Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wheat Free Play Dough

It is the custom in our preschool for the mom's to take turns making playdough for the class each month. Since C can not play with traditional playdough made from flour I worked up a plan to keep him safe. Before school started I met with his teachers to review all of his allergy information. At this meeting I brought up the issue and had printed up some wheat free playdough recipies I had found online. I figured that we would pass them out at BTS night. I also decided to volunteer to make playdough for September so I could make sure we got on the right track.

This is the playdough I made - it came out really great. The texture is really nice. I chose a recipie that called for shortening a a little vegetable oil. I thought it would make it more pliable and keep it from drying out. And it did! I ended up emailing all the recipies to the moms and got some really positive replies. I think overall they are really understanding and willing to try and help. It is nice to know that there are still some compassionate people out there. The teacher also asked me to share the recipie with the moms of the 2 day class that shares the room!

Here is the recipie:
2 c. cornstarch
1 c. salt
1 tbsp. shortening
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil

Mix and cook over low heat until mixture leaves edge of pan. Knead until smooth. Store in plastic bag or container at room temperature. I added food coloring and kneaded it in while the dough was still warm. I did wear gloves so I did not dye my hands green. Next time I am going to try adding it to the water fiirst.

My Interview w/ 5 Minutes for Mom

Hey check it out I did this interview a while ago and it is now published on this site! Pretty Cool.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Thanks for All the Well Wishes

I just want to say a HUGE THANK YOU for all the kind notes of love and support. It really means a lot , even though most of us have never met in person I do feel we have gotten to know each other quite well via the Internet. We are doing well all things considered. Life has been a sea of phone calls, doctor visits, and tests. I do not have the full picture yet (one more test to go) by the middle of next week I will have a course of treatment. Otherwise life has been pretty normal - surprisingly normal. We still had all the BTS nights, soccer, swimming etc. Tonight we hung out with some friends and had pizza and beer.

I am looking to the positive - at the end of this I will have new boobs! Smaller, perky ones too!Who does not want that? I will be checking periodically in and lurking for sure!

A quick school update - it is going really well for both boys. C only had 1 potty accident on the first day. He also loves his Speed Racer lunch box that he uses to take his own snack to school. The teachers have been great. I signed up to make the play dough for the first month , so this Sunday I will be making wheat free play dough. I have a couple of recipes, so we will see what works.

Later -

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hug Your Kids

Following is something I wrote a few days ago. We got some really bad news , and I debated how to handle this on the blog. But you know what they say - Happiness shared is doubled, sorrow shared is cut in half. Anyway - here goes:

September 11,2001 - I remember the day 7 years ago. I sat on my bed nursing my newborn daughter and watched, in disbelief, as two airplanes flew into the Twin Towers. The experience left me shocked and numb. I could not understand how or why this was happening. I felt angry because I knew then that our world would never be the same. I was fearful of what was to come. I knew we would go to war, what else could we do? We had been attacked. I was mostly mad that this had happened at all – why did these terrorists feel the need to cause this kind of chaos and destruction? It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair.

It is now September 11, 2007 – and this morning at the same time there were dedications and moments of silence being held in NY, DC and Pennsylvania, my world was rocked again. I received the news that I have breast cancer. The coincidence in the dates did not hit me until later that night. I just thought another reason for this ominous date to be wiped from the calendar.

This morning I sit in the radiology office waiting to have an MRI. I am trying to process this information, but it is hard. I do not feel like this is really happening to me. I am in task management mode. I need to get tests done and appointments set up to I can see a surgeon. I need to see the surgeon and find out what I am really dealing with. How bad is this going to be?
I am feeling many of the same things I did 7 years ago. Shock – Disbelief – Anger. Why does this have to happen? Once again Sept 11th has rocked my world. I am determined to come through this experience stronger. Seven years ago our nation came together when we were under threat and became stronger. I will do the same. We were simply not going to let them get the better of us - they cannot win. We were dealing with a cancer on our society, in much the same way, now I must deal with a cancer in my body. I know I will have the support of my friends and family to help is through. I cannot let cancer win – I will not.

I am entering a new reality. I am going to war against cancer. I know my world will never be the same. I hope to find a new normal, eventually a better normal. I want my kids to know that we can be strong and overcome anything. I gave my kids extra hugs today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

School Days

School has begun and the related issues for allergic children are beginning again. I have spent the last 10 minutes catching up on my Google alerts, and I am really disturbed by what I am reading.

