Friday, December 16, 2011

Food allergy interview - Today Tonight

What a way to finish off this year - it's been just a year since I started on this blogging adventure and out of the blue, I received an email from a TV program here in Australia asking for an interview. Excited only describes one part of how I felt... there was also fear, anticipation and the realisation that my house needed urgent tidying!

I must say that we were delighted with the final product - we had been told that the program was about food allergies in children, but we had no expectation that our gorgeous boy would feature in such a major way. Especially since our interview was done just the day before the program went to air. I must also say a big Thank You to Jackie the interviewer and her crew for their patience during the interview and also their generosity in terms of putting the best of our son out there for all to see. They really are quite clever!

For those of us who live with food anaphylaxis, this program doesn't really bring any huge revelations. But for the general public, I think when more air time is given to this issue, it helps those of us who live with it day in and day out.

I feel I should add that when they say I believe genetics are to blame it sounds a bit depressing. The basis of the comment is that I don't believe our son's allergies are due to being too clean or a result of what I did or did not eat during pregnancy, or a result of not introducing certain foods early enough. The idea of distance from the equator was interesting - I've never heard of that before. Also, the idea that perhaps our immunisations and use of antibiotics could also contribute, was interesting. From our personal history, I probably ate way too many antibiotics as a child, while my husband probably never had any medication until his teens... so we're from quite different medical histories... I don't think it's conclusive.

From a parent's point of view - which parent wouldn't be glowing with pride and telling every living person about this interview! What a star of a boy :-)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lamb roast and pasta for the whole family - allergy free

When cooking for a child with multiple food allergies, finding meals that the whole family can eat and enjoy is like finding gold! There aren't any new ingredients in this one, but with a clever twist, we've managed to come up with a dish that is quite delicious for young and old. Oh, did I forget to mention it's dead easy?! If you have a slow cooker, you can also do this in there, but I'm too worried that our slow cooker is already contaminated with other ingredients, so I've used a corningware dish that can be put on the stove top then into the oven for slow cooking.
So here's the actual recipe:
800g of lamb, cut into pieces. I used lamb chops with bones in it to add flavour to the meal. You can use a cheap cut of lamb since the slow cooking makes the meat very tender and easy to chew. Also, the meat just falls off the bones when you serve it, so there's no need to be pedantic about your chopping.
400g tin of tomatoes
2T tomato paste
1 onion, sliced
2 or 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 large handful of red grapes - this is my secret ingredient! Our son still can't have meat stock cubes, nor can we add wine (which may contain traces of egg due to processing), so grapes is actually a sensible alternative, and definitely gives it a taste of sophistication.
300g dried pasta

1. Use medium heat for the corning ware dish on the stove. Then add oil and brown the lamb.
2. Add onions and saute slightly.
3. Add tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots and grapes. You could also add mushrooms or any other vegetable you fancy. Stir, bring to the boil then turn off and put the lid on.
4. Transfer to the oven, set at 180deg celsius and cook for about an hour or more if you have time. The longer you cook, the tastier and the more tender. But probably no more than 3 hours.
5. Add about 300g of your favourite pasta - we used Coles Organic Penne pasta. Stir in well. Make sure all your pasta is covered in juice. If it isn't, simply add enough hot water to cover the pasta and stir it through. Cook another 30 mins in the oven with the lid on.

Voila! ready to serve. Season with salt. You could garnish it with chopped parsley or even a dollop of greek yoghurt for those who aren't allergic to dairy.

Sadly I've since discovered that the ingredients used in the tomato paste that I used to use in a squeeze pack has changed. Suddenly they have all these other ingredients I guess to help with the sqeezability. Oh well, just as well I checked the packaging - it's back to the old jars for me - just pure tomatoes, the good old fashioned way. Just a reminder that we need to check the labels every time we buy something, so don't get lazy! 

Happy eating!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Additional Emergency Information for Medical Staff

I've been trying to read as much as possible about the management of anaphylaxis and anything else do to with that. After experiencing our first official anaphylactic emergency, I have to say I'm glad with the information contained in these two documents. Childcare dutifully passed on the information directly to ambulance paramedics who immediately passed it onto hospital medical staff. There's nothing like something written in black and white to make sure people fully understand what they're dealing with. I could just imagine that if his stay had to be longer, the safe foods list could have been photocopied for the kitchen too.

I keep thinking that we should also get one of those Medic Bracelets with our son's allergies, but all this additional information is also important and goes beyond what an emergency hotline would hold I think... correct me if I'm wrong here!

So anyway, here are my thoughts on these matters:

Ambulance ride to hospital
If your child needs to go to hospital, you really want to be there for the ride in the ambulance etc. But what if you're not there? What if an incident happens at childcare for example? What if your child gets to hospital and it takes you a little bit longer to get there? You hope that the transfer of information occurs, but in reality, in the midst of an emergency, I can imagine and even understand if not all the correct information gets passed on.

So, I've just spent some time putting together a package for childcare that they can pass on to ambulance officers, who will hopefully then pass the information to hospital staff. This includes a photocopy of our son's Emergency Action Plan with the list of all his allergies, a summary of doctors and specialist contact numbers, our contact numbers, other back up names and numbers, as well as our son's Safe Foods List. Oh and I've also put the names of medications that he may be on. I've printed it on orange/red paper so that it stands out. I've also laminated it :-) This little package will go into our son's emergency pack so that if they ever have to use the Epipen, it'll be ready to go.All this is especially important when our kids are young and perhaps not able to communicate the full extent of their allergies.
 Car Accident
After putting that together, I started to think... what if we have a car accident and our son is with us, but we're incapacitated? So off to the printers I go, another set for the car. I think I'll put this in the seat pocket - again in red, with perhaps a large medical cross on it.

With immediate family all living interstate, childcare are the most knowledgeable concerning our son's allergies. They are the only ones who cook for him, apart from my husband and I. So, I print out a letter of authorisation to release information. This allows childcare to tell medical staff, and even our friends who are our emergency contacts information that may be helpful if they need to provide food or care for our son.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Safe Foods List for Childcare

When we first enrolled our son into proper childcare, I decided to put together a list of foods that he could eat, to provide the cook a firm foundation to work with. I included specific product brands and also broke the list up into different sections to allow for easy substitutions to be made.

Whenever I do an update, I am slightly pleased that there is pretty much no more room left on an A4 sheet! What a long way we have come from the early days.

However, I have to admit, I still do get a little down every now and then. After a couple of scares at childcare concerning another child with allergies, the center seems to have put a lot of extra effort in training new staff and just thinking beyond the most obvious allergens. The center gets a special activity in about once a month - which is quite a treat for the kids. One month, they got an animal farm in - something our son would have loved. It wasn't rostered on one of his days, so we missed out on that one. However, about a month after the event, the center director pulled me aside. She explained that she had initially planned it for a day when our son wasn't around, just in case, but once the animals arrived, she realised that there was animal food strewn over the grassed area. It wasn't possible to collect all the remnants and so our son's group had not used this outdoor area for about a month, just in case. I was pleased about the thought she had put into it. I suggested that the normal weather conditions would probably have broken down allergens after a month, and that we would just have to risk it. Then, a week later, she gave me a list of all the ingredients, after she'd contacted the animal company. How nice is that? As it turns out, oats was on the list, and that is one of our son's allergens. So, I think it was wise to leave the garden fallow, so to speak. It's been 2 months of Melbourne weather... all I can do is hope that really is long enough. My guess is that the animal farm probably won't be back for a while, unless they do it in the carpark next time... or perhaps I can report that our son is no longer allergic to oats. There's always hope.

