Chatting & Touring for DKTBG

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of participating in an online chat hosted at THE MOTHERHOOD on the topic of navigating food allergies around the holidays, particularly Halloween. My co-hosts included Lori Sandler, founder of Divvies Bakery (whose awesome ghost-chocolate is pictured here), Barbara Rosenstein from the Food Allergy Initiative, and Huffington Post writer/"Peanuts in Eden" blogger Susan Weissman. On the archive page you can view a transcript of the complete talk, but the folks at the site also put together a helpful summary that articulates seven primary tips:

-Take the Focus Off of Food 
i.e. emphasize costumes, house decorations, and games.

-Practice Allergy-Friendly Treating 
i.e. host parties or create treat routes entirely free of certain allergens.

-Empower Your Kids 
i.e. let kids be the ones to pick out of the basket, versus handing them candy.

-Think of New Uses for Candy 
i.e. focus on candy variety in terms of a scavenger hunt or Bingo card, instead of as food; or use as currency to trade in for safe prizes or even money, Tooth-Fairy style.

-Safety First 
i.e. guard against cross-contamination and unexpected sources of exposure, such as via masks and haunted houses.

-Be Available at Your Children’s Halloween Parties 
i.e. give the visual assurance that the party host is in on the food-allergy plan, from seeing them speak with parents to using color-coded serving ware.

-Take Care of Kids’ Emotional Needs 
i.e. pay attention to making kids feel not only secure, but included.

The conversation brought back memories of Halloweens past that I'd almost forgotten. My mother always let me put elaborate effort into my costumes, perhaps realizing that was the part of the holiday I could enjoy best. I remember one year my poster-board butterfly costume had a five-foot wingspan--and the tails unwisely extended below my waist, making for a rather comical effort to sit down at the cafeteria table when I got to school. I would ask my parents their favorite candies (Almond Joys, Mounds), so as to have something to hunt for in what were otherwise meaningless bowls full of chocolate treats. I was ecstatic at the sight of a Jolly Rancher or a mini-roll of Lifesavers. 

Helping run Haunted Houses, I'd tense up at the pumpkin "guts" or peeled grape "eyeballs" or squishy spaghetti bowls where people were asked to blindly plunge their hands. Even though none of those were allergens for me, it made me aware that food was on the loose. Cottage cheese "brains" didn't seem out of the realm of possibility. 

As venues go, I love The Motherhood. Everyone shares such a positive attitude--it is all about constructive volunteering of ideas--and the technical mode of chiming in couldn't have been easier or more user-friendly. I'll definitely return in the future. 

I logged in from a hotel room outside Birmingham, where the night before I had served as the inaugural guest of the Visiting Writer Series at Indian Springs School. So within 24 hours I connected with two very different audiences--the moms and the kids. It meant a lot to me to see teenagers buy Don't Kill the Birthday Girl not because they have allergies themselves, but because they were intrigued by the voice. Maybe it'll be the science that they remember, or maybe it'll be my goofy stories. Either way, maybe reading the book will foster a bit of compassion, too, even if they don't realize it...a serving of green vegetables hidden under the mashed potatoes.

These past few weeks have worn me out. Yesterday I woke up in Jackson; today in Greenwood; tomorrow, Oxford. Day 18 of life in a suitcase. Still, the conversations make it worthwhile. I never knew there were so many different kinds of readers in the world until I began touring for this book.