Parents' nuggets of wisdom

Times of change, challenge and triumph…

The past couple of years have been about constantly reminding myself to keep walking though personal conflicts and challenges have constantly threatened to derail me. A landmark Birthday came and went but my spirit could not rejoice and I packed on a whopping 15 pounds. Now, when I look back – I feel humbled and thankful for how far I have come even though its still a long road ahead.  To celebrate, recently I threw myself a much delayed birthday party recently with a few of my dear friends in one of my favorite cities in the world…New York City 🙂

Snowflakes, joy and friends!
Snowflakes, joy and friends!

I also have gone back to my older self of working out and eating right with an occasional drink 😉 That tub of ice cream neither makes you feel better nor does it make you look better the next day!

It has also been a time of enormous ‘change’ – after 9 years, I went back to a corporate job which involves doing all the things I love  to do – connecting with people, writing, being creative and selling but, it has not been an easy transition. Despite the fact that in the intervening years I have been keeping very busy –  earned my second graduate degree, started a small business and gave birth to the sunshine of my life!

Suddenly mornings are super hectic – initially it was the crazy summer schedule. So, on one hand I had to give a pep talk to my shy and scared little boy who was getting shuttled from one new camp to the other every 2 weeks. On the other hand, I had to keep apprising a different set of camp counselors about Arjun’s food allergies every so often. It was exhausting and terrifying to say the least! Since the school year began, life has settled down in to a more predictable pattern of fixing a fresh, allergy-friendly lunch for my boy and more recently a healthy lunch for myself before I head out on my long drive to work listening to books on tape. That reminds me – ‘Audacity of Hope’ kind of left me disappointed! There have been moments when I have called up my neighbor to stop by my place to check on an ingredient listing of a snack I packed for Arjun to ensure that I had not overlooked something in a hurry. The many joys of living in small town America where after a few years everybody knows everybody!

My little boy loves to come back home to his toys and his little comfy corner crowded with his stuffed toys – most importantly his children ‘Family’, ‘Buddy’ and ‘Hotlights’ so we went the nanny way for the couple of hours that he had to be home before we got home.

North Plainfield-20121204-00142
Safe haven midst his soft toys and of course Mater n McQueen!
Cuddling in with his youngest boy – Hotlights 🙂

Aah – now that was a learning curve in itself! A few steps that I took to make Arjun’s sitter’s life easier and keep my heart attack at bay :

  • A section of the pantry and shelves in the refrigerator earmarked for  ‘Arjun-safe snacks’
  • Checked every day to ensure that foods had not got mixed up.
  • A written document listing:
    1. All his allergies
    2. Safety measure to be taken like washing hands, reading ingredient listing even if it is on the ‘safe’ shelf
    3. Course of action in case of accidental ingestion
    4. Emergency contact numbers
    5. Taught her to make some of his favorite but simple allergy friendly dishes like a Chicken Patty sandwich and pasta with grilled chicken, broccoli and mushrooms (Yup – what can I say…he loves healthy foods!! )

Did this mean that we had no accidents?!? Well, the first few months – I was careful to the point of driving myself insane. However, ‘Mom, aren’t you glad that I saved myself from dying?’ – is the one statement that sticks out from the past year. Yes, my little one was careful not to eat an imported bar of chocolate which did not mention nuts in the ingredients but he was observant enough to notice it in the picture on the wrapper which a tired and jaded ‘me’ omitted to do! At the end of a tiring day we made mistakes and a couple of times kept non-safe items in the Arjun-safe shelves. To make matters worse, our sitter got lulled into the safety zone because I had been so careful thus far and a couple of mistakes did happen but none serious enough to need even a Benadryl but enough to put us all back on our guard again!

Being a parent is a tough job – no wonder a friend took severe offense when I worded my thoughts carelessly and ended up sounding as if I love my baby more than other moms do but obviously that is ‘NOT’ what I meant 😀 But, truth be told being caretaker to a child with food allergies (or, any other health challenge) poses a severe 24/7 mental strain which at times can be immobilizing. Recently, a casual but rare ‘Is Arjun ok?’ text from my husband immediately made me wonder if something had happened. Subsequently, not being able to get anyone on the phone sent me into panic mode as I ran through all the anaphylaxis inducing food items at home in straight 10 secs! Luckily it was just a false alarm but don’t know how I would have made the 1 hour drive home if something had actually gone wrong! But these moments have a bigger purpose – ensuring that we do not let our guard down even when things seem under control.

Now I am poised at that lovely spot where I am eagerly looking forward to some exciting things in the future…some have a definite timeline and a few are in the concept stage. However, penning it down for all the world to read will hopefully make me a little more accountable 🙂

  • BlogHer Food 2013 in Austin, TX  – here I come! I have been blogging for a while but I have been unable to translate it into something bigger and more useful. In part because of sheer lack of tech-savvy bordering on tech-phobia. And, also because I am like a balloon which needs tethering 😉 Or, more simply put, the grit to translate an idea onto the white board and further action! So, I am totally looking forward to being inspired by fellow bloggers some of whom have done amazing work.
  • Conduct cooking classes to prepare healthy and allergy friendly meals – I have taught people in an informal way in my home kitchen but would love to cook it up a notch and make it a truly gourmet but allergy-friendly experience!
  • Last year my boy raised money for FARE by putting up a lemonade stand. I have also been participating in the erstwhile FAAN’s Annual walks when possible. However, that much is just not enough! A lot of amazing work  is being done by researchers in universities around the country. FARE has also been doing a lot of work to spread awareness in schools and lobbying on behalf of food allergy sufferers.  A recent success has been ensuring that stocking of EpiPen is mandatory in an increasing number of school districts. So, if I can play a more proactive role towards helping these organizations – our goal for an allergy friendly environment will be realized sooner.
  • A self-published book compiling my experiences, recipes and more.
  • Allergy Foodie products based on things I have made for myself to make my kid’s life easier and would love for it to ease the life of other food allergy sufferers too.

Yes, it has been a trying couple of years – I have lost more friends in this short time period than I have in my entire life but I have also learnt my own limitations and am working every single moment towards a bigger goal. The human spirit triumphs in the end…whether it’s the child with Down syndrome who scaled Mount Everest with his dad or the little girl who just wanted the right to study!


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