This is always the most difficult time of year. The hackneyed complaints about cabin fever set in and the Hobbits are invariably bouncing off of the walls, but trenchant in their resistance to take the energy outside. By now, the romance of the fresh fallen snow has been stomped into pockmarks across the yard and so has the exhilaration of sledding. Even Bug's forays into converting his saucer sled into a snowboard has lost its shine.
And homeschooling. Picture me with a hag-ridden expression and ragged wisps of hair tufting a gleaming scalp. This is the time of year where the curriculum has lost its shine and everyone wants the year To Be Done. Tool Guy and Dog started the year with high hopes. They had collaborated on the purchase of a "school in a box" kind of curriculum and had, apparently, polled the masses with a product satisfaction survey, receiving very positive feedback. They must have found the very one consumer who liked the wooden material, since everyone that I asked actually shuddered at the mere mention of the books. Literally. I reasoned with the guys that it was not for naught that I found unopened boxes of this curriculum on the exchange table, free for the taking. Collecting dust. Sun-faded. But nobody listens. So Dog and Tool Guy are slogging their way through the remainder of the material, with Tool Guy dragging comprehension from Dog, piece by piece. They flirted with chucking the whole package and switching to more lively material, but decided that slogging was less work than catching up. Live and learn.
Bug is also bogging down. Before I whinge, I have to hand it to Bug that he has made enormous strides. I was listening to him during family time, reading from the teenage NIV with such ease and facility that I couldn't believe this was the same child who was stumbling over the easy readers just a year ago. But math? (See? It's even a four-letter word.) Not that math at his level is particularly hard, but it is when Someone (insert meaningful, pointed glance at a certain furry-footed shortling) is resisting the discipline of memorizing the times tables. Yeah, we've done the whole grouping/counting bears/multiplication-is-just-fast-addition theoretical exercises and he gets it. But there's nothing that replaces the actual instant recall and facile command of the multiplication tables. I'd given him a variety of tools with which to master the facts and left him to it. It wasn't met with cries of delight. By the time we got to this mid-point, it became clear that we weren't going further until he muscled his way through the memorization exercise. I had to get draconian, but he got there. It's been a rough couple of weeks.
Princess mostly flies through her stuff. Oh, she puts on airs and pretends that this is difficult. After all, she has the wailing and gnashing of teeth around her and we are nothing if not creatures of imitation, but the reality is that this stuff is a cakewalk for her. She makes me look good, but I didn't have anything to do with this. My first grader has set a goal for herself that she will read through the Magic Tree House series and she's been doing it at the rate of a book every day or so. Her main complaint at this point is the slowness of the library system to produce next book in the series--"Because, Mom, it's frustrating to not read them in order!" This loses a lot when you can't see the earnest expression and the accompanying gestures. I try not to smile too openly.
School matters aren't truly a vexation for Princess, but in recent months I've begun noticing some unhappy symptoms of a different nature. Quite a sinking feeling, since Princess has been my "golden child"--the one with whom I did Everything Right. Home birth. Breastfed. Gluten/casein free since before birth. Growing up with bone broth, fermented foods, and everything free. Everything augured well for her to sail through childhood without any digestive hitches. I only anticipated dealing with teenage mutinies when this dietary stuff started making them feel too different. Alas, no.
A few months ago, I noticed that she'd become much more emotionally fragile. Irrational. Then the Shoe Problem popped up. Shoes that had been perfectly acceptable--nay!--favorites suddenly became intolerable. At first, I thought she'd just outgrown those, but when I replaced them with the next size up, the problem persisted. And when I insisted on her accepting the shoes anyway, the frustration was displaced to the velcro. I personally have now developed a rash reaction to the sound of velcro ripping. I think there's probably even an IgE rast for it. This is due to the long and daily sessions of fastening and unfastening and refastening the velcro repeatedly on the shoes to get the tension Just Right. And when one shoe was Just Right, the other shoe's tension had to be the same exact Just Right as the other. Or the process had to be repeated again. And again. Did I mention repeatedly? And socks. Don't get me started on seams on socks that must be aligned with the ley lines in England at the same time as the Nazca lines of Peru. Just. Don't.
At this point I began having flashbacks to when Dog was a toddler. The sun was too bright. And none of the clothes felt right. All manner of sensory disagreements. It's amazing how easy it is to forget these things. Well, probably not forget. Rather say that it is easy to shove those memories to the back of the closet. Life has become too normal for us. These days, when Dog asks why he can't wear sweats to church, it is more about the teenage stuff than it is about sensory integration issues. Reluctantly, I faced the presentation of these dynamics with the digestive upsets she was experiencing and accepted that there's some food stuff going on with her. Sigh.
Before diving hog wild into testing, I've decided to do some judicious pruning to see if we can address this first with a bit of deduction. Beans was the most recent addition to the diet and although the boys are showing absolutely no problems to the daily inclusion of this in their food, it was the first suspect for Princess' reactions. This was discouraging to her, though she took it in good grace. She's well used to discussions about pulling food, though this is one of the few times it actually applied to her. While I continue to make a bean bread multi-grain blend for the boys, I'm making a bean-free version for her along with theirs. She's particularly mourning the absence of toasted garbanzo beans. I started wracking my brains for a comparable snack for her to enjoy. Something like honey-roasted nuts for the nut-free.
Buckwheat is my current new Favorite Thing. I'm exploring the different things that I can do with it. It's a dominant flavor in my current bread combo. It's got a viscosity to it that makes me think of gluten, even though its gluten-free, name notwithstanding, so I'm watching to see if it improves the texture of the bread as well as adding more nutrients. There are tons of papers out there where other people in lab situations are playing with the viscous potential of buckwheat. Why should they have all the fun? I've started playing with sprouting it, too. Sprouts up nicely and quickly, though that viscous thing is evident in the first day or so of sprouting, requiring particular attention in thorough rinsing. The nice thing about sprouting, aside from the obvious advantages of sprouting in and of itself, is that the sprouting eliminates that stickiness from the process when one goes about toasting the grains.
The Nitty Gritty Cooking class was playing with caramel corn using honey and butter, so duly inspired, I decided to extend the application to buckwheat. Princess loved the resulting crunchy, nutty-tasting snack. Kinda made me think of the old maids in those stale boxes of sticky treats that we mostly ripped open for the prize inside rather than the treat itself.
Cracker Jills (Caramel Buckwheat)
4 cups sprouted buckwheat
2 T ghee or coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
Toast in oven at 350* until nicely browned and no longer damp, stirring from time to time to allow for even toasting. In a heavy saucepan over a low temperature, melt ghee and honey, stirring to mix as thoroughly as possible. Pour over buckwheat and stir to completely coat. In tray or cookie sheet covered with a silicone mat or baking parchment, spread the buckwheat out as thinly and evenly as possible. Return to oven and toast for 10-20 minutes. As it cools, the crunch will emerge. This is one snack that was greeted with cries of delight. It makes a great finger food snack or a nifty breakfast cereal.
No magic bullets for Princess yet. Ramping up the bone broth and the coconut milk kefir and all things fermented. She's taking enzymes with meals, which seems to be helping. I'm giving bentonite clay a toss, too.
And I'm knitting again. Socks. The kind with no seams at the toes.