“Did You Have Bacon?”

Aub went out for lunch today.  When she came back she mentioned a rash on her arm that had come up while she was gone.  By the time she returned home, it was gone.

She and Cooter were sitting at the counter while I was loading the dishwasher.  We started trying to come up with reasons she might have broken out.  She has had reactions before and best we could figure, one food was usually involved.

Bacon.

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I know, right?

Sad.

It was Cooter who asked first.  “Did you have bacon?”

“No.”

He thought for a minute.  “Did you eat anything that had been near bacon? Maybe processed with bacon?”

She smiled.  “I don’t think so.”

“Hmmmm.  What about anything that had anything to do with pigs?”

And so on.

He’s an interesting 8-year-old.  But since before he could talk, food allergies have been a part of our world and way of life.  With one sister with nut allergies and another whose sensitivities haven’t all been determined, he knows.  The language–“may contain,” “processed in a plant,” “nut free”–and the worry.  He knows there are restaurants we will never go to, and he knows which ones we can.

As we were talking, and I listened to his line of questioning, it occurred to me.  “You’re going to be an allergist when you grow up, aren’t you, buddy?”

He laughed.  “Well maybe. I just want you to be okay.”  And he leaned in for a hug.

Bless him.

In his Ted Talk, Hugh Hollowell of Love Wins Ministries talks about relationships, about how your mother won’t be homeless because she has YOU.  He also talks about the advancement of gay marriage.  In this 2010 video, he talks about how fifteen years before there was no place that a couple could be gay and married.  And in 2010, there were nine states and a district.  The difference, Hugh says, is relationships.  People who had friends who were gay were twice as likely to be accepting of gay marriage.

I’m not here today to debate the existence or legalization of gay marriage.  I just want to think about what Hugh said–

the difference is relationships.

I saw that today.  My little guy would consider becoming an allergist because his sisters suffer from allergies that can be life-threatening.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

I look around at the people in my life.  How they shape who I am.  The people whom I am in relationship with have a lot to do with what I believe and how I want to live my life.  I am thankful for this diverse group who challenge me to step outside my comfort zone and with whom I can have great conversations, even when we disagree on a matter.

That’s what this life is all about.  Being our best selves, and not only allowing but also empowering others to do that as well.

May you all have someone around you whom you love enough to make life decisions around, and may you encourage and empower those who are in your circle.

Love to all.

 

***** I’m pretty sure “Did you have bacon?” was Cooter’s way of saying “I love you” this evening.  That whole being known and mattering to someone else–yeah.  Love. 

The One Ball I Cannot Drop

I’m not sure if I’m a juggler or a catcher.

Most days it feels like both.

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Keeping balls in the air and fielding the ones tossed my way.

Definitely both.

On a daily basis, I drop one ball or another.  I’m working to see this not as a failure, but as a “missed” try–something to work harder on.  Some are more serious than others–bigger balls, you might say, and so the little ones I drop I barely blink an eye anymore.

Forgot to get boxes of tissues.  Okay, grab a roll of toilet paper and sit it on the counter.  Not aesthetically pleasing, but not hurting anyone either.  And it gets the job done.

Forgot to get ketchup.  A little more serious.  Dig in the refrigerator I need to clean out (another dropped ball), fingers crossed I will find a stray pack of ketchup or sauce that will make them forget they really want ketchup.

Slacked on the toothbrushing routine and paid for it at the dentist.  A little more serious.  Actually, I spent three days beating myself up over this.  But once again, took it as something to work harder on and we are back on track.  Dental hygiene–we got this!

Overdue library book.  Okay, lecture my sorry self about being a sorry self and put the book in the car and make sure we get by there to return the book.  Again, it costs us, but it is easily fixed.  Thankfully.

Got behind on fourth grade math skills.  This dropped ball weighed on my heart, smack dab where it landed, for quite some time.  Finally, I gathered my thoughts and made a game plan and asked for help.  Possibly my best move as a home school parent–asking for help when it was overwhelming.  That ball has been tossed back up in the air, and as long as we stay on it, we’re good.  Thankfully.

But there is one ball that I am constantly fielding and juggling.  I am not the only one.  There is a whole community of parents and caregivers who are dealing with this.  Every single moment of every single day.

Those who care for children who have food allergies.

Food allergies.  These are the commonly recognized top 8:

Milk

Eggs

Fish

Crustacean Shellfish

Tree Nuts

Peanuts

Wheat

Soybean

These are the major allergens, but know that these are not all of them.  There are as many food allergies as there are foods.  I have a niece who is allergic to two of the top 8 and bananas.  They can vary and often the person with food allergies will have multiple foods that are problematic.

Food allergies are more than unpleasant and uncomfortable and bothersome.

They are DEADLY.

When you are allergic to something, it doesn’t matter if your last reaction was treated with Benadryl and you were fine.  Each reaction is different, and anaphylaxis can occur with any contact to an allergen.

Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.  It can kill.  When it occurs, a shot of epinephrine and a trip to the ER are the proper course of action.

As a parent of a child with three of the eight major allergens, that is the one ball I cannot drop.

I MUST NOT DROP.

At the grocery store, I read labels. And reread them.  Sometimes my OCD and anxiety kick in and I have my oldest reread the label before we prepare whatever it is.

I get emails regularly notifying me of recalls because of potential exposure to allergens.  I usually get several of these a day. (The latest is for cumin and paprika–these have me rethinking a lot of what we prepare and eat…..and no more Mexican restaurants for a while.)

I bake cupcakes for her to take to birthday parties.  I politely decline treats at the bank and grocery store.  I hesitate before accepting invitations to anything.

I check and double-check that we have her epipen anytime we leave the house.

I obsess over complaints of throat discomfort and rashes.  Sometimes it’s hard to delineate between anxiety and a potential reaction.

Before we go out to eat anywhere I’m online looking up allergen charts.  If they don’t have one, we don’t go.

I reiterate over and over to the wait staff my child’s allergens and what she’d like to order.  Even if we just ate there last week, and all was okay.  I sound like a broken record to my family, I know.

I am careful about soaps and lotions and shampoos, because there can be allergens in there as well.

When we go to events, I eyeball what those around us are snacking on.  I have coached my daughter to look out for her own well-being, but she’s only ten.

This is my ball.

And I’m doing everything in my power not to drop it.

