Homemade Shopkins Cookie Cakes!

We were invited to a 5th safe party this year!  That’s a record, friends!  We are always humbled, grateful, excited and a bit nervous when we go to parties.  The anti-histamine the allergist has SG on has helped tamp down her constant contact reactions tremendously, but it still occasionally happens.

So, my sweet cousin N invited us to her daughter’s party and offered to have only safe foods.  I offered to make the cake.  N requested a Shopkins Kooky Cookie cookie cake.

The Huzz and I are always up for a good cake challenge, and we tackled this one the way we do best- together.  I baked the cookie cakes and he did all the decorating with the frosting.  Good ‘ole Pillsbury frosting.

We surprised N with an extra cookie cake- Cheeky Chocolate.  As I shaped Kooky Cake with the raw dough, I realized I had enough dough left for an extra cookie cake.  I showed the Huzz several images and he picked Cheeky Chocolate as one he thought he could well.

Without further ado, here are our results:

kooky-cookie

cheeky-chocolate

The baking of the cookie cakes was my part.  I simply use this food allergy friendly chocolate chip cookie recipe from Silk.  Click here for the recipe.

I take about half of the dough per cookie cake and shape it with my hands until the desired shape is reached.  For Kooky Cake, I shaped it into a circle as big as my round pizza pan.  We put parchment paper on the pan and shape the dough on top.  For Cheeky Chocolate, I formed a tall rectangle.  I baked the cookie cakes on 350 on convection for 13 minutes.

We let the round cake cool almost completely before the Huzz cut out the bite marks in Kooky Cake.  Then we let the cookie cakes cool completely before the Huzz decorated the cookie cakes.

We used these Pillsbury frostings:  1.5 cans of chocolate fudge, 1 can of cream cheese (it’s dairy free!), one can of vanilla hot pink frosting and one can of vanilla neon blue frosting.  And my frosting tool that helped me create SG’s beautiful Barbie cake last year.

As for the cake decorating, an artistic person is definitely a plus.  I could not have made these cookie cakes look like this.  The Huzz is artistic and is the one who made these cakes shine.  So, if you wanna try this at home – (and you should! If we can do it, so can you!) then an artistic person is most definitely gonna help make your cake beautiful.  (The feet and hands are just frosting- no cookie cake underneath.)

The cookie cakes were a hit, my daughter had a blast and there was not a single piece of cake or frosting left.  I’d say that was a successful party!

Thank you N for having a safe party when you didn’t have to… you’re pretty rad!

(Did I just date myself by using rad?)  Haha!

Happy cookie cake baking, my friends!

Today is a New Beginning

Kindergarten Stickers

We started homeschool today.

The realization that everything has changed hit me tonight.

And I cried.

And the Huzz stared at me.

And I cried some more.

Because everything has changed.

We chose not to send SG to pre-school for many reasons. I used to be a first grade teacher, so I knew I could equip her for kindergarten. Also, we were not comfortable sending our super contact reactive daughter to preschool.

So, I stayed home with her, which was always our plan.

For five and a half long and beautiful years, we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

We:

Played

Sang

Danced

Snuggled

Laughed

Shopped

Learned

Cooked

Cleaned

And did I say Shopped… a lot!

And we did so much more, together.

Yes, we can still do those things. Just not whenever we want. I feel a heaviness that that chapter is behind us.

Yes, exciting things are about to happen.

I get to watch our child learn and grow.

But it still didn’t stop the sadness and the tears from falling.

I am NOT the sentimental type so these emotions have taken me by surprise.

I find myself thinking:

“What if I mess this up somehow?”

“How am I going to get everything done that used to take me all week to do?”

“What will our days really be like?”

“Will SG adjust and thrive?”

“How am I going to do this???”

I keep thinking of a sticker I have that says “Choose Joy.”

Choose JOY

I will choose joy.

We will adjust and thrive.

SG will bloom and grow.

We can do this.

Heavenly Father, please fill me with joy, for Your Mercies are new every morning!

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I’d love to know:
Do you homeschool? Do you send your child(ren) to public school or private school? Please share your back to school stories (especially kindergarten stories) with me below.

Note: I wrote this last night and am posting this a day late. Today was officially our second day of homeschool and SG tested on a first grade reading level! That was such a great ending to day two.

Allergy Friendly Cakes & Cupcakes

I have made a lot of cakes since becoming an allergy mom.  I’ve learned how to bake, frost and create.

