Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Asperger's and Halloween

Trick or treat. For my son, this was exactly how the evening went. Each house we went to, the walk up the drive was filled with anticipation. Would the door be opened by a smiling face? Or someone in a frightening costume? Or sometimes by a grumpy annoyed person, who knows why. Maybe they were out of treats and forgot to turn off the porch light. At least that’s what I suspected when an annoyed older gentleman dug into his pocket, threw some change into my son’s bag and closed the door. Luckily, Kyle didn't notice because he had his head in the bag trying to see what was put in it. By the time we reached the end of the driveway, the porch light was out.
Sometimes people think it’s funny to try to scare the children as they come up to their door. One time we walked up to the door and rang the bell. Something caused a life sized paper skeleton to rise up next to the door. Kyle stumbled backwards and bumped into the railing. Someone had left an open beer on the rail and it spilled down the back of Kyle’s cape. The worst part was that no one ever came to the door. There was no treat, just a trick. And now I have to walk home with my little boy with sensory issues, wet, sticky and reeking of booze.
Luckily we have many happy memories too. One person down the street had a big, happy, Great Dane named Zeus. Each year as my boy grew he was less intimidated by the horse sized dog. The couple who owned him would sit in lawn chairs at the top of their driveway. Zeus was at their side on a leash. He would gently wag his tail and lower his head, hoping for a pat from a child. I always rubbed his head and tried to coax Kyle to do the same. Zeus enjoyed my attention, but would stretch his head in Kyle’s direction. After a few years, Kyle finally did rub his head a bit.
There were also a few neighbors we had come to know. They would smile and talk to Kyle. They would complement his costume and remark about how much he had grown. But the best memories we have come from other activities. Fall festivals at church and school were the best. They usually did not fall on Halloween, but the Saturday before. Having an assortment of carnival like activities is awesome for a child with sensory issues. We can control what he has to deal with so he can have the best experience possible. We can arrive early, find nearby parking in case a quick exit is necessary. The crowds are less, which helps. We can pick and choose the activities so we don’t overwhelm him. If it is our church or school, we can come and go as we need to, because people who know him understand he might need to step out for a while. That’s not always possible at a large community event. If you leave, you may have to pay to re enter. So we learned over the years which events were best for us. Also, with events at church or school, he would run into some of his friends. Then they would ignore the planned activities and start a game of imagination, each of them dressed for the part. It was a lot of fun to see Harry Potter and Batman teaming up to fight evil.
But Halloween always ended with a trip to grandma’s house. For some reason, all my family seems to end up there. So now there was costumed play with the cousins, drinks, hors d’oeuvres and chat for the adults. Kyle would also use this time to give away most of his candy. He has strong reactions to food dyes and most holiday candy is loaded with it. It was crazy fun to watch him run around outside at night, at grandma’s house, with kids we love.
Then it was home for bath and bed. Sometimes the bath would have to wait until the next day. But I do remember peeling a sticky sweaty Elmo costume of a half asleep 3 year old. I think I just stood him in the shower that year.
We’ve learned so much over the years, about autism, food and sensitivity issues. Even though he will soon be 16, he has learned to carry tools for a successful trip. He has ear plugs and a headset (in case the crowds or music is too loud) He has mint in a plastic bottle (to sniff if his stomach gets upset) and activities to do in case he needs to escape into his own world (like drawing, a book or video game). For extreme situations he may bring a jacket. This allows him to wrap up if he needs to and not draw attention.

It’s been a long road, and we still have our moments. But understanding Kyle’s needs and finding acceptable ways to deal with them has helped him succeed in a world that doesn't always understand him.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Do you remember where you were 13 years ago today?

