Sunday, September 30, 2007

hedumacation and bread!!

Okay, so the Currier thing is over, and for the curious we have this brief.

I've heard from a lawyer in the firm representing her, and it sounds like there's a lot of specifics to the Currier case (high risk pregnancy, the NBME screwing up during her first exam, etc) and those make a great deal of difference in how you view it.

But enough lactation, time for some hedumacation and good old fashioned eating. Oh, and bumper stickers. More happily added here.

The Eldest has now been a kindergartner for a full four weeks.

To be fair, for at least seven of those days he was absent for religious holidays, or the transitions thereto, but hey, he's in school. Officially. So, time for a blog favorite of mine, the stats:
Full disclosure: I know these aren't real, number crunched statistics, and yes, I'm quietly needling the Man, bean counter extraordinarie, every time I do things like this. You should've seen his reaction when I tried to explain (in print) that 'average' is really 1 out of 100%. Heh.

  • 12 days of school
  • 5 kids with food allergies in the class
  • 15 food allergies (counting the nuts as a single allergy) in one class (okay, most of them belong to my kid, but hey.)
  • 4 calls/emails from parents of kids trying to make allergy friendly food, because 'my kid really wants to sit with the Eldest'
  • 1 cranky email about food tyranny
  • 5 number of days of phys ed/sports club (which the Eldest chose from a range of options. Natch.)
  • 0 panicked phone calls during school about allergy issues
  • 0 panicked phone calls during school about bleeding issues
  • 7 happy, proud teachers and administrators (no, really)
  • 3 conversations in the parking lot with teachers/admin glowing about having the Eldest in the school
  • 5 conversations with parents who admitted that their kids have allergies, too. Some of those kids are even in the Eldest's class.
  • 0 laws requiring the school to do diddly for the kid
  • 1 wowed, grateful, dancing in the streets mama

The school has gone through a number of options, settling finally on having a peanut-, nut- and dairy-free classroom, and with signs posted asking people not to consume peanuts, tree nuts in the common areas and hallways. The kindergarten classroom has a box of diaper wipes outside, for use on hands and face before entering, and a picture of peanut-allergic Binky, from Arthur (PBS TV show) on the door.

The kindergarteners do not eat lunch in their (carpeted) classroom, but eat instead in the (tiled) cafeteria. No sharing of food is allowed, for both kashrut and allergy reasons, and there is a covered allergy-friendly table. Kids can bring anything they want to eat, even peanut butter - it all depends on where they want to sit. Kids wash up before and after each meal, and clean their tables.

Kids with allergies or safe lunches eat at the allergy table, and with so many allergic kids, it isn't isolating. All snacks are provided by the teachers, and birthday parties are under discussion. Currently, parents are urged to consider food-free donations to the classroom, and no goodie bags.

Oh, my.

I knew that we'd made the right choice when I turned up to the pre-start o' school training session, and found 3 kindergarten teachers, the head of the school, the phys ed teacher, the dean of students, head of admission, 3 front office staff, dean of the lower school, and the head of the after school program who wandered in because, he said, he saw the schedule and said to himself, 'well, heck, this kid is going to want to do after-school at some point, and I need to be prepared!' He sat through the meeting, listening to the bleeding disorder stuff, the allergy stuff, and finally put his hand up and said, Okay, so the bottom line is that he's a regular kid - with some issues, but a regular kid - and we should treat him like one and just be prepared. Is that right?

I felt muscles relax that I didn't know were tense. Yeah, I said. That's right. He nodded to himself, and said quietly, 'Well, we can do that.' And they did. Parents battle for small things, schools fight back, angry and feeling taken advantage of, teachers plant their feet, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. But these guys sat and listened and asked questions and took me on a tour of the classroom, to identify potential issues, and asked more questions and just...did it.

You'd have to read hundreds of frustrated, angry emails by allergy parents to understand how amazingly lucky we are. Parents who dig out IDEA, who call the state attorney, who hire lawyers to let their kids go to school. Parents who actually know that IDEA exists, that the state attorney is useful to them, and who have the knowledge to do anything other than self-destruct with fury and frustration. And parents who homeschool, some because they want to, more because they feel they have to. I had an email this past month from a hemophilia parent who homeschools because her son has lots of bleeds and was missing too much school. Hemo-parents jumped to help, offering links to legislation supporting the kid, describing how the kid is entitled to an extra set of books (carrying a heavy bag isn't always possible with swelling, bleeding or at-risk joints - and definitely not possible in a wheelchair!), how he's entitled to a tutor, how the school isn't allowed to hold him back for medically-based absence alone...the bleeding disorder crowd know their rights, and few people in the school system give them trouble over it. Hemo kids? A sad, pathos-ridden bunch. Of course we support them. By contrast, the food allergy crowd is less well educated, has less media tailored to their needs, and their knowledge is more haphazard. And those phonies who just can't be bothered taking their Claritin? Why enable the whiners?

Oh, yes, we are lucky with this school.

I cruised past Gluten-Free By the Bay and ogled this: I sat, I sighed, and then I smacked my head. I've just finished adapting a Bette Hagman's recipe for us (soy-free, egg-free, corn-free, dairy-free), and it is light and fluffy and wonderful as either rolls or bread. Here it is:

You Must Be This High to Be This Bread
Editor's note: most gluten-free breads are quite, quite short. And gluten-free sans eggs? Almost a guaranteed coxswain. Take a look at GFBTB's bread. Ooooh. Now look at the number of eggs. Ahhha. It is a mystery to me why this bread has the height and the loft of non-gf, vegan breads. Ya got me.

very,very adapted from Bette Hagman's New Challah. Makes 1 loaf or 12 rolls.

