Thursday, August 25, 2011

Down the Tubes

First, let me start by saying that this post has nothing to do with anything being flushed down a toilet. We did have a little incident recently which involved a small bottle of aloe, left by the sink, being poured out so that Kiddo could play with the bottle, but that's not the topic of this post, either. But what was behind the Pouring Out of the Aloe, I am dearly appreciating.

What I am celebrating today is Kiddo's sheer inventiveness. For the last day and a half, our zinc washtub has been filled with formerly-sudsy water and all manner of construction on a marble run we built for it. At the top of the three-based run sits an underwater rescue mini-sub, it's hatch door open for water to be poured into before it goes down the tubes, or rather, the marble-run sections. Water goes down a couple of pieces, and is then collected into a blue plastic bowl perched on another part. Below that is a yellow cup, ready to catch run-off. There have been several incarnations of how/where things go that I find intriguing. At one point, our wine-vacuum suction pump (you know, that plastic "t" shaped thing you use to suck the air out of wine bottles) was at the top, for "a pump" for him to pull up and push down on. As I type, pieces from his Tubation toy are being attached, since the cardboard tube he'd brought from his room did as predicted, sogging out in the water. A funnel is requisitioned from my preschool sensory prop bag. (Yes, I'm one of those teacher-parents...in my brain, living with a four year old, preschool is never out, summer or no, and the prop bag never gets put away.) He's figured out a way to wedge the tubes into the marble race and all manner of tubes are being combined, never mind that the holes in some tubes will send water flying out sideways! instead of straight down. I've suggested only using pieces which have two holes instead of three or four, which will eliminate my chant of "get a rag, please, to wipe up that wet floor".

When does it end? When does his brain stop? It's so subjective, what kids want to learn. Trace letters? Not so much. Build a working, nonsensical "fountain" which he calls a "Big Moon with Water in It" and he's busy with trial and error, adjusting and readjusting, having the time of his life and learning, I believe, what his brain was wanting to learn right now. With this downtime to play in, he's noticeably more cooperative and so much happier overall. He also seems more engaged when I ask him to do basic problem-solving. I don't believe this is coincidence.

We'll  have time for workbooks and such while we go out for meals. The last day or so remind me of how busy and adult-oriented we have been. My adult brain, logical and seeking order, would tell him right now to put away many of the items he's pulled out of the bag at present, but my heart, in conjunction with my teacher-brain, understands that this is just what he needs, as he tells a cup and some chopsticks "okay, now you can play water". He is loving his world right now, and I am loving to watch his love of it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ten Minutes to Tell You

that Packing For The Beach is too much silliness. We head out tomorrow for Seal Rock, home of tide pools and we'll have to see what else. Kiddo and I spent a morning in the garden, preparing the new beets and blue star juniper for our absence. I'll have to build a towel-tent over the beets, so they don't bake before we get back.

In the meantime, I should be folding laundry. Showers done, snack eaten, 10:50 a.m., Joe has taken Kiddo to Trader Joe's for our in-town shopping and to gas up the car. I wonder about packing for a messy kid; he's already on his second pair of clothes, having played in the 'ick' this morning. Thank goodness those were what he wore as pajamas, or I'd have ever more laundry to deal with. How many pairs of pants to take to the beach? Could I pack eighteen-thousand? Because then I know I'd have enough. I suppose three a day will have to suffice, and we'll put the rain pants on over the other ones, just to keep things simpler. Thankfully, we have two pairs of those. Endless socks, jackets, tee shirts, etc.

One thing we must buy is a proper sand shovel. I have small metal headed/wooden-handled children's shovels and trowels for garden work, but nothing that's salt water safe. Cups and scoops to pack, and baggies for collecting rocks and shells, which is by far my favorite pastime. I can't get enough of them. They'll likely go into the rain garden--oops! I meant dinosaur garden-- in the backyard on our return.

