Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Living with FPIES: Halloween Idea's!

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. I love holidays in general, and even though Christmas will always have a special place in my heart, there are some pretty big expectations wrapped up (pun intended) around December 25. Big extended-family get-togethers, possibly involving travel, a fancy dinner – of which our children living with FPIES may or may not be able to eat a single thing without major modifications – and choosing (and paying for) the perfect presents. All of that can definitely add some stress to the joy of the season.

But Halloween… dress up, eat treats, and hang out with our kids? Yes, please. Up through my twenties, I was all about the candy. I was almost as excited for the day after Halloween, when all the sweets went on sale. But now, after having had two kids with FPIES, and having to restrict my own diet in ways that rule out most commercial candy, we celebrate in different ways, but enjoy it even more. My kids are a few months from turning 3 and 5, so what works for our family may not work for yours, but I hope you can find some ways to keep the focus off the candy and on having fun.

We do Halloween/pumpkin/fall crafts throughout the month, mostly card making. Making cards has got to be my favorite craft of all time, because it’s relatively cheap, easy for me (I provide supplies and some ideas, then my involvement is limited to occasional help with scissors and reminders like “don’t put stickers on the dog”), and the finished product helps us stay connected with family and friends who don’t live close to us. We haven’t decorated very much in the past, but I hope to start next year. We also are going to paint some pumpkins teal to put on our front porch in honor of the Teal Pumpkin Project

But what about the day itself? And what to do about trick-or-treating? For some families, not participating in trick-or-treating may be the best option, but we have always let our kids participate. We only took them door-to-door for the first time last year, but the preschool they attended had a trunk-or-treat event every year during the school day. All kids are different, but we found that before the age of two, they had fun but didn’t really get the concept, so we just quietly went through their bags for any non-food items they may have gotten (like bubbles), made a big deal out of those, and took all the candy away.

What we did last year, and will do again this year, is to start off by giving them a small basket of treats. I love those little tin pails that come in different colors from craft stores, so I put some special things in those. We participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, so I often include a few of whatever we’re handing out for that. This year, they’re getting an orange-and-black mini notebook, a Halloween pencil, a glow stick or two, a Spiderman toothbrush, an orange matchbox car, a jumping spider, play dough, a small coloring book, and some safe treats. (I’ll list some ideas at the end of this post for homemade treats, though obviously this will look very different depending on what your safe foods are.)

Then we take a similarly small bucket and trick-or-treat. Our children are young, so we go early, and don’t visit very many houses. Honestly, sometimes it can be hard to watch my FPIES kid trick-or-treating, collecting candy that I’m going to have to take away from him, but knowing that he has some non-food and safe treats he’s excited about waiting for him at home really helps both him and myself. When their buckets are full, we come home, and get set up on the porch to hand out treats. I think this was the favorite part of the day for all of us last year. The boys, extroverts to the core, acted as hosts in handing out our candy and non-food treats, played with the new things they’d gotten from us, munched on sugary snacks they don’t eat very often, stayed up past their bedtime, and just generally had a ball.

My oldest has outgrown FPIES, and my youngest has recently added a particular brand of chocolate to his list of safe foods, so my oldest will get to keep his loot from the night, and we will trade with my youngest for some safe things. I know some families do the Switch Witch, where they leave all or some of their treats in a special place, and the “Switch Witch” comes by sometime in the night and leaves a present in exchange for the candy – like a book, movie, stuffed animal, or so on. Older kids may enjoy donating their candy to the troops or utilizing a dentist buy-back program.

For us, Halloween has been a fun, no-stress time of hanging out together as a family, and the fact that for most of our Halloweens together so far we haven’t been able to give our kids commercially produced chocolate hasn’t impacted that at all. We focus on the fun of dressing up, getting some special surprises, visiting our neighbors’ houses, and ending the day by playing on the porch, handing out treats and getting to see all the costumes that other kids are wearing.

How does your family handle Halloween?

Homemade Safe Treat Ideas:
  • Lollipops – I made this with just sugar, water, and cream of tartar, and I suspect they’d work fine without the cream of tartar.
  • Animal cookies  – I’m going to make these with a jack-o’-lantern cookie cutter.
  • Marshmallows  – homemade marshmallows are surprisingly easy to make. I substitute cane sugar syrup for the corn syrup and skip the powdered sugar/cornstarch topping. When the marshmallows are ready, I melt them in the microwave, mix with a safe cereal and a little safe oil, then pour into an oiled pan to make Rice Crispy Treats.
  • Chocolates – if you have a safe chocolate chip, or even chocolate bar, you can melt the chocolate and pour it into silicone molds to make fun shapes. Or just eat.
  • Gummies – I haven’t made these myself, but if you have juice and gelatin as a safe, the steps are fairly simple.
  • You could use silicone molds to freeze purees or juice (or even water!), or bake muffins or cupcakes in.
  • You could use cookie cutters to make cookies, or cut shapes out of soft foods, such as fruit or homemade granola bars.
This post was written by FPIES Foundation guest blogger volunteer Janie. Janie Dullard lives in Pearland, Texas with her husband and two children, both diagnosed with FPIES as infants, though her oldest has now outgrown it. She works as a freelance editor and has written a children's book, available here: . Her days are spent chasing after her two preschool-aged children, working, and concocting strange FPIES-friendly foods that her children will sometimes even eat.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Embracing the Gadgets

