As I sit here warming my stiff hands on a mug of hot tea and waiting for my ancient lappy to acknowledge my presence, I think about the future of this blog ‘o’ mine. Since the new year started I decided I want to write more frequently, and in shorter bursts…Except when something deserves more attention and thought, that is. I think I have a good foundation to build on, so that other dye-sensitive folks and concerned citizens can at least find search results and successfully get started on being mad at the food industry with conviction.
There is always something going on in this circus of a brain, but the little vignettes are so disparate and sporadic that it’s hard for me to piece them all together into one post that makes sense every week. I share a lot of stuff on the Die, Food Dye! Facebook page, and I love the supportive community we’ve built there. It feels like I’ve been tweeting more on a daily basis than Occupy Wall Street. But of course, not everyone who needs support uses Facebook or Twitter. So I hope you won’t mind more random musings, silly observations, fleeting ideas, seething rants, and probably really bad jokes right here. And I really hope you will pull up a comment box or two and get comfy. Let’s spark up some good convo about how we can change the food system from the inside, and normalize this red-headed stepchild we call dye-sensitivity in the public conscience.
Okay, tea sipping is go. Time to spill my first load of brain junk on ya.
My makeshift iPhone editorial calendar looks like a maniac composed it, but that maniac’s Mama would be so proud at how full it is. Key words: Birthday parties, comfort food, science night, sugar, Australia, Valentine’s Day party, school menu, guests, pictures, complaints, cold and flu season, children’s book. Categories: No one cares.
Celebrations and Revelations
Last weekend we survived the planning and execution of our dye-sensitive daughter’s birthday party. This is big! From searching a large city for just the right dolphin decor, to cursing at online shopping carts, I somehow managed to make one kid very happy. We rented a party room at a huge children’s museum during a very busy special event weekend…On the thunder-iest, lightning-iest, rainiest day Atlanta has seen in a long damn time.
Even so, we plastered mermaid and dolphin decals on the huge storm-enhancing windows, played the Ariel soundtrack on the boombox, handed out “mermaid hair” clips (the mer-dads looked fetching in these), and fed the monkeys pizza, homemade cupcakes and dye-free ice cream. It was such a great spot to have a shindig – the Atlanta Pirates And Wenches Guild (yes, it’s a thing) crashed the party to the delight of the kids, stabbing a lonely licked-clean cupcake with a sword. We set the monkeys free to explore the museum after the party, and everyone forgot that they would probably need to grow fins to get back to their cars.
The only blips on my mommy radar were minor to say the least. A funky tasting batch of confectioner’s sugar had me up for hours the night before, trying desperately to make an edible chocolate frosting. More butter? More cocoa? Vanilla??!! No…cream cheese? It just got worse and worse until I had something even Augustus Gloop wouldn’t touch. Grodi (and I use that word sparingly). Luckily I live in a big city with a big ole Whole Foods. The bakery professional in an official looking white coat handed over some kind of magical pints of pure LOVE, and all was well.
I will say that my girl received some awesome gifts. Books, books, and more books. That was mommy’s doing…Muhahahaaa!!!! We were still hung over from the holiday toy sprawl. There were only a couple of things she couldn’t keep, due to dye sensitivity…girly stuff like nail polish and lip balm. No biggie, she doesn’t ask for girly stuff anyways.
I am also equally proud to report that my girl had a blast at a friend’s party the next day, even without trying the cute princess cake. I let her pick out a gorgeous beast of a cupcake at Whole Foods bakery (love those guys!), and she was thrilled when she discovered that it was big enough to eat with a plastic knife and fork. She got some looks from curious kids next to her, but she eloquently worked at that thing like George Costanza on a Snickers bar. No complaints!
I’m feeling better about this dye-free lifestyle in the new year. I felt that the proper way to honor this transition from old to new was to finish off the leftover chocolate ice cream tonight. Moving on…
My own comfort is food, obviously, and I am the first to admit that I have been lax with our sugar intake. After discovering many dye-free candies for Halloween and Christmas, I stocked up. We have slowly pecked away at the stash, but in my elation and desire to help my kid feel normal on holidays, I kinda went overboard with the purchases. My kid started asking for her “candy of the day!”…yikes.
This brings me to the fact that I’m helping to present information on nutrition at our school’s “science night” next week. Specifically, we are teaching kids and parents how to read food labels for added sugars, good nutrients, and bad additives (dyes, flavors, preservatives). My partner in this project opened my eyes to the fact that children shouldn’t eat more than three teaspoons of added sugars per day, and I immediately realized that I’ve been a Health Hypocrite. Panic! Oh God, didn’t I read somewhere that kids grow their lifelong fat layer between ages six and seven?! I missed the window! I screwed up her chance at self love!…Way to go, nutrition committee newbie. So now I gotta walk the walk. I’m not about to let my chatty monkey bust me in front of the PTA. (And for the record, she’s a healthy normal weight child, and has self love in spades).
Happily, my child has taken to our healthier eating this week like a champ. She loves trying all kinds of new veggies and fruits, and she even likes to read labels with me. She hasn’t asked for candy since we started with the pink lady apples…she ate FIVE of those suckers yesterday…FIVE.
