Friday, December 14, 2007

The Very Non-Dairy Christmas

I finally managed to pry The Very Non-Dairy Christmas out of my children's hands long enough to write a review. This book has been on heavy rotation in our house since it arrived here several weeks ago. A Christmas book! About dairy allergies! Clearly this was written for us.

After the first two readings (one right after the other), Katherine kept saying, "Santa is just like me! He can't have dairy--just like me!" Eli loved the cartoon-y drawings, especially the ones of "Ho ho ho" (Santa). While we have read books about other allergies, this is our first dairy-only book, which Katherine loves. And the fact that it's about Santa is the icing on the dairy-free cake.

Writing fiction about medical issues--such as food allergies--in a natural way can be a challenge. To Scott's and my ears, some of the explanatory dialogue sounded a bit forced, but our children haven't been bothered by it at all.

I think that any child or sibling of a child with food allergies would enjoy this Christmastime tale. I don't know how it would translate for children who don't have allergies in their families. Their parents might not want to bother with buying special soy milk just for Santa! But The Very Non-Dairy Christmas is destined to be a Christmas classic in our house.

[This review was written for Go Dairy Free.]

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Have you been to a Christmas pageant yet this holiday season? Did it seem more Herdman than holy at first? Maybe it went something like this:

The children's choir sings while the Angel of the Lord climbs up onto her perch. Mary and Joseph arrive with their baby doll Jesus, who has bright blue eyes and looks decidedly feminine. After cradling her baby and placing Him in the manger, Mary chats quietly with the Angel of the Lord while Joseph tries to strangle himself with his shepherd's crook. The (female) shepherds arrive with their stuffed... goat. The children's choir continues singing and playing chimes as if they are handling martial arts weapons. The wisemen arrive; one of them receives a coy little finger wave from Mary. Joseph, still wrestling with his crook, pays no heed. As the choir continues to sing, Mary plays with pieces of hay while Joseph chews on some. A wiseman picks his nose. The shepherds play restlessly with their shepherd's crooks. At last, the entire cast lines up at the front of the stage to sing "Go Tell it on the Mountain," mumbling the verses but belting out the chorus. Then, in a triumph of mixed media, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive with little candies and trinkets for all of the children and their siblings.

Perhaps there is an almost-two-year old keeping you company in the audience, who claps his hands and yells, "Yay!" after every song. Maybe he calls his sister's name in excitement when Mary comes onstage, and says, "Oh wow!" when Santa appears. Maybe you think about Christmas just two years ago, when he was kicking your ribs like this baby girl is now.

Maybe the evening ends with many congratulations and a few cookies left over from the potluck dinner. I hope so.

Double Chocolate Chewies from The Cake Mix Doctor
(adjusted to be dairy free)

1 package plain, dairy-free devil's food cake mix
1/3 cup water
4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted
1 large egg
1 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Place the cake mix, water, melted margarine, and egg in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the speed to medium and beat for one minute more. The dough will be thick. Fold in the chips and nuts.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the dough two inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies until they have set but are still a little soft in the center, 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for one minute. Remove the cookies with a metal spatula to wire racks to cool completely, 20 minutes.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Holler 'Nuff!

Remember the touching Christmas scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy where Almanzo and his snotty cousin Frank were pounding the stuffing out of each other in the snow? And Almanzo wouldn't give up till Frank hollered, "'Nuff?" Well, I'm hollering "'nuff." I am giving in to this pregnancy. I am tired! I take naps when I should be working while I let the children watch crappy cartoons! I sent out some bills without stamps and some bills without checks the other day! I made Scott leave work early for K's Christmas dance recital this past Tuesday, and it's this coming Tuesday! I fed the kids pizza for lunch and dinner yesterday! (Scott, teasing, "Yeah, Mommy doesn't care anymore.")

To keep from becoming a total Mama Scrooge during this Christmas season, here are some of the links to fun and easy Christmas crafts I'm planning to use to entertain the children. While I nap.

Family Fun Christmas Printables
Wondertime Holiday Links
Nativity Paper Dolls (From Beck)
Jan Brett (From Soulemama)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On Cupcakes and Parties

Jill left some questions for me to answer, and I've decided to answer them in a post. (Hope that's Ok, Jill!)

"I wondered about your daughter taking her dairy-free cupcakes to things. How does she like that? Is she ok with it? Does it go over ok with other kids and stuff? Do you have several in the freezer and pull them out for these occasions? Are they already decorated in the freezer?
Sorry for all the questions, but my daughter is allergic to dairy, eggs and soy. So, I have been letting her take a piece of candy instead of eating the cake (she doesn't normally get candy, so she has been fine with it so far). Just wondering about making cupcakes for her to take to birthday parties and such."

When Katherine was younger (2-3) I was more likely to pack fruit snacks or a granola bar for her dessert if we went somewhere. She didn't really notice what the grownups were eating. But that was before school, friends, birthday parties, etc. Now that she's older, she prefers to match her friends whenever possible, but she understands if what she brings isn't exactly the same. Katherine's friends and classmates are very accepting and understanding as well.

I keep cookies, cupcakes, Tofutti frozen dessert, and Tofutti Cuties in the freezer. The cookies are usually unfrosted sugar cookies and chocolate chip. The cupcakes are usually yellow cake mix with chocolate frosting. After baking the cupcakes and letting them cool, I peel back one side of the cupcake wrapper, slice the cupcake almost in half horizontally (as you would a hamburger bun) , and spread frosting in the middle. I then rewrap the cupcake and place it in a freezer bag with several others. I usually send one Tofutti Cutie sandwich and one cupcake with Katherine when she attends a birthday party. More information on what I send to school and other locations is here.

Since we are dealing with just one allergen, our situation is a bit different than yours, Jill, and I know that not all of the foods I'm writing about are safe for your daughter. (Maybe you could give her sorbet or Italian ice for a frozen treat?) But I hope this helps a little bit!

Monday, December 03, 2007

First Weekend in December

How to spend the first weekend in December:

Begin the Advent calendar.
Go Christmas shopping with Daddy. Buy your brother a stuffed froggie for his Christmas present.
Receive your Christmas ornament kits in the mail.
Go downtown for the annual Christmas parade.
Sit on Santa's lap because you're not scared of him anymore. Ask for a digital camera.
Go to a neighbor's house for an after-parade party. (Bring your own dairy-free cupcake and Tofutti Cutie.)
Come outside to find snow falling. Walk home in the snow.

Go to Sunday School and church.
Watch Mama and Daddy's old Grinch and Charlie Brown Christmas videos.
Light the first candle on your new Advent wreath (beautifully handmade by a member of our congregation) at dinnertime while Mama reads Isaiah 40:3-5.
Dream sweet dreams.