Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Once upon a time, a mother who was committed to homeschooling thought to herself, "Enough. I have had enough." Fortunately for this mother, and for her two elementary-aged children, there was a good school in the area, and off those two children went for a year of public school.

At this school, the fourth grade seemed to have a little more than its share of dramatic girls. It was like a sitcom sometimes -- the mother would go to pick up her children (which she mentally added to the millions of reasons homeschooling was at times easier) and find the girls from this particular grade falling about and weeping. Someone would have felt left out, and because the school emphasized sharing feelings and process, they would have talked themselves into a hormonal stew. One storm was set off when two girls were equally committed to the company of a third, during incompatible games -- house and doing gymnastics. Tears aplenty.

Alas for this mother, it wasn't limited to group dynamics either. No, her very own precious daughter sometimes tended toward the overwrought.

One day, the lovely and very patient fourth grade teacher took the mother aside. She gently told the mother that her child had had "a rough time" at lunch, and had spent forty-five minutes in tears talking to her.

Had this mother not long since gotten over any "my precious snowflake" reactions, she might have thought her child had been harmed, perhaps bullied, or had felt badly about underperforming in an academic sense. But no. This mother merely sighed and asked what had happened.

The teacher gently explained that this child, this hand-raised, home birthed, lovely and talented, much loved daughter and sister, felt embarrassed because her lunches, brought in zero-waste tiffin boxes, consisted of things like sandwiches made with homemade bread, often with the added insult of homemade jam, occasionally even with homemade peanut butter! The child had raved and hyperventilated. No premade snacks! No juice boxes! She would be a pariah! Why was her mother so strange, so bizarre, so rigid?

All that was great, as far as the parent was concerned. But then the teacher said the one thing that she shouldn't have. "I told her," she said, "That I would ask you to think of one compromise, like storebought jam or breakfast cereal."

"No you don't," thought the mother, but thanked the very nice teacher, and went to gather up her progeny.

Over the course of that year, Ellie and I had many talks about why we ate the way we did/do, why I insisted on making lunches out of real food, what it cost to feed a large family, why I was irritated with her teacher's well-meant suggestion, and that she would someday look back at this and it wouldn't bother her. In fact, I suggested, she would laugh.

She didn't believe me then.

But she does now. In addition, we both agree that she has made huge strides in maturity. First, she finds the story funny (and I have her permission to write about it) and secondly, because she's looking forward to bringing a variety of homemade foods to school with her when she once again goes to public school next week.

She and I share some excitement about one goody, fruit roll ups. Following in many many blogger's footsteps, I discoverd a use for my too-runny jam.

It's helpful if your oven has a low temperature setting:

If, on Christmas morning, to gift-wrapped rolls of restaurant-sized parchment paper waited, I'd squeal like one of those fourth-grade girls. I love the stuff. Love it. To make roll-ups, line a sheet with parchment paper sprayed with oil.

Pour in your fruit puree, or runny jam, and shake it around.

This jam had lumpy berries in it, so I mashed them with a fork. Then I put the pan in the oven.

As it heated, the surface started looking glassy, like a skating rink after the Zamboni rolls through.

After evaporating for a week and a half a longish time, the puree was leathery and ready.

Rolled up

And cut in pieces with kitchen shears. Next time, I'll oil the shears, probably.

I'm thinking of getting stone fruit from the farmer's market and berry foraging in order to keep up the lunchbox supply. They're resting in the freezer until their debut.

Because we all know there probably won't be any drama in middle school.


Jennie said...

Oh, that gave me a good belly laugh. My son has also rejected the tiffin (but in favor of my glass containers), decrying it as too weird... at his extra-crunchy, granola school. Yes, dear.

I tried making fruit leather in my older gas oven. It was like burned crispy nastiness. Too bad.

Stefaneener said...

Oh, Jennie, thank you! I kept thinking, "It's not like you're in the midwest! You're in granola-land, for pete's sake!!"

But no, it's just an age thing, apparently. An old gas oven seems like the perfect environment. Or your car, quite frankly. That might work really well. And it would smell good!

Heiko said...

Well done Ellie! 3 cheers for real food and stuff the conformity bullies!

el said...

It IS just an age thing. I did that to my own hippie mother here in the Midwest. (A million years ago, but still.)

Tell Ellie I love that story.

Michelle said...

I've always admired your ability to do so much, and I admire you even more for knowing when to give it a rest. You can't set much of a good example for your kids if you're flipping out! And for sticking to your principles and patiently teaching them to your children. How much better we all would be if more parents would do the same. But, um I guess I should keep my trap shut on that point, I skipped the kid thing, no patience for that sort of stuff... I figure the world is probably a better place without my poorly raised brood. LOL

Anyway, what a great story. And what a great way to use up runny jam. My cheapo old dehydrator has trays to make fruit leather but I think that your oven method is better since it is so much easier to lay out parchment on a baking sheet than on a round tray with a hole in the middle.

kitsapFG said...

Ha! That was too close to too many personal experiences not to resonate soundly with me. The call of conformity rears it's head up periodically and none more so than with kids.

Stefaneener said...

Heiko, growing up is a beautiful thing.

el, no kidding. Fortunately I find it a little funny.

Michelle, thank you very much. I have probably a more-jaded perspective on my child-rearing success. It turned out that my glass lasagne pan was flatter, and therefore more successful, than my warped cookie sheet! I may have to go to the restaurant supply for really big pans if I get into this. (And maybe pick up large rolls of parchment!)

kitsapFG, isn't it funny? They're often trying just as hard not to conform. . . to us!

Erin said...

Gosh I'm knee deep in that story too! Luckily my kids will eat my homemade bread and jam happily, but they are constantly asking for those d@mn Lunchables, on my list of possible compromises... those are DEAD LAST! I call that armageddon/hell freezing over food LOL

Stefaneener said...

Erin, that would be a hill to die on in my book. Sheesh. Sometimes they just have to suck it up -- what else would they have to tell their therapists about? Sigh.

A.N.N.'s Educational Services said...

Funny story. I must admit that the fact the teacher was ignorant enough to say something to you about getting you to feed your children trash is scary. But then again that was is easier than having to educate the whole class on why Ellie's food is better and have them hating their parents for not showing them the same kind of love.