Turn It Teal – Day 3

Today’s Turn It Teal challenge:  “Share a picture of your favorite allergen-free alternative.”  Yay!  An easy one!

The only problem is picking A favorite.  …Only one?  …Really?  …Sorry, no can do.  Confession time:  Sometimes I have difficulty following directions.  And because there are so many great alternatives out now, we have favorites, plural.  So I feel the need to share several!

First, my picture.


I took this when we recently went on a trip to Orlando and visited Sea World.  Probably only parents of kids with allergies or those with allergies themselves will immediately understand why I took a picture of popcorn.  I’ll get to this more in tomorrow’s post, but vacations and special events are difficult.  We have to pack up our cooler with a full days-worth of food for Mowgli.  I always take along foods that he considers special treats; and he’s happy.  God’s blessed him with a sweet, accepting disposition when it comes to his food allergies.  But the large majority of “special treats” (for example, Rice Krispies treats, chocolate chip cookies, pudding, or mini powdered donuts) I have to make myself ahead of time.  I don’t mean this as a complaint, just a fact.  It’s work.  It takes effort and planning.  Lately I’ve been relying a lot on potato chips and Oreos, but as a result they aren’t as much of a “treat”.  Also, while Mowgli keeps a great perspective about his allergies, I have a harder time.  Theme parks (and most other fun family vacation spots) are full of food.  Pizza, ice cream, chocolates and candies, soft pretzels, caramel corn…  I see families indulging in these foods all around me and (besides feeling paranoid about our boy coming into contact with something he’s allergic to) I feel grieved that he hasn’t EVER been able to have the same type of experience.  Until Sea World and Divvies Kettle Corn.  Before our trip I checked Sea World’s website and found that they offer prepackaged (so cross-contamination risk is minimal) allergen-friendly snacks, one of which is Divvies kettle corn.  Now, I’ve tried making homemade kettle corn at home and I’ve been unsuccessful every. single. time.  So I was SUPER-excited to find that Divvies Kettle Corn is free of Mowgli’s allergens and hopeful that we’d all enjoy it.  Boy, did we!  That stuff is addictive!!  It’s not available at any of our local stores and Divvies only offers it in a three gallon size on their website, but I may see if I can find the individual size on a third-party site and order it online.

Okay, before I share some of our other favorites I need to explain Mowgli’s food allergies.  He’s anaphylactic to eggs, dairy, and oats.  Yes, oats.  I know, it’s a weird one.  In addition, he’s tested strongly positive to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame.  We completely avoid ALL of these, so the products I’m telling you about are free of these foods to the best of my knowledge.  He’s also allergic to green beans, apple, pear, pitted fruits (peaches, plums, etc.), sunflower (and other seeds), and strawberries.  These allergens are tricky, because his reactions depend on how they’re prepared, how much of them he has, and how much he’s been exposed to his environmental allergens.  So sometimes he can have them and sometimes he can’t.  Some of the products I’m telling you about do contain these foods.  **Please note:  Ingredients and processing practices can change.  I cannot attest to whether these foods are safe for you or your child.  You must read the labels and decide for yourself.**

