After All These Years, Beer Still Makes Me Cry

So, this….

What a beautiful illustration of “dedication, loyalty, friendship”.  Not everyone gets to experience this degree of loving support from their friends and family.  It’s not because they’re not loved enough, but because the circumstances aren’t right.

Have you ever had an entire gathering of friends or family give up a basic daily right and ritual so you could be included?  We have.  This show of character is one that we have experienced over and over again.  Every time we go to a birthday party where the parents and children have opted for an entirely allergy free party just so Elena can participate fully, we feel it.  Every time we go to a playdate where people have gone out of their way to check every label, we feel it.  When we go to church and the coffee cart is stocked with Elena safe treats (and even rice milk), we feel it.  When we attend our family Thanksgiving and everything has been adapted to a safe version, we feel it.  Of course, we also feel it when this happens.

People often ask what are the hardest things about dealing with food allergies, but nobody ever asks what are the best parts.  This is the best part.  We get to feel this kind of love from our friends and family all the time.  It’s truly an amazing gift.

“Dedication…Loyalty…Friendship…The choices we make, reveal the true nature of our character.”

-The Good people at Guinness

How to Crush a Food Allergy Mom: A Tutorial

This is an easy to follow tutorial for how to crush a food allergy mom.  I’m offering the top 5 most crushing blows I have heard from other parents regarding my food allergic daughter or as commentaries on food allergies, knowing I have a food allergic daughter.  I know these work because I myself have been crushed by them.  Truthfully, you don’t need to follow each step.  Just pick your favorite and it will probably get the job done.  Of course, the more you use, the deeper the crushing.  Some of these have been said directly to me or in front of me.  Others were passed along second hand.  Either method seems effective.  Let’s get started.

Top 5 phrases for crushing a food allergy mom:

5)  “My child’s food preferences are as important as your child’s.”

Why it works:  This not only shows that you consider avoiding allergens to be a choice rather than a necessity, it also shows that overprotective food allergy mom that the effects of eating something other than cheese or peanut butter for a snack or meal are every bit as damaging as the effects of exposing her child to potentially “life threatening” allergens.  Just because the snack could kill her child, doesn’t mean yours shouldn’t eat it.  It’s not like kids ever transfer food particles around the classroom or playground.  If your kid NEEDS these snacks, other kids just need to deal with it.  Its not YOUR responsibility to keep her child safe at school.  She just wants everyone else to do her job for her.  (Last line was borrowed from a particularly fed up mother who was tired of the food allergy moms relying on others.)

4)  “If it’s that severe, you should just homeschool.”

Why it works:  This is the best way to show that food allergy mom that her child has no right to public education if they can’t tolerate being around your child’s favorite foods.  Why should THAT child even be here if everyone else has to change the way they pack lunches?  If his food allergy is that severe, he should just dig a hole and never climb out of it.  That will keep him safe for sure and nobody else will have to worry about it.  You know that if it were your child, you would just abandon all hopes and dreams for their future and change the plan.  After all, it’s not like they will EVER be able to function normally anyway, so why even bother trying to exercise options that should be reserved for “normal” parents?

3)  “Food allergies are not real.  They are made up by attention seeking parents.”

Why it works:  This works for two reasons.  It shows that the parent is to blame for the condition, while also pointing out the inauthenticity of food allergies.  You need to show these mothers that they can’t pull the wool over your eyes.  As if contact with a smear of ranch dressing could really KILL a child with an egg allergy.  What kind of a dimwit does she take you for?  Certainly it would just be a mild rash or a tummy ache.  Those who DO suffer breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis, and even heart attacks following ingestion probably only do so because their parents have caused such anxiety about everything the child eats.  Those parents should be ashamed of themselves.  After all, if you don’t fully understand a disease, it probably doesn’t exist.

2)  “Ick.  I don’t know how you can eat that stuff.”

Why it works:  This is a great one.  You don’t have to actually express disbelief in the food allergy to get this jab in.  After working for her child’s entire life to find/create safe alternatives to the foods your kids enjoy without a second thought, you can use the food allergy mom’s own efforts to crush both her and the child.  Chances are, she has convinced her child that their alternative is every bit as tasty as what your kids are eating.  She might even believe it’s true.  Pffffffffft.  Can you imagine?  Be sure you say it in front of the child, so the mother HAS to address it with them and to be sure they won’t feel so satisfied with their alternative in the future.  Maybe if we take away the acceptance of alternatives, she’ll drop the ridiculous charade.

1)  “Maybe it’s just nature’s way of weeding out the weak.”