So here's a copy of our son's Safe Foods List - I try to regularly update Childcare with any new foods and also keep a copy on the back of my pantry door for my husband to look at, if he's in doubt. I hope you find it helpful too.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Additional Information for an Anaphylaxis Emergency

It's been over a month since our first experience with an Anaphylaxis emergency so there's been a bit of time to digest it all. Since then, our son has returned to Childcare, but after 3 weeks, we had another milder incident where he started wheezing quite badly, sounding like an asthmatic. The worst part of this was not his illness, since he was actually chatting non-stop through it all, showing he couldn't have been that distressed. The worst part was that my husband and I had finally planned to both take a day off while our son was in care... this was our first "date" in a year! We were just about to go out on our lunch date when we got the call... I nearly cried.

So off to the GP we went. We think it was another allergic reaction, but again there was no identifiable cause. It took the Zyrtec a little while to kick in, so we still got the asthma medication as a back up. Plus the silicone mask, plus the chamber they recommend for young kids. Oh yeah, better get two of everything, one for us, one for childcare... the costs are crazy!

This second reaction was quite different from anything we've had before. The only thing I've narrowed it down to is that the childcare had recently got a gold fish and our son's friend had fed the fish that morning, by tipping the container. The fish food has Krill in it... I'm guessing that if our son is allergic to prawns, he's probably allergic to krill... so there you go, our son can't feed fish either, and all the kids have to wash their hands immediately after.

Anyway, I'd better get down to business. Here are the things we've now added to our emergency bags. We have an emergency bag in each of our cars, in addition to whatever we might carry on a normal outing.
- a full change of clothes - as soon as our son has a reaction, we will change him completely in case any more contaminant remains on his clothes.
- a plentiful supply of wet wipes - while we were waiting in hospital for over 4 hours after the adrenaline injection, you wouldn't believe how many times we had to wipe his hands, or our hands, or the furniture around us.
- long life food - 4 hours is a long time and although we could survive on vending machine food, it's not an option for a highly allergic kid. We have an unopened pack of Chang's crunchy noodles ready at all times now. In our recent time at hospital, it was fortunate that my husband and I were both present. My husband stayed with our son in hospital while I made the mad dash to the nearby shops for food for our son's dinner. The area wasn't familiar, so my only option ended up being the fruit shop. I bought nearly every fruit and veg our son could eat without cooking, a bottle of water, some extra wet wipes, and a little bit of food for ourselves. My husband had actually been interstate just a few days before. So if the timing wasn't as perfect, I would have been the only person to keep my son company... and a trip to the shops would not have been an option. You see? All these things you just don't think of! Up till now of course. The other option is putting a hiatus on long trips for my husband... that's in place too... at least for a little while.
- my normal outing bag now also contains a small bottle of antihistimine Zyrtec, next to the Epipen. I realised that if we started to have a mild reaction, it's better to start off with the Zyrtec, rather than having to go to the Epipen straight away. I didn't realise they have a concentrated serum - much more convenient to carry.
- a copy of our safe foods list, along with all doctor's information. I still have to put a copy of this on the blog - I'm really quite proud of it, especially after getting such praise from the medical staff when it came with our son in the ambulance. I promise I'll get to this soon - I just have to hop on the right computer to download it.

So that's it so far, all the extra things that make all the difference. In the end though, the timing was as good as it possibly could be, given the situation. For that I am always grateful... plus the fact that our son recovered just fine of course. A mother's only wish.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


There are many theories on grief in counselling circles. They used to say you would move from one stage to another, but nowadays, there's an acknowledgement that we are more likely to jump around from one stage to another and back again. Anniversaries or significant events often trigger more intense feelings. This means that birthdays, Christmas, any other food-related event can be a reminder or what's been lost.

So for allergies, grief comes because we've lost a way of life, we've lost a freedom that we took for granted. We have also lost the dreams of what we thought life would look like for our child. I was just watching a movie the other day and it dawned on me that our son would not be able to simply kiss a girl when he is a teenager, incase she had just drunk cow's milk. Can you imagine a teenage boy asking a girl to first brush her teeth before they kissed? Forget it! So that means, a kiss could be lethal... just like in the horror films, except this is everyday life for him. Sigh, all I can be grateful for is that he is only two now. Grief is a big part of dealing with food allergies, and how we deal with this grief can determine whether we continue to move on, or whether we get stuck.

These are some basic stages of grief and examples of what it sounds like in everyday life:
Denial or shock - "I can't believe this is happening... it can't be true"
Anger - "I hate this... I hate everything... it's not fair"
Guilt - "If only I hadn't done it like that...Maybe I should have done things differently?"
Bargaining - "God, if I do/don't do this, will you make it all better?"
Acceptance - "My life is different now. What else can I do now?"

I'm guessing that as our boy grows up, we'll go through each of these stages again. Each year brings new realisations about allergies and what it means for our son and for us as parents.

I do live in hope that the allergies will decrease or maybe even disappear, but part of what helps me accept this way of life is when I can find ways in which my life or perhaps the life of another is helped by us having to travel this journey.

"For God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him
and are called according to His will." Romans 8:28.

Yes, somehow, someway, our son's allergies will be used for good. I hope this is true for you too in whatever challenges you face.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pleasant surprises for an allergy mum

It's October and I'm a little fatigued by the number of birthday parties we've been to. Our son is 2 and I think we've been to nearly 10 this year! I've read of other mums just saying no to parties, but our son is very sociable and really does love going... of course! But each party brings extra work and stress for the parents of allergy kids. There are a lot of reasons to complain about the in-sensitivity of many people we meet, but today, I had the priviledge to think about the generosity and sensitivity of people we've met.

We went to a 3 year old birthday party today of a boy our child met through childcare. I had never met the parents, nor any of the other people at the party so I was a little hesitant about going - it's hard enough when we know only half the people there, and we have to be on super alert to watch that our son doesn't touch anything that's going to kill him. When it's all strangers... I did tell the mum before hand that she didn't need to order any food for our son since we'd be bringing all his food.

I still am amazed... during the party, the birthday boy's mother came up with a special present just for our son, since he wasn't able to eat the party food.... it was a toy monster truck! Our son's absolute favourite at the moment. So in the end, rather than our son feeling like he had been left out, he left feeling like he was the most special boy in the world... well, along side the birthday boy :-)

Then it reminded me of another mum who specifically asked what brand and flavour jelly our son can eat and made those jellies for her daughter's birthday party. Plus, the goody bag had raisins in it, the exact brand that our son has.

Such special effort from people I have just met or I have known for a while... it doesn't make any difference. But it's nice to take the time to remember just how many lovely and considerate people are out there, and that we are blessed in extra ways because of the allergies our son has.

Thank you Maria and Helene, your consideration has warmed my heart and the heart of my son.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Anaphylaxis emergency #1

Well, we're part of the club now. A week on from our first emergency trip to the hospital and I still get upset at times. We do everything humanly possible to prevent contact with all our son's food allergens, but in the end, it happens. I guess that's why we have emergency plans. We actually still don't know what caused his allergic reaction - I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about that.

He was at childcare, seemed a little bit off and slightly itchy during the morning, then in the afternoon while playing outside he really started reacting. Swelling of the skin, vomitted and started going dopey - if you know our son, that is really out of character! The childcare staff rang and kept me informed throughout. In the end, they called an ambulance which got there really quickly. Hubbie got there soon after and I met them at emergency department of the hospital. The staff were super.

The ambulance paramedics gave him an adrenaline shot on the way to hospital and by the time they arrived, our son was chatting away happily, wanting to know the name and purpose for everything. We had to stay at hospital for four hours of monitoring, and I am also thankful that he didn't have any secondary reaction. We know this time at least, that the adrenaline worked well, along with his antihistimine.

In the grand scheme of things, everything has worked out really well. But, certainly for the first few days, I couldn't tell the story without bursting into tears. Our son? Well, this all happened on Friday, on Sunday, he sat in the car and asked whether he could go in an ambulance again. I said "No, it's someone else's turn today." It's great that he wasn't traumatised by it. I do however get a little sad when he's role playing and ambulances, along with doctors, special masks, heart monitors and blood pressure are all involved. A 2 year old boy should not have to know such detail.

