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.