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My Journey as an Allergy Mom

  

Long before marriage and kids, I had the desire to  help children. As to what extent, I didn’t know. I just wanted to help  children, millions of them all over the world. On July 6, 2002, I gave  birth to the most precious baby boy who had a laugh that uplifted my  soul. I named him Tristan. Little did I know he would be the start of my  journey. I grew up in a family with no food allergies and no  environmental allergies. Our skin was smooth as silk, our appetite as  normal as the next kid, and our kitchen cabinet void of any allergy  medications. The word “allergy” was never even muttered in my house.


When  my son was three years old, I gave him a piece of toast with peanut  butter. A minute later, he handed the toast back to me and he had hives  all over his face. That moment I knew he had peanut allergies.


It wasn’t until we moved to Virginia that my  life changed in so many directions. Tristan was four years old and I  also had a five-month-old baby girl.  I was given an EpiPen, but I still didn’t  feel the consequence because Tristan looked fine and acted like any  other boy. However, when he was five years old, I knew something was wrong as his eczema became worse.


I  brought him to an allergist who later told me he had multiple food  allergies. He couldn’t eat peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, wheat,  shellfish, beef, chicken, watermelon, apples, carrots, and string beans.  He was severely allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. I had to put  my son on an elimination diet to clear his system of these allergens.  Suddenly, I felt like I was caught in a tornado sweeping me in crazy  directions filled with fear, confusion, helplessness and disbelief.  


I  found an amazing woman online who wrote a book about eczema and how she  had healed her body of it. She became instrumental in my learning. She  was patient with me and gave me unlimited coaching whenever I needed to  talk to her. I will be forever grateful to her for propelling me to  learn more about food and its healing properties.

Through  my journal, I learned Tristan had delayed reactions to wheat, which  explained the nightly scratching that resulted in bloody sheets. I  switched to gluten-free pastas and breads. I also learned that soy  contributed to eczema, so I eliminated all the culprits and cooked his  food from scratch.


I  finally understood my son. I accepted who he was and what he needed to  eat in order to survive and grow into a handsome, happy young man. I  remind Tristan that food allergies do not define who he is, and I  encourage him to advocate for himself and for his little sister.


When  my daughter, Nina, was ready to enter pre-school, I learned she had  peanut and tree nut allergies as well. I wasn’t as nervous and  unprepared as I had been with Tristan. She was ahead of the game because  food allergies had become common knowledge in my family. Nina knew how  important food choices were to the health of the family. My two kids are  a dynamic duo as they remind each other to grab their EpiPens before we  leave the house and to read all labels. They’ve also become my cooking  assistants and are on their way to cooking full meals for the family.


Four  years ago, I started to draft my first book. My daughter, a gifted  artist, sketched out amazing characters with creative names for my  story. I hired an illustrator to make them come to life. That first book  is still in draft mode because I felt the characters were meant for a  different purpose. I turned those characters into tags. I placed the  tags on my kids’ lunch bags, athletic bags, and book bags. Other kids  found them adorable and creative, and the tags allowed my kids to  advocate for themselves in a non-threatening and fun way. I later  created silicone bracelets to wear to school and athletic games too.  Necklaces soon followed with various colors.


Because  my creations were a hit with my kids and their friends, I knew many  kids would benefit from them too. Suddenly, I started to receive custom  orders. I realized kids needed support for various medical challenges as  well. This was when “Allergy Kids Central” was born. This website  serves as a resource and online store for kids and parents living with  food allergies and other medical challenges. It has been an amazing  journey watching my site develop and connect to many incredible  families, peers, and similar support groups.


Empowering  kids with safeguarding products is a first step to spreading awareness.  However, providing knowledge, encouragement, and support will foster  confidence, independence, and self-worth. Raising kids in a society of  fast food chains can be challenging, but providing healthy substitutions  can be just as rewarding. There can be challenges at school when  certain events call for certain foods that are off-limits to my kids.  It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned that planning ahead and  communicating effectively can turn that dilemma into a success for  everyone, including my kids.


This led me to writing  my first book, Dear Diary, I’m Going to a Birthday Party! I felt kids  living with food allergies needed a voice to express the emotional  roller coaster they go through with food allergies. It begins with an  “All About Me” page describing Nina Packer’s all-time favorites and the  names of her school, her best friends, and her food allergies. I chose  this beginning to let the reader know that kids with food allergies are  no different than the next. It ends with a positive note and an  empowering message.


It has been fifteen years since  my journey began. It took ten years to figure it all out. But, today, I  realize that in order to help my kids, I needed to learn and experience  their way of life. One thing I know about all kids is they are unique  individuals possessing different needs. My products are a reflection of  those needs. My book is the first of a series I plan to write that will  help kids to voice their feelings in this world full of uncertainty.  But, one thing for certain is that this mama will continue to advocate,  educate, and empower kids through her fun products, kid-friendly  website, online resources, and encouraging books. Growing up, my mom  always said, “Dream big!” However long it takes, my goal to help  millions of kids will come true. Until that day happens, my heart will  continue to overflow with love and gratitude for each child touched by  my creations.