Thursday, March 31, 2011

Telling the truth is hard

It’s conferences week so we have a different school schedule. Changes in routine are almost always a recipe for disaster. At some point I knew a behavioral episode was bound to happen. And it did. I expect things like this, but never know exactly how they will occur. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised when there’s been a change in routine and don’t see any transitional issues in either kid. I guess we weren’t so lucky this week. This time the issue is telling the truth.
Monkey lied. It’s not the first time and I know it won’t be the last. But, then he stole. And, then he lied some more. Now, a day later? It seems to be chronic. I mean, aren’t kids on the spectrum supposed to be truth-tellers? High-functioning adults on the spectrum are sometimes considered blunt or rude to neurotypicals because they tell it like it is. There is no euphemistic filter. If the truth hurts, suck it up. It’s the truth and they’re going to tell you all about it. Well, we have quite the opposite here. The lying is becoming pathological and it’s unacceptable from anyone, much less an 8-year old.
Things really escalated yesterday when I left the room for a moment. As I was coming back into the room, I heard the thudding of fast-moving feet on the floor. It was Monkey and he had a guilty look on his face.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mostly wordless Wednesday

What do you get when you mix the following:

1) Prince Charming,
2) Tinkertoys, and
3) ZhuZhu Pets Hamster Houses?

You get a “curvy motorcycle!”


He was so proud of how he connected the Tinkertoys through the ZhuZhu houses and made this colossal creation. I love what he called it, too.
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What the heck is a "Radura" and why should I care?

- I wrote this entry back in November of 2008 and posted it on another blog. In light of the Japanese nuclear crisis and our heightened awareness of radiation, I felt it was a worthy topic to recycle. -   

Parents of special needs children are already very aware of what they are feeding their children, especially when there is concern about toxic load and the effects the food may have on your child. As the mother of two boys with multiple food allergies/sensitivities, autism, and sensory processing disorder, I monitor every ingredient on every label of everything I buy. For our family, diet was the key to the most significant progress, particularly when my youngest began talking two weeks after we went off of all of the allergenic foods. As a result, I am very conscious of what things come into our home and whether or not each item will help or hinder my children’s progress. Now there’s something else to watch out for. The article, “Beware the Radura: Bombarding food with radiation results in preservation at a price” by Eric Schneider in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Energy Times, had me sit up and take notice.

“Radura,” a fairly innocuous term, is the name of a new logo to be on the look out for at a store near you. The logo itself is described as a “minimalist…two-leaved plant enclosed by a circle, with breaks in the top half that allude to ionizing rays.” This flower-like logo, which seems to imply something healthy and natural, is a sign that the food you are about to purchase has been treated with radiation. Irradiation has been slowly gaining momentum since the FDA approved it in 1963, and over the years irradiated foods include meat, vegetables and spices. Since the 2006 E. coli outbreak that affected the spinach industry and the salmonella outbreak this past May that affected tomatoes and peppers, the FDA has pushed forward the usage of irradiation to now include lettuce and spinach.

The thing that really caught my attention was that spices are treated with the equivalent of one billion chest x-rays and a hamburger is treated with the equivalent of 15 million chest x-rays. Seriously? When we get an x-ray, we have to wear a protective lead shield. Are we supposed to really believe that eating food exposed to ONE BILLION the times of radiation as when we are wearing our cute lead smock is actually SAFE? Do I have the word stupid tattooed to my forehead? You have got to be kidding me! As if the actual logic wasn’t enough to convince me that irradiation is a bad idea, there is actual data proving that it is harmful.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sheldon Cooper in real life?

I love CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. If you have a kid on the spectrum, particularly one with Asperger’s, you need to watch this show! You’ll thank me. The most important thing is that it's funny. I'm all about the funny. The bonus feature is that one of the main characters, Sheldon Cooper, has many traits you might expect a high-functioning adult on the spectrum to have. He has problems interpreting social cues, he’s highly intelligent, and he needs a strict routine, among other things. Sheldon is a theoretical physicist who lives with his colleague, who happens to also be his best friend. The viewer gets to see the interaction and dynamic Sheldon has with his peers and friends.
The other day I came across an article about a 12-year old boy that could literally be Sheldon Cooper in real life, minus the funny sitcom. Jacob Barnett was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder. He learned algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus all in one week! Jacob left high school at the age of eight to attend Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to study advanced astrophysics. He is so smart, his IQ is actually higher than Albert Einstein's! At the age of 12, Jacob is developing and expanding upon the theory of relativity. His work on debunking the big bang theory could land him a PhD research position.
Can you believe this? It’s simply incredible! My mind is blown merely contemplating how my 8-year old son is in second grade and this kid was in college at the same age. Un.real. Although most kids with autism won't have anything close to his savant abilities, it gives me hope for what children can achieve when given the proper chance and environment. Hooray for Jacob! Maybe he'll get the Nobel Prize some day. Wouldn't that be cool?     

