Introducing Your Kid’s Food Allergies to New Friends

I am a nerd. I made a new friend last week and it made me feel like a high schooler all over again- both giddy with excitement and nervous at the prospect of befriending someone completely new. We met at church (in the cry room, no less- no judgies though, we waited until after the service to chat), she introduced herself after sitting near each other a couple weeks in a row. She and her husband recently returned to the area after a couple years out of state, and she was looking to meet other moms. We started talking and realized our little ones were within a couple months of each other in age and we were both SAHMs, living within about 5 miles of each other. SAHM, Catholic, kid of the same age as Ricky, nice AND pregnant (due a couple months after me)- could this get any better? We exchanged numbers and set up a play date for this past week. I don’t know about you, but I have not made many new friends as an adult, outside of new coworkers, which you are forced to interact with, and friends-of-friends, who kind of have to give you a shot if you’re thrown together often. Let me tell you folks, it is more nerve-wracking than it was in gradeschool. Back then you could just walk up and start playing together, no questions asked, and eventually bond over the fact that you both liked ponies. Karl teased me and said I was pretty much dating this girl- debating if I should text right away or wait an “appropriate” amount of time. I didn’t wait… further proving that I am a nerd. Luckily she seemed as eager as I was, so any potential awkwardness was avoided.

Anywho, we planned a play date (it may or may not have been within a couple days of meeting- apparently we were both starved for adult interaction) and met up this past week. One of the first things I thought of in anticipating the play date (or “mom date”, as Karl lovingly teased), was how to explain Ricky’s food allergies. We have already gone through the process of explaining (and re-explaining) his allergies to our family and friends, but the difference is, they already like us. They aren’t going anywhere; we’ve established a relationship, so I could explain it however I liked and it wouldn’t change their opinion of me or Ricky. With a new person, who is very much still forming their opinion of me and my family, this subject is a little trickier. There is a very fine line that must be danced when talking about food allergies- making sure that the severity and importance is adequately communicated while not becoming the scary allergy mom, unintentionally encouraging people not to interact with your child at all. 

Finding a balance between being too intense about your child’s allergies (when interacting with others) vs. being too laid back is one of the hardest things to accomplish as an allergy parent, and something I am definitely still working on. One of my biggest fears is that I will come on too strong and cause my child to be treated like a leper. A family member jokingly said one time that he figured out the best way to keep Ricky safe, “I just don’t ever touch your kid.” He meant this as a joke and was coming from a kind place, but that type of statement is more hurtful than most people realize. For Ricky to be isolated because of his allergies is the last thing I want. I simply want people to be conscientious about their interactions- ask themselves, have I eaten recently? If so, have I washed my hands? Did I just eat some mac and cheese and now want to give a kid allergic to dairy kisses? Just think twice before diving in to play and maybe make a pit stop at the bathroom sink to wash up.

The flip side- being too lax about my child’s allergies is WAY scarier. If I am too afraid to speak up and say anything, it could result in hives or even worse, anaphlaxysis. What most people who are unfamiliar with allergies don’t realize, is that any contact with an allergen could increase the severity of the child’s allergy. So even though someone eating cheese and then kissing Ricky’s cheek might only give him a few hives on the spot of contact, that interaction could intensify his allergy so next time he comes in contact with dairy, it is a more severe reaction. We are still (skeptically) hopeful that Ricky could grow out of some of his allergies, so my main goal is to keep his interactions with any of his allergens to an absolute minimum.

Returning to the main topic, introducing food allergies to a new friend. Here is what I settled on and seemed to work well:

