29 May 2008

Technopoly, Poetic Knowledge, and the Disappearance of a Bookstore

Yesterday, Kimbrah said...

There used to be a GREAT children's bookstore down the street called The Prince and the Pauper but they have since closed. They had a castle for the kids to sit in and read quietly and also a pet macaw that talked. It so sad that such a wonderful place closed down and went solely online. :(

There are many little things to mourn in our culture, not the least of which is the disappearance of small but charming things that added beauty and a certain peacefulness to daily life.

I spent an hour yesterday reading Postman's Technopoly while waiting for an OB blood test.

As an aside, I thought I'd mention that I spent that hour in my Suburban. I had intended to remain in the waiting room. Even I am not so introverted that I cannot stand to sit in a half-empty room and chance some human interaction. It was the technology that drove me away. The waiting room was flanked on both sides by extra-large plasma screen televisions. One was blaring the Disney channel, while the other was screaming politics via CNN. There was no way I could read or think in such a noisy environment, and at the same the presence of the television {and cell phones in the hand or on the ear of every patient there but me} was a sure deterrent to any form of conversation or human connection.

So, I took my book and left.

Anyhow...

Postman, may he rest in peace, could tell you exactly why such havens of delight {like the bookstore mentioned above} are disappearing. After all, we live in a true technopoly if ever there were one, and all technopolies rely on the same presuppositions, one of which is
the belief that the primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and thought is efficiency.
One only need listen to, watch, or read an advertisement somewhere {anywhere} to see that efficiency is one of the most esteemed ideas in our culture. Everywhere, people are hawking wares that do the job faster and/or with less effort.

Among other things, this is a separation of ends from means. We esteem the end {fresh bread, a mowed lawn, a clean oven} and believe the end justifies any means {a bread machine, a riding lawn mower or gardener, a self-cleaning oven, to name a few}.

This is not written to criticize self-cleaning ovens. It is simply to show the rationale at some neutral point.

You see, quaint little children's bookstores with reading castles and talking macaws are not efficient. Online book sales are efficient. Online book sales accomplish the end {selling children's books} without the inconvenient means {caring for and paying for a storefront containing nonessentials like castles and pet birds}.

And the teachers out there cry, At least the children are reading!

I hear this rallying cry a lot. It shouts at us through websites and institutional schools and the like.

That the children must and should read is not debatable.

However, comma...

All books are not created equal, for one. That they read is surely not justification for them reading poorly written or, even of greater concern, obscene material.

But that is not today's subject.

Charlotte Mason once wrote that education is an atmosphere. James Taylor concurred when he wrote that
the location of the school can be said to teach in the poetic mode just as strongly as the approach to the curriculum.
As a woman who was once a child who loved to read in a certain plum tree in my back yard, especially when the fruit was almost ripe and the branches were almost breaking with their harvest burden, I can say with certainty that castles and macaws predispose a child to wonder {the essential foundation for true and humble learning} in a way that an online bookstore never will.

The disappearance of charming bookstores is directly related to the disappearance of true craftsmanship in the culture, for they result from this same mindset of efficiency-above-all-else. In Poetic Knowledge, Taylor spends a good deal of time focused on crafts and how they acquaint the young soul with real, concrete things. He quotes men who claim that farm work, for instance, helped them understand math in a way a textbook never could. He explains that the whole body, and not just the mind, is cognitive. We can, as he rightly says, learn to comprehend the fulcrum and level by playing on a see-saw or using a pitchfork.

Ladies Against Feminism recently interviewed Kathy Brodock from Teaching Good Things. She, too, sees the body, hands, mind, and soul as a whole being, all of which need to be educated. She also seems to understand that a whole education truly educates the whole. To put it another way, she understand that all of the body is being educated all of the time. So just as learning passively can make the body slothful and the hands idle, learning actively can stimulate the mind to make a million little connections of understanding. Moreover, she understands in impact of learning true skills and crafts on the soul:
Learning these skills can build many character traits, not only in our children, but in us. Traits such as: diligence, humility, obedience, gratefulness, patience, attentiveness, orderliness, responsibility, initiative, creativity, thriftiness, availability, and self control. Learning these skills helps develop our ability to appreciate the world around us.

So, why the disappearance of a great bookstore? Efficiency, my friend. Efficiency. And really, this probably wasn't efficiency on the part of the owners. My guess is that, as their customers decided to choose efficiency over a whole body-mind-and-soul experience, the owners had to make a choice to cut their overhead or go bankrupt. I am sure that online book sales saved their livelihood, and no one should fault them for this.

This is the cost of trying to survive in a culture that values efficiency above all else. Beauty and righteousness are often inefficient. And, as we plunge headlong into the worship of technology, we shouldn't be surprised to see these things disappear.

28 May 2008

Using PBS to Acquire Schoolbooks

I am a big fan of PaperBackSwap. I make this no secret. But unless you're a big fan of trashy romance novels, PBS is a game that takes a bit of patience to play. I've been known to wait six months for a book I want. And there are other books I have yet to get that have been on my Wish List since its inception who knows how long ago.

Because we use Ambleside Online for the bulk of our liberal arts education here at the homeschool, we can know what we will be reading far into the future. I tamper with the book lists here and there, but so far I'm happy with what I'm seeing. The few books I have taken off the lists are some that I plan to use when our kids are a little older.

All of this is to say that knowing what we will read before we need to read it {often long before we need to read it} is an advantage.

My basic strategy in using PBS to acquire school books involves packing my Wish List with every version of the coming year's books I can find. For kindergarten, I was able to find about 50% of our books at PBS. This year, I've been preparing early because of the baby, and I only found two books. However, this still saved me approximately $15 compared to purchasing the books new.

I am almost done with planning the 2008/2009 school year. Instead of relaxing and knowing that I'm finished, I plan to jump into the 2009/2010 school year a bit. I'm going to clear out my Wish List, ridding it of all the books I bought for this school year. I'm going to go through all of the books on the Ambleside book list for Year Two and add them to the Wish List right now.

This gives me a full year to sit and wait. If any of the books are available now, I'll take them. After all, I will already know I'm done for the coming year. I did this for kindergarten {sat on the list for a year, I mean}, and that is how I was able to get 50% of the book list. They didn't all come at once, on the day I was ready to order books. Rather, they trickled in, even throughout the school year.

Another way to use PBS for school is to use it to build the Free Reading List {the stack of books available for kids to read for fun in their spare time or during Quiet Hour}. For the record, finding a book on PBS is directly tied to that book's popularity. So I'm much more likely to find The Boxcar Children Number 16 than I am a near-classic like Ruskin's The King of the Golden River.

PBS involves patience, especially if you are like me and want to use it to build your family library. Planning a year in advance {or even two if you're up to it} should give me an edge and help me save money.

It definitely works for me.

27 May 2008

Order as an Educational Environment

As I have been considering my methods for school next year, I have realized that our necessary cornerstone must be order. At first, I believed this to be true because of Baby O.’s anticipated arrival. After all, we are beginning school early this year {July} for the purpose of getting ahead before the baby gets us behind, so to speak.

Because I have C-sections, I can say with relative certainty that, God willing, Baby O. will arrive during the official first week of public school. To stay on the government’s schedule will simply not do for this year. Not with my three to six weeks of recovery causing quite the interruption.

But back to the idea of order, or orderliness: I thought that it was the whole idea of yet another newborn that caused me to consider order the rock on which we stand. Being organized, having a routine, these are the things that have gotten me through the adjustment periods each time.

And after we adjust, we relax.

But only a bit.

When chaos seeps into our house, even in small quantities, I can feel it. I feel it in my desire to be elsewhere—to escape this situation by leaving. I see it in the children’s restlessness. They don’t know what to do next, and they quickly deteriorate into doing something they ought not.

So instinctively, I have sought out order.

This is not to say that our home is perfect. Far from it! Beds are not always made, rooms are not always clean, and so on. However, there is still order in our day, beginning with the fact that we rise at the same time every week day. We eat breakfast at the same time. And the routine goes on from there. We do our chores, we begin our studies. There is a set time for play, for Baby Q.’s bottle, for lunch, and for nap. There is a time for everything, which means that most everything we need to do is accomplished without trying to figure it out each day.

These things do not enslave us. They are, rather, our way of life. We all take comfort in this fact. We relax in them, rather than in spite of them.

