My Gluten and Allergen Free Expo Adventure

I went to the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo this past weekend.  Alone.

Did you get that?

Alone!!  No kids!

And it was FANTASTIC!  I listened to music on the way- there may have been some dancing (ok there was definitely dancing), in my mom-van🙂

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I started out at the Blogger Meet & Greet with San-J and learned A LOT!  I have tried one of their sauces, but hadn’t ever seen the others.  We learned about the company and were given some fun freebies to try out!

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I’m super excited about that little red container in the corner that holds a few packets of Orange Sauce! I will be doing a lot of travel this summer so this is perfect to tuck into my purse for when we are out to eat!

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These photo booth areas are so fun!  If you follow me on Instagram, you already saw these photos, but they are too fun not to share again!

I got home just in time to drop off my bags, take this quick selfie, and head out to my daughters swim meet:

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After the swim meet I was able to go through everything again!

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I was trying to get this all set up nice while Evelyn was trying to get into all the packages.

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My blogger bag had a Send Me Gluten Free box in it and I was excited about everything in there!  And the little envelope is FULL of coupons!

Many of the items were samples or packages given to me as a blogger, but others are ones that I purchased.  I love finding new things, and if they are xanthan gum free, I buy them to see how I like them.  A lot of these items are not currently available where I live, but I will order online if I like something.

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These are some of my favorite snacks!  They used to stock them at Festival but I haven’t had luck finding them lately, so I stocked up!

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This was something new to me and it is DELICIOUS!  There was actually another flavor that included chocolate, but I preferred this one!  The man at the booth told me that these are stocked at Woodmans so I’ll have to pick some more up when I’m there next.

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These were in everyone’s goody bag that bought a ticket.  I was most excited when I walked up to their booth and saw their big signs that said “xanthan gum free”!!!!!  I have never seen a company advertise that!  I tried a sample and was immediately a fan!

I had a nice talk with one of the women there about xanthan gum and how frustrating it is that it is used in many products.

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I had quite a few conversations with companies about xanthan gum.  One person told me they are expecting there to be a change in the use of this gum soon because it is getting a lot of bad press on social media.  I would not complain if it was removed from products🙂

There is more than just food at this expo.  I was given this nice little collection of personal care items:

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I am excited to try them out.  They do not have xanthan gum.  I also purchased deodorant at this booth.  That was one of the things I was looking for so I was glad to find some.

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These are Evelyn’s favorites from the expo.  I had a sample that I brought home last year and she loved it, so I was glad to see them back.  She tries to eat a few packages a day, but I limit her to less than one bag a day.  I will have to order these online as they do not stock them in any local stores.

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This is her other favorite.  She loves them, and so do I!  This was her smile face🙂

The expo was as packed, if not more, than the previous years.   It gets to be so packed that you can’t really move around.  For someone like me, who knows some companies use xanthan gum in everything, and who would like to skip a booth here and there, it was hard.  You pretty much had to just stand in a very slow moving line to get up to any booth. If you try to squeeze through anywhere, chances are that you will hit someone with your bags.

Besides the large crowds, I have no complaints about this expo.  It is such a great way to get to know new foods, and to talk to the company about their products.  I encountered so many friendly representatives and delicious samples!  I definitely got more out of this expo, going kid free, than I did last year when I had her with me.

I would recommend this expo for anyone who eats gluten free, and I will be going for sure again next year!

Here we go again! To the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo!

I am SO excited to be attending the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo as a blogger again this year!  Evelyn and I had a blast last year!  And we were introduced to so many new things we can eat!

Just today I asked my mom “do you ever get tired of food?” And she said yes!  Some days I just don’t want to cook and I don’t want to eat because I’m tired of the same old stuff!  I can’t just pick anything off the shelf and eat it.  I have my gluten free shelf in the pantry, and some days I look in there and think yuck!  I need some new options! I am excited to find new products and new companies to look for in the store!

Last year I learned of so many new things, and that they would be available at Meijer (which we just recently got!!).  I left with so many goodies in my bag and I can’t wait to see what new stuff I find this year.

