Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Gives Back

Are you new to the world of asthma and food allergies?  Not sure where to turn for credible and reliable information?  Maybe I can help.

There are several organizations I follow faithfully online and Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is one of them.  This is an organization that offers so much to the asthma and allergy communities, that I want to give you a quick snapshot of the organization so you can check them out on your own and decide if the organization is one you would like to connect with.

Who is AAFA?

  • The organization was started in 1953 by three allergists raising money for education and research.  Today they are dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with asthma and allergic diseases through education, advocacy, and research.  The Foundation’s flagship public website is www.aafa.org and its companion website is www.kidswithfoodallergies.org.

What does AAFA do?

  • EDUCATE through:  programs for patients and caregivers,  and printed materials, online resources, and some bilingual resources.   Visit their website for a complete listing of programs and information they offer.  *Don’t forget to check out their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention validated programs as well as their National Health Council Standards of Excellence and HONcode Certifications.
  • ADVOCATE by:  working with the government to create legislation that improves and protects quality of life.
  • RESEARCH by:  awarding research grants for the study of asthma and allergies.

In a world where the online presence of a company can sometimes be deceiving, I love that they received the above certifications AND are recognized by groups such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.  Peace of mind is a beautiful thing!

I also love their Certified asthma & allergy friendly products guide.  Their “asthma & allergy friendly” Certification Mark let’s me know which products and professional services meet their standards for being more suitable for people living with asthma and allergies.

Here are some things parents can share with their kids at AAFA’s TackleAsthma.org site.

  • Real-life asthma stories from kids and public figures such as Rashad Jennings of the New York Giants.
  • Downloadable The #TackleAsthmaPlaybook

Want to create awareness on your own?  They also offer great social media tools like this one so that you can be a voice for those with asthma and food allergies!

Thank you, AAFA, for all our asthma and food allergy communities and for encouraging our kids to safely live a life without limits!

Love With Food Company Doubles The Food Fun

Happiness came right to my doorstep last week in the form of a cheery, red Love With Food box.  This is what it looked like:

Love With Food

It was filled with delicious Enjoy Life goodies, which are all gluten-free.  Fabulous, right?  But read on…it gets better.

Love With Food is a company that promises to help consumers discover new organic or all-natural snacks delivered to their door every month via a monthly subscription to the company. The company offers some gluten-free options as well.  In fact, the box I received was full of Enjoy Life Foods products which are free of the top 8 food allergens.  Talk about sweet!

To be honest, there are a growing number of companies offering a service just like this one…except for one remarkable difference.  Love With Food is unique in their promise to help end child hunger one meal at a time, “For every box sold, we donate a meal to several food banks such as the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry.”

According to Love With Food, with your monthly subscription each snack box delivered to you results to at least one meal donated to a hungry child in America.  That sounds like a win-win, folks.

My heart always leans toward those individuals and organizations who use their good fortune to give another a good turn, and this company appears to be one of them.  Keep up the good work, Love With Food!

Blessings,

Kimberly

*Disclosure:  Love With Food did send me a free Love With Food gluten-free snack box at no cost.*

Wizdy Gaming Creates Asthma and Food Allergy Awareness

During my family’s journey with my son’s asthma and food allergy diagnoses, we were blessed to connect with Wizdy (formerly known as Wellapets).  The company created an educational asthma game that taught children how to keep themselves healthy, how to keep asthma triggers at bay, and how to effectively use an inhaler.  Better yet…it’s honestly a fun game to play that just so happens to teach you some things about asthma in the process.

For a mom with a young child, this game was my saving grace.  I could talk to my son until I was blue in the face about how to take care of his asthma, but nothing I said was as effective as what he learned through the “voice” of the game because he was taking ownership through a hands-on experience.  Thank you, Wizdy!

Wizdy is a Boston-based start-up uniting game developers, designers and doctors. They believe in gaming for good. Their games encourage healthy lifestyle habits and inclusion; tackling asthma & allergies first!

Now the company is in the process of creating a food allergy awareness game that is slated to go live on May 16th.  Given all that the Wizdy Pets game offered, I am seriously excited about the release of their new food allergy game, Wizdy Diner.

So for the last day of Food Allergy Awareness Week, please help me welcome Nikita Virani, the co-founder and CEO of Wizdy, to the blog today!