As I was reading through chapter five of Poetic Knowledge last night, I was surprised to find that order was emphasized. After all, when I think of the poetic, I think not necessarily of chaos, but definitely of a certain lack of restraints. For instance, in my children, I would think not of my self-regimented oldest child, but rather my flighty, forgetful, sparkly second born.

To me, a bit of scatter-brain means the child is predisposed to the poetic.

But James Taylor would say that is all nonsense, I think.

In chapter five, he focuses on a school that existed in France in the 1940s that was, he explains, poetic in the medieval sense. The headmaster, Andre Charlier, had a habit of writing letters to the leaders among his students, whom he referred to as “captains.” In Charlier’s letters, we get a glimpse of a man who infuses his school with a gentle order.

This order is pervasive. It, like all things poetic, encompasses the whole. So the orderliness would mean not just a clean room, but a respect for authority and ease in discipline, as well as an appropriate manner of speaking and also spiritual order—an understanding of one’s place in Creation.

One of the things that struck me was that order on the outside {like the clean room} was somehow reflective of order on the inside of the soul. Because the child was a whole person, all different avenues were seen as flowing together.

Order also promoted the common good within the school. Charlier wrote:
[Y]ou must be essentially creatures of a certain order. This order is necessary for every living soul in the house. Everything that you will do, even in the smallest of details, will do as much as anything to win the creation of this order.
He explains so beautifully that, “It is necessary to create conditions of life so that the soul can bloom.”

There it is! I thought. The key! The key!

This is why we instinctively avoid harsh structures that weighs us down like a millstone around the neck, while simultaneously shunning chaos and wild abandon. It is that quest for the “conditions of life” in which the soul can bloom.

So the order in our home should be fitting for the souls within its walls, I think. The work can be planned and performed with great joy, for, like a field of flowers, the souls are blooming all around. Order can be our delight. In it, the souls both old and new might revel and grow.

26 May 2008

GFCF Chocolate Garden Cake Success!





The birthday party on Saturday was a success on many fronts, not the least of which was the dessert front. We let E. choose whether he wanted cake first or gifts first {when it was time to get the event moving a little}.

He chose cake.

My mom was so impressed. "Wow. Delayed gratification," she said, referring to our son putting off his presents.

I really debated about letting her romanticize my kids or not. But I decided to be honest and tell her that my kids really do like food better than presents. Desserts around here are few and far between, and cakes are something I reserve for truly special occasions like holidays and birthdays. So when E. chose cake, he was choosing immediate gratification.

He he.

And the cake was so good that I'm not sure most folks would know that it was GFCF! For years, I have used the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe whenever I needed a chocolate cake. When E. told me he wanted a garden cake, I was happy to oblige, especially since it meant I wouldn't have to figure out natural food coloring, something I have been putting off for months now. Gardens are made from dirt, and chocolate is the color of dirt. Perfect!

Here is how I revamped the recipe {and yes, I used a mix for which I drove across town and it was worth every penny}:

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" GFCF Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1.75 cups + 1.5 tsp Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit & Baking Mix
3/4 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup plain rice milk
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons GF vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Stir together sugar, biscuit mix, cocoa, baking soda and sea salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water {batter will be thin}. Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 25-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting {GFCF version below}.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" GFCF Chocolate Frosting
Ingredients
1/2 cup Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening
2/3 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup plain rice milk
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract

Directions
In a mixer, cream together sugar and shortening. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk {I think I used closer to 1/2 cup by the end}, if needed. Beat in vanilla.

As far as decorating the cake goes, I got my inspiration for the veggies from an article in Woman's Day magazine. Here is a closeup:





All of the directions are available online for folks wanting to recreate this cake. These veggies are not GFCF. I just picked them off of my kids' pieces. My son enjoyed the look. Also, I didn't go all out like the directions called for. I only bought a few of the types of candy that were called for, and I was able to make do just fine. Can I just say that I love that our grocery store has a bulk candy aisle? I save a bundle on candy when I can buy exactly 20 green M&Ms and no more!

Also, the recipe calls for crumbled chocolate cookies to give it a real "dirt" look. Most prepared chocolate cookies, however, are not GFCF or soy free. So...I just sprinkled the cake with brown sugar and then sifted some cocoa powder on top of that. It made it look dirty without the gluten difficulties.

Great cake. Great party. Great day.

The only thing I would change is my method for writing. Someday, I'll break down and buy a real decorating set instead of trying to pump cursive out of a flimsy zip-lock baggie.

23 May 2008

Birthdays, Musings, and More

I've been a busy bee lately. We had a sick little one earlier this week. She's fine now, but she cramped the week's chores into a much smaller space. However, she is one of my less-cuddly children, so I was grateful to be allowed to hold her as long as I wanted {and more}.

E.'s turning six this weekend. Six. It is hard to imagine that we've been parents six years now, but I suppose that is how it works. Each year adds on to the other until suddenly you have a bit of experience.

Anyhow, he has decided he wants to be a farmer when he grows up. I consider this a noble calling, so I try to encourage it as much as possible while keeping in mind that very few of us knew at age six what we'd really be at twenty-five.

What better for a future farmer than a garden cake? Some ladies collect magazine clippings and printouts to serve as inspiration for decorating their homes. I live in a rental, so I clip and print out inspiration for birthday cakes. I'm combining three different ideas from three different sources to make a garden cake that is simple but actually looks like a garden.

It's not easy.

Last night, for instance, I stayed up, sculpting tiny vegetables out of chewy candies. I made a deal with my son that I'd make him a great-looking cake as long as he agreed not to eat the off-limits part of it {candy is often covered in gluten because factories dust the conveyor belts with wheat to keep it from sticking}. We shook on it, and now I am the proud owner of a pile of carrots fashioned from orange-flavored Starburst.

Wow. It just started raining.

So anyhow...

I don't have any photos of the garden cake. However, I do have photos of the butterfly-inspired cake that I made three months ago and never posted. It is a wonderful and simple GFCF birthday cake. Of course, I'm using the term cake loosely here. It is actually a GFCF tapioca-honey sugar cooking, frosted with GFCF white frosting.

Does that make it a tart?

All artificial flavors and colors are off-limits for the kids' strict diet, and I wasn't in the mood to gamble on "natural" coloring, so we covered it with fruit instead, and I made some candy butterflies out of melties from the grocery store. {The butterflies were cute, but the kids, of course, couldn't actually eat them.}

I do this because the kids so delight in having fun cakes.

Anyhow, here are a few photos. I rolled the cookie {actually, it was cookies because I made two} out real thin in a jellyroll pan. It didn't take long to cook {maybe 10 minutes}. Then I frosted it. I saw this design in a magazine somewhere years ago. The next step was to pile blueberries in the center:





Always work out from the center with something like this. Sliced kiwis ringed the blueberries, and then I place strawberry halves around that:





I skipped to the outside to place a border of grapes. This would help me eye how much space I needed to fill with mandarins (from a can) to finish:





I drizzled all of this with a glaze made from orange-pineapple juice. Then, I placed two butterflies (one pink and one yellow) on each cake. I tried to make it look like they landed there for a snack. Here's the finished products:





Have a wonderful weekend. Someday, I'll post photos of the garden cake. Actually, I'll also post a recipe if it turns out well. I'm trying my hand at a GFCF chocolate cake with chocolate frosting...it's the color of dirt, of course!

22 May 2008

Why Doctors Don't Listen

When I was fairly young {we're not quite sure how old}, I contracted Lyme Disease. It took many years, however, to get a diagnosis. In fact, I was even told that I needed counseling because I was probably imagining all or some of the problem. Why the diagnostic delay? Two major reasons: {1} "We don't have Lyme Disease here." This is perhaps the most closed-minded response possible. Because our area wasn't considered to be a place where catching Lyme was possible, the doctors ruled it out.

Our area ended up being a pocket, by the way, meaning many people {including a fellow dancer at my ballet studio} ended up being diagnosed once it was admitted that maybe, just maybe, Lyme was actually the problem.

{2} I didn't have a positive blood test, nor did I have the bull's-eye rash.

This second reason is what caused years of delay in my diagnosis, and resulted in me spending a little over a decade of my childhood battling illness.

But this post isn't about me. It's actually about why, according to Neil Postman, the stethoscope is to blame for reason number two, and the general problem of doctors not actually listening to their patients.

The stethoscope was, according to Postman, medicine's first diagnostic instrument. Postman details what led to the stethoscope's invention. I won't go into the details, but I assure you that it was a perfectly reasonable improvisation in an unusual situation.