There's so much to do, and I'm so excited. This is our one 'quasi-big' trip we are taking this summer. We've rented the upstairs studio of a house, so we'll be trying something new. No range to make my tea on, but hotel rooms don't have those either, so we aren't missing anything other than half the cost. Trips to the Rogue Brewery for dinner, per our usual, will send us up to Newport in the evenings. They have a great seafood linguine I might have on both nights. We aren't even scoping around for other restaurants--why bother when the beer is excellent and the food is better than average pub fare?

Looking forward to tooling down the highway on the coastline tomorrow, getting hide-and-peek glimpses of the ocean, stopping to see what we shall sea. Kiddo's into it too, more so than years before. We'll send a few postcards out, take some pictures and do what I've been longing to do for a while: spend time as a family without the distractions of home or chores, just being in nature! Bliss!

And special thanks to our friends for house-sitting! Gus will be so happy to have company.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Repeat After Me: a Lesson from Obi-Wan

Do you remember the first time you watched Star Wars? One of the coolest scenes for me, as a kid, is when Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi are tooling around Mos Eisley with R2-D2 and C3PO in the back of Luke's landspeeder, and some Imperial Stormtroopers stop to question them. "These aren't the droids you're looking for" says Kenobi, waving his hand in a mystical way, prompting the guard to repeat after him, "These aren't the droids we're looking for", believing it himself.

Jedi Mind Tricks or useful parenting tool?

Now, I don't have the Force within me enough to do that sort of trick, but there's something to having your kid repeat what you say, especially when their little heads are off somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.

Some kids are a bit dreamy, and when we tell them something-Poof!- off it goes, into the ether. Some kids fall into a habit of having a hard time attending immediately to directions; once they know they've got our attention (we are looking at them, we just requested they do something), they distract us with what they want to show us. I'm not saying that these bids for attention are wrong, but there are times that "first things, first" is necessary. Show me how cute you are doing somersaults after you've gone potty. I'd love to hear your story about the dinosaurs, and right now, we need to get our shoes on, and I know you can't talk to me and do that at the same time, so shoes first.

What's a mom to do? Our kids love us, want to engage us, and have completely different agendas than we have, say more than 75% of the time or so. Let's face it-- I don't want to put my kid in time out for not listening the first time, and likely, neither do you. It's almost an impairment, trying to correct their 'not listening' retroactively. And sometimes, we just don't have the time.

All this in mind, I've started having Kiddo repeat me, and this is working like a charm. Dare I say, like a Jedi Mind Trick. It's easy. I make sure that I engage him first, get his attention by attending to what he's doing or thinking about, then precede my request with "You say:" and then give the request in their first-person wording. This is how it looks at our house:

Mama: "Kiddo, you have all of your marbles in the bowl. What's going on with them?"

Kiddo: "I'm giving my dinosaurs some food. The marbles are the food. They like it."

Mama: "Wow! They have a lot of food!" (interest having been shown, mutual attention toward each other) "It's time to go to the store. Would you like to pick out a dino buddy to go to the store?"
(transitioning technique here, acknowledging his play and allowing him to continue it in a different setting.)

Kiddo: "Yes. I'll bring parasauralophus."

Mama: "Great. Let's put him right here. Now you say to me: 'It's time to put on my shoes.'"

Kiddo: "It's time to put on my shoes."

Mama: "'I will put them on right now.'"

Kiddo: "I will put them on right now."

Mama: "Great. Let's get those shoes on!"

Now, while it seems cookie-cutter easy, please understand that the transition technique of extending his activity played an equal role in his willingness to cooperate. I'm being respectful of what he's intellectually engaged in. This is relatively easy to do with a little imagination, by the way, while kids are young and while they are involved in free play; children watching tv or playing games on the computer or board games with each other will require more parental help to transition away from because their attention is on something fixed, less portable. You will need to show the attention, help them finish, and only after that try the 'repeat after me' technique.

It helps to keep directions in the affirmative, and much like parenting our youngest, we want to use positive language whenever we can, so as not to reinforce the negative, because kids still mostly hear the end of what we say to them. "Repeat after me" can be helpful in refocusing a child whose actions need to change. Here are a few examples.

