Monday, May 31, 2010

Gratitude Experiment

I'm determined to do something different.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to speak up, comment, call in, speak to a manager when something is wrong but not when something is right?

This month I am going to focus on the good that I see around me. I am going to notice the little ways that people show me kindness. I am going to appreciate the checker with a good attitude. I am going to be thankful for good service. I am going to thank God for the people that are around me.

I am not going to be thankful silently.

I am going to be vocal about kindness. I am going to compliment a complete stranger. I am going to fill out customer service forms and report wonderful service. I am going to email places of business about how well they are doing. I am going to call places and ask to speak to a manager just to tell them I appreciate what their employees are doing.

I was inspired to do this gratitude experiment a few days ago. In the last few days, I have thought about it (read that as, gathered a business card with the intention to email, noticed a clerk's name, etc) and realized that this is not something that will be easy to do. I am going to have to be intentionally grateful. I am going to have to do more than just thank God for those around me. I'm going to have to act. And... it is going to take effort.

I Cannot Forget

This past Saturday my husband told me he wanted to put up a flag on our house. When I agreed, he grabbed the flag and flag post. He had already bought them. My emotions swelled as I watched him put a flag up. It is a clear testament to his patriotism. It is a statement that he remembers. He served in the Army for 10 years. He went to Iraq. He knows people that died for our country.

Today, I cannot forgot those that have died for our country.

I will never forget watching a family play together at Chuck E Cheese before an upcoming deployment... the price that soldier paid for our country and his precious family weigh on my heart this Memorial Day.

I'm thankful for those that serve and praying for those that have lost loved ones.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hitting the Links

My Saturday morning coffee is in-hand. My oldest had a friend sleep-over and they were up past midnight. They got up at 7. My oldest requires more sleep than that. My second son was up really late and woke up at 6:30. My smartest son (I mean, my youngest son) is still asleep. My daughter is also snoozin'. My husband is in the kitchen starting breakfast. I love that he likes to cook Saturday morning breakfast. I have missed relaxed Saturday mornings. Soccer ended last Saturday. I don't have a lot planned for today but I want to get a lot done around the house. I feel like being relaxed and working really hard. I wonder if motivation or relaxation will prevail.

If you have a little time to relax and surf around, here are some places I recommend visiting:

My Colossal Task Burden
"In one sense, task-juggling makes me feel great: busy, energised, fulfilled, as if I'm living three lives in the space of one. But I also know I'm scattered. I'm overloading my circuits. This overstimulated, underfocused world is driving us all batty"
Um, yes, I can relate.

Swagger Wagon "This Goes out to all of the Mini-Van families out there..."
This really cracks me up when I imagine myself and my husband singing the song. Ok, it cracks me up no matter what!

provide. ABIDE. "I am always praying “provide.” Gimme, gimme, gimme! God is always saying “ABIDE.” Abide in Me."
This was just the reminder I needed this week.

Parenting in the Rearview Mirror "Looking back, I realize that the words that next came out of his mouth marked the watershed moment in my life as a parent, and in our family's life. There was life before the words were uttered, and then there has been life since that time."
Read the post. Pray for Henry. (His family lives in my hometown and my husband is friends - or at least facebook friends- with a family member of his.) You can find updates on how Henry is doing on Katie's blog: Mamapundit He is in critical condition again, as of last night.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cupcakes and Special Nights (TTT #129)

I am thankful for Betty Crocker. I may not be Betty Crocker but today I am thankful for her. Last night was my 3rd son's graduation from preschool. Days ago, I asked him what dessert he would like me to make for the graduation reception. He wanted cupcakes. I asked him multiple times because I love to bake and cupcakes aren't that exciting to make. He really wanted cupcakes.

Yesterday at the store, I bought a Betty Crocker mix to use for the cupcakes.

Today, I decided to make the cupcakes from scratch. That was a bad decision. I didn't realize it but baking can be challenging when you are really tired. I was really tired.

I made three batches of cupcakes.

Batch 1: I was mixing the ingredients. I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. I looked at the recipe and read 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda. I dumped the dry ingredients into the trash.

Batch 2: I mixed the dry ingredients (and realized that this recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. Yep, that last batch could have been okay.) I put the cupcakes in the oven. When they were about done, I looked at them and realized something wasn't right. Oh, oops, that's right, I forgot to put in the eggs.

