The heartbreaking side of life with food allergies

My heart is broken today. Sometimes I feel like my heart breaks so far apart I may not be able to put it back together again. Sometimes it hurts so much, I don't want to put the pieces back together. Sometimes I wonder if this is just how life will always be with food allergies? But, I was given some wise advice: Be the person you needed when you were younger. So, that's what I'm going to be right now. I'm going to be honest + lay my heart out here for all the internet to see. Because these are the words I needed to hear two years ago. Honesty, I still need to hear them today.

food allergy diagnosis

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you -Maya Angelou. I realize that some people in my life may think it revolves around food allergies. But, honestly, I hold the pain + sadness in so tight that it hurts. I try to bear the pain + responsibility of managing a child with life threatening allergies. But, days like today, I just can't carry that load anymore. It's like I walk around with a plastic bag over my head + I'm getting just enough oxygen to survive, but sometimes that bag gets really tight + I start to suffocate. That's today. 

food allergy diagnosis

My middle son, Bowan, has multiple life threatening food allergies. We get by + we deal with them. But, it's hard. Sometimes it's just completely overwhelming. What always overwhelms me the most is when he has an allergic reaction in my own kitchen. Our house is supposed to be a safe space. Our happy place. A place where my three kids are loved, encouraged + feel safe. But, there have been times when I've unknowingly bought, stored + fed my son foods that could kill him. I know I sound so overly dramatic. But, this needs to be said for my fellow allergy moms. This is the reality we face. This is what I needed to relate to two years ago. I still need to relate to other moms that struggle with the same complex issues of life with food allergies as I do.

food allergy diagnosis

Back to the feeling judged piece that my life revolves around food allergies... Feeding kids? It's a lot of work right? I mean, even for the family with no food restrictions, it can feel all-consuming at times. There's the grocery shopping. Researching prices or couponing. Spending time to shop, or ordering online. Either meal-planning or winging it. Then there's the snacks. I mean, that can feel like all day, everyday. There's the messes. I've never met a kid that can eat without making a mess. Have you?! The non-messy eaters I know don't make messes because the mom's spend time to feed them + make sure the food ends up in their mouths. My point is as moms, food is a huge part of our lives wether we like it or not. 

food allergy diagnosis

So, food is a big part of motherhood. But, no one really talks about this. The responsibilities relating to food are high. But, what about trying to feed one child one food + the other a different, allergenic food? What about preparing a safe + an unsafe food? To me, it's like having a loaded gun in the house. Not just in the house, but on the kitchen table, or on your child's hands, or spilled all over the floor, or wiped all over the wall, or all over your non-allergic child's face. I just can't live that way. It sucks all the joy out of motherhood, out of my life. Maybe this will be easier when my kids are older, but I'm not going to spend my days wishing their childhood away. This is a complexity of mothering a child with food allergies. Some families may be able to graciously navigate this complexity of safe + unsafe food, but I just can't do it. Honestly, I don't want to think this hard about every move I make in my own house. Living with only safe foods in our house brings a sense of normalcy to me. I love that little bit of peace. It's a ray of sunshine to me. 

food allergy diagnosis

Thank you for taking a peek into my heart + kitchen +  our life with food allergies. We all face challenges + difficulties + hardships. But, I think we really do each other a disservice when we don't share them. I hope that by sharing this small piece of my story, that your difficulties feel a little more validated + seen. It's hard for me to walk around with a plastic bag over my head + I don't want you to be doing that, too.

Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage + showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say, I have fallen, but I will get up. -Maya Angelou

 

Photography by: //  Kathleen Peachey Colorado + Worldwide

 

Related Posts:

Our First Few Weeks as a Family of Five

A New Allergy Diagnosis: The Emotions it Brings

Ten Tips for the New Allergy Mom 

 

 

 

Lunch Ideas: Let's have some fun

Lunch. Everybody eats it. Somebody needs to make it.  Some of us enjoy it. Some of us really don't want to make lunch. Ever. Again. But, the reality is that we all need to eat to survive. Our kids surely need to eat to survive. But, we don't want our kids just surviving, right? We want them thriving on healthy, nutritious food. In an ideal world, right? Here are some ideas to make lunch more fun + more nutritious for your kids + you!

