Cooking for kids with food allergies: my fave resources

Cooking For Kids With Food Allergies: My favorite resources (online and offline)

After Little Sir’s initial bout with food intolerance, most of which his body overcame after treatment by our naturopath, I become highly aware of the challenges of food allergies and food intolerances for kids. Little Sir’s remaining sensitivities are dairy and gluten. He really cannot have anything dairy more than 1-2 times per week without his body going on high alert (typically with diarrhea being the first sign of trouble, followed by a runny nose). We are mostly a diary free family, but I do allow him to have a frozen yogurt treat occasionally or some cheese on gluten free pizza. I list him as having a dairy allergy at preschool and at bible study/church so that one one will feed him any dairy without my knowledge. He also still has quite a bit of trouble processing whole wheat as well. It’s not actually the gluten he has trouble with, but breaking down the actual kernel of wheat. His body does best if he avoids wheat products, so I feed him a very low gluten diet. I buy gluten-free as much as possible and try to restrict anything with wheat to about every-other-day. So right now, we are largely dairy free and gluten free. Still, it is so much better to avoid these two things than the huge list we started out with.

On this journey of Various Things We Need To Avoid, I collected great resources from other green blogger friends, from amazing friends like local kids’ chef Tara Andersen, and even from you, my readers and Twitter followers! I wanted to pay back that advice by doing a post listing all my favorite and most valuable resources for recipes and ideas on cooking for kids with food allergies (or sensitivities/intolerance).

Local to Dallas (my favorites, unpaid — none of these business know that I’m writing about them!):

  • Half Pint Palates – will custom prepare handmade, healthy, kid-approved food specific to your child’s allergy or food sensitivity.
  • Natural Grocer by Vitamin Cottage – has several locations in Texas including Richardson/Dallas, Lakewood, and Preston/Forest in the Dallas area. They have extremely high standards for their products and often lower prices than some of the larger national healthy food chains (coughWholeFoodscough).
  • Reverie Bakery – vegan (dairy free) and gluten free bakery here in Richardson. Just went yesterday for a treat for Little Sir! He loved it!
  • Unrefined Bakery – gluten free and vegan bakery in both Dallas (Lower Greenville) and Frisco. I got cupcakes for Little Sir’s 3rd birthday here when we were dairy free and soy free. It’s nearly impossible to find soy free bakeries, which is why I love them!

Online stores

  • Vitacost (referral link) – not just supplements! Also a lot of allergy-friendly foods that are difficult to find in stores. I save a lot by using their Set N Save option to have certain items delivered on a regular schedule. If you aren’t a member yet, drop me an email at jenny {at} conscientiousconfusion {dot} com and I can send you a code for $10 off your first order! Orders over $50 have free shipping, so I often go in on an order with several local friends to reach the $50 threshold.
  • Azure Standard – this online store does local drop-offs, so you will need to find a drop-off location near you. Or, start your own! A huge variety of not just specialty foods but also organic produce and grass-fed meats.

Blogs

I definitely have to include Pinterest in my list of resources, and will be doing a followup post on How to Search Pinterest for Allergy-Friendly Recipes, because it is a little tricky. My BFF started a collaborative board for me called What Little Sir Can Eat where I pinned recipes when he was on the severely restricted diet. Feel free to check it out!

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list — it’s just a list of what I have used. I’d love to hear your favorite resources in the comments, so that we can all share with each other!

Being Indoors with 2 Preschoolers for 2-3 Days

As you might have seen on the news (or be experiencing along with me right now), the DFW area was hit with record levels of solid ice and sleet all Thursday night and temperatures haven’t risen above the 20’s since then. Because we live in Texas, we did not own any salt with which to ice our driveway, so we’ve been stuck in our house with both our kids since then. My children, who wake up every morning asking “Where are we going today?”, are NOT accustomed to staying at home for this long. Frankly, neither am I. I am so glad that today it is getting up to 40 degrees! We just spent a little over an hour breaking the ice on our driveway with shovels so that I can drive to the studio and teach a 2pm Lagree Fitness class. It will feel so good to get out of the house and to do a workout! I can guarantee that I will be purchasing driveway salt as soon as it is available again in this area. All you northerners, I’d love to hear your suggestions on other good preventative measures!

So, we were stuck indoors with 2 preschoolers for 2-3 days. What did we do?

