So, it's getting to be that time of year. Special occasions - birthday parties, play dates, family gatherings, holidays. Something that most families enjoy, cherish, and don't give a second thought to doing. These times are incredibly stressful for us in trying to navigate my kid's allergy needs...
We are still trying to figure out triggers, mitigate reactions & get their poor body to calm down. Getting to baseline has been beyond challenging. The menu has been pork, rice cakes & some pear varieties for over a year and kept their body the lest reactive. Countless failed food trials has taught us many guidelines that we adhere to as much as possible.
Rotation diet rules that can't be bent - not even a little or rules that can be bent & the anticipation of the flare up it will inevitably cause. Trying to tactfully ask what the menu is going to be without making it a big fuss/production for well-meaning hosts that want to include the special diet needs & graciously standing firm that it really is much easier for us to bring their own food. We ask about the menu so that we can try to bring foods that are similar to what's being served, so that the differences aren't so noticeable. Their diet & symptoms are always in the foreground of thought for us. We want them to be able to go to gatherings & just have fun like everyone else.
We know we have to be vigilant that they don't forget the pat answer if offered food from anyone and watch like a hawk, discreetly. "No thank you. I have allergies." Most of the time they do extremely well with this, especially for a 3 year old. The biggest temptations are foods they've had in the past that was loved and can no longer have due to symptoms. So far, we have not had to worry about them sneaking "forbidden" food. But, I am sure that day's coming all too soon.
And we do this all while trying to maintain the flow of adult conversation, not revolved around health. At times we appear to be uninterested or socially awkward, which is not the case. We are just distracted with the well-being of our child in mind. Today begins our preparations to attend birthday parties, one with a cookout, on 2 consecutive days. Yes, we need about 2 days and bank an extra for anything unforeseen that may arise like running across town to pick up something that is only available at a certain store.
We have to bake crackers, find a cake recipe & bake, and a dairy-free ice cream. Finding the cake recipe has the potential to take hours and then will most likely still need modifications thoroughly stretching my limited kitchen skills. The rotation diet will probably be out the window over the weekend. Their system will probably flare up. We probably won't definitively know the culprits. And will spend days trying to get the flare up under control. All of this we do to try having some small sense of normalcy.
Fast-forward past the weekend of 2 parties.
The anticipation of last weekend was much worse than the actual events, which went smoothly with all the pre-planning & preparations. They had their own cake & meringue frosting for both occasions, which they loved. For the cake we ended up just modifying a muffin recipe. Then we modified a base meringue recipe for “frosting” which was crunchy & their favorite part. We ran out of energy to bake crackers & just opted out of the ice cream. They're not used to having that much sugar. The cake & frosting were more than enough. For the cookout, they got to have grilled chicken (minus the seasonings) like everybody else.
Enormous gratitude shoutout to the mom of the second party. She really wanted them to feel included, asked me for a list of safe foods, and made a long trek, nearly a two-hour drive, into Whole Foods (where the specific foods are) to get fruit for a fresh fruit salad. Then, she made it for everybody, not just my kiddo. What kid doesn’t like fruit - blueberries, pear and banana!
Now, days after and they are still talking about how cool it was that they could eat the same thing as everyone else! They were on cloud 9 & so were we.
We are so accustomed to providing ALL of the food anytime we are out that I don’t want to be a burden or impose on others with the special diet. I’ve thanked the mom profusely, but words just can not express how much her inclusion meant to our family. And, it reminds me just how much the little things in life really matter.
Their body did flare up like I thought it would. No surprises there, but it didn’t flare up as badly as I feared. 4 days later & they are back to typical symptoms. Knowing menus ahead of time helped us adjust food choices prior to the events, which I think was key in mitigating how much of a flare up happened.
Going through last weekend has helped me realize even more how important attention to detail is & being able to successfully attend social occasions. I think my days of juggling the unknown are coming to a close and tweaking the balance is just starting to become second nature. Our journey is evolving and that is a huge step in the right direction.