Product Review and Allergen Information: Briannas Poppy Seed and Dijon Honey Mustard Dressings

I love finding great products that I am able to find easily in most grocery stores and that I know we can trust.  With allergies to egg, dairy, peanut, tree nuts and gluten, salad dressings can be tricky.  We make a lot of our own, but sometimes you just need a great dressing you can trust and find easily.  When we travel, or visit family, or even just want a quick grab for dinner, I want to know what to get without having to gamble on something new and unfamiliar.  We have been using Briannas Salad Dressing for years.  I’m convinced that their Poppy Seed Dressing is one of the reasons my kids learned to loved eating salads and we use the Dijon Honey Mustard as a dip for chicken tenders and fish sticks, a sandwich condiment, and all kinds of other uses.  It’s delicious!

Since we use these a lot, they end up in my daily lunch posts on my Facebook page quite often.

photo 2-18

When I send poppy seed dressing, I know the salad container will be completely empty when they get home.

 

 

photo 1-18

The dijon honey mustard is perfect as a dipper for veggies and nuggets.

 

I was asked for more detail on the allergen information and emailed the company today.  I got an answer to my email within fifteen minutes of sending my questions. I asked specifically about the possibility of cross contact with egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten during manufacturing with the dijon honey mustard and poppy seed dressings, and I got information about all of their dressings.  SCORE!  Here is their response…

“We have an Allergen Control Plan in place to prevent cross contamination between allergen and non-allergen products, this includes a complete wash down after each flavor that is followed by pre-operational inspections and sanitation verification. Peanuts and tree nuts are not part of our ingredients and we do not process any other products that contain them.

At the end of last year we revised our labels to show the attributes of each flavor. Those that have “no gluten” are now marked as such. You should be seeing bottles with the new labels very soon. Poppy Seed and Honey Mustard are among the flavors that contain no gluten. I’ve attached an attribute chart for your information.”

This chart is an amazing reference tool. Also, did you know they’re family owned and operated? I just LOVE that there are companies and products like this available to us! Enjoy!

2015 Briannas Product Attribute Chart

*All views expressed in this blog are my own.

Bravely Seeking Safety

I love this post from Momastery, “This is What Brave Means”, so much and, of course, it feels so familiar.  Take a minute to read it if you haven’t seen it yet.  It’s time to redefine “bravery” for your children and for ourselves and to realize that physical danger is not the defining characteristic of a brave action.

For people with food allergies, who get pressured all the time to take risks, bravery is not eating something you’re unsure of or taking risks with your precautions.  Bravery is standing up for yourself, asking for precautions, and risking being different because you aren’t eating the food at a party or other social event.

Children are often expected to take management of their allergies into their own hands, which sometimes means defying adults who don’t fully understand their allergens. THAT is brave.  Bravery is the second grader I heard about recently who gave herself an Epipen after her teachers told her she had to wait for the ambulance to arrive, because she knew she needed it.  Can you even imagine?  A child was told by grown ups that she could not have the medicine she knew could save her life until an ambulance arrived, which could easily be too late.  A second grader, grabbed her own Epipen and injected herself in the leg, defying the adults around her , and possibly saving her own life.

10353328_10152430786862329_6274166466642214804_o

My own 5 year old daughter also exemplifies bravery to me, although to others, she might seem fearful and overly cautious.  Bravery is when she decided on her own to skip Sunday school because she found out they were passing out donuts and goldfish.  Bravery is when she walked calmly to sit in a chair so I could inject her with an Epipen because she realized she had eaten something she shouldn’t have.  Bravery is standing up for herself and suggesting to her brand new kindergarten teacher that she should wear gloves and collect chicken eggs with her class, despite her allergy.  Bravery is marching into almost every party she has ever attended with her own cupcake or meal and her bag of epinephrine auto injectors, because she knows that when it’s time to eat she will be surrounded by allergens and will need to act differently from everyone else to keep herself safe.  Bravery is when we eat out and she takes it upon herself to tell her server all about her allergies and what all she is allergic to.  Bravery is when she has to go to the Dr’s office for a food challenge and spend 4 hours taking bites of food she knows could make her sick, could require her to need Epinephrine, and that she has spent her entire life trying to avoid at all costs.

