Food Allergies: Wills, the Establishment of Guardians & Life Insurance

I Kristin Beltaos Being of Sound Mind and Mother to a Food Allergic Child…

I know, it’s a morbid topic, but one that truly needs to be addressed when you have children and especially if you have a food allergic child.

Do you have a plan for your children should you and your spouse/partner meet an untimely death? My husband and I have always been big planners. We pay close attention to our financial planning multiple times a year. In addition, we had our Wills, Power of Attorneys, Living Wills established and purchased Life Insurance while I was pregnant with our first son. We discuss these items multiple times a year, I know it may sound somber, but checking in with one another has always been an essential ingredient in our relationship. We always want to make sure that we’re on the same page and covering our bases.

Speak frequently with your guardians to ensure that your wishes are understood.

Speak frequently with your guardians to ensure that your wishes are understood.

Recently we updated our Wills and Guardians for our two sons. I think the first inclination is to always select family for Guardians, which is what we have done in the past. After eight years of these Wills, our ideas regarding this topic have evolved through the years. While our extended family is very important, in our case it isn’t the best decision should something actually happen to us. Here are some things to consider when addressing this very sensitive topic: Continue reading

Food Allergies: Anxiety, Gratitude & Belonging

So often we worry about whether our food allergic kiddos feel like they belong. We never want them to have that feeling…that they’re the ‘odd man out’ or like one of the segments from Sesame Street’s ‘One of These Things is Not Like the Other.’ As I’ve grown in my comfortableness with my son’s food allergy diagnosis, I too have evolved in what I find to be an unending truth.

The truth is, we don’t want our children to feel like they don’t belong, always different in this crazy world that socializes, celebrates, rewards, incentivizes and crafts with food. Whew! That was a long list. But let’s be honest, at one time or another in our childhood or even as an adult we’ve felt like the: ’odd man out’, ‘third wheel’, however you want to label it. Feeling different is really a rite of passage, whether you have food allergies or not. I believe these types of situations help us form our being. I know this now because I’m an adult though…I now have the ability to know and understand that ‘now’ isn’t forever and that as we age and grow so does our resilience, what we stand for, how we come to formulate our morals and values, how we determine who our ‘true’ friends are, not to mention just plain get more comfortable in our own skin, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I will still advocate hard for inclusion of food allergic children, but my new theory will help to manage feelings about it better.

So here’s my theory:

I think that focusing our lives and the lives of our children on gratitude and appreciation for what we have will not only decrease our and their anxiety but intensify everyone’s feeling of belonging.

"One thing that has helped me immensely in handling life's challenges, is letting go of how I thought it was going to be." ~ Kristin Beltaos

“One thing that has helped me immensely in handling life’s challenges, is letting go of how I thought it was going to be.” ~ Kristin Beltaos

How could you not have a strong feeling of belonging when all you see is sheer abundance?

Truth be told, I’ve always told my boys that it’s not about what material things we have in life but about the experiences that we have, the people that we spend time with, what we give of ourselves to others and how we impact the lives of the people we interact with — whether that’s the cashier at the grocery store or your family and friends. We need to not only think about our gratitude, but convey it through our gestures and contact!

How can you start this? Well, get a large canning jar and have each family member write down what they are thankful for and place it in the jar each day, every other, whatever feels natural. Then on the ‘difficult’ days pull from it for reminders of what we are grateful for to help deflect from a negative situation. Another option is to have each person share at the dinner table what they were thankful for about each day. No matter how you decide to establish this new family ritual, realize that the jar may prove to be of tangible help when a rainy day heads your way, being able to pull from it and review past joys.

By focusing our lives on the expression of gratitude it will make it difficult to slip into the dangerous ‘grass is always greener’ mentality, wishing things could be different in our lives. Truly accepting life the way it is handed to you and living within that rather than ‘how things were suppose to be’ permits us to teach compassion to ourselves and others and accept our life’s ‘lumps’ for what they truly are…something to be grateful for.

I gave you a few of my thoughts, won’t you leave a comment and share with me one of yours?