First a story of a 19 year old high school student who smeared peanut butter on an allergic classmate. Fortunately there was no reaction, but what was he thinking? What kind of person does that? I do not think I will ever understand bullying, I guess this kid was just trying to get off on a power trip. The police are looking into the situation, but the victim did not want to press charges. Why would he? That could just set him up to continue to be a target.

Then a story about a school secretary who resigned from her job due to the schools no nut policy. Apparently they do regular lunchbox checks to make sure that no one brings in any peanut product. (how the school has time to do that I'll never know) Parents feel that it is a hassle, and she is getting a lot of community support towards a petition to change the policy.

Finally a story about a boy who was pulled out of school when students threw rocks at him and said they were peanuts. Apparently the school also has a no nut policy, which is under fire from non allergic parents. This poor kid is under so much pressure because his classmates can not have the treats and food they like because of his peanut allergy. How is a child supposed to learn and thrive in that kind of environment?

It seems like this peanut / no peanut issue is tearing some schools and communities apart. Because of "those parents" that their child can not take their favorite treat to school. Believe me , I sympathise - I know it is a pain to have to read the labels. I do it every day for 9 different allergens! Why are we so focused on the foods we can or can not bring to school. We should be focused on education and nurturing the next generation.

My allergic boys are not in public school yet. so I have not had to deal with this directly. Our schools are not nut free, but they seem to be very nut aware - requesting that food eaten in the classroom (only snack) does not contain peanut products. Peanut products are allowed in the cafeteria, but there is always a buffer around the allergic child of friends who are not eating peanut butter. My daughter and her friends are learning to be considerate of their classmates with peanut allergies.

To be honest, I do not what nuts banned from our school. I do not think it is the best way to handle the situation. Peanuts are also not the only allergen out there. I think it can make our kids targets to ridicule from classmates as well as insensitive parents. Clearly many people don't get it, they never will. They do not want to be bothered with worrying about food allergies because of some other kids. Some people are just like that. We need to teach our kids the skills they need to survive in a world with peanuts and insensitive people.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Getting Ready for School

Like many of you I have been deep into preparation for school the past couple of weeks. K. started second grade last week. It was a great week, she was so happy to be back in school. Her teacher is really nice and the class seems to be quite structured for second grade. K does not have any food allergies so I do not have to fret about that. I did however have to send in a doctors note about her ruptured ear. She had surgery 2 weeks ago to repair the rupture, and can not participate in P.E. or any other physical activity for 3 or 4 more weeks.

The boys are another story. R will begin Jr. Kindergarten in a school that is nut free. I do not worry too much about him. I know the school snacks are safe and I will attend the class parties and field trips to check on what is being served from outside the classroom.

I am a little more concerned about C. His allergies are numerous, and the wheat and egg allergies worry me the most. He will be attending the same school as his brother, just 3 days a week. The school has a great tradition of scheduling home visits for all the students and teachers a week before school. It gives the teachers a great opportunity to meet the child one on one and makes the transition very smooth. It also gives the parents the opportunity to discuss any issues.

Due to C's allergies both his teacher and the assistant came to visit. I think the meeting went very well. C was very shy, but I feel like our allergy conversation went very well. Before the meeting I had sent a note to the school with a list of things I wanted to review. The teachers had a copy of the list so they were prepared with questions as well. They understand the importance that C only eat food that I supply. We agreed that I would send his snack in a lunch box so that he will know to only eat from his special box. I will be attending all the class parties and am happy to make 2 or 3 items for the kids to share. I also had some concerns about craft projects. Normally the mom's volunteer to take turns making play dough every month. C can not play with play dough made from flour. I printed several recipes for play dough that was made from corn starch. They will be distributed to the class. In addition I offered to supply the class with brown rice noodles if needed for art projects. We basically started a positive dialog. I explained that I was willing to help out in any way to help make sure C was safe and that would help the teachers to focus on teaching.

Over all I feel pretty good about the allergy thing. I think I am more worried about the potty thing. C. is newly potty trained (YEAH), but I worry he will forget to go, or be too shy to tell the teacher he needs help. Tomorrow is the open house, and school starts on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Does the President do?

