Smartter Each Day - In the News - Can I Eat Here
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Smartter Each Day

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Smartter Each Day, Jessica shares her family's journey with food allergies

Jessica Smartt is a loving mom of a child with food allergies. With her own blog, Smartter Each Day (No the title of this interview was not misspelled), Jessica takes time to share tips, recipes, and relate to other parents. With her son Sam having multiple food allergies, Jessica has many stresses, fears, surprises, and victories. She works hard to find the good in a tough situation and focusses on her faith to get her through the hard times. 


1. How old was Sam when he was diagnosed with food allergies? How did you know something was wrong?

"Sam was extremely colicky as a baby. Not just fussy…miserable. He was not a happy, flourishing baby. He was so unhappy that for the longest time he didn’t make eye contact with anyone, which was very scary. Our pediatrician actually referred us to a pre-autism screening program when he was three months old, because she was concerned at his lack of eye contact. Shortly after, we discovered he was allergic to milk, we changed his diet, and he behaved like a different baby! Now he is the most talkative, energetic, people-oriented little four-year-old. I had no idea that diet issues could have such a profound impact on behavior!


We discovered his allergies by kind of a 'fluke' method. In the midst of all the screaming and colic, my mom remembered that I had been allergic to milk as a baby. She dabbed milk on her finger and rubbed in on his cheek, just to see what would happen. He broke out in a huge rash! At twelve months, we had him tested, and realized in addition to milk, he was allergic to eggs and peanuts."


2. What has been the most challenging part of these allergies? How have you overcome this?


"The most challenging thing for me has been the fear of being in social situations. Sam, at four years old, has an anaphylactic, life-threatening allergy to milk, and he is also contact-reactive to it (he gets a hives and swelling where it touches him). Needless to say, milk is everywhere. I hate feeling like I have to watch him and his surroundings like a hawk, but if I don’t, it could be dangerous for him. Slowly, we’ve found situations we’re comfortable with…soccer leagues, Sunday School classes, etc. I am fortunate to have many kind friends and family members who go above and beyond to keep him safe."


3.How do you handle his allergies during school?


"In a nutshell, we are homeschooling. I am a former teacher, and actually told my husband while I was pregnant (obviously before I knew Sam had allergies) that I wanted us to homeschool. This past year I taught a preschool in our home with a few other children (one of whom also had severe allergies). However, I do plan to have Sam involved in various groups, lessons, and teams while homeschooling. I’m not sure how we will handle that all. I know that it will require a lot of communication!"


4. How have his allergies positively impacted your lives?


"I cook more; I have to. As a result, we eat out less (which at times is sad, but mostly, much healthier!). The food I make is from-scratch and has to include lots of nourishment, since Sam can’t eat milk, eggs, or peanuts. I’ve learned how to make just about anything allergy-friendly!"


5. Let's talk about your blog. Why did you start it? What are your goals with it? 


"I’ve blogged at Smartter Each Day for four years. I started it for probably the same reason many new moms start blogs…I had a lot to say and no one to listen! Blogging is a tremendous outlet for me to share everything I learn – about recipes, my faith and fears, parenting, homeschooling, and more. It’s been exciting to see it grow and hear moms all over have many of the same thoughts and feelings I do!"


6. If you can offer any advice to parents who are scared and going through similar circumstances, what advice do you give them?


"A tremendous resource for me has been Kids with Food Allergies. This active, national forum is a place I can ask many questions, from the more-serious 'What-do-I-do-next?' kind of questions to things like, 'What brand of hot dog is safe for my son?'

And for me, educating myself helped me feel less fear. I read everything I could get my hands on. I asked a million questions. The more I knew about what anaphylaxis looks like, when reactions can occur for Sam, what does and doesn’t have our allergens, etc. etc., the better I felt.

Of course, nothing can ever take away the fear and uncertainty that comes with raising a child with severe allergies. For me personally, it’s been a reminder that I am not in control of my life, and I can choose to lean on God for strength and peace."

Jessica Smartt is a former middle-school teacher who lives in beautiful North Carolina. You can find her blogging at “Smartter” Each Day where she enjoys poking fun at the everyday challenges of motherhood, sharing delicious allergy free recipes, and rejoicing that God still loves her no matter what phobia she has recently developed. She is blessed beyond belief with two Smartt little boys and a husband who can fix anything.