Archive for Parenting

Added September 4, 2013
school bus

Well, now that Labor Day is past, I think kids everywhere are back at school now. We actually started school last month, and this year I thought it was time for a newly updated letter to give to my kids’ teachers. Now that my kids are getting older and more independent, I feel more confident that they can read the ingredients on labels and make decisions about what is safe for them to eat. So, with that in mind, I updated the letter to give my kids more responsibility in making sure they are gluten free at school. But, even though I know my kids can make good food decisions, I wanted to make sure the teacher knew about their dietary restrictions and would be supportive about it in the classroom.

Due to an email I recently received from a reader, I also dug out an old letter I created to send to other parents. It tells parents about my children’s needs to be gluten-free, along with a request to be notified about any birthday celebrations in advance. The letter also includes a small list of gluten-free snack ideas. You may want to use this letter for preschool and kindergarten classes that share or rotate snack responsibilities. It also works great for sports teams, clubs, church groups, scouts, etc.

These are all letters I have created and shared on Google Docs so that you can copy text or save as another document and make your own revisions to fit your own needs. Just click on the links to get started.

Letter to teacher — for more independent kids.

Letter to send to other parents — about snacks for preschool classes, teams, clubs, etc.

Letter to teacher and school officials — for younger kids.

Find even more ideas at Gluten Free in School: Snacks, Lunchbox ideas, Care Packages, Classroom Party Foods, Crafts, etc.

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Updated September 7, 2011

My kids are back in school this year. Every year, I write letters to my kids’ teachers to introduce my kids and let the teachers know about their food restrictions. I give the letters to the teachers at the school open house, the week before school actually begins. I’ve revised some things with my letters this year:

  • First, I added the principal to the distribution. In the past, I’ve only given a copy to the teachers and school health nurse.
  • Second, I added field trips to the list of activities to be concerned about.
  • And finally, I enclosed a copy of my son’s individual health plan. I didn’t think that was necessary to do, since it was created with the school nurse and on file at the school. But, I found out last year, that the teacher and principal didn’t know it even existed. So, I’m hoping that my letters this year close a few gaps in the communication chain.

I also wrote a letter directly to the school nurse and principal that expressed concern about how the “specials” teachers would be informed and made aware of the food restrictions. Occasionally, the kids will be offered rewards in the form of candy, popsicles, popcorn, etc. from other teachers (art, music, PE, etc.). We never had a problem with it last year, but our school has quite a few new teachers this year. And, I want to limit (as much as possible) the chance of my kids getting sick from gluten. You may want to put this into the letter to your teachers, instead of writing a separate letter.

This year, I’ve put the letter into a document that you can open and review. Just click on the letter image below. I know your family has different kids, teachers, and school systems that will require you to personalize your own letter. I hope that by sharing my letter with you, I have given you some ideas of what to write in your own letters. And, if you think of something that you feel I should add to mine, please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Original post September 8, 2009

 

It’s Back to School Week at Celiac Family. My son starts Kindergarten today! We’re all pretty excited about it. But, being the mother that I am, I’m a little nervous, too. He’s been gluten free for more than four years, and is very good about making sure foods are gluten-free before eating them. But, this is the first time I won’t be walking him into the classroom. When he was in preschool, I could see what activities were planned for the day, check the snacks in the classroom, and the teachers could ask me any questions about craft products they were using. I know it’s time to let go of some of the control, but it’s hard to let go when it’s about his health.

Not knowing the Kindergarten teacher or the school, I didn’t know what the typical day would be like or what kind of student activities might be an issue for us. So, I wrote a letter to the teacher to express my concerns. I also enclosed with the letter some more detailed information about Celiac Disease. (It never hurts to raise awareness about Celiac Disease, right?) We found out who my son’s teacher would be a day before Open House, so I hand delivered the letter to the teacher. We got to speak briefly about it, but she was busy meeting the other new students and parents. Even if you get a chance to speak to your child’s teacher at length, I think it’s a good idea to put your concerns in writing. That way there’s less chance of miscommunication. Plus, it gives the teacher something to refer to later. I also gave a copy of the letter to the school nurse.

I’ve copied my letter below for you to use for inspiration. When I sat down to write the letter, I did a quick search online to find some sample letters. I knew there were some out there, but couldn’t find one at the time. After I took the time to write the letter, I did find some other great resources to help prepare yourself and your child for the new school year.

