Category: Time For Self

5 Simple Steps to a Food Allergy Activity Plan

Food Allergy Activity Plan

The reality of food allergies

My daughter has life threatening food allergies to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.  We have always taken the attitude that even though life-threatening food allergies are categorized by IDEA law (Individuals with Disability Education Act) as a disability– we were not going to limit her activities.  If she was interested in a class or program we would figure out a way to make that happen.

Enter- the high school swim team.

We quickly realized that a swim team = A LOT of food.  These kids need to eat a bunch of calories to be able to have the energy required to swim 2 1/2 hours a day, 6 days a week for practice–let alone swim meets!   My daughter swims the 500-yard freestyle event which is 20 laps of the pool… you need fuel for that kind of endurance.

Nut products are easy to grab, high in protein and calories, and could send my daughter to the hospital in an ambulance if she came in contact with them.  That may sound overly dramatic, but the reality of the situation is that even touching a nut or a surface contaminated with peanut oil could send her into

That may sound overly dramatic, but the reality of the situation is that even touching a nut or a surface contaminated with peanut oil could send her into anaphylactic shock, she would need an Epi-Pen injection and she would have to be rushed to the ER in an ambulance.

That would not be the best way to end a swim meet that’s for sure!

Food Allergy Activity Plan in 5 easy steps

#1 We met with the coaches, teammates and set emails to parents to educate them about her food allergies.

#2 We updated her 504 medical plan to include instruction about how to handle after school activities.

#3 I put together this simple Food Allergy Activity Plan to allow other parents, coaches and friends to be able to still supply allergy friendly snacks and treats for meets.  Feel free to use this idea for your own children or students!

Click here:  Food Allergy Activity Plan Handout

Food Allergy Activity Plan

Food Allergy Activity Plan

#4 Ongoing communication is absolutely necessary in order to keep our food allergy kiddos safe.  We can not assume all of this is taken care of.  We have to be constantly reminding coaches, teachers, and trainers of the dangers associated with food allergies.

#5 Share your story.  It’s hard to talk about the times Sammie has almost lost her life because of her food allergies.  This is not a part of our lives we share frequently or in detail, but opening up and sharing our story has more impact than any activity plan or 504.  Let other adults and kids hear the fear in your voice.  Give them the opportunity to react with kindness and compassion.

Free Service for BWAL readers:

Putting together a food allergy activity plan is an individual process.  Every kid’s food allergies are different and the severity of their reactions range from only having issues if the food is consumed to it being in the air.

As a free service to my readers, I am happy to edit the format of this handout to your child’s specific needs– I can even change the colors so easily!  Just fill out this form and I’ll be in touch.  Right now my turn around on this free service is just a few days so if you have an upcoming sport or activity and want some extra training materials– I’m happy to help!

Just email me a few details through this form and I’ll be in touch to get the specifics.

As always, feel free to pass this along to any other food allergy parents.  We don’t have to be alone in this effort to keep our kids safe.  





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Weekly Inspiration List

Weekly Inspiration List

Once a week I hope to collect all of the inspiration I’ve found around me into one list– full of beauty, peace, and hope.  In the comments please add anything you have found to be inspirational and motivating!

My Weekly Inspiration List

#1 Improving my old, outdated kitchen cabinets has been a bit of an obsession for me and my Pinterest board lately.  My favorite article lately is 5 fast and easy ways to refresh your kitchen cabinets

Taking off the cabinet doors for open shelving is my latest idea… I’ll let you know if I get the guts to do it!  I guess I could always put them back on if I hate it.

I found a few real life kitchens that did this and I am in love.

Libby Grove Design did an amazing job on hers!

Kitchen Shelving

Photo Credit: Libbie Grove Design

Mom 4 Real chose great accent colors.

kitchen cabinets

Photo Credit: Mom 4 Real

#2 Cookie Monster Ice Cream!  We celebrated Spencer’s birthday this past weekend and had a Sesame Street themed party complete with an Elmo cake, a Sesame Street sing-along, and this amazing Cookie Monster Ice Cream.  Everyone loved it and it was a breeze to put together.


Photo Credit: Frugal Coupon Living

#3 While we are on the subject of birthday desserts–I love the simplicity of this Mississippi Mud Cake from Tastes Better From Scratch.  I can imagine our favorite egg-free chocolate cake as the base of this one to make it a food allergy friendly option!

Mississippi Mud Cake recipe from

Photo Credit: Tastes Better From Scratch

#4 I heard about this book “The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff” by Andy Andrews

I love the idea that there are small and simple things we can do each day to strengthen our energy and help us in our trials.

