Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer treats and Lego feats

"Stir it up, put it in the oven, press the button, then take it out." My sister Linda and I recited that little phrase many times when we were kids while we stirred chocolate syrup into our bowls of ice cream to create our own chocolaty, cold confection. Only when I recently taught my 3-year-old daughter Pamela to do the same thing with her ice cream, did it occur to me that it was odd that we were pretending to cook ice cream. It was just a fun way to enjoy our treat and now my daughter thinks so, too.

We celebrated the official start of summer this week with homemade, dairy-free ice cream and cherry cobbler. Pamela opted to have a bowl of ice cream so she could happily stir in Ah! Laska organic chocolate syrup, while the rest of us enjoyed a scoop on top of cherry cobbler, still warm from the oven. My cherry pitter has been getting a lot of use this month. I love this time of year when my fingers are stained with cherry juice. I've been doling out bowls of fresh cherries, fruit kebabs stacked with fresh cherries, grapes, blueberries and watermelon, and baking cherry pie (using Cybele Pascal's pie crust recipe from "The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook") and cobbler. Clearly, I love fresh cherries and I'm glad that my children enjoy the healthy fruit, as well. I'm always happy to revisit some of our favorite summertime treats that I blogged about last July.

While we enjoyed our summer dessert, my kids and I discussed some traditional summer activities that we have already enjoyed. Pamela is thoroughly enjoying her first foray into swimming lessons while Joseph had a wonderful time experiencing camp for the first time earlier this month.

Joseph, 9, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, along with having asthma, was thrilled to attend a Lego Mindstorm Robotics camp near our home. He had not expressed an interest in attending camp before. After all, he is busy with tennis, indoor lacrosse and other activities to keep him busy. But when he heard he could spend a week building a Lego robot and learning to program it, his desire to attend camp skyrocketed.

I couldn't have asked for a better inaugural camp experience for my son. I knew that because the program went from 9 a.m. to noon each day, the chance for food issues would be lower. I first consulted the camp website where the camp organizer listed the schedule for each day and I loved on many levels that he was so organized. When I emailed him, he confirmed my assumption when I saw no snack time listed on the schedule, that there would be no food at the camp. Joseph was thrilled that he would be able to attend a fun camp and not worry about being around unsafe food.

I sent Joseph's allergy action plan, along with a sheet explaining how to use an EpiPen when I sent in his registration. I also talked to the camp organizer before the week started and asked if I could bring a box of wipes for the campers to wipe their hands off. He completely understood my desire to ensure that the campers didn't have any allergens left on their hands from breakfast or a snack they had munched on in the car on the way to camp before touching the same Lego pieces and computer as Joseph. He had no problem putting the wipes at the door and reminding all of the kids to wipe their hands each day when we signed our campers in. Putting out wipes might seem like a small action, but I was so thankful that they took me seriously and ensured the wipes were used. That has not always been the response I have received, even when food has been present. So I am extra appreciative of their efforts.
When we arrived for the first day of camp, I was thrilled that the teen running the camp and his mom were conscientious about Joseph's allergies and the medication pack he carries. The 18-year-old girl who was helping with the camp told me that she too has food allergies and was well versed in how to use an EpiPen. I felt like her being there was just a little extra bonus in making me feel good about my son's well being while at the camp.

Joseph had an amazing week working with other kids to build and program their team's robot, Lightning Bot. He was so proud when his team even won the competition on the final day of camp. I was thrilled that he was able to experience such an enjoyable, enriching week without worrying about his allergies.

I'm happy that, as summer officially begins, my family has already stirred up some traditional summer fun and yummy treats.