Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Succeed in Sending Your Food Allergic Kid to Camp [without really trying]

We've posted so much on here about bad experiences with people not "getting" food allergies we thought it's high time we posted a good one.  Fortunately, we have a success story to share today. 

What follows are simple steps you'll probably find on many food allergy advocacy sites.  And you should definitely check out that info at Food Allergy InitiativeFood Allergy and Anaphylaxis or Best Allergy Sites

But if you want to hear from someone who went through it, read on.  The hard part is finding people that cooperate.  Hopefully, this will show how easy it should be and how we're not asking that much of the camp.  Kid is enrolled, mom happy, and camp comfortable they are prepared.  A win for everyone.

So here are the steps we took for mini. 

Mini specifically requested a camp with as little swimming as possible
  1.  Found a camp close by where the kids bring their own lunch (we are probably at least a couple of years away from being comfortable sending her to a place where we can't control the food she eats)
  2. Narrowed the options down to ones that are nut-free (fortunately, most of them are these days!)
  3. Visited the camp in December to speak to a person face-to-face regarding their food allergy policies.  After they reassured this neurotic mother they take it very seriously, have all counselors trained on epipens just in case of emergency, and will work with me to make me comfortable, we were sold!
  4. Spoke with the camp director in early May to talk about her allergies in detail.  Sent them emergency instructions, signs and symptoms, as well as a list of snacks that are safe for her to eat.  Made an appointment to meet in person before camp.
  5. Came in to talk to camp director.  Gave the counselors a pouch to carry with them wherever she is.  Pouch has epipen, 2 benadryl packets, and an index card with emergency contact info and list of allergens with quick reminder to call 911 in case of emergency.  Gave another epi to the camp director to keep as backup.
  6. Went to their closet to look at all the snacks they give the campers.  Approved 50% of them as "safe". This was possible because the camp director checked before she went shopping and went out of her way to buy the brands that are safe (for example, we typically stay away from generics).   Gave them giant boxes from costco with safe, comparable alternatives that they could give her or any other kid.  Bonus: mini got to meet her counselors, which made her a lot more comfortable on her first day of camp.  Double bonus: she gets used to seeing the preparation involved, setting her up to know how to handle this on her own as she gets older.  
  7. Reviewed and agreed on "accomodations": 
  • Epi will always travel with her 
  • Note will be sent to parents of kids in her group requesting they voluntarily choose to not send in sesame due to severe allergies in the group
  • The kids will eat over disposable paper tablecloths so no table washing required
  • Everyone will wash hands after they eat
  • If the kids are having a snack she can't, they will give her a safe, comparable alternative
  • When her group goes to cooking (twice a week), a counselor will take her to another group where she will do an extra dance class instead.
Now you tell us, on a "pain in the ass" scale, where does this go?
  1. So easy it's like butter
  2. A little effort but not that big a deal and worth it
  3. A royal pain in the ass: counselors and parents will protest the inconveniences
  4. I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole!
Yeah.  We thought so.

So there you have it.  A good camp experience in six months or less.  Frankly, we see no reason for any camp or school experience to be any less smooth.  All it takes is a few open-minded peeps.
So thanks, awesome camp, for being quite awesome and putting up with a few minor inconveniences in exchange for our jaw-dropping tuition and an appeased neurotic mother.  Today, like any other kid, mini came home as one very happy camper.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Disability Rep Said WHAT?

Yet one more hoop for a parent of a food-allergic child to jump through: flying.

But what do you do when the airline flat out refuses to help your child stay safe and you've already paid $2,200 for tickets?

This story about the ignorance and lack of compassion exhibited by American Airlines representatives is appalling. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Do Food Allergies Affect Daily Life?

There's been a lot of news this week about a new study showing the incidence of food allergies in children as quite high and The Today Show actually had a segment on it this morning as well. Now, a fellow blogger just wrote an article about food allergies for the Today Show section on as well.  You go girl!

Living in a world of constant danger: One mom's story of food allergies

Jenny's piece is a good personal story to read to start to understand how it affects the families of these kids.  We know those of you reading this don't need the education, but perhaps the information will be new to someone else, and will make them more empathetic the next time they are asked to put up with minor inconveniences for the sake of these kids' safety. 

Oh, and if you don't think this information needs to be passed along, just read the other Today Show article, titled:

Allergy backlash: Skeptic moms flout no-peanut rules

For the life of us, we'll never understand why some people feel so strongly about their "right" to bring a peanut butter sandwich to school.

Bottom line: More education is needed. Not everyone is as thoughtful as you peeps.

Please read and pass along. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guests and Fish

My father reads this blog.

You'd think that would tame the sarcasm I use, or prevent me from using the f-word*.   You might also think that would prevent me from admitting I didn't get him a father's day present, and you would be wrong on all counts.

Do I feel badly about it? In a way I do, in a way I really do.  So to alleviate my guilt do something nice for the man who has put up with 29 (ahem) years of my cr-p, I write this post as a thank you.

Nancy wrote a lovely post this week about fathers in general, and one of the excellent points she makes is that every father has his unique quirk, the mini freak flag he flies at home that teaches you the one or two or three things only a father can teach.