So when I see this “meme” going around the social media world that is insinuating that this is a choice–living with this life-threatening condition that keeps me up at night and has my anxiety at a level 9000 on a scale of 1 to 10–

I get mad.

Angry.

Vehement.

How dare they?

The memes I’ve seen are basically saying:

“If my kid can’t bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn’t be able to bring communicable diseases.”

I’m sorry–what the heck?!

I am not here to debate about immunizations.  That is not my place.

What I am here to do is to put a halt to this IGNORANCE.

I’m not angry with the people who shared it.  They don’t know any better.  They might be reacting from a place of fear for their child’s health, and I GET THAT.

But hear this–

I FEAR FOR MY CHILD’S HEALTH EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I wash down surfaces in public to keep her safe, and I carry a sheet to cover the theater seats to limit the chances of exposure to her allergens.  I LOOK LIKE CRAZY, JUST TO KEEP MY CHILD ALIVE.

THIS.

THIS IS NOT A CHOICE.

Whether or not people get their children immunized (again, not debating that here) IS A CHOICE.

Get it straight, please.

While there may be some parents who have children with food allergies who choose not to get immunizations, the two do NOT automatically go hand in hand.

ONE IS A CHOICE A PARENT MAKES FOR HIS OR HER CHILD.

THE OTHER MOST DEFINITELY IS NOT.

Because believe you me, if I could choose for this to be gone tomorrow, in the next minute, ten years ago–

I WOULD.

If I could choose an allergy free life for my child I would.

So we could enjoy going on vacations without worrying that the person who stayed in the room before us had a major feast of her allergens right before checking out.  So we could go to eat with friends without my having a mini-meltdown in my closet before we have to leave.  So I could let her say yes to party invitations based on whether or not she wanted to go, and not on how well I felt the parents would work with us on her allergens.

So I wouldn’t be sitting here tonight, while she’s ten years old, praying with white knuckles that when she is allowed to date, the person she is interested in will respect her and care enough about her to do everything to keep her safe.

Just like I have.

Every day of her life.

I have a lot of balls in the air.

But this is one I cannot, MUST NOT drop.

This.  This is not a choice.

This is our reality.

There is a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy-Filled Store-Bought Cupcakes

I bought the cupcakes.

Bought.  Cupcakes.

I know to make them from scratch.

I actually prefer them that way.

But yesterday our Princess had to forgo tasting a lovely bakery confection because of her food allergy.  If I can’t guarantee it as 100% safe, it doesn’t happen.

And usually she’s okay with it–she knows it’s important and so she adapts.

But yesterday she got so frustrated and was so disappointed (“I hate my allergies, I hate my allergies!”), it broke my heart.

So today, when I saw the mini-cupcakes with a label indicating they were safe for her, I just about did a happy dance in the middle of the Getting Place.  And you bet I paid what they were asking for them…..they were worth every penny to see my baby girl’s big smile and get her hug and hear her whisper in my ear, “Mama, you’re the best ever!”

My only problem was I brought those in the house just before mealtime.  So my answer to the inevitable question “Can I have one now?” was of course the inevitable “No.”

After we ate I was busy cleaning up the kitchen and then working on Christmas-y things.  Both our Princess and Cooter came in asking for a cupcake.  Seriously, people?  You just ate (or picked at) lunch.  No.  Just no.  Cupcakes can be afternoon snack.  Please at least act like what I fixed you for lunch sustained you for longer than 2.5 seconds.

Finally, after they asked me the umpteenth time, I looked up at the clock from the cards I was signing, and I told them both, “2:30.  At 2:30 you can eat a cupcake, okay?”

And they were off, so happy.  (Note to self–next time set a time for them to watch for before they ask 227 times.)

As luck would have it, at 2:29 I was in the laundry room with my head stuck in the washing machine, digging out the last five items from the bottom of the washer. (It’s a tall washer.  I am not.)  I heard their excitement as they counted it down.  It was cute, but it was not without a little bit of exasperation that I wondered if they would SEE with their eyes that I was a little occupied at the moment and grant me an extra minute or two to get to those much-anticipated cupcakes.

I heard them wondering where I was.  Nope.  They wouldn’t be able to see past the cupcakes when the clock read 2:30.

And before I could get all self-righteous and huffy, thinking, here I am doing their laundry and they can’t just wait…..

I had the wind taken out of my sails.

And I realized that I do that too.

I have my sight set on something–a goal, an event, an item–and all I can think about is that.  Not what the person who can help me with it might be going through or what else might be going on in the world at that exact moment that I want this/need this/anticipate this to happen.  I can’t see anything beyond the “something” in that moment.

It is so easy to become self-centered and focused on something such that nothing else matters.

*sigh*

I quickly started the dryer.  And moved toward the cupcakes.  I had given my word, after all.  They were given out post haste, and the enthusiasm and excitement over them was worth it all.  My girl was tickled to find something bought that she could have.  And they were really quite pretty too.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder that it isn’t all about me.  It’s easy to fall into that mindset.  Way too much so.  And while it’s important for the littles to learn it’s not always about them, it’s also important that I do make it about them from time to time.

And what better way to do that than with lovely cupcakes?

Wishing you all someone to make it about you, and someone for you to make it about them.

That’s what keeps the world turning, I think.  We all matter.

Love to all.

The Happiness of the Blue Pumpkin

This is an update on our experience with the #tealpumpkinproject.

This past Friday night, after spending the afternoon (yes, I’m a procrastinator and I admit it) making a cape for our Princess’ Elsa costume that we found at the GW Boutique, we got the littles and our college girl and her suitemate all set and ready for a fun evening of trick-or-treating.  The torch has been officially passed–our college girls took the littles trick or treating.  The Fella joined them midway, and I got to stay home.  While Tailurrr Swift and Kitty Purry (they were dressed as cats with microphones) took Elsa and Indiana Jones through the neighborhood for tricks and treats, I sat on the porch with goodies in hand.  Right there next to my teal blue pumpkin.

We’ve spent the past few weeks collecting non-food treats from different places.  The Halloween store at the GW Boutique turned out to be a good resource.  One day I found several tubes of glow bracelets, which I thought would be fun and helpful on a dark fall evening.  I planned on giving each child a bracelet and a treat from my goody bag.

The Halloween treat bag.....

The Halloween treat bag…..

