Monday, January 11, 2016

How We Spent Thanksgiving

I kind of left things hanging with my Thanksgiving post.  What I didn't disclose at the time was that we were eating our initial holiday meal the day prior on Wednesday, as we were going to be spending Thanksgiving day driving 10+ hours from central Pennsylvania to the northern suburbs of Chicago. 

My husband made me an offer I couldn't refuse.  In lieu of an elaborate birthday gift for my 40th birthday, we could go visit my family during Thanksgiving.  This birthday gift was generous, as we arranged to rent an event room at the hotel we stayed at.  However, there were obvious strings attached.  I had to prepare everything.  By everything, we're not talking just packing a few changes of clothes, our usual emergency meds, kitchenware, etc.  No, I took on the task of hosting lunch for 6 adults and 6 children at the hotel on Friday, plus serve dessert for anyone who wanted to drop by later that same afternoon.  I should have questioned my sanity (and at moments I did), but it was so worth it.

Prior to our trip, I had baked 2 chocolate chip pumpkin loaves (one for us, one for guests), 1 cookie pie and 24 mini cookie tartlets, and 2 dozen chocolate cupcakes.  I also made 3 lbs. of meatballs, which I froze, and later reheated to serve at our luncheon.  I also made sure we had almost all the groceries necessary for Thanksgiving and Friday, as I didn't know if we'd have an opportunity to go to a grocery store last minute, or if any would even be open.

When we got to the hotel, we had a second Thanksgiving meal.  We had packed turkey that I had frozen the day before, as well as leftover stuffing, and potato kugel I made just for the trip.  It was the easiest travel meal, as it just required reheating/thawing stovetop in some boxed broth.  So yes, you can have Thanksgiving on the road, with some planning.

Friday morning, I awoke to make a package of quinoa.  I continued to make my quinoa salad that included corn, black beans, and diced tomatoes, in a lime vinaigrette (homemade).  Next was compiling a lettuce, cucumber and tomato salad.  I reheated the meatballs in a crockpot we took along.  The most complicated thing to do was heat up pasta as the water just didn't want to boil.  Really, it took about an hour to make about 1 1/2 pounds of pasta.  That was our lunch menu: pasta, meatballs, Southwestern quinoa salad, and a green salad.

The party room was set up with three round tables, with seating for six at each.  I brought with plastic tablecloths to go over the clean fabric ones.  We ate at two of the tables, and the third was set up for crafting and games for the kids.  We had two long tables set up for the buffet.  I was so proud of myself as it didn't look slopped together.  Granted, there were no fancy centerpieces.  However, it was comfortable for those of us who were there.  The plus was that my two nephews could go across the hall and play pool at a free pool table when they got bored with their electronic devices. 

It was perfect.  The adults got to sit and chat, while the kids had fun together.  There was no bickering, and no worries about allergens.  The room was specially cleaned for us, we had wipes with us, and we supplied all food and paper goods.  We could be in our little corner of the world, and just be. 

The twelve of us enjoyed lunch and dessert.  Then mid-afternoon I brought out carrots, hummus, and chips, as well as the rest of the desserts.  A few people dropped in to visit late afternoon.  While more were expected but cancelled last minute, we enjoyed the time with those who were able to join us.  It was quality time, and we didn't have to rush off anywhere. 

The next day my sister arranged for us to join her, her kids and my mother at a park building, where we could do the same of just have safe snacks, visit, and play games.  She made sure to wipe everything off, have plastic tablecloths for everything, and safe foods. 

While it cost a little more to do things this way, it worked.  The Babe was safe, she could be with family, and we could just enjoy ourselves.  Definitely a great birthday gift.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

While we may not eat Thanksgiving with most or any of our family, we still have a traditional meal.  The other day while sitting with my daughter and one of her classmates at lunch, I asked him if he was looking forward to Thanksgiving.  He just gave a shrug.  The Babe immediately piped in how she loves stuffing.  So I couldn't resist teasing, and asking her if she thought I was making some for Thanksgiving.  Her response, also said jokingly, "What do you think, Woman?!".  I guess that would be a resounding yes.  This year's menu will include a 14 lb. turkey (yes, just for the three of us which will mean lots of leftovers), stuffing, baked potato and sweet potatoes, a vegetable not yet determined, and chocolate chip pumpkin bread.  My goal is not to overdo it, since there will be a lot that has to be done over the next few days besides just making and eating our Thanksgiving meal.  More on that later.  Have a happy Thanksgiving. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween 2015

We made it through another year of trick-or-treating.  Once again I'm very thankful for the neighbors we have.  Last year wasn't as positive for the Babe, but this year many of our neighbors were very thoughtful, having safe options or a special treat just for her. 

