Oh Nuts. When Your Kiddo Is In A Peanut-Free Classroom

We returned Sunday evening from a weekend away to a mailbox full of STUFF. Mostly junk. Some magazines (whoohoo!). And several letters related to the start of school – including one from The Princess’s teacher.

The letter said that due to several kiddos with peanut allergies that would be in their classroom their room would be a peanut free zone.  Huh.

Immediately, I took to Twitter. Admittedly, we’re kind of a family full of peanut freaks. None of us have food allergies and if we had to give up our peanut butter, surely we’d all have meltdowns of epic proportions. We buy the stuff in bulk at Costco – that’s how much we love it. And EVEN THE DOG is hooked on the PB.

I’m not totally out of the loop – I realize that a growing number of children are being diagnosed with life-threatening nut allergies. I’ve seen the labels on food packages that indicate that a product contains nuts, or wheat, or soy (or dairy or eggs or some such) – or even that the product was processed in a plant that also processes (insert allergen here).

So, when a classroom is a PEANUT FREE ZONE, what does that entail? Are we just limited to not bringing in peanutty snacks (like peanut butter and crackers) – or are those other items off limits too – those things that don’t necessarily contain peanuts but were made in a place that also handles peanuts. And and and… I really just had no clue.

So I asked Twitter what kinds of snacks my kid could take to school. Twitter didn’t disappoint. First of all the reminded me, “UH, duh, Sarah – fruits and vegetables!” (Seriously? HOW COULD I FORGET). String cheese, Goldfish crackers, raisins, yogurt. Whew. So – kind of a lot of options. Here’s a link to a sample list of “safe foods“.

The school says they’ve got a special nut-free zone set up in the cafeteria – so for those of us who need to resort to sending our kiddos with a PB&J sometimes – we can still do that (again…whew). But they’ll get the kids in practice of frequent handwashing – particularly after lunch, and making sure the kids wipe their mouths before returning to the classroom.

When I met with The Princess’s teacher today, he had done a lot of legwork to make sure that parents of children who aren’t allergic have everything spelled out for us. I couldn’t ask for more, really – this is my first experience with having to really pay attention to such a degree, that to have things spelled out (specifically, a list of foods that are okay to bring) makes it seem less like a hassle, and more like, “OH. This should barely affect us at all.”

Perhaps the biggest bummer comes on The Princess’s birthday. No homemade treats whatsoever. I am a baking mom – and love brainstorming cupcake ideas with my daughter, love executing a cute idea, and I love her getting to show off and bringing in a fabulous end result to share with her classmates.

No go. Not this year.

I mentioned this to a friend whose daughter has many food allergies. She said to me, “But think of how those children feel to not be able to get that special treat!”

I hadn’t planned on leaving them out – I thought I could figure out something entirely allergen free to bring in – but the risk lies in cross-contamination (which sounds gross, doesn’t it? Sounds messy and dirty). We can’t risk maybe a remnant of peanut butter on a utensil used to scoop cupcake batter – and ugh.

So. Birthdays will be a little different this year but we’ll roll with it because really, comparatively? We’ve got the easy job.

Do you have food allergies or children with food allergies? If so, can you tell me what you would like others to know? What are your favorite peanut free/allergy-safe snacks?

Image source, Flickr

Thursday Ten: Nothing Kills Productivity Faster than a Migraine Edition

1. The next two weeks are pure insanity, schedule-wise, and yesterday I was completely sidelined for most of the day by a migraine. A full day to work and accomplish things… wasted. I curled up in a fetal position in bed – if I sat upright, my queasiness was magnified, when I lay down my headache was worse. LOSE-LOSE. Eventually the pain subsided – right in time for the school bus to bring The Princess home from school. Go figure. BTW – if you have any tried-and-true migraine remedies or pain relief, please share ’em with me!

2. This morning, I attended Field Day at The Princess’s school. That was… interesting. I actually felt horribly for the sub running The Princess’s class — he’s pretty fresh off the college thing — and seemed pretty overwhelmed by the bunch of kids. I don’t blame him. There are many reasons why I’m not a teacher, and the lack of patience is one of them.

3. With warmer weather comes… MOSQUITOES. Ow. They’re like the state bird of Michigan. (Does every state say that?)

4. I know that at nearly five-years-old, it’s totally common for a kiddo to phase out taking a nap, but I miss naptime. Kind of a lot.

5. I don’t need to mourn the end of this season’s American Idol too long because, uh, “So You Think You Can Dance”. And how amazing is this contestant? Jarrell Robinson from Illinois – completely deaf – but still rocking his audition (he starts dancing at 1:48 – and yeah, this clip runs way longer than it should). AMAZING.