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My first post at SPD Blogger Network!

Wow! My first post was published today over at SPD Blogger Network! It's a wonderful site and I encourage all parents who have kids with any sort of sensory issue (which, let's face it, includes almost all of us!) to visit and read through the gamut of posts related to Sensory Processing Disorder.

"Meltdowns Happen" ran here on my blog in February. It's my second most popular post ever, so I'm thrilled to share it with a new audience. I hope that my story of managing a meltdown with Grumpy Badger will help others realize that you are not the only parent that deals with this kind of thing. Parents, especially moms, need to be reminded that you are not alone. I've been there, too. As a community, we're in this together.

Meltdowns happen, as much as we wish they didn't. This is despite the efforts of caring parents who work diligently to navigate situations that might trigger problems for their child. While our children learn coping strategies, our job is to continue helping them through those tough situations. Meltdowns are as hard on your child as they are on you. Keep moving and do what you think is best. You are the expert on your child, after all. Keep up the good work!

This is a great opportunity to learn from each other. I've found that tips from fellow parents are often better than those I've read in a book. Please feel free to comment below with strategies that have helped you and your child during a meltdown. Here's to meltdown-free days, or at least longer stretches between them!    

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do you have a Mom Cave?

I read an article about the latest home d├ęcor trend: Mom Caves. We’ve all heard of Man Caves, where guys can throw back a beer surrounded by the smell of motor oil and the glare of a big screen TV. Or, something like that. Well, apparently it’s now mom’s turn to have a cave.  
Do you have a hobby? I imagine claiming a space (a la Mom Cave) where you can pursue your specific interests would be very inspiring. Do you remember on the show Will and Grace how Will had always dreamed of creating a room solely for the purpose of gift wrapping? How many scrapbookers wish they had their own in-home scrapbooking studio?
I envision a Mom Cave being a space where you could spend time doing the things you love without interruption. For me, it would be a quiet space with a comfy chair and sofa, good lighting, lots of books, serene music, my laptop, and a door with a lock. It would essentially be a super comfortable office where I could relax enough to take a nap, if I so desired.
Do I think I’ll ever have a Mom Cave? Nope, not really. I don’t see how I could find the space. I essentially rule over the entire house as it is. I also don’t know how I would find the time to use my Mom Cave enough to make it worth the hassle and expense of creating such a tranquil spot in the first place. Once I got in there, I don’t know how I would be able to block out the loud signs of life outside the door, other than perhaps the soothing sounds of a jet engine in the background. And, I know I would feel somewhat guilty for having a special spot when no one else did in quite the same way.
The concept of a Mom Cave sure is fun to daydream about. It might be more of a Real Housewives thing…you know: money to burn, more space than you need, and the nanny to help. In my world, it’s not very realistic.
How do you create time and space for enjoying the things you love? Do you have a Mom Cave? If so, tell me about it! I want to drool in jealousy over the details.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Parenthood effect

Did you happen to catch the recent episode of Parenthood where Max finds out about his Asperger diagnosis by accident? I’ll admit that I hadn’t had THE conversation with either of my boys. I’ve talked about it with my husband many times, but we never felt like it was the right time to open that door. Watching how the episode played out and seeing how unprepared they were for having the conversation with their son really served as a reminder. My husband and I needed to get serious about planning out our own conversation and getting ready for that inevitable moment. I knew it would arrive sooner than later.
I could feel my Type-A brain kicking in and over-thinking things as usual. I had a million questions in my mind swirling around. When do we have the conversation? What do we say? How much detail do we go into? Do we need to have a book to read with him, or at least one to reference? Do I need to write up some notes to follow, like a list of talking points? How much information is too much? Should we create an analogy to make it easier to understand, or will that just confuse him more? What if he already somehow knows?   
Autism is a common word in our home. I run a support group and have a lending library with tons of books about autism. I also receive phone calls from other parents who have questions or need mentoring if they are new to the world of autism. He hears me talking with them about autism. I even have 2 autism bumper stickers on my car and I’ve seen Monkey reading them. Autism is not foreign to him, but I also know that he doesn’t specifically know what it means or that it applies to him or his brother.  
I’m lucky to have a great group of moms in my boys’ social skills groups, and we often have a chance to chat about various things related to our children. During one of the groups following the Parenthood episode, I asked them how they each handled this situation with their child. I discovered I was the only one in the room who hadn’t specifically told her son, “You have autism.” I knew the time was now. We had to start the conversation soon.
My husband and I have been talking about how to best accomplish this. We have also discussed when I should share the information with his class. I’ve brought this topic up multiple times at his school, and each time we ultimately decided to wait a little longer. I think I’m done with waiting.
I began looking at Amazon.com for inspiration on children’s books related to the topic of talking about having autism. After I had a small list going, I checked my local library’s online catalog to see if they had any of these books available. Unfortunately, they didn’t. I placed some holds on a few selections that I thought might provide some sort of helpful information, hoping they would give me some ideas that I could elaborate on.
Last weekend, a moment of opportunity came. Monkey was talking with me about his computer and he unexpectedly used the word autism. I knew this was as good a time as I might ever get. I still had nothing firm in my mind about what to say, but I had an idea of how to start. So, we had a nice little chat. It was our first real conversation about autism. I know it’s the first of many.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chocolate and Chick Flicks

