Advice for all the Momma’s that have kids leaving for college

By June Headley-Greenlaw

I wanted to share some advice in this blog for all the parents that just moved their kids into college.  I feel like having taught a freshman orientation class at the University of South Carolina for 14 years and having moved two of my own children into college; I may have some insight.

Here are some things you should encourage your new college student to do:

  • Have them get to know their instructors early in the semester.
    • Go visit instructors at the beginning of the semester, don’t wait until you need them
    • Visit them during office hours and introduce yourself and let them know how important their class is to you.
    • Instructors are people too and they are teaching for a reason.  Most of them want to guide students and they enjoy getting to know them.
  • Take stock of all the resources available to students.  Most campuses offer Supplemental Instruction (SI) sessions for classes they have identified to be particularly difficult for students.  There may be free tutoring available.
  • Advise your child to make use of as many meal swipes as possible.  If they don’t have time for a meal, go get some fruit, chips, granola bars or whatever else might be offered that you can take in your book bag to class with you or back to your room for a late night snack.  You’ve already paid for it!
  • Have your student do a “schedule at a glance”.  Print out blank calendars and fill in all assignments from each syllabus so that you can see now where your trouble spots will be and prepare for them.  This is an assignment I gave to all my freshman and many of them verbally thanked me for forcing them to get it done.
  • familyRemind them often to use good judgement.  Moving away from home is tough and there are a lot of pressures in their first year.  It’s easy to get caught up in activities that they don’t realize may be detrimental to them later.  I often used the phrase in class “remember decisions you make today could affect the rest of your life”.  I meant that very literally and gave them examples.  The decision tonight to have unprotected sex could lead to an unexpected pregnancy and could change the rest of your life.

Remind yourself not to be hurt if they don’t call often.  They will be extremely busy getting acclimated, making friends, and doing all the things for themselves that you would normally do for them.  They still love you.  They are just doing their best to show you that they are all grown up!

Be a PAL

By Rachel Sircy

With a new school year fast approaching, I thought it would be a great time to address a serious subject that both you and your kids should be up on: Food Allergy Bullying.

Let me begin with a personal story that was really the catalyst for me wanting to get involved in this anti-bullying campaign. Of course, it’s no secret that I have celiac disease, which is not a gluten allergy, but an intolerance of gluten. What this means for me is that, thankfully, gluten doesn’t cause an anaphylactic reaction. I don’t get rashes when I eat gluten and there’s no danger of my throat swelling shut. So, this personal story, which is really two stories, is about someone else that I know. The first story is one I’m going to tell on myself. I have a daughter who is a very, VERY picky eater. For the longest time one of the only foods I could get her to eat was peanut butter sandwiches. One Wednesday night my husband and I were running late to church and our daughter (we refer to her as HRH or “Her Royal Highness”) hadn’t eaten anything for dinner. She was only about 18 months old at the time and so, I felt like I couldn’t make her go for an entire church service without dinner. So, I made a peanut butter sandwich and put it in a plastic sandwich bag in her diaper bag. HRH ended up eating the sandwich in the church nursery right before church started and I thoughtlessly threw away some of the crusts (which had peanut butter smeared on them) in the trash can. A friend of mine from church who has a severe allergy to all nuts ended up having to leave church that night because she started having an allergic reaction to something in church. Now, I didn’t put two and two together at first. In fact, I didn’t even see her family get up and leave in the middle of the service. I never would have had any idea that I was the one who probably caused her reaction if the pastor had not announced that this woman and her family had had to leave due to an allergic reaction. He asked that we all be more mindful of what we ate before we came to church and he mentioned (though he didn’t ask anyone to confess) that part of a peanut butter sandwich had been found in the nursery trash can.

You can imagine how awful I felt in that moment.

