Allergen Safe Easter Celebration

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With the Easter holiday around the corner and grocery store aisles filled with Easter candy chock full of allergens, it is important to post about how we have a fun and allergen safe Easter in our home every year.  Not to mention, still celebrating the true meaning of Easter and Jesus.

The picture above depicts chocolate covered mini eggs and I’m yet to find these that are dairy, nut and egg free.  For the last eight years I have pre-ordered Easter (and most of my holiday chocolates) from these two vendors:

Amanda’s Own Confections

Premium Chocolatiers

I have written about the delicious chocolates both of these companies offer several times in the past.  Amanda’s Own Confections products are all (except Sunbutter Cups) FREE of the top 8 allergens.  They are delicious and taste like real chocolate!  You would never know they do not contain dairy.  Furthermore, Premium Chocolatier’s products are FREE from: NUTS, DAIRY, GLUTEN and EGGS.  Both companies use dedicated equipment and can guarantee their products are free from the above listed allergens.  Each company makes molds of Easter bunnies that are chocolate during the springs season that are absolutely adorable in various sizes.

This year I even ordered a new product from Premium Chocolatiers called Cream Eggs!  The description sounds like the ever-famous Cadbury eggs we all grew up eating, just without the Allergens!  I’m so excited for my boys to try these on Easter morning!

In addition to the above products, I like adding a few packages of Surf Sweet gummies and/or jelly beans to my children’s Easter baskets: Surf Sweets Candy.  For my local followers the Grain Train and Oriana (in Traverse City) carry them.  These candies are free from the top 10 allergens and are delicious gummy treats!

Now for the Easter Egg hunt that traditionally kicks off Easter morning for our boys. I typically purchase about 50-60 plastic eggs (they can be reused year after year) and fill them with a variety of items such as: money, erasers, bouncy balls, gum, safe Easter bunny marshmallows, little safe chocolates, jelly beans, trinkets, Peeps (be sure to check labels as some have dairy; the yellow peeps are safe for sure!), etc.  I don’t go too crazy.  Additionally, I like to add several non-food items to their basket because it adds variety and little toys and educational items are fun for the boys to work on throughout the day of celebration.

Have a wonderful Allergen-Safe Easter Celebration and please feel free to contact me with any questions.

~Erika

 

 

Ski Trips with Food Allergies

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We recently took a week long ski trip with our boys and extended family to Vail, Colorado.  Our two boys have been downhill skiing practically since they could walk.  That’s a bit of exaggeration but if you are a ski family like we are, then you can most likely relate.  We love to ski with our boys and often.

Although my husband and I have been taking annual ski trips together out west for over a decade this was the first trip out west with both of our boys.  We felt that age ages 6 and 8 they would be able to hold their own and ski the majority of the terrain without a problem.

The key to any vacation when traveling with kids that have multiple food allergies is to stay in a place that has a kitchen and well-equipped one if you love to cook like I do.  Thankfully we were also vacationing with my father-in-law who owned his own restaurant for over 30 years and is a professional chef…that definitely helps!  We stayed in a beautiful condo in Arrowhead which is just a hop skip and a jump to one of the Arrowhead/Beavercreek chairlifts.

I’ll cut to the chase today as I want to be thorough but brief.  There was absolutely no chance that my husband and I were going to risk an accidental food exposure for either of our sons while skiing during the day at either Beavercreek or Vail.  For (1) it would be very timely to get a child off the mountain if they  experienced anaphylaxis and (2) I was a bit skeptical of the emergency care in Summit County although I researched it and I’m sure it was more than adequate.

Our boys ALWAYS ski with 2 Epi-pens each which they put carry in their pocket located inside of their ski coat with about 8 Benadryl tablets each.  My youngest son also skis with his inhaler.  We have always felt this is a good pocket for the Epi-pens because it’s close to their bodies and doesn’t get too cold, since these little buggers are temperature sensitive…ugh!

We decided it was easiest to pack tortilla roll-up sandwiches for the boys each day because they took up little space and they are also one of the boy’s favorite foods for lunch.  We would typically roll up organic deli ham, melted Daiya mozzarella shreds, and lettuce.  Typically, we would make 2 roll-ups per boy and then we would give each child 1-2 Enjoy Your Life Choco-Loco bars for snacks on the mountain.  We skied a total of 4 days with the boys and alternated the roll-ups from day to day adding various ingredients so they wouldn’t get tired of the same thing.

My husband Jason and I would typically put a few in our ski jacket pockets and the boys would carry a few for themselves.  Easy peasy.  Then, once we were skiing all morning and decided to go in for lunch on top of the mountain (usually anywhere from 10,000 – 11,000 ft above sea level), we would buy entire lunches for Jason and myself and then just purchase drinks and “safe” chips for the boys.  This system proved to work well throughout the week of our ski vacation.  The boys were happy with their lunches and most importantly SAFE!

