Sunday, July 25, 2010

Out of the House!

It's summer time and it feels like most often I'm stuck in the house. Lots of families are having picnics, BBQs, family reunions, birthday parties, etc... Friends and extended family members of mine are doing the same. Each time we're invited, the answer always has to be the same. No.

Sometimes I think they understand, other times I know they don't. At times I try to explain what they would need to do to accommodate us, but most often it's just too hard or impossible. Containing food to one place while outdoors and then trying to monitor young children with plates and drinks everywhere... Just the thought stresses me out.

I used to think that summer would be the easiest season when it comes to food allergies, but I was wrong. Food is everywhere! In the winter it's too cold for people to be outside with food. Playing in the snow, for us, was the best activity ever!

We're coming up on August now, and I must admit July felt no different than any other month out of the year. The kids have played in the backyard. We've gone to the same safe places we did all winter. I was getting tired of the same old thing. And so I've come up with some plans to get us OUT OF THE HOUSE!!!

One of the biggest challenges we've faced as a family, since our boys were diagnosed with food allergies is changing our mind set about food. Almost every holiday and occasion had a food association with it. Most traditions we had or wanted to start were food oriented. I remember fantasizing about going apple picking with my boys or strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry picking. Adam is allergic to all four. Tears came with the realization that they would never share that experience. What I'd give to host a pie party or any party for that matter and ask people to bring their favorite dish. Even simple occasions like Conference Sunday shout out Monkey Bread!

Having dealt with this life for over a year now, I'm getting better about all of that stuff. I host Thanksgiving Dinner for my husband's family and Easter Dinner for my family. Everything we eat is allergy friendly for everyone and tastes very yummy. BUT on every other occasion we've changed things up! AND we're starting to change things up in our regular daily, weekly, and monthly lives.

I was trying to think of something to take the place of food traditions and holiday celebrations. Gifts and toys work well, BUT it wasn't enough, and honestly it's quite expensive. So, we've decided to embark on a journey together as a family. Instead of centering life around food we're changing our focus to physical activity. It's the one thing that I can think of that's not food oriented, just because it doesn't make sense to be eating at the same time. There may be food after or before, but we can avoid that.

This week I applied for a family scholarship at our local YMCA. After speaking with many staff at the facility and to our doctor, we're eager to receive word that our application has been accepted. There is a referral coming from our doctor too. He knows more than anyone that it's impossible for us to participate in so many other events. I can't put the kids in the YMCA day care, but we can participate in physical activities they offer there of all kinds, all year round. I've signed the boys up for swimming lessons and can't wait to be able to participate in more events.

We're planning a nature hike at our local Wild Life Refuge too. This fall we hope to enroll Owen in either Karate or Soccer. For Christmas we're asking for sleds for everyone in the family. Of course the hot cocoa afterwards will be non existent, but we don't HAVE to have it.

I'm really excited about this new challenge. I love exercise and have always been an outdoor person, being raised on the water, etc... But to try these things with toddlers is different. And to get the courage up to actually try new things...

It will be an adventure, but an adventure we're excited to have. We'll get OUT OF THE HOUSE and have lots of fun! And, hopefully it will instill a love for activity in our kids and keep them healthy longer!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vacation Part III: The Food

Our successful vacation became a reality mostly because of the food prep before hand. I've mentioned previously we stayed at a beach house where I had a real kitchen. None of this would have worked otherwise.
Here's what we ate. There are links to some recipes. Others are listed below. Enjoy!
Meal 1: Honey Chicken Skewers with Pasta Salad & Fruit
The recipes for this meal are located in my Easter Post.

Meal 2: Italian Chicken Burgers with Two Potato Salad & Fruit

Italian Chicken Burgers are my own invention, but anyone will tell you they prefer them over real hamburgers. At least that's been my experience with people who actually taste them.

Start off with a 1 lb. uncooked ground chicken. Add about 1 tsp. of Oregano, Basil, Italian Seasonings, and Garlic Powder. Mix well and shape into hamburgers. Grill.

