Thursday, July 30, 2015

The End of July

Yes, I know.
I was supposed to blog every single day this month.
But things happen.
Like being on crutches for the past three weeks...which somehow rendered me incapable of blogging.

That's my excuse. we are at the end of July.
This means school starts again IN THREE WEEKS.

How is that even possible? I swear summer break just started.

Anyway, I'm doing my best to "remain calm" about Olivia starting junior high (or as I like to call it 6th grade) in just a few weeks. She'll have her EpiPens with her at all times as the kids at the junior high are allowed to carry them!

And, based on a conversation I had today she might not be the only kid with food allergies in her grade. I had to call the school today regarding a snack that will be served at orientation in three weeks and the school secretary told me I was the "third or fourth" parent to call about peanut allergies in the 6th grade.

Now, I don't want to say this makes me happy - because it doesn't. Food allergies SUCK and I'd never wish them on anyone. But when I told Olivia about it she said "oh good!" ... I think she's hoping to connect with some other kids who have the same issues with food. Ever since second grade she's been one of only two kids in her grade with food allergies.

And I can guarantee I was the only vocal parent when it came to food allergies in her grade.

Me? I'm just eager (and a bit anxious) to see how the junior high handles food allergies. Here's hoping it won't be a battle at every turn.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let Her Eat Cake

Ah, birthday cake. Something that seems so simple but can be so complicated when you're dealing with food allergies.

I actually dread birthday party invitations - when Olivia gets invited to a birthday party I know that there's a really good chance she won't be able to eat the birthday cake. Granted there are a couple of parents who go out of their way to (1) bake a safe cake so, or (2) order a safe cake. But that's more of an exception than the rule.

Olivia recently went to a friend's party where the cake was from an "unsafe" bakery and she couldn't have it. She said she was OK about not eating the cake, but I could tell she was a bit sad too.

[Now this is the point where some people will say, "you should have sent her with something to eat!" to which I would respond "Yes, I could have. But I didn't because I didn't think I would need to based on other parties at this house. And that failure is totally on me." So don't judge until you're in MY shoes.]

At that party Olivia was able to enjoy all the other food (including the vanilla ice cream) and she kept insisting that she wasn't too upset about the cake. Me? I would have liked to talk with the parent before the party to know what was being served. But I don't always get what I want.

As difficult at "friend parties" are, when it comes to birthday parties at our house (or within the family) we have two local bakeries where we get our cakes.

The first bakery is Brieschke's Bakery here in Sylvania. They have a "peanut-free and nut-free" area in the kitchen where they prepare cakes in a safe spot. And the peanut/tree nut-free cakes are kept away from the other "unsafe" cakes in the pickup area. This is my favorite spot to get cakes.

Another safe place is Sautter's Markets (again in Sylvania). I ordered safe sugar cookies from here for Olivia's end-of-year party at school. And we've had a few cakes from here too - all peanut/tree nut-free.

That cake? Well that's Olivia's dad's birthday cake - a nut-free red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. YUM!

If we're ordering cakes (or cupcakes) those are the bakeries we're using. Of course I also love to make box cake mixes (or "homemade" cakes ... ha!) ... and for the most part we've found that Betty Crocker cakes are great for peanut/tree nut-free options. (One exception is a Blue Velvet cake mix from good ol' Betty - it has a nut warning right on the label!)

The funny thing about cakes is sometimes - even when we know the cake is safe - Olivia won't eat it. I'm not sure if this is because she's 11-going-on-15 and she's being moody or if she's afraid the cake really isn't safe.

(An aside: I can't imagine what it's like to be afraid to eat something. It makes me sad to know this is Olivia's life right now).

So here's my tip for cakes: If you are hosting a birthday party and inviting kids with food allergies, call those parents and talk to them. If it's possible to get a nut-free and peanut-free cake (if the child in question has those allergies), do it. No one will know the difference (unless of course your kid loves German Chocolate Cake...then there's nothing you can do).

If the cake isn't going to be safe for the kids with food allergies you can either (1) have a safe alternative or (2) CALL THE PARENTS and let them know so that a safe alternative can be sent for their child.

I'll say this again - kids with food allergies shouldn't be left out simply because of their food allergies. If there is a way to include them when it comes to birthday party treats, please do so. You have no idea how much that means to the parents of those kids.

Now, if you'll excuse me I'm off to enjoy a slice of that nut-free and peanut-free red velvet cake. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Ice Cream

Finding safe ice cream for Olivia isn't always easy. But last year in the Outer Banks we found Scammell's Corner - an ice cream store and surf shop that has SAFE ice cream! It's our go-to spot in Nags Head for ice cream. This year we visited 4 or 5 times. And the best part - other than the nut-free CASE OF ICE CREAM - is that they sing to you as they scoop your sweet treat.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Baseball Games and Food Allergies

Yesterday we made our annual trek to Progressive Field in Cleveland to watch the Indians play.

Baseball games are a fun tradition but they're also very stressful for kids with peanut allergies.

Normally when we go to the game Olivia will get a hot dog and that's about it. She can't eat the ice cream. Or Dippin' Dots. Or the popcorn.

Yesterday though we were in the "club" level which meant unlimited food and beverages (talk about the best way to see a baseball game!).

Olivia was very excited about the hot dog stand - and the buns were safe too! (Buns are one of those 'must-always-check' items because sometimes sesame seeds are listed). And the buffet in the club lounge had salad, which is one of her favorites. And one of the other food stands was a "make your own" snow cone so Liv made THREE snow cones during the game.

The one thing about baseball games that isn't fun is the overwhelming presence of peanuts. And on the club level at Progressive Field there were BARRELS of peanuts - all self-serve. Fill a bag with peanuts as many times as you wanted and drop the shells everywhere.

