Day in the Life of an Allergy Kid: Field Trip Edition, and Homemade Lunchables

My six year old son with multiple severe, anaphylactic food allergies climbed on a school bus and went on a field trip without me this week, and we both survived to tell the tale.

I’m still getting used to letting go when I hug him goodbye on regular school mornings, so dropping him off for a field trip felt even more awkward and emotional because, well–the What if’s? were loud that day.

For me, that is. Not for him. The kid was crazy excited.

I can’t blame him. He had never been on a school bus before, and he knew he would get to go on a bug hunt and pet a snake in real life at the science center that day. What first grade boy wouldn’t be excited?

But while other moms were slipping Lunchables into backpacks, slathering kids with sunscreen, and sending them out the door with a simple “See you later, sweetie!” I caught myself worrying whether I had done enough to prepare EJ for surviving two hours at a local science center without me dogging his every step.

A few weeks before that morning I asked EJ if he even wanted to go on the field trip, secretly wondering if he would feel too nervous about something so new.

“Oh, yes–I really want to go. It’s going to be so fun. And Mom, can you make a homemade Lunchables for my lunch that day? And put an Oreo in it too? ‘Cause kids take Lunchables with treats in them to school on field trip days.”

How did he even know that?

After assuring him I would pack him a homemade Lunchable, I double checked to make sure he felt comfortable and confident going on the trip without me. One simple “Oh, yes. I feel just fine about it,” and we moved on to reviewing all.the.rules and a reminder that God would be with him even when his dad and I could not be.

Years ago, back before we even know EJ had severe food allergies, Joshua 1:9 etched its way into my heart as his life verse: “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord God is with you wherever you go” (NLT). God knew even all those years ago I would need courage to let my boy go live his own life–and EJ would need the assurance that God would be with him when I was not. So instead of keeping the kid home and assuring him he wasn’t missing out on anything anyway, I decided to listen to face everything and rise instead of forget everything and run.

It’s easy to run away from the tough stuff; harder to stand face to face with something scary. Lord knows I’ve done my share of running over the years. I’ve made decisions out of cowardice, and I’m sure you have too. But I don’t want to train EJ to make decisions based on what’s easy. I don’t want him to miss out on life because he lives his a little bit differently. I want to be courageous so he can be courageous too. If I had kept him home that day, it would have taught EJ life is too risky, he’s too different, and safety is what matters most.

Hear me: safety matters. Of course I did my due diligence: I talked to his teacher and confirmed she would carry his epinephrine along with them that day. We discussed when and where and how of food (none on the bus; morning snack at school as usual; sack lunches outside after they return). She knows his symptoms backwards and forwards and reviewed what to do in case of an emergency. Before he left for school that day, he slung his allergy ID necklace around his neck as usual, and I made sure his hand wipes were stocked and stowed in his lunchbox just like every day, and we went over washing hands and not sharing food and speaking up for himself if he felt anything funny at all one last time. In short–we covered everything in our power to prepare EJ for the first step toward managing his allergies independently.

That’s ultimately what I want him to do: manage his allergies, not let allergies manage him. A long time ago I had to make a choice whether I would worry my way through his life, hiding him away from danger in hopes of keeping him safe, or face each new day with courage, determined to let him live every blessed moment of his life to its fullest. Existing in the confines of home and missing out on a chance to see the wider world and discover all sorts of beauty out there isn’t really living at all, and so, by God’s grace and with his help–we are putting one foot in front of the other and walking into new territory, believing God is with us every step of the way.

As I packed EJ’s homemade Lunchables the morning of the field trip, I realized my job is exactly that: to give him the things he needs to be able to eat lunch safely away from me, not just on field trip days, but always. It is more than my heart can bear sometimes because he’s only six years old, for crying out loud. But someday, someday, he will be all grown up and in charge of his own choices, and my job is to empower him to do that. I need to make him lunch-able. That sort of thing is only ever homemade.

Here’s the big news: I wasn’t worried about him. I wondered how things were going, of course, because I’m a normal mom who misses her kids while they’re gone. (Yes, I had to distract myself all day so wonder didn’t turn into worry.) But my nerves didn’t overwhelm my heart. I had peace, and as soon as EJ set foot in the car, I had joy too because there we was, healthy and whole–and happy. For the first time in his life, he said, “Mom! Guess what?! I made friends.” (And guess what? One of them even has food allergies too!) What if fear had convinced me to keep him home that day?