Here’s a little excerpt.  “Have you ever wondered why we spend so much time and energy thinking about the big challenges in our lives when all the evidence proves it’s actually the little things that change everything?  That’s right…  Absolutely everything.”  Andy Andrews

#5 I made a spiritual goal to find someone to be a cheerleader for every day this week.  I know I am at my best when I am thinking outside of my own situation and trying to uplift others.

Cheer for people. Support them. Encourage them. And do the same for you. Someone else's success has no determination on yours. Just because someone else shines doesn't mean you have to sit in the background. Drop competition. There is enough sun for everyone if you believe it & focus on your path. Once we realize this we are able to support ourselves and others. ☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️ #livquotes:

What can you add to this list?  Let’s be motivated and inspired together!

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5 FREE Ways to Beat a Winter Funk

Winter Funk

A few years ago- WAY before I ever had the thought to start this blog— I did a guest post for the blog Money Saving Mom about 5 ways to beat a winter funk.

We were experiencing one of the worst winters ever in St. Louis.  We blew through every snow day the school district had reserved and then some.  It seemed like every week my kids were home for a few days.

The result?  I was a moody, irritated mess of a caregiver who just wanted a bit of sun!

Today I will add a few more ideas for beating the winter blues:

  1. The caregiver curfew saves my sanity- no matter the weather!
  2. Having the understanding that I need to say No more often helps too.
  3. Remember, don’t should on yourself!
  4. I loved going back to this acceptance meditation– what a great reminder.
  5. Knowing why I do it is one of the biggest gifts I can give myself.

Taking my own advice

You may have noticed things have been radio silent on Bird With A List lately.  Let’s just say that my little world fell apart a few months ago.

We have 3 beautiful children and every one of them was going through something either physically or emotionally (or both) and many of those issues required me to spend hours researching and advocating for their needs.

Add to that all of the emotions of the holidays, missing my mom, dealing with Spencer’s aggression, worrying about Sammie at school to the point that every time she called I thought she was on her way to the hospital… it was a bit, well, much.

I was hanging on by a thread and didn’t even realize how small my thread was until things started calming down.   I held it together fairly well through the crisis, but almost everything extra was dropped.

So, my recent “funk” had nothing to do with the weather.  Feeling low and unmotivated and easily overwhelmed was in direct correlation to the situations I had no control over. The beauty of the 5 ways to beat a winter funk, however, is that you can apply them any time of year, under any circumstances.

If you are dealing with a low time right now and feeling a little beat up by life, remember you are not alone.  There’s at least one other caregiver out there just trying to get through the day too.

What do you do to beat that winter funk?


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Journal Prompt: write a letter

writing a letter

Writing Letters Journal Prompt

I have written many letters in my life.  Some were to people I could have just as easily called on the phone or emailed, but I figure everyone loves mail right?

Some of my favorite letters included those to:

  1. My future husband when I was 15 years old.  It was fun reading that to my husband on our wedding day.
  2. My child when I was pregnant.
  3. My grandchildren.  I’m not quite there yet!
  4. My mother who passed away 5 years ago about all the things she’s missed.  I usually do this one on her birthday.
  5. I have printed out emails from when my husband and I were dating.
  6. A friend in need of some encouragement.
  7. Myself in 10 years, 5 years, 1 year etc.
  8. My children.
  9. Thank you cards for small acts of kindness.
  10. A veteran who gave his or her life in service of our country.

Today, though, let’s write a letter to a friend in need.

Write a letter to a friend

Someone asked me recently to write an encouraging letter to a friend who needs help recognizing her worth.  She is feeling discouraged with life and is ready to give up on her dreams. She is beating herself up over small mistakes and not taking time to recognize how special she really is.  She is having trouble setting goals, feels hopeless, and can’t get motivated to try.

Here’s my letter:


I hope you have found your courage to start something that scares you.  You have special gifts that can and will bless others if you are open to the opportunities.

Many people give up.  You don’t have to!  Mistakes happen!  You do not have to be perfect.  You just have to be you.

Setting goals can be overwhelming, but lucky for us we can set tiny goals that we can use to move small steps forward. Give yourself permission to be a beginner!

Some days will be tough, but they are supposed to be.  We are not promised to sail through life without challenges.  Be gentle with yourself.

Remember to ask yourself “Who are you fighting for?” Maybe you can take a few minutes to ponder that question when things get tough.




The letter writing exercise

You can stop there and send that letter to your friend, but I was told to write my name at the top of that letter and read it when I was feeling discouraged.  We all can think of ways to cheer up a friend who is feeling low, but we don’t often do the same for ourselves.

I learned about this writing exercise and many other wonderful things at Christy Wright’s Business Boutique and I’ll be writing an honest review of her event soon for my newsletter subscribers.

For today though, write a letter to a friend and be sure to keep a copy in your journal to read when things get tough.