I called my son over. I asked him how special the cupcakes were. I asked him if I could make brownies and rice krispie treats. He said, "They aren't that special... but, Momma, you could throw those out and make more real fast. You could do it really fast." In other words, the cupcakes were special and he really wanted them.

Batch 3: BETTY CROCKER. Yes siree! And, they turned out fantastic. I am SO thankful that I bought that Betty Crocker cupcake mix. My son loved his cupcakes.

I am thankful for special family nights. Last night was my son's preschool graduation. I get really excited about special events. I love to see my kids feel special. I am thankful for my son's preschool experience and his fantastic teachers.

Here are a few pictures:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Without Words

Without warning, I fell.

I stumbled. Something caught my attention. Someone seemed so much better. I compared myself and in my eyes, I paled in comparison.

I tripped myself up with too many tasks on my to do list. I multi-tasked. I could not keep up with myself. I forgot to catch myself before I fell into feelings of failure.

I crashed down with the weight of the burdens (that I took on) of others. I loaded myself down with thoughts of concern and desperate longings to be the one that could make everything better. I did not realize that I could not be everything to everyone.

I descended into an abyss of self-pity and discontentment. The abyss was imagined but powerfully real.

I fell. In some ways I am still falling. These are just a few of the ways that I struggle.

When I feel strong feelings of failure, I have to stop. When I am falling, it is hard to stop.

I search for words.

The words come to me flowing like a waterfall over a cliff. The words fall from my heart and collect in a pool of prayers.

My prayers feel weak sometimes. I imagine they are flowing streams that gather strength as they morph into rivers and ultimately an ocean of praise and petition.

My faith is unwavering even when my steps are unsteady.

Without words of prayer, I plummet into self-absorption. My words, through prayers, sustain me even when I am weak.

When I fail to pray, when I am without words, I cannot abate my feelings of failure. Without words of prayer, my focus rests on myself and not on my Saviour.

My faith is unwavering. My words are being squeezed out of my heart through prayer. I am still here. I am struggling, praying, and growing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: White Chicken Chili

My house smells so good right now...

I spent this morning feeling sad (read that as, very, very, veeeeery sad) about the U2 concert being postponed until 2011. I am bummed big time about that. We were going to the concert with some friends of ours from WA. The husband, Dan, is a big U2 fan (like me) and the wife, Melissa, tolerates U2 (like my husband). I spent so much time thinking about our friends and the concert this morning that I decided to make Melissa's White Chicken chili for dinner. Melissa is a fantastic cook. You should definitely check out her recipe blog: Cucina Pazza

Anyway, this is the perfect dish for tonight. It's made and waiting for us to enjoy when we get home from the kids' swim lessons.

White Chicken Chili

1 rotisserie whole chicken from your local grocery store deli section
3 cans Great Northern Beans- drained and rinsed
2 cans Ortega mild fire roasted chilis - chopped (I usually only put in 1 can)
butter, oil, or margarine- whatever you use for sauteing
1 onion -chopped
2 Tbsp chopped garlic (today I used two pressed gloves of garlic)
2 containers mild fresh salsa (it's got to be fresh- not the jar stuff & don't drain it, use the juice, too)
1 - 32 oz carton chicken broth
1 small bunch cilantro - chopped (optional)
chopped avocados, cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips for garnish

Saute your chopped onion and garlic.

While that's cooking, start tearing the white and dark meat from the chicken. Don't be afraid to use the dark meat (it adds a lot of flavor to the soup).

Add the torn chicken, broth, white beans, chili and fresh salsa to the crockpot.

Mix well.
Simmer on low heat for two hours.

Add the chopped cilantro (I add a small bit but mainly I let people add it to their own bowl).

Continue to simmer while you prepare your selected garnish (at least 20 minutes).

Serve with avocados, cheddar cheese and sour cream on top.

Check out other wonderful recipes at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Salsa Beef Skillet

We had this dish last week after not having it for a long time. It is a favorite of my husband's. It's extremely easy to make. You just have to have enough time (2 hours) to let it simmer.

Salsa Beef Skillet

1 boneless chuck roast (2 to 2 1/2 pounds) cut into 3/4 inch cubes (I used stew meat)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jar (16 ounces) chunky salsa
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley (I use cilantro)
2 tablespoons lime juice
Hot cooked rice

In a large skillet, brown beef in oil; drain.
Add salsa, tomato sauce, garlic, brown sugar and soy sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is tender. Stir in cilantro and lime juice; heat through. Serve over rice.

