Tag Archives: safe foods

The 450th day

449 days…

449 challenging days of trialling one food after another until 17 foods have been tasted and rejected by M’s body.

449 emotional days of soaring highs and crashing lows as hope is dashed time and time again.

449 testing days of comforting and reassuring and convincing an increasingly despondent 10-year-old that we will keep trying, keep persevering until we find that elusive new safe food.

449 long days since M last successfully trialled a food and believe me when I say that we have all felt the impact of every single one of those days.

And then came day 450. 450_banner_closeup

A glorious, cheerful day. A day when food challenge number 18 was accepted and finally, after 449 days of waiting, the sun peeked out from behind the dark clouds and we had success.

This success has been hard-fought for on all levels and we all needed it, not least M. After nearly 15 months on a diet consisting of rice, chicken, cucumber, apple and pear day in, day out, he finally gets to add parsnips to his list and there’s no-one more delighted than him. It’s not been a 100% pass, but it is one that he desperately needs right now and we’ve taken the decision that the boost to his morale is worth so much more than total perfection. We’re only a couple of weeks in and the variation it has already brought to meal-times is, quite simply, a game-changer. From mashed parsnips to parsnip crisps and roasted parsnips to parsnip and apple soup, the options are endless and so are the smiles in our house. And, just like that, those 449 days are over and forgotten, and instead we’ve started on day 1 of our next set of adventures.

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When September arrives

img_11331September can really only mean one thing: the start of the new school year and all that that entails. This year it has been just that little bit more hectic than usual as some things have changed significantly, whilst others have remained strangely static. G has moved up into Year 8 and is already embracing the addition of 3 new subjects to her timetable,very much enjoying the extra lessons of French, Dance and Drama as well as the move from Food and Textiles to Product Design. With the new school year, so there is also a new school uniform and whilst G is still a little sceptical about its appeal, I am delighted with how smart she looks, though only time will tell if that will last for the full year or not. M is at the start of the final year of his Junior school career and I still can’t quite believe that my baby is  now one of the oldest in the school. We know that this year will be full of challenges from an educational point of view, but with the continued support of his teachers at school and a full year of specialist lessons at our local Dyslexia centre, we are confident that he will be able to achieve his very best.

This September has also signified some major decisions about my own career after I was made redundant out of the blue at the end of the last school year. I am incredibly fortunate that my accountancy training meant that I was offered a new job within a remarkably short time-frame and I started that position the week before the children headed back to school. I felt encouraged by my new role and yet the last 2 weeks IMG_0743[1]have been filled with unexpected angst as one of the other positions I had applied for requested an interview and then offered me the job. After hours of deliberation and discussion and numerous sleepless nights, I have decided to accept this second role as it is an incredibly exciting and challenging position that I believe I would regret turning down. I am really looking forward to starting this new job at the beginning of October, which will bring some significant changes to our household as I will be back to working full-time hours for the first time since G was born, although I am lucky that they are happy to give me flexible hours and everything I need to sometimes work at home.

img_11381September has also been the month where we enjoyed a flying visit from Grandma and Grandpa, Mike’s parents, from Canada. G and M were so excited to see their grandparents for the first time in 4 years that they created a banner to welcome them when we went to collect them from our local airport. img_11431Mike finally finished the renovation job on our 4th bedroom, a task that had been started back in April,
but was interrupted first by the whole saga of M’s broken leg and then the demands of work and our summer holiday in Portugal. The room looks great, but his parents never got to sleep there as Mike had a last-minute panic that the futon bed might be too low for them and instead they slept in G’s room, whilst our gorgeous girlie moved to the freshly painted spare room for a few days. G, M and I all had to be at school and work as normal, but Mike spent some precious time with his parents before they returned home. It was a busy few days for us all, but we managed to squeeze in some family meals and board games where we could.

