Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friendly Confines Indeed

(Just wanted to follow up that last post with something a little more uplifting, and then I'll get off the topic of this baseball game...)

Everything I've seen online today indicates that the Cubs' first peanut-free section was a huge success. People on Facebook described the experience as great, unforgetable, special, and even surreal. I haven't heard a negative word about it. Sounds like the Cubs organization seriously went above and beyond, thinking of everything they could do to make the experience a wonderful one for everyone involved. (I'm not kidding - they even had a nurse from the allergy department of the local children's hospital on hand. They gave out favors to the kids that included a picture of the Wrigley marquee sign with their name in lights!) I read these people's stories and realized what a big deal this was for some of the kids involved. Truly heartwarming stuff, folks.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Note to Self: Do NOT read the comments

When will I ever heed this advice? I'm not talking about comments on blogs like this one. (On that note, I would love more input from any readers of this blog, even when you disagree with me.) I'm talking about readers' comments to online versions of articles in popular media.

I keep making the same stupid mistake over and over again, scrolling down to the comments to see what the average Joe is thinking about food allergies, only to discover that the average Joe is apparently not so nice! (And it kind of crushes me. I wish I were better at not letting it get to me.)

I think what I have to keep in mind is that the average Joe really probably is pretty nice, (or at least has enough open-mindedness to learn more about something before vilifying someone over it), but the problem is that the subset of "people who bother leaving comments on these articles" includes more off-the-deep-end angry people than the general population does. Oh, and quite a few off-the-deep-end ignorant people, too.

I'm bringing this all up in response to what some people are saying about tonight's Peanut-Free game at Wrigley Field. You can get a flavor for the idiocy (without having to actually immerse yourself in it) by reading Kelly Rudnicki's smart responses here. (If you are not the parent of a food allergic child, I highly recommend following that link, if only to better comprehend the inane flack that the food allergy community has to deal with.)

I should not take this all personally, espcially because stupid comments are not unique to the topic of food allergies. I was utterly shocked last week after reading about the massacre of 72 immigrants at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The only thing more appalling than the fact that almost no Americans even heard about this event (despite it having involved the death of a Marine), was the comments to the article, which were along the lines of, "thank you Mexican drug lords, that's 72 less for us to deal with." I feel gross just having typed that.

But I digress. The point is that I really have not had unpleasant interactions or conversations relating to food allergies in real life, with real people I actually know. Real people are always curious, considerate, and sympathetic. It's only these online, practically imaginary (to me) people who are so rude. So I really should stop reading the comments.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

In case you haven't heard the news, peanut-free baseball is coming to Wrigley tomorrow night!
Here's a link to the Sun-Times article about it: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/2630402,CST-NWS-nopeanuts24.article

This is thanks in large part to some key organizers and a facebook fan page called "Chicago Cubs Fans for Peanut Free Baseball." (My only part in any of this was to become a "fan" of that Facebook page, which you can, too, with only one little mouse click.)

The Cubs organization listened and agreed to make one section peanut-free for one night game this year. I think people are hopeful that this event will be a success and will grow from there. Peanut free sections, or even peanut-free stadiums are things other major league baseball clubs have done, but this event is a first for the Cubs.

So, a few personal thoughts about all of this:
--I don't think Georgia's allergies are so bad that she would be sensitive to sitting in a regular section at the stadium (i.e., that she'd react to airborne peanut dust). That said, she's never been to a ballgame or any place with such an abundance of peanuts, so I don't really know.
--Even if she could handle a regular section, I'd love to take her to a peanut-free game/section like this someday. It's a great way to show support for families of children who definitely do have allergic reactions without peanut-free zones. Also, it would be a great way to meet other kids dealing with food allergies, which is such an important thing for children. Everyone just wants to feel normal, ya know?
--With a little more advance notice, and had this been a day game, I would've tried to get tickets. But being that Georgia just turned 3, this is a night game, and she's got preschool the next morning (which she just started), attending this game won't be possible for us. Hopefully there will be a "next time" so that we can try to go next year.
--On that note, I foolishly had this fear that many people would be in the same boat as us and that there wouldn't be a good enough turnout for the Cubs to want to do this again next year. Silly me. Turns out the 8/30 Peanut Free box is sold out, with over 75 families on a waiting list! The Facebook page says to email fanservicesassistant@cubs.com if you are interested in attending a future game.

