Category Archives: Wild Card Charlie

When you don’t have food allergies

WHEN FOOD ALLERGIES EFFECT THE NON-ALLERGIC

When I started writing several months ago, I had little plans in mind. I knew I wanted to write about Molly and our struggles with her Sensory Processing Disorder because it takes up most of our energy every day. I wanted to include our journey with food allergies as well because they definitely play a roll in our family dynamic. Sometimes the food allergies are why I am going insane. I mean who wants to bake cupcakes every time you go to a birthday party?? What I didn’t expect is that people would read what I wrote and change their behaviors. Seriously, I am humbled. In the past 18 months our lives got turned upside down, but in the journey I have seen how our family has effected other people. I have witnessed a 4 year old hold off on taking peanut butter and jelly to his new school because he wanted to find out if any of his new friends were allergic. A 4 year old that put someone else first, that’s amazing to me. Moms have come to me and asked about taking snacks to public places and told me that they are now conscience of how their children eat on public spaces such as playgrounds. I’ve had educators reach out to me and ask about safe classroom snacks for special occasions or parties. I had no idea that Charlie and our family would raise that much awareness, I don’t think I could ever express how touched I am by people’s concern for Charlie and other children like him. I wanted to find an easy way to help those that don’t have food allergies and want be considerate of those that do. So I put together a list of what do when food allergies effect others.

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1. Ask the mom. If there is a child attending a party or in a class that has a food allergy, reach out to the parents. We are more than willing to help and answer any questions you may have. But don’t ask Stampy. He told a Charlie’s classroom parents that home baked goods are ok to serve. It will be years before I let him talk again to other parents. Other than Stampy, we can tell you what food could be avoided and food alternatives could be served.

2. Eat where you eat, not where you play. If you are at a public venue such as a playground, story time or a pool and you want to have a snack then sit and eat, clean up and return to play. Easiest way to avoid an accidental contamination.

3. Read labels. If a food contains an allergen it will be listed. This gets tough when allergens can come listed in many forms. A gluten allergy for example has to read for many types of grains and even “malt” so it does get complicated. Occasionally, food companies are nice and will list the allergen content separately. For cross contamination, I usually will pick up several packages from a similar manufacturer to see if it has a “may contain” allergen statement. If it does and your package doesn’t, you can be pretty certain that your food will not have cross contamination issues.

4. Save the packages for the parent. Honestly, I do not have all labels memorized. I barely have my name memorized most days. I read labels every time I go to the store to make sure ingredients or manufacturing methods haven’t changed so I wouldn’t even trust my memory if it worked.

5. Use clean surfaces, dishes and utensils when preparing food and keep prepared food separate. This may sound like a no-brainer, but not everyone wipes down their counter tops 24-7. I know I don’t. But I have a nut-free kitchen. If I had to cook for a milk or wheat allergic child, I would need to scrub my counter tops down first.

6. Be understanding. When a parent of a food allergy child still wants to provide their own food even when you’ve taken the allergy into consideration, don’t be offended. It’s not that we don’t trust you, but we don’t. There’s a lot at stake with one simple mistake and it’s a mistake even we can make.

As a parent we are always trying to protect our children and it’s nice to know that I have friends helping to protect mine.

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We Are Supposed To Be Having Fun!

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This weekend was the Fall Festival in our town. We don’t have the standard summer carnival, instead we have a big event for 3 days that includes carnival rides, music, food, crafts and games. It’s a pretty big event for our little city and of course it seems like the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning if you have kids. Or I should say, if you don’t have our kids.

Three reasons why we should stay home:
1. Food Allergies. First and foremost pretty much all delicious carnival food is a no no. All those peanut oils and chocolates and deep fried foods are all a danger to Charlie and being in the air is enough to make me almost insane. Peanuts are one of those great food allergies that become environmental when cooked apparently so there’s the fear that random peanut proteins will jump from the fryer and into Charlie’s mouth, eyes or nose. Plus Charlie thinks ground food is equally if not more edible than normal served at the table food so I’m on extra alert.

2. Motion Sickness. Charlie gets car sick. He has now vomited twice in the car and complained of being sick and hot numerous times while driving. Needless to say, one ride and he was done. I’m honestly amazed he made it on one. It’s the first time he’s been on a carnival ride by himself. And probably the last time.

