Nora started school this week! Our school district does a “gentle start” for kindergarten. We met with her teacher for a half-hour last week, when we got to talk to her directly about the diet and Nora’s needs. Then Nora went on Monday for a full day with half of the kids in her class. Today she is there for the first full day with the whole class and it’s the regular schedule from here on out.
We are happy that Nora is in a school for full-day kindergarten, which goes from 8:15 to 2:40. The kids eat 3 times in that span–breakfast, snack and lunch. Three times the meal packing every day. But we are so excited that it is a Spanish-immersion school, where she will be learning exclusively in Spanish every-other day or every-other week (depending on how the teacher decides it works best for this group). She is in a classroom with one bilingual teacher rather than switching teachers weekly. Nora loves language and has been trying to speak Spanish for a few years, with a convincing accent. I can now leave it to the teacher to give her real vocabulary.
Because there is so much involved with sending Nora to school and the story will be unfolding for the rest of the week and next, I am going to write several blog posts about different aspects of bringing keto to kindergarten.
For now, the only sure thing is our parental perspective. Every parent feels anxiety and excitement at sending their child off on the first day of school. My feelings tend to run toward pride and joy that they are growing up and entering their own worlds. Nora makes that feeling easy because she is eager to join in, with only a trace of shyness or anxiety at the new situation. I don’t have to leave her crying; she leads me right to her classroom and gets herself settled in. I feel fortunate for that.
But she has lived a sheltered keto-life. She was enrolled in preschool when her epilepsy was at its worst in 2011. We took her out of school and hired a nanny, our beloved Laura, to care for her at home when I was at work. Laura has been with her ever since. She has had a dedicated adult with her to open containers and scrape out dishes for all of this time. Now taking her to school means that she doesn’t have that kind of one-on-one supervision, which raises anxiety about whether she will eat all of her meals as prepared for her, while resisting any temptation to share food from other kids.
We are also retelling Nora’s story over and over again–to the school nurse, to the teacher, to other parents that we are meeting or don’t know well. I brought in the newspaper article about her 1-year seizure free anniversary because it’s an easy to read explanation and lends it legitimacy. And every time I say that she is doing so great now, we are feeling confident that she will continue to stay seizure free, I want to knock on wood or throw salt over my shoulder. Those feelings of anxiety are lessening as time goes on, but they are still there. Bringing her Diastat prescription to the office just in case she has a prolonged seizure is a prudent and necessary step, but brings up frightful images of seizures at school that I don’t want to see in my mind. For all of the hope of the last 20 months, there is still the fear of a relapse. Somehow we have to continue to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, which is front and center during this transition.
To cope with that anxiety, I have looked for strategies to make her meals as simple as possible and ease any social issues that she will feel. Even though the adults are supposed to watch out for her (more on that in another post), I would rather avoid the risks by making everything as independent for her as possible. Then she can also avoid a little of the stigma that may come from being “different” (more on that later too). Other kids will bring their own lunches too, so if Nora can sit down, open her own meal and eat it all herself, all the better.
I baked a lot over the last weekend to store up some easy high-ratio finger foods rather than relying on liquids like cream or oil to achieve her 3.5:1 ratio. We are trying not to include too many foods that require eating with a spoon so that there is not much left behind in the dishes. We are also trying to avoid anything that can spill easily, which would most likely be cream and critical to keeping her ratio where it should be (more on that later too).
All of this comes at a time of transition for everyone on our family. Anders is also back at school. Both kids are playing soccer this season, Ted and I both work at OSU and are preparing to teach again this fall. I was off all summer, so I was preparing Nora’s meals as we ate rather than preparing and packing the night before in a lunchbox. New routines means that everyone is a little off-kilter as we get busier, and everything is a little more rushed and a little more difficult.
Did you ever have one of THOSE keto-baking nights? I had one last night. Sometimes it is harder than usual. I was trying to make Nora’s pumpkin bars (which, if I have not raved about them yet, are at http://ketocook.com/2012/10/03/pumpkin-cheesecake-bars/). They have been a staple in the breakfast rotation for the last year and are so good. I always start measuring with eggs because I try to hit some multiple of the recipe based on getting the eggs to come out even. I hate storing and wasting eggs.
By my version of the recipe (altered a bit to get 3.5:1 for Nora), I cracked 3 eggs and came out pretty even at making 18 bars. That was a fairly reasonable number; next I went to the computer to calculate how much of the rest of the ingredients to add. Then I went to add the macadamia nuts. I keep some ground in the fridge for easy cooking, but of course I was almost out. Got out the food processor to grind more. Done with that. Measured a few more things…now my small jar of coconut oil was almost empty. Got out the 5-gallon jar to refill the small one. Always a messy job. Poured a glass of wine (I already did the math, so it was good timing). Finished measuring everything out and put it in the mixer. Went to help Nora out of the tub…came back 10 minutes later with the mixer still on–excellent, the bars will be well mixed. Measured them into individual silicone baking cups, so many that I had to bake them in shifts…then there is clean up. But for a night of baking, we have plenty of breakfasts ready to serve. Beats the morning rush.
Today and tonight we were strategizing about lunch packing, getting ready for tomorrow. It must be fall, for the evenings in front of the gram scale are here.