Navigating Minefields

Navigating Minefields

Imagine you walk into a room at one of your favorite places, maybe a restaurant in which you’ve enjoyed many meals or a park at which you’ve spent many afternoons daydreaming.  You notice that this time your favorite place is different.  Something feels off…it feels dangerous.  You look around trying to identify what is different.  You can’t tell at first but soon you start to see it…a minefield of explosives.

Most people would run in the other direction.  You’d have to be crazy to walk into a minefield, right?

Yet, this is exactly what those with food allergies face every time they go to a public place.  A minefield.

Now, imagine that it’s not you walking into your favorite place that is now so extremely dangerous…but it’s your child.  Your sweet, innocent child that is not prepared to identify dangerous situations as an adult would.

Think of this place as a park with a playground.  What was once a place to have fun and “be a kid” is now filled with explosives for your food allergic child.  Innocent, unaware children are walking around eating a PB&J sandwich, wiping it off their face and then touching the slide that your child is about to go down.  Never-mind that there is a picnic table nearby, the parent isn’t paying attention and the child is roaming around eating.  Another child is running around with their sippy cup of milk, dripping it on the playground equipment.  Your child has a life-threatening allergy to all of these foods that are now all over the playground.  This place is no longer fun.  It is dangerous.

Do you steal your child’s experiences of “being a kid” to keep them safe?  Do you take them to the minefield and hope for the best?  How do you handle this situation?  It’s one that food allergy families face daily.

Until you come face to face with the fact that the same food that is considered healthy for some will in fact kill your child, you might not be able to imagine the dangers present in everyday life.

Until you’ve had to witness your child struggle to breath, scratch their tongue vigorously with both hands, look into your eyes with a primal fear, vomit and go limp….all from one bite or drink of the wrong food, you might not understand why it’s so important to prevent exposure.  Until you’ve feared that one epi-pen jr isn’t enough to stop the anaphylactic response in your child, you might not understand why it’s so important to prevent exposure.  Until the hospital nurse has told you they have called the chaplain to come speak to you, you might not understand why it’s so important to prevent exposure.

Let me explain this clearly: it is CRUCIAL to prevent exposure.

Each anaphylactic response can become more rapid and deadly with each occurrence.  It’s as if the body’s response gets stronger each time.  The best way to prevent quicker, stronger anaphylaxis is to avoid exposure altogether.  It’s not as simple as just giving an epi-pen.  Sometimes they don’t work.  Sometimes it’s too late to stop the anaphylactic shock.  Sometimes the child does not see the other side of anaphylaxis.  It is a sobering truth that many need to hear.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

Food allergies have become a punchline to some, a weapon to bullies and death to it’s victims.  More concern, love and sympathy for each other would make all of our burdens easier to bear.  And maybe just a little safer for those who need to be loved and protected.

 

RVin’ It With Food Allergies

RVin’ It With Food Allergies
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There are many reasons why I love my RV.  Family fun, campfires, vacation home on wheels, less packing and unpacking, versatility…

But the number one reason I love my RV is how easy it makes traveling with food allergies.

My family loves to travel, make memories, experience new places and enjoy adventure.  All of those things became a little more difficult to experience when our youngest of four children was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies at the age of 1.  Many aspects of our life changed and traveling was one of them.  We could no long take spur of the moment weekend trips and keep our son safe.

Food allergy management requires serious planning.  Planning what to eat, how to cook, how to keep food fresh and our son safe.  We couldn’t just eat out the entire weekend.  With food allergies of peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, corn and wheat, eating out was and is dangerous.  The risk of cross-contamination is extremely high, even if a food is “free” of his allergens.  We had to find a way…adventure is just part of our family’s heartbeat.

Within a year after his diagnosis, we decided to purchase a used RV.  It was like a gift from God.  We could travel safely again.

We have 100% control of what enters our camper.  We can cook his allergen free food in a safe kitchen.  We can ensure he eats off a clean table (not always possible in a restaurant).  We don’t have to stay in a hotel room that may have sketchy cleaning between guests (who may have eaten and dropped peanuts just hours before you check in).  We can rest assured that he is safe, even when we travel.

It’s opened so many doors for our family.  We can go places and have adventures.  We come back to the camper to prepare and eat meals, where it’s safe.  We can connect as a family.  We can include our son in what we, as a family, had been experiencing before his diagnosis.

If you are a food allergy family, then you know, there is no better feeling then for your food allergic child to be included.  There are so many experiences that your child is excluded from, for safety reasons.  “You can’t have that, baby,” is a phrase your child hears a lot.  And it’s not about the toy at the store.  It’s about the food his sister is eating.  Or the birthday cake at a party that everyone else is so excited to try.  Or the buttered popcorn at the movie theater that everyone else is munching on.

It’s nice to make you child feel normal and included.  The RV has done that for this food allergy family.  And I thank God for it!

