0

Spinach Mini-Muffins

All because this lonely jar of baby food took up valuable pantry real estate for too long…

spinach muffins

I tried to donate it, but the food bank does not accept glass containers. I hated the wasteful idea of throwing it away. So into muffins it went.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 6 oz. baby food (I used the jar above, but any flavor/variety will work)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two mini-muffin tins.

In a stand mixer, combine applesauce, baby food, egg, vanilla, sugar, and oil. Separately sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the applesauce mixture and blend until just combined. Scoop the batter into greased mini muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 of the way. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool and serve to your hungry toddlers! Makes 24 mini muffins.

spinach muffins

Two thumbs up from Thing 3 and his cock-a-doodle-doo hair. The muffins were moist and pretty yummy, if I do say so myself. The dog stole three off the cooling rack when I wasn’t looking, so they are also greyhound-approved.

spinach_muffins

2

Why You Should Adopt a Greyhound

Here is your chance to learn about greyhounds, support our local rescue, and save on your next dog food purchase! So keep reading…

We adopted our first greyhound in 2003, before we got engaged or married, before kids, before the minivan and living the suburban dream. Researching breeds, we looked for a young (not a puppy) rescue dog. We wanted a dog with a reasonable level of energy since we were willing to walk daily, but jogging was out of the question. We also looked for a low-shedding breed that would not exacerbate my allergies. Labs, goldens, and shepherd mixes were out of the question. We checked Petfinder and our local SPCA weekly. I don’t remember exactly how greyhounds entered the conversation, but we connected with a greyhound rescue and the rest is history.

We met Dirtywater in October 2003. He was 2-years old and raced at tracks in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The gentleman who ran the greyhound rescue brought him to our house. Dirtywater sniffed the perimeter of our family room, sniffed us, flopped on the floor, and fell asleep. Love at first sight. Obviously, Dirtywater was not an acceptable name, so his forever name became Bocephus. Bo for short. He was the perfect family dog for 11 years–there the day we got married, when we brought three babies home from the hospital, and he had an unspoken relationship with our oldest son that is the stuff of fables. In May of 2014, Bo’s age finally got the better of him.

greyhound_adoption

Most greyhounds around the world are bred for racing; so most adoptable greyhounds are retired racers. Greyhound racing is a dying spectator sport in the United States, and declining revenues means declining track and kennel conditions. Groups like PETA and GREY2K USA exposed multiple accounts of confinement, injuries, and poor breeding practices around the country over the last 10 years. In the end, though, there are still more retiring racers than adopters, and greyhounds are destroyed as a result. When you adopt a retired racer, you gain a family member, friend, and support an international community dedicated to giving these dogs a second chance. Here’s what you should know about the gentle giants:

  • When you adopt an adult dog, you know what you’re getting. They are already full-grown in size and personality. Since race dogs spend their entire lives on tracks and in kennels before retirement, they are not used to living in a home. Glass doors, hardwood floors, and stairs are foreign to them, but they learn quickly.
  • Adult dogs require less work than puppies. Housetraining those dogs already used to a turn-out schedule makes things pretty easy.
  • Greyhounds are quiet indoors, laid back, and love to lounge in their favorite soft spots. They require less exercise than other breeds. There’s a reason greyhounds are called 45-mph couch potatoes, but they can be as active as you are. Adoption groups work tirelessly to match you with the right grey for your lifestyle.
  • Greyhounds are naturally well mannered.  They are quiet, usually compliant, easygoing, and require minimal grooming.
  • For allergy sufferers like myself, greyhounds make great pets because their coats are light, short, low-shedding, and not oily. They groom themselves like cats and do not slobber. No offense to my doodle-owning friends, but there is no such thing as an allergy-free or hypoallergenic dog. Those terms are marketing ploys for the designer dog business. If you want the real scoop on pet allergies, check out the Mayo Clinic or this New York Times article.
  • Greyhounds are a healthy breed. They are bred for physical superiority on the race track, and large-breed problems like hip dysplasia are nonexistent. The biggest time investment you’ll make in their health and grooming is regular teeth brushing.

The books Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood and Adopting the Racing Greyhound by Cynthia Branigan detail the ins and outs of adopting, training, and loving these dogs. If you’re interested in adoption, read one of these books!