He's back at childcare and I do have to admit my phone was always in arm's reach for the first two days. So far so good, and hopefully there will be considerable time before we have to do that again!

There's little lessons I've learned, and I'll put them in a follow up post.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chang's crunchy snacks

I'm the newest fan of the brand Chang's. I first came across it because it was in the health food section of my supermarket, where we often buy things. I started with their gluten free Tamari Hoi Sin sauce - leading to a new range of asian style foods for our boy. Our latest additions are Chang's Original Fried Noodles and Chang's Crunchy Noodles. These are great because they can be stored in the pantry, eaten straight out of the packet, or used to liven up other dishes. As I've said before, I am dubious about imported products from Asia but the gluten free tag encouraged me to give it a go. Since then, I've discovered that these noodles are actually made in Australia, so hopefully product control is more stringent. The best test? Our son's had quite a bit of these lately, and no signs of a rash so far. I'll be on the look out for more products by them now!
Parents of non-allergy kids will sometimes wonder why I get so excited about processed food like this. Well, everytime we go out, we have to bring absolutely everything for our son. We can't get by with breaking off some of our food, or cutting a bit of whatever to give our son to taste. Plus, if I want to have any chance of enjoying my food, I need to make sure the food I bring along is just as exciting for our son. Thus, any new discovery that reduces the need for me to cook is a super bonus!

Do you have products or sauces at home that you use for your toddler? Have a look at the label. Does it contain traces of milk, egg or nuts? Is it free from coconut, sesame, oats, shellfish, any fish apart from salmon and tuna? If the answer is yes, and in particular, if it is a sauce used to flavour your dishes, please let me know, so we can give it a try!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Our son had just finished his bath and as I was drying him, insisted on wanting to play with a blanket of his. As a result, I took the blanket off him so I could finish the job at hand and said that if he wanted it back, he would have to say "Sorry mummy."

He cried ,"No, I don't want to say sorry mummy!" ... Well, then you can't have the blanket back.
He then asks whether his toy dog can say sorry mummy instead. So here he is in his fresh pyjamas, holding out his dog, saying in the sweetest of voices, "Sorry mummy." Well, my heart melts, but that's not the point of this exercise is it? I explained that his dog hasn't been naughty, he has, so he needs to say sorry.

Still, he refuses. In the end, I told him how easy it is. "Just say sorry mummy, then I'll give you a kiss and a cuddle and you can play with the blanket again!" In the end, he did and he got the kiss and cuddle, and also the blanket, which he played with for all of 5 seconds before moving onto the next thing.

Isn't this just an example of how proud we can be - even at such a young age, when not much is at stake? How important it is to teach our kids how to say sorry and ask for forgiveness. How important it is to teach them how to forgive too ... maybe in another post.

How many times have you met someone who couldn't say sorry? As if uttering those words would somehow kill them? It all begins now, when they're so little.

This is the follow on to a post I did ages ago on Guilt. We've got to teach our kids to take responsibility for their actions and admit they're guilty when they've done something wrong. This includes admitting they are guilty for pushing another kid, even if that other kid did start it. But as I said last time, it doesn't end there. The next step is asking forgiveness and hopefully receiving it. Then, there's restoration.

So in our example? If I want our son to be able to ask for forgiveness, then I can remind him what happens when there is restoration in a kiss and a cuddle. Once forgiven, we make a fresh start :-) I know this is a lesson that will be learned many times over - but isn't it great to know that no matter how many mistakes you make, your mum and dad will be there to forgive you and reach out again in love.

As I type this, I know that not every person has received this type of love from their mum and dad, and find it so hard to forgive and love again (in the bigger world I mean). So if we haven't received this forgiveness and love from others, how can we give it out? Surely, we must find forgiveness ourselves, then will be able to forgive others.

"You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
for you will answer me."
Psalm 86:5-7

I'm hoping this is not coming across as self-righteous - my first post on Guilt was actually because I was guilty. Guilty in so many ways, and so this path of asking forgiveness and being restored again through love is something I'm learning and practising everyday. This is something that's brought freedom to my life and something I'm hoping to pass onto our son too.

I hope this path of guilt, forgiveness and restoration brings freedom to your life too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Asian style mince with noodles

I'm of Chinese heritage, while my husband is Australian. Our son knows he is "half Aussie and half Chinese." That doesn't sound very interesting in type, but it is gorgeous when he says it in person.

I'm a little dubious about using imported products, especially asian products which could easily be contaminated by peanuts or something similar. If they can stuff up baby milk powder then you just don't know what could happen with other products.

But alas, in my desire to feed our son a little more variety, I am on the search for products I can use. I look for products that specifically have allergy advice on it. If it has a label saying "gluten free" I'm hoping that their manufacturing controls are more seriously enforced and therefore safer for our son. Australian made always inspires a little more confidence but that's not always easy to find.

If you're in Australia, I'd be most interested to know what sauces other allergy mums use. You'll give me more confidence to try and expand to even more flavours.

So here's my recipe for Asian style mince - actually my picture is when I served it with San Remo Soup Pasta, but you could do anything - rice noodlse, spaghetti, soup pasta ... I believe it's called fusion!

Eskal rice noodles - cook according to packet directions.
Or serve it with pasta, rice or potato.

500g beef mince
1 onion, diced
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 handful of beans, diced or perhaps 1C frozen peas
2T Abundant Earth Tamari rdeuced salt soy sauce (wheat free)
1T Chang's Tamari Hoi Sin sauce (gluten free)
1 stock cube (optional)

Brown the beef and onion in whatever oil you use. We use sunflower oil.
Add vegetables and sauce, bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer.
Our son doesn't use any store bought stock yet, but to flavour the adult portion I added a stock cube and sprinkled chilli flakes on top.
Simmer at least 5 mins to cook the vegetables, or longer if you want the mince to break up more.
Add water if it starts to get too dry.
Add cooked rice noodles or pasta, stir to combine.

Best served in a character bowl like Bob the Builder!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Look and Find Tigger - Book Review

A toddler's life is full of fun, and hopefully the life of their mother and father can be equally as full of fun if we take the time to relax and enjoy.

We've just completed a census in Australia, and it was interesting and slightly scary, just how many hours I spend on housework every week. This included cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, washing etc. Realising that it is nearly equivalent to a full time job explains why I do seriously get so sick of it! I just can't imagine how mothers used to handle it in the days before automated washing machines, microwaves, dish washers and late night shopping! I still can't imagine those mums who use cloth nappies either, but that's for another post. Sorry, I didn't mean to allienate some of you super conscientious mums.

Being a mum of a child with life-threatening food allergies means a slightly increased load of washing since any splash of milk or sauce that I get on my clothes means it has to go into the wash. Perhaps I need to eat more carefully and not just shovel food into my mouth?? But sometimes mums have to eat very fast indeed!

Anyway, so this post is dedicated to the fun we have, in the midst of life-threatening food allergies.
I just borrowed a book called Look and Find Tigger. It's gorgeous and similar to the Where's Wally series, except it features Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and friends. Most kids will already be familiar with these characters so the aim is to find them in the midst of all the crazy pictures. The pictures are quite detailed, so the book can amuse them for quite some time. Once you find the characters, there are lots of other little things to look for. The uniqueness is in the attention to detail.
The reason I mention this book is because of the importance of a child being able to read food labels in the future. Words can be quickly recognised, but I didn't really want our son's first reading words to be all the foods he can't eat. Talk about demoralising! Plus, even when he can recognise the word milk, egg or nut. What if the labels says Milk-free or Egg-free? What if he reads that, but then the food isn't Nut-free? So reading labels will be important but obviously not yet.