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

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No Peanut Is Welcome In My Home

I said goodbye to my love affair with peanuts over 2 years ago.  No more Reece’s cups, no more Snickers peanut butter squared, no more boiled peanuts, no more PB&J.  I haven’t looked back since.

Snapseed

No, I’m not allergic to peanuts.  My son is.  You see, if I eat a Reece’s cup (a lifetime favorite treat for me), I can’t get near my son for hours.  No kisses, no cuddles.  Protein from the peanut stays in saliva for hours after consumption.  I had to kiss my love affair with peanuts goodbye or I couldn’t kiss my son.  I love peanut stuff but I love my son more.

This wasn’t an easy obsession to break.  Peanut in some form or another was part of my daily routine.  If I was eating healthy (usually lasting a day or two), I would eat peanuts with cheese.  If I was eating unhealthy (the other 28 or 29 days of the month), I would eat a peanut butter candy of some sort, usually a Reece’s cup.  I started out by refraining from eating peanuts while I was around my son.  I could eat peanut products at work, as long as it was several hours before I had to pick up my son from daycare.

But then one day the daycare called and my son was sick.  I had to pick him up just after I’d eaten peanut candy.  Mommy fail.

So then, I just stopped eating peanuts altogether.  It just wasn’t worth the risk.  My son is severely allergic to even traces of peanuts.  Once, my Dad had eaten peanuts several hours before giving my son a hug.  As they hugged, their cheeks touched.  My Dad had a beard that apparently still had traces of peanut “dust” in it from his earlier consumption.  My son’s face immediately starting swelling and turning red, just from traces of peanut dust in my Dad’s beard.  Crazy!

Of coarse, we cleaned out the pantry of any peanut contaminated food as soon as we discovered my son’s allergy.  My other children and myself stopped eating peanut products over 2 years ago.  I’m pretty sure my husband hasn’t completely broken up with Reece’s cups while at work…but still,

No peanut is welcome in my home!

Trick or Treat: Candy My Kid Can’t Eat

orange and blue pumpkins
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Costumes, candy, and crisis.

Wait, crisis??

Well, it could be crisis for children with food allergies.  A night filled with excitement, imagination and candy treats is awesome for most kids but can be a nightmare for kids with food allergies.  Most candy treats just aren’t safe for them to eat.  Parents can’t read the labels of the candy to verify their safety, so the candy is taken away…that is, if the kid even gets to trick or treat.  Bummer.

One in thirteen children in the U.S. has food allergies, according to recent studies.  It’s time we take notice.  It’s time we include them.  Holidays are especially difficult for food allergy families due to the centrality of food at holiday celebrations.  No one wants to end up at the hospital on a holiday.

There is a way to make this a fun filled night for food allergy kids.  The Teal Pumpkin Project was created to include *not exclude* children with food allergies.  It’s pretty simple.  You just display a teal pumpkin outside your door to alert food allergy families that you have non-food treats.  Easy, inexpensive items to purchase are plastic spider rings, pencils, little rubber bouncy balls, etc.  Dollar Tree and Oriental Express are great places to purchase these treats affordably.  And here’s an important tip-keep them in a bowl separate from the candy you offer other kids to avoid any cross contamination.

You can purchase a plastic teal pumpkin to use year after year, or just paint your orange pumpkin teal.  It’s a fun project with the kids.  Use that opportunity to educate your children about food allergies and food safety.  Who knows, maybe one day they will save their friend’s life.

Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting children with food allergies!

“Act justly, love faithfulness, walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

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5 Things to do after a Conference

5 Things to do after a Conference

Conferences offer such a wealth of information for attendees but often leave your head spinning and feeling like you need to go in fifty different directions at once!  Here are a few tips to help you regain your focus after conference:

  1. Spend at least a day contemplating the ideas and things you were exposed to at conference.  It was A LOT to process so give yourself time to do that.  Motivational speakers at the conference may have you ready to take on the world, which is great, but you have to take time to digest the information and form a targeted plan to reach your desired outcomes.
  2. After contemplating the wealth of information thrown at you, review the list of sessions you attended and any notes you may have taken.  Review the paper or electronic handouts for information you may have missed in the live session.  Some things seemed important at the time but after contemplation, other important points may surface.  Write these down, as they will assist you in the next step.
  3. Make an action plan. Literally, make a list of actions you feel prompted to take based on the new information you have received.  Then start doing them!  One of the biggest mistakes conference attendees make is not acting on what they have learned.
  4. Review recommended resources from the conference. Buy and read the recommended books.  They may offer more insight into how to execute your action plan more effectively.
  5. Make connections. Some conferences publish a list of attendees with email addresses, social media handles, etc.  Don’t forget to follow up and nourish the connections you made at the conference.  Don’t let those connections die!  In today’s climate, connections are what will take you to the next level in any business or career you are pursuing.

You attended the conference to enrich your career.  Make an action plan and take advantage of what you learned!

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