Check out other wonderful recipes at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Musings

This is a totally random post. And, I stole the post title from Missy.

Let's start with a few things that I find funny.

I watched a little one pick her nose, put the booger on my window sill and then tell me she had no idea what the booger was. Man, she had a believable face! She is going to be trouble when she's older. (And, since her parents sometimes read this blog- it wasn't a big deal, it was just FUNny.) I made her get it up with a tissue and throw it away.

There's a new kind of skittles out. I haven't seen them but apparently they are gross and coated with baking soda. Seriously? Wow. This post by my cousin totally cracked me up: Fizzle You, Skittles!

My husband wants to crash a Lost party so he can hang out with my friend's husband. I think it's funny. My husband doesn't watch Lost. He's just an introvert social like that.

Speaking of my husband, I beat him soooo bad at Wii Resort on Mother's Day. I am a terrible video game player. We were playing the flying game (I don't even know the name. Is there a name for the Wii Resort flying game?). It was fun. I think we played 3 games and I won every single game. [My husband's face gets red everytime I talk about this.] You see, I had three boys cheering for me. More than cheering for me, they were cheering against dad, saying things like, "Nooooo Daddy, don't shoot Momma!" "It's Mother's Day, she has to win." "Stoooop, Daddy. Stop!!!" And, then my 5 year old started hitting him when he shot at me. It was hilarious... and I

More randomness...

I hate cutting tomatoes. I just do.
It hurts to burn yourself on the oven- like I just did.

I love Dora. I don't but I so do. After 9 years of boys, hearing a 2 year old love Dora is a-DORA-ble.

I am really bad with dates. Seriously, I am so glad my mom called to tell me yesterday that the 21st is on Friday. How lame would it have been to get my Facebook notification today telling me that my husband's birthday is Friday? I never forgot his birthday was on the 21st. I just didn't realize that the 21st is THIS Friday.

I like shopping for little girls. We went to a Tinker Bell birthday party for a 4 year old yesterday. I had so much fun shopping for the birthday girl that I bought my daughter a Tinker Bell PJ outfit. She needed those PJs -really. Girl stuff is so cute. I may be in trouble.

I guess I better go. I told my husband I had a good dinner for him and I have to go cut a tomato (for the salad) and get the (made-me-burn-my-arm) lasagna out of the oven.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Allergy Interviews with my Kids

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. I spent more time online reading food allergies news and reading other food allergy blogs than normal. I learned, laughed and even teared up a bit. It was good for me. It was good for my peanut allergic son, too. One day I was watching an Epi-pen video and it caught his attention. He watched most of the video and we talked about it. We had numerous conversations about food allergies. We talked about things we don't talk about on a day-to-day basis.

This year, for the second year in a row, I interviewed my son about his peanut allergy. I also interviewed his older brother. This was a great exercise. I like knowing their answers but I also like the way it opened up conversation.

The interviews took place at different times and the boys didn't overhear each other's answers.

Allergy Interview with my peanut allergy son's older brother (he's 9):

Question: Is it hard to have a brother with a peanut allergy?
Answer: Kind of. The hardest part is not being able to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No, no, no- not being able to eat Reeses candy bars.

Question: Do you ever worry about David?
Answer: Ya

Question: What do you worry?
Answer: That someone (at school) might switch a peanut butter sandwich for his sunbutter and jelly sandwich

This one really surprised me. I hadn't even thought of this and I thought it was interesting that it worried my older son.

Question: What do you do to keep David safe?
Answer: I don’t share with David unless it does not have peanuts … like when I get a snack during soccer.

Question: Do you ever wish David didn’t have a peanut allergy?
Answer: Ya, then he could sit with me at the round tables, where I always sit.

Interesting to me that he brought up the peanut-free table when we hadn't discussed it. We talked more about it. His brother is almost done with his lunch when he arrives. He just wishes he could sit at the round tables because that's where he likes to sit.

Question: What would you tell someone about food allergies?
Answer: You need to have the Epipen thingy with you. You need to know how to read labels.

Question: What’s the most important thing for someone to know about David?
Answer: He has food allergies. He’s allergic to peanuts. He can’t eat them or touch them.

