But I really feel lead to write this today. Not really for other people. But for myself. I need to see that I am help-able, despite a very large obstacle in our life.
I’m not writing to say, “Hey you, do this for me!” I’m writing to say, “Hey Lydia, it’s not hopeless."
My family has been fighting off sickness for probably a month on end now. One person after another picked up this cold-flu-whatever thing. It was like a new person a week took the “I’m sick” seat. I was the last to sit there. I just went to the doctor yesterday, after not getting better after more than a week. I have essentially a double ear infection and sinus infection. I thought I ruptured an ear drum while blowing my nose, but thankfully I actually did not. I’m now on medicine, and starting to feel a smidgen better.
But all of this sickness was setting in at the same time I was getting news of my brother.
I cannot tell you how completely horrible it is to have a head full of so much pressure, while crying the deepest weeping, animalistic groaning, mourning cry….while being a mom of small people. I really wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if my ear drum had blown -- I don’t know why it didn’t actually. (Thank you God.)
But the thing is, the pressure isn’t just inside that. Everyone’s sweetness brings me pain as they kindly ask, “Can we bring you food?”
It’s actually so emotional I’m not sure it’s a good time to describe how that makes me feel. It’s no one’s fault. But the question just rips open all my heart wounds, and makes me feel alone, and completely non-understandable.
I cannot possibly teach what foods to bring us. I cannot possibly be sure if anything homemade that is brought to us won’t have a tiny bit of something that will harm my children (it only takes a tiny bit.) Not because people don’t care, but because I don’t know if each person knows ALL the things my kids can’t eat, and ALL the ways those hide inside ingredients commonly used. I don’t expect people to know this stuff. And I don’t have it in me to teach it well enough to feel safe, while sick/sad/just had a baby/whatever-life-situtions-cause-food-bringing.
It’s hard to say all these words, it’s hard to say them in the right way. So every time someone asks me “Can I bring you food?” I freeze, I want to cry, I want to run away, I want to mourn how I feel alone, I want to make my kids safe, I want to make my kids feel loved, I want to be kind to the person being kind, but my momma-bear fears start roaring, I feel my claws growing “must keep babies safe!!". I know my brain is now no longer stable. So I try to do the only thing I can possibly remotely think of in that moment to try and make everyone ok. All I can think of is, “No that’s ok, we don’t need anything. Thank you though.”
This of course goes over like a lead brick. People want to help. The whole emotional whirlwind revives, as the question gets rephrased in numerous revisions.
I am left feeling un-help-able. Alone. Scared. All the opposite things anyone was going for.
Let me be very clear again -- none of this is your fault. It’s a hard life circumstance, mixed with my own personal issues.
So instead of crawling into the depths of despair, I think God started whispering a list to me -- things people can bring, and ways to help. Maybe this list is just for me -- to know I’m not as isolated as I like to tell myself I am. Maybe it’s for the people right now, who really just keep wishing they knew how to help. And maybe it’s for other people around the world who either have food allergies in their family, or have friends that do. I don’t know. I’m just going to write it and hope for the best.
One more clarification -- this is in no way a critique of anyone, or any of the ways anyone has or has not helped us at any point. I know you love us. And anything you’ve done to show me that is taken to heart as love. And I really do appreciate from the bottom of my heart, the ways in which you have shown me I am not alone right now.
So anyway, I’m just gonna dive in.
Here is a list of things you can think about bringing to food-allergy-families when the situation normally calls for bringing meals.
(Internet disclaimer: Every food-allergy family has different allergies, I can’t tell you that the few random foods I’m about to post, are safe for others, these are foods our family uses, it’s best to confirm any food with them. See if there are any food staples they would appreciate. (Don’t worry, not everything I’m listing will be foods.) And my family is in small kid/baby stage, so my suggestions reflect that. Obviously not everyone is in that stage. I just hope this is a helpful jumping off point for other families besides my own. )
- Sometimes just bringing us any nice meal does help, because then at least me and Blake have some food to eat. But after a couple of those meals are brought, they will go to waste, as only two of us can eat them. So generally speaking, I’d actually you rather bring us random food staples that are easy for us to use. And having them around helps us need to make grocery runs less. Don’t question the weirdness of bringing someone, super weird un-cooked foods. Just know it’s actually extremely helpful for me to not run out of these things right now.
- Ketchup -- the kids can drain us of ketchup within hours. We can never have enough.
- Apple Juice -- same deal. Any brand. Frozen or in a jug. It’s all good.
- Canned potatoes. (Regular or sweet) -- The kids love them -- and it’s fast and easy.
- Aldi’s “Live G Free” “Coco Loco Bars” -- my kids ALL TIME favorite snack.
