Adventure

Last week, my mom and I braved a road trip with a 15-month-old to see all of my family in another state.  One that would involve over 20 hours of driving in just five days.

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For weeks leading up to the trip, I fretted over the whole ordeal.  E gets bored in the car driving to the grocery store, so how on earth was I going to keep her occupied for 1500 miles?

I’ll leave you in suspense here a moment.  What I will tell you is that the driving was not the most difficult part of the journey.

The hardest part was the food.  Before we left, I mentioned to my mom I wanted to come up with a game plan for feeding E while we were there.  Feeding a toddler who can’t eat dairy, eggs, and peanuts is no easy feat, and it’s definitely not something you can accomplish without planning.  At home, we eat what E can eat.  I wasn’t going to expect my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents to do the same; but at the same time, I didn’t want E to watch everyone eating the same thing while staring at something else on her own plate for five days straight.  There had to be a middle ground, a compromise of sorts, and that’s what I’d wanted to plan.  My mom reassured me they would all understand, and we didn’t need to plan.  It would all work out.

From the moment we arrived, everyone wanted to eat at restaurants where E could literally eat nothing.  Our first night there we went to a pizza buffet where even the one E-friendly thing there (peas at the salad bar) was contaminated with hard-boiled egg particles.  I had some snacks in the diaper bag but nothing that would constitute a meal since we had just pulled into town an hour earlier.  E immediately pulled my plate of pizza in front of her and she was devastated when I took it away.  One hour into the trip and my heart was already ripping to pieces.

I ended up making a trip to the grocery store to buy some “real” food for E.  It took away some of the stress at the times my family chose to eat at places whose menus didn’t jive with E’s allergies.  However, it was difficult not to be in my own kitchen where at any given moment I know I can throw together an entire meal for E in a pinch with all of the things I have on hand.

One night we traveled to another town to stay with a cousin from the other side of my family.  She’d invited about 20 or 30 people from our family over for a barbecue, and to my relief she asked me for a list of things E would be able to eat.  Although there was plenty of food there that was safe, there was also a lot of unsafe food.  When we arrived, I asked all of my family to not give anything to E without asking me first, and everyone seemed agreeable to my request.  Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that also meant they had to watch their kids and grandkids, who put Cheetos right into E’s mouth.  I quickly took the chip away and the girl who’d given it to her (four or five, maybe?) got extremely upset.  “But she likes it!  Why you won’t let her have it?”  I explained to her that it would make E very, very sick, but she didn’t understand and continued to try giving them to E.  From behind me, my aunt cried out, “Well, she’s just a kid, she doesn’t understand allergies!”  I bit my tongue but I desperately wanted to remind her that a child of that age knows what “sick” means and it would be nice if she would jump in and help her own granddaughter to understand she couldn’t feed that kind of food to my kid.

This is why I need help.  This is why I need other adults, especially my own family, to listen and to understand the seriousness of food allergies and how DAMN HARD it is to be the mother of someone who has them.

Our last night before heading home, my grandpa really wanted to take us out to a new fancy steakhouse that had just opened.  It was expensive, one of those “special occasion” type restaurants, and since my grandma passed away two years ago, special occasions are rare for him these days.  By then I was plain exhausted from all of the fighting and compromising I’d done just to feed E during our trip.  But it was important to my grandpa and it was one more night.  I could do it.  I spoke with the waiters, who spoke with the cooks, and they were able to grill E a chicken breast with absolutely no butter or marinade.  Paired with a side of apple slices, E had a delicious meal that was served to her in a cute little cardboard car, and I was ridiculously relieved.

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In all fairness, other than the food the trip was phenomenal.  E was in the most spectacular mood and she charmed the socks off of everyone.  She got to meet cows and horses and tiny little puppies.  For being on the road so much and away from everything familiar to her, she did great and I’m such a lucky mom for that.

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So, back to the driving portion of the trip.  E handled 23 hours on the road better than the two grown-ass women in the car did.  The secret?  Playing “The Secret Life of Pets” movie over and over and OVER AND OVER.  As long as that movie was playing, E was a happy camper.  Oh, and a continuous pile of Teddy Grahams may have contributed to our success.

