Monday, January 31, 2011

Walking on Eggshells

We realize the posting's been a bit heavy on the topic of food allergies lately but bear with us.  There will be funnier stuff soon.

This is important because we wanted to write about an incident which is a good example of the type of unpredictable scenario kids with food allergies face every day.

A letter went out to all the kindergarten parents.  They've been studying recycling for a while and have now moved on to composting.  It talked about all the fun kids had bringing in things from home to make the compost, including eggshells.  Now mini, the anti-dirt city girl, is not going anywhere near the compost even if they promised her cake every day.  But still, it's raw egg.  In the classroom.

So we emailed the teachers.  Would they mind excluding the egg from the compost, if it wasn't too much too ask?

Here's where it's important to pay attention.

This type of scenario comes up ALL the time, a random non-food time when food allergies are a concern where you'd least expect it.  For non-food allergy parents, you'd be surprised how often stuff like this is an issue.  You can never foresee every possible scenario, which is additional reason why the teachers need to know what to do when this stuff comes up, not if.  And what they need to do in case of emergency.  Because you can minimize the risk of exposure, but as this incident shows, you can never eliminate it.  Random stuff like this will always come up. 

At this point, the teachers had two options.  Lose the egg, or turn it into a whole thing.  And seriously, is there any reason to fight FOR the egg?  Who cares?  Just lose it, the compost will be fine.  And this is exactly what they did.   They apologized profusely for not catching it and said no big deal - it was thrown out and forgotten.

DONE! Was that hard?  NO!

So Poker Chick has to ask - why why WHY is it the case where in so many other schools, the scenario would have played out differently?  What's so important about fighting for the eggs in that compost?  What are we missing?  Seriously, can anyone tell us?

Poker Chick will never understand why parents often get so much pushback in these types of situations.  But if more people followed the example of these teachers, this debate would simply be over. 

NYC schools have used examples like this as rationale for not going nut free.  They're worried about the liability.  They claim that since they can't guarantee all foods are safe they could never guarantee a nut-free environment.  As such, they serve peanut butter and jelly in the cafeteria.  Every day.  Can anyone follow this logic?  We can't.  Of course you can't guarantee a nut free environment.  As this incident shows, despite best intentions, you can never guarantee no exposure.  But if you can significantly reduce exposure, why the hell wouldn't you? 

So a few lessons here:

1) Education.  For those of you who don't deal with food allergies every day, we hope this will further help you understand what life is like when you have to deal with this.  Perhaps if more people will read it they will be more empathetic and open to learning about what to do.

2) A wake-up call.  For those managing food allergies, you can never be complacent.  There will always be some risk of exposure you can never predict.  That's why it's important to always have an emergency plan - in case.  That's much more important than trying to predict every possible hypothetical.

3) A role model.  This little scenario was no big deal.  In fact, it would probably have been forgotten had we not decided to write about it.  The interaction was easy, stress-free for all sides, and the child was protected.  Hopefully this will remind people that when talking with people managing food allergies you have a choice.  You can make it into a big deal or you can take on a minor inconvenience to protect someone and forget about it.

Think about it.  In the meantime, we'll be busy writing thank you letters to our wonderfully supportive school.  And, of course, updating our school allergy plans to specify "no eggshells in compost".

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Signs Food Allergy Awareness Is On The Rise

Yesterday, on a group trip to Costco, Poker Chick saw the following sign in front throughout the store:

For those of you who can't read through the smudge marks and poor photography, this sign says:

PARENTS: Before we serve your child a sample we need your permission to ensure your child is not allergic to the ingredients.  Your cooperation is appreciated.

We're not sure how other Food Allergy (FA) parents feel about this, but Poker Chick was thrilled.  It was nice to see the store facing the issue and sharing responsibility for keeping kids in their store safe.  Of course, a cynic could argue this was just something their lawyers asked for to protect their liability and we went there too.  But the guy cooking the samples was very aware of food allergy concerns.  He explained reassuringly that the chicken was cooked in Pam with salt and pepper, and added it was a clean pan.  So Costco has clearly trained its employees to some extent.

The new app includes instant video training
More signs of change: check out this new app from the makers of the Epipen.  Yes, it's drug company self-promotion, but this one's actually useful, and it's free.

Poker Chick is a firm believer that 10 years from now "Signs of anaphylaxis" posters in restaurants and public places will be as commonplace as "First aid for choking".  We're obviously not there but still, we can't imagine how hard it must have been to raise a FA child 10 years ago.  Things are slowly starting to change.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why can't you just eat a friggin' pretzel instead?

