It’s already been established that Thanksgiving is not my favorite because of the anxiety a food holiday brings to a food allergy mom. Consequently, I’ve become that person that everyone hates, you know, the one that has their Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. Spoiler alert: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! but back to Thanksgiving…
Thanks to Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, I’ve started some new traditions with Squid (and now Tank). On Thanksgiving morning, I make us a meal of toast, pretzels, (kettle) popcorn, and skittles (instead of jelly beans). We sit and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while eating our “Thanksgiving Feast.”
Thanksgiving may not be my favorite, but enjoying a nontraditional tradition with my boys is the best! The meal was a hit! Of course, he ate the Skittles first but that’s to be expected. ONWARD TO CHRISTMAS!!!
Thanksgiving hits a sore spot with me. The thought of putting food traditions before family traditions is just sad. Isn’t the point of Thanksgiving to GIVE THANKS? I mean, it’s right there in the title of the holiday. Thankful for family, friends, and the ability to be together SAFELY. Shouldn’t we be able to put food traditions aside for those closest to us?
I thought this year would be different. I had been texting Squid’s teacher about their menu for the “Pilgrims and Indians” celebration they were having at the preschool. She and I were so excited that Squid would be included and that he would finally be able to safely sit at the same table with his friends while eating a meal. Then everything changed.
The program director decided to bring back the tradition of inviting parents to the celebration. That’s great but that meant the menu would be changing. It also meant Squid would be left at his own table, eating by himself once again for this day that is suppose to be a celebration with friends. I was heart broken! I was especially heart broken that I received this news the day before the event. After talking with the program director, she decided she would bring some safe items for him to eat so he could be included.
Hindsight: I should have just volunteered to bring him a lunch but we’ll get back to that later.
The day of the Pilgrims and Indians celebration, I’m still a little sad for Squid but I decided to put it behind me because I knew we could safely sit with a friend or two as long as we left some space and washed up after the meal. Seating arrangements quickly became the least of my worries.
Walk into the cafeteria and look at all the food on the table
- Breaded chicken: DANGER!
- Mac & Cheese, mac & cheese, mac & cheese: DANGER DANGER DANGER!
HOW MANY DISHES OF MAC & CHEESE DO WE NEED?! DANGER!! How are we going to keep all those cheesy hands away from my contact allergic child? DANGER!!
- Stay calm, stay calm, smile, look confident
- Do those veggies have butter in them?
- Look at all that icing on those cookies! DANGER!
- Look confident, smile, don’t freak out, Squid had his own food….
Wait this is not what we discussed. Where is the safe food for my child? Where’s the grilled chicken? She said she would order grilled chicken.
Upon realizing that thing were not going as we discussed, I asked the director if she ordered Squid any grilled chicken and she told me she already had him a plate made (the students hadn’t made it to their seats yet). His plate looked okay but when she told me she read the chicken twice and it didn’t contain Egg or Soy, I became concerned. He’s not allergic to Soy, he’s allergic to Milk. Fear rushed over me.
Hindsight: I should have scooped his plate off the table and taken it with me until I deemed it safe.
One look at the label and there it was in bold letters CONTAINS: SOY & MILK. Bless her heart, she tried but milk is everywhere. I returned to the cafeteria area to find my child sitting at his plate, digging into his meal. Every alarm went off inside of me and my adrenaline with on max. DANGER! I started screaming NO! NO! NO! WHAT DID YOU EAT? SPIT IT OUT! THE CHICKEN HAS MILK! WHAT DID YOU EAT? I squished his cheeks to open his mouth and to my relief found a pretzel inside. Thank you, God!!!
Mind of an allergy parent:
That was close. TOO CLOSE! Now what is he going to eat? That plate is contaminated. Get that plate out of here! There is only mac & cheese with a side of mac & cheese. What is he going to eat? Is it hot in here? I need to get out of here. I need to get my child out of here! Was that pretzel touching the chicken? Oh God, that was too close! That you God for your protection over my Squid! I need to get out of here.
And as you can see, after the situation was deemed “safe” I went into full-on panic attack over our close call. Yep, right there in front of everyone. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I’m doing all of this with a 20 pound baby on my hip.
Squid’s teacher kept an eye on him while the director pulled me into the back room. There was a whole lot of ugly crying, shaking, and the other lovely panic attack symptoms in the bathroom for the rest of the event. Squid’s teacher came to check on me, brought me a drink, prayed over me, and offered her general support in an unfamiliar situation. My poor husband had to leave work to come help me calm down. I was so embarrassed! I went back in to get Squid and just prayed the whole time that nobody would see my splotchy red skin and bloodshot eyes. I never want to do that again!
