The month of November always brings about thoughts of thankfulness. Just hop over to Facebook and I’m sure that some of your friends are participating in the “30 Days of Thankfulness.” Many people talk about being thankful for their family and friends. I’m no different. I’ve been incredibly blessed by my husband, little men, extended family and countless friends. However, this month I want to focus on something else that I’m incredibly thankful for…My Food Allergy Community.
No matter how much my family and friends rallied around me after my little mens’ severe reactions and food allergy diagnosis, without the support, friendship, and help from my food allergy community I would still be lost and struggling. My food allergy peeps are the ones that truly “get it!” They’ve been there and understand the crazy thoughts that go through my head and the worry that I experience on a weekly basis. Following our first reaction, I so desperately tried to find other moms like me. But I couldn’t find any, nor could I find a support group. I would spend countless nights awake at the computer googling food allergies hoping that I could maybe find someone in the virtual world that was like me. Over the years I’ve met some pretty incredible women who also happen to be food allergy moms. Their friendships have been life-giving and many are doing some incredible things within the food allergy community. Over the next 4 weeks, I want to share a few with you.
Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Kathy Thornburg. Kathy is a fellow food allergy mom and is doing some incredible things for not just her family, but for food allergy families everywhere. I’ll let her tell you all about it followed by a brief Q&A! Please put your hands together for Kathy…
Journey to Jams
My food allergy journey follows a similar pattern that I’ve heard many times from other mothers. 1 ½ years old…first taste…peanut butter…rash…Benadryl…blood tests…multiple allergies…prescriptions…filled with questions…all alone. When telling other parents about our experience after his diagnosis, I often see many head nods saying, “It happened that way for us too!” We spent months without an allergist based on the advice of our pediatrician and eventually sought out support from a nearby food allergy group. I needed help. I needed people. I needed answers. I went to a meeting, not knowing quite what to expect, and left with so much. I received encouragement, advice, friends, and even an allergist to call. I didn’t know just how much I needed community until it was right in front of me. Each day, week, and month that passes, I continue to learn, to grow, and now to teach my child how to stay safe and live a full life with his allergies.
I knew from early on that it would be important for me to always be teaching Milo about his allergies and reinforcing these lessons throughout his life in new and age appropriate ways. I decided to approach this in a way that my child has always responded well- MUSIC.
From a very young age, he has loved dancing, singing, and learning from music. Because of shows like Signing Time and Rachel and the TreeSchoolers, that use a lot of education based music, he has learned so many amazing things! I decided to give songwriting a try. We already made up silly songs for things like going to the car and brushing our teeth, why not write a song about food allergies? So….I did. I wrote a song we called, “No No Peanuts,” and the response from my son was amazing! He loved the song, quickly memorized it, and now can sing it on his own. I decided to write another song because of the success of the first and then another and another. I wrote about ten songs in the first week. It became clear to me that I was on to something HUGE that could help my son and other children with food allergies too.
From there, I continued to write, we continued to sing, and I started contacting people about the possibility of a music CD. The weeks and months taught me a lot about the world of music production and opened my eyes to the many expenses that add up when trying to make a CD. The pieces all started to fall in place. I found an amazing producer, Kurt Heinecke, who is interested in being involved and has over 20 years of experience as a composer, producer, and songwriter along with 6 Dove awards for his work on the popular kids’ show, VeggieTales. His advice and connections led to another important partnership with Lori Casteel who will be auditioning, coaching, and recording the vocalists on the CD, many of whom will be children. Her experience working with Disney Theatrical, McGraw-Hill, numerous symphonies, and other well-known groups and artists will be reflected in the professional and talented recording we will be able to secure for Food Allergy Jams.
The next step is to fund the production of our CD through Kickstarter. If we can raise a minimum of $35,000, all of our backers will receive some amazing rewards. If we fall short of our goal, no pledges are redeemed, no rewards are sent, and our CD will not be made. This is a fantastic opportunity for the food allergy community. Now is our chance to show how strong we are when we stand together. Now is the time to say, “yes” to a product that encourages education, music, and kids being kids!
Years ago, I never dreamed I would have a child with multiple food allergies, but I also never dreamed I would have such an amazing support system made up of so many businesses, fellow parents, adults with allergies, and medical professionals. This is not a business…this is not a job…this is the result of a mother’s love for her child and the need to keep him safe.
Q&A with Kathy
- Who has allergies in your family and what are they allergic to?
My three year old son is allergic to peanuts, eggs, and dogs.
- What drew you to the internet to share your story?
I wanted to be the encouragement and help to others that I have received many times myself from those in the food allergy community.
- What’s the biggest challenge raising a child with food allergies?
Raising a child with food allergies can be very challenging. I think some of the biggest obstacles would be learning to speak up for their needs even when it makes you uncomfortable, deciding what risks are worth taking (like eating food at a restaurant), and teaching them the truth about their allergies without causing them to be overly fearful.
- What’s your favorite allergy-friendly product?
I’m a pretty big Sunbutter fan! I love to use it to cover my pancakes in the morning.
- What’s your best advice for a mom struggling to cook for her food allergic child?
Don’t take on Martha Stewart, Iron Chef, and Cake Boss all in one day! When things in the kitchen get overwhelming, pick one thing you would like to learn and work on that meal and nothing else. If your kid refuses to eat the meal you worked so hard on just for them, remember, we’ve all been there! Just keep at it!
- Share one interesting fact about you that may or may not be related to blogging.
I love American Sign Language! I learned most of my vocabulary during my high school and college years, and now I teach it to my children. My son knows hundreds of signs and we plan to teach his little sister soon!
- What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the family, friends, and food allergy community who have been there to encourage and support us through our son’s journey with food allergies. I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by loved ones who go out of their way to understand my son’s allergies and include him
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Kathy and her heart for food allergy families. Please consider joining me in supporting her Food Allergy Jams Kickstarter Campaign. Also, stay tuned for next week’s guest. Another food allergy mom doing amazing things!