However, for the first time in the history of doctoring, an instrument came between doctor and patient. Postman explains that, before this
the traditional methods [were] questioning patients, taking their reports seriously, and making careful observations of exterior symptoms.
Relying on the patient's firsthand report of what they experienced was the essence of doctoring before the introduction of instruments.

The stethoscope, obviously, was only the beginning. With each tool came a reinforcement of the new ideas involved in doctoring. Postman writes:
...two of the key ideas promoted by the stethoscope: Medicine is about disease, not the patient. And, what the patient knows is untrustworthy; what the machine knows is reliable.

Of course, Postman doesn't place the blame entirely on the physicians. He explains that, with more technologies available, patients are expecting their doctors to use it. And not utilizing all available tests leaves these doctors open to malpractice or neglect lawsuits.

So the patients are also placing the instruments between themselves and their doctors. Technology, rather than acting as a tool, has become a barrier dividing patient from doctor, person from person.

Here are a few of the outcomes I see:


  1. The patient can now be told that they are imagining their problem. Though I know that there really are some folks out there that imagine their sicknesses or discomfort, the root of the idea of imagining your own illness is that technology is the authority. If a test cannot prove you are sick, you must be well. End of conversation.
  2. Doctors do not need to know their patients. Technology becomes the substitute for real relationship, when once the relationship was the foundation of almost all good doctoring. When I talk about mommies-as-medical-detectives, coupled with a bit of distrust of doctors, this is the real reason why. Doctors are overloaded with technology. Most of them do not know how to observe their patients. Many do not listen to mothers' observations {talk to the mother of an autistic child someday if you doubt me}. Observation and relationship now must submit themselves to a technology that functions as a deity.
  3. Doctors themselves are stunted in their souls. This doesn't go for all doctors, obviously. But think of the worldview embedded in medical schools these days. Technology, technique, and Science reign supreme. Future doctors spend hours every day for many years focusing on such a small part of what will bring about actual health to their patients that, if they are not deliberate, their souls will become small as well.
  4. Patients do not know themselves, do not trust their instincts, and do not recognize symptoms in their own bodies. The dependency on technology has replaced self-awareness. The patient has become uncertain. He now depends on an expert and a machine to tell him if something is wrong. It's not that technology is bad in and of itself, but technology didn't just fracture the patient's relationship with the doctor. It also fractured his relationship with himself, and his ability to guess at root causes.

I could go on, but I won't. I have, over the years, found good doctors. I hope that my readers have as well. The doctor who eventually diagnosed my Lyme Disease explained to me that Lyme can hide in the tissues, therefore hiding from the diagnostic tests which were available. He chose to treat me based on what I told him, coupled with his observations of me during his examination.

Old fashioned doctoring saved my life, you see.

Later, during treatment, I ended up with a very positive test, and my doctor, who was thought a crackpot by other doctors if I ventured to tell them what he was doing, was vindicated.

A good doctor is a whole person. Technology is his tool, not his god. Relationship is central to his success. Health, not defeat of a specific disease, is his goal. Doctors like this are few and far between. If you have found one, be grateful. If not, approach the doctor with care. If he blindly bows down to Technology, your very life may be at risk.

21 May 2008

Our Daughter A.'s Journey to GFCF {Part II}

I said in Part I that this series wouldn't be sequential, but more like putting a puzzle together. When I look back, it all feels kind of gray and muddled, even though I see the big picture very clearly now. I didn't realize that all the things that she complained about, that all the strange things she did {or didn't do}, were connected.

When I first switched her to soy milk, she took it fine. Within a couple of weeks, though, we were back to her old habits of fighting me when it was time for her milk. She would arch her back and scream. It looked just like a temper tantrum.

And so that is how I treated it.

She was soon trained to take her bottle. I figured she didn't like the taste, but everyone says babies should have milk, so who was I to argue? After all, where would she get her calcium for growing? I felt that I was doing my motherly duties.

She was trained, as I mentioned, but the truth was revealed anytime anyone else tried to feed her. It wasn't uncommon for me to leave her with a family member and return to find her bottle only half gone.

This pattern of crying over milk began at around fifteen months of age, give or take a month. Around the time she was two or two-and-a-half, she began to develop her ability to speak in sentences. One of her first real sentences was to tell me that her tummy hurt. I remember her whining, "Tummy huhting! Tummy huhting!"

Of course, I believed her. Knowing that cow's milk had bothered her, I took her off of things she loved: yogurt, cheese, etc. Nothing seemed to work, but one of the books I read said that unless the child is having growing problems, there isn't a lot to worry about.

Still, I tried to see if I could find a pattern.

I don't know why I didn't see that it was the soy.

Shortly after this began, a doctor I was visiting told me that she thought soy intake was contributing to the early maturation of girls she was seeing in our city. She had girls as young as seven in her office, already well into puberty. She was convinced that it was all the estrogen these girls were taking in from hormone-laden cow's milk products, and all of the soy alternatives they were fed if they had allergies.

I walked away thinking I would really rather not have a menstruating seven-year-old if I could in any way avoid it. Si and I did a lot of research on soy and decided that our son's habit of drinking soy milk throughout the day couldn't possibly be beneficial to him, either.

So we swore off soy as a family.

The stomach aches lessened for both children, but I never really connected that fact to the soy milk.

A few months before A.'s third birthday, we took a trip to Nashville to visit family. She had been doing much better. She'd been off soy for about eight months {the only soy product we had really used was the milk--I never cooked with soy}, and we had also been GFCF for about four months. The tummy aches had all but disappeared, and I attributed that to our discovery of the two major food allergies: gluten and casein.

I still didn't realize the magnitude of the soy problem.

That is, until the trip. My mother-in-law was gracious enough to go shopping and buy a lot of alternative foods to have on hand for the children. Since it was Christmas, she purchased cookie mixes and such so that the kids could still have treats.

Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours or so, our son began having tics, making poor eye contact, and having behavior problems. Initially, I thought that perhaps this was due to being really excited to be there. I knew that everything I had read said that stress--even good stress--can trigger tics.

And then A. began to hug her tummy and say it was hurting.

My brain clicked. I dug the cookie mix and empty GFCF cereal boxes out of the trash. I read the labels. The only suspicious ingredient they really had in common was...soy.

And this, my friends, is how we discovered the soy allergy. It is why, in our home, GFCF is actually GFCFSF.

20 May 2008

GFCF Food Blog Roundup

Afterthoughts gets hits everyday from all over google. People come here, searching for GFCF help. Unfortunately, I am only a little bit of help. What I know, I know well. And one of the things I know well is how little I really know.

Think about that for a while.

Si commented to me last night about my cooking, how much time I spend baking and preparing and all of that. {This was right around the time I announced that I was going to start making my own baking powder because I had reason to believe there was gluten in the jar I had purchased.} I told him that I really hadn't imagined my life this way. I really thought there'd be a lot more restaurants and far fewer cooking tools.

So anyhow, today I thought I'd share a few of the blogs out there that are helping me shape up the GFCF kitchen:

The Nourishing Gourmet
I am a big fan of Nourishing Traditions. However, I sometimes go into mental overload trying to combine the NT food philosophy with the stringency of the GFCF diet. Well, the author of The Nourishing Gourmet seems to enjoy experimenting with alternative grains for fun. At the same time, her dairy intake was recently eliminated by her doctor.

My final plug for this blog will be a quote from her sidebar, which explains her philosophy of food {which is quite similar to mine}:
I want the food I give my family to both taste good and strengthen their bodies. Too often, "health food" is lacking healthy fats, healthy traditional ingredients, and taste appeal. On the other side of the coin, many have trained their senses to only enjoy food loaded with bad fats, MSG and other unnatural flavor enhancers. I believe there is a better way.

Gluten Free Heaven
This blog is fairly new to me. However, I appreciate the author's yearning for truly good bread. We have tried a number of loaves, and many of them are so inferior to wheat bread that we'd rather skip it altogether. Some of the wonderful recipes I intend to try from this blog include a flat bread that looks perfect for making wrap sandwiches and an amaranth loaf that also contains millet, one of my favorite wheat alternatives.

Frugal Abundance
I found this blog because the author commented here a couple times. And what a delightful find! This author has mastered cooking on a tight budget. At the same time, her family has recently gone GFCF. Now, the diets don't match up exactly, since my children are also off of soy entirely {unless it is naturally fermented, which breaks down those pesky proteins} and need to eat corn in small and infrequent doses. However, I look forward to reading her recipes and getting frugal tips as she begins her family's transition to the GFCF life.