If you would like a peek at some of the videos we’ll feature in our class, check out these Australian school overhauls by Sue Dengate and others at The Food Intolerance Network:
1. ABC News story about food additives and children
2. TodayTonight Adelaide story (search for the phrases “additive free school” and “food additives” in the ALL tab)
I will post pictures of our little event plus links to the resources we used, next week…stay tuned…and please send lots of Interested Parents vibes our way! Gracias.
Speaking of school, those annual Red 40 free-for-alls are coming up again – Valentine’s Day parties! Dye factories have been chugging along all year for this, puffing out what I imagine to be pink smokestack clouds…factory workers are going home with various shades of red-stained arms and hands this week…SO not joking on that one…and somewhere on a pink petroleum cloud, cupid babies are stamping (I like to think hand-painting) inappropriate come-ons in tiny sugary letters.
In preparation, I’ve offered some healthy suggestions to our teacher. I found some cool ideas online, such as asking the kids to vote on naturally red foods they’d like to try in a taste test, and then asking parents to donate those. Think red grapes, strawberries, apples, raspberries, red pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet red pepper, red beans, rainbow chard, beets (jury’s still out on that one), watermelon, “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera”…
There is also the smoothie-making option. I think it would be cool for the kids to make up their own recipes and try to predict which combinations would taste good. And hey, they can learn a little bit ‘o’ math along the way. I would totally volunteer to clean up that happy mess afterwards, if it meant that the kids were excited about healthy foods.
To really hit home with the healthy theme, I would really love if we could request that parents avoid bringing in any artificially colored treats – and include a list of the dye names (Red 40, Red 3, Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Green 3, annatto). If we had competing unhealthy options there, it would defeat the purpose and kids wouldn’t take the chance on the healthy stuff.
We also found some printable activities and “heart healthy” Valentine cards online at the Nourish Interactive site. I love the idea of candy-free valentines! And I like this “healthy parties handout” from NourishMD that was written for teachers, too. I do have to say that our teacher is really understanding of my daughter’s allergy, and open to healthy ideas. We heart her.
And all of this new-age party planning brings me around to the evolution of yet another aspect of my non-technical, non-iTunes-using being. I may not find the time to back up my phone for a couple months, but I’m damn sure gonna find five hours to “pin” Valentine’s Day School Party ideas and Paul Bunyan Roadside Statues to a wall that doesn’t really exist (or at least search for them…that last one didn’t get any hits – huh.). Oh Em Geeeeee! The cuteness to be found! Teacup candles! Awkwardly hunched over models in mock vintage dresses! Unstable table settings! God forbid the Internet ever goes away, or there’s gonna be real live zombie crafters wandering the streets. And they’re gonna be armed with glue guns, Mr. Murray.
So now I got one more thing I gotta accomplish in this new year…choosing the most sincere & meaningful names for my various “pin boards” so that they reflect my innermost being, and filling them with inspiration.
Lastly, my biggest and most personal project to date came to me in one of my gnat-like thought paths…I was driving around the other day when I saw a dude who looked JUST LIKE Mo Willems – of Trixie and Pigeon fame…zoom…just for a second. And that’s when I decided, then and there, that I’m gonna write a children’s book (!!!!). I hope to turn our own story into something folks can relate to, and that they’ll share with others, so we can build awareness.
My daughter is the inspiration for the as yet unnamed main character, and she is thrilled to be a part of this project. She says I must write a dedication to her near the front of the book just like real people do. She wants to be illustrator too…um..yeah. Sorry honey. But at least one of her masterpieces will show up somewhere in there. By the way, she insists that the main character be named after her, too. She’s a Capricorn, folks.
I think dye-sensitive kids and parents need to know that they are normal. The story will go over some typical situations like family/peer pressure and special occasions. It will describe how it feels to be “under the influence” of synthetic dyes, how it affects family life, and offer coping skills. I’ll include a section of resources for parents, and some information for teachers too.
I am beyond excited about this. And yet, I have no clue where to begin getting it published. And then there’s that question of an illustrator hanging in the air. There are some good art and design schools in Atlanta…I really want this to be “just right.”
Which brings me back to where I started. I know I spend a lot of time writing on subjects I’m passionate about, and I always wonder if I hit it “just right”. I think from here on out I will try to write more of myself. Sure there will still be plenty of establishment-agitating, thought-provoking, and paradigm-subverting. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share my less-edited thoughts, too.
Next up I’ll report back on my correspondence to our county’s school menu planner about replacing synthetically dyed a la carte snacks in our cafeterias. Also, as Old Man Winter cannot make up his mind, I imagine sinuses everywhere are crying out for mercy, so I’ll post a little something on staying dye-free during cold and flu season (thanks to my friend Sara for that suggestion). As soon as I figure out how to make it pretty (Pinterest?) I will post up your photo submissions of ridiculous labels in StoreBot’s Gallery. And my friend Becky asked for a one-stop complaint shop where fine upstanding citizens can link to food manufacturers’ sites and ask when they’ll ditch the additives.
I’m looking to publish personal dye-sensitivity stories at this time. If you’d like to share yours as a guest blogger on DFD!, e-mail me at admin[at]diefooddye[dot]com and I’ll pimp you out to the big, beautiful blogosphere.
Pin on, time suckees. Please do not google that phrase…