Girls just wanna have fun, right? Well for me, I love it when my awesome gal pal, Miss C, heads to town and we do our famous Chocolate and Chick Flicks extravaganza. Upon her arrival, we both get out our laptops and head to Redbox.com. Imagine 2 women in side-by-side recliners with dueling laptops. We each pick out our top 1 or 2 movies and then take turns watching the trailers together. Whichever one gets the most laughs or mentions of cuteness and/or chick-flickiness wins. We reserve our selection and head out. On our way to the store we formulate our battle plan, plotting which areas of the store to pillage and plunder in order to acquire our chocolate hideousness delectableness.
Miss C is in town visiting today! I have to tell you, it’s been really hard for me to restrain myself from renting a movie in the past week. There are a couple of new releases out that fit the chick flick bill, and I’ve almost succumbed at least once. I chose to be patient for the greater good!
Now we’ll have to wait for the perfect opportunity to view our chick flick without interruption. Typically, that happens when the boys are at school, or in the afternoon during “quiet time.” Sometimes we start the movie in the morning when the boys are at school and then finish it in the afternoon during designated quiet time. Let me tell you, I’ve become a huge fan of closed captioning so that I can keep the volume lower when the kids are home (in case there’s any bad language, etc.), so I don’t miss any of the dialogue.
You might be wondering what quiet time is. It’s something I started when Monkey was a baby and I’ve kept it up ever since. After Prince Charming was born, and all the trouble we had with his reflux and sleeping habits, quiet time became almost like religion around here. With quiet time, I knew I could count on a little chunk of time to do stuff like: 1) go to the bathroom, 2) actually sit down and eat some food, 3) pay bills, and 4) the holy grail itself, take a shower that’s long enough that you can actually shave your legs if you want to (not to be confused with the barely-get-your-body-wet-and-then-have-to-jump-out-really-fast-because-while-straining-your-ears-to-listen-over-the-sound-of-the-water-you-hear-crying shower).  
Right after lunch at least one of the boys would take a nap and I eventually got them on the same schedule. Depending on how long the nap went, quiet time could be a half-hour, it could be 2 hours, or anything in-between. The one stipulation, whether sleep was involved or not, was that both boys had to go into their rooms, keep the door shut, and spend a little time alone. Keeping the door shut actually came about from all of the sleep problems the boys were having. Naps were always better when I shut their doors and turned on a fan in the hall (which I still do to this day). As we moved past the nap stage, I would have them bring in a couple of their favorite toys (that were quiet), books, etc., and play with those things while quiet time was observed.
Moms need a little break now and then and quiet time has been my regularly-scheduled sanity savior. Some days you just need a few moments, and the simple act of eating a snack or watching a quick reality show (guilty pleasure!) helps you plug back in to the rest of the day feeling better. It doesn’t have to be long, but for me, it is necessary.
The boys have always loved quiet time! Even if I don’t have quiet time planned during the weekend, they will often request to have it anyway. It’s always interesting to see them do this when we have visitors over. The last time my Dad was in town, they were fighting over who got to spend quiet time with Grandpa. So, I set a timer for 10 minutes and Grandpa went from one room to the other every 10 minutes. They had lots of fun! 
As for today, I’m looking forward to hanging out with Miss C. I hope to get our chick flick in before the boys get home from school. I can hardly wait to figure out what movie we’ll rent and what kinds of chocolate we decide to pig out on. There’s nothing better than getting to spend time with a great friend while enjoying a good movie (that the men will never watch with you) and consuming copious amounts of apply-directly-to-the-hips chocolate. Chocolate: It’s what’s for breakfast! Right? Now that’s what I call a day!      

