April McGowan


I studied interior design in college. I had to learn very quickly to communicate my ideas visually with the class—and especially to the instructor. We learned to draw in perspective, to use vanishing points to make what was really a one dimensional view look three dimensional. I grew especially good at drawing from the top down (as if you’d taken the roof off the building and looked inside like, like taking the top off a dollhouse). But, that came with a lot of practice and many mistakes.

We recently took our first trip as a family who is limited by food allergies. Two years ago, we were not that family. We spent one year in diagnosis with my son, and we’ve had one year to adapt to a lifestyle that is not friendly to our day to day conveniences of food.  Or inconveniences—depends on how you look at it. And that is the point of my post.

We haven’t yet taken on bigger vacations, but we started with a two-day trip to a family member’s house. We made sure that the grocery stores in the area had some of the safe foods we depend upon, and then went shopping to buy everything else we needed. We packed our pans and cutting boards and utensils (we have to be that careful with his diet). I made safe snacks for the ride and had meals prepared so when we stopped we could eat.

Traveling like this does NOT come naturally to me. I grew up stopping at restaurants when we were hungry, along with the rest of the population. We now look at fast food joints like flashy rest stops. We can’t eat there—we just use their…amenities.

I’ve quit minding the wrappers and crumbles left behind from our eating in the car (our safe haven when it’s raining and there are no places to stop. Please, don’t look through the window of my car too carefully!).

I do have to admit, that on the way home, after what was really a lovely trip, I did look ever so longingly at the families heading into those cozy side spots for a nice leisurely meal—especially when it was 8PM and we still had to unpack and THEN cook dinner when we got back.

We are learning to live outside what other folks have to do. But, we are managing and beginning to see things from new angles and make new routines and habits. With practice and prayer, we are seeing advantages like listening to books on CD while we eat lunch in our car, rather than slipping on the greasy floors of a fast food restaurant (but that’s another story). God has a hand at changing our hearts, and instead of looking with dread at these challenges, I am looking at things from a new perspective.

Philippians 4: 4-7,19 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

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Ener-G Foods (my new ally)

We had an ALMOST bad experience the other day.  That’s not proper English, is it?  But, that best describes it!  We have used many Ener-G brand products over the past year.  Breads, egg replacer (I prefer flax meal now–seems to make things rise better), crackers, pretzels (yummy sesame seed covered ones) and the like.  We can only get their brand through our local grocer, and the items they carry are all gluten, dairy and egg free.  So, when I glimpsed their brand on Amazon, and saw the word “donuts” I didn’t hesitate to order.  I’m not a baker (except cookies)–and when I fry foods, they often come out oily, so I avoid frying.  Anyway, my son has asked many times if gluten free, egg free, dairy free donuts exist, and until that day, I didn’t think so.  So I ordered a case immediately.  They arrived to much fan fare, and I set about opening a pack and trying one.  My husband tried one too, and said, “I taste lemon.”  So I read the ingredients, and didn’t see lemon, but DID see egg whites.    WHAT???

My son took this disappointment better than I did, but he was still sad.  I felt badly because my mistake of not reading ingredients  had nearly caused a catastrophe, and I felt I had let him down.  You hate to see your kids disappointed by something they had their hopes set high on.  Needless to say, I contacted the company and suggested they change their label, or add the word “EGG” in the title of the product, or main description.  Or at least BOLD it on the package.  When our local store carries about 20 different items by this company and NONE of them have egg or dairy, it’s a shock, let me tell you.    I gave our case of donuts to a friend whose daughter is allergic to wheat, she was very happy,  and continued to feel badly until I got my response from Ener-G.

They were very apologetic, and assured me they’d take my concerns seriously.  Their representative explained they used eggs in very few products, and they were trying to phase them out with flax meal.  Some customers didn’t like that they were phasing eggs out–it was changing the flavor of their favorite foods in a way they didn’t like, but Ener-G feels strongly about eliminating the top 8 food allergens.  They were very sympathetic too, which I didn’t expect.  Often times when I write to a company and explain how hard it is to find safe foods, they leave me with the feeling like, “well, that’s your problem, we need to make a profit.”  Ener-G is NOT that kind of company.  They seem to have an empathy for what it is like to have to consider every food item that goes into your child’s mouth as a potential hazard;  To understand that eating food isn’t something that everyone can take for granted.    And let me tell you, when a company is empathetic and listens and tries their best to help–they gain loyal customers FAST.

Ener-g is sending my son a complementary box of brownies–gluten, egg and diary free–and for that, I’m very thankful.  If you would like to contact them and support them in their complete elimination of egg and dairy from their line, you can reach them here.

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That’s not cheese?

If you’ve ever shopped for a cheese replacement because of dairy allergies, you were probably as dismayed as I was to find that most all the products out there-soy cheese, rice cheese, almond cheese-contain DAIRY in some form.  Why eat those other cheeses, you wonder?  We did too.  They certainly don’t taste all that great.  And most are NOT low in fat.  That’s a mystery I still haven’t solved.  Onward and upward! I searched and searched and heard rumor of ONE company that did indeed, make a dairy free, gluten free ‘cheese’ replacement.

Yesterday, much to my joy, Daiya Cheese landed at our local health food store.  I’ve been waiting for months after reading rave reviews on the product.  Previously, they only sold commercially, and as those companies used shared machinery with wheat, we couldn’t try them out.  So, where was I?  Oh yeah, so I got the call (I was on the waiting list) and raced to the store.

Yesterday we made pizza.  My kids have been without this enjoyment for nearly a year now, and have their hopes set high on Daiya as well.  I was hesitant, but hopeful.  We made a lovely gluten free crust, layered the ‘mozzarella’ shreds and ‘cheddar’ shreds on top of one, and the same with the additional hamburger-seasoned-like- sausage on the other.  Dinner was served and I heard, “oh mom, this is so yummy!” many many times.  Today we made turkey melts, and cheese fries (not healthy, but fun) and again heard applause and, “oh mom, I’m so glad you found this!”  Nothing warms my heart more than to be appreciated!

The breakdown:  The ‘cheese’ is dairy free, casein free, cert. vegan, cholesterol and gluten free.  It’s made from tapioca flour, and a mixture of oils.  It MELTS.  I couldn’t put my finger on the flavor exactly, but my daughter did.  She said, “tastes a lot like Cheetos.”  That sums it up pretty well!

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