To say this stressed Liv out would be an understatement.

We ended up sitting at the top row of our section (due to the fact that I'm currently on crutches) and she actually said "Mommy, I love sitting here because no one can eat peanuts behind us and throw the shells on the floor."

Eventually though we had to move to our "regular" seats further down in the section which immediately stressed Liv out. As soon as we sat down she saw the guy behind us shoving peanuts in his face throwing the shells all over the ground and she burst into tears.

She was seriously scared.

And then we saw the backs of the seats were coated in little bits and pieces of peanut shells, including on the cup holders. This meant Liv couldn't put her beverage in the cup holder without risking touching peanut shells.

We didn't stay in those seats very long. I wasn't going to make Liv sit there and be scared.

Whether an allergic reaction was going to happen or not isn't the issue. My kid was scared and that was enough to make us move back inside the lounge.

I just wish that baseball stadiums - major and minor league - had a designated "nut free" zone for families dealing with food allergies. Sure some of the teams have "nut free" nights but one or two nights during a season just isn't enough when the rest of game are full of peanuts and shells all over the ground.

I'd really like to see these stadiums work with food allergy families and national organizations to develop safe zones for kids and adults with peanut allergies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - A Cupcake

This is one happy girl! A peanut and tree-nut free cupcake for dessert at Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom! When you aren't able to eat dessert at most restaurants it's a pretty BIG DEAL when you find a safe option. And the fact that it's a chocolate cupcake makes it that much better!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Just a Normal Day

OK, I know. I know.

I said I was going to TRY to post every day this month. But it WAS a holiday weekend. So I had a free pass, right? :)

Anyway...last Friday was a BUSY day around here. The girls had golf lessons in the morning, then we spent the day at the swimming pool (in the HOT sun), then we celebrated my niece's 10th birthday with a cookout and cake.

Olivia ate a lot of food. She skipped the birthday cake - I'm guessing because it was from a "new" place that she didn't feel comfortable with. But the cake was nut-free and peanut-free. Sometimes she just doesn't want to eat the safe foods.

What Olivia didn't do on Friday was drink enough fluids (as we would learn on Saturday...just wait for it).

She started complaining of a headache on Friday night and I passed it off as "too much sun."

When she got up on Saturday she said her head still hurt and she was thirsty. So she drank a glass of water. And she was hungry. So I made her pancakes (and by "made her pancakes" I mean I tossed 3 frozen pancakes in the microwave).

A few bites into her breakfast .... she throws up. All over the kitchen floor. The look of shock on her face was memorable to say the least.

My first thought? Not "Oh crap! Liv has the stomach bug!" but rather... "CRAP!!! What did she eat?? Is she having an allergic reaction to something?"

Now, even though I thought she was eating "safe" foods, "is it a reaction?" was still my first thought.

Because that's our reality.

In the end, we determined that she was dehydrated and drank too much water too fast first thing in the morning. By that night she was running through the golf course sprinklers with her cousins and eating (safe) s'mores.

Hope you all had a Happy (and allergy-free) Fourth of July.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I'm Trying To Say

So since this is my new blog I decided to challenge myself to try and write a post a day this entire month. It's part of the NaBloPoMo series with BlogHer. The theme for July is "Connect" which seems perfect for this blog since that's what I'm trying to do.

Today's writing prompt is sort of perfect: "Do people generally understand what you're trying to say?"

Um. No.

I don't think that most people do "get" what I'm trying to say when it comes to food allergies. Oh sure, there are a select few who "get it" - my family, some friends, and well that's about it.

When Olivia was first diagnosed with her food allergies someone actually posted on Facebook "It's not the end of the world."

No, it's not. And I never said back in 2011 that her food allergies were the end of the world. But they were the end of the way things were. Gone were the days of eating out wherever we wanted or grabbing a package of those "break-and-bake" cookies at the store. In one day everything about how Olivia ate was changed.

Fast forward a few years and as I become a louder advocate for my child and her food allergies I have found that many people choose to only hear what they want. Or they just don't listen at all.

I had a country club manager tell me last summer that food labels were only "created by lawyers" to protect companies.

Yeah. No.

I have been told to "step up" by other parents at Olivia's former elementary school when I pushed back on why everything has to revolve around food at school. I have been accused of wanting to create a nut-free school when in reality all I was asking for was some cooperation from other parents.

So you see, not everyone understands what I'm tying to say.

When I ask for a nut-free alternative at school events - for all kids with peanut and/or tree nut allergies, NOT just for my daughter - I'm not trying to be difficult or start an argument. I'm advocating for the safety of kids with food allergies. I'm doing my best to make sure that those kids aren't singled out for their food allergies but are instead invited to participate with all the other kids.

When I push back and demand to be heard it's not because I'm trying to be a bitch. It's because I want other parents to understand that it really does take a village to keep kids with food allergies safe. It's about inclusion not exclusion.

When I talk about food allergies at school it's not because I want a peanut-free school (although I wouldn't complain one bit if classrooms with food allergy kids banned cupcakes and cookies for parties and birthdays), it's because I want people to understand the seriousness of the issue. (And because I would like to see the end of birthday cupcakes and events centered around food.)

And when I hear other parents say things like "well that's not fair to the other kids" or "my child can ONLY eat peanut butter so too bad for you" I know that they aren't understanding the big picture.

Which is why I started this blog. To talk about that big picture. To talk about food allergies and how it's very likely that your child WILL have a classmate (or four) with some kind of food allergy. To talk about how great it is when people are supportive and protective of my child.

So hopefully people will understand what I'm trying to say here and are willing to listen. Because food allergies aren't going away. And neither am I.