As the children came and went, I fell into a routine.  I let them pick out what color bracelet he or she wanted, I bent it so it would light up, and helped each one put it on.  Then they got to choose something from the treat bag.  What I loved the most about this whole thing was I got to visit with the children, ask each one a question or two.  It wasn’t like it’s been in years past–throw a bag of pretzels or chips in their bag and send them on their way.  I learned their favorite colors, and they told me about their costumes.  Who they were, why they’d chosen that one, that sort of thing.  I really enjoyed the visits.

There was something that circulated through social media before Halloween that touched my heart.  Something about understanding that children who don’t say thank you might not be able to, children who seem disappointed might have an allergy to what you gave them, older children trick or treating–it might be the first time anyone has invited them to go.

I thought about that a lot Friday night.  And because I was reminded it’s a holiday to include all, which is the premise of the #tealpumpkinproject, I was reminded to welcome all.  From the boys who were taller than I am, to the high school girls who came up giggling and cute as they could be, to the little girl whose Mama apologized for her daughter not speaking at all–she does have autism.  And her Mama is a loving woman who is doing a great job with her.  I just wanted to hug them both.

But the best moment of the night came when a young woman, who is a senior in high school, walked up.  I didn’t recognize her at first.  She brought a younger girl with her.  The young girl picked out a pink bracelet and a Halloween pencil (those were more popular than you’d think).  I offered a bracelet to the young woman too, and she said, “Well okay, that could be fun, thanks.”  As we talked I realized she lives around the corner from us.  She said she was bringing her neighbor friend out because the young girl’s sister has Down’s syndrome, and she wasn’t going to be able to go otherwise.  The young woman’s sister with special needs had hung with them for a few houses, but she was worn out.  I offered for her to take something back to her sister, as I explained that I didn’t have any candy because of food allergies.  The young woman looked over at my pumpkin and she said, “Yeah, I know about those pumpkins. I saw something about it.  That is very cool.”  And she threw her hand up for a high-five.

Let me tell you, I gave her one.

And then she told me that she has food allergies too.  That if her sister forgets (as has happened) and eats something with peanut butter in it, and this young woman smells it, she can have a reaction.  Bless her.  She seems to take it in stride, but in that moment–the one where her eyes lit up and she threw her hand up in the air–I knew it meant something to her.  To be included.  To be acknowledged.  Bless her, she may have outgrown trick or treating, but I hope that she and I both will see a world where there are teal blue pumpkins everywhere on Halloween and, more importantly, that folks understand that these allergies are not just in the heads of folks, but something very life or death real.

Bless her.

She was more animated as we talked than I have ever seen her when we’ve chatted as I’ve taken Miss Sophie out for her walkabouts.

I think it had something to do with being seen and heard and validated.

But it might have been the bracelet.

After all, those things are pretty cool.

When I set out to do non-food treats and be a part of the #tealpumpkinproject this year, I did it for my Princess, so she’d feel respected and know she’s not the only one.  I had no idea if there were any other children we’d come across in our area who would benefit or even appreciate not getting candy bars or suckers or Twizzlers or the like.  I said to myself that even if it helped only one to feel included, then it was worth all the time and effort of tracking down the treats.

After the happy Mama of the girl with autism expressed her delight (her daughter had already had enough sugar she said) and seeing the smiling faces of little ones as their bracelets started to glow, the young woman with the nut allergies was icing on the cake.  She has a sweet and giving spirit to take her sister and neighbor friend trick or treating.  I was honored to get to visit with someone so compassionate at such a young age.  She is going places, and her generosity gives me hope for our future.  She was my one–besides my own girl–the one whom I did this for.  And I am thankful for her face lighting up and for that high-five.

All.  Completely.  Worth.  It.

I’m off to bag up what we have left for next year.  That’s the bonus in all of this.  No candy to tempt me, and I have a head start on next year’s treats.  Well, except for those pencils.  I think someone eats those things around here, and I don’t mean the dog.  Yeah, they’ll never last until next year.

Here’s to a holiday that includes everyone!  My heart is full.

Love to all.

 

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My heart has been touched by how many of you have commented and shared the story of including a teal pumpkin in your Halloween festivities.  I cannot fully express in words how much that means to me.  Thank you for including all and loving on folks.  You are my heroes–stepping outside yourselves and what’s easy and always been done to make a difference.  Love.  

 

Why My Pumpkin is Blue

I’ve mentioned it before, but in case you might have missed it–

We are a family with food allergies.

Because if one person has food allergies, you all are affected.

We don’t have anything in the house she cannot have.  We don’t choose things in restaurants that she could not have, and we don’t go places she can’t go.

It’s how we roll.  All for one…..

her sister in college even avoids having things in her dorm room, just in case her sister stops by for a visit.

That’s what love looks like.

Caring enough to give up something for the benefit of another.

At least that is what motivates us around here.  Goodness knows, I don’t read labels until I’m blurry-eyed (have you seen how small some of the print is) and avoid certain places for the fun of it.  I don’t pack her extra snacks for get-togethers or cringe when she’s around folks eating what she’s allergic to because I enjoy it.

I do it because her life depends on it.

Holidays and celebrations are tricky times.  Most of these days/gatherings/celebrations come together around one thing, right?

Food.

Which makes it hard, when one’s choices are extremely limited.  Nothing with the allergens, nothing processed with the allergens, and oh good gravy, please tell me you didn’t forget your epi-pen.  Yeah, we’ve had some days of mad scrambling when that was left behind.

Halloween is one such day.  There’s the fun of dressing up.  The excitement of going out at dusk, all around the neighborhood with friends and family, and knocking on doors, visiting with folks on the sidewalks, and sharing stories and comparing what you got.

Remember what Charlie Brown had to say after each “Trick or Treat”?

Rocks.  He got rocks.

Bless him.

But I tell you what, I’d rather my girl get rocks than some candy that has the potential to threaten her physical health.

So we have two choices–

1) We don’t go trick or treating.

2) We go, but she doesn’t get to eat most or any of it due to presence or possibility of allergens.

Yeah.  Good times.

She’s had her costume picked out for two months and has been doing a countdown for the past week, and we’re still nine days out.  (I know, she told me a little while ago.)  Would you want to be the one to tell her we aren’t going?

We go.