Allergy Interview with my 6 year old son that has a peanut allergy:

Question: What are you allergic to?
Answer: Peanuts. I used to be allergic to fish and eggs, too.

For the record, he was also allergic to wheat.

Question:Do you like having a peanut allergy?
Answer: A little bit

Question: Why do like it a little bit?
Answer: Because I don’t think I would like peanuts, anyways.

Question: Is there anything else you like about having the allergy?
Answer: I like sitting at the peanut free table.

Question: Why do you like sitting there?
Answer: I, well, there’s one corner that I love to sit on. I like the corner because I like only having one person next to me.

Question: But, why do you like the peanut free table?
Answer: Um, I don’t know. I just do.

I talked him more about the peanut-free table. I'm not sure if he likes it because he feels safe there or if it is because he feels special. Either way, it's great that he likes it.

Question:Are there any good things about a peanut allergy?
Answer:I can’t think of anything.

Question: What would happen if you ate a peanut?
Answer: I would have to have my Epipen.

Question: What would happen to YOU?
Answer: I would start to stop breathing.

Question:What would we do if you ate a peanut?
Answer:Get my Epipen and hit it on me.

Question: Do you know how to use an Epi-pen?
Answer: I think so. Just by hitting it hard on me.

At this point, we talked about how to use the Epi-pen and how it works. This was probably one of the most important parts of the interview. He comprehends so much more as each year passes.

Question:What do Momma and Daddy do to keep you safe?
Answer:Make sure I don’t eat peanuts by checking the labels

Question: How do you keep yourself safe?
Answer:By not eating things that I don’t know aren’t safe.

Question:If someone offered you food, what would you do?
Answer: I would eat it if it was a tootsie roll. If it wasn't a tootsie roll, I'd say, "No, I don't want it." I just wouldn’t have it if I didn’t know it wasn’t safe.

I really hope Tootsie Rolls are always safe.

Question:What is the hardest part of a peanut allergy?
Answer:Not knowing if something has peanuts in it.

Question: What is the scariest part of a peanut allergy?
Answer:The scariest part is when you eat it.

Question: Do you remember when you ate the cake?
Answer:Ya, when I had the hives. I remember that I said my throat hurts.

Question: You had a bad dream last week about your allergy. Why did you have a bad dream?
Answer: Because I ate a peanut. I don’t really remember how it got in my mouth but no one could find my Epi-pen.

That was a rough night. He woke up extremely upset. I'm used to telling my kids that monsters are not real (that sort of thing). His nightmare was truly scary. It broke my heart. So, at 3 a.m., we prayed for his safety.

Question: Do kids every tease you about having a peanut allergy?
Answer:I don't think so. No.

Question: Do they ask you questions about it?
Answer: Well, I told people about my bracelet. Ya, I like it a little bit because it will help me survive. The people can read what it says and then they’d get the Epipen.

Question: How does your peanut allergy make you feel?
Answer: I don't know about that.

Question: Does it bother you to be different from other kids?
Answer: I don't know about that one. I'm not nervous about it.

Question:Are there any times at school besides when you are at the peanut free table when you feel different from the other kids?
Answer: I don't really feel different from other kids.

Question: If you could tell our whole town something about having a peanut allergy what would it be?
Answer: It is really hard to know if there aren't peanuts in something.

If you have a child with a food allergy, I highly recommend that you interview them. It is a fantastic way to see what they understand. It provides a perfect time to teach your child more about what they need to know.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Thanks Tank #128

Every week I take time to appreciate my blessings. Each Thursday I make a list. This is my Thursday Thanks Tank. The list looks different from week to week -sometimes I write lists on paper, sometimes I make a mental list throughout my day, and sometimes I make a list as I write a post for this blog. No matter how I write it out, my Thursday Thanks Tanks are a glimpse into my thankful heart.

This week I am focusing on my son's peanut allergy. Here are somethings that I am thankful for in regards to my son's food allergy.

My cell phone The school called me today. It wasn't about my son's food allergy. It was about his asthma. Still, they confirmed that they would be able to reach me by cell phone at any point of the day. Years ago, that wouldn't have been possible. I am thankful for my cell phone.

Epi-pens Honestly, my son's Epi-pen scares me. If I have to use it, that means something bad has happened. That's scary. But, I am super thankful that Epi-pens exist and that they can provide life saving medicine to my son.

