Sardines and Food Allergies

This past weekend I took our Princess up to my alma mater where her sister is also a student for their annual event, where alumnae are encouraged to bring young women of all ages to visit as prospective students.  I enjoy it immensely as it has become something of a mini-reunion with fellow classmates, and it culminates in a scholarship fund-raising theater event–STUNT–which I loved when I was there and still love now.

Our Princess has enjoyed going for the past two years, and this year was no exception.  She had her “bag” packed by the middle of last week and woke up on Saturday SO excited.  She knows her way around campus very well, and she has the routine of the day down by now.  However, they did something new this year as an icebreaker.  The younger set of students played a game of “Sardines,” which has best been explained to me as a game of reverse hide and seek.  One person hides, and as you find her, you join her in her hiding spot, until there is one person left seeking all of you.

My girl ditched me and her bags faster than you can say “Golden Heart” (the class she will be at Wesleyan) and headed out for the game.  I was tempted to follow her out into the hall, but I didn’t.  I let her play and found myself holding my breath.  Worrying about how close she could potentially be with others who might have just eaten some of her allergens made me nervous.  I sat there, worrying and yet amazed at how eager she was to go play with these other girls, some of whom she sees once a year and some whom she had never met.  She had a great time, and all was well.  Then it was on to the mini-STUNT scripting activity, and after we took a break during the campus tours.  Later we joined all the others by the fountain for supper (we always brown bag these events), and then it was time for a pep rally and off to the main event in the auditorium.

A great night.  Aub was a part of the team who put the whole thing together, and they did a fantastic job.

On our way home after 11 p.m. that night, I asked our Princess what her favorite part of the day had been. I was sure it was going to be our visit to the campus store or her beloved Golden Hearts winning the STUNT Cup, but no.

“It was when we played Sardines in Taylor Hall, and then later when we played a modified version around the fountain after supper.”

Bless.

Y’all.

Of course.  Her two favorite times were when I wasn’t hovering.  Obsessing over clean hands and what she might be exposed to in the midst of a day outside our norm.

Bless her.  Her two favorite times were both when she had handed me the epipen case she wears cross body style whenever we leave home.  The two times when she let loose and was just another kid running around with friends and some who will be.

It’s hard, isn’t it?  This whole parenting thing and knowing when to let go and when to be on guard.  Add in a life-threatening allergy (or any number of other health issues), and the difficulty level in being a good, balanced parent grows exponentially.

I’m glad she had a great time.  I’m thankful she was safe.  I don’t know what the answer is, from one situation to the next–how vigilant to be without being obsessed and way overprotective.  There’s no precedent here for me, and I’m just doing the best I can in any situation we find ourselves in.  It was bittersweet to be reminded that she only wants what the rest of us want–to fit in and be a part of a good time and not be reminded of what weighs us down.

May we all have those precious moments.

Love to all.

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For more information about food allergies and research, go to http://www.foodallergy.org

 

 

Butter, Sugar, and Wise Words from My Daddy

One of my friends posted on Facebook today about something that inevitably happens to many of us during the holidays.

She was preparing a dessert, and she realized she didn’t have one very important ingredient.  It happens.  More often than not around here, if you want to know the truth.  When I wrote her that I hoped all would work out, she shared that she had already looked up how to adapt the recipe on-line and was going to give it a shot.

That’s when I told her my Daddy’s mantra about cooking.

She replied that he was wise and must have been very good to have in the kitchen.

She was correct on both of those.

Not that my Daddy cooked much.  I don’t remember that happening much at all actually.  He could make a sandwich like nobody’s business and the way he slathered peanut butter on vanilla wafers, saltines, pound cake, whatever–well, he had it down to an art.

But cooking?  I do seem to remember a pan of burnt toast when Mama was at the hospital having my baby brother.  But then–maybe that was the excitement and distraction of the birth of his fourth child and not so much an indication of his skill set.

No, my Daddy was great to have in the kitchen because he knew just what to say.

Or not say.

After all, his mantra was based on my Mama’s self-doubts about her creative concoctions in the kitchen.  On more than one occasion when she’d start questioning what she had thrown together or how this or that would turn out, Daddy would say, “Look, you put enough butter and sugar in anything, it’s going to be good.”

This would make Mama laugh.  The grace in those words could work magic.

Never mind that they were TRUE.

I made the Poor Man’s Pecan Pie for today, which is very similar to the Mock Pecan Pie I made in June.  It’s the one with no nuts at all.  Or pretzels.  I saw a lot of Faux Pecan Pie pictures today–the ones made with pretzels instead of pecans, and they really looked delicious.  So yes, we’ll be trying that one soon too.

We took the pie over to Mess Cat’s for our family Thanksgiving dinner together.  When I finally cut into it, it was a bit soupy in the middle still.  Of course it was.  Because I FOLLOWED THE RECIPE.  Last time, I had to substitute for the Karo syrup I didn’t have, and it turned out beautifully.

Still the one who requested it was pleased.  “Mama, it is so good.  I like it better than the last one, ” Aub said.  (The last one which was perfection itself and not soupy at all?  Huh.  Okay then.)

That was when I thought of my Daddy.  And how much he would have loved this pie.  Because when you put enough butter and sugar in anything…..

Tonight I am thankful for hearing my Daddy’s words in my heart just when I needed them. I am grateful for the example he set in loving the cook and appreciating what was put on the plate.  He indeed had a grateful heart, and he let my Mama know it.  He and I shared an affinity for the sweet things, and I sure do miss bringing him sweet, buttery things that would make him smile.

