Football beanbag toss, spin the wheel, paddle ball with balloons, and Nerf darts were all part of our school day today. I thought it would be fun to finish our first week of school with a carnival theme after Pamela read a fun, quick story, “Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Carnival Prize”. We used the book as an example of the elements of a mystery story during our writing workshop. Then the kids aimed their Nerf dart guns at cards with words like “alibi”, “interrogate”, and “hunch” to reinforce the mystery vocabulary.
The theme also conjures images of popcorn, ice cream, fried food and cotton candy, as crazy carnival creations are often stars of the outdoor fun fests. While those foods are not safe for my 12-year-old son Joseph to eat, we still enjoy seeing what carnival cooks come up with and use those dishes as inspiration to make our own allergy-friendly treats. For example, the Food Network show “Carnival Cravings with Anthony Anderson”, brings us to carnivals around the country, including one in our former home state of North Carolina, to see the wacky combinations that take flavors and deep-fried concoctions to new levels. But when we lived in the South, we avoided the fairs at which nuts seemed ubiquitous, making the events unsafe and certainly not fun for Joseph. He is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame, mustard, watermelon, strawberry and cantaloupe, along with having asthma.
As I look back on the summer during this holiday weekend, I am reminded of a night our family spent enjoying the local firefighters parade and carnival. Our focus was on fun, rather than food, whether trying to win a prize or getting a thrill from a ride. A big bonus, which allowed us to soak up the atmosphere, was the lack of peanuts boiling and crushed nut shells all over the place. Joseph could play traditional carnival games, such as shooting a water gun to make his character race to the top the fastest, and throwing darts to pop balloons. He even let his little sister talk him into spinning around in a big, silly dragon. Sure, we went through a bunch of wipes to ensure remnants of melted ice cream or other allergens didn’t affect Joseph, and as always he had his Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector and inhaler in case of emergency. But as we walked home, arms full of stuffed prizes, spotting fireflies flittering through the dark sky, we all carried memories of a fun night experiencing a summer tradition.
We did include fun food for the mini carnival in our homeschool. We made dairy-free vanilla ice cream and allergy friendly apple fritters using a recipe from the Food Network’s Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, just using substitutes for the ingredients to make them allergy safe. It was a yummy way to finish the first week of school, plus we enjoyed whetting our appetites for the fall flavors on the horizon.