 

Kick Off the Holiday Season With This Boo-tiful, Halloween Tradition

When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies I dreaded many holidays…and the holiday season started with Halloween. Being allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame didn’t offer many store bought candy options, from an ingredient or manufacturing perspective.

I began to think about the message that I send my sons about food. While celebrations with food go hand-in-hand with our society, I wanted to send the message that we can celebrate in other ways besides cake, cookies and cupcakes. Here’s where ‘You’ve Been BOOed!’ enters the picture.

Create a new tradition with this Halloween activity that is fun for all ages in your neighborhood, at the office or even get creative and do it with classrooms at school, as long as Halloween is an acceptable holiday to celebrate in your school.

Here’s how you BOO:

beenbooed-color copy

You’ve Been BOO-ed!

Step 1 – Pull up the website http://www.beenbooed.com and select one of the three ghostly, poem pdfs.

Step 2 –  Head to the dollar and Halloween areas in search of goodies for your Boo bag. Some of our favorite haunts include: Target, Michaels and the Dollar Store. What kinds of things can you put in your bag? It’s still a little early, but spooky treats are starting to roll in. Last week I saw that Target has various ghoulishly scary book selections in the dollar area, stickers, pumpkins, spider rings, iron on t-shirt decals, decorations of the season, etc. When we were Booed last year, our Booer gave us a Halloween craft project AND a ‘Do You See What I See’ Halloween book.

Step 3 – Select a bag. We’ve done everything from one of a small recycled shopping bag in black, to picking up a Halloween gift bag.

Step 4 – Assemble your bag and determine who you will BOO!

Step 5 – Wait until it is dark, grab your kids and sneak over to your victim’s, I mean neighbor’s house. Oh so quietly, place the bag on the front stoop, ring the doorbell and RUUUUN like a bat out of a belfry! Hide before they get to the door. BEWARE…should you do this with your kiddos, much giggling will ensue, so be prepared to give the librarian shhhhhhh to them.

Other Ideas
What else can you do for this holiday…make allergy safe Halloween cutout cookies, create homemade Halloween decorations (just pictures will do) and post them in your kitchen eating area, go to a pumpkin patch or corn maze, after trick-or-treating, donate the candies to the Operation Gratitude so that service men and women may enjoy a treat or two.

Evil Laugh Ensues

Evil Laugh Ensues

No matter what you decide to do for the upcoming holiday, just make sure to focus on having a wickedly fun time!

MUAHAHA! MUAHAHA! MUAHAHA!

I gave you a few of my thoughts, won’t you leave a comment and share with me one of yours?

A School Year of Firsts, Friends and Love

As another school year ends, I look fondly back on a year of firsts. First time my beautiful boy was away from me all day. First time being at school for lunch. First time traveling to various specialists’ classrooms. And…first time having to trust a group of people to watch out for and care for my precious son all day. I have such conflicted feelings as the school year comes to a close…happy that it was a GREAT year, and sad as some of our connections end.

I’ve always believed that people enter our lives and change the very fiber of our being, no matter how long or short their stay may be. For a food allergy Mom, there’s nothing sweeter than the heartfelt connections made. I feel equally humbled and blessed to have such a memorable first year, completely attributed to the friendships created.

As many of you may know, my father passed away this past Christmas. It was truly an end of an era since I have now buried both of my parents at the age of 43. It’s difficult to let a cloud set in when you have two sets of eyes staring at you on the stage of life. My boys depend on me to be my silly self. For my Christmas gift, my husband and boys selected a simple cord necklace that read: BLESSED. My husband told me it’s how he feels everyday and how I should feel as well, and I do, I am very blessed. Little did I know that the necklace would come in handy when saying thank you and goodbye to some of our friends. Continue reading

Cupcakes, iPads, Toilet Water & Food Allergies

I got your attention with the mention of toilet water, didn’t I? I thought so. My sons giggle with delight, as little boys do, talking about such silly topics. But did you know that toilet water has a lot to do with food allergies? At least in my story it does.

I’m working with some awesome Moms and Dads preparing for the 2013-2014 school year; establishing food allergy 504 Plans. Thus far, the schools have been a mixed bag to work with, but I have every confidence that all will be well in the end. Everyone coming to the table prepared, rolling up their sleeves, getting that thinking cap on nice and straight and ready to dive into the pool of accommodations.