Some tips for you to help you make the most of the event:

  1. Bring cash.  Some booths do accept card, but it’s much easier to pay with cash, and some places don’t take card and you don’t want to miss out on anything you want to buy!
  2. Go early!  It fills up fast!  I get there right when it opens and it is packed in no time!
  3. Bring a backpack.  You will get samples and you will purchase things and your bag will get heavy!  Plus a backpack will make it easier when you are moving through the crowd (you won’t bonk anyone with the ginormous bag on your shoulder!)
  4. Bring friends.  There were several booths that were offering special pricing if you purchased more items and it’s nice to split that with friends. Plus, bringing friends to an awesome event is a great way to be a good friend🙂
  5. Buy your tickets early to get the early bird pricing!
  6. Enter my giveaway for tickets!

Now that I’ve convinced you to go, here are the details:

The Expo is on May 14 & 15 and is in Schaumburg, IL.  There is always a lot going on at the venue, but there is a shuttle for the parking lot that is farther away.  And parking is free!

Get your tickets here:

Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo Tickets

30% off  w/ code EARLYBIRD (thru 4/13)
20% off w/ code ADVANCE (thru 5/13)

If you want to win a ticket, leave a comment below telling me what gluten-filled thing you miss the most and that you hope you will find in a gluten free form at the expo! You have until April 10 to enter.  I will pick 5 winners on April 11 (I will use Random.org to pick the number of the comment that wins).  That way, if you don’t win, you can get your tickets for 30% off still🙂

Here we are last year, and probably how we will look this year (only she won’t have a bink in her mouth anymore and hopefully she will be happier) :

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a weekend pass to the expo in exchange for promoting it.  All ideas and opinions are my own- I do absolutely LOVE this event!

 

Misadventures with my Mom

My mom was flying in to Midway airport today.  There.  I said it.  The two words that usually cause some kind of misadventure- Mom & Midway.

Midway is by far the cheapest place to fly into when it comes to visiting me.  It’s the farthest airport from my house, but her and I both like less flying time and you can fly direct from Buffalo to Midway.

EVERY time I fly there or she flies there, we have some kind of misadventure.  Whether it’s traffic getting there, or delayed flights….it’s never really smooth sailing.

Today was no different.  Her flight was set to arrive at 6:50am this morning.  It takes at least 1.5 hours to get to this airport.  So my husband and I decided to get a hotel room close to the airport the night before.  So Thursday after work we got in the car and were on our way.  We left at 4pm.  We got to the hotel at 7pm.  Traffic was horrendous.  And then it snowed.  On March 24! (We got less than the people up north so I shouldn’t complain!)

The hotel was nice.  The girls enjoyed swimming.  We had the pool to ourselves.

I woke up at 4am because Evelyn woke up.  I checked my phone to see the time and saw a text.  From my mom.  Her flight was cancelled.  What!!!!!!!??????

She received an email around 2am that her flight was cancelled.  Not delayed.  Cancelled.

So my aunt called and they booked her on the next direct flight.  It was set to arrive in Chicago at 6:50pm.  12 hours after the first flight.  In Chicago.  Where we were with our two children.

I was not equipped to spend the day in Chicago.  We had to check out by noon.  People with food allergies can’t just eat anywhere.  So then we’d have to find a place using my app that claims to be gluten free.  Then I would have to go in and ask my 20 questions (not really 20 I’m sure…well, maybe..). And we would have a cranky baby. (I should really stop calling her cranky.  She is a spirited/high-needs baby according to the internet.)  We also didn’t have our passes to get into any of the museums.  My husbands work gives us passes, but we weren’t planning on going there, so they weren’t in our wallet. (Yes, I now realize I should keep them in there no matter what.  But I have SO many cards!)

I started looking at flights on any airline.  Nothing was going to work. Then I checked Milwaukee. It was more expensive, but so is another night in a hotel, or spending the day in a big city like Chicago- with 2 children.  My mom agreed to Milwaukee, even though it was longer fly time, and a layover.  (I prefer to avoid those things too.  Layovers cause me stress and anxiety.)

I called to change her flight.  I politely told the nice woman named Diane that I was not pleased with the airline just canceling a flight with no explanation except for “operational”.  There was no bad weather to blame.  There simply was no explanation.  She said it could be that a lavatory was out of order.  Give. Me.  A.  Break.  They don’t CANCEL and ENTIRE flight because a bathroom isn’t working!  I was nice though.  And she said I might have luck calling customer relations on Tuesday.  (Monday will be a busy day since it’s Monday, and after a holiday.)

So, flight booked.  Hotel room packed.  Wait- where’s Evelyn?  Oh, just unrolling the ENTIRE roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.  Time to check out!