My child may be cautious, but she and all of the others like her are the most BRAVE little beings I know.

1537789_10201123579001229_637159011_o

Elena and her friend, Blake, share allergies to the same four foods.

We Have a Plan and We’re Not Afraid to Use It…Not Anymore, Anyway.

In our 5 years of dealing with food allergies, my husband and I have trained a LOT of people on how to follow our action plan and how to give the Epipen or Auvi-Q.  We have trained friends, family, babysitters, teachers, sunday school teachers, Nursery workers, neighbors, etc.  This usually consists of talking through possible symptoms, when to give it, and a demonstration using the trainer device.  One time it also consisted of me using the real Epipen on myself, thinking it was the trainer.  It was all my husband’s fault, but you probably knew that.  Most people ask the same question.  “Have you ever had to use it?”  I hate this question, only because I hate my answer.

Our answer was that we had never used it, but we should have.  There have been a couple of incidents where we just failed to do the right thing.  In one case, we were so close to the hospital that we drove there, Epipen in hand and they gave it to her when we got there.  This horrifies me now, knowing what a huge risk we took for no reason.  Another time we drove to the ER and sat outside waiting to see if Benedryl would take care of the vomiting and hives.  Again, not the right choice.  Yes, we were very lucky and everything turned out fine, but I never want to depend on luck when my child’s life is at stake.

This past weekend, however, our answer changed forever.  After 5 years of coaching others on how to follow our action plan, we finally followed it correctly ourselves.  It took everything in me not to let the hesitation take over, but this time, everything in me was enough.

Here is our story:

Our two older girls were visiting their grandparents for the weekend.  Our oldest is allergic to eggs, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Our 18 month old son stayed with us and he is allergic to dairy only, per his allergy testing one year ago, which included the top 8 allergens and several seeds.  We struggle with how to give our children their siblings allergens safely, so he has not had much opportunity to have nuts or eggs.  I decided to take this opportunity to fix that.

After I dropped off his sisters on Thursday, I took little brother out for lunch and got him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  His FIRST peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever.  Since he had been tested for peanut allergies already, I wasn’t really worried about a reaction.  He ate about half of his sandwich and was perfectly fine, so we headed home.  Successful peanut exposure…check.

photo 2-9

On Saturday morning, we decided to take him out to breakfast, which is something we almost never do.  We took him to a restaurant we trust and we spoke with the manager about his dairy allergy.  We wanted him to have eggs, so the manager told us they could use a clean pan instead of the flat top and just use shell eggs, without the usual liquid egg mixture mixed in.  They would use no butter and no seasoning.  We also ordered him bacon and fruit.  the bacon was to be cooked in a dedicated section of the flat top that only cooks meat and the fruit was cut in the prep kitchen, which handles no proteins.  Yes, it’s a lot of precautions, but you’re about to find out why it matters so much.

photo 1-9

When he took his first bite of egg, he spat it out and threw it across the table, then he scraped at his tongue with his hands.  This is actually not an uncommon reaction for him when trying any new food for the first time, so, though a bit embarrassed at his lack of table manners, we were not concerned.  Then he took a tiny bite of bacon.  A few seconds later he looked like he was choking, with small gags and big eyes.  I made sure his mouth was clear and he stopped, then started again.  I could hear his voice, so I knew his airway wasn’t completely blocked.  Then he vomited.  Still thinking it was a choking episode that caused him to vomit, I took him outside for some air.  As soon as I got him outside and looked at him, I knew he hadn’t been choking.  His eyes were quickly swelling and he had hives on his face.  I ran back in with him, and told my husband we had to leave now.  The server was at the table so she gave him the check and he just laid down cash and bolted.

In the parking lot, we began our usual, “should we?”, but quickly knew there were no questions to ask.  WE SHOULD!  We strapped him into the carseat to keep him still and I climbed in the backseat beside him.  My husband held his leg and I gave him the injection.  Then my husband called 911 and requested an ambulance while I got him out of his seat.  He stopped crying right away and his face returned to normal very quickly.

photo 1-10

This is after the Auvi-Q injection while waiting for the ambulance. Facial swelling and hives are already returning to normal. I have no before picture for comparison, but take my word for it.