If the child is running around the room like a crazy person:
Not: "I will not run around the room like a crazy person."
Instead: "I will use my walking feet in the house."

If the child is taking a toy from a friend:
Not: "I will not take the toy away from him."
Instead, use: "I will find another toy now. I will have a turn when he's done."

If the child is yelling:
Not:  "I will not yell and make mommy's ears hurt."
Instead, try: "I can go in my room to yell. I can use a quiet voice with Mama."

This also works well for precorrecting too. At the library: "I will use my whisper voice." At the store: "I will hold your hand or I can ride in the cart/stroller." This may help the child internalize expectations in a positive way.

Just in case some of this sounds suspiciously familiar, remember that many counselors, therapists and self-help books suggest positive affirmations because, truly, they do work if practiced regularly. Repeating positive directions is exactly the same thing, only we aren't standing in the mirror like Stuart Smalley saying: "Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!" We're saying: "It's time to get my coat on now."


Overall, this is just one more tool in the parenting toolbox, nonetheless, it is a pretty friendly one and I like those best. Of course, if you have a kid heading for a tantrum, or if you've been experiencing a spate of power struggles, give it a few tries and then reevaluate if this is working. Some kids who are in a period of digging their heels in aren't going to be be so easily led, and may consciously work not to internalize your phrasing, but to contradict it. So, like many of the parenting tools, this won't be successful 100% of the time. However, I've found it's been working really well for us over the last few days and wanted to share while it was on my mind. We all can use a little reminding of what's in the 'toolbox', and please, feel free to share any of your favorite friendly techniques in the comments. I like to learn from you readers, too!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

To Form or Inform: Technology and the Family

This morning, I sit quietly with a cup of tea. The back door is open, the screen latched open too, so that Gus, our gray gentleman kitty, can go to and fro and he pleases. Out the front window I can see the purple spires of the butterfly bush and all the green of our little ginkgo tree and the neighbors yard, soft and melty through the old glass in the picture window.

All in all, I feel at peace. I have projects and at least part of a day ahead of me. My dear neighbors have taken Kiddo on a hike with them. I'm grateful for this in two ways: first, that he has some good time out in nature with people who genuinely love him and second, that I have some time to think quietly and share a few thoughts.

Lately, I've been giving some serious time and attention to thinking about technology and finding balance in this area with my family. This laptop is a tricky device in that it promises a sense of connectivity, immediately. Access to the Internet, for me, is something that I have to be thoughtful, even careful, about. This summer has been a time of reflection in this regard.

Over the last year or so, I became rather engrossed with a parenting forum. I've written posts about the forum, about needing breaks, about how to post or answer questions there. During my time teaching preschool last year, after I said goodbye to the children, I would be craving adult contact, and the forum was always available. While my friends were picking up their own kids from preschool, putting their little ones down for naps, or working and unavailable, the forum was right there, virtually at my fingertips. I believe I gave some good parenting advice.

But what I also noticed, over time, was that being on the forum was having a negative impact on my own ability to be a good parent. "Just another minute, and then we'll...". I'm not proud of this, and truthfully, I'm a bit ashamed of it. After all, I did know better, right? It's not like I'm not smart enough to understand that my son needed me more than these parents with questions did. A week or so after my son's preschool ended, it dawned on me that participating in this forum was actually making me a lesser parent.

And so, I quit. I haven't gone back since. Our summer is better for it.

My desire is always to find balance, and with the convenience of the laptop, it takes more effort to ensure that technology is put in its proper place. I'm not a complete Luddite here, however my ideal role of technology in family life is not to form, but solely to inform. Would I throw out the Internet? Never. However, my ideal role of the Internet is that it helps us as a family without shaping us. I'm hoping that nature and a life of learning, of hands-on experiences in real time, do that shaping. For example, the role of the technology in regard to our upcoming family vacation, to me, has already been played out: we've found our lodgings for the trip. We will not bring the laptop with us. We will bring my husband's cellphone, but we will not be texting anyone or making a lot of calls. I could go online again before the trip to print out tide tables, but then again, if I do that, I miss that experience of getting a guide at one of the small shops and seeing the actual people that live in the area I'm visiting. I'm sure there's an app for that (tide tables), but we are sticking with our simple pay-as-you-go phones, and I am not sure that missing the human aspect of being in a particular place is attractive to me, anyway.

