Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pear & Onion Quinoa Pilaf

Top 8 allergen free, corn free, coconut free, nightshade (pepper) free

Servings: 4-6

  • 4 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small pear, peeled & chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 TBS oil
  • salt
  • basil
  • thyme


Soak & cook quinoa ahead of time (basic quinoa).  You can put it to soak in the morning & cook about an hour before you're ready to use it.

Peel & chop up onion & pear.

Warm large pan on medium heat & add oil.  When oil is heated, mince garlic into pan and add-in chopped onion.  Let cook for a couple of minutes.

Add quinoa & pear to pan & stir in.  Season to taste with salt, thyme & basil.  Turn heat down to low & cook for about 5 minutes.

Plate & enjoy!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Easy Blueberry Muffins

Top 8 allergen free, coconut free, corn free, refined sugar free

  • 1 1/2 cups flour mix*
  • 3/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (corn-free)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 large egg (or alternative)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup milk (or alternative)
  • 1 cup blueberries


For variations scroll down.  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Oil & flour muffin pan (for silicone pan skip).  In a small bowl, slightly beat egg or mix egg alternative & let set up while combining dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir in honey, oil and milk with egg and then add to medium bowl.  Blend together until you have a smooth batter.  Fold in blueberries.  Ladle into muffin pan filling each halfway.  Depending on thickness of batter, you'll get 11-12 muffins.  To ensure 12 muffins you'll want to use more than the 1/3 cup of milk.  If you have an empty spot with a metal muffin pan, fill halfway with water.  With silicone this step isn't needed.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until tops start to brown & spring back to touch.  Transfer muffins to wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!  My little munchkins smell these & can barely wait for them to cool before gobbling them up.

Notes:  We have frozen blueberries since they are out of season.  If using frozen berries, thaw & gently rinse and strain.  This will help keep from adding moisture to the batter. 

The kids love the muffins when I do it with thicker batter, so I mix up with 1/3 cup milk and we get 11 muffins.


Dairy free - there are many alternatives out there, but I've found doing water to be the easiest for us.  If using water as a milk alternative, I've found that sticking closer to the 1/3 cup works best.  If using another option, a general rule of thumb is that the more watery the consistency, the less you'll need.  If using something thicker than milk like a coconut milk, adding more liquid helps with consistency.  I used to mix our coconut milk so it was 1/2 & 1/2 with water to come out similar to milk.

Egg-free - again there are many alternatives available, many of which we aren't able to use.  My favorite 2 are the tapioca gel egg & the Baking Powder & Oil egg.

I have not tried this oil free, so not sure how well it would turn out.  If you try it with success, please share!

If subbing honey for dry sugar, double the amount.

*My favorite flour mix

  • 1 part sorghum flour
  • 1/2 part white rice flour
  • 1/2 part brown rice flour
  • 2/3 part arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 part tapioca flour
For ease I like to mix up a big batch that I can dip in during the week.  I usually double this & a "part" is a cup.  If I'm short on flours, I mix whatever I've got to equal 2 parts & usually keep the brown rice flour in lighter ratio so it doesn't add grittiness.  Ideally with gluten free flours, mixing 2-3 different ones together will give the best results.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tapestry Threads

I am no stranger to the connection between diet and its effect on health. When I was growing up a popular slogan was “You are what you eat”. As a child I had no idea how much that simple statement would come to play in my life & now my children's. I have several chronic health issues that I manage and my side of the family is riddled with numerous conditions that modified menus help in maintaining. It becomes second-nature & more of a necessary lifestyle. The alternative choice is ignoring the impact that trigger foods have and suffering the symptom flare-ups. I had hopes that these genes would not be passed on to my kids, that they would be spared and able to live a life without needing to consider their diet (life eating). That turned out to be rather na├»ve and ignorant on my part.

Unraveling the tapestry started by picking at mysterious rashes, distended belly, chronic acidic diarrhea, colic, developmental delays & regression and illness after illness. It has been exhausting & time-consuming. I’ve gritted my teeth, cried in frustration, lost sleep, spent hours reading & researching, stood my ground when others question the necessity, pushed doctors to help, second-guessed observations and most importantly persevered & trusted my intuition. I’ve thought about throwing the towel in & saying I’m done.

