Friday, March 22, 2013

Empowered & Lucky....But Not Today

Multiple times, I have heard the following in reference to Landon's allergy
"I would be so afraid"
"I don't know how you deal with it"
"It is so scary"
and "How will you ever send him to school?"

And I have to be honest and say on most days, I don't feel scared or worried. I feel empowered and lucky. Yes, lucky. Lucky because God gave me this child who has opened my eyes to things I wouldn't have taken notice of before. I am grateful because if it weren't for Landon we would not be empathetic towards children with food allergies. I would not have knowledge of the importance of food labeling, food exclusion, or anaphylactic symptoms. On most days, I feel it is my responsibility to advocate, make others aware, and educate myself on food allergies not only on behalf of my child but on behalf of all the children who live with severe food allergies. I am also always well aware and grateful for the fact that although his food allergy is severe, he only lives with one and many children like him have multiple food allergies.

But today was not most days. Today, I didn't want to feel empowered. I didn't feel like explaining to another person about how Landon wouldn't be able to participate in certain school activities unless they were made safer.  I was sad that my 5 year old had to tell me he ate a candy that he wasn't supposed to eat even though his brother wasn't around. Frustrated that I had to check all of his candy to make sure it was okay to even bring home.  I watched all the Kindergartners hunting for their eggs knowing that when it's Landon's turn to participate in this activity, I will have to be there. I will have to check every piece of candy before he eats any of them and I will most likely have to take some away. The cupcakes that the children decorated today were so adorable and a fabulous activity but when Landon is in school unless I have made the cupcakes, he will not be able to eat them. And the M & M's that went on top, he will have to avoid. Was discouraged at the "Nut Free" tables in the cafeteria that were not labeled and were completely empty. Will he eat alone every day? Or do I have to worry he'll sit next to someone with a PB sandwich, which if touches his food and he eats it, he could die?

It is exhausting. Reminding, teaching, and being cautious. Sometimes it is exhausting to keep him safe. Many people don't understand why does it matter what his brother eats at school if he's not allergic. Because I have to be careful that he doesn't bring anything home that Landon could get into or eat. I have to constantly be thinking when situations happen how to ensure he doesn't come into contact with peanuts. We go to birthday parties and bring his own treats. We avoid restaurants that cook with peanut oil or serve dishes with peanuts. I pick up peanut butter candy wrappers and crackers I see on the floors or in grocery carts that people have left so that he doesn't put them in his mouth. Unexpected things happen all the time. Whenever I drop Landon off at Sunday School, MOPS, or Bible Study I have to ask what they are having for snack. I have to be sure that they are not offering anything other than the goldfish. I have to tell them every week, he is allergic to peanuts. And sometimes they will say, oh we are "just" having cupcakes. And then instead of explaining to them about traces or the dangers of eating from a bakery, I just simply tell them he is not allowed to have any. And then I feel bad because he will be without a treat.

This month there have been 3 incidents in the allergy community. Two deaths, and one in a coma.....all from peanut allergies. I had a dream the other night that someone gave Landon a white Reeses Peanut Butter Cup and he wasn't breathing and I was running with him to try and get him his epipen and he was laying lifeless in my arms. But the worst part of this nightmare is it could be true. Someday it could be true. And I know if he ever has severe reaction, I will feel completely at fault. And so I have to keep up my defenses and do everything I know how to do. Bore people with my allergy info, continually tell them why we can't eat certain places, or participate in specific activities. And it is at times exhausting.

He has also become a lot more aware this past month. He identifies Reeses and M& M's as things he can't eat. He is constantly talking about nuts or if something has nuts and "I can't eat that because it will make me sick".  This is bittersweet to me because it's refreshing in knowing he is beginning to truly understand and verbalize his allergy. But sad because he is beginning to realize he is different than his brothers, than us, than other people who can eat wherever and whatever they want.

And so today I don't feel like fighting. I don't feel like advocating. And I don't feel like explaining why just because something doesn't actually have peanuts, he can still have a reaction. Landon has been known to throw up, on more than one occasion, just from eating foods with traces of peanuts (meaning it could have been made on the same equipment or in the same facility).