In the midst of all that busyness, there is one thing that has remained relatively static and that is the current position with M’s health, a real mixed blessing. The last year has been filled with numerous food trials, including during our disastrous admission at GOSH last December, but M is still stuck at just 5 safe foods and despite our hopes to start challenging him again soon, he is not even close to being symptom-free, something we’ve been striving for since his leg came out of plaster at the start of the summer. We are surviving in limbo with minimal medical input as the plan to start some shared gastro care with our local hospital has not yet materialised and we are not due back to GOSH for another couple of months. It is very difficult to see where the next few months will take us, particularly when you add in the added stresses of his Year 6 SATs, and so Mike and I are hoping for the best, but preparing for a bumpy ride.

Rice Two-Ways

When we made the decision to go elemental in an attempt to bring about a reduction in M’s chronic symptoms, I never imagined that the reintroduction of foods would be as fraught and intensely stressful as it has proved to be. In the past 12 months we have made absolutely no progress whatsoever and everyone is stumped about what the root cause of M’s problems actually is, with opinions fluctuating between complications from his EC, “simple” multiple allergies or a physiological problem with his gut. Whilst the teams of medical professionals involved in M’s care try to decide on what direction they should follow next, I’m left stretching my ingenuity to its very limits when it comes to preparing meals for my understandably fed up 10-year-old.

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I’m constantly on the search for anything that will make my cooking life that tiny bit easier and a lot more interesting and love finding products that are both M-friendly and a little out of the ordinary. Like many of you I’ve eaten rice for years, but generally just as boiled rice to go with a tasty chilli con carne or egg fried from the local Chinese takeaway and had never really thought much about it. Since rice has become the staple carbohydrate of M’s diet, I’ve come to love the versatility of this ingredient and continue to be delighted by the many versions of it I’ve uncovered along the way. Rice milk, rice porridge flakes, rice cereal, rice flour, rice crackers, rice noodles, rice pasta, rice vinegar and your choice of plain rice: long grain, brown, basmati, wild or black have an overwhelming presence in my kitchen cupboards and so now do 2 rice-based products that I’ve discovered over the summer.

img_08441First are Blue Dragon Spring Roll Wrappers, which do contain a small amount of tapioca starch, but are predominantly made from rice flour. Having recently perfected my own version of lemon chicken to satisfy M’s longing for some much-missed Chinese food, these seemed like a great addition to the repertoire and I couldn’t wait to make both M and G some M-friendly pancake rolls for dinner. If you’ve never attempted to cook with these before, let me tell you that they are not the easiest ingredient to use, but I suspect that a lot more practice will make a big difference. I set up my workspace next to the kettle, filled a shallow baking dish with boiling water and then painstakingly soaked the wrappers, 1 sheet at a time, before filling them with some thinly sliced chicken, cucumber, apple and pear that I had already prepared. img_08461I cooked them in 2 different ways, interested to see which my discerning duo preferred and was very much surprised by the results when they came in. G loved the bigger roll which was just prepared as I described above, whilst M told me he’d opt for the shallow-fried triangles every time. I am thrilled that the wrappers were so well received by both children and can’t wait to see what else I can cook with them as I’m sure that they are versatile enough to be used to create some sweet treats as well as the more traditional savoury dishes.

img_11031The other is a real store cupboard essential and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to discover this item when I was perusing the virtual aisles of the fantastic online supermarket that is the FreeFromMarket. As for when the box of Clearspring Brown Rice Breadcrumbs arrived, nestled in the midst of my other purchases, well, Mike and the children were all summoned by my squeals of joy and then left me to my celebrations, shaking their heads sadly in complete disbelief. I am sure that there are so many ways to use the breadcrumbs in my cooking, but I started by preparing a breaded, stuffed chicken breast along the lines of a more traditional chicken kiev. I made a coconut oil and herb mix, which I carefully squeezed inside the cut I’d made in the chicken breast, before coating it liberally with the breadcrumbs. 25 minutes later and img_11091dinner was ready with a golden brown chicken breast tantalising the taste buds with both its look and its smell. They really were delicious and neither child was very willing to sacrifice a mouthful of their meal for Mum to taste-test herself. Now that the summer holidays are over and we’re heading into the autumn, roast dinners will make a more regular appearance in our household and I’m hoping to use these breadcrumbs to create an M-friendly stuffing for us all to enjoy.