6. Currently, I’m reading Ann Hood’s “The Red Thread” and am loving it. It’s a fast, easy read (so far – I’m about midway through) – and my pile of books to read is growing faster than I can keep up with. What are you reading now?

7. New music of the week? Jack Johnson’s new album “To the Sea”. I make no apologies for my Jack Johnson love, and nothing says “summer” quite like his laid-back melodies and beachy tunes. I’m liking it – especially his revisited version of “Better Together”.

8. The new issue of Room 704 hits today… and this month’s theme is Sultry. Maybe you wanna mosey on over and check that out.

9. So, Suri Cruise got an iPad?  I guess when you’re rich and famous and can wipe your butt with hundred dollar bills, it’s not a problem to gift your kids with all those techy goodies… but, just because they can, does it mean they should? (Also, I may be more than a little bit jealous).

10. For lack of anything better to say for item 10 (face it, I’m thinking of all the work I SHOULD be doing right now) – let me know if you have any ideas of recipes/food projects you’d like me to bake/cook/share for a Monday recipe post. We’ll make it a food challenge. Tell me what to cook, and I’ll tell you how miserably I failed. Fun for everyone, no?

Thursday Ten: OH NO! It’s Almost Summer Edition

1. The school year is winding to a close. Tuesday was Pumpkin’s preschool graduation, today is her last day. Today was an awards ceremony at The Princess’s school – her last day is in a week and a half. And then… summer. Oy. Y’all remember, it takes me a few weeks to find my routine and my groove in the summer. Except moderate amounts of griping about the chaos in coming weeks. It’ll be (mostly) painless (for you).

2. Tomorrow The Princess turns 8. I’ve been trying to get away with calling her birthday my “mommiversary” in hopes that there are presents and cake for ME, as well. So far, it doesn’t appear to be catching on.

3. Editing and processing photos is a time-consuming thing. How much so, I hadn’t realized. I am told that processes and routines help – if you are a photographer or photo-junkie, what do YOU do with your pictures to process? And also: PhotoShop or Lightroom?

4. The American Idol finale last night. WHOA. That was two hours of crap for two minutes of reward. I wish they wouldn’t stretch it out like that. It’s miserable. But, I’m happy with the winner… so there’s that.

5. In guitar class, we started a different song – Anna Nalick’s “Breathe”. One of my favorites.

6. In addition to “Breathe”, we went back to “Shallow Days” and Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman, blah blah blah”. It’s funny – the weeks I don’t get much time to practice, I often manage to pull off a good lesson. It’s funny that way – I tend to overthink and get frustrated when I’m not accomplishing something, so sometimes it’s good to walk away from what I’m learning for a moment. Somehow, I usually manage to make progress. Sorta.

7. After February, I decided to not color my hair anymore. It was never about extreme color changes – when you have hair as dark as mine, you can’t really go extreme without a kajillion step process to lighten first… and frankly, I don’t have the patience for that. I was doing semi-permanent colors occasionally, just to cover the gray — but stopped when I decided that I really like my natural hair color better than I liked any of the colors I was finding on a shelf. Fortunately, the gray hairs seemed to slow right around then, so it wasn’t even a huge deal. BUT. I found two of those suckers this morning and they have GOT TO GO. Vanity sucks.

8. My afternoon involves making cupcakes for The Princess’s second grade class. If I learned anything last year it’s that I need to keep the air conditioning cranked until I get the cupcakes out of the house so the frosting doesn’t melt off.

9. Any one have any big Memorial Day weekend plans? Looks like we’re celebrating a birthday ALL WEEKEND. (Seriously, like three days of cake).

10. With the end of the school year coming, my days are getting more and more chaotic with activities at the kids’ schools and all the other nitpicky things like field trips, field days, and la la la. Because of this, I’ve had to juggle life around to get everything done – which means that this morning I woke up before six a.m. Why? To do the Jillian Michaels’ SHRED. Before 6 a.m. Oy.

Renoir, Reggae and Recess

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, we had the opportunity to join the school band – the opportunity to select and instrument and start learning one. I remember shopping with my father and ultimately selecting a flute (Y’all are going to laugh, but I picked it because it was the lightest one to carry). Though I never really got very good at playing the flute, I was in band for years – through my junior year of high school. In addition to band, I stayed pretty involved with our school choir program.

I’m the daughter of a musician and music is something that brings me great joy. It is something that makes me tremendously happy. It it something I love.

It’s also pretty important for our kids.

Music education has benefits to the brain’s cognitive development – and kids who are involved in music programs quite often get better scores in English and math than kids without music education programs. Studies have also shown that music education can improve how the brain processes the spoken word, and musically trained kids score better on memory tests. (Source: Save the Music).