This allergy mom life isn’t easy. Allergy kid life isn’t easy either. It presents a new, big challenge every time we overcome the smaller one that came before it. But gracious me, God is so good. He uses all the tough stuff to grow us and stretch us and prove he is true to his word. If we never went anywhere, we wouldn’t need courage, would we? And we wouldn’t need the promise that God would be with us wherever we go.

So until EJ grows up and moves on to a life lived outside of the confines of our house, I’ll keep doing everything I can to make him lunch-able, believing God will be right there with both of us every step of the way.

These Are Gold, and S’Mores Pie


Make new friends but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.

-Joseph Parry

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Deuteronomy 6:24-26

Dear Joey,

I made two S’Mores Pies in the span of two days last week. My important, necessary work was met with your murmur of, “Another s’mores pie? I’m impressed!” This pie is dangerously easy, meaning there is a very good chance one will be waiting to meet you at the end of a long day’s work more often than perhaps it should. (Aren’t you the one who joked about buying a house where I could bake pies to my heart’s content and cool them by the windowsill? This problem is your fault.)


Of all the pies, why S’Mores Pie? And why make two of them in two days? Fair question, and the answer can be found in a snippet of a conversation that happened several weeks ago now in my grandparents’ backyard between my BFF (as the Goobie girls would call her) Molly, and me.

Read More

Our People, and Summertime Fruit Dip

Dear Joey,

One of the hardest parts about moving was putting distance between ourselves and our people. But one of the easiest parts about moving is being close to our other people again. But my heart is divided because to be there means being with those people. To be here means being with these people. I love them all.


There are people here, there are people there–shoot, we have people all over the place. We have people right across town, over the hills, up the valley in Napa and down the road in San Diego; we have people in the Midwest and people up North and down South and people all close enough to the Atlantic to go for a quick dip if the mood struck them. Our people are everywhere.


But distance makes it difficult to see them very often–even the ones across town–and proximity matters when it comes to building friendships. It’s the people nearby that we end up living our lives with. Friendship is forged in the trenches of the daily, and enough small talk over time builds into something much bigger. Strangers turn into people we trust enough to pick our kids up from school in a pinch, and before we know it, they’re the people we live with, lean on, and love. It’s hard to say goodbye to that sort of security, even harder to start over.


When I think about all our people, I wonder which ones will dissolve into a fuzzy memory as the years continue to slip by and which ones will remain a fixture in our hearts and home. Whose kids will our Goobies remember growing up with? Which ones will eek their way into their hearts and become their people? Who will we call at midnight when an emergency jerks us out of sleep? Which ones will hop on a plane if tragedy strikes? Who will show up to wave goodbye if our story leads us elsewhere and we move farther away than just across the hills? Who would pick up the phone at 10pm to settle an argument over cult classic movies and laugh with us as we bicker over whose favorite nostalgic movie was more important in the scheme of things: Mall Rats or Shag: The Movie?


People move, and people move on. Out of sight, out of mind because what’s right in front of us demands our attention more than keeping up with people who aren’t in our immediate, day-to-day circle. The demands on our time shout loudly above the need of our hearts–to connect–and sometimes, friendships falter because of it. Keeping up with all the people all the time is hard. I wish I could be in both places (or really, all the places), all the time. I can’t, of course, but I think about all the people all the time. And I also wonder what new people are out there ahead of us, waiting for us to open our circle and extend our hands to them.


Maybe that’s why we made the hour long drive to see our not-so-far-away people to swim and grill and indulge in their hospitality, pretending we’re far away and on vacation together. Maybe that’s why we keep asking our local people to come play at a moment’s notice, grilling and letting kids play outside until well after bedtime. Maybe that’s why I’ve made this fruit dip so many times this summer: when I’ve felt displaced, unsettled, and uncertain about where to plant my heart, this dip steadies me. Some people look at old pictures of the people they love (I seldom remember to snap them); others pick up the phone and call (I always feel like I’d be an inconvenience), but me? I cook because making recipes like this one is like grabbing the hand of an old friend while extending the other hand to a newer one, and I am safe, balanced right there between them both.



