{Goodbye School Year}

Goodbye school year. Hello summer.

The end of a school year is filled with so many emotions. The last few summers have really stopped me in my tracks and made me think about how quickly the years pass. I find myself reflecting on my teaching of course, but on everything else too.

My kids have grown so much. Moved on to new milestones and phases. Their baby faces growing more big kid each month. I feel so sad for moments to be done already, but so hopeful for the years to come. I always am reminded I only have 18 summers that they are mine. I need to make the most of them. Memorable. Quality. Present. Filled with love. Connections. Sticky fingers. Ice cream. Sandy feet. Lake water. Summer strolls. Swimsuits. New adventures.

The end of the school year challenges me to think about if I’m living my life in the way that makes me happy and fulfilled. If I’m being honest, I’m not. I’ve got some things to work on. How can I make mornings less rushed? Playtime more connected and make the most of family time during the school year? How can we make more moments to connect as a family and not just follow the routine of what has to be done? How do I fill up their cups and still meet the demands of life? How do I fill up my own cup?

The end of the school year is a chance to try new things. Slow down some. I look forward to new adventures, travels and places this summer.

The end of a school year is also a chance to see how far we’ve come. How much we’ve grown, and how much life can throw the unexpected our way, but that despite the challenges you somehow end up ok. A new normal takes over.

And grown we have. A year ago we had just received a preliminary food allergy diagnosis for my daughter and we were waiting to see our new allergist. A week later our lives changed forever. No grains or bananas of any kind for our daughter until at the earliest she’s 2-3 years old. Worse case scenario-ever. It didn’t seem so horrible at first until you start reading food labels. Corn is in everything.

This end of school year I celebrate how far we’ve come. What once seemed so overwhelming, challenging and impossible has become our norm. Our sweet Aria girl is growing and thriving without an entire food group. As a family we’ve learned so much and changed so much too. You can’t unlearn and unread what you’ve seen. It has changed us for the better and made us stronger. I know that whatever challenges we are given we can overcome them.

We’ve learned how to meal prep like a boss. We know that wherever we go that might occur over meal time or where food is offered we must bring our own. We know that when we go to restaurants, we must still bring our daughter’s food. We know every eating surface must be washed before she sits to eat. We know to watch other toddler’s hands for snacks she can’t have. Our love for Starbucks is just so big because mama loves coffee, but also because they actually have snack foods our daughter can eat.

This school year I cut, prepared, packed, dated, labeled and carried 180some breakfasts, lunches, containers of almond milk and breast milk, and days worth of snacks every work day for her to eat each day at daycare. Every night we washed those containers and repacked them for the next day. Despite it feeling more normal it was never easy.

We are embracing the world of a young toddler who wants what others have, but doesn’t understand why she is the only one who can’t. Mama and Aria twin at eating a lot to make her feel more a part of the group. If I eat what she eats she doesn’t seem to mind so much.

We are constantly looking for grain alternatives and reading food labels in hopes we might find a new food for her to eat. We have the opposite problem of most toddler parents in that she often will only eat fruits and vegetables. She’s never had candy, juice, fast food, processed anything, or sweets other than fruit sweetened or honey sweetened on a rare occasion. Lara Bars are her treat.

She can’t eat the birthday cake at the party. She can’t have the doughnut on the family stop. She can’t have the candy when trick or treating. She can’t have the treat at daycare. She can’t enjoy the family tradition desserts on holidays. We try to find alternatives to make her feel included but its not always possible. It’s a hard lesson she just has to learn.

Her brother has learned many of the things Aria can’t have saying, “Aria can’t have that. She’s allergic.” When he’s not sure, he asks if she can have it. He’s learned to eat almond flour crackers and pancakes because they really are pretty good and we aren’t always getting two kinds of things. It’s also safer that way. He knows to pick up food she can’t have in case she might get it. As parents we are expert scanners of our surroundings at all times. Think of how often someone accidentally leaves something out unintentionally where a curious toddler is just waiting to find it.

As a family we’ve had to change how we budget. We’ve given up haircuts and colors and nights out to spend significantly more on food each month. We know it’s healthier for all of us so it’s not the sacrifice it seems. Plus many people don’t get Aria’s allergy and mistake what foods she can have so leaving her with others is still scary for us.

Having a ten month old at the end of last summer eating virtually no solids due to her previous violent reactions to food before will do that to you. Seeing your child’s growth slow on the growth charts will scare you like that. Thankfully we always had breastfeeding to carry us through until a few months ago.

This school year we’ve grown, celebrated, struggled, faced challenges and overcame. Here’s to looking ahead to the next year. Looking to the unknown. The fun filled days of sweet summer. Those slow down and smile moments with kids. Reflecting on what we have, where we are headed and how far we’ve come.

I’m ready for this summer thing!

Sarah

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