This summer, I have wanted to delve into some critical thinking about how, in my family's future, we will balance the informing/forming potentials of the Internet and technology. Over the last few weeks, I read "Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology Than We Do From Each Other" by Sherry Turkle.  This book takes the reader from through the author's concern that we, as a society, have gone from the idea that "technology is better than nothing" to the feeling that "technology is better than something". Confusing to consider? Turkle's book focuses on several aspects of the technological world: she explores the interactions of sociable robots and their ability for affect, which creates complicated relationships between both humans and these robots as well as these same humans and others. The human preference for the ease of 'relationship' with sociable robots, which demand nothing and yet perform the task of empathetic listening, is worthy of our concern. However, so is the downgrading of the human relationship, courtesy of the Internet, instant messaging and texting. I myself have found that my choice to opt out of Facebook has left me with a very impersonal email in-box most days. During a single day, I will receive perhaps four or five emails from actual human beings who know me, and up to twenty or so from various organizations.

Because I have chosen not to participate in Facebook, I think it is fair to consider myself out of the loop. While many of my friends expect that they are reading each others posts and being kept abreast of what's going on, I find myself longing for real-time phone conversations or nights out with these same people. I don't want to know the trivial, surfacey stuff fit for group consumption: I want to know the real person, the real you. And creating this boundary around technology in my life has had its consequences: I find out after others that people have their babies or that they got the job or that other things of interest have happened. No one just calls each other to talk anymore.

Perhaps we have forgotten how? Perhaps some of us have forgotten what it's like to have a good, meaty conversation with long pauses as we think of a reply, or wait until our own voice is clear enough to say "I'm sorry" to someone's telling of disappointment or to smile and giggle and cheer over the phone with them when the news is good. I have relatives who prefer texting these days, and it makes me sad, because I miss really finding out what's going on in their lives. I miss the richness of those "mundane" conversations, because before texting, I knew more about them than I do now. The end result, though, is that I don't text, and they've lost the desire to talk on the phone, which leaves us at somewhat of a social impasse, much in the way Facebook has.

What struck me, time and again, in Turkle's book, was the repeated assertion of interviewed teens and college students that they would someday have to "learn how to have a conversation". Historically, we humans first shared information through oral histories, storytelling, and conversation. There was a group history, a history within families, stories we referred to and understood collectively. I see that disappearing, the work to keep these traditions alive is considered to be novel. This should not be the case.

I'm still wondering about what my family stories will be to my son. What, when he gets older, I want him to remember about my own family. It's a complicated muddle, to be sure, but some of those stories are simple enough to tell him now. Both his mother and father were born on islands, far across the world from each other. My island was made from fire, from molten rock, and although I have been assimilated into the mainland white culture, the island is in my bones in a way that I cannot explain. The Pacific Ocean is part of me, part of my soul, in a way I cannot describe, the light on the water and in the sky so different than anything we can know here. My husband comes from a much tamer place, an island in the Atlantic, already part of the culture he would live in for the rest of his life. This is just the beginning of our stories...

I want to get outside, now, before my day disappears, but I will be coming back to this and linking this topic together in some way. Like the birds and the bees, there can't be just one conversation about the role of technology in our families, they must be ongoing, as needed, as we grow.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lessons from the Compost Pile

This morning found us happy to be alive. Kiddo was joyful, busy with a myriad of marbles. Joe was still home, so I went out to water the garden while life was cool and quiet. Thirty minutes of lugging the watering can back and forth (selective watering; I am not spending money to water the weeds) and then coming back in, kissing sweet husband goodbye as he headed out to work. We made scrambled eggs and I put the kettle on for my usual morning cup of tea, Kiddo at my heels.

