Thursday, July 28, 2011

Traveling tips from a mom who packs too much

To say I was "green" when Isaac was a baby is probably an understatement.  I compensated by over-preparing.  I triple packed to visit family- a bag of books, clothes for every season, enough diapers for triplets, and a variety of toys.  Now I've added special food to the list of necessities.  We drive a Vibe.  If you don't know what that is, picture a thimble on wheels.  It's not exactly the most vacation friendly vehicle, but we make it work.  Needless to say I'm trying to learn to pack less- for Isaac at least.  I still plan on having a variety of sweat pant capris to choose from each day we are at my in-laws.  If I'm going to be frumpy I at least want the option of deciding my degree of frumpiness for the day.  I have really cute, young, thin sisters-in-law that inspire me to at least where clothes without stains on them and maybe even do my make up whilst around them.  I need room in that Vibe for my garment bag of dresses that I'll have good intentions of wearing, but won't.  So I need a plan.

So far this is what I've come up with:  Instead of packing a million individual books from home for Isaac, I packed three books that have several stories each in them.  Plus, grandma has a good supply of kid's books.  Instead of packing a bunch of toys, I will only pack a few that will fit in his car seat organizer as there is plenty to do at grandma's house.  I will still pack some gfcf food for the trip, but am lucky to have a mother in law willing to stock her house with what I need so that I don't have to bring 2 coolers, etc.  We've decided that if we ever travel farther than NY we will ship a box of gfcf food ahead of us to wherever we're going instead of chancing it.  I did think of a crafty little trick though. I am going to measure and combine all the dry ingredients from Isaac's gfcf oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe and put them in a ziplock bag or tupperware container to take.  Then all I will need is to add an egg, the agave, and Earth Balance butter to make them.  I won't have to pack each individual ingredient.  I wouldn't bother with cookies except that it's an easy treat to have on hand in the event that there needs to be an alternative for him.

Fast food:  We've switched from McDonald's fries and burger sans the bun to Burger King since finding out that McD's aren't completely gfcf, and it seems to be going well.  I'm sure it's Isaac's favorite part of traveling.  At any rate, we'll probably still be squeezed into our thimble for the 9 hour drive, but I'm trying.  I really, really am.....trying to fight the urge to pack Andrew three outfits and fill the rest of his suitcase with my neglected crafting hobbies. = )

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mr. One Track Mind vs. Mom

One trait we've always noticed in Isaac is that he has a one track mind.  Sometimes this is good and sometimes not.  I believe I've already told you about his books only, blocks only, and trains only phases.  Or that we went to the dinosaur museum in March and for three months straight he's been asking daily to go back.  Luckily, he is a lot more varied today, but he still manages to have an intense attention span for interests he gets stuck on.  Yesterday, we had play group at our house and toward the end Isaac brought out his mini construction trucks to play with since he had been playing with them that morning before everyone got there.  Well, the older boys and Isaac decided to build roads in the sand box with the trucks.  Isaac was fixated.  He stayed in the sandbox long after everyone left, came in for lunch and rest time, and went directly back out to the sandbox to make more roads.  I had to bribe him inside to go pick up Andrew from work (we are a one car family).  We got home and he was right back at it.  This morning he drank his coconut milk really fast and said that he didn't want breakfast, he wanted to go out in the sandbox with his trucks- where he is still playing right now.  "No time for breakfast, mom.  I got a job to finish!  Could ya pack me a lunch and thermos of joe-black. Eh, maybe a little agave nectar in it?  Thanks, you're a doll."  He kisses me on the cheek and strides out the door sporting his work boots and hard hat.  Ok, I made that last part up.