This year, we adopted our second greyhound. She is 2-years old and raced in Alabama. We described our family dynamic (three young children, two with autism), and the adoption agency screened possible candidates for therapy dog training. Belle arrived in May, skinny and infected with hookworms. She cannot stand to be absent from her family. By family, I mean me. I leave the house and she’s howling at the top of her lungs. I go to the bathroom and she whines at the door. Belle is my shadow–affectionate, sometimes smothering, but she only wants to give and get love. She’s still learning the ropes.

Here is Belle the weekend she arrived, already Thing 2’s skinny and stinky pillow.

greyhound adoption

Fast-forward 10 weeks later, she gained 10 pounds (thanks to a fantastic food from Nature’s Select of Central Virginia), got treated for those nasty hookworms, and sports a fancy new collar.

greyhound adoption

greyhound adoption

When we’re out walking, whether the neighborhood or anywhere else, I field a lot of questions about greyhounds. Since we do not have dog tracks in Virginia, I guess people are not familiar with the industry or the work of adoption groups in our state. If you are looking for a furry family member, I hope you consider adopting a rescue first. Then I hope you check out greyhounds.

We discovered Nature’s Select later in Bo’s life. Bo loved it, and so does Belle! We prefer feeding kibble approved by the Whole Dog Journal; Nature’s Select meets that criteria and made our dogs’ skin and coat look and feel amazing. Buying Nature’s Select, we support a wonderful local family-owned company, and the food gets delivered right to our door. Try it for yourself by ordering your next bag of dog food from Nature’s Select of Central Virginia and use the coupon code HELPGREYS (all caps); you’ll save 15% off your first order, and $1 per bag will be donated to James River Greyhounds.

0

Easy Homemade Salsa

I love going to farmers’ markets, and I love that my father-in-law grows and cans tons of vegetables. Summer tomatoes are abundant now, but do you know that tomatoes are one of the most politicized crops ever? At the risk of sounding like a nerd, I’ve been interested in the sources of my tomatoes since I read this article in Gourmet magazine in 2009 that detailed wages and living conditions of Latino farm workers in Florida. Today CBS Sunday Morning showcased a story on the growing demand for “fair food,” and tomatoes are center-stage in this argument. Unless our tomatoes come from my father-in-law’s yard or are in season, we do not eat them. Despite the unholy and unnatural year-long growing season (stepping off my soapbox now), tomatoes do offer excellent health benefits. They are a fantastic source of Vitamins A and C, folic acid, and antioxidants like lycopene, choline, beta-carotene, and lutein.

But holy tomato, Batman, we had the red fruit coming out of our ears. With our last few tomatoes wallowing away in sadness on the counter, I made salsa.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 jalapeño peppers, halved (I removed seeds from two peppers)
  • 1/2 of a red onion, quartered
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (that’s about three cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons Wildtree Chipotle Lime Rub
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cups fresh cilantro
  • Juice of half a lime

East Homemade Salsa

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are diced and combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed (my husband said it needed more salt…whatever).

I love all things Wildtree, but if you don’t stock their line of seasonings like I do, you can substitute cumin.

Transfer the salsa to your favorite airtight vessel and store in the refrigerator.

East Homemade Salsa

Best enjoyed the next day!

0

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

wbw2015-logo-m

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 is August 1-7.  As someone who had breastfeeding successes (Things 2 and 3) and epic failure (Thing 1), I fully support a woman’s right to feed her baby–however that works for her. But why is breastfeeding awesome? Well, breast milk provides ideal nutrition for infants with all the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies a baby needs. Breast milk is easily digested. It’s linked to lower occurrences of asthma, ear infections, SIDS, diabetes, and obesity. Besides the obvious bonding that happens, breastfeeding also burns extra calories, releases the euphoric hormone oxytocin, and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers for mothers.

When it works for mother and child, it’s awesome. When it doesn’t go so smoothly, there’s always formula…and there’s no shame in that.

