September 04, 2002
First day's lesson: We all grow each September
By Mike Levine
I wrote this column nearly a decade ago. Since then, many parents have told me it's a way they mark the arrival of September's first school bus. Here's to a safe and healthy year for all of our children.
Quick, before they leave this morning. Take a good look. Touch their faces, run your hands through their hair.
We got antsy with them last month, but now we want time to stand still. Like falling leaves and chilly mornings, some great force signals us today. We are aware of time passing.
See the kindergartner with a brave bewildered smile watching her mother cry as the school bus pulls away. The high school freshman with a lump in his throat hears his father whisper everything will be OK. Brothers and sisters who fought all summer now hold hands.
Today is proud, today is helpless, today is tomorrow. From Monticello to Monroe, from Marlborough to Matamoras, this is a special morning, wrenching and sacred.
As a young reporter, I'd wonder why. What's the big deal about the first day of school? I would write down quotes in my notebook and comprehend nothing.
Then I became a parent. I found out. We mark time by today.
On this morning, we remember our own parents and our own childhood. We are filled with the smell of old raincoats, the sticky bond of classroom glue, the childhood knot of worried excitement. We were so small and lost. (Secret: A part of us is still lost. We tell no one.)
Now we are in charge. We have children of our own. On this morning, we remember the holy moment of their birth.
We see this is all just a matter of time. Once, we thought our children were ours alone. Each September, on this day, we learn better. Nothing is ours to keep.
Time passes through our eyes this morning. We see our children as newborns, we picture them as grown-ups. We see them walking their own children to school.
It is good. It is awesome. It is how it should be.
Come on, it's getting late. The bus is coming up the road. I'll keep this short.
Make sure they have everything they need. Double check. Write their name on the book bag. Sweetheart, did you remember your lunch money? Dad, don't call me mushy stuff in front of the other kids.
They are right. Like the summer birds leaving us, our children know what to do.
Like the autumn leaves waving on the trees, we, too, give way to the winds of change.
-Matt (aka AllergyDad)
For all those pseudo scientists like me, I'm going to present this in traditional experiment form:
I think that if I spend a fixed amount of time (3 days) time eating allergy free, no eggs, cheese, cow's milk, peanut or tree nut, wheat or soy…
Then I'll better relate to my children and come up with techniques to help them live more easily with food allergies.
Step 1: Identify location: San Francisco, California a few blocks from the Mascone Center.
Step 2: Document food eaten each day and make observations on the access and quality of allergy free food.
Step 3: Create a blog entry on my observations daily.
Conclusion (data to be shared separately)
-Matt (aka AllergyDad)
Remember that scene from The Fugitive when Tommy Lee Jones' character is commanding his team to look at every whorehouse, outhouse and hen house (paraphrasing)in a ten mile radius when they're tracking down Harrison Ford's character, Dr. Richard Kimball?
At lunch time, I was Tommy Lee Jones and Dr. Richard Kimball wasan #allergyfree sandwich. I put out an APB for allergy free food. I asked a lot of restaurants about cooking allergy free and they weren't meeting my needs. I'm on the fence if I should "out" those who shun those with allergies - I'm going to have to come back to that in another blog post.
In my last post, I described my poor prior preparation by not doing research on restaurants in the vicinity of my destination and it has left me hungry. I skipped dinner because we did a buffet at the customer event I attended and they didn't have a list of ingredients for the chicken or the Tuna Shashimi (I didn't need the ingredients for raw tuna -it was on a suspect cracker).
I knocked it out of the park for lunch though - no I didn't return to #annabelles. AS AN FYI: if you go to a show and steal someone's food that has a label saying "special meal", they should be punished. This is a tech conference, punishment would be like taking their iPad and installing Windows on it - VERY NERDY.
Although Annabells's ROCKS!!!! I discovered a great sandwich shop called #Spicekit @ www.spicekit.com. They're located at 405 Howard St. in SF. Great food and they take food allergies seriously.
DISCLAIMER: They do have food that has peanuts
I asked them for the ingredients and they were more than happy to furnish the ingredients and make my sandwich - at a very busy lunch rush - separately to ensure no cross contamination. That is for real.
WHAT AM I LEARNING?
My boys are coming into a world that is certainly difficult to find places that cater to food allergies but it is a much more #allergyfriendly world than the one I grew up with. There has to be an easier way to get all this info though. hmmmm......if you know me - you know that I am brewing something ridiculous.