Life After Gluten
I've seen some great recipes at Life After Gluten since I subscribed to it {in my handy Google Reader} a couple months ago. Some of her recipes seem like something that will be easier for me to eat once the morning-noon-and-night sickness is over. So I'm storing up her ideas to try when Baby O. {aka Number Four} is about three months old and I finally come out of my newborn brain fog.

All of that to say it's a great blog with creative recipes. It is not dairy free. I believe the author has celiac. However, I find that half of the time, dairy is used as a topping {like cheese} and can simply be left out altogether.

That's All Folks!
Anyone want to share a blog that falls into this category? I am always looking for new ideas as we are still, even nine months into the diet, in transition in many ways.

GFCF Zucchini Bread

Today is the day of the week on which I typically post a GFCF menu. However, this week's menu looks suspiciously like last week's menu. Let's blame it on the morning-noon-and-night sickness and say that sticking with what works is wise, not to mention beneficial to everyone.

Zucchini season began this week. My son grows amazingly huge zucchinis, and I always find myself wondering what to do with all of them. He innocently asked me to make him zucchini bread. Last summer, we lived on zucchini bread. We ate it for breakfast or snack almost every day.

Incidentally, there was still enough zucchini remaining for us to eat sauteed zucchini or fried zucchini or zucchini casserole with every single dinner for three months.

But I digress.

I winced when he made his request. He didn't realize that my zucchini bread recipe consisted of wheat, wheat and more wheat. So I googled "GFCF Zucchini Bread" hoping to come across a recipe, but it was to no avail. Every recipe I found called for master mixes in a box. I buy bulk whole {unground} grains to save us money and add in extra nutrients.

But I'm not against boxes. However, I was at a disadvantage since I didn't actually have a box.

So this is a recipe from scratch. I basically modified my old whole-wheat recipe and had it come out nicely. It is sort of like a quick bread, and sort of a cake. Hence the high sugar content. Someday, I'd like to modify my Nourishing Traditions recipe and incorporate soaking of the grains, but for now this will do.

In the recipe, I list the amount of flour. Grains take up more space once they are ground. So, for instance, in order to get 1/2 cup of amaranth flour, I ground a scant 1/3 cup of the grains. It takes some trial and error to get good at guessing how much to grind.

I like to grind grains {especially amaranth} right before cooking. This avoids the dreaded bad after tastes from rancid fats. Once a grain is ground, it starts to go downhill quickly! If you like to grind your grains ahead of time, I would suggest keeping freshly ground flour in an air tight container in the back of your refrigerator for no longer than a month. That'll be your best bet if you are picky about fresh, healthy fats.

On to the recipe! Please note, this is for two loaves. Eat one fresh, and freeze the other for a rainy day.

GFCF Zucchini Bread
Ingredients
2 cups sorghum flour
1 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1/4 cup almond meal {alternative: grind 1/2 cup walnuts in a coffee grinder until they are a fine paste...YUM}
1/2 tsp. GFCF baking powder
1 Tb. baking soda
2 tsp. sea salt
1+1/2 Tb. cinnamon
2 cups olive oil
3 cups packed brown sugar
1 Tb. GFCF vanilla extract
6 large eggs
4 cups grated zucchini

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine flours, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Sift together until well combined.

3. In a separate large bowl {I use the bowl for my fancy mixer since that is what I'm doing the mixing with}, mix olive oil, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Add in eggs, one at a time, and make sure they are mixed in well.

4. Add in the dry mixture a little bit at a time. Speed doesn't really matter, but I find the flours end up floating around the kitchen if I add them too quickly. Mix for about 4 minutes. You cannot overmix gluten-free flours, so have fun with it.

5. Mix in the grated zucchini. You will end up with a batter that is very, very soupy. That's okay. Somehow, it magically worked out for me, and it should for you, too.

6. Divide mixture between two standard loaf pans. Bake on 350 for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool completely before serving. I have learned my lesson. If you aren't going to use xanthan gum, you need to let everything cool or it'll all fall apart. You could add in xanthan gum. It'd be okay. I'd do it, if I had it in my kitchen, but I don't, so there you go.

8. Eat for breakfast. Say yum. Accept the applause of your children.

19 May 2008

New This School Year: Circle Time

This coming school year will be our first year of legally required schooling. We've been "doing school" for years, of course. At the core of homeschooling is the idea of a lifestyle of learning. Some of us are more formal about it than others, but most of us try to make the most of the opportunities we're given. This also goes for a lot of stay-at-home moms of young children, come to think of it.

But this year, we have some state regulations that we will have to meet. Overall, I think California is fairly lenient. Especially when I compare it to a state like New York, where parents are writing reports and curriculum plans that have to be approved by the districts. The school districts here do not have power over our families.

Of course, this is because we register as tiny, independent private schools.

But there are requirements, of course. Some of them are really basic. For example, the instruction must be given in English. {If you are an immigrant family, this can be a huge hurdle to overcome if you want to homeschool legally in the state.} There is also a list of subjects that must be covered. The list isn't strict. What I mean is, it doesn't say exactly what must be taught when or how many hours must be devoted to each subject. The law simply says that these subjects must be covered.

For grades one through six, the subjects are English {this would include speaking, reading, writing, grammar, and also literature}, math, social sciences {history, geography, economics, etc.--the history of our state must be covered at some point in these years}, science, health, and physical education. Physical education is the only subject with a time requirement: 200 minutes every 10 days. Some families find that putting their child in a sport fulfills this. Others choose to do the subject on their own. We will probably do both over the years.

California, sadly, doesn't see the importance of a broad education. There are no music requirements or art requirements. There is no mention of poetry. And, naturally, there is no religion.

Circle Time will mainly be filling nonrequirements that we determine are necessary to a well-rounded education. I am still thinking through all that we could do during this half-hour to hour each day. By the way, if you are new to the concept of Circle Time, Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace has a great summary of how most folks work out the concept in their homes. I particularly loved her emphasis on how Circle Time allows the whole family--all the various ages--to spend time together. She makes sure the time is accessible to even the littlest, and that the little ones know that no matter how busy the day gets, Mommy wants them there.

So what will we incorporate into our own Circle Time? This is what I have so far:

Religious Instruction







Big Truths for Little Kids:
Teaching Your Children to Live for God


Since we have moved away from Catechism for a time, this will be our replacement.

Music

Music instruction will take two forms. The first will be that we will learn actual songs. We are hoping {planning, wishing!} to move soon, and when we do, we will be moving a piano into our home for the first time. We'll get it tuned, and begin to learn the hymns that are sung regularly in our church. Once we know those, we will progress to other hymns that are less familiar but that we love and think are worth know.

Since we'll be using Ambleside Online for the majority of our curriculum, we'll also have a list of folksongs we can learn. Frankly, I think the kids will think that is so much fun!

Did you know that song is a traditional method of passing on culture? This is a good reason to be choosing our songs wisely.

Lastly, we'll be doing Ambleside's Composer Studies. I believe there are three different composers per year. During Circle Time, this means we might read a biography of the assigned composer, spend ten minutes or so listening to some of his work, and learn the names of the songs and instruments in the works we listen to.

Art

Here, I don't mean doing art, though I try to offer the children opportunities to be creative. I mean appreciating art. Real art. The art made by geniuses.

Ambleside will be helping us out here as well. Their list of artists for the year, along with selected works, is what we will go by. One of my plans is to show them a copy of a work, either on the computer, or in a print if I can find one. I want them to try to describe what they see to me, what they like about it, etc. Other times, I might have them tell me a story based on the piece they're viewing.

What I want is for them to capture that picture in their minds and then have beauty they can take with them as they go about their day.

Manners

Lately, our dinner table has been less than acceptable. It's not terrible or horrible, but it has been inappropriate. Doug Wilson's Future Men discusses manners in regard to raising boys. I liked his emphasis that a well-mannered boy does not act like a girl. However, being a boy doesn't mean being rude or gross.

He wrote:
[M]anners for boys should be a means of disciplining and directing strength, and not a means of denying it. This means that boys need to be taught that manners are a means of showing and receiving honor. Honor is a concept which boys instinctively understand and love, but they still have to be taught to direct it with wisdom.
He goes on to say later that boys should "see manners as something which men teach boys to do, for the sake of honoring and protecting women, and for the sake of living graciously with them."

