Friday, August 27, 2010


Harper is a kindergartner!

Day one seems to have gone very well, despite the fact that the very first thing we ran into was a situation that would potentially be unsafe from an allergy standpoint. One that no one had thought about until this morning. If the students get to school before 8:05, they have to wait in the cafeteria until it is time to go into their rooms. No big deal, unless you consider that they've just finished serving breakfast in the cafeteria, the cafeteria with no peanut free table (yet). We had discussed no precautions to be taken to make that a safe situation. Now it isn't that big of a deal for this year. If we get to school a little early we'll wait on a side street until I can pull into the car line at 8:06. For today I just waited with her outside the cafeteria until it was time to walk her to her room.

Unfortunately being faced with that bit of uncertainty made me wonder what else we'd forgotten to consider and I left Harper at school with a very bad feeling (my bad feeling, not hers).

She was fine, of course, but I'm back in a head-space (as I am in each new school/situation) where my wheels are constantly turning, thinking of all the ways it could go wrong, a stone of worry planted firmly in my gut.

So I said my goodbyes and made it mostly out the door before being overwhelmed with worry and starting to cry. And I managed to make it back to the car before I really let loose, with poor, bewildered Michael wondering why I was sobbing into the steering wheel. Eventually I took a few deep breaths, pulled myself together, and Michael and I went on about our morning (breakfast with Nana, trip to the store, park visit).

Harper was beaming when she bounded down the sidewalk toward the car. She said she listened and met a new friend and thinks Mrs. X is going to be a good teacher. So there you go.

Incidentally, there are 25 children in her kindergarten class, which is on the large side. For those of you who also sent your kiddos off to kindergarten this year, how big are your classes?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Whew - it has really been a whirlwind week. Beyond the logistics of Michael's first days, we've been drowning in a sea of back-to-school paperwork (FYI making copies of all that stuff makes it loads easier for the next year and is helpful if the paperwork gets lost!). Today was Harper's kindergarten orientation and her first day, finally, will be tomorrow.

Harper was a little shy with the teacher when we walked into the classroom, but quickly spotted a friend and was then at ease. I was proud of how she dutifully sat and worked on her coloring pages while the principal, PTO parents, counselors, nurse, and teacher addressed the parents. When she finished both papers and drew pictures on the backs she sort of looked up at me and shrugged, and then continued to sit politely. Harper's kindergarten class is large, 25 children, and I think being able to concentrate/behave amidst distraction is going to be fairly important for a successful year!

We had about two and a half hours to spend before we needed to pick Michael up from school so Harper and I headed over to the arboretum to visit the butterfly house.

It was lovely to have some time alone with my girl. While we technically can have some alone time while Michael naps each day I often feel like I have tasks that need to be accomplished during those times. Being out together, just the two of us, is a special treat.

We went to visit the butterflies today because it is something we've enjoyed often in the past. It didn't occur to me until I was uploading these photos that spending time among the butterflies was the perfect activity to share as we are about to send Harper off to school.

We've had many first days of school before, three, four if you count the mid-year switch. But this one, this one feels a little different...

Off she goes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Second Verse Same as the First

Today was Michael's second first day of school. Since shortly after birth Michael's development has been followed closely through free local early intervention programs. His speech is still lagging behind and that is part of why he qualifies for early intervention toddler group, which is where he will be on Monday and Wednesday mornings. He is in a class with an early intervention specialist, two teacher assistants, and only seven children - an excellent opportunity to be sure.

He is not nearly as familiar with the early intervention specialist, or the building that program is in, as he is with the preschool he went to yesterday. I hoped today would go well but tried to keep my expectations in check.

Michael was very excited to head out to toddler group today, especially because he got to wear his new back pack:

Here he is in front of his classroom, looking like he is about to fill his diaper. Wha? Believe it or not, this was a happy face:

Toddler group went well, not quite as well as yesterday, but still well. His teacher said he whimpered on and off throughout the morning, but actual tears didn't last too long. I think the small class will help him adjust quickly.

