Work with me, please.

Posts tagged ‘cake’

Let’s See If I Can Remember How This Works

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Roasted veggies pureed into sauce for lasagna with brown rice pasta

I haven’t blogged in so long that I’m struggling to remember what it was about it that I liked so much.

I took a break that I didn’t plan. I just didn’t feel like it. Or rather, I felt like doing other things. Like playing Ruzzle. Work kicks my mental butt most days. By the time I get home and get through dinner and homework and preparing for the next day, my brain is not good for much other than Ruzzle.

I’m expert at giving myself permission to not do things that I genuinely don’t want to do. My elders mistakenly and repeatedly labeled this as “stubborn” throughout my childhood. I didn’t have the correct term for it then either. Today, I’m calling it self-care.

So, this brings me to a recent commitment I made to myself. My attachment to sweets and junk food had gotten out of hand. I eat a lot of healthy stuff and I was probably eating an equal amount or more of unhealthy stuff. For the 28 days of February, I modified my food intake to eliminate white flour, white sugar, and fried foods. In other words, I broke up with cookies and cake and french fries. We’ll get back together at some point, but it’ll be a healthier relationship. No more abusing my waistline.

I cut out meats too with the exception of a roasted chicken drummette one day because I’d tried a different seasoning mix for the kids, and I wanted to see how it turned out. Watching Hubby and Dem Kids enjoy pizza, burgers, etc and especially preparing such foods for them was less difficult than I expected. I survived lunch with coworkers who were enjoying all kinds of deliciousness. I made it through birthday and going-away celebrations with more strength than I thought I had.

There were many, many times when I felt I was eating food accessories (grains, vegetables, nuts, beans) instead of food. I allowed myself a small amount of cheese and eggs to have some sense of indulgence. On several days, I made simple, meatless dishes that I enjoyed and would be willing to have again.

My mantras for this year have been “find a way” (thanks, Diana Nyad) and take care of yourself. This experiment gave me the opportunity to practice and internalize both. I’m confident that I’ll have more self-control when it comes to food. As a reminder and to refresh the commitment, I plan to make this a tradition and try some version of a modified diet every February.

Now, if I could apply this to Ruzzle, I’d really be doing something.

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How’s That for You?

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Here’s to another satisfied birthday kid. Jay’s party went well yesterday. He and his friends had fun, and the staff were so helpful. I actually spent a lot of time talking to other parents and relaxing, so much so that I missed a lot of good pictures.

Jay had asked for a Ninjago cake. I stressed for a few weeks about how to pull that off. I looked at lovely Ninjago cakes online that were in the shape of the Ninja Lego men, brightly colored fondant draped elegantly to depict the characters’ costumes. I envied those bakers. Fondant scares me. I’m not ready for it. I thought about star-tipping one of the Ninja, but I visualized myself cramped over a cake for a few hours, ending up with a severe case of carpel tunnel syndrome. Then, someone suggested an edible print-out. Bingo! It was so easy and fast, and he was pleased with it — always the ultimate test.

Before the party, he had his first drum lesson.  He had fun and he wants to continue with the lessons, which I think is great.   What I like too is that the lessons are at the instructor’s house.  Yay!  I’m excited that Jay chose something that is unrelated to Mae’s interests.  Sometimes, it seems that he likes what she likes because she likes it and he’ll stop liking something if she doesn’t like it or shows no interest.  I have a feeling the drum lessons will be different.  I’ll ask her to encourage him to practice because she’s great at motivating others, and I think that will help him stay focused.

I’ve been making it a point lately to preach to them that they have to help and support each other.   This is the first weekend that they are responsible for their own laundry.  So far, they have moved their clothes downstairs, into the washer, and then into the dryer, using teamwork.  I just listen carefully and intervene if necessary.  I have to particularly listen out for the bossy one, Mae.

Love her like I do, I know Mae can be slippery, which came out most recently this weekend. She’d been suspicious of the Tooth Fairy since Jay lost a tooth several weeks ago. She lost a tooth at camp on Friday and didn’t tell me about it. She placed it under her pillow Friday night to test if the “Tooth Fairy” would bring her a gift. I walked into her bedroom Saturday morning and she pulled the tooth from under her pillow with a flourish. “Aha! I told you.” Yep, she proved herself right. No question, the Tooth Fairy does not exist outside of this house. I am she. Then, she proceeded to think out loud about what I should give her for her tooth. “Should I get candy or money or . . . .”

