Our family loves a good gathering. The more people the better as far as I’m concerned. I love to entertain and that entertainment usually…well always involves food of some sort. Birthdays, family time, football games, holidays, Pub Club, HALLOWEEN. Whatever the occasion, food seems to be the centerpiece of our gathering. Even this blog began around a table. My table. A place where my friends and family gather to eat and to connect and to converse.
I have been giving this a lot of thought lately. You see, I have friends for whom these gatherings where food is present is a very big issue, one that causes great anxiety. For families with members who have food allergies, diabetes and other dietary restrictions, a simple family birthday party can produce worries and awkward situations. So why so much focus on the food when we gather? Why isn’t the focus more about BEING together.
Let me introduce you to one of my many friends for whom this is a pretty big deal. L is the mom of triplets, 2 beautiful girls H & G and a heart breaker of a boy, E. H, E, and G were born the day before Halloween, which happens to be their parent’s favorite holiday (and mine too). Shortly after birth E was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder known as Prader Willi Syndrome. His parents have been educating themselves ever since his diagnosis and they share that information with their friends and family for greater understanding and acceptance of their situation. I’ll let L explain:
PWS, or Prader Willi Syndrome, is a complex genetic disorder and is the result of an abnormality on the 15th chromosome. The symptoms are likely due to dysfunction of the hypothalamus, which is essentially the control center of the brain for various bodily functions. At birth, infants are floppy and lack the sucking reflexes needed to eat. As they grow older, they gain strength and muscle tone. As they grow older, individuals with PWS suffer from an unregulated appetite and easy weight gain. They have a constant feeling of hunger, and some describe it as feeling as though they are STARVING 24/7, no matter how much they eat. Families must be vigilant in situations where food is present. Their metabolisms also generally function at about 60% of a normal person’s, so a carefully planned diet is necessary to prevent obesity. In addition, there are other symptoms which may include developmental delays, hormone imbalances, anxiety and behavior issues, learning disabilities, disrupted sleep cycles, scoliosis, a high pain threshold and other symptoms. It is a very complex syndrome that requires constant monitoring and care by medical professionals.
L shares so much of her knowledge with us and she’s talked a lot about what concerns she has as her beautiful trio grows, enters school, goes to parties. She knows their lives are headed for some difficult times and she is looking for ways to handle them now. She’s not really borrowing from tomorrow’s problems as much as she’s preparing for a tricky future.
Given that her babies will turn 2 the day before Halloween and that Halloween is a favorite of hers and hubby J, this is one she’s working on a lot lately. How does her family participate in something that doesn’t just revolve around food, but that revolves around SUGARY foods? Enter The Teal Pumpkin Project. L brought this project to my attention just recently and I LOVE the idea! Here’s more from L:
The Teal Pumpkin Project is important to our family because of our son’s PWS. Because of this, sugar and some other foods can be very dangerous for him. Halloween is one of our favorite holidays and his birthday happens to be October 30th. We want him to be able to celebrate and participate in Halloween and birthday activities safely, so we fully support the Teal Pumpkin Project.
I checked out this Teal Pumpkin Project for myself and I gotta say, I LOVE it! It’s easy to participate:
- plan to give out non-food prizes instead of or in addition to candy.
- Put a teal pumpkin out in front of your house
- print out a free sign or poster letting people know you are participating in the project and what sort of treats you will be handing out.
- add your house to the Crowd-Sourced interactive map (optional) so people know where to find non-food prizes in their area.
I will be participating because I love Halloween. If you have read this blog for long, you know just how much this holiday means to my family and me. I have so many fond memories of Halloween when I was a kid and I want as many kids as possible to be able to make their own fun memories, while their parents breath a sigh of relief for just a moment. I painted my Teal Pumpkin today.
I found this guy at the local Goodwill for $2.99 and I can’t wait to integrate him into our Nightmare Before Christmas themed yard! He will be prominently placed along with a laminated copy of the sign so that families who have kids with dietary differences will have a choice this year, and every year from here on.
We will be offering a choice of candy or a prize, kept in separate bowls. We have always given out full-sized candy, so we will be choosing prizes that are of an equal value to the candy bars. I’m thinking, slap bracelets, glow sticks, that sort of thing.
I am challenging each of YOU, my readers, to do this too! Consider giving out some sort of a non-food option this Halloween. It will bring a childhood joy to a kid and peace of mind to a mom who is always worrying about these food-centric activities for a change. This is for kids like my buddy E, and others like my Type 1 friends, my peanut allergy friends, my gluten allergy friends and more.
For those who do Trunk or Treat activities, why not put a Teal Pumpkin in your trunk and hand out some trinkets there too? Wouldn’t that look so neat? Include some non-food options in harvest parties and school activities too! There are so many ideas on the website and I know my readers are clever and can come up with some good ideas too!
So, go ahead, paint up a pumpkin, carve one if you like, the website for the Teal Project has templates for your pumpkins. Post your pumpkins below! I want to see them! I also want to see more teal markers join mine on the map! Most of all, I want everyone to come to the party and have a good time.
Here’s what L wants:
I wish everyone knew that PWS families want their children to grow up happy and as healthy as possible! We just may have to take a different path to make that happen. I’ve learned a lot about changing our diet as a family, and I’ve also learned a lot from those who have children with food allergies. We’re looking at situations with food with a whole new perspective, and food is EVERYWHERE. Rather than place food at the center of gatherings, we are focusing on bonding with our friends and family.
I think we have a lot to learn from L & J and their lovely family. Please, buy a few non-food items to hand out this year and put out a teal pumpkin. Teal is such a nice color too. It goes so nicely with my other Halloween decorations.