I wonder how long this phase will last.  I also wonder how this one track-ness will work for him as he gets older.  We already know it to sometimes be a problem in school.  He will get stuck on an activity and not want to transition to others.  However, I wonder if by the time he's old enough to decide what he wants to do in life if this trait will serve him well.  I have to say that I almost envy his ability to focus on one thing for so long.  The only thing I've managed to stick with for any length of time is cleaning houses for other people, and I even quit that in the middle for a little while.  I have yet to decide what I want to be when I grow up, not for a lack of interests- rather the opposite.  I fear I will invest in something only to quit it along the way which has been my trend thus far in education and hobbies.  I wonder if there is such a thing as a professional dabbler?  And can I make money doing that?  Maybe if I hang around Isaac a little longer I will catch some of his focus.  That's a good enough plan for me, for now. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's going to be a long day

Ah, contentment, thy name is exhaustion.  Nothing makes me more content with having only one child than a morning like this morning.  At 5:30am, Andrew proceeded to explain to me all the reasons why his stomach might hurt.  I was sleeping, but that didn't seem to bother him.  At 5:45am Isaac came out of his room to inform us that he had peed the bed.  Early morning chores commence because of this.  Andrew leaves for work and it becomes clear that Isaac and I are not going to fall back to sleep.  I leave him in my bed and sneak downstairs to eat breakfast in peace.  Isaac yells down that he is hungry and we agree upon oatmeal.  I'm cooking (read microwaving) his breakfast and hear him crying upstairs.  Sure enough he had been sticking his head through the banister and pulled out too fast and hurt himself.  Dramatic tears ensue that make me feel more annoyed than concerned because we've warned him 100,000,000 times that this is what happens when you stick your head through the banister.  He decides to head back upstairs to cry more, clearly fine by the way he dramatically stomps up.  These are the mornings I store in my heart when I'm feeling nostalgic about having a baby.  I like sleep.  I love coffee.  I'm trying to ignore the pouty, growling noises of my three year old.  It's going to be a long day.

Meanwhile, I received a new resource from a friend last night.  My friend, Rob, who is a teacher in NY state sent me a resource that is in my own back yard.  He said that Carol Gray came up with the idea of stories for social skills, not me.  Turns out Carol Gray and The Gray Center are in my own backyard of Zeeland, MI.  That is right where we go to the beach!  Thanks, Rob.  

In other news, I actually found a template and wrote a social story that hammers home the meet and greet of "what is your name?" and "how old are you?" yesterday.  I even drew pictures with crayons!  It was fun, and Isaac seemed to like the story, but the verdict is still out as to whether or not it helped him understand these questions better.

Oh, more crying.

Please pray for a nap.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wish list

Along with the personalized instruction manual, I have several other things on my pdd-nos wish list.  In fact, the list is becoming rather long.  Here are just a few:

1) A book specifically designed to present and practice everyday conversations, introductions, and greetings to kids who it isn't so obvious for.  Things like answering what their name, age, favorite books are, etc.  Every time I try to make my own it comes out more like a photo album- which I think would be more of a distraction than a help.  Also, books that specifically deal with the who, what, where, when questions.  If anyone knows of books like these please fill me in.  If you dabble in story books, please make some.  It would be a gold mine among the autism community.

2) An answer for why Isaac manages to bite his tongue every other day resulting in a very dramatic show of tears.

3) A small section of medical insurance that would cover some expenditures such as a weighted vest, rising gfcf food costs, etc.

4) For it to be mandatory for every grocery store to have a decent allergen-free food section where at least once a month the food goes on sale.

What's on your wish list?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Knowing when to give in: A two part post

From the moment Isaac got up this morning I knew I was in for a challenge.  He wanted coconut milk, but he didn't.  He didn't want it in any of the cups we had.  I decided to go ahead and shake up his probiotics in his milk and pour it into a blue cup.  He acted as if I threw all of his toy bugs into the trash.  Instant tantrum.  I carried him up to his room and told him that when he was feeling better he could come back down.  A few minutes later he was downstairs and in the kitchen.  I had pushed the milk pretty far in on the counter just in case he decided to spill it out of anger.  I heard him sliding the cup, but since he seemed to be in a more cheerful mood I thought he had decided to drink it.  A minute later he was in the living room without the cup.  "I'm hungry, mommy."  "Ok, your milk is on the counter if you want it."  "No, I just threw it in the trash."  "What?  I hope not. Your milk and special powder are expensive- that means they cost a lot of money."  I looked in the trash and sure enough there was the straw and milk.

