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 Post subject: Birthday Parties
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:11 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 6:39 pm
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Location: Toronto
I'm always interested in how people manage (or don't) with the b-day party issue with allergic kids. Anybody have a great system for making b-day hosts aware, keeping your child safe?

Or do some of you just not let your kids go unless you're there? (probably depends on age, I realize).
Are there some types of b-day outings that you much prefer?

I'm wondering if there might be the makings of an article ...

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Allergic to soy, peanut, shellfish, penicillin


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:34 am 
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Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 6:50 pm
Posts: 205
Location: Ontario, Canada
I would be interested in an article about this.

My daughter is still young so I am always with her and I know the parents of all her friends. I keep a bag of safe cupckes in the freezer. Whenever we have a party or outing where I think there may be a treat I bring one along with a can of whip cream to ice it.

I'm not sure what to do about the future when other kids are being dropped off and/or I don't know the family.

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daughter: 6 years tree nuts, peanuts


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:56 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 25, 2007 8:11 pm
Posts: 20
I usually talk to the parent when we get the invitation and offer to be 'an extra pair of hands' at the party. Some of the parents in daughters class this year have asked for a list of things that are safe for her to be around so they wil have those things at the party. I also usually ask what food is being served, and then bring along similar things for my daughter.

This year we discovered gymnastics parties at the local YMCA. The Y has a nut free policy (and daughter already goes there for gym so they know her), the instructors run an hour of activities then the kids eat, wash and then have another 45 minutes of gym. And the kids who choose not to eat can keep playing during the eating time. They manage it well - but I still wouldnt leave my daughter there alone.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 9:04 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:04 pm
Posts: 2044
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
I think it would be a worthwhile article. Even some anecdotes from those who have "been there and done that" would help parents think about the kinds of things they have to think about ahead of time, or questions that they should ask of the hosts.

I still haven't left my kids alone (7 and 9) except for very particular people whom I trust explicitly. I wrote about another party where I almost left the kids alone this past fall, but was very lucky I didn't, because they switched the food-based "craft" at the last minute from making cider (safe for my dairy allergy child) to making caramel apples (not safe). My oldest son did his best to stand up for his little brother and protect him, but it's a very good thing I was there, as the facilitator totally ignored my oldest, while my youngest started getting all teary-eyed... It all worked out, but I do not like to think of what would have happened if I had not been there.

So what do we normally do? As soon as we get the invitation, we call the parents to see what will be served, and basically negotiate from there. Sometimes I have provided a safe cake (less work nowadays in our area with Guardian Angel Cakes) and sometimes I have sent cupcakes. I once even provided all the food (safe hotdogs and buns, with the parents reimbursing me, but this was with very good and understanding friends). Usually we bring safe food with us.

I also think the approach that a family will take depends on the allergies. It might be a bit easier for the host family to feel that they can provide a peanut or nut-free meal, but to make it free of egg, dairy, peanuts and treenuts and all traces likely takes more work on both sides. Of course, that all depends on how comfortable you are that the other meal truly is 100% free of peanuts and tree nuts.

You also have to make sure that your child is able to cope with curveballs, like the surprise pinata filled with candy that you didn't know about. They seem to happen a lot in our neighbourhood. That's why it's easier to just be there as the parent sometimes, to lend a much-needed hand to the host parents, and to guide your child through those tricky moments. I have often packed special treats "just in case" to try to mitigate those circumstances.

I could go on, but I think you get the point that for allergic families, a birthday party ain't just a birthday party. ;)

K.

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 10:53 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6455
Location: Ottawa
We have been to many birthday parties.
Swim parties, Pizza parties, Movie parties, Bowling parties, YMCA parties etc.
I always start by saying how thrilled my child is to be invited. From there I ask a few questions about the food, activities, order of activities (sometimes this is all that is needed to keep the allergen contained), loot bags etc. I let the host tell me what they know and what they have done . I thank them for their thoughtfulness and then I ask ask about thing that they might not have thought about.
I ask if it would be possible to stay and I offer my services. Most parents are relieved by this -no one has refused me. I can't imagine planning and hosting a party for several small children and being taught how to use the auto-injector at the door.
I bring my camera and take tons of pictures (I can't tell you how many times the parents forgot the camera thinking the other parent was bringing it). I create a disk and present it to them a few days later as a thank you for inviting us and keeping us safe.
I also carry a trainer and let people know casually that I am happy to explain it to them if they are interested but I am very low keyed about this and do not push. This event is about their child not mine. I will keep my child safe.

