I am THAT Food Allergy Mama: Something Good HAS To Come From All Of This…6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

There Must Be Good That Comes From This: Here are 6 life-skills our kids can develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Something good HAS to come from all of this..6 life-skills our kids CAN develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Yes, calling out ‘benefits’ of food allergies may be putting on rose-colored glasses. But I am a mama who needs to see that there is good that comes from such strenuous effort and from these challenging experiences. I need to know that there are things I can do to help my child thrive in the midst of something very serious and not-so-fun.

Food allergies can be incredibly scary for parents and children who live with the reality that food can cause harm. In no way by writing this, am I saying that food allergies are desirable; all of us would rather not deal with them and put our Epi-Pens prescriptions to rest. But what I AM saying is this: as parents of children with food allergies, we are charged to not only teach our children to navigate food safely, but to make the most of the experiences they encounter. And yes, this is also true of parents whose children do not have food allergies; we need to make the most of WHATEVER experiences they have.

What does that mean for us? It means we praise and encourage skills and character traits that are both required for safety and developed as a result of having a food allergy. All those lessons in label reading, asking questions and in developing personal discipline and responsibility can be an opportunity for you, your child, and family. Despite the fears, and the harsh reality when a reaction occurs, something good can and will come of all of this, if we are committed to it.

The key word here is can. While a select few children will harness these skills on their own, most need our help. We help them apply their food allergy skills to other areas of life. Instead of raising children who view their allergy as a hindrance, we can help them see it as an experience that taught them life lessons and skills that they will actually use as adultsAs we teach the skills they NEED to keep themselves safe, we can champion their efforts, recognize their growing independence, and encourage their empathy for others.

But before listing the skills and character traits we can encourage, we must first ask ourselves…How do I view my child’s allergy? What do I convey to them? Do my attitudes, words and actions reflect that I am annoyed with it, frustrated by it, or hindered by it? They are looking to US to see how to act. Our attitudes must show that we will make the most of this. We must make it our goal to equip, empower and trust these little ones…first with a little, and step by step, we will have to trust them a LOT….they won’t be in our care 24/7 for very long. It starts with US.

It is my goal to make sure our child knows I am in their corner. That I am doing what I NEED to be doing to keep them safe, and at the same time, they need to do the same. There are times when a feeling is hurt, a food can’t be eaten, a child is excluded, or a reaction happens and all they need is someone to grieve with and to be comforted by. I’m there. But otherwise, I want to be sure they know to be proactive and take necessary precautions, but to also ENJOY life. I want them to tangibly know what they are learning from this, and that they will succeed in other areas because of what they’ve learned and endured.

6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

1. Food Awareness and Healthy Choices

In a society filled with wide availability of sugar, fat, and sodium packed foods, there is value in knowing that what we put into our body MATTERS. Children with food allergies and their parents KNOW this on a whole new level. Why not use this food-awareness as a stimulus for life-long healthy eating habits? With intentional education from us, these safe, and healthy food habits will promote a lifetime of food choices for our whole family. Here are a few of the lessons we intend to pass on to our children (allergic or not):

  • Label Reading Fosters Wise Decision-Making: In general, the more food is processed, the more likely it can be cross contaminated with a food allergen. AND the more likely it is loaded with less-than-healthy additives. Diligence is key and can be taught NOW. Teaching that we read labels not only to check for an allergen, but also to see if it is healthy. You know, you are what you eat – It may not be scientifically proven, but I am convinced that if you eat enough processed, high sodium food, that you can pickle your body from the inside out! Food allergy kids and parents have to read the label anyway, so why not read it together and make wise decisions together?
  • Whole Foods are Safer and Healthier: Even with diligent label reading, we all know from recalls that the label isn’t always right. WHOLE, RAW fruits and vegetables and plain, unflavored meats are safest. Not only is the raw food less likely to be contaminated, but is packed with natural nutrients. They are also free from strange chemicals with complex names that I used to use for science experiments in the genetics lab.
  • Cooking at Home Promotes a Love To Cook:  Watching and helping a parent cook creates lasting memories and imparts life-long skills. Sure, it takes longer to let a 4-year-old help, but it is worth it. I hope his future wife appreciates that he will know how to cook before he leaves his stay in this house.
  • Knowledge is Powerful: A child with a food allergy and their siblings simply HAVE  to know more about food than others.  It goes with the territory; they know about cross contamination, manufacturing, and how reactions happen. It is my hope that knowledge about how allergies work will someday generate curiosity about science and drive our children to search for their own answers.
  • Passing on Dessert is a Good Idea: As adults, we all know that passing on dessert is a good skill. In an allergy household, pre-made desserts can be particularly difficult to find allergen-free, so food allergies often make baked goods a rare treat. Instead, fruit at the end of our meal has become our go-to dessert; grapes, blueberries, and strawberries are the coveted ‘treats’. These kids won’t expect a baked or creamy treat after every meal because most have not grown up that way.

2. Empathy

Any child who has sat alone at a nut-free table, been excluded from an activity or treat, or had an allergic reaction knows how important it is to have the support of others. Or, even better, someone to step into it with you and pass on dessert WITH you. When they see others going through their own struggles (food or otherwise), it is my hope that they will be better equipped to come alongside others and meet them where they’re at.

As parents, we can guide and encourage our children to reflect on how they have felt in similar situations. We can teach them how to ask questions to understand what others are going through, and how to stand by them and lift them up. It excites me how this will affect them long-term. These kids are going to be some of the most kind and loyal friends out there.

