Square One

IMG_3231I have taken my son to an allergist every year since his food allergy and asthma diagnosis at age one. And every year, I sit with his doctor and we go over his test results, talk about how to manage his medical conditions, get medication refills and new forms signed. But this year, for the first time in a long time, I sat there next to my freckle-faced, athletic, smart, empathetic and whip-smart funny son and CRIED. Why? Because I was told his asthma is far worse than it should be for a soon-to-be 12-year-old boy, and that his lungs are literally failing him. FAILING HIM.

I’ve written on this blog for many years about John’s severe food allergies. I’ve traveled the country to talk about food allergy awareness and advocated loudly for change in school policy. I’ve written cookbooks and taught cooking classes. But what I haven’t always shared is our battle with John’s asthma. Not because I didn’t want to. But because I didn’t know how to. Talking about lung disease has never been easy for me. I lost my father when he was 52 to lung cancer, my mother to emphysema/pneumonia at age 59, and I have battled my own asthma and chronic lung infections as well as my siblings. When John was diagnosed at a young age with asthma, I thought I was prepared to deal with it. I thought I knew how to manage it. I was wrong. I had no clue.

Today John’s doctor had a “coming to Jesus” discussion with John and I. Based on his updated lung function tests, his levels were triple the normal amount in a child his age. In other words, his severe asthma at age 12 could likely lead to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by the time he is in his 20′s and 30′s (an extraordinarily young age for this disease) if he continues to not aggressively treat and manage his asthma every single day. At this point in our conversation, she didn’t address me, but HIM. My preteen son, who more often than not is forgetting his Epi at home, eating things without checking and not taking his daily inhaler. Full disclosure: I have been gone and an absentee mom all summer traveling, going to school etc. and haven’t been checking as closely with his asthma medications. I feel totally responsible for the continued deterioration in John’s lungs. A horrible, horrible feeling.

She looked at John in the eye, and asked him, “do you really want to live a life with daily meds, steroids, oxygen tanks, and giving up an active lifestyle because you can’t walk a flight of stairs? What if you couldn’t shoot a basket or play a game of soccer? Do you want to give up the things you love because you aren’t taking responsibility for your life today? Don’t you think at your age you should become responsible for keeping your Epi in your own pocket and remember to take inhalers on your own in the morning and night?

She then looked at me, and told me flat-out that John’s lungs are in unusually bad shape for a child his age with no other environmental risk factors. She couldn’t believe that he is a starter for his travel basketball and soccer teams, and most of the time plays entire games without ever getting called out. She said the inflammation in his lungs is severe; a normal level is around 10, his is 65. She said not treating his asthma now while his lungs are still developing will guarantee COPD at a young age, an irreversible disease. She explained our hearts are our body’s engine. But engine’s need fuel…which is our lungs. Without the fuel (lungs) our engines (heart) stops. She also reiterated that based on John’s lungs, a simple cold to him could keep him in bed for weeks, or in the hospital, and continue to damage his lungs permanently. Based on today’s results, his daily medication was increased to the max for a child his age, in order to aggressively start reversing this damage. Next course of action….using medications approved for COPD.

I sat there painfully numb. As she described images to John of people with COPD taking steroids and using oxygen tanks, I immediately flash backed to my own parents’ lung diseases. As she spoke to John, I remembered my father’s lung cancer destroying his entire body and mind in a matter of months, faster than I could even process at age 14 that he was going to die. And disintegrate into someone I barely recognized. I then remembered my mother, my best friend and angel, going into the hospital December 23, 1996 for a back injury (brought on by the overuse of steroids to treat her emphysema) and never coming out. I remembered her weak body and lungs contracted bacterial pneumonia not once but twice while in the hospital, putting her into intensive care. And then ultimately, her heart stopped. Because the fuel (her lungs) ran out. Just like John’s doctor described. Then I sat there and sobbed quietly because I thought, not only did I fail to help prevent my own mother’s death by demanding her to quit smoking or get healthy, I didn’t check in on my own son for his daily asthma treatment. Here I was, running around doing this and that, only to find that I was failing my own son at home. In a moment, I felt such shame it was unbearable. Last year I first learned of the severity of my son’s asthma. This year I learned it got even worse. Under my watch.  I realized nope….I can’t do it all. No way.