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

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The Food Allergy MomWhat inspired you to affect change within the asthma and food allergy community?

Nikita:  I became inspired to create games for health through a combination of passion, personal experience and exciting research. I’ve always been interested in population health which defines health not simply as a state free from disease but as the ability of people to adapt to, respond to, or control life’s challenges and changes. This passion led me to Geneva, Switzerland where I interned at the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. The biggest determinant of our health isn’t our health care, but rather our day-to-day decisions. I am interested in influencing these decisions. I believe in the power of aggregate change – the idea that it doesn’t have to be those big, epic moments in life that influence us.

I can still remember the exact moment I realized the gravity of an asthma attack. I was running in the GMC Championship race when, all of a sudden, our race came to a halt. I heard one of the runners needed to be taken to the hospital and that was all I knew until I reached the field where everyone was gathered. She had an asthma attack. I remember waiting in the middle of this field for an ambulance. It was one of the scariest experiences – it helped me better understand what my best friend who has asthma went and still goes through. Until that moment, I didn’t really understand how serious asthma actually is.

 

The Food Allergy Mom:  How did you decide on gaming as a vehicle for asthma and food allergy awareness?

Nikita:  An exciting moment for me was when I came across National Institute of Health research studies proving that games can not only teach kids about health but can actually keep them healthier. A randomized control trial showed that a video game improved adherence and knowledge in adolescents with cancer. That is very powerful. When my team and I saw that no one was doing this on mobile we knew we wanted to be the first!

 

The Food Allergy Mom:  What makes Wizdy unique?

Nikita:  At Wizdy, we use our games to educate by focusing on fun and embedding positive, empowering messages into our game. Fun is our first and foremost goal. We weave educational health content, created by our advisors at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, into our game in a way that looks and feels like a game, not a learning tool or lecture.  We speak to kids in their native language – games – to teach them the things they need to know to stay healthy. In addition, we use our games to send positive, empowering messages to kids.

For example, in our asthma game, Wizdy Pets, your dragon can breath fire and defeat the pesky smog monster after it takes it’s inhaler! We hope this message translates into kids viewing their inhalers as a means to unleash their full potential rather than a deterrent, limiting them.

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

In our upcoming food allergy game, Wizdy Diner which we plan to launch on May 16th, players are rewarded for communicating and avoiding food allergies.

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

 

The Food Allergy Mom:  What contributed to you getting interested in food allergies and creating awareness?

Nikita:  Change is hard, especially when it has to do with your health. Developing six food allergies when you’re 23 years old is a huge change and this adjustment is incredibly challenging. My best friend since grade school has had asthma since I’ve known her, but she has never had any severe food allergies. This year, she developed allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, coconuts, egg, milk and shellfish. Her whole life was flipped upside down.

I was shocked when I learned she had developed 6 food allergies, but it’s possible to develop food allergies at any age. At the age of 23 she had to learn how to live with food allergies. This was one of the biggest changes in her life and an eye-opening experience for me. Her ability to embrace this big change while staying positive is truly inspiring. She had good days but she had some bad days, too. She felt frustrated, sad and had many cravings for foods she was no longer able to eat, especially pizza. But she got through it. She learned how to make foods that she loves, like brownies, in a way that she can safely enjoy them. She’s a strong, smart and inspirational woman and I am lucky to call her my best friend.

If anyone knows a delicious, tree-nut, peanut, coconut, egg, milk and shellfish-free pizza we can make, please comment below or message me – we are still on a quest for safe & delicious pizza!!

The Food Allergy Mom:  Why do you do what you do? 

Nikita:  On a company level, we hope our games can reduce the stigma around asthma and allergies and increase a sense of empathy within the greater community.

On a personal level, doing what you love is the most rewarding thing you can do. Launching a social enterprise is challenging and I am afraid I will fail. But if I do it right, I have the opportunity to empower millions of kids to take ownership of their health and go on to live many healthier, happier years. That’s too big of an opportunity for me not to even try. So here I am trying, every single day; trying to push the limits of what has been done to educate people, especially kids, about food allergies and other crucial wellness topics.  

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Many thanks to Nikita and the folks at Wizdy for their amazing work and all you do for the asthma and food allergy communities!

photo courtesy of Wizdy

photo courtesy of Wizdy

 

Food Allergy Awareness Week Part 3: “Don’t Scare.”