It is actually the ability to scan and recognise characters in different forms that is being developed by these books or games. For mums who have to read food labels, being able to quickly scan very wordy labels is definitely an advantage. For those who are interested, this ability features in your standard IQ test, so check out this book if you want your child to score well in this sort of test. Or, if you just like Tigger and want to snuggle up with a good book and lovely child, this book is for you too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How to teach a young child about their anaphylaxis - Part 2

This is Part 2 of tips and tricks for teaching a young child about anaphylaxis. This doesn't include teaching a child how to inject themselves... we haven't got to that stage yet. Our son is only 2 at the time of writing. But if your child is older than this and you have other tips, please feel free to add them.

When our son first discovered wild mushrooms he just couldn't help himself. He'd be climbing on some play equipment and stop suddenly when he noticed a mushroom, seriously, as small as a pin head. At this stage we hadn't tried mushrooms at all, so it wasn't something I wanted him to play with. So my first point of call was "No, that will make you sick." That didn't work... so I decided to allow him to play with it, but only using a large stick. Yup that's right folks, if you can't beat them, join them! On some occasions, I'd tell him, "No, that stick is too small, you need a bigger one." Of course, which boy wouldn't want to find a bigger stick. So this technique seemed to work, and I guess could be employed for things that aren't life-threatening, but still not desirable. We also used this opportunity to distinguish between food bought at the shops and things found in the wild.

Bath games - my husband is responsible for this one. We've got toy cups in the bath, so they'd fill up cups, pretend that one was soy, the other milk, then offer it to each other. Sometimes, they'd get it wrong, and the person would start coughing. Other times, they'd get it right, "Mmm, delicious." Then if there are bubbles in the bath, it'd be coffee made from cow's milk or soy.

Emergency information - I've laminated a card with emergency information and approved foods for our son,. This is placed in the pocket in front of our son's car seat. I've told our son that if we are in an accident, then he has to give that "ticket" to the policeman or to get into the ambulance. He already likes policemen and ambulances, so that's an important thing to encourage too. I'm not sure if he'll actually remember this when the time comes, but the best I can do is try. I'll put the logic and details of this emergency information in another post.

Books - the more books and other people you can reference about food allergies the better. That means you can say, "No, you can't eat that food, it'll make you sick. If Mia eats it, she will get sick too." This is particularly helpful if they actually like the person you're referring to of course.

That's all I can think of at the moment - if you think of another good way, please let me know. The more we can educate our kids, the better. And the more fun we can make it, perhaps the better they'll remember it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to teach a young child about their anaphylaxis - Part 1

Our son is only 2 years old. By no means am I the expert. I thought I'd start this post in the hope that other parents who have more experience than me will be able to contribute their ideas on what has worked and what hasn't. When you add your comments, could you include what age group it applies to? That will help other readers to... and if I get enough comments, I'll try and collate it according to age.

Some of the ideas I've listed are based on general parenting principles, but they have specific relevance I think when it comes to teaching children how to deal with their anaphylaxis. I am sure that as time passes, we will learn more and more about how to teach our child. We'd better anyway!

Responding to "No!" or "Stop!"- I have to admit that this is clearly an area where we struggle.Teaching a toddler to stop when they hear your stern voice would be soooooo helpful, especially when there are so many dangers around (allergy ones in particular). But we also have to work within the knowledge that curiosity is such a driving force for young ones. Sometimes their impulses are much faster than their ability to transfer hearing to thinking to action or stopping of an action.

Understanding what is a toy and what is not - from an early age we've taught our son that some things are not for him. "That's mummy's, it is not a toy. Your toys are over there." So the principle is redirection. They pick up your phone, you say no and redirect them to their toy phone. They go to your bookshelf and start pulling everything down... you say no and show them what is theirs. How is this helpful? I think it helps later on when there is food on the the table, and you say no, this is not where you play, your toys are over there.

Increased understanding of food - this includes knowing the names of foods, but also how to describe food and to some degree how foods are made. One of the fun things we have been doing is cooking with our son. He absolutely loves tasting all the ingredients. Today he tasted raw onion and pretty much spat it out. Funny! But then I told him that we have to cook it... then he gets to eat it again... Yum! Learning the different ways to describe taste encourages him to think about what is in his mouth. So learning how to detect sweet, sour, hot, cold and bitter. Even learning textures, like crunchy, soggy, smooth or rough.

Learning what makes him "sick" - this is the word we have used to describe his allergies. He knows that eating milk, eggs and prawns will make him sick. For some reason we haven't covered nuts... better put that on my to-do list. So when he asks if he can eat something, I'll say, "No, that's got cow's milk in it, so it'll make you sick."

Food toys - At a younger age, I avoided buying toy food. I didn't want my son putting a toy egg in his mouth, then finding a real one and eating or even touching it. However, now that he knows he can't eat some of these foods, I've found the toy foods very useful. He'll pretend to eat a slice of plastic cheese (the toy one I mean) then start coughing because he's sick. Sometimes we'll get him a piece of something else to eat, and I'll get the cheese. Or sometimes, I'll ask him, what kind of cheese is that? Soy or cow? If he says Soy, then we cheer and get to eat it.

The food chain - we often play with toy animals pretending to feed them. Who gets to eat grass? Who gets to eat a bone? If a cow eats a bone, he'll get sick. If dogs eat grass, they won't get bigger and bigger. What food makes you get bigger and faster? What food makes you sick? What happens if you eat grass? Yeah, best to cover all options :-) Obviously not all these questions are asked in one sitting, or the poor child won't want to play with you anymore!

Boy, this is a really long post... Ok, this is Part 1. I'm sure a Part 2 will follow soon enough. Don't forget to let me know what other ideas you have. I'm all ears!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Soy everything!

The most amusing aspect of using soy products is that our son now thinks that if everything is soy based, he can eat it! I tell him that he can't eat cow's cheese, but he can have soy cheese. He can't have cow's milk, but he can have soy milk. So when Playschool, a children's program he absolutely loves, had adults making crackers with peanut butter, he asked if he could eat it. I said, "No Matthew, peanut butter will make you sick." His reply? "Not peanut butter, SOY peanut butter." Ah, if only life was that simple!

Our son has tried a lot of new Soy products recently - I'm not necessarily a fan, but he seems alright with some of them. There's a peculiar taste about them, but if you've never had the dairy equivalent, perhaps you wouldn't mind. Ice-cream is a particular favourite, especially since the children on TV always seem to be eating it.

I serve it in mini cones made by Altimate - they contain wheat and soy, but apart from that, are everything else free. Actually, our son used to eat them plain before he was allowed icecream - I told him it was a rocket and he was pretty happy with that. The mini cones are perfect for small hands and mouths, but expect some mess as it starts to melt.

Our son still has digestive problems with long life or UHT soy milk, so I only give him small serves of these products at a time. As with anything else, always check the labels every time you buy it.

So Good Soy Icecream - chocolate flavour

Kingland Soy Cream Cheese - our son quite likes little spoonfuls of this stuff - a little bit sour for some reason, but not too bad. I think some people use this in lasagna type recipes, so perhaps if it's melted it could be nice too.

Kingland Soy Youghurt - I really dislike this one, and our son was not keen either. We only tried the plain flavour - perhaps the fruit flavours are better. I thought I'd put it in the list, just in case others have different taste buds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to manage your child's life-threatening food allergies Book Review

How to manage your child's life-threatening food allergies by Linda Mareinhoff Coss.

The first time I read this book, I was basically filled with fear and trepidation. We had been living with the knowledge of our son's life-threatening allergies for about a year and a half already and I thought I had it mostly worked out... but I didn't... actually I still don't! 

This book is a great resource and I wish that I had read it in the early days. We had worked out a lot of the tips about going out or going on vacation, so if I'd read this first, we probably wouldn't have had to learn things the slower or harder way. However, I do feel quite proud of myself for having worked out some of these tips ourselves too. 

This book made me very grateful for the country we live in. In Autralia, we don't have to worry about restaurants with peanut shells all over the floor; we don't have to worry about peanuts being thrown into the air at a sporting match, and we have definitely had a good experience with respect to our allergy specialist, the information he gave us and the general protocols concerning emergency medication and emergency protocols.

