Painting Day

What a bright, beautiful morning we have after the rainy night.  I’m glad.  I needed it today.

We left first thing this morning for our milk and egg pick up (we are so very fortunate to have access to wonderful milk, eggs, produce, poultry, and meat, all grown and raised within twenty to thirty minutes of our house!), and then came home and began our school day.  We have a nice solid rhythm to our mornings….first our circle time, which consists of reciting verses, singing, and doing some Montessori-inspired fine motor work.  A lit candle and a mindfulness bell help us to focus. After circle time, we do our reading for the day.  Our reading usually consists of some nursery rhymes or a poem or two (soon I am going to have to write a post on the amazing role that nursery rhymes have played in our work for the past few years and in Little Guy’s language development), our classic fairy tale for the week, and maybe a number book (such as Tasha Tudor’s 1 is One.)  We’ve also been enjoying some gorgeous alphabet books, most notably Alphabet City (can’t recommend this one enough…Little Guy LOVES all the “found” letters!) and A Gardener’s Alphabet. 

And after reading, on Wednesdays, we paint.  In my efforts to recover from the difficult time we’ve been having (difficult for both Little Guy and myself, on different levels and in different ways), I have been working very hard on our weekly rhythm.  I find that having touchpoints every day…knowing that Monday is library day, cleaning-bedrooms day, and soup day, for instance, takes a lot of the challenge out of planning our weeks, and provides us all…myself included…with a sense of security and predictability.  And predictability at home is an amazing thing, when so many other things feel so uncertain.

So, Wednesday is painting day, and has been for a couple of months now.  We all love it.  We have been using the Waldorf system of wet-on-wet watercolor painting, focusing primarily on one color at a time. These two books are excellent resources for this method of painting with young children, and I’ve also been inspired by this lovely blog post.

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Today, we worked with yellow.  First, I soaked our watercolor paper and mixed the paint.  Notice studious Baby V. in her chair.  She did not want to wait till Little Guy was ready…

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She is always so intent and careful with her work.

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While they painted, I told them a short impromptu story about the sun and a sunflower.

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Little Guy kinda liked it.  🙂

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Then I asked him how painting with yellow made him feel.  He thought for a moment, and you know what he said? Delighted.  Yes, delighted.  You know how delighted it made me feel to hear that, from him, at that moment?

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He thought some more, and added, calm and serious. Wow.

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Yep.  I think our painting day was a success.  Now it’s time for lunch, and then on to the second half of our school day….

Hope you all are well.

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm  Comments (2)  

Rumpelstiltskin: The Power of Naming

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I’ve been spending a lot of time with the classic fairy tales recently.  Grimm…Anderson…Perrault…all my old loves are coming down off the bookcases to be dusted off and read with fresh eyes.  This has partly to do with our current focus in school; I am introducing many of these tales to Little Guy for the first time this year.  It has partly to do with some fairy-tale themed crafts I am working on to sell (wish me luck!)  But the sheer amount of time I am spending reading, rereading, researching, and daydreaming about these stories has mostly to do with this: in periods of pain and transition, I tend to migrate towards the familiar and fantastic.

And as I read, I find myself discovering more than ever before about the tales and about myself.  “The Frog Prince” is a sweet little moralistic story about a young girl learning to keep her promises, right? Think again.  Consider the implications of a story in which a male character insists upon sleeping in a young girl’s bed, as payment for a favor; in which, when the girl gives and then tries to rescind her permission, her father angrily overrules her;  in which, when she puts the frog in the corner of her bedroom and tries to keep her distance from him, the frog slithers up to her and threatens to tell her father if she does not allow him into her bed; and in which, finally, the princess uses violence as her last resort in trying to keep the frog out of her bed, hurling the frog to the opposite side of the room…upon which he promptly transforms into a prince so physically attractive as to be irresistible to her.

If this story were written today, it would be called patriarchal, rape-enabling bullshit.   But it is a classic….part of our culture’s narrative soul.

Hmmm.