I’ve been contemplating my posts for this week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For information on how to “Be Aware” and “Be Prepared” please take a few minutes to read my previous posts.

For this post, let’s focus on how we, “Don’t Scare.”

I’m going to come clean here, this post is one that is so very near and dear to my heart.  And this is why.  I’m going to say something wildly unpopular and controversial here…so you might want to sit down.

I don’t think bullying is something only between children with and without food allergies.  I think as food allergy caregivers we sometimes unintentionally bully each other.  We can scare each other into wrongfully thinking that if I don’t follow your way, or vice versa, we are not doing our best.  Making someone think that they aren’t doing everything they can to protect their loved ones from food allergies…that IS scary and heartbreaking!

Let me clarify.  At some point, we are all guilty of thinking “our” way (whatever way that may be) is the best way to handle the food allergy life.  And although it may very well be the way that works best for OUR family and OUR diagnosis, it doesn’t make it the best for ALL food allergy families.  Just because it’s not my way or your way, it doesn’t make it wrong.  It just makes it different.  Because out of the whole food allergy community and even this great big world, not any two of us are exactly alike.

As a whole, I think every caregiver’s goal is to keep their loved ones safe and happy.  It is possible to impart the seriousness of having a life-threatening food allergy to others without making them feel threatened.  For example, think of how it would feel to be caring for a child with a diagnosis you knew nothing about.  Would you want their caregiver to calmly and carefully walk you through caring for their child or instill in you a fear so great, you feel too immobilized by panic to act?

It is my own personal experience that living in constant fear is really no life at all.  Living in a constant state of awareness and vigilance is absolutely necessary.  Fear doesn’t have to be.  In the beginning of my son’s diagnosis, I was so immobilized by fear that I made myself and those around me sick with worry.  It is not a stage of my journey I recall fondly, yet going through it is what eventually bridged the gap to where I am today.  Almost ten years into our family’s food allergy journey: I am educated (but continuing to learn new things every day), I am responsible, and I rely heavily on my faith.

I don’t have my head stuck in the sand.  I realize it won’t always be a perfect life.  But all of these things combined, give me and my family the peace we need to live a positive, common-sense approach to the daily food allergy life…one day at a time.

Courtesy of FARE

Courtesy of FARE

Here are some of the “Don’t Scare” techniques we employ in my family:

-Literature for kids:  “Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel”  by Stephanie Sorkin is a wonderful picture book for young children learning about food allergies.  It can also be used as a learning tool in peer groups.

Nutley

-Literature for caregivers:  My favorite food allergy book for caregivers of all time is The Food Allergy Experience by Dr. Ruchi Gupta.  It is not a book of here is what you should do and here is what not to do.  It is simply a wonderful compilation of quotes from parents from various places on the food allergy spectrum.  No one is condemned or hailed superior.  It is a way for caregivers to see the many different sides of living with food allergies.  Personally, I found myself in many of the quotes…each at a different stage in my family’s own food allergy journey.  I absolutely love this book!

-Fundraising:  Participating in the annual FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Walk is tradition for my family and I!  It began as a way to find camaraderie…to find others that knew the same struggles my family struggled with on a day to day basis.  Then it morphed into a wonderful opportunity to learn about medical and grocery vendors serving the food allergy community.  Now, we walk every single year for the opportunity to meet new friends, find new products and services, and raise money for a cure!  There are FARE Walks happening throughout the year all across the nation.  To find the event nearest you, click here.

-Support Groups:  It is crucial to find credible online and in-person support groups.  Even more important is to find positive and credible support groups.  Case in point, I once joined a local support group thinking it would be just the thing to get me thinking positively.  Do you know that when I left, all I heard was an earful about how hard life would be from this moment forward?  Ugh.  NOT what I was looking for.  Find an uplifting support group and stick with it!

-Thanks:  Thank those around you who work so hard to keep your loved one safe from allergens.  Thank your teachers, nurses, restaurant servers, Sunday School teachers, doctors, allergists, family, and friends for giving of themselves to protect another.

Thank YOU for all you are doing to raise food allergy awareness and serve the food allergy community!  Smile on, friends!

Food Allergy Awareness Week: A Guest Post from Mylan.