Kids food art

Strawberry Sunflower Plate

Ingredients: 5 strawberries, 1 banana, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, 1/4 watermelon 

Directions: Wash and slice strawberries lengthwise. Slice banana, Rinse + dry shredded carrots. (I buy pre-shredded carrots, my kids like the texture of thin carrots the best). Slice watermelon lengthwise into thin pieces. Arrange banana slices into a circle in the center of the plate. Pile them as high + thick as you'd like. Arrange strawberries in a flower petal pattern surrounding the bananas. Overlap the layers of strawberries + continue with as many rows as you'd like. Arrange carrot slices in a stem shape, add loos pieces for grass + create two leaves by connecting two carrot slices together. Finally, use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of the watermelon + place surrounding your flower. Get as creative as you'd like + add or subtract anything you see here.

Kids lunch allergy friendly

Fruit Cabobs

Ingredients: 1 small Watermelon + 3 Bananas

Directions: Slice bananas lengthwise + set on a plate. Slice watermelon down the center, then cut into slices, next cut into cubes. Place watermelon slices on a plate + set aside. Work together with your kids to create a pattern of pink, yellow, pink yellow on your cabob sticks Enjoy!

kids food art

Apple Slice Heart

Ingredients: 1 Apple or 1 bag pre-sliced apples

Directions: Wash + slice an apple, or open your bag of pre-sliced apples. Arrange in a heart shape on your table. You can arrange one + ask your child to create one of their own.

yogurt bowl kids lunch

Animal Dairy-Free Yogurt Bowl

Ingredients: Dairy-free yogurt + hemp seeds + blueberries: fresh or frozen.

Directions: Pour your yogurt into the bowl, sprinkle hemp seeds for a smile, add blueberries for eyes.

solar system food art

Fruit + Veggie Solar System

Ingredients: 1 lemon, 1 kiwi, 1 clementine, a handful of: green grapes, red grapes, blueberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes. And, 1/4 cup heriloom pepper.

Directions: Print out a photo of the Solar System from the internet. Or, open a book with a photo of the Solar System. Next, slice the lemon into thin slices + halve the red + green grapes. Next, Peel the skin off the kiwi + cut into thin slices. Then, cut your clementine into thin slices + cut a sliver of the peel off to create Saturn's rings. Next, use a small circle cookie cutter to cut circle shapes out of the heirloom pepper. Wash + dry your blueberries + raspberries. Next, arrange your fruit into the order of the Solar System. 

Just like Dr. Seuss says in There's No Place Like Space: Mallory - Valerie - Emily Mickels - just - saved - up - nine hundred ninety-nine nickels! Sun: lemon - Mercury: green grape - Venus: cherry tomato - Earth: kiwi - Mars: purple grape - Jupiter: heirloom pepper - Saturn: clementine - Uranus: blueberry - Neptune: raspberry. 

kids rice cake lunch ideas

Rice Cake Friends

Ingredients: Small rice cakes (I used the Happy Family brand), blueberries, SunButter, grapes, apples, heirloom carrots, Enjoy Life mini chips chocolate chips.

Directions: Spread SunButter onto some of the rice cakes. Slice up carrots + apples. Create the fun faces with the above ingredients.

allergy friendly snack

SunButter Stick People

Ingredients: SunButter, celery + strawberries

Directions: Wash + cut celery stalks into equal sizes for arms + legs. Cut one long stalk for the body. Spread with SunButter. Place stick figure on plate. Wash strawberries + add for the head.

Melon food art

Melon Friend

Ingredients: Cantaloupe, kiwi + clementines.

Directions: Wash the kiwi, cantaloupe + clementines. Cut the skin off the kiwi, then slice. Cut the cantaloupe in half, then fourths. Cut out the seeds. Trim into smaller slices that look like a little smile. Peel the clementines. Place the fruit in the shape of a face on the plate.

garbage truck lunch

Edible Garbage Trucks

Ingredients: Apples, colby jack cheese (or-dairy-free cheese), celery, strawberries + blueberries.

Directions: Wash the fruit. Cut the cheese into squares. Cut the celery into small rectangles. Cut the top of the strawberries off + slice the rest. Cut the sides of the apples off, then cut into slices. Place the large apple slices on the plate with the cheese squares slightly overlapping in front. Place the celery rectangle on the cheese + the strawberry tops under the cheese + apple for tires. Add the small apple slice for the back hopper. Cut up additional fruits + cheese for "trash" to throw into the hopper before eating.

