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Going Gluten-FreeMay 30, 2012

Where Do You Feel Safe?

I admit I was not a happy camper when I pulled out of the driveway with my two kids strapped in their car seats. My miserable cold was making me, well, miserable, with absolutely no sympathy from my son and daughter. One child wouldn't put on her jacket and the other had to be reminded again to bring the library bag with him to the car – little things that can sometimes irk this mom. But there was hope. I knew that in only four minutes I would find relief because I’d be walking through the doors of one of my favorite places – our local library.

I’ve always loved the library. Books have inspired for as long as I can remember. There’s something about being surrounded by books that is like a salve. My kids love going to the library, too. Joseph, 8, is a voracious reader. He recently was thrilled to attend a writing workshop, during which an author provided tips on crafting a story. He’s been able to hone his Scrabble skills at the library, and we even caught a showing of “Kung Fu Panda 2” on the library's big screen. These opportunities are all free--and free of food.

Because there is no food or drink allowed, the library is a place where Joseph, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, feels safe. He doesn't spend his time looking over his shoulder to make sure no one is eating ice cream or peanut butter sandwiches near him.

Sure, our love of the library has been tested over the years. For example, when Joseph was younger, the kids munching on cheesy fish-shaped crackers (which inevitably made it onto the floor) during story time made him uncomfortable. When I mentioned the issue at the library we now frequent, they nicely made an announcement at the start of story time and we haven’t had any problems. He's also had to stop reading a few books because his eyes got itchy or he had an asthma flare-up while reading them. Yes, the fact that library books can accumulate dust or go into homes with pets and various other allergens can pose a risk. But for the most part, his library experiences have been fantastic. And those books that do cause issues are simply returned to the library and replaced with other adventures for Joseph to jump into.

Today, just being at the library helped chase away the last of my bad mood. While Joseph explored the shelves, my 3-year-old daughter, Pamela, enjoyed story time. The weekly 25-minute gathering where preschoolers listen to books, music and flannel-board stories is on our calendar just like ballet, tennis and all of our other activities.

As we packed our library bag full of new selections, my love for the library was reaffirmed. The three of us walked out into the windy day, talking about which books we would read first and, of course, how soon we would return.

Where is your safe place?

Living Without contributor Wendy Mondello writes a blog at tasteofallergyfreeliving.blogspot.com.

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