And I have done just that several times. It’s just too much to keep up. Then, I look at my children's precious smiles & know that I cannot give up. After my self-indulged hiatuses I’ve found that I’d rather spend my time being vigilant over their food & trying to mitigate symptoms than dealing with the fallout & how miserable they can be. I can continue to hope that they will outgrow overly sensitive bodies, but also recognize that may not happen.

Ivan's food issues started at birth. Now, I would offer some argument to that. While he was in utero, I had an enormous amount of food aversions. Looking back at the foods I could not eat & comparing to the foods he does not tolerate, it is startling how many of my aversions & his intolerances line-up. Coincidence? Personally, I don’t think so. (So far this is also proving to be the case with Holly). Makes you think...

Ivan's food issues are the result of a combination of factors – the main ones seeming to be the genetics of family history (allergies, sensitivities) & a metabolic issue. His symptoms range from systemic reactions through neuro-behavioral changes and everything in between. To date Holly's main symptoms are horrible GI issues like trapped gas, major abdominal cramps & sinus infections.

I guess the best jumping off point would be when Ivan was an infant. Nursing was not the cuddly bonding time that so many moms & babies benefit from. It was a constant struggle. Fortunately, there were no “mechanical” issues on my end to compound the experience, but by 2 months I was tracking my food trying to find causes to troublesome symptoms. Ivan would nurse for typically 5-10 minutes, no matter how much or what type of coaxing was done to try for more. Holly's a quick nurser, too.

Ivan had an insatiable appetite & still does. We tried supplementing with formula, hypoallergenic formula, elemental prescription formula, and cow & goat’s milk – all to no avail. All caused symptoms. At 10 months old, we told the pediatrician that we were going to trial the Gluten-free, Casein-free diet; his reply was that he didn’t feel it was necessary and it would be rather labor-intensive. But, if we wanted to go that route, it was our choice.

The GI specialist that we saw at a university several hours drive from home was of no help when I informed him that Ivan was reacting to the elemental formula. The doctor’s response was that he didn’t see how that was possible. He had other patients with more sensitive systems than my son’s and they tolerated the special formula. No other treatment/advice offered from him. Talk about supportive! So we marched onward forging our own path after receiving that type of feedback. To say this has been frustrating would be a gross understatement.

When Ivan was around 5 months old we started to introduce solids due to his insatiable appetite. The symptoms flared up & became even more challenging to figure out then. Not only did I have to track everything I was eating; now I had to track his intake. Trying to find culprits to symptoms when having to consider two diets was infinitely harder, impossible at times. I was determined to nurse until he was at least 1 year-old. With all the research that has been done on the benefits of nursing and having a healthier immune system, I persevered especially since he was already showing signs of allergies.

I had a countdown going for Ivan's 1st birthday & not for the reasons most moms’ do. I couldn’t wait to be done with the nursing. I just could not take it anymore and I hoped by taking my diet out of the equation it might be easier to find the culprits to his nasty symptoms. Unfortunately that was not the case. For Holly, there was no timetable, just going on trial and error.

We made a hard decision to wean Holly at 18 months old. She only had 2 foods and goat's milk, but something that I couldn't ferret out in my diet kept her flared up.

I started meticulously logging/charting when Ivan was around 6 months old. The charting has evolved from the beginning. In a nutshell, I logged EVERY thing; rashes/symptoms prior to eating & after eating, anytime symptoms appeared, what & how much he ingested & time of day, diapers contents with frequency & consistency of deposits, behavioral changes, seizure-type activity, environmental allergies, medication reactions, illnesses, toileting issues, changes in routines, sleep patterns & disturbances, and introductions of new foods.

Hunting for patterns to try unraveling mysterious, troublesome symptoms has been a challenge for me & I consider myself a detail-oriented person. It’s hard to “know” what causes some symptoms because there are so many variables to consider. For example, behavioral changes are they due to an adverse reaction or a typical developmental phase? Being a stay-at-home mom has helped because it gives me more time to see the day-to-day nuances.

