Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hello, Santa!

We took the boys to see Santa Claus last weekend -- they were pretty excited about the whole thing. Tony's office colleague took the photos, and it's at one of those houses that lights up the entire neighbourhood with Christmas lights.

The house's owner was dressed up as Frosty the Snowman, and gave away candy canes for the kids. (Yay for sugar candy!) And Santa was giving away little chocolate squares which had dairy and a nut warning. (Not so good, but I did manage to get them away from the kids without a huge fight.)

I know it's my first post in months — one of my new year's resolutions is to post more regularly — at least once a week, but I'm going to try for two posts/week. It's been a super busy fall, and I can't believe that we're only two days away from Christmas already!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cinnamon buns and rollercoasters

I don't know how other allergy moms have dealt with it, but I've been in a total baking funk since we realized the full scope of Andrew's allergies. Yes, I'm confessing to almost 3 years of buying safe pre-packaged stuff full of chemicals because I can't figure out what -- and how -- to safely cook for my kid.

But now that Andrew's in kindergarten, there are all sorts of treat days and birthdays and other opportunities for other parents to bring in not-so-safe food that he's not allowed to have, so I'm kicking myself in the butt and trying out a bunch of recipes.

And here's my total plug for the cookbook in the photo below: What's to Eat? The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook. (And now that I've found the link for that cookbook, I see that she's got a new cookbook out too -- it's going on my shopping list!)

She's got a cinnamon roll recipe in this cookbook that's so good, only one survived past the first hour out of the oven. I forgot to get a shot of them when they came out, and that's Geoff's hand stretching out as far as he can reach (anything that's a few inches onto the counter is out of his reach), to get another one.

Last Friday was Tim Horton's donut day at school for the kindergarteners, so we made another batch of cinnamon bun dough on Thursday, and deep-fried it for Andrew to eat instead of donuts. They were really good, he reported that evening, and he didn't even seem sad that he hadn't gotten the Tim Horton's ones.

I've also gotten the kindergarten teacher a bag of mini-Oreos and a box of Transformers fruit snacks for the random birthday parties. Apparently that's gone over well -- some of his friends have wanted his Oreos over the treats that the birthday kid's folks provided. Oh, and apparently Andrew was kissed by a girl in kindergarten last week. :-)

The other thing Andrew's been doing is asking us to cut his rice cheese up into thin slices. He's been seeing all these ads for cheese strings on TV, and I guess he's also seeing cheese strings at school, so he wants his cheese to look long and stringy too. I have such mixed feelings about this. I'm glad that he's so resourceful and creative, but I hate that he's feeling like he wants his food to look like everyone else's food. And I'm sad that he might be feeling left out.

And there are the boys in car #3 of the kids' rollercoaster at Playland. They're both such adrenaline junkies that they would get off the ride and run back to the beginning of the line to do it again. I think they rode this one about five times before they finally wanted to move on to the mini-golf. We went yesterday, on the second-last day of the season, and they had a fabulous time.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Heading off to school

My two kids headed off to school today -- the big kid to kindergarten and the little kid to his first day of preschool.

Andrew's had a couple of partial days of kindergarten already -- the teacher phases them in a little bit at a time. Today he was in for 90 minutes, and he'll be in for the full 2.5 hours on Wednesday, with his full class. He had a great time at school today, and is already looking forward to when he gets to go every day.

Geoff loved preschool last year, when we were dropping Andrew off there, and now he gets to stay there the entire time. We've warned the teachers that he's got two volumes: loud and louder, and they still think he's a charmer.

On the allergy front, things are still looking positive. The elementary school's newsletter came today, with a beautiful (to my eyes) "no peanuts" graphic on the back page. (The editor of the newsletter is my next door neighbour -- I love her!)

We found a Transformers backpack for Andrew, and it's got a clear plastic pencil case attached to the top -- a perfect size for his epipen, and since it's a clear case, all the adults around will be able to see it right away in an emergency. There's another epipen stored in the nurse's office at the school, along with a bottle of Benadryl.