Before our sweet neighborfriends moved, my friend prepared separate treats for my littles of things she’d asked me about beforehand.  Bless her, I miss her for many reasons, and there’s one more.   Usually I buy a special sweet treat for my crew and we “let” the Fella take the rest of it into work with him.  And it’s done for another year.

The other day my girl was talking about the one house a block over that gave her a spider ring last year.  She was thrilled.  So much so that she’s still talking about it.

That sealed the deal for me about something I’d been thinking about doing.

So Aub and I painted a pumpkin teal blue.

I think the teal is a nice addition to our Halloween traditions.

I think the teal is a nice addition to our Halloween traditions.

And it’s sitting on our porch.

I think it looks lovely–she and I are into that color right now.  (It’s not the only thing we’ve painted that color…..) But it is even lovelier to me because of what it stands for.

Inclusion.

All are welcome.

I recently found out through a Food Allergy awareness page on social media about the Teal Pumpkin Project.  For more information about how it began, click here for the story.   A teal pumpkin on one’s porch or a sign with a teal pumpkin on a door or mailbox lets folks trick or treating know that non-food items are available at that house.

Inclusion.

It’s about more than children with food allergies.  This includes children with diabetes and other dietary restrictions.

Everyone.

I’ve read some of the comments.  I don’t know why it is that when something new is introduced, some folks are so threatened, they get real, real ugly.

Suggesting that I keep my child home on Halloween because she can’t eat the candy, or that I’m pampering her and others who have allergies like her by “catering” to her needs.

Oh me.  Just walk away, Tara, just walk away.

Look, if this isn’t your thing, that’s okay.  I won’t think less of you if you give out Reese’s cups and don’t have a teal pumpkin anywhere around your house.  Ten years ago, I had no idea about all of this either. (And with Reese’s you would have been my hero!)  I get it.  Just please understand why this is important to me.

This is about children.  Being children.  Dressing up and having a great, safe, and fun night.

If my offering treats like pencils or stickers or slinkies and other novelties ensures that, then I’m all for it.

My Mama told me more times than I can count when we were growing up, “You better not leave anybody out.”

Yes ma’am.

So my pumpkin is blue.

The idea of the teal pumpkin project is not that folks can’t give out candy too.  It’s just that non-food options are available.

And that is a nice thing to do.

Because spider rings can make someone smile.

Even a year later.

Teal blue pumpkin love to all.

 

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On Coming Home

We have returned from our Big Trip.

I could call it big trip, small trip, whatever, because it’s the only trip we’ve been on that required an overnight stay in several years.  And we were gone for seven nights.

Seven.

That’s a long time for this homebody.

We encountered mice, ducks, princesses, wookies, Jedi, and all sorts of folks all in the name of fun.

We met cousins and in-laws whom we’d never met in person before.

We ate in restaurants for the very first time and Princess was okay.  She even got to have an ice cream sundae in one, and THAT.  WAS.  HUGE.  For her and her Mama.  Such joy over that.

Of course my two constant companions were along for the trip–Anxiety Girl and Justin Case.  I worried more about my girl, about keeping my children in my line of sight, about not offending friends and family, about preparing enough food, and about Miss Sophie and the kitties back home and how they were behaving for the kind souls taking care of them.  Justin had me overpacking every single day.  We took snacks we never touched and had rain ponchos when it only rained us out the first night.  At one point I was carrying a backpack on my front and my back.  But I was READY.  FOR.  WHATEVER.  CAME.

I found a system that worked for keeping up with my camera, wallet, tickets, and autograph things.  I am proud of that as the whole losing my wallet thing has been a recurrent nightmare for me lately.

I have lots of stories to share over time and lots of things to think about.  We laughed, we cried, we cleaned up accidents on more than one occasion, and we kept on keeping on.  I had my faith restored in my fellow inhabitants of this earth way more than the few times I was disappointed in them.  I tried to take care of me, of all of us, and I said no to things that weren’t within those confines.

There is one moment I keep thinking about.  It’s come to mind today many times as I say goodbye to Haiku week (though I’ve had such a great response–thank y’all, I will likely do that again).  And I think it describes perfectly where my mind, heart, and soul are when it comes to leaving my home.

Last Wednesday, our last day to visit with the Mice, we needed to hop from the magical place to the animal one in the middle of the afternoon.  We got on the monorail and were soon zooming way above the ground.  There was one other family in the same car, and their backs were to us.  They appeared to be an older couple with a grown son who was developmentally delayed.  They were staying at one of the resorts and headed back there on the monorail.  I overheard the son tell his parents quietly with a wistful voice, “Well, our stuff just better be in that room.  Yeah, it sure better be.  All of it.”

I understand, precious one.  I sure do.

Because when I’m away from my comfort zone, I worry about such as that.  The stuff I brought, the things I “need” to get through the trip–they better stay right where they are. I can’t lose them.  My link to home, to the life I left back there, my connection to what was and what will be again–in the NOW I need for it to be there.  And when I’m away from my comfort zone, my anxiety levels rise, so yeah, I worry about all sorts of things–my stuff not being there just one of many.  But it’s about way more than just the stuff–it’s about the connection to the place where I feel the most ME.

I smiled as I heard him utter the words, and I knew I’d come across a kindred spirit.  Bless him.

Because no matter where on earth life might take me zooming across, there is no place like home.  The place where my stuff, and my heart, and those I love will always be.  The place to find ME.

Love to all.

 

Ebb and Flow and Food Allergies

 

Ahh, the ebb and flow of life.

Specifically, today, the life with a child with severe food allergies.

This morning when I took the littles to our first stop on the OutandAbouts for the day, where they have been learning good things all week, I saw the little girl who had enjoyed watching my yarn as I crocheted yesterday.  She and her twin brother, not quite two yet, were both snacking on crackers that I noticed right away.

Whether due to my hypervigilant state when folks are eating in public or because those things practically glow in the dark–likely it was both–I saw they were eating those peanut butter cheese crackers.

Trying to be subtle, I immediately redirected the path of my crew to avoid the eating area and little hands that might reach out and touch us or our things and moved them to where they needed to be in line.  Once they were settled in, Aub and I took our things and went over to another area to sit.

Where the Mama and her twins soon joined us.  *sigh*  I wish I could come up with a nice way to say, “Hey, we’re allergic, that stuff could kill one of us, could you please avoid touching us or hey, since Anxiety Girl decided to tag along today, just avoid our general area, okay?”

But I haven’t yet.