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sick days and Monopoly

Monkey stayed home sick yesterday. The night before, he was in a tremendous amount of pain from a headache and then got a slight fever. Even though he was quite a bit better in the morning, I opted to keep him home in case he was actually incubating the flu.
We took it easy most of the day and Ryan enjoyed cuddling in daddy’s big chair wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket. As his energy increased, he decided that a sick day was a perfect opportunity to play board games. His personal favorite right now is Monopoly, which he purchased with his Christmas money. He likes to play it as often and Titan and I will tolerate it. There’s only so many times you can spend half the day playing a board game before you start to really dislike it.
Since Monkey was home on a sick day and he was exhibiting good behavior, I told him I’d be happy to play with him. I admit it. After the first 2 hours, I was getting a little weary. I mean, how many times can one person land on “Free Parking?” Well, as of this moment, Monkey’s done it 10 times. Yep. And me? I landed there once. One turn previous to me landing there, Monkey beat me to it and cleaned out about a $1,000 in cash! I missed all that money by one roll of the dice! Argh.
It was very obvious that Monkey’s luck was far better than mine. He was clobbering me. After playing for more than 3 hours, I had determined that when he had cleaned me out of all of my $100 bills (I certainly didn’t have any $500’s!) I was going to forfeit the game so I could just be done with it. I gave him a warning when I was down to my last few bills. Then, just as fast as I’d said it, I owed him rent again and I was wiped out.
Typically, Monkey likes to win and he likes to gloat about winning. He’s extremely competitive which can make playing games with him very difficult. This time, he pulled out all of his $500 bills and started counting them. As I watched him count, I imagined he was trying to calculate how soundly he’d beaten me. He had $5,000 in $500 bills, not to mention his huge stack of $100 bills. What happened next took me by surprise. He took a small handful of $500 bills and handed them to me. He had just given me a gift of his own Monopoly money!
I asked him, “What’s this for, honey?” He replied, “I’m having fun and I want to keep playing.” There was no gloating. He was sincere. I was simultaneously surprised and thrilled! This was so different for him. I decided to roll with it, saying, “Wow! You are a very nice boy. I’d love to keep playing with you! Thank you for the gift, honey.”
Do you want to know how many times he technically won and bankrolled me some money to keep going? Four times. And counting. We’ve been playing off and on for the past 24 hours. As of this moment, the tide is turning and I think I may actually be winning. How will we end the game? I have no idea. But, we’re both having fun and I’m happy to report that Monkey feels 100% better.       

Here's the game, a full day after we started. Monkey is the banker.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

That's my boy!

About a week ago we started a new reward schedule with the boys. We’ve been struggling with some negative behaviors and wanted a fresh start to get them actively working on their particular issues. At the end of each week we tally their goals and see what they’ve accomplished. They had a respectable showing, especially considering it was only the first week.   
Both boys accomplished half their goals and were able to select a reward from a small list. One of the choices is to earn $10, which can be saved or spent as desired. Monkey opted for this choice. He spotted a t-ball set at the store recently and decided that’s what he wanted to buy. He’s never shown interest in baseball before, so we were happy to see that he was branching out in his ideas for fun activities. He determined, quite adamantly, that he would be saving his money until he had enough to purchase the t-ball set.
After about 2 days of focusing on the t-ball set, he changed his mind. He decided it would be much more fun to go with something he’s already familiar with and quite adept at. Computer games. Yep. I wasn’t surprised. As soon as he’d changed his mind, he became obsessed with going to the store to spend his money NOW. So, after confirming repeatedly that this was really what he wanted to do, we negotiated the terms of a spur-of-the-moment shopping trip. One of the key things he had to accomplish was to finish whatever dinner we put on his plate. If he did that, I could take him out on a special shopping trip after dinner.
We knew we would have to be fast because bedtime was rapidly approaching. Monkey was practically chomping at the bit to eat his dinner and get out the door. He decided that he wanted to buy the “Jeopardy!” game for his laptop and he knew exactly which office supply store had it. So, we were off.
I’d had a long day, and frankly, the time change had thrown me off. I had been feeling a bit drowsy for a portion of the day and couldn’t seem to snap out of it. As we were driving along and listening to the radio on our way to the store, I let out a huge yawn. I said, “Boy! I am so sleepy!” You want to know what Monkey excitedly said to me? “You can’t be tired! We’re going shopping!” Now, that’s my boy!
I immediately grinned and thought how easily those words could have come out of my mouth. I consider myself a combat shopper, after all! When I’m on a mission to hunt for bargains, you better watch out!
Needless to say, Monkey was a little late getting to bed because we ended up having to drive to 3 different stores before we found the game. He bought it and his joy was palpable. And, I’m still grinning. He’s my boy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And so it begins...

