Summer Camp Blues

This has proved to be a tough day for no real terrible reason.  Lots of tears have been tumbling out of my reddened eyes & I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied, (luckily, Ikea has been a good annoying distraction – more on that in another post.)  I didn’t bother even putting on make-up today, because I knew it would be another emotional day.

Like I said, it’s not anything tragic, but I’m a big sobbing mess.  Why?  The Boy started summer camp today, and was away from me from SEVEN excruciating hours!  It was harder on me than it was on him.  And it’s not just that camp started, it’s that preschool is finished, kindergarten looms in the very near future, and he is almost 5 … time is moving way too fast for me.

Wasn’t it just yesterday when he and I were taking Mommy & Me swim classes at the YMCA?  Wasn’t it just last week that we hatched caterpillars that grew into butterflies and set them free in the front yard, caught up in the magic of the moment?  Wasn’t it just last month when we would have long periods of quiet bonding time, me relishing in the way he discovered the world around him?

Where did the time go?

Now he’s ready to spread his wings & fly away from the nest – not too far, but far enough to cause me to hold my breath.  Will he be ok?  Will he remember to re-apply his sunscreen?  Will someone help him if he is having sensory issues peeling his banana?  Will the camp counselors remember what I told them & help him with social interactions, or will they leave him to fend for himself?  What if a kid is mean to him, pushes him, hurts his feelings & I’m not there to intervene?  My mind was swirling with a thousand “what-ifs” all morning long.  I mean, I would feel like this if he were an NT kid, but he’s not & although he seems typical, he still is an Aspie & has special needs.

My job is to protect him.  Besides The Husband, (and his Grandparents) no one else in the world takes this job as seriously as I do … and then the control freak in me just felt so uncomfortable with all the variables that are absolutely OUT of my control.  And bottom line, it’s really hard for me to trust – especially to trust that someone else will care for my child the way I expect them to.

The Boy & I talked the entire ride to summer camp; role-played on how to make new friends, what to say, what to ask, talked about how to keep our hands to ourself, talked about asking a counselor for help if and when The Boy needed to take a break because there were going to be a lot of kids around him, we went over his home phone number, my cell number, our address and a slew of other things … WITHOUT freaking him out.  Just casual conversation.  And then, after a lull in our conversation, he said:

“Mommy, I’m a bit nervous.”  My heart leaped, but I had this.

“Honey, that’s ok, it’s normal to feel nervous when you’re starting a new adventure.  I feel nervous too when I am trying something for the first time, so does Daddy.”

“What if I don’t like it?” He wondered.

“Well,” I swallowed & searched for just the right thing to say.  “I think you’re probably going to have so much fun and make lots and lots of friends, but if you try it for a week or so and you decide you don’t like it, then you don’t have to go back.  But you do have to be brave and give it a try … doing new things & meeting new people is part of growing up.”

“But I miss my friends from my old school – I want to go back there.”  Now, here’s where my heart sank … This poor child has been shuffled around to 3 different schools now & it’s been tough to put down any kind of ‘roots’ and make lasting friendships – every time he bonds with someone over the school year, we’re off to another program, never to see them again.

“Honey, your pre-k school is closed for the summer,” I explained, “everyone is going to different summer camps or they’re on summer vacation, but we will see your friend Dani for play dates, and you will make new friends here – it is going to be a lot of fun.”

He accepted my explanation and we got out of the car and walked in to this new, unfamiliar world of summer camp. We checked him in, dropped off his backpack & he was excited and happy as I took his picture for the purpose of documenting his first day of summer camp in 2014.

I walked him to the door that led to the play yard outside, and he kissed me good-bye & ran outside, full of hope and excited energy.  It was all so fast – I wanted him to linger for a minute, but knew that wouldn’t be a good thing – better to rip the bandaid off quickly.

I watched him from a window where he couldn’t see me … he wandered around aimlessly for a few moments, as I held myself back from running out to his rescue.  He was just about to strike up a conversation with a couple of older girls as a basketball slammed into the side of his head!  I had to resist the instinct to intervene – I waited to see what he’d do.  He shook it off & shortly thereafter he started a game of race with another older boy.  A camp counselor was nearby and monitoring the interaction.  I felt better, but still uneasy.  I crept out, and then found another vantage point to spy from … I spied for another 10 minutes and then I had to force myself to go.