Bento box lunch

Dairy-Free Bento Box

Ingredients: 1 container dairy-free raspberry yogurt, 2 tbsp mini chips, 2 tbsp hemp seeds, 2 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup banana slices, 1/4 cup strawberry slices, 1/4 cup cucumber slices, 2 tbsp dairy-free cream cheese, 1 tsp dill, small lettuce pieces.

Directions: Dairy-Free Yogurt Bowl: Pour the dairy-free raspberry yogurt into your bento box. In a pattern, sprinkle sunflower seeds + mini chips + hemp seeds over the top. Create any pattern you'd love!

Fruit + Veggie Bento Box: Place the strawberry + banana slices in a pattern on one side of your bento box. Create sandwiches with your cucumber slices by spreading one slice with dairy-free cream cheese, then sprinkle with dill. top with a cucumber slice. Place a small piece of lettuce between your cucumber sandwiches. Enjoy!

Allergy friendly Lunch food art

Strawberry + Blueberry Patterned Plate

Ingredients: 1 cup fresh strawberries + 1/4 cup frozen blueberries. 

Directions: Wash strawberries. Cut the tops off of two strawberries + place in the center of the plate. Create a circle of frozen blueberries around the 2 large strawberries. Next, Cut the tops off of the remaining strawberries. Slice strawberries lengthwise. Then, cut the tops of the strawberries into a "V shape" to create a heart. Place in a circle around the plate. Enjoy!

What do you do to make lunch more enjoyable for you + your kids? Let me know in the comments.

Photography by: // Lindsey Lee & Co.

Fun & Easy food art for kids. Easy lunches. Toddler Snacks

10 Tips for the New Allergy Mom

If you're a newly diagnosed allergy mom, my heart goes out to you.  Just over a year ago, my son was diagnosed with multiple life threatening allergies.  I felt so overwhelmed with all I needed to learn + all I needed to do to keep my baby safe.  An enormous amount of new responsibility was placed on me with the weight of my son's multiple food allergy diagnosis, he was only 15 months old, so I needed to care for his allergies.  His allergies were completely out of his control + purely my responsibility.  Kids often seem to be diagnosed with allergies as babies + toddlers, so the responsibility placed on the new allergy mom is incredibly high. I completely understand + hope to help you.  

Here are 10 tips for the new allergy mom:

1. An EpiPen case or bag

EpiPens need to go with you and/or your child wherever you go.  They are a lifesaving device + emergencies are unexpected, so the EpiPens always need to go with you + your little one, even if it's just a quick trip to the park down the street.  You just never know.  The EpiPens are also heat + cold sensitive, so having the EpiPens in a specific bag helps to easily bring them with you when you leave the house + then, hang them on the same hook by the door every time you come back home.  It also helps to hang the EpiPen bag up high so the little ones don't accidentally get into the EpiPen bag.  It helps to always use the same bag + hook so other caregivers always know where to get and replace the EpiPen bag.

Food Allergy EpiPen Bag

We just got this new EpiPen case at Target.  It is so fun + cute.  I'm the one carrying it, so it's fun for me.  This week these Oh Joy! cases are free at Target with the purchase of 3 first aid items.  Hey, we needed more band-aids anyway.  

2. An action plan + informational sheets to hang on the inside of your pantry door or cabinet door in your kitchen

It is so helpful to have information printed out about food allergies that are easily visible in your kitchen.  Your kitchen is the primary place your child will be eating.  So, reactions are most likely to occur in our own kitchens.  If an emergency does happen, it's helpful to have all the information readily available.  Also, we never know when we might have a babysitter + it's so helpful to have all the necessary information available to go over with them + for them to check if needed.

An Action Plan for Anaphylaxis   

Epinephrine Myths + Facts 

Be Food Allergy Aware 6 That Save Lives 

Facts about Food Allergies, listing mild symptoms, severe symptoms + ways a child would describe a reaction

3. A backpack

The days of just running out of the house with a cell phone + keys quickly faded.  So, I decided that I wanted to carry a backpack with the kids + my necessary items.  It's helpful to put your EpiPen bag right in the backpack with your safe snacks, water bottles, diapers, keys, wallet, cell phone, etc.  One additional thing that helped me decide that I'd rather carry a backpack over a purse or diaper bag was that I could just wear it over my shoulders + it wasn't as cumbersome or worrisome as having a diaper bag that I'd set down + maybe need to leave somewhere as I chased my little ones around the park or museum.  