To begin with, let me be clear: I am not one of those Pinterest moms who has great ideas on creative and educational activities. And my children have seriously destroyed most of the creative ideas I have tried. Like the sensory bin using beans – that was a TERRIBLE IDEA. They put the beans in dozens of containers which they carried around the house for days. I was finding beans all over the house for months. Literally. It was very creative, what they did. But not at all what Pinterest had in mind. Apparently most children leave the beans in the bin. Ha!

I got a lot of good ideas from my Facebook friends on what to do with 2 preschoolers indoors. Here I will list them for you. Please note that these are ideas from other people, not me:

  • homemade play doh
  • baking Christmas cookies (we did bake breakfast cake, and that was so much sugar that I had to hold off on the cookies)
  • marshmallows and toothpicks
  • pipe cleaners and kitchen strainer
  • use duct tape on hardwood floors to create a hopscotch grid
  • go outside and play
  • play with cardboard boxes
  • empty toilet paper/paper towel rolls
  • play in the bathtub
  • If you don’t have beanbags, fill reusable sandwich bags with beans or lentils or even coins, give the kids a cardboard box, and let them toss the bags.
  • Have a color scavenger hunt. Call out a color, have them find as many things of that color in one room that they can.
  • Write out numbers 1-10 each on a piece of paper, tape them to the floor, and have them hop to each number, calling that # out when they jump. You could also make a homemade twister board. If you don’t have colored construction paper, have them help by coloring paper.
  • Draw shapes (geometric, but also apples, snakes, houses, animals, etc) and let them practice scissor skills. Start with straight lines, then slightly curved, wavy/scalloped, then circles & shapes. Many of each for practice.

Which of these activities did my children actually do?

  • imaginary play involving two ninja fighting sticks, winter hats, and mittens
  • painting
  • painting
  • painting with glitter glue
  • fighting each other
  • I gave them an empty egg carton and they randomly played with that for a while
  • destroying our Playmobil advent calendar
  • watching shows
  • doing activity books
  • using every single toy in the house to create an elaborate play scenario in their imaginations
  • dumping the toys out of their toy bins and sitting inside them (they do this a LOT, actually)
  • talking about doing yoga but not sitting still long enough to do it
  • reading books
  • we did go outside, LL peed on herself after 10 minutes and had to come back in

So, there you go. Maybe these will be helpful to you if you’re stuck in side for 3 mind boggling days with children.

Stuck indoors with preschoolers

And also: sorry to my friends with great ideas which my children rejected in lieu of beating each other with ninja sticks. I thought your ideas were better, too.

Being Conscientious During Christmas

Ever since a few years ago when we kind of cancelled Christmas due to a housing situation, we haven’t looked at Christmas the same way. That year, we had not one but 2 Secret Santa boxes show up at our door and bless our children with gifts. Neither that year or even last year did we actually buy our children gifts from us. They had plenty to open thanks to BlogHer toys and toys from their grandparents and other family. I can guarantee you that a (then) 1 and 3 year old never noticed the difference between 4 toys and 14 toys. And even this year at 2 and 4 years old, we will continue to share with them that Christmas is not about getting, but about giving. Last year we even had the opportunity to be a Secret Santa to another family in a situation similar to ours.

I shared on my blog Facebook page this graphic from my friend Stephanie:

The fact that stores are even open on Thanksgiving day this year, forcing already low income workers to go to work instead of spending time with their families, is a sign of our severe consumption addiction in this country. We are not even willing to let retailers rest. We are asking them to serve us rather than thinking about who we can serve in our own abundance. Something I want us all to stop and think about.

Operation Christmas Child

If you’re looking for a way to give back this season, one thing we have enjoyed doing as a family and with our community group is Operation Christmas Child. Run by the nonprofit ministry Samaritan’s Purse, this program distributes shoebox-sized boxes to needy children across the globe. The fun part is that you get to pick the age range and gender of a child and fill the box with suggested items for them. My kids have had so much fun participating in this each year! Our boxes just went out today, through our church — we save on shipping if we send them all together.

There are a lot of different ways that you can abstain from consumerism and instead opt to give back. Will you take your “down” time this holiday to think about how you can turn the tide in your own family?

Eyelash extensions: less toxic choice?

