Starting School With a Food Allergy

Asa starting preschool this past Monday. (It’s Friday night as I’m writing this.) I have so many things to write about but I’ve honestly been putting it off because I’m a little overwhelmed and exhausted by it all.

We knew this day was coming. She turned 3 in December and the plan was to enroll her then. With COVID, we decided to delay that start date a little. We finally felt it was the right time to send her, but our nerves on the allergy front haven’t lessened at all. How could they, really? This is the first time that she has ever really been with anyone other than our parents. We have left her in church Sunday school before, and honestly, even that brings me anxiety! But this is a whole new ballgame. Dropping her off, out of our sight, with complete strangers, knowing that we can’t be there to watch her every move is completely terrifying. It’s unlike anything I can even explain. If you have children, you know the anxieties that come with the first day of school. Now take those anxieties and amplify them by 100. Maybe that can help give you a little taste of what I was feeling leading up to Monday.

We tried to be extremely prepared. We contacted the school months ago and I met with the principal to talk about our concerns. (Reminder that Asa has 3 major food allergies – milk, egg, and peanut.) That led to a conversation with the school nurse to develop an individualized health plan to go over what to do in case of an emergency. We agreed that Asa’s EpiPen would stay in her backpack with her in the classroom at all times so that it would be readily available in case it was needed. We agreed that 911 as well as my husband and I would be called immediately if they even suspected she had been in contact with an allergen. We went over the snack list and agreed that we could send in our own snacks from home just to control exactly what she could have. She would be given soy milk instead of normal milk in the classroom. We sent over her allergy plan from her allergist. I even took time to label her EpiPen cases clearly with her allergens. We felt as prepared as we possibly could be, but the anxiety and fear was still there.

I bought her EpiPen cases from PracMedic and labeled them with her allergies myself using vinyl and my Cricut 🙂

Monday came and Asa was SO excited to start school. She had been wearing her backpack around the house for at least a week and was so excited that she was going to school just like her big sissy. She couldn’t wait to use her new water bottle and go meet her new teacher. She was excited and filled with hope. We were excited but also filled with fear. I tried to occupy my brain by making her a shirt for her first day. She wore it proudly and looked adorable when we dropped her off for her first day.

Our big girl on her first day!

After dropping her off with tears in our eyes, my husband and I both started saying that we still felt slightly unsettled. While developing her health plan with the school we had asked about having all of the kids hands/mouths washed or wiped down after snack time to ensure that no allergens were left on them after they ate and drank. We were told that wasn’t really feasible. It wasn’t sitting well with us.

I posted on Facebook about Asa’s first day of school and asked for people to be praying for our anxieties and for her to be safe. A fellow allergy mom reached out to me and asked if we had a 504 in place. My response was basically, “A 50-what?” I had no idea what a 504 was. A 504 for food allergies is essentially a kind of written management plan that is very commonly used for several kind of disabilities or health conditions including food allergies. More information on them can be found here. She advised that we work on one immediately as they are legally binding and are more official than the individuated health plan we had already created (which was still a great first step).

I immediately started looking up information. I also posted in a local group on Facebook to try to find other food allergy parents in our school district who already had 504s for their children to see if they would share their experiences with me. I was in the luck! I had one of them immediately message me and then ask if she could call me. She talked to me like we had known each other for years. The food allergy community is amazing. Once you have a child with food allergies – you just get it. You understand the struggles, the fears, the constant worry, and you just empathize in a way that makes you want to help others. She told me that part of her child’s 504 includes his classmates washing their hands after they eat every single time. (That was funny since we were told that wasn’t feasible.) She armed me with a lot of great information.