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Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 4:28 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2005 8:55 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Vancouver, BC
I think doing the camera thing that Susan does is an excellent idea, I wish she would have come to one of our parties, as we have very few pictures of any.

I would ask if I could bring a safe cake, and that was totally wrong, in retrospect. I would spend all weekend shopping for, making, paying for the best cake I could possibly make, and I would be totally stressed out, and resenting the whole thing. And Susan is right, about it should be about the birthday kid, and doing all that drew attention to me and my kid, and other mom's did not like it. And then if they gently (or not so gently) refused to have me make a cake, I would feel that they weren't understanding how important my son's safety was. So I created a lot of issues for myself. Luckily, when A was about 7, he finally said to me "I'm O.K. if I can just have some treat on the way home." And I was totally shocked, but he is fine with that. It was really my own need for him to have just what everyone else got that was driving all this extra work and stress in my life. So now I buy him soemthing on the way home, and keep a box of frozen wagon wheels at school for when someone brings a treat to school.

There are some houses he is not allowed to go to, and he doesn't want to go to. There was one family who would invite him over all the time, but they would not look after things properly, and so he was bitten by a younger child as the Dad mowed the lawn and the Mom had a bath. Then on another occasion he was over and the Dad yelled at him for breaking a toy, even though he didn't. And another time he put his had on something brown and sticky and when he said "What is this?" the kid said "Oh, it might be peanut butter" and he did not tell the parents, but called home and when we got him home, went hysterical. So after that we did not want him to go to their house anymore (we're slow learners). So at the next birthday party, we just made an excuse, and they had a pinata full of peanuts at the birthday party, so I was right not to go. (Because I might have beaten them up at that point if I had been there!) And then sadly, their child got Chrohn's disease, and they got empathy. I got empathy too, but for their boy, not for them. Actually, I really feel bad for them, too. Because iimagine how hard it is to deal with the dietary needs of a kid with Crohns. It makes anything that we go through look like a piece of cake, and it REALLY hurts, and the kids waste away and spend a lot of time in hospital, so it is a truly dreadful disease.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 4:58 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 6:39 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Toronto
Some great ideas / advice, you guys! Ahh, the wisdom of allergy moms.

Susan, the photo assistant approach is downright brilliant.

Anybody else? Any novel ways of dealing with bday menu issues?

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Allergic to soy, peanut, shellfish, penicillin


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 6:00 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 6:50 pm
Posts: 205
Location: Ontario, Canada
I prep my 4 year old before heading over to any party. I ask her questions like " What will you do if there is candy in the loot bag/pinata" etc. Then I reassure her that there will I have nut-free alternatives for her.

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daughter: 6 years tree nuts, peanuts


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 6:01 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6455
Location: Ottawa
Yeah, I have nothing else to do when they aren't serving food ;)

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Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 5:05 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:04 pm
Posts: 2044
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
I think Pam has a very good point about the cake, as it does create a lot of extra stress and work to make a nice home-made cake. (No wonder the local cake decorating shop charges $40 for a regular-sized decorated theme cake!!) But sometimes the parents and kids (including my own) really appreciate it, so it's hard to generalize.

I will be honest though, there are times when I'd rather buy a Guardian Angel cake than make my own, given the time constraints in my life and the amount of home-made food we have to keep on hand just for our everyday needs!

K.

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 4:23 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:07 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Burlington
I send a safe chocolate bar with my daughter for her to eat while the others have cake. She's not a big cake fan to begin with.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:43 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 6:39 pm
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Location: Toronto
The cake issue is certainly a good one to raise.

Though I don't personally find allergy-free cakes that hard to make. I tend to bake while doing laundry and working on the computer; multi-tasking stuff that requires me to be home any way.

