Simple As A Visual Aid

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The first few weeks of Kindergarten were going great. Then one day Preston came home looking defeated. I always ask him to tell me the best and worst parts of his day. When I asked him what the worst part of his day was he said, “I never clip up.” In Kindergarten, there is this fancy rainbow behavioral chart. Each child gets a clothespin with their name on it. Each day they start their clip out in the middle on Green for “Ready To Learn.” They can clip up the chart to “Outstanding” or down the chart to “Time Away – Call to Parents.” It’s an awesome system because it helps kids learn to self-regulate as they clip up and down.

However, for a kid like Preston, the ways of clipping up can be sort of vague. There are a lot of social cues that he needs to be taught academically. He doesn’t really pick up on the fact that Billy clipped up for sitting still at circle time, so if I refrain from being a human bottle rocket at circle time, I will clip up too. He mostly gets mad that Billy clipped up and he didn’t. If I’m honest, I can relate to that.

When I figured out what was happening, I suggested to Preston’s teacher that she put together a visual aid, a cheat sheet to remind Preston of what he can do to clip up. Once he had his sheet, Preston completely understood what he had to do. Since then, he has clipped up every day. When the other kids ask why he has that card with him in class he simply replies, “It helps me.”

Sometimes I wish I had a card like that. I can relate to Preston’s discouragement. I can also relate to his anger. Lately I feel like I am having trouble “clipping up” so to speak, in life. I am stuck here all ready to learn and grow as a wife and mom but find many days where I feel myself loosing it under all the demands and falling down the mama performance chart. This whole parenting thing can be kind of vague. In fact, it can get down right messy. Dare I say ugly?  And what is hard is that even my best parenting moments often yield a raging, “UGH! You stupid stupid mom! You hate me and I hate you for hating me!” from my Preston. He doesn’t mean it. He’s just mad. I get it. But it gets to me. I find myself falling apart a little too often and wishing I had my own cheat sheet. Do this, clip up. Do this, clip down. I know life doesn’t work that way. It’s not as simple as a visual aid. We all find ourselves in situations where we find ourselves shouting, “A little help here?” (One of Preston’s favorite lines).

Don’t get me wrong. We are blessed with tons of support. I have gained many tools as I’ve researched and worked with other children on the autism spectrum. I sure hope to gain many more. Even though I feel defeated in this season, I won’t give up. I’m thankful and have much to celebrate. Even so, I admit my heart still aches to “be like the other kids.” Lord, help me embrace the life you’ve given me. 

Maybe you’ve been stuck in places before. Maybe you’re stuck now. I think we all have moments where we know what’s expected of us but we feel unclear on how or when we’ll get there.

Just like I saw my lost little son and knew he needed a little direction, I’m counting on the fact that God knows where I am and knows just what I need to put me back on track. Hopefully, with some lessons learned and some wisdom gained from this season of stuck. And if anyone asks why I’m relying so much on this hope I’ll simply reply, “It helps me.”

Quality Nourishment

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Many summer mornings, I have wandered out to this dock at our family’s cabin. I throw on some boots and a blanket and head out to this well-loved chair with my Dad’s famous perked coffee in hand, still much too hot to drink. I sit and take in the beauty, the quiet, the aroma of pine trees and coffee. Some mornings the sun shines bright and glitters on the surface of the water. Other mornings the sun is masked by the mist rising off the lake. It doesn’t matter whether I spend a few short moments or an hour or so. I always feel satisfied after being in this place. Maybe because this place combines all the things that nourish me: Being outside, the beauty of the woods and untouched natural spaces, time to connect with God, time to process life, coffee. It’s a place to let quality things rise up in my life.

I have been trying to take small steps toward becoming a more nourished mama. Today is my one morning to myself and so I decided I would use this time to add in some things that nourish me. I dropped my sons off and headed out for a run along the bike path this morning. The rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement soothes my scattered thoughts and the fresh air in my lungs gives me freedom to breathe deep and let go of some of that tension I tend to carry in my shoulders! As I ran this morning I thought about this concept of quality.

I learned this over the past few years through our family’s switch to a gluten free/dairy free lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle switch because it really was a change in the way we do life and food. Our family made the change together to see if it would help with some of Preston’s behavioral struggles. We had heard that cutting out gluten and casein can help some children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. We started cutting things out. Honestly, we felt deprived at the beginning. But we soon came to realize we were approaching our dietary changes from a deprived mindset. We were choosing to look at what we couldn’t have, rather than what we could, missing all that was available to us.

About that time, my husband’s aunt, who struggles with Celiac disease, came to our rescue and mentored us in nutrition and all things gluten free. She helped us to look at food in terms of what we were gaining in nutrition, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, probiotics. For a kid like Preston, who’s medical issues make it hard for him to absorb nutrients and healthy fats, it’s important to make the most of each meal and feed him what will nourish him most. I have learned to think of food in terms of what is beneficial rather then what foods I have to keep from him. It’s not so much about cutting things out as it is about adding quality things in. This has changed everything. Bit by bit, as we added in things that nourished our bodies, we began to find ourselves craving those more healthy options and the less healthy things sort of lost their appeal and vanished from our diet. Our lifestyle changed completely.

