An Egg Free Easter

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As with every holiday or celebration, parents of children with food allergies are preparing, researching, and trying to keep our little ones safe, healthy, and feeling “normal”. With dairy and egg allergies, this is how we are going to celebrate Easter.

Food:
For Thanksgiving we bought an organic Turkey (expensive!!!) and it was lovely, but a lot of work. For Christmas we decided we didn’t want to fool with the preparation of a turkey again or pay the extra money for the kind of bird we needed. So, we decided to have filet mignon for Christmas dinner. It was easy, cheaper than the turkey, and DELISH! We decided to have filets again for Easter.

Here’s our Easter dinner menu:
Filet Mignon (seasoned to perfection by the Huzz!)
Steamed Broccoli (from the microwave)
Sweet Potato Mallow Melt (recipe to follow)

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Dessert:
Rice Krispie Treats
Depression Era Chocolate Cake AKA “Wacky Cake”

A friend gave me the idea for the Sweet Potato Mallow Melt after I explained how my allergen free remake of my mom’s sweet potato soufflé FAILED. I mean, it was AWFUL. It’s super easy and only requires TWO ingredients!

Sweet Potato Mallow Melt:

Ingredients:
Sweet Potatoes (enough for your family: either enough to fill an 8×8 pan or a 9×12 pan)
Marshmallows

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
*Scrub sweet potatoes, prick a few times with a fork, and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until potato is squishy to your touch.
*Let sweet potatoes cool just enough for you to handle them. Take off the skins and throw the sweet potatoes into a large bowl. Mash the sweet potatoes. Try to get the lumps out.
*Spread the sweet potatoes in the pan. Top with marshmallows. We like to cover the sweet potatoes completely with marshmallows, but you can add as many or as little as you like.
*Bake at 350 degrees just until the marshmallows lightly brown. I don’t really have a time. I just keep an eye on the oven.

SG loves this! I love that it’s delicious with only marshmallows added. Simple, safe, and delicious is always appreciated in our already complicated world of meal planning.

Now onto those pesky eggs. We have decided to use plastic eggs and put a few safe jelly beans in each one. Simple. Easy. Safe. SG is only two and doesn’t know about dyeing Easter eggs and that she’s even missing out. Her Easter basket is already filled with books, stickers, and an Enjoy Life candy bar… her first ever candy bar!

That is how we are handling/celebrating Easter.

More importantly, we are celebrating the real meaning of Easter. Because for us, that is really what it is all about.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

 “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6

Happy Easter, my friend. He has risen. He has risen, indeed.

Feeding a Sick Kid with Dairy & Egg Allergies

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So SG has had a virus since Wednesday afternoon. This morning (Friday) she seems past the hump: no fever today, eating and drinking more, and so far no icky diapers. I took her to the doctor this morning, even though I figured he would say it’s a virus. It is. But everything he suggested for bland foods, SG can’t have due to her food allergies. Except for plain white rice. Which leads to this post… Food allergy moms & dads- what do you feed your children when they are sick? Scrambled eggs- can’t have because she’s allergic. Toast- not unless I make some from scratch (flooring being installed all day- kitchen is a mess).

We are testing out orange Gatorade as I type. The orange regular kind seems safe so far. And Ritz crackers. So, parents, help a mama out! If you have a dairy and/or egg allergic child, what types of food do you feed him/her when sick and for a bland diet? Thanks, friend!

Friendships

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Sometimes in life, you find a special friend or a group of friends. I love my friends! My friends are very important to me because they are my support group. We don’t have any family in the area (we’re transplants!) so good friendships are essential.

We’ve moved too many times to count. I have become a pro at moving and trying to find new friends. It’s easier (in my opinion) to make friends when you have children. Yet, when we moved here we didn’t have any children. That made it a bit harder. We immediately started visiting churches once we unpacked all of our boxes. We jumped right into a marriage class at church, and would you believe this… on the first day we had to tell where we were from… I heard a woman name my hometown in South Carolina and my head shot up!!! What are the odds that in Iowa, I would meet someone from Greenville, South Carolina??? Of course, a friendship occurred that led to other friendships. Eventually, we joined Harvest Bible Chapel and through small group and bible studies I met a ton of other moms and friends. I’ve also made friends through story time at the library (once SG, my now two year old, came along). I have connected with moms through Stroller Strides and MOPS. They are all great!