Tomorrow Harper and I will head to her kindergarten orientation and her first official day is Friday. Next week we'll really start to settle into our new routines... I hope!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School Time

So back to school time is here - it's kind of a waterfall of "first days" for us this year. Michael is in a preschool and an early intervention toddler group. Today was his first day of preschool and toddler group begins tomorrow. Before we could send anyone back to school, however, it was time to clear the art wall.

Here's what it looked like before:

Now it is ready for some fresh art:

And here is my big, nearly two and a half year-old, all ready to hop in the car and go to school:

He was that happy until the moment I leaned down to kiss him and say goodbye. We went to school for an open house last week and we all stayed for a while, I think he was hoping we'd stay again today. No such luck.

I think Michael was pleasantly surprised when I picked him up right after lunch. His preschool is the same place the kids had preschool/day care when I worked last spring and they were there all day long. Perhaps he won't be so weepy when I drop him off once he realizes he isn't going to be there all day - I can hope!

When I returned to pick him up his teachers told me what a wonderful morning he'd had. He was happily listening to a story when I arrived and his bear (comfort object) was tucked safely in his cubby. He was thrilled to see me and enthusiastically babbled about his morning.

If tomorrow's first day of toddler group goes even half as well, we'll be in good shape!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brothers and Sisters

Siblings: obscuring the lines between laughing and crying, playing and fighting, helping and hurting... since the beginning of time.

Right now Harper and Michael are "playing" in her room. I have learned in recent days that "playing" probably means she is telling him to be a pirate and they are jumping off their ship (her love seat) into the ocean (a nest of pillows and blankets and cushions piled on the floor). I hate this game, mostly because when it is lunch time and I ask them to clean up, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth and protesting that Michael got most of it out but won't help!

BUT I am letting them do it because here what isn't happening right now:

1) No one (Michael) is biting anyone else (Harper).

2) No one is crying.

3) No one is screaming.

4) No one is claiming the other one has something the first one wants.

Now Harper knows I don't like the game they're playing. This is why I'd bet you a large sum of money that she has her door locked. And they are probably giggling and feeling like they are getting away with something.

I'm kind of old-school when it comes to kids and manners and respect and blah, blah, blah. I'm not easy on them, especially Harper. But I do think that kids need some space - to be left to fend for themselves in their play - to think that we don't know what they are up to. That's where play lives, really, in the spaces we allow them - in the quiet they have to fill themselves and in all the messy and unorthodox navigating they do on their own.

Plus, this kind of play keeps the temporary peace. I am generally shocked and appalled at how much my kids fight with each other. And I am extremely hesitant to break up those fights - I intervene if someone is genuinely getting (or about to get) hurt, of course - but I tend to let them be for fear they will never learn to work it out on their own if I don't.

I'm just starting to get a glimpse of a more peaceful coexistence - maybe it is just that Michael is finally old enough to play pretend in a way Harper appreciates, maybe it is his burgeoning language skills, maybe she has grown more patient. Whatever it is, these times when they are genuinely enjoying each others company are rare and I will, for now, let them continue whatever mischief they are brewing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Signs of a Growing Girl

Is it just me or is it kind of difficult to believe that Harper is starting kindergarten in six days? Although lately it has been impossible to deny that she is growing up fast.

Back in March Harper began telling me that she had a loose tooth. For the record, Harper has been having imaginary loose teeth since she first understood the concept of the Tooth Fairy. Pre-kindergarten is pretty young to have loose teeth, and we'd been to the dentist and been told she probably wouldn't lose any teeth until she was at least six. This is my way of saying that I didn't believe her. Then, still in March, when we were all enjoying a round of the stomach flu, Harper woke up screaming one night. I thought she'd been sick in her bed, but she was upset because something was in her mouth - it turned out to be an adult tooth coming in behind her front baby teeth (on the bottom). Her tooth had been loose all along.

