This love note is inspired by this post by a fellow food allergy mom ("The Things We Do for Love"). She talks about how food allergy moms constantly have opportunities to demonstrate our love for our children, whether it be by talking to a teacher about making food-safe accomodations for our child, or baking a safe, sweet treat for her, or packing a healthy, safe lunch that looks just as yummy as what the other kids are bringing to school.
Food allergies involve sacrifice, not just for the kid, but for the rest of the family. Since Ainsley was diagnosed with her milk and egg allergies, for example, our refrigerator hasn't seen a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs. Instead, Dave and I quickly grew accustomed to drinking rice milk on our cereal and Dave, an egg lover, only gets his favorite dish when we happen to be eating at a brunch spot. Ainsley's wonderful Nana stopped making her famous Chicken Divan for the family during our Sunday night dinners because it contains both dairy and eggs; instead, she loves to surf the web to find other new and interesting recipes that are Ainsley-safe. My mom's favorite thing is to find a candy Ainsley can eat ... she then proceeds to buy a truckload full and allow Ainsley to eat it virtually limitlessly whenever Ainsley is at her house. Ainsley's aunt Bridget, an elementary school counselor, takes time out of her busy day to talk to her school nurse and others about food allergies so that she can be as informed as possible about policies and protocols to deal with food-allergic children, and generously passes on the information to me so I can be as prepared as possible for when Ainsley starts public school.
And as for me ... my sacrifice involves making sure Ainsley's medicine pack follows her everywhere and that everyone who takes care of her knows how to administer an Epi-Pen, volunteering to be a room mother so I can keep a close relationship with her preschool teachers and make sure the food served during class activities and parties is Ainsley-safe, offering to make treats for the entire class whenever someone is celebrating a birthday so my girl can eat the same thing as everyone else, making almost everything she eats so I can be assured it contains only safe ingredients, reading labels on EVERYTHING (even hair care products and pet food) to make sure it's safe to bring in the house, even becoming an expert in cupcake baking so that the cupcake she brings to each birthday party will look even yummier that the birthday cake she can't eat.
In fact, my biggest sacrifice was learning to cook and bake at all. I did not touch the kitchen before she was born. But I was left with no other choice but to take it up once we discovered Ainsley's allergies. And it has been such a wonderful thing for us. Not a week goes by that Ainsley and I haven't been in the kitchen cooking up something new. She assumes her regular position right next to me at the counter, standing on a kitchen chair with her little blue-and-red apron on, and insists on tasting each ingredient as we pour it into the bowl. She is also my chief whisker and sifter and has become quite astute at placing cupcake liners in the pans. As a result, we have spent countless hours just spending time together, creating something wonderful that we can eat and share with our loved ones.
So, although love is sacrifice, and we - the entire family - have demonstrated our love in this way time and time again for "the best four-year-old in the world," it has, in many ways, made all of our lives so much richer. Although I would still give almost anything for her allergies to disappear, I can say that, in many ways, we are better off for her having had them. I know that I probably would not have been as active and involved a parent were it not for them. And I certainly am more aware of what goes into my body and my family's, and that can only be a good thing.
So on this Valentine's Eve, I just want to say, Ainsley, even though food allergies have made your life difficult, it has also caused us to better our lives and given us so many opportunities to show you just how special and wonderful you are and how much we love you and are willing and happy to do for you. We love you so much, our sweet, special girl.