Kids say the darnedest thing, and ask rather insightful questions. I was reading the paper yesterday when my four year old asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading about the election, and the people who wanted to be president. Without getting into political views I showed him the pictures of Johna McCain, Sarah Pallin and Barack Obama that happened to be in the paper that day. I explained that it was important to read about all the candidates so we can decide for whom we will vote. He had one simple question - What does the president do? Well I paused a bit, trying to figure out how to put it in terms that a 4 1/2 year old would understand.

What DOES the president do? I am not well studied in government and politics. Those subjects never interested me in school. But when you stop to think about it, just what does the president really do? I replied that the president meets with leaders of other countries to help them. He also tries to help fix problems in our country. If only it were that simple.....

Wow - A Busy Week

What a week! There was a lot going on between C's birthday and getting ready for school. We had a small party for C. at the house. Just a couple of families who also have 3 year old boys , and a couple of neighborhood kids for my older 2 to play with. I am a big theme person when it comes to birthdays. C LOVES trains, so I chose a train theme. Since it was a small party I used Evite for the invitations, but I did customize the invite with an image of a train. I also tend to get obsessive about coordinating goodie bags and the cake. I always make my own cake - except for the time I was 7 months pregnant.

I purposely planned food that would be safe for the kids. I normally do serve wheat products to my older children, when we have other kids running around the house I do not allow anything that could harm C. I would worry that he would eat a stray cracker. We also have a friend who's son has Celiac's disease, so I wanted to have things he could eat too. I held the party from 2 to 4 on a Sunday so I did not have to prepare a meal. Here is what I served:

Corn Tortilla chips (Tostito's now make an ORGANIC yellow corn chip - I am so happy, since C eats a lot of snack food I would at least like it to be organic!)
Spinach dip - it did have mayonnaise , but there is no way C would touch it with a 10 foot pole! Served with carrots and corn chips.
Bruschetta for the adults. - I had every intention of making gluten free french bread, but I ran out of time. Since it was just for adults I went ahead and used a store bought baguette. Again, there is no way C. would touch it.
Birthday Cake made from Cherrybrook Kitchens and ice cream.
Assorted adult and kid friendly beverages.

The weather was perfect - sunny and not too hot, so we did end up sitting on the patio for quite a while. We gave everyone a train tattoo when they arrived and had train bubbles to play outside on the deck. I ordered a foam train craft foam Oriental Trading Company, and purchased a "Stick the Number on Thomas Game" the kids had a lot of fun with the activities. The kids were so silly trying to put the number in the right place on Thomas. My husband also set up a large train track in the family room with our wooden Thomas Train track set. After that they were happy to play in the yard and the basement. It really does not take much to entertain 3 and 4 year olds.

The cake was great! It looked fabulous. My mother in law had bought me a great silicone cupcake kit from Wilton.

It is designed like a puzzle to make a train, dump truck, or rocket. It really makes the creative process very easy. This cake was very easy to make - you can decorate using any safe candy that your child likes. I used Skittles and Twizzlers. I hope they make more designs. Perhaps a girl theme?

I debated making some regular cupcake for the adults, but my husband and I tasted the Cherrybrook Kitchens cupcakes and decided they were good for everyone. They are really good straight out of the oven. The next day they are a little dry - but frosting and ice cream can hide that. I did serve chocolate (I do prefer vanilla) which I feel is not as moist. Everyone loved them - you really can not tell that there is no wheat or egg. They were all devoured! I also used the Cherrybrook Kitchens frosting. It is delicious and easy to work with. It spreads smoothly and pipes easily. One thing I did learn, was to use Crisco instead of butter if you want true white frosting. I have read it before, but I think it seems too unappealing - I do not even use it in cookies. The butter gave my frosting a slight yellow tinge, which makes it harder to dye accurately. My blue and greens were not exactly the shade I had hoped for.

I found a great web site for goody bags and supplies. It is Birthday In A Box. All you do is search the site for the theme you want, and they have pre selected goody bags you can order. I was really impressed, for $5.99 per bag I was able to buy a conductors hat, toy train, train whistle, train stickers and super ball. I was impressed with the service (delivery was prompt) and the quality. Since we were having a small party, it was in the budget (and I feel a good value). For a bigger party it might add up - but there is something to be said for convenience too. If you are looking for a birthday resource, check it out.