Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I'm posting this simple recipe because, well, it's amazing. I keep making it over and over because I can't get enough of it. You can see the same recipe here. The coconut oil really makes this dish sublime. I've used green cabbage, red cabbage and brussels sprouts and they all turn out great.
1/2 head cabbage, washed, cored and thinly sliced
2 tsp. coconut oil, plus more as needed
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a skillet over medium-low heat (I like using cast iron). Add the coconut oil - when that has melted, add the cabbage. Saute about 10 minutes, or until slightly wilted. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute another 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is lightly caramelized. Serve hot. Makes 2 servings for cabbage-lovers.
Today I let the girls play on the playground and I told them "Mommy is sitting right here on this bench to watch you. I will not get up to push you on the swings. Sorry kiddos, but I'm beat. Go play." And they did. Anna pushed Megan on the swing and they had fun. See what happens when I tell it like it is? They rise to the occasion...Anna gets to be Big Sister and Megan asks sweetly for her help. I don't always have to hover, and I'm thankful for that!
Monday, March 22, 2010
Part of me thinks the girls might be enjoying the process, but mostly I think they are looking forward to getting a pet after we move. Yes, I promised them a cat. Megan wants to name our future cat Cracker, Anna wants to name it Cinnamon. I vote for Ginger or Mace, depending on the gender. Or Cardinal Fang (we have the comfy chair!). But I think with two little girly girls in the house, we'll end up with a cutesy name. Although, we might end up with a Hobbes since the girls have recently raided DH's stack of comic books!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Another sensory activity Anna has engaged in since empty boxes came into the house is playing in foam peanuts. She doesn't just play in them, she lounges in them. She digs in and buries herself, she lets the peanuts run through her fingers, she throws them in the air and lets them fall down around her - all with a look of complete bliss on her face. I think a therapy room full of foam peanuts would do her a lot of good, but for now she's making do with a box.
I didn't think moving with AS would be a lot of fun, but I can see the pleasure Anna is taking in the process and that's making me feel less apprehensive about it.
Megan, on the other hand, is a creature all her own. She's almost 5 years old and has turned into a pill, replete with arguing, whining and baby talk. My mom tells me this is typical 5 year old behavior, but what do I know? I didn't get typical the first time around! Add to this the trauma and anxiety she's clearly feeling about moving and life with Megan has been a lot of work lately. I'll be glad when the move is finished and we can settle in our new place...two weeks to go!
This week is spring break and I'm home with the girls all week. We have play dates scheduled for every day this week, except today and Friday, and today we're without a car. So I took the girls to the park this morning. They loved it, of course. And now that they are old enough to run around and make their own fun, and aside from pushing Megan on the swing, I can sit back and watch them. Most of the kids were younger, but there were two sisters there, one about Anna's age and the other a couple of years older. The older one kept eyeing Anna to see if she'd be open to being approached. They did this little dance of looking at one another before turning away to do their own thing, but I could see that Anna was aware of the girl's interest and I could tell she was interested too. It helped that they shared a name, so every time the younger sister called out "Anna!", my Anna perked up and looked their way.
Finally, the younger sister ran over to her parents excited about just losing a tooth. The parents and older sister made a big deal out it, which caught Anna's interest since she herself has four loose teeth. When the sisters came back to the play equipment, Anna met them and told them her name was Anna too, and she also has loose teeth. The girls were excited and wanted her to wiggle her teeth for them. Anna did a good job with eye contact. Her body was turned slightly away so that is something we'll have to work on. The girls broke up to play on the slides and after a couple of minutes Anna came running over to me.
"Mommy! I made new friends and I wasn't even shy!"
"Anna, that's great! Good job not being shy!"
We left shortly thereafter, partly because it was nearly lunchtime but mostly because I wanted Anna to take this positive experience with her, fresh in her mind and surrounded by good feelings. Now she has good memory from her morning at the park where she approached someone all by herself, without prompting or coaching. She did it by herself and got positive feedback. Now that's what I call a good time at the park.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Last week Megan's bread ran out and there was only the eggy bread left, and then I got sick. Actually the whole family got sick, everyone but Megan. We were so sick, all we did was sleep and poor Megan was left to fend for herself. It was all I could do to drag myself into the kitchen and make her some toast. Yes, eggy toast. I can't believe I'm admitting that, but it's true. In one day she had 4 slices of eggy toast, and all I could do was think through a sick haze "it's not going to kill her". It didn't, and her eczema seemed to be okay, but that is the last time I do something like that. Now, it's egg-free bread for everyone in the house.
Thankfully everyone likes this new egg-free bread. And thankfully, it turns out great in the bread machine. Actually it turns out better in the bread machine than it does in the oven. I guess that's what I get for being all grandma-ly and shunning the bread machine for no good reason. Oh Breadman Pro, how I love thee. Thou dost make great gluten-free, egg-free bread. Forgive me for ever thinking otherwise!
2 1/2 cups GF flour blend (see guide here - I use Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour Blend)
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. gelatin egg substitute
1 cup warm water
3 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. rapid rise yeast
Sift together the flour through the salt, set aside.
Immediately after the baking cycle has finished, turn the bread out of the bread pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Do not be tempted to cut a warm slice of bread from the loaf or it will gum up on you. After the bread has cooled completely, slice and store on the countertop for up to two days. After two days, store in the refrigerator.
Today I made chocolate chip bar cookies. The original recipe can be found here at Gluten Free Goddess. I tweaked a couple of the ingredients and was very happy with the end result. These bar cookies are really yummy. I almost had to beat the kids back with a stick to save a few for DH. Just kidding. But they are really good!
The changes I made to the original recipe are:
used 2 cups GF flour blend
used 1 1/2 tsp. guar gum instead of xanthan gum
added another 1/4 tsp. baking powder
cut back the brown sugar to 1 cup
replaced Egg Replacer with applesauce
used 1/4 cup rice milk instead of 5 - 6 tbsp.
decreased the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons
added 1 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
added 1/2 cup walnut meal
I baked the bars in an 8x11 inch baking dish for about 30 minutes, or until the bars got puffy and then fell in the center, leaving raised edges. The bars should feel firm to the touch, not spongy, and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. The bars should be cooled completely before removing from the pan, and they should be cut with a very sharp knife, preferably serrated. Depending on how big you make them, you can get 16 - 20 bars from a pan sized 8x11. Then grab a bar for yourself before you blink and they are all gone!
Monday, March 8, 2010
So over Christmas break, we had our place painted. Anna went absolutely nuts. She obsessed over the furniture being displaced, the stuff being off the walls, the strange people in our house, the paint smell, the fact that we were out of the house all day for two days straight. The change in routine was just too much for her, and that was one of the reasons why we walked on ASD's Dark Side for a week before Christmas. Once everything was back in its place, Anna settled down. I've been dreading this move because if just a couple of days of painting pushed Anna over the edge, what would packing up and moving house provoke?
Well I have a really terrific friend who is brilliant and intuitive and works with kids like Anna. She recently moved to a new place and offered to walk Anna and Megan through it, to help them feel at ease with the coming transition. We went to her empty old place. My friend had the girls pack little boxes, vacuum dust bunnies and say goodbye to the old place. Then we went to her new place. The girls unpacked their little boxes and put the old familiar things in their new spots. My friend talked about how all your old stuff goes to the new house. We had a picnic dinner on the floor around the coffee table. It was fun and it got the girls excited about our move.
Now instead of dreading our move, I'm looking forward to it. The girls are excited and already packing up their belongings. I'm crossing my fingers, but I think it will be okay. It might be bumpy for a bit, but hopefully it will be an adventure to relish instead of a nightmare. Wish us luck!
Friday, March 5, 2010
To use beet juice as food coloring, roast some beets in a little bit of water, about 1/2 cup. Save the brilliant red beet juice. A little bit makes a light pink frosting, a lot makes a dark fuschia frosting.
To use red cabbage as a food coloring, boil half a red cabbage in a little bit of water...the less water you use the more color you will get. Save the cabbage water, it will look purpley-blue. I had to use a lot of it to get a pale purple color.
Tumeric will give you a yellow color. Cooked cherries mixed with blueberries will give you a dark purple-pink color. I have not experimented beyond this...well except for trying to cook parsley but that did not give me the green color I was seeking!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Fair. Right now, Anna's outlook is only fair. That fact was hammered home over the weekend when we took her to a birthday party at a gym. Anna stood there white as a sheet, frozen, with a panicked look on her face, unable to deal with two dozen other kids running around and making noise and being entirely unpredictable. I don't think she breathed two words to any of the kids, not even her friend the birthday girl. She couldn't wait to leave. And even over the phone Anna is different. Tonight she got on the phone with my BFF's daughter (same age) and verbally ran her over talking about strange stuff - how she can make silly faces, how she can make up silly jokes. On the other end of the phone I could hear her friend say "What are you talking about? I don't understand." Even at this age girls want to talk about girly stuff, and Anna was stuck on something random and alienating to her listener. Nevermind facial or body language cues - Anna wasn't even getting verbal cues that were signaling her to change the topic.
Until now I've focused on getting Anna to a place where she is comfortable in her own skin and able to communicate her needs effectively to others. Now the focus needs to be getting her comfortable around other people (which will increase people's comfort levels around her). If her self-esteem is going to be worth anything, she will need to socialize. She wants it, but she can't cross that barrier that prevents her from being comfortable doing it or even knowing how to do it. There may be a social skills group forming for kids her age at a university starting this summer, and I can't wait for Anna to join. I don't want her prognosis to be fair, I want it to be fantastic.
