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Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

IMG_0728The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

IMG_0669And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.  Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.  When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.  More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!  On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!  To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!  Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.  So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

IMG_0767And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.  As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.  A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

IMG_0759His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!  His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!  His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.  He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!  A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.  And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

IMG_0802He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.  But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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Lactation Cookies

I admit it.  I am a cookie monster.  I have zero self-control when it comes to most sweets, but cookies are my biggest weakness.  (And margaritas–but since I am breastfeeding, it’s more socially acceptable to binge on cookies than tequila). There’s speculation as to whether things like oats, brewer’s yeast, fenugreek, and blessed thistle really help improve milk supply.  Most brewer’s yeast is derived from the fermentation of beer and contains iron, protein, B vitamins, and amino acids; some nutritionists also believe this magical powder can increase energy levels and boost mood.  I bought a canister from The Vitamin Shoppe.  The only thing 100% guaranteed to increase your supply is nursing and pumping often…but in the meantime, why not enjoy a sweet treat?  I tried several recipes for lactation cookies, and I offer my fellow milky moms this mash-up of yumminess. IMG_0746 Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened at room-temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or coconut oil (you can sub greek yogurt for a lighter recipe)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored, unsweetened brewer’s yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips, raisins, coconut flakes, etc.

Preheat oven to 350. Combine water and flaxseed meal in small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Cream together butter, oil, and sugar.  Add egg and mix.  Add the flaxseed-and-water mixture and vanilla and combine until just blended. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and brewer’s yeast.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in oats and your favorite add-in’s (in this batch, I used dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries). Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a greased or lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes. This amount of batter gives me 22-24 cookies.

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Autism Gift Guide

christmas_stress_shopping

Buying for certain people at Christmas can be difficult.  Choosing gifts for the nonverbal child who doesn’t ask for anything…nearly impossible.  Since we want to make the holidays special for our children, here are some ideas that have been on my mind, and some toys my kids love.

  • Gifts that develop gross motor skills and compliment the hard work our kids do in occupational and physical therapies are great.  My oldest struggles with pedaling a traditional bicycle, so we bought him a Go Glider last year.  Radio Flyer’s Ziggle intrigues me…and I saw this Spin ‘N Saucer in Target and thought it would be a stimming fantasy come true.
  • I love the IKEA MULA series.  Inexpensive and durable, trust me.
  • I always think about getting my kids sensory items, like a weighted blanket or sensory swing.  If you’re crafty and can sew, I’m sure there are DIY patterns available.  I’m not crafty, so I use my credit card.  I like this Taco Swing, and I found these weighted blankets offered in different sizes that can also be personalized. (I don’t own, nor have we tried, either of these).
  • Every year, Toys R Us offers a Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids.  I think it’s worth mentioning here…If your child is 8 but enjoys playing with toys intended for a 2 year old, so what?  We want to encourage functional play and meet our children on their level.  Don’t be hung up on what your child “should” be doing.
  • Lego sets.  I have yet to meet an autistic kid who doesn’t love Lego.
  • Ask your child’s teacher what your son or daughter enjoys playing with in class, or ask the speech therapist, occupational therapist, or behavior therapist for suggestions.  Thanks to our son’s teachers, we found out he LOVES Boggle Jr. and Don’t Break the Ice.
  • We often ask for iTunes gift cards for adding new apps and music.  The iPad can be a lifesaver many days.

This year, Santa is bringing my oldest a Lego set and Thomas & Friends DVD; middle child is getting a Radio Flyer Ziggle and Chuggington DVD, and the baby is getting a Baby Einstein Gift Set.  We’ll sprinkle reindeer food on the front lawn on Christmas Eve and leave cookies and milk for Santa, even if my kids don’t completely understand why.  They do know that cookies are awesome, and that’s enough for me.

For additional ideas and resources, please check out:

Autism Consortium

National Autism Resources

Ten Toys that Speak to Autism

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

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Let me introduce myself…

Has anyone suggested you start blogging because your life is perceived to be stranger or funnier than fiction?  Well…

Welcome to Far Beyond Zebra, my first attempt at blogging about life as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and teacher.  Here you will find my musings, ramblings, and sometimes rants as I raise an infant and two autistic boys, maintain a home to three generations, teach U.S. history to seventh graders, and try to find what’s “normal” for our family.  You know those sitcoms where everything seems to go wrong and high jinks keep the audience laughing, but in the end someone learns a lesson and goes to bed knowing he or she is loved despite any shortcomings?  That’s us.  I’m far from perfect, my kids are no angels, but we live honestly and love each other “just the way you are” (to quote my oldest son).

I hope to share information here about products and recipes I love, parenting insights, autism advocacy, and classroom tips.  It’s a random hodgepodge, but so is life.  And in the words of Dr. Seuss, “There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending on how beyond zebra you go.”

Thanks for stopping by,

Kate