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

 

 

“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.