Summertime Fruit Dip (GF/DF/NF)


When one of our people came to visit this summer, it just felt right to whip up a batch of fruit dip–a creamy, dreamy wonder to which she introduced me well over ten years ago (thanks Felicia!). I couldn’t make her dip the conventional way (with regular old cream cheese), but I found a way to make a dairy free version that fooled my own mother. I’ve made it several times since that early summer morning well over a month ago now and one thing proves true: everyone loves it (not just the kids: it’s become a guilty pleasure among adults in our circle who tend to have difficulty with self-control around this stuff.) I recommend the Trader Joe’s brand Vegan Cream Cheese because I’m pretty much devoted to its clean, non-vegan flavor, but you could certainly substitute other brands that are accessible nationwide (such as Daiya), but DO NOT SKIP the lemon juice if you go the non-dairy route–it adds that little bit of zing regular cream cheese usually gives the dip. Of course, use regular cream cheese if your people don’t have issues with dairy. If you use another brand, taste and tweak as needed until the end result suits your fancy. 

  • 1-8 oz. tub cream cheese (try dairy free!)
  • 1-7 oz. tub Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff (or try homemade vegan fluff using aquafaba!)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (a MUST when using dairy free cream cheeze!)

Whisk together all ingredients until fully combined. Chill for an hour or so to help firm it back up again. Serve with an assortment of fruit (strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe are our favorites).

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

Dear Felicia,

Too long. It’s been too long since we’ve seen you. The last time was when Mia was still just a baby, one that fit snugly in your arms, wide-eyed and curious about an unfamiliar face cooing at her, nuzzling her. Addie was old enough to be timid around you, but innocent enough to believe us when we said she was your friend, that you loved her. That she was safe with you. We said the same thing to both girls this time around, and while they believed us, they were wary of you because nevertheless, you were still a stranger to them.

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

And then there was the little guy who eyed you suspiciously, not really sure what to make of you. He’s old enough to understand that when unfamiliar people show up, it usually means we are headed out the door. Before long, you made friends without forcing yourself on any of them. You were simply you, comfortable and alive in your roll of Auntie, as if no time had passed at all. Wiping up sticky popsicle hands, fawning over princess dresses, playfully urging Addie to be bold and showing our kids what it means to love, sight unseen. Encouraging them to have happy plates, and showing them that you were, in fact, the same Auntie Fee Fee we talk about every time we praise them for having a happy plate.

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

When you let us know you were coming, it was our instinct to celebrate. Joey and I imagined a big dinner with the whole gang back together again, sipping ice cold Moscow Mules while the kids ran around the warm summer evening, strangers separated by time turned to fast friends by virtue of just being together. In our imagination, there was no rush, no stress, not an ounce of weirdness that sometimes comes along with seeing faces you haven’t seen in awhile. The stories, laughter, wine and time never ran out.

But time does run out, and the gumption to throw a big party faded and was replaced by embarrassment that we didn’t keep up with everybody the way we used to when you lived here. Why is it that it took you coming all the way to California to show me just how distant everyone else had become?

There’s no real answer to that question, of course. Time forces us forward into new seasons. Sometimes we jump right in, eager to leave old things behind and experience something new, and other times we resist. Sometimes we realize things are changing, and other times we don’t. In this case, I think it’s a good mix of all of those things. And I think that’s ok.

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

Wouldn’t it be fun though–and easier on you, perhaps–to have everyone who loves you here in California gathered in one place? We could give you the same sort of welcome you always give to us. I’m sorry we didn’t make that happen for you. Maybe we can make it up to you the next time you come to visit.

We were sad to see you go so quickly, as I knew we would be. Seeing you for three hours was not long enough for our greedy selves who wanted to soak up a little more Felicia before the sun went down that night. But having you here for even that little blip in time reminded Joey and me of who we were before our lives took the turn that brought us to the place we are now as a family. It connected our kids to the bigger picture of what brought us to the place we are now. What a gift.

So thank you for visiting us, for carving out a time to enter and enjoy our new world. You are gold, Felicia Bond, and I love you. We love you. And I think I speak for all of California when I say, hurry back. We miss you.


