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Blackberry Overload!

I had to get kids out of the house last weekend.  The husband demolished our deck to reinforce and rebuild it, so the boys were not free to frolic around the backyard, which means they destroyed my house instead.  Family room, bedrooms, kitchen…everything was a disaster.  We hit Chesterfield Berry Farm for organic blackberry picking.  Unlike peak pumpkin and strawberry seasons when you pay an arm and a leg for admission, blackberry season is FREE.  You only pay for the fruit, and the price of gas since the berry farm is in the middle of no where.  Things 2 and 3 enjoyed eating more than picking.  Thing 1 was content to run around the fields, run away from me, send me into panic mode when I couldn’t find him, etc.  I wanted to kick his butt when I finally caught him at the moon bounce.  Such a stinker, but we made it home alive with a mountain of blackberries to demolish. What’s so awesome about blackberries anyway?  They should be in your Super Fruit category since they are packed with bioflavonoids, Vitamins C and K, antioxidants, and fiber.  They supercharge your heart, gut, and brain. IMG_0037 For those that asked, Thing 3 is sitting in a Kokopax Classic Carrier. I bought it off Craigslist in 2010, but Kokopax is no longer in business.IMG_0036Now what to do with that big bucket of blackberries…

Blackberry Cobbler

We made three blackberry cobblers last night, adapting the Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  She calls for more sugar, but I used:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
  • Ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 3-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk sugar with flour and milk.  Whisk in the melted butter, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice (I used the juice and zest of half of a small lemon).  Pour the batter into the baking dish.  Layer blackberries evenly on top of the batter.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the blackberries.  Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour.

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One cobbler for my parents, one for my father-in-law, one for us.  No lie, this was breakfast with my morning coffee.  No regrets.

EASY Homemade Blackberry Ice Cream

Our next venture into blackberry heaven was homemade ice-cream, inspired by this Pinterest recipe.  I wanted to cut the calories a little (so I could continue eating cobbler for breakfast), so I substituted Greek yogurt for half of the heavy cream and used coconut milk instead of whole milk.  Greek yogurt made the ice cream amazingly creamy, and its healthy bacteria can withstand freezing.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 container (7 oz) plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Puree the blackberries, then work them through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  Set that puree aside in a large bowl to wait for its friends to join the party. In a saucepan on low heat, combine cream, yogurt, and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is smooth.  You do NOT want to heat this mixture quickly because milk proteins in the yogurt will separate from the whey.  Their divorce is permanent.  It’s very sad.  Did I impress you with my Alton Brown level of knowledge there? Add that mixture to the blackberry puree, along with the coconut milk and vanilla.  Give everything a good whisk, and pour it into a large freezer bag and freeze overnight.

On Day 2, beat the hell out of that freezer bag.  The frozen mixture needs to be broken into smaller pieces before it gets pulverized in the food processor.  Take out all your aggression, break it up, put those pieces in the food processor, and process until smooth.  This process took several minutes.

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Hello, beautiful.

You can transfer the ice cream to a loaf pan, cover with foil, and freeze–BUT if you use Greek yogurt, use another vessel.  The yogurt’s acidity has a yucky reaction to metal.  I used a Chinese take-out plastic container.  Add chocolate chips or whatever else at this point.  Freeze it until the ice cream is firm enough to scoop. IMG_0041

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Here’s our post-swim practice treat.

If you kept track, I used 8 cups of blackberries in two days.  Want to know how much is left?  At least 4 more cups.  Now I wish I knew how to can jam.

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The Best of…Teacher Life 2015

Slightly late posting this one since school ended on June 12th.  As the school year winded down, I reflected on the highs and lows, went through my little notes about activities, revised what needed to be revised, etc.  I am slowing making my way through dozens of sticky notes I plastered on units, notes, activities, and projects.

As if life in seventh grade isn’t awkwardly horrible enough, it felt like morale was an all-time low among teachers this year.  We had a dozen new initiatives to implement, including a new online evaluation/professional development thing, Chromebooks distributed to every student, adult learning plans, peer observations, way too much technology training… Yep, teachers were burned out by November.  Meanwhile, our poor kids are stuck in the middle of middle school, and there’s a huge spread between those who think they know everything and those who are still clueless.  They’re awkward.  Some are jerks.  They’re kids.