 

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On the other hand, I have been spending some lovely, enriching time with a long-time favorite…Anderson’s “Snow Queen.”  I fell in love with this tale in high school; I think the combination of flowers, ice, snow, and a brilliant female hero’s journey (so unusual among the classic tales) enhanced by wise and interesting female helpers and a believable female villain was what kept me coming back to it again and again.

So I find myself, in my current state of flux and confusion, returning to it yet again…finding in its pages bits and pieces of my own journey…symbols of my fear and developing strength…and reflections of the wise and beloved women in my life.

 

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But I suppose I have been spending the most time pondering the implications of “Rumpelstiltskin.”  This is a story about making, on many levels; about transformation…straw into gold, peasant into royalty, fear into triumph, beauty into horror.  And the deepest of these transformations center on the protagonist’s ability to name and identify the force that not only has made her who she is, but threatens to take away all that makes that new self worth inhabiting.  It is not a simple story; not easy.  It is a story about the cost of becoming.  About counting that cost.  About searching and sifting and putting a name to the nameless.

And, finally, about the triumph of persistence, courage, self-actualization, and love, all lumped into one.  The transformation remains; the crutch upon which it leans disappears.  And all is well.

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Perhaps I relate so strongly to “Rumpelstiltskin” because in many ways, I am in the Queen’s place at the moment.  I am searching to put names to my fears; to the forces, good and bad and in-between, that have made me the person I am today; and to the parts of myself I need to shed, and those I need to keep, in order to continue my transformation into the person I hope to be someday.  I am seeking the courage to travel to the furthest places, dig in the deepest caves, and extricate all the things that have hitherto hidden dark and unnamable in their holes, coming out in their own timing and ignoring mine.  I am gathering the strength to look them in the eye, and say, “This is who I am.  And this is who you are.”

As simply as that.

Published in: on October 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Changes afoot

Deep breath.

Okay.  It has been far too long since I have written in this space.  I have sat down on a few different occasions and made the effort to organize my current experiences, thoughts, and emotions into some form that makes sense; but I have failed every time.

And then tonight I sat down, wrote a long post…actually finished it!…and went to publish it, only to find out that it had somehow magically disappeared in between clicks of the mouse.

I don’t think I have the energy to completely rewrite it; but I wanted to say this at least.  I am here.  My little family and I are going through momentous–and largely difficult–changes on many different fronts right now, and not all of us are dealing well with them.  I certainly am not coping as well as I wish I were.  Pain, loss, uncertainty, endings, beginnings, the abortion of nearly all of my self-definitions…none of these are things that are comfy for me.  I don’t like them.  I am teetering on the edge of depression, and find it really, really hard to get out of bed some mornings.  Like yesterday.

But then, something happens.  A friend messages me.  A wise counselor checks in.  A sister calls late at night just to see if I am okay.  I read a blog post that keeps me going for another five minutes.  And I realize…as this essay reminded me this morning…I am still here.  I just have to keep showing up, and eventually (as hard as it is to believe at the moment), everything really will be okay.

None of our days right now are perfect.  But today, we had a pretty good school day.  We picked up our milk, and skimmed the cream and made butter.  We sang.  We painted.  We read.  We counted. We ate hard boiled eggs and gluten free waffles and fruit and cheese and pasta with zucchini sauce.

So yes: I am showing up, hard as it is sometimes.  And I plan to keep showing up in this space, because I need it.  I need the interaction, the satisfaction, the accountability.  The practice. 

And yes, I am still reading (forgive the cloudy lens…didn’t realize that someone with small grubby hands had been the last to use the camera!)…

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and making…

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and loving every minute of my children’s growth.

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And sometime last week, I found honeysuckle and goldenrod growing together along the border of the back field.  It was comforting to me; spring mixed with fall, unexpected pleasures.  A surprising beauty.

‘Cause every little thing is gonna be all right…”

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Published in: on October 10, 2013 at 2:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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The King, the Prince, and the Lion

This is a story I just wrote for Little Guy, who is having a very hard time right now.