Hoping you all had a day of sharing all the best stories and of merry memory-making with those you hold dear.

Love to all.

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Hats and Capes and Striped Socks, Oh My!

Today was the culmination of over two months of “I’m gonna be a…..” and “Do you think we can find a ______ so I can be _______ for Halloween?”

Two months.

And now it’s done.  Tomorrow I will put away my bargain jack o’lanterns and the leftover treats until next year.  (That’s the beauty of the Teal Pumpkin Project and non-food treats–the leftovers keep beautifully!)  The costumes will be washed and hung up or tossed in the dress up bin.

Our Princess knew pretty much from the get go that she wanted to be a witch.  She had a dress that we got last year when she thought she might want to be Bellatrix Lestrange.  Now was all about accessorizing.  Some bright striped socks with WITCH written down the side.  A fun little broom and gloves with long fingernails on them.  She was so excited she got dressed up by 2 pm.  Cooter, on the other hand, has been most indecisive.  This was the year we discovered that we didn’t need to purchase him the one piece whole body suits anymore.  Each one we tried pulled in areas that don’t need pulling.  In the end, it was decided he’d either wear one of his old Star Wars dress up outfits or this one piece Superman top/cape thing or–and this was my favorite–be a Hobbit.  He asked about being one two months ago, and I thought that would be so much fun.  I even found a top for him to wear and planned to cut an old pair of khakis just so, but no.  He was most comfortable wearing a t-shirt and jeans with his Superman top/cape on.

And so it was.

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The magic of hats and capes–so much fun!

There is something so magical about dressing up and becoming someone else for a night, isn’t there?  There must be or else this holiday would have long become nothing but a blip in the history books.  It’s about imaginations and taking on a different form.  I even got into the fun of it this year.

I am so in love with these socks, y'all!  All three of them. *sigh*

I am so in love with these socks, y’all! All three of them. *sigh*

I love Raggedy Ann.  It goes way back.  So when I found a beautiful brand new, unopened Raggedy Ann costume at the GW Boutique, I got it.  I still wasn’t sure if I was going to dress up, but it was too fabulous to leave there.  When I got it home and opened everything up, I was amazed by the detail–the dress and apron, the bloomers, and a hat with red yarn hair.  There were even socks–only, of course, there were THREE and not the proper two because Someone has a sense of humor and knows my frustration with socks who’ve lost their mates.  And so this one came with one what had done just that–lost its mate.  *sigh*

After Mess Cat, Leroy, and Shaker got here to join in the fun, I finally decided that YES, I would dress up.  After all, Halloween is once a year, and a year’s a long time to regret something that would be so easy to make happen.

And so I did.

And I had a blast.

My favorite moments were seeing the very small ones who took in my costume and were in awe and then smiled and waved.  LOVE.  Absolutely precious.  I was like a rock star.  For toddlers.  Not too bad for a GW-on-sale costume.  As for the older ones, they smiled sometimes too.  One even asked, “Are you that girl from Wendy’s?”  Sigh. “No, I’m a doll.”  “Ohhhh, one of those Lalaloopsy’s?”  Umm, no.  Oh well.  Did I mention I rocked it with the younger crowd?

Tonight there were also other special moments.  The little Peter Pan who came up and when I spoke to him, his Mama said, “Oh, he doesn’t talk much.”  Because of compassionate friends who have shared the stories of sweet children who are non-verbal and how they experience Halloween, I was able to talk with him and hopefully ease his parents’ concerns that someone would say “No treat for you until you say the magic words–trick or treat!”  He was so sweet, and his parents deserve an extra hug.

I saw families dressed up together.  The whole Incredible family stopped by.  A barista stopped by who couldn’t have been more than eight.  I LOVED her clever costume.  She said it was her own idea.  There were more than a few folks with those scary skeletal masks paired with a cute costume.  Two young boys wore those really scary masks and walked around slowly, saying nothing.  That was a bit eerie until I heard the voice of a young boy say, “Trick or treat! Happy Halloween!”

No.  All is not as it seems on Halloween.

This guy was a little--okay, a lot--scary until he reached in his basket and offered some treats.

This guy was a little–okay, a lot–scary until he reached in his basket and offered some treats.

As I wrapped up the night and was about to turn off my porch light, a few more young people came.  They were older, and I was happy to see them.  Earlier today at the pumpkin patch a father stood with three children, an older teen and two who were young teens.  They were all about the costumes and pictures and the fun and I wondered if this was their first experience ever with something like this.  I often think about that and wonder if that is the case when a teenager or even young adult comes up on my porch with a jovial, “Trick or Treat!”  Is it that they didn’t get to do this when they were young?  Or are they, like I was this year, enchanted by the magic and the mystery and the fun and just really need to find that inner child for a night?

Either way, treat it is.

My last two visitors were anywhere from 16 to 18. They had on jeans and t-shirts and tiny little witch hats on their heads.  “Could we have just one piece of candy?” one asked, almost apologetically.  The other shared, “I’m sorry we are so late.  We were at the house, giving out candy, and so we didn’t have time for a costume or anything, we’re just out here like this.”

Oh bless.  I think they were adorable.  And they looked like young people cloaked in kindness to me.

And since I didn’t have any candy to share, I gave them a slap bracelet AND a wall ninja.  Because I was really impressed.  (And I felt bad that I didn’t have the one thing they had asked for.)