"Can we go outside to pick berries?"

Certainly. We hadn't picked for a couple of days, which is my favorite way to go about berry picking-- coming at the Bushes of Plenty. I took my cup of tea out to the shady backyard, grateful for the overcast morning. That dear boy and I collected about a cup of blueberries from our little dwarf plants, which of course make smaller berries, then cozied in with the bees to pick at golden raspberries. The bees were busy pollinating our second round of berry flowers on canes that are reaching the roof of the garage these days. I think these are the tallest canes on that plant in my memory. We pick these raspberries not when they are gold, like you might find at the store, but when they are salmony pink and succulent and heavenly. Standing in the backyard, watching the bees dance on the robust lavender flowers, I felt satisfied deep down in my soul.

This morning was a gift. Berries in hand, we walked over to our awesome neighbor's house to share the bounty and drop Kiddo off for a playdate. Ang and his daughter, Wonder Girl, took Kiddo off on an adventure and I was left to my own thoughts for the next two hours. In the front garden, I trimmed off the dying daisies to make room for the fresher ones to shine. Old, spent alstromeria stems were pulled out to make way for the smaller new plants to grow, and a lot of iris greens were hacked down so I could have access to the green beans and tomatoes which are now loving the summer heat and producing prolifically. Although it was good to be able to see the ground that needed work, to see the spaces that needed tending, I felt a little sad that so much green had to go. Somehow, though, I thought that this was the beautiful thing about the process-- sometimes you have to clear out the pretty distractions to see what really needs one's attention. Consoling myself, I clipped an enormous bunch of deep purple butterfly bush flowers and brought them in and the house began to smell like a flower shop.

When Kiddo was dropped off, we ate lunch and then headed to the backyard. The sandbox was his busy haven and I addressed a task that had been nagging at me, namely getting the composter squared away. The lemon balm I had planted around it as a screen had begun to flower, and as much as I love lemon balm, it has the propensity to become a tenacious weed, so it had to be cleared out before it went to seed. Finally revealed, the two compartments of the composter were in a yin/yang disposition: on one side was the current compost pile, dried yard debris bitter and neglected atop a rich pile of organic matter; on the other, a small family of pumpkin plants had started to grow, green and lush. I pulled out all but one pumpkin plant on that one side, and then began to turn the decomposing matter onto itself. I got stuck; the brittle dried plants wouldn't mix with the brown goodness beneath. I decided not to worry about it at the present and got on to other task.

But Kiddo, sweet boy, found the goodness within. He told me "I want a worm". "Well, find one then."

Lesson Number One: Leaving a child to do it himself is the best first choice. I could have dug out a worm for him, but he was delighted in finding one himself. Then another. Then a bug that I wasn't sure was a biting bug or not.

Lesson Two: When in doubt, throw it back in. Sometimes, life is about taking chances, and sometimes, when you see warning signs, like yellow dots on the body of a curled-up something, it's good to let that little critter go. (Yellow, orange and red are nature's 'warning signs'. Heed the warning.)

Lesson Three: Perception is in the mind of the beholder. Kiddo walks up to me as I'm ripping dead clover out of the ground. "Mama!" he cries happily, holding his cupped hands out to show me, "Two worms are having a playdate!" He could have pretended the worms were fighting, or plain ol' wiggling but no, at the moment his beneficent mind had decided they were having a playdate.

Lesson Four: Alive or dead, everything needs water. This occurred to me later, when I'd taken stock of the dry debris. All living things need water. And to become 'live' soil, even the dead stuff needs water. The worms and slugs and snails aren't interested in dried up things, they want the juicy stuff. (Note to self: water your compost in summer!)

Lesson Five: Seek balance in all things. In this case, my compost pile is needing some green/brown (acid/alkaline) balance, so I'm heading up to the local coffee shop in the next couple days to get a big bag of grounds to add in.

and Lesson Six was learned earlier in the front yard, and proven again in back: Sometimes you have to clear out the pretty distractions to see what really needs one's attention. The lemon balm had been a too-effective screen. The citrusy scent and all the pretty green shielded me from seeing that the compost pile had needed my love.  And even if it's only a compost pile, when we do things with love, in love, they turn out so much better, even if only in our own hearts.