So I just sat uncomfortably avoiding eye contact with the sweet little girl, whose crumb encrusted hands were reaching to get around the stroller her mom had placed strategically to block her into a small area.  Yesterday we’d had such a nice interaction–she and I.  She pointed at my yarn, and I said, “Yarn.”  She pointed at her little jelly-like sandals and said, “Shoooo.”  It was great.  And sweet.

But today, because of those contaminated (yes strong word, just how it feels to me) hands, I couldn’t take a chance that she’d touch my pants or our bag or Princess’ things and then I wouldn’t know how to keep my girl safe.

Because that is what it all boils down to.  Doing WHATEVER and ALL that it takes to keep her safe.

We got through the morning with no mishaps or accidental exposure.  The only casualty was my heart and feelings and anxieties with being torn between not wanting to hurt someone else’s feelings and keeping my child protected from potential harm.

One day I’ll learn how to better handle things like this.

*sigh* And people wonder why I just want to stay home.

Then there was the positive for the day.  Total reversal of where the day was heading. One of the BEST THINGS EVER.  One of our own wrote me that she’d found a No-Nut Butter at the Big store.  It’s made by Sneaky Chef.  She had tasted it and thought it was pretty good.  So the next stop on our OutandAbouts was the Big store to see what I could find.  And sure enough, there it was.  (Well, after I called her to ask where it was.  Of course I found it before she could even get the words out to tell me.  Always the way.)  I was giddy with anticipation.  I know that makes for a silly picture–me checking out of the store, practically bouncing, unable to get home quickly enough to open up the jar and try some.  But there it was.  This is the life I lead.

Because we have NOTHING to replace peanut butter.  We’ve tried other butters, but eventually they were all ruled out as being okay for her.  The only thing that we’ve been okay with is Biscoff spread–fondly known as “cookie butter” around here–and let’s face it, not really a nutritious choice.

No-Nut Butter.  Two words.  Yay-licious!

No-Nut Butter. Two words. Yay-licious!

But No-Nut Butter?  Sneaky Chef, my hat’s off to you.  You ROCK.  This is safe for my child.  Not only that, we all LOVE it.  Aub even wants to make her favorite peanut butter dessert using this as a substitute.

We ARE THRILLED.

Joy, fear, anticipation, anxiety, hard times, good times.  It’s all in there together, isn’t it?  No matter what your family is dealing with–the ebb and flow of life.  It’s there.  Always.  The key, I guess. is to be patient when things seem way too dry or feel like they’re pulling us under.  Just hang in there.  Life is ever-changing, not static.

I was reminded of this in these words of Ann Lamott from “Help, Thanks, Wow:”

“Most of us figure out by a certain age—some of us later than others—that life unspools in cycles, some lovely, some painful, but in no pre­dictable order. So you could have lovely, painful, and painful again, which I think we all agree is not at all fair. You don’t have to like it, and you are always welcome to file a brief with the Com­plaints Department. But if you’ve been around for a while, you know that much of the time, if you are patient and are paying attention, you will see that God will restore what the locusts have taken away.”

I have had my days that I have doubted this, but this came full circle for me today.

And I am thankful for that.  Thankful for a new day, a fresh start, and clean hands again on another day, so maybe my little friend and I can visit again.  And maybe the opportunity will present itself and the words will come so I can explain my anxiety to her mother.  I give thanks for family who look after me and mine and love us enough to share their thoughts–my Aunt and my Cousin, I’m especially grateful for tonight.  When folks care enough to get in your chili, even about what you are eating (chili or not)…..that’s a precious gift.  And I don’t take it lightly.

May the ebb and flow of your life leave you feeling refreshed today.

Love to all.

 

 

 

The Cacophony of the Week–Playing Catchup

Tonight’s catchup post is brought to you by a stomach bug/fever suffering young’un and a tired Mama.

First of all, this happened this week.

The green in our foyer.  I love this color.

The green in our foyer. I love this color.

This color, out of all of them, was the most stubborn.  It took three or four coats.  The first one looked like my littles had painted the wall.  It was such a thin paint.  I’m learning all about bases and the like.  Base C, and a color with as much yellow in it as this one–those take way more than just two coats.  But I LOVE it.  It just suits.  Us. The room.  This house.  It does.  And there’s a lesson in this.  The two colors I love the most, this green and the gold in the kitchen/living room–I had no samples for.  Not that I will give up trying samples out.  I like the ones I chose after trying way too many colors out, but these two I ran out of time and had to get the gallons needed THEN.  I took a huge leap of something and made the choice.  The gold without backup and the green with my Fella and Aub sharing their thoughts.

From the green of the foyer to the pink of the soon to be library.  Yeah, we go from Kermit to Miss Piggy.  That makes me smile.

From the green of the foyer to the pink of the soon to be library. Yeah, we go from Kermit to Miss Piggy. That makes me smile. (and it looks better than this picture shows)

And turns out I love what happens when I make a choice without obsessing over it.  Is there a lesson in this?  Perhaps.  But I’m a really slow learner.

 

Cooter took this picture of his empty cake saucer.  He loved his chocolate cake.  There wasn't a chance to take a picture of it before it was eaten.  He's just that fast.

Cooter took this picture of his empty cake saucer. He loved his chocolate cake. There wasn’t a chance to take a picture of it before it was eaten. He’s just that fast.

And this happened.  With a child with severe food allergies, we don’t go to a lot of restaurants.  And we especially do not do buffets.  The risk for cross-contamination is just too great.  The last buffet I remember us going to, looking back, I realize she had a mild reaction.  That was before the bad one that made me wake up and start carrying an epi-pen everywhere.

Wednesday was the day I met Mr. A. A. Law in person and finished handling some business for my Great Aunt and Mama.  For those who might be wondering, I behaved myself.  I apologized to the women whom I inadvertently took my frustrations out on via a bad attitude when I spoke on the phone with them last week.  I was prepared to have a conversation with Mr. Law if the opportunity presented itself.  It did not.  And I’m okay with that.  But I acted like I was raised to behave, and that’s all that concerns me.

