Growing up with a Peanut Allergy

"You see that peanut butter sandwich over there? To a normal kid, it's just a peanut butter sandwich. To my daughter, it might as well be a loaded gun." -- my mom, circa 1993.

No Peanuts

Today I am writing about a health concern that is near to me--my peanut allergy. I dedicate this post to my parents--without their advocacy, strength, and perseverance I wouldn't be the label-scrutinizing, tip-of-the-tongue-taste-testing, crazy-cautious adult that I am today. Raising two allergic kids in a world full of sticky fingers, potluck lunches, and hidden ingredients is no walk in the park. To put things into perspective, we must rewind the clock twenty plus years. Living with a peanut allergy in the early 90s was nothing like what it is now. Today we hear buzz-words like "peanut-free", "may contain tree nuts", "made in a factory that processes peanuts" all the time. Whether we have them or not, food allergies have slowly trickled into our lives and into our vocabulary. Growing up, I was a pioneer of sorts in the field of peanut-allergicness. An anomaly at school and even at the doctor's office, it was up to me to protect myself and educate others about this strange and uncommon health phenomenon. Not only was I the first peanut allergic student at my school, my paediatrician was baffled at my intolerance for peanuts. She diagnosed me by reading a page in a book she had never referenced before and sent me off with an Epinephrine prescription and a strict order not to touch or ingest peanuts or tree nuts. This was way before skin tests and blood tests, peanut-free airlines, factories, and schools.

Peanut Free Classroom

The way my parents describe it, it was a difficult task getting people to understand the severity of my allergy. My mom really did have to speak to my teachers and draw the terrifying connection between a peanut butter and a gun. This was not just an annoying intolerance for me; even the tiniest speck of peanut butter was enough to take my life. My parents did everything in their power to make me feel normal and safe. Instead of placing me in a bubble, I was encouraged to be social and to participate in fun activities with my peers. I was taught to be vigilant with hand washing, not to touch my face or mouth, to always ask for an ingredient list before eating anything, and to always, always read the label twice. For as long as I can remember, I've carried an Epi-Pen. First in my fanny pack, then in my pencil case, and now in my purse. I never missed a friend's birthday party... I could just never, ever, ever eat the cake. My precautionary routine has been meticulous, but I've had the odd close call. Just last week I purchased something from a work bake sale after receiving confirmation that it was peanut-free. I bit into a homemade Rice Krispie square and it was amazing how fast my body recognized the peanut taste and rejected it. Upon first bite, I became enveloped in a haze. It was like a sense of doom washed over me and the only sensible thing to do was to spit out the treat and run for the bathroom. After rinsing thoroughly with soap and water, I developed a tingly, itchy sensation on my tongue and throat and could see hives forming around my mouth. Thankfully I was able to curb the reaction with an antihistamine. The weird thing is that I don't even remember what peanut butter tastes like; my body just knew I shouldn't be eating it. I thank my lucky stars that I had the sense to spit it out because swallowing it could have triggered a full-blown reaction. I have been living with a life-threatening peanut allergy for over two decades now and although avoiding peanuts has become a whole lot easier, there is no safe zone. The only proven line of defence is diligence. Carrying my Epi-Friend, reading labels, verifying ingredients, and educating others has become second nature to me. I don't live in fear of my allergy because I know for the most part I can control it. A combination of increased awareness and stricter labelling laws has made it easier for me to order safe meals at restaurants and recognize "may contain" items at grocery stores and bakeries. Some factories have even committed to offering peanut-free treats--Nestle chocolate bars, Dare cookies, and Chapmans ice cream to name a few. While some people grow out of peanut allergies into their adolescence years, others continue to experience symptoms and show positive test results for life. It looks like me and allergies go together like PB&J. Peanuts 2Peanut 1
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A Lot of Rain and a Little Gold

