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There’s No Place Like…

“Miss Burke, don’t you remember?? It was a Tuesday and we got ANOTHER brand new schedule and you told us that nothing is constant in life except for change. Well, and Jesus…you added him in there too.”
Of course my honest answer to that question was no. I actually have no recollection of the conversation…but I will admit it certainly sounds like something I would say so I believe him. (Don’t you just love when kids remember every detail of every word that came out of your mouth a year later? Of course it’s rarely the conversations you actually wanted them to remember…or at least the ones you planned for them to hold onto. But such is the life of a teacher or parent I suppose.) One of my astute 6thgraders said those words to me last week. I was lucky enough to move up with my 5th graders from last year so I have a feeling we’re in for a year full of similar statements. It’s funny because just 2 days later, I finally had a moment to sit and relax (in the doctor’s office…where else?) and his words came back to me.
As any teacher can relate, September is a month when the concept of “constant change” is profoundly real. Gone are the students we had last June…the ones we knew so well: every quirk, charm, triumph, and struggle. Even those of us who are lucky enough to move up with our kids realize that in 3 months, so much has changed. Their hairstyles are different, they suddenly stand eye level with you, and even their conversation skills seem to have improved exponentially over the summer. Yes, change has certainly earned itself a place next to taxes, iPhone upgrades, and bitter Taylor Swift-breakup songs on the list of things that just keep reappearing no matter how hard you try to stop them. (Seriously, if I have to hear one more comment about IOS7…please remember there are some of us who still haven’t given in to the iPhone obsession yet. Sorry, rant over 🙂)
Somehow it’s already been 3 months since the corn diagnosis was added to the list. After my appointment this past week, I returned to that same bench where I sat 3 months earlier with my “it’s all going to be OK” iced coffee. Funny how returning to a familiar place makes you starkly aware of just how much has changed. The last time I sat on this bench, I was sweating in a matter of minutes as I sat baking in the June sun. Today I was bundled in a sweater waiting for my boiling hot cup of “See, I told you it would be OK” coffee to be cool enough to sip without rendering my tastebuds ineffective for a few days.  I sat on that bench and did something I hadn’t done in almost a month: I just sat. I didn’t make lists, I didn’t pack, I didn’t grade papers, I didn’t take out my phone and check messages or scroll through the news. I just unplugged and enjoyed the silence. I looked at the tree where I had sought shade back in June when I was so certain that the sunglare had to be the reason I was misreading the corn allergen list. I remember the simultaneous sense of panic and acceptance I felt that morning and I thought about how much my life has changed over the past 12 weeks. I thought about the number of times I’ve heard the phrase, “But honey, corn is in everything”. Even at an allergy expo. Yes, I know. The corn subsidies have in fact made their direct impact on my life.
To be honest, it’s been harder than I thought it would be. I’ve had a few incidents of unintentional corn byproduct consumption that have left me with no doubt that the doctors got it right this time. I bought ANOTHER set of brand new pots and pans. I have new plates, new utensils, and now even a new kitchen. Yes, that’s right….despite my best efforts to co-exist in a regular kitchen, it was decided that my growing list of food issues made life in a shared kitchen just too treacherous to be considered safe. So after finally settling into a new classroom in late August and adjusting to my schedule of teaching 3 brand new classes (and 1 that I taught last year),  I found myself in a whirlwind 2 weeks of packing up my life and moving everything a mile down the road to my own apartment.  Many a trip back and forth with a loaded-down Ford Focus, let me tell you. Talk about a crazy month. (Needless to say, sleep and I have not seen much of each other lately and I miss it more than I can possibly explain.) I’ve learned that one does not have to actually be homeless to feel that way. One of the hardest questions at the doctor’s office last week was “What is your address?” What do you say when you’re between homes? I settled on “Well, it will be…” and left it at that. As you can tell, change has pretty much been my most faithful friend over the past 33 days since the school year began. Granted, I would be remiss if I let you think it’s been my ONLY faithful friend. I have been reminded yet again how truly blessed I am by friends who drop everything on a Sunday morning to lug heavy furniture out of a UHaul or show up at my door with furniture, appliances, lamps, gift cards… and hugs/listening ears/crying shoulders when it all gets to be too much.
(Sorry, I have to interject this little aside: while we’re on the subject…does anyone else see an issue with the whole registry tradition these days?? I don’t know many people who live with their parents until they get married so I really would like to advocate for a “I’m a single-20-something trying to furnish my own apartment” registry category. Then when it comes time for my wedding (assuming I find a co-pilot that is), I won’t ask for a thing besides a hug and a smile. And maybe a dance. I can assure you by the time that day comes, I literally won’t need a thing for my house. Well, except maybe this:
 