Tonight I’m thankful for all the little faces I got to see and meet tonight.  Staying home on Halloween and handing out goodies is my favorite part of the whole night. I’m glad that I went ahead and broke my costume in this year.  Aub says Halloween is the only time I should wear it, but it was really comfortable, and I felt pretty awesome in it, and a year’s a long, long time to wait, don’t you think?

Love and magical wishes to all.

Living Art and the Day We Had

Today was a day of all the things.

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It actually started last night.  As I sat on the bleachers watching my oldest swim for the last night before the bubble goes up over the pool for the winter, I got a notification on my phone.  The Auvi-Q, our epinephrine auto-injector that could potentially save the life of my child with food allergies, was recalled.  At first only certain lot numbers, and then the word came down–ALL.

For a few moments, I could not breathe.  The leftovers from her meal that she’d barely touched at the restaurant before swim practice were waiting for her after practice.  Everything there was supposedly safe, but now–without our safety net–I was suddenly ill at the thought of letting her eat it.

I called the pharmacy and found out they were not even aware yet.  But the pharmacist was compassionate and took time to look it up on-line and even offered to call our allergist for a prescription for the Epi-pen first thing this morning.

It was the best we could do.

And so it had to be.

Last night was filled with anxiety, fearing all the what ifs, without that safety net.  All of the food in my house–and I am a very careful shopper–suddenly seemed risky.

But we finally got everyone settled and in the bed, and this morning was a new day.  I called the allergist myself and was assured they were on it.  I started to breathe a little easier.

Then our Princess said she didn’t feel very good.  Sure enough, she has run a low-grade fever most of the day.  She just had some sort of weird allergy-related weekend virus two weeks ago.  And here it is, it would seem, back for another visit.

By midday, Cooter was also down for the count with a bad headache that caused stomach problems or vice versa.  In the middle of it, it hardly mattered.  I can get debilitating headaches from time to time, and it broke my heart to see my baby hurting like that.  He spent most of the hours between 3 and 8 sleeping it off, bless him.

In the midst of all of this, our Princess’ best bud, a sweet girl who moved into the neighborhood over the summer, came over with her big blue ball (they all love throwing it around in the cul-de-sac) to see if her friend could play.  When I told her they were both sick, sympathy and compassion was evident in her eyes.  When Miss Sophie heard her voice, she came running to the front door.  Our Princess’ friend J is the pet whisperer.  She promptly sat down on the front porch and started loving on Sophie, who ate it up.  I guess she and her needs had taken a backseat to my sick babies today, bless her.  As J told me about her day and about her favorite dogs of years past, I took a moment and sat down on the floor just inside my front door and listened.  As I sat there looking at her sweet face, this child whom I prayed for–a good friend for our Princess, I felt as though it was a sacred moment.  This young girl was sharing her heart with me.  The joy of having a pet who understood her and the pain of losing her in recent years.  Sweet and funny stories.

I wanted to sit there forever.  That she found me worthy to hear her stories–that put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.  She is such a love.  She is a beautiful soul, and I’m thankful for her in our lives.

Not long after she left, Cooter’s buddy came by with the oyster crackers his sweet Mama had offered to pick up at the store for us.  They are the one thing Cooter will eat after having a stomach bug, and we were all out.  As I took the bag from him, telling him thank you, I felt something cold.  I looked up, puzzled.  “Oh, there’s chicken salad from Shane’s in there,” he said.  He shrugged and smiled that precious smile of his.  BLESS.  Being thought of and cared for like that–well, it took my breath away, and when it returned, I breathed out much of the weight of the day.  Chicken salad.  Being thought of.  Thank you.

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Later this evening, I was closing up the house.  I had opened up the windows, hoping that the fresh air would help get rid of whatever this “mess” is that keeps getting ahold of my young’uns.  Enough is enough.  It was a lovely day to have the windows open too.  As I went to close the window in my bedroom, I looked out.  The sky was the most delicate blend of pink and yellow and the trees in the back were just gorgeous.  I stopped and actually breathed in and out and gave thanks for the painting before my eyes.  Living art–our Creator is good at that.

Tonight I am thankful for replacement epi-pens and the ability to get them quickly. Not all of the allergy Mamas are so fortunate, and I hold them in my heart and in the Light tonight as I am able to rest a little easier than I did last night.  I give thanks for the most wonderful neighbors that anyone could ask for–surprise visits on the front porch in the quiet of the afternoon and surprise gifts of chicken salad, never mind the text messages checking on us and grocery store acquisitions that make our life easier–so lucky to be doing life with these good folks.  Most of all I give thanks for living art–the trees at the beginning of fall, a sunset through the woods, the look of compassion in a young girl’s eyes, and the shrug and grin of a gift offering young fella.  All beautiful, all life-giving.  I am thankful.  And humbled.  So much more than I deserve.

Grace.  I’m thankful for grace.

Love and grace to all.

My Anxiety, Real and Without a Filter

Wednesday is trash pickup day.

It is also “Nightmare on Our Street” for our mail carrier.

A cul-de-sac with empty trash cans all scattered hither and yon.

Yes.  A tee-total mess some weeks.

So yesterday morning as Miss Sophie and I had our morning constitutional, I stopped to move a couple of my neighbors’ trash cans out of the way, so hopefully our mail carrier wouldn’t have to leave her vehicle to deliver the mail.  (Or worse, just not deliver it at all–goodness, that would be catastrophic! Ha.)

