Thursday, April 26, 2012

Momentary Mommy Moment

The other day, I allowed myself a brief moment of pity for my son's allergies.....this is something that I have never done in the past 10 years since he was diagnosed. It was quite innocent when it happened and (luckily) my son was not even there when it happened. Nevertheless, it still makes me angry that I let it enter my mind.

I was with my daughter who has no known food allergies. We had a wonderful day together- it was her Field Day at school. I was there, cheering her on and giving her the mom support that she needed. We ate lunch together at school and then I decided to take her for a special treat since we had extra time. We went and got a hot chocolate together. She was excited- she sat in a huge, oversized chair with me and she sipped her child-sized "coffee" as she kept calling it. It was great! We haven't had a mom and daughter time in awhile.

Then, we left to pick up my son from school. We were laughing and giggling and as I pulled onto the road, it hit me. I will never be able to take my son out for hot chocolate like this....ever. It was as if my heart stopped in midbeat and I couldn't breath. I didn't cry, I didn't moan, I just silently had a meltdown. In all of this time, during all of the food fiascos and parties, I have never once felt like this. I have always known it was not possible but for some reason, I have never allowed myself to realize it with such clarity. I was sad for him and sad for me. I was sad that he probably has many of these thoughts and just doesn't tell me. I was angry that he has to go through life with these allergies when he was so innocent. He was simply born into this world....what did he do to face life this way? Shouldn't it be me, the mom, who has to carry this burden for my child? It's unfair and I realized that I can make it better for him but I cannot fix it for him.

I think what caught me offguard the most was when I realized that I had never had this lightbulb moment before. It lingered for a few days and I didn't tell anyone about it, not even my husband. And then I had another lightbulb- perhaps the reason I never felt this way was because he is fine and I am fine as we are. Yes, I cannot change it or fix it but looking back now, I see that our lives are better because of it. This doesn't mean it's right but it does mean that this has happened to us for a reason. So many food allergy moms ask "Why my child"...well, why not your child? There are millions of other children with so many other things that are worse than food allergies and who are we to think that our child should be immune?

I can tell you that food allergy moms are strong moms and positive moms and we are more fierce than most moms that I know. I am not saying we are better moms because we are not. We are simply encouraged to be a better mom even when we think we don't have the energy too. A child without food allergies will also be picked on and mothers will do their best to help that child feel better with that situation. Food allergy moms have a little more to protect because it's a matter of life and death in most cases. And, in my opinion, food allergy moms will have the guts to stand up for their child more often than a mom who does not have a food allergic child. Does this make us less tolerable? Probably but we have to be and we have to use whatever we have to protect our child.

I don't allow myself many moments like I had with the hot chocolate dilemma. I feel that if I am not strong, then my son will not be strong. I need to show him that positives always rule out negatives. I need to show him that sometimes fixing things is not always possible but that there is always a another reason for not being able to fix everything. I need my son to grow up and be a better, stronger person than I am. And sometimes, I just need to allow myself to have more of these moments because they make me stronger as a person. We are only human. We can be strong but what makes us even stronger is accepting the times that we need to be just a little less strong. Weak moments do not make us weak, only denial. In the words of don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements "Always Do Your Best -Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret."

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Have Been Given a Sunshine Award!

Can I just say that as a mom, I LOVE Fridays! It's the last day of school, I can sleep in (a little) the next day, my family is home together and I just feel a relief when the end of the week is here. But this Friday was a little different and a little more special. This Friday, I received the Sunshine Award from one of my fellow bloggers, The Food Allergy Chronicles (http://thefoodallergychronicles.wordpress.com/). What a nice treat that someone thought of me and passed this along to brighten my day! And, honestly, I cannot remember the last time I received flowers (virtual or other).

The idea behind the Sunshine Award is that we get to share a little bit of ourselves by answering questions and we get to pass the torch to other bloggers that we feel deserve to have a bit of sunshine of their own.

Question 1- What is your favorite color?

