Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nighttime Encounters

I sit here on my couch processing today in a crystal sharp blur.  Today started early.  Way, way too early.

Hubs and I went to bed around midnight after trying to unwind from yesterday.  Shortly after, Holly crawled in with us to sleep fitfully (practicing her Ninja moves as only she can during sleep).  Settled and strategically positioned to block random kicks and punches, I had just drifted back to sleep when Ivan crawled in, on, over and around making a spot for himself.  All settled again and me resigned that sleep was most likely done for the night a shy 2 hours in, curled into a spoon for Holly to buffer her Ninja moves from who knows what type of distress and my mind kicked into "let's analyze the crap out of this to try figuring this out" mode.  I actually started to drift off again when Holly started pummeling Ivan in her sleep and in a sleepy daze, he failed to retreat to safety.

I slide ever closer to the edge of our king bed, barked at Hubs to slide over on his side, making more room and hoping to create a buffer zone. Unfortunately, I was closer to the edge than I realized and conked my head on the corner of my nightstand.

OH. MY. GOD it hurt!  I was seeing stars.  As I laid there, desperate for sleep, I forced myself more awake to analyze my hit.  I've had 3 concussions, so I started running down the symptoms, wanting nothing more than to close my eyes and sleep.  Closing my eyes brought out the stars.

Crap, crap, crap!  It took a mighty force to sit up, peel away from Holly and stealthily place a pillow hoping she wouldn't detect the change.  Then I tried to climb around the foot of the bed to avoid the slumbering kids and let Hubs know why I was getting up.

Then I headed to the bathroom to assess the damage of the nightstand hit.  Gawd almighty... the last thing I wanted to do was turn on that freaking light to look at my pupils.  And the wild imagination scenarios running through my head were just ridiculous!

Light on, eyes fighting to stay open, I peered into the mirror to see that my pupils looked fine.  Phew... but damn did my head hurt.  And I was nauseous.  So, I grabbed a blanket and curled into the end of the couch with my laptop.  Trying to stay awake at 4 am is NOT easy.  I wanted to try staying up for 2 hours to monitor myself for a concussion.  I know... crazy right?!

Yeah, knowing my history  -  not so much.  I've had 3 concussions and the last one was from bumping into the corner of the couch trying to avoid a direct, head-on collision with Holly.  So yeah, concussion was totally feasible.

I managed to stay awake for an hour and a half before calling it quits and sinking into sleep.  And then I woke to both kids piled on top of me smothering me with hugs and kisses at the crack of dawn.  Not nearly enough time to sleep.

I got up slowly, trying to reassess my head.  I'd love to say all was well, but I've spent the rest of the day monitoring myself and making sure Hubs was taking notes.  I've continued to be dizzy, nauseous and had a headache that won't let up.  My thought processes seem slow and I'm feeling stuck at times.  At one point, Hubs asked me to help him with something in the kitchen.  I got up and went there and stood in the middle of the room in a daze, looking around trying to remember what on earth he'd just asked me to do.

I've felt like I've been wading through vaseline today.  Most of my symptoms could be attributed to the fact that I got almost no sleep and I'm hoping for that.  Something about having 4 concussions before the age of 40 just doesn't sit well with me.  And yet, I know there's nothing to do at this point besides updating my doctor and monitoring myself.  Hopefully a good night's sleep will recharge and replenish and all this will be written off as sleep deprivation.  Only time will tell.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Oregano & Mustard Salted Pickles

Top 8 allergen free, corn free, gluten free, sugar free, vinegar free

A friend of ours is having a bunker crop of cucumbers this year.  So much that he's giving them away to keep them from rotting in his field.  Knowing that we could go far with cucumbers, we were more than happy to take some of his hands.  Ivan loves visiting his farm, especially since he's going to be apprenticing with him in the winter in preparation for next year's farmers market.