We drove in the parking lot over to another hotel that had a Starbucks inside.  The plan was for me to run inside and get one.  A venti.  Because I couldn’t make it home without one.  I run in.  Find the Starbucks.  Order my drink…and then “sorry folks, our card reader is down so we can only take cash…”  I thought it was a good thing I actually had cash.  I never have cash!  It still took about 10 minutes.  But she gave me a card for a free drink.  So there’s that…

It’s a good thing I had that drink.  Evelyn screamed the entire ride home. Thankfully it didn’t take 3 hours because traffic was much lighter heading OUT of the city.  As soon as he opened the garage door, her eyes closed.  Figures!  But she woke up when we opened the doors.  I managed to get her back down, but I didn’t dare set her down, so I held her while she napped.

A few hours later, I loaded the girls up in the van and headed to Milwaukee.  The drive was easy peasy!  Of course when I got to the parking garage I started to panic.  Oh my gosh!  Will my van fit??  It did.  I tested it slowly, just in case it started to pry off the top of my vehicle.

Of course in my heightened state of mind, I totally wasn’t paying close enough attention and I went the wrong way down a lane.  But there was no one else there.  So we parked and went in and found my mom!  Yeah!!  (First we found a Starbucks and got some treats.)

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The drive home was easy peasy and now everyone is asleep. Except me.  The person who drank a grande caffeinated coffee at 9pm tonight…

 

In fear of gluten

I live in fear of gluten.  It’s true. No, I won’t have an anaphylactic reaction to gluten.  No, I don’t think it will kill me.  But it will make me vomit.  And I HATE to vomit.  I hate the feeling before and the feeling after- it’s all miserable.  And there is no way for me to guess how long it will last.  Or if it was really gluten or a stomach bug of some sort.  So I live in fear.  Of gluten.  Mostly of the crumbs that may contain gluten.

I live in a house full of gluten.  I am hyper-aware of anything that contains it and I will avoid it.  And wash my hands excessively.  And wash things over and over again.  With new sponges.

And I watch people in my kitchen.  I’m sure I drive people nuts.  If I see someone set a utensil down on the counter I wonder if there is a crumb there.  When was the last time I cleaned the counter?  Are they planning to put that back in the food?  How can I distract them and put a new clean one out, on a clean plate that I’m also pulling out of the cabinet.  Fresh.  Gluten free.

I try to tell myself to chill out.  Relax.  Trust people.  Uh-huh.  You true them.  You vomit.  That’s what happens.

Even at work, on treat day, when people bring in a bag of something thats gluten free, or a fruit or veggie, I am very suspicious.  If it’s an unopened bag of chips I try to sneak in and get some in a bowl before anyone has the chance of sticking their hand in there.  A hand that may have a glutinous crumb on it somewhere.  If it’s fruit they prepared at home, I don’t bother.  They could have cut it on a counter that had crumbs.  Or used a knife that they just used to slice bread with that was put back in the drawer without being washed because it’s not “dirty”.

I scan everything with an app on my phone that tells me if an item has gluten in it.  I also have it alert me to aspartame, but that’s another story… I even scan bottled water. You never know what they will put in something.  The one time it said it was an at your own risk kind of thing because it didn’t have information about the water company.  So see?  There could be gluten floating in that water!

It was my birthday the other day.  I bought candles to put in the cupcakes I had made by someone I trust (imagine that! I do trust some people!) but there were no ingredients listed. So I wouldn’t stick them in my cupcake.  I put one in my older daughters and my husbands cupcake and I blew those ones out.  I couldn’t risk the fact that maybe they had gluten in the coloring of the candle.

Someone tole me about a new cafe in town that advertised gluten free goodies.  I walked in. I walked out.  They had a big display case of pretty, delicious looking food. But it was all in the same case.  Gluten filled and gluten free.  That to me does not mean gluten free.  That means crumbs of all shapes and sizes are floating around in there and contaminating the gluten free items.

Have you seen Monsters, Inc?  When they freak out and sanitize the monster that had a sock on them.  That’s my reaction to gluten.  I freak out.  Because I don’t want to vomit.  There is no pill I can take to lesson the effects gluten has on me.  I can drink some aloe to try to soothe my stomach.  I can use an oil blend to rub under my ribs to hopefully lessen the burn. But I can’t just pop a pill  and feel better.  Who knows, that pill might have gluten in it even if one did exist!

Surrounded by Gluten!

