's a charmer.

On the allergy front, things are still looking positive. The elementary school's newsletter came today, with a beautiful (to my eyes) "no peanuts" graphic on the back page. (The editor of the newsletter is my next door neighbour -- I love her!)

We found a Transformers backpack for Andrew, and it's got a clear plastic pencil case attached to the top -- a perfect size for his epipen, and since it's a clear case, all the adults around will be able to see it right away in an emergency. There's another epipen stored in the nurse's office at the school, along with a bottle of Benadryl.

As an aside: when I dropped off the epipen at the school, they showed me where it will be stored. Every allergic kid at the school has their medication stored in plastic cases in the same shelf. There were about 20-30 cases in that shelf, so I'm pretty confident that if anything were to happen, quite a few epipens would be available to any allergic kid. (Many of the older kids carry their epipens on them.)(image)

Tagged - 6 random things about me


I've been tagged by everyday with food allergies to tell you 6 random things about me.The rules are:Link to the person who tagged you. -- DONE!Post the rules on your blog. -- DONE!Write 6 random things about yourself. -- DONE!Tag 6 people at the end of your post. -- I can't do that because it feels too much like a chain letter, so consider yourself tagged if you have 6 random things to tell me about yourself! I promise to read and comment on everyone who responds to this tag.Let each person know you tagged them by leaving an entry on their blog.First of all, thanks, purplemommy, for the boot in the butt. This poor blog has been sadly neglected, and today seems a good place to pick it up again.Andrew went for his allergist appointment this morning. Tony took him because we're on vacation this week, and he's never met the allergist. There were no surprises in the results -- he's still allergic to almost all the same things. But there was some good news -- all of his wheals were smaller this time around than last time. He's also pretty much outgrown his egg allergy, but he does seem to have picked up a dandelion allergy. (No dandelion greens for him -- but then again, that's not exactly a regular feature in our diet, so I don't think it'll be a problem.)Now, onto the 6 things.I've had the same work email address since 1991. I was online earlier -- one of my best friends ran a popular BBS in town -- but this was an official Internet address. When I first came online, women were 10-15% of the population. It was a very weird time to be online.I'm a knitting addict. Yes, I'm on ravelry -- send me an email if you want me to friend you, or look me up on the allergy forum there. I don't go anywhere without at least a portable sock project in my bag and yes, I can knit without looking at my needles, so I can hold a conversation while I'm knitting.We just got a Wii Fit and it's so much fun to do a workout now. I'm looking forward to further games on this platform, especially the dance ones.I used to be active in science fiction fandom -- even helped to organize a couple of local conventions, had costumes, the works. That went away when we had kids, but I still try to keep in touch with some of the friends from that lifestyle.When I was a teenager, I was in a marching band. This is more impressive in Canada than in the US -- we don't have marching bands in the high schools here, and there were only a couple of marching bands in all of Vancouver. I used to be a music geek too. By the time I finished high school, I'd learned the flute, sax (I played baritone sax, which was bigger than me!) and oboe.I now see everything through the eyes of an allergy mom. (As the quote goes, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." -- attributed to Abraham Maslow) One of my best friends brought her baby over today, and he was super-snorky (he seems to have a permanent cold) and I warned her that I was an allergy mom, and that it sounded to me like that allergic sniffle. It didn't help that he'd already had a mystery reaction, possibly to bananas, and still had a bit of the mystery rash left on his face.[...]

Peanut allergy kills


This article just made me weepy, and I don't usually get that way.

Another little boy just died of his peanut allergy, and his mom wishes she had been more properly-informed. Here's her warning story.

At a young age, they discovered he had a peanut allergy but, it didn’t affect daily life very much. No doctor ever explained to the Smith family that a peanut allergy could be life threatening. Even so, Andrew arranged for his own peanut free table in the cafeteria at his elementary school and had several of his friends join him there. He was aware of his peanut allergy but he was also a very picky eater. So he avoided obvious sources of peanut and kept to the same few foods that he liked and was comfortable with.

Andrew’s life was tragically cut short this past February. His mother Pamela told us that he died from an anaphylactic reaction that was complicated by his asthma. She shared her son’s story in the hopes of saving another child.
Pamela, thanks for sharing your story, and I'm thinking of you at this horrible time.(image)

Welcome to Kindergarten


We went to Kindergarten this week. Well, it was an abbreviated version of kindergarten, just an hour and a half on Tuesday morning, but it was fun.

Andrew's school does a short reading program for kids who are entering kindergarten this year. It's a 4-week program, and the kids and parents get to meet the principal, the kindergarten teacher and the librarian. And Geoff got to play with the Grade 7 kids who had been hired as babysitters.

How wonderful was this experience for an allergic mom? Let me count the ways.
  • The kindergarten teacher wanted to make sure that he'd have his epipen in a fanny pack and suggested that I get him one with a fun logo on it, as that's worked in previous years. He's going to be her 5th anaphylactic child so she's feeling pretty capable of handling any situation.
  • The kindergarten teacher lives in my neighbourhood, only two blocks away, and her kids went to that school, decades ago. She's super friendly and I think that she's the kind of teacher that would be loved by her kids.
  • Going by the registration forms, there are only going to be about 18 kids in his class, less than the 22 maximum. That should be easier for him to handle, as there are only 20 kids in his preschool class.
  • The principal gave me a form for a free medic-alert bracelet. There's a program that makes sure that all anaphylactic kids in elementary school get registered for free.
  • I was assured several times that the school was totally peanut and nut free — the only one so far in the district — and the principal sends a note home every couple of months to remind all parents of that fact.
Yeah, we could put him in the French immersion elementary school that's only a couple of blocks further away, but this one feels so much more safe for him.

