Monday, April 21, 2014

Giving Your Child the "Just Right Challenge"

Tantrums and defiance are so challenging. Not only to deal with in the moment, but also, to even figure out what set them off. Or, at least, that is true in our house.

My personal and professional belief is that behaviour is never just behaviour.  It is always a symptom of something else.  For instance, a child may be attempting to gain attention (positive or negative) from the adult.  The child might be trying to get access to an item or activity they desire.  In some situations, it may be that the child is trying to avoid an activity that is difficult for him.  In my kiddos, although they also display behaviours for the above reasons, their behaviours are often related to some sensory need - even though this is not always immediately obvious.

It is not uncommon for a client to tell me that they think that their child is not doing x, y, z (insert here responding appropriately, using words to request something, reading to age level, etc.) because he is lazy or stubborn.  I do not ever think that this truly explains a child's behavior, though I can understand why parents might think this.  I firmly believe that children inherently strive to succeed, and will do so when they have the skills needed to meet the demands or expectations put upon them.  Children often withdraw or misbehave because the demands exceed their capabilities.

A lot of my work as a Speech-Language Pathologist involves determining a child's current level of ability and then figuring out how to help him develop the next skills should be acquired.  In other words,  I need to figure out what skill is just one step more challenging than what the child can currently accomplish on his own.  We refer to this as the ''Just Right Challenge''.  For instance, if a child can currently combine two words together in his sentences, the ''Just Right Challenge'' for this child would be adding a third word to his phrase.  Expecting this child, at this point in time, to produce a full sentence is not realistic, and will only end up frustrating the child (and the parents!).  The ''Just Right Challenge'' is based on developmental level and never on what is expected based on the child's age. When given the ''Just Right Challenge'', based on developmental level, accompanied by appropriate support and reinforcement, a child will blossom.

I believe that this ''Just Right Challenge'' applies to all aspects of child development:  language/motor/cognitive/emotional development, social skills , etc.  We have been trying to keep this in mind for Logan since he was young.  For instance, when we were trying to develop some autonomy in play, at a time when Logan was unable to keep himself occupied for even a minute, we would use various strategies with the goal being that he would play independently for maybe two minutes.  This would progressively be lengthened to 3 minutes, 4 minutes, etc., based on his progress.  We did not go in with an age–expected goal.  For instance, at 3 years old,  I would expect a very minimum of 10 to 15 minutes of independent play.  However, for a child who cannot play independently at all, this is waaaaaay too much.  We would have only been setting him up for failure.  Working on baby steps and praising all progress (or in other words, consistently giving the ''Just Right Challenge'') is what will eventually get you to that 15 minutes of expected independent play.

I think that a lot of the tantrums that we get our house are at least in some part related us misjudging what the ''Just Right Challenge'' in a situation is . After all, for the most part, we are trying to make our best educated guess as to what it is reasonable to expect him to accomplish independently. If you misjudge and don't give enough of a challenge, he will remain dependent forever and will not develop the much needed skills to succeed as world.  And as I said,  if you set the bar too high,  he will only become frustrated, as he will be unable to comply, to no fault of his own.

For Logan,  the list of things we progressively try to improve upon include things such as responding immediately when spoken to, complying to do something the first time he is asked,  increasing tolerance to frustration, responding appropriately when frustrated, decreasing impulsivity,  improving his ability to wait, etc. And since neither of us are psychologists, we are often trying to make our best guess as to what is a fair expectation in these areas.  As I said,  I am realizing more and more how tantrums are often a symptom of us having placed unrealistic expectations on a child who is currently unable to function like most other children his age in terms of his emotional regulation.

Yesterday afternoon, the kids' physiotherapist came by and was helping us work on getting Logan to ride his bike.  Last summer, she helped him learn to independently peddle his 3-in-1 bike.  This summer's goal is to have him pedaling a regular bike with training wheels.  He practiced with her on his regular bike in the house and seemed to be doing quite well. As she was on her way home, we decided to go outside to ride bikes to keep working on this skill.