All in all, I feel confident that E will be a good traveler.  I know now that next time, not planning for E’s food is not an option.  I don’t fault my family for how things went.  They don’t deal with it every day.  They don’t experience it firsthand.  They don’t understand, like many people don’t until you’re in my shoes.  It just means that we cannot successfully travel anywhere without truly planning out how we’ll feed little E.  It will never work to assume that anyone will understand our situation and adapt to it.

Awareness

Let’s take a break from my usual E shenanigans to get real.

Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 14-20.  Before I had a child with food allergies, I never understood just how serious food allergies can be or how difficult they are to accommodate.

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Part of spreading awareness of food allergies is to help people who don’t deal with them, to learn about the seriousness and the risks involved.  The other part of it is something different and a little harder to explain.

Yesterday at work I was discussing an upcoming company picnic with some colleagues.  After asking if I can bring my own food for the cooks to grill for my daughter, a few people asked about E’s allergies.  I explained and one of them scoffed and said, “Oh my god, she is going to HATE life!”

Wait, what?  Is that the stigma attached to food allergies?  That the people who have them are suffering not from the effects of the allergens but from the fact that they can’t have cheese or peanut butter or wheat?

E is one of the happiest babies I know.  She loves food.  More importantly, she loves the food she can have.  She’s never had cheese or eggs or peanut butter.  She doesn’t know she’s “missing out” on any of these things.  But she does know that her almond milk yogurt and her pea protein milk and her Daiya “cheese” and her cashew butter are all delicious.  My husband and I don’t often snack on things she can’t have, but when we do and she wants to try some, we walk her to the pantry and find one of her snacks and she’s totally satisfied with it.  She doesn’t dwell on that food she didn’t get to try.

I know it won’t always be this way.  One day she’ll be old enough that we’ll have to explain to her why she can’t have things that other people are having.  We’ll have to make sure she is aware, just like I’m hoping to make others more aware.  But by the time that day comes, I’m hoping I’ve done a good enough job as a mother to ensure that she doesn’t hate her life because of food she doesn’t get to eat.

If you don’t know anyone with food allergies now, chances are you will meet one soon enough.  Today, one in 13 children is affected by a food allergy, and 15 million Americans have a food allergy (source:  FARE).  If there is anything you take away from this post, please let it be that people with food allergies are not miserable because of the foods they can’t eat.  It’s actually just the opposite:  they’re NOT miserable because they steer clear of the foods they can’t eat.  Every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the ER.  Would that be worth it for a bite of ice cream or a PB&J sandwich?  No.  Definitely not.

15 Months

E’s 15-month checkup was this last week.  She’s around the 70th percentile for height, weight, and head circumference.  No wonder we’ve had to ditch all of her 12-month clothing!

Her pedi asked how many words she can say that we recognize.  B and I looked at each other and shrugged and said, “Uh, a lot?” She’s said so many new words lately I can’t even keep track anymore.  The doc said they’re happy if the baby knows at least four words by 15 months.  We are totally good.

For the record, here is everything she can say: mama, dada, kitty, doggy, baby, ball, bubbles, more, cheers, this, shoes, bottle, water, that, hi, bye-bye, night-night, and banana.  Right now she uses the word “baby” for just about everything.  It’s her favorite word and we probably hear it 50 times a day.

E has been eating really well lately, thank GOD.  We’ve gone almost a week without a night of her throwing her food onto the kitchen floor.  The Ripple milk also continues to be a big success.  We’re up to three ounces in each of her two bottles a day, so we’re pretty much half Ripple milk and half formula at this point.  She enjoys it, she doesn’t react to it negatively in any way, and my bank account has been much happier.  It’s a win all around!

I’ve spent less time perusing the internet for dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free recipes, and instead focusing on making up my own dishes.  I tend to cook with a lot of meat and rice, and nutritional yeast has become a staple in my kitchen.  B bought a block of cheese this weekend for himself, and it’s becoming odd to me to see cheese in my own refrigerator.

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No cheese required: dairy-free lasagna makes her a happy girl.

We did have a bit of a scare this morning.  Before we started using reusable pouches, I accidentally bought one several weeks back that contained yogurt.  Thankfully I double-checked the label at home before giving it to E, but instead of throwing it away like I should have, I tossed it up in a different part of the pantry that was separate from where we used to keep her stockpile of pouches.  This morning I came out of the shower to find E walking around the living room sucking on the yogurt-filled pouch.  I said something to B and he swiped it away from her at lightning speed, and poor E stared at us like we’d done the unthinkable.  Have you ever taken a pouch away from a hungry toddler?  Don’t.  Luckily we had a reusable pouch filled and ready to go in the fridge.

