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.

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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