So what caused the fear and trepidation? All the suggestions about how to handle school. We've again been very blessed with a good experience at childcare but I now realise that primary school will be a completely new kettle of fish... filled with kids with milk, egg and nut products. And it's not just the kids, but teachers and other parents... all with lollies, chocolates, cakes and other treats that spells trouble with a capital T for us.

Thank you Linda for putting your insights into an easy to read, but harder to digest book. I've also got her cook book and am gradually working my way through some of those recipes... much easier to digest! Haha, stay tuned.

Verdict: a very handy book - get yourself a copy if your child suffers from food allergies. I've read my copy at least three times in three months and I'll be sure to keep flicking through the chapters again as we go through each new stage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Steak and chips

Just had this tonight and loved it for oh so many reasons!

1. Our son cleaned up his plate and even had a second serve of chips... pretty big meal for a 2 year old. Dessert was a mandarin :-)

 2. The grown up meal looks remarkably similar right?! That's right folks, I only cooked one meal today. We had our steak with a smear of Dijon mustard... yum!

3. This is the clean up... seriously, just a pan, two trays, plus one bowl that I microwaved the vegies in. Even just using one utensil means less washing up.

For Australian readers, I used Birds Eye Golden Crunch Chips - supposed to be egg free, dairy free, nut free, but check the packaging each time, just in case. I also line the tray for our son just in case there are traces of other oils on there from previous cooking. But seriously, how simple is that?!

Big tick from my hubby too - what man can resist a good steak and chips?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tips for non-allergy friends

If you knew that after every outing your child would come home with diaorreah, would you go to these places? What would you do?

It's probably too easy for me and other allergy parents to become cynical in our approach to others. So I thought I'd try and put together some top tips for how others can help. Although our son has numerous known anaphylactic allergies, all his food is carefully selected to ensure it does not cause him harm. Lollies, crackers and jellies - although these may not cause a anaphylactic reaction, could cause our son to have digestive or skin irritations that lasts for days.
     1. If you have kids, please please please don't let them walk around with food. I try and teach our son to sit and eat. Then we clean his hands and he is free to play. Although our motivation is allergy-based, I'm sure that there are advantages of teaching children to appreciate their food and thus lessen likelihoods of obesity. There's advantages of a cleaner house, cleaner toys - definitely worth the training!
     2. Although our son is incredibly cute, and probably irresistible, please don't hold his hands, please don't touch his face unless you know that your hands are 100% clean. If you've handled any food, DON"T TOUCH OUR SON! I know physical touch is incredibly important, especially for little ones. May I suggest that a pat on the back or on the shoulders is a better option.
     3. If you see some food or drink spilled somewhere, please help to clean it up - we'll be eternally grateful, as will your host.
     4. If you see leftover food or wrappers lying around, please help to clean it up.
     5. Don't try and give us your theories on allergies - I've heard it all: "It's because our society is too clean" - actually our family was not that clean before; "You just need to give them a little bit more each time and their body will get used to it" - actually that's how our son would most certainly die since every taste or contact brings us closer to that ever life-threatening threshold; "if you do/don't eat it during pregnancy..." - actually I ate heaps of milk and eggs, and hardly any nuts... so where's the trend there?

Having said all this, I have to admit that we have a wonderful bunch of friends around us. Some are more allergy-aware than others, but all of them want to do the best by our family. Hey, we were definitely NOT allergy aware until our little boy demanded we be. So thank you to all of you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More snacks - dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free

Wow, I'm delighted to list our latest snack-time discoveries. It really does take some time to find products that are suitable for our son given he has such severe food allergies, but when I do, it's like finding treasure! I'm quite impressed at this list - just goes to show that life isn't all bad (tell that to my last post!)

Sorry, but if I was really keen I'd put proper links, but my in-laws are in town, so there's no time... hope you can manage to find these in your local supermarkets too. If you know of other allergy-free snacks, I'd love to know them! (I'll let you in on a secret... I'm currently contemplating giving our son cubes of sugar as a lolly/candy alternative... I haven't consulted my husband... I know what his answer will be. We haven't bought any normal sweets yet because I think our son is also anaphylactic to rockmelon/canteloupe. We haven't tried any foods with mixed fruit flavours in case this is a fruit they use. Do you think there's a difference between eating a cube of sugar compared to having any other lolly? It's Ok, I don't think my husband reads my blog, so it'll stay our secret!)

Here's the list that doesn't include cubes of sugar:

Red Rock Deli  Sea salt flavour- plain potato crisps fried in sunflower oil and of course salt. Oh so yummy for kiddies and adults alike.

Doritos Original - corn chips - a little harder for the little ones to digest, but yummy too. Just make sure you check the packaging each time because I can imagine that they might start manufacturing these on the same equipment as the cheese flavoured chips at some stage - making it prone to contamination.

Parker's Baked Wheat Twists - oven-baked pretzels - this is one for American and Aussie readers alike! I think the novelty is their shape and of course those rather large salt crytals sprinkled all over them.

Dried fruit - there are so many dried fruits available these days, apart from the usual sultanas. Dried fruit, snap dried fruit, freeze dried fruit - each of them have a different texture and taste, so if you're limited in fruit choices, try the same fruits, dried in a different manner. You will be pleasantly surprised! Grapes, strawberries, apples - just check the packaging to make sure all the ingredients are safe for you.

Cereal - packaged cereal makes a great snack when you're out and about. They keep well in small containers, so you can keep them in the bags for longer (if your kids don't find them first!) Examples include: Nutrigrain, Honey O's, Corn puffs, Fruit loops (from the health section), even corn flakes!

Tinned food -  tinned food is great for travelling. Small tins of corn, chick peas or kidney beans can keep a child amused and fed for some time.

When searching for more snack or food ideas, don't forget to try different aisles. Apart from the health food aisle, sometime there are treasure in the baby food aisle that can still be suitable for older children. The pureed fruits are a great option in the baby aisle, but contain fewer additives and sugar than the pureed fruit in the normal aisles.

Happy shopping and happy snacking!

If you have a favourite, please let us know.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Not quite so simple

This is another one of my favourites from Tiffany's blog at FoodAllergyFun.

Most people we come across are genuine in their concern for our son when they hear about his life-threatening allergies. Many presume to understand our situation, with comments like "Oh yes, there are so many kids these days who can't even touch a peanut." Yes, that's our son... except he can't touch milk, eggs, all sorts of nuts including peanuts, oats and shellfish. When he was younger, he couldn't touch wheat. "Oh well, as long as they are epi-pen trained." Well actually, that is the absolute minimum of what is required. Training needs to go so much further than what to do in an emergency situation.

I have to admit that I'm in a particularly bad mood today. Be warned.

Most days I deal with our son's allergies in a proactive, pragmatic fashion. Some days, like today, the frustration boils over, and as I drop my cooking utensil onto the floor... BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEP!

Why the hell do I have to cook two meals all the time? Why do I have to turn off the other pot, just so there's no splatter into our son's food? Why? Why? Why?

Oh well, before I get a chance to answer those questions, better quickly clean up the splattered mess on the floor before our son walks in.

So no, life is not that simple. The answers I seek are not that simple. Anyway, even if I knew these answers, would it change anything? Probably not.

Deal with it, you're a mum now... maybe it is that simple.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Very fancy fish and chips

This is our version of fish and chips. I'm not sure if our son can eat other types of fish or not - early on we were told not to try white fish since he was probably allergic. Salmon and tuna are apparently the least likely to cause allergies. Fresh tuna is hard to come by and our son isn't too keen on tinned plain tuna. So, we basically have pan fried salmon on a regular basis. I've also stopped buying salmon from the local fish shop since there's a high chance of contamination from other white fish or prawns (which we know are a no no). So, my solution is to buy pre-packaged salmon fillets that are hopefully cut on a mass scale and less likely to be contaminated. So far so good.