So who will be our authority on manners? We'll start with our country's first President, George Washington:






George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior


Our son remembers that Washington found manners to be very important, so I think it's a good place to start. We'll probably study one manner per week {using daily reminders and/or practice}, covering only the manners that are pertinent to modern life.

Our daughter A. seems to find being ladylike appealing over all, but I do think she struggles with allowing her brother to do things for her {like open the door}. So we will practice such things during Circle Time.

Announcements and Business

Circle Time can fill the Family Meeting needs on a daily basis. I would use it to assign new chores, correct indecent behavior, or announce how we'll be doing things that day, that week, etc.

Prayer

When we used to do Catechism, we had a daily prayer time. We've gotten away with that. We'll have to start it back up with Circle Time. We usually assigned ourselves one thing to pray for each day {family, nation, state, etc.}.

Anything Else We Think Of!

The beauty of Circle Time is that it can be whatever we want it to be. So as our needs change, so will Circle Time. The focus, though, will be on what is good, true, and beautiful. I want it to be a celebration, not a drudgery. I want it to be a happy place from which to start our average day {yes, it'll be in the mornings for the most part}.

Any Suggestions?

Does anyone out there already do some version of Circle Time? What would you do differently? What would you add? Some of my best ideas come from people's comments on these sorts of posts...

18 May 2008

The Darndest Things: We All Speak the Same Language, But...

It's a good thing Si and I both majored in Communications in college. Otherwise, we'd be really lost around here at times. Now, our son often surprises us by talking like characters from his books. He's been known to blurt out sentences that sound like people who lived a hundred years ago or more.

But other times, we have a bit of a breakdown around here.

Like yesterday morning, when Si and E. were planning to work on our yard. E. went into the front yard and started gathering up the tools and supplies. Si didn't know where he had gone. So, in our garage, this conversation ensued:
Si: You ought to have asked.

E.: totally clueless look on his face

Si: You ought to have asked.

E.: still looking mystified What?

Si: You ought to have asked.

E.: I walk too fast??

You get the picture...

Then last night A. came wandering into the kitchen (after she had been put to bed) and looked in the fridge.

A: Covah ovah?

Si: staring blankly at child who seems to be saying something important

A: Covah ovah?

Si: Brandy, can you understand what she's saying?

A: Covah ovah?

Me: Cover oval? What does that mean? Do you want your sheets on?

A: COVAH OVAH!

Si: Okay. Let's just go to bed.

He took her back to her room. What else was there to do?

The mystery was cleared up this evening during snack time. Si gave the children their codliver oil. Afterwards, I heard A. quietly say to herself, "Covah ovah."
Me: A! Say codliver oil to Daddy!

A: I stuck!!!!!

After Si pried her legs out from where they had become caught, she looked at him and said quietly, "Covah ovah."

Mystery solved.

17 May 2008

Gun Safety from the Very Beginning

Boys like weapons. Guns, swords, bows and arrows, battle clubs. If they don't own it, they will invent it from a stone, a piece of wood, a piece of celery, etcetera. I have always found this fact to be amusing, partially because pretending to shoot something never seemed that entertaining to me.

It was all a part of the sheer otherness of boys, and I think I've always appreciated it.

Si and I have read bits of pieces of Future Men over the last year or two. I read a couple chapters aloud as we traveled to and from Lake Tahoe for our anniversary trip. As usual, the chapters were thoughtful and made us say hmmmm.

Have you ever known someone in a gun accident? As a child, a boy down the street from us was accidently shot in the leg by a relative in a hunting accident. I will never forget that. And I remember that though someone said that it was a freak accident, in the end, the gun really was pointing at the boy.

Author Doug Wilson's answer to avoiding hunting accidents and general gun carelessness is to teach boys to play safely even with toy guns. He equates it to the need to keep little girls from abusing their dolls. If we are training our children for real life, we need to think about what they are learning in their play.

Here is an interesting excerpt for a Saturday morning:
[A] boy who is playing with a toy gun should be trained to never use it more freely simply because it is not real. A small boy who is playing war with his brothers should be pointing and blasting away with the best of them. But if a lady from church comes over to visit the young boy's mother, and is standing in the foyer, and the boy comes up and tries to blow her away, the young warrior's mother should haul him off to the bedroom to be tried for war crimes. The visitor was a civilian and noncombatant, and Mother should be schooled in the principles of just war theory, and she should enforce the rules.

[snip]

[C]arelessness with toy guns breeds carelessness with the real thing. When boys are playing at war, the guns should be pointed as they are in a war. When they are not playing at war, but rather hanging around, they should be taught to treat their toy guns with respect and not to casually point one at one of the playmates just to go bang. The reason for this is that such behavior is preparation for a high and noble calling.
Wilson didn't go into the proper use of swords, slingshots, or other weapons, but the principle, I am sure, should be the same. It makes sense to me that, if we want our future soldiers or hunters to practice gun safety, we should begin training them in their early days.

16 May 2008

Our Daughter A.'s Journey to GFCF {Part I}

I've talked a lot about our son's battle with tics. It was so easy to be convinced that he needed to be on a GFCF diet because his recovery was so quick and obvious. We would have been fools to feed him wheat again after we saw that he had the potential to be completely normal.

Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Looking back, I see so many obvious signs that A. needed to be GFCF. But, for some reason, it took us much longer to put the pieces together. In fact, if it weren't for her brother, she probably wouldn't be on it, at least not strictly and entirely.

To be honest, we put A. on a GFCF diet that first week because E. was on it and we were all going to eat that way during the trial. After the trial, we would make a final decision about who was going to be eating what. She responded so well, that we kept her on it and she's eaten that way consistently ever since.

Sometimes, I still wonder why I didn't see it. I suppose part of it is as simple as the fact that she was younger. She didn't talk much. Because of this, I didn't always know that something was wrong or that she didn't feel well.

We have been a GFCF family {during our children's waking hours, at least{ for nine months now. The impact has been tremendous.

If I could go all the way back to the beginning, I would say that, once upon a time, our daughter A.'s journey to GFCF began. And it began with a simple ear infection. Funny, actually. If you talk to any number of parents of children with autism or allergies or ADHD, they will often mention the ear infections of their child's infancy.

A. was ten months old when she had a very high fever and almost constant crying. When the pediatrician said she had an ear infection, I can't say I was really surprised. She had been tugging at her ear, after all.

We went the traditional route and did a ten-day round of antibiotics. I took her in for her follow-up, and her ear looked great.

But less than a month later, we were back in the office, and the diagnosis was the same. In the same ear, no less. I couldn't help but wonder if it had never really gone away.

We did another round of antibiotics. I was uncomfortable with this, but I wasn't sure what else to do. I felt that I was being negligent if I allowed her to continue in pain and sickness like that, so I allowed the chemical intervention.

Three or four weeks, later, she was showing obvious signs of having yet another ear infection. I concluded then and there that the antibiotics weren't truly working.

About the same time, someone out there in blogland had heard about the ear infections and gently suggested that I try reading Dr. Robert Mendelsohn's How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor. This revolutionized how I responded to my children's illnesses in general. I had always gone the natural route for myself {which mainly involved good nutrition and letting things run their course, nothing fancy at the time}, so I suppose I had a natural bent toward this sort of medical philosophy.

One striking thought in the book was this:
The most recent study I have seen reported cites the results of a double-blind experiment involving 171 children [with ear infections] in the Netherlands. Half were treated with antibiotics, and the other half were not. There was no significant difference in the clinical course of the disease--pain, temperature, discharge from the ear, or change in the appearance of the eardrum or hearing levels--between those treated without antibiotics and those who received them.
Now, I was well aware that the book was a bit old and therefore potentially outdated. I did my own research and found that it was generally true that antibiotics tended to have no observable effect when compared to children in whom the sickness simply ran its course. What was more interesting to me was that I actually ran across more than one study that declared that the use of antibiotics made a child's ear infection more likely to recur! I wish I could link to the study, but I read this almost three years ago now and wouldn't know where to find it.

After reading this, I thought I would just make myself hold her all day if that is what it took, and wait a few extra days. If it didn't get better, or got a lot worse, I could always take her in.

As I was doing research, I also came across some parents who were claiming that dairy products were causing children's ear infections. This made sense to me, for I had been told by more than one doctor that dairy products increased mucus production and, when I had a cold, I needed to lay off of them.

Our son E. was on soy milk at the time. A. had just turned one. I figured it didn't hurt to try everything I could. I put some soy milk in her bottle and never looked back.

That was the end of cow's milk drinking in our family.