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Quick update

Stocks-Update-1With 2 weeks left to the end of term, there’s so much going on that I’ve barely got time to sit down and commit any useful thoughts to paper, so I’m afraid this post is just going to be a quick update.  We’ve just had our first appointment in the new “Complex gastro and nutrition” clinic that our consultant and lovely specialist dietician have started at GOSH.  The thinking behind this new clinic is that for children like M, who have a chronic gastro condition such as EGID as well as significant, complex and multiple food allergies, there needs to be regular meetings with both a gastro consultant and a dietician to ensure that everyone is singing from the same song sheet when it comes to treating the health of that child.

Hospital appointments always induce mild nerves in me, but this time round I felt more apprehensive than usual.  We are now into month 8 of the NG-tube, when the initial plans were that M would have it for no more than 3 months at most and I was concerned that there might be discussion about removing the tube in the near future.  M’s health has been so significantly improved since we went elemental in December that I don’t want to rock the boat any more than is necessary until we have a huge improvement with his diet.  generic round label_1265358343With only 4 foods on our “safe” list out of 12 tried so far, it has been a much longer process to reintroduce foods back than any of the medics expected, although, to be honest, Mike and I had always anticipated it taking a full year, if not longer.  At the moment, M is coping well with his tube and is keen to keep trying new foods, so there are no concerns that the presence of the tube is having a detrimental effect on him in any way.

So, in a snapshot, the outcome of our appointment was this:  that on almost every level, his health is remarkably stable right now and even his hay fever isn’t causing too many issues this year; but the area of most concern continues to be his ever-growing list of multiple food allergies.  Our dietician is very worried that M is struggling to tolerate so many foods and now refers to him as one of her “biggest, but loveliest challenges”.  The process of reintroduction has been so slow that until we have at least another 2 or 3 back in his diet, we cannot change the amount of E028 he’s having via his tube and so the tube obviously needs to stay in place.  We have chosen the next 5 foods to try – white fish, pear, GF oats, venison and coconut – and will also be doing some mini-challenges to see if we can have some more spices and flavourings to add into my recipes.  I will continue to remain in regular phone contact with her throughout these trials and we will keep persevering with the food challenges until our next scheduled appointment in around 4 months time.

Year 6 Camp, here G comes!

This weekend has been a busy one, perhaps busier than expected for me given that Mike and the kids have been away on their “Dads and kids” camping trip.  Instead of taking time to spoil myself in peace whilst they enjoyed the glorious sunshine and camp activities, I sorted, washed, shopped and ticked things off a list, all in preparation for G’s Year 6 camp next week. She’s there for 4 days of adventure: from archery to rock climbing and caving to kayaking, and it’s promising to be an adrenalin-filled time away from home.  It will be the first time she’s stayed away for any length of time, apart from during school holidays with my Mum, and I know she’s been feeling a little apprehensive about it all.  The strain of not knowing in advance who she’d be sharing a room with took a bit of the shine off her excitement and she was anxious to confirm that she could opt out of the caving, the one activity she has said she doesn’t want to do since we first heard about camp back at the start of the year.

The one part of her week away that has not been of concern for her has been the one that I’ve been able to contribute to:  her food.  I’ve met with her teacher, Miss K, and the Head throughout the year to discuss the catering arrangements at camp and had an unprecedented 3 meetings the week after half-term as well as multiple e-mail exchanges to ensure the final plans were watertight.  Miss K spoke to the camp cook to discuss G’s dietary needs and was reassured that they are well-used to catering for children with food allergies.  We had talked about the types of food that would need to be considered for G – GF bread (Genius brown), DF spread (Vitalite Dairy-free) and DF milk (Rice dream) amongst others – and armed with brand names, Miss K has been able to confirm with the camp that these will be available for G.

Mr._WorryI am confident that breakfast and lunch will be okay, but it is still the dinner arrangements that are causing me mild moments of suppressed panic.  If G was “just” gluten-free, I’d have fewer concerns; if she was “just” dairy-free, I’d be only mildly worried, but the combination of both, whilst so much easier to manage that the multitude of allergies of others in our household, requires a little more forethought.  When discussing the menu with Miss K, I realised just how much planning is needed to make G’s meals safe, something that probably seems strikingly obvious to everyone else, but is so second nature to me that I’ve had to learn how to effectively micro-manage these finer details.  It’s not as simple as ensuring that GF pasta is cooked for lasagne or GF sausages provided for sausages and mash as she can’t have cheese or white sauce, mashed potato needs to be made with both DF milk and butter and there’s the hidden use of flour to thicken sauces.  Those are the little things that sometimes slip under the radar.

So, the school and I have reached a sensible arrangement.  I am providing some safe foods for the week for G for those “just in case” moments – cartons of rice milk, safe drinking chocolate, GF breakfast cereal and a loaf of GF bread.  There will also be a packet of GF pasta and a GF/DF curry sauce tucked in that will take up little space, but will give me some invaluable peace of mind. I’m also packing a special camp “swap box” as an alternative to the lure of the vending machines that her friends will undoubtedly be pillaging at all times of the day and night.  In there will be safe biscuits, snacks and a few bars of our ever-favourite Moo-free chocolate to ensure that she has the opportunity to gorge herself at midnight alongside her room-mates.

Today I handed over that precious bag of food and, tomorrow morning, as M and I wave her off on her adventures, I know that she’ll enjoy a mostly worry-free fantastic week away with her friends and my concerns need only be small.

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.

“I like rice…

..Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something.”

– Mich Ehrenborg

I never realised just how daunting food could be until we embarked on our dietary journeys with our children.  It might sound ridiculous, but having achieved such a resounding success from M’s move to the elemental diet, the prospect of food reintroductions caused my heart to beat a little faster, my palms to grow a little sweatier and several middle-of-the-night awakenings to contemplate just how the whole process would work.  A big part of the problem was the lack of useful any information from the dietetics team about…well about anything I wanted to know.  I like to have a clear plan to follow and needed to understand how we would choose which foods to start with, how each food should be prepared, how much to give and how often.  The vagaries of sweeping statements such as serve M “a portion”, with no hard and fast details of the specifics drove me insane, but with lots of discussion, frantic e-mailing and a move back to our old and trusted dietitian rather than the one I’d had run-ins with during M’s admission, we finally got the answers we were after.

Courtesy of alternative-doctor.com

Courtesy of alternative-doctor.com

The decision was to begin with rice, commonly considered to be hypoallergenic and therefore a great starting place for M.  Whilst many children reintroducing foods following the elemental diet might trial potato first, this was one of the known triggers for M’s allergic reactions and so we needed to find a basic food that was likely to be safe.  Despite being told that we could comfortably start with a “portion” of rice, I chose instead to take things slow and M had just 1 tablespoon of plain, boiled rice on that first night.  He enjoyed his mouthful and, looking forward to having more the next day, carried on somewhat oblivious to the anxious monitoring I was trying desperately to hide.  The evening passed without event and we all went to bed happily – well, the rest of the family went to bed happily, I went battling the usual Mummy-paranoia that accompanies anything and everything that involves my children and their welfare.

Courtesy of smartwebsite.ru

Courtesy of smartwebsite.ru

Since that day, around 4 weeks ago now, we have been able to gradually increase the amounts of rice M eats each day and have branched out to include rice milk, rice cakes and gluten-free rice cereal – a veritable feast!  This week I even managed a rice batter, using rice flour and sparkling water and made some deep-fried rice balls to tantalise his taste buds.  M has shown an occasional atopic reaction to the rice as it triggered a rash across his shoulders and back, although the hives have now calmed down as his body has become accustomed to eating once again.  Despite this rash, we have seen no reaction in his bowels and are able to count rice as a “safe” food for him.  Even better, we have also been able to add chicken to the mix and this week have been trialling pineapple, though the jury is still out as to whether this may be causing a mild behavioural reaction akin to the one we’ve seen him experience before to soya.  Assuming all is well with the pineapple, we have plans to trial pork, cucumber and carrot over the coming weeks and may even have time to squeeze in another carbohydrate before we head back to GOSH in April.