For Food Allergy Awareness Week I’m sharing a series of posts called “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”  And today, it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Mylan to my humble little blog so they can share some tips and resources for individuals and families who are managing severe allergies.

Thank you, Mylan!

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Tips and Tools:  Resources You’ll Want to Check Out During FAAW

Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) is the perfect time to brush up on some ways to help manage potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies and bring awareness to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Here are some tips and resources for individuals and families who are managing severe allergies.

  1. Create and Follow an Anaphylaxis Action Plan

When it comes to managing severe allergies, avoidance of your known allergens is important. Having an anaphylaxis action plan ensures that you have a plan in place to avoid those allergens, along with being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors at all times and seeking immediate emergency medical care should anaphylaxis occur.

  1. “Face Your Risk”

Take a moment to check out the new disease awareness initiative, “Face Your Risk.” This effort encourages those diagnosed with severe allergies to understand their risk for anaphylaxis through an interactive resource that helps educate about anaphylaxis risk factors. Visit the new website at FaceYourRisk.com. You may also see a new TV commercial that is currently running –  check it out here.

  1. Take a Trip to MyAllergyKingdom.com

photo courtesy of Mylan

Visit MyAllergyKingdom.com to check out informative, educational and fun resources provided by Mylan and Disney. Check out posts from expert and parent contributors, on topics like family gatherings, taking a trip, interviewing a new babysitter, and trying new things. Be sure to also check out the newest resource from Mylan and Disney; the digital release of “Show-and-Tell Scout,” the story of a fox with severe allergies to peanuts and milk. Check back every month for new blog posts, advice from experts and exciting resources.

  1. Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis
photo courtesy of Mylan

photo courtesy of Mylan

Check out Anaphylaxis101.com to learn more about severe allergies and anaphylaxis. Visit the Resource Library for allergy-friendly recipes as well as tips for eating out at restaurants, going on a fieldtrip, grocery shopping and managing severe allergies at school.

 

Post contributed by Mylan. I am not a spokesperson of Mylan.

Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis™ is a trademark owned by the Mylan companies. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

© Disney. All rights reserved.

© 2016 Mylan Inc. All rights reserved.

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Food Allergy Awareness Week: Be Prepared.

I’ve been contemplating my posts for this week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For information on how to “Be Aware,” please take a few minutes to read my previous post.

Today, let’s focus on how we can “Be Prepared.”

In my opinion, it is critical for those with and without food allergies to be prepared.  The number of individuals diagnosed with food allergies is on the rise and it is imperative that we, as a community, know how to educate, protect, and take action.

If you or someone you know has food allergies, here are some great tips on being prepared:

Medication and Emergency Forms

  • ALWAYS carry your prescribed epinephrine autoinjector (and antihistamine medicine your allergist prescribes you).  Always check for money-saving coupons like these for the EpiPen.
  • Register your medications online (if they offer that service).  EpiPen will allow you to register your epinephrine injector and set a reminder for when you need to refill the subscription.  This is especially handy for those prescriptions sent off to school.
  • Download the EpiPen app available on iTunes.  The app provides a short video demonstration of how to administer an adrenaline auto injector, a picture-based user guide to walk you through the administration of the auto injector, and multiple allergy profiles complete with offending allergens and symptoms that may indicate an allergic emergency.  My favorite part of the app is that it allows you to share the allergy profiles you create with anyone via email.  This means you can email it to grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, teachers, soccer coaches, and everyone in between.
  • Download and print the new Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) here.  Don’t forget to include a color picture!  I usually make several copies at the beginning of the school year and give two to each of my child’s teachers:  one for them and one for their sub folder.  I also provide one to the school nurse.
  • Store your epinephrine wisely and accessibly.  My son carries his EpiPen via the SPIbelt, an amazing product that works beautifully for him and is very durable.
  • Consider a medical ID bracelet.  My son has a medical bracelet we purchased from Survival Straps and we have been extremely happy with it.

