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Homemade is best – except at school

Submitted by on Thursday, 30 April 2009 9 Comments

teddy_bear_cakeMy eyes turned pea green with a world-class case of baking envy tonight when I saw the darling treats a friend had made for her daughter’s birthday celebration at school.

Elizabeth over at Parenting Pink and her daughter created the most adorable Rice Krispie pops on Earth, topped with chocolate and the required sprinkles. They even painted the sticks.

Painted the sticks?! That would take gallons of paint in this house, by the time you account for the fingers, arms, faces, necks and, on a bad day, bellies that have to be covered as well. But I digress.

What a great idea, I thought. I’ll have to file this one away for Big Guy’s birthday next year.

Then I remembered: Oops. We don’t do that here. All treats sent to school have to be store-bought, in order to protect children from … From what? I’m not sure.

It’s a trend that started years ago, long before the obesity epidemic gave it new impetus last fall.

Many districts implemented the rules after outbreaks of food-borne illness locally or out of fear after one occured somewhere else. A few cited allergy concerns. One in Iowa even blamed meth. As if cranksters are going to whip up a batch of cupcakes once they finish their cook for the night.

The irony is, I used to help parents sneak around the ban back in the day before kids, when I had time to decorate several cakes a week. I bought bakery boxes by the dozen and it was fairly easy to camouflage a home-baked goody by using one.

That won’t work for me now, because the staff at school knows Big Guy’s allergies mean I can’t buy bakery goods.

So that leaves me with Chips Ahoy or Oreos or some other some other high fructose corn syrup-laden manufactured food with enough preservatives to negate the need for embalming when the time comes.

On other kids’ birthdays, Big Guy eats the same thing. Just because it’s manufactured doesn’t mean it’s safe for the food allergic. Quite to the contrary, in many cases.

These days, manufactured doesn’t necessarily mean safe at all. Peanut butter, anyone? Which is why, in this economy in particular, bans on homemade goodies no longer make sense.

Why force parents to spend more than they have to by sending them to the local bakery or grocery store deli when they could bake treats at home for a lot less money? If there are parents who are concerned about contamination in home-baked goodies, simply let them opt their kids out – that’s what Big Guy has to do now anyway.

Sure, some parents still would send store-bought goods, because they lack the time, skill or inclination to make something themselves.

But give those who are so inclined, as well as budget conscious, an option. An option that, these days, isn’t considerably more risky than a treat cranked out in a big plant or local bakery.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Pink Preppy Party Girl said:

    Dear 9 to 5. Thank you for your comment on my blog. I tried to comment on your blog on the Peanut Nazi post,but could not figure out how to do this.

    The fact that you found my blog and are not a usual reader is very telling–obviously spending a lot of time thinking about your child’s peanut allergy and the fact that you called anyone who does not have their facts exactly corrected as “half cocked” really helps to make my point.

    The schools do have a responsiblity to provide a safe enviornment for your child is correct. How far do they need go is another. Is paying for an assistant too far?

    My point that people with peanut allergies would rather have society change than find a way to take care of themselves.
    Maybe airlines are not for you if you feel it is unsafe–”But we have a right to fly!-no you do not have a right in the case”. People can still eat nuts who are flying–the airline is just not serving them. Why would you risk your child’s life and fly? This is does not make sense to me. Maybe wearing a mask of some sort so your child does not breath in the fumes of peanuts would be better. How about doing the same at school. It is these parents who have need to educate us and set the record straight is what drives me crazy. If it is so serious, and you are really concerned about your child’s life, then you should not be sending them to school and for sure, why are you flying?

    There is treatment for children who have peanut allergies that can help them overcome their allergies (in about 50% of the cases). I hope you are attempting this–why would you not want to possibly cure your child.

    I wish there was the same effort put forth to preventing the flu in our schools which kills 35,000 people a year.

  • Debra said:

    Whoa! Assuming facts not in evidence!

    1. It took no effort for me to find your blog – it showed up on one of the myriad Google alerts I have set up on a number of subjects, including food allergies. Perhaps that’s very telling to you, but to me it says nothing more than that I like to be informed on a variety of issues. I’m baffled as to how that translates to “obviously spending a lot of time thinking about your child’s peanut allergy.”

    2. I never said airlines are unsafe for my child. Specifically, in the comment you didn’t approve, I said that my child is not allergic to peanut dander, so airborne dust is not a factor for him. He is, however, contact allergic but I take precautions in that area by cleaning the tray, chair arms, etc. with a wipe, which is the most effective way short of soap and water to get rid of the allergen. Ironically, flight attendants have freaked out on me for not informing them of the peanut allergy in advance so they could not serve them on the flight. It’s not necessary in our case, I assure them.

    3. Why am I sending my child to school? Because it’s his right under the Constitution of our state to receive an education. Because his condition is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Because I believe he should be a part of society, not cloistered in a closet, protected behind a face mask. Because his allergy can be managed at school with reasonable accommodation that is his legal right – and a peanut-free cafeteria table and a peanut-free classroom due to the contact allergy are fairly benign and non-intrusive. They’re no more burdensome than asking people to not smoke around someone with an oxygen tank. Because sending him to school is more efficient use of tax-payer money – if you think the cost of an aide is expensive, how would you like to pick up the tab for homeschooling? I can’t in good conscience ask the taxpayers to do that.