When I turned back to my little fluffy girl, I saw her sniffing something on the road with intense concentration.

Oh.

No.

There on the ground were not one, but two peanut shells.  One still had a peanut inside it.

*insert expressive WORD here*

Y’all.

So often in this life and on this blog, I/we–okay–I might downplay things.  Someone asks me, “How do you keep up with what’s safe or not?  How do you keep from worrying yourself sick?  How do you know where to eat that is okay?”  I might brush it off with a “Oh we just do the best we can.” Or “I’ve learned a lot over the years.”  Or “It’s not easy, but we keep on trucking.”

But it’s rarely as peace-filled and self-assured as all that.  The reality isn’t very pretty.

The minute I saw those nuts on the ground, I flipped.  I mean, I flipped out.  I started fuming and talking to myself, to the dog, to the air– “Why?  Why?  I was just moving a trash can, WHY?!”  I wasn’t mad at Sophie, I was mad at the situation.  My brain immediately started spinning.  More than likely her snout and beard had touched the nuts, so she was now contaminated, and I had to take care of that immediately.  As our Princess was sick over the weekend, I had kept the two of them apart for a couple of days, and they were so happy to be able to play together again.  But they couldn’t now.  UGH.  Double UGH.

We went straight to the bathroom just inside our front door.  I tossed off her leash and collar and put her right in the tub.  Water running, I sudsed her up good and thoroughly, her face and her chin especially.

This was Miss Sophie’s second bath in three days, and she was not amused.

Miss Sophie Ru

Miss Sophie was not amused with so many baths so close together.  

I hated to do it, but I felt like I had no other choice.  I am sure I got water in places where water was not intended to go, bless her.  She snorted and snorted, so then I started to worry about her.  Had I damaged her?  Hurt her?  Was SHE going to be okay?

After I dried her and cuddled her a minute, all was well.  Then I was back to thinking through everything I needed to do to keep my baby girl safe.

For the rest of the day, I keep them apart.  Which wasn’t easy, as Miss Sophie likes to climb up next to our Princess while she works on her lessons.  She loves to go outside with her and her friends.  If I said “No, you have to get down, Sophie” once yesterday, I said it “eleventy-seven” times, as Cooter used to say.

And that’s a lot.

In the midst of all of this, I meant to go pick up those nuts from the road just a  few feet from our driveway.  I planned it out.  I’d use a bag over my hands like I do with “other” things I pick up from the grass, and I’d quickly dispose of them.

But I didn’t get back to it in time, and I don’t know what happened to them.

Last week was the Fair, and we walked around and had such a wonderful time.  But there were peanut shells on the ground all over the place.  And all kinds of nuts being served and eaten. It was very difficult to feel very comfortable.  Every cough or sniffle or when our Princess got really quiet, I’d pounce on her, “You okay?  You feel all right?” When Mess Cat caught her touching the bottom of her shoe for some reason, I nearly lost my mind. It was a mine field, y’all.  No wonder I was exhausted when we got home.  I try not to let her allergies limit us and what we can do, but it’s not always an easy venture.  So perhaps you can understand why the sight of a Teal Pumpkin brings me so much joy.

It says, “No worries here.”

And, “All are welcome and safe here.”

And, “Solidarity, sister.  I’ve got your back.”

Yes.  Yes.  And YES.

My point is, in this whole drawn out tale, is that quite often all is not as it seems to be.  Folks, for the most part, let you see what they want you to see.  It’s rare that folks are comfortable parading all this anxiety and frustration and discombobulation out in the open.

Because I was so discombobulated, y’all.  Food allergies are nothing to play around with, and for something freaky like this to happen…..it just reset the clock on my overprotective “on guard” status all over again.

Well, there’s good news, says my family.

Some days it just it what it is, and that’s as good as it gets. Yesterday was one of those days.  Today I lifted the ban off my girl and her puppy friend, and they were quite happy.  I still found myself watching closely, and asking that same question I know she gets tired of–“Are you okay?”

I don’t know if I will ever stop asking that one though.

Tonight I’m thankful for baths that clean, for compassionate friends, and for the beginning of a new day.  I’m thankful for the folks who get it, and I long for the day when there will be no more food allergies.

But until then, this is me.  Real and without filter.

Love to all.

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Teal is the New Orange

Last year I shared with y’all about the Teal Pumpkin Project, which can best be described on the FARE website:  “Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project™ raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”

Basically, pick up some non-food items to give out as treats on Halloween, put a teal pumpkin (or sign) to let folks know you have safe treats, and watch the smiles on the faces of children who so often are left out of special occasions.

My child with food allergies has the best attitude.  She knows that I will be sending something for her to eat at birthday parties instead of the party cake.  She gets that we can’t eat at certain places or have to skip certain activities because of risk of exposure.  She has become so proactive in self-carrying her epi-pens.  She smiles when I hand her a snack I brought even though she really, really wants that fresh-baked brownie with icing at the coffee shop.

Bless her.

And until last year, the only treats I let her have on Halloween were the ones that our sweet neighborfriend packaged up especially for her.  (They’ve been gone for two Halloweens.  We are so happy to have them back.)  Last year, another dear neighborfriend read about the Teal Pumpkin Project and put hers out and made magic happen.  The smile on my girl’s face after an evening of make-believe and visiting with friends and calling out “Trick or Treat”–priceless.  Spider rings really can bring sheer joy, y’all.

