It might only be the end of January, but love is already in the air. As you might be learning, when you live with food allergies planning for holidays is an essential part of life.
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love and friendships we have. We mark this occasion with special dinners (not always allergen friendly), flowers (that make some people sneeze), stuffed animals (AKA a dust mite house), and candy (often containing a top 8 food allergen).
It can be hard to love a holiday that is so hyper-focused on traditions that can leave you feeling anxious, itchy, or worse. But, with some thoughtfulness and flexibility, we can make our Valentine’s Day plans safe and enjoyable.
If your child is the one with food allergies, it is important to find out what events, activities, and treats the school plans to have.
Check-in with your child’s classroom teacher. In my experience, they are the best point of contact because they know celebration plans for the classroom as well as any school-wide plans.
Check-in with the PTA. Your classroom teacher may be unaware of the PTA’s activities and events, it is important to contact them as well.
Kindly ask questions to make sure the plans are safe for your child. Remain reasonable and work together to adjust any potential risk spots.
Offer to help! Giving your support both in ideas and time always eases the stress for everyone involved.
Remember, often, the school staff and the PTA don’t manage food allergies day in and day out in the same capacity we do. Use this opportunity to share your knowledge and make the environment safer for not just your child but all those with food allergies. You can positively impact the culture of the school.
Here are a few other tips on working with the school:
Some schools choose not to have any food or candy-related items for celebrations. Find out your school guidelines on this before you start trying to fix a problem that might not exist.
When asking questions to the teacher and/or PTA, keep in mind that some art and science-based activities contain food. Ask about this directly! (Experience has shown me that when you ask about food, people are thinking about food getting consumed, not about hidden food proteins in other activities.)
Know what boundaries need to be in place for safety. For example, we don’t need to exclude all of Shaun’s allergens from the classroom to keep him safe. If the celebration includes fruit and yogurt, we have precautions in place to keep his food separate, provide him with a yogurt alternative, clean his eating area before he sits to eat and post snack clean up of surfaces and hands. Some people’s food allergy needs require stricter boundaries; Know your needs and advocate to have the boundaries in place.
Non-Food Valentine’s Fun
These days giving experiences as a gift is hugely popular – and I get it! It emphasizes spending time together, communicating, and making memories! While downplaying material things that clutter our lives.
Here are some great, allergy-friendly, low-cost activities you can plan as part of your Valentine’s Day activities that don’t include food!
Hand Made Crafts
Books about Kindness and Love
Community Kindness Acts
A simple internet search will reveal a tremendous amount of ideas for clever, non-food Valentine’s Day treats. These are some of my favorite’s:
Stickers – “Valentine, I’m stuck on you!”
Crayons – “Color your heart out, Valentine!”
Bubbles – “Your sweetness blows me away!”
Watercolors – “Hope you have a colorful Valentine’s Day!”
Glow sticks – “You make my heart glow!”
Rubber Ducks- “I’m a lucky duck to have a friend like you!”
Bouncy balls– “Valentine, you make my heart bounce!”
Pencils– “Write on Valentine!”
Although I have focused a lot on non-food options, creating safe and yummy meals and treats for Valentine’s Day is legitimate and encouraged. But even us food allergy folks can get caught up in being food-centric, and I wanted to show the variety of celebratory options beyond food.
Also, if you still want to share candy as part of your Valentine’s Day celebration, try to see out an allergy-friendly option. (Just a reminder always read every label every time, even with an allergy-friendly company!)
It has been a busy week here in our little blue house on the hill!
Shaun and I have spent the week savoring …
Savoring our slow, playful days together before he heads to kindergarten on Wednesday. And savoring little bites of all the food we prepared in an attempt to ease the inevitable bustle of busy school days.
As an allergy family we have to think ahead to premake what so many other people can grab at the store. Yes, it’s probably better for us anyway, but it does lack convenience. (Which I took for granted most of my life)
This week I focused on pre making Shaun safe food that can be frozen to help with breakfast & snacks.
If I have not said this already, let me share this allergy montra with you now …
“The freezer is my friend!” … Say it with me this time, “The freezer is my friend!”
