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.