Our House as Bath & Body Works Location

One of the hallmarks of autism is obsessive interests. Pkin has a few areas where this shows up. She also perseverates a bit (another hallmark) about completing “collections.” A collection can be pretty much any grouping of similar things — stuffed animals, toys, books…and Bath & Body Works products. She loves them. All of them. She would buy every last thing in their store if she could (except maybe candles — she’s afraid of candles ever since a birthday candle in preschool set off the fire alarm. We’re not even allowed to use them. Not sure what would happen if the power went out and we actually had to choose between using a candle and not seeing).

It started with an interest in the small hand sanitizers because her third grade teacher (her favorite) used them in class and Pkin loved the smell. She has always been a sensory seeker when it came to smells, so this was no surprise. That interest then expanded to shower gels and lotions and lip glosses and perfumes and sparkly body sprays and even sparklier body mousses.

DH and I installed another shelf this weekend so Pkin could put a few more pieces of her Bath & Body Works “collection” on display (and no, this is still not all of it). No one ever need worry about smelling bad at our house.


Bath & Body Works


We still need another shelf (or two or three — or a small room) to fit everything. And as soon as we had something that would fit it all, she would surely buy more.

I’m sure some people would say we should put a stop to this — tell her she can’t buy more (at least not until more of it is used) and invoke the good ole standby to “put our foot down.” We see it differently. When you have a child who is interested in a very few and rather narrow group of things, sometimes the best thing a parent can do is help them explore those interests and, otherwise, get out of the way.


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Pkin in Picasso

Pkin loves drawing. If she had her way, she would likely draw for 16 hours a day (with the remaining 8 being filled with eating sushi/noodles and sleeping). She sometimes perseverates on particular drawings (often hairstyles, sometimes eyes, occasionally clothes). And we, of course, encourage and support her in all of this. We take her to a manga drawing class every week (her favorite style), buy her sketchbooks and pencils and whatever else strikes her fancy. We’ve recently also been seeking to push her outside her comfort zone a bit.

We found a private art teacher who lives nearby (he teaches at an elementary school in our school district and his wife is a special ed teacher) who is working with her on using other media and drawing/painting/etc. in other styles. So far, she isn’t complaining about going and is actually producing some interesting pieces. A sampling of these is below:


The first creation under Mr. L's guidance. He wanted to see what she could do first and then worked with her on using watercolors for a background.

The first creation under Mr. L’s guidance. He wanted to see what she could do first and then worked with her on using watercolors for a background.


A self-portrait drawn in the style of Picasso

A self-portrait drawn in the style of Picasso

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CSA Challenge: Week 4

Today we are back in the swing of things with the CSA Challenge (which is fab!). It also happens that we are in the beginning of the time where we start getting loads of great stuff — which is both fab and a bit more daunting as that means loads more things to use.

Today’s basket and bonus u-pick items were many:

CSA 2013 List 4

Not surprisingly, we also went a bit bonkers buying extra tart cherries (my favorite) and black raspberries (which are divine). While we got 2 quarts of tart cherries and 1/2 pint of black raspberries as part of our CSA, we picked another 2 or 3 quarts of cherries and an additional 3 pints of black raspberries. Delish!

So, our entire stash looked a bit like this:

CSA 2013 Box 4

Yes, those are some salsa we canned earlier this year you see off in the distance. We seriously need to get our canned foods stash organized and off the counters.

There are a few things in there that I don’t normally use — like beets, fennel fronts, and cilantro (which I am not a fan of, but recognize that it can be an interesting addition to a few dishes and, apparently, a nice thing to put in the garden to keep animals away because they don’t like it either). I’ll be figuring out how to use them this week!

There are a few other things that are easy to use. In fact, most of the blueberries went into blueberry pancakes for dinner tonight (the last few are currently dehydrating with another pint I bought a couple weeks ago. Plans for rehydrating them in amaretto and adding to a bread pudding at some point). Once those are done, the sage will be getting dehydrated as well. Some of the cherries from last week have already become jam, so this week’s will likely be pie filling in the next day or two. Black raspberries will mostly be eaten as is, but I may do some jam from those too — we’ll have to see. And I’m hoping to make some fresh lemonade and add some of the pineapple mint.

Those are the plans anyway. We’ll see how well we do at following through on them…

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Mama Camp: Day 1 — Because Nothing Matters More

So, I’ll admit that the last couple weeks have been a bit bonkers. I ended up subbing full-time for the last week and a half of school as one of the teachers had her baby a bit earlier than expected. As a result, the CSA Challenge and my planning for summer camp got slightly side tracked. Add to that my ill-advised decision to schedule the install for the new flooring on our stairs for the day after school and…well…it didn’t quite work. And then I got an interview for an actual, on-purpose full-time job (at the same school) suddenly.