So here we have, very fancy fish and chips - basically pan fried salmon fillets served with home made potatoe chips fried in sunflower oil. A light sprinkling of salt or a little bit of soy sauce and voila! Talk about spoilt!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chocolate Chip cookies

This dairy, egg and nut free recipe was definitely a hit - all the family loves them and they're a great treat to share with friends. They're also shellfish and sesame free, but that's what you'd hope for in choc chip cookies!

When my husband is around, we make it together with our 2 year old son. He loves tasting all the ingredients as they are added (yes, even the flour, and especially the salt). The uncooked dough is also yummy to eat... so much so that when the cookies were finally out of the oven, he only ate half of one since he'd already gutsed himself on the dough!

I've also popped a few into the freezer in a zip-lock bag, so hopefully they'll taste nice too.
 Chocolate Chip Cookies
1C Nuttelex
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1t vanilla extract
3T sunflower oil, 3T water and 1 1/2 t baking powder, mixed together (this is to replace egg)
2 1/4 C plain flour
1t baking powder
1t salt
2C Sweet William Chocolate chips - dairy and nut free

Preheat oven to 170deg C.
In a large bowl, cream together margarine, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add oil-water-baking powder mixture to dough. Mix well. Mix in flour, remaining 1t baking powder and salt. Mix well. Stir in choc chips.

Form cookie balls, about 2cm diameter. Place balls approx 5cm apart on greaseproof paper (just to reduce the risk of contamination). Cook for about 10 minutes, or less if you make the balls smaller for smaller mouths.

This recipe is adapted from "What's to Eat? The milk-free, egg-free, nut-free Food Allergy Cookbook" by Linda Coss.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Party food we dread

This is one of my favourites from Tiffany's blog at FoodAllergyFun.

We've been invited to a few parties lately, and although it's a sign that we have got some good friends around us who wish to celebrate milestones together, it also brings up a sense of dread as the parties approach. Some friends offer to accomodate for our son's restricted diet, but on the whole we've declined such offers. In general, unless you have an allergy child, the precautions needed in  food preparation is, simply put, ridiculous, and I wouldn't risk our son's health in the hands of others, no matter how well-meaning. Plus, even if the food was carefully prepared, once it lands on the table and people begin to help themselves, the risk of contamination is too high.

One recent exception was where I contacted the trained cook, identified all the ingredients being used and clarified exactly which oils were being used - not generic vegetable oil, but specifically sunflower oil. The cupcakes were in paper liners, so the risk of contamination reduced. On this one occasion, I forced myself to trust another person, whom I have never personally met, with the health of my child. I decided beforehand what sized portions I would allow... just in case there was contamination. On the day, our son had two small pieces then was too interested in the toys to bother. So, problem solved :-) However, I realised that having the cupcakes on a tray for anyone to take left us open for contamination from sticky little fingers that had touched other dangerous foods. Even using plastic plates demanded some thought. I took a plate from the middle of the pile rather than the top one just in case someone had placed anything on it before us. Fortunately the cutlery was still in its packaging so that was fine. Sound neurotic? Try living like this every day!!

Anyway, then I thought perhaps if I write a list of the most dreaded party foods, this might help other friends of allergy families. So what foods do I wish were never served at a party??
1. Bowls of nuts - these are prone to being dropped. If they are at child-height everything turns ugly since the oil on nuts doesn't come off easily and is quickly wiped onto toys, furniture and people.
2. Meringues - these are especially popular in Australia. I don't blame people, they used to be my favourite. Now I never make them since they are essentially very crumbly, sweet bits of egg white waiting to be dropped then picked up by a toddler.
3. Bowls or plates of food conveniently scattered around a room - these are too convenient for little fingers and on-the-play-eating (as opposed to on-the-run-eating). We try and keep all the food in a certain area - this helps with clean-up afterwards too adults!

After saying all this, we don't want to be party poopers. We still want to be able to enjoy the company of others. We do actually like and love these people and their children! So what's the solution?

Actually, if we all just sat down to eat properly, then, when we finished, washed our hands and mouth, then went on to play... everything would be sweet!! If this applied to kids too, then there wouldn't be risks of food dropped, or smeared onto anything. Wouldn't that be lovely! We'd all probably have more parties and go to more parties - and who doesn't want that?!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reframed into a Thank you.

We are nearly halfway through the year and our son has attended his new childcare center for nearly 6 months. To be honest, I had expected numerous callouts. In my head, I had decided that if I had to got to hospital twice in six months, then I would quit my job and stay home to look after our son. My expectations were low, but reasonable.

So in six months, our son has not had a single rash. The childcare center cooks all the food on the premises and have been remarkable with him. Our son loves his carers as well as the other kids and often asks if he can go more. When he first started, the center was very small and they actually cooked using his special ingredients for all the kids on the days he went. We give them an up to date list of foods he can eat, including specific brands to buy. Not once have they complained. I sometimes buy ingredients or spices that are new to the food list so that they have a new container that has not been contaminated in any way. So I try and make it easier for them to look after our son and all looks well...

until... I hear of another parent who's son has severe allergies as well has had two reactions recently. Not from the kitchen, which is a relief. But how?? My mind goes into overdrive... with the center's growth, there are an increasing number of children, and an increasing number of new staff. I've met most of them, and our son speaks lovingly especially of the ones who are in the toddler room with him. Suddenly when I think of childcare I'm not filled with amazement and wonder at their wonderful care of our son... thoughts are now suspicious, cynical and filled with dread. How did this happen?!?!

As I type, I'm realising my reaction is very emotional. I've been reading another blog where a poor mum has had that many health scares this year it's not funny. I started listening to a radio broadcast of a gorgeous 10year old girl who had food allergies. She knew all the things to do, but some mix up in a school cafeteria meant that she died at the age of 12. I'm trying to find out more information to educate myself, but it's led to some alarming and frightening truths. Then I guess hearing of another child's allergic reactions in the same childcare as my son brings these truths that much closer to home.

Unfortunately the facts are those risks were already close. We have been doing everything humanely possible to protect our son from his life-threatening food allergies. We, and I mean my husband and I, as well as all the workers at our son's childcare have been doing a terrific job. And I do mean terrific. I can't let all the efforts and achievements be overshadowed by anything.

So where to from here? I do think we need to celebrate six months of wonderful care for our son. But I also feel the need to revisit the center's procedures and make sure all their staff are proactively doing all they can to minimise risk to our son on an ongoing basis.

So thank you Fiona, Elisha, Karen, Rachel, Jacqui, Bianca and Emily. You're wonderful wonderful ladies whom I trust in ways I don't even trust my friends (sorry friends!). Please keep up the good work and please show the new workers how to be as wonderful as you are. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dinosaur Quiz

Which scenario is more dangerous for our little boy when we go to a party or playground?
       A: Another kid running around with a pair of sharp scissors in his hand
       B: Another kid running around with a cookie in her hand
       C: Another kid running around with an icecream
       D: A real life dinosaur
       E: All of the above

We just had a lovely weekend expedition to the Scienceworks Museum in Melbourne. It's a hands on experience for kids of all ages - a chance to see robotic dinosaurs, pretend to be a builder and use pint-sized wheelbarrows, look at insects large and small - a chance to have a lot of fun basically.

Well, we did have a lot of fun but I couldn't help getting annoyed when the playground was filled with all sized children running around with food. The bonus of this museum is that they do not allow food to be consumed inside the premises, so all the exhibits/toys should be food-free. BUT, this is somehow excuse to some parents to allow their kids to run around the outside playground while munching, dropping, and smearing food all over the play equipment. Nice.

I think this is so irritating to me on two fronts. First is the food allergy front of course which by now all you readers will be accustomed with! The second is that these situations are making me realise that my role as mum will be to advocate for changes at school and in other public spaces for the safety of my child. My nature is very re-conciliatory... in other words, I'd do nearly anything to avoid conflict... yes let's try and figure out another solution... But, I can see some future battles looming and I'll simply have to step out of my normal operandis and embrace a much tougher approach... perhaps I need to take some tips from the dinosaurs?

