Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dog Biscuits

Yesterday e came out of chorus happy (as usual).  "We played the doggy game, mom!" Doggy game?  I listened as she sang the song and then explained the rules.  It involved tossing a... dog biscuit.  "A real one, mom, so I pulled my sleeves over my hands."  She pushed her hair out of her face, brushing said sleeve against her cheek.  I quickly helped her into her jacket to cover the sleeves and asked her to go wash her hands, face, and water bottle.  Thoroughly.

Dog biscuit?  I did not see that one coming. 

And that's what it's like to have food allergies and intolerances.  Just when you think you have it figured out, when you let your guard down, when you put your child into someone else's care SURE that they understood.  That's when you get dog biscuits.

When E was little and we were new at this, I never, ever let my guard down.  I taught him to sit down with his hands in the air and then to eat from his lap.  Never pick up food that has touched the table, the chair, the floor, or someone else's hands.  If someone so much as breathes on your food, it's finished.  If mommy or daddy didn't prepare the food, don't eat it.  When in doubt, leave it out.

I carried wipes and used them.  Everywhere.  Friends' homes, restaurants, grocery carts, libraries, Sunday school... I'd show up an hour early to church in order to vacuum and wipe down the entire 3-yr-old room, including the walls.  I was always on the lookout for a kid with crumbs on his shirt or a mom who thought hand sanitizer killed gluten.

But he still got glutened.  Somewhere, somehow.  He wouldn't keep his hands out of his mouth, so in this world of goldfish crackers and pb&j, I suppose it was inevitable.  We weathered the rages and rashes and aggression and tummy trouble.  I felt so guilty every time.

Then e arrived, C left for basic training, and I put E into preschool.  His teachers were AMAZING, but I worried.  I did incessant gluten-free research, I provided the school with gluten-free everything.  Did you know straw bales can have gluten?  Finger paint, playdoh, modge-podge, paper mache, pasta, glue, you name it and it probably has gluten.  My friends were awesome.  They checked and double-checked everything with me, and didn't mind me re-washing their clean dishes or wiping their spotless tables.  

The first birthday party we attended was the hardest.  I brought jello for E; he looked longingly at the cake.  Then an incredible thing happened: the other kids wanted jello!  By the third party, parents started serving mainly jello.  It was great. 

Then we moved.  The mommy groups in our new town were not nearly so awesome.  One even told us flat-out that we weren't welcome.  And that was about the time e reacted to tree nuts and we got introduced to the world of epi-pens for anaphalactic reactions.  Story time and museums were about the extent of our social life at that point, and you can bet I carried my wipes and e's epi every single place we went.  Luckily we had a few friends who 'got it', but a whole lot more who didn't.

We moved again, and when e was 4, we went through careful allergy testing and discovered that she was no longer reactive to tree nuts.  No longer reactive!  Our days of epi-pens were over.  I was still nervous for quite some time every time she ate nuts, but indeed.  No reaction.

But still, there was gluten and a number of others, and we found them in the strangest places.  A dog's kiss... gluten.  Chapstick.... corn and soy.  Hand lotion and soap... gluten.  I read labels.  Every single label.  But there were so many labels, and sometimes I would miss something, like the time we had a few MONTHS of rashes and aggression and troubles. I could not find the cause of it to save my life. Finally C went through everything in our pantry and found the culprit: our previously safe bbq sauce now contained corn syrup.   Never, ever let your guard down.

Especially in choir.  There might be dog biscuits.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Day in the Life

I am typing this post knowing, just knowing that as soon as I put this out there, everything will change. That's what happens, right? At least at my house. Just when I think I have it figured out, I suddenly don't. But for right now, 3 or 4 days a week, this is how it goes:


I get up at 6am, just in time to pack a lunch and kiss hubby goodbye as he leaves for work. I prepare 'breakfast snack' plates- fruit and veggies- and leave them on the counter. I use the time left for school prep, knitting, cooking, blogging, or- most often- Facebook. Guinea sits on my lap.


At 7 e (6 yrs) appears. She is my early riser; she's probably been awake since 6, watching the clock. At some point she snuck out and took her plate back to her room. She hangs out in there, listening to Sparkle Stories and playing with her little animals.


e and I make bacon, read stories, and do her main lesson, usually all before big brother E (9 yrs) wakes up around 8. Then there are eggs or pancakes, smoothies or berries... these kids don't ever stop eating. We do chores together, go for a short walk, and by 9:30 have started E's main lesson. Singing practice for e, who is in children's chorus, and Teaching Textbooks math on the computer for E.


I send the kids outside to play while I make lunch. My time to breathe, while Guinea sits on my feet. While they eat, I read to them. Right now we are working our way through Little House on the Prairie. After lunch comes an hour of quiet time. Quiet time is as much for me as it is for them. They usually listen to music or Sparkle Stories or Jim Weiss and do crafts in their rooms. I usually clean up, read, knit, craft, or blog.


After quiet time is....yes...more food. It's usually almost 2 by this time, and E needs a second lunch to get him through. e is always happy to eat with him, lol. This is our free hour. The children can choose to play outside, watch something on Netflix or PBS, do handwork, run wild... anything. We run errands here sometimes.


At 3 it's a mad dash to pack snacks, change clothes, get water bottles, and get out the driveway before rush hour, which on our street begins at 3:32. Seriously, it's that specific. 3:32. The gym is 3 miles away but if aren't out there by 3:30, we sit in the driveway for 10 or more minutes with E saying 'Are we going to be late? Are we going to be late?' Over and over and over.