Even though I am no longer nursing, I am interested in World Breastfeeding Week because of the focus on breastfeeding and the working mother. As a pumping mom, it shocks me how little protection and time new mothers have to express their milk at work. As a teacher, I had difficulty carving time out of a busy day to relax for 30 minutes for a productive pumping session. There were always meetings and conferences to attend, papers to grade, e-mails to compose, lessons to plan, and not enough hours in the day. Thankfully, the great Commonwealth of Virginia is doing more to protect those rights.  Our current state laws include:

  • Va. Code § 2.2-1147.1 (2002, 2015) guarantees a woman the right to breastfeed her child on in any place where the mother is lawfully present, including any location where she would otherwise be allowed on property that is owned, leased or controlled by the state. The bill also stipulates that childbirth and related medical conditions specified in the Virginia Human Rights Act include activities of lactation, including breastfeeding and expression of milk by a mother for her child.
  • Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-341.1 (2005) provides that a mother who is breastfeeding a child may be exempted from jury duty upon her request.
  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-387 (1994) exempts mothers engaged in breastfeeding from indecent exposure laws.
  • Va. House Joint Resolution 145 (2002) encourages employers to recognize the benefits of breastfeeding and to provide unpaid break time and appropriate space for employees to breastfeed or express milk.

The only two times I’ve been called for jury duty, I was breastfeeding. Guess who didn’t have to go to court? Score for the boob juice.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I searched for coupon codes, freebies, and giveaways. If you know a soon-to-be mom, consider passing these gifts along, and I’ll update the list as I find more offers.

Finally, here’s a quick round up of my favorite breastfeeding products and resources:

  • Latched Mama: Designed by a local RVA entrepreneur, here you’ll find stylish and functional clothing for nursing mothers. Get free shipping on orders $75+. Love the side-access styles.
  • The Leaky Boob: Blog, reviews, honest advice.
  • La Leche League International
  • Ergobaby 360: I nursed Thing 3 in this many times, and it continues to be one of his favorite modes of transportation at 15-months old. Worth every penny.
  • Motherlove Nipple Cream: For obvious reasons.
  • And if you still want more, here’s my Pinterest board all about babies and boobies.
1

Diagnosis Day… Now What?

Recently a mom contacted me the day her 3-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. She needed an outlet, a virtual shoulder to cry on maybe, and someone to explain where to go next. Talking with this mom put me right back in our own diagnosis day for Thing 1. Honestly, it was difficult to confront those feelings again–stunned at missing red flags sooner; confusion over what services are needed, where to find them, how to afford them; guilt because it must have been something I did or didn’t do that caused this; frustration trying to understand the spectrum; relief to finally have a diagnosis; fear for my children growing up in a cruel world not made for their sensory and communication needs; and anger. Anger at everyone and everything.

So…your child is diagnosed with autism. Now what? Here are my observations and suggestions on your next steps.

First, there is a grieving process, so give yourself time to wrap your head about what ASD means for your child. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your pastor. Find another parent to vent to. Whatever you do, do not wallow and stew in your anger, fear, and sadness. I could not tell anyone about the diagnosis without crying. I made other people cry with my crying, and then I felt guilty for that! But it’s okay to cry. You will go through the range of emotions, and then you’ll pick yourself up and prepare to kick ass.

Second, know your insurance plan inside and out. Figure out what therapies are covered and the coverage amounts. Learn about the autism insurance mandate in your state. Make sure you are taking advantage of all available coverage. Having mandated coverage in our state was a game-changer for our family because it afforded us significantly better services than our county’s early intervention or early childhood special education programs.

Third, learn about Medicaid waivers. In Virginia, we have EDCD and ID/DD waivers. Regardless of where you live, qualifying for waiver services requires tedious screenings (and, more frequently and unfortunately, appeals and more screenings). Your local Autism Society of America chapter is the go-to source for understanding waivers. Most offer workshops and many other resources. A couple weeks after Thing 1’s diagnosis, I called the Autism Society of Central Virginia and left a message asking about waiver workshops. Since I just missed their last one, the ASCV president called back and spent almost two hours with me on the phone, telling me everything I needed to know. That was a huge breakthrough because after that conversation, I had a plan.

