Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat!

And here is what happens on Halloween {in under an hour} when you move to a big suburban neighborhood with a gazillion neighbors:

I refer you to the Sugar Witch plan.  Happy trick-or-treating to you and your kids!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Saturday Night as the Duggars

Have you ever watched Nineteen Kids and Counting?  When we used to have cable, I loved that show.  On Saturday night, we were babysitting for my cousin's two girls.  They were supposed to go out to dinner with their grandparents while we went to church, but they begged to come with us.  Who can say no to kids begging to go to church?  So off we went, looking a little like the Duggars.  We loaded up our minivan to full capacity with two seven-year-olds, a six-year-old, a five-year-old and a four-year-old. Duggar kids need a name that starts with a "J", so here are J-relia, Janna, and Java.

We're thrifty like the Duggars too.  Note that Anna's wearing a lovely dress I recently bought at a garage sale for a dollar. These girls were washed up, dressed up, revved up and ready to go.  Maybe a little too revved up, I was thinking. When we arrived, the three girls got ahead of us and marched into church by themselves, right up to the very front row.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little exposed sitting up there, but like well-behaved Duggar children, these five managed to make it through the entire service without incident.  And this morning, while our family was at hockey practice, J-relia and Java, I mean, Aurelia and Ava, went to church again with their parents.  Yep, that's how we roll around here -- just like the Duggars.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

You Just Never Know

Christian is definitely a finicky eater, but I've always counted my blessings in the fact that he likes many kinds of fruits and vegetables.  Lately however, he's been rejecting anything with skin, like grapes, peppers, and unpeeled apples.  He used to love all three of these things, so I've really been at a loss as to what to put in his lunch.  I mean, how many days in a row can the kid eat PBJ, a banana, chips and yogurt for lunch?  Anything else I put in his lunch goes untouched.  My goal is to go for high protein lunches with lots of fruit and vegetables and less sugar and refined carbs.  This has been working great with Ehren and Anna, but now that Christian is on strike against every plant product with skin, I'm at a loss.  Did I also mention that he has never eaten tomatoes, carrots, celery, raisins or craisins?  The other day, I had a little talk with him: "Christian, you know your body needs fruits and vegetables.  What can I put in your lunch besides bananas?"  His answer was "How about peas?"

He wanted the bagged sugar snap peas they sell at Costco.  So Friday night after work, I stopped at Costco for peas and some other groceries.  I also brought home a hot pizza.  When I got home, I thought the kids would be so excited about the pizza, but as I unpacked the groceries from Costco, they spied the bag of sugar snap peas.  Almost all together, they yelled, "PEAS!" and lunged for them like they were a hot fudge sundae.  Somebody asked in a desperate tone, "Mom, can we have some?"  When I casually told them "sure," they all started tearing at the bag grabbing handfuls of peas. They left the pizza sitting unopened on the table and even passed up a carton of fresh raspberries. Apparently they've really been missing Costco peas for the last five months while we've been eating out of the garden.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's the Little Things

It's the little things.  It always has been.  When Ehren and Christian were tiny little month-early newborns, it was the first time we got the ok to let them wake up on their own at night instead of waking them up to feed every four hours.  Then there was the first time they {and we} slept 6 hours in a row.  A little while later, it was when they were big enough to nurse in bed with me.  Imagine, I could feed them and sleep at the same time!  Farther down the road, it was when they could hold their own bottles.  Then they grew into toddlers and could play with each other {without needing so much parental attention}.  Maybe it was because we were first-time parents or maybe it was because they were twins, but every little milestone felt like such a major victory.

Tonight we passed another of those little milestones.  Anna and I were playing Boggle Junior when I mentioned that everyone's fingernails needed to be cut.  A few minutes later, I looked up to see Christian clipping his nails.  On his own, he'd gone to get the clippers and started clipping his own nails.  No assistance or intervention from me {other than redirecting him to clip over the trash can} and the kid clipped all ten of his nails.  Woohooo!  Am I the only one who hates clipping {60!} nails?  This coming from a kid who was in OT working on fine motor skills just two short years ago.  Little thing.  Major victory.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Almond Poppy Seed Muffins

I'm definitely in fall cleaning mode, even in the pantry.  So, in an attempt to use up the poppy seeds my Czech au pair Bara bought last year {for one of her many delicious Czech cooking projects}, the kids and I made almond poppy seed muffins.