They're VERY easy to make, and are delicious. You can add as many toppings as you'd like. But they taste just fine with ketchup too.

The recipe Two Potato Salad comes from the book, The Kid Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook. Can I just say that I LOVE this book!

Here's the recipe:
3 purple potatoes, cooked, cooled, and cubed
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked, cooled, and cubed
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (we omitted this ingredient)
1/3 cup rice or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional) (we omitted this ingredient)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or dried basil
2 tablespoons chopped olives (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. If using purchased dressing, omit vinegar and oil.

This recipe is super yummy and tastes SO fresh. One thing to be careful of-overcooking the potatoes. They turn to mush if you cook them too long.

Meal 3: Taco Bar

The taco is a fun meal for everyone. It's very flexible and versatile and will work for picky eaters.

The biggest allergy friendly adjustment I have to make here is making sure the meat is seasoned. Not being able to use packets from the store, I found my own recipe. Actually someone sent it to me.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Packet Replacement

Makes 1 packet

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (we had to omit because it has cumin in it)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt or garlic salt

1. Stir seasoning and 3/4 cup water into 1 lb. browned and drained hamburger (we used ground chicken); simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*Because we can't use chili powder I usually add about 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Besides meat at the taco bar I also have:
Black Beans
Corn Tortillas
Tortilla Chips
Green & Red Peppers

And for those not allergic to dairy products and other ingredients:
Sour Cream

With so many mixing options: Tacos, Burritos, Taco Salad, Beans & Rice, etc... no one goes hungry. It's always a winner and perfect for lots of people.

Meal 4: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

I would like to say I make my own sauce, and I have before, but for vacation purposes, this meal was just a jar of Prego Traditional Spaghetti Sauce. The sauce contains no dairy, no soy, and is all natural. It's great! The pasta was organic wheat. This could easily be substituted with rice pasta. Finally the meat was just ground chicken, although I prefer ground turkey. This is Adam's favorite meal!

Meal 5: Chili Rice
This meal is divine! Again, I haven't found a single person we've served it to who didn't like it. Click HERE for the recipe.

Now, we did make some changes to accommodate Adam that I should mention. Honestly I haven't tried the real version. We omitted the onions, jalapenos, and chili powder. Instead of using kidney beans we used black beans. Lastly, we chose to use ground chicken instead of hamburger or ground turkey. We have used ground turkey before and it's very yummy too.

Meal 6: Hot dogs, Salt Potatoes, & Corn on the Cob

Hot dogs are a staple at our home. When Adam was younger, it was all he would eat. Finding allergy friendly hot dogs for him was really difficult, but we have succeeded. Wegmans carries Applegate Farms Organic Turkey Hot dogs. Besides being delicious, they are super healthy. I don't ever have to wonder what I'm eating either, which is a plus. You may laugh, but we actually order these in bulk. We don't have much food storage at all, but at any given time we have up to 12 packages of these hot dogs. Obviously we brought them with us on vacation.

Salt Potatoes are a central and upstate New York thing, but I've heard they're spreading. If you can't purchase salt potatoes, just buy 5 lbs of tiny potatoes and cook them in boiling water with at least 1 cup of salt. Serve with melted butter. They are really yummy!

Well... That's it for dinners. Next comes desserts!

Dessert 1: Oreo Fest

Both of my children can eat Oreos now, perhaps not all kinds, but the basics. We purchased Golden Oreos, Traditional Oreos, Mint Oreos, and Chocolate Filled Oreos. Adam lives off of these cookies! Quite the yummy treat!

Dessert 2: Mexican S'mores

Enjoy Life has dairy free, soy free, nut free, and I think gluten free chocolate bars now. They are to die for! Our local Wegmans carries them. Both of my boys can eat Honey Maid Original Graham Crackers and marshmallows. So... During vacation they were introduced to s'mores.

Not only that, but they were introduced to Mexican S'mores, my personal favorite. Instead of milk chocolate, use dark chocolate. Instead of Original Graham Crackers use Cinnamon Graham Crackers. The marshmallow is still the same. So YUMMY!