I reached out to the principal, the school nurse, and Asa’s teacher immediately. We set up a meeting to discuss a 504 and talk about our concerns. In the meeting with them, I started by saying that I didn’t ask to have this meeting because I thought they were doing a horrible job. I was actually really impressed with the way our district handles food allergies and think that they are leaps and bounds above other school districts in this matter. I thanked them for their help so far. I then told them that they needed to understand that one small accident could lead to my child’s death. I explained that it’s hard for me to feel confident leaving Asa in anyone’s care when I don’t even fully trust myself. I have to double and triple check every single thing I give to her because I never know when I manufacturer that I trust is going to change their recipe or change their factory and make it unsafe for my daughter. I am constantly concerned that one little slip up could result in an anaphylactic reaction. I also explained that in her 3 years of life we have had to use an EpiPen 2 times. I said that the last thing that I wanted was for a teacher or a staff member to have to administer an EpiPen to her. It’s stressful and scary and I didn’t want them to have to go through that. I tried to be firm and blunt but understanding and caring in my delivery.

They were so incredibly helpful. When we brought up the hand washing this time, they didn’t bat an eye. In fact, they took it a step further and said that it may be better to just remove the allergens from the classroom altogether. (YES, PLEASE!) They are writing up her 504 right now and we will have it completed in the next couple of weeks. With the 504, it will follow her throughout the district as she moves up in grades but will be adjusted every year based on her needs, so we will have these meetings yearly.

I wanted to write all of this out because I thought it was important information for others to have. I know that we are all in various stages of our food allergy journeys. Maybe you aren’t even a food allergy parent, but you are reading this to be informed, and if you are – thank you! Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. When I posted in the Facebook group asking for allergy parents who have made a 504, I had several people comment telling me “504s aren’t for allergies” or “just talk to a principal”. Many people were immediately dismissive of me for absolutely no reason. It was incredibly disheartening. Along with that, I had a lot of allergy parents come to my defense and offer their support and help. I hope that this blog if one of those resources to those of you fighting this fight. I know the fears you face every day because I face them too.

I have still been spending this week thinking of even more ways to keep Asa safer. I added more visuals to her backpack to remind people of her allergies.

I don’t think that will ever stop. I’ll probably always be innovating new ways to make her allergies more known so that she is safer at school. For now though, she made it through week 1 and I feel more empowered after advocating for her and using my voice to speak up! I’m also super thankful to the food allergy mom who called me even when she didn’t know me because she encouraged me to do just that! (Shoutout Kristin!) And special thanks to Sarah who is always a huge support for me and messaged me about the 504 in the first place!! You’re a rockstar!! If you have questions about anything I mentioned in this blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Or if you just want to vent or talk, I’m here for that too.

Vegan Pancake/Waffle Mix!

When you have a child with milk and egg allergies, you spend a lot of your time re-vamping recipes to make them safe for your family. So many foods, especially breakfast foods, contain eggs and milk. Doing a google search for recipes sometimes leaves you with bland foods or gritty textures and can leave those of us that are used to “regular” recipes unfulfilled. But there is hope!

My husband spent a lot of time perfecting his pancake/waffle mix recipe and I want to share it with you all today!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 egg equivalent of Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer
  • 3/4 cup of oat milk (you can use another dairy free milk, but we really recommend oat milk because we think it has the best consistency)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients together first. Make your egg replacer by following directions on the back of the bag. After the egg replacer is made, mix the oat milk into the egg replacer. Add that combination to the dry ingredients and mix it all together. Then add in your olive oil, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. To get desired consistency, add water as needed (We normally add about 1-2 tbsp of water but it may not be necessary. We feel like it makes them fluffier, though.) Use can use this batter for both waffles and pancakes!

When I say that this pancake/waffle mix is delicious, I mean it! Trust me, you want to try this. You won’t be able to tell that it is egg and milk free. Everyone in our house loves it – our daughter with allergies, as well as the rest of us! In fact, my oldest daughter says that she prefers them to the regular ones! If you try the recipe, make sure to let us know what you think, and make sure to thank my husband – this recipe was all him!

