Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Food Allergy Bully's

At least once a week I have the same nightmare that Cormac is on the school bus and another kid is chasing him with a PB&J sandwich. He's pinned in the corner with no way to escape, and no help because the bus driver doesn't see it or doesn't care. He's not even two yet and I'm having anxiety about this! On Monday night I had this dream again. I wake up the next day to two articles (one from CNN the other from MSMBC) about about food allergies and bullying.

It's been the talk of the allergy websites, blogs and online support groups, so I won't be surprised if you've read them. I actually posted the CNN article on our Facebook page as soon as I read it yesterday. We had some great sharing going on there. Since Mac is sick, this is the 1st chance I've had to sit down and write about it.

I was in tears off and on all day yesterday. I even called my husband crying because I couldn't believe how bad this really is. It has justified my dreaming fears, and brought them to life. I hate this! With everything these kids will have to go through, they have to fear that other kids will assault them with food! Not a gun or a knife, but with food. It's strange for me to say that food is a real weapon, but it is. What's worse is that there are teachers and school officials out there who tease these kids or don't take these threats seriously. I m not saying all teachers or even the majority are this ignorant. I know some amazing teachers out there who do every thing for their kids. They go above and beyond everyday.

My next question is why do these kids think this is ok? Are they learning this at home, at school or what? Why aren't the adults in their lives more aware, and educated? Little kids may not understand but the older ones know. There needs to be consequences for these acts no matter what the age. Of course they should be age appropriate. You're not going to arrest a 5 year old for assault. But a lesson needs to be learned. The question is how do you teach it and make it real to people who don't know or get it?

Like most food allergy advocates and parents say, we need to start with education. We need to stand up for our children and teach them how to stand up for themselves. We need to teach their peers about the seriousness of this, as well as educate the other parents, and teachers.

I feel really lucky that Cormac already has a group of friends who he will be going to school with, as well as other friends he may not share a school with but will share his life with. They will be growing up together with my son and his allergies. They will be educated and so will their parents. Their parents already take care to make sure he is safe. The more people in your community that understand, the safer our kids are. Don't pass up the opportunity to talk to people. Get involved with your child's school as much as possible. Most important be there for your kids. They may not always be able to handle this no matter how old they are.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

T-shirt Frustration!

Front of the shirt.

I wanted to make T-shirts for our team for the FAAN Walk for Food Allergy next Saturday. At first I was going to have them silk screened but they are too expensive to do that. Then I thought get the digital printed ones. Again too pricey at 18.99 a shirt! Since it's a fundraising event I want to give as much to the walk as we can, and not spend a ton on T-shirts. So next I thought I will try and silk screen at home. I bought a kit and was all excited to get started. I have the photo skills to make the screen (as I have a MA in photography and am pretty darn good in a darkroom). I forgot one thing, I no longer have a darkroom! All my equipment is at my parents house and my darkroom is now a storage closet. It would take weeks just to get it cleaned out and set up.

My last hope was to get the fabric iron on transfer paper. Supposedly you should be able to use your ink jet printer. I tried printing my design on regular paper to check it. It is way too light. I can't get my printer to print the dark color I need. When I print it on a laser printer the color is perfect. But alas we can't use the transfer paper in the laser printer because it get so hot and can ruin the printer.

I am so disappointed that we won't have our team shirts. My husband doesn't think it's a big deal, but since this is our 1st walk, and it's for my son I really wanted to make it special. I know having our family and friends walking with us is what will make this day unforgettable. That really is what matters most. People that love him will be there. I get all teary whenever I think about that. So I will keep trying to make them but if not, oh well. We are still walking together, raising money, and awareness and that's what matters.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 Child Passenger Safety Week: I am the Crazy Car Seat Lady!

Cormac ERF at 19 Months

On top of being proactive about Cormac's Food allergies, I am also very passionate about car seats. More importantly, spreading the word about the proper use, age and size of car seats and boosters. Some of my friends think I'm the crazy car seat lady and I have to agree, I am. Since this week is Child Passenger Safety Week I wanted to talk to everyone one about this.

