The day before Thanksgiving, the Toddles' school had a Thanksgiving celebration.
Everything will have wheat and eggs, the director'd tossed at me, and surprised at the ire in her voice, I'd backed away. But not far - uncertain how the Toddles' needs were being considered for this event, I arranged to be one of the people setting up for it. I spent an astonishing amount of that time running around to figure out what the allergy plan was, and who was responsible for carrying it out.
Surprisingly, that person seemed to be me. Um. Insofar as the organizer could tell, she said, puzzled, and tried to find someone to tell her what she should be doing. I shrugged.
Since the Allergy Kid is my kid, I ran back and forth while the organizer asked the parent association folks for guidance, securing the Toddle friendly cookies in my bag, marvelling at the squishy Toddle-friendly cupcakes (did they follow the recipe? I wrote it down - but no, they hadn't) and flipping plates onto tables.
A rather rushed job - and quick breather - later, the room was packed with children and their parents. For a large social hall, the room blinked and was full. We blinked again, and were mustered into a large clump, to sit and listen to stories and sing songs.
did she really say Indian? hissed a mother behind me. Shhhh, said the other. I grinned. Toto, we ain't in Cambridge no more. But the songs were silly and fun and we giggled our way through Albequerqe and his turkeyness. When we all sat down, I noticed that our table was the farthest from the door (far, far, far), and yet closest to the food (wheat, wheat, wheat, eggs). From behind my shoulder, a parent flipped a plate of cakes past me, dropping then sliding to the child across from us. Crumbs bounced across the table as a nearby parent watched, then looked at me worriedly. This stuff is all safe for your kiddo, right? I shook my head slowly, the hairs rising on my neck. No, I nearly whispered. It's really not.
Around us, children ran through the room, shouting and carrying food (wheatwheatwheateggs), and I looked at the chaos and realized that we were safer huddling in our corner for a bit.
So, the Toddles and I sat and ate bowls of soup, made especially in his classroom, with a knife and board reserved for them (and kept there), and tomato juice that I'd spent two hours checking out. (Oddly, tomato juice manufacturers also tend to make fruit punch sorts of juices. A.k.a., kiwi.) I'd carried the sealed pot upstairs, heated it myself, served it myself with a clean ladle. Plus, it was good. Hey, look, I pointed. Is that a green bean you've got there? Oh, but I've got corn in my spoon. The Toddles considered, and dug his spoon in deeper. Aha! I have corn, too, he informed me.
So. We avoided crumbs on the table, did not pick up his fallen spoon (crumbs under his seat), did not leap up to play with his friends and all in all, did a fantastic, unexpected, desperate job at teamwork. I was so grateful to him, I nearly cried. I carried him out in triumph, wiped him off and popped him into the car. As I finished the last buckle on his carseat, his teacher walked by.
So, how was it? she asked, kindly. I shuddered. Not going to do that again, I said ruefully. She patted me sympathetically. But, I perked up, he loved that vegetable soup! What was in it? Happily, the teacher reeled off a list of ingredients and I listened. Until my brain stopped cold, clutching my spine for support.
I muttered something and drove off, checking the Toddles in my mirror. One eye on the child, I drove past the Eldest's school, completely forgetting his early pickup time, watching, watching, watching the little one.
Thirty minutes later, the Toddles woke out of a sleep, wailing. Don't make me eat any more food - my tummy doesn't want any more food, he wept, clutching his middle. I eyed him carefully. He was flushed, and clearly in pain. And nausea.
A reaction, with one - possibly two - body systems, if the flushing was allergic and not from sleep. I nodded grimly, and stuck the EpiPens in my pocket.
Soothed back to sleep, the Toddles had perhaps a 40 minute break before the second wave. Already wire-tight, I was moving up the stairs before he quite finished that first cough. (Behind me, the Eldest watched with wide, worried eyes.) I held the little guy while he coughed and cried, my hand creeping towards the Epis, stilling, moving towards, stilling, pause and vibrating pause after pause. Finally, he stopped.
I knew what had happened, but not how. The teachers had used a soup mix for the veggie soup, one I'd flagged as potentially problematic. It could be fine, but I just don't know, I'd admitted, using one of my favorite lines. So I'll check it out and get back to you. The teacher smiled. It's really no problem, she said, we can always use water and a bay leaf or two, maybe a peppercorn. I nodded. Conversation done, messages delivered. And, short of someone sprinkling flour on the soup I'd guarded and served, the culprit was unlikely to sit somewhere else, thanks to the Toddles' unrepeatable teamwork. So how did we end up here, wavering on the brink of anaphylaxis?
I hadn't a clue.
The Man and I talked through the weekend, weighing the risks. The math just didn't look good, and we now worried about how little we actually knew about the allergy management. Three repetitions of the same mistake, four exposures and two subsequent reactions, I said, each one worse than the last. How willing are we to stick around for the next one? The pattern is just not good. We looked at each other, worried. I'll call the teachers and explain, I suggested, and we'll keep him out of school until we can have a meeting to review the allergy plan, given what's happened. The Man sighed. Keeping him home will, if nothing else, show how seriously we take this, he pointed out. And I hoped so.
On Tuesday, the Man kissed me goodbye, airline schedules in hand - and wished me good luck. I juggled kids, housework and agenda building until Thursday, when we'd all agreed to meet: the teachers, the director and I. I left the boys delightedly dangling off of QG at home, and drove off smiling. But by the first stop sign, I missed the Man fiercely. Three schools before this one, I mused, years of advocacy and teamwork in emergency situations, academic settings, and oh so much more - and yet, something here worries me.
I walked into the building, and nearly into the preschool director. Her back to me, I listened to her spitting out her frustration with me, and her relief that we're meeting with her tonight. If she's not prepared to be flexible, then she can just go. Over the director's shoulder, her listener met my eye, embarrassed.
The director turned, saw me, ducked her head and escaped down the hall. Now this, I whispered, is not going to help at all. And it did not. I walked into the classroom, chatting with the teachers, and popped into a chair. The teachers sat down, and we chattered happily until the director came to the room, sat in the chair next to me and slid it away. I looked at the arc she'd deconstructed, and considered the row of four chairs now sternly facing my lonely one.
oh, boy. This is not going to be good.
Clearing her throat, the lead teacher caught the director's eye and began. We're not sure why we are here tonight, she said, and my heart sank. We've been over the things we did in preparation, she went on, and we see no problems. I aimed at looking friendly and interested, glancing at the bit of paper she gave me.
There, about a third of the way down, it said: onion soup mix - approved by Mom.
I looked up at the calm - and one smug - faces.
Coming soon: But the Toddles was happy: part 3
Backtracking? Look here for the start of the story.