I decided to scroll through my thousands (I’m serious!) of family pics and find all of the allergy friendly cakes, cupcakes and cookie cakes I’ve made and photographed.

Most of these cakes use my wacky cake recipe.  Click here for the recipe for wacky cake.  I’ve also made a few cookie cakes.  I use this recipe from Silk and instead of making lots of cookies, I shape it in whatever shape I need and bake it for 10-20 minutes.  I start checking it at 10 minutes and adjust from there.

Here are most of the cakes, cupcakes, and cookie cakes I’ve made:

Mickey Mouse Cupcakes for my Nephew

Mickey Mouse Cupcakes for my Nephew

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Spider-Man Birthday Cupcakes for my Niece’s 3rd Birthday Party

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Tinker Bell Cupcakes for SG’s 3rd Birthday Party

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Close Up.  The Ring Toppers Made the Cupcakes Look so Special!

A SpiderMan Cake for my "Baby" Brother

A SpiderMan Cake for my “Baby” Brother

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Simple Christmas Cupcakes

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Mini Vanilla Cupcakes for SG’s Friend’s Birthday Tea Party

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Frozen Cupcakes for SG’s 4th Birthday Party

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Thanksgiving Cupcakes

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Tea Party Cupcakes

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Jelly Tinted Vanilla Cupcakes Topped with Fresh Strawberries for SG’s Friend’s Birthday Party

Cupcakes for My Gigi's 85th Birthday Party

Cupcakes for My Gigi’s 85th Birthday Party

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No Frosting?  No Problem.  Just Add Coco Whip & Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips.

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A Cookie Cake for our Little Cousin’s 3rd Birthday Party

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I Included her Initials, Too.

My 1st Ever Cookie Cake!

My 1st Ever Cookie Cake!

Football Cookie Cake

Football Cookie Cake

There ya have it.  Most of the cakes I’ve made in the past few years, right here for ya in one spot.  🙂  I have made a few more but cannot find the photos.  Oh well.

Happy cake making, food allergy mamas and papas!

A Ray of Hope

I have to say, I have some hope for the first time in a long time for my daughter’s contact reactions.  We moved and have a new allergist who gave us a plan to start to try to reduce and hopefully eliminate her constant contact reactions when we are out in public.  I felt so emotional at the chance to finally be free of contact reactions, I almost cried.  My hope was stuffed down and crushed, but still, I always pray for a cure.  I’ve always said that if her contact reactions would go away, it’d be so much easier to manage.  Not easy, but easier.  Having a ray of hope is nice.  It’s refreshing.

It’s a good reminder that my hope is in the Lord and perhaps I need to readjust my heart and remember where my hope comes from.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.”

Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

A Glimpse into Living with Food Allergies

Faith, Family & Food Allergies

I talk a lot about food allergies.

Food allergies have determined certain paths we take.

Nothing is simple.

Want to take a bible study class with childcare? Just sign up and show up.

Not me.

There are emails and phone calls involved. There are questions about snacks. There are questions about having other kids hands cleaned in the room. There are quick EpiPen training sessions for her teachers. There are procedures figured out for me to be contacted immediately in case of an allergic reaction.

The same thing with any recreational event.

SG wants to take a dance class. She is currently crazy for Barbie in the Pink Shoes and wants to learn ballet.

Just sign up for dance class and show up, right?

Not us.

I emailed one place where I had previously spoken to the manager. To my face, she was agreeable and accommodating. I emailed her with the specifics needed to keep SG safe (either wipe hands or wash and no food in the room) and CRICKETS. No reply.

I crossed that place off of the list.

I emailed another place. The owner said she would have her own child wash her hands but it was up to ME to ASK the other parents to wash their kids hands. Ummm…no. What if they say no? I know most wouldn’t, but I have had issues with this in the past.

Thankfully I found a dance studio that is willing to wipe all the girls hands before they walk in the studio. (Thanks Jill for the help!) I’m overjoyed and can’t wait for my little ballerina to take real dance classes!!!

Let’s move onto grocery shopping. Put your kiddo in the cart (or buggie as we say in the south), fill your cart with any food you want, put your groceries on the belt, pay and go.

Not me.

First, I wipe the entire cart with wipes. Okay, not the wheels. But I SCRUB the part where SG might sit. I’m teaching her to walk beside me, but sometimes I have to put her in the seat part. The part where I’ve watched countless other kids eat the free, deadly dairy and egg filled cookies from the deli. And goldfish. That seat. And then I wipe down the rest of the cart- including the inside of the cart.

