Sep 27, 2013

Kids and Food Allergies

If you are new to the blog, my sweet son John has an egg allergy. Thankfully his isn't severe (he can eat baked goods with eggs in them like cookies and cake) but he still can't touch or eat raw or cooked eggs and we carry an Epi-Pen with us at all times. His allergy is obviously easy to keep up with when he is with us, but my biggest stress is him being away from me and people feeding him food without knowing about his allergy! Talk about Mommy Worry!! 

So, in honor of John, today we have a guest writer, Claire Edmundson, who will be sharing a little abotu food allergies with kiddos! 

Healthy Tums, Happy Moms
Every mom likes to see their kids enjoy their food, finishing off what is on their plates and leaving the table happy and healthy. We know that that kids have their fads, eating something solidly for six months and wondering how they don’t go off the taste of it, only to then decide they don’t like that anymore and won’t eat it – usually within two days of our having bought a month’s supply and put it in the freezer. But how do we please our kids and keep them fed when we discover they have an allergy?
Responding to Allergy
Identifying that one of our kids has an allergy and then the sometimes long road to figuring out which food, or foods, they are allergic to is one story. The way in which we have to respond to the allergy and change our lifestyle to accommodate it is another.
Food allergies in children are surprisingly common. It is estimated that 8% of children in the US have a food allergy; with the most common being peanuts, milk or eggs. This is costing the nation almost a staggering $25 billion dollars a year in medical expenses, specialist foods and changes to diet, as well as working lifestyle changes.
On the Bright Side
Changing the way we cook and serve food because of an allergy can actually be good for all the family. Not only do we eat more healthily, but the family gets to spend more time together. Licensed Prescriptions informs us that although involving our kids in cooking has been something of a dying art in recent years, doing this makes for an interest in good, healthy food and teaches our kids a great skill for when they are older. Going back to scratch with our cooking might seem like a huge deal when we have gotten used to depending on convenience foods from the stores; but cooking from all the basic ingredients gives us the chance to try out new foods, put different ingredients together to come up with some amazing meals that all the family will enjoy and mean healthier, happier tums. Just discovering new recipes from books or online is an activity which can involve all the family; and getting the kids joining in with recipe hunting can be turned into a great game.
Getting Down to Basics
Without going into the maze of dos and don’ts when it comes to our child eating outside home, whether at school, with the child minder or at friends’ houses, adjusting our lives to avoid any chance of setting off an allergic reaction starts at home, right in the kitchen. There is a real danger of cross-contamination if we have a child with a severe allergy. For this reason, many parents choose to get rid of all foodstuffs in the house which contain the allergen.
The shopping list is one of the first things to get a makeover. Off come all the foods which our kid has an allergy to, along with any foods which might possibly contain even a hint of the forbidden food. All of a sudden, we have very little left – especially if we are dealing with an egg or wheat intolerance.
The cupboards get cleared out too. A great way of disposing of all those packs and cans which are no longer safe to be eaten is to box them all up and give them to your local church for distribution or to a local charity or food bank.
A major shop is then in store as you have to re-stock your shelves and cupboards with foodstuffs that are safe for your family to eat.
Substituting Foodstuffs
Thankfully there are substitutes we can use for many, if not all, the ingredients which now have to be left out of our cooking.
When we want to cook food which normally needs eggs, for example, we can sometimes use egg replacement products, which should not be confused with egg substitute products as these are aimed at people with cholesterol problems and DO contain egg. Egg replacement products, often bought in powder form, can be used in recipes where the eggs act as a leavening or binding agent. Whatever we buy, it is really important to read the label when we pick it up off the shelf to make sure it is completely safe. Xanthan gum can also be used to bind and add texture. For a child with a corn allergy in addition to egg, Xanthan gum should not be used as it is derived from and fed on corn sugar. Where we need to use egg to glaze foods before cooking, using melted margarine is a great substitute.
 For wheat substitutes, we have a number of different alternatives. Depending on what we want to cook, we can either choose to use a single ingredient substitute such as rice flour, potato starch or rolled oats; or combine different non-wheat flours, such as rice flour, oat flour and barley flour for better results.
With so much information available to us and support in changing our cooking and eating habits, having an allergy in the house can mean a real improvement in the quality of the food we eat and the health, not just of our kids, but the whole family.

