Fresh Picks (May 21)


This week ramps, rhubarb, garlic, watercress, asparagus, and lacinato kale.

I went to work right away on some of these items. Grilling up the asparagus next to chicken for dinner the next evening. I added some kale chips as a side…DSC_0247

Finally I whipped that rhubarb into a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. I envisioned topping it with some vanilla ice cream but we were out so I used a little whipped cream instead. Jack was bonkers for it. Ben ate it all up and the twins licked the whipped cream off around the crisp. The next morning I sneaked some on top of my yogurt for breakfast. Hey! It’s got fruit and oats! It could be breakfast!


Watercress was used in a kitchen sink salad. I even added some of the leftover grilled asparagus in it.

Finally the garlic and ramps were put into my vegan dhal from one of my favorite cookbooks, Appetite for Reduction. I’ve been eating it next to Trader Joe’s frozen Naan and slopping it top of leftover brown rice all week. It’s so yummy I didn’t even offer it to the kids for fear of them dumping it all on the ground or taking one bite and wasting the rest!


Pin It

Memorial Day Weekend

Did everyone have a good memorial day weekend?

Sometimes when you get long weekends it’s nice to get away, but more often than not when you have small kids, it’s nice to stay at home and use the extra day to just slow things down and relax.

This is not to say we were not busy this past weekend.

We took some of Adam’s clients to TopolobampoRick Bayless’ award winning restaurant. They changed the menu from the last time we were there. From a la carte to pre-fix. You can now order 3, 5 or 7 courses. It was an amazing dinner. Sometimes when a restaurant is so hyped up you can be disappointed but I wasn’t in the least. It just made me even more of a fan of his. In fact, we recently started to frequent his casual restaurant next door, Xoco when we need a quick, inexpensive Bayless fix.

Speaking of eating out, we spent a lot of time eating out this weekend. We hit the The Burger Bar after Jack’s soccer game Saturday. We also went to The Original Pancake House after trying unsuccessfully for a table at Summer House Santa Monica. We love the food at Summer House but in the end we realized it probably worked out for the best as the pancake house is much better for kids.

After breakfast we were right next to the zoo so we headed over there for a while.

The zoo always makes me feel weird. On the one hand I’m happy people from all walks of life can see these exotic animals up close but I often feel bad for the animals. Especially ones that you know would be running wild in their natural habitat.

Still, the kids really enjoyed it. IMG_6335

Above they make a short stop to see the lion between riding the carousel and train…


Another family photo this year!

Another family photo this year!

We also had a couple of play dates. One was with the Gahans at Oz Park.


Lots of boys running around with balls.


Vivian, the only girl at the testosterone laden play date, is about the same age as Ben. They have a love/hate thing going on. It’s about 90% hate and 10% love.


More eating out. This time we had the pizza delivered to the park.


And even more eating out. Embarrassingly this is our third ice cream store this weekend!


Memorial Day we met our friends the Smith’s for a pool and dinner (yes, I don’t think I washed a single dish this weekend) date at the East Bank Club. They have a daughter who is Jack’s age and they did their normal play date dance, where they ignore each other until the play date is about to be over and they suddenly discover just how fun the other one is. I didn’t get any pictures because I didn’t want any of my kids to drown and it’s hard to sneak them in with the no picture policy there.

We woke up this morning very rested. And sad it was all over.

Hope all my readers enjoyed their weekend as much as we did!

Pin It

Sensory Processing Disorder Manifestations

Sensory Processing Disorder or (SPD) is still fairly a new concept. Which makes it difficult for most parents. It’s considered “on the spectrum” like ADHD and Autism, but unlike those two that are well known and accepted, SPD is something most people never hear about until they come across it firsthand.

SPD also displays a wide variety of symptoms so it is hard to pinpoint easily, even if you have some personal experience with it. Which is amazing considering they say that at least 1 in 20 people are affected by it.

So how does Ben’s sensory processing present itself?

Our son Ben is a sensory seeker, but there are kids with just the opposite problems, instead of looking for intense experiences, they shy away from them.

Ben craves oral stimulation. He feels the need to put everything in his mouth.

Eating Sand

Eating Sand

Tree licking

Tree licking

Ben is very tactile.  When he eats, he often will make art with his food for hours if you let him…DSC_0052

If things don’t go Ben’s way he has difficulty coping with it. He will often throw tantrums for the slightest miscommunication or if he can’t get things exactly the way he wants. When everything else in your body is out of control, having control in other areas of very important.

Flailing tantrums everywhere.

Flailing tantrums everywhere.

The worst of the sensory seeking problems is Ben’s inability to keep his hands to himself. Again, tactile. All our boys wrestle with each other, but Ben needs to have his hands or body on or against someone constantly.

Aaron doesn't mind it as much as the others.

Aaron doesn’t mind it as much as the others.

He is also very clumsy. This is because his vestibular system is either underdeveloped or developed wrong. It is the essence of sensory processing and the root of all the other problems, if you believe the research. Walking down the street and holding hands with him, I may find him trip on his own feet a few times a minute. In occupational therapy she spends a lot of time swinging and lifting heavy things to help develop this system.

But with all these problems comes an incredible mind.

Ben, our deep thinker.

Ben, our deep thinker.

Every day he amazes me with new concepts he grapples with. Just this morning he was asking me if we can use the stove in the past. I had to explain to him what the difference between past, present and future where and how, because we can not travel in time we can not use the stove in the past. Then he wanted to know if the stove existed in the past. Amazing stuff. Every day it’s a wonder to me how his brain works.

Perhaps the underdeveloped part of his body is compensated for with the overdeveloped brain power.

I think one of the hardest things about it is that, because your kid looks perfectly normal, no one realizes he isn’t. So they have a certain level of expectation that he can’t possibly live up to.

Are you wondering if your kid is 1 in 20 with a sensory processing disorder? You can take a test here.

Pin It

Gluten Free

While browsing the internet for stuff about sensory processing disorders, I came across a lot of interesting reads like the Huffington Post’s Heidi Brod’s articleDianne Craft MD’s hidden allergies article, and Rage Against the Minivan’s treatment article.  It seemed like it was all over the internet that Allergies co-exsist with SPD. Gluten and dairy seem to be common culprits. My friend Jennie first suggested I take out food dyes, which I did. I didn’t notice any major changes in Ben’s behavior because of it, but it made me wonder if food dyes could effect children’s behavior, surely so could other foods he ingests?

I read numerous posts on people who had kids diagnosed whose tantrums and other negative behaviors were miraculously cured by figuring out they had a food allergy.

Sound to good to be true?

This week I took Ben gluten free. I didn’t even bother to inform him, unlike the last time.


Once again I hit the store and bought foods to sneakily replace the ones we had at home. Would the boys notice?

The first thing I made was Amy’s Cheese Pizza. It did not have the chewy quality of wheat crust. Instead it tasted vaguely like cornmeal. The crust was more delicate but it held together enough for the kids to eat it with their hands, cut like in triangles. They all ate it and no one was the wiser. In fact, for the youngest ones I think they preferred a less chewy quality. Usually they just lick whatever the topping is off the bread, this time they actually ate it all. I thought the taste of the pizza was really good and I would eat this again for sure.

Next I tried out King Arther’s Gluten Free Cookie Mix. I added chocolate, white chocolate, and peanut butter chips.DSC_0133Again the kids had no idea they weren’t traditional chocolate chip cookies. I felt there was a sandlike quality and it didn’t crisp up as much as a cookie but that didn’t stop me from eating 4 of them the night we made them. So, if I had a choice I’d probably chose the regular ones. If I had to go gluten free I’d probably go back to the 5 ingredient almond butter cookies. Mostly because I know exactly what goes into them more than they trump the gluten free mix taste wise.

One morning I made my regular pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes. I thought these tasted perfect and could tell no difference when they were hot. However, I ate a leftover pancake that had been sitting in my car after a trip to the museum (don’t judge me) and once it was cold I noticed again that plastic, gritty taste seemed to prevail with all the gluten free replacements I was using.DSC_0138

Perhaps I was doing it all wrong. Perhaps if you really need to go gluten free than you should change your menu completely. After all, when I tended towards veganism, I didn’t try to find vegan turkey slice replacements for my sandwiches. I ate a salad instead.

Still, I didn’t want to completely revamp my kitchen just yet. I just wanted a gluten free week to see if there were any changes in behavior.

But halfway through the week I was feeling really sorry for my gluten intolerant friends – wheat is in EVERYTHING!

Here is another night of braised celery and carrots, Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Veggie Curls Pasta, and bison meatloaf with coconut flour instead of bread crumbs.


Then I tried more stuff – Apricot Power Bars (they tasted like home made Lara Bars) and a batch of granola bars inspired by Ina Garten’s Granola Bars (this time I added dried apples, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips and used almond butter and no brown sugar).


My friend Laurie told me it takes a good 3 or 4 days to get it out of your system and many websites say you see results within a few days.

After a full seven days I was both happy and sad to find out that none of my kids are gluten intolerant. Ben’s bouts of tantrums didn’t lessen in the least, nor did it make transitions any easier. It also had no effect on Aaron’s persistent diaper rash.

I was so hoping for an easy, miraculous fix for Ben, something like changing a simple thing in his diet. Unfortunately I think it’s just going to have to be a lot of hard work and patience that gets us through this.

Oh well, at least we can treat ourselves with REAL chocolate chip cookies along the way!

Pin It

Field Trip to Chinatown

The fact that it was 45° and rainy this morning did not dampen the excitement Jack’s 1st grade class had for their Chinatown field trip today.


In fact, it pretty much rained icy cold water on us all day. Jack’s first grade teacher made a wonderful, educational scavenger hunt and tic-tac-toe game to help us learn more about Chinatown.


I’d like to say we kept it all educational, but in fact there was a lot of shopping too…DSC_0158

Which resulted in a bunch of boys running around with these…DSC_0169

I tried to calm my inner helicopter parent instinct which was telling me guns and swords were a bad idea and enjoy the moment. Luckily they were so cheap half of them were broken before the end of the trip.


When we got to the restaurant I noticed all the girls had fans. Which made me wonder if our gender stereotypes are ingrained or taught. I later learned the girls wanted swords but were talked out of it. As a mother of boys, I didn’t think I could let my boy not have one when the other boys did. So, I guess nurture won over nature this time around.

After lunch we got some goodies from my favorite bakery in Chinatown, Saint Anna Bakery. Jack very nicely shared them with his brothers after the trip…DSC_0196

It was super cute to hang out with all those happy, silly 1st graders all day but I do have a whole new respect for his teacher. I already thought she was amazing but seeing her in action make me feel like extremely fortunate that Jack goes to the school he does.

Pin It

Fresh Picks (May 7)


This week asparagus, celery, ramps, zucchini, carrots, red leaf lettuce and chives.

Right away the asparagus was roasted in the oven at 425° with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. So simple and yummy. And exciting to see asparagus back on the menu!

I used the ramps and chives in whole wheat biscuits with bacon bits.DSC_0028

I thought they were really good but the kids were kinda meh about them.

The carrots and zucchini were added to a Harvest CakeDSC_0032

This turned out heavenly. I didn’t use the goat cheese frosting, instead I whipped up 6 ounces of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 cups of whipping cream.

Leftover carrots and celery were braised as a side dish one night.

Celery and Carrots with Veggie Quinoa pasta and Bison Meatloaf

Celery and Carrots with Veggie Quinoa pasta and Bison Meatloaf

Finally I made a salad with the red leaf lettuce and the leftover asparagus. Threw in feta, cucumbers, tomatoes and all the rest of the leftover steamed veggies I had in the fridge – green beans and carrots, tossed it with some mustard vinaigrette and ate away.

Pin It

7th Mother’s Day

For some reason I always approach holidays that celebrate myself with hesitation.

It seems egotistical to celebrate my own fabulousness, and when Adam asks me what I want to do that day I feel that I am inflating my own self-worth by requesting stuff. Then in the very same thought, even as I am scared to make the schedule, I am worried that I’ll be disappointed by the day because it won’t make me feel special enough.

I realize it’s a tough line to walk for the poor hubby!

I did pull the usual Nikki celebration card, where I celebrated mother’s day for numerous days. When Adam asked what I wanted I told him a sitter for Saturday, the day before. He was out of town and I had 3 different games for the older boys. Covering the twins would be a nightmare during Ben’s game. Because of his disorder I have to be with him at all times, even on the field. I was hoping since I didn’t have the twins I could finally get some great photos but of course I forgot to charge the camera so it was dead.

Still, the iPhone helped. IMG_6242

Jack at baseball. You can’t see here but I was the only parent to forget his baseball hat.


Jack at soccer. I was the only mom to get the color socks wrong. See, when people ask me “how I do it” with four kids the answer is, not very well!

As far as actually mother’s day, my day started with cards from Adam and the kids. I was especially touched by the one Jack wrote to me in school.


It says: Dear Mom, I am going to hug you when I get home so much. I made a flower pen. (see it below the letter?) When I get home I love mom. You are pretty mom. I love your cooking. Love, Jack.

Next we headed over to Summer House for a little brekkie. DSC_0062They have retracted the roof and it was lovely to sit semi-outdoors, amidst all the other mothers in their floral dresses and husbands with pink button downs. I guess spring is here. Adam and I were dressed in jeans and between four kids there wasn’t a button among them. Sam refused to sit and they didn’t have enough high chairs so we toughed it out with regular chairs. I do love the food their though, the portions sizes are much more realistic for a woman with no self control. And each time I go I think, next time I’m going to order blah, blah and blah.

I didn’t want to punish Adam for the fact that it was a day to celebrate all the poop I clean and tantrums I endure, although leaving him with all the kids all day did cross my mind. Instead I controlled my inner diva and opted for a park after breakfast.


We went to Montgomery Ward Park. One of our favorites. That thing Jack and Ben is on actually spins.


The twins favorite thing at the park was the water fountain.


Kind of annoying how there is never any public restrooms anywhere near these parks. Luckily Jack has perfected the art of inconspicuous tree peeing. Ben, on the other hand, likes to pull his pants down, then run to a few different trees with his pants at his ankles before deciding where to go.


Afterwards we picnicked next to the park. You can see boats on the river and cars from the highway. Aaron loves to spend hours pointed them all out.

Another request I had for mother’s day was for Adam to spend some time batting with Jack and Ben. You can see them in the far right practicing.


Eventually everyone joined in. Later, during nap time, I had MORE mother’s day requests. For Jack to learn how to tie his shoes and for Ben to put all the wet laundry into the dryer (an exercise suggested by sensory disorder websites). Adam duly did both of these requests while I wandered around shops and eventually went for a run.

Jack was able to tie his shoes on his own twice. May this mother’s day always be remembered as the day Jack learned how to tie shoes!

Ben fell all over the place helping with the laundry and Adam had to prop him up. This is how I know it was a good exercise for him. Because at 4 and 1/2 years old, your balance for something like that should be much better.

As I’m writing this blog I’m waiting for Adam to come downstairs from putting the older kids to bed so we can eat the yummy Thai food that I ordered in.

And so I am signing off. Another wonderful mother’s day for me. I hope all the other moms reading feel as happy and lucky as I do today. Thanks Adam for making it all possible!

Pin It

Ben Banned Again

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post.