So, yeah, a bit bonkers.

I’ll be catching you all up on the CSA Challenge once I get this week’s box tomorrow. It has been some success, some not so much (but I guess it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy).

In the meantime, today marked the beginning of Mama Camp. We’ve tried this the past couple summers with varying degrees of success — mostly because of fibro flares and other illnesses, but also because I’m really, really good at planning and not always as good at follow through (thus the PhD taking 10 years). I decided that this year would be less plan, plan, plan and more figure out what works for us each day, go with that, and be satisfied with what we accomplish.

It also helps knowing that Pkin will be working with a wonderful tutor this summer as well. That means it’s not all on me. I can be a good additional element, but I’m not the whole enchilada — and that is great because, while I know a lot, I still have a lot to learn.

Since today was day one, I decided we’d keep it fairly low key with a bit of reading comprehension (something where she can do well, but sometimes really resists), spelling (which she is pretty good at), and some math review (which she hates with a burning intensity equivalent to several small suns). We’re also doing some less directly academic, but likely far more important work from two workbooks: one on helping kids learn about and deal with their Tourette syndrome and the other helping kids learn social skills and make friends (something Pkin has said she would like help with on more than one occasion this year).

The subject specific pieces went pretty well — a bit of frustration, which I expected. I also got to try my hand a bit at spontaneously creating a teaching tool (I’m sure it has an actual name that I just haven’t learned yet). Pkin has a tendency to want to rush through work she doesn’t like (aka math). She also has a tendency to want to identify any recurrent patterns and move through those parts before tackling everything else. In this case, we were working with turning expanded number forms into the actual numbers and she wanted to put all the commas on the answer lines before staring to work with the numbers themselves.

Now, if all that happened was she wanted to put in the commas, that wouldn’t be that big a deal. But she often goes further than that. Today, for example, she wanted to write in all the numbers in the ten thousands place first and then go back to do the others. What she didn’t realize (and this is part of why we are reviewing in the first place) was that doing that means she needed to only write the first number of the expanded form in that spot, not the zero next to it because that wouldn’t necessarily be a zero once she looked at the number on the thousands spot. I tried explaining that to her verbally, but she insisted her way would work. I tried to stop show her how to look at only one line at a time, but she insisted her way would work. The only way I (we, as DH joined in on this part) got her to stop was by literally taking away her pencil so she couldn’t write anymore while I worked out a way to help her. I asked DH for a piece of construction paper and some scissors (which, of course, took us a bit to find as I haven’t yet organized all the learning materials — see chaos of the last couple weeks above). Once I had what I needed, I cut a little window out of the construction paper just big enough for her to see exactly one line of the full expanded number and its answer. This tool in place, she moved through the rest of the questions without any problems. I suspect I will be making a good many more devices of this sort as we continue with Mama Camp.

I may have, temporarily, felt like I was all that (I admit it), but it wasn’t long before I realized that Mama Camp won’t all be bits of review and moments of teacherly brilliance ;).

After we had finished most of the subject-related items, Pkin decided she wanted to work on the Let’s Be Friends workbook. As might be expected, it starts with a bit of self-exploration — a handy self-portrait and a bit of reflection. Though I wasn’t allowed to look as she was working (this is pretty common for her work. That we were allowed to look at it at all is what is a bit rare. Usually if we can’t see it while it’s happening, we can’t see it once it’s done). Despite her willingness and desire to spend hours and hours drawing her manga creations, she zipped through her picture rather quickly. Then came the question and equally quick answer to the first question about her picture.

Mama Camp Day 1

For those who don’t read Pkin, her answer to the question “What does your picture say about you?” is just one word: “Weird.”

When I asked her if she could explain what she meant, she said only, “I feel weird.” When I asked if she meant that in a good way, a bad way, or something else, all she said was, “Bad.”

I tried to get her to say more about this, to think about other things she thinks it says about her or that she thinks about herself, she couldn’t. This was it. Weird. Not unique, fun, funky weird. Freak, bizarre, unlikable weird. It’s a word we know she has heard people in school call her off and on throughout this year. It’s a word we specifically mentioned to her teacher on several occasions. It’s a word we have talked to her about and tried to work through for most of fourth grade.

And yet it remains. It sticks in her mind and is the main — the only — way she can find to describe herself.

This is something I can’t fix with a bit of construction paper and a pair of scissors. This is going to take a lot more work and a lot more time. This, in my view, is the most important thing we’ll be tackling with Mama Camp. I don’t know if it will actually make a difference in the end. I hope it does, but I honestly don’t know. I do know that we absolutely have to try.