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Sep 22, 2013

My Only Regret...

This weekend I decided to pull out John's baby pictures and make a photo book. Let's not worry about the fact he is turning five in a three months. We will also ignore the fact I made the book only because I bought a Groupon for it and was already caught up on the most recent set of pictures since Matthew has been born. I think I have been putting it off because I look at his sweet baby pictures and have to face my biggest regret since he was born- I didn't take good pictures of him! (Can we also take a moment to realize how lucky my family is that this is my one and only regret for the past 5 years?!)

I had a point & shoot camera when John was born. So I have tons and tons of pictures, but I bet only half are actually pretty decent. (Note to Brad- of course I deleted all those other pictures. Promise.)

Sometimes I got lucky and got a good picture, but it is a pretty good bet that anything indoors isn't frame worthy. Outdoors usually fared much better. However, focus wasn't always happening apparently!

Hey, sometimes the outdoor pictures looked crappy too! Awesome.

So, here are the indoor beauties. Note the dark backgrounds with messiness & chaos everywhere. Not pretty!

A lucky indoor shot since it was by the window.

More dark backgrounds and mess everywhere.


So, here's the point. Pictures are so important to me. I love taking them, love looking at them, and love sharing them. I was so envious of people who have these wonderfully perfect photos of their children. I really wanted those photos to treasure of my own children. I had been wanting a really nice camera for a long time. Probably since before the kids were born. So I convinced Brad to let us get one from my parents as our Christmas gift last year. This was by far the best present I have ever gotten. (Thanks Mom & Dad!). 

The pictures were a million times better but again I had a realization. I wanted professional-looking pictures of the boys (and the rest of the family) yet I had no idea how to use my camera. Now, I didn't want posed family shots. I wanted to document our every day lives as a family. This meant taking pictures inside, with low light, and with moving subjects. Unless I got a job soley to pay for a private photography to follow me around all day (which would be AWESOME)  I figured the only way I would get those precious pictures of my sweet boys is if I learned how to take them myself.

Enter the fabulous Liz Labianca of Liz Labianca Photography. She took our family pictures twice and I love love love her work. She luckily loves to share her passion and a couple months ago I took a photography session with her at my house. I hardly ever spend lots of money on myself, but this was the best money I have spent in a long time. 

I now know how to take pictures in the manual setting on my camera. Yes, the MANUAL setting! That is big time, guys! Even better, I can take pictures of MOVING BOYS.

Lookie here- I can take pictures of silly boys INDOORS! Did I finally learn to clean up my house? Nope. But you can't tell anymore! Double Bonus!

Even though my photos aren't perfect and I have an infinite amount more to learn, I love these photos. Of course, I am biased!

I love seeing my sweet boy, knowing I will treasure these pictures forever.

Most of all, I am so proud of myself for figuring out a way to get what I wanted for our family. I wanted beautiful photos to remember these days and times that are literally flying by in the blink of an eye. The photos may not be beautiful to anyone besides myself, my husband, or our family, but I am ok with that. I am not trying to become a professional by any stretch of the word.

I always looked at Liz's photos of her daughter on facebook and thought 'Liz is so lucky that she is a photographer and will have such beautiful pictures of her children. Her daughter is so lucky to have gorgeous pictures from her childhood'.

I can now feel the same about myself. I am lucky have these special pictures of my favorite boys. Brad may think we have too many of these special pictures but I can't part with any of them!

And I truly hope the boys will realize how special the pictures are when they are older and can look back at the bond and love they have built between brothers.

Now it is time to start saving up those Groupons for photobooks because I have a couple thousand pictures a year to print. (Brad, hopefully you didn't read that last sentence. And if you did, I hope you didn't have a heart attack).