Yummy Vegan Biscuits (Repost)

Biscuits and gravy has always been one of the best meals my husband makes. He’s been dying to find a way to let our daughter try them but her dairy and egg allergies have made that difficult. Today he adapted a recipe found on Pinterest to make vegan biscuits and they were DELICIOUS!!! We’ll attempt gravy soon and I’ll share once we find a good recipe. But for now I’ll leave you with the biscuit recipe! PS – they were taste approved by everyone in our house! Once again, I’ll include exactly the items we used for those that may not know where to start with using good substitutes, but feel free to modify to your favorite brands if you want!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup Country Crock Plant Butter (sticks – chilled and cubed)
  • 3/4 cup Oat Milk (we used Silk brand) chilled in the freezer

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place the cubed plant butter and oat milk in the freezer.
  • Combine sugar, salt, flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. 
  • Use a pastry cutter (or a fork if you don’t have one) to add the chilled cubed butter into the dry mix. This will make the mixture a course ground consistency. 
  • Add the oat milk and work into the flour to form a crumbly, soft dough. Pour out onto a floured surface and knead into a 5-6 inch rectangle. Fold in half and knead a total of 3 times. You should end with the same 5-6 inch rectangle.
  • Roll the dough out with a rolling pin and cut about 6-8 biscuits using a biscuit cutter or the mouth of a juice glass. Reknead the remaining dough and repeat these steps to cut more biscuits. 
  • Brush with melted plant butter and bake for 11-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. 

**This recipe is dairy and egg free. The Country Crock plant butter, however may contain soy so you’ll want to swap that for a different vegan butter if you have a soy allergy! 

If you try this recipe, make sure to let me know how you like it! It’s definitely going to be our go-to biscuit recipe from now on!

Teal Pumpkin Project – Supporting Kids with Food Allergies During Halloween

I’ve had several people reach out to me asking about the Teal Pumpkin Project – either about what it is, or about how to support it. So let me address both!

The Teal Pumpkin Project was started as a way to show solidarity and support to those that live with food allergies – specifically during Halloween. Teal is the color for food allergies, so having a teal pumpkin outside your house is an indicator that you have non-food treats for trick-or-treaters! It can also be used to signify that your child HAS food allergies if you let them carry a teal pumpkin or bag. You can find out more information about the Teal Pumpkin Project here. On the website, you can even sign up to take the pledge and receive a free certificate that you can hang in your window to show that you have non-food treats for kids!

Over the years, the idea of the teal pumpkins have become widely accepted and you can now find the teal plastic pumpkins just about anywhere! You can find them at Target here or at Walmart here. You can also find more decorative teal pumpkins if you search their websites! Target even has these awesome bags for kids with food allergies to carry as their trick-or-treat bags! One of my best friends picked them up for my daughter!

Adorable little Food Allergy bags! You can find these in “Bullseye’s Playground” at Target! (Commonly referred to as the dollar section.) These are just $1!

My husband and I are working a “Spooktacular Walk” in a neighboring town in a few weeks and decided that our table will be completely allergy-friendly. We are going to use a teal table cloth to cover our table, and will only be handing out non-candy items to the kids. It’s so important to be inclusive during the holidays – and Halloween is no exception. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when I see that someone has thought about Asa and other kids like her by including non-food items to keep her safe! One incident of cross-contamination could send her into anaphylactic shock, so the holidays can be scary and nerve wracking for those of us with food allergies. Anything you can do to help put parents like me at ease means more than you know!

Hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you to offer more than just candy for the trick-or-treaters who may come by your house. Now you may be wondering what the heck you should get instead of Snickers or Hersheys bars. Well, I’m here to help! Here are some ideas along with some links for easy purchasing if you’d like. 🤗

By no means does this list cover everything, but hopefully it will at least spark some ideas for you!