My favorite color is a pale, grey-blue. This color is soothing to me. As a Pisces, I love the water and this color reminds me of the water and the sky. I love things that connect me to the earth.

Question 2- What is your favorite animal?


I would have to say that I love cats and I always have. I love that they have an unspoken language and that they can be your companion yet be on their own. Most of my life I had a cat until I found out that my son was allergic. My only solice is that one day, when my son is in his own home, I will have a cat again.



Question 3- What is your favorite number?

My favorite number is 7. This is a number that has always popped into my head whenever someone asks "What number am I thinking of?" I tend to see it in a lot of places as well. Some people might call it superstitious but I call it lucky.

Question 4- What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

This is two-sided....my favorite drink was coffee until I had to give it up because of my own allergies. I love the way it smells and I love having a warm drink in the morning. But since I have stopped my caffeine intake, I generally love water with lemon. I know, it sounds lame but I have never been a soda or juice person.

Question 5- Which do you prefer- Facebook or Twitter?   

I am a Facebook fan through and through. No hard feelings, Twitter but with the most recent exception of the horrid timeline change on Facebook, I have found that Facebook has been very good to me and my needs. Why fix what is not broken?

Question 6- What is your passion?

My passion has always been to help people in whatever way that I am able. My mother always nags me and says that I should have been a nurse or a Doctor (sorry Mom). But I honestly and truly do love what I do right now. I am blessed to say that when I realized that this was my calling, I felt grateful that not only do I know what I want to do but I enjoy doing it ever, single second.


Question 7 - Do you prefer giving or receiving presents?

I am a giver, definitely. I like to see the look of surprise or happiness when someone receives a gift. To me, it's not about what I get but what I am able to give.  My favorite time of year is Christmas because of the look on my children's faces.


Question 8 - What is your favorite pattern?

I am a Damask person at heart. My taste is more traditional with a hint of romance. I don't like a lot of "fluff", just simple and stylish.



Question 9 - What is your favorite day of the week?

Well, we kind of already covered that at the beginning but to reiterate...Friday!





Question 10 - What is your favorite flower?

My favorite flower to receive is a fire and ice rose. My favorite flowers in the garden are iris. The only bad thing about me and flowers are that my allergies prevent me from having any sweet-smelling flowers (like lillies) because they tend to give me a headache.


Here are five great bloggers that I appreciate for their dedication and hard work-

1) Allergic to Air - http://allergictoair.com/blog/. The day I saw the title of her blog, I knew we had an unspoken bond! When my son was younger, rather than tell people all of the things he is allergic to, we would simply say "He's allergic to air".

2) A Gluten-Free Vegan Mom Who Knows- http://aglutenfreeveganmomwhoknows.blogspot.com/. Priscilla is not strictly a food allergy blogger but I love her! She always has awesome recipe ideas, great healthy information and she makes you think about what you are putting into your body.

3) The Spunky Coconut- http://www.thespunkycoconut.com/. Kelly began removing certain foods from her family's diet and saw wonderful results. She takes great pictures, which I feel is always helpful... I am envious!

4) RescueHealth911- http://www.rescuehealth911.com/. A site maintained by the Doctor that taught me everything that I know. Again, not just food allergy based but a lot of good resources and she's always reminding you that everyone needs to think outside of the box to enhance your health.

5) AllergyMoms- http://www.allergymoms.com/modules/wordpress/index.php. A great resource website that offers you a free email subscription. Gina sends out great advice, has wonderful articles and is a just another food allergy mom.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Easter Bunny is Alive and Well and Living in Your Kitchen



As you know, many Holidays including Easter can be more challenging when you have food allergies. Not only is it difficult to walk through the aisles of so many stores packed with pastel-colored goodies that are usually not allergy-friendly but also having to supplement with safe items can be a little rough on the budget. I am here to say that it has gotten better and it will continue to get better. Don't get discouraged- get motivated!

Myth #1: I can't buy an Easter bunny for my child.   