1) Explain about the allergies in person- don’t do this over the phone or in text format. All sorts of things can be taken the wrong way when tough topics like this are discussed over any form of communication that isn’t face-to-face.
2) If possible, wait for a relevant point in conversation. If it flows naturally with what you are talking about, the topic seems less forced and you will most likely come across less intense. If it doesn’t come up naturally though, do bring it up during the first play-date/get together. The earlier they are aware, the less chance their is for an accidental allergy interaction down the road.
3) Explain specifically what foods your child is allergic to and gauge their knowledge about food allergies. Who knows- they may have dealt with them personally or through another friend/family member! If they are completely unfamiliar with food allergies, explain what that means as far as interacting with your child- does this just mean your kid can’t ingest certain things or do they also need to avoid any contact? Because Ricky has severe allergies, we avoid any contact, so we try to make sure everyone washes their hands when they get to the house, just in case they had a snack in the car or haven’t washed up since their last meal.
4) Answer any questions, but don’t go on hour-long tangents (we all know that is VERY easy to do). If this is a friend that really wants to build a relationship, they will show interest and curiosity about something that affects your family so deeply!
5) Lastly, keep it light, but keep an extra-cautious eye out the first couple get togethers. People who are not used to dealing with allergies on a regular basis often forget, so a friendly reminder is definitely fair. That being said, you also don’t want to come across too harsh the first time because some people might surprise you with their contientousness! My new friend and I talked about allergies for maybe 10 minutes, but later during the play date Ricky tried to grab the little girl’s water and the mom snatched it up fast saying, “I don’t think this is safe for you to drink from Ricky, we used this cup this morning with our breakfast and it might have gotten some not-safe foods on it.” I was SO impressed. I literally had to hold myself back from hugging her. Point being, give people a chance before giving the hour long lecture- they might only need the cliff-notes version.

This poster from Allergic Living sums it up better than I ever could. Do any of you have suggestions about introducing your child’s food allergies to new people?

Allergic living poster

May Book Favorites

I have always loved reading, but I have to admit that kid’s corner in any book store can rope me in faster than any other section. Time seems to stop when you are flipping through children’s stories and I love finding new favorites. Lucky for me, Ricky shares my love for story time and we read A LOT most days. He demands ~4 stories before both nap and bedtime, not to mention several pauses in playtime for a quick story throughout the day. His favorites are ever changing, but when he gets hooked on a certain book, it is not unlikely that we read that book for both nap and bedtime for a few weeks in a row. His current favorite (I have to admit I was rather surprised by his selection) is Good Night, Little Bear by Patsy and Richard Scarry. The kid loves this book. He picks it every rest time, and often wanders around the house imitating the story looking for something/someone of his choice that is “hiding”. So, given Ricky’s rotating list of favorites, I figured this would be a good monthly update! So, onto May’s favorites (a few days late).

May Book Favorites

1. My First Farm –  This is a picture book in which every page shows images of different animals and other things you’d find around a farm. We have enjoyed this book since Ricky was much younger, however, he is in a BIG transportation phase right now, so we currently only look at the two pages that feature different types of tractors as well as other farm vehicles.

2. Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey RInker and Tom Lichtenheld –  This is my favorite of all Ricky’s stories- hands down. The images are beautiful and the phrasing is just so sweet and soothing for rest time. Ricky loves to point out the different animals and other objects throughout the book. He calls trains “choo choos” or “chooch” for short, so this is fondly referred to as his “chooch book”.

3. Things that Go (A look and find storybook) – We originally got this book (along with Planes ) before going on a trip to Florida several months back, but it has held Ricky’s interest for much longer. Each page features a different transportation area- construction site, train station, airport, city, camp site and outer space. Although he has memorized where each of the featured images is on the page, we love creating our own look and find scenarios, including colors and the difference between similar objects!

4. Good Night, Little Bear by Patsy and Richard Scarry – As described above, this is a current favorite. It is the perfect length story for Ricky right now at 20 months. At earlier ages, this book did not peak his interest at all, but now he sits completely still and listens to the whole thing day after day. The story depicts a father “searching” for his son around the house before bedtime, when in fact the little boy his hiding on his daddy’s shoulders the entire time. The one downside to many of the Little Golden Books- they often show photos of other stories on the back, which leads to Ricky picking a favorite and asking for it day after day until mommy breaks down and takes him to the book store. Luckily, they are only $4, which is a bargain compared to most kids books!