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CSA Challenge: Week 1 Wrap Up

Yeah, so, that whole challenge thing? Not so successful this first week. Through a combination of nearly-the-end-of-school chaos and how-long-does-farm-fresh-produce-last? forgetfulness, I didn’t get to everything in time.

Some items from the CSA box were easier to deal with than others given my delays. The onions are still good so are just waiting in the frig for us to use them. I used most of the spinach in green smoothies, before the last bits of it turned to that ookey greenish-brown spinach water sludge. Many strawberries also joined the smoothie party or were turned into juice and mixed with fresh-squeezed orange juice all with the handy Hurom juicer DH bought me for graduation (I’ll do a post about just this some time later as it is AWESOME!). And the basil plant is planted (with a couple other basil plants from an earlier farmer’s market).

Some of the strawberries didn’t make it anyplace except the compost pile though. They were doing well and we were going to do something fabulous with them this weekend, then BOOM! We woke up Saturday morning and they had either turned to mush or turned to fuzz or both. I’m sure the critters in our composter are quite happy.

Similarly, the radishes turned suddenly too. I had planned to have them in my lunch today, but when I pulled them out to chop them up they had shriveled and dried (pouty face). So, I have learned that I just can’t wait that long to deal with everything (especially when it is as crazy humid as it has been this past week).

Lesson learned. On to week 2 starting tomorrow — when I will actually use everything. For real.

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CSA Challenge: Box #1

Yeah! It’s CSA day! I get a little giddy as the start of CSA season approaches each year. I just love all the gorgeous, fresh produce and the opportunity to get out of the suburbs and into nature a bit. We intentionally select the farm pick up option rather than the delivery because it forces us to get out to the farm. That also means we get to fully partake in the pick-you-own bonuses each week. I know myself (and my family) well enough to know that if the boxes just magically arrived at my house or if I just had to drive a mile or two to get to a group drop site, I would find excuses not to visit the farm. Not only would we lose out on the extras that are part of what our CSA subscription fee pays for, but we would also stay stuck in the concrete and manicured grass of the burbs.

Though I don’t think I could survive in the country permanently, I relish the few hours a week where we hang out in the clean, fresh air of the farm picking our own fruits and veggies straight off the plant/tree. It also gives me hope and inspiration that I can actually figure out how to grow some of our own food at home (I’m sure I’ll be sharing more about that here throughout the summer — whether I kill everything or not).

So, to the farm we (DH and I) went! And it was a gorgeous day — not too hot and not too cool with a nice breeze and a bit of sun.

It’s been a bit cooler and wetter here in the last few weeks, so some of the produce is a bit behind schedule, but we still got a nice batch of yummies. Specifically, we got:

CSA 2013 List 1This means we got a big reusable plastic box filled with 1 quart of strawberries, a big bag of spinach, 3 or 4 radishes, a bundle of spring onions, a bunch of asparagus (some green and some purple and some crazy big!), a basil plant to add to the basil pot I have growing from a couple other types we bought at a farmer’a market a couple weeks ago), and a snazzy little magnet for our car. We also got to pick another quart of strawberries and a bit of mint without paying extra for them. Of course, once you’re out in a field full of fresh strawberries, you kinda of don’t stop at one quart. We ended up buying an extra 5 pounds (but they were crazy cheap — $2.49 a pound and then 10% off for being CSA members).

Here’s this week’s haul:

Love the cute little tractor magnet. In case you can't read it, it says "Whose your farmer? GCF"

Love the cute little tractor magnet. In case you can’t read it, it says “Who’s your farmer? GCF”

Now to set about using all those goodies. Check back this week to see what we do with them all!

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CSA Challenge: Prep

For the last several years we have been members of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program at Great Country Farms. As much as I love getting that fabulous box full of fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits every week (I especially love getting to pick additional items straight off the plants most weeks), I have to admit that we have often ended up giving away some of what we get or (more often) letting it sit unused for so long that the only thing we can do with it is throw it in the composter.

I’ve decided that this is the year when we change that!

So, I’m setting myself (ourselves, but realistically myself since I’m the food planner in the house) a challenge. I am going to use every item we get in every box every week of the 2013 CSA season.

To keep me honest (and maybe help out someone else in the same CSA spot I’ve been in the past), I will post every week both what we get in our box and what we do with it. If it looks good and/or tastes good, I’ll tell you about it (and maybe even post a pic). If it looks lousy and/or tastes lousy, well, I’ll probably share that too — cuz that’s just how I roll.

Our first CSA box pick-up is tomorrow, so check back for updates!

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