My husband was rushing around, paying some bills before going to work. He was pacing up and down the hall with the phone, annoyed that it was taking too long for them to answer. My son was not quite 3 and I think was just waking up. I was tending to him when my husband suddenly stopped and said "They attacked the Pentagon?"
He quickly told me to turn on CNN. I picked up the remote and stared at. I have never been a big fan of the news. I know people who can sit in front of a world news station for hours. Not me. But now I felt lost because I couldn't fulfill his request. I looked at him helplessly and I think he took the remote from me.
The next hours were surreal as we watched the events unfold.  Over and over we saw the planes, the smoking towers, then one collapse, then the other. We learned all sorts of things we didn't know before, like the signal on a firefighter’s equipment that goes off if he falls down. Images of devastation right here on American soil. We were stunned. I don’t think I have ever felt so vulnerable.
Almost everyone we knew and met along the way somehow had a connection to those towers. Our doctor’s receptionist talked to an insurance company in the towers regularly. She knew them by name. Some people had friends, relatives. One person I knew had just transferred to Florida from New York.
But that is what they wanted. To make us feel like we were not safe. To stop trusting one another and turn on each other.
But that is not what happened.
We hugged each other tighter. Talk with friends longer. Flags went up in front of homes and businesses. I believe we are stronger today than we have ever been, at least in my lifetime.
Where were you 13 years ago today? Take a moment to remember, because we should not forget, ever. I’m sure I won’t.
May God continue to bless our nation.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Rainy Day Baking

The wind picked up, the skies got dark and my son and I snatched the laundry off the line just in time. Now the rain is drenching the gardens, filling my rain barrel and clearing the dust from the air. Welcome summer rain :)

Riding was cancelled today, so I'm off to the kitchen to complete a few projects. I have cream on the counter to culture, bananas ripe enough to make muffins and hope to mix up some quick bread and brownie mixes.

First, those bananas! For me, there is a perfect point when they are at their most sweet. They are still yellow, but are just beginning to get a few little brown spots on them.
Peel and break into pieces, then place in the blender with softened coconut oil and butter. Add eggs and blend until smooth.

At this point I am going to tell you what not to do! LOL! In our house, we really hate doing dishes. So if I can make a recipe with only getting one thing dirty instead of two, then that's what I do. But seriously, make life easy on your self and get out a large bowl. Don't try to add the dry ingredients to the blender like I did. It makes it very difficult to mix. You have to do several cycles of blending then scraping it down to blend it again.

Don't do this to yourself! Lol.

Instead, get out that big bowl I mentioned and sift all your dry ingredients into it. Whisk a few seconds to blend, then pour your banana mixture from the blender in and stir until smooth.

Next butter a loaf or bread pan with butter. Then line it with parchment paper and butter that too. Then dust with a bit of flour, especially any part of the pan not covered by parchment. then pour in batter.

Bake at 350 F for about 25 - 30 minutes until a toothpick or knife point inserted comes out clean. Watch after about 15 - 20 minutes as oven temperatures may vary.

Let cool on the counter for a few minutes. Then remove from pan by lifting parchment paper edges.

This is a very soft, cake like bread. We don't usually put nuts in it, but mini chocolate chips are divine!

Banana Bread

1/4 cup softened butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a blender place butter, *coconut oil, bananas and eggs. Blend until smooth and no lumps remain.
In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk a few seconds to mix dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour banana mixture from the blender. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Grease a loaf pan with soft butter. Line with parchment paper and butter it also. Lightly dust with a bit of flour. Pour in batter and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on counter a few minutes, then remove from pan by lifting with the parchment paper.

*Notes: Coconut oil is liquid most of the year here in Florida. For easier mixing, if yours is solid, you may try melting it first. All ingredients are organic except the baking soda and the eggs from my backyard chickens, who get lots of organic kitchen scraps and natural layer mix.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ricotta cheese

I am very proud of myself today.

Back up a couple days ago, I opened our last jug of raw cow's milk. I noticed it was trying to separate, but smelled fine, so I shook it up and poured a glass. I enjoyed it, but my son felt it didn't taste right.

I really didn't want to waste the price we paid for raw milk, so I asked everyone to please not throw it away. I told them I could still cook with it, but secretly, I had other plans.

The next night I planned to make fried chicken, so I used the rest of my sons milk to soak the chicken in. Normally, I soak it in buttermilk, but I was out. Instead, after the milk soak, I breaded it in buttermilk baking mix. The coating was a bit heavy, but delicious.

Today when I got home from my morning shift, I put my plan into action. I poured the rest of the gallon of milk into a pot and started to heat it up. Then I went to the computer to find the instructions I had seen for whole milk ricotta. (Yeah, I do things a bit backwards sometimes)

I just needed to remind myself of the temperature to heat it to: 190 - 195 F. So I went back to my pot and stirred and checked the temp periodically. As it approached 180, I noticed it began to thicken. By the time it got to 190, it was already clumping into beautiful curds. I turned off the heat and added 4 teaspoons of lemon juice.

