Monday, May 24, 2010

Preschooler Backpack

Taylor was recently diagnosed with asthma. Given she has multiple asthma triggers and an asthma attack can come on at anytime and can be fatal if not properly treated, it's important that she always has her rescue inhaler on her. I decided to make a backpack that will go with her everywhere. I wanted it roomy enough to hold her inhaler and spacer on a daily basis and then also hold her Leapster, crayons and drawing pad and a book or 2 for our frequent doctors appointments or other outings.

Given it's going to become a constant accessory, I figured she should have a say in what it would look like so we headed to the fabric store and she picked out this floral fabric and I assisted in picking out the coordinating fabrics. I absolutely LOVE the colorful combination of fabrics!

In this pic the backpack is hanging on the back of her doll stroller.

I used this tutorial and pattern as a starting guide but made a few modifications. First, I made the body of the backpack slightly larger and the sides slightly narrower. I also lined it, added a zipper to the sides, eliminated the open fold as the opening and created a pocket on the front.

Here's a pic with her inhaler and spacer inside.

The fabric tag has her name on it since everything that goes to preschool has to be labelled.

When I finished it last night, she was quite excited. I asked if she likes it and she said "Yep, I do. It's beautiful, Mom".

Love that girl!!!

She was soooo excited to carry to school today and bring it home again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Food Allergy Awareness Week

May 9-15 is National Food Allergy Awareness Week.

This is a photo of my 4 year-old daughter, Taylor. If you've read my blog much you know that Taylor has food allergies. She is one of the 3 to 5 million children in the U.S. who have food allergies. To find out why I took this picture, keep reading.

As an infant, Taylor was a bundle of allergy symptoms but because the world of food allergies is often confusing, I didn't realize the symptoms she had were related to food. It all became a little clearer as we introduced dairy products.

Taylor was exclusively breastfed until the age of 6 months when we introduced rice cereal. I didn't restrict my diet in any way while I was nursing and thus she was exposed to all the foods I ate (at least if the proteins in the food were passed through my milk, which they often are).

I knew a little bit about food allergies and I knew that one should introduce solid foods cautiously when there is a history of allergies in the family (which there is in mine). I fed her one food for a few days and didn't see anything unusual (for her) and continued on with the next food.

Once we introduced dairy products, I began to see that she had GI issues (that'd be my nice way of saying nasty diapers!) when she ate dairy products. Nasty diapers were normal for her because I was eating dairy products while nursing, but they became even worse once she ate dairy directly. The worst offender was straight cow's milk. Still not really realizing this was an allergy, I limited her dairy, but didn't feel that it warranted any medical attention. She continued to have frequent, unexplained rashes, reflux, GI issues and frequent night-waking/crying.

We were officially thrown into the world of food allergies one Sunday morning in October of 2007 when I fed Taylor a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal. I mixed up the instant oatmeal and handed it to her in her high chair. At 18 months old she fed herself as I turned my back and unloaded the dishwasher. Within a few minutes I heard her say "all done" and I turned around to take her bowl. I was shocked at what I saw. My baby girl's face, hands and arms were bright red. That's when I realized we were dealing with food allergies. I took pictures to show our pediatrician and watched her like a hawk. I'm embarrassed that I didn't even think to give her Benadryl or call the on-call doctor or take her to the ER. Fortunately her reaction did not progress.

A similar reaction the next day, led me to call for an immediate appointment with our pediatrician who then sent us to an allergist. I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together and with the help of our allergist and a good gastroenterologist (a GI doctor), as well as a reaction to soy milk, we have determined that Taylor has Milk/Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). This is VERY different than lactose intolerance, although the symptoms may appear to be similar. MSPI manifests as delayed GI reactions to milk and soy protein. Every food has protein (well, except salt and sugar) and a food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein. People who have lactose intolerance do not produce lactase which is an enzyme that is required in the digestion of dairy products. Most people with lactose intolerance can drink "Lactaid milk" or take Lactaid prior to consuming dairy and will not have an adverse reaction to dairy. People with a milk allergy and milk protein intolerance will have a reaction to milk products even if they consume Lactaid prior to drinking milk or eating milk products.

Allergies can manifest in different ways and many children with food allergies react to the food they are allergic to with hives, swelling, and/or breathing problems. Food allergies are very serious and can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. These serious reactions can be triggered by minute amounts of the allergen.

Fortunately, within a few days of Taylor's reaction to the oatmeal and it's other ingredients (she's not allergic to oats), I was strongly nudged by a friend to join Kids With Food Allergies (KFA). KFA was the first message board I'd ever participated in. Basically, you register, post a question and then several of the 20, 000 members will respond to you with their experiences! How cool is THAT! And your post is only visible to other members, not to anyone who wants to google you or food allergies ;)

KFA is a non-profit organization with a Medical Advisory Team who contribute to and review the KFA resources to ensure accuracy of information, and dozens of volunteers who are parents of children with food allergies. The volunteers and the members of KFA are so welcoming that I quickly felt as though KFA was a second family to me. There is no cure for food allergies and there needs to be more research done to find a cure, but in the meantime, as a parent of a child with food allergies, I needed to know what to feed my child and how to keep her safe at playdates, with babysitters and at preschool. The members and volunteers of KFA have taught me all of those things. While they don't provide any medical advice, I've found their wealth of experience incredibly helpful in knowing what questions to ask our doctors and how to best advocate for my daughter.