HOW TO KEEP IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN:
1. Read every label, every time, YOURSELF!
This is something I know and I shouldn’t have to be reminded but here I am reminding myself that I need to read the label myself BEFORE a plate is served to my child. I went back to read the label again to see exactly which milk ingredient chicken could possible contain. It had whey protein. (If you’re not familiar with milk protein, casein and whey are the big two.) When I pointed it out to the director, she said “oh, I had no idea.”
Mind of an allergy parent:
Why would you tell me that you read the label TWICE if you don’t know which ingredients are milk?! The rest of the day’s events have just made me sad, anxious, or embarrassed but THAT just TICKS ME OFF!
2. Always bring a safe backup meal
Again, I shouldn’t have to be reminded of this but there I was without a backup plan. We take a backup meal EVERYWHERE! We’ve been doing it since he was diagnosed.
Silly mom, you know better. I’m so mad that I failed on my fail safe. I think this irritates me the most.
3. Keep informed of changes
I wish I had more control over this one but I didn’t. We were out of town an Squid’s allergy appointment when the changes were made. The teacher said the director was suppose to talk to me about it but it looks like the topic just fell through the cracks with everything else going on around this busy season. I was disappointed that I found out the night before the event that (unsafe) menu changes had been made but that’s beyond my control.
4. Action plan
I’ve read numerous upon numerous blogs about anxiety. I have bible verses memorized about dealing with anxiety. I’ve read how to ground yourself during a panic attack. Nothing worked this time. The panic attack overtook me and I felt like I was drowning. I guess it’s a natural reaction to a close call but I wish I could have kept it together a little better. Hey, at least my allergy plan was in place and worked well, right?
I’m still embarrassed.
I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last post! That is WAY TOO LONG! Time to play a little catch up….
We had an awesome dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free Halloween party for Squid and some of his allergy and non-allergy friends. They had an amazing time (even though Squid REFUSED to wear his Olaf costume).
My husband had a surprise back surgery because he woke up one morning and couldn’t feel his foot. He had drop-foot for weeks and after several doctor visits, we discovered that his L4, L5 vertebrae were practically rubbing each other because of the lack of a disc. He ended up having a L4-S1 spinal fusion while I was 30 weeks pregnant. Needless to say, if something hit the floor in our house, it stayed there until Squid picked it up for us. Last week my husband was finally able to walk on his heals again. I know it sounds small but it’s a pretty big deal.
We welcomed “Tank” to the world at the end of January. The ultrasound tech told me that if I made it to my due date, he would be over 9lbs. Yeah… he was 6lbs, 15oz. He may have started off tiny, but at 9 months old and 20 lbs, he’s a man baby now. Big ol’ Tank.
Squid celebrated his 3rd birthday with a bike, a bounce house, and a wacky cake. Delicious!!!
We felt the call to move from the city to a small town about 2 hours south. Everything about the experience was God sent. He made it so easy! My husband had a job offer before we made it home after the interview. Our city house sold before it went on the market. Our rent house was the first one we saw. We attended one church that immediately felt like home. Bonus: We’re closer to grandparents. Amazing! Simply amazing how it all came together… but more on that later.
Squid started a new “school” at our church. It’s actually a Mother’s Day Out program but he doesn’t have to know that. He LOVES school! He loves learning. He’s such a people person and he’s fitting in so well.
Squid is down to only dairy and egg allergies with no sensitivities. He’s been cleared to try shellfish but with everything going on (and his constantly runny nose of allergy season), we’ve decided to wait. He sees the allergist again in a couple weeks.
We’ve been in some impossible situations where there is no way we should have survived with out a reaction. Maybe he’s grown out of the contact allergy? We shall see!
As for Tank, he’s showing no signs of food allergies so far.
Due to particular events of our past, my husband and I decided to have testing performed for chromosome abnormalities in our new baby. We asked the doctor and discovered the test we did with Squid was no longer available BUT there was a new test that included trisomy 13, 18, 21 (downs syndrome) and gender abnormalities called Harmony. It is a simple test performed from a sample of my blood. Completely non-invasive and our baby had completely normal test results! Long story short, we got to know the gender of our baby at 11 weeks instead of waiting until 20! Haha!
Now we had to decide what to do with this juicy new information that nobody knew we knew yet. Being huge baseball fans, there was only one logical answer…. BASEBALL GENDER REVEAL!
