Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Keep the Food Out of the Classroom

This year Olivia has been taking 'exploratory' foreign language classes - French and Spanish. And because schools can't seem to stop bringing food into the classroom, both classes have planned a "food" day where students can eat French or Spanish food to "learn" about the culture.

The French food day happened before we knew Olivia was allergic to gluten so I (begrudgingly) sent in a baguette and some brie. I also let the teacher know about Liv's allergies so that no one questioned why she wasn't eating the macarons and other stuff.

Next week the Spanish class is hosting its food day. This time we're dealing with the gluten allergy, a newly diagnosed shellfish allergy, and the constants of peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds.

Olivia has decided she wants to make me to make some grilled beef salad (seriously the recipe is HUGE, but I'll do it). That might be the only thing she'll be able to eat unless someone brings in corn chips and salsa. I don't know how likely that is.

And once again I've had to email the teacher to inform her of all Liv's allergies and to ask that she makes sure no one gives Olivia a hard time about not eating food.

Honestly, I just don't get it.
Why do we have food in the classroom at all? 

With the prevalence of food allergies today why do schools/teachers/administrators still insist on bringing food into the classroom?

The classroom is a place to LEARN not a place to EAT. You want to eat? Go to the cafeteria at lunch time. Books in the classroom, food in the cafeteria.

I know events like this add stress for Olivia - stress that she doesn't need. She doesn't want to flaunt her allergies, she just wants to live with them and be as 'normal' as possible.

It's time to get the food out of the classroom.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Allergy Re-Testing Day

Today was the day - time for the every-18-months retesting for Liv's allergies. (Actually the original day was December 27 but we were dealing with hives and illness on that day so today was the new day).

First things first: ALWAYS ask what is going on at the allergist's office. They were only going to test her for the "seasonal" stuff today because they said her last skin test didn't show any positive food allergies (it did but I was armed with the results anyway). I pushed back and said "Here are her results from April 2015 and you can see that she's allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds. You WILL be testing for food again today."

And they did test for food. And we have a few new items to add to our list.

Today the skin test results were positive for shellfish (totally new to us) and were once again positive for corn and soybeans (originally showed up on her first skin test back in 2011 but hasn't shown up again until today).

Liv's arms, halfway through the test

So...long story short: she eats corn products and items made with soy all the time with no issues so the allergist said to continue doing so unless we see an issue. The shellfish was a different story - we were told to avoid all shellfish. Which is fine, since Liv doesn't eat or like shellfish. Easy peasy.

Her positive reaction to almonds wasn't a complete surprise - we know she's allergic to almonds - but it's now a 4 out of 5 on the scale our allergist uses. Hazelnuts, peanuts, and sesame seeds were all still prevalent too.

[As an aside, I'm looking at her test results from 2015 and am seeing that at that appointment they didn't even run the tree nut panel - our results were from the blood test only! GAH! Another reason to always pay attention at an appointment].

The CNP today was great - she went down Liv's arm, one wheal (think: small hive) at a time making a determination by TOUCH of their severity. This had never been done at the office - except maybe back in 2011 at her very first visit. [In 2015 the nurse was hurried and didn't pay much attention at all, which is likely what lead to the miscommunication at today's visit.]

It was so nice to have someone take the time to discuss the new allergies and we even talked about the gluten sensitivity - and we're continuing the gluten free protocol because we're seeing positive (read: good) results with relation to the autoimmune diseases.

As always, we also did a blood screening for IgE levels for almond, brazil nuts, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, peanut, pecan, pistachio, walnut, sesame seed, soybean, and corn. Basically Liv spent 2 1/2 hours today getting poked by needles. 

Oh, and on the non-food side Liv is now allergic to horses and guinea pigs. Those are new to the list. Her "seasonal" allergies are getting better - so in 6 months we might be able to go to once-a-month allergy shots. At least we're making progress there. :)

And in the end we keep on keepin' on. Avoiding peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and now shellfish. Keeping an eye on corn and soybean. And Liv is never getting a horse. Or a guinea pig.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy 13th Birthday

Olivia turned 13 earlier this week (!!!) and we celebrated with a night out at Georgio's, a high-end restaurant here in town.

We love Georgio's - and we try to go once a year (usually for Liv's birthday). It's really REALLY expensive but oh so worth it (and a gift certificate each year helps a lot).

In the past Georgio's has been great about Liv's allergies - we let the waitress know what needs to be avoided and the kitchen makes it happen. Of course, she's usually ordering steak so that's pretty easy.