John told the doctor, “I thought all these years my food allergies were the thing that could kill me. Never really thought about the asthma”. She reminded him that BECAUSE of his SEVERE asthma, and because of his SEVERE food allergies, he would go into anaphylaxis into SECONDS. Mere seconds. My son could die. In seconds. Barely enough time to remember where the hell his Epipen was if he maybe forgot to take it with.

Today was extraordinarily painful for me as a mother. Because I remembered what it felt like to watch my parents struggle with their health. I realized I failed in balancing my school and work and family life. And I remembered that advocacy, education, and awareness starts at HOME. It starts with me. It starts with John. BUT it also starts with my husband. It starts with his brothers and sister. It starts with all his aunts, uncles and cousins. It starts with his teachers, his friends, and his coaches. I can go talk at conferences, and schools and where ever else for years. I can hope that PTA’s and school nurses and moms who demand birthday parties at school will open their hearts a little wider with understanding for the health and well-being of these kids with medical disabilities. But none of it, and I mean NONE OF IT matters if we don’t start right at home. Something I personally needed to remember.

http://www.lung.org/associations/states/illinois/news/the-link-between-asthma.html

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/news/20100517/childhood-asthma-linked-to-risk-of-copd

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20268528,00.html

http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/

 

I’m BACK!

First of all, I want to apologize for being such a loser blogger. I’ve had several, OK lots, of people email me asking where I have been these past few months. They want to know if my website address changed. They want to know if I am alive and well. They want to know if I quit blogging or recipe writing or advocating altogether. My answer to all of the above; NO. A big fat NO. I’ve only been temporarily disconnected. My life has been crazy busy! But I’m back, and stronger and more resolved than ever to raise my voice not only on behalf of our food allergic kids, but for us, as parents in general. As Maya Angelou famously once said…”When we know better, we do better.” Right on sister.

Since my apparent last post in November (yikes…has it really been that long??) I’ve been working at an internship (yes, at my age), driving super long commutes (to LA and Santa Monica, need I say more?), and going to graduate school full-time (though I didn’t actually realize my course load was full-time until last Friday when I had to check my school status. I kept wondering why I was SO TIRED all the time, so I guess that explains it.) And aside from that, I am plugging along on some scripts, papers and material for a new book. Oh and my children; I still do all the normal stuff for them like homework help, grocery shop, cook and try to volunteer when I can at school but truth be told….I have sucked at that this year. (But I tried my best to be where I could!) Life has been busy. It has been hard. But it has been life-changing. And I mean that in the nicest way.

I’m having more fun than I have ever had….writing, working, learning and growing. But growth is challenging, no doubt. My children have seen me stressed, unsure, nervous, tired, resolved and disappointed. They also have seen me happy, elated, excited, creative, and more alive than I’ve been in years. I often work alongside them at the kitchen table, doing homework and plugging away, night after night. I have my good days. I have my off days. But every day is an opportunity to “know better to do better”. All I know is, that for right now, in this moment, we are exactly where we are supposed to be. And tomorrow, we might be somewhere entirely different. But that’s life, isn’t it? We’re all malleable, or at least we should be. Life is not really meant to be lived in a linear way, I think.

So here is a recipe I LOVE. It’s in my Meals book and it’s one of my favorite fast meals, especially now, during the craziest of days. Stay tuned in the next few weeks; LOTS of exciting food allergy information and stuff and events to share!! Thank you guys for always being there for me, for being so understanding and patient with my lame ass. LOVE MY PEEPS. Stay tuned….I’ll be in touch soon. xoxo

Kelly Rudnicki book

CHICKEN SALAD

Serves 2

 

This is my favorite way to use up leftover cooked chicken from my Weekday Roast Chicken recipe. It is very fresh, light and flavorful. I love to put it on a bed of spinach salad or tucked into allergen safe pita bread. Feel free to omit or add celery, grapes, apples, or raisins according to your personal tastes.

 

2 cups diced ,cooked chicken (leftover from Weekday Roast Chicken)

¼ cup Vegan Mayonnaise

¼ cup dairy free sour cream

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup finely minced celery

¼ cup finely diced peeled Gala or Granny Smith apple

½ cup coarsely chopped red grapes

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve as is or in allergen-friendly mini pita bread, tortilla or your favorite sandwich bread.


