Sunday, March 20, 2011

Needing Routine

For people, and I think kids especially, who crave routine, certain holidays can be pure misery for them. Thankfully most Jewish holidays are enough like the weekly Shabbat that for some kids, like my son, it doesn't affect him.

My son Netanel (we call him Nati for short) will be 4 in May. We don't have an official diagnosis for him yet, but I'm not kidding myself that there's a good chance Asperger's will be mentioned. Possibly with a side-order of ADD or ADHD. I guess you can say I'm preparing for the 'worst' and hoping for the best. Nati is one of those kids that really needs routines. Pick-up from nursery has to be a particular way and when it isn't, the tears and tantrums begin and don't stop until concessions are made. While he has no problem getting into pajamas at bedtime, if I need to change his clothes in the middle of the day for any reason, he has a problem with that. He has a favorite hat he needs to wear when he leaves the house.

Because Shabbat comes once a week, it's routine; showering well before bed, shutting off and putting away the laptop, eating meals as a family and going to shul. And for the most part, Jewish holidays are exactly that. Oh sure, Rosh Hashana has the shofar blowing, Sukkot we eat outside in a special cloth tent-like structure and on Pesach there's no bread and we break our teeth on matzah. But there's still the going to shul, the complete cut-off from using electronics and actually seeing Aba for more than an hour or two in the morning.

That's not to say he doesn't have his moments. We have had a few Shabbatot where he asks to watch something on the 'puter' and saying no brought on the tears. Or shutting everything off sparked a tantrum. If he gets hold of a pen or crayon that escaped being put away, right now, we do allow him to color.

But then we have a couple other holidays that blow routine out of the water and can be a sensory overload of noise and sight. I'm talking about Chanukah and Purim.

Of the two, I think Chanukah, which is in December, is the more benign. Yes it lasts for 8 days as opposed to the 1 or 2 of Purim (which we celebrate in March), but it seems to be much less bombastic. Plus it gets offset by getting presents.

I didn't take the kids to any of the Chanukah parties but Nati did have one at school. Parents were invited and the kids 'performed' for us - doing a bit of song and dance for us to different Chanukah songs. For the most part, Nati didn't join in and unfortunately for a couple of the dances his teacher kind of forced him, which led to him almost breaking down. (He's in a mainstream nursery until we can get him evaluated. We're hoping that next year he'll be in a special-ed environment).

Purim though, is a bit more involved. We wear costumes, we do a bit of reverse trick-or-treating where we go door to door and we give food or baked goods or nosh to others. There's an issue about getting drunk. So the holiday is much louder than any of the others. I don't think Nati is sensitive to the noise yet but I think crowds give him pause. He definitely doesn't like strangers approaching him.

Thursday there was a Purim party for the kids which I bought tickets to. Nati was already 'off' his schedule from the previous day when we tried and failed to get him a sleeping EEG, which meant he (and I) had been up since 4 a.m. And it was taking him a while to recover from that. The teacher didn't remark on his behavior at school, but after, he was tired, listless and the smallest and even imaginary things set him off. He was also clinging to his oldest sister. While his younger brother happily got into his costume, Nati not only refused to change, but refused to even go. His sisters were taking him and his brother to the party and I told them not to push the issue. If he didn't want the costume, that was fine. If he wanted to stay home, that was fine too. My older daughter took the younger one to the party and the two 'middle kids' stayed home. Until Nati realized that his 'favorite' sister was gone, he decided to go to the party.

The next day was the school party and again, he refused to get into him costume (it was a long sleeved undershirt and leggings I dyed orange-yellow and painted brown spots on. He was Chester Cheetah). And again, we didn't make a big deal of it. We sent it along with him in case he changed his mind, but told the teacher not to press the issue. When he came home his face had been painted, but he was still in his regular clothes. I was happy to see at least he'd been willing to try something.

Today is the actual holiday of Purim. Everything from last week was just pre-holiday festivities. I'm not hopeful he'll wear his costume, but frankly, it doesn't matter because it's not about me. I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish he'd wear his costume to fit in, but I have a feeling he's going to spend a significant part of his life 'not fitting in' and that's just something I'm going to have to get used to and help him through as best I can. I'm taking the attitude of 'it's not worth it'.

Besides, he has an opinion and he's entitled to it. He doesn't want to wear a costume for Purim? So be it. It's not the end of the world.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

This recipe is from the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I used craisins instead of raisins and used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour. I think WW would work well too. In addition, I used oil instead of melted margarine and soy milk to keep it dairy-free.

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
Yield: 2 loaves
Mix Time: 20 minutes | Total Rise Time: 3½ hours | Bake Time: 50 minutes
3½ cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) shortening, melted or at room temperature
½ cup (4 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
¾ cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature
1½ cups (9 ounces) raisins, rinsed and drained
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts
For the topping:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk, and water. Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball. Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.
2. Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook). The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes). Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final 2 minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much. (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
4. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves. Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8½ by 4½-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
5. Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.
7. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished breads should register 190 degrees F in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
8. Immediately remove the breads from their pans. Mix together the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon for the topping in a shallow plate. Brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Cool loaves on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.