The King, the Prince, and the Lion

Once upon a time, in a castle far away, there lived a prince with his father the king.  The prince was a happy prince.  He played all day in the forest around the castle; and in the evenings, he walked with the king to the edge of the ocean.  The prince loved the feel of the wind in his ears, and the warm water lapping around his feet.  He loved to play in the sand; when he let it run through his fingers, he felt calm and peaceful.  Sometimes, the prince and the king made sand castles together.  Sometimes they drew pictures in the sand with sticks.  And sometimes, they just walked into the waves and listened to the roar of the ocean.  The prince never felt afraid, no matter how loud the waves, because his father was right there beside him holding his hand.

One day as the prince was eating his breakfast, the king sat down beside him.  “Prince,” said the king, “I need to tell you something important.  Far, far away, in the land of Antagon, there live two dragons who are fighting each other.  I need to go and help them settle their differences, so they can live in peace.  But this means I will have to take a long journey; I will be gone many, many days, and many, many  nights. ”

The little prince looked at his father in surprise.  “But why can’t I go with you?” he asked.  “I could go with you and help with the dragons!”

The king looked a little sad, and reached for the prince’s hand.  “I wish you could go with me, son,” he said.  “But the angry dragons are too dangerous right now.  And I wish I could stay home with you; but I need to go and help.  It is the right thing to do.”

And then the king looked deep into the prince’s eyes.  “But I promise  you, Prince…I promise you I will come back to you.  I have always come back before, and I will come back this time too.  I love you and will keep loving you the whole time I am gone.  And by the time I get back, you may even be a little taller!”

The next morning, the king rode away on his white horse.  The prince walked with him to the edge of the forest, then waved goodbye.  As the king disappeared into the trees, he turned and waved one last time at the prince, calling, “Don’t forget, little Prince….I love you and I will come back to you!”

The prince turned and walked back to the castle.  He sat down to eat his breakfast, but he wasn’t hungry.   He went for a walk in the forest, but he didn’t feel like playing.  He tried walking down to the shore, but it wasn’t any fun building a sand castle all alone.  Then he tried running sand through his fingers, but even that didn’t make him feel better.

He walked back up to the castle and curled up on his bed.  He felt sad.  His missed his father the King.  He missed the sound of his voice.  He missed playing with him.   He missed reading books with him and laughing at his jokes.

Several days went by, and the Prince was still sad.  He ate his food, slept at night, and helped take care of the castle horses, but nothing  helped him feel better.  He felt lonely, and disappointed…why couldn’t he have gone with his father?  He could have helped with the dragons, and kept his father company.  He would have liked to see the land of Antagon too.   He would have liked to ride his little brown pony beside his father’s big white horse.

The Prince decided to go for another walk in the woods.  As he walked into the trees, dragging his feet in the leaves, he heard a strange sound.  It sounded a little like a groan, and a little like a roar…what could it be?  As he listened, he heard it again, nearer this time, and louder.  The Prince followed the sound through the trees until he came to a little clearing.  And there in the middle of the clearing, was a young lion.  The lion was roaring angrily.

At first the Prince was afraid, but as he came closer, he saw that one of the lion’s paws was dragging on the ground.  The lion looked at the Prince and roared again, holding up his paw.  And there in the paw was a long, sharp thorn.

“Oh,” said the Prince to himself.  ”The lion is only angry because he is hurting so badly.”

The lion let out another loud, terrible roar, and bared its teeth furiously.

“The poor lion,” said the Prince.  “His paw must hurt terribly to make him roar so loudly.”

And then the Prince had a wonderful thought.  He could be just like the King! The King had gone to help the angry dragons, and now the Prince could help the angry lion.  The Prince began walking toward the lion.  The lion roared again; the roar was loud and frightening, but the Prince was not afraid.  He kept on walking.  The lion growled and bared his teeth; but still the Prince was not afraid.  He walked right up to the lion and put his hand on the lion’s head.

“Don’t worry, lion,” he said.  “I am the Prince of the castle.  I will help you.”

The prince leaned down carefully and touched the lion’s paw.  The lion growled a little, but did not bite.  The prince took hold of the thorn and pulled gently, then harder, and harder, until the thorn came out.  The lion let out one final roar, and was quiet.