My son's teacher She has made this year easy on me. It hasn't been easy to send my peanut allergic son to school. My son's teacher has taken his allergy as seriously as I do. For that, I am forever grateful.

My kids I am thankful for my kids because they look out for each other. I cannot count the times that one son or the other has asked us if they can have a snack (at soccer practice, church, or somewhere else) because "is it safe for David?" Their concern for their brother makes my heart happy.

My son's attitude My son, David, has the most amazing attitude about his allergy. I'm up late asking my husband what he is thankful for related to David's allergy and his response is "I'm not thankful." (Tomorrow he will chastise me for posting that.) But, David says that he likes his allergy a little bit (stay tuned for his allergy interview). The kid amazes me. He has the best outlook. He takes his allergy in stride.

Food Awareness Because of my son's allergy, I am super aware of food ingredients. This encourages me to live healthier. At the very least, I am aware of what my kid are eating.

A growing ability to plan-ahead My son's allergy has taught me to plan ahead. I have to be prepared. I plan ahead when we are going out. If we are out, there is a possibility there will be food involved. If food's involved, I need the medicine bag (complete with benadryl, allergy eye drops, and a 2 pack of Epi-pens). I need the bag at all times because food is everywhere. Planning ahead doesn't come naturally to me but it has become a way of life.

Hospitality It almost seems sarcastic but I don't mean it that way- I am much more hospitable because of my son's food allergy. I will always offer to bring food. If someone refuses my offer because it isn't needed, I bring food anyway. I ask ahead of time about food preparations. I offer to host. I offer to bring desserts (because dessert is really important to a 6 year old). I am at all of the class parties. My son's food allergy has prompted me to be more involved and hospitable.

Twitter Allergy Friends and Allergy Blogs I learn from my twitter allergy friends. I learn from the posts on allergy blogs. Sometimes twitter friends just let me know that they understand. That helps. I am thankful for these forms of media. I have learned so much from them.

I have to stop because it is late. I have to say this is a good exercise. I tend to get bogged down in the stress of food allergies. It is stressful. There's no doubt about that. It helps to take a few minutes and think about the positive side of food allergies.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kids Get Involved In Food Allergy Awareness Week

KFA (Kids With Food Allergies) is promoting Food Allergy Awareness Week by giving the kids a chance to get involved. They are hosting "The Many Faces of Food Allergies". My son had fun looking at the pictures of other kids with food allergies. He didn't just look at them once. He looked at them over and over.

Then, we took our own pictures.

The best part about the Faces of Food Allergies campaign is that it prompted conversations with my kids about being aware of food allergies. That's what Food Allergy Awareness Week is all about.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Staying Safe in Elementary School with a Peanut Allergy

This time last year, I was a nervous wreck. My peanut allergy son was finishing up preschool and I was preparing to send him to Kindergarten.

His first year of school has gone remarkably well.

I credit the success to:

1. Prayer
2. Preparing Early
3. Constant Communication with Teacher and Staff members
4. Education
5. Being Proactive

1. Prayer. I believe, without a doubt, that prayer makes a difference. I pray for my son's safety regularly.

2. Preparing Early.
Last year, about this time, my husband and I met with the school nurse and principal. We discussed David's allergy. I brought the What I'd Like for You To Know post that I shared yesterday. We talked about the best way to keep David safe. We planned setting up a peanut free table. We worked out the plan for how the Epipen would be handled. We talked about food in the classroom. We created a health plan for my son. They could not tell me his teacher at that point. We made plans for me to meet with the teacher the week before school started. We asked for what we wanted. We did not demand what we thought we needed. There's an important distinction there that creates a working relationship. There were things that we asked for that we didn't decide on at that first meeting. Those decisions were made closer to the start of school. Our willingness to consider what worked best for the teachers and staff, encouraged them to work harder to make the concessions that we wanted.

3. Constant Communication with Teacher and Staff members
A key to our success this year has been my constant communication with the teacher and staff members. Here's my plug for volunteering at school: the more you do at the school, the more you will develop a relationship with the staff members. I have had times when I was at school where a staff member would let me know a concern or ask me a question. I feel certain that wouldn't have happened as much if they would have had to call. Staying in constant contact with the teacher gives the teacher an easy way to let you know about school parties or special projects that are happening in the classroom. There have been times when the teacher has mentioned something to me when I was picking up my son or volunteering at school. I know many parents work so it is hard to be at the school during the day. There are other ways to be actively involved. You could sign up to take home projects to work on. Something as simple as cutting out circles (or something like that) for a teacher, will create a sense that you want to be involved. The year before my PA son entered school, I took home projects to help my older son's teacher. Involvement makes a difference. I believe that. Another fantastic way to communicate is through email. My son's teacher has my email address. We communicate regularly that way.

