Yesterday e came out of chorus happy (as usual). "We played the doggy game, mom!" Doggy game? I listened as she sang the song and then explained the rules. It involved tossing a... dog biscuit. "A real one, mom, so I pulled my sleeves over my hands." She pushed her hair out of her face, brushing said sleeve against her cheek. I quickly helped her into her jacket to cover the sleeves and asked her to go wash her hands, face, and water bottle. Thoroughly.
Dog biscuit? I did not see that one coming.
And that's what it's like to have food allergies and intolerances. Just when you think you have it figured out, when you let your guard down, when you put your child into someone else's care SURE that they understood. That's when you get dog biscuits.
When E was little and we were new at this, I never, ever let my guard down. I taught him to sit down with his hands in the air and then to eat from his lap. Never pick up food that has touched the table, the chair, the floor, or someone else's hands. If someone so much as breathes on your food, it's finished. If mommy or daddy didn't prepare the food, don't eat it. When in doubt, leave it out.
I carried wipes and used them. Everywhere. Friends' homes, restaurants, grocery carts, libraries, Sunday school... I'd show up an hour early to church in order to vacuum and wipe down the entire 3-yr-old room, including the walls. I was always on the lookout for a kid with crumbs on his shirt or a mom who thought hand sanitizer killed gluten.
But he still got glutened. Somewhere, somehow. He wouldn't keep his hands out of his mouth, so in this world of goldfish crackers and pb&j, I suppose it was inevitable. We weathered the rages and rashes and aggression and tummy trouble. I felt so guilty every time.
Then e arrived, C left for basic training, and I put E into preschool. His teachers were AMAZING, but I worried. I did incessant gluten-free research, I provided the school with gluten-free everything. Did you know straw bales can have gluten? Finger paint, playdoh, modge-podge, paper mache, pasta, glue, you name it and it probably has gluten. My friends were awesome. They checked and double-checked everything with me, and didn't mind me re-washing their clean dishes or wiping their spotless tables.
The first birthday party we attended was the hardest. I brought jello for E; he looked longingly at the cake. Then an incredible thing happened: the other kids wanted jello! By the third party, parents started serving mainly jello. It was great.
Then we moved. The mommy groups in our new town were not nearly so awesome. One even told us flat-out that we weren't welcome. And that was about the time e reacted to tree nuts and we got introduced to the world of epi-pens for anaphalactic reactions. Story time and museums were about the extent of our social life at that point, and you can bet I carried my wipes and e's epi every single place we went. Luckily we had a few friends who 'got it', but a whole lot more who didn't.
We moved again, and when e was 4, we went through careful allergy testing and discovered that she was no longer reactive to tree nuts. No longer reactive! Our days of epi-pens were over. I was still nervous for quite some time every time she ate nuts, but indeed. No reaction.
But still, there was gluten and a number of others, and we found them in the strangest places. A dog's kiss... gluten. Chapstick.... corn and soy. Hand lotion and soap... gluten. I read labels. Every single label. But there were so many labels, and sometimes I would miss something, like the time we had a few MONTHS of rashes and aggression and troubles. I could not find the cause of it to save my life. Finally C went through everything in our pantry and found the culprit: our previously safe bbq sauce now contained corn syrup. Never, ever let your guard down.
Especially in choir. There might be dog biscuits.