1.5 c rice flour (plain rice flour - not brown rice, not sweet rice)
1 c potato starch
.5 c tapioca starch flour
2.25 tsp xanthan gum/guar gum (guar for the anti-corn lobby)
.75 tsp salt
.25 c sweet rice flour
.5 c plain sugar
.5 tsp baking soda
1 Tb yeast

mix dry ingredients together. Dig out your breadmachine (or see below), and add the wet ingredients:

4 flaxgel egg substitutes (1 flaxgel= 1 Tb ground flaxseed, a.k.a flaxmeal + 2 TB water)
1.5 Tb honey or agave syrup, for the truly vegan - thanks for the nudge, joy!
.75 tsp vinegar (I like rice vinegar or cider vinegar)
.5 c margarine (I use Mother's stick margarine, the stuff from Passover which is corn free. Mother's tub margarine might work too, but the consistency is different.)
1 Tb instant potato flakes. No, really.
1.5 cups water

If you have a bread machine, dump the dry ingredients onto the wet ingredients and press a button. Look smug. I'd bake this in an oven, so once it's mixed and risen, turn off the machine and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 400F for about 40 minutes. Or, pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 400F for about 22 minutes (i.e., check after 20 minutes and decide). Watch the bread puff and rise and say things like, 'holy cripes, that's vegan GF?' (There are probably children present when you say this. If not, feel free to improvise.)

If you don't have a bread machine, well, try this: having combined the dry ingredients, ignore them. Heat the flaxgels briefly in the microwave until they start to gel, then add honey and the margarine (in chunks) and the potato flakes. Beat in your mixer. In a separate bowl, mix vinegar, water.

Add the dry to the wet ingredients, adding the water-vinegar mixure slowly, to keep the stuff from flying everywhere. Mix hard, beating for about 3-5 minutes, to get some aeration into the stuff. Then let it rise somewhere warm for about 40 minutes. Less for the 'fast-acting, good for breadmachines' yeast, closer to 50 minutes for the slower acting yeast.

Spoon into a greased pan or muffin tins and bake at 400F as per above. When it comes out beautifully, ignore your lack of electronic doohickey and look smug regardless.


joy said...

As I am feeling annoyingly pedantic today, the honey makes it not-vegan, so to be absolutely perfect in imperfection, you might suggest an alternate.

And the school sounds simply awesome. I love our daycare, but the snacks they give would make you moan. We're working on it and there is a meeting next week. Because I have so much spare time and need a hobby. *blech*

AidelMaidel said...

Can you make Hamotzi on this bread? It looks from the ingredients to be hadoma or shehakol... so what do you do for shabbos? Just have extra grape juice?

mama o' the matrices said...

joy, point taken. I've noted vegan alternative to the honey - although I've never quite understood the issue with honey. Does taking honey somehow kill bees?

Aidel, well, okay, so here's the thing: rice is shehakol, and this bread (all of my breads, really) is mostly rice. But, derech chinuch (for the purposes of educating the children), we wash *and* do motzei (blessing for bread) on the loaves on shabbat. Any other time, shehakol.

It's a tricky thing, and we do this careful conversation with our guests, warning them that a true motzei needs to be done on wheat bread, before they come, and please to clean up and generally peel off a layer of skin before they arrive. Okay, maybe not the skin.

But yes, extra grape juice and we get to bentch (grace after meals) on our shabbat/chag(holiday) meals. A semblance of the rituals we want the kids to know, only - I'm just waiting for the Eldest to learn enough halacha to rat us out to the Toddles.

joy said...

The anti-honey vegan issue is that bees don't willingly make honey for us, just like chickens don't exactly enjoy having us take their eggs. They don't die from it, but it's stealing and potentially abusive. Or at least, that's one way to explain it. Like all such things, everyone has to determine where in the sand they draw their line.

mama o' the matrices said...

Hunh? I thought the problem with eggs is their potential for life.

Oh, dear. This is what comes of being medically vegan (mostly, apparently), rather than philosophically so.

Auntie A said...

It sounds like you absolutely made the right school choice for eldest. I'm so happy for you that it's working out well.

Enjoy the next round of holidays! Hope you and the y-chromosomes get to do some dancin'.

dykewife said...

it's totally awesome the way that the school is dealing with the food allergies and wanting education about bleeding and whatnot. i'm sure that eldest is also helping with their education with his own knowledge.

you know, with all the hand and face washing that has to happen, i wonder if his class won't be the healthiest in the entire school. the way that flu and colds are most frequently spread from kid to kid is by hand contact.

Joanne B. said...

I'm feeling so much better than when I wrote my last comment to you in despair. Chatted with the school nurse today, who was wonderful, helpful, accomodating and most of all, utterly prepared!

Tomorrow meeting with the kindergarten teacher, dean of student affairs and school nurse. Feeling much more confident...

Thanks for your kind words of encouragement!

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

Joy, I am pleased to report that you can replace the honey with agave, 1:1.

Joanne, go woman, go! Hedumacate those educators. You can absolutely do this, and I'm so delighted to see that the school is prepared to work with you. (nice nurse, sounds like. Whew.)

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