Is there a 12-step program for gardening? I said it before and I'll say it again: I have a problem. Since my earlier entry about a slight gardening obsession, I went to the store again. Four times. And I bought more stuff. Did you expect any less? This weekend I dodged the downpours and got myself outside to play in the dirt a little bit. Oh, who am I kidding? It was mud.

Let me tell you the highlight of my weekend. I went out to pick up some organic potting soil and 2 more large pots. I got to the store right after a rain squall came through and was outside with my big cart seeking to gather my supplies. I found the exact pots I wanted, but they were up on a shelf and I had to stand on my tip-toes to get the pots down. Being from the great Pacific Northwest, you would think I know a thing or two about rain and would be smart enough to think about what happens when it rains. You know how rain has a way of magically collecting into all sorts of little nooks and crannies? Well, the pots I selected to buy were stored upside down, rendering the top edges into a nice, wide brim…perfect for collecting a plentiful reservoir of rainwater.

Can you already picture what’s about to happen? Unfortunately, I was still clueless. So, I’m reaching on my tip-toes to pull down these pots from the shelf. And that’s when the rainwater pours over me like a small waterfall. It got in my hair, soaked my arms, splashed on my leg and down into my shoe, and made a nice spot of wet in my mid-section in a not-so-flattering way. Mind you, I’m wearing light grey sweats, so the water shows up as ugly dark splotches of embarrassment. It was awesome.

I now resemble a partially drowned rat and I hadn’t even gotten the dirt yet. Thankfully, I am the only one crazy enough to be outside in the garden department on a rainy day. So, I decide to hang out there for a little while longer until the water spots become less noticeable. Frankly, I’m enjoying my time all alone with the entire garden paradise to myself. Then, I feel the first drops of rain. I remember that I still need to get dirt, which was my primary reason for making the trip out to the store in the first place. Why did I wait to get the dirt? I get so distracted when I’m having fun.

As I begin browsing the selection of various planting mediums, I realize that there’s a lot to go through before I can find what I want. With each step, the rain increases. What I need is completely out in the elements, and by now, it’s pretty much a downpour. Well, what the heck? I’m already drenched and I need dirt. I’m not afraid of rain. So, I begin slugging the heavy bags of dirt onto my cart. Those suckers gain a tremendous amount of weight when they’ve been sitting under a rainy sky! Not to mention the fact that any dirt residue on the outside of the bag is now a minor mud slick that makes the bag slippery. And, there’s the fact that the mud is now on my light grey clothing as I’m trying to leverage the bags against my body so they don’t slip out of my grip as I maneuver them. 

I wasn't nearly this cute in the rain.
By the time I’m done, I am more uniformly wet as I’ve been throwing around bags of dirt in the rain. My hands are covered in a flattering shade of dirt brown to accessorize with my dirty and damp sweats. I’m a muddy, wet mess. I manage to find a little puddle of water to dip my hands into so that I can try to clean up a little bit before I start rummaging around in my purse to pay for my items. My glorious tale makes you want to garden, doesn’t it? It’s so glamorous, you know.

All that being said, I’ve added the following seeds to my growing collection:
  • Yellow onion
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Stevia
  • Golden beets
And, in addition to the 2 pots that drenched me, I also purchased a frost blanket, and a makeshift raised planting bed which I will construct into a 2’ x 10’ size to complement my current raised planting bed and other large pots.
I went ahead and filled up my first Jiffy tray with seeds to get the seedlings going indoors in preparation for planting them outside sometime soon. This takes care of about half of what I intend to start from seed. In outdoor pots I planted blueberries, garlic, asparagus, and my first batch of potatoes.  
With all the stuff I’ve acquired, I am not sure I’ll have enough room to grow it all. Here’s hoping everything works out and grows well! You gotta love fresh, organic produce from the back yard. C'mon, spring! I wanna get this party started.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Morning dose of cuteness

