Monday, May 26, 2008

internet porn and dessert

Congratulations to dw, who graduated *and* got The Job. Yahoo!
Now, I'm not a big fan of Naomi Wolf, but when I read an article about food allergic ladies who lunch (or possibly dine), I tossed aside my latest mountain of research and happily clicked around until I ended up here. It's a splendid article about what internet porn has done to sex, with a leetle snippet at the end about a woman who covers her hair after marriage (aka kisui rosh). The connection is a bit facile, but I nodded my happy way through - how about you?

And the connection to the food allergic? Well, not much, really. But the food activists among us will enjoy Wolf's comparison of stale internet porn to empty processed calories. Sometimes, as she points out, the real and blemished article has more flavor, more fun, and more...heat.

It's true for apples, so it must be true for oh, stretch marks? Hm. But enough about apples, let's talk about cookies. Gluten-free, oatmeal (I know, I know - there's a machloket) coconut cookies, to be precise.

I adapted this somewhat from (called there Wheat Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies). We don't do chocolate chips (the Man is quite allergic to chocolate), so this is a chocolate-free version.

Oatmeal-Coconut Cookies a.k.a,
the Mama's Remedy for the Amateur Politician
1 batch makes about 20-22 cookies (hard to count in my house, we might have made 24 but the boys kept popping into the kitchen and looking sneaky)

1/2 cup rice flour
3/4 cup oat flour (Arrowhead Mills is easiest, cheapest, and safe for the wheat allergic)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup plus 2 Tb brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup shredded dried coconut
3/4 cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats (wheat free, no worries about cross-contamination from the other Quaker products, I'm told)
1 tsp flaxmeal (ground flaxseed) plus 2 Tb hot water OR 1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2.5-3.5 Tb hot water, as needed for consistency
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tb softened (melted is okay) margarine/butter alternative (Fleishmann's Unsalted is safe for my crew, plus soy/corn allergic types, but see the anti-margarine note below)

Mix dry ingredients together, excepting the flaxmeal and oats - let those sit in a bowl with the various bits of hot water. While you assemble dry ingredients and wait for the oven to heat. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.

Mix dry ingredients, wet ingredients, oats and flaxmeal together. Drop 1 inch balls onto cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or so (depending on the heat of your oven), or until a light gold at the edges. Don't eat them right away, and certainly don't move them to a cooling rack immediately. Like most gluten-free, egg-free cookies, these may be so soft as to fall apart when they are fresh from the oven. Let them cool for 5 minutes on the tray before moving to the cooking rack, and they'll be just fine.

Optional: roll the uncooked cookies in turbinado sugar for some extra crunch.

Tip: not a fan of margarine? Following a suggestion from Zina, we just discovered this and have been replacing margarine with it. Solid at room temp, liquid when heated and deliciously flavored, coconut oil is a wonderful alternative cooking fat. Tree nuts and sesame are processed on the site, but the cleaning process is very aggressive - and the kosher symbol rare. We're giving this stuff a trial period, but it looks like a winner!

Did I say something about amateurish politics? Well, yes. More on this at some future date, when I've stopped seething. But I will say that the cookies are highly therapeutic. I was wishing for some today, when the Toddles decided to cop a faceful of hives from a banana muffin (and then a mouthful of Benadryl). That I'd baked. In my clean, Toddle-friendly kitchen.

Which means that the concept of Toddle-friendly has been revised (again), and I really have to get on the kid's mailing list. But first, I have to wait for the keeper of wisdom to wake up...he's been Benadrylized.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Calvin and his bat barf

The Eldest is now a delighted reader. Okay, so he got stuck on 'discrimination' last Sunday, but he nailed something equally tricky today. He's just exploding into the world of books. Which is good, because when the teachers warned us parents at the start of the year that not every kid would be reading by the end, we were all sure that OUR kid wasn't going to be the one. I do so love to be right. (Of course, he's three years behind me, so still. I get to be right and have angst. Perfection!)