Dessert 3: Ice Cream Bar

Adam doesn't like foods that are extremely cold, but Owen does. He still remembers the day when he had real ice cream. For him we now buy Good Karma Organic Rice Divine Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Creamy Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert. He LOVES it! For Baby A we buy dairy free vanilla ice cream.

Dessert 4: Popcorn Party

I LOVE popcorn. On average I think I eat it at least 4 times a week. The boys love popcorn too, especially Adam. Since corn is a safe food we've thrived on popcorn recipes. You can find them on my other blog Basic Fives. I have many other popcorn recipes too that will probably show up in future posts. Obviously I make alterations for the kids' allergies, but all in all it's a huge hit!

Besides meals we had lots of snack foods around but I won't go into to much detail about that. All I can say is that I gained at least 5 lbs on this trip eating so much yummy food! Hope you enjoy it too!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Vacation Part II: Activities

We left on a Friday. Our first stop-Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. Our final destination was Bethany Beach, DE. Sesame Place was just about half way. We weren't sure how the trip would go with a 3 1/2 year old, almost 2 year old, and almost 1 year old. The only place we stopped on the way to Sesame Place was a rest stop. It was one of the simple ones, with only bathrooms, a picnic area, and a place to run around. Unfortunately these rarely exist anymore. It was a lucky find! Sesame Place was fantastic! I had called ahead inquiring about accommodating Adam and they assured me he'd be fine. We were given permission to bring our own food into the park too. (They check all your bags before you enter.)

No food is permitted on any of the rides. I only remember one outdoor area where food is located. Nearby are deck chairs where people were eating various snacks, including ice cream. We could avoid that area all together. All other food was located in restaurants around the park, but nothing outdoors. It was wonderful not having to worry! I HIGHLY recommend Sesame Place to anyone with young children!
We stayed in a Suite 5 miles from Sesame Place that night. After calling almost 10 suite/hotels, I finally found one with a full kitchen, including a cook top stove. This was crucial for us. I had packed a cooler with our meals for that night and next morning. Obviously free breakfasts are out. The kids loved the suite and thought it was really fun to eat their meals there. We know now that whenever we stay in a hotel we always need to book a suite. There's just no other way to do it.
On Saturday morning we headed to Camden, New Jersey to the Adventure Aquarium. This too seemed to be an allergy friendly place. No food or drink was permitted, except for in designated cafeteria and restaurant areas. What a HUGE relief! We had a lot of fun. Adam even touched star fish!

Saturday afternoon we arrived in Bethany Beach, DE, our vacation spot for the next week. We were staying in a beach house with my husband's father and his significant other. They were absolutely wonderful about keeping Adam safe. I had prepared a menu and grocery list. Joanne and I went grocery shopping together. Each day I'd prepare the meals, using recipes from home. (I'll be sure to share those soon!) Before the trip I was really stressing out about the food, but I don't think it could have gone any better. It was worth the stress before hand.
While in Bethany Beach we visited the beach, went to the pool, and visited the local play grounds.
I think the beach was the least conducive to the food allergies, just because there were SO MANY people there. But, we kept Adam safe.
At the local pool, there was a gated kiddy pool sectioned off. No food or drink was permitted beyond the gate. The pool was the perfect size for the kids. We didn't have to worry about a thing! I've never been so grateful for rules regarding foods and beverages.
When we went to the local playgrounds we always made sure it was in the morning when food would least likely be around. This also ensured that the equipment wasn't too hot to play on.
The kids' most favorite place and activity during the vacation was Fun Land located in Rehoboth Beach about 15 minutes away. Fun Land is a mini amusement park designed for young children. It has numerous rides for children of all ages. The best part about this amusement park, which was actually more like a fair, was that each ride was a maximum of 3 tickets each for the boys. You could purchase 90 tickets for just $20!
Again, no food was permitted on the rides. Honestly I didn't even know food was there until I saw one person carrying around cotton candy. Still it was VERY easy to keep Adam safe. He walked around and around.