I started with a Pinterest search which led me to a photograph blog with a brilliant idea. After digging deep into her comments section, I finally composed a plan of my own (which was very similar to hers). Here we go…
You will need:
- Hollow plastic ball
- Holi Powder
- A sharp object to cut the ball open (I used a razor)
- Electrical tape
- Paint brushes
- Rubber gloves (optional) — I’d recommend gloves if you’re busting the ball the same day because the powder can stain your skin.
- A skilled man to hit the ball after you pitch it poorly (or is that just me?)
I bought balls and holi powder (the colored powder used for color runs) from Amazon. I cut the balls in half by making a starting point with a knife and then finishing it off VERY CAREFULLY with a razor. After cutting a few, I realized that the balls basically tear down the seam once you get them started. I made several balls so we could make sure it would break open properly and that I could pitch it appropriately. Okay, okay, so maybe we just wanted to watch some extra colors explode to see what it would be like.
SPOILER ALERT: it was AWESOME!
Filling the balls turned out to be a fun task….fun if you like being stained with color. I filled four for practice (yellow, green, pink, blue). I found the easiest was to not make a huge mess was to balance one half on the electrical tape inside a grocery bag. When I dumped the contents of the holi powder pouch into the ball, it was a little too full but it stayed stacked nicely (once I got my system figured out on ball 3). I then place the other half on as best as I could and taped it with a single layer of electrical tape. Don’t worry if you get it on you, it washes fairly easy from clothes and takes a few washes for skin depending on the color. It smells awful though!
After mastering the fine art of powder balance and ball taping, I then painted the ball solid white. Yes, the ball was already white but it was a little transparent. You could definitely see pink vs blue. The paint created a nice seal around the tape that would have otherwise leaked out powder and spoiled the surprise. Plus, it covers up the hideousness of black tape on a white ball. All I’m saying is, don’t skip out on this part. Painting the ball is totally worth it. I just used my regular acrylic canvas paints and they got the job done nicely.
After adding some finishing touches, the ball was ready to go!
We found out the gender the week we were set to leave for Colorado on vacation with the family. How perfect is that?! We decided that it would be great to take our creation with us and reveal it there for the family. Turns out it’s not an easy task to find a flat spot on a mountain but we made it happen.
We found out at the end of May that we are expecting our second child. Naturally everyone has the same question.
“What if your second child has food allergies?”
That’s a big WHAT IF question that I don’t really have an answer for right now. What if it does? Well, I guess we will have to learn, grow, and adapt just as we did with Squid. Hopefully this time we will be able to identify the red flags sooner than the first. I feel that God will not give u
s anything we cannot handle. I’m just going to enjoy my pregnancy and deal with allergies IF they arise.
Pregnancy updates: I’m currently 12 weeks. Haven’t had much morning sickness with this one but headaches and fatigue are another story. Guess that comes with chasing after a 2 year old. The worst part of this pregnancy is the DAIRY cravings! We’re a dairy free home and all I want to do is eat a block of cheese. *sigh* Oh well. Until then, Goodbye first trimester!
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of “you never come see us anymore.” Not that visits were frequent before children but our closest relatives live at least an hour away.
I never knew how much stuff a baby needed when traveling. It’s quite a chore, especially if you’re staying the night! Now let’s add food allergies into that mix. YOWZAS!
Here are some of the extra steps I have to take when traveling.
1. I start by thinking (and obsessing) over every little detail. Who will be there? Will they respect my rules regarding Squid’s allergies? Will there be food? If there is food, will it be safe? If it’s not safe, will people wash their hands before touching Squid? What will we eat? How long are we staying? How much food will we need? Should I take extra cleaning wipes for other people’s hands/our eating area? HOW AM I GOING TO KEEP MY CHILD SAFE??? The list goes on and on and on!
2. Take all those questions from #1 and begin packing. It takes me AT LEAST two days to pack and make sure everything is perfect because we do not have the “stop at the nearest fast food option.” It’s what I bring or nothing because after several reactions and way too many close calls, I really have a hard time trusting food that wasn’t cooked by me or with me present.
3. The day has come. We’ve made the trip and arrived safely. The hard part is over right? HA! Not a chance. Remember all of those questions from #1? They’re still buzzing in my head but this time they’re being played out in real life. I can’t relax at all during my visit due to worry about what Squid may accidentally be exposed to and how many hives he will get THIS time.
Vacation is not a vacation for me! My idea of a vacation these days is leaving Squid with Daddy and having some Mommy time of some sort. Family events where I can relax are very rare, especially if they involve food. Needless to say, Thanksgiving is my new version of a complete nervous wreck nightmare!