As I ran this morning, I thought about how I can apply this concept of quality to other areas of my life. Where can I add in quality moments that nourish my mind, body, and soul? For too long, I’ve been trying to fill up other people’s glasses from my own broken and leaking vessel. Are there nourishing activities that I can add in to help me stay filled up and be able to provide that same quality nourishment back to my family, friends, and those around me?

So here are a few ideas I have to start slowly adding in some quality moments. (Disclaimer: I will not be rigid about when these things happen, or how often, or for how long. I have tried this and have stressed myself out over it. I will both take advantage of opportunities to add these things in but also, be aware that if the opportunity doesn’t come, I might have to make a little room for it. I’m going for guilt-free here people!) Here are three small things I can add in:

– Getting outside a few times a week, especially on sunny days. This can be a run by myself or a walk in the woods with my sons. I am an outside girl who hates feeling trapped in the house. Just a few minutes outdoors lifts my spirits.

– A quiet cup of coffee and some time to read and think. This is only accomplished these days by getting up before the sun rises. But I find on the days I make the sacrifice on 10 minutes of sleep to read my bible, or journal while sipping on some liquid heaven, I am much less scattered.

– Writing once a week. This is more a personal goal, but one that fills me up.

So, thus begins my little experiment in the concept of quality. Probably only my family will notice if it works. But I am determined to be a more nourished mama. I’m hoping to transform my time with my kids from quantity time to quality time. I’m hoping by making some space for some self-nourishment that some quality things will be able to rise up from me.

Would you consider with me, what are some nourishing moment you can add to your life right now?

Making Space

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Make space for your dreams. That is what I’m doing this morning. Lysa Terkeurst, in her book, The Best Yes, encourages us to chase down our decisions. “Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances,” she says. This was like a wake up call for me.

For a long time, there’s been this seed of a dream in my heart to write. Lately, I’ve realized my circumstances aren’t yielding the opportunity to make this dream a reality. It feels more like this dream has been suffocating there in the soil of my heart as I let other things grow all over it.

Many stressful storms have blown over my heart the last 3 years. A move, my son’s diagnosis with autism and everything after, have been important plants growing my character and changing my heart. As I was swept up in the huge demands of special needs parenting, I forgot about taking care of me. My dreams have been pushed deep inside by the pressing priorities of caring for a son who needs so much extra TLC, changing our diet and lifestyle, keeping up with 2 boys with huge hearts and even bigger personalities!

It’s a new year and it’s time to plant that seed of a dream. Even though it is scary.

While my older son was at school, I timidly signed my 3 year old up for a play time class this morning. And even more timidly dropped him off and came home to my empty house. I both ache with the absence of my boys and am also slightly giddy at the thought of 3 whole hours to myself!

Turning over the soil in my heart, I plant words like seeds. With each stroke of the keyboard I tap them down. What will grow?

I hope to keep this thing alive. Maybe I’ll see in tomorrow’s circumstances.

If You’re Overwhelmed, You’re Not Alone

I’m having one of those days where time is short and it’s moving much faster than I am! I’m feeling behind and a bit overwhelmed. My boys were wild this morning and it took every ounce of strength I had (and then some) to keep it together. 

I stood in the laundry room and tried to imagine there wasn’t that huge pile of clothes to be sorted and put away. And I wondered who else might be doing this same thing. I wonder how many mamas are staring at their tasks, while children run wild circles around them and feel like they are vanishing, sinking unseen beneath the demands of time, dishes, laundry, family, and special needs parenting. 

So when the piles of laundry stiffen on top of your machine . . . 

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You’re not alone.

When toys are scattered and so are you . . . 

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You’re not alone. 

When your kids are screaming and you want to too . . . 

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You’re not alone.

When your heart could burst with both frustration and love . . . 

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You’re not alone.

I find on days like these, it’s hard to see progress. I am often blind to the fact that sometimes tasks left undone are signs of more important things being accomplished.

So I’m going to slow things down this afternoon and see if my eyes can’t be opened to the good things. Maybe I’ll get to some tasks and maybe they will wait for another day.

But when I see good things, I’m going to give thanks for the piles of laundry and dishes in the sink and all the signs that maybe, just maybe, that might mean I’m spending my little time on the precious things that matter. 

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Sensory Diet for Two Kids

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What do you do when both of your children have sensory processing difficulties and need a sensory diet implemented each day? Both of my sons have Sensory Processing Disorder. Both need a sensory diet each day, or, a prescribed set of activities to stimulate (or calm) their sensory systems.

This has been difficult to do because their needs are very different. While my first son needs a lot of input into his body to stay calm (sensory seeker) my younger son needs a lot of input into his body to wake it up (sensory avoider). I struggle to find activities they can do together since their needs differ and their age difference makes it tricky. This has been especially difficult this winter being cooped up in the house! 