Then I find my ridiculously expensive groceries, reading EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME. Because ingredients change without warning. I have to be sure that what I buy is safe for SG. I also have to keep SG right beside me while reading labels, repeating my mantra to SG “Don’t touch anything!” or “Please keep your hands to yourself!” or “Don’t touch your face!”

When my shopping is finally done it’s time to check out and pay. I try to find our favorite cashiers who know us by name. They know to spray and wipe the belt down for us. I have seen spilled milk on the belts. And there is always some random stickiness. Who knows what that is? With a contact dairy allergy and egg allergy, I take no chances. If I can’t find any familiar faces, I go to a new cashier. I explain quietly that we have food allergies and say “Can you please wipe the belt to keep us safe?” Only one time has a cashier refused to do it. And then I lost my cool. And then she wiped the belt. Anyway, all that to get and buy groceries. And I try to ignore the stares I sometimes get as people behind me look at me like I’m a little crazy for not putting my groceries on the dirty belt.  Sometimes I feel my cheeks turn red.  Sigh.  Not that I really care what other people think. Keeping SG safe is my job as her mother. And I take it very seriously.

Let’s talk about haircuts. I love Great Clips for SG. Mostly for one reason… there is a giant bowl of Dum Dum suckers for kids to have after their hair cut. Doesn’t that sound like a silly reason to choose a place for a kid’s hair to be cut? When we are there, SG gets to have the same treat any other kid gets. It almost makes me cry. Seriously, that doesn’t happen much. We usually have to say, “No thank you. We have food allergies.” At our Great Clips, the stylists wash their hands before cutting SG’s hair and she gets a sucker afterwards.

Thank you, Great Clips. You’re awesome!

Let’s talk about eating out. Well, there’s not much to say, really. We only go out to eat on our date nights.

This whole post is not supposed to be a bummer. It’s a little glimpse into our complicated little world.

Still, I am so very blessed to be SG’s mommy. It’s something I dreamed about, prayed about and cried about for 6 years.

I am blessed to have become pregnant after battling infertility for 6 years.

I’m blessed to be a mother.

I’m blessed to be a stay at home mom.

I’m blessed to be a wife.

I’m blessed my Huzz provides abundantly for our family.

I’m blessed to have regular date nights with the love of my life.

I’m blessed to not have to worry about weight. (Eating dairy, egg and beef free and not eating out much has kept us trim!)

I’m blessed that we followed Dave Ramsey’s plan early in our marriage.

I’m blessed with friends and family who want to keep SG safe.

I’m blessed by a church that goes to great lengths to keep SG safe.

I’m blessed with a Savior who loves me and died for my sins.

I could go on and on. Sometimes I need to sit down and remind myself of my blessings.

Because sometimes, this food allergy life can weigh me down.

Today, I choose to lay it all down at Jesus’ feet and know that no matter what, He’s got this.

I might have to take extra steps and precautions, but it’s all for a very good reason. There’s nothing I won’t do for my SG.

Homeschooling my Preschooler: Easy Paint Chip Sample Games

I have chosen to homeschool SG for preschool this year. I am actually a former public school teacher. Once upon a time in a land far far away from Iowa, I taught first grade. For four years!

Today I’m going to focus on easy games that use paint chip samples. I saw a few pins on Pinterest that used paint chip samples (here on out referred to as PCS). The best thing about PCS are they are FREE! SG randomly collects them when we shop at Lowe’s. It keeps her busy while I browse the actual colors I like.

I had a pile of PCS and started there. A quick trip to the Dollar Tree for a pack of paper clips and clothespins and I was ready to go. I also had Sharpies at home and some stickers. That’s all I needed to make a few easy and cute preschool games.

These games don’t have names. I’ll just make some up right now. 🙂

Game 1: Clip and Count
To Make:
Using a Sharpie, write the numbers 1-10 on ten clothespins. Use 10 PCS and color dots using the Sharpie for each number. One dot for one, two dots for two, etc. We currently focus on 1-10, but you could do 1-20 or counting by 2’s to 10 or 20. Store in a plastic baggie.

Clip & Count

I colored circles with a Sharpie.  Round stickers would also work.

I colored circles with a Sharpie. Round stickers would also work.