He'll read shorter and longer paper books to the Toddles, to himself, and now...comics. Yep, the Eldest has discovered Calvin and Hobbes, and he's riveted. Delighted as I am to see him reading, I noted that he was also considering the use value of the comics.

I regretted deeply to inform him that, while Calvin can do or say any number of things (such as calling his dinner 'bat barf'), these were unlikely to be well recieved at Chez Imperfect. The Eldest considered, and solemnly agreed.

Still, I suspect it's a matter of time before we are calvined. After all, the other day I came upon the Toddles, and I'm nearly certain that the child was taking notes.

Oh, and what am I reading? Beyond mountains of research for an upcoming article, I'm deep into Taleb's The Black Swan, to the Man's surprise and delight. It's surprisingly fun, mostly because Taleb is cheating wildly - having insisted that we use narrative to create a recognizeable, soothing pattern to our world (thereby allowing us to ignore the chance of the improbable - a.k.a. a black swan - happening), he's using narrative to prove that we shouldn't. Heh.

Besides, as a native (tho' transplanted) Aussie, I always knew that black swans existed, even before the somewhat improbable Eldest turned up to nudge my memory.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

graduations, uncertain or otherwise

The Eldest has completed therapy, we're told. The Toddles and I helped him celebrate by bringing feelings cupcakes to the last appointment, and the Eldest showed his appreciation by inviting us in to eat one.

A couple of happy cupcakes, a sad one, a puzzled one and an angry one (no doubt irked by the Toddles eating the icing off the top and leaving the rest), and the Eldest was done. Done with therapy? It's an odd feeling, and even I was unsettled. Our therapist, a specialist in children with chronic medical conditions, has helped the Eldest manage the anxiety and stress that comes with food allergies - and less so, with hemophilia. While he hasn't needed her for months, the Eldest was uncertainly pleased about being told to graduate, and promptly threw a screeching fit in the parking lot to celebrate. Not to be outdone, I roared at both boys for most of the drive home.

Graduate us, will you? Ha.

In fact, the Eldest is not so much graduated from therapy as temporarily weaned, with a relationship formed that he can call upon in the future. Considering the temperament of his roaring mother, his self and the general details of his life, I suspect he will. So. But the work that she and we did on the Eldest's anxiety and anger was tremendous, as was proven today.

Having a short temper myself, when I came upon some techniques for helping children manage anger, I decided to apply them. We made up three colored cards, one green (Happy Mum), yellow (Cranky Mum) and red (Mad Mum). The pictures of the mama on each card suited the caption, and I've taught the Toddles to pick the card that suits me best. And when the Toddles tries to waggle a poopy bum (mid-cleaning, thank you very much), I suggest that the best way to avoid a Cranky Mum is to cooperate. Oh, I'll help you be a Happy Mummy, says the Toddles, and stops rhumbaing on the changing pad. It's emotional blackmail of the most benign sort, but it's also avoiding a power play by focussing on teamwork. So, okay. I can get behind this.

For the Eldest, I made cards. Noticing that he usually looks shocked and appalled when I lose my temper (like today, when I somehow wished to protest the slamming of a soccer ball into my furniture), I gave him the next step: something to say. I made cards that say 'I'm sorry' or "I'll try to do better next time,' or 'I need to think about what you've said, ' and especially 'I see that you are upset, but I don't understand why.' Each card has a follow-up instruction, so that if he says 'I'm sorry,' he needs to then work out with me what he can do differently next time, and how I can help. Etc. The Eldest really likes these cards, and it gives us a break in the grumpiness as I suggest (post-roar) that he go and get the card that suits him.

Today, however, he chose not to get a card. Instead, he made one.

I love him when he's angry, too. So, maybe we can graduate after all.
For AidelMaidel, the Toddles' favorite lunch, some of it Weight Watchers friendly. Go, Aidel, go!