If you are bound and determined to still offer food treats, consider a few brands that are known for being allergy friendly with the Top 8 allergens. However, it’s important to remember that people can be allergic to things outside of those top 8, and it’s still incredibly important to read ingredients and do your research! Some ideas are:

  • Dum Dums suckers – Visit their website here for allergy info.
  • Enjoy Life brand candies – Visit their website here to see their options and allergy info! (You can now find these at some retail stores and grocery stores!)
  • Pez – Visit their website here for allergy information.
  • YumEarth candies – Visit their website here for allergy information. (Please note that their candy corn contains eggs but the rest of their products are free of the Top 8!!!)

I hope that this has helped some of you! And thanks for being inclusive for my kiddo and others like her! 😍

Super Simple Fried Ice Cream!

Ever wanted friend ice cream but didn’t want to mess with actually having to deep-fry something? Well look no further! Here is a super easy 5 minute recipe! Added bonus – you can even make this vegan!

Ingredients:

  • Vanilla ice cream of your choosing (I used a vegan ice cream to keep it allergy friendly!)
  • Corn flakes (or you can substitute Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Frosted Flakes)
  • Sugar
  • Margarine or butter (again, I used a vegan margarine to keep it allergy friendly)
  • Honey and/or chocolate syrup

Directions:

  • Scoop out your ice cream and put it in the freezer.
  • Add margarine, corn flakes, and a bit of sugar to a small pan and sauté the corn flakes for a few minutes. If you choose to use Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Frosted Flakes (like I did here!) you can skip the extra sugar.
  • Lay the corn flakes onto a plate and gently roll your ice cream in the corn flake mixture. You can use your hands to add extra of the corn flake mixture into your ice cream.
  • Drizzle with honey (pictured), chocolate syrup, or any topping of your choice. You could also add whipped cream and a cherry if you want to get extra fancy. 😉

This super simple treat is so yummy! Enjoy!

Safe Alternative to Dyeing Easter Eggs

If you’re like us and have an egg allergy in your house, you may be looking for safe alternatives to dyeing eggs for Easter.

We all know that you can buy plastic eggs for candy, but dyeing eggs was always half the fun when I was growing up. It was something I wanted to do with my kids too, and with my oldest, I didn’t think twice about it. Then my second daughter was diagnosed with an egg allergy and I began wondering what I could do with her to continue the tradition of dyeing eggs. This year I found two great alternatives!

First, I found these fun craft eggs at Target. These can’t be dyed, but they can be decorated with crayons and stickers! They even come with some stickers in the package. Best part, these can be found in their Bullseye spot for only $3!

Second, my husband found these DIY eggs at Walmart and these can be dyed! So cool! They look just like real eggs and can be dyed without having to worry about an egg allergy!

Hope these help you include your food allergy kiddos in the traditions that we’ve all enjoyed throughout the years! Happy dyeing!

*Please note that you can find a lot of things like this online for delivery as well so no need to leave your house during this time! Stay safe everyone!

Vegan Banana Crumb Cake

If you’ve ever read my blog before, you can probably tell that I’m a fan of banana breads and finding new ways to spruce them up! I stumbled across a banana crumb cake on Pinterest and adapted it to be vegan and allergy-friendly! It’s perfect for anyone with milk, egg, peanut, or tree nut allergies!

Ingredients for Bread:

  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter softened (We love Country Crock Plant Based Butter or Earth Balance vegan butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer (or another egg replacement of your choosing) – need the equivalent of 2 eggs

Ingredients for Crumb Cake Topping:

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spray a 9×13 pan
  • Combine the softened butter (for the bread) and sugar in a bowl and beat until well blended (I just used a fork to do this but you can also use a mixer.) Add in mashed banana, egg replacer, and vanilla, and mix to combine.
  • Add flour, baking powder, salt and stir until combined. You will have a thick mixture – don’t let that scare you!
  • Pour into the bottom of the greased pan.
  • In another bowl, combine all ingredients for the crumb cake topping. Work the mixture together using a fork to form crumbs. You don’t need to overdo this – picture a typical crumb cake – the lumps are a good thing!
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the entire bread mixture. This will be a pretty thick layer of crumby yumminess!
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean).
  • Enjoy warm or cooled!