Erck! (FYI, that’s the sound of a car hitting brakes hard.) I explained that now that she knows there is no Tooth Fairy, she can’t expect to collect on a lost tooth. I thought that would be a short conversation. Not with this child. No, not this one. So, then I explained it this way: The Tooth Fairy leaves gifts. A giver decides whether and what to give; there is no entitlement. I added that she’s a nine-year old allowance-earner and she can buy herself whatever gift she thinks the “Tooth Fairy” would have or should have given her. She’s grown out of the make-believe, so she can grow into more independence. Since we were having a frank conversation, I told her that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are fake too. Done.

Winding Down

It’s been so long since I’ve been here! The clouds are breaking. Work has lightened up, at least for now. We have a new staff member, which I hope means that my workload will stay reasonable. Homework is decreasing as the end of the school year gets closer. Whew! I’m convinced that 3rd grade has been harder on me as a parent this year than it was when I was a student myself some 30 plus years ago.

20130522-072907.jpgI finished my cake decorating class. If grades were given, I would have been lucky to get a C. For the last class project, my cake leveler broke and I was unable to get the nice, smooth surface I wanted. I made cream cheese frosting, which the instructor recommended against. I’m a hardhead.  I could not bring myself to put butter cream icing on a red velvet cake, and I didn’t have time to make two frostings. I took my chances. As a result, my frosting was too soft to make the pretty flowers I saw in my head. At least the cake tasted good (or so I was told). You couldn’t tell by looking at the final cake, but I actually learned a lot.  I need practice, which means that I need to bake, which I haven’t had time to do. Well, this weekend I will have time as well as a reason to celebrate. Yesterday was the birthday of Albert, Jay’s favorite stuffed puppy. Albert has birthdays every few weeks. Jay decides the theme and plans the party, including the type of cake and how it should be decorated. He gave Albert three birthday gifts yesterday, including a sleeping bag that looked like a sock. So, we’ll top off the celebration with a special cake for Albert.

Mae is done with social skills training until the fall while the therapist takes a summer break.  I definitely plan to return to the social skills playgroup.   I had a nice, long talk with the  therapist during our last visit.  She talked about helping the kids recognize “unlikeable” behaviors that make it difficult for other kids to stay friends with them.  I’m convinced that there is value in structured play time with interventions or corrections as necessary, both in being corrected and seeing others corrected.  A teacher told me recently that kids need to see or hear something at least 17 times to master it or make it habitual.  So, I’m going with that.  The cognitive behavioral therapy is on hold because we couldn’t get a regular slot that worked for our schedules.  If Mae asks to go during the summer, it may work out better since we won’t have to worry about homework.

This weekend I’ll also be working on travel plans for a vacation in June.  Sooo looking forward to that!  The vacation, that  is, not the planning.

Spread Thin

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I would have written this post days ago were it not for Ruzzle, that addictive word game that has become my go-to mental break.

Work was on fire the past two weeks. I gave away hours of personal and family time in the evenings and weekends to keep up with the demands. I went to bed exhausted and woke up groggy and still exhausted.

Mae went back to therapy and social skills training last week, after a break of over one year. Overall, the school year has been great compared to past years. This is still a critical time. She’s made some friends and she seems to have a lot of fun with them . . . until someone doesn’t want to play tag. Then, the crying begins and then the teasing about the crying begins. Last week, she decided to give an upper cut to some boy who wouldn’t stop mocking her crying. She told me that night that no one likes or wants her anymore because they won’t play tag with her.

It’s the self-degradation and the hitting that worry me. I’m afraid that her classmates will stop wanting to play with her at all because of how she reacts when they want to do something other than what she wants to do.

So, we’re continuing to work on how to play what others are playing or learn to move on and play with someone else, and how to handle disappointments and disagreements.

Before tonight’s appointment, Mae said, “Today is a perfect day to go to Dr. [M]. I have a bunch of stuff to talk about. Last time, she did most of the talking. This time, I think I should do most of the talking.” And talked, she did.

