26 Weeks of Muffins: Week 1

It’s been just over a week since E’s failed baked milk challenge at the allergist’s office. For the next six months, we’ve been instructed to give E half a muffin three times a week in order to help her build up a tolerance for baked milk.  The muffins need to be fresh, so I’ll be baking a new batch every week.  Did you do the math?  That’s 26 batches of muffins before E’s next blood testing.

B is thrilled because he usually buys a package of fresh-baked muffins at the grocery store each week to eat for breakfast.  He’s really, really into muffins.  Out of every dozen muffins I make, E only gets one and a half–so B gets the rest because this mama is trying to ditch her sweet tooth.

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I’m also keeping a log of each muffin I give to E so I can discuss reactions/non-reactions with the allergist.

  • 7/23/2017:  Dime-sized rash on one cheek
  • 7/25/2017:  Quarter-sized light pink rashes on each cheek several hours after consuming
  • 7/28/2017:  No reaction
  • 7/30/2017:  [Jeopardy music]

Of course, I have to share all of the recipes I’m trying.  Most of them will require modifications for E’s other allergies, so I’ll link to the recipe and note what I did differently to accommodate little miss.

This week:  Amish Cinnamon Muffins

THESE ARE SO GOOD.  The muffin tops are incredible–super fluffy and just slightly crispy on the edges.  Oh em eff gee.

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Modifications:  subbed egg with flax egg, and subbed butter with Smart Balance (Original).  I still struggle with flax eggs in certain recipes–especially meatloaf/meatballs/etc.–but for muffins I’ve been successful so far by using a little less water than most flax egg recipes call for.  Typically the flax meal to water ratio is 1 TBSP:3 TBSP, but I’ve found doing about 2.5 TBSP of water is perfect.

Also, this recipe called for buttermilk, regular milk with vinegar, or just regular milk.  I used plain whole milk.

I’m drooling as I write this post.

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If you have a favorite muffin recipe, please feel free to share!  I might as well take this opportunity to try some new things and add as much variety as I can to E’s bland-ish diet.

Baked Milk Challenge

Last week we had E retested for her dairy, egg, and peanut allergies.  It’s been six months since her last blood test when her allergist was hopeful she was starting to outgrow her dairy allergy.

I already knew the peanut allergy was still going strong.  A month ago E had a reaction from cross contamination.  I gave her a piece of toast with cashew butter that was fresh ground in a machine right next to a peanut grinder.  Never again.  This pic was taken about six hours after exposure:

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I also expected we were still dealing with an egg allergy since we’ve had some suspected cross contamination reactions there as well.  I was correct in both of my suspicions–egg and peanut are both too high to do anything but retest again in six months and see if the IgE numbers have decreased any.

E’s milk numbers dipped low enough, though, that her allergist allowed us to try a baked milk challenge in the office.  They gave me a recipe for muffins (we still had to use an egg substitute) and we set up an appointment to monitor E after she ate them to see if she had any reactions.

Our appointment was at 8:45, almost an hour later than E’s normal breakfast time.  She would have to eat two muffins for the challenge, so I had to starve the poor child until we got to the allergist’s office.  By the time the challenge began, she was so excited to be presented with the 1/4 of a muffin she was allowed to start out with.  When she finished, we waited 20 minutes and monitored for a reaction.  There wasn’t one.

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Next she got half of a muffin and we watched her for 20 more minutes.  There was still no reaction.  I texted updates to B about every 15 minutes.  The last leg of the challenge was for E to eat a whole muffin, and we would monitor her for 45 minutes.  After the whole muffin, I texted B and we were both so thrilled that E wasn’t reacting.

No sooner had I texted him that last update than I noticed it:  all of my excitement and hope and optimism melting away as a rash appeared on her left cheek.

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I stepped into the hallway and summoned the allergist, who came in and examined E’s face.  He noted the rash and asked me to step out and let him know if it spread or got worse.

Over the next 20 minutes, the rash began to fade, but then more began to appear on other parts of her face–the other cheek, below her eye, in between the eyebrows.  I knew what this all meant but I refused to believe it until the allergist said the words himself: that E hadn’t passed the challenge.

What this means:  despite E’s super low IgE numbers for dairy, she can’t completely tolerate baked milk.  What this doesn’t mean:  that there’s no hope and we’re not making progress.  Though E reacted, it was mild enough that her allergist wants to continue exposing her to very small amounts of baked milk regularly in the hopes of building up a tolerance.  For the next six months, we’ll give E half a muffin, three times per week.  When we retest at her second birthday, the hope is that her numbers will have come down significantly and we can redo the challenge and pass with flying colors.

What THIS means:  I’ll be baking.  A lot.  Every single week.  The muffins need to be fresh, so there’s no batch baking and freezing here.

What THAT means:  I picked a good time to get back into running.  Mmmmmmmm muffinsssssss.

I had a nice little cry after we left the allergist’s office.  It’s a step in the right direction and for that I’m grateful.  But it’s tough, knowing that on your child’s second birthday she will still be unable to tolerate so many foods in a world that is awfully insensitive to dietary needs.  It’s a hard thing to accept.  But we will keep fighting and I will continue to hope.

