Israel creamed me

For three years before I moved to Israel, I was dairy free.

And not just, “No thank you, I won’t have extra parmesan on top of my fettuccine alfredo” dairy free.

I was hard core, no dairy, no way, not even a lick from the spoon after making my kids Mac and Cheese, dairy free.

Why?

Because I realized about a decade ago the connection between what I ate and how I felt, both physically and emotionally.

On top of that, my kids were all diagnosed with food allergies and our home became food-focused and poop-focused.

(There’s a lot you can tell about your health by being poop-focused, don’t ya know? Good poop. Good times.)

The best I ever felt in my entire life — physically and emotionally– was when I was dairy free, wheat free and sugar free.

I carried on like this for a good year or so. And despite the inconvenience to my family and my book club, I felt AMAZING.

Practically everything I ever thought was going to kill me one day (stomach pain, gas, anxiety, asthma, eczema, migraines) practically up and disappeared when I stopped eating those foods.

Since moving to Israel, however, I no longer cut the cheese.

The cheese cuts me.

cream

I tried to stay away from it. And succeeded for a while.

Until Shavuout.

Damn you, Shavuout.

Shavuout 2011 was my downfall.

Quiche, lasagna, blintzes, cheesecake, chocolate mousse.

After that, I totally I cheesed out.

Started with goat cheese. I was one of those girls who was all like “I’m so totally healthy because, like, I only eat organic, locally-grown Feta now.”

But cheese is cheese.

For me, at least.

Before long, Feta became mozzarella became butter became sour cream became homemade whipped cream three times a week became

OUT OF CONTROL.

And I am pretty sure my body has suffered because of it.

True, I’m getting old. And true, I live on a kibbutz — home to every environmental allergen imaginable.

But I have to believe that the dairy (and the sugar!) are playing a big role in how downhill my physical health seems to have gone in the past two years. (I’ll spare you the details.)

So, in honor of Shavuout this year, in honor of the dietary laws passed down from generation to generation, I am pledging to not pass anything this year. Nothing foul at least.

I’m giving up dairy again.

It won’t be easy. I’ve grown really fond of homemade whipped cream.

And this guy.

goat cheese guy

* * * *

(Follow my last hurrah on Instagram )

Peanut-flavored twist of fate, or a miracle?

I’m writing this while it’s still very fresh.

Because I feel like I need to process it all.

Earlier this week I was engaged in a heated discussion in the comments section of a fellow blogger and fellow mom of food allergic kids about how Israel doesn’t take food allergies seriously.

Earlier this morning, I blogged about how frustrated I feel with the Israel medical care system.

And then, like a freak thunderstorm that knocks down the tree that just misses your house, the Universe decided it wanted to tell me something.

I think. Or else it’s all a very very strange coincidence.

Around lunch time, I got a call from my husband. He was on his way home with the boys from school. The 9 year old had just thrown up all over the car. My husband then told me that my son had eaten a candy at school and started feeling sick after. He was afraid it had nuts in it.

But he wasn’t sure. My son hadn’t read the ingredients.

Our smart son; our careful son; the one who has had now 7 years of experience living with food allergies… he slipped up.

Of course, one can understand. It was a sucking candy. Not a chocolate bar. Not a cake or a cookie or a brownie. An orange-flavored hard candy. At least that’s what it looked like and even tasted like to him.

In all our years of reading ingredients, we have never once ever come upon a hard sucking candy with nuts in it (save for coconut oil, which he is not allergic to.)

I think he got complacent. And, like any 9 year old boy, careless.

Maybe we got complacent. We stopped nudging him.

Either way, today, after years of wondering what it would be like to look anaphylaxis  in the face, I did. Smack dab.

This wasn’t my son’s first allergic reaction. He’s had three reactions in the past — one last Spring even to a new food he wasn’t allergic to in the past — but all have been treated  successfully with Benadryl, an antihistamine. It’s the first course of treatment according to our allergists, unless his lips swell or he can’t breathe.

Today, his lips weren’t swollen and he could still breathe, but yet, he was not right. I could tell. Kinda. But not for certain.

As soon as he got home, I could see he was pale. He also couldn’t breathe from his nose. And while he could still breathe from his mouth, his throat hurt and his voice sounded like he had something stuck in there.

I wasn’t quite sure he “needed” the epipen. But I held on to it as I evaluated him. I looked in his throat. It looked swollen.

I had just given myself the epipen a few months before for what I had thought was allergy but turned out to be food poisoning. At the time, I told myself, “It was good you did. Now you know it doesn’t really hurt. Now you will really give it to the kids if they need it and not worry about it hurting.” (Ask any parent of kids with food allergies and most will tell you they worry about having to give the epipen to their kid. “I don’t want to give him the shot. It will hurt.”)

I looked at my son and asked, “Do you feel I should give you the epipen?”

He was scared. He hesitated. He didn’t say, No. But he couldn’t say, Yes.

I said yes for him.

I reminded him that it wouldn’t hurt. It would help.

He was brave. Very brave, as I stuck the epipen in his thigh.

Thank goodness, I did. Later, after we took him to the doctor; after the doctor checked his vitals; after he gave him steroids as a follow up treatment; he told us, we did the right thing.

And it was only after that, my husband pulled out one of the wrapped candies the teacher had given us to show us what he ate. Another child had handed them out during recess when the teacher wasn’t there.

The candy said Praline on the wrapper.

Pralines are not nuts, themselves. They are a nut-flavored candy or cookie.  It wasn’t part of our vocabulary … the one we’ve always used when training him on what to do around food. My son didn’t know what a praline was. Because it’s a nut candy, he’s never eaten it. Also, it’s not something children generally eat in anywhere in America I’ve ever been (except Georgia, now that I think about it). My son has never seen anything like that.

Of course, if he had read the ingredients written in teeny tiny crumpled up type on the wrapper, he would have seen the word “peanut.” We did.

I can’t be angry at my son. I am too thankful right now he is alive.

I am thankful he trusted his body and got help right away.

I’m thankful that his teacher called us immediately as soon as she heard he had eaten the candy.

I’m thankful my husband happened to be nearby with the car and could get him from school.

I’m thankful I had the courage to give him the epipen even though I wasn’t sure he “needed” it.

I’m thankful there was a clinic open to see my child (even though the first two ones we called were closed and no one available to answer the phones).

I’m thankful we had friends around to help us with our other kids.

I’m thankful traffic on the one lane road to the clinic wasn’t extraordinarily slow as it often can be.

I’m thankful the doctor on call at the clinic happened to be our pediatrician, who knew us, and who we felt comfortable with.

I’m happy he took us seriously. I’m happy the nurse and the receptionist at the clinic also took us very seriously. I’m happy the teacher (who called us later to check on him and express her concern) and the children in my son’s class all took it seriously.

Of course, I am most thankful he is sitting next to me right now bugging me to get off the computer and get him a popsicle.

He is ok.

He is ok.

And, perhaps, there are Israelis who take food allergies seriously.

After today, I imagine some of them will likely take them more seriously than they did before.

I’m not suggesting the turn of events was all the work of something supernatural or magical. Or that someone or something was really trying to send me a message.

(They do take it seriously.)

(He is in safe hands.)

(You will know what to do.)

(He will be okay.)

But, one way or another?

Message received.