Minnie Mouse Birthday Cake

Minnie Mouse Cake

When my daughter told me she wanted a Princess Sofia birthday cake, I thought…uh oh. That sounds like a stretch. 

We’ve had trouble finding a nut-free bakery, so I have been making birthday cakes in recent years. So far, they’ve turned out fine, but Sophia is far beyond my limited skill set.

I was grateful a week later when she decided she wanted Minnie Mouse instead.

Minnie Mouse? Phew, I actually think I can do that.

My talented best friend made a Minnie Mouse cake last year for her daughter’s first birthday. She sent me pictures and it was so pretty! It was her cake-making skill and encouragement that gave me confidence to make this cake for our daughter’s Ballerina third birthday party. With a little practice under my belt, a Minnie Mouse cake seemed reasonable to attempt.

The process is pretty straight forward. Bake, freeze, assemble, and decorate. I carefully took a ton of photos while making it only to have my trusty camera memory card meet its untimely and frustrating death…along with those photos. Ugh. Such a bummer!  But, I think you’ll be able to figure it out from the description below and I’m happy to answer any questions.

The birthday girl couldn’t decide between Funfetti or Chocolate cake, so I made a two-layer cake. One layer Funfetti, one chocolate. I am so grateful to Rose Bakes for her Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Recipe {Great for Decorating}. It is quick, easy to work with and tastes delicious.

You guys, you need to make this Buttercream. It’s fantastic.

One box of each cake mix was divided between one 10″ pan (head) and two 6″ pans (ears).  After cooling, each baked cake was wrapped in cling wrap and frozen overnight. Freezing makes them easy to handle. Cutting a semi-circle from each 6″ cake so they fit snugly against the 10″ cake was easy. The bottom layer was Funfetti, the top Chocolate.

A generous layer of frosting was used to secure the ears, head, and layers together. For a little extra flavor, Santa Cruz Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread was added between layers with the frosting. Who would have thought a little jar from the jelly section of the grocery store could taste so decadent?

So far, so good.

Then I started to decorate the cake and things got a little messy. Literally, frosting was getting everywhere. The cake board is a mess (see those greasy spots?). Next time it will be covered while decorating since I’m apparently incapable of not making a mess.

That is when I began to panic. It had been a while since I piped frosting and I was quite rusty.

I decided this was going to be the ugliest cake attempt that ever was.

At that point, I may have asked, er…demanded that my husband remove the children from this house. He may be a saint because he patiently and kindly obliged, asking no questions and reassuring me it was going to look great as he swept them out the door. True story – he’s awesome.

20 minutes later in a silent house, I stood looking at a finished cake feeling foolish for freaking out.

My husband was right, the cake did turn out fine and was delicious.

In the coming weeks I’ll post the Minnie Mouse party decorations but in the meantime…

sunshine girl 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Sunshine Girl.

It Takes a Village {to Raise a Child With Food Allergies}…And This One’s Fantastic

It Takes a Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies | thisgratefulmama.com

Allergy parenting requires effort, practice, persistence and vigilance.

And like many parenting challenges, allergy parenting isn’t always an easy job.

Sometimes it is a lonely job – sometimes the combination of ‘what ifs’, label reading and substitute-treat-making can weigh us down and consume our thoughts and time.

But this IS a rewarding job.

A smiling child eating a nut-free cupcake with his friends at a birthday party makes that late night baking worth it.

And even the opposite – a child, disappointed they can’t enjoy a treat but safe from a life threatening reaction. Challenging, but STILL worth it. Every day our children stay safe is a reward in itself. A job well done. Prayers answered.

We are not alone in this. And, we allergy parents are not the only parents striving to keep our children safe from potential harm, whatever it may be.

Having a peanut and tree nut allergic child has opened my eyes to the great lengths those in our community will go to in order to protect just one child. Often, attention goes to those who refuse to accommodate an allergy – but in my experience those who take such a stance are few. 

In reality, most people in this community strive to protect any, and every child.

My child.

Your child.

