When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Noah has been driving me crazy over clothes lately.  I almost feel bad saying that, because Noah, who is so easy-going and level-headed and mature, very rarely drives me crazy over anything.  In the past couple of weeks, though, whenever the temperature outdoors has taken a significant nosedive from its unseasonable warmth, Noah and I have had a standoff in the morning.  One day I suggested he wear jeans instead of shorts, and he vehemently protested, "Everyone else will be wearing shorts!"  (Trust me, you would not have wanted to see the look of utter disgust he threw me when we arrived at school and saw his friends all (shivering, I might add) in shorts!)  I insisted he wear his winter coat instead of a spring jacket one day (because the temperature had plummeted back to sub-zero), and he huffed and stomped around and muttered several times under his breath, "Everyone else will be wearing a lighter jacket."  It has kind of caught me off-guard, seeing the boy who previously had no opinion whatsoever about clothing suddenly become keenly aware of being "just like everyone else."

I realize that this awareness of others and the desire to fit in with them is a normal part of human development, and part of the way we establish our own identity.  I went through it at his age, too.  I have a very clear recollection of a heated argument between my mom and I over whether it was practical or utterly ridiculous to wear rainboots to school in grade 8.  (You can guess which side I was on, but honestly, today I take my mom's point of view and splash around happy as a duck in my wellies on rainy days!)  I also remember being freezing cold for six months out of the year as a teenager because, in my efforts to dress like other kids my age, I insisted on wearing Matt's leather cross-country team jacket unbuttoned on my daily half-hour walk to and from highschool, in frigid Sault Ste. Marie winters.  (I took the word "cool" to a whole new level.)  My parents used to use the example, "If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" to try to get me to see that it was not always wise to follow others.  I'm sure I probably just rolled my eyes at them and protested that there was a big difference between clothes and bridges, because when I found myself inadvertently using that exact same line on Noah last week, that's what he did to me.  I realize, as a parent now, that my mom and dad probably used that example because it's really difficult to otherwise explain to a child this valuable life lesson that took us adults decades to learn (and that sometimes, honestly, we all still forget).

We humans are pretty hard on ourselves and each other sometimes, even as grown-ups.  While we talk about acceptance and acknowledge that difference is a beautiful thing, how often do we still stare and judge, shake our heads and talk behind backs, exclude and ignore, build ourselves up by taking others down?  How often do we doubt the voice within us that wants so much to be heard, and listen instead to the thousand outside voices that try to shout in unison, the ones that drown out the softer, more meaningful sounds?  Children who ridicule other kids in the schoolyard for not wearing the right clothes, or not playing the right sports, or not listening to the right music, become adults who inwardly criticize other parents in the schoolyard for not feeding their kids the right foods, or not signing them up for the right activities, or not limiting their daily screen time.  There are always both kids and adults in the world who feel left out and lost and lonely because they think that they don't fit in.  Sometimes we forget that it's okay to be ourselves and to let others be themselves, too -- we don't need to be the same to appreciate and respect one another.

I like to think that I am confident in who I am, but I'll admit that inside, I have always had a strong desire to please other people.  I really work at not letting that desire sway me from being my best self.  There are times, even here on this blog, where I have a moment or two of panic after I hit "publish", wondering if people are going to judge me for my thoughts, for what I believe in and feel is important, and hoping that people are going to "Like" my posts, and, by extension, me.  It takes courage for all of us to show the world what's in our hearts, and we should remember to be kind to others when they have the bravery to reveal their true selves.  Our relationships with others have the potential to enrich our lives beautifully; we are social creatures with a need to feel connected to and accepted by others of our kind.  We have to watch, though, that our need for belonging doesn't ever make us think that we're not good enough just the way we are.

In day-to-day life, Noah's desire to want to wear the same kind of clothes as his friends is pretty harmless.  But it's the realization that soon there will be other, much more important issues for Noah to face, and decisions for him to make, that causes me to think so much about how he might be influenced by his peers.  I hope that Noah will realize that what makes him, or any individual, so wonderful is that none of us will ever be "just like everyone else".  I hope he'll understand that he shouldn't want to be just that.  I hope Noah will always be able to tune out the noisy voices that go against what feels right to him, and hear most clearly the one strong, confident voice deep within that will forever lead him down the road to his own happiness.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quick, kid-friendly fare (homemade chicken fingers and "chips")

In today's fast-paced world, families are often looking for quick meals to eat in the short time between when everyone gets home from work and school and when they need to be somewhere else for evening activities.  We have two weekday nights like that; Noah has swim practice at 5:15 every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and it's always a bit of a scramble to fit in homework and a healthy dinner before we rush back out the door.  I have to be sure to plan something that's relatively easy to make, that will give Noah the protein and energy he needs for swimming, and that the boys are likely to eat in a reasonable amount of time, which, if you've read about their selective eating habits, is no easy feat!

These homemade, gluten-free chicken fingers are one of my perfect solutions:  they're quick to prepare and cook, and quick to disappear off the boys' plates, because Noah and Will really love them!  Served with these roasted sweet and russet potato "chips", and a mixed green salad loaded with colourful veggies, they make a nutritious dinner that is hands down better than a Happy Meal.

Crispy Corn Flake Chicken Fingers

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into strips lengthwise
3 cups corn flake cereal (I use Nature's Path brand, which is gluten-free, and sweetened with fruit juice rather than sugar)
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a food processor, pulse corn flake cereal to make coarse crumbs.  Pour cereal crumbs into a shallow dish, and add sea salt and pepper to taste.  Mix crumbs with seasonings.

Place chicken breast strips a few at a time into the cereal crumb mixture.  Press crumbs onto chicken strips with your hands (or a fork, if you're squeamish like I am!) until each strip is well-coated, then place chicken strips onto a wire rack on a baking sheet. 
Once all chicken strips are coated with cereal crumbs, place baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside.  Remove from oven and serve.

The corn flake coating crisps up nicely in the oven and results in great tasting chicken fingers with a crunchy outside and a tender inside.  Leftover chicken fingers packed with a variety of raw veggies make a great kids' lunch at school the next day, too.  The best part about them, though, is that on busy weeknights, they make all of us happy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Soap, shampoo, and a SPIDER!

I shared my shower with a spider this morning.  There I was, minding my own business, taking a few moments to fully wake up under the warm, running water and using the quiet time to think about stuff (because really, isn't the shower the best place for thinking?), when all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something skittering towards me on the wall.  My first thought in my instantly VERY awake state was a panicked string of words not fit for repeating here.  But then, and I'm not sure whether it was because of all the yoga I've been practising lately, or the memory of my poor mom's long ago run-in with an earwig in the bathtub that resulted in a broken rib or two in her attempts to escape it, or the constant pleas from Will to let undesirable creepy crawly things "live their natural life" rather than schmucking them, I calmed down, and decided to do nothing.

Yes, folks, there was a spider, less than three inches from my face, and I did nothing.  Sure, I kept throwing him furtive glances over my shoulder while I shampooed and rinsed, and I wasn't particularly happy about him being there, but I managed to convince myself that really, he was only an innocent little spider, and likely not able to chew my arm off or anything.  After awhile I got more bold around the spider, and started studying him with an inquisitiveness Noah and Will would have been proud of.  I noticed with fascination that he was dipping his front legs in water droplets on the shower wall and then putting each leg in his mouth (do spiders have mouths?) for a few seconds, as if he were taking a drink (do spiders take drinks?).  I started thinking like the boys do, and had a Eureka! moment where I realized that if I attached a tiny squeegee-type cleaning implement to the spider somehow, he could actually clean my shower while he roamed about!  Now wasn't that fascinating!?

Feeling very pleased with my reasonable approach to the spider in my shower, I decided to share my moment with Will once I was dressed.  I told him there had been a spider in my shower, and when he asked me what I did about it, I said, "Nothing.  I just let him be."

"Oh, that's good,"  Will reassured me.  "I have a spider in my shower, too.  I just leave him alone.  We're both happy that way."

And just as I was about to go merrily about the rest of my day, Will, whose eyeballs have been absolutely glued to this book

since we borrowed it from the library on Saturday, and who is now our resident expert on all of the terrible things that could possibly happen to a person, very matter-of-factly dropped this little gem of advice on me:

"You'll be alright as long as you don't see a Sydney funnel-web spider.  It's black, and about the size of the palm of your hand.  It will grab you, bite you several times with fangs as sharp as a sand tiger shark, and kill you if you don't get treatment within an hour."

 Thanks, Will.  I may never shower again.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Colourful quinoa salad

The vibrant blooms popping up everywhere outside lately have taken my usual cravings for fresh, colourful foods up a notch, and the meals coming out of our kitchen this week have been another welcome sign of spring.  On today's lunch menu was this delicious quinoa salad, which I threw together quite easily using some already cooked quinoa, a bunch of bright, crunchy veggies from the crisper, and a zingy homemade citrus vinaigrette.

If you haven't yet tried quinoa, a highly nutritious (and gluten-free) ancient grain, let me encourage you to add it to your diet!  Quinoa is a complete, balanced protein, rich in fibre and vitamins, and is really tasty prepared as a hot breakfast cereal, used in any warm dish where you would normally use rice, or eaten cold in a salad like this one.

Colourful Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa  (I buy the truRoots brand from Costco which is already pre-rinsed; if your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, it is very important to rinse it well under running water for 3 minutes or it will taste bitter)
2 cups water
1/2 cup green beans, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I blanched the beans by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, draining them, plunging them into a bowl of ice water, and then draining them again)
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1 small carrot, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 - 1/2 of a red pepper, diced
1/4 - 1/2 of a yellow pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives (I actually picked these out of my herb garden today, if you can believe it!  We love an early spring!)

For the dressing:

juice of 1/2 a lemon, freshly squeezed
juice of 1/2 an orange, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp mixed lemon and orange zest
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp raw honey
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Place quinoa and water in a saucepan over high heat.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat and let quinoa stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff quinoa with a fork and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, blanched green beans, cucumber, carrot, celery, red and yellow peppers, parsley and chives. 

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake well.  Pour dressing over quinoa, veggies and herbs and stir gently until dressing is well-distributed.

It's best if you can prepare this salad an hour or two ahead of when you plan to serve it, and then let it sit in the fridge to allow the flavours to mix and intensify. Mmmmm!

This wholesome salad makes a lovely lunch -- I served ours on a bed of fresh baby spinach leaves and sprinkled it with chopped walnuts to add even more colour and crunch.  I hope, if you try it, that this salad will brighten your day!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rise and shine

Suddenly, everything feels new and different in the world around me.  There are times when this feeling has unsettled me, made me sense that maybe my feet weren't planted firmly on the ground and that I might tumble off an edge somewhere, but now is not one of those times.  Today the change is a ray of sunshine, a breath of fresh air that wraps me in a friendly embrace and makes me feel like I'm floating on the notes of a pretty melody. 

In just a few short weeks, the outside view has gone from this

to this

and the lightning quick shift in seasons seems to have awoken new life everywhere I look.  Though the same process happens sometime every spring, its breathtaking beauty never ceases to fill me with joy and wonder.

I love living in a part of the world where the seasons change so noticeably.  It's a frequent reminder that humans, like all living things, were never meant to be static.  Just as the delicate green buds burst forth from their confining skins each spring, just as the early blooming flowers turn their lovely faces to the sun for encouragement, just as the sweetly chirping birds build marvelous nests in which to nurture new life, so too should we be inspired to grow, and blossom, and create all over again as we move through the seasons of our life.  If we've been sleeping too long through the gray sameness of winter, spring reminds us that there is always more beauty deep within us, ready to unfold if we heed its tentative whispers and give it the nourishment it needs to flourish.

I'm inspired by the tender transformations all around me this time of year.  The loveliness of spring is gentle proof that we don't need to fear or resist change, for it has the power to lead us to a fuller, more vibrant life.  This wonderful truth seen in nature calls me to walk confidently and happily forward, each footstep solidly grounded by past experience and earned wisdom, each heartbeat and thought reaching up into the bright blue beyond, full of hope and promise and wonder for what I am yet to become.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

For the love of music

When we were kids, my brother Frank and I used to entertain ourselves by "writing" and performing our own songs.  One composition that sticks out in my mind was a ridiculous country song we called The Breakfast Blues.  Frank would get out his guitar and strum an overly dramatic melancholy tune, and I would belt out the story of some poor sap who lost his dog and his truck, and who had to eat burnt toast for breakfast (which, to a kid, I suppose, is a real cause for woe).  Our songs were hilarious to us (and probably more than mildly annoying to our poor parents), but our performance exercises actually helped lead Frank and I to some serious and useful discoveries:  first, that there would definitely not be a singing career in my future (thankfully, I do have other talents!), but more importantly, that Frank had a wonderful gift and a true love for music, one that he would continue to nurture and develop beautifully as time went on.

In the years since our early duets, Frank has poured his heart and a lot of hard work into his music, and he has grown into an incredibly talented songwriter, performer, and teacher.  It's fascinating to me to hear him talk of the broad range of creative projects he's working on, ones that encompass many different genres of music and allow him opportunities to travel and meet interesting new people.  Listening to his recorded albums and hearing him play and sing live always fills me with huge emotions, both because his music is so honest and inspiring, and because I'm so proud of the amazing person my little brother has become.  I have such a deep admiration for the way he has always been true to himself, for how he has followed his dreams and filled his life with what he loves best, no matter how difficult that may have been for him at times.

I'm very excited about Frank's latest music project:  a new album with a new band and a tour that will bring him to my city to perform.  frank deresti and the lake effect's this time, a folk/jazz/roots-influenced collection of songs, will be released on April 12th, and you can listen to the title track here:

Thank you for sharing your extraordinary talents with the world, Frank.  Your beautiful music moves us all.

You can find more information about frank deresti and the lake effect and a schedule of their upcoming tour here. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just "four" fun

We've been having a really marvelous March Break around here.  For the most part, the weather has been beautifully sunny and warm, and our days have been filled with hours of outdoor play and the laughter of giddy cousins who were thrilled to be together after a long time apart.  My brother Jamie and his two lovely children were here visiting for the first half of the week, and the four kids enjoyed sports of all kinds in the mild outdoor air, making and flying paper spacecraft, building forts, taking a trip to a local maple sugar bush to sample the sweet taste of spring, and just generally being kids in all their wonderfully silly glory.  As for Jamie and I, we filled our hearts up watching our kids having so much fun together, and enjoyed having an unrushed opportunity to catch up on the details of each other's lives.

Oh, and I'll throw in a cute little spring lamb, too!

It's always such a treat to be reunited with extended family members we don't get to see very often due to us living far apart from each other.  When our four children were born, Jamie's family and mine lived in the same city, and we all shared many good times in those early years of the kids' lives.  I love how the four cousins just pick up wherever they left off each time they're together again now; time and distance don't seem to have any effect on the special ties they made all those years ago and still have to each other.  I love, too, how seeing my nephew and niece gives me a chance to replace the mental images of them I've lovingly stored in my mind since our last visit with new pictures, ones that reflect how much they've grown and changed.  When I think of Ryan now, I'll see a more mature version of his sweet, freckled face and hear his smart and sensitive words in the conversations we had this week.  I'll remember Megan's shy, cute grin, which has now lost all traces of babyhood, and I'll see the twinkle she had in her eye whenever she was around our pets.  The only sad part about seeing these wonderful kids and their dad is that it made us all more keenly aware of how much we miss them when they're not here anymore.

The weather changed drastically this morning; gray skies and thunder and large drops of rain rolled in as Jamie and the kids, the boys and I were saying our goodbyes.  It was as if Mother Nature was sensing our collective wistful mood.  Once the cousins' vehicle disappeared from view, Noah retreated to his bed once again where he moped and read for the rest of the morning, and Will wandered the house for a long while, sadly repeating that he just didn't know what to do.  Personally, I've been finding the house a little too quiet and rather empty with only three of us in it today.  We are all so very glad, though, that we had the chance to spend a few truly delightful days with family.  Our memory banks are now once again full with a beautiful collection of warm, sunny moments we will hold very close to us until we can all be together again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Dear Will,

When you see your new age written on paper cards tomorrow, you will probably think of something fascinating, like how the number 8 is just like the symbol for infinity if you look at it sideways.  You've always been able to see the world in ways most people don't -- it seems sometimes as though you were born with the wisdom of a soul that has already lived an infinite number of years.  When you were very little, I used to sit and look at you and wonder what it was that made you tick.  I didn't realize then that the reason I couldn't figure you out was because I needed to look sideways, too.  There's a breathtaking view inside the window to your bright and beautiful self; I've seen it now, and it has moved and changed me.  Thank you for showing me how life looks from a lovely new perspective. 

Happy 8th birthday, Will.  I'm so proud of the creative, enthusiastic, funny, thoughtful boy you've grown into, and so excited to see where you'll go next in your world of endless possibilities.  I'll always love you to infinity.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Losing it

When I was little, my mom used to knit me cozy mittens, in every colour of the rainbow, to keep my hands warm in the cold winter months.  I loved those mittens, right down to the long, twisty strings with which she joined the mitts together to prevent me from ever losing them.  Well, I loved the strings until suddenly I was a ten year old grade five student who felt utterly ridiculous wearing strings on her mittens, especially since I was never the type of child to lose things.  (Seriously -- never.)  But don't worry, Mom -- I don't hold (much of) a grudge over your good intentions!  (Love you!)

Fast forward a... few... years, and I now find myself with my own ten year old grade five student who loses absolutely EVERYTHING!  It's never intentional, I'm certain -- Noah always feels genuinely sorry whenever he discovers he's missing yet another item -- it's just that somewhere in the pathway of mental processes involved in remembering to collect all of his personal things, Noah's brain encouters a giant red X, an error message that prevents him from completing the task.

Noah is, quite frankly, a brilliant kid.  He speaks as though he's memorized the entire Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, and can confidently explain scientific concepts that I wasn't even aware existed.  He writes wonderfully creative and elaborate stories, invents and builds working models of useful gadgets, and has very big plans for his future.  However, in the past two months alone, this very same boy has forgotten or completely lost his swim fins, a water bottle, his swimming ear plugs, his umbrella, a swimsuit, his school agenda, a pair of snow pants, a brand new package of pencil crayons, two pair of swim goggles, and a full pencil case.   My favourite recent incident is dripping with irony:  after Noah spent a full day challenging his mind at a board-wide enrichment workshop, the simple thought that perhaps he should bring home the stuff he went there with never even occurred to him.  He left it all behind.

In many cases, we've been fortunate enough to retrieve the forgotten items, either by backtracking through the various locations of our day, or by the good fortune of someone we know noticing the forlorn, left-behind things and collecting them to return to us.  Some endings haven't been as happy, though.  When an item has completely vanished away into Never Never Land, Matt and I have sometimes had Noah pay out of his own saved allowance to replace the thing he lost, hoping that it would teach him to be more careful in the future.  We haven't noticed any improvement as a result.  We've taught him strategies for using mental or paper checklists, suggested he always return things to the place where he got them as soon as he's finished with them, asked him to double-check his bag before leaving anywhere to  make sure he has all of his stuff -- all to no avail.  It's come to the point where I'm thinking attaching strings to pretty much everything might be the only way to go!

I have a hard time understanding Noah's tendency to forget so many things, because it's not the way I operate at all.  Matt tells me that he thinks this behaviour is pretty typical for ten year old boys.  I hope he's right, and that one day, Noah will finally outgrow the forgetting and losing phase.  If not, then I hope the many parts of Noah's brain that work in magnificent ways, the parts that are sure to help him accomplish big things in life, will somehow afford him a personal assistant to take care of all the little details!

Monday, March 5, 2012


For those of you who have never had the pleasure of sharing your life with young boys, let me enlighten you today.  I'm going to let you have a little glimpse of how life with young boys is full of never-ending surprises.  (And when I'm done, you might be just a teensy bit glad you've never had the pleasure.)

Yesterday afternoon, Will spent a long time burning off some of his endless energy in a fun and lively road hockey game with the boys next door.  When he came back inside, red-cheeked and smiling, he quietly put away his coat and boots and gloves and hat and wandered off to do whatever it is that he does when he's not otherwise occupied.  There was no mention of the fact that he may or may not have had a serious altercation with the giant, Grimace-like, hockey-ball-eating evergreen tree that lives adjacent to our front walkway. 

 Do you see the resemblance?

No, Will figured he'd just let Matt and I discover the evidence of that particular incident in (literal) bits and pieces over the next 24 hours, kind of like one discovers things in that birthday party game where everyone passes the parcel and the person holding it when the music stops gets to remove a layer of wrapping paper to reveal a prize.  Only less fun.

On walking past our front entrance later in the day, I noticed a rather abundant collection of dead evergreen needles scattered in little piles ALL over the doormat.  This was not a particularly odd discovery, as with two boys in the house, more days than not I find little piles of something scattered all over that mat, so I just shook the mat outside and carried on.  When I later sat down beside Will, he started complaining about his back feeling all prickly, like something was stabbing him, and as he wriggled about, more dead evergreen needles started raining down onto the couch and floor.  By this time, I was curious as to how all of these needles had accumulated on Will's person, and he casually mentioned that he had bumped into the Grimace tree while trying to retrieve a ball outside.  I gave his shirt a shake-out to get rid of any other potentially offending needles and figured that was the end of it. 

The afternoon progressed rather uneventfully, but after dinner, I heard Matt exclaiming in disbelief as he stood beside Will's chair at the dining table.  The kitchen floor was littered with more dead evergreen needles, enough that the Swiffer vac couldn't pick them all up.  Where these needles kept coming from, we weren't sure we wanted to know, but it was clear that Will had done more than bump into that tree.  (More like the tree had chewed Will up and spit him and all of its dead needles out at the same time, in some wild and desperate attempt at spring cleaning.)  Will was left wandering the house like Pig Pen, leaving a trail of debris behind him wherever he went.

By the time Will had showered and gone to bed last night, we were pretty sure we had seen the last of the dead evergreen needles.  Wrong.  This morning, in the we-need-to-be-out-the-door-now dash, I discovered that Will's hat from yesterday was more porcupine than headwear; it had needles sticking out all over in every direction, and there were needles stuck to every visible piece of velcro on Will's jacket.  The final prize of this exciting little game came when I went to dump the five bazillion dead needles out of Will's boots, and discovered, for the second time this season, that his winter footwear had holes worn right through the soles on both feet.  (Thankfully, because I really don't enjoy this particular kind of surprise, I already had a third pair of winter boots tucked away in the closet for just such a situation!)  And don't ask me how a child manages to work his way through three pairs of boots in one winter.  I can't even begin to imagine it.

Yes, life around here is filled with fascinating discoveries, one after the other after the other.  Funny thing is, after having lived long enough with young boys, these kinds of happenings don't even surprise me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Banana blueberry muffins

In the early days of knowing we had food sensitivities to deal with in our family, I tiptoed very cautiously in the land of gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free baking.  I followed any promising sounding recipes I found to the letter, and slowly built up a collection of trusted ones that always resulted in delicious, healthy foods.  As time passed, I started to feel more comfortable with the new ingredients and experimenting with them in my kitchen.  It has been really rewarding in the last while to be able to develop some of my own versions of recipes and to see the smiles on my family's faces when they enjoy the end results.

