Archive for March, 2005

School Search

I hope Easter was as safe and fun for everyone as it was for us this year. We had a great time catching up with family and friends. I ended up scaling back our Easter party so I could enjoy watching the kids play together. It was a great day, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. They were definately exhausted at the end.

With the Easter holiday break nearly over, we have to make some hard decisions about schooling next year. We have lots of options: public schools, private schools, home schooling or delaying school for 1 year to allow for greater maturity. Not a lot to think about!!!!! Actually we have been discussing this topic for about 3 years! Armed with school prospectuses, enrollment forms and my own experience as a teacher, I have formulated a list of questions that we will be putting forward to the Principals at each interview. We will in fact be interviewing them, not the other way around – at first anyway.

I am thinking of covering topics and questions such as:

– Does the school have any previous anaphylaxis experience?
– the need for staff training
– the need for his teacher’s level of awareness
– playground/ lunchtime supervision
– Is the junior school separated from older kids?
– bullying with food and bullying in general
– hand washing of his class prior to entering classroom after lunches
– medication use and storage
– supervision before and after school
– Do they have a school nurse?
– their ability to provide a safe, inclusive education

I have lots of questions, but the main one that I have I don’t think they will be able to answer: Will my boy be safe here?

I have read lots of literature and watched lots of television footage about children going to school with peanut allergies. I have read how schools “ban” peanuts. This information really is not applicable or practicable to dairy anaphylaxis sufferers (or soy, wheat, egg or the countless other allergens). More literature about integrating children with food allergies where the foods can’t be “banned” is desperately required.

Our investigation begins next week, and I hope to have some encouraging news to report…. for all our sakes!!

Reaction-free Term

Well, a big thanks go out to Declan’s preschool. We have gone through the first term without consequence. It is such a joy to reach the holidays and know that the term was reaction-free. So much credit goes to the Teacher and Assistant for being understanding, compassionate and determined to take responsibility for our son. We are fortunate to have a teacher who has a strong understanding of “duty of care”. All teachers have a duty of care, but as we have discovered, not all of them uphold the full meaning of the phrase. We really do appreciate the effort the centre makes for Declan, and all of the children.

The Easter Parade celebration was met with some mixed reactions as one parent was not completely understanding of the fact that chocolate easter eggs were a danger for us. When she wanted to hand them out, I very calmly and very directly explained that Declan stops breathing when exposed to dairy. I still don’t think that it was fully comprehended, and the parent still wasn’t satisfied that the other kids should delay eating the eggs until they got in the car. But, with the help of other understanding mums, and the teachers, the eggs were put away to hand out when the kids left. YAY!!! A small, but very significant win for dairy anaphylaxis understanding. I realised that some people just don’t get it, some people will never get it. I expect more issues at future gatherings, however, I will not stress over the prospect of this until it happens.

Last Easter we didn’t feel comfortable staying long at the Parade with so many people milling around eating the “wrong” food. But, by following routines adapted to accommodate us, we were able to stay and enjoy the celebrations. Our kids were able to stay and play after the food, as the kids had washed their hands, as per the normal lunch routines. The toys, play equipment and books also benefit from all the hand washing as they are not covered with food and drinks from dirty hands.

There are three terms to go until the end of preschool. Fingers crossed these next few terms will be equally as successful.

Post-party Clean Up

Thank you to Declan’s teachers for thoroughly cleaning up after the Easter Fun Day. Before we left on the day I expressed my concern about the chocolate covered hands of the kids playing on the outside play equipment after the Easter Egg hunt. I asked if the teachers could be extra vigilant in their monitoring the following day as the risk of a contact reaction would be very high.

To my absolute delight, the following morning I was informed of the rigorous cleaning activities of the teachers earlier that morning. After several chux cloths and a lot of disinfectant they felt comfortable enough that Declan would be safe from the chocolate contamination.

As a token of my appreciation, I bought them a beautiful flower each. I also gave a flower to the two mums who tried their best to make the fun day a ‘success’ for us. They all said that I don’t need to do that. But, when you face people everyday who don’t seem to care of the situation, I always like to acknowledge the people who do. I will continue to do so. They make life a lot easier. They are treasures.

A ‘SUCCESSFUL’ Day

We had a “successful” Fun Day at preschool on Sunday. We are learning to re-define some key terms in our life. Successful would once have meant picking the best prize in the lucky dip, or winning first prize in the raffle. Successful on this occasion means NO ALLERGIC REACTIONS.

Last year, I didn’t feel comfortable taking the kids to an Easter Fun Day, where there was a sausage sizzle and an Easter Egg hunt. I went, to witness how it all worked, and to show my support as I am on the committee. I saw how they organised the food and activities. Invaluable information.

Armed with this knowledge, this year, I worked with the Fun Day coordinator, to make all the kids food, drinks and ice blocks safe. Our kids know that we do not eat sausages from a sausage sizzle, so Declan didn’t even ask if he could have one. Bianca, well, she was a little unimpressed. Even though we knew the sausages were safe, we didn’t want to confuse them with it being “ok to eat them sometimes, and not at other times”. Consistency is a good thing. The kids know that they can have bread from a packet where we can check the ingredients, just like the margarine and sauce. So this is what they nibbled on. This was followed by ice blocks, where they saw us check the ingredients on the box.

