Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Made a Card!

OK, all you crafty types... I made a card for World Card Making Day and posted it on that website to share. You can see it by clicking here (I'm "NoPeanutsMom").

I am NOT a card-maker. So my effort is kind of wimpy. But surely someone out there can make a cooler card about food allergies. Do it, post it, and help raise awareness!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Celebrate World Card Making Day!

Are you ready for the third annual World Card Making Day? It’s almost here – this Saturday, October 4, is the big day! It’s a day set aside for card-makers all over the world to share the fun of card-making.

You might think I’m joking, but I’m not. Retail stores all over the world are hosting card-making events like workshops, classes, contests, and sales. Craft bloggers are blogging about it. Card-making enthusiasts are having card-making parties with their friends and family.

It’s a pretty big deal in paper-crafting circles. How do I know so much about it? I’m the project manager of World Card Making Day, working for CKMedia, the publishers of magazines like Paper Crafts, Simple Scrapbooks, Creating Keepsakes, and Digital Scrapbooking. As a freelance writer, I do a lot of work for CKMedia, but managing World Card Making Day was something new for me. I didn’t even know such a holiday existed before, but now that I’ve experienced it first-hand, I love it!

As part of the World Card Making Day festivities, ordinary card-makers like you and me are invited to post of photo of a card we make on the official World Card Making Day website’s Creation Corner Gallery. Every day this week, the editors of Paper Crafts magazine will select one card from the Gallery and post it as the Featured Card on the Paper Crafts website. (Featured cards even win a prize!)

So I had a great idea for World Card Making Day – what if we took this opportunity to make a card to send to someone we know who lives with food allergies? Make the card, take a photo of it, and post it on the World Card Making Day site. You’ll spread awareness of food allergies, brighten someone’s day, and maybe even win a prize!

What kind of card could you make for food allergies? Here are some ideas:

· A “Cheer Up” card for someone who’s had a rough week with food allergies.
· A “Thinking of You” card, with an allergen-free recipe tucked inside.
· A “Thank You” card for someone who went out of the way to help your family with food allergies, such as a parent who served popsicles instead of ice cream at their kid’s birthday party because your milk-allergic child was invited, or a relative who left the almonds out of the traditional family green bean casserole at the last holiday gathering.
· A “Thank You” card for a teacher who eliminated peanuts from her classroom.
· A “Happy Birthday” card for a food-allergy parent, attached to a new allergen-free cookbook.
· A “Happy Halloween” card, with a list of things to do with unwanted Halloween candy after trick-or-treating, like addresses of dentists who buy back candy for cash.

I’m sure we can all come up with more great ideas for telling people how much we appreciate them in our ongoing battle to keep our families safe.

So get out your scissors and paper, get crafting, and brighten someone’s day! Then share your card with the rest of the world by posting it online here.

Happy World Card Making Day!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Egg Cartons and Pinto Beans

Every year, Kim and I get to search for safe alternatives at our sons’ school for parties, craft supplies, and other activities. It begins to feel like a scavenger hunt sometimes: “We need some egg-, milk-, and nut-free gum drops to use on a gingerbread house. I’ll start with the stores on the west side. You hit the stores on the east.”

We’ve already had our first scavenger hunt of the year now. Our boys’ fourth grade teacher uses egg cartons and pinto beans to help her students understand division and multiplication. They use the twelve sections of the egg carton and divide up the beans between them – a good tactile reinforcement of math.

The only problem is, the used egg cartons the teacher has been saving for several months to use in the classroom aren’t safe for Kim’s egg-allergic boy. So off on a scavenger hunt we went!

First, I tried ice cube trays. At Target, the ice cube trays had sixteen compartments. At the dollar store, they had fourteen compartments. I stood in the aisle, a mountain of blue and white ice cube trays in front of me, and called Kim. “They have 14 compartments. Do you think that’s okay?”

“Maybe we could saw the extra two off the end,” she suggested.

“Or maybe we could paint the extra two compartments a different color and tell the kids not to use them,” I said.

