Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thankful for Three Things Thursday

Say that three times fast! LOL

I've been feeling a bit blah lately and some might even say 'feeling sorry for myself,' so on that note, I am going to start doing a new thing on Thursday of each week: Thankful for Three Things Thursday. And when I have time to look around online, I may even try to find someone to make me a "Thankful for Three Things Thursday" button to put on here. For today, right now I am thankful for.....

1) My husband having a job that pays fairly decently well. We are not rich. We are not poor. We are somewhere in the middle. Some days that is a good thing, some days it is bad. On days when we get some kind of medical bill in the mail that is for an amount that most people would consider enough for a down payment on a car (or in some cases, the entire car!), it is bad. And yes, I mean after the insurance has paid its share. It's those days that I am reminded that rich people can afford those kinds of medical bills, poor people get taxpayers to pay for them, and those of us in the middle are just screwed. I was once again reminded of this while chatting online with my friend, Michelle, who also has a child with autism. We were discussing supplements for our children and she mentioned how no one seems to tell you that if you are going to have an autistic child you need to be sure to get a money tree in your backyard as well.

If it sounds like I am not thankful, don't be fooled. I am very thankful for my husband and the support he is able to provide. Way too often I hear about families who were at one time financially middle class who are now bankrupt because of their autistic child(ren)'s medical bills, which by the way, very often are not covered by insurance. Seriously, there is something wrong with healthcare when a person can smoke three packs of cigarettes per day and get cancer and insurance will help out.......A person can knowingly and purposely go into a pregnancy without financial means to support the child (or eight of them!!! or fourteen!!!) and taxpayers will take care of the child(ren)....but heaven forbid that a family with the financial means to provide a child with a decent upbringing have a child with autism because insurance doesn't recognize many of the proven forms of therapy.

2) I am thankful that I have had the willpower to not stuff my face today. Of course, it's only 10AM right now but that's a start, right? Really though, I do need to eat something because, while it's nice that I have not overeaten, I have not eaten at all....and that's not a good thing either. Maybe I will heat up some of the leftover chicken curry before going to get Reiss from preschool.

I have my husband a little worried that he's not going to get treated to homemade muffins and other goodies here pretty soon. We've been eating really good here lately but now I'm thinking about getting back to low-carbing. And by "good" I mean we have been sticking with the GFCF diet for Reiss (all for one and one for all, right?) but I have also made chocolate chip zucchini muffins and other yummy things....just made a little differently than traditional so that they still qualify as gluten-free, casein-free. Well, now I'm thinking I may want to add low-carb into the mix as well so that I can get some of these extra pounds off again since having Milla. Christine over at "Smiles & Trials" has me a bit motivated.

3) I am thankful for the wonderful view out my back window. We have a modest ranch home with a basement that needs some serious updating from the previous owners' (lack of) taste in interior design. Modest as it is and as out-of-date as some rooms may be, it has a view that many people living in million dollar homes would die to have. We have a nice size yard that rolls down to a small creek. All along our backyard is lined with trees and a thick wooded area, in which at least one of every known critter existing in the Midwest seems to live. We have seen all sorts of birds, possum, fox, deer, coyote, beaver, raccoons, hawks, eagles, cranes, and so many others. You cannot get this kind of view just anywhere. And the best thing is, even with this great landscape in our backyard, the mall is literally only three minutes away from our house. Not that I go there very often....well, to walk when it's too cold to do so outside. And when Gymboree is having Gymbucks earning or redemption going on. Or when I want an Auntie Anne's pretzel. Okay, okay, I admit it - I'm there about once per week or more but really, most of the time it's just to go walking and then I let the kids play in the play area and then we leave. REALLY!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To the Mommy on "The Monroe 6"

I think your name is Holly....but I'm not really certain. I noticed you made a comment and asked a question in response to the comment I made on your blog. I wanted to answer it but couldn't because you've changed your settings to not allow any comments at all. Although I don't think it was, I hope my comment was not what prompted this action. I'm pretty confident that it was not - otherwise, I don't think you would have allowed my comment. If it was, I do apologize.

Anyway, if you are reading this, I will answer your question about the relationship between toe-walking and autism. Without going into major detail, toe-walking in autistic children is thought to be caused by neurological developmental delays and/or neurological injuries. It is not present in all children with autism. For those who do exhibit this behavior, it may come and go or come and not last for very long. This has been the case with our son. He did some toe-walking around the age of 2.5YO until a little after turning three years old. Since then, I do not recall seeing it.

If anyone reading or following my blog have any questions regarding my son's autism or autism in general, I am happy to help if I can. Do not post questions in my comments section because - although I do read the comments - I may somehow miss a question. Instead, please email me at and put "Blog Question" in the subject line.

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Random Rambling.......

I haven't posted on here in a few days and don't have any earth-shattering stories of progress or failure to report, so this evening is going to be just a bunch of random thoughts expressed by fingers to keyboard.....

First, today has been one in a string of several days hearing about stories of miscarriage and pregnancies amongst the people in my world. An acquaintance with whom I am certain would be a very good friend if the two of us could ever get out together more - I'll call her "H" since I always hate to reveal people's real names - just had a miscarriage. I'm so sad for her right now. She and I are only months apart in age and although I'm not old, by any means, I am considered "high risk" when it comes to pregnancy jargon. It makes me wonder what is to come should there be a #3 or #4 or whatever for us.