I have bonded with and cried with my friends. I leaned on their shoulders while I sobbed about our journey through infertility. I called a friend and could barely speak, when 11 weeks pregnant I started cramping and bleeding and thought I was miscarrying (it was a hemorrhage and healed!). I’ve rejoiced with friends and watched love and a marriage bloom. I’ve walked with friends through their infertility. We’ve worked out together, complained together, prayed together, and laughed together. We’ve taken our children to various classes together. We’ve gone on an overnight spa trip. I cried when my dear friend left for another country and rejoiced when she came back. And all of this since we’ve been in Iowa. I’ve been incredibly blessed by all of the friends who have been in my life.

My best advice to anyone looking for friends is to put yourself out there! Go places and talk to someone. You never know when just saying a shy “Hi” to someone can turn out to be the best friend of your life! Of course, it’s scary, because you’re putting yourself out there. And not every friendship you initiate will work out. And sometimes friendships end and there’s pain. But there’s also reward! A beautiful friendship is very much a treasure. To all of my friends out there, thanks for being my friend! I know I’m not always perfect, but I love you all and treasure each and every one of you.

How did you meet your friends? Do you live in your hometown and have lifelong friends and family close by? Or are you a transplant like me and need to make friends? Whatever your circumstance, cheers to good friends!

Milk is my Worst Nightmare

imageWhat seems like a healthy snack to most is my worst nightmare. My sweet toddler is highly allergic to milk and eggs. She breaks out in hives and her eyes swell if she even touches or ingests anything milk derived. The sippy cup full of milk a child is drinking in our art class or that bag full of Goldfish are seemingly so innocent… but not for us.

This is my life. Keeping SG safe is part of my daily life when we leave our house. Inside our house, we have no dairy and egg products. None. That makes cooking an adventure, but it’s not as hard as you think. It keeps her safe and that’s what matters. Besides, we actually eat healthier because of it. I have to make and bake most of our food.

Recently, I was stressed to the max because there were cheese crackers being eaten in a class where the kids are all jumping around and using shared equipment. By the way, this is an actual class led by a teacher- not play time or snack time. And there’s a sign on the door that says “No Food or Drinks.” Thank goodness my friend was there and is an extra set of eyes and is always on high alert. She warned me and I kindly asked the sweet mom to put the offending food away, which was lying on the floor in an open bag. I explained and she totally understood. I know people don’t know. I understand that. But the result was SG couldn’t participate in the rest of the class because several kids had eaten some and their hands had touched the equipment.

What’s a mom to do? We can’t live in a bubble. We don’t expect the world to change for us. But we should be able to sign up for a toddler class and be safe. I always feel so stressed when these things happen. I want to break down and cry, honestly. The life of a food allergy family is NOT easy. It’s even harder when the child is two and does not understand that she cannot eat what everybody else is eating or why mommy won’t let her touch certain things. I carry an EpiPen on me at all times and pray I never have to use it and then race to the emergency room.

“Cast your cares on the LORD, and he will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22
Lord, some days I need you to completely carry me. Hold me close and help me to be the best mom I can be. Help me to protect my baby and keep her safe.

I’m praying she grows out of these allergies.
“Oh LORD, my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2
Please Lord, heal my child.

This little mama will remain on high alert, to keep my precious child alive and safe.

Thanks for listening and understanding, my friend.

Dairy and Egg Free Meatballs

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Food allergies are hard to deal with. Yet, it’s not an insurmountable task, as some think. Whenever I mention to anyone my daughter is allergic to eggs and all things dairy, I usually hear either “What do you feed her?” or “I could never do that!” To the latter, I always reply- “If you had to do it for your child, you just would.” It’s as simple as that. I adapt. I tweak recipes- sometimes it fails and most times the recipes taste just fine.