To Play:
Mix up the cards and clothespins. Count the dots with child and find the matching numbered clothespin. Let child clip it on the correct PCS. You may have to assist several times before child can play alone. For an added challenge, ask child to put the numbers in the correct order after the clips have been added.

Clip & Count

Game 2: Spell My Name
To Make:
Use a Sharpie to write child’s first, middle, and last name on PCS. One name per PCS. Then write one letter per PCS for their full name. Keep the letters for each name in a separate plastic baggie. Put the whole name in front of the individual letters and store on top of the baggie.

We do this for SG's first, middle, & last name.

We do this for SG’s first, middle, & last name.

I store this with the name card on the front so I can easily grab this game & stay organized.

I store this with the name card on the front so I can easily grab this game & stay organized.

To Play:
Place the name card on a surface. (We play this on the floor.) Mix up the letters that spell that name. Show child how to spell her name using the name card as the guide. Eventually, the child can do this by herself. SG now doesn’t need the name card. She uses it to check herself. This game taught her how to spell her name in just a few weeks! And we only played it 2-3 times a week!

Game 3: Paperclip Counting
To Make:
Choose 5 PCS and write the numbers 1-5 and spell it out under each number. One number per PCS. Count out 15 paperclips. Store both in a plastic baggie.

Paperclip Counting

To Play:
Show child the number 1 and point to the word “one.” Explain she needs to put 1 paperclip on the PCS for the number 1. Repeat with 2, 3, 4, & 5. For a challenge, mix up the cards, have her clip the paperclips herself and then put them in order from 1-5 or descending from 5-1.

Game 4: Sticker Counting
To Make:
Choose 5 PCS and write the numbers 1-5 on the PCS. One number per PCS. Choose 5 more PCS and put one sticker on the PCS for the number 1, two stickers for 2, etc. (I chose to use the same stickers for each PCS because I didn’t want SG memorizing a butterfly sticker for number 1, two balloons for number 2, etc.) Store in a plastic baggie.

Sticker Counting

To Play:
Mix up the sticker PCS and mix up the numbered PCS. Assist child in matching the number 1 PCS to the PCS that has one sticker. Repeat. For a challenge, mix them all together, the stickered and numbered PCS. Have child match them alone and order them from 1-5 or from 5-1.

Game 5: Sticker Spelling
To Make:
You will need one PCS per letter of child’s name. I put one letter per PCS. I did it for SG’s first and middle name. I stored both names together in one bag. If child isn’t ready for this, store one name per baggie.

Sticker Spelling

To Play:
Have child spell her name, assisted or unassisted.

Game 6: Paperclip Addition
To Make:
Choose 3 PCS. Write these math problems on them using a Sharpie: 1+1= 1+2= 1+3= On the other side of the PCS, write the answers. 2 3 4 Store in a plastic baggie along with 9 paperclips.

Paperclip Addition

This is how SG checks her answers.

This is how SG checks her answers.

To Play:
Tell child you are going to teach them how to add numbers. Show her the first PCS of 1+1=. Have her put 1 paperclip above the first number 1 and another paperclip above the second 1. Tell her you are both going to add the paperclips. Count them together. Then tell her it’s just like that for the math problem. Point to the math problem and say, “1+1=…” Then count the paperclips again. Ask her what 1+1=. If she doesn’t say two then you can tell her. Show her how to check her answer by turning the PCS over for the correct answer. (Note: My exact wording isn’t needed. I typed it out as an example of how this can be worded. Feel free to say what works for you and your child.) Repeat per PCS and add more addition problems when child is ready.

I keep all of these games in an inexpensive photo box. The box also matches my living room decor, so the games are nicely camouflaged in our living space.

These are some of the skills SG learns when playing these simple games:
1. Following directions
2. Counting
3. Fine Motor Skills
4. Simple Addition
5. Learning to recognize math symbols (+ and =)
6. Able to put numbers in order from 1-10
7. Able to put numbers in order from 10-1
8. Learning to spell name (first, middle & last)
9. Matching number sets to numbers
10. Sitting still to work on and finish a task

(As a side note, SG is 3. She turns 4 in late November. We started these games in August and they are age appropriate for her.)

SG enjoys these games (especially the paperclip ones!). I love that these games were simple to make and have taught SG a great deal already!

I hope this post has brought encouragement to someone out there.

I have more ideas to share for another day.

What about you, friend? Do you have any easy and frugal preschool ideas?