And this is when the drama began.  Logan wanted to take his 3-in-1 bike outside. I told him that we would start with the regular bike and that we could get the 3-in-1 (the easier bike) after.  He quickly started to tantrum.  As I kept insisting that we would try the regular bike, thinking that this was the way to build his pedaling skills (and not wanting to give into his tantrum), his resistance increased.  Finally, he verbalized, "the blue bike is too hard!!''.   No wonder people we were getting so much resistance!  Even as adults, we tend to avoid activities that are too challenging for us.

Logan's physiotherapist intervened and suggested that we start with the easier bike to let him experience some success, and then move on to the regular bike, once he had practiced his pedaling a bit more.  The minute she said this, Logan stopped resisting, got a huge grin on his face and agreed. Duh!  my therapist brain should have known better.  Had  just given into his tantrum and that's why he had collaborated?  Not at all.  I hadn't picked the "Just Right Challenge" for his motor coordination.  Logan knew that all too well and was going to let me know it.  The minute we presented him with the ''Just Right Challenge'', he was all over it.

Logan joyfully biked around the block on his 3-in-1 bike.   About three quarters of the way around, he exclaimed, " okay, now I want to try my blue bike".  This is all proof needed that when you give your child the "Just Right Challenge",  he will collaborate.

Imagine living in a world where everything is constantly super challenging for you.  Imagine being in 3rd grade,  but being expected to complete Grade 6 level work, without any support.  Imagine being a 6 month old and being expected to walk independently.  Imagine being an adult with severe depression and being expected to single-handedly run a large company.  These are some examples of what it feels like when you are not given me "Just Right Challenge".  And this is probably how Logan feels for much of his day.  No wonder he can't take it at times!

Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, offers a problem-solving model  by which both the parent and the child  are encouraged to express their concerns around an issue whenever challenges arise.  His approach relies on attempting to find a compromise that meets both the child and the parents' concerns.  We have attempted this Logan, but his ability to explain himself and his emotions is not yet developed enough  for it to have led to much success.  Yet.  In the meantime, we to read Logan's signals,  and to be analytical. We try to identify the triggers to his tantrums and meltdowns  so that we can offered him the ''Just Right Challenge'' as often as possible.  I look forward to the day  when we will hopefully be able to have this dialogue with Logan so that he can contribute to further our understanding of what he needs to be able to succeed.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Paddy's Day

I wanted to share a few photos from our weekend celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  As I scroll over my posts from exactly a year ago (also here), I realize what a long way we have come in just one short year.  It gives me hope that in another year's time, I will look back at our current struggles and feel yet again that so much has changed.

This past weekend, we took the kids to the St. Patrick's Day parade downtown.  I wasn't super looking forward to the potential prospect of dragging two screaming toddlers to a parade in the freezing weather, particularly since Saturday had been a challenging day for us. 

Ok, to be honest... it was mostly because we'd been out late the night before drinking with friends... But that's besides the point.

I'm determined to not let my kids' challenges get in the way of activities we would be doing otherwise, as much as my energy can permit, so we decided to go anyways. 

Ok, to be honest... we'd already told Logan the day before that we were going and I wasn't psyched about the idea of listening to him tantrum all day if we changed our minds.  So I popped a few Advil and headed out in the cold.

And we had a wonderful day.  Logan loved getting all dressed up and covered in tattoos and he was super proud to wear the craft that he had made at daycare.

Chloé wouldn't let anyone go near her with anything other than a tattoo (she now looks like a biker baby).  But both kids loved watching the parade and were super well behaved.  They must have known I'd had too much to drink the night before ;)
Logan loved getting his hair done green this morning for daycare.  Unfortunately, he then got a little grump and this is the best pic I could get:

And I got to sport my awesome dollar store earrings.  And share a pair with my favourite Starbucks barista, who has been making me lattés for as long as I can remember.  He happened to ask me to give him my pair for his birthday and Girl Scout me just happened to have an extra pair in my bag.  Happy birthday Matt!