In our community, examples of people who have gone above and beyond to protect our son are endless and often leave me choked up just thinking about them.Today the attention goes to those who DO extraordinary things, sometimes daily for our son and other children:

  • When my mother-in-law calls me from the store to read ingredient labels and confirm what she buys is safe
  • My mom often takes extra time to make homemade cobbler instead of buying a pie, even when she’s busy
  • My sister does the hair of a baker and trades for magnificent, delicious, professionally made nut-free cakes
  • Friends call ahead to confirm safety of snacks and meals before they come over or we go there
  • Parents help their children wash their hands after they’ve eaten a snack when playing with our kids
  • The preschool director and teachers enforce a nut-free food rule for the program
  • Volunteers and staff from church text questions about safe snacks
  • Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends have learned how to use an Epi-pen and how to read food labels
  • Caregivers listen attentively and read and follow allergy action plans
  • We are included time and time again, even though for many, accommodating us takes some extra effort
  • Friends and neighbors check in before potlucks to tell us what they are bringing is safe for our son – and often point out items they know are not safe to keep me informed
  • A neighbor and daughter with nut allergies looking out for our son, sharing their experiences, doctor recommendations and encouragement
  • Last year we asked our church to pray for our son’s safety and for healing from his allergy. Our prayer note card was returned a year later, signed with dates and names of those who prayed all year long
  • Restaurant managers and chefs patiently answer questions and prepare food safely for our son
  • Friends and family spend time researching safe products on their own
  • People graciously allow me to hang out in their kitchen, reading every food label in sight and asking 20 questions
  • Members of the No Nuts Mom Group (and No Nuts Mom Group of MN) share their experiences and provide invaluable recommendations, advice, prayers, and encouragement – if you are a food allergy parent and NOT part of at least one of these groups, you should really check them out!
  • A neighbor texts me from Target with a picture of a new ‘nut-free’ product
  • And on…and on…

These are examples we have been TOLD about. I am certain there are efforts done silently – without recognition. People spend extra time grocery shopping, doing their own research, and asking questions on behalf of our son.

Family, friends, neighbors, children, parents, educators, church staff and more…I recognize YOUR efforts. YOUR hearts and actions demonstrate love and service to our whole family as we all work to protect children. And you do so willingly and intentionally. With joy – without expressing burden.

Often, steps taken by others to protect our son take me by surprise – unexpected gifts of protection we didn’t ask for but gratefully receive.

But mere words can not adequately express my gratitude. Most days, I find myself gratefully praying blessings over those in our life who have gone out of their way to bless us and to protect our son. Often I am at a loss for words, sitting quietly in the peace of knowing that God knows just how grateful I am even if I can’t adequately express it – grateful to others, grateful to God, grateful beyond grateful.

They say it takes a village to raise a child – it certainly takes a village to keep an allergy child safe.

To all those who keep our child safe – Thank you. Your kindness, thoughtfulness, and efforts often stop me in my tracks. I joyfully thank God for each of you. Even the tiniest gesture means the world to us. You are actively invested in our son’s well-being and your individual and collective efforts matter.

I pray for chances to bless you and your family as you have us. If your family ever faces a challenge and needs a special accommodation, we are happy and ready to help – to go above and beyond as you have for us.

I am grateful for each of you who invest in keeping our child and others in our community safe.

It does take a village.

And from where I sit, THIS village is fantastic.

Thank you.

I am THAT Allergy Mama: Something Good HAS To Come From All Of This {6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy}

There Must Be Good That Comes From This: Here are 6 life-skills our kids can develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Something good HAS to come from all of this..6 life-skills our kids CAN develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Yes, calling out ‘benefits’ of food allergies may be putting on rose-colored glasses. But I am a mama who needs to see that there is good that comes from such strenuous effort and from these challenging experiences. I need to know that there are things I can do to help my child thrive in the midst of something very serious and not-so-fun.

Food allergies can be incredibly scary for parents and children who live with the reality that food can cause harm. In no way by writing this, am I saying that food allergies are desirable; all of us would rather not deal with them and put our Epi-Pens prescriptions to rest. But what I AM saying is this: as parents of children with food allergies, we are charged to not only teach our children to navigate food safely, but to make the most of the experiences they encounter. And yes, this is also true of parents whose children do not have food allergies; we need to make the most of WHATEVER experiences they have.