Do you see that?? Now with a gluten-free setting!!
Regardless, change is once again upon all of us as summer has officially come to an end. The air is crisp, the leaves are just starting to change, and the dreaded Sunday of changing clocks back is just about a month away. Fall is here. And since October 1st , AKA my 4thfavorite day of the year (because it marks the start of my absolute favorite ¼ of the year…October, November, December) is almost upon us, I am here to share some examples of how fantastic change can be. Here are some recipes for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins AND pumpkin coffee creamer!! Gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free…and still DELICIOUS. And probably far better for you than those artificial “pumpkin” flavored things on the store shelves. Seriously, pick one up….see how many actually list pumpkin as an ingredient. I know, scary….Fortunately I managed to master these 2 weeks ago before I had to pack up my kitchen.
The fun begins!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins:
·      ¾ cup almond flour
·      ½ cup canned pumpkin
·      ½ tsp baking soda
·      ½ tsp baking powder*
·      ¾ tsp pumpkin spice
·      2 eggs**
·      ½ tsp vanilla extract***
·      1/4 cup maple syrup
·      pinch of salt
Enjoy Life chocolate chips…as many as you want!!
*baking powder has corn so I just mix baking soda and cream of tartar to make my own. It’s a 2:1 ratio (teaspoons) so I just mix a bunch and keep it on hand.
**If you can’t have eggs (I can eat them baked in things but not outright), mix 3 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed. I call it an art not a science, so I can’t guarantee the outcome…I didn’t try it with this particular recipe.
***VANILLA EXTRACT HAS CORN. Except for 1 brand: Frontier. So either get that one (sorry, McCormick, I’m still your loyal fan for everything else) or make your own.
Seriously…just buy stock in McCormick now. I think my purchases alone will bring it up a few cents 🙂

Mmmm…delicious!

Pumpkin Coffee Creamer!!:
2 cups of Almond Milk (I used vanilla!)
4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (I’d add more but that’s just me) 
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of Allspice
**OR just use pumpkin pie spice again and add some nutmeg!**
4 tablespoons Maple Syrup (I’ve heard mixing in some agave syrup is good but I didn’t have any so I didn’t)
I boiled it all together on the stove and then put it in the fridge to cool. AMAZING. Smell and taste!

Ready for October!
I hope these recipes will only add to the wonderful-ness that is fall: pumpkin patches, apple picking, apple cider slushies!! These are all things I’m looking forward to and luckily I can still have. Granted I know it will continue to be a season of changes. For me, in particular as I settle into my new life.  I’ve officially lived in my new apartment (and by that I mean slept there) for 3 nights now…and I certainly have a LONG way to go before it feels like home. However, I will say I’m also excited about all that lies ahead. I’m excited to organize, bake, have people over for meals/tea/treats, etc.

And I’m already excited to sit in this same spot on my couch 3 months from now, surrounded by the remnants of recent Christmas celebrations and staring out at bare trees (and maybe, just maybe a little snow??) and think about how much has changed…And how hopefully I’ll finally feel like I’m home. (And maybe I’ll even have sprung for internet by then so I’ll be able to post from the couch too!)

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