By the time the ambulance arrived, he looked like himself.  In fact, he smiled and waved at the ambulance as they pulled in.  We climbed in the back and they took us to the hospital after a quick evaluation.  On the way to the hospital, he started getting panicky and scratching his arms and legs ferociously until they bled.  The paramedic gave him a shot of Benedryl, which helped give him some relief.  He got a dose of steroids at the hospital and a prescription to continue them for a few days.  After a couple of hours of observation, we went home.

photo 2-10

Quick power nap at the hospital after the Benedryl kicked in.

Even though this was the first time we have ever given epinephrine, it was by far the least scary experience we have had around a reaction.  As soon as we gave the injection and saw his symptoms fade, I knew we had FINALLY handled it the right way and he would be ok.  I knew that if he needed another one, I could do it.  I knew, without a doubt, that this reaction would not be taking our baby from us.

Now we have to figure out if he has developed an allergy to eggs or if his food did have some kind of contact with dairy.  Another round of allergy testing in in his near future and we will have our answer.   The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what the results are, we can handle it.  We have a plan and we’re not afraid to use it!

“Mommies Mean Business” Monday: Melanie Searl

By Guest Author, Melanie Searl:

photo-29

1233389_674501482569289_2139241966_n

I’ve been teaching for a long time!  It was my life long dream since I was in middle school. I feel so blessed to have a career that I love!  Not everyone can say that!

I am very passionate about education and children.   I received my National Board Certification in 2007, I have written and received Donorshoose.org funding over the past few years and two grants for my school just this year!  I have created new programs within the schools where I have worked, reading programs, Kindergarten camps, and such.  I am very successful and I truly love my students.  So what’s the problem?   Teachers in NC have had a hard road the past 5-6 years…no raises, higher demands, fewer supplies/resources to name a few.  The price of everything is going up and our paychecks are not.   It is VERY disheartening for even the most dedicated teacher!  Life happens…. I wish I could do my job for free but I cannot…my family is growing up and so is the cost of living!   I have 2 boys of my own and I recently remarried and now have a step son and step daughter. They all range in age from 7-13.  Additionally, in 2011, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.  I am happy to say I am a survivor but the bills still linger on.  My kids are growing…2 need braces right now, then there are field trips, clothing needs, the cost of gas and health care!!!!

 I’m sure you can all relate…

 So, what is a teacher with one of the lowest salaries in the country to do (NC is ranked #47 out of 50 in teacher salaries) Some teachers can fall back on their husband’s salary and some leave the field altogether.  Many get a second job working part time…I tried that too!  They paid me $7.50 an hour minus taxes. I had to put more gas in the car weekly and I missed baseball games and school functions with my kids because I had to work.  Not a very good option, but I did it for over 2 years!  Ideally, I would love to open my own childcare facility but the cost and the risk is just to steep at this point and a franchise is a half million dollars.

 On January 1st of this year, I decided to begin a journey in direct sales…I can make my own hours, work around baseballs games, dental appointments, writing lesson plans and completing report cards.  Which one????   There are so many!!!

994693_702289513138793_890327440_nMy answer was…South Hill Designs.  It is a direct sales company that launched last year and has experienced tremendous growth!  I call it my “affordable little franchise.”  It costs $199 to start up and they even have a kit for$59.  I started with the $199 kit and made that back with out even trying.  The product is affordable interchangeable lockets and charms. “Share your Story…Wear your Story” is the company’s motto.  I’m not in it to make a fortune…just help out w

ith the bills and still have time to be a mom, plan for my students, and help out at my church.  It is a fun way to meet people, be creative, and make what is turning out to be decent extra money when I want, not when some tells me to be there!

1653308_271465086345705_1047675212_n

 If you are looking for a way to supplement your income, I highly recommend you take a hard look at direct sales…of course, I highly recommend South Hill Designs!  If not South Hill, look for something that suits your personality. Find a product that would be easy for you to promote.

1075890_614581635242915_434324325_n

I am building a team of women that want to start their own “affordable little franchise.” You would be in business for yourself but not by yourself!  South Hill Designs has amazing trainings and support plus you’d have me to help you!

Please check out my website: www.southhilldesigns.com/melaniesearl

You can shop, host a social, or join!

“LIKE” my facebook page…  Charming Reflections

I welcome questions!  Please email me: melaniesearl212@gmail.com

Best wishes to you!!!!