What does that mean for us? It means we praise and encourage skills and character traits that are both required for safety and developed as a result of having a food allergy. All those lessons in label reading, asking questions and in developing personal discipline and responsibility can be an opportunity for you, your child, and family. Despite our fears, and the harsh reality when a reaction occurs, something good can and will come of all of this, if we are committed to it.

The key word here is can. While a select few children will harness these skills on their own, most need our help. We help them apply their food allergy skills to other areas of life. Instead of raising children who view their allergy as a hindrance, we can help them see it as an experience that taught them life lessons and skills that they will actually use as adultsAs we teach the skills they NEED to keep themselves safe, we can champion their efforts, recognize their growing independence, and encourage their empathy for others.

But before listing the skills and character traits we can encourage, we must first ask ourselves…How do I view my child’s allergy? What do I convey to them? Do my attitudes, words and actions reflect that I am annoyed with it, frustrated by it, or hindered by it? They are looking to US to see how to act. Our attitudes must show that we will make the most of this. We must make it our goal to equip, empower and trust these little ones…first with a little, and step by step, we will have to trust them a LOT….they won’t be in our care 24/7 for very long. It starts with US.

It is my goal to make sure our child knows I am in their corner. That I am doing what I NEED to be doing to keep them safe, and at the same time, they need to do the same. There are times when a feeling is hurt, a food can’t be eaten, a child is excluded, or a reaction happens and all they need is someone to grieve with and to be comforted by. I’m there. But otherwise, I want to be sure they know to be proactive and take necessary precautions, but to also ENJOY life. I want them to tangibly know what they are learning from this, and that they will succeed in other areas because of what they’ve learned and endured.

6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

1. Food Awareness and Healthy Choices

In a society filled with wide availability of sugar, fat, and sodium packed foods, there is value in knowing that what we put into our body MATTERS. Children with food allergies and their parents KNOW this on a whole new level. Why not use this food-awareness as a stimulus for life-long healthy eating habits? With intentional education from us, these safe, and healthy food habits will promote a lifetime of food choices for our whole family. Here are a few of the lessons we intend to pass on to our children (allergic or not):

  • Label Reading Fosters Wise Decision-Making: In general, the more food is processed, the more likely it can be cross contaminated with a food allergen. AND the more likely it is loaded with less-than-healthy additives. Diligence is key and can be taught NOW. Teaching that we read labels not only to check for an allergen, but also to see if it is healthy. You know, you are what you eat – It may not be scientifically proven, but I am convinced that if you eat enough processed, high sodium food, that you can pickle your body from the inside out! Food allergy kids and parents have to read the label anyway, so why not read it together and make wise decisions together?
  • Whole Foods are Safer and Healthier: Even with diligent label reading, we all know from recalls that the label isn’t always right. WHOLE, RAW fruits and vegetables and plain, unflavored meats are safest. Not only is the raw food less likely to be contaminated, but is packed with natural nutrients. They are also free from strange chemicals with complex names that I used to use for science experiments in the genetics lab.
  • Cooking at Home Promotes a Love To Cook:  Watching and helping a parent cook creates lasting memories and imparts life-long skills. Sure, it takes longer to let a 4-year-old help, but it is worth it. I hope his future wife appreciates that he will know how to cook before he leaves his stay in this house.
  • Knowledge is Powerful: A child with a food allergy and their siblings simply HAVE  to know more about food than others.  It goes with the territory; they know about cross contamination, manufacturing, and how reactions happen. It is my hope that knowledge about how allergies work will someday generate curiosity about science and drive our children to search for their own answers.
  • Passing on Dessert is a Good Idea: As adults, we all know that passing on dessert is a good skill. In an allergy household, pre-made desserts can be particularly difficult to find allergen-free, so food allergies often make baked goods a rare treat. Instead, fruit at the end of our meal has become our go-to dessert; grapes, blueberries, and strawberries are the coveted ‘treats’. These kids won’t expect a baked or creamy treat after every meal because most have not grown up that way.