On a happier note, there are other friends and acquaintances all around me who are turning up pregnant. I'm pretty certain it's not something in the water because most people I talk to say they filter their water since it's pretty nasty tasting. Maybe it's the weather and people staying inside so much.

This afternoon and evening were a dim reminder of why autism breaks up so many families. A few months back, I read a statistic that said that the divorce rate of marriages in families with one or more autistic children is in excess of 80%. While I will admit to Reiss' autism creating some pretty rough patches in our family at times, we can thank God that it has not gotten that bad for us.

It's so sad how the mood of an entire family can be changed by one child. And before anyone says anything....unless you've been in these shoes, you have no idea. I used to believe that we choose our own moods. As in, one either chooses to be happy or to be sad. I still believe that - to some degree. However, a child with autism can wear a person down so incredibly much - even on an otherwise happy person to a near breaking point.

I don't know where we went wrong with Reiss today...maybe it was nothing at all that we did. He had all his supplements. There were no dietary infractions (that we know of). He did go to preschool today though, and although I have been very clear with his teacher and assistants how important it is that he only eat what we provide, it is unreasonable to expect them to watch him non-stop like a hawk to be sure he is not sneaking a bite of another child's snack. This evening, he would not eat dinner. He kept whining and screaming about something hurting but he wouldn't tell us what was hurting - not that we would have been able to understand anyway, through all the whining. He threw a bit of a tantrum about the coat he needed to wear to go outside and play after dinner. After coming in from outside, he repeatedly ran over Milla's and my bare feet with his Lego truck. He kept singing the "poke her in the eye" song, which is basically saying those words to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" or the "The Alphabet Song" - you decide. As a result, we got treated to hearing him scream at the top of his lungs about not wanting to take a break in his room. Come bedtime, I wasn't in the bathroom when it was time to brush teeth but I heard him back there with James screaming about something or other. Whatever......the day is over for him and he is asleep. We can only hope tomorrow brings a better mood for him.

This evening wasn't all about Reiss and his tantrums though....thank goodness! We did have some fun with all of us wrestling around and playing "get" and tickles and chasing one another and peek and all of those other fun little things toddlers love to do that are so easy to get started and keep them entertained for quite some time. Milla is really coming into a cute little girl personality. She has a mean streak in her but overall, she is very sweet. She loves to cuddle with me a LOT.

My husband works with a guy who has a baby girl who is only six weeks younger than Milla. His wife likes to put their baby in the bed with them so that she gets more sleep but he would prefer that she stay in her crib. James was just telling me about this this evening and it really got me thinking - as I often do - that by forcing a child to sleep in a crib, so many people miss out on the joys of co-sleeping: seeing their child sleeping or cuddled up with them or hearing them breathe. I just love those things. It really does not get any better than that. When Reiss was a baby, he would always wake up with a big open-mouthed smile that was just the cutest thing. It was like he was all happy and smiling because he got to wake up next to his Daddy and Mommy. It makes me sad to think that we would have missed that had he been in a crib.

Anyhoo....I'm done rambling and feeling pretty tired. Tomorrow I have to make a trip to the health food store to replenish some supplements. I need to be rested because I need to focus on finding some new items I've done some research on and would like to try.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Donuts at Daycare!!!

Seriously...what is this world coming to???

I have a very good friend who works outside the home and her son stays at a very reputable and widely known private, non-franchised childcare facility in our area. Like me, my friend is quite the planner and researcher when it comes to delving into any new adventure. For example, being the responsible person she is, she began interviewing childcare providers well before her due date when she was pregnant, even while knowing that she would be home with her son for twelve weeks before returning to work and putting him in the care of others.

As my friend did her research for a suitable provider, she would tell me stories about the different facilities she had visited and questions she had asked of the providers themselves. From what she told me, I honestly think she made the very best choice from all that were available. All of this was done around a year and a half ago, as her son is the same age as my daughter - sixteen months.

My friend, I'm going to call her "S," is a registered dietician with a Master's degree (in Dietary Science or whatever it's called). She is one of those people who is conscious of what she puts in her body but not overly picky like some people where you would never see them eating anything considered unhealthy. No, S is one of those fun people who practices healthy habits but also knows that an occasional indulgence never really hurt anyone.

Just like my family has been doing, S has been trying to be even more conscious regarding her family's nutrition and their consumption of organic foods. Although the childcare facility where her son goes provides snacks for the children, S has been sending healthier snacks with her son and specific instructions to feed him the aforementioned snacks. However, recently her son's daily reports (I'm sure there's probably a specific name for these reports but I don't know what it is) have indicated that he is being given the same snacks as the other children: vanilla wafers, Crunch Berries, and a few others that I don't remember right now. Um...let's see here, that equals sugar, sugar, artificial food dyes, preservatives and who knows what else. I don't know because I do not buy those things and haven't looked at any of the boxes for quite awhile now.

S has spoken to the childcare providers about her son not receiving the snacks she sends with him. However, understandably so, she is in fear of being "that parent." You know the one...the parent who makes a fuss about everything - or at least, "everything" in the eyes of the person on the receiving end. I am "that parent" - I know, because I see the looks when I go to a restaurant and ask, "Does that have gluten in it?" or when we go to the doctor or dentist and I say, "I don't really want my son to even be on a prescription but if it's absolutely necessary, it needs to be gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, dye-free and have no artificial sweeteners." I've seen the looks...people start getting this glazed over look and right then you know that whatever you are telling them is being totally lost somewhere in the deep recesses of their heads.