Both solutions sounded kind of lame. We thought for a minute. Then Kim had an idea. “Forget the ice cube trays,” she said. “Let me make some phone calls.”

Later that afternoon, Kim had found an egg farm in the phone book, called them, and spoke to a nice man who just happened to have several dozen brand-new, unused egg cartons, still in their plastic wrappers, sitting in his office. It turns out they’d changed their packaging recently, and these egg cartons were the leftover old style and he didn’t know what to do with them.

Kim did.

So she drove out to the egg farm, and drove away with 54 unused, uncontaminated egg cartons.

When she took them to the school this morning, the teacher gave her a strange look. Kim quickly explained why these cartons were safe, and the teacher was very relieved. “I thought surely you should know egg cartons weren’t safe for your own kid!” the teacher laughed.

So all is good now. I’m buying a new bag of pinto beans this afternoon for the teacher to use (because her old ones would be contaminated with last year’s used egg cartons). So by tomorrow, the kids will be multiplying and dividing their way to a whole new level.

And Kim and I can chalk up another successful scavenger hunt!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fresh Veggies and Other Signs of Fall

It’s September, and the leaves on the mountainside are turning. The hummingbirds, tired from their air battles at the feeders during August, are zooming off on their migrations. The geese, which have been practicing flying in formation over our house for weeks, have finally gotten the “V” thing down (after various ill-advised attempts at other letters of the alphabet, such as “Q,” which generally involved mid-air collisions and noisy retorts of indignation). They’re nearly ready for their southern journey.

Evenings are chillier; afternoons are bright and warm, but no longer hot. The swimsuits are put away, and a few sweaters have moved to the front of the closet. And the farmers’ markets and fruit stands are stocked with the vegetables and fruits of fall.

At our Davis County UFAN chapter meeting last week, we celebrated the return of fall by sharing some favorite veggie recipes, all free of the top 8 food allergens. It turns out, all but one were sweet potato recipes – but all were different and delicious!

Our discussion topics ran the gamut, as they usually do. We discussed doctors, and how a board-certified allergist that is experienced in food allergies can get completely different test results from a general practitioner or pediatrician who merely dabbles in allergies. We applauded the ways one member found to boost the nutritional value of rice milk for her daughter. We talked about how the Alexander the Elephant Goes to School DVD does a great job of teaching school-kids about food allergies, and two members gave their copies to another member to show to a kindergarten class.

As usual, the discussion was lively and informative, and we enjoyed being together. For those of you who couldn’t join us, here’s my recipe for Fasoulakia (also spelled Fashoulakia – Greek Green Beans with Tomatoes). Enjoy!


1 c. onions, diced
2 T olive oil
1/4 c. safe margarine
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes (don’t drain), or about 5 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 cans (14.5 oz each) green beans, drained (I prefer whole beans, not cut), or about 2 lbs fresh green beans (steamed)
2 cubes Knorr’s beef or chicken bouillon (Knorr’s is egg- and milk-free, but Wyler’s isn’t safe)
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
fresh oregano or parsley, chopped (optional)

Over medium heat, sauté onions in oil and margarine until they begin to get transparent. Do not over-brown them. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. (If using fresh tomatoes, add a little water to keep moist.) Cook about 5 minutes (or a little longer if using fresh tomatoes). Add green beans, bouillon cubes, garlic, and chopped herbs (optional). Cook for 5 more minutes or until heated through. Don’t let all the liquid boil off or the beans will burn, so if necessary, add just a little water. Serves 6.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Off to a Good Start

Two weeks of school gone; only 37 more to go. Not that my son’s counting or anything. But when his favorite subjects are recess and P.E., and P.E. is only taught once a week, the days get kind of long.

Personally, I’m glad the first two weeks are over. Those are usually the most stressful for me and Kim (the mom of my son’s best friend), because that’s when we make the rounds giving food allergy presentations in school. First, we meet with our boys’ teachers to tell them about their allergies and talk to them about classroom strategies, such as keeping their lunch boxes separate from all the other kids’, identifying a location for their medicine, and so on.

