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My friend showed me this blog about a mom writing about her son allergic to eggs( It hit a nerve and kind of got me started on this post which I wanted to write for some time now. Do’s and Don’t when you meet with someone who has allergies or parents with allergic kids. I also want to use this post to answer some of the most common questions we have faced. Let me tell you, how we reacted to them would have been totally dependent on the kind of day we had with Avy. Some times these questions makes it harder for us to deal with the whole thing and while other times its helps us get our feelings out. I also feel that the more the people know the awareness spreads.

Common FAQ’s:

1) How did he get this or from where did he get this? – Allergies can be from the environment or from our genes. The science is still divided on this. With Avyukt, the case is that his body perceives the protein in these foods as enemies and gears up his body to attack them. In the last year we have spent so much time in retrospection and trying to find answers as to why he got it and the answer is not so easy. However thinking back it brought back memories of childhood allergies and/or other dermatological issues we , his parents had. I mean we certainly did not expect Avyu to have any as none of our childhood allergies lasted till adulthood.. My dad had a milk intolerance when he was kid, my brother and I suffered from various kind of synthetic, detergent allergies when we were kids, I was allergic to tomatoes for the longest time, Ajit (Avy’dad) suffers from eczema which is also related to allergies. I am still allergic to heat and sunlight , I know hard to believe. I get huge rashes when exposed directly to sun for a long period of time, but wearing sunscreen helps most of the days.  I guess a combination of these is what probably resulted in his allergies.

2) Asking “Will he ever become alright”? or saying “Don’t worry it will go away soon”..- I hope so too. But it is highly unlikely that it will in the near future. And telling us it will go away soon doesn’t make us feel any better as we know deep down that it probably isn’t going to happen. As I said in my previous posts, people helping us manage our lives with and being empathetic is the kind of support we need. Also if anyone comes across any other information that you think will help us, please feel free to forward it to me. I had a friend tell me about potential systemic reasons for us to look into. Any info is appreciated!! A big shout out to Ram and Poornema our friends we visited this past weekend…they cooked everything, all weekend to be ‘Avy friendly’, without us even asking. It meant a lot to us, to share the table with him and give him things from our plate. Thanks so so much!!

3) “Can he try a little bit, I am sure a little bit will not hurt”- ABSOLUTELY NOT!! He suffers with stomach pain, hives, rashes, just plain itching sometimes even if I consume it and traces of it crosses into his bloodstream through breast milk. More importantly the only way to his recovery (long-term) is keeping him allergen free in the hopes that his body will reset and hopefully when introduced later will accept it. Having said this, we as parents are not perfect either. Last weekend , we happened to give him a piece of chapati with probably traces of ghee. It was followed by an urgent dose of Benadryl and hours of restlessness hoping nothing would happen. I could barely sleep, I kept looking at him to see if he gets any swelling or other reactions. Luckily, it ended with a tummy ache only. I am staying off all the things he cannot have either for now, and I may give him company for the longest time possible, so people understanding that what I am doing for him makes me stronger. 

4) “What will you do if it never goes away?”- Nothing…:) Live my life the happiest way possible and come up with more and more tasty alternatives for him. Life has so much to offer. I have my days when I feel so upset about this, but I buck up and say there is more to life than Milk 🙂

The one place I differ from the author of the other blog is that, I always make sure I am prepared when I take my son out, if it is a birthday party, I bake a cake for him,  if it is a party at his daycare, I inquire in advance of the menu and make sure he has alternatives if not, I would make some for him. maybe it stems from the little control freak in me, but I want to be prepared no matter what. I also get that no one else would care for him as much as I do 🙂 I am sure every mom out there would agree. No one really wants their kid to be different, and by growing up in this country they are different to begin with. I try my best to even out these other difference. I am sure as he gets older it is going to get harder, since he may not agree to the alternatives I provide/make and I can cross that bridge when it comes. For now, he is as excited to eat the ones I baked for him….

Allergies and Healthy eating..who would have thought …:)

This time of the year at my workplace we do the biggest loser contest…a 12 week competition and the winner gets the pool of money, while the rest of us are satisfied with a healthy lifestyle. This is what helped me lose my baby weight last year, and since a stressful tax season (and weekly dose of hash browns, Oh God how I love them, that and innumerable amounts of tortilla chips) has made me pack on some pounds…am at it again and happy to note, I am already feeling great!.