The prince held the thorn up for the lion to see.  “Look, lion.  Here is the thorn that was in your paw.  I pulled it out so it won’t hurt you anymore.”

The lion looked at the prince.  He was not growling.  He was not showing his teeth.  He was not angry at all.  “Thank you, Prince,” said the lion, in a deep voice.  “Thank you for helping me.  You are a brave and kind Prince.”

The prince smiled at the lion.  He was pleased he had been able to help; he was happy the lion was no longer angry.  The air was still and calm.

The prince felt peaceful.

As he turned to go  home to the castle, the prince heard a soft sound behind him.  He looked back, and there was the lion, following him.  “I am coming with you, Prince,” said the lion, in his deep, calm voice.  “You helped me, and now I will help you.  I will keep you company until your father the King comes home.”

The prince and the lion walked together back to the castle.  And from then on, everywhere the prince went, the lion went too.  They went for walks together in the woods; they ran through the waves on the shore; and, sometimes, they just lay together in the sand, staring out at the water.  And the Prince ran his fingers through the sand, and felt very happy.

Many days went by, and the prince grew taller and stronger.  The young lion grew bigger too, and when he roared, he roar was so loud that it shook the earth and echoed off the castle walls.  But the prince was never afraid of him, because he knew the lion was his friend.

One morning at the beginning of spring, the lion was running down the shore with the prince riding on his back.  In the distance, at the edge of the forest, the prince saw a small shape appear.  The shape grew bigger and bigger, until he could see what it was:  it was his father, the King, on his beautiful white horse! The King was riding as fast as he could toward the shore.

The prince shouted with happiness.  “It’s my father the kng! It’s my father the king!  Faster, lion, faster!! I want to see the King!”

The lion ran faster and faster until he was almost flying through the air.  Finally, they reached the King and his horse.  The prince jumped down from the lion’s back and ran to hug his father.  The king held the prince in his arms, then stood back to look at him.

“Why, Prince!” he said.  “You are much taller than when I left!”

The Prince smiled at his father.  “Yes, I am,” he said.

“And who is this?” asked the King, pointing to the lion.

The prince put his hand on the lion’s mane.  “This is my friend, the lion.  I found him in the forest and pulled a thorn out of his paw.  And we have been taking care of each ever since.”

The King bowed to the lion.  “Thank you for taking care of my son,” he said.  Then he climbed back onto his horse, pulling the Prince up with him.  And the King, the Prince, the horse, and the lion walked joyfully back to the castle, where they celebrated with much feasting and many songs.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Published in: on May 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Motor skills. Successes. GRATITUDE.

I have been in tears twice in the last two days.  And they were tears of happiness, not of frustration.

Let me explain.

We deal with lots and lots of things connected to Little Guy’s SPD and various delays.  To describe them all would take me many hours and many blog posts.  Suffice it to say that, unless you have a child with this or a similar diagnosis, it is hard to imagine the sheer multiplicity of ways in which these issues invade every corner of a child’s life, making everything just a little bit harder for him than for other kids.

With many SPD kids, Little Guy included, delayed motor skills are one of the most obvious problems.  We have issues with fine motor skills, motor planning, gross motor skills, proprioception, etc.  Anything physical is hard for Little Guy.  He can’t catch a ball.  He can’t write all those amazing words he can spell.  He certainly can’t dance.   I watch Baby V rocking back and forth happily in rhythm with whatever music she hears, and I am filled with wonder because Little Guy has never done that.  Never.  Not once.

We spend hours each week working on these things.  We listen to music and try to move to it.  We play physical imitation games.  We work with scarves, tossing them in the air and trying to catch them.  We work with every art and sensory medium available.  We string beads.  We practice carrying things level.  We do hand-over-hand writing.  We work, and work, and work.

Sometimes, I see no progress for weeks.  That is discouraging, but I doggedly keep going.  Sometimes, we seem to take a step backward, and that is heartbreaking.  Sometimes, there is minimal ongoing progress, and that gives me hope.  We keep going.

And sometimes there is a week like this one.  A week in which everything suddenly goes right.

