Home or away?

IMG_0746With a trip to London for M’s GOSH appointment an unavoidable part of the Easter holidays, we decided to make the best of it and spend a few days there on our very own mini city-break.  In preparation we spent one Sunday afternoon leafing through the pages of Mike’s “501 Days Out” book, looking for inspiration for what we could do during our stay and  G and M quickly filled a sheet of A4 with their suggestions.  It was left to Mike and me to make the final cut and hone our plans and, despite desperate requests for Legoland Windsor and Chessington World of Adventures, we decided to stick to those attractions within a reasonable distance of where we’d be staying and drew up a list that felt exhausting just looking at it.

where_to_stayThis epic event was our first overnight stay away from home since M had his tube back in December and I drew up thousandshundreds…well one very long list of everything I needed to do in preparation.  My first job, once our trains were booked, was to find somewhere to stay that would meet all of our requirements.  Usually we choose to stay in one of the Premier Inn hotels on the south-side of the Thames, be it near the London Eye or closer to Southwark Cathedral and find them a great base for walking, or using the underground, to almost anywhere we’re intending to visit.  Unfortunately, leaving the actual booking to a little late in the day meant that none of our usual suspects of hotels was available for the 3 nights we were planning to stay and instead I had to search for a suitable alternative.  Whilst browsing frantically looking for a room at the….an….any inn, I came across the option of a serviced apartment and things suddenly started to fall into place.

We chose a one-bed apartment in East Aldgate, not too far from the Tower of London and easy walking distance from the nearest tube station.  The benefits seemed huge:

  • with a separate bedroom and pull-out bed in the living area, G would be able to go to sleep at a reasonable time, whilst M played his usual night-owl games
  • there would be plenty of space to store all of M’s medical gear as well as the supply of safe foods for both him and G that we would take with us
  • having a kitchen meant we could easily prepare M’s feeds, make packed lunches and even cook dinner, thereby covering every possible meal-time option we might face
  • it also meant we would have a fridge to keep cooked meats, cheese for G and M’s feeds in overnight without the need to request one beforehand and then keeping our fingers crossed it would be available when we checked in
  • finally, we would have a quiet place to retreat to when things got too much or the children needed some down time in the middle of the day

So it was an easy decision to get that apartment booked.  The days flew past until finally I had no choice but to tackle the task of packing for our trip.  By the time I had everything I needed for M in the case, plus our supply of safe foods for both G and M, I was beginning to wonder whether I’d have room for any of the clothes the 4 of us would need for 4 days in London.  With some canny packing and careful choices about exactly what was necessary, I just about squeezed everything in and we were ready for our next big adventure.

Back to work for a rest

take_a_breakI’m sure I’m not the only working parent in the world who gets to the end of the latest school holiday with a sense of it being time to head back to work for a much-needed rest.  The last 2 weeks have been undeniably busy, with a mix of work, play, holiday clubs, hospital appointments and tourist attractions to more than occupy our time.

Surprisingly, the first hospital visit of the Easter holidays was with G, who tumbled from her scooter and ended up with a painful wrist that needed a x-ray.  Despite her best efforts to fracture her left wrist with 4 weeks to go to her SATS, G managed nothing more than a severe sprain, though she has also gained a ban from scooters, trampolines, trees and any form of gymnastics until those exams are done and dusted.  Fortunately G is right-handed, so even these desperate measures didn’t get her out of the revision homework set for her time off school.  We are extremely proud of the effort that she has made with her studies during the holidays as she did some work every day with relatively little fuss and it’s nice to know that the end is finally in sight!

2053064-alpha_flightLess surprisingly, our next 2 hospital visits were both with M.  The first was his scheduled tube change at our local hospital and it went just as smoothly as the last one.  Despite the continued problems we’ve experienced with the gastro team, the nursing team in the CIU (Clinical Investigations Unit) are amazing and have worked hard with us to find an approach to the tube change that makes allowances for M’s anxiety.  The play therapists are on hand straight away to provide a much-needed distraction from all that’s going on by entertaining M with a bubble-popping game on the i-pad or a lengthy discussion about the Canadian Marvel superhero team, Alpha Flight.  Our now-experienced team of Gill and Jo sort us a bed in a quiet area of the unit and encourage M to take some deep breaths of entonox before we even start to discuss the tube change itself.  This time the job was done in an amazing 20 minutes, which included M removing his old tube himself, me counting to 10 in an array of foreign languages and only a fraction of the negotiations we’ve had to endure from M in the past.

