Participation In Boy Scouts Can Yield Important Life Lessons For Food Allergies

Earlier this month, the food allergy community was buzzing about a news story regarding a young teen in Boy Scouts that reportedly experienced anaphylaxis while exploring Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Thankfully the young man is said to have now recovered from the incident thanks to some fast thinking scouts and scout leaders that quickly administered epinephrine and called for help from local emergency and medical professionals.  I am so grateful the young man is okay!

To be honest, I generally try to avoid news stories spun to invoke fear, not because I want to stick my head in the sand but because fear can hold an individual hostage if they let it.  For some reason, this story felt different and it struck a chord with me for several reasons:

  1.  I am the proud mom of a Boy Scout.
  2.  We have repeatedly hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  3.  Fear was not the headline.  Being prepared in all situations to affect positive outcomes was.

My son is quickly approaching sixteen and was diagnosed with multiple food allergies around age one.  For years we struggled as a family to keep him safe until he was old enough to also advocate for himself.  As time progressed, my son was outgrowing the “bubble” of home and began moving on to preschool, public school, and extra curricular activities.

He joined Cub Scouts in elementary school.  It was a huge adjustment getting used to scout dinners, gatherings, and campouts.  Fortunately, my husband volunteered to be involved as a Scout leader and was able to be at many meetings and campouts.  This allowed him to teach my son not to avoid challenges, but how to navigate them with vigilance, safe food, and access to emergency medication.  Then my son “graduated” Cub Scouts and would soon be moving up to Boy Scouts.

As a mom, I had to re-evaluate what worked for my tween son and my family and, for us, that meant giving him the freedom to live a normal kid life…all while taking proper precautions to keep him safe.  I’d be lying if it was as easy for me to accept as it was to write that sentence.  It is still a daily battle between my heart and my head to realize that I can do my best to teach my son how to be cautious and vigilant with his food allergies, but I cannot control everything.  Spoiler alert…none of us can.

With the arrival of middle school, my son transitioned to Boy Scouts.  This transition was a whole new ballgame.  We are talking monthly multi-day campouts anywhere from one to five hours away where the boys cook their own food, pitch their own tents, and go on hiking and boating expeditions.  Can you say comfort zone obliterated?

My husband continued to volunteer with scouts, but served more in an administrative role than shadowing my son’s every move.  One of the amazing side benefits of being a Boy Scout is that you begin to take on a greater level of independence and responsibility for yourself and others.  After all, that is a big part of growing up.

Look at me calmly spouting sage wisdom about independence and growing up.  Don’t let the cavalier tone fool you.  Any food allergy/asthma wisdom I gain is usually hard earned because of a challenge I and my son went head to head with and came out of on the other side.

In this case, that challenge looked like sending my son on a seven hour canoe trip down the Guadalupe River where he would not be right next door to the emergency services of a hospital and would be relying on MREs (meals ready to eat).  It looked like sending my son to summer camp nine hours away to a remote scout camp in west Texas and a week long summer camp for at least the next four years.  It meant hours of preparation in terms of medical forms, safe snacks, meal recon, and more.

I was neither stoic or ignorant about these challenges, but with each I came a step closer to accepting the slow realization that these situations are the exact things I’ve worked years to prepare him for.  I can’t walk by his side forever and slay every dragon in his path.  I have to lead by example, teach him the best I can, and then trust him to safely make his own way.  His own way isn’t always perfect, but that is okay too because it keeps complacency at bay and often turns mistakes into valuable life lessons.

Because of the lessons we both learned with his newfound independence through Scouts, we felt empowered to seek out hiking adventures in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Did my hiking bag weigh a few extra pounds because I loaded every epinephrine device we own in it?  You betcha.  Did we pack the inhaler and several cases of safe snacks?  You know it.  Did I perhaps lose a little sleep thinking about how things would work if there was a reaction on the trail despite our best efforts?  The circles under my eyes frequently answered that question.

But you know what?  We planned the best we could and we did it.  Not just one hike but several.  And we’ve done it again many more times since.

We do not think ourselves impervious to disaster by any means, but we do know that if we stop summoning our wit and bravery when adventures comes knocking, we are not living life but are simply tolerating it.

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Enjoy Life Foods’ Breakfast Ovals Make Mornings More Delicious

My son was diagnosed with food allergies almost fourteen years ago.  Let me tell you, the allergy friendly section of the grocery store sure looked a lot different back then…as in pretty much nonexistent.  It is such a HUGE blessing to be able to walk into my local H-E-B and find several shelves of allergy friendly options.  What a difference a decade or so makes!

Now it looks like there might be a new addition coming to those shelves courtesy of Enjoy Life, one of my favorite allergy-friendly companies!

A few weeks ago I received a care package from Enjoy Life Foods that was packed with breakfast goodness called Breakfast Ovals.  Have you seen these?