This year there was a greater media presence regarding the Teal Pumpkin Project.  It was started a couple years back by an allergy mom from Tennessee.  Last year it seemed to make headlines in the allergy community, but this year I saw articles in mainstream media, and posts from various media outlets.  The concept behind the Teal Pumpkin Project is to offer safe alternative to food for Halloween treats.  This can be as simple as a pencil or eraser, stickers, or more elaborate items. 

We had a sign on our door indicating we had food and non-food treats.  None of the kids asked for the non-food items, which means I'll just save the little puzzles and other toys for next year.  As for the Babe, she received temporary tattoos, stickers, erasers, pencils, pen and paper, and even a very thoughtful craft project.  The Babe was great about going to various houses that only offered candy.  She just said, "No thank you", and went on with her friends.  The only part that upset her were some people had their dogs out trick-or-treating, and she's afraid of dogs.  Otherwise, she had fun.

Afterwards, she went on a Halloween inspired scavenger hunt with our babysitter, who joined us for the night to help out (Daddy wasn't in town).  Then we had some chocolate chip pumpkin bread I made earlier in the day, followed by carving the pumpkin.  Lastly, I did give her a special treat.  I never know if she's going to receive anything she can keep, or how disappointed she might be that she can't do all that her friends do.  So this year rather than stock up on a bunch of little things (e.g. coloring books and stickers), I got her a small toy I knew she'd like.  Based on the hugs and kisses I received, I knew we finished our evening well.   

If you want more information on the Teal Pumpkin Project, you can find it here:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mommy is not...

I think I have a problem.  To start, the feminist inside me is screaming that I've gone wrong.  This morning while the Babe was getting ready for school, I asked her to pick up a tissue next to her garbage can and throw it out.  She said, "No, that's your job.".  No!  "Moms are maids".  No!!!!  She repeated this.  If she was a little bit older and bigger, all services provided by this mom would come to a screeching halt.  However, child services would come knocking on my door.  And I can't stop caring for my child, no matter how wrong and obnoxious her statement might be.  As my sister helpfully suggested, the bucket and rag needs to come out.  A little Cinderella time?  Or perhaps a reality check.  New season, new school year, new chores.  Let's start with making her own bed, putting away any clothes lying around, clearing the dinner table, and picking up her play room.  She does these things sometimes, but not always.  Well, Mommy the Maid is also Mommy the Boss.  The Boss is making a list. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

School Days

We're just finishing off our second week of first grade.  There are definitely differences from first grade.  The Babe is adjusting to the change in classmates.  I haven't been in the classroom yet to volunteer, so I haven't met many of the kids, and unable to observe the personalities like I was able to last year.  I hear about various kids, and suspect I know who she most dislikes and most likes.  There are still some new names I hear about randomly.  All in all, she seems to be doing well.

One thing I'm proud of is she's learning to advocate for herself.  This week they had class pictures taken.  She observed those ahead of her, and when it was her turn, she asked the photographer not to touch her since she has allergies.  Good for her.  This person probably touched dozens of kids, and who knows what else, before it was the Babe's turn. 

And while there is a lot the Babe misses out on or must avoid, one benefit this year is lunch in the library.  She's been allowed to pick a different classmate each day who has brought their lunch from home to join her in the library for lunch.  They can observe the librarian or the computer specialist teaching, or have the library all to themselves.  Its a unique experience.  Thus far its been very positive.  The ones who have joined us seem to enjoy themselves.  Its a nice change from the lunchroom that is very loud and distracting. 

While I hoped to pursue some form of employment outside the home this year, I realize it would be a challenge since I'm constantly running back and forth from school.  Another year, but in the meantime, I get to know the school staff better, and forge better relationships that improve the Babe's situation.  Hopefully when she's older she'll look back and appreciate our special time together.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Summer of Firsts

This summer was full of firsts for the Babe.  She went to a major league ball game, Disneyworld, and tried some new foods.  There may have been more firsts, but I'm in back to school mode so can't remember everything. 

The major league ball game was a true thrill for her.  We needed to make the hour and half drive to Baltimore to have her bloodwork done for updated allergy testing.  She was not happy to have to have blood drawn, and the long drive didn't help.  It had been pushed back enough that we finally had a day that my husband and I could go.  She knew what treats were in store for her afterwards, however the day before we went my husband came up with a bigger and better idea.  How about attend a Baltimore Orioles game?  We checked with the ticket office about food, and found a section that was barely occupied.  My husband booked a hotel within walking distance of the stadium.  That was fun for the Babe because she could look down at rush hour traffic from our room.  After dinner, we loaded up with wipes and snacks, and headed over.  She loved it.  The people, the lights, the different activities posted on the signboard.  Besides wiping her seat down, we had her sit on stuff.  We were up high, and had a large area all to ourselves.  She danced and cheered, and had a blast. 

A few weeks later we headed down to Florida.  We planned to spend one day at Disneyworld in Orlando.  Based on where we were staying, we were able to get up early, drive two hours, spend the day, and head back home afterwards.  One side note- my husband and I are not fans of heat or crowds.  We visited towards the end of July when it was wall to wall people and 95 degrees.  I packed frozen bottles of water, food, and again, lots of wipes.  The Babe was so excited, anticipating seeing many characters and some rides she would like to go on.  That's unfortunately not how the day proceeded.  Nary a character could be found unless we wanted to stand in ninety minute lines.  And every ride or show we offered (as in every ride and show we passed), we asked if she wanted to go on or to, and she said no.  Although she is six, they still scared her.  After an hour of melting and trying not to collapse, we went on one ride which was the story of the Little Mermaid.  She was not happy with us or the ride.  Halfway through she had her hands over her ears, and afterwards asked us why we made her do it.  She didn't want to go on the teacups or on the carousel, nor see the Presidents' show.  Finally we rode on the train all around the park, which she loved.  After lunch we did meet Belle, during a mini-interactive show that she enjoyed.  Last she had her picture taken with Tinkerbelle (again, something you had to wait on line, but we had a FastPass for).  We rode the ferry back to our car.  We chatted with the captains while waiting, and the Babe was very exited.  However, she was worried she might get seasick.  So the captain gave her a ring (large blue rhinestone) that was "magical" and she'd be fine.  That was probably one of the highlights for her.  We lasted six hours and walked over four miles.  We survived Disney.  Not what we expected to see and do, but we went.  Afterwards she enjoyed a swim in the pool with her daddy.  It was a good day for her, and that is all that matters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Grade

We've survived the first day of school.  The Babe started first grade on Monday.  She was a little anxious going in, but when I picked her up at the end of the day she told me it was "wonderful".  The next morning she told me she loved it. 

This year she's at the same school where she attended kindergarten.  I met with several staff members last week to plan for her attendance, and work towards an agreed 504 Plan.  The biggest hurdle is lunch.  As the Babe is presumed to be airborne anaphylactic to dairy (meaning she can't be around heated dairy because the dairy proteins are in the air, and could trigger a reaction upon inhalation), we're trying to avoid the cafeteria on major dairy days. 

The first day of school was naturally pizza day, so I met her for lunch in the library.  It was just her and myself in a quiet corner while an older class was there with the librarian.  I purchased paper placemats ahead of time.  After wiping down her seat, laying out a placemat, and getting her lunch out, she was good to go.  The Babe enjoyed her lunchtime with me. 

The next day we tried out the cafeteria.  The Babe was a bit apprehensive.  I let her know we could go to the library, but she went ahead and ate in the cafeteria.  The Babe sat at one of two allergy tables.  Again, it was just her and myself, with the rest of her class at a longer table adjacent to us.  The Babe wanted a friend with her, which is a possibility in the future so long as they have a safer lunch (like no hot thermos of mac and cheese).  The school principal spent some time in the cafeteria, and made sure to stop by and sit with us for a few minutes to see how everything was going.  With an airborne reaction, it may not be immediate.  So while I was present with her at lunchtime, I tried not to obsess all afternoon.  Thankfully, everything went well.

Today I joined her again in the cafeteria.  Later this week will be library lunches.  Everything went well at lunch except at the very end.  Her teacher rejoined the group in the cafeteria to line them up to return to the classroom, and two boys who both had dairy in their lunches hugged her simultaneous.  That means neither side of her is "clean", and the Babe was very upset that she can't hug her teacher at the end of the day.  This was the Babe being self-aware, and knowing immediately what wasn't safe.  Hopefully she gets over the disappointment before the day is over.

In the meantime, the principle, school social worker, teacher, and various others have checked in to make sure the Babe is o.k. this first week.  Its wonderful to know everyone is watching out for her.  Thankfully, we're off to a good start.