Do you write letters you will never send?






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10 Journal Prompts for the Caregiver


Bird With A List: Journal Prompts for the caregiver

Bird With A List is a blog dedicated to providing care for the caregiver and to advocating for the advocate.  Time management is so important in this task because those who are caregivers need to make time for what’s important—and that includes you!

We support you—the mom of small children, the adult child caring for her parents, the mom of a child with disability who is facing a lifetime of care giving.

These 10 journal prompts are for you—the caregiver.  Make the time for what’s important.  Try to find time for yourself as you plug along trying to get the job done.

Bird With A List

Click on the link below to print this document.


Love journal prompts?  Check out these other posts!

Love Lists

The AEIOU Miracle Journal Prompt

New to keeping a journal?  Try this method.

Remember, if you don’t take time to take care of yourself- who will?

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4 ways to handle the roller coaster ride of care giving

roller coaster

When people ask me “How’s Spencer doing?” my most common response is-

“Well, you know Spencer.  He’s a bit of a roller coaster ride.”

For those of you who are care givers for people with developmental disability, you get it.

Let me tell you a little bit about my little roller coaster ride.

roller coaster

  1. He is hilarious
  2. He is sweet
  3. He is kind
  4. He is compassionate
  5. He loves to laugh
  6. He loves, loves, loves preschool shows
  7. He is always on the go
  8. He thinks we should go to Target
  9. He loves animals and farms and specifically chasing chickens at farms
  10. He has significant developmental disability
  11. He requires a behavior plan at school to keep himself and others safe
  12. He goes through periods of time where he is aggressive toward others- staff, students, siblings, cousins, me.
  13. He has very little language- what they call functional language.
  14. He has Echolalia- he echos people, videos, books
  15. He laughs at inappropriate times
  16. He requires a lot of 1:1 help for basic needs
  17. He is adored by his family
  18. He loves to dance (if you count jumping around dancing)
  19. He loves the song “Feliz Navidad” and insists on listening to it all year long.
  20. He hurts sometimes and it makes me hurt.

If that’s not a roller coaster ride- what is?

It hurts to be a caregiver

The truth is it just plain hurts to be on the low end of the roller coaster ride.

As I write this, I’m in pain worrying about my child.  It hurts to work so hard on a solution only to have it all fall apart.  It hurts that I can’t just fix the problem.  I have to wait days or weeks to meet with a doctor or teacher or principal and then even longer to see any results of whatever plan we come up with.

What do you do when you are hurting?  How do you overcome the loneliness, the isolation, the hurt?

Today, I’ve discovered 4 simple ways to survive.  Maybe they can help you too.

roller coaster care giver

#1  Give yourself permission to hurt.  It’s OK to be disappointed.  Your plan fell apart.  He reacted badly to a new program at school or he isn’t responding to that new medication.  (or both, plus 3 other things)  It is painful to feel back at square one.  Grieve a little.  Live in the hurt for a little while- you owe it to yourself to acknowledge that it’s hard.

#2 Do something creative.  After you have lived in that hurt a bit, take some time out of it. Choose not to think about it.  Lose yourself in a writing project or take some pictures of the fall leaves or think about a new way to organize your front closet.  I don’t care what you do, but be creative.  Take a bit of a “coffee break” from thinking and obsessing about your loved one.  I promise you will come back feeling better and have more clarity about the situation.

#3 Accept.  I need to accept today that I can do nothing more than I’ve already done for my son to help him through this difficult time.  I can’t change things for him no matter how much I would love to take on the burden of his troubles.  I have spoken with those who may be able to help and I have prepared what I can prepare.  Tomorrow I will do the steps that will help tomorrow.  Friday I will attend a meeting.  Monday I will talk to a doctor who is, of course, out of the office this week.  Today the work is done.

#4 Most of all, remember that the only thing you can count on in a roller coaster ride is the ups and downs.  Every time I think “This is it! It’s working! Maybe we are over this part!” or “We will never get over this! When will it ever end?”  I have to remind myself that it will probably change.  There will be ups and downs, often extreme ups and extreme downs.  That roller coaster ride is getting ready to fly up or down and we need to hold on tight.

  • When Spencer is aggressive and we are scared to send him to school- it’s not forever- even if it feels like it is.
  • When Spencer is calm and happy for days at a time- it’s not forever- even if we hope it could be.
  • When Spencer is doing well at school and finding his independence- it’s not forever-he will probably maintain some of those skills, but he will fluctuate.
  • When Spencer is sick-it’s not forever-he will eventually get well.

We know the setbacks can and probably will happen and we know we can handle them.  We also know they won’t last forever. Tomorrow will bring with it a whole new set of ups and downs.

This is just how it is.