We've been making pear vinegar, so we thought it'd be really neat to play with flavor profiles.  As I tend to have a tendency of not being able to visualize, Ivan & I brought home way more cucumbers than we had vinegar ready to handle.  We quickly dove into researching alternative approaches for pickling and found ourselves entering a brand-new world (to us) - fermentation.

The deeper we get into, the more we want to learn and do!  The one benefit that sold me, hands down...

Fermenting produces awesome healing benefits for gut health/digestion, like probiotics.  This is like tripping into a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for us.  The majority of Ivan & Holly's food challenges present in the gut due to what we speculate is an enzyme deficiency.  To learn more about that, check out the PST tab at the top of the page.

I'd heard a teeny bit about fermenting - knew it existed.  But didn't know the first thing about it and steered clear of the unknown.  Just seemed like too much energy to learn yet another new thing about food.  Had I known how easy it is and the health benefits, I wouldn't have avoided it for so long.

In this instance, my inability to visualize quantity of product and what to do with it worked out in our favor.  We got so many cucumbers that we did a 5 gallon batch of these pickles and still had cucumbers left over to share with 2 other families!





Ingredients

  • 4 large cucumbers
  • 1 quart salt water (2 TBS salt per quart water)
  • 4 leaves of: oak, grape, horseradish, black tea or blackberry
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or equivalent of fresh
  • 1 tsp dried mustard

Directions

Add salt to water and mix up until salt is dissolved.  Set aside.

Cut up cucumbers.  Our cucumbers were large and suited well to doing spears.

Layer spices & 2 leaves in bottom of 1/2 gallon jar.

Stack cucumber spears tightly & vertical.  Top with 2 more leaves and fill jar with salt water.  Be sure cucumbers are completely submerged.  You may have some leftover water.  Put weight on top and close jar.

Store jar in cool place.  We made due with our counter top.

Burp jar twice a day for 2 days.  Let jar rest on counter until achieving desired flavor.  At 8 days we moved ours into the fridge.  Timing will vary depending on temperature.  Hotter speeds up and cooler slows down fermenting process.  Part of the fermenting process makes the water fizzy.  Fizz is good, means things are doing what they're supposed to.

Letting the kids listen to the fizz is really cool.  Watching their faces as they hear it is just priceless (and lends well to spontaneous science lessons).  When Holly chows down on them, she says they make her tummy feel good!

Notes:  This was our first attempt at salted (fermented) pickles.  While we're pleased with how they turned out, next time we'll be trying it in a crock.

Be sure to use sterilized jars.  Many recipes recommend doing an ice bath with cucumbers to help maintain crispness of pickles.  We skipped this step because we had freshly picked cucumbers, but will also try adding the ice bath on our next batch to see how much difference it might make.




Monday, July 14, 2014

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Free of: Milk, Gluten, Nuts, Soy, Corn, Coconut, Refined Sugar

We did a veggie swap with a friend the other day and she gave us some monster zucchinis.  We've been busy in the kitchen processing and just got to these zucs today.  The kids LOVE when I make bread, so we thought we'd make some zucchini bread.  Not sure that Holly's toddler taste buds would care for it, so we threw in her all-time fav, blueberries.  And we're sneaking in a new food trial!  Shhh, mum's the word.


You want me to eat this?!



This bread is the bomb!  Smells divine while baking, moist and simply delectable right off the cutting board.  I can't even taste the zucchini in it, but Ivan swears he can.  Maybe he's just got a more refined palate.  And Holly has scarfed down 3 pieces already.  She'd probably get down a whole loaf solo if we let her!  As for the monster zucs - we used 1/2 of one for this recipe.  Our friend gave us enough that we could make 10 more loaves.  We're short on time & energy, so the rest is getting blanched & frozen to save for another time.




Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients
  • 3 cups flour mix (using the variation)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder (corn-free)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup oil (extra light olive oil for us)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup or honey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Oil loaf pans.  Line bottoms with parchment paper if tolerated.  The paper eases the transition from pan to cooling rack.