The ear infection? It ran its course. And it really did get better in the same amount of time that it had previously "healed" using antibiotics.

The interesting thing is that she has never had an ear infection ever again since we took her off of milk. There was one time I thought she might be getting one, but we put a little white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in her ear and she was fine. Extra virgin olive oil is also suggested as a natural remedy. And there is always the garlic compress if you are feeling particularly daring.

That was the last time anyone in our family had antibiotics that I can think of. It was the end of the ear infections. I actually consider the ear infections a blessing because they caused me to take A. off of milk much earlier than I would have, and I think this prevented a lot of problems later on down the road.

But, like I said, her problems and difficulties were never entirely obvious to me. Because of this, even writing out the journey will be a bit like taking puzzle pieces and putting them together. I only saw a piece at a time, but in the end God showed us the Big Picture with her, and for that we are grateful.

I write this to encourage other mothers to be a detective. Think outside the box. God gave you as a gift to your family for a reason!

But I also write this for my daughter, who I see struggling with what she can't eat. In many years, when she approaches womanhood, she will have to make the GFCF choice for herself. I will not monitor her food choices forever. Documenting it now will help us remember why we did this in the first place. And, hopefully, it will help her make the diet her own.

15 May 2008

Taking a Break, Or Changing a Lifestyle?

There are two major objections to homeschooling that I have encountered over the years. Today, I am going to deal with one of them. Thinking things through on paper seems to work better for me that dealing with things like this spontaneously when I hear them.

By objection, I don't mean someone objecting to me, personally, homeschooling my children. Rather, I mean something that stops a family from homeschooling their children. In other words, the objection I'm going to think through a bit is a personal objection to educating one's own children at home.

So what is the objection? I have heard it countless times over the years. It usually sounds like this: I need a break from my kids. Sometimes, it is accompanied by a second thought, which is that the kids need a break from Mom as well.

Now, I could go through this from a theological perspective. I don't think there is an ounce of Scripture to back up the idea of taking a break from our duties as parents. This has been a source of personal frustration at times, as, on the worst of days, I would like nothing other than to pass my most sacred duties over to another and call it quits.

I could also look at this through a historical perspective, and talk about how the idea of taking a break from the most important sociological unit is peculiar to the postmodern mindset and would sound like complete nonsense to most other peoples and cultures in most other times in all of history.

But I won't.

Instead, I'd like to deal with the idea of a break.

But before I do, I find it pertinent to mention that motherhood isn't easy. Especially in the early days. In fact, because I know this, there is a part of me that is simply dreading September. I am well aware that, God willing, I will have four children, three of which are aged three-and-a-half and younger.

Sometimes, I think I might perish.

Motherhood really doesn't have much of a break. The newborn is a great lens through which to view motherhood. A newborn requires 24-hour maintenance and attention. Every time I have a newborn, I find that my whole life revolves around feeding and changing the baby. By the time I finish the cycle, it is time to start it all over again. Throw in a few other children, which prevent Mommy from getting any sleep during daylight hours, and it can be totally overwhelming.

And don't forget, there is no Sabbath rest for Mom. After all, a newborn must be fed on the weekends, too. And changed. And so on and so forth.

I say this not to complain, but to be realistic. There is a reason moms feel like they need a break.

{At the same time, the idea that we need a break is also somewhat related to the cultural myth that absence makes the heart grow fonder, which I've already written about.}

However, I think the assertion that we need a break, and that institutional schooling can fulfill that need, should be challenged. I don't know how else to put this, except to say that institutional schooling is a lifestyle, not a break.

A break is a short period of refreshment after which we rejoin the ranks of mothers and go back to our duties. If I want a break from doing laundry, there are a couple ways to approach it. I can hire someone to do my laundry for a week. I can simply not do the laundry for a week and let everything stay dirty {not my first choice, by the way}.

Hiring someone to do the laundry for me for the rest of my entire life is a lifestyle change, not a break from laundry.

Desiring a break is part of the human need for a Sabbath rest. When we look at God's design, we see that rest took place one day of the week. It was a portion of a week, but a fairly small one over all.

If I apply the idea that a break is a small period of time, but might be an entire day, I think we'd see a different pattern. We might see moms swapping children, taking turns watching them while the other takes a break. We might see moms using those "Mother's Day Out" programs that some churches offer. {These are usually one morning per week for about three hours.} We might see husbands staying home with the children while Mom sneaks off early on Saturday mornings for a weekly planning session and some refreshment.

I myself try to use naptime as a consistent time of personal refreshment. Now that I am pregnant {again}, this primarily consists of sleeping. But when I am at my best, it consists of a time of study, of catching up on a few tasks, of doing something I enjoy. When I really feel like I need a break, I have been known to use all of naptime for me. No chores, no work, just something I like {a cup of coffee and a good book}.

There are probably as many ways to get a break as there are moms. Each family is different and has different needs. Each family also has its seasons, and there will be time when breaks are near impossible, while other times they will be available in abundance.

The question is whether institutional schooling should be considered a break. My thought is that it absolutely cannot fall into this category. The school district we live in keeps children for just under eight hours per day, including lunch. This means that children in the district average forty hours per week away from their families, and that is assuming no extra-curricular activities. This is also assuming no homework. Homework can take isolate children from the family for another couple of hours per day, depending on the school. If children spend about eight hours sleeping, we automatically see that two-thirds of the child's day is absolutely, without question, outside of any real family involvement.

Two-thirds is a majority, my friends.

Another way to look at it is to just view the almost forty hours per week that the school has the children. Forty hours is a full-time job. No one looks at their forty hour per week job and calls it a break.

I am well aware that not every family will homeschool. And I don't think it is my job to convince anyone to do anything. And if someone I know decides to do differently than my family when it comes to their child's education, I really believe that is their business. I believe in the authority of parents, and I believe we will all reap what we sow.

We have our own reasons for homeschooling, and breaks really aren't part of our consideration when we make these decisions.

And maybe that's my real point.

Breaks shouldn't be part of the consideration at all because institutional schooling isn't a break. When we think through life-changing decisions, decisions that could define what kind of family we have, what sort of people our children turn out to be, and whether or not we pass the torch of faith, we need to consider the real issues.

Considering the real issues, by the way, is what keeps me grounded. On my very worst of days, when everything is going wrong, when one child is crying and another is disobeying and the other is doing both, I want to quit. If taking a break is a valid reason for institutional schooling, I would have been the first to sign up on more than one occasion.

Looking at the issue without getting distracted by some of the peripherals {like needing a break} is important for Christians wanting to make a true decision. I am not one to think we will all look alike. I do not confuse likemindedness with samemindedness. In fact, most homeschooling families do not look alike. But it is important that we make good decisions, and that necessitates a proper starting place.

14 May 2008

Test Driving Children's Supplements

Once upon a time, I wrote a series explaining our son's recovery from tics and our journey to the GFCF diet. I have never really explained why our daughter is also on the diet. Someday, I will do so. Today, you'll just have to trust me that she needs it, even though she never had tics.

Our daughter needed to go far beyond the diet. She has many evidences of extreme digestive difficulties. There were foods that she was not allergic to that still gave her tummy aches that caused tears and anguish. She also had symptoms of various vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially calcium and CoQ10. She had symptoms of possible yeast overgrowth, including a tummy that was distended after eating yeast-promoting foods. Etcetera.

We had her on a regular multivitamin {you have no idea how hard it is to find an affordable multivitamin that is free of common allergens}, but it wasn't working fast enough. I put myself on a deadline. Either I figure out what was wrong with her {or, more aptly, what was lacking in her nutrition}, or I start pursuing professional help.

And professional help might not actually help {many parents I know with these difficulties spend years shopping for a doctor or nutritionist that is effective}, but it would cost us a lot.

So I read and I researched and I thought I discovered the root issues. After talking with my husband, I had a little shopping spree over at the ASD Market. I think I spent around $150.

If you know me, then you know that means I was getting desperate.

When the supplements arrived, it dawned on me that if I started them all at once, I would never know if they were all working. Let's say I gave her all of them, and in three days she was 100% better. Did that mean I needed to repurchase all the supplements when I ran out? Or was there really only one or two that were doing the trick, and the others were incidental? Conversely, if she responded poorly, how would I know which one was bothering her? Surely they wouldn't all cause trouble.

So I decided to begin what I call my testdrive protocol. My rule of thumb was a two-week trial. Not that every supplement needed to be tested for two weeks, but two weeks was the maximum amount of time I gave myself for deciding whether a supplement was effective, detrimental, or simply neutral.