This being our first real trip away from home since Adam's diagnoses, I'm beginning to really appreciate measures restaurants and vendors take to ensure the safety of their customers. Jason and I went on a date one afternoon while at Bethany Beach. We went to the board walk. It really surprised us when we saw HUGE signs posting that foods were made with peanut oil at certain restaurants and vendors. Jason and I decided to eat lunch at Five Guys. It was my first time there. As we were waiting for our food, I couldn't help but notice the signs about peanuts again, but also another sign that stated no peanuts were permitted out of the restaurant due to a danger they posed to those with allergies. THANK YOU FIVE GUYS!
Little things like signs on the board walk help me remember that there are people out there who care and slowly the world is starting to accommodate those with food allergies.
After staying a week at the beach, we headed back to New York. We made the trip in one day and actually only stopped once during the 7 hour drive. That one stop though was the biggest challenge we faced during the entire vacation. It was a rest stop, a deluxe rest stop, and it was packed! I ran in first to scope things out and to run to the restroom. Immediately I knew we couldn't bring Adam inside. There were people everywhere carrying ice cream and other treats. You couldn't help but run into people. Not a single table was free. So, we walked around the building on the sidewalk, making sure the kids got their wiggles out and then made lunch in the car and continued on.
This vacation will go down as one of the best vacations ever. It was proof that we can have fun and be safe outside the confines of our little bubble home! Here's to having more fun with food allergies next year on vacation!
Read Vacation Part I below.

Vacation Part I: Secrets

I have been neglecting this blog lately. Reasons...
1. Adam has almost gone into Anaphlactic shock 3 times in the last 6 months. (Definitely not fun times to write about.)
2. I have too many posts to write about how much fun we've been having despite the food allergies. (Guilt and feeling overwhelmed.)
3. I'm dealing with the not so nice side of having a child with food allergies and want to make sure I control my tongue. (I really wish people could just get it!)
4. My computer crashed. (My children adore the power button.)

So there you have it.

I think it's time to get started again though.

Oh, I forgot one more reason for not blogging-
5. We have had a foster child in our home, Baby A, for the past 5 months. She has just been diagnosed with a milk allergy. (Why do these children come to me?)

What to blog about first...


Our family took our first real vacation since the diagnoses of Adam's allergies. It was fantastic! Adam didn't have a single allergic reaction. We were gone for 8 days.

How did we do it?

LOTS of planning!

But now I finally feel like I can share our secrets to having fun with food allergies, while still enjoying vacation.

Secret 1: Stay in a location where you can prepare all of your meals. We stayed at a beach house.

Secret 2: Create a meal plan and grocery list before leaving home. The meal plan must include all meals, snacks, and even the unplanned. Make the grocery list as specific as possible.

Secret 3: Purchase specialty allergy friendly foods before you leave and pack them with you. This will not only keep you sane but will ensure you have what you need when you need it.

Secret 4: Bring plenty of reusable snack and lunch containers to use as you are on the go. We brought food with us everywhere. Restaurants were out of the question.

Secret 5: Make a detailed itinerary for your vacation. Any unexpected stops, visits, etc... can lead to reactions. Once at the beach house we made a plan for the week. It ensured we'd know how much food to have with us at all times.

Secret 6: ALWAYS carry Epi-pens and Benadryl with you. Hopefully this one is a given.

Secret 7: Call ahead to all major attractions to ensure they can accommodate your allergy needs. Ask as many questions as you can to ensure your safety.

Secret 8: Plan places to stop while traveling that will be safe. Food courts aren't recommended. We found the most dangerous places we encountered were the deluxe gas/food/restroom stops. One we weren't even able to enter because of the dangers.

Secret 9: Inform everyone that will be with you about your child's allergy needs and rules of the house while you are there. We could have never had such success if it weren't for such supportive Grandparents.

Secret 10: Allow yourself to have fun!

Where did we go? What did we do? Stay tuned for Vacation Part II!