When I was pregnant we made a registry. We put our infant car seat on it based on what other people liked, used, and recommended. I tried and looked up safety ratings, but with all the things we needed I just picked one and forgot about it. When Mac was about 9 months I started looking for his next seat. A Convertible. This seat Rear Faces (RF) to a certain weight and height and then Forward Faces (FF) to a heavier weight and height. He still fit in the infant seat but it became too heavy for me to take in and out of the car. So we left that seat in Daddy's car and bought a convertible for mine. Again I went with recommendations.

At 1 year he grew out of his infant seat. We needed to get a seat for my car and move the that seat to Jim's. Here is when I started really leaning about car seat safety. I was shocked about how misinformed and uneducated I was. The information is out there and easy to find if you are looking for it. If your not looking for it however, you will miss it. Kind of like not seeing what's on the back of a shelf in the store unless you move things around.

Here is what I leaned. Car accidents are the # 1 killer of children ages 1 -14 in America. 57% of these deaths are because the children were unrestrained. Even scarier many more of them were improperly restrained. Think about it, 57% of these deaths could have been avoided if people used their car seats, booster seats and seat belts properly.

Most people think that their car seat is installed correctly. They also think that they use it properly as well. In the US the misuse rate of child restraints is 80% and as high as 95% in some areas. That's high! These people are not bad parents. They just don't know. I didn't either. No one educates you about it in main stream baby society. I only found out because I happen to read about it on some social networking site for parents. Otherwise we would be going by the minimum requirements that most car seat manufacture tell us. But is the minimum what's best for our kids? Not for me. So here are some general information.

Car seats

At 1 year AND 20lbs you can turn your child Forward Facing. Yes, you can by law in most states but this really isn't as safe as you child could be. The AAP is recommending the new minimum be to turn them at 2 years and 30 lbs. But did you know most convertible car seats can Rear Face (RF) much longer? You can get seats that RF to 35 or even 40lbs! Why is this important you ask? Well because a child's bones do not fully fuse until around age 3 . Rear Facing your child as long as possible lowers the risk of internal decapitation (where the child's head is separated from their spine internally), or a broken neck resulting in death or permanent damage to your child in an accident. In an accident a RF the seat will take the brunt of the force instead of the child. Here is a great video to explain what I am talking about.

My goal is to keep Mac Extended Rear Facing (ERF) until 3 years old. Many people think I'm crazy, but it physics that helped make my decision. He may not make it to 3 but we are going to try. The next questions I get deal with the legs. For instance, where do they put their legs? They hang them over the side, sit with them crossed or rest them on the seat. Here is a great video of kids of all ages ERF, and how they sit.
Mac ERF at 21 Months

Next people ask about broken legs. Mine and many people's answer to this is: 1. Wouldn't you rather your kid have a broken leg than be dead or paralyzed? 2. If the crash is so bad that your child's legs are broken Rear Facing than they they would most likely would be broken if Forward Facing with other injuries. 3. Think of the kids, not you. They are so much more flexible than us adults. Just look at the positions they get themselves into that we can't even imagine doing ourselves. If they are not complaining than they are comfortable. Don't fix it if it ain't broke.

Then comes they like Forward Face better. Again if they have never FF they don't know any better. So in the future they might like it better, but why rush it? They don't know what they are missing. Next is usually they can't see out the window. Yes they can! Mac is chatting up a storm these days and he tells us everything he sees out the windows from buses, cars, trucks, to trees and signs (well shapes of the sign anyway). He see birds and clouds and tells us.

Those are just the usual questions. There are more questions people ask and want answers too. Here is a great site that can answer all your questions and really explain what I'm talking about.

However I do think there are circumstances that Forward Facing your child at the minimum is not the worst thing. There are things like heat, car sickness and other medical conditions to consider. Also as long as you use the seat correctly it's better to FF than not to use a seat at all or move too a booster too soon. Like anything in life it's not always B&W.

Booster Seats

A booster is a seat that no longer uses a 5 pint harness to restrain the child. Instead you use the seat belt with a booster to help position the seat belt on the child correctly. This is the one that upset me the most. People move their kids to boosters way too soon. When it's time to Forward Face your child say anywhere form age 1 to 4 depending if you ERF or not, they are in a 5 point harness. This is the next safest thing. Keeping them harnessed as long as possible will keep your kids safer longer. Again there are seats that you can keep your child harnessed up to 80 lbs! The minimum for a booster is usually 4 years AND 40 lbs. However most 4 year old's are not mature enough to use a booster correctly. So when I see kids under 3 in boosters I get so upset (and I see it often). Here is a video if a crash test with a booster and a FF 5 point harness seat.