Here’s what has recently become one of our favorites: Meatballs! I’ll list the recipe in a bit, but here is how we use meatballs in different ways:

* Over polenta (use chicken broth instead of water, add a little dried sage, and some Blue Bonnet Light margarine or other “safe” margarine.)  It’s so creamy and the sage gives it a holiday like taste. Simmer the meatballs with safe spaghetti sauce and you’ll not believe how divine this tastes!
* With pasta and safe spaghetti sauce. We use “Bertolli Olive Oil and Garlic” spaghetti sauce. Serve with safe noodles. We use Full Circle pasta- all varieties. Just make sure the box does not say “Made in a facility that also processes milk and eggs.” I buy both the whole wheat and the “regular” wheat noodles and mix them together. I feel a little healthier that way.
* Meatball subs! We’ve not found safe breads for SG and usually have to make our own. However, crescent rolls are safe. So, I tried a Pillsbury loaf of bread that pops out of the container with similar ingredients and it was safe! I popped some frozen pre-cooked meatballs in with the Bertolli spaghetti sauce and let them simmer. Add the bread and some healthy veggies on the side and you have a quick meal. We just skip the cheese!
*As your main protein. That’s easy. Just heat the meatballs and add some sides. One of my favorite sides is the steam in the bag broccoli florets. So easy and healthy!
*In homemade pizzas. I’ve yet to try this one but will soon. I just have to figure out a better dough. Anyone have a good dairy and egg free pizza dough recipe for me? The plan for the toppings will be cut up meatballs and pizza sauce topped with onions and green peppers.

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Here’s my dairy free and egg free meatball recipe:

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp jarred minced garlic (or 2 fresh minced garlic cloves or a little garlic powder)
1 lb ground chuck
1 flax egg (Milled flax seed: 1 Tbsp milled flax seed plus 3 Tbsp of water. Mix thoroughly and let sit until it reaches the consistency of an egg white)
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup HyVee brand Panko breadcrumbs (or similar brand- these are safe for us)
6 Tbs ketchup (we use Simply Heinz)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté the garlic (unless using the garlic powder) and onion in a pan with the heated olive oil for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, dump everything else into a large bowl. When the onions and garlic are cooked, add to bowl (be careful- it’s hot!). Shape into palm sized meatballs or to your desired size. We make them pretty large. I line a baking sheet with foil and put the meatballs on that. Bake the meatballs from anywhere to 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs. Use immediately or let the meatballs cool completely and wrap each meatball in plastic wrap and then put in a freezer safe plastic baggie. I freeze them in quantities of 6 per bag, as that’s the amount we need for our family per meatball meal. I find it’s easier for me to quickly grab a bag of meatballs instead of counting out the number of meatballs I need each time. Label and date the bag. You now have a batch of meatballs ready to go for any meal!

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I like to make a double batch of these meatballs and freeze them. There’s nothing better than a quick and safe convenience meal pulled from your freezer that YOU MADE! Happy rolling!!!

Roaring like a Lion

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My toddler SG loves singing and dancing. Her most requested songs are “Faithful”, “Jeans” and “Roaring like a Lion”. Ever heard of them? Probably not by those names. Those aren’t the real names of the songs. Faithful is “Chorus of the Saints” by Revive, Jeans is “Free to be Me” by Francesca Battistelli, and Roaring like a Lion…well, I don’t even know the real name of that one. It’s played by K-Love throughout the day. Do you know that one? Maybe you can help me out. Here are some of the lyrics: “My God’s not dead, He’s surely alive, He’s living on the inside, Roaring like a Lion.”

I LOVE that she loves these songs. She runs around in circles, with a huge grin on her face, singing the lyrics she’s memorized. It warms my heart when she lifts her little arms up high and shouts “Our God is faithful!” (Chorus of the Saints, hence her calling the song Faithful)

I purposefully choose carefully what songs she listens to. I don’t want her learning just any song. I know, maybe you think I’m overprotective, and you know what? I am. But I’m planting seeds here. If I don’t plant seeds and train her up, the world will.