The truth is this … I don’t want to miss one moment of his life.  Selfishly I want to be there for every little thing, I love seeing the world through his eyes – he’s always filled with wonderment & awe over all the discoveries he makes during the day.  But I know that the right thing to do is to give him some space to grow & explore the world without me right there on top of his every move narrating the story, but that’s really difficult for me.  I also want to protect him, help him, guide him, and monitor everything.

But it’s not about me – it’s about letting him drift away from the nest a little bit & letting him put into practice all of the things we’ve been working so hard on, (social skills, self-help skills,) and not ever letting him see how much it affects me.  He can’t know that it breaks my heart to have him away from me for more than a few hours, otherwise, he would want to comfort me and take care of me & never leave my side.  I will never be that kind of burdensome mother.  I’ve seen them in action & they disable their children to the point of a role-reversal. And Typical or NT, I think this kind of a transition (the growing up & letting go) is hard on any (good) parent.

So, I suck it up, I walked back to the car, losing the fight with the tears that were distorting my vision.  I got into the car, shut the door and just sobbed for a good ten minutes.  I’m not ready for this transition. If I had a magic potion, I would keep him little for a while longer.  Though I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready for him to grow up … It’s my job to prepare him for what lies ahead in this great big world.  And as with pretty much every job I’ve ever had, there are some things about the job that are not easy.  Letting go just a little bit & letting your little bird spread his wings is not easy to do, but it is the right thing to do.

When I went back to get him (and believe me, my eye was on that clock every other minute, counting down!)  He was happy to see me, gave me a hug & said “Mommy, I had so much fun!  And I made lots and lots of new friends, just like you said.”

That made me feel a little better.  A little.

I hope tomorrow is easier.  (Update: IT WAS!  I feel much better today … )

The Adventure Begins Here Photo Credit: http://stage.bsaboston.org/camp/

The Adventure Begins Here
Photo Credit: http://stage.bsaboston.org/camp/

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Silent No More

photo credit: neuro-atypical.com

photo credit: neuro-atypical.com

No, I’m not going to be quiet about it anymore.  The Boy has Aspergers.  He’s an Aspie.  He has been diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism now because they no longer have Aspergers Syndrome listed in the DSM V.  Hearing this last Friday was not “news,” but I think I have finally accepted that this is our life.

Two years ago, I got the diagnosis of “Aspergers Syndrome” from a psychologist who contracts for the Los Angeles County Regional Center.  A psychologist who had met with me and The Boy for all of 2.5 hours.  Her diagnosis made sense to me, but at the same time I wanted to dismiss it because I felt like she just conveniently made that assumption based on The Husband’s family history.

Everyone that we had talked to leading up to that diagnosis had told us that The Boy was a “perplexing” case.  I was told that he may “outgrow” his diagnosis by the time he started Kindergarten, so I kinda believed it and kinda hoped they were right.

And so I didn’t tell too many people about The Boy’s Aspergers Syndrome.  Only close friends and family. And you, dear Reader. I kept quiet because I thought that this diagnosis was The Boy’s, and it was not for me to share with anyone beyond his immediate family until he came to an age where he could determine who he wanted to tell what to and when.  I didn’t want him being labeled.  I didn’t want him being judged.

That decision kept me isolated from my friends, and from the parents of his typical friends.  Even more isolated that his diagnosis had made us.  I kept quiet about it because I figured if he did indeed outgrow his diagnosis, I didn’t want people to be confused.  I didn’t want to have to explain.  I just wanted to work quietly on this without everyone knowing, and I think subconsciously I was hoping that the diagnosis would just disappear from our lives & fade away into the background; becoming something we would just say was a “phase” that he outgrew.