3. Appreciation

Many of us take the freedom we (and our kids) have to eat whatever we want, for granted. Our family never will again. We feel the occasional pang of jealousy or disappointment when a nutty treat is being passed around. And frankly, it will hurt when we see our child hurt. But we will also be proud when he makes the right choice. But, because of those moments, we have learned that where disappointment and self-control is great, so is delight, surprise, and gratefulness when it goes the other way.

When someone makes a special effort to buy or make a dessert my son can eat, it brings delight; he knows it is really special.  We recently attended a birthday party where a parent did her own research and found a store that will sterilize all their equipment to make nut-safe cupcakes (you know who you are-THANK YOU isn’t enough). When that nut-free cupcake was placed in front of my son, he looked at me and said, “But mama, doesn’t it have nuts?”.  I was first proud that he asked first, on his own, and then it was my pleasure to explain that his friend’s mom had gone out of her way to make sure he could have one. His surprise was evident and the look on his face was so sweet.

To say he was grateful is an understatement. He will always know it is a privilege when someone makes a special effort on his behalf. These lessons foster a sense of gratitude that only experience can teach.

4. Self-Advocacy

I recently read this article, which states that children may develop helplessness from their food allergy experience. Helplessness? Sigh. Initially, I was offended. But as I read the whole article, I saw how my PARENTING will largely decide whether this is true. Fear and the knowledge of the danger in food makes it hard for me NOT to control every aspect of their food and environment. But while we need to do our part to keep them safe (and do it WELL), we also need to make sure they are learning to do the same on their own. Whether they’re only 2, or 3, or 4, or…

The article did change my thinking and motivate me. Instead of asking all the questions for my son, we need to help my son learn to ask questions, NOW…This doesn’t mean that we don’t keep asking those food allergy 20-questions before we get together. These questions still need to be asked and I will continue to advocate for my child! But it DOES mean that we need to take the time to help our child learn WHAT to ask, WHEN to ask (always), WHY it is important, and HOW (respectfully, kindly) to ask. In essence, to practice self-advocacy.  As they learn this skill, it will be our job to show them how to use it in others areas of life, and on behalf of others.

5. Real Faith

There are just some things that parents can’t provide on a life-changing, fulfilling level; we are limited, but God is not. When a child finally understands the gravity of what a life-threatening food allergy means, they will need all the hope, comfort and faith they can get. This can only come from a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ our savior.

Tell them when you pray for them; they should know the prayers being said on their behalf and understand that their parents are putting their trust in the Lord’s protection. As they get older and express their own fears and frustrations, it will be time to share some of your own and to show them how you have worked through them with the Lord’s help. Being honest about our struggles and how the Lord helps us will be a powerful example for them to emulate. We will teach our son how we know that no matter what happens, the Lord will be with us ALL as we walk through it.

When our children grapple with their own fear and discouragement (allergy related or not), we WILL turn their faces towards the One and Only God. We will teach them verses about worry, God’s protection and our reliance on Him to meet our needs. We will demonstrate what faith looks like; how we need to do OUR part (wise choices, proactive planning, and carry medications), and then, when we can do no more, how we rely on God to do HIS part.

I can’t think of any better skill to equip them with.

 6. Accountability and Responsibility

A child with a food allergy is responsible for a LOT, at a young age. They need to be aware of their surroundings, what is in EVERY bit of food or beverage they consume, and are responsible for expensive medications that they will need to know how to self-administer. It is a lot on their plate. They need our encouragement, guidance, and TRUST. They need us to equip them as best we can, making sure they understand consequences, and then, we need to pray for them, and let them go….to school, to a friend’s house, to an activity…I feel like this goes without saying, but, when they return from…[insert activity]….we need to hold them accountable. We will ask questions about how they made decisions and we will praise their efforts to be safe, correcting when necessary.

When we make it to the Epi-Pen expiration date and not only has it not been needed, but they haven’t lost it, froze it, or heated it up…that is worth celebrating. When parents, teachers, or their friends mention how our children are being diligent when we’re not there, we need to tell them how proud that makes us.

 

These are 6 skills, but there are plenty more. Our experiences can make or break us. Lets make sure our children’s allergy experiences (good and bad) are a starting point for something wonderful.  There is no doubt that these lessons will take time and effort. It will often be faster to just do it for them. But, bear with it. The long-term outcome will pay dividends; not only will they be safe, but will excel in many areas as a result.

Our kids are pretty amazing people, whether they have allergies or not. All of these skills (and more) can be learned by any child, but our food-allergic children and their siblings have experiences that require them.

Oh, they are going to be some neat kids…And I can’t wait to see them as adults.

It’s No Wonder That As Women, We Question What We Should Look Like – I Want Something Different For My Daughter (and Son)

Whatever IS

As yet another week ends with viral news spreads of a woman showing a little too much (and doing so proudly), I find myself frustrated with the world my daughter will grow up in. She is only one and a half, but already, I am concerned for her future self-image; body image, self-worth, and what attributes she has that she’ll see as valuable.

I thought about linking to the most recent story, but I’m not going to spread it further and make you want to look.

You know the type I’m referring to, so save your eyeballs, and just keep reading.

When I was my daughter’s age, this type of behavior was considered scandalous. Don’t you remember when Madonna was considered too risqué? I wish we could go back to THAT, and even that is more than I want her to think is OK.