Tonight's dinner was green pancakes and bacon, in a lazy, I've been busy working and running kids to therapy all day kinda way.  I wish I could say that the pancakes were green from spinach.  But that was my old life.  These were done with some good old fashioned, full of chemicals, green food colouring.  And with a gf boxed mix to boot.  And so far, we're all still alive to tell about it.  Though I can feel myself losing my readers as I write this!  My little picky eaters even dared eat to eat the green pancakes.  Goes to show how much they have changed in such a short time.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all.  Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Another Assessment, Another Diagnosis

Total déjà vu.  I'm back from another assessment, sitting yet again at Starbucks (see also here) to decompress before doing daycare pick-up.  Except that this time, it's with an Awake tea misto instead of a chai latté.  

As it turns out, today's assessment did not at all turn out the way I had expected.  The excitement that I blogged about yesterday has quickly dissipated and been replaced by a feeling of helplessness, fear and worry.

This afternoon, my 3 year old received his 5th diagnosis.  Yup.  No word of a lie.  3 short years, 5 heartbreaking diagnoses.  In some respects, each diagnosis gets easier.  To a certain extent, you have already gone through grieving the loss of the child you thought you would have.  In other ways, each diagnosis reignites your initial fears and worries, reopening a raw wound that you thought had already healed.

Further to Logan's autism assessment, his psychologist had recommended we consult an ADHD specialist who comes to the hospital every few months to consult on very challenging cases.  She told us that the goal was to get a second opinion on the autism diagnosis, adjusting the medication for his ADHD and, possibly, prescribing something for anxiety.  I think that today was that much harder for me because I didn't at all see what happened coming.

As I sat with the specialist, responding to all sorts of questions while he watched Logan play, I glanced at the questionnaire he was filling in as he spoke with me.  The title of the questionnaire was something along the lines of "disruptive mood disorders".  And all of a sudden, I realized that the reason for the appointment was not exactly what I had been led to believe.  It quickly became clear to me that he was investigating an additional diagnosis.  

And so I sat, responding to question after question, wondering whether or not they were assessing my little guy for bipolar disorder.  The thought that Logan could potentially have bipolar disorder first popped into my head during our trip to Tremblant last March.  However, this concern was shortly replaced with the thought that he might be on the Autism spectrum.  Since then, bipolar disorder, or any other similar mental health issue, has been completely off my radar (aside from a possible anxiety disorder).  Until today. 

As I sat in that chair, responding that yes, he tantrums more frequently than 3 times a week (are you kidding me??????).  Yes, the tantrums are very intense and very frequent.  Yes, they seem disproportionate to whatever they are about.  Yes, he is a child who is generally easily irritable.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.  To each and every question.

And suddenly, those mental health issues weren't just on the radar, they were slapping me across the face, shouting "watch out, here I come". 

And so it all went.  I knew before the doctor said a word that Logan was being diagnosed with some sort of a mental health disorder.  And sure enough, the new label that we can add to our binder of diagnoses is disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.  

So what is a disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and how is it different from other similar conditions, such as bipolar disorder or oppositional defiant disorder?  I have spent my afternoon trying to wrap my mind around this exact question.  

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is a diagnosis under the category of mood disorders rather than behavioural disorders.  It is a new diagnosis, only as of the DSM-V in May 2013.  It shares common symptoms with oppositional defiant disorder, but is considered to be more severe.  It is somewhat similar to bipolar disorder, except that children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder present with constant, rather than episodic irritability.  

The doctor explained to me that, given that this is not a behavioural disorder, a standard behaviour management approach will not be effective when Logan is not regulated.  Which is exactly what we have experienced to date.  His ability to comply, regardless of the consequences and supports put into place, varies tremendously based on the current state of his emotional regulation, which fluctuates immensely.  The doctor basically said "it is like there is something explosive inside of him that he cannot control".  Amen.  I wish everyone could understand that. 