When it is time for a booster you first get a High Back Booster (HBB). Then as they get older you move them to a Low Back Booster (LBB) That will be their last seat. Each state has different laws. NY for example says children must be restrained in a car seat or booster until the age of 8. Yes 8 years old! It is also recommend that sitting up front not be allowed until 12 or 13 years old.

I know this is a long post but I have a few more tips.

1.In the winter, puffy jackets are a danger. You strap your child in nice and tight right? In an accident the jacket will compress and then straps will be too loose to restrain the child properly. Fleece jackets are great! They are thin but super warm. Some are warmer than a standard down jacket. Some people use car seat ponchos.

2. All aftermarket products are a no no. If they are not tested with your seat by the seat manufacturer then they void your warranty. God forbid your seat doen't do it job. You will have no legal recourse. Products like the Bundle Me for the infant carriers reroute the straps which can result in the restrains not doing their job to the best of their ability. Get a shower cap style cover instead. They don't interfere with the straps or any working parts of the seat and are just as warm.

3. Car seats expire! Usually after 6 years. Over time the materials start to break down due to use, and exposure to the sun, heat and cold. Again using an expired seat won't protect your child as well as one that is not.

4. Be wary of used seats. It you don't know the history do not use it. Also there have been many recalls over the years. Make sure your isn't one of them.

5. If you are in any kind of accident whether the child was in the seat or not, it is likely you will have to replace it. You can go on the manufactures website or call and see if your accident fits the criteria to keep or replace the seat. Most car insurance companies will pay for a new one.

6. Get your seat installation checked! It' free and your local police, fire department or safe has places you can get it checked all over the US and Canada.

As parents we make choices for our children every day. We may not agree with each other on what's best for them, but the fact that you love them and care is the most import thing. Here are some great websites to start doing your own research on car seast if you want.

Rear-facing – Unmatched Safety
A fairly comprehensive article from

Child Car Seat Advice Questioned

Joel’s Journey
A website started by Joel’s grandfather when he was injured while FF in a crash. Warning this is emotional.

Why Rear-Facing is Safest
A fairly comprehensive article from

Rear Facing Seats
Yet another fairly comprehensive article for

Pictures of How a Child’s Spine Develops

AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Policy

Highlight of the policy - for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat back

AAP news article about RF to 2
Although this isn’t policy at this point, the AAP is working on developing a new policy, which hopefully will more strongly encourage RF

BBC New article about RF

Why RF is Safest Even in Rear End Collisions
One Family’s Story of Being Rear-Ended While at a Stop by a Car Traveling at 60-65mph

European study showing that rear-facing is better through age 4’s explanation of why rear-facing is safest.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Parties and Diapers

Every weekend this month we have a party. This presents 2 challenges: food everywhere, and we need to make something that will travel well. When the party is at someones house we have more hot food options. Like today, we will bring turkey meatballs, some cheese tortellini and probably the old stand by chicken nuggets. We will be able to heat food up there but that isn't always the case. I'm looking for some cold food options. I bought a thermos that is suppose to keep food cold for 9 hours and hot for 7. I haven't tried it yet but, today I may. What do you pack when there is no where to heat up the food? Mac is anti sandwich lately, actually anti eating. I think the 2 year molars are trying to make their appearance.

Since we are going to a party I wanted to bring something. I did some baking last night. I decided to try out Cherrybrooke Kitchen Sugar cookie mix. It is peanut, tree nut, egg, and dairy free. They are easy to make, and you don't have to run out for eggs! I used whole milk since we don't have milk issues but they recommend rice milk as a substitute. Over all they were good. Not my favorite sugar cookies (as I like them from scratch best), but I would definitely get them again. They are great in a pinch. I'm not much of a baker so I doubt cooking from scratch will happen often. So I will keep a supply of these handy.

are only peanut and tree nut free to my knowledge. Here is a link to a forum where BC answered the FA question. Make sure you check for your self, by always reading the labels. If you have other FA these are no good. Man are these yummy. I will be stocking on on these for sure!