It is unfortunate that in my house, I am surrounded by gluten.  My husband and older daughter eat it.  And as much as I would love if they would quit, I don’t expect them to offer to do that.  If I didn’t have to eat this way, I wouldn’t either!

There are some things I do to make sure I don’t get glutened though.  A lot of things actually.

I have my own frying pans.  Only non-gluten items are cooked in these pans.

I use glass for food storage.  Left overs and anything that I take to work is stored in glass containers.  I use a lot of mason jars too. I found lids for them that are plastic and easy to clean so I use all the jars that we have from jelly and spaghetti sauce.

I get a new dish towel out about every 5 minutes.  Ok, not that often.  But every time the one I get out is touched by someone else, I get a new one out.  Or if Evelyn takes off running with it, I get a new one out.  (She likes to put them on her head and walk around)

I wash my hands.  A lot.  To the point of my hands cracking.

I have my own toaster.  And toaster oven.  No gluten has ever gone in these two appliances.

I refuse to touch wheat bread.  Annabelle gets mad at me because I won’t make her toast.  Crumbs scare me.  And wheat bread is the worst!  She can make it herself if she really wants it, she’s old enough to put bread in a toaster.  But, if she wants me to make it, she gets gluten free bread.

I have my own colander, measuring cups, containers of sugars, salt and other baking items that could be dipped into with a contaminated spoon.  Sugar is gluten free, but not if you dip a measuring cup in flour and then into the sugar.  So I keep gluten free versions in my cabinet.

I have two cabinets dedicated to gluten free cooking tools and spices/ingredients.  I have a separate shelf in the pantry for gluten free food only.  I keep everything as separated as possible.

Yes, I wish the whole house was gluten free.  But no, I don’t wish this on anyone.  At least Evelyn is still gluten free with me- she really has no other choice, it’s the only thing I feed her and everyone respects that because of the risk of her contaminating me.

 

 

 

Life’s moving along…

I love to write.  But you can’t tell that by my lack of posts.  Usually, I’m so exhausted from taking care of 3 people’s basic needs, that I just fall asleep at night once I get them sleeping.  Lately, I’ve gone past the point of tired before Evelyn falls asleep, so then I’m up for awhile thinking.

Life’s moving along…

I love my job.  It’s been a little more hectic this year, but I love it.  I just signed up for a free trial of a time tracking service for School Counselors.  I’m interested in seeing the data and how my day is spent.  Most days I don’t eat lunch.  Or if I do, it’s while I’m with students, or on a phone call.  Yogurt has been my go to lunch- no crunch for people to hear🙂

Evelyn is becoming quite a demanding toddler.  She’s still nursing at 20 months and I don’t think she will want to stop any time soon.  She takes awesome naps for her caregiver, but won’t nap without me at home.  She has so much personality packed into her little toddler body!  Tonight she got excited and threw something at me from 2 inches away.  I will be surprised if I don’t have a black eye in the morning.  She wasn’t being mean, she was just excited.  She’s a toddler.  They do things like that.

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Annabelle moved up in swimming and is now in a higher level.  I talked to her coaches about her screaming fits before swim class and said she was bored.  So they talked it over and decided she could move up mid-season.  She is liking it, I can tell.  She does a LOT more swimming so I’ll be interested to see how next week goes with her swim meet.

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My husband started out the year with international travel for work. And he heads out again in March.  And then later in March.  We are hoping the new degree he is pursuing will help him move into a role at his work that won’t involve travel.  It’s hard when the kids are so young for him to be gone.  I can’t imagine how the families do it that have someone deployed for months!

And me.  Well, I’m just trying to keep my head above water.  I am on a 3 week dosage of antibiotics to try to clear out this chronic sinus infection I have.  It’s so bad that I have a sensation of smelling smoke for long periods of time each day.  I had a CT Scan done of my sinuses and the doctor prescribed me the meds.  Of course, since I am not a fan of antibiotics, I put it off for awhile, but I am taking them now.  I had to make sure they were gluten free and that they were safe for nursing.  I did manage to run a mile today.  Which was nice.  Annabelle stood there telling me which parts of my body were jiggling. But at least Evelyn didn’t try to get on the treadmill with me, so I consider that a win.  And will be doing it again!  Soon!

That’s us in a nutshell right now.  Busy working and playing.

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Her storm. My calm.