 

Giving Thanks….

1211-leftover-casseroleIs Thanksgiving really just two days away? Usually by now I would normally have scoured the Internet, foodie mags and my huge collection of cookbooks for new recipes to try for the holidays. Time slipped away from me this fall, it seems, and here I am just NOW thinking about what our Turkey Day Dinner is going to look like. Thankfully, I can go back to my tried and true Thanksgiving Day Allergy Friendly Menu and recipes for ideas.  Last year, my dear friend Silvana Nardone published my favorite classic recipes, and I will be turning to them again tomorrow. I am somewhat of a traditionalist (ok, sort of) and always like to stick with the classics for Thanksgiving. There is a certain comfort in the expectation of status quo, especially when you are dealing with holiday feasts. However, I’m dying to fry a turkey. So one of these years, I am going to invest in a fryer and just do it. Yes, I’m nervous I will burn my house down or fry my face off, but for the most part, I’m always game for trying something new.

I also just wanted to let you, my readers, know how thankful I am for YOU. Your words of inspiration, encouragement and support have meant the world to me all these years. I read everything you write to me, and try my best to respond to every comment or email. Everything I do regarding my books, articles or advocacy is completely influenced by you and your stories. You inspire me to do better, and to work harder. I am thrilled that President Obama signed the stock epinephrine bill into law recently, even happier that he outed his own daughter’s life threatening food allergy thus giving even more attention to the fact that food allergies affect so many of us. I am excited we continue to have forums, walks, expos, conferences, and summits every year that allow us, as parents, bloggers, and advocates to have a voice on behalf of our vulnerable children.

That’s the key though…USE YOUR VOICE to raise awareness. Talk about our world, and how to keep our kids safe and included, especially in their safe haven…their classrooms. It’s our responsibility to keep not only our own children safe, but EVERYONE’S children safe. We are a community of dedicated, educated and loving parents who just want to keep our children alive. It’s really as simple as that, isn’t it? So don’t ever feel bad about asking for things, talking about things, or raising the roof once in a desperate while.

I will never give up fighting for safer allergy aware policies for our children. And I’ll never give up hope that we’ll someday find a cure for them too. Remember….ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. And I guess that’s what I am most grateful for this week….hope. I have enormous hope that 2014 and beyond will bring about even more change, awareness and research on behalf of our FA kids.

Finally, a HUGE thank you the absolutely amazing novelist Curtis Sittenfeld for this moving and beautiful piece she wrote for Slate today. Happy thanksgiving y’all….xoxox

 

Tears in Heaven….

Me with the beautiful Bay Area Walk organizer Sharon Wong!

Me with the beautiful Bay Area Walk organizer Sharon Wong!

I just returned from San Jose last night, where the Bay Area FARE Walk/Run for Food Allergy in honor of BJ Hom was held. This event alone raised nearly $120,000 for food allergy research and awareness. Over 800 families affected by food allergies attended the walk, and enjoyed presentations by CA State Senator Jim Beall, NBC News Bay Area Laura Garcia Cannon, and San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen. Steven Powell US Navy 1st Class Petty Officer sang an incredibly moving “Tears in Heaven”, as well as awesome performances by food allergy musician Kyle Dine, American Idol Season 11 finalist DeAndre Kamele Brackensick and many, many others. Brian Hom, his amazing and beautiful family, and all the incredible volunteers who made yesterday an enormous success deserve our deepest gratitude. As most of you know The Hom family lost their son BJ in 2008 from anaphylaxis, and Brian has devoted his time and life to raising money for allergy research and awareness. He’s a remarkable man.

I had the great honor to also meet many of the Bay Area families whose lives are affected by food allergy. One family in particular came over to my table where I was greeting families and signing books. As soon as I saw her, I knew exactly who she was, but she reached out her hand anyway and introduced herself and her husband as Joanne and Louis Giorgi. Oh my God, I thought. I MUST go over and hug her tight, from one mother to another. And hug her husband, as one parent to another. I thought, what could I ever say to a mother who lost her beautiful daughter just months ago? What do I say to a woman whose daughter’s last words to her were “I’m sorry” before dying right before her eyes? Her eyes….that’s what I looked through for the strength to say something when I didn’t know what I could possibly say to ease her horrific pain.