Speaking of "glazed over," you can imagine S's shock when she walked into the childcare facility one day to pick up her son - or maybe it was a visit, I'm not sure of the specific details of why she was there at snacktime - and the providers were slicing up yeast donuts to give to the children for their snack. Yes, you read that right: DONUTS!!! For. their. SNACK.

Let me clarify something here: I am not one of those parents who never lets my child have any sort of treats. Nor am I a parent who waited until my children were "X" (you fill in the blank with the desired number) years old before they were given something containing sugar or anything so incredibly stringent as those sorts of dietary rules. Yes, I know a few moms who have said their four-year-old has never had a cupcake......yet they will sit there and give them fruit leathers because they're "nutritious" or raisins by the handful. I'm not going to debate that either of those things don't have plenty of vitamins in them, but where I see the problem is that they contain just as much, if not more, sugars in them as a cupcake. The only difference being that the cupcake most likely has refined sugars in it - unless, of course, I am the one who made it using a reformulated recipe to include honey or agave nectar as the sweetener - whereas the sugars in the fruit leather and raisins are naturally occuring. But I'm getting off-track here.....what's new, right? Anyway, the point of this is that I am not an uptight grinch when it comes to my children having sweets and treats. I do allow them - they just have to meet a few requirements.

So back to S and her predicament....

These childcare workers were cutting up donuts to give to the children. Please, please, pleeeeaaaase tell me that S and I are not the only ones who see a major problem with this! First, we are talking about 16-month-old children being given donuts...for...their...snack! That is their snack? Hellooooo??? By the time snacktime rolls around, these children are probably pretty good and hungry. Is a yeast donut really the best thing to be giving a child with an empty stomach? All that sugar is going to go straight into the bloodstream and forget about the lack of health benefits here, it's the next stage of events that would worry me if I was one of the childcare providers. Seriously, who wants to be in a room full of toddlers all hopped up with a sugar rush from donuts? With that many toddlers bouncing off the walls, you may as well go to one of those indoor bounce house places at 7PM on a Friday evening when the kids are all fed and happy and just getting started on the bouncers.

S and I only spoke very briefly about this so I don't have many details but I have to wonder about a few things. For instance, do the parents of the children receive bad (or at least, not as good) daily reports on the days when the children have been given donuts? And if so, have any of the employees made this connection? It seems obvious to me, but then, I'm on the outside looking in. What sort of person would even think giving a toddler a donut for a snack is nutritious? I know that S can't possibly be the only one concerned about this, so are the other parents unaware of what their children are eating or just afraid to speak up? If this kind of thing is acceptable at one of the best facilities around, then what in the world is going on inside the not-so-great ones? Again, I do give my kids treats but let's save the donuts for a time when it is either considered a treat, or perhaps, as part of a weekend breakfast meal and there is also protein and some sort of fresh produce that must be eaten in order to earn the donut.

This situation just reminds me of how fortunate I am to be a stay-at-home mom. No worries about my kids eating things I don't want them to have. No awkward confrontations with people who think I'm being picky about how they are caring for my child. No worrying about whether my instructions for my child are being carried out.'s good to just be a mom even if it does mean wanting to pull my hair out some days.

Wow...All of this writing has got me hungry for a late night snack. Now where in the freezer did I hide that last GFCF donut?!?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Little Modesty, Please!

It has never really occured to me before now that I may want to start displaying a bit of modesty around Reiss when breastfeeding Milla. Yes, I will concede to the fact that I am sometimes just plain clueless in certain areas but considering the fact that Reiss does have autism, I've just continued to whip out the "nursin's," as he calls them, whenever Milla is ready to eat.

At only three years old, honestly, I see no harm in him still seeing my breasts. By admitting to such a thing, I will hopefully not have to open my door in the near future to find a CPS (Child Protective Services) caseworker here to make a query of the daily goings-on in our household. Hey, you never know....some people get bent out of shape over the silliest things. I once read a news story about some parents whose child was taken because they were partaking in what we will call "intimate interactions" with their fifteen-month-old in the same room. And if you're reading this and saying, "Well, they should have the child taken away if they're going to do that in front of him!" to that, I say, PUHLEEZE get your panties unbunched! Some children in the world continue to breastfeed until five years of age. That's not exactly for me, but I don't see the harm in a child seeing a sibling take part in a natural feeding process.

Anyhoo.....With Reiss now in developmental preschool, the teachers and therapists working in his room write in a spiral notebook (that we provided because it it a required item on the preschoolers' supply list) any information they feel is relevant for the parents to know. Today, I read a note from the speech therapist that Reiss has been pointing at the teachers' breasts and saying something along the lines of "that one nurse." I'm not really sure what that's all about and we have never heard him use those words specifically so I'm going to have to look into that on Tuesday when we take him to school. Apparently, this is not "socially acceptable" behavior - I think that is how it was worded, anyway. I'm sure it is not acceptable but somehow I forgot to teach him that...or perhaps I should say, "try" to teach him that, since I still haven't quite acquired a knack for figuring out what he will hold onto in memory and what he will let pass him by.

It's truly amazing how caught up I seem to get in taking care of Reiss and making sure his needs (and demands and whinings and everything else) are met that I sometimes miss the obvious - like teaching him not to point at women's breasts and make comments. How embarassing is that for me that I've totally missed the boat on that??? Seriously...So not only do I get to question the situation at school the next time we go in and in what context Reiss is exhibiting this latest behavior, but I also get the joy of exposing myself all out there for the teacher and therapists to see my failure to keep up with teaching Reiss social graces while dealing with all the other challenges of raising him "right." GAAAAHHHH....Isn't it a wonderful life?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finally - More Photos!