As I was thinking through all of this, I ran across Anna's preschool exit interview. Three years ago Anna made great strides in her ASD-focused preschool - I was feeling great about her progress but the preschool coordinator pulled no punches. She told me how it was and how it was going to be for the foreseeable future, right through middle school (and probably beyond). I think I've blocked it out the past couple of years, not wanting to believe it would be as difficult for Anna as the coordinator said. But she was right. It will be hard, for a long time. Hard for Anna personally and as she grows older, hard for us to watch it be hard for her.
Below are the notes I took during that exit interview, 3 years ago. I'm surprised by how much of it is still spot-on to this day. And I'm feeling uneasy that it most likely foretells Anna's future. I try hard to deal with reality, and I try hard to change it when I can. Right now I'm feeling hung up on what Anna's future will look like and how much hope we can glean from the outline below.
Notes from preschool exit interview, April 2007
Anna needs a nurturing environment that will recognize and understand her need for routine and her need to regulate her emotions and arousal levels.
Anna’s vocabulary is not the problem, her communication deficit is that she has a hard time generalizing language to social situations.
Anna will benefit from a speech consultation at least once a month for social stories, labeling/recognizing emotions and body language cues, and social deficits.
Anna initially benefits from seeing as well as hearing concepts but does not need to rely on picture supports. Anna is able to memorize a picture and file it away in her brain for later retrieval. Her processing time is slower than typical children her age - as she searches for the picture associated with a word that is filed away in her memory, she will take longer to respond to questions asked of her.
Anna struggles with negotiating mutual attention and will continue to struggle with this for a long time.
Anna’s continued progress depends on her being in a supportive school environment. She will probably never function well in a class of 20 children. She will need supports through elementary school and a picture schedule for the first few weeks of every new school year until she memorizes the new classroom routine.
Anna will struggle with independent work but because of the language barrier, she will not ask for help. Distractions should be kept to a minimum. Her sensitivity to visual and auditory distractions will need to be addressed, as well as her sensory needs (taking breaks for whole body movement).
As Anna is progressing in school, we need to ask: how is she functioning socially in her environment? Is she functioning well, and why? If she is functioning well and progressing academically in a supportive environment, we need to consider keeping her in a place where she functions well, instead of rushing her to mainstream – where she may not function well either academically or socially and where she may regress in language, behavior and social skills. Mainstreaming is not always the best place for every child and we need to consider that mainstreaming Anna in a large classroom may not be the best thing for her.
Anna responds to a familiar adult first, then to familiar children. She functions best in a familiar structured environment first before being able to generalize to a new situation. We need to be aware of and supportive of the hierarchy in how Anna functions in different environments.
Anna does not talk much to other children but will play with them. Talking to children is very hard for Anna. She can’t read their body language and non-verbal cues. Anna needs to be taught how to ready body language and facial expressions. She needs to be in a consistent peer group as she catches up to her peers, which will take time. It will be helpful for Anna to have a parent run commentaries on what they see people doing and what people may be feeling in different situations (like at the playground).
Anna needs cues not only to talk to other children, but also to look at them while she is talking to them. When Anna communicates, she needs a response from the communicative partner for reinforcement. Anna needs to be in as a typical environment as possible so she can learn social skills from her peers.
End of notes
Monday, March 1, 2010
As you can see, the mayonnaise turned out looking a little bit green and having a slight avocado taste. It's pretty yummy, but like the tahini mayonnaise it has limited versatility. This mayo would be good for salad dressings and dips. The girls liked it in tuna salad - so far that is the only way they will eat avocados, so I'm happy. I think this mayonnaise experience will be like the gluten free experience - each gluten free flour has a different taste and different uses. So far it's looking like I'll have to make different mayos for different recipes. It will keep life interesting, at least. I'm going to try one more mayonnaise featuring marcona almonds, and then I'll be done with mayonnaise!
For this recipe I used canola oil. I'm finding that I just don't like olive oil in my mayonnaise. In the future I'll try experimenting with different oils, like grapeseed and pumpkin seed and avocado and hemp, but for now canola suits me fine.
2 small, ripe hass avocados
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil or extra light olive oil
Slice the avocados in half, twist and pull halves apart. Stick a sharp paring knife into the avocado pit and pull it out. I like to peel the skin off avocados but you can also scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Place the avocado flesh, lemon juice and salt into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides. With the processor running, add the canola oil in a thin stream until the mixture is creamy and smooth - do not over mix. This can be stored in the refrigerator but will be best if used within a day. Makes about 1 cup.