Oh, the answer is E: All of the above.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All things work together???

"All things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His will." Romans 8:28

Can I believe this? My last post was full of questions, lots of uncertainties, lots of fears. The one thing I have concluded is that we will not be enrolling our son into the school where I work. My husband thinks I'm getting a little over distraught over these things - perhaps I am. A week after writing the post, I'm thinking that perhaps somehow, me hearing all these horror stories, combined with buying that book which has brought up more things to worry about (thanks!)... maybe the timing of it all works out well?

I've been thinking about enrolling our son into my school which is an independant, relatively low-fee paying school. Staff get a discount, so it makes sense. There's the whole question of public vs private, but when you add up all those years of schooling, it certainly adds up! I've been a long time advocate of not wanting to simply work to pay for kids' school fees since I'm not convinced it's worth it ;-) But that's just me.

Anyway, the culmination of all the doom and gloom is that it's basically shut the door on the option of schooling where I work. And, when it comes to making a choice, a closed door is as useful as an open door.

I can remember times in my past where things I had cherished seemed to all fall away all at once. It was devastating at the time, but in hindsight I could see that new doors opened later down the track, that I would not have chosen had my heart still been tied to old ways or old things (or old people!). So I do believe the Bible when it says ALL THINGS work together... it's hard to see sometimes, hard to understand, and harder to appreciate. But I think there is truth in it.

Haha, stay tuned for how this situation pans out in the not too distant future!

I'd actually be very interested to hear your thoughts - on schooling, on closed doors and all things :-)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Future fears

Every time I reach a stage of acceptance and understanding something else comes up and I feel like I'm back to square one. Why is this? I guess if I was to be philosophical, perhaps I can be glad that these things come just a little at a time and not all at once. So rather than getting completely overwhelmed I just get knocked off my feet... and get a sore backside!

A lot of our friends have kids turning 3 next year, so they've started enrolling into Kinder programs, and thoughts turn towards primary school. I bought a book too with a chapter about entering school, so my thoughts have also turned that way. I'll put a proper review up soon :-)

I work in a school so I get to see some of the inner workings that perhaps don't get seen by parents. This is scary... I heard of a young child who had peanut butter flicked knowingly by an older student. The poor child ran to the first aid office and fortunately a dose of antihistimine was all that was needed. So is this bullying or is this attempted murder??! It makes my blood boil!

I found out that the school I work at is following typical guidelines for storing epipens too... unlocked cupboard... check, stored in an insulated container... check, stored in a central location... hang on a minute!!! Yes, the medical centre is in the center of the school but in a school with over 1400 students is the middle really the best?? The book I read suggests carrying it with you, but apparently this is not allowed by my school. The nurse suggested that it takes 30mins typically before you get a reaction, so that should be enough time... I kind of accepted this initially, but when I got home I started thinking. What if you've touched something and you don't realise you've been contaminated? So 30mins later, your body reacts... and reacts badly. At this point, you do not have 30mins. We're all told to use the epipen THEN call the ambulance. So how does storing the epipen 10mins away make sense?!?!

So what's the solution???!?! Thoughts of home-schooling cross my mind... One thing I am certain about - a school with over 1400 students is 1400 more possible contamination sources. The smaller the better I think... Outward bound camp in year 9? Forget it... not on your life! Those of you who live in Australia might remember one poor boy with peanut allergies. He filled in all the right forms, but somehow he ended up with a dinner pack containing peanuts. I think they went through at least 4 epipens, but sadly he died. Whether the remoteness of their location or simply the amount of peanuts he ingested was the critical factor... I can't begin to imagine the devastation for that family. Other school camps? I'm really not sure...

So you can tell by the number of elipses that I've used... yeah, that's what you call those 3 dots... I've been doing a lot of thinking. Where has it got me? I really don't know.

Now that I've been knocked back off my feet again... got to figure out how to get back up again... for our son's sake.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cool inventions

The Tiny Diner by Kiddopotamus
 We got this from a good friend for a birthday present and it's such a fantastic idea, it's a wonder I hadn't seen it before! It's basically a silicone placemat with suction cups to attach it onto tables. It also has a little trough at one end for the little bits that inevitably fall off the table, so nothing is wasted... well... less is wasted. From an allergy perspective it's been great. We always wipe all surfaces down ourselves with disposable wipes, but having an additional layer of protection is terrific! It rolls up nicely to fit in your bag so it's ready all the time. Easy to wash, easy to use... what more could you ask for?! Seriously though, what a great invention for allergy or non allergy kids (and mums). Thanks Mei!

Silicone bibs by Tommee Tippee
These are also fantastic. Of course we use them at home, but when we're out and about, I simply put the food in the trough while our son is in the pram or trolley, then he helps himself. When we use small containers, our son inevitably gets distracted and drops the container, along with all its contents. Then when he's done I simply roll it all up sometimes with the food still in it, to empty and wash when I get home. I also use it to put cutlery into when we're heading out, to keep it nice and clean, ready to go.

Silicone, what a wonderful invention.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The BugaBees Book Review

The BugaBees
I've read a few good comments on various blogs about this book so I decided to make this my first official internet mail order - why not since the Aussie dollar is going so well right?

Anyway, onto the book...
Our son is two years old so although we've had the book now for a good month, we still haven't made it to the end in one sitting. Our son knows the book's name and gets it every now and then, but his attention span wanes once we get to about the third insect. In contrast, we have numerous dinosaur and dragon books which get read many times a day from front to back. The pictures are very colourful and quite animated, but at this age perhaps it just looks too busy and every page is just as busy.

The topic is of course allergy related. On the positive side, it has given our son the words to say when he's offered some food: "No thank you, I can have fun anyway." I am sure this will prove valuable in the future. He does repeat this when we read the book, so practise will hopefully make perfect. Also, the end of the book contains a quiz for kids - pictures of different foods, and they have to guess which ones they can and can't eat. Great idea actually.

On the negative side, the book deals with some but not all insects eating dairy, egg, nut, soy, shellfish and wheat based foods. Actually, now that I think of it, the most common reason we haven't actually finished the book is because our son keeps asking, "Can the bee/cricket/ladybug eat Vegemite?" Yes folks, it all boils down to Vegemite. So anyway, we've been trying to teach our son that different people and animals eat different things. "Cow's milk makes Matthew sick." "Peanut makes Matthew and Mia sick." "If Woof Woof eats chocolate, he gets sick." "Matthew doesn't eat seeds, that's for birds." You get the drift. But now, we have a book where insects eat pizza, have milkshakes and peanut butter sandwiches. So yeah, it's a little confusing for the poor boy.

Although not perfect, I'm sure this book will prove useful in the future. Plus, I'm definately going to buy more books online now!

If you know any other books worth reading, let me know!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spaghetti Bolognese - a real meal!

I can't believe it, we've had our first proper meal where we eat pretty much what our toddler eats. This is truly a breakthrough!!! The meal was slightly bland, so I sparked our serves up with a bit of Parmesan cheese and flavoured lemon and garlic olive oil.

Spaghetti Bolognese
500g beef mince
1 small onion, diced
400g tinned tomatoes
1T tomato paste
2 carrots, diced
1 zuchinni, diced

500g Coles Organic Spaghetti - cook according to packet instructions

1. Cook beef and onions in sunflower oil.
2. Add other ingredients and simmer 30 mins or longer. Add enough water to keep it all bubbling along.
3. You'll notice no herbs or stock cubes - if you know you can use herbs or stock cubes, go ahead and add it for a little more zing, but at this stage our little one hasn't tried all those ingredients so this recipe is very basic. Onion is our latest addition, so that's already very exciting for this recipe.
4. I chopped up the pasta using kitchen scissors then added the sauce on top. To make it extra enticing, I showed our son the picture in the recipe book first and told his it was the same... He ate two whole bowls, so you've got to be happy with that!

