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We Won a Certified Miracles Seal!

Over the past few years, Bottle Snugglers have won several industry awards, which we are very proud of. Some have Mommy testers, some have Baby Planners and their clients as testers. Either way, we get great feedback on the usefulness, durability and cute factor of our baby bottle holders.

Recently, I received a phone call from Miracle Industries, makers of the Miracle Blanket(R) swaddling blanket, that they had started a new Seal of Approval program called Certified Miracles(TM).  This program is unique in that you cannot submit your product for review, nor can you pay for the privilege. Then they told me that Bottle Snugglers has been submitted by a blogger, and that we had won the Certified Miracles Seal! The website launched today, and we are thrilled to be a part of the action.

What a nice surprise and a testament to talking about products that you love and that really serve a purpose. I didn’t even know about the program, but they had heard of Bottle Snugglers and liked them so much that they put us in the very first batch of Certified Miracle Seal winners. We are honored to be in a category with some other great products that make Mommies’ lives a little easier.

Definitely check out the Certified Miracles website for some suggestions on other baby products and their very helpful Recall Alerts page.

Back to School with Food Allergies

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking out for Moms of allergic kids by writing an article for our local newspaper, The Florida Times Union. I had pitched a story to the Health section editor about the challenges of going back to school if you are a child with food allergies (or a parent of that child), and the editor thought it would be more effective if I wrote about my experiences in my own words.

I have said many times here and otherwise that the most important characteristic that adults or kids can have is compassion. We all have different lives and challenges, and it is impossible to accurately judge someone else’s decisions from the outside. Plus, it’s none of our business, really. :)

This goes for parenting style, breast feeding vs. bottle and the duration of each, working outside the home vs. not, home schooling vs. public/private school, and the list goes on.  This also extends to relating to people with medical needs, whether they are visible (a wheel chair, for example) or not (a child with a life threatening food allergy.)

In writing this article, my goal was to show that my 5-year-old, Max, is a healthy, vibrant, and smart Kindergartener, but he does require a little bit of special care in the “keeping dangerous foods away from him” department. My hope is, that by seeing Max as a human, rather than a statistic, parents of non-allergic kids will understand why some classrooms are peanut-free or some schools don’t allow certain foods.

The article is copied below, and this is the link to it online, if you prefer. I hope that I take every opportunity to show compassion for others, as I wish it shown to me and my family. 

Allergies: Sometimes deadly danger lurks in the most common of foods

  JON M. FLETCHER/ The Times-Union

JON M. FLETCHER/ The Times-Union

  August 24, 2011 – 12:00am

Allergies: Sometimes deadly danger lurks in the most common of foods

When most people look at my 5-year-old son, Max, they see a precocious, smart and fun-loving child who loves to explore his world. Often, it’s not until there’s a class party, play date or other food-centered event that he’s exposed as “different” from his friends.


Because Max has severe food allergies to peanuts and eggs and minor allergies to tree nuts.

As the school year begins, Max is entering kindergarten in a new school, and my husband and I have been in overdrive planning, conferencing, researching and list-making to ensure that Max’s condition is well known at the school and that he’s not singled out because of it.

After all, lunch time, snack time, class parties and field trips are some of the most fun times at school. As parents, we don’t want him to miss out on anything because of his food allergies. But like most things in life, it takes a lot of teamwork to achieve this goal, and strong partnerships with teachers, school administrators and parents of his classmates, too.

Even if your child doesn’t have a food allergy, you likely know a child, or even an adult, who does. A recent study funded by the Food Allergy Initiative and published in the journal Pediatrics, found that 1 in 13 American children under age 18 have one or more food allergies. That equals to 8 percent or nearly 6 million kids in the United States, and the most common allergens are peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts and eggs.

Food allergy reactions can be minor irritations (rash, headache, tingling in the mouth and indigestion), or they can be severe, such as anaphylaxis (throat closing, wheezing, vomiting, loss of consciousness and possible death).

Max’s allergies to peanuts and eggs are severe, meaning if he accidentally ate peanut butter or egg salad, he could die. This is a serious matter that we take great care in discussing with anyone who cares for Max. No one would hurt him on purpose, but when you learn just how many foods contain eggs or egg products, you can see the need for hyper vigilance.

For example, eggs or egg derivatives are contained in many types of pasta, ice cream, bread, cookies, cakes, mayonnaise and salad dressing, and that’s not even counting peanut- or tree-nut containing foods.

Forget eating out in restaurants; even the most well-meaning employee could accidentally slice a tomato with the same knife that touched mayonnaise, and we would be on the way to the ER.

We found Max’s allergies the hard way. When he was a year old, I gave him a bite of egg white, and 30 minutes later (a delayed reaction), he was turning blue and not breathing, and we called 9-1-1.

Thankfully, Max vomited, which got most of the egg out of his system, because we didn’t have a drop of Benadryl in the house, nor did we know what it was used for. Subsequently, we see an allergist every year. And, in the four years since his reaction, we’ve learned how to prevent a life-threatening situation from reoccurring, even though there have been some accidents over the years.

Thankfully, none of these incidents required using the EpiPen, an auto-injector shot of epinephrine that helps to reverse allergic reaction symptoms, but still, they were serious enough to remind us how careful we must be on his behalf.

It’s all about Max

When it comes to birthday parties, I call the mom before and find out what kind of decorations she will put on the cake and what she will serve for lunch. Most of the time, it’s pizza, and if your local pizzeria makes calzones, they likely use an egg wash on the top. So I make pizza at home, along with a cupcake decorated as closely like the birthday cake as possible, and Max takes his own lunch and snacks to the party. There are many alternatives in the grocery store now – both for home baking and prepackaged – for people with food allergies, so this is getting easier each year.