This year we added "no gluten" to the mix and the kitchen was, once again, wonderful. Liv loves the sauteed Haloumi cheese (really...you need to order this!) and the kitchen used corn starch instead of flour to coat the cheese. She also ordered a steak dish that came with a red wine reduction and the kitchen made a roux WITHOUT FLOUR just for Liv.

And THAT my friends is how you deal with food allergies.

The only setback came when they brought out a slice of cake for her birthday - with candles and all - and the cake was a Macadamia Nut Bomb. The waitress felt horrible about her mistake and quickly returned with a bowl of vanilla ice cream AND chocolate creme brulee.

the cake with nuts! :(
If you're ever in Toledo and you're looking for a wonderful place for lunch or dinner, make the drive downtown for Georgio's. It'll be worth it.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year and Other Stuff

OK...so we made it to 2017.

Life has been a bit crazy since the last time I blogged here.

Long story short...Liv was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases in a span of 5 months last year. And then over the summer she broke a bone in her foot.
You're probably wondering how/why these two things might be related.

Well: at an ortho appointment the doctor noticed some sores on Liv's legs and asked if she had a gluten allergy. I said "not that we know of" but we had an allergist appointment the next week. At that appointment I mentioned the gluten thing to the doc and she ordered a blood test just to make sure.

Test came back with elevated IgE levels for gluten (but negative for celiac) and so the doc recommended a gluten cleanse.

Eight weeks later Liv's hair is growing back as quickly as she's losing it (and - knock on wood - she isn't losing much at all right now) and her skin has totally cleared up. No psoriasis plaques, no eczema, nothing. The pediatrician said if it seems to be working, stick with the no gluten diet.

[If you're wondering, yes...there is a link between gluten and autoimmune diseases].

As for Liv she's feeling better, she looks better, and she's handling the "no gluten" diet rather well.

Now, as I tend to do on this blog it's time to give some shout outs to local restaurants and their handling of food allergies, which now includes gluten.

A few weeks ago we dined at LaScola Italian Grill and they get a gold star for handling guests with gluten issues. The restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free menu - including rolls!!! - and they were amazing with Liv's allergies and gluten sensitivity. Also, her fettuccine alfredo was SO much better than the version with "regular" noodles.

We've dined at another favorite spot - Mancy's Italian - twice since Liv went gluten free and both times I've left with a not-so-happy feeling. Last week when we dined there I had made it a point to mention Liv's allergies in our OpenTable reservation and the waitress was aware of them when she came to our table (one point for Mancy's).

They also have a gluten free menu but (here's where points are deducted) they charge an extra $3 for gluten-free pasta dishes and an extra $7 (!!!) for gluten-free pizza. Seriously. 50 points deducted for Mancy's Italian.

Why in the world would you punish people for not being able to eat gluten? That's beyond ridiculous.

I will give our waitress a few points for giving Liv her own plate of olive oil (to reduce cross-contact), but the whole charging-extra-for-gluten-free negates any points.

Restaurants need to realize that food allergies are not a "fad" and they aren't going away - in fact they will likely continue to grow. As such, the industry as a whole needs to stop punishing diners for their food allergies and this includes putting and end to the "extra" charges for things like gluten-free pasta and pizza.

And with that I'll wish you all a Happy 2017! Here's to safe eating and allergy-friendly restaurants :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I'm Back! Summer Vacation Allergy Adventures Edition

Wow. Would you look at that? It appears that the blog took a summer vacation.
(That's my story and I'm sticking to it).

So, what did you do on your summer vacation? We took two trips - a Caribbean cruise and a short weekend in St. Louis.

Managing Olivia's allergies on the cruise was pretty easy - we had an amazing head waiter in the Main Dining Room (on Oasis of the Seas) and he went ABOVE AND BEYOND to make sure Olivia was safe every night at dinner. Heck, he even cut her steak each night (LOL).

The one negative on our cruise was when we visited the ship's ice cream shop and the crew member told us that they "don't serve people with allergies." Um, 'scuse me? You 'don't serve' people with allergies? How about if you EDUCATE YOURSELF about food allergies and actually offer something that would be safe - or even TRY to make an effort to help passengers find an answer when it comes to allergens in the ice cream.

And then, St. Louis. We had some good and some bad. Let's do good first.

Since we were visiting St. Louis I decided we HAD to eat at Imo's Pizza - the home of the 'St. Louis-style pizza.' I emailed the company and told them we needed to avoid peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds and within a couple of days I had an email in return! They assured me that the crust was safe but to avoid the sandwiches as the bread contained sesame seeds.

My review: pizza was great! We'd definitely go back - they made sure to note Olivia's allergies when we ordered.

Then the not-so-good - Angelo's Taverna in St. Louis. We decided to stop here for lunch since it was connected to our hotel. As we were being seated I noticed that the rolls were covered in sesame seeds so I knew those were off limits!