So what am I feeling after all of this?  Sad.  Fearful of what the future may hold for him.  Protective.  And exhausted.  

But I also feel misled.  

I had high hopes that today would bring answers of medication that might help ease our daily ongoing challenges when, in fact, that was not at all the goal of this appointment.  Although we have a deeper understanding, I can't help but feel that we are not a single step closer to much of anything at all.  We don't need answers as much as we need help, and that is not what today brought us.  Hence, I guess that what I feel most of all is disappointed.  Completely and utterly disappointed.  And, once again, just a little bit helpless.

As Logan and I left the hospital, walking to the car hand in hand, I said to him "Today was a really hard day for mommy".  And he looked up at me with his gorgeous brown eyes and said "Today was a hard day for me too.  This bag is really heavy".  And I couldn't help but crack up.  A reminder that despite my heavy heart today, there are always silver linings. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Autism Assessment

So I know that everyone has been wondering: "What is going on with my crazy kids??". So tonight, I wanted to share a bit of what Logan has been up to these past few months.

On an almost daily basis, I look at my little guy in disbelief that he will be turning 4 in less than 3 months.  He has matured so much in the past year.  At times, when I watch videos of tantrums taken (for therapists) just a year ago, I can't believe how different he was.  Or that we lived to tell. 

He's still a challenging little guy.  But the two hour long tantrums?  They're a thing of the past.  We still have our fair share of tantrums.  Logan still struggles with regulating his emotions.  He goes from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye.  I am somewhat concerned that he will one day actually be kicking holes through my walls instead of just kicking them.  But the frequency and intensity of his tantrums has decreased significantly ever since we put him on Ritalin.  Anyone who tells you that it is inhumane to medicate your kids so young, let me tell you, it was inhumane of us to not give him, and our family, the ability to get away from so much constant stress.  Medication is not the right answer for every child, but it certainly has been part of the answer for our family.

Logan still does Physiotherapy once a month and both Occupational and Behavioural Therapy every second week.  It has led to lots of changes.  Too many to number.  He is much more willing to try new things and is less terrified by movement.  At my husband's Christmas party this year, he even tried a few climbing apparatuses, which would have been unheard of in the past.  Not a big deal for most kids.  But a very, very big deal for Logan. 

He's been doing wonderfully at Mon Gym and his coordination is improving.  In fact, as I sat at the Petit Gym this past weekend, watching a younger child who I suspect to have SPD have a post-class meltdown, I couldn't help but be in disbelief that that was us just one short year ago.

And he is essentially having no problems at daycare.  I write this almost exactly a year to the date on which he was kicked out of daycare, for being unmanageable.  Although he used to have to be seated with an empty seat on each side of him he is now able to be in the middle of the group without issue.  His teachers tell me that he functions just like the others.  I think part of it is the fantastic job his educators have been doing with him and how well they have adapted things to meet his needs.

I realize too in reading this same post above, that this was also when the suspicion of autism was first brought up by his therapists.  We got the final results of his autism assessment the day before Christmas holidays started.  I've slowly adjusted to accepting the results, which I found hard to digest at first. 

Logan failed both of the tests used to assess autism at his age, the ADI and the ADOS.  In other words, he scored as being autistic on both tests.  In our feedback session, the psychologist who assessed him told us that at that point, she was convinced that he had both ADHD and Autism.  However, further to observation of him at the daycare, she became convinced that he is not on the Autism Spectrum.  Although his social communication and language skills appeared to be similar to those of an autistic child in one-on-one interactions during the assessment session, she felt he was much too social with his classmates for autism to be the true cause of his difficulties.  She told me that her clinical gut tells her that his autistic-like symptoms are being caused by "very severe ADHD plus, plus, plus" (evident to her even with him on Ritalin!!), a motor coordination disorder, probably auditory processing disorder and significant anxiety. 