My daughter has been experiencing what I can only describe as a storm of emotions.  When she has these experiences, she leaves me feeling like I just took on a tornado.  They are explosive and turbulent and what looks to an outsider like an irrational response to some neutral stimuli.  Like washing your hair.  That’s what did it tonight.

Both girls were in the tub together playing.  Evelyn wanted out so I told her I had to wash her hair  first and quickly did that.  Of course then Annabelle wanted to get out too, so I told her to get her hair wet so she could wash her hair. She stuck her hand out so I could put shampoo in it.  I always put shampoo and then conditioner in her hand to mix together so it’s only one scrub and rinse.  But tonight she took that shampoo and quickly rubbed it on her head.  So I said ok well scrub that out and we can move on to conditioner.  She started whining that she wanted to do them together.  Then she stuck out her hand so I put the conditioner in it.  As she’s rubbing that in and sobbing, she said she wanted to start over and do them together.  I said ok, and got the shampoo and conditioner and put some together in her hand and told her to scrub.

She was sobbing, kicking, screaming…and I told her to scrub it and then she could get out.  I watched her for another minute and then told her it looked good.  Press the drain, pull the bath mat up and get out.  I left the room with the baby to get her dressed.

And the screaming got louder.  And louder.  And louder.  She was kicking in the tub and screaming and yelling for me to answer her.  When this happens, I usually just say “I’ll answer you when you are calm” and go on my way until she’s ready.  Tonight it lasted a long time.  I eventually went back in there and told her to stand up.  I wrapped the towel around her and physically picked her up and carried her to her room.  She was kicking.  I’m lucky she didn’t catch me in the shin and knock us both down.  I set her down in her room, opened her pajama drawer and told her to get dressed. Before I left the room she was pointing to a book with her foot and asking me what the word was in the title.  While screaming.

A few minutes later she came out and asked nicely for a snack.  As if nothing had happened.  And I told her she could have some yogurt.

We’ve been through months of these storms.  Sometimes I can’t identify what started them.  This morning she woke up in the middle of one.  But after I got out of the shower she was all smiles and a completely different person.  They have involved throwing, kicking, screaming, swatting at me…it’s been extreme.  Sometimes I lose my patience and yell back at her, and then regret it, because I know it doesn’t help.  Sometimes if I say I will take a certain toy away she will calm down.  Sometimes that escalates her behavior and she becomes stuck on that, and asks over and over if I am going to take it.  Sometimes I go in and start taking toys and I put them on top of the fridge.  Sometimes she tells me she doesn’t care about that toy anyways.

I’m a counselor.  I should be able to solve this.  But no matter what I do, or what I say, it’s wrong.  In the middle of her fit, she will yell at me that none of my suggestions work, and do I have any other ones to help her calm down?  She doesn’t like anyone to see her after she has been crying. The only person that is allowed to see it is me.  So if we are going somewhere, the storm will get worse as she realizes that it’s almost time to go, and that she will see someone else that may notice her face is red.

She has always been good at controlling herself at school and with other adults.  But lately she has started to struggle with that also.  I am not sure if it is due to the deaths she has experienced, or her sister being so needy towards me, or if she is actually as bored with life as she tells me she is, but something’s got to give.

I am amazed when I can stay so calm during her storms.  Sometimes I feel like I am calm because I have given up trying with her and know that no matter what I do, she will continue to scream until she works herself out of this storm.  I know there will be an end to it.  But I also know that offering her things or demanding things are unreasonable requests when she’s in the midst of the storm.

I took her to see a counselor.  She didn’t want to go.  I went back with her and answered the questions for the counselor and asked Annabelle all along if I was correct.  She agreed with everything I said.  Admitted to her behavior.  She didn’t seem proud or ashamed of it.  The counselor asked about sensory.  And as I started talking about her intolerance of tags and seams and colors in her food and her food touching….I knew where she would send us.  We are headed to get a sensory profile evaluation done to see if she has a sensory processing disorder.  She wouldn’t be flagged for this in school because she is also very intelligent.  And I think this is part of the problem.  Her brain is more advanced than her emotions and they clash together, causing the thunder and rain in these storms.

I’ve talked to a few people who have children with similar characteristics.  It’s so helpful to talk to people who understand this extreme behavior.

Hopefully with the help of this counselor, and answers from the sensory profile, I will be able to help her effectively manage these storms as she gets older.  I can’t imagine they will just go away. They aren’t as easy to clean up as the poop the one year old left on the floor for me tonight…but that’s another story…