Breakfast Ovals are a prepackaged granola bar type snack…but softer and obviously oval shaped.  These delicious little treats are free of the top eight allergens and come in four different flavors:  Berry Medley, Maple Fig, Chocolate Chip Banana, and Apple Cinnamon.

Is your mouthwatering yet?  It should be.

But just in case, here is Enjoy Life’s description of each of these scrumptious flavors:

  • Berry Medley:  Blueberries, raspberries and cranberries come together in perfect flavor harmony.
  • Maple Fig:  Sweet maple and fig with a touch of cinnamon and spice makes this seasonal combination oh so nice.
  • Chocolate Chip Banana:  Take 100% pure chocolate chips and combine them with bananas for an all-time classic pairing you’ll go bananas for.
  • Apple Cinnamon:  A little bit of apple sweetness.  A little bit of cinnamon spice.  A whole lot of flavor.

I can give you my review, but first let me just say that my son and I have already demolished the sample boxes and are halfway through a second batch of sample boxes that I ordered online.  (Don’t judge me…I have a cross country runner who never seems to get full.)

Although I didn’t meet an Enjoy Life Breakfast Oval I didn’t like, the Chocolate Chip Banana was hands down my favorite.  I’m a sucker for chocolate!  My son, on the other hand, is more partial to the Maple Fig.  These breakfast treats are soft and sweet, making it perfect for kiddos (or adults) who have braces and can’t eat anything too chewy.  Each bite is bursting with indulgent flavors that taste like they are fresh from the oven.

As I mentioned, I have a teenage boy who runs high school cross country.  When he’s not running, he is jetting off to class, Boy Scouts, or is somewhere under a pile of homework.  For a kid who has food allergies and is always on the go, finding safe and delicious snacks that have some nutrition and a decent shelf life can be a challenge.  Thanks to Enjoy Life’s new Breakfast Ovals, we have something new to add to the rotation (we also love Enjoy Life Seed Mixes).

As for me, I may or may not put aside a couple of Enjoy Life Breakfast Ovals for myself before I blink and everything I ordered has disappeared.  Hey…moms have to eat and since it is gluten free I can enjoy it too.

The best part is that Enjoy Life has allowed me to share a promo code of NEWSHAPE that should save you nearly 15% on your next online order of Breakfast Ovals!  I get to help spread the news and save you some money too.  Yay!

One of my favorite things about Enjoy Life Foods is that…well…they just make it easier to enjoy life! *happy sigh*

 

(Disclaimer:  I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post.  The opinions in this post are strictly my own.)

Awesome Bites Co. To Open A Houston Storefront This Spring

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Jennifer Thai.  The mom of a child with food allergies, she decided safe and delicious food should be more than a necessity.  It should be a joy!  Jennifer decided if she couldn’t find food to fit the bill, she would make it herself.  And she did.

And then some.

Later this spring, Awesome Bites Co. will open up a storefront in Houston which will allow Jennifer to share her gift in the kitchen with thousands of Houstonians.  Help me wish her all the best and be sure to check out her store when it opens!

Blessings,

Kimberly

*Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation for this post.  The opinions above are my own.  The following press release and picture below were provided to me courtesy of Jennifer Thai.

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Awesome Bites Co. Brings Magically Healthy Baked Goods to Houston 

Houston, TX – February 18, 2019 – After selling more than 100,000 Super Muffins – the nation’s only muffins made with whole fruits and vegetables instead of sugar – at farmers markets, Awesome Bites Co. is excited to bring their magically healthy treats to their first brick and mortar location in the Heights at Sawyer Yards in April 2019. More than two years were spent perfecting recipes for healthy baked goods that actually taste so delicious even the pickiest toddler won’t realize the nutritious ingredients hidden inside. Along with their popular Super Muffins, and brownies and blondies made with organic beans, Awesome Bites’ expansion into a new storefront will feature some new surprises like handcrafted, allergy friendly, and lactose free ice cream plus gluten free waffle cones.

Dedicated to creating better and safer delicious treats for all, Awesome Bites’ allergy friendly baked goods push traditional pastry boundaries by replacing eggs, butter, and refined sugar with clean, premium, non-GMO ingredients without sacrificing taste. An estimated one in 13 children in the United States now have food allergies that result in visits to the emergency room every three minutes[i] and more schools implementing nut free policies. The addition of an allergy friendly establishment in Houston to keep its community safe and healthy is long overdue. Awesome Bites Co. is committed to fulfilling this need by reinventing treats and creating an allergy friendly, 100% plant based, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free menu.

“What sets us apart is not just removing a particular ingredient from our treats; our entire menu and facility is completely free of dairy, egg, soy, peanuts and tree nuts[ii]. Even our ingredients, which took over a year to source, are free of potential cross contamination,” said Jennifer Thai, founder and chief innovator of the Awesome Bites Co. “Creating allergy friendly treats is a complex process requiring an unwavering commitment to food safety.”