Today, it’s merely a blip of photos gone viral, only to be outdone by someone else on Monday. Instead of being rightly shocked and appalled, we are so inundated with it that we barely bat an eye. Some have their eyes glued to it, while others roll our eyes. FEW avert their eyes.

We accept that they exist because they are everywhere. Instantaneously. Accessed within seconds. Forever in cyberspace. Images are on social media news feeds, website homepages and sidebars, television and radio, billboards, or even in the coffee shop where you sit trying to focus on something else.

Censoring isn’t really possible today. Even if you look away, you saw a glimpse of more skin than you wanted to. Somehow, the media and world (including other women?) celebrate these so-called ‘empowered’ women.

NEVER will the words “good for her” be uttered from MY lips for this.

[Rant]

You may be wondering what that means above…there was a long rant there. I removed it because, frankly, it doesn’t need to be said, yet again. I am not here to judge those who decide to post their photos online. I’m guessing they do not know God, and I can’t expect them to live to His or my standards. I am also sure that society has praised their actions, paid them handsomely, and I won’t deny that they are indeed, beautiful. And, I know that it takes a considerable effort to look that way. Time and effort I don’t dedicate to it. When I re-read what I had written, my words were not kind, so I took them out. Tearing down another woman isn’t helpful and won’t resolve the problem.

A rant is not the purpose of what I am writing today. We already know the harm these images do to both women and men, girls and boys. Both are affected, negatively. It cannot and should not be ignored.

That is why I rejoice when I read articles like this one;  a proactive approach to help our kids learn and know something different. Tools and words to educate our kids. Well said.

The truth.

No little girl (or boy) should stop eating, take diet pills, or save pennies for plastic surgery. Nor should they feel less-than because of judgmental glances or words by others. But, the content keeps coming. And we all suffer from a misguided bombardment.

While I avoid looking, I know the images are there. I can’t escape it and see images before I can turn my face away. Images are powerful. They imprint in your mind and can be recalled. It BOTHERS me. I find myself looking at my post-two-precious-babies body, and feeling self-conscious that it looks DIFFERENT. I question my beauty, and my worth because I do not live up to our society’s, albeit WRONG, standard. And I know better!

So what now?

First, I use care when getting ready to show my daughter that it doesn’t need to take HOURS. Spend too much time in the mirror, and you can primp, curl, and cover and look like SOMEONE ELSE. But I don’t want her to. I want my daughter to look like herself. I watch my words about my own body. She will not hear me telling myself that I am too fat, don’t like THAT wrinkle, or wish I looked differently. I censor any self-judgement for her, and for ME. I get dressed in clothes that fit and are modest in nature, and focus on looking nice for my HUSBAND. I have only a handful of makeup items and spend no more than 10 minutes ‘primping and curling’ unless it is for a very special occasion.

On that note, my SON will not hear or see those things either. He will see what a ‘normal’ female is like, and I hope he will desire THAT for his future wife.

It doesn’t mean I don’t want to look nice, or struggle with body image. But, really, I just want to look like ME. While I will continue to exercise and eat healthily, my hair won’t ever be perfect, nor will my body. I will not take strange dieting herbs or inject any toxin into my face. No thank you. I will just look like me; aging slowly, like everyone else. Only I hope to do it gracefully.

For my children’s sake, I put my scale and mirror away, and try to align myself with what God sees and teach them to do the same.

I pray and have prayed daily, for my daughter’s future self-image. I will persist because the images persist.

I pray that her self-image will be as her mom and dad see her. And, even better, how God sees her.

Beautifully made.

Loved by God.

Loved by her mom and dad and countless others.

Intelligent.

Creative.

With great potential. 

Useful.

Wanted.

Intended for a great purpose of eternal value.

Responsible to take CARE of her body by eating healthy and exercising, but to be modest in the expression of it.

To make every effort to do this:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 (The Holy Bible, ESV)

And…

SO.

MUCH.

MORE. 

All these truths, I desire for her to KNOW to her CORE so the world will not shake her, or cause her question her value.

Pray for your daughter, wife, granddaughter, niece, and friends today. Any woman is subject to these attacks. Pray also for your son, husband, grandson, nephew and friends. That they would know the truth that a woman’s value and beauty is not encapsulated by the exterior. I am.

With the way things are going, you can’t pray, teach or love them enough. Talk about the truth and be sure your little ones KNOW that the world’s view of a woman’s body is both incorrect and dangerous.

Censor what you can. Let the things they see in your home and hear from your mouth be pure in content.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – (The Holy Bible, Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Undoing what society throws at them will take focused effort. It is an ongoing battle and it won’t be ending anytime soon.

Are you fighting it?

DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign

DIY Outdoor Vertical Sign Collage

When I saw this  “Believe” sign (by Creative Raisins), I was inspired to make a similar sign.

In fact,  I liked it so much, I wanted to make an outdoor sign for both fall and Christmas. But while I found plenty of great vertical sign ideas (FALL, JOYBe Merry), none applied to both.

BUT, every board has 2 sides…SO, I decided to make 2 different signs with the same board. Multipurpose and cost-saving.

GRATEFUL for the fall season.

BELIEVE for Christmas.

A wood board was painted with 2 colors of chalk paint, distressed, and stenciled. The sign was sealed using spray Outdoor spar-Urethane. Our sign has been outside for 2 weeks and is holding up nicely despite rain, and most recently, snow. So far, so good!

After researching online, a finished (one-sided) vertical wood sign similar to this goes for $60-$120, and would likely need to be sealed for outdoor use. The cost for all the materials used here was $23 and both the Urethane and paint have plenty leftover for future projects.