Confetti Quinoa Salad

Too Long and Not Long Enough, and Confetti Quinoa Salad

This salad is basically a riff on the quinoa salad we always serve with spicy herbed chicken. While that version is fairly plain (bell peppers and green onions only), this one has a little more pizazz, sort of like dressing up an everyday knit sundress with dangly earrings and sparkly sandals. It’s a perfect summer side dish, cooling and light, bursting with sun-kissed flavor. Add black beans if you wish. Or red chili flakes. Or grilled chicken.  Pretty much accessorize as you like, adding your own style as you go.


1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow) diced
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 large English cucumber, diced (alternatively, peel and dice a regular old cucumber)
1 cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Rinse one cup quinoa. In a small saucepan, combine rinsed quinoa. 2 cups water and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, and then fluff with a fork. Cool completely.

After the quinoa is cooked and cooled, toss it with diced vegetables, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

On Being Shy and Making Friends, and Baked Blueberry French Toast

Dear Joey,

It’s very strange to coach someone else through the process of making friends. I’ve never felt particularly good at making friends myself, so walking Addie through the process is teaching me new lessons and forcing me to face a few deep-seeded fears. For instance, to make a friend, you must first speak to someone else and they have to listen to you. And then, you have to keep speaking and they have to keep listening, and vice-versa. All very difficult for a formerly “shy” child like me.

I was a slow-to-warm sort of child, observant, soft-spoken. I liked to watch the action a little bit before I felt comfortable enough to join in. This, of course, made me appear snooty, aloof, shy. Along the line, that word – shy – was attached to me as if it were part of my name. I wasn’t just Rachel; I was Shy Rachel. I guess that’s ok, in some ways. I acted shy a lot of the time, so to the outward observer, it must have been natural to assume that I was shy. Eventually, though, whether because of labels others put upon me or not, shyness became central to who I believed I was. It wasn’t just a way I felt or acted; it was a label that identified me as incapable of engaging with others in a healthy, normal way. I carried that lie with me for years, filtered every interaction through that lens, and I saw the world as a big scary place filled with intimidating people and situations.

As an adult, I am still observant and somewhat soft-spoken, though I’m not sure many people would classify me as shy these days (only took 30 years to get to that point). Now, though, I find myself revisiting this issue again in our daughter. Addie is definitely not shy, and in many situations she warms up immediately and shows her true colors immediately, both the good and the not so good. However, in no less than a dozen situations over the last few months people have called her shy – with her listening to them intently – and have thus labeled her as a shy child.

I know she heard them and took what they said to heart because she told me the other day that she is shy, to which I responded that she was not shy. And we argued about it a bit. “Yes, I am shy,” she insisted. But instead of even saying things like, “You’re just acting shy” I have switched my word choice to avoid that word altogether. In my mind, the word has a bad connotation to it that I don’t want her to associate with who she actually is. (Synonyms include timid, diffident, afraid, fearful, distrustful, reluctant, sheepish, nervous).  

Perhaps I’ll tell her she is demure, thoughtful, and intentional. Or perhaps I’ll just tell her that sometimes it takes her a little bit of time to feel at ease with people. I want to teach her to be friendly and polite and to respond to people when they engage her, to not be fearful of unfamiliar people or situations, and to be confident in who she is, whether she is loud and gregarious or observant and introspective. And I’ll tell her that it’s ok to want to be alone, that it’s ok to need to be alone, and there is a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7). But more difficult than that, I am earnestly trying to live out the best advice on how to make friends that was ever given: treat others as you would want them to treat you (Luke 6:31). In other words, to have a friend, you must be a friend. 

Friendship is a sticky business because relationships are hard. Establishing them, maintaining them, growing them. It takes vulnerability, follow through, and a great deal of risk. Things could go wrong, things could get messy. Someone may not accept you right away. Someone may eventually reject you. Haven’t we been living this lately as we build friendships with new people? I hope our own efforts are showing her that friendship is worth the risk of rejection. It’s worth the work. It’s worth the occasional inconvenience because in the end, we would want someone to love us enough to be willing to be inconvenienced for us.


Addie has a good number of friends, young and old, boys and girls, near and far away. She asks about them, checking in on them when she hasn’t seen them in awhile, and she even prays for her most special ones, unprompted.  This girl is anything but shy, and I’m sure that in the coming years, she’ll show that truth in ways we can’t even imagine.