Melanie Searl

 1558391_714491501918594_302965569_n

Why My Kid’s Allergies Don’t Mean Your Kid Can’t Have a Birthday Party

IMG_2354

I have so many reactions to this article I read today in Huffington Post called, “Why Do Your Kid’s Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have a Birthday?” By Carina Hoskisson.  I’m going to limit myself to 6 points.

1) I love to read a fully thought out explanation of the other side of this great debate. It can be hard to really get at the heart of why some people are against classroom food limitations when all they do is defend their “right to eat whatever they want” without showing any understanding of the real issue.  This mom seems to at least understand what the issue is and she addresses it.

2) I will never hold others responsible for providing my child with a safe alternative.  That’s my job and I’m equipped for it. You tell me when the treats are coming and I will make sure my child has a safe alternative.

3) The assertion that allergy free=unhealthy is ignorant.  Period.

4) The comparison of a child being left out of a celebration because they are allergic to the treat to her child choosing not to eat a treat because he doesn’t like it is a ridiculous one.  One is a life threatening condition that deprives children of treats they wish they could have which others are enjoying around them.  The other is a preference and a choice not to eat something that has been offered and you could safely accept.  Seriously????

5) The idea that you cannot have a celebration at school without cupcakes/cookies/brownies is part of why we’re facing a childhood obesity epidemic. Every celebration does not have to revolve around junk food or food at all. There are so many wonderful alternatives. One blogger, Cooking For Stella, suggests a book donation on her Facebook post where I originally saw this article posted. Yep, bring a guest reader from home to read a new book and donate it to your classroom library. Fantastic!

6) You are right about one thing.  You absolutely have a right not to show compassion and understanding.  Just because a child who is born with a life threatening illness that causes them to be excluded from life’s little celebrations daily does not mean you have to show any consideration for their feelings or well-being whatsoever.  Kindness cannot be demanded.  It is optional.  All I know is, we have been shown great kindness and understanding anyway from so many people around us.  It’s a choice and those who choose love and compassion are touching lives.  They are also teaching their children by example how to do the same.

By the way, if you choose to exercise your right to withhold compassion, you might be interested in the tutorial How To Crush A Food Allergy Mom.

I just want to add that my daughter came home from her Valentine’s Day celebration at school this week and we began the usual examination of her bag to remove all of the treats for label reading and inspection. The class had not been specifically told what to send, although they are all aware of her allergies. EVERY SINGLE VALENTINE was safe for her, with the exception of one sneaky cross contamination label. (Yes, I just teared up writing that sentence.) How many people think the other kids felt deprived or slighted because the candy was allergy safe? I’m guessing zero.  We are so lucky to be surrounded by a group of loving human beings who choose compassion.

YoDish Gets Ears, Say Cheers!

GFDFWDW Logowebsite-logo

If you are gluten and dairy free, your next trip to Walt Disney World just got a lot easier.  Sarah Norris of Gluten Free and Dairy Free at WDW, has contributed over 200 gluten and dairy free dish reviews to YoDish.  Check out the official news release from YoDish and even more info on the Gluten Free Dairy Free at WDW blog.

Sarah is an expert on dining with restrictions, especially at Disney.  Her blog is full of useful information on dining at Disney and we are thrilled to offer quick access to her reviews on the go, via YoDish.  Gluten Free Dairy Free at WDW is a valuable resource to anyone who will be dining at Disney with gluten and dairy allergies, as well as other restrictions which she sometimes is able to address in restaurant reviews on her blog.

YoDish is all about community.  Dining out with a restricted diet can be isolating and difficult, even dangerous.  There is so much leg work to be done in order to visit a restaurant for the first time with a restriction.  Collaborations, such as these, go a long way to eliminate some of the leg work, eliminate unwelcome surprises, and to make any dining experience more successful and enjoyable.  By seeing exactly what a modified dish might look like and reading a brief description of a meal, such as you will see in Sarah Norris’s reviews, the doors are opened for a better dining experience.  When you open the app, it will show you reviews that fit your dining profile based on proximity to where you are.  Here are a few of the GF/DF at WDW dish reviews that you will find on YoDish.

House Fries Pollo al Pastor Fantasy Roll Beignets

Download the Yodish App to your iPhone or iPad, free!