His office was right across the street from Side Tracks, the buffet restaurant that my Great Aunt used to take us to.  Cooter, who made the trip with me–exactly because he figured we’d have to eat out and he really wanted to,  joined me there for a trip down memory lane.  He’s been there before, back when he ate baby food sitting in his car seat/carrier.  He doesn’t remember going at all.  When his little eyes got over the disappointment over so many vegetables (he’s a self-proclaimed fruitatarian, y’all) and he chose some rice, catfish, and a biscuit, he saw the desserts.  Cake and pie slices wrapped securely under plastic wrap.   He looked, with his eyes popping, “Whaaat is thaaaat?”  “Dessert, buddy.”  “Can I have some?”  Sure, I said.  And he was off.  He carefully perused and chose a slice of chocolate cake.  Bless him.  The joy in that little guy that day is a memory I hope to treasure for a long time.  He took pictures of the plates on the table and he was fascinated with my catfish bones.  If I may for just a minute indulge in a bit of pity pot sitting, food allergies stink.  I wish I could take our Princess too.  I wish we could go in a restaurant without mapping out a game plan first.  I wish I didn’t have to quiet my anxieties every time we have a meal prepared by someone else.  But we do.  And I will do it over and over to keep her safe.  And maybe my meal with my little guy was all the more special because we can’t do it all the time.

And then there’s this.

"Sophie!"

“Sophie!”

"What?"  :)

“What?” 🙂

Miss Sophie sure worried us all after her fairly routine surgery.  She wouldn’t get up and walk around.  I called the vet.  Twice.  One time at 11:30 at night.  He is a kind, understanding person, and I’m thankful for that.  He knows I’m overprotective and a worrier, but when Miss Sophie wasn’t up and walking around three days after surgery, I knew something was wrong.  Turns out maybe she doesn’t like accessorizing.  When I took her cone off, she got up and started moving.  Slowly at first, but then she was back to her old self.  And that little face and wagging tail on the one who barks and pouts when I leave the room–I am thankful for her.

 

Lastly, I was reminded today of what little good it does for me to worry over things.  Things in the future.  Now, don’t think I’m going to stop.  I’m a work in progress and change for me will take as long as the rerouting of Highway 96 out my way will take.  LONG time.  Still.  Lesson learned.  Again.  I’ve been worrying for a week over how to fit things in and do what we were supposed to do today and tomorrow.  I just about had it all figured out, after much worry and figuring and planning, and then this morning at 4 a.m. I heard a little voice next to my bed.  “Mama, I feel like I have to throw up.”  Followed by proof.

And just like that.  Plans for today and tomorrow cancelled.  (Tomorrow’s cancellation was validated by a fever this evening.  Yeah, we’re staying put for a while.)

All that worry for naught.  I do that a lot.  Burn a lot of energy and wear myself out doing just that.  Worrying.

But with Anxiety Girl as my BFF, how could it be otherwise?

Wishing you all a day filled with surprises and good things as full as the dessert bar at Side Tracks.

Love to all.

 

I’m Done with Apologizing

Mess Cat was over today, and we just visited.  The way folks do.  Sat on the furniture that’s for sitting and talked about a little bit of everything.  It was awesome.  She’s been working on home projects and so have I, so this was a nice respite for us, as our littles played together.

We started talking about our personalities and how they are different.  An incident from when I was in fourth grade came to mind.  My teacher, Mrs. W, who had taught my Daddy and my Uncle, was teaching us about quotation marks.  We were to write a sentence using quotation marks.  Correctly.  She asked a few of us to write our sentences on the chalkboard.

I loved writing on the chalkboard.  Something that has continued on to the whiteboards in my adulthood.

Love.  It.

So I was thrilled when she called on me.  I went up and wrote my sentence on the board.  I had tried to step outside the box and make my sentence a little different.

Big mistake.

My sentence was:

“She said she was going to town.”

As in someone asks, “Where did Mess Cat go?”

And I would reply…..

so proper use, right?

Only Mrs. W corrected me, had me correct it on the board, and totally misinterpreted my meaning.  She wanted,

She said, “She was going to town.”

Which doesn’t even make sense, am I right?

Ah, well.

I was a people pleaser.  So I never said a word or tried to explain myself.  That was 36 years ago.  And I’m still carrying it.  What is that about?

I told Mess Cat today that I’m trying to outgrow that, living as others expect, trying to people please.  It hasn’t always been healthy for me, holding in what I’m really thinking, what I really believe.   And I’m paying for it, so I’ve decided no more.  I’m not talking about showing out or picking fights.  I’m just going to quit apologizing for certain things I do or say or believe.

So here goes:

–Today while we were visiting, my oldest called me a name.  And it made me laugh.  “Helicopter Mama.”  I looked over at her, and she nodded, “Yeah.  You.  You hover.”

Y’all.  For the love.  I busted out laughing.  Forget monogramming.  I am so having that put on something.  A name I’ll wear with pride.

Because I am.  You got it.  And baby girl, I know you are 18.  Legal in different ways, still not in others.  However, here’s what you need to know and I’m not sorry a bit.  I will always be your helicopter Mama.  I will be hovering when you are my age, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.  I love you, I want what’s best for you, and forgive me if sometimes I think I might know what’s what a little better than you do.  Or when I ask too many questions.  Or when I worry because you got off from work 45 minutes ago and I still haven’t heard anything.  *ahem*  I’m asking for forgiveness but I am not apologizing.  It’s part of what I signed up for nineteen years ago when I was waiting on you to arrive.  I hovered then, every little flitter or burp had to be interpreted…..and the first time you had hiccups in utero?  Oh my land.  Called the doctor I think. Or my Mama.  So yeah, I’m the best Helicopter Mama there ever was and will be as long as my blades will turn.  You call it hovering, I call it love.  And I do.  Love you.

–I’m done apologizing for my dog barking when folks come over.  Yeah, she’s shy.  She’s slow to warm up to new people.  She barks like mad when someone comes through the door she doesn’t know.  However, she loves like nobody’s business, and that is pure joy.  Many nights my writing is delayed because she is laying at my right side, patting my right hand, wanting some attention and cuddles.  That right there.  That’s why I wanted a dog so much.  While I wish she didn’t bark quite so much, and that my word about someone being okay could be enough, I’m done apologizing for it.  I give thanks she is so attentive and protective of all of us.  For such a sweet little fluffball, she’s a smart girl.  And she knows who her people are.

–I have found myself apologizing for my child’s food allergies.  Lately I’ve heard my own words, and I’ve thought, “What on earth? Why am I apologizing for taking the best care of my child that I can?”

I’m done.