Stir together dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, combine with dry and stir in.  Gently fold in zucchini and blueberries.  Pour into loaf pans.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until tops start to brown and are springy to touch.  Let cool in pans for a few minutes and transfer to cooling rack.

Slice & enjoy!


Note:  As always, be sure to use safe for you ingredients.




Friday, June 27, 2014

Beans & Rice - More Than Food

I know it's been said at least a million times, but if I could bottle up just a fraction of Holly's toddler energy, I'd be set!  Constantly trying to stay ahead of her coming up with ideas of quick, simple ways to occupy her curious, busy self is a feat in it's own league.  And some days - well, I'm lucky to survive intact, let alone sane.  As Ivan has plunged into working on his therapy bag business, Holly naturally wants to be right in the thick of the action.

I've been pulling heavily on my experiences with Montessori and trying to find activities that are similar to what Ivan & I are doing so that Holly feels included.  I dug out lacing cards only to realize that I didn't have any "thread".  On a scavenger hunt for a suitable alternative, I found my old & pretty much forgotten about bowling shoes from an era long gone (buried in the back of my closet).  Those shoelaces were an easy-peasy substitute and worked out beautifully.

Now going into week 3 of our sewing frenzy, I'm getting a little bit more comfortable thinking on my feet, which if you know me, is no small matter.  Holly's thoroughly enjoying scooping & pouring (Practical Life skills in Montessori terms).  For awhile, she did this next to Ivan in the same rice bin.  Co-existing.  Working side by side.

Yes, it was a sight to behold.  Beautiful and harmonious.  And the novelty of that is gone.  Today while finishing up my breakfast, Holly dug out our bean pit and a cookie sheet.  She loves hearing the pinging of the beans hitting the sheet.  She also loves to count, so we did that for a bit.  She and Ivan made letters while continuing to count.  Did you know you can make an L with 120 beans!  Then in a blink, Holly switched up the game to be Flying Beans.  All over the kitchen.  Ivan wasn't sticking around for that!

So he moved on to the next room for sewing.  And mumbling under his breath irritably about the commotion.

In an attempt to redirect Holly's energy while she gathered up the spilled beans, I asked if she wanted to make pictures with the beans.  She eagerly said yes and climbed up into my lap while I moved my coffee narrowly missing getting a bath.  As I scooped up a handful of beans, Holly asked me to make a tree.  I started laying out the trunk and she quickly joined in.






As we created the tree, one bean at a time it dawned on me what an awesome sensory activity this was.  And fine motor skills.  And hand-eye coordination.  And imagination.  And memory.  And I'm sure I'm missing even more.

All from a bag of dried beans.

Ivan continued to sew for just a bit more and then couldn't resist.  The pull of bean play was just too strong.  Joining us he watched & brainstormed what to make.  Holly was ready to make a kitty, enthusiastically directing me where to put each piece.





With that Ivan launched into characters from Garfield (his current cartoon love).  Starting with Sheldon.  You know the unhatched chick...




And he took photos of his own to share with much pride!  Next was Booker, the Worm and his hole that he is trying to escape to.  I know - awesome, right!



As Ivan created his story board, Holly moved on to making Mr. Seahorse (from her favorite Eric Carle book).  And this one, she did independently.  Except for accepting Ivan's offered piece of rice cake to visually denote the baby seahorse that wanted to return to the pouch.



Cool beans, right!  And all before 9 am.  Totally spontaneous.

After lunch, we picked up the theme with rice and stones.  Ivan had finished sewing his bags and was trying to fill them with rice.  Holly decided it was time to scoop & pour to Ivan's dismay.  With some time to switch gears and problem-solve, we came up with a much smaller rice bin for Holly and I, thinking on my feet (rare occurrence), grabbed a bunch of blue stones.



Ivan showing Holly how to feel through the rice to help ease her frustration at not being able to see the stones.



