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They Just Don’t Know (Guest Post)




They Just Don’t Know (Guest Post)

Kathy Thornburg


Today I am thrilled to share the story of a remarkable woman who has been living the food allergy life for a long time. During those years, she has experienced the ups and downs that many of us affected by food allergies face and from that, has been motivated to create a wonderful book for children with food allergies. Her book is clever, engaging, and helpful for families who are looking for a way to encourage open conversation with their child in a positive manner. The way her whole family has been involved in this project is an inspiration to us all. I hope you enjoy reading their story!

16 years ago marked the beginning of our family’s food allergy journey. It all started with a pecan icing I ate while nursing.

Our daughter bore the telltale signs of hives, and initiated our search to see if she had a food allergy. Five years and four kids later, our youngest son responded even more severely to several things, including nuts, coconuts, soy, dust mites, and cats. His reactions resulted in more drastic measures to eliminate his allergens in our home.

We’ve had several ER visits and an ambulance ride over the past 16 years. Dealing with a combination of allergies and asthma opened my eyes to the fragility of life and shook my world.

Enough to make our friends and family get involved.

And enough to have to deal with fear and anxiety.

Enough to have to answer questions. Lots of questions.

And to see and feel the fear paralyze.

Enough to feel the frustration when people don't take it seriously.

And to remind myself they JUST DON’T KNOW.

They haven’t dug through trash cans looking for packages to read labels so their child can eat supper with the rest of the family.

They haven’t driven an extra hour and 1/2 to go back to pick up the backpack containing their child’s epi pen and inhaler.

They haven’t had to think of every single piece of food and candy and drink their child puts into their body.

They haven’t had 20 pound bags of flour brought to their table at the pizza place, to make sure the flour was ok for their child to eat.

They haven’t had the realization that there was absolutely nothing at the restaurant their child could eat.

They haven’t had to bring their child food to almost every party, or worry if the kids that just ate the peanut butter ice cream washed their hands afterwards. 

They haven’t had to tell their child they can’t do pillow fights because the dust from the old pillows makes them sick.

They haven’t watched their child’s rib cage as he slept, trying to decide if he was getting enough oxygen.

They haven’t sat outside at a Christmas party, trying to get the cold air to calm down an asthma attack. And hear the whisper through tears, “Mommy, can I die from this?"

They haven’t seen the bluish color circle around their child’s mouth as he gasps trying to take in air, and realizes he can’t. Or the fear that registers in his eyes, looking to you to help.

They haven’t heard the sound of the epi pen going off and their child gulping in the air.

They haven’t felt the shakes that come after, or the thankfulness that floods over you. 

They just don’t know. 

Last January, my son and I started talking about writing a book together. We brainstormed some ideas, and James and the Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies was born. 

Christopher has a great imagination and created a cast of characters that he wanted to defeat in his story. Some of those include Sir Soy, Nut Head and Mighty Mite. With the help of Nanowrimo story writing materials, he wrote the basic plot. Then I came in and turned it into our storybook version. 

His sister, Kati, turned his character sketches into the illustrated versions of themselves.

My teen sons made the book trailer,and became a part of turning their little brother's great idea into reality.

My husband, Mike, edited and did the layout. As our book was taking shape I realized what a therapy session for all of us this had been. 

For Chris, he was intentionally thinking of other kids that have the same issues he does. He got excited about spreading hope to them through our story.

We talked about his fears, and the reality of the future living the rest of his life with food allergies. We talked about the tools we’ve been given to make his allergies manageable.

He found courage by acknowledging that he has a committed team of supporters watching his back. His family, doctors, and friends have let him know they are here for him! He is not alone.

I have also found encouragement through connecting with other parents and caregivers through this book. I am reminded that we are not the only ones dealing with these issues, and to continue on our journey of educating our family on how to live a full life in spite of these obstacles. 

I am excited to offer James and the Big Battle in paperback and kindle version. And especially excited to offer the kindle version free to you on November 6-7. You can get your free Kindle copy at Check out our book page for reviews from other allergy families, a book trailer, and other free resources.

Not only is this book helpful to the allergy kiddo in your life, but it can heighten awareness to others of the severity of some allergies. It can be a catalyst for important conversations about how they can be a true friend to someone with these life threatening issues. It is written in a fun adventurous tone, while still talking about some of the tough stuff like not being able to breath well, or having to use an epi pen.

I hope you get your copy this week. 

Jen Burns is a mom-of-six living in Nashville, TN. She blogs about intentional parenting at Her book Helping Your Kids Be Creative and Change Their World is available on Amazon. You can connect with Jen on Twitter @jenburns8 or She would love to hear from you!

Get the Kindle version of James and the Big Battle HERE!