As an aside: when I dropped off the epipen at the school, they showed me where it will be stored. Every allergic kid at the school has their medication stored in plastic cases in the same shelf. There were about 20-30 cases in that shelf, so I'm pretty confident that if anything were to happen, quite a few epipens would be available to any allergic kid. (Many of the older kids carry their epipens on them.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tagged - 6 random things about me

I've been tagged by everyday with food allergies to tell you 6 random things about me.

The rules are:
  • Link to the person who tagged you. -- DONE!
  • Post the rules on your blog. -- DONE!
  • Write 6 random things about yourself. -- DONE!
  • Tag 6 people at the end of your post. -- I can't do that because it feels too much like a chain letter, so consider yourself tagged if you have 6 random things to tell me about yourself! I promise to read and comment on everyone who responds to this tag.
  • Let each person know you tagged them by leaving an entry on their blog.
First of all, thanks, purplemommy, for the boot in the butt. This poor blog has been sadly neglected, and today seems a good place to pick it up again.

Andrew went for his allergist appointment this morning. Tony took him because we're on vacation this week, and he's never met the allergist. There were no surprises in the results -- he's still allergic to almost all the same things. But there was some good news -- all of his wheals were smaller this time around than last time. He's also pretty much outgrown his egg allergy, but he does seem to have picked up a dandelion allergy. (No dandelion greens for him -- but then again, that's not exactly a regular feature in our diet, so I don't think it'll be a problem.)

Now, onto the 6 things.

  1. I've had the same work email address since 1991. I was online earlier -- one of my best friends ran a popular BBS in town -- but this was an official Internet address. When I first came online, women were 10-15% of the population. It was a very weird time to be online.

  2. I'm a knitting addict. Yes, I'm on ravelry -- send me an email if you want me to friend you, or look me up on the allergy forum there. I don't go anywhere without at least a portable sock project in my bag and yes, I can knit without looking at my needles, so I can hold a conversation while I'm knitting.

  3. We just got a Wii Fit and it's so much fun to do a workout now. I'm looking forward to further games on this platform, especially the dance ones.

  4. I used to be active in science fiction fandom -- even helped to organize a couple of local conventions, had costumes, the works. That went away when we had kids, but I still try to keep in touch with some of the friends from that lifestyle.

  5. When I was a teenager, I was in a marching band. This is more impressive in Canada than in the US -- we don't have marching bands in the high schools here, and there were only a couple of marching bands in all of Vancouver. I used to be a music geek too. By the time I finished high school, I'd learned the flute, sax (I played baritone sax, which was bigger than me!) and oboe.

  6. I now see everything through the eyes of an allergy mom. (As the quote goes, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." -- attributed to Abraham Maslow) One of my best friends brought her baby over today, and he was super-snorky (he seems to have a permanent cold) and I warned her that I was an allergy mom, and that it sounded to me like that allergic sniffle. It didn't help that he'd already had a mystery reaction, possibly to bananas, and still had a bit of the mystery rash left on his face.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Peanut allergy kills

This article just made me weepy, and I don't usually get that way.

Another little boy just died of his peanut allergy, and his mom wishes she had been more properly-informed. Here's her warning story.

At a young age, they discovered he had a peanut allergy but, it didn’t affect daily life very much. No doctor ever explained to the Smith family that a peanut allergy could be life threatening. Even so, Andrew arranged for his own peanut free table in the cafeteria at his elementary school and had several of his friends join him there. He was aware of his peanut allergy but he was also a very picky eater. So he avoided obvious sources of peanut and kept to the same few foods that he liked and was comfortable with.

Andrew’s life was tragically cut short this past February. His mother Pamela told us that he died from an anaphylactic reaction that was complicated by his asthma. She shared her son’s story in the hopes of saving another child.
Pamela, thanks for sharing your story, and I'm thinking of you at this horrible time.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Welcome to Kindergarten

We went to Kindergarten this week. Well, it was an abbreviated version of kindergarten, just an hour and a half on Tuesday morning, but it was fun.

Andrew's school does a short reading program for kids who are entering kindergarten this year. It's a 4-week program, and the kids and parents get to meet the principal, the kindergarten teacher and the librarian. And Geoff got to play with the Grade 7 kids who had been hired as babysitters.

