Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not-So-Caffeinated Autism Mom

About a week ago on Facebook I shared the following with you: “Confession: For the past 2 weeks I’ve been drinking decaf. The shock! The horror!” I was quite amused by your responses! From your comments, as well as comments from some of my own friends locally, I’ve gotten the tongue-in-cheek question, “Are you going to change your name to Decaffeinated Autism Mom?”

One word: NO! I am still your favorite hard-core coffee junkie that you have come to know over the past year. So, let me give you a little history on what’s been going on.

I have been working very hard, just like every other stay-at-home mom out there. Trying to keep the children alive and the house from falling apart can be a challenge for anyone. As you know, I also run a special needs support group and that takes time. And, in all of my additional spare time (LOL!), I recently took on the role of Executive Director at my own nonprofit organization. The nonprofit involves volunteers, a Board of Directors, meetings, work parties, hard work, energy, and LOTS of time. Trying to squeeze the duties of a full-time job into the few minutes and hours I can spare out of my day (or the wee hours of the morning) has been a challenge.

Health wise I’ve struggled with many things, like: allergies, migraines, reflux, etc. In helping my boys, I’ve learned a lot about how to approach health from a more natural perspective. I have been able to take myself off of all of the medications I had been on for a very long time. Things have been fairly good since that time, except for the fact that my weight never seems to budge. Genetics are certainly not helping in that department!

As I’ve taken on more and more responsibility and stress in the past year, I’ve been noticing the return and slow progression of some of my old symptoms. I knew that I didn’t want to go down the road of meds again, but I also wasn’t making a concerted effort to change things either. I’m lazy when it comes to myself. I admit that.

I go to great lengths to do what is best for my boys’ health and properly manage their specialized diet. After all of that effort for them, I don’t really want to make the same effort for myself. Yep. Lazy. And it caught up with me.

It was getting to the point where I wasn’t having any days where I felt good. I knew that I had to finally do something and make myself a priority. I knew if I didn’t, I could end up like my mom. She has very poor health and is now disabled. I don’t want to follow in her footsteps.

New Years came around. You may recall that I don't make resolutions. I create change. My change for 2012? Get better control of my health again.

It had been such a long time since I had been in to see my naturopath that my chart was in archives. Shame on me. No wonder I was having trouble! After sharing my laundry list of symptoms and concerns, guess what happened? My doctor placed me on a restricted diet.

NO flour. NO sugar. NO juice. NO alcohol. NO gluten.

Oh crap. It stung when she told me. I am a serious carb and sugar addict. Always have been. I can live without juice and alcohol (well, mostly…), but carbs and sugar? I am already quite the gluten-free expert, so I wasn’t worried about finding whole gluten-free grains to eat. But, seriously? No sugar and no flour? Kill me now.

I will admit that in the week leading up to getting lots of blood work done (and the deadline to start my new diet), I binged on sugar and flour. Pasta, I’m going to miss you! Nom nom nom. Cake, you are so delicious! Nom nom nom. Looking back, it was juvenile and disgusting. At one point, I ate dessert until it made me feel nauseatingly ill. I was ready to make the change. And I did. And I’ve been a good girl!

It’s been about a month since I started this new dietary lifestyle. Most of my symptoms are gone. Surprisingly, positive changes began happening within the first 24 hours of starting the new diet. It has certainly not been easy, but it’s been necessary. And, I feel so much better!

One new thing I’ve discovered is that I cannot tolerate caffeine as well as I used to. It had never affected me before. I used to be able to drink coffee at any point during the day, right up until bedtime, and have no ill effects. Now that my body has much less internal inflammation, I can immediately tell when I’ve had caffeine. I made the mistake of drinking 4 cups of coffee during breakfast one morning and I felt sick until late that afternoon. Since then, I switched to either half-decaf or decaf. I still get my coffee fix without feeling awful. Maybe this is a temporary thing while I work out the rest of my symptoms. Only time will tell.