Today I kept him safe but I was too tired to fight his battle. And on this day, I felt weak as I foresee how many more situations we will encounter, how many times I will be frustrated, and how many more times I will have to smile and be patient with others who look at me like I'm crazy. I know as he gets older, he will be able to be more responsible for his allergy. But sometimes that makes me tired too. Because that is my responsibility as well. Teaching him how to keep himself safe. Hoping he will be responsible enough to make those decisions. And so I write this so I don't forget at this moment what it feels like to be his mother. Just like I said when I wrote  The Nutty World I Live In/The Way I See It, I know there will be different stages.
For now, I allow myself to feel tired and discouraged. And tomorrow I will get up and continue to fight battles for him. Teaching others how to keep him safe, instructing them on what to do if he has a reaction, teaching my children to be empathetic to others who are different, and smiling and being patient with people who don't understand. And no matter how discouraged or weary I get, I praise God for Landon and the way he made him. I praise him for the fact that we have the opportunity to educate others and if we're lucky things could change for the better for him and for other children.
Landon wearing his "Peanut Free" sticker to church.

pour your heart out

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Share Or Not To Share.....Oversharing

Hello my name is Kelly and I am an oversharer.

Seriously, I feel like it's a disease or something. I wonder if there is an OverSharer Anonymous Group, my husband would probably sign me up right away.  Maybe there's a 12 step program that can help me to not share everything from what I ate for breakfast to what my kids did or didn't do to what is just pouring out of my heart. This week I realized, I am an oversharer. I know, you're shocked right? I mean I write about my family and my own personal feelings and I'm addicted to social media. But somehow I just realized, I am an oversharer.
The fact that I can be an oversharer was actually a surprise to me. And this is because I am an introvert. That may be surprising to hear but really I am. I am not a people person, I do not like social gatherings......and all that other stuff that goes along with being an introvert. I'm happier with a good book, my computer, or a hot bath than good company. I know, it's sad. But true. And I didn't know introverts could be oversharers.......

I was getting my taxes done and the nice lady who was getting all of my information down was talking about her little boy. Her son is only about a month younger than Landon. So we were talking about boys, how busy they are, and all that good mom stuff. But you see this mom only has one child, only one boy. I have THREE boys. So she starts to tell me something then stops and then she says, " Oh, you'll understand. You're a mom too. " And she proceeds to tell me how her little boy had to go to the bathroom SO  bad when they were out that they had to just let him pee on a bush because there were no restrooms. The way she was acting, I thought she was going to tell me some horrendous thing her son had done. I almost started laughing, not because of what he did but because I was just picturing how my son had just pooped his pants at the park a few days before because he couldn't make it to the bathroom. Imagine if I had told her that story. Or what if I shared with her the time when my son started wiping his nose on my neighbors carpet, because I guess he thought it was a tissue. Or the time when my oldest son threw glass coasters at a friend's house and it shattered on her wood floor (Who owns glass coasters anyways?).  The time my 5 year old was taking bites of another kids' lunch or how about when my 3 year old told someone at a basketball game that he had an owie on his pee pee. I mean my kids are not horrible but let me tell you, they have given me a lifetime of embarrassing moments. But the way this other mom acted about telling me something so simple, made me realize I am a little open about what is happening in my life.

I have lots of friends that do not overshare. They rarely post a status to their facebook or a picture on their instagram. I have really good friends who do not even have a facebook account. Shocking. I know. And I am not only referring to social media when I talk about oversharing. I am also talking about candid conversation. Some people are not as open as others. And I respect privacy and people wanting to be private people. And just because I am an oversharer does not mean your secret is not safe with me. I am if nothing, a good secret keeper.
But occasionally I struggle with my desire to overshare. Why do I struggle? I struggle because I will think about other people and what they are or are not sharing. I try to put a gage on what is appropriate and what is not. Where is the line between friendly conversation, telling a friend something meaningful, and just letting your heart seep out to anyone who will listen?  I honestly don't know. I think it is a line that needs to be flexible. Flexible for different friends, different people, different circumstances, and perhaps different seasons in life.
At a bible study once, I heard a woman give this testimony. She threw it all out there and shared some of the most intimate moments of her life. I was in awe of  her strength, her courage, and her story. And I will never forget when we got up to leave, the girl next to me said, "Wow, I didn't know she was going to share all of THAT. That was kind of personal. " And it made me so sad. After all, if we can't share with other believers what ugliness God has used for his purpose than what good is the story he has given us.
Anyways, I don't have some great story. But I do know when I try to stifle myself from oversharing, when I attempt to tone down what is seeping from my heart, and when I try to keep too much inside ..... I don't feel like me anymore.
So in honor of being true to myself
I will continue to overshare...........