I'll end this with a little anecdote. Somewhere along the way, singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" became part of Georgia's bedtime ritual. We've probably sung it every night for more than a year now. Of course there is the line, "buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack." But in our house, this is always followed by a quickly interjected, "but don't eat 'em!" Georgia probably thinks that's part of the real song. Ha! (Sounds so dorky, I know, and if you are not accustomed to having to teach your child allergy awareness all the time, you're probably rolling your eyes. But when you're trying to teach a consistent message to a very young child just beginning to grasp her own allergies, this is the type of goofy thing you end up doing, I guess!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unbelievable Turn of Events

In January 2009, Joel Stein wrote a piece in the L.A. Times which included such offensive, insulting gems as the following:
"Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special.”

"And genes certainly don't cause 25% of parents to believe that their kids have food allergies, when 4% do. Yuppiedom does."

I'd rather not link to that article, but I suppose you can find it on Google.

In August 2010, Joel Stein wrote a piece for TIME magazine in which he revealed that his 15 month old son was.......wait for it........recently diagnosed with nut allergies. !!!! Here's a quote:
"The column was not the first thing that came to mind after my 1-year-old son Laszlo started sneezing, then breaking out in hives, then rubbing his eyes, then crying through welded-shut eyes, then screaming and, finally, vomiting copiously at the entrance of the Childrens Hospital emergency room."

I really wish Joel Stein hadn't written that first article.
But I also really wish his son didn't have a food allergy. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Georgia has thankfully never had a reaction landing us in the ER, and I can't imagine how terrifying that would be for any parent.

Why must hurtful words, misinformation, and food allergies go hand in hand?
I'm sure only a small fraction of the people who read the first article will pick up the second. Even the second is a bit too cheeky and not enough mea culpa for my taste.

For more on this topic, go here: The Food Allergy Mama
or here: The Nut-Free Mom Blog
or here: Allergy Moms (newsletter) [scroll down to "Peanut-Free Tables are Turned!"]

That Went Well!

Things have been busy around here, but I guess I should follow up on how the allergy summit (as we affectionately refer to it) went. In short, it went great!

We met with Georgia's two teachers, the head of the school, and the head of the early-childhood portion of the school on the day before preschool started. We all gathered around a preschooler height table, sitting in tiny preschooler sized chairs. Ha!

I don't want to bore anyone with all of the details, but we discussed such things as:
-The basics: We went over Georgia's allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, sesame, fish and shellfish).
-Snack time: We'll send Georgia with her own safe snack everyday. Plus, the teachers agreed to send a note home to all of the other parents asking them not to send in snacks with Georgia's allergens. Essentially, a belt and suspenders approach. Hopefully the other parents will cooperate, but Georgia will be eating our food anyway. Georgia is a half-day student, so we don't have to worry about lunchroom issues this year.
-Substitute teachers: they'll need to know this stuff, too, so we discussed communication. I'm actually not horribly worried about this since Georgia's pre-K class has two teachers. It's unlikely they'll both be out on the same day.
-Treats: We'll bring in a stash of safe treats to be stored at school for Georgia to consume on days when special occasions like birthdays or holidays are celebrated with food in the classroom.
-Medication: One of Georgia's EpiPens will be in the office across the hall from her classroom, the other will be in the school's main office. We also supplied Benadryl. We used the trainer EpiPen to teach everyone at this meeting how to use one in case of emergency. We handed out an Emergency Medical Plan to be stored with the medications. It describes different levels of possible reactions and that kind of thing.
-I feel like there was more to it, but that's all I'm remembering right now.

The Cons:
-One of the women present twice accidentally referred to Georgia as a boy. I hate to say it, but this woman is a bit older, and I think the slip ups might be related to that - like a little short term memory issue. Which is totally no big deal, except that in the context of conveying information that is critically important to our daughter's health and safety, it didn't make me feel great that everything would be remembered and carried out according to the discussed plan.
-I made reference to storing the Epi's in an unlocked place, but someone misunderstood and later in the conversation referred to locking up the Epi's. A simple miscommunication that we cleared up, but I just hope that everyone got the gist that these things need to be very accessible. Fortunately, we have never even had to use them. But should the need arise, from what I've been told, seconds really count. If I had my druthers, the medication would be stored in the classroom, but apparently it's against school policy.

The Pros:
-This was not all new to them. The school has had allergic children before. They do not have formal policies or procedures in place, but at least we weren't having to fully educate them from square one, which was fantastic.
-Both of Georgia's teachers have some experience dealing with children with food allergies.
-One of Georgia's teachers was taking notes, which made me feel wonderful. She is also the one who suggested (before I even could) that she write a note to all of the other parents letting them know that there is a student in the class with allergies.