It’s funny that Halloween has become such a big deal for my children.  It wasn’t for us growing up.  We lived out in the country with no neighbors close by who really trick or treated.  I can only remember going a time or two with my friends.

But these children?  We’ve been talking about who we want to “be” for close to two months now.  I think we are all finally set and ready.  (fingers crossed)  However, our Princess was pretty sad because we really didn’t have anything decorating our yard for fall or Halloween, save our flag by the mailbox and the beautiful mum a sweet neighbor brought by “just because.”  It didn’t help matters when everyone else on our street put out something, and here we were–bare.  When her best bud’s family who have lived here just a few months went all out, my girl begged me to put something out.

Today we had some Out and Abouts, and I wanted to give Cooter one more shot at finding his “perfect” Halloween costume.  He’s found a couple he liked, but they just didn’t fit.  I decided to go by the GW “Bo0tique” (seriously, that’s what they call it–I’ve started something, y’all) where all of the Fall and Halloween things are.  They have marketed this so well that they even have a book of costume ideas you can put together using ordinary things found at your local GW.  AWESOME.  We especially loved the “selfie” one, complete with a phone, selfie stick, any outfit of choice, and an empty frame.  So fun.  (And selfies are Aub’s thing, so we think this should be her costume this year.)

While we were perusing the costumes, the decor along the wall caught my eye.  Y’all.  They had some adorable (and scary) terra cotta and other style jack o’lanterns among so much else.  Nothing was very much at all, it being the GW and all.  SCORE.  WIN.  I’m not into keeping up with the Jones’, but I do enjoy a good bargain and watching my young’uns get excited about decorating.

We all picked out something and talked about where we would put it on the porch or in the yard.  In the end, Cooter found something he liked for Halloween, and we were done.  We were all smiles.

This afternoon after some grammar and math and piano, we headed out to the yard to get to work.  We are still very much a work in progress, so please don’t judge.  Yet.  Here’s a sneak preview though.

This one has plugs in and has a bulb inside and actually works!  I might have to move it inside, as I'm having outlet issues.  But isn't he precious?

This one plugs in and has a bulb inside and actually works! I might have to move it inside, as I’m having outlet issues. But isn’t he precious?

A little scary, but once she is sitting on a bale of hay with a mum or oooooh, a cauldron would be awesome, wouldn't it?  I'm sure we've got something around here.....

A little scary, but once she is sitting on a bale of hay with a mum or oooooh, a cauldron would be awesome, wouldn’t it? I’m sure we’ve got something around here…..

So cute, Mr. Pumpkin with his top hat!  I'm thinking I will get battery tea lights to put inside at night.

So cute, Mr. Pumpkin with his top hat! I’m thinking I will get battery tea lights to put inside at night.

We are equal opportunity vine fruit carving folks.  ;)  Cooter really thought this one was clever.

We are equal opportunity cucurbit-carving folks, y’all. 😉 Cooter really thought this one was clever.

Since our Princess plans to be a witch, very appropriate.....

Since our Princess plans to be a witch, very appropriate…..

With this sweet with bubbling up good fun.....

With this sweet witch bubbling up good fun…..

Teal is the new orange.  Our teal and cream pumpkins reappear with a new sidekick or two.  We're all a little batty around here with all kinds of things coming out of our heads.  ;)

Teal is the new orange. Our teal and cream pumpkins reappear with a new sidekick or two. We’re all a little batty around here with all kinds of things coming out of our heads. 😉  (She came like that, flowers and all, isn’t she lover-ly?)

Tonight I’m thankful for all the joy of this day.  For littles who spend a great amount of time dreaming about and becoming someone else for an evening.  For my girl who takes all of the seasonal decorating so seriously and who got so excited about making it happen today.  For Cooter whose sense of humor found him howling laughing over a watermelon jack o’lantern.  For the GW where fun things can be found if only you look for them, and for the time and energy to do just that, I am grateful.

Most of all I’m thankful to live in a community where inclusion and keeping children safe is important.  The Teal Pumpkin Project just started last year, and I’ve seen articles and posts about it cross my path numerous times since the beginning of October.  If you are able to make it happen at your home this year, a huge thank you on behalf of Mamas of children with food allergies and other dietary issues everywhere.  If you can’t, that’s okay too.  Just being aware and compassionate is such a huge gift.

For more information and flyers and great stuff like that about the Teal Pumpkin Project, please click here.

Love and Happy Orange and Teal to all.

To Think I Was Worried He’d Never Read

This morning my little guy greeted me with a big hug.  He’s not always such a happy riser, so I was surprised and thankful.

When I got back from walking Miss Sophie, he came up to me with a huge smile on his face.  I assumed this was more of his good mood, and then he started to speak.  Excitedly.

“MamacanIpleasehavetheStarWarscerealforbreakfastpleasecanIplease?”

Before my “I’ve been up less than an hour, people” brain could untangle all of the words jumbled together, Cooter took a deep breath and started again.

“Mama, may I please have some of the Star Wars cereal?  It has less sugar than the cereal that she is eating,” he said, pointing to his sister, Princess.

Ummm.  Wait.  What?

Cooter has taken to reading labels.  I’m not sure if it is his interest in being a chef (although the other day he added “drug dog handler” to his list of “what I wanna be’s”) or if it’s because, as a family affected by severe food allergies, that’s what we do. Read labels.  A lot.

“Okay.  Explain.”

“Weeeeeellllll, I read the label on the Star Wars cereal and I read the label on hers…..and mine has less sugar.”