Sidebar: I used to say for me, being a SAHM was not my cup of tea. I now tell people that I work at home & am growing into it.  It’s not at all what I envisioned it would be. I would go to the mat with anybody that says it’s not a full-time job, especially in our home with all the hours of logging, doctor appointments, reading & researching for answers, etc… And then trying to still have time to just enjoy my kids & attempt to keep house. Housekeeping is definitely not my strength & depending on how you look at it, I have a rather convenient “excuse” to not have an immaculate home (not even close). If I have to choose between our family’s health & “fun” time or cleaning, cleaning’s not even on my radar. There are days that I wish I could do it all, but I’m getting better at realizing that I’m not Super Woman and mostly I’m OK with that.

After countless doctor visits, tests, therapies, logging, reporting observations & systemic reactions we have an extensive list of diagnostic labels for Ivan. This journey has been long & tiresome, but well worth it because it is all done for the benefit, success and well being of my children.  I have to add that we are NOT label-seekers nor do we want labels. We want to understand the cause & effect. We want to know the ins & outs of our kids so that we can best help them be happy, healthy & successful with their lives. We want to fully encourage their natural strengths & have coping strategies for any challenges. We are firm believers in Early Intervention and the benefits it had being paramount to where our son is today on this arduous path. We also feel strongly that our proactive perseverance has been & will continue to be the best tool in our hands.

When Ivan was 5 years-old, we were just beginning to feel like we could weave the tapestry back together and hopefully continue adding on many more threads. Our journey with him has also paved a smoother path for his sister because we've been there, done that. We have more knowledge & awareness that help us "catch" things sooner with her, so hopefully she doesn't suffer with symptoms untreated for as long. And this go-around we have an allergist on our side, listening! He knows the kids, the history & us. And. He. Hears. Us.

Aside from unconditional love, the best thing we can do as parents is to advocate for our children. Do not accept the pat answer of “let’s wait & see”. Waiting & seeing is the absolute worst disservice that can be done for a child. If you have a niggling hunch that something is atypical, you owe it to your child to thoroughly check it out. What’s the harm? Worst-case scenario – you’ll get peace of mind that things check out okay. And best case scenario – you’ll get the jump start needed to give your child a fighting chance to mitigate how much a special need impacts their life.

Originally posted in 2012 on my first blog.  Dusted off & updated 3/14

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homeschooling Resources

Online Resources:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sun Fun & Music Therapy

We thoroughly enjoyed an unseasonably warm day by heading outdoors and as much as we could shrugging off the mountain of have-tos. We tossed around frisbees, blew bubbles, drew on the sidewalk and went for a walk.

Ivan & Holly played together and individually. We dug the hammock out and Ivan invited Holly in with him sharing with her the nuances of staying in safely. Naturally after a bit she was ready to get out & move on to more active things. We took a break for lunch. Holly headed in for a nap and Ivan armed himself with some books, pillows & a comforter and headed back out to the hammock, all but disappearing for the rest of the afternoon.

Holly's first time in the hammock, almost 3 years ago

He resurfaced reluctantly for dinner & the walk. Upon returning from our walk, he hopped into the hammock beckoning Holly to follow. Snuggled in toe-to-toe, they jointly decided they would be sleeping there for the night! Fortunately, I have some tricks up my sleeve, certain enticing words that propel them quickly in the direction we (the parents) need them to be. The ace in my hand was uttering one, simple four-letter word.

And by golly, Holly was scrambling out. Ivan needed a bit more coaxing, so I offered a rare treat of a combo bath. Ah... I so wish I could bottle up this sibling love to pull out in a few years when they will no doubtly want to be on opposites ends of the house.

As the bath water disappeared down the drain, so too did the copious vibe of the day. Holly's body hit its threshold of environmental allergies propelling the nose running to commence and restlessness for bedtime. And Ivan simply did not want to get out of the tub. Once out he struggled to get ready for bed. Hubs tucked him in seemingly ok as Holly yo-yoed up & down. And then it was parent-time. Or so we thought as we cued up a show.