2. Empathy

Any child who has sat alone at a nut-free table, been excluded from an activity or treat, or had an allergic reaction knows how important it is to have the support of others. Or, even better, someone to step into it with you and pass on dessert WITH you. When they see others going through their own struggles (food or otherwise), it is my hope that they will be better equipped to come alongside others and meet them where they’re at.

As parents, we can guide and encourage our children to reflect on how they have felt in similar situations. We can teach them how to ask questions to understand what others are going through, and how to stand by them and lift them up. It excites me how this will affect them long-term. These kids are going to be some of the most kind and loyal friends out there.

3. Appreciation

Many of us take the freedom we (and our kids) have to eat whatever we want, for granted. Our family never will again. We feel the occasional pang of jealousy or disappointment when a nutty treat is being passed around. And frankly, it will hurt when we see our child hurt. But we will also be proud when he makes the right choice. But, because of those moments, we have learned that where disappointment and self-control is great, so is delight, surprise, and gratefulness when it goes the other way.

When someone makes a special effort to buy or make a dessert my son can eat, it brings delight; he knows it is really special.  We recently attended a birthday party where a parent did her own research and found a store that will sterilize all their equipment to make nut-safe cupcakes (you know who you are-THANK YOU isn’t enough). When that nut-free cupcake was placed in front of my son, he looked at me and said, “But mama, doesn’t it have nuts?”.  I was first proud that he asked first, on his own, and then it was my pleasure to explain that his friend’s mom had gone out of her way to make sure he could have one. His surprise was evident and the look on his face was so sweet.

To say he was grateful is an understatement. He will always know it is a privilege when someone makes a special effort on his behalf. These lessons foster a sense of gratitude that only experience can teach.

4. Self-Advocacy

I recently read this article, which states that children may develop helplessness from their food allergy experience. Helplessness? Sigh. Initially, I was offended. But as I read the whole article, I saw how my PARENTING will largely decide whether this is true. Fear and the knowledge of the danger in food makes it hard for me NOT to control every aspect of their food and environment. But while we need to do our part to keep them safe (and do it WELL), we also need to make sure they are learning to do the same on their own. Whether they’re only 2, or 3, or 4, or…

The article did change my thinking and motivate me. Instead of asking all the questions for my son, we need to help my son learn to ask questions, NOW…This doesn’t mean that we don’t keep asking those food allergy 20-questions before we get together. These questions still need to be asked and I will continue to advocate for my child! But it DOES mean that we need to take the time to help our child learn WHAT to ask, WHEN to ask (always), WHY it is important, and HOW (respectfully, kindly) to ask. In essence, to practice self-advocacy.  As they learn this skill, it will be our job to show them how to use it in others areas of life, and on behalf of others.

5. Real Faith

There are just some things that parents can’t provide on a life-changing, fulfilling level; we are limited, but God is not. When a child finally understands the gravity of what a life-threatening food allergy means, they will need all the hope, comfort and faith they can get. This can only come from a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ our savior.

Tell them when you pray for them; they should know the prayers being said on their behalf and understand that their parents are putting their trust in the Lord’s protection. As they get older and express their own fears and frustrations, it will be time to share some of your own and to show them how you have worked through them with the Lord’s help. Being honest about our struggles and how the Lord helps us will be a powerful example for them to emulate. We will teach our son how we know that no matter what happens, the Lord will be with us ALL as we walk through it.

When our children grapple with their own fear and discouragement (allergy related or not), we WILL turn their faces towards the One and Only God. We will teach them verses about worry, God’s protection and our reliance on Him to meet our needs. We will demonstrate what faith looks like; how we need to do OUR part (wise choices, proactive planning, and carry medications), and then, when we can do no more, how we rely on God to do HIS part.

I can’t think of any better skill to equip them with.

 6. Accountability and Responsibility

A child with a food allergy is responsible for a LOT, at a young age. They need to be aware of their surroundings, what is in EVERY bit of food or beverage they consume, and are responsible for expensive medications that they will need to know how to self-administer. It is a lot on their plate. They need our encouragement, guidance, and TRUST. They need us to equip them as best we can, making sure they understand consequences, and then, we need to pray for them, and let them go….to school, to a friend’s house, to an activity…I feel like this goes without saying, but, when they return from…[insert activity]….we need to hold them accountable. We will ask questions about how they made decisions and we will praise their efforts to be safe, correcting when necessary.