These banana blueberry muffins came to be when I played around with the pumpkin spice muffin recipe given to us by Will's teacher (which I posted back in January).  While we still really love the pumpkin version, I think these banana blueberry ones are Will's and my new favourite!  These muffins can be made with whole wheat flour and milk if you prefer, or you can make the gluten-free, dairy-free ones pictured here using the suggested substitutions.

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (substitute brown rice flour for gluten-free muffins)

1/2 cup oat bran (substitute pure oats finely ground in a food processor for gluten-free muffins)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (approximately 2 large bananas)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup milk (dairy, almond, or rice)
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange zest

In a large bowl, mix flour, oat bran, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and sea salt until well combined.
Whisk together mashed banana, milk, honey, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and orange zest in a medium bowl until well combined. 
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until mixed.  Fold in frozen blueberries.
Spoon mixture into paper lined muffin cups and bake at 375 F for 20 to 30 minutes. (Check the muffins after 20 minutes -- cooking times will vary depending on your oven.) Cool and serve.

These nutritious and tasty muffins make an excellent mid-morning snack, and they freeze well.  Will tells me that blue/purple fruits make you really smart, too -- he's planning to eat a lot of these to boost his brain power even more.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Son of mine

Will always falls behind Noah and I as we make our way to school in the morning.   It's not that he wants to be late (one frightened middle-of-the-night awakening this week showed that the idea of getting to school after the bell and having to go to the principal's office is exactly the stuff Will's nightmares are made of), but he honestly can't help himself.  As I look back at him to coax him along, his eyes are focused anywhere but forward, and he's once again wandered off the sidewalk to study something on the ground or in the trees.  His lips form words silently but busily, a testament to the whirlwind of activity going on in his mind, which never, ever seems to rest.  The business of getting to school has roamed far from his conciousness, much like the single red balloon we saw this morning in the sky above the school yard drifted off into nowhere.

Sometimes I've wondered what it must be like to be inside Will's mind, that ever-moving, intricate collection of springs and wheels that puzzle and discover and invent and plan and worry and wonder and have epiphanies.  Sometimes Will enlightens me in this regard by running to catch up to me on that walk to school and spilling forth a breathless jumble of questions and certainties:  Do we have any extra big comfortable chairs we're not using because I want to build a new kind of sled.  When I'm older I am going to open my own restaurant that has food that looks fun and tastes really good but is still healthy.  And if you're ever in the States, never order the macaroni and cheese from Romano's Macaroni Grill because it has as much saturated fat as 20 strips of bacon.  I am the 99th most popular kid in my school, you know.  According to my calculations, I used to be the 100th most popular kid, but the kid who was in front of me left the school, so I moved up.  We need to order that Worst Case Scenario Survival book from Scholastic this month because I like to be prepared for things.  Are you actually listening to me? Good; just checking.  If you were trying to use up all of the magnetic letters on the fridge, and the only letters you had left were S H I T, what would you do?  I would make the word THIS and then I wouldn't have to get in trouble.  Did you pack my library book?  Are you sure?  Hey, I have a new idea for a comic strip I'm going to write and draw when I get home today -- do you want me to tell you about it?

When Will soliloquizes on and on like this, I find it exhausting, not because it isn't fascinating, but because I suddenly realize that the noise in Will's head sounds remarkably similar to the constant cacophony of thoughts that runs through my own.  While I might not be planning to build sleds out of chairs or figuring out how to avoid writing swear words on the fridge, I have my own relentless questions and exciting ideas that all fight for attention at the same time, and mental lists, and sudden breathless realizations, and worries about all of the what ifs in the world.  It's in those moments of really hearing Will that I realize how very well I understand him, this boy who utterly puzzled me for the first several years of his life.

I was looking through some old photographs the other day, and I came across one of me from grade two, when I made my First Communion. It startled and amazed me when I placed that photo alongside one of Will from school this year (also grade two).

I shouldn't have been surprised at all to see a reflection of myself in my youngest son. While of course, Will and I are each our own unique person, it's been clear for awhile that we share the same kind of wondrous activity behind our very similar deep brown eyes.  I think it's comforting for both of us to know that when the noise inside won't quiet down, there will always be someone to talk to who understands.