You have got to be kidding me, cereal makers of the world.  The organic stuff has more sugar than “limited time only” Star Wars cereal with marshmallow puffs?

Okay, here’s where I have to apologize.  Yes.  I actually bought that junk.  We usually only have the healthier versions of the cereal in the house.  I won’t even buy the organic cocoa puffs because it’s too much like dessert.  But in a weak moment on a shopping trip which Cooter was helping me make, he saw the Star Wars cereal.  He is the world’s biggest fan, and since he agreed it would be a special treat snack only every so often, I decided to indulge him and bought him the junk.

*hangs head*  I know.  I know.

A little comparison making.....homeschool--check!

A little comparison making…..homeschool–check!

So imagine my surprise when I compared the labels today.  Or rather, when Cooter pointed them out to me.  I taught him to compare the serving size first and then we looked at everything else.   In the face of his logic, I broke down and let him have the Star Wars cereal for breakfast JUST THIS ONCE.  After all, that big smile on his face told me how proud he was of his discovery.  He was beaming.

This one, y’all.  I just might be in trouble.

Cereal labels aren’t the only thing he reads.  A few weeks back, I came in from running errands and he announced quite indignantly–as though I had anything to do with it, “Did you know that there is VEGETABLE OIL in Mountain Dew?”

We had some left over from a thing, and he had read the box.

“No, I had no idea.  I don’t drink the stuff, Buddy.”

“Well neither do I, because you won’t let me, but EWWWWW.  Who wants to drink VEGETABLE OIL?”

Yeah.  I don’t know.  Folks do, though, because the box was nearly empty.

He has told more than a few folks about his discovery, including the nurse at the allergist’s office today.  VEGETABLE OIL, people.  Apparently you don’t have to be ten to realize that stuff was not intended to be a drink.

I have laughed to myself a lot today over my little guy and his label reading.  He becomes downright investigative about it, and it cracks me up.  I expect I’ll get caught in more situations like the one this morning.  He uses his powers to the betterment of the one person he knows best–himself.

And to think I was worried he would never read…..

Yeah.  Not anymore.

Wishing you all “help” reading the labels.

Love to all.

Mock Pecan Pie and Making Do

It was covered dish night at Evening Prayer.  Because of the food allergies in our family, I try to prepare (okay, or purchase) food so my people can eat and be satisfied.  I was taking a crockpot of macaroni and cheese, so after I got that started I began thinking about what dessert to take.

Desserts are pretty important, because I don’t ever want my girl to feel slighted or left out.  And let’s face it, when you can’t have dessert, that can make you pretty sad.

I pulled out one of my Mama’s cookbooks–the last one she got,  I’m pretty sure.  I flipped through.  I thought about a cake and then about cookies.  I love to bake, but nothing was suiting me.  Then I flipped through and came to pies.

Pies.

I haven’t made one in quite a while.  I like to make pies, and if I wasn’t mistaken, I had two pie crusts in the freezer.

WIN.

Then one recipe caught my eye–“Mock Pecan Pie.”

Wow.  What?

Since the advent of food allergies, we haven’t had one of those.  IN YEARS.

I read through and was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients.  The story behind it was what reeled me in and sealed the deal though.

It usually is.

I found a story that told how during the Civil War folks were short on pecans.  Since their families loved pecans and pecan pie, the women did something that I grew up watching my Mama do.

They made do.

And improvised.

Beautiful.

I love stories of people who make incredible things happen even when maybe they don’t–at first glance–have all they need to have to bring it to fruition.  Those are the best stories.

As I began to mix the ingredients, I realized I didn’t have white Karo syrup.  Actually, in all honesty, maybe I shouldn’t say I didn’t have it–the truth would be that I couldn’t find it in my pantry.

Rather than give up the plan, inspired by the ingenuity of my foremothers and my own Mama, I looked up alternatives and used the right proportions of water and sugar and voila!  We had a pie mixed up and in the oven.

I usually don’t do that–take something I’ve never made before to a public gathering.  The fact that I did is a testament to the spirit of the people I sit with on Sunday nights.  They are adventurous and gracious and loving.  And I hope truthful.

Because they said it was wonderful.

The best part was the look on my girl’s face when I put a slice on her plate.  Dessert?  Yes, please.

I will make the extra effort every single time, just for that look on her face.

Tonight I’m thankful for the women and men on this journey who might be slowed down by the situation or by what they don’t have, but who are rarely stopped.  And never for very long. They make do and create beautiful things despite their hardships or lack of the traditional set of “tools” in their kit bag.  Most of all I’m thankful for a recipe found at just the right time and for the smile that pie put on my girl’s face.

May we all have a “make do/can do” spirit that makes this world a better, happier place for all of us.

“Pecan” pie from oatmeal?  Who’d a thunk it?  And, as my dear friend pointed out, add a few banana slices–it can make a pretty wholesome breakfast too. (Bread, oatmeal, eggs, fruit…..right?) Delicious and versatile.  It doesn’t get better than that.

And because I love y’all, here’s the recipe for you to give a try.

Oatmeal Pie (Mock Pecan)

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. melted margarine (1 1/4 sticks) *I used butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 c. white Karo syrup
2/3 c. oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake about an hour at 350 degrees.

Doris Jackson, Gracewood Baptist, Memphis, TN, from “Simply Southern” for the The Vashti Center in Thomasville, Georgia

(I doubled this and made two because #whynot. This is a case of more is better. Also I saw a recipe on-line that suggested adding coconut.  Oh my stars.  That’s next on the agenda–because I found two more pie crusts!  Life is good.)