Recently, a fellow food allergy mom got the following comment on her blog in response to a discussion of banning peanuts on airplanes:

“I have to say that peanuts or any food should not be banned in any way. These allergy sufferers need to manage their problem. If you can’t manage it, then don’t fly! It certainly won’t stop me from cracking open a bag of nuts on a plane whether they serve it or not.”

This type of comment is all-too-common and it's important for people to know this before we can address this type of ignorance.   After encountering way too many people like this, Poker Chick has two things to say:
  1. Most people we've met are thoughtful, concerned and willing to try.  So to the friends, family, neighbors who've gone out of their way to include mini and help her have as normal a childhood as possible - you have no idea how much your kindness means to us.
  2. For those of you who don't deal with food allergies on a regular basis:  are people really this stupid, or are they just assholes?

Please visit Kelly's blog, read her most recent post, and pass it on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And The State Of The Union Is....Awkward

In the buzz leading to tonight's State of the Union address, the focus was less on the substance of the speech and more on seating assignments for the audience.

Beyond the inspiring "Sputnik moment" sound bytes, the most interesting piece of it was watching how it was received. This sounds ridiculous at first.  But think about it.  For days we have been annoyed with this obsession on who's sitting where. For real?  What's the difference? Are you really unable to form your own opinion? Are we such adversaries that despite serving the same country and people we can't even sit together? Are we only able to applaud next to certain people?  And does it even matter? Some of these people are so new they could be sitting next to a seat-filler and not know it.

We thought it was a ridiculous topic of conversation. And truth be told, it is. It should be a given that seating should be party-agnostic and it's high time this was so taken for granted it's no longer a topic of discussion.

But let's indulge our inner gossip-mongers for a minute.

Admit it, you were watching. You tuned out for the middle of the speech when Obama struggled to find concrete examples of how he was going to push his policies forward, and looked at the crowd. And along with the nation's top reporters you noticed the reception this speech got was unusually quiet.

Well, duh.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that when you take people out of their partisan pens the "we're-better-than-you" syndrome is going to be taken down a notch. One only has to take a quick glance at each awkward individual to realize that. Look at the applause: historically loud and supportive; today tentative as people slowly got up, looked to their right, looked to their left, and then (and only then!) stood up and applauded if they noticed fellow party members cheering nearby.

And the awkward continues. 

There were genuine attempts at national unity, evidenced not only by the seating arrangements but also by small gestures: black and white ribbons, pink ties instead of red, more pats on the back, a somber and respectful tone overall. But on the flip side were the people who stuck to party lines, those who refused to sit apart from the party, those who even separated from their own party and made their own rebuttals. Even more awkward: the men sitting behind Obama, not quite sure how to react while he was talking.

"That's my boy!"                                "I'm so bored I could cry"
The President faced a nation in a very serious place, people who are nervous about their jobs, their future, their security, and addressed the fears that we are falling from grace (of course, special thanks to the Republicans who made sure to reignite those fears as they described in detail the "day of reckoning" the US is headed for, but we digress).

So Obama, you get props for rallying the troops and infusing Americans with renewed optimism in our future. But the vibe in the room? Tenuous at best, and, dare we say....awkward. Next year, in addition to mixed seating, let's work on boosting the confidence of our nation's leaders so they are comfortable enough to express their reaction honestly. It's not like they get a copy of the speech in advance or anything. Oh, wait....

Whatever you believe: Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Roaring Tiger or Anxious Chopper...own it.   'Cause you can.  And that's what he's talkin' about.

Friday, January 14, 2011

And her grade is....

This past Wednesday, as her first decision as chancellor, Cathie Black decided NOT to close NYC public schools due to snow. She consulted with the mayor, the sanitation department, and (we suspect) the mayor's speechwriter's as well. The sound byte was intact. Hail NYC public schools! Hail the fact that they have closed only five times since 1978!!!

Um, excuse me? Is this supposed to be some sort of accomplishment? 9 inches of snow in Manhattan - more in the boroughs - a warning from the city and sanitation department not to travel if not necessary - and school Not even delayed? So parents have to conduct the usual morning rush in a pedestrian city and walk quickly through icy streets so they can still make it by 8:15? Perhaps she has confused the Board of education with U.S. Postal Service? (neither snow, nor ice, nor heat, nor gloom of night...)