I was unsure that more one-on-one therapy would be beneficial, but I’m glad we went. I think it’s good in the long run that Mae has a practice of going to safe places and people when something is troubling her. Unfortunately, we have a scheduling issue. Our choices now are 5 pm or 8 pm appointments. So, we’ll have to postpone more sessions until the therapist has different openings or I can change my work schedule.

Mae thinks social skills training is fun because she gets to play with other kids. The group meets on Saturday mornings, so the scheduling is working for us right now. She is the only girl in the group, which sucks. She seems to have more trouble playing with girls, and I was hoping for some practice in that area.

In better news, Mae and I had an awesome time for her birthday in NYC. It was a fun-packed two days. We got to do everything on our list and we made a new list of things to do on the next trip. We’ve already made a photo book, which is a birthday tradition, for the trip. She asked to add the captions this time, which took some letting go on my part. I had to tell myself, “She’s nine. Let her tell her story in her own words (and edit it before ordering :))”.

I started a 4-week cake decorating class. I didn’t do too bad on my first cake. The kids recognized it right away as an Angry Bird, and that’s all the validation I need. I thought it was much better than the “my family” foursome of mini cakes I made for Mae’s birthday. I thought Jay should have been easily recognizable with his two missing teeth and Mohawk. Hubby said that his cake should have had hair although he doesn’t wear any in real life. Oh well, I’m learning.

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So Glad We Can All Agree

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I have a daughter that will eat oranges and won’t drink orange juice, and a son that will drink orange juice and won’t eat oranges — just one way that they purposely complicate things that have no reason to be complicated.

So, I was very much interested in seeing how they would react to orange cranberry muffins. Score! Both kids ate the muffins. Yay!

In addition to the muffins, I made a sour cream citrus pound cake for my mother-in-law’s birthday. I actually split the batter to make two cakes and froze one for a cook-out in a couple of weeks. After that, I’m taking a break from sweets for a while. Jay told me this weekend that my stomach looks “fatty” and asked why. Bad enough he said it. Why does he need to know how it came to be this way? If I were a cruel person, I would have said, “It’s all you and your sister’s fault!” One day, I may tell them that.

We’re expecting a fancy blender to arrive in the mail on Tuesday, at which point Hubby is going to try to overhaul our diet with green smoothies and juices. It would be awesome if the four of us could have juice for dinner every night. Besides the health benefits, meal planning and after dinner clean-up would become easier and faster (right?). That’s ambitious; so, I’ll set my first goal as having juice for dinner myself at least 3 times a week.

We’ll see.

Pretty Brown Thing

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Honestly, my primary reason for this post is to display this cake. I saw the cake pan, or the product thereof, in Cooking Light magazine. I ordered the pan and it came with a recipe for Lemon Ginger and Pepper Cake. Fresh lemon, fresh ginger, a pound of butter, a cup of buttermilk — how could anything with those ingredients be less than good? Ground white pepper? Weird, but worth a try. The cake turned out fine, just fine. I’ve been enjoying it, though I’m not sure I’d make it again, especially since I think I’m the only person in the house eating it. This is one area where my family consistently lets me down. They will let me eat a whole cake by myself. Even if they have some, their rate of consumption isn’t fast enough to keep me from doing a lot of damage. Jay is the only person in the house who comes close to appreciating cake the way I do. He pronounced the cake “sour, but a little good.” No help. I took slices to a good friend and some co-workers, all of whom said it was awesome or delicious.

In other news, we’ve been gearing up for next school year. The kids have had their annual well-child exams. We have Mae’s school shoes and uniforms, and the bottom halves of Jay’s uniform. Jay is registered for aftercare at his school, and aftercare is almost in place for Mae. The good thing about public school near home is that we will have many more options for aftercare, and transportation will not be an issue.

We have three more weeks of summer camp and then my mom, bless her, is coming to town to watch the kids until school starts.

Camp is going ok, although today was particularly bad for Mae. She’s gone to bed late every night this week. So, I’m not surprised that she had a whiny, tearful day. She wanted to do her own thing in her own time and became uncontrollably upset when other campers didn’t want to play with her.