Despite having an allergy to all nuts that is so severe that merely being in the presence of nuts or of nut butter could set off an allergic reaction, my friend told me that she has been unable to afford to get an EpiPen for a long time. This may not sound like a real problem in a country where most people can afford their medications and where there almost always seems to be a way to get your hands on what you need. However, there has been an incredible price spike in these life-saving syringes in recent years and even more recently, there has been a shortage of EpiPens, so that even those who can afford them cannot buy as many as they may need (most people carry two EpiPens on them at a time because one dose of epinephrine may not be enough to open a person’s airways during anaphylactic shock). What this means for a serious allergy sufferer is that they must take their allergies more seriously than they ever have before. But, what can an allergy sufferer do when the people around them refuse to take their allergy seriously? The second part of this story is one that this particular friend told me herself about 2 separate encounters that she had while flying out of state.

Her first encounter was on her way out of state. As she was boarding the airplane, she let one of the flight attendants know that she had a severe nut allergy and that simply being in the presence of any kind of nut could set off a reaction. The flight attendant stated that almonds were to be served as the in-flight snack and that there was nothing that they could do to change that. So, my friend loaded up on Benadryl and prayed. Thankfully, nothing happened.

On her flight home, she again informed a flight attendant – this one much more helpful than the first one – that she had a nut allergy. She was told by this particular flight attendant that snacks other than nuts were available and that they would serve those instead of the almonds. Unfortunately, there are no regulations as to the snacks that passengers can bring onto the airplanes for themselves, and so sometime after take off the passenger directly in front of my friend opened a bag of shelled peanuts – peanuts being the most dangerous allergen for this particular person – and started cracking them open. My friend and her sister moved quickly to get a flight attendant to change their seats and again my friend loaded up on Benadryl and her sister wrapped her face in a scarf, to keep her from breathing in any of the dust that might be floating backward to her through the stale cabin air. Seats were changed, prayers were answered and nothing bad happened. But this was a very serious close call.

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Now, you might be saying to yourself (or to me through your computer screen) that none of these incidents was actually an act of bullying. (Well, actually the incident with the first unhelpful flight attendant was really bordering on bullying.) However, these were all stories of simple acts of thoughtlessness that could have ended a person’s life. Consider that for a moment.

And now, consider that approximately 1 in 13 children in America have food allergies and that approximately one-third of those children report having been harassed solely on the basis of their allergy. You can type “food allergy bullying” into Google and read story after story of children with food allergies not only being made fun of, but actually being threatened and sometimes physically attacked with the foods that have the potential to end their lives. One New York Times article cites 6 different incidents of children who have been purposely threatened and attacked with allergens. One of the mothers of the children featured in this article stated that though children may think that they are just playing pranks on people with food allergies, they are actually threatening the allergy sufferers with deadly weapons. In one incident a 14-year-old girl who was hi-fived by a classmate who had smeared pineapple juice on her hand was hospitalized. According to this article in the Washington Post which covered the story, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/01/26/3-teens-charged-with-knowingly-exposing-allergic-classmate-to-pineapple-she-was-hospitalized/ the girl’s allergy to pineapple was well-known to her classmates and the hi-five was intended to cause an allergic reaction. The classmate who intentionally caused the reaction has been charged with felony aggravated assault in juvenile court.

Even if the pranks don’t end in hospitalization or a severe reaction, the psychological toll that this kind of bullying has on children can be overwhelming. Another one of the heart-breaking stories from the above-mentioned Times article cites an incident where a child was taunted at lunch by his friends with a peanut butter sandwich. These so-called friends waved the sandwich and said “Let’s see if he dies.” Other children have had peanut butter or dairy products smeared on them. Many children who have food allergies dread school and some of them fake illness to avoid going to school at all. As a parent of a young child, I cried reading some of these stories. I felt immensely grateful that my daughter hasn’t shown any signs of food allergies. It also made me wonder what my family can do right now to make our community – the greater Columbia area – a more compassionate and safer place for those with severe food allergies. I didn’t have to search very long before I found the answer.