Course, I bake more easily than I cook. Which could explain what happened to my once skinny waistline. :roll:

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Allergic to soy, peanut, shellfish, penicillin


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:55 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:04 pm
Posts: 2044
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
It's not that it's hard to make an allergen-free cake. It's that it takes a lot of time to make a cake for a child's party that looks as pretty as the store-bought ones, in particular the ones that look like Cinderella or Scooby-Doo or Batman... Lots of icing in lots of different colours. Mixing the ding-dong icing with the ding-dong colours is what takes up so much ding-dong time!

If you are only going to use chocolate or vanilla icing and throw on some sprinkles, your stress is greatly reduced. :)

K.

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:46 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:01 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Ontario, Canada
I for one appreciate this thread. We're not at the "leave him alone" stage with DS only 2.5. I love Karen's comment about sprinkles making it easier because that's what I've done for my boys' cakes and the boys themselves love to decorate them for me.

DS has a little friend who turns 3 tomorrow and because her mom & I are good friends she has asked me to make the cupcakes, provide ingredients and a safe icing recipe so that I can relax while we're all at the party. She has also asked for the snacks that are safe so that she can buy those that DS can eat.

I know I'm very lucky in this friend.

_________________
Jan, mom to 3 boys
DS#3 - eggs, cats, dust, eczema, avoiding nuts as a precaution
DS#2 - seasonal allergies
DS#1 - no allergies
Me & DH - seasonal allergies


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:56 am 
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 12:09 am
Posts: 1054
One thing that holds true with each b-day party invite regardless, is that we assess the risks -- do we know the family? do we know their level of allergy awareness? how do they respond when they are advised of Ethan's food allergy? are they open and willing to discuss or are they closed off, overly dismissive that they know plenty about food allergies, etc.? are they open to myself or my husband being present? Any one thing isn't necessarily going to make or break Ethan's ability to attend -- I think it's a combination of these things and an overall sense of whether or not we feel the situation is a safe one.

I'd have to say that I always feel more comfortable when I know the parents. It's easier to discuss food allergy and the precautions that are needed, right down to issues of cross-contam., that might not be on their radar. I much prefer b-day parties that aren't at someone's house. Whether it be the Y, gymnastics club, or whatever -- I feel less like I'm intruding by being there. This is especially true when I don't really know the family (like a classmate's party). I've also done the "picture taking" approach, like Susan, and it's been very well received.

I've had a mom invite all parents to stick around and chat during the party directly on the invitation, which was great. She was really keen on making the environment safe for Ethan -- asking me well in advance if bleaching cutting boards, knives, etc. would be sufficient to cut up fruit so that he could eat it. She ran by all ingredients with me on her own. She was really lovely about it all. She wanted Ethan to be included at all costs. On another occasion I've had a mom agree to only bring food out during the second hour of the party, at which point I would be present.

It's certainly a learning process and a balancing act -- as Ethan gets older I'm doing my best to loosen the reigns (where it is safe to do so) so that Ethan is allowed to participate as much as possible. I think it's much easier to do this with peanut/nut allergy as people's awareness is greater, and peanuts/nuts aren't as common an ingredient in foods like milk or eggs, etc., are. There was one time that I allowed Ethan an opportunity to participate in eating fruit (not in the scenario mentioned above), and he later played in the host's finished basement with the other children, and became very wheezy. I questioned was this the result of eating fruit contaminated with peanut/nut residue?? was it a mouldy or dusty basement? I watched him like a hawk and realized that his asthmatic reactions to environmental allergens can also really muddy the waters and affect our decisions for him.

I think this would be a great topic for an article in AL -- was just thinking this very thing. I recently purchased a set of these: http://www.cupacake.com/ . I haven't yet had an opportunity to use them but am impressed with how they're made. I've also taken Susan's advice in another thread where she suggested bringing two cupcakes to parties in case one gets contaminated in some way (by used candles, etc.). As far as offering to provide the cake, I haven't done this with anyone except family. *For me*, I feel that it's a bit overstepping -- unless I know the person well and know that they'd appreciate my offer. I certainly would make a cake if I was asked -- but wouldn't go that route automatically.

In the end, each person's situation is unique and so many factors come into play -- was your child just recently diagnosed and you're still wrapping your head around how to keep your child safe? what is your own comfort level? how many and what types of allergens are you avoiding? how old are the kids involved? so much to consider...


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