How wonderful was this experience for an allergic mom? Let me count the ways.
  • The kindergarten teacher wanted to make sure that he'd have his epipen in a fanny pack and suggested that I get him one with a fun logo on it, as that's worked in previous years. He's going to be her 5th anaphylactic child so she's feeling pretty capable of handling any situation.
  • The kindergarten teacher lives in my neighbourhood, only two blocks away, and her kids went to that school, decades ago. She's super friendly and I think that she's the kind of teacher that would be loved by her kids.
  • Going by the registration forms, there are only going to be about 18 kids in his class, less than the 22 maximum. That should be easier for him to handle, as there are only 20 kids in his preschool class.
  • The principal gave me a form for a free medic-alert bracelet. There's a program that makes sure that all anaphylactic kids in elementary school get registered for free.
  • I was assured several times that the school was totally peanut and nut free — the only one so far in the district — and the principal sends a note home every couple of months to remind all parents of that fact.
Yeah, we could put him in the French immersion elementary school that's only a couple of blocks further away, but this one feels so much more safe for him.

And the weirdest part was that we spent part of our session in the teachers' staffroom, and felt SO grown up! My memories of the staffroom in elementary school was that it was totally off limits to kids, so it was weird to be in there. It was also weird that the principal was my age, or even possibly a little younger.

Andrew's already announced that he's now done with preschool, since he's already started kindergarten. I think he'll make the transition nicely when it comes in September.

Edited to add: it looks like the free medic alert bracelets are for Canadians only. Here's a CBC story about it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kindergarten registration

Yesterday, I went to the local elementary school to get Andrew registered for Kindergarten. It was a lot easier than I had expected because we'd gotten the forms a couple of weeks ago, and Tony's great about keeping all the necessary paperwork that we needed filed and at his fingertips.

I was so happy to see "Nut Free Zone" signs all over the school. There was also a sign that explained that two children at the school are severely allergic to nuts. I knew this already, as my next door neighbour's daughter was one of them. (The daughter had also told me about another student who would pass out if someone opened a bag of nuts on the other side of the classroom. The daughter had also been teased by someone chasing her around with a nut, so I do realize that, while the classroom is safe, the rest of the unsupervised environment might not be.)

I was told that the kindergarten teacher has had anaphylactic kids before, and all the teachers are regularly trained on how to use an epipen. I've also been told to contact the principal in August to set up a meeting with him and the kindergarten teacher, to talk about Andrew's types of reactions and how to recognize when he has a reaction. I also have to provide two epipens to the school.

It looks like they've got a nice system in place, and I'm just going to go with it. What a relief!

I'm also grateful to all the parents who came to that school before me, and did so much work in educating the principal and the teachers on anaphylaxis.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

How to make chocolate lollipops

We had a fun adventure today. I've been reading a few blogs about dealing with Valentine's Day, and all the chocolate that comes out at that time, all of which are unsafe for Andrew.

When in doubt, we just assume that there's nut contamination in all chocolate -- it's a safer attitude than hoping for the best. The last time we let him have a safe chocolate that my sister-in-law had made, he vomited instantly. It turned out that she'd gotten the chocolate from the bulk food aisle, home of all cross-contamination possibilities. (Need I add that she's not allowed to feed him any more?)

So this time, I started with chocolate chunks from NoNuttin, guaranteed to be dairy- and nut-free. Plus he's been having the chunks on his S'Mores, so I know they're safe for him.

Here's my guide to making chocolate lollipops:

1. Go to Michael's to pick up some chocolate molds.
Breakdown of task: Let husband depart to get himself a coffee because of rough week with 2-year-old. Steel self for guiding two children through all the temptations of pretty things in the store. Enter store. Accept half-eaten banana from 2-year old and place into shopping basket for future disposal. Find a staffer and ask where the candy-making section is. Disengage 2-year-old from rack of pretty semi-precious stones and aim him towards the candy section. Since he falls short of goal, distracted by Dora and Diego display, send 4-year-old to retrieve 2-year-old while I try to find the chocolate lollipop molds.

2. Ask 4-year-old to select from vast array of chocolate molds.
Breakdown of task: 4-year-old must examine every single package. He does decide immediately that the happy face lollipops are for his little brother, but takes a while to decide which one is for him. Ends up selecting the hearts, which is appropriate for Valentine's day. Also, a delicate negotiation takes place because 4-year-old wants the short lollipop sticks for baby brother, and the long lollipop sticks for himself. Since I'm not buying two packages of 50 lollipop sticks, negotiation fails.