4. Making it back home without hives or a hospital visit is nothing short of a miracle! Praise God!
Please be understanding. Please be patient. Food allergies are rough.
There are some things that I’ve learned since my son’s diagnosis with food allergies (particularly dairy). I have a feeling I’m going to need to continually add to this post.
1. Nobody Understands
Seriously. I’ve noticed that even within our family, unless they are involved in Squid’s day-to-day life, they just don’t get it (with a few exceptions). “What do you mean I cant bring my own food into your house? Your kid will be fine, right?” Sorry, not taking that chance. If you don’t understand, at least be respectful of the allergy parent’s decisions.
2. Gluten-free Spam
I can not tell you how many people (outside of my social circle) have sent me suggestions for products or recipes that are gluten-free. That’s all fine and dandy but it still contains DAIRY! We don’t have a wheat issue so I’m not too concerned about wheat/gluten but thanks for thinking of us.
3. What do you eat?!
Every time Squid adds a new allergen to his ever growing list, people say “Oh that poor baby. What do you eat?!” Umm…. lots of things. Sub out the dairy and there ya go, same as everyone else. We were already avoiding egg and shellfish so it was no big deal to cut them out completely when he was officially diagnosed. I don’t feel like he’s “that poor baby.” We learn to adapt for our child and it’s no big deal for us. Just a new part of our life.
4. Cutting out dairy doesn’t mean cutting out “the good stuff”
I absolutely love that there is a substitution for most dairy items! Milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, whipped cream, cream cheese! I know I’m missing some but YUM! I also love that if there isn’t a substitute to be found, one can be created. The only thing I feel like we actually gave up was cheese. Still looking for a good sub because Daiya just doesn’t cut it for me and most of the others have casein protein.
5. Dairy is EVERYWHERE!
Do some manufacturers look at their product and say, “Hmm, what is this missing? Oh, I know, DAIRY!” Thank God for multiple brands!
6. Heightened awareness
I see food completely different now. when any kid walks in with a food item in his hand, my allergy mom radar starts going off. I feel like a crazy person but it is all for the safety of my little Squid.
7. Freaking people out is fun
I’m sorry but sometimes you just need some comic relief. When I’m feeling a little crazy and people ask about Squid’s dairy allergy, I start naming off all the crazy random things I’ve found that contain dairy. Toothpaste, chalk, balloons, deli meat, non-dairy creamer, tic-tacs, the list goes on and the look on their face is priceless. Mama’s gotta laugh at life.
8. Oh! I’m lactose intolerant too!
I know you’re trying to relate but no. Just no.
9. Ah, first time moms
When we go out to eat, I wipe down our entire table and all the chairs because Squid has a contact allergic to dairy. I see the other people looking at my young family and probably thinking “look at that first time, overprotective mom, bet she wont do that with number 2, 3, etc.” Actually, someone did say that to me once when they saw me pull his pacifier out of a ziplock bag. You better believe if future children have food allergies, I’ll be protecting them too! Doesn’t bother me one bit to keep him safe.
10. I wouldn’t change a thing
We’re foodies so we thought Squid’s diagnosis of dairy allergy was the end of the world at first. Then we realized it was just the end of the world as we knew it. Once we learned how to sub, we realized that cutting out dairy opened up a whole new world of food! Amazing food! My baby is an appropriate weight, my husband lost 50 lbs and I’m wearing jeans I wore in high school (20 lbs less than my pre-pregnancy weight). We feel healthier than we have in years and all by just cutting out dairy and not dining out. The added fact that my child could die from a sip is extremely scary and I continually pray that he’ll grow out of it soon but I do not foresee us adding it back into our diet when he is able.
So amazed by the service we recieved at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse last night. I gave the waitress our chefs card when she was taking our drink orders. After she gave it to the chef, she walked us through our order on what we could/couldn’t order/alter and how everything was cooked. Then the manager came over to check who ordered what and their proximity to the person (my son) with allergies. When our food was brought out they told is what was on each item on his plate and exactly how and where it was cooked. Amazing service! Above and beyond!
I have a friend that just discovered a dairy allergy in her son and another that is suspecting an intolerance in her newborn so I decided to put together a book of resources for beginners.
Avoiding Milk: A beginners guide
The pumpkin patch is my new favorite tradition! Why haven’t we been before? Ok, so it wasn’t a true pumpkin patch (a local church set up their lawn to sell pumpkins and gourds) but it was still tons of fun.
Squid had a blast running around with his tiny pumpkin and climbing on the hay (which thankfully did not give him hives).
I’m ready to go again!