I was so excited to see these fluffy white curds swirling around the yellow whey. It told me it was working. In my excitement, I forgot the salt. Next time I will put it in ahead of the lemon juice I think. I did sprinkle some salt over the curds and whey before straining it. I lined my strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth and set it in a bowl. Which, actually, turned out to be too shallow. So I used my crock pot instead. I poured the curds and whey slowly into the lined strainer, letting the crock pot catch the whey below.

Then I tied the corners of the cheese cloth together and suspended it over yet another bowl. I let it drip for about an hour.

While it was dripping, I poured the whey into some milk bottles. I ended up with about 2 1/2 quarts of whey. This makes it easier to store for use later.

This little experiment made nearly 2 cups of ricotta. I tasted a bit before I put it in the jar. It was good, but then I tried another bit with a sprinkling of salt. SO good! Now I just have to find that recipe for Rachel's Not-Zagne!

Here is the recipe I used if you would like to make ricotta at home:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Homemade Toothpaste

This past year, I have been making many of the products we use myself. The internet is an abundant resource for recipes and ideas. I have made soaps, creams for my eczema, shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent and more.
I get tired of the chemicals in these products, so I make them myself.

The latest is toothpaste. The first several tries were a bust. My son called them tooth powder, "Mom! I need toothpaste! Not tooth powder"

I had to admit, it was dry and hard to control. But the flavor wasn't bad, so I used it up myself.

This time I decided to pay more attention to the consistantcy. I was also intrigued by the flavor mentioned in the recipe: Orange mint. I had both essential oils, so I decided to try it.

I use a calcium/magnesium drink powder. It fizzes in water, which makes this toothpaste fizz while you brush. It doesn't fizz while you mix it with the other ingredients in the recipe. I love it! It makes my mouth feel so clean afterwards.

Last time I stored it in a plastic container. This also made it difficult to handle. I didn't want to stick my brush in it, so I would have to use a clean finger to mush the crumbling mess on top of my brush, then get it into my mouth without it falling off.

This time I stirred enough oil into it so it was creamy, then added 12 drops of orange and 7 drops of peppermint essential oils. Then I put it in a sandwich bag and cut off the corner as if it were cake icing.

Now, my bag was pleated, so when I looked for a corner to cut off, there were two. So I just picked one and cut it off. It worked fine.

Great in fact. It helps that I know how to handle an icing bag. If that is not one of your talents, just use a ziplock bag so you don't lose the contents down the sink.

Unfortunately, it was not a hit with my sensitive aspie. He like how it went on the brush, but when it dropped on his tongue he quickly spit it all out in the sink. He said it was burning his tongue. Now I know that it is not nearly as minty as the stuff he is using. But kids with sensory issues interpret things differently. I think he was not prepared for the fizzing and it caught him off guard. I may try another batch and use vanilla to flavor it. But I will have to remember to warn him of the fizzing.

Here is the recipe I used: http://wellnessmama.com/2500/homemade-remineralizing-toothpaste-recipe
I did not use the DE in this recipe, because I am concerned about it being abrasive. We have all the ingredients on hand most of the time, so I will definitely be making this again.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

To be friends with an Aspie

People with Asperger’s Syndrome or Aspies as they are lovingly called, are some of the best friends you can have. There are a few things I have observed that, once you understand them can open the door to a life-long friendship.
First of all they are intelligent. They often receive all A’s and B’s on their report card, if they are still in school, or excel in the technical world. My son often helps others with homework or troubleshoots their computer. He helped me figure out why my blog wasn’t working right.

They prefer to follow a schedule. As with other things, they can be obsessive about it. It gives them a sense of security in a world that doesn’t always understand them.

They will usually hyper-focus on a subject, obsess over it; will know details that most of us never think about. My son has obsessed over Harry Potter, Mario Brothers, the Greek gods, Pok√©mon, back to the Greek gods and most recently something in American History class. Yesterday, he was going on about Mario’s mustache and love interests. He has a hard time understanding why he can’t go on about his video games at dinner or wear his Bowser shirt that is 3 sizes too small.

They follow the rules. If you are in a new situation, like the first day of school, they can tell you where you can park or pick up, how long you have for lunch and which teacher requires that assignments be typed and double spaced. They don’t like to break the rules themselves. That could mean a confrontation which takes them well outside their comfort zone.