The fact is, this is our life, and it has been every day for the past two years.  Even if he does overcome some of the diagnosis, he will always be an Aspie – he will have his quirks & his mind doesn’t work like most everyone else’s.  So, this is our life.  This is his life.  This is perfectly fine.  It isn’t the way I had envisioned things when I was 8 months pregnant & reading baby books about “what to expect,” but that’s ok.  The lesson is: Expect The Unexpected.  And, make no mistake, I wouldn’t trade this for “typical” EVER.  I love The Boy just the way he is; he is perfect.  I only want him to have the tools he needs in life to have the best life he can – to be as happy and healthy … but this is our journey, and it’s an ever-changing one. There are no books to help guide us on our way.  Expect the unexpected.

I also kept quiet also because I felt like I wasn’t entitled to have the feelings I have had: confusion, frustration, isolation, exhaustion, sadness.  How could I complain when The Boy’s case is mild – look at him one moment & he seems like a typical child, but in another setting you might say there’s something off, but can’t put your finger on it.  He is extraordinarily verbal, loving, outgoing … not like some of the children I’ve met with severe autism who are non-verbal & have never given their mother a hug or kiss.  So how can I justify feeling anything other than gratitude for this?  I must be a shallow, horrible person to feel frustrated with our situation at times.  How would anyone even understand?  Surely my friends with typical kids wouldn’t be able to relate.  So I said nothing.  Until now.

Now I’ve changed my mind.  I’m not going to be quiet about this anymore.  I am allowed to feel how I feel & that may change from one day to the next.  Yes, of course I’m grateful that The Boy is high-functioning, that he is affectionate and playful, curious, intelligent, creative and engaging.  Yes, his case is “mild.”  And I tend to focus on his strengths rather than his weaknesses.  But it’s not always easy.  Every day is different; some days are great, some are challenging.  And I didn’t even realize how much I work with him until a friend visiting from out of town pointed it out to me.  But that’s my job; he is my heart & I am his voice.

And I’m really going all out with my vocalization.  After two years of searching for my “tribe,” other moms who are parenting an Aspie kid around The Boy’s age, I have yet to find an active group near where we live, so I just went ahead and created a meet-up group yesterday.  I figure if I build it they will come, right?  I hope so!  There have to be other parents who are feeling stressed out, tired and in need of sharing experiences.  I’m here for you, mamas, and I’m ready to talk.

The Karate Kid

I think we’ve finally found the key to The Boy, and slowly we’re unlocking a serious breakthrough.  The breakthrough comes with a hearty “Hi-YA!” and a karate kick in the face of Autism.

Aye-Yah!

Aye-Yah!

A little over a month ago, I called the local karate studio & spoke with the instructor of the class.  I explained that The Boy had been diagnosed with Aspergers but we were in the middle of getting him re-assessed & aren’t certain it’s AS.  We think he’s definitely somewhere on the spectrum, and thought that karate might be right up his alley.  We tried gymnastics & soccer, too much waiting around, not enough discipline.

“We have a couple of guys here with Autism who are black belts now.  Bring him in – we’ll run him through a trial and see if it’s a fit.”  The Instructor said.  I was careful not to get my hopes up.  This program didn’t accept everyone.

That Saturday, we brought him to the studio.  He was full of energy & a little unorganized, but he seemed to enjoy the physicality of karate, and he caught on to the routine pretty quickly.  I loved the structure & discipline that this class offered, and it was only 30 minutes – perfect for my little guy with the short-attention span.

The Instructor was a tough guy.  Just as The Boy began to act out & I hissed his name, The Instructor walked over to me and said “No, let me handle him.  You just sit here and watch.  He needs to know that I’m the boss here & if you’re doing the discipline in my studio, he won’t ever respect me.”  Word.  I was totally on board, but also on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how much of a spectacle this would turn into.  To my delight, The Boy didn’t buck too much, just tested the waters a little, but I loved that The Instructor didn’t let him (or any of the other kids) get away with a single shenanigan!

The Instructor told us to bring The Boy back again to the next class.  And again, and again, and again.  The Boy was in try-outs for almost 3 weeks!  He had to “earn” his “jacket.”  That totally motivated him.  He loved the challenge, he got the hang of things, (addressing his instructors as “Ma’am & Sir,” keeping his hands to himself, staying quiet & following directions – for the most part.) And although he struggled with controlling his body, he really made an effort.  After 9 sessions, he had finally earned his jacket!  He was a proud little boy, and I was a proud mama.