Materials

  • 1 inch x 8 inch x 6 foot Common Board
    • Money Saving Tip: These go for ~$4, but after digging in the Home Depot cull lumber pile, I found a slightly warped and roughed up board for 70% off and paid just over $1. Who cares if a DISTRESSED, outdoor sign is a little warped or beat up?
  • Chalk Paint – 2 colors
    • I used Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint in Cascade and Rich Black
    • Money Saving Tip: Plan ahead and use a Jo-Ann’s 50%-off coupon on the Chalk Paint, Spouncer and Stencils. Sign up for their free mailing list, and be aware that they may accept coupons from Michaels. Plan ahead and buy ALL with a coupon; there no reason to pay full price, well, EVER, when they mail coupons regularly
  • Fine and Rough Sandpaper
    • For prep and distressing
  • Paint Brushes
    • Money Saving Tip: Planning to distress? Any paint brush will do; use an old one
  • Letter Stencils
  • ‘Spouncer’ or ‘Dabber’ 
    • You might ask, what on earth is that? Essentially, it’s a round foam ‘stamp’ used to apply paint. It gives you nice clean edges without paint bleeding under the stencil. Trust me, you want to use this. It saves time and makes stenciling oh-so-easy!
  • Outdoor or Marine Grade Urethane or Sealer

 

Process Used

1. Prepare to Paint

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor

  • The board was placed on two boxes to get it off the ground (I used 2 cases of diapers)
  • Both sides were lightly sanded using FINE sandpaper to remove any loose wood pieces (can be important when using cull lumber which may be a little beat up)
    • Don’t worry about sanding to make the entire surface smooth, especially if planning to distress. Imperfections give character and makes distressing look more realistic
  • Wipe down both sides to remove any saw dust or debris

2. Apply Base Paint Color

Apply the base color of paint

Apply the base color of paint

  • Apply the base color of chalk paint (Rich Black). Not going to distress? Skip this step
  • It’s the base so it’s OK if coverage isn’t perfect. Go ahead and work quickly, but get paint into any deep crevices so when distressed, you see base color, not bare wood
  • Allow to FULLY DRY, then flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated. Then allow to FULLY DRY

3. Apply Contrasting Color

Layer with a contrasting color of paint

Layer with a contrasting color of paint

  • Before applying the second color, determine how you plan to distress the paint. I tried two ways:
    1. Paint with FULL coverage, then sand to distress after the paint dries, OR
    2. Paint roughly, allowing the first color to show through - see below (MUCH EASIER)
Apply the second color roughly so the first color shows through

Apply the second paint color roughly so the first color shows through

  • Apply the second contrasting color (Cascade)
  • Allow to FULLY DRY and flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated.
  • NOTE: You COULD use a different color on each side so you end up with two unique sides 

4. Distress the Surface (if desired)

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper to remove the top layer of paint. Use care not to remove the base coat and expose bare wood if you desire to see contrast

  • Use rough and fine sandpaper to distress the paint in RANDOM areas. Decide if you want to distress where the letters will be stenciled (I did not)
  • Use FINE sandpaper on the edges so the base shows without going down to bare wood
  • Use coarse sandpaper on flat surfaces if the fine requires too much elbow-grease
  • If you go too far, or don’t like it, go back, add paint as needed and repeat until you like it

5. Paint Stenciled Letters

Stencils

  • Align your stencils and tape to in place
  • Transfer a small amount of chalk paint to a plate or bowl
  • Apply paint to the end of the spouncer and blot slightly to remove excess paint
Dip the Spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray before 'stamping'. Slightly overlap the spouncer with the stencil and opening to prevent bleeding. Blot until paint is no longer transferred and go back over the thicker areas to evenly distribute paint

Dip the spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray to remove excess paint. Stamp so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until paint is no longer transferred, then go over painted areas to evenly distribute paint

  • Press down to ‘stamp’ paint so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until no more paint transfers
  • Use the now somewhat dry spouncer to go back over thickly painted spots and stamp to evenly distribute paint
  • Continue applying paint until all letters are stenciled
  • Remove stencils carefully once paint is fully dry

6. Seal for Outdoor Use

  • Place the sign on a large tarp in a well-ventilated area (garage with door wide open)
  • Use an appropriate mask to protect yourself from fumes
  • Read the can to be sure you apply properly and in the correct temperature range
    • Follow the same process (see here) as spray painting furniture for even application
    • Don’t forget to spray all edges
    • The spray I used had a special nozzle to prevent over-spray - a MUST HAVE feature!
  • Apply multiple coats according to manufacturer recommendations. The manufacturer of this spray recommended 3 coats for outdoor use. I applied 4 to be sure.
  • Allow to dry 72 hours before using outdoors or as manufacturer recommends

 

Here are the pictures of the sealed, finished product in front of our house. When I was taking these pictures for the blog, a random woman stopped her car and asked me where I got it. Hopefully it means my neighbors won’t think it’s an eyesore!

Completed GRATEFUL sign

Completed GRATEFUL sign

Completed BELIEVE sign

Completed BELIEVE sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think of it? Please post a picture of your DIY vertical sign, I’d love to see it!

 

 

 

 

Joyful Hosting: DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party Decorations

Dinosaurs.

The perfect theme for a 4-year-old boy’s first-ever birthday party with his little friends.

A gold mine of birthday decor ideas.