I'm also wondering if San Fran is more progressive than other cities - I travel allergy free on my next business trip as well.
-Matt (aka AllergyDad)
Quick pic of Annabelles as well - AWESOME!
I thought that "Test drive results" sounded better than Day 1 allergy free meals.
Ok, quick refresher - I have 2 sons with severe food allergies and I am going to try and live "allergy-free" for specific periods of time to try and come up with specific techniques to help my kids as they get older:
v Son 1: 5 yrs old: Milk, eggs, cheese, all nuts
v Son 2: 4 yrs old: Milk, eggs, cheese, all nuts, soy and wheat
My "test drive" allergy-free day was adhering with Son 1's allergies.
Let's start 5 with lessons learned:
1. Alternatives for allergy-free meals are available - you just have to look.
2. Ask questions. People behind the deli counter or at a restaurant can check the lable - if you ask.
3. Less is more - just say that you have a severe food allergy and most people will try and help.
4. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare - Food allergies are life threatening. Preparation is essential.
5. Not everyone knows - Although it gets some press, food allergies are largely associated with dieting.
Test drive details!!!
All in all, this was a fun day. I spent most of the time thinking about my boys and what they would be like as they get older and some of the fun that we're going to have along the way. Since I have a day job and that takes up most of my time, I was eating on the run at the company cafeteria.
Breakfast: Nothing is better than Oatmeal. It fills you up quickly - I love that warm oatmeal feeling and I prefer raisins on it. My boys prefer brown sugar and they will eat a tone of oatmeal. Any way you may like it - this is a classic and a huge staple of our at home.
At this point, I am on a total roll. I've had my oatmeal and some water and the world seems like it will be a breeze to eat allergy free. WHAT AM I THINKING>>>> 10:45 rolls around and I find myself at the corporate convenience store. I have a lot of nervous energy and I wander around when I work - usually talking on my cell phone. I don't know how I found this place but here I am in allergy hell…
If I were with my 5 and 4 year old boys, I would have to remind them not to touch any of this stuff because it can make you sick. I'm not even allergic to anything but the picture makes me sick....and hungry for bad food.
REMINDER: (this will continue to appear periodically) this is not a blog about nutrition.
Ok, remember the 5 things I learned. Well one of them happened here ASK QUESTIONS. It sounds so simple but we don't usually - or at least - I don't usually. I asked the person behind the counter if they had anything that didn't have milk, eggs, cheese or nuts and they pointed me to the fruit. Ah ha! I never had any idea that this was here - no idea at all and I've been working in this building for over 3 years! There is no way that I am the only person that missed the fruit. I see what people eat and I never saw anyone with fruit on their plate.
I am a naturally outgoing person and I like to interact with people most of the time but I found myself reluctant to say that I had food allergies to the person at the convenience store at work. I am trying to walk in my son's footsteps - he would have to say it - WHY CAN'T I? I'm just not as brave as he is - that is a fact. My 5 year old is becoming self-aware but he still has no problem saying that he can't eat something because he's allergic. He identifies himself as boy with food allergies without any issue. I'm a grown man and I am afraid of carrying a label as different or not as good. This is something that I need to work on.
I don't want food allergies to define my son or any child for that matter. Somewhere along the way as children get older they lose that spark that makes them shine so brightly - we all had it at one point. I don't want my son to lose his for a long time and I'm determined to not let food allergies take it from him either.
Lunch: In the paragraphs above, I referenced that I have a lot of nervous energy. Put another way, I have no patience. I couldn't wait in line to get a salad at the salad bar in the cafetria so I cut some corners.Not a bad lunch but certainly not sustainable.
Dinner: My wife is incredible and she totally whipped up some rice pasta with homemade tomato sauce. Keep in mind - we are going through a home renovation and our kitchen was just ripped out. She is an incredible woman and a major inspiration for me about how to handle our kids’ food allergies.
As far as test drives go, this was weak; I didn't really walk in anyone's shoes but mine. Next week is going to be difficult.
I will be a technology conference (one of those convention center setups) in San Francisco. I am going to put myself to the test and avoid milk, eggs, cheese, all nuts, wheat and soy. These are the allergies that my 4 year old has and I am determined to get the full experience.
-Matt (aka AllergyDad)