“I’m incredibly sorry”, I said to her. She looked so strong, so resilient, so brave. “Thank you”, she said, and admitted it was a tough day for her and her family. I looked over at her husband, who had the same look of heartbreak in his eyes. I looked back over at Joanne, and saw her own eyes well up with tears. I just had to tell her in that moment what was deep in my heart; that I am forever grateful for the courage she and her family have shown in educating others about what happened to their sweet daughter Natalie. That I can’t stop thinking about Natalie, and how her tragic story will inevitably save lives. The lives of OUR children. Right then I opened my cookbook to the photo of John, and said “this is my son John. He has the same allergies as your daughter. I know he is always one accident away from the same tragedy as Natalie’s. I’m scared, and heartbroken, because your daughter’s death reminds me to never forget what work MUST be done by the rest of us to raise food allergy awareness. As a mother, I am so DEEPLY sorry for what you are facing”. Tears, tears and more tears shared between two mothers.

With tears in our glassy eyes, I promised Joanne I will do everything I can to help her with the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Foundation. I will work even harder to knock down doors in our schools to enact laws and policies in schools that will keep our food allergy kids safe AND included in their classrooms. I will use my voice to speak for those who can’t. I promised Joanne that we will never forget Natalie and what her life meant to all of us. It was incredibly brave of Joanne and Louis to be at that walk yesterday, in the company of so many families who struggle with food allergies. They were there yesterday to not only represent Natalie’s life, but to represent all of US.

The rest of US have a responsibility to Natalie Giorgi to use the voice within us. We must speak as loudly as we can for our children. We all have the ability to make a real difference in our schools. We mustn’t expect others to fight for us. We must do whatever we can to hold our children’s schools accountable. Schools are in the business for our children. Bottom line. I don’t care about extra paperwork, administrative hurdles or school politics that so many say are the road blocks to change. It is irrelevant to me. Our children’s well-being comes before all else. And most of all, don’t ever listen to someone who says to you, “Things will never change”. Or “You can’t”. Instead, say “I will”. We owe it to families like the The Giorgi’s, The Hom’s and The Shannon’s to NEVER GIVE UP on educating and raising awareness. May God Bless the angels in heaven who will guide us every step of the way.

Steven Powell US Navy 1st class Petty Officer sings – See more at: http://www.foodallergywalk.org/faf/help/helpEventInfo.asp?ievent=1061755&lis=1&kntae1061755=D51AEB04ABE840C796E7509D87AD7F93#sthash.mdra6c38.dpuf
Steven Powell US Navy 1st class Petty Officer sings – See more at: http://www.foodallergywalk.org/faf/help/helpEventInfo.asp?ievent=1061755&lis=1&kntae1061755=D51AEB04ABE840C796E7509D87AD7F93#sthash.mdra6c38.dpuf

Too busy to cook…sigh.

October MSL CoverWell, I only wish I could proclaim to my family on the busiest of nights that I’m simply too busy to cook, But the reality is, even if I didn’t have a child with food allergies, I’d still have to cook something. Because quite frankly, there are too many mouths to feed at the Rudnicki house to start taking orders for individual meals. I have found it is easier to cook one meal, and declare that “Dinner is served. Take it or leave it!”. This has kinda been my mantra for years, but it has been especially true the past several months since I’ve started graduate school. Mom stuff, writing stuff, sports schedules, and carpool schedules are mixed in with my homework and twice a week commute to LA…needless to say it’s crazy around here! So lately I’ve been putting my slower cooker to use and making simple meals that are healthy, fast and can double as left-overs.

These two recipes from Martha Stewart’s October Living issue (not to be confused with her fabulous Halloween issue) have been a lifesaver. The Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is very similar to mine in my book The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy Fast Family Meals. But I REALLY loved her addition of fresh lemon and parsley. I use my favorite dairy free Vegan parmesan cheese as a replacement for the dairy version. This is the fastest dinner you will EVER make. I promise. My kids LOVE  this dish too.

If I have a few extra minutes I love to make Martha’s Scallopini Alla Marsala dish. I love to use chicken cutlets in place of the pork tenderloin too. It’s a warm and comforting dish that is perfect on its own or with a side of the Spaghetti. Be sure to use dairy free margarine in place of the butter.

Bay area fans DON’T FORGET I will be in San Jose this Saturday October 12th walking with families to raise money for a cure at the FARE Walk/Run for Food Allergies in Memory of BJ Hom. To date they’ve already raised more than $98,000. Please come out to say hi! I will have books to sign and purchase for a donation to FARE.

Happy fall everyone!!!

 

 

K

 

 

Will Farrell’s Bit at the 2013 Emmy’s….were you offended?

Will FerrellHi Peeps! An interesting discussion started on my Facebook feed today about my choice of sharing a video of Will Farrell at the 2013 Emmy Awards. As you may or may not have heard, Farrell brought his three kids on stage and did, what I thought, was a hilarious parody of not being able to find last minute child care for his kids. Watch the clip here and see for yourself what the whole bit was about.

My choice to share the video on my personal Facebook page raised some concern from a a few friends who were offended by Farrell’s “nut allergy reference” (though I still don’t understand what he was even trying to imply in his comment, because it was more of a rambling statement rather than a coherent one.) A reference was made about Farrell’s 2012 alleged prank on his cast mate, Zach Galfiadias who apparently had a life-threatening allergy. So, because I’m kinda lazy and don’t feel like editing my response about this from my FB page, and because what I wrote is really from my heart, I figured I’d just literally cut and paste my comment about it here, and open up the discussion to you guys. I’m very curious to know what you think. Were you pissed? Offended? Thought it was funny? Or not? Or did you even care? Let me know, because I’d love to know:

Will Farrell allegedly pranked his cast mate Zach Galfiadias, knowing he was allergic. The story was originally shared on The Daily Show, and I’m not certain it was determined if the event actually happened. But btwn that, the Portlandia bs segment, and many other things that have portrayed allergies as something that isn’t life-threatening pisses me off to no end. It always feels like whatever work I’ve done to advocate or educate is negated through people’s careless comments. I have learned over the years to really be thoughtful about the things I take issue with, because you simply cannot fight every fight, or tackle every comment or issue that comes up. I have heard my fair share, either directly or indirectly of really, horrible and mean spirited comments about the validity of my son’s allergies, or about my work, or my books. I’ve read vile comments about me in the comments sections of news articles. i have been emailed nearly every day or every couple days FOR YEARS from people who are pissed at me, my blog, my outspoken advocacy work. I have learned to ignore 98 percent of it now, because the negativity that used to be thrown at me would literally exhaust me. At some point I realized I have control over my reaction to such things, but I can’t control what others say or do. I fight like mad for our children’s rights at school, because that’s worth it to me. I don’t fight the shitty emails. I don’t fight the shitty comments I hear through the grapevine about me at the grocery store. I don’t fight dumbass comments. Regarding this clip, to me, it’s a hilarious parody of what every mom kind of has to go through…the nut allergy comment was literally “a nut allergy”…and the context in which he used it didn’t even really make much sense, so I really, truly believe he flippantly used the comment while he ad libbed through the segment with his kids. I honestly didn’t take offense to it because I didn’t see it as him trying to attack, or make fun of people with food allergies. Even so, it’s totally cool to get pissed off at his remark. I’m just not offended by it when there is so much other stuff I choose to take issue with. Now, the Joel Stein column? I DID take issue with that bullshit very loudly as you may recall in my blog years ago. That was worth it to me to call out. Will Farrell at the Emmy’s? Not so much. But believe me, if I ever did meet him, I would ask, and then if he answered like an ass, then he’d get my foot up his.

So what do you think about it all? And how do you feel about what you choose to take issue with or not? Do you pick and choose your battles? Or do you believe every battle is worth it if it means others will be educated about the dangers of food allergies? How do you handle negative comments?

Back to School…What’s for dinner?

Sept2013_COVER_V3_largeToday all my kids went back to school. I’ve waited for this day for a very, very long time.  For the past 13 years I’ve been very lucky to stay at home with my five children, making bottles, sleep training, potty training, making crafts, watching Barney and Elmo, going to the park, the library, the apple orchard, the museums, baking (LOTS of baking I might add), volunteering at preschool, grade school and now middle school, taken care of sick kids and just trying to be the best mom I can be. It’s been a whirlwind. But now I have to admit I’m ready for the next part of the journey. I’m ready to learn and grow as much as my children have been learning and growing. I’ve always loved school, I’ve always loved learning, and I love being a student of life. Our personal journey and evolution never ends. There’s always something new to do, to learn, and to see. I’ve only scratched the surface. I want to see and do MORE. And I want to share it all with my beautiful, amazing and talented children every step of the way.