Classroom Tasty Treats

Classroom Tasty Treats

As I chat with my clients, there’s always a story or two that they need to get off their chest. You know, dealing with the Mom or Dad that has made a snide comment about children with food allergies. Haven’t we heard it all? Why don’t you home school? Why does my child have to suffer by not celebrating his/her birthday with cupcakes? Shouldn’t your kid just tough’in up and accept his/her condition? I know…we all shudder at these comments…but something happened at my school recently that got me thinking on this very subject. Let me explain… Continue reading

Keeping Positive While Pregnant Over 35 or 40

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I asked my friend Cynthia Wilson James to write a lovely piece on staying positive while pregnant over 35 or 40. Take Cynthia’s words of wisdom for a spin, there’s much value in her words having already walked those miles. 

There is not an expectant mother alive who hasn’t had some anxiety about her baby’s health. Movies, books, television, the nosy woman in the hair salon tell birth horror stories that increase a pregnant woman’s anxiety.

An expectant mom over 35 is hit with a double dose of anxiety.  She worries about her baby’s health and worries about the role her age will play in her baby’s health.

Here are three guidelines to help you remain positive during your over 35+ pregnancy:

1.  Realize “their” medical history is not “your” medical history.
The first words out of your doctor’s mouth may not be congratulations but may be a list of statistics citing an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, cesarean birth and chromosomal defects for older moms.

The findings in these studies are based on pregnant women over 35 as a group. Unless you were a part of one of these studies, the results do not reflect your individual history.

It’s important for an expectant mom over 35 and 40 to select an obstetrician or midwife

Cynthia Wilson James InSeason Mom

Cynthia Wilson James
InSeason Mom

who respects her right to have her pregnancy viewed individually.

2.  Limit your contact with negative influences.
One thing I love about babies and toddlers is that when they see or hear something they don’t like, they cover their ears or turn their heads away from the thing.  Expectant moms over 35 and 40 must learn to apply this concept, of course, not necessarily the actions. Continue reading

Sometimes I Feel Like Lieutenant Colombo

I’ve so dated myself. As a child of the 70s, I remember plenty of Saturday nights watching Colombo with my mother and wondering why the criminals always made one irrevocable mistake: underestimating his investigative genius. Whether I’m determining how to keep a project safe at school or my allergic son has been invited to a birthday party…I find myself garbed in the rumpled raincoat, smoking the ever-present cigar, exposing what feels like a bumbling demeanor all while hoping that my questions come across as endearing and with disarmingly politeness.

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

“Will I be the only boy at the party?”

You’re learning about me, aren’t you? This was my first really adult-like book that I read and then saw the movie. Christie wrote this novel in the late 1930s and from the moment I read it, I grabbed every one of her books I could get my hands on. In fact, I had quite the collection. Continue reading

Who is Your Safety Net?

One of my fondest memories of last summer was spending time at our best friends’ cabin. We fished, ok…I watched my boys fish. We ate what seemed to be every two hours; that’s cabin life for ya, where all is free and well with the world. We built a fire and made smores. The cabin is the simple life of love, laughs and true friendship, and for me, true family.

The last few months have been very difficult since my father’s passing just before Christmas. Those life experiences call you to think about how everyone needs a safety net in life, a true family. Patrick and Catherine have been that family to us. They are the net that makes us feel so secure, so unconditionally loved that we can share anything on our minds, a happiness, a hurt and travel life’s miles together shouldering the fun, the sun, the storms…every step of the way side-by-side.

Hammock at the CabinThe safety net made me think of the hammock that my boys and their Uncle Patrick swung in, under the moonlight, gazing up at the stars and listening to the sounds of the night.

My husband and I sat on a small dock a short distance away and could observe our boys chatting away with their Uncle Patrick about the day’s events, their simple happiness and peacefulness made our eyes well.

I hope our dear friends, our family, know how much they have been our net the last few months. How much we enjoy their spirit, how happy they make our boys, and most importantly, how much their happiness means to us.

Everyone needs a net. Who is your net?