The first time I made this recipe, I gave it away to new friends who had just had a baby. Since then, I’ve made it many, many times (and it’s just as good made gluten free!). It’s my new vote for brunch or potlucks or Christmas morning breakfast because not only is it delicious, it is incredibly easy to make. There is very little fuss involved to put it together and doesn’t even have to sit overnight!

More Alike Than Different, and Flexible Grilled Flank Steak

Dear Joey,

Our kitchen table is in storage. The table we eat at now isn’t actually a table, so much as a footstool. A footstool with wooden trays on it that are usually cluttered with dolls or crayon wrappers or a half-eaten piece of toast or finally, after the kids are asleep, some semblance of a dinner fit for adults.

As it turns out, we aren’t the only people who eat dinner far after a “normal” dinner hour. Take Molly and Jeff: turns out that they also have been known to eat dinner after their kids are asleep, if not on a regular basis, then frequently enough for me to feel like we aren’t alone in this habit. And although I don’t want this to be our way of life forever, it does have its charm, too. Eating without interruptions? So worth the late hour.

But anyway, Molly and I talked about one such dinner just a couple of days after Valentine’s Day this year. I remember the conversation because we had gone down to her house for our first visit since last summer just a few short days after Valentine’s Day, and over the course of our conversation we discovered that we both had the same idea of what constituted a special Valentine’s dinner these days: grilling a good piece of meat at home and cracking open a bottle of wine after the kids were asleep. It turns out they had grilled flank steak too, using a marinade that was nearly identical to the one we used, save for just a few ingredients that although not identical, were interchangeable (honey for the brown sugar, for example). It was in hearing Molly’s steak recipe that once and for all convinced me that we are more alike than different.

More Alike Than Different

Molly and I couldn’t be more different, in many ways. We’re opposites in hair color and eye color, for one (and strangely Addie looks more like her than she does me), not to mention the fact that she is outgoing and gregarious; I tend toward being more reserved and soft-spoken. She likes Almond Roca and raspberries and Old English poetry while I could easily pass on all three. But after giving it a lot of thought (it has been almost two months since Valentine’s Day, hasn’t it?), I realize that there isn’t much to add to this list of differences. Either the older we get, the more we have in common, or the older we get, the more I realize we always had in common.

We both love strong coffee in chunky Starbucks mugs, and reading challenging books and watching Disney movies. We love brownies and Le Creuset cookware and black tea and Jesus. We think strawberries pretty much rule and could eat a whole package of Oreos on our own if our good sense didn’t tell us not to. We both find European decor both charming and attractive, and we both love a good hoodie.

I’ve been wishing we lived closer to the Nelson family for a long time now, but after this particular visit, I realized just how much I wish we lived down the street from them, close enough for me to knock on her door, unannounced, kids in tow, and be welcomed in for an afternoon gab fest over a glass of malted milk and graham crackers slathered with chocolate frosting.

Life changes all the time, but some things never change. Molly is that for me, a constant, I mean. The sort of friend that will always be my friend, though she changes and I change and things change. And I love that about her.

Funny how a simple recipe for grilled steak can make me realize this simple truth, isn’t it?

Love, Scratch

Flexible Grilled Flank Steak (GF/DF/NF)

More Alike Than Different

See that cookbook cracked open on the counter? It’s open to a recipe known as “Tony’s Steak,” a  recipe I used as my guide for our Valentine’s dinner this year. I made a few alterations to the original recipe based on what I had on hand, and it worked so well that I may never make the recipe as it was originally written (which reinforces the fact that this marinade is truly a flexible one). This is my version; for the original, head over to Dinner: A Love Story. (You’ll also find a pretty picture of the way the steak looks once cooked, a picture I failed to snap. But I promise, ours turned out perfectly.)


1/3 cup low sodium Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 T brown sugar (or use honey to taste instead)
1 T olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp Tabasco Sauce
Juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pound flank steak


Put all ingredients in a ziplock bag (or really, any container) and smush around until well mixed. Add the steak and smush everything around again, making sure to coat the meat well. Let sit for four hours (or longer). Grill about four minutes per side and then let rest for 10 more minutes. Slice against the grain.

This steak was the perfect complement to this wine, which is one of our favorites.