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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.


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