3. Molly.

I can’t tell you how many times we do things that are “family fun” oriented and end up leaving stressed, tired and with cranky kids. Molly tries her best but when push comes to shove, she can’t regulate that much stimulation so she ends up trying to soothe herself which means she ends up trying to hang from all my limbs or asking to be carried. Have you ever carried a 35 pound 4 year old for a prolonged period of time? I have. More than once. I have carried her through the zoo, I have carried her through the tractor show, I have carried her on walks around the block and I saw myself carrying her from our Fall Fest. It was coming: the whining, the hanging and the carrying. You could see it in her deteriorating behavior and we quickly opted to leave, unused ride tickets and all.

Then there it was…. the playground.

An entire carnival the kids want nothing to do it with but a playground?? Hells yeah! After 10 minutes and Charlie trying to play in a near by dumpster and throwing himself on the mulch face first in a fit, we quickly gathered the kids and headed for home.

I hope the kids remember these times fondly, as we have no real pictures of the kids not enjoying are family fun outings.

Toddler Beds: Molly v. Charlie

Our neighbors gave us a twin bed. It was in great condition and Molly was 3 so it came at perfect timing. I figured she would outgrow her toddler bed at any time. We put her new bed in her room and she was so excited to go to Target and pick out brand new sheets. She was so proud as the cashier rang up her “Mad Bird” sheets (what she calls Angry Birds) and even announced they were for her new bed. At bed time she climbed into her new bed with her animals and snuggled in. I was amazed at how easy it was to transition her into a new bed. I left her room and turned on the video monitor.

Not as easy as I thought.

She had already moved her blanket, pillow and lovie into her toddler bed and fell asleep. Seriously, she must have instantly moved beds the second I closed the door.

She’s almost 4 1/2 years old and still sleeping in her toddler bed.

We kept a full sized bed in Charlie’s room as a guest bed. Charlie was in a toddler bed for a week before he climbed out of the toddler bed and into the full sized bed. It’s been 2 weeks and he’s not looking back. He sprawls himself out taking up every last amount of space he can with his 36 inch 30 pound frame. He loves it.

I never thought I would be taking apart Charlie’s crib before Molly’s.

On the bright side, we can just move Charlie’s mattress onto Molly’s bed since hers has started to rip.

Food Allergy Thoughts

I’ve now scrapped about 4 beginnings to a blog about food allergies. I just can’t quite put my thoughts into words. I hate them. They make me feel sick. They add stress to joyous occasion and there’s a part of me that has actually considered home-schooling. Now, the home schooling part comes from the crazy irrational side of me, but also the side that fears for her son’s life. Food allergies stole one of my favorite foods from me. Don’t get me wrong, I would pick the Wild Card over a peanut butter cup any day of the week, but there are days where I really really want that peanut butter cup. I know I could eat one, but it doesn’t taste as good anymore. And I haven’t figured out to make stress a calorie burning exercise so for the most part I stay away.

Yesterday I donned one of my favorite new t-shirts and noticed a weird reddish-brownish stain on the front. At first I was bummed because I can’t seem to own anything nice (yes, I used the words t-shirt and nice together) and then I felt sick and started to cry. After a second of “what is that??”, I realized it was dried blood. I remembered it was the shirt that I was wearing the day I gave my first epi-pen.  It’s no longer a fun new t-shirt I got for running a 5K while being pelted with powered paint, it’s a shirt that is stained with my son’s blood and has been vomited on. That’s the thing with allergies, they never leave. They are a stain on our lives. I will never go somewhere and not worry that it will end in another thigh stabbing and I will worry everyday he leaves the house that someone won’t fully understand the nature of his allergy and accidentally poison him. We went hiking and Charlie found an acorn, I spent the next hour worrying if acorns were a “tree nut” in the allergy sense and if we were going to have to book it to the ER. The good news, Charlie is not allergic to acorns, but it doesn’t change the fact that something as simple as a hike is stressful since a fury woodland creature has dropped part of it’s hibernation stash on our path. Our neighbors fed the squirrels shelled peanuts and our backyard became a stressful scavenger hunt every time we went out to play. There are still some days I find myself checking around the yard, just in case.