"You really do have a loose tooth!" I told her - which made her burst into tears. I'm pretty sure she was feverish at the time.

Then we were in the car, about an hour from home, after our Memorial Day trip to Wisconsin when she piped up from the back seat, "My tooth came out!"

Again, I did not believe her.

I know! What kind of mother am I? But sure enough, she'd pulled her tooth out and there it was in her hand.


(See how her other tooth was pretty much up already?)

I wish I'd taken the time to write about this when it happened, it felt so profound to me, such a concrete sign of her getting older. I cried and cried over that tooth.

Incidentally, I have it, and the one that came out a couple of weeks later (which she also pulled out herself, I was under the false impression that losing teeth would take some kind of intervention on our part). What do you guys do with baby teeth?

Here is a summer shot of her with both bottom front teeth missing...

As if the teeth weren't enough, we decided a significant haircut was in order before school started. So THIS happened last weekend:

I LOVE the way her haircut looks, but watching it happen was a little like getting punched in the stomach. She looked dramatically older to me in a matter of moments. It was completely unnerving. In reality, she wears it with the sides pulled back most days, which still looks cute, but doesn't age her quite as much. Phew!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I walked into a toy with such force today that it split my left pinkie toenail. There was some impressive bleeding and have been many requests to see my "toe boo boo." It HURT. I'm amazed I didn't start spewing profanity.


Last night at dinner Harper told Michael that nostrils were the door to his nose. Heee!


Michael starts preschool in two weeks (from yesterday, actually) and Harper starts kindergarten in a little over two weeks. You guys, we've done near survived summer! Let's have a drink!


I haven't really mentioned this much in this space, but I tried and tried to get a job for this school year. Nobody wants me! I'm going to volunteer in a school library for one morning a week. I'll sub occasionally. I may actually have a moment or two of free time. FOUR mornings a week there will be about an hour and a half when both my children will be at school.


I'm really psyched to fly solo with Michael every Friday while Harper is at school. We don't get to do much of that.


I don't talk on the phone much, truly, but nearly every time I pick up the phone (to answer or make a call) Michael howls, "Nooooo phooooonnn Mamaaaa!" Why?


I'm officially the worst RSVP-er to children's parties, ever. Mostly this is because determining whether Harper can go to a party requires me to call and ask people I usually don't know very well rude questions about what they are serving and do they mind if we bring alternate food. I don't enjoy making those phone calls, despite the fact that our experiences so far have been 99.9% positive ones (knock on wood).

Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday, August 02, 2010

Safe Snacks for Kids with Food Allergies

A little while ago Swistle sent me an email saying that she would love to read a post about what to bring for a snack for kids with nut allergies. I have been thinking about this for weeks, figuring that it might be helpful for lots of people, and wondering how best to approach the subject.

After some hemming and hawing I decided to copy some of the information we give to Harper's teachers. Here is the information we share as a guideline for classroom snacks:

We will not allow Harper to eat food prepared in someone else’s home kitchen; the risk of cross-contamination is too great. (This extends to most of our relatives as well!)

We do not allow Harper to eat bakery products (cake, cookies, breads, etc.) prepared in store bakery sections or specialty bakeries (Cheryl & Co. in Town and Country, for example).

We do not allow Harper to eat food that is labeled in any of the following ways: may contain peanuts, processed on equipment that processes peanuts, processed in a facility that processes peanuts. (Sometimes this warning is directly below the ingredients statement and sometimes it is in another area of the packaging. All packages should be read thoroughly.)

Ice cream of any sort is usually not manufactured under conditions we consider “safe,” even though the labels rarely have cross-contamination warnings.

Any fresh fruits/vegetables need to be washed very carefully, many produce sections contain open bins of nuts and the “dust” from these nuts can contaminate the produce.