4. A water bottle with a covered mouth piece

Let's just say kids put their mouths and hands on everything.  There will be times when other kids reach their hands into your stroller or backpack even + having a covered mouthpiece on your little one's water bottle is so helpful in preventing them from exposure to different allergens.

5. Allergy awareness stickers

Personally, I think allergy awareness is key.  If others don't know about the peanut or dairy or sesame allergy, how can they help?  How can they be proactive if they don't know that a severe reaction is possible?  I personally love the stickers from Minted. They are adorable while spreading awareness.

Minted allergy label water bottles

6. The Complete Peanut Allergy Handbook by, Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., + Terry Malloy

This book was such a helpful resource in the early days of our peanut allergy diagnosis.  I highly recommend this book, as it is very comprehensive in managing food allergies.  Also, if peanut is not one of your allergens, you can just substitute peanut for dairy or fish or wheat, etc. as you read, because the principles outlined in this book really can apply to all types of food allergies.  The book includes five parts: An Introduction to Peanut Allergy, Getting Help for Your Peanut Allergy, How Peanut Allergy is Treated, Living with a Peanut Allergy + Looking to the Future.  This book was so helpful, I hope you are able to read it soon.  Also, if you have friends or family that are interested in learning about the allergy + supporting you + your child, it may also be a great idea to send them a copy so they can help support you + your little one.

7. SunButter

SunButter is free from the top 8 food allergens.  It is such a great alternative to peanut butter + other nut butters.  Plus, it is not made from a legume like soy or pea that can often cross-react with peanut.  An allergy to sunflower is possible, just as it is possible to have an allergy to any food. So, if sunflowers are safe for you, I highly recommend!  Not only is SunButter a great allergy friendly choice, but so nutritious as well.  SunButter has the same amount of protein as peanut butter, double the zinc, 1/3 less saturated fat, twice as much fiber + nearly triple the amount of iron.  Knowing that SunButter is so nutritious helps to make eating SunCups even more fun!

8. Journal

A journal dedicated to food allergies has been very helpful for me.  It still is.  An allergy journal was especially helpful in the early days when my little guy had reactions to foods that were not top 8 allergens (peanut, tree nuts, dairy, egg, soy, fish, shellfish + wheat).  So, things were surely more confusing.  It's been helpful to have a page with the diagnosed food allergies + the skin + blood results so I can compare over time.  I've also kept a page with suspected allergens.  It's also been useful to have a page with safe foods listed, they surely can change at anytime, but it is so helpful to come back to when feeling like so many foods have been ruled out.

food allergy journal

9. Extra supplies in your EpiPen bag

Your EpiPens will go with you wherever you go + your child go, so it's best to be fully prepared.  I personally feel best treating allergies in a proactive way, rather than a reactive way.  In that, I'd rather prevent or avoid reactions as much as possible.  Here are some things I carry in my EpiPen bag:

     1. Wipes (check the ingredients, some wipes can contain seed oils)

     2. Hand Spray (Buy one with safe ingredients or make your own: water + hand soap in a spray bottle)

     3. Happy band-aids (not necessarily allergy related, but you will surely need them at some point)

     4. Inhaler (if one is prescribed)

     5. Note from your child's allergist listing the allergies

     6. Allergy action plan

     7. Pre-measured Benadryl

     8. Anti-itch cream/topical Benadryl

10. SnackSafely.com

Did you know that the current U.S. food labeling laws make it very difficult to know if a packaged food is free from allergens by the label alone?  Snacksafely.com works with companies to verify that the products listed in the guide are free from specific allergens, including peanut.  This website is a great place to start if you feel overwhelmed with finding safe food for your little one.

I hope these 10 tips will help you to manage your new food allergy diagnosis a little easier.  I was there before + I know all the feelings + difficulties you are likely facing too.  Lives surely can change with a diagnosis.  I completely understand that + have lived it.  Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.  Food allergies can be very isolating, yet many people live with them.  Keep reaching out, earning about food allergy management, new studies + treatments on the horizon.  I promise it does get easier as time goes on.