3. Take packages home. Melt chocolate chunks in pot on stove. (We don't have a double boiler, but a plain pot on low heat worked really well.)

4. Pour chocolate into molds, and insert lollipop sticks.
Breakdown of task: Have brilliant idea to drop cookie sprinkles into molds before pouring chocolate in. Watch 2- and 4-year-old dive into the sprinkles with their fingers, while you're pouring molten chocolate beside them. Clean up sprinkles from countertop, fingers and floor.

5. Take photo of grinning 4-year-old, with fresh haircut and chocolate in molds.
Breakdown of task: Put camera down, where it's immediately kidnapped by 2-year-old, who proceeds to take a dozen photos of the floor, the ceiling and everybody's feet and miscellaneous body parts. Try to remember to delete those photos before you download the camera.

6. Put lollipop trays into freezer to set.
Breakdown of task: Accidentally nudge tray against roof of freezer. Try to clean roof of freezer of all chocolate before it freezes there permanently.

7. After dinner, take lollipops out of molds and distribute to family. Enjoy!
Breakdown of task: Afterwards, wash chocolate from hands, mouth, and pretty much every body part you can imagine.

But we had fun, and afterwards, Andrew actually said thanks for having the brilliant idea of doing these lollipops. I figure I'll save the heart ones for Valentine's day -- the smiley face ones are all gone, as of tonight!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Burger King blunder

I've been horribly absent from my blog because I've got a huge confession to make.

I screwed up at Burger King.

This happened in December, just before Christmas. I had taken the day off work to take Andrew to his preschool's Christmas party. All of the preschool classes for the organization were invited, so there were about 100 kids in the room, so I was totally on guard for the entire experience.

They had Charlotte Diamond perform, and then there was a party with Christmas cookies and juice in the other room. I was prepared for that, too, and had Andrew's safe organic Oreos with me, and a boxed juice too, just to protect him from the shared juice pitchers and cups. (Okay, maybe that was a little too paranoid, but I was feeling a little shaky by that point.)

After that, I went with a few other moms from his preschool to Burger King, because it was on our way home, and because this one has a cool set of climbing tubes and slides, about two storeys high. The kids loved it, and had a blast screaming up, down and all over the equipment.

I'd looked over the Burger King menu earlier that month, and I knew that he could have two things off their menu: something with chicken, and the fries. So I ordered for us, and told the cashier that he has a dairy allergy, and that he wanted the chicken and fries. She rang up the crown nuggets and fries kids meal for us, and that's what he had for lunch.

He then went to his best friend's house for a playdate, and complained at the time of itchy eyes, something that we thought was because of their cat.

It wasn't.

Later that night, I checked the Burger King menu, and found out that I'd totally messed up. The crown chicken nuggets contain buttermilk. It's the chicken fries that are safe for him.

I called up that franchise and left a message for them about the allergic reaction, despite the fact that I had told the cashier that there was a dairy allergy. I have not heard back from them.

I haven't contacted the main Burger King office because they don't have an email address on their website. Yes, in this day and age, there is a major company that refuses to accept email correspondence. Unbelievable, isn't it?

Andrew woke up around 10 that night, scratching at himself all over. Since I finally knew what was going on (his cat reaction is usually just sneezing and runny nose, not full-body itches), I gave him a dose of Benadryl, and he was mostly fine by the next morning.

Of course, I wasn't. Despite having been on my guard all morning, I'd let it down at lunch, and my child paid for my mistake. I kicked myself all through Christmas.

What I've learned from this experience:
  • Andrew's still got a dairy allergy, though it's not nearly as bad as it used to be (previous reactions included hives and vomiting)
  • I should never let my guard down, even if I think I know what's safe. And never, EVER, trust a 16-year-old cashier at a fast food restaurant.
  • Andrew loves hanging out with his best friend, and will endure any amount of itching to be with him!
What I hope happens:
  • Burger King trains its staff to hand out ingredients lists the minute a customer mentions any kind of allergy.
Now that I've finally written this post to confess my sins, I'm going to print it out and mail it to Burger King's head office. Updates later, if anything ever comes of it.