Gotta savor those smiling moments!

Playing dressup on Monday....

Milla in her (p)leather miniskirt. Hey, I didn't buy it - blame Grandma!
Me, Milla (crying), James (DH), Reiss - Valentine's Day 2009!

cross out

In reading one of the blogs that I follow, the writer asked the question of how others cross out words in their posts. I have wondered about this as well so I Googled it and found the HTML coding tags for it.

cross out

In html, you use the letter "s" inside the tag marks (less than and greater than signs) before and after the text you want to cross out.

example: less than sign, s, greater than sign, text, less than sign, backslash, s, greater than sign.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Am A Food Snob!

Yes, I admit it and I am not ashamed of it: I am a food snob. And the older I get, the snobbier I become.

It probably all started when I was a child and refused to eat fat on meat. This annoyed my parents to no end, as my father is one of those people who will eat every last bite of a steak or any piece of meat no matter how much fat is on it. I honestly don't know why my mother, who will not eat fat either, was always so perturbed by my refusals. She will not only not eat the gristley fat pieces on meat but, on several occasions as we were growing up, told my sister and I stories of how it grossed her out so badly as a child when her own father would boil up a piece of fat and it eat it by itself with salt and pepper. (Um...yuck!!!) You would think she would have been a little more understanding of my "pickiness."

There wasn't much room for being picky as I grew up because I lived in a household where you ate what you were given or you didn't eat. We bought a side of beef from a local slaughterhouse every few months or every year or whatever - I don't remember how often since I was a kid and our frequency of meat purchases didn't really concern me. We grew almost all our own vegetables in two separate gardens in which my father, sister, and I toiled away countless hours of plowing, seeding, weeding, and harvesting the fruits of our labors. We also had several fruit trees and bushes on our property. In the springtime, we even went mushroom hunting on a daily basis in the woods behind our house. I could be wrong but, other than occasions when dining out - which was very minimal, I don't remember ever eating store-bought jam or jelly until I went in the military. Basically, we grew or purchased from local sources almost all the food we consumed.

And speaking of the military, this is where I acquired my next area of food snobbery: beer. Having been stationed in Germany, my taste for beer became one of preferring rich, dark brews. Returning to the States was quite a shock, as micro-brews were not yet the rage here. Once Americans started showing more refined taste for something other than Budweiser (Um....yuck again!!!), I was experiencing a little slice of heaven. Micro-brews became my preferred drink of choice when drinking alcoholic beverages and I was now at an age where I could drink a beer slowly and appreciate it for what it was, not just for how it made me feel afterwards.

Dark chocolate has always been on my radar. Even as a child when the Hershey's miniatures bags would come out around the holidays, I was always reaching for the ones called "Special." In my twenties, I started noticing chocolate bars with different percentage levels of cocoa in them - the higher the percentage, the better! Hershey's became a distant memory - even the ones that I had thought for a long time were "special." Don't get me wrong, if I were to have a choice of a Hershey's bar or nothing, I would choose the Hershey's kind every time but put me in front of a specialty chocolate display or a gourmet foods store and Hershey's might as well be just the name of a town in Pennsylvania, for all I care.

When my husband and I discovered low-carb dieting (which can be very healthy if done right!), cheese became my next addiction and area in which I began to acquire a bit of refined taste. Kraft? Phttt! It shouldn't even be legal to call that stuff cheese. I truly thought things couldn't get any better than the time when a gourmet cheese market opened in a strip mall near our house. This was B.C. (Before Children) and I would go to the cheese market at least once per week and try several different types of cheese before walking away with my new finds, usually a quarter pound of one or two different types of cheese. My favorites were the cave-aged cheese and one that had an essence of caramel to the taste and color. The store closed about two or three years ago and I don't even remember the names of any of the cheeses that I once used to go in and ask for by name. My snobbery chalks the closing up to the lack of appreciation for foods of refined taste by the people living in this area. Is that snobby? Yes, but I told you in the beginning that I am a food snob!

I may have forgotten a phase or two in the growth of my food snobbery but that mainly sums it up and brings me to where I am now. As I have mentioned in many of my blog posts and as my blog address indicates, we have been eating a gluten-free, casein free diet for a few months now. We also try to eat organically, no artificial dyes, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives.

No more beer for me. Because of the wheat used in the beer-making process, the alcohol is considered glutenous for those who follow this way of eating very strictly. No more standing before rows and rows of dark chocolate bars wondering which bar to savor in small bites. My chocolate choices are limited to those brands that adhere to strict GFCF standards. No more cheese for me. Oh, how I miss cheese. I love cheese but I have always known that dairy products are not the best thing for human consumption.

When you eat this way you really, really begin to taste your food. Because we initially started eating this way for our son in hopes that we will experience the same results as many other people with children on the autism spectrum who eat a GFCF diet, we do not let Reiss "cheat." However, my husband and I do sometimes have our little cheat foods and almost every time we do, I am reminded that I am not really missing out on much by not eating junk. I received one of those reminders just this afternoon when I opened up a jar of hot fudge that was left in the pantry from a few months ago. I needed a chocolate "fix" but instead got a mouthful of glop of which I could seemingly taste each and every one of the fake ingredients it contained.

