A Bowl Full of Lemons, A Guest Post By Lauren of Our Life as an Epi-Family

It is Food Allergy Awareness Week!  For some, it is a golden opportunity to educate those outside the food allergy community.  For some, it is the perfect time to raise advocacy and research efforts.  But for some, it is time to band together within the food allergy community and share our stories, ideas, and recipes with each other in this seemingly, and sometimes literally, never-ending food allergy journey.
No caregiver can ever REALLY say that they know everything there is to know about food allergies because the learning curve is ever-changing.  In addition to a FARE membership, one of my favorite ways to continually educate myself and stay connected is to follow the blogs of fellow food allergy moms.
Today, I’m beyond thrilled and so very proud to present to you one of my favorite bloggers, Lauren of Our Life as an Epi-Family.
EpiFamily Photo
Seriously, LOVE this talented lady!  Her positive attitude and faith-based encouragement are positively contagious and a delight to read!
Please grab yourself a nice, cool glass of lemonade, take a seat, and settle in for a good read.  Then be sure to click on over to Lauren’s blog and share the love!
Thank you, Lauren, for helping spread the food allergy love this week and all year long!
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A Bowl Full of Lemons
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
I’ve always loved the image that this phrase creates, especially because it involves lemons.  I love lemons!   They are the most beautiful yellow color and a totally unique shape.  Have you ever drawn a face on one?  Do it, I guarantee it will make you smile!  I love bright colors and I always try to surround myself with them {tastefully, of course}.  It’s probably why I love fresh flowers so much.  Their vibrant colors awaken my soul and with one look can turn any bad day into a good one.  Just writing about the color of lemons, I find myself grinning from ear to ear.
Bowl Full of Lemons
As mentioned above, this phrase is one that I’ve always liked but up until a few years ago {2 ½ to be exact}, it didn’t truly resonate with me.  You see, 2 ½ years ago our food allergy journey began.  My oldest, now four, was eating scrambled eggs for the first time.  As he does with nearly everything he eats, he was dipping each bite into the 7th food group known as Ketchup, so his face was already covered in a red mess.  But it wasn’t long before I noticed the red welts that were beginning to appear around his mouth.  I hurried over and cleaned him off and sure enough his whole face, hands and wrists were swollen and covered in large, raised hives.  He seemed okay aside from the itchy hives.  I quickly gave him some Benadryl as instructed by my pediatrician and proceeded to watch him for the next few hours.  All was good.  It wasn’t long after that we were able to see a pediatric allergist and an egg allergy was confirmed.  I was told what to watch for, shown how to use an EpiPen and sent on my way.  I was a bit overwhelmed but I thought to myself,
“How hard can egg be to avoid? This isn’t too bad.  After all, {cue the Destiny’s Child music} I’m a survivor. I’m gonna make it.  I will survive.  Keep on surviving.”
What I didn’t know was that it was only going to be a matter of months before my youngest {8 weeks old at the time of my oldest’s diagnosis} was going to have an anaphylactic reaction that would change my life forever.  To brief you on my youngest’s first 8 months of life, I tried to supplement with formula when he was four months old as he was still demanding to nurse every 3 hours.  We used regular {dairy based} formula and everything the formula touched swelled and he was soon covered in hives from head to toe.  Five weeks later we tried a soy-based formula.  He took down the whole bottle but shortly after began projectile vomiting followed by head to toe hives.  With each newfound allergy, I continued to nurse and removed the new allergen from my diet.  By the time he was eight months old, I had removed dairy, soy, wheat, gluten, fish, shellfish and egg from my diet.
On that fateful day of my youngest’s first anaphylactic reaction, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and rinsed my hands but didn’t think to wash them with soap and water.  Not long after, it was time for my youngest to nurse.  After he finished I began to notice that his face appeared to be swelling.  Soon his body was bright red and the hives were creeping down his torso.  I quickly called 911 while I fumbled with the Benadryl bottle.  As I went to administer the medicine he began to gasp for air.  The paramedics were at our door in no time at all and he was a bit better.  He was still bright red, crying and covered in hives but he appeared to be breathing okay.  We were incredibly blessed because there have been a number of families in the past few months whose stories ended quite differently.
Needless to say, after my youngest’s diagnosis, the egg allergy that my oldest son had truly seemed like a walk in the park in comparison.  My youngest was diagnosed at 10 months old with a dairy, soy, and peanut allergy.  We were also told to avoid tree nuts, fish and shellfish.  Since that diagnosis, we’ve also added all tree nuts, including coconut and sesame.  I’d like to say that we’ve been reaction free but that’s just not the case.  Both boys have had a pretty severe reaction since their diagnosis.  My youngest’s most recent reaction to sesame was the scariest yet, one I relive from time to time in my dreams.
Following my youngest’s first anaphylactic reaction and his food allergy diagnosis, I found myself truly understanding what it meant for life to hand you lemons.  I had more lemons than I truly knew what to do with.  The sourness was seeping into every cut that I had and caused me to cry out in pain.
“Why God, why?  Why me?  Why my family?  Why my precious little men?”
I soon found myself wallowing in my circumstances {food allergies} and fears {loss of a child}.  Just a few short months prior I was ready to tackle the food allergy diagnosis with gumption and optimism.  Where was my “I’m a survivor” attitude?  Where had that gone?  This wasn’t me.  I’d forgotten just how good lemonade was on a hot summer’s day.  So recognizing that I wasn’t alone on this journey, I decided to roll up my sleeves, put an apron around my waist and dancin’ shoes on my feet because God teaches us to be joyful in all things {1 Thessalonians 5:16-18}.
I taught myself how to become an expert food label reader, I converted old, favorite recipes into allergy free ones, I found new ways to label foods in the fridge and pantry to help keep my little men safe and I slowly began to trust others to care for them as well – allowing myself to slowly venture out for a little, much needed “me” time.  It wasn’t long before I found the joy that was once lost.  Helping other families following a food allergy diagnosis learn to read labels, grocery shop and cook was the chicken soup for my soul.  What about you?  Are you stuck in the sourness or have you begun to taste the sweetness that’s waiting for you?
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s more of a mantra for me now.  A phrase that I’m dying to put up in my kitchen.  A constant reminder that things in this life may be sour but we shouldn’t let the source of the sourness define us.  Instead, we should look for the sweet moments and victories that lie in the mix.  Because when carefully stirred together – it becomes delicious lemonade remembered by everyone who stop by to have a taste.
A little taste of the “lemonade” that we’ve created…Our famous Mint Chip Chocolate Cake
EpiFamily MintChipChocolateCake

Filed under: Egg Free, Nut Free, Peanut Free, Recipes, Uncategorized

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