  1.  We use Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread every day, often multiple times a day.  It is delicious!  FYI:  It contains soy.  They do offer a soy-free version.  We just don’t find the taste quite as enjoyable.  I also use their Vegan Buttery Sticks for baking and other applications that call for stick butter.
  2. Original Vegenaise is the bomb!  Seriously.  The only way I can tell the difference between it and real mayo is if I eat a spoonful of one right out of the jar and then do the same with the other.  (We haven’t had mayo in our house for years now, but I tried doing this once when we still had it around.)  Tuna macaroni salad, ranch dressing, sandwiches, they are still available to us thanks to this product!
  3. Enjoy Life chocolate chips kept me sane while I was nursing our little man.  In addition to his other main allergies, he was allergic to soy back then.  We still use Enjoy Life chocolate chips for baking.  However, I eat a tiny handful of these dark chocolate chips every day.  They are more expensive than the others, but I feel like they are smoother in texture, more like “fancy” chocolate.  Call this Mom’s special treat.
  4. Let’s talk cheese, one of the foods I miss most.  There is nothing like it.  Nothing.  At least, nothing nut-free.  I wish I could give an opinion about the cashew “cheese” I’ve seen, but as I’ve already explained, nuts are out for us.  Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds  are the best alternative I’ve found.  They melt!  Which is great for pizza, nachos, and grilled sandwiches.  And when combined with Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast Seasoning, a little Earth Balance, unsweetened soy milk, and a few other seasonings, they make a decent “cheese” sauce for mac ‘n cheese.  Our very favorite recipe that we use these shreds in, though, are these “Cheesy” Scones.  We use the Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds in place of the Sheese and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks as the margarine.  They are SO GOOD!  In fact, they remind me of those cheddar bay biscuits that everyone raves about from Red Lobster.
  5. As far as replacing for eggs goes, it can be tricky for us.  Due to Mowgli’s sesame and sunflower seed allergies, I’m reluctant to give him too much flax seed (which is a common egg replacement).  I’ve mostly dealt with this by choosing vegan recipes for baked goods that use chemical leaveners (baking soda, baking powder).  One of my favorite recipe websites is Post Punk Kitchen.  PPK’s pumpkin waffles, marbled banana bread, chai spice snicker doodles, and mocha chip muffins are fabulous!  For those times when I want/need to use a non-vegan recipe (like Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies or yeast rolls), I use Ener-G Egg Replacer.  In my experience, it works best in from-scratch recipes that only call for 1-2 eggs.

I think I’ll stop there, though I’m always happy to share more on this topic!  Just ask!  Oh, and, full disclosure:  None of the above companies have paid me for my time or opinion.  They haven’t even given me any free food.  But man, I wish they would!  Allergy-friendly food is expensive!!

Turn It Teal – Day 2

Today’s assignment for the Turn It Teal Photo Challenge is to “share a picture of the person in your life with food allergies.”

Here’s a picture of our man-cub marveling at a couple of dolphins.  See his allergy alert bracelet?  We’ve had it for a long time now, and it still goes everywhere with him.


Today I’m going to copy another allergy mama’s post in that I’m going to talk directly to our boy.

Dearest Mowgli,

You are growing up so quickly and your dad and I are so proud of you–your love for God and His Word, your love for others, your tenderness and compassion, your enthusiasm, your desire to be helpful, your courage.  I know you don’t think of yourself as brave or courageous, but we do.  We know it’s not always easy dealing with your allergies.  We know that occasionally you struggle.  But we work through it together, and we always come through with stronger faith, trusting God more and more.  Even so, dealing with your allergies may get more difficult as you get older.  I don’t want to go through all of the ways right now.  Like Matthew 6:34 says, tomorrow will worry about itself; each day has enough trouble of its own.  But I need you to know these truths and really believe them.

  1. God loves you and His Holy Spirit is always with you.  Remember His words to Joshua in Joshua 1:9.  Hold fast to the truth of Romans 8:28.  Even when you don’t understand your circumstances, God is working them out for your ultimate good.
  2. You may sometimes wonder why God allowed you to have allergies, and that’s okay.  But know this:  You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).  I’m going to say it again, because it’s important for you to know:  You are fearfully and WONDERFULLY made.  Any weaknesses you have are there to bring you closer to God and to display His strength and power (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  His grace will always see you through.

We love you more than we can explain or even show you.  One day if you are blessed with children of your own you’ll understand what I mean.



Turn It Teal – Day 1

Today is Mother’s Day, as well as the first day of FARE’s Food Allergy Awareness Week.  The theme for the week is “React with Respect.”

To help celebrate, Live From the Playroom has come up with a fun photo challenge.  Today the instructions are to “share a picture of you or something you’ve done to go above or beyond for your child.”  This may sound strange coming from someone who blogs, but this challenge is difficult for me.  I’m not one who usually self-promotes.  And all of the moms I know go above and beyond for their children, whether or not they have food allergies.  Still, I’ll give it a shot.

Here’s a picture Mowgli took of me this winter when we vacationed in Chattanooga.  Of course, I was carrying the backpack that contains the Epi-pens, antihistamine, saline nose drops, lubricant eye drops, hydrocortisone cream, Kleenex, hand wipes, and Mowgli-safe snacks.