Food

  • ALWAYS read and reread labels.  It is not uncommon for a company to change their ingredients or the labeling of their ingredients.  Need help learning how to read labels?  Read this document from FARE to brush up.
  • Bake and freeze.  The freezer is my friend…and it should be yours too.  I bake safe versions of cookies, breads, and even casseroles and then freeze so there are safe foods available at a moment’s notice.  It comes especially in handy when mom is sick, because all dad has to do is warm and serve.
  • Consider purchasing allergy cards such as these from FARE to help you and others identify potential allergens when grocery shopping and dining out.  I keep these in my wallet and find them extremely helpful!
  • Plan ahead.  Whether you are going out to eat, to visit relatives in the next town over, or on a vacation half way across the country…make sure you research and plan ahead of time.  It will make traveling so much easier and more pleasant.  (Check out some of our great vacation posts on this blog.)

Don’t forget to share this post with someone for Food Allergy Awareness Week and look for more posts coming soon!

My Silver Lining: A Guest Post By Author Stephanie Sorkin

Several years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of connecting with author, Stephanie Sorkin.  Not only is this sweet lady a rock star at writing and creating awareness through her children’s books, she whole-heartedly gives back to the community.  She is one of my favorite leaders in the food allergy community and I’m so thankful for her talent of educating others about food allergies.

If you aren’t familiar with Stephanie’s work, take a few minutes to learn more about her here and be sure to check out her books on Amazon.

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

It is my honor to introduce you to our guest author for today, Stephanie Sorkin.  Stephanie lives in New York with her husband and three children. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Stephanie is the author of numerous children’s books, and is extremely proud of the fact that most of the proceeds of her books are donated to organizations that help children around the world. Check out Stephanie’s Twitter posts to find healthy recipes and exciting news about her books!

Thank you, Stephanie!

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Ever since I can remember, I dreamt of being a writer. Nothing made me happier than putting words on paper to tell a story. Little did I know that life would hand me greater challenges than simply finding words that rhyme.

It was my daughter’s first birthday in March of 2008 and all was going as planned. Friends and family were there to celebrate. Elmo walked in right on time, to a room filled with balloons and laughter. My daughter looked cuter than ever with tiny pigtails and hot pink bows. It wasn’t until my smiling birthday girl took her first bite of cake that things quickly changed. Within minutes, her face and body were covered in hives and her eyes were swelling. I instinctively gave her Benadryl and the symptoms slowly subsided. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t think to call 911. Looking back, I definitely should have. I’m just as ashamed to say that it didn’t even cross my mind that this was an allergic reaction. After all, I had two other children, ages 2 and 5 with no allergies (P.S. their allergies came later.) A doctor’s visit confirmed an allergy to eggs and a warning that eggs rarely travel alone. Upon further testing and lots of trial and error, my daughter was diagnosed with allergies to a number of other foods, including nuts, sesame, flaxseed, mustard and canola oil.  It took a couple of years before we settled into what would become our new normal. I was frozen in fear at the thought of introducing new foods. What if she was allergic to those too? After countless sleepless nights and terrible anxiety, we got into a groove and exhaled.

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

Soon, my daughter would start nursery school and the anxiety returned. How would I explain to people that the equivalent of one grain of sand of her respective allergens could send my child to the ER?  She loved to go on the monkey bars, color and play dress up. She was the same, but different.  Their child’s food was my daughter’s poison. Once again, with a number of precautions in place and careful planning, along with wonderful support from the school staff, we made it work.

People often ask me how I remain so upbeat and positive. Let’s just say Meryl Streep’s got nothing on me. I’d lose count if I tried to calculate how many times I “acted” like everything was OK. I live by the mantra “Never let ‘em see you sweat”. No matter how bad my anxiety was at times, I made and continue to make every effort to never transfer this feeling to my daughter. A child deserves to be a child and to live life as such.  And yes- she 100% knows the severity of her situation, knows to always ask questions and knows to never leave home without her Zyrtec and 2 Epi-pens. She is now 9 years old, young enough to trust adults yet old enough to understand why I always designate a specific adult in charge of her food if I’m not there to supervise. Since this is always worked out in advance, it leaves her feeling confident that she can eat what is given to her.

I’ve learned so much in my journey as the mother of an allergic child. First and foremost, I have learned that people will continuously say insensitive things. From the co-worker who asks, “What CAN your child eat?” or “Is she allergic to AIR?” to the family member who urges you to “just let her try a little to see what happens.”  Honestly, if I wasn’t in this situation, I cannot say how informed I’d be about food allergies and their severity. I’d likely be more empathetic, but I just accept people’s ignorance as a lack of education. I refuse to get angry. I instead try to enlighten them whenever possible.