When we make it to the Epi-Pen expiration date and not only has it not been needed, but they haven’t lost it, froze it, or heated it up…that is worth celebrating. When parents, teachers, or their friends mention how our children are being diligent when we’re not there, we need to tell them how proud that makes us.

These are 6 skills, but there are plenty more. Our experiences can make or break us. Lets make sure our children’s allergy experiences (good and bad) are a starting point for something wonderful.  There is no doubt that these lessons will take time and effort. It will often be faster to just do it for them. But, bear with it. The long-term outcome will pay dividends; not only will they be safe, but will excel in many areas as a result.

Our kids are pretty amazing people, whether they have allergies or not. All of these skills (and more) can be learned by any child, but our food-allergic children and their siblings have experiences that require them.

Oh, they are going to be some neat kids…And I can’t wait to see them as adults.

I am THAT Allergy Mama: Thank You For Answering My Food Allergy “20 Questions” Before We Get Together

How I miss the days when all I had to do was ask what I could bring to a get-together and not have to know what was being served…

Or when someone could bring anything they like best to our house.

Any dessert. Any bread. Any salad topping.

Sigh.

Now I’m constantly MEDDLING.

I’m calling ahead, asking friends to read food labels over the phone, and explaining that the phrase “processed on equipment with nuts” is just as bad for us as something containing an actual peanut.

I’m asking what dessert they are serving, where it came from, and usually planning to bring something similar and safe for my son to eat.

And YES, I often request foods containing nuts aren’t served while we’re there and that nuts are never brought into our home. This is my son’s SAFE zone (and ours). He should never have to question his safety here.

I DO realize it may feel like we ask or expect too much. 

Now I’m hanging out in the kitchen, asking questions about where food came from, and if I can read the food labels myself. If something was made from scratch, I’m asking to if the chocolate chips had a nut allergen warning, and if any pre-made mixes were used.

I KNOW I’m a control freak, and that some of these questions seem silly. I also know that there are plenty of foods that are SAFE and that most of the answers confirm the food IS safe.

BUT, once in a while…we catch something…so I HAVE to ask.

I am THAT allergy mama.

I know sometimes, I’m really annoying with all these questions. I appreciate your patience with me, and for answering me to the best of your ability.

I have REAL and POWERFUL fears (although sometimes they may be blown out of proportion):

  • I AM afraid if there are nuts on the premises, especially when other children are present. Children are messy eaters, they drop things on the floor, they get food on their clothes, hands, hair and face. A quick wipe down with a paper towel and water does NOT safely remove allergen, and my son could have a reaction from coming in contact with it.
  • I DO have sometimes overwhelming fear when the food is generally unknown before we arrive. I usually pack an extra meal for my son, in case he can’t eat what is there. I’m on hyper-alert and may not be able to relax until we sort it all out. I will be distracted until we do. I AM overwhelmed when we arrive to an unexpected baked goods surprise. Donuts sound friendly until you look around and see almonds falling off pastries and chocolate frosted donuts covered in chopped peanuts in the hands of children. Sometimes the fear can be so overwhelming that we just have to go outside; for his safety and my own sanity.
  • I AM afraid that when someone who ate something with nuts kisses my child goodbye that my son will get hives on his face. Or worse.
  • I pray EVERY day and trust that the Lord has what I CAN’T control under HIS all-knowing control. I need to trust Him, or I wouldn’t let us go anywhere.

It may sound selfish, but I DO think my son’s health is more important than your (or your child’s) desire to eat a peanut butter sandwich, pecan pie or peanut butter rice crispy treats. I’m sorry it makes things harder for you. But I think it is OK to ask that you eat them later, when we aren’t around. AND if your child has a food need, I welcome your requests and needs; We will joyfully accommodate them.