I think I’ll go grab a cup of coffee now!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GFCF Sugar Cookies with Vegan Icing

You may recall that I was having slight panic over what to make for the Valentine’s Day parties for my boys. I tried a new recipe in the 11th hour, which is always a huge risk with the GFCF diet. Guess what? The cookies were a huge hit! Since the boys have asked me to make them again, I figured I had better share the recipe with you!

First, I located a GFCF sugar cookie recipe at As Good As Gluten. Then, I found a vegan icing recipe at In My Vegan Life. I put the recipes together and came up with a wonderful and super tasty creation.
I am including both recipes for you here, with the modifications I made.

GFCF Sugar Cookies

1/2 CUP dairy-free butter (I used Earth Balance soy-free spread)
1 CUP organic granulated sugar
1 organic egg or egg substitute equivalent
1 TSP gluten-free vanilla extract
1 1/3 CUP gluten-free all purpose flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1/2 TSP xanthan gum
1/2 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP cream of tartar
1/2 TSP sea salt
organic powdered sugar for rolling cookie dough out

In a stand mixer, cream together dairy-free butter and organic sugar until smooth. Add egg or egg substitute and gluten-free vanilla, mixing well. In a medium bowl, sift together gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, cream of tartar and sea salt. While mixing on medium speed, gradually add dry ingredient mixture to creamed mixture. Chill dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll chilled cookie dough out to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into desired shape. Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the edges. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes then remove to a wire cooling rack.

Makes approximately 24 cookies.
This batch got a little overdone for my taste.
It made the cookies very crispy.

Vegan Icing
1 CUP organic powdered sugar
2-4 TBS coconut milk (or other preferred dairy-free milk)
1/2 TSP gluten-free vanilla extract
all natural red food coloring (I used Select brand, which is made from red beets)

sprinkles, if desired (I used Let's Do Sprinkelz brand)

Combine all ingredients until smooth and spreadable. Add coloring until desired shade is achieved.

The icing will be quite runny. I mixed the icing in a shallow bowl and then dipped the cookie upside-down into it, twisting it back and forth for even coverage. Then I held the cookie for a few seconds over the bowl to allow the excess icing to drip off, immediately placing it right-side up onto a wire rack. I added sprinkles on top of the icing while it was still wet. Any remaining excess icing then dripped off the edges of the cookies and through the wire rack as the icing set. It took 30-60 minutes for the icing to harden to the touch enough for handling and stacking.

These cookies were not only pretty to look at, but they were a sweet treat without the worry of allergens or chemical ingredients. I highly recommend you give them a try! Let me know how they turn out.    

Friday, February 17, 2012

Flashback Friday: Tax day approaches!

In less than 2 months it will be Tax Day on April 15th. Have you even started gathering together your receipts yet? I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend working on updating all of my records. I was horribly behind in scanning my receipts into my software program. Once I completed that task and got to the nitty gritty of figuring deductions, my mouth dropped open when I learned how much I had spent in the past 6 months on getting my nonprofit off the ground. Holy cow do things add up quickly!

Are you aware of all of your deductions you can take that are directly related to your child's care,  like GFCF food, mileage to doctor's appointments, etc.? Do you volunteer for a nonprofit? You get to take that mileage, too! I know my volunteer mileage is at an all-time high!

I wrote a post last year about some great tools and tips for filing taxes when you have a child with autism or other special need. There are some great resources about deductions you should consider. Since tax time is getting closer, now is the perfect time to review some of this information. Maybe it will help you get a bigger refund!

Check out my post about tax deductions for autism!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last minute Valentine's GFCF snack panic

The Queen of Procrastination is reporting for duty! I waited until the last possible second to come up with something allergy-free for my boys to have at their annual Valentine's Day classroom party extravaganza. I spent all day working on other things, and before I realized it the house got quiet and everyone's asleep except for me. Somehow I forgot to include making cookies on my list of stuff to do! I'm thinking the lengthy call (a.k.a. spending an eternity on hold) to the insurance company could have waited another day. The bill will still be there tomorrow, after all!

Okay, ouch. I just looked at the clock and had a moment of panic realizing how few hours there are between now and when the boys will get up. I need to get my rear in gear!