I wasn’t going to take time to write today, but this was so cute I couldn’t resist. Prince Charming put such a huge grin on my face this morning, I was compelled to share.
At Christmas, both of the boys received a Squirmle from their Grandpa. Prince Charming was ter.ri.fied of it and would scream whenever someone got it too close to him. About a month later, he was finally able to touch it when Titan was playing around with it. Once he figured out how soft it was and that it was something fun to play with, it’s been his little buddy. He calls it “Wormie.”
What I love about this is that he has developed a relationship with Wormie. Monkey has never been able to show affection toward a stuffed animal or any other object, so it’s been fun to see Prince Charming do something that is so typical for kids his age. I’ve heard him tell Wormie, “You’re a good friend,” and, “Wormie, I love you.” I get a squishy heart when I hear stuff like that.
He built Wormie a cage out of Magnetix toys so that Wormie could stay safe in his room and also go to bed with him. We’ve had lots of fun playing with Wormie over the past couple of months, and Wormie has gotten so much love that his string has been broken several times and he’s losing his fuzz in little chunks.
This morning we were waiting in the driveway for the bus. It had rained over an inch here yesterday and continued to rain through the night. As we’re walking outside, I see worms on the pavement. I point out the biggest worm I see and also one nearby that’s about half the size. Prince Charming is very interested in watching them wriggle around. He says, “That’s the daddy worm and that’s his son.” Yep, more mommy squishies right there.  
When the bus arrives to take him to school, he bounds up the stairs, emphatically telling the bus driver that he saw some worms. I watch Prince Charming take a seat and I see the big smile on his face. I’m waving goodbye and he’s looking out the window, but not at me. It looks like he’s looking at the ground. As he starts to wave I see him say, “Bye Wormie!”
Now that is total cuteness.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

GFCF Pumpkin Pancakes

Do you ever go through phases with food where you get stuck on one ingredient and use it a lot? Well, I’ve been doing that with pumpkin. When I was trying to come up with an idea for dinner the other night, my husband suggested we have breakfast. That’s when it hit me. Pumpkin pancakes! We hadn’t had any for quite some time and I knew they would be a guaranteed hit with the boys. So, my hubby got bacon duty and I made pumpkin pancakes. I also added 2 secret ingredients…unsweetened coconut and chocolate chips. No syrup or any other sweetener is required and the kids couldn’t stop eating them.
The following is based off of the Pumpkin Waffles recipe from Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess. One of the changes I made was to the quantity of pumpkin. I didn’t want to only use a partial can, so I amended the recipe to use an entire can. I tweaked the dry ingredients and I also made a few substitutions from her original recipe. In all, I think they turned out well. You know you have succeeded when the kids devour them faster than you can make them!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rockin' mama

If you see a woman driving a mom-mobile with autism bumper stickers on the back, listening to way-too-loud music while seat dancing and/or head-banging, just avert your eyes and pardon the visual. I’ve had a day and this is my therapy.  
When I’ve had a particularly terrible day, it’s not unusual for me to call my husband and pertly inquire, “Honey, what time do you think you’ll be leaving work today?” He knows to be wary of my superficially calm tone, and that my question is actually code for “Why the heck haven’t you already left work? Don’t you know I’m going to kill the kids if you don’t get here soon?”
Sensing that he should tread lightly, he might reply with, “What happened? Is everything okay?” If I answer his questions and launch into a summary of the offending events with a calm voice that eventually breaks into silence (due to me attempting to stifle the tears and forthcoming ugly sobbing), he has learned to wait for a moment to see if I begin to audibly cry or if I regain composure enough to finish my story. He knows that if he hears crying, it’s time to give me some gentle words of encouragement and begin to wrap up work and try to get home as soon as he can.
Being the good husband that he is, he generally calls me from the car when he is well on his way home, giving me a glimmer of hope that I will indeed have a moment of respite soon. If things continued to be awful between my original phone call to him and his subsequent arrival home, he can often find me doing one of two things. First, I could be in the bedroom taking a mommy time out. Crying may or may not be involved. Second, I could be taking out my frustration by cleaning. Dirty dishes, laundry, and sticky kitchen counters beware of the mommy cleaning machine.
After he’s arrived home, Titan takes a minute to assess how severe my funk is and then determines what to do from there. If it’s bad, he’ll often ask, “What should I make for dinner tonight?” I’ll reply with, “I had planned to bake some chicken and steam some broccoli, but frankly, you can make whatever you want.” This is generally followed with him asking me, “Do you want to go for a drive? You can grab some dessert or something.”
Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the most wonderful husband in your entire creation. He knows that on days like these I could care less about dinner, I need to take a moment to fully get away from the kids, and I need chocolate. Copious amounts of chocolate. Stat.
I hastily grab my stuff and escape to the car. First things first. Music. I need something with a beat that I can turn up and sing loudly with. Oh, and the car dancing. Think the Saturday Night Live Roxbury guys bobbing their heads to Haddaway's, “What is Love.” 
Once I have the music situated, it’s all about the drive. For me, driving is therapeutic. As a child, I used to enjoy going on long drives with my parents. It was my family’s way of relaxing and enjoying the weekend. We’d drive into the mountains, out to the coast, or take some back roads around town to see some different neighborhoods. I love to drive. There is a sense of freedom that comes with getting in the car and going somewhere, even when there is no destination in mind.
I usually start out my journey wandering around some of the roads near my house, weaving my way eventually to the grocery store. But while I’m in the car, I’m jammin’ to the music. I know I look ridiculous. I know my windows are vibrating. I know you can hear the music when you’re next to me on the road. You know what? Deal with it! I’ve had a bad day and I’m finally starting to feel better.
It doesn’t take very long for my mood to lift, especially when the music is really good. Then I head to the store and buy chocolate. There may be several different kinds. Yes, I feel like chocolate cake is in order for this evening. Ooh, and maybe some cookie dough ice cream, too. Oh yeah. I walk out of the store with a bag full of sugar coma-inducing junk and drive home with a smile on my face and a head that’s bobbing to the music. As I walk into the house, I am a fully-functioning mom again. And, I have chocolate to look forward to sharing with my husband after the kids are in bed. Yippee! This night is looking better and better.     
So, if you are out some evening and hear my music before you can see that I’m getting my groove on, just remember that I’ve had a craptastic day and that I’m starting to feel better. Rather than gawk, just give me a knowing nod (even though I know you think I’m a crazy lady) and I’ll continue working toward redeeming my evening so that I can return home as a mommy restored.   
  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Product Review: You Bar - customized nutrition bars