Eating pure food that has been organically grown - or even just eating food that has been made from scratch and you know every ingredient that has gone into it - is just better...better for the environment, better for your health, and just better tasting. I'm still not going to eat the fat pieces on meat - not even the small pieces of fat on the antibiotic-free, free range beef and cage free chicken I buy. No matter that that little piece of fat may be like throwing a quarter in the trash. And I am so glad my parents saw the importance (or was it lack of financial resources on their part?) in bringing me up in a home where we knew where our food came from and there was nothing fake about it.

My next level of snobbery is going to be balsamic vinegar and if anyone knows a good one, I want to hear it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Perfect Day

Yesterday was one of those perfect days where you get up and you visualize in your mind's eye how you want everything to happen...and then it does.

My plan was to get up and play with the kids while my husband made pancakes for breakfast, just as he does every single Saturday - just as he has done every single Saturday for nearly four years now. The one and only time he missed a Saturday was when our sweet little Milla was born. Actually, she was born on a Monday but we did not come home from the hospital until the following Saturday, due to a stay in the NICU for jaundice and low blood sugar. Even then, if I recall correctly, my husband made pancakes on Sunday of that weekend.

James made pancakes. Since beginning this quest to eat gluten and casein free, he has been experimenting with several different pancake recipes to find one that meets a few particular criteria:
  1. The pancakes must be fluffy.
  2. There can be no "gummy" texture to them - a result that sometimes occurs in GFCF recipes if xantham gum is not used in just the right proportion to the other ingredients.
  3. The taste needs to be as close to a traditional pancake as possible. Because GFCF pancake recipes require alternative flours to replace the regular all-purpose flour used in a regular pancake, there is sometimes a bit of an after-taste.
  4. The recipe can only call for ingredients I deem "allowable." For example, no artificial sweeteners or refined sugars may be used.
The recipe James was experimenting with yesterday is Don Baker's Pancakes found in Special Diets for Special Kids by Lisa Lewis, Ph.D. So far, I think it is probably the best recipe we have found yet. We didn't have any sausage or bacon to go with the pancakes because I forgot to thaw some bacon Friday evening and we don't have any sausage until I can find a brand that does not have all the yucky preservatives in it that we have eliminated from our diets.

After breakfast, it was time for James and Reiss to go to the bank in "the Daddy truck." We have been working the last few days on saying, "I love you." I have been telling Reiss that I love him and then I ask him if he loves Mommy...I ask him if he loves Milla...what about Daddy? And Miss Udder (that's Miss Heather, his preschool teacher), do you love her? Yes, yes, yes, yes to all those.

My husband and I tell our kids all the time that we love them but Reiss has not said "I love you" without being prompted since he was probably around 18 months old. For those who are not aware, conveying emotions just isn't something a lot of autistic children do, let alone vocalize their feelings and emotions. Anyway, so that is one of the things we have been working on lately. So James and Reiss were getting ready to leave and I told Reiss, "I love you." and he started to say it back! My husband, not realizing that we were in the middle of a monumental moment, walked in and interrupted Reiss right after he had said, "I love...." So I don't know if he was going to say, "I love you" or "I love you, Mommy" or "I love you, too" or "I love you, Milla" or what....all I know is he said "I love...." and that was the best thing that could have happened - not just on Valentine's Day, but any day!

After the bank, James and Reiss came home and came inside to get Milla and take her outside to play. I had left a Valentine's Day card by the phone from the kids and me for James so he could see it when he and Reiss got back from the bank. He didn't notice it so I pointed it out. Then they all went outside and played long enough for me to get some housework done. I'm not going to say that I enjoy housework but I do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment I get after I've done something that has been on my "to do" list for quite some time or if I clean something that has been staring me in the face for several days begging to be wiped down with a cloth or scrubbed to a shine.

For lunch, we did the usual Saturday thing: Chinese from a hole-in-the-wall place not too far away. We have been getting lunch from this same Chinese place for I don't know how long...nine, maybe ten years? What can I say, we are creatures of habit. Can you tell?

After lunch we took the kids to Meijer to get Grandma a Valentine's Day gift. As with all birthdays, holidays, and heck, sometimes just because it's Tuesday (or Thursday or whatever), Marie had gone overboard buying gifts for us and for the kids. I felt badly that we had not gotten her anything and Reiss and Milla hadn't seen her in awhile, anyway, so off to Meijer we went and purchased a pet nail trimmer. I'm sure anyone reading this has probably seen what I'm talking about here since this is one of those "As seen on TV" kinds of products. The trimmer itself is like a Dremel sanding wheel inside a protective case. You put the dog (or cat or whatever animal of your choosing) paw up to the wheel and as it spins, it literally sands the nail away.

Then it was over the railroad tracks and through the housing addition to grandmother's house we went. The kids played with toys. My mother-in-law, Marie, wandered around looking for and bringing out more and more toys the longer we stayed. My husband fixed something on her computer and on her TV and on her TV remote control. And I sat wondering - as I often do when we are there - why Marie has so many of this item or that item. Yesterday, it was me wondering why she had two TV's in her kitchen while another sat just a few feet away in the living room. Yes, they were all turned on. And as is usually the case, when I asked, the answer was, "because that one (pointing to the one most recently purchased) was cheap."