For me, it was guests and fish.

You see, several years ago I was a foolhardy teenager pretending to be an adult due to the fact that I was already in college surrounded by people older than myself.  At that time, I had a bad case of puppy love and the object of my affection had been doing a semester abroad.  He asked me to come visit him at home when he got back, as he couldn't wait to see me any longer.  Practically begged.  And logical person that I am I spent probably the entire contents of my bank account on a flight.  Seduced by offers of a New Years' Eve party, basketball games, and a solo trip to Orlando, I planned to stay with his family for a week total.  You know where this is going, don't you?

Yes, dear father, the man who infuriatingly tells you the blunt truth even when he should be telling polite white lies (Really? You can't say things like, no your breath smells lovely, like a rose!?  It can't possibly be that hard) warned me with a finger wag so strong I could hear it over the phone.

Guests and fish, Poker Chick.  This is not a good idea.  Come home sooner.

You see, for years my father had sounded like a broken record, telling us about a saying his father used to tell him that "Guests and fish smell after three days".  (Fun fact: the original author of this quote was the man who founded the college I would one day attend, but none of us knew that at the time).  Usually this quote amused us, as it was often uttered in the context of discussing a very annoying house guest behind closed doors and Poker Chick Brother and I relished in the secret rebelliousness of the admission and swore not to tell our mother.  But he used it as a warning as well.

Good daughter that I am, I heeded his advice.

Yeah right.

I did the usual foolhardy teenage thing and informed him I could spend my hard-earned money as I liked. 

I had a great first two days. He was happy to see me, it was just as I dreamed.  Then we went to the magical kingdom (literally) and I was smugly enjoying the fact that I had been right.  Then I got dumped.  That's right, read it again.  I got dumped in the happiest place on earth.  On Christmas Eve.  Seriously, I did.  You can't make this sh-t up.

A number of factors kept me there, despite the humiliation.  First of all, there was the fact that I had spent all my money, and couldn't afford the fee to change my ticket.  Second, though I'm sure my father would have underwritten the earlier trip home, I was too damn stubborn to give him that satisfaction.  So I kept a brave face and pretended nothing had happened.  Didn't even cry, not even once.  On my last day I woke up and saw the dog (have I mentioned I am not a fan of the canine species?) had eaten the batch of brownies his mother had made for me to take home, and I reached my breaking point.  I had my heart broken, Disney world forever ruined, and now someone was messing with my dessert!? I think NOT!  This was of course, the last straw, and I packed up my stuff, went to the airport and stayed until they finally let me on a flight standby for free.

I called my father to give him the new arrival information, since I wasn't too proud to mooch a ride home.  Said I was having a great time.

The man was smart enough to add two and two and figure it out on his own, and despite keeping a stiff upper lip for several days, the minute I got off the plane and saw him I lost it.  He was kind enough just to be there and not say I told you so.  But we both knew what he was thinking.

*You might think I don't type swears out for politeness, but you would be wrong.  I have no problem typing out my mofo curse words if I want, except for the spiders.  The invisible bytes of code that crawl the web and register search results at rapid speed.  See, I got caught by the spiders once.  One innocuous blog title circa September 2007 happened to have a word in the title that brought it a lot of attention for a while.  And not the kind of attention you'd want.  I shudder at the thought.  This blog does not, I repeat NOT, contain "relevant results" if you're looking for that, thank you very much.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Comeback App

This post from another food allergy mom got me really PO'd.  Too many of us face unnecessary opposition when trying to advocate for our kids' safety and (gasp!) emotional well-being.  So we had a brainstorm.  We at Poker Chick inc. are going to develop an app (as soon as we get an app developer. Digitwhirl are you out there?)

What will this app do, you ask?   It's simple.  It's inspired by one of our favorite Seinfeld episodes where George spends an inordinate amount of time and money to deliver his too-late "jerk store" comeback.  

This app will be a repository of comebacks for every inane comment you've had to endure while trying to educate ignorant and sometimes hostile people about your or your child's food allergies.  Yes, we can see the online infomercial now:

Tired of walking away from a frustrating meeting, only to think of a comeback way too late? Tired of feeling at a loss for words when someone makes a ridiculous and absurd comment in response to your request for help managing your child's food allergies?  Help is here! You'll never have to kick yourself again!  Introducing the Food Allergy Comeback App, a comprehensive repository of brilliant comebacks that can be used for any situation.  See how this valuable tool works:

Principal: "We have to deal with kids that have real medical conditions"

Without this app, a comment like this might get your blood boiling but you don't have to suffer anymore!  Just pick the appropriate setting, scroll the available comebacks, and voila! You'll put that smug principal right in her place and walk out feeling confident and proud. 

The snappy comeback: "Is stupidity a real medical condition?"
The put her in her place comeback: "Of course. Let's wait until the child has a near-fatal reaction and discuss this in the ICU"
The high-ground comeback: "Food allergies are a physical disability protected by the ADA. Over the past year, several students have died due to lack of policy in schools, and the most tragic part of these deaths is that they were easily preventable". Pause while you take out epipen, benadryl, dr's note, and anything else you don't leave the home without.
Optional add-on for any of the above: "So suck it, lady!"