The first supplement helped, in obvious ways, within a week. It did exactly what I expected. So we moved on. The second supplement {which was actually a combination of two supplements designed to work together} hurt her tummy terribly. I did some research and found that this was common in a certain number of kids. We discontinued that one. The third helped, and so did the fourth.

Results? Out of the six or seven supplements I purchased, so far she only really needs about half of them. Testdriving supplements one at a time seems to be a bigger cost-saving measure {in the long run} than I had anticipated!

Now, if one of those great doctors I've read about had done some blood tests and told me exactly where she was lacking {not that my insurance would cover such a test}, I probably wouldn't have done this. I would have had empirical evidence that what I was giving her was necessary. But when supplements are being given based on symptoms, I think we need to act like scientists. Add one thing at a time, and take care to watch and observe the child's response.

Our daughter, by the way, is doing great. Like I said, someday I will tell the story of our journey with her. But today I rest in the fact that my children are, by all appearances, finally normal, healthy, active, and happy.

_________________

For other Works for Me Wednesday entires, click here.

13 May 2008

GFCF Meal Plan for May 12-19

It is about time for one of these! I think I have skipped a week or two. One week, we were traveling part of the week, which meant my parents were in charge of meal plans for the kiddos. I am pleased to announced they did a wonderful job and the children survived just fine.

GFCF diets aren't easy. That said, grandparents who are willing to accommodate the kids who are on them are a precious blessing. I wouldn't blame them if they said, bring the kids...and food, too! But they don't, and they work hard to make sure everything they cook when our children are in their home is fit for eating. Si's mom also tried to accommodate the diet when we visited her in the winter. It was especially a challenge for her as she was a little less familiar with it all, being farther away.

I am learning a lot lately about what it means to be a good grandparent. I hope I will be a good one when my own day arrives.

But, for now, I'll stick to raising these babes the Lord has blessed us with. Feeding them is a challenge, of course, and there are a few goals I have for us in the coming year. {I am all about goals right now for some reason.} The first is to make food fun again. In the beginning, doing the diet was survival. I was in over my head, and cranking out a weekly menu was about all I could handle. But now, I want to get us back to where we were before: really enjoying our family meals. This is especially important since there is no going out. We never use restaurants. We can't drop by a cute little place and get an ice cream cone. So I want to think through how to incorporate fun, enjoyable food into our home again.

Second, I want to combat the deprivation mindset. I see this especially in our three-year-old, who is a bit obsessed with what she can't have. My goal is to have everything in the house be something she can eat, with maybe a couple things hidden away for me and Si. But I want her to experience abundance and freedom instead of deprivation. At least for now. As an allergic child, she will one day have to learn to say no to things that will hurt her. But for now, I just want her to experience food as a good thing, not a forbidden thing.

Enough chatter. On to the menu!

Monday, May 12
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh, our Monday tradition with Granmama
Dinner: Tacos, fresh veggies to top, and vegetarian refried beans leftover from last night {on corn tortillas treated with lime}

Tuesday, May 13
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Boiled eggs and fruit slices
Dinner: Lentil burgers {no buns for the GFCF kids}, side salad, oven fries

Wednesday, May 14
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover lentil burgers
Dinner: Savory pot roast with veggies {Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook p. 59; use tomato juice preserved with ascorbic acid as a safer alternative to V8 juice}

Thursday, May 15
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover roast & veggies
Dinner: Savory cabbage & pork soup {Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook p. 22: Instead of pork meat I use nitrate/nitrite free turkey kielbasa from Trader Joe's. Watch for caseinate in those sausages! That is a common hidden source of casein and can totally undo your progress for a week, especially if your child is as sensitive as my oldest child. This week, I'm making a double batch to make sure it is available as an extra snack as well.}

Friday, May 16
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover soup
Dinner: Meatballs with GFCF sweet & sour sauce {last time, I made a double-batch of the sauce, so this time it'll be a quicker cooking time}, and a side salad featuring E.'s homegrown radishes and green onions

Saturday, May 17
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover meatballs & salad
Dinner: Brown rice spagetti topped with my GFCF Summer Red Sauce, and salad of course. We love salad around here.

Sunday, May 18
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover spaghetti
Dinner: Breakfast for dinner {fried eggs and country potatoes}

Monday, May 19
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh, of course!
Dinner: Leftover buffet...clean out that fridge before the weekly grocery trip!

12 May 2008

Commending His Works



One generation shall commend your works to another…
Psalm 145:4a


Si and I are taking a parenting class at our church right now. It is based on the Shepherding a Child's Heart video series and book, as well as on other lessons taught to us by the teachers. There are two dads basically leading the class, and one mom {a husband of one of the men} who chimes in on occasion. Between the two dads, there are fifteen children {so far} and almost three decades of parenting experience.

Needless to say, we are learning a lot.

In the video series, Tedd Tripp emphasizes the idea of generational faith, or a legacy of faith that is passed on from one generation to another. Yesterday, he kept bringing up the verse above, and then the teachers were talking about it as well. And I was suddenly struck: this is one of the core facets of homeschooling!

Homeschooling slows life way down. There is no morning rush to get out the door. There is no afternoon rush to pick children up. There is a lot more time together than the average family. The question is how all this time is spent.

In our class, we were given a list of things that can distract us from true parenting. Some of them, I don't struggle with much, like the culture around us. Long ago, we decided to cut off most culture {I use the term culture loosely as most of what is prevalent is nothing but debauchery} from our home. There are no video games, computer games, television, etc.

But one of the distractions was "good behavior." That one rang a bell. It is inconvenient for me when my children are misbehaving. Usually, the internal chaos of one child is all it takes to set the whole household in a spin for a while, and it can be exhausting.

But sometimes, I think that good behavior then becomes our focus. The video yesterday was looking through the lens of the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In modern English, the question would be What is man's primary purpose? And the answer is that man's primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Good behavior would definitely be a result of glorifying God, but it can also be pursued as an end that has no real connection to anything spiritual. And therein lies the danger, I suppose. Disconnecting behavior from any real spirituality, any change of heart or light of faith.

So as I was mulling over the verse about commending the Lord's works from one generation to another, this beautiful picture of generational faithfulness, I was reminded of a little book my mother-in-law once sent us. She has given us many books over the years, and many of them would be considered "better." After all, she gave us a collector's edition of Pilgrim's Progress. She gave us a hardback Dr. Seuss collection.

But the book that stands out in my mind is a book that the sticker says cost her no more than two dollars. What a God We Have is a simple little board book. But the content is priceless. This story of Matthew and his grandma is just beautiful. Grandma lives in the country, and when Matthew visits her, there is much of creation for him to see and enjoy. And Grandma makes sure that she commends the Lord's works to Matthew at every opportunity. Here's a quick excerpt:
Grandma always planted a big garden. Matthew helped her by dropping seeds into the ground. Then he turned the hose on every morning to water the seeds. When the little plants started growing, Grandma said, "Look at them pushing that dirt out of the way, Matthew. What a God we have!"
So I have been thinking about a theme verse for school next year. We have already come up with the school's name {in California, you don't really homeschool, but rather you register your home as a small, private school complete with a name and a file cabinet}. But I thought that a verse for each year would give me a focus. And I think I'm choosing Psalm 145:4a. More than anything, I want our school to be an act of generational faithfulness. What could be more perfect than making sure that each and every day, throughout the day, we commend His works to the children? It is my hope that we, like Grandma, see the beauty in this world and respond in adoration, telling the children, See! What a God we have!

09 May 2008

Thirty by 30: Installment Ten

Wow. To think I made it. Today, I finish the list. Tomorrow, I turn 30. Life is good. For me, because I don't have to cook dinner on my birthday. For you, because I am finally finished with the list that seems unending.

A few people have asked me if it bothers me to turn 30, and I have to say that my answer is no. I think I always expected to fear getting "older" {I thought 30 was old until I got close enough to look it in the eye}, but really, the whole process has felt quite natural to me.

I feel thirty.

There were a lot of things I expected to do in my twenties that I didn't do, of course. But I can't say I regret this. God took Si and I on a detour in which we learned much more than we could have imagined, and became people we never expected to be. And that is okay.

If I have learned anything, it is to be comfortable with His plan.

My twenties were about letting go of what I wanted and embracing what He had for me instead. And learning to delight in it.

And delight I do. We have three beautiful, giggly little ones, after all. As long as they do exactly as I ask, there is no reason not to delight in them.