Yeah, I cried a little.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the distinct look of pure pride on The Boy’s face.  He had accomplished this all on his own & he knew it! He glanced over at me & smiled, we exchanged the “thumbs up” sign.

I know it might sound silly, but I think he may have found his place.  This might be his sport.  I can’t see soccer as his sport, or baseball … He needs something that is more of a solo “team” sport.  In this class, he’s part of a team, but his success is solely based on his own merits.  And quite frankly, I’m a little relieved about this for several reasons – I mean, of course, I’m happy for him, but selfishly, I’m happy for me, too.  The thought of early Saturday soccer games out in the hot sun & weekday practices out in the hot sun don’t appeal to me.  I would do it, sure, and I even had envisioned him having the “All-American” childhood, replete with a position on the soccer & little league teams when he was growing inside of me.  But  maybe I’m not going to be a soccer mom.  Maybe I’m going to be a Karate Mom … or a Tennis Mom … or a Golf Mom.  I’m cool with that.

It’s been really spectacular to see the change in him … And it’s not just me & The Husband who see a change, his teachers commented to me that The Boy has been making big strides lately.  It’s a tough class & it’s three times a week, but it’s something that The Boy looks forward to – he enjoys the challenge & the routine, knows what’s expected of him & when he pushed back (which the instructor said he’d do,) he got his belt taken away for 2 classes!  He earned it back & learned the lesson: can’t clown around in karate.  There’s a time & a place for messing about, but in karate class, you act professionally, take it seriously & do your best.

Warning: MOMMY BRAG Ahead!

Yesterday, after being in this class for less than 6 weeks, he did this entire series called “Appreciation Form” which is a 12-step series of different hand movements FLAWLESSLY without any assistance from an instructor!  He even showed up a camouflage belt (highest belt in the class!)  The Instructor praised him “never seen a white belt do that series all on his own without any help!  Well done!”

We’ll see how it goes, but I think we’ve finally found his sport 🙂

 

 

The California Salad

California Salad

Light & Healthy

So light, so healthy & sooooooo delicious!  I concocted this simple, yet elegant side salad after messing around with a few different ideas.  It’s even VEGAN, and it goes with just about anything you can think of …

What’s In It?  All my favorite things!

Arugula and/or Baby Spinach – My go-to choice is Arugula, but if I’m feeling frisky, I’ll pick up some Baby Spinach instead.  OR, if you’re feeling totally rebellious, mix them together as you throw your head back and laugh manically!

Sunburst Tomatoes – For most of my life I turned my nose up at cherry tomatoes or anything that slightly resembled them.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?  Holy mother of Solanum Lycopersicum, these little golden treats pack a sweet & delectable punch!  They add a unique compliment to the tangy, slightly bitter flavors of this salad.

Avocado – I mean, really, how can you go wrong with avocado?  It’s the best and most, er, one of the most versatile fruits.  (I sat here for a good 6 minutes and argued with myself about whether an avocado or a lemon is the most versatile fruit – I’m torn!)  I could eat avocado on ANYTHING & it lends some creaminess to this salad.  Growing up in Northern & Southern California, we had avocado trees & come to think of it – why don’t I have one now?  Ok, I just decided I’m going to propagate the next pit of an avocado.

Lemon – I love lemons, too.  And I do squeeze them on just about everything, so one day when I was sick of making dressing & just wanted something light & simple, I squeezed lemon all over the salad.  Hello!?  Why had I never thought of this before?  Lightbulb!

Garlic – Yep, another one of my faves … pressed & as much (or as little) as you like!  Me?  Two big, fat cloves!  (p.s. the garlic press is nice because it gets a little garlic juice in there, but if you don’t have one, just mince the garlic.)

Olive Oil – Just a little so that it all melds together nicely.

So like I was saying … You can eat this alone, or with your best buddy if you are nice enough to share.  Kidding, I mean, you can eat this as a stand alone salad, or it accompanies pretty much anything from chicken, to turkey chili, to white bean vegan soup, to grilled salmon or even barbecue!