622d9490d50f3993393fa0084b4793e8We also spent a few days in London following M’s first outpatient check-up with his GOSH consultant since he had his NG-tube and started the elemental feed.  I’m delighted to announce that, at long last and after an anxious few weeks, M has not only regained his pre-admission weight, but has also managed to put another kilogram on.  Whilst we still haven’t progressed any further than his 3 safe foods, the move to elemental has done exactly what we needed it to and M is unquestionably the healthiest he has ever been in the last 9 years.  The next step is an important one: to find more foods that he can eat without compromising this new-found good health.  We are moving from a pure gastro clinic to a new one for those with “complex food needs”, which will mean he is seen regularly by both his consultant and our specialist dietitian, who will then work together, and with us, to plan the next steps on our new journey.  The future is most definitely bright!

A tri-umph of rice-themed goodies!

Recently I’ve been spending my time baking and cooking up a whirlwind as the days ahead have been looking busy.  With a day for G and M at the holiday club run at Mike’s work, an appointment with M’s consultant and dietitian at GOSH to review his progress 4 months post-tube and a planned short stay in London to see the sights and to dip our toes into the world of being away from home with NG-tube in tow, a plethora of safe snacks and treats for M were much in need.  I prepared rice pudding, rice-flour sugar cookies and rice krispie cakes to satisfy the appetite of my youngest and to reassure myself that we would have some things with us to feed him whilst the rest of us enjoyed some much-missed meals out.  I also used the opportunity whilst trialling banana to add some to the mix and made some banana sugar cookies too.

The recipes can be found in the everything-free recipes section and are so easy to follow that next time round, my plan is to be sitting back with a cup of tea, whilst G and M get on with the task of creating their own delicious masterpieces!

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Who knew you could make so much from rice, sugar, rice milk and canola oil?  Any other suggestions for simple recipes will be very gratefully received!

Hotel Chocolat – New “Dairy-free” Chocolate range (Hint – it’s not!)

Don’t know if any of you have invested in the new dairy-free Hotel Chocolat Easter chocolate as a treat, but had this warning today via a lovely reader of my blog and thought it important to share…

**IMPORTANT UPDATE**

“Hi,

I have two children with EGID (9 and 5). Hotel Chocolat marketed / launched a milk free range for Easter which I have a tonne of in my cupboard but which it now transpires is made in a factory that uses cow milk. My kids are mega sensitive and after eating some have stomach ache/ diarrhoea.

I received an email from HC YESTERDAY (seriously ) to say it might have traces of dairy from the factory – nothing on the packaging and I checked with the manager. We bought a load of their chocolate as it is soya free too – no soya lecithin even.

Not a happy Easter for us …perhaps relevant to your readers?
(Knew I should have stuck to Moo Free! So annoyed).

Abigail”

Thanks Abigail for sharing :)

Easter weekend

Last year, Easter weekend was all about…

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A slice or two of this

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  …several of these

moo free

….and quite a lot of this!

This year, it’s more about this…

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Happy Easter!

“Muuummm, what’s for tea tonight?”

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Oh how this resonates..

If your family is anything like mine, that question usually comes just as you’re struggling through the door: with house keys in one hand, car key gripped firmly between your teeth, handbag on one arm, cello on your back, mobile phone pressed to your ear as you attempt to talk to the dietitian/consultant/other healthcare provider, who’s asking if now is a good time to talk and you can’t say no as you’ve been trying to contact them urgently for at least the last 3 days and who knows when they might call again; plus the school bag(s)/shopping bag(s)/extraneous bag(s)* (*delete as appropriate) you’ve picked up along the way are weighing down your other side and threatening to upset the delicate balance you’ve perfected in your struggle to cover the 100 yards or less from your car to the house.  Meanwhile, your curious offspring are waltzing in behind you, or possibly squeezing past you, through the already impossibly small and too-narrow-to-negotiate-safely doorway, bearing no more than a half-empty water bottle and their coat, worn superhero style to leave their hands free to carry absolutely nothing else at all.  And just as you think you’ve achieved it and managed to get everything safely inside, they open their mouth and ask that unavoidably fraught dinner-question and the peace shatters and your world tumbles down around your ears.  Does any of that sound familiar or is it just my household?

For M at the moment, my answer is fairly standard, although he adds his own unique twist by asking if dinner will be “chicken with rice and cucumber” or perhaps “rice and chicken with a side of cucumber”?  For a while, when he was still 100% elemental, he would even ask if he could have “air-sticks” – “like bread sticks you see, but without the bread” – showing that the ability to laugh his way through this experience is his greatest strength in beating this disease.  I have become a self-confessed expert in cooking with 3 principle ingredients – rice, chicken and cucumber – and the bonus extras of herbs, rapeseed oil and sugar.  Rice has been broadened to include its derivatives and the inclusion of rice milk, rice cream and rice pops (as long as they’re gluten-free) has added to my ever-increasing repertoire of 3-ingredient recipes.