Holly discovering her preference for finding stones, not using a pincer grasp.  She didn't like the rice getting under her nails, so she figured out how to side scoop and let the rice run through her fingers.




More counting, digging, burying.  Exploring different ways of doing it.  Sharing, taking turns.  And peace restored!  Ivan was able to fill all his bags with rice, ease Holly's frustration and show her different ways to do things.

Note:  This post was not intended to be about special needs or autism, but as I'm writing it my mind keeps getting drawn to how many amazing things took place today on so many levels.  There were really high highs and some pretty gut-wrenching lows.  But overall, Ivan's ability to soothe Holly's frustration, his empathy, imagination and self-awareness whether during challenges or after was tremendously fabulous!  And Holly's creativity, independence and persistence will take her far.  And keep me on my toes!




Friday, June 6, 2014

Woven Rug Pulls & Composure

I kinda feel like I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth.  This week has been a roller-coaster, which is our typical MO, BUT I am loving the "hands in the air & screaming with pure joy" moments.

Ivan's star is just shining so brightly.  Over the weekend, he made a heat bag (wrap) for himself to help ease his back pain from bruising his tailbone a few weeks ago.  He made it... mostly independently.  And the confidence boost it's had has been just beautiful.  It's grown from his own to wanting to make ones for his grandparents.  And continued to morph to us sitting down to write up a business plan for him to create his own business to sell them.  Ivan's had grand ideas before.  What kid doesn't?!

Follow through, however, has been challenging in the past.  Dad & I are totally committed to diving in, reservedly thinking the enthusiasm will fade & daring to dream with him.  On what seemed like a whim & proclaiming desire to make & sell his bags at our local farmers market, we thought perhaps the persistence would evaporate as interests moved on to something else or as we get mired down in planning the details (creating business plan).



Today we started out by writing up a big chunk of the business plan as Ivan sat on the floor coloring by number with Holly.  Then we worked on our garden & played in the hose totally spontaneously after Holly stripped down to her skivvies.  The girl seriously can't resist water!  Back inside & dried off, we started working on our next craft project thanks to Pinterest - Hula Hoop rug weaving, all the while discussing Ivan's new business venture.

We are going full-steam ahead.  Outlining the business plan.  Yes, really.  Ivan's decided that he's going to save the money he makes for college.  Have to say, I'm liking the way this boy thinks!  And on my short to-do list, contacting the city about the need for a business license is tops.  This all seems so surreal.  Planning a business venture with a 7 1/2 year old.

Ivan is driven, excited and oh my god SO HAPPY.

On other related news fronts:  things that would usually cause him huge anxiety or distress, he appeared to be unfazed by such as; Holly doing what toddlers do best, destruct, demolish, and meddle simply for the sake of creating opportunities for interaction.  These toddler traits don't tend to mesh well with older brother craft projects.  Figuring I was pushing our collective luck, I took a big step back and let things unfold as they might.  Being ever-ready to leap in to moderate as is usually the need.  You could say we get lots of interpersonal teachable moments.  Every.  Moment.  Of . Just about Every. Day.  And one of the reasons I'm so grateful for the flexibility that homeschooling provides.

Needless to say, there were many times I mistakenly took a deep breath thinking I was going to need to intervene.  And time after time, I continued to monitor from "afar".  Ivan calmly explained to Holly why she couldn't stand in the middle of the rug weaving as he was weaving.  As he took deep breaths when she took several of his rag loops and draped them over her neck like the most prized necklaces.  Me gently reminding him that she couldn't mess them up and she'd bore with them by the time he needed them.  And then the moment I thought for sure the bottom would drop out - when 90% done with his rug, Holly came over, stood in the middle, bent down and with the speed only toddlers have, quickly grabbed fistfuls of woven rug, yanked up causing pulls in the weave before we could blink, let alone move her - Ivan saw what happened, dropped his head for a moment (as Dad and I braced for the fallout & the rest of the night imploding) and he looked up at me with pleading eyes for help.  As I surveyed the damage to his rug and let my breath out, I realized he was also processing what happened.