You’re welcome … 🙂

Easter Egg-citement … and a Life Lesson on the side

Oh that title is sooooo cheesy, but it’s late & you get what you get at this point. And by the by – this post has not been “proofed.” I still have to make a basket, hide eggs tonight, and gnaw out chunks of a carrot that The Boy left for the bunny.

On Thursday, The Boy & I made Chickadee Cupcakes!

chickadee_cupcakes_platter

 

I was inspired by this post.  Mine are nowhere near as perfect & pretty as hers, but then again, I’m just a “fairly good mother,” so what do you expect?

Let me see if I can impress you with this little tidbit of info:  I did all of this WHILE working from home, juggling calls, making deals & doing laundry, AFTER running errands in the morning.  Impressed?  *huffs on knuckles & brushes off the shoulder dust*  Yeah, I’m a badass mama sometimes.

We took the easy route – got a box yellow cake instead of making from scratch, BUT I did make whipped cream frosting (my own concoction using heavy cream & powdered sugar & vanilla – don’t measure, just add to taste,) and then added yellow gel.  I bought pre-made eyes & used some orange icing that was leftover from Halloween.  It was Wilton’s – the kind in the air canister & it had a mind of it’s own, very difficult to deal with! I piped on some frosting to the sides for their wings.  Note: You need to refrigerate these because of the cream frosting.  Just let them stand at room temp for 15 minutes or so before you scarf one down.

The Boy had fun making some of the chickadees into “silly chickadees” with one eye or three, and since I didn’t want 2 dozen chickadees, so we used the rest of the batter to make a mama chick.  We used chocolate chips for her eyes & The Boy, my little choc-o-holic, ate enough chips to make 5 more chicks!

mama_chickadee_cakeWe took some of the cupcakes to the neighbor kids & then went to karate.

On Friday, we tackled the eggs!  And let’s be honest here, it was a less than perfect undertaking.

Take one rambunctious 4 year old, add 6 flimsy PAAS cups filled with colored water & of course your chances for a disaster are like 97% … Add to that the fact that I had dressed him in a new outfit that was partially white & the chances increased to 99.9999%.

No worries, I’m a chilled out mama regardless of my self-diagnosed mild OCD.  I had prepared for this event: laid out paper towels & put an apron on him.  But two seconds after this picture was taken …. the green egg disaster commenced.

Green will be all over the kitchen in 5-4-3-2 ...

Green will be all over the kitchen in 5-4-3-2 ..

The Boy accidentally tipped over the flimsy PAAS cup (we were using the whisk to hold the egg since that’s an easier way for kids to maneuver the eggs.)

The Boy immediately freaked out & hopped off his stool to retreat in the far end of the kitchen.  Before I even went to clean it, I consoled him.  My little sensitive guy was obviously pretty upset that he had spilled the green all over the counter, cabinets & himself.

“Guess what?”  I told him … “Accidents happen & I’m not mad.  I know I told you to be careful, but it’s no big deal – do I look mad?  No.  I’m not mad at all & it’s ok!  Let’s take off your apron & get you a new one.”  But he was still pretty shaken by the whole thing & ran off to his playroom.  This was a great teaching moment (yes, those are actual real things for the fairly good mothers of the world.) I went to get him & we had a nice little talk about how important it is to forgive ourselves when we’re not perfect.

He came back to do a couple more eggs, but I could see that he was a little timid & still pretty mad at himself, and it broke my heart into about a thousand pieces when I asked him why he was still upset & he said “I’m mad at myself for making an accident & I don’t want to color eggs anymore because I’m afraid I’ll do it again.”

I choked back my tears.  Give me a break, friends, I’m PMDD’d & I love this kid.   I got right down next to him & told him “hey it’s totally ok if you do it again … I might even do it this time!  I’m not perfect, no one is.  If we make a mess, we’ll clean it up!  No big deal.  Right?   And listen to me … You know when a friend does something that makes you sad & they apologize to you & you say ‘I forgive you?’ well, it’s important to forgive yourself when you do something that makes you sad or frustrated.”  He got that.  And we finished the eggs.

Tie_DyeEasterEggs

We used the PAAS Tie-Dye Easter Egg Kit, which I have used in past years, and had so-so results, but apparently my fairly good brain forgot that we tried this before & I bought the kit again.  This time they had included this gloss to polish the eggs, which seemingly made some difference.  And I guess I perfected my technique … or maybe it was just luck 🙂

 

I think I like this one the best: Pink_TieDyeEgg

Or maybe it was the super bright pink egg that I did just for The Boy since it’s his favorite color & I knew it would make him happy.

And we read this book before bed – one of MY childhood faves: The Country Bunny & the Little Gold Shoes.

the country bunnyIt’s about a Country Bunny who becomes one of the 5 Easter Bunnies.  Was written in 1939 & still holds up seventy-five years later!

I hope you have a great Easter, and I hope you can remember the wonderment you felt as you woke up on Easter morning to discover a basket filled with goodies & eggs hidden around the house.

Childhood is a magical time where reality is kind of suspended … at least if you have fairly good parents who will do that for you.

I hope The Boy looks back on his childhood and forgets the accidents & the struggles, and only remembers the magic, the wonderment, the joy of his life.

P.S. Tell me that the addition of the text to my pictures was worth it! Thanks Picmonkey.

xo 🙂

 

 

2 Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail

Ok, so WOW, that was one slow lamb, right?

Awa ... how cute is this little lamb?  He shakes his tail slowly :)

Awa … how cute is this little lamb? He shakes his tail slowly 🙂

Well, I sort of fell down the rabbit hole of wanting to add text to my pictures I’m about to post, which led to asking my very best friend about the free online picture editing programs she had told me about, which led to me finding out that my browser was too old for the program, (what?! I have a 3 yr old macbook for pete’s sake!) which led to me updating my OS to Mavericks, which took 6+ hours & 2 chat-sessions with Apple, and resulted in my iPhoto needing to also be updated, my internet being messed up, and … ok, are you asleep yet?

Sorry.  I just wanted some sympathy.  Can’t a girl just make a damn post anymore?  My plan was to put up my Easter Post yesterday … But you get what you get, (which will be momentarily.)

I’m not perfect, but you still love me 🙂 And, maybe this cute little baby lamb will make you smile.

Tumbleweeds

 

 

Cue Western Gun Song from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Cue Western Gun Song from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

 

Hello?  Anyone here?  *Looks around, almost gets knocked down by a tumbleweed.*

Wow, hang on a sec, let me dust off the monitor and pick out the bramble from between my keys  …

Oh, my poor little blog!  You are so neglected!  I’m so sorry … but it’s not you, it’s me.  It’s my fault & my crazy working-mom-running-a-household schedule & my awful procrastination & all of my many excuses.  I think about you all the time, I even have a vault of half-cooked posts!

I just backspaced over my lengthy, in-depth excuse, because I respect you enough to not  to play you like that.  You already know how challenging it is to juggle being a fairly good mother, a fairly good wife, a fairly good daughter, a fairly good worker & a fairly good friend, so I won’t repeat myself.

You’re so sweet to forgive me for abandoning you for so long … It reminds me of the time that my bikini waxer looked at my own bushy bramble in horror after 2 months of neglect & went to work anyway.  Too much information?  Yeah, I thought so.

I’ll be back with a new post in two shakes of a lambs tail …

Happy New Year!

It’s the first day of a whole new year … lots of life waiting to happen.  2013 was fun, interesting, full of growth & discovery … but I’m ready for a new blank book to make fresh memories & create more traditions.

Last year I created a new tradition for our family: The Good Memories Jar.  Every time one of us had a fun day, we wrote it down & put it in the jar.  Then, on December 31st we read them, remembering all the fun we had this past year.

The Good Memories Jar

The Good Memories Jar

Another tradition is our NYE Dinner: Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon, Burgundy Mushrooms, a Wedge Salad & bread with Champagne Cocktails beforehand & a beautiful Syrah or Cab with dinner.  Then more champagne as we ring in the new year.  Most years we celebrate the east coast new year, but this year we went all out & stayed up past midnight!  (I’m paying for it dearly this morning)

So I took a look at my Bake-It List & looks like I came up short!  Well, guess what?  One of my resolutions, (which I don’t generally like to subscribe to,) is I’m not gonna sweat the small stuff & I won’t be too hard on myself.  I will roll over the things I didn’t bake in 2013 to 2014!  Yes, I will make an updated Bake-It List soon!  Stay tuned 🙂

I got busy in 2013 – I unexpectedly started a new venture & had to figure out how to juggle being a working mom.  It was not as easy as you working moms make it look!!!  I think I finally got into a rhythm & figured out how to fit everything in … things that fall to the last on the list?  Things for me.  And that’s just not cool, but that’s what good moms do.

Speaking of being a good mom — here are some things I’m looking forward to doing with The Boy this coming year:

  1. Take him to see the snow (this is difficult when it’s so warm here!)
  2. Finger paint more often & do more crafts
  3. Write more books with him (he just finished two picture books all on his own!)
  4. Go on more hikes with him & explore the outdoors
  5. Star gaze & cloud burst

What are you looking forward to doing in 2014?

Zucchini Bread

I’m looking around to make sure we’re alone & my mom isn’t anywhere within earshot … Somehow or another that woman always knows what I’m up to.  She used to claim she had eyes in the back of her head.  Ok, I think we’re alone … You’re not wearing a wire, are you? Cuz I’m going to do something that she has forbid me to do:  I’m going to share one of her recipes & DO NOT TELL HER I TOLD YOU.

I promise, I will deny it, I will say I don’t know you & that I heard you used to reside in Danvers State Insane Asylum after you were caught walking naked down the highway claiming you were Emeril Lagasse’s lover …  and I’m a pretty decent liar.

My mom is very protective of her recipes & I get that, but I’m also a pretty good judge of things, and I know which ones I absolutely CANNOT share, (like her famous potato casserole & the addictive cheese ball – both of which always ensure I am invited to lots of parties & pot-lucks,) but this one – well, this one is kinda standard, and I suppose you could find a similar one on the web somewhere, (though I’ve never bothered to look.)  Plus, I’m still feeling in the holiday spirit of giving.

A Family Favorite (see my photo note at the bottom of this post!)

Zucchini Bread: A Family Favorite (see my photo disclaimer at the bottom of this post!)

Zucchini Bread.  The beloved bread of Christmastime – the one little loaf that will make you want to be my friend forevermore.  Now, I suppose it makes sense that if YOU could make the zucchini bread yourself, you wouldn’t have much use for me, but did you know that I’m a ton of fun & I pour really healthy glasses of wine when you come over to my house, and I’m the world’s best secret keeper?  Well, besides this bread secret, I am.

Why now, you ask?  After all of these years of me coveting this precious recipe all to myself, why am I finally unlocking the recipe box and laying it out there for the entire world wide web to find?  Well, more than one friend of mine has made the comment that mine is the best.  And, I hate to brag, but yeah, it is.  I’ve tasted other breads and they’re dry and flavorless.  That makes people grumpy.  And I can’t have people going around all grumpy during the holidays because their zucchini bread doesn’t taste as good as mine, so here you go.  And you’re welcome 🙂

Zucchini Bread
(makes 6 small loaves)

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups grated zucchini (do not peel)
3 cups of flour (unbleached)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts (chopped)

Method:
In a big mixing bowl (I use my badass standing mixer for this) combine eggs, oil, sugar & zucchini.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder & baking soda & gradually add it to the zucchini mixture.  Mix thoroughly & then add the vanilla & the nuts.  Bake in greased 3×6 loaf pans at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes (I check after 35 & then always end up baking them 5-10 mins longer.)  If you use the larger loaf pans, bake for an hour (but check after 45 minutes if you’re neurotic like me.)  And I have also made zucchini muffins in the large muffin pan (makes a dozen) and those take about 25-30 minutes.

These make great gifts for neighbors & friends! But The Husband & The Boy like to eat slices fresh from the oven with a little butter or cream cheese … YUM!  And I mean, they are healthy – they have zucchini in them, so how can they be anything BUT healthy?