I find that if I do the sensory activities in the morning, they tend to be calmer, happier, and more focused throughout the day. So, how do we fit this in? Here’s what I’ve been doing recently.

I used to let my kids watch a short TV show or two after breakfast so I could get a shower and plan their sensory activities. I realized that wasn’t working for us because they would never want to switch from TV to “therapy time” as I call it. Who would, right? I also found that trying to do therapy time first with both boys wasn’t working either! I wasn’t able to get dressed and ready for the day. Either way I felt like we would end up struggling through the morning and not accomplishing anything! So, I decided to make TV work for us! Just FYI, what follows might seem completely obvious you and I apologize if it seems overly simplistic. With that, here’s what we do . . . 

I let them each pick a show to watch at different times. While one is watching their 30 minute show, I do therapy time with the other. Then we switch. My youngest, Little Man, is a lot more flexible so he usually gets to watch his show first while I work with big brother, LIttle Dude. He is more willing to transition from TV to therapy and then back again. Then when that show ends, I switch and work with Little Man. 

When they are both finished with therapy time, I let them relax with a final short TV choice together, usually a nature video. This allows me to quick grab a shower and plan the rest of the day’s activities. While I don’t love the idea of my kids watching an hour of TV in the morning, I feel it is working for our schedule. The boys both get one-on-one time and focused attention from me and it gives me the structure to meet their sensory needs each day.

This is also the only TV I let them watch all day. In the evening I try to encourage them to build things together with blocks or legos but may allow them some computer or iPad time if they are playing educational games. Our favorite games or apps work on executive functioning, social skills, fine motor skills, or academic skills. 

I have found that the therapy time we put in at home is so important and I have been realizing lately how much my children benefit from that time set aside to work one on one with them. We aren’t able to do this every day. But I make it a priority to give my boys those sensory activities in a structured way at least three to four times a week. I do the best I can for them and leave the results in God’s hands. I trust Him to take what I can give and multiply the effects in my children’s lives. 

I realize this post is practical information but it gives you a glimpse into our lives! I am hoping once the weather warms up a little we can plan for more activity outside so we can ditch TV altogether! 

I’d love to hear how any of you make it work for your families! 

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Fluffy Paleo Biscuits

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You want to eat these right? Imagine them with a piping hot bowl of chunky soup. Or maybe  some gravy. No, an egg and ham for breakfast! Whatever your craving – these were a hit with my boys.

I wanted the flakiness of a pasty dough so I adapted the pie crust recipe from Danielle Walker at Against All Grain. Definitely check out her blog Against All Grain by clicking here.

Here is my recipe:

FLUFFY PALEO BISCUITS – yields about a dozen biscuits

2 1/2 cups of blanched almond flour

1 TBSP of coconut flour

1 large cold egg plus one cold egg white

5 tsp of ice water

2-3 tsp honey

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp sea salt

3 1/2 TBSP of palm shortening

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Place all ingredients except the palm shortening in the food processor with the  “s” blade attachment. Blend well.

3. Cut small balls of shortening into the processor distributing them evenly around the bowl. Then pulse until just combined.

4. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and mold it into a ball. Coat it with a thin layer of coconut flour and place the ball into a small glass bowl and chill in the refrigerator about 20 minutes.

5. Place the ball onto a silicone mat or a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment over the ball and roll the dough out to about 1″ thick. Use a 2 1/2 inch biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out out biscuits. Use a flat knife or pie server to carefully place the biscuits on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden on the edges. Serve immediately or freeze once cool and reheat as needed. Enjoy!

*Make sure the biscuits have good height of about 1″ or more before baking or else they will turn into cookies.

White Bean Lemon Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is truly delicious! It is the consistency of pound cake and the flavor is fresh and delightful! This recipe is adapted from the Grain Free Coffee Cake recipe from The Spunky Coconut blog. You can see the link to the original recipe here. The original recipe is also, amazing!

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Wet Ingredients:
2 cups cooked organic white beans (I used navy beans)
6 large organic eggs
1/3 cup organic honey
2 tbsp melted ghee
1 tbsp lemon infused olive oil
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp lemon extract
Juice of ½ an organic lemon

Dry Ingredients:
1/3 cup coconut flour
¼ organic blonde cane sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt

Additives:
2 tbsp organic poppy seeds
Finely grated zest from 2 organic lemons

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8×8 coffee cake pan or a low 10 inch tube pan (this is what I used) with coconut oil and set aside.

First, blend all the wet ingredients in a vitamix or high powered blender. Next, add dry ingredients and blend. It gets very thick at this point so you might need to use a tamper or an immersion blender to blend completely. Then fold in poppy seeds and lemon zest and combine well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and distribute evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Optional filling:
Mix in fresh blueberries

Optional Topping:
Create a glaze with 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice and sprinkle coconut flakes or lemon zest on the top.