When we started making lists on the various ways to keep Avyu’s diet complete with all the nutrients we discovered the ‘natural’ food aisle in the local grocery stores. It is so surprising that the ‘natural’ way to eat and healthy products are just one row in the whole supermarket. Makes you wonder..(.). I had researched and met with a nutrition consultant for Avyukt to expand my knowledge on the healthy whole grains out there that I could give him. This posting is just to spread the knowledge. Ajit and I both have been trying to change our eating habits for a while now. We avoid prepackaged foods as much as possible, try to totally avoid the dreaded ‘high fructose corn syrup’ etc. So going down this path for Avyu opened to us a whole new world of grains which I must say taste very very nice!!!  Here I have listed the 3 we have Avyu eat on a regular basis:

QUINOA: Avyu’s most favorite. This is very protein rich grain nearly 18%, which makes it great for us. Protein is what we, being vegetarians, struggle with the most. Once milk is cut off, and not being able to use substitutes like soy or egg, made us get creative. Avyu has plain boiled quinoa, with or without salt for breakfast or lunch. He loves it. This covers the protein for him many days. We can make a variety of south Indian dishes, Upma (usually made with refined wheat grains) with quinoa, you can get Quinoa flour and use to make Dosa (rice crepes). recipes to come soon!!. Another thing I am intrigued by, in one of shows on Food Network on Tv, I saw them making pal Payasam (A sweet dish with milk and rice), using Quinoa and not rice. You get both white and red Quinoa which looks gorgeous when cooked. To read more about this grain…

SPELT:  Spelt is more closely related to Wheat. Upfront I must say, that spelt flour makes excellent and tasty Dosas (kind of like Indian pancakes..recipe will follow).  this is an all round nutritious grain. People who are allergic to wheat, can at most times tolerate spelt. Avy has had spelt muffins, Spelt dosas for the most part.

MILLET:  This is what they call back home in India as (kambu). This is a very healthy and overall nutritious grain. This is something new we have started for Avyu. He seems to like it. Again, this too he has it plain boiled, kind of in a porridge consistency.

As adults we rarely evaluate what we eat anymore. But having to read labels every time I pick up anything to eat or give to Avyu it has made me more vigilant about what I put in my mouth. The one blessing this allergy has, is the fact that Avyu cannot fill up on all the junk food out there. Most of them have milk in it. This has forced him to be on a very well-rounded diet. He loves his veggies. and I say it is mostly because that is the most he gets. Of course I can see his face light up when he sees a deep-fried potato hash brown. Then again it is homemade, made from scratch, with a sprinkle of any of his healthy flours and very little salt. As knowledge evolves, we have to embrace them. I think as parents it is vital to inculcate healthy eating habits to our children and as all of you know they watch and learn. What you put in your mouth is what they want. It is not hard to do. The first week is hard, after that it is a matter of habit.

I am not standing in judgement of anyone. I let Avyu get filled with chocolate cookies too, but I also get him organic vegetables, and offer him fruits and vegetables at every meal. The most I can do is offer :). Now a-days most of the time is spent on the natural foods aisle or the freezer for frozen and / or fresh veggies. Can’t wait to hit the Blacksburg farmers market again this summer. Brunch, farmer market make for a great Saturday morning.

Here is my first recipe for ‘Spelt Dosa (crepes? pancakes?)’

1 cup Rice Flour

1/3rd cup Spelt Flour

A pinch of salt and a pinch of turmeric.

Mix all the ingredients to a batter consistency, a little thinner than what it is for a pancake.

Have the skillet hot and ready, pur the batter in small circles and our oil around the circumference.

Avy loves it with jam or just by itself.

For adults, I add fried mustard seeds, with little bits of green chillies.  It makes it tastee sooo good!.


To the rock in my life!

My husband Ajit. Without him I cannot possibly do everything I do. He has been such a support and inspiration for me to be who I am. As everyone knows, many times we lose some individuality when we get married, and a lot more when we have a kid. However with me, I feel more empowered and independent than I ever felt. My whole way of thinking , attitudes, likes and dislikes have changed due to the constant push from this guy!

I am a very picky person when it comes to anything. I rarely am open to trying new things. Ajit has slowly but surely chipped into this. I have even tried mor kuzhambu, aviyal and lemon rice, things I refused to try before I got married. I am a planner, I need to know when everything is going to happen…not really a go with the flow kind of person. Ajit is the total opposite. My whole zen attitude in life to be happy in every situation is due to him. He encourages the silly kid in me. I can laugh at the drop of a hat even at mildly funny things, as Ajit asked me once…”why is it that any sitcom you laugh so much gets cancelled?”. LOL. I think people who know me will agree, my standard for humor isn’t too high.:)(Ajit: this says nothing about your humor, really!!!)

