“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!

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!

When two disabilities collide…

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

Olivia was born with two disabilities:

1 – Persistent Fetal Vasculature which has caused near blindness in her right eye requiring her to wear a contact lens and patch daily

2 – Life threatening food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs and wheat – resulting in strict avoidance of anything that may contain, contains or has come in contact with those ingredients, for fear of an anaphylactic reaction.

These two disabilities are pretty separate entaties. Both serious in their own way but also completely their own thing. Until today!

Olivia has been squinting her eye a lot these past couple days. At first, we thought she was squinting her eye because her contact was bothering her. But even when we took her contact lens out, she would still squint her eye. She even got to the point where she would say “momma”, get my attention, point to her Nemo eye and sign all done for me to take the contact out. So, we decided to take her in to see the lens doctor today – just to be safe. With everything Olivia has gone through concerning her eye, we never wait and see – we always get her checked out. Due to the nature of her condition, we are constantly on the look out for retinal detachment and Glaucoma – two issues that are fairly common for people with PFV. Anything out of the norm warrants a doctor visit.

When we got there, the doctor took a look at her eyes and was shocked at how well behaved and amazing Olivia was. She sat there, completely still, as the doctor shined a super bright light into her eyes. Since Olivia did so well, the doctor was even able to pull her up to a machine to check under her eyelid – there is no better compliment than someone saying “there is no way this little girl is only 18 months old!”

When she took a look under her eye, she saw little bumps that had formed due to….you guessed it…ALLERGIES. Because of all of the allergens and heightened pollen count outside, Olivia’s eyes developed these bumps that are making it uncomfortable to have her contact in. We were prescribed some allergy drops and a new cleaning routine for her contact lens. When we know the pollen count is high or during a change of season, the world we see a lot more Olivia in cute glasses so her eye has time to breath.

During the appointment, I said to the doctor that I can’t believe it’s allergies of all things. Now she has seasonal allergies affecting her eye on top of her food allergies! That’s when the doctor explained that Olivia suffers from something call atopy which is a “genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases”. Atopy is “associated with heightened immune responses to common allergens, especially inhaled allergens and food allergens” (AAAI). She explained that kids like Olivia are just more susceptible to allergies affecting them in more ways that one.

So, today was the day that both of her disabilities collided into one. But whichever we are dealing with on that given day, there is one thing I know for certain. My warrior daughter is going to show up with a smile on her face, a snack in one hand, her ‘baby’ in the other and a high pitched “HI” coming out of her mouth. She is the happiest, most resilient kid I’ve ever known and I am proud to navigate these uncharted waters with her. So even with a new contact lens cleaning routine, new eye drops and glasses a few more days a week, we will continue to just keep patching.