NOTE: I had a coupon for free eyelash extensions from Amazing Lash Dallas, which I used for this first application. They did not ask me to write about them or give me any compensation to do so.

If there’s one place that I tend to deviate from my eco-friendly and low-toxin lifestyle, it is beauty products. It’s a horrible vice, but I have to say that some of the “green” choices out there just don’t deliver the same quality as conventional brands. So far, I have done pretty well in replacing all my makeup with lower toxin and botanical choices. I have replaced almost all my makeup, but I really struggle with finding a natural mascara that a) doesn’t smell weird (looking at you, Aveda), 2) doesn’t flake into my contacts, and 3) actually makes my pale blonde lashes show up (most of the options so far don’t provide much length or thickness AT ALL).

Last week, a friend of mine invited me to the grand opening of Amazing Lash Dallas, where I got to talk to the owner and franchise owner about eyelash extensions. My main question was: are eyelash extensions a less toxic option for eye enhancement? Because apparently, when you have quality lash extensions you don’t actually need to wear any other eye makeup. What if, instead of trying to find natural eyeliner, mascara, highlighter and eyeshadows that actually work, I was able to stop smearing all that stuff on my eye and just glue extensions to my natural eyelashes?

I got my lash extensions on Tuesday. It took about 2 hours, total. It takes that long because they don’t glue the lashes to your eyelid, they glue the lashes to your existing lashes. This post from Real Posh Mom on 7 Tips You Need To Know Before Getting Lash Extensions was super helpful to read before I went.

Lash Extensions - how eco-friendly are they?

Lash Extensions - how eco-friendly are they?

And for the comparison shot…

Lash Extensions Before & After

It’s now Thursday and I’ve had the extensions for 2 days. So far, here is my take on the green and not-so-green aspects of lash extensions.

Pros:

  • Eyes really don’t need any other makeup, in my opinion. I got the “Cute” style, which is a little more dramatic than the “Natural” and I haven’t worn makeup on my eyes in 2 days. See the pictures above for what they look like with no makeup.
  • No makeup on your eyes = no worry about crying and getting makeup everywhere!
  • You can get synthetic lashes or real mink. Synthetic would be the vegan, animal-friendly option.
  • The adhesive is applied to your lash, not to your skin, so technically there is no skin-to-skin contact with the chemicals in the adhesive.

Cons:

  • While the adhesive isn’t applied directly to your skin, there are fumes during application. You can ask them to turn on a fan, but the fact is, you’ll be breathing fumes for 2 hours at a time. It wasn’t noticeable at first but it got to be a little moreso toward the end. You might try bringing your own mask like the one the technician wears.
  • Even though there is no skin-to-skin contact with the adhesive, there can be a little bit of ongoing irritation if you wear contacts. I think this might be due to some of the chemicals being near the eye and the fact that my contacts are breathable. It isn’t really that bothersome to me, and not much of a “con”, in my mind.
  • Cost. You’ll have to see if extensions are something that fits into your budget. Factor in that the cost of most lower toxin eye makeup is higher than the conventional options — don’t compare extensions to the super low cost of cheap, toxic eye makeup.

I hope this little rundown might help you decide if lash extensions are a green option for you. I love mine but I’m not sure I can keep up the expense long term.

What about you? Have you had lash extensions? If so, what did you think — low toxin option or no? 

An Afternoon of Music: The Sense-able Gym Celebrates 6 months!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching kids yoga classes beginning in 2014 at The Sense-able Gym in Garland (near Richardson)! We’ve written about The Sense-able Gym on Dallas Moms Blog in the past, and the kids and I were able to visit last month to check it out. While it is geared to specifically assist children with sensory needs, it’s a wonderful play space for kids at all levels of learning. My kids LOVE the “Quiet Room” which is dark and has wonderful lighted toys, a music keyboard with shapes that you can jump on, and a light-reactive touching wall. I could go on and on, but I want to tell you today that The Sense-able Gym is celebrating their 6 month anniversary with a FREE special event THIS Saturday, November 23 from 3-5pm including demos and Q&A with myself, the music therapist, and a kids karate teacher. There will be sign-ups for all of our classes available and you can ask us any questions. Be sure to also follow Sense-able Gym on Facebook for updated info and their new open play hours.

The Sense-ableGym - Afternoon Of Music, November 23 from 3-5pm