“It’s Not My Problem”

Favorite Patching Activities, Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

“It’s not my problem”.

That’s what a mom I encountered just like week said to me. Here’s what happened…

Last week, my husband and I headed out to the park for a picnic. We packed Olivia sweet potatoes, Daiya vegan cheese and AppleGate deli ham. She ran around the grass at full speed for a solid 30 minutes, only stopping at the picnic blanket for a quick bite and sip of water. She gave the trees more hugs than I could keep track of and chased Dan to the lake and back until she needed a cookie break (Enjoy Life Chocolate Chip – her fav!). After she finished lunch, we headed over to the playscape so she could play on the swing and slide with her patch on. The playscape with the patch on is one of our go to actives. All of the different pieces of equipment keep her distracted and she’s gotten so comfortable playing on them, shes a pro at going down each and every slide. The park was packed with tons of families enjoying this glimpse of fall weather. Olivia was having the best time when all of a sudden a new family entered the playscape.

The family ran onto the train playscape activity with two dripping soft serve ice cream cones. And when I say dripping, I mean the ice cream was leaving a path behind the kids as they walked around. To make matters worse, the kids dropped their cones on the playscape and rather than cleaning them up and putting them in the garbage, their mom kicked them to the side and left them there.

Unfortunately, the ice cream being all over the playscape meant it was time for us to leave. We are already very cautious at the park – using wipes as necessary and wiping down surfaces when we need to. But seeing the actual food that could *kill* Olivia all over the equipment that is meant for all kids to play on, meant it was time to head out. So we abruptly packed Olivia up, ignoring her requests for one more time on the ‘side’ and walked to the car.

As you all probably know by now, I am one momma bear when it comes to my baby and food allergies. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t let this go! Not because anyone was in trouble – but because maybe that parent just didn’t know! Maybe that mom didn’t realize the repercussions her child smearing the ice cream everywhere, had on other people. So I strapped Olivia into her car seat to hang out with her daddy and headed back to the playscape to talk with the parents of those kids. I was SO nervous – I don’t do confrontation but to be honest, not one ounce of me believed this type of conversation could escalate. I assumed this mom just didn’t know – before I had a child with food allergies, I didn’t realize the full magnitude or realize how serious food allergies were. My mission is to spread awareness and I figured, lets start with this momma! Boy was I wrong…

I walked up to the mom:

“Hi, did your kids bring those ice creams onto the playscape?”

“Yes…”

“Oh Okay! (I said with a smile) I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind just grabbing the cones and throwing them in the garbage. My daughter has life threatening food allergies, and foods like ice cream that contain dairy are very dangerous for her and for many other children that use the playscape.”

“The birds will get it” — Imagine saying the word WHAT — that’s what my face looked like.

“Oh yeah, well we unforturtuantly had to leave the playscape because the ice cream went all over the train and walkways.”

“That’s not my problem and it’s not my kids problem”

To which I responded, cuz now my heart is PUMPING – “If my daughter were to touch that ice cream and it got anywhere near her face, it would kill her. She could die. 1 in 13 kids have life threatening food allergies – not just my daughter” – I’ve been doing a lot of reading!

“Listen, if you’re daughter can’t safely play at the park then you should just keep her home. Carry her around the playscape, I don’t care. What, does she walk on her hands or something? It’s not my problem that she has so many issues. It’s JUST food.” – she yelled this at me in front of a dozen other parents that were at the park that day. Everyone stared at us in awe.

At this point, I just smiled at her, turned and walked away. When I went to talk to this mom, my only goal was to hopefully get her to clean up the ice cream and explain to her why. Unfortunately, she did not take it that way. Rather than saying something like, “oh my goodness, I didn’t realize, I will make sure we don’t eat on the playscape in the future” or something as simple as “absolutely, no problem!” she got very defensive and mean. Sadly, this sort of reaction centered around food allergies is something I’ve read all to much about.