4. Education
At the beginning of the year, I read Allie the Allergic Elephant to my son's class. The class also had a taste of sunbutter on crackers. We gave them a chance to ask questions. Along with that, I provided the teacher the Beyond a Peanut cards. I sent allergy information to the 3 kindergarten teachers, the manager of the Cafeteria staff, the person in charge of the health room, and the principal.

I cannot emphasize this enough: It isn't enough to educate the school staff members, the child with food allergies must be educated about his allergies. My son is extremely careful. He questions everything he is given to eat. He is used to seeing my "ok" on the classroom snacks. For example, while I checked the snacks that were used to make a snack left by lephrechans, my son wasn't comfortable eating it because he couldn't read the labels. Thankfully, his creative and caring teacher called me to ask if the Leprechans had left the food out for me to check. The point is, my son understands that he shouldn't take chances.

5. Being Proactive
Throughout the year, I have tried to be proactive. I created a list of safe snacks, safe candy, and safe party items. I walked through Wal-mart with a pen and pad of paper making the list. I tried to make a large enough list so that the parents would have plenty of choices. I emailed the list to the teacher. She sent out the lists numerous times throughout the year (especially before Halloween and Valentine's Day). She also handed them out to parents before parties.
Being proactive means thinking ahead. Coming full circle with my list, I am already preparing early for next year. I have talked briefly with the Principal about worked well and what we might change for my son when he's in 1st grade. She is already considering getting Epipen training for a 1st grade teacher.

This year has been a good year. Please email me ( if you have questions about the provisions that were put in place for my son. Also, feel free to email me if you have questions about my son's allergy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What I'd Like for You to Know

This post was originally published in Oct of 2008 as a part of Shannon's What I'd Like for You to Know series on her Rocks in My Dryer blog. Since the post, my son, David, had a reaction to a cake mix (that was not labeled to include peanuts). You can read about that reaction here: Cake Wreck. I am republishing this post because it contains a lot of great info about the challenges we face with food allergies.

What I'd Like For You To Know: Dealing with Food Allergies in a Child

I had an eventful morning at church this past Sunday. Our church has a “Children’s Time” where the children go down front and are presented with a quick lesson. After the lesson, they go to another room for a children’s program. This week the pastor decided to use a Trick-or-Treat illustration to talk about sharing. He began by handing out paper bags to the kids. Then he pulled out a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups. That’s the moment I stopped paying attention to the story. My husband jumped up and got our son out of the group. I bolted out the door. All I could think was, “I have to get the antibacterial wipes out of the car!” It wasn’t entirely rational but I was in protection mode. I didn’t know if the kids already had the candy or not and in a matter of seconds I was imagining trying wash (or at least wipe) the hands of about 20 kids. I flew to my car in a frenzy, found the wipes and located a bag of Dum Dum lollipops. I bounded back up the church steps 2 or 3 at a time, breezed down the aisle and plopped the bag of lollipops on the podium. When I sat down in my seat, I was shaking. I felt a bit like Superwoman and a lot like a crazy woman. From behind me, I heard someone say: “Someone has a peanut allergy.” I quickly found out that several people in the congregation had stopped the pastor from handing out the peanut butter candy.

My 5-year-old son, David, has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. If you are not familiar with food allergies, it may sound strange to hear that a food can be life threatening. It can be and it is for my son.

I want everyone to know: A true food allergy is a very serious condition. A food allergy is extremely different from a food intolerance (such as lactose intolerance) or a food sensitivity. A true food allergy is an immune system response to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. The body creates antibodies to the food. When a severely food-allergic person eats even a tiny amount of the food to which he is allergic his immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals and histamines. Symptoms, which can begin within seconds of exposure to the allergen, can range from mild (such as a few hives on the face) to an extreme, potentially fatal reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can make one or more bodily systems go haywire. The biggest danger is that the person’s throat can swell shut, his blood pressure can drop rapidly, and he can literally “drop dead” – all within minutes of ingesting even the smallest amount of allergen. There currently is no cure for this type of food allergy, and the only course of action is complete avoidance of the offending foods.