Fourth and finally, join a support network. You can find this in a Facebook group, joining the Autism Society, going to a TACA coffee talk. Commiserate with other parents, ask questions, share recommendations, stay connected. Me, I started following blogs, and some of my favorites are:

Our diagnosis and psychological report for Thing 1 came with a massive to-do list. The psychologist recommended we consult with a geneticist, neurologist, and gastrointestinal specialist; increase the frequency of Thing 1’s speech and occupational therapy; and get our son intensive ABA services. We spent time lingering on wait lists, and it took 3 months to increase speech therapy, 10 months to start in-home ABA, and years to visit all the medical specialists. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest through the trees, but we have much to be grateful for five years into this autism journey, especially the ways our family is loved and accepted.  Yesterday we threw a big birthday party for our older boys, and eleven little kids and their families showed up to party with us.  It was heartwarming to see all these neurotypical kids play with our boys and sing “Happy Birthday.” And that’s what it’s all about, right? Kids enjoying their childhood, making friends, learning, growing, and having fun. It’s difficult to see that light and feel hopeful on diagnosis day, but I promise you will get there. Water_Birthday Find additional resources here:

First 100 Days Kit–Autism Speaks

Handy Handouts

Introduction to Autism–TACA

The Out-of-Sync Child: Great book!

Wrightslaw Special Education Law & Advocacy

0

Prayers of the People

Confession: I am irritable this week.

Summer tends to be a tough time in our household.  Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the winter, but my Thing 1 gets hot-tempered in summer.  He is up, he is down, he can be destructive.  In the last two weeks, he ripped apart two books and shattered a glass candle container.  Combine that with Thing 2’s sheer loudness at all times, and I’m about to lose my mind.  I snapped at the grocery store cashier yesterday.  I rolled my eyes and completely disregarded pick-up procedures at Thing 2’s school.  I’ve been overly snarky with my husband.

Last week I also attended a meeting with my son’s teacher, principal, and occupational therapist.  At his spring IEP meeting, I asked for a full OT evaluation.  That evaluation was complete, so it was time for our meeting and amendment.  Sitting across from the principal, though… Oy.  I do not like that woman.  She followed me outside in an attempt to shake a name out of me.  Who told me Thing 1’s self-contained autism class spent days watching Disney movies?  The subject came up in the spring, and this woman is hell-bent on getting a name from me.

I ain’t no snitch.

I came across this prayer today, and it spoke to my feelings over the past couple weeks.  Both Hands and a Flashlight is written by an autism dad, and his was the first blog I started following after Thing 1 was diagnosed.  Whether you’re on the special needs path or not, I think it speaks to all parents doing their best and fighting the good fight.

pinterest-moms-meme

Prayers of the People:

Dear Lord,
You who watch over the lilies of the field,
Help us just to not suck today.

Help us to put our clothes on right,
Or to at least meet the minimums of decency.
Help us to put toothpaste on our brushes instead of diaper cream,
And to not look too much like a raving lunatic in public.
Or at least grant us shelter us from arrest.

Help us when we yell at someone in a store
that we might not hurt our voices.
Guide our feet as we kick ass,
And lead us not into more expletives than are necessary,
But make them the right ones,
In thy mercy.

For those who do not believe in our kids,
For those who judge our parenting and our kids’ behavior,
For those too quick to speak and too slow to listen,
For those whose hearts have hardened,
We pray.

For those who cannot fathom how to pay their bills,
For those who hold their heads in despair,
For those who don’t know if it will ever get better,
For those getting up off the ground to fight once more,
For those who refuse to give up,
For those who choose love over fear,
We pray.

And may our coffee pots brew well and our grounds be plentiful.
Amen.

1

Birchbox Favorites

I received some winners in my Birchbox samples over the past few months.  Here is a round up of my favorites.

birchbox_collage

Supergoop! Everyday SPF 50 sunscreen: Broad spectrum sunscreen that felt so light, non-greasy, absorbed quickly…I am in love.

Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer: Holy hydration!  My skin felt smooth, my complexion was even, and this cream makes a great make-up primer.  It’s also packed with organic ingredients.

jane iredale Just Kissed Lip & Cheek Stain: This balm adjusts to your body’s chemistry to create a customized shade and makes lips super-soft with beeswax, olive oil, and avocado oil.

amika Bombshell Blowout Spray: Nice scent, light, and I stayed frizz-free all day.  My hair had shine and hold without the weight or crunch of hairspray or mousse.

amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo: BEST dry shampoo I ever used.  amika’s brand uses rice starch so you can embrace your Day Four hair.