A mini lecture ensued, followed by time out, followed by an apology and a request to watch tv.  Sneaky.  Because I wanted to get to church on time and Andrew wasn't home to aid in this quest, I said yes.  I brought his breakfast out and let him eat it in the living room while I bustled around getting ready for church.  I brought down his clothes to put on him after his show ended.  "No mommy, I can't want the stripey shirt.  It's too stripey."  Clock check.  No time for this argument.  I went for distraction.  "Let's get dressed quick so that we can go to church and you can play in the nursery with Izzy, Claire, and Iris!"  "Oh, yeah!"  I manage to button his shirt.  He starts complaining again and pulling at the shirt.  I really don't have time to play the shirt game.  "There is nothing wrong with that shirt.  We're going to be late.  If you leave it on I will let you eat pretzels in the car."  "Yeah, pretzels in the car!"  We get the container of pretzels and race around to find his red sunglasses that he will not leave the house without.  He starts pulling at the shirt and is going for the buttons, "It's too buttony."  I'm losing patience.

I had to make a quick judgment call: Is he having a sensory day or is this about something else?  Is he exhibiting any other sensory behaviors other than a bad mood?  Nope.  Looks like someone is acting out because he misses his daddy.  Andrew worked all weekend.  I decide not to give in.  "Nope, keep that shirt on.  It was part of the deal.  You wear the shirt and you get pretzels in the car. Do NOT take it off."  "No, mommy, I can't want toooo... Where's my red hat?"  He starts climbing between the spindles on the banister.  "Nope, no red hat.  We're going."  In one swoop I pick him up, grab the pretzels, and whisk them both out the door.  Isaac is really trying for the tears, but I could tell that he knew he wasn't going to win.  "There is no reason we should be late for church when we had plenty of time to get ready.  You have not had good behavior this morning and that makes me sad.  We're going to church."  I buckle him in, hand him the pretzels, and jump in the front seat.  I was expecting a complete meltdown, or that I might have been wrong about this not being a sensory issue.  As we pull out of the driveway his mood instantly changes and he starts talking about church and the things he sees out the window.  We made it to church mostly on time, and all because I didn't give in.  I compromised- sure, but I didn't give in. 

Lately, we've been trying to sift our way through figuring out what is sensory or pdd-nos behavior and what is just plain almost-four behavior.  I don't want to assume that a behavior is just Isaac being naughty when it might be rooted in him feeling off.  I also don't want to blame any and all misbehavior on him feeling off when we know him to be a pretty typical four year old in the making.  So how did I MacGyver my way through this morning's ordeal?  With clues, of course.  The first thing Isaac said to me this morning when he came in my room was, "Where is daddy?  I looked everywhere and I can't find him."  I told him that daddy was at work and will be until we got home from church.  One of the last things Isaac said to me while trying to put him to bed last night was, "I just want to wait for daddy."  Daddy was sleeping as he had to go into work at 11pm.  So obviously he had daddy on the brain after three days of barely seeing him.  Isaac slept well last night and wasn't using any of his repetitive phrasing or stimming behaviors common to his "sensory days" this morning.  He was just angry, sad, and seemingly disoriented.  He needed a distraction from daddy not being home. TV was the right thing to give in on in this case.  It distracted him and gave me time to get ready.  Plus, it could be turned off.  The shirt was the right thing to stick to my guns on because had I given in he could have spent the next 30 minutes dragging his feet over which shirt to wear just for the joy of being in control.  Trust me, Isaac can be a clothing diva with all of his new, made up adjectives.  "Too roughey, too buttony, too softy..."  I'm not kidding.