When I first found out David had food allergies, I did not realize what it meant for my son, for myself and my family. In the beginning, David was allergic to fish, wheat, eggs, and peanuts. The allergist told us he appeared to be outgrowing the wheat, egg and fish allergies. By age 2, he had outgrown those allergies. I did not realize the seriousness of his peanut allergy. I still had peanut butter in the house. I still made peanut butter sandwiches for my older child. I did not grasp the chance I was taking. When I look back, I am grateful that nothing happened during that time.

Let me tell you a bit about our day-to-day battle with my son’s peanut allergy. Our home is now peanut-free. I read food labels constantly. Grocery shopping requires reading labels. I must always check the ingredients. Some products have allergy warnings and some just list the ingredients. I cannot think “once safe, always safe.” Companies change food production. One of David’s worst experiences was when he had some crackers that had previously been safe. He had hives for 4 days because they “contained traces of peanuts.” Just knowing an item doesn’t contain nuts is not enough. Food that is made on the same equipment where nuts have been processed posses a risk. We cannot get anything from a grocery store bakery (or any bakery). Going to a birthday party usually means bringing an individual cupcake for David. He cannot have store bought cake. Even if it is homemade, he cannot have the cake if I don’t know if the mix has a peanut warning. Eating out is challenging, to say the least.

I appreciate efforts by friends and family to keep David safe. There are times when I know that people have tried to avoid peanut products but I still don’t feel comfortable letting David eat the food. Without knowing the ingredients first-hand, I cannot trust that an item does not contain nuts or contain a product that has a peanut warning. I am gracious and appreciative but I cannot take any chances. When his allergy is forgotten (like at church), I do not feel angry. I do not expect other people to protect him. I may appear panicked or emotional, but I am not upset with anyone.

I want you to know that parents of allergic children do not have all the answers about food allergies and protecting their children. We are constantly learning.

I ask you not to share frightening stories. (I have had people at different times tell me they knew someone that died from a peanut allergy.) Parents of allergic children do not need to be reminded of the worst-case scenario.

Please be understanding if you try to make something allergen free and the allergic person is still not comfortable eating the item. Above all, an allergic person has to be safe and cannot take risks.

I want you to understand that we do not want to inconvenience anyone; we only want to protect our child.

It has been impossible to protect my son from all peanut contact. He has been exposed to peanuts through physical contact. He was exposed from a child booster seat (at a restaurant that served PB&J to kids). He was exposed at an airport (touched something that someone who had eaten peanuts had touched and then rubbed his eye). He was exposed in a kid cart at Wal-Mart. He has been exposed at a friend's house. Contact exposure (except when rubbed in his eye) has so far caused hives.

My son has not had a life-threatening reaction. But that does not mean that he does not have a life-threatening allergy. He has only ingested a tiny amount of a peanut product (peanut butter) once. With every exposure to an allergen, a body is going to fight the allergen more. One mild reaction does not guarantee another mild reaction. There is no way to know the intensity of the next reaction. David has had allergy tests yearly. The tests indicate his allergy is only getting more intense. He is required to have an EpiPen (an auto-injector of epinephrine used to treat anaphylactic shock) with him at all times.

Before I found out about my son’s peanut allergy, food allergies didn't mean anything to me. Now, I am constantly aware of the possible danger. I do all I can to education myself. I pray for my son’s safety and I pray not to be overwhelmed with fear.

I hope that this glimpse of our struggle with a food allergy makes you more aware.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Respect Every Bite

Today is the start of Food Allergy Awareness Week. Information about the week from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases can be found here: Food Allergy Awareness Week 2010

Country star Trace Adkins has a daughter with life threatening food allergies and he has become a wonderful spokesman for FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network). Here's a video introducing the "Respect Every Bite" theme for Food Allergy Awareness Week.

It takes so many people working together to help keep our allergy kids from reacting to the things that can hurt them. Thank you to everyone in David's life who goes out of their way to keep him safe.

Mom Taught Me to Love Beauty

My Mom Taught Me to be persistent.

So, when she said, "I just wanna see the mountain", I knew we'd end up on the mountain.

In this picture, I'm thinking, "I can't believe I'm headed to that mountain."