FALSE.
Not only can you buy an allergy-friendly Easter bunny but you can make one that will be just as delicious as the store-bought version. And who says it even has to be a bunny? There are so many ways to make chocolates for your child that are safe, easy and cost less than your average store bunnies. I have used everything from lollipop molds to mini muffin pans to Jello molds. They all work and they are all waiting to make someone happy this Easter.

The other piece of advice I always give is to keep it simple. As mom's, we are always trying to duplicate pictures of things that we see. Unless you are a chef or a seasoned cook, your foods will not always look wonderful. Most of the time, it's the moms who are upset by how things turn out and the children could really care less, they just want to taste it. Simplicity = happiness all around.

Myth #2: My child won't ever know what a crunchy or crispy chocolate tastes like.

FALSE.
Chocolate SunButter Eggs
Be creative and make some varieties as well. After all, there are also different types of chocolates so why not offer them at home? If you are looking for a little bit of a crunch, try sprinkling the bottom of your mold with some nonpareil decors and then cover it with chocolate. The end result is similar to the all-famous SnowCaps candy. Add a few pieces of a rice cereal such as Enjoy Life Foods Perky's Crunchy Rice Cereal and you will have your own crunch bar candy. The key is to be creative and use whatever you have to use. It doesn't always have to be sensible and it won't always look perfect. In the end, your child will eat it because it's chocolate and after a few tries, yours will look very much store-bought.

Myth #3:  Filling Easter baskets are impossible with food allergies.

AGAIN, FALSE.
Between allergy-friendly companies that make great products and your local dollar store, you are all set to fill up a basket just as fast as you could if you didn't have allergies to worry about. It's all about being creative, flexing the budget here and there and watching out for sales (which is what you normally do anyway). Face it, would any mom pay full price if they didn't have too? All you need are a dozen plastic eggs and an hour at the store. What do you fill them with? Well, I have used mini puzzles, socks (one in each egg), mini Lego figure sets, small matchbox cars, mini bubbles, money, printable Easter coupons, mini Playdough, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, hair stuff, mini nail polish, lip balm, batteries (for the gamers), magic towels that turn into washcloths in the tub, glitter, mini pens/markers/crayons, fun-shaped erasers, stickers, punch balloons, temporary tattoos…shall I continue? Less candy, more "things". BUT, mom to mom- make sure you try and stay away from anything that is too noisy or annoying that will drive you insane after hearing it over and over again for two hours.

Myth #3: I can't just go to the store and buy allergy-friendly candy.

DID YOU HERE THE SILENT BUZZER?
I can tell you after adapting with food allergies for over 10 years, companies have gotten much better at trying to please everyone. I am not saying you will find allergy-friendly sweets in every single store but there is a larger variety available compared to when my son was diagnosed. Spangler Candy is one of the companies that is very allergy-friendly. You can view their site at www.spanglercandy.com. Their site states "We make every effort to ensure that our products are free of the most common allergens. So whether you, or someone in your life, is on a gluten-free diet or has an allergy to wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish or shellfish, you can feel confident that Spangler products packaged in our facility are safe" and they also have a safe chart for six of their products. I, for one, appreciate the fact that when someone pulls out a dum-dum lollipop I know my son can eat it safely. Kudos to Spangler!

Another company is Enjoy Life Foods. They can be found at most Whole Foods locations and your local health food stores. Their site can be accessed at www.enjoylifefoods.com. Enjoy Life Foods produces great goodies that are free of wheat, tree nuts, fish, dairy, egg, shellfish, peanuts, soy, casein, potato, sesame and sulfites…whew! That was a mouthful! They have a wide range of different snacks and I have found that many of their products are also very user-friendly when you are looking to create new foods (see my previous sampling blogs).  If you have been searching for an allergy-friendly candy bar, they are the people to get it from.

There is even  a company that can send an allergy-safe gift basket! Premium Chocolatiers milk, nut, egg, and gluten allergy. They also cater to Vegetarians, Vegans, people who are lactose intolerant and they are Kosher Pareve. Their site is www.premiumchocolatiers.com.They have truffles, lollipops, chocolate covered pretzels and more.