I'm not an expert baker, but these were pretty tasty.

I had to make two versions, some with almonds on top, as shown above, and some with sugar on top, because my kids turn their noses up at the only nutritious part of the these muffins, the raw almonds on the top.

Almond Poppy Seed Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons almond extract
sugar or raw almonds to sprinkle on top (optional)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix all ingredients until just blended.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners or butter and flour each muffin cup.  Spoon batter into muffin cups.  Sprinkle the muffin tops with sugar or raw almonds.  Bake for 20-24 minutes.  Makes 12 jumbo muffins, 18 medium muffins, or 3 pans of mini muffins. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rules of Engagement

As I've said before, Christian has a lot of trouble getting out the words he wants to say.  He's not smooth.  He doesn't have great volume control when he talks.  His voice sounds a little flat and nasal.  He often uses words that are close, but not quite right.  For example, tonight he asked Dan, "How many grouse did you catch?"  Ehren jumped right in to correct him with "You mean shoot."  And then later, he was watching a show about stingrays, and he told me the divers were "just behind the surface of the water."  Of course he meant they were just under the surface.  To further complicate things, he's often got a shoe loose, or his pants twisted, or his pant leg tucked into a sock, or something on his face.  These issues don't win him respect or friends on the playground. 

This afternoon, we biked over to our neighborhood playground.  When we arrived, there were a lot of kids playing {which makes my kids happy}.  I sat on the sidelines playing a game on my iPod, but you know that we moms of kids on the spectrum are sneakily {I hope} hyper-observant of what social interactions may or may not be going on with our kids.  Christian wants so much to play with other kids and have them like him, so he was going overboard talking to one or two of the kids.  Listening to him talk, I'm always holding my breath and silently hoping for him.  I heard some good stuff, like Christian telling another kid what school he goes to.  He was also trying to tell this kid about one of his classmates who knows karate.  Then he was trying to show him a karate move {I don't think this was going smoothly, but I couldn't really see}.  Then there was some chasing around, Christian chasing another kid.  Not sure what that was about.  Meanwhile, Anna was busy playing with a younger girl, and I didn't hear Ehren saying much. 

All of a sudden, the whole group of kids packed up and left.  I didn't even realize they were all there together.  I don't think their decision to leave had anything to do with my kids.  Whoever was in charge decided it was time to go, but here's how things went down.  Christian said, "All the kids are gone." {and here comes the kicker}  Ehren replied, "And it's probably because of you."  Pause.  "You know, because you were chasing them around all the time or something." 

I find it interesting {or alarming} that Ehren is realizing more and more that Christian sounds and acts different.  It's the first time I've heard Ehren directly blame Christian for a social situation gone wrong.  The thing is, is that it's true.  Ehren definitely blends in with other kids better.  I didn't say anything to the boys about it.  I'm just not sure how to parent here.  I want Christian's social awareness to grow, but I don't want him to be hurt or give up or lose his confidence.  The funny thing is that although Ehren sounds smarter on the playground, Christian actually outperforms him in academics {slightly}.  I'm truly grateful to report that my three are still as tight as ever, but we will see how the differences continue to play out as they grow.  I always remind them that we're all on the same team, and as a family, it's important to stick together.  I hope it sticks.

Day Off Musings

I'm so happy to write that I am at the start of a four-day weekend {for both the kids and me}!  For the last few days, people keep asking me, What are you going to do?  Really?  It's a no brainer for me.  Nothing!  Just be home with my three kids.  Maybe take on a few housecleaning projects.  Play some games, blog, whatever!  That's right.  It's MEA, and it's the first time that I've been home with the kids for the whole MEA weekend.  We don't have to be anywhere or do anything, and that is such freedom.  {I did get an emergency phone call from work already this morning, but it was just a quick ten-minute consult, and everyone was back on their merry way again.}

Yesterday on the way home from school, Ehren reported to me:  It's going to freeze tonight.  My teacher said so.  So we picked all peppers and tomatoes, and lo and behold, this morning, there was ice on our patio table.

Amazingly {again}, our pepper garden, which is just below the frozen patio table on our deck, did not freeze.  This is the second frost we've had, and everything but our pepper and tomato gardens froze.  The rocks around them must heat up during the day and then radiate heat at night, or maybe it's the shelter of the nearby house.  I don't know, but they're still hanging in.

