Saturday, January 30, 2010


My severely allergic 1st grader has just been invited to sell magazines and - you guessed it - NUTS for an upcoming Daisy Scouts' fundraiser. My first reaction while reading the permission slip sent home involved heart palpitations, sweaty palms and an internal dialogue that went something like this: "Why not just have her sell rat poison? Or maybe a nice set of steak knives? How about some guns and amo?"

Then a few days passed, and I asked myself why I didn't have this sort of reaction when she sold Girl Scout cookies just a few months before. In that situation more than half the choices contained peanuts or traces of them, and yet, she took and distributed those orders just fine. We discussed proper handling of the boxes well in advance of their arrival and she was very clear about which cookies were safe for her to eat and which were not. She did a great job.

So why am I freaking out now? I've read articles about some children who actually have full blown anxiety attacks at mere sight of the word "peanut" or whatever it is they're allergic to. Is this what's happening to me? When parents are told by a physician "your child could die if they eat {fill in food allergen here}, it's hard not to be a tad bit overprotective. But is putting the FEAR OF GOD in her at any mention of the word inflicting yet another type of condition that will require years and years of therapy and psychiatric counseling?

If I'm really honest with myself, my rational side tells me my previous poison/weapon analogy to nuts isn't altogether fair. Yes, nuts are just as life-threatening for her, but so is riding in a car without a seat belt. It's my job as her mother to teach her to live with caution, not live with fear. Ten years from now, that will include speeches about texting while driving and underage drinking and other risky behaviors that, like it or not, exist in the real world.

And let's face it, nuts exist here too. Some days it seems as though they're EVERYWHERE. And they are no doubt here to stay. So while my emotional side would love to boycott this sale out of principle, and call up the head of the Daisy Scout Council to explain why this is not the best product to be selling ... I have a feeling I'm going to let my rational side win out this time. Providing my precious girl with the best tools I can for navigating the situation, can only inspire empowerment and prepare her for the many challenges yet to come.

Am I nuts to let her sell nuts? A big part of me says yes. The other part says yes ... but wish me luck anyway.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


As author of The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies, I often have the opportunity to talk with schools and community groups about the book, as well as the topic of food safety in general. I am almost always asked the same inevitable question regarding why the prevalence of food allergies is on the rise. My typical answer: I wish I knew!

The good news is, researchers around the world are currently searching for new therapies to treat, and one day cure, food allergies. Many scientists believe that with proper funding, a cure could be found in less than a decade. Unfortunately, food allergy research in comparison to autism and other similar afflictions is at present grossly underfunded and in need of dire some attention.

As such, I was excited to recently discover that the Food Allergy Initiative has made it easier than ever to send a letter to Congress requesting funding for food allergy research. It takes less than two minutes! Log on and let your voice be heard at
FAI Advocacy and be sure to share this link with others who want to help. Yeah!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Live and Learn

Our family feels very fortunate to be able to say we absolutely love our pediatric allergist. Dr. Healy is not only extremely well-informed in his vocation, he also has a great rapport with children which makes going to the doctor not really feel like going to the doctor.

Still, as much as he has been able to help teach us how to care for our daughter’s food allergies, he will be the first to say that he does not live with it day in and day out. That’s why I’m here to tell you that support groups can be so important. I must admit, in our first few year’s of Mollie’s diagnosis, I pretty much rejected the idea of them. I pictured everyone sitting around like they do in the AA meetings portrayed on TV where we’d all have to confess our struggles and talk about the doom and gloom of what it’s like living with food allergies.

Since joining the Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin, I am am pleased to say this is not the case! We have great topics of discussion, featured speakers, product samples and other meaningful information to share with each other. Much like those classes you take before childbirth, it’s clear that every person’s experience is different and I love being able to learn from them all.

For example, in a recent meeting, I discovered for the very first time what the side effects can be from an epinephrine shot. I have thankfully never had to use one on my daughter, but a family in our support group explained how they were not so lucky. During their story, I learned that this life saving shot can often turn the child blue or ashen and cause them to tremble and shake…

Really? Of all the hours of using Epi-Pen trainers and talking to our doctor, this little fact never had come up. Until now. And I’m so glad it did, because if I’m ever in that frightening situation myself, I feel like I’ll be a little more prepared to handle it, simply because I’ll know what to expect.

Gina Clowes of has compiled a wonderful, comprehensive listing of support groups that may be in your area. Check it out on (on the bottom of her home page). Thank you, Gina!

So this is my heartfelt pitch to anyone who has never attended a food allergy support group meeting: Consider giving it a try. Even with the best doctor in the world, I think you’ll find you still have something to learn – or better yet, something to share.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Welcome to the first official BugaBees blog post! I will be the first to admit I am far from becoming a social media superstar, but here’s the thing – you bloggers are some serious smart cookies (allergy-free ones of course) and since I have truly learned so much by reading posts of other experts in the know, I thought that if it’s possible help just one other person by sharing my own experiences, why in the world would I not do so?

When I think back to how much I’ve learned from the first day my daughter Mollie was diagnosed with severe food allergies, it is staggering. At that time, I thought if I just carried her Epi-pen, read ingredient labels and remembered to inform wait staff at restaurants of her food allergies, everything would be fine. Four years later, I now know it’s not that simple. There is no black and white in the world of food allergies, just a lot of gray areas where parents need to ask questions and advocate for their children.

I’ve also discovered that there are a lot of people out there who really love peanut butter – enough to fight for it, sign petitions against banning it, and other serious stuff. Some believe that a mere 3% of the population (which equates to approximately 12 million people I must add) should not dictate guidelines that inconvenience the rest, and that “hysterical” parents who fear for their children’s lives should just remove themselves from society to “raise them in a bubble”.

This controversy over food allergies was yet another factor I had not expected but have learned much more about in recent years. I have personally experienced the eye rolls and obvious resistance to making any special accommodations for my daughter where food is concerned. On the flip side, I have also experienced overwhelmingly thoughtful parents and teachers who have gone above and beyond to help her feel included.

So my New Year’s Resolution for 2010 (and every year after that) is to help educate and promote understanding and acceptance of people living on both sides of the issue without judgment or frustration. Because before Mollie’s diagnosis, I was one of those people that just didn’t “get it”. I never gave a second thought to the kind of candy I purchased for Halloween trick-or-treaters, or worried about the open bulk peanut bins at the grocery store, or paid attention to which utensils I used to prepare or serve a meal.

And while I concede that some parents can be a little overbearing about their child’s food allergies (myself included), I have to ask, can we really blame them? If you’ve ever seen your own child swell up beyond recognition or struggle to breathe because a small bite of food, I don’t think you would. I sincerely believe there’s a happy medium out there and I’m on a mission to find it.

Isn’t it Oprah that says “When you know better, you do better?” I love Oprah! And I truly do want to do better for all the little buggers who are out there living with food allergies. So I’m gonna try. Because as much as I used to love to eat peanut butter sandwiches myself, I obviously love my daughter a whole lot more. Is there really a comparison?