Nearly ten years ago, when my life was so different than it is now, beginning to work in my garden saved me. It gave me a purpose beyond what I was for other people. It gave me a chance to be quiet and reflect, to noodle on some of the bigger questions in my life and to face my feelings head on. It gave me a chance to make something real, to carve up a yard with a garden knife because the grass roots were so thick a shovel simply wouldn't go in. Every space in my gardens has been dug out, at least once, on my hands and knees with simple tools and a will that I never knew I had. Over time, thirty-plus rosebushes--and their thorns-- have been removed, replaced by less showy plants that can feed, and heal, and are a balm to my heart and a feast to my eyes and senses. Rich compost is the best love I can give them, the most nourishment I can offer. Composting is a practice to me, a way of life, returning to the garden what it has given to me without measure. A sustenance like no other.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

So, How Do You Like Them Apples Now?

Never a dull life with a four year old. Kiddo and his newest eating habits are keeping me on my toes. Only thing is, I don't want to do this dance.

It starts like this: I'm packing a snack and looking for a healthy something to go with the pistachios, rice crackers and cheese I've already thrown into the snack bag. "Hey Kiddo, do you want some apple or carrot?" He cheerfully replies "Apple!" with such a smile on his face, you'd think I'd offered him ice cream instead. So, off we go to the park for a playdate. He has some apple slices, a bit of the other offerings, and later, an almond butter and jelly sandwich I'd made for his lunch. The "ABJ" is his fail safe standby, usually eaten without complaint. Later in the stroller, as he's starting off a long days journey through the winter of his discontent (yep, even in summer), he whines at me that he's hungry. I offer what I have for him--apples. So what a surprise to hear "I don't like apples! I want ice cream!"

Okay, not really a surprise. Kiddo's testing our limits--and my patience--in a number of areas these days. While I know that deep down, this isn't about the food, this testing does seem to be focused around food at times. As evidenced above, even when I'm giving him a reasonable choice, he is unhappy with his selection and makes attempts to subvert the status quo. And while I'm a mom who is happy to give her kid ice cream sometimes, our exchange was certainly not endearing me to the idea that my kid should have ice cream at that moment. I realize 'should' had nothing to do with it, and contrary to some other moments, I was not inclined to go down the Empathy Road of relating to his desire to have ice cream. Sometimes, we parents just don't have it in us. Maybe I should have, too, but once again, the 'should' had nothing to do with the situation.

At dinner tonight was a repeat performance in declaring "I don't like...". Tonight he declared that the green beans, freshly picked from the garden and perfectly steamed "don't taste good". I was ready to just eat them off his plate, right then-- Fine, go ahead and dislike these heavenly string beans which you helped top and tail. I will eat them all, gladly. Mwah ha ha! And don't complain if I have to bust out some canned ones in the winter. You had your chance, mister! Joe suggested waiting until he was finished, just in case he got hungry and relented. Fat chance of that. In the end, Kiddo readily ate the tofu and rice and that was fine.

Right now, I'm glad we are sticking to some of the structure I created a long time ago. The idea, inspired by Ellen Satter, who writes about feeding children, is simply this: put three options on a plate and make sure that two of them are something that he usually will eat easily. And then, the kitchen is closed. No special meals, no concessions that take me out of my way. This is the standard, and most of the time, it works fine. There are meals that I know he doesn't enjoy, like grilled veggie skewers, and then I'll make some corn or offer some frozen peas, which he likes, but I'm not making a whole second meal. As a nanny, I learned the hard way that it is not in my DNA to be a short order cook on a regular basis. Sick kids-- I have some flex with that, and you are going to get lots of brothy stuff and applesauce. But on a daily basis, it's "the Three and the Two" and that's that.