Recently I purchased a Groupon for You Bar. I thought it was a neat idea to make your own customized nutrition bars. This is especially true when you’ve got kids with multiple food allergies that require more specialized ingredients. So, I gave them a try. I created a bar for my kids and I just got the box a couple of days ago. Here is what’s in the bars:

Ingredients:
Organic dates, sunflower seed butter, organic clover honey, organic rice protein, cherries, organic coconut, crunchy rice cereal, cocoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds, all-in-one vitamin infusion, cinnamon.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories                145
Fat Cal                  53
Total Fat               6g
Sat Fat                  2g
Cholest                 0mg
Sodium                 36mg
Total Carb            19g
Fiber                     4g
Sugars                  12g
Protein                 5g

I have not been compensated for this review, but You Bar, if you're willing to pay me, I'm willing to accept! Here are my impressions:
Pros
1.       It’s a really cool idea!
2.       There are lots of ingredients to choose from so you can truly make a custom creation to your liking. For instance, you can try cashew butter as a base, organic soy protein as a non-dairy form of protein, add in organic flaxseed and organic goji berries, pump it up with a fiber infusion, sweeten with organic agave nectar, and make it fun with organic cacao nibs and granola.
3.       Their ingredients have redeeming nutritional value.
4.       They’re not too sweet and they have a respectable amount of protein and fiber.
5.       They have no preservatives and are made fresh, just for you.
6.       You get to name your bar and have the name printed on the labels. I called my creation Fish Food. 
7.       As you create your bar, the nutrition information is visible with each step so you can see what effects different ingredients have on the nutrition of the bar.
8.       When you have ingredients you like, they taste good. Prince Charming loved them and Monkey thought they were just okay. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.
9.       You can easily re-order your custom creation or you can sign up for their recurring order program and have the bars automatically shipped to you at specific intervals.
10.   They guarantee their products with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. They will make you a brand new order for free if you are unhappy with your bars.
Cons
1.       They are not allergy-free. It says right on the package that the bars may contain traces of milk, eggs, soy, wheat, tree nuts and peanuts. This is a big problem for lots of people. Since my boys do not have super severe allergies, we decided to give it a try anyway.
2.       They are expensive. This is why I didn’t buy these prior to using the Groupon. They are convenient and nutritious but are expensive, especially when you add in shipping costs. For example, I pulled information from their Popular Bars section to give you an idea. A medium box of their Variety Pack bars (quantity 13) costs $32.37. When I added this item to the shopping cart and put in a shipping address, the cost was $8.22 via their cheapest mode of transport. That brings a total cost per bar to $3.12. That’s a bit steep for my budgetary comfort, especially when the bars are only 35 grams in size and may have trace allergens in them.
As you can see, there are lots more positives than there are negatives. However, for me to do repeat business with them the cons would need to change significantly. If they could develop an allergy-free manufacturing process and lower the price while they were at it, I’m sure I would buy them again. At this moment, I can’t justify another purchase. It was certainly a fun experiment and was worth the reduced price that I paid. What do you think about You Bar?   
Prince Charming couldn't wait!
Monkey trying the bars.