My ideas, combined with the fun ideas I gathered for my Birthday Boy Pinterest board, and I was soon a little overwhelmed!

Limited by both time and budget, I couldn’t do it all…so I picked four decorations I could make myself using common and inexpensive materials that, for the most part, I already had on hand.

I’m excited to post over the next few weeks the decor, food, and party favors we made.

The party was a big hit with both kids and parents!

Today’s post is all about decorations you can make yourself, with materials you probably already have. Using simple materials like paper, tape, string, markers, stencils, and chalk, your house can be Dino-party ready!

Each of the following ideas were completed during nap time, and each took an hour or less.

Here is a little tour of the decorations people saw as they arrived for the party.

Best of all, when my son saw it all, he was just delighted. It made every effort completely worth it.

DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party Decor 

1. DIY Chalk Dinosaur Crossing Sign and Paper Footprints

DIY Chalk Dinosaur Crossing Sign and Paper Footprints

DIY Chalk Dinosaur Crossing Sign and Paper Footprints

  • We actually forgot to put these two decorations out before our party began – Whoops! I’m posting them anyway – since they were made in advance TO use!
  • Walking up to the house these construction paper dinosaur footprints would guide you to the front door and into the party
Dino Crossing Sign drawn with chalk

Dino Crossing Sign drawn with chalk

  • This Dino Crossing Chalk Sign was created on our Ikea Easel
    • A diamond with rounded corners was drawn, and a second border was traced
    • A dino-stencil was made by tracing a toy dinosaur onto paper and cutting it out
    • The stencil was placed in the center of the triangle and traced, then the rest of the inner diamond was filled in
    • Colored areas were blended with fingers to give a solid-looking finish
    • A diaper wipe and my pointer finger were used to remove chalk and ‘write’ black letters
      • After each stroke, a fresh piece of the wipe was used
      • Once the letters were dry, any smeary spots were ‘touched up’ with a wipe
      • Any letters that got too thick were colored in with fresh chalk
      • My kids smeared it right away – No problem! I just cleaned the smeary areas with a wipe and colored with chalk as necessary

2. “ROAR means Happy 4th Birthday in Dinosaur” Entryway Sign

Entryway "Roar means Happy Birthday in Dinosaur"

Entryway “Roar means Happy Birthday in Dinosaur”

  • When guests walked in the door, the paper footprints led them by this sign in our entryway. They placed gifts on the table below it
    • Inspiration for the wording of this sign was found here.
    • Pre-cut flags like these were bought on clearance at Target in the party section ($1.20 each for pack of 10 flags and string – I bought 1 blue, 1 green)
    • Lettering was done with these alphabet stencils that I already owned and a black sharpie
    • Flags were hung from 2 orange shoe strings I already had, and the white strings that came with the pre-cut flags
    • Banners were suspended from 3M command hooks to save the wall from pin holes
    • Additional lettering was created using one pack of vinyl wall alphabet decals from the dollar store ($1 for a pack containing 2 of each letter in the alphabet – I had to cut and ‘create’ one additional letter “N” from other letters to write these words on the wall)

3. Homemade Paper 2-Inch Circle Garland

Homemade 2-inch circle garland

Homemade 2-inch circle garland

  • Stung on a window and across two large walls, guests saw our 2-inch circle garland, made from bright construction paper
    • Using a 2 Inch Craft Lever Punch (Hobby Lobby – $6 on sale), holes were cut using several colors of construction paper (4 sheets at a time – different colors stacked in the order they’ll be strung)
    • Circles were strung using a needle and thread.
      • The needle was pushed up through the paper, then down and up again so they would lay FLAT on the string
      • Keep the thread attached to the spool until you’ve strung half of the punched holes
      • Then let out at least the same length from the spool and cut the thread
      • String the rest from the other side
    • Garland was suspended using 3m Command hooks
    • Three 8 to 10 foot long strings of garland took about 45 minutes total, which included punching them, stringing them and hanging them

4. “Happy 4th Birthday Aiden-a-saurus” Flag Banner

Happy Birthday Aiden-a-saurus Banner

Happy 4th Birthday Aiden-a-saurus Banner

  • This banner was the focal point of the main party area of our home
    • This banner was made using patterned 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper I already had
      • 12″x12″ sheets were cut in half. This sign used 14 pages to create 28 flags
      • A triangle was cut from bottom to create the flag shape; I used the first as the template for the rest
    • Tip: Buy scrapbook paper at a craft store when on sale or use standard solid color construction paper. Hobby Lobby runs a 50% off scrapbook supplies often. Something like this will work great; and with assorted patterns and 80 pages, you could make A BUNCH of banners for $7.
    • Letters were made on white medium weight art paper using these alphabet stencils that I already owned and a black sharpie
    • The flags were hung on a string; fold 1 inch over the string and secure with tape to the back of the flag
    • The banner was suspended on 3M command hooks over the entryway between our kitchen to dining room

Thanksgiving Is More Than A Meal With Turkey: Start Practicing Gratitude NOW

Thanksgiving.

By far, one of my favorite days of the year.

I love all of it; the company, the football, and the food that leaves me in a so-full-I can’t-eat-another-bite food coma.

Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. It starts a month of time when people are more gracious, more loving, and more grateful.

Of course, Thanksgiving also marks the moment when consumerism is at its highest and people get nasty fighting over parking spots. And despite meals where we sit together and discuss what and who we are thankful for, many of us lose the holiday spirit before we even walk into the first Black Friday sale. People were so intent on SAVING money, they forget to be KIND getting in the door.