It’s just another reminder that we have to be so careful.  We know milk only causes her to break out in hives, but it could just as easily have been peanuts or peanut butter.  Oof.

In less than two weeks, we’ll be taking E on a trip to see my family.  The first day will be a 7-hour car ride, two days later will be two 3-hour car rides, and two days after that will be another 7-hour ride.  We’re stocking up on DVDs, good snacks, and good music to dance to, but E doesn’t sleep in the car much and I’m looking for ideas for keeping a 15-month-old occupied on a long car trip.  Any ideas?!

Pear, Squash, Apple, and Carrot Puree

Back when I was pregnant, I went berserk on Pinterest saving links to blog posts on how to make your own baby food puree.  You know, those “One hour for one month’s worth of food” type posts?  I was bound and determined to NOT buy Gerber purees.

After E was born:  you’re welcome for all the money, Gerber.  I hope you’re happy.

In a nutshell, the work intimidated me.  Peeling, chopping, measuring, boiling, blending, measuring some more, freezing, thawing.  With a baby to look after.

Now that I’ve purchased the reusable pouches for E, I kind of committed myself to doing it.  I’ve been blown away by how quick and easy it all is, and I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t allow myself to do this months ago.

This recipe is one I came up with because I thought it seemed simple and I didn’t expect that E would go bonkers over it. But she did, so now I’ve deemed it worthy of sharing. This recipe makes about 20-25 ounces of puree, so if you’re the type to make large batches for freezing, you’ll probably want to double it.

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Ingredients:
1 medium pear, peeled and diced
1/2 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced (my grocery store carries packaged raw, pre-diced squash, highly recommend if you can find it)
10 baby carrots
3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup water

To prepare:

1. Place the pear, squash, and carrot in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on the stove and let boil for 10-15 minutes until the carrots are soft.

2. Transfer the pear, squash, and carrot into the blender. Add the applesauce and 1/4 cup of water. Puree the mixture, adding more water halfway through if the consistency is too thick.

3. Serve immediately, store in containers, or fill into reusable pouches. Enjoy!

Breakfast can suck it

Can you tell I don’t like breakfast around here?

Let me clarify.  I LOVE breakfast.  It’s my favorite meal of the day.  My breakfast and my coffee make me such a happy woman.

What I don’t like is breakfast for E.

Seriously.  What kind of a breakfast do you give a toddler who can’t have dairy or eggs?  I don’t think many of us sit back and think about how much “breakfast” is centered around dairy and eggs until you can’t have either of them.

So, what kind of breakfasts do I feed this child who can’t have most of the breakfast-y things we’ve all come to know and love?

  • Toast with cashew butter.  Almond butter or sunbutter would probably suffice as well, but man my kid loves cashew butter.
  • Kashi frozen waffles.  Thank you, sweet baby Jesus, for the existence of frozen vegan waffles.
  • Cereal.  It’s surprising how many boxed dry cereals don’t contain milk.  We have the added bonus of having to check for peanuts, but those are rare in breakfast cereals so it’s not usually a hindrance.  The catch here is that E hates cereal in any kind of sub milk.  She’ll take it dry, thank you very much.
  • Fruit.  E will eat her weight in fruit.
  • Oatmeal breakfast “cookies.”  I usually steer clear of breakfast items that require baking because as a working mom, ain’t nobody got time for that.  But these are SUPER quick and easy, and I get to steal some of them so… #worthit.
  • Almond milk yogurt.  We buy the Kite Hill brand because it’s pretty thick (some almond milk yogurts are watery and runny) and it’s got five grams of protein, which is a lot more than many sub milk yogurts.

 

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No bowl needed, just give her the box.

Things I should be able to give E for breakfast that I can’t because she hates them and hits the spoon away:  Cream of Wheat and oatmeal.  E likes oatmeal in things like breakfast cookies, but she doesn’t like it hot off the stove.  These days she will at least take a bite and consider it before refusing more…the first time I gave it to her, she bawled her eyes out like I’d fed her a spoonful of thorns.

Allergy moms and non-allergy moms, what kinds of dairy-free and egg-free things do you feed your babies/kids?