Before I had my two children, I was never much of a kitchen gadgets or appliances person. Most of what I needed to do in the kitchen, I could do by hand, and I didn’t want to pay for them, didn’t want to clean them, and I didn’t want to try to find space to store them in our usually small kitchens.

And then FPIES.

My oldest had a long list of fails as a toddler, but wheat was one of our safes, and there were a very, very few types of packaged breads he could eat. But between on-and-off availability and shifting ingredient lists, I would spend what felt like hours in the bread aisle muttering ingredients aloud to myself, trying desperately to find a loaf that was dairy-, egg-, soy-, and corn-free.

The most frustrating thing about this experience (apart from doing it several months pregnant and with a toddler), was that it shouldn’t have been that hard. Bread doesn’t need all those extra things in it. When my local grocery stores stopped reliably carrying anything we could eat, I started researching bread machines. My mom, always finding ways to help in our FPIES journey even while living in another country, offered to buy us one. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and free two-day shipping, it arrived that week, and I immediately put it to the test.

It sounds silly to say that a bread machine changed my life.

But I use it 2-3 times a week, and have for over three years now. I make all our own bread. No more wasting ten minutes in the bread aisle. No more dealing with the ever-mounting frustration as you realize that this loaf has whey, and that one has corn flour, and this one has soy in one of its myriad forms. Instead, five minutes of measuring, one push of a button and in less than four hours, there’s a fresh loaf of bread ready to eat. I’ve also used it to make pizza, soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, dinner rolls, and naan. It’s gotten me through two FPIES kids, my youngest with only a dozen safe foods at the moment, and my own diet, which is dairy-, egg-, and corn-free.

Could I have made all of those things without my bread machine? Maybe. Theoretically. But the stress, hassle, time, and mental energy it has saved me has been huge. And, realistically, I don’t know that I would have been brave enough to try. There’s just something so intimidating about yeast.

Even with as much as I love my bread machine, it still took me a while to embrace other kitchen gadgets, probably because my oldest started to outgrow his FPIES, thus opening up so many more commercially made foods, and I had hopes that my youngest would as well. But as my youngest is now approaching three, and showing no signs of outgrowing FPIES any time soon, I’ve started to cave. He deserves fun foods too, and if I don’t make it myself, he usually can’t have it.

A candy thermometer allowed me to make lollipops, and, more recently, marshmallows. An ice cream maker purchase after our recent move to Texas gives him a treat to help beat the heat. The waffle maker has been fun for our whole family – including any overnight guests we have.

As FPIES parents, we need all the help we can get in the kitchen. I’m not saying you should go on a spending spree and rack up credit card debt stuffing your kitchen cupboards. But if there’s a gadget that could make your life easier, and you can afford it, go for it! Maybe there’s something like a waffle maker, that would let you try a new texture or presentation for your kids, or a gadget that will do what you’re already doing by hand, but in less time and with less effort. I know some families have found a Vitamix to be a huge help in making their own milks, or have gotten a lot of use out of a stand mixer.

It doesn’t even have to be something that would cost hundreds of dollars to be a big help. For some reason, I have always been completely incompetent when it comes to making cut out cookies, and I finally just gave up altogether. Less than $10 for a set of plunger cookie cutters, and a little experiment with a recipe, and now my kids get to enjoy their own animal crackers.  You can find that recipe here

This new perspective has helped my focus change from what we can’t eat or make, to thinking of ways that I can work around certain problems. Instead of “Oh, he’ll never be able to enjoy that,” I think “What would it take to make that? Is it worth it? Are there any alternatives? What else could I make that would be similar but still fun?”

 FPIES is a battle, no doubt about it, and a well-equipped kitchen can be a strong ally.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some more gadget research to do…

What gadget would you splurge on that would make your life as an FPIES parent easier in the kitchen?

This guest blog post written by Janie Dullard. Janie lives in Pearland, Texas with her husband and two children, both diagnosed with FPIES as infants, though her oldest has now outgrown it. She works as a freelance editor and has written a children's book, available here: . Her days are spent chasing after her two preschool-aged children, working, and concocting strange FPIES-friendly foods that her children will sometimes even eat.