On a totally unrelated note we survived our 1st night using cloth diapers! It was a success. I will update you after a full week and see if we are going to stick with it. So far it's not bad at all. But time will tell. I do feel good that I'm not adding more disposables to a landfill, and we will be saving a lot of money. At the end of the week I'll give my review and reason why we are trying to make the switch. Here's a sneak peak of 2 of our new cloth diapers.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Take Over Tuesday: Meet Morgan Self Advocating on Food Allergies

Morgan's Mom Nicole commented on my post about peanut free schools. She has an amazing website
where I learned about her family's story. I asked her and her son if they would be guest bloggers. They both agreed! First up is Morgan. He an an amazing young man who is living life with food allergies.

Morgan is 14 years old and is in 9th grade in high school. He is anaphylactic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish and shellfish. He is severely allergic to dogs, cats and other furry animals. He gets eczema from food dyes and is allergic to grasses, weeds and trees. He is currently receiving allergy shots and is seeing a huge decrease in his seasonal and pet allergies!

When your done here, Check out Morgan's Corner on

Self advocating on food allergies

My mom says that I started asking if a food had peanuts in it from the time I learned how to talk. I don’t remember that. I do remember wanting to learn how to spell peanuts so I could read labels and find the word. I remember my mom telling me that “Sooner or later, you're going to live alone and when you do, I'm not going to be with you. (Let's hope not at least.) Let's start now on working on how you can deal with food allergies by yourself.”

In preschool, my mom took care of everything. She made sure that no one brought in peanuts or nuts. And she made sure I had a safe snack to eat every day.

In kindergarten, I stayed all day at school, which means I ate lunch there too. That’s when food allergy signs started on the lunchroom table. My teacher and my mom talked to my class about food allergies and about not eating unsafe foods around me. Also, everyone had to bring in safe snacks for the snack bucket, but I still brought my own snacks. I knew what my food allergies were, and I knew not to eat foods other people tried to give me.

In 1st grade, I learned more about self-advocating. I was at school one day and my class had to go to another classroom. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to go into other classrooms at school because pets could be there, or kids eating peanuts. My teacher felt that the other classroom was probably unsafe, pet or food wise. I had to stand out in the hallway for a few minutes, being left out of whatever went on in the classroom. I came home, crying, and told what happened to Mom. She suggested that I needed to talk with my teacher. I wrote up a letter of how I felt when the incident occurred. The next day, I came in to school and I read the letter out loud to my teacher. My Mom was there as parental support. It was just us three. Both the teacher and I cried at the end. She said she never wanted to hurt my feelings, and I wanted her to not leave me out in the hallway ever again.

I learned in 2nd grade that I had to start to take care of myself, and that my mom wasn't going to be there all the time. One day in the lunchroom, no one sat by me at my peanut free table. I didn’t like that at all. I asked if I could get rid of the big sign that said, “Peanut Free Zone” and just be able to sit at the same place with no peanuts around me, but also no sign. We talked about this at my 504 meeting that year. By the way, I started to go to all my 504 meetings with the teachers and my parents from kindergarten on. I always was asked what was working and what wasn’t working. And what wasn’t working for me was to have a BIG sign that said “Peanut Free Zone.” So, we agreed to remove the sign, but that I would still sit right in front of the cafeteria monitor just to make sure no kids brought in my food allergens.

In 3rd grade, I started doing a PowerPoint presentation I created for the class. I continued doing this in 4th and in 5th grade. There were just a few slides. I talked about what my food allergies are, what the class can do to keep me safe (don’t bring in peanuts, nuts, sesame or fish) into the classroom, don’t sit by me at lunch if you’re eating those foods, and don’t get upset if I ask you to move if you are eating those things. It really helped.

In 4th grade, I got to go on field trips on my own. Before that, my Mom came on every field trip. I wanted to go on field trips without her. I carried my own EpiPen and other medicines in a fanny pack on the field trips. Everything worked out fine.