Under her breath, as she walked away, the mom said back, “ill put the ice cream into the garbage” to which I replied “that’s all I ask”. Did this encounter go as I hoped? No. But at the end of the day, the mom decided to do the right thing and just pick up after her kids. I’m proud of myself for standing up for my daughter and others like her – in this case, it paid off.

Food allergies are an invisible disability to so many. Olivia looks like such a typical kid that a stranger would never know that coming into contact with certain foods could kill her. A dime sized amount of that protein in her mouth, takes seconds to take action. A child with a disability on the outside like needing a wheelchair or another special accommodation would never be questioned but someone with food allergies is often seen as picky or intolerant. Food allergies, wheel chairs, glasses, or any other accommodation don’t hold these kids back – it’s our job to make the world a more inclusive place for all.

So no, it might not be your problem. It might not be your kids problem. But let’s change that! Let’s change our reactions from “that’s not my problem” to “lets find a solution”. The inclusion of others is our responsibility!

The next night, I met with the Parks and Rec department in my town to discuss a change at our park. Visit the blog in a couple days to check out the latest addition to the playground!

Today should have been my graduation day…

Our Latest Adventures

Today I should have walked down the aisle to receive my Masters in Communication Disorders. Today I should be starting my journey as a Speech Language Pathologist. Today I should have achieved my ultimate goal.

In 2013, I graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with my bachelors in political science. But when I got out into the world and started working, I quickly realized that the field I had picked to pursue my career was definitely not for me! I decided to start working in different areas to really find what I wanted to do. Two years, my own home and a new husband later, I got a position working with special needs children and fell in love with my job. I especially loved the professionals that came in to work with them on their speech. I was mesmerized by their technique, passion and intellect. I knew right then and there, that one day I would be a speech language pathologist.

So I went home and started Google searching – “how to become a speech language pathologist”. I figured I already had a bachelors degree so how hard could it be right? I could not have been more wrong! The field of speech language pathology is one of the most competitive masters programs to get into! Not to mention, I had no background in the field or true experience. So, I made myself a master list and got to work. I got together my application, wrote my personal statement and submitted my lack luster GRE scores to the admission board at several different masters programs in Connecticut and neighboring states. Every letter came back as a rejection.

I didn’t give up. I applied and was accepted at the University of Connecticut as an undergraduate student, again – this time pursuing a bachelors degree in speech, language and hearing sciences. After just one class, I was validated. I knew this was my destiny. I graduated with my second bachelors degree from UCONN and I retook the GRE. I applied again. Another round of rejections.

I didn’t give up. I became a research assistant at the University of Connecticut, I took the GRE AGAIN – third times the charm (the GRE is by far, the worst standardized test in the entire world) and, thanks to my amazing mentor, I was able to enroll in one graduate level course in an attempt to show any admission board that I was capable of being successful in a graduate program! I applied again. This time, I knew I had put my entire heart and soul into this application. A few short weeks later, I received my waitlist letter in the mail to Southern Connecticut State University. I was in shock! My husband and I had sacraficed so much to get me into graduate school. He believed in me and I finally believed in myself. It was only a few weeks later that I got the final letter that I had been accepted in the class of 2019 Communication Disorders masters program!

I kid you not, it was one day later. The very next day, in the heat of a crazy winter storm that I took a pregnancy test. My jaw dropped. In a matter of a few short hours, I was told I was accepted into my dream program and that I was pregnant! But this news didn’t make me even skip a beat. I never questioned that I would finish my program. I knew that we would get it done. So, I spoke with my advisor that summer about how to proceed and was met with compassion and understanding. The school worked with me and went over and beyond. I took classes and read about apraxia and dysphasia and everything in between. I took 1,000 pee breaks and always had snacks at the ready. My classmates were wonderful and supportive. I gave birth to Olivia – you guessed it – the week before finals – she would have it no other way ;). My project groups waited for me to recover before presenting so that I wouldn’t be left out. We took Olivia home and I signed up for my next semester of classes – knowing that I have a wonderful support team at home – thanks moms 🙂 that would get me through the winter semester!

