Saturday, April 11, 2015

easter 2015...

I once heard a speaker say that Easter was the Christian equivalent of the Super Bowl.  Which just tickled me, because not only am I a Christian and a huge sports fan but I love a good analogy.  This comparison holds true because our hope is not in the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus but in his resurrection.  And that is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday.  The hope, promise and love of God that is fulfilled in the fact that His Son rose from the dead. 


We had a super low-key Easter weekend and it was exactly what our family needed.  The boys only had Good Friday off, because their school cut out Spring Break in favor of getting out of school early in June.  Which I'm thrilled for right now, but ask me again in August...

John went on a 3 day missions trip for 4th & 5th graders with our church and came home Friday tired and sick.  But Luke greeted him like he had been gone for 3 months instead of 3 days.  I love the relationship these two have.

We dyed eggs on Saturday.  These two were still in their pjs and John hadn't combed his hair but they still look cute.  This year I got 18 eggs and it still wasn't enough for them.  We just use the commercially available dye packs because no one eats hard boiled eggs in our house so I buy super cheap eggs that I would never eat and use those.



We also hid eggs and baskets for the boys to find.  And once again, I forgot where all the eggs were hidden.  At least, it was one of the eggs Mark hid and not one of the ones I hid (which has happened in past years).  The boys are so funny because they try not to say anything for fear of hurting my feelings, but they are always super annoyed at me.  I always say, this is just part of life when you have older parents.

Since John wasn't feeling well and we knew that church would be crowded, Mark and I went to different services and left the kids at home.  When I got home from church, I had the kids all get dressed so I could take our annual Easter picture on the hearth. I don't love any of the pictures of all three kids but I did realize that Luke is wearing the shirt that John wore last year in our Easter picture.  Which was the picture I used for our family Christmas card.  Which made us all laugh for some reason...






I hope you and your family had an awesome Easter celebration.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

homemade paleo and gluten free snack bars...

One of my commitments, or goals, for 2015 is to eat clean.  For me clean eating means to focus on eating whole foods and avoid processed foods, sugar and gluten.  It has been a lot easier to do than I anticipated and I feel so, so much better.  There are many names for this way of eating, but I like to refer to it as clean eating.

As with anything, preparation is the key to success.  I have found that I need to stock my fridge and pantry with whole food options that are easily accessible to me.  If I don't, then I'm prone to be enticed by Grace's Doritos or the gluten free chips that the boys eat.  One way to ensure that I have something to snack on when I get hungry in the afternoon, is to make my own snack bars.

I do keep lara bars on hand for when I travel but they tend to be expensive for everyday or even every other day eating.  I found several recipes on line for homemade 'lara bars', which I played around with until I came up with a bar that I loved.

I love to play around with and adapt recipes I find from cookbooks and bloggers I follow.  I think that more people need to give themselves permission to play around with recipes in the kitchen.  It's okay to change a recipe until it suits you and your family's food tastes.



Homemade Snack Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups medjool dates
1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetend coconut flakes

1. Grease bottom and sides of glass baking dish
2. Combine all ingredients in food processor or vitamix blender
3. Pulse until combined.  This is really up to you!  I don't like my bars to have big chunks of dates or nuts in them, so I process mine until all the pieces are really small.  If you like larger chunks, then you can process your ingredients for less time.
4. Dump the processed ingredients into prepared baking dish and push down with hands.  You want to have the bars evenly distributed in the pan.
5. Refrigerate covered bars for 2-3 hours.
6. Cut into bars.  The size depends on you.
7. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or you can freeze these guys for up to 3 months.  My bars never last that long. 

Notes: Feel free to play around with the ingredients and/or amounts.  If you don't like cashews, for instance, you can add another nut you do like.  Or if you don't like coconut, feel free to omit it from the bars altogether.

I try and buy the highest quality ingredients that I can afford.  This usually means organic or locally grown.  This is something that is important to me and I think affects the taste of my food and the overall health of my family.  I know that it can be expensive to purchase organic fruits and nuts.  I have found that if I shop at my local health food store, I can find these ingredients in bulk at a more affordable price. 

Let me know if you make these and how you like them.

Enjoy!




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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

real men make (and eat) quiche...

I was talking to my sister the other day about her oldest getting accepted into college.  It was unsettling because, I knew this little boy when he was born and I can't figure out how 18 years went by already.  It also made me think about my boys going off to college.  Which, I'll admit, is not happening soon.  And really, may not happen at all for Luke because he's convinced he always wants to live with me.  

I've told him that there will come a time when he will no longer want to live here and will want to venture out into the real world.  But, he can't picture that.  He refers to college as that time after high school when they make you leave your parents.  Which just tickles me.

Anyway, so as I was thinking about Joe going off to college, I decided that it was time to start teaching my boys how to plan and prepare dinner.  I really feel that it is important to equip your children to be able to thrive in the world outside your home.  This is one thing that Mark and I have talked about at length and we have always tried to teach them, about money, time management, cleaning and taking care of your belonging, just to name a few.