In 5th grade, I started to carry my own EpiPen at school. The law in Colorado passed, and I could start doing this. There was still a medicine box in the office at school with my Benadryl and eye drops in it, and an extra EpiPen just in case.

In 6th grade, I brought in all the Peanut/Nut Free Zone signs for my classrooms. I talked with the principal about the peanut free tables in the lunchroom. My Mom didn’t come into school at all for that. We (Mom and I) had a meeting with all my teachers at the start of the school year, and talked about no foods being in any of my classrooms.

In 7th grade, the process happened again, but this time my classrooms were spread apart, unlike the Pods in 6th grade (classes in one group/area). This year, there were more dances and parties, but food was no problem since I had already dealt with my teachers.

In 8th grade, it was the same as 7th, just my classes were a bit farther apart. Lunch was no problem in any of the middle school grades since I had made my friends aware of my food allergies.

The step from Middle School to High School was more of a leap than a step. At my high school, people can eat lunch anywhere on campus: hallways, courtyards, even classrooms. This created a problem for classes after lunch- thankfully only one class each day is after lunch. Even then, people can eat anytime and anyplace. This includes during class time and during free period. My choir teacher simply just said ‘No food allowed’. It has worked quite well and I haven’t had any problems. Other teachers have been sort of lenient on food, but the class that does allow food is a freshman class, so I have been with these friends for 3 or more years, and so they understand my food allergies.

9th grade is a blast! I had met with my teachers in the spring time before school ended and before school started in the fall. Every one truly understood my hidden disability and is very helpful and supportive. I really feel the leap was much easier with all my teachers understanding!

Guest Blogger Disclaimer: The information shared by the guest blogger does not represent the opinions and policies of No Nuts For My Peanuts and it's creator. As always seek proper medical attention for any issues, medicine dosage's or questions you have regarding your health and allergies. Always read labels before eating or serving any food to anyone who has food allergies.


Neighborhood Kids

I love my neighborhood! It's crawling with kids and friendly parents. Cormac is one of the youngest at 21 months old. The older kids love to come over and play with him. It's so cute. That's what happened this weekend. We were outside using the sidewalk chalk and some of the 4th grade girls came over to play with him. He had a ball!

A while back I had some t-shirts made that said No Nuts For My Peanut. We haven't used it much because I wasn't happy with how they came out. But that day he was wearing it. It got the other kids attention! They asked me questions and remember the rule about not sharing food with him. I was so happy! They even asked were his bracelet was since he wasn't wearing it.
Here is the shirt. This is back in May.

A little while later some more kids were out, and of course Mac had to be in the middle of it. They all read his shirt and commented. One of the younger kids came out with some food and wanted to share, but stopped when the other girls said she couldn't even before I could! She then saw his shirt and didn't understand why he couldn't have a doughnut since it wasn't a nut. So I explained and they all seems to get it. So like I said, I love my neighborhood!

You can make your own allergy shirts or just google it and a bunch will come up. One that I think I may be getting Mac is from a company called Alert Clothing Company. They have short and long sleeve T's, and sweatshirts with cute designs and great warnings. Mac is into dinosaurs so I think that one may be a good fit for him. I should of ordered it already as September is a crazy party month for us but as usual I thought of it too late.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Food Label Frustration

We have only been at this for about 5 months now. I've been feeling pretty confident that any food we give Cormac is safe. We read all labels now and double check ourselves often. We bring his food places just in case. Our friends and family are reading labels too. Over all I felt we were doing a great job.

Well I took things for granted. I thought that companies were required by law to label the top 8 allergens as well as the risk of cross contamination, (ie "shared equipment", "shared facility", "may contain".) WRONG! They are only required by law to label the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shell fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans).

All this time when I read packages without anything referring to the statements above, I thought the food was safe. For all we know it could be, but there is a big chance that's it's not. Maybe we've been lucky so far. I know a few FA mom who are diligent about contacting companies about the risk of cross contamination and share their findings. Most say e-mail works best as you can get it in writing.

In light of this I have been digging to find the exact laws concerning food labels. It's not hard to find, but in true government form it's not all easy to decipher. He are some helpful links I found. I asked some other FA moms for a reference with a simple explanation, and the 1st one listed is what they sent me.