Now, for my photography disclaimer: I take all most of the pictures myself, and as you can clearly tell, I’m no pro.  I’m a multi-tasking mom with a mixer & a hungry family.  Most of my food photos are taken with my iPhone, right before I sit down to devour my meal.  This one happened to be taken with my Cannon Rebel because it was sitting out waiting for Christmas to arrive.  My food photos are inferior,  just look at my bestie’s gorgeous website, The Kitchen Snob & you will see why I feel like the ugly step-sister.  She spends countless hours with in her semi-professional studio, gently massaging crumbs off of cookies & perfectly placing them so that your mouth will water when you browse her site.  Ok, enough whining — I”m going to go heat up a slice of zucchini bread & have my coffee now.

Elf Enmity

There sure are a lot of Elf Haters out there … It’s kind of baffling to me.  And also slightly amusing that my posting elf pictures to social media sites creates such a strong reaction in people.  I guess it’s the part of my personality that wants to keep poking you when you ask me to stop poking you.  I’m not hurting you, but it bugs you & seeing your anger rise gives me a sick, twisted thrill.  I’m evil.

I love the magic of Christmastime, this we already know.  I enjoy it even more so these days because The 4-year old Boy is wide-eyed and imaginative when it comes to discovering the intricacies of this holiday.  Believing in Santa is fun.  It’s a choice.  I still believe — not in a big fat smoker who breaks into your home to leave you gifts in the dead of night, but I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus: spreading joy and happiness to friends, family & strangers even.  It’s nice to be nice.

So why are a big chunk of my, (mostly childless,) friends so scrooge-like when it comes to this little elf?  The Elf On The Shelf has caused a big divide amongst friends – you’re either Pro-Elf or Anti-Elf, and it has spurred on many a facebook post/rant.  It’s funny to me, too, that the majority of the friends who are so irritated by the elf are the same ones who will post political memes ad nauseam for months leading up to an election.  I don’t (usually) whine about it, rather, I quietly remove them from my news feed.  They are my friends, after all – I like them for many other reasons besides their backassward political views – and they are free to post whatever they wish on whatever social media platform they choose.

And I’m free to post what I want, too … like pictures of our elf, Kermin!!  So, bring on the elf!  I love this guy … another Christmas character to amuse the little one & feed my creative appetite.  I will admit that there are nights where I feel like it’s just another responsibility, another christmas chore that needs to be handled.

elf_forgot_to_move_him

But usually I look forward to conjuring up some fantastic scene that The Boy will just go nuts over when he wakes up the next morning.  I do it all (ok, mostly all) for him.  One thing a friend of mine suggested is that the elf be a “kindness” elf & give the kids tasks to complete that involve doing kind deeds.  I like that & tried to incorporate it into our elf experience this year sending notes from Kermin to The Boy.

I don’t think that the elf should be evil or naughty – I’m trying to teach The Boy good manners & destroying my kitchen to make cookies is not good manners!  Kermin is an elf who is a lot like The Boy: kind, funny, silly, and always up for playing with friends.  As The Boy gets older, I can see myself doing more sinister elf set-ups – another friend of mine does this with her teenage boys & it’s pretty hysterical.

Here’s Kermin & A Few of His Shenanigans This Season:

Did you know that elf pee smells like peppermint & they poop marshamallows?

Did you know that elf pee smells like peppermint & they poop marshmallows? Of Course, Sniper The Cat needed to check out the situation 🙂

elf_candyland

Playing Candy Land with Friends

elf_gone_fishing

Gone Fishin’

elf_halloween_candy

Found the stash of Halloween candy & sampled one of each!!

elf_midnight_snowball_fight

Snowball Fight with the Toy Story Crew!

elf_nightmare_before_xmas_scene

The gang from Nightmare Before Christmas came by with Elf Cookies!

elf_note

Wrote a note to remind The Boy to be good … a little reinforcement never hurts 🙂

elf_on_toaster

The Husband conjured up this scene … I think Kermin is warming his buns upon returning from the freezing North Pole

elf_snow_angels

snow angels

elf_sunburst

another one The Husband came up with … I’m not quite sure what is going on here 🙂

So tell me … how can someone be annoyed with something so fun?  I’m reminded of one of my favorite Christmas characters, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  At first, the other reindeer didn’t like him & wouldn’t let him play.  Awa – how sad.  So people, don’t be a hater, it’s no fun … instead spread a little cheer this Christmas & find it in your hearts to enjoy this little elf and his elfkin games.

Merry Christmas!