Let me know if you try out the recipe!

The Anxiety Returns

My son turned 6 months old about a week ago. He’s the final piece of the puzzle to our little family and has been such an amazing blessing! He’s rolling, laughing, and sleeping in his own crib in his own room. He’s growing up and it’s so fun to watch. Every milestone he hits makes me proud and emotional. But there’s one milestone that I’ve been secretly dreading…

I’m terrified of starting to try foods. Up until this point he’s been solely breastfed. As we begin to try solids, my nerves about food allergies start to rear their ugly heads.

We didn’t discover his big sister’s food allergies until she was almost a year old. (To see how we discovered her allergies, click here.) She had also been exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months and she had a hard time learning to eat solids at the beginning. She was a little behind physically for awhile which made eating harder for her. (We got PT for that and it was AMAZING! But that’s a different story…) Because of that, we didn’t introduce allergens super early on. I also had basically no understanding of food allergies at the time so I had no idea about the research about how introducing early can help prevent allergies.

This time, I’m a little more well-informed. There is a lot of research about the benefits to introducing top allergens like peanut and egg earlier rather than later. (For some great links and articles, check out this page of the Food Allergy Research and Education’s website.) When we took Ezra to his 6 month appointment this week, his doctor recommended that we try peanut butter soon.

On one hand, I’m thankful for a progressive doctor that is trying to watch out for him! On the other hand, I’m terrified. I know that we need to do it. And in some ways, I feel more prepared this time around, but I can’t shake the anxiety and fear that comes with it. I’ve wondered since I was pregnant if he would end up with food allergies just like his sister. I’ve wondered what it would be like to have to worry about BOTH of them daily. I’ve wondered what we would do if he ended up with different allergens than Asa and we had to change our lifestyles once again.

Food allergies are one of those things that you don’t really understand until you’re faced with them. As least, I know I didn’t. I knew about them, but only in a hypothetical way. I didn’t know the reality of them. And the reality is plagued with lots of fear, frustration, inconvenience, and sometimes even anger. You wonder why this is happening to your child. You deal with the fact that not many people will understand the daily struggles you face. You pray that one day your child with grow out of their allergies or that a cure will be found.

I will most definitely update after we begin to try foods with him, but in the meantime, please be praying for us as we face a fear!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

People often think that cooking with food allergies is daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! I have a super yummy banana bread muffin recipe that I love to spruce up with things like chocolate chips or blueberries! Today I’m going to share the chocolate chip banana bread muffin recipe that is totally vegan! (So it’s perfect for dairy and egg allergies!)

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I used Nestle Simply Delicious semi-sweet morsels this time!)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately (minus the chocolate chips)
  • Combine the two bowls together
  • Add in chocolate chips
  • Put batter into baking cups in a muffin/cupcake pan. Bake for 23-25 minutes. (You can also make as a banana bread loaf for 55-60 minutes, but I think the muffins cook a little more evenly!)

Like I mentioned above, I love to make these with blueberries as well (this is how my husband prefers them), but my oldest daughter and I LOVE the chocolate ones for a sweet treat 🙂

I wanted to highlight the vegan chocolate chips we used! They are Nestle Simply Delicious Semi-Sweet Morsels. We bought these at Target. There are a wide variety of dairy-free chocolates out there now so I encourage you to go seek them out! I highlighted another one of them on a different blog here. You seriously can’t tell the difference between “real” chocolate chips and these!

If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it!

The Dreaded Accident…

The past two weeks have been rough. We spent a week in the hospital with my son who had RSV. Thankfully, he is all better now, but that week was hard. There’s not much worse than watching your child in the hospital and feeling like you have no control. The day after we got home from the hospital, I got a call that my grandpa (PawPaw) was in the hospital. It quickly progressed to a critical situation. I was able to visit him in the hospital just hours before he passed away. Our new year was off to a really rocky start.

