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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The beautiful long road

Every year we travel a 16 hour road trip to visit my family for Thanksgiving. It's a big deal for us to leave the safety of our milk free "bubble", and enter another's home. My parents have learned to adapt to our milk free lifestyle, and they themselves adapt into it before we come. Assuring their home is clean of milk proteins and safe for their granddaughter. An obvious effort that is so poorly executed and considered for so many food allergic kids.

For 3 weeks we stay in a safe new wonderland. We all get a complete change of scenery from our oceanside lifestyle, to a mountainous, snowy landscape full of intentionally made safety and fun. It's a dream really. Going to grandma and grandpa's, with aunts and uncles and a great holiday  without a problem in sight. Night after night, day after day, we eat safely without question, play cards, hike, and spend quality, unplugged, time together. We never need to mention the life threatening allergy that isolates and controls my household throughout the rest of the year. It's common knowledge, and they know dwelling on it only makes our daughter feel more uncomfortable, so therefore once again, they put her first and don't carelessly discuss it in front of her. They strive to give our 5 year old a vacation from the serious nature of her condition she faces daily.  Here, everyone pitches in to maintain safe environments, instead of me shouldering all of the responsibility for elements beyond my control as I've grown accustomed to being required to do. To me, it's the blueprint of allergic living: addressing food allergies as a family unit with a zero tolerance for life threatening ignorance.

This trip has so many elements starting with the long haul north and 2 little ones who aren't the fondest of riding for 16 hours! It could be a mere 2.5 hour nonstop flight, but since our daughters life threatening allergy to milk is airborne and contact reactive, we literally take the long road for safety. It would only take a person drinking a latte to sneeze in the plane, and our whole life would change forever. That's only one possible scenario, but obviously not a risk we're willing to take.


This year I realized the secret to how it all works out so amazingly every year with my family. The "blueprint." Nobody pities us, questions how we exist without milk, or focuses on the things that make us different. They respect the severity and take responsibility for "their" family members condition enough to learn about how they can do their part to maintain safety, and focus on our similarities instead of differences. Family and togetherness are the priority and we look forward not behind us. My kids cry a good part of the way home thinking it's over. Kids think so finite. We remind them we're going to do it all over again year after year, and the fun will be there when we return.

We've learned to embrace this long road, and even prefer it. We've been able to rediscover the beauty in the simple things in life. This is something that's rare in the world we live in today. Actually avoiding conveniences and marking our days with effort and intentional planning. Yes, this is our comfort zone. Getting creative in ways to dine out as a family when no place is "safe". Dining out to us is the experience of teaching public manners and having a new family experience- not the food. It's also giving our casual, family style dinner table the night off. Sunset picnics at the ocean using our "fancy" picnic basket plastic ware. Searching for hidden hike paths down into nature in beautiful untouched areas, free from common commotion and food. 

Our newest discovery is a camper, and the simple freedoms that will give to us. Avoiding the need for public hotels, restaurants, and being subject to the hidden milk proteins that are present everywhere in the world around us. We can create an extension of our safe zone. Essentially, we are always finding ways to control our environments and make them less haphazard to our daughter.  

There's no doubt there's a bigger meaning in our lives way beyond just us. Beyond following the routine and hussle-bussle mainstream families fall into. Beyond how anaphylaxsis has tested our very nature. It's posed every imaginable and awkward circumstance, and made us unite as THE parents, THE decision makers, and stand for something real, honest, and humbley necessary. We've caught an honest glimpse of what really matters in life and both developed in character and morale as a result. The long road isn't the easy road, but we've carved out our own path. A path that once seemed impossible and overwhelming is now easier and even fun!