- Anything made by the brand "Enjoy Life” is safe for us. The kids like all their stuff. But our most treasured product is their chocolate chips (any version: they make tiny chips, regular sized, and mega chunks. All are great.)
- If you are REALLY excited to make us something, you could buy one of their box mixes and bake it up according to their instructions. (But please don’t be offended if I ask you a couple times to clarify which exact ingredients you added while mixing it. Just because it’s my job to confirm they are in fact 100% safe.)
- Daiya Cheese -- it’s a vegan cheese we are not allergic to. Not all grocery stores carry it. We find it at Schnucks in the cheese case.
- Daiya Cheese Frozen Pizza -- it’s a vegan, gluten free cheese pizza we are not allergic to. Not all grocery stores carry it. We find it at Schnucks near the other frozen pizzas, but we had to ask a worker to help us find it the first time, cause it’s kinda off alone.
- SunButter -- it’s like peanut butter, made from sunflower seeds (actually very delicious.) If a grocery store carries it, it will be by the peanut butter.
- “Rice Dream” (Brand) Rice Milk, Original or Vanilla makes us happy. These are “shelf staples” so they aren’t refrigerated, they are stored in a box carton (like the photos) on a shelf. They often are by the cereal isle or sometimes a gluten free isle. They are almost always by soy/almond/coconut other alternative milks. We only do the rice milk.
- Olive Oil, or Coconut Oil. Just nice to have around. Great to not run out of.
- Coffee or Tea. (My favorite coffee is Starbuck’s Kenya. Blake likes different flavored black teas.)
Here’s some other ideas.
- Just any old Grocery Store Gift Cards -- that way we can buy what we know is safe, but still be blessed by your kindness.
- You can bring produce in pretty containers. (Please skip Peas and Kiwi for us-- they are allergens at our house. Please confirm specific produce safety with each family.) The great part here is, even if we don’t get around to eating it -- it’s essentially like bringing us flowers. Produce can be really pretty.
- Of course you can also bring flowers. But (and this may be hard to discern) aim for less pollen-y varieties. Really strong flowers like lilies, bring on our allergies. (So far, in our case, that’s the only cut flower we’ve had a problem with having inside.)
- If you are nervous to try flowers, greenery is great. It’s just nice to have anything fresh and alive around.
- Kleenex (with lotion, if you know they are crying)
- Toilet Paper -- who wants to run out of that?
- Diapers & Wipes -- don’t want to run out of those either! (Currently we are buying size 4 and size 5 diapers. Don’t really care about brands.)
- Paper napkins
- Paper towels
- Paper plates -- might not be green, but sometime dishes are too much work
- Trash Bags
- Wanna go more random? Plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, ziplock bags. ---Eventually it will get used. It is a kindness.
- Postal Stamps -- I find it so hard to get time to buy these. It’s just good to have on hand.
- Printer Paper -- we go through the stuff like water because we let the kids use it to color on -- and my kids color prolifically.
- Enjoyable Books (Audio books are nice for busy moms. Curious? Sometimes I turn it on in one ear bud, and leave my other ear free so I can watch and still hear the kids, while I “read.")
- Heart warming music
- Great movie
- Candles -- maybe not super smelly ones, just pretty ones
- Adult coloring books, and color pencils
- Sweet home goods/products gifts that are encouragers
- Example:My aunt gave me this beautiful towel.
Things to keep the kids busy
(Please only give these to the adults, while the kids are out of sight, and let the adults decide if/how/when they will use them. Not every family finds each type of thing helpful. Some moms feel like play doh keeps her kids safely occupied for hours, some moms feel like play doh is the worst thing that happened to her life.)
For us we like:
- coloring books and crayons or colored pencils (skip markers -- those are a little more scary)
- cute kid bandaids
- construction paper
- water color paints (every other paint variety is too much work/too messy at this age, for our house)
- play doh
So, there are some ideas. But really the point is, show up. Let us allergy families feel love, even if you can’t love us with food. Be willing to get it totally wrong.
Sometimes, when we ask you not to bring food (we are scared for the food to go wrong because for us it’s a HUGE deal if it goes wrong) that makes us seem like we are asking everyone to be perfect for us or to go away. It’s not that. We don’t mind if you get anything else wrong. Its just food we can’t risk. We want you around. We want your love. We don’t want to be on the outside looking in.
Maybe you bring someone an adult coloring book, and they can’t stand coloring. But you showed them you love them, and they don’t feel worried their kids will get sick from your gift. It’s still a peace-filled love gift, even if they don’t color it. (And I bet their kids will get a kick out of scribbling all over it.) Maybe you show up with a huge thing of toilet paper and everyone feels awkward -- but you know what -- every time they are in the bathroom they are gonna remember not feeling excluded from love.
Thanks guys, for hearing an emotional lady, on an emotional day, about an emotional thing.
Love you lots!