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Sep 9, 2013

A Cars 3rd Birthday Party

Over the summer Matthew turned three. He decided he wanted a 'Cars' birthday party which turned out cute and everyone had a fun time.

I made these invitations on photoshop and love how they turned out!

We started off at the pool because it is about a million degrees in Texas. I like the boys to wear coordinating outfits for parties but I also want it to be worn more than one time. So I got them matching Cars bathing suits and we already have the Lightning McQueen hats (which I don't particularly like, but the boys picked them out and they fit the party). At the pool we had 'Ramone's Auto Shop' set up where kids could get fake tattoos that were really cute!

After we swam for a little bit we went back to the house for lunch and a couple games. I had a kids' table set up and each kiddo got a VIP Pitt Pass to wear. 

We had a yummy lunch before heading outside again. 

Outside in the backyard we made a small race track by spray painting white lines on the grass. I got the racing flags from Oriental Trading to help decorate the track and for the 'crowd' of parents to cheer on the racers. I printed out pictures of the different cars from the movie, laminated them and then glued ribbon to it to make it into a lanyard. Each kid picked which car he or she wanted to race as. They had fun running the race track a couple times and even took turns who would win each time. It was really cute!

Last but not least we had some yummy cupcakes. I found the toppers on clearance at a party shop for $1! What a steal! I think making cupcakes at home is a wonderful way to save money for parties. I always make the cupcakes and ice them myself. They look pretty dang good if I do say so myself!

You can't have a Cars party without having some yummy spare tires!

I didn't get a picture of the favors, but each kid got a Cars 2 Little Golden book that I found at Walmart. I love giving favors that are useful or practical instead of a piece of junk that will get thrown away at the end of the day.

Overall I think Matthew had a fun 3rd birthday party! You can check HERE for some of the other birthday parties I have thrown for the boys- all have been super fun! Now, if I can finally send out those thank-you cards...

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Sep 6, 2013

Fun with Food!

So, let's talk food, shall we?

My kids seems to be pretty typical when it comes to food. They don't really eat veggies and they go through phases of sticking to one kind of food per meal. John has eating waffles almost every breakfast since he was 1. That is almost FOUR YEARS of waffles! Every once in a while he will eat pancakes. However, no cereal, no muffins...just waffles! (I will give him a little reprieve since he is allergic to eggs and there is only so many breakfast foods that don't have eggs as the main ingredient!).

I have found that if I present the food in a cute or different way, the boys are more apt to trying it and eating more of the meal. For example, for the first day of school I made the boys these waffle kabobs, inspired by Mom on Time Out. The boys liked them so much they asked me to make them the next day and John even had seconds. So, yes, it was still a waffle, but I snuck in some bananas which usually don't get eaten.

Even simply cutting some of the food in shapes works wonders. The boys loved the Valentine's lunch I made them since it had heart shaped cheese. Matty B will even eat cucumbers if I cut the slices into a heart!

Some people are way, way, WAY more crafty than I, but I try to keep it simple and manageable. I started a pinterest board (be sure to follow it!) where you can find the super simple and the super fabulous ideas to make food fun for your kiddos!

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Sep 5, 2013

I am back! (barely)

Hey sweet lil Mop Top fans! I haven't been around all summer and I am so sorry to leave ya hanging. Did you survive with me?

Well, now that our fun summer is over, I hope to get back to blogging more often. Taking care of three crazy boys really takes up a bunch of my time: imagine that! However I decided that I am going add back in our 'school activities' since the older two boys aren't napping anymore. I really loved doing those type of activities with John so I am really excited to start it back up again and hopefully I will have to time to share all the fun activities I create!

In honor of back to school, here are a couple photos of the boys. I took these pictures at my mother-in-law's house and I have the wonderful Liz Labianca of Liz Labianca Photography to thank. I took one of her momtering sesions and it has made all the difference in the world. I know how to shoot in manual and I am getting better every day!

Hope everyone has had a smooth transition back to school!

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