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January 15, 2008

School projects for siblings without food allergies

You know how we parents of kids with food allergies are always trying to be a step ahead of the game? Anticipating every imaginable scenario in which we need to keep our kids safe? Well, here is a situation I never thought of. My child without food allergies needed to do a project and speech during their studies of Native Americans. I try to encourage my children to be independent, so I wasn’t too involved with her picking her topic. And of all things, she wanted to demonstrate acorn mashing. Innocent enough, until we got into it.

She prepared her poster boards and planned her speech. And then she asked if I could help with one thing: the mashing part. Since I couldn’t find any acorn trees in the area, I looked at the store. No luck. I guess people don’t eat acorns anymore! So I bought walnuts, thinking that they are easy to crack and would make a fine substitution.

I was at the grocery store buying bulk walnuts. As I was putting them in the plastic bag, I felt so mischievous; almost as if I was stealing something! I don’t think I’ve ever purchased nuts in my adult life! I brought the nuts home and left the clear plastic bag on the counter. I showed my daughters to be certain that they understood it was a tree nut. Because other than at grocery stores or other peoples’ houses, where do they get to see actual nuts? I didn’t want their curious hands exploring. I explained that they were for a project and as long as they didn’t lick the bag, it was fine (we use humor quite a bit in our family).

Even though the daughter doing the project doesn’t have food allergies, she has never cracked a nut open. To her, this was a fun assignment and she couldn’t wait to get started. She even went door to door looking for a neighbor who had a nut cracker. We cleaned off a spot at the kitchen table. She prepared her plate (I wanted to be able to put everything in the dishwasher when we finished). I showed her how to crack a walnut. Then it was her turn. As she squeezed the nut cracker together, the walnut cracked and sent pieces flying everywhere!! Ugh. This I had not anticipated. I determined the food at the other end of the table which caught much shrapnel was contaminated and must be thrown out (yeah, I am still neurotic!).

The next day she practiced her speech and nut cracking outside, smashing the nuts between rocks like the Native Americans did. Except that it was cold outside and she kept putting her “walnut infested” hands inside her sweatshirt pocket. When she finished (and I couldn’t take the cold anymore), we came in the house and washed our hands in the bathroom, because I reasoned my other daughters wouldn’t be eating in there and it would decrease the likelihood of a reaction. Then, as much I as I was trying to be relaxed about it, I made my daughter take off her sweatshirt and put it right into the laundry. I try to live like the rest of the world. But the truth is, when we’re dealing with food allergies, we can’t. Not completely.

Posted by Ann Marie at January 15, 2008 1:43 PM


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