I told the waiter about the allergies - peanuts, tree nuts, and SESAME - and he assured me that he told the kitchen. We ordered calamari - but not before asking the waiter to again ask the kitchen if the breading was safe and free from allergens. He left the table and came back with an assurance that it was safe.

Olivia ate a piece of calamari and then she saw them - sesame seeds IN THE BREADING. Yes, seriously. She immediately stopped eating. When the GM stopped by our table I told him about the calamari and he said "there's no sesame in the breading." Then he checked with the kitchen and GUESS WHAT? They use their day-old bread that is COVERED IN SESAME SEEDS to make ALL the breading in the restaurant.

I told him he's lucky I didn't need to Epi-Pen my kid in the middle of the restaurant.

Seriously - train your wait staff to understand the severity and seriousness of food allergies.
Total fail for Angelo's.

On a brighter note: we also stopped at Culver's on our way to Missouri and they were WONDERFUL when it came to Liv's allergies. They actually type in the allergies as you order and Olivia was able to enjoy chicken tenders and fries. She didn't feel comfortable with the frozen custard - which was OK with me. I was just happy to find another spot that takes allergies seriously.

I hope you had a safe and allergy-free summer too!

Monday, May 2, 2016

No Nuts = NO Nuts

Over the weekend Olivia was part of a ballet production here in town.

A few days before dress rehearsal a set of production notes were sent out and in those notes was a sentence (in bright red text and all caps) that basically said do not bring any kind of nuts backstage for snacks.

This directive was due to the fact that there are a couple dancers (Olivia included) who are allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts.

So...the first night of rehearsal I saw at least one dancer eating a peanut butter snack. 

Night two of rehearsal one of Liv's friends came running upstairs to tell me there was an open bag of almonds backstage in the dressing room. So...we told the production manager about it and she quickly went downstairs to repeat the NO NUT directive.

My one thought was: SERIOUSLY? And then I thought "Can people just not read"? ... or do they just not care? And I decided it was mostly the latter.

Parents of kids without food allergies see the "don't send nuts" directive and either choose to ignore it or think it only means PEANUTS. Or (again) maybe they're just clueless and don't care.

Over the course of the weekend I had to tell another dancer she couldn't eat a doughnut that was coated in peanuts (!!!!!) and she then threw out TWO MORE doughnuts that were swimming in nuts (WTH?) and then ANOTHER dancer said "Can I eat pistachios? They aren't peanuts."

Um....NO. You can't eat pistachios.
Or peanuts.
Or hazelnuts.
Or Nutella.
Or almonds.
Or walnuts.
Or anything that is a peanut and/or tree nut. 

Honestly people - if your child is involved in dance or theater or sports or anything where food might be involved and you get a note sent home that asks you to NOT send in any snacks that contain/might contain peanuts and/or tree nuts please FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY listen to that request and honor it.

No one is trying to deny your child's God-given right (insert eye roll here) to eat a PB&J or a bag of almonds. We're just simply requesting that it isn't done in close proximity to our kid who could get sick (or even die) from a reaction to said PB&J or bag of almonds.

You think we're kidding?
Watch this video and then reconsider sending those peanut and tree nut snacks.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

It's been a while since I've been here on the blog so I'm not thrilled that today is a vent rather than something useful.

But when someone says something to me and it sticks in my brain all day buzzing around, I suppose that means I have to write it down. Damn bees in my bonnet.

So today at school it was the dreaded "muffins for moms/doughnuts for dads" annual nonsense. I truly detest this event but that's a whole different post.

At the end of the event we were trying to figure out what to do with the dozens of left-over doughnuts and someone suggested saving them for the 5th graders to enjoy after their field trip.

Now, it should be noted that I had already combined the "nut free" doughnuts with the "regular" doughnuts because I assumed the whole tray was going to the teacher's lounge.

Me: Do we have any peanut or tree nut allergies in the 5th grade? Because if we do I already mixed up the doughnuts so that wouldn't work.

The responses ranged from:

"No I don't think so."

"We only have one that MUST sit at the peanut-free table and he's not in fifth grade."

"We have a few kids but they have to ingest the food to get sick." (Really? You know that for a fact, do ya?)

And then this gem from someone on staff at the school: "We don't have any issues ever since your daughter left." And then she LAUGHED.

What. The. F*ck. (Language, I know. But seriously.)

I just looked at this person - a hard stare, actually - and then walked away.

How dare you be so stupid to deem my daughter's allergies a "problem".
How dare you be so arrogant to find that funny.

There is nothing funny about food allergies. Ever.

I probably could have said something but in this case you just can't fix stupid.