Worst One Yet

E just got over an awful stomach flu that lasted for five days and landed us in urgent care.  Twice.

Good thing yesterday was National Donut Day because this mama is a stress eater and a boat-sized donut is just what I needed.

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So finally E has been feeling much better and acting like herself for the past three days. Her appetite is still a bit wonky–she eats like a horse but it’s all carbs, she has no interest in meat or veggies. But we’re past all the diarrhea and the vomit and the dehydration.

Then after we got home from day care yesterday she threw up while playing with a puzzle in her bedroom.  I immediately went into panic mode.  Did she get another bug? Was it the same bug rearing its ugly head yet again?  Was it something worse?  She was acting fine, so B said we shouldn’t worry.  Okay fine, I pretended not to worry.

Not too long after, I changed her diaper.  When I pulled down her pants I noticed her legs were dotted with big, angry hives.  I lifted her shirt and they were on her chest and her abdomen, too.  The pieces started to come together.  Hives.  Vomit.  She was having a reaction to something she’d ingested.

But what?  She hadn’t eaten anything new.  Allergy moms know full well though that a child can develop a food allergy at any time.  I called out to B that I needed a syringe of Benadryl stat, all the while thinking of the allergy action plan on our fridge that states full-body hives and vomiting together warrant the use of the EpiPen. Technically, according to our action plan, this was a probable anaphylactic reaction.  But she was breathing okay.  But she was also crying for no apparent reason that could also just be an indication that she was tired.  So many what-ifs.  WHAT THE HELL SHOULD I DO?!?!

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Seriously guys, if I’m going to be an allergy mom I’m going to need a truckload of Xanax.

I gave the Benadryl and watched her, all the while trying to figure out what caused the reaction.  While I was giving her a bath, it clicked.  When we left day care, the teacher handed E a pacifier.  It was the same brand we use, but from across the room it didn’t quite look familiar to me.  I got distracted and scooped E up and took her out to the car, and only later did I determine that pacifier was in fact not ours.  No big deal, right?  We were already home, it was the weekend, and the babies swap pacifiers at day care all the time.  It’s kind of hard to prevent it.  We’d just take it back on Monday. I didn’t think anything of it.

Until that vomit episode and that rash and no solid explanation for it.  I immediately jumped on to Facebook and posed the question in the allergy mom support group I’m in. Was it possible?  Could some other kid have had that pacifier in his/her mouth after eating peanut butter, and now it was causing E to react?

I’ll never know for certain but the support group seemed to think so.  All of the advice I got was to “epi,” the pseudo-verb used to describe using the EpiPen, and take E to the ER. By this time the Benadryl had kicked in and E was asleep, and I was having an anxiety attack wondering if I shouldn’t have second-guessed the Epi.

Luckily E was okay.  I watched the video monitor like a hawk until I went to bed, and I checked it the numerous times I woke during the night.  E still has pink spots where the hives had been, but the vomiting has subsided and she’s acting A-OK.

As if food allergy moms don’t have enough to worry about, now I have to worry about her grabbing the other babies’ pacifiers at day care.  The teachers can keep an eye out but this one is really hard to avoid and even I can understand that.  I suppose all I can do is ask for extra precautions to be taken, and thank my lucky stars we have the EpiPen just in case.

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.

Scares and Steps

Let’s start with the good news first:  E took her first steps!  It was just a few–twice–and it hasn’t happened again in the past four days, but it was refreshing to see that she’s gained enough confidence to try to do it on her own.  Now she walks simply “holding” my pointer finger, and by “holding” I mean barely touching and not realizing that she’s actually walking on her own and I’m not doing a thing to help her.

The not-so-good news:  we had a major allergy scare the other night.  B was working a bit late so E and I had a makeshift breakfast for dinner: cashew butter toast with a side of hashbrowns.  It was nothing E hasn’t eaten before and there should have been zilch to worry about.  Halfway through the meal, though, a dark red rash spread across E’s face in a matter of seconds.  Hives began to pop up everywhere and then the same thing happened to her hands, and then her collarbone.  My first thought was Oh shit, somehow a peanut was ground into the batch of cashew butter.  My heart began racing and my whole body was tingling, and in the midst of a full-blown anxiety attack I completely shut down for half a minute as I tried to determine my next step.  I finally came to my senses enough to give her some Benadryl, and then I watched closely for any difficulty breathing.

Half an hour later, I finally began to calm down.  We were in the clear.  The Benadryl had started to work its magic and E was doing just fine.  Even still, I watched the monitor like a hawk after I put her to bed.  Just to be sure.

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Until recently, I had (stupidly) assumed food allergy scares would be few and far between.  We avoid purchasing any food that’s processed on the same equipment as milk or eggs.  We avoid purchasing any food that’s processed in the same facility as peanuts.  Even though the cashew butter label reads “May contain almonds” and does not have a warning about peanuts, I was utterly terrified E might have accidentally ingested a peanut via her cashew butter.  Although her recent reaction wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t because of her cashew butter.  She’s had it since without so much as a single hive appearing on her body. So how do allergy moms curb their anxiety?