I mean, get out of my way, I have gifts to buy!

How silly is it to run over someone else so you can buy a GIFT for someone else?

Ridiculous.

The holidays can be a stressful time, as people have full schedules, year-end quotas and financials to meet at work, gift buying and budgets to keep. As women, some of us are guilty of taking on too much, and being stretched far too thin because we want to do it all. And some of us also slip into the consuming black hole of perfectionism; we want the perfect gift, the perfect party, the perfect Christmas photo card.

With the holidays looming, a meal where we mention what we’re grateful for isn’t going to prepare me for the long haul to make it with grace through January.

Thanksgiving isn’t a meal with turkey, it’s an attitude.

A lifestyle.

One that isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t easy to achieve.

It takes work to train your mind to be grateful. To stop worrying about your own rights and desires and be thankful for where you are now, what you have, and who you’re with. This year, our family will start focusing on gratitude NOW.

This way, when the holiday stress and busy-ness kicks in, we’ll be well-versed in the practice of gratitude.

All of us.

It is my desire and hope that our intentional focus on gratitude will become habitual; that we will continue to focus on gratitude more and more, right through the end of the year and on into 2015.

Forget the New Year’s Resolution…I’m suggesting making the change before the high stress time sets in.

There are 3 practical ways we will increase our awareness of gratitude:

 1. Replace Complaints with Prayers of Gratitude

thessalonians 516to18

Simple, yet powerful. I can take no credit for this idea; it was suggested today at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) by our teaching leader, Cheri Cameron.

Pausing to be grateful in circumstances that produced complaining gives a complete change of perspective. It doesn’t mean our problems won’t be there when we’re done, but it does mean we rely on God more, and recognize His presence. We take some of our emotion out of the situation, close our mouths, and instead of perpetuating grumbling or hours on end, we say thank you to our creator; for walking through a trial with us, for giving us wisdom, comfort, peace, and people to come alongside.

What does this look like? Here’s a few examples.

  • Complaint: My daughter was up twice in the night last night, waking my son and I, and now we are all TIRED and CRANKY.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for this little girl, that I get to be her mom and help her go back to sleep when her teeth hurt. Thank you for the extra snuggles that I don’t usually get during the day and thank you for the hours of sleep that I DID get last night. I have done with far less sleep
  • Complaint: I have so much to do, I’m just overwhelmed. I feel like no one even notices the work I am doing.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for being here with me today. Thank you for SEEING my efforts and helping me to do the work you’ve given me. Help me to prioritize and to focus on you while I work. Nothing makes the work seem lighter than when I do it while praising the Lord.

When I am grumbling in earshot of my children (sigh, yes it happens), I will confess my poor attitude and pray out loud so they can learn by example. I want them (and me) to stop the pattern of complaining, and to replace it with gratitude.

When our children are complaining, we will help them pause, recognize what is happening, and pray their own prayers of gratitude. This is one skill I want them to learn now.

2. Actively Encourage and Express Gratitude To Others

Thess 511

This month our family will focus on thanking those people who make our life better by being in it. We will actively seek ways to encourage others in their walk of life. We will practice being SPECIFIC on what we are grateful for, not just a generic THANK YOU.

We will thank and lift each other up as a family. Intentionally.

I am too often guilty of the critical-tongue. Things escape my lips and I immediately regret the complaint. It is my goal to internally THINK before I speak and change my complaint into encouragement and thanks.

I am not saying it will be easy. I think it is going to be quite hard! But, I will give it my best effort and ask in faith the Lord to honor it and bless it.

3. Keep a Record

Psalm 665

I am not sure what type of record we will be keeping, but I’m hoping to make a gratitude tree (like this one from http://jonesdesigncompany.com/) or a Daily Gratitude Journal (like this one from http://www.stratejoy.com).

Whatever type we choose, there will a visual, written record. We will record what each member of our household is grateful for each day in November. I hope to do this all year, but we’ll see how this goes.

On Thanksgiving this year, our family will sit down and read these records together, and celebrate the what God is and has done for our family this November.

Since September, I’ve fallen off the wagon on my gratitude journal. It’ time to pick it back up. I miss it. I miss the perspective it gives me when I’m starting my day. I’ve committed to write each day in November, recording the ways God is showing me the blessings in my life and in scripture as I study His word.

Will you join us? 

 

Practice Gratitude: enJOY fall through the eyes of a 4 year old

psalm 11824

Isn’t it funny as you listen to people chat idly about the weather, or read their facebook posts – People either LOVE or HATE fall. 

There’s no middle ground.

Either you enjoy the change of seasons, crisp air, and gorgeous trees, OR you dread fall and its daily reminder that WINTER is looming.

I have spent many years loathing fall and the coming winter.

I won’t mince words here. Winter is not my favorite time of year, it’s my LEAST favorite. I don’t relish the coats, boots, mittens, hats, shovels, salt, sand, wind and traffic jams. After the rough (no let’s be honest – BRUTAL) weather last year, it requires very little searching to find others who are like-minded.

But this year, I was stopped in my tracks by the way my 4 year old son SEES fall.  He views the changing weather and tree leaves as new and exciting, and is filled with JOY.

Having trouble seeing fall as a JOYFUL experience? You may want to try looking at it through the eyes of a child.

This MN fall season has produced more beauty, and has lasted longer than any I recall. In past years, it seems like the trees changed color quickly, and then dropped their leaves overnight in freezing rain, or snow, as winter simply plopped into our laps and was here to stay.