I’ve learned to find the silver lining, no matter what it may be. Rather than focus on what your child cannot eat, find out what they CAN have and go with it. Make mealtime at home something that your family looks forward to. If you don’t know how to cook, it’s time to learn. If you can read, you can follow a basic recipe.  After years of experimenting, I can proudly say that I can host a BBQ with all safe foods without anyone knowing the difference (hot dogs don’t really NEED mustard, do they?).

Lead by example that life is full of simple pleasures that don’t involve food. A bike ride, a manicure, laying on a hammock with a great book, planting flowers. The list goes on and on.

Be grateful for all of the things that you have and even some things that you don’t have. Think about it.

Take life day by day. When I let my mind wander, I can’t help but think of my daughter as a teenager, in social situations without me. Uh-Oh…here comes that anxiety again! I intentionally live in the present because who knows what the future may hold. Even if it’s something wonderful, like a treatment or a cure – now is now and I must make this day as productive as possible.

Help inspire others. There are a number of online support groups where you can lend your voice or your ear (or both). Food Allergy Parents have lots to discuss and sharing your expertise can prove invaluable.  Discussing recipes, product finds and advice can be therapeutic.  I recently came across a story in a FACEBOOK support group where a teenage girl was allergic to 95% of foods, relied on a feeding tube yet still managed to become a competitive US Figure Skater and is about to release her first album!

Relish in the good. That time when the teacher planned the writers workshop celebration around your child, so that all food served were safe. The class mom who insisted that her son bring a safe birthday treat so that no one is left out. The day that your friend planned a special trip to NYC and made sure the plan included a restaurant that offered safe food for your child.  

The most monumental part of my journey started when my daughter was about 3 years old. It began with a simple bedtime story that I made up as I went along, about a squirrel named Nutley who was allergic to nuts. He told his friends and oddly enough, some of them had allergies too! Nutley formed a community of sorts and instead of being ashamed that he may have been different, he and his friends celebrated their differences.  I soon realized that my whimsical story had a beginning, middle and end. At my daughter’s request, I recited it over and over again, until the entire family knew it by heart. After sharing the story with my mom, a few friends and their children, I was encouraged to share it with a larger audience, which ultimately led me to publish it.  Realizing that I had a unique opportunity on my hands, I decided to make Nutley a fundraiser and donate 100% of the books proceeds to F.A.R.E, an organization dedicated to Food Allergy Research and Education www.foodallergy.org

I was elated to have a tool to simultaneously spread food allergy awareness and raise money for much needed research. While “Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel” put me on the map as a published author, more books followed, including “Frenemy Jane, the Sometimes Friend” with the topic of Bully Prevention which resonates with Food Allergy Parents and Non-Food Allergy Parents alike.

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

I spend a lot of my time visiting schools to discuss the inspiration behind my books and the power of creativity. I teach children to celebrate their differences, no matter what they may be.  I always leave my school visits with a full heart, amazed by the bravery of the children who share their stories and truly moved by those that find the hidden meanings in the messages that I share.  

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

I’ve learned with certainty that one person can indeed make a difference. I’ve discovered that dreams come in all shapes and sizes. I plan to continue to encourage children to follow their dreams because as my journey proves…challenges can often be stepping stones.

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

photo courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

2016 Food Allergy Awareness Week: Be Aware. Be Prepared. Don’t Scare.

Much of the below is part 1 of a series of posts I came up with to celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week 2014.  And these posts and this slogan are so near and dear to my heart, I’m sharing it again this year with some updated information. Enjoy!

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I’ve been contemplating my posts for Food Allergy Awareness Week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For today, let’s focus on how we as a community can, “Be Aware.”

When I think of raising awareness for anything, I think the key is to do so in a positive way.  Let me say that again, because I think it is absolutely worth repeating.  When I think of raising awareness for anything, I think the key is to do so in a positive way.

Being positive doesn’t diminish your message or take away from it’s importance.  In fact, in most cases, it increases reception with your audience and, at times, can establish a motivation for their involvement in the cause.

