Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Thought That Counts

As 2011 comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude for yet another year of good health and well-being – for myself, my husband, our friends and family, but most of all, for the health and well-being of our children.

Food allergies are certainly a challenge every day of the year. And it comes as no surprise that with all the joys of the season, also come increased opportunities for accidental exposures and reactions. Through what seems like an endless supply of goodie bags, party treats, cookie platters and more, I feel extremely fortunate that we have been able to navigate our way through yet another magical holiday with the help of some very special people.

To our wonderful grandparents, aunts & uncles, neighbors, classmates, teachers, friends and family, we thank you for all your kind and caring ways of providing fun and festive options that keep our daughter Mollie safe! At 8 years old, she may not fully realize that it’s not really about the special nut-free treats you take the time to prepare and plan ahead for her…. it’s ultimately about the fact that she matters. And that her safety is priority. And that her happiness is important.

When it comes to receiving gifts, I have always been taught it is the thought that counts. This sentiment could not be more true, and its meaning extends well beyond any wrapped trinket or toy she could ever receive.

So on behalf of Mollie, and food allergic kids everywhere, this is a special thank you… to anyone who has been thoughtful enough to read a label, make the effort, and find the extra time it takes to bring a smile to a special child’s face. I promise you, those are the kind of gifts that will be forever appreciated … throughout the holidays and always.
Wishing you peace, health and happiness in 2012!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I was in Minneapolis last weekend attending AFAA’s annual conference and was so excited to meet their Keynote Speaker Dr. Xiu-Min Li. She shared some very inspiring news about the research she’s conducting at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York involving the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the treatment of food allergies.

Dr. Li explained that while TCM has a long history of human use in China and other Eastern Asia countries as part of mainstream medicine, the United States has not been as quick to follow --- until now. After a number of preliminary studies and testing phases, a new botanical drug called FAHF-2 (Food Allergy Herbal Formula – 2) is currently in Phase II clinical human trials. Containing 9 different herbs, FAHF-2 is proving to block peanut allergy anaphylaxis in an extremely safe and effective manner. Hurray!!Food Allergy Initiative is helping to fund this research, which has already been featured and revered in a wide variety of medical journals.

Additional research and regulation is required before FAHF-2 is widely available. Until that time, we have a very good reason to remain hopeful for the future of food allergy treatment and prevention!! Thank you Dr. Li and your awesome team of researchers and medical professionals.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Take the Time

After learning to manage my daughter's food allergies for many years now, I have to admit, I'm still surprised by the crazy places food allergen warnings pop up on labels.

This weekend it was on a package of carrots and ranch dip at the Target snack bar. It had been a long day of running errands and I was trying to find for something remotely healthy to feed the kids on the go. I actually bought the item first, but then thankfully remembered to check before we opened it. Sure enough, processed in a plant that also process peanuts. Wow! We also recently had a close call with some mango sorbet one of my most diligent friends brought over for a cookout. And the Culver's burgers we have been eating for years just recently popped up with a tree nut warning on their food allergen menu. That was a sad day for sure!!

If you're like me, with a million and one things to keep track of, it can be easy to forget to check ingredients from time to time. So while I am thanking my lucky stars we managed to stay safe on all of these occasions, and wanted to share this little reminder with others. When you're racing around trying to keep up with life, please remember to TAKE THE TIME. Read labels. Ask the waiter. Plan ahead. Keep your kids safe.

One of my favorite children's books of all time shares this universal message. "Is There Really a Human Race" by Jamie Lee Curtis reminds us all to SLOW DOWN and remember what's most important in life.

Sometimes it's better not to go fast.
There are beautiful sights to see when you're last.

Shouldn't it be that you just try your best?
And that's more important than beating the rest?

Shouldn't it be looking back at the end
that you judge your own race by the help that you lend?

Right on, Jamie. Thanks for helping remind me that time is precious and meant to be used well. I think I'll set some aside to read this story to my beautiful children tonight. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fun with FAAW

Thanks to my friends at Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin for organizing a very fun event last Saturday with the Madison Mallards! Our family had a fabulous time at the baseball game and appreciated the extra steps taken by FAAW staff to create an allergy-friendly area for all to enjoy.

FAAW advocates on behalf of Madison and Dane County families with food allergies, holding events and coordinating educational efforts all throughout the year. The nonprofit organization's annual Food Allergy Awareness Walk is coming up Saturday, August 13th at Warner Park in Madison so mark your calendars!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Enjoy Life!

What better way to wrap up a fun week of food allergy awareness than with a tour of the Enjoy Life Foods facility!?! Like the BugaBees, the folks at Enjoy Life know how to stay safe and still have lots of fun! And their products make is so much easier for those of us living with food allergies and intolerances to do so.

May I just say, the new Crunchy Sugar Crisp and Chocolate Granola products pose some serious competition for our current family favorites, Snickerdoodle and Gingerbread Spice cookies. Luckily, we have enough shelf space in out pantry for all of them!

A special note to all my mates in Australia ... Enjoy Life is now being distributed in your corner of the world. Be sure to check out their Boom Choco Boom bars and other great products. I promise, you won't be disappointed!

Thanks so much to Joel, Kasey, Alina, Linsey and all the ELFers for your hospitality and dedication to making delicious products that so many of us can eat freely and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FAAW Coloring Contest

Calling all Wisconsin Kids! Are you one of the 3 million U.S. children living with food allergies? Do you have a friend, classmate, or sibling who is? Whether you have a food allergy or not, this contest is for you! It's not too late to help the Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin (FAAW) promote education and awareness during national Food Allergy Awareness Week taking place May 8 to May 14. Join the millions of people all across the country who are participating in activities inspired by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and other organizations that share the same mission.