A magic show followed the food. All the kids were enthralled. Cakes were put on a table outside for the adults to eat. Of course this made us uneasy, but they were for the adults. Declan was summoned onto the stage to be involved in a few tricks and ended up holding a bunny for all the kids to come over and pat. As they lined up outside, they saw the table with the cakes. After their pat, some kids grabbed cake and took it inside to eat. BAD for us! To get the cake outside, the magic show was stopped and the kids were then instructed to go outside and find the Easter Eggs. But as the magic show hadn’t finished yet, they brought them inside to eat. VERY BAD for us!

The egg hunt had been planned for after the magic show. We had arranged to leave when the other kids were busy egg hunting. But as the plans changed to go with the flow, we were left to decide if we would stay or go. I wanted to leave then and there, but my husband did not want our kids to miss the rest of the show. So he stood up the back with Declan, and I waited with Bianca at my parents home, just up the road. She was getting a bad cold and I felt very uncomfortable being there.

My husband is not as anxious or reactive at me. He felt very proud that he stayed and was able to make the most out of an awkward situation. I realise that Declan needs more of these instances to be able to handle such situations when he faces them in the future. Seeing all those kids walking around with chocolate on their hands and butter icing on their face, gave us a glimpse into what it will be like at lunch times at school next year. OH DEAR!!

The Fun Day coordinator was devastated that the thoroughly planned procedures for the day fell by the wayside. After many apologies, I finally convinced her that kids are completely unpredictable, and as much as we try to control situations, for the most part, it is impossible. It really is up to us to have educated our own children to look out for their own safety, to have a great sense of self-awareness, and an excellent ability to assess each and every situation for the risks. We can’t rely on everyone else to make every social situation ‘safe’ for us.
We are constantly reminded every day that other people are not going to take responsibility for our kids’ life-threatening allergies. It isn’t their responsibility.

I am tempted to bake all the cakes for the next function, just like I did last year. It would make the environment safer, and give more food options for our kids to eat. But, what would we be teaching our kids? They would never get any practice in risk assessment, nor any confidence in their own ability to look after themselves. I struggle with this decision all the time. Our first instinct is always to protect our kids. But their is also another vital role we play as their parents – educator. We can’t be looking over their shoulder for the next 15 years. It would make my life easier if I could, but it just isn’t possible. They are growing up, and we need to let them grow up.

So our new definition of a successful event, is “reaction-free”. The kids might fight the whole car trip, we might lose a hat, I might even lose my purse, but with no reactions….. it is still a very successful event.

Easter party preparations

I love kids parties. We have them at every opportunity – Easter, Halloween, Christmas and birthdays. I love organising them and watching them come to fruition. I love watching my kids get fully involved at the parties without having to think about ‘who has eaten and what’, and ‘are their hands clean?’. I love concocting themed food for each event, and games to match…it is almost a passion of mine. I love that the food and drinks are dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free.

So for Easter this year, the preparations have begun. We will be keeping the guest list to two other families, bringing the total number of kiddies up to 7.

**Decorations**
The kids love to do craft, so I have cut out a lot of egg shapes from white cardboard that they will paint and glitter them as they like. These will be hung up around the front yard (weather permitting an outside party). The rest of the decorations will include streamers tied up to blow in the breeze (white, pastel pink, yellow and blue). Some will have little cardboard eggs taped on to give a more festive feel.

**Games**
-Pin the cotton ball tail on the Easter Bunny
-Egg and spoon race: with big plastic spoons and plastic eggs that when dropped split into two and a beanbag egg white and yolk fall out
-Easter egg waddle: put confetti into a white balloon and blow it up halfway, enough to make a good egg shape. Add some dots or colourful stickers to make it look like an easter egg. The kids have a race to see who can walk from A to B with the ‘egg’ between their knees without dropping it. They then pop it. The first one to do this wins. (Watch the confetti and broken balloon pieces with little children)
-The Bunny Hop: This is like musical statues, but the children have to hop around like bunnies and freeze when the music stops. I will get some bunny ears for them which they can take home.
Egg toss: I made some beanbag easter eggs (or simply use painted foam eggs), and the kids all have a turn at throwing the eggs into the Easters Bunnies basket. This is harder if the basket has a handle on it.
-Easter egg hunt: I had always wanted to have Easter Egg hunts with my kids, I never anticipated that they wouldn’t be able to pick them up when they found them. Then with the discovery of dairy-free eggs, I thought that would be the answer. Then with the contaminated egg issue (see previous entries) this also was not an option! So each year we have a tradition that is much more fun, creative and healthier. The kids and I paint and decorate various sized foam eggs and leave them out for the Easter Bunny to hide. The kids then go around and find them on Easter morning. We will simply reuse those eggs for the party Easter Egg hunt. Each egg will represent a different treat for which they can swap, or keep the pretty eggs.
-Craft: lots of paint, ribbon glue and glitter for the kids to decorate Easter eggs, bunnies or foam eggs.

I am thinking of making an Easter egg pinata, but I might keep the pinata idea up my sleeve for their birthdays. There will be plenty for them to do as it is.

**Food**
This will be an assortment of dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free hot cross buns, home-made bunny biscuits and pastries, lots of fluffy pink and white marshmallows, Easter egg-shaped fairy bread, fruit, vege sticks, home-made dairy-free easter chocolates and small sandwiches. Lots of water and Easter Punch to drink.

This is what I plan for our Easter party this year. If you are having a gathering of your own, I hope it is a fun and safe time for you all.