Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Pioneer Day

This past Saturday, July 24, we celebrated Pioneer Day here in Utah. In the rest of the country, Pioneer Day doesn’t exist. Here, however, it is a huge holiday, on a par with the 4th of July. We celebrate with parades, rodeos, fireworks, barbeques, and picnics – and anyone who doesn’t get the day off from work feels really put-upon. We Utahns are really fortunate to get not one, but two spectacular holidays every July!

by Kelley Lindberg

Pioneer Day officially commemorates the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Great Salt Lake Valley back in 1847. But the Mormon pioneers aren’t the only pioneers who we remember on Pioneer Day.

Five native tribes of American Indians made Utah home before the first European explorers ever came here – the Goshutes, Utes, Navajo, Shoshone, and Paiutes pioneered life in this arid region (and before them, the Fremonts and Anasazi were carving civilization from our cliffs and mesas). And those first European-descent explorers weren’t Mormon, but they were Catholic priests, French explorers, Spanish trailblazers, and early American naturalists. Later, after the Mormons began to settle here, there were Chinese railroad builders, Greek miners, and Army soldiers from all over the Union. Over the last 163 years, Utah’s pioneers have included freed slaves, Japanese internees, Pacific Islanders, Scandinavian farmers, and Eastern European laborers. We’ve taken in Mormons, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Buddhists. We’ve welcomed refugees from probably every modern war and conflict, including Vietnam, the former Soviet countries, Bosnia and Serbia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Pioneers, all of them.

And our pioneers haven’t just represented different nationalities, religions, or races. Utah boasts pioneers of science, of art, of culture, of sport, and of technology. Our Utah residents had a hand in inventing television, the internet, the computer graphics industry, the artificial heart, and a million other innovations that make life more entertaining, interesting, safe, and healthy.

Today, there are pioneers all around us. Whether it is doctors studying the effectiveness of desensitization therapies on food allergies, or engineers studying various windmill structures to find a more efficient way to harness energy from the wind that spills through our canyons and across our valleys, Utah pioneers are changing our lives right this very minute.

So happy Pioneer Day, everyone. Support those among us who are continuing to find new ways to improve our lives, our health, our planet, and our relationships with others throughout the world. And keep nurturing that pioneering spirit in our kids. Who knows what innovations they’ll discover tomorrow?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back-to-School Shopping List for Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

It’s official – it’s back-to-school shopping time! My son cringes every time we walk past a back-to-school display or see a back-to-school ad. He nearly went into hysterics when the Land’s End Back-To-School catalog showed up in our mailbox a couple of weeks ago. He’s watching the days on the calendar count down like a condemned man choosing his last dinner from a menu.

Despite his protests and heartfelt denials, school is still coming, and we still have to stock up on those supplies. Of course his back-to-school list includes a few extra items because of his food allergies. So if you are preparing a shopping list for a food-allergic student, don’t forget these essentials:
  • Epinephrine Injectors – I get a pair to leave at the school’s office, and a pair for him to carry in his lunch box. (EpiPens, Twinject, and Adrenaclick are the three brands used in the U.S.) Be sure you check the expiration dates to make sure they’ll last through the school year.
  • Benadryl – Like with the EpiPens, I put some in the office, and some in his lunch box. Again, check the expiration dates.
  • Lunch Box – He always takes a home lunch and sits with his food-allergic buddy.
  • Thermos for hot foods – he lives on noodles, but these are great for safe soups, chili, and casseroles, too.
  • Beverage Thermos or water bottle
  • Handi-Wipes – I always put a couple of individually wrapped Handi-Wipes in his lunch box so he can clean off the table if he needs to.
  • Food Allergy Action Plan – Make an appointment with your child’s allergist or pediatrician now, and have them fill out a Food Allergy Action Plan to give to your school. I attach a current photo of my son, and then I make a few color copies of it. I give one to the school office, one to each of his teachers for them to hang in their classroom, and one to the school cafeteria manager for her to hang in the kitchen, so that the lunch workers will know him and recognize him if he has a reaction. If your doctor doesn’t have their own form, use this Food Allergy Action Plan from FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network). It’s probably the most widely used form in the U.S., and most doctors recognize and use it.
  • Medical ID Bracelet or Necklace – if your child will wear one of these, it’s a great idea. It is a visual reminder for teachers of your child’s allergies, and it’s an instant help for EMTs who might be summoned if your child has a reaction. Try American Medical ID (my son likes their sports band bracelets) or Sticky J Jewelry (some amazingly cute childrens' bracelets, including leather and hemp, beaded, etc.), but there are several online vendors who make these types of medical ID bracelets.
Do you have any other great suggestions for allergy-aware back-to-school supplies? Be sure to share them with us!