New Things Aplenty

It’s been a week of new things around here.

First, reusable pouches:  Why didn’t I start doing this months ago??!!?!?  They’re awesome.  AWESOME.  I started out simple because I didn’t know how it was going to go.  I made an apple-carrot puree that took about ten minutes and cost, I’m guessing, a whole dollar.  It filled up enough pouches for the entire week and E loves them just the same as the pouches I was buying from the store.  I’m doing a jig, I’m so pleased.  This weekend I’ll probably get a bit more ambitious with my fruit and veg combos now that I know it went over well.

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Second, Ripple milk.  We’ve only just embarked on this experiment so I can’t give a thorough update.  I can tell you I gave E a sip last night and she didn’t make a face OR spit it out.  I gave her another sip this evening and she actually signed and said “more” and took two more big sips.  That’s a better reaction than any other sub milk I’ve given her.  This morning I mixed one ounce into her bottle of formula and we had no issues.  I’m feeling optimistic about this one, guys.  Did I finally find THE milk????

Third, cookies.  Remember my last update where I was griping about how much my child hates sweets?  Yeah, scratch that.  She discovered *mini* Oreos (and Golden Oreos) and something about tiny cookies makes her go bananas.  She’s a fiend.  And I love it.  I want to feed her cookies three meals a day just because I’m so thrilled about it.

Fourth, geese and squirrels.  We went to the park last night and the squirrels were running amok and E laughed hysterically over them.  We also encountered a goose, which made E squeal with delight while I stood behind her praying to the goose gods that sucker didn’t lash out and attack us.

Geese are mean.  Cute, but mean.

Before I close up to do my yoga for the night, let’s talk about underwear for a minute.  My underwear.  E thinks it’s pretty fun to get into my clothes hamper and carry my underwear all around the house.  And she leaves them in random places, like in the doorway to the laundry room.

Toddlers are weird.

Oh hi, remember me?

I’ve been MIA and I don’t even have a good excuse.  [Hangs head in shame.]  Okay, fine, I have a good-ish excuse.  For the past eight weeks I’ve been battling vertigo and I was finally diagnosed with a vestibular disorder after having an ENG/VNG test done, which is a nice way of saying I was tortured for three hours.  Anyway, I’ve started rehabilitation therapy and I’m feeling much better physically and emotionally.  So I’m back, yay!

So what’s new with E?  Well, for starters she’s WALKING.  And…RUNNING.  And…SAYING ALL KINDS OF FREAKING WORDS.

Basically, she’s turning into an actual “kid” and it’s beautiful and exciting and scary all at the same time.

E had her first dentist appointment, and she smiled through the whole thing.  It took me by surprise because whenever we tried to brush her teeth, she grew ten extra arms and threw the mother of all tantrums.  Ever since her appointment, though, she brushes her own teeth and she LOVES to do it.

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Not that I have to worry about cavities, because my daughter hates sweets.  She eats her weight in fruit every day but she doesn’t like cookies, candy, cakes, NONE of it.  Which is a good thing because a) sweets aren’t healthy and b) sweets are almost impossible with food allergies.  Still, sometimes I wish I could offer her an Oreo or a Peep or some other vegan goodie and see her lose her marbles over it.

We’re making a lot of progress on finding E-friendly foods she will eat, but we’re stuck on the milk part.  She’s still drinking 14 ounces of Nutramigen daily because she doesn’t like any of the milk subs.  I just learned about Ripple milk (pea milk) so we’re going to give it a whirl this weekend.  I’m changing up my strategy. I’m going to offer it to her first by adding it to a bowl of Cheerios and trying to get her used to the taste with something she loves before I pour it into a cup and expect her to guzzle it down.

Being an allergy mom is ALL about strategy.

Also on my list of new things to try is reusable puree pouches.  E is gaga over those pouches but at two bucks a pop, they’re killing my budget.  It’s one of the only ways I can get her to eat her vegetables, so I’m not giving them up (TIPS, MOMS?  I’m losing it over here!).  After reading approximately 907 reviews on Amazon, I settled on some ChooMee reusable pouches and I’m going to make my own purees to fill them with.

Lord, help me to overcome my procrastination.

Last update for now:  at 14.5 months old, E’s hair is finally long enough for a bow.  BOOM.

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