I’ll circle back and answer that question later.  Six months, maybe.  A year, maybe.  Over time, I have to learn.  I have to find a way to handle allergy scares without having a paralyzing anxiety attack.

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Dramatic post aside, we’ve been finding so many things for E to eat.  Newest favorites:  vegan blueberry waffles, Triscuits (they must feel good on those gums), whole peeled apples, frozen peas, Larabars, raspberry sorbet, and banana bread.  This girl LOVES her food!

Table Food for the Allergy Baby

E’s former doctor referred to her as the “allergy baby.”  It’s true, E does have a lot of known allergies…already…and unfortunately, two of those allergies are to dairy and eggs.  E is over ten months old now which means she’s getting a couple of “meals” of solid food every day.  Recently E graduated from purees to table foods, but at times this is proving to be a challenge. A lot of my mom friends give their babies cheese cubes, cottage cheese, yogurt, and scrambled or hard-boiled eggs.  I can’t do that.  In fact, I can’t even give E a piece of bread to nibble on without first scrutinizing the label to ensure there are no “hidden” dairy ingredients.

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So, what do I give miss E when she can’t have a lot of the soft, yummy foods babies her age are typically eating?  Here are her current favorites:

  • Pasta.  This girl LOVES pasta.  She’ll eat it plain, but I like to drizzle it in a little olive oil and lightly sprinkle some salt on it for some flavor.  Eventually I’ll make some dairy-free sauces for it, but for now she’s perfectly content with the minimal-effort version.
  • Cheerios.  These are her absolute favorite.
  • English muffins.  Not all of them are dairy-free, but I did find some safe ones at Trader Joe’s and E is a big fan.
  • Almond milk yogurt.  Although E also has a peanut allergy, tree nuts aren’t a problem.  I wasn’t a fan of the almond milk yogurt, but E has a different opinion.  We buy the Almond Dream brand and she can’t get enough.
  • Olives.  I buy the pre-sliced canned olives and cut them in half.
  • Canned fruits and veggies.  For the fruit, I only buy it in 100% juice, not the syrup.  These are nice because they’re super soft and I don’t have to be peeling, slicing, and steaming things to make them soft enough for her to chew.
  • Plum Organics Super Puffs.  When I show E the bottle, she knows exactly what I’m about to give her and she dances out of excitement.  Best baby snack ever!
  • Ground turkey.  Plain.  Sounds boring but E loves it.
  • Shredded chicken.  Plain.  Sometimes this baby makes it too easy for me.
  • Watermelon.  Easy to chew and also good for the days when E is being stubborn about drinking her water.

I should probably mention that we’ve tried oatmeal…twice…and both times, E hated it so much she sobbed uncontrollably until she was positive I wouldn’t try giving her another bite.

E’s next round of allergy testing is in one month.  We’ll find out if she’s grown out of any of her allergies (FINGERS CROSSED!) and if she hasn’t, we’ll be able to do some bake tests and things to find out if she can tolerate small amounts in recipes.  Until then, we’ll keep experimenting and reading labels and growing this list!

Eight months

I’m making a promise to myself to set down the stupid Candy Crush game when E is sleeping and actually do some damn blogging.

Speaking of the word “damn,” E is starting to try forming real words, so I’ve also made a promise to myself to quit swearing in her presence.  I told my coworkers to expect me to cuss a lot more at work from now on because it’s my designated swearing time.  In all seriousness, E’s favorite word right now is “gaga” and B is convinced she’s saying “dada.”  So naturally I’m on a mission to get her to say “mama” first.  I read somewhere once that more babies say “dada” first because it’s easier for them to make the D sound than the M sound, but…B and I are very competitive.

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E turned eight months old this week.  She’s crawling now and it’s still 75% an army crawl but she’s starting to figure out she can get around on her hands and knees.  Even army crawling she’s too fast for me sometimes.  I can’t leave her in a room unattended for more than ten seconds at a time now.  I’ve found myself feeling grateful for her exersaucer because it’s the one and only place I can put her down when I’m trying to get all of our stuff ready to head out the door in the morning.

E has always been really easygoing with new people, but in the past few weeks stranger anxiety has kicked in.  It used to be that E would always light up when she met someone new but now she stares at them skeptically, frowns, and then turns to me and starts to cry.  It’s so out of character for her that it’s been a strange adjustment for me, but I know it’s just her age and that eventually it will pass.  In the meantime, I’ve started warning new people that they might make her cry and it’s nothing personal.

It’s been three months since E’s first two teeth came in on the bottom, and the top two have finally broken through her gums.  The process has been long, painful, and full of sleepless nights.  Oof.

The best news of all is that E’s eczema is almost nonexistent these days!  We switched from breastmilk to hypoallergenic formula almost two months ago, and for the past month E has not had any eczema issues.  I feel certain that the daily peanut butter I’d been eating hadn’t had time to filter out of my system when I was still pumping.  I’m so glad we had the allergy testing done!

Lastly, I’m happy to report that E is finally growing some hair!  It took seven months but I no longer have a 90% bald baby girl.  HA!