Please share with me a comment or two about your net. : )

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My Stress Mirrors Seinfeld

A high school friend of mine and I make a point to talk on the phone when we’re stressed. Not because we’re wanting a nice ‘ol fashioned teeth gnashing session, but because we try to make our worst situation into our best stand-up comedy routine. I know, sounds weird doesn’t it, but I’ve always found humor to be the best way to handle my stress.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a Seinfeld episode, you know, the show all about nothing. I seriously find myself in awkward and stressful situations that are straight from the Seinfeld files:

Young woman lying back on a couch talking on a mobile phoneI once had to speak to an employee about NOT having sex at work. George Costanza had sex with a cleaning woman. Remember his response, “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon… you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time.”

While a relative was visiting, who was famous for racial slurs, I worried that a derogatory comment would be yelped when a friend of mine (who happened to be of color) came to visit me. Remember Kramer and the wooden cigar store Indian (a stereotypically demeaning portrayal of the Native American).

Last, but certainly not least…my husband and I watched a friend of ours double-dip a chip at one of our newly married, annual Christmas parties. We were thinking what Timmy said to George that day, “Did you just double-dip that chip?”

While we may feel like a Hoover Wind Tunnel is sucking the very life out of us, having a friend that can push you to your comedic limit is the best cure! Many a nights I crawl in bed and thank God that I have several friends that can access that type of crazy to keep each other laughing even during the toughest of times.

XO to my friends Michelle, Catherine and Quita!

I shared my thoughts with you, please leave a comment. : )

Rules Don’t Apply to Me

Swimming lessons were on the agenda today for my youngest, you might recall he has no food allergies. As you can imagine, I let my guard down a bit when I’m out with my little guy. I don’t have to be in my camouflage, with night vision goggles and use my food allergy telescopic lens analyzing every situation I encounter.

Prior to delving into my story, I must tell you how a sign reads on the entrance door to the pool deck. In case you don’t know, the deck refers to the area surrounding the pool. The sign says: Per Minnesota state law, no food or glass on deck.

Peanut Butter SandwichThere is one other boy in my son’s class, and for the last two sessions his mother has sat next to me with her younger son, he’s probably 2 years old. Last week he was eating what looked like Kix cereal, and of course, spilled them all over the deck floor.

This week, he was eating a peanut butter sandwich. As you can imagine, my irritation grew beyond belief. Then…“it” happened. The boy walked over to a 5’ x 8’, square foam island and began to smear his peanut butter sandwich all over it. My jaw dropped, not because a 2-year-old was doing it, but because the mother did nothing.

I finally said, “I’m not sure if you are aware, but there is a sign on the deck door that states no food or glass on deck, per Minnesota state law.” Her response to me was, “Yeah, well my son just got done with a 30-minute swim class so he is really hungry.” I replied with, “While I’m sure he is, it would probably be best if he ate in the lobby where food is permitted. Also, my son is allergic to peanut.”

Truly, I didn’t fib, my son is allergic to peanut; he just wasn’t the son that was in the swimming pool. After our exchange, the Mom and son proceeded to the lobby and spent the rest of the time there. She never cleaned up the sandwich left on the deck or the peanut butter smear. That wasn’t her responsibility, I guess.

Once we were ready to leave, I stopped by the front desk. When I shared what happened with the gal, she was horrified: wanted to know what foam island had the peanut butter on it, if I was aware of any remnants of sandwich on deck, etc. She asked me what type of cleaner to use to remove the peanut butter, she left momentarily and came back with Lysol wipes, paper towels and a spray bottle of multipurpose 409. She thanked me profusely and apologized for the experience. I couldn’t have been more pleased.young woman jogging with her dog in a park

Back to the Mom and me. Our exchange was respectful, let’s face it, it was uncomfortable for both of us. While I sat there distracted from the experience, I couldn’t get over the basic message of her response: yeah…well my son is hungry.

Don’t rules matter: no eating on the pool deck, no texting while driving, no-show for a doctor appointment, not having your dog on a leash or picking up its waste? Have we as a society decided that rules don’t apply to us as long as we have deemed our reason or excuse to be a good one?

Let’s keep the conversation going, please leave a comment.