Tomato Mango/Peach Salsa

  • 2 very ripe, fragrant tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 fragrant mango (I like the champagne mangoes, they're drenched in flavor), chunked OR two very ripe, fragrant peaches
  • red onion/scallion/chives, finely chopped, to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lime (more as desired)
  • sprinkle of kosher salt
  • optional but highly recommended: 1 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped. You can also add olives, sunflower seeds, basil/parsley instead of the cilantro and whatever suits you. I like my lunches fast, so I tend to keep this one simple.

Tip: buy tomatoes and mangoes that you can smell. They should smell like summer, like a tomato that's actually met a plant somewhere. Then, don't refrigerate them, and if you can, make this salsa with room temp tomatoes/mango.

I serve this with brown rice and a basil pesto made with basil, garlic, salt, sunflower seeds and green olives, plus a splash of olive oil. Not so WW friendly, I suspect, but awfully pretty...

the meetings that bloom in the spring (tra la)

Welcome to spring. My garden blooms, the boys poke gently at worms, and I talk to administrators and fill out forms for summer camp and (oh me, oh my) school for next year. The local Parks Department runs a couple of inexpensive summer programs, including a well staffed little one that will suit the Eldest and a friend. Its got music, its got messy crafts, and there's lots of playground time. Perfection! But first, the dragons.

(during the initial conversation) Oh, but we aren't peanut free.
(after, I'd guess, looking up hemophilia on-line) Oh, but we'd need a nurse.
(during the second conversation) Oh, but we have the parents do the shopping for foods, and it's hard to regulate what they buy.
(a last effort) Oh, but we haven't the budget to feed the kids lots of fresh fruits.

Legally, the Parks department has to make "reasonable accommodations," as decreed by the Rehabilitation Act (known to we medico-mamas as the bit with Section 504) to suit the Eldest and others of his medical ilk. Practically speaking, they can make things sufficiently unfriendly and define "reasonable" so as to shape a situation entirely unsuited for accommodating a kid like mine. Either of them, to think of it. And so, I was worried.

Another mama offered to come along and nod calmly, indicating that all manner of things were - in her eyes - reasonable. A deep breath later, there we were. So, said the grand high duchess of the Parks Department, what do you need from us? I put on my calmest face.

Essentially, there are two choices that schools have made for food allergies. You can serve one snack to everybody - and have it suit everybody - or you can serve one snack to the kids without allergies and a safe one to the kids with allergies. Then, of course, I said in a ruthlessly pragmatic tone, you also need to supervise the kids with the non-safe snack, make sure they get cleaned up afterwards, clean your surfaces and check for residue. The choices that schools have made often depend a lot on their staffing, the ages and temperaments of the children, and the school's willingness to take on risk.

There was a brief silence. Then, we'll go with just one snack, said the grand high duchess. I nodded. Okay, then. And onwards we went.

The Toddles, too, comes also with a sheaf of papers - how odd to think of the Toddles as going to school. How unthinkable the allergies made this stage for my mother (but who would possibly take him? who could? she cried). But here we are.
I rather like the boring paperwork for schools, especially when you get to the temperament parts. How would I describe my child? What does he like to do? And, especially, what does he like to eat? Hm. I thought about the Toddles' continuing love of spices and his willingness to eat just about anything. Currently, his favorite lunch is brown rice, with a tomato-cilantro-peach salsa, and a garlicky basil pesto. I like the colors of the three dishes when laid out on my plate. The Toddles likes eating them.
My boys' love of food is a great joy to me, and I do drone on about it - happily, mind you. So, what does the Toddles like to eat? Well.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

a moment in blue and white

Happy Yom Ha'Atzma'ut, everyone.

It's Israel's Independance Day today, and after the seriousness of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust memorial day) and Yom Hazikaron (rememberance of Israeli veterans and victims of terrorist attacks), the Eldest's school abruptly stopped draping the hallways in somber black and yellow, and switched to bright paper chains.

The Toddles and I, arm-deep in our newly awakened garden, considered this. We eventually washed up and (with QG's help) produced this:

Please note the artistry involved in the design, the sheer skill and astonishing use of Cherrybrook Kitchen's boxed mix. Yep, I rock.
On a completely different note, had you ever noticed how absolutely side splittingly funny, how pee-your-pants (a phrase chosen with some cause) hilarious the sabbath z'mirot can be?