FAAW’s coloring contest is easy and fun. Simply draw a picture on the form provided of yourself and/or someone you know who is impacted by food allergies. It can be your best friend, your baseball team, your grandparents or anyone special! Knowing how to safely manage food allergies is always important, but remember, there are many other (more exciting) things to know and learn about too! Your artwork should show what other things are important in your life that help make you and your pals unique! Do you like horseback riding, swimming, or going to the park? Whatever it is, show us how you and your friends and family stay safe and have fun in spite of food allergies.

Win great prizes including movie passes, gift cards and more! All contest participants will be entered to win a random drawing of fun and exciting giveaway items.

Send your entries marked FAAW Color Contest to the Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin, 2722 Union Street, Madison, WI 53704 by MAY 15, 2011. Color scans can also be emailed to sheree@foodallergywis.org. Don’t forget to write your name, address and phone number on the back of your entry! We’ll call you if you are one of our lucky winners. (All winners will be posted on FAAW’s Facebook Fan page.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 8-14!

So I've just booked all my classroom visits for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011. Have you given any thought to what you can do to help?

In addition to reading a copy of "The BugaBees" (my suggestion) FAAN has a great list of ideas to help get you started. Among other things, FAAN's web site offers free downloadable presentations, talking points, coloring pages and more. Beyond that, this video from Nick News is still one of my favorites to share with kids and adults.

If you're not the group-presentation-giving type, consider other ways you can help build awareness. Refresh friends and family members on Epi-pen protocols. Send a special "thank you" card to those most supportive to you and/or your children's food allergies. And if you're someone who doesn't have to deal with food allergies on a regular basis, take time to educate yourself --- you just might save a life one day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fear of Success

Last weekend, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend a Writers’ Conference at the University of Wisconsin. It was both fun and inspiring to meet so many smart, creative people! And while they were all very different, with diverse backgrounds and personal stories to tell, there was one common attribute I found consistently among all of them: Modesty.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one to pick up on this because, interestingly enough, the theme for Friday’s lunch presentation was “Fear of Success”. The speaker asked some very poignant questions: Why do writers consistently downplay their work? Tell themselves they‘ll likely never be picked up by an agent? Never have a publisher interested in their story? (Mmm.. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we’ve had it pounded into our heads that the competition is seriously fierce out there?) But maybe the speaker has a point too. Maybe there is a part of us, deep down inside, that is a little bit afraid of what success will look like.

We all know it’s easier to stay quiet, take the back seat, let someone else have the spotlight. Writers aren't the only ones who may feel this way. Many food allergy families I know also prefer to leave it to others to make the effort so they don't have to. But in the spirit of Food Allergy Awareness Week next month, I challenge you not to fear success. I challenge you to ask for better accommodations in schools. To stand up for safer food policies and protocols. To teach others how to help protect kids who need our protection. And to do your part to spread understanding and compassion for those living with food allergies.

Don’t be modest. Tell your story. And keep in mind that Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before any of his books were published. Remember that success is for those who never give up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Share the Love

Share the love of reading by donating your new and gently used children’s books to the Half Pint Library! Find a Half Price Books location near you before March 31st to participate.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Free Lunch!

Qdoba is taking the Chicago area by storm and offering free lunch for 'Lil Foodies ages 12 and under at their newest location on March 19!

Check out Qdoba's online food allergen menu and stop in to see us if you'll be in the Lincoln Park neighborhood next month.

Hope you can join us!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Camp Tag

Summer Camp registration for my kids occurs this weekend! This will be the second year we have participated in the YMCA program offered through my daughter's school and I have no doubt it will once again be an awesome experience. For food allergy families living near Joliet IL, Philadelphia PA, or Sandy Spring MD, you have some other exciting summer camp options this year thanks to FAAN and their new program, Camp Tag.

Camp TAG is a 5-day, half-day camp for ages 3-12 that will launch in summer 2011. It will provide a safe place for children with food allergies and their siblings to have fun with no worries about having an allergic reaction, as well as give them an opportunity to meet other children who share the same conditions and know they are not alone.

While these locations are a tad bit too far for our family to participate this year, we wish all participants great success!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

504 Plans

Later this year, my baby boy will start Kindergarten! His first day still feels like a long way off, but the registration materials sitting in my mail box remind me that it may be here sooner than I realize. Even though Maxwell does not have food allergies like his sister, I know there are many other Kindergarteners out there that do. If you are a parent to one of them, you might want to consider asking for a 504 Plan.

Although my daughter is in the midst of her third year at our public elementary school, I am just now beginning to uncover the mysteries of the 504 Plan and how it can help keep her safe. What is a 504 Plan? This legal document refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or postsecondary schooling.

In many school districts, food allergies are not typically considered as a disability covered by 504 Plans, but the truth is, they are without a doubt eligible if the severity of food allergies are life threatening. One other important thing to note: Some districts have even been heard to say, “We don’t do that in this district.” But in fact, compliance to Section 504, which is a federal statute, is not optional.

Why go to the trouble of creating a 504 Plan when you could just sit down with your child's teacher and principal before the school year starts and come to an informal agreement? Well, the major difference between a 504 Plan and this sort of casual discussion with teachers and administrators at the beginning of each school year is that a 504 Plan is a legal document. If the plan is not enforced, parents have legal recourse to the United States Office of Civil Rights or to the local courts, depending on the jurisdiction.

If your school is reluctant to make changes that you feel are necessary for your child's safety, going through the outside evaluation process and getting a 504 Plan may be the best way to protect your child in the classroom. Even if your relationship with your school has been cordial, having a formal, legally enforceable plan may help everyone involved.