Food Allergies Get A Mascot This Halloween

Our kids spend most of October in their Halloween costumes. Sometimes, they pretend to be their characters (Transformers, this year) and other times, they pretend they are trick-or-treating. We make pumpkin-shaped, peanut/tree nut/milk/egg-free cookies. They paint pumpkins. (No carving them, after seeing what they did to Charlie’s arms.) They draw ghosts and jack-o’-lanterns, bring us spooky books to read, and look for Halloween decorations when we walk around the neighborhood. As Max says: “Halloween? Thumbs up.”

Image courtesy: FARE

Image courtesy: FARE

They hardly mention candy, though. Sure, they get loads of it when they hit the streets on Halloween, but the treats they look forward to are plastic spider rings, pencils, tiny rubber snakes, and other random goodies. That’s what they get when they turn in their bags of trick-or-treat candy at the end of the night. They also get a few candies that we have personally bought and vetted, but it’s not the highlight of the evening. The kids have a good time and Charlie is safe. It rocks.

The-Teal-Pumpkin-Project-5

Image courtesy: FARE

This year, we’re adding a new tradition, thanks to FARE and FACET. We’re painting a pumpkin teal and putting out a sign that will let parents know we have non-food treats available. It will also help get the word out about food allergies. We only hand out non-food treats, but many families who are taking part in the Teal Pumpkin Project will be handing out candy and offering non-food treats to trick-or-treaters who request them.

What makes the teal pumpkin useful is that when we see one, we’ll know that we can ask for non-food treats. That means that more of the treats Charlie and Max collect will be treats they can enjoy. It adds to the fun for them and doesn’t change anything for kids who don’t have food allergies – especially at homes that offer candy and non-food treats (from separate bowls).

I really like this idea and I’m glad it’s getting so much love from the press. When it comes to educating people about food allergies,there’s still a long way to go, so some of the comments on these news pieces are a little disheartening, but most people seem to think the teal pumpkin project is a great plan. Hopefully, those who think it’s an attack on an American tradition will see that no kids are being excluded – they’re being included. Everybody gets to have good, safe, fun.

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Dodging Food

It’s been an exciting week for Charlie. We ended up in the hospital parking lot during dinner one night, waiting for his face to calm down. I made chicken parm with some homemade marinara and it should have been fine for him, but sometimes pasta sauce makes his face red – probably the acidity. We might have waited it out, if Charlie didn’t already have a tight, awful cough from his cold. As it was, we couldn’t be sure what was cold and what was allergy, so off we went, and dinner was cold when we got back. That’s pretty frustrating. Max woke up that night from a nightmare in which “Vegetables were coming out of Charlie’s neck.”

A couple days later, Charlie was well enough to come to Max’s swim lesson and sit with me at the picnic table. It was the last swim lesson of the season, so the teacher gave the kids little bags of chewy fruit-flavored snacks. I didn’t see her do that, so when Max got back to our table he had already opened it, eaten one, and immediately tried to give one to Charlie. I vetoed that, and explained to Max that we couldn’t eat any more of them until we got home and I could check the ingredients. Max understood, but it was too much for him and he sobbed and screamed all the way home.

The following day, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up some vegetables and fruit. Sure enough, there was a big event for kids: they were making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Charlie really wanted to go over there, but I explained why he couldn’t, and he understood…although I had to hold his hand the whole time to prevent him from going over anyway. He gets it as much as a three-year-old can, but he has the control of a three-year-old, too.

As a parent of an allergy kid, I see the world differently than I did before. For one thing, I’m stunned by how much food is given to kids. I never noticed it until we had Charlie, but wow: so many events for kids also end up including snacks or candy. And the oil change place, where they offer candy. And the bank, where they offer candy.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that nearly all of this food is crap. Candy, rice krispy treats, fruit-flavored gummies – this is all junk food. I appreciate the people who keep stickers on hand instead of sweets. Kids love stickers.

So that’s the food allergy update. These things are rough, and affect our quality of life, but they’re nothing we can’t handle. I’ll take the tribulations of unexpected snacks and a weird sensitivity to marinara sauce over anaphylaxis any day.

Charlie’s First Smoothie

IMG_0231Charlie’s food allergies mean that making a smoothie with yogurt and milk is out of the question. But today I saw So Delicious coconut yogurt at the grocery store and the ingredients looked fine for him. I worried about the starter culture, though. Was it dairy-related? Each yogurt has the company’s 866 number right on it, so I called and in minutes was talking to a So Delicious person, who assured me that everything is plant-derived, and that the company knows its customers often have allergies and it takes that seriously.

How awesome.

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I tested Charlie on it, a little sip every ten minutes, and he was fine. “I want a smoothie. What’s a smoothie?” He said.

So, today we made smoothies and Charlie flipped. Some coconut yogurt, some coconut milk, a package of frozen fruit, and blender with the ice chopper mode, and suddenly Charlie was having his first smoothie. He loved it. He said “We need to show Mommy and let her have a taste. But I drink all of it.” And he drank all of his, most of Max’s (hey, you snooze you lose) and tried unsuccessfully to gank mine. I’m glad he gets this new, flavor-packed treat.

No Jersey Mike’s For You

A long time ago, MK and I went through our kitchen and tossed or donated every food that Charlie is allergic to. We also disposed of any foods that were made on shared equipment (or in the same facility as) his allergens. We donated any cookware that struck us as possibly having traces of allergens on them (the blender went, for example). Since then, our house has been Charlie-safe. We cook only foods that he can eat.

Once in a while, we’ll get take out when Charlie is asleep and eat it downstairs – often the garage. Then we clean it up, toss everything, wash our hands, etc. So there’s your backstory.

Today, we went to the Children’s Museum and parked a little farther away than usual. When we got back to the car, I realized we were right in front of Jersey Mike’s. I thought: Heck, I’ll just take the kids in, they won’t touch the sandwich, it’ll be in a bag, and I can eat it after they go down for a nap.

We got as far as the line when it occurred to me that I’d be holding Charlie’s hand with my left hand and a bag of poison with my right. And, of course, he was asking me if he could have a sandwich, too. And so was Max.  We turned around, went to the car, and when we got home I made us delicious sandwiches and salads. Now he’s sleeping, safe and sound.