And the weirdest part was that we spent part of our session in the teachers' staffroom, and felt SO grown up! My memories of the staffroom in elementary school was that it was totally off limits to kids, so it was weird to be in there. It was also weird that the principal was my age, or even possibly a little younger.

Andrew's already announced that he's now done with preschool, since he's already started kindergarten. I think he'll make the transition nicely when it comes in September.

Edited to add: it looks like the free medic alert bracelets are for Canadians only. Here's a CBC story about it.(image)

Kindergarten registration


Yesterday, I went to the local elementary school to get Andrew registered for Kindergarten. It was a lot easier than I had expected because we'd gotten the forms a couple of weeks ago, and Tony's great about keeping all the necessary paperwork that we needed filed and at his fingertips.

I was so happy to see "Nut Free Zone" signs all over the school. There was also a sign that explained that two children at the school are severely allergic to nuts. I knew this already, as my next door neighbour's daughter was one of them. (The daughter had also told me about another student who would pass out if someone opened a bag of nuts on the other side of the classroom. The daughter had also been teased by someone chasing her around with a nut, so I do realize that, while the classroom is safe, the rest of the unsupervised environment might not be.)

I was told that the kindergarten teacher has had anaphylactic kids before, and all the teachers are regularly trained on how to use an epipen. I've also been told to contact the principal in August to set up a meeting with him and the kindergarten teacher, to talk about Andrew's types of reactions and how to recognize when he has a reaction. I also have to provide two epipens to the school.

It looks like they've got a nice system in place, and I'm just going to go with it. What a relief!

I'm also grateful to all the parents who came to that school before me, and did so much work in educating the principal and the teachers on anaphylaxis.(image)

How to make chocolate lollipops


We had a fun adventure today. I've been reading a few blogs about dealing with Valentine's Day, and all the chocolate that comes out at that time, all of which are unsafe for Andrew.When in doubt, we just assume that there's nut contamination in all chocolate -- it's a safer attitude than hoping for the best. The last time we let him have a safe chocolate that my sister-in-law had made, he vomited instantly. It turned out that she'd gotten the chocolate from the bulk food aisle, home of all cross-contamination possibilities. (Need I add that she's not allowed to feed him any more?)So this time, I started with chocolate chunks from NoNuttin, guaranteed to be dairy- and nut-free. Plus he's been having the chunks on his S'Mores, so I know they're safe for him.Here's my guide to making chocolate lollipops:1. Go to Michael's to pick up some chocolate molds.Breakdown of task: Let husband depart to get himself a coffee because of rough week with 2-year-old. Steel self for guiding two children through all the temptations of pretty things in the store. Enter store. Accept half-eaten banana from 2-year old and place into shopping basket for future disposal. Find a staffer and ask where the candy-making section is. Disengage 2-year-old from rack of pretty semi-precious stones and aim him towards the candy section. Since he falls short of goal, distracted by Dora and Diego display, send 4-year-old to retrieve 2-year-old while I try to find the chocolate lollipop molds.2. Ask 4-year-old to select from vast array of chocolate molds.Breakdown of task: 4-year-old must examine every single package. He does decide immediately that the happy face lollipops are for his little brother, but takes a while to decide which one is for him. Ends up selecting the hearts, which is appropriate for Valentine's day. Also, a delicate negotiation takes place because 4-year-old wants the short lollipop sticks for baby brother, and the long lollipop sticks for himself. Since I'm not buying two packages of 50 lollipop sticks, negotiation fails.3. Take packages home. Melt chocolate chunks in pot on stove. (We don't have a double boiler, but a plain pot on low heat worked really well.)4. Pour chocolate into molds, and insert lollipop sticks.Breakdown of task: Have brilliant idea to drop cookie sprinkles into molds before pouring chocolate in. Watch 2- and 4-year-old dive into the sprinkles with their fingers, while you're pouring molten chocolate beside them. Clean up sprinkles from countertop, fingers and floor.5. Take photo of grinning 4-year-old, with fresh haircut and chocolate in molds.Breakdown of task: Put camera down, where it's immediately kidnapped by 2-year-old, who proceeds to take a dozen photos of the floor, the ceiling and everybody's feet and miscellaneous body parts. Try to remember to delete those photos before you download the camera.6. Put lollipop trays into freezer to set.Breakdown of task: Accidentally nudge tray against roof of freezer. Try to clean roof of freezer of all chocolate before it freezes there permanently.7. After dinner, take lollipops out of molds and distribute to family. Enjoy!Breakdown of task: Afterwards, wash chocolate from hands, mouth, and pretty much every body part you can imagine.But we had fun, and afterwards, Andrew actually said thanks for having the brilliant idea of doing these lollipops. I figure I'll save the heart ones for Valentine's day -- the smiley face one[...]