Right after learning that he had passed, we had to take the kids to the doctor so that my son could have his follow-up appointment from the hospital stay. I didn’t want to miss it, so we sucked it up and went even though I wasn’t in the best place mentally. After we returned home, I loaded up my arms and unbuckled my two-year-old daughter like I always do since she sits on the passenger side of the van like me. I had her in my left arm while I also tried to balance my purse, her diaper bag, and my coffee cup from that morning. All of the sudden I heard her say, “I take a drink of Mommy’s cup!” I looked over, and she was sipping from my straw!

I immediately jumped into panic mode. I had coffee in the cup but I also had creamer in it – creamer that contains traces of milk – milk that she is allergic to…

I yanked the cup away as fast as I could and started talking loudly… “No! Asa you can’t drink that! Oh crap! Ryan, help me! She drank from my cup! No!” I ran up the stairs and into the house as fast I could while still balancing everything in my hands. I threw everything down and started examining Asa immediately. I knew that I had finished my coffee already before the appointment, but it was iced coffee, so the ice had melted leaving some watery-coffee at the bottom of the cup. I asked Asa if she actually took a drink. She said yes. I asked her is she actually tasted it in her mouth (trying to clarify is she REALLY took a drink). She said yes. My husband ran for the Benadryl as I stripped off her clothes so I could keep an eye out for hives. I started asking if she felt itchy and she said no. Then I started lecturing her. “Asa, you can’t drink out of people’s cups, baby! Remember that you have allergies? Remember? Like the BugaBees?” (see my previous blog post to understand what this is…) She could sense my fear and tension and she started crying. She didn’t understand what she had done. Why was I lecturing her? While I did want to explain and help her understand why she can’t just grab someone’s drink, I shouldn’t have acted mad at her. It was myself I was mad at…

After we gave the Benadryl, I held her close to me. I felt bad that she was crying and then went into Mama Bear protective mode. I wanted to comfort her. I held her close and apologized for scaring her. I kept asking if she felt ok and she said yes. I kept watching her skin but it stayed clear. I asked if her throat felt ok and she said yes. Once I started to settle down, I began crying…

How could I let that happen? How was I so stupid? Why did I have that cup anywhere near her? How could I have put it right by her face without thinking? Why wasn’t I more careful? Why was I so irresponsible? How could I do this to my baby? I couldn’t even think about another hospital visit – not after the week we had just had. Two hospital visits were enough. The thought of another one was enough to make me cry. But the thought that I would have been the one to send her there was so much worse. The thought that she could need an epipen because of me was horrible. And the thought that she could die… well… I couldn’t even let myself go there.

After the shock and severity wore off and after I knew she was ok, I had time to think. I was still beating myself up pretty hard. The anxiety and fear that parents of kids with food allergies face is so real. It’s hard to explain to anyone that’s never had to deal with it. The pressure that a parent feels when they have a little one with food allergies is so intense. Your child relies on you for everything. They rely on you to feed them, and they rely on you to keep them safe. One small mistake can be catastrophic to a kid with food allergies. You have to be vigilant at all times, and that can lead to constant anxiety. The fear is tangible all the time. It never goes away. Even those of us that are really cautious, and yes – even those of us that run food allergy blogs and long to help educate others – even we make mistakes. The problem is, it only takes one mistake to possibly end in tragedy.

We were lucky this time, but not everyone is.

To those of you that navigate this food allergy world like we do, I see you. I feel your pain. I know your anxiety. I feel your fear. And I’m here if you need to talk, vent, cry, or complain.

To those of you that have never had to worry about this before, I hope this helps you get a glimpse of the pressure and anxiety that we feel every single day. We aren’t crazy. We are just scared – and you probably would be too if faced with the reality that we are daily.