Personally, while I enjoy a nice tune, I'd never giggled over a zemer until dinner came up my nose. And yet, there we were at the table when the Toddles suddenly said, 'Yonah matza vo ma'noach.' The Eldest grinned, then giggled, and then the pair of them roared with delight.
He thought for a moment, and then suggested 'yom ze mechubad, mikol yamim.' The Toddles nearly fell off his chair from body rattling laughter.
Shabbat zemirot. Who knew? Ah, but who didn't see this coming, hmmm? Behind my befuddled parental face I was thinking, well, they're developing sib-speak, complete with jokes. Next come the fart jokes - and indeed, here they are - and lots of giggling from that end of the corridor.

And so there is.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mr. Ortiz, meet the household economies

I think a statistician is actually another name for a baseball fan in the post-season. Now that baseball's in full swing, however, the Man is back at his post, announcing the Red Sox' every move. His position as family sports announcer is pretty secure, given that our TV doesn't get reception and the major source of sports news in our house is the Man's much reviled Palm Pilot.

sigh. And I so wanted to ban that thing from family-time.

The boys, to nobody's surprise, adore baseball. Given the history of Red Sox mania in the Imperfect household, it was probably a tactical error to have bought the Toddles a Red Sox shirt (above). There are the odd dividends: should the Toddles adamantly refuse to have his diaper changed, Mr. Ortiz is always happy to cooperate. And we'll pause briefly to consider Big Papi and my little redheaded Toddles. I assure you that they overlap quite nicely, to the point that they become quite distressed at the idea of being separated.

Vocally distressed. Two-ish, one might say. The Toddles takes his investment in the Red Sox quite seriously, and we all were very solemn during Mr. Ortiz' hitting slump. Oh yes, the boys do love their baseball.

This morning, I was awakened by a small pajama-ed person, deputized by his clever dad to go and wake up the mama.

So, said the Toddles, bouncing onto the bed, what do you think?
I opened one eye, noted the proximity of his bum to my nose, and decided to pay attention.
So, pursued the Toddles, what do you think about it?
I sat up. About what?
About the Red Sox game last night. (clearly, the Toddles was making an effort to be patient with his sleepy parent)
Um. I dunno.
The Toddles took a deep breath, and launched:
I was there - I was David Ortiz, and [the Eldest] was there an he was Josh Beckett and Daddy was there and he was 'coby Ellsbury.
I blinked, considered Josh Beckett's previous incarnation in our home and grinned. Oh. And how did it go?
We played baseball an' basketball an' football - no, just baseball an' basketball - an' we did our best and I stepped in dog poop.
Thinking it over, I decided that I was going to need some coffee for this one.

Mother's Day is coming, and we at chez Imperfect are getting ready.

Thus far, I've set the Man up with a Mother's Day gift, arranged this morning for the boys to do Mother's Day cards (for Grandma, kids. And I'm just going to take my coffee upstairs, in case you want some privacy), and admired the Eldest's guess-and-go spelling of Happy Muthr's Day.

With this preparation, the Eldest took a moment to consider the actual value of maternal appreciation.
Mum, I have a present for you.
The Toddles and I, poised on the top step, shared a look and decided to sit down. Moments later, the Eldest was back.
This is for you, he said solemnly and presented me with a half-dollar. It's for all of the work you do, cleaning up around here.
I smiled and took it, hugged him and explained that I really appreciate you noticing the work that I do. I really feel valued. Thanks, sweetie.
Oh, you're welcome, said the Eldest airily. And if you do your work again (he paused to consider) another fifty times, I'll give you a penny.

Pondering the household economics implied by this offer, I went downstairs. There I found the Man admiring a dollar coin that the Eldest had given him, for dishwashing.

Heywhatthenow? Sigh. And yet I'm still not going knee-jerk feminist enough to vote for Hillary. But perhaps Mr. Beckett and I should have a little chat about women, hmmm?