We drop E at gym, chat with our friends, then head back home, usually stopping at the library or a store on the way home. By then C is home, practicing oboe or saxophone, and e takes my iPad to play games or FaceTime her friend. I start dinner, do some chores, read to e...


We eat dinner around 6:15. e takes her sweet time and finishes by 7, just in time to get ready for bed and hear her Daddy stories (right now Poppy's Return). I tuck her in while C goes to pick up E from the gym.


Did you do the math? That boy is at the gym for 4 hours!! And when he gets home, he isn't even very tired. He eats a huge dinner, C reads to him from the Redwall series, and I tuck him in at 9:30.


I start the dishwasher, tuck in the piggy, and C and I head for bed. Whew.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Finishing Up

 e finished her person.  She stared at herself for quite a while in the mirror while drawing the eyes.  I love the purple hair!
 E's favorite subject continues to be form drawing.  Over and over he draws these forms.  Very hypnotic and relaxing.  Best of all is drawing them big on the chalkboard, layering over different colors and watching the form change.

We are nearing the end of E's Norse Myths block.  We finished the stories- what a surprise we had at Ragnarokk!  We've been singing the round of Oh Father Odin but didn't understand it until now.  Shocking.  I'm hoping e forgets what she has heard so that she can enjoy it anew in 3 years when it is her turn.
 e chose what to write for this picture.  She laughed all the way through this story, as the man is so impossibly clueless.  I love her little fish poking its head and tail out of the water to speak to the lazy man. 
 A little Valentine form drawing for my e!  All one stroke, don't lift your crayon- care to give it a try?
e's very last final page in her main lesson book!  Never have I ever finished a main lesson book, as E is not fond of writing. She is excited to begin a new one on Monday.  We still have 3 main lesson blocks remaining, which may take us halfway through the next main lesson book.  She can add to it this summer, also, before she starts her second grade books. 

E is keeping his eye on e.  He is beginning to realize that she is doing things he had refused, and benefiting from the activities!  How can that be?  e is hearing so many more stories, learning so many more songs, writing so easily and neatly.... hmmm.  He's been sticking close during e's main lesson time, listening in, absorbing what he previously could not.  I love it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm Okay With That


e read this poem herself! She is gaining confidence.

She also started choir yesterday. Her smile afterward could not have been larger!

This drawing with the sun behind the girl was e's composition. She dictated which scene she wanted to summarize and how it should look on the page, I drew it, then she copied. But mine was not nearly as awesome. I love love love this. So beautiful.

I wrote E's poem in cursive this week, which did NOT go over well. Not at all. He loves writing cursive, but dispises reading it. Noted.

So....writing. Want to see how my child writes? See below. Yep. This is how my nearly ten-year-old writes. (This was supposed to be a summary of a story I read to him the day before, but summary be damned; why would anyone want to limit a story by taking out its details?!)


I'm totally okay with how he writes. And when I say that it is okay for your child to go at their own pace, I truly mean it. I have confidence that when conventions and spelling become important to E, he'll step it up. Right now he doesn't enjoy writing. If I were to pick it apart and correct him, it would be all over. It's okay. He won't still be writing like this when he's 18, and perhaps by then he'll even find joy in it.

Together we decided what the core story was. I wrote it, and he copied it (over the course of a few days) into his main lesson book. In cursive. Happily.


Monday, February 3, 2014

A Few Projects

I finally found the poem for this painting! It now hangs next to our dining room table as a reminder to be reverent. Everyone and everything has a purpose and is to be respected and appreciated. Everything that happens has a purpose and is to be approached as an opportunity, for God has His hand in it and will bring us through. That will never change. e understood it to mean the seasons; the leaves fall and then grow again. The cold and dark come, but light always returns.
I have once again opened shop on Etsy! More to come: felted soaps, finger puppets, dryer balls... I love the creative outlet but also gotta get this boy of mine to regionals! Meet fees and travel expenses and coach fees oh my!
Have you seen my page on Facebook?   It is called (big surprise) Little Strawberry Elephant. :)
It feels good to finally be moving forward with Etsy again!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Candlemas-Imbolc-Groundhog's Day!

We went from this

To this

In less than a week! Today was so beautiful and warm that even Guinea could enjoy the fresh air (bundled up, of course). She chowed down on grass and pine needles while we raked and bagged old leaves and needles. Today is Imbolc, after all! A day to prepare for the return of spring.


Imbolc is a Celtic holiday, the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. A time to honor Brigid, goddess of fire and midwifery. A time to do spring cleaning.


It is also Candlemas. Historically this is the day that the Catholic Church melts down old candles to make new, in order to carry the light through for the last bit of winter. So too is it near St. Brigit of Ireland's feast day.


I love the concept of carrying the light through the darkness. I think my children do as well... Last year I asked them to list every holiday they could think of and what it means to them. Here is what they decided upon for the winter holidays:


Michaelmas, bravery in fighting fears and dragons. Martinmas, bringing in the light to shine in the long darkness ahead and helping others. Advent- preparing the way for the Light. St. Nicholas Day, bringing joy. St. Lucia- doing good for others, a light in the dark. Solstice, hope that the darkest dark has come and light is coming. Christmas, the coming of the Light. New Year's Day, hope and light. Three Kings Day, gifts for the Light. Candlemas, keeping the light shining. Valentine's- showing others their light. St. Patrick's Day- light of gold (lol). Spring Equinix- the light is back! Easter, forgiving the darkness (wow).