My mother-in-law is a hoarder. No, not a hoarder like you see on Oprah or Dr. Phil where the house is so full that you have to kick a path to get through. No, her hoarding has (thank the Lord above!) not gotten that bad yet. At this point, she just hoards things to the point where one of anything is never enough. I think she has felt an extreme emptiness since my father-in-law passed away in 2001, but I'm not a shrink. God love her! It's so sad to watch and I just want to hug her and tell her that she doesn't need all these things...that she has family to love her and that things will never love her back....but we have never had that touchy, feely loving mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship so all I can do is sit by and pray that someday - hopefully some time before she gets buried alive in a too tall pile of "because-it-was-cheap at Goodwill" items - she finds some peace.

After Grandma's house, we came home for naps for the entire family. I got up and for dinner, I made flank steak with caramelized onions and mushrooms, rice pasta shells and "butter," and salad. Later on, I tried a recipe for chocolate cake with chocolate sauce. It was so good and the chocolate sauce recipe, which made way too much (oh darn!), tastes almost identical to Hershey's syrup. We ate dinner and cake and then I cleaned up the kitchen. We played and had a dance party, which is just our lingo for turning on one of the music channels on cable on the tv and dancing around with the kids until they are exhausted and we are all ready to collapse.

Nothing the rest of the day could possibly top the "I love..." that we heard from Reiss in the morning and despite the fact that we did have a few tantrums from both kids yesterday, it really was a perfect day.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Heart Day!!!

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I would like to wish everyone a day filled with love, happiness, and tons of hugs and kisses - not just with your spouse or significant other, but with your entire family! Happy Valentine's Day!!!

(photos to be posted later, hopefully!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another Tooth Will Be Pulled

This isn't going to be long because I really need to get on with catching up on reading posts by my favorite blogger, 16 Blessings' Mom and then get my too-tired bumbum to bed.

First, a little bit of background about the most monumental pediatric dental case ever known. Okay, maybe not the biggest....but when it's your situation, and your child involved, you don't have dental insurance (we do have medical, just not dental), and you've spent enough money out-of-pocket in the last two years to put someone through a few years of college or at least pay for a pretty decent late model car, it feels like it's the biggest dental problem ever.

Basically, to tell it in layman's terms, Reiss was born without sufficient enamel on his teeth. As a result, almost immediately following the time when his teeth started coming in they began to deteriorate. At first, we started noticing little pit marks in his teeth. Initially, these were treated with flouride varnish that was supposed to help stop or slow the decaying process of his teeth. Unfortunately, this did not work so by the time he was two years old and had twenty teeth, fourteen of them were bad.

To fix Reiss's teeth we had to go to a children's hospital and have him put under. Four teeth were covered with silver caps, nine teeth were rebuilt with resin, and one tooth - his left front tooth - was so decayed that it had to be pulled. If all that weren't bad enough, the dentist who did the work didn't even keep what was left of the tooth to give to us. I was very sad about this, by the way. It didn't matter to me that the tooth was extremely decayed and barely resemblant of a normal shaped tooth - it was my baby's first tooth to come out and I would have liked to have it for keepsaking. The teeth that were rebuilt with resin are basically "false teeth" made of a special dental resin that covers and adheres to what little was left of his own natural teeth.

One month after all the work was complete, his right front tooth broke off and had to be rebuilt again. Somewhere around six months later, it happened again. Now, close to one year later, the same tooth that has been rebuilt a total of three times has become absessed and has to be removed. So back to the dentist we go and out another few hundred dollars goes from our checking account. You gotta love being middle class! The rich can afford top medical and dental procedures. Many (I'm not saying "all" people, so don't get your panties in a bunch here!) poor people get it handed to them. And then people like my family - middle class America - have to pay out the rear. Seriously, it's not fair but what can ya' do????

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Heavy Heart

Back in November, right before Reiss's "official" diagnosis, I think I hit my lowest. Although my husband and I had known for months that Reiss has autism, we were still awaiting a professional diagnosis. It was around this time that I was having the "Why me, God?" attitude. It hit it highest point - or perhaps I should say I hit my lowest point - one evening when I went to a women's ministry gathering that I usually try to attend each month. It's a very small group of women and we talk about whatever is on the evening's agenda and then it typically moves to "mom" chatting.

On this particular evening, we had watched the episode of Oprah where she interviewed the school principal who had stretched herself so thinly that she left her two-year-old child in her SUV in sweltering heat and the little girl died. Before that evening, I had wondered how anyone could do such a thing. I couldn't even fathom leaving my children in a hot car, even by accident.

We discussed the Oprah show and one thing led to another and we got on the subject of my son and I just let it all pour out. I admitted to sometimes feeling so hopeless that it had occurred to me on an almost daily basis how easily I could just kill myself and end it all. I know these other moms probably couldn't possibly understand what I was going through but I shared it all anyway.

In only a few months since that evening I feel that I have come a very long way. I've gone from feeling suicidally hopeless to optimistic at what the future will bring for my son. It has become my mission to learn about any and all treatments other parents of children with autism have found success in using.

I really do genuinely try to put out a 110% effort at being patient with my son. Anyone who has a child with autism knows that dealing with a child or children like this is the ultimate test of patience. Children with autism are nothing like typical (again, I will explain that the word "typical" is not used as a derogative. It is how the medical community refers to children who do not have autism.) children in their behaviors. I sometimes want to yell this to anyone who will listen.