Pancakes … Shaun’s favorite food
And WowButter Oat Bars
All of these recipes are staples in our house but the WowButter Oat Bars are exceptional!
Exceptionally flexible to modification!!!
These WowButter Oat Bars are an exceptionally perfect substitute to all the manufactured granola, seeds, nut bars that always have at least one of Shaun’s allergens.
They are perfect for a grab and go snack!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. And for those of you with kids heading back to school, or heading to school for the first time, prayers for a safe and smooth transition.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.
A year ago today Shaun’s name was 5th on the waiting list to get into your school, CREC Montessori Magnet. He was 3.5 years old and had a list of 8 food allergies. Unlike other parents, I did not obsessively check the progress on the waiting list throughout the summer because I was secretly hoping that Shaun’s name would not make it to the top of the list. This momma’s heart was not ready to let anyone else manage Shaun’s care and learning.
I prayed that if we were supposed to send Shaun to school, he would get a spot. That if Shaun’s name made it to the top of the list, I would trust God’s plan and know that Shaun would be safe and genuinely cared for.
Well, September rolled around, and we had not received notification that Shaun had been placed. John and I were okay with that; Shaun would spend another year with me, and we would reevaluate our next steps in the new year.
A few weeks into September the call came. Shaun had a spot in your primary classroom …
I wish I could say I was ecstatic. I wish I could say I ran down to the school to sign him up that very day. But the reality was I felt stunned, overwhelmed, and scared. We had only a few short days to make an ENORMOUS decision, that would lead our little family into new and unknown territory.
Even though John & I took the weekend to talk through the pros, cons, and logistics of accepting Shaun’s spot, I couldn’t forget the prayer I had prayed. I knew I needed to find the courage to trust God’s plan unfolding in front of us.
You see, since Shaun was tiny, we have researched, planned, and strategized to reduce the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. We have spent countless hours teaching him how to keep himself safe while maintaining a close hold on his environment. So although I am a momma of deep faith, more than I would like to admit, I rely on the illusion of control I have over Shaun’s environment to quell the anxiety I feel.
Giving that control to you, finding the strength in my heart to trust you with my most precious gift is the hardest trust I have ever had to give away.
We accepted Shaun’s placement.
And I spent the next few days preparing everything Shaun needed to start school …
I also spent the next few nights awake, playing out every scenario you can imagine in my head.
The day after a failed milk challenge that ended with an anaphylactic reaction (a story for another day), I drove Shaun to school and watched him walk in the doors and prayed you would take care of him!
Over the last nine months you, Ms. Jackson, have proven to be the most incredible teacher we could have ever imagined working with!
You showed us great kindness and patience as we shared with you Shaun’s history and the many things we felt we needed to keep him safe in school.
You truly listened to us, never once dismissing a concern or accommodation we brought to you.
You maintained excellent communication to ease our hearts in the first few weeks of this transition.
You asked questions! Questions that were thoughtful and relevant that would lead to a safer and fuller experience for Shaun in your classroom.
You gracefully accepted my frustration and fear when Shaun had an unsafe candy bar in his backpack, and you took responsibility.
You engaged in the development of Shaun’s 504, helping to build a robust plan to keep Shaun safe so he can focus on learning.
You melted my heart at our Mother’s Day tea when you found cupcakes, clearly labeled and free of all of his allergens.
You fostered a classroom in which Shaun’s peers would be aware and compassionate towards him!
You became Shaun’s advocate in my absence! You spoke up in meetings when others tried to deny his rights. Making sure that all the staff in your school are aware of who Shaun is and what his needs are! You allowed Shaun to expand his world. Yes, through the classroom lessons he was given, but also through the safety he felt with you.
Today, as Shaun heads off to his last day of school before the summer break, I am overwhelmed by all the experiences Shaun has had because of you!
Gratitude doesn’t adequately express the emotion I feel. However, it’s the best I can convey at the moment …
For the hours you have spent working with us.
For the research you did on your own time.
For the love you put into your work.
For watching over Shaun as if he were your own.
Thank you … with every part of me, thank you!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.