Derek and I both come from good families. We like to spend time with them as much as we can. Dan has lots of cousins and Aunts and Uncles. We try to get together for family reunions with both sides of the family once a year and we get together with those who are close by a lot more often. Food of some kind is almost always involved. All of a sudden I found that these occasions could be some of the most frustrating times for me. Food is a lot easier to control in your own home!
So what did I do to turn these times back to the relaxing, enjoyable things they used to be? The one thing I do is to call in advance to find out the menu so I'll know what I need to bring. I've forgotten to call before and that is stressful! The other thing that has helped make these events enjoyable again is what others have done and continue to do to help. I have cried tears of gratitude over some of these things when nobody was looking.
When Dan was almost two it was time for the family reunion on my side of the family. It was to be held at my sister Jenny's home where I had seen cousins track food all over the house before. Almost two year olds are not always very discriminating on where they pick up their snacks. We would be having meals there for a couple of days and going to the store or home were not really good options.
This is where my angel Mother and one of my thoughtful sisters came to the rescue. Mom and Jenny planned the entire reunion's meals around what Dan could have. They even thought carefully about snacks and made sure that there were snacks that Dan could have too. I found upon arrival that all of the cousins had been warned to be careful what and where they ate and to make sure Dan didn't have anything without his parents knowing. My nephew Seth who was 6 at the time was particularly vigilant at looking out for Dan and I was very touched by his concern.
On Derek's side of the family we have meals together at least monthly. I have been so thankful for the times my sisters-in-law have read labels in order to make sure the meal was something Dan could eat! Other times, when something not Dan safe is planned, they are thoughtful about letting me know so that I can plan in advance how to handle the meal for Dan. My mother-in-law buys lots of popsicles and Dan has come to think of that as the treat he eats at Grandma's (besides fruit snacks). Even when I bring cake that he can have or cookies, he often opts for a popsicle. It makes me smile when I look and find that several cousins have joined him in having popsicles instead of ice cream.
At church the primary leaders have bought treats that Dan can have so he will be safe and his teachers sometimes call me from the store and read me labels just to be sure. On top of that, a couple of our neighbors who are aware of Dan's allergies went out of their way at Christmas time to bring treats just for Dan (blond oreos and popsicles) because he can't have so many of the goodies we get.
I don't think I was ever so thoughtful for people I knew with food allergies. It seems so surreal that someone can die from eating something that most other people have every day. It's hard to believe that such a thing can be real until you see it -- or experience it yourself! I appreciate what good family members, friends, and neighbors we have had who have gone out of their way to think about it when they don't have to.
So, in dealing with food allergies it is good to plan ahead, and call in advance. It is also good to know great people like we do who help keep my Dan safe and me sane.