  • “GF Letter for School” at Gluten-Free is Life
  • Form letters to schools/child care providers at Dallas R.O.C.K.
  • “Back-to-school checklist for celiac families” at The Savvy Celiac
  • “Back to school tips for gluten-free and food allergy kids” at Sure Foods Living
  • “Navigating the School System” at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness – This addresses the issue of getting the school to accommodate the gluten-free diet. Be sure to scroll down the page for information about a 504 Plan, a letter to educators and a physician’s letter.

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September 3, 2009

To: Teacher
CC: School Nurse

Re: Student’s name

Our son is so excited to start Kindergarten in your class at WS Elementary. We have completed all the required forms and paperwork.  You will notice in the health forms, that he has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley (malt), rye and sometimes oats. Our son is actually very healthy, but he must manage Celiac Disease with a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. It is very important to his health that he remains gluten free.

Since he has not yet started Kindergarten, we are not familiar with the procedures for activities and snack time in your class.  So, I am providing this information to you in order for our son to avoid any possible contact with gluten.

We will provide our son with a gluten-free snack everyday. He is aware of his condition, and has been instructed not to trade snacks or eat any other food without first confirming with an adult that it is gluten-free.  He should also avoid any contact with other classmates’ snacks, or crumbs of snacks, that contain gluten.

In addition to snacks, our son should also avoid contact with craft products that contain gluten.  Of most concern to me is play dough, pasta, hay/straw, fingerpaints and paper maché, since they are products that almost always contain wheat and/or are likely to get under his fingernails.  Other products that may contain wheat are glue, paint, and ink. To be clear, our son does not get a reaction just from touching gluten, however if it gets on his hands and fingers it could be transferred to his mouth. I would be happy to review the ingredients of any craft products in the classroom to determine if they do contain gluten. If they do, I will be happy to provide a suitable substitution.

If our son does accidentally come into contact with gluten at school, I ask that you immediately have him wash his hands thoroughly. He does not have an allergic response, such as anaphylaxis, so no medicine nor medical attention is required. I would simply request that you make me aware of the contact with the gluten (through a note sent home with him and/or a phone call/email) so that I can monitor his health. And, we can determine how to avoid it in the future.

If you allow students to bring in birthday treats to share, I ask that we be made aware of it a day or two in advance. Cupcakes and cookies, unless made with special alternative flours, are not gluten-free. If notified in advance of what will be brought in, our son can bring a gluten-free alternative in order to celebrate with the other students. If it works for you, I can also provide you with a box of safe, gluten-free treats to store for our son in cases of surprise treat occasions.

For your information, I have enclosed documents that provide detailed information about Celiac Disease. Please feel free to call or email me anytime with any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

[Be sure to provide your name and contact information here.]

Enclosures:
“What Is Celiac Disease?” (I copied several pages from Danna Korn’s “Kids with Celiac Disease“)
Unsafe Gluten-Free List
Safe Gluten-Free List
Quick list of gluten-free snacks

Categories : Parenting
Comments (18)

The Gluten-Free Menu Swap is being hosted by Angela at Angela’s Kitchen this week. And with kids going back to school this month and next, she chose Lunch Box Solutions as the theme.

We are going into our third week of school already, and I’m happy to say that we seem to have the lunches and snacks figured out.

It seems best for us if we just keep it simple. One protein, one fruit, one vegetable, one grain/snack, and one drink. Their teacher also lets them have two snacks and water in class, so I also pack extra containers of fruit and snacks for them.

Protein: ham or turkey roll-ups, grilled chicken nuggets, or baked chicken nuggets. I usually just cut up leftover chicken from dinner for the lunches. The kids love to eat the chicken, but like to have ketchup, honey mustard, or BBQ sauce to eat with it. It’s a great way to get rid of those extra packets hiding in the pantry. Just make sure they are gluten-free! We avoid sending peanut butter to school because of all the nut allergies. But I do have some SunButter that I need to have the kids try again. They weren’t too excited about it last year. Hummus is another good option, but my kids definitely don’t like that yet.

Fruit: bananas, clementines, grapes, blueberries, apple slices, pear slices, peach slices, applesauce, etc.

Vegetable: baby carrots, sugar snap peas, baby spinach leaves, celery sticks, etc.

Grains/Snacks (gluten-free, of course): crackers (Schar Snack Crackers), pretzels (Glutino), chips, popcorn, mini muffins, etc.