To find out more about the YoDish Blogger’s Program, go to Yodish.com and click on “Bloggers” in the top menu bar.

 

Take STOCK in This: A Souper Sensation

Making my own stock is something I have been doing for a short time.  I can’t figure out for the life of me why I haven’t been doing it forever and why everyone doesn’t do it.  It’s easy, free, useful, and so much better than any stock or broth you’ll find in a box on a shelf.  It might be the best kept secret of family kitchen history.  Well, I’m blowing the lid off this secret.  You deserve to know.

During a casual conversation with my friend Penny, who you might remember from this post, she mentioned throwing her chicken parts and some veggies into a crock pot to make stock.  I had a light bulb moment.  I thought, “I have chicken parts”, “I have veggie scraps”, “I could do that!!!”.  I asked a few questions about what to put in, how long to cook it, etc, and went home to cook a chicken, just so I could make stock from it’s “parts”.  For months, I have been in a complete state of stock shock.  I cannot believe I have never done this.  I went straight to my mother and asked her why we never did this.  She had the same light bulb moment I mentioned having and, instead of giving me an answer, went to cook a chicken.

I keep whole organic chickens in my freezer all the time and put them in the crockpot whenever I plan to make soup, chicken and dumplings, chicken salad, etc.  I literally just run the whole chicken under the water in the sink long enough to thaw the outermost layer so I can remove the packaging, then put the whole thing in the crockpot, still frozen.  Sometimes I spray the crock pot with oil first to theoretically make clean-up a little easier, but I have no idea if it makes any difference.  I do add a little salt and pepper to the top of the frozen chicken before I close the lid and turn it on.  That’s all I do.  How easy is that?  I cook it on low until it’s done, which I would say is usually around 6 hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

This used to be where the story of my chicken ended.  I would separate the meat from the skin and bones, then toss all of the non-meat “parts” in the garbage.  NO MORE!!!!  Now I toss those “parts” right back into the crock pot for round two.  This is what I call the “trash into treasure” phase.

On top of the chicken parts, I add vegetable parts that I would likely have thrown away otherwise.  Be sure to wash all vegetables well.  First comes the root end of a bunch of celery.  I just chop off the stalks and throw in the big ball of ends stuck together at the root.  I also might chop off the ends and throw them in.  I wash my carrots well and peel them.  I toss in the ends and peels of the carrots.  I also like to peel a few onions and put in the ends or a few of the less paper-like outer layers that I would debate keeping otherwise.  Sometimes I do put in the good parts of the veggies too, but lately I have been keeping a bag of usable scraps in the fridge so I rarely have to use anything we would eat.  It ends up looking something like this before I cover it all up with water.

Photo1-5

Veggie scraps on top of chicken parts. Carrot peels, celery ends and leaves, fennel sprigs, and onion. Be sure to wash all veggies thoroughly before peeling if you’re going to use the scraps.

After adding the veggies, I just fill the crock pot up with water to the tippy top and add a little salt and maybe some garlic powder and celery seed.  You can put in anything you like.  I set it to low and cook it overnight or all day.  I store it in the refrigerator if I know I will use it within a couple of days.  Otherwise I freeze it for later.  It’s the best chicken stock I have ever had and everything I cook with it turns out better than ever.  I can get so much out of one chicken, and it’s virtually free since most of the ingredients would be thrown away if not used in this way.  Also, it makes me feel that much better about spending the extra money on organic chickens and vegetables, knowing I’m getting so much out of every part of them.  I cannot believe how much money I have spent on those cartons of organic broth in the past.  Never again!!!!

Be sure to strain it well.  The bones get pretty soft and small pieces can be hard to separate.  I always run it through a mesh strainer just to be safe.

IMG_2970

This is how it looks after cooking all day or over night. Now it just needs to be strained and it’s ready to use.

One thing I have learned is that there will be a thin layer of grease that solidifies on top of the broth after it cools.  I just wait until the first time I pull in out of the refrigerator to use it and spoon it into the trash.  The broth will be very dark and rich and the flavor is amazing.  This photo doesn’t do the color justice, but I wanted to show the thin layer of fat I mentioned after refrigeration so you won’t be weirded out when you see it in yours.