First of all, we can become more thoughtful people. Being thoughtful means we need to consider the snacks that we choose to eat and feed our children in public. There are so many alternatives to allergy-trigger foods out there. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the Enjoy Life brand of foods became a lifesaver to me – and it might be a lifesaver to someone with a food allergy. Enjoy Life produces cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, snack bars, etc. that are free of the all of the most common food allergies – eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, nuts, etc. Need to know what to bring to your child’s class party? How about some Enjoy Life cookies? They are delicious and safe. I’ve fed them to my picky eater ever since that peanut butter sandwich mistake in the church nursery. She absolutely loves them. I also started giving HRH some Enjoy Life Sunbutter Snack bars. They are perfect for when you’re in a hurry and you want to give your child something at least semi-healthy to eat that is also safe for everyone around her. They taste like peanut butter but are made from sunflower seed butter which is allergy friendly. Actually, I love those snack bars. Once I ate all of my kid’s snack bars and felt terrible about it, so I had to go out and buy more.

And, we can teach our kids to Be a PAL. The Be a PAL campaign (the PAL stands for Protect a Life) is part of a wider anti-bullying campaign. It aims to educate both children and parents about the dangers of food allergies and it encourages children to help protect and stand up for children that they know might be bullied because of their allergies. You can read more about the Be a PAL campaign and also find free printables and other resources here: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/be-a-pal

While the Be a PAL campaign is targeted at younger children, the No Appetite for Bullying campaign is for children 13 or older, parents and also teachers and administrators. You can learn more about this campaign here: http://www.noappetiteforbullying.com/

No Appetite for Bullying encourages you to download their badge and share it on your social media to show your support for those with food allergies. You can find it on their website or right here:

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Columbia, SC is a city known for hospitality, and I think that makes this a great place to champion this cause. So, this school year, let’s educate ourselves, our teachers, school administrators and those in our community about the seriousness of food allergies and let’s work together to make Columbia a safe and friendly place for all people. What do you say?

Happy (I think) birthday!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I hope I’m not offending anyone here, but what’s up with these super-extravagant birthday parties for children? Even infants and toddlers who don’t know what day it is, much less that it’s their own birthday, are being feted like royalty.

A tattoo bar for a 3-year-old. Vegas-style showgirls at a bar mitzvah. Petting zoos of exotic animals. I’m not making this stuff up, although believe me, I wish I was. And that doesn’t even include the celebrity baby bashes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Whatever happened to regular, simple birthday parties for children: half a dozen youngsters, those cone-shaped party hats with the snap-prone elastic, a couple games of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and drop-the-clothes-pins-in-the-milk-bottle, some cupcakes and ice cream, and off you go. All done in about an hour, not counting the sugar-fueled hyperactivity and nap-deprived tantrums later in the day.

And please, invite other children — not the entire extended family, neighbors and anyone else who can be guilted into gifting the oblivious youngster. Yes, your offspring is incredibly adorable, but children’s birthday parties are for … well, children. (OK, grandparents get a pass.)

Now adult birthdays are another matter. April is major birthday season in our family, and I say you’re never too old to celebrate being above ground another year. Both my husband I have birthdays this month. However, the celebration usually consists of taking the day off work, a round of golf, dinner out at a nice restaurant and several cards (our cats are big on greeting cards for every occasion). Nary a unicorn in sight. And the only petting zoo will involve the aforementioned felines.

Milestone birthdays get a little extra treatment, especially those sneaking up on three digits. My mother-in-law turns 90 this month and we expect a couple hundred well-wishers at her drop-in (don’t worry, it’s not a surprise party like my father-in-law’s 90th last year). With that kind of crowd, we’re springing for a caterer, but there won’t be any caviar or edible gold whatevers. Unless you count pimento cheese.

Still, I wouldn’t mind if someone brought a unicorn.

Read to your Kids

By Jeanne Reynolds

I had to hear it a couple of times for it to sink in. When it did, I could hardly believe it.

“Here’s a great hack for your home virtual assistant device,” the radio announcer enthused. (For those like my husband who think a hack is a terrible golfer or someone who sneaks into your computer system, “hack” is current slang for a quick fix, trick or work-around.)

“You can get (name of device) to read your child a bedtime story!” she continued. “Just say, (name of device), read Billy a bedtime story. Then you both can sit back and listen until one of you falls asleep.”