I don’t know what happened this week.  But after all the hundreds of times we have worked with writing letters hand-over-hand, suddenly this week he started writing some on his own.  He wrote D’s and I’s and a couple more.  He wrote them several times, on three consecutive days.  I was in shock.

Then last night, Hubby and I took him to the playground.  We sat watching him as he carefully moved across the equipment.  After a while, we got distracted talking for a moment; and when we turned back to him, we both gasped.  You know those arched  ladder-like things with far-apart rungs that often connect separate pieces of playground equipment?  I’m not sure what they’re called…but anyway.  Little Guy had never dared try one on his own before, and the two times I had coaxed him into trying, he couldn’t balance on the initial rung to  lean forward and steady himself, and ended up falling through the bars (with me there to catch him.)  But last night was different.  We looked over, and there he was already half-way across the arch, moving confidently forward.  No trouble at all.  He reached the end of the arch, climbed off, and just kept going as if it were no big deal.  But I was already tearing up.  I called him over and asked him to do it again.  Sure enough, he climbed up, put one foot on the first rung, leaned carefully forward to balance himself, and quickly climbed over….confidently, steady, and with perfect balance.  I immediately started sobbing.

I just couldn’t handle the hope.  Sometimes it is the littlest things that make it most real.  It sneaks up on you by surprise.

Oh, and then today, this.

Little Guy has played with play-doh for a long time, but has never actually made anything.  The motor planning and fine motor skills involved have just been beyond him.  He loves playing with the dough, though….pinching it into pieces, squishing it, rolling it.  It has been great sensory play for him, and I have been  happy to let it be just that, and to keep gently showing him how to make things.   Then today, when I set him at the table, I had to walk away and take care of Baby V.  I came back to find this.

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Now, for all of you parents of neurotypical five-year-olds who make amazing play-doh creations every day, that may not look like much.  But that is a HUGE achievement in our book…huge.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a train…complete with a freight-car, rooftop claw, eyes, buffers, and whistle.  I am not kidding.  Can’t you see it??? And it was completely his idea and his work.  These pictures were NOT staged in any way.  I promise.

That was my second time crying tears of joy this week.

Oh, and did I mention that several months ago (pre-GAPS), he was still stringing giant wooden blocks, with help?  And that now he strings small beads in rhythm, all by himself?  Here’s proof.  He’s been making beaded candy cane ornaments for family and friends.  The only thing I did was tie off the ends of the pipe cleaners.

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So yes, I am swimming in gratitude this week.  My children are all the Christmas I could ever ask for…and this is just the icing on the cake.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Published in: on December 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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The great outdoors

Today was a fun day.

It was the first day since Baby V started sitting up on her own that it was neither very cold nor wet and rainy.

While Little Guy was taking a most unusual nap, we went outside to spend some time together and explore the texture of the grass.

Oh, those blue eyes.  They keep breaking my heart and fixing it again.

The dry grass was very prickly…she was not at all sure how much she liked it!

Really, Mommy?  You said this was going to be fun and exciting….I’m trying, but I just don’t get it….

 

She notices every little thing.  Every change, every movement, every sound.  She is amazing.

I am not a photographer.  I look at other people’s photos (especially of their children) with envy.  But this is my favorite picture of her hands.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  That chubby, delicate, sensitive I’m-out-to-learn-the-world-ness of them.  It really tears at me.

I’m a bit scared of her getting older.

I’m REALLY scared of her getting older.  And I’m not sure if I’m more scared for her or for me.

She saw our dog Merlin walking the tree line.  She would have run after him if she could.

She would run anywhere if she could.

And she will be, soon.

Happy Friday!

Published in: on November 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

A breakthrough!

Take a look at this picture.

It looks like just a row of coins, right?
WRONG.

This photo is proof that my five year old just had a major breakthrough on something we have been working with for a very long time.

Here is the background: Little Guy knows his numbers.  He can repeat them all correctly, no problem.  He can recognize them, no problem, in order or out of order.  That part’s easy.

Where he has struggled is in associating the concept of the numbers with tangible objects.  He could count out loud, but not in association with an actual number of items, if that makes sense.