I could tell he was hurting.  Really hurting.  BUT he worked through it so beautifully.  Even when Dad & I were struggling to figure out how to fix the pulls.  Even when we figured out it could only be fixed by undoing the entire rug and starting over.  Even with hours of work being undone, he forgave Holly.

Later when Ivan was helping me load groceries into the car, I told him how proud I was of him for not lashing out at Holly.  He told me that he was really, really angry at her.  And I told him that knowing how he felt made me even more proud of how well he handled the situation.  Dad & I offered to help unweave and restart the rug.  He said it was okay and he didn't mind having to redo it.

Sitting here writing this up, I can only wish that I had the same capacity to forgive & move on.  Ivan simply inspires me to be better.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

DIY Heat Bags

We've had a scrap of fabric floating aimlessly around the house for awhile (longer than I'd like to admit).  The kids play with it & leave it laying around.  Every once in a while, I scoop it up & wash it.  Today when it resurfaced clean, I paused long enough to actually look at it.  I started to fold it in half & realized it was the perfect size for a tummy heat bag for Holly.  Struck with inspiration to turn this fabric into something useful, I pulled out the sewing machine before losing my motivation.

Knowing how much Ivan loves to sew, I asked him if he'd like to assist.  He quickly told me no because he wanted to make one for himself!  On a mission he tore into his closet hunting for the best fabric remnants.  He decided he wanted to make a bag big enough for his back.  Next thing I knew, we were diving into an awesome learning opportunity.

Ivan figured out what size to make the bag by getting measurements of our microwave & his back.  He problem-solved doing a rectangular shape versus square and that the bag didn't need to be wider than his back.  He laid out, measured & marked the fabric.  A few snips & pins later, he was ready to sew it up. And when he accidentally ran over a pin, breaking the sewing needle, causing the project to stop until searching for another needle presented the need to go to the store, he smoothly went with the flow.  (This smooth derailing is a noteworthy development).

Needle bought, replaced & re-threaded.  Ivan picked the stitch he wanted & carefully sewed up three sides.  After filling his bag with rice, he decided he'd like to add some essential oils & picked Rose.  We quickly learned that a little bit of EO goes a long way!


The caterpillar bag is Holly's & lizard one is Ivan's








Popped Sorghum

 Top 8 allergen free

Have you ever wondered what you'd do if you couldn't eat popcorn?  I grew up on the stuff.  Firmly believed that eating popcorn was an essential part of movie watching, whether out or at home.  Even as we've journeyed through Ivan & now Holly's food challenges, I continued to eat popcorn.  Although it was quickly banned from home, I still indulged on the rare occasion that I went to a movie theater.  Then my food challenges morphed & I've had to finally bid farewell.

The kids have never had popcorn & there is only one suitable substitute that I know of.  Popped Sorghum.  It's just like popcorn with much smaller kernels.  Sorghum is a hit or miss in the corn allergy world.  It has cross-reactivity with corn as it's closely related.  If you decide to trial, make sure you do so cautiously and with a grain of salt.

We popped some for the first time in over a year this weekend.  And it was Holly's first trial.  We all loved it - crunchy, salty, a bit of honey or butter and we were all licking our lips in delight.





2/3 cup sorghum kernels
flavorings - we like butter or olive oil lightly drizzled over
salt to taste
drizzle of honey - for the sweet tooth fix



We used our air-popper.  The first batch was only 1/4 cup of kernels and they burned before popping out of the machine.  We then tried 2/3 cup of kernels.  This still produced a fair amount of smoke, but the kernels popped out before burning.  I think we'll go back to popping the kernels in a covered pan to alleviate smoke & get a higher yield of popped vs. unpopped kernels.  You will have more unpopped kernels with sorghum than corn.


For more popped sorghum recipes, check these out:  Pop Balls & S'mores Balls