These songs provide little opportunities for sowing seeds. Just the other day, after jumping around the kitchen and scream singing “Roaring like a Lion,” I explained the “He’s living on the inside” part of the song. I told her Jesus lives in my heart and one day Jesus can live in her heart if she just asks. She then replied with a random toddler answer like “Can we have a tea party?” And you know what? That’s okay. Right now I’m sowing seeds, praying for a big harvest for my daughter and trusting God with the results.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Until next time, my friend. Roar!

Switching to a Big Girl Bed

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My baby has been slowly morphing into a toddler before my very eyes. It has been gradual… toddling, walking, running, talking, and amazing me with her knowledge, just to name a few. All of a sudden, I realized although SG will forever be my baby, I really should start calling her my toddler, instead of my baby. Here are a few of the things that have happened in just the past few months that confirmed I truly have a toddler.

In January, I put SG down for her normal nap. A few minutes later, I heard the most sickening thud and knew that SG had fallen out of her crib. The Huzz and I ran to her, and thankfully she was okay. But I wasn’t. I knew change was happening that day. I wasn’t ready, though. The Huzz quickly converted her crib to the “toddler bed”. Toddler bed? Ha! Only if we would’ve pre-ordered the toddler rails two years ago… (I wish we had!!!) It was just her crib without the front rails. SG is a wild sleeper and flip flops so I knew this wouldn’t work. We rushed to Babies R Us and bought her a little plastic Dora bed. It has rails and is super low to the ground. Perfect! At bedtime we talked about sleeping in a big girl bed and why she had to do it (because she tried to climb out of her crib and fell). I laid her down, walked out, and not even 60 seconds later, she opened her door, peered out, and smiled. And on and on we went for over an hour. Exhausting. Not fun. Now repeat this process every day for naps and bedtimes.

We tried everything, from bribery to consequences and nothing motivated SG to stay in bed. Out of desperation, I offered her money if she stayed in bed. To my surprise, she stayed glued in her bed! So I went to the bank and got a roll of quarters. Add a special toddler alarm clock I found online, and she stayed in bed until “the cow gets out of bed.” Bedtime was a snap…for about two weeks. Then she was bored with money and we were back to square one.

We struggled for a few more weeks and I thought I would end up bald. I wanted to pull my hair out twice a day for hours on end. The entire day would be great- except for naptime and bedtime. So, we stopped naptime. For less than a week. I. Was. Exhausted. I really count on naptime to get household chores down and even have a little down time. Mama needs baby girl to nap!!! A friend suggested “quiet time.” I tried it for a few days and it worked well. Then, the idea of a quiet time bucket popped into my brain. (Or did one of my sweet friends suggest it? Those days were a blur…I can’t remember!) We bought a big bright blue bucket at Target and I filled it with brand new toys and Color Wonder markers. SG was so excited to use her new stuff- but she could only use it during quiet time. Guess what? After 20-30 minutes of her coloring/reading/playing quietly in her bed, she fell asleep. And we’ve been doing that for a week now and it’s still working. My goal is to switch up the items in the bucket so SG won’t get bored and loose interest in quiet time. Which she now loves, by the way!

At Target in the dollar spot (don’t you just love that section?) I also found a little booklet full of motivation charts. I bought it at the same time I bought the quiet time bucket. Wouldn’t you know SG loves earning stickers and is thrilled to peel them off and stick them on her chart “all by myself.” I came up with 6 categories: Night Night (staying in bed at bedtime), Quiet Time, Morning Waiting for the Cow (the special alarm clock that tells her when she can get out of bed), Eat Breakfast, Eat Lunch, and Eat Dinner. This little chart has also helped motivate SG to eat her food. What a blessing!

It’s not all tough stuff, though. My girl is very sweet. She randomly runs up to me and gives me hugs. She gives kisses just because she wants to. She sings to me. We have tea parties together. She snuggles in my lap before naps and bedtime and I read her favorite books. She “reads” to me. We laugh together. She is my miracle baby and I treasure her beyond belief.

It’s a wonderful and hard time, these toddler years. SG is stretching her wings, growing up, finding her voice (literally!!!), and learning and testing her boundaries. I’m choosing today to dwell on the sweet times and deal with the hard moments as they arrive.

How did you get through the challenges of toddlerhood, my friend? How did you motivate your toddler to stay in bed while making the switch to a big kid bed?