And you know what? If he chooses to go to bed hungry, that's okay with me too. He's not going to starve himself to prove a point. I'm not trying to serve him octopus or monkey eyes; I am aware of his preferences and know that those two choices are really not pressing any of his food boundaries, so to speak. However, when  four year old is pressing boundaries in general, it sure can seem that I am indeed trying to feed him monkey eyes.

I have to be honest, most of the foods that kids like seriously gross me out. Their appalling sense of taste is brought to my attention time and again. The other night on Master Chef, kids had to vote for which they liked better: a 'nugget sandwich', deep fried and totally gross, or a grilled turkey burger. Even as a pescatarian, my vote would have gone straight to the turkey burger. Of course, the 'nugget' sandwich won by a landslide. While to me the words 'Nugget sandwich' sound like the punchline of a "What's Grosser than Gross?" slapdown, the kids loved it. Which just goes to show you that children have no taste and should not be allowed to make any culinary decisions until they understand and can execute a perfect julienne slice.

So, he doesn't like them apples. That's fine. I'm buying some strawberries tomorrow for a little diversity, and because I need a break on the digging in of heels around the apples. Lately, bananas have fallen out of favor. I think life's been a little too good these days for Kiddo, foodwise. We made that magnificent batch of blueberry zucchini bread; Joe indulged him with some chocolate bread the other day; he went to a birthday party a couple of days ago and had an ice cream cupcake-- lately, life's been filled with little, too-good treats. So, we're going to have to scale back for a while and let the pinnacle of sweets be some smoothie popsicles or other fruit-based goodies. Reestablish the baseline of what we normally eat.

It's not going to make everything better, but it's a start. And heck, I'll eat the apples. I still like them, anyways.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blueberry Zucchini Insanity

First, let me qualify the title of this post by stating up front that neither the blueberries or zukes are insane. I'm happy to be the one 'owning' the crazy.

Now, you might be asking "Hazel, what's so crazy goin' on at your place?" And then I'd point over to the oven where, on this 80-some-odd degree hot day, I am baking four mini-loaves of blueberry zucchini bread.

What on earth would have possessed me? Namely a zuke from the garden whose setting was on 'stealth grow'. That is to say, I looked at the golden little summer squash on Saturday morning and it was beautifully sized, perfect for grilling. Turn around again and Wham! we were the size of a loaf pan, which means not so good for cooking, but perfect for baking. Plus, Kiddo had picked a bowl of blueberries that needed using up. Add to that a Google search for a recipe*, and voila, a plan had formed.

I like plans. Frankly, I'm a bit adrift on those loose, unscheduled days. Last night I made up a calendar of the week, including Saturday as Joe will be off reading at a poetry gathering. Plugged in some activities: early gardening in the mornings, before it gets too hot; finishing our 'triceratops hat' (yes, I can make manifest darn near any "Kiddo Idea"); another trip to the zoo to see the robot dinosaurs before they leave... all good stuff. Then two playdates popped up today for later in the week and suddenly-- yeay!--structure. The bread prompted a walk to the store for applesauce and vegetable oil, so that filled in an hour for us. Now I just need to find a friend that's free to go out some evening this week and escape the home front. If this happens to be you, reading this, give me a call.

I might bring you some bread. Of course, you might get stuck with the 'just plain zucchini' loaf, because I didn't have enough blueberries to make the recipe verbatim, and threw some batter into one pan before folding the blueberries in. In any case, I'm sure it'll be great.

Checking the loaves in this heat is also a little crazy-feeling, not to mention Kiddo's keyboard has some pre-programmed tunes that he loves, which are making me a little nutty.

Which reminds me that the next time I make this, I might try some slivered almonds in the recipe. Mmmm....

*If you do try this recipe, check out the reviews below and hit the expanded view. People made great adaptations on the original. I used the half oil/half applesauce idea, as well as using whole-wheat flour to substitute half the flour, so it's got a little more health and oomph to it. And then I reduced the sugar by a half cup and used half white, half brown. Now I have to try the almond idea...when it's not 80 degrees outside!