You see, we set off to see a waterfall. I had a map and mapquested directions. She looked at the map and led me to the mountain.

My mom taught me how to have a good time.

I couldn't be who I am without her.

We've faced challenges together and miles apart. We never doubt our love.

My mom taught me not to give up.

We still went to the waterfall (that same day).

The waterfall was beautiful.

The scenery was beautiful.

My Momma taught me to love beauty.

The mountain and the scenic waterfall are beautiful.

Nothing can compare to my beautiful Momma. She is beautiful inside and out. I love her.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thursday Thanks Tank #127

Every week I take time to appreciate my blessings. Each Thursday I make a list. This is my Thursday Thanks Tank. The list looks different from week to week -sometimes I write lists on paper, sometimes I make a mental list throughout my day, and sometimes I make a list as I write a post for this blog. No matter how I write it out, my Thursday Thanks Tanks are a glimpse into my thankful heart.

This week I am thankful for teachers.

I am thankful for the teacher that gave my son extra attention when he was learning to read. I am thankful for her Title 1 program that took him from a struggling reader to reader with a passion for books. I am thankful for her dedication and encouragement.

I am thankful for my son's 1st and 2nd grade teacher (he had the same teacher both years). I credit her and the Title 1 teacher for my son's love of reading. I am thankful for her dedication. This year, even though he isn't in her class, she brings my son books to read just because she thinks he will enjoy them. I am thankful for how much she cares.

I am thankful for my son's current teacher and the way she encourages his confidence. She has lots of different kids in her class. I have seen her give extra encouragement to my son. I know she wants the best for the students.

I am thankful for the many teachers and staff members that have done extra work to protect my son with a severe food allergy. They have made him and me feel comfortable.

I am thankful for the aide that expresses concerns to me about keeping my son safe. I trust her and appreciate how seriously she takes my son's allergy.

I am thankful for my son's teacher that put extra safety precautions in place to make sure my son will not have an allergic reaction in her classroom.

I am thankful for my son's teacher for the extra care she gives each student. She is doing a summer program for the outgoing kindergartners just because she wants them to continue to excel.

I am thankful for my son's preschool teacher. I don't even know where to start. She was the first teacher my peanut allergic son had. She helped me transition to the school years. This year, she took my youngest son from not wanting to go to school to loving every minute of it. She inspires little ones.

I am thankful for the numerous teachers at the elementary school that support the parent teacher group (our PTO). This year I have had the privilege of leading the PTO and I have been blessed time and time again by teachers and staff members that give extra time to the school. I have also been constantly encouraged by the staff and teachers.

I don't know how teachers do all that they do. The teachers that I know are amazing. I thank God for the teachers at my kids' elementary school and preschool. They go above and beyond what's expected.

For all of the teachers out there, I am thanking God for you today.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Be Still

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Baked Garlic Chicken

I made this dish last week when my parents were in town. It's a chicken recipe the whole family likes. I got the recipe from my Washington MOPS cookbook. It's delicious.

Baked Garlic Chicken
*needs to marinate
2 cups sour cream
2 tbls lemon juice
4 garlic cloves
4 tsp celery salt
4 tsp Worcester sauce
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups crushed butter flavor (I used Ritz) crackers (about 50)
1/4 c. vegetable oil

In a large shallow container, combine the first 7 ingredients. Add chicken, turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Place cracker crumbs in a shallow bowl; roll chicken in crumbs until coated. Put chicken in a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Drizzle oil over chicken. Bake covered w/foil at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear.

Here's a picture of the chicken before it was cooked.

I had planned to take another picture after it was baked. I forgot about taking pictures. I was hungry.

Check out other wonderful recipes at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Sweet Score and Moment of Love

It's soccer Saturday again. All three of my boys are play soccer this season. I just love it.

Last week, my 5 year old scored his first goal. It was priceless.

We had to drag him to the game. He got in the car in tears. We allowed him to bring "Bobby" along, hoping his security buddy would comfort him. It worked. He played hard. He scored.

He was beaming.

I congratulated him.
I took lots of pictures.
I gave him five.
I gushingly went on and on about the goal.

And then he said, "Just a minute, Momma... I need to tell Bobby I scored a goal."

[Quietly to Bobby]
"Did you see that? I scored a goal."

My heart melted.

This week, he's excited about playing... but I might have to bring Bobby along anyway.