I will admit - I was totally nervous about this meeting. But I survived. It was fine. It was quite pleasant, actually. Silver lining of having an allergy kid: we got a chance to meet the teachers a day early. And though we may now squarely be labeled as the High Maintenance Parents, at least they know who we are. (I hope they like us!! What? I can't help it.)

Georgia's made it through one week of preschool, and already I feel so much more relaxed. She's doing a great job eating only our snacks and wearing her bracelet. As for my mental health, I'm not worrying about allergies on a daily basis. So all is well.

Maybe the fact that she has cried about going to preschool every single day and has been suffering from some serious separation anxiety has a silver lining to it, too: all of this allergy business has been put on the back burner. This week I've had bigger fish to fry in the motherhood department, if you know what I mean.

Not that we can fry fish in our house. (Hardy har har.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To School!

This is a week of many firsts for us.
June's 1st birthday.
Georgia's heading to school (not "back to school" since she's never been before).
And the big kicker....
We're meeting with the head of the school and Georgia's teacher tomorrow morning to discuss allergies. Our first ever allergy advocacy meeting, if you will.

I am really not looking forward to it. I'm sure these women will be quite nice, and I know I have nothing to fear. It's just that this "allergy-parent" role is one of those things that I feel like I have to grin and bear even though I'd gladly have avoided the role. Oh well, such is parenting, right? I'm sure this will be the first of many such meetings with schools, camps, etc., so I had better get used to it.

At first I was feeling rather delinquent, because our meeting is happening, oh, the day before school starts. I would like to have scheduled this sooner and have this behind us already, but at least this way the information will be fresh in their minds at the beginning of the school year and not forgotten from an earlier meeting, right? Also, I'm feeling more prepared now. I used this food allergy checklist for back to school from The Nut-Free Mom blog. It's quite handy if you find yourself in this situation.

I'll report back on how the meeting goes!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Georgia has Allerbling now. Sweet!

No, I'm not joking. Could I make up a product name like that?

Allerbling is a type of medical alert bracelet made specifically for kids, both in size and appearance. My hope is that its bright color will mean that people actually see it and pay attention (as opposed to a regular, metal bracelt, which would be easier to miss). I also hope that its kid-friendly design will mean that Georgia will keep it on at preschool. We'll see about that.

Here's a picture. Sure beats pinning a big "DO NOT FEED ME" sign to her shirt everyday. (I have actually heard of allergy moms of yesteryear doing that, when food allergies in schools were not so commonplace. Sounds ridiculous, and yet highly effective at the same time...hmmm....something to consider if this Allerbling thing doesn't work out!)

I'm anxiously awaiting Allerbling's addition of a sesame charm to the mix. Too bad Georgia will then have too many allergy charms for them all to fit on 1 bracelet. *sigh*

See, I'm here to make all of you peanuts-only mamas feel lucky!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Glad to be home

Just got back from a wonderful week's vacation! But...

Vacation brings food allergies to the forefront of our minds in a way that they normally aren't present in our day to day lives. More restaurants, takeout, desserts, and caretakers are involved.

All went really well. I have no complaints about vacation. I'm just saying that there is a sense of relief to coming home to your own pantry and fridge after a week on the go.

While traveling with a child with food allergies, vacation for me now has this "character building" aspect to it that I'd rather it didn't. As in, it forces me to practice being brave enough to ask questions of servers, restaurants, and hotels that (for God knows what reason) I often feel embarrassed to ask. (Confession: I like to make my husband do it instead whenever possible.)

Anyway...vacation was great. But it's also really nice to be home and to not be thinking about food allergies so often! Maybe you can relate?

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, so I was going to be nice and wasn't going to mention it to protect the innocent, but since my sister brought it up in the comments... There was that 1 incident where a pizza slice with pesto (i.e., tree nuts) was offered to Georgia, and she was moments away from eating it. Thankfully, that was avoided, though we'll never know how she would've reacted if at all. While this incident highlights how easy it is to have a slip up even when everyone is trying their best to protect an allergic child, and how hard it is for those not in the everyday practice of thinking about allergies to pay attention to every single ingredient, it's also a good opportunity for me to thank my family for trying so hard. Learning about allergies has been an evolving process for all of us, myself included, and I really appreciate my family's efforts to go along with all of our requests. I am thankful that vacation gave everyone in my family a glimpse into what it's like to think about allergies at every meal.