After perusing the web tonight, I think I have a game plan. Of course, I have a slight pang of anxiety that a new recipe will be a complete flop and there will be nothing edible to show for the effort. But, I can't think of those things now! Or, at least I'll try not to...

I am going to attempt an allergy-free cookie (free of gluten, dairy, soy, nuts); but I might include an egg just to try to make the end result better. I'm thinking I'll take a chance on a shortbread or sugar cookie with a pink (or maybe even red) icing. I have some all-natural food coloring that is made from beets that should do the trick. There are a few recipes I found online that I will use as a guide.

I hope that everything turns out yummy for my boys! I don't want them to feel like they are being deprived of all of the technicolor cupcakes and various junk food that the other kids will get to eat. I want them to participate fully and have no feelings of jealousy over the rest of the chock-full-of-chemicals-and-allergens treats.

If the cookies turn out extra awesome, I'll take pictures and share them with you in a future post. Sound like a deal? Sorry I didn't have them ready in time for this one... That would have made for better reading and viewing. Oh well. I think you'll look past it this time, right?

Crap...I just realized that I have also forgotten to buy a Valentine's Day card for my beloved hubby. I'm batting a thousand here, folks. I have a feeling it's going to be a very busy morning. Yes, it's Valentine's Day morning! I better get a move on! 

What do you have planned for this day to celebrate those you love?

I felt this was fitting for my unprepared Valentine's Day!
I haven't purchased a card yet and my hubby took the time
 to create a handmade card for me. He even made his own
envelope! I can't wait to read it later. Hubby gets an A+ in
the romance department for his efforts! I love that man.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Flashback Friday: Letter of introduction

Parents are always looking for better ways to communicate with their child's teacher. One way I do this is to prepare a letter of introduction for my children. This became extremely relevant this week when Prince Charming started at a new school. As part of his transition process, I provided a letter to his new teacher.

This topic has also come up several times this week when I was talking with other parents. It seems that I'm not the only one thinking about teacher communication. So, I thought I would recycle my introduction letter post for you. I hope you find it helpful.

Click here to read it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moving on up!

If you were on Facebook yesterday, you may have already seen my big news. Yesterday was a very significant day!

For the first time ever, both of my boys attend the same school! Prince Charming has been in a self-contained program in another school that was more suited to his needs and offered more support. We've been working toward getting him into a regular classroom for quite some time. After his big regression last spring, it seemed even further away. Now the boys go to the same school, on the same bus, with the same schedule! It's wonderful!

I am proud to say that Prince Charming has done better than any of us expected this year and made the transition out of a self-contained classroom much sooner than we thought possible. Granted, we pushed him harder than maybe we should have, and it hasn't been without problems. But, he's now in our neighborhood school with Monkey for the first time. And, his teacher gave a glowing report of his first day. I hope the honeymoon period lasts and lasts. He has most definitely earned it!

Ready for school....together for the first time!

The most exciting part...riding the bus together!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flashback Friday: Holland vs. Beirut

I feel like I've taken a forced blog vacation the past few weeks! With the insane ice storm, snow days, broken trees, power outages, and more recently the revolving door of stomach flu, I'm one tired girl. I've barely been on Facebook and Twitter! Have you missed me? I hope you don't all think I've moved away!

Anyway, in the past week I've been steadily hovering around Level 3 of my Pyramid of Crazy - the "Rubber Room, Reservation for 1" level. Have I ever mentioned that I need an assistant? I'd take a week in quiet solitude on a tropical island, too. 

But, amidst all of these things, I've been busy working on my nonprofit and various projects related to it. One blog post in particular has been in the forefront of my mind because it relates to a new program I'm working on. I wrote the Welcome to Holland poem post back in April and I thought it deserved a revisit. Not only has it been in my thoughts, it's still a pretty popular post around these parts.

Have you ever read the "Welcome to Holland" poem? Have you ever considered changing the location of the poem to Beirut? Sometimes getting a diagnosis can feel like you walked into a war zone.

Check out my Holland post and then tell me which version of the poem is your favorite.  

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