They often have sensory issues. They will wear clothes that are way out of style or don’t fit right because they feel good. My son will often wear his jacket indoors, with the hood up while he is reading or concentrating. Sometimes they are picky about food for the same reason; it doesn’t feel right in their mouth. My son often prefers his food simple. While others are reaching for the butter to spread on a warm roll, he prefers it plain. He also eats pancakes and waffles without syrup.

A friend with Asperger’s is loyal. My son has a few friends that over the years have looked past all the quirks and loved him for who he is. He is in the ninth grade now and most of his friends are at different schools. But get them together, no matter how long it has been and it’s like they were just hanging out yesterday. One plays football in the local children’s league. My son has difficulty with crowds and noise (remember sensory issues), but would not dream of missing a game. The last game we went to, his team had made the finals. The noise and the crowd were extreme, even for me. We tried hanging out behind the bleachers away from the crowd. He finally gave up and asked to wait in the car. But he didn’t ask to go home. He wanted to be there to greet his little buddy after the game.

I think the most important thing to remember about Aspies is that they are all different. The examples I have given here are of my son, some of the students I work with and stories I have read online. We are still looking for a youth group that is a good fit for him. One group we took him to did not work out at all. We sent him to a church nearby on a Wednesday night. He called about halfway through and said he was “done”. His word for telling me he had reached his limit. We tried the next Wednesday night and he stayed longer, but was not happy. I spoke to the youth minister and tried to explain his difficulty. She cut me off and said “Oh, we have 3 students here with that, we know all about it” So I sent him one final time and was surprised that he did not call for a pick up. When we went to get him, he was not with the other students. He was in her office, clearly shaken and upset. He had wanted to call me and they did not allow him to. We never went back. Over the last few years, he has learned to tolerate crowds, but he still does not enjoy them.

One way I have watched him deal with a crowd is to be louder and/or sillier that everyone else. At the end of the day, his school always has a quick assembly and prayer. Everyone gathers in the main hall and they play a video countdown with upbeat music. It is normally difficult for him to stand still and wait to the assembly to begin in such a boisterous atmosphere. So, he puts his backpack down and begins to dance. Now he is not trained in dance in any way, but he can match the beat. He gets in the middle of the room and jumps, poses, kicks and flails. Sometimes other students join him, sometimes not. His biology teacher calls it “The Daily Kyle Dance”. The best part is, nobody seems to mind and he can just be himself.
So if you can find an Aspie to be a friend with, take the time to understand them. Revel in the things you have in common. Realize that the things they do that are different they do to survive in our society. If you can do these things, you will have a treasure for life.

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.
Proverbs 22:11, NIV

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Best Poundcake!

Pound Cake

Things are pretty tight around here, so I often find myself going to the pantry and baking with what I have on hand.  This week, it was my first pound cake.

I may have tried one years ago. But if I did, the results were not memorable J

I pulled out my favorite old cookbook.

But then found the recipe online here.

Now if you know me at all, you know I will be switching out some ingredients. I use organic as often as possible, if the ingredients are available. And I do not use cooking spray. I just haven’t found a natural/organic one that works for me. So, I use the old fashioned method of greasing and dusting my pan. For cookies, I swear by parchment paper, but that’s another post.

I used my old Bundt pan for this occasion. I hate that is has the Teflon coating, but for now, it’s what I have. I use a paper towel to grease the inside and up over the edges. Then I dusted with flour. I can still remember doing this part for my Mom <3

I love my mixer! A Christmas gift from the guys a few years back, it’s the only pink item in my kitchen. It makes fast work of creaming together sugar, shortening and then eggs. I knew my guys would not like the lemon, so I substituted with more vanilla.

Next come the dry ingredients. I have found the best way to add them is to sift them onto a paper plate, or piece of parchment paper. With the mixer running, pick up the edges and tip to add the ingredients to the bowl. I wish I could have a picture for you, but I don’t have enough hands.

I thought I would save my parchment paper and used wax paper instead. I won’t make that mistake again! The wax paper was too flimsy. Some things are better off not being photographed. What a mess!

After combining the wet and dry ingredients, I spread it in the pan.

Another reason I was baking was because it was raining. Baking on a rainy day gives me a cozy feeling. Indoor photography on a rainy day? not so much L

It raised nicely in the oven, but settled a bit when I removed it.

But it turned out beautifully.

A light dusting of powdered sugar,

and slice.


Next time I am switching out the shortening for coconut oil. YUM!
Do you have a favorite old cookbook? Please share in the comments below, or on our Facebook page. <3