As I was telling a good friend last night, I was a little surprised initially by Oak Meadow’s slow approach to the numbers.  The curriculum insists that it is vital for the student to understand the intrinsic essence, or quality, of each number, even if they already “know” them.  In order to make this possible, the curriculum only introduces one number every two weeks.  Each two weeks is filled with activities pertaining to the current number….object groups, beeswax modelling, collages, and so on.  It is lovely, but when I first was reading over the curriculum, I honestly thought it moved way too slow.  I mean, after all, Little Guy already knew all his numbers.

But there was that sticky not-able-to-make-them-concrete problem.  So instead of following the voice in my head that said, “Speed up! He doesn’t need two weeks for each number! Are you kidding??”, I decided to follow the curriculum and do ALL the activities for each number.

That’s what we’ve done.

And this is what happened Saturday.  I was sitting in the living room nursing Baby V, and Little Guy was sitting at the kitchen table playing with his art supplies and a pile of coins that we had used the day before for a math project.  He was being very quiet and focused.  Suddenly, I heard his voice pipe up…”Eight…nine….”

I looked over, and he was laying down coins as he said the numbers.  I ran over (Baby V may not have appreciated being suddenly jerked off my breast, but hey…) just in time to hear him say “Ten!” and see him lay down the coordinating coin.

I counted, and sure enough, there were ten coins, in a neat row.  He had just counted out ten objects on his own…correctly…and associated the spoken numbers with the correct objects.

I asked him, “How many pennies do you have?”

And he confidently answered,  “Ten pennies!!”

I started jumping up and down.  Literally.  And then I grabbed the camera and captured the proof.

So…this may not sound like a big deal to you if this comes naturally to your child.  But this was a HUGE deal for us.  Add that to the fact that he would not stop learning new words to spell all week last week…and I have to say my son is doing just fine.

More than fine.  He is doing wonderful.

 

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  

GAPS update and weekend links

Just wanted to give a brief update on things around here.  You may have noticed I didn’t post a menu plan last week.  I probably won’t be posting one this week either.  That is NOT due to any lapse in our diet…we are still going GAPS-strong, believe me.

But I am going to have to revamp the way I plan our meals, and that is what I am currently working on.   Hubby just had a schedule change for work, and is going to be working a complex schedule of alternating days and nights with sets of four days off in between.  The four-days-off part will be nice, but I am quickly learning that the days and nights that he is working long shifts are NOT conducive to the daily, labor-intensive meals I usually make.  Those meals tend to be reliant on his being able to watch Baby V (who is going through a clingy stage) while I cook.

So, it’s back to the drawing board.  I will still be posting menu plans, but it may be a couple of weeks before I start again.  Right now I’m just going day by day, trying to figure out how the new schedule is going to work for everybody; the little ones pretty much don’t see their daddy at all when he is working days, and nights are not much better.  Honestly, it’s been tough, because a twelve-hour shift for him pretty much means a twenty-four-hour shift for me.  Baby V is six months old and going through a not-wanting-to-sleep stage.

The new menu plans will definitely involve some type of batch cooking, probably with some freezer cooking thrown in…all GAPS friendly, of course.  I have lots of kinks to work out, since I’ve never cooked like that (ven pre-GAPS), and am feeling a bit challenged in finding GAPS-friendly freezable recipes.  But I’m sure we’ll be up and running again soon.

 

In the meantime, here are a few recipes we’ve tried and loved recently…

Absolutely fantastic brownies from Grain-Free Foodies

A nice cauliflower substitute for baked mac-and-cheese

This fantastic skillet pancake...we had it for dinner last night with local sausage

 

A few I want to try this week…

Something for the deprived Almond-Joy-lover in me

Grain-free cheese sticks…should go great with my GAPS-friendly marinara….(thanks to my sister for this link!)

And hopefully another way to coax Little  Guy into liking squash

 

And here are a few food and homeschooling blogs I’ve been loving this week…

The Serendipity

PeaceMama

Gypsy Forest

Bluebirdbaby

Seasons of Joy

Tasty Yummies

on the woodside.

 

Have a great weekend!!

 

 

 

Published in: on October 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment