Wednesday, December 24, 2014

counting down the hours

On the way home from a Christmas open house the other night, the boy asked me how many hours left until Christmas. This year he is struggling with believing in the jolly old elf but he is still caught up in all the excitement of the holidays. It broke my heart a bit when he said the other night, "really mum, is Santa really real? Because you know they've explored the north pole and didn't find any workshops with elves". But having just watched Miracle on 34th Street I had the answer. "Of course they didn't because Santa is magic. You can't find the workshop otherwise everyone would be going there." He didn't buy it, not really. 

He's a black and white boy, no room for magic in his world, just the facts, mum. But then I brought out my big guns, if you don't believe, then you don't get presents from SC. 

Still there have been moments this week that made me blink and ache for the little boy that was. The little boy who crept down the stairs, gasping louder and louder as he crept closer to his Thomas the train table and railway set, til he almost couldn't breathe he was so excited. And my little kindy, in his red shirt and paper Santa hat, singing "nous vous souhaitons une joyeux noel". Now he's a gigantic boy in Grade 3 with his recorder and Santa scarf.

Still I hope I've done alright by him. My boy. He loves Christmas. The same way I loved Christmas when I was a kid, and still do. We have our traditions. Different from the ones I grew up with but ours none-the-less which makes me proud that I've created despite a resident grumpy Grinch. Our yearly gingerbread house 

(which now looks as though it has a bad case of mange or has been nibbled by very large mice or hit with a minecraft bomb).

 Our advent calendars. The tree ornaments. His transformer tree. My traditional Christmas cookies, pfeffernusse and almond cookies. New activities added to the mix this year and hopefully continued, Carols and Bonfire on the beach night, Christmas open house with friends.

New goodies this year are sweet and spicy nuts and caramel chocolate popcorn (Christmas crack!).

 Both delicious and tuck nicely into gift bags. But I think my favorite tweak was the reworking of one of our favorite cookies, for the boy's newly diagnosed celiac friend. He loves my ginger cookies and was sad to miss them this year so I made a batch just for him.

Gluten Free Pfeffernusse (tweaked from here)
1/3 c molasses
1/3 c butter
1 egg, beaten
1 c quinoa flour
3/4 c brown rice flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1/4 tsp each cloves, black pepper and nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 deg F.

In an saucepan over medium heat, mix the molasses and butter until melted, then remove from heat and cool. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda and spices together. Whisk the eggs into the cooled butter mixture and then add the flour mixture and mix well with your hands. Form 1 tsp balls with your hands, roll in granulated sugar to coat and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the bottoms are browned slightly and cool on a rack. Reroll in granulated sugar if desired. Makes 20-30 cookies.

These turned out really well and looked prettier than my non GF ones.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

dinosaur days

I don't know whether I've mentioned this here but our boy knows a lot about dinosaurs. And consequently, I have learned, over the past few years, more about dinosaurs than I could ever have imagined. I felt badly about my lack of dinosaur knowledge for a while until the recent discovery that when I was back learning these things in school, (back in the Triassic practically) there were only a handful of dinosaurs to learn about - triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, velociraptors, and good old Mr T-Rex. Of course now a days they discover new dinosaurs every week which makes me feel so much better. Ok, well slightly better. So this past winter we tossed around the idea of a vacation to the dinosaur trail in nearby Alberta. I had briefly visited Drumheller and the Tyrrell museum (as it was then) when I moved across the country but a visit to the Alberta tourism website promised so much more. So the trip was planned and a few weeks ago we set off for our dinosaur adventure. We started off in Calgary, visiting the wonderful zoo there. The boy was extremely excited about seeing the Komodo Dragon exhibit there but to our pleasant surprise, when we got to the zoo, they have a large Prehistoric Park which features a large landscaped area with features similar to the Badlands and large dinosaurs looming in all directions. Very cool.

 We toured the Canadian Wilds, the African savanah and the boy nearly had a melt down before we finally made it to the Asia pavilion with the Komodo Dragon. She was a bit smaller than we anticipated but for our boy it was very exciting to see one in person so to speak. And then to be able to sit on the large Komodo Dragon sculpture afterwards.

From the Zoo, we drove to Drumheller. First stop was the World's Tallest Dinosaur, climbing the inside of the T-rex to view the landscape from inside a T-rex jaw. A brief tour around Reptile World and a visit with Fred, the 600 lb aligator, a crodile lizard (the longest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard), several extremely venomous snakes and the chance to hold Jose, the boa constrictor. Boy fascinated, mummy not so much.

 Onwards to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is much expanded since my last visit. Beautiful museum, with fascinating exhibits. Well worth the trip to Drumheller. The following day we did the Badlands interpretive hike and the boy dug for his own dinosaur at Fossil World. We also toured an old coal mine. My husband found the town's dinosaur focus (as in fiberglass dinosaurs on every street corner) a bit over the top but all the kids we saw loved it all.

From Dumheller we moved on to Brooks and a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park. After miles of canola fields and grazing pastures for cows, sheep and the occasional llama, Dinosaur is once again back in the Badlands. The park is beautiful and seemed quiet after Drumheller. We had booked a Fossil Safari tour which takes groups into the park reserve (not open to the public) to a bone bed, so named because even though this particular area had been excavated already for 11 years, there are still bones underfoot. Our guide made us take an oath to leave all fossils, rocks, etc behind and then told us how to distinguish between a bone and rock or wood. We then spent some time searching for microfossils - small bones, shell, teeth etc. I found bits of tortoise shell, both the boy and I found lots of fossilized crocodile poo (which made him very happy) and my husband found a champasaurus vertebrae (prehistoric crocodile) and a hadrosaur tooth. It was very windy that day, which meant lots of sand in our eyes, but kept the bugs to a minimum. We drove around the public part of the park, viewing the fossil displays along the way, did a couple of short hikes and had a picnic near the campground. I found the park beautiful and awe inspiring. The sense of time and history is amazing, as you are literally walking in prehistoric pathways.
some of the fossils we found

we didn't meet a snake in the wild, thankfully
 On the way back home, through Calgary, we visited the War Museums as both my guys love tanks, airplanes, etc and the boy was in tank heaven. A wonderful and different trip.

Spike the Spinosaurus and Al the Allosaurus

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

meatballs for "omnivores"

We're moving in a new direction soon with food therapy. It will be up to us to keep the boy on track as we are moving into the parent phase of training. As in, we have to be trained to introduce new foods and maintain newly added foods to the boy's eating. Deep breath.

Our boy has been more adventurous lately - the willingness to try new things is continually amazing to me. After years of "no, I don't like it" without even a taste, a lick or a sniff, even. Apple cereal bars " can I try them Mum?" They got an ok, good even. Lavender honey at the market. A taste and a "can we get some?" I'll take it all.

We've moved on to meat during food sessions. Easy, portable, reheatable meat options. For me this has meant our version of meatballs or mini meatloaf muffins. Recently the boy decided that lamb was going to be his next meat option (instead of turkey or chicken). So initially I went with a lamb mixture I used to fill eggplants with for us (loosely based on a recipe from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem) but the boy balked at the nuts. So I made lamb meatballs and it worked a treat. Now I've got bags of beef, lamb, pork and turkey meatballs or mini muffins in my freezer. I guess parent training starts with those.

Mini meatleaf muffins
1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, lamb)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
smidge of garlic
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c breadcrumbs
2 tbsp ketchup, chili sauce, pesto sauce or other flavoured sauce (for pork meatballs, I use BBQ sauce)

Add the ingredients to a bowl and loosely mix with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated. With a teaspoon or a teaspoon scoop, fill mini muffin tins with the mixture. I usually get 24 mini muffins with about 1 pound of meat. Bake at 400 deg F for 18-20 minutes. These freeze and reheat well.

pork and lamb meatballs from the freezer

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Creating a fiend

A bacon fiend that is. The boy has gone from being a non meat eater, looking at me with all seriousness, "mum, I'm an omnivore ", to eating bacon, even pinching it off our plates. As in " is there anymore?"  At least twice in a row at breakfast. Although, true to his recent history he likes the right degree of fat and juiciness to his rashers and this week's batch from the butcher was not quite to his standards.

So I used bacon as a lure to try something new. A version of an old family recipe. The recipe my dad made and then we kids made on Saturday evenings when my mum gave up cooking for the week. Mum said she couldn't make this, and the one time I watched her try it, the dough didn't really hold together the way it should have. For everyone else, it works well. Especially with bacon on top.

No yeast pizza dough
2c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
3/4 c milk

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Roll out to the desired size. Can make 2- 12" pizza crusts or 2-9x13 rectangle pizza crusts. These will be fairly thin. I made 1-9x13" crust and 1 -8x8" crust, slightly thicker. For this version, I topped the dough with a layer of marinara sauce, some cut up bacon and then some grated mozzarella. You can use any of your favourite toppings.Bake at 325 deg F for 10 -12 minutes.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

crying over cheese

It was slightly ridiculous and it made me smile at the time but there I was, driving the boy home after his so busy day yesterday and he was “starving, Mum” . I suggested he dig around in his lunchbox and find something to eat. And he did – yogurt tube, yogurt drink, slurped up apple sauce and jello (more on that in a minute) and then came the test. The seemingly innocuous tube of string cheese. He got it open and wrestled with it for a bit. His dad had shown him the day before how to peel it off into strings so the boy was trying to engineer something. A giraffe it turns out. I waited. He got it into strings and took a tentative bite with me watching surreptitiously via the rear view mirror. He gave me a sideways thumb (neutral). Then he said, “wait” and slightly moved his thumb upwards towards the good zone. And then he started slurping up his cheese strings “hey, I’m eating this like noodles”. And that, dear readers, brought tears to my eyes. The slightly ridiculous part, crying over my kid playing with string cheese. But they are happy tears. Blessed tears. Tears for being in a place we’ve fought so long to get to.
playing in his first chess tournament
And I’ve had several days of these kinds of tears. Saturday morning when the boy ate 2 pancakes and told me “you make good pancakes, Mum”. Sunday, when he ate ¾ of a waffle and a slice of bacon and got a tub of snack pack jello as a reward. Jello. Yes, jello! Why is this such a big deal? Well, to a child who has issues with food, jello is a big deal. It wobbles. It’s slippery. It has terrified my boy at several birthday parties, and I’ve watched him try to refuse politely, waving his hands, saying “no thank you”, guessing inside he was screaming “get this away from me”. But Saturday, he took a tentative lick, then a small spooned dab, and then proceeded to eat the whole tub. I chose one of his favourite flavours – blue raspberry – to get him started but now he’s tried mixed berry as well. Strawberry and orange are up next. The wins are coming faster now. A whole meatloaf mini muffin at yesterday’s lunchtime food therapy session. Stir fried broccoli and small roasted potatoes last week. But I don’t get to see those wins yet – only reported via email and in the empty food cups returned home at the end of the day. It’s a process.

I’m just so grateful for his lovely and patient and wise food therapists. For finding them in the first place. Who knew there were people who specialize in this? I didn’t until February this year. I’m grateful for my friends who rejoice with me when I tell them the boy ate cereal with milk or pancakes and don’t laugh at me for being so excited. They’ve walked this road with me too, supported me, listened to me and now they celebrate with me. As do all the people who work with our boy at school and at before and after school care. But mostly I so grateful for my boy, who trusts us to help him.

And it is helping. All this has not only brought new foods into his life, he eats more consistently now. He has more of an appetite now that he isn’t so scared of food. He’s sleeping better, no more night time waking in a panic, running in to our room. Better eating and sleeping means better behaviour most of the time and for him, an easier time at self-regulating. So everyone around him is more relaxed, he’s more relaxed and happier. That’s the best part. He’s a happier boy these days. That is the best win.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

cause for celebration

It has been a good couple of weeks around our house. Sunny weather tempted us outside, to the garden center and into the garden, digging, planting, dreaming of warm days outside but this week the rain came back. Like most, I’m refusing to put back the winter layers so huddle under blankets waiting for more sunshine.

 The boy had great success this week with his food. He’s up to half an egg (scrambled) and yesterday managed a whole bowl of cereal with milk. On top of the pancake win a couple of weeks ago and I’m starting to feel a bit optimistic that one day, we will all be able to eat the same meal for lunch or dinner sometimes.

And in general, the past few weeks have been easier all around. The level of rushing here and there hasn’t changed but the boy seems happier and more able to regulate his moods, and day by day we are better able to read him and help him before things go sideways.