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fact & Opinion

The following is a completed assignment that Monkey brought home from school, and I just had to share it!
Fact & Opinion
List 2 facts about yourself.
1.       My age is 8.
2.       I love soccer practice.
List 2 opinions about yourself.
1.       I think I’m smart.
2.       I think I’m the bestest.
J

Friday, March 4, 2011

A mother's guilt

I feel guilty. I know I didn’t do anything wrong. At least not intentionally. Ever since we got a diagnosis for my boys, I knew that they were born this way. I didn't cause it from my actions. That’s what we’re told. Autism is genetic, right? Over the past few years, I learned enough to no longer believe that autism is purely a genetic condition. Rather, I believe that in most cases it is an immunological response to an environmental assault, which triggers the cascade of symptoms into autism.  
As I sat enjoying my morning cup of coffee and scrolling through Facebook, there it was. A friend posted a status update about her son and their recent findings from the doctor. Her words gave me pause. Things suddenly started to click in my brain. What it this? What about that? Feverishly I pulled up Google and began searching for more information. There could be something to this. As the morning progressed, I felt my head dizzily spinning with the information and possible implications.
Then I found this scientific case study. It pierced my heart. Autism may have started from me. And, I’m not talking about my genes. From me, giving birth. Yeah. That’s it right there. I feel it now, washing over me. Guilt. Did the cascade into autism start on the day of their birth?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Calling all gardeners!


It’s March! That means that all the stores are stocking garden supplies. I can’t resist! Never mind that it was just snowing here 2 days ago… Why, yes! I do need more seeds. I just bought seeds. For the third time in 3 weeks. I may have a problem.
Want a look into my gardening neurosis? So far this year, I’ve purchased:
·         Carrot seeds
·         Beefsteak tomato seeds
·         Loose-leaf lettuce seeds
·         Sugar snap pea seeds
·         Bush bean seeds
·         Broccoli seeds
·         Straightneck summer squash seeds
·         Cylindrical beet seeds
·         Spinach seeds
·         Garlic starts
·         Blue and red seed potatoes
·         Asparagus starts
·         Blueberry shrubs
From last year, I’ve already got:
·         Strawberries
·         Boysenberry canes
·         Thyme
I still want to buy:
·         Yellow onion seeds/starts
·         Basil
·         Sage
·         Dill
·         Oregano
I’m sure there’s more, but I know I’ve already gone overboard. I don’t have enough room for what I’ve got.

Almost everything I grow originates from organic seed and I use organic soil and fertilizer. Last year I installed a new 4' x 8' raised garden bed. I’m going to need about 2 more of them and don’t have any money to buy them, much less room to install them. I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing lots of gardening in pots this year. The soil in my yard is awful, and gardening attempts prior to the new raised planting bed (with all new soil) yielded pitiful results. Last year was my first real success and I'd like it to be bigger and better this year.  
I just bought a huge new pot that I will grow potatoes in. I read an article about using a barrel or large pot to grow potatoes, so I’m going to give it a try. Basically, you add some soil in the bottom of the barrel, add the seed potatoes and let them grow about 6 inches or more, and then add another layer of soil, not covering the leaves of the existing plants, and add more seed potatoes. Keep growing, layering and planting until you reach the top and then at the end of the season, dump the whole thing over and collect your bounty. I can't wait to try it.
I think I may also attempt collecting my own seeds this year, too. I really have no idea how to do it, but I’m sure Google will offer up some great suggestions. Do you collect your own seeds?
My biggest flop from last year was growing carrots. All of my carrots were short, tiny, fat and funky. I’d like them to actually look like carrots this year so that my kids will eat them. How do you get carrots to grow properly?
I’m fairly new to the gardening thing and I have a lot to learn. As for now, I need to figure out when to start the seeds so that my little plants are all ready to grow out in the big, bad world after the fear of frost is gone. When should I start the seeds?    
Do you garden? Do you have any tips? I’m all ears (well, I guess it would be eyes…)! Please, feel free to comment below with your favorite gardening tip. I’d love to hear from you!  

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