I DO trust your efforts are sincere and thorough. However, even with several years of label reading, my husband and I occasionally still catch something on a box that the other missed. Two sets of eyes is ALWAYS better than one. And I’m sorry, but If we don’t have the label or a clear understanding a food’s safety, we can’t eat it. Even if you took a lot of time making it.

I KNOW that nuts show up in the strangest of places and my questions may sound weird: Pretzels, animal crackers, bread, ice cream, ANY dessert, fried foods, italian and asian sauces, salad mixes, seeds, cream cheese, any bulk foods, cereals, crackers, frozen foods, salad dressings, flour, rice, and more have nut allergen warnings. Keeping your child safe from food is more of a LIFESTYLE than anything; it requires a constant AWARENESS.

I AM not sure what type of reaction my son will have from any of these scenarios, but I don’t think ANY reaction is acceptable. I recently heard someone in a grocery store venting about someone with a child with a nut allergy and their ‘over reaction’ to the potential of an allergic reaction. Her reason was, and I quote, “that’s what an Epi-Pen is for”.  This is NOT the first time I’ve heard this statement, nor will it be the last time. Guess what? An Epi-Pen is for when you’ve done EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO to be safe and a reaction happens anyway. I hope to NEVER use ours. I want them to expire, time after time.

The truth is, sometimes an Epi-Pen and quick responses by parents and medical personnel are NOT ENOUGH. Sometimes a child DIES. It is NOT usually because someone neglected to be careful. It was a terrible mistake, or due to an unknown allergy. A heartbreaking event that can’t be undone.

I will NEVER assume a reaction won’t be deadly or cause long-term damage. YES, I pray he won’t ever HAVE a reaction, and that if he does, it will be minor. YES, I believe in God’s protection. But that does NOT mean I have a license to be careless, or that my fears are not valid or real. This is a serious business. It is my child’s LIFE. Having his face swell up, hives all over his body, terrible upset stomach, or his throat close so tightly he cannot breathe are ALL unacceptable to me. Think about how that would FEEL if it happened to your body, or to your child’s body. In our position, I think you’d agree.

I appreciate your honesty and willingness to say when I need to SLOW down, or BACK down. I know that you CARE if my child gets hurt. I know that you are trying your best. If I’m hyped up and making unfair assumptions or requiring too much of you…SAY SO! It may sting, but I promise to listen and to find another way that works better for both of us.

Words can’t express how grateful we are for you who help keep our son safe: 

  • Many of you go out of your way to help us; you purchase nut-free candy, make a cake instead of buying one, or call ahead to ask what is best to have for snack when we come over.
  • OR when you do your own research, educate yourself, and find a bakery that will sterilize equipment and make a nut-free dessert that our son can eat. You, your thoughtfulness, initiative, and kindess amaze me.
  • I appreciate when you serve a ham sandwich to your child before you come and play at our house, or when you have your child wash their hands with soap and water before coming over if they’ve had nuts that day.
  • To the parents and staff at the nut-free preschool our son attends: Thank you for following the hand-washing and food policy so my son is safe when he learns alongside your child.
  • It brings tears to my eyes when I think of how many people who are family, friends, church family, neighbors, school staff, and even acquaintances who go the extra mile. EVERY TIME. 
  • It matters when people ask me to teach them to read a food label, or call me from the store if they aren’t sure about something.
  • It is a relief when a host intentionally saves the food labels for me to read and points them out before I even have to ask.
  • I am amazed by the people who make me DAILY feel like my questions are not a burden, and are gracious to me when I’m obviously operating from a place of fear (when I’m surely not at my best).
  • And to those who regularly pray for my son’s safety and that he will NEVER have a reaction; you make it so the fear doesn’t take over, so the label reading isn’t so hard, and so we can leave the house trusting in the Lord’s protection. We FEEL it.
  • All of you make us feel accepted, blessed beyond measure, and loved. We know you are in this with us, keeping our son safe. We appreciate your advice, kindness, questions and efforts.

Thank you for agreeing that this child is worth the effort, and thank you for answering my food allergy “20 questions”.

son

I Am THAT Allergy Mama: Thank You For Answering My Food Allergy 20 Questions Before We Get Together | thisgratefulmama.com