Dairy: I don’t send dairy products to school. It gives my daughter stomach aches, and my son just doesn’t like it. But if it works for your family, you can easily add yogurt or cheese sticks to lunch boxes.

And for packing it all in? Their lunch bags from last year got worn out. So we bought Pack-It Freezable Lunch Bags this year. They stay in the freezer overnight, so they are nice and cold in the morning. It’s great for keeping the fruit and vegetables cold and fresh.

More ideas from some of my favorite gluten-free sites:

Even more ideas from Celiac Family:

Celiac Family’s Menu This Week:

Monday -  Grilled Chicken Breasts (Leftovers get cut up for the kids’ lunches this week.), Baby Potatoes and Green Beans
Breakfast: GF Cereal, Blueberries
Lunch: Ham Rolls, Pineapple Chunks, Baby Carrots, Potato Chips
Snacks: Clementines, Pretzels, Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday - Easy Garlic Shrimp served over Quinoa, sautéed Zucchini slices
Breakfast: Pancakes, Cantaloupe
Lunch: Grilled Chicken Nuggets, Banana, Celery Sticks, Crackers
Snacks: Grapes, Pretzels, Watermelon

Wednesday -  Teriyaki Chicken Tenders served with Rice and steamed Broccoli
Breakfast: Pancakes, Cantaloupe
Lunch: Grilled Chicken Nuggets, Pear Slices, Baby Carrots, Corn Chips
Snacks: Grapes, Crackers, Watermelon

Thursday - Leftovers
Breakfast: French Toast, Strawberries
Lunch: Ham Rolls, Banana, Celery Sticks, Pretzels
Snacks: Blueberries, Tortilla Chips, Popcorn

Friday - Hamburgers, Sweet Potato Fries and Green Beans
Breakfast: French Toast, Strawberries
Lunch: Ham Rolls, Cantaloupe, Celery Sticks, Popcorn
Snacks:  Pear Slices, Crackers, Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Saturday - Eating Out

Sunday - Waffles and Berry Fruit Salad

Want to join Gluten-Free Menu Swap?

Need more menu ideas?

  • Laura at OrgJunkie.com hosts Menu Plan Monday every week. You’ll find links to hundreds of meal plans (not necessarily gluten-free) there.
  • Or, check out some of my past menu plans.

 

Categories : Menu Plan, Parenting
Comments (5)
Aug
12

Managing a Gluten-Free Diet in School

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Yikes! My kids go back to school this week! Ever since they started preschool, we’ve been on the traditional schedule of starting school after labor day. So starting in August, feels really early to me. Especially since we spent most of our summer moving! But we’re ready. The kids are anxious to learn about their new school and meet some new friends. And I…well, I am ready to get back on a schedule. I still have a lot of boxes to unpack and organize. And that’s a little easier without the kids at home. :)

As we are getting so close to the start, I’ve been going through some of my older posts about keeping the kids gluten free at school. We’ll have new teachers, administrators, and nurses to connect with and make sure they understand the importance of my kids being gluten free.

Earlier this year, I put together a page (Gluten Free in School) with all the posts I have written about managing my kids’ gluten-free diets at school. Maybe you’re preparing for school, too, and would like some new ideas to review? I’ve got sample letters to teachers, snack and classroom party food ideas, and craft recipes all linked. So, check it out and feel free to add your own ideas in the comments. Simply click on “Gluten Free in School” on the menu bar above. Or here: Gluten Free in School.

Want to discuss the issue further? NFCA (along with the sponsor Mary’s Gone Crackers) is facilitating a Back-to-School webinar about “….Preparing to Educate Administrators on the Importance of Gluten-Free.” To be a part of it, you can register for free at CeliacCentral.org. And don’t worry if you miss it. After the event, they will post the webinar on their website, so you can download it and review later from their archived webinars.

Categories : Events, Newsworthy, Parenting
Comments (1)

Earlier this month, I mentioned in my review of Mi-Del cookies that I give my kids’ teachers a small care package of gluten-free snacks at the beginning of the year for them to store in the classroom for my kids. These are not meant to be the snacks that my kids get to eat everyday. (I send my kids to school each day with gluten-free snacks and lunch.) The snacks in this care package are there for backup reasons because sometimes snacks and treats are offered in the classroom that aren’t gluten-free. And having these in the classroom makes sure that my kids are not left out of any last-minute activities involving gluten. For example:

  • Probably the most common situation: A classmate brings in cupcakes, cookies, or treats to share with the class for their birthday. My son chooses a package of cookies out of his gluten-free package.
  • The class earns a reward (popcorn) for good behavior or reaching a class goal, but the teacher isn’t sure if it’s gluten-free. My son gets a bag of popcorn or chips out of the gluten-free package.
  • The teacher creates a project that involves building something with pretzels or crackers, but forgets to tell us in advance. My daughter gets out her gluten-free pretzels or crackers to use instead.
  • My daughter’s snack or lunch didn’t make it to school and the cafeteria doesn’t offer anything gluten-free. My daughter can eat from her GF care package if I’m unable to bring it to school.
  • It is perhaps unlikely, but should an emergency situation arise and the school is on lock-down, I know my kids will have something they can eat without getting sick.

What’s in a Gluten-Free Care Package? I like to choose self-contained, single-serve, small packages of gluten-free items that won’t spoil in the teacher’s cabinet or desk. I also try to present it to the teacher in a small container that is easy for them to store. A large zip-style bag, or medium size plastic container clearly labeled Gluten-Free for my son or daughter seems to work well. Here are some items that we have used for this purpose:

Sweet Treats:

Salty Snacks:

Fruit Snacks:

Rice, Granola, or Energy Bars:

Communicate with the teacher! It’s been my experience that most teachers are familiar and comfortable with this arrangement. However, I  strongly suggest that you discuss it with the teacher before sending a small care package of food to school. This may not work in all classrooms or for all teachers. Along with the package of food that I provide to the teacher, I like to attach a brief note to remind the teacher what it is for, and to please let me know if at any time during the year it needs to be replenished.

Make it easy on yourself. Our family is fortunate to live in an area with gluten-free snack items available at our grocery stores. If this isn’t the case for you, you can order some items online. A single box of the Schar sandwich cookies with your student’s name clearly written on it would do the trick. Or, perhaps a small bag of your child’s favorite candy would work for you.

More occasions to use a gluten-free care package. All of these items would also be great gluten-free additions for a gluten-free lunch, a gift to send to college students, and for a travel pack.

Do you do something similar? Please feel free to add any other ideas in the comments.

 

Comments (15)
May
25

Rainbow Cake, gluten-free

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Part of my busy schedule last month included my daughter’s birthday. She didn’t seem intent on any particular theme for her party, so I suggested rainbows. Seems like an easy cake to make, right? Right. I made it a little more interesting by adding some dimension to the rainbow.

For the base of the cake, I used three Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mixes. I mixed them all together using the directions on the boxes. Then, I poured the batter into two Pyrex 9×13 Baking Dishes and baked both at 350° F for about 45 minutes. Each layer of the cake was made of 1.5 cake mixes. I used Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Frosting for the filling between the layers.

For the rainbow on the cake, I baked one 9-Inch Round Cake using Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix. I cut the cake in half, at a horizontal angle and then trimmed out the middle of the rainbow. I added a smaller wedge of the cake to put under the large side of the cake so the rainbow itself ended up being like a two-layer cake. Does that make sense? I know I should take pictures while I’m building and decorating cakes, but I forget. And when I do remember, I’ve got cake and frosting on my fingers.

For the frosting, I made a Buttercream Icing. Rather than using a dye to mix into the frosting, I sprayed the frosted cake with blue Spray Color. I thought the uneven coloring would look more like sky and clouds. Plus, it was faster and left fewer bowls to clean up. I used the same buttercream icing for the trim, clouds, and rainbow on the cake. Then, I sprayed the back of the rainbow cake with red coloring.

For the front of the rainbow I simply used different Colored Sugars that I carefully sprinkled on with my fingers. It’s best to do this right after you’ve frosted it, so that the frosting is still damp and sticky to keep the sugar in place. You can buy the sugars already colored, or make it yourself using granulated sugar mixed with some food coloring. I had some of each.

So there it is. Another cake decorating idea that you can do yourself, but still wow the kids.

Supplies I used:

More Rainbow Cake Ideas I found Online:

  • This six-layer Super Epic Rainbow Cake at Whisk Kid is a rainbow on the inside!
  • These rainbow Colorburst Cupcakes at Our Best Bites are just as colorful.
  • The Super-Duper Rainbow Cakes – in a Jar at off the (meat) hook would make beautiful table decorations, party favors, or gifts to give!
  • A variety of decorating ideas for rainbow-theme cakes can be found at Coolest Birthday Cakes.com.
Comments (5)