5. Planes by Byron Barton – As mentioned, we purchased this along with a few other books in anticipation for Ricky’s second plane ride (he was only 7 months the first time, so I was definitely not confident he’d remember). This book has very simple, short sentences on each page along with basic illustrations. I was actually surprised with how much Ricky took to this book given it’s simplicity, but he is only now starting to tire of it after 3 solid months of favoritism. I highly recommend this for anyone planning an airplane ride with a little one to get them excited about the trip!

6. How Many Bugs in a Box by David A. Carter – This was one of Karl’s favorite books as a kid, so my MIL got it for Ricky for Easter. He is obsessed. It is an adorable counting pop-up book that shows a different kind of silly bug on each page, going from 1 to 10 throughout the story. For a while, I could not read this story before nap or bedtime because he would want it read to him over and over and get very upset after the millionth rendition that I finally refused another.

There you have it, Ricky’s favorite stories this month. I took a trip to the bookstore this week and am pretty confident we’ll have another great list at the end of June!

Ricky's books

He loves picking out his own stories!

I miss reading quite a bit and it is one thing I hope to get back into now that I am staying home full time. That is the primary purpose of naps, right? So while I don’t have a long list, I can at least give you a couple recommendations that I’ve read over the past couple months.

May faves (mom)

The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston – This is a really good, easy read. It is very interesting, but still relatively easy to put down, which is necessary when you don’t have all the time in the world to curl up with a book (ah, dreams). The story follows a witch throughout her very long lifetime, from becoming a witch in the 1600s to her life in the current day, and all of the trials she has faced because of her nature. I will warn you though, if you can’t handle flash-backs, this is not the book for you.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling – We went to Florida a couple months back and this is the definition of a great vacation book. Mindy is hilarious and the book is broken into short excerpts about her life thus far- either experiences or musings.

Lastly, a bump pic because I know you are all DYING to see my growing stomach. Yay for finally reaching the third trimester. If only I had the naiveté of a first time mom and thought this meant the baby was almost here. I don’t. I fully realize that while this is the final stretch, pregnancy, as well as waiting, only get harder from here. Should I have put in a spoiler alert for that bomb drop? Oops 😉

28 weeks! #yesIusedafilter #I'mpregnant,sosueme

28 weeks!
#yesIusedafilter #I’mpregnant,sosueme

Stylish Mom Bags (aka avoiding looking like a hobo)

It is the natural instinct of a new mom to pack ~7 bags every time they leave the house with a newborn. These bags will often include (but are not limited to): 5 diapers, wipes, blanket, extra blanket, change of clothes for baby, change of clothes for mom, pacifier, at least 4 toys, water for mom, possibly bottle for baby, sunhat or winter hat, diaper cream, baby lotion, changing pad, bib, pajamas for baby in case you stay out late, cheerios in case your newborn suddenly decides to start eating solids, highchair cover in case you decide to stop at a store or restaurant, and possibly a pack n’ play just because you’re trying to build up your mom strength. I like to think I’ve (appropriately) toned it down since those days. I’m happy to switch back to my beloved diaper bag once the new baby comes along and needs a few more things, but while I’m rocking out with just Ricky tagging along, I’ve been on the hunt for a mid-sized cross body. Ideally I’ll also be able to continue to use this smaller bag when running quick errands with the baby and Ricky. I finally pulled the trigger and invested in this beauty today, but here are some of my other favorites.

Favorite Cross-Body Bags
(that are big enough to carry a diaper)

Cross-body purses1 / 2 / 3 /

Now the question is, what exactly is in my “mom bag”? My tactic is to keep one bag stocked for a trip out with Ricky (errands, park, play date), a bag stocked for my own outings (date night, girls night), and a small zipper pouch of my must-haves that can be easily switched back and forth between the two. I have high hopes that I’ll be able to use one section of the new bag for my basic zipper pouch and the other for Ricky’s most basic needs when running quick errands.

Bag Contents

My zipper pouch:

  • Keys and wallet
  • Pony tail holder
  • Burt’s Bees Chapstick– I’m a die-hard fan and have yet to find a better basic
  • Clinique Chubby Stick in Super Strawberry– one of my favorite beauty products. Goes on like chapstick, but adds just enough color plus can be layered for a slightly more dramatic look if that is the goal.
  • C.O.Bigelow Mentha Lip Shine– apparently I’m a bit of a lip product addict considering my most basic, must-have bag contains 3 lip products… I like to think it is ok though because they each serve their own purpose- moisture, color and shine!