Why it works:  This one hits hard in a totally different way.  With this one, you can admit that perhaps exposure to the allergen would actually kill her child.  The fact is, who cares?  Is she is so full of herself that she thinks the loss of such a small percentage of the population would impact us?  These children are obviously defective anyway.  Maybe if her child dies from an exposure to their allergen it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  I heard it put best, “maybe if we just all turn our heads for about 5 years, the whole food allergy problem will just fix itself.”

There you have it.  Just put on your pleasant parent face and deliver any or all of these lines in a sweet voice.  Chances are, nobody will stand up for her, and you will have successfully crushed a food allergy mom.  Honestly, there will be nothing she can say or do, so you needn’t worry about it coming back to you.  She’s going to have to maintain her focus on food and she really can’t afford to make any enemies.  She really can’t even react because she’s not going to want to bring any more attention to it in front of her child, who is already likely teetering on the edge of being a social outcast.  After all, food is central to all social events.  The most she can do is go home a cry about it after the kids are in bed.  Pathetic!

If you’re not interested in actually crushing her, but just want a few little digs to let her know you truly don’t understand or agree with her ways.  These are good to keep in your back pocket and slip into conversations with food allergy mom as needed…

-That’s a little over the top. (to be used for any precaution she takes)

-It’s too dangerous for the non-allergic children to have an Epipen in the classroom.

-I feel so sorry for your other kids because they have to live with this.

-Since there is likely a genetic component, I guess it was a tough decision to have more kids.

Happy Crushing!

Just remember this.  If you ever change your mind and heart, there are ways to help rebuild some of the rubble others have left behind.  Here are a few things people have said to me that make my heart feel fuller just thinking about them.

5)  “I would be doing the same thing if it were my child.”

4)  “These precautions are really not hard.  Anyway, it’s worth it to keep every child safe and included.”

3)  “I would like to pack a completely safe lunch/snack so our kids can play together without you having to worry.  What are some good food ideas?”

2)  “I just wanted to give you plenty of notice that I plan to bring in a treat for my child’s birthday.”  (followed by details of what they will be bringing so I can provide a comparable safe treat.)

and the biggest, best, most delightful way to build up ANY parent…

1)  “I LOVE your child.”  (End it right there.  This should not be followed by “but…”)

Thank You Up and Down and All Over the Place

I just want to take the time to thank all of the people in our lives who have gone out of their way to participate in our battle against food allergies.  By this, I mean, those who have put themselves in our shoes and taken special consideration to reduce Elena’s risk of exposure and exclusion.  

First, what does this mean?  Exposure and exclusion are the two things we fight against the most.  Obviously, we go to extremes to ensure that Elena will not come in contact with any food containing one of her allergens each and every day. The other struggle we face daily is fighting to avoid exclusion due to Elena’s allergies.  Every time a new and unfamiliar situation arises, my first inclination is to avoid attending.  I never know what the food will be like and how I will make Elena feel included in the event if she is not able to enjoy the treats that every other child around her is having.  We have so many friends and family members who have thought about this for us in advance and made sure Elena would be included.  We are so lucky to have such caring and considerate people in our lives and I think they can serve as a great example to other people who have friends dealing with food allergies.

I’m going to avoid using names because so many people have done these things for us and I don’t want to leave anyone out.  The acts are pretty amazing and all unsolicited.  I don’t even think I would have been able to think of these kind acts myself and I am amazed at how thoughtful these people have been.

One of the most dreaded events for many kids with food allergies (or their parents anyway) is the birthday party.  With our allergies (egg, dairy, nuts) cake is always an issue.  I always plan to bring Elena her own safe cupcake, but sometimes it’s just not the same.  All of the kids are crowded around a beautifully decorated cake unlike any they have ever seen, while Elena is at a safe distance with her same old cupcake that she gets every time there is a celebration.  Sure, I try to change it up.  I do different flavors and decorations.  Sometimes I let her decorate it herself, which is great fun while we’re at home, but when faced with the magnificence of the treat being enjoyed by the other kids, hers always seems to be a bit of a disappointment simply because it’s different.

Elena has actually woken up in the night crying because she dreamed she was at a birthday party and couldn’t have a cupcake like the other kids.  It is heartbreaking to see anxiety beginning in your 3 year old.  Although I fear exposure AND exclusion, she only fears exclusion.  I have no doubt that the fear of what could happen if she is exposed to an allergen will come in time, but for now she does not have an understanding of these risks.