All in all, every Holiday can be stressful for everyone. It doesn't matter if you have food allergies or a friend of the family that you just don't like, make the most of your Holidays by just being with the people that you love. Stay safe, eat well and don't count calories for the day, they will be there tomorrow.









Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gluten Free Banana Crunch Muffins

This is my basic gluten free muffin recipe that can be added to or tweaked. I have personally found over the years that if you find a great and easy beginning recipe, use it and expand on it. Keep things simple and your life will be just a tad easier as well.


Ingredients:
3 Very ripe bananas
Ener-G Powdered Egg Replacer (or) 2 eggs
2 Cups Brown Rice Flour (can also use white rice flour)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Hain's Gluten Free Baking Powder
1 (4 oz) Applesauce of your choice
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Allspice

Crunch Topping:
1/2 - 1 Cup Enjoy Life Perky's Crunchy Rice Cereal
3 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1-2 Tablespoons Butter or shortening, such as Spectrum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan by spraying it with baking spray.

In a large bowl, mash up the ripe bananas until smooth and very few lumps (unless you like chunks). Add the remaining ingredients (minus the Crunch Topping) and mix well. The mixture should resemble cake batter. If it's too dry, try adding a little bit more applesauce or milk of your choice but add little by little as not to make it too watery.

Spoon into the muffin pan, filling no more than half way.

In a medium bowl, add the Crunch Topping ingredients and stir until combined well. Sprinkle on top of each muffin. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (approximately 30 minutes).

Cool completely on a wire rack to avoid the muffins from getting soggy, then keep in an airtight container.

Makes 12 Muffins

Monday, April 2, 2012

Marshmallow Rabbit in a Nest

A big part of what I teach people who have just started to use allergy-friendly foods is to learn how to think outside of the box. When you have food allergies, you need to retrain your brain and figure out unique and different ways to utilize the foods that you can eat.

This was my answer to someone bringing in a haystack treat for my son's class a few years ago. Not exactly the same but delicious and well-liked, so you can't beat that.



Step 1: Prepare your ingredients. As you know, using melted chocolate can get very messy very fast. I have found that having all of my ingredients ready and waiting before I start saves a lot of smudges from appearing around my kitchen.


For this project, you will need: 1 small pot, 1 plastic spatula, 1/2 cup of Enjoy Life Foods Chocolate Chips, 5 Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Bunnies and 1 Bag Gluten Free pretzel sticks (I used Glutino)

Step 2:  Line a cereal bowl with waxed paper. Try to mold the paper around the edges of the bowl and push the middle down to keep it from popping back up as much as possible. The reason for this is to make it easier to lay a base of chocolate pretzels without them being flipped back up.


Step 3:  In a small pot on low heat, melt the chocolate chips. Stir constantly to avoid any burning or overcooking of the chocolate.

Step 4:  Using the melted chocolate as a "cement", cover a pretzel stick and lay it flat on the bottom of the waxed paper-lined bowl. Make the bottom base using 6 chocolate covered pretzel sticks.



Step 5:  Using another chocolate-covered pretzel stick, place the next layer at an angle on the corner of the base. Place one stick on one corner, then one stick on the opposite corner (almost looks like a diamond shape).


Repeat this, making a square. I used three layers of the sticks to make the "walls". If you make it too high, you will not be able to place the marshmallow rabbit into the center easily and you won't be able to see it as well. You may find some of the sticks might slide. Be patient and gently stack them, as they will gradually "glue" together as the chocolate hardens.

Step 6:  Once you are done stacking the pretzels, dip the bottom of the rabbit into the chocolate and then gently place it into the center of the nest. Let cool completely in the fridge or overnight.



Makes 5 nests.

BEWARE!!!! Lurking children will stalk you and rob you of your leftover chocolate! Be prepared to fend them off.



As a Food Allergy Consultant, I am available to help you! If you are interested, please feel free to contact me to set up an appointment in person, through email or over the telephone. I try to make food allergies easier.