But that's not all! You'll also have comebacks for those questions you're tired of answering, questions like:
The well-meaning parent: "Oh no! This is terrible! When will they grow out of it!"
The doesn't want anything to do with you waiter: "I'm afraid we can't accommodate you.  It's just not safe enough, and we don't want to put your child at risk.  We're only thinking of their safety."
The grandparent you want to smack upside the head: "In my day we had none of this allergy business, we just ate whatever our parents gave us". 
The airhead babysitter: "Oh, right, the epipen. Sorry, I didn't think it was that big a deal".
The ignorant (and apparently illiterate) relative: "But it's milk!" (it's almond milk)

Yes, we think this app could be a very good thing indeed.  If anyone out there wants to send along suggestions for comebacks, or for lines they need comebacks for, we will happily start collecting these for all!  


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let's Play "Pick That Logline"

Hello peeps.  We need your help. 

We can't write it alone! Please vote!
As some of you know, a couple years ago Poker Chick decided that she should write a screenplay.  Now, take a minute to control your laughter, and keep reading when you've gotten it together.  A year or so later (and no less than 20 drafts), she completed a screenplay.  After reaching this life accomplishment she decided it was good enough that she should actually get it produced.

Now get the rest of the chuckles out and put them aside for a minute because we're asking for serious help.

As we await several rejections in July (gotta love insecurity), it has come to our attention that while the screenplay is quite good, the one or two sentence summary required to sell it could use some work.  To that, Poker Chick says:

Well, DUH!  If we were any good at concisely summarizing an idea in three lines or less would we have written a 118-page document!  So can we write a good summary? We should think not!  If we could, we'd be off getting paid to write :30 commercials.  Or other peeps' loglines.

Apparently the only way to create a decent logline is to get some help.  Cue you peeps.

So please, even if you've never commented on our blog before, if you could vote now, that would be faboo.  If you can forward along to friends for comment, that would be even more faboo.  In fact, the more strangers, the better.

If you're new to this business, we could give you all kinds of links on how to "write a killer logline" and all the rules people get paid a lot of money to print out.  We say use just one rule: does it make you want to read more?  Using that criteria, which of the below sucks least?

Below is a list of potential loglines.  Some of these were seriously considered at some point, some intentionally bad.  So if you see one so bad you can't believe we wrote it, just tell yourself we wanted it that way to throw you.  Uh, yeah,  that's it.
  1. An accidental death sends a NY yuppie to Vegas with her freewheeling brother, 65-year old hippie cousin, and a random guy named Kenny. 
  2. Meet Danny Katz, a conformist yuppie NY businesswoman.  Meet her estranged family: Goldenboy, her reckless reckless and vain yet strangely charming metrosexual brother.  Meet Hal, an ancient free spirit who lives in a van.  Feel guilty for laughing at Danny's torment as she is forced to travel to Las Vegas with her estranged family in search of some fabled family coins and a random guy named Kenny.                                                             
  3. A conformist yuppie businesswoman is forced to go to Las Vegas with her estranged family in search of some fabled family coins and a random guy named Kenny.
  4. Meet Danny, a conformist yuppie businesswoman.  Watch in twisted amusement as she is forced to go to Las Vegas in search of some fabled family coins…where she has to eventually decide between saving her estranged family and keeping her job. 
  5. A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks. 
  6. When her professional poker-playing father suddenly dies and leaves her in charge of his will, a stuck-up businesswoman must risk her career to travel to Las Vegas with her bizarre and embarrassing family to collect his valuable coins before the IRS finds them...and before her boss finds out she's gone.
  7. When her father suddenly dies and leaves her in charge of his will, a businesswoman must risk her career to travel to Las Vegas with her bizarre and embarrassing family.  After they gamble away all her money on a seat in the World Series of Poker she has to decide whether to play for the sake of her family – or lose her precious job.
  8. Condolence call is a dark comedy that follows a hard working businesswoman as she handles her estranged father's death, reconnects with her family, and places her life on the line to help her brother by playing in the World Series of Poker. 
Oh, and if you picked #5, then pick another.  
That's the logline for Rounders.

 A girl's gotta weed out the spam somehow, is all we're sayin'. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Don't Kill The Birthday Guest. No, really.

CNN posted a good piece called "Don't kill the birthday guest" talking about how to handle parties if you don't have a kid with food allergies but are inviting a guest with this issue and would like to know how to include them. It's actually quite accurate with good, specific tips if you would like to share.  In a nutshell: it's helpful info for those of you who care.

One line that hit home in particular; not just because it's true, but because it's really sad that it is:

Children are taught to trust their friends' parents, but kids with allergies know that some adults don't understand their allergies. So make sure you understand what to do or tell the parent if you don't.

Sad realities aside, we're really happy this side of food allergies is getting press, and to see recognition of the wonderful people out there who DO care enough to do this stuff.   Peeps like you rock.