I always bring a safe cupcake, so what else can be done?  Our friends have answered this one for me through what I can only describe as heroic acts of kindness.  They would tell me that’s silly, it’s no big deal, but to us, it’s everything!  Here are some examples of the kindness we have encountered…

1.  Saving/ordering safe decorations to add to Elena’s safe cupcake so hers will look like all of the others

2.  Finding an allergy safe bakery and ordering a special treat that Elena did not have to bring herself.  She loves getting something she has never seen before and that she knows Mommy did not bring.

3.  Making safe cupcakes/cake.  Yes, actually making egg/dairy/nut free dessert for EVERYONE!!!  Can you say, amazing?  Elena, being the only one with a food allergy in attendance did not even know the magnitude of this act, but I sure did.

4.  Letting me know ahead of time exactly what foods/treats will be served so I can duplicate as closely as possible.  This makes such a difference because, although hers is different, it’s not SO different.

 

Here are some cakes Elena has been able to enjoy…

This is Uncle Scott’s 32nd birthday cake with princess sprinkles.

Tiffany proves you are never too old to have an allergy free birthday cake, even if you don’t have food allergies of your own.  You’re welcome for this photo, Tiff.

 

Elena’s 2nd birthday party.  All of the kids enjoyed this allergy free cake even though Elena was the only one there with food allergies.

 
 

This was Elena’s 1st birthday cake.  She had her own safe smash cake and this one was NOT safe.  Yes, there was a time when I questioned whether I had the right to serve allergy free food to other people.  I am so glad those days are over.

Birthday parties are not the only difficult situations for a family dealing with food allergies.  It is also extremely difficult to accept help from others when we need it.  For example, when our second baby was born, we had to decide whether or not we could accept meals.  Ultimately, we decided that we would accept meals, but not allow Elena to have them, which meant cooking for her even when a meal was being provided for the rest of us.  So many people offered to bring safe food, but the truth is, we didn’t feel that we could accurately convey what goes into ensuring that a meal is safe, nor could we ask people to take such precautions.  Those friends of mine, what do you think they did?

1.  One gave me a detailed list of everything she was making ahead of time, including brand names and ingredients.  She actually did this for several options and asked me to choose one.  It was incredible!!!

2.  Someone removed all labels from the ingredients she used in her dish and taped them to one big piece of paper so I would have them in front of me.  Of course, she checked first as well, but this way I could read them for myself.

3.  One person took photos of all labels with her phone and brought it to me to scroll through before letting Elena eat.  I knew every ingredient was safe.

4.  Some ordered take out from a place we trust and gave the manager the shake down to make sure they got it right.

Make no mistake, the unsafe meals were greatly appreciated and enjoyed as well.  I don’t want anyone for a minute to think they should not have brought those delicious homemade meals of allergen filled goodness that I so looked forward to and enjoyed so thoroughly.  The truth is, I like cheese.  I like creamy, delicious, allergen filled foods that my daughter cannot eat.  It was such a treat for me to have “cheats”.  I didn’t mind whipping up a quick chicken breast for Elena and waiting until after bedtime to indulge.  I appreciate each and every person who loved on us in this way.  I’m focusing on the others in this blog because it is about our struggles with food allergies.  See my belly full of goodness blog for details about these other meals 😉

Finally, we feel the love by how we are treated in our own home and at our own parties.  I tend to host parties and play dates whenever I get a chance so that I know Elena will be able to celebrate holidays and events safely.  When we have people over, all of our food is allergy free.  We do not have anything at our party that Elena cannot enjoy.  This makes for some food options that are a bit out of the ordinary for many kids.  Kids who are used to goldfish, cheesy foods, creamy veggie dips, and other “kid food” are faced with veggie/hummus platters, vegan cupcakes, and whatever other festive Pinterest party food I have modified.  Do you know how many complaints I have heard when the kiddos see the food table?  None.  I have never ever heard anything negative about our less than customary spread.  Even more amazing, the adults are open as well.  You might not think it, but adults are far more difficult to please than kids when you mess with “traditional” food options.  I have heard grown ups turn up their noses at specialty diet foods more often than I care to remember.  I have even seen family members of another allergic child refuse to eat his birthday cupcakes because they were allergy free.  I had a difficult time picking my jaw up off the floor on that one.

Here are some of our allergen free party tables…  

Elena’s 3rd birthday party: Fancy Nancy themed

 
 

Halloween Bash

 

Valentine’s Day Play Group

Thank you to all of our wonderful people for being on our side of this battle.  I cannot even begin to express what it means to us.  You have changed our lives for the better!!!