Love to all.

FullSizeRender-2

An Angel in the ATL

Today we made the trek up to the big ATL, Atlanta, the big city, for a checkup with a specialist.  Me, being me, I underestimated the time it would take to get there.  I also was not up to date with the information that they had moved offices.

So while it was very near 11:00 a.m., our appointment time, when the Fella dropped me and the littles off at the door so he could go park, it was nearly 11:25 by the time we got back in the vehicle, drove up the road three blocks, and he dropped us off again.  At the correct office.

And unfortunately, doctors don’t sit around waiting on patients as much as one might hope.

Yeah, we’d been scratched.

Which I totally understood, but the thought of traveling back up there AGAIN in the near future stressed me out to no end.  I asked if there were any options for us.  The office staff there were fabulous.  The office manager came out and explained that if we came back by 1, the nurse practitioner we were seeing would try to work us in between 1 and 1:30.

It was above and beyond really.  They didn’t have to do that.  But there I was in one of my least favorite situations–in a town where I’m not very familiar with the eating establishments and needing to feed my child with severe food allergies.

I hate food allergies.

For a number of reasons, but mostly because of the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I have to figure out what to do about eating safely.

I asked the office manager if there were any places to eat close by.  She talked about some places that sounded so trendy and different and wonderful that I would have loved to go.  However, I needed a place we’d been before so we could do a dash in, dash out and get back to the office.  And know the meal was safe.

I asked about a particular restaurant that we eat at here at home.  She and the registrars looked at each other, shaking their heads.   From what they were saying it sounded like it was pretty far off.  I thanked them for their time, and told them we’d see them again before 1:00 p.m.  I did appreciate their willingness to help us out.  It would have been well within their rights to reschedule us for another day.  I am so thankful they didn’t.

As I was waiting on some information about our referral, a gentleman sitting behind Cooter turned around in his seat and quietly said, “There’s one over on the next road over.”

“I’m sorry?”  I asked.  It didn’t register with me at first that he was rescuing me from the grip Anxiety Girl had on me.

“The restaurant.  There’s one close by.”

“Really?”  I felt like hugging him.  He proceeded to tell my Fella how to get there, while I finished up with the registrars.

While we gathered our things together, I saw him leave the office.  Interesting, since he had just been sitting there with us and he hadn’t had time for an appointment.

As we walked through the parking garage to our vehicle, I heard someone calling out to us.  “Hey!”

I looked over.  It was our new friend.  “Did they get y’all settled? Are you going to get back in?”

I smiled and waved.  “Sure are.  Thank you so much!”

“Good.  I’m just heading down to the 2nd floor parking deck to pick up my wife. Y’all take care.”

“You too!”  We all waved our thanks.

And then I thought–wait.  What?

Why had he even been on the third floor office where we had been waiting?

I have no idea, but I do know I stand by what I told him after he gave us directions to the restaurant.  “You may very well be a human, but right now, I only see an angel.”  An angel who eased my burden and made my heart light.

Tonight I’m thankful for the presence of an angel–or a man who made himself interruptible to help someone he saw in need.  Both are kind of one and the same for me today.  I give thanks for a doctor and her office staff who treated us as people and not as numbers.  The grace they showed us today was not merited but it was much appreciated.  Because of that, I was a better person for the rest of the day.  Or at least I tried hard to be.

May we all take the opportunity to help another when we see someone in need.  May we all offer grace to another every chance we can.  It just makes the journey better all around, don’t you think?  We need each other, y’all.

Love and grace to all.

Flying with Fear

We are back home. Back into our day to dailies with full force after a weekend of getting away, literally and figuratively.  A weekend of fun and laughter and reconnecting.

And of facing our fears.

Head on.

This past weekend was the Fella’s family reunion that happens every couple of years.  While I’ve been to a gathering of his aunts and uncles on his Dad’s side of the family, we’ve never been to a gathering of Grampa’s cousins and their children as a family.  It was time to make it happen.

We had a decision to make.  Take a two hour flight from Atlanta to Texas or make the two day drive.  In the end, after lots of thought, the schedule made our decision.

We booked our flights.  Because it was just a few weeks out, the seat availability wasn’t ideal.  No big deal, I thought.  We could just request some seat changes.  I did that all the time when Aub and I flew back and forth from Japan.  TEN YEARS AGO.

Ahem.  Yeah.  Things change.

I called the airline and notified them that we would be flying with my child who has severe nut allergies.  All nuts. She was very understanding and said they could remove the peanuts from the plane but the airline could not guarantee there would be no nuts on the plane.  Okay.  Okay.  Got it.

As the time got closer, I became more anxious, but I also did what I needed to do to be prepared for a worst case scenario.  One of my sisterfriends said, “Be sure to carry an epipen on board with you.” I laughed and replied, “Yeah, or six.”  Can you say “over prepared?”

When we arrived at the gate, I spoke with the agent, and she said there would be no problem–that the flight attendants had it covered.  We hurried on board and got things ready for the flight.

All of the bags we carried on board were wipeable.  I carried wipes to clean her area and a sheet to put over her seat.  I forgot about the seat belt so that made me a bit nervous, but I did the best I could.  My people already knew we would not be eating or drinking on the plane.  I wanted no chance of ANYTHING going in her mouth that could hurt her.  It was a little less than two hours–they’ve done without food and water longer than that by their own choice.