Beyond being allergy friendly, Awesome Bites Co. creations are perfect for anyone looking for healthy and convenient snacks for themselves or their kids. They also meet a variety of dietary needs as all treats are vegan and free of cholesterol, lactose, casein, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Gluten free and no added sugar options are available as well. Awesome Bites’ magical treats will include:

  • No added sugar Super Muffins in a variety of flavors like the best-selling Oatmeal Chocolate Chip muffin, which is sweetened only with yellow squash, sweet potato, pears, apples, coconut and dates. Each pack of four mini muffins boast a full serving of fruits/vegetables.
  • Gluten free and vegan blondies and brownies made with organic chickpeas and black beans for an extra boost of protein and fiber.
  • The country’s only top eight allergen free, refined sugar free cookie cake, which pairs perfectly with scratch made, dairy free and nut free, coconut flaxseed mylk.
  • Allergy friendly and vegan ice cream served with gluten-free waffle cones.
  • Made-in-house syrups and nitro cold brew from Houston’s Boomtown coffee.

“We launched Awesome Bites when I couldn’t find safe healthy foods that my daughter, who had food allergies, would actually want to eat. At Awesome Bites, we’re beyond allergy friendly or healthy. We are focused on inclusion and pioneering, one-of-a-kind clean treats that everyone – with or without food allergies – can eat together worry-free,” said Thai. 

Awesome Bites Co. was the winner of the 2016 City of Houston’s Lift Off Business Plan Competition and fan favorite award. “I had the opportunity to try the muffins from Awesome Bites and they were delicious. I was amazed that all of the ingredients were natural and included no added sugars. I wish Ms. Thai continued success,” stated Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The new 1,600 sq ft. brick-and-mortar will open in April 2019 at the highly anticipated Sawyer Yards (2313 Edwards St. Ste 185, Houston, TX 77007) and includes a patio for customers to enjoy their treats.

 

About Jennifer Thai

Jennifer Thai is a born and raised Houstonian, who graduated from Rice University with a BA in Economics and received her MBA from Duke University. She devoted more than two years inventing the recipes for Awesome Bites’ baked goodies, and five years building the nation’s first allergy friendly, health conscious bakery and ice cream shop. She trained with Max Torres of Houston’s Cake & Bacon as well as the popular Austin vegan ice cream shop, Sweet Ritual.

Celebrating Valentine’s With Food Allergies

Despite the cheery decorations you likely are already seeing in stores everywhere, not everyone loves Valentine’s Day.  It’s true, some people have a love/hate relationship with the holiday.  Many in the food allergy community can fit into this category and it isn’t hard to see why.

On one hand…who doesn’t love a day that celebrates love for others?  I mean, for goodness gracious…look at the news and the things taking place around the world and tell me we couldn’t all benefit from a spreading a little more love and kindness toward one another!  I don’t need a special day on a calendar to remind me to tell those I love how much they matter, but I’ll never shy away from the opportunity the holiday provides either.

On the other hand, for those with food allergies, the holiday can be a minefield of sorts.  Beautifully wrapped festive candies and treats are everywhere.  Some treats that are usually considered safe for you might not be in the holiday version of that same candy because of packaging concerns…try explaining that to a three year old.  And some candies are taped to a card, which although they are usually sent with good intentions, don’t carry an allergy statement or ingredient label.

My son has had food allergies for fourteen years now, and has grown up with the mantra that his food allergies can’t define him unless he lets them.  For that reason, my family has never really shied away from celebrating holidays that create challenges, we try to embrace them with our own unique food allergy flair.

For our family, when my son was in preschool and elementary school, this usually meant:

  • Not eating anything handed out at school, at school or at home
  • Bringing safe treats to school
  • Trading unsafe candy for safe candy or toys at home
  • Volunteering to be homeroom mom or a party helper to further ensure his safety
  • Handing out Valentine’s with non-food items such as cool erasers, stickers, or pencils

During middle school and now high school, the potential food allergy challenges are changing.  Whether it is party he is invited to, a team celebration, or even a date, we sit down together and talk about the possible challenges and ways to gracefully navigate them.

Regardless of their age, I usually do at least one little thing for both of my kiddos for Valentine’s and usually put it with a funny card.  Over the years, these have been some of my favorite go-to’s that worked for my son:

  • DumDum Lollipops
  • And now that they are older, one of my favorites is an experience gift.  (This usually means catching a movie together or maybe even mini golf or bowling outing.)

Still trying to think of an idea that might work for you and your family?  Be sure to check out this post from Allergic Living on their top food allergy picks for Valentine’s Day 2019.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, maybe give a word of kindness or do a favor for a friend because this crazy world we live in is ALWAYS in need of that!

However you choose to spend February, I hope it is filled with joy and kindness!

 

*Disclaimer:  Enjoy Life Foods provided me with the pictured Valentine’s sample candy packs for free.  I did not receive monetary compensation for this blog post and the opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own.*