We used to go to the library at least one day per week before my daughter was born. Now that my daughter is walking, it is nearly impossible to go without the aid of my husband. While all the other moms are relaxing and chatting and their children are either playing or calmly sitting at the computers, there I am chasing my son all over the place. Many children with autism do not respond to traditional disciplinary methods. They are not brats, it just doesn't click in their little heads. And this isn't just me spouting lame excuses for a child who runs around the library like a heathen - I hear this time and time again from other parents of children with autism. Finding that ever-elusive magic trick to getting an autistic child to behave seems to be the goal of many parents I come across these days.

So where was I going with this?

I've noticed that I seem to go in these phases where one day I might be ready to conquer the world and be the end-all educator and super-spokesperson for all parents of autistic children. Days like that I feel compelled to somehow find a way to let parents of typical children know that they have it so easy but without sounding so disgruntled and bitter at my own situation and without trying to make them feel bad that their own children are "normal." Oh, how I hate that word!

And then the next day or the day after or whenever, I take a turn and have one of those "why-can't-things-just-be-easier?" days. It will be one of those days and rather than be compassionate with my son, I can't help but get a tad annoyed when he cries because the tears are getting him wet. Logic tells me that all the explaining in the world isn't going to make him understand that the more he cries, the more wet his cheeks are going to be, but I still get annoyed. I get mad that God would make a child have sensory issues to a point that he cries even more because his tears from crying in the first place are getting him wet. He doesn't understand that if he would just stop crying he wouldn't have tears that are getting him wet that are upsetting him more and making him cry and getting him wet and.....It's like chasing your tail! By the way, have I mentioned Reiss has some sensory issues??? I can't help but want for him to be "normal" or "typical" or anything but autistic when he has a day when all he wants to do is untie and re-tie his shoes 3248 times or change his shirt every twenty minutes.

So many things are the same every single day. It sometimes feels like Reiss is going to be three forever and never grow out of some of these things he does. Some days I honestly feel like I'm living my own personal "Groundhog Day" (the movie) hellish nightmare.

Pray...pray for Reiss. Pray for me. Pray that tomorrow we wake up and it's no longer Groundhog Day!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

That's a Lot of Queers!

No major progress or dismal failures to report today, just a very humorous quote brought to us by Reiss and his occasional mispronunciation of the letter "L." He does definitely know how to pronounce the letter. We know this because we practice saying his sister's name, Milla (pronounced MEE-LAH), and also our own last name which contains an L as well. Who knows whether it is just typical three-year-old behavior that causes him to sometimes forget the correct pronunciation or just sheer laziness on his part to pronounce his L's correctly. Whatever the case may be, when he mispronounces them, they come out as a "W" sound.

This evening - as with every evening - Reiss and my husband had just taken out the "stinky diapers," as Reiss calls them, and they were getting ready to put antibacterial gel on their hands. Like so many other things, Reiss has his little routine with using the gel after taking out the diapers. First, all the available bottles of antibac gel - three of them - get lined up on the diaper changing table. Two of them are clear bottles of Purel gel with pumps in them and one is a blue bottle of gel from the hospital. After the lineup, he chooses which one to use. Well, before making his choice this evening he got all excited. Referring to the display of bottles and the fact that there were two clear ones, he said, "That's a lot of clears!" - only this time was one of those occasions when his "L" came out pronounced as a "W" and ended up being "That's a lot of queers!" I was on the floor playing with Milla but had I not already been down there, I am certain I would have ended up there rolling with laughter.

For several minutes, I kept repeating it to myself and laughing. I don't know why but it just seemed extremely funny to me to hear a three-year-old get excited over there being so many queers before his eyes. After all the laughter subsided, I was very happy and had one of those warm fuzzy feelings because this was a great end to an otherwise mediocre weekend. I knew at that moment that just this little tidbit is something that we will probably remember for years to come and look back on and laugh. You just never know when memories are going to be made.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Recipe and an Observation

Although I have come across several blog pages of people who give tips on how to eat a less expensive GFCF diet (that's gluten-free, casein-free for all you simpletons out there who still eat wheat and dairy products), I'm pretty certain no one out there will ever tell you that eating this way is downright cheap.

In my former life - alright, to be honest, just a few months ago - I was a couponaholic and a master at saving money in the grocery aisles and other stores. I could go to the grocery with coupons in hand and walk out having spent a quarter of the total amount as the person in line in front of me and have twice as many bags in my cart. I was so well-known for my tightwadery on a particular message board for moms in my area, that I not only had people asking me daily for advice on how to save money on groceries, but in other areas as well, such as children's clothing. It amazed them that we live on one salary and I can afford to clothe my children almost exclusively in brand new Gymboree clothes for around the same price as the same clothes would be priced at resale shops and poor quality clothing found at stores such as Walmart.

Those days are gone. Well, to be accurate, they're not gone. I am still a die-hard bargain hunter and I definitely still buy Gymboree clothing. The only thing that's really changed is that it's a lot tougher for me to find the bargains while food shopping since so many things contain gluten and/or casein. So many of the products we buy now are very specialized. Not only do we eat a GFCF diet, but we also do not eat soy. We do not eat anything that contains artificial flavors, dyes, preservatives, or sweeteners. And if that didn't eliminate enough products, we also try to eat as organically as possible. There are many items that, once we follow all our elimination rules, the only brand that's left as an option just so happens to be organic. And then there are some things that I simply refuse to pay the price for the organic version.