So, instead of dwelling on things I can’t change such as the child that will bring peanut butter and jelly to the lunch table or the playground mom that feeds her child peanut butter crackers, I’ve decided to focus on the things I can grow from. I can only become more knowledgeable on food allergies and how to educate others. I can have confidence in my reactions to his reactions and I can teach my child the joy in made-from-scratch brownies. Then hopefully, Charlie will learn from my confidence in his allergy and gain his own confidence. Yup, the best I can do is teach and lead by example and hope that he gains the necessary respect for the peanut so he doesn’t live with the same fear I do.

A Home Without a Crib

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Today we entered the next step of parenting. The step that will contribute to flabby biceps, we transitioned to a toddler bed. No more lifting a 30 pound toddler in and out of cribs. No more cribs. For 4 years and 4 months our house has been home to a piece of furniture that defined where we were in our “family” life. But I really liked it because I could be okay with my decision that we weren’t having anymore babies since we still have baby things. Now without a crib I have to accept that we are moving on with our lives. We are moving out of bottles and bumbos and into a world that has preschool and napless afternoons. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to this stage but it’s the same insanity that makes me cry when getting rid of their baby clothes that makes me nostalgic for the times they were babies. I don’t even know why, they cried and vomited and were awake all the time. Why would anyone be sad about saying good bye to that??? I couldn’t tell you, but I am.

The only thing getting me through this tough time is the happiness in my Wild Card’s face. He thinks his new bed is the best thing ever. And technically it’s his crib, just missing a side (kids are so gullible). Tonight he cried “get out” as he was put in his bed and Stampy said “you can get out” but he never did. It was almost like he was so accustomed to protesting that he just had to do it. So there it is, both of my children are sleeping in their beds. Not cribs, but beds and I’m going to have a little wine to help me get over myself and into my bed tonight and not snuggle in and cling to my baby.

20 Questions To Dine With Food Allergies

It’s rare that you get to talk to an owner manager or chef of a restaurant while not in their restaurant or while they are working. I’m trying to ask all kinds of questions to find out if the Wild Card can safely eat while they are tending to me and other customers. Sometimes I feel like I get memorized answers. I think several restaurants go through the same “food allergy training” seminar. Yesterday I got the undivided attention of an owner chef of a local eatery outside of work and I jumped on the chance to question him inside and out of his allergy practices. The good thing is that he is a small deli and he is the main person preparing food so I know he is on top of what is what. It’s also from a place which I love to eat. I sent my labor coach/friend there after I delivered the Wild Card to get me a cold cut sub for lunch, no doubt the best in town. I needed this place to meet my standards and it did! For those of you that have never asked about food allergies, here is a list of some of the questions ER have to think about to ask.

1. Do you have any peanut or tree nut ingredients in your food?
2. Where are these ingredients stored in comparison to your non-nut ingredients?
3. Do you clean your meat slicer after each user?
4. How?
5. Do you fry anything?
6. Do you have desserts?
7. Are all desserts made on premise?
8. Where do you get your chocolate from?
9. Do you know for certain their plant does not handle nut products?
10. Do you mix your homemade cookies with outside cookies for packaging?
11. Do you wah your hands in between handling different types of food?
12. What you’re of oil do you use?
13. Do you bake your own bread?
14. Where does your bread come from?
15. What else does the bakery make?
16. Are you sure they only make bread?
17. Can I have their info to talk to them about food handling and allergen information?
18. Are you tired of my questions?
19. When are you having pit beef again?
20. Are you going to hide the next time you see me?

See the problem is that most people only know the handling and preparations of their restaurants, not their food suppliers and since you don’t have to label for contamination, many people don’t realize if products have been tainted. I’m glad that owner Bill took my concerns seriously and answered my questions thoroughly. It’s nice to know we can get a good meal that wasn’t home made and support local businesses at the same time. This place got an A+ in my book.

Disclaimer: this is not an entire list of questions that need to be asked, it’s dependent on the type of food and “yes” answers.

My Lazy Boy

There are a ton of great adjectives to describe Charlie: fun, charming, cute, trouble maker, stubborn, witty…. but the best may be lazy. I don’t think I’ve ever met a 2 year old BOY that is as lazy as he is.
Me: Charlie, wanna go outside and play?
Charlie: No!
We have that conversation everyday. What kid doesn’t want to go outside?!? This kid…

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If he can’t do it lying down, he probably won’t do it at all.

Now to teach him to do this in his crib past 6am…