(I was inspired by this blog post & this one.)

Beef Allergy?

Beef by J.R.

I have to share something.

SG has always eaten beef safely. Mostly cooked ground beef in stuff like spaghetti and meatloaf, but also steak.

This summer, we let her eat her steak cooked medium, the same way we eat it. Normally, we cooked her steak well done. We prepared and grilled it at home. Several times this summer she had 2-3 hives around her mouth, which quickly went away.

After she had steak the last time and broke out in a few hives, the light bulb went off in my head. I sat and thought about it and finally pinpointed it to beef- or rather steak. I thought it was because we tried a new brand of steak and maybe there were cross contamination issues.

The last night she had steak and we realized it must be the beef, I kept SG up late, letting her watch movies and holding her by my side. I was armed and ready with her EpiPen and Benadryl, which thankfully, she didn’t need. She didn’t have a reaction further than the first 2-3 hives, but as a food allergy mom, I know reactions can be delayed.  And can get worse.

Knowing that, I slept fitfully.  I checked on her several times through the night, listening to her steady breathing.  The Huzz held me in his arms and told me it was gonna be alright.  “Beef isn’t that good for you, anyway,” he said.  But as he held me close, a few tears slipped from my eyes.  “Here we go again with food allergies,” I thought.

After the Huzz drifted to sleep, I laid in bed, took deep breaths, and prayed. I prayed for answers, for safety for SG, for wisdom in learning to live with yet another food allergy, if that is the diagnosis. And I didn’t know this exact verse, but I knew most of this verse. I prayed this several times. I looked it up the next morning. Matthew 11:28.

Matthew 11:28

SG tested negative to fish and shellfish in the past but I’ve yet to give her any. When they tested her last week for beef, she was retested for several fish and shellfish. All of the tests were negative. So that’s positive! I will learn to like and cook fish and shellfish. We’ve decided to slowly introduce these foods into SG’s diet.

But back to the beef…

After a week with three different tests, the results are in- kind of. According to the RAST test and the skin test using the beef serum from the allergist, SG is allergic to beef. However, she has been eating well cooked beef since she was small. We skin tested her again with a raw and cooked piece of beef. She had no skin reaction to either!

We have two other blood test results that aren’t in yet. One is checking for the tick thing (I’m not getting into that explanation. Just writing this all out is enough for today.) The other test is to see if she is a high histamine releasing person. There are medical names for these but I just can’t remember them.

Anyway, the allergist recommended we continue to feed her well cooked ground beef, as she is TOLERATING it. That’s the important word.

It’s scary to knowingly feed your child a food you know she is allergic to. But I’ve unknowingly fed it to her for several years. And the downside to complete elimination is she MIGHT possibly lose her tolerance.

The Huzz and I had a convo about giving her a small amount of ground beef with hashbrowns on Saturday mornings. That way she has it first thing in the morning and we are both with her all day.

Let me just tell y’all something. Today, I felt peace that surpasses all understanding. I was prayed up. I prayed no matter what we learned today, I would joyfully say, “Lord, Your will and Your way.”

When SG had her RAST test for beef, we decided to go ahead and check her milk and egg levels.

I prayed her milk level would have gone down, or at least stayed the same. Instead, it rocketed off of the charts. And her egg whites went WAY up. Egg yolk went up, too, but was the least dramatic.

The last time I received her RAST numbers, I BURST into tears. I felt as if my world had come crashing down, for the second time. The initial diagnosis was a HARD day. Reading the hard facts about her RAST test a few weeks later devastated me yet again.

But not this time. I am disappointed. I would be lying if I said it’s all hunky dory. It’s not. But I serve a God who is bigger than food allergies. A friend reminded me that this is a “momentary affliction” in light of eternity. Those words played in my head driving home from the test.

God filled me with His grace and I was able to stand up straight and talk about what needed to be done and get through the appointment without falling apart.

And ya know what? As I’m typing this, a little tear is in my eye. I don’t know if it’s because I’m retelling this beef story, if it’s because I’m overwhelmed by God’s grace or both.

Probably both.

I’m a little 5’1 ball of emotion today.

I know that through it all, God is good. And as much as food allergies STINK and have changed our lives, it’s a part of us. We will continue to be vigilant parents and provide her with a normal childhood.

The Lord has gone before us and is the Alpha and Omega and that comforts me greatly.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7   (NIV)

(Emphasis added by me.)