Happy shopping!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Watching Him Grow Up with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

My son is growing up.

While there are a lot of things about that statement that scare the heck out of me, there are a few things about it that make me happy. Like the fact that we are finding movies and television shows we can watch together now that don’t involve animation. And he’s old enough to mow the lawn. That sort of thing.

Another thing that’s good about him being 11 is that he’s becoming more and more responsible about taking care of his food allergies. The other day he went to a friend’s house to play. The mom knows about his food allergies, and she promised to take good care of him. Turns out, she took them to a grocery store to get an ice cream cone for a snack. I didn’t know that was part of the plan for the day, or I’d have worried and given him all sorts of instructions, and I probably would have told him to just skip the ice cream cone because it’s too scary to think I wouldn’t be there to check for nut contamination.

But I wasn’t there. So what did he do? He asked the person at the counter about peanuts and nuts, and then asked to read the ingredients on the package of cones. They handed it to him, he read it, discovered that the only common allergens listed were wheat and soy – no nut contamination. Then he verified that the soft-serve vanilla ice cream bin only contained vanilla, and he made sure they didn’t mix it with anything else.

In other words, he did everything I would have done, had I been there. And, of course he had his EpiPens with him.

So he ordered the ice cream cone, ate it with confidence, paid attention for any signs of reaction (he didn’t have any), and was just fine. He was so confident, in fact, that he didn’t even remember to tell me about it until the next day. He’s grown up watching me go through this routine at restaurants, of course, so it didn’t even occur to him that this was momentous at all. (Okay, so maybe it was momentous to only one of us.)

As trial runs go, it went well. I’d have been happier if I’d known about it before-hand, but what would I have done differently? Tell him to do all the things he did? Worry more?

It’s hard watching him grow up. But it’s wonderful to realize that as he does, he’s growing more responsible, too.

After all, that’s what every parent wants for their kids, right?

By the way, we’re going to go see a movie today. The animated kind. I can’t wait.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Helping Kids Be Kids

by Kelley Lindberg

The other day I was sitting at the local skate park watching my son in his skateboard lesson. It’s a fun way for him to spend a summer morning, learning tricks and confidence and respect.

There are about 30 kids in this class, divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced groups, all of them earnest, eager, and a little intimidated, no matter what their experience level, by the concrete hills and valleys, drop-offs and rails. But they’re calling encouragement to each other, listening intently to their teachers, and pushing themselves just enough to try that new trick and hear their little compatriots cheer.

Since about one out of every twenty kids is estimated to have food allergies, there should be at least one kid in this group with food allergies, and maybe two kids. Of course, I know for a fact that there’s at least one – my son. It’s that possibility of a second or even a third that intrigues me. I look around the park at the different faces. Which one could it be? The little guy with the crew cut and plaid shorts? The black kid in the white shirt? The girl in the black helmet?

Of course, there’s no way to know. You can’t tell which child has food allergies by looking at them. They look, act, feel, think, and play like every other kid. They dream and fear and laugh and cry like every other kid. They get hungry and thirsty like every other kid.

As parents of kids with food allergies, it’s easy to think our kids are different. But it’s our job, our challenge, and out joy to make them feel normal. To help them be part of the crowd. To let them experience life in all its varied aspects. To be a kid.

One of the things I like about this skateboard camp is that there’s no food involved, ever. In this two-hour class each week, the entire focus is on learning skills and having fun. No snack break. No candy rewards for mastering a new trick. Just water to keep the young bodies hydrated, and plenty of positive support to keep them physically challenged and motivated.

Of course, every one of these kids is an individual. They all come from unique backgrounds, and each of them faces their own set of challenges, setbacks, successes, and joys. But here at the skate park, they’re all just kids, united by a new adventure, cheered on by their pint-sized companions.

Kids getting to be kids.

That’s what summer’s all about.