Extra care should be taken to examine labels of foods like crackers, cereal, cookies, cakes/cake mixes, muffins, bread, etc. Anything prepared in any type of bakery setting is at high risk for cross-contamination. I usually avoid purchasing products if I know the same company makes the same type of product in a peanut or peanut butter variety (i.e. Oreo makes a sandwich cookie w/ peanut butter filling).

Companies are required to list peanut when it is one of the ingredients in a food. They cannot hide peanut or peanut derived ingredients under the label “natural flavors”. This is a result of legislation that went into effect January of 2006.

Companies are not required to label for cross-contamination. Some companies choose to do so. There is always a risk of cross-contamination in a product that hasn’t been labeled as such. That’s why it is so important to be prepared to recognize the signs of a reaction and take immediate action. Some companies have better labeling practices than others. General Mills and Keebler are two companies with excellent labeling practices. When there is a choice between a Nabisco product and a comparable Keebler product, we prefer to use the Keebler product.

We never feed Harper a food item that is not labeled or has already been opened (I’m thinking of something like getting her jelly from a jelly jar in someone else’s house bc they may not have cleaned a knife between the peanut butter jar and the jelly – just wiping it off won’t get rid of the peanut protein.).

I triple check every label: I check in the store before I purchase a food item, I check at home when I unpack the item, and I check before I serve an item to Harper. More than once I’ve “caught” an unsafe item on the second or third look.

Sometimes a food which has previously been safe undergoes a manufacturing change and is no longer safe for Harper. This happened with Nestle chocolate chips, there used to be safe varieties and now every bag has a peanut warning on it. That’s why it is so important to check every time. It is also why I don’t recommend handing out a list of “safe snacks” to parents or teachers; it can lead to a false sense of security.

I am especially wary of anything baking related, especially chocolate items like chocolate chips, or items used to decorate candy and cookies. Even if the label looks okay I would likely call those companies to investigate their labeling practices. I am happy to do this for you w/ a few days notice!

A handful of companies come to mind when I think of who I trust when it comes to labeling: Hershey, Keebler, General Mills, and Quaker come right to mind.

Foods at high risk for cross contamination include chocolate, ice cream and other frozen desserts, sauces, dried fruit, granola, trail mix, and seeds. I am suspicious if I don’t see a warning on these types of foods and would likely call to check them out.

Animal feed/bird seed is a tricky area because the labeling laws are not clear when it comes to pet food – if there is a question this is another area I am happy to call and investigate.


Of course not all of these would apply to everyone looking for safe snacks, I'm just too lazy to edit!

Here are some other things to consider:

1. Even among those with peanut allergies, every family has a different "comfort zone" and will likely have different ideas about what they consider safe. Plus some people have a combination of allergies. Harper has shown evidence of allergy to other legumes so we have to watch out for products which have flour from these sources (chickpea flour, for example). That is pretty unique to our family, but it is important for us because many products listed as being free of the top 8 allergens use these flours in place of wheat flour.

2. As I said in the above points, manufacturing processes can change, so I hesitate to list "safe" foods. But here are some things we fall back on for treats: Dum Dum lollipops, Smarties candies, Skittles, Hershey products when the label is safe, Keebler graham snacks, Rold Gold pretzels, string cheese, that's what comes to mind off the top of my head. There are several boxed brownie, cake, and cookie mixes we consider safe, but I would be uncomfortable with Harper eating them if were prepared in a kitchen that wasn't nut free.

3. Sometimes non-food treats are a better option. Young children like stickers, mini notebooks, fancy pencils, etc.

4. The number one piece of advice I would offer is to talk to the parents of the allergic child, or ask the teacher how the allergy should be dealt with. For us, for now, I usually prefer to just provide an alternate or comparable snack for Harper when someone is bringing a treat to share. I always bring a safe treat for the group when there is any type of classroom party.

Man, this post ended up being really long and maybe not that helpful. I have a lot of trouble being brief when it come to this allergy business. But I am also happy to answer questions - so feel free to ask!

I'm all for anything that helps make school safe for beautiful children like these: