Monday, May 31, 2010

Cupcakes For My Brother

The cupcake tower. A bit plain, but it was all I could come up with in the time I had!

My brother turned 25 last weekend, and I made his birthday cake for him. Cupcakes mostly. With a small top cake for cutting. Unfortunately, the whole party wasn't even confirmed to me as happening until only 2 days before the event. So it left me with very little time to come up with something. Very little time. (STRESS!!)

About halfway through the morning, as I was decorating the cupcake stand, I actually ran out of brown ribbon. At that point, my stress levels went through the roof. With four little ones and myself still to dress and get ready for the party, and a baby to feed as well, I just didn't have time for this! But, in the end, I managed 6 dozen cupcakes - plainly swirled, no fancy toppers - in Mocha Hazelnut and White Chocolate & Raspberry. The topcake was vanilla layered with white chocolate buttercream and raspberries, finished in white chocolate buttercream, and decorated with modeling chocolate accents. Everything is handmade and edible, except for the ribbon of course.

The monogrammed top cake. Accents and figures all
handmade from modeling chocolate.

The cupcakes had been disappearing through the night, so that by the time we actually got around to singing happy birthday, half of them had been eaten! (Sorry for the blurry pic)

Accents cut from the modeling chocolate. Very oily to work with, but fun to make!


Thursday, May 27, 2010


What do you think of when someone says 'gingerbread' ? The little men or a loafy thing? I usually think of gingerbread men. They're so cute and fun, and you can just go nuts with decorating them. But for eating, I think I prefer a loaf. Anyway, my gorgeous sister in law has been craving gingerbread, and I've been trying to get around to making it for ages. So I finally fished out my trusty old recipe and thought I'd share it here too.

It's called Molly's Gingerbread, and I have no idea where I got the recipe from. But I've had it for around 11 years, handwritten and filed away in a folder. I love this gingerbread. It's always yummy, but tastes a million times better after about 2 days. And I think it's perfect for this cooler weather.

Molly's Gingerbread
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
90g butter or margarine, softened
1/2 soft brown sugar
2 eggs

1. Grease and line an 18cm Square baking tin. Preheat the oven to 175C.
2. Sift flour and spices together into a bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
4. Add eggs singly and beat in after each addition.
5. Add sifted ingredients alternately with warmed syrup and the soda dissolved in milk.
6. Pour into baking pan, and gently level out the top.
7. Bake in a moderate oven 50 - 60 minutes. This is what the recipe says, but mine are often ready sooner than that. I'd probably check after 35 mins.

Instead of baking mine in a square tin, I used two loaf tins this time. One for my SIL to take away, and one for hubby and family here. If you do this, you'll need to adjust the baking time to around 30 mins, but I think I overbaked them a bit this time haha! - they were a little black around the edges. Check on it after 25 mins to be safe. This is perfectly yummy on its own, with butter, or if you're like me you'll insist on having your icing as well!

Lemon Icing
2 cups pure icing sugar
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tsp softened butter

Combine all ingredients well, and spread over the cooled cake!

Yummy and fluffy on the first day, but it just gets denser and more flavoursome the next day and the day after that :)


Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's Good To Be Jealous

What? A christian should never say that! Ahh... but in this case, it is true!

The sweetest thing happened in the church creche (Jitterbugz) this morning. Actually, a few sweet things happened!

1. My son actually joined in with the singing, and laughed and clapped when a familiar song was sung! Most of the kids there had never heard the boy make a peep, so they were all staring at him in wonder when he was laughing. It was so sweet.

2. Lately, I have been placing alot of emphasis on 3 particular words: Banana, apple, and yoghurt. But this morning, as I handed him some sliced banana to snack on, and said the usual "Bah-nah-nah!" for him, he smiled and turned his face towards mine. Then he paused to concentrate on what I was saying. Then he leaned in soooooo close that his mouth was almost on mine! And what's more, he placed his hand on the side of my face to draw it in closer to his!

The only way I can think to describe the whole thing is like this: that he knows and understands what I am saying, and wants to say it too, only he doesn't know how, so he wants me to move his mouth for him to make him say it. Too cute!

3. This is the biggest thing that got me today. One other little boy in the creche was very upset, and crying for his mama. This little fellow climbed up onto my lap for some comfort and sat there as I cuddled him. My own son was off playing somewhere else.

But when Erik saw me cuddling this other boy, he came straight over. He tugged on my legs, and when I looked at him, he looked me right in the eyes with this expression of hurt on his face! It was amazing! Then he tried to push the other boy off my lap, and looked at me again!

He didn't even need words to be able to tell me he was jealous. I could see it all in his eyes.... they were so expressive!

"Hey! You're my mummy! What's he doing here? Get him off! You're my mummy!"

He was jealous and he showed it... a very normal toddler behaviour. And it was so beautiful!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Small Things

Despite the last (very depressing) post, it doesn't take much to make me smile. Small steps in progress are a huge thing for us here.

In the speechie sessions, we are working on getting our boy to engage somebody for interraction. There is no actual 'speech' happening yet. The first line of communication is when you engage another person, and so that's where we are still at for now. But he is still quite young, and we haven't been at this for long anyway.

We have begun to slowly introduce PECS also. In case this isn't familiar to you, PECS just means Picture Exchange Communication System - where the non-verbal person uses pictures to communicate what they need (obviously :P ). Our speechie informed me that this does usually take a long time to establish, so not to worry if it seems slow in progress.

Last week, I had just got into her office and was chatting with her about my son's recent behaviour patterns, when lo and behold, he walks over to me and gives me a picture! Well, the speechie went nuts with excitement and rushed around the room to reward him with whatever it was that was on the picture. She got so excited that I couldn't help but get happy too. I think I was too tired and out of it to fully comprehend what my son had just done at the time. The session that day was not very different to most other ones we've had, except that he seemed to 'get' the whole PECS thing a little bit more than before. She told us to keep working on the PECS at home, as well as using pointing/gestures and using 'item exchange' as we have been (ie. bringing items to me to help him open/use). I left there that day feeling very encouraged.

This morning as I was washing dishes, along came my little man as he often does, and started tugging on my legs to get my attention. I pulled off my gloves and bobbed down to attend to him.

"Mah-meeee!" I always say as an example for him to address me; "What does Erik want?" and I hold my hands out in a questioning gesture as I ask him.

He took my hand and started to lead me somewhere. To the microwave it was. And he stood there looking up. I bobbed down again and asked him; "What does Erik want?" - 'cause I honestly had no idea haha!

He took my hand.... and started to shape it into a point! Then he help my whole arm out towards the top of the microwave and shook it!

In case you haven't quite 'got' what was happening here, he was basically using my hand to point with. Not exactly what we are aiming for - but very close!! I was trying really hard to contain my excitement at this stage. But what I want him to learn is how to do that whole thing himself; point to what he wants with his own hand, not mine. So as I have done before, I took his hand and shaped it into a point, and said; "You point. You show mum".

Often, he tends to fist up when I try this, but this time he did allow me to shape his hand into a point and direct him to point up where he was using my hand before.

"Here," I said as I helped him. "What does Erik want? ... here".

And I picked him up to see what was on top of the microwave there ('cause I still seriously had no idea what he was after). He leaned over in my arms, and got his drink bottle. Ahaaaaa! Now it makes sense! - But it didn't have any water in it, and the lid wasn't on. I put him down and said "Ohh, you want a drink! Erik wants a drink. Give mummy the bottle, mummy help you. Erik wants drink".

Now, I don't know if he can understand any of this, but hopefully, in time he will. He's still holding the bottle, so without a helper from the other side, I had to grab his arm, and 'make' him hand me the bottle. Without boring you with more details, my boy got his drink.

But that's not the end!

It seems he is starting to get this whole pointing thing! About two minutes later as I was resuming the dishes, he came over and started tugging at me again. This time, it was to the cake box on the table. He didn't shape my hand into a point this time, but he did push my hand towards the box. Again, I helped him form a point - which he smiled at - and pointed to the cake box saying; "Cake! Erik wants cake!". And he then was given a cupcake.

Small progress, but progress nonetheless! I hope - truly and desperately hope - that these little steps are keepers for my boy. You know, he never kissed me again after that first time. And sometimes, he does things once or twice but then stops. But he is still feeding himself, and like that, I really hope the pointing is for keeps.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I always knew I would have failings as a mother somewhere. I also thought I would only see them when my children were grown. Today though, life was kind enough to show me one of those failings much, much earlier than expected. I am grateful. And I am very upset over it. I am also at a loss as to what to do about it.

My big girls dawdle. All the time. Well, not all of the time, but usually when it's important, they dawdle. In the morning getting ready for school, they often dawdle. And after school on the way to the car where I wait for them, they dawdle. I don't think I can begin to express the amount of frustration I feel over this.

After school, they are always - always - the last ones out. Without exception. When I question them about this, they have no rhyme or reason. They are simply slow to move. One of the teachers confirmed this to me at the last parent interview.

Yesterday after school, they waited for their older cousin as usual, and he didn't show up. He didn't show up because he was absent that day. Instead of walking to the car together, my girls went to the school office, because they didn't know what to do. I was in the car waiting, for 25 minutes, before I received a phone call from them. At this incident, I was keenly aware that my girls didn't seem to have the flexible thinking or problem solving abilities that I would expect of kids this age (6 and 7 yrs). Or maybe I had drilled into them so hard that they must wait for their older cousin and must not walk alone, that they thought they should not take the initiative. I don't know. Either way, the failure is mine.

Today, I waited in the car for over 30 minutes after the school bell for my girls to show up. This with my autistic son, and baby daughter (who was due a feed) in the car with me. I can see the back of the school gate from where I wait. When they finally showed, they dawdled. They walked so slowly, I thought I was going to scream with frustration. Instead I ate it up, as I must, and watched them make the slow journey from school gate to car.

About halfway accross, I saw them pause, throw down their bags, and go off to play on some of the circuit equipment set up along the track. I burst into tears. There were my girls, playing away, while I was waiting. I had already waited a long time, and there were no other children around now. They were alone there, just playing. I don't think I need to discuss the dangers of this situation, especially if I were not there watching for them.

I couldn't leave my son and baby in the car alone to walk down and get them. I didn't know what to do. So I beeped the horn. Long and loud. It made no difference. Sobbing, I got out of the car and locked it with the little ones in there. I walked a short distance down and stood waving my arms, hoping desperately that they would see me and hurry over. They saw. They didn't hurry.

By the time they got there, I just felt like I was going out of my mind. I loaded them up in the car, and drove the short distance to my mothers' house instead of home. This was unplanned. I brought all children inside, asked my mum to mind the little ones, then took the big ones upstairs and completely went beserk. I yelled until my voice was hoarse and my throat was sore. My girls just looked at me in shock.

I sent them downstairs and they went out to play - unruffled it seemed. But I don't know. I went into the kitchen where my own mum met me, and fell apart. I wept and wept. All in frustration.

I feel like such a failure. For so many reasons. The biggest being that I have obviously not taught my daughters enough independance. They still behave like small children. They have been babied. I know this probably sounds like denial, but I still can't see how I've managed to do this.

My mum pointed out that I have always babied them; each time they hurt themselves in the smallest way, she said, I made a fuss. And I kept looking after them the way you do for babies. She had never mentioned this before because I wasn't ready to hear it. I wish she had though. I used to detest whenever I saw other parents do this.... when their kids would scream blue murder over a tiny scratch. Not me, I thought; I won't spoil my kids that way! Well, mine may not scream blue murder, but somehow I've managed to do just that.

When they hurt themselves small, they always bring it to my attention, even if it's for small sympathy. And they cannot think flexibly for themselves. It seems they need constant direction to be able to move on. This is my fault, and my failure. Again, I'm still not sure how I managed to do this. But I have.

I am grateful that it has come to my attention now, despite the emotionally charged day I've had. But I'm at a loss as to what to do about it. How do I teach my daughters independance and flexible thinking, without putting them in danger? And if I can't teach my normal kids this skill, how on earth can I hope to teach this to my son?


Saturday, May 15, 2010


For a very long time now, questions have been going around in my mind with regards to my son - even from before the time we were alerted to the fact that something was amiss. I hope that when I find the answers - because answers will present themselves one way or another - that they are all positive ones. Some of the questions I often ask myself and God are:

When will my son speak?

Does he understand what I am saying to him? ... sometimes I believe he does, sometimes I am not so sure.

What are his talents/strengths going to be? - I still can't see any of these yet.

What will motivate him?

Does he get very anxious? If he does, how can I tell?

Will he be able to find a satisfying vocation in life?

Will he want to get married? Will he even be able to?

When will I be able to take him out shopping without him cracking it every time I stop to look at something?

Will he be able to attend a mainstream school?

What does he stim off? I'm pretty sure it's something visual, but I can't really tell when he's doing it.... maybe he doesn't do it often..?

Will he ever start eating meat and vegetables/salads when they aren't mixed with rice or pasta?

As you can see, some of these questions are to do with daily life, and others are more about his future. I wonder about his future all the time. One thing I am certain of though: he will be ok. That doesn't mean he will 'outgrow' or 'lose' his autism necessarily. But it means that he will be able to have a meaningful and fulfilling life, and be able to function within society without needing extra support. (All of us need support in life, regardless of whether or not we have special needs). He will be ok, and I refuse to hear any talk about him otherwise. He will be ok, though he may need alot of help along the way to being ok. He will be ok, though it might be later rather than sooner. Whatever.... he will be ok.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

When You're Craving Something....

....Something chocolatey, gooey, fudgey, you seriously need to consider this! But first, a bit of background.....

So here's my darling hubby, sitting on his favourite chair, with plastic eye protecters taped over his face. Today he had laser eye surgery. I have to say, the sight of my hunky man shuffling up the garden path with black sunnies over his eye protecters, being led by the hand by his sister is not something I ever want to see again. My tall and solid husband just looked so vulnerable, I nearly burst into tears at the sight of him. He walked so carefully, unsure of his steps and surroundings, an arm flailing out randomly when he felt out of balance.

He spent most of the afternoon in bed, but after dinner as I was pottering around doing stuff with the kids, he mentioned that he felt like a yummy chocolate self saucing pudding. Not a bad idea, I thought! But frankly, I don't have the time or energy to do a proper one tonight. Instead, I googled 'individual microwave chocolate puddings', and after a brief search, I found something that I thought would suffice nicely!

This recipe is adapted from the Mug Brownie recipe on Instructables ... a website I had never heard of until now. And let me tell you, it is easy as! Also, just as a little side note, it has NO egg, butter or milk! So as far as I can tell, it can qualify as vegan.

2 tbs plain flour
2 tbs self raising flour
4 tbs sugar (I just used the regular white stuff)
2 tbs cocoa
2 tbs canola oil
2 tbs water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Put everything into a small bowl and mix it up! Be sure to mix it well though, you don't want patches of white flour in amongst your chocolate pud.

Spoon it into a mug, or divide the mixture among two smaller mugs (this is what I did).

Microwave on high for around 1 minute (I did 1 mug at a time), or until it rises a little and stabilises there. You have to use your intuition here, as microwaves tend to have different wattage ratings etc. But it really shouldn't be too much more than 1 minute.

Let it stand for a few seconds when it's done, then serve with ice cream.

Seriously, this was just the chewy gooey chocolatey thing that I needed! Hubby liked it as well, despite the fact that he couldn't see what he was eating (and I had to feed him anyway, poor bugger).

This is the first time I've tried this recipe. In case you haven't picked up already, it has a really chocolatey fudgey kind of texture. It isn't a light and fluffy sort of pudding. But definately for chocolate lovers! Next time I might try adding a little bit of baking powder to make it a little lighter in texture, or maybe some chocolate chips to add that little something more.

But what I love about this recipe the best, is that you can make it in around 5 minutes, for a perfect serve of one - or two if you're happy to share.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rum 'n Raisin Bread & Butter Pudding

I had some bread that was a bit on the dry side, so nobody really ate it. I figured it was going to end up in the bin - and I really hate wasting food - so I decided it was time to try bread & butter pudding. I've never made it before.

I googled all over the place for a recipe. I wanted something simple, but yummy. But the recipes are as many and varied as there are people on earth it seems! In the end, I came up with my own version. A bit risky when you've never made something before haha! When a recipe has that much variation, I think there must be alot of room for ...well...variation! So here's my take on the old Bread & Butter Pudding.

Butter for spreading on the bread and greasing dish
7 slices of bread - at least 1 day old.
4 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cream
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Butter both sides of the bread and cut off the crusts.

Place eggs and sugar in a medium sized bowl, and whisk with a fork or balloon whisk until pale.

Add cream, milk, vanilla, rum and cinnamon to the egg mixture. Beat to combine.

Arrange bread in a greased baking dish. Spread the raisins in among the bread layers rather than on top. If they are on top, they will burn.

Pour the egg mixture over the top, being careful not to dislodge the bread pieces. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 160C (fan forced).

Sprinkle extra caster sugar over the top of the pudding.

And pop it into the oven! Bake for around 40 minutes. And there you have it folks!

Now for the taste test...... yeah, hubby likes alot of ice cream LOL.

I have never had bread & butter pudding before, so I don't know if I got the texture right or not, but it got the thumbs up from hubby :) ... And I don't actually mind it too much either! The taste is really quite lovely. The texture is kind of like a custardy sort of thing, but a bit more substantial. We had it with ice cream, but I think fresh whipped cream and strawberries might go just as nicely.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Bad Start To The Day

Today has not started out so well.

My son slept in a bit this morning. When he does this, I usually allow him to wake in his own time, and it usually is in time enough to be ready to take the girls to school. Sometimes he has to wait till we get home to eat breakfast, but that doesn't seem to bother him.

So when he woke and I went to get him up, I must have gone in too quickly or forgotten to do something (I forgot to turn the light on...could that be it?), because he didn't want to come out of bed. Frustrating. I have lots of other things to do in the morning, and we're usually pressed for time. Did I mention that I also slept in this morning? Me and sleep deprivation are not good friends.

He was very contrary to everything this morning. I had to work hard to avoid a tantrum. He had some mini ones anyway. Especially when it came to breakfast. He plain wouldn't eat. And I still don't know what I did 'wrong'. He ended up spilling his water everywhere and just crying in his chair. I told him 'that was naughty' (not he was naughty), but I cleaned it up, put the cereal bowl back on his table, took the baby and left the room.

I went to wash my own face, since I hadn't had time to do that yet, put some fresh clothes on, and put the baby to bed for her nap.

There was nothing I could do for my frustration, but eat it up. Whatever has upset him, his reactions are inappropriate. But that's autism for you. He has no other way to communicate, and scolding him or spanking him will not achieve anything. Likely, just make it worse, because he lacks the relevent understanding.

When I returned, he was quiet in his chair but still unhappy. I kissed and cuddled him, and told him I loved him. Then I helped him eat his breakfast. He still feeds himself, but he wanted me there to help him after the whole fiasco we'd had.

There is alot of frustration on all sides when you have a child with autism. They get frustrated, parents get frustrated, and siblings get frustrated. I am here with him every day, all day, so this can get to be too much for me sometimes. I get frustrated mainly because I feel there is nothing I can do to correct his errant behaviour, and no way I can know if speaking to him is getting through.

Couple this with sleep deprivation and a sense of aloneness, and you have one mildly depressed mama.

I hope today gets better.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Hubby's Birthday

I feel so sorry for my family sometimes. Lately, whenever there's been a birthday, the cake has always been a last minute 'whatever I can whip up in the time I have' sort of a thing. This one here was for Hubby.

Vanilla cake with caramel buttercream. Actually, it turned out really nice, and not as sweet as you'd think. He was happy with it, and that's the important thing. I took it to my parents' place when we went over on Sunday night, but finding the candles to go on it was a nightmare. There I was rummaging around my stupidly designed pantry, with my head literally inside it so I could perchance see what I was rummaging through. It's a shocking design really.... very stupid. Most of the storage space is tucked deep in behind a wall, making the items stored therein nearly impossible to reach. I hate the thing, I really do.

Anyway, that was all I could come up with before I went on rampage and pulled every item out of my pantry in frustration. A number 3 and 2 single candles. It was his 32nd birthday of course!

Sometimes, I really wish I had more time to devote to this sort of thing so I could do a better job of it.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Something New

My son did something new this morning. It brightened my day alot.

He stuck his hand inside his cup of water and was swishing it around. He'd take his hand out and look at how the water droplets dripped off. He'd smile at it, and put his hand in again. It was so cute. He has never done this before.

Something like this might seem insignificant, or maybe even 'naughty' when done by a normal child. (I certainly would have corrected this behaviour if it were in either of my older kids :P). But for my son, it's beautiful. He's exploring again. And it's even more special for me, because his sensory issues are most potent when it comes to his hands - the palms of his hands, specifically.

It brought to my memory a time about 6 years ago, when my friend's son did this for the first time. He was around 15 months when he did it. My son is now 2 years and 9 months. So it's late for him, but it's oh-so- beautiful.

By the way, I realise there seems to be alot of pics with him in the high chair ...feral as it is haha. But I guess that's because he seems to do alot of new things there, and it's one place I can have him sitting fairly still for a photo LOL.