Me in Chattanooga

One of the ways I help keep our son (who has multiple food allergies) safe is by being extra-careful about which personal care products I use.  Shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, facial moisturizer, body lotion, deodorant, cosmetics, sunscreen…the list goes on and on…so many of them these days contain food or chemicals derived from food in an effort to be “natural”.  I get the appeal.  But it makes it tough for me to find products that are safe for me to use.  My husband can attest that I’ve never been particularly “high-maintenance”, but as I get older I find myself feeling more self-conscious about my appearance and wishing that I didn’t have to be so careful about what I use.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I wouldn’t trade my sminkles!

One way I celebrated Mother’s Day was by taking the time to paint my nails teal.  We’ve had beautiful weather here all weekend, and I had a lovely time just sitting outdoors this evening.  I’m hoping that my brightly colored nails will lead to several conversations this week that will help others to be more understanding of those of us dealing with food allergies.  Will you join me and #TurnItTeal?

Teal Toenails

Allergies Bite

WordPress tells me I haven’t posted in a month.

It’s because I’ve been struggling with some health problems.  After several rounds of testing, the verdict is that I have lousy genetics to overcome and need to make some major lifestyle changes.  I now have no choice.  I must manage my stress better.  Ha!  Tell that to Mowgli’s allergies.

He started weekly allergy shots back in January, and had done really well with them.  No reactions.  Until today.  Twenty minutes or so after his shot, ten minutes before the office was scheduled to close, a big, ugly, red hive appeared on his arm.  A quick check by the nurse and we were ushered into an exam room, Mowgli was given a dose of an antihistamine, and we all waited for twenty more minutes to see what would happen.  The hive got larger, but no new ones appeared and no new symptoms showed themselves, so we were allowed to go home with instructions to make sure that we come for his shots at least one hour before closing from here on out.  Oh, yeah, and if he complains of his throat feeling tight or problems breathing, if he starts coughing or wheezing, we’re to use his Epi-pen and call 911.

Mowgli’s been in bed asleep for over a couple of hours now, but I’m finding it impossible to sleep myself, even after a brisk forty-five minute walk and prayer time.  So I’m just going to leave this here on the blog, hoping that doing so will alleviate some of these negative emotions that are plaguing me tonight.


Where do I start?

I don’t know where to begin tonight.  I have been debating whether I should even write this.  I really want to be one of those bloggers whose posts are uplifting.  I mean, those are the types of posts that I usually enjoy reading.  I want others to enjoy my posts, too.  But I’m not feeling very positive right now.  The main reason I started this blog was to help me to work through my thoughts and emotions.  To get them out and then let them go.  So here goes.  Who knows?  Maybe one of you have had similar experiences and need to know that you aren’t alone.

We had to leave church early tonight because of Mowgli’s allergies.  Mid-way through his choir class they moved to a larger room so that several grades could practice together.  Within minutes of being in that room his eyes began to water, his nose got stuffy, and he developed a hive on his arm.  Since he’s had problems off-and-on with his environmental allergies flaring up at church, we no longer go to our adult Bible study classes on Wednesday nights.  Instead, we stay outside of his choir class and monitor him often.  Tonight we peeked into the class, saw him looking around for a teacher (he knows to tell them right away if he’s not feeling right), and quickly got him out of the building.  I put some hydrocortisone cream on the hive and we waited for a bit outside to see how serious the reaction was.  He seemed okay, so we started on the twenty minute drive home.  About five minutes into the drive he told us that his eyes were watering a lot more, that his throat felt tickly, and that he was scared.  Trying to keep my own anxiety under control I smiled, told him he was going to be okay, hoped beyond hope that I hadn’t just told him a lie, began mentally rehearsing the steps of giving him the Epi-pen, and waited.  A few more minutes passed and the tickling in his throat went away.  I thanked God and tried to act normal during the rest of the drive.  Once home we gave him his usual nightly dose of antihistamine and had him get right into the shower.  An hour later his symptoms were improved.  I am so thankful.  And still so worried.  The enemy definitely knows where to send his fiery darts.

It feels like there have been a lot of fiery darts aimed my way lately.  In reality there aren’t that many, and they’ve mostly been little things, really.