So now that they are all in school full-time, I can take back some of my hours to do more of what I love. As mothers it is so important to remember who you were before you were a mom, and even before you were a Mrs. To nurture your own space, inner creativity, and personal needs is the greatest gift you can give yourself AND your children. Let them learn from YOU how to take care of their spirit by showing THEM what it means to love and honor yourself, and as well as everyone else around you.

So tonight, I’m back to school too. Grad school. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone and I love it. I love the feeling of opening my mind to all things new. But I still have to feed my family, and a fast and easy dinner is always needed at our house. So lately, I’ve been trying lots of new recipes that aren’t my own creations. This Chicken-and-Broccolini Mac and Cheese from the September issue of Martha Stewart Living has quickly become one of my favorites. The recipe below has been modified from the original to make it allergy-friendly. I have all of Martha’s books, magazines and many of her Everyday Food mini-magazines. She’s one of the few cookbook authors that I have truly learned from. Martha IS one of the great teachers of everything related to home-keeping and cooking. Since my mother passed seven months before my wedding day, I looked to Martha for all her tips on cooking, cleaning, decorating, and even ironing.

In addition to the recipe above, check out my Vegan Back to School Roundup of my favorite recipes at Martha Stewart Living. They’re super fast and delicious, and ones I’m certain your entire family will love.

Enjoy the new school year everyone…full of hope and promise to learn more and do better! xoxo

MD110116_Mac_and_Cheese_4631CHICKEN-AND-BROCCOLINI MAC AND CHEESE

Serves 4-6

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish

2 c. dairy free milk (soy, rice, almond, your preference)

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves, cut in half horizontally

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

8 oz. dairy free cream cheese

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

12 ounces allergy friendly (dairy, egg, nut, gluten-free) noodles or small shaped pasta

12 ounces Broccolini or broccoli florets

1 3/4 c. dairy free cheddar cheese, shredded

1 c. fresh allergy friendly breadcrumbs (coarsely chopped allergy friendly bread in your food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 3 quart broilerproof baking dish with oil. Bring milk to a simmer in a pot. Add chicken; simmer until cooked, 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Remove pot from heat; whisk in mustard and cream cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shred cooked chicken. Cook noodles or small shaped pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, 3 minutes. Add Broccolini; cook until noodles and Broccolini are al dente, 2 minutes. Reserve 1/2 c. pasta water. Drain noodles and Broccolini; toss with chicken, sauce, pasta water and dairy free cheddar. Transfer to a baking dish. Toss breadcrumbs with oil; sprinkle over casserole. Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake 20 minutes. Uncover casserole; increase heat to broil. Cook until top is golden brown in places and breadcrumbs are crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.

 

Natalie Giorgi…

If you are a parent of a food allergic child, you probably already know who Natalie Giorgi was, and every detail surrounding her tragic death July 26th from an allergic reaction to a rice krispie treat. If you don’t know her story, read and watch the news clip here. I won’t go into all the details, as I think watching Natalie’s mother retell her 13-year-old daughter’s death in tearful angst is enough. Enough, I hope, to send ANOTHER wake-up call to anyone out there who questions the seriousness of food allergies.. a wake-up call to well-meaning parents who still insist on fighting food policies in classrooms that keep food allergic children AND teens safe. Accidents can and do happen. And they will continue to happen and innocent children’s lives will be at risk until we can 1. find a cure or 2. successfully advocate and get the message out that food allergies are dangerous and can kill.

Honestly, it’s very difficult for me to even talk about Natalie’s death, and watch her mother’s plea on TV to educate others about how a peanut allergy took her daughter’s life. Because no matter what is said about it, the reality is, this woman’s daughter is gone, forever. She watched her daughter dance. Then she watched her daughter get violently ill. Then gasp for breath. Then she heard her daughter say “I’m sorry” before she ultimately died after three epinephrine injections that were SUPPOSED to save her life, failed. THIS MOTHER WATCHED HER DAUGHTER DIE FROM SOMETHING SHE ATE. Can you imagine? The innocence of a 13-year-old girl just having fun on a camping trip with family and friends, only to end up dying because she took a bite of something that was made with food that could kill her. Can you imagine, just for a moment, what this mother, father, siblings, extended family, and friends are all feeling?  I have tried to imagine, and my heart breaks in two. My world would be shattered. Please pray often for this family.

