New digs: Mobile, Alabama

The past year has taken me and my family on a whirlwind adventure, but we ended up soundly in lovely Mobile, Alabama. Life here in the deep south is very different from our days in the DC Metro area, but this is the type of life we wanted. We wanted to be away from the bustling streets of DC; we wanted to be away from the hub of politics; we wanted to live comfortably in a single family house on a modest income; we wanted to get into a graduate program that would allow us to eventually live anywhere we wanted and how we wanted–even if that is a tiny home in the middle of rural America. So here we are: Mobile, AL.

I fell in love with Mobile when I first visited back in January. I loved the tree lined streets of Midtown; I loved the ten minute commute to almost anything; I loved the iconic southern hospitality; I loved the downtown city squares. I saw all the good the city had to offer, and what we could do for the city. It will most definitely be an adventure we are certain to enjoy.

Since we arrived, our lives have been chaotic. I began a graduate program at South Alabama. My husband abruptly stopped working his well paying government job and started homeschooling our daughters. He has become the quintessential stay-at-home parent: breakfast, carpooling (remind me about that later), homeschooling, lunches, dinners, and then everything all over again! I am so very thankful for everything he does because without him, I would not be who I am, nor would I have the opportunity to do what I love.

Coming from the DC area we were accustomed to 10 mile commutes taking more than an hour (on good days), and we were also used to walking to our local grocer to gather a items when we needed them. Our doctors and dentists were within a few miles, yet our friends were scattered throughout the metro region, which is vast and sprawling. Getting to an ER is easy, getting to a friend’s house for dinner on a weekday is next to impossible. Which leads us into the purpose of my post: Our oldest daughter lives–successfully–with numerous severe food allergies. This is a topic I will most certainly explore in future postings, but for this initial post, I’ll refrain from delving too deeply into how this affects our lives. I will, however, give you a glimpse of how important obtaining specialty items and services can be for a family with special needs.

When we arrived in Mobile, we realized how much of a challenge getting her special items really was in our new town. We went to Virginia’s Health Food, The Health Hut, Publix, Walmart, and Target looking for, specifically, for alternative cheeses she absolutely loves. Some of you may think I’m overreacting, but I assure you I am not. My daughter is unable to eat, touch, and sometimes even smell certain foods. She experiences anaphalaxis, a severe life-threatening reaction, when she comes into contact with these foods. Just so you get a small idea of occasional dinner out, I’ll share our most recent experience at a well-known chain restaurant:

After being seated:

Me: Okay, sweet, what would you like to eat tonight?

Daughter: I want steak!

Me: Do you know what you might like with the steak?

Daughter: I don’t know? What can I have, Mommy? Maybe salad?

<Waiter introduces herself>

Me: I just want to make you aware, our daughter has severe food allergies. We have an EpiPen. We have dined at this establishment before and the kitchen staff has been very accommodating. Typically, the staff takes note of her allergies and we work around them. The list is as follows: dairy (yes to include butter, cheese, and any other milk products), wheat (bread, croutons, and some condiments too!), peanuts, lentils, tree nuts, shellfish, and various seeds.

Waiter: OK, I’ll write them down and let the kitchen know.

When she returns we inquire about the sides. Her response, “The sides are mashed potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, grilled veggies, and you can get a side salad for an additional $3.99.”

Me: Ma’am, are the potatoes and vegetables prepared with butter, or can they we made without butter?

Waiter: Oh, I think the potatoes have butter, but the broccoli can be steamed separately. The salad has lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, croutons, and cucumbers; that’s it.

Daughter: I want broccoli and salad.

Me: Ma’am (to the waiter), she’ll have the filet with steamed broccoli and a side salad–please hold the croutons and cheese. She’d also like oil and vinegar for the salad.

Another server comes with the starters, and we realize the salad comes with pepita seeds, which was not mentioned in the list of items included in the salad. We send it back and wait as a family for her appetizer to surface again.

Eventually, we all get the items we ordered–as we ordered. Yet, even as she eats her food I can’t help ask how it is and if she is OK. I glance at her every few minutes just to make certain she isn’t reacting to the meal on her plate. It really is an awful way to enjoy your meal, isn’t it?

All of this bantering leads to me to why I started this blog today in the first place. Mobile will officially welcome Whole Foods Market to our town on Tuesday, and my daughter (as well as the rest of the family) are so thrilled we will finally be able to get all of our special items we have been searching for at various stores in our local area. We are definitely ready to reduce our carbon footprint by frequenting our one-stop-shop!

Today, I took the girls with me on a tour of the new facility, located in Pinebrook Shopping Center on Airport Blvd. We registered for the event last week, and we’ve been very much looking forward to the visit. My children asked daily (or more) if and when we could go to Whole Foods. So instead of “Are we there yet?” We heard, “Is it open yet?”–over and over and over!

When we arrived at the main entrance the folks from Bay Area Food Bank were set up at the entrance collecting (WFM matched) donations and spreading the word about their amazing organization. As we entered the store, we were greeted by our tour coordinator and an IT rep. They set us up with headsets for the tour and answered questions guests had prior to the tour. Everyone seemed excited to see what WFM-Mobile had in store for us!

I have been to many WFMs, including flagship stores in Austin, TX and London, UK. This store is of average size, and even though the shelves were not fully stocked, it appears as though it has majority of the items you would find in WFMs in similar geographical locations. The tour included numerous samples, including a take-away 3.0 fl oz, of Indian Hemp and Haitian Vetiver lotion sample by Nubian Heritage. They offered samples of mini-cupcakes, quinoa/kale/edamame/mango salad, sliced ham, shrimp cocktail, organic ice cream, and kale/spinach lemonade. My children really enjoyed the sliced ham and lemonade. The quinoa salad is very similar to Ambitious Kitchen’s version.

Overall, it was a great way to spend an hour with my two favorite little girls. We are very excited to welcome WFM to our neighborhood, and we are all looking forward to seeing how WFM integrates into our local community.

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