Like Mowgli’s basketball practice being cut short by a half hour last night so that the kids could enjoy surprise cupcakes brought by the coach’s wife.  She knows about Mowgli’s allergies, but didn’t give me any sort of heads-up.  He wasn’t upset about missing out on the cupcakes.  But he was really disappointed that he didn’t get to play his full hour of basketball.  We wanted to let him stay and practice, but it just wasn’t safe for him to do so with the other kids handling cupcakes and then the basketballs.  Allergies can be so isolating.

Little things.  Like meeting another family in the allergist’s office this week.  Their daughter is sixteen and has been getting allergy shots for the last seven years (we’re only on week five); three shots per visit, just like our Mowgli.  She, too, has multiple food allergies that have only increased in number and severity as she’s gotten older.  At first I felt encouraged.  There are others who have been through/are going through exactly what we are going through.  They’ve survived it.  They’re handling it.  We can, too.  And yet…  After seven years this family still has to come to the allergist’s office for their daughter to receive shots.  The allergist told us the usual length of treatment is five years.  Meeting this girl and her family dashed my hopes a little.  Okay.  A lot.  These allergy shots are a huge commitment.  They carry significant risk.  We prayed about it A LOT before we decided to do them.  I have been believing that God is going to use them to heal our son.  So to meet a girl for whom they haven’t yet worked was…discouraging.

There have been a few big things, too.  Like a friend’s miscarriage, which has brought up all of the memories of my own even though it was so long ago.  The grief was intense, but blessedly short.  Had God allowed us to keep that baby, we wouldn’t have our Mowgli.  Where there once was heartache, there is now joy.  But while I no longer grieve the loss, I have to recognize that it has forever changed me.  It is, at least in part, why Mowgli’s anaphylactic allergies have rocked my world so hard.  I KNOW the devastating pain of losing a child.

The flaming darts have come in many sizes, but none surprised me more than a friend’s Facebook post yesterday.  She shared a meme that’s been going around for over a year now that says, “If my kid can’t bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn’t be able to bring preventable diseases.”  Okaaay.  So I commented and explained why this meme is offensive to parents like me who have kids with food allergies.  (It’s not okay to imply that kids with food allergies are unvaccinated.  Just like other kids, some are vaccinated and some aren’t.  Food allergies aren’t a choice.  Vaccinations are.)  She said she wasn’t implying that kids with food allergies are unvaccinated and clarified her position, which is this:  “If (she) can force kids not to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” (she’s a teacher) “why can’t we apply that same logic to kids coming to school without vaccinations?”

I found the whole exchange emotionally draining, and I thought it was just from the frustration of having to explain to my friend (a high school English teacher) that whether she meant to imply it or not, the use of “my” and “your” in the meme does imply it.  But then why didn’t I feel any better after she explained her position?  I realized today that it is because she is saying that forcing parents to keep the peanut butter at home is the same thing as forcing them to vaccinate their children.  Let’s consider it.  Vaccines carry risk of illness and injury.  Even if that risk is small, it is there.  What is the possible harm in keeping your peanut butter at home?  Inconvenience.  Sacrifice of time and energy in order to find a lunch item that your child will eat.  Yet the way many parents react to having to keep the peanuts at home is as if you’d forced them to stick their child with a needle.  They rant and complain that their child’s “right” to peanut butter has been infringed on by my child’s selfish desire for a safe environment.  No, my friend is wrong.  It is not the same thing.  You cannot use the same logic.  And having to continually educate and explain this to others is exhausting.

Life is hard enough, especially nights like tonight when Mowgli’s had a reaction.

How do I end this?  With a reminder to myself that I can put out those flaming arrows of the evil one by taking up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:13-17) and that it only takes mustard seed-sized faith to move mountains (Matthew 17:20).

{*Please do not respond with comments for/against vaccination.  I will not approve them.*}



How do you overcome fear?

“I think the pastor should speak about how to overcome fear.  Like if there’s a fire or something…right at that moment, how do you overcome fear?” Mowgli asked tonight before he went to bed.