Despite the challenges, there were some hysterical moments this year–moments that had my sides and face in pain from laughing so hard.  Here are my favorite shocking/enlightening/delightful moments of the 2014-2015 school year.

1. The “brothers don’t shake hands” moment.  Student J finished a quiz in my classroom during lunch and was on his way to another teacher when Student B came in.  These two boys are friends.  J opened his arms and stuck out his chest to give B a chest bump.  B misread all those cues, wrapped his arms around J, and gave him a big hug.  J’s face turned very confused as he said to me, “I guess this works, too.”  And I died.

Teacher Top 10 2015

(Image source: http://s.quickmeme.com/)

2. The ask.com fail.  Every time I give project directions or talk about reliable sources for research, I tell students to never, ever, ever use ask.com or answer.com.  This little ESL girl completed a project on Henry Ford, and one of the components asked students to find charities or projects their Industrial Giant was known for.  She ignored the ask.com restriction.  Again, I died.

Henry Ford

3. Field trips!  You know what it’s like to have cabin fever?  That’s how I feel being in my classroom every day.  I love field trips, and we took great ones this year.  They make for long days, but they’re fun and give everyone a chance to stretch their legs.  This year I had to beg for parent chaperons, though.  Seriously, who would not want to spend the day with their child and 149 other 12-year-olds?

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Hall of Mammals

4. Letters from former students.  During Teacher Appreciation Week, I received a letter at school from a student I taught in sixth and seventh grade.  This year she was a freshman in high school.  Like divine intervention, I received her letter on a day that I was feeling particularly frustrated.  I got in my car at the end of the day and cried like a baby.

“Your style of teaching and passion for history inspired me to develop a strong feeling for the subject of the past…”

“It reminds me of the potential you saw in me and helps me pick my head up and push through…Thank you so much for always pushing me to do my best.  I appreciate it!”

5. Letters from current students.  I appreciate well-placed snark.  This boy wrote me the best Christmas card I’ve ever received, and there wasn’t even a gift card inside (not that I held that against him).

Letter

6. Food in the teacher work room.  File this one under the “enlightening” category.  One morning, delicious gourmet popcorn appeared beside our copy machine.  My coworker graciously shared the recipe for peanut butter cup popcorn, and she made me very fappy (fat and happy).  This crack corn was so good, it’s my food highlight of the year.

Popcorn

7. Larry.  That Larry, he’s a scoundrel.  This sketch was brought to my class one morning as a gift from one girl to another and caused a commotion.  I do not shock easily, but fishing this paper out of the trashcan…well, my jaw hit the floor.  I later learned that Larry is a mash-up of two One Direction singers.  When my girlfriends give me gifts, it’s usually in the form of gift cards or wine, not sketches of gay celebrity porn.  But this sketch did provide us with our catchphrase of the spring: “Don’t get Larried!”

Larry

8. An abundance of snow days.  They really are the best things behind winter, spring, and summer breaks.  My boys definitely enjoyed extra pancakes and sledding between January and March.

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9. The “Bye Felicia” trend.  I love a good 90’s throwback, and “Bye Felicia” was all over the seventh grade.  And none of the kids ever saw Friday!  Between Felicia and all the Tupac, Biggie, and Eazy-E t-shirts, I felt like I was reliving middle school.

10. The Last Day of School!  Well, duh.  I am lucky enough to call my team members my friends, and I look forward to our summer adventures.

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You Know You’re an Autism Parent When…

Earlier this month, my husband shared a list with me from The Mighty called, “You Know You’re a Special Needs Parent When…”  Check out the original post with some pretty funny e-cards here.  Now that we have a week of summer break under our belts and I spend all day with my kiddos (when I’m not pawning them off on Nana while I day drink with friends), this list comes into my mind over and over again throughout the day.

You have to understand that my children are spastic during the summer, and no amount of time in the pool, sun, or any activity tires them.  They are high on life one minute, then screaming “DINOSAURS” and throwing shit the next.  It’s a Jekyll and Hyde routine stuck on repeat.  Maybe it’s the heat or humidity or change in routine, but it leaves the husband and I wondering what alternate universe we entered.  Hence, the day drinking.

So tonight I offer you some examples of what The Mighty and I know about autism parenting this week…

“You’re a walking medical dictionary.”  I just schooled my husband in mast cell activation disorder regarding Thing 1, and the benefits of a low-phenol diet for Thing 2.  It was an out-of-body experience.  Tonight at Whole Foods, I actually said to him, “I can’t remember what is lower in phenol–green or red grapes.”  Who am I?

“When putting your child’s socks on is a task that takes at least 15 minutes.”  I needed to make a quick trip to the grocery store when the baby woke up from his nap yesterday.  It took 10 minutes for Thing 1 to find his shoes.  When he finally found his Crocs, he stared at them.  It was a staring contest with ugly shoes.  By the time everyone got buckled into the van, I realized no green beans are worth this amount of effort.

“You’re constantly surprised by your own courage, and by your child’s courage” and “You are capable of more love and strength than you ever thought possible.”  One line I hate hearing is, “I don’t know how you do it.”  Why wouldn’t you do your best?  Or at least try?  What’s the alternative? Some days you batten down the hatches and ride the waves.  Some days you have to tell someone off.  Some days you’re the beauty, and other days you’re the beast.

“You’ve learned to celebrate the little victories.”  You pooped in the potty?  YAY!!

Thing 2 blew me away today at the pool.  After swim team practice, he wanted to stay and play.  There were other boys from the team throwing balls, diving, and being neurotypical boys on a summer day.  Thing 2 watched them as he swam along with perimeter of the pool.  Then he took someone’s Lightning McQueen, threw it, and dove for it.  He bobbed back up with McQueen and a big smile.  He did that a few times among the kids, not on the perimeter, and that took a ton of courage from my little boy.  He was initiating play with other kids, and that is a big victory, my friends.

“You’ve (almost) learned how to forgive yourself for not being perfect” and “You’ve (almost) become immune to the looks others give you in public.”  I yelled and cursed trying to get the kids to the grocery store yesterday.  Then Thing 2 tried to hold Thing 1’s hand in the parking lot, and that set Thing 1 off.  I lost it.  I horse-collared Thing 1 and told him to stop being a butthead.  An old lady gave me a nasty look.  I’m not perfect, neither are my kids, and we do not pretend to be.

“You will never take your child’s health for granted.”  As stressful as some trips to the grocery store can be, I am grateful to have these little boogers.  I know several friends and family members who lost children to sickness or birth defects.  Being able to fuss at my kids, love on them, and smother them with kisses before bed is a gift.

“You always know when to trust your instincts.”  This is a big reason why we’re getting Thing 1 out of his current school placement.

“No matter how much you go without it, you’ll never get used to the lack of sleep.”  TRUTH.  Sleeping in and taking naps, when they happen, are the most magical things ever.  As magical as unicorns galloping along rainbows, because I never see them.  Our typical night starts with Melatonin for the big kids at 8:00.  Then the husband lays with Thing 2 until he falls asleep. The adults go to bed around 11:00.  Thing 2 is awake again anywhere between 12:30-2:30 a.m., screaming bloody murder and repeating, “Come here!” and “Go to bed!”  We let him cry it out, even when he wakes up his brothers.  Thing 1 is up and will rummage the house for iPads and food starting at 5:00 a.m., sometimes earlier.  When I do snap at my kids, it’s because I’m so damn tired!

“Any day your child keeps his pants on is a good day.”  A better name for Thing 1 is “White Lightning.”  He is a habitual streaker, and we catch him outside daily, jumping on the trampoline or swinging high in the swing, butt naked.  My husband was laying on the couch last weekend when Thing 2 came into the family room and threw his shorts and underwear in daddy’s face.  That’s pretty bold.

Streaking

(Image source: http://www.quickmeme.com/)

“The neighbors begin to wonder why so many therapists are coming and going from your house all week.”  It’s called ABA, bitches.  Now get back to your post about how gifted and perfect you want Fakebook world to think your child is.

Okay, that last one sounded a little bitter.  My bad.

Here’s to summer survival.