I began volunteering for KFA about a year and a half ago and I was thrilled when I was recently offered the position as the on-line Community Manager. KFA members can now participate in discussion on the forums for free and can purchase a "Family Membership" for additional benefits including full access to KFAs educational resources and over 1,000 allergy friendly (and delicious!) recipes.

If you, or someone you know, is a parent of a child with food allergies, KFA is a priceless source of support that can make all the difference in improving the quality of life for children with food allergies and their parents. KFA is a non-profit organization that needs your support. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to help KFA continue to support families managing food allergies. To donate to Kids with Food Allergies click here.

Thank you for reading Taylor's story.

To see some of the faces of food allergies (and to see why I took the picture of Taylor), go here.

The following are some great resources for anyone dealing with food allergies:

KFA's Starter Guide to Parenting a Child with Food Allergies

Allergic Reaction or Anaphylaxis

Diagnosing and Testing

What is FPIES?

What is eosinophilic esophagitis?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Birthday Party!

My baby girl is 4 years old!!!

I've been planning Taylor's birthday party for several weeks. All the crafting that's been going on around here has been birthday related so I haven't posted in awhile. Taylor is totally into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, right now, so we decided that would be the perfect theme for her party! At the time I started planning, I didn't realize what a popular theme it is right now. The abundance of Mickey stuff in the stores sure helped in the planning.

I made everything from the decorations to the food and loved every minute of it! I used the Mickey & Friends Cricut Cartridge for all the Mickey cut outs. Most of the supplies and goody bag favors are from Target or the Dollar Tree.

So, let's start off with the best part...the cupcakes!

I baked chocolate cupcakes, frosted them with red buttercream frosting and topped them with a Mickey Mouse paper cut-out that I added Mickey stickers to. I decorated the Wilton cupcake tower with jumbo star sprinkles.

I love how they look but to be totally honest, the frosting tasted terrible! I had to use sooo much red concentrated paste to get the right color and I didn't realize the "Christmas Red" has such a better taste. I used both the red "no-taste" and the Christmas Red, but in the future if I ever make red frosting again, I'll only use the no taste coloring.

I am SO happy with how this banner turned out!!! I used my friend's 24" Cricut (Thanks, Nina!) and her Lyrical Letters cartridge. The Mickey heads are 9". I then cut short strips of ribbon (actually I think I delegated that task to my mom - Thanks, Mom!) and strung it from ear-to-ear.

The Mickey napkins and plates are from Target (Wal Mart has them, too) and the solid paper goods are from the dollar store.

I filled a big yellow tub with bottled water with handmade labels. I simply cut patterned paper into strips, backed it with a strip of cardstock and covered it with packing tape and adhered it to the bottles. Again, I love it! Such a simple way to stretch the theme!

Food Glorius Food!!! I served hot-dog-hot-dog-hot-diggity-DOGS! along with pasta salad and assorted fruits and veggies. As for the fruit...I had this fabulous idea to make a fruit bouquet. Well...yeah...those things a lot harder to make than they look. Even for a crafty girl like me. The bouquet was not well balanced (I think part of the problem was my container was too small) and the weight of the pineapple Mickey head caused it to topple. So, we just had fruit skewers instead. :>

Goody bags with handmade tags made from the Mickey & Friends cartridge. The girls got Minnie Mouse and the boys got Mickey!

A handmade pinata that I made from this tutorial. She says it only takes an hour to make, but it took me about 3 so I must be a little slow! ;)

After everyone had a turn, the pinata fell to the ground and I helped Taylor give it a few good whacks to bust it open.

These pictures of my girl, with the handmade Mickey ears and the great big smile, make all my efforts worth every minute of my time. And I truly loved planning and creating this party!

I think the Birthday Girl loved it, too, and that's the most important part!

I want to thank my mom and stepdad for helping with all the final details of the party.

I also want to say a HUGE thank you to the fabulous people at Kids With Food Allergies who helped me brainstorm ideas and the logistics of pulling this party together. I've raved before about how much I love KFA and that I don't know how any parent of a child with food allergies manages without KFA. The daily support and hand-holding that I get from this incredibly knowledgeable group of parents is invaluable. Today marks the beginning of Food Allergy Awareness Week and I will be doing a special post about food allergies this week. I'll tell you more about our story and how Kids With Food Allergies has been such an essential resource and source of support in managing my daughter's food allergies. Until then, I'll just say an enormous THANK YOU! to the members and volunteers at KFA!