Tonight, we’re back to our regular routine. Hopefully, she’ll have a better day tomorrow.

Spiderman and the Last Sip Save the Day

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Peep the little trash can in the alley.

It was a winning weekend.  I will pay for it tomorrow a.m. when the alarm goes off at 5:15.  Still, I’m grateful for it all.

We celebrated Jay’s 5th birthday on Saturday.  He and about 12 of his closest friends ran and bounced and slid their way around an inflatables place before settling down to pizza, brownies, and ice cream.  Jay enjoyed himself thoroughly.  He rewarded me with big eyes and a resounding “wow” when he saw his Spiderman brownie towers.  I have to say that the result was better than I expected.  I baked and froze three batches of chocolate brownies and two of red velvet over the course of two weekends.  I didn’t start “building” the scene until Friday night at around 10 pm.  I was nervous, and I had a Plan B that would have involved an early morning, shame-faced trip to the bakery section of the neighborhood grocery store.  Then, I told myself that if it looked crappy, I could say that Spiderman visits the Projects too.  All in all, I’m pleased with the outcome, and so was Jay, which is what matters most.

This morning, we enjoyed french toast and bacon, two of Hubby’s favorite breakfast items, before the kids and I went off to Dharma.  In the afternoon, as a Father’s Day gift, my sister came over to babysit while Hubby and I went to lunch.  We drove over an hour to get to a riverfront seafood dive on the Potomac.  There are many other seafood restaurants closer to us, but it’s an easy, straight drive and one of my favorite things to do with the Mr. is have alone time in the car.  It’s nice to be sheltered from the outside world, whether we’re having uninterrupted conversation or just listening to each other’s silence.

Today’s lunch was actually our second date this weekend because Grandma (Hubby’s mom) volunteered to babysit for us last night.  So, we saw Prometheus.  Or rather, Hubby saw Prometheus while I napped on his shoulder off and on.  I did see enough to know that Idris Elba, love him like I do, is no good at a Southern accent.  He was going from Southern to generic American to British.  The other characters represented a multi-national mix, so Elba’s British accent would have fit perfectly.  Perhaps he wanted to stretch himself, which is admirable.  At any rate, Hubby liked the movie, and I needed the rest anyway.

Tomorrow begins the second week of summer camp, and Mae and Jay will return to their regular school’s camp.  They were at the Y last week, and it went very well.  Mae and Jay adjusted well and had fun.  So, I expect more of the same or better since they will be in a more familiar environment starting next week.   Mae at home has been another story.  She thinks she should have more freedom now that school is out.  The last two weeks have been a battle of wills when it comes to bath and bed time, in addition to a general attitude of teenage-quality snarkiness.  Her insistence on challenging or questioning almost every instruction, including routine stuff, is remarkable.  I frankly do not know where she finds the energy.  The time and effort that she puts into explaining why she should be allowed to do what she wants to do or trying to negotiate some middle ground exhaust me.  This morning, she wanted to take a toy into Dharma, which I told her would be a distraction.  She told me that it would help her focus and keep her from rubbing my arm or the Dharma teacher’s arm.  Clever girl that she is, she knows those are matters of importance to me.  I reminded myself that there will be days when her persistence will pay off, and there will come a time when she will make extraordinary contributions to her community or the world because she won’t give up when someone told her no.

In the meanwhile though, many of these conversations have been ending with Mae being disappointed, if not crying herself to sleep.  Yet, she will take just as strong a position next time.  Someone told me on Friday that I have a “patient spirit.”  I laughed.  My paid job does require extreme patience; however, compared to parenting this eight-year old, work is a breeze.  Mae thinks I’m mean and unfair, and those are her nice words for me.  Usually, these transitions after a change in routine take 2-3 weeks to take hold.  Hopefully, we’re not far off from settling down.

Challenging as it is some days, I am grateful for this family.  On our way home from Dharma, Mae and Jay were sharing a juice box.  She gave him the box and said, “You can have the last sip because I want to honor you on Father’s Day since you’ll be a dad one day.”  Her spirit, I know, is good, and I’m glad she showed it to me (and Jay) today.  I needed that.

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