Since they are now 11 and 9, I thought it was a good time to teach them about planning and making dinner.  I have always baked with them.  Even when they were little and it wasn't fun for me.  So they know their way around our kitchen and a little bit about cooking.  

John fell in love with this idea and wanted to do it the next day.  I told him, that he would need to pick a menu for the meal, find a recipe, write down the ingredients needed (so I could buy them), and then cook everything.  He was jacked!  John picked ham and cheese quiche, fruit salad and brownies for dessert.

Which is a surprising meal for an 11 year old boy to pick.  But a friend delivered this meal to my family when Grace and I were away and John loved it.  I will be honest, I had never made a quiche before so I did not have a recipe for one.  But, problem solver that he is, John said  'call your mom, she has a great quiche recipe'.  Evidently, they talked about quiche because mom was here when my friend dropped off the meal.

After school, John came home and I reminded him that he wouldn't be able to play or watch TV because he was responsible for cooking our dinner.  He was still excited and wanted to keep his menu a surprise from Luke and Mark.  We read the recipe together and then he gathered all his ingredients.  He was able to prepare the whole meal with very little help from me.  I did make suggestions, like how big to dice the ham, but he did everything himself.  Since he's not quiet tall enough, I did put everything in the oven for him but that's all I did besides supervise.

He even set the table with matching plates, cloth napkins and candles.  He was so thrilled when he was able to call us all to the table.  The whole meal was a hit as evidenced by the fact that there was literally no left overs.  He can't wait to do it again.  Next time he wants to make enchiladas and rice.



Here's the recipe we used.  It's super easy and yummy.  It's a little different from the one my mom gave me because, for some reason, I just can't seem to stick to a recipe the way it is written.  I talked to John about this when he was cooking because he wanted to add more ham and less cheese.  Which I told him was fine and how it would change the taste of the final product.  He ended up putting 8 ounces of ham and about 4 ounces of cheese in his quiche.  I told him the most important thing is that he makes good food and has fun doing it.  I'm hoping to instill a love of cooking in both boys, since they already love to eat.

John's Ham and Cheese Quiche


Ingredients:

1 pie crust
6oz ham, diced
6 oz cheese, shredded
4 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Crack eggs into medium bowl, beat with whisk
3. Add sour cream to eggs, whisk to combine
4. Put diced ham and shredded cheese in bottom of pie crust
5. Pour egg mixture over ham and cheese
6. Bake for 35 minutes, check to see if it is done.  The eggs should be set and not jiggle.  Keep adding 5 minutes until it is done.


Enjoy!  And, let us know if you make this quiche. 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

week four summary...

This post on week four is a little delayed because, of the real world and my re-entry into reality.  I spent the weekend snuggling on the couch with my babes in front of a fire and trying to find all my stuff that got moved around while I was gone.


Grace finished her feeding therapy strong.  The last week was much of the same of the first three weeks, you can read those posts here, here and here.

We continued to have Grace drink from a cup and transitioned her to a regular cup from the cut out cup.  We are still holding the cup up to her mouth for her to drink and feeding her every bite of food.  We will work on Grace's self feeding and drinking skills in the future.  Right now, she is getting 7-8 ounces of liquid from a cup which is great progress.
 

We added several new foods to Grace's diet.  She ate sliced deli ham (lunch meat), pancakes with syrup, french toast sticks and macaroni & cheese. 

 

It is difficult to tell if Grace likes new foods but she is eating everything we present to her.  She will also eat anything for a dorito (just like mama!).

Overall, I would consider the feeding therapy to be a success.  I did ask for an additional week, something I never thought I'd do but I felt like we were making such good progress I wanted it to continue.  I'm concerned about transitioning Grace back to the real world and I am anticipating some regression.  Mark and the boys came up on Friday so Mark could get some experience feeding Grace and help me check out of the Ronald McDonald House.  This last week, the boys had 3 snow days and a 2 hour delay, in March.

 It was so funny because Grace ate really well for me in the session that Mark observed but she fought Mark in the session he was in charge of feeding her.  It really shows me how smart she is that she knew to fight 'the new person'.  For that reason, I think she will fight the new feeding program at school.  However, her teacher is amazing and I know they are on board with making Grace successful.
We will now be going back to Hershey for monthly follow up appointments, so they can make sure that Grace continues to progress and that we will reach all the feeding goals we have for Grace.

It's good to be back home...

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

stop the r-word...


Grace and I are wearing our shirts today in support of the sixth annual spread the word stop the word day.  Of course, she gets to wear her supergirl shirt because people with intellectual disabilities are super heros.  

 People with intellectual disabilities (like Grace) matter and using the r-word to signify something is stupid or less than, demeans them and you.

I encourage you to find another word to express what you mean.  I suggested using ridiculous in this post.  However, according to this article there are too many words in the english language to count so you should have no problem finding another one.