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Friday, March 8, 2013

The Girl At The Park

It is cold. It is wet. And it is raining outside today.
And I sit inside in my warm house, eating my dinner that was delivered to the front door, watching my kids play with more toys than they need, watching them run back and forth between their "play room" and their "preschool room", because all kids need to have an entire room for learning and art and another for "just" their toys.
But today, there is a girl who may or may not have shelter. If she was lucky she ate a warm meal or maybe there were enough kind people to give her money. And perhaps she used their spare change to buy herself some food. I wonder as it poured down rain last night if she had found a couch to crash on, or if she was still at the park. Still rummaging through her bag. Still standing there looking lost but yet with nowhere to go.  Telling people she was 27, when she couldn't have been a day over 20. Sticking out like a sore thumb in a park where her kind are never spotted.
I drove by the park today. I don't know why. I just wanted to know if she was still there, even though I knew all traces of her would be gone. Just a wet playground and a few city workers was all I could see. Why? Why do I care? I've encountered homeless people. I've dug around my purse to give spare change. Why was she any different?
I think she was different and if I would have asked more questions, perhaps I could have found out why. She wasn't there looking for a handout. When she asked for change she was hesitant and apologetic. When I offered to bring her food, she was surprised and thankful. She asked me to pray for her. She had a desperate look in her eye and she asked me to pray for her. I told her I would and she said God Bless you at least twice. She looked afraid but yet wise beyond her years. And maybe, just maybe she was under some kind of influence. Or it could have been that her body was yearning to take something to numb whatever feelings she was starting to feel. " I stay at friends' houses. I sleep on couches. I stay with strangers. But it's hard. You never know from one day to the next."
She seemed different but yet I believe she is the same, as the rest of her kind. There are so many others just like her. I know nothing of this girl's story. I can not even know if the parts that she told me are true. But what I do know is, whatever her situation, whatever the story is that got her there, the end result is still the same. She is broken, she is empty, and she is desperately sad.  
It doesn't matter if she is a drug addict.
It doesn't matter if she is an alcoholic.
It doesn't matter if she sells her body for money or drugs.
It doesn't matter if she is any of these things or worse.
So many times people want to judge people. It is part of our ugly human nature to want to size people up,put them into categories, make ourselves feel better. Allow our inside voices to tell us we could never be like them. We want to determine if they are worthy of our spare change, our help, our time. Often people evaluate people like this and their stories. I've heard of people not giving their change or a handout to someone because they know they were scamming them or they were going to use the money for drugs or alcohol. But what if God gave out his grace in this same way? What if he took the time to evaluate if we were in "real" need or if we "deserved" it? I don't know about you but I don't think I'd be on the "worthy" list.
So I don't care if she was any of those things or worse. And I won't care if the next person is any of those things either. Whatever situation brings you to be so broken, empty, and hopeless that you are at a childrens' park asking for money with only a duffel bag means that you need grace. And yes her kind need God's grace but they also need.....our grace, our acceptance, our love, our non-judgement.
Isn't that what we all want? And isn't that exactly what he calls us to do?

Matthew35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Supermom & Her Cape

After two days of being home; I had packed lunches, made dinners, helped with homework, had a dentist apt, took the 3 year old to gymnastics, forgot to be the tooth fairy AGAIN,studied AWANA verses, went grocery shopping after reorganizing all my coupons, and paid bills. Guess you could say my mini vacation is over.  But what I've done in the past few days is only what all Supermoms do EVERY DAY.  In fact, I do less than most Supermoms I know in a given week. So you'd think we'd all be willing to hang up that cape any chance we get right? .......

Not most Supermoms I know. Just kind of got to thinking,  why do we hang onto that cape so tightly?