For weeks, I’ve been hearing my son exclaim from the backseat of the car that ‘those trees are changing’. He tells me which color leaf is his favorite, over and over. I’d love to tell you which color IS his favorite, but it changes day by day, and sometimes minute by minute.

He has questions about WHY the leaves are changing, how the change, why the green is gone, why the leaves fall off. While I LOVE any chance to give a scientific explanation, it has been my pleasure to also explain that GOD MADE THE TREES THAT WAY – for HIS and OUR pleasure.

We’ve been driving different routes, to see what wonders lie on different streets, and parking in random neighborhoods to walk a new trail. A few times I’ve brought my camera. We stop and look at all kinds of things, and we take photos of things from my son’s eye-level.

Most of the time we’re looking straight UP.

I’ll tell you what – from his point of view, fall changes are mighty wonderful, awe-inspiring, and make ME want to join in his exclamations of the glory of it all.

It is my JOY to listen to his observations of wonder. I’ve found MYSELF noticing the intricate details, the variation in colors and types of trees, and the glory of the Lord God who created EACH one. AND how he made them and put them here for US to see, enjoy and marvel at.

It is refreshing to remind myself that these fall changes are not only eye-catching, but changes that allow the tree to survive the winter and be ready to sprout green leaves in the spring.

Could ALL of this in all its complexity be CHANCE?

I just don’t think so.

In fact, by faith, I know so. 

Are YOU marveling at the trees? Or are you concerned that with every falling leaf, the season is fleeting?

Why spend time worrying and perseverating on the coming winter when fall is here NOW to enjoy?

The Bible is clear that we can’t stop the seasons:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

Today I drop down to eye-level with a 4 year old to look anew at things that haven’t been perceived with WONDER like this for a very LONG time.

Instead of dreading the winter months to come, I CHOOSE to be PRESENT, in THIS day, surrounded by God’s amazing creation, undergoing intentional change.

There is no denying it, the Lord has outdone Himself with fall this year. Winter can come when it will, but I will be grateful for what we have today; a sunny, 60 degree day, with crisp air, brilliantly blue sky and an array of colors, as far as my eyes can see.

This FALL, I am grateful for the season, and find myself getting caught up in the JOY and WONDER of it all.

“This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalms 118:24

Thank you, Lord.

Here’s a few of the photos my son and I took to give you a FRESH view of fall from a 4 year old’s eyes (along with his comments, verbatim).

Red berries where leaves have dropped, in a backdrop of yellow

“Mom, look at those red things that didn’t fall off! Where did the leaves go and why is that tree YELLOW? I think I like those red things the best. Are those cherries? I like cherries”

Not everything is ready to change color quite yet

” Ooh, flowers! Those flowers aren’t changing yet. They might change someday too, won’t they?”

Even the fading colors are pretty

“Leaves! No green left. They look brown. I think they’re dead”

My son was amazed that while some leaves were turning brown, new flowers were still blooming

“Look at those brown leaves and how some of them are brown. Why are some of them green and some of them brown and some yellow? How come those flowers are still green and not dying? “

Brilliant reds

“I LOVE those red leaves, they’re my favorite”

Some trees are bare, stark against the sky

“That tree is dead mom, like the one in our yard, but God will give it leave next year, wont HE? I think God loves it”

Fall Yellows

“Look, MOM! Those yellow leaves are pretty! THOSE are my favorite!” (yes, these too, are his favorite)

Sun streaming through the clouds yesterday

“Look at the sun hiding behind those black clouds. I think it might rain. The sun is peeking out, I think”

Even the weeds are changing!

“Even the weeds are changing!”

Hardly any change yet...the fall is lasting a LONG time

“How come the trees are green over here?”

Red-orange leaves in the sun

“Those leaves are BRIGHT! Maybe from the sun”

Multi-colored leaves

“Look, those leaves are red but have yellow on them! They have 2 colors!”

Happy Fall.

I am THAT Allergy Mama: Thank You For Answering My Food Allergy “20 Questions” Before We Get Together

How I miss the days when all I had to do was ask what I could bring to a get-together and not have to know what was being served…

Or when someone could bring anything they like best to our house.

Any dessert. Any bread. Any salad topping.

Sigh.

Now I’m constantly MEDDLING.

I’m calling ahead, asking friends to read food labels over the phone, and explaining that the phrase “processed on equipment with nuts” is just as bad for us as something containing an actual peanut.

I’m asking what dessert they are serving, where it came from, and usually planning to bring something similar and safe for my son to eat.

And YES, I often request foods containing nuts aren’t served while we’re there and that nuts are never brought into our home. This is my son’s SAFE zone (and ours). He should never have to question his safety here.

I DO realize it may feel like we ask or expect too much. 

Now I’m hanging out in the kitchen, asking questions about where food came from, and if I can read the food labels myself. If something was made from scratch, I’m asking to if the chocolate chips had a nut allergen warning, and if any pre-made mixes were used.

I KNOW I’m a control freak, and that some of these questions seem silly. I also know that there are plenty of foods that are SAFE and that most of the answers confirm the food IS safe.

BUT, once in a while…we catch something…so I HAVE to ask.

I am THAT allergy mama.

I know sometimes, I’m really annoying with all these questions. I appreciate your patience with me, and for answering me to the best of your ability.

