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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Playdough Parent Retires

Ugh.  I sit here typing this with blue and green hands.  I got stuck with the worst job at Lauren's co-op preschool.  The playdough parent.  You see, parents have to attend quarterly workshops to clean the school for 3 hours on a Saturday morning.  Attendance is mandatory and they are usually scheduled well in advance.  Well 2 years ago, we got our plane tickets to go to North Carolina and then afterwards, they scheduled a workshop while we'd be away.

I appealed to the board that I didn't want to have to pay the fine and have the strike on our record because we'd had the trip scheduled first.  They said we could repaint the lines on the playground instead, one Friday evening.  (You know, "blue box!  Everyone line up on the blue box!", well we were painting the blue boxes.)  They also came up with another idea for me-if I would agree to be the "playdough parent", I would not have to ever go to another workshop (as long as I was making playdough).  All I would have to do is make playdough for the classrooms every month.

I like to cook and I hate waking up early on a Saturday, so this seemed fine.  It should have been my first clue that the board member who offered me the position said with relief that she would not have to do it now.  Later, I wondered why she would have to do it-board members are already excused from the Saturday workshops.  I was given this playdough recipe:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
3 cups water (put the food color in the water)
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
3 tablespoons oil

Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly.  When it forms a ball and
comes away from sides and you can't stir it, it is done.  Do not
overcook or else the playdough will get too stiff.
(Make recipe 3 times for 3 classrooms)

Here is how it actually played out.  If I had just missed the workshop, I would have paid a $50 fine.  (I think if we missed more than 2, we could be kicked out of the school.)  But I ended up paying way more than that for all of the ingredients.  *Especially* cream of tartar.  That stuff is expensive when used by the tablespoon-full!  And I had to devote a section of my kitchen cabinets to a giant bag of salt and big containers of food coloring.  One bottle of blue food coloring spilled one day, dripping on the white wall and staining everything.  It took Ryan and I (okay mostly Ryan) all morning and many sacrificed towels to clean it up. 

At the beginning of my "tenure", I also had to make separate gluten-free playdough for two sisters in the school who have celiac disease and cannot even touch wheat.  I originally had a recipe the school gave me using cornstarch and rice flour.  I bought a giant bin of cornstarch (more cabinet real estate gone) and made the recipe twice.  It came out terrible and the teachers complained.  So I can report that after much experimentation, the above recipe will work if you use corn flour instead of wheat flour.  The texture is slightly more chalky but it's fine.

Anyway, I made the playdough tonight for what I hope will be the last time.  They have a workshop this week and that's the last one of the school year so I think I'm off the hook, phew!  And when William's at the school, someone remind me to NEVER NEVER NEVER get roped into this again!!!


Sweet Coalminer said...

I make playdough, too, although not that often and not that much. I like it! Although, I agree, you got screwed with the cream of tartar. Mimi's preK teacher last year wanted it made with unsweetened kool-aid instead of coloring (because it smells, too), and glitter. !!!

I can't believe you can't turn in your receipts for reimbursement. I did the eggs at our co-op for easter for $4 or something, and they wanted me to turn in the receipts!

Anyway, enjoy a play dough free summer, until William likes playdough and you start making it for him. ;)

Brighter Schemata said...

Wow, glitter and Kool-Aid. Too fancy for me! I am lucky I did not burn the regular stuff. :)

I only recently found out how to even submit receipts for stuff and they never gave me my $21 for kettle corn they asked me to go and get (I stupidly mentioned they had it at the farmer's market I go to) back in April.

I feel sort of silly for doing it as I go-$2.99 for flour, $.50 for salt, etc. And also I first used up the stuff I already had in the cabinet. But I guess I should have been doing it all along, once I realized this, it felt lame to suddenly start asking for reimbursement. I don't have the receipts now anyway.

And as for William, luckily for all of us, my mother-in-law loves to make playdough. And if she lived closer, she could have been doing this once a month. But I'm sure she will make him copious amounts of it if he so desires!