It was a huge success and any of the pre-trip anxiety I had about eating on the mountain was squashed once we executed our plan.  This system also enabled us to share a memorable vacation with our boys skiing in the mountains of Summit County Colorado for their first time our West!  It was an awesome trip!  I can’t wait to create more ski vacation memories with my 3 boys in future years to come!

Click on the link below to view Taylor ripping it up on the Word Cup Downhill run Birds of Paradise at Beavercreek Resort:

Taylor Birds of Prey

First Friday for Foodies at Crooked Tree Arts Center Today

Please come out to Crooked Tree Arts Center today at 11am and support local Food Allergy Awareness.  I will be offering delicious samples from some of my favorite allergen friendly healthy recipes.

http://www.petoskeynews.com/calendar/community/first-fridays-for-foodies-small-town-allergy-mom/event_bf7e097a-dd83-11e5-90d2-10604b9ffeb6.html

Please Follow Me!

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I just transferred my blog domain name to a new host site.During this challenging transition, I did not retain all of my BLOG followers.Please click on the link and FOLLOW ME to receive updates from Small Town Allergy Mom™ on social media.

I sincerely appreciate your support and I promise to keep adding useful content!

~Erika

First Friday for Foodies: Small Town Allergy Mom™ Presenting Friday March 4th

I will be presenting this Friday at 11am at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, MI.  Small Town Allergy Mom™ will discuss how to prepare your kitchen to entertain guests with food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances.  I will cover important topics like cross contamination and how to avoid it during food preparations.  Additionally, I will give a brief cooking demonstration on how to prepare my Dairy Free Lasagna Florentine and sampling my famous Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes.  Please join me to support food allergy awareness locally.  More information is available at the Crooked Tree Arts Center link here: https://www.crookedtree.org/event/first-fridays-for-foodies-small-town-allergy-mom-erika-keiswetter/?instance_id=3123

Thank you,

~Erika

Chocolate Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes- By Popular Demand Here is my Recipe Finally!

 

 

 

Blog Under Construction

Good morning followers!  My blog is currently undergoing a major transformation.  Please bare with me through this transformation/enhancement timeframe.

Thank you,

~Erika

Taking Advantage of Winter

  
We live in a small Northern Michigan town with short beautiful Lake Michigan summers and LONG cold winters!  Thankfully, we have raised our boys to love the outdoors and embrace the cold snowy winters!

Food allergies aside, it is very important as a parent to teach your children about living a healthy lifestyle which includes exercise and admiring the beauty of nature.  Most importantly, combining the two with fun outdoor activities as a family!

We are a downhill ski family and love to ski together frequently. However, it’s great to mix up the winter outdoor activities with our boys and enjoy a fun experience snowshoeing from time to time. Our boys not only love snowshoeing in the outdoors, but it’s good quality time well spent with our boys, and our dog Scout gets to run freely and it keeps him in shape also.

So if you live in a winter wonderland like we do, don’t forget to include your children in your fun outdoor activities this winter! Enjoy the snow and have a great weekend!

Nut Free Granola- FINALLY!

 

granola

I’ve been on the quest for over 7 years now to find a healthy granola for my boys that is not only dairy and egg free, but NUT FREE as well.  This has been a very challenging feat as most granolas are either made with nuts such as almonds and peanuts or either manufactured on the same equipment as, or in the same facility as NUTS!

Yesterday, while I was shopping at our local Meijer grocery store and in the cereal aisle, I saw a new type of granola called Nature Valley Granola Crunch Oats ‘N Honey by General Mills.  I immediately grabbed the bag off the shelf, read the ingredients and then found my fingers dialing their customer service number to double check the allergen statement.  The allergen statement read “CONTAINS SOY INGREDIENTS” but didn’t mention anything about nuts.  I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes.

I patiently awaited on my cell phone in the cereal aisle for the customer service representative at General Mills.  I read the item number and UPC code to the representative who was very polite and asked her if there were any additional allergens in the granola besides the “soy” listed on the declared statement?  She responded by saying that General Mills has a policy to declare ALL of the top 8 allergens in all of their products.  She could tell me 100% for certain that this product does not contain any of the top 8 allergens besides SOY.  I was relieved and happy that my boys could finally have a safe and healthy granola snack.

Upon taste testing the granola with my boys, we were completely impressed.  The Nature Valley Granola Crunch Oats ‘N Honey is basically granola bars broken up into delicious small granola pieces.  It has no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors.  Additionally, it has 13 g of whole grains.  The bag states that there are 21 granola bars broken up in one bag!  The granola was crunchy, had just enough honey and did not get mushy when my youngest added it to his coco yogurt.  This product is a sure winner and I hope you’ll try it!