This may be the single worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard. I mean, it ranks right up there with, “Here, eat this sausage dog right before you get on the roller coaster” and “Don’t worry, these bungee cords almost never break.”

Seriously? Take a beloved childhood ritual – one of the most important things you can do to help your child develop a love of reading that will reap untold lifelong benefits – and ask a machine to do it for you?

Now, I totally get how exhausted, frazzled and pulled in 7 directions parents of young children are at the end of the day, especially if they’re also holding down jobs outside the home. And reading a story may seem like another chore there’s just not enough time for. The digital voice is better than nothing, right?

No. It’s not.

Because that’s no more “reading” than is watching a movie version of a book. Both are entertaining, but very different. And just getting Billy to shut up and go to sleep is not what a bedtime story is all about. bedtime-story

Reading – seeing the words and pictures, turning the pages – is essential to a child’s future. Children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. And two-thirds who are still struggling by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

And it’s not just being able to read, but loving to read. A third of high school graduates never read a book after high school. Living in a house overflowing with books, and remembering trips to the public library as a highlight of the week as a child, this is harder for me to understand than black hole theory. And incredibly sad.

It’s one reason I’ve been volunteering for the past school year with Midlands Reading Consortium. Even though my pre-K student can’t read a lick (yet!), I’m trying to model the joy of reading and help him develop not just a skill but an avocation he’ll enjoy the rest of his life.

No batteries required.

Growing Babies Breaks Momma’s Heart

By Ashley Whisonant

My youngest child, Gray, was born a happy little guy. I had such a smooth delivery with him. I would even venture to say it was easy.

We are coming close to his fourth birthday in the next two weeks. I have mixed emotions about my baby becoming even more of a big boy. He is dying to grow up and do all the things his six year old brother does. I am getting less and less snuggles from him and more independence. It makes me both happy and sad to see him grow up.

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The quote that really stands out is, “Babies don’t keep.”

I will hold onto my baby as long as he lets me.

Learning to Love it All

By Ashley Whisonant

As my boys get older, I am trying hard to let them both be individuals. This is not always an easy task. See, my first-born little man is a rule follower. He is the ultimate people pleaser—a teacher’s dream. My second little guy, three going on thirteen, is a sweetheart with a wavy edge. His wavy edge makes him who he is, just as my oldest, straight-as-an-arrow makes him special. Embracing Gray’s wavy edge is not always in my toolbox as a mom.

For Thanksgiving, Gray’s preschool send home a blank turkey to decorate any way they pleased. Gray and I sat down and talked about some of the examples his teacher listed: clown, princess, etc. He listened as we discussed and then promptly requested his turkey be decorated as a “bad guy”. Now, my initial thought was, “What in the world?!?! You can’t go to preschool and have your bad guy turkey displayed for everyone to see!” His face was so excited to create a bad guy turkey with his momma. people-2942933_1280

So guess what? The best bad guy turkey is displayed in the hallway of his preschool-complete with an eye mask, Halloween creepy stickers, and a small heart for his momma on the bottom. Bad guy turkeys love their mommas too.

Just like Wreck It Ralph has taught us: Just because you are bad, doesn’t mean you are a bad guy.

When Did You Grow Up?

 By: Ashley Whisonant

The day I have been dreading has finally come. My oldest “baby” started kindergarten this morning. I held back my tears and we walked down his hallway and into the room that will mold him into the student he will become. My confident little guy went from attendance check in to lunch choice with ease. He gave me a hug goodbye and sadly did not look back. Here are all the words I wish I could have said…

You will always be my baby. You are the one that made me a mom. I didn’t know how much I could love someone else until I met you. I am a ball of emotions. I am both terrified and overjoyed for you. All the experiences you will have, good or bad, will make you into our future young man. Remember to help others, even when it isn’t the popular choice. Find your voice and use it for good. Kids can and will be mean. Do your best to surround yourself with sweet souls. Remember to be yourself. Love you my sweet boy.