My bag:

  • Lipstick- this varies depending on what I’m wearing that day, but this is my every-day favorite! Again with the lip products, I know, I have a problem…
  • Small brush & bobby pins
  • Compact mirror- apparently I get vain when I’m out by myself 😉 I like to think most moms do this too, since you are definitely not thinking about pulling out a mirror when you’re out and about with little ones.
  • Orbit gum. Karl teases me that I’m the definition of a brand loyal shopper. Once I find a favorite, I rarely stray.
  • Gift cards. A while ago my MIL gave me a cute little card holder (similar) to hold all my gift cards and it has been extremely helpful in actually reminding me to use them! I had a bad tendency of leaving the cards home and then unintentionally going to places that I had cards for, but not getting to use them. Gotta love the little things that keep life more organized and simplified.

Ricky’s bag:

  • 1 diaper (maybe 2 if I know we are going to be out a while)
  • Small pack of wipes
  • Ricky’s Auvi-Qs 
  • Pack of these fruit snacks- one of our best Costco finds
  • Sunscreen (in the summer)
  • Travel container of Cheerios
  • Sippy cup or water bottle for us to share, depending on the outing
  • Antibacterial sanitizing gel (B&BW PocketBac)

The top four items are what I bring with me when running quick errands, the other items are for longer trips. My secret to keeping our diaper bag so lean is an always-stocked kid car bag. I use a Thirty One Zipper Pouch and just keep it in the pocket behind one of the front seats. It contains 2 diapers (make sure to update the size as your little one grows- I’ve made the mistake of forgetting before and it isn’t pretty), mini baby wipe pack, small blanket and one plain white onesie (again, remember to change out the size as your little one grows). This way you always have these items with you as back-up to your diaper bag stock and don’t need to worry about physically carrying them in and out everywhere you go!

I’ll leave you with a couple photos my little future farmer. We spent yesterday evening helping my father-in-law plant his beautiful garden, with promises of lots of fruits and veggies in our future 🙂

FIL's garden

Ricky planting

SAHM life, here I come!

Today was my first day as a stay at home mom. It was wonderful.

Deciding to stay home full time was a much more difficult decision than I ever anticipated. For as long as I can remember, all I wanted was to stay home to take care of my kids and husband. Then, when we were finally in a position to consider me quitting my job, questions started forming- am I going to like it? Am I really prepared to be at home, without adults, all the time? What if I lose my identity and become only “mom”? What if I’m not motivated enough to do the things SAHMs are “supposed” to do? What if I can’t teach my children enough? What if they become too dependent on me because I’m around all the time?

The answer is simple… sort of. I am the best mom for my kids and we will figure it out together, in time. This blog is my outlet- following my journey of figuring out how to be a SAHM as well as a woman, wife, friend and all those other roles I’m lucky enough to fill. Every family has to decide what is best for them, but for us we know it is best that I stay home to teach and care for our littles. I transitioned to working part-time after my son was born, and although having that extra time home with him was wonderful, it was still difficult to balance home life and work life. My family was always my number one priority, and it became difficult to continue a career where it was obvious that I was not going to progress any further unless I rearranged my priorities. That wasn’t going to happen, so along with several other factors, this career stagnation spurred the thought- do I want to stay part-time, not getting the best of either world (home or work) or take the leap and stay home full time? Around the same time we were considering this, we found out we were expecting Baby #2! This helped make the decision much easier and we felt as though God was letting us know the timing was right.

I am SO excited to be able to spend every day with my son, Ricky! We will have the summer together and then Baby #2 will join us in late August. We took a walk this morning in the perfect 70 degree weather, then sat on the front porch and watched as a storm started and the rain came pouring down. Ricky was enthralled and I felt utterly blessed to share it with him.

Morning walks > Staff meetings