Thank you General Mills for finally making a safe nut-free granola product my boys can enjoy!

 

Food Allergy Awareness Video

This collaboration video Food Allergy Voices by FARE (Food Allergy Research Education) and CBS is eye opening for those who are not affected by food allergies on a daily basis. Please pass along and share this to help us spread food allergy awareness.

Lack of Birthday Party Invites with Food Allergies

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This happens all the time and it literally kills me inside.  It is a reality in life for families with children that have life-threatening food allergies.  Often times, our children will be passed over for a play date, birthday party, sleep over, etc. because of their food allergies.

How do I possibly explain these “lack of invitations” to my now 6 and 8 year old boys?  This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest obstacles to overcome as a parent of children that both have multiple food allergies.  Obviously, we have been dealing with this issue for years and I think managed it well, but it is still challenging.

You NEVER want your child to feel left out of a situation because of a silly disability like a food allergy.  I ALWAYS volunteer to help the hosting parents out by providing the food and helping to chaperone.  Many of the classmates in my boys’ classes are very understanding and want their friends with food allergies (ie. my boys) to be able to enjoy the same birthday snacks as the rest of their classmates.  Several of the parents usually call me in advance to ask if there is “safe” birthday snack they can purchase so my children will feel included and not “different” or “left out.”  This is great and I really applaud these parents who are sympathetic and do not want to exclude children from classroom celebrations.  Thank you to all of these wonderful parents!  It really brings tears to my eyes when others go out of their way to accommodate our boys eating challenges.  For the most part, we are blessed to live in a caring and understanding community.

I always  keep “safe” treats in the classroom freezer for my boys to pull them to pull out and enjoy along with their classmates.  This would be in a situation where the rest of the class is eating something “unsafe” of course.

This system has worked extremely well the last couple of years and my boys always seem to feel like they “fit in” with their classmates.

However, recently a situation occurred at school where the parent called me in advance to see what treats they could bring in that were safe.  I thought it was absolutely wonderful they were looking out for every child’s safety in the classroom and I was overjoyed this particular parent took the time to call me in advance of her child’s in class birthday celebration.  After school that day my son mentioned to me that his same friend had an after school birthday party that he was not invited to.  All of his little buddies were talking about it all afternoon at school and he didn’t understand why his close friend didn’t include him in the after school celebration.  A rough concept to grasp at the tender age of only six, I might add.

At first, I was upset that my son was not included but then when I really thought about it, I realized the parent who hosted the party most likely didn’t want to deal with (1) food allergies (2) didn’t know how to handle the situation (3) it was too time consuming to consider inviting my son and then creating a “safe” atmosphere and (4) “you don’t know what you don’t know”…enough said and I was making assumptions of course.  Whatever the reasoning may have been to not include my son, it didn’t really matter at the end of the day.

This situation was an example of the many times my children will be excluded from social events due to their food allergies, in my opinion.  And again I’m making this assumption that this was the reasoning.   Food allergies are more difficult to manage now that our boys are only 6 & 8.  Albeit, it’s easier than when they were 2 & 4!  Hopefully managing their food allergies will only become easier as they mature and become more responsible for eating in a safe environment and carrying their Epi-pens.  Eventually the responsibility will be completely on them and my husband and I have been training them for this since they could talk.

There are multiple situations where our entire family has been excluded from events due to our children’s allergies but that can be covered in a future blog post.

The hardest part of dealing with rejection is how to eloquently explain it to my 6 year old in a way that he understands.  I was not honest in telling our son that he was most likely not included due to the difficulty of people accommodating his food allergies.  Of course I wanted to protect him.  I told him that “the child’s mother probably didn’t have any more room in her car to accommodate more boys…additionally it was a small, last minute party with only a few of your classmates and not a big deal that you were not included, etc…etc. …etc”. 

Thankfully, that landed well with my son and that was the end of it.  I guess it’s easier explaining such situations to our 6 year old than our 8 year old because he now “gets it.”  This is something that our children will have to learn more about overcoming and rising above as they grow and mature.  Always taking the high road.

It’s not easy to watch as a parent but it is OUR reality.  I would appreciate any input, suggestions, stories, etc. of how you and your children cope with rejection and exclusion sometimes during similar situations.

My husband and I are adamant about always telling our boys that their food allergies do not define who they are.  They are like every other little boy and girl their age.  They ski, they swim, run, play, go on vacations, eat out at restaurants…they are SPECIAL and LOVED!  In fact, we tell them that they are lucky because they eat healthier foods than most children which will benefit them in the long run.

I digress….have a great weekend!

~Erika