See this cake? It's deadly. Allergies, y'all.

*channels my Southern Black grandmother named Lula Mae with fist shaking in the air*
Then wails, "Why me, LAWD?! Why meeeeeeeeeeeeeee?!"

I don't know who I wronged in a past life, but my cross to bear in the present is ALLERGIES. TONS and TONS of freaking allergies. And I'm not talking seasonal. I raise your pollen with this peanut, pineapple, coconut, banana, kiwi, all nuts (especially peanuts), all fish, all seafood and shellfish allergy...and a milk intolerance just for kicks allergy. I am allergic to life, and I'm the only person I know like me.

"You're exaaaaagerating," you're thinking. Oh, how I wish that were so. I assure you, this is not a ploy to stand out as 'different' or to have an excuse to not eat whatever you're serving for dinner. I almost died after eating something that'd been fried in peanut oil a day after giving birth to my first son, and I've had countless violent reactions to just 'a sprinkle' or 'touch' of an ingredient to which I am severely allergic.

As a kid, I remember all the other students at Happy Child (the school I attended until second grade) snacking away on celery and peanut butter and being repulsed by the smell. Perhaps a survival instinct? Regardless, whereas most people outgrow their allergies, whatever they may be, once they hit the teenage years, mine are as much a part of me as my hair color and skin tone.

As a teacher, I think I have a distinct sensitivity to the children I teach who have allergies. (I hate the term 'suffer from'). For one, along with his astonishingly good looks :0), our eldest son inherited his larger than life milk and lactose allergy from me. It's something I carry a lot of guilt about. I mean what did I do wrong? What the hell happened? I couldn't care less that I can't eat certain things, but this kid is growing up in the cheese capital of the world.  (Ever heard of this lil' food called mozzarella?) Yeah, he's never had it. It'd cause his throat to swell shut at this point in life. He's four. And he's not the only one...there are LOTS of kids who are dealing with severe allergies.

The question that always swirls around in my mind is what exactly changed? It's obvious that allergies are becoming increasingly prominent in our society, as well as increasingly life-threatening. But why is this happening? What's going on?

The point of this post is not to explore those questions. I do have my own thoughts and personal beliefs, none of which I wish to impose on readers using this platform. I do know that as a caring educator I feel a HUGE responsibility to provide the same educational opportunities to all students regardless of the foods to which they may or may not be allergic.

One of the great joys of early childhood learning, in my opinion, is Play-Doh. That squishy, malleable glop is the stuff childhood is made of. I have a student, just one, who has a gluten allergy. So I did the only thing there was to do knowing that he will be attending the schoolhouse this fall--I purchased gluten-free Play-doh.
It's made from rice.

 My only complaint is the consistency. It's as sticky as all get out.
But who cares? The cutie who maintains a gluten-free diet WILL NOT have to avoid the Play-Doh center...and isn't that what it's all about?

So you're wondering where the cake comes in.
Ilaria, one of our fantastic schoolhouse moms, showed up yesterday with a snack for her son...a yummy cake she'd made herself.
"I thought about you because there's no milk inside," she said as she offered me a piece to try.
"I can have cakes with problem, but thank you for thinking about us," I said as I broke off a piece and popped it into my mouth.
"It's delicious!" I exclaimed, "What's in it..."
"Oh, just peanut oil...and...blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."

I almost spat it out on her shoes.
She spent the next ten minutes or so asking what she needed to do.
My only reply was, "Absolutely, CANNOT tell Flaviano" (my husband).

I'd rather die of a peanut allergy attack than be NAGGED to death for not asking about the ingredients before tasting.

The moral of this post is mostly for teachers--
keep the kids with allergies in mind when you set up your classroom and plan your activities. There are ALWAYS alternatives that can be found...and choosing those alternatives ensures that no one feels excluded.
They appreciate it. I post from experience.

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