    4. Why am I not attempting the peanut allergy “cure”? Because it’s no cure yet, though early research looks promising, at least for the children who could participate. Some “flunked out” early because their reactions were so extreme as to threaten their lives had they continued in the program. Those children tended to be extremely sensitive to peanut from the start and have multiple food allergies – as does my son. Because it’s not expected to be widely available for another five years at the earliest, and that’s if testing continues to go well. Past efforts at peanut desensitization have failed to pan out. And because the testing I’m aware of – and keep in mind it’s testing, not a confirmed “cure” – is being conducted in North Carolina and Arkansas, and either would be one heck of a commute from California. Why don’t I move? Tempting because I do love the Carolinas, but my husband is in the military and they tell you where to go, not the other way around.

    5. Yes, people who do not have their facts straight are “half cocked.” The power of the Internet is access to information that’s unprecedented in the history of civilization. The danger is that some people do not feel obligated to inform themselves before firing off opinions.

    6. I participate in many efforts to curb flu in our schools, as do the staff there. Notes went home yesterday about the importance of hygiene during the current outbreak – which hasn’t even broken here – and the district used robocalls last week to reach all parents with phones. I’ve donated numerous bottles of hand sanitizer, tissues and wipes and am heading out today to buy more tissues because the teacher has asked for donations. That’s not unusual for the parents in Big Guy’s class, who thank heaven have never adopted a “just keep him home” attitude about his numerous food allergies.

    The final irony here: The post you commented on – yes, comments are closed on the other post, as they are on any post older than a couple of months in an effort to block Estonian spam – says that schools should allow parents to bring home-made treats. That kind of cuts against your cliched view of me, doesn’t it?

  • Lora said:

    I find it odd that you thanked Parenting Pink for a great idea… and then she launches into this random rant. Your response was logical, concise and informed. Thanks.

  • Debra said:

    It’s an unfortunate coincidence with two different Pinks.

    Parenting Pink is a great friend and fellow blogger. Pink Preppy Girl kicked this exchange off last week on her own blog with what I took as a condescending etiquette guide for parents of allergic children. I think it’s fair to say her comment here is indicative of the tone of her original post.

    Some of her suggestions weren’t that far off, and – another irony – most of them are a part of our day-to-day life. It’s the notion that most accommodations are too much effort for the non-allergic world, the idea that “about 80% of the parents of children with allergies behave in a very militant, controlling way,” the theory that it’s the parent’s fault if an allergic child feels left out, that seemed off base.

  • A2Girl said:

    I found your blog because I noticed that you were the only person to post a comment on Pink Preppy’s post that was critical, and was curious about where you came from. You will notice, if you read the responses, that just about everyone agrees with the basic premise of what she had to say. I don’t think these people are uneducated or unwilling to accept some responsibility for keeping a child safe. That is not the point. Pink Preppy makes a very good point about the safety of school — and airplanes, stores, movie theatres, okay how about any public place — and that is that you cannot ever be sure that your child is safe there. It doesn’t matter how many times you remind people not to send nuts to school, it is going to happen, so your child should never be without his epi pen and better be with someone who knows how to use it. And — I’m know I’m not telling you anything you have not thought about, I just wanted to assure you that this is an issue that I have thought about and am not “uneducated” about — when he loans his epi pen to a friend or stranger, he has a backup….not to have one would be a tragedy.

  • Debra said:

    Once again, I never said anyone was uneducated. It was the blogger who threw out the education straw man with this statement: “I think the allergy issue craziness is from educated parents who want control and feel horrible about their child’s allergy.”

    Just so everyone is clear about what I did or didn’t say, though, here’s my response to her original post:

    “I’m assuming my previous point-by-point rebuttal wasn’t polite enough – I always find it ironic when a blogger pleas for civility then proceeds to apply gratuitous labels such as “controlling” and “militant” – so let me try this again.

    I find your guidelines incredibly condescending and, at times, ill informed. For example, there could well have been valid reasons the airline declined to serve peanuts. Perhaps the child’s allergy was so severe that even peanut dust triggers a reaction. It can and does happen. That the airline needed to make an announcement seems small and petty and designed to inflame reaction such as I’m seeing in these comments.

    Yes, my child is taught in a peanut-free classroom – he’s contact allergic to peanut, and it’s his right under the Americans With Disabilities Act to be schooled in a safe environment.

    Yes, I take his food to parties and social gatherings – at times in the face of hostility from hosts who view it as an insult to their offerings.

    Yes, I’m educated, but I can’t imagine any parent wanting to “feel horrible” about their child’s allergy – whatever that means.

    You accuse parents of allergic children of wanting the world to cater to them. Not true in my case – we make far more adaptions than the world does for us. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to ask that children forgo for one snack a day something that can kill my child. I’m not aware of anyone ever dying from not eating peanut butter.”

    Critical? Perhaps, but not harshly so. Not anywhere close to as harsh as the language of the commenters on the other blog – nuts, irrational. My favorite was the person who labeled a child’s parents as “crazy” and then admitted they had taught their child to be responsible. And at least I’ve let my critics say what they wish on my blog – which is more than I can say about the other blog – even though the comments are off topic.

  • Pink Preppy Party Girl said:

    A2Girl just commented that a comment that you sent was not posted. I always post all comments (unless there is fowl language). Please send me your original comment and I would be happy to post it.

  • Pink Preppy Party Girl said:

    foul not fowl-I am working too quickly today.

  • Debra said:

    That’s nice of you, and I appreciate the offer, but I don’t have a copy of what I wrote. Wish I did.