Friday, February 27, 2009

Keep It Simple

Streamlining. Dejunking. Decluttering. There might even be a 27 Fling Boogie in there somewhere. Simplifying. Spring cleaning. It's a little early because we're only just teetering on the brink of spring, but we still have some days of persistent snow. The accumulation is looking a bit tired and shopworn, however, and Bug is now counting the days until it is officially Spring.

Soon it will be time to gear up for planting starts and planning what I'm going to do with that collapsed greenhouse. The ruined ribs stick reproachfully up out of the bank of snow and I bite my knuckle when I look out of the window. I actually feel guilty. Then I remind myself that I'm still being Scarlet and insistent that I'll think about that tomorrow. And it isn't tomorrow yet.

Winter has been busy and the Hobbits are hitting a growth spurt. Not so much physical, though Bug and Princess are surely shooting up. Dog is intractably refusing to put on any weight despite my best efforts at offering carbs and good fats. He does this just to be contrary, you know. No, their growth spurts are more of the developmental and maturational levels. Princess is picking up books and starting to read for the sheer enjoyment of it. Still working on Bug in that department, but he's getting more comfortable navigating the written word, so there's definite progress. He even picked up some Mr. Putter and Tabby books from the library, uncoerced. And Dog and I are slogging through his first year in Format Writing class and writing a research paper. Neither one of us do well with writing within the box nor coloring within the lines, but the discipline is good for us.

The biggest spurts forward include a sudden willingness--the ability was long there--to participate in household responsibilities. I think we've found the grooves that each is comfortable doing. Dog doesn't mind schlepping the compost down to the far side of the acreage, but finds the folding of clothes to be beyond tedious. Bug despises composting, but he and Princess take immense pride in the particulars of the folding job. There have been some proposed outings that provide us with the leverage for getting school work underway at the crack of dawn. With alacrity. Tool Guy mandated that participation in the outings required x amount of work accomplished. I awoke one morning to find that both Dog and Bug (tutored by Dog) had not only finished their work for the day, but had fed themselves and gotten breakfast for Princess. All before 8 am. Blink.

During the most recent co-op delivery, I had to peel Dog off the bottom of my shoe. (Where did all of that helpfulness come from all of a sudden?) In fact, one of the sorters had to graciously ask him to step out of her space because she couldn't repackage the fifty-pound purchase due to his head's submersion into the depths of the bag. He tagged along, eager to heft and haul the twenty-five pound bags for the ladies arriving and collecting their purchases. Bug toted empty boxes out to be discarded. Princess pulled her stuffed rabbit around on a scooter. Okay, so some of them are getting there.

All of such things confluence to make my time gradually less harried and constrained as it used to be. I remember when Princess was a baby in sling and literally the only time I sat during the day was when she needed to nurse. These days I'm finding more available time to just be instead of do. Simple things.

Even though the deep, bone-cracking cold of winter is past, the Hobbits still crave warm things to drink. Chai tea is quite popular and they also love to scandalize the staid adults who are shocked that they are allowed to drink coffee. (Maybe that's what's stunting Dog's growth, eh?) And simple things like hot chocolate. An easy, no-brainer.

Chocococonut Milk

1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. chocolate or carob powder
5 drops stevia or 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin or 1/2 tsp. maple syrup

Heat coconut milk to desired temperature, add flavors and sweeteners, then whip with immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, then mix ingredients first, then heat. Top with cinnamon or chocolate sprinkles, if desired.

The first dividends of the early years are now starting to roll in. When we get back from a morning of grocery shopping, they line up to haul the bags into the kitchen and unpack. Dog takes pride in doing the heavy lifting at home, too. More hands, less work, less stress. Simplifies things, doesn't it? More knitting time. Sweet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Hard Things

The Hobbits have it rough. No two ways about it. A veritable laundry list of food sensitivities, but there's no stopping there. They've also inherited Tool Guy's sensitivity to wool. A point which is no small source of chagrin now that I've picked up my pointed sticks and am tasting the delights of what artisan yarn has to offer. Pout. Okay, it can be argued that Fun Fur is artisan acrylic. But a Princess only needs so many pink Fun Fur boas in her wardrobe, you know?