And art? We’re talking advantages to honing those fine motor skills, imagination, sense of time and place, focusing, uniqueness. Shall I go on?  (Source)

But reading is crucial.

Math is crucial.

Sciences are crucial.

So, when the education requirements change and the budgets are cut – it doesn’t surprise me when recesses are cut short and funds for arts are reduced. I’m not surprised – because I understand the so-called academic areas are necessary foundations for all that will follow in school and in the “real world” and the arts are seen as “optional”.

And yet. Yet it saddens me to think that many children aren’t getting a chance to sing, fingerpaint, experiment with different instruments, create something out of papier-mache, learn to read music, try to do a plie – maybe find out that he or she has true TALENT in the arts, and get the opportunity to excel and to shine in one of these areas.

At my guitar lesson the other day, my teacher and I were talking about it. She’s got a degree in elementary ed, of course with a focus on music — and she said to me, “There’s cuts being made and it makes me sad!” The scenario she described showed music and art being reduced in favor of filling that time with more PE class. Given the nation’s obesity epidemic, I don’t necessarily think keeping kids more active is a bad thing… but…

What happens now? What do we do when schools keep making cuts?

For my second grader, physical education takes place twice a week, art and music each happen once. But the budget for 2010-2011 looks pretty dismal. Will they cut those “specials”? Where are they going to make their cuts? And if those programs lose funding, how can they succeed?

I’m torn. I’m very torn.

I hope we never see the day when music and art is removed from schools – I’ve already said, in a half joking manner, “If they take the arts out of school I guess I’ll have to start exploring private schools.” Certainly I’d like to avoid that route — I mean, I don’t have an extra bundle of money earmarked for a private school tuition, and yet, I cannot imagine my children receiving an education without any fun built in, without any opportunity to explore the creative side of their mind, without the chance to see if maybe playing an instrument or coloring with charcoals is something in which they excel – something that could bring them joy.

Had I been raised by accountants, I might have very different feelings about this matter. Then again, maybe not. I find myself watching the budget talks very closely, hoping that these valuable programs hold their place in my daughters’ schedules.

Thank U India, Thank U Terror

Today I volunteered in The Princess’s school – an activity that you know that I don’t adore. I have been feeling very tired lately and I woke up this morning brainstorming excuses for not showing up. All of those were vetoed when I realized what a schmuck that would make me, cancelling on my daughter’s teacher, cancelling on being there in her classroom helping out. I mean, Who does that?!

So, I got up and got the kids bundled up – sent The Princess outside to wait for the bus and as soon as the bus pulled up, I took Pumpkin to daycare. Upon leaving daycare, even though I was short on time I stopped to get some coffee (warm + caffeine = a very GOOD idea), and arrived about ten minutes late to the school. Already, I was feeling like a bit of a jerk and I hadn’t even bailed on them!

I had about fifteen minutes in the classroom until the kids all ventured out to PE. Usually the teacher doesn’t have anything for me to do while they’re gone – which is part of the reason I hate volunteering so much: the thirty minutes of twiddling my thumbs while the kids are at PE (I lie – I totally don’t twiddle my thumbs – I’m on my phone checking email, sending texts, and scoping Twitter – so, for those of you so inclined – every other Tuesday morning is a FANTASTIC time to send me mail! I’ll read it while I wait). Today, however, the teacher had a project for me. And that project involved TURKEYS.

Y’see, the kids brainstormed all kinds of pre-Thanksgiving ideas for things they were thankful for. The teacher put them all on these little leaves (see below), and then each kiddarooni made their own turkey. My job was to hang up all the individual turkeys. Fun times, right?
But it was interesting to read these as I hung them up. As you can see from the below – these kids have much of the religious angle covered – they are thankful for God, Jesus, Mary and Moses. They have the family angle covered: Mom, Dad, siblings. They’re thankful for water, houses, land, and heaven. It’s the other stuff that cracks me up. It’s the cats and bats and ladybugs. It’s the sharks and owls. Kids crack me up.

And it made me smile, because I was so close to missing the moment of hanging up turkeys and having my kid give me a big hug so happy to see me in her classroom. I walked into The Princess’s class today and she was upset because she’d worn her boots and had forgotten to pack regular shoes (despite me saying last night, “Did you put your other shoes in your bag?” and her responding, “Yup! I already did it!”). I said, “Looks like we’re wearing boots today, kiddo” and she said, “Why can’t you just go home and bring my shoes back?” I told her, that no, mom had stuff to do today and that maybe tomorrow she’ll remember how hot her feet feel and remember to pack her other shoes, and she smiled and said in her know-it-all-cuz-I’m-six voice, “I knooooooooooow.”

(I really hope that title isn’t wasted and someone catches the reference)