Last weekend, I attended a retreat with my sister. You could choose from a variety of workshops. I chose the perfect one just for HER! When I picked it, I was simply thinking of what I thought she needed.  I felt like God was going to speak directly to her heart on her busyness, how much she takes on, and so forth. Sigh......God's always going to blindside us when we allow ourselves to think we've got something under control.

The workshop was titled along the lines, " Superwoman, Take That Cape Off ".  The teacher was this amazing, sassy African American woman who had us laughing every few minutes as she spoke truth after truth. The first part was about why women feel that can't say no and the reasons that cause us to take on too much such as guilt, and pride.  She spoke of her own personal story on how she overextended herself and how it spiraled out of control. Now remember, this class was for my sister. As I sat there,  I was hearing the teacher and enjoying her lecture along with the class discussion. But my ears were not open. I was hearing but I was not listening.

You see, I had done the same thing this woman had done at one point in my life. And so as she went through everything, I just kept thinking; Yep, I've been there. I've learned these lessons already. I am able to say no. I am able to prioritize my time. I do not overextend or sign up for things or fill up my schedule with too many "extras" just because I feel like I should. I pray on things before I commit. I am a new person. Sigh....this was only a part of the lesson she was teaching.

Towards the end of my trip and when I got home, I realized my family was doing just fine without me. Things were just plugging along as normal and the husband was handling it all. The meals, the basketball games, the practices, bedtime battles, the sibling rivalry, and all the other things I usually handle when I'm wearing my Supercape. There was a tinge of disappointment that all had been under control.  But I had to search my heart as to why I felt this way and I couldn't quite pinpoint it.

Until I remembered,  what the sassy Superwoman workshop teacher had said.
She had said that sometimes we do not take off our cape or we take on all the responsibility because we think no one else can do it as well as we can. PRIDE........
After this light bulb moment, I could see myself  making the "list" for my husband. The "list" with drop off & pick up times, the multiple supplements & vitamins that they must take, what bills to mail, and the times & days for anything extracurricular. The grocery shopping I did so that my family would have food & meals planned for the 5 days I was gone. All of this created a lot of stress the few days before I left. Preparing everything to be done ......MY WAY.   When in reality, my husband went grocery shopping to make whatever meals he wanted and if none of those things on my list happened correctly.....all would have still been well.

Another reason given for wanting to "do everything" was the need to feel needed. That women desire to feel needed. Honestly, I am surprised this came to my mind later because at the time, I remember distinctively shrugging this one off completely. Thinking to myself that I do not do things to feel needed that was just simply silly. I was not one of those girls who needed self recognition or needed to be noticed for doing things. Hmmmm......but when I got home I think my feelings were a little hurt because I didn't feel needed. It didn't matter that I wasn't there to do those things, they didn't need me. All was well without Supermom. Dad was wearing the cape just fine.

Sometimes God just likes to whop us upside the head with character flaws, such as pride and insecurity. It's funny how those character traits can intertwine.  Anyways, when I got back I had to put that Supermom cape back on pretty fast. It has been an incredibly busy week. But do you know that I have had so much more patience, more energy, more love, and just more fun with my kids than I have in a long time? Amazing how a little break can help you feel so rejuvenated.

You see this is my theory. If us Supermoms choose to wear our cape ALL of the time. If we think that we are the only ones who can do it, believe our way is the best way, that things will fall apart, or we won't feel fulfilled or needed just because we take off our cape for a short while.... then our cape will become worn out. If we don't hang them up every once in awhile, our bright, shiny capes will become faded, tattered, and torn. How useful are we then? On the other hand, if we hang up that cape every once in awhile, give it to someone else to take care of, then it will stay better preserved and will be more useful to us when we put it back on.

Corny, I know. But I believe it to be truth.

Here are some pictures from my trip. My husband took awesome care of my cape and I'm back home ready to wear it again. And to my beautiful sister, I had the most amazing time. True sister time is always rejuvenation to the soul.
Getting ready to fly alone for the first time ever.

Mom and daughters getting a massage.
At our retreat, where they served wine!
My beautiful sister. She has the largest heart of anyone I know.
My forever momento. Sisterhood momento. And a daily reminder of my faith. Love!