Photo1-6

I hope I’m not the only one who was in the dark on this.  Give it a try if you haven’t done it before.  You will be cooking chickens left and right, just so you can make your own stock.  If cooking whole chickens is not in your usual repertoire, use whatever kind of chicken you usually eat. Honestly, you can even just throw in the parts from your store bought rotisserie chicken.  It will work just the same.  Do yourself a favor and turn your own chicken parts into liquid gold.  It’s like printing money.  Stop buying stock.  Use your liquid assets.  I could do this all day.

If you want a more specific recipe, check out this one from 100 Days of Real Food.  This blog is fantastic.  If you don’t follow it already, you’re missing out.  It is geared towards good clean healthy eating and living.

Also, one more thing.  I always wondered what the difference is between stock and broth.  Since I went to the trouble to look it up, I thought I would share what I found.  Stock is made with bones and parts, like I have described here.  Broth is made with actual meat.  Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same.  In theory, you could get a richer flavor from broth since you are using the meat, but it’s hard for me to believe it could be any richer than this.  Does anyone have opinions on stock versus broth?  I would love to hear what you know.

Anyone Know a Good Mother’s Intuition Repair Man?

You would think that I would know by now what an allergic reaction in an infant looks like.  You would think after all we have seen and experienced with Elena, that I would be an authority on the subject.  In fact, I have received countless emails and phone calls from friends asking, “Is this a food reaction?” as they describe symptoms their children are exhibiting or send photos of rashes.  We explained away so many symptoms when Elena was an infant.  If only we had known then what we know now, right?

The problem is, these symptoms are never black and white.  We were sure that Olivia had food allergies when she was a baby.  Ironically, she was the only one I was sure about, and as it turns out, she has none.  (See details of Olivia’s story here)  Because I was so wrong with her, I was hesitant to make the same assertion about Wyatt.  I didn’t want my hypersensitivity to lead to another incorrect assessment.

Sure, he was fussy.  I just assumed that was colic.  He was rashy, but so was Olivia.  He scratched at his head when he was upset and he spit up a lot.  I had logical explanations for all of it that did not include food allergies.  There is no reason to jump to conclusions.  Just because we have one child with food allergies, does not mean we are destined to have more.

It wasn’t until Wyatt’s 4 month well visit that it all hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had my little list of “concerns” all ready for the occasion, like any other well visit.  The nurse showed a little bit of concern after charting Wyatt’s weight because he had dropped from the 50%ile to the 20%ile.  When the Dr. came in and asked if I had any concerns, I started nonchalantly listing them, expecting the usual, “that’s perfectly normal” reassurance.  This time he just listened without saying much.  I felt myself connecting the dots as I was speaking and listing the other pieces of the puzzle that I had not included on my list, but now seemed so obvious.

He cries a lot, especially in the evenings.

He seems to eat frequently and spits up a lot.

He has rashes on his torso and eczema that never goes away.

He still has terrible cradle cap.

He is only soothed by bouncing on the yoga ball (exactly like Elena as a baby)

He itches.

I know he itches because he squirms all the time and scratches up his head and face when he’s in the car.  Otherwise, I never put him down because I’m afraid he will cry and scratch.  Until this moment, I convinced myself the scratching was just because he hates the car seat, but I know better.  He itches.  Of course he itches.

scratch

Wyatt’s scratching made him look like he had been in a fight with a bobcat every time he rode in the car.

Our pediatrician then stated that he had never done an allergy test on a 4 month old.  The earliest he had done the test was 6 months.  I just held my breathe.  Elena’s allergy test at 9 months was horrific and I’m still not over it.  (Elena’s story here)

He asked if I thought I could cut out all soy and dairy as an experiment.  I assured him that would be no problem.  That is one thing I know how to do all too well.  The next morning, I began my and Wyatt’s dairy/soy free lifestyle and oh my.  What a difference.  Within a few days, he was less fussy and spitting up less. By the end of the first two weeks, I swear he was a different baby and had grown more than he had in the previous month.

