Food Allergy Fun: Charlie Meets Charlie

Whole Foods is on the other side of town, but it’s loaded with allergy-friendly brands and the kids love the produce section because the employees sometimes give them fruit to snack on. So, we trek out there occasionally and stock up on Applegate meats, Daiya cheese alternatives, Earth Balance vegan butter, and So Delicious coconut milk and yogurt.

And, of course, we get cookies. We can bake our own and often do (look up Kelly Rudnicki online for allergy-friendly baking recipes) but sometimes it’s fun to buy boxed cookies. We typically go with Enjoy Life and Cybelle Pascal’s cookies. It’s fun: it’s one of the few times I can point to several shelves of food and tell Charlie “pick what you want.” The cookies are insanely expensive, but watching Charlie choose his own treat is good for my heart.

Anyway, we went to the register and were just finishing up when a family walked past. The mom glanced at our counter and stopped dead.

“Does someone in your family have food allergies?” she asked.

I explained that Charlie does and she pointed out that her son was also named Charlie, and he also has food allergies – the same ones that our Charlie has. The two Charlies, who are about the same height and age, sized each other up while we talked about our experiences with the kids and food allergies. We agreed: it’s hard.

Charlie is very happy to know that there’s another Charlie who has food allergies, and he told MK about it as soon as she got home. I got a kick out of the coincidence, and, although I wouldn’t wish allergies on anybody, I’m always a little relieved to see that there are other families going through the same thing – MK and I are not alone.

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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.

Food Allergy: One Year In

It’s been a heck of a year, but things are finally starting to line up for old Liz Lemon.

This time last year, Charlie’s allergy doctor told us to pull him from daycare and described the ideal environment for a kid with such wildly severe food allergies (and such a young age): home. We looked at Charlie’s track record – four anaphylactic reactions in nine months – and thought the doc was making a lot of sense. A week later, MK went to work with the added responsibility of being the sole breadwinner, and the boys and I stared at each other over our cereal bowls.

And I had no idea what to do.

My biggest challenge was learning to cook. My mom tried to teach me when I was in high school, but I got through college on fast food and then married MK, who loves to cook and makes great meals. I had to learn, and I had to do it within the confines of Charlie’s allergies: no milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, beans/peas/any legumes except soy and no bananas or strawberry. And, of course, already-made meals were generally off limits – too much risk of cross contamination, and that’s if you could find one that didn’t have an allergen already in the ingredients. I stressed.

But, over time, I learned, and Charlie outgrew his allergies to bananas, beans, and strawberries. I make great, Charlie-friendly baked beans. I have chicken covered. My meatloaf is “the best in the universe,” according to the kids. These days, I don’t stress – as much – about cooking.

And that’s really the story of the other aspects of this new world: I’m more comfortable with everything about being a stay-at-home dad now that I’ve had some time to grow into it. MK is supportive and great and we’ve had fun trading tips and working together. Even the scary part of this is easier. Charlie “popped” (as we call it when he has an ana attack) a couple months ago and we were calm. Our system for keeping Epi-pens nearby worked and the injection (administered by MK this time) went smoothly. Charlie was in deep trouble, but we got him out of it.

So, onward. We’ve taken a trip to Chicago to see family without any trouble. Next up,a food challenge for Charlie in the fall. There are still things to work on – MK and I don’t get to get out together nearly as often as we’d like, for one thing – but things are improving, and Chuck is as safe as he can be.

Charlie and Max

Charlie and Max