Regardless of the reason, it's left everyone wondering about her judgment. The city got nearly a foot of snow and forced kids to travel on treacherous streets. And this benefits our mini not-yet-voting citizens how, exactly?

We must not have been the only ones thinking this was a mistake. Less than half of students actually showed up. And most of the ones that did were late.

Moreover, guess who else was absent from school that day? Cathie Black herself! Yes, peeps, she elected to spend a whole day on a press conference lauding her no-snow day decision, and postponed a planned trip to a Staten Island school. Of course, we can't really blame her. Have you seen the unplowed streets in that neighborhood?

But before we heckle "Chancellor"* Black off the stage entirely, let's give her another chance. Maybe she got some bad advice on one decision. How's she handling the real issues, like overcrowding? Well, she's got a unique solution, that's for sure.

"Could we just have some birth control for a while? It would really help us all out.”

*We say Chancellor in quotes because, well, technically this title belongs to an education adminstration who actually has a background

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dear subway rider....

A note...from Poker Chick:

Dear subway rider,

After years of putting up with an unnecessarily horrible subway experience, I am determined to restore civility to our commuting experience and make a ride on the Manhattan subway truly worthy of what one would expect in the "capital of the world".

So please, for the sake of your fellow riders and humanity, read Poker Chick's 5 rules to restore civility and sanity to our transit system:
  1. To the unbelievably loud ipod listener: I cringe watching your eardrums disintegrate before my very eyes. Contrary to what you might think, I do not, in fact, enjoy the extremely loud hip hop music you blast. I do not feel like partying at 8:55am. Particularly when I haven't had my morning coffee.
  2. I know this might be hard to imagine, but if a stroller is open and not folded on the subway, there might actually be a child in there. It is not a resting place for your stuff, your posse's stuff, or your elbow.
  3. If you've asked me to move forward, and I don't, did you ever stop to think I might not be able to? I don't just stand there to block people and annoy you. Do you think I like you pressing up against me so close I can feel your sweat dripping on me? No, I would move far, far away from you if I could. So if you ask me to move, and I can't, I know this sounds crazy but it might - just might - not be the best idea to push me until I'm trampled on the floor and the elbow of the person in front of me is halfway through my diaphragm.
  4. If there are only two seats open in the whole subway car, and people are packed like sardines, perhaps it's not the most thoughtful thing to sit down and lean forward with your legs spread open so wide we're all waiting for your pants to split. You really do not need that second seat just for your knee. We can all see you and I promise no matter what you might think *it* does not need that much room to breathe. I'm just sayin'.
  5. The anonymity and crowding in the subway is not an excuse to lose all your manners, morals, and decency. So keep your hands to yourself, pervert. Your little whistle isn't fooling anyone.
Manners aren't that hard, peeps. We're not asking you to know which utensils to you use. Just to keep your not-nearly-as-lovely-as-you-think-they-smell hands, knees, elbows, and loud music to yourself.

With sincere thanks,

Poker Chick

Monday, January 3, 2011

Time to change up your New Year's Resolutions

As Poker Chick has a tendency to think strange thoughts, she often wonders what foreigners think of our country. For example, say you're a foreign cultural anthropologist studying various societies and how they observe a new calendar year. And let's say for argument's sake you live in a bubble and are rather unfamiliar with American culture.* And let's say for further argument's sake that instead of interviewing people, you start your study by watching television to understand people.

What you see
  • Too many diet commercials to count
  • Ads for finally getting out of debt this year!
  • Save on your taxes
  • Savings on cars - best deals ever!
  • A plethora of dating commercials
  • Job hunting ads
What you conclude

All Americans must be fat, lonely, broke, unemployed, and lacking transportation.

Think about it. Television is largely a reflection of popular culture. It's a sad, sad picture we paint for the world, peeps.

*Clearly, if this is the case, you're the world's crappiest anthropologist but we're trying to make a point here

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And tonight's understudy is....

Typically, these last minute updates aren't the best of news. So imagine Poker Chick's surprise when she looked in her broadway program for the New Year's Day performance of American Idiot only to see that the Green Day frontman himself was playing a starring role that night*.

Surprise! Did she like it when he sang "Time of Your Life" at the end of the show? Yes, she did! Not a bad way to start the new year. More importantly, here's hoping the rest of the year is good to all of you.

Happy New Year from

*For curious peeps, we looked it up. Turns out this was day 1 of a few planned performances. Who knew? Apparently, anyone who had actually picked up a newspaper.