I have REAL and POWERFUL fears (although sometimes they may be blown out of proportion):

  • I AM afraid if there are nuts on the premises, especially when other children are present. Children are messy eaters, they drop things on the floor, they get food on their clothes, hands, hair and face. A quick wipe down with a paper towel and water does NOT safely remove allergen, and my son could have a reaction from coming in contact with it.
  • I DO have sometimes overwhelming fear when the food is generally unknown before we arrive. I usually pack an extra meal for my son, in case he can’t eat what is there. I’m on hyper-alert and may not be able to relax until we sort it all out. I will be distracted until we do. I AM overwhelmed when we arrive to an unexpected baked goods surprise. Donuts sound friendly until you look around and see almonds falling off pastries and chocolate frosted donuts covered in chopped peanuts in the hands of children. Sometimes the fear can be so overwhelming that we just have to go outside; for his safety and my own sanity.
  • I AM afraid that when someone who ate something with nuts kisses my child goodbye that my son will get hives on his face. Or worse.
  • I pray EVERY day and trust that the Lord has what I CAN’T control under HIS all-knowing control. I need to trust Him, or I wouldn’t let us go anywhere.

It may sound selfish, but I DO think my son’s health is more important than your (or your child’s) desire to eat a peanut butter sandwich, pecan pie or peanut butter rice crispy treats. I’m sorry it makes things harder for you. But I think it is OK to ask that you eat them later, when we aren’t around. AND if your child has a food need, I welcome your requests and needs; We will joyfully accommodate them.

I DO trust your efforts are sincere and thorough. However, even with several years of label reading, my husband and I occasionally still catch something on a box that the other missed. Two sets of eyes is ALWAYS better than one. And I’m sorry, but If we don’t have the label or a clear understanding a food’s safety, we can’t eat it. Even if you took a lot of time making it.

I KNOW that nuts show up in the strangest of places and my questions may sound weird: Pretzels, animal crackers, bread, ice cream, ANY dessert, fried foods, italian and asian sauces, salad mixes, seeds, cream cheese, any bulk foods, cereals, crackers, frozen foods, salad dressings, flour, rice, and more have nut allergen warnings. Keeping your child safe from food is more of a LIFESTYLE than anything; it requires a constant AWARENESS.

I AM not sure what type of reaction my son will have from any of these scenarios, but I don’t think ANY reaction is acceptable. I recently heard someone in a grocery store venting about someone with a child with a nut allergy and their ‘over reaction’ to the potential of an allergic reaction. Her reason was, and I quote, “that’s what an Epi-Pen is for”.  This is NOT the first time I’ve heard this statement, nor will it be the last time. Guess what? An Epi-Pen is for when you’ve done EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO to be safe and a reaction happens anyway. I hope to NEVER use ours. I want them to expire, time after time.

The truth is, sometimes an Epi-Pen and quick responses by parents and medical personnel are NOT ENOUGH. Sometimes a child DIES. It is NOT usually because someone neglected to be careful. It was a terrible mistake, or due to an unknown allergy. A heartbreaking event that can’t be undone.

I will NEVER assume a reaction won’t be deadly or cause long-term damage. YES, I pray he won’t ever HAVE a reaction, and that if he does, it will be minor. YES, I believe in God’s protection. But that does NOT mean I have a license to be careless, or that my fears are not valid or real. This is a serious business. It is my child’s LIFE. Having his face swell up, hives all over his body, terrible upset stomach, or his throat close so tightly he cannot breathe are ALL unacceptable to me. Think about how that would FEEL if it happened to your body, or to your child’s body. In our position, I think you’d agree.

I appreciate your honesty and willingness to say when I need to SLOW down, or BACK down. I know that you CARE if my child gets hurt. I know that you are trying your best. If I’m hyped up and making unfair assumptions or requiring too much of you…SAY SO! It may sting, but I promise to listen and to find another way that works better for both of us.

Words can’t express how grateful we are for you who help keep our son safe: 

  • Many of you go out of your way to help us; you purchase nut-free candy, make a cake instead of buying one, or call ahead to ask what is best to have for snack when we come over.
  • OR when you do your own research, educate yourself, and find a bakery that will sterilize equipment and make a nut-free dessert that our son can eat. You, your thoughtfulness, initiative, and kindess amaze me.
  • I appreciate when you serve a ham sandwich to your child before you come and play at our house, or when you have your child wash their hands with soap and water before coming over if they’ve had nuts that day.
  • To the parents and staff at the nut-free preschool our son attends: Thank you for following the hand-washing and food policy so my son is safe when he learns alongside your child.
  • It brings tears to my eyes when I think of how many people who are family, friends, church family, neighbors, school staff, and even acquaintances who go the extra mile. EVERY TIME. 
  • It matters when people ask me to teach them to read a food label, or call me from the store if they aren’t sure about something.
  • It is a relief when a host intentionally saves the food labels for me to read and points them out before I even have to ask.
  • I am amazed by the people who make me DAILY feel like my questions are not a burden, and are gracious to me when I’m obviously operating from a place of fear (when I’m surely not at my best).
  • And to those who regularly pray for my son’s safety and that he will NEVER have a reaction; you make it so the fear doesn’t take over, so the label reading isn’t so hard, and so we can leave the house trusting in the Lord’s protection. We FEEL it.
  • All of you make us feel accepted, blessed beyond measure, and loved. We know you are in this with us, keeping our son safe. We appreciate your advice, kindness, questions and efforts.

 

Thank you for agreeing that this child is worth the effort, and thank you for answering my food allergy “20 questions”.

son