No more apologizing to servers in restaurants as I explain for the umpteenth time about her allergies and ask them questions.  I appreciate their compassion and attention to details and I will compensate them for it, but I won’t apologize for asking what I need to know to make sure she’s going to be okay.  No more apologizing to folks when I have to carry separate food for this precious child.  She’s okay with it, I’m okay with it, and I hope you will be too.  (And I’ve never had anyone who wasn’t–such sweet Mamas at birthday parties–who let me know ingredients beforehand or who say “please, by all means, do whatever you have to do to feel okay for her sake.”  This is an issue that is about my mindset, not theirs.  For whatever reason I’ve felt like I should apologize for “inconveniencing” someone else, and I’m done with that.)  And no more apologizing for the paranoia and OCD that comes with having a child with food allergies.  I appreciate your help and your ideas and suggestions, but I’ve got this.  I’ve been trusted with this child by a Power Higher than anyone who walks on two feet, so please, trust me too.  I’m really trying to trust myself.  It’s taken years for me to get where we are today, mentally and in our routine, so yeah, we got this.  As “got this” as anyone can be in this situation I guess.  It scares me to death on a regular basis just how fragile life is, so I really appreciate those who go out of their way to understand and to join the “Keep Princess okay” team.  And there are many of you.  Thank you.

–I’m done apologizing for where my children are in the learning process.  When our Princess was “behind” learning to read, I stressed.  I worried and I wondered.  And I STRESSED.  With Cooter I have worried a little, mostly because he didn’t seem the least bit motivated, but then, that’s who he is.  He is motivated differently than either of my other two children, so I had to learn about what makes him tick.  Once I did, it seemed like he took off.  But we have many years ahead of us, and many more opportunities for me to worry and apologize for them being behind, ahead, or right on target.  (Believe me, I have very nearly earned a doctorate in apologizing–I can find a reason in any situation for me to need to say “I’m sorry.”  But no more. I hope.)

My house.  Oh good gravy.  It’s a cluttered mess.  Especially right now.  In transition.  Moving precious memories and things from my growing up home to my home now.  I want to be a good steward of all of it, and if I can’t, then I need to let it go.  (Is that song playing in your head now? I would apologize, but…..) I want not to feel like I need to apologize every time someone walks through my door.  “I’m sorry it’s such a mess.”  Oh my.  That would be nice.  And the only way I can change that is to do something about the clutter.  And I am.  Oh, it won’t be huge, I guess.  We still live, work, play, eat, sleep, and learn here–pretty much 24/7–but it could use some organizing and culling…..and we are on it.  Seriously.  Be impressed.  I did not inherit my Mama’s organization gene.

–My faith.  My beliefs.  My values.  So many times I hold my tongue for fear of offending someone else because I know they wouldn’t understand; I know their beliefs are different.  I don’t want to upset anyone.  And yet, I get so frustrated when I see others who are more conservative with different beliefs being so vocal and adamant that their way is the. Only. Way.  I need to reach a better balance. I need to be able to speak my mind, respectfully, without picking an argument.  And I need to be able to share my opinions and thoughts gently without feeling apologetic.  *deep breath*  This is going to take a while.  It’s a hard one.  But no more apologizing for what or who I am.  I just can’t do it, and I’m not being true to myself if I do.

–Finally, I am trying to stop apologizing for my slow progress on the whole grief journey.  When I was with Hospice many years ago (is it possible that it’s been thirteen years?), I came across something that blows the whole “wandering on a path” idea of grieving out of the water.  It was a Grief Wheel.  And the thing is that you can go round and round on it a few times before heading towards Recovery, and sometimes the least little things–something you come across, a song on the radio, the smell of sweet potatoes baking or squash cooking in the skillet–can send you right back on that wheel again.  It’s not a long and winding road with an end in sight.  It’s cyclical, and no two days might ever look alike on this journey.  There are days I just can’t be a part of the world and all that is going on, and there are days that I can’t wait to get out there and be with everyone and all that is.  Those days are not common, but they happen more than they used to.  I am sure I seem sad sometimes; I am.  I know I must seem angry too; I am.  I probably seem very lost; yep, that one too.  But I have joyful and happy moments too.  It’s all a part of figuring out my life without folks whom I loved and respected and went to when the world came crashing down or everything was awesome.  They multiplied my joys and divided my sorrows and were a safe place for me to land.  I’m sorry they are gone, but I’m not sorry for missing them.  I have to work through it at my own pace, and I need to stop feeling like I need to apologize to everyone for where I’m at.

Years ago in my previous life, I had a friend who was a manicurist.  She pointed out to me on a Tuesday evening over a beautiful French tip manicure that I said “I’m sorry” way too much.  She told me that the world did not need me to nor did it expect me to apologize with every other breath.  I felt a little put off at the time, but you know what I said to her?  Yep.  “Oh, I didn’t realize.  I’m sorry.”  Sigh.

Over the years that conversation has come back to me.  And I’ve realized more and more that she was right.  I did apologize for things that an apology was not necessary for.  As though I need to apologize for my mere existence taking up space.  It’s not about others most of the time.  It’s about me.  Feeling intrusive, inconvenient, and in the way.  Troubling others.  Yes, occasionally it was because someone made me feel “in the way” or “a bother, ” and other times I needed to offer a real apology.  But way too many times, it was about me, myself, and I. And my skewed perceptions.

So I’m done.  I’m going to try to hold back on apologizing for these things that are a part of my world and just are what they are.  Apologizing is not healthy in every case, and if I’m wrong, well…..then.

I’m sorry.

Wait.
No.

Oh boy, this is going to be a long rehabilitation.

Love to all.

 

 

PS–Did anyone notice all the proper use of quotation marks throughout?  In the words of Eeyore, “Thanks for noticing.”  🙂

 

 

Potlucks and Parties–Why They’re Not My Thing Anymore

I used to love buffets.  Oh, the awesome options!  I can remember the last one I went to.  I got collard greens and pot liquor and cornbread and not much else.  Seriously.  That’s not something I cook for myself very often, and I was in Heaven.

And don’t get me started on church or club or community potlucks.  LOVE. THEM.  Do we really ever have the pineapple casserole anywhere else?  Casseroles are the best.  When you see Ritz cracker topping you know you have arrived.  My Great Aunt used to add almond slivers to her casseroles, and that just hollered “classy” to us.