Vasanti BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator: It’s a one-step microdermabrasion.  My skin felt fresh, clean, and looked bright.

Give Birchbox a try for $10/month.  That includes shipping, five personalized beauty samples, and some really pretty boxes.

0

Blackberry Overload!

I had to get kids out of the house last weekend.  The husband demolished our deck to reinforce and rebuild it, so the boys were not free to frolic around the backyard, which means they destroyed my house instead.  Family room, bedrooms, kitchen…everything was a disaster.  We hit Chesterfield Berry Farm for organic blackberry picking.  Unlike peak pumpkin and strawberry seasons when you pay an arm and a leg for admission, blackberry season is FREE.  You only pay for the fruit, and the price of gas since the berry farm is in the middle of no where.  Things 2 and 3 enjoyed eating more than picking.  Thing 1 was content to run around the fields, run away from me, send me into panic mode when I couldn’t find him, etc.  I wanted to kick his butt when I finally caught him at the moon bounce.  Such a stinker, but we made it home alive with a mountain of blackberries to demolish. What’s so awesome about blackberries anyway?  They should be in your Super Fruit category since they are packed with bioflavonoids, Vitamins C and K, antioxidants, and fiber.  They supercharge your heart, gut, and brain. IMG_0037 For those that asked, Thing 3 is sitting in a Kokopax Classic Carrier. I bought it off Craigslist in 2010, but Kokopax is no longer in business.IMG_0036Now what to do with that big bucket of blackberries…

Blackberry Cobbler

We made three blackberry cobblers last night, adapting the Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  She calls for more sugar, but I used:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
  • Ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 3-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk sugar with flour and milk.  Whisk in the melted butter, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice (I used the juice and zest of half of a small lemon).  Pour the batter into the baking dish.  Layer blackberries evenly on top of the batter.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the blackberries.  Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour.

IMG_0038

One cobbler for my parents, one for my father-in-law, one for us.  No lie, this was breakfast with my morning coffee.  No regrets.

EASY Homemade Blackberry Ice Cream

Our next venture into blackberry heaven was homemade ice-cream, inspired by this Pinterest recipe.  I wanted to cut the calories a little (so I could continue eating cobbler for breakfast), so I substituted Greek yogurt for half of the heavy cream and used coconut milk instead of whole milk.  Greek yogurt made the ice cream amazingly creamy, and its healthy bacteria can withstand freezing.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 container (7 oz) plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Puree the blackberries, then work them through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  Set that puree aside in a large bowl to wait for its friends to join the party. In a saucepan on low heat, combine cream, yogurt, and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is smooth.  You do NOT want to heat this mixture quickly because milk proteins in the yogurt will separate from the whey.  Their divorce is permanent.  It’s very sad.  Did I impress you with my Alton Brown level of knowledge there? Add that mixture to the blackberry puree, along with the coconut milk and vanilla.  Give everything a good whisk, and pour it into a large freezer bag and freeze overnight.

On Day 2, beat the hell out of that freezer bag.  The frozen mixture needs to be broken into smaller pieces before it gets pulverized in the food processor.  Take out all your aggression, break it up, put those pieces in the food processor, and process until smooth.  This process took several minutes.

IMG_0039

Hello, beautiful.

You can transfer the ice cream to a loaf pan, cover with foil, and freeze–BUT if you use Greek yogurt, use another vessel.  The yogurt’s acidity has a yucky reaction to metal.  I used a Chinese take-out plastic container.  Add chocolate chips or whatever else at this point.  Freeze it until the ice cream is firm enough to scoop. IMG_0041

IMG_0040

Here’s our post-swim practice treat.

If you kept track, I used 8 cups of blackberries in two days.  Want to know how much is left?  At least 4 more cups.  Now I wish I knew how to can jam.

0

The Best of…Teacher Life 2015

Slightly late posting this one since school ended on June 12th.  As the school year winded down, I reflected on the highs and lows, went through my little notes about activities, revised what needed to be revised, etc.  I am slowing making my way through dozens of sticky notes I plastered on units, notes, activities, and projects.

