Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Meet a Mom series where we feature our local mamas – what they’re up to personally and professionally. To date, we’ve feature just under 100 women, woah mama! This week’s Meet a Mom feature is Laurie Margolis, a Highland Park born and raised mama of two extraordinary kids. Laurie’s own experiences with food allergies, coupled with those of her boys, inspired the creation of Mightiest Me, a food allergy blog plus book & doll set to help empower families with food allergy kids. Laurie tells us how she came to learn about her children’s food allergies, advice to families just learning of this diagnosis and what she wants all of us to know. Welcome Laurie!
Hi Laurie! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from and where do you live now?
Hi everyone, I’m Laurie! Margolis I was born and raised in Highland Park. I live in Long Grove right now. We love it here, because of the wide open spaces.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have 2 kids – Jack, age 9, and Max, age 7.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
Night time cuddles, couch cuddle, and random hugs and kisses throughout the day.
Do you have any mom tips, especially during quarantine and social distancing surrounding COVID 19?
Be patient with your kids. As hard as it is for you – it is 100 times worse for them. They are experiencing a whole new “normal.”
If you have any podcasts or apps that help inspire you, calm you, help you run your business or organize your life, what are your faves?
Eh…. does Tik Tok count, because that is all I seem to see these days!
Um yes, it absolutely does! What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I used to be a pretty good piano player when I was growing up. I started taking lessons again when I turned 40 to get back into it!
Please tell us about your food allergy project called Mightiest Me.
Because I have lived with food allergies my entire life, and both my boys have severe multiple food allergies, I developed Mightiest Me – a business I created to help empower and inspire children with food allergies, and to help educate both children with food allergies and those without. Our main product is a children’s book I wrote (Mighty Jax and the Cookie Surprise) about a boy named Jax who suffers from an allergic reaction on a playdate, but knows just what to do. He becomes a superhero, Mighty Jax, because he becomes empowered by his knowledge. The story takes the reader through what a reaction can feel like and teaches the Mighty Jax safety rules all children should know. The book comes with a Mighty Jax doll that has an emergency pouch with two auto injectors to stress the importance of always carrying two. To learn more about our story, readers can go to www.mightiestme.com!
What food allergies do you and your boys have?
I am allergic to: peanuts, tree nuts, coconuts, shellfish and soy. Max is allergic to eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and fish. Jack is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, milk, and eggs.
How did you find out your boys were allergic to certain foods?
Jack reacted to a milk product when he was a baby. Not related to that – he had to have two surgeries before he had turned 2 years old because there was an obstruction on his ureter. During his second surgery, I asked them to draw his blood while he was under in order to test for allergies, because of the previous milk reaction. That is when I found out the severity of all his allergens. When Jack was 3, he had a very severe reaction and was rushed to the ER by ambulance. He had to stay overnight, and thank goodness our sitter administered his EPI pen soon after she saw he was having a reaction or else it could have been a lot worse than it already was. Max had eaten eggs a few times and had thrown up, so we knew that he was allergic. When he was 2, we tested him for all the allergens. When he was about 4 years old, he was handed cake by mistake at a birthday party (even though all the adults new of his food allergies). I was only 3 feet away with his safe treat. I ran to stop him from eating it, but he had taken a bite. I had to give him his Auvi Q. Unfortunately, both boys are anaphylactic to all their allergens, which means they can develop a very serious allergic reaction within minutes of injection. We always carry two auto injectors for each of us at all times.
What would you like people to know who do not have family members with food allergies?
People do not understand that a reaction can go from 0 to 10 in minutes. If you think your child ingested something that he or she is allergic to, it is always better to give the injection right away and not wait for symptoms or be afraid. It will not hurt them.
What resources do you recommend for parents who are just finding out their child(ren) have food allergies?
I recommend Spokin app and also any of the support groups on facebook geared to that allergen. Kids with Food Allergies also has great info.
What advice do you have for parents with children of food allergies?
Teach them to advocate for themselves from the very beginning. When they can, have them start ordering their own food at restaurants and telling the waitress or waiter what their allergens are. Get them used to a medical bracelet right away. Teach them how to inject themselves with their auto injector when they are at a safe age to do so. Use an orange or a grapefruit! Organize your kitchen by providing separate cabinets or drawers for their safe snacks. Not only does this keep them safe, but it is also very helpful when you have grandparents or babysitters stay with your children. I have completely reorganized my entire kitchen based on their allergens. They know exactly what cabinet to go into for allergy safe foods. It’s ok to have their allergens in the house. This prepares them for the real world and allows them to feel comfortable around them. They will be around them in restaurants and at parties, so teach them how to be safe when an allergen is around. DO NOT be afraid to give your child an EPI PEN or AUVI Q!!! Teach them that this tool is now their best friend. Mighty Jax can help with that!
What takeout restaurants do you frequent that can accomodate the food allergies in your family?
We have found that Portillos has been a safe bet for us. Please stay away from Asian cuisine.
Do you have any influencers and/or mentors who continue to inspire you?
So many! My husband really pushed me to follow my dreams and has been very supportive throughout this process. My mom gave me such encouragement along this journey especially on the days I needed it most. My boys inspired me the most, because of the way that they dealt with their food allergies. They became my food allergy heroes and the reason I developed Mighty Jax – (taking the “J” in Jack and the “ax” in Max).
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to start a new project or career path?
A quote I just heard recently – “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
What’s on the horizon for your Mightiest Me?
I plan to write another book that will hopefully be out in the next few months as part of the Mighty Jax series. Each book will be about something that children with food allergies go through. I also plan to create a girl character to make into a doll.