Last night we got the call that the gym no longer wants me to bring Ben in. Actually it was the option that, after yesterday’s incident, we don’t bring him in for at least a month. Ironicaly this is two days after I told one of the staff members that she would only have him for one more month, then we’d be busy with summer (I’ll have all four kids with little help and I plan to focus entirely on fun in the sun for them), then Ben starts school.

Yesterday I was summoned from my treadmill about 20 minutes into my run. This is the incident as it was explained to me….

Ben was playing with the only computer they have in the play room when another kid tried to join him. Ben pushed him away. The kid came back. Ben pushed him away again, but this time he was more aggressive. He did something to his throat that no one is really sure of, maybe it was a bite or a scratch but either way the kid was marked red in the throat area.

That evening I got the call.

I’d like to say I was angry but the truth is this has happened to me enough times that I can almost see the writing on the wall. The signs are always the same…

The staff stops wanted to make eye contact with you. The complaints about behavior get more frequent. By the time this phone call came I was getting a talking to at pick up almost every day. I wondered, as I often do when this happens, is Ben getting worse, or was the staff just worn down by him? Maybe he was just more comfortable with him and therefore felt he could let loose a bit more?

Ben is such a normal, every day part of my life that I have no idea what it would be like to be in a roomful of kids who keep their hands to themselves, don’t bite, are able to follow instructions and can play well with others. Do normal kids really do that? Actually none of mine do these things all the time, but Ben never does them.

When you have a sensory kid, the reprimands are constant. You have to ask him a ton of times every day to keep his hands to himself. Now it has gotten to the point that I just yell, “HANDS!” and Ben knows he should stop. He doesn’t always do it, but the reprimand is so familiar it has been abbreviated to one word.

There are good days and bad days. On the good days he is occupied with his iPad, chalk drawings, playing tickle torture together, or following Jack around and laughing. On the bad days it sometimes gets to the point where I just have to send him to his room for a while. No amount of punishment or explanation can help, only isolation can keep the peace and save my other kids from the constant touching, pushing, kicking and yelling he liberally spews out.

It is a very odd mix, because Ben is a very deep thinker. Which confuses me because I wonder how he can ponder such complex thoughts but can’t do the simplest tasks. This week he spent an abnormal amount of time asking about death. When you die, how you die, what happens when you die. He also grappled with the concept of infinity. Can you live to infinity? What is the number after infinity? Amazing questions that he asks with his fingers in his mouth, or in your mouth or while half walking and half tripping down the street next to you. It’s a very curious paradox.

When we first got the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder it was so exciting. Finally a label for this behavior! Finally we can consult the internet and therapists and fix him. But a few months after the diagnosis is a very depressing place. We now realize that there is no easy, quick fix. It is just a long, hard road they may not even lead anywhere good, but you have to trudge down it full force immediately anyway, because if you don’t then it might be too late. Reorganizing a sensory system is a young person’s game.

When Adam came home I told him about Ben’s newest dismissal. He mulled it over while putting the older kids to bed.

When he came downstairs he asked, “What are we going to do with Ben?”

I answered, “We are going to love him though this. And we are not going to give up on him even if everyone else does.”

“I’m also going to drink this very large tequila sunrise.” I added. “Because it is like a summery drink and now that I am no longer taking any time for myself to work out in the mornings, summer has officially started and I’m going to celebrate it with a lot of tequila and a scant amount of mixer.”

Here is to a happy summer everyone!

Pin It

Banana Coconut Muffins

I guess it’s back to cooking and blogging again, after my whirlwind month of travel in April.

I’ve been making a bunch of goodies in the kitchen, but the banana coconut muffins just came out of the oven and I had to shareDSC_0004

Ben had the iPad taken away after a particularly rough morning and it was kind of nice to put the twins down and make these together with him.

He was in charge of the mixing, and topping. And then eating the leftover topping which was his favorite part.

Anyway, if you like banana and coconut, you’ll love these! No refined sugar or refined flours or butter…

Banana Coconut Muffins
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Muffins
Healthy muffins that are great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • turbinado sugar for topping
  1. preheat oven to 375°F. Spray muffin tin or use muffin liners.
  2. In one bowl whisk flour, oat bran, shredded coconut, baking powder, salt.
  3. In another bowl combine coconut oil, bananas, honey, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  5. Divide into muffin cups.
  6. Sprinkle muffin tops with turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.

Inspired by: Cookie and Kate

Pin It

Ben and Baseball

Adam and I decided after much debate to sign Ben up for baseball this season.

After being pushed out of two preschools, soccer and getting a lot of “parent talks” from the gym day care, we did it with great reservation.

On the one hand, we’ll never know when he’s ready to join society if we don’t keep trying. On the other hand, we don’t want him to feel like he’s a failure all the time, over and over again.

With Jack’s practices I usually show up with all the kids and play at a nearby park while Jack practices. He can handle himself just fine and I can see him at all times. I make sure he knows where I am if he needs me.

With Ben, I can’t leave him with a group of strangers in an unfamiliar setting and expect him to act normally. In fact, even though he is closer to 5 than 4 years of age, an adult still needs to be with him constantly.

He will not follow the group or the instructions from the teachers or coaches.

Adam has been making an incredible effort to get home early from work to take him to his baseball practices. However, he always comes home wondering if it’s worth the effort. Last practice he refused to participate at all.

I usually stay home at those times and watch the other kids.

Today Ben had his second game. The first one we were away for but my father took him to and could not believe his behavior.

You see, at home Ben just seems like a normal kid. Okay, a normal kid who is a bit antisocial, paranoid, touchy, clumsy, and thought provoking. But in a group setting his sensory disorder really presents itself.

I won’t bore you with the details but my father said if they didn’t know Ben and saw him for the first time at his baseball game they would think he was retarded.

Yesterday we took Ben to the game and Adam tried to get him to join the group but he wouldn’t. Eventually I took a turn and was able to get him to go over.

Adam watched the other kids in the park nearby and when the game was over Adam was gleaming at me, saying how well Ben did at the game.

He was so happy at his ‘progress’ that I kept my mouth shut. It was all I could do not to break down in tears when I saw the difference between Ben and the other kids.

While the other kids were able to sit and wait for their turn to bat, I had to sit with him at every moment and basically hold him in my lap to keep him from wandering away while waiting to bat.

While other kids could bat without help, some even without a T, Ben needed the coach to do everything, practically swinging the bat for him.DSC_1022

It was sweet to see him up to bat, though.

Even though I spent a lot of time explaining it to him, he ran after the ball he bat instead of to first base. Eventually he figured it out and was able to run to first base the next time he was up to bat.


While the other kids stood where the coaches told them to, watched the batter and chased the ball, Ben completely ignored the fact that there was a game, even after I explained to him what he should be doing. He had ideas of his own. DSC_1024

During this time he made patterns in the sand, he threw the sand into the grassy area, and he talked to me about life and death and where poop went after you flushed it down.

I know we don’t play baseball together after school and maybe if we did he would be better prepared. But we didn’t do it with Jack either and he adapted just fine.

I’m not even sure how much of it is his sensory disorder. Maybe he’s just got his own ideas about life and one day all this stuff won’t matter at all.

But sadly right now I know that following instructions in a group setting is critical for getting through school, and he seems completely unable to do that in any group setting you put him in.

After a few innings Jack came over to help out.DSC_1034

He ran the bases with Ben and again I felt like welling up, this time with pride as I watched Jack caring for Ben and Ben looking up to Jack.

Ben made me proud too, sharing his precious snacks with Jack and the twins after the game was over.DSC_1036

Overall it was a good game for him, and even seeing the familiar look on the coaches faces, where they go to choose whose turn it is to cover first base and they look right past him, knowing within a practice of two that he is incapable of participating fully, we still lived though another game and I’m hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we’ll hobble through the rest of the season together too.

Pin It