As if life in seventh grade isn’t awkwardly horrible enough, it felt like morale was an all-time low among teachers this year.  We had a dozen new initiatives to implement, including a new online evaluation/professional development thing, Chromebooks distributed to every student, adult learning plans, peer observations, way too much technology training… Yep, teachers were burned out by November.  Meanwhile, our poor kids are stuck in the middle of middle school, and there’s a huge spread between those who think they know everything and those who are still clueless.  They’re awkward.  Some are jerks.  They’re kids.

Despite the challenges, there were some hysterical moments this year–moments that had my sides and face in pain from laughing so hard.  Here are my favorite shocking/enlightening/delightful moments of the 2014-2015 school year.

1. The “brothers don’t shake hands” moment.  Student J finished a quiz in my classroom during lunch and was on his way to another teacher when Student B came in.  These two boys are friends.  J opened his arms and stuck out his chest to give B a chest bump.  B misread all those cues, wrapped his arms around J, and gave him a big hug.  J’s face turned very confused as he said to me, “I guess this works, too.”  And I died.

Teacher Top 10 2015

(Image source: http://s.quickmeme.com/)

2. The ask.com fail.  Every time I give project directions or talk about reliable sources for research, I tell students to never, ever, ever use ask.com or answer.com.  This little ESL girl completed a project on Henry Ford, and one of the components asked students to find charities or projects their Industrial Giant was known for.  She ignored the ask.com restriction.  Again, I died.

Henry Ford

3. Field trips!  You know what it’s like to have cabin fever?  That’s how I feel being in my classroom every day.  I love field trips, and we took great ones this year.  They make for long days, but they’re fun and give everyone a chance to stretch their legs.  This year I had to beg for parent chaperons, though.  Seriously, who would not want to spend the day with their child and 149 other 12-year-olds?

image1

Hall of Mammals

4. Letters from former students.  During Teacher Appreciation Week, I received a letter at school from a student I taught in sixth and seventh grade.  This year she was a freshman in high school.  Like divine intervention, I received her letter on a day that I was feeling particularly frustrated.  I got in my car at the end of the day and cried like a baby.

“Your style of teaching and passion for history inspired me to develop a strong feeling for the subject of the past…”

“It reminds me of the potential you saw in me and helps me pick my head up and push through…Thank you so much for always pushing me to do my best.  I appreciate it!”

5. Letters from current students.  I appreciate well-placed snark.  This boy wrote me the best Christmas card I’ve ever received, and there wasn’t even a gift card inside (not that I held that against him).

Letter

6. Food in the teacher work room.  File this one under the “enlightening” category.  One morning, delicious gourmet popcorn appeared beside our copy machine.  My coworker graciously shared the recipe for peanut butter cup popcorn, and she made me very fappy (fat and happy).  This crack corn was so good, it’s my food highlight of the year.

Popcorn

7. Larry.  That Larry, he’s a scoundrel.  This sketch was brought to my class one morning as a gift from one girl to another and caused a commotion.  I do not shock easily, but fishing this paper out of the trashcan…well, my jaw hit the floor.  I later learned that Larry is a mash-up of two One Direction singers.  When my girlfriends give me gifts, it’s usually in the form of gift cards or wine, not sketches of gay celebrity porn.  But this sketch did provide us with our catchphrase of the spring: “Don’t get Larried!”

Larry

8. An abundance of snow days.  They really are the best things behind winter, spring, and summer breaks.  My boys definitely enjoyed extra pancakes and sledding between January and March.

image5

9. The “Bye Felicia” trend.  I love a good 90’s throwback, and “Bye Felicia” was all over the seventh grade.  And none of the kids ever saw Friday!  Between Felicia and all the Tupac, Biggie, and Eazy-E t-shirts, I felt like I was reliving middle school.

10. The Last Day of School!  Well, duh.  I am lucky enough to call my team members my friends, and I look forward to our summer adventures.

0

You Know You’re an Autism Parent When…

Earlier this month, my husband shared a list with me from The Mighty called, “You Know You’re a Special Needs Parent When…”  Check out the original post with some pretty funny e-cards here.  Now that we have a week of summer break under our belts and I spend all day with my kiddos (when I’m not pawning them off on Nana while I day drink with friends), this list comes into my mind over and over again throughout the day.