Rice-flour sugar cookies

Rice-flour sugar cookies

In the past few weeks, as well as my fall-back favourites of roast or grilled chicken with plain boiled rice, I have also perfected deep-fried savoury rice balls, chicken nuggets, chicken and cucumber curry, fried rice, chicken stir-fry, rice-flour sugar cookies and rice pudding.  My Mum has also made M a chicken breast stuffed with rice and cucumber, courtesy of the inspiration and some nifty hints suggested by our hairdresser and which was an instant hit with our young diner.  It’s surprising just how many different recipes you can create with just a few ingredients and there’s even a few more that I’m hoping to try out in the coming weeks.  What started out as a daunting challenge to entice M’s appetite and encourage him to once again eat whilst navigating the tricky world of identifying his food allergies, has become yet another success story in our household.

Letter-to-the-EditorSqareMy victory with such a limited range of ingredients has been all the sweeter given the recent UK news story of the letter sent to the Daily Telegraph newspaper by over 100 top chefs and restauranteurs condemning recent EU legislation requiring restaurants to provide information about which of the top 14 allergens the dishes on their menus contain.  It was never a requirement that they did not cook with these ingredients, but rather that they should be able to inform diners of what the food prepared contains, with the knowledge and pride in their ingredients that I would expect from any talented chef.  Whilst widely welcomed by those of us in the allergy-world as a step towards helping us make informed decisions about eating out, these chefs warned that such requirements would harm “…the spontaneity, creativity and innovation restaurants and others in the industry have enjoyed up until now.

Like so many others in my situation, I wrote a response on the Telegraph website, pointing out that this legislation will help me to protect my children and give them experiences that will ensure their continued health and enjoyment,  I do not deny that it’s up to me (and they as they grow older) to ask about allergens, but there’s no point asking these questions if the restaurants, waiting staff or chefs cannot provide the information needed and the lack of understanding about cross-contamination risks is sadly common across the food industry.

20140818_143459Our experience last summer in Disney proved that this type of requirement does not need to be restrictive as excellent allergen information was readily available and nearly everywhere we ate produced meals for G and M that rivalled those being served to any other customer there with a “normal” diet. The chefs were knowledgable, came to our table to discuss their allergy needs and made the effort to find out what my challenging duo would like to eat – excellent service all done with a smile.

The big challenge was always to cook M-friendly food and these days that task has become even more testing.  In my opinion, these rules will have little impact on spontaneity or ingenuity – try cooking or baking when you need to avoid wheat/gluten, egg, dairy, soya and potato to name but a few.  Ingenuity comes when you try to prepare a meal that makes your child feel that they’re not missing out and that’s something I feel I’ve proved is possible, even for an amateur cook like me.

Big Bang Science Fair

Last weekend we travelled to the Big Bang Science Fair at the NEC, Birmingham for a day full of science, maths and electronics fun.  This isn’t an event we’ve been to before and I have to confess that it wouldn’t necessarily have been one that would have even registered in our consciousness before this year.  Since last September, M has been attending a weekly Electronics Club after school and he loves every moment of it.  During the past few months, he has learnt to program a Raspberry Pi, has become an expert with circuit boards, has written his own computer games using Scratch, built a crawling microbug and is now embarking on his latest project, a turning frog.

M getting hands on with one of the exhibits

M getting hands on with one of the exhibits

Electronics has quickly developed into one of the great passions in M’s life and his recent birthday gifts reflected this new-found interest. From solar-powered robots to salt-water cars and night-sky constellations to a build-your-own robot arm, there’s been an awful lot of “building” going on in our household on a nightly basis.  So, when the Electronics Club mentioned a possible day-trip to the NEC for the Big Bang Science Fair, M leapt at the chance and soon had the rest of the family on board too.  We arrived at around 11am, split into small groups and started making our way around the huge number of exhibits that were there.  There was a brief hiatus for lunch and then it was back to exploring the space before the show finished at 4.30pm.

G working hard to power the lightbulbs

G working hard to power the lightbulbs

Mike and M were in one group, whilst G and I were in another and we followed different paths around the hall.  G loved her opportunity to generate enough power to light up some lightbulbs through pedal-power, whilst my favourite exhibit was playing musical vegetables, thanks to a piece of music software and some clever wiring.  M, on the other hand, has been hard pressed to choose his favourite activity, although he is very proud of his memento of a rock-hard silicone glove, created by mixing some chemicals together (don’t ask me which, neither Mike or M can remember!).  He also become the subject of discussion with some university students working there, when a medical student spotted his NG-tube and called her colleagues over as they had never seen a tube in situ before.  Mike was also impressed that one of the nurses working on the ambulance display had not only heard of EGID, but also knew a little about it.

 2015-03-14 16.24.25It was a fantastic and fascinating day out and M has already requested a repeat visit next year, with just one proviso:  that we get there right at the start of the day in the hope those extra couple of hours might enable us to see everything there is to see.