I’m not a helicopter parent…just a mom

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

With Toy Story 4 out in theaters, we decided to show Olivia Toy Story. She LOVED it and has been dancing with her daddy to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” for days. So, in the spirit of fun toys that talk and play we decided to throw on “The Toy that Time Forgot”. I had never seen it before but it came free with our “Toy Story” purchase so I thought, why not! I’ve never been more disappointed in Disney than I was today…

Only 2 minutes into the movie, a scene plays out where the dinosaur is dressed up as a pretentious looking mother – pointy glasses and all. The dinosaur yells at the little girl playing the waitress that there is a bug in her sons ice cream and her son is “ALLERGIC TO BUGS”. So the little girl flicks the bug out of the ice cream and says “there you go sweetheart, enjoy”. And then the movie moves on.

In our world, food allergies are constantly seen as a burden and a joke. This scene does nothing but perpetuate this unfortunate view point. When a child watches this movie and sees this scene, they may learn that by simply removing an allergen from someones’ food, it is now safe. They may see food allergies as funny, simple and as a simple inconvenience. This scene in this movie does food allergies an extreme injustice – making a life threatening occurrence seem joke worthy and mundane. The mother who says her son has a bug allergy is shown as a know it all ‘helicopter’ parent and the waitress brushes off the allergy like the mom is simply being a pain.

At restaurants I am hit with constant dirty looks and hear whispers under their breath about how ridiculous I look wiping down the booths and chairs, bringing our full course meals into perfectly nice dinning rooms. I thought I never wanted to be that kind of parent – never wanted to be the ‘neurotic’ mom who keeps her kids in a bubble. That is until I became an allergy mom. My judgements are GONE. Now, I lock eyes with other moms who may be seen as ‘neurotic’ and give them a supportive nod. I want other people to know, that I am not being neurotic. I am taking care of my baby in the best possible way that I know how. Having food allergies in a world that uses them as the butt end of a joke is tough. When characters in movies laugh about something that could kill my daughter is heart breaking. But I know that Olivia is going to teach others about why this movie was wrong and educate others on how to keep her safe.

So, please talk to your kids about why this scene is so wrong. Simply removing an allergen from the food will NOT remove what makes kids like Olivia deathly ill. Removing that bug from her sundae would not get rid of the bug protein. I know – Im talking about bugs and pretend ice cream sundaes – but to kids, these stories are as real as they can be. And give that mom insistently wiping down the tables and chasing their kids around as much grace as you can, because you do not know what they are going through. So no, I’m not a helicopter parent – I’m just keeping my little girl safe.

In the meantime, just keep advocating!

Favorite safe foods for our baby with food allergies

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

**Disclaimer: I am not a health care provider or allergist. These recommendations are what work well for my family with a child allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, eggs and dairy. But what works and is safe for her, may not be safe for another. As always read labels and triple check that what you are eating is safe for you. I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of these products and have linked them for your convenience. Thanks for reading!**

When Olivia was diagnosed with so many life threatening food allergies, my first thought was what can we feed her?? What can I feed her that is free from nuts, wheat, eggs and dairy? And that means free from containing them AND free from cross contamination?? Doesn’t breakfast consist of eggs and toast?!! My husband and I went to the grocery store only to be completely overwhelmed. It felt like everything either contained, may contain or was made in the same facility as at least one of her food allergies. The vision I had in my head of my daughter enjoying pizza, bread, Mac and cheese, cookies – all the foods kids can freely enjoy – was crushed. Or so I thought.

Over the next few weeks I did so much research on how to feed my little girl. We took some wonderful advice from a family friend – thank you Elizabeth! – and searched for some good options. I did not want her food allergies to define Olivia and I knew there had to be a way through our fear to the other side! And there certainly was :). So many companies make really delicious and safe foods for Olivia. And when I took a step back and thought about what we eat, I realized most of what we eat can be modified so its safe for Olivia. This diagnosis is SO over whelming if you have never had to deal with food allergies. I hope that some of what we have tried may help you feel a little less over whelmed. Here are some of Olivia’s favorite safe meals! 🙂

Breakfast:

Snacks:

Lunch&Dinner:

    turkey or chicken breast
    Ham steak

Drinks:

Extras:

As we continue on this food allergy adventure, I know our pantry will continue to grow. How I feel about dealing with food allergies since Olivia’s diagnosis has changed so much. I have gone from being constantly anxiety ridden and terrified to being a lot more confident and sure of myself in the kitchen. Remember we must be prepared, not paranoid because not everyone is perfect.

So just keep cooking, trying, eating and as always advocating for even more delicious and safe options!!

Reading labels…a life or death job.