But that was B. F. A.

Before Food Allergies.

Almost six years ago to the day I watched my child have a reaction.  I did not have the epipen with me, which was the last time I put myself in that position.  It was terrifying.  She survived which I am thankful for with every breath I take.  I was aware of the potential allergy before that day, but I let my guard down.  No more.

Having a child with a food allergy has changed our lives.  I have become what some would probably call hypervigilant.  I am always looking for the threat.  The threat that could come from any direction–a playmate’s hand, a family member’s kiss, a dust of residue on a movie theater seat, a toy in a doctor’s office, from anyone and anywhere at any time.

Yeah, I’m that Mama.

I'm a label reader, looking for that allergen list or the information that is sometimes listed below, "Processed in a plant that also processes....." We stay away from those too.  Just in case.

I’m a label reader, looking for that allergen list or the information that is sometimes listed below that, “Processed in a plant that also processes…..” We stay away from those too. Just in case.

I haul a sheet with us when we go to the movies.  (I’ve found that a twin fitted works really well–covers everything without too much hanging off.  I might even try a crib sheet next time.)  I carry baby wipes.  Everywhere.  I burn up the internet on my phone checking allergen lists for restaurants.  I slide my glasses back and forth (can you say “need bifocals?”) and take three times as long to grocery shop, reading the allergen information on labels.   I insist that my child clean her hands all the time and I am constantly saying, “Please don’t touch everything or anything.”  We all call out when we see the foods that are off-limits. (Orange is the trigger color for danger.)  I find myself staring down other children when they come in with snacks at dance, at soccer games, or in church, assessing what they have and its potential for harm.  It’s all becoming second nature for me and mine, but I’m sure from the outside looking in we just seem odd.

We turn down invitations to events sometimes.  Other times we arrive with our own food in tow, right down to cupcakes in the cutest little cupcake containers ever made.  We refuse generously offered food samples and treats.  And suckers at the bank.  If I can’t read the label, y’all, I’m sorry it’s just not going to happen.  I love homemade goodies more than most, but I can’t risk cross-contamination.   So more than likely, we will pass.  No offense intended.

Mama's way of helping us remember.  It still does.

Mama’s way of helping us remember. It still does.

We’ve learned to carry around the epipen like lives depend on it, because well, they do.  There’s been so much stress over it being left at home or in the hot car in summer or cold one in winter that I am sure one day she will be talking about it on whatever show is the Oprah of her day.  Mama, always a problem solver, made us this tag to put in my car to remind us to take it with us or not leave it wherever we had gone.  Bless her.  It has helped more times than I can count.

I’ve read about children who have been bullied concerning their allergies.  Other children waving the allergen in front of them, suggesting they might touch them or otherwise expose them to it.  Stories like that break my heart.  And make me angry.  If that ever happened…..I would need bail money.  No doubt about it.  I’ve also heard numerous stories which did not have happy endings–it only took one cookie or one bite of something from a buffet.  These only serve to enforce my hypervigilance even more.

We’ve been fortunate on this journey.  First of all we live in a day and age of food labeling laws.  Thank you God and the FDA.  If she were alive a hundred years ago, well, I just don’t think she would be.  We have a beautiful family of people who get it and err to the side of caution.  They are not offended when I ask to read labels, and years ago the boiled peanuts and peanut butter bars and pecan goodies were left out of our family gatherings.  (Anyone from the South can appreciate that sacrifice.)  And I love them for it.  My Cousin discusses beforehand what’s she baking and bringing to the get-togethers.  Mess Cat has a special cabinet of snacks that are safe for us to have when we are over at her house.  We have friends who remember the allergies and offer information before I can ask.  We have precious friends who washed down their whole kitchen and offered to put the “offending” groceries in the trunk of their car while we were there.  That’s love right there.  (But not necessary, thank goodness.)  Today I was buying some vegetables at a locally owned market.  The man I spoke with called his supplier to confirm that they were indeed okay for me to serve my child.  Like the restaurant where they offer to cook her food separately from everything else, their “above and beyond” service was appreciated, and we will be back.

We are also lucky to have a great allergist who is on top of his game.  He has offered to test her in his office on things that I’m nervous about.  He even knew about the new epi-pens that talk to you.  That it just too cool.  He gets my paranoia and worry, and he is a calming force.  Something I need.

It’s taken time but I’m back to breathing.  I can remember a couple of times about three years ago when we went to a restaurant that I had checked out beforehand.  I told the server when ordering as I always do, “My child has a food allergy.  Just letting you know.”  No problem.  So we ate. And toward the end of the meal, my child would start acting differently, saying she didn’t feel good.  I would go into near panic, asking constantly, “Can you breathe?”  And we’d get through it.  I’m not even sure what was going on with either of us, but we now call those “melkdowns.”  And we don’t have them much anymore.  I’ve learned to swallow the panic and observe carefully and calmly and rationally:  she’s breathing, she’s fine, we’re okay.  Honestly?  I think it’s possible she was mirroring my panic and anxiety.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t expect people to cater to us or to feel uncomfortable carrying on as usual.  She is adapting quite well and understands when I tell her she can’t have this bubblegum or that ice cream bar.  We compensate for it later at home, and she gets it.  What I do hope is that people understand when I say no, or when I just can’t find it in me to come to this event or that party or this special occasion.  Sometimes it’s just more than I can handle or I feel like the risk might be more than I’m ready to take on.  It’s not that I don’t trust you.  It’s that I can’t trust anyone or anything–I have to question everything.  It’s my job.  To protect her first and foremost–that’s my top priority.  I don’t mean to offend or hurt feelings, it just is what it is.

I don’t know what the future holds.  No one can tell me why she has these allergies and no one knows if a cure will be found.  I hope with all my heart that they will find something so that I can send her off into the world one day and not worry every second she is away from me.  Until then, if I seem overprotective or if I turn down an invitation or gift of food, please understand and forgive me.  She is my gift from God, a treasure–and it’s all I know to do–to protect her and keep her safe, no matter what it takes.

My sweet friend shared this article with me.  The author does a beautiful job of sharing what it is like to have a child with food allergies.  Everything she says resonates with me–it’s all true.  It’s worth taking the time to read.  http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/confession-food-allergy-mom-feel-isolated-222800587.html

For more information about food allergies, please visit Food Allergy Research and Education http://www.foodallergy.org/home