Hello everyone on this rainy Monday! It has been a dreary day and is turning out to be an even drearier evening. Nightfall is upon us and it's STILL raining in my neighbourhood. Roger and I are sipping Orange Pekoe with our laptops set up like the Battleship game, being serenely anti-social as we type in tune. This is precisely the kind of weather that makes me want to crawl under the covers and watch movies all day. The rain makes me miss being eleven years old when hiding from the downpour was not only an option, but an expectation. Sure, we (my older brother and I) could venture outside if we wanted to, but I preferred the art of blanket fort design and staying in with Mary-Kate & Ashley movies. Safe and sound from wet hair, worms, and mucky puddles. There were perks to being the older and wiser sister; my "coolness" was not questioned until later years. Thankfully this morning was a little brighter than it is now and I had the sense to throw on a dress for work (black to suit the day of course). The little hint of gold in my attire foreshadowed the type of day I was in for: I am participating in a stock trading contest at work and my team increased our portfolio by $40 000 during market hours! Even though we're only dealing with fake money, it's still pretty exhilarating to strategize and see our account grow. Unfortunately, movie days are a thing of the past for working adults. We transition from forts to cubicles as we seek shelter from the rain. Here's a few photos of what I wore while pretending to be a high-powered investor:

July 8 - Porch

July 8 - Back

My dress is from Forever 21.

July 8 - Hello Nails

July 8 - Face

I like the gold accents on the collar.

July 8 - Black

And then it rained and rained and rained and it's still raining.

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Sunfest Saturday – My Day in Pictures

I speak for both Jess and I when I say we had an absolute blast this weekend. We spent Saturday afternoon immersed in vibrant colour under sunny skies. Sunfest, an annual free-admission event, is set against a backdrop of Canadian and international musical talent and is not only a pleasure to hear; it is a pleasure to experience with all five senses. Ethnic eats, soul-driven music, cultured clothing and hand-crafted artistry dotted our local park and attracted visitors and vendors from plane rides away. It was a wonderful way to enjoy summer in the city and learn about diverse cultures from all over the globe!

On the Lawn

Jolly Jumper

Recycled Bone Necklaces

Primary Colours

Chip and dip

Jess

Break it Buy it

Tribal Necklace

Buy whatever

Sundresses

Crazy pants

Pineapples

Tea set

Little Buddhas

Maxi Skirt

Fruit bowls

Shopping

Dining Outdoors

Jungle fire

Ridiculous Burgers

 Girls in sun

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Serenity, Tea & Sunsets: A Long Weekend at Home

Tea. Cake. Poolside drinks. Seeing friends.Tanning. Reading. Boating. That's what long weekends are made of. Happy Belated Canada Day! It is quite fitting that I preface my weekend recap with a quote about tea. Not only does it mirror my very sentiments towards the substance, it also speaks to the sensibility that the body and mind must unwind and be rejuvenated after and before each work week, if and when circumstances allow. Saturday and Sunday provided the perfect little escape for me. The extra Monday was a bonus.

Tea Wisdom

That Tea Emperor of China was a very smart man. To him, I raise my cup. On another uplifting note, one of my bestest friends is home!! Naaz left Canada for 4 years to get a head start on her professional life in the U.S. Now she's finally back which means two things: Her design skills are most welcome to infiltrate my home and our combined consumption of chai tea is about to increase sevenfold. We had the chance to meet up for tea this weekend. A new chapter has begun...

Savourys

We chatted over tea lattes and soon joined our besties for a girls' luncheon. It's crazy how much the topics of discussion have changed since our high school days. If someone told us we'd all be talking about new houses, new careers, and life goals in 6 years, we would have laughed.

Tea date

Later that day, while the young men of the house were golfing, my mom and dad and I spent the afternoon reading and watching the dogs. I love sitting by the pool deck feeling overwhelmed by how much nature is around me. Peonies are my most favourite flower. My mom grows them in two of her gardens and I hope to one day do the same.

Favourite Flowers

One of the reasons that we travelled to my parents' house (as if we actually needed a reason) was to visit my brother, Grant. He turned 22 this weekend! There are benefits to knowing a professional pastry chef, this delectable dessert is one of them... Chocolate mousse with fresh fruit and a chocolate ganache.

Grant's Cake

Then we attended a little bonfire to kick off the birthday festivities.

Bonfire
Grant, Michael, Roger & I took the boat out for a quick ride the next day. As the only girl, I had to take on the responsible "mom" role: I practiced my simultaneous wakeboard spotting/videography skills and tried not to freak out when they drove too fast. Fail.

Boating

The sunset over the lake was beautiful. If only we had one more night of this...

Sunset on the Lake

And then I came home and made chocolate and dark cherry brownies. That was it. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend at home--on a indulgently sweet note. Now, as we bask in the afterglow of cottage country relaxation we are starting to dream of owning a cottage of our own. Late-night stargazing, the sound of the water lapping against the shore, margaritas on the patio... we could definitely get used to that.

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