So it’s the end of August, the beginning of the school year for children across the country. It’s a tough time for many parents who are sending their children to school with life-threatening food allergies. They must go in every year to review food policies in classrooms, snack lists, and stock nurse’s medicine cabinets with life-saving medication. They must sign up as the resident “snack mom” and “field trip chaperone” every year, in order to ensure their food allergic child is safe and feeling included in his or her own classroom. They must have meetings with their child’s teachers, principal, and school nurse about policies and (hopefully) Section 504 Plans, all designed to keep their kids safe. They also must endure the stupid and ridiculous comments and rants from some parents who howl at the thought they won’t be able to send in certain foods to class anymore because it’s dangerous for another food allergic child to be around. It’s tough all around. No matter what grade, or what age your child is, you’re always starting from scratch with new teachers, new classes, new everything.

I do believe things are shifting in a positive direction. I had the opportunity to attend a summit sponsored (and full disclosure, paid for) by Mylan. This summit was an incredible opportunity to talk about everything related to food allergies with top FA advocates, bloggers and activists. We literally holed up in a room and tweeted live about the latest research, listened to an informative and engaging panel discussion surrounding anaphylaxis and epinephrine access at schools across the country, learned about public policy and legislative updates and also discussed Mylan’s incredibly successful EpiPen4Schools program.

I was truly blown away by the knowledge, passion and purpose displayed by everyone in that room. I am also inspired by the leadership at Mylan. They are committed to the food allergy community through helping schools get access to epinephrine as well as offer a $0-Co-pay Card to help patients get afford up to three EpiPen 2-pack or EpiPen Jr. 2-Pak cartons per prescription. (see here for more information). I am very proud of all their hard work on behalf of food allergy awareness.

Looking forward, there is still much work to be done on behalf of food allergy awareness in our schools and in our communities. With the new school year here, now is the time to schedule a 504 Meeting with your child’s school to determine eligibility. My former state in IL did and EXCEPTIONAL job in creating everything you need to get your school up to speed on food allergy policy including sample 504 Plans, sample classroom letters, sample food free classroom celebration ideas, etc. I am still trying to get my current state of CA to start drafting some of these important protocols, but it’s definitely a work in progress. Follow this link to get you started with the right tools.

 

Finally, I will be at three events coming up this fall and would love to see you there if you are in the area:

October 12, 2013 Bay Area FARE Walk/Run for Food Allergies in Memory of BJ Hom: I am honored and excited to be a part of this amazing day. I will be selling and signing books and a portion of proceeds will go directly back to FARE.

October 27, 2013 Los Angeles FARE Walk/Run for Food Allergies: SO excited to be back at this walk. We had a blast last year! I will be selling and signing books and donating a portion of proceeds directly back to FARE.

November 2-4, 2013: FABC: Food Allergy Bloggers Conference: This is an inaugural year for the FABC conference and am SO excited to be a part of an amazing group of speakers! Please see the website for ticket information and the schedule.

Enjoy the last days of August!!!! xoxo

Join me tomorrow at Google+ to talk all about food allergies and more!

Hi everyone! Is it really August already? Many of you already have kids going back to school starting today, and many of you will send kiddos to school in the coming weeks. It’s the perfect time to talk about food allergy awareness, 504 Plans, classroom safety, tips, recipes and everything else you need to get organized for the beginning of the school year! Join me, as well as Mom.me editor, April Peveteaux and author of “Gluten is My Bitch”, and Monique Ruffin LIVE for a Google+ Hangout at 10 am PST/1 pm EST TOMORROW August 8th. We will talk ‪#‎Gfree‬ and ‪#‎FoodAllergies‬…perfect as everyone heads back to school.

We will talk about the biggest misconceptions of food allergies, fears of moms with a child who has food allergies, and the best tips! Comment in advance with questions and we’ll answer as many as we can! Come back for the live stream even Thursday, August 8th at 1pm EST / 10am PST. RSVP HERE. 