Have you ever been so sick, but not realized it until you felt better?  This happened to me with my thyroid.  I found out in 2007 that I had Hashimoto’s and my thyroid was in bad shape.  I started taking Synthroid and it wasn’t until I started feeling better that I realized how horrible I had been feeling before.  The same thing happened here.  After Wyatt became himself, I realized he had been sick.  Even looking back at photos that at the time looked adorable to me, all I see is a sad, sick little baby.  He was always exhausted and itchy and miserable.  He would smile, but only if the time was just right.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, other family members had concerns about his lack of activity and alertness.  Now I question whether that viral rash he had a few months ago was actually a virus.  Perhaps it was a reaction to something I had eaten.

IMG_9837 IMG_9840

After the dairy/soy detox, he is so happy and lively and active.  The rashes on his torso and his cradle cap disappeared.  He still has some eczema at the backs of his elbows and knees, but it has improved.  He is much happier to be put down and play and he naps.  He also spits up far less than he used to.

These photos are from “before” I eliminated dairy and soy.  Notice how tired and weak he looks.  Anyone who holds him is usually covered in spit up and even when he did smile, he always had some kind of rash or redness on his face:

IMG_9576 IMG_0209   IMG_9951 IMG_0027 IMG_0328IMG_9935IMG_0355

IMG_0343IMG_0418

These are Wyatt’s “after” pictures.  He is so much more alert and happy now.  He is active and loves playing with his sisters and with toys.  Also, the matted hair from his cradle cap is now smooth and silky.  He is truly a new baby:

IMG_0852 IMG_0922  IMG_1070

IMG_1166 IMG_1034IMG_0838

This isn’t to say that Wyatt’s food allergy story is finished by any stretch.  We still don’t know if he was reacting to the dairy, soy, or both.  He could also have reactions to other foods.  He does still have some rashes and spitting up.  Also, since I rarely eat peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs due to Elena’s allergies, we don’t know if he would react to those.

Even though we don’t have all of the answers yet, I’m so glad my eyes have been opened.  I’m sure we will do the testing soon after he turns 6 months old, so hopefully we can start figuring out what his food allergy profile will look like and hopefully it won’t be too different from Elena’s.

Most of all, I am ready for this sweet baby boy to feel good and be healthy.  I’m heartbroken that it took me this long to put the pieces together.  I always see stories about these superhero moms who sense that something is wrong with their child even when everyone else is telling them it’s all in their head.  They turn out to be right and good old Mother’s Intuition is credited another success.  Where was my Mother’s Intuition?  It shouldn’t have taken that much.  For heaven’s sake, this is my second time around with this scenario.  Why didn’t I know until he was 4 months old?  Every time I had an inkling that it could be food allergies, I followed it with, “but you know, I thought Olivia had food allergies too and look at how wrong I was”.  Oy Vey!!!

All I can say is, Wyatt, I love you and I got this.  Starting now.

Food Allergies: Every Party Has a Pooper, That’s Why We Invited You

I have always loved parties.  I didn’t even realize there are people out there who don’t enjoy parties until I met my husband.  We are proof positive that opposites attract.  I would party for pretty much any reason at all.  Don’t believe me?  I once threw a surprise birthday party for my Mom’s artificial hip.  The signs proclaimed ‘Hip’py Birthday and I posted before/after photos everywhere like the ones below!!!!  Truth!

Image

Before

Image

After

Parties have changed dramatically for me since Elena’s diagnosis.  I no longer get excited about going to parties.  Parties are a great source of anxiety.  I want my kids to have a love and excitement for parties that I used to have and I want to shield them from the anxiety.  I do get excited for them and for the possibility of the fun they will have, but the fear overrides the excitement for me.

We always bring Elena’s food to parties and I try to get it as close to what the others will be having as possible.  So far, we have gotten away with packing Olivia’s food as well so it will be like Elena’s.  I think this is good for Elena because she has a buddy, but eventually Olivia might decide she doesn’t want to follow Elena’s restrictions at parties.  We will just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

I’m usually worried that I have missed something when we are heading to a party.  Even though I always ask about the food, changes happen and the host cannot always be expected to contact me about last minute adjustments.  I can bring Elena a safe cupcake or safe ice cream, but only if I know the cupcakes and ice cream will be served.  It’s heartbreaking to watch her sit and look around at the others enjoying treats while she has nothing.

Even more scary than her feeling excluded is the possibility of a reaction.  Kids, and sometimes parents, just don’t understand how easily it can happen.  If another child touches her plate or cup with icing on their hands, she could have a very serious reaction.  I try to monitor her every move while she is eating without her really knowing I’m doing it.  I don’t want her to be afraid to go to parties or to eat her food because of what is around her, but I want her to be safe.