Church turned out to be just what he needed as far as mood enhancers go.  It was not because he sang Jesus Loves Me and glued macaroni onto paper plates as you might imagine, but because he and his crush, Izzy, had the whole nursery to themselves to do puzzle after puzzle together.  It was bliss.  Afterward, he had his traditional two glasses of church lemonade, and when we got home daddy was there.  Isaac squeezed Andrew, planted kisses all over his legs, weaseled a quick game of animal memory cards with him, and then tucked him into bed.  He even reminded him to brush his teeth.  Then he happily played until daddy woke up.  Which brings us to Part II of this post.

Part II:  Video games and why I'm slowly giving in

I can't believe I just wrote that line.  Yes, me, who has had the video game argument with my husband almost from Isaac's conception.  I have always thought that people start their children off on video games too young and then wonder why they are addicted.  I wanted to avoid video games for as long as possible in the hope of creating a child completely uninterested in them, but let's face it; I married a Loucks.  Video games are the glue that hold my husband and my brothers-in-law together.  It's how they spend time together while living states apart.  It's how they decompress.  It gives them something other than politics and religion to talk about, and that's a good thing.  A very good thing.

Ok, I'm stalling with getting to the part where IletIsaacstartplayingvideogames.  Oh, sorry.  Can't read that?  I let Isaac start playing video games. *GASP*  He's not even four yet!  I know.  I KNOW.  But this is what I've learned about Isaac in our almost four years together; he's a very visual learner.  For weeks I've been eying expensive educational toys on Amazon that would help him learn to recognize patterns, do math, spell, etc.  In the meantime, my sneaky and ingenious husband introduced Isaac to  After reading over Isaac's report card and seeing that he still needs work on his computer/mouse skills, I thought it was a harmless way for the two of them to spend time together and work on something he does in school.  What did we discover?  Isaac is pretty damn good at math.  For some reason, seeing it in a video game made it click for him.  Tonight we played Umi City Mighty Math Missions from the Nick, Jr. website.  The game covers shapes, colors, matching, patterns, and simple addition.  We played the game three times.  The first time around, Isaac did not understand the pattern problems at all and I had him count my fingers to do the addition problems.  By the third round he completely understood the pattern problems and was doing the math without my help.  Andrew and I sat staring at each other in disbelief.  He would carelessly blow through the the point collecting sections just to get to the educational sections faster.  So my final word on video games is, of course, all things in moderation....  Annnd this mom knows when to give in.  I'm giving in.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

GFCF Strawberry Pie: The first attempt

Things you will need:
-An adult that doesn't mind using recipes.  In this case, my husband made the pie with Isaac.  I watched and gave reassuring nods that everything was fine and the kitchen wasn't going to explode just because he was using agave nectar instead of sugar.
- 2 lbs. of fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup of agave nectar
- 2 TBSP potato starch
- 1/4 cup water

Instructions- or whatever they're called:
Puree 1 1/2 lbs. of the strawberries.
Slice 1/2 lb. of the strawberries, place in a bowl.
Add purred strawberries to a pot on the stove on medium heat.  Add in agave nectar, potato starch, and water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Let boil for 1 min.  This mixture will become thick and should taste like strawberry jam.  In fact, you could totally use this as a strawberry jam that is lower on the glycemic index and all natural.  I imagine you could do all sorts of things with this mixture- like using it as a filling in thumb-pressed sugar cookies.  I just liked licking it off of the spatula, but I'm not that classy.  Let this mixture cool for 5 minutes before pouring it over the strawberry slices.

Agave nectar in hand and ready to whip up some pie. I am happy to be taking pictures.

Isaac is the best food processor button pusher ever.

He's also really good at stirring. 

A note on crust:
For the pie crust, we simply took our favorite pie crust recipe and replaced the flour for Bob's Red Mill All Purupose GF Flour and used vegetable oil Crisco.  We baked the crust separately in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 or 15 minutes.  We then poured the strawberry mixture in and chilled the pie in the fridge for a few hours until the filling congealed.  Andrew, being a pie crust master, was not thrilled with the outcome, but it ended up being Isaac's favorite part of the pie.  We might try using Kinnikinnick gfcf graham crackers for our next pie crust attempt.  However, I think this first strawberry pie attempt can be called a success based on the evidence found below.