The day after the start of the spring semester was that faithful day. The day most of you have read about before – when the doctor diagnosed Olivia as legally blind in one eye, with a cataract and a rare condition known as Persistent Fetal Vasculature. After all of those years of studying, trying and failing, falling and climbing back up. It wasn’t until this diagnosis, that I finally broke. When we learned more about her condition and her therapy needs moving forward, I knew I would need to take a leave of absence from school. Her eye became priority number one. I did just that, with no issue at all. But then, as the Spring semester came to an end and the summer semester began another bomb shell was dropped on our family. It was last summer that Olivia was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies. It wasn’t until this diagnosis that I knew I had to take a step back and really look at what to do next. Olivia needed an entirely new kind of care now which meant big changes for our family.

It’s taken me this long to full accept the decision we made next. We knew the right thing to do was to keep me home with Olivia. This means that after everything we went through to get my masters degree, I lost my acceptance to SCSU. I have every intention of going back to school to finish what I started but until then, my new title is ‘Stay at Home Mom’. This decision is we one we did not take lightly – it took weeks to come to and many tears as it came to fruition but I can say with all the confidence in the world that we made the right decision.

When your child has something going on with them that could end their life, priorities and life plans change. Everyone told me that my life would change when you have a baby, and they were right. It’s changed in the best possible way.tx I would love to be Danielle Mikulak, SLP but instead I have the best title in the world: Danielle Mikulak, Momma.

I’m not a helicopter parent…just a mom

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

With Toy Story 4 out in theaters, we decided to show Olivia Toy Story. She LOVED it and has been dancing with her daddy to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” for days. So, in the spirit of fun toys that talk and play we decided to throw on “The Toy that Time Forgot”. I had never seen it before but it came free with our “Toy Story” purchase so I thought, why not! I’ve never been more disappointed in Disney than I was today…

Only 2 minutes into the movie, a scene plays out where the dinosaur is dressed up as a pretentious looking mother – pointy glasses and all. The dinosaur yells at the little girl playing the waitress that there is a bug in her sons ice cream and her son is “ALLERGIC TO BUGS”. So the little girl flicks the bug out of the ice cream and says “there you go sweetheart, enjoy”. And then the movie moves on.

In our world, food allergies are constantly seen as a burden and a joke. This scene does nothing but perpetuate this unfortunate view point. When a child watches this movie and sees this scene, they may learn that by simply removing an allergen from someones’ food, it is now safe. They may see food allergies as funny, simple and as a simple inconvenience. This scene in this movie does food allergies an extreme injustice – making a life threatening occurrence seem joke worthy and mundane. The mother who says her son has a bug allergy is shown as a know it all ‘helicopter’ parent and the waitress brushes off the allergy like the mom is simply being a pain.

At restaurants I am hit with constant dirty looks and hear whispers under their breath about how ridiculous I look wiping down the booths and chairs, bringing our full course meals into perfectly nice dinning rooms. I thought I never wanted to be that kind of parent – never wanted to be the ‘neurotic’ mom who keeps her kids in a bubble. That is until I became an allergy mom. My judgements are GONE. Now, I lock eyes with other moms who may be seen as ‘neurotic’ and give them a supportive nod. I want other people to know, that I am not being neurotic. I am taking care of my baby in the best possible way that I know how. Having food allergies in a world that uses them as the butt end of a joke is tough. When characters in movies laugh about something that could kill my daughter is heart breaking. But I know that Olivia is going to teach others about why this movie was wrong and educate others on how to keep her safe.

So, please talk to your kids about why this scene is so wrong. Simply removing an allergen from the food will NOT remove what makes kids like Olivia deathly ill. Removing that bug from her sundae would not get rid of the bug protein. I know – Im talking about bugs and pretend ice cream sundaes – but to kids, these stories are as real as they can be. And give that mom insistently wiping down the tables and chasing their kids around as much grace as you can, because you do not know what they are going through. So no, I’m not a helicopter parent – I’m just keeping my little girl safe.

In the meantime, just keep advocating!