The journey of becoming a mom has been made so pleasant by him, he took care me during the hard first trimester, cooking multiple items for dinner and lunch in case I may refuse something. He did the whole classes, massages, the early am diaper changes….. Even at that point I had not realized on what vital role he was going to play in facing the daily challenges caused by having an allergic little one.

Just like every other mom, somewhere along the way I started to lose myself. Avyu was the obsession in my mind, failing to realize that I need to be taken care of too. Ajit never forgot that. He would shop everywhere in trying to find things I can eat, substitutes for things I love but cannot have. Over the past year he has provided me with cheese free, but at the same time yummy pizza, cheese substitutes made from pea protein (as I cannot have soy either), jalapeno chips without milk (can you believe, milk is everywhere!!!), homemade popcorn (as I cannot have the store brought one, I don’t think anyone should either, homemade is sooooo good), and tons and tons of chocolates (he spent a lot of time going through the shelves reading ingredients). All of this without me ever asking. He often reminds me that I cannot lose myself and that he is there to take care of me if I ever start to again.

He is my rock, my everything and the only way any of what I do (work, home, kid, blog, cook ) is possible is because I have right next to me taking care of me. To my dear hubby…

To Avy Dear…

I never ever thought in a million years that I would start a blog. I always kept asking my hubby to start one, as I am just a sucker for his writing :):). But a big thing happened to me, I became a Mom. Avyukt Sudarshan Ajit, came into this world on September 8, 2008 and nothing was ever the same again. The first six months were filled with milestones, the smiles, the ‘rolling’ over, the sitting. I , just like every other mom spent these months obsessing over the fact that Avyu was a day late to roll over or to smile. But as time went by these thoughts started to vanish. June of 2009 changed my life forever. You may wonder what more can happen. Avyu has been going to the daycare since he was 4 months old. So by the time he was 9 months old he was a veteran at it. He loved his teachers and they adored him. One fine day when I went to pick him up, it looked like he had been crying. This was not unusual for him to have cried a little bit, but the mommy hunch in me kicked in. As we were driving home, I felt his coos and sounds were starting to be muffled (had a rear facing car seat then, so couldn’t just look back). I pulled over and to my horror, the poor kids face and eyes and lips were fully swollen. I had to think on my feet and as I was very close to his doctor’s office I started driving there, while calling them on the phone. I then called his daycare to figure out what he ate last.  I reached in time and they gave him a shot to reduce his reaction.  He had consumed 3 new products in day care that he had not had before. This is the beginning of a long journey that we are still on. At that point of time I thought this was an isolated incident, a week passed by and we wanted to switch Avyu to formula from breast milk and when we tried to, he broke out into rashes.  That was the point I realized it was bigger than isolated incidents. his pediatrician recommended we show him to an allergist. The first blood test, a horrible experience by itself, poking a 9 month old in the arm to draw blood, revealed he has class 4 allergies to milk, class 3 to soy, egg and peanuts and class 2 to oatmeal and peas. At that moment I got the news I was not prepared for…an elimination diet. A diet free of all the above mentioned ingredients for both him and me, as I was still breastfeeding. The world started spinning around me as I had no clue where to start. This was followed by weeks of obsessive online research, shopping labels research, bouts of extreme sadness and anger ( I guess the hungry me was going through withdrawal symptoms to a milk free diet). There was also a feeling that this was never going to end. But we survived!! It is going to be a year this June. The last year has been filled with thoughts about food, cooking, allergies and I have gained a lot of knowledge in this area. I felt it was time to share what I have. This is a blog that is going to share my experience as a mom to a kid filled with allergies in the hope that it will raise awareness and help someone else going through the same.  I hope in subsequent posts I can kind of recap my journey in the last year and I intend to share new information, new recipes and just moral support for anyone who needs it.

Parenting is a hard thing, but you love your kid so much that it hardly matters. I never thought I am capable of unconditional love , but Avyu had proved me wrong. Making him comfortable, changing every version of our accepted foods to be ‘Avy’ friendly is my pasttime  now and it is so interesting that everyone is my house now eats that way.  Online reading, to vegerterian magazines to food network and baby magazines ideas are everywhere, and I love consolidating them to present to you this blog!

Being allergic is a long-term condition and as a mom the most important thing in the world to me is keeping my kid happy and I hope as years go by he will grow out of some of them. But I intend to raise him in a way he can take care of himself, even if he never outgrows these allergies. Last year has been so wonderful, with smiles, words, talks and also moments when I have to whisk him away form the room so that other people can have a kaju katli . I have reazlied that once acceptance sets in you can still be very happy no matter what life throws at you and there is a solution to everything. I love you Avyu! This Blog is for you!