The flight attendant announced there was an allergy on board.  She said they would not be serving peanuts and asked that no one eat any nuts while on board.

Oh my heart.  THANK YOU.

It was an amazing feeling to be heard and validated.  While it didn’t rid me of my anxiety, their kind hearted announcement eased it quite a bit.  My girl sat and played on her device and listened to music like the true preteen she is.  She is growing up before my very eyes.  But that’s another story.

We landed in what seemed like forever and no time at all, all at the same time.  Suffice to say I have no idea how I used to do the 14 hour flights to Japan.

After a long wonderful weekend of family and cousins playing and eating good food together, we got back on the plane yesterday.  We did it all by the book.  Got to the airport two hours early, checked in, and that’s when the magic was broken.  Our seats on Friday were not the ones I’d chosen on-line.  We had wound up all in the space of two rows, which was very doable.  I had assumed the person I called about her allergies had moved our seating around so we would be closer.  And maybe that was the case before, but for this flight, we were ridiculously far apart.  Cooter and Aub towards the back, our Princess and me in the middle on the same side, and the Fella in between us on the opposite side.  When we got to the gate, they acknowledged the food allergies, but they could do nothing about the seating.

Okay.  We can do this.  Breathe.

They made the announcement about not serving nuts and asking people to refrain from eating them while we were still in the terminal.  I was thankful for that.

We were allowed to board early.  I was told by the gate agent that between flights they would clean the tray tables four rows in front of us and four rows behind, so it was important we not change seats.  Okay. That’s great.  Really great.  (But I was thinking, they must be ridiculously fast or have cleaning fairies, because folks had just gotten off the plane.)

Oh, if it were only true.

When we got to our seat, I could see smeared handprints on the back of the seat in front of my girl.

Oh me.

I went to work with my wipes and the sheet and getting her settled.  We were ready when all the others came on board.

Before we were told to put our devices on airplane mode, I got a message from Aub, “Mama, the guy two seats over from us has nuts.”

Welp. Not good.

Because our messages weren’t going through quickly, and I was locked into my row by a passenger on the end who did not speak much English, I was left in limbo.  It was only after we landed that we pieced the whole story together.

So this guy had a big bag of Roaster’s Planted Peanuts.  He pulled them out.  The guy on the other side of him said, “Hey, you can’t eat those on here.”

Mr. Peanut replied, “Why not?”

Other guy said, “There’s someone with a nut allergy on board.  They made an announcement before we boarded asking us not to eat any nuts.”

Mr. Peanut said, “Huh.  Sounds like their problem.”  And laughed.

He LAUGHED.

Y’all, that girl of mine comes from a long line of strong people.  And people who stand up for others.  Some are more tactful than others, so there was no telling how this was going to play out.

As it turns out, she turned to him and said, “Actually it’s MY SISTER with the allergy, and if you eat those, I could come in contact with them, and then I have to ride home with her.  If I expose her to nuts, really bad things could happen.”  Her little brother was sitting next to her, so she was careful with her words.

And Mr. Peanut’s response?  “Really?” He scoffed, and he was done.

Later the flight attendant was offering snacks, and she approached Mr. Peanut.  He told her no thank you, that he had those with him and pointed at the unopened bag of peanuts.  “Sir, you can’t eat those on this flight,” she said.

He pointed at my oldest across the aisle.  “Yeah, that girl already chewed me out about it.”

The flight attendant looked over at Aub and smiled.  And she told him Aub was right.

All of this was relayed between us as we hurried along through the Atlanta airport to baggage claim.  I was so angry at the time, I know for sure one thing–that it is good I only caught a glimpse of him as he was getting on the train.  The Fella wisely guided us ahead to walk instead.  As I walked, I calmed down.  You can’t fix broken folks.  You just can’t.  I don’t know why he didn’t care about my child, or any person with food allergies for that matter, but for some reason he just didn’t.  All I know is I am thankful that, for whatever reason, he didn’t eat the nuts on the plane.

“Because if he had,” my oldest told me as we waited for the Fella to bring the car around as dusk settled across the Georgia sky, “I don’t know what I would have done.  But I would have done something. There might have been a ‘domestic incident.'”

“Eh,” I told her.  “Some things are worth creating a domestic incident over.”

I’m proud of her.  Siblings of people with food allergies have to live with the allergy too.  And this one–she’s her sister’s greatest advocate.

Tonight I’m thankful for a wonderful time with family–cherished moments.  I’m glad we didn’t rule the trip out because of the time or distance or our (MY) fears.  I am thankful for good flight attendants who care and make every effort to keep all passengers safe.  I give thanks for a daughter who is strong and can speak up when the need arises.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a safe journey.  And that all of those epipens came home unused.  WIN.

I have learned two things that surprised me though.  That anger and brokenness in people can overrule their compassion–I guess I knew that on some level, but to be reminded of it like this in such a personal way broke my heart and really, really surprised me.  Call me gullible, but yeah–I wasn’t prepared for that.

The other thing that I learned is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t book a seat for Anxiety Girl.  She doesn’t care.  She’d just as soon sit in your lap for the whole ride.  Doesn’t faze her one bit.  She’ll still come.  UNINVITED.

Wishing us all the ability to let our compassion override all the other things we are carrying with us.  Every single day.  And that when we take the chance to fly with our fear, we land in a beautiful place.

Love to all.

auvi q and wings