Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fellow chocolate lovers learn patience

We have been reading the delightful book, "Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake" by Michael B. Kaplan, every night for the past week. The story of a precocious, young bunny who has a tough time waiting to indulge in her slice of yummy chocolate cake quickly became a favorite for my 4-year-old daughter Pamela when she borrowed it from the library months ago. She was thrilled to find it in a bookstore this week.

So each night, my daughter and I fall asleep dreaming of chocolate cake. Since we are chocolate lovers just like Betty Bunny, we decided it was time to make a chocolate cake for ourselves. We also love college football in this house, so I decided the chocolate cake should have football picks decorating the top so that I could pass it off as football Saturday cake.

We made the cake using King Arthur Flour's Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake mix and Cybele Pascal's recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting from The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook. I had told Pamela the night before that we would make the cake, so she had to demonstrate some of the patience Betty Bunny struggles with waiting for her cake. The dessert followed homemade chicken noodle soup — another favorite for Pamela. That meal also requires patience as I make the broth by simmering a chicken carcass, onion, parsley, celery and carrots one day and then make the broth, chicken and vegetables into soup with Tinkyada gluten-free rice pasta the next day. But everyone at the table agreed that our allergen-free meal of chicken noodle soup with bread made from King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Bread mix, followed by chocolate cake, was worth the wait.

Nine years ago, when we embarked on life with food allergies, I needed patience to make recipes work with substitutions and to find products that are safe and taste great. Those also were worth the wait as we are eating much better than we did at the start of this journey.

We are gearing up for an event this month that help support my 9-year-old son, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard. The FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) Walk for Food Allergy, which is held throughout the United States, raises money for education, advocacy, awareness and research for food allergies. Sometimes it tests my patience to wait for more people to understand what it's like for my son to live with the knowledge that one bite of food could kill him, or for research to progress to the point of a cure.

But each year, when we walk with hundreds of others who do understand, and who are at an event to support my son and the nearly 6 million children like him with food allergies, it makes it that much easier to wait for change. We await the food allergy walk each year and it is so wonderful to indulge in a day of fun and support, just like Betty Bunny enjoyed satisfying her need for chocolate.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Author's message resonates beyond sports

Joseph sat on the edge of his seat, occasionally chuckling, as he listened to sports journalist Mike Lupica relate anecdotes from the world of sports and explain how he comes up with story ideas during a book signing for his latest book, "True Legend". My 9-year-old son was so excited to meet a famous author of books he enjoys and it was extra exciting that he met Lupica on the day the new book came out.

Joseph especially enjoyed listening to the sportswriter talk about his inspiration for and process writing his first young adult novel, "Travel Team", about a group of kids who were cut from a travel basketball team. Lupica's focus on kids' resilience in overcoming adversity rings true beyond sports. Sure, the theme resonates with Joseph from an athletic standpoint. More than once, he has had to brush off a tough loss on the tennis court and go back out there for another match, or deal with the disappointment of not being able to participate in an event when he thought he had earned a spot to compete.

But, as a child with life-threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, he also can relate to the need to rise above obstacles in his daily life. I am proud of the way he overcomes various issues, whether he is ensuring his safety by avoiding an unsafe food or event, keeping his head high while the target of unkind comments about his allergies, moving past anxiety about a potentially dangerous situation, or focusing on what he can have and do, in spite of his allergies and asthma.

The book signing is an example of an event that Joseph can attend without worrying about his allergies. I have always championed books and I am so pleased that bookstores like Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh host authors so that kids like Joseph, who love to read, can be inspired. It also is wonderful that the organizers keep it simple and focused on the reason people are there, without adding food into the mix. Joseph and all the other kids just wanted to hear what Lupica had to say. Nobody was thinking about snacks while they were hanging on every word to gain insight about the new book's characters.

Joseph was thrilled to meet an author who has already given him joy through his stories and perhaps, a bit of a boost about the honor in dealing with some of life's challenges.