As we begin food allergy awareness week, remember that you are acting as a face and voice for the food allergy community.   We want to communicate the definition of food allergies and anaphylaxis.  We must communicate the life-threatening seriousness of food allergies.  We need to communicate thanks for all that is already being done to help those that make up the food allergy community.

Whether you have food allergies or not, here are some ways you can help create food allergy awareness this week:

  • Wear the color teal today and all week long.  It is the official color of ribbon worn for Food Allergy Awareness Week.  If someone asks you about it, take that opportunity to share why you are wearing teal.
  • Use social media like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to share this post (see the share buttons below this post).
  • Use social media to share a food allergy fact every day.  Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has some great suggestions for Twitter and Facebook here.
  • Visit Kids with Food Allergies’ (KFA) for some great Food Allergy Awareness Week tools and resources.

Especially if you have a family member with food allergies, consider these additional ways to raise food allergy awareness this week:

  • Post a note of thanks on social media to those who make life with food allergies a little brighter.  It is a fantastic way to positively raise awareness.  Thank you is always nice to hear!
  • Thank a friend, teacher, nurse, doctor, or family member for all they do to keep your family member healthy and safe!

What will you do to make a difference and positively raise awareness for food allergies this week?  Have a great idea that others might benefit from duplicating?  Be sure to share it here!

Showing Thanks for Teacher Appreciation Week

If you have a child with food allergies that goes to preschool, day care, elementary, middle, or high school, THIS is the week to give thanks to your child’s teachers (and school nurses) for all they do to protect our kiddos on a weekly basis.

Every July as I’m completing the bazillion and a half forms required for my son to go to school, I begin to pray for my child’s teachers and school nurse.  That they will:

  • Have a special heart to care for my son and be a good steward of his health
  • Know the proper emergency action plan and be able to implement if necessary
  • Recognize my son is like any other student in the classroom and will not let food allergies define him

Regardless of all my intense preparation and planning I’ve done with teachers, nurses, and faculty, it is never an easy thing to entrust my child to someone who will be caring for my child five days a week and trust that she/he will care for him like you do.  Yet, it is a part of growing up…for us and our children.

This week, take a few minutes to do a small act of kindness for a teacher (school, Sunday School, swim, ballet, gymnastics…you get the picture) who truly loves and cares for your child and their unique food allergies.

Need some fun and inexpensive ideas?  Here are a few:

  • Bring school supplies for the classroom
  • Bake your child’s favorite food allergy-friendly treat and share with the teacher
  • Bring a small potted plant or fresh flowers
  • Have your child write a note or make a special drawing for their teacher
  • Write a note of thanks for all the teacher does to take care of and teach your child
  • Write a note to senior school staff to let them know what a great job your child’s teacher is doing
  • Donate a children’s food allergy book such as Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel to your teacher’s classroom

Your words of thanks and acts of appreciation for teachers do more to raise awareness of food allergies than you could ever possibly know!  Better yet, you are paying it forward for the next child with food allergies comes through this teacher’s class.

Do you have something special you do to celebrate your child’s teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week?  Be sure to share here or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Enjoy Life Foods Giveaway Makes Valentine’s Even Sweeter

Enjoy Life Foods is doing some fabulous things to celebrate Valentine’s…they are sharing the love!

Enjoy Life is giving away a Sweet Freely Valentine’s Box filled with delicious goodies that are top 8 allergen free.  Want a peek of what’s inside?

Enjoy Life Valentine Package2

Awesome, huh?!  Expect to find the box stocked with Enjoy Life Foods Pancake & Waffle Mix, Dark Chocolate Morsels, a FREE product coupon, and a heart-shaped pancake stencil!

To enter Enjoy Life’s Sweet Freely Valentine’s Box Giveaway, tag @enjoylifefoods with your favorite allergy-friendly Valentine’s Day treat using #SweetFreely on Twitter or Instagram. Enter by 2/14/16 at 11:59 PM PST.

The really cool part, is that technically you can double your chances of getting an Enjoy Life Sweet Freely Valentine’s Box, because The Food Allergy Mom is giving one away too!

Enjoy Life Valentine Package

To enter the Food Allergy Mom’s Freely Valentine’s Box Giveaway, tag @TheFdAllergyMom with your favorite Valentine’s Day tradition on Twitter.  Enter by 2/14/16 at 11:59 PM CST.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!  May your day be filled with much love and happiness!