Next, our principal invites us to give a presentation at her staff meeting, so we can tell ALL the teachers about food allergies. Because we give this talk every year, some of the teachers have heard it so many times they joke that they could give the talk themselves. But none of them take me up on my offer to trade places! And they admit the refresher is helpful. Other teachers are new to our school – and some are new to the United States – so the presentation is even more valuable for them. This year, our school has a nursing consultant (a parent volunteer who has officially signed on with our school to be our health official), so she helped with our presentation this year, which was very reassuring.

Finally, Kim and I gave one more presentation – this one to the lunch room staff, several of whom are new this year.

Because Kim and I have done these presentations every year, we no longer have to screw up our courage to go plead to get on their agendas. At this point, it’s an accepted and assumed notion that we’ll be doing these presentations, so the principal and the lunchroom manager actually came to us and asked us when we could come do our presentations.

That’s a great feeling. It shows us that food allergy awareness and precautions are important in our school. It doesn’t mean we never have food issues at school. We do, frequently. But there are precedents, rules, and guidelines, and when a problem comes up, we have those to rely on and to help resolve those issues. We’re not re-inventing the wheel every time a question arises, and we’re not fighting as much of an uphill battle.

So the school year is off to a good start, and the teachers and lunchroom staff are as prepared as we can help them be.

Now, if we can just get through the next 37 weeks...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Preparing for Natural Disasters

We had a little storm this morning. The clouds grew black, the lightning and thunder struck, and the rain fell for about 15 minutes. We even got a bit of pea-sized hail. Now it’s cool (50 degrees), cloudy, and breezy, with a bit more rain just starting to fall. My son’s soccer practice got cancelled, and he and his friend are playing in the basement today instead of out riding their skateboards. So much for a Labor Day last-day-of-summer kind of holiday.

But as Labor Days go, we’re having a MUCH better one than the folks along the coast in Mississippi and Louisiana. Hurricane Gustav is lashing at levees in New Orleans, shredding the cypress trees in Gulfport, and tearing at emotional and physical scars just starting to heal from Katrina three years ago.

It’s hard to imagine living through a natural disaster. At least today, because the sky was low and menacing when I woke up, I felt a small connection to the people in Gustav’s path. When Katrina hit New Orleans three years ago, I stood on my porch and looked out at a beautiful blue-sky day, and tried very hard to understand the devastation going on at that very moment in Louisiana. It seemed impossible that the weather over my head could be so very different from – and indifferent to – what was going on there.

Every time a natural disaster hits somewhere in the world, I think of all those people trying to escape. If they have a few minutes, they throw some scant belongs into a suitcase and hit the road. How do you decide in a few minutes what to take and what to leave behind?

Personally, it takes me at least 12 hours to pack a suitcase for a weekend away. And that’s when it’s a planned holiday, not a mad rush for safety. So years ago, when an earthquake had hit California on another holiday, and I spent the day watching the news reports, I decided to finally do what all the experts recommend – pack an emergency kit. With the TV showing photos of crumpled bridges and buildings, I got out a notepad and began making a list. Then I went to the store and began stocking up on all the things I knew I’d need.

Now, every year I go through our emergency kit and update it. I replenish the food. I swap out old medications for new ones. I take out the clothes my son’s outgrown and put in bigger sizes. I update the phone numbers and financial information that we would need if we found ourselves evacuating on short notice.

One thing I make sure I have is plenty of food that my son can eat, as well as his Benadryl and EpiPens. When I hear about people staying in emergency shelters, I worry about the ones who show up with food allergies. I doubt the shelters are equipped to handle people with food allergies – especially multiple food allergies. Perhaps they are – maybe they have meals set aside for people allergic to gluten, milk, eggs, and nuts. But more likely, they’re making do with whatever they have on hand, and the cross-contamination alone must be a constant threat.

If you have an emergency kit, or if the Gustav hurricane footage is making you think today is the day to put one together, be sure you put safe food, Benadryl, and EpiPens at the top of your list. One emergency at a time is enough.