Minutes later we were attempting to get both kiddos back to bed. We switched up which one we were with just in case that would make a difference.

Laying in bed with Ivan sobbing, not touching save our foreheads & I realized he didn't have his music on. Hoping it would help ease him to sleep, I asked if he wanted it. He told me no several times & then decided yes, if it could be sad music. I told him that wasn't a good idea, afraid that he would be fueling his emotion.

He persisted and I did not have the energy to. He asked me what kind of music is sad and when I couldn't think of any I considered appropriate, he searched on Pandora. We lay there listening to the first song in silence, foreheads back together. His sobbing subsided. He insisted he couldn't possibly sleep with how upset he was. The next song played and partway through it, Ivan let out a huge breath. What happened next, just was phenomenal.

He asked me if I knew why he wanted to hear sad music. Thinking it was obvious, I said, "yes, because you're sad." Well, turns out I was not quite right.

So he said, "No. I wanted to listen to it because maybe it will give me ideas about what to do with how I feel." And to that, I said, "that's a great idea."

And I'm left with...

Wow, just wow!

For the record, I just have to say that Daylight Savings time changes truly suck, especially for those that live for structure, routine & predictability.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Faceted Autism Gem

I’ve started to write a post about a few different topics centered on autism over the past week and I hesitated.  Mulling things over in my mind trying to figure out just the right words to express our position on our evolutionary roller coaster.  As advocates of & for Ivan.  I hesitate because I want to put things in a positive light, not that autism doesn’t come with challenges.  But, I hesitate.  Because I want to share honestly.  Without feeding negativity.  Without perpetuating stereotypes.  The truth is there are moments of absolute joy and there are equally moments of pure torture (watching your child struggle & wishing some things didn't have to be so challenging).  We witness both.  Day in & day out.  It’s how & what we choose to do with it that shapes our most precious gems, our children.

Ivan & I made Ice Gems last week during our southern-style Snowmageddon.  While snapping some photos of them, two in particular really caught my eye.  And they both just happened to be blue (Autism Awareness color).  Both are beautiful in their own way.  And both brought to mind a post I’d recently read by Diary of a Mom about autism being a prism, instead of a linear spectrum.

At first I was sad to see the broken ice & the color that seeped out.  Changing my angle turned this into something majestically soulful that had it not cracked at precisely the right time, it would have turned out not the same at all.
Entering into autism is overwhelming at first, until you find your way.  Until you figure out which camp, if either you fit into.  And there is a clear divide.  I am not passing any judgment here.  Not going to say one is right or wrong.  But they are very different in philosophy.  One camp firmly believes there needs to be a cure or fix.  The other believes that a “fix” will do away with the great skill sets that autistics possess.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Going with the Flow - Evolution of Small Things

I feel like I’m constantly evolving.

Learning, adjusting, adapting, and improving.

Isn’t that what life’s all about?

Reassessing.  Letting go of what doesn’t work.  Holding firmly to what does.  Coming to terms with what you do and don’t have control over.

This season of letting go began for me in earnest last spring.  Almost an entire year ago.  I found myself at a major fork in the river desperately seeking out guidance for the right path.  Our family has faced many challenges ranging from parting ways with ABA therapy, the right schooling choice for Ivan, the introduction of self-injurious behavior and threats to elope, many failed food trials, Holly’s continued speech delays, my allergies reaching new heights requiring the addition of DIY hygiene & cleaning products, desperately grasping at elusive straws for Hubs progressing nerve condition and naturally the toll it all takes on a marriage.  Surprisingly amidst all this my seizures continue to get farther & fewer between.  While I tend to be an open book for anyone that asks, I don’t tend to share the more nitty-gritty details.

And here’s why.

I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that what you give attention to, grows.  Feed the positive energy and bit by bit it’s easier to appreciate the positives each & every day.  I, wholeheartedly, believe this.  So much so that the focus of dinner conversation is sharing with each other our favorite moment(s) of the day.  No matter how small or seemly insignificant.  Because some days, some days those are the moments that carry us through the nitty-gritty.  Our foundation rocks to cling to.