Monday, April 30, 2012

An Ode to the Monkey

This post is dedicated to Matthew's friend, companion, and favorite toy - a little raggedy puppet simply known around here as "the monkey."

The monkey was given to Matthew as a gift for his first Christmas by his Aunt Amy.  From the moment he laid eyes on that thing, it has never left his side.  When he was learning how to crawl, he would drag the monkey along with him.  He would refuse to sleep at night unless the monkey was snugly tucked under his arm.  The monkey even had to be perched within eyesight on a nearby table or counter-top while he ate a snack in his high chair.  When he is tired, he will snuggle with it on the couch, kissing its face and nuzzling its nose.  When we tuck him in at night, he insists that Paul and I also kiss the monkey goodnight.  That monkey has been an essential part of his life for almost a year and a half and the novelty of that little stuffed creature has yet to show signs of waning.

Can you locate him in all the pictures?

Making a latte with Daddy on Sunday morning.

Matthew was thrilled that HE got to enjoy a cup of coffee too!  Really, it was just a glass of hot cocoa.

Paul and I have gone to great lengths to ensure that the monkey remains safe despite being dragged literally everywhere with Matthew.

One time, Matthew and I set out on an 8-mile hike and he insisted on bringing the monkey along to clutch while I pushed him in the stroller.  I did not think any harm could come from the monkey tagging along, so I agreed.  At the completion of our hike, I noticed that the monkey was no longer with us.  I began to panic - Matthew would be so devastated if he were to lose the monkey!  I had no choice but to retrace our entire hike in search of the monkey.  The 8-mile hike turned into a 15-mile quest.  But, we successfully found the monkey laying in a ditch on the side of the trail and Matthew was overjoyed to be reunited with his friend.

A few months later, I was staying at my parent's house and was preparing to lay Matthew down for his nap.  He began to look around for his monkey, but could not find it.  With four of my younger siblings, I formed a search party and dangled the prospect of rewards of ice cream and candy in front of them to keep the momentum moving.  Our efforts proved fruitless.  After a couple hours of tearing the house apart, the monkey was nowhere to be found.  I began to cry (I know...ridiculous...but I knew how much Matthew loved that stupid little toy).  I silently began praying to Saint Anthony, begging him to help me find that monkey.  Immediately after I finished my prayer, I had an idea.  The one place I had not looked was in the laundry basket in our guest room.  I went searching through the pile of clothes and at the very bottom of the basket was the monkey.  Thank you Saint Anthony!  It was probably one of the happiest moments of my life (pathetic, no?).

As I have mentioned earlier, Matthew has been attending my physical therapy appointments with me.  He usually brings that Monkey along and tosses him around (he's rather abusive towards his little friend).  One day, we were getting ready to leave when Matthew suddenly asked me:  "Where's the monkey?!"  I looked around and could not find it.  Then, I heard Matthew laughing.  I looked at him and asked with suspicion:  "Matthew...what did you do?  Where did you put the monkey?"  He ran over to one of the weight machines and pointed at a little opening and said, while giggling:  "The monkey's in there!"  And sure enough, it was.  The problem was that there was no easy way to extract the monkey.  The physical therapists and I had to get a tool kit and take apart the machine in order to rescue the monkey.  We dubbed the project "Operation Save the Monkey."  Unfortunately, Matthew threw the monkey back there no less than five more times in the subsequent weeks.  Then I got smart and just refused to let him bring the thing in with us.  I probably should have done that sooner.

Why go to such lengths for such a homely little toy?  Frankly, I owe a lot to the monkey.  The monkey is the reason Matthew started to sleep so well at night.  The monkey helps calm Matthew down when he is angry or hurt.  Honestly, I do not know where we'd be without it.

I do not know how long Matthew's love affair with the monkey will continue.  All I know is, for now, the monkey will continue to accompany him wherever he goes.

Pushing the monkey around in his Thomas the Tank Engine chair!  Who says chairs are only for sitting?

The following is a simple recipe for corn muffins.  Slightly sweet with a wonderfully nutty texture from the cornmeal, these are wonderful to eat slathered with jam in the morning or as an accompaniment to a bowl of chili.  They are a cinch to put together and one of my favorite go-to recipes whenever I feel like serving a meal with a piping hot, fresh carbohydrate (which is pretty much all the time!).

Simple Corn Muffins
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, placing the rack in the center of the oven.  Fit the molds of a regular, 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, egg, and yolk together until well blended.  Make a little crater in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the center.  Using a rubber spatula, stir gently but quickly to blend.  The batter will (and should) be lumpy.  Stir in the corn kernels, if using.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before carefully unmolding.


  1. My son has the same obsession with a stuffed dog my daughter gave him when he was 1. He is now 12 and although he doesn't sleep with it or drag it around it's still very important to him and he'll never get rid of it.

    1. My cousin loved her sock monkey. Unfortunately Monkey was lost, in an airport in Mexico coming home from a medical mission during spring break from her doctoral program. :)