His most recent adventure is fencing lessons. I admit it was with much trepidation I signed him up for 6 sessions. But the opportunity was not to be missed – lessons in a time frame that worked for us, an instructor with much fencing experience on the world stage, and the focus on eye-hand co ordination, balance and core control all with the hook of sword play to interest the boy all seemed to align. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. The first lesson went well although it is always hard to tell from our non-communicative boy. He told me all about the 3 types of swords and that they don’t have a button on the end but something else that sounds exactly like a button.  Deep down inside I think I’m a bit jealous – I admit to wanting to learn to fence and shoot bows and arrows. Is there a yearning to be a warrior woman? The closest I get is warrior pose in the occasional yoga class.
Spring means the start of field hockey as well, another sport with sticks. This year I’m running around the field with the boys to help the coach corral the 13 boys. So I’m really hoping for sunny Friday afternoons for the next several weeks.

With all the running around, dinner has been fairly uninspired. For the most part it has been easy to throw together meals – eggs on toast, soup, salads, sausages, pork or halibut burgers, etc. A few weeks ago I got inspired to make some treats for a friend’s new dog. So I baked up some doggie treats following this recipe from Cesar the Dog Whisperer and reports are that the dog loved them. I made them squirrel shaped as I don’t have a small bone cookie cutter – the options were sheep, snail, pig or squirrel. The boy and I both thought squirrel would be the best.
Here is how I made them:
Cesar’s Basic Dog Biscuit (from here)
2 ½ c whole wheat flour (1 used about 1 ¾ c spelt flour and ¾ c oat flour)
½ tsp salt
1 egg
½ c chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Heat the chicken stock. Add the stock to the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Knead until a dough forms (~ 3 minutes) and then roll out to about ½” thick. Cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes.
cookies packed for shipping


Sunday, March 30, 2014

broccoli love

I guess it was fitting that the week we added raw broccoli to the boy's food list (he likes raw veggies much better than cooked), I found a broccoli recipe that we adults love. LOVE. I even, this week, made a huge batch for a potluck and it got rave reviews there as well.
I prefer the florets slightly smaller than I made them here so that is how I make it now

Usually, my broccoli consumption is entirely dependant on a pairing with cheese of some sort, as in broccoli in cheddar sauce or as broccoli cauliflower in blue cheese sauce over rice (a Delia Smith recipe from her How to Cook series that I made for years). This one comes from Molly at remedial eating and is delicious. The first time I made it, it was inhaled so I doubled up on the broccoli for the second time out and we got enough for leftovers.

Asian Broccoli with Cashews (adapted very slightly from remedial eating)
2 lbs of broccoli, cut into florets and the stalks cut into half inch pieces
1 tbsp red miso (the original calls for 2 tbsp white miso which I didn't have)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-4 tsp grated ginger (this is optional, I left it out for the potluck and it was still wonderful)
1 c roasted, salted cashews, chopped coarsely
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the broccoli in salted water for about 6 minutes and then drain well. While the broccoli is cooking, add miso, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger to a small jar. Shake well to mix.

When the broccoli is drained, add it to a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the broccoli and mix well with hands or salad tongs. Add cashews, sesame seeds and spring onions and mix again. Serve warm or cold.
Asian broccoli served with bento pork - a great combination

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's been a while

Sorry for dropping off the screen for so long. We've been busy with stuff - work, school, homework, soccer, swimming, loose teeth ( a certain boy has lost 2 so far this week), birthdays, parties, etc.

felt Christmas decorations

shark birthday cake for boy's 8th birthday

pals test paper boats at the beach

warrier boy at the beach

But mostly what has been consuming my thoughts and any spare energy I have is something that came onto our radar last summer. A couple of lovely people working with our boy at his school suggested that our boy might be on the autism spectrum, so began a new path for us. We recently had the "official" determination in the form of an assessment which did confirm that our boy is indeed on the spectrum. What used to be called aspergers and now is part of the autism spectrum disorder. As with anything, this brings positives (provincial funding for support for our boy and an upgrade in support at school) and negatives. So far, to be fair, most of the negatives are in my head as most people we've opened up to about this have been so understanding and helpful and supportive. With the benefit of financial support, we decided to tackle one of our long standing issues with the boy - his eating. We found an exceptional group of women whose job it is to help children with eating issues. And in the few weeks since we started the therapy, we have been amazed by our boy's progress.

It has been, fingers crossed, mostly good days lately. As we get to know what works with the boy and what doesn't we are navigating our way through. And spring is on its way!