I know that when days like today happen, and they happen often, I need to take an inventory of how I’m doing with these 4 things.  Have I used my creative brain?  Have I cried or vented or stomped my foot a bit?  Have I remembered (and accepted) the pattern that is part of care giving?

This is the nature of Spencer’s world and as his caregiver it has become the nature of my world.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After all, I’m just along for the ride.




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The Balance Beam Meditation

balance beam

I have never been accused of being athletic—unless you count marching band in high school, I have never competed in a sport or been a part of an athletic team.

We have a joke in our house that mom never runs unless chased…and maybe not even then.  I would do better to stop and drop and scream in hopes of throwing my attacker off balance than try beat anyone in a foot race.

However, gymnastics has always fascinated me, especially the beam.  I could probably walk along a balance beam just fine without falling off, but to be able to do flips and tumble along it would be out of the question.

3 ways the Balance Beam meditation can change my life…if I let it

#1  Try to stay on.  Life isn’t perfect for anyone, even those remarkable athletes who spend hours a day practicing and getting stronger.  Every time I get out of bed with a positive attitude after a tough day before, I am trying to stay on the beam.

#2 Understand that I will fall off.  Falling off the beam is part of the of the sport!  As much as I try to keep it all together and never get discouraged, I will fall off.   It should not come as a surprise that I fall off, but it does.  That’s why I need to take care of myself and meditate, work hard, and get proper rest.  Knowing that I will fall off now and then and that it’s OK should help me from being too hard on myself.

#3 Don’t walk away from the beam.  Understanding that I will fall off the beam now and then does not mean that I need to walk away from it entirely.  When things start to fall apart, I need to jump off the beam for a minute on purpose.  Rest.  Breathe.  Take a break.  Just stand right beside it.  Give it a little pat.  🙂 The jump off wasn’t a fall, it was expected and necessary for continued progress.  Prepare for that moment when I must make that jump and plan for it.  Maybe even schedule it on my to-do list!

Practice doesn’t make things perfect.  It makes things possible.

Perfection has no place on a balance beam.  To make it possible to continue to walk the beam I must remember that practice makes progress possible.

Now for the important stuff: Comment below if you have ever won a competitive race… I will be thoroughly impressed.


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5 easy ways to love your home again

love home

Yesterday I was feeling a little bit blah.  I had been stuck at home for a few days with a sick kiddo and was probably feeling a bit of cabin fever.  Unfortunately, the blahs were taken out on my poor little house.

We are very blessed.  We have a house with the number of bedrooms we need, a separate family room for the TV (a must for me when we were house hunting with 2 toddlers 12 years ago), a great school district, it’s on a cul-de-sac,and has all of the comforts of a modern home.

It’s just a bit tiny.  The bedrooms are small, the bathrooms are original, and the kitchen has old cabinets and lacks counter space.

I generally like our little house and think it’s the perfect place to raise my little flock, but yesterday I was definitely falling out of love with our home.  It made me feel ungrateful and discontent so I knew I needed an attitude adjustment!

When in doubt, make a list.

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The Caregiver Curfew

caregiver curfew

Taking Care of the Caregiver

Bird With A List is about supporting the caregivers to take care of themselves and it’s a subject very dear to me.  I am a caregiver and love many wonderful caregivers, so I want to offer little tips that have helped me keep my sanity after a long day of being in high demand!

I still catch myself not allowing enough margin in my life.

What?  I can’t do everything?  Why is this such a shock?

I don’t always take my quiet time meditations as often as I should, but I have developed a simple way to make sure I have something left to offer my family at the end of the day.

Caregiver Curfew

Every day at 2 pm I have to be home.  Period.  When I say I’m a stay at home mom it is kind of a joke.  I am rarely home when my kids are at school.

But every single day at 2 pm I am home from running around doing what needs to be done to keep my house in order.  The first kids start trickling in at 2:30 pm so that gives me 30 minutes to change gears.  I consider it my commute!

If I don’t take this time to regroup I tend to feel behind on things the rest of the day.

5 Ideas for a Caregiver Curfew

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3 easy meditation exercises to get you started

easy meditation

Easy Meditation- Is there such a thing?

I started trying to meditate 2 years ago and have sort of inched along each day trying to do a little more and most of the time giving up then trying again. I have a few weeks of meditating for 30 minutes and then life will happen and I’ll miss my meditation time for a few weeks and I have to build it back up all over again.

Since I’ve had this issue on and off for 2 years I’ve come up with 3 easy meditation exercises to get me back in the habit quickly.  Maybe they will help you too.

It’s my belief that caregivers need to take the time to be quiet.

We go to great lengths to help other people every day- sometimes all day and it’s important to have a quiet 30 minutes to sit and just “be” each day.

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