You have to understand that my children are spastic during the summer, and no amount of time in the pool, sun, or any activity tires them.  They are high on life one minute, then screaming “DINOSAURS” and throwing shit the next.  It’s a Jekyll and Hyde routine stuck on repeat.  Maybe it’s the heat or humidity or change in routine, but it leaves the husband and I wondering what alternate universe we entered.  Hence, the day drinking.

So tonight I offer you some examples of what The Mighty and I know about autism parenting this week…

“You’re a walking medical dictionary.”  I just schooled my husband in mast cell activation disorder regarding Thing 1, and the benefits of a low-phenol diet for Thing 2.  It was an out-of-body experience.  Tonight at Whole Foods, I actually said to him, “I can’t remember what is lower in phenol–green or red grapes.”  Who am I?

“When putting your child’s socks on is a task that takes at least 15 minutes.”  I needed to make a quick trip to the grocery store when the baby woke up from his nap yesterday.  It took 10 minutes for Thing 1 to find his shoes.  When he finally found his Crocs, he stared at them.  It was a staring contest with ugly shoes.  By the time everyone got buckled into the van, I realized no green beans are worth this amount of effort.

“You’re constantly surprised by your own courage, and by your child’s courage” and “You are capable of more love and strength than you ever thought possible.”  One line I hate hearing is, “I don’t know how you do it.”  Why wouldn’t you do your best?  Or at least try?  What’s the alternative? Some days you batten down the hatches and ride the waves.  Some days you have to tell someone off.  Some days you’re the beauty, and other days you’re the beast.

“You’ve learned to celebrate the little victories.”  You pooped in the potty?  YAY!!

Thing 2 blew me away today at the pool.  After swim team practice, he wanted to stay and play.  There were other boys from the team throwing balls, diving, and being neurotypical boys on a summer day.  Thing 2 watched them as he swam along with perimeter of the pool.  Then he took someone’s Lightning McQueen, threw it, and dove for it.  He bobbed back up with McQueen and a big smile.  He did that a few times among the kids, not on the perimeter, and that took a ton of courage from my little boy.  He was initiating play with other kids, and that is a big victory, my friends.

“You’ve (almost) learned how to forgive yourself for not being perfect” and “You’ve (almost) become immune to the looks others give you in public.”  I yelled and cursed trying to get the kids to the grocery store yesterday.  Then Thing 2 tried to hold Thing 1’s hand in the parking lot, and that set Thing 1 off.  I lost it.  I horse-collared Thing 1 and told him to stop being a butthead.  An old lady gave me a nasty look.  I’m not perfect, neither are my kids, and we do not pretend to be.

“You will never take your child’s health for granted.”  As stressful as some trips to the grocery store can be, I am grateful to have these little boogers.  I know several friends and family members who lost children to sickness or birth defects.  Being able to fuss at my kids, love on them, and smother them with kisses before bed is a gift.

“You always know when to trust your instincts.”  This is a big reason why we’re getting Thing 1 out of his current school placement.

“No matter how much you go without it, you’ll never get used to the lack of sleep.”  TRUTH.  Sleeping in and taking naps, when they happen, are the most magical things ever.  As magical as unicorns galloping along rainbows, because I never see them.  Our typical night starts with Melatonin for the big kids at 8:00.  Then the husband lays with Thing 2 until he falls asleep. The adults go to bed around 11:00.  Thing 2 is awake again anywhere between 12:30-2:30 a.m., screaming bloody murder and repeating, “Come here!” and “Go to bed!”  We let him cry it out, even when he wakes up his brothers.  Thing 1 is up and will rummage the house for iPads and food starting at 5:00 a.m., sometimes earlier.  When I do snap at my kids, it’s because I’m so damn tired!

“Any day your child keeps his pants on is a good day.”  A better name for Thing 1 is “White Lightning.”  He is a habitual streaker, and we catch him outside daily, jumping on the trampoline or swinging high in the swing, butt naked.  My husband was laying on the couch last weekend when Thing 2 came into the family room and threw his shorts and underwear in daddy’s face.  That’s pretty bold.

Streaking

(Image source: http://www.quickmeme.com/)

“The neighbors begin to wonder why so many therapists are coming and going from your house all week.”  It’s called ABA, bitches.  Now get back to your post about how gifted and perfect you want Fakebook world to think your child is.

Okay, that last one sounded a little bitter.  My bad.

Here’s to summer survival.