At the end I was tempted to add some wine and cook it off, but then a friend just reminded me that wine is often clarified using egg white... just as well I passed on that cooking inspiration!

I've just rung the consumer hotline for Birdseye Golden Crunch Chips and they said that if the label doesn't mention contamination of the major allergens, then the foods will be clear of eggs, milk, nuts, sesame, shellfish etc. WooHoo!!! Who would have guessed that such yummy chips would not have any butter/dairy content? Stay tuned... Steak and Chips will soon be on the menu! Of course I'll have to test the chips during daylight hours initially to double check that the spices added are OK, but I can't wait! Oh, and I'll have to buy a new baking tray to cook them on to make sure there's no dairy on that either. Am I still excited? YES!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kitchen nightmares

"I'm so over it... I'm so sick of having to cook everything separately..." I'm sure these are words that will come out of my mouth very often in the years to come... pity my husband... His response: "yes, I understand..." Haha, we've just finished watching an episode of Modern Family on TV - the wife is so run off her feet she can't even make a relaxation session. So the hubby goes instead and learns just what a wife wants to hear... not trying to fix it, just a compassionate ear. Well, in this case maybe I'd just like him to fix it??!

Here's an example of some of the complications associated with cooking for an allergy kid.
1.Oh dear, did I use that knife for butter or Nuttelex?
2. Darn, I should have chopped our son's things first, now I have to get another chopping board so there's no contamination.
3. Yikes, our food is splattering - better finish cooking our son's food first so it doesn't get contamination.
4. Where are those darn tongs just for our son? Oh, there they are... is that the right chopping board I placed it on or did I cut something else on there?
5. Oops, more splatter, better wipe the floor clean before our son comes in.
6. Better wash my hands again to avoid contamination.
7. S*#?! I forgot about that bit, now it's overcooked!

If the phone rings or my son comes in, my brain just about explodes! Life is crazy and I don't really have many answers in this regard.

What I am grateful for though is a very supportive husband. His answer in the end was a reminder that we should have more leftovers rather than cooking every night, for ourselves at least. Yes, it takes a bit more planning, but would be worth it. Plus, on a weekend he can help cook too. Bless him!

What about other allergy mums? What do you do??

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More nibbles and snacks

Here is the latest list of products I've discovered - not such a bad list when you look at it!

Sweet William Dairy Free chocolate - this comes in snack bars as well as choc chips and contains sugar, cocoa and soy. The snack bars go everywhere with me... just in case! The choc chips are a new discovery and work a treat when you want your little one to eat slowly... the little chips are so tiny! Once I get inspired, I might consider making choc chip short bread... stay tuned.

Happy Baby Organic Puffs - no diary, no corn, no soy, but does contain gluten. These are little circular cereal type puffs. They dissolve in your mouth, so great for little ones who can't quite chew. Our son didn't really enjoy them though since they're quite bland compared to real food. But for babies, it'd probably be fine.

Popcorm - cooked in sunflower oil by mum of course. Topped with melted Nuttelex. I put these in a ziplock bag and our son loves being able to get them out himself.

Doritos Original Corn chips - corn, vegetable oil and salt.

Red Rock Deli Potatoe chips - Sea salt flavour - contains potatoe, sunflower oil and salt.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Growing virtues

Autumn is here and the last of our tomatoes are being picked. Ever since having our little boy, the garden and especially the vegetable garden have been shamefully neglected. However, what we have manged to plant, and more importantly what has managed to grow has added a wonderful experience for our little son.

Our son loves going outside to look for red and yellow tomatoes. There's nothing more gorgeous than a boy coming back to you proudly holding a few tomatoes in each hand. Then, we sit at the small table with a bowl and wash each one. As soon as it's washed, it goes straight into the mouth. Gone! Just like that. Our son will eat up to 8 cherry tomatoes in one sitting. We usually do it at morning or afternoon tea time so it makes a great snack.
 So apart from nutrition and colour recognition, I've actually discovered other virtues to be learned! He's learning sequencing and planning now, because "first, we put on our shoes... then we pick the tomatoes... then we wash the tomatoes... then we eat the tomatoes!" He's learning the cycle of life - "first it is a tiny bud, then the bud grows and grows to a flower. The bees eat the flower, and the flower is dead. Then the tomato grows and grows and grows until it's yummy and red."

And the most precious virtues being developed? Patience and self control. He's learning patience because he knows now that the green ones, even the ones that are slightly green actually taste yucky. Self control is easier when there's another red tomato beckoning. But when all is gone, we have to wait till another day... and we all know even a day is an eternity in a toddler's world. The green ones that do occasionally get picked get thrown back into the garden for the birds... I did say being developed right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter celebrations??

Easter has always been a special time for me - a real time of celebration with others of the same beliefs. This is the first year I've spent the lead up to Easter with considered trepidation. The thought of chocolate eggs all over small fingers and faces strikes fear into my heart. A month before Easter we already had to grab a foil covered bunny out of the grasps of our son while we were at the airport for fear of an anaphylactic reaction. Despite our best efforts, our son typically ends up with allergic red cheeks whenever we travel due to the bits of food left behind on airport seats and tables - a timely reminder I guess that his allergies are serious and continued vigilence is required.

I'm pleased to report that we have all survived an Easter long weekend without any trips to the hospital, and better yet, even without any allergic rash. Childcare was terrific - they rang us a week before asking for an alternative treat. I brought along 2 bars of soy chocolate, but stressed my concern about contamination on the outside of eggs, or the risk that our son would pick up a chocolate egg somehow. On the day, he was accompanied at all times by one of the workers to make sure he didn't come in contact with any offending eggs. His allergies are a pain in the butt, but at least he does get some special attention!

At home, we had interstate guests, so I wanted to try and continue the festivities. Plastic eggs were fairly easy to find, but I scoured the shops for an hour looking for special treats that would fit inside. In the end, I settled for puffy stickers of animals and cars. The Easter egg hunt went well and lasted for all of 5 minutes if that! Perhaps I needed a better Easter bunny?

The most enjoyable part was when our son stuck one of his Ikea finger puppets inside: "Tap Tap Tap... what is it? A baby turtle!" Trust him to find a better way to play with the eggs!

Actually the best moment was when he pretended to eat the egg then started coughing because it made him sick... Hallelujah, our son understands that eating eggs will make him sick! Toy eggs are OK, real eggs... NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Where is the me?

You'll notice that my posts have dropped off in frequency. You'll also notice a lack of new recipes.

Why? Well, I think it must have to do with returning to work. I know lots of people do it. I know I shouldn't complain because life's pretty good really. I know I know I know.

But seriously, let's look at what's changed so maybe I can understand rather than just know?

For the past 12 months I've enjoyed taking my son to occasional care for about 3 hours a week. During those 12 months, I think I only ever came home to sleep on one occasion. All other times were spent window shopping, shopping, catching up with friends, and the occasional doctor's appt. NEVER did I actually return home to do the housework, as I know others do.

The result was a much happier mum who took comfort knowing there was another person beside herself and her husband who would look after our son... for whatever reason. The other result was some time when I could check out that dress, who knows, maybe even try it on! Time to myself, when I didn't need to worry about the welfare of others and I could be a little bit care free. To tell you the truth, many a times were spent at KFC! Aaah, the memories...

Now that I'm working, there doesn't seem to be time for me anymore... It's a mad rush to get to childcare, it's a mad rush at work getting through all the dramas, then it's a mad rush picking up our son from childcare and cooking dinner etc. The days at home are fewer, so time to catch up with other mums has diminished as has time for even grocery shopping which tends to happen after 9pm now a days.

Yup, this is a winge... Where is the me? I don't know! I need time to find it again, and when I do, I'm sure I'll be the happier for it, as will my son and husband...

OK, time to book an extra childcare day, have some "me time" and start a new school term refreshed and ready. It'll be worth it :-)