Kids With Food Allergies

I'm feeling pretty defeated this week. My lack of knowledge could have put my son's life at risk. That is not a good feeling. I know I shouldn't beat my self up over this, but I'm a mom and that's what we do when we think we aren't doing are very best. I feel so bad I didn't do all my research. Going forward you can bet that I will be contacting any company I feel is not including cross contamination warnings and becoming even more brand loyal to the ones that do.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Peanut and tree nut free, is it pracitcal?

Over the past few months I keep reading and hearing about peanut free schools. I read a lot about people who think it's the worst thing in the world. It's something I think about often, as in just a few years my son will be in a classroom without one of us to make sure he is safe. Take the regular fears of a parent sending their child to school for the first time and multiply that by 100%. It's the stuff gut wrenching nightmares are made of. Mac isn't even in school yet and it keeps me awake at night. The school bus ride terrifies me most.

The thing that upsets me the most is people's ignorance of the actual issue. Actually it's not their ignorance, because it's just not part of everyday conversation. It's the lack of caring when they find out that certain foods can do serious harm or even kill a child. What's infuriating is that some people feel their right to eat peanuts and tree nuts trumps someones life. That is what scares me. It is my understanding that peanut and tree nut allergies are more likely to cause ananaphylaxis than other foods (not to say other foods don't or can't). It's not like you are outlawing nuts forever, just for a few hours. When you leave you can eat all the nuts you want.

Another one that bothers me is when someone says my child only eats peanut butter. I get so mad! Seriously only peanut butter? Unless your child eats peanut butter for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all snacks, than you are just being dramatic. And they say parents of kids with food allergies exaggerate. Ask any parent of food allergic children, and they can tell you a whole host of foods you can send your kid to school with. I think it's about the ease of PB&J. Trust me I get it. I wish that was an option when I'm running late and need to pack his food. We have to pack his food everywhere we go.

With that said, here is my take on peanut free schools. I think it's unrealistic. I may be the minority and you may be surprised considering my vent just now, but as of today I don't think it's necessary or doable at every level. As far as the older grades (middle school and high school), a child should be able to be his or her own advocate. It's the younger grades I worry about. I do think that the school and parents need to be sensitive to it. A school is a place where all the kids should be safe. They must be able to provide that as well as an education.

A peanut and tree nut free school is my dream but is it realistic? I honestly don't think it is. Do I have a solution to make it so? Not really, but I have ideas to make it safer. I think the lower grades especially kindergarten should have peanut free classrooms and restrictions on group snacks if there are kids who are allergic. Teachers and subsitues teachers should be educated on food allergies, how to read food lables, and how to spot if a child is introuble. I do think schools should not sell the offending food. I do think they need to work with the family's of the allergic kids to find the best possible solution.

I know many schools have peanut free tables, and in theory it's a great idea. However, I hate the thought of my son sitting at a peanut free table all by himself. I actually cry every time I think of that. Yes I want my son to be an individual. However to be singled out as different so blatantly, bothers me. Every kid is different and should be, but I want him to make his mark and stand out for what he does, not by what he can't do.

By school age I hope and pray that my son knows the rules of what he can and can't eat. Again I would love it if my son's school was peanut and tree nut free, but lets be practicle. The risk of cross contamination is going to be there whether there is PB&J or not. It may be a peanut free school, but are they going to check every kids lunch box everyday and read the ingredients on every snack? That's just impossible.

I know not all parents of food allergic children will agree here, so I apologize if this offends. I just don't think it's realistic to be a truly peanut and tree nut free school. There will always be parents who don't care and will send them to school with banned food. There will be parents who forget. There will parents who will try but just don't understand the risk of cross contamination. Plus kids will be kids. In the end I would rather my child be aware that the peanuts and tree nuts are out there, rather than have a false sense of security that he's safe because a school has a no nuts policy.

Cormac is not in school yet so I may change my mind on this. Who knows, maybe our school will have a great peanut/tree nut policy by the time he's ready to start. Or maybe someone with more experience will shed some light on this for me. I just don't think it's a s simple as a nut free policy when it comes to schools. Now if we are talking about a ban on air planes that's another story. There's no compromise there. No nuts ever in my opinion.