Elena the day after a reaction to what we suspect was cross contamination contact with an allergen.

Elena the day after a reaction to what we suspect was cross contamination contact with an allergen.

We went to a party recently and the birthday girl’s mother had communicated very well with me about the food that would be served.  Elena had comparable food for the meal and a cupcake for dessert.  I was not prepared for ice cream to come out, but it did.  I just watched Elena quietly as a grown up offered her ice cream.  She said no thank you and that was that.  It couldn’t have gone better.  She was sitting at the table eating her safe cupcake, when the ice cream started being passed around.  A gentleman literally carried the ice cream over, set his bowl beside Elena, then started scooping the ice cream into his bowl.  I scooted her chair towards me as discretely as I could, but a drop of ice cream fell right on her hand.  I quickly wiped it off and he gave us both a disgusted look, patted her on the arm and said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s not going to hurt you”.  I just scooped her up and grabbed her cupcake, making our way into the next room.  There was nowhere for us to go.  Allergens were everywhere and I just couldn’t see past them.  I found my husband, who was chatting with another dad and shoved Elena and her cupcake at him.  He could tell I was about to lose it and I had to get out quick.  I made it out the front door and around the side of the house where I completely broke down into sobs.  I couldn’t believe a simple birthday party could go so wrong so fast and I was so disappointed in myself.  How could I lose control like that and what if Justin hadn’t been there to take Elena before she saw me crumble.  I just kept thinking that it shouldn’t be this hard to take my daughter to a birthday party.  She shouldn’t have to be faced with people splashing around her allergens and telling her they can’t hurt her.  What if that had landed on her cupcake instead of her hand and what if it had been in a moment when I wasn’t watching her like a hawk?  No matter what I do, I cannot guarantee her safety and parties are very high risk for her.

Luckily, Elena never knew what had happened.  She just thought we were wandering around for a few minutes and then she went with Daddy and started playing with friends.  Since he wasn’t sure what had happened, Justin didn’t give her the rest of her cupcake, but she didn’t seem to mind.  As far as she was concerned, the party went very well and she had a blast.

People tell me I go overboard with birthday parties for my own kids.  We celebrate in a big way, even when we keep it small.  It’s never outlandish or overly expensive, but I do a lot of work to make sure the activities, food, and cakes are special and safe.  Part of the reason I do this is because it’s the only time I know Elena can just have fun and let loose at a party.  She can enjoy herself completely and not even think about what she is eating or what others around her are eating.  I can let her run off and play with her friends without having to wonder if any of them brought a handful of their food with them.  Even if they did, I know it’s all “Elena safe”.  She can sit at the table and eat a piece of the big cake, just like everyone else.  I do it because I want her to have as many opportunities as she can to have anxiety free fun at a party with friends.  She can be part of the celebration, rather than having to lurk on the fringes with her food substitutions.  I want her to enjoy herself in the same way your nonallergic child does every time he attends a birthday party, school celebration, family gathering, or church potluck.  If that means I have to throw the party, well then there are at least three opportunities a year for me to make it happen (four if you count her Grammie’s hip).

This past weekend we celebrated Olivia turning two.  We had snacks and cake and bubbles galore.  To everyone else, it was just a party, but to us, it was a “safe” party.  The day was all about Olivia, but for me, it’s always a little bit about Elena too.  Throwing safe parties makes me remember why I used to love celebrating anything and everything with a blow out.

IMG_0170

Bubble party themed cakes. Egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free, of course.

IMG_0262

Hamming it up for the camera on her 2nd birthday.

IMG_0245

Elena is sitting right at the cake table with the others. Usually she has to hang back when the cakes are being cut, but not today.

Playing and being silly without a care in the world, just as it should be.

Playing and being silly without a care in the world, just as it should be.

IMG_0233

Obviously, Olivia enjoys “Elena safe” cake very much.

I would like to add that we are lucky enough to have several friends and family members who are dedicated to making the events they plan completely or mostly “Elena safe” or keeping me informed of every detail regarding unsafe treats so I can prepare accordingly.  Every food allergy family should be so fortunate.