If you're sitting there trying to tally up what your own family's grocery bill total might be if you were to eat the way we do, let me help you...We spend anywhere from twice as much to three times as much on groceries as we used to before trying to be so darn healthy!

For that reason, and of course because I am always looking out for the next money-saving meal, when I see a recipe that is GFCF and inexpensive to make, I'm all over it. Below is one I've found that's pretty good and that we all enjoy and I don't have to apply for a second mortgage each time I make it. It can be found at It is a website for vegan recipes but don't let that scare you - some of the recipes are very good and easily adaptable to contain meat if you like animal products (like a big fat, juicy steak!) in your diet, as we do! By the way, it does contain oats. I know a lot of people who do not eat gluten will not eat oats. We have no problems so far with oats so I use them but I do buy Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Rolled Oats.

Recipe submitted by cafebeatty, 08/22/06

Blender Waffles with Rolled Oats
Ingredients (use vegan versions):
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups water
1 banana (sliced)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions: Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Pour batter into waffle iron. Enjoy with your favorite syrup or fresh fruit. This recipe is super quick and turns out great. I make it for my family and they love it!
Serves: 4 waffles
Preparation time: 5 minutes

My own personal note: Be sure to cook these a bit longer than you would traditional waffles or you will be eating mush on the inside of a nice golden crust.

We love REAL maple syrup and buy it by the gallon. For the richest, yummiest, and least expensive maple syrup we have found, check out Leane and Michael's Sugarbush. Their smaller size container prices seem pretty comparable to other suppliers we have checked but their gallon price is significantly lower.

If you're still with me, congratulations to you for having the patience to read this far. And congratulations to me that I've not bored you out of your mind. You're probably wondering about the title of this post and asking, "So where is the observation?" Well, relating back to the recipe I provided and the fact that we now buy a lot of organics, part of the reason I chose to make this recipe just this past weekend was because we had some (organic) bananas that were past their prime, as in, black. Everyone knows when they get like that the only thing to do with them is to make banana bread or something baked. When I peeled open the last two bananas - I know the recipe calls for one but I used two because they were very small - we had onhand, I was expecting to put a pile of mush in the blender. Normally, with two toddlers, bananas don't get black around here very often. However, the last few times I've bought regular bananas they have gone black in two days or so. Not these organic bananas. They not only took quite a few days to go black but even once they had done so they were still firm and the perfect texture for eating. So although I am the bargain hunter I am, I will continue to pay twice the price for organic bananas simply because they are better quality, last longer, and don't turn to mush.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What Are We Teaching?

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a strange fascination (a.k.a. obsession) with very large families, so it's no surprise that I try to tune in to TLC whenever there is a new episode of "17 Kids and Counting" being aired. I just love those Duggars! By the way, Jessa is my favorite Duggar child. I think this obsession may have been born because of the dismal failure to stay together that I experienced in my own family of my mother, father, sister, and myself.....but that's an entirely seperate post.

Anyway, now TLC has a new show that airs immediately after "17 Kids..." called "Toddlers & Tiaras." It's a show that features the lives of child pageant contestants. If you are at all familiar with the Duggar family you know they are ultra-conservative. They are full-blooded, card-carrying members of the Quiverfull Movement. They believe every thought and action they carry out is part of the Almighty's plan long before they ever set foot here on Earth. So is it just me or does anyone else see the extreme irony in the airing of these two shows airing back to back?

Normally, I wouldn't even consider watching a show like "Toddlers & Tiaras" just on principle but this evening I couldn't help myself - I had to take a peek at this train wreck. I was nursing Milla to sleep and decided to watch for a few minutes, thinking perhaps I've got it all wrong about these pageant people...maybe they're not the kind of people I think they are. It only took about five minutes into the show for me to figure out that I wasn't wrong - my preconceived notion that the parents of these little girls are materialistic, vain, insecure, and sometimes downright catty was right on target. They're living a dream through their children. It's sad. One part of me wanted to feel sorry for them and the other wanted to knock them on their heads with the pageant trophies! What's worse is that pageants don't come cheap when you consider all the fees, gowns and other outfits, makeup, coaching, travelling, and who knows what else and some of these people look like they're living penny to penny, hand to mouth!

So that brings me to this: I can't help but think what these parents are teaching their children. Seriously, I have to wonder if this has ever even crossed their minds. They are literally teaching their daughters from a very young age that good looks and "bling" and competition are what it's all about. How sad that these little girls are going to grow up thinking their looks will get them by in life. Having gone from being slim to extremely overweight and back to being relatively slim, I, myself know that good looks will usually reap higher benefits in life. Good looks may even be what "gets the job" for a person but they aren't what will keep that person in the job.

Quite often - not every day, but I would say a few times per week - I will do something and then I have to take a step back and ask myself, "What am I teaching my children?" It may be that I've slammed a door when I'm frustrated. It could be that I've let myself get so worked up with my kids that I yell. Or sometimes, as was the case this morning, it might be that I decided to eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, rather than eating something more nutritious.

I believe we teach our children by example. Because of that, I really do try to make a conscious effort to put my best out there every day for my children. This is even more important for parents of autistic children too, simply because children on the autism spectrum are very visual and take things very literally. Perfection is not something I possess, as none of us do, so I'm willing to admit my faults and yes, they do make an appearance at least once daily. I should get off my soapbox now but I will say this: No matter how frustrated I get or how lazy I become that I end up eating a non-nutritious breakfast, at least I know that I'm not teaching my children vanity and insecurity are the ways to succeed in life.