On top of that, they happen to be born into my gene pool, which doesn't seem to add to the food list, but certainly adds a respiratory allergen component. These Hobbits can't catch a break. They say the first child you have is the test model and you get to throw it away. Poor Dog. He seems to be the locus of the more challenging genes that Tool Guy and I contributed to his make up. He's the most food sensitive and the one who coughs and sneezes the most. Sigh. We're starting to swap notes, he and I, on which pollen remedies are most effective. He's even becoming a dab hand at using a Neti pot and even gave Tool Guy the tutorial on how to do it. Intrepid kid.

So when spring rolled around last year and he started coughing, we didn't think too much of it. I was sneezing and coughing, too. And when summer rolled around and his coughing continued, I was a bit uncomfortable myself and chalked him up to having a "bad pollen year." And indeed the pollen counts were up from previous years. Then when autumn rolled around and he was still coughing, well, it was goldenrod season, after all. I was pretty stuffy, too.

By October, however, the coughing hadn't stopped and the wheezing started. And nothing was touching it. Well, infusions of fresh ginger helped get the gunk up, but still he coughed. Things kind of came to a crisis on a Sunday night when he had to struggle to breathe and was even kind of blue around the lips. We were in the doctor's office pronto.

This was the first time we'd seen this doctor, our former pediatrician having moved on to some practice in one of the other seven rings of Dante's HMO inferno. I decided that I particularly liked the new doc when he turned out to be rather knowledgeable about gluten issues. Try finding one of those models in just any doctor's office. After we'd received a diagnosis of non-bacterial pneumonia, he started writing out the scripts and that's usually when the fun really begins. Just try finding corn-free anything. He was very cooperative about getting this worked through with our compounding pharmacist. And then when he started writing the script for an inhaler, I sort of wobbled, "I'm not really comfortable with steroids," having only been exposed to inhaler-speak during interpreting doctor visits for heavy duty asthmatics. He looked at me and said--and I quote--"Are you nuts?! I'm not about to prescribe a steroidal inhaler for him." Okay, I'm definitely keeping this one.

But even after running Dog through the course of medication and treatments to solve the immediate problem, low grade cough persisted. At last, a friend whispered in my ear a Hard Truth. You know. The ones you don't want to hear? Those. Her suggestion was that it might be a dairy thing. And you know the only dairy thing on our menu, right? Yeah. That would be the ghee. The ghee that disappears at the rate of a pound a week. Sigh.

It was with much wailing and gnashing of teeth that the ghee went on hiatus. The big rub was then what to have on toast. Favorite snack. Favorite spread. Cinnamon with ghee on toast. This is the Hobbit who looks like a famine refugee, so I don't want him to lose calories. Once again, desperation drove me into the kitchen for some Cooking Dangerously. (You have to love the friends who, when they speak Hard Truths, also help kick around ideas for dealing with the Hard Truths!) I didn't come out until I'd come up with

Cinnamon Spread

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup palm shortening
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 t maple syrup
2 t vegetable glycerin
10 drops stevia

Blend softened palm shortening with all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth and well-incorporated. (All of the sweeteners are tweakable to accommodate your favorite.) This mixture is liquid at room temperature, but will achieve the consistency of margarine when refrigerated. Can't give you a holding time, because this stuff doesn't stick around long enough to be able to have determined an expiration date. Score!

Granted, it isn't ghee and Dog still mourns the loss of it, but at least it fills the hole, tastes something like what he remembers and gets some fats into him. I call that a winner.

It's very hard to follow a path that takes us a couple of steps forward and then requires backtracking. We want to set our faces in the direction we want to go and plow ahead. The Hobbits have regular conversations about what dishes they will have "when we can have xyz again." And ghee now figures into the list of wistful foods. I suspect that the progress we make will continue to be pockmarked with such landmines and regressions. Here's to learning to do the Hard Things gracefully...even the second and third time around.