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

I never thought I’d be that mom. You know the one. The mom that is chasing her kid around the park with a wet wipe, the mom who wipes the entire shopping cart down just to put a carriage protector on anyway, or the mom that reads every single label on the food the entire family eats. But that’s me. I am that over protective, ready for anything type of mom because I have to be. I wasn’t given a choice when I became a mom – there was no menu that read: “circle stressed or relaxed mom” as a preference. But in order to keep my daughter safe, I will be that mom every damn day.

So in being “that” mom, I am extremely aware of the ingredients that are put in Olivia’s food. In the United States, food labeling for the top 8 allergens, on most prepared foods, is required by law. For example, the list of ingredients will have the allergen bold, in parentheses or at the end in a ‘contains’ statement.  Unfortunately, companies do not have to put whether or not the food was produced on shared lines with allergens or if they ‘may contain’ the allergen – these statements are completely voluntary. For kids that have very serious food allergies, producing food on shared lines with their allergen can bring about a deadly reaction so it is scary that companies are not required to disclose that information. This means that these foods may be cross contaminated with the food allergy, rendering it unsafe to consume.

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The regulation of labels also only applies to the top 8 food allergies in the United States: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, shellfish, or fish. This excludes the 9th top food allergen – sesame. So needless to say, food labeling has a long way to go, but believe it or not, the United States is better than most places when it comes to being transparent about what’s in the food we eat.

Since becoming a food allergy momma, I have gotten really good at reading labels. I remember when I first wanted to bake Olivia cookies so I went to the store and picked up some Red Mills gluten free flour. I was SO excited until I got home and read – in the smallest, white print – that is produced in the same facility as tree nuts. It was so small that I didn’t even see it in the store – despite having checked twice! Now that I am a seasoned pro at reading labels, I feel more confident that I wouldn’t make a mistake like that again. But still, there are times I find myself frustrated and discouraged regarding food labeling or lack there of.

Olivia has always been a tiny girl so in order to increase her calorie intake, her pediatrician recommended that she start drinking formula to supplement her diet. Due to shared lines and same facilities, there are no safe milks that Olivia can drink without risk of cross contamination. With her interest in breast feeding starting to decrease and the lack of milk options, I was open to the idea of giving her a supplement. I reminded the doctor of her food allergies and was reassured that they make formula for kids like Olivia! She went into the office and came back with three “hypoallergenic” options for us to try. She read the labels in front of me and stated that they only listed Soy as an ingredient that could be tricky. Lucky for us, soy is not one of allergies so I took all three formula containers home to try out.

When we got home, I decided to – of course – read the labels again. Even though the  doctor assured me that they were safe, I know now from my experience with food allergies thus far, that you can’t trust anyone unless you read it yourself. I picked up the first formula called ‘Similac Alimentum For Food Allergies and Colic’ and started to read – and what do you know…the second ingredient listed was “CASEIN HYDROLYSATE [DERIVED FROM MILK]”. I was STUNNED. The second ingredient could kill my daughter and yet a doctor assured me that this was safe. And not only that, but the milk ingredient was hidden in about 50+ other ingredients, in the same font and type – nothing made this ingredient stand out or put up any red flags for people with allergies. I put it to the side and thought well, at least there are two other options. Picked up the next formula called ‘Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Infant Formula Powder with Iron’ and to my dismay – the same ingredient. This time is was the third ingredient but it listed “CASEIN HYDROLYSATE (MILK). At the bottom it stated “MODIFIED TO BE BETTER TOLERATED IN MILK-ALLERGIC BABIES”. Yet again, the milk ingredient was hidden among 50+ capitalized ingredients. This had me so upset. Yet again, another unsafe product for Olivia. For kids that are this allergic to milk, they cannot be exposed to their allergen. There is no “better tolerated in milk-allergic babies” for these kids. It needs to be complete avoidance but yet this was recommended to me by a professional. Luckily, the third formula seems to be safe enough to try, so I will let you all know what she thinks of it.

I was beside myself that my doctor would recommend formula and send me home with safe samples only to find that 2/3 could have really harmed her. And we LOVE Olivia’s pediatrician but this just goes to show the lack of knowledge and information that is out there about food allergies. This is a reminder to read every single table, ever single time. It doesn’t matter who tells you the food is safe, it doesn’t matter who prepared the food or from what store you purchased the store – you read that label every single time. Thank God I read this label before feeding it to my daughter. We need to continue to educate everyone around us – companies, professionals and people need to be held accountable. Food allergies are not a diet choice, but rather a serious disease and the solution is strict avoidance. We must continue to spread what we know, change policy on how companies label and what is required of them. We have the power to keep our kids safe – so just keep advocating.

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