In addition, if you are in the LA/OC area, come hang out with me and allergy-friendly bakery Sensitive Sweets in Fountain Valley on Thursday August 15th at 6 pm PST. Space is limited so be sure to RSVP.  Along with FARE, I will be talking about 504 Plans and food allergy awareness in school, as well as answering your questions. AND if you order from Sensitive Sweets on August 15, 20 percent of the proceeds go directly to FARE.

You all know how passionate I am about food allergy safety at schools, and the importance of 504 Plans for your food allergic child. I’d love to take your questions too, so please fire away with any comments or questions you may have.

Have a happy day!!

xo

Summer update and a recipe for my daughter’s favorite breakfast….

Kelly Rudnicki book Hello Peeps! Hope everyone is having a peaceful and relaxing summer. I wish I could say the same; it’s been crazier than usual as all my kids are home for the summer (translation; NO SUMMER CAMP) and I’m going back to school getting my masters in professional writing. I’m also working on a new book (stay tuned…details to follow later.) It’s been a fun and exciting few months, but busier than usual. I promise I will try to post a few more new recipes for y’all to try this summer. As always, I’d LOOOOVE it if you would post a review for my new book The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals on Amazon. So many of you have written me saying how much you love the new book. I can’t tell you how much this means to me…and I would love it if you would tell the rest of the world as well. Spread the word by sharing your reviews!! Huge thanks….I am so grateful to my fans and readers for their dedicated support to my books, website and work over the years.

This past weekend was my daughter Chloe’s 13th birthday…omg I have a teenager!! Where has time gone? I remember the day she came into this world like it was yesterday. I was a young mom (by today’s standards) and was one of the first of my friends to have a baby. My mother passed away two years earlier and I didn’t have family around. It was such an emotionally challenging time, especially the first six weeks. I had no idea what I was doing. I was exhausted. I was still huge from gaining 65 pounds during a difficult pregnancy (sick 24/7). And my sweet baby girl had colic and reflux. In fact, when Chloe was only three weeks old, her reflux was so severe that she vomited, choked and started to turn blue. For the first time in my life I called 911. Thankfully she was OK after that terrifying episode, but I was changed forever. I was even more concerned and anxious about protecting my only child, and wanted to do everything I could to keep my daughter safe and healthy.

At times I went overboard…making sure Chloe was signed up for a million mommy and me classes, joined several playgroups and read T. Berry Brazelton’s book every day just to make sure I was covering all the bases. I will be honest, it was exhausting. I desperately wanted to be the perfect mom at any cost. However, trying to achieve such a high level of perfection cost me my sanity. And by the time my oldest son John was born and diagnosed soon after with life-threatening food allergies, I was at my wit’s end. I stopped caring so much about the latest trends in toddlerhood and got back to what really mattered; just loving my kids the best way I could. I learned to embrace the messiness of being an imperfect mom in a perfect-obsessed world. I also learned that there is really no right or wrong way in raising kids…just YOUR way. Who cares what everyone else is doing in their homes? Everyone has their own version of what works and what doesn’t. Moms today are so incredibly hard on themselves. We don’t need to be everything to everyone all of the time. As author Jill Churchill once said: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one”.

In honor of Chloe and her sweet 13 birthday, here is her favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner: yogurt parfait (dairy free of course!) with homemade granola. Happy Cooking everyone!!

HEALTHIER GRANOLA

Serves 4

 

The granola you find in most grocery stores often contain nuts and are packed with oil and sugar. We never bought it, and I never thought I could make a yummy granola, until I made this one. It is easily adaptable to whatever you and your family like. This granola keeps for a week in an airtight container.

 

½ cup Soy, sunflower butter or other nut butter alternative

½ cup honey

2 tablespoons vegetable canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 cups dried fruit of your choice; raisins, currants, golden raisins, blueberries, cranberries, banana chips, etc.

 

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine soy or sunflower butter, honey, canola oil, vanilla and ground cinnamon over low heat until the mixture is smooth.

In a medium bowl combine the oats and salt. Add the butter mixture to the oats and stir well. Use your hands if needed.

Spread the granola mixture onto prepared pan and bake 15-20 minutes, or until the granola is lightly browned and toasted. Remove from oven, let cool on sheet and add dried fruit as desired. Serve with dairy free yogurt and fresh fruit.