In case you were wondering, yes, those are unpicked habanero peppers in the picture.  They are all Dan's.  I have nothing to do with that section of our garden.  Speaking of Dan, he shot two grouse on his first afternoon hunting yesterday.   Soon we'll be having grouse wild rice soup.  Well, off to enjoy the rest of the day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Family Portrait

Today I got a cute new picture of the kids, one where they're all smiling.  Too bad it won't work for this year's Christmas card.

Anna brought home this picture she drew today.  It's Christian, Anna, and Ehren.  I asked if Ehren and Christian were bringing her flowers, but she said, "No, they just picked them for you Mom."  She was also sure to explain that she "messed up a little on Ehren's hair" (notice, he's starting to have long hair growing out on one side).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Week in Numbers

227 jalapenos picked and roasted (from one plant!)

120 hops on the pogo stick, a new personal record for Ehren (and just 186,033 more to go to break the world record).

Two kids started hockey.

One dad became head coach.

One mom is still running errands on her bike as daylight allows.

One son begged me not to change the channel when Victory Garden was on PBS.

Two S+ (handwriting), one S- (art), six stars (homework), nine A's and two B's came home in Christian's backpack on Friday.

Two S (handwriting and art), eight A's, two B's, one F (spelling), five stars (homework) came home in Ehren's backpack on Friday.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not To Be Outdone

Ehren, Anna and I went for a little bike ride in our neighborhood today.  Knowing that I'm actually a botanist cleverly disguised as a software developer, Ehren said to me, "Mom, did you know that almonds are in the Rose Family?"  I didn't know that.  He told me he read it in his latest National Geographic Kids magazine.  I told him some other plants that were also in the Rose Family, such as apples and strawberries.

While Ehren and I were busy impressing each other with our knowledge of the Rose Family, Anna chimes in, "Mom, did you know socks are in the Clothes Family?"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Working out the Wiggles

I am always looking for ways to motivate the kids to get outside and move.  Their muscles need it, and they need the sensory input.  A couple of months ago, we found this at a garage sale.

Mom, we have pogo sticks at school, but only the older kids get to play with them at recess.  Please can we buy it?  Please?

It was definitely worth whatever I paid for it.  I think of it as really cheap OT.  It works their core (at least it seems to), and improves balance and strength.

After two months, the kids are still not bored with it, and it really helps them work out those wiggles after school {or anytime!}.  Here's the Ninja move.  Did you know there were Ninja moves you could do on a pogo stick?  Me either.

The challenge is to stay on as long as possible. Ehren's current record is over fifty hops, Christian over twenty, and Anna, well, a few.  But honestly, it's all fun.  Go on.  Get your kids a pogo stick. {BTW, are you supposed to wear helmets with these?  Enlighten me, dear readers.}  Best toy ever.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Note of Encouragement

Look what came home in Ehren's backpack today!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Are you sick of hearing about handwriting yet?  Well, I forgot to mention that last week, Ehren got his first S+ in handwriting.  So Ehren and Christian have each earned one S+ in handwriting, and I'm happy.  Now they know, and I know, that they can do it.

Today, we got the boys' midterm report cards.  We've been working so hard on handwriting, so it was good to see them both get their first "S" in handwriting instead of the usual S-.  But holy buckets, they have C's in other subjects like Social Studies and Grammar.  Uh oh.  I wasn't expecting that {and we are still in the first grade review stage of second grade}.  I guess those are the next areas to start tackling.  Grammar is going to be tough because a lot of it relies on things sounding right -- picking the right word or part of speech.  Since Christian's spoken grammar is still off, I suspect it's hard for him to know what sounds "right." 

The list of things to work on is long.  But even without constant reminders, Ehren and Christian are still trying hard on each handwriting sheet.  They care.  And that's the most important thing.  Maybe, if Dan and I can help them find a way to carry this over to other subjects, things will start looking up.  It's not just a saying:   Attitude is everything.  For me.  For them.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

You Know It's Fall When...

You glimpse kids hugging pumpkins

or picking apples

or ooohhhing and aaahhhing over a perfect find

or devouring that just-picked apple with gusto!

Since the boys were otherwise occupied today {Ehren and Christian went to a classmate's birthday party and Dan played in a hockey tournament} and since we still don't have any fruit trees of our own, Anna and I did a little "apple research" at a local orchard.  Hope you're enjoying a beautiful fall day too!