For vacations, I buy enough groceries for Max for the duration of the trip and, we must have a hotel room with a mini-fridge and a microwave. For example, when we go to a theme park, we eat breakfast at the hotel, and carry a backpack with Max’s lunch and snacks for the day. It’s not fun, but it’s better than trying to find suitable foods for him on the go.

What does it look like?

According to physician Sunil Joshi, vice president of Family Allergy Asthma Consultants, after someone gets stung by a bee, wasp or fire ant, some swelling can be expected, but if there’s extreme swelling, hives, coughing and/or wheezing, that could be a telltale sign of a severe allergic reaction, and rapid medical attention is needed.

The signs of a food allergic reaction can be similar.

“Most of the time, a serious reaction will be noticeable in the skin,” Joshi said. “Symptoms can include eczema [dry, itchy red skin], rash, hives or lip, tongue or eyelid swelling. In severe cases, the reaction can include respiratory symptoms, such as throat tightness, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, vomiting, disorientation and even becoming unresponsive.”

Keep in mind, some allergic reactions could be delayed, therefore, tracking the last half hour or so of food exposure to insects, etc., becomes crucial to getting the right care.

Preparing for school

A new school year brings with it plenty of food-centered events. All are fun, but not without anxiety-producing for a mom of a food-allergic child.

Some children can have a reaction if they simply breathe peanut dust or if something slightly touches their skin. For parents of those kids, try requesting for the classroom to be peanut-free. It is important to make your child’s teachers aware, as well as the principal, school nurse, and any other caregiver who may interact with him during the day.

Always have an EpiPen and Benadryl in your child’s backpack and another set that stays in the classroom, and be sure that all know how to properly use it.

Be proactive with your child’s school’s policy on medical needs: Do teachers know how to use an EpiPen? Do they know how to spot an allergic reaction? Is there a nurse on campus? What is the teacher or school plan to ensure that food-allergic kids are protected without being isolated? One day when I visited Max at his preschool during snack time, he was sitting at a desk away from the group. That was a sad sight for a mom. After discussing with the teacher, he was able to sit with the group, while his teacher sat next to him to ensure his safety. Not only is planning ahead vital, but communicating with your child’s teachers is equally important.

When Max’s class had a party, I offered to make the cupcakes. Doing this assured me he would have a safe treat with his friends.


It’s easy at times to focus on how someone else’s issue affects you, but food-allergic kids, and their parents, should be treated with the same respect you expect from others.

Food-allergic children are hard to spot. They look healthy and are not considered “sick,” as a child with a more visible health issue would be. Some parents are quick to complain about why their child cannot bring their favorite peanut butter sandwich to school.

Please remember two things: peanut butter, boiled egg or whatever the allergen, is off limits only for one meal for your child. Unlike a food-allergic child, he can eat it for breakfast, afternoon snack, dinner and all day on weekends. Also, this is a little person with feelings and a life-threatening health issue. It’s more than a tummy ache; it’s a trip to the ER. Plus, food-allergic children already feel different from their friends because of it.

I expect there will be bumps on the road to Max’s school years, but I feel confident as he enters elementary school that he will continue to be cared for, safely and part of the group.

Jennifer Marko is President of Bottle Snugglers, a baby product company based in Jacksonville.

What do you think?

Recently, I was featured in the Florida Times Union (Jacksonville, FL) in Skirt!, a section that focuses on women’s issues. I have reprinted it here, and I have included a link to the newspaper. Maybe you can use the questions to help get to know your friends better. Might be fun!
24/7 with Jennifer Marko: Busy business-mom never says never
By Tracy Jones
Jennifer Marko is owner of Bottle Snugglers, a Jacksonville-based business specializing in stuffed animals that hold baby bottles, giving moms at least one free hand to do something else.
Skirt! recently got a glimpse into Marko’s life as a local business owner and mom.
My passion right now: Reading biographies of people I admire.
Words I live by: Always reserve the right to change your mind.
Three items on my nightstand: “Entrepreneur” magazine, “Inventing a Nation” by Gore Vidal and a family picture.
The oddest job I’ve held: The job that had the most unpredictable range of activities was being the public information officer for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. I loved it.
My life in three words or less: Hectic but fulfilling.
Favorite clothing line: A great Jimmy Choo can make any outfit my favorite.
Signature scent: Cerruti 1881.
If I could live anywhere: I love where I live.
My nickname: J.J. It’s from my childhood.
I can’t live without: Pajama days at home with my husband and son.
Favorite restaurant: Medure.
My muse: My 5-year-old Max. He lives to have fun.
I never want to: Regret a missed opportunity.
Right now I’m reading: “A. Lincoln,” a biography of President Lincoln, and “Women of True Grit.”
One item always in my purse: Wet wipes — every mom has them.
My secret ambition: That’s a secret.
The food I could eat every day: Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream.
The food I never want to eat again: Never say never.
I still can’t get the hang of: Skating — ice or roller.
Favorite flower: Iris.
My workout: Ashtanga Yoga, though I’m a bit rusty.
Dream vacation: The Orient Express.
My pet: Moses, a Devon Rex cat.
Where I shop locally: Whole Foods and Sephora.
My desk: is covered with packing materials for a big shipment.
I wish I’d known: That just because someone has more experience or speaks louder, it doesn’t mean they are smarter or more capable than you.
I’d like to learn to: Speak fluent Spanish.
Early bird or night owl? Early Bird.
Always … be compassionate.
Never … assume your way is the only way.
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