I joke! Don't worry. I'm not quite that kind of mother.

So I think that I look forward to my thirties, and wonder what He has for us to learn, experience.

Mostly, I wonder what a list at forty would look like. He he.

So...the grand finale:

  1. You can't save everybody. I learned this from a friend I had in college who spent the majority of her summer working among the poor in India. She talked about the swarms of street children and how, if she gave a piece of bread to one, she was instantly surrounded by at least ten more. She told me of her struggles that summer, for she didn't come close to having the resources to help all the children she met.

    So she chose a few. And she ministered to them as best she could.

    I think about that sometimes when we've received four letters from four different nonprofits asking for money so they can help people in need. Each letter screams of the hurt in this world, and if you really sit and think about it, you can be totally overwhelmed by it.

    Some lessons I have learned which correspond to this one include the idea that just about everyone wants a cut of your husband's hard-earned money and giving money isn't the only way to help others.

    I've learned to have a bit of tunnel vision, I think you could say. I can't help everyone out there who needs it. Frankly, if I tried, it would mean the neglect of our family, our home, our children's education. And we just don't have the money to give to every nonprofit that asks.

    But I can make a meal. We can reach out and help with the individual financial needs of those we meet. {After all, one of the benefits of not being able to itemize your tax deductions is that you don't worry about whether some action will benefit your taxes or not.}

    We can do the little things. And really, if everyone did the little things, there would be far fewer big things needing to be done.

  2. Choose reading material wisely. I think that the less time a person has, the more important it is to screen out bad or pointless reading material. But time is only one reason to do this. In adulthood, our books are often our teachers. What are those books teaching?

    I'm not saying that I never read a dissenting opinion. I do. In fact, I would say I often do.

    But I am careful what I am becoming. Reading an endless stream of steamy romance novels would, of course, result in me becoming a certain sort of person. A certain sort of wife. Because I can see this lesson in such an extreme, I have learned to apply it to all I am learning.

    In fact, one question I ask myself when adding a book to my neverending book list is what kind of person I really want to be. The Bible tells us that the supply of books is endless. I cannot read them all, even if I devoted all my time to the task. So I look at a book as a chance to enlarge, to learn, to grow, and to understand.

    Since the book impacts my soul, what I read is important. And I don't just mean whether or not it contains vulgarity or blasphemy. I also mean that it must be well-written. Beautiful. True. Good. God obviously enjoys making things beautiful, and a true artist will reflect the imago dei in that regard.

    And when time is in short supply, like when I've just had a newborn, I usually stick to reading my Bible and one book that encourages me where I need it {usually parenting or educating the children}.

  3. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. I already sort of mentioned this when I summed up my twenties above. When I mapped out what I thought my twenties would look like, there was a lot of travel, a small bit of luxury, and very few, if any, children. I was very wordly in this regard, and I see that now.

    And this is why I am most grateful to my Lord.

    He took my selfishness to task by giving me a son. Voddie Baucham once said that he and his wife had their first child ten months after their wedding because they are what you call efficient. I wish I could say that I welcomed my child with open arms, but I just wasn't that kind of person at the time.

    I had plans. And God was, in my opinion, messing them up.

    Our son is the best thing that ever happened to us, Si and I often say. It was he who challenged us to grow up. It was he who showed us that though we claimed to be Christians, we didn't have a biblical view of children, or of family, or even marriage.

    We had aspects of biblical belief, but not an all-encompassing theology that we actually lived out from day to day.

    God knows exactly what he is doing. And He teaches each of us this in our own way. I see now what I would have been without His gracious intervention, and I am grateful. I am glad that God's plans were different than mine.

    And I am also glad for the places where our plans matched up, so to speak. I always prayed for a kind, loving, God-fearing, handsome husband. With blue eyes. He he he.

    Now I know that, while I am making plans for my thirties, I need to be open to God's purpose. And I can't help but have a bit of anticipation, when I really think about it. I wonder what He has for us. And I rest in knowing I can trust Him.

08 May 2008

Thirty by 30: Installment Nine

To those of you who sent me maternity clothing advice in one way or another yesterday, I offer a hearty thanks! If all goes well, I will do a bit of shopping today. I have some birthday funds that should be just enough to boost the wardrobe into the summer months.

One more question, though: does anyone have a favorite brand for maternity slips? I have one slip, but it is getting quite old. I agree with KansasMom that shorts are especially unflattering when pregnant {not that they ever flatter much}. A couple skirts I've seen could use a slip. What do you think? Any suggestions?

And now the list...

  1. One key to having a peaceful life is giving others the benefit of the doubt. I have ran across a number of people in real life and on blogs who seem to always be in a fight with others over something. I don't mean some sort of idealogical disagreement. I mean a fight, where emotions and offense are running high. One thing all these people seem to have in common is that they assume the worst in others.

    I have also met many women who far surpass me in graciousness. One thing those women have in common is that they are always giving others the benefit of the doubt.

    Now, I don't mean that these gracious women are naive. They are fully aware of the sinfulness of mankind and all that fact entails. But they also acknowledge that most people aren't as fallen as they could be and want, just like the rest of us, to live in relative peace with others.

    I think that giving others the benefit of the doubt is even more important when reading an email or blog or article, or even talking on the phone. In speech, we often say things we don't mean because our culture as a whole doesn't practice speaking with precision. In writing, we are unable to understand how others might take things. Many "offenses" are given inadvertantly, I think.

    Now, there will always be people out there who really like to start fights. Those are the kinds of people I tend to avoid if at all possible. Now that I think about it, maybe one of the reasons a gentle answer turns away wrath is because it gives people a chance to clarify what they meant before the situation escalates any further.

  2. A lot of marriage problems can be solved by owning a jacuzzi and a blender. A wise couple taught me this, but they would be mortified if I told you who they were, so I will just say that they are wise. This couple has now been married many decades and still has a night a week that they head for a date in their jacuzzi with margaritas in their hands.

    What I learned from this isn't really about jacuzzis and blenders. It was about planning special times together right there at home. A lot of marriage books emphasize the importance of dates to the survival of the marriage. But dates are expensive. They also take a lot of time that young parents often feel they do not have. And if you don't have family nearby, you can also spend a pretty penny on babysitters.

    But what if, instead, after the kids were in bed, there was at least one night a week reserved for the nurturing of the marriage? What if there was a shared activity that both husband and wife enjoyed that would give them a chance to relax and enjoy each other's company? This world has such momentum that it is easy to forget to stop and simply be together.

    When Si and I were first married, we had Saturday afternoons during E.'s nap to spend together. We used our blender to make virgin strawberry daquiris or yummy tropical smoothies and headed out to our hammock. Since we lived in Uptown Whittier, the weather was good 98% of the time. We'd lay in our hammock, sip our drinks, and talk.

    It was that simple.

    And yet I really think it was times like that which lay a strong foundation for our relationship.

  3. Strange things happen when you're pregnant. Every mommy talks about how her body is never the same. I'm no different. I have never reached the weight I was before I had my first child. {(Of course, it would probably help if I could spend a little time not being pregnant again and again and again...}) And the seven months of bedrest during my second pregnancy changed my metabolism forever, I think. Even mommies I know that appear to shrink back to where they used to be have assured me that it isn't all in the same place again.

    But that isn't what I mean.

    Really, though I want to be cute and fit again, I love my children and wouldn't have it any other way. {Well, if I could have it sans nausea, I'd take it.}

    Here is what no one told me before I had babies: Say goodbye to your straight, blonde hair.

    I had {fairly, not perfectly} straight, blonde hair. I did! If you saw me now, you probably wouldn't believe me. After I had my first child, I had a large amount of hair loss. My doctor told me most of his patients complain about it, and he never noticed a problem.

    My hair grew back in. And it was darker. And wavier.

    After Number Two, it was darker still. And wavier.

    After Number Three, it was so dark I think I'd call it brown. Or really dirty blonde. Oh. And it's curly.

    Weird!

    I have a friend who, in high school, had really tight curls. Two pregnancies later, her curls relaxed so much you'd probably say her hair was wavy if you saw her. She agrees that pregnancy was the culprit in her dramatic hair change.

    Forget the weight issues. I have no idea what to do with my hair!

    Other women have as souvenirs varicose veins {some that you can't see but are actually quite painful}, stretch marks the shrink but never totally disappear, and other things that are too delicate to mention.

    Good thing the best souvenir is the baby, who grows into a child, who is a heritage from the Lord.