What I took away from this is that although Logan may be functioning much like an autistic child in many settings, he does not qualify for any of the therapy that he would qualify for had he been diagnosed with autism.  Which just left me feeling kind of pissed off. 

Our system here in Quebec is set up to provide services based on diagnosis.  If you do not meet a pre-determined set of criteria, you don't get access to services.  If you can't check every little checkbox... you're out.  Pay for everything yourself.  Doesn't matter that your kid needs as much therapy as a child with autism (never mind your other kid too).  If we can't call it autism, or some other recognizable and acceptable label... too bad.  Yep, I was pissed.

I've since come to terms with it all.  I mean, in all reality, even autistic kids out here don't get a heck of a lot in terms of public services.  And thank goodness for that.  Or I think I would probably still be pissed at the world.  Thankfully, I've always believed that a label is only that, and doesn't at all determine a child's skills or weaknesses.  So whatever you call it, our Logan and all of his developmental challenges are what they are, no matter what label you do or do not put on it. 

Despite not believing his difficulties to be due to autism, the psychologist definitely recognized and acknowledged the extent of his difficulties and, consequently, our challenges as a family.  For instance, she mentioned to us that, in her entire career, she has never seen a child with such significant difficulty self-regulating (i.e. keeping your body at an ideal level of stimulation, being able to respond appropriately to situations, etc.).  So our concerns were definitely heard.

Further to her assessment, she referred us to see a doctor who specializes in ADHD to see if we can look at adjusting his medication.  Firstly, to get him on something longer lasting.  His Ritalin has worn off by the time he gets home from daycare, so we really only get the benefit of it during the day.  Evenings can still be very challenging.  Secondly, she wants to look at whether or not he can be put on something for his anxiety.  Our appointment is tomorrow and I CAN'T WAIT!  I'm trying not to hold my breathe though.  Most of these types of meds aren't prescribed until 6 and he's super tiny for his age and not putting on weight well.  So they may not be able to give him anything just quite yet.  But I'm hopeful at the possibility that we can maybe get a little more of this in our lives:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Life Update 101

So the blogging bug is apparently back.  Getting a little fire out of me yesterday made me remember how much I love this.  And, quite frankly, I've been feeling for awhile that I've been owing everyone an update on what has been going on over here.  Only because I have gotten so many messages asking me to keep blogging.  So thanks for your interest in my oh so boring (though chaotic!!) life ;)

So many things I've wanted to share over the past little while.  I'll try to do this in a nutshell and get into the nitty gritty of what has been going on with the kids in another post. 

Some of the bigger events that I've been intending to write about and never gotten around to:

1.  My dear, wonderful grandmother passed away at our place this past summer.  

She was 92, a beautiful person and enjoyed life to her very last minute.  Just prior to passing, she was watching the kids play in the backyard.  I hope I will be as lucky as her to have such a long, full life and to be able to go so quickly and peacefully.  She was up and chatting one minute, laying down to rest the next, and had peacefully passed sooner than seemed possible.  

I think of her often and still struggle to explain death well enough to little Logan for him to be able to wrap his brain around it.  Just today he was telling me that he wanted great-grammy to come visit.  And when I told her that she couldn't come because she was up in the sky, he kept insisting that then he just wanted to call to talk to her on the phone.  His innocence is so raw that it just breaks my heart.  But I am glad that she had a chance to meet both of my kids and that Logan still has memories of her. 

2.  We took a family vacation with my sis' family to Alabama this past fall.  No, you did not misread that.  We went to Alabama.  Cheap hotels, right on the coast, seafood and outlet shopping to your heart's delight, all within only a 4 hour-of-tantruming long flight.  Well worth it, I tell you.

3.  My little peanut turned two.  Mind you, that was now 3.5 months ago.  But still.  She turned two.  And I did intend to blog it.  I'm gonna be honest here.  It was primarily because I really, really wanted to share these super cute cupcake toppers that I made for her, my little monkey who is obsessed with 101 Dalmatians.  Here's a few pics of her from her b-day:


And of the awesome cake toppers.  

Note that I managed to smudge the puppy spots all over because I did them too last minute to let them fully dry before trying to get them on the cupcakes. 

Also note that they all tipped over as I carried them up the stairs singing Happy Birthday, turning them into an awful mess.  And also covered everyone's hands with black gel, since they weren't fully dry.  Meh.  Beginner's lessons.  You've got to be able to laugh at yourself, right???

4.  We FINALLY got rid of Logan's soother.  'Nuff said.

5.  I'm feeling super settled right now.  In a really great way.  

After a very tough year, I feel like I'm starting to get my groove in terms of managing all that raising two little fiesty developmentally delayed children brings.  Maybe it's the co-sleeping or... ahem... fact that I am now getting some real sleep.  Maybe it's some of the supplements the naturopath has been giving me to help combat the fatigue of raising such little monkeys.  Maybe it's that I'm just getting more used to this crazy schedule of constant therapy.  Or maybe it's the mental break that Logan's Ritalin is affording us.  Maybe it's because my sister took the kids for two nights over the holidays and we just totally relaxed.  Who knows?  In any case, I'm feeling less run off my feet, unable to keep up these days and it's been great.  Check back with me in a month.  I hope it is going to last.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back the F*#! Off

Time to blog again.  My blood is boiling after reading some of the comments to this recent campaign to encourage moms to stop competing with each other about EVERYTHING. 

This is a sentiment that I have felt ever since having children.  I have commented time and time again that although people will often bite their tongue about opinions on all sorts of other things, for some reason, child-rearing is a "no holds barred" zone where women take free jabs at one another, time and time again, all the while having a sweet smile pasted across their face. 

Nothing makes me want to vomit in my shoes more.

Shawna, in particular, had a few pearls that struck a nerve with quite a few readers, myself included.  My personal favourite?  "And would it not reflect badly on a person’s character if they chose to ignore your advice?"

Sorry.  I just have to laugh out loud at that one.  You mean that it would reflect poorly on me if I chose to decide that maybe I know more than someone else about what might be best for my children... for my family... for my own health??? 

Yes.  I must be a fool, indeed.

The thing is, Shawna, I fully agree with you when you say "some choices are better than others".  But the definition of "better" is a gray zone.  You deciding to feed your child organic homemade baby purées might be a better choice for you.  What about that mom whose own mom is in the hospital for cancer?  Or who just lost her husband?  Or who is suffering from post-partum?  Would it be in her, or her family's best interest to have her stressed to the max to make those stupid homemade purées when buying some Gerber baby food might just help save her some sanity, making her a better mom for her child?

Maybe this all hits a particular chord for me too because I was one of those people, pre-children who thought I'd be doing a hell of a lot of things that I am doing now EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Read my blog.  It's about survival.  You know what... don't read it.  People like you probably won't get it anyway.  But the bottom line is that, despite all that life has thrown at us in these past 3 1/2 years, we're still functioning fairly well as a family.  Which I don't think would be true if I was still doing those cloth diapers I started out with.  And making everything from scratch, like I was back then.  This is what parenthood is all about.  It's learning that... you know what... life does not fall apart if you cut a few corners here and there.  Nor will your child turn out to be a horrible human being.  Perfection only gets you one place.  And that's to a burn out. 

And now it's confession time to all of those perfect moms out there...

We've started co-sleeping with our kids again.  With our 3 1/2 and 2 year old children.  After having weaned them from it a long, long time ago. 

Yup.  This is one of those things that I said I would never, ever do.  Not with a baby.  Never mind with toddlers.

The thing is, despite being "independently" in their own rooms, our kids were waking up a million times each night, in massive fits of anxiety and, let's face it, I was getting grouchier and grouchier by the minute.  This on top of the significant behavioural issues we manage on a daily basis, our chaotic therapy + work schedule, financial stressors to pay for all of this therapy, etc. 

We finally came to our senses and decided that maybe, just maybe, getting sleep and staying happy were a higher priority than anything else right now.  Again, it's about survival.  And so we started sleeping with our kids again.  Do I think starting to co-sleep with kids their age is crazy? Abso-frickin'-lutely.  Do I think it's the best decision for our family right now?  Without question.  Do I think it might be the best decision for a family whose kids have been sleeping through the night in their own beds since they were 2 weeks old?  Well, now we're just talking crazy talk, here.  Ya see... each child and each family is different.  The circumstances that families have to deal with are vastly different.  And so, it makes sense that the decisions that each parent and each family makes are different, based on what works for their family.  And no outsider can understand this the same way as someone living under the same roof as you.  (And please, don't ever let them convince you that they can!!!).

I have chosen to get the Shawnas I have known over the years out of my life.  I surround myself with people who will give advice without shoving it down my throat and then holding their hand over my mouth so that I can't even say "but...".  I chose to surround myself with people who will listen to me so that I am heard.  There is no space in my life for Shawnas.

Ironically enough, she concluded by saying "Acceptance is not the way" on the very same day that I stumbled upon this inspiring clip here:

I feel that says a lot.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Homemade Dark Chocolate Nutella. Yum!

Mmmm nutella... That's about all that I can say.

Before going dairy-free, I really only ever ate Nutella when we would make crêpes.  Which was maybe only twice a year.  But now that I can't actually have Nutella, there is something that makes it that much more exciting to have found a Nutella that I can eat.  Belgian hazelnut chocolates have always been my favourite, and this is as close as you can get without flying to Belgium.

This recipe was sent to me by a dear friend of mine in France.  I basically sat back and let her do all of the work, testing multiple variations of homemade Nutella until she found one that she felt was up to par.  That's where I stepped in and decided to make some myself.  The original recipe can be found here.

Jérôme took the kids outside this weekend to splash in the water on the street as he emptied the pool.

Superman rocking a bathing suit
and rain boots

And to dig for endless worms:

And play some street hockey:

And ball:

Just like two years ago, it was warm enough to be out in short sleeves and much too nice to be cleaning up the leaves. 

The kids had a blast and stayed outside for hours.  Leaving me all alone inside for a short while to whip up some delicious Nutella.  Poor Chloé loves this so much that she pretty much has a temper tantrum every time that I put it away.  But if I just let her go at it, I think she'd eat the entire jar in one sitting.  Right off of the spoon!  It truly is that good.

150g whole hazelnuts
100g dark chocolate
1/2 C icing sugar (or a bit less if you find Nutella too sweet)
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. hazelnut oil (or other flavourless oil - I used canola)

1.  Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 400 degrees Farenheit for 8 minutes or until they are fragrant.  Alternatively, you can roast them for a couple of minutes in a pan. 

2.  Peel the skin off of the hazelnuts.  (The original blogger, Lucie, said she got blisters on her fingers doing this, but the skins slipped right off of mine). Don't fret if some of the skins stay on ;)

3.  In a food processor, mix the hazelnuts until you obtain a purée with a texture similar to peanut butter.

Lucie mentioned that this took a lot of patience.  She processed her hazelnuts in the food processor for approximately 20 minutes and then used a mortar and pestle to finish the job off.  I used my brand new VITAMIX!!!! and mine was like peanut butter within a few short minutes.

4.  Melt the chocolate mixed with a bit of soy milk on the stove, stirring constantly.  We used some of that delicious dark chocolate we brought home from France for this :)))

5.  Add the remaining ingredients and process in the food processor.  Add more soy milk, if desired, until you have reached the consistency you want.

Enjoy!!  Keep in the fridge, due to the added milk and just take out a few minutes before you want to eat it so that it is easier to spread.  That is, if you don't just eat it right off the spoon ;)