Go here to join the movement and make a pledge to stop using the r-word.



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Monday, March 2, 2015

week three...

Week three started off slowly.  Due to my accident, we needed to get a rental car but none of the local agencies had one (because I wasn't the only one who was in an accident due to the snow).  Thankfully, Mark was able to drive Grace and I to Hershey to pick up a van there.

This week was very similar to the previous two weeks.  We are continuing to introduce new foods to Grace's diet and increasing the amount she she drinks from a cup.  Some of the new foods are scrambled eggs made with milk and cheese and chicken noodle soup.  Grace is also drinking 7-8 ounces of milk a day from a cup.  We are encouraged that she is eating new solid food but need to increase the amount of food she is eating so that she is not eating late at night.
 
We also continue to spend a lot of time in our back camp area.  Grace has discovered that she loves {loves} princess sing a long videos.  So we are spending hour after hour after hour watching them. 


 On Tuesday night, Grace didn't think sleep was necessary so she stayed up till 4:00am.  It wasn't fun.  She also got a bloody nose.  So it was super special to wake up after only 3 hours of sleep to blood all over the sheets - NOT. 

The one bright side to the sleepless night was that she fell asleep at 7:30 on Wednesday night with the lights and TV on.  So I got to watch survivor and keep the lights on later than 8:30.  I've been spending every night reading books on my iPad in the dark, so it was nice to be able to watch TV instead.

It also turns out it was a good thing I couldn't figure out how to clean our bedding because she had another bloody nose on Thursday night.  I think Grace is having bloody noses because it is so dry here.
There are therapy dogs (and pigs) here at the Ronald McDonald House almost every night.  Most nights there are too many people and too much noise for Grace to get comfortable enough to get close to the dogs.  But last week, it was only Grace and another little girl when Coda the 150 pound male Newfoundland showed up.  Coda's mom was so gracious and talked to Grace until she got comfortable.  Grace eventually petted Coda on the head and back.  It was cute to see how happy Coda's mom was that Grace petted him. 


The therapists remain pleased with Grace's progress during therapy.  They are encouraged that Grace is on the right track and impressed with her drinking and eating.  During our fourth and final week, we are going to focus on adding additional solid foods to Grace's diet.  We are also going to work on getting her more calories during the day, so that she isn't up till 11:00 or midnight, as she is now.

Mark was off work this weekend, so it was nice to have some family time.  We had a movie night on Saturday and watched Big Hero 6, which was really good.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

the orange dump truck...

Recently, Grace has shown a tendency to pick one toy that she prefers.  Here at the feeding clinic, she is fixated on an orange dump truck.

She typically finds it every day and will pick it up and carry it around. 
Sometimes she likes to sit and spin it's wheels.  Over and over and over.

 Out of all the toys here, this is clearly her favorite.
 A few days ago, she was holding it and a little boy wanted to play with it.  When Grace put it down, he went to pick it up and his mother stopped him.  Telling him, no that was Grace's toy.  He promptly threw a fit.  So mom took him out of the waiting area into the feeding room.  He continued to cry.  Grace stood there watching him.  Then, she picked up the dump truck and walked into the room with him.  She put the truck down at his feet and stepped back.

I said to him, 'Grace is sharing it with you.  You can play with it.'  So he picked up the truck to play with it.  Grace just smiled.  My sweet and special girl shared.  Intentionally.  To provide comfort to another child.

I was almost in tears.  Sharing is something that moms spend untold hours trying to instill in our children from a very young age.  However, this is not something that we have actively tried to train Grace to do.  She is not one to typically play with a toy for very long and due to her developmental delays she chooses baby toys.    When they were all little, her brothers would allow her to play with a toy until she got bored and then they would just pick it back up.  We never made her share because we were usually so darn happy she was showing a preference for something and using her hands.

When it was time for the boy to have his feeding session, Grace picked up the orange dump truck and walked out of the room.

We have long suspected that there is more to Grace than we have been able to tap into.  It is difficult to get a sense of what a person is capable of when they are non-verbal.  But this uninterrupted time of being with Grace has shown me that there is untapped potential in there.  Our job going forward will be to figure out how to reach her and help her grow into it.

As difficult as it has been to be away from home and my other loves, this time is precious to me.  I always dreamed of mother daughter time when I became a mom.  My visions included mani/pedi sessions, trips to Manhattan, shopping and lunches at fun tea houses or funky cafes.  You know, girl stuff.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my heart's desire would be fulfilled in a feeding clinic.

My love for Grace has always been larger and more encompassing than I thought possible.  In talking to other moms of special needs kids, it's just the way we love these little humans whose special needs are more visible than the rest of ours.  But this time has been a balm to my soul.  A gift of encouragement from a gracious and loving God.  As our third week draws to a close, I wanted to make sure I remembered the gifts and not just the sleepless nights, isolation and loneliness that have been my companions these past weeks.


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