My heart broke a little as he spoke.  I hate that he struggles with the same issues that I do.  I gently took the Bible from his hand, and flipped through it carefully.  “Sweetheart, do you know that your mom has a hard time with this, too?”  He shook his head no.  “Well, I do.”  I wrapped my arms around him, wondering how much longer I will be able to do so.  “Mom, what makes you afraid?”  I snuggled closer, breathing in the smell of his hair, “The possibility of losing you or your dad.”

I showed Mowgli the verses that mean so very much to me, verses that I cling to like a life preserver.  Really, for me, that is exactly what they are.  “See, God tells us what to do,” I reminded him before reading from Philippians.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  -Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

We talked it over:  In the middle of scary circumstances we are to pray and ask God to help us and then trust Him to do it.  “That reminds me of some verses in Romans.  They say that God will never leave us,” Mowgli said, turning pages briskly.  After he searched a bit he said, disappointed, “I can’t find them.”  I turned to Romans 8 and asked, “Are these the ones?”  His eyes lit up, “Yes!”

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 8:35, 37-39 (NIV)

As I read the verses aloud, I could feel Mowgli relax next to me.  “Can I write these verses on an index card?” he asked.  “Sure.  First thing tomorrow morning.  But now it’s time to finish getting ready for bed.”  I tousled his hair, gave him one last hug, and sent him off to brush his teeth.

We always pray together as a family before Mowgli goes to sleep.  Tonight all three of us snuggled in Mowgli’s bed.  There were lots of giggles.  Our list of things to thank God for was even longer than usual.  Mowgli wrapped one arm around me and one arm around Hubs as we prayed.  How I wish I could bottle the closeness and sweetness and peace of that moment!  Once we’d finished I asked, “Do you mind if I take a quick picture?  I just want some way to remember this.”  I was off to get the camera before they could answer.  They didn’t seem to mind.  Guess they are used to my whims.

Praying hands

A quick click of the shutter caught the three of our hands intertwined–Mowgli’s hand encircled by mine and his dad’s.  There was more laughter, more hugging, more memory-making.  Eventually we said a final “Good Night”.

Now I sit here alone in the stillness with my jumbled thoughts, my two loves sleeping soundly in rooms nearby, and I ponder Mowgli’s question.  How do you overcome fear?

See, tonight, I am afraid.  Tomorrow I am taking our boy for his very first allergy shot.  The allergist will stick a needle into Mowgli’s arm and inject a mixture that they’ve concocted just for him, a special blend of all of the things in the environment that he’s allergic to.  And while I understand the concept behind it, it still frightens me to no end.  That’s because our kid is a special kind of allergic.  During his most recent round of testing, they evaluated his reaction to 61 different environmental allergens.  They found that he is significantly allergic to 50 of them.  He reacted so strongly to the skin prick and intradermal tests that the doctor gave him a dose of steroids there in the office, kept him for observation 45 minutes longer than their usual protocol, and sent us home with a second dose of steroids for me to give him later in the day.  Tomorrow after they administer the shot, they will keep him in the office for awhile for observation, since most reactions occur within an hour.  But the information they’ve provided us about the shot says that reactions (including anaphylaxis) “can occur up to 24 hours later”.  Y’all, I have seen my son’s lips swollen to several times their normal size.  I’ve heard him clear his throat repeatedly because it was starting to swell.  I’ve looked into his eyes and found them listless and dull.  I know what it is to almost lose my child to anaphylaxis.  It is horrific and traumatic and terrifying.  Granted, the one time he experienced anaphylaxis it was a reaction to a food he had eaten, not a reaction to an environmental allergen.  But tomorrow we are going to have Mowgli injected, on purpose, with a mixture of stuff we know he’s allergic to.  Are we crazy?!  What if we’ve made the wrong choice?  The weight of it all threatens to overwhelm me.  I need to be strong, or else Mowgli will be frightened, too.  Right now, I am anything but strong.

How do you overcome fear?

I know the answer by heart.  I whisper over and over to myself the same words I read to Mowgli only a few short hours ago.  Then I pray, pray, pray.